September 19, 2010

The Peril of Perfectionism

This is what the home of a perfectionist looks like.

I know what you just said.  But if you suffer from a particular kind of perfectionism chances are good your home looks EXACTLY like this.

Now, of course all the living room needs to be tidy is to have the toys picked up, the surfaces cleared and the sweeper run.  It really is that simple.  But people who are perfectionists like me don’t see that.

I need to clean up the living room.  I’ll just pick up the toys

Well, really the toy bins need organized.  There’s too much in them.

But if I’m going sort the toy bins, I should really move the couch and chair.  I bet there are wayward toys under there.

And if I’m going to move the couch and chair, I should vacuum and do the baseboards behind them.  Well, really I should vacuum all the baseboards.  It’s been a while.

But before I get the vacuum out, I really should vacuum off the furniture and dust.  And, I could get out the furniture polish.

And the windows are looking kind of dingy.  I should grab the windex.  It will only take a second, but I should dust the blinds first.

But I don’t have TIME to dust the blinds and polish the furniture!

It’s like giving a pig a pancake or a mouse a cookie.  It just goes on and on and on until you’ve made your work list so long that it’s become impossible to just pick up your living room.  You don’t have TIME to be perfect, so why bother?

This post at Small Notebook really spoke to me because that, my friends, is me.  My raging perfectionism and desire for the PERFECT home (holiday, birthday party, dinner, laundry) keeps me from having the kind of home that might not be perfect but would make me happy.  I fret and worry about how long it will take me to do all the things that need to be done without realizing that, it probably only takes fifteen minutes to pick up the toys, clear the surface and run the vacuum cleaner and usually always can find fifteen minutes.

I’ve been working hard on stream lining the process.  On identifying only the things that are the most important.

Every Day I(try to):

  • pick up all the toys in the family room
  • clear all the surfaces
  • vacuum the living room and dining room
  • make sure the dining room table is clean
  • clear and clean the kitchen counters
  • wash the dishes
  • make the beds
  • wipe up a bathroom (we have three, so I rotate.  I wipe up one per day)
  • sweep the hard floors downstairs
  • cycle at least one load of laundry

If I have time and motivation, I move to my weekly cleaning list which is more detailed and involves tasks like sheet changing, toilet scrubbing and mopping.  Most weeks, I get through all of my weekly list, though I’ve given up doing it on Monday and in an hour.  Fly Lady must live in a little house with no kids.  That’s all I can figure.

I also utilize a timer.  I set it for 15 minutes (which is about the amount of time two small kids can be counted on to mostly be busy with something) and work to get as much as I can off of my list in that amount of time.  Honestly, it takes me about 90 minutes a day to clean the house.  That includes putting away laundry, post dinner clean up, daily chores and working in things off of my weekly chore list that I want to get done.

It’s hard to want so badly to be perfect, but it really benefits no one.  And by giving up just a little bit you and your home will be a lot happier.

This is what the home of a reforming perfectionist looks like.

House Cleaning For Slobs, Making it a Home, Tied Up 6 Replies to “The Peril of Perfectionism”


6 thoughts on “The Peril of Perfectionism

    Author’s gravatar

    omg, I’m sitting here looking at MY clutter and reading your “perfectionist” post and yes… that is exactly my problem. I feel like I need to have DH take the kids away for two days and then I can just go at it full-force with no interruptions (he’d have to take my computer and iphone, too, I guess). But really, the only way I’m going to get out from under this is 15 minutes at a time.

    To which my mind immediately responds, “What’s the point? In less than 15 minutes whatever I’ve done will be completely undone!”


      Author’s gravatar

      I clean the house fifteen minutes at a time. I pick a place and start. That is just about as long as the the two littles can do their own thing. It takes me the full morning to do my morning chores (and I do mean until noon), but it works out okay.

    […] How it renders us nearly disabled as we founder in its clutches. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how perfectionism can be crippling in regards to keeping your house, but really striving for perfection is about more than that.  I mean, sure it manifests in the […]

    […] A few weeks ago, I wrote about perfectionism.  I wrote about how it gets me down.  How it can make it hard to function.  I think that was a sentiment that  lot of people could understand.  The question would remain, though, how DO you deal with your house if you don’t let perfectionism take over. […]

    Author’s gravatar

    This is my problem too.

    However, a couple of years ago I came across Flylady website. She does almost the same thing you do by having routines and cleaning up some everyday. Perfectionism causes us to get lost in something, and instead of cleaning the house good enough for company, we end up detail cleaning some huge closet because when we went to put something away, the whole closet looked “messy”. LOL I could go on and on, but perfectionism is like a disease that keeps us from doing things the easy way.

    I’m like you. I don’t like to clean either. However, as a surgical nurse…I am a bit, oh, anal-retentive when it comes to cleanliness. LOL Things have to be just so. It took me a long time to realize when my kids were toddlers that I couldn’t keep “surgical suite” cleanliness in the house. And then it took getting cancer and nearly dying to say “Life is too short to worry about cleaning all the time, instead of playing one more game with my kids”.

    So, I learned my lesson, but I sometimes catch myself reverting back to my perfectionist ways. Routines help. I found by having a “control journal” (A thing flylady taught me), which is basically my routines in a binder that I keep by the main place in my kitchen, that if I’m sick or down and out, the kids (or my folks) can help me by looking at what it is I normally do. My kids are getting bigger, too, (EEEEK!!!! my daughter will be 10 next month!), and they are much better at helping. But, sometimes the way they clean the bathroom leaves a lot to be desired. And when that happens, I try to remember to spend 10 minutes with them instead of spending 10 minutes cleaning “my” way.

    Excellent post. I loved it!

      Author’s gravatar

      Having everything written down is a great idea, Heather! I should do that so I don’t have to waste time telling people how they can help when I need it. I am such a Flylady drop out. I did take some things away from her though that I still do to this day. The routines are part of them.

      I just don’t like cleaning enough to stress out about it not being perfect. I never notice when I go to someone else’s house if they have cobwebs. Or tidy closets. I bet no one notices at my house, either.

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