If it looks like a dark, neglected pit in which to toss all things outerwear, guess what your family will be inclined to do? Instead, give this spot a paint job and some considered props: bins and boxes that add personality and texture. Let’s face it—this door will probably be open a lot of the time.
Enforce Term Limits
Maintaining a communal storage space calls for exponentially greater restraint, so instruct each family member to relocate any items that aren’t in active use (meaning at least once a week). New motto: Sharing is paring.
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Take the Floor
Get Your Kicks in Cubbies
A closet carpeted with shoes is a nightmare to navigate—and an invitation for dust bunnies. Reclaim that real estate with a modular shoe rack (try ClosetMaid 15-cube laminate organizer, $50, amazon.com) stocked with the footwear that you use most often: ballet flats for grocery runs, sneakers for walks with the dog. Dress shoes should live in the bedroom with the full-length mirror and the work clothes.
Contain Their Enthusiasm
In an ideal world, sports gear, with its attendant grass clippings and dirt clods, would never make it past the garage. But when soccer, tennis, or biking (or you name it) is in season, accept the inevitable and catch errant equipment in a low, open-weave metal bin (try wire basket, $85, fermlivingshop.com). Implement a weekly search-and-recovery day when everyone is responsible for relocating his or her belongings to their proper places.
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E Pluribus Order
Make a Group Effort
Replace unruly piles—dog leashes, shopping bags, a cap collection—with multipurpose hanging systems that minimize hunting and maximize vertical space. Extra credit for one with Velcro tabs that grip oddly shaped items, such as water bottles and (come winter) earmuffs (try Jill Martin fabric hanging accessory holder, $33 for two, qvc.com).
Hats (and Gloves) Off
Assess accessories and give mateless gloves, that goofy panda hat, and other nonessentials the heave-ho. Stow the survivors in easy-to-grab soft bins organized by family member (try Binette poly-tweed storage bins, $22 each, initials-inc.com). Place the bins low for little ones (say, on top of shoe cubbies) and high for those who can reach.
Call for a Coat Check
It’s easy for unused outerwear to accumulate. But that’s a lot of square footage to surrender. Now is the season to pull what you haven’t worn in the last year and relegate it to the coat-drive bag. Transfer keepers to sturdy wooden hangers with rounded (not pointy) shoulders to preserve shape and drape. (We like Superior natural-wood hangers, $10 each, containerstore.com.)
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Chart Your Course
An efficient entryway is tailored to the way you traverse it. If you’re crisscrossing the space multiple times on each pass, it’s time to reexamine the setup. Think of the order in which you shed gear (keys, bag, coat, shoes) and arrange accordingly.
Cover the Bases
Go for a jute or sea-grass carpet, which traps sand and dirt, hides stains, and stands up to heavy traffic (try the Jute Bouclé rug in Flax, $99, westelm.com). It shakes out in a jiffy, and it’s easy to vacuum.
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Stop, Drop, and Hold
Try Instant Messaging
A purposely petite dry-erase board ensures that your parting words don’t get lost in space. (We like Dry-erase magnet board, $10, threebythree.com.)
The Envelopes, Please
Stash unsorted mail in a bin near the door and you’ll halt that creeping paper trail. A sturdy, smallish straw basket gets our stamp of approval.
Put a (Key) Ring on It
Instead of tossing keys into your black hole of a bag, let a sleek (but super-strong) magnetic shelf practically whisk them out of your hand and keep them at the ready. (Try Magnetic key-ring holder, $42, meriwetherfieldgear.com.)
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Hanging Out, Tucking In
Be a Staggering Genius
Unlike conventional peg racks and coat trees, individual hooks can be attached in any configuration that you need—however off-the-wall. Large, round versions won’t leave dents in your duds and provide a graphic pop (try Can’t Miss wall knobs, $10 each, landofnod.com.)
Don’t Chance Showers
Stash an umbrella for each family member in a corner-friendly square bin. (We like Veil can, $35, containerstore.com.)
Slip (Off) and Slide (Under)
The hardest-working boots (muddy Wellies, salt-crusted snow boots) are also the toughest to remove. A bench (try Emmerson bench, $499, westelm.com) tall enough to tuck galoshes under keeps the action localized, and a copper boot tray with a puddle-thwarting rim minimizes mess (try Quilted boot tray, $49, ballarddesigns.com). Toss ultra-dirty footwear (like sod-caked cleats) into a sturdy wooden crate, where it can await proper cleaning. (We like Whitewashed wood bin, $20, containerstore.com.)