I have a sign in my house that says “We strive for excellence; not perfection“. To be honest, for as long as I can remember, I have felt an overwhelming desire to be perfect, to do things perfectly, to GET STUFF 100% RIGHT. Any therapist worth their salt will tell you that striving for perfectionism very rarely works out well – you end up exhausting yourself both physically and mentally, beating yourself up for every mistake you make, becoming paralysed with fear before doing anything, and failing to live in the moment because you are too busy navel-gazing over past mistakes and fretting about tomorrow!
It can also result in what my husband calls “Reverse Perfectionism” – i.e. if you can’t do something perfectly, you won’t do it at all. So you procrastinate and make it bigger in your mind that it actually is, instead of aiming to do a PRETTY GOOD JOB.
I have to admit that this sums me up quite well. My life is a constant dance between perfectionism and reverse perfectionism – between aiming to get things 100% right and not doing anything because I can’t do it perfectly. I’m one of those people that will eat one piece of chocolate and then go on to eat the entire slab because I have ruined-my-diet-and-have-to-start-again-tomorrow, instead of acknowledging that one piece of chocolate is hardly going to be a blip on the scale or on the waistband of my jeans. In my mind, I haven’t been 100% “good” and have therefore failed. And so I go to the other extreme and munch my way through the rest of the chocolate, which WILL have an impact on the scale and on the waistband of my jeans. It’s an all-or-nothing way to live, something that is far from healthy and one of my biggest challenges in trying to live a Simpler Life.
Something that has helped ENORMOUSLY, and which I have been secretly testing on two of my friends, is harnessing The Power of Ten Minutes. I first came across this revolutionary idea from my good friend Peter Alkema, who has a high-powered and stressful job, is married, has five children and STILL makes the time to build Wendy Houses, amazing furniture, launch a book AND exercise more than most men half his age. When asked at his Book Launch about how on God’s Green Earth he manages to find the time to do all of this, he spoke about just how much a person can get done in ten focussed minutes. He would pop out to his workshop while waiting for dinner – and sand the leg of a table. Or realise he had a few minutes to spare before guests arrived for lunch, and give the children’s toy bench a coat of primer.
I was stunned. Those small ten minute gaps added up to hours of work each week – hours that many of us think we don’t have, and yet squander looking at our phones, watching a show we don’t even like on TV or just wandering around aimlessly. When in actual fact, we could be doing something that feeds our souls – a hobby, sitting in the sun with a glass of wine, or tackling a frustrating area of our house that we keep putting off because we “don’t have the time”.
Talk about a lightbulb moment.
And so it began, my #TenMinuteChallenges around the house. I began to pay attention to areas of our home that were messy, created havoc, had way too much stuff, or just didn’t work for us as a family and think about how I could break them down into #TenMinutes. For example, our cluttered spice drawer where everything fell over each time the drawer was opened. Or the children’s lunch box items that were placed all over the pantry. Or my makeup drawer which required rummaging around to find the one eyeliner that was vaguely sharp enough to use, or the one mascara that wasn’t all dry and cakey. Or my medicine cupboard that was just downright depressing. Areas that frustrated me and were anything BUT simple, and areas that I kept procrastinating because I didn’t have the TIME, or didn’t know how to tidy PERFECTLY or just plain old DIDN’T WANT TO TACKLE.
The results have been revolutionary. I have been doing one project a day, as have two of my friends who I roped in as guinea pigs, and have found the process to be completely and utterly addictive. For real. In just #TenMinutes, I have finally got around to doing things that I have been procrastinating for ages – without compromising my goal of slowing down, taking on less, and spending time on things that matter. And the best part is that I am so much calmer, because in a nutshell, things are where they are supposed to be, we have what we need where we need it, and we have so much less stuff in general!
As an example, one of my makeup drawers has been getting on my nerves for ages. But because I can’t figure out a system or Pinterest-worthy storage solution, I just haven’t been able to motivate myself to sort it out. Well, there’s no time for navel-gazing during a #TenMinuteChallenge – you are racing against the clock, so best you make a plan!
Here’s the “before” picture (no judgement please – I warned you it was bad!)
Awful, right? And yet something that annoyed me at least once a day (but not enough for me to actually do anything about it!) You can see the timer on the countertop has been set to ten minutes – ready to begin!
Step 1 – moving items I want to keep to the counter, and placing items I want to throw away or donate directly into a plastic bag next to me.
Step 2 – moving items that don’t belong in that drawer to where they should live (no getting depressed about the state of THAT drawer/ cupboard – ain’t nobody got time for that – the clock is ticking!)
I was left with this:
Still 5 minutes on the clock – plenty of time to give the drawer and various items a much-needed clean!
Two minutes to go. I still haven’t figured out/ found a drawer organiser to fit this narrow space, so an old chocolate tin will have to do. I add all my eyeliners/lipliners (freshly sharpened) and lipsticks to the lid at the back, and foundations, BB creams and sunblock to the front. Tweezers and nail clippers have been housed on the side.
And we’re done!
I fully get that it will never be pinned on someone’s Pinterest board – but this took just #TenMinutes out of my day, has made a huge difference to my mornings, and has inspired me to get the second drawer of eyeshadows and blushers sorted this week!
Give it a try today – pick something small to start with – your purse, your handbag, your spice drawer/ cabinet or even your bedside table drawer. Set the timer and GO!
- Organising your house doesn’t have to be a huge job – don’t overthink it. Just commit to #TenMinutes a day.
- Set the timer, it’s way more fun and keeps you focussed.
- Step 1 is ALWAYS to subtract. Subtract first, then organise (if you have time remaining on the clock).
- This process works for many other challenges too. If I have a writing project that is quite stressful and out of my comfort zone, I aim to do ten minutes and then promise myself a coffee break. That way I get started immediately instead of suddenly feeling the urge to do a million OTHER things rather than that day’s top priority.
- “It is better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” (Robert Schuller)