Zone Zero tidying-up; organizing to facilitate sharing

In permaculture design, “Zone Zero” is inside the house. For me, having Zone Zero organized is a very beneficial thing that ripples out into all other zones of my life.

Lately I’m into pondering various ways for housemates to share stuff, reducing the need for each of us to buy/have/keep track of our own everything.

Today, on the backside of each of the house’s main entry doors, I put up hangers for the reusable shopping bags. Anyone in the house can take any shopping bag (or umbrella, visor etc.) to use.

The hangers were things I scrounged awhile back from that fabulous emporium known as “curbside”. Another prime source of our household items is the stray stuff left in the garage by previous occupants of the house. We go “shopping” in our own house and find stuff we didn’t even know or remember was there!

I have hung my handmade bead necklaces on some of the doorknobs, where they do double duty as interior decoration and grab & go personal adornment. Anyone in the house can grab necklaces off the doorknobs to wear for the day if they want, though so far it tends to be just me.

And in the common livingroom area, there’s a laptop computer which I recently bought used and decided to have it be a “house computer.” Anyone living/staying here can use the computer. (I store my personal files on a memory stick and backup USB drive.) But, mostly we each just use our own phones as our computer. Still, I like the concept of a house computer and it can be handy to have a laptop rather than a phone for some tasks.

It’s amazing what a difference these kinds of little things can make in people’s ability to share a space without things becoming too crowded or cluttered. I have literally seen people move out of perfectly good houses/apartments because they couldn’t see solutions to their Zone Zero space challenges.

Reading this over, it seems kind of mundane and obvious so I almost thought it was too trivial to post and came close to deleting it. Yet these little things make me happy and seem to help, so maybe others of you will find it useful and fun too.

See pics with the FB post here for as long as the whim of Zuck shall permit.

#ZoneZero #HouseSharing #Experiments

UPDATE: My sharing of this post in the Transformative Adventures group has elicited some fantastic comments!

Thank you to Australia-based fellow permie Delldint Megan Fleming for contributing the following. So inspiring!

“I also live in a permaculture sharehouse. I provide a house computer and landline phone for anyone to use. We have an op shop box that we put things in for others to take. Every so often if no-one in the house wants the contents we donate it further afield. We have a free shelf out on the street frontage with a fridge, many people donate food there to each other. We actively cultivate gifting economy in our local area and are part of a widening circle of friends who help each other out for friendship rather than trade.”


“Last week we set up a free box of clean bags at our free shelf and a sign ‘Walking to the shops? Forgotten a bag? Clean bags are in the box under the shelf’ This morning I noticed all the bags were gone, then an hour later someone else had refilled the box 🙂 likewise there is a cupboard full of clean jars for jam making etc. Today is very hot and the shelf is empty, so I changed the blackboard to say ‘You are welcome to fill your water bottle at the tap behind the shelf'”

And from another Transformative Adventures member, Nora Hauk:

“I think being very intentional about shared items in collective spaces is a good idea. In my experiences living cooperatively (in intentional cooperative houses), there are times when one housemate’s items spill into/ overtake common spaces, often narrated as ‘they are there for anyone to use’ but in practice are only used by that housemate. Intentional discussions about those common areas were really crucial for deciding how to use that space. What feels like sharing for one person may not for someone else and that’s okay.

“I’ve visited cohousing communities where beautiful shared workshop/craft space has been totally taken over by a single person’s piled up stuff because they are unwilling to throw it away and want to ‘share.’ To me, this is a genuine challenge of any type of cooperative living: how to genuinely share space, and things within it.”

So true, all of that. Very important! I once worked in an office where a well-intentioned community bookshelf started out as a great asset but over time devolved into a graveyard for people’s unwanted books and magazines.

Now, I should mention that my house is not an intentional permaculture cooperative house per se. Rather, it’s a house where I implement permaculture design principles to the greatest extent possible, while accommodating my “civilian” housemates. It’s a grand experiment. Many of the “sharing” experiments I’m doing are largely still theoretical.

For example, although the livingroom is a space I have made available for common use, both housemates prefer to treat their rooms as micro-studio apartments and stay in there most of the time when they are home.

One housemate does use the kitchen cooktop a bit, but they each also do a lot of microwave cooking in their own rooms.

As for the grab & go necklaces … well, both of my current housemates are men who don’t wear jewelry, so the point is admittedly moot.

Still, I treat the common areas as if I were sharing them fulltime. So, no leaving my personal stuff in a common area unless I’m in there using it. My office setup, crafting supplies, etc get picked up and put away in my own room each night or as soon as I’m done using them for the day.

This self-imposed discipline is something I find very helpful to my ongoing design experiments aimed at creating “sharing structures.”