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Perfectionism and Decluttering - 6th September 2016
Surely, a perfectionist has nothing to worry about in relation to clutter? Aren't they the kind of people who have everything arranged neat and tidy, and in chronological order? Nothing out of place. Won't this be a very short blog post?
Actually - this post is longer than you might expect!
Look at the above image. What do you see?
Maybe you immediately wish your books were equally well organised?
Or do you see something that really needs a jolly good sort out?
The owner of the shelves appears to have stuffed books onto shelves in a pretty random manner, maybe?
Are these shelves just a bit too cluttered for comfort?
Perhaps it irritates you that there are other items taking up valuable space on these bookshelves?
The most important question to ask yourself now, is how you would feel if these bookshelves belonged to you.
Are you being too hard on yourself?
As a (recovering) perfectionist I can tell you that sometimes this trait can be less of a blessing and more of a curse. If I'm not careful I can easily end up thinking I've just not done a good enough job with whatever it is that I'm tackling.
Someone else could have done a better job. Or perhaps I just have to take much longer doing something because I'm not satisfied until I view it as perfect. I know from experience that a perfectionist is a hard task master - for themselves!
Next we'll look at how this thought process can sabotage your best efforts and consider what you might do about it.
How the perfectionist gets 'stuck'
If you have this trait the chances are you resist tackling your clutter. To anyone who is not a perfectionist this will be hard to understand. There are of course logical reasons as to why we perfectionists can get stuck in a state of inertia or prevarication.
One explanation, is that to do nothing is just easier. The perfectionist knows that to start a big decluttering project is to make a lengthy and challenging commitment. All because they can't stop until they have achieved perfection. 'Better' is just not good enough. It must be 'right' and the only alternative to 'right' is of course 'wrong'. The irony here is that of course if nothing is done the clutter continues to accumulate; and will become a huge source of discomfort to the perfectionist who really wants things to be in perfect order.
Alternatively, a perfectionist driven by discomfort may make a start on clearing their clutter. Often though, they end up having to admit defeat. All this because they find it really hard to make decisions. If you seek perfection and your starting point is clutter it is incredibly difficult to know how to get from one to the other. The perfectionist wants to get it right and is tied up in knots at the thought of getting it wrong.
Make friends with your perfectionist!
Because I know exactly how this feels, I'll pass on some tips I use myself.
Firstly, do whatever you can to appreciate that your idea of perfection exists only in your head. If you don't achieve this level of 'success' nobody else will be any the wiser. Others will not judge you by this standard.
To be honest, if you're a perfectionist and you only operate at 50% perfectionism your achievement will still be sufficient to hugely impress your non-perfectionist friends and family. Trust me. I've been there.
Secondly, cut yourself a bit of slack. Would you be this hard on anyone else? Of course not. Being a perfectionist is OK when things work out more or less right. The rest of the time it's just demoralising and tiring.
Accept that there are stages to the decluttering process. In order to be effective your room/house/shelf/whatever, will look much worse before you've finished. That's fine. Don't judge yourself for this 'mess' as it is part of the solution. Hold your nerve and continue. Whatever you do - don't get freaked out and either give up or tell yourself you've got to start and finish in one day. Accept that you may have to go to bed with stuff spread all over the floor! I appreciate this will prompt feelings of losing control but in fact the opposite holds true. This is you taking control.
If you feel really stuck and stressed about the whole situation why not get in touch? I have some understanding around what it's like to be a perfectionist and the emotions you're grappling with. I also have tried and tested methods to help you declutter and achieve some order in your home. I'm always happy to have a chat.
Keywords: perfectionism, prevarication