Blending Home Decorating
by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer
Are you tempted to call that 1-800 got junk number? Compiling two families into one home can cause major arguments, scary step-parenting and spousal reconsideration as boxes of duplicates pile up in the garage.
Blending a family is more than joining them together with the marriage vows. The living- together- after takes grace and finesse as you work your way over and under roadblocks.
My husband and I found it a challenge to combine ours’ and the kids’ belongings. We wanted the two sons moving in to feel at home. At the same time it was imperative to keep the son who had lived in the house for five years as an only child not to feel displaced.
Experts suggest the best way to merge two families is to start off in a new-to-everyone home, with bedrooms for all. Yeah, and once upon a time there was a king and queen. In real life, most blended families don’t have an income to make that happen. We couldn’t do that, but we did have a bedroom for each son. It meant one child went from having his room plus a toy room to only his bedroom. It surprised me that it seemed to be more traumatic for him than the others who had left their home. I didn’t realize he was grieving the loss of being the only child along with having his father’s attention focused solely on him.
Often children in the new blended family don’t know each other well. They are combined in bedrooms because of a lack of space. Then there are families who only have some of the children every other weekend. They need a place to sleep, store belongings and call their own too.
Make a plan for that to happen. Children are attached to their possessions so forget about hauling the extra game systems to the nearest consignment shop, unless you can get all the children to agree to using only one. One way to pull this off is to offer to purchase the newest system with the money from the sale of the old ones. Be clear to state there will only be one bought, not two! If that fails, incorporate both systems into the family area or one system on each level of the house.
Bedrooms can work well for more than one child. Dividing rooms is a perfect solution. Back-to-back bookcases provide extra storage and a little sound proofing between roommates. Fill the shelves with baskets to hold toys, books, electronics and clothes. Paint the ends of the bookcases with black board or dry erase paint and you have a place to write chore charts.
Rooms too small to be divided by bookcases? Hang curtains with a strong wire. The benefit of the curtain division is that it doesn’t have to be closed, allowing bonding between siblings. Stack shelves along the wall and cover with fabric for an extra closet.
Loft beds keep floor space available for play. Using a loft system works well for children who come every other weekend. If the top bunk is theirs, they may feel more comfortable knowing no one else will be touching their bed while they are gone. Let them decorate the walls around their bed with meaningful photos.
Children that come to the house for weekends need extra care. It’s important for them to have a closet, dresser or drawers that belong to them. Even large baskets with lids or trunks from a flea market will do the trick. A family meeting explaining the importance of respecting each other’s belongings is a good idea. Remember you’re working with children so count on repeating that meeting monthly.
Once those systems are in place, the fun begins. It’s time to blend the kids through design. Have a meeting with the children. Make it fun. Take them to a neutral place like a coffee shop or bakery to eliminate the ownership of ‘my house.’
Take each child separately if possible, to pick out bins, baskets and boxes to place on the shelves. Make an attempt to have the flooring and wall colors in a neutral shade, not pink or blue, unless the children sharing agree that they must have it. A neutral color pallet will allow for those individual differences to shine through pillows, photo frames and bed coverings. Fill those photo frames with pictures of your new family along with at least one photo of the child’s birth parent.
Turn decorating into an adventure. Go to flea markets and consignment shops. Painting an old dresser becomes an occasion to bond with your kids. Choose different colors for each drawer or paint stripes and circles. Troll hobby stores for fun drawer pulls, paint a number or a word on the drawer fronts.
Now that the bedrooms are under control, think about the entry way you use daily. When the children come home from school, they need a place to drop their stuff, because that’s what they do—drop and plop.
Hooks for backpacks and coats make a parent’s life easier. If there is enough room, a basket under those hooks to hold activities’ apparel can speed up departure times—no more searching for that orange shin guard or missing ballet bag!
Involving the kids with projects will give the feeling of ownership and belonging.
Still feel overwhelmed? There are many families going through the same upheaval of blending families. Search them out on the internet, at church and at your child’s schools. You aren’t alone.
- Ask before tossing. “Can I save this in a box for you, find a place in your room for it or can we give it away?”
- Pick out 5 ‘mom approved’ paint swatches.
- Encourage decluttering by offering the money received from garage sale or consignment shops.
- Be aware that changes might bring grief along with joy.
- Repeat after me, “Nothing is permanent.” Kids grow and tastes change; be willing to continue the process with them.
Christian author, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, writes historical and contemporary romances. She’s also written We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families. Once widowed and now remarried she writes with humor and experience on the difficulty of joining two families. Her first historical A Bride’s Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee releases May 2012. For now please look for Diana Lesire Brandmeyer’s book Hearts on the Road snuggled in the middle of Wyoming Weddings.