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Perfectionism is the hidden reason you can’t declutter

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Does this sound familiar? Your house is a hot mess and you are consistently stressed out by the clutter that covers every visible surface. You follow several social media organizers and dream of the perfect home that stays effortlessly clean and tidy. You know that decluttering is the answer but repeatedly procrastinate when the time comes to actually start. No, you’re not lazy, you’re just suffering from perfectionism.The honest truth is, you will never have enough time to do it the way you want it, and so you will never get to it. 

What is perfectionism?

How can I be suffering from perfectionism if my house is a mess? Perfectionism affects many of folks who don’t realize what’s happening. Here’s the scoop:

The definition of perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. When it comes to decluttering, perfectionism manifests as a tendency to make mountains out of molehills, effectively letting the unrealistic vision of how you think it should be done overpower the ability to start.

‘I don’t have enough time.’

‘I don’t want to make a mess’

‘There’s no way I’ll do it right’

‘It will never look like (insert social media account)’

Why Perfectionism Is A Thing

Consistency breeds progress, perfectionism inhibits progress

Why is my brain doing this to me? There are so many possible reasons, from how you were raised to today’s comparison culture wars. In my experience everyone experiences at least a little bit of perfectionism.

It may be that you were raised in a household where you were expected to do things and then criticized about how you did them: ‘If you’re going to do it, do it right.’ Or maybe you grew up in a home where you weren’t allowed to make a mess and your room had to be perfect.

The root of your perfectionism could also stem from the cultural signals that you see across multiple touchpoints on a daily basis. Endless images of ‘perfect’ homes were everything magically stays in rainbow order are somehow normalized. If you feel like you’ll never achieve some social-media ideal then is it any wonder you don’t want to try?

How To Get Past Perfectionism

Once you get started, fear abates and confidence grows

I’m here to tell you that we aren’t going to let perfectionism get in the way of decluttering your home. Here’s how to rise above the perfectionist voices in your head:

  1. Recognize perfectionist thoughts. This is 80% of the battle my friend. When you start to recognize thoughts as they happen you can flip the script.
  2. Give yourself permission to ‘do it badly.’ I am here to tell you that you will make a mess and it may look worse before it looks better, but you will eventually get to the good place. Making mistakes is how we learn, and you will learn a lot through the process of decluttering, including a clarity of vision around your home, what your priorities are and what storage solutions emerge as solutions.
  3. Don’t bite off too much at once. The secret to getting things done is working in small, manageable increments. Perfectionism says you shouldn’t even start if you can’t finish in one session – NOT TRUE. Trick your brain by breaking the project down into smaller pieces; one piece equals one session. Get yourself a nifty timer like this one that helps you time box your session so you don’t burn out and quit. (Aside on the timer, I love it because you don’t even have to ‘set’ it and it pre-wraps several increments for you. It can be your ‘official’ decluttering timer!)
  4. Take the thinking out of it. It can get tiring arguing with the loud perfectionist voices in your head, so another tactic for successful decluttering is to take them out of the equation. How? By following a proven framework where the steps are laid out for you by a professional decluttering coach. Often it makes a huge difference in your ability to make progress if you aren’t burdened with figuring out what to do next. If this sounds like an approach that might work for you I recently launched a Comprehensive Decluttering E-Book that gives you a framework from start to finish. I’ve done the thinking for you so all you have to do is follow the plan. The E-Book is only $29 and you can get it here.

Perfectionism is a pain but you can overcome it with a little mindset shift and determination. When you recognize the signs and practice some simple tactics you build the decluttering muscle that powers you past it. Let me know how you’re getting along – I’m cheering you on from the sideline!

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