Back to School with STYLE: Taking Baby Steps


Organizing by Style

Last week, I started writing about organizing with STYLE — not just the personal and organizational styles I’ve been sharing (lower case), but also the plan that underlies them: STYLE in all caps:

Start with successes

Take small steps

Yes, it has a home!

Let it go

Easy upkeep

If starting with successes keeps us optimistic, then taking small steps builds gradually on that optimism.

Did you catch that adverb? I’ll say it again just in case: gradually.

Have you ever sent your child to clean his or her room, only to check on him (or her) again in an hour and find the room in worse shape than it was to begin with? It’s not that our kids want to be disobedient. More often, they lack the ability to break a big task down into its component parts. Unable to imagine how to restore order, they quickly give up or get distracted. If we can teach them to take small steps (and perhaps approach our own monumental tasks in the same way), we’re more likely to end up with clean rooms and organized homes.

What does taking small steps look like?

  • Tackling just one area. Unless the project or room cleaning must be done all at once, break the job down into its component parts. On Monday, clear off the toybox. On Tuesday, put books away. On Wednesday, put clothes away…and so on. If your child wants to persist at additional tasks once the day’s task has been completed, more power to him (or her). If not, baby steps can be the pathway to good habits, if not a thoroughly tidy bedroom.
  • Finding just one tool. We all have homeless items in our house, along with organizational systems that aren’t working. Finding a home for even a few of those items or replacing a broken system with a style-based plan is a baby step that keeps paying dividends. Once we’ve found the right home or the right plan, it’s easy to maintain and clutter is automatically reduced.
  • Giving it just one hour — or less. Most people don’t enjoy an entire day spent organizing. If you’ve got a big task ahead of you, schedule a block of time to chip away at it. When time’s up, you can stop or keep going (as you wish), but even if you stop, you’re bound to see progress, which is often just enough motivation to tackle it again another day.

Getting organized and staying that way takes patience and persistence, and some days, it’s hard to come by one of those, let alone both of them. If we practice baby steps, we develop habits that help patience and persistence not only to grow, but to be rewarded by another important p-word.


Copyright 2015 Lisa Hess
Logo background image: “Unageek color” by Unageek (2013) via Morguefile. Text added in Canva.


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and is a blogger at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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