Friday, June 19, 2009

Putting away Perfectionism

Several years ago, a friend of mine recommended that I read a book entitled "Sink Reflections" by a woman who goes by FlyLady. While I haven't successfully adopted all of her suggestions (such as: there are dirty dishes in my sink right now and I'm not wearing shoes), I've still done my best to incorporate some of her basic principles in order to more successfully manage our home.

The FlyLady asserts that the primary factor underying messy and chaotic homes is not laziness, but rather perfectionism. We are so concerned about doing things "right" that it becomes overwhelming and even dehabilitating. Instead of just picking up a broom and getting started, we put off the task because we won't have time to do it all. Over and over, she promises that housework done incorrectly still blesses your family.

In general, I feel like I've been able to overcome my perfectionist "stinkin' thinkin" when it comes to housework. Particularly with little kids, I've learned to loosen my control a little bit. After all, what's the point in getting the window absolutely streak-free when little fingers are just going to smear it shortly anyway? It's far better to just work for ten minutes and do what you can.

Two weeks ago, however, I realized that my perfectionist "stinkin' thinkin'" was rearing its ugly head in other parts of my life. For months (literally), I've been planning to design a chart to help our family more consistently achieve our family goals. Because I wanted the chart to be "perfect," this simple task became overwhelming, and I procrastinated doing it. One afternoon, the absurdity of the situation finally dawned on me. While the girls were working on crafts, I grabbed a piece of paper and just did it. No computer, no clip art, not even a ruler--just some brightly colored markers on a scratch piece of paper. All in all, I think it took about two minutes to do.

Amazingly enough, this simple chart is working great. We've been much more consistent about having Family Home Evening, prayer, song, and scripture study, and the girls love marking in the squares. Because it is so simple, the chart is theirs. I don't care if they scribble all over it since it only took two minutes to make!

And so, if there's something in your life that you've been putting off doing because you might not do it right, release yourself from the burden of perfectionism and just do it!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree ... particularly because even when I find the time and energy to attempt to do something perfectly, the result is invariably, well, imperfect. As in most things, a quick "good - better - best" balancing analysis is in order as we make our way through every day decisions. Perhaps we ought to reserve our "best efforts" for our "best causes," never forgetting that "good" still means "good" when viewed in context with everything else we face. Making and following through with any respectable choice (good, better, or best) is usually superior to delay, or making no choice at all. All too often, I find myself delaying a decision because I'm weighing insignificant nuances ... then the "paralysis of analysis" sets in ... and that is "bad" ... it doesn't even merit a "good, better, best" consideration.

Mom L said...

Oh, such a good post. Thanks! I'll try to keep that in mind as I tackle my many projects I want done perfectly. Wow, there is a freedom in that.

chou said...

Hm. I wonder what I'm putting off. Probably a lot.

Brian and Tonya said...

Thanks for the reminder. I think we all end up putting off stuff because it seems so overwhelming.

Bruce Richards said...

This is a major problem for dissertation writers.

Susie said...

That's something I've recognized in myself often, but once in awhile I do get something done even if I can't do it completely the way I'd like, but the majority of the time I let the "perfectionism" get in the way, hence nothing gets done! Time to try to organize the "family room turned into storage room," even if it's not done perfectly!

jennyb said...

This is the kind of post I should read once a week! Or maybe every day...