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Command Center – The first steps to a more organized home life

I’m so very excited to kick off the first month of A Year of Details! We’re starting with the Command Center, that area of your home where you keep track of all the important paperwork and organize life for you and your family. Read more about A Year of Details here.

Whether or not you have kids, nearly everyone has an area in their homes where papers, notes, forms, pens and a whole lot of other random stuff come to pile up. If you do have kids, especially school-aged kids, then this area is plays an important role in your day-to-day life and is quite possibly stress-inducing.

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This is my dream command center, definitely not my reality!

The Command Center is such an important part of your home but unfortunately there isn’t just a quick fix to make it perfect. Each one of you will have different needs and unique spaces to work with. Some of you may have no existing area that is dedicated to this, so you are starting from scratch. And others of you might have a command center, but it’s not working as well as you want it to be. Maybe, like mine, it’s currently a big mess since school started a few weeks ago and what feels like a million papers and forms have come home with the kids and landed on a pile in the corner of the kitchen.

This is my BEFORE. Let’s see what I can do with this space.

Here are 8 tips to get started on this important part of our homes.

  1. Don’t rush

In the Year of Details project we are taking an entire month to focus on this one area so we can really get it right. You might be like me – when motivation strikes I want to do it all at once. I encourage you to use that motivation to get started but don’t be impulsive. That’s how you end up right back with a messy area that isn’t working for you but with new pretty products that you wasted money on because they weren’t actually what you needed. I have been there and done that. Take one step at a time.

2. Fresh Eyes

If you are asking yourself ‘How on earth am I going to make this organized?” I suggest you take everything out of the space and look at it with fresh eyes. Imagine how the space might look without the constraints of how it looks now. But be realistic, this only works if you have a nice block of time on your own!

3. Declutter

The first action step to take is to declutter the area. Toss any papers not necessary into the recycling bin, put items that belong somewhere else in your home away. Let go of things that are taking up valuable space in our homes and in our lives. The less stuff you have here the easier it will be to maintain.

Example: Do I really need a jar crammed full of pens, half of which I never use and don’t even know if they work? Even though they are all corraled in one container, it feels cluttered.

Decluttering is crucial, but it’s not enough…

4. Identify the needs and the problems

You want to create a system and a space that really works for you. So look at what you need, what’s working well and what’s not.

Photo Source
Would file folders and a pin board work for you?

First identify your needs. I like to make a list of every category of stuff that I need in this space. Some of my categories include: papers to be filled out and handed in to school, reminders or invitations to events, health/doctor info, coupons, to-do notes, and meal planning.

What is already working well here?

What are your biggest stresses? What drives you crazy when you walk into this area? What are you most often screwing up (forgetting appointments, misplacing important papers?)

We have a calendar and all kinds of papers taped to the kitchen door. It’s practical, but I HATE the way it looks.

Case Study: A friend of mine has an amazing board on her wall with all the schedules for her kids. It’s impressive, when I see it I feel like she must be super organized. But she shared with me that across from her super-duper wall is a pile of papers, mail, keys, sunglasses and junk that is cluttering up her kitchen and making her feel stressed and overwhelmed, as clutter has a reputation of doing.

Her Action Plan: First off, celebrate that she has an amazing wall board that is working great! Then deal with the clutter on the counter. Ask questions like, “Do the keys and sunglasses belong here or could I designate a space for them near the front door?” Next, make categories of what kind of paperwork piles up here. “What kind of a tray or holder would work for the space and would work for us?”

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Very Small Space Solution

5. Recognize when something isn’t working anymore

I organized my command center a couple of years ago, but as my kids are getting older we are dealing with a lot more paperwork and things to remember. What worked back then just isn’t working anymore.

This letter holder was working great to hold school papers, but since I got my large Ipad, this is where it charges and I no longer put papers in there. The papers just pile up on the counter, cluttering the whole area. I need a new solution.

6. Everything has a Home

This is my mantra for organizing every space. When everything you need has a designated spot where it lives, it’s so much easier to clean up and keep it tidy. Often the things that end up lying around for ages are the things that don’t have a designated home. Take a look at everything in your current area and ask yourself if it really needs a home in the command center.

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Could you fit paperwork in a drawer?

7. Get inspiration from Pinterest, but be honest and realistic

The internet is a wonder of inspiration and ideas, but that has its downsides. Lusting over someone’s HUGE and amazing command center in a corner of their kitchen that is the size of my entire kitchen isn’t doing me any good. Copying an idea that fits some other family’s needs might look pretty in your home, but probably isn’t going to be very helpful for your family.

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Not only does this fabulous wall unit not fit my space, it’s also not available in the country where I live 🙁

By all means look for inspiration and ideas but always through the lens of what you need and what will fit your space. And equally important, what suits your personality. If you know that putting papers into a file inside the cupboard is a sure way to forget about them, then don’t do it, no matter how pretty and organized it would make your space look.

8. Organizational Tools – be smart about what you buy

What would help you stay more organized? A magnet board, a big calendar, trays or a letter holder? How about a charging station? I’m including the charging station as part of the command center essentials because I am a firm believer that your phone should not be charged next to your bed while you’re sleeping, for so many reasons that I’m sure you’ve already heard. The easiest way to make that happen is to have a designated charging station somewhere else in your house, such as near your command center.

Here are a few product ideas to get you thinking. But remember to be intentional about making purchases, not impulsive!

One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve | Thirteen | Fourteen | Fifteen

Two brands I have found on Amazon that have a whole slew of great organizational products are RelaxDays (number 14 above, made of bamboo) and mDesign (number 2 above).

I’m going to repeat myself: don’t be impulsive! Figure out what you really need first.

Well, I think that is more than enough to get us started on our Command Centers! Mid-month I will be checking in with you and and talking about creating rituals and routines to keep this area of your home working on a regular basis. And I’ll be showing you progress on my own command center, so I better get working!



P.S. You can follow along on Instagram in the meantime. Find me here. I would love if you show us your progress by using the hashtag #yearofdetailsproject

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