Monday, September 28, 2009

The Disastrous Pairing of Disorganization and Perfectionism

(Disclaimer: this is not me! Internet guru Esther Dyson, named one of America’s most influential women by Forbes Magazine. Photo by Tom Puchniak)

I readily admit I fall in the disorganized end of the spectrum, and I am almost always trying to paddle upstream toward the organized current of life. I also admit that I tend to be a perfectionist. Together these two ingredients cook up chaos on the home front. Why? Let me explain.

Recently, author Sandra Felton gave voice to what I’ve long known but never articulated:

Creative people love spending their time finding creative projects so that they can enjoy using their time to the fullest. Many times, they also happen to be “messies” as Felton describes in her book, The Messies Manual: A Complete Guide to Bringing Order & Beauty to Your Home. This makes sense, since it takes excellent organizational skills to regularly clean up creative projects fully, and it takes discipline—especially if the project will continue the next day. (It’s just so much easier to leave everything spread out, isn’t it?)

While there are exceptions, we right-brainers are also perfectionists. Why this causes us unique struggles with homemaking is because we always want to find the perfect thing to do (and we want to do it at the perfect time). When we can’t figure out what the perfect thing is, we get stuck. We can’t decide what to do, and it puts us in such a tizzy that we either wander around idling while wondering, or we come to a complete standstill because we just don’t know how we should be using our time.

The blank slate of each new day can be overwhelming, even paralyzing to some extent, for perfectionist right-brained types. Should we start with laundry after breakfast, or read books to the children? Or what about baking that new muffin recipe? But wait! It’s such a nice day for a walk. Maybe we should head outdoors first. Since we really don’t know what to decide, we spin in circles, picking around here and there, waiting for the heavens to open and the voice of God to descend with a clear set of instructions.

Yet God has made us stewards over His creation, which makes us stewards over our daily time. Just as Adam was given authority to name each animal, we, too, are given autonomy to make decisions about how to spend each day, and each segment of the day. Certainly we should seek the Lord’s blessing and direction, and He will guide us in the plans He has for us. Then after seeking His guidance, we need to work out our own time-clocks, knowing we are under His loving watch.

In closing, can I share a secret I finally figured out? It’s not so much about choosing the perfect thing to do as it is making the thing you choose to do perfect. So whether it’s reading more books to the kids, or baking, or heading out for that walk—don’t get hung up on whether or not that was the best choice for the time, but rather make it the best experience for the time being.

(All this talk about time and how to best use it brings me to my next post, scheduling for beginners. We’ll explore that next time!)


  1. You have described me quite well. I love what you wrote about making it the best experience for the time being.

  2. Whew! -- who knew being right brained was so complicated...tee hee. For the most part I would consider myself left-brained, but do have tendancies toward perfectionism at times. But -- not always in the ways that make sense. My biggest problem when overwhelmed and have a pile on my to-do list is not procrastinating, but equally as dangerous, I believe. I will get it ALL done, but in the process have a angry and bitter heart that someone else isn't helping me or, not noticing all that needs to be done. Ahhh, the joys of motherhood. Love those new mercies every morning though :).

    Thanks for the great post Cheryl. BTW just seeing that photo caused me to breathe quicker, and I could feel a panic attack coming on!!!!

  3. Her office looks like a schematic of my brain.