Why Little-by-Little Progress Matters

Before the first month of the year has even come to an end, most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions because making progress is an actual beast.

“Oh, I’m not in shape enough, disciplined enough, strong enough,” we tell ourselves.

Getting my life – our budget, toy room, drawers, those forbidden junk closets – organized is one of my goals this year.

I started strong with an entire Saturday deep couch and drawer diving to find and unite missing board game pieces. Hoorah! Then I had a day when I found all of the electronics in the house with busted screens, jammed headphones, or that my girls have grown out of.

But then, I got overwhelmed.

I was frustrated by the time it took to try to find missing manuals and revive electronics. I was overwhelmed by the effort involved in taking pictures and cleaning items in good condition to sell. I was discouraged by all the closets that still had yet to be opened.

My, “Let’s take on the world!” mindset most of us have on our New Years Resolutions highs began to taper because honestly? The grueling process of Marie-Kondo’ing the house strips me of joy. :/

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For me, two excuses get in the way of achieving my goals – comparison and feeling like I don’t have enough time to get ‘er done. Here’s how I’m trying to beat them down.

Excuse #1 – I’m Not As Good As…

We scroll our social media feeds and quickly convince ourselves we will never be as skinny or organized, as good of a mom or spouse, as pretty or put together as that person. You’re a dirty liar if you say you don’t do this.

I recently did a good share of it myself.

A friend whose entire family (with eleven kids!) is an absolute gift to humanity starting sharing ways she organizes her home – records, winter apparel, recipes, etc. – on Instagram this week. I would HIGHLY recommend following her for these tips and more if you don’t yet here.

I ate some of her first posts on gloves up like candy:

“Get rid of all winter gloves. Buy all black gloves for non-snow use. They keep their hands warm enough for quick outings. No matching needing. Easy to replace. Doesn’t matter much if you lose one. Can find them anywhere. Easy to just grab a pair and go. No need to find the match!!

“Everybody has one nice pair of winter gloves from Land’s End. Land’s End will replace a glove if you misplace one for a small fee. I don’t buy everybody their own color. I buy the same color in the same size. I like the winter mittens over the winter gloves because they can wear a pair of black finger gloves underneath.”

I began to go throughout the house on a sock and glove ridding craze and was feeling pretty darn good about myself. “You don’t own me anymore, mismatched gloves!” I thought with a smirk.

As the posts continued, though, I began to beat myself down that my closets, gift buying, files, and medicine organization looked Tazmanian-Devil’ish in comparison to her pictures.

Why do we do this to ourselves?!? Why do we try to keep up with what we see online and beat ourselves down when our progress doesn’t look exactly like other peoples?

“Don’t you dare compare your beginning with someone else’s middle.”

Rachel Hollis

This premise by Rachel Hollis is something I have to remind myself when I start boarding the comparison train. You have no idea the undertow of pictures you see online. You have no idea how many missteps, fights, behind-the-scenes chaotic desks, or long it took to get there

That “perfectly in-shape person” may have worked out twice a day for a year to lose 50 lbs. to get there.
That “perfect marriage” may have 20 years more than you under their belt with way more time to work out the marital kinks.
That “perfect mom” assuredly has days she hides in the closet to eat snacks because silence.

Can we please for all that is good stop treating our lives, goals, marriages, and stories like they're cookie cutters? Click To Tweet

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, …”
-1 Corinthians 12:18-22

God makes each of us with our own unique stories and timelines. He made each of us with different strengths, numbers of kids, and spouses.

Some have an eye for fashion, but can’t coach their kid’s team to save their life. Others can redecorate homes with ease but burn every meal. And some have perfectly organized homes but we forget the long process of trial and error it took to get there.

When someone asked my friend how she does it all on top of homeschooling eleven kids, she replied, “little by little. It has taken me 18 years to find the right systems and I still have a lifetime to go.”

How much quicker would we achieve our goals if instead of trying to keep up with the Jones’ we celebrate their victories, use what works for us, and recognize we are on a much different timeline and journey?

Excuse #2 – I Ain’t Got No Time For That

For me, another hindrance to checking off my list is getting overwhelmed with how many checks it takes to get there. “I ain’t got no time to organize all our toys and clothes today,” I tell myself, rather than being content tackling one drawer a time.

We do that, though, don’t we? We try to fast-forward to the end using crash diets and cliff notes rather than celebrating the victories in the progress

Re-organized pantry via Ashley Stevens at Mountains Unmoved

What if we celebrated each pantry we organized, closet we rearranged, and tote we took to Goodwill?

I don’t expect my toddlers to learn to tie their shoes the first time they try. Why don’t I approach my goals with the same forgiving standards?

“Just do one room at a time,” my friend told me when she came over to help me reorganize my daughter’s rooms. She is insanely talented at interior design, fashion, hair, being a mom…oh wait, I’m comparing again.

This one was re-done out of necessity after a room swap since apparently my eight-year-old can’t sleep in her baby sister’s crib, but I’m really proud of it and finishing was a great reminder that it really is one drawer, closet, and room at a time; that progress is in the little-by-little.

  • If your goal is to re-organize the house, start with a drawer.
  • If your goal is to eat more healthy, start by drinking half your body’s weight in water each day.
  • If your goal is to be more present, start by scheduling an hour each day when the phone is docked out of sight.

As you accomplish these small goals, do the next thing – tackle the closet, track calories, etc. – and celebrate the progress in the little-by-little. Every drawer organized, pound lost, or dollar saved adds up.


What goals are you trying to tackle this year and what gets in the way? How can you break them down to make them more manageable?

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