Inside: There is no perfect way to simplify life and perfection is the enemy of progress. Choose to accept imperfect progress, embrace your own beautifully unique journey and find freedom in the letting go. This is a guest post from Julianna Poplin of The Simplicity Habit.
Six years ago, I started reading books about simplifying and decluttering. It came at a key time in life as I was beginning to pack up our family of four to move from California to Washington. As I began putting all of our things into boxes, I started questioning why there were so many things.
The house we were living in wasn’t that large, but we were able to hide a surprising number of items in that space. I remember wanting to just get rid of everything. The idea of leaving it all behind was a freeing thought. Our clutter was a burden. The realization of what our stuff was costing us became even greater as we received bids from moving companies.
I longed for a simpler home and life. But at the time, I was overwhelmed with it all.
I don’t make great decisions when I’m overwhelmed. My reaction is either to freeze and do nothing or to make less than ideal choices. With decluttering, I was so overwhelmed at the thought of it that my reaction was to do nothing.
I tried to gain a sense of direction by reading books and listening to other people’s stories on how they simplified. As I did this, I started thinking there was an ideal way to simplify. I believed I needed to follow someone else’s path and example and do things just the way they did. I created a false idea of perfection. My perfectionist tendencies were showing up even as I was trying to simplify.
I put pressure on myself and thought I needed to get rid of 75% of our belongings in a weekend. It didn’t happen. Not even a little bit.
3 Reasons There’s no Perfect Way to Simplify Life
1. My priorities are unique to me
The information I was taking in was inspirational. I love reading other people’s stories. Especially when their stories include a major victory over their stuff. I suppose some people aren’t inspired at the idea of people getting rid of a lot of their belongings, but I was. I craved the simplicity I knew that would bring.
What I didn’t consider initially was how everyone’s story is unique. No matter whose book or blog I was reading, their life circumstances and priorities were not going to be identical to mine. I have unique things that I care about and other things that don’t matter to me at all.
Trying to imagine there is some perfect or ideal way to go about simplifying wasn’t realistic. Every person will have their own journey and challenges.
2. I write my own definition of a simplified life
As I considered my priorities, I realized that my definition of what an ideal simplified life would look like is also different than someone else’s. Everyone has their own struggles with clutter. For some of us it is the items in our home. For others it’s the number of things in their schedule. And then there is mental and emotional clutter that many of us struggle with. Simplifying is about so much more than just physical items. Each of our needs in simplifying will be unique.
The ideal amount of things for your family and your home will be different than mine. We create our own finish line.
3. As I simplify I need to respect my family members
This was a big one for me. Thou shall not simplify and declutter the belongings of all family members against their will was something I had to keep reminding myself. Just because I was excited about decluttering did not mean anyone else in my house was. In fact, it’s safe to say no one else was on board. If I want to maintain peace and trust with my family members then I can’t force them to let go of things they don’t want to.
I was never going to have a perfect version of simplicity. I had to accept that my decluttering would be focused on my things. The results may not be as dramatic as I would hope or like, but my home isn’t all about me and what I want.
After I realized there wasn’t a perfect way to simplify, I considered where my focus should be instead.
4 Areas I Choose to Focus on as I Simplify
In letting go of this idea of a perfect way to simplify, I thought a lot about the purpose of simplifying in the first place. Freedom. So why would I bind myself to one prescribed way to do something that is supposed to create more freedom in my life?
I discovered it’s ok to have your journey that’s unique to you. You don’t have to precisely follow anyone else’s experience. Pick and choose the ideas and suggestions that what will work for you and your family. Don’t get caught up in the idea that it has to look any certain way or be done in any certain amount of time. There are no rules other than the ones you create for yourself.
2. Space for what matters most
The purpose of simplifying is to free up space and time for what matters most to you. Those things will be unique to you. Your goals should also be unique to you.
Take time to consider your goals and what’s most important to you. Write it down. Your answers will help you focus on the big picture rather than getting stuck in the details as you work towards your finish line.
3. Imperfect progress
Perfection is the enemy of progress. When you’re focused on getting everything just right, you often won’t get anything done at all. Instead choose to accept imperfect progress. Know that it won’t all go smoothly one hundred percent of the time. Expect challenges. But choose to keep forging ahead and continue to make imperfect progress towards your goals.
4. Celebrating the wins
As you continue moving towards your simplifying goals, celebrate the wins. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to focus on everything remaining on the to do list rather than acknowledging everything you’ve crossed off of it. You’ll be more motivated to continue in your efforts if you take the time to pause and celebrate the progress you’ve made. Choose something that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Be creative.
Letting go of the idea that there is one perfect way to simplify is a relief. It can’t be done perfectly. Decide simply to start. Don’t get slowed down or stuck thinking you to need to emulate anyone else. Embrace your own beautifully unique journey and find freedom in the letting go.
About the Author: Julianna Poplin is a professional declutterer and writer at The Simplicity Habit. She writes to inspire and encourage people who want to declutter and simplify their homes and their lives.