The Sinister Six, part two: Control and Perfectionism
In my last post, I introduced the Sinister Six: the six fears that hold us back from shedding what no longer serves us. I focused on Potential. Here’s a recap of the Sinister Six:
- Guilt and Obligation
- Loss of Connection
Also in my last post I stated that my personal definition of clutter is a material clue that something needs to be emotionally released.
This week I want to take a closer look at Control/Perfectionism. In my workshops and speaking gigs I usually talk about this one last, because it is my favorite. But I feel compelled to explore it today: this is the one that I have personally struggled with the most.
Let’s talk about control, and be brutally honest: This world can be downright scary. Nothing is really in our control. Terrifying events happen on our planet, to our planet, every day, that can make us feel helpless and numb. But in our homes, our things can feel so… Familiar. So predictable. So comforting. Maybe we feel like we are powerless against what happens outside, but inside… We have a say. We can arrange and rearrange however we like. It’s nice to have a little piece of life that we can control in an uncontrollable world, isn’t it? This isn’t a bad thing, but like all things, too much of this mindset can lead to a lot of accumulation and not enough purging.
As for perfectionism, this is something that some of us do to compensate for feelings of inadequacy, often from our developing years. When I was a child, many of my teachers said that I was “disorganized” in their comments. I’m not joking. How ironic is that? I remember constant talks from teachers, family members, and adults basically telling me to “get it together”. Eventually I mastered the art of appearing very together. I felt like if I were perfect and did everything right… The world would get off my back and leave me alone.
Control and perfectionism are besties. When I feel imperfect, I have to fight the urge to try to control everything. That is a little difficult to share publicly on a blog, yet I know that many of you can relate!
Things I hear when a client is confronted with C/P clutter:
“I’m ready to give this away, but I need to wait to take it to a specific charity.” (this one isn’t a problem until the items are still sitting in the garage months later).
“I don’t want it any more but I want to wait and sell it so I can get at least some money for it.”
“My children said that they don’t want this, but I am keeping it for them in case they change their minds.”
“But I never used it- isn’t it very wasteful of me to just let it go?”
… A lot of these sound like the excuses from the Potential post, right? That’s because these Sinister Six can get all tangled: our fears have a way of snaring each other, like velcro, and becoming a sort of hybrid fear: Fears braided in together to make one big excuse to hold on to things for too long. This may sound dramatic, but that’s how it feels when we are confronted with an opportunity to let go of stuff that is really hard to release: usually several different objections bubble up.
What you are really saying when you keep things based on Control/Perfection:
I have to wait until the perfect circumstance comes along to release this item.
I want to free up space but I am not truly ready in my heart to let go of this item, so I want to give it to somebody I know, because then I’m not really giving it away.
What I have kept too long in my own life, based on Control/Perfectionism:
Here’s what it looks like in my head: I pick up a t-shirt as I’m doing my seasonal clothing swap, and it occurs to me that I’m just not that excited about it anymore: I haven’t worn it all season, and now it’s time to switch it out. I think, “I’m cool with letting this go.” But as I’m about to drop the shirt into the donation bag, I start to wonder what will happen to my shirt. Sure it will go to Savers, but who will take it once it’s there? Will they really use this shirt? I failed to make it useful in my own home, so how can I prevent that from happening to the shirt in its next life? What if somebody who takes it for granted buys it, and it sits in a dresser drawer, never touched, just like it did in my dresser drawer? Suddenly I’m having second thoughts about Savers. Maybe I can give it to a friend instead? That way I might be able to get it back when they do a big decluttering session next… Maybe when this shirt comes back to me, I’ll be more in the mood for it!
(As I write this I see some of you thinking is this Eliza lady crazy? But I know that plenty of you are thinking oh that’s me!!).
More thoughts on Control/Perfection:
Decluttering can be difficult because we are confronted with our imperfections.
When I declutter now, and the moment comes to place something in the donate bag, I think a mix of these thoughts:
“Go well, my friend! Thanks for the good times!”
…Or if I never wore it, I may think:
“Off you go to a better life! Thanks for teaching me what I won’t realistically wear!”
When it comes down to it, it is none of my business what happens to this item next. It is healthy for me to practice letting go, especially when I don’t know where it’s going. It’s okay not to know.
And; once it’s out of my home, I really won’t think about it again. These items tend to only torment me while they are still my roommates!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments. Is this something that you can relate to?