8 Home Hacks That Support Deeper Family Connection

How to design with family camaraderie in mind

Marisa Donnelly and family

Marisa Donnelly; Photographer: Israel Palacio

There is a distinct difference between a house (a space where you live) and a home (a place that you claim as your own). And if you’re aiming to make a home for your family, this definition—and the difference between the two words—takes on new meaning. Your family not only occupies the physical structure, but you are also coming together as a collective unit under one roof.

Whether you’re a new family, blended family, mixed family, young family, old family—or any definition, really—the way you intentionally design and organize your home can say a lot about your relationships and how you come together as one.

Here are eight tried-and-true home hacks that support deeper family connection, that I've learrned from experience:

Create Unified Docking Stations for Important Items

When it comes to family organization, one of the first and most important things is to create a shared space where important items have a home.

Talk to any home decor expert or designer and they’ll say the same: give everything a ‘place.’ And when it comes to intentionally designing for your family, this is no different.

A docking station is an area where everything from keys and briefcases to favorite coffee mugs and backpacks live. This is the 'catch-all' storage space—but not for just anything. It’s specifically and purposefully designed for the most important, day-to-day items that can’t be forgotten.

In our home, this looks like a shoe rack on the bottom half, and a backpack/purse holder on top with a special area to hang keys and tuck wallets. Not only are we more organized as a family, but we’re always ready (without scrambling around the house fifteen minutes before school or work looking for what we need). Plus, we take time to help one another out and put forgotten items back where they belong.

It’s a simple, but useful hack that brings us closer as a family.

Build a Shared Shoe & Coat Area

What is so often overlooked—but truly meaningful in a family home—is a space for coats, shoes, and other outerwear. When it’s chilly outside, nothing brings a family closer than picking out each other’s coats or boots. When it’s warm, nothing is sweeter than slipping on flip flops next to your parent or child.

It may seem like a simple thing, but one of my favorite home hacks that support deeper family connection is creating spaces that exist for everyone rather than separating adults from kids or one sibling from the other.

Make a Together-But-Separate Laundry Space

Let’s face it—laundry is the arch-nemesis for every family. But, if you intentionally design your laundry area to be less of a hassle, you can improve your feelings about it. One of my favorite hacks for laundry is to create a ‘together but separate’ feel to the space.

What does this mean or look like?  

Depending on the size and layout of your home, you can do a few things: have different bins for different family member’s clothing, organize by color or by fabric quality (i.e. delicate vs. heavy-duty), or create collective bins for similar items (ex. sports clothing, uniforms, and workout clothes, etc.). Then, create a unified process for getting the laundry done. That can be different jobs assigned to different people, or a rotation depending on the week to involve everyone in the process.

The reason this hack works is because it doesn’t make the laundry room feel like one person’s job or place. It creates continuity, and brings the family together as you collectively sort, clean, fold, hang, and distribute clothes. 

Add a Collective Chore/To-Do List to Your Fridge

Along the same vein as laundry, enter the ‘chore chart.’ Talk to any family with younger kiddos and this is probably something they’ve already adopted.

But is it only for families with young children? I’d actually argue no.

A collective chore chart helps everyone in the family to feel involved—not just the kids. The chart helps to teach children responsibility, yes, but it can also be a reminder of all the things parents/adults do. And it can even create respect if the chores rotate and some of the ‘harder’ things aren't always one person’s job.

A collective chart can also bring the family together by fighting against stereotypes around different household duties and lessening burdens for a stay-at-home parent or someone who tends to take on more of the tasks by default.

Design a Connected ‘Tech Station’

Technology can be one of those things that brings together or divides a family. But does it always have to get such a bad rap?  

If you intentionally create a ‘tech station’ then no. In fact, creating a designated area for computers, gaming stations, and tablets can actually bring families together because the technology is shared, it’s easily accessible, and there are clear distinctions on timeframes, usage, and connecting that have to be established.

Does creating a tech station mean that everyone just sits on their device in proximity? No, of course not. But it does mean that parents can easily see who is on what while giving everyone in the family ownership of their own devices and the responsibility of creating healthy boundaries around usage.

Then, at a certain point every day, everyone’s tech goes back to the docking station and time ‘off screen’ happens without pressure, frustration, or guilt.

Create Space for a Collaborative Grocery List

When I first stepped into my motherhood role with my fiancé and his son, I was often stressed about grocery shopping. Used to worrying only about myself, I often found that I’d neglect items that my kid would want or only order things that I remembered—leaving important or otherwise preferred items out.

What helped was when I created a collaborative grocery list on the middle of our fridge. That way, when someone used the last of something they could write it down (rather than one person yelling at the other when there was no more toilet paper, for example), or if there was something special one person wanted to get for someone else, it would become a ‘gift’ item on the list.

This also helped my son, who has dyslexia, to work on his writing and spelling—which, in turn, became a collaborative effort in itself as we all worked through sounding out or laughing at silly word shorteners (like ‘noods’ for noodles).

Get Separate Seating/Comfort Areas for Each Family Member

Bringing a family together is often all about sharing spaces… but when it comes to certain areas of the house (and specifically, those areas used for relaxation), it isn’t always preferred or feasible to share.

That’s why I would highly recommend getting different ‘lounge’ areas or items for each person in the family. That way everyone has a special blanket and pillow and no one has to squish on someone else’s ‘spot’ on the couch. Equal and separate, yet together—the true way to connect without getting annoyed with one another.

Make a ‘Catch-All' Bin for Junk and Toys

And finally, when it comes to making a house a ‘home’ it’s often all about embracing the less-than-great parts of one another (aka: the ‘stuff’).

Everyone has stuff and that stuff can get annoying for others if you’re not intentional about it. One of my favorite home hacks for deeper family connection is this: the junk drawer or catch-all space. (The spot everything you don’t know where to put lives.)

In our home, this looks like wire baskets that are nailed to the wall. They’re cute, painted, and have front-facing chalkboard labels that I penned each of our names on. They look good with the rest of the home decor, but they serve a purpose—to hold all of my fiancé’s bills, my son’s Legos and Nerf bullets, and the receipts I’m too lazy to organize—the stuff that, when cleared out, creates a less cluttered sense of home.