The Easiest Way to Keep Your Kids’ (Super Gross) Sleeping Bags Clean

The Easiest Way to Keep Your Kids’ (Super Gross) Sleeping Bags Clean

Shifrah Combiths


With five children, Shifrah is learning a thing or two about how to keep a fairly organized and pretty clean house with a grateful heart in a way that leaves plenty of time for the people who matter most. Shifrah grew up in San Francisco, but has come to appreciate smaller town life in Tallahassee, Florida, which she now calls home. She’s been writing professionally for twenty years and she loves lifestyle photography, memory keeping, gardening, reading, and going to the beach with her husband and children.

See How This Family of Five Is Able to Live Stylishly in Just 600 Square Feet

See How This Family of Five Is Able to Live Stylishly in Just 600 Square Feet

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Name: Heather, Michael, Lennon (4 years), Georgie (2.5 years), and James (15 months)
Location: Upper West Side — Manhattan, NYC
Size: 600 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years Lived In: 9 months, renting

Six hundred square feet of living space is small even for just one person. But for a couple and their three kids who are doing so both stylishly and functionally? Now that’s impressive. But that’s just what Heather and Michael are accomplishing with their three young daughters after moving from California to New York recently. “We found our apartment while we were still living in California, prior to moving to New York City,” writes Heather. “We did a virtual tour of the space, fell in love from afar, and the rest is history!

Despite so many people living in so little space, their home doesn’t feel too crowded or busy at all, thanks to both architectural elements the apartment provides and decor and storage ideas the couple implemented. “Our favorite thing about the apartment is definitely the view of Central Park. Looking out the window and seeing wide open space and lots of trees makes the small space feel so much bigger — almost like we have a yard (*almost*)! We live in a corner unit which has given us some additional windows and lots of natural light — a very close second favorite feature about the space.” Along with embracing all the natural light (and enhancing it with a few well-placed mirrors), the couple also stuck to a neutral and light color palette, which helps make the place feel serene and airy. And they used vertical space wisely to free up floor space, like the living room’s sleek wall-mounted shelving, and the primary bedroom’s petite wall-mounted work space.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Cozy, thoughtful, not fussy, somewhere between minimal and collected.

Inspiration: I find a lot of inspiration from interior design books and Pinterest (I could look at photos of beautiful interiors for hours!). I love and appreciate so many different styles and I find that my inspiration is always changing and shifting, which is usually reflected in our home in some way. Definitely inspired by nature as well — natural textures, materials, and colors are some of my favorite design elements.

Favorite Element: Most definitely the corner window in the girls’ room. It has a little perch — just big enough to sit on — and it makes for the loveliest little window seat. They get tons of natural light in their room and have a wonderful view of the park that we love to enjoy from the corner window.

Biggest Challenge: Finding a way to create a functional and beautiful 600-square-foot space for a family of five was no simple task! We had to be very intentional about the choices we made when it came to furniture, storage, and “stuff” in general. We majorly pared down when we moved here and kind of started over in a sense — we wanted to make sure all the big furniture items were just the right size, in hopes that it would make the space feel bigger and to make the most of every square inch, all while maintaining some negative space as well and not filling every single inch of every room with stuff.

We’re constantly editing our things since even bringing in a couple of new things can affect how the space feels. Minimalism in this sense has been key for us to not feel like we’re bursting at the seams!

Proudest DIY: I’ve been painting a lot the past few months, and I had a lot of fun creating some original pieces for our home (one in the living room, one in our room above the desk). I really enjoyed getting to create unique paintings that I felt complement the rooms and make them feel unique and collected.

Biggest Indulgence: Our Serena & Lily sconces in our bedroom — 100 percent worth it! I love them so much and feel like they make such a lovely statement while still feeling really simple. They bring so much to the space.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why?

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Utilize the walls and go up when it comes to storage (think hanging wall baskets, shelves, stackable storage crates, etc.), hang a large mirror to make a small space feel bigger, and tidy up often! Also, bring in multipurpose items where you can — we use a big stack of books as a side table in the living room, use the small wicker bench as a footrest and an extra seat, etc.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Be patient when it comes to decorating! If you’re at all second guessing a purchase for your home, wait. When the right thing comes along, you’ll know.

Thanks Heather and family!

Erin Derby


Originally from California, but turned New Yorker since 2000, I’ve been shooting my entire life and am still inspired and excited about it. Lately I have been putting my energies into my Fine Art, which can be seen on my website and on Saatchi Art. Being infatuated with interior design doesn’t hurt either, which mixes well with my love of photographing interiors.

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Summer Camping with Kids Gets Pretty Messy — This Is My Survival Strategy

Summer Camping with Kids Gets Pretty Messy — This Is My Survival Strategy

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When we first bought a camper, as I was nursing one baby and chasing a toddler around years back, I swore we’d never actually use the miniature shower inside. Was I ever wrong. Camping with (now) four boys under age 7 is quite the mud, sand, and muck-filled experience, but one that is immensely enriching their childhood. Every other weekend from April through October, they are sloshing, splashing, exploring, stomping, and adventuring through campgrounds, coating their clothes in mud and coming back with various plants stuck to their hair. Here’s how we are surviving summer camping messes.

Remember the “dustbuster”? Those tiny handheld vacuums that people used to keep on a wall hook in the ’90s have come a long way, and they’re small enough to empower kids to clean up their own messes now. So if some sandy boots get tracked into the camper, or someone’s cereal goes flying, it’s not a crisis. Instead, they have learned to grab the dustbuster, handle the mess, and get on with playing. Ours is located right near the camper’s tiny “drop zone” where kids can leave sunglasses, shoes, hats, and coats, for convenience.

“Peppa Pig” might have taught my kids how to jump in very muddy puddles, but she did little for teaching them how to get it off after. I accidentally discovered the solution when their boots, after a rainstorm, sat drying in the sun one camping day, and I picked them up only to discover all of the dried mud falling off by itself. Magic. So now, instead of making more mud by fighting with the muddy boots, shoes, or other objects, I set them in the sun to dry, then bang them together or in the grass and the mud falls away.

I was among the concerned parents when baby powder became a no-no, for the potential carcinogenic properties in Talc. But what I couldn’t shake was how instantly and efficiently it could get a sandy baby or toddler clean in an instant — and I mean even the wettest, nastiest lake sand around. So, I searched for alternatives and landed on some Talc-free options I keep in the camper like Burt’s Bees Talc-Free Baby Dusting Powder, and this USDA-approved Era Organics option. When we’re in a situation where we can’t bathe a kid instantly, such as hopping into the car after a beachy afternoon, this is a lifesaver.

Bring trash bags, towels, and extra outfits.

There’s extensive preparation in packing four kids for a camping weekend, but most of it involved tripling the number of socks, shoes, pants, towels, and underwear I thought I needed. I stash two towels per child in the car, which inevitably get wet, dirty, or muddy every trip, and also leave large trash bags in strategic places. For example, between campfire chairs is a two-drawer Sterilite that holds all the must-haves, from those extra trash bags, to paper towels and bug spray. Preparation and overpacking is key when you need to throw four towels over four different car seats after a creek walk.

Change your expectations.

Much of camping with kids isn’t about the actual hacks for mud and grime itself, but about a mindset shift. Is mud harmful? No. Is sand injuring my baby while he rubs it all over his head at the lakeside beach? Definitely not. So, rethinking our norms about dirt, all of which can be washed off later, is key to helping my kids, and ultimately myself enjoy their childhoods and our camping trips. Instead of fighting dirty shoes in the camper, I bought a few doormats. I trained them on the broom from age 3. And then, I stopped caring about flecks of dirt, and spent my time and energy watching for bugs instead.

A Family of 5’s Small NYC Home Is Full of Smart Renter-Friendly & Storage Ideas

A Family of 5’s Small NYC Home Is Full of Smart Renter-Friendly & Storage Ideas

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Name: Megan and David Zietz, their three kids and two cats
Location: Astoria, Queens, New York
Size: 1100 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years Lived In: 2.5 years, renting

I’m Megan Zietz, a content creator and designer living in NYC with my family. We found our apartment after a year-plus long search and initially passed it by a few times because it wasn’t EXACTLY what I wanted but we decided to go for it and make it our own.

We’re located in Astoria, Queens. We’re coming up on our 10th year in this area and love our neighborhood. We are homebodies so we spend a lot of time at home and I wanted to create a colorful and whimsical space that makes me happy when I see it, all.the.time.

As creative homebodies, we do a lot at home: We create home decor, DIYs and tutorials, occasionally dress up, and produce silly lifestyle videos with the entire family. We love cooking together, watching TV as a family, playing board games, and gardening in the backyard. It’s definitely a space that has BIG main character energy for all of the vibrant characters and personalities in the house, including the cats.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Colorful, Eclectic, Maximalist

Inspiration: I’m inspired by the ’70s, lots of color, and texture.

Favorite Element: My favorite element has to be our custom wallpaper in the entryway; I love that it’s the first thing you see and it sets the tone for the whole space. It’s fun, unique and a little retro.

Biggest Challenge: Since we’re renting, the biggest challenge was making sure everything we do (and have done) is “renter-friendly.” All of the wallpaper and backsplash is removable and reusable. As far as painting goes, take a weekend and a bucket of Kilz to paint back when it comes to moving out — it’s 100 percent worth it to not look at beige/taupe walls everyday. Other issues we’ve had are the odd dimensions and heights in places like the kitchen counter/island (we had to buy 30″ barstools), closets — our landlord is extremely tall and I’m 5’2″ so reaching hangers in my office closet requires either a jump or a stool. The kids’ bedroom was also tricky; they had glass mirror closet doors that were really hard to open and close so we decided to take them off completely and turned their closet into a “cloffice/workspace.” It really opened up their room and we just put the doors behind our wardrobes in the bedroom.

Proudest DIY: Proudest DIY has to be my pink floor-length fringe mirror in the entryway and black round ball mirror in my office. They were IKEA hacks and I loved giving them new life. I also love our blue IKEA BRIMNES bed and wardrobes.

Biggest Indulgence: Aside from the kids’ bunk bed, which is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our space, I’d have to say the KitchenAid mixer was my biggest indulgence. I put off buying it for years and finally bit the bullet and have never looked back. It’s amazing.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Aside from using our space as a backdrop for creating custom content for brands and our social platform, we really have made this our escape from the world. Outside it’s a busy street in Queens but inside it’s a colorful paradise where we have fun and spend time together.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? In addition to my all-time favorite, Rattan S Chairs (they’re so unique and have held up for six+ years against three growing, rambunctious kids), we just bought a hanging egg chair for the patio and I didn’t know what I was missing all of these years; it’s so comfortable and peaceful.

I also love all of the small details: the hanging metal planters in the living room, the Elnaz Ceramics serving bowl on the sideboard in the entryway, and David’s all-time favorite piece, the lava lamp; he loves it so much he named it Brick.

In the kids’ room, instead of a bulky TV we opted for a roll-down projector screen on the top of their closet so we can have movie nights on the big screen in their room. It saves a ton of space and is such a fun feature in their room.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Storage, storage, storage! With five people and two cats we need all the storage we can get, especially with limited closet and cabinet space. We’ve taken advantage of maximizing additional storage with baskets on top of the wardrobes and fridge, under furniture like the sideboards, and with tiered hanging fruit baskets — we have one at the entryway for masks, keys, and sunglasses and another one under an odd nook under the counter for cloth napkins, ready-to-use cleaning supplies, and other kitchen items. We also try to buy furniture that doubles as storage, like our velvet swivel chairs have compartments inside, as well as the metal drum side table/stools. The kids’ triple bunk bed even has storage drawers to organize their toys. While we are definitely maximalists we do try to avoid having a lot of unnecessary clutter laying around. Everything has a designated home and is organized as possible.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t be afraid of color and remember that decorating a home is a marathon not a sprint. Take your time and decide what you truly want and need instead of buying something on a whim and being tired of it six months later. When you can, upcycle pieces to give them a new life and don’t be afraid to buy used. Have fun with your space and don’t be afraid to make it your own, whether you’re renting or own.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

The First Thing You Need to Know About “Grandfamily” Housing

The First Thing You Need to Know About “Grandfamily” Housing

If the term “grandfamily” sounds familiar to you, you might’ve heard of it in the New York Times or in reference to a bill making its way through Congress. Or, you might know someone who is part of one — more than 2.6 million children are being brought up in grandfamilies, according to a 2019 report by Generations United. Even if you haven’t heard the phrase, though, you can probably surmise what it means.

Also called kinship families, they differ from families that reside in multigenerational housing (where children, parents, and grandparents all live together) in that the parents aren’t present. Oftentimes, a grandfamily forms out of urgent necessity, leaving little time for planning and creating unique challenges. Obstacles can really run the gamut, says Beltran. For instance, a grandparent may own their house, but lack resources to childproof it. They may live in a senior housing facility that doesn’t allow children, a walk-up unit that makes it difficult to manage a stroller, or a studio that is simply too small to accommodate little ones. And on top of physical limitations, there are legal ones.

“Sometimes housing authorities don’t recognize these families as families because they may lack a legal relationship to the children — they may not have adopted them or have guardians of them,” Beltran explains. 

That’s where a specific type of housing designed exactly for these kinds of families comes in. Across the country, just shy of 20 grandfamily housing developments have been built, according to Beltran, and there are more underway. In addition to the support of living in a community of similar families, these homes can also offer on-site services that cater to their residents, from around-the-clock security, to communal gathering spaces and playgrounds, to simple but important design features like handrails and wide hallways.  

As Covid has done with many facets of life and to marginalized communities, it has also highlighted disparities for grandfamilies. Though concrete data is difficult to pin down while the country is still in the midst of the pandemic, Beltran says anecdotally speaking, Covid has elevated the needs of these families.

“It’s the same needs that have always been there, but of course they’re heightened.” And, she says, “The data we do have shows that more Black people, people of color, and Indigenous people have died or become disabled because of Covid. And we know there’s a disproportionate number of children in grandfamilies that are Black or Indigenous.”

A recent report from the CDC shows that about 1 out of every 500 children in the U.S. has experienced orphanhood as a result of the pandemic. “I’m sure a sizable number of those were orphaned because they lost their grandparent, not their parents,” says Beltran. Part of her work with the National Technical Assistance Center on Grandfamilies and Kinship Families — a five-year project made possible by Covid relief legislation — will be to connect kinship care systems around the country to help them better work together. The goal is to help grandfamily housing be what any home should be: a haven to live well and safely.