Why you should aim for perfection - Why can’t I keep my house in order?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014

Why you should aim for perfection
Why can’t I keep my house in order?

“Don’t aim for perfection. Start off slowly and discard just one item a day.” What lovely words to ease the hearts of those who lack confidence in their ability to tidy. I came across this advice when I was devouring every book about tidying that had ever been published in Japan, and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. The momentum sparked by my epiphany concerning the power of tidying was beginning to wear off, and I was starting to feel jaded by the lack of solid results. These words seemed to make sense. It seems daunting to aim for perfection from the beginning. Besides, perfection is supposedly unattainable. By discarding one thing a day, I could get rid of 365 things by the end of the year.

Convinced that I had discovered a very practical method, I immediately followed the book’s instructions. I opened my closet in the morning wondering what to dispose of that day. Seeing a T-shirt that I no longer wore, I put it in the garbage bag. Before going to bed the next night, I opened my desk drawer and discovered a notebook that seemed too childish for me. I put it in the bag. Noticing a memo pad in the same drawer, I thought to myself, “Oh, I don’t need that anymore,” but as I reached out to pick it up, I paused at a new thought. “I can save that to discard tomorrow.” And I waited until the next morning to throw it away. The day after that, I forgot completely, so I got rid of two items on the following day.

To be honest, I did not last two weeks. I am not the type of person who likes to plug away at something, one step at a time. For people like me, who do their assignments on the very last day right before the deadline, this approach just doesn’t work. Besides, casting off one object a day did not compensate for the fact that when I shop, I buy several items at one time. In the end, the pace at which I reduced could not keep up with the pace at which I acquired new things, and I was confronted with the discouraging fact that my space was still cluttered. It wasn’t long before I had completely forgotten to follow the rule of discarding one item per day.

So I can tell you from experience that you will never get your house in order if you only clean up half-heartedly. If, like me, you are not the diligent, persevering type, then I recommend aiming for perfection just once. Many people may protest when I use the word “perfection,” insisting that it’s an impossible goal. But don’t worry. Tidying in the end is just a physical act. The work involved can be broadly divided into two kinds: deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it. If you can do these two things, you can achieve perfection. Objects can be counted. All you need to do is look at each item, one at a time, and decide whether or not to keep it and where to put it. That’s all you need to do to complete this job. It is not hard to tidy up perfectly and completely in one fell swoop. In fact, anyone can do it. And if you want to avoid rebound, this is the only way to do it.