There are things I don’t do well, and sometimes I get so caught up focusing on those things, that I stop doing the things I can do. One of John Wooden’s best pieces of advice is “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Another way of saying that is “don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can do.”* This message is applicable to every area of our lives, but today I’m going to relate it to decluttering and getting organized.
What we can’t do –
- Control Other People: I hear it a lot from readers and clients – they are ready to make a change to declutter and get organized, but their family members are not. Unfortunately, we can’t wave a magic wand and inspire those around us to get on board or control how others react to our attempts.
- Be Perfect: Let me break it to you right now, you will not declutter or organize perfectly. Every time I do it, I find things that I probably should’ve decluttered the last time. And I know many participants can’t do the declutter task every single day, even when they plan to, because life happens.
- Compare: Our journey and result will be different from everyone else. When we stop to compare, we lose focus on the progress we’re making and waste time.
One past declutter challenge participant told me about her experience. When she started the challenge, her husband didn’t think she would follow through with it. He wasn’t cruel, but was not supportive. Week after week, she followed the decluttering plan in the 91 Day Decluttering Challenge as best she could and eventually the amazing progress she made was undeniable. Her success inspired her husband and he saw that she COULD do it. He became so supportive by the end of the challenge that he was doing it along side of her.
Will this happen every single time? No. Either way it is still worth the effort. Don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can do.
Perfectionism is that feeling that says do all or nothing. Do it all perfectly or don’t try at all. Perfectionism is rooted in unrealistic perceptions and expectations of ourselves. First we believe that we can or should do something perfectly, and secondly, we believe that we have failed if we haven’t done things perfectly. Perfectionists live a haunted life of obsessing over doing something perfectly and then feeling like a complete failure when they don’t. Perfectionism is no way to live a happy life.
I have to say that resolving not to be a perfectionist does not mean giving in to being sloppy or not trying. That is actually giving in to the “do nothing” side of your perfectionism. Many perfectionists live in very messy environments because in their all or nothing approach to keeping house, they choose nothing. Doing your best means trying to do it right, but stopping before it crosses the line into obsessive. Do the best you can and let that be enough, because it is enough.
In my experience, comparing myself to others only makes me feel inadequate and feeling inadequate is paralyzing to progress. When we compare, we have a tendency to compare our worst to everyone else’s best. No one can live up to that. No one is doing awesome 100% of the time. Comparing is such a distraction away from what truly deserves our attention: doing what we can do.
Whether you’re trying to declutter and organize, or whether you’re working on something else: give yourself grace, allow yourself to be human and make mistakes, and then focus on working hard at what you can do. Don’t let the things you can’t do get in the way of that.
Doing what I can,
*A special thanks to my sister-in-law Jenny, who shared this main quote with me this weekend. It was meaningful to her, and as soon as she shared it, it was meaningful to me. I thought it could be meaningful to you too.