Tiny Mission: Leave things a little better than you found them

It sounds like such a platitude: “Leave things a little better than you found them”.

The idea is to make sure that whether you’re at work or talking to a friend: You do something small to leave the situation a little better than it was when you got there.

I do this when I remember. It always gives me a little mood boost. For example, when I visit my parents and my mom goes off to work I spend five minutes making the kitchen look a little cleaner.

Obviously, this is nothing to receive a thank you note for. But it makes me feel good to look for opportunities to make something a tiny bit better. Even if the person might not notice I did.

Leaving a crappy job so it’s an ounce better than before

When I left a crappy side job I’d had, I made sure to take snapshots of the complicated program my successor had to learn and highlighted everything she needed to click on to get her work done. It felt good to do this because I remembered how confusing it had been to get used to this unintuitive program without a step-by-step introduction. I created what I had wished for and with a few hours work, all my successors would have an easier time getting used to the job. I hadn’t liked my job very much and was glad to leave, but I like to imagine that I made it a little less crappy with my little how-to word document.

Small ways to leave things better than you found them

Leave things a little better than you found them. The key to this philosophy is to not stress over leaving everything better than you found it. But remember this line and when you think of it, look around you if there’s something small you can do to make something a little better.


  • When you see a homeless person sitting in front of a grocery store, add a pretzel or calorie dense croissant to your shopping list. Hand it to the homeless person when you leave the store and wish them a nice day. Or:
  • Make the world better one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time.
  • Swipe down the countertops when you visit your mom or uncle or daughter.
  • When you visit a friend who has a cold, bring some soup or do the dishes for them when they’re not looking.
  • Pick up a few pieces of trash on your walk (and pat yourself on the back for fighting plastic pollution one baby step at a time)
  • Order your best friend pizza after she has called you to tell you about her exhausting day at work.

Isn’t that an exciting list? The small things you do really can make a difference.

Leave things a little better than you found them. You might make someone smile.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

Author: Iris

Iris Barzen is a psychologist + productivity coach est. 2013.