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Many people struggling with squalor face another battle - perfectionism.

Pretended Perfection

Some people take pride in calling themselves perfectionists. Perfectionists say a job is not worth doing unless it can be done perfectly - whatever the time and effort it takes.

The maxim "nothing avails but perfection" may be spelled P A R A L Y S I S Winston Churchill

Far from being admirable, perfectionism is self-defeating behavior that interferes with success.

The desire for perfection is a real barrier. If you wait to do something until you are perfect, you will never get anything done, because the only way to get good at something is to do it.

Perfectionism is not beneficial, or necessary in your life. There are other ways to think that are more helpful.

You are likely to achieve more without your perfectionism, and you will feel better about yourself. Dr. Wayne Dyer recommends changing "do your best" to simply "Do."

If I'm a perfectionist, wouldn't my house be perfectly clean?

Perfectionism gets in the way of our priorities by causing us to focus on insignificant details instead of the big picture.

We spend an entire morning polishing the silver to a blinding shine, oblivious to the general condition of the house deteriorating around us.

Until someone knocks at the door, that is. Then we become painfully aware.


All-of-the-way or none-of-the-way

Apathy can result from perfectionism when a person knows he or she will never measure up 100%. Rather than risk failure, paralysed perfectionists resort to complete inertia.

Dr. Randy Frost speaks of people who both hoard and are so perfectionist that they can get nothing done. He gives the example of reading the paper:

Many people who hoard feel that they must read everything, or nearly everything, in the paper and remember it in detail. If they feel they can't do this, then saving the paper has to do, ever though they never go back to reread it. Most often what happens is that this task becomes so overwhelming that they don't even bother to read the paper, they just keep it so they can read it later.

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking in relation to your housework. This attitude turns what should be simple tasks into sheer drudgery, better be put off until later. The whole task becomes so painful and overwhelming that it never gets done.

Lower your standards, improve your housekeeping

If you are paralyzed by unrealistically high standards, lower your standards for individual tasks. Some things worth doing are not worth doing well!

Learn to discriminate the significant areas in your life to which you want to give high priority, from those tasks that are less important to you. On less important tasks, choose to put forth less effort.


Further reading:

Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan Mallinger and Jeanette De Wyze. Fawcett Book Group. June, 1993

Important tasks vs. less important tasks

Say you have a pile of shirts sitting around not getting ironed.

The non-Perfectionist recognizes this is a less-important task (to her) and takes 5 minutes to hang them up in the wardrobe - unironed.

"Terrible idea," says the Perfectionist. "Clothes shouldn't be put away until ironed and starched and hung on coat hangers (ideally, padded with lavender sachets attached.) While I'm at it, I should iron the recycled giftwrap..."

Perfectionism leads to procrastination

That's hours and hours of do-your-best nonsense, such a daunting thought that the Perfectionist finds reasons to put off actually doing the ironing.

Both Perfectionist and non-Perfectionist have unironed shirts. But the non-Perfectionist has a better looking house.

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials. Lin Yutang

Perfectionism leads to indecision

Perfectionists may also have problems with decision making, searching for the one perfect solution to a situation rather than choosing from a variety "less perfect" possibilities.

Perfectionism is self abuse of the highest order. Anne Wilson Schaef
Unironed shirts hung up

Tempting fate with unironed shirts hung in wardrobe. So far, nothing bad has happened as a direct result of doing something half-assed!