Our Family Command Center

A few months ago I stumbled upon a fellow blogger Mallory’s blog post about her Family Command Center. I had never heard of such a magical thing before, and was immediately sucked down the rabbit hole Pinteresting the crap out of “family command center.” In fact you can check out some of the pins I saved to our board, Home Space.

I was immediately inspired to jump into the creation of my own family command center, but with our looming road trip to Niagara Falls, I decided it wasn’t the best time for me to drop $100 on project. While I do believe it is possible to put something together without spending a dime, I also know that I have very little willpower when it comes to projects like this that spark my creativity.

In the intervening months, the idea of creating this space for my family was never far from my mind. After all, I looked at the space where I knew it would be every single day. And I envisioned it.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of how I went about re-designing this space from scratch, I’ll share a picture of what our finished command center looks like.

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At first all there was was a cork board.

We have this big cork board we bought on Amazon last year. I consider it quite expensive, and one day while I was out José cut a hole in it for our Nest thermostat. He tends to enact his ideas like this without consulting me, which initially peeves me but I can’t get too mad because whatever it is is usually pretty genius. Likewise with the cork board. We will always have to use this cork board around our Nest now. That cannot be changed. But it does look pretty cool, and every single person who has come into our house and seen it has commented on it.

Then, about once a week I would question where to put something like a receipt or a piece of mail, and realize that a little box for said piece of mail would be perfect – right there. Or I would miss a deadline or my husband José would forget an appointment (and I would feel guilting for not reminding him), despite our synced Google calendar on our phones, and I would think how convenient it would be if we had a calendar in a family command center, right in the center of our home.

I tried to implement some of my ideas by hanging folders by thumbtacks off our cork board, but that failed pretty miserably. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to put together my vision unless I could spend some money, but I didn’t want to yet, so I waited.

In early November one day I went out to pick up some newborn cloth diapers from a seller on the Facebook Marketplace. Driving into her neighborhood I drove by a nice sofa table sitting out on the curb. On my way out I couldn’t help myself. I stopped, moved the booster seats off the backseat, put down the seats, and my crazy pregnant ass heaved that sofa table one inch at a time into the trunk. It fit perfectly and I had José get it out when I got home.

The table also fit perfectly in our house, right underneath our cork board. Suddenly, a big part of my vision for a family command center I didn’t know I had was coming together. I believe that this table came into our home because I knew something was missing in this space, because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on this project, and because I wanted this project/space to come together so badly. And so come together it did.

For another two months the table sat and for the most part became a giant junk drawer, like I knew it would. Gotta give myself some credit for manifesting that one! But every so often my nesting reflex would kick in and I would obsessively tidy it. Eventually I gave it a good cleaning and polished the wood. Except for missing one knob, I couldn’t help but wonder why the family who discarded it left it on the side of the road. It’s really a beautiful piece of furniture. If you haven’t noticed I’m completely in love with it!

Then José and I re-introduced a Morning Routine checklist into our daughters’ lives and it has made school mornings much less hectic and more enjoyable. The girls really get a thrill out of checking off their items. That was definitely a step in the right direction for us, but these lists kept mysteriously ending up in different parts of the house. They clearly needed a home.

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these are from thetripclip.com 

Well about mid-January I finally got fed up enough to get started on making our family command center a reality. Initially I didn’t spend any money at all and this is what it looked like:

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the center @ $0 … not too shabby. Note the missing drawer knob.

Originally I thought that our command center would also contain our family Vision Board, the purpose for which we initially purchased our big cork board, but I was dragging my feet on putting that together too. It took me awhile to figure out why I was having such a hard time getting started on a Vision Board, but I finally had an epiphany on it last week. The very next morning I drew a schematic and got to work clipping pictures and words out of magazines.

What was holding me back was that I don’t really want to manifest anything right now. I want to be happy with what I already have, and I really want to just be. I am so sick of striving for something. Of doing. I really think it’s time for a little breathing room in my life. If anything, I simply want to cultivate gratitude for the hard-won love and beautiful family and good life I already have.

So that was it. That was the reason why I couldn’t put a word or an idea or an image onto a vision board in my mind. Once I knew that, it wasn’t hard for me to shift my perspective. I decided to build the board around areas of focus – things that are simply important to me and my family in our life and make us happy. I settled on four words for the four corners: Home, Family, Happy, and Love. I started with the words in circles, or bubbles if you will, on scratch paper, and drew lines out from each of them to brainstorm more ideas about what these focus words mean to me.

After building the vision board, I was on a roll, and it wasn’t long before the rest of the command center simply came together what felt like on its own.

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I had a little wire basket I bought at King Soopers for receipts in December, but I decided it would be better suited to hold potatoes in our pantry,  so I moved it there. Instead, I bought matching baskets from Michaels for the top of the table. I planned on getting three: one for receipts, one for mail, and one for coupons, but Michaels had a B1G1 on baskets so I got four. They were $11.99 each so I paid $24 for all four. I also got the little chalkboard clip signs there for $1.19 each.

But then I went to Hobby Lobby for knobs, and found the most gorgeous knobs that I am totally in love with amongst their 400 different knob options.

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And of course I also found a couple other items I couldn’t resist bringing home too: a super cute galvanized steel envelope for mail, and a menu chalkboard. I decided not to get the one with letters for the days of the week, because I typically don’t cook every night and I typically don’t plan that far ahead either, so a more generic “Menu” where I can just write what I’m making that night (or what leftovers we’re eating) works best for my family.

In the baskets on the bottom shelf are library books, and hair care items and accessories. These things ended up downstairs out of necessity. One morning we just got tired of running upstairs for the comb and spray every single morning, so I repurposed a 3-compartment basket we had in one of bathrooms with not much in it. It’s been working out really well.

I’ve found out the hard way over several years that library books don’t get read unless they are out in the open where children can see them, so I had been lining the upstairs hallway with them for several weeks. That idea was working out really well but it was annoying to move all the books off the floor every week when I vacuumed, and I also noticed that the girls tended to bring the books downstairs to read them anyway. So we are trying out the basket downstairs idea and so far it’s working out well for us. I found that basket for $3.99 at our local Goodwill.

I saved the space inside the drawers for more unsightly or private items. One drawer is for cables José insisted on keeping downstairs, much to my annoyance (I like the KonMari method of keeping all the family’s cables in ONE box). One drawer is for paperwork, checks, or cash we don’t need everyone who comes into our house to see. And one drawer is for scrap paper and loose leaf paper for writing and drawing all the sudden, random, brilliant ideas my family comes up with every day. No more running upstairs for paper!

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For the piece du resistance, I purchased a “FAMILY” sign from JoAnns and José put a screw in the wall for it to hang from.

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I am really happy with the way this turned out. I love how versatile a family command center can be, and how each one I’ve seen is so different because it fits the needs of the family it was made for.

I loved how cute some of the centers I saw on Pinterest looked with backpack hooks for kids, but we already have a great hook system further down the hall that works well for us. We also already have hooks for keys and a hat/glove box, so we didn’t need to incorporate places for those things into our center.

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hat box José made for us last year

Other command centers have pockets or folders for each member of the family, but I couldn’t think of any possible use for something like that in our center.

I was also influenced in my design by the fact that I started with the cork board and table. Having two large pieces to “work around” definitely developed the center. If I hadn’t started with those, I am sure my command center would look very different.

The only criticism I had of the command center I put together is that it was very busy. The vision board was what made it busy, and I knew that I could move the whole vision board off the cork board and have all that open space for pinning up school papers and greeting cards. That would be nice too.

But I also really loved seeing the vision board in this centrally located part of our home, and being surrounded by it in a sense whenever I come home with the mail or a receipt to drop in the box. I want to be constantly reminded of our beautiful life, beautiful family, beautiful home, and how grateful I am to be here in the middle of it. 

Ultimately, I decided to move the vision board into some old shadow boxes that were holding some really old scrapbook pages from 4-8 years ago. José hung them up so that we see them on the wall when we walk in our front door, and whenever we walk up the stairs.

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If you are thinking about making a family command center too, here are some basic elements to keep in mind/get you started:

  1. calendar
  2. menu
  3. magnetic board or cork board
  4. baskets or hanging pockets for mail, etc.
  5. grocery list
  6. routine checklists
  7. place for pencils/pens/chalk markers/dry erase markers

Basically, you are re-designing a space in your home and making it into a compact, functional, one-stop-shop kind of place for your family to get lots of things done and figured out. So start by thinking about your family’s needs. It’s all well and good to Pinterest the crap our of “family command center,” but what does your family really need in that space?

I had several months to marinate over this and realized we needed things like a basket for receipts and a basket for mail. Take a few weeks to become aware of your family’s needs – this concept is kind of like keeping a food diary for two weeks before starting an elimination diet! It’s important to know where you stand before you jump into the water.

Here’s a couple more items that would be useful for a family command center that just didn’t work out for mine. I saw this at Hobby Lobby:

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A magnetic board would be super useful in lieu of a cork board, especially if you don’t have a magnetic refrigerator anymore. We don’t! The cork board is now where we put all of the paperwork that would normally be displayed on a fridge.
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for example!
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I recently tacked up our library book due date receipts and the girls’ school-wide reading program homework, so that we can all keep track.
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Also from Hobby Lobby. I love this and definitely would have gotten it if it had fit in our space, but it’s just too big for the space I have designated for a calendar. In the future if we move again and I have to re-design our command center, I plan to get this and incorporate it.
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This was at JoAnns. I had no idea that JoAnns had so many adorable decor items. I went in for some sewing supplies and came out with our FAMILY sign! This particular item is really expensive. It’s tag says $60 but with the 40% sale it still would have been $36. But it is SO COOL. I can imagine this would be good for an in-coming and out-going mail situation. 
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This was a lot more expensive than the plain one I got from Hobby Lobby ($18 vs. $9), but if you are looking for a little more flair, it is there.
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JoAnns had SO many cute signs and also useful items like this sign that also has a wire basket. Hmm…
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Here is a final shot of our command center in-motion. I wasn’t sure about it at first but the returns basket has turned out to be really useful for my family, as we seem to end up with a lot of things to return. I’m also really pleased with how all the other components are helping us function better as a family. Everyone knows where the mail goes. Everyone can add to the grocery list, and it’s easy to grab the clipboard on the way out to the grocery store. No one has to ask what’s for dinner anymore. And clearing up the cork board space for “fridge paperwork” was the best decision.

I seriously enjoy looking at my command center every morning while I eat breakfast. It has become a focal point for our family life and brought me real joy. Keeping it tidy is not hard at all when its beauty sparks so much joy – I want to keep it looking perfect all the time. I regularly sort through the old receipts, coupons, and mail, update the calendar and grocery list, and keep the tabletop clear of superfluous items. I love attending to this right after breakfast. It helps me feel centered, grounded, and ready to start my day.

 

Do you have a family command center in your home or would you like to make one? What elements would you put in your command center?

 

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