Notes From A Recovering Perfectionist

Last March, I learned about a woman that identifies as a “Recovering Perfectionist”. I really liked that term. As I get older, the costs of perfectionism, such as anxiety or stress, outweigh my perceived advantages of it, that is, feeling in control. Can you relate? This woman also happens to be a professional organizer like me – and we’ve luckily been educated in this area, so that we utilize strategies to curb disadvantages of perfectionism, both with our clients and with ourselves.


The most helpful action I’ve done is to simply spend time reflecting. “Where did my perfectionism come from?” “Why did I develop perfectionist tendencies?” “How long have I operated this way or when do I remember it starting in my life?” And finally, “What are the advantages of being a perfectionist and what are the costs?” When you actually write down your own answers to these questions, it may be quite insightful and clarifying for why you are the way you are! And just a friendly reminder, hold your answers and yourself with as much compassion as you would hold for a dear friend, or else it’s counterproductive.


Below is what I practice. I hope you find some insight that can benefit you too.


  1. Adopt the powerful mantra: “Done is better than perfect.” When I’m feeling overwhelmed, saying this out loud or loud in my mind helps me keep the proper perspective. It assists in reaching the right distance lens on the project – not too micro to get stuck in the details or not too macro to not actually get done what I need to get done.


  1. Have you ever heard of yak-shaving? It’s when you set out to accomplish one task, but somehow find yourself accomplishing something completely different than what you needed to get done. “Well in order to do X I need to do Y first”. Do you really? Or is there another way? “If I’m picking this up, I can stop at the library and pick up my book on hold too…and oh yea I can stop at the store next door to get my favorite cheese they only sell there! It makes more sense to go to the store first…” Before you know it, the day is gone and you still haven’t picked up your book at the library. Use any means necessary to keep your focus on the original task, including thinking outside the box to get it done in some way that bypasses anything else that needs to get done.


  1. Educate yourself. The more I stay curious and open to perfectionism, the more I understand it, and the less a grasp it has over me. As you probably know, the more one educates herself on something, the more empowered she can be around it. Many excellent resources exist; most “textbook” books in my field address it, such as in Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. You will also realize you’re not alone in this…in fact, you have a lot of company.

Talk about it. I don’t keep my struggle to myself anymore. What a relief! My perfectionist tendencies have actually been applauded in the past. But when I let my responses be truly honest, I connect with people on the subject in a more meaningful and helpful way. “Thank you. You know, trying to be perfect comes with it’s struggles too…in fact my motto is ‘Done is better than perfect’ and this helps me get stuff done!!’”  

About Sara Luisa Valverde

Supporting people in organizing, time-management, and simplifying has always come naturally for Sara. She´s had the opportunity to hone this skillset in her professional career, most recently while supporting three (incredibly busy) senior professors at Harvard Business School, and while working within a clinical research team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Since June 2015, she has worked as an independent yoga teacher, specializing in un-learning habitual posture patterns that get in one´s way. Sara honors the act of organizing as both an internal and external process. Her approach is to keep it simple, so you have the mental and physical space for maintaining clarity and peace of mind. She loves that her services in professional organizing bring together two passions: internal and external de-cluttering. She thrives on living a minimalist lifestyle, living as a full-time liveaboard on her beloved sailboat.

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