I gave up on perfection a couple of years ago. Now I just try to be myself. Being myself does not include a perfectly clean house or matching stemware. When I got married, I registered for a full set of china, beautiful crystal and a silver pattern. A couple of years ago, I realized that I needed a butler just to keep up with the lifestyle to which I was aspiring, based on the contents of my china cabinet. “Downton Abbey” taught me that.

I’m not sure I would have come to that conclusion if I hadn’t become overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to acquire and maintain a full set of china cabinet goodies. I became frustrated by my inability to keep up with it all. That’s when I gave up trying.I realized that I was never going to have a butler and I didn’t even really want one. Even with all the money in the world, I would not choose that lifestyle–or staff. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination or maybe I’m just no longer interested in impressing strangers. 

When you have “too much” stuff on the counters, tables, in the cupboards, on the bookshelf, in the linen closet, attic and basement, you cannot think clearly. All of that stuff is unconsciously asking for your attention, especially when it’s spilling out of its containers. A pile of magazines and books on the counter begs you to read them and makes you feels guilty when you don’t. A stack of filing nags you every time you walk by.

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The problem with these unresolved items is that when you postpone dealing with this stuff, a part of your brain is still working on the “problem” of your piles. This is why you get overwhelmed–trying to consciously work on one problem while this other problem works in the background of your brain. A famous colleague of mine, Barbara Hemphill, once said, “Clutter is postponed decisions.” So you can see how it takes up some of your cognitive processing and space in your brain.

I can no longer afford to rent my brain like that. I want to leave plenty of room for the things that bring me joy.

Given that you have a choice as to how you want to spend your life, I encourage you to take a look at what you have and think about how it does or does not contribute to the life that you want.A good example of this is books. I LOVE to read; however, at this point, I will NOT reread all the books I have and I want to leave enough room in my home to allow other books to come into my life. That means that I try to keep my collection down to a 100 books. That’s enough for me to keep and enough to dust, especially if it’s me, not my butler, doing the dusting! 

Strangers may think that I am not perfectly equipped to host social gatherings, given my diminished china, but frankly, my friends don’t care. They just want to know if I have a clean glass for the great cheap wine they just found in Wine Spectator and I agree.  Here’s to us. Cheers!

As the owner of a professional organizing business in Westchester County, N.Y., Andrea Deinstadt works with people to create order in their homes and lives.  She serves on the board on The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and other local business associations. When not organizing clients, she’s organizing her husband and sons–much to their chagrin. www.OrganizingWisdom.com for more information.