Command Center: a Useful Back to School Project

A new command center to catch the family’s piles of stuff when they enter your house has been my most effective Back to School organization project so far.


This unassuming shelf holds everything.

A command center is a must-have for a family with school-aged kids. I have two boys, one starting middle school, and one in elementary school. For the past several years, they have come in the front door after school and dumped their backpacks, jackets, shoes, and socks right inside the door. Because stuff attracts more stuff, their father does it too. Not all of these all the time, and not necessarily in that order, and sometimes including extra projects or stuff they acquired on the way home from school.

This is what that area was supposed to look like:


I love the Pier 1 bookshelf and my pretty gardening books and photos of the boys. It even had room to temporarily store things that were on the way out of the house to be returned to their lenders (which explains the pile of plates and cloth napkins).

But this is what it usually looked like:


Let’s put all the things here! On the floor!


Not pictured: backpacks and jackets, which spread to the kitchen table/floor/stairwell

It drove me crazy to trip over my kids’ and husband’s stuff all the time and have to see that mess when I came and went. My mission was to hide all of that stuff and create a command center! So I grabbed a kid and headed to Ikea. Naturally.

The challenge: create a family command center that holds keys, wallets, shoes, and backpacks.

command center ikea desk

He loves coming to Ikea with me. Obvs.

command center ikea meatballs

Okay maybe it’s just for the meatballs.

Originally I envisioned a mirror with hooks on the wall for hanging jackets and backpacks, with a storage unit/bench to hold shoes and serve as a seat for putting on and taking those shoes off. But Brady wanted a “cubby,” and since he and his brother would be the ones using it, I relented and got the 4-unit Kallax shelf. He wanted all 4 cubes to have doors, but I put my foot down on that one—mostly because those doors were a giant PITA to put in, but also because backpacks are bulky and tend to hang over the edge of the shelf.


A peach Smirnoff Ice went well with this DIY project.

One afternoon of cursing and sweating was all it took to create this command center. I banished all shoes to their proper closets, unless it’s boys’ everyday shoes. Those go in the bottom cubby behind closed doors. Backpacks go in the top cubby. Husband’s wallet and keys go in the basket on the top shelf. Jackets are hung in the front hall closet on the other side of the hallway. (What? That’s not for random junk?)



Look how nice and neat it is now! 


This only works if everyone does what they’re supposed to. (Isn’t that a line from “Bad Moms?”) For example, even though they have a shiny new cubby, the boys will literally come into that door, dump their backpacks on the floor, and take off their shoes and leave them there.

Ten…nine…eight… (that’s me gritting my teeth and counting so I don’t lose my ever-loving mind).

It doesn’t happen often. Anymore. After a few too many times of losing privileges when The Cubby was not respected, the boys got on board and put their belongings in their respective places.

So, see? You too can have something as awesome and organized as this. If your family cooperates.

Kallax shelf unit – $35.99 plus rock star cursing, a Smirnoff Ice, and lots of sweating too

Kallax insert with door x 4 – $80, plus kicking yourself because you only used 2 so you just wasted $40 because you’ll never go back to Ikea in time to get your money back

So technically this setup cost a total of $75.99 plus tax and pain and suffering. You’re welcome.

This post was not sponsored by Ikea in any way. We just love it there.

create command center

Take Your Time Back With dotmine Day Planners


I don’t leave home without my planner.

Something funny happened to me early this summer. I was happily – and a bit obliviously – filling out calendars and making notes in my Blue Sky desk planner when I flipped a page and time ended.

Yes. Time simply ended.

Because this was an academic-year planner, and it only went up to the end of June.


Previous to that moment I hadn’t realized that an academic planner ended in June.  I didn’t even bother to flip through it, because I had been so enamored of the pretty, pretty paper.  Lots of ideas flew through my brain then:  Could I live without a paper planner until January?  No.  Could I just go get a new planner at the bookstore?  Not likely – it was May.  Could I use a date-non-specific planner, the kind where you write in the dates?  Certainly not.

Then I remembered I had met one of the owners of dotmine, a company that makes day planners, at BlogHer last year.  She was lovely and inspiring and had offered to send me one of their products but I hadn’t taken her up on the offer because I already had a planner.  Dummy.  In my silly state of plannerlessness, I dug up her card and emailed her my predicament and she came to my rescue at once.  Sarah, everybody.  Mother, business owner, superhero.

With Sarah’s help I chose a previous-year design, the Floating Leaves Family_Time.Mine desk planner (pictured above).  It’s as big as a college-ruled spiral notebook and way more functional.  The pages go from August 2011 through December 2012, which is just right to get me to the end of the year.

The Family_Time.Mine style of planner from dotmine is designed for moms who run a household with children in it who have very busy schedules.  There is a master planner for each season of the year, a two-page spread for each month, and a page for each week with large ruled blocks for every weekday and smaller blocks for weekend days.  And room for jotting down lists in the margins.  Bonus:  there are inspirational quotes printed at the bottom of some pages.  This week’s is surprisingly appropriate for my life:

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. -Dr. Seuss

I like that the Family_Time.Mine is reinforced with a clear plastic cover to protect its innards – my planner gets a lot of abuse so this is very helpful.  I tend to make a ton of lists, so I often fill the day’s blocks up with that day’s tasks and cross them off (all in pencil, since it changes so often) and then if I have to make a longer list I use the margins.

Here are some interior views:

For longer notes, like from a phone conversation or something more detailed, I use a different piece of paper or a notebook, because there’s not much space for notes in this planner, maybe a page or two.  In fact, there is a big section at the back for things like lists for the babysitter, or address book type entries, which I don’t use in paper format anymore at all.  All my contacts are in my phone or my Google account.  I am beyond sitting down and copying names, addresses, and phone numbers once a year into my planner.  So I just used that space for more notes and lists!

For this coming calendar year I will probably pick a different style, because I haven’t used it much so far for the kids’ school information. That stuff I keep haphazardly in a green desk basket on the kitchen counter, or on the corkboard, or in my head.  So obviously, I don’t need to organize it.  Haha.

Here is the latest from dotmine Planners:

“Once again, we’re honored to partner with the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), the premier global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. YSC offers resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful. More information

This month, we’ll proudly donate 40% of our profits on all pink planners at

And, to help you help us help YSC (did you follow that?), we’ll give you an extra 20% off time.mine Preppy Party Girllife_time.mine Moor Pink and family_time.mine Elle’s Pick. Use discount code PINK12 at checkout.”

I received a complimentary day planner to facilitate this feature.  In other words, Sarah saved my sanity.