How to Get Organized For Real: The Paradigm Shift To Zero
Which of these sounds most accurate?
“I need to get organized.”
A simple sentence reflecting one’s current living conditions usually accompanied by a general sense of unhappiness or discombobulation.
“Why can’t I just GET. ORGANIZED?”
A desperate plea intermingled with frustration bordering on the extreme.
“CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!”
The words one screams at one’s self when yet another day passes and no noteworthy organizational progress has occurred nor is there any in the foreseeable future.
“FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING THAT’S GOOD IN THIS WORLD WHY AM I CONSTANTLY DROWNING IN CRAP?! MY ENTIRE LIFE. ONE BIG CRAPTASTROPHE.”
An anguished expletive uttered with absolute self-loathing in the complete absence of hope. Said statement is most often rendered incomprehensible due to accompanying sobs and hiccups.
Anything sound familiar? Maybe just a little bit?
What about something a little less…emotional? Sometime along the lines of-
Regardless of where I currently fall on the disorganization spectrum, I’ve yet to find long-term organizing success. And it sucks.
There we go. That’s a statement I feel at least half of you can get behind.
Okay, probably more than half. Like 75%. Or 90%. (I’m in A LOT of homes, y’all. I see the reality.)
Regardless of the actual numbers, too many people are frustrated by the lack of organization in their lives.
(Can I get an amen?)
The lack of practical ideas.
The lack of organizational hacks.
The lack of useful tips that stand up to the test of daily life.
And you know what?
It’s no wonder.
It’s no wonder that you’re frustrated because there’s not an organizing idea or an organizing hack or an organizing tip that’s going to solve long-term disorganization.
(Don’t burst into tears, okay? You’re not doomed. Just keep reading.)
The lack of organization in your daily life comes from not having a viable structure in place on which to hang all of those organizing ideas and hacks and tips.
It’s not that those ideas and stuff are faulty, it’s just that it takes more than a wine rack hanging behind your toilet to organize your bathroom.
Think of it like decorating a Christmas tree. You can have the most gorgeous lights and ornaments and garland in the world but if your tree isn’t strong enough to withstand the weight of those items, it’s all gonna come crashing down around you. It doesn’t matter how many times you glue that precious angel back together or restring whatever that garland is made of. If you don’t have a viable structure in place on which to hang all those decorations, it’s just not gonna work.
Enter my beloved friend, Zero.
Zero is the organizing philosophy on which I hang my hat. I’ve been using it for almost nine years and lemme tell you, it works every time. EVERY. DANG. TIME.
Zero is gonna be what takes you from disorganized to organized in a way that sticks.
Zero is gonna be the viable structure you have in place that makes those pins on your ‘GET ORGANIZED’ Pinterest board actually work.
Soooo…what is it?
Zero is a way to rate your space the way you rate your pain.
Did you catch that?
The same pain scale you use in the emergency room to describe how much your foot hurts can be transferred over to describe how much your space hurts.
Think about the last time you went to the doctor. For me, it was a few weeks ago for my first ever ear infection.
(Ear infections are no joke. WOW.)
The doctor walked in and asked me to rate my pain on a scale from 1 to 10. In that instant, I had to decide if my ear hurt enough where it just kinda needed an ear band-aid and maybe a sympathetic pat OR if my ear hurt enough where I truly and honestly believed I was actively being mauled by a bear.
Well, if a band aid is a one and an active bear maul is a ten, I was at a legitimate six.
Now I want you to think about the room in your home that drives you the craziest. The room that stresses you out. Your room of shame.
Is it a band-aid type situation or bear type of situation?
Now think about this.
Instead of thinking in terms of getting that room ‘organized’ or ‘cleaned up’, what if you thought about getting that room to zero? Of taking actions that would alleviate the pain of that room?
That’s a game changer right there, y’all.
You see, instead of thinking in terms of getting ‘organized’ or ‘cleaned up’, you think in terms of establishing zero.
Did you hear me? ESTABLISHING. ZERO.
Most people believe they’re not organized because they don’t have the time or the motivation or the discipline. I firmly believe that most people are disorganized because they don’t know what cleaned up looks like.
By using the philosophy of Zero, you figure out right up front what your end product is gonna be. You take the guesswork out of it. And by calling that end product Zero instead of ‘cleaned up’ or ‘organized’, you shift the way your brain thinks about it. For some reason calling it Zero makes it tangible.
So now that you know the big idea of Zero, let’s talk details.
There are seven basic premises of Zero-
1. YOU decide what Zero is for each space.
Did you hear me? YOU get to decide your zero. No one knows what feels good to you EXCEPT you. No one else lives your life. It doesn’t matter what your mom thinks or your sister thinks or Pinterest thinks. YOU decide what qualifies as Zero in your home.
2. When your space is at Zero, you’re not stressed out by it.
You feel good in your space. Someone could drop by unannounced and you wouldn’t be completely mortified. No one would have to throw themselves on top of the pile of laundry in your living room in order to save face.
3. Zero is NOT perfect.
First of all, perfect doesn’t exist. Well, except for Jesus. He’s the exception. But those pictures that you see in magazines and on Pinterest? The ones you salivate and agonize over? Those aren’t real. They’re staged. Most of the time no one lives there. It’s like a photoshopped image of a model on the cover of a magazine. Even she doesn’t look like that in real life!
Zero is REAL. You don’t knock down walls. You don’t paint. You use what you have. I mean you might end up getting some new organizing tools or rearranging some furniture and making cute labels, but you can get to zero without drastic measures.
4. Zero allows you to work in layers.
What that means is that you’re not under pressure to start and finish in one sitting.
Just like it may take you several days to feel better after you start meds for an ear infection, it might take you several passes at a space/project to reach zero. This totally takes the pressure off because even though you don’t go from actively being mauled-by-a-bear to I FEEL AMAZING in an instant, you get a little better each day. Your pain level decreases until it finally reaches zero. The same is true for your space.
For example, let’s take dealing with a whole mess of paperwork. The Leaning Tower of Paperwork. The paperwork that covers every surface of your home. You don’t have to keep working until you have an Instagram-worthy file drawer. You can do tiny bits at a time.
First layer? Get all the paperwork in the entire house in ONE spot. Celebrate! YOU DID IT.
Second layer? Do a quick sort through the paperwork and decide what stays and what goes. Celebrate again! THIS IS PROGRESS.
Third layer? Take the keep pile and sort it into categories- insurance, medical records, keepsake, banking etc. More. Celebration. YOU’RE ACTUALLY DOING IT!
Fourth layer? Buy some new file folders and transfer your sorted papers into those files. Holy cow!!! LOOK AT YOU!
Fifth layer? Type up and print out cute labels for your folders. IT’S HAPPENING.
Sixth layer? Put the labels on the folders and the files in the drawer. It’s Mardi Gras up in your house! INSTAGRAM THAT BAD BOY!
5. Zero will allow you to ask for and receive the specific help that you need.
Once you establish zero, everyone in your home knows what the end product looks like. There’s no more guessing about what should be done in order to ‘clean up’. It also gives you a simple and common language through which to communicate those needs.
In my house, one of my big freak out areas is our couch. If the couch is messy, the entire living room looks messy. And that drives me crazy.
Before I started using Zero, I’d get to the point of frustration and ‘I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE SOMEBODY’S GOTTA FIX THIS’ but I couldn’t verbalize exactly what needed doing enough to either ask my husband to help or give him clear directions when he initiated the help. All I knew is that the living room was messy and my head was about to spin around.
Since Zero, I’m able to ask or tell him to “get the couch to zero” and he knows what that means.
This was not the case with two of our friends some years back. Company was coming over and the wife asked the husband to help her get the house cleaned up. She was washing dishes and thought he’d vacuum or make up the bed. He started washing windows. Needless to say, she didn’t find that particularly helpful!
6. Zero enables you to successfully cope with life’s messiness.
Think about my living room again. You know how I said I’d get to the “my head is gonna spin around stage”? The stage where something just clicks and YOU. JUST. CAN’T. TAKE. IT. ANY. MORE?
Zero helps you gauge how you’re feeling in a space and take appropriate action before it comes to that. It gives you a scale on which to judge the level of pain that messiness brings about in real time. A scale with discernible increments that will prompt useful action.
7. The concept of Zero is the perfect daily reminder that we must decrease so that He may increase.
See, we’re unable to do ANYTHING outside of Jesus. We need Him every second, every breath of our lives. We can’t overcome any struggle or deal with any messiness or any worldliness on our own. Not well anyway. BELIEVE ME. In order to give our hearts to Jesus the way we’re designed to, we’ve got to do as John 3:30 states:
“He must become greater; I must become less.” We’ve got to stop trying to do it ourselves and, instead, turn it all over to God.
Think about you and Jesus on a see-saw. I know it’s kinda weird but just hang with me for a second. Our goal is to be completely free of self so we can give it ALL to Jesus, right? Pretty much, we wanna always be in the air when we’re on that see-saw. We want to be at zero ‘self’ so Jesus carries us completely. And if Jesus is completely carrying us, then we’re just hanging out up in the air enjoying the beautiful day.
Now, if we’re trying to hang on to self, then we’re in this constant cycle of ups and downs because we’re fighting Him. It’s like being on a see-saw with someone who just wants to trap you in the air and then jump off really fast so you come crashing down. We fight like crazy so we don’t lose control.
The thing is, when Jesus is on the other end, being up in the air isn’t a trap. It’s complete freedom. And we never have to worry about Him letting us down.
Zero not only serves as a reference point for the state of our space but also as a reference point for the state of our heart. It can’t be about us. It’s gotta be about Him.
Look, I know zero isn’t usually a goal people shoot for. Nobody wants to have zero dollars in the bank. Or zero friends to hang out with. Or zero options for what to wear for dinner. I promise you though, if you buy into the idea of thinking of your space in terms of zero pain, it WILL change your life.
Using the philosophy of Zero in your home is going to be what allows you get organized. For real this time.