Today’s post is all about how to focus on progress, not perfection when you’re decluttering and simplifying your home.
Embracing imperfection when you’re decluttering is an amazing way to take the pressure off yourself. Aiming for progress, not perfection. Keeping the goal of clearing some of the clutter and improving the space, even if it’s just a little bit better. Aiming for better, never perfect.
Keeping a goal of progress, not perfection means being open to making mistakes and learning as you go. Knowing those mistakes are learning opportunities and all part of the process. Not letting fear of not decluttering perfectly keep you from getting started. And instead, choosing to be ok with slowly making imperfect progress towards reaching your decluttering goals.
Perfection can be paralyzing
Perfectionism can cause so many problems. Holding you back in a variety of different ways.
For example, perfectionism can make you not want to start something, or even try it, because you’re afraid you won’t be able to do it perfectly. Or giving up if you can’t do a new skill or task perfectly right from the start.
It can keep you waiting for the perfect moment to arise before you start something or try something new. Even though the perfect moment is usually something elusive that never happens.
As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve experienced perfectionism holding me back and making life difficult in all of these ways. Setting standards of perfection that are impossible to achieve, but still working myself to an unhealthy point trying to achieve them.
Perfectionism while decluttering
And perfectionism definitely shows up during decluttering for many people too.
Aiming for perfection can make a clutter-free home feel unattainable. Making you want to give up before you even try or get started. And making the thought of decluttering your home feel paralyzing.
So often I hear of people waiting for the perfect time to declutter. A time when they have the whole day to work uninterrupted on decluttering. And a day where they also feel super motivated and energized, etc.
But so often, that day never comes. And instead of embracing the imperfect times when you could be decluttering, it just gets put off continually.
You might not have a whole weekend you can dedicate to decluttering, but you could find 20 minutes a few times a week. You might never feel super excited and motivated to declutter, but you could spend some time clearing the clutter anyway.
Other times, people feel like because their home won’t look like the homes they see on Instagram, Pinterest or in a magazine, why even bother? Clearing the clutter won’t make their home instantly look like a showroom, so they don’t want to start at all.
When in reality, clearing the clutter will make their home look tidier, fresher, more peaceful, easier to take care of, more pleasant to be in, etc. Even if it doesn’t look like a perfect home in a magazine, it can still look, feel and function better!
Focus on progress, not perfection
But you don’t have to let perfectionism hold you back from decluttering, simplifying and creating a home you love!
And you can do it by simply focusing on making progress, rather than trying to declutter perfectly. Aiming to make a space better every time you declutter. Even if it’s not perfect, even if it’s only a little bit better, and even if there’s still more to do.
Little steps in the right direction are still moving you towards your goals of creating a home that looks, feels and functions better.
Aim for feeling less overwhelmed by a space, even if it’s still not perfectly decluttered or organized.
Aim for having your home feel 5 – 10% easier to maintain. Knowing you can take that win and build on it. You don’t have to make things 100% better on your first try. Small steps to make a space 5%, or even 1%, better still matter and are still moving you towards the home you want.
Aim for a home that feels more peaceful, even if there’s still more work to be done.
Getting rid of 1 or 2 things a day, every day for 2 weeks might not feel like that much in the moment. And you might even question if it’s worth bothering with. But those small, consistent actions to clear the clutter matter and definitely add up.
Not only is it a few less things taking up your time, space and energy. It’s also building your momentum and motivation to keep going. You’re building a decluttering habit and strengthening your “decluttering muscles” every time you clear some clutter.
Be open to figuring it out as you go
A great way to let go of perfectionism and keep it from holding you back as you declutter is by being open to figuring things out as you go.
Be ok knowing you likely won’t achieve your exact vision for a space after one round of decluttering. Or even after 5 rounds of decluttering!
It’s ok because you know that you’re trying and you’re still making progress. Every time you declutter, you’re figuring out what works for you, what you’re ready and willing to let go of and what feels like the right amount of stuff for you.
You’ll never know what will feel like “enough”, the right amount of stuff for you, or what your clutter threshold is until you start experimenting. You need to try living with different amounts of stuff and noticing what feels right for you.
Let go of the idea of decluttering perfectly. And instead, just be willing to try.
Be willing to experiment with living with less stuff. Be willing to continue decluttering and reminding yourself of the benefits of your efforts. Even if you make mistakes along the way. Or it takes you several rounds of decluttering to get where you want to be.
Learning as you go
When you start decluttering, you’ll probably feel like you’re getting rid of a lot of stuff. But a few weeks later, you might still feel like there’s too much in the space. Realizing you want to do another round of decluttering.
That doesn’t mean you failed at decluttering the first time. It simply means you’re learning more about yourself and what feels like “enough” and too much for you.
You’re still making progress. You still have less clutter than you started with. And you’re learning important information about what feels like enough to you. This is all great!
Now you can do some more decluttering, getting rid of another layer of clutter. Not only making the space better than it was (even if it’s not perfect). But also learning more about what your clutter threshold is.
Be open to making mistakes
Another important way to let go of perfectionism as you declutter is by being open to making mistakes along the way.
Decluttering is often a process of trial and error. Go into it knowing you’ll likely make mistakes along the way. But view those mistakes as learning opportunities instead of failures.
These learning opportunities not only include things like realizing you want to go further and declutter a space even more. But they also include things like being willing to take risks and get rid of the clutter, even if you might end up needing or wanting one or two things at some time in the future.
Instead of letting fear of making a mistake or potentially regretting a decluttering decision sometime in the future keep you living with clutter, embrace making mistakes as part of the process. Accept it and trust your future self to figure it out when and if the time comes. Rather than keeping a house full of clutter “just in case”.
When you accept that mistakes happen and trust yourself to figure out the solution when the time comes, you take the pressure of making “perfect” decluttering decisions off yourself.
Accepting the risk of mistakes
The vast majority of the stuff you’re getting rid of isn’t the life-or-death kind of stuff. If you get rid of something, then need or want it later, trust that you’ll figure it out when the time comes.
You might be able to borrow the item, use something else in its place, find a replacement second hand or even just go without it.
For example, say you get rid of a red sweater because you never wore it and don’t particularly like yourself in red. Then, months later, an event comes up where you need a red sweater.
You could beat yourself up for getting rid of the red sweater you never wore and didn’t like.
Or you could celebrate the fact that yes, you no longer have a sweater you could have used. But in the meantime, you have a simplified wardrobe that makes getting dressed faster, easier and more enjoyable. And you didn’t keep something you didn’t like or wear for 364 days, just in case an occasion like this came up and you needed it for 1 day!
Maybe you’ll borrow a red sweater from your sister. Or find one at a thrift store to wear for this one event. Or just forget about it and not worry about wearing red!
Either way, you’ll figure it out and it won’t be the end of the world.
Take the pressure off yourself
Keep your goals of having less clutter, less stuff to manage, a home that’s easier to keep up with, more time for what you love, etc. at the forefront of your mind.
But take the pressure off yourself. Accept that there’s no way to perfectly know or predict what you will or won’t need someday in the future. Instead, use the information you have now about what you use, need and love to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Enjoy the benefits of your work to clear the clutter you don’t use, need or love. And trust yourself to figure it out if and when you need something in the future.
Don’t aim for perfect, just aim for better.
Be ok with taking imperfect action to make your home feel a little better, and a little easier to manage. Remember that small steps in the right direction add up and make a difference.
Give yourself permission to make progress, not perfection
Give yourself permission to declutter imperfectly. To focus on making progress, not trying to achieve perfection. To make mistakes along the way and not always get it right on your first try.
Give yourself permission to go back through a space 2, 3 or 10 times before you declutter enough to feel satisfied with a space.
Keep the goal of making a space better, not perfect, with you as you declutter.
Imperfect action is better than taking no action at all. Even if you only find 1 or 2 things to get rid of from a space, that’s still 1 or 2 less things taking up your time, space and energy. It’s still less clutter than you started with. And it’s still a step in the right direction!
If your home and the amount of stuff in it is causing you stress, you have two choices.
One, you can stay where you are and keep things how they are and continue to feel stressed by your home.
Or two, you can take action. Being willing to accept imperfect action that helps you take steps to clear the clutter and make your home feel a little easier to manage. Aiming for progress, not perfection. Making a space feel better, even if it’s not perfect!
Do you struggle with perfectionism when you’re trying to declutter? Does this help remind you to aim for progress, not perfection, and help take the pressure off? Leave a comment and let me know!