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How to Setup Zones of Efficiency

Written by Seana Turner, PO.

Do you ever look around your home or office and see “the blob” of stuff everywhere?

Possessions strewn about can be unsettling and counterproductive; needed items get lost, belongings get accidentally damaged/thrown away, and you just feel like you don’t have your act together.

With a little planning, you can easily begin to keep “the blob” at bay. The key is establishing 4 zones:

  • The Work Zone
  • The Catch Zone
  • The Staging Zone
  • The Sanctuary Zone

The Work Zone

First, designate a “work zone” for taking care of tasks. This is often a desk, a home office or perhaps the dining room table. Each family member will need a designated zone, although space can certainly be shared (e.g. each gets a designated chair at the table.) Now you need to do two things: ORGANIZE and MAINTAIN. Take the time to find a place for all of the regularly used items in this zone (“a place for everything”), and then commit to putting things away at least once a day (“everything in its place”). For example, if you pay bills from this location, you need a place for unpaid bills, filing space for receipts/ statements, a drawer to hold stamps & pens, and a trash can for empty envelopes. Think through every function you want to perform at this location, and designate storage locations for all of the supplies you need. If you can’t organize it in your mind, you certainly can’t organize it in real time!

If you can’t organize it in your mind, you certainly can’t organize it in real time!

The Catch Zone

Second, set aside an area to be the “catch zone” for random belongings. A mudroom is ideal, but even a bench, a shelf or closet can do the trick. This is the one place where you put anything that you don’t immediately know what to do with. Make sure you have a space that is big enough, yet still has boundaries. For example, each family member gets a bin or basket (labeled by name), and any items found strewn about go into that bin (No more “have you seen my…?” If you’ve seen it, it is in the bin.) A once a week cleaning out of this location is critical to keeping the clutter under control. This isn’t a permanent home, just a temporary place to put things down until you can get to them later. This is NOT a space for paperwork, which needs to be part of the work zone.

The Staging Zone

Third, every family member needs a “staging zone.” This area is where each family member puts items that he/she will need the following day (or even a few days from now). For example, a student needs a place to put a backpack, project supplies, and the sports bag that he needs to take to school tomorrow. A staging area can be anywhere in the house, although near the door works particularly well. Also, it is good to have some space between staging areas so that items don’t get mixed together.

The Sanctuary Zone

Lastly, define a “sanctuary zone.” This should be a place in the house where you can have a reliably ordered space. This space is off limits to dumping (anything found in this zone goes into the bin in the catch zone.) This could be a chair in the living room, a corner of a bedroom, or even a niche in the attic/ basement. Hold yourself accountable to keep this space beautiful, and consider adding a visual touch that you love (a piece of artwork, a soft throw, a favorite photo, a TV turned to ESPN). Remind yourself how much you enjoy walking into this calming atmosphere, and give yourself the gift of keeping it just as you like it. Encourage children to have the same, but acknowledge that we all have different definitions of neat. If a teenager feels comfortable in a room that has clothes all over the floor, let it go.

We don’t live in showrooms! However, by establishing and maintaining zones, you will find that any space can be both functional and inspiring.

Always remember that we live and work in spaces that are organic and ever-changing, so at any given moment, things may get a little out of control, and this is ok. We don’t live in showrooms! However, by establishing and maintaining zones, you will find that any space can be both functional and inspiring.

Seana Turner, PO
Seana Turner, PO

Seana Turner is the founder & President of The Seana Method in Darien, CT. The Seana Method is a structured approach to organizing the three aspects of daily life: space, time, and responsibilities. Developed to erase the slate of self recrimination, The Seana Method designs life strategies that result in predictability, flexibility and joy. Vi.. Read more

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