Zone Cleaning

Several years ago, a friend let me borrow a book titled “Sink Reflections, The Fly Lady’s Baby Step Guide to Overcoming CHAOS.” One of the main takeaways I got from this book was her idea of zone cleaning. This method allowed me to keep on top of the clutter a little at a time. In her book, she describes 5 zones of your home: entrance/front porch/dining room (1), kitchen/pantry (2), the main bathroom/one extra room (3), master bedroom/bath/closet (4), living room/den/family room (5). I personally have broke down these categories even further to make completing these tasks more manageable. I have 12 zones in my home. Each home is different, and the amount of time you have to complete the tasks are different, so it is easy to tailor this to your home and schedule.

Decluttering
Here are about 10 items I recently found in my kitchen to declutter

The basic idea of zone cleaning is to choose one room each week to focus on deep cleaning and decluttering. I typically “circle” my house to keep track of which room is next. With this method, in my home, every 12 weeks each space gets a deep clean. Deep cleaning for me includes things that I don’t do each week: clean the ceilings/light fixture, dust the baseboards/blinds/window sills, clean the interior of the window, remove items from cabinets or drawers to clean inside the drawers, if the room has carpet I steam vacuum those. In addition, while I have things removed from cabinets and drawers I evaluate what I am using or what is expired to determine what can be decluttered. I try to choose 10 items from each room each week. I don’t always find 10 items in each room, but I will frequently find more than 10 items in some of the rooms. If I found exactly 10 items per week, that is 520 items per year leaving my home! That number seems overwhelming, but if you break it down to focus on just one room per week it is manageable!

In my bathroom declutter, I like to go through our medicine to determine if any of them are expired

The basic idea of zone cleaning is to choose one room each week to focus on deep cleaning and decluttering. I typically “circle” my house to keep track of which room is next. With this method, in my home, every 12 weeks each space gets a deep clean. Deep cleaning for me includes things that I don’t do each week: clean the ceilings/light fixture, dust the baseboards/blinds/window sills, clean the interior of the window, remove items from cabinets or drawers to clean inside the drawers, if the room has carpet I steam vacuum those. In addition, while I have things removed from cabinets and drawers I evaluate what I am using or what is expired to determine what can be decluttered. I try to choose 10 items from each room each week. I don’t always find 10 items in each room, but I will frequently find more than 10 items in some of the rooms. If I found exactly 10 items per week, that is 520 items per year leaving my home! That number seems overwhelming, but if you break it down to focus on just one room per week it is manageable!

I know some people are obsessed with the KonMari method of decluttering, and that works well for some people. But if throwing all of the clothes from your whole house into a pile seems overwhelming to you, maybe the zone cleaning method would work well for you. The problem with decluttering once and for all is that we constantly have things coming into our homes, especially if we have children. This zone cleaning method will allow you to continuously go through your items so you don’t have to dedicate a large amount of time all at once to decluttering. What do you think of the zone cleaning method? Have you heard of it? Does it sound like something that would work for you?

From Chaos to Order, Tips for Pantry Organization

Do you have a difficult time keeping your pantry organized? It’s challenging to keep a pantry neat, even for the most organized person. Items are always coming in and going out, which can make it difficult to have systems set in place that help keep it organized. Obviously everyone has different sizes of pantries, families, and budgets to support such a transformation. I have some tips that might help bring order to any chaotic pantry.

One of the easiest ways to keep things organized is to invest in some storage containers and bins. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You could use unused bins from around your home, or even use cardboard boxes to store items. Mason jars are an inexpensive way to store food, and makes your pantry look visually appealing. If you do have the budget for it, there are a variety of options and places to get storage bins and containers. I love Target or the Container Store, and I know Dollar Tree often has great storage solutions.

Bormioli Rocco Fido glass jars
Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars

By far, my favorite storage containers are the Bormioli Rocco Fido glass storage jars with airtight lids. I have used these jars for over 15 years to store my baking items, staple dry goods (like rice and pasta), and even some staple snack items (like nuts and dried fruits). I have continued to collect these jars over the years as our needs have expanded and changed. They are a bit of an investment up front, but I think it is so worth it! I also recently did a pantry makeover and bought some reasonably priced plastic containers to store all of our items that generally come in cardboard boxes, making the pantry look more uniform, and making it easy to find what we’re looking for.

Using bins to store like items is another way to keep things organized. This would be especially useful for items that are in one category but rotate so you’re not purchasing the exact same thing each week.

Use baskets like these to store like items
Riser used for canned goods

There are other great organization tools for the pantry. I like to use a riser for my canned goods – that way I can easily identify everything I have available. You could also use baskets or bins for canned goods, allowing you to pull out the basket to see what you have. In addition, there are can storage bins which allow the cans to “roll” out one at a time. I use this for my cans of sparkling water. You could also use it for cans of soup or vegetables if you keep a good stock of those on hand.

Plastic storage containers, and can organizers help keep things looking neat

I like to label everything. You certainly don’t need to do this, particularly with clear jars or bins in which you can see the contents. I personally just like the look of the jars and bins being labeled. I like to keep meals and snacks simple, so I tend to purchase the same things over and over. If there is some change, the labels are fairly easy to remove. If they are extra stubborn, I just use Goo Gone and it easily comes off. I have used a variety of different labels over the years. I have written with a Sharpie on a plain label or name tag label. I have printed out labels. Most recently, I am obsessed with my simplistic embossing label maker. I like the old school, mid-century look to it. You certainly could get a fancier label maker as well.

The best way I find to organize a pantry, particularly if it is really messy, is to remove everything from the pantry. You could take this opportunity to clean all the surfaces. It’s also a great time to evaluate what food has expired or is not being used. For the food that, for whatever reason you aren’t eating, you could take it to a food pantry or I like to ask friends if they would like anything as everyone’s tastes are different!

Once everything is cleaned out, you have a clean slate. Now you can categorize the items and decant anything that will go into storage containers. One thing to remember prior to going out and purchasing storage containers is to measure your space. You will wanted to make sure the containers fit on the shelf where you are planning to store them. The final step is just a game of jigsaw puzzle – trying to see where everything fits. Especially when my kids were younger, I liked to have their snack foods on their level, and have junk food items up on a higher shelf where they couldn’t reach. It’s funny, even though they are teenagers, the snacks are still on the lower level in my pantry and the junk food is still stored on the top shelf!

I hope this gave you some ideas or inspiration to get your pantry organized! Do you have any tips for keeping a pantry organized? Any questions I didn’t answer?

American Accumulation

One of the biggest obstacles in staying organized is the amount of items coming into our home. I’d like to think I am a relatively organized person, however I began to notice that really I had just become what I like to call an “organized pack rat.” Yes, I had boxes neatly labeled – but they were stacked high and I often did not open or look through any of those boxes.

A few years ago I discovered the idea of minimalism. Really, I have always been one to purge things. Once my youngest entered elementary school I began to find ways to purge things and organize the important things so they were on display and I could enjoy them daily. But, learning about this idea of owning less in order to live a more fulfilling life intrigued me. I began to read blog posts and watch YouTube videos from people who were pursuing minimalism and what that looked like for them. So, over the past three years I have been slowly decluttering my house.

Through some of the minimalist blogs and YouTube videos I began to learn about more important reasons to pursue a minimalist lifestyle, like the impact our consumerism has on the earth and on the people who make the products we purchase. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix, “The True Cost,” which was very thought-provoking. This documentary revealed some of the poor working conditions people in third world countries are experiencing in order for people in America and Europe to have cheap clothing. Not to mention how these factories are polluting the communities of these individuals, which is impacting their health. The fashion industry is number two in the pollution of the world, only second to the oil industry. Our planet has natural limits and cannot continue to sustain the impact consumerism has on it. It’s not just the clothing factories that are polluting the earth, but the clothing itself once it is discarded. According to the documentary, only 10% of clothing donated to charities are actually sold to a customer. The other 90% ends up in a landfill or shipped to a third world country to be sold there. Again, most of that ends up in polluting their communities. Many of the low-cost, fast fashion items are made at a price.


Back to accumulation… recently, after cleaning out my closet AGAIN I began to think about why I seemed to still have SO much stuff in spite of decluttering. It can be easy to bring home a new shirt here, and a piece of home decor there; but over time it adds up. My closet was an example of this. A couple of years ago I reorganized our closet, decluttered it and bought the number of matching hangers we needed for the remaining articles of clothing. I proclaimed I would do the “one-in-one-out rule,” but somehow that went by the wayside. My accumulation could not keep up with my decluttering! So, believe me, I know this is easy to do! And this was just my closet. There are so many areas of our homes that we are accumulating and not decluttering. What complicates things more is when you have other people living in your home. Spouses and children also bring things into the home.

This is embarrassing, but I have a feeling I’m not the only American who struggles with accumulation. THIS is a pile of things I recently took to the Goodwill. It was a pile I had been accumulating for the last three months until I could take it in, but this is still A LOT.

I decided that it’s best to not get rid of my husband’s and kids’ things without their permission, but I could make a significant impact on our home by decluttering my own things. This impact would be even more significant if I slowed the inflow of stuff. In 2019, I am choosing to do a “no spend” year, in hopes that by focusing on not accumulating our home will STAY decluttered. Once we declutter and slow the inflow, then organization has the impact we were hoping for. Organization systems set in place work best when everything has a home. It can be difficult to stay on top of incorporating new items if they come in faster than we can find homes for them. Of course there will be ever-evolving needs in our homes as our children grow and our hobbies change, but if we are intentional about the day-to-day things we allow into our home, it can have a lasting effect on the organization of our homes.

Minimalism and Staying Clutter Free

I really want to be a minimalist. I read books and blogs about minimalism, and it sounds so simple and clean. But as I stand in my closet and stare at my collection of booties, I know that I will never be a true minimalist. The principle behind minimalism is a good thing, but just like anything else, I’ve learned there’s balance and it’s okay to own more than three pairs of shoes. Now I am striving to only own what is useful or brings joy.

There are two keys to becoming more of a minimalist: 1)purge, 2)slow the inflow.Purging is fairly easy for me. I admit that there are times when I think about an item that I got rid of and thought, bummer I could have used that. But, the truth is, most of the time after it leaves my house, I have completely forgotten about it. One thing that I do in order to not feel as overwhelmed about purging is to pick a room each week and try to get rid of 10 items from that room. Sometimes I don’t reach the 10 items, but with the influx of stuff from my kids and free-bees, it can be pretty easy in some rooms. I take that opportunity to straighten things up and reorganize the area. I don’t do this every single week as some weeks are busier than others, but if you keep working your way around the house it will stay mostly organized and clutter-free!

Slow the inflow is the thing I struggle with. I like to shop. BUT, I have done different things to restrain my purchases. First, I don’t go shopping unless I need something specific. Next, I really try to stick to buying what I went in to purchase. That can be tough, especially at places like Target… we go in for face soap and toilet paper and come out with framed art work and that lamp you just couldn’t resist! I also have chosen to focus on quality vs. quantity, and finding things that will remain classics for several years. I love fashion, so I always have things in my wardrobe that may only last for a couple of seasons. Something I have done in the past which helps is to fast from purchasing clothes, shoes, and home decor for a set period of time (like one month). I have done a one month fast, two month, and three month! For 2019, the entire year I plan to do a spending fast from clothes, shoes, and home decor. Choosing to fast from consumerism allows for time to step back and really examine your priorities. I have realized during my past spending fasts that the inflow is what is truly keeping me from having only the things I love in my home. How about you? Does minimalism intrigue you? Or scare you?! Do you have tips on how to stay organized and clutter free in your home?