Large family, small entryway: organizing solutions that work

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It’s time for a big change for my big family’s small entryway.

When I wrote this post last September, what you see to the left was the first thing a person would see as she walked in my front door.  Crowded, cluttered, and yet strangely empty, the entry was both ugly and dysfunctional.

With five kids, we really need solutions that will help us keep coats from falling on the floor, shoes from taking over and hats and mittens from getting lost under piles of backpacks. And I don’t think it’s too much for me to ask that the space is pretty, too.

Over the last ten months, I have made a few improvements. We hung up more substantial coat hooks, put a console table in the empty space and de-cluttered a bit.

But as you can see, it’s still far from great.

As it turns out, sometimes what you really need to get a project done is a specific goal, a limited amount of money and a deadline. Armed with a $150 gift card to Home Depot, I decided that instead of doing a half-hearted job this time, I’d get everything I needed to do a complete makeover on our entryway in one fell swoop.

My goal was to do a complete and total entryway makeover on $250 total, including furniture and accessories from Home Depot, a fresh coat of paint, and new flooring (bye-bye, 15-year-old peel-and-stick vinyl). I was a little wary that I might not be able to pull it off with that budget, but was pleasantly surprised to find a great entry bench plus a decorative mirror for a very reasonable price. Here are the organizing and decorative products I chose:

Products, left to right:

I also picked up a box of Trafficmaster resilient tile flooring in Cool Grey ($1.19/square foot), a can of Martha Stewart paint in Ice Rink, plus all the boring stuff like grout, sealer, paintbrushes, etc. And yes, we kept it to $250 total for all of it.

I can’t wait to get started on this project. I just know having a neat, bright, organized entry space is going to make a huge difference in the way I feel about my home. And just maybe it’ll help us get out the door a little faster in the morning.

The last ten months of stalling on this project hasn’t been entirely wasted, though. I’ve paid attention and learned a few important things about cramming a large family into a small entryway…things that will definitely influence my organizational makeover:

  1. Large families have lots. Lots of coats. Lots of shoes. Lots of boots. Lots of hoodies. Lots of hats and mittens. Sometimes the first step is finding a second “home” for the excess and then monitoring the space carefully to make sure extras don’t pile up. It’s pretty much impossible to keep a small area neat if it contains 14 pairs of shoes.
  2. Sometimes “out of sight” just equals more “out of mind” clutter. Cubbies and compartments can be a great idea, but only if you take care not to let them pile up with stuff you aren’t using (or can’t find when you need it.) Even though I love the look of a row of overhead cubbies, most of my kids are too short to manage them and it’s only too easy to stuff them full and forget all about it. I’m going to opt for a second row of higher coat hooks instead.
  3. Function has to come before form. I looked at many adorable shelves and mirrors with decorative hooks attached, but just try hanging more than a scarf on one of those and watch it break or come tumbling down! We live in a northern climate and my kids are getting big, so anything I put in my entryway has to be tough enough to withstand seven heavy, wet coats, boots, and the like.
  4. Less can be more. One of the great things about having lots of kids (and older cousins!) is that the youngest kids always end up with lots of hand-me-downs. But does any kid really need six hoodies or three hats? I’m planning to seriously prune our outdoor wear, with the philosophy that it’s better to have one pair of mittens you can always find than a half-dozen that are usually buried. But because things do get lost and misplaced, I’ll keep a box of spares in another area of the house.

Check back the week after next, when I’ll be unveiling my entryway makeover. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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