Relatively Better

woman jumping in the air and smiling

I’ve recently found myself with a new guilty pleasure – a genre I refer to as “medical reality television.” These are shows about people who have various physical ailments and their pursuit of treatment to make things better. I’ve seen everything from foot problems to skin issues to infectious diseases. While each episode and situation is different, there are some common themes:

  • People around the world are enduring some pretty difficult circumstances
  • Many people suffer untreated for years, either because of a lack of resources, a lack of trust in the medical establishment, or embarrassment
  • Medical conditions are often more complex than they initially seem
  • There isn’t always a cure

Regardless of the situational specifics, the best part of watching these shows is getting to see the reactions of the patients after they receive treatment. Their faces are brighter, they feel more confident, they resume old pastimes, they start new jobs, they return to social settings from which they had withdrawn, and more. Seeing these individuals, who have suffered for so long, finally receive relief truly warms my heart.

Similarly, it has been interesting for me to see that patients are joyful, even when their results fall short of what the world might define as ideal. For instance, a man had to have his large toe removed because the problem was too sever to repair, but the fact that he could now walk without pain was enough to make him very happy. Another woman who had been living with a legion of painful cysts was delighted with having the largest ones removed, even though smaller ones remained. One man was willing to undergo months of discomfort to achieve only an 80% improvement in his ability to breathe.

The headline seems to be, “somewhat better is still better.” Quality of life – even if it falls short of perfection – nonetheless ushers in celebration and gladness.

So what does all of this have to do with organizing?

Many times we avoid taking action on troubling situations because we think we won’t be able to achieve the “right” result.  I imagine our idea of what “right” is probably comes from TV, magazines and social media. Unfortunately, comparing our situation to those we see in optimized images can be both discouraging and demotivating. When we avoid making changes because we see our potential progress as falling short of what we idealize, we end up stuck in a rut of dissatisfaction. Rather than compelling us to do our best, perfectionism can prevent us from trying to do anything at all.

An alternate choice is to pursue approachable and achievable changes that can make our living and working situations relatively better.  For example, maybe we can’t afford a large, walk-in closet with a sofa and overhead lighting, but we may be able to clear away some shoes and clothing that we aren’t wearing, shift things around a bit, and greatly improve the way we store, find and access our clothing. Maybe we don’t have a full mudroom with spacious cubbies and a built-in dog crate, but we can probably purge accumulated piles, add some hooks and/or shelves to the space we do have, and improve the look and feel of our entry.

While it may not be realistic to completely achieve a “dream space,” it may be possible to make enough of an upgrade to significantly enhance your quality of life. Something as simple as a well-ordered kitchen drawer can bring a smile multiple times a day. Just as the patients in the reality shows I watch are delighted by positive changes, we also can find pleasure in incremental improvements to the way we organize our time, space and belongings.

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Is there a space in your home that is worth trying to make relatively better?

32 thoughts on “Relatively Better”

  1. I couldn’t love your advice more. I have limited storage space for my seasonal decor once said season is over. I recently cleaned out some shelves in my cabinet, as well as a chest I have. With those areas cleaned I was actually able to better store my seasonal decor. So I couldn’t agree more as some simple changes can indeed improve our living spaces if nothing else.

    1. A simple “fix” like that made a big difference. That is such a terrific example. And it feels so great to open that chest now and be able to fit what you need inside. Thanks for sharing:)

  2. When we think about our goals and meeting expectations, often we have to strategize when an obstacle occurs. Incremental success gives us more of this and often a better result.

    1. Surprisingly, those little changes can be almost as satisfying as the big ones. Something as simple as a well-organized supplies drawer, or a reliable place top put (and hence find) the keys can really bring us great joy!

  3. Seana, my mother used to love watching these medical reality shows! You make a valuable point here – better is, just that better. Comparing oneself to those who do or have that which we may covet is a dangerous road to travel. I agree that finding a way to improve that which is, is better than sitting around bemoaning the fact that we can’t have or do what we covet.
    Diane Quintana recently posted…How to Organize for a Move to a New HomeMy Profile

    1. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. I really do love seeing people receive the gift of better health! Bemoaning definitely makes us miserable, so why waste the energy? Even a small step forward can be enough to make us feel better, and perhaps motivate us to try something else!

  4. What a powerful statement- “pursue approachable and achievable changes that can make our living and working situations relatively better.” It is the pursuit of perfection and the overwhelm that ensues that often prevents us from moving forward. But adjusting the expectation to “better” instead of “perfect” can be the difference between doing something positive and doing nothing at all. I like how you are inspired by your medical reality TV shows and were able to draw the correlation between those situations and how it relates to the organizing work we do with our clients. In both situations (medical or organizational), the idea is about movement and change, in incremental, realistic ways.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…6 Helpful Habits That Will Boost Lasting ChangeMy Profile

    1. Exactly… movement & change! Honestly, nobody’s situation is “perfect,” so the sooner we let go of that ideal, the better. Even small improvements can give us deep joy and satisfaction, as well as provide us the confidence we need to keep trying. I am so thankful to be in a helping profession where what we do truly makes lives better!

  5. I agree! “Many times, we avoid taking action on troubling situations because we think we won’t be able to achieve the “right” result.” Our perception of the outcome can quickly stop us from pursuing improvements. Sometimes, too much thinking can result in a predetermined judge of what the outcome will be. I like to do reviewing of 80 percent of the process and then wing the rest. We will not know what the result is for sure unless we start and see it through to completion.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…5 Super Important Mens Closet Organization TipsMy Profile

    1. It is definitely tempting to engage in “too much thinking.” Having no deadline or too much time can compound this tendency. I agree that having a solid plan helps us get going, and then we can shift and adapt as necessary once the process is underway!

  6. I agree that the fear of not being able to get the perfect result definitely causes me to resist starting some things. I will try to view this differently now and start some of those things I have been putting off—like cleaning out all of my costume jewelry containers. I know many of them will still not look very organized but there are a lot of pieces I can get rid of and improve my ability to find the ones I regularly wear.

    1. I love this perspective, Dianne. Even if your costume jewelry storage isn’t “magazine-ready,” it can still be improved in a way that will make it easier for you to access and enjoy your favorite pieces.

  7. The pain that is created when you are disorganized (being late, losing things) sounds similar to the physical pain from your shows. Maybe not as bad. But when you start to move forward and the pain lessens then “somewhat better” kicks in. I like it.

  8. Progress, not perfection.

    Everything you said comes back to that — even a little improvement is still an improvement. Even the teeniest bit of improvement gives a person a sense of accomplishment, whether that’s feeling better or doing [something] better. You are so right that you can “make enough of an upgrade to significantly enhance your quality of life.” Any kind of better is better.
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll On Narwhals, Fake News, and How To Get A REAL IDMy Profile

    1. We are all fans of tiny improvements because they truly make you happy. In fact, sometimes finally conquering a small task you’ve been avoiding can be more rewarding than working on the big ones. Here’s to small progress!

  9. You make so many great points and the message should be hung on everyone’s front door. I’ve often asked my clients If they could set a standard of “good-enough?” I also think it’s a mindset that we have to continually revisit until it becomes part of our daily thought process.
    One of my favorite commercials is the miraculous results accomplished at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. The stories are just unbelievably hopeful.

  10. Seana, I am always so motivated by your insights. I like relating the “better” of organizing to feeling better when getting over illness (maybe because I’m just now recovering from a virus). No one says, “If I can’t be perfectly healthy, I don’t want to get any better.” You take every little bit of better that you can get on your road to healthier. Thinking about organization and productivity that way is enlightening.

    1. Exactly, Susan. “You take every little bit of better that you can get.” I just love the way you phrased this. (Sorry about the virus, hope you are feeling well by now!!)

  11. I love the way you linked the thoughts. Yes, there’s a freedom and happiness in solutions sometimes – that maybe we didn’t think possible. The outcomes, rather.
    I don’t watch the shows you’re referring to – but I have a lot of friends who do – because of the sheer satisfaction they got from watching!

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