You\’re running late (again) and in a panic, you\’re trying to get your kids and yourself out the door to school and work. Everyone is running around frantically to find what they need to leave the house with … backpack, cel phone, address book, hat, gym shoes … Does this sound familiar?

This was the scene at our house a few years ago too. What we needed in our home, and now as a Professional Organizer, I find that most of my clients need as well, is an\’ exit strategy\’ and a ‘drop zone.\’ This is where items live that need to leave the house with you, as well as where appropriate items ‘drop\’ when you arrive home. Items that need consistent homes in this area are:

o A checklist for leaving the house
o List of errands to run
o Keys
o Purse
o Backpack
o Boots
o Boots, hats, gloves, etc.
o Briefcase
o Coats
o Merchandise returns
o Umbrella
o Dog leash
o Sports equipment / musical instruments
o Towels for wiping dirty feet
o Trash can for dropping junk mail as you enter the house

To establish your own exit strategy and drop zone, identify (make a list) all the items that are regularly brought into the house and all the items that typically need to leave with you each day.

Now determine the best location (home) for these items to live, in close proximity to the door that your family typically enters and leaves the home. Often this is through the garage. In many clients\’ homes, I have arranged baskets to hold cel phones, PDAs, keys. In addition, hooks for the home for backpacks, umbrellas, dog leach, keys. What has become popular in many homes is a locker system where each family member has their own “cubby” or “locker” for holding their own belongings needed. Where space and budget allow, I have often brought in a closet contractor to construct a locker/cubby system for my clients.

A helpful tool for storing hats, gloves, scarves for all family members is to add a vertical over the door shoe holder (typically used to hold shoes vertically on a closet door). The younger kids have the lower pockets, older kids the middle pockets and the adults the top pockets. This way everyone has access to their own items and they can easily be seen through the clear pockets.

With all the electronics we carry with us daily, it is also important to have a consistent home to charge electronics, like cel phone and PDA. There are now docking stations available for purchase that allow you to charge all your equipment in one station.

After you have identified and strategized what needs to be located in your exit / drop zone and where the best home is for these items, it is critical that you communicate this to all family members. When everyone knows where the home is, they will be more likely honor that system. When there are no consistent homes for belongings, clutter ensues.

Make a “Checklist for Leaving the House” unique to your household, or purchase the “Checklist for Leaving the House” pad on our website: Checklist for Leaving the House

The key to creating and maintaining these areas is to know what you need to store, make the space, establish consistent homes for the items, and communicate the system to all family members. Soon the stress of the morning exit and afternoon drop will be a thing of the past.

Janet Nusbaum, of Simplified Spaces, is an Organizing Consultant, Senior Move Manager, Author and Speaker. Janet loves creating order out of chaos. She has waded through all kinds of clutter and mayhem since 2003 to bring serenity and order to frazzled parents, overwhelmed households, cluttered offices, and transitioning seniors and families. She is the author of Mom, Can I Help Around the House: A Simple Step-by-step System for Teaching Your Children Life-long Skills for Pitching in and Picking up
For more clutter-clearing tips visit www.SimplifiedSpaces.net and sign up to receive her Free report Shelf Life of 75 Common Household Products.

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