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The first thing you see when you walk into my house is stairs.  We live in one of those wonderful old Edwardian buildings in San Francisco in which each flat takes up an entire floor and has a front door to the outside on the main level.  So, there’s not much room for a coat rack, hall table, or any of the usual “corral your stuff” organizational solutions!

Please excuse our muddy carpets... life with dog when it's rained recently!

Please excuse our muddy carpets... life with dog when it's rained recently!

In fact, it took my husband and me a couple of years (yes, really!) of trial and error to figure out how best to deal with purses, wallets, phones and chargers, and all that good stuff you need at your fingertips when you’re heading out the door.

Finally, I realized that a random little alcove in our hallway, which held an attractive end table and lamp, was the place we ended up dumping our stuff.  And the table itself just wasn’t cutting it.  It was a mess, largely because it turns out we need instant access to a lot of things: from keys to bags to travel items.

Add to this a complicating factor: if my husband can’t see something small, it doesn’t exist.  He always stashes things he uses frequently and then forgets them, resulting in bags and drawers and hidey-holes full of Kleenex, chapstick, phone chargers, etc. 

One of my key organizing principles is to organize your life so that it works for you in particular.  So, to satisfy my need to have everything off flat surfaces and my husband’s need to have visual access to small items, I chose a console table, with a shelving unit above and his and hers bins below. 

The drawers in the console table (purchased from One Kings Lane) provide just enough space for us to store larger items.  One drawer is his – I don’t ask!  One drawer is mine – I keep my iPad, Kindle (still the best for beach reading!), passport, and UK cell phone here.  We share the middle one: it’s for chargers, adapters, travel products, and any leftover foreign currency ready for the next trip.  And the bins (these from the Container Store) provide a resting place for our daily-use bags while keeping the console surface clear: my tote and laptop case, and his backpack and work folio.

The shelving unit (purchased from Pottery Barn, now discontinued but this one is similar) keeps small items like chapstick, keys, headphones, and coins separate and visible.  

There’s just one thing I need to add to perfect our entryway system: I’m in search of a set of hooks to store daily wear jackets.  In the changeable and rarely hot weather of San Francisco, I’m never without a light jacket, and it’s tedious to hang up a jacket in my closet each evening only to pull it out again in the morning.  I'm thinking the hooks will go under this picture:

The best test of an organizational system is how long it lasts, and I’m proud to say this configuration has eliminated the dreaded pile-up of daily items.  And also, it must be said, a few bickering sessions over cleanup.  After all, the whole point of getting organized is to improve your life!