I’m tired of feeling like I’m perpetually behind on my household chores. Like when I run the dishwasher when I already have half of the next load piling up in the sink. Or like when I do two loads of laundry, when there are still two more to go.
It’s that hamster wheel feeling; like you are doing everything you should but still aren’t going anywhere.
And it stresses me out. I like having a tidy living space, it makes me sane. Outer order, inner calm.
I’m finally saying enough and launching my own new personal campaign: getting to zero.
Getting to zero is simple. It’s all about doing what you need to do to maintain a clean, clutter free life. At the workplace it could mean filing away all those emails in the inbox. At home it could mean going to bed with a clean kitchen or keeping on top of your ever-growing laundry pile.
It will mean different things for different people.
And it probably won't be easy.
I see this as a blend of philosophies: Gretchen Rubin’s idea that habits can increase happiness and Marie Kondo’s idea that if an item doesn't give you happiness you should get rid of it.
There are a few ways to approach my new plan of getting to zero. Doing everything at once or tackling this one by one. For me, I think the best way to begin is to pick one thing in my personal life AND one thing in my professional life that I want to change. Once I successfully do that, I will broaden my scope to tackle more chores in my house, which is the real source of my frustration and anxiety.
Personal Plan: The Kitchen
How can two people produce as many dirty dishes as my partner and I do? It's insane. Like the cups, pots and pans reproduce in the middle of the night. It's a losing battle and I refuse to lose anymore.
So I am carving time out of my evening every evening to spend five minutes, 15 if needed, to load the dishwasher, run it if need be and hand wash and put away anything else that might be lingering on the counter. I need focus on maintenance, rather than complete cleaning deep dives, meaning I will have to make a concerted effort to do some cleaning every day, because let’s face it, a messy kitchen isn't inviting. It doesn't make me want to cook, it doesn't lend itself to entertaining, and it creates stress when it is the first thing I see in the morning. The outer disorder causes inner uncalm.
Professional Plan: My Inbox
I recently started a new job, which means I had the glorious opportunity to start at inbox zero. No mass forwarded emails, no subscriptions or calendar item notifications polluting the space. This is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of an empty inbox and decide if I want to change how I do things.
In previous positions I have always just kept a long inbox, not deleting too much, spam included. It’s allowed me - with moderate success - to search as needed for past emails. But as we all know, it can be a pain combing through all that junk mail and unnecessary items before finding what you need.
To change my ways, I have decided to start filing my emails. It’s a simple solution for the clutter in my box. A way to save what is truly important, delete what is not. I plan to keep only those open, pending items in the main inbox and sift through the rest. To make this a reality, I am carving out time twice a week to go through emails. And rather than having this be the last thing I do those days, I will make it the first. To act as a reminder about to what I still need to work on and allow me to cross of things I don’t.
Other ideas for getting to zero
While keeping my kitchen situation and my work email inbox under control are my first two priorities, I hope to soon segue this philosophy into other areas. Here are a few other ways in which I might want to get to zero.
Personal Email Inbox: Sure, I am tackling my work inbox, but that is relatively easy since I only have a month’s worth of emails to content with. My personal accounts are another story altogether.
Laundy: As of last April I am now an owner of both a washer and a dryer. This should mean that I am more on top of my laundry than I’ve been since I lived at my parent’s house. But that’s not the case. Like the kitchen, the laundry pile is a little out of control.
Eliminating the junk drawer: Or in my case, the junk basket. This is a graveyard of “important” papers that I never look at twice.
I think a lot about happiness. About what makes me happy, how happy I am in that moment and what actions I can take to make myself happier both in immediate and long term. I firmly believe creating these simple habits will go a long way to increasing my happiness, eliminating unnecessarily, avoidable stress.
How do you plan to get to zero?