Monday, September 24, 2012

I am a perfectionist!

Which sounds lovely and you would imagine that I looked neat as a pin, with a house to match, a neat and tidy garden, children, husband, life!


I am also a 'all-or-nothing' which when blended with perfectionism is a recipe for chaos and disorder and certainly nothing near me is neat!  Its been the albatross around my neck since I was a child, and despite years of therapy prompting huge to-do lists (that as we know hardly ever get done) I am yet to tame this monster.

I blame two people for this gene.  One is my Grandma Brown.  She too was a perfectionist, but she missed the all-or-nothing add-on.  She set a standard of perfectionism that I have yet to see rivalled.  She was always neat and clean and tidy.  Never a hair out of place, her tweed skirts always perfect, the house neat ... picture Mrs Bucket Bouquet and you have my Grandma.  (they even look a little alike)

Grandma and me about 1967 ... I would imagine the fact the grass was not mown would have been a great annoyance to her.
Then the other person to blame is my mother.  A product of her upbringing, Mum too is a perfectionist.  She has a little of the all-or-nothing gene but has managed to override this with energy, drive and bloody mindedness.  Mum is a clean freak - you could eat off every floor in her house, including the toilet floor!  She washes dishes BEFORE they go into the dishwasher - and I don't mean she scrapes off food and does a quick rinse under the tap - no they are washed first!  She meets every child who enters the house with a wet flannel to the face and hands (she would do this to the adults too if she could get away with it).  Wearing shoes in the house is a hangable offence.

Under this generational weight, when I first moved out and had my own home, I found myself one day, on hands and knees vacuuming with the nozzle of the cleaner as I wanted the carpet super clean and perfect.  I remember this day like yesterday as it was the day I had a very clear thought "what the hell am I doing - I have become my mother and grandmother!!!"

From this day on, my brain had wars - I wanted to clean my house perfectly, but I would not let myself do it, I would NOT conform to the perfectionist in my DNA.  I wanted to, badly.  So I would do things like clean the bathroom perfectly but leave the toilet dirty.  Or leave cleaning the bathroom at all for days past when it really did need cleaning (the nothing) and then be so disgusted in myself that I would scrub it with 3 times the amount of bleach that it needed and wear through a new scrubbing brush.  It would take me hours but it would sparkle within an inch of its life (the all). 

And so went on this pattern, all my married life, through having kids, building new houses, building a business, right up to today where I still have this damned curse.  I wish I could just go and wash the windows.  What stops me is the thought process of - I will need all day to do them they are so bad.  I will need to sweep them all over with a broom, then vacuum them.  Then pre-wash them to get the bulk of the dirt off.  Then another really good wash with lots of hot water and soap and cloths.  Then a normal wash followed by a polishing.  I know they would look perfect and shiny but I don't have the time to commit to all day window washing.  So I don't do them at all as I can't do them perfectly.  Leaving windows that are so dirty and dusty and cobwebby that you would think the house was abandoned (except for the spiders*)

My dining room window spider display - pretty impressive huh!

I am trying hard to overcome this curse.  Tricking myself into doing things less than perfect.  I just tell myself that I will do a preliminary wash of the windows, and go back when I have time and do them perfectly.  Same with cleaning my bathroom, I tell my silly mind that I will just wipe over the bench and come back on the weekend with bleach and cloths and hot water and do it properly then.  Of course this seldom happens but I have at least cleaned - albeit not perfectly.

* I do allow spiders to live in my house - its another weird family trait.  I love to watch them closely and observe their little, hairy lives.  If I could, I would have a tarantula as a pet!

Another post on Spiders .. if you dare!


  1. I think a lot of people can relate to this is partially born out of anxiety, as well as habit and conditioning. Reducing overall anxiety helps to mitigate some of this.

    What I did to overcome this paralyzing perfectionism is this:
    Set a timer for 30 mins, pick a section of the house (windows, bathroom, bedroom, laundry etc.) and work on that one area for the full 30 mins then stop. Do this each day with a different area.

    This teaches you how to be able to stop at a certain point that is less than perfection.
    It also means that eventually, you end up with no area of the house that gets too far gone.

    Just a tip, for what it is worth.

    1. Hi Tereen, great advice and it could be a good way to become less focused on being perfect and combating the all-or-nothing mentality.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog :-)

  2. I am definitely an all or nothing too, although too often I fall into the nothing side. Lucky for me Hubby has a higher clean threshold :)

    1. Maybe all we really need to do is get balance? Might try practicing that tonight - balancing a glass of wine with a piece of cheese