Perfect is the Enemy of the Good Enough OR Why We Procrastinate

Hi, Dory!

Hi, Dory!

So, here it is, almost the middle of January. Those New Year’s resolutions that looked so shiny and beautiful on December 30 and 31 are starting to tarnish just a bit. You know the feeling - hopes that things will be different this time - I’ll get organized, lose weight, pay off debt, not yell at my kids anymore this year and my life will be amazing! Then, after a strong start and a few stumbles, the resolution gets set aside and life continues, but with an added sheen of failure and disappointment, more pounds, more debt, more clutter and more strife. Sigh.


Why do we get discouraged and eventually quit? Why do we not even get started to begin with? I think it’s because we want to be a 100% success from day one. When that doesn’t pan out or we become overwhelmed before even trying, we lose faith and walk away.


The idea of “perfect is the enemy of the good (or the good enough)” was popularized by Voltaire, a French writer during the Enlightenment period in the 1700’s. Shakespeare wrote in King Lear that in “striving to do better, we oft mar what’s well.”  For example, you’re wanting to reorganize your bedroom and you start with your sock drawer. You can take so much time and effort and worry making that sock drawer look like something in Martha Stewart Living or Better Homes & Gardens, that you make yourself frustrated, unhappy and forget to go to the grocery store.  My advice? Work on the sock drawer until it’s functional. Can you see all of your socks? Are they folded or rolled they way you like them and will continue to do so? Is there some extra space so they’re not stuffed in and crowded? If you want, sort them by color or type. Boom. Done. Move on to the underwear drawer.


I admit, I still find it frustrating to start a new workout DVD and not be able to do it 100% completely correct the first time I try it. What I’ve (finally) decided is that I deserve a learning curve. I’m not ever going to be one of the folks doing the workout behind the instructor in the DVD, right? So who cares if my effort is perfect? Who cares if I can’t keep up? Who cares if I only do eight repetitions instead of 12? I’m moving, aren’t I? So long as I’m using correct form and am not endangering myself, who cares? No one. Why should I? Why not have some fun so I’ll continue to get up off the couch and get some exercise which is the entire point anyway?


A lot of professional organizers tell their clients to get started by setting a timer everyday at the same time for fifteen minutes. Then just start.  All you have to do is fifteen minutes, then you have permission to stop and enjoy your accomplishment. A lot of the times, though, you’ll hit your stride and keep working after the timer goes off. Bonus points!  It’s like exercise - just start! Put on the shoes and get out the door. Press “Play” on the DVD player.


Cut yourself some slack!  Here are a couple more sayings: Done is Better than Perfect! Practice Makes Progress! Or as my favorite blue fish says, Just Keep Swimming! So whatever your goal is, try and try again. Give yourself props for taking those baby steps.


You got this.


Problem, Project or Solution?

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2017. Did you notice all the workout, weight loss and “get organized” ads starting the day after Christmas? Those seem to be the top three new year’s resolutions year after year.


I don’t know about you, but I find it discouraging to keep trying to do something every year and not be able to achieve it.  Since this is an organizing blog, I’ll talk about that ongoing problem. We see the ads for all these great organizing gadgets - usually tubs and totes and shelving units. So we go out and buy matching tubs and totes and shelves, but we still struggle with not being able to find anything. Blech. I tell my clients to not even think about buying these items until you’ve first sorted, purged and decided where to store things. Then it’s time to figure out what storage system will work and find it. A lot of times, you already have things you can use in your house.


But what if we looked at our things differently this year? I read about a new-to-me idea on a message board called A lady posted there awhile ago about asking herself about everything she brings into her home, “Is this a Problem, Project or Solution?”  Wow. I really like this because it helps us be mindful of what we are bringing into our homes and what we already have.  Remember, our homes are our special place where we can be ourselves, relax and spend time with our family and friends. If our homes are cluttered and full of stuff we don’t need, we become stressed, not relaxed. By deciding whether stuff that comes into our homes is a Problem, Project or Solution, we take control over our decisions and that allows us to make better ones.


What are some examples of Problems? Almost anything is a Problem if we don’t have a place to store it.  Anytime you bring something into your home, know before buying or accepting it where it will “live” when it crosses your threshold. Some Projects are Problems!  If you find yourself trying to convince yourself (or your spouse) that “this will be great! We only need to spend time and money and energy fixing, it, putting it together, installing it (fill in the blank).”  Does the Project part outweigh the Problem?


Some Projects are supposed to be fun. I’m a crafter and have learned the hard way to not buy stuff just because it could be used to make something cute or special or pretty or whatever (Pinterest, anyone?). That stuff eventually becomes clutter, a/k/a Problems.  I now only buy or keep stuff I have an immediate need or plan for, not just because it’s awesome.  Other Projects are Solutions. Home improvement projects come to mind. Again, be mindful and prepared to finish your Project so it is actually a Solution. Projects become Problems when we don’t finish them in a timely manner. They are Problems because they cause us and other family members stress!


Solutions are the gold medal of the three to keep or bring home. However, before bringing in a Solution, ask yourself, “Is this exactly what I need? Will it solve a specific Problem? Is there a better way to solve this Problem like decluttering, donating or using Solutions I already own? Is this Solution a Project? If so, is it a Project I can quickly and easily finish?” For example, I may decide I need shelving installed to hold all of my books. Before spending money, time and energy on a Solution, I need to take some time to inventory and curate my book collection. I may be able to actually reduce the amount of books I have and only keep the ones I really love and are important. By doing so, I find that that shelves I have are sufficient or that I only need a small bookshelf - one that is already put together (thus, not a Project).


Become a mindful consumer so that your home works for you and you don’t have to work for your home.  Look for Solutions, think carefully about Projects and avoid Problems! Here’s to a joyful 2017!

Coming Clean

As a self-proclaimed professional organizer, I truly believe that the key to being organized is to only have those things in your home that you love and use. All else is clutter and causes frustration, discouragement and unnecessary expense. Holding on to old stuff and what it represents merely keeps us tied to the past and looking backward - not allowing us to grow and improve.  I’ve spoken about this to groups; I’ve explained this to clients and practiced it myself, except, not totally.

This past year or two, I’ve felt something deep down that was telling me I’m on the verge of a breakthrough of some sort, that something new and better was waiting for me. I struggled with what I needed to do or address or deal with before this breakthrough could happen. I bought a new planner system and put it into place. I floated for an hour in total darkness and quiet. I’ve prayed and meditated. I talked to a Life Coach.   What is it that is keeping me from letting go of some unhealthy behaviors (in my case, overeating) and embracing a better life

I’ve talked and written over and over again about the benefits of clearing out your closet and only keeping things in it that you love to wear because they fit well and make you happy. I’ve talked about not overcrowding your closet so that items are easily accessible. I talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. Every time I worked with a client or spoke to an audience about this, there was a small voice in the back of my head accusing me of being a fraud and a liar.  My closet, armoire and a couple of plastic bags were at least 50% full of clothes that no longer fit or I’d brought brand new as “incentive” to lose weight. There were some items still with tags on them. Other items were over thirty years old. I’d weeded out several times over the years, but still I held on to so much that I couldn’t wear.

Whenever I entered our closet, instead of feeling good about myself and enjoying the fact that my clothes reflected my taste and made me feel happy and positive, I felt discouraged and disheartened and a failure.  

Do you see where this is going? Do you see the connection between my cluttered closet full of clothes from past “glory days,” my dreams of weighing what I did in high school or in my twenties and my being stuck now? I finally got it about three weeks ago (there are none so blind as those who will not see). I don’t know why the light bulb finally turned on, but one day while driving to work, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t being authentic and it was holding me back, just as if my feet were stuck in hardened cement or shackled in chains. My beliefs were not aligned with my actions.   How many times had I told others that we aren’t able to accept new gifts and blessings when we insist on holding onto stuff, ideas or beliefs that do not benefit us anymore? Yet, I was holding on to clothing that no longer fit me, either literally or figuratively. I think I was afraid to embrace the woman I am now, extra pounds and all, love her and move on. I felt that by giving up on the clothes, I would be giving up on myself and settling.

So, at some point during that twenty minute drive to work, I decided to let them go. I decided that by the end of the year, I’d pull out everything and donate it. I wanted to take my time to honor my past and the memories and hopes that those suits, jackets, jeans, blouses shorts(!) and coats represented. Over the next couple of weeks, I started to look forward to “the clearing.” I was able to start disengaging from the emotions associated with the clothes and just see them as what they were. I was actually starting to look forward to getting that stuff gone.  Except, not totally. I told myself I’d keep no more than five items because they were “too good” to let go - a black leather jacket, a silk suit my mom bought me after I graduated law school, a Pendleton suit, a wool twinset, a pair of jeans - none of which fit!  I was justifying it somehow - just look at everything I’m letting go! Surely it won’t hurt to just keep these few special things, because someday when I’m able to fit into them again, I’ll be a success!

Well, the day finally came.  Sunday December 11th I was ready. I’d gone to an estate sale the day before and scored a large yard bag full of beautiful clothing in my size for only $34. I took this as a sign that I am being provided for and knew it was go time. Sunday before church, I started taking items off of hangers and putting them on the bed. I took sweaters and shirts out of my armoire. I took coats (barely worn) out of the coat closet. I piled on boots that I couldn’t pull on over my calves. I ended up keeping four items back (because they’re “special!”).

I went to church and we celebrated the third week of Advent - Joy! The joy of looking forward to a new life, rejoicing in the Lord because He is enough. And sometime during that service, the Still Small Voice lovingly told me to let it ALL go and that it would be ok.  So, I went home and took those final four items out of the closet. I sorted everything that I’d piled on the bed, folded them and bagged them up and put them in my car. I donated them to Midland Care Findables, a local resale shop that funds a nonprofit hospice here in town.  I didn’t try to sell them because I didn’t want to take the  time and energy to do so. I wanted them out and gone. I ascribe to the theory of self-selection - that is, when you donate items, they will find their next best owner. It’s not our job to do that. What a relief, right?


Will my life magically change overnight so I’ll be able to effortlessly attain all of my goals in 2017? No, of course not. I do know, however, that I have proven to myself that I can do something that only three months ago I would’ve told you was impossible for me to do. I do feel better about myself and have just a bit more confidence. My beliefs and actions are more aligned and I have a teaspoon more faith. I actually smile when I walk into my closet now! I have more than enough. I realize that this whole post is one big page of First World Problems, yet it was a problem for me and I’m pretty sure it’s a problem for others. I hope this encourages others to challenge themselves, ask for help and take the next step forward.


Use the Pretty Soap

We all have things that are “good” and “special” in our home. I’m talking about items that were made to be used. We save them because someone special gave them to us, they cost a lot of money or we’re waiting for that perfect moment. Listen to me, please. Use that special item now.

I worked with a client a year or so ago, helping her to organize her studio (I’ll call her Ann). She fits the demographic of a lot of my clients: Female, Baby Boomer, smart, talented, creative.  As such, she has a lot going on in her life and collects a lot of stuff. Add into the mix the fact that she recently lost her mother which led to bringing  home more stuff to go through and think about and decide what to do with. Exhausting.

As we worked together, we talked and shared stories and ideas as usually happens. Ann told me about her mom.  She told me that as she cleared out her mother’s home, she found a beautiful bar of soap that someone had given her (it may have even been Ann herself).  Ann explained it made her sad that her mother had not ever found that perfect moment or reason to use the pretty soap.

The pretty soap was among the items Ann brought home. She decided to use it herself. She told me that every time she used it in the shower, she remembered her mother and cried. She cried until she used it up.

Of course nothing lasts forever, so why even try to make it so? Honor yourself, your friends and family by eating hamburgers served on your grandmother’s china. It’s not doing anyone any good gathering dust in the cabinet. Tell them the stories of other meals you ate on these plates – the meals your grandma made. Write letters to your friends and relatives on the pretty stationery and hand-made cards. Spritz on the fancy-schmancy perfume.

Life is short and meant to be enjoyed.  Use the pretty soap.