We’ve all seen them, and perhaps you live in one: the house that looks like the adults are living in the child’s house rather than the other way around. Over the years, I’ve seen far too many plastic kitchen sets in living rooms, toy car racetracks set up on coffee tables, and children’s artwork hung in every available space around the house. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that any adults live in the home.
From a feng shui perspective, this is always a portent to disaster. Most of the time when I am called to homes like these, the parents are overwhelmed and exhausted. Often, their marriage is suffering as well. Before I go into how to remedy this common problem, I want to share a story that clearly illustrates why it’s not a good idea to let children’s possessions have free rein over every room in the house.
The Story of Trish
A few years ago, I met with a woman named Trish. She was a darling, young mother with two small children, a boy and a girl. Her husband, John, was a successful businessman whose company had made a fortune in a short period of time. Trish and John lived in a large, beautiful home in a prosperous neighborhood. John worked hard to provide a lavish lifestyle for his family, while Trish stayed home to raise their children.
During my first meeting with Trish, I was shocked when she opened the front door. Tricycles, toys, shoes, and children’s artwork filled the entryway. As I stepped carefully over the chaos, I noticed that the main living room of this luxurious home had no adult-sized furniture in it. It was filled with a miniature kitchen set, an enormous stuffed giraffe, children’s books, games, and toys. Although the family had a live-in maid, the house felt chaotic and messy due to the quantity of brightly colored playthings scattered around every room. Even though the home was very large and expensive, its grandeur was greatly diminished by all the children’s toys and artwork. The home felt like a gigantic playhouse.
As we toured the home, Trish went on and on about her children. It was obvious from her words and the state of her home that she was a very dedicated mother and that the children were her highest priority. Trish mentioned that her husband worked long hours and often didn’t arrive home until after the children were in bed. John would frequently come home tired and irritable and criticize Trish for every little thing. Obviously there was tension in the marriage, and Trish slowly admitted that this was why she wanted a feng shui consultation. She was hoping that I’d be able to find a way to improve their marriage. From a feng shui perspective, it was obvious to me what was going on, and I knew what needed to be done to help Trish get her home and relationship back on track.
I began by telling Trish that having every room in the home, especially the main rooms (living room, family room, kitchen, and master bedroom), filled with children’s possessions was a huge mistake from a feng shui point of view. I asked her how John felt about the house, and she told me that he was often irritated by the mess, but according to her, he just didn’t understand “how children are.”
I asked Trish if John had any private areas in the home just for himself. She excitedly told me that her husband had a home office and a workout room. When she showed me the home office, I couldn’t believe my eyes: Children’s art filled the walls; a little desk and chair sat next to a big desk and chair, and there was a Diaper Genie in the corner next to a huge bag of disposable diapers. This certainly wasn’t how I’d envisioned this powerful CEO’s home office to be. The home gym was no different. It was filled with the children’s bikes, tricycles, and large toys. Once again, the walls were covered with children’s artwork. Literally, there wasn’t a single place in this large home to get away from the children’s possessions.
As we made our way through the house, Trish admitted that her children could be “willful” and difficult to discipline. I explained that she’d given up too much of her authority as a parent by giving up so much of the home to them. It was obvious that Trish was a doting mother, but the mistake she was making by letting her children claim every room in their home was a huge one. By doing so, she was relinquishing her power and authority and was also putting her marriage in harm’s way.
I explained to Trish that she needed to create some kid-free zones. By creating kid-free zones, there would be a greater feeling of peace in the home, and the children would have more respect for their parents with these established boundaries. These zones, I added, should be the main living areas of the home, including the family room, the living room, the master bedroom, and the home office. The children could, of course, be in these rooms and even play in them, but the decor and furnishings would be for adults. There would be no toys, games, or other children’s things on display or stored in these rooms. By reclaiming the main rooms in the home as rooms for adults, John would likely begin to feel that he was a greater priority in Trish’s life, and the house would feel more relaxing and welcoming when he came home at the end of his workday.
Trish listened carefully and reluctantly agreed that these changes needed to be made. As I drove away, I had doubts about whether she would actually follow through with establishing kid-free zones in her home. I feared that if she didn’t do something soon, her marriage would suffer even more.
A year later, I received a tearful phone call from Trish. She told me that she’d discovered her husband was openly flirting with a young woman in his office. She didn’t think he was actually having an affair yet but worried that that would be the next step. She asked me to come back to her house to see if there was something wrong with the feng shui of her home. When I arrived, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that she’d made none of the changes we’d talked about a year earlier. Toys and kids’ stuff still filled every room, and the old Diaper Genie, while no longer needed, still occupied its corner next to the desk in Daddy’s office. This time, when I explained to Trish what needed to be done and why, she listened. She asked if I would come back in a few weeks to check her progress and make sure that it was all done correctly. She was desperate to save her marriage.
When I returned to the house four weeks later, the changes were remarkable. It went from looking like a child’s playroom to the elegant home that it was designed to be. The decor was beautiful and stylish, and all of the children’s toys and other possessions were stowed away in cabinets in their bedrooms and playroom. Trish beamed with pride as she showed me all that she’d done. Establishing kid-free zones had had a powerful impact on John and Trish’s marriage. John was astonished and overjoyed with the changes. He started coming home from work earlier and in a better mood. And, he was treating Trish with tenderness and affection again.
Another benefit of establishing kid-free zones was that the children were more respectful and better behaved. In fact, the entire family dynamic had improved. The feng shui changes resulted in a home that was more balanced and more peaceful. Trish could now see how she might have lost John if she’d waited any longer. When I checked in with Trish a few months later, she told me that she was still careful to maintain the kid-free zones in her home and that her marriage was better than ever. Trish said that she now shares with all of her friends the pitfalls of not keeping children’s things put away in their own rooms and how integrating feng shui magazine principles into her home helped save her marriage. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the young lady in John’s office was “let go” soon after Trish made the changes at home.
How to establish Kid-Free Zones in your Home
Help your child keep organized by providing easy-to-access storage options for kid’s books and toys, i.e. cupboards with solid doors on them, shelves inside closets, toy boxes, etc.
If the home is small and storage is at a premium, opt for furniture that serves “double duty” such as an ottoman with storage space inside, sea grass or wicker trunks, and cabinets instead of tables for extra storage options for toys, books, and other brightly colored items.
A specific area to display children’s artwork instead of plastering it all over the house. You can call it “(insert child’s name)’s Art Gallery”. Take the old artwork down and change it as new “masterpieces” are created.
Important! Make sure that the master bedroom is free of children’s photographs and possessions. Display children’s art and photographs in other rooms of the home, and save the master bedroom for rest and romance.
If your child enjoys playing with large items like toy kitchens, doll houses and the like, and space is at a premium, use decorative screens to place in front of these things when not in use, especially if they occupy one of the main rooms in the home.
By establishing kid-free zones in your home you will be amazed at how much calmer and more organized your home will feel, and when your home feels organized and calmer you will too! That’s good feng shui!