The Value of a Partial Hog

by Katy on April 27, 2016 · 23 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

It is natural to want to take on projects in the style of the whole hog. Pull everything out of that cluttered closet, go through every single one of your child’s outgrown toys in an afternoon, attack that overwhelming basement mess over a single weekend!

But sometimes, (okay, often) the opportunity for going the whole hog does not offer itself up. Either because of time constraints or energy level, thinking that everything has to be done all at once is a barrier to actually getting anything done.

Which is why I offer up the notion of the partial hog.

Can’t organize the entire closet? How about just the board games or just the shoes? Can’t attack that disastrous basement? Perhaps just a shelf or two would fit into your day.

Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar recently wrote a blog piece about Snowflaking and Goals.

” ‘Snowflaking’ refers to the idea that if you make little frugal steps throughout the month, you simply add the amount you saved with that method and include the total as an extra payment at the end of the month.”

This is a similar concept to my “partial hog” idea. Dramatically big actions are fantastic, but the small stuff can actually add up more impressively in the long run. The person who spends eight long hours organizing their closets will actually get less accomplished than the person who consistently spends thirty minutes per day.

I have to fight this “Oh, why bother?” instinct when I’m taking a solitary laundry basket of stuff to Goodwill or I’m helping my son clear off his desk in an otherwise disorganized bedroom. But it is these small bits of the hog that will eventually add up to the whole hog.

And the whole hog is the goal, but not necessarily the process.

Sorry if my analogy grossed you out. As an apology, I offer up the adorable Jessica Wolk-Stanley illustration.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.


{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

PaperCraneFarm April 27, 2016 at 9:07 am

Amen, sister! With two toddlers “helping,” there isn’t going to be a “whole hog” again for several years. My to do list often has things like:
-empty dishwasher
-reload dishwasher
-fold and put away laundry in basket in living room
-put mail to mailbox

Putting large hogs on the to-do list would just be overwhelming and counter productive!


Marion April 27, 2016 at 9:39 am

I commit myself to five minutes a day of sorting, tossing, organizing whatever. I must do five minutes. Usually it ends up being longer but even if it doesn’t, progress is being made. Drops of water can wear down a mountain eventually.


Vickie April 27, 2016 at 1:32 pm

I like that saying, that’s very helpful, thank you!!


Ginny April 27, 2016 at 9:50 am

Oh absolutely I agree with you! I tend to obsess about things – if I’m going to sew, I’m going to sew a queen size quilt, if I’m going to lose weight – it must be all the weight by summer, if I’m going to get frugal than I must cut back on every bill, make a grocery price book, take on 5 or 6 side jobs and…. Then I am too exhausted thinking about it to do it. We make things harder than they have to be. Weight is lost 1 lb at a time, money saved or earned can be achieved in small amounts. Now I try to focus on attempting one new thing and seeing how it goes. Just got a new small part time job after reading for months about side hustles people are taking on and feeling stressed out about it. I will be helping as an aide at our church preschool a few mornings a week – happy work environment that fits in my kiddos school hours. No mess, no stress. It is half hog – cause if I looked for work in my field, I could earn 3X as much…but it would stress my family and me way too much. Half the hog is good enough for today!


jennifer April 27, 2016 at 10:50 am

I have back problems from years of moving sick patients as a nurse so I have to do this out of necessity. I used to tackle the whole hog but now I do small tasks of decluttering. For instance, I cleaned out my refrigerator this weekend but my freezer portion will have to wait until another day. I do try to prioritize what tasks affect me the most negatively and tackle those first, like laundry, If my kids clothes aren’t hung or folded immediately then I get punished by being forced to search for things. I read in a book, I think it was tightwad gazette, that some people paint only one side of their homes or barns at a time instead of the whole house. I took it to mean paint one side now and another side some time later on when you were able, had more time, or could afford more paint. I never thought about it until then but that really puts the chore of painting the outside of a house into a doable task. Thoughts of painting my home seems daunting as it’s a 2200 square foot split level but thinking of only painting one side feels like it may be something I could tackle as a half hog.


pattilou April 27, 2016 at 12:10 pm

It’s so funny that this is your topic today Katy. I have been feeling overwhelmed lately and I decided to try to make myself less stressed by writing down each thing that needs to be done on a seperate piece of paper . I then folded the papers and put them in bowls marked “inside large job”, “inside small job”, “outside large job” and “Outside small job”. Depending on the time I have and the weather, I pick a task from the appropriate bowl. So far I’ve gotten two things I absolutely hate to do but they need to be and and now they are. It’s become a little game. We’ll see how long I am willing to play!


Katy April 27, 2016 at 12:28 pm

I love this! We used to have a “job jar” when I was a kid, which was so much fun as all four of us, (adults and children) would participate together.


JD April 27, 2016 at 12:38 pm

I needed this. I’m a whole hog type person because I just want the task done and finished, but I then overwhelm myself so that I find myself putting things off because I don’t have a large block of time to do it in.
Okay then — starting today, I will schedule just 5 or 10 minutes to do something, and I know right where I’m starting; that embarrassing pile of clothes that need to be donated or sold.


Vickie April 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm

I totally agree and I struggle with this all the time. I finally started telling myself, if all I do is put one thing back in it’s place, throw one thing into the donation box and clear or clean one thing per day, at least that is one thing that wouldn’t have gotten done before.
I let myself get too overwhelmed with clutter in certain areas of my house, then it feels like a huge job to tackle. If I take it piecemeal sometimes that gets me on the road to getting it clean or organized faster.


A. Marie April 27, 2016 at 1:30 pm

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, this is a concept known as “chunking”–breaking down large tasks into manageable pieces so that you can do them even if you’re anxious or depressed. Believe me, I’ve been both, and I’ve been doing this for years. Good to see that great minds run in the same direction.


Katy April 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm

“Chunking.” I like that!


Karen April 27, 2016 at 1:43 pm

After my son left for college (youngest child), I said I was going to tackle the paper around our house.

Anyway on and off I worked on all the paper piles for one entire year. I finally have the paper pretty much under control and every month set aside a day to get it whipped back into shape before it gets out of control again.

I do not know about anybody else but I think paper is the worse.

Oh and I shred the papers and dug each bag into the compost pile. When you do it slow you can do that.


Katy April 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Yes, paper is the worst. Mine still mocks me on a daily basis.


WilliamB April 27, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Paper is the worst for me, too.

For Reasons, the pile of medical stuff has been unattended since last fall. I paid the bills but didn’t send them in for reimbursement or cross-check the automatic ones. Needless to say the pile got very large. The medical paper is my bugaboo even at the best of times, and this was downright intimidating.

So I broke that elephant down into small bites.

1. Make sure I had paid all bills.
2. Create a master list of checks written & invoice numbers, to help with #1, #4, & #6.
3. Enter each visit into the cross-check spreadsheet.
4. Send any bill that hadn’t been sent in, in. (This is more work than it sounds.)
5. Sort the paid bills and EOBs received in some way. I chose to do it by type (dental, Dr A, treatment B, etc.).
6. Cross check one type at a time.
7. Call insurance company to address gaps or unsatisfactory responses.

Right now I’m at #6. Doing it a bit at a time – during lunch at work, in fact – has made this ugly chore possible.


PaperCraneFarm April 28, 2016 at 9:18 am

I bought a cheap-o scanner for the house and have found it to be incredibly useful. There’s lots of paper that I was keeping because I thought we might need it someday but it was just accumulating on every surface. Now I set aside “scanning time” where I sort paper, saving what I have to and scanning the rest. Do I really need to save a receipt from the grocery store after I match it to the credit card bill? Can I scan that EOB from the health insurance company (or download an electronic copy)? I have also been scanning articles and recipes I had ripped out of the newspaper, magazine etc and email them to myself, putting lots of potential search terms in the email.

Is it working? Mostly, but for reducing piles. Piles still accumulate but scanning seems to reduce their size. I’m not coordinated enough to scan every day so the piles do grow.


Kathleen April 27, 2016 at 2:03 pm

This works for other things as well. There is a mold problem around my tub. Some people might see that as a reason to redo the whole bathroom. The contractor and I agreed that that was unnecessary. So we’re having just the tile around the tub redone. Not cheap, but much less expensive than renovating the whole bathroom.


Maureen April 27, 2016 at 8:20 pm

I have a pain disorder that has required me to change my whole hog way of doing things and I’m finding it much more effective. Even with the dishes, if I’m in pain I tell myself I just need to put the plates, silverware and glasses in the sink with the water. If I have to I can stop there. I have stages that I allow myself. Usually I’m able to go ahead and get them all finished in short order but knowing I’m ‘allowed’ not to complete each job I start immediately, has helped me to get so much more accomplished. I’m using it in most areas of my life now and it’s such a relief! I really appreciate this post and the comments shared, it feels like a personal rooting section.


Bee April 28, 2016 at 4:12 am

Words of wisdom, Katy. One of my favorite sayings is, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.” However, I never really thought about this expression in relationship to household tasks. I think that I will try to go partial hog from now on. BTW, I love the job jar idea and intend to start on. So much more fun than a list.


Katy April 28, 2016 at 9:29 am

I made my husband do job jar once early in our relationship and we still laugh about it.


janine April 28, 2016 at 7:45 am

One drawer cleaning out a day is my partial hog goal – still unreachable most days. However, inspiration is at hand with your blog so I am off to put one box together for the Goodwill, clean one drawer and reward myself with reading a few chapters in a novel.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary April 28, 2016 at 8:05 am

I’ve been working on this idea as well, though I have to admit that I never thought of it as “half hog”! Katy, you crack me up.

I find this idea useful for all kinds of things, including work projects. When there is so much to do that I just can’t think straight (happens to me quite often at work!), I pick one small-ish thing I can reasonably accomplish and work on it until it is done. It helps me build momentum and pick the next thing. I’m never *done* with the list (ha! as if!) but I do get quite a bit accomplished by thinking of it as just one piece at a time.


Katy April 28, 2016 at 9:28 am

That’s kind of like Dave Ramsey’s snowball. Pick the smallest thing first to gain momentum.


Jennifer April 30, 2016 at 4:47 pm

This is what I have started doing. My son and I cleaned out his books last week. Not his toys or closet, just the books. Today I cleaned out his medicine cabinet. Tomorrow I am going to clean out “that” random drawer in my bedroom. It ends up being WAY less overwhelming but still satisfying.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: