Could your clutter be a result of fear a sign of perfectionism?

I was working with a client in her dining room slash sewing space when we realised the underlying cause of her creative clutter wasn’t a case of being “untidy” or “disorganised” but rather a FEAR OF FAILURE.

Really, her space was quite organised in the sense that she knew where everything was and could put her hands on most things quickly and easily. There was room for improvement though and that’s why I was there. Together we rearranged furniture, made plans for unnecessary pieces to be removed, and allocated items to more appropriate real estate. All the fun stuff.

As is often the case while decluttering and organising we uncovered more than we expected!

Noting her responses to some of my questions about her sewing projects, I asked her about completed projects.

She struggled to respond.

As we dug a little deeper, she told me “I just want to get it right.” She’s invested a lot of time and money to ensure the clothes she makes fit her perfectly and in the past things haven’t always worked. Her desire to make the perfect dress/jacket/shirt has left her terrified of messing up. Rather than risk the pain of failure, her very clever brain keeps on alert for any possible snag in the process and uses said snag as an excuse to “stop there for now”. (“for now” is a warning that clutter is imminent.)

The next time she takes to the scissors her brain has provided her with a distraction. A new project. A brand new idea for the PERFECT project that will be absolutely amazing… until there’s a snag.

This fear of failure and perfectionism is keeping her from completing any projects. To quote the great philosopher, Homer Simpson, “Can’t win, don’t try.”.

I could almost hear the glass shatter as she realised how strong this habit had become.

So I set her a challenge. Finish one project. It doesn’t matter how small or simple it is. We discussed a few projects she considered ‘easy’, what needs to be done to complete them, and, most importantly, what could go wrong.

Finally, I asked her to celebrate the sh!t out of herself for completing anything and everything.

The point here is to break this cycle of unfailure (I just made that up – it’s totally a thing now: Unfailure – an inability to fail by default of not starting.). You see my friend, you may not fail the test you never sit, neither will you pass. You are only succeeding in not failing rather than succeeding at your task. You become stagnated. Stuck.

Like this client, we all have brains that are trying to protect us and will actively seek reasons to stop before the end to avoid the pain of failure. The easiest way I’ve found to combat this is to accept imperfection and push myself to see a project through to completion EVEN IF it might not work out. Most of the time “Done is better than perfect” is a motto that spurs me forward. With each DONE I celebrate a little win. These wins add up and bigger and harder things become less threatening.

Your wins don’t have to be from creative projects like this client. Wins can be found anywhere. If you’re really struggling to feel accomplished, if you’re like another client of mine who felt stuck thinking about all of the massive success she was seeing in others but not recognising her own; I invite you to celebrate the littlest of wins, just like I do.

eg. “I ate an apple today! I’m such a healthy and successful person! Look at me kicking goals!!!” *self-five**happy dance**message cheerleader friend and request a cartwheel in my honour*

Seriously. Do it.

I even have an adorable bingo card for you to print off and play, celebrating each little win and then giving you the opportunity to celebrate AGAIN when you get a line or even clear the card!

Currently, this product is only available in The Simplicity Toolkit.