The Secret to Why You Stink at Organizing- Choosing an Appropriate Space To Start

Wonder why you can never finish an organizing project?  You're looking at your space all wrong! Check out this post on how to get organized by choosing an appropriate space. This is a part of series on How to Get Organized for real. Learn an organizational system that you can start implementing today!

Are you still struggling to get your home organized?

Let me guess. You have pinned countless posts promising to solve your organizational problems, downloaded checklists, beat yourself up, and still…. your space is a mess.

I like to say you haven’t achieved “organizing success.” That’s a great clinical term, isn’t it?  And you haven’t found success because you set yourself up for failure.  

You self sabotage. 

Even after you buy into the deliriously genius idea of Zero, you self sabotage by thinking too broadly in terms of the space you want to tackle.  

 “I’m gonna gut my entire house this weekend.  It’s gonna be epic!”

“I’m gonna tear apart my kid’s room tonight.  Completely annihilate it.  Show it once and for all who’s boss.”

“My closet doesn’t stand a chance today.  All those clothes from the ‘90s I’ve been holding on to?  THEY’RE OUTTA HERE.”

RELATED POSTS: How to Get Organized for Real: Figuring Out Your Zero

Regardless of which one of these statements most closely resembled your battle cry on your most recent foray into organizing, about an hour and a half into the project you found yourself curled up in a ball in your closet crying uncontrollably.  

Go big or go home has not been kind to you, my friend.  Not kind at all. 

See, the secret--the really ginormous One Organized Girl secret--to getting organized, to establishing Zero in a space, is starting small.  Super small. Teeny tiny small.

Unfortunately, we tend to focus on “small” as a negative.  Your bank account is “small.”  Your weight loss is “small.”  Small tends to get a bad rap.

Small isn’t ALWAYS bad though, right?  Good things DO come in small packages!  Jewelry.  Car keys.  Kenny Chesney.

And small is where you’ve GOT to go when you’re choosing a space you want to get to Zero.  

“I wanna get my living room to Zero!”

Nope.  Too big.  

You wanna get your entertainment center to Zero.  

“I wanna get my closet to Zero!”

Nope.  Not small enough. 

You wanna get your closet floor to Zero. 

“I wanna get my bedroom to Zero.”


You wanna get your bedside table to Zero. 

See where I’m going with this? 

In the reality of Zero, when you think in terms of a room in your home, there are about forty-- okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit--spaces that you need to think of individually instead of looking at the room as a whole. And by establishing Zero for each one of those small spaces, you eventually establish Zero for the entire room. 

Did you catch that? 

Instead of thinking in terms of an entire room, you look at each part of the room individually.  

Instead of getting the entire room to Zero, you establish Zero for each individual part of the room.  

And eventually?  The sum of those parts adds up to one big, fat, gorgeously Zero room. 

Let’s think about your bathroom for a second.  It’s small already, so it’s a good case study, if you will!

When you try to go big or go home, you attempt to tackle the entire bathroom in one big bite.  

When you start small, you figure out each part of the bathroom that needs attention and tackle each one as its own entity. 

Go Big or Go Home: 

The Bathroom 

Start Small, Y’all:

  • floor

  • vanity countertop

  • vanity drawers/cabinets

  • medicine cabinet

  • linen closet

  • tub/shower

  • back of toilet

Now I know it may seem a little counterintuitive at first to break the space up.  I mean, instead of one item on your to-do list, you’ve got seven.  Or thirteen.   But what you’ve actually done is outsmart overwhelm. 

Yup, starting small is one of the best tools in your arsenal to outsmart overwhelm for four main reasons. 

Starting small means-

1. You can work in shorter time increments and still cross things off your list.  

It’s inevitable that you’re going to get interrupted.  SOMEONE is gonna need you to find a pencil for her.  Or make dinner.  It’s also inevitable that you’re gonna run out of energy and/or motivation.  

Working in small chunks incorporates all of this into the overall plan.  Instead of feeling let down and disappointed that you only worked for fifteen minutes, you get be super pumped that you crossed something off in just fifteen minutes.

2. You do all the thinking up front, so you can pretty much go on autopilot for the grunt work.  

When you break the room down into its individual parts, you do the thinking right up front, so you never have to wonder where to start.  Just pick an area and get down to business. 

3. Anticipate that every organizing project is going to be tackled in phases.  

Working in small chunks allows for and builds in time to regroup, research, call in reinforcements, and/or shop. There’s no possible way you can foresee every single item you need to organize a space in advance, and the last thing you want to do is purchase organizing tools that only end up adding to your mess. 

4. You only have to maintain a small area.  

Maintenance is the silent joy sucker of life.  Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement but maintenance IS something we don’t usually leave room for, and when it comes to organizing, maintenance is what’s gonna make or break you.  (More on that later!)  

Think about this for a second:

Imagine that you go away for the weekend and a magical transformation happens while you’re gone.  Your entire house gets organized!  Every. Single. Space. At Zero.  Zero all over your house.  

Great, right?  

Not so much unless it comes with a permanent person to keep it that way because now you’ve gotta maintain the whole house immediately.  Essentially, you’ve gone from no maintenance to COMPLETE maintenance.  This means keeping it organized AND training everyone else in the household to keep it organized.  

It’s kinda like magically waking up one day and being skinny.  It sounds great in theory, right?  Then you realize you’re gonna have to eat 900 calories a day and run 432 miles a week to maintain.  

Now let’s look back at that bathroom list for a second.  We’ve broken that one area down into seven smaller areas, right?  That doesn’t mean that you have to tackle it on seven different occasions.  

You CAN get the entire bathroom to Zero in one sitting IF YOU WANT TO, but just in case you don’t, you’ve got a built-in safety net strategically designedto help you succeed. 

So what do you think?  Go big or go home, most likely sobbing and snotty?  Or start small and add up those successes into one big, beautiful Zero?   It’s your call. 

Want a little something to help you break down those go big or go home spaces into start small, y’all, spaces?  Here ya’ go!

Breaking Your Space Into Manageable Bites

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