Clutter may seem like simply a matter of too much stuff or a lack of the proper system, but the underlying reason is often one of the two big P's - Procrastination or Perfection.
Procrastination is, by definition, to put something off intentionally or habitually. In other words, choosing to do something later that you could do now. How many times have you told yourself you would finish that report later, or fold that laundry this afternoon, or have the kids pick up their toys tomorrow? Every time you choose to delay doing something that you could or should do right now, you are procrastinating.
Keeping this in mind, it is easy to see how procrastination is one of the significant root causes of clutter. We delay putting something where it belongs, right away. For example, a screwdriver on the counter that we chose to put it there rather than in the toolbox. , or a stack of magazines on the side table, or the clothes on the floor, or the scattered toys.
We all procrastinate from time to time, sometimes because we think we don't have ample time, sometimes because we are dreading the task, and sometimes because we are distracted.
No matter the reason, procrastination soon becomes our go-to and a habit that is hard to break.
Then there is procrastination's long lost cousin perfection.
Perfectionism is defined as the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection, which in turn is defined as an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence. Perfectionism is when we put things off because we are afraid we won't do them perfectly, or when we don't implement a system at all because it is not the absolute perfect one.
Maybe you want a dream walk-in closet with built-ins and drawers and perfectly spaced shoe shelves, but that is way out of your budget. But instead of implementing a system that uses the space you have and works with your wallet, you do nothing since it won't be perfect anyhow.
You might have fallen victim to the perfection trap. It is the all-or-nothing mentality.
Perfection can lead to paralysis and overwhelm. The fear of things not being perfect makes it hard even to start. In this day and age, the social media craze makes perfection an even more significant threat as everyone seems to have it "all together." Trust me; they don't! Behind the perfectly styled shot, there is usually disarray and chaos.
Once you identify the underlying reason for your clutter, you are ready to tackle it.
Three quick tips to help overcome procrastination
1. Stop making excuses
"I don't have time" - most often we overestimate how long something takes, and we avoid doing it because we think it will take way to long. Using the screw-driver example above, how much longer does it take to walk to the toolbox and put it away? No more than a couple of minutes max. Do you have a minute or two to spare at any point during your day?
2. Turn down the drama
Sometimes we don't do a task because we are not looking forward to it, and we build up the negative feelings associated with the job. For example, diving into the laundry pile. You might "hate" doing laundry because it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r! We all know it does not take forever. It does take time, and no, it is not particularly fun-filled, but it is not as bad as we make ourselves think it is. Doing it more often in smaller chunks will lessen the stress of it.
3. Put it on the calendar or schedule.
If you allot a specific time slot for a task, then you are more likely to accomplish said task. After bath-time and before bed is toy clean-up time. Laundry is reserved for right after breakfast. Kitchen counters are completely cleared as part of your evening routine.
Three quick tips for taming perfectionism
1. Focus on done over perfect
Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to do something well enough and not always strive for perfection. As a recovering perfectionist, I know this is easier said than done, and it can be a bit frightening at first. Trust me, pushing thru and past the all-or-nothing mentality and instead decide done is done will pay off in the long run.
2. Strive for better, not perfect
What can you do right now that will make a situation or problem better than it was before? Think back to the closet example, is there a shoe rack that will at least get the shoes off the floor? Can you use bins or baskets to house items that would put in a drawer if you had one? In other words, what improvements can you make to make the closet better than it currently is?
3. Only compare yourself to yourself
We often try to compare ourselves to others. We think we need to look like, act like, and be like others. This is a very slippery slope, and it is bound to end in disaster. Therefore, rather than comparing yourself to anyone else, only compare yourself to yourself. Are you doing things in a way that is in line with your values and your expectations or someone else's?
Nobody overcame procrastination or perfection overnight, so give yourself time. It might seem impossible at first, and it will require determination and a change in habit, but trust me, it is worth the hard work in the end!