If you have stairs in your home, you probably do what I do, namely leave little piles of crap at the bottom of the stairs that needs to go upstairs on your next trip. I hate those little piles. But I hate making trips upstairs for trivial reasons too.

In the house that we're building now we'll have little cubby holes in the walls near the top and bottom of the stairs - call them niches if you must, to hold the crap that needs to travel on the next trip. It won't look attractive, but it will get our stuff off the floor and tucked out of the way, and that's a start. This is more important than it seems because our dog thinks anything left on the floor for more than five seconds is a legitimate chew toy.

My other de-cluttering idea is what I call the Toy Jail. It's a closet beneath the stairs where I plan to toss anything found downstairs that doesn't belong there. In any given day the family drags in many pounds of miscellaneous stuff that is, for one reason or another, too valuable to discard, and too worthless to have its own space in the house. Generally your home has no established storage area for miscellaneous, odd-shaped, crapinalia. In our new home, that sort of thing will find a final resting place in the Toy Jail, along with any toy that should have been put away and wasn't. When the Toy Jail gets full, we'll probably have to move.

I am often amused at the features that big developers leave out of their homes. Our current home is a townhouse designed by one of the biggest names in the industry. When I want to sweep up some crumbs in the kitchen, I have to walk down two flights of stairs to the garage to get the broom. There is literally no place nearer to the kitchen to store it. I have to think the builder knew there was no broom closet in the design of the townhouse, but they also knew you wouldn't notice it was missing until after you moved in. It's diabolical. Our new house will have a broom closet in the kitchen.

All of this gets me to my point: Where's my frickin' checklist?

When you buy, rent, or build a new home, wouldn't it be good to have a checklist of features that a house could possibly have, so you could compare it to what you will actually get? And when you build a home, wouldn't you want to know about all the potential features that are relatively inexpensive if you think of them during the design stage?

Where's my checklist?
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Jun 11, 2009
1. It's about the kitchen stupid. It's a cliche, but its a cliche for a reason. Everybody hangs in the kitchen. Pimp out the kitchen. Way bigger than you think you need (full size dining table, plus sit down counter). Way too many closets in the kitchen, including odd size and oversize (brooms, mops, flyswatters, big pots for lobster cooking, electric drill and a small selection of screws, art supplies for the kids craft projects, a space to pile up aluminum cans for recycling, and on and on). Like many other notes, the Pantry is key, with double doors that open out so you can stand there looking at all your food options. Or you can go for the old fashioned "butler's pantry" between kitchen and dining room, with all plates, booze, tablecloths, soda refrigerator, etc. You will never regret going big with the kitchen especially since you sound ike a neat freak, and stuff collects in the kitchen unless it has a place to go. A big kitchen is great for parties, but it is also a place !$%*!$% can hang together, parents can observe internet activity, and that rarest of things- shared family time- can happen before everyone scatters.
2. Mud room with way too many hooks, radiant floor heat, and lots of closets and storage benches for soccer balls, snowshoes, roller blades, and towels to clean off your dogs feet. My sister put her washer dryer next to her mud-room and it is genius. The mud room (with inner and outer door) decreases energy use and is amazingly practical for real life.
3. Garage with room for lots of bicycles that can be placed on the floor so kids can access (hanging bikes works great for grown men, but is a disincentive to ride for all kids and some women (in my experience).
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
Several unusual features in our house (which we installed when we added the second floor):

1) One room has a cathedral ceiling, so that the room ranges from 8 to 12 feet high depending on where in the room you are. From the top of the 12-foot wall hangs a 7-foot-square retractable projection screen, on which we can project movies from the permanently mounted projector on the opposite wall. When we're not using it, the screen disappears; most people don't even notice it.

2) We have a cat tunnel between two rooms on our top floor. That makes it possible to close a few doors and give the cats the run of a much greater amount of space when we have to lock them up during allergic guests' visits.

3) Our washer and dryer are upstairs, on the same floor as the bedroom, in a room with a water-resistant floor in case of spills.

4) There's a warm-water tap (with a thermostat) on the exterior wall next to the parking area for washing cars (we don't have a garage).
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
My parents had their house built in 1952, and it had some neat things.

There was a broom closet in the kitchen, with an upper shelf for cleaning products. When I cleaned it out in the mid-80's, I found all sorts of neat things, like weed killer, "now with 7% DDT!" So perhaps a video inventory device with start-timestamp, so you can get a list of things that are just too old might be handy.

There were a couple of bathrooms with a closet for white goods storage between. There were doors in the bathrooms leading to slides, so you could put a laundry basket at the bottom. Great place for hide-and-seek, too, not to mention scaring the bejeesus out of people going to the bathroom. The people who subsequently remodeled the house removed all that to expand the master bath.

So always leave expansion room.

The original plan called for a free-form built-in counter extending off the kitchen, but by that time they had run out of money, so instead they put in a straight counter that could be pushed into the cabinetry, which wound up being very cool - pull out for party time, push in for normal use collecting crap. The downside was, this counter had sharp corners, just at the height so every kid of a certain size would nail their foreheads. Later, the leg at the free end would always have screws loose.

It had some cool built-ins, but over decades, standard sizes change. So we always had this bogus oven that never worked right, because no one ever wanted to cut the gorgeous matched-grain wood on the end when the standard oven became larger.

This was southern california, so there were some features that blurred the distinction between indoors and out. One extremely cool thing was a fireplace next to a wall of windows, with another fireplace outside with a grill. A great place for science experiments with firecrackers.

Bathroom and shower next to pool. Also changing rooms, though over time they got invaded by neighbors ivy. One eventually became my motorcycle garage. If you have a motorcycle, get it its own garage.

I was going to replicate this house for myself, but the way real estate works I wound up getting a bigger house cheaper. Some more things to note:

Basement good. As someone else noted, being able to get to plumbing/wiring without tearing up finished walls or floors is just excellent. Especially now that it is 20 years old and things are starting to go. One of these days I'll convert to e-play-area, but for now it is just... the dungeon. Where old dilbert books go to rot.

When you do landscaping, remember to put things where they should be when they are full-grown. Don't put palm trees under overhangs!

Single-story good. With a big house, at first it seems like everything is always far away on the wrong side, but eventually you get used to that. Stairs hurt, and not just your knees. You can die.

Underground utilities mixed. Good not to look at ugly wires, bad mixing water, electricity, cable where locations are not documented properly. Plus inevitably need to be dug up, or worse, tunneled, making the driveway crack (or whatever).

Things I miss:

For some stupid reason, there's no pantry, and no simple place to put one. Wife always complains, I built a small one, but it remains a problem.

A developer friend put spiral showers in - that is one of the coolest things, nothing to step over, no glass to worry about, even wheelchair friendly. I believe there are some that have ramps to baths. Solatubes keep them from being dungeon-like.

A tower. I hope to one day put one in where there is a bay window now. It would pick up a lot of view for me.

Sewers. Having septic is its own bundle of joy, especially after decades. It can also put strange constraints on additions/remodeling.

Sidewalks. It's nice not having to deal with cities or HOA's or PUDs, but not having a clear delineation between street and not-street can be messy or even deadly.

Public transportation. Closest bus is 2.1 !$%*!$ just makes daily use too difficult. (I usually take the train, but have to drive there and keep another car on the other end). Jealous of your work-at-home, but when I did it, it was too lonely. Was kind of cool having a terminal next to the pool in the '80s, though.

Large windows are nice, but have a way to completely close curtains/shutters. Embedded liquid crystals may be cool.

Can't have enough garage space. (autoweek has had some interesting features on that.)

Have gas and higher voltage electricity available in the garage for newer transportation options. One company is about to start selling a device to convert used cooking oil and beer manufacturing waste to ethanol.

The grid is falling apart, be able to function without it.

Courtyards are cool. Watch drainage.

Grey water irrigation has entered the mainstream.

Don't forget the underground submarine base.
Jun 11, 2009
It's my opinion that you and your wife (if you were married at the time, I forgot) ought to have made that checklist together before you started looking for houses the last time. And, if you think that you were too ignorant at the time to have made a useful checklist, then that explains why you ended up buying such a crappy house, doesn't it?
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
My garage will have a urinal. discrete, in the corner, behind a partition, but there nonetheless.
Jun 11, 2009
The biggest one I ever got was from my brother in law. How many times have you been forced to wash your hands initially from the hose. Working on the car or something else like that. Or ever want to wash your car with warm water. Just put a hot and cold running tap in the garage
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
I'm building more cabinets in our kitchen, and I'm including a broom closet. I wish I had space for cubbies. I have one addition point for the list...

Bathroom: Somewhere to hang the towel next to the shower! Our new house's bathroom is beautiful, but the only towel rack is clear across from the shower, hanging over the bath tub.

Jun 11, 2009
✓ 1) Create House Checklist
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
To keep my home organized, I don't need a checklist for my next home. I need a checklist for my next life. It has one item: Find a husband who doesn't develop deep emotional attachments to every piece of paper or article of junk he has ever possessed.....

Ok, maybe two items:

In the event of failure with regards to item 1, add "indoor bobcat" to wedding registry.
Jun 11, 2009
One of the biggest pains of homes is getting to stuff behind the walls. In my experience, there are always problems with plumbing and the walls get ripped out.

We just had our basement remodeled and I had the builder put wall panels that I can just pop out and replace when the work is done. Voila, no more sheetrock repair.

We even added one to the ceiling that allow access to the upstairs shower and bathtub piping.
Jun 11, 2009
Scott... why don't you make the checklist? It sounds like you could do it, and the world is filled with people like me who want that information but who haven't had reason to think hard enough about it to get everything right, like you have during the home building process.
Jun 11, 2009
The best thing I did when I remodeled my house was to put in one of those little ironing board closets. The kind that has just a small ironing board that folds out of the wall. It looks like a small built in pantry when not in use and the door is closed. We don't do that much ironing anymore, but some. We used to keep the ironing board behind the spare bedroom door. Every time I went into that room and closed the door behind me the ironing board would fall down, usually hitting me inthe back of the head. Damn that #*&%*%@ ironing board!!!!
Jun 11, 2009
Scott, try keeping a basket at each end of the stairs, it helps to carry the stuff up and down. I guess sometimes you really do need a woman's perspective.
Jun 11, 2009
You sound like an utter joy to live with.

I do hope you share with us how these policies work out. I assume all family members are allowed to haul any junk of others into the toy jail, so it may be that its your things that end up there. The niches by the stairs will likely become permanent resting places for crap that is needed in that part of the house, or they will be filled up with something ornamental because there's a female in the house.

After a year or two, assuming anyone will live with you that long, the broom closet may not contain a broom.

+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
My family has a bi-weekly ritual for clearing the stairs of crapinalia.

I stand at the bottom of the stairs and shout, "Kids get your junk out of here or I'm throwing it out!"
They simultaneously reply, "Dad, its not mine!"
I gather up the stuff and start towards the garbage.
My wife stops me and says, "You can't throw out !$%*!$% open the back door and toss it in the yard.
Two days later, my kids express wonder at how their favorite sweatshirt/soccer ball/matchbox car wasn't where they left it.

Its not terribly productive, but its very cathartic.
Jun 11, 2009
Item 1. As much storage space as living space!

Like George Carlin says. "A house is just a place for your stuff." We Americans have way too much stuff.

Aardwizz -
I agree about the Family Room. In most houses, the living room is just for the adults; the family room is for kids. So where is the fireplace - in the family room! Sorry, but when it comes to fires, there are just two kinds of kids: those that are obsessed with fire (and you want to keep those well away from them!) and those who don't care. Where will the kids be? On the floor in front of the TV, of coourse. I have seen too many houses designed so the only place you could put a TV puts the kids right in the main walkway. Apparently architects don't have kids.

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
Make sure the cupboards in the kitchen are big enough to store all your dishes, cookware, tupperware(tm) etc. with at least 20% extra capacity.

I hate it when I get every dish we own clean all at the same time ... there isn't enough space in the cupboards to put them all away, so the dishwasher gets used as an extra space ... clean dishes stay in it until we use enough other things to make space to put them away.

The tupperware cupboard is a mind-blowing 3-D tetris game. Everything will fit, but everything must go in exactly the right spot. Every month or two a piece of tupperware gets retired because it looks too battered to keep on using. Invariably it is replaced with one that is a different shape so we have to start over on the search for the optimal packing solution that allows all the tupperware to fit into the cupboard.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 11, 2009
Put TWICE as many lights in the garage as the builder wants to. We just put 4 tube fluorescent fixtures instead of 2 tube.

We put quad receptacles on the front wall of each room on the front of the house. Each side of the quad receptacle is on separate circuits. One of these circuits picked up ALL of these receptacles and is switched in the dining room. Then at Christmas, I plug all the lights into this side of the receptacles and turn them all on and off in one place. I use the garage receptacle to power the outside lights.

We put a 100,000 candlepower strobe light on the street-side gable of the house powered by the alarm circuit that powers the horn/siren. Then if/when the alarm goes off, the emergency crews know which house it is making the racket.

We put a shunt switch on our front door alarm circuit so we can answer the door without disarming the alarm. We put this switch in a gang of regular light switches so it isn't apparent what it is. This took a little tricky wiring to get the low voltage switch in a high voltage enclosure and approved by the building inspector.

We put a master switch for the outside floods next to our bed. Great for peace of mind.
Jun 11, 2009
Items in my checklist:

** Pantry (including shelves tall enough to hold cereal boxes upright). I find that by the time I store all my dishes, glasses, and cookware, there is often little room in the "usual cupboards" for more than this week's food. I like to keep a deep pantry of staples/canned goods to add variety / spontaneity.
** Broom closet / rack (the back of the pantry door can be sufficient, if it's deep enough)
** Space for trash can (under sink is OK - as long as there's space).

Family Room
Designed so that
a) TV can be centerpeice (in rooms that have fireplaces, you can't logistically put a TV and still have a couch facing it)
b) TV can be viewed by more than just one couch (with max capacity of 3 people)
c) TV is not on the far, far side of the room (I've seen some designs that would have the TV 50' away, reducing a 54"TV to the equivalent of a 19" if was closer)

d) Natural traffic patterns do not REQUIRE everyone to trapse through the room (interrupting the flow of the show).to get from, say, kitchen to front door to bedrooms.

** Space for a king-size bed AND endtables beside them. Many places have a 6" wall, not a 9" one.
** Space for a loveseat (it's nicer to sit on while putting on shoes than the bed)
** Switch by door powers socket where I will put lamp (not necessarily on wall besides switch).

** Wider than 2.01 cars. Preferably 2.5 cars minimum, so that junk can be stored besides the cars, and still allow full door openning of sedan (minivan sliding doors, while a godsend, don't count). Or so that lawn mower, stored at the back of the garage, can be wheeled through it when both cars are parked in it).

Jun 11, 2009
so what you're saying is that someone needs to invent a 3-d aware, stair climbing roomba w/a pager/remote?
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