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How Starting Small Can Lead to Big Results

By Amitha Verma

A friend of mine recently asked me, how do you eat an elephant?

Meaning, what do you do when your goal is so big that you can’t even seem to start?

Does that ever happen to you?

You want desperately to makeover your WHOLE house, or to tackle an entire room in a weekend, or to start and finish your dream garden in a day.

Then what happens is, you become so overwhelmed by the enormity of the project at hand and have no idea how or where to begin.

So, instead of getting started, you do….nothing.

To be honest, I’ve been feeling that same way over the past several weeks. It started in January when I was working on my goals and it’s been haunting me ever since.

And as I was chatting, (or grumbling) with my friend, she posed that intriguing question to me:

“How do you eat an elephant?”

The answer is remarkably simple.

One bite at a time.

Wait. What the heck does that mean?

Some of you are probably going to disagree with this advice, but I did something I’ve never done before.

I started thinking small.

Yes, small. Very small.

Every single goal book out there says to dream big, 10 times bigger, imagine what you can’t even envision, then think even bigger than that!

The problem is, when our dreams are too big, we feel like we won’t ever actually get there. And, as a result, we never bother going after them. So, we ultimately get nothing accomplished.

I’m a big dreamer and I’ll be the first to admit that I have often fallen into this cycle myself.

So this time, I decided to try thinking small. Both at home and at work.

I’ll give you an example. Right now, I am working on my boys’ playroom.

Before this would have been my inner conversation:

1. I need to design the entire playroom.

2. I want a room that’s full of wonderment and dreaminess and inspiration.

3. What does that mean?

4. Should I do wallpaper?

5. Let me design the seating.

6. Should I get youthful furniture or older furniture

7. What if my boys outgrow this in a few years?

8. I need to go to the design center and see what all is out there.

9. Let me see what’s on Pinterest...

And on and on and on until the project became so overwhelming that I’d end up doing (you guessed it) nothing at all.

The room is a huge mess, toys are everywhere. It’s chaotic and certainly not dreamy and inspiring.

So I changed my approach.

I asked myself what is the one thing that, if I focused on it, would greatly enhance this room?

The answer was simple: a storage cabinet.

So I have only been focused on the storage cabinet. Nothing else - just the cabinet.

Surprisingly, just by focusing and making progress on that one simple thing has made me feel like I’m actually accomplishing something. Like things are actually getting DONE.

Is it huge? No. But it’s something. And that something will help me chip away at my bigger goals.

For right now, I’m working on a small goal of getting that cabinet in so the boys are organized and can easily store, sort and find all of their toys, games, legos and more.

In other words, I’m tackling it one bite at a time.

In fact, I’ve applied the same concept of starting small to a few other areas of my house that need finishing touches. Unlike the past, when I’d tend to move on to the next project before finishing, this time I’ve focused on starting small and sticking with one thing until it’s done.

For example, earlier this year I had half-organized my pantry and kitchen. But instead of moving on to half-do another room, I focused only on the kitchen.

Only on that one room, and only on organizing.

I didn’t dream of new dishes, new stemware, new napkins, matching hosting trays and so forth - something I’d normally do when I start digging around the cabinets.

I just organized my drawers and cabinet. I used dividers and bins. That’s it.

And guess what?

Words cannot even express the JOY and HAPPINESS that comes out of using our beautifully organized drawers and cabinets.

I’m talking even more than the joy of living with the gorgeous hardware and finishes I chose when designing the kitchen!

I’ll give you another example. I need a bench to finish one room. Do I also need lamps, bedding, window treatments, etc.? Yes. But for now, I’m focused solely on the bench. And I have to say, it’s been tremendously liberating.

The magnificent artist Vincent Van Gogh once said:

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

When I started going smaller, things started getting done. And it helped me to gain more clarity on my BIG vision.

The best part about these small goals, is they feed into your bigger goals. And you feel motivated to keep going because you’re having fun and you can see that the end result is right within your reach.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few of my favorite start small projects:

1. Organize books by color.

2. Look for one missing piece of furniture (bench, side chair, side table) - just one!

3. Look for one piece of art to go on an empty wall.

4. Look through one closet - just one - and remove things you haven’t used in a year or more.

5. Add a pair of lamps - just the lamps.

Trust me, this may be harder than it looks. You’ll probably find yourself itching to do all five of the above, but remember: start small.

Before you know it, you’ll be finishing up that last bite of elephant and enjoying the end results of all the hard work you put in a little at a time.

What do you think?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

With love,


P.S. Know a friend who is feeling overwhelmed with his or her big goals? Send this blog along to brighten their day.

P.P.S. Like the pieces showcased in this blog? You can find some of them at Village Antiques.

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I love the paint, it was so easy!

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Just a quick note to say that I love your new paint line!! The colors are beautiful and it goes on so smooth and silky. The gray wax is fabulous. I'm getting some great new looks with your paint but most of all I'm having fun using them!! Hope all is well.


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