The Importance of a Quick, Imperfect Clean-Up

​The Importance of a Quick, Imperfect Clean-Up  

​By Katie MacDougall, LPC

​​It was an afternoon break in an office full of people I still call "family."  M&M's, pretzels, and Cheez-It crackers were shared across the table as the topic of vacuuming came up.  Listening to my coworkers, I quickly learned how vastly different everyone's vacuuming habits were.  From one coworker that vacuumed every morning before work to another that vacuumed only when the company came to all those in between, my office was certainly divided on this issue.  Being on the only-vacuum-when-company-comes end of this subject, I was baffled to learn that some people vacuum daily.  I could not imagine ever being disciplined enough to accomplish a cleaning goal that lofty.
Aiming for Perfection Leads to Paralysis.
When I heard of my coworkers’ lofty cleaning endeavors, the perfectionist in me wanted to match their cleaning triumphs.  I immediately began deep cleaning my house.  I bought new cleaning supplies and cleaned every nook and cranny.  I knew my home could easily compare to the tidiest of my coworkers after all my efforts.
The problem was my cleaning efforts did not last.  I was unable to maintain such a vigorous cleaning schedule.  Defeated, I basically went back to the bare minimum.  After all, if you can’t do something perfect, you might as well not try.  Right?
My all-or-nothing thinking led me to cleaning paralysis.  In order to move past my perfectionism and get to the point where I was tidying up well, I had to identify my perfectionism paralysis and work to let go of some of those tendencies.  Identifying this issue was a key to improving my quick, imperfect clean-up.
Aiming for Nothing Leads to Nothing.

Despite being a perfectionist, there are some areas where I just don’t have a lot of ambition.  Until I was challenged by my coworkers as a young professional, I realized that I did not have a lot of ambition in the area of cleanliness.  The problem with not really caring about cleanliness was twofold for me.  First, it reflected a slothfulness and apathy for a home the Lord called me to manage well.  Second, I knew that my environment impacted the way I felt.  Yet, I wasn’t willing to do anything about it.  Refusing to deal with an issue means a lack of growth, which is a problem in the kingdom of God.  If we refuse to grow and deal with our issues, we are not living a life that honors Him.
Practical Ways to Let Go and Move On.
Whether you struggle with the paralysis of perfectionism or the slothfulness of apathy, the requirement for letting go and moving on is taking one baby step in the right direction.  To you vacuum-daily types, these practical tips will seem silly.  To the hoarders out there, these tips will seem overwhelming.  To either end of the spectrum (and those of us that fall somewhere in-between), each of these tips will require self-compassion, self-control, and self-discipline.

Make your bed every morning.  Start tomorrow (or today if your bed is still unmade).  This may not mean that all the kids' beds get made but starting with yours will at least help you feel like one task is accomplished and one room looks slightly put together.

Throw junk mail out as you walk in the door.  This may mean putting a shredder by the back door.  Get creative and prevent more piling up, especially around the holidays.  

Don't go to bed with dishes in the sink.  Dishes are one of my personal pet peeves, so waking up to dishes in the sink just never starts the day off right for me.  Sure, this habit means potentially having to unload the dishwasher in the morning, but it's at least a step in the right direction.  

Fold laundry as you take it out of the dryer.  Anyone else kick themselves after piling clean clothes on top of clean clothes in a laundry basket? Wrinkled tops and unmatched socks are hardly worth the procrastination.  

Keep a cleaning spray in the shower.  While you enjoy that extra minute of alone time in [SH1] the shower, go ahead and just spray it down.  

Constantly aiming for perfection adds more stress to every aspect of our lives but tidying up helps us feel better.  Even a messy person feels better when his or her environment is tidy.  Take the time to tidy up.

About the Author

Katie MacDougall holds a Master of Divinity with a specialization in Counseling from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as a Bachelor of Science from Oklahoma City University. She is an ​Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Certified Therapist, which is a research-based method to help those suffering from traumatic events.

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