a woman doing the best she can do to climb a ladder

Do you ever ask yourself, Is this the best you can do? I do. If I’m stuck and feeling frustrated with a project, I sometimes throw my hands up in disgust and ask myself, Is this the best you can do? When the answer is, no, I give myself a little talking to, think about my purpose, and keep on working. Hopefully the answer is, yes and I give myself permission to stop, reward myself, and walk away.

Since I am a professional organizer, I’m talking about organizing projects.

What does the best you can do mean?

Doing your best with an organizing project means that you have spent the amount of time you have allocated to a specific organizing project and that you have done everything you decided to do to the best of your ability. It may take you a few days of working in small chunks of time. It may also mean that you have made some difficult decisions about what to keep and what to release. Organizing projects can be difficult but if you continually do the best you can do it becomes easier and easier.

Sometimes doing your best means that you ask for help from a professional organizer or that you join a clutter support group for suggestions and accountability.

How does this work?

Be intentional when you tackle your organizing project. Decide where you are going to focus your energy. Decide how much time you want to give to the project today. Then follow through on your intentions. You remove what you no longer use or love from the space and either trash, recycle, or donate the items. Then, you organize that which remains in a way that works for you. If you follow these steps, then you will be doing the best you can do.

You can always revisit the space and the project again if you want to continue making progress.

Manage your expectations

Sometimes you will have high expectations for the outcome of an organizing project. Maybe you have decided to make your office resemble the one featured in a picture in Better Home & Gardens or House Beautiful. Then, there are times when your expectations will not be so lofty.

My friend and colleague, Jonda Beattie, divides her home into zones. Every month she tackles a different zone and gives that part of her home a thorough cleaning. She also evaluates the organization in that space, tweaking it as needed. She has done this for years. Recently, she had her hip replaced. Amazingly, she still followed through on her plan to clean and organize the zone of the month. She did the best she could do and allowed herself to lower her expectations because she physically couldn’t do as good or thorough a job as she does when she’s in good shape. When she asked herself is that the best you can do, the answer was YES! She managed her expectations.

Good enough

Jonda allowed herself to be satisfied with good enough. She worked on the area as planned. She spent a little time each week working on the zone of the month and had completed the project by the end of the month.

Avoid perfectionism

When you allow yourself to be satisfied with ‘good enough’ you will be able to say that is the best you can do. You’re not making excuses for yourself because you have completed the task and done your best in that moment.

Can you return to the project and make it better? Of course, you can, if you want to.

Understand that if you constantly compare your organizing projects to magazine photo shoots you will almost always come away being dissatisfied. You live in your home. Even if you create the perfect look, using the space will naturally cause it to be messy from time to time. Afterall, as I said, you live in your home.

Compare your organizing project to your before and after pictures. Is the space better? If the answer is yes, then you have done the best you can do. Reward yourself. If the answer is no, then consider that this is the best you can do in this moment in time. You can return and work on it some more another time.

Avoid perfectionism and be satisfied knowing that you have done the best you can do. Everyone has their own definition of perfect. What is perfect for me in my home will not be perfect for you in your home. Avoid seeking perfect based on someone else’s definition or someone else’s vision for a space.

Always think about what will work for you in your home according to the way you live your life and do your best to achieve it.

The most important reason to ask yourself if this is the best you can do is so that you can appreciate and celebrate the effort you make to improve your space and that you can enjoy living in it more.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane specializes in residential and home-office organizing and working with people affected by ADD, hoarding challenges, and chronic disorganization. Follow Diane on Facebook for more organizing tips and strategies.

12 Comments

  • I love that idea of the “zone of the month.” I can think of a few in my own house that could use some attention. I’ve been working away, bit by bit, in my attic since COVID hit. I figured I was home much more than normal, so might as well take advantage of the time, right? Great idea!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Seana. Jonda created the Zone Plan and has been actively using it for decades. It’s a great idea because we often forget what we’ve stashed in a drawer or in a closet or the attic unless we focus our attention on that spot.

  • The ideas of “good enough,” “doing my best,” and perfectionism are fascinating concepts to balance. I don’t know if you’ve seen any episodes of the new Netflix show, “The Home Edit,” but while it certainly shows some beautifully organized spaces, it also perpetuates unrealistic expectations for normal, every day life. While I enjoy seeing the organized spaces, the show feeds into perfectionist tendencies, which isn’t great. Expectations are important in setting organizing goals. Understanding what will work for yourself or family, be managable, and maintainable is crucial. That’s where the “good enough” and realistic part about organizing fits in.

    As far as “doing my best” goes, that too can be tricky question to evaluate. I strive to do my best. And sometimes it’s a lot because what I deem as my best can be a high bar. I’m learning when it’s important to put forth that 110% effort and when it’s OK to give less effort. That “best” can look different depending on the circumstance. I appreciate how you explained that.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Linda. I haven’t seen the show the Home Edit but have heard lots about it. Unrealistic expectations are so demoralizing and can derail the best of intentions. I understand what you mean when you say you set the bar high for yourself. I do that also. I appreciate Jonda’s realistic expectations of herself and her ability to accept what is less than her best when the circumstances warrant.

  • Melanie says:

    I too, try to divide my house into zones and stations. I always try to envision a department store and set things up in a way that make sense and display nicely. Of course, nothing stays that way for long and I try to remind my self that havinga project done is better than it being perfect.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      That’s great Melanie. I love your department store idea and the way you let that vision guide you. I agree that done is much better than stressing over getting it perfect!

  • “Manage your expectations” is critical to getting organized or any project for that matter. When we don’t, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed and disappointed.
    I’ve often asked clients who wanted a picture perfect pillow arrangement or underwear drawer or spice cabinet, “ Is organized, workable, aesthetically pleasing good enough?” As you said, no one can maintain perfection. It’s unrealistic.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Ronni. It’s great to make something look beautiful but if it is really difficult to maintain – what’s the point? I go for functional and easy on the eye!

  • I tend to be on the side of wanting the zone to make perfect. So, saying this is good enough does help me!

  • I live by the “Good Enough” idea, but I also get frustrated sometimes when I feel that I haven’t done my best. I guess it’s a balancing game.