As an organizer who helps clients optimize their storage and use their living space efficiently and sensibly, I find every house is different. But most, with additions, could function best for their owners. What’s missing, even in new houses with all the bells and whistles, are the things that could help people with storage and flow. Here are a few ideas:
Almost every home has boxes or bags lined up in a front hall, dining room or bedroom waiting to be taken somewhere — to school, to the office, to the post office, to a thrift shop, to return to a store. This is modern life. In decades past, packages weren’t arriving daily, people weren’t working from home and from an office, parents weren’t asked to bring items to school and kids didn’t participate in as many activities. Everything that needs to be remembered for an event, returned to a store or an online retailer is put somewhere in the house where it will be seen and remembered, which often means it’s somewhere you really don’t want it to be.
Wouldn’t it be easier and tidier if all of those items were kept in a space designed to accommodate them? An “exchange” room wouldn’t require a lot of space but could have shelves or cubbies for incoming and outgoing items, and space for packing and mailing supplies as well as spare bags and boxes. Sort of a mailroom for your house.
Space for recycling
All those bottles of sparkling water, wine, soda and juice, plus food containers and never-ending catalogs and junk mail, usually are packaged in environmentally friendly ways, so they can be recycled. But most homes don’t have space to keep up with the flow. Either the indoor recycling bin has to be emptied daily, or items pile up next to it. Neither option is optimal, and neither encourages recycling. A household with more than two people needs more than one standard 13-gallon recycling bin. Optimally, space for at least three bins would be near the kitchen, or a large cabinet would hold rectangular bins that could be easily slid in and out.
Cleaning supplies take up almost a full aisle at the grocery store, and people buy more cleaning products today than in decades past. Yet no one has a convenient place to store those supplies, not to mention their vacuum cleaner and upright dusters, brooms and mops. A house needs a designated space for all of these essential items, such as a utility closet. After all, there’s never enough space beneath the sink, the laundry room has its own supplies, and who wants to go to the basement every time you need the vacuum cleaner? These are regularly used items — or should be. Giving them a central place in the house makes sense.
Front hall closet
Even if you have a mudroom, a front hall closet is a must. It’s not an old-fashioned amenity. Even if you rarely entertain and don’t need the space for guest coats, there will always be items that can be stored in it, such as outdoor items, out-of-season jackets and accessories, handbags, umbrellas, reusable bags, shoes, etc. Too many people have nowhere to put a guest’s coat because they’ve forfeited a front hall closet for a mudroom. But their mudrooms are so jam-packed and messy that they don’t want guests to see them. A coat closet near the front entry can do the trick.
Buying in bulk is a trend that is here to stay; it saves time and money. But where are you going to put 48 rolls of paper towels, three dozen glass jars and 16 cans of black beans? A walk-in pantry can make storing in bulk much easier, and a basement closet or garage with shelves will work just fine. But because shopping in large quantities can be a continual habit, it would benefit many families, especially households that are multigenerational, to have a designated space for overflow cleaning supplies, paper products, cases of water, soda or alcohol, and nuts, chips and snacks.
None of these ideas is a “must-have.” And most homes will never have any of these accommodations. But if you’re doing a major renovation or building a home, they may be worth considering. Home design is constantly adapting to new trends and technologies, and there is no single answer for everyone’s lifestyle. But I see these spaces as almost universally needed to keep up with how we shop, live and entertain.