Zone Defense: A Game Plan for Organizing Your Home

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Clutter and disorder can be paralyzing. And despite all the books and videos to help you get it together, sometimes you just need a game plan — and to know you’re not alone in zone defense.

Zone Defense graphic.

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OK, team, here we go. We are facing Clutter and Disorder this year. Those are tough teams to beat. But, you can do this.

We’ve gotta be tough. We gotta be vigilant. We gotta win. So, no shortcuts, no mamby-pambies. We’re going to work hard. And we are gonna do what we set out to do!

By now, my entire family is laughing uproariously because I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. I’ve never played an individual sport, let alone a team sport.

But, I do love a good metaphor.

The Pre-Game Pep Talk

Clutter and Disorder are tough to beat. It does take hard work and perseverance. And this series is a game plan designed to help you make sense of the space in which you live, and to make it suit you. You will get your mind and your house in shape and fit for the lifestyle that your family lives.

They say that it’s the people that make a house a home. It’s so true. And yet, it’s also the people — and their accompanying activities — that can make that house one big disorganized mess.

But it doesn’t have to be so. In fact, we can organize, and in some respects, redesign our homes to fit us and what we love to do. So, this project isn’t just about cleaning your home, it’s about organizing your homeLIFE.

Zone Defense: An Introduction

And zone defense is a great way to look at this process. Rather than go through the motions of isolated cleaning tasks, we’re going to focus on one zone of home/life at a time.

Dividing the average home into 12 areas or “zones,” we’ll be addressing a different zone and its accompanying activities each month. We’ll go on a yearlong journey toward making our homes more of what we want them to be: places perfectly designed for the things and people we love.

We’ll be looking at these 12 zones of life over the course of the year:

1. The Playing Field

2. Your Personal Space

3. The Kitchen

4. Clothes and Textiles

5. Living Spaces/Entertainment

6. Transportation and Travel

7. Kids’ Stuff

8. Bathrooms

9. Emergency Preparedness

10. The Great Outdoors

11. Office and Paper

  • Sorting Paper Clutter
  • What Papers Should You Keep?
  • Organizing Paper Files
  • What to Look for in Online Storage

12. Deep Storage

This month, we’ll be talking about The Playing Field, your home in general. We’ll take inventory of trouble spots as well as create a vision for what we want life to be like — at home.

I would love to have you join me. This isn’t just about training, blood, sweat, and tears — and stinky sweat socks. It’s a game. And hopefully, it will be fun — or at least rewarding. And it will, Lord willing, be a great journey for us to take in this new year.

Don’t miss out! There will be some freebies along the way. Be sure not to miss them! Subscribe to my RSS feed or receive free updates via email. You can also follow along on Facebook or on twitter.

(Plus, there might be some sweepstakes along the way, so that’s cool.)

Ready to join the team?

Even my mom is doing it, so I’m sure you’ll want to, too.
Leave a comment, saying hey. Let us know you’re in the game.

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  1. I’m so in! Ready to tackle the clutter! We are a family of 4. We just moved into a small 3 bedroom, so the timing is perfect for me.

  2. i literally am right now where you were a few year ago. i’ve been so overwhelmed lately and I googled ‘organize my homeschool day’ (re: life!) and got here! My name is Jessica and i have 6 children who are 12,10,8,6,4,& 2. It gave me such hope to see ‘myself’ as i could be. I’m just now seeing this, but it’s still February, so i’m diving in! Thanks Jessica!

    1. I’m so glad you found me! Thanks, Google! Yes, there are peeks and valleys. ENJOY this time with your kiddos. I wish I had enjoyed that stage more than I did. Working on trying to enjoy this stage while I’m here. I’ll be doing a Zone Defense update on Personal Space later this week, so you are just in time!

  3. What are your solutions for inherited keepsakes? (for instance: photo albums) Antiques?
    When I try to organize, I seem to get over-organized; creating a search & find (now where is that?).

    1. I think the key is not to get distracted. I’ve read that the keepsakes should be left for last, so until the rest of the house is in order, I’d corral them in one place. The sentimental slows us down.

      Now sure what you mean by “search and find”….

  4. All in here! With two littles and homeschooling my kindergartener this fall, I really need this! Omaha! Hut, hut, hike! Let’s do this!!! 🙂

  5. I know I’m a couple years behind, but I like your writing style and would love to do this on my own. Where can I get the ‘assignments?’

  6. I really need to do this. When the new cable guy comes out, I want the house to be in order. I don’t want to have to hide boxes of stuff in a room that I know he wont to into.
    I’m in.

  7. I’m in! I need to seriously reorganize my home and, therefore, life. Three kids, a job, a busy husband, and no decorating or organizing skills of my own (plus a lot of clutter!!) have left my home a shambles.

  8. I’m in! I work from home as a childminder as well as my own to kids and apet dog and you would think being at home it would be spick and span! Not so..I will, I must be organised this year!!

  9. Love the way this plan is structured and addresses all aspects of personal/home organization. I’m in!

    Thank you!
    Evelyn Sullivan

  10. I REALLY want this year to be the start of separating myself from the habits I lived in & continued as an adult.

  11. Count me in – we literally just moved into a new home in a new area. So I definitely need to work on getting everything unpacked and organized – especially since we start homeschool the day after Labor Day.

  12. I just found this blog, and I am so inspired!!! I have had the mindset ALL year long to get my whole house decluttered and organized… and it is now August, and I am sad to say, I haven’t done very well this year at all. To make matters harder for myself and my family, we are rapidly approaching our moving date(as in somewhere between middle of January and February) we will be making a HUGE transition, not just another move… but we are leaving the military(brand new to me!!). So, between the major goal of decluttering and organizing our house, and the upcoming move, I really need all the focus I can find 🙂 Thank you very much for your inspiration, your helpful ideas, and a gameplan!!!! I know I am awfully late in the game, but can I play, too????? 🙂 Any suggestions on how to take your year long journey and try to get it knocked out in about 4-5 months??? I would really appreciate the pointers. Thanks again for a very inspiring blog!!!

  13. Im late but in now! Books are a huge issue here! Looking forward to tackling them as soon as I kick this poison ivy!

  14. After moving in last fall to our house I quickly noticed the clutter hitched a ride with our other stuff. After some surface level decluttering I find it is not nearly enough to help me get my place clean, organized, livable and get-at-able. Also coming from at least 3 generations of pack-rats and being a 2nd generation teacher (now at home with all that stuff being stored in my home as well), and looking to homeschool soon- I desperately need to get this place whipped into shape! Thanks for leading the charge! I’m I’m it to win it!

  15. Just found your blog now, and I could do with organising the house so that it is easy to maintain…. and then do the maintenance work. So I’m in too. 🙂

    1. I post a task every week. You can go to the links in this post and see the ones that we covered this month so far. You can jump in now and then go back to the ones you missed when you have time.

  16. I did my entire home/life in 2011 and it was SO refreshing. Blogged about it the entire way, which helped with accountability, and now that I have just moved, I am seeing more things to go back through in this transition.

    But, since I had no idea that I would be moving when I started at the beginning of 2011, I must say I am SO thankful that the 7,000+ items I eliminated from my home did NOT have to get packed for this move!

    Dr. Laura

  17. I know I’m a little late getting started, but I guess it’s better to be late then to have never started! Count me in!

  18. Count me in! I am 28 and I have 2 littles under the age 4. I always need new ideas, esp being a seamstress as well 🙂 And btw, I love your schedule Ideas, I have been working on getting a schedule book together. Thanks for sharing.

  19. I want in, please. With 4 little ones there”s never an end to our clutter. Maybe with others to cheer me on I can do this.

  20. I’m late to the party as per usual but if it is still open I would love to play! 🙂 ORGANIZE ALL THE THINGS!

  21. Just found your site. I’m a bit late, but I’m definitely in! I need a year to get this tiny house decluttered and becoming a “home” rather than a storage area. Thanks!

  22. I am so in!!!! and it will take me all year. I have a very small home and a growing family of 3 boys plus hubby so the sports reference might just get them inspired to pitch in and help mom! thanks for inspiring a much needed project.

  23. Although I nearly missed the “kick off,” I’m in for this game! It fits perfectly into a couple of my 2012 Goals, and it’s nice to know I won’t be doing it alone!

  24. Oooh, me too! I am so behind on reading blogs, but since I just read your Jan 28th blog and I am SO in. This is the year for simplifying my life and belongings!

  25. Hi thanks for doing this!!!! This in my number one resolution this year and you are helping make it happen!!!! Thanks so much!!!!

  26. I’m in. I think your plan will make it easy to “tackle” the disorganization in my home! Game on!

  27. I’ve got so much Clutter and Disorder to tackle. I’m ready… let’s do it!

  28. Better late than never! I’m in! 8 of us still here. 5 moving on in July. We are trying to relocate and set up another house. I’m NOT taking any of this CR_P with me!!! I CAN do this

  29. I am also inundated with clutter and want to get organized. AND lose weight… Hmmm…

  30. I was just going to lurk but have decided to make it real and be part of the Home Team.

  31. I’m game! I’m always looking to de-clutter and this is a great game plan, although I’m a little concerned with the ‘deep storage’ in December. I might have to move that to another month where there is more time.

  32. I am trying to dig out from several years worth of “piles” in my house. It is a slow process and I am totally on board with this challenge. I’m taking it a little at a time. Thanks for doing this!

  33. This sounds good. I’m in, I need all the help I can get in getting the house organized and clean!

  34. I’m in!
    We moved into our house 3 yrs ago and have still never gotten all of it unpacked organized and “moved into”! Other circumstances such as parents with failing health and a difficult pregnancy put the home project on the back burner for long periods of time. Plus we’ve been doing work on the house – painting, refinishing floors, etc. (which creates all kinds of new chaos!). I finally began working on this last year after daughter #1 started kindergarten (daughter #2 is about to turn 1) but then put the decluttering and organizing project on hold to manage the holidays… I’m ready to get back to work! I can’t take it any more…!

  35. We’re moving in two weeks, baby #3 is due in 4 weeks…I need all the help I can get!!!

  36. I’m ready to play!! We moved into our house in November. After getting through the holiday rush, I’m now just starting to try to find the best way to organize everything in our new spaces. I think this is the push I need.

    1. I’ll be updating this post with links to all the tasks. There’s only been one real task so far. It’s never too late to join in, though.

  37. I’m totally in…and I hope I remember tomorrow and next week and the week after that I said I’m in. 🙂 Thank God for your posts emailed to my phone to remind me! Can’t wait to see my house in a year!

  38. Crazy that I had just told my hubbys last night that I was going to start working on a zone a day. LOL

    By the way… thanks so much for posting that picture of your home. I feel so normal now. Oh, and if that is NOT a picture of your home, don’t tell me. I might bulldoze in my front door. 😉

  39. This may be JUST what I need to get me going! I am the great procrastinator ya know! Alas, this is something that DOES need to be done, and I know it will make all our lives better afterwards, so I’m ready to get to work!

  40. I’m in!! Fits right in with my New Year Resolution to get my house in order this year . . . so I have more time to mess up my craft area trying all of the cool things I see on Pinterest but can’t do because I need a clean and organized space to BEGIN with!! ha ha!!

  41. With baby #3 on the way, hubby graduating seminary, moving in the near future and possibly heading to another country to do missions work… I need all the help I can get!

  42. I am so in! 4 kids! Personal goal for this year! Can’t wait to feel more organized, less cluttered, more at peace. Just joined your site within the last month- love it! 🙂

  43. Get me off the bench and get me in this game to organize my home better! Great idea! Can’t wait to play, score some points and win the battle against clutter! 🙂

  44. Jessica, reducing clutter in my home is one of my personal goals for this year. We do pretty good in most of the house with the exception of the boy’s rooms but I’m sure there is always room for improvement.

  45. I’m in. I am a young single woman just getting started in life with the purchase of my first house 3 months ago. Looking forward to what you have in store and love the blog!

  46. I am in! This is a constant battle at our house. With 6 kids still living at home ( ages from 17 to almost 2) and homeschooling to boot we have a lot going on and I often let the house keeping slide until it is driving me crazy. A fresh perspective on things and new ideas never hurt; I am looking forward to it.

  47. I’m in! My youngest is graduating from high school this year, and I need to gain control of my house again! Your game plan sounds interesting!!!

  48. Game on!

    I’ve started de-cluttering and so far this month, have removed over 200 items from my house. LOVING it! My goal is to reduce the amount of “stuff” in our house by 50% this year and begin living a simpler life. That includes being more picky about the stuff that comes into the house.

  49. Thanks – I am in. I will be hanging on every word and trying to keep up (as usual) Can’t wait.


  50. Perfect timing we are moving in 2 weeks so I’ll have a fresh canvas and with baby #3 arriving in 10 weeks we’ll really need some order

  51. We moved about 6 months ago, but already the clutter is creeping back in, so count me in!


  52. Yeah! Sounds really helpful! I’m trying to finish my Master’s degree in Education, while homeschooling my 4 kids. I’ve been looking for time management and organizing tips to make everything more manageable.

  53. I’m in for some fun! I’ve been trying to do a little at a time here, but it will definitely be a lot more fun doing this as a group! Plus, we can probably learn a lot from each other………………

  54. Fantastic, I am onboard! Thankyou! I definately want to tackle the mess & clutter. I am hoping life will run more smoothly if ‘there is a place for everything & everything is in it’s place!’ (or something vaguely resembling that!) Lots to do!

  55. This sounds so wonderful! I’m glad to join the game. My laundry room and play room are in serious need of attention. 😉

  56. I’m in! Thanks for focusing on this! I so need this! I just wish you were starting with paper, because I feel like that’s the clutter spot that’s growing the fastest and getting worse each day I don’t deal with it!

  57. I’m in. But I have to start the paperwork organization earlier than your schedule (I’ve been working on it some today) — we do have to pay our taxes on time. 🙂

  58. I have been reading your blog for a while. I finally subscribed to the posts and just ordered your book. I am in the process of creating my household notebook and think this game will be a great way to start off the new year. I am a new mother (9 month old son) and trying to get organized as “Life as Mom”. Thanks for your help!

  59. I am in!!! This is my number 1 resolution and so far number 2 and 3 aren’t looking like working so maybe it will be 1 out of 3 🙂

  60. wow this is perfect!! i am definitely in as this is something i’ve really been trying hard to work on lately .. thanks!!!

  61. I am in it with you!!! And boy, am I looking forward to this–I’m mentally exhausted by the disorganization and am tired of wasting valuable time!!!

  62. I’m in. I have been trying for 3 years to get certain areas of my home organized. I can’t wait to finally have a game plan.

  63. i have been very reluctant lately with the organizing, distracted with life. YOU have just convinced me. i am in!

  64. Okay Team, under the guidance of Coach Jeesica, let’s go from Frazzled to Dazzled 🙂 I’m IN!

  65. my sweet daughter sent me this link because every time she comes over we have something or another to organize. Your picture actually looks like my house! I’m ready!

  66. Well…I am in!! I sure do need help in this area! I tend to get focused on one area and get it”super” organized while the rest is still in a crazy mess! Maybe this will help! (I sure do need to get my four kids on board..I’m sure goingto try!!) Thanks!

  67. I’m in! Started this year with high hopes, and the zone method seems to be working so far. Would love to be part of the group for support. I’m really looking forward to this. Thank you!

  68. I have been spinning my wheels the last two weeks trying to decide where to start! Thanks for this, I need it!

  69. Moved into this home just over a year ago and haven’t figured out how to make it work for us…= clutter. Unfortunately we will have to move again this year, so I will have to declutter in order to optimize our selling opportunity! And then start work on figuring out whatever new place has for us, so-oooo…..I’m in for the ride! 🙂

  70. I am so in! I live in a small one bedroom with my daughter and the clutter is taking over! Time to take the space back.

  71. I’m in, too! Right now my kitchen table is full of stuff I pulled out of the cupboards last night and my walk-in pantry is next. I’m tempted to walk away at this point (too big!) but alas, you’ve inspired me to press on. Thanks, Jessica, for helping us know we’re not alone :)!

  72. I’ve been working on it with a random pattern. (I declutter the most noticeble places first and more often.) I need a plan!

  73. I’m in. There are 8 of us living at this address from the ages of 1 to 92! I’m a “pilot” (pile-it) by nature and with this many in our house, plus I work part time, the piles get insurmountable at times!

  74. I am absolutely in for this game! I’m always looking for new ways to be envisioned and inspired for making my house a home and a place that functions well for God’s purposes for me and my family.

  75. I need this so badly. I am one of those gals with piles everywhere(I do know what is in them and where) and am a horrendous keeper of everything(I might need that someday-er). I am tired of it all!
    I am so in, this sounds like the perfect thing. Thanks for taking the time to help us! 🙂

  76. Frankly, my house looks great because we were going to put it on the market! BUT, with 4 kids under 7 and homeschooling, it won’t for long. I was amazed at how much stuff we had accumulated. This will be great to keep up motivation throughout the year! Thanks for doing this!

  77. I am feeling the need to get more organized and get rid of stuff…even though I do it regularly. Must be the stuck in the house winter thing.

  78. Okay, what? Seriously!? You’ve outdone yourself. I’m going to be glued to this series!

  79. I’m in. Plus we’re moving in a couple of months, so this will be good preparation!

  80. this looks awesome! can’t wait to hear everything you have to say. constantly trying to re-organize and make it all work a midst constantly changing seasons 🙂

  81. I so need to do this! With 4 kids and all their “stuff” our house is in constant chaos!

  82. I dont play sports but I like this one count me in! I started a week ago in my office. With my giant L shaped desk with cabinets and about 2 feet of papers covering the whole thing! I have one section done, working on the next. I work full time, self employed, single with 4 children so all time saving, and organizing, de-cluttering ideas I can get I will grab!! Looking forward to this!

    1. I don’t play sports either. But, hopefully, the metaphor won’t lose anyone. 😉

  83. Great , I need some helpful ideas and am looking forward to joining the game. thanks

  84. I’m looking forward to working through this…. we have a temporary move planned for late summer so I’ve got some major decluttering to do between now and then.

  85. I’m in! We just moved into a new home 4 months ago, and I’m still trying to order everything to fit how we roll!

  86. I’m ready for the zone defense approach. we have 7 children at home ages 3 years up to 16 years. That makes for alot of STUFF!! gotta get a better handle on it :0)

  87. If you can help me reach my goal of getting organized I will be forever in your debt!

  88. Definitely in. I want to be organized but have no idea where to start. Our family of five is limited on space in this house. Looking forward to seeing some new ideas!

  89. I’m joining. One child married, 2 in college and one left at home. Time to get my home in order.

  90. Let’s do this! I think I do good on the whole, but it’s the day to day stuff I’m working on….trying to streamline. I heard that quote recently that went something like, “Do not keep anything that is not beautiful or useful in your home.” I like it.

    1. Yes, Simple Mom and Pancakes and French Fries have both been chanting that. I’m finally listening. 🙂

  91. I’m definitely in. I’ve been making baby steps toward organization but still need a LOT of help.

  92. I’m in.

    I’ve started some of these areas already, but I am no way near done. I need to remember to take before and during pictures for two reasons, so I have a record of my progress and so I can blog about it.

  93. I’m in. I sooooo needed this. We moved into our home two years ago (east coast to midwest) and at the time I was pregnant, had a toddler and was overwhelmed. I’ve decided this is the year I shape up! 🙂

  94. I’m in! We moved in 2 years ago and it still feels all wrong and I’m constantly fighting a losing battle with our stuff – too much of it. Just signed lease for another year-so yay!

    1. I hear ya. We are in a lease, too, and committed to reorganizing to make it run more smoothly.

  95. Life the past two years has been one disaster after another. I’m in to regain some sort of control over at least my home.

  96. Sounds good to me! Are you sure we can’t do the kitchen first? I feel like we live just in there some days! 🙂

  97. Hey. 🙂 I’m in. With 2 small kids, several blogging projects, and just general life stuff, I’m struggling to clear out the clutter. My solution is just wait till I get fed up and then toss or donate a bunch of stuff. 🙂

  98. I’ve tried getting things organized in the past and love when the house is neat and clean, but with 5 kids who seems to have mess follow them, it’s hard to keep up! I’m in!

  99. Even though I have an empty nest most of the time, there are times when the nest is full. I still need help, so I am looking forward to learning some great new ideas for organization.

  100. Hi!
    I found your Site just some days ago and i really like it! This year my goal is to solve the clutter and disorder in our house, so this challenge is definitely, what i need! So count me in, i will post about my progress on my blog.
    I´m really looking forward to it!
    Greetings from Germany,

  101. I got started on a lot of areas in our house over the last few months, but still have some areas in need of quite a bit of work. With 4 kids, I’m sure that they’ll create more areas in need of work, so I’m definitely in!