But when I come home, excited to see my family, only to find that the floor I mopped earlier that day is already sticky with BBQ sauce and a brownish spot I can’t identify, I feel a twinge of resentment.
I don’t want to be a nit-picky perfectionist. I push away that thought, the one about how no one cares that I work so hard to keep the house clean. And I remind myself that my family doesn’t see our home the way I sometimes do—that it’s a part of me, an expression of my love.
The truth is, I really don’t like spending my valuable time cleaning. When I brought my precious baby home for the very first time, I wanted nothing more than to spend every minute curled up with my perfect little newborn. I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want to cook, and I certainly did not want to clean.
The only problem? My house, which I usually cleaned by following a rigorous weekly routine, quickly descended into an abyss of chaos. Pretty soon, the mess drove me crazy. I vowed to get back into my old cleaning routine, but soon discovered it was taking too much time. Even when I did try to complete the entire routine, no sooner would I get started, than my little one would need my attention.
I had a dilemma. I didn’t want to sacrifice these precious moments by cleaning. A clean house was not as important as my baby, of course, but I still yearned for some order. I guess I wanted to have the best of both worlds—a tidy home and lots of snuggle time with my baby. I was determined to have both.
I decided to ditch the rigorous and unforgiving cleaning routine I had found on Pinterest and create my own. One that was simple and quick, flexible and forgiving. One that would work even if I only had a few minutes a day. In order for my plan to work, however, I had to let go of perfectionism. As a veteran cleaning perfectionist, this was really hard, and kinda scary, but totally worth it.
I now usually spend less than twenty minutes a day on my weekly tasks, and sometimes as little as five or ten minutes. I still spend some time every day cleaning up after meals and on basic tidying, but by staying in the habit of doing this immediately after meals, and picking up as I go along, I’m usually able to keep this to a minimum.
When I was finally able to let go of perfectly clean, I was able to complete weekly tasks on the tightest time crunches. While I sometimes used to spend an hour or more cleaning the bathroom, I now quickly wipe down the sink and toilet in about 15 minutes. If I have even less time, I do whatever I can. With cleaning, a little is better than none.
The great thing is, even though I now clean for a fraction of the time I used to spend, my home still usually looks just as clean and tidy as before, and a lot cozier.
It’s not perfect, but I’m finally focusing on the right goal. Instead of cleaning out of a need for perfectionism, I’m cleaning with the good of my family in mind. The great thing is, my family enjoys a tidy home, but they don’t care if there is a little dust on the bookshelf, or if I don’t vacuum under the couch.
My cleaning routine includes four quick tasks:
1) wipe down sinks and clean the toilets or shower
2) sweep the floors and sometimes mop
4) clean the fridge
These tasks work well for me in my small home, but you can decide what tasks are most important to you and arrange them however you want! Sometimes I spread them out over the week, and sometimes I do a couple in one day. They don’t have to be done in any specific order, and they should be specific to you.
If I’m especially pressed for time, I just do part of the task and call it good. In fact, I rarely do every aspect of each task during the week. I just focus on the areas that need the most attention. The idea is to make the routine work for you, not the other way around. It’s easy to get stuck in a routine that’s just about checking items off a list, but it’s important to keep the end goal in mind.
Whether it be with cleaning, or another area of your life, perfectionism can keep you from achieving your goals. It can even make you afraid to begin. Give yourself permission to let go. Imagine what your life could look like if you let go of the fear of being imperfect.
The time I spent bonding with my newborn is something I will always cherish. I’m glad I was able to realize that through simpler housekeeping goals, I can focus on my family without losing my peace of mind at home.
QUESTION: What are some goals that you have for your home environment?
CHALLENGE: Think of one area of your life where perfectionism in the unimportant is keeping you from focusing on what is really important, and make up your mind to be okay with good enough.
Edited by Briana Heinonen & Sarah Monson.
Image from Shutterstock via Pixabay; graphics by Anna Jenkins.