By Jeff Schnaufer
— From bedrooms that resemble combat zones to dining rooms turned into impromptu playgrounds, the kids sure have made a mess of things over the summer. But their return to school is an opportunity to reclaim your home, plus add a few new décor touches for restoring the house -- and your lifestyle -- to sanity.
The Child's Bedroom
1) "Once the kids are back in school, it's a perfect time to re-design their bedrooms," says Sarah Barnard, interior designer and LEED AP in Los Angeles. "Completing the major painting, furniture moving and window treatment installations while the kids are away during the day is always preferable to having them home and adding to the already stressful renovating process. Also imagine the delight and surprise of your children when they return home from school to find their new décor ready and waiting for them!"
2) Before redesigning, though, deal with the mess they left behind first. "Do yourself a favor: roll up your sleeves, hold your nose and clean it now," says Debbie Wiener, owner of Designing Solutions in Silver Spring, Md. and author of "Slob Proof! Real-Life Home Decorating Solutions" (Alpha 2008). "I myself found an entire colony of ants under my son's desk, where he had thrown a barely recognizable banana peel and missed the garbage can. Remember, half the kitchen is somewhere in there, so if you're low on dishes, glasses and spoons, lift the comforter and take a look under the bed," she says.
Change and wash the sheets now, Wiener adds, and do not forget the closets. Get a sticky room freshener or cedar shavings and hang them on the inside wall or clothes rod to freshen up the otherwise closed space. "The goal is not necessarily to clean up after your young adult- just to prevent any disasters- like ants or mold- that you will ultimately pay for later," Wiener says.
Family and Living Rooms
3) "As a mom of a college sophomore and a ninth grader, what I am looking forward to most is reclaiming the TV," says Wiener. She suggests organizing the video games and DVDs in baskets and on shelves or behind closed cabinets.
4) "Pillows and cut flowers are a decorator's secret weapons," Barnard says. "Any living, family or bedroom can be instantly made over with a quick swap out of pillow cases and botanicals in interesting containers. Look for decorative pillow covers with zippers so that your pillow inserts can be used again and again. For fall choose traditional autumnal hues reincarnated as fun and fresh, like tangerine and apple green instead of burnt orange and olive green. Switch your pillow covers to something new with each season. Try white and ice blue for winter and pink and sunshine yellow for spring."
Storage, Storage, Storage
5) Wondering what to do with all those toys scattered around the house? Barry Izsak, Certified Professional Organizer in Austin, Texas, has a great rule of thumb.
"The smaller the child, the larger the container needs to be," he says. "The best you can hope for from a 3 or 4 year old is to get the toys back in a large toy chest." When a toy has little pieces and parts, such as puzzles and Legos, Izsak suggests using clear zip-loc bags or other clear containers for storage instead of the original container.
Reining In The Outdoors
6) At the end of summer, your yard may look like Wiener's, full of baseballs, tennis balls and little footballs. Take a cue from her playbook and use a net bag. "Load 'em up, tie 'em up and into the garage they go," Wiener says. She also suggests parents consider investing in a mobile, plastic storage shed from Rubbermaid, "It's a great way to store croquette sets, sports gear and pool floats till next spring." Organizing strewn toys makes room for the other things outside, "Outdoor furniture that's been scattered to all four corners of the yard can now be re-assembled on the patio," Wiener says.
Plan Ahead For Holiday Entertaining
7) It's never too soon to start thinking about your fall decorating projects, Barnard says. "Year after year, clients call us in a panic just few weeks before their big holiday party," she says. "They find themselves expecting guests without the necessary accommodations like a large enough dining room table or ample guest bedrooms. Custom furniture and draperies usually take at minimum 8 weeks from order to delivery, so starting the design process now and planning on having orders placed no later than the end of September will ensure that everything is ready and fabulous for Thanksgiving."