5 “Clean Enough” Housekeeping Rules Every Messy Perfectionist Needs to Learn

published Nov 25, 2019
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

You might think that perfectionists are people who seem to have it all together; whose homes are perpetually spotless. Their home keeping life is a well-oiled, pristine-making machine.

That’s not even a little bit true.

Perfectionists’ homes are often times messier and dirtier than you’d expect from people with exacting standards. In real life, the houses that seem perfectly kept probably belong to people who are satisfied with “good enough” rather than perfection. They do what they need to do and are able to sustain a semblance of cleanliness and order because the tasks they assign themselves and the time they give themselves to do them are manageable and sustainable.

If you find yourself hesitating to perform a cleaning duty because you can’t do it “the right way” or “all the way” at the moment, you could be among these so-called (with no judgment) messy perfectionists. Messy perfectionists get paralyzed. They want to straighten up the tornado-hit bedroom, but they can’t do it until they decide what to do with the box of old photos, cull the items they saved for selling on eBay, re-do the closets with solid shelves instead of that ventilated shelving, and buy those perfect clear containers to store all the sewing accessories.

If you’re a perfectionist who can’t stomach doing less than the best at home and therefore find yourself not doing much of anything at all, here are a few tips to help break the cycle:

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Relax your goals

You usually accept nothing less than everything being done all the time. But it may help to reframe your goals away from a big-picture Clean House. Instead, success can just be completing just one or two things that you want to become daily habits. For instance, decide to pick up the living room before dinner and go to bed every night with all the dishes done. This way you won’t get down on yourself if the playroom still has some toys out and you weren’t able to mop the kitchen floors.

Set a timer for your chores

Instead of putting off cleaning the bathroom because you don’t have the hour you need to be able to spray the grout with bleach, wash all the bathmats, and scrub the tub, try a simpler, time-based routine: Set a timer for 15 minutes and clean what you can within that amount of time.

Distinguish between weekly cleaning and deeper cleaning

If it’s hard for you to let go of the cleaning you aren’t able to get to, make lists or schedules that differentiate between your weekly chores and the monthly or less frequent bigger tasks. Knowing you’ll wipe down the kitchen cabinets next month will help keep you satisfied with a clean sink and a humming dishwasher tonight.

Do the best you can with what you have

Don’t put off putting your wardrobe in order because you haven’t saved up for the dresser you want and your hangers are mismatched. Do the best you can with what you have. Marie Kondo herself organizes with boxes that you might toss in the recycling bin.

Remember: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

This quote comes from Myquillin Smith’s book “The Nesting Place” and it encapsulates the idea that we don’t need everything to match our ideal in order to enjoy what we have in the here and now. This applies not only to decorating, but to the condition of our homes. Lowering our standards, reminding ourselves of what really matters, and trying to gain some perspective can help us care for our homes with love not only for it but for our own imperfect selves.