AT HOME NOW: In Defense of Messiness, Landing Pads, and Controlled Chaos


Think of all the wonderful things that are messy... babies, puppies, the beach, making holiday cookies, eating barbecue, making art, making love, making family, making change… yup, let’s just say LIFE!  It’s wonderfully complicated and messy as all get out.  And I wouldn’t change a thing. Well maybe one or two things, but mostly I embrace that mess.  

But here I am - I’m a house person!  I help people make their homes productive and comfortable places.  And I’ll admit, I’ve been known to grab that gee-gaw that’s been on the coffee table for two weeks and charge about demanding, “Where does this LIVE???”  Because a house needs to function - and if our random stuff doesn’t have a home, then that stuff begins to take over, and then… Well, I think we’ve all seen that hoarding show. 

But I’m also a creative person.  I love the happy accidents that can happen when everything isn’t just so.  Like those wine corks are actually starting to look like a “collection” in that vase I threw them in.  And who knew those herbs I picked and stuffed in an old sand bucket would be such a beautiful and fragrant addition to my kitchen counter?  So, what’s the balance?  For me, I guess it’s controlled chaos.  Life happens… mess happens... plan on that.  

I’ve designed many kitchens - and I always label and identify the junk drawer.  It’s usually a pretty big one in a central location.  Because our lives are filled with buttons, and pressure gauges, and rubber bands, and sharpie markers, and mystery keys - and these inevitable items need to have a home.  If you don’t already have a junk drawer, go shift things around and give yourself one.  And if you do have one, I’ll bet it needs sorting through - go do that now. Because a junk drawer needs to be maintained to be functional.  It has its own little mini system of controlled chaos to worry about. 

One other area I insist on with my clients, is a Landing Pad.  It’s where we come in and drop our mail and keys, maybe our gloves.  It’s where we put a signed permission slip or a check you want to deposit or a screw you want to match.  Now this can be a whole section in a formal mudroom - and wow that’s fun!  I can outfit it with charging stations and cubbies for each member of the family and a place for keys and maybe a stall for a small pony.  Ok, no ponies.  But other than that, you can really have it all.  

And that reminds me of one of our moves, where we moved once from a small house with four young kids to a larger house with four young kids, and I remember looking around and saying to my then-husband, “You know, I think I might be a better parent here.”  And, you know what? I kind of was.  The stakes were not as high in a large house as they were in a small house.  The kids had a playroom, I didn’t constantly have to battle with getting my living room back at the end of every day.  There was a mud room that wasn’t my foyer.  There was a place for mess - and it did give me just a little bit less to nag about. 

But ok, jump ahead almost twenty years… and I’ve recently moved once again.  Here, my landing pad is now the top of a bureau that sits in an alcove next to my front door.  And hand to heart, I’m going to go take a picture of it right now and include it with this article. . .  Ok, I’m back.  And the picture is a little embarrassing - especially the hairy cat brush - but there it is.  There is a life being lived here and I have the mess to prove it!  

So, in your home - as in other areas of your life - pick your battles carefully and plan for the inevitable. Saying you don’t need a junk drawer?  That one is a losing battle.  Set yourself up for success and embrace that chaos!  Embrace the junk drawer, the landing pad, the pony stall! (Sorry, still no stalls.)  And then if you are like me?  Enjoy your organized and clean kitchen (which I call Command Central) because sometimes out of sight really is out of mind.  And out of mind can be a beautiful thing. 


jen coles, design, interior decor, junk drawer, life, messiness, home design, interior design