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The Drop Zone: Control Clutter, Create a Welcoming Entrance

If your family is like mine, we come and go with handfuls of items that get dropped right inside the door. It doesn’t take long for our inviting entryway to become a cluttered storage area. Those school projects, shoes, keys, mail, sunglasses, coats, purses, sports gear (you get the idea) can pile up fast. But with some tips to help organize this space, you can keep this catchall area from catching up with you.

The main entrance to our home is the same one we use for guests, so I have the everyday challenge to keep it clean. While I may be jealous of friends who have a mudroom or a garage entrance separate from the door where guests enter, many tell me they have just as big a challenge—and sometimes neglect it even more because they know it won’t be eyed by friends. Regardless of the layout of your home, you don’t want your family or your guests to battle an obstacle course just to get inside. Having an organized area can make coming and going much easier for everyone.

Everything in its Place
The first tip most organizers will tell you is to designate your entranceway for certain items. Set limits for what can go there. You may only have space for a coat rack and a shoe basket. Or maybe you have room for one small table, so coats and shoes must go elsewhere. Whatever the case, set rules and stick to them for all family members. When other items start collecting there, make sure you have designated areas in other rooms where those items belong. It has become a tradition in my family to have a “special drawer” in a dresser for all those trinkets my kids just can’t get rid of—a note from a friend, a craft made at church, or vacation souvenirs. Valets work well for adults, with spots for keys, a cell phone and a wallet.

Welcome Additions
When you have decided what items are allowed at the entrance, then you can explore what kind of furniture or storage is available to help keep this space organized and inviting for guests.

Coat racks and hooks come in many styles that can be pleasing focal points in a hardworking space. A quick internet search reveals many do-it-yourself projects, using everything from fence posts to tree branches to pitch forks. I found several here I’d like to try myself: With a simple board, stencils, paint and decorative drawer pulls, you can fashion coat hooks to fit your taste. If creativity is really flowing, try mounting an old fireplace mantel, attaching hooks for coats on the flat piece and using the shelf area for other items.

A place to keep your umbrellas is ideal, but you don’t have to settle for a simple slender cylinder. Try an antique butter churn or milk pail. The best handheld umbrella in my opinion is the one from Heavy Duty PR. Make one yourself with a large outdoor planter filled with pea gravel and a wire tomato cage in the middle (check it out at and search “umbrella stand”).

Benches are great additions to an entranceway. Mine holds a small deacon’s bench, which gives me a drop spot when I come in with more than I can carry, as well as a place to set out items I don’t want to forget to take with me the next day. It’s also helpful for putting on shoes, keeping us from doing the one-leg balance dance when trying to take off a sneaker or boot. Mine has below-seat storage, but you can also tuck baskets beneath to contain necessary but more unsightly items—the dog leash, or old towels. You will never regret having an old towel handy in your entranceway for wet feet or muddy paws. In the same fashion, adding a storage ottoman to this space works well, too.

If your entryway space is in a garage or mudroom where function means more to you than fashion, trash cans work well for sports equipment and milk crates or cubes for shoes.

Shucking the Shoes
Shoes are the main reason we end up with so much dirt in our house. Keep dirt at bay by providing an easy place for family and guests to drop their footwear, whether a basket, a large plastic container or a shoe rack. Boot trays have also become popular to trap water and dirt. Made of everything from wood to rubber and metal, these trays can keep footprints off your floors. They retail around $50 and up, but you can make one yourself with a rimmed baking sheet. Also popular are special doormats that trap dirt and water. Keep one just outside the entrance; you will be shocked— and thrilled—by how much dirt these mats prevent from entering your home.

Tidy Timesaver
There is no doubt these tips can save you time when morning rush hour approaches. When our doorway is clear, I hear less “Honey, where are my keys?” and “Mom, where’s my shoe?” Make it a habit to clean the area every night before bedtime, culling the items that shouldn’t have made it there to begin with. Place all outgoing mail or school papers in a basket or box. I keep grocery bags in my coat closet to grab when I notice I have too many items to carry, and have specific errand bags for regular activities (my son has one for his t-ball equipment, for example, and I have one for Girl Scout meetings). Sweep the area regularly (dry dirt is much easier to clean than wet!), and periodically wipe down the door, doorframe and surrounding walls (use good old-fashioned water and vinegar solution or Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser for tough scuffs). The cleanliness of this area is often neglected since we are always in motion when using it.

With some daily maintenance, you can manage the clutter and dirt of everyday comings and goings, and will no longer feel like you need an “Enter at Your Own Risk” sign on your door.


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