The landing strip

Although it’s one of the cornerstones of an organized home, I’m amazed how many folks haven’t heard of the landing strip. The concept it very simple. Organization comes from things having a place and being in their place. Probably the time when this rule is least observed is when we come home. We come from work exhausted, often carrying our work bags, groceries, and the mail. All we can think of is changing into jeans and flip-flops. Stuff just gets tossed down and then later we’re too occupied to clean up. If instead you have a place to “land,” and a routine for doing so, you’ll avoid disorganization from the get-go.

A landing strip in your home should be at the entrance you most often use. The idea is that when you come in, you stop here first and unload. A small table, sideboard, or credenza will do. Your landing strip should have a designated place for everything, so when you come in all you have to do is put everything in its place. I like a bowl to use for my wallet, keys, cell phone and watch. On my way out again, I know exactly where I’ll find them — no wasting time hunting for my keys. Hooks are great for bags. On the wall or on the side of the furniture, just drop of your bag there and keep going.

An inbox is also a must. When you come in with mail, just drop it in. Don’t bother sorting through it. Anything that needs your immediate attention would have come certified, so don’t worry about it. Then, once a week, when you have time, grab a cup of coffee and go through all the mail, tossing out most of it, paying bills right then and there. By batching the mail sorting to once a week, you save time and you reduce the stress that comes from feeling like you have to address each piece of mail.

30 Comments for “The landing strip”

  1. posted by M on

    Agree, agree. We have just acquired a new “landing strip”. An original “arts and crafts” era combo hat stand/ hallstand/ seat with shoe box underneath. Holds all the kids shoes (under seat), school bags & hats (on hooks)and umbrellas (with original drip trays). Looks fabulous, holds more than you would imagine and has revolutionised our ‘coming home’ system.

    Also have the inbox system – one for each member of the family. Works a treat.

  2. posted by Mark on

    I always called it a “Drop Zone.” More the parachute metaphor than airplane, I guess.

  3. posted by Ellen on

    My only cautionary note is this. . .people who get into your home to rob you will look for just such a location to start.
    I had someone get into my house a few years ago while I was upstairs and distracted. I _used_ to always keep my messenger bag near the front door for just that reason. That was one of the two bags that were stolen from me.
    In a twist of irony, he didn’t get what he actually wanted – the keys to my car – which I keep on a hook behind the back door because the garage is in the back and I don’t drive to work.
    I’ve since started keeping my work bag in a less conspicuous location.
    Just a thought, the item you have pictured is reasonably good because it had doors, and a fair amount of noise would be made while searching it.

  4. posted by Ryan on

    “Landing Strip” sounds too much like a woman’s preference for shaving, and “Drop Zone” sounds too military. I’d just call the table-where-I-dump-crap-at.

    My apartment is too small for something like this. And usually, when I bring stuff home from work or from the grocery store, I tend to use them or store them where they belong.

  5. posted by Puzzled on

    Ryan –

    You have a crudely-named-table-where-you-dump-things but your apartment is too small to have a location like that because you “tend” to put things where they belong? Which is it?

  6. posted by Ryan on

    I’d = I would

    Semantics = fun for everyone.

  7. posted by Matt on

    Wait wait wait…once a week go through your mail? You must not have kids. Party invitations often come the same week as the event in our community. Better to know about them some time other than the day of.

  8. posted by Jerry Brito on

    Wait wait wait… People still send out paper invites for parties? In envelopes? With postage? A few days before the event? I wouldn’t want my kids consorting with those folks. ;o)

  9. posted by Ernie Oporto on

    Waiting for mail to come certified sounds like the complete other end of the spectrum – totally neglecting it. Then again, my bills all come in my email and the paper mail is all junk mail.

    Hmm… who’s up for Kramer’s idea of cancelling their mail?

  10. posted by James on

    I use part of a kitchen counter as the place where my keys are located (on a hook) and where I leave things to be used Monday-Friday. That way, I always know where the keys are located and this expedites my decompressing after work or recreation, as well as leaving.

  11. posted by Onyx Mueller on

    Same concept, but I call the “Landing Strip” the “Destination Station”. This name comes from the idea of having several stations around a home, which many people have a tendency of creating/having without ever labeling it with a name.

  12. posted by Jerry Brito on

    Ernie- I didn’t advise readers to “wait for mail to come certified.” I simply said that if it demands your immediate attention, it’ll probably be certified. Everything else, including bills, can wait a couple of days (until the weekend, say) to be opened and dealt with. I do this and I manage to pay all my bills on time, timely RSVP to wedding, etc.

    TiVo has taught us that we don’t have to watch a show when it’s on; we can watch it when it’s convenient for us. Why should mail be any different? Why should we have to read it today because the mailman came today? Same goes for email and RSS feeds. Learn to batch and do these activities when it’s convenient.

  13. posted by SusanO on

    This is what works for me with mail:

    I have a good looking basket just inside the front door. When I come home I immediately sort out the junk mail and toss it in the basket for weekly recycling. If it’s a bill, I just pop it into my bag to take into work, which is where I do all my online payments. Ditto with magazines, which get read on the train.

    It works for me because I dread dealing with large stacks of accumulated items. Others may not have this phobia.

  14. posted by Lib4 on

    The mail thing is tricky…with the constant flow of junk mail each day, I find it much easier to sort out the junk mail everyday right away and toss it out. I only keep my bills and magazines in the inbox. Of course my fiance puts it all together and I have lost important mail that gets caught up in the junk mail flyers and ends up getting thrown out.

    To each his own

  15. posted by brent on

    cont’d. (sorry).

    the concepts of Uncluttered and Parent do not mix.

    Kids are clutter machines.

  16. posted by Holly on

    I love this idea. Thanks for sharing it! I look forward to setting up a landing strip of my own. :)

  17. posted by Jim on

    We have a similar device in our home, except we’ve been calling it “The launching pad.” While we do drop things there on our way in, more often we use it to put the videos that need returning, the forms, etc. that need to be sent in to school, and so forth. Of course, we’d be smarter if we separated the take-off and landing strips.

  18. posted by ClintZ on

    great idea, leave everything a robber needs right by the entrance!! keys, wallet, purse, why don’t you set up a jewelry box there as well? :)

    (just saw ellen’s response, glad I’m not the only one who thinks about this stuff)

  19. posted by Chad on

    Who says this thing has to be right by the door. I have a small bowl (that would fit in the tightest of apartments) on top of my dresser. I come in and plop the contents of my pockets (wallet, keys, change, etc) into the bowl. When I am ready for them again I know exactly where everything is located. Great idea for keeping organized. And to the person that said “kids and UNcluttered don’t mix” well all I have to say is that kids don’t potty train themselves either. Teach them to “go potty” and you save yourself diaper changes. Teach them to be neat and organized and save yourself even more cleanup time.

  20. posted by Jenny on

    Brent — The concepts of Parent and Uncluttered need not be mutually exclusive. I’m a single parent and manage to be rather organized, especially where the landing strip stuff is concerned (and no, it’s not by the door). Yes, kids are clutter machines by nature, but they are also trainable. They grok rather quickly the benefits of reasonable organization and even purging stuff — having a place for stuff means quicker cleanup which means more time to play, and getting rid of old forgotten stuff means more room for cool new favorites. Of course, kids’ willingness to declutter themselves depends on their parents’ attitude. If you view decluttering as a productive, kind, or even fun activity, the kids will learn to see it that way as well.

  21. posted by Mohammed (UAE) on

    Backing up Ellen — May. 18, 2007 at 10:30 AM.

    Another robbery trick is to push a long wire through any hole in the door (such as a letter box, or even from underneath the door!) and pull any objects to the door. If that includes keys, they’re straight into your house using that trick. Yes, it is a skill. But that is their trade and some of them are skilled.

    Beware.

  22. posted by Kris on

    Where the heck do you guys live that burglary is such a big concern?!? (This coming from a safe and happy Canadian)

  23. posted by JodieM on

    I agree with Mail being a problem. I now have a post office box and only pick up my mail once a week. I sort it whilst I’m still in the car and drop the rubbish and junk mail off in the outside bin, so only the real stuff even gets into the house and then goes straight into my inbox in the study.

  24. posted by ratgrrrl on

    i highly recommend greendimes.com to help limit junk mail (i was getting *way* too many catalogs – bad for both environment & pocketbook).

    also, re burglary – if a thief is determined enough to have already gotten into your house, i’m not really sure it matters how convenient your wallet, keys, etc are to the door. unless you’re in the habit of hiding all that stuff in a very clever place every time you get home…in which case, no, a landing strip probably isn’t necessary for you ;-)

  25. posted by karry on

    A good dog would end your concerns of a front-door burglar. Heck, even an indifferent one can make a big impression. Or do what I did for my sister. I recorded my Rottie mix barking and now it’s part of the doorbell ringer. “Everyone” knows she’s got a huge guard dog that can’t be trusted around people.

  26. posted by Obsessive- Compulsive’s Guide: Top 12 Organizing Tips, Plus Resources | zen habits | simple productivity on

    […] 12. Create a landing strip. When I get home, I empty my pockets and put everything onto a tray near my doorway. My wife does the same. Keys, purse, my ID and cash, cell phone, anything. This way it doesn’t get tossed on our counter or table, and we never have to look for it or forget it when we leave. See Unclutterer’s article on The landing strip. […]

  27. posted by Organize IT Recap: Improve Your Body Language, Combat Clutter With Landing Strips And Make Your Offline Life Easier - Practical advice on personal development, productivity and GTD on

    […] In the meantime you really have to check out Unclutterer. In particular, read their post on having landing strips in your home. It’s certainly something I’m going to […]

  28. posted by The 100 All-Time Best Dormroom Hacks | Online Universities.com on

    […] Create a landing strip: Designate a place at your dorm entrance to put down all of the little things you come home with. […]

  29. posted by My Get Things Done List » Blog Archive » Obsessive- Compulsive’s Guide: Top 12 Organizing Tips, Plus Resources [zen habits] on

    […] 12. Create a landing strip. When I get home, I empty my pockets and put everything onto a tray near my doorway. My wife does the same. Keys, purse, my ID and cash, cell phone, anything. This way it doesn’t get tossed on our counter or table, and we never have to look for it or forget it when we leave. See Unclutterer’s article on The landing strip. […]

  30. posted by landing strip vs landing page « Ruthyie on

    […] that I forget to check (Googlewave, Twitter…). I was thinking in terms of a household ‘landing strip‘ – a place to keep all the online stuff I use. Just as our real landing strip has […]

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