As fall turns to winter, tiny rocks that stick to the bottoms of shoes and socks, damp leaves that plaster themselves to the floor, mud smears, and sometimes road salt and snow track their way through our doorways. What are we to do? The entryway of a home makes the first impression on guests and family members alike, but it can be hard to keep this high-traffic spot as attractive, clean and tidy as we want it. Here are a few suggestions to control clutter, organize, and beautify this busy location.

Incoming!  My entryway could quickly turn into a jumble of shopping bags, footwear, mittens, gloves, newspapers, mail, backpacks, and anything else anyone in my family decides to bring home. I fight back by using the “h” word. The “h” word again is habit. I try to instill in my family the importance of immediately putting what is brought home in its final location rather than leaving piles in the entryway. Contents of shopping bags get dispersed where they belong in the house. Grocery bags go straight to the kitchen. Coats get hung up in the closet, and backpacks go upstairs to the bedrooms.

The next problem is stuff we don’t mean to bring in with us—the dirt, sand, and sludge that comes in on our feet. All shoes must come off at the door. Every time. No cheating. Shoes can be kept off the floor in a boot tray to catch the dirt and water. Cleaning experts tell us that over ninety percent of the dirt we vacuum, dust, and wipe up in our homes comes in through the door, so let’s stop dirt before it enters our home. Keep some slip-on shoes by the door to make it easier not to cheat, even when you just need to run back into the house to grab something you forgot or you want to step out for the mail or newspaper, and keep slippers by the door so your feet are warm and comfortable in your home.

Outgoing!  Just as stuff constantly flows into a home, it is also going out. Library books, packages, mail, and DVDs to be returned must be remembered. It helps to have a designated spot by the door to grab these things as you leave. A shelf or a basket is a nice spot to put them to keep them organized and off the floor.

Both! Transition stuff is the stuff that constantly goes in and out of the house—keys, footwear, sunglasses, mittens and gloves are examples. Again, it helps to have homes for these items in the entryway. Keys could go on hooks or small shelves or in hanging baskets. Footwear could be stored under a bench or in a boot tray, and mittens or gloves could go in a basket or bin. I am very happy with my boot bench. It combines a boot tray with a bench with a lidded storage seat that holds mittens, gloves, scarves, and dog leashes.

Entryway décor can be attractive and functional. Baskets, hooks, and shelving can decorate and help keep things organized. Mirrors can beautify small or dark entries by reflecting more light, and they are nice for a quick appearance check as people head in or out of the home. Brass coat hooks or wooden hat trees are attractive and functional. Lighting and ceiling fans can be used to decorate and brighten an entryway. I like my fan and light for circulating air, creating visual movement, and providing light right where we need it when we are trying to tie our shoes.

Entryway maintenance, especially in a cold climate, is a challenge. Replace worn weather stripping and door sweeps to keep dirt and cold air out. Repaint the scuffed up doorsill and keep it clean. I am lazy. I admit it. I would rather keep the mess outside in the first place than have to deal with it in my house. Use commercial grade outdoor mats to knock dirt off feet at each entrance before it can get into your home. Place a washable rug, like a bathroom or kitchen rug, inside of entryways. The hard flat decorative mats that say “Welcome” may be cute, but after they are saturated with dirt, they don’t work. They no longer stop dirt from getting past the entryway and tracked down your hallway, stairs, or living room. A soft-backed rug can be washed when it gets saturated with dirt and starts to smell. Confession:  Sometimes I have walked into my house and thought it smelled stale, only to discover it was just time to wash my entryway rugs. Oops.

All this being said, it is still important to regularly sweep or vacuum entryways, hallways, and other high traffic spots at home. Make sure whatever method you choose is safe for your flooring surface and won’t scratch it! Sweeping scratchy materials like sand or vacuuming with a sharp edge on the underside of the vacuum or leaving the beater bar running on the vacuum can harm some surfaces. Carefully clean up entryway grime before it cuts up linoleum flooring, dulls grout between tiles, scratches wood flooring, or wears down carpet fibers. It is worth the effort. Who knows? If a sparkling entryway makes an awesome first impression, it creates the assumption in everyone’s mind that the rest of the home is as clean and tidy!

Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of "Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life" (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at