In response to popular demand (much to my own amusement) here's how I survive with a houseful of boys and white furniture and trim (and even floors!) and have not gone totally nuts. Yet. No promises.
I am completely okay with setting rules and boundaries with the boys. They aren't allowed to bring food outside the kitchen except for special occasions. (I admit that most stains are because of Brian and me and our penchant for evening snacking on the couch.) We're a no shoes in the house kind of house. And during sandal season when their feet get filthy, we all wash our feet in the downstairs tub when we come inside. It sounds silly but gosh, our feet get dirty. Whether we had white furniture and floors or not, I wouldn't want those feet everywhere. It's certainly not foolproof and my kids aren't angels but it helps and (I think) it teaches them to be respectful of the things God has given us as well as to respect the people they live with.
The couches, chairs, and curtains are all from Ikea. Which means none of them are priceless and I don't freak if they get dirty. Everything is washable, though I've never actually washed the curtains. They would need to be ironed afterwards and I don't really ever iron. Like...ever. But the chairs and couches are slipcovered with individual pieces that are washable. The fact that the individual pieces can be washed makes it much more doable because if there is a spill on one cushion or pillow, it only takes a couple seconds to take it off and wash it with the rest of our whites. Right now, the couches and chairs are only just over a year old and they are still in great shape. I think I've washed them four or five times. The white slipcovers themselves can be bought separately and are VERY reasonably priced so I felt comfortable with buying cheap couches that would possibly need a new cover in a few years. I don't think I could ever do white unless the cover could be washed!
Bleach and Oxyclean.
Despite my attempts at laundering with more natural products, I eventually had to admit defeat. Our water is too hard for them to work. So I am okay with using both bleach and Oxyclean with my whites. When I see that the cover needs a wash, I pretreat any stains with the Oxyclean spray while the cover is still on - that way you can see better where the stains are. Then I take it off, wash it hot with a scoop of the Oxyclean powder and a bit of bleach. And that's pretty much it. Oh, and peroxide is great for blood. As a homebirther and mom to boys, I can vouch for it. So far, that has been enough to keep the stains at bay.
A few months back the couch looked really dingy so I decided it needed a wash. Except that when it came out it looked just as dingy as before. I finally realized that it wasn't dirt but dark lint, mostly from my husband's and kid's fleece pants that the washer wasn't able to get out. I brought out the lint roller and what do you know? They looked practically brand new again! Which is fun news because a quick swipe with the lint roller is way easier than washing. So now every few weeks they get a quick rolling. (Oh my, that may have been the nerdiest sentence I've ever written on this blog thus far.) It's actually a fun chore for weirdo kids like mine. The little ones love to do it. You can find cheap lint rollers at the dollar store.
Magic Erasers can only do so much. Once or twice a year I touch up the white trim paint around the house. (Or more likely, I ask Brian to do it as a gift for me :) It is amazing the difference it makes to take the ten seconds and swipe a quick coat on the door jamb or baseboard. It's really no more work than washing them would be and it makes a world of difference. Especially for those chips and scrapes that are pretty much inevitable in any house but especially a house with active little kids.
A Personal Clutter Vendetta.
Probably the best tip I could give is to do your best to get rid of the clutter. A house can have just as many stains, fingerprints, and children, but the house that doesn't have stuff all over will just feel cleaner and brighter and more intentional. I love decluttering. I find it therapeutic and freeing. I like the challenge of it. I may have missed a calling somewhere, I think. One of my many dream jobs is going into people's homes and throwing away things. I believe wholeheartedly in the advice that if you don't find something either useful or beautiful, then get rid of it. Either give it to someone who can use it, recycle it, or throw it away. I rarely regret getting rid of something and if I do I'm okay with the momentary frustration of not having it for the peace that not having it brought.
The white will get dirty. It will show things that a dark couch or wall won't but if it's worth it to you, then it requires a certain resignation that it will require some upkeep. And maybe you're a Theo-geek like me and can even find some deep theological truths to ponder while you tend to it. We do have white painted floors all upstairs that I have a love/hate relationship with. It's been hard to keep them looking clean. But given that the rugs that were here were matted and likely disease-ridden and we weren't willing and couldn't pay for carpeting or wood floors, a painted floor it was. I really do love how they look but they're really sensitive to scrapes and seem to get dirty quickly and I don't have the time or energy to keep up with them. It bugs me but I've learned to have a certain healthy resignation with it which is good in a house with lots of little kids, no matter what your decor choice.
And lastly, please remember...
As people who visit me in real life can attest, things are certainly not spic and span perfect here. But I'm not the kind who sees that stuff and thinks, "hey, grab the camera and get a close up of that!" I'm much more the must-clean-that-immediately sort. And if you look close you'd see that things are most definitely not immaculate. Neat and mostly picked up and tidy, yes, but not immaculate. Most of the time, I'm okay with that.
Ten points if you can spot the edit in this one
(Hint: Someone wasn't actually wearing pants...)
Linkin' on up with Mrs. Fulwiler for the some Quick Takes
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