It’s 3pm and the kids are home from school. They waltz in, throw their backpacks and jackets on the floor in a pile, rip their shoes and socks off and throw them on the floor in the middle of the path, they promptly go to the kitchen take out snacks and drinks and leave everything out on the counter while they plop themselves in front of the tube. Two minutes later, you walk in, maneuver your way over the pile of jackets and backpack, trip over the shoes and socks and stand aghast at the kitchen you just finished cleaning up an hour ago. Does this sound familiar?
Ok, the cleaning up after yourselves lesson is one that is going to take a long while for kids to learn (unless you start on them early, fortunately for me, I’ve got about a decade to get this one through). But you could bring yourselves two steps closer to some order (and not to mention safety) when it comes to the stuff that your kids end up throwing on the floor. (And if you don’t have kids, you can replace that with self or husband or even roomate.) What you need is a designated Drop-Off Zone.
For a lot of (priviledged, because I dont’ have one, ha) people the perfect Drop-Off Zone is their mudroom. But what do you do if you don’t have a mudroom or foyer or enclosed front porch area (all perfect for the Drop-Off Zone)? You make your own Drop-Off Zone. It could be an entry hallway or corner of your garage or even your kitchen. It all depends on your answer to a couple of questions:
- At what point of entry does most of my family use? – If your family all comes through the front door, then you’ll need to find a “spot” right by the front door. If your family comes through the garage into the kitchen, then you’ll need a spot in the garage or even in the kitchen (if you can creatively manage it). For my family we all come through the garage, so we made the area around the step into our house the “spot” for shoes, outside toys, items we get from the store that can’t fit in our tiny pantry, etc. And then the rest of our gear, jackets and bags, have their place right off the kitchen, but only about 5 steps from the door to the garage.
- What are the “trouble” items that need addressing? – Clutter begins when things don’t have a “home” to belong. That means if you don’t designate a proper place for jackets, shoes and backpacks, then your kids will find a place to put those and it probably won’t be where you would like it. You just need to consider what items are problematic (don’t currently have a “home” or have a “home” but never seem to be put there). For backpacks, hooks are a perfect solution. For jackets, a easily accessible hallway closets (with hangers to spare), a coatrack or hooks could be your answer. For shoes, a back of the door shoe rack, a shoe rack in the closest or even a box could corral those littered soles. Could there be a basket or bowl for keys and a charging station for electronics. And don’t forget the ever illusive paper clutter. For papers (mail, notices, permission slips) set up an “inbox” where all mail goes, file holders for each child (husband and yourself), and a recycling bin close by to instantly dump the junk. Just make sure wherever the “home” is, it’s accessible to the person using it, a simple system and within the natural path of entry. Because if not, your drop-off zone won’t be used, even if it’s only a couple steps further in the house and you’ll find newly created “drop-off” zones are created by your family despite your efforts.
- Where can I make a home for these items? – You’ll need to look at the configuration of the spot you think will work best. And then you might have to revisit the workings of your drop-off zone and make adjustments as the year goes on. But you can start by looking at the space you do have and how they could be creatively reclaimed. Are there closets that can be reclaimed for jackets and bookbags and a shoerack? Are there places you could put some hooks? Is there room in a hallway (or even in the kitchen) where I could put bench seating with storage inside (a dual use piece of furniture as you also get a place to sit along with storage)? Is there a back of a door that can be used to hang a shoe organizer? And for your papers, instead of putting everything up here-there-and-everywhere on your refrigerator, could you instead put up folders that stick to the refrigerator or find a niche for a small filing box? The key is creatively look at your space use all your available space (especially vertical real estate).
So in summary, give everything that comes into your house a “home”. Designate your Drop-Off zone before your family creates their own. And make sure wherever you designate things to go, it’s 1) easy to reach (for child and in their normal “path of entry”) 2) easy to remember (not a complicated system) and hopefully 3) not in the way of others (get it off the floor, contain it or even better – hide it).
Do you have any perfect Drop-Off Zone solutions? We’d love to hear about them. And happy zoning and happy school days for all those that have started or start soon!