Staying Organized: 5 Must Haves to Ditch Old Habits and Maintain Zero

Bad habits are hard to break. But, it’s the good habits we create that allow us to get our lives organized. If you've ever struggled to maintain an organized space, you've got to check out this post!


Old habits. 

Those suckers die hard, right?  

I’m talking Bruce-Willis-circa-1988-kinda die hard.  You can try to shove them off a building or pepper them with gunfire or push them down an elevator shaft.  REPEATEDLY.  And still?  No dice.

Essentially, old habits are the cockroaches of our lives--ugly, stubborn, and kinda gag-inducing when you crunch one dead. 

The thing is, it’s not a completely hopeless plight when it comes to ditching them.  For good.  What most people don’t realize is that it’s not as simple as just making a decision not to do them again and being done with.  I mean, come on.  Do you know how many times I’ve told myself I won’t bite my fingernails anymore?  Do you know how many times I’ve cracked my front teeth (I’ve got some bad dental genetics, just FYI; no offense, Mom and Dad.) biting my nails after I’ve sworn to myself I’d never nibble again?  It’s an embarrassingly high number of times.  

In order to be truly successful in maintaining an organized life for the long haul, you’ve got to get rid of old habits that sabotage you.  And just making the decision to change isn’t enough.  

I can’t stress the importance of that last statement enough!  

(I’m gettin’ on my soapbox for a minute, y’all!) 

Simply making a decision to change will NOT automatically annihilate old habits.  (Um, hello!  I just chewed on my fingernail as I was rereading that last line!) 

You’ve got to do more to set yourself up for a bigger chance at success.  In order to truly ditch an old habit, you’ve got to go all Survivor on it.  And I’ve got five must-haves for you to do just that--outwit, outlast, and outplay.  At least when it comes to maintaining Zero.  

Five Must-Haves To Ditch Old Habits and Maintain Zero

1. You MUST realize that life is messy; therefore, your space WILL get messy. 

It’s inevitable.  As much as we want to believe otherwise, it’s just an absolute truth!  

I mean, it’s biblical.  

If you haven’t checked out Summer’s study on Genesis, you TOTALLY should.  She lays down some life changing wisdom. 

God created us to live in a “perfect” world, but we sinned and messed it all up.  Because God is a redemptive God, He’s got a plan in place to bring people back to Him if we choose to participate in it. (Side note--that’s a choice you definitely wanna make.)

This is where Jesus comes in. God WILL ultimately reestablish the perfect order that was lost in the fall, but for now, we’re just beings who yearn for perfection because that’s the setting in which we were created for but live in a fallen world.  

You cannot be demoralized by this.  

Life IS messy which means your space is gonna get messy too.  

Being organized isn’t about avoiding messy.  It’s about being able to clean it up in a reasonable amount of time when it happens.    

2. Self-awareness MUST become your friend.  

In the case of organization, you’ve got to be able to gauge how you feel in your space.  

You’ve established Zero.  You’ve figured out what “no pain” looks and feels like. 

The next step to that is being aware of the pain rating for your space at any given time.  

Can you tell when it’s gone from zero to three?  Can you tell when it’s gone from three to eight?

One super easy way to get started is to simply take inventory of your home at a certain time or times each day.  It can be before you go to bed or after the kids leave and you’re finally alone in your house…whenever!  

The point is that you designate a time, a reasonable time, (more on this later!) to take stock and evaluate the state of your space.  Once that evaluation is made, and you’ve decided how it falls on the pain scale, you can decide to get it back to Zero right then or not.  The point isn’t so much to jump immediately into action.  It’s more about being able to logically label the state of your space.  

Think about it like having to use the bathroom.  You’re aware at all times whether you have to go or not and how immediate that need is.  When you’re at a 3 on the “I’ve Gotta Go Scale,” you know you’ve got some time before things get ugly.  If you’re at a 9? Well, you better take action or you’re gonna be throwing your undies away in the Target bathroom. 

Self-awareness is what you learn to practice during potty training.  I mean, how many times do you prompt a kid with “Do you have to go potty?!” and then sprint to her with outstretched arms lest you get some on you before the kid figures it out on her own? 

Self-awareness is just as important when learning to practice maintenance or during “maintenance training.” The questions are just different.  “Do I feel like an angry bear is mauling me when I’m in my kitchen?” 

3. You must commit to the systems you’ve put in place.  

Look, sometimes a system works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Systems aren’t magic.  Your stuff isn’t automatically gonna jump up and go where it needs to be on its own.  You’ve got to actively use the system before you deem it a failure. 

If you’ve started using bins to hold items in your pantry then you MUST use the bins for their intended purpose.  (It helps if those suckers are labeled.)

If you’ve started using a mail bin to coral all incoming paperwork, then you’ve GOT to stop putting random paperwork on the counter or at least start moving it to the bin during your daily “maintenance training.”  

What happens when a system doesn’t work?  It’s a good idea to live with a system for about two weeks before you deem it a complete washout.  I’ve got an eval form you can use to help ya’ do just that coming up soon!

4. You must adopt a REGULAR clean up schedule

Maintenance must be planned.  You’re not gonna do it on your own or else you wouldn’t be struggling with the issue you’re trying to maintain!  

A regular clean up schedule is the crux of maintenance when staying organized.  It also goes hand in hand with that self-awareness we were talking about earlier because, when you have a regular plan in place to get back to Zero, not being at Zero is less scary.  

My 18 year-old niece stayed with us for a few days recently.  She graduated from high school in Virginia on a Tuesday and made the road trip back with us on a Wednesday.  When she returned to Virginia on the Saturday, she flew home alone. On a non-direct flight. Now, look. I know she’s 18. I remember being 18. She’s not a baby, but I was a MESS.  First of all, I didn’t want her to leave, but then her flying back on her own?  I was a SUPER mess.  

We came up with a plan though.  She was going to text me a minimum of four times, so I didn’t convince myself she’s been abducted by human traffickers.  Text 1 was when she boarded her first flight.  Text 2 was when she was off the plane at her layover.  Text 3 was when she boarded flight number two.  The final text?  Once she arrived at the airport in her town. 

A regular clean up schedule will do for you EXACTLY what those four texts did for me--give you peace of mind that even though things feel out of control right now, you have a designated time and routine to get back to Zero. 

For example, your kids have a few friends over.  Your home looks like a giant picked it up, shook it all around, then set it back down. Instead of freaking out about the mess, you rest in knowing you’ve got scheduled clean up time built into your evening.  

5. You must adopt REGULAR clean up procedures.  

Raise your hand if you have a certain way of doing things when you get ready in the morning.  I know I do.  And what happens if, for some reason, you stray from that normal procedure?  Well, those are the days you can’t remember if you actually put on deodorant or not, right?

The same is true when it’s time to clean up your space or, in other words, get it back to Zero.  If you adopt regular habits that you do in the same order EVERY time, they become automatic, take less and less time, and you become an efficiency beast.  

In addition, having regular clean up procedures in place will allow you to triage when you’re short on time.  You’ll know what’s non-negotiable and what you can let slide until next time.  

Let’s go back to that morning routine for a minute.  Hair Care Rule Number 1 dictates that I dry my bangs first before touching the rest of my hair.  It also allows me to skip the rest of my hair and throw it in a messy bun when I don’t have enough time to deal with it.  You can use the same concept when cleaning up.  As long as you do the absolutes, you can get by without the less important stuff without feeling like you’re going to lose your mind. 

And even better?  Regular procedures will allow you to get help from others because they’ll know exactly what, how, and when to help you clean up.  

Be on the lookout for some of my favorite clean-up procedures in the near future!

Old habits.  When they’re bad ones, they totally suck.  It seemingly takes forever to break free from them, I know.  Especially when you’re trying to maintain an organized space.  I mean, come on!  You’ve done the work!  You’ve established Zero!  Shouldn’t that be enough?!

Unfortunately, no. 

You’re not doomed though.  

You’ve just got to arm yourself with more than the vow of “I won’t throw my clothes on the floor anymore.” 

 Instead, you’ve got to outwit, outlast, and outplay throwing your clothes on the floor, and the best way to do that is those five ‘must haves’ right up there.