Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom – Perfectionism

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


Perfectionism. Can you be too perfect? Oh yeah. Ironically, many cluttered people are perfectionists. Certainly perfectionism was one of the anchors that used to hold me back.

Wanting everything to be perfect can keep you from making progress in a number of ways:

  • You don’t have the perfect organization system, so you have no system.
  • You can’t get rid of something because you need to determine the perfect person / perfect place for that item to go next.
  • You know the perfect person – the exact perfect person – and the fact that you only see them once every two years is not going to budge you from hanging onto the item until that day comes around again.
  • You’re afraid that you don’t have the perfect amount of time necessary to tackle a decluttering job as perfectly as it deserves, so you don’t start…ever.
  • You fear that your efforts will get messed up – they won’t remain perfect, so why get started at all?

Good enough is good enough! Are your ideas about perfection – both its desirability and your ability to achieve it – holding you back from making progress? One day at a time, one thing at a time will get you where you want to go. No perfection necessary.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter one electronic gadget that really only added to your ways to waste precious time while not really improving or simplifying your life as promised.

Today’s Declutter Item

This fuel can is yet another item that has managed to escape my notice for a long time. Being as we no longer have a lawn mower and we have two other plastic fuel containers (one of those will be going to if I have my way) I am pretty sure we don’t need this one. Someone else will be glad to take it off my hands though I am sure.

Fuel Can

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t ignore dripping taps. Replace the washers as soon as possible.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Good post Cindy. I think that perfectionism is one of my mother’s problems. She thinks her house has to be perfect, she has to complete everything she has started, and she has to do everything perfectly. I think what is happening is that she is learning that no one expects that of her but her and people don’t notice. In fact, most people think our house is perfect and wish they could have one like it. But they will also tell you they don’t want to put in the time it takes. I don’t either. One thing I have learned about having a decluttered house is that it makes everything else about the house easier, like cleaning.

    • funny isnt it, that they dont want to invest time into efforts to gain more time. its coming back to this again. a little effort makes everything so much easier.
      I experienced the space first, but now I realize how much more time I have. its really strange because I cant exactly pinpoint the difference, but having a decluttered house gives you time. maybe it is because of distractions that are gone. Is there a word for doing while not doing? like you are sorting things from A to B, but not achieving any progress and just being busy. I did this a lot, I would listen to music while going through my stuff without any purpose, pretending to clean/sort the room, but in the end I just shoveled stuff from one end to the other. I dont have stuff anymore, so that option is gone, and I am not wasting a lot of time on this activity anymore.
      maybe I gain more time because I am more efficient in my daily household activities, like getting dressed, packing a bag, cleaning, cooking, finding things, etc.. I know where everything is, I dont spend time searching, and I have easy access to my things (the one-hand-rule).

      so basically, what I want to say is, that I feel far more perfectionist now, because I have the time to find better ways/solutions for certain issues.

      • The word for “doing but not doing” is called “churning”. That’s where there is a lot of motion or activity, but little results.

        My husband does a lot of churning when he tries to declutter, and it’s actually painful for me to watch because it’s easy for me to declutter, so I don’t have to churn. It takes a lot of patience to be around somebody that’s churning instead of actually making progress.

        Churning is usually a result of being unable to decide what to let go of, from what I’ve observed.

        • Becky, I like the word churning. I think that is what my friend does. She churns over most things. She is not very organized, has a hard time making decisions and needs someone to give her ideas. Like you say it is hard to watch.

        • Becky, you are fantastic! thanks a lot, its great to have a translation for this… I think this activity is something that every hoarder gets addicted to.

  2. A friend said once that I must be a perfect housekeeper (she was close). I said “–with 4 kids? I’d be crazy by now”. I think right now I’m about halfway between perfect and good enough and aiming for good enough. But the house probably looks below good enough.

  3. So true. Funny how perfectionism actually holds us back from being a better person. Perfectionism and procrastination also seem to go hand in hand. I think us perfectionists need to stop giving ourselves such a hard time and cut ourselves a bit of slack 🙂

  4. It is so true that perfectionism holds you back. I used to run into that problem a lot, but I finally gave up. It usually means that I finish things sooner and don’t have as many problems.

    Electronic gadget gone: yet another pair of broken headphones. I buy cheap ones now because I break any pair of them, no matter how nice, within a month…. two if I am lucky. So now I just buy the cheap ones. I’m working through an old stash at this point, so that’s one more thing gone that won’t be replaced.

    (Ok, so I know this isn’t really the right place for this, but I’m trying to win my parents a gas fireplace, or money for college, and could really use some votes, so if you all want to help me out, can you click this link and then click “vote”? … I hate asking people for votes, but I suppose all popularity contests kind of work off of spamming people for votes)

  5. My name is Colleen and I am a perfectionist, sometimes. Only the times when I can’t get things just right, the rest of the time I am satisfied. 😆 That was funny right but probably not that far from the mark.
    It doesn’t stop me from doing many things but it does leave me annoyed with the result when I don’t think it is good enough. Like cleaning the shower. I would rather my shower looked like it was newly installed but unfortunately water etches into glass over time and anywhere silicone goes so does mildew eventually. If you saw my shower you would probably say “Your kidding me right, you don’t think that is clean!”
    At other times I can be quite rational. Perhaps I just have selective perfectionism. 😉
    The up side is so long as you don’t give up but keep on striving at least the result will probably be pretty darn good.

    • Selective perfectionism, I like that. I have that too, but usually only on the silly little things. I’ve gotten much better at not worrying about complete perfection, and instead worrying about making everything good enough. It definitely helps, as it lets me work on making other things better, rather than one thing perfect. It is especially true for big things – like a party or a fancy dinner – where I would rather have everything done, but not perfect, than one thing perfect and everything else not done.

      Cleaning your shower reminds me of a bathroom cleaning tip that I saw: Clean the toilet and the sink, because that is what your guests look at. Everything else only needs to be as clean as YOU want it, but if your toilet and sink are clean, your guests will assume your whole bathroom has been scrubbed head to toe.

  6. OMG have you been stalking me??? This description is me down to a tee!!! Its a shame because when i do give something my all i am actually really good, i just spend so much time & energy researching (aka procrastinating) the perfect way to go about the task, the perfect solution etc i just don’t get as much done as i’d like. I wish procrastination was a sport I’d actually win something other than the wheelbarrow race!! lol

  7. It was definitely one of my problems in our cluttered stage. I couldn’t control my husband’s stuff ans it was never perfect anyway so why bother..
    We have both simplified since and I have learned to be more accepting and I’m working on actively seeing the beauty and, yes, perfection, in imperfection! So an occasional smallish mess or a stray item doesn’t bother me. Because I know it’s never a long way out of order. Some things I have accepted I just can not control, like my husband’s rumpled closet and his habit of dumping a jumble of stuff in a drawer… Okay maybe I have not accepted that yet haha! So I just try to make sure it’s out of my eyes and concealed! (And that it stays in a limited space and a drawer doesn’t turn into five drawers…)

    • Cat I totally understand your perspective here! I have tried with some success at encouraging my husband to relinquish some of his things but he does so in his own good time & with no rhyme or reason.
      Despite all the decluttering I have done, I was feeling the failure because I couldn’t get the husband to declutter at the same pace. But one day I just decided to ignore his stuff & work around it & not let that be a deterrent to my success. It’s not been easy but it has gone a long way to lessening the tight grip perfectionism has had on me when it comes to decluttering.

  8. I’m an on-again-off-again perfectionist – sometimes I get into this mode where I’ll be obsessively sort out something really finicky like a box containing all my sewing and overlocking threads and I’ll spend forever doing it, never mind the whole craft cupboard could have been done in the same time. Other times I’m in hatch-batch-and-dispatch mode and I almost cut a path thru the work.

    We have had a sleeping bag hanging around our house for almost a year or two, a friend left it at our place, every time I enquired do they need it back, they say just hang onto it as they might be coming up for xmas. I decided to post it back (they live about 3 hours away) as it doesn’t actually have a spot in our house and I put in a pair of my shoes (my friend and I are the same size) that she’s always liked and that I don’t wear.

  9. Just get it done is my motto to overcome thoughts of wanting to get something perfect. I love crossing things off my list, and will take shortcuts to do so. There is always that desire in the back of my mind though to get things “just so”.

  10. I learned a long time ago, that although I do strive for perfection in many things, I never quite get there, so I try to not be too hard on myself when I don’t always measure up to my own set of expectations. Clutter in your house can certainly be handled if less is coming in to it and more is going out of it. Having a different mindset about the amount of stuff you are allowing into your home will help tremendously. Good enough is good enough and every day I am a little bit closer (one item a day) to even that.

  11. That theory sounds good (and I’m sure it proofs right for some people) but in the book “The procrastination equation” I read they did research on the percentage of perfectionists among procrastinators – and it wasn’t higher than the average. However, many procrastinators believed in their perfectionist tendencies and that they were the reason for not getting started. Procrastinators = perfectionists is therefore a myth and I think it is similar when it comes to clutter and perfectionism.
    I have been guilty of using the excuse of being a perfectionist (only that anything perfect was prevented by circumstances that were like higher powers … not enough money, not enough space, not enough time, no help …). How I found out I really wasn’t and good enough is good enough for me (at least with the exception of some perfectionist peaks)? Once I had something “perfect” I wouldn’t do everything to keep it that way. I let it slide until it bothered me enough before I got back to it while I was busy doing other things. I figured if I don’t care enough to do the things that are really easy – like putting every single piece of important paper that comes into the house into the right folder the day it arrives but instead putting it into a drawer to deal with the filing every once in a while in (a small) bulk – then there is no way I could be a perfectionist! Having the junk sorted out right away, everything important contained in one safe space and then doing it properly every couple of weeks works well and is good enough for me.
    I guess you can test yourself like that (or others that pull of the perfectionist (potential) excuse). If you only concentrate on a small area for a while and are not willing to put all your energy into having it pristine because you don’t see the point – then you are not a perfectionist. And there are good chances you’d be instantly happier with a few stacks of paper less in your office and a few boxes of junk gone that are not blocking your path in the garage anymore even if that isn’t the perfect system (yet).

  12. I’ve had people tell me that my house is “perfect”, but it’s not. It’s just that I keep it decluttered, which tends to make people think it’s spotlessly clean at all times, whether it is or not. 😉