Zones For Everyday Spaces With Cecilia

Get Creative Quickly with Minimal Waste

Permaculture designer, Cecilia Macaulay helps people make space and time for creativity through the use of zones. Using Zones has always been a strong part of Permaculture design. Typically, we zone a garden into areas. Starting with spaces that require the most attention through to a wilderness out in Zone 5. But Zoning isn’t exclusive to Permaculture. It is a universal strategy. Having seen Zoning applied to large factories such as Toyota, Cecilia applies zones to all workspaces. Including the kitchen sink!

Traditional Permaculture Property Zoning. Image by Cecilia Macaulay

How Cecilia Applies Zoning at Home

Cecilia explains Zone 1 may contain library books to return, supplements, lunchbox, water bottle, hat, sunglasses, phone, keys. They sit in the high-motivation zone and easy to see. You want Zone 1 items to tell you what to do next. When you put these things in your Zone 1 [your current zone], they will communicate with you. As a result, they sit at the top of your mind. Like a freshwater current.

the multitasked ganesha keeps everything for the current task ready at hand
artwork by April
Zone 1 is the ‘current zone’ only tools for the current task are kept here

Zone 2 has things you use often but you don’t need them reminding you. Having storage within view dilutes your ability to see those items that need to talk to you. Cecilia reminds us to limit what demands attention because our attention is precious.

Only tools needed for the current task are sitting in Zone 1 - stuff I don't want to forget
Zone 2 has stuff ready for when I want it
Zone 3 things are there when I reach for it
Zone 4 - there when I stroll for it
Zone 5 - there because I don't intrude on it
A Quick Guide to Zones. Text by Cecilia, image by April

Although Zone 3 is similar to zone 2, it is a little harder to get to. Zone 3 lies in the back of the cupboard, up high or underneath. These are things you use only every few weeks. Note, this is a spectrum of choices, not a hard and fast rule. As a result, you are the best person to decide what is useful. So, it is you who decides with honesty.

“Zone 4 has the things you may use only use once a year. Maybe that is stuff for making holiday cakes. So, she gave her cake making equipment to your sister so they could enjoy making cakes together. But, if you truly love something, then keep it. It’s yours. Just remember that anywhere can be your Zone 4.” says Cecilia.

Similarly, your local hire shop is also great alternative storage space for Zone 4. The hire shop will store, mend, sharpen and clean the equipment you use only seasonally. As a result, you get more creative time.

forest of tranquility, NSW image by April
Some spaces need us only to appreciate them

Further afield, Zone 5 doesn’t need to be closeby. “Your absence may be all that is required for a pre-existing Zone 5. When you live in a share house you are protecting the wilderness by removing pressure from the outskirts of the city on the wilderness. Furthermore, when you can’t see something – it escapes into a ‘twilight’ zone.”

confused rooster can't find anything, feels overwhelmed and hopes it all be different tomorrow
Zoning saves decision making, builds motivation and durability

Key Advantages of Zoning

Decisions are easier

Zoning facilitates creative energy because clutter and misplaced or lost tools don’t block the creative energy flow. “Zone 1 is where you create things – it should always be flowing. There is no storage in Zone 1. Everything in the zone is being processed. Stuff may only be there because it is in use. Eg, the cloth and spray at hand, the vase holding a flower, the compost bin waiting. This is a zone of beauty and love and always pristine.”
By everything having a home, we save decision-making time. “Decision-making is a finite resource. Don’t spend decision making power on low-value things like ‘where does this cup go?’

Motivation Triggered by Zones

Both motivation and demotivation are triggered by Zoning. People may argue: ‘I want to put this nearby so I can reach it easily’. Do you really want to use more of that? I put things away from the convenient zone to discourage undesirable actions. For example, I put the toaster away so I eat less toast.
What you should do becomes what you want to do. Permaculture is a design system. It is a way to facilitate what you really want to do. Have all the healthy food ready to use. Using zoning motivates and liberates us. Because it frees from petty decision making and provides a canvas for creativity.” 

Good Systems Pay Off

“Durability is the ultimate test,” says Cecilia. “If my house isn’t good enough for someone else to run, then it isn’t good enough for me. You can be blind in my kitchen to set up and cook. I need that because I’m very distractable”.

How to Start Zoning to Your Space

Cecilia has a couple of tricks to get the Zoning done. She uses fractal thinking, grouping things into families and a 2/3rds full rule.

Fractal Zoning

Simply put, fractal zoning is like boxes inside boxes. Inside each compartment are more zones. “Zoning helps us and anyone who wants to help us. Eg, the kitchen has its own zones and the bathroom has its own zones”. Your office desk can have zones.

Happy Families

By bundling resources into groups or families, we compare their usefulness. In addition, we will see if we have too much. “Put all the cups in one place,” says Cecilia. And keep only what you need. Keep only the best tool for the task. Defective tools are immediately tagged, then sent to a repair shop or recycling bay. This way, we are not tricked into using shoddy tools.

recycled jars of screws and nails
jars used to store and display screws and nails

The 2/3rds Full Rule

Keep the spaces only 2/3rds full. This ensures less distraction. Growth and focus accelerate in open spaces.

Cecilia tackles overcrowding of spaces through hoarding because “hoarding can cause isolation. We have less room for people and then fewer people to share the stuff with – it creates a downward spiral. We need to find a healthy environment for creative play.” Would you prefer a house full of stuff or a house full of friends?

which do you desire? a home for stuff or a home for people?

Where Can I Learn More?

Ferment Your Future & Build Nutrition

dancing ferments

Seriously Good Ferments

Did you know the nutritional value of many foods improves with fermentation? Ferments cut toxic compounds, add flavour and increase beneficial gut flora. It seems there are ample reasons to enjoy fermenting your food.

Ferments ooze abundantly in the wild.  Yet only a diligent cook could invent a brew fit for consumption. Early brew developers were clever, patient, organised and observant.

Ella with her Kombucha
Ella loves Kombucha

Recent medical research confirms the old wisdom of ferments in our diet, especially for colon health. Even Beer, in moderation, can increase good cholesterol. 

Unfortunately, few people today know how to brew their own.  Yet traditional brews bubble in every corner of the world.  Aboriginal Australians use honey and Banksia.  In freezing Alaska, fermented meat is big on the menu. Pulque, in Mexico, takes an underwhelming cactus juice and turns it magically into a popular drink, rich in vitamins.

Reigning Preservatives

Consider the remarkable longevity of a bottle of wine compared to a flask of grape juice. Although alcohol has served humanity long, the abuse of alcohol has given ferments a bad rap. In addition to this poor reputation, new inventions began competing. In recent decades, chemical preservatives and canning ended the popularity of fermentation. Yet, ferments exist despite the fact that they not required.

Ferments survive because they are enjoyed!

Surprisingly, a number of ferments are high on the average shopping list.  For many people in the western world, the cultures and ferments of choice are bread, alcohol (beer, wine, cider, Perry, liquors), vinegar, tea, coffee chocolate, olives, yogurt, bread and cheese.

Science of Ferments

brewing fermentsUltimately, fermentation enriches food with essential amino acids, vitamins, newly available minerals and bio-active compounds.   For example, Rhizopus oligosporus the active culture in Tempe, a soy cheese,  increases the vitamins like niacin and riboflavin.

In addition to the acids and bioactive compounds, the ferment breeds micro-organisms which produce powerful enzymes. These enzymes break down some of the tough compounds, making the food easier to digest.  By fermenting tough foods like cassava, lactic acid bacteria detoxifies any potentially poisonous substances. In Tempe, the ferment also works to decrease the oligosaccharides gases.

Frida enjoying a few fresh coffee fruits

In conclusion, fermentation cuts through a myriad of nasty chemicals.  Cereals, legumes, and tubers contain toxic compounds including Phytates, Tannins, Cyanogenic glycosides, Oxalates, Saponins, Lectins, alpha-amylase, Trypsin, and Chymotrypsin.  Luckily, fermentation breaks down these anti-nutritional components such as Phytate in whole wheat breads and lectins in soy beans.

Fermenting and cooking are great ways to boost your home production, lessen our footprint and build self-empowerment.

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Permaculture Zones

Permaculture Zoning in a bag
Permaculture Design Technique called Zoning, can be practiced on a wide range of scales as diverse from Farms to kitchen, to bags.

Zoning is a Permaculture design technique where we put the elements or items of a design in areas according to need. The needs of the item and our use of it. For instance, we need tea herbs, so we plant them in pots on the kitchen window sill, (zone 0) some more near our doorstep (Zone 1) and other types of mint that love a lot of space, can serve other purposes such as suppressing weeds and only need occasional attention (such as mint) further away, perhaps in Zone 3.  Permaculture Techniques such as Zoning are scale-able.  The design technique called Zoning can be applied on large farms, city apartments, urban homes,  kitchen design,  and even in the design or re-design of a little bag. (you can redesign a bag by inserting pockets, wallets or compartments. This is similar to how we re-design a property by using fencing for the zones).

You can also view here a traditional view of permaculture zoning for a farm.