MY HAPPINESS MUSE, Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before), has said again and again that, in the context of a happy life, focusing on habits to establish outer order will contribute greatly to a person’s energy levels, mood and creativity. In this post on her blog Gretchen notes:
One of the things about happiness that continually surprises me
is the degree to which, for most people,
outer order contributes to inner calm, and inner self-command.
Over the years I’ve discovered that I’m certainly one of those people who feels more at ease when things around me are orderly. Because I’m expecting my second baby to arrive next month, I’ve not only been dreading the sleepless nights, witching hours and cluster feedings, but also the complete chaos that’s about to crash down upon my rather peaceful abode. Yes, I have a two year old, so my idea of peaceful is probably different than that of the average Joe, but we do have routines, nap times, and scheduled activities that keep our days moving and my sanity in order.
While I certainly don’t know everything about being a mom, I know enough to understand that sh*t is about to get real around here once again. In an effort to make my life a tad easier after bringing home baby, I decided to overhaul my current home organizational system in advance. This way I’ll have systems in place for a few weeks before the baby comes home and upsets my flow. At just under six weeks until my due date, I finally got my new and improved home command center up and running. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s done, but it’s at a place where I’d call it highly functional. Check it out:
I was 100% inspired by Jenna Burger’s Central Command Center, which was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine last year. There’s a reason why Jenna’s home organizational system has been pinned on Pinterest tens of thousands of times. It’s amazing. Go check out her blog to see where I got my ideas. Jenna has older children, so her command center has even more tricks and tips for keeping a busy family in order.
Even though my son isn’t in school yet, my former home command center still wasn’t enough to keep me organized. As you can see in the photo below, I had my bill file, calendar, notepad, pens and keys all contained on a small bulletin board. I haven’t gotten rid of this, but I’ve transferred many of its duties over to the narrow wall next to our fridge. Now this bulletin board is a place for special cards, wedding Save the Dates, pens and, of course, our keys.
For the new home command center, I knew I wanted to have a larger calendar, a place for mail and a place for organizing my grocery list and weekly meal plan. I hate grocery shopping so I always plan meals for the week on Saturday or Sunday, then do all of my shopping in one trip.
Using Scotch Blue tape, I mapped out a rough template for where I wanted everything to go. The large rectangle at the top represented the calendar, beneath that was an area for meal planning and then below that would be bins to organize mail.
The first thing I did after seeing how much space my organizational items would take up, was to tape off an area for a chalkboard paint background. I love how Jenna created a “framed” chalkboard simply by taping off a few inches of the wall around her main organization area. (UPDATE: Check out THIS POST for details on how I get clean paint lines. Every time!)
Inside the taped area I painted with magnetic primer and chalkboard paint to create a base for my home command center. Because the process for the magnetic primer and the chalkboard paint was rather involved, I decided to create separate posts with tips on each of these parts of my project. Look for those soon!
After my paint had cured for a few days, I installed all the important organizational elements of my home command center. Starting from the bottom and working my way up, here are the details:
Magnetic Chalkboard Kid’s Area. As I mentioned above, I used magnetic primer (Rust-Oleum) and chalkboard paint (Valspar) as a base for my project. After reading many horrific reviews online about the magnetic primer, I was really hesitant to begin my project. I’d already spent $20 on a quart of the stuff and I wanted the bottom of my home command center to be magnetized so I decided to ignore the naysayers and go for it! I’m so glad I did.
Not only did I achieve my desired result (my son’s ABC magnets stick!) but I was also able to get the heavier bins I purchased at The Container Store to stick to the wall. The larger white bin, which is a Perch Stumpy Magnetic Container, weighs almost two pounds when filled with all the magnets. It holds on to the wall with no problem at all. Now, this required quite a bit of patience because I used seven coats of the stinky black primer. Just be prepared to be patient and work slowly with this product and it will work for you.
I rolled several coats (I think five, but could probably have stopped after three) of Valspar’s tintable chalkboard paint over the entire area. I don’t know if the color actually has a name. If it does, it’s not listed on my can, which is why I’m assuming it doesn’t have a name. In any event, the paint desk at Lowe’s will have a catalogue of all the available colors. So far, so good with this chalkboard paint. There were some negative reviews online, but it seems to me those people failed to properly prep their chalk surface before writing on it. I’ll do a detailed post on prepping the chalkboard surface as well. Just know that you shouldn’t write on freshly applied chalkboard paint without prepping first because you’ll never be able to erase the very first thing you wrote.
Meal Planning and Mail Organization. The middle section of my home command center is where I keep my meal planning and mail areas. Two simple clipboards from Target serve as my grocery and meal planning section. On the left is a weekly meal planner and grocery list template, which I found at Chef Evelyn’s website. Visit her here to print your own copies of the template. On the right is a place to clip up my recipes for the week. I frequently cook out of Everyday with Rachel Ray and other cooking magazines, and having the recipes clipped up, in order, helps keep dinner time more manageable.
Beneath the meal planning area are two standing magazine bins, also from Target, that I attached to the wall sideways to hold important mail and magazines. I like that the bins are wide enough to hold two standard sized envelopes so both opened and unopened mail can go right into the bin on the left, thereby skipping the dreaded dining table landing zone that ends up driving me clutter-crazy! My new process has been to separate the junk mail out as I walk back from the mail box, toss anything I don’t want into the recycle bins in my garage before I get back into the house, then immediately file the “to-read” magazines and important mail right on the wall. With this process in place, the top of my dining table has been blissfully clear!
Two-Month Dry Erase Calendar. The final piece of the functionality puzzle in my home command center is a DIY dry-erase calendar. I used Jenna’s method of creating a two-month calendar using a 16×20 frame and the blank printable calendar that you can download from her website for free at this link.
I trimmed the printable calendar from Jenna’s website to fit into my frame, which is from A.C. Moore craft store, and used seasonal washi tape to add some holiday pizzaz. This couldn’t be easier, but, again, I will create a detailed post on this aspect of the project as well so you can see exactly what I did. In short, all you really have to do is stick a blank calendar into the photo frame and write on the glass with a dry-erase marker. I purchased ultra-fine point markers from Target for my calendar, but I think I might purchase some fine or medium point markers because that might make it easier to see the details on my calendar from afar.
Just for fun, at the tippy top of my home command center I wrote a cheeky, seasonally-inspired organizational message. Eventually I will fill this area with a framed family photo and a clock.
And there you have it. From top to bottom, that’s my overhauled DIY home command center. I’m feeling confident that it will help me stay organized and somewhat sane as I enter 2016.
Do you have a system like this in place in your home, or are you planning to get more organized in 2016? I’d love to hear all about your projects and organizational tips!