Make your home grown up again
It’s been kid-central for the past 12 months but now, as schools reopen, it’s time to coax your home back into the land of the operational adult.
The kids have finally returned to school and this time, it looks like it might stick. But now you’re in an empty house, what do you see? Scribbled pictures blu-tacked all over the kitchen walls? Once-oatmeal carpets besplattered with questionable marks of unknown origin? Kicked-out balustrades? Bathrooms coated with a thin veneer of slime? A freezer full of experimental homemade ice pops that everyone enjoyed making but didn’t want to eat (peach and caper, anyone?).
And, yes, we hear you: it does look like an insurmountable obstacle (especially when there’s only three weeks until the Easter hols and the chaos starts again) but if you can just break it down to bitesize tasks, after a year of being smeared with peanut butter and kicked into submission, you can bring your home back into the grown-up world – and there’s no skip required.
Paint the high traffic areas
This is actually not as onerous as it sounds. Why? Because with halls and staircases, there are no sofas or wardrobes to heft into the middle of the room and all you need are dust sheets on the floor, and quick wipe away of cobwebs, a dab of polyfilla in old screw holes, and you’re away. Plus, the new ‘in’ 2021 colours of calming neutrals and earthy tones (such as Dulux’s Brave Ground, above) will compliment just about any flooring. Paint away the scuff marks and chocolate fingerprints and let the zen flood in.
Splurge on some indoor plants
Been coveting the achingly cool IG workspaces, with walls of plants and the inexplicable lack of stuff on surfaces? Yes, us too, and while we would never go so far as to pretend we don’t work next to a mountain of food-stained notebooks and torn-off bits of newspaper, a good dose of leafery in the house would be something we could get on board with. Bloombox Club will provide you with house plants on a monthly basis if you would like to be furnished with hipster greenery with minimum effort. Otherwise, check out your local garden centre. Japonicas and cheese plants are pretty hardy as are spider plants and succulents. Ferns need a bit more work (i.e. regular watering and careful placement) so choose wisely.
Remove all ‘artwork’ to a dedicated corkboard
Do you have the theme tune to Tony Hart’s gallery constantly running round your head? Have you ever considered why that might be? De-kidding rooms is an important step to bring some balance back into the home and one of the most effective ways of doing that is creating a space for the children that is solely theirs while stripping the rest of the shared rooms of child detritus (we don’t mean their bedrooms – we’re not monsters). Not all of us are blessed with a playroom in which to deposit kiddie belongings but a large cork board (like this star print one from Great Little Trading Co.) or white board for displaying your offspring’s pasta self-portraits will mean they get to proudly present their masterpieces and you get your kitchen cupboards back.
Do a toy/book/game purge
With young children, only attempt this when they’re at school as otherwise every crap plastic car and bouncy ball will suddenly be imbued with deep, personal meaning and, potentially, a name and personality. Older children will be more rational. But let’s get back to the process in question: for all the new activities and craft products you brought into the house to get through lockdown, it’s highly likely that you did not remove the equivalent amount from under your roof. The result: you’re drowning in stuff that was amusing for an afternoon. Last July.
So take a long hard look at the mounds of paraphernalia and ask yourself these questions: what is most loved? What is most used? What will potentially have value (educational, entertainment) in the next few years? Move all those things into one pile. Then ask yourself: what is on its last legs? And most importantly – what does my head in the most? Make another pile. Put the first one neatly away in cupboards and toy boxes (we love these chic rattan ones, above, from Little Labels in Pangbourne). Place the other in bin bags and take to the tip and/or charity shop as soon as humanly possible. Easy.
Prep your garden for outdoor living
Oh, it’s a bloody cliché, isn’t it? The garden being an extra room in the summer months. And I almost hate myself for including it but having watched my beloved house get a daily battering this winter from a mini mob, I cannot wait to push them all outside and – in the spirit of my mother – tell them not to come back until teatime. And the trick to this delicate negotiation is making the garden a seriously palatable place to go. Wash down the play equipment. Create nice seating areas for reading. Gift little plots as personal gardens for each child. Plant vegetables and fruit bushes. Remove spiders from the summer house. Mow the grass. And finally, do a sun dance and pray – PRAY – for a long, hot summer.