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In Pursuit of Perfection

In Pursuit of Perfection

Let me start this post by saying, “I’m a perfectionist.”

Yep. I’m a perfectionist, always have been. And I am about to admit to you that I AM NOT PERFECT.

I’m learning to live with it.

samantha

Society in general is pretty obsessed with perfection. We want perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect houses, perfect lives. Messy relationships, screaming kids, stretch marks, boring jobs…not exactly the “American Dream.”

But the idea of perfection has been taken to a whole new level with women. As women, as mothers, as wives – we are held to ideals. We are supposed to be beautiful, skinny, smart, sexy. We are supposed to be Wonderwoman of the PTA, June Cleaver of the home, and alluring in the bedroom. Not only does society push these ideals on us, but we push them on ourselves and each other (aka, “Mommy Wars”).

This pursuit of personal perfection is what I really want to touch on. This is something I have been working on within myself. As Birth Without Fear has turned a spotlight onto self-love, I have noticed my biggest issues. (I know, not the core of self-love, but hear me out). I have found that the biggest way I am cheating myself is in this idea that I should be perfect. Not only should I be perfect, but I need to prove it to the world.

I have a Pinterest account with almost 1,400 pins.

pinterest main

I mean, REALLY? When am I ever going to get around to doing 1,400 things? Most of which are focused on cute/non-essential things. Sure, about 150 pins are birth related. About another 150 are homeschool related. But other than that…basically it is one big to-do list for me. That is around 1,000 things that I felt the need to remind myself to do. And when I accomplish one of them? This is what I do:

fridge

Yes, that is my fridge. I put baskets in it, because Pinterest told me to. Now granted, it really did help keep the fridge in order. But honestly, did I have to prove myself to Facebook? Did I have to let everyone know that my fridge was clean? Several days after posting this, a thought hit me. “What if I made someone else feel like they need to clean their fridge?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all stop posting photos of those moments when the laundry room is finally clean, or the walls get a new coat of paint. But I do think that we create a paradox here. If we only post photos and statuses of when we have out “$hit together”, we are telling ourselves we are only allowed to share our perfect selves. And that is not self-love.

I take pictures of my kids all the time, most moms do. But only a fraction are posted to Facebook or shared with family. Sometimes it is due to the blurry capture of a running child, or the fact that I have already posted a million things that day. But usually the biggest reason I decide not to post something? You can see a mess in the background. You can see crumbs on the carpet or the dingy soapscum in the bathtub. You can see the dishes I have not washed or the toys that seemingly procreate each night while we sleep. I don’t post the photos because I don’t want you to know that we have a mess in the house…a house with a three year old and six month old and two not-so-neat adults.

Who am I helping when I don’t share those photos? Surely not my children who are adorable and love taking pictures. Surely not my family who would love to see photos of every little thing we do. And I am not helping myself or you either. For myself, I am just reminding myself, “Damn, I haven’t vacuumed yet. This place is so gross.” And for all of you out in Facebook land, I am only showing the most perfect side of my life. As far as you know, my house is always spotless and my kids are always dressed nicely. And then you turn around and judge yourself by those standards, whether you realize it or not.

To give an example, lets look at a common mommy subject – potty training. I have majorly struggled with this within myself (with admitting my three year old is not potty trained, not that I can’t use the potty 😉 ). What is the one thing we usually hear most? “Oh, my child was potty trained at 10 months!”, “Oh, we were diaper free all the time, even for bed, by the time he turned two!” And you know what, if that was your kid that is GREAT! I would be excited too! I mean, who really loves diapers? But you really don’t see a mom say “My three year old refuses to poop in the potty and hates underwear.” Why? Because society in general has told us that there is something wrong if a child doesn’t “get” the potty at an early age. Not only are our mothering skills brought into question, but we also think someone might judge our child too. And so, we don’t share and we don’t ask for help or maybe we even tell a little white lie about how well the potty learning is going. And then we unknowingly add to this idea that all kids are potty trained by “x” age.

I find myself not sharing certain photos of me baby-wearing simply because the straps pushed my love handles into view. I go as far as deleting a photo totally if my REAL smile is caught on camera because I am really insecure about my teeth. I am striving to help other women feel inspired and beautiful and I am striving to teach my children to love themselves just as they are. Meanwhile, I am deleting photos of myself or hiding my love handles. I am not going to become skinny or have better teeth by doing this…but I am going to slowly wear down my self esteem. I am not living honestly.

We do this to so many things in our lives. I catch myself judging myself in all these little ways so often. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But I am striving to not only recognize these moments but to also push my boundaries a bit. Perhaps, just maybe, if I post that photo of my adorable toddler dancing complete with crumb covered carpet some other mom won’t feel so alone in her struggle to keep the crumbs away. Chances are, most people won’t even notice the carpet because my son is stealing the show with his amazing smile. I am going to focus on the fact that *I* made that kid smile…hell, I MADE that smile, literally. I created that ball of joy. Screw the carpet.

Staying Ahead of the Mess {Challenges of Motherhood}

Staying Ahead of the Mess {Challenges of Motherhood}

Let me start with a big fat disclaimer. I am not a perfect housewife. Pretty far from it actually! But, as time goes on (7 years cohabitation, almost 5 years of marriage, 2 years as a mom) I am finding what helps me keep a “groove” so that the housework does not drown me. Because lets face it – most moms are in serious danger of getting taken down by mountains of laundry that seem to spring up from nowhere. I am even going to include pictures of my own house – without cleaning any more than normal.

Kitchen

So how how do I keep up? Schedule, organization, and learning to let go.

My first step is a schedule. At one time I thought that housekeeping schedules were just a bit much. After all, it is the same things over and over again and I should be able to remember them. Right? Wrong. I started to realize that my “clusters” of mess were created by forgetting the small chores many times over. Then you end up with much bigger mess. After looking at many different “systems” on the internet, I sort of mashed them into my own that works for my family.

  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done each day. For our home that would be dishes, vacuuming downstairs, picking up laundry (it never makes it in the basket), toy clean up, and wiping down tables/counters.
  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done once a week. This might include changing/washing all the bed sheets, washing towels, and cleaning toilets and tubs.
  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done once or twice a month. My list includes vacuuming all of the upstairs, cleaning the fridge, and reorganizing spaces such as the diaper changing area and toy space.

Some systems also go into tasks you do once or twice a year, but I don’t include those. One big reason is that we are renters and many of those type tasks are more on the home maintenance level. If you have tasks that need to be done a couple times a year or in certain seasons, feel free to make a list of those too. A good way to keep these lists is in a house management binder. I will admit, I don’t have one of these yet – but one day Pinterest will show me a cool printable one and I will do it.

Now look at your lists and daily/weekly schedule. How can you fit in your daily tasks into your daily routine? Think about how often you need to do dishes (do you have enough that they must be done at each meal throughout the day?). Think about how often toy pickup needs to happen to make your space livable. When is the best time to vacuum? Jot these down in schedule format – not so much with actual times but more like “before nap” or “after lunch”.

Now we need to fit our weekly tasks in. These are the tasks that tend to really get away from us. Changing sheets on all the beds once a week keeps us sleeping soundly and cleanly (just google how much the average person sweats at night and you will see what I mean). Pick one day a week to do this task – change sheets, wash the dirty ones, fold and put away. For my family this task is done on Monday. Towel washing day is Wednesday. On those two days, I don’t do any other laundry usually unless I need to throw in some cloth diapers (which is easy laundry anyway).

Closet

Now fit in your monthly or bi-monthly tasks, and you are set to go. These I usually have to mark on the wall calender to remind myself. I have even created a “Magic Eraser Day”. On that day, I bust out that life saver and attack scuffs and scrapes and marks all over the house. This cuts down on the general grime (like the floor boards, corners where little hands touch often, and fridge handles). You know, the grimy spots that you suddenly see one day and go “OH MY GOSH” and irrationally feel like you live in a garbage pit? Yeah, no more of that if you attack that stuff once a month.

Now put your daily and weekly rotation (two separate sheets) on the fridge. Write your monthly tasks on the calender. You are ready to go!

You will notice I didn’t focus on clothes laundry. I left this out because everyone has a different laundry volume. My family of 3 (almost 4) is going to have a lot less laundry than a family of 7. You know your volume of laundry, so decide how often you need to wash to stay on top of it. Do you need to do at least one load a day? Two? Every other day? Figure that out, and fit it into your schedule. (*Just a side note on the picture below – those things hanging over the washer/dryer are the “lost socks”. If I keep them right there in front of me, I find the matches much faster!)

laundry room

Here is our basic schedule for the day:

Daily Schedule

Of course some days this changes. For instance, on Mondays instead of loading clothes in the wash, I strip the beds and wash the sheets. Sometimes we pick up toys before bath instead of after; it depends on the time. In the evening we also do some things at the same time – for instance bath/dishes are on the same line because whoever is not doing the bath is doing the dishes. This way we kill two birds with one stone and our evening is basically open after that. The point is that you have a basic guide to your day.

Eventually this all becomes second nature and you don’t have to look at your schedules. That is when you have hit your “groove”. You will also learn what you can fit in during other tasks. For instance – bathroom cleaning doesn’t make my list anymore, because I clean the bathroom during bath time.

My second step was organization. This is pretty self-explanatory. The more organized you are, the easier it is to clean. Some basic things to implement are really going to have to do with the kids in your home.

  • PURGE the toys. Watch your kids for a few days and see what they play with again and again. See what they are just making a mess with (for instance, just dumping a basket of small toys but not playing with them for long). Then get rid of toys – lots of toys. The less you have, the less you have to clean up. The less you have, the more creatively your kids will play with what they have.
  • Create a place for everything. Cars go in a car bin, blocks go in a block bin, books go on a book shelf. Puzzles are put away with all pieces in place (and if they don’t have all the pieces, toss them). Not only will this help your home look more orderly, but it helps your kids clean up and play more efficiently. For instance, if they are looking for a car, they don’t have to dump a whole toy box – they just go to the car bin and get that car.
  • Create play zones. Set up a small table just for coloring and keep those supplies there. Buy (or make!) a car rug and store the cars near it. Again – organized toys and supplies makes for less clean up.

Living Room

Now, my last tip. Learn to let go.

Not everything will get done every day. Some days you will be tired. Some days your child will be sick. Some days you won’t be home. This is when we need to take a deep breath and realize that we have not failed and our home will most likely not explode. Forgive yourself if the clothes pile up – they will eventually get done.

There is a fine line between keeping your schedule and going crazy because of it. This is why I have kept my schedule basic and flexible. Some home organization and cleaning systems have so many steps and so many rules…and it was just too much. Create enough structure to keep you on track, but not so much that you feel guilt.

Learn what is most important to you. Are dirty dishes the one thing that really makes you nuts? Then make sure those are at least done before bed, even if you let other things go. If you really need a made up bed, make sure that gets done for *your* sanity. Everyone has that one thing that makes them feel like they have a clean home. Figure out what that is for you.

Now I want to hear from you! What do you do to keep up with the mess of life? Do your older children help, and if so how did you instill those helpful habits? What is your “one thing” that makes you feel like you have a clean house? Share your tips and hints in the comments.

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