To Save Time, Get in the Zone

There is a Permaculture design principle called zones. It basically says this; things you access most frequently such as annuals and herb gardens, get planted close to your house (Zone 1 or 2), and those that need less care including perennials and your food forest get planted further away (Zones 3 or 4).

This is practical time saving advice you can transfer from the garden to other areas of your life such as the kitchen, office, and storage spaces in your house.


In the kitchen begin your zone thinking by storing your everyday use items, including food, pots and pans, and utensils toward the front of your pantry, drawers, and cabinets. Eye level shelves are places to put your family favorite meal ingredients and snacks. Every day plates and cups, your favorite coffee mug, the containers for packing lunches; these all go up front. Rarely used baking items (you really have time to bake?), fancy gadgets you got as gifts, and the holiday dishes go up high and in the back. Pretty obvious, but how do we tend to arrange our cupboards? Grouping by type, rather than frequency of use. Keep the easily accessible areas for what you use most and you’ll save time both retrieving and putting these things away.


Dealing with bills and paperwork is never fun, so why not minimize the time it takes to perform these mundane but essential tasks? In the home office keep your desk, shelves, and file draw similar sorted by frequency. Not type, not alphabetical, not size or color. Write a lot of checks? Check book stays on your desk. Big on thank you notes? Keep the cards, envelopes and favorite pen close at hand.

Reference materials go on the far or low shelf, current work stays on the top. Here is another tip on filing; keep all your tabs for hanging files and folders in-line. I don’t care if it’s left, center, or right, but all the same. Don’t stagger them. It only took me 30 years to figure this out but here are the 3 advantages, which I’ll give to you in 30 seconds.

  1. If you want to add, remove, or re-order folders, you don’t have to play around with moving a bunch of tabs to keep them alternated. Left-cent-right, left-center-right, left-center-right. What a pain.
  2. You will find things faster, and not over-look folders, if you only need to scan strait back. No more moving your eyes back and forth across your files like you are watching a tennis match.
  3. You only need purchase and keep on hand one type of folder for new files, which saves money and space.

One exception to the zone rule in the office; even if you print frequently, place your printer across the room. It forces you to get up when you print, giving your body needed breaks from sitting. The health benefit is worth the time.


You probably already have this one covered, but I had to include it for completeness. Your hard to reach, out of the way storage spots are the place to keep seasonal items and memorabilia. Front hall closets are for everyday coats, umbrellas, shoes, back-packs and other items your family needs to take with them, well, every day. In-between spots are where you keep things needed once a week or less like spare light bulbs, batteries, cleaning supplies, etc. In between means somewhere between the attic and front door. Where that is exactly will vary from home to home.

The biggest trap with storage is of course storing to much. To cure this I recommend the book everyone recommends for this problem, “The Life Changing Magic of Tiding Up” by Marie Kondo. Yes the author comes across a bit OCD, but the approach works even if you don’t believe your stuff has feelings as Kondo does. My favorite tip, after how to get rid of stuff, is not to stack things. Place items vertically and you can see everything you have, and retrieve what you want, without having to move anything else out of the way.


If you’ve done this zone separation throughout your house properly, you’ll find daily tasks flow easier, you’ll misplace things less often, and you’ll save time doing the things you do every day.

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