Last month on my Fresh Living segment I briefly mentioned an organizing tool called a “command center,” and I knew instantly that we needed to spend a little more time talking about it.
What is a command center? It is a central, convenient location that helps keep the family organized and everything running smoothly. It holds your ideas, schedules, tasks and even the essential tangible stuff you need at your fingertips, such as car keys and cell phones.
Listen, in years past you might have been able to get by without this kind of detail.
But as families grow and become busier, it is essential to lay out the processes that keep your family running. Your family will thank you for taking the time to create this visual map to help them keep everything straight!
At first glance, creating a command center can feel a little intimidating. But if we break it down into the following steps, the command center that is right for your family will come together naturally.
How to Create a Command Center:
- Find a central location. This could be in the mudroom, a laundry room off the side of the kitchen, or somewhere in the kitchen itself. The trick is that wherever you pick must be convenient to where the family spends most of its time. If it isn’t something you can access without effort, you will never use it.
- Center the command center around the family calendar. Even if it doesn’t feel like anyone in the family is particularly busy, it is essential to have an overview of what is happening each day. I recommend a dry erase, week-at-a-glance calendar that you can update weekly. You can find this calendar HERE.
- Personalize from here. This is where you’ll want to get deliberate about the function of the command center, and not caught up in a lot of cool ideas on Pinterest and Instagram. Really think through the type of information you’d like to organize and the kind of items that you need to keep track of or that tend to create clutter. The following are family systems that are commonly organized in command centers, along with product links and ideas to help you create it.
Menu plan. Try a dry erase option, possibly something that can be included on your family calendar. You can find this menu plan/calendar HERE.
Routines and job charts. Do you have standard operating procedures for how you like the kitchen to be cleaned? Do the kids need a reminder of what to do every day after school? Consider clipboards using clipboards that kids can remove, carry around, check off, and put back in the command center so they know exactly where to find them for next time. Bonus Tip: Slide lists into sheet protectors that can be checked off with a dry erase marker so they are resusable. Click HERE to find this file holder.
Message board. Train the family to check a message board every day as they are coming and going so details aren’t missed. Even better if it has a bulletin board for pinning up invitations and announcements. Find this message board HERE.
Hooks and bins for essentials. Never search for lost keys again! A family command center is a great spot for hooks for keys and bins and shelves for other on-the-go items, such as sunglasses, gum, chapstick, etc. Click HERE to learn more about this product.
Cell phone charging station. If you are lucky enough to have an outlet nearby, include a shelf where charge cords stay put and phones can charge each night. Click HERE to find this charging station.
Container for dry erase markers and other essentials. If there’s a supply needed to keep the command center running, it needs to be within arm’s reach. Find these wall-mounted bins HERE.
Wall file holders for incoming mail and important action paper. This is where you can really get control of that paper clutter. Train the whole family that incoming mail goes in its designated bin. And don’t stop there – give each member of the family their own little pockets for those essential lists, homework packets and other paper they need easy access to. Find this file holder HERE.
Grocery list. You may use an app for a master grocery list, but nothing beats the convenience of the family helping you log the necessities as they run out. Whether it’s a separate list or part of the dry erase/calendar and memo system, encourage the family to add bread to the list when they have taken the last piece. Find this fun list/memo pad HERE.
Hooks for backpacks and bins for shoes. If you have the space, it’s nice for the command center to be a one-stop-shop for all the traffic in your home. From grabbing keys and cell phones to shoes and backpacks, you are limiting the trail of clutter while helping the family find the essentials as they come and go. I love this inspiration from @lifesorted!
…And how about 2 bonus tips?
Establish a regular weekly time to update the command center. This is the most important step! This system will work for you – as long as you work the system. Your family will continue to use it so long as it holds relevant information. The solution? create a weekly appointment with yourself to maintain your command center. Sometime during the weekend (or even Monday morning) is a good time to update the calendar, menu plan, and any other information contained in your command center. Also be sure to regularly empty out the mail inbox – once paper starts overflowing you’ll find paper piles on the nearest surface and the command center will lose its effectiveness.
Done is better than perfect. Pinterest and Instagram will inspire you with beautiful ideas, but beware of the potential these pictures have of overwhelming you. The bottom line? Don’t get intimidated by what you see. Yes, command centers can be beautiful and it is tempting to get caught up in what it LOOKS like. But first focus on function.
As you begin using your command center, you will likely find that certain components go unused, while you’ve completely overlooked something else that is critical. Tell yourself that your command center is a work in progress, and start with the basics you know you’ll family will use. You can add to your command center as you identify additional needs, and never hesitate to get rid of any part of a command center that isn’t being used…even if it looks good. So take the pressure off yourself! Remember, the purpose of the command center is to organize your family, not decorate your home.