Friday, April 20, 2012

"Progress, Not Perfection."

 "There's a shortage of perfect breasts in the world. It would be a pity to damage yours."

My dear friend Katie always says, "Progress, not perfection," when talk turns to goals and problem solving, and I've sort of tried to adopt that as my mantra. It's brilliant in its simplicity, and these days simplicity is the name of the game for me. I want a slower, more meaningful life, and I feel like adhering to the idea of working towards that goal rather than punishing myself for not having yet achieved it is the way to go.

In our Pursuit of Happyness, we're working hard to unclutter and prepare the house for sale. This is an area I've always struggled with when the idea of "perfection" comes up. I've made the mistake of believing that if it doesn't look like it belongs in a magazine, it's not clean and people are judging me. So I give up and just rarely entertain, because I'm sure my friends' eyes are settling on the unfinished trim work and unswept floor and thinking how disgusting and lazy I am.

Way to give my friends credit, right? You'd think the people in my life were all judgmental assholes, but that's not the case at all.

So anyway...back on topic. I'm working on forgiving myself for allowing actual living to go on in my home rather than rushing around fluffing pillows every time poor Spazzy sits on the couch or keeping Windex in a holster on my belt. I've tried to do this and succeeded for a thoroughly exhausting, completely wasted day or two, and it's just not sustainable.

Progress—not perfection.

Here is my kitchen at the point I consider it to be clean most days:

Click on the photo to enlarge

Not bad, right? The dishes are done. The floor is swept. There are no raw meat juices on the counter, and the table is sticky cereal-free. It's clean enough.

The floor needs to be mopped, but I have two kids and a large dog. Mopping every day is impractical. There's a book-and-paper pile on the counter, but it's actually been pared down, and it's not hurting anything. There are craft supplies stacked on top of the (filthy) toaster oven, and don't even ask to see the inside of the microwave. The walls could use a good wipe-down, but you know, so could all the walls in the house, and my son prefers that I play with him and that matters more.

People live and love in this imperfect kitchen. We do the same in every imperfect, unrefined room in this house, and life doesn't (and shouldn't) stop for a dust rag.

So if I have a little time and all of the necessary maintenance is finished and my children are happy and I've kissed and hugged my husband, I might make a little progress. But I'm choosing to be okay without perfection.


  1. My friend Alison is trying to sell her house right now (relocation, pout,) and she likes to come over here because she says her staged home is uncomfortable to be in and my house looks lived in. I wonder if that is a nice way of saying it's a mess (grin.) I just read something about organizing articles being misleading because the pictures rarely show what actually needs to be organized. It's easy to organize your desk if you have a roll of tape, two pens, and a laptop, as opposed to the 6 books, 2 SD cards, 16 pens, stapler, roll of stamps, cat brush, half eaten candy bar, notebook, checkbook, single sock...

  2. Sorry, I just realized it looks like I'm saying your kitchen is a mess, which it isn't, it looks lovely, and I did away with my Windex holster years ago.

  3. Not at all! I didn't take it that way.

    As much as I'd love to have a color-coordinated, spotless kitchen, people live here. We use this space every day, more than any other space in our home. It's the hub, and therefore the place where stuff most accumulates. I scrub spaghetti noodles off my table and and "organize" more paper piles than I care to think about on a weekly basis. It just is, and as long as it's sanitary, I'm forcing myself to be okay with it.

  4. Great post! I try to remind myself of this! I got very self-conscious the last time we had new friends over. A couple weeks later we went over to their house. I actually breathed such a sigh of relief that they were in the mid-fixing up stage in one area, never bothered to get the trim back up from the last renovation in another area, and the kids' rooms were a mess. I was so much more comfortable than if their house had looked like a magazine layout!

  5. Agreed. I hate going into a home that feels like a museum. Unless it's a children's museum, in which case, where is the water table? I'm in.