Organizing categories and the Landing Strip

Organizing, to me, is split into two distinct categories: Locations and Concepts. Location organizing is what people think of right off the bat—getting their kitchen or garage or craft room all tidy and organized and functional. It’s about before and after photographs. It’s about tools and systems and getting a space, either big or small, organized.

Concepts are all about the mentality behind the whole thing. It’s about how we look at possessions and spaces and how we approach the world. It’s the place where organizing hits personality and where lifestyle hits logic.

As I write these posts, sometimes I’ll write about locations and sometimes I’ll write about concepts. A lot of times, they’ll be combined into one. And sometimes the organizing system that I talk about won’t work for you, but some of the concepts involved will work. And sometimes it might be the other way around.

But it was important to me that I make it clear that I view these two things as separate. Both of them are important. I’ll write about both. And I want to encourage you to look at what I present with the idea that even if the organization doesn’t really work for you and your space and the people in it, maybe there’s a concept that you can take away from it.

So, with all that said, Amy asked that I address either clothes closet ideas or the “high traffic area where things seem to accumulate.”  I’m really not ready to hit closets just yet because, wow, is that a difficult topic. I’ll come back to it, I promise. But today I’m going to talk about something else.

One of the highest trafficked areas in my house is the front door. Well, maybe not highest trafficked, but one of the areas that gets a lot of traffic where things really accumulate quickly. Because what happens at the front door? As soon as you come in, we start shedding things. Shoes come off, coats come off, purses and keys and backpacks are dumped. And when you leave? You’re looking for all these things again! Digging around for keys, searching for backpacks, pulling on coats and shoes.

So, I’d like to introduce to you the idea of a Landing Strip. (Just in case you haven’t heard of this before, it really isn’t something I just made up. Honest!)

Welcome to my house!

Entryway to our house
Entryway to our house

Inside our front door, we have a short, three-tiered bookshelf. We don’t wear shoes inside the house, so the bottom two shelves hold our shoes. Justin’s whole shoe collection, pretty much, sits on the bottom shelf. The middle shelf has my running shoes and sneakers and sandals—my dress shoes all live upstairs in my closet. And the top shelf has a small box.

Bookshelf landing strip
Bookshelf landing strip

On the other side of the door, we have a wicker hamper with a drawer on top.

Wicker hamper basket
Wicker hamper basket

When we come in the door, the shoes land on the shelves. My dress shoes sit at the bottom of the stairs until I head upstairs. Justin’s keys and other pocket items land in the box. Receipts go in the drawer. Change goes into the bowls on the top. The pool fob sits in another section of the box. My purse sits on the other half of the shelf.

Landing strip
Landing strip

If we have mail that needs to go out to the box, it’s in a clip on the back of the door. Our front door is metal so a magnetized chip clip works perfectly for this.  (Right not it’s on a bag of pasta or something and not on the door.  It’s very versatile.)

The wicker basket drawer holds frequently used items. Right now, there’s a hat and gloves on top, but once it’s warmer, these will end up in the coat closet. There’s a flashlight and a few umbrellas. Our swimming stuff (swim cap, goggles, etc.) are in there, too, for when it gets warmer. Our reusable grocery bags tend to end up in this area, too, or hanging on the doorknob of the door until we head out again. The lower basket collects all the towels from the kitchen.

We used to have a hook that held umbrellas with straps and jackets but it fell from the wall. We have a peg rack that I need to paint and then that will be a place for jackets to hang. We’d love to have a hat stand type of coat rack but they’re too expensive and a little too big for our space.

Okay. So for a couple with no children and a pretty big entryway, this works really well. But it obviously wouldn’t work for everybody—it wasn’t even something we could do at the apartment before we moved. But I wanted to walk you through what we have so I can go over the idea.  Also, it’s obviously not perfect.  Sometimes, we end up with 5 different pairs of my dress shoes at the bottom of the stairs before I haul them all up to the closet.  And the piling of reusable bags on the wicker hamper bugs me a little.

But the idea of a Landing Strip is to have a place right inside your home where everything that you take out the door has a place to live until you head back out again. If it has a home, you won’t be looking for it all the time—as long as you put it in that place every time. Justin used to leave his keys in his pockets and we’d be searching all over the house to find where he’d dropped them. Now he comes in the door, puts them in the slot in the box, and we always have them when we head out.

There are so many different ways to set up this sort of thing. In the apartment we had before moving to our current home, the entry was as wide as the door, but had a coat closet just inside. We hung a shoe rack on the inside of the coat closet and that’s where we dropped all our shoes and gloves and swimming stuff. Those multi-pocketed things are wonderful. We still have it, repurposed to another closet that I’ll show you another time.

The important thing about a Landing Strip area is to know what you have, what you need to have on hand, and how much space you’ve got to do that.

If your entryway is like our apartment used to be, with no space beyond what’s given to clear the door, than it’s time to think vertically. Do you have a wall behind the door? Hang hooks and other wall-hanging objects. Hooks can collect jackets, bags, backpacks, keys, hats, baskets, nearly everything you’ll need. If you have children, put hooks at their level so they can hang their own jackets and bags. Hang a basket on the doorknob to catch keys.

The only concern I have, as I’m thinking about this, is to make sure that kids understand that this is a “no play” zone. Hooks can be dangerous to little bodies.

People with larger spaces have a lot more options. Like, good gosh, where do I even start? When I was little, we had a mud room inside the front door. Each of us had our own little locker-like space that held all our coats and mittens and boots and everything. I’ve seen people who didn’t have mud rooms making little cubbies just inside the doors of their homes. This way every one has a place to put their shoes and their backpacks and purses and everything else.

And other houses don’t have entryways at all. My house when I was living with my brother, we walked directly into the kitchen. But I had a hook right behind the door, above the counter, where I hung my keys. My purse landed just inside my bedroom door.

The point is to have a place, preferably right where you come into your house, where you can drop everything that you’ll need when you leave again. Stop searching all over the place for your keys. Give them a home and make sure they always end up there when you come into the house.

Make sense?

How about some links to other people taking about it?

Declutterer (one of my favorite organizing blogs, by the way) talks about it HERE and several other times.  A very small, cute idea is mentioned HERE.

And here are some really beautiful pictures of ideas at DeClutter It!  Click ONE and click TWO.

Two things left to say:

The landing area at my house? Basically no cost involved. Everything we used was something we already owned. The bookshelf had been used for decoration. The box for Justin’s keys had been sitting unused on his dresser. The hamper had been in the guest bathroom in the apartment. The only thing that we’ve paid for is the paint I’m going to use to repaint the peg rack and the hardware to hang it. It is entirely possible that you already have everything you need somewhere in your house. If at all possible, when I’m talking about organizing spaces, I’m going encourage repurposing instead of spending.

Second—If you have any questions and would like recommendations on what you could do, or if you have things that have worked really well for you, I would love to hear about it! Please leave me a comment or drop me an email. Send me pictures! I love to know about ideas that have worked. And I love helping people look at their spaces and think up ways that might work for them. Drop me a note and let’s chat!

6 thoughts on “Organizing categories and the Landing Strip”

  1. I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, but at first glance the things you’ve laid out look very interesting. I’m excited to sit down and dig into your post. I’ll post a better response after I’ve read the whole thing.

  2. We had the amazing opportunity to hold an organizing workshop at Cal Tech this past Friday. While we love educating the public with organizing how-to’s and basics we always are amazed at what we learn from the crowd. One gentleman in particular asked a great question. He wondered, “How come, when we go to our friends’ houses, it’s always so pristine and organized. Don’t they have the same issues we have?” Our first response was, “Well–you never know what’s hidden behind closed doors or who owns a set of keys to a storage shed…”

  3. As I said in Twitter, I read the whole thing to Dad. He said, “Kylene wrote that?” I think he was impressed. Anyway, it was really helpful. I never thought that the stuff by our front door was actually okay. I just need those hooks and things because I’ll forget where things are, or because it seems like the best place to put coats and shoes. But what we have so far is coat hooks for our coats and jackets, a shoe rack for our shoes and some pegs for things like my purse, shopping bags and my lunch bag (It’s really big.) I also usually take a basket with a handle, because I have a lot to take back and forth (change of clothes, etc.) and I just leave that on the dryer, which is right inside the door, too. I do need a hook in this house for my keys. I had one at 123 Stout, and it worked really well. If I could just get Dad to put his on a hook. But for now, I just leave them in my coat pocket. That works in the winter, but not in the summer when I don’t wear a coat!

    Anyway, my problem is keeping the area from collecting other stuff that really belongs somewhere else!



  4. I love that you were able to use things that you already owned.
    The concept of the landing strip is a really great idea. I never thought of it that way before. I think our problem is that we have two entries that our family uses when we enter the house. We do use our front door, but not as often as the basement door since our garage tucks under our house. Is it counter-productive to have two different landing strips on separate levels of the house? I have a lot to think about! It sounds like a good evening project for Nathan and I– after my “week ‘o fun” is over 🙂

  5. I’m going to put a link on our site to this article, but I wanted to give you a chance to correct the spelling of “categories” in the title. 🙂

  6. Amy–Maybe I liked that spelling! 🙂 I’ve fixed it. Feel free to link. And I don’t think it’s at all counter productive to have two spots. Just make sure that you’ve got what you need near each one. In fact, it’s probably really great to have most of your stuff near the basement door because you can leave your upstairs looking more decorative and not so utilitarian.
    Mom–Have you considered a doorknob basket? It loops right over the doorknob and catches small items like keys just as you come inside the door. It might work well if you don’t have space for another hook. What is it that keeps Dad from putting his keys near the door? Is it because they’re clipped on his belt clip? Maybe he just needs a spot in the bedroom to put them when he takes off his pants at night. And I’m really curious to know what else accumulates near your front door. You listed a lot of great things that you’re storing in that area and I can’t think of what else you’d be bringing in and out. 🙂 I’d love to chat with you more about this. OH! And you could always hang your keys on the coat rack once your coats go into storage for the summer. 🙂

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