Nothing goes further towards keeping a house neat and orderly than solidly established entry/exit procedures. The easier it is for the smallest family members to take responsibility for their own belongings in clear and well-defined spaces, the easier it is to implement said entry/exit procedures. The entryway is an area that every family should consider setting up in a child-accessible, Montessori way.
Last year, Tim remodeled our back porch and enclosed it to be a permanent mudroom. At the time, we intended that he would custom build an extra large set of lockers similar to the set he built in a previous home (shown in the collage below and in use here). He finished the mudroom only a short time before Tomas was born and then as life happens, the lockers were never completed.
For the second fall-winter-spring our entryway was looking like the picture on the left more than 75% of the time. We had shelves for shoes and benches and hooks that *most* of the kids could reach, but it wasn't enough. There wasn't a well enough defined system.
We kept talking and talking about finding the time to build exactly what we wanted, but it never happened. Something always came up. We love having a handy daddy, but we also love spending time with him when he is home for the weekend! Purchasing became the better option for this season of life.
Cleaning & Assembly
Along with the new cubbies, a purge of stuff was in order. We sorted out three boxes of shoes, snow pants, jackets, hats, mittens, etc. that were mismatched, ripped, and didn't fit anyone and got it OUT. I am not a full-on minimalist, but I am completely not-more-than-kids-can-take-care-of-themselves. I put the kids to work pairing and sorting shoes and mittens while I gave the underside of that giant mud mess a good scrub and Aidan started assembling the cubbies.
Not that we ever had that problem...
For the preschool-elementary group, I find that all it takes is a quick stop at the doorway myself with reminders and send-backs for anyone who didn't do it correctly on their own. In the past, they would drag their heels on coming back because they had to find an open hook (there rarely was one and the youngest could reach them on their own) and spot on the shelf. It was easier to throw shoes and coats any direction and took significantly more time and effort for them to do properly. This is simple and much easier to automate. They don't need assistance, just occasional verbal reminders. Which makes the reminders less stressful for all involved.
One last thing I really need to do is to add a command hook lower down inside Tomas' locker that he can reach on his own. I could have had Aidan install the hooks lower in the first place, but I like using the command hooks because kids grow and then I don't have to move them later.
A System That Grows
For now, the previous hooks and bench have been left to give a place for friends and visitors to hang their coats as well. As winter comes again, we will need those hooks for snow pants for the taller kids, but they will be much less crowded than before. Because our kids are only allowed one sport outside the house and all of them are in low-equipment sports we don't have that issue. Tim and I use a more traditional coat closet/shelf that is on the other end of the mudroom for our things. Older teens could be transitioned to this space as well if they outgrow the smaller lockers completely.
For more inspiration here are a few past entryways that encouraged kid independence. (Some with formal lockers, some without)
What have you done to make coming and going easier for your family? Do you have a link or an image with a great entryway? I'd love to see it! Leave me a note and I'll be sure to stop by and visit.