Organizing the Home Office

A new year! A fresh start! I would love for my whole house to have a magical reset button that would make it clean and organized. However, the reality is that I am the one who has to make this magic happen and it won’t be “poof” it’s done. That is why I use my Zone Plan to work on one zone of my home at a time. 

I start my year by working in my office zone. Now is a great time to clear out files and make room for the new year and to start pulling tax materials. So, I work my plan step by step.

  1.  What is bothering me? 
  • overfull files
  • project bins outdated
  • clutter 
  • unfiled papers

     2. How do I want my office to look and feel?

  • clean and uncluttered – open
  • welcoming
  • inspiring 

     3. What do I need to do to make this vision come true?

  • sort, label, and file all loose papers
  • clear all desk drawers, files, and surfaces
  • purge files
  • shred and archive old papers
  • set up current project bins
  • deep clean the zone

    4. Schedule time to do each task.

  • pull out calendar and see what times are available
  • schedule reasonable dates/times for each task
  • write the times on calendar as appointments
  • follow the plan

By the end of the month, I will call whatever has been accomplished as “good enough” and move on to the next zone. The office is now ready for regular maintenance until the next year. I always reward myself by putting a fresh flower on my desk.


Organizing Your Attic and Basement Zones

November is a great time to organize and clean out your attic or basement zone. It’s not too hot or too cold and you are probably already digging around looking for your holiday decorations. 

So while you are up there in the attic (or down there in the basement), look around. How do you use this zone? Develop a plan for this space. What categories do you store here?

You might store:

  • seasonal decorations
  • seasonal home items like fans or heaters
  • out of season clothes or sporting equipment
  • suitcases
  • household items you wish to keep but are not currently using
  • toys, clothing, or other items you wish to pass on to friends or family
  • archival paper

Get a feeling of how much you have in each category. By grouping the categories together you get a better idea of what you really will use and the condition of your items. How many suitcases do you really use? Have some of those seasonal decorations not left the storage area in years? Are family members really going to want the “stuff” you have been holding for them? Now is the time to purge the excess to make it easier to store and get to what you plan on keeping. 

Plan out a zone for each category. Items you access frequently like suitcases or pet carriers should be near the entrance of this area and items you do not plan to use in the next year like unused household items are best stored furthest from the entry. Leave space between each zone so you can safely retrieve or store items. 

Label all containers. Use large labels you can see from some distance. Even if a container is clear, it is hard to see what is inside if the lighting is dim. 

It helps to locate different holiday items if you use colored or themed containers to store your decorations. Still label the containers with the primary items. This keeps you from having to dig through multiple boxes to find the advent wreath or creche you want early in the season.

Take time to look through the archival papers. Are there some that can now be tossed or shredded? If you do this each year, it will make it easier to keep on top of the paperwork and easier to find what you need it the occasion arises. 

You will feel so much lighter when this sort and organization project is finished. When you tackle it again next November, it will bit be nearly so difficult. 

Organizing Your Kitchen Zone

When October rolls around I feel it is the perfect time to organize your kitchen zone. November and December will generate a lot of special cooking and baking. Before all of this gets underway, I want my kitchen clean and organized. I want all clutter eliminated and as much free counter space as I can arrange. Food drives begin to show up so this is a great opportunity  to donate any food that you have overstocked and clear out the pantry for your holiday cooking supplies. 

Kitchen Strategy:

  1. Motivation –  My main motivation for doing the kitchen now is to get it ready for all of the extra holiday cooking. I need all of the space I can find on my counters, in my refrigerator and freezer, and in my pantry. It’s time to throw out the mystery meat in the freezer and the year-old pecans in the pantry.
  2. Create Vision – I am going to spend a lot of time here in the next few months so I want this zone to be as inviting as possible. While in the heat of food prep, I want to immediately be able to get my hands on that special spice and have room on the counter to roll out pie crust and cookie dough. I want to feel comfortable when others are in the kitchen working with me.
  3. Brainstorm – Once I figure out my vision, I want to list everything that will need to happen to match that vision. Some tasks on that brainstorm list are: cleaning and clearing out the fridge and freezer, giving the oven a good clean ( I hate it when someone comes in and says, “something smells good” and you are just preheating your oven), replacing old spices and other cooking ingredients, better defining my kitchen zones (food preparation, cooking, dishes, food storage, an food serving).
  4. Write Out Goals – Writing out goals helps keep me focused. I make my goals specific and measurable. I print them out and post them on my fridge to cross off when completed.
  5. Develop Timeline – This is where your calendar becomes your best friend. Look at all the available times you have to work on your goals. Be reasonable. Instead of writing “clean the fridge” I break it down to clean the interior of the fridge, clean the interior door shelves, clear out the freezer, pull out the fridge from the wall and clean behind it and wipe down the outside surfaces. I plug in a time for each of this mini-tasks. 
  6. Follow the Timeline- Honor the scheduled times you have set aside to do the tasks that are on your calendar. If life intervenes and you can’t do that intended time, immediately reschedule.  By the end of the month you will love your newly organized and clean space and feel ready for the holidays.
  7. Reward Yourself –  When the kitchen zone is complete, I give myself a reward. It may be flowers on the table or a nice candlelit meal.

For more details on following this plan, visit my website and purchase my book, From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home .

The picture above shows a workshop on organizing the kitchen. Contact me to arrange a workshop on organizing your kitchen zone or any other zone in your home. ( or sign up for my Zone Plan Teleclass program where I guide you through a new zone each month. 

Organizing Outside Storage Areas

Although here in Georgia temperatures continue to spike into the 90’s on some days, there are now some cooler days and the promise of fall. This promise inspires us to organize our sheds, garages, and other outside storage areas. It’s time to stash our summer equipment and muck out the debris that has been tracked in. 

Storage areas can get pretty messy and unorganized in a year. They are not in your main living area and therefore not so visible and annoying. It’s easy just to walk in and dump items “just for now”. This is especially true if you have purchased some new items that don’t really have a “home” yet.

Before you start on your project, take a good look at the way it is now. Notice what is working (don’t mess with that area) and what is not working. Envision how you want to use this zone. Your vision might include a place to:

  • park your car
  • store trash cans/recycling
  • store gardening tools and accessories
  • pot or repot plants
  • work on projects and store tools
  • store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  • store outdoor entertainment supplies
  • store extra household products

Bring everything outside or if this is a large or very filled area, pull out stuff by sections. Sort like with like. Notice if you have duplicates or near duplicates of some items. See what is broken and decide if you really need to replace it or to trash it. Make note of what you have not used at all this past year. Give away or sell tools you no longer use. The Tool Bank is a great place to donate tools for community projects. ( Get rid of expired seeds or old chemicals.

Next decide where to logically place your zones. Items that are used frequently are best stored near entrances. Seldom used items can go to the back of the storage area. As you group your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items together. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves. A flat basket can hold small gardening tools. Use shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers because, for sure, you are going to want something that is in the bottom container. Label containers that are not clear.

Knock down cobwebs, look for any structural damage, sweep the floor, and start putting things away. You’ll be amazed at how much room there is now that all the items have been purged, bunched together and logically stored. 

Now, reward yourself! A hot shower and a cool drink might be just the thing.

Reclaiming Your Laundry Room Zone

Laundry zones get a lot of heavy usage. They can be large or small and can be located in many places in homes. Some older homes have laundry zones in the basement. I remember my mother’s was in the basement and even had a laundry chute where clothes could be dropped from either the main level or upper level of the house and end up in the basket in the basement. ( I believe a cat or two also got a laundry chute ride.) Some are at the top of the stairs behind folding doors. I’ve seen them in closets off hallways or next to the closet in a master bedroom. Mine is a small storage room/laundry zone off the kitchen. What you don’t want to see is mounds of clothes migrating into adjoining areas. 

Keeping up with the laundry becomes less of a chore with a well organized space and a plan for keeping on top of the never-ending influx of dirty clothes. The idea is to keep the laundry moving. Only bring to the laundry zone, the items you intend to wash right away. Leave everything else in the designated dirty clothes hampers. As soon as the tub is washed, get it in the dryer or drying rack. And as soon as clothes are dry, get them back to their “home”. Delegate putting items away to the family member who owns the items. Even young children can sort and put clothes away. If an item needs repair or ironing, have a designated place to store those items and then schedule a time to do that task. You really don’t want your holiday table cloth in the ironing bin in August. 

A stack of colored laundry baskets is a handy way to sort clean clothes for each member of the family and one for the bath/bed linens. When laundry is taken out of the dryer and folded, immediately put it in the correct basket. Each family member can pick up their baskets, put their clothes away, and return the basket. 

Maximize your area by installing shelves or using over the door storage. You’ll want your laundry soap, dryer sheets, stain removers, sponges, and scrubbing brushes near your washer. If you buy your detergent in large containers, transfer some into smaller containers that are easier to handle and will less likely be spilled. Post a stain-removal chart on the wall. Make sure your area is well lit.

Have a container handy for tossing in items you find in pockets or loose buttons. If possible, have your ironing board, iron, and water spray bottles in this location.

It’s wonderful if you have counter space to fold clothes but if you don’t, you can use a table in a nearby room as long as you remove the clothes right after folding them. A bar or  bracket to hang hangers for shirts taken out of the dryer in useful. It does not have to be large but just enough to hold what would come out of one load (because, of course, you are going to immediately put them away ;-} )

Whether you do laundry daily or once a week, have a planned time scheduled to handle it. That keeps laundry from accumulating in heaps around the laundry zone.

Having this zone organized  may not make you love to do laundry but it certainly will make it less of a chore. 

The Importance of Ongoing Downsizing



I am continually downsizing. I’ve had a few life events where the downsizing was intense. The first one came after a divorce. My husband was a packrat and I was overwhelmed with stuff. When I moved out of the home, I basically only took what I needed to live. Then about 5 years ago, I remarried, and both my new husband and I had homes that while not overpacked or huge were full and of course, we had duplicates in housewares and lawn care items. We both recognize that less stuff in our homes makes for less work. So, again, I did a pretty big purge as did he.

Every year, I go through each part of my home and get rid of a bit more. I have earmarked a few things I think my children would like. I have made notes of any item that has a real monetary value, so they won’t have to guess. Recently, I have started going through family pictures and when I have both sons visiting, I go through a tub of them and ask what ones they would like to keep. Then I give the pictures to them on the spot. If they don’t want old family pictures, I now just let them go. I keep personal photographs of my trips and memories, but the boys know that when I pass, they can just get rid of them as they are my memories and not theirs.

My husband and I are also very careful about not buying what we don’t need. While I enjoy and love the items in our home, there is nothing I can think of that would devastate me if I lost it. We both like books but we keep our collection fluid. We pass on to others most of the books we buy. 

It is very freeing not to be tied down by our possessions.

I was recently forwarded a very good article by Jennifer Karami. After she helped move her grandmother into her retirement home, she wrote this for Redfin Real Estate Company.

I would love to hear about your downsizing experiences – both the wins and the struggles.

Why I Use the Zone Plan

What is the Zone Plan?

Using the Zone Plan, I divide my home into 10 zones. Each month (except for July and December) I focus on that one zone. I begin by revisiting my vision for the area. I make a list of what I want to accomplish. I schedule time on my calendar to work through the tasks. During that month I touch everything in that zone and give the area a good deep cleaning. I have a teleclass with a group that works on their own zones and projects and that gives us all accountability.

What are the benefits of using the Zone Plan?

  • At the end of the year, I have touched everything in my home. I have made a decision about every object – to keep or to cull and how to store it.
  • It keeps my home fresh. As I start work on each zone, I notice anything that I no longer love or anything that is bugging me and I develop a plan to change it. I might paint a wall or change out a picture. I might play with the lighting. By the end of the month, I am in love with that zone again.
  • No spring cleaning because I do it all year round in the zone I am working. 
  • I visit every part of my home, from attic to out of sight storage. This can give me a heads up on some problems my home might have.  Moldy boots in a spare bedroom closet? (better see where that dampness is coming from) Rodent droppings in the attic? (better call pest control) Dampness under the sink in the kitchen? (better call the plumber) None of these problems can be very old as the zone was done last year.
  • By focusing mainly on just one zone, I give myself permission to not overly concern myself with other parts of my home. If I open my linen closet and it looks a bit messy, instead of jumping right in and fixing it all now, I say “Your turn is in June,” and use my time on something else.

I love the feeling I get at the end of the month when I stand back and look at my freshly cleaned and organized zone.