Years ago when I was going through my coaching training, my very astute leader, Elaine, picked up on my need for perfect. I don’t’ remember how the conversation started, but I do remember wearing sandals and my toenail polish was chipped. During our conversation, she looked down at my foot and said, “I’ll bet that chipped polish is driving you crazy, isn’t it?” Boy, did she have me pegged. I hadn’t had time to deal with it before class, and it had really, really bugged me to leave the house with it like that.
Shortly after that incident, I learned about Flylady, and subscribed to her email blasts for a time. I credit her with helping me develop routines at home that I relied on for years. What really stuck was how well she understood that perfectionism keeps us stuck. It keeps us from starting something if we don’t have time to do it perfectly, it raises the bar higher than we can ever reach and makes us less satisfied with our lives.
Back then, I wouldn’t clean my floors unless I could sweep and mop everything at once, shake out all of the rugs, and put clean ones down. The result of this was that I didn’t do it very often, so instead of getting the worst of it taken care of and looking decent, I didn’t do it at all. It looked and felt terrible, hardly perfect. Sometimes that old saying,” if you’re going to do it, do it right,” keeps us from doing it at all.
As always, becoming aware is the beginning to making change, then redirecting ourselves without judgment. I still have to challenge myself to let go of this mental clutter years after becoming aware of it. You may have watched my Breather videos and noticed that they are not perfect. Some may say they are not very professional. But I knew that if I waited until I thought they were perfect, I would never post one. So there I am, scratching my leg and all, and actually very happy that I can put something out in the world without worrying about being perfect. Not pretending to be perfect is great progress. Elaine, I’ve come a long way from chipped toenail polish making me crazy!
So how is the mental clutter of perfect showing up in your life? What are you not doing because you don’t have the time to “do it right?” Find some task or project at work or at home and just start, and quiet this harsh critic in your head. Any progress is good, getting unstuck is even better.
Question: I collect magazine articles and have files upon files of them. What should I do with them?
It sounds to me that you like collecting information. Maybe you like to “know” things and pass information along to others. Or you like to have the info “in case” you might need it. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Clutter is defined as something you do not love, that is not useful and that you do not have room for in your space. With that in mind, I have some questions for you:
· Do you actually refer to the articles? If not, is it because you can’t find anything or you never actually need to use the info?
· Do you have room for your articles or is your collection outgrowing or has already outgrown its space?
I once worked with someone who had an extensive magazine collection. Someone asked her for place card ideas for a party, and she brought in a stack of ideas culled from her collection. I was blown away. I have never had the patience to maintain magazines articles to any extent. For me, they were clutter; to her they were very useful.
Be honest with yourself about how useful your articles are to you. If you can’t find what you’re looking for but have actually needed the info, it’s time to set up a system that works for you. By asking me your question, I’m guessing that the collection is either not useful to you or you have too much of it.
“In case” are code words for fear. You just might be collecting information to make you feel like you are safe, “If I ever need to know this, I’m covered!” It would be ideal to address the emotion and not collect the stuff, or you set yourself up for needing more and more stuff to cover the fear.
To start clearing and set up a system that works for you, I would suggest this approach: