Sunday, February 6, 2011

Zone Defense

I feel (naively, no doubt) that I have happened upon the perfect system. I am going to write it down here even though I’m quite convinced that by doing so I call down the wrath of the chaos gods. Such are the risks bloggers must take.
Since moving into this cozy, quirky home almost 2 years ago we have been shifting and nudging and generally feeling our way around, settling into more-or-less permanent places for things and activities and bodies. We have created schoolrooms, dismantled them and moved them 2 floors away. We have had 3 different designated uses for the room that we still refer to as the “toy room” even though there haven’t been any toys there for over a year. We’ve turned a gently used shower on our main floor into a coat closet (complete with coat wash if a child gets in there and turns the wrong knob). We’ve finished (and by finished I do not mean done) the attic. We’ve added shelves about the toilet in the broom closet in the kitchen and turned it into a cleaning closet, complete with toilet/garbage disposal (yes, you read right – I should really include a picture of said closet in this post). So after 1 year of mild buyers remorse and homeowner self-doubt we have wedged ourselves into our home rather comfortably.
Unless you are slightly nerdy or just have a lot of time on your hands (here’s lookin’ at you James) then don’t feel any obligation to read all the details that I can’t help but provide. Forgive me, it’s a compulsion. I will provide a Moral of the Story at the end of the post for those you skip the bullet points.
The permanent zones that have been formed are :

  • Basement (unfinished): 1. School room (ALL homeschool materials. ALL); 2. Play room adjacent to school room. (ALL toys). They all have homes in these 3 old college dorm wardrobes that I bought off craigslist. Best idea I’ve ever had. DOORS for toys. Sweet peace. 3. Some pantry items (Costco purchases); seasonal storage (holidays, beach and snow); and tools. This section is separated from the rest and HAS A GATE (notice a theme?). Phew. That is really a huge amount of our life right there. I got a nice little heater and put down some rugs and lots of bright lights. Plus, in the spring we can open up our windows down there and we look right out into the garden. Last year we had an eye-to-eye relationship with a baby bunny in our yard. It’s not as bad as I feared but it did take me 2 years to admit that we were going to spend large amounts of our time in the basement. But I’m so glad that I finally did. It’s really the key to my sanity. We basically have an entire FLOOR dedicated to school and play. More on that later.
  • Main Floor: 1. Meals (all cupboards have “child safety locks” – should be called “mommy-sanity savers” 2. Reading (non-school books and picture books are housed here). 3. Laundry facilities. 4. Coats and shoes. 4. Bills. Not much.
  • Upstairs: 1. Beds 2. Clothes 3. Bath. Really not much.
  • Attic (now finished): 1. Storage area (long-term clothes storage, baby gear, memory stuff) 2. Chill-axing. The attic is EMPTY. There is nothing there except a place to sit and a desk for John in the summer when he works at home. Also, more on that later. I am going to make a sign for the door that that, “Come this way to get above the fray.” It is bliss. I will post pics in a couple weeks once the carpet is in.

The Moral of the Story:
I have made a dedicated effort to do things IN their specified zones. This drastically cuts down on the schlepping of the hated STUFF hither to yon. It’s simple, have zones – use zones. That combined with a maniacal use of locked cupboards and doors (WHY, WHY spend precious energy and time putting things back that didn’t need to come out in the first place?! Thank God that I had an insane male toddler when we moved in here – I’m so glad I finally just got everything out of his reach. Third kid’s the charm) has reduced the time that I spend tidying up by an estimated 2-3 hours a week. Never mind how I came up with that number, it isn’t scientific but I think it’s accurate.
If nothing else, sticking to the zones has simplified my tidying up because it greatly reduces the decision-making component of tidying. It’s simple. It’s easy. I have a house that is as clean and tidy as I want it to be (not necessarily as clean as what you want your house to be, but still…) and it’s not been a huge amount of effort to keep it that way. It’s magic. Truly magic.

Or maybe Cecilia just hasn’t reached her B.T. (Big Trouble) age yet. It could definitely all go up in flames and I have certainly tempted the fates by writing this post. The taming of the stuff doesn’t really have an end, I’m sure but for the last two weeks I have actually experienced triumph instead of defeat and it is sweet.


This toilet is located in the only closet on the main floor of my house – in the kitchen. Nicknamed, “Potty-training Alley”. We needed somewhere for brooms and what not so now it’s the “toilet closet” (not to be confused with the “shower closet”). It serves another purpose though (the brain child of the ever-inventive Kristina) as a stand-in garbage disposal. For all the ends of soup and cereal that are just generally a nuisance in a home that is sadly in want of a garbage disposal. And note the toilet lock on the toilet. The bane of many guests with an emergency potty problem but the savior of many cookies that were being threated with a dip is the (probably unflushed) ‘pot’ – yes this is why we got the toilet lock – not a hypothetical.


  1. I love your house and I'm so glad you are loving it more now too!

  2. nice work alexis! i hope i can come see your home one day.

  3. I tried, I really did... but I got lost somewhere around "Craigs list." I must say though, reading this was far more interesting than hearing about the Hellenistic period and the adoption of Greek culture. This class is going to be the death of me...Thank God for internet connection in Egan 119.