Lessons in space can certainly be learned from Erika and Kyle Stanley. This family is making it work in a stylish, 2,000-square-foot Craftsman home in the Phinneywood area of Seattle, along with their six kids — five boys, ages 8, 10, 13, 15 and 18, and one girl, age 5.
Adept at rearranging and renovation, the Stanleys’ home is constantly evolving, with projects like adding a playroom, closet, homeschooling area and deck space. At one point, with four kids under one roof, they began dividing the space to make it work better for their large family.
“What started as a need to add a closet turned into moving the two kids’ bedroom doors, tearing out a wall in the big boys’ room, and finishing an under-the-eaves play space in the younger boys' room,” says Erika. “The room had a funky, big closet so we took out the wall to make the room bigger and added a single built-in bed.”
Later, with an adoption in the works for their two kids from Ethiopia, the family began building a new space in the basement for all six children. “With two more kids on the way, we wanted a big play space. All we did was paint, add carpet, IKEA furniture, a slide, a swing and some rings, and it quickly became the favorite room,” Erika says. “The following year, the one and only year I homeschooled all six kids, we did a kitchen remodel. I couldn't handle the constant cleaning-up of books, dishes, books, dishes, as the dining room was used for eating and schooling.”
The Stanleys find beauty in functional items that they’ve accrued over the years, and value travel and experiences over spending money on day-to-day items that they can find inexpensively. “I'm pretty passionate about using what we have,” Erika says. “It's funny, because I don't think of myself as an environmentalist or into sustainability, but it is a part of my being to use something until it is unusable.” In their home, jelly jars have become cups, the school table used to be a bowling-alley floor, wood scraps are toy swords and garden plants are split and replanted.
Asked if the kids are happy to contribute to a make-no-waste lifestyle, Erika explains: “Sharing rooms, sharing stuff and lacking personal space is their way of life. They don't complain about it or feel like they're missing out on anything. ‘Love God, be kind, be generous, give grace, forgive. You may not see the beauty in a person until you get to know them. Find out their story and I guarantee you'll have a harder time judging them.’ If my kids grow up knowing that, living that, I've succeeded as a parent.
More parenting and space adventures on Erika Stanley’s blog, thestanleyschool.blogspot.com