Cleaning Zones + Kicking Cleaning Perfectionism to the Curb

COVID-19 had me in a funk earlier this year, but I’m coming out of it stronger than ever. If I’m going to be stuck at home, I may as well make that space as amazing as I can make it, including dealing with some long-standing issues around how I manage my house. I got stuck in a huge cycle of perfectionism and procrastination, which led to a lot of little built up clutter around the house that was making me crazy. We have a friend who came to stay for a while who helped me get things under control by helping with the “regular” cleaning, which allowed me to handle some of the clutter. 

The Fly Lady Zones gettin’ a makeover

I remember my mom using the Fly Lady Zones to help her keep the house cleaner as a teen, but I don’t remember much else beyond that. Honestly, the whole “shine your sink and put your face on” thing doesn’t appeal to me, so I took the principals of having zones and applied it to my weekly routine. 

  • Monday – Dining Room / Entryway/ Porch
  • Tuesday – Kitchen / Hallway
  • Wednesday –  Bedrooms / Laundry Area 
  • Thursday – Bathroom / [Misc Area]
  • Friday –  Declutter 
  • Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for big projects that Ian and I are working on together

Setting up the new system

When I set up the new zone system, I made sure it was easy to access and easy to see, so I set it up in my paper calendar (I use the Happy Planner, the big size that fits regular standard printer paper, so I can print things easily without any fuss). I recently bought this printable and editable planner/dashboard from Etsy, edited it a bit so I could pretty up the fonts, and then added my own flair. I definitely prefer it over the Happy Planner Expansion packs I’d been buying the last few years. 


I also added it to my Cozi schedule, where my home management schedule is its own family member. I get reminded each weekday about the cleaning zone for that day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon to keep me on track.


Why the system works well for me (a recovering perfectionist)

I realize that seeing most things as black and white (it’s part of how my brain works as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder) it’s all too easy for me to see things as completely perfect or utter disaster. The mantra my mother had around cleaning growing up around cleaning was “finish it to completion,” which didn’t help my neurosis. I wasn’t ever lazy – I was paralyzed because there’s always more to clean, and as an adult in charge of my own house, my anxiety about perfection and keeping the house clean will quickly become a problem. 

Over the past few years, I’d been unknowingly treating the symptoms of my mental illness as I learned how to cope with money blocks… which are the same coping skills I now use against other dysfunctional cognitive patterns. I began to apply those to how I ran my house, and my life’s been transformed. 

Within the Zone system, I have checklists of all the things I could do in an area, but this method gives me “permission” to ignore the other areas of the house, outside of generally picking up and tidying. I can focus extra moments of time on little projects and tasks that don’t typically get done in a quick pick up because I can let other areas sit if they’re not falling apart.

I’m not spending any more time cleaning than I previously was, but each week the “baseline” of my house is becoming better and better because I have fewer microtasks that are building up in one area. The little “I need to do that when I have a minute” tasks – I’ve got time to do those now and I love that. It means less chaos, both physical and mental. 

Problems I had with the system

When I first implemented the Zone System, I was really struggling with the concept that I knew there were “deep cleaning” things I could be doing with some regularity, but I didn’t have a way to track them, even informally. I’m not militant about the fan blades being wiped each week, but I did want to know that things like that were getting done more than twice a year, when we went to switch the direction of the fan and realized the blades were disgusting. Little things like that aren’t a big deal, but when there are lots of them in every room, that becomes overwhelming. 

So, I printed this printable off the Fly Lady website and put it in my planner. This gives me a list to work off of, and a place to make notes of when things have been done and ideas of tasks to do to write in my weekly dashboard if I think they’re important enough. 


 One of the truths about organization: there’s no one perfect system that works for everyone, forever. Clearly what had been working for me, wasn’t any more and I needed to change it up. I needed something that kept me focused and limited, because keeping the entire house clean every day from top to bottom wasn’t achievable or sustainable, and the Zone system’s been great for that. It also left things to be flexible for me, so I could mix it up if I liked. 

Aside from that one little thing, the system’s working really well. I can’t wait to see how it continues to go. If you have questions about how the system works for my family, I’d love to answer them in the comments. 

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