Thursday, April 5, 2018

Perfection killed the cat

It's nearly nine p.m. on a weeknight.  My daughter suddenly thinks of a dozen things she'd like to clean up and organize before bed.  It exasperates me.  But the other evening as I was brushing my teeth at the same time as her I started tidying up the towels on the radiator (toothbrush still in mouth) and taking the dustpan to sweep up an annoying pile of something or another.

I decided to own up to the situation.  "You see," I told her, "I get crazy about stuff before bed time, too."  She laughed and made a game out of it, telling me to stop cleaning the bathroom.

Ah, doesn't that make you feel good?!
Just another way she and I are painfully alike: we are perfectionists.  We don't feel right when that picture frame is off.  We feel icky when the coffee table is cluttered.  And though I often have to let these things slide due to lack of time, there comes a moment when I can't stand it and start tidying up in spurts.  Only to get sidetracked again and abandon it for weeks.

But I wonder if this nervous energy does us perfectionists any good?  In fact, could it be dangerous?  Flashback to me bending over with a toothbrush in my mouth, one of my husband's biggest pet peeves.  I could have hurt myself, all because I was too eager to straighten things up.

It could even be deadly.  Recently France remembered the death of a famous singer who died 40 years ago when he straightened a light bulb while in his bathtub full of water.  Maybe it's proof that perfectionists can let that drive to orderly and clean bliss take over their logical thinking.  Maybe leaving well enough alone is healthier all around.

But like me browsing the Ikea catalog and feeling somehow calmed by those Zenly interiors or Modern Family's Claire Dunphy checking out "organization porn" (closets, to be clear!), an orderly home or office can lead to a peaceful state of mind.  Why else would people be so into decluttering their drawers and homes these days?

But with a husband whose job literally brings in potting soil into my house, a daughter who leaves stickers and McDonald's Happy Meal toys everywhere, and now a six-month old, I can kiss my dreams of that Zen home goodbye for at least ten years.

Perhaps that's a good thing because too much decluttering is cold.  And perfectionists live ten years less than non-perfectionists.  I just made that up to shock you.  Nobody is perfect, after all.

1 comment:

Lindle said...

It might be impossible to have the WHOLE house Zen-calmed, but if you can aim for one corner, or one room that is orderly--it will be just a spot of peace. I hear ya'--kids and working don't give you that time to make everything spit-spot. You have to prioritize--time to play with your children, or ignore them and clean the house? it's a no-brainer.