Organize your mudroom with the help of your kids.
Your mud room is the buffer zone between the great outdoors and your living quarters. It stops kids with wet boots in their tracks and provides you with an opportunity to wipe off the dog's paws before heading inside. Cleaning the mud room can be a family-friendly activity that teaches kids a sense of responsibility and perhaps just a little more appreciation for your housekeeping efforts.
- Hook. Put taller children in charge of placing coats and jackets on the hooks that line the walls. Leave it up to the youngster to figure out whose jackets go on the right hooks; this is great object lesson to encourage labeling one's belongings!
- Wipe. A smaller child makes a perfect shoe rack wiper. Assuming that there is plenty of detritus that has blown in, let the youngster go to town with lukewarm water spiked with just a bit of vinegar.
- Wash. Walls need to be washed down, too. It is amazing how many fingerprints and smudges build up in this little area. A sturdy sponge and a spray bottle of cleaning solution make quick work of these smudges. Shoe or boot scuff marks take a bit more elbow grease. Make it a contest between two or more children to see who can be the most thorough in removing these smudges!
- Sweep. While a large broom may be a bit too big to get into all the nooks and crannies, a dustpan and brush set is perfect for cleaning the mud room floor. Even a very young child can do this job.
- Sanitize. A steam-cleaning floor sanitizer helps keep illness at bay. This might be mom's job unless the kids are older and feel comfortable handling this cleaning tool.
Cleaning out a well-designed and overall organized mud room is quick and simple. Yet what do you do next with the neglected mud room? You know, the one where multiple pairs of shoes per family member linger -- and have done so for months?
- Organize. Separate the items you find in your mud room and put them in piles. One pile per family member, please. I have been amazed at the miscellaneous items that have ended up in my entryway. It would be best for mom to do this step since there might be some arguing when it comes to whose items are found there.
- Save, give away or toss. You find that your youngster has five pairs of shoes in the mud room. Do they all still fit? Are the soles intact? Is there a reason why one pair of shoes has been squeezed all the way into the back of the room? Help the children to identify the shoes that they have outgrown. If they are only gently used, give them to charity. If they are torn or ripped, recycle them or toss them out. If they fit and the kids want to keep their footwear, have them take their shoes to the proper cabinet. As a general rule of thumb, I only allow two pairs of shoes per person at the door. All others go to the closet's shoe shelf. Repeat this process for the various coats and jackets that have accumulated in the mud room.
- Store. Once you decide which items are appropriately stored in the mud room, have the children help you find places for the other items. You may discover that the kids' closets are bursting at the seams and a trip to the hardware store for some storage boxes is a next logical step. You may also notice that your child had a growth spurt and has many clothes he no longer needs. Consider tackling the closets next for a bit of a clean out.
- Relocate. There is no reason why the dog's toys should be stored underneath the hook that holds its leash. Find another place for these items. The same holds true for the firewood or the newspaper-recycling stack. Unless your mud room is quite large, it is a good idea to adopt a minimalist decorative approach. Ask the children to help you decide what stays and what goes. Allow them to reason through their decisions. Doing so helps them when you -- eventually -- tackle their rooms.
- Expand. On the other side of the equation is a mud room that simply does not meet your storage needs. If there are hats, gloves and umbrellas that need to be stored but there is no adequate storage, it is time to discuss the addition of hooks, shelves and cabinets. The kids can help put together shelves and may even be able to help you find the wall studs to which you will attach these items. This is a great teachable moment for tool safety.