How Organizing Helped Me Let Go of Perfection

I spent years trying for perfect. In high school, I wanted to have the perfect hair, and the perfect bounce to my cheerleading pom-poms and my herkie jump, I wanted to write the perfect essay, and I wanted the perfect guy to chase me around and beg me to go out with him.

When I got older, I wanted perfect in a lot of other areas, too. In college and graduate school, I wanted to be perfectly cool, intellectual, alluring, and slightly hippie in all the best ways. In my mid-twenties, I wanted to be perfectly free-spirited and run off to live in Montana and be the perfect ski bum while still managing to be the perfect English Professor. Then, I wanted to settle down, have the perfect wedding, and be the perfect wife.

Later, when I had my first baby, you guessed it!– I wanted to be like Princess Kate, and any number of celebrities, who instantly appear after labor perfectly coiffed and wearing heels. I wanted to hold my perfect child and exclaim to everyone how motherhood was the most amazing sorority of all.

But the problem was, I was so obsessed with chasing perfection and molding things into it, and analyzing whether or not it turned out to be perfect, that I lost sight of actually experiencing a lot of it. When things that were supposed to be perfect or happy didn’t feel that way, I thought something was wrong with me.

So, in a last stand of perfection chasing, I decided to organize my entire house before my second child was born. Surprisingly, organizing my house, while it was driven by the very same desire for perfection, was actually the thing that pulled me out of it.

When I first started, I imagined each space filled with beautiful bins, and my belongings curated and styled. But once I started purging things, I noticed that most of the bins and storage I had already worked just fine. Though my things and my spaces weren’t magazine perfect, I liked the way they looked. They looked like me and my family. I could now get them out and use them. They had a place in my home. They had happy memories associated with them, and they were connected with what my family and I wanted to do with our life.

I saw that once my spaces were organized, they had a kind of beauty all on their own—not the magazine kind, but one that spoke of heart: this is our life, and we take care of it, we love it.

Even still, sometimes I fall back into the perfection trap. We have family photos coming up, and I find myself trying to get them just right. When my husband brought one of our sons home from his haircut with a rat-tail, I lost my mind a little. But then I remembered how those perfect photos I see online make me feel. Not great. They make me feel like my life is not quite right. They make me feel like there’s a standard I have to reach. I don’t want to put that out there and make others feel that same way.

So, here’s to letting go—of things that no longer serve us, guilt about our past choices, and chasing the perfect life. Instead, when we take our photos this week, I hope they show who we really are: imperfect, sparkly, and a little nuts with a whole lot of heart.

Lauren

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