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9 Ways to Create a Toddler-Proof Oasis at Home

Yesterday, my husband and I spent a large sum of money on an oil painting for our living room. Just looking at the painting made me happy, so I had to get it. The artist was a friend of a friend, which is why it wasn't more.

Before then, I don't think I'd ever spent more than $120 on art. Instead I ordered cheap prints from Etsy, purchase sketches from street artists or spend a little bit more on those canvas-mounted prints you can buy from HomeGoods or World Market or Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

Buying real art, though? That just seemed like the type of thing only people frolicking about in piles of money could afford.

Who are we kidding? I thought as we hung the painting above our living room couch. This painting was the one bright, beautiful spot in a home that is an explosion of alphabet toys and dust bunnies and cat litter. The couch itself was draped in a slipcover in order to protect it from our three cats. The coffee table in front of the couch was covered in board books and baby spoons and discarded napkins. The hardwood floors were a land mine of cardboard coasters and blocks and plastic food items. What was the point of buying something so expensive for aesthetics?

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Marie Kondo writes about the importance of items that "spark joy." And back in the day, Virginia Woolf wrote about having "a room of one's own" (though I guess she was writing about creating space for women writers in a male-dominated field, not creating a space where women could pee without their toddlers peering into their laps. But I'm going to take interpretive liberties here anyway).

And I so desperately want both of those things, especially on days when I am buried in deadlines, running around like a maniac and tripping over sippy cups while my daughter shouts a song at the top of her lungs that is just "MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY" over and over to the clap of her hands.

So how can we create small oases within our homes despite the fact that we have children?

1. Spend a really long time folding the laundry.

This works if your laundry room is in the basement, impassable to your toddler because of a door, a child safety gate, a steep set of stairs and two more doors. It may be drafty, but the socks feel so good fresh out of the dryer.

2. Bake something. Let your child help.

I know. This sounds crazy. But by "help," I mean hand her a whisk and a measuring cup and let her wander about the first floor while you lick a bowl filled with raw batter.

3. Purchase small, meaningful objects that make you smile.

I usually place items like this on the desk in my home office. Like the tiny music box I bought because it reminded me of a yoga and writing retreat I once went on. Or the singing bowl I sometimes play because listening to the vibrations melt into the air makes me feel at peace. I also have a set of Tiny Buddhas I've placed throughout the house.

4. Lock the door to the bathroom.

Keep at least three magazines and a book in there. Pretend you're pooping.

5. Watch TV while in a sleeping bag, and just pull it over your head if you hear your child approaching.

Self-explanatory. Also cozy.

6. Actually have your own room.

I waited years to have my own home office. And the wait was worth it. And OK it now contains a toddler chair and my daughter's alphabet magnets and, many times, my daughter, but it is still mine.

7. Barring that, create a portable oasis.

I keep a few items in my closet for impromptu meditation sessions: a bolster; a yoga blanket; a zafu. And I have several meditation apps on my phone. I can't have my own, permanent yoga/meditation corner, but the supplies are there when I need a moment to breathe.

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8. Don't let your child sleep in your goddamn room.

Is no place sacred!? That pillow-top mattress is mine.

9. Hang a gorgeous painting in your living room.

And every time you pass it by, no matter how harried you're feeling, notice it and smile.

Photograph by: Stephanie Auteri

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