Creating a secret play space for our boys

I’ve been busy the last couple of days with home organizing!

I enjoy decluttering and finding more efficient ways to use the space we have.  Every time we do this our home seems bigger and more enjoyable to live in; it’s like it keeps growing!  I’m also more relaxed when things are in order.

After Pesach I got rid of an armchair that was part of a three piece sofa set and then rearranged all the living room furniture to accommodate that change.  Then the glass insert of our kitchen table cracked just two months after replacing it.  (I thought we were moving or I would have replaced the glass with plexiglass the first time.)  I decided to take the table out rather than replace the insert again; we don’t eat at the kitchen anyway, and the nature of horizontal surfaces is that they become dumping grounds.

Those two changes made a huge difference.  Our main living area feels much more open now, and with two large surfaces no longer available to be cluttered, it’s become that much easier to  keep the main area clean.  There have been times when I felt there was always something to clean but now I usually feel pretty relaxed most of the day that everything is either clean or can be pretty quickly cleaned up.  Decluttering and getting rid of things that really don’t add to our lives is what I credit that to, along with having sane expectations of myself.

Early this week the boys discovered they could make a play area behind the storage boxes in the attic.  They dragged in three mattresses, four sleeping bags, all of their pillows and in the past few days have spent hours in their secret hideout.    Their activities gave me the incentive to reorganize the attic.  I noticed the pieces of a small storage cabinet that we had taken apart last year when we did our massive rearranging of all five bedrooms; I decided to take it out and put it in the playroom to use as a toy cabinet.  Ds6 and ds8 did all the work – I just passed them the screws.  They had a great time and felt productive and proud to have done something real.  Kids need accomplishments like these and it’s not hard to give them opportunities when you realize they may be little but they can be very competent.

I told them I wanted to do more organizing in the attic, and they were very eager to help me after we finished putting together the cabinet but I told them after two hours of working in the playroom, I was ready for a break!  I told them we could work on the attic the next afternoon instead, and that’s what we did today.

We’re very fortunate to have a nice amount of space in our attic for storage; I appreciate this and know it’s a luxury that most apartments don’t have.  Our storage area has unfinished cinderblock walls with a cement floor, and no lighting other than the cracks between the red clay roof shingles that lets in tiny bits of sunlight.  I called an electrician tonight to ask him to come and put a light in since we already have the wiring for it, but it will take another couple of weeks until he’ll be available.  The kids don’t mind, there’s enough light coming through during daylight hours to see once their eyes adjust.

I would love to drywall the walls and ceiling so that dust won’t be able to blow through those little spaces and of course white walls look nicer and create a feeling of spaciousness that dark cement walls don’t, but the area serve its purpose.  Though hanging drywall is something we can do ourselves, here in Israel without a car and without stores that are set up for the do-it-yourselfer, everything becomes a bigger deal.  So unless dh feels inspired to put some time in (time being something he doesn’t have lot of extra of), it’s going to stay as it is because paying someone else to do it isn’t in the plans right now!

We (me, ds6 and ds8) did a super thorough organizing job!  We pulled everything out and reallotted the space completely.  We moved all of the sukka schach under the eaves where it’s only about two feet high, a space that was totally unused beforehand, put the suitcases on top of that, then moved the clothing storage boxes as far back as possible in front of that.   We moved a plastic shelving unit out of our laundry porch and put it on top of a work table that’s in a tucked away corner of the attic.  (We reorganized our laundry room today, too!)  Then we were able to put all the remaining storage items in one compact area by using the newly created vertical storage space.  That made it possible to move everything away from the side of the storage area that’s high enough to walk around without bending ovber.

My boys worked hard today!  Why were the boys so happy to work with me on this?  Because I consulted them in advance and told them I wanted to reorganize the attic to create an official hideout for them!  I asked them for their input and we made our organizing choices based on their feedback.  They worked for a solid two hours, moving big things, pushing around heavy boxes, taking things we didn’t need anymore to the dumpster or to the give away pile, and sweeping up a huge amount of dust.

A view closer up

A close up view

They designated the far side of the attic for their hideout, and when it was finished, they were able to spread out the sukka carpet, which is a durable non-cloth material that’s washable and doesn’t attract dust.



The new hideout from a distance

The new hideout from a distance – the interesting looking seat you see is their invention – they used the base of a fan and inserted an extra bicycle seat to make a place to sit

The area we officially  designated for them is about 9′ x 4.5′, but there’s a good sized area leading to that which has now been almost totally cleared so that gives them much more space to play.  (The open space is about double what you see here.)  The entrance to this area is from the playroom so this works very well for them.





They were excited to invite their friends to come and play!  Before they had a chance to call anyone, there was the sound of a buzzer and two friends at our front door wanted to know if they could play.  They were very happy to come in and inaugurate the play area!

Boys proud of their new hideout

Boys proud of their new hideout

My husband came home and commented how nice it is that we so often have kids at our home, and this is something I also appreciate.  I don’t have a fancy house, I don’t make awesome treats, I’m not a fun mom and I don’t have all the coolest toys.  But my kids friends come pretty much every day and I’m glad they feel comfortable here.

The time I spend organizing is a good investment.  It creates more time since after the initial investment, it takes less time to clean up and that means more time for other things.  And most importantly, it helps  me to enjoy and feel comfortable in my home, and I’m sure me being comfortable makes it more comfortable for others to spend time here as well.


13 thoughts on “Creating a secret play space for our boys

  1. reading your accomplishments today/and from past few days gives me a feeling of wanting to declutter. I did alot before chanukah time, but I can really do more now. so glad you are feeling good, and now your kids can enjoy their hideout without being away from home.

    1. I also get encouragement to declutter when I read about other people letting go of things that aren’t enhancing their lives. It’s good every once in a while to look around and reassess; I find that clutter grows unless you actively manage it!

  2. This is SO inspiring as I sit here reading it and avoiding the mess that surrounds me! I have been procrastinating a drywall project for a while now. We have a “bedroom” that is separated from our main living space by curtains, but it should really be walls. It feels like a HUGE job. Really?- we could do it ourselves? Maybe I could stop thinking about it and actually do it! Thanks for the push!

    1. Shoshana, we renovated our attic in the US and turned it into a parents suite with a full bathroom and storage area so we got some experience then. (We hired someone to do the electricity and plumbing but did everything else ourselves.)

      I didn’t know much before then and took out books from the library on each part of the renovation process to learn the details of what to do; fortunately with Google university you can learn to do anything even with the absence of library books!

      Hanging drywall isn’t hard but decluttering is definitely easier!

  3. Sounds great! Space for kids is really important and it’s not always so easy to find it in an apartment, with no yard. Can we see pictures please?

    1. I thought of taking a picture but since there’s so little light, I don’t think it will come through very well!

      1. Kaila, it took me a couple of days but you inspired me to take some pictures and put them into the post! The hideout showed up nicely with the flash. I hope you see them. :)

  4. What do you think attracts the local kids to your home? I always wanted to have that “cool house” but I’m also not very cool :)

    1. Shuli, I don’t have a cool house – just an average, friendly home with nice kids and toys and games to share. Nothing exciting – in the US I had so much more but my kids friends usually wanted our kids to visit them at their houses. So it might be more of a reflection on the simpler lifestyle of Israeli kids than on me. Whatever it is, I like it!

  5. It’s amazing how hard kids can work when they want to!
    Can you post a picture of the toy storage unit you put back together? Still wondering how you keep all the games, toys and supplies organized and accessible in a limited space.

    1. I’ll try to take a picture of the toy set up sometime soon. I want to finish reorganizing it – right now I have a big shelf of open space and some things high up so I need to take time to think how to rearrange it all.

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