Perfection is the Enemy of Organization

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“I’m a perfectionist.” This used to be my stock answer to the popular interview question, “What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?” I mean, come on, we all know that nobody answers that question honestly! The goal is to answer it with something that sounds like a weakness but is actually a strength, like “My greatest weakness is that I frequently sacrifice sleep to stay up late baking pumpkin scones for the staff room” or “My greatest weakness is my ardent desire to work late on Saturday.”  When I answered that question with, “I’m a perfectionist,” I thought I had nailed it. Perfectionism is a good quality, right? WRONG.

If life has taught me anything, it is this: perfectionism is, more than anything, absolutely crippling. 

Let me explain.

When people find out I’m a minimalist and an organizer, they immediately assume I must live in some white-walled Zen-like residence with beautiful, yet sparse, potted plants and clear counters containing one symbolic cup of coffee. I’m completely flattered when people think this; I experience a fleeting moment of trickster’s glee: Ha! Fooled ya!

The truth is, I live in a pretty normal house with pretty normal stuff. I just have a bit less of it than most people. My house is relatively uncluttered, but it’s not perfect. And I don’t want it to be.

Why? Because perfection is the enemy of organization. This is something I tell my clients and, more often, myself.

Take a look at this corner of my living room. When I first started minimizing, I eliminated a heavy corner cupboard in favor of this light, airy plant stand that I used to hold my mail sorter.

Ah, so minimal! So pretty! So not working for me…

The problem was, because I wanted this mail corner to look so perfect, I hid all my files and office supplies in other parts of the house. Thus, to actually sort and answer mail, I had to trudge upstairs to a cupboard for my filing box, into my hallway for stamps and the checkbook, and into the kitchen for pens. While this did wonders for my glutes, it wasn’t practical or efficient. When I started my business, I realized I needed all of my office and mail supplies in one place, so I gave up my perfectionistic ideals and moved all my necessary supplies into the corner, using whatever ragtag furniture I could find. Now my corner looks like this:

Office Corner
Not perfect… but efficient!

It ain’t pretty, and it’s definitely not perfect, but it works. I now file things immediately, as opposed to letting my “To File” items build up for months. I can sort and answer my mail from one spot, and retrieve printed documents without taking a hike to the second floor. Wonderful!

I’m in the market for a nice, small (hopefully not too ugly) corner cabinet to accommodate my files, printer, and supplies. Until I find this, though, I’m happy with my not-so-perfect solution.

If I had waited until I found the perfect cabinet to implement this system, I would still be trudging up and down those stairs, avoiding filing and forgetting what I’d just printed. This is better. This works, imperfectly, which is actually pretty perfect for me.

Is there an organizational problem in your house that you’re avoiding because you want it to “perfect”? If so, realize that your desire for perfection may actually be the enemy, holding you back from getting organized. Embrace a bit of wiggle room, allow some imperfection into your life and see how much easier your life becomes!

Rose Lounsbury is the Dayton, Ohio area’s up-and-coming professional organizer. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, please call her at 937-626-9030.

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