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How Procrastination & Perfectionism Sabotage Decluttering

Procrastination and perfectionism, often seen as two distinct personality traits, can and often do intersect in our daily lives. I know this is true in my life. I call myself a recovering perfectionist because I am so much better than I used to be. My mantra today is progress, not perfection!

It makes a lot of sense to me that a perfectionist with tendencies to procrastinate would have a near-impossible time decluttering.

The not-so-good news is this relationship between procrastination and perfectionism has a profound impact on various aspects of our lives, including the subject of clutter.

The good news is there are effective strategies for those dealing with the perfectionism-procrastination connection!

Understanding perfectionists and procrastinators

This sure sounds like a double whammy to me! I can identify with both of these personality traits. It may be easier to understand these traits with a little knowledge of the 2 different personality traits – perfectionism and procrastination. 

The information I am supplying is very basic general information about these personality traits. My focus here is the subject of what perfectionism and procrastination have to do with clutter and the decluttering process. 

There is no shortage of information available, with a simple search, if these personality traits interest you, some of this information goes pretty deep and it is very interesting.

There are different types of perfectionists

Perfectionists are individuals who set high standards for themselves. They strive for excellence in everything they do. Not reaching these high expectations is unacceptable to some and causes stress. It is understandable to see that one who is afraid to achieve less than perfection, would be prone to delay or to procrastinate a project.

I will give you some common and basic types of perfectionists and procrastinators. I need to emphasize that I am giving you a basic understanding only. There is an exhaustive amount of data on this subject for those interested in a deeper study.

Types of perfectionists

Carl Jung had something to say about perfectionism. “When we focus on being perfect, we cannot be compassionate, and, given the riven state of our current reality, we certainly need more compassion. “

Perfectionism can cause procrastination. Perfectionism can also trigger anxiety and depression. Because stress and anxiety build up when you don’t meet the high standards you set for yourself, you may also become depressed. 

Classic perfectionists

Sets exceptionally high standards and strives for flawlessness in all areas of life.

Intense perfectionists

Experiences a heightened emotional response to perceived imperfections or mistakes.

Fear-of-failure perfectionists

Driven by the fear of making mistakes or failing, which can lead to procrastination.

Messy perfectionists

Struggles to maintain order in their physical environment despite perfectionistic tendencies in other areas.

Recovering perfectionists

Recognizes the negative impact of perfectionism and actively works on embracing imperfections.

Let’s leave perfection to nature.

Types of procrastinators

Procrastinators put off tasks until later.

Procrastinators tend to delay tasks and postpone taking action. This can result from various reasons, including the fear of not meeting their high standards. Procrastinators who always feel behind tend to be reactive to life instead of proactive. If you are always putting out fires, you will have little time and energy to create opportunities.

My fear of falling behind is why I use the 2 minute rule, which is if it takes 2 minutes do it immediately, I do it.

Procrastinators may find themselves surrounded by a mountain of clutter as they keep putting off the task of decluttering, hoping for the “perfect conditions” to tackle it.

The different types of procrastinators

Chronic procrastinator

Consistently delays tasks, often leading to a last-minute rush to complete them.

Decisional procrastinator

Postpones making decisions, even on minor matters, due to fear of making the wrong choice.

Perfectionist procrastinator

Delays tasks because of the fear of not meeting high standards.

Impulsive procrastinator

Acts on immediate desires rather than tackling important tasks, leading to procrastination.

Overwhelmed procrastinator

Feels paralyzed by the sheer volume of tasks and doesn’t know where to start

The procrastinator – perfectionist connection

Understanding the connection between perfectionism and procrastination is key to addressing clutter. Perfectionists tend to procrastinate because they are afraid of not achieving their impeccable standards. This fear of failure can lead to feelings of discomfort, and delayed action, and as tasks are postponed, clutter accumulates.

The clutter, in turn, reinforces the fear of not being able to maintain the perfect environment, creating a cycle that is hard to break.

colorful depiction of what looks like different colors hair atop a persons head representative of the mind

Some steps to move forward 

How do we get beyond perfectionism and procrastination?

Mindset change

Everything begins with a thought so embrace imperfection. I would have gone out of business when I started making and selling art 30 years ago if I had not recognized my perfectionism was holding me back.

Trying new techniques and designs was difficult for me, due to fear I would not ‘get it right’. Reproducing versions of the same old stuff was a rut I was getting into. Art is supposed to be creative, but this was not. It was boring and not sustainable.

Go on, make a mess!

Feeling bold one day I decided to permit myself to make a mess. I discovered the most wonderful designs and called them happy accidents! Nowadays I will try anything! I know now this is where my magic happens.

The only way to break free from the perfectionism-procrastination cycle is to embrace imperfection. There is no such thing as perfect is what we have been told all our lives. Everything does not have to be flawless.

There are instances that good enough is sufficient. Certainly not in the area of brain surgery, surely though in the life of an artist. This shift in mindset can alleviate the fear of failure and reduce procrastination tendencies. I like to tell students to learn the rules and then break them.

What type of procrastinator are you?

What is your particular procrastination style? Some people procrastinate due to fear, while others procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed. You have to know what you are dealing with before you can find a solution

When you are drowning in clutter it’s essential to break the decluttering project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Take it one step at a time. Most of us can’t declutter an entire home in one swoop. It is perfectly okay to declutter one item a day if this is what you can manage. 

High expectations

Lower the Bar. Lowering your standards and expectations can be liberating. Perfect is an unattainable goal, and focusing on progress, not perfection, can help you overcome procrastination and reduce clutter.

Seek support

We don’t have to go it alone. Some of us are too stubborn to ask for help. This was a tough habit to change. I realized one day that getting a 6-foot-tall bookcase down a skinny winding stairway myself was not my best thought. I am about 5 feet tall. Oh, I did it though.

Then I wondered why it was so important to me to do it myself. Right? This is a whole other book!

Get your friends or family members involved in your decluttering journey. Involving others can provide accountability and motivation. Different people can also help you maintain perspective on your perfectionist tendencies.

two post it notes. 1 reads change your habits. the other reads change your life.

Habits

We know that procrastination and perfectionism are linked. This connection can result in a lot of clutter for individuals who struggle with maintaining high standards. To conquer clutter and find a healthier balance, it’s crucial to understand these obstacles, only then can we battle this with effective strategies. 

You can break free from the perfectionism-procrastination cycle and create a more organized and stress-free living space by changing some habits.

Additional tips and insights

Declutter regularly to prevent clutter from piling up, establish a regular decluttering routine. Do one little thing daily to keep your home clean, organized and clutter-free. Make these acts habits.

Just as perfectionists strive for excellence in their work, apply the same mindset to maintaining a clutter-free environment. 

Set Realistic Goals

Avoid Overcommitting

Big expectations can lead to big disappointments!

Perfectionists often set ambitious goals, which can lead to procrastination when they feel overwhelmed by the task’s scale. Instead of trying to tackle your entire living space and life in one go, set realistic, achievable goals for each decluttering session.

Use tools and systems 

Chances are slim you will stay clutter free if you do not have good organizational systems in place. There is no shortage of organizing tools on the market. You need to implement the tools and systems that can help you maintain order.

Organizing includes the use of storage solutions, calendars, or to-do lists. By having an organized framework, you can reduce the stress of clutter and maintain a more efficient and aesthetically pleasing environment.

Learn from mistakes

Embrace the learning curve. We all make mistakes! Work with it.

It’s important to acknowledge that setbacks may occur, and not every decluttering effort will be perfect. Instead of dwelling on perceived failures, view them as opportunities to learn and grow. Each experience will help you refine your approach and make future decluttering projects more effective.

Self-Compassion

Do not wait for others to be kind to you or praise your efforts, be kind to yourself.

Practice self-compassion. Perfectionists can be overly critical of themselves, which can exacerbate procrastination tendencies. Remember that you’re not alone in this journey, and it’s okay to seek help or support when needed. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.

The connection between perfectionism and procrastination can significantly impact clutter in our lives. Understanding this dynamic and implementing effective strategies will help you overcome the fear of failure. Lowering standards, and breaking free from the cycle of clutter is a freedom I hope you will achieve.

By embracing imperfection and taking small, manageable steps, you can create a more organized and harmonious living space while still striving for excellence in your endeavors. The key is finding a balance that allows for productivity without sacrificing your peace of mind.

It’s important to recognize that overcoming the perfectionism-procrastination connection and decluttering your life is not just about tidying up your physical space. It’s also an opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. Here are some additional considerations.

Embrace flexibility

Life is unpredictable, and circumstances change. Accepting that things won’t always go according to plan is an essential part of personal growth. Adaptability can help you manage clutter more effectively. When life gets in your way, just pivot. Regroup and get back to the task at hand.

Seek professional help

If you find that your perfectionism and procrastination are severely impacting your life, seeking the guidance of a therapist or counselor can be immensely beneficial. They can provide personalized strategies and support to address underlying issues.

Practice patience

Personal transformation takes time, and breaking free from the perfectionism-procrastination cycle won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. It took you a lifetime to get here and you can’t change it all in the blink of an eye.

Celebrate achievements

Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Each step you take to declutter and manage your perfectionism and procrastination is a victory worth acknowledging. Progress not perfection!

Share your story

Share your experiences and strategies with others. By opening up about your journey, you can provide support and inspiration to those who are going through similar challenges. This will also motivate you to continue growing.

Ultimately, the connection between perfectionism, procrastination, and clutter is a complex one that many people struggle with. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, and everyone’s journey to overcome these challenges will be unique. The important thing is to start taking action, even if it’s small steps, and keep moving forward.

By addressing your perfectionism and procrastination tendencies and working on decluttering your life, you can create a more harmonious and balanced existence. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection.

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

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