Organization is Key: Part 2
October 10, 2017

Inspired to finally gift yourself with an organized entry space?

This part is a big topic, and I apologize for the longer post. However, stick with me, we’ll guide you through and have added just enough info to allow you to start and finish this step in one sitting. I promise.

Step 2: Form

Got your notes from Step 1? Great! Now that you’ve got a good picture of what you need to store, and you’ve answered the basic questions, most of you will fall into one of 2 groups:

Those who want to see most things out in the open.
Those who want to close everything behind doors.

There is no right or wrong, rather, you need to be honest with your preferences. Now, where to start?  Test your ideas on paper; simply put, it saves time and money.

If you’ve got an existing closet or mudroom that does not work well, clear it out and snap a picture, then print it and draw right on top of it.

If you have a new construction project underway, ask your designer or architect for an elevation of the new storage and sketch on top to test it out. Make sure you take accurate dimensions- height, inside width, door width, depth, and any architectural quirks. Mark the dimensions on your drawing or photo.

All you need to do today is think of this exercise like a puzzle, and allocate space for everything in the following order:

  1. Coats
  2. Shoes
  3. Hats/gloves/sunglasses
  4. Bags
  5. Sports equipment
  6. Out of season storage
  7. Umbrellas
  8. Stollers/walkers

Read the universal tips below, then the ones pertaining to your preference for open and closed. Note the dimension guides and storage options in each section, and don’t forget to be creative. If you hit a problem, re-arrange the “puzzle” and try a different way. And if you’re truly stumped, we’ve got answers for that “uh-oh”, too.

Universal Storage Tips

1. Make it easy: With younger kids, design your storage space with multiple heights so that they can start to help themselves as early as possible. With petite users, make sure everything they use is within grasp. Tall users, your coats are usually a few inches longer, add a couple inches to all hanging heights.

Organizing Coats:

  • Adult coats and jackets tend to stay better organized when hung in order from sleeveless vests to lighter jackets, then increasingly heavier jackets.  
  • Kids’ jackets tend to stay better organized when hung in sections by individual child.
  • Longer coats can be hung at 62”H and that allows for a handy shelf for handbags or hats above.
  • Double hanging is an overlooked option: Little kids’ jackets hung on a rod at 36”H rod fit below adult jackets hung at 78” and still leave room for some of their shoes below.

2. Allocate accurately: The simple secret to allocating enough space is a matter of counting items and multiplying by how much space those things take up. 

  • Adult Coats: Allow 1.5" for each adult light jacket (think rain coats and thin summer layers), 1.5"-2" for fall/spring wool jackets and 5" for winter puffers. Furs need more breathing space, assume up to about 8" of width.
  • Kids jackets tend to range to 1"-1.5" for Spring/Summer/Fall jackets, give them about 3" per winter puffer.
  • Adult Shoes, per pair: 9"W x 13"D x 6"H (shoes)/18"H(boots)
  • Kid Shoes, per pair: 7.5"W x 13"D x 4.5"H (shoes)/11"H (boots)

3. Benches:

  • Bench heights need to fall between 16-19”H, with a cushion. Allocate 18-22” of width for each person you want to be able to seat at the same time. Make benches 20-24” deep for comfortable seating, though 16” works in a pinch.
  • False backs: set  these 13" back in deep, under-bench shelving to prevent shoes and small items from getting pushed to the back and lost.
  • Tip: If you use a false back under a bench, you can use the back section for reach-in storage via a lid in the bench seat surface- it’s a good place for hats and gloves or smaller sports equipment. Remember to keep the handle recessed or flush.

4. Shelf Space: Design upper shelves to be just 12-16” D so that things don’t get lost in the back.

5. Hooks: Use bigger hooks 3-5"D at the back walls of storage, or on the backs of doors if you have extra depth. Use shallower hooks, (I love ones that are under 2"D), at the sides of cubbies or closets for additional storage options.

6. Sliding shelves: Helpful for shoes, sliding shelves work best when designed with a 1.5”-2” lip around the side and back edges. Keep these on smooth riding glides so that they stay easy-to-use.

7. Accessory Drawers:

  • The ideal storage for accessories, think hats, gloves, scarves and sunglasses, is when each person and dog has their own drawer or bin.
  • wider but shallower drawer always works better than a deeper drawer for storing smaller items. Inside dimensions of 17”W x 14”D x 3”H is a good start point for drawers and this stores hats, gloves, scarves and sunglasses nicely.
  • Dividers in drawers, especially adjustable ones, work wonders.

8. Sports equipment:

  • Stick-type equipment can be hung or corralled in a deep 25"+"H container.
  • Balls, mitts, gloves etc. are best stored in drawers, think 12-14"H.
  • Skates and pads are a space burden, to say the least. If they can’t live in a garage, you need shelf space dedicated to those unique sizes. In other words, get out your measuring tape.
  • Rackets are best hung on a hook, or placed on a shelf.
  • Equipment bags store best when they have a dedicated cubby, or a generous shelf for shared space.

9. Umbrellas:

  • Compact umbrellas tend to get lost in the bottom of umbrella holders, if yours doesn’t have a small hook for them, consider giving them their own space.
  • Tall umbrellas are best in a tall umbrella vessel or a basket- just allocate a spot for it. Usually a 12”L x 12”W x 42”clear height spot is the minimum.
  • Strollers, walkers: If these can stay in a garage or in a stroller room – great. If not, see if there’s closet space to use for this and keep them out of the way of daily flow for other members of the family. If they need to stay out in the open- it’s a few years of life with them, so try to be deliberate about a spot. You ideally want an area where you can take a little extra time getting coordinated without holding up everyone else- it’ll take the stress off everyone.

Closed Storage Tips

1. Rule #1: You will need that full 24” of interior depth to prevent your doors from popping open when too full. 23” works in a pinch, go for 26-27” when you can.
2. Lighting: Ideally, add ample light to two spots: 1) right above the door for the whole length (or under a shelf directly above the hanging rod), and 2) at the ceiling of the interior, towards the front, to make sure everything is well-lit. It may seem excessive until you have it in place.
3. Use your height: Tall doors, 96"H+ are practical and gorgeous, do go as high as you can. For shelves high above the door height, minimize the depth to 12”D so that you have space enough to angle a storage box down toward the door opening. Shelves just above the hanging rod can be 16”D if the door height allows clear front access.
4. Open wide: If you’ve got a wide closet, but the doors only open over part of the width, consider re-designing and add doors to allow for the entire width to be able to be directly reached behind the door. Use hinges that mount to the floor and ceiling if needed, to bank more than 2 doors. I try to never let more than 12” extend beyond direct reach-in access.
5. Viewpoint: Drawers inside closets are great, but are best when they have a clear acrylic piece as part of the drawer front so you can get a peek without opening every one.
6. Advantage: Use the back of those doors, or even the walls that don’t fit traditional storage in walk-in closets, to add to your design solution.

  • Shoe storage, extra small umbrellas, tote bags, dog leashes, rackets and stick-type sports equipment all hang well on doors.
  • If you have the flexibility to add depth to your reach-in closet, do so, and plan to use this surface space wisely. 
  • Avoid hanging backpacks if possible on the backs of doors as their weight will encourage the door to stay open. Backs of doors do work well for shopping totes, however.

 7. Personal Space:

  • With closets, I find putting sports equipment into its own closet helps you maximize storage in a coat and shoe closet.
  • I also love giving homeowners their own closet. Small luxuries truly make an everyday difference.

Open Storage Tips

Country house: Those lucky enough to have a mudroom- make it big! This is not the place where you try to save space. Instead, really think through all the things that get stored, all the things that happen in this space and plan accordingly.

City house: If your entry and mudroom are one in the same, pare down and see if you can combine open storage for everyday items with a closed storage space for some of the less used items. City townhouse dwellers, let's use those entries wisely, they work hard.

1. Hanging Storage:

  • Cubbies and lockers: 15-18"W (minimum) x 18"D cubbies work to keep family members’ coats and "stuff" organized. Tip: Add name tags if kids tend to fight over cubby space. 
  • Peg walls/rails: Allow 15"W per adult winter coat, 9"W for spring coats x 48"H (including hoods). Allow 9"W per kids' coat, x 30"H including hoods. 2 rows of staggered pegs are a plus.

 2. Shoe Storage:

  • Under a bench: Install a faux back to prevent shoes from getting buried too far back. TIP: Shoes will pile up, consider an additional shelf for an extra layer of storage space.
  • Storage Columns: A tall 21-24"D cabinetry column allows for sliding shelves to store shoes, and it takes advantage of extra storage depth and height. TIP: This depth lets little-kid shoes to be stored up to two-deep.
  • Shoe Cubbies: These are great if the number of shoes stored here are on the lower side. Make the inside dimensions 10"W x 14"D x 6"H for shoes, dedicate a few at 18"H for boots.

3. Accessory Storage:

  • Drawers will save the day for easy storage, but bins and baskets can also work if you give them a dedicated cubby or shelf to live.
  • Find the basket or bin that you like best, first, and then design the cabinetry or shelf widths around them. 

4. Four Seasons of Fashion: In 4-season locales, 3 seasons worth of coats and shoes usually need to be available at one time and this is when mudrooms shine.

  • Use the open storage for the immediate items in use, and add a closet where all the rest of the things can go.
  • Out of season accessories can go on upper shelves, in easy reach on the first cold or hot day.

5. Sports Equipment:

  • Stick-like equipment: Think hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks even baseball and softball bats- build in a spot where these get hung or just rest upright in a deep-enough trough that can keep them well-contained.
  • Small to midsize equipment: A couple of deep drawers below an open cubby are great for balls, gloves, mitts, pads, specialty shoes etc.
  • Helmets, hats and bags: Shelf space above open hanging space is great for these grab-and-go items. Again, make these shelves shallower.

Now What?

Got too much stuff? While you were counting, I bet you noticed at least 25% of the things you have stored can be tossed or donated, so get 2 garbage bags and start filling them up. Next, with items left to store, determine if it all needs to be in the area you’re currently planning. If you can, shift some things elsewhere. Lastly, if you need everything to be local, it’s time to reallocate space from surrounding areas. Look to add space from a garage, a neighboring laundry area (can you stack the washer and dryer?), or enclose a screened porch. Can you change your desired storage method? For example, pegs are great but in linear footage, coats on hangers are more efficient. Consider hiring a local pro to consult on a new plan, often a more experienced eye will find more space.

Did it all fit? Well done if you’ve got your new plan! Pat yourself on the back- that was a lot of work and I hope you’re feeling more in-charge than before, and are excited to get this project to the finish line.  It’s time to call your contractor, your designer, or head to your local closet company or Container Store where someone can help make this plan come true. It's best to dial a couple options to price compare cabinetry solutions- be forewarned- prices vary, but there’s something for everyone.

While they’re helping, start thinking about how best to store your keys, phones, calendars, and re-read that part in Step 1 about lighting and flooring materials. Then, look back at the notes and images you made about beautifying- we’re onto that next in Step 3.