Posted in Blog

Walkthrough of Our Family Command Center

Once I had preschool-aged kids, I became interested in having a family command center. For details on how I designed the command center, check out this post

In this post, I’ll walkthrough our family command center and how we use it. It is a staple in our home that’s used daily.

Our current rendition of the command center

I knew I wanted our command center in the kitchen near the door we use to enter and exit the home, but space was limited. My only option was a narrow but tall space on the side of our kitchen cabinets.

The focal point of the wall is the monthly calendar where each family member’s activities are tracked. Every family member, including our pup, gets a personalized color on the calendar. I like filling it out once a month because it is a mechanism for me to plan ahead. I can see what evenings will be jam packed, so I’ll prep an easy dinner. Or, I’ll see that we have a weekend free to invite friends over or tackle a home project. 

The upper portion of our command center

Below the calendar is a place for files and folders. I currently keep four folders here, but I have flexibility to change it up. Our receipts are dumped into one folder. I clean them out about once a month, after the credit card bill is paid. Another folder is our collection of coupons and gift cards. I’ve been known to grab the whole folder and bring it with us before we head out shopping or out to eat. I always have good stashes of coupons in there. The third folder is for documents that need to be filed. These documents are typically our opened mail that needs to be filed away in our home office. The final folder is a collection of ideas for gifts to purchase for family and friends. For instance, if I read an article in a magazine recommending the best books for preteens, I may rip the page out and plop it in my Ideas for Gifts folder.

Our command center also includes an 8.5″ by 11″ picture frame. I’m currently using it to show our family’s winter fun list — a bunch of activities we want to do as a family during the holiday and cold season. We check them off as we do them. With a glass frame, we can just wipe off the whiteboard marker whenever we want.

What I love about the frame, though, is that it gives me versatility because I can display whatever I want in it. A few years ago, after we’d just put the command center up, I put our meal plan up there. Nowadays, I don’t need to post our meal plan. Instead, we use the Cozi app to meal plan (and plan other things). My love for the free Cozi app is worthy of an entirely new post.

Below the folders and winter fun list are our three “bins.” My husband and I each get a small bin to store our wallets, sunglasses, keys, etc. that we want before we run out the door. The middle bin is miscellaneous stuff, like outgoing mail and the kids’ sunglasses.

The bottom half of the command center

Below our bins are two clipboards, one for each kid. School and daycare papers (like contracts, curriculum information, etc.) are readily available. On top, I display something applicable to the kids. When they were little, it was sticker charts for going to the bathroom or trying new foods. Now that they’re in school, they have checklists detailing what they need to do to get ready for school and what to do when they get home. 

So that’s the meat of our command center and what we use to function daily. However, I had some more space at the top and bottom of the wall to add some extras. Down below is a blank whiteboard that the kids draw on or play with magnets. Right now, their personal goals for 2020 are there. My first grader is making goals in school, and the preschooler didn’t want to be left out.

Up above is our decorative S for our family name and framed list of our family mantras. Here again, for the family mantras, I just created a PowerPoint slide that I printed and placed in a 8.5″ by 11″ frame. It was a fun exercise to think about what we want to focus on teaching our boys.

Spinapolice family mantras

Well, that’s it. We make a lot happen in a small space, and I love it. It looks nice, it’s functional, and it was relatively easy….and that’s exactly how I roll.

Posted in Blog

How to Design Your Family Command Center

This post isn’t about my command center. I walkthrough a reveal of ours in another post.

In this post, I’ll rundown the steps for crafting your own command center.

1. Make a list of what you want to organize and have on hand.

I found myself on Pinterest looking at others’ designs for inspiration. A Pinterest board isn’t enough though. Document what you want. You can pare it down to essentials later, based on space or other constraints. Right now, you’re brainstorming. Here are some uses to consider:

  • Inbox for mail 
  • Outbox for mail/paperwork
  • School paperwork
  • Calendars (yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily)
  • Grocery list
  • Meal plan
  • Kids’ backpacks and jackets
  • Keys
  • Wallets/sunglasses/etc.
  • Coupons
  • To do lists
  • Reward charts
  • Chore trackers
  • Important items (e.g., invitations, save the dates)
  • Clock
  • Supplies (e.g., markers, scissors)
  • Charging station
  • Decor

2. Assess your space for a viable location for your command center.

You’ll want to put your command center in a high-traffic location so you see it and use it. You’re not likely going to use your inbox for mail if you have to walk by your kitchen table or a counter to get to the command center. Like pasta sauce on a toddler’s clothes, your mail will be drawn to these flat surfaces instead of where it’s supposed to go. You don’t need a large blank wall for a command center though. Narrow or tall spaces can work too. 

3. You may find that you need to prioritize what to include in your command center.

I pretty much wanted everything in my brainstormed list in Step 1 for my command center, but I couldn’t make it all work. I wanted to include a charging station at my command center, but I didn’t have the depth available for a shelf or table. C’est la vie! My charging station moved closer to the family room instead (where we need it more anyhow). One space doesn’t have to do EVERYTHING.

I prioritized three uses. It was important to me that my command center include a monthly calendar, reward charts for the kids, and a spot for keys. I wanted more, but I wouldn’t compromise on these items.

Consider what’s most important to you and start there. Make sure you can meet those needs first.

4. Identify products to meet your needs.

My Virtual Plan

There’s a lot to this step, so here are some considerations. This step took a lot more time than I thought it would, which was probably exasperated by my small space.

Using your prioritized uses from Step 3, estimate how much space you want products to take up. I knew I wanted a large calendar to track everyone’s activities (using a designated color for each family member, of course), so I was willing to dedicate a lot of space to the calendar.

Measure, measure, measure! This is particularly important if your space is limited. I knew I was working with a narrow (but tall) space, so I had little room for error in my measurements. I went so far as to cut out paper templates of the products I was eyeing and taped them to the wall to make sure they’d all fit. I highly recommend doing the same.

Feel free to be creative when identifying products. There are tons of fancy command center products at Target, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Amazon, and alike, but you aren’t limited to these choices. I used clipboards to store the kids’ paperwork (e.g., daycare contracts, school policies, etc.) and put a reward chart or chore list on top for the kids to reference. I’ve used poster frames to create “whiteboards” and framed printables like checklists or blank meal plan templates.

Pick a theme, color, or some other unifying characteristic. Okay, well, a theme is certainly optional. But, I knew I was putting my command center in my kitchen, so I didn’t want it to be an eyesore. I’ve seen command centers that are farmhouse themed, color coordinated, color coded by kid, you name it. Pick something that works for you. I searched online stores for products that would organize my three priority needs: a calendar, reward charts, and storage for keys. Once I found three products that provided the functionality I needed, were the right size, and looked like they went together, I declared black with sharp lines my theme.

5. Once you have the products you need, hang them up.

Here again, the paper templates were very helpful in making sure everything was hung in the right place. I also recommend considering using Command Strips to hang your products, particularly if you live in a rental. My command center is on the side of my kitchen cabinets, which I didn’t want to put holes in them. Instead, I overdid it using tons of high-strength command strips. It’s worked out well!

6. Enjoy the fruit of your labor!

Our current command center
Our current command center

We use our command center every day, asking the kids to check their list of what they need to do before school, grabbing our wallets as we head out the door, and reviewing the our family mantras (Spinapolices solve problems with words is a big one at the moment!).

What do you think of this list? Share your thoughts below.