There’s nothing quite as awe-inspiring as the great outdoors. But when it comes to your home, it’s probably best to leave all that beauty at the front door. Grit, soil and grime from outside often ride in on your shoes, so it makes sense to remove those items and store them near the entryway instead of tracking the mud and the mess into your home. That’s why the mudroom was invented. Even if you don’t think you have the space, you can transform a tiny spot into a storage powerhouse where your family can sit down, take off their shoes and hang up a wet jacket before setting foot into your clean living space.

Ready to get started? It’s time to free yourself from clutter with these solutions and DIY projects that won’t break the bank.

Start with the Right Foundation

The key to a clean house is to remove coats and shoes at the entryway. Ideally, the floor to your mudroom should be waterproof and easy to wipe clean: Slate, vinyl or ceramic tile is a common choice because they’re stain resistant and easy to mop. Even a small landing pad of this flooring at the doorway can help keep your carpets clean if you don’t have a full mudroom to use. It only takes a weekend to remove a bit of carpet and tile a small entryway for your home.

If you live in a condo or apartment and don’t have permission to alter the floors, try adding a large, waterproof mat inside the doorway to catch drips and protect more fragile flooring underneath. You can also add boot trays to hold wet shoes in winter. These are an inexpensive way to protect floors from mud and road salt. There are specialty boot trays you can choose to match your decor; for the world’s easiest DIY version, pick up a few jelly roll pans or rimmed cookie sheets and call it a day. To really encourage family and guests to remove their shoes, try adding a basket of cozy slippers near the doorway.

Consider Coat Storage

If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated coat closet by the front door, your storage needs are easily met. The trick is to outfit the closet’s fixtures to work for your stuff. Families with smaller children will benefit from having a double hanging bar so adults can use the standard bar for their coats while kids can easily reach the lower one. Your hanging bars don’t have to take up the whole closet, either. Try adding a stack of storage cubes to use as cubbies for smaller items like hats, gloves and scarves.

If your closet doors swing out instead of sliding, you also have a great place to add some heavy-duty hooks. These are perfect for shopping bags, purses and even summer beach towels. Tackle the clutter on the upper shelf of your coat closet with large baskets or bins for off-season items. If you like, label cubbies and bins with name tags, or try color coding your baskets and hangers so everyone can find their items at a glance.

No Closet? No Problem!

If you don’t have a closet to work with, there are still plenty of way to keep your outerwear organized in your foyer. One of the most popular ways to make an instant mudroom out of nearly any location is by adding a hall tree.

These pieces of furniture come in all styles, colors and sizes, but they have a few useful features in common. First, they include a bench to sit on to remove shoes. Below the bench you’ll typically find a storage shelf, or possibly cabinets or drawers if it’s a more substantial piece of furniture. Attached to the bench is a back “wall” that has hooks for coats and additional shelving or cubbies at the top. Sometimes hall trees are divided into separate storage “lockers” so three or four people each have a hook, cubby and spot on the bench for themselves.

If you don’t have the budget to spare for a ready-made hall tree, you can put together separate pieces to get the look — and the functionality — for less. Choose a plain bench as the base for your faux hall tree and tuck a collection of baskets or bins underneath for shoe storage. You can add a line of hooks directly to the wall to hold umbrellas, jackets and scarves. Top it off with a basic shelf and a few more baskets, and you have a DIY hall tree that won’t break the bank. Best of all, it’s easier to customize a few inexpensive pieces to match your decor than it is to find the perfect piece at a store.

Tips for Tiny Spaces

What happens if you don’t have an entryway at all? In many older homes and small apartments, the front door opens directly into the living room. In this case, a simple shelf can form the basis of your miniature hall tree. The trick is to hang it at table height and use it as a place to catch your keys, purse and hat when you come home. Mount the shelf next to the door; then make the most of the space behind the door (when it’s open) to hang a few hooks for coats and umbrellas. A traditional coat rack will also tuck into a corner easily and provides plenty of space for guests coats without taking up too much room.

Making a Kid-Friendly Mudroom

If you’re frustrated with finding small shoes all over the house, be sure to plan some specialty storage for the littlest members of the family. Try these tricks for keeping kids’ stuff neat and tidy:

  • Keep Things to Scale: Kids can’t hang up their coats of they can’t reach the hooks. When designing your mudroom, make sure you get down and see the space from their point of view. Add an additional row of hooks where they can reach them, or provide a step stool under that bench to give a boost.
  • Label, Label, Label: Kids love having their own special spot, so make sure to label baskets, bins and hooks so they know exactly where to put their belongings. For very small children, consider putting a photo of the items on a bin or basket so they know what should go inside.
  • Corral the Small Stuff: Tiny mittens, socks and other items are easily lost in the shuffle. If a cubby or bin is still too cluttered to be useful on a busy morning, try hanging a (labeled) clear plastic bag from the hanger or hook to hold these small accessories. That way the gloves and hat stay with the coat at all times.

There are lots of ways to outfit your mudroom to make the most of your space — even if you don’t have a full foyer to work with. Get creative on your organizational furnishings, and you’ll enjoy a clean, clutter-free house all year long.

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