I need to make dinner. But before I can do that, I need to clean off the counter, which means the piles of dishes next to the sink need to go into the sink, but wait, there isn’t any room for them because it’s already full of (you guessed it) dishes! I could put them in the dishwasher, but that needs to be unloaded first, and then I see the handprints all over it and am reminded I need to dig out the stainless steel cleaner to clean the front of it along with the fridge, and if I do the fridge, I need to pull all the papers stuck to it, and, frankly, I’m not entirely sure what to do with them—it’s why I stuck them on the fridge in the first place.
Everywhere I look, there is something that needs to be dusted, mopped, picked up, or put away, but nothing can get done until something else gets done first, and all it is getting done one-handed while balancing a baby, all while listening to the shouts of “Mom, watch this!” (And no, a simple glance won’t suffice, this needs rapt, undivided attention—for the fifth time.)
It’s like mom life is some alternate version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but instead of being a whimsical children’s book, it’s an anxiety-inducing nightmare. The frustrating part is that this isn’t me. Not even a little bit. I am a struggling perfectionist. (Though you wouldn’t know this by looking at me because I present as a hot mess.)
If it’s within my control, I need it to be perfect. If there is a goal to be achieved, I am going to over achieve it. And I am going to do it all at once. No interruptions, no stops, no breaks. Get. It. Done. is my mentality.
So the fact that I can’t keep my house perfectly tidy consumes me. I can always see my visual to-do list. When I’m sitting on the floor playing Go Fish with my son, I’m looking at the dust on the baseboards that needs to be wiped down, and then I think about the back of the bathroom cupboard that needs to be organized and wiped out, and of course, whatever clothes my son has left by the tubs needs to be washed, oh, and that means I need to face my mountain of laundry which might overtake Everest as the world’s highest peak. One thing leads to another, and I can never keep up, I can never do it perfectly, and I can never start a job and finish it without interruption, so why start at all?
It’s a tough cycle—one I want to break—and I think I just had a breakthrough thanks to the kindest human ever with something that sounds so simple it’s ridiculous that it was groundbreaking for me: It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be peaceful.
The crayons don’t need to be put away in a show-stopping rainbow gradient, they just need to be put away in their multicolored, chaotic glory. The shoes on the shoe rack don’t need to be put away Papa bear, Mama bear, and Baby bear style—all nice and neat on their own shelf—they just need to be on the shelf and out of the entryway. I don’t have to do all the laundry in one day, a basket a day is probably enough to keep us all smelling nice and in clean clothes.
Just breathe, take care of the one thing that is destroying your peace of mind most, and then walk away. My house, your house, is meant to be a peaceful place to live, not a perfect place for strangers to parade through and view. Peaceful over perfect. Good enough, is enough.