When you think of organization, does the word "perfection" ever come to mind?
As a recovering perfectionist, the pristine imagery of home organization that we tend to see in magazines was part of what intrigued me into figuring out what makes a space tick.
My perfectionist streak craved a home that reflected this level of organized perfection. I thought that this aesthetic perfection would create a soothing, peaceful space.
After years of renting, my husband and I finally became homeowners. This gave us the opportunity to invest in a space rather than make do with whatever we had when our living situation was short-term.
My perfectionist streak was so excited that the pristine aesthetic that I craved could finally be mine. At long last!
"Don't let perfect be the enemy of good."
What I ultimately found out was that living in "perfection" actually sucks. Far from supporting inner peace, it cranked up my anxiety.
This was the complete opposite of my motivation to declutter: to free myself up to live a big life. Now I know that nothing will keep you small like obsessing over perfection.
And anyway, it's pointless to try to create perfection in a living space. It is a living space, after all. It's not meant to stay frozen in time.
I'm not suggesting aesthetics aren't a worthwhile pursuit when getting organized. I believe that our souls have a deep need for beauty that is worth honoring.
At the same time, I encourage people to be mindful of perfectionism and find a balance that allows organizing systems to be sustainable for real life.
Sometimes when I work with clients, I observe that their efforts to get organized have failed because they've been unknowingly shooting for a level of perfection that cannot be reasonably maintained.
It's not because they're stupid, lazy or broken that they can't maintain their system. That couldn't be further from the truth. They just have more important things to do than keep up with petty details that don’t provide value to their lives.
They may have a perfectionist streak like me, or they just came across one of the many overcomplicated organizing "solutions" out there that look organized but aren't simple enough to keep up with.
On the other hand, some people resist getting organized because they do associate home organization with perfectionism and fear that getting organized with take the spontaneity out of their life.
In my opinion, the best organizing systems are easier to use than not.
Think about a kitchen that has both a dishwasher and a sink. You finish eating and you go to put your dirty dishes away. Do you pile them up in the sink, so you can put them in the dishwasher later (I used to do this)? Or do you skip the step of putting them in the sink and place them directly in the dishwasher?
An effective organizing system is like removing that middle step of putting your dishes in the sink and putting them straight in the dishwasher. Sure, it takes some time and effort up front to change the habit, but once you've changed the habit, you have less work for yourself.
That's the whole point of being organized - to make the work of your daily life simpler.
It's important to know that a lot of the home organization imagery out is just that - imagery. The casual viewer can't tell if it's an actual system and not just a still life meant to give an impression of organization. Likewise, if it is a picture of an actual organizing system, who is to say if it lasted more than two weeks before it fell apart.
Do you suspect that perfectionism might be in the way of getting organized, staying organized, and feeling at ease in your space? Take a moment to reflect on the below questions, perhaps in a journal if that's your thing:
Why do you want to be organized?
How do you want to feel in your space?
How do you want to feel as you go about your daily life?
What does organization mean to you?
The more you bring awareness and strengthen your connection to your true motivations, the more you'll be able to recognize and overcome your perfectionist streak, so you can live the big life you were meant to live.