Organize Using the Zone Plan

I keep my home organized by using a zone plan. I divide up my house into 10 zones. Each month I work on one area except for July and December. By the end of the year I have touched everything in my home and decided if it is still important and if it is still stored in a logical place.

January, I worked in my office zone. 
In February I work in my spare bedroom. My spare bedroom has a closet that stores office/business items I need but rarely use and some archival files. When I work in my office zone in January, I purge items that I need to keep but don’t want in my office. These get dumped in the spare bedroom. by the end of January my spare bedroom is a mess with items stacked on top of the dresser or dumped on the bed.

It is very common when doing a big organizing session to have things that you want to keep but would best be stored elsewhere. This leaves extra clutter in other areas as you clean out and organize one zone. This is not a problem if you then move on and organize the space that has gotten messy due to the last project.

The closet in the spare bedroom is full before I start to work in this zone. The first step then is to reorganize and clear out the closet. As I pull out items, I decide if they still serve me. I may substitute items I had previously kept for a better version of the same thing. I purged some nice green notebooks from a shelf in my office zone. I donated some miscellaneous notebooks that had been stored in the closet and replaced them with the green ones. I clear out items that I have not used in the past couple of years as my style of presentations has changed. I pull and shred some client folders from my archival crate in the closet to make room for ones from my office that are not active now, but I feel might connect again at some point in time. I consolidate some office supplies, donating some of the excess. Then I wipe down the shelves, wipe the wall, and clean the floor. I put everything backs including the items that had gotten dumped in this space.

To finish the spare bedroom, I reorganize the dresser which holds off season clothing, gifts, holiday cards, and some memorabilia. Then all that is left is to deep clean the room.

By the end of the month, I have completed this zone and will move on to the next one. All this room will need until next February is weekly cleaning maintenance.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Tips on Organizing Your Attic or Basement Zone

November is a great time to organize and clean out your attic or basement zone. It is not as hot or yet too cold for comfort. it is also a zone where many of us store our holiday decorations.

As you prepare to work in this zone, make a list of all the items you store there. The list might include:

  • Seasonal decorations
  • Seasonal house items like fans or heaters
  • Extra household items you are not currently using but want to keep
  • Toys or items to pass on to family or friends
  • Out of season clothing or sports equipment
  • Suitcases
  • Archival papers
Plan where each category will be housed. Items you do not plan to use in the next year are best stored furthest from the entry. This might include the extra items you are not now using and some of the  archival papers.
Attack the attic or basement zone by zone. Remove everything from the one zone you are working on and sweep down the area and look for any structural damage or infestations. As you place items back into their area, if you come across broken, unloved items, or multiple items (how many suitcases do you really use?) that have been hanging around for years, now is the time to let them go. You will feel much lighter when they are gone. You will have more room to move around and when this zone rolls around again next year, it will be a much easier task.
Leave space between each zone so you can safely maneuver to retrieve or store items.
Label all containers. Use large labels that 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 primary items. This keeps you from having to dig through multiple boxes to find the advent wreath or crèche you want to use early in the season. Your organized attic or basement will make decorating and in-decorating a much easier chore.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organize Your Laundry Zone

Once a year I really spend time organizing and decluttering my laundry zone. In the past I have found that in August many people return from vacations and the laundry zone gets out of control with backed up piles of laundry. Kids are getting ready to start back to school and have school and sports clothing that need washing. Now is the time to make the laundry zone orderly and efficient.

Laundry zones can be large (a big area in the basement) or small (fold-out doors covering a washer/dryer combo in a closet size area) or somewhere in-between. Depending on the size of the laundry zone this area may have other functions besides doing the wash. If there is room, it makes sense to store ironing supplies in this location. My area is large enough to store pet supplies, recycling bins, cleaning supplies, and some over sized or underused party supplies. All that works for me.

The first step in organizing this zone is to develop your vision. How do you want to use this area? How do you want it to look? How do you want to feel when you are in this zone? Get rid of anything that is now in that zone that does not support the vision. Because my zone is roomy and near the back entry, it is easy to just drop something in there “just for now” because I don’t want to take time to put the item where it really belongs. Now is the time to gather up all those items and get them out of this zone.

Cleaning and laundry products can multiply in this space. Products that sounded so promising (will get rid of any stain) or “green” (got rid of no stains) or products that just have a nasty chemical smell or items that got shoved way in the back of the shelf or cupboard that you for got about and then bought another bottle of the little used product are now all taking up precious space and adding to the clutter. Get rid of all of these items and take the ones that are left and group them according to function.

One of my goals in the laundry zone is to keep the laundry moving. I don’t want to walk over mounds of laundry. Only bring to the zone the laundry you intend to wash that day. The rest stays in the dirty clothes hampers until you plan on washing them. Get the clothes from the washer to dryer or drying rack as quickly as possible. As soon as clothes are dry, get them back to their “home”. Having a different colored basket for each member of the family is helpful. As you pull clothes out of the dryer, put them into the correct basket and take them to the proper room. Have family members put the items 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 should not have your Christmas table cloth in the ironing bin in August.

Keeping up with the laundry is less of a chore with a well organized space and a plan for keeping on top of the mountain of laundry. It helps to have designated times schedule to do laundry instead of waiting until an item is needed (Mom, where are my soccer shorts?). An added bonus is that having a well organized laundry space makes it easier for family members to participate in doing laundry.

See picture of one of my family helping out.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Closet Redo for Spring

I hope warm weather is finally here to stay and that it is safe to swap out winter clothes for spring and summer clothes. If you are lucky, you may have a second closet in a guest room to use for the swap. If you are in a smaller home or your closets are already fully used, then consider under the bed storage containers or plastic bins at the back or top of the closet, or some drawers in a spare bedroom for storing some of the winter items. Then you can reposition your spring/summer clothes for easy access.

As you remove winter items, look carefully at each piece. Is it clean? Is it in good repair? Does it still fit? Do you feel good when you wear it? In fact, did you even wear it last season?

If it is clean and in good repair but no longer fits or you no longer love it, donate it to a charity. If it is torn or stained, throw it away. If it needs a good cleaning or some repair and you still love it, take care of it now before you put it away for the season.

Now, pull out your spring/summer clothes and hang them in the closet front and center. Again, give them a good look over. Is there a spot that won’t come out? Is it dated? Was it a bad purchase that you spent a lot of money on but hate to wear? Toss or give away all those items that you don’t love to wear.

Seasons go by and we find that certain items of clothing just languish in our closets, neglected and unworn. We may not even be aware of it. We may have 5 black tops but in reality only really wear 3 of them. A trick I have learned is to hang your new season clothes in the closet with the hanger facing the wrong way. The first time you wear the item, turn the hanger around so that it is hanging correctly. At the end of the season, really look at the clothes in the closet that still have the hangers facing the wrong way. Ask yourself why you didn’t wear those items. It might be that it is a really special occasion outfit and that occasion didn’t happen this past season. But it also might be that you have other items that you prefer to wear. Let go of all items that you do not need or love. Let the remaining ones have room to breathe. You will find it much easier to assemble your outfits if you don’t have to dig through all those unloved pieces.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Minimalizing Kitchen “Stuff”

Every time I work in my kitchen zone I try to reduce the amount of cooking “stuff” I own. Everyone has certain gadgets that they love and use frequently but sometimes we just hold on to things because they were expensive, or we used them more frequently at one time in our lives, or just because we think we might want to use them one day.

Take my food processer – please! That food processer with its gadgets (several of which have never been used), takes up almost a whole shelf in one of my cupboards. I maybe use it once a year. It’s cumbersome to set up. The main container has a small crack. It’s hard to clean. A good knife works as well as anything for chopping. A good mixer or immersion blender will take care of about anything else I would want to do.

Many kitchen gadgets that promise to make food prep easier or more gourmet like just end up in the back of the kitchen drawer or back of the cupboard. I find it better to use basic tools that can do multiple things than to have multiple things that can only do one thing. Some good quality knives are important to me, but do I need a whole fancy set with matching handles? I tend to use 3 or 4 over and over while the others just get neglected.

My cast iron Dutch oven with lid and my cast iron skillets ( two sizes) get used weekly. I have a few other skillets that do get used fairly often. But I have way too many sauce pans. I have a huge mixing bowl that I used to use every year to make big batches of fruitcake. I have not made fruitcake for at least 10 years. I guess I have been holding on to it because I just “might make it again someday.” Who am I kidding?

As I organize my kitchen this year, I am seriously paying attention to how I am really cooking now and getting rid of some of this unneeded “stuff”. I feel that the open spaces will make finding what I do use easier to locate and that kitchen maintenance will be more streamlined.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Tips for Organizing CDs and DVDs

Seriously, I thought by now CDs and DVDs would have gone the way of the old VHS tapes and cassettes. I know a lot of teens do stream music, listen to their music on YouTube with videos, and “bump” music from iPhone to iPhone. Movies are watched from the computer or Netflix. But, I can tell from my clients’ homes (and my own), there are still tons of CDs and DVDs out there.

We have quite a few of both at my home but it seems we rarely listen to them or watch the movies. We are much more likely to listen to music streamed from u-verse. Still, I think a lot of the music and movies hold fond memories and hence the reluctance to let them go. Also, all family members need to agree or have their say on what goes when purging.

I see in clients’ homes that the CDs especially are scattered everywhere. You find them in the family room, the office, bedroom, kitchen, and even in the car. So, the first organizing step is to gather them all up in one location. Often you will find that you have some duplicates.

Now, divide by category. This can be done several different ways and you chose the one that makes the most sense to you. You can divide by genre, performer, director, year, children/adult, or season.

Cull out the duplicates and the ones that no longer speak to you.

Decide on what you will use to contain them. I like to really limit my collection so I keep them in their cases and put then in wooden or plastic containers in my entertainment center. If you have a large number, you will probably want to use binders. Purchase a binder that works best for you. Some will hold not only the CD or DVD but also covers or title notes. Slip in the in the discs according to the category. Leave some empty sleeves in each category for new purchases.

Label the binders and also the sleeve of the CD or DVD if it is not obvious and you have not kept the covers.

Decide where you will house these containers. You may have more than one home but it should make sense. Children’s music and movies may be stored in a different area than the rest of the family’s. Seasonal items may be stored away and brought out for that season. Do what makes sense but do have a home for each container. I also like to use the container system to tell me when I have too many of an object. If there are more items than space to store them, it is definitely time to go back and ask yourself what ones can now go and be enjoyed by other people.

If you have a large number of CDs and DVDs you will probably want to make a spreadsheet to inventory your media on your computer. Some of the columns might include title, genre, performer/director, or even the year. A plus of doing this spreadsheet is that it can be kept on your smartphone or on line and when you are out shopping, you can check to see what you already own.

Now, reward yourself by pouring your favorite beverage and listening to your favorite music or watching a favorite movie.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Card Clutter

Valentine’s Day has just past. The two cards I received this year are still up on the shelf in the kitchen where I can enjoy them every day. Depending on where you are in your life, you may receive just a few cards or a ton.

If you have small children, they may make you cards. If you are a teacher, you will receive cards from your students. You might have a secret pal give you a card at work. Special friends might send you fun cards. A very special someone in your life may give you a card with a lovely note inside.


Now, let’s think of 60+ years of receiving cards. What if you kept every card? Wow! You would have boxes and boxes of cards. You might have an old dresser filled with cards. Overwhelming!

But you say, “My children made these cards for me. My friends put a lot of thought into these cards. I love the reminders that people care for me”.

This is a very personal decision, but I am pretty sure you don’t want to dedicate a whole room just for storing cards.

Consider these options:

  1. Chose the most special – like the year your son wrote his own special poem in a card or your mother wrote you a special note. Then box these cards up in a lovely box and label it. Put the box on a shelf and revisit the box once a year.
  2. Spread out your favorite cards and take a picture of them. Then let the cards go.
  3. Make a collage of the best cards for each holiday and bring out this collage for decoration on the appropriate season.
  4. Pass on old cards to schools or nursing homes so they can re-purpose them in projects.

Remember that if you toss out a card that your mother or child gave you 25 years ago, you are not tossing out the person or your love for that person. So by all means keep a few very special cards, but not all.

Letting go of the masses of old cards will clear up space for more happy memories to come your way.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Pantry Organization

This time of year is great for organizing the pantry. It gives you a chance to organize your food items to see what is on hand for the increased amount of cooking that comes with the holidays. The purging of unneeded items as well as organizing what you are keeping will open up space for the extra items you bring in for special holiday dishes.

It doesn’t matter if you have a very small pantry of only a few shelves or a large walk-in pantry, after a year things will have gotten out of order and need organization.

Organize your pantry like a grocery store. Have all pastas and grains in one area. Put all canned goods in another area, separating vegetables, fruit, soups, etc. If you have more than one can of green beans or tomato soup, put the newer cans behind the older cans so that you rotate your food and use up the older cans first. While going through the process or organizing the cans and condiments, take a look at expiration or “best used by” dates. Discard cans that are past their expiration date and donate cans of items you bought some time ago but have no plan of using soon. This will open up your shelves for holiday shopping.

Think before you stock up on large quantities on a sale. Will you really use all those cans before they expire? Do you have space to store the cans in a usable manner? Are you saving enough money or time shopping by buying in bulk to make up for the inconvenience of cramming your shelves or having to look elsewhere to store the extras? Next year will you find 10 cans of pumpkin in your basement along with the 20 rolls of paper towels?

Once organized, you will be surprised at  how much space you now have for your holiday food shopping.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Zone Plan – Workshop/Garage Zone

I choose to work in the workshop/garage zone during September. The weather has begun to cool down. Summer equipment is ready to clean and store. Fall yard equipment needs to be accessible.

Storage areas can get pretty messy and unorganized in a year. They are not in your main living area and therefore not so visible. It is so easy just to walk in and dump items “just for now.”

I actually have two areas to tackle. One is a small room off the carport that also holds the hot water heater. The other is our shed house behind our home. Whatever your zones are, you should start with deciding the purpose of the area. In your zone, do you plan to:

  1. Park your car
  2. Store your trash cans/recycling
  3. Store gardening tools and accessories
  4. Have a potting area
  5. Have a workbench for projects and a place to hold tools
  6. Store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  7. Store outdoor entertainment supplies

Once you deicide how you will use these storage areas,  bring everything outside. If this is a large or much filled area, do it by sections. Sort like with like. Put aside items that are broken or have not been used in the past year. If an item is broken, decide if you need to replace it or just trash it. If you have items that are duplicates or that you no longer use, donate them. Tool banks can make good use of your extra items. ( ) Get rid of expired seeds, old chemicals, and paints.

Knock down cobwebs and sweep the floor of the area you have emptied. Now decide where each zone should go. If you are working in your garage and plan to park your car, pull the car in now and mark off the space with tape. Allow plenty of room for the car doors to open.

You want to place items that you regularly access near entrances. As you are grouping your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items that are rattling about. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves; a flat basket can hold gardening tools. Maximize your wall space. Utilize shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers as you are sure to want something that is in the bottom container. Label the containers.

You’ll be amazed at how much more room you have now that you have discarded some items and bunched together and stored away the rest. Now reward yourself. A hot shower and a cool drink on the deck my be just the thing.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Last Day of School

The last day of school is almost here! The children are soooo ready for this final  day (not to mention the teachers). On the last day, you just know they are going to run home, dump their school stuff in a corner, and run off to play.

OK, so give them one day. But that pile in the corner has to be handled and throwing it into a closet is not the answer. Those stacks of old school papers, that whiffy backpack, old supplies,  and the end of year mementos have got to be dealt with before summer can really begin.

  • Clear a space – maybe put down newspaper and keep dogs and cats clear for their own safety.
  • Pull out the top layers and then turn the backpack upside down and dump the contents on the floor. Shake it a few times so that what is stuck to the bottom with old gum and candy also falls out.
  • Do a sort. Smelly clothes and sneakers go to the laundry. Tattered papers and candy wrappers go to the trash. End of year awards can be salvaged and filed or put into memorabilia boxes. Check out old crayons, pencils, and other school supplies and see if they are usable for summer art or are in such bad shape they need to be trashed.
  • If anything in the pile moves or tries to crawl away – step on it.
  • Decide if the bag is going to be used again or is now also ready for the trash (broken zippers, tears, straps broken).
  • Put everything that is saved away and everything that is no longer usable put into trash or recycle bin.

Now, enjoy the summer!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer