One of the biggest pain points for any busy mom is dealing with the in-and-out stuff that collects in our homes on a daily basis. Lots of us end up with that collection “spot”. You know the one – it’s where there’s a stack of bills mixed with crayons, coupons, and the overdue library books.
So how can we get a grip? One of my favorite things to do for clients is help them to set up a Home Command Center, giving some shape and order to all of the little things that pile up next to the phone, or back door, or on the kitchen island. The Command Center functions as a repository for the mail, schedules and other dated information – in whatever form – that makes its way into the house. Here’s how to get it set up:
Select a central location. This spot could be in the kitchen, utility room, or even a family room. It should be easily accessible and have room for a small table, desk, bookcase or cube storage unit. Don’t hide it – to be effective, family members should be able to get to it easily without having to think too hard!
Make a list of what needs a home. Here are some suggestions:
- school paperwork/permission forms
- items to be returned
- mailing supplies
- coupons and gift cards
- phones/other devices
Your family may have other needs that should be factored in. Do you run a business from home? Is anyone undergoing medical treatment? Do you save receipts for taxes or other purposes? The key is to tailor your Command Center to your needs, and include only the items that have a temporary life or consistently go in and out of your home.
Select appropriate containers. Once you have your list, everything needs to have a home where items can be pulled in and out, and located with minimal effort. Mail could go into an attractive flat basket, and borrowed items or returns can go into a deeper basket or bin. An efficient option for paperwork is to purchase a vertical file sorter and file folders (pick out a color or pattern to match your décor). Label folders for each member of the family, receipts, bills, coupons or any other paper items that need to be retained and processed.
Make use of technology. Wouldn’t it be great to not have so much junk mail to deal with in the first place? Try the app PaperKarma (free for iPhone and Android) to snap photos of catalogs and other unwanted mail – it takes care of unsubscribing you and even gives you a report of all the trees you’ve saved.
If kids’ artwork is clogging up your countertops, then ArtKive may be just the thing for you. Snap photos of the masterpieces, then caption or label them as desired with name, date, etc. You can even take photos of projects (because how are you going to store that paper mache Egyptian mummy anyway?) When you have enough shots, ArtKive will format and lay everything out to create a beautiful hardback book of your child’s work. The app is free for iPhone/iPad and Android, and books start at $25.00 (they make fabulous gifts for grandparents!).
Once you’ve gotten everything together, setting the Command Center up should be a breeze. As an example, if you’re using a small desk, arrange the vertical file sorter with labeled files on the top, with the mail bin next to it. A calendar/memo board can be hung directly over the desk to keep everyone aware of schedules. Drawers can be used for keys, devices or extra supplies. Be sure to keep the round file (recycle bin) close by to quickly get rid of extra paper information or junk mail. Don’t be afraid to get creative – the main goal is to corral items in one spot so they can be processed as needed.
To keep your Command Center functioning, make sure everyone gets in the routine of dropping off their items in the right spots every day. Younger children might need a little help emptying the backpack when they get home, but older kids should be able to get into the new habit more quickly. Be sure to go through file folders and bins on a regular basis to determine what’s out of date vs. what needs immediate action vs. what needs to be archived. With the right setup and a little practice, you can get you and your family on track to a more orderly routine!
About the author:
Sara Skillen is the founder and owner of SkillSet Organizing, a professional organizing business serving the Greater Nashville area. Her mission is to help busy people from all walks of life to develop right relationships with their “stuff” and their technology. A former educator, musician and paralegal, she is also a wife, mother of two, and serial list-maker. Sara transitioned to being a home and business organizer in 2012, and became an Evernote Business Certified Consultant in 2014. When not helping people tame clutter, she can be found managing Destination Imagination teams, walking her Labrador Retrievers, or making book recommendations to friends.