It's that bittersweet time of year again - lazy summer days are coming to an end (although I for one feel like I've been working like crazy all summer long - no lazy days for me!) and back-to-school prep is in full swing.
Although it's always nice to be able to pick up a steadier routine while my son is in school, it's also harder to squeeze in fun family time come fall. And it feels like the older he gets, the busier we all get.
We did have a great time together as a family last year because he started skiing competitively (a pretty nice perk of living in a cold climate, right?!). We all headed to his races together to cheer him on, which was a blast, although I'm already anticipating my poor feet freezing on the mountain all. winter. long. I'm used to staying warm by skiing too, but that's frowned upon at the kids' races - go figure!
Anyway, because back-to-school means a change in the comings and goings in all of our homes, I wanted to give you some of my tips for getting your mudroom ready for the start of the new school year.
I think it's important to keep in mind that your mudroom needs to facilitate four main things:
1. People need to be able to pass through it (usually in a rush if your family is anything like mine!) unimpeded by messes.
2. You need to be able to store a lot of awkwardly shaped, hard to store items.
3. Everything needs to be easy to grab and even easier to put away again.
4. It needs to look pretty! Don't ignore this one just because we're talking about a highly "utilitarian" space. It's still part of your house, and let's face it - starting in a few weeks, you and everyone living in your home is going to see the inside of this space multiple times throughout the day. You may as well make that experience more enjoyable by making it reflect your family's personality and tastes.
Sounds like Mission Impossible, doesn't it?!
But with the right kinds of storage and a few thoughtfully selected decorative items, you'll be killing the back-to-school mudroom game!
I'm a fan of hooks in the mudroom, but with a few caveats.
Before you install a wall full of cute, farmhouse-y coat hooks, ask yourself if your kids will be inclined to hang their jackets on them properly. If you foresee a lot of going around behind them to pick up fallen jackets because those sweet kiddos are likely to all but throw them at the hooks and hope for the best, you may want to consider large lidded bins or a deep storage bench instead.
Also, while a lot of organization tips say to use hooks to hang backpacks, the reality is that above about the 2nd grade, backpacks can start getting pretty loaded down with stuff. The same goes for sports bags.
If you do use hooks for these, you'll want to be sure to use ones made of a sturdy material (I love the ones below) and anchor them to the wall studs.
That said, I do love mudroom hooks for baseball caps, adults' coats and purses, not to mention dog leashes.
I understand the temptation to go for beautiful open "lockers" or glass front cabinets in your mudroom. They always look so cool in magazines!
But - and hear me here! - that's because no one is snapping a picture of all the actual stuff that goes into those lockers and see-through cabinets on the daily!
Seriously, you have to trust me on this. Your family's outerwear, books, papers, and other sundries that you'll need to keep in your mudroom will not look that neat and well-styled. You're gonna want to close some doors or drawers on all of that stuff!
Whenever possible I prefer custom built-in cabinets for mudrooms. They'll be far sturdier than freestanding pieces, plus you'll be able to design the most functional storage configuration for your family's needs. A further advantage is choosing door styles and colors that complement the rest of your house.
I love tall cabinets here, but deep drawers are some of my favorites for the mudroom because they make it so easy to see what you're looking for in them. Putting items away is even easier than taking them out, meaning everyone is more likely to skip just dropping them on the floor.
Adding a bench to your mudroom will do wonders for your mudroom's looks and functionality.
Either have a bench incorporated into your custom built-ins or choose one that's sturdy but stylish and add a few throw pillows that relate back to the colors and style of the rest of the house.
As long as you don't allow clutter to pile up on it, a bench is perfect for providing a spot to sit for putting on and removing shoes.
When designing my clients' built-ins, I like to leave the benches open on the bottom for those family members who are averse to placing their shoes and boots in a basket or bin provided for that purpose. Instead, I'll slide a boot tray (the one below is my all-time favorite!) underneath the bench to contain footwear.
Adding a few matching decorative baskets to your mudroom's open shelving and, if you have the space, a large, covered floor basket will up the style factor and the storage flexibility of your mudroom.
And I especially love a large lidded basket in the mudroom during the winter months for gathering wet outerwear that needs to be thrown in the wash before the day's end.
Miscellaneous Storage and Style
A tall container for umbrellas, lacrosse sticks, baseball bats, tennis racquets. This one is a classic.
A designated family "lost and found" bin, box, or basket.
Great outdoor rugs. I literally love everything from Dash and Albert! Their durability is perfect for all four seasons of foot traffic and they're so stylish without looking trendy.
Artwork or photographs. Frame kids' artwork or find a fun, colorful piece you love; blow up favorite candid family snaps and hang them in matching frames, gallery wall style.
Something living. Pop a potted plant like a hardy rosemary on a shelf or counter, or if you have a corner where it won't get in the way, a bigger patterned leaf plant like a large leaf philodendron or an umbrella plant work well here.
Here's hoping these ideas will help you kick off the school year on the right (organized) foot!