You open the door and stumble in with a heavy bag in one arm, keys dangling from your finger, mail tucked under your elbow, and your coat dripping water onto the floor from the rain. What is your natural next step? Dump everything on the nearest flat surface! Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. There are many reasons why we tend to “drop and go” when we walk in the door, such as:
- The phone is ringing and we are running to pick it up
- Someone in the room is demanding our immediate attention
- We need to go back and unload more things from the car
- We are running late
- We need to dash to the bathroom
- We have only a brief window of time before we need to leave again
- We need or want to get started on a task
- We are exhausted and want to just sit down and relax
The problem is that any pile we create in the present quickly becomes a tangle we will have to unravel in the future. How we handle the first few moments when we walk through the door is therefore critical for maximizing our productivity and keeping us from feeling out of control.
If you need a better approach for managing this transition, here are a couple of tricks to try.
>> Place “routine” items into assigned homes
Much of what we carry in the door is the same from one day to another. Therefore, it behooves us to establish convenient, designated storage locations for these types of possessions. For example:
Coat… in the closet or cubby
Hat/gloves… in a basket or drawer in the entry
Keys… on a hook near the door
Loose change… in a dish on the entry table
Cell phone… on a nearby counter/desk/table near its charging cord
Purse/briefcase… on a designated chair or in a certain spot on the floor
Shoes… lined up under a bench or in a tray near the door
Again, these systems should be easy to use. Any storage solution that takes more than a second or two is likely to be bypassed and ignored.
>> Clear new items from the containers you have carried in
While we are out and about we often acquire items that we then tuck into our bags, purses, backpacks, folders and even pockets. It is helpful to get these items quickly out of the containers that are concealing them and out into the light of day where we can process them.
Spread out the contents of your containers on an open surface and do quick “triage” of whatever you have brought in. For example:
- Papers can be quickly sorted into folders (e.g. “To File,” “To Read,” “To Follow Up”) or dropped into the recycle bin
- Dirty sports bottles or coffee mugs can be rinsed and put in the dishwasher
- Trash can be thrown away
- Toys can be returned to the play room
- Dirty laundry can be moved to the laundry room
- Food can be unloaded and put into the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer
- New purchases can be put away or placed on the stairs to be carried up
This step is important because we quickly forget what is inside a bag or box. As the old saying goes, “Out of sight is out of mind.” By moving objects out into plain sight, we increase the likelihood of putting them away properly and hence being able to find them when we need them.
>> Capture follow-up tasks
In addition to carrying in physical items, we often return home with new tasks that we need to complete. For instance:
- We return from a committee meeting with a list of calls to make
- We come back from a school function and need to check dates for a few upcoming events
- We come home from a networking event with a stack of business cards we want to enter into our contacts
- We carry in a bag of clothing that our child needs to try on
- We walk in the door after a dinner party and want to remember to send a thank you note
- We return from a lecture where we learned about a resource we want to investigate
- We learn at soccer pickup that we need to bring snack next week and we need to put that date on our calendar
It is important to capture these “to dos” into whatever system we use and trust before the thought flies out of our head. This could be an app, a planner, a bullet journal, or even a simple list. Timing is everything as even the simple of act of walking through the door can make you instantly forget whatever was on your mind (link to Doorway Effect).
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While it is tempting to simply “dump” when we get home, staying strong for even a few minutes keeps the clutter at bay and makes us feel at peace.
What is the first thing you do when you walk in the door?