Updated: Feb 27
Do you have a perfectionist brain that cancels out your creative and organizing desires?
I'm a recovering perfectionist and an artist at heart. I say recovering because if I don't pay attention, my perfectionist brain cancels out my artist heart.
As I write this, I'm surrounded by my paints, paintbrushes and three painting projects in various stages of imperfection. If I don't let the imperfection bother me, I can sit here in creative bliss.
But if I let it, the perfectionist brain will be bothered by not knowing how to perfectly capture what's in my head with my paintbrushes. In my mind, I see perfect little green frogs sitting on perfect little lily pads, with perfect little vines with perfect purple flowers wrapping around the edges of the wood I've painted green (uh on, is that the perfect color green?)...
But how do I make the paintbrushes and the paint capture those images? Can I create exactly what I'm envisioning?
I can paint because I've practiced for 30 years, but something usually goes astray and when I'm finished, there's something amiss and it isn't exactly what I envisioned. But if I let myself push through doubt and frustration about it not going exactly the way I wanted, I and my loved ones usually love the end result.
And if not, I can cover the whole thing and begin again!
When I step around my perfectionist brain and let my creative heart paint freely, I can enjoy myself.
The Brain Bully
This is why I'm a RECOVERING perfectionist. I'm learning to overcome what I call "the b*tch in my brain" who tells me I'll never get it right and so I shouldn't even begin. One client calls her the brain bully (much more politically correct!). When I override the b*tchy bully, I get on with enjoying my life and doing things I love.
How does being a perfectionist artist relate to organizing?
I've found many people who reach out for help with organizing are perfectionists. We talk about their vision of what they want for their homes and they imagine clear surfaces, open space, less "stuff," beds made, clothes put away...
But right now, their spaces are full of clutter and they have no idea how to get there, or even how to begin. To get from here to perfection is just too much of a leap, so their brain shorts out and says, "I can't do this!" and they sit in frustration and feel overwhelmed.
Does any of this sound familiar? I know it does for me...
Even after becoming an organizer for others, my home was cluttered for years after moving in with my husband. Trying to meld our belongings just felt so HARD! I imagined a lovely home with open spaces and pretty rugs and clear floors and just the right furniture and no piles and and and...
But to get from this cluttered house to that peaceful home? I had no clue where to begin. When people came over I'd hide the piles, swallow my shame and never fully enjoy myself because I didn't like how things looked. I felt like a failure and I felt stupid.
I finally reached out and admitted my trouble to a friend who has a beautifully organized and decorated home - a friend I'd help organize. Her words helped made my home a pleasure to be in, even in Covid times! Her magic words were...
"Just start! Move things around, try things out. Don't be afraid to put the 'wrong' thing somewhere, or get the 'wrong' piece of furniture. Just begin.
It will all come together. You can always change your mind."
So I did. I moved a piece of furniture here, organized a cupboard there, found and donated things I didn't love...
And a lot of chaos and heated discussions with my husband ensued. Ha! Not what I expected...
But you know what? After hours, days, months of digging through drawers, taking trips to donation centers, putting this and then that over here, then moving this and then that over there, I've reached a beautiful place of...
My home now feels peaceful, inspiring and supportive, even with unfinished floors and projects to be done. My husband loves it and even helps keep it this way - woohoo!
I've allowed myself to go through the discomfort of not knowing, of things definitely NOT looking perfect, and I keep trying things until it truly feels perfect...or almost perfect :)
Now, when I feel anxious or depressed or nagged by life, I look around my home or office and think, "What can I do to make this space feel better, to have this space support me?"
And I try something new, even something small like letting go of the lamp I never really liked, or going through a dreaded pile of paper and letting go of or following up on a few.
Choose One Thing
Don't let the idea of making everything perfect stop you. Let go of feeling paralyzed about having so much to do and just do SOMETHING.
Do one thing and do it to imperfect perfection. There's immense satisfaction in organizing even one closet, one sock drawer, one cupboard. This satisfaction affects us on a cellular level, but that's another post!
Yes, there are a million things to do, 10,000 things to organize, and we'll never be "done." We're constantly changing, and it's healthy to regularly change our surroundings to fit, reflect and support the person we are and want to become.
New items come into our lives, new colors catch our eye, old clothes no longer fit or feel right...and this will continue throughout our lives.
Not knowing how to reach the perfect home is not a good reason to not begin. The next time you look around and think, "There is SO MUCH to do in this room!" resist the urge to turn around and walk away, reach for a bag of munchies or turn attention to media.
Instead, choose ONE THING you can do right now. It can be taking unwanted items out of one drawer, going through one pile of paper, one counter you can clear. Maybe choose one item you can put in a donation box, recycling bin or trash can. Maybe choose one bag of donations to drive to a donation center.
Then allow yourself to keep going if you have time.
Just one more thing.
This is part of how my house became my perfect home, this is how my paintings become perfectly imperfect gifts and decorations.
One thing at a time.