When I was a little girl, my favorite person to be with was my grandmother. I’d go for long visits over the summer or the holidays and it was just me and her. She let me cook, play office, and take walks around the neighborhood. Despite my warm memories of all the ways she was perfect, in truth she was a perfectionist. Walking into her home, it looked tidy. But she had a hidden clutter problem.
I fondly remember how clean and welcoming her home was. And how things matched wonderfully, which appealed to my tendency to be a little OCD. Like the pink toilet paper she had in her pink tiled bathroom. She bought the house in the 60’s after all and pastel bathrooms were all the rage. And her favorite color was pink. So it fit her well.
But she had that major hidden clutter problem.
Every drawer, closet, and cabinet was packed to the gills with stuff. Now, as a kid, it was like a constant hunt for buried treasure. Oh, but, darling, now I see it was all about her inner perfectionist. That inner hope that if things look perfect from the outside, then we will be happier. And feel more secure.
As I mentioned, I’d spend a portion of my Christmas break as well as a couple of weeks during the summer with her. After three summers of asking about the can of Mince Meat Pie Filling that was in the pantry (and expired), she finally let me throw it away. My twelve-year-old self realized she would never use that can of Mince Meat.
Hidden clutter is a sign that we’re dealing with perfectionism.
Perfection is a tricky thing. At its core, perfection is about fear. Perfection is about our desire to feel safe. Perfection is about our deep need to be loved and accepted. We hope that if we buy just the right things for our home, we will finally be safe and respected. We theorize that if we wear the right shade of lipstick, we’ll be seen as desirable – by lovers and friends.
When she broke up housekeeping in the late 80’s, all that hidden clutter came into the light.
Yet with all her need for things to look right from the outside, all around her were the signs that trying to buy happiness didn’t work for her. We hope that if we stock up on enough canned goods, towels, sheets, knick knacks, and yes, material, we will never be hungry or cold or unprepared.
That if we look just right from the outside, we’ll be popular. Feel loved. Be satisfied.
So, perfection compels us to buy things. In hopes that what we buy, will “fix” anything within us that feels broken or lacking.
And then, when it doesn’t fix those broke pieces of us, we stash it away. Soon, we have hidden clutter everywhere. And anytime we open a closet or drawer, we’re reminded of our failures. And our inability to BE perfect.
We buy the pink toilet paper to match the pink bathroom so that every time we see it, we’ll be reassured that we can make our surrounds perfect and safe. And, we believe that anyone who happens to visit our pink bathroom, will think we have it together and are worthy of being loved.
We buy all the pretty pink material so that we will always have the ability to create a new outfit for any occasion so that we’ll fit in. So we won’t have to be afraid of looking out of style or undesirable or as if we don’t belong.
Perfection also paralyzes us.
It keeps us from throwing away anything, in case we need it. So, we stockpile canned goods and clothing and towels. We are afraid if we throw anything away, we might need it, so we stuff our closets and drawers and pantries with items we probably don’t even need. Like that ancient can of Mince Meat Pie Filling. A need for always being prepared is part of perfection’s game. Because, as we know, nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.
As an adult and life coach now, looking back at her life, of course I see where she was compelled to stock up on canned goods and material. She was one of nineteen children and then raised four children in the midst of The Depression. I also understand why she tried to make her world perfect so that she would feel safe and supported. I saw how she filled her home with things so that she would be seen as acceptable and loveable.
My grandmother as perfect and I loved her exactly as she was. She didn’t need to do anything to earn my love or prove to me that she made valuable contributions to the world. She didn’t need a closet full of material to prove that to me.
I would tell you that one of the greatest lessons I learned from my Grandmother was unconditional love.
I also learned by observing her that striving for perfection doesn’t propel me towards love and safety. Striving for perfection pushes me further away from who I am and the ability to unconditionally love myself.
I’ve had my battles with perfection. At the end of each battle, when I finally lay down whip I’ve been flagellating myself with, I discover that peace of accepting my imperfection. In my surrender to the truth that no matter how perfect I make my surroundings, it will never move me towards being loved. When I stopped allowing perfection to paralyze me, I began to clear out those closets and drawers and shelves I had filled. With each item I cleared, instead of fear, I found freedom
I am lovable and valuable and worthy as I am right now. It is my imperfections that make me who I am.
I tell you this, my darling, because these lessons around perfection aren’t really just about me and my grandmother. They are about the legacy of perfection, and how you can be the one to break the chain of it within your life and for the generations that come after you.
Being who you were born to be is so valuable to the world. Perfection is only going to drive you further from that.
If your need for perfection is coercing you to fill your closets and drawers with excess, I promise you that clearing those spaces will make your life feel more loving in the long run. Because hidden clutter is still clutter.
The more you pile into your closets and drawers and shelves, the further away from peace you will move. The more you stuff into your surroundings, the more you bury the core of who you were truly born to be. And clutter, my dear, will always keep you separated from the kind of life you desire.
Perfectionism will try to trick you into being well stocked everywhere, so that you will always be prepared. Just in case. The real truth, kitten, is that in order for your soul to grow and expand, it must have space. And it will be scary to clear those closets, because your stuff makes you feel safe. But, darling, too much stuff actually moves you away from love. Clutter will keep you small.
You, my darling, are worthy of being loved, who you are in this world is valuable, and you don’t need to be perfect in order to be loved. Now, if you happen upon some pink toilet paper, pick some up in honor of my Grandmother. But you certainly don’t need it to prove that you have it perfectly together.
Are you buying things and hoping it will make you happy? Do you have a hidden clutter problem?
If you realize that perfection is compelling you to stuff drawers, fill the closets, and overflow your shelves, maybe it’s time to let go and begin shedding things so that your soul has energy and space to grow. If you need a little help clearing your space, allow me to help you.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that you cannot welcome new things into your life if you don’t release some of the old stuff. You need to begin to purge things from your life. Getting clear in your life by dealing with your physical clutter (big clutter and small clutter) will allow you to direct your precious energy towards creating the clear path to living your best possible life.
Join me for 30 Days to Clarity: Clutter Busting Edition
2019 Course Dates:
- Before the Holidays: Beginning Sunday, October 20, 2019
(*Note: As of 2018, this course is lifetime access. That means, you’re IN at no additional cost anytime the class runs.)
Course Investment: $21.Purchase Clutter Busting Email Course