Creating a Household Command Center
Fall – it’s a beautiful time of year, with its crisp air, crunching leaves, cozy sweaters. But if you’ve got kids at home, the fall back-to-school season can mean an avalanche of new sports schedules, homework projects, parent meetings and all-around chaos! If you can’t see the surface of your kitchen table through all the papers and mail and “important stuff,” yet somehow you feel like you’re all just running in circles looking for the one piece you need, well then a Household Command Center just might change your life.
Location, location, location. Your command center should be where your family naturally gathers. For many, that means the kitchen. Doesn’t need to be a full desk; a corner of the kitchen island would even work. Make sure there’s a basket to drop recycling into within arm’s reach – this is key!
Commit to the calendar. Create a family calendar that all members can access. For the tech-savvy family with older kids, this might mean linked online Google calendars, but for those with younger kids a large wall calendar with color coded markers for each person is nice and visual. As soon as you get a game/practice/school schedule, immediately enter all dates in the calendar and file or recycle the paper.
Family activities binder. Fill a binder with clear sheet protectors, and label dividers for each activity your family members are involved in (i.e, piano, soccer, school, church). Keep rosters, schedules (AFTER they are entered in your calendar), and any reference papers here. This is stuff that is active for just a season or a school year, then will be replaced. So… regularly replace it. Flip through it every few months – it’s amazingly freeing to pull out and recycle whole sections when the activity is over! Make a section for “summer” and as things come up throughout the year (like camp ideas), stick them in this section so in the spring you’re ready to make decisions. Then shelve the binder somewhere that everyone knows where to look for it if they need to arrange a carpool or retrieve an online textbook password.
In-Boxes all around. Every member of the family should have a designated “in-box.” It might be a simple letter sorter from the office supply store just for sorting mail and permission slips, or it might be a more decorative hanging set of baskets on the wall that could hold library books and homework supplies too. I love this set of vintage-looking wire baskets from Ballard Designs.
Banish the piles. And for everything else, create a desktop file sorter. Scoop up all the papers laying around driving you crazy, and quick-sort them into categories of action that needs to be taken. The categories will be different for everyone, but might include “to file,” “to shred,” “to call,” etc. Make a file for each category (think broad categories, no more than six or so), and keep them in a file box, magazine basket, or even a vintage breadbox. For the first few months of your new system, schedule time in your calendar each week to review your action files and, yes, take action, until this becomes routine.
A Household Command Center looks and functions different in every home, but with a few simple systems in place you’ll be able to take control of the paper flow to serve your family’s needs.