Imaginary railroads, stations, and zones

Back in Fall 1998, Pam and Peggy announced an update to their SideTracked Home Executive System. They had come up with the idea of dividing your home into Stations:

Break down your house into five stations and assign one station to one week (there are usually five weeks in a month).

Let’s say that:

  • Station One/Week One includes your entry, living and dining room,
  • Station Two/Week Two is your kitchen,
  • Station Three/Week Three the main bathroom, your office, a 1/2 bath and the laundry room,
  • Station Four/Week Four the master bedroom and guest room and
  • Station Five/Week Five is the basement.

Begin de-junking at the entrance of the station. You’ll work clockwise each day, cleaning out a closet, cupboard or drawer (sometimes for as little as ten minutes) and when the week ends on Sunday, you’ll move to the next station and do the same thing.

Granted, it will take several rotations (months) to get the whole house de-junked, but you will see progress in every room, you won’t kill yourself and life as you like it will go on as usual. Eventually every station will be streamlined!

Pam Young and Peggy Jones, Fall 1998 newsletter

Sounds familiar?  The Flylady adapted the idea of Stations, only she works from top to bottom instead of clockwise and called them Zones instead.

I really like the idea of calling them stations, though, because I can imagine a little train track going around my house, stopping at each room to move out clutter.


With a small boy in the house, half the time I have a small “train” hurtling around the house shouting CHOO CHOO.  Only he seems to be spreading things around, rather than picking them up.  Note how the sticky fingerprints reflect the camera flash on that photo!  (PS: He is also obsessed with helping himself to fruit from the fruitbowl, and playing builders.  Yesterday I found him trying to bash in a small nail in the wall using a piece of fruit, leading to me having to tell him “A plum is not a hammer!” Yeah.  So that’s one of the reason’s I’ve not been blogging much)

Stations and Zones

What can I take from the SideTracked Home Executives’ idea of Stations and apply it to my personalised list of tasks in each of the rooms in HomeRoutines’ Zones:

  • I can put the list of tasks in a clockwise order around the room.  I’m actually starting to imagine an additional rail loop going clockwise around each room.  It’s like the Island of Sodor round here with the unexpected complexity of our rail network.  Having the tasks based in an order that is based on the physical layout of the room helps me keep track of where I’m up to.
  • Decluttering is a continual task. It’s worth taking a quick look at each storage area each month or so, because “you can’t CLEAN surfaces unless you HAVE them” so you need to clear the crap off your shelves before you can wipe them down.  I have been decluttering recently and it feels good, but it just keeps going on.
  • Pause after every station for a cup of tea. It’s good for the soul.
  • Sometimes you can get stuck in a plateau with any system or challenge; maybe all it takes is mixing up your lists again (and an imaginary train) to get back on track.

Soundtrack:  Peace Train by Cat Stevens