On Having White Couches and A Houseful of Boys

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.

Lint Rolling.
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.  

7 1/2.
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


  1. Excellent photo edit! Hey Mary, I wrote an email to you, but I'm not able to figure out the right address, it came back to me. If you could email me at rebekahsweblog (at) gmail (dot) com I will send it again.

  2. Luke's pants?

    I was at a friend's house yesterday and they are trying to sell...she asked me to give her 5 ideas for showing the house better. I came home all excited and feeling like I had missed a calling too...I would love to have the opportunity to go into people's homes and redesign their living space - by redesign I don't mean decorate - I mean declutter!!!

    I recently discovered the magic of magic erasers.We can't seem to match the color of the paint used when we bought the house, and so far the erasers have been wonderful.

    We wash feet, too, in the summer...only we don't have a very good place to do it. Sometimes I have the girls put on socks so they can go upstairs to the bathtub to wash their feet!

  3. Thank you for this - I LOVE white and LOVED your post on it! Inspires me to maybe try that decorating scheme someday. Was hoping you'd say slipcovers & bleach! :)

    Thanks for the reminder on decluttering - soooo not ingrained in me but love the peace that comes when it's done!

    Lenten Blessings to you.

  4. Aha! This was a great follow up!! I think I am heading over to Ikea to check out the slipcovers (but I am still to wimpy for white ;)
    And that photo edit is great! Wow - guess I am really behind the times when I didn't realize that it is even possible to dress your kids after the fact! haha :)

  5. Sooooo that's how you do it! ;) I love de-cluttering but, um, what does one do when ones better half is of the clutter creating kind??? I don't know. What. To. Do. With. His. Stuffffff...... :D

    1. Oh, that is hard. Thankfully, over our dozen years of marriage Brian has begun to realize that I am right in all the things. Or I have to give in sometimes. :) But it's so much better than when we were first married as he's seen the benefits. He definitely wasn't this way when I got him :)

  6. Fascinated by your tips. I'm a gal who loves my dark leather lounge because it shows no dirt but... I love your all white pics. Yes I should wash my children's feet and hands more but it is hard to be enthused when you life on a building site, when your flooring is sheeting and the floorboards aren't even nailed down yet. I'll just keep drooling over your white:) oh yes and decluttering, time here to do some more but I'm finding it hard for some reason. I really wish I was better at decorating etc is it too late for me to learn I wonder...

  7. Hmm I wonder if I can get the kids in the habit of washing their feet every time they come inside come summer... They prefer to play in the yard with no shoes and woooooow do their feet get nasty...

  8. Just wondering—do you have any pets? As I start cleaning after many years of ignoring it (long story, don't ask), I find that dog hair is everywhere and is difficult to get rid of. I do need to try a lint roller. It could be that the only answer is having many many rolls of masking tape give up their lives for the cause.

    1. Besides the boys? ;) We have a gray cat and she is worse on the couch and chairs than any of us. I should have mentioned that! She only rubs up against certain corners and usually the vacuum or lint roller are enough to get the hair off. But she has claws that have done a number on the back of the chairs...I try not to get too angry and just be thankful that the chair slipcovers are only $29! Eventually we'll have to replace them but it's not too noticeable yet and she's old so it might make more sense to wait until she passes. Is that awful to say?

  9. Wow, you are brave with the white. Having a girl first and then three boys, we defaulted to dark gray leather and heavily patterned very jumpable couches ;-) Love IKEA by the way. Wishing you and your beautiful family a very blessed Lent.

  10. I just love the white and wood look! You do such a great job making your home look so nice, clean, and welcoming!

  11. You have a lovely home! Thanks for the tips! Not everyone can pull off the white decor like you do, that's a talent!. Now if I can only get you to come over to my place....your declutter mode will be switched on, just the person and "cheerleader" I am in need of right now! =)
    Have a blessed & holy Lent season!

  12. How do you entertain with your no shoe policy? I feel like I just found a sis from another mother after reading your 1. Prevention. We have had trouble with guests taking their shoes off , just curious how you handle it and wish constitutes "special occasions " when it comes to eating out of the kitchen? Love your house pic!!! I love white and bleach too lol

    1. Most people around here automatically take off their shoes, especially in the colder months. I think it's just normal for most people to have a tray by the door and a whole bunch of shoes on it! But I don't require anyone to or anything. But because a whole lot of months around here are snowy or muddy, people just usually do it everywhere if they know we'll be spending the time inside. If we're having a summer party and people are going in and out, I don't do anything about that really. Even I keep my shoes on then. Special occasions are just things like a family movie night/floor picnic or Christmas Eve when we bring cookies and hot chocolate into the living room or things like that :)


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