21 Sep Zone It!
Whether you live in an apartment or home, it is worthwhile to make your space work for you, rather than you working all day on your space. Many young families are so busy they do not take the time to think about this. I encourage you to zone your home to meet your needs, now and in the future. Here are some ideas. Take what suits your fancy. Adapt, adjust, create and enjoy. Life is worth living and you need to make your house work for you. Zone it and see the difference.
- Teach your kids that common living areas (kitchen, living room, dining room, family room) are for fun, entertainment, family, and friends. Here is where you keep your computer, TV, stereo, etc. along with all the things that go with it. This is the space allocated to family, friends, and guests. Teach your kids this from the time they are young. You thereby ensure the integrity of action, maximize enjoyment and can easily provide supervision. In our house, we teach that the living room is for quiet activities like discussion, reading, TV and playing cards. We keep our library books in nice wicker baskets in the living room and we try our best to keep them in that room. Our kids know that pillow fights, horseplay, toys and active play are for the basement family room where we provide second-hand furniture and space to romp.
- Ideally, decide on one major spot where you want all the toys to be – either a well-lit basement, corner of your living room, or in the family room. Try to contain them to a clearly defined area so that you are not constantly picking up toys all over the house. Insist on this and organize your space accordingly. Try not to have toys everywhere. You are not a gorilla who has to constantly pick toys up all around the house. Zone it. Have enough stackable containers to hold the toys. Keep many on shelves, in closets etc. to minimize clutter. See Toys, Toys,Toys!!! for some ideas.
- Zone appropriate activities for the kitchen. Definitely eating. Try to have meals around the table with no TV, personal computers, iPads or other distractions invading your eating rituals. Teach kids to eat only in the kitchen and dining room if you have one. You don’t want to encourage them to wander off with food, spreading foul odors, spills, and garbage. Teach them food begins and ends in the kitchen and you will save yourself lots of unnecessary housework.As well, you may want to zone your kitchen as the place for arts and crafts, homework, play dough, puzzles, board games, paints etc. This allows you to provide supervision, control, and proper work surfaces for such activities. You will need to allocate storage space accordingly, whether in bins, baskets, cupboards, drawers or closets for these materials. Again, zone the activities for the kitchen only so they are not traveling around the house, causing you more housework.
- Bedrooms are for beds. They are places of rest and slumber, not activity. Keep toys out and if necessary, to a bare minimum. They are private areas, not for common use or for entertaining. You want to keep entertainment systems (TV, computer, phone, stereo etc.) out of the bedroom. Those activities are meant for common rooms, places designated for the entertainment of family and friends. The bedroom is for sleeping. You can provide a night light when they become avid readers, but keep the rest out. Your aim is to draw people together into family areas, not to create a hotel environment. Starting this young and sticking to it as they get older helps you bypass a lot of problems that teenagers can present, especially when friends come over.
- Make them see bathrooms as private space, not to be shared with others unless you are all brushing your hair. Kids have to respect other’s privacy, ie. knock before entering, lock doors and wait their turn. When bathrooms are scarce, save time by putting toothbrushes by the kitchen sink. Maybe ensure well-lit mirrors for make-up application elsewhere to decrease bathroom time. Teach kids moderation. Establish timelines for baths and showers to respect others and use resources sparingly.
- Help them understand the proper use of entrance ways – to remove shoes, hang outdoor wear, maintain order etc. This is hard for all families. Use baskets, bins, hooks, closet rods, hanging organizers etc. to reduce the clutter and make effective use of space.
- If you have a garage or outdoor shed, use it efficiently to store all that needs to be found there. Hang some items, put others in bins, stack others. Again, make good use of all space. Get rid of clutter. You want to be able to find things quickly and easily.
- Have clearly defined places in which you store important papers, storage boxes, sports equipment, seasonal items etc. so that it can be easily found. Get a handle on clutter every opportunity you get. Divide and conquer it so that you have a tidy home. Schofield’s book offers tons of great examples in this area. I recommend it highly. Certainly, kids are kids and things wander. Try to have items in their zones as much as possible. In various locations around your home have decorative baskets/shelves/paper trays etc. in which you place odds and ends temporarily until you can put them where they belong. For example, I have a basket on my living room piano. In the mornings I may find hair clips, an action figure, a straggling toy nearby. These baskets make it really handy to do a quick tidy before guests appear, without having to run around the whole house putting things away.
- It contradicts the “zone” theory a bit – but I found with my teenagers – that it worked to provide every kid with large sturdy hooks in their bedrooms (or just outside their bedroom door – if the hallway allows for that) for winter coats. Something out in the open that allows them to dry out if wet from snow. Our entry is ridiculously small- and when 8 plus coats had to be hung up- they always fell down into boot slush – because of rushed carelessness. I started asking every teenager/young adult to keep their coats in their bedrooms. It has worked well. They are usually interested in keeping their things in good shape – because they are paying for their coats- or own coats that have a certain cool factor. It declutters the entry, and the coats are handy in their rooms as they collect knapsack for work or school. It also minimizes the soggy/lost mitt and hat syndrome. Reduces searches since their accessories are usually with them as they approach the door. Chris