Perfectionism: A Barrier to Clutter Clearing

Single Word: PerfectionIf you were to glimpse some of the cluttered spaces I’ve spent time in, you’d probably wonder how perfectionism could be part of that problem. They look anything but perfect! But, spaces can become that way because of perfectionism. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients say, “If I don’t have time to do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it.” And, when they don’t do the task, the stuff involved gets left where it is. So, a desire for “perfect” becomes an ever increasing clutter collection.

Another way perfectionism shows up and interferes with the clutter clearing process is that clients want to find the perfect new home for things they are ready to get rid of. If they can’t identify the right place to donate items, those items stay put, waiting for the perfect home. Instead of being released, they  continue to be clutter.

The need to be perfect in recycling efforts can also get in the way of clutter clearing. For example, a client has lots of styrofoam peanuts that they know can be recycled, but they don’t know where to take them. They decide to hold onto them until they can locate a place to take them. However, researching to find a place to donate them never makes it to the top of their to do list. So, the peanuts remain as clutter. 

I have the following suggestions for addressing the above expressions of perfectionism:

  1. Done is better than perfect. I learned this when I was faced with the daunting project of writing a master’s thesis. My perfectionism paralyzed me! A wise counselor told me that getting the thesis done was more important than doing it perfectly. That wisdom helped me lower the bar of my expectations, get to work and successfully complete my M.A.
  2. Do whatever is easiest to make things leave your space. Believe that things that are donated always end up in the exact right place to be. Having to find just the right home for items you are getting rid of is a barrier to letting them go. Besides, when you put off moving things along to new homes, you are depriving yourself of the benefits that come from the shifts of energy that occur when you release things.
  3. Recycling is a laudable endeavor, but it is no longer laudable when your commitment to it is stronger than your commitment to yourself and your well-being. What is more important? You reclaiming your life and peace of mind, or you being the perfect recycler? Do the best you can with recycling, but it’s really OK to let some things go to trash that could be recycled.

The benefit of becoming aware of perfectionistic behaviors and easing up on the need to do things “perfectly” is that you’ll remove road blocks to getting clutter clearing done, you’ll be able to get traction in your clutter clearing process and complete clutter clearing tasks, and then you’ll reap the benefits of living in a clutter-free space — more peace, a greater sense of well-being, greater self-esteem, and a feeling of being in control of your life.