Confessions of a Professional Organizer Perfectionist
Like many Professional Organizers, I have long been a perfectionist. There is never a shortage of things to do on my never-ending to-do list that includes a lot of ‘great ideas’. I do however have a shortage of time and energy to get them all done.
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. It can spur you on to do incredible things, but it can also have adverse effects on your life and your relationships. For example, I used to like to entertain, but so often I ended up yawning in my guest’s face because I was so tired from the day spent preparing an elaborate meal AND making the house spotless! During back-country trips, I would feel very up-tight and on-edge trying to prepare a perfect (and often elaborate) meal in a minimally equipped kitchen. My poor husband, who was trying to help me, could feel my angst and I’m sure it made him anxious. More than once in my life, I have been reduced to tears of exhaustion and feelings of overwhelming inadequacy because I just couldn’t keep up with my never-ending list. Then, several years ago, I had a epiphany.
My Ah-ha Moment About Perfectionism
It all started with staging my house for selling. I enlisted my husband to help with some much needed repairs. We painted and de-cluttered and deep cleaned. I bought some tasteful new accessories, some aromatic candles, and fresh flowers. The house was beautiful – dare I say – it was ‘perfect’.
Then my husband went to work out of town for the week. He took the cat with him. As many cat owners do, I would talk to my cat when my husband was away. So it was eerily quiet and I was feeling terribly lonely without anyone to talk to. I went to great lengths to keep the house as spotless as possible. I ate a snack-type meals over the kitchen sink and used a hidden towel in the bathroom to keep the ‘guest’ towels looking fresh. In addition to feeling a little silly, it was a lot of extra effort. For the first time in my life, my house was perfect. But I realized the real price of that perfection and that I wasn’t willing to pay it.
What You Didn’t Know About Perfectionism
Since then, I’ve come to realize some things about perfection that no one had ever told me before.
1. Perfection is fleeting. In our ever changing world, nothing stays the same for long. Just when you think you have achieved perfection, something will come along to change it.
2. Perfection is not sustainable. If you spend your life in pursuit of absolute perfection, you will exhaust yourself (and possibly those around you as well). Why? See Organizing Myth # 1.
3. Everyone’s idea of perfection is a little bit different. What is perfect in your mind will require tweaking in someone else’s. In other words, even perfection can’t please everyone.
How to Stop Being a Perfectionist
Letting go of perfectionism isn’t easy. It’s been a long slow process, and some days those tendencies still tap me on the shoulder or whisper in my ear, trying to get the upper hand. Although I always do my best (and stay organized), I’ve learned a few strategies to keep the insanity of perfectionism at bay.
1. K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple Sweetie! Whether I’m cooking for 10, organizing recipes, or making curtains for the RV, I work to curb my grandiose ideas and keep it simple. Keep the menu and recipes simple. Keep the system simple and easy to maintain. Keep the design and construction simple. Simple solutions can be the most elegant and – well, simple.
2. Focus on the relationships instead of the events. A spotless house and a six course gourmet meal aren’t the things that make people comfortable. It’s the sparkle of joy in your eyes when they walk in the door, the in depth conversations, the sharing of emotions (laughter or tears). When you truly connect with someone, the event and all its trimmings (or lack thereof) don’t really matter.
3. Plan for the best and then go with the flow. There’s an old Mexican saying that translates as: Things don’t always work out as planned, but they always work out. When things aren’t going as planned, don’t cry over spilled milk. Ask yourself What Would McGyver Do? and improvise. You’ll be surprised how creative and smart it will make you feel.
How about you? Have your perfectionist tendencies led you to extreme measures? Have you developed any strategies for dealing with your perfectionism? I’d love to hear your stories – so I know I’m not the only one.