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Five spaces that would make your house much easier for your family to live in


I spend my days as an organizer helping clients optimize their storage and use their living space in efficient and sensible ways. Although every house is different — small or large, new or old, modern or traditional, one level or four levels — I find myself envisioning additions that would make every house function best for its owners. In other words, what is missing — even from newly built houses with all the bells and whistles — that could help people with storage and flow. Here are a few ideas:

Exchange room

One issue I notice in almost every home is boxes or bags lined up in a front hall, dining room or bedroom that are waiting to be taken somewhere — to school, to the office, to the post office, to a thrift shop, to return to a store. This is modern life. In decades past, packages weren’t arriving daily, people weren’t working from home and from an office, parents weren’t asked to bring items to school each month, and kids didn’t participate in as many extracurricular activities. Everything that needs to be remembered for an event, returned to a store or sent back to an online retailer is put somewhere in the house where it will be seen and remembered, which often means it’s somewhere you really don’t want it to be.

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Wouldn’t it be easier — and tidier — if all of those items were kept in a space designed to accommodate them — an “exchange” room? It wouldn’t require a lot of space, but could have shelves or cubbies designated for incoming and outgoing items, and space for packing and mailing supplies, as well as spare bags and boxes. Sort of a mailroom for your house.

Space for recycling

As long as we’re talking about items going in and out, let’s discuss all those bottles of sparkling water, wine, soda and juice you bring into your house each week. Not to mention the food containers and never-ending catalogues and junk mail. It’s good news that so many items are more environmentally packaged, but most houses don’t have the space to keep up with the flow. Either the indoor recycling bin has to be emptied daily, or items pile up next to the bin. Neither option is optimal, and neither encourages recycling. A household with more than two people needs more than one standard 13-gallon recycling bin. Optimally, there would be space for at least three bins somewhere near the kitchen or a large cabinet that could hold several rectangular bins that could be easily slid in and out.

Cleaning closet

Cleaning supplies take up almost a full aisle at the grocery store. Consequently, people buy more cleaning products today than they have in decades past. Yet no one can find a convenient place to store all of those supplies, not to mention their vacuum cleaner and upright dusters, brooms and mops. Shouldn’t there be a designated space for all of these essential items such as a utility closet? After all, there’s never enough space beneath the sink, the laundry room has its own supplies, and who wants to go down to the basement every time you need the vacuum cleaner? These are regularly used items — or should be. Giving them a centrally located place in the home makes sense.

Front hall closet

Even if you have a mudroom — the room that everyone seems to covet — a front hall closet is still a must. It’s not an old-fashioned amenity. Even if you rarely entertain and don’t need the space for guest coats, there will always be items that can be stored in it, such as outdoor items, out-of-season jackets and accessories, handbags, umbrellas, reusable bags, shoes, etc. Also, too many people have nowhere to put a guest’s coat because they’ve forfeited a front hall closet for a mudroom. But their mudrooms are so jam-packed and messy, they don’t want their guests to see them. A coat closet near the front entry can do the trick.

Bulk storage

Buying in bulk is a trend that is here to stay; it saves people time and money. But where are you going to put 48 rolls of paper towels, three dozen glass jars and 16 cans of black beans? A walk-in pantry can make storing in bulk much easier. And certainly, a basement closet or garage with shelves will work just fine. But because shopping in large quantities can be a continual habit, it would be beneficial for many families, especially households that are multigenerational, to have a designated space for overflow cleaning supplies, paper products, cases of water, soda or alcohol, and nuts, chips and snacks.

Certainly none of these ideas is a “must-have.” And most homes will never have any of these accommodations. But if you’re doing a major renovation or building a new home, they may be worth considering. Home design is constantly adapting to new trends and technologies and there is no single answer for everyone’s lifestyle, but I see these spaces as almost universally needed to keep up with how we shop, live and entertain.

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