The living room and command centre of the house

This is my seventh post on house makeover and organization.

Everyone's lounging and congregating space. The living area is a busy space.

Everyone’s lounging and congregating space. The living area is a busy space.

This post is about function, flow interweaving with form and interfaces…and it focuses on managing school scheduling and household documentation and bills and record-keeping.

Today, I tackle my living room to make some changes. In the light of forthcoming major exams, work-from-home and intensive sports tournament scheduling, we needed to streamline the way we communicated as a family to improve efficiency and productivity, as well as to avoid interpersonal friction. This room takes heavy traffic, everybody congregates here and in the adjoining dining area,  several times a day. It also tends to get awfully messy and to become everybody’s dumping ground for clothes, books, homework, empty snack plates etc.

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A closet by the door serves to collect all the jackets, caps, gloves, scarves, etc., as people walk through the door.  Being rather small, everybody is allowed one at most two jackets in the closet’s hanging space.

The living room is the nerve and command centre of the home, it is where we share and coordinate information, so we have house rules for the kids…for everyone, which have been negotiated and drafted in consultation with the children. Below are the major areas of central control:

Landphone line and stationery station

Landphone line and stationery station

Around this space, we have our communication board and calendar schedule where major events are marker-penned for all to see, where day-to-day routines of bento, and school schedule are indicated, and a phone contacts and emergency numbers are instantly accessible.

Everybody's calendar schedule

Everybody’s calendar schedule

School bento and activity schedule noticeboard, school letters go straight in there after school

School bento and activity schedule noticeboard, school letters go straight in there after school

And next to our TV and music & media entertainment station, here is our central station for all our communications and social media devices, this is the charging station as well as depository for all electronic devices – phones, smartphones, iPad, iTouch, iPods and DS’ have to be returned by a certain time,  and during the Golden Hour of study time (8-10 pm) is no-screen time.  They also have to be returned here just before bedtime. Blinking lights and social media bleeps are terribly distracting for study concentration, and disturb the formation of deep sleep for our children.

Beside the media station (TV, DVD player, etc) is our social media, mobile phone and game center)

Beside the media station (TV, DVD player, etc) is our social media, mobile phone and game center)

One of the hardest aspects of school life and scheduling to keep under control, is the constant stream of letters and communication from school. The other equally huge minefield is the constant stream of mail and household matters that require our attention such as bills, some urgent, some not, but most require some kind of action or record-keeping.

I like to keep it simple. These “color-box” shelving are the cheapest standard book shelves you can find in any furniture shop. We have been using them since the kids were born, and they are easily adaptable for a great many purposes. We turned them on their side, slotted in baskets. In two of them, we keep vitamins, earbuds, and daily use skin-lotions and medical items (not first aid which is kept separately). School documents are filed in accordion type file folders that cost only a few cents/yen and that fit perfectly into the standard cubby holes, and a nifty black slide-out multiple pocket file-cum-brief document carrier will hold all types of bills and banking documents. Throw out and shred old statements, keeping most current two, and that will keep your filing system portable and manageable. Portability and compactness is also vital for us living here in the event of fire or earthquake disaster. A simple all-purpose basket can hold you latest magazines, start discarding old issues just before it starts to bulge. Accordion folders are useful or stationery such as envelopes, as well as for odds and ends and keepsake cards or souvenirs.

Accordion filing system fits into basket and cubbyhole of bookcase

Accordion filing system (perfect for school communication, notes and schedules, contact numbers) fits into basket-drawer and cubbyhole of bookcase

Left: household management notes folder with pockets and tab dividers. Right: Slide-out multiple pocket-system in a black document carrier.

Left: household management notes folder with pockets and tab dividers. Right: Slide-out multiple pocket-system in a black document carrier.

The document carrier, house-management-foler fit into the drawer

The document carrier, house-management-foler fit into the drawer

Our set-up is now more efficient, serious and work-and-activity-oriented in the light of our high schooler’s college-going goals, but most of our ideas can easily be adapted for any family’s goals and purposes.

Finally, I decided to remove the fussy, lace curtains, to let in more light into living area, and to remind us that we have a view and that there is a world outside to be explored.
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