A quote attributed to Voltaire (because this blog is nothing but class and education).
You know this book?
That is my life sometimes, except all in the hypothetical. If I consider having a cookie, it becomes this whole circus of “But do we have milk? Is there a cute plate I can eat this off of? But I need to wash and dry cloth napkins. But there’s dog hair on the coffee table. Is it sunny enough to enjoy this snack outside? Am I wearing enough sunscreen to go outside? Should I brew some herbal tea in a pretty mug to have with this cookie?”
Talk about your first world problems.
And do I end up eating the cookie? Yes. Over the sink whilst engulfed in the cloud of anxiety I just mentioned.
Okay, so maybe the cookie example is just sort of an extreme analogy of when I actually experience these moments, but even so, I’m a recovering perfectionist and I know that striving for perfection—especially in the tiniest, most insignificant areas of life—is exhausting.
As part of my pursuit of joy, I’m repeating that Voltaire–ism to myself over and over.
A few chances I’ve had to work on this:
1. Mopping the kitchen and bathroom
I hadn’t mopped the kitchen in months—months, people—not because I didn’t need to but because I would think about mopping and the perfectionism would creep in.
“But I should really clean out all the cabinets first. And I should get out the ladder and clean the light fixture, the top of the fridge, and the range hood because the dirt is just going to fall on the floor, and then I can sweep and mop up that dirt, too. Aren’t you supposed to clean top to bottom anyway? So really I could start with the light fixture—NO! start with the AC vent and THEN work my way to the light fixture!—and clean the entire kitchen until it’s spotless and then mop. Yes! And it’ll be perfect! And wait—this is brilliant—I can move the washer and dryer and clean behind those, too, and then mop. AND BASEBOARDS!!! This is going to be glorious! Now I need to find a free week to do this.”
As I hope you can guess, none of this ever happened. And my floors just stayed dirty. That manageable plan I mentioned a few weeks ago? Not perfect enough to suffice, evidently. Sigh.
So the other day, I took a deep breath, moved the rug and the garbage can into another room, and swept. And then I mopped.
And it took a grand total of 18 minutes. I timed it. That included moving the rug and garbage can, filling the bucket with soapy water, and rinsing the mop and bucket when I was finished.
It was not perfect. There is still lint behind the dryer and I did not clean the AC vent. But you know what? I mopped. Hello.
2. Easter gifts
I like to get a little something for my nieces and nephew for Easter. These kids have a ton of toys and get lots of candy in their Easter baskets, but I still feel the need to give them something (ridiculous, I know). Last year, I put together these adorable baskets.
And don’t get me wrong—those baskets were thoughtful and the kids loved them. But they also involved an inner monologue that went something like this:
“Baskets! Easter baskets! Except they don’t need actual baskets because they have those already, so maybe an item that functions like a basket but has other uses, too. And coloring books! These will be perfect! But now they need crayons. And look what’s right here by the crayons—sidewalk chalk! And I need something sort of small to fill out the rest of the basket. These card games will work. But I’ll need pastel tissue paper to line the buckets / watering can. Should I paint their names on them? Of course! Adorable! This store does not have the exact assortment of pastels I need. Off to another one. I must have baby chick yellow.”
Seriously? I bought crayons for kids who have thousands of them at home? And I thought they cared about certain pastels?
Here’s this year’s gift. I got these on clearance from Dayspring a few months ago.
That’s it. Just the coloring book. They are going to be just as excited about this as they would have been about anything else, and I’m not sending my sisters home with bags of stuff to add to their already–overflowing playrooms. The kids will color and use the stickers and read about Jesus, and it will be wonderful.
3. Swapping out fall / winter and spring / summer clothes
I don’t have the kind of storage to have all of my clothes readily available (if you love a good horror story, read more about how my husband and I share a small closet here). I have an under–the–bed box where I keep my out–of–season items, and twice a year I have to swap out everything.
It usually goes something like this:
“Yay! The weather is changing! Time to swap out my clothes. First, I’ll need to wash and dry everything before it gets packed up. [You should know that I line–dry most of my clothing, so this takes days to accomplish.] Now I need to prep the wool and cashmere for storage. And now I’ll start washing and drying all of the in–season clothing. Should I iron it all now, before I hang it up? Yes, of course! Then I’ll be prepared for the whole season! Should I Google how best to store corduroy? Absolutely! I will become a corduroy–storing expert! Do I have anything I need to sell on eBay? Maybe I’ll check the weather for the next week to choose the best day to photograph the items I’m planning to sell. Isn’t it best to have sales end on a Sunday?”
Exhausted yet? Me, too. Honestly, I still had to do things like wash what was dirty before storing it, and that took time, but I did not lose my head entirely. And I did each step in a manageable chunk over a week instead of making it my sole focus for 72 hours. Whew.
Coincidentally enough, I started listening to the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin, and she mentioned the *exact* same Voltaire quote I’d been repeating to myself. Perfectionism can steal from our joy, folks.
So not worth it, right?