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8 Ways To Create A “Drop Zone” In A Small Space

get organized mudroom
A fully functional entryway is within reach; no moving trucks required.

For those of us who live in shoe box–like spaces, our routine upon coming home goes something like this: Drop all your stuff on the first available surface you happen upon. As a result, countertops are buried by heaps of mail, halls are littered with an obstacle course of shoes, chairs are hidden underneath jackets, and your keys … well, who knows where those are? The struggle is real when there is little space available in a studio apartment in Philadelphia, PA, or Washington, DC.

While dumping everything at the end of a long day is undoubtedly convenient, it makes your place feel (and look) smaller and can cause stress. “Clutter, as the result of badly managed storage, causes ‘visual chaos’ in smaller spaces and can upstage everything else,” says Heather Higgins, a New York, NY–based designer who specializes in small spaces. A mudroom would solve all your problems, but who has the space? Surprisingly, you do. Here are the expert-approved solutions to get organized and bring more storage to even the most cramped entryway.

Address your needs

Some of us are the type who can handle open storage, while others know they’d turn cubbies into a cluttered mess within days. Understanding your habits is key,” says Jaclyn Isaac, interior designer and the blogger behind Dog Lady Design Files. “Are you a hanger or a draper? Are you looking for a hook or somewhere to drop a purse and shoes?” Habits are hard to break, so don’t set yourself up for failure with organization systems that you won’t use.

Carve out a nook

For studios, wonky layouts, and tiny homes, a minimalist setup can make a surprisingly big difference. “All you really need are two things: hooks and a shelf! Anyone can carve this out of nearly any space available,” Isaac says. Use the hooks for hanging bags and coats, then add a few slim bins to the shelf to temporarily house mail. Bonus: Both of these solutions can be easily removed once your lease is up.

Fake a closet

Even if your place is closet-challenged, there are solutions for stowing away those extra coats and accessories. Isaac recommends the clever IKEA Trones system, a slim wall-mounted cabinet that opens up to fit everything from shoes to scarves. Got a little more space in the hall? Take a cue from Madeline Fraser, CMO and co-founder of the design app Homee, and add a hanging rack to display your favorite items. “In my last apartment, I created a gorgeous hanging rack out of galvanized pipe pieces. It was easy to make, took up minimal space, and gave the space a very cozy feeling.”

Bring out the baskets

A roomy basket or bin placed within fling-your-shoes distance from the door is the easiest way to keep an entryway clear. But while you’re using up that floor space with the basket, you might as well use the space above to double the function of this area. The easy, no-holes-in-the-walls solution? Tuck the bin under a slim console table like this one from CB2.

Consider the cubby

Open storage is a great option for expanding storage — and it doesn’t have to look like the cluttered cubbies we remember from grade school. “Items need to be neatly arranged and like items placed with like items,” says Higgins. “For example, a row of boots and shoes all along the bottom and then a row of baskets on the shelf above for gloves, scarves, and hats.”

Divide (and conquer) your mail

The secret to preventing pileups is all in the right bin. “Drop your mail in a tray that only holds so much,” Isaac says. “You’ll be forced to organize before it gets out of control.” And don’t forget the most important bin of all: the circular one. “If you know you’re slow to go through that pile, get a pretty wastebasket and drop them in there.”

Add a bench

Shoes often end up scattered around a home when there isn’t a comfortable spot to take them off. If you have the space, create the idea of a mudroom with a bench, says Higgins. “An entryway often requires a seat to function well. A shallow bench that has a seat that lifts up to provide storage inside or that is open underneath to accommodate easily pulled-out baskets can be both an attractive and functional way to expand storage.”

Set a stylish scene

When you’re rethinking your entry, you might as well take the time to give it a makeover. Madeline Fraser reminds us of the power of mirrors and artwork for adding style in mere minutes, but there’s a frequently overlooked item that makes a big difference: a rug. “Rugs are a must for any entry!” she says. “A runner can ground any entry and add a wonderful splash of color and texture.”

Have you created a “drop zone” to get organized? Share your tips in the comments!