Since having children, one of the greatest luxuries we’ve recently obtained is having a space for the children that is entirely theirs and a space that is not. Like any large city, but maybe more so than some others, Tokyo has a premium on space. When a square meter of your house can be used for more than one purpose, it will be.
The traditional Japanese house did this to the extreme. Going back many years you’d find a central room within the house that served dining, entertainment, and sleeping purposes. The use of deep and wide closets kept the possessions out of sight while the room morphed between its many functions.
In the modern Japanese apartment, the living and dining room often serves as a playroom as well. Plastic train sets, building blocks, and books will frequently need to be tidied up before a meal or the children head off to school or bed. Both for the children and the parents, this creates stress. The parents are tired of getting their kids to clean up and the kids are tired of having to clean up. The children may have spent hours perfecting their railroad layout, only to have it back in the toy box before bed.
This process of sharing the space is something that you internalize and don’t really think about. The daily dance of take out, play, pick up goes on without a second thought. And, yet, you wonder why you are exhausted and stressed at the end of each day. It isn’t just your work.
This was our routine for a number of years. I never imagined how it would be different until we moved.
There is something to be said of kids cleaning up all the time. There is also something to be said about them just having the freedom to make a mess. What looks chaotic to our eyes, may be the very system that works for them.
Whether you agree that letting children be as messy or clean as they want to be, most can agree that with the main living area dedicated to family activities (like board games, reading books, and dance nights), it puts your mind at ease. And when the parents have a place where they can relax, it makes it so much easier to handle the energetic chaos of children.
If you are in the position where you can rearrange your rooms so that children have a dedicated space and you have yours, I highly recommend giving it a go.