Shoes, sunglasses, keys, backpacks, purses, wallets, cell phones, caps, reminder notes, umbrellas, rain gear, mail, stuff to return – these are some of the typical items that live by the door in most homes. (Of course, if there's a dog and/or children in the house, the list of “doorway stuff” increases exponentially.)
With all these incoming and outgoing necessities to juggle, how can we keep our entryways organized and clutter-free?
Whether you have a spacious foyer, a medium-sized mudroom or just a basic entry door, there's a storage solution designed to fit your household's needs, space, style and budget.
Here are some of the best systems and products for creating orderly entrances and exits.
Every household – no matter how calm or chaotic – requires some type of by-the-door holder for keys, sunglasses, cell phones, mail and other daily in-and-out items that may have a tendency to get misplaced. This is also a good spot to keep a pen and a pad of Post-its for jotting down last-minute grocery lists and “don't forget” notes.
You can create a simple, inexpensive doorway organizer by putting up key hooks and/or a small shelf with a basket. But if you'd prefer a ready-made system, there are several well-designed options with a variety of useful features.
l The Key Basket ($16) provides a retro solution to doorway disorder. It has a hardwood handle for hanging on a wall or door and four key hooks below a basket-style holder (8-½ inches wide by 1-¾ inches deep by 12-¾ inches high) that's handy for stashing mail and sundries.
SOURCE: Basketville – www.basketville.com; (800) 258-4553.
l For more storage space that's less visible, the small but mighty Message Mate ($40) offers a cabinet with a drawer below it. Inside the cabinet are three key hooks and a shelf, while the door itself includes a corkboard for tacking up notes and photos plus an interior write-on/wipe-off white board for messages and reminders. The versatile unit, designed to stand on a flat surface or be hung on a wall, measures 11-¾ inches wide by 5-¾ inches deep by 14-¼ inches high (also available in a larger size).
SOURCE: OnlineOrganizing – www.onlineorganizing.com; (301) 659-2203.
l If you'd like to have a horizontal surface near the entry door but lack space for even a tiny table, consider the wall-mounted Drawer/Shelf Organizer ($50 to $60). It can give you a convenient place to drop your keys, cell phone, purse, etc., when you come home, while it provides hidden storage for by-the-door supplies. Depending on your space and needs, a single two-drawer shelf (24 inches wide by 11-¼ inches high by 7 inches deep) or a three-drawer shelf (same height and depth, 36 inches wide) may be sufficient; or you can combine several units to create a “floating bureau.”
SOURCE: Ginny's – www.ginnys.com; (800) 693-0809.
Shoe stationsAccording to cleaning expert Paula Jhung, the Carpet and Rug Institute estimates that 80 percent of the dirt in our homes comes in via our shoes. “In our own homes, the best way to avoid 'tread dirt' is to get in the habit of trading 'outside shoes' for 'inside shoes,' slippers or socks at the door,” recommends Jhung in “How to Avoid Housework” (Fireside).
Maybe that's why the habit of leaving shoes by the entry door has become fairly commonplace. Unfortunately, this essentially good habit can lead to negative consequences when footwear piles up and creates an obstacle course in the entryway. But with a little effort and the right storage system, shoe clutter can be easily tamed.
(Tip: Easy access is paramount. An effective entry-area shoe holder should feature an open shelf and/or cubbies close to the floor. In most cases the higher off the floor and the more hidden from view, the less it will be used and vice versa.)
Designed for entryways with a bare minimum of floor space, “Floating” Shoe Racks ($229 to $329) are slender, angled steel shelves that attach to the bottom of a door or wall and hold shoes just above the floor, making it easy to put on and remove footwear while standing. The racks are 6 inches deep (designed to gently grip only the front half of each shoe) and come in two lengths that hold three or six pairs of shoes (small size is 27½ inches long; large is 47¼ inches long). The larger size includes a moveable mirror that “lets you see how good your shoes look when you put them on,” according to the designers.
SOURCE: Generate Design – www.gnr8.biz; (514) 295-GNR8 (Canadian area code).
If your budget is tighter than your floor space and you value function above form, the Utility Bench by Rubbermaid ($54) is an economical and efficient storage option (31 inches long by 20 inches wide by 15 inches high). It has a floor-level shelf with room for three pairs of shoes and a bench seat for sitting while you take off or put on your footwear. The seat flips up to reveal two compartments for storing whatever you want to keep handy yet hidden.
SOURCE: Target – www.target.com; check your phone book for local listings.
For a slightly larger entryway (and wallet), the Reynaun Oak Cubby Bench ($400) is an elegant alternative for the household with many busy pairs of feet. With nine shoe cubby spaces on one half of the bench and two long shelves on the other, there's ample room for shoes and even boots or backpacks. The bench is available in multiple wood finishes and seat patterns, and is 45 inches long by 15 inches wide by 21 inches high.
SOURCE: Benches.com – www.benches.com; (800) 858-5177.
A more streamlined, affordable yet attractive wooden shoe bench, Brookstone's Boot Bench with Storage ($180), has a spacious open shelf below a storage seat featuring a lid with a child safety latch. Available in two finishes, the bench measures 36 inches wide by 16 inches deep by 19 inches high.
SOURCE: Brookstone – www.brookstone.com;
Outerwear organizersWhether or not you have the luxury of an entry closet (aka coat closet), it's a good idea to have an alternative for hanging rain-damp items and other gear that should be aired. A peg rack or series of individual coat hooks attached to the back of an entry door (or on the wall behind it) may be all you need to keep everything from jackets to backpacks off the floor.
But if that's not enough storage for your needs and you have more than a tiny bit of space to work with, consider adding a complete entryway system designed to accommodate various categories of incoming and outgoing indispensables.
Updated versions of old-fashioned hall tree benches are now readily available in a wide range of styles and prices from many retailers. This type of entryway organizer can be effective if the features match your needs. A typical example (and a good value) is the Victory Land Oak Bench Hall Tree ($100), which includes four hooks for coats, hats and umbrellas, a mirrored top section, and a cushioned bench above a two-door storage space; the entire unit measures 40 inches wide by 18 inches long by 70 inches high.
SOURCE: Kmart – www.kmart.com; check your phone book for local listings.
If you'd prefer a sleeker, more contemporary entryway storage solution, the Brady Entryway Bench ($599) has a clean, spare style with a few vintage touches. The tall yet compact system (30 inches wide by 23 inches deep by 68 inches high) has two locker-length vertical openings with double coat hooks, two upper cubbies featuring metal label-holders, and an 18½-inch deep drawer with side-mounted metal glides for easy access to heavy items. (The “bench” is the 11-inch-deep surface above the drawer.) Designed to look like a built-in furnishing, it's available in two finishes.
SOURCE: Pottery Barn – www.potterybarn.com; check your phone book for local listings.
For a more flexible entryway arrangement, there are storage systems with several components that can be used in different configurations – a wall-mounted cubby unit can be hung at any height above or near a storage bench, for example. Ginny's Entry Organizer ($150 $240) consists of a wall-mounted wooden three-compartment open cabinet with three coat hooks below (35¾ inches wide by 17 inches high by 11 inches deep), and a matching cushioned entry bench (43½ inches wide by 19½ inches high by 13¾ inches deep) with three open storage cubbies and removable wicker baskets designed to function as slide-out drawers (12 inches wide by 9½ inches high by 15 inches deep). The bench cushion cover is removable and washable.
SOURCE: Ginny's (see above).
Harriet Schechter is founder of The Miracle Worker Organizing Service and author of three books, including “Let Go of Clutter” (McGraw-Hill). Her online advice column is at www.MiracleOrganizing.com.