Kids' Information Station
Photo by Mark Lund. Used with permission.
One of the worst areas of chronic clutter for us was the family "drop zone" in front of the dining room buffet. Backpacks, purses, mail, keys, coats, newspapers, and everything else that came in the door with us tended to land there. As I tackled our home office area, the adult paper storm abated, but the school one endured. As I wrote in this month's Good Housekeeping, I spent some time thinking about how the kids come and go on school days before rushing in to impose a solution. In other words, go with the flow.
What I came up with was this very inexpensive, but sturdy, mesh in/out tray from Container Store. It has one tier for each kid, assigned in order of age and reach. The bottom tray is for the Littlest Who. I was tempted to hang it in Patrick's studio, near the art desk where homework often gets done. Or in the sunroom, where backpacks and coats are supposed to go. But after thinking about it a few days, I realized it made sense for it to go in the kitchen, next to the small counter peninsula where I fix lunchboxes and after-school snacks. Above it, I mounted a dry erase monthly calendar (also from Container Store). I use an online calendar, synced with my Blackberry, for all scheduling. Now, I transfer all kid-related events (school holidays, cub scout meetings, babysitter nights) onto the dry erase board, where the boys can see what's coming up in their own lives any given week.
After mounting everything, it took a few days of training the boys to use it. But because it was set up intuitively, with the natural flow of our lives in mind, it was an easy transition. They come in the front door, put school papers in their tray and lunchboxes on the counter, take coats and empty backpacks to the sunroom. In the morning, it's in reverse, and it's super easy for me to tell at a glance what needs to be seen, signed, scheduled, or otherwise handled. It's been several months, and it still works beautifully.