Ask Maxwell: How To Cure Clutter by Building a Landing Strip Right at the Front Door

published Aug 8, 2022
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Credit: maxwell ryan
With our house in Springs, I'm able to use the outside to start the Landing Strip, which is really good, since none of this stuff gets into the house ever!

Last week Baki asked:

“My house is a living, breathing mess of my two kid’s clutter, and, especially with school coming up in a month, I need to get control of it. Any help would be appreciated.”

This is a continuing answer!

Dear Baki,

I’m answering your question indirectly with a number of “tools” that I find really helpful and which can easily be applied to children at home. They all come from my first book, Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure, which I’m adapting for a video series. It’s a really good exercise for me as I’ve not revisited the core lessons in that book since 2006! But they are timeless lessons which simply need a few new words around them to bring them up to date.

Last week it was The Outbox, today I want to share my concept of The Landing Strip, which will offer a first line of defense when you come in the door. With kids in particular, the coat hooks and shoe racks make a big difference in keeping clutter out of the home.

Enjoy, M

Ps. I also think it’s helpful to talk to children about “clutter beings” – little pests that are hard to conquer. It will give them an imagination with a smile in it.

The Landing Strip: Protect Your Home with a Front Door Clutter Filter
It’s hard to get clutter beings out of your house, so one of the best things you can do for yourself is to keep them out to begin with and the way to do this is to have a system – right at the front door – for sorting through the stuff that the world will try to get into your home that you do not need – call it industrial grade organic clutter. To be most effective, I want you to sort things right as you enter your home, while you still have the chance to to manage the stuff trying to get in, without having to think about it twice. The system that does this, i call The Landing Strip. 

First of all, imagine your front hall or the space inside your front door as a BIG FILTER for the outside world. A healthy landing strip is there to help you take off and land each day while filtering out anything that’s going to degrade your home. the basic idea is easy. 

1. You need a doormat right outside to keep the dirt from your shoes out. Many people remove their shoes inside so they also have a shoe rack to park those dirty little puppies. 

2. Next coat hooks for a closet with hangers allows you to keep your outerwear, dog leashes, shopping bags and the like – whether wet or dry – out of the center of your living space, preserving calm and blocking any grime from penetrating the sanctity of your personal temple. 

3. Umbrella stand?  Good idea for those useful rainy day instruments and a place to keep them ready and able to dry off. 

So, you’ve kept the elements out. What else wants to sneak its way into your home? The sneaky clutter that I find tries to get into my home is mail, boxes, deliveries of any kind as well as the stuff that you might bring home in my pockets from spare change to keys to doggy poo bags to tissues to WHATEVER – ALL OF THIS could really use a place to land and get sorted so it doesn’t end up on your dinner table. 

Credit: maxwell ryan
Once inside the side, kitchen door the rest of the Landing areas are at the ready. We really use the side kitchen door the most, so this is where we do all our filtering.

4. This is where a nice slim console or side table and wastebasket come in and forms the center of your Landing Strip. This is where you empty your pockets, sort your mail and generally leave everything that you can by the door. 

My landing strip table consists of a tray for keys, a jar for spare change, a pile of face masks for covid when necessary, a wastebasket for junk mail and pocket garbage as well as a bin for recycling of the boxes that arrive and which I break down right at the front door. This is a big one – Amazon boxes and their ilk.  I keep an xacto knife on my front landing strip table and open all boxes right away, separating out the contents and never bringing the boxes into my house. I keep them all neatly stacked under the Landing Strip table at the front door, ready to go to recycling next. 

Just as a plane requires a long runway for landing, your landing strip needs to have plenty of room and be kept clear. Your Landing strip should anticipate all the odds and ends that you’ll bring home each day. 

5. Final touches?  Your landing strip is indeed a filter to keep junk and clutter our of your inner home, but it’s also a taking off point when you’re heading out. So add a nice mirror above that table!  Hang a small picture or saying that you love! And last but not least, put a candle or a small vase for flowers there to greet you as you go in and out. 

Incredibly simple and a really nice complement your other powerful tool, The Outbox, your Landing Strip will not only raise your energy as you enter your home, but it will save the rest of it from having to be burdened by all the things that come from the outside world and try to get into our homes. 

These are two of the most powerful secrets when dealing with those CLUTTER BEINGS who are always out to get us. “

From – Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure

Credit: Maxwell Ryan
Our old home in Brooklyn (the only city one I had a pic of at the ready) had the Landing Strip tucked in against the staircase as you entered. I had a big doormat where we left our shoes and then the console and then (you can't see this) we had coat hooks on the wall just to the right. This was not ideal as stuff really got too far into the house, but it was the best we could do.

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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