Clarity

perfectionism

How Perfectionism Holds Us Back From Clutter Free Living

If you’re like me, you have a compulsion to do things well … I mean really, really well!

It’s a habit I’ve had since I can remember. I’ve heard this trait referred to as “being driven”. And sure, it’s served me well with being determined, taking action, and accomplishing what I set my sights on. 

But when “being driven” becomes perfectionism, it can actually stop us in our tracks. We can become paralyzed with taking the next step because we don’t want to make a mistake. Which is really a shame, since there’s often no reason we can’t circle back and edit our initial actions. Or build on those “lessons” and try again.

Never trying may mean never failing. But do we really want to stay stuck in a no-growth safety zone? Or would we actually prefer advancing towards our desired goals? And ultimately achieving them?

Today, let’s break down 3 ways how perfectionism holds us back from decluttering what we no longer need, use, or want in our lives …and consider some small tips on how to get it done anyway.

I generally speak about uncluttering the excess physical stuff in our homes. But ultimately, it’s really our habits formed by our mindset and our emotions which lead to the clutter in our lives.

When we identify and shift the feelings that don’t serve us well, we set ourselves free. Now we can write a new chapter about where we want to head next. Doesn’t that sound enticing? 

feeling stuck
image by ryan mcguire | pixabay

#1: We Don't Get Started

Think about it: the internal pressure to do something perfectly can become so intense, we postpone doing anything.

We talk about how we ought to clear out our overflowing wardrobe. We readily agree that our kitchen cabinets are overdue for a Fall pruning. We know it’s time to plow through our boxes of pictures and photo albums. But our effort stops there.

After all, we really want to nail the effort and do this right. Shouldn’t we first research the best way to declutter? (by the way, that’s over here) And then what to do with everything … Sell? Donate? Toss? What if the kids want some stuff? What if we toss the wrong things? Etc, etc, etc.

You see what’s happening here? We may not consciously think about it but we decide that if we don’t start, we don’t risk the chance of being mediocre with the task. It’s fear of failure—of appearing “less than” that results in the hard stop peril of perfectionism. 

Instead, take a deep breath. Inhale, hold for 3 beats, and then slowly exhale. Now, just begin small. Pick a room and then work on one counter, one drawer, or one closet. Keep it short. With 30 minute sessions, think of how that will add up with making noticeable progress.

And along the way, we can fine-tune our approach. We don’t need to have it all figured out right from the onset. But we do need to get started, right? For a perfectionist, the first step is usually the hardest one to take. So review this post, A Universal Definition of Clutter … and go! 

perfectionism
image by liza summer | pexels

#2: We Struggle With Making Decisions

When we do finally move ahead with clearing space, our things take on heightened meaning.

Pitching ordinary items like mismatched food storage containers or stained clothing is a no brainer. But uncover the stash of birthday cards from your kids, the ugly vase from dear Aunt Susan, or your Rolling Stones T-shirt … now what?

The tension rises in our chest or fills our gut. Our emotions are in a tizzy as we seesaw with indecisiveness over which sentimental items to release. Perfectionism strikes as we struggle to make the right choices. And then when we can’t choose, we stop once again. 

All The Feelings!

While I don’t advocate making decisions when emotions are running high, I do recommend returning to your decluttering session the next day. But right now, pause to assess what you’re feeling. Is it sadness? Worry? Fear? And think about why you’re feeling the emotion.

These underlying emotions warrant a little examination if your space clearing goals are to be achieved. When it comes to sentimental things, it’s common to associate the item with the person or event. So it follows that we are unable to let go of the unused or unnecessary thing. After all, it’s like throwing away our loved one or our past!

But remember: the item was given to or made for you with love. So it’s about the intention, not the actual thing. And no one can take away the memory of the enjoyable things you did like attending that amazing concert. Also, check out this post, How To Release Other People’s Stuff Without the Guilt.

Yet there is only so much room in the house. Focus on retaining a few of the items that best reflect the giver and that you love the most. Savor the memories that arise as you sift through the stuff. And then let go of the rest when you get back at it tomorrow.

perfectionism
image by ron lach | pexels

#3: We Feel the Weight of the Unfinished Task

When the decluttering gets difficult, we tell ourselves any number of stories about why we need to stop now.

Perhaps that we don’t have the time to finish. Or that we have room for all our stuff after all. Maybe even that we’ll get to it another time.

But deep down, we know it makes sense to release things that are hidden in drawers, cabinets, or closets. It’s time to let go of what we don’t use anymore. Time to release the excess throughout the house.

So once again, perfectionism gnaws at us. On the outside, it’s business as usual. But on the inside, we feel conflicted. This is exactly why we didn’t want to dive into such a challenging project!

Now What?

When we start to ruminate about getting this done perfectly, it’s time to pause again for perspective. We can sure be hard on ourselves, can’t we? So take another deep breath here. And adopt a different mantra: progress, not perfection.

In other words, don’t let the “all or nothing” outlook shelve your decluttering project indefinitely. Instead, embrace the notion that this is not a race, and no one is watching or judging you—really!

As perfectionists, we are our own worst critics. And it’s possible that we felt judged a long time ago, when we were very young. It may not even have been over something significant … doesn’t matter. The point is, we adopted the habit of perfectionism to protect ourselves. 

But now it’s time to shake that off because it’s exhausting, don’t you think? Start with little steps. Track your progress so that you can refer to it when you feel overwhelmed. Stick to a decluttering schedule that works best for you and then do it! And remind yourself that you are “right on schedule” when doubt and anxiety creep back in. This post, How To Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed, will also help get you unstuck.

Remember: this is your decluttering journey. You get to set the pace, no one else. And you can also choose to loop back and make new edits as you go. Because uncluttering is rarely a one and done, nor is it a simple linear path.

So take your time. Appreciate the things and savor the memories associated with your stuff. Then make your selections based on what matters most now … and what will get you to your next life chapter!

The Wrap With Mary V
Mary V | Kaitlyn Meyers Photography

The Wrap

Space clearing is not an overnight process so don’t let perfectionism keep you on the sidelines!

When you consider that your things accumulated over many years, you can cut yourself some slack with the timeline to pare back.

Remember to be kind to yourself. Lighten up. We are all perfectly imperfect.

Now start releasing things slowly but surely.

For more inspiration, check out the resources below!

Your Turn!

Where are you at in the decluttering process? Still thinking about it? Midway but running out of steam? Or chugging along? I’d love to hear your triumphs, tribulations and everything in between! Drop a comment below…and thanks for stopping by!

how to declutter your mind

How To Declutter Your Mind And Dial Back Anxiety

Knowing how to declutter your mind when you feel stuck in life is an invaluable skill.

Who hasn’t felt uneasy, troubled, rejected, or generally just awash with angst at some point? It’s not uncommon to feel this way when one chapter of life is winding down (or has already ended) and the next one is yet to be determined. Or when things haven’t “gone our way”. Or even when we feel “on hold”, for example, during a worldwide pandemic! Now what?

Without a defined method to conquer our negative emotions and keep moving, they can overwhelm us and become our new story. We become paralyzed. Or passive, waiting and reacting to what happens next. 

Yet wouldn’t you rather be in charge? Actively pivoting into your next life chapter that you design?

Today, I’m sharing a “get unstuck” approach that helps push anxiety and it’s dubious counterparts out of the driver’s seat.

Learning how to declutter your mind is essential because your mood directly impacts your perspective.

You see, when we don’t have clarity, it’s difficult to have a vision for what we can do. And when we don’t know where we want to go next, it’s hard to move ahead with positivity, curiosity and confidence. 

So if you’d like to replace mental chaos with calm, come join me—let’s figure this out together, shall we?

This post shares 8 tips for how to declutter your mind so you can replace anxiety with serenity

feeling stuck
tirachard kumtano | pexels

1. Release Morning Thoughts

Ever notice how your mind starts churning once you’re out of bed? The crowded overlay of feelings when you wake up immediately dictates how your day’s mood is set (unless you’re stellar at burying and denying those feelings–which is not recommended). Sometimes, your mood is sublime. Other times, it’s a slog.

This is why taking 15 minutes or so to write down whatever is on your mind is the key to clearing out the morning mental clutter. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, introduced the term, “morning pages”. (There’s a video link below with Julia herself explaining the concept). It’s a brilliant way to do a brain dump first thing in the morning.

This is for your eyes only so be honest and go ahead: spill out whatever is on your mind. The point is to remove all random, heavy, or troubling thoughts and feelings. Just like phoning a friend, think about the relief when you give voice to what’s weighing on you.

Certainly, you can release some of the emotional clutter immediately by shining the light on it and seeing it for what it is … something to kick to the curb. Other parts you can decide to work through at another time, because they will take more time. Just not right now.

In this way, you clear your morning fog. Now you can step into a shiny new day, untarnished by what you may not have even realized will hold you back. Because our mood takes energy and who has any to spare on negativity?

If you prefer to capture your thoughts electronically like me (’cause I have atrocious penmanship!) check out what I use daily over here: 750 Words.

2. Choose a Daily Mantra

Not only do morning pages allow me to start my day in a more unruffled manner. They can also reveal a timely mantra, or reminder for how to keep negative feelings at bay.

When I realize that a particular concern is dominating my early morning thoughts, I can replace that negative whisper with a positive affirmation.

For example, when I’m feeling stressed about not getting everything done, a useful mantra for me is, “I’m right on schedule”.

Or, when I’m feeling cranky or out of sorts (for any number of reasons), “Lighten up!” does wonders for a reset. And I can thank my son who told me this when he was 10—wise words from a young boy!

Be open to “hearing” which mantras will sooth and reset your mind. Then repeat for maximum effect.

3. Pick Three Tasks

There can be a long list of things we need and want to do. The line items rarely fit within a standard day, right?

Now obviously, there are always non-negotiables like work, meals or showering. Those are a given.

But here I’m talking about identifying just 3 things that you will agree to complete. They don’t have to be massive. They are simply things that should be done at some point and you’ve selected them today.

At the end of the day, it will be satisfying to cross those off the list (I like to use a green marker but any color will do). Maybe it’s the laundry, decluttering the junk drawer (you know I had to work uncluttering in here somewhere!), or following up on an email or phone call. You choose. 

Whether big or small, accomplishments are another way for how to declutter your mind. They have a way of boosting your mood. And they get you out of your head.

how to declutter your life
shvets production | pexels

4. Be Fully Present

Now shift into your day. Release any thoughts or feelings that bring you down. Use your chosen mantra to focus on the here and now!

There is great beauty in the simple moments of the day. But it’s also easy to overlook them and take them for granted.

We get distracted with pesky worries. Or we divert attention to our screens. For more on the power of our attention, read this: A Clutter Free Home Starts With Reining In The Screen Time That Consumes Our Day.

Remember, your morning pages are your designated time to acknowledge what’s gnawing at you. Some of your concerns will dissipate, simply by looking at them and deciding they need to leave. Others will take more time to resolve. But that should occur in your future morning page sessions.

For now, give your mind a rest. You’ve cleared it so that you can engage fully in the present moments of today.

5. Get Physical

Studies confirm that physical activity has a profoundly positive impact on our mood. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or grueling. But as little as 30 minutes of movement definitely gets our endorphins flowing.

Now you may not feel the urge to move when your thoughts are weighing you down. But the best course of action is to not overthink this. Whatever your chosen activity is … walking, yoga, Pilates, or swimming … have a designated time for when you’ll do it. And then stop thinking and start doing.

After all, when we are mired in negative feelings, we are not the best judge of what will soothe us. We may think lounging on the couch and bingeing mindless shows or scrolling social media is all we have energy for … but yeah, not really. Save that for after you’ve done something physical. Use it as a reward, instead!

6. Watch and Listen for Signs

Now I’m a firm believer that there are clues in our everyday lives for how to declutter your mind and uncover your next course of action. We’re just not accustomed to noticing them.

This concept works in conjunction with #4, Being Fully Present. When we open ourselves up to the idea that we are not alone (even when it feels that way), we can embrace the idea that we do indeed have guides all around us.

You see, signs come in all shapes, sizes and forms. It could be something someone says. Or something you see out your window. Maybe something you read. Or a idea that comes to you while you’re driving. 

When we open ourselves up to receiving guidance, it comes. It may take time to recognize when it does, if we are not used to seeing it. Or if we are fixated on things unfolding in only one way.

But one of the most powerful signs we often receive first is to Simply Be. To let go of thrashing about for answers. Because the harder we push, the more elusive the signs become.

Guidance can’t be forced. So when things don’t turn out how we wanted or expected, the best thing we can do is Simply Be. To pause and leave the door open.  And then await patiently for what will arrive.

Believe me, patience is not my personal forte! But I’ve learned that my own timeline can have a slower cadence than I care for, at times. Yet therein I have found some of my most essential and life changing lessons. And the new directions that I headed in were even better than I envisioned.

decluttering your life
andrea piacquadio | pexels

7. Be Gentle With Yourself and Others

When we are hard on ourselves, it can often transfer to being hard on others, as well.

Perfectionism has a way of chiming in when anxiety strikes. We’re unhappy with feeling stuck and so we can be hypercritical of those in our circle.

Once again, your chosen mantra can shift your focus to the present moment. And then this is the time to pay attention to your breathing. Is it shallow? You might even find yourself holding your breath!

So pause. Take a deep breath through your nostrils and hold for 3 beats. Then breathe out through your mouth slowly. This practice helps ground you. And it helps you release the negative inner critic. 

Return to simply being in the present moment, open to possibilities that will appear. Because they will. 

8. Believe Something Good Is Coming

Above all, trust that you are on a good path. It may have taken an unexpected detour or led you to what appears to be a dead-end. 

But buying in to that belief only invites negativity. It blinds you to other possibilities. It holds you hostage and you’ll get stuck. 

However, when you adopt the habit of expecting something good will happen no matter the present turn of events, amazing things will happen.

Firstly, you can return sooner to a positive mood after the initial disappointment. When you feel optimistic, you’ll feel better.

Then when you treat a setback as temporary, it is easier to see signs or find solutions. Maybe even discover a new or better path!

Secondly, you develop resiliency. No one can foresee everything that might go sideways. And life can certainly excel with doling out the unexpected!

But knowing how to declutter your mind of disappointment and unmet expectations will allow you to bounce back quicker. It will make you stronger. It ensures you continue moving ahead, no matter what.

And thirdly, being receptive as opposed to being rigid when it comes to change is an invaluable trait to cultivate. After all, how we see things is just how things look from our own personal, limited perspective.

However, when we broaden our expectations to allow and entertain other possibilities and ideas, then we open up to being in the flow of life instead of resisting it.

Doesn’t that sound so much more effortless and exciting? I do … tell me what you think!

The Wrap With Mary V
mary v | kaitlin meyers photography

The Wrap: This Post provided an 8-Point Process for how to declutter your mind and step confidently into your future

  • Learn how to declutter your mind of negative feelings like disappointment, regret, fear, uncertainty or anxiety by identifying them and calling them out in your morning pages.
  • Embrace the “get unstuck” method described here to take control of how you react and deal with life’s twists and turns.
  • Expect good things to come your way so that you can see the signs around you and the possibilities ahead of you.

related topics & resources to explore

Decluttering Clothes to Create Clarity in Your Closet

Curating a wardrobe that reflects your current taste and lifestyle requires decluttering clothes which no longer warrant a place in your closet. When you’re over 50, there’s likely been a change with how you spend your time. Which means what you’re wearing has also pivoted, too.

So if you find yourself pawing through blouses, slacks and shoes to assemble your day’s outfit, this series is for you! Imagine the serenity of readily seeing only what you need, use, and love in your closet!

I’m timing this series with the annual Spring ritual of swapping out Winter clothing for warmer weather (or the opposite, if you live below the equator). Unless you are blessed with a roomy walk-in closet, many store their off-season clothing in another closet or room. So pause before packing away things you didn’t wear yet again. It’s is the perfect time to curate a wardrobe that fits, flatters, and feels good now!

First things first, before decluttering your clothes!

 

Begin with why, create a plan, and then get going

Grab a notebook or create a Word doc which captures what you personally want to achieve. Maybe your top goal is to downsize your wardrobe. Or perhaps it’s to add in clothing that truly aligns with your daily routine. You may have a few things on your list.

Whatever it is, this will be your personal reminder to refer back to, when your motivation slows down or hesitation sets in.

-Decide when you will devote a block of time to focus on your closet. If you can do a daily session, great! Is it 30 minutes a day? Will it be an hour, 4 times a week? Or will you be a weekend warrior, armed with strong coffee?

Just land on what fits in your schedule and suits your energy level …  and commit to it. 

And now, on to my 5 rules for decluttering clothes that need to go!

This post kicks off a series about decluttering clothes to discover your new midlife style!

how to declutter clothes
image by snack toronto from pexels

Rule #1: Release Costly Items Never (if ever) worn

How often do we cling to things that we regret buying? Oh, they may be perfectly beautiful yet they don’t fit quite right, they aren’t truly your style after all or they were an impulse buy. You know exactly which items these are in your closet! But then your second thought is remembering how much you spent … and so they stay. 

Go ahead and set them aside for now. If you’re up for recouping some of those dollars, label the box, “Sell”. But if you don’t have the time or inclination, label the box, “Donate”. I will share the best current options for both in an upcoming blog post!

Be willing to let these items go. The money has been spent so it’s not actually costing you anything to release this stuff. But they are costing you in terms of occupying valuable space in your closet.

Focus instead on the fact that you’re finding a better home where they will get the use and love they deserve. And now you’ve made room for what truly reflects you. What do you think about that? 

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes
image by keith lobo from pexels

Rule #2: Release "it" colors or styles that aren't you

Are you smiling now? Good! I’m simply making the point that while we want to look current, sometimes the so-called “must have” looks are simply not our friends.

Who dreams up these “rules” anyway? What if we created our own rules? Think about it this way: there’s a reason we reach for certain styles or colors time after time. Certainly, it’s possible we get ourselves into a rut. Maybe we’re playing it safe. Or we might truly benefit from a little styling advice! Don’t worry: I’ve got blog posts coming up addressing all of this!

Meanwhile, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Go ahead and weed out what you don’t like or wear. Why hang on to idle clothing? You can sort into the two categories mentioned earlier: “Sell” and “Donate”.

There, doesn’t that feel good to release what doesn’t truly flatter or make your heart flutter? I thought so!

how to downsize your wardrobe

Rule #3: Reduce your stockpile of special occasion items

Here we are delving into identifying what reflects the cadence of our current lifestyle. It’s not uncommon that our roles change after 50. And so it follows that our clothing choices should, too.

While the definition of a special occasion will vary from one person to the next, think about the situations calling for an outfit other than your everyday wear. How often does that happen? Ensure that the quantity of said items jives with the frequency of such situations.

Also, pay attention to the color, fabric and design of your special occasion clothing. If black is not your best hue, then perhaps your “little black dress” needs to be blue! Or red. You know what your personal power color is.

And if the material feels confining, stiff, or itchy and it’s always a relief to take it off, that should go, too! The goal is for you to define what creates confidence and comfort every time you put it on. Those are the timeless items  to keep. Release the rest. 

Additionally, corporate (business) attire may not fit under the  “special occasion” label, but don’t overlook releasing this or any other type of clothing if you don’t mingle in a certain arena any more. Most of us don’t have sufficient warehouse room for all the “some day”, “you never know”, or “just in case” clothing!

how do you declutter too many clothes
image by maria orlova from pexels

Rule #4: Release multiple sizes from the fluctuating scale

This is a touchy subject but bear with me, please. Who hasn’t experienced a change in their shape and weight, as the years go by? Despite our best efforts, there will be a natural shift despite exercise and dietary adjustments.

We can still look fabulous! But clinging to sizes that are unrealistic or require deprivation than we are unwilling to endure? Let those go! Life is too short to berate yourself on the basis of size.

However, only you can decide what to keep, based on your personal goals and determination. Is it de-motivating to see sizes too small in your closet? My suggestion is to remove those items and store them in a box labeled with the size and the current date.

If they still don’t fit by a future date, i.e., the next season, re-evaluate your situation. And if it no longer matters to you, don’t even open the box … just let it go! Make room for what truly fits now.

5 rules for decluttering clothes
image by skylar kang from pexels

Rule #5: Reduce the sentimental volume

 

The 70’s called to get your groove back on! Whatever makes your heart swell, keep it. How wonderful to have your heart smile when you open your closet door and see a reminder of a happy memory.

The key is to limit these items to a discreet number. If you have too many items for viewing only, this will pose a practical problem. How will you have closet capacity for what you actually wear?

Whatever the size of your closet, an artistically arranged set up with a few sentimental items will allow for a pop of joy every time you open the door.

Can you have a dedicated shelf for these things? Would a wall display or a free standing rack in your bedroom be the way to go? Sort for what is most meaningful.

Does each thing have equal value? Likely not, so quickly release anything you feel iffy or “meh” about. Don’t ruminate too long … or decluttering your clothes will grind to a halt!

The Wrap with Mary V
image by content pixie from pexels

The Wrap: This post was about decluttering clothes in order to curate a midlife style that fits, flatters and feels good!

When we’re entering a new season … weather-wise or decade-wise … it’s an ideal time to re-evaluate our wardrobe. 

It’s extremely tricky to recommend styling ideas since we all have such individual taste! And my bottom line is always going to be, “If you love it, then wear it!” Seriously. Don’t be concerned with what anyone else thinks.

Oh, we will be judged. It’s what we do (c’mon, admit it!) and so does everyone else. But do you anyway! 

Your turn!

So I’m curious:

  • Does your clothing reflect your personal lifestyle and taste? Or does it mirror what the “fashion police” decrees?
  • Is your closet chockfull of items from a former role or era? Will you realistically reach for these things again?
  • What truly holds you back from letting certain things go? How do you do it anyway?

Share your thoughts below … and thanks for stopping by!  

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