Just Do One Thing: Tackling Big Projects When You Live With Chronic Pain https://reclaiminghopewellness.com

Just Do One Thing: Tackling Big Projects When You Live With Chronic Pain

Ugh, I have to do something about this office. I absolutely cannot work in this mess! I had finally reached the end of my rope with my office.

Many of you may know already that my office is a never-ending source of frustration for me. As I talked about in the post How’s Your Environmental Wellness, when my desk is a mess, I just can’t work.

The problem is, it’s hard for my desk not to get messy because I’m out of room in my office. My bookshelves are overflowing, I’ve got more craft supplies than any one person could use in a lifetime, and I have additional bins of books that won’t fit on the shelves.

This week, I’ve finally been able to articulate what I really want to do in this next phase of my life and I need a space to work that supports it. It’s time to get serious about cleaning up my office once and for all.

It’s a big job, and I’ve been dealing with a lot of pain issues over the last month. Of course, my sweet husband offered to help in any way he can, but this is something I really need to do myself so I know where everything is.

I’ve put it off for long enough. It was time to “bite the bullet” and get started on it….

First, I had to prioritize my work. What was going to give me the “most bang for my buck”? I decided on my closet. It has wall-to-wall shelves that I use to store craft supplies, photos and other mementos, and office equipment.

I determined this would be my first priority because I want to get rid of one set of bookshelves, and in order to do that, I need to be able to move some baskets of office supplies that I keep on my shelves to the closet. Getting those into the closet will clear up at least two shelves.

Next, I had to actually start working, and honestly, just opening that closet door was almost enough to send me screaming from the room. There was so much stuff in there, some of which I haven’t used at all for the six years we’ve lived in this house, that it’s kind of overwhelming.

I decided to apply the ONE THING philosophy — What ONE THING can I do today that will move me closer to my goals? I decided I would do one “thing” per day – one box, one basket, one bin – until it was all done. For each of those things, I’m making a decision to keep, donate, or trash immediately – no putting things aside to deal with later.

Doing one thing per day is not ideal, and my Type-A personality is fighting me every step of the way. That voice in my head keeps screaming that it’s going to take forever, but I know it’s the way that I can get this done without my fibromyalgia flaring up and stopping me mid-way through. It will also allow me to get things straightened out permanently. If I have somewhere to put everything, my desk won’t get piled up with things that shouldn’t be there.

Just Do One Thing: Tackling Big Projects When You Live With Chronic Pain https://reclaiminghopewellness.com

Things are progressing much more quickly than I thought they would. I’ve made quite a bit of room in there and I have a bin full of things to donate so far.

Once the closet is done, I’ll start working on my bookshelves. I’ll keep using the ONE THING philosophy until my office is the place I want it to be.

It may not take as long as I thought it would….

So often, we think if we can’t get it all done at one time we might as well not attempt it. When we live with chronic pain or energy-limiting chronic illnesses, that thought process can paralyze us. The thought of having to tackle a big project all at once can discourage us and keep us from even attempting it.

Whether it’s cleaning out an office, changing our eating habits, starting an exercise program, or any of a million other things, doing just one thing each day that moves us forward can help us reach our goals without overtaxing our systems.

Doing just one thing may not sound like much, but doing that one thing time after time builds on itself and allows us to make progress, even when we deal with chronic pain and fatigue.

How do you tackle those big projects? What have you found most helpful in making progress with them? Please share!




    1. Guess I’m not the only crafty one, huh? What kind of crafts do you do Melinda?

      1. I have lots of scrapbooking stuff too, but I find myself using my scrapbook supplies for other craft projects more than the scrapbooking. 😊I’ve tried to learn to crochet and knit, but I really don’t enjoy it. My crochet stuff is one of the things I’ve decided to donate. I just don’t think I’ll ever really develop that interest. I do love what other people crochet and knit though. Some of my favorite things are things that have been crocheted for me.

  1. Another super helpful, encouraging and wonderful post Terri! 🙂 I keep telling myself to just keep moving forward and one thing at a time is a great way to tackle big projects. I am like you, I want it all done yesterday so I can just move on to the next………but………….you know that usually is impossible. So happy you will get your office back and you can move on to the next adventure!

    1. Thank you so much Wendi! I’m glad to know I’m in good company with wanting everything done yesterday…. I just was not blessed with a great deal of patience, but that’s one thing I’m learning with fibromyalgia. I don’t have much of a choice except to be patient in some areas due to my limitations, but it’s a lesson that’s been good for me.😊

  2. It’s certainly a big adjustment learning to pace every little thing! The two things that I might do are set a timer so you don’t get lost in thought and over do it and monitor your heart rate to make sure you aren’t depleting yourself. But these are MECFS tips not necessarily FM tips. I just know you’re going to love it all when it’s as you would like it, just make sure and take it slowly and listen to your body. 🌸

    1. Thank you so much for some great tips Mishka! I especially love the idea of setting the timer – for me, it’s easy to get caught up in what I’m doing and overdo it before I even realize it. That’s a great way to make sure that doesn’t happen! I’m looking forward to a nice clean office. 😊 Hope you’re doing well sweet friend!

  3. I taking steps towards setting up a writing space and it’s difficult to have patience so I fully understand how you feel, but every step is a move in the right direction. I hope you took a before picture to proudly compare your after picture with!

    1. How exciting Marie! It’s nice to have a space specifically for what we want to do, isn’t it? It would be nice if we could just snap our fingers and have it done immediately, wouldn’t it? Since we can’t, as you said, “every step is a move in the right direction.” I wish I had thought of taking a before picture! It would have been great to have a visual comparison. 😊

      1. Thanks Terri, it is exciting and with a little patience, I’ll get there! You’ll have the visual comparison in your head! 😃

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I suffer from chronic pain (fibromyalgia) and it can be such a challenge just to get out of bed sometimes. I am off from work tomorrow and Thursday and one of the things I want to do is get my room straightened and my closet cleaned out. Working through the pain can be tough but at the end when everything is in its place, it will definitely have been worth it.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Leigh! The longer I live with fibromyalgia, the more I realize the absolute need to pace myself. It’s frustrating sometimes, but it keeps me from being stopped in my tracks by a flare. As you said, sometimes we just have to work through the pain; after all, we’re in pain every day. I think just doing a little at a time, over time, can help keep the pain from sending us back to bed…. Wishing you all the best with your room/closet project!

  5. I’m glad to hear you’re making progress on your office. I am also trying to organize and clean up my office/studio. Like you, I have to do it in little bits, and it’s so frustrating. It’s easy to think that I’m not getting anywhere or wasting my time. My inner perfectionist wants it all done right now! Thanks for the reminder that chipping away is okay.

    1. Thanks Kit! It’s hard to have patience when we’re working on big projects, isn’t it? I put it off for far too long because I kept thinking I just didn’t have the energy for it. I finally realized I would never have the energy to do it all at once, but doing one thing per day would at least move me in the right direction. I know you do a lot of creative work, so I’m sure you use your studio space a lot. Wishing you all the best with it!

      1. Isn’t it, though? I love getting rid of stuff I can’t use anymore; it’s just finding the energy to get it done. 😊 It’s a process, but I’m making good progress and starting to get excited now that I’m seeing space clear up. Thanks for your comments!

  6. I started imitating the Marie Kondo method – only keep what brings me joy! I find that pain increases when I feel anxiety over the stuff I feel obligated to keep. Tossing stuff brings relief!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! That’s a great way to look at getting rid of things. It definitely is freeing to let go of things that are no longer serving me. I also love that someone else can get some use out of things I no longer need. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Well done, Terri! My room is a source of constant frustrating because it’s a never-ending project, that’s never fully ‘sorted’ the way I’d like because, as you found with your office, I don’t have enough space. But I do find it easier seeing everything these days as a mixture of parts; the whole thing is too overwhelming and just not realistic with exhaustion and pain, but breaking down a task, challenge or project makes it far more manageable. Bit by bit, we get there. Great reminder! 🙂

    1. Thank you Caz! It’s coming along slowly… That’s such a great way to look at things – “a mixture of parts”! That can certainly make it less overwhelming to tackle. Breaking things into small, manageable pieces makes it so much easier to get the big things done. Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics used to say, “You can eat an elephant one bite at a time.” Hope you’re doing well; I’m STILL trying to get caught up with everyone. Sending hugs!

    1. Thanks for your comment Trev! “One small step at a time” has helped me so much over these last few years. Realizing it doesn’t have to be done all at once can help us gain momentum, can’t it?

  8. Terri! I’m a mess! We are selling out home and I’ve been in ‘too frightened to even begin anything state’! I can do this… keep, donate, throw…. 3 boxes. Oh my! Wish me luck…🥴

    1. You can do it Kim! One thing, one box at a time…. That first step is the hardest; I can’t tell you how long I kept thinking I needed to do something and then let the “overwhelm” paralyze me. One day last week I decided I would just do one thing that day and quit, and knowing I only had to do something small was enough to get me started. Making sure I do that one thing has had a snowball effect too – it seems like it’s going much faster the further along I get. You’ve got this girlfriend!

  9. ONE THING!!! I know it works, but have trouble narrowing it down. My one things are still this one room when they should be this closet, or this basket…as ever I learn so much from you. TY for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much Grace! I know what you mean about it being hard to make it one closet, one basket, etc. I have such a hard time with limiting myself still, but I know if I don’t I’ll end up hurting and lose time in the long run…. I hope your trip was all you hoped it would be. I’ll pop by your blog and catch up with what’s going on with you. I feel like I’m still playing catch-up with reading everyone’s blogs. Hugs!

      1. AH take your time Terri. My trip was an adventure that I needed to take, but also am not up to doing again for a long time.

  10. Oh goodness yes. I love your ‘one thing’ suggestion. My one thing can literally just be a few sheets of paper, but it’s a start. And I can totally relate to the need to know where everything is. It takes my brain quite a while to adjust to ‘the new place’. Happy reorganising.

    1. Thanks so much Penny! I’m a firm believer that every little thing helps. I’ve been applying my “one thing” rule to my office, and I’ve actually made some really good progress so far. Thanks for the good wishes! Blessings to you!

  11. Congratulations for finally tackling this big project. I think you’re going about it in such a smart way, and by making sure you’re making a decision on each item, you avoid a whole pile of things you have worry about later. Good luck and keep up the smart pace!!!

    1. Thanks so much Pamela! Believe it or not, I’ve made some great progress. There are days that I may do a couple of things, depending on how much sorting or decision-making has to be done, but I make sure I don’t overdo it. That way, I keep going; I don’t start hurting and then give up halfway through….

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