Zone Cleaning: 3 Weeks In


After three weeks of trying the Zone Cleaning method, I am getting the kids more involved now, mostly by not allowing this to be an optional activity. Now I tell them in the morning what the zone of the day is, and let them pick one or two items from the checklist to complete. Not every item on the checklist is equal (they seem to prefer cleaning baseboards and cabinet doors to scrubbing toilets, for instance), so there is incentive to get to the list early and have your pick.

I then can fill in the rest and do the chores they didn’t do for that zone. This way I really am getting them to participate more (I’m not going to say “Help”, because they live here too and it is not “helping me” …. it is doing their part). Our house is cleaner, and we’ve given some TLC to corners of the house that are too easily neglected.

There is one wrinkle that I wasn’t expecting, however. I set up 6 zones, thinking we could do a zone per day and take Sunday off. But there are days where we aren’t home, or are sick, or just simply can’t get to our cleaning. So we don’t get through the whole rotation each week, and consequently the zones aren’t cleaned every week. For some zones, that’s not a big deal, but for others, such as the bathrooms and kitchen, if it’s been too long since they got the full service they will need a quick touch up visit.

I’m considering a hybrid system …. are there chores that should be assigned always to days that I know I have more time at home and then we also use the zone wheel? What if my day off each week I made sure to clean the bathrooms and kitchen, and when that zone came around on the wheel it would just get extra attention?

Always room for improvement in the life management. 🙂


Finishing …

Why is it easier to start a project than it is to finish? Or am I the only one who gets tired of plugging away at something and tends to just say “good enough” and leave it?

I’ve had a week home alone while my husband and kids were away, and these breaks from mom duty are great times to get projects done. But this time, I didn’t start anything … instead I tied up some loose ends.

Those three drawers in the kitchen that I didn’t get around to painting when I did the rest of it?



The Valentines Day apron I cut out in January and then never sewed?



Now I feel okay about starting a new project ….

Zone Cleaning: One Week In


I’ve gone through one complete cycle now with the new Zone cleaning system, which feels like enough to make some initial observations.

Observation One: If I was hoping this system would inspire the rest of my family to clean more, that doesn’t seem to be working out for me. There is only one set of initials other than mine on the whole chart so far.

Observation Two: The zone can’t be the only thing I clean each day. There are daily tasks and “hot spots” that need to be dealt with constantly and can’t patiently wait their turn for my attention.

Observation Three: Some of my itemized cleaning check lists aren’t quite right yet, and they need some tweaking. But that’s no big deal, and I’ll have the list sorted after a few more rounds, I’m sure.

Observation Four: The house is going to be So Much Cleaner if I keep up with this system! This encourages me to clean the places and corners that don’t jump out and demand daily attention, and the record keeping is going to show me how long it has been since that task was last done.


Final tally: I’m going to keep up with this system, and I’ll have a cleaner house for it, and unfortunately it’s more work for me. But it doesn’t meet the original goal (at least not so far) of getting more help around the house. It may be making the tasks more accessible and the process more transparent, but that alone hasn’t magically created buy in on cleaning. However, I still like this organizational scheme, so let’s see where it goes!

Inviting My Family to Help More: Two Ideas

I am caught in a sort of a trap: I have higher standards for cleanliness and tidiness than the people I live with, and I’m exhausted from trying to take care of everything and everyone all the time.

So how do I reconcile this? I can’t live with mess and disorder past a certain point, so I’m the canary in our personal coal mine … I’m going to be the first to get upset and show signs of distress if our environment gets out of control.

But, naturally, my greater sense of distress over the mess means I put more effort into taking care of the mess … and that leads to me putting more effort into our home and cleaning up after other people.

I’m tired. I need help. But I hate yelling, nagging, reminding, and otherwise trying to force the people I love into helping more or living up to standards they don’t agree with. So what to do?

I’m trying two different new ideas for inviting more help: paying for work and Zonal Cleaning.

  1. Paying for work – there’s a controversial idea! I give my kids an allowance, I’ve always said we should pitch in because its our shared home, not because we’re being paid to do so … and yet. And yet, my kids have a need for money (especially if I’m firm on budgets and not buying them everything they want) and aren’t really old enough to get jobs outside the house. And some jobs really do seem like “extras”. So, what if I did pay them to do those jobs? How would that change the dynamic around here? Would it “spoil” them?
  2. Zonal Cleaning – an idea from Flylady, adapted many times. Essentially, here is a system for dividing your house into different zones and cycling through them systematically. This system insures that the forgotten or less visited areas still get some attention, while also allowing that you don’t have to do the whole job all at once, everyday.


Will this “make” my family help me more? No.

Will this help me organize my own time to better keep up with the housecleaning? Yes.

Could this possibly create easy and accessible invitations and opportunities so my family can easily find ways to plug in and help more, if they so choose? Gosh, I hope so. More to come!

Carbon Off-sets and Eco-Piety

I had to fly across the country for work last month. Calculating the environmental impact of that flight, it was 5000 miles round trip and I would be responsible for 2.28 tonnes of CO2. (

If I had been able to drive myself for this trip, it would have been half the CO2 (driving my Toyota Prius). The train or bus would have also had a lower emission impact. But there wasn’t time to make this trip happen for me with any of the slower forms of transportation, and skipping the trip wasn’t an option.

Of course, the most eco-responsible thing for me to do would be to not travel at all. But, currently, my work situation doesn’t allow for that choice. I can reduce my travel, but not eliminate it.

So what’s a concerned gal to do?

I purchased “Carbon Off-Sets” through TerraPass, whose motto is “Restore the Balance”. My money will go to green-energy projects that seek to fight climate change.

Problem solved?


I’m far from convinced that this will actually do any good, and the big fact remains that if I would have made an investment in green technology and skipped the trip it would have been even better.

As the minister I work with said, the whole thing smacks of buying indulgences. Can we really “sin” and then just pay someone to absolve us of it?

I have no solutions, but I want to know that at least I tried. At least I tried.

My fleece dilemma


I have a fuzzy problem, and it has to do with some of my most beloved “performance” outdoor clothing. Like many Pacific Northwest and environmentalist folks, I was happy with the idea that my fleece clothing was made from recycled plastics … what a great way to divert something from the waste stream. And it’s a great fabric … easy to work with for home sewing, durable, doesn’t ravel or run if you get a small hole in it, the moths don’t eat it in the closet, and it stays thermal even when wet so it’s good for outdoor use.

But it turns out to have a dirty secret, which I’ve been aware of for the last couple years … every time you wash these artificial fabrics micro plastics are released into the water and end up in our ecosystem … something that just can’t be good for our seas and oceans.

Since I became aware, I have avoided purchasing any more fleece fabric or clothing, but then I realized the problem is not limited to fleece but includes pretty much all artificial fibers in clothing, to different extents.

OK, so I should only buy natural fabrics. Turns out to be easier said than done. I’ve been looking for a wool vest for skiing for my son for years now, but each one I find is lined in fleece. In fact, I simply can’t find snow and ski gear for my family that isn’t made out of artificial materials.

According to Patagonia (who says they are working on researching solutions to this problem) there are a few things I can do:

  • Only buy what I need, and use it for as long as possible.
  • Wash performance clothing and gear as little as possible.
  • Use a filter of some kind (I’ve ordered the guppyfriend bag from Patagonia)

OK. I can wear stuff until it is standing up on its own and sending chemical messages with its odors. I can wash it in the guppyfriend bag and then scrape the microfibers into the trash instead of letting them go into the water system.

And I think this issue needs a systematic fix. People of goodwill, taking individual action, can’t solve this by themselves. So I really hope some bigger fixes can be found!

Managing the Food Stores


In the last week I’ve reorganized and defrosted the freezers and used up the very last of the non-canned or frozen food from last year’s garden harvest (the garlic was the last to go). In the process, I found food that needs to be eaten and prepared healthy, tasty, and convenient food to get my family through all the busy evenings of this month.

This is what I’ve discovered over time: managing the storage, planning, and cooking of food is at the very heart of a sustainable and resilient lifestyle. Again, it does no good for me to grow veg and raise meat if it doesn’t actually end up in our bellies.

Now we are getting real about our budget as well, and a thrifty and dollar-wise life points me in the same direction that my sustainability drive was pointing me: into the kitchen.

Food may not be the biggest impact on either environmental footprint or pocketbook bottom line (housing, transportation, medical, and more impact both) but food is a place I can make a difference through my daily choices. What I grow, what I buy, where I buy, what we eat, where we eat – all of it has an impact.

Feeding my family takes a great deal of my attention, energy, and time. But the rewards are great: healthy growing teens, health impacts for the adults too, money saved, the knowledge that the animals who die for us lived humane lives, lower environmental impacts, the joy of gardening and messing with dirt, and resiliency!