Tips On Decorating With A Toddler

Albie Knows Designer Life With A Toddler

It's a funny thing that happens when you're a working mom. Not only does the outside world see you differently, but you start to see yourself differently. It's almost like living an oxymoron...

Isn't being a mom already work?

Can I be fully vested in both or will one always suffer?

What's the cost to my business & my family?

What's the cost to myself?

These are just some of the questions that I battle with but the question that really nags me, as someone who believes that my physical space & headspace are intrinsically linked, will I ever be able to have the home of my dreams with a toddler running around?

The busier or more overwhelmed I am, the less put together my home is; and inversely, the messier or more cluttered my home is, the less creative or focused I feel. If my home & mind aren't aligned, I'm all out of whack! I've always been like this but I'm certain I've become more sensitive to this now that my life has runneth over with things to do, specifically, with keeping up with a growing toddler.

This isn't some deep introspective on the struggles of balancing motherhood & entrepreneurship. It's about some of the misconceptions people have when it comes to my life as a work from home mom & as an interior designer, and how I really keep my home (and sanity) with my baby girl.


When I lived back home with my mom, I was always particular about how I arranged my room and it was almost always I direct reflection of what I had going on in other areas of my life -- from school, to relationships, to whatever else, I would take it out on my room (and my body, by way of tattoos, but that's neither here nor there).

As I've gotten older, this started to manifest itself in different ways, not just how I'd arrange my room, but just my overall decor style. When I got my apartment, my apartment went through so many design phases before I finally settled into one that felt just right.

Throughout this process, how my home has always also played a part in my productivity -- I always found that no matter what, once things felt "put together", I was crossing everything off my check list and feeling reenergized.

Albie Knows Designer Life... With A Toddler

Now, as a mom and wife, obviously my home is no longer just MY home. My decisions have to be made with my husband and daughter in mind, but more so my daughter; and a question I get A LOT is how I can have nice things with a toddler.

The thinking is either our place beautifully curated & flawlessly put together because I'm a designer, or it's a hot volcanic mess because there's a toddler running around destroying everything. It's neither! It's somewhere in between and our reality is "perfectly imperfect".

To really understand our perfectly imperfect situation, there are a few things to note... 

  • We're new to Washington, and so for all intents & purposes, are still settling in. Nothing is curated because nothing is "complete"... furnished, but certainly not complete.
  • Between both my husband & I both being in school and working, there's realistically no time to keep everything pristine. That's just not a reality that would ever be possible, even without a child, because there just aren't enough hours in the day.
  • Our daughter is not a raging animal, just destroying everything in her path. Now I will say she is clumsy & curious, so left to her own devices, she can definitely cause some havoc; but we purposefully don't have a ton of toys everywhere and her curiosity isn't anything that isn't manageable on most days.

I'm of the opinion that our place looks as good as it could, all things considered. Our sofa never stays the way I've set it up but I'm also not constantly tripping over toys. In most cases, it's nothing a quick tidying up can't fix.

So often we (the general population) find ourselves lusting over picture perfect spaces and then hating ourselves for not even making the bed, but it's all a balancing act.

When I had my daughter, I learned very early on that motherhood meant sacrifice and I made my peace with that because I'm also a pragmatist. I could still have nice things, sacrificing where necessary and also creating teaching moments for my daughter.

As a kid, I thought that everything I saw people do on television were natural abilities we were all born with. For example, I thought if Dominique Dawes could be a gymnast, then naturally I could too; and not in the philosophical sense of "I can do anything I put my mind to" but instead that this is just an innate ability that everyone is born with.

With that in mind, I began working on my gymnastic routines... on the back of my parents' sofas. My very misguided gymnastic career came to an abrupt end when I crashed belly first into the glass coffee table. It's an absolute miracle, by the way, that I wasn't severely physically injured (or that my parents didn't kill me) but my pride (and the table) were definitely shattered.

Despite my many misguided attempts to be a gymnast/ballerina/stuntwoman, my parents never forfeited decorating the house for fear of what I may or may not do.

I grew up with nice things and they taught me what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Clearly, no one expected me to attempt cartwheels on the back of the sofa but now that I'm a mom, I see why my parents were that way. Left up to my husband, we'd have nothing and just let her roam free, but he lets me take the lead on these things.

I make very calculated decisions when purchasing and decorating because I am cognizant of my daughter's curiosity -- a curiosity that dangerously parallels my own growing up.

Our coffee table, for example, remains empty. I'd love to have a beautifully styled coffee table but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make if it means not having to chase her around the house to get a book or sculpture back in its place. Instead of a table lamp, we placed a floor lamp in the living room and it's neatly anchored behind our sectional & side table, which also stays empty.

For character & personal touches, I've styled our mantle, shelves, and walls. My nicer and/or more fragile pieces are on higher shelves and the tables just stay empty.

In our bedroom, our dressers are actually in our closet so we don't have to worry about styling, and the nightstand is home to our diaper caddy, sound machine, and radio dock. As far as cased goods go, they're pretty dangone attractive so I'd rather they be empty & attractive than styled & cluttered... and stressing me out.

As parents, we decided we're not just going to turn over our home to a toddler; and as a designer, aside from teaching her discipline, I also want her to understand the value of things, because I'm certain that my appreciation for decor comes from being exposed to them early on.

My home office also doubles as her playroom and has been such since we moved in without any problems. Does she get curious when I'm packing a subscription box? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean I have to wait until the dead of the night to do my fulfillment... *insert teaching moment here*

My house can't and won't ever stay perfect. Clean, yes, but never perfect because that's just not reality.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that what we see on social media and television is staged; however, not being able to achieve perfection doesn't mean it's automatically a disaster area. A little secret? Being able to easily maintain everything allows me to steer clear of creative blocks. With my space clutter free, my mind tends to be as well.

As we continue to really make this start to feel like home, our daughter is also getting older and smarter. She's not afraid to test our patience and touch things that she knows she shouldn't touch, but she also knows that she shouldn't be climbing the back of the sofa... just saying.

Albie Knows Online Interior Design & Decor Styling