Perfection is a funny thing. It masquerades as being something very good and necessary, something to strive for (especially for us A-type personalities!), but in fact it can be something that harms us more than doing any good. Now you may think that being a professional organiser is all about perfection, about making my clients’ homes both look perfect and function perfectly. However, the further I go along in this life, the more I realise how striving for perfection in the spaces we live in can have a very negative impact on us and our families. And so, in my business I try to encourage my clients to work towards homes that are reasonably well organised, attractive spaces where they can feel relaxed and happy, and where they can live, work and play without too much stress and fuss. Too much clutter and disorganisation is stressful and overwhelming, but the opposite extreme – what I call the ‘magazine perfect’ home* – can be equally stressful to you and your family.
Here are some of the negative aspects of perfectionism:
- Perfectionism is exhausting and time-consuming – Trying to keep everything looking and functioning perfectly all the time demands a lot of time and energy. This energy and time could be better spent enjoying quality time with your family and friends.
- Perfectionism is never satisfied – The ‘perfect’ home is a moving target for the perfectionist. There is always something that could be better.
- Perfectionism negatively impacts on your immediate family – Living with a perfectionist can create extreme anxiety as family members are constantly fearful of putting a foot wrong. Growing up in such an environment can damage a child’s self-esteem as they start to feel that nothing they do is ever good enough.
- Perfectionism puts a strain on family and other relationships – Friends and family often shy away from visiting the perfectionist as they cannot feel relaxed in his/her home.
- Often perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand – Some perfectionists actually have very cluttered homes, with many projects half-finished. They have a perfect image in their mind of how things ought to be, but are fearful of making a mistake so procrastinate and delay completing things.
If anything cured me of perfectionism, it was my marriage to Tony (which included adopting his two dogs, Puddles and Jessie). A man, dogs, an older house and a garden to maintain was quite a shock to my perfectionist mind set, after living alone for many years in rental accommodation that required no maintenance on my part! At first the perfectionist in me tried to get and keep everything in perfect order and cleanliness. But after a couple of years of this, I admitted defeat, and now live a much more relaxed and happy life. Our home is not perfect, but it is attractive and homely, is generally well organised and functions well. And most important, it is a home where others feel relaxed and at home when they come to visit.
*A ‘magazine perfect’ home is one that looks as if it has just been the subject of a photo shoot for a glossy home and garden magazine. It may look beautiful but it doesn’t look like it can be comfortably lived in.