Perfectionism Part 1

(Or how Perfectionism Makes your Home Messy)

Perfectionism- cups & saucers

Can perfectionists be messy?

Could I be accused of perfectionism ? Clients often imagine I live in a ‘perfect home’. I always explain that, despite being a Professional Declutterer, my house is far from perfect. Sadly, I’m not sure anyone quite believes me!

The irony is that I grew up in a very messy home. I don’t remember it ever being tidy. Sometimes a couple of rooms might have been just about acceptable- usually after a fair amount of shouting and racing around before guests arrived. My mother was very hospitable so the mess never stopped her inviting visitors, but my siblings and I often felt mortified by the state of the house, and avoided having friends round.

Once, as a child, I actually tidied up the whole kitchen ‘properly’, working my way all around the room – it took me hours (and was probably my first ever de-cluttering job!) Unfortunately, it only lasted a few hours. The chaos of family life and lack of any regular tidying meant that the mess returned as reliably as the tide.

But surely perfectionism is a goal worth aiming for? Perfectionists obviously live in beautifully uncluttered homes. Messy people can’t be perfectionists, can they?

Perfectionists and the All or Nothing Rule

Welcome to the All or Nothing Rule…

all-or-noth·ing (ôl′ər-nŭth′ĭng)


1. Involving either complete success or failure, with no intermediate result.

2. Refusing to accept less than all demands; uncompromising.
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved).


Unfortunately, as a perfectionist who followed the All or Nothing Rule I didn’t tidy at all unless I had time (or was in the mood) to do a perfect job. I call this ‘perfectionism in hiding’. Mess accumulates gradually, until we can’t bear it, then we race around in a frenzy, blitzing a room. We can’t possibly let friends see the mess, so things are shoved quickly out of sight so that the room looks perfect. Most of the time we live in mess and can’t find anything. Believe me when I say that perfectionism is not your friend and just introduces you to its close relation, procrastination.

I’m a perfectionist- what next?

I’m going to challenge you right now to stop putting off that decluttering until you have time to get the job finished. How about joining me by just starting with a drawer or shelf; decluttering your tendency for Perfectionism first, of course…


Let me know in the comments below what you think about perfectionism and if it affects you and your clutter.

(In my followup blog find out more about how to stop perfectionism getting in the way of your social life.)