When You Walk In The Door

Doorway of a house

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).

*     *     *     *     *

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?

31 thoughts on “When You Walk In The Door”

  1. I couldn’t agree more and I try very hard when I do walk in the door to put what needs to be put away in its proper place. My kids, on the other hand, do dump all their stuff wherever they can and then I am usually having to put it awY for them. So there is that and could use a better system for them in all honesty I suppose.

    1. Kids feel the same “exhaustion” that we do when they walk in the door. That is why simple-to-use is so important. If it is just as easy to drop the backpack on the bench as it is to drop it in the middle of the floor, maybe you have a shot of the kids complying. Good luck, Janine! I know you are pretty buttoned up:)

      1. I’m sorry you are struggling, Tammy. It can be so hard to feel isolated with a big problem. Depending on where you are located, help is available! If you visit the http://www.NAPO.net you can search for a professional organizer in your area. I hope this helps!

  2. While it’s a crazy scamble when I get home, I make sure to get my items out of the car. Then it’s following through with trash, shoes put away, purse and calendar to the desk, and then unload bags. It makes life easier all the time this way!

    1. It can feel herculean to put things away the moment we walk in, but it sure does make a huge difference. Even two minutes of effort can save hours!

  3. This is fabulous, Seana! I have instituted many of the systems you propose in this post because thoughts do fly out of my head unless I capture them. Small notes stay hidden in my pockets and handbag unless I remove them! It is so much easier in the long run to take care of these little things right away rather than either let them accumulate or forget about them and regret not writing them down.
    Diane Quintana recently posted…Start Your Holiday Planning Now!My Profile

    1. That “writing things down” thing is becoming more and more critical for me. I need to get everything captured into my system or I know I will drop the ball.

  4. You made me laugh because of how you described entering the house with arms and hands full of bags, keys, and mail pressed up against your body. Have you been videotaping me? I don’t know why I feel obliged to carry everything in one trip. It’s silly. But as you can imagine, when entering the house with arms full of stuff, it does have to get dumped somewhere. There are two places that I put things down. It just depends upon how much stuff I’m toting. Once I’ve caught my breath, I do the triage that you’ve so beautifully described. While I might enter the house with a ton of things, I like to get myself back to square one so that I can begin the next part of my day stress-free. Once I’m “set,” I review my to-do list to see what’s next for the day or evening.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Prepare Yourself for Better PossibilitiesMy Profile

    1. I’m with you, Linda! I try to carry it all in at once. And then of course, you have to put things down to even take the coat off:) But those few minutes of resetting are so helpful not only for how I function, but also for how I feel.

  5. It’s really a bit of a disaster in our house.. It’s like you read our minds! Or rather.. that this is a real THING.
    I’m the best at walking in the door, but getting the kids to NOT throw their backpacks in the path of the living room is hard. And they always throw shoes opposite ways.
    This time of year is harder for keys because I tend to put them in my jacket pockets, whereas in the summer, I know to just go right in and put them in the keys basket.

    1. It is definitely a THING! I used to keep my keys in my pocket but I was always losing them. Frankly, a simple key hook has been a lifesaver, especially when my children got old enough to drive. All keys in the same place, all the time. You never know when you might need to move someone else’s car out of the way!

  6. I agree with you, Seana! Systems need to be very simple to remember. Making them complicated will stop people from doing them. When I start working with a client, our first area to combat is the area where they bring stuff in the home. If this area isn’t organized into a simple process, the other organized areas that feed off of this area will not be sustainable.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How to Create a Safe Place for Your Senior ParentMy Profile

    1. That’s a great place to start because they see it and use it every day, so it feels very rewarding. When you come back the next time, you will also have an immediate feel for how well a client is going to maintain a system you establish:)

  7. These are wonderful tips! I agree that having assigned homes for frequently used items is so important. I like your tips for putting things in view on a surface, rather than hidden in a bag. Capturing follow-up tasks is another great tip! When I walk in the door, I have a “drop zone” in my kitchen with inboxes for everyone, and a spot for my phone, purse, keys, etc. I immediately unload things there, and there’s a dry erase board above the “drop zone,” so I will write down any reminders or follow-up tasks there.
    Nancy Haworth recently posted…Decluttering & Organizing When Moving in TogetherMy Profile

    1. Neat idea to have your dry erase board so handy. This lets you jot down whatever is on your mind so easily, even if you end up transferring it to another location later. Having a “drop zone” that the whole family uses is one terrific solution!

  8. Hello Seana!

    I could check, “Yes that’s me” as I carry everything from the car into my home, in one shot, because there is no way I am making another trip. Of course at the moment, I don’t realize that my scarf is cleaning up the garage floor or my water bottle is dripping. Never mind, I’ll do it again. The next time I’ll wear the scarf back in and leave the water bottle in the car. If I’m lucky, I’ll call “son to the rescue”
    and he’ll there waiting to help.

    When I get home, I need to quickly put things away. I can’t stand the clutter and the mess created by not putting it away. I don’t want to have to remember to come back and do something later on. It really only takes five
    minutes, so I get it done.

    I love the title and I love the post because it’s something all of us can relate to. Bravo

    1. We all walk in the door, right Ronni? I tend to be like you and not like seeing the clutter around. This can be more challenging for people who aren’t bothered by the visual clutter, and only feel the pain later, when they are trying to find something they need!

  9. I certainly prescribe to this exercise. I spend whatever amount of time it takes to organize myself when I walk into the house. There is usually enough stuff that I take a couple of trips to the car to unload, but that keeps my car clear. Then a few minutes of putting things away means I stay organized. Now if I could just teach my husband to do the same!

    1. Most of the comments seem to suggest that it is “other” family members who are falling short on this one. Children can be taught, but husbands? Good luck:)

  10. There are many things that I need to work on as a mother, but one thing I’ve got down with my kiddo is the ‘when you walk in the door routine.’ My son knows to take off his shoes and put them in the cubby, hang up his jacket, place his backpack on the chair and pull out the home-school folder, and wash his hands. This routine really does make a world of difference! #smallmomwin

    1. Way to go! I can just picture him following these routines. I think children are pretty malleable, especially if you begin early. Once the habit is formed, it seems weird not to do it, right?

  11. I actually leave stuff in the car…then when I am ready I can bring in and put away. Unless of course I have ice cream!

    1. That is actually a great plan if your car is in a safe place. Sort of like the mail. I tell people wait to bring in the mail until you have a few minutes to process it!

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