We all are taught that perfection does not exist. What we fail to do is to believe that. I donâ€™t really know about the rest of the world, but I am tired of seeing in all places the evidence of how imperfect I am. It is hard to avoid. You would have to live in an isolated island not to feel how your lack of perfectionism is ruining your life. They say it about the way you keep your house, care for your kids, live your marriage (?) (saw this one in a magazine)â€¦Oh how life would be greatâ€¦But not.
Letâ€™s talk for example about decorating and de-cluttering:
How can I have a perfectly de-cluttered, decorated house? That is an easy one: by not living in it.
I have been reading de-cluttering blogs for a long while now. And all of them, at one point or another, have talked about perfectionism. Even here it has been mentioned a few times.
So where am I going with this talk? First, there is no such thing as perfection. Believe that, it is real. The reality for me is that, in de-cluttering and in housecleaning I have three categories: nice, great and YAY. I donâ€™t have to clean for a week! Not perfect, not eligible to be photographed for a designing magazine. Just my house clean and uncluttered to my standard. For a while at least my trouble was I wanted perfection, I always aimed for it. Sometimes I felt like Lord Farquaad from Shrek (the first one) who wanted a perfect castle, and a perfect village and a perfect princess wife. His words were â€œI want order! I want perfection!â€. He ended being married to an ogress and being eaten by a dragon. So much for perfection.
I did learn that wanting perfection leads to doing nothing. I was frustrated, wishing for that picture perfect house on so and so internet site, all the while I had a whole cluttered house suffocating me because I wanted to clean them upâ€¦perfectly. It accumulated. I did not clean or fix things because I had to do it all at once and perfectly. And there is another catch right there: to do everything perfectly we have to do it all at once. But there is never enough time. I certainly never had that much time available. And when I did I was too lazy to do it all, it was too much. And I always gave myself the excuse that (we rent) but when I moved to MY house, then things would be perfect. Â I had other stuff to do instead of de-cluttering. Play with the kids. Go out with the husband. Chat with Â friends on Skype. I didn’t want to spend hours and hours cleaning, sorting, de-cluttering, just to have a perfect house. I wanted to live.
As it has been said before and will be said again. Ditch perfection. Do what you can, when you can. Get one thing done or just get something done. And good is great. If you do a good job on time, you are way ahead than if you aimed for a perfect job that never got delivered. Like models, the perfect made up houses that are pictured in magazines and design sites, are really that: made up models. I have recently looked at pictures from a dÃ©cor magazine and I saw huge, spectacular houses there, beautifully decorated. They were great, but all I could think about was: â€œWho is going to clean all that?” And lately: â€œI bet they have a full time maid to have that much stuff and a perfect houseâ€¦â€. So, I realized perfection has a price I am not willing to pay.
To quote a new singer/comedian in a interview about her new CD: â€œIf we keep thinking about what we could do better Â we’d never do anything. The things we do are imperfect, it’s part of human nature.â€ And that is the beauty of it.
Today’s Mini Mission
Declutter a few shades of eyeshadow, lipstick or nail polish that you rarely if ever use.
Eco Tip for the Day
When racing off to the grocery store to pick up something you need phone a friend or neighbour to see if they need anything while you are at it. You make save them a trip.
For a full list of my eco tips so far click here
It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when Iâ€™m slow
Love this post! I have learned that people aren’t very comfortable when visiting these perfect homes. I also know that those magazine houses have a team of people and lots of money to get them that way!
Thanks Connie! If the magazine people would send their team over to clean my house twice a day, I can have a perfect house. 😀 😀 😀
Deb J says
Andreia, this is a good post. I so agree with you. Society today spends way too much time trying to look like, have and be like someone/something else. We need to be ourselves, have what we like and stop trying to keep up with and artificial idea of perfection.
Hi Deb J! Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed the post. When I wrote this post I was thinking about how much time we waste trying to have the perfect space. I was not respecting my house, I was just freaking out about all the stuff that was not done. Now I just do whatever I can, get the basics going and find my house perfectly fine. 😉
deanna w. says
One of the best things I’ve learned from Flylady is “sometimes good enough is good enough.” I was such a perfectionist, and now I make my life so much easier. I recently read a wonderful little book by Ray Bennett, M.D. called “The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great.” I immediately read it twice when I got it…I plan to read it again soon (a very fast read.)
Colleen Madsen says
Hi deanna w., that book sounds interesting. I am the sort of person who would likely benefit from reading it, being a bit of a perfectionist myself. I shall have to check my local library for it. Thanks. Mind you, one could end up going too far in the wrong direction too if they allowed themselves. I witness all the time, in my apartment building, the lack of attention to detail when it comes to people choosing what they do and don’t put in the recycling bins. And also the lack of effort they put into compacting the items before putting them in there. It drives me crazy.
Actually people with hoarding issues and filthy homes are often perfectionist/control freaks who gave up completely at making decisions and trying to control things and went in the complete opposite direction.
I agree with what you are saying AndrÃ©ia.
Perfection is an advertising campaign , not a way of life.
Colleen Madsen says
Hi AndrÃ©ia, I also enjoyed this post. Thank you for writing it for me. I know that whatever you write comes from the heart and from experience. I am just glad that you came to this realisation and gave up the idea of perfection and went with the do the best I can in the time the I have and with the resources available. I will keep this post in mind over the next couple of days. The movers arrive this morning between 8 and 9 so this is a good time for me to be happy with what is and not what some picture of perfection. If by some miracle everything slotted into our new place perfectly that would be lovely but I have no such expectations.
Deb J says
Colleen, May the move go smoothly and may you find that you have little to do to make everything fit in. I’m so excited for you.
Deb J put it perfectly so I’ll just second that!
Hope all goes well for you with the move.
Hi Colleen! May your move go well and may it be the beginning of a new wonderful time in your life. I hope you get what you need to get in order as soon as possible.
“…in housecleaning I have three categories: nice, great and YAY. I donâ€™t have to clean for a week! ” Really loved this line, I think I will adopt it! Thanks for a great post.
Yep, me too. I LOVE that line too, especially over these next 6 weeks of summer holidays with everyone home!
PS Good luck with your move Colleen. I’m sure you being you, it will all go fast, if not smoothly:-)
Very good post. None of us have enough time, or energy to keep our homes perfect–so deciding to do something for 5 minutes is a great idea, and will keep our rooms looking better. Our levels are more like looks lived in, looks very lived in, just got home from grocery shopping and running errands and nothing put away yet (looks like a disaster)..
I love the Lord Farquaad reference!
I heard a similar quote the other day that I love “you don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going” – I think this was intended more as a project undertaking quote, but I think it applies to life in general.
Hi Moni! I was remembering Lord Farquaad when I was writing this post. And I was a little like him :D. Now I just get whatever project I want done and keep going until it is finished. Sometimes I do it all at once, sometimes it takes a while. I am more efficient in my decluttering because I contemplate more and it makes me more sure of what I am decluttering and therefore more ruthless. It is way better than trying to be perfect.
Andreia – Once Upon A Time (lol) I was a perfectionist. And then I had children. The End.
Actually, a bit more happened inbetween, but I realised that all the other perfect wives and mothers were having just as hard a time of it, as I was, so we all agreed that we’d reserve the perfect presentation of home and children for when our mothers visited.
This is a really great post for me to read right now. I think the grasp for perfection can cause lots of problems in many different areas of a person’s life. Thanks for this. I’m going to keep coming back to this post.
Ah Andreia, such true words: isn’t it daft how we get caught in thinking it is all or nothing. I find this to be true of other areas of life too. I was very debilitated by illness in my 20’s. I spent several years nearly bed bound. At firstI felt overwhelmed with what I couldn’t do and how much I had lost, and yes I had lost a lot. But in time I learnt that while I could not do many many things, I could get a taste of some of them by doing just 10 mins, like I couldn’t go for a lovely country walk, but I could slowly build up to 10 minutes walking round the garden. I couldn’t go to an art class, but I could get someone to buy me colouring pens and doodle. From that one at of doodling, many years later I was designing and selling my own mosaics. And so as you say with de-cluttering – little and often and we start seeing the difference.
Donna B says
Great column! I also am tired of the quest for perfection. It ends in misery for most of us. The worst part is that some of us don’t realize that we are perfectionists (a boss of mine pointed out to me that I am one, and I had never thought about it) and constantly feel that we’re falling short when that’s not the impression others have of us at all. It is an eye-opening realization.
I constantly tell myself now that it doesn’t have to be good – just better than it was. Before I found this site, it wouldn’t have dawned on me to clean just one shelf or one drawer at a time. I, too, was all or nothing. Recently one of my son’s friends grandmothers came by to pick up her grandson, and the house was a mess. The boys had been playing, and my daughter had received bins of Barbie items we were going through and that were spread across the living room floor (I ended up giving her a huge tote of items for her granddaughter). Instead of commenting on the mess, she remarked on my wall colors (no white, but each room is a different color) and art I have up, and we talked about older houses, which she loves. She found our house warm, inviting and interesting, whereas I saw nothing but mess.
That said, I do need to be much better about getting it to be slightly less lived in and a bit more orderly, and some of this has to come from the kids. My legacy is not going to involve housecleaning!
I like the “it doesn’t have to be good – just better than it was” – I will use that on my younger daughter who objects to tidying her room. Mind you, she will probably find a loop hole in that.
Donna B says
Moni, my daughter doesn’t like cleaning her room, either (probably because she has too much stuff, but she plays with all of it – she doesn’t keep it just to keep it). Sometimes I’ll set a timer, and after even 10 minutes, I’ll say to her, “Look how much better it is.” She sees the difference and sometimes (not always) keeps going. My son also told her that he’s noticed that when he makes his bed, the room already looks cleaner and makes him want to keep going, so he picks up dirty clothes if they’re around, and every little bit counts. When did this happen with him?? All is not perfect (but better), though, as I noticed a laundry basket full of clean clothes still sitting there from two days ago!
Donna B – I have one that is OCD neat and one that embraces the rats-nest. My messy one has gotten a little better over the last year or so but she is still a fan of the ‘floor-robe’.
Thank you for this post Andreia, I really enjoyed reading it!
Like others have said in the comments, perfectionism is an impossible and ultimately unproductive quality. Somewhere I read “don’t let perfectionism be the enemy of good enough” and I thought that expressed it very well. We tend to be so hard on ourselves when we should be celebrating our achievements and feeling inspired to continue, rather than giving up because it isn’t the perfection we think we should be aiming for. I was recently looking at some photographs from about 16 years ago and remembering how this particular friend and I were always finding fault with ourselves, our appearance, the state of our homes – but looking at those pictures we were in fact in pretty good shape, we were smiling and happy, we were doing fun activities with our kids – we should have been more satisfied back then. I was also struck by Donna B’s comment about the person who visited her home and looked beyond the temporary mess of Barbies lying around and it reminded me of a comment made to me by someone at my mother’s funeral who said how hospitable she always was and how welcoming and inviting he found my parents’ home – whereas I can remember my parents fretting about things being in a mess, mismatched china etc, and I am like that too. But that comment made me very happy as hospitality was incredibly important to my mother and I know she would have been pleased.
Donna B says
That was a very nice remembrance of your mother, especially since it was important to her. I imagine most of us like a welcoming and interesting home more than a perfect one.
Great post today! It is so easy to look at other people, other things, or other homes, etc., and see where we (according to society) fall short. Just like Deb J put it, it is better to just be ourselves. It is better for each person to find their own level of perfection based on individual needs.
Interesting topic. I think a lot of people feel that if they can’t aim for or come close to perfection then they have fallen into an ‘anything goes’ category. There are a lot of shades inbetween and the world won’t fall apart if something is done with less technique and more enthuisiasm. Sometimes we just need to compromise with our own mind, to be able to get an acceptable result with what we have to work with at the time.
There’s nothing wrong with having standards, but if they cause so much stress to achieve then its time to re-evaluate.
The quest for perfection is one I don’t really shoot for. On the other hand, my mom thinks everything needs to be perfect (though in reality her life is a huge mess in many little ways). We live three hours apart, and I really have not let her come to my house for the last year. I have gotten rid of sooooooo much stuff, my house is much cleaner, there isn’t a lot just laying around (except on flat surfaces – which I have tried to reduce). When people don’t come over for a while – and then they visit – I often get complimented how nice it is here. I feel like my hard work has paid off. But my mother continues to act like my home is just disgusting. Its very frustrating for me because my frame of mind is – this is MY house, and if YOU don’t like it here YOU can leave. I don’t like to have her vision of perfection projected onto me = especially when she really needs to work on herself and just relax sometimes. I don’t have time for perfect!
Colleen – I also saw you put up my comment 🙂 I still haven’t gotten rid of my other doll, or the extra Christmas tree. We will just say life got busy and that stuff had to be put on the back burner until further notice. I literally wake up everyday, and sort out what will and won’t get done. Holidays are hectic, and once again I’m not going to bother to try and be perfect. I say its all part of my charm (haha).
Hi Michaela! It is sad about how your mother reacts to your home, but since you are get complimented by friends and others when they visit your home, you must be doing a great job. Sometimes people’s lives are not what they try and project to the outside world, so they try to find fault somewhere else, so they can tell themselves their lives are not that bad, that so and so life, is so much worse, someone else’s house is so messy…and so on. Your house has to please you and those who live in that house with you, not anyone else. Keep up the good work!
To me, a perfect house is one where I enjoy being and friends feel comfortable and loved. De-cluttering, like dishes and laundry, is an ongoing thing and will only be finished when we are dead. I would rather be alive and always have something to do!