STYLE Savvy: Make it Better


Last week, I wrote about ways to regain a little bit of a sense of control when we feel as though we’re being overrun by our own to-do lists.

So, what do you do when you can’t even find the to-do list?

A few weeks ago, one of the many viruses wending its way through Pennsylvania landed at our house. While an upper respiratory infection usually leaves me tired, sniffly and at least a little crabby, I can still manage to fake my way through most of my daily responsibilities.

Not this time.

Unfortunately, this malady was not only slow to exit, but it took my husband down with it along the way. Lacking both time and the energy, I needed a plan that would make inroads — or at least stem the tide — without requiring resources I didn’t have.

Enter “make it better.”

Simple, efficient and progressive, this strategy became part mindset, part mantra and part strategy. It became the way I looked at piles, the phrase I repeated to myself as I walked past clutter and the steps I took to make progress when I simply didn’t have the energy to take anything more than baby steps.

It became my pathway out of overwhelmed.

The mindset: Overwhelmed by burgeoning clutter, yet lacking the energy to really “dig in,”  I adopted the mindset that simply making it better was a good starting point. This absolved me from any guilt and set me up to win every time I took even a baby step. Accepting this as a mindset (admittedly, I had little choice) influenced my outlook, too. Instead of seeing every pile as one more thing to do, I saw it as something I could improve upon, even if only a little at at time.

The mantra: How many times have you walked past a pile and inwardly groaned “that’s still there?” “Make it better” gave me an answer to that. That’s still there? Yep. Make it better. Since picking up just one thing made it better, I found myself groaning less and de-cluttering more.

The strategy: Small successes inspire big successes. Every time I walked past clutter, the only thing I had to do was make it better. Since every item picked up and put away accomplished this, it was easy to feel successful, one item at a time. Watching piles get smaller inspired me, once I was feeling better, to dig into the clutter that predated my illness.

It took getting sick to remind me of a basic idea: setting small, reachable goals is the key to success, whether in organizing or in life. Because I couldn’t manage big, impressive goals, I had to stick to a simple one, and, with time, it proved its value as philosophy, mindset, mantra and strategy.

And I have the clear surfaces to prove it.

Copyright 2017 Lisa Hess


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs 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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