Establishing and maintaining dedicated zones are essential to staying organized.  Here are the top 10 dedicated zones every home should have.

exit-zone_01. Out-the-door zone.  Leaving the house can be a stressful moment. “Did I remember everything I need?” Keep a small table or shelf near the door JUST for the items you need to make a point of remembering: cell phone, keys, sunglasses, library books, etc. If you clutter this area up with other items, the vital ones become easier to ignore.

2. Clear work surface.  A clear work surface is your number one organizing tool because it allows for processing, which is vital for fluid circulation. There should be at least one dedicated clear work surface in every room.

3. Donate zone. Face it.  You haven’t removed the last of your donations.  There will be more, so give them a holding area.  A shelf in the garage (near the exit vehicle) is ideal.

4. Task collector.  Tasks you must make a point of acting on, need to be collected in just one place for them to feel manageable.

incline-display5. Project corrals.  Collections of your most essential project elements go here, where they can be seen.  Only for ACTIVE projects.

6. Sitting files.  Much of the paper that piles up on our surfaces can go in a file cabinet IF we can trust that we can find it reliably.  User-friendly files make it possible.

7. Laundry hamper.  Laundry collection should be located for easy circulation.  It’s better near the bed than behind a closet door, across the room.  A simple division between dark and white makes it ready for the next stage.  A habit of clean-when-full keeps it manageable.

8. Reference shelf(ves).  Regular reference should be on a nearby shelf.  Loose reference is best in binders, not too wide.  Don’t file reference and don’t waste shelf space binding files.reference-shelf

9. Recycling zone.  Given how often we need to recycle, it should be super convenient.  This usually requires two stages: a smaller collector in the kitchen and a larger one outside.

10. Sleeping files.  Recognizing that you are keeping a lot of files “just in case” can free up a significant amount of space in your file cabinet for sitting files.  Dedicate a zone in more remote location, like a basement or attic, to sleeping files.

Because, who would read a “Top 13” list?

Gifts to give.  It’s a great idea to purchase the ideal gifts when you see them, but are you always able to remember and find them when the appropriate occasion rolls around to give them? Keep just one dedicated box, drawer, or shelf to find what you want, when you want it AND to avoid excess purchases!

Reading area. Keep a dedicated reading area where you find yourself actually reading, not where you feel you SHOULD be reading.

Keepsakes.  We’ve all got ‘em and they’re usually all over.  Seeing all your keepsakes together, helps you prioritize them and keep an appropriate quantity, that you will value more.

Keeping effective dedicated zones requires that you FIRST sort all common items and purge the excess.  When you assign a dedicated zone be sure you are leaving a generous room for growth, but be vigilant that when you hit that limit, that you recognize it’s time for the things that don’t fit to go.  Otherwise, the overflow will affect your OTHER dedicated zones and disorganization takes root.