Similar to an airplane’s cockpit, a Family Command Center is a central place for managing household communication and running the family’s daily activities. A Command Center manages four activities: input (papers coming in), processes (what to do with the papers), output (papers going out), and reference information (a Resource Binder contains important reference documents to maintain the household activities). In short, it is the go-to spot for all the things you need to help your home run smoothly.
Be sure to locate the Command Center in a central location, preferably near where you enter and exit your house. An ideal location is often the kitchen, as it’s the hub of the house. But you can also create a space in your home office if it’s on the main floor of your home. If you use your computer for scheduling or contacts, you might want to locate the Command Center near the computer. Just make sure it’s a functional space and that the location works best for you.
Find a way to incorporate a corkboard or magnetic board. A corkboard can be attached to the inside of a cabinet door, which keeps it accessible but out of sight. Use this board to post frequently called numbers, lunch menus, invitations, etc.
Setting up the System
There are different supplies and products you can use to put your Command Center together, but the basic set-up includes slots or cubbies for each member of the family for papers that come and go on a daily basis: mail, children’s permission slips, notices, etc. It is also useful to have a slot for incoming bills, as this will be the place where you sort the mail every day.
When you first implement this system it may be hard to get your kids, or even your significant other, in the habit of checking and using their slot. Surprise them with little treats to motivate them to use it – a piece of candy, a new pencil, love notes – just something to create the habit of using the system. This file system will help eliminate some of those paper piles on the kitchen counter and make it easier to locate the items when you need them.
Next, you’ll need an “organized junk drawer” for all those office supplies you’re constantly asked for over the course of a day. This will be their new “home.” Each item will have its own space and the major rule here is, ALL ITEMS MUST BE RETURNED TO THIS SPOT WHEN YOU ARE DONE USING THEM. The goal is for everyone to know where these items can ALWAYS be found. You can purchase inexpensive containers or you can re-purpose items you may already own: small bowls, trinket boxes, clean baby food jars, the top of a glass butter dish, an empty mint box. Have fun with it and make it as creative and attractive as you like and you’ll be more likely to keep it tidy.
The Command Center is also a great place to keep all those things that seem to disappear when you’re rushing out the door (your keys, cell phone, maybe even a purse or wallet). The great thing is you can customize the Center to fit YOUR needs.
One of the most important things to remember to ensure the success of this system is to make sure everyone in the house knows about the Command Center and is familiar with how it functions. The key to success is to have the entire family involved and using the system. You may want to even ask your kids or spouse for suggestions of what to keep either in the Command Center or in the Family Resource Binder.
Also, remember that it is OK to let this system evolve and change as you use it. The perfect system doesn’t exist, but you can get pretty close if you remain flexible.