Saturday, November 1, 2008

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

Most of my life, I've wondered how on earth I could be a perfectionist, when my life and surroundings are so far from perfect.

And what of the mess in at least one room of my house at all times? Years ago, I wouldn't have believed it was due to perfectionist tendencies.

Alas, I am an all-or-nothing person. Since I was a child, I would start cleaning my out-of-control room by pulling everything out of my drawers or closet and begin organizing from the inside out. But I always ran out of steam long before I even put my drawer/closet contents back, and the ensuing mess was all-the-more discouraging, so I would not try to clean my room again for quite some time.

I am not proud to admit that my life today is not much different. Tuesday afternoon, as I was cleaning house, I caught myself organizing two drawers in an effort to fit a blanket that I wanted to put away (all-the-while, my house is aflame with a dozen visible "hotspots"--a term for horizontal surfaces that call me to pile more and more stuff there). I don't even realize how far I'm going out of the way of my first intentions until I find that one thing that started the cascade of insanity hours later, while wondering how I can be so tired and yet cannot point to one thing I have accomplished today. "And why isn't that blanket put away, either? I should have at least done that!"

My friend once told me I reminded her of the farmer who went to plow the lower forty (but he noticed the barn door was coming off its hinges, so he went to fix it, but then found that one of his tools wasn't working right, so he started to fix that. . . on and on until the sun had set and he realized he did not do anything all day). My friend was so right! I have to keep on top of myself, or I will inadvertently start doing this; it's in my nature.

Which is why I have decided to take up FLYing once again. (Of course this comment from my husband helped: "You were at the top of your game a couple years ago when you were doing FlyLady.")

As much as I don't agree with the whole "F.L.Y." thing (the theory that the reason we sidetracked people have problems is because we haven't yet learned the art of "Finally Loving Yourself." LOL! As my friend, LC says, "I was pretty fond, actually.") it is what has made a difference in my "if I can't do everything, I won't do anything" thinking, which is (for me) where most of the battle lies.

No, I really don't think it has to do with needing to love myself. That is an inborn human trait that is nothing to be proud of and is certainly not necessary to work toward. (Can I get an amen?) Rather, my problem is about having skewed priorities and overthinking, instead of just doing. You people who know me are smiling at how true this is, aren't you?

I am starting with even babier steps than she gives to help my thinking be more and more "can do" instead of "I don't have time to clean the world, so I'm not going to bother sweeping around the table." Just setting the timer and doing her fifteen minute challenges is so helpful and keeps me focused. "I am emptying the dishwasher, not making tea for dinner or hanging up Ruby's jacket. I am emptying the dishwasher," I remind myself in my head.

Any born organized person is probably perplexed at the need for a system to get me to start something. It might sound strange, but people like me go about ten steps ahead (in our minds) of what we're about to do and get discouraged before we even start.

This is how my mind works in regard to cleaning the house: "I need to vacuum (the entire house), but I want to dust (the entire house) before I do that, and there are toys and things all over the carpet (in the entire house) that I need to pick up. If I vacuum, it only makes sense to not allow dirt to be tracked from one kind of flooring to another, therefore I need to clean the hard floors, too (of course all the hard floors in the entire house: if I'm getting out the mop and water, I need to make it worth my time). So I'd better make sure that I sweep the front and back porches so we don't track in dirt from the outside, but I simply do not have hours to do this, so I'll have to wait till later."

This is actually a simplified list of what goes on in my head. All cleaning ends up being connected, and I hope it is understood that I was not joking about my all-or-nothing thinking. I literally think that way.

So Flylady helps get my rear in gear and when I start to see that one thing actually does make a difference, I am encouraged to do more here and there, which, when added up sure looks like a clean house!


Karin S. said...

I, sadly, relate, especially in regards to the making it worth my while to get the mop and bucket of water out. This would be why none of my hard floors (which is pretty much the whole house) have been mopped in at least 1.5 months. I don't know where I read this tip, but I have been using it and loving it as it helps me with my short attention span when I'm trying to do basic house pick-up. It's the "3 item rule". I go into one room, find 3 items (and ONLY 3!) that are not in the place where they belong. I take the items to wherever they belong. In whatever room I finish with this project, I pick 3 items from that room, and do the same. Because, like you, Sarah, I'm tempted to do the whole "I need to organize this place before I can fit this item in here", I have to give myself permission to just leave the item on top of the dresser, bed, coffee table (or just stuff it in:>) - figuring it is better to at least have it in the room where it belongs than to not, and if it is in the right room I am much more likely to actually put it away. This tip works for me because I can be interrupted at any time and pick it up again at any time - no problem!

Sarah said...

That's a great suggestion, Kar! I think I'll implement it into my days, too. Sometimes, even 15 minutes is too long to do something without interruption nowadays!

Oh, and while we're sharing suggestions, I wanted to tell you I tried the lettuce trick your friend does and it worked pretty well (washing all the lettuce, then wrapping it up in a dish towel to store in the fridge). Thanks for two great suggestions!

Karin S. said...

Oh, you know, this is the way we "use" each other :)

Becca said...

I like some of the concepts of fly lady a lot. What works for me is having one "big" chore of the day a long with the usual meal preparation, kitchen clean-up, and one load of laundry a day (washed folded and put away). I vacuum down stairs on Monday, Bathrooms on Tuesday... Fresh Linen Fridays... you get the idea. Nothing is ever spotless all at the same time, but at least my over all presentation is good. Then if I have time or energy I can go off-list, like cleaning out the fridge or washing the drapes. Yea right, like I have EVER washed drapes! Good luck finding your groove!

Rebecca said...

Dear friend learning to care for our homes and our families is not easy or natural, it is an area God wants us to seek His help, daily. Persevere (that is what I have to tell myself everyday!) You are such a joy and your home exubes (my word) this whether or not it is perfect... eternal perspective that is the key! Love your heart!