Easy Ways to Organize Your Entryway
Like George and Weezy Jefferson in the old TV sitcom “The Jeffersons,” my family and I recently moved on up to a shiny new apartment on the East Side of Manhattan. And it’s a beauty. I love every single detail about it — except the entryway, which is practically nonexistent.
Before we had a child, this would have been a minor inconvenience — like the time our neighbor’s son took up the tuba. But now that our baby is a full-on preschooler, he’s coming home every day with a filled-to-the-brim bookbag and has no place to park it. Which means his string art and half-eaten snacks end up commingling on the kitchen counter alongside our keys, mail, and grocery bags.
After two months of stocking up on wrong-sized baskets and weird hooks, we’ve reached the point where our entryway has officially become a situation. Luckily, this happens to be Regina Leeds’ specialty. Known as the “Zen Organizer,” this New York Times best-selling author (her latest book is “Rightsize! Right Now!“) is no stranger to a messy home and teaching people like me how to keep theirs shipshape.
Here are her ideas for taming the chaos in your entryway:
Make a Plan
It’s a classic rookie mistake: You get seduced by all the adorable fabric-covered baskets out there and end up bringing home a bunch that don’t work and, ultimately, create more clutter. (Guilty.) Save the money and headache by asking yourself some questions before you start shopping:
- How many people are using this entry every day and how do they use it? (i.e. Do they dump stuff willy-nilly or try to put items in their proper places?)
- Does said dumping occur because there’s one de facto cleaner-upper who picks up the mess, or does the space simply lack places where they can stash things?
- Is there a storage system already in place? Is it not working because the baskets and shelves aren’t up to the task, are unassigned, or are being ignored?
Create Your System
After the assessment, figure out which objects are adding to the chaos in your entryway (Heaping stacks of mail? Too many shoes? A pile of coats and mittens?). Then brainstorm simple, affordable ways to keep those items organized. Hooks, hangers, shelves and baskets offer valuable storage options without eating up much room. If you don’t have a front closet, Leeds suggests buying a coat rack for jackets, bags and umbrellas — choose one with low-level hooks for the kids.
If space allows, place a small, narrow console table where papers and grocery bags can land, and add a basket on top to catch your keys. Place a small bench or chair nearby — it will make taking off shoes easier — and a tray to hold dirty footwear.
Also consider hanging a mirror. “The smallest entry needs a big mirror so a last-minute check can be done as everyone sails out the door,” Leeds points out. Bonus: It’ll also make the area look bigger. Play around with different-shaped mirrors until you find one that works best. Leeds likes octagon-shaped mirrors, which can invite good feng shui. Also, invest in an overhead light or lamp. Actually being able to see your new, beautiful organizational system will go a long way toward ensuring its success.
Lay Down the Law
Even the most thoughtful plans require some work to help them become a reality. “What very often happens is that mom cleans out the entry, gets great containers at Bed Bath & Beyond, and doesn’t walk the family through the system she has in mind,” Leeds says. “Partner and kids look at the baskets and think, ‘Yeah, great’ but nothing is used in an organized fashion. The greatest system won’t work if it’s ignored.”
Be Open to Making Tweaks
When clogs and clumps start forming in your entryway storage system, take a hard look at the mess-makers and see if they should be stored elsewhere. In some cases, Leeds suggests creating a home for items where they usually land. “If an item doesn’t have a place to live in the entry because it’s tiny, it should keep moving with the person after the coat is hung up,” Leeds explains. “Where is homework done? That’s where the backpack lives. Where do you pay bills? That’s where mail should land. You get the idea.”