This past weekend I went to boot camp as I do most Saturday mornings. This Saturday, like so many in the past, I’ve come away with the belief that this class is misnamed—I think it should called “kick your boot(y) camp” because that’s how I feel in the midst of the class. (Like someone is literally kicking me in the backside!) It seems no matter how much I workout, this class always pushes me…up one more hill, down one more hill, just a little bit further outside of my comfort zone. And I love it.

Not only is this form of exercise great for my body…it’s great for my mind, too. Even though there are all sorts of people around me going through the same physical endurance test, boot camp offers me an hour of quiet time. For most of the class, it’s just me and my thoughts which offers a nice change of pace to the rest of my week.

This past weekend as I was running down a hill for what felt like the tenth time (just before running up another hill for what felt like the twentieth time!) I had this thought:  “Use what you’ve got, Aby. You have long legs…use them! If you take longer steps down the hill you won’t have to take as many steps and you’ll get to the bottom a whole lot faster.” As a stretched my legs longer than I had that whole day (or maybe my whole life?) I realized that this same “use what you’ve got” advice applies to organizing, too. (Yes, this is the kind of stuff I think about when I have quiet time to myself. Go figure.)


So often we wish for the perfect set of scenarios before doing something. And yet, we’d get to where we want to be so much more quickly if we simply use what we’ve got. Here’s what I mean. Read on and see if any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, and then if they do, simply get started using what you’ve got.

What you want:  You want a couple of weeks off from your other responsibilities so you can focus solely on your organizing projects.

What you’ve got:  You have a few stolen moments here and there during the week, and maybe one solid hour or two on the weekends to work on your organizing projects.

What you can do:  Use what you’ve got! Use those ten to fifteen minute slices of time during the week to make progress decluttering. Pull out items you no longer use and put them in a donate bin. Put away things that are out of their homes and create a bit of clear space and breathing room. Pick up the phone and schedule a charity pick-up. Bite-size your organizing projects by focusing on one drawer, or one shelf, or on cupboard at a time. You will be amazed at the progress you can make using what you have—even if it’s just teeny tiny pockets of time!

What you want:  You want all new, matching storage containers.

What you’ve got:  Budget for something a bit less than all new matching storage containers and perhaps a mismatched collection of containers accumulated over the years.

What you can do:  Use what you’ve got! I can’t begin to tell you the number of clients I’ve worked with over the years who didn’t need to buy a single container. You can get organized by using the containers you already have on hand and by repurposing everyday items you have around the house. Use empty soup cans covered in paper to corral pens, pencils and other craft supplies. Use small bowls and ramekins to organize small items in bathroom or kitchen drawers. Or use those mismatched containers…and upgrade slowly over time! Don’t wait for the big windfall of cash to buy those all matching containers and then get started. Instead, start getting organized now using the containers you already have.

Mismatched containers

What you want:  You want to have every step of your organizing project figured out before you begin (so you’re sure that things turn out perfectly!) The trouble is this causes you to feel overwhelmed, so you don’t start at all.

What you’ve got:  If you’re like most of the people I work with, you have a rough idea of what you want. And at a minimum, you know what you don’t want.

What to do:  Whether you have a sketchy idea of what you do want (or a crystal clear idea of what you don’t want), use what you’ve got. Start with what you know for sure, and then, give yourself permission to figure out the rest of the details as you move forward with your project. When you make progress on your project, it will become much easier to see the next step you need to take. It will be simpler to put together the rest of the puzzle, with each new piece you put into place.

Here’s a little secret:  this is how I do every single organizing project I do! I don’t know exactly how the project will come together before I start. Instead, I piece it together as I go. If I’m working on a project with a client, we collaborate. I ask my client questions as we work through the organizing process, and the answers to those questions lead us to the best possible finished result. It would be really hard to know all the questions to ask at the onset (let alone remember all the answers). And if I did it this way, we’d both feel really overwhelmed! Instead, I follow my tried and true organizing process, and proceed with confidence that the pieces will fall into place as we move along. Not only does this approach work, it’s much simpler than trying to figure it all out before you begin.

What you want:  You want to find the perfect organizing solution.

What you’ve got:  A long list (or a closet full) of organizing solutions you’ve tried in the past that didn’t work as well as you had hoped.

What to do:  Use what you have! Along with those less-than-ideal organizing systems came a whole bunch of information about what does and doesn’t work for you. Use it! Every system you try that doesn’t work as well as you hoped gives you terrific insight that will help you create a system that will work great for you. Give yourself permission to use this information to tweak or create a new system that will work great for you!

When you use what you’ve got you enable yourself to get started faster. You take bigger steps or you take steps sooner than you would if you wait for the ideal set of circumstances. The end result:  you get up the hill—or get organized—much faster than you would have otherwise. I’d love to hear from you!

What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to getting organized? Can you see a way to use what you’ve got to get started? Thanks for sharing!

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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