A Functional Entry

Mudrooms & EntrywaysEveryone enters. Everyone has stuff. Most people dump their stuff on the nearest surface (or floor….) For mudrooms & entries, it is all about functionality. If yours isn’t serving you well, here are a few ideas to improve your space:

While you may not have a mudroom, you walk in somewhere. Think creatively about how to use whatever space you DO have to its maximum efficiency. Commonly overlooked areas include the backs of doors, walls, corners, landings and the space just outside in an attached garage.

The entry is where we walk in with belongings, so it is critical to assign very specific locations for all the “regulars.” Also, solutions are more likely to succeed if they are easy to use… few people will put items away in a box that is at the bottom of a stack.

FOR….                        TRY…

Bags, backpacks         hooks on a wall (put them low for children)

Entry backpacks

photo: Kantanya Green

Keys                            a dish or a key hook on the wall

Key Hooks

Sunglasses                  a tray, dish, basket or an open box inside of a drawer

Sunglass storage

Loose change              jar or dish

Coats                           hooks!! (nobody likes hanging coats on hangars…)

Hooks for the entry

photo: MyHomeIdeas.com

Hats/mittens                a drawer or bin, ideally one for each family member

Entry Bins

Shoes/boots                in/under cubbies, on a low-mounted peg rack or on a tray

Cubby Storage

Since entry spaces tend to be small, we need to keep only the items we are regularly using here. Take the time when seasons change to clear out the area and move out of season items to a long-term storage location. For instance, come April you can probably relocate gloves/mittens/scarves/ski goggles/hand warmers/etc. out of the space, and bring in sunscreen and bug spray.

Similarly, if you have family members involved in seasonal sports or activities, be sure to keep only the supplies for the current activity in the mudroom. The rest gets moved to a garage, attic, basement or closet.

Lastly, since shoes tend to pile up in the entry, limit the number of shoes per person that may be stored here –the ones that get worn every day. If your daughter wears dress shoes once a week, those don’t belong in the mudroom.

Most people bring the mail inside and put it on the closest surface. Handling the mail is a whole other topic (see here), but the key for the mudroom is to not let it linger. If you sort your mail at a dresser or shelf in the mudroom, be sure to move it quickly to a desk, files or sorter so it can be acted upon. Paperwork in the entry tends to get piled over and lost – and it never makes the best first impression.

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Walking into our homes should give us a feeling of joy – “Ahhhh… sanctuary… I’m home!”, not “Ugh… I hate this house!”  Take the time (or get the help) you need to make it work as well as it can for you and your family.

What tricks have you found work well in your entry space?


Feeling Underwater

Drowning in ClutterEver walk into your home/office, take a look around and say to yourself, How in the world did things get so out of control? MANY people find themselves in this situation, often for one of three very common reasons.

This can be either a traumatic experience (e.g. illness, death of a family member, job loss) or a joyful event (e.g. wedding, relocation, new job). When we encounter situations like these, we naturally shift into “cope” mode. In “cope” mode, we don’t have the time to sit and ponder optimal storage solutions, or to reflect on the most efficient way to accomplish a task. Instead, we are typically just trying to survive the day! Bottles of medicine for an ailing parent get piled up on the kitchen counter; belongings get stashed in the nearest cabinet so we can get the moving boxes out of the hallway; personal files get dumped out as we frantically search for important documents. The resulting patterns frequently aren’t the most efficient. At one point or another, everyone encounters these life events.

These others include spouses, children, coworkers, parents, and pets. This can be a very frustrating situation. We work hard to clear out a room, organize a closet, or establish a paper management system, but then it gets quickly undone because we don’t have buy-in or cooperation from the other people in the space. To be honest, there are limitations on the extent to which we can force others to fold into our systems. Pets can be trained and children can be taught (some more easily than others), but spouses and co-workers often have their own ideas of how things should be done. Sometimes the best we can do is negotiate “zones” (areas we call our own and can keep as we wish), and then let the other spaces go.

If this is you, don’t take this as a condemnation! Maybe organizing just isn’t your thing: you would rather hang at the party and leave the dishes for tomorrow; you want a home where “kids can be kids”. In many aspects of life, these qualities are serving you well.

Or maybe you want to be organized, but you just don’t know how. You weren’t reared with any instruction in this area, and you wonder where to start, how to go about setting up a system, or what you need to buy and where to get it?

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For many individuals, the source of the problem may be a combination of all three. For example, you moved 5 years ago but still have stuff in boxes, and your Mom is sick, and you’ve needed to take on a part-time job, and at night you are just too tired to run around and clean up after the kids.

The good news is: retaking control is easier than you think. It’s all a matter of starting small (e.g. with a drawer), and then maintaining the space you’ve organized. Talk with coworkers and family members about your goals, and see if they are willing to support you.

If you need help, there are a variety of resources available:

-            Read blogs like this one for ideas
-            Follow organizers like The Seana Method on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter
-            Hire an organizer or get an organized friend to help

Sometimes just having someone showing up at the door to tackle the space is enough to keep you from procrastinating (much like a personal trainer or workout friend.) The important thing is to not throw in the towel… these situations can be fixed!

How have you been knocked off your game? What tools have helped you regain control?


Managing Expectations

Expectations are funny things. They tell us how something should be, should look, or should work out. Sometimes, we have no/few expectations, and an experience brings us unanticipated satisfaction. No problem here! But frequently, we set our expectations unrealistically high, leaving us (or someone else) feeling disappointed and demotivated.

Simply being aware of the power of expectations – and the need to manage them – can be very useful. This is especially true when we are trying something new. We need to feel the freedom to fail, not have all the answers, and move slowly. If you want to make a change or explore a new opportunity, remember these tips:

Managing Expectations

Be realistic.
The promise of rewarding results is what gives us the energy to move forward. But we shouldn’t expect too much progress, too quickly. Progress is incredibly motivating, but falling short has the reverse effect.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Be careful to set small, achievable objectives rather than one giant long-term goal.

Don’t pretend to have knowledge you lack.
Often we profess knowledge or competence in an area because we feel this is required. But bravado can quickly turn to despair if it leads to being in over our head. Better to fess up to now knowing Excel than to claim expertise, only to be expected to run a complicated spreadsheet on day one.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Be open about your limitations and willing to do whatever is necessary to overcome them.

Overestimate the time you will need.
We tend to estimate time assuming all aspects of a project will go perfectly. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. You may think you can finish the report by the end of the day, until you get a call from school telling you to come and pick up your feverish child.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Build in time for the unexpected when defining your timeframe.

Be clear about what you promise to deliver.
Sometimes we get in trouble because we aren’t specific about what we will (and won’t) do. Saying “I’ll help with that event” is too broad. Will you… recruit volunteers? order supplies? manage the financials?

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Be very specific with yourself and others when describing what you will accomplish.

Ask for help.
Often we overestimate our own abilities, expecting ourselves to be competent in areas where we simply are not. Just because someone else can do something, doesn’t mean we “ought to” be able to.  Remember, if you are trying something you’ve been avoiding, it is probably because you don’t feel capable. A little money invested wisely (e.g. in a class, for technical expertise, etc.) can save a lot of time and headache.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Bring in a specialist who can help you get started and be available if you need help along the way.

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The expectations we carry set the bar for how we will define success. The lower our expectations, the greater chance we have of being pleasantly surprised.

What experiences have you had of exceeding or falling short of expectations?