Do you stand guard over a certain something in your house to make sure that the kids/dog/husband don’t get it dirty? Maybe you have an entire room that you feel the need to protect.
Parties are the worst because you’re constantly on “stain patrol” making sure no one takes Koolaid or red wine anywhere near your precious rug, chair, or (fill in the blank).
For years, I did the same thing too. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
Sometimes we can be so fearful of mess and stains and
imperfections that we don’t fully enjoy our home for its true purpose.
Think about driving a brand new car off the lot…After the first 5 minutes of euphoria fades, then fear that something will flaw this perfectly new car sets in. You park as far away from other cars as you can. You only allow yourself to drink water in the car for fear of ruining that spotless upholstery. And then it happens. You scrape the side mirror on your mail box or hit that weirdly placed pole at the ATM. Or you let your guard down and spill coffee on the driver’s seat. (Gasp.) And then oddly enough, the fear disappears almost immediately.
After you curse under breath, suddenly you feel more at ease. Because “perfect” is no longer possible, and you don’t have to stress.
There are only 101 applications to how this same things plays out in our home. If you’ve been reading this blog long at all, you know I’m gonna’ go there.
THE ROOT OF CHASING PERFECT
Many times the fear of making a mess is really masking a deeper fear…one that has to do with losing control and things not being perfect.
As a recovering perfectionist, I can tell you that the compulsion to have a “perfect home” is actually rooted in the need for approval. Sometimes from ourselves and sometimes from others.
Whoa…a bit deep for a Tuesday?
The more sweet clients I work with, the more I hear the fear echoing in their heads and see how it affects them in their home. You may not even realize that the tension you are feeling about your home has a lot to do with fear.
Here are some ways that the fear of mess and the need for “perfect” might show up:
-You are hesitant to put any holes in your wall, so you wait to hang art until you have it all figured out. (Which hasn’t happened yet, so you have framed art sitting in a closet and perfectly hole-free walls that drive you crazy.)
-You cringe when your kids want to finger paint or help you cook or use every pillow in your entire house to make “the most epic fort ever”.
-You’re mentally calculating all the nicks and scratches in your dining table and wish you could just put a protective cover on it (without feeling like Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond.)
-You eye your husband as he puts his feet on the newly purchased ottoman and then run to grab a dish towel to protect the upholstery.
Each of these examples came from one of my coaching clients. Even though I work to help people move past these mindsets, I can so totally relate to each of them.
NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE TIDY
This is my fridge. It is not pretty or tidy or chic. This is one of Gemma’s favorite spots in our house. (Second only to the bath tub.) She gets to display her latest creations, and the ownership she feels over this little area is both hilarious and adorable. I can’t so much as move a magnet without her approval. Yes, the approval of a 2 and half year old. And you know what? I love it.
But sometimes a little idea creeps in that maybe I should hang her art in fridge frames or buy matching magnets. I mean, it could look so much cuter. What’s the harm in that?
But then the proud momma in me has to rise up and tell the compulsive control freak part of me to sit down and shut up.
Not everything has to look “Pinterest worthy”, for Pete’s sake.
MESS GETS A BAD RAP
Sometimes mess can mean the lack of systems, too much stuff or simply a hectic season. But that’s not the kind of mess we’re talking about today. I’m talking about the kind of messes that are necessary for living an authentic life. Here’s when the healthy kind of mess happens…
Mess happens when you are learning.
Mess happens when you are creating.
Mess happens when you welcome real live humans into your world.
Mess means you are living life.
There’s this tension that many of us feel between between creating a gorgeous home and creating a home that’s lived-in and comfortable.
The Nester (one of my favorite people on the internet) at one time struggled with this like the rest of us. In her book she says, “…Why the heck was I working so hard to make our home appear perfect? True, I want our home to be welcoming. I want it to be comfortable. But welcoming and comfortable do not have to equal perfection.”
And if you read her blog, you know her philosophy is, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”
I have two chairs in our living room that were gifted to me, and I decided to reupholster them in white fabric. Not the “safest choice” for a home where a toddler lives. So far we’ve avoided marker and juice spots, but ironically the first stain came when I spilled coffee on one. You know what? I still love it just as much with the coffee stain…maybe even more. Now that it’s no longer “precious” it feels like it really belongs in our home.
FINDING THE BALANCE
I’m all for creating order in your home; it’s crucial for it to function well and serve its purpose. But I think most of you reading this already get that. The struggle is balancing the desire for a beautiful home with reality of a lived-in home and the flaws that come with it.
So how do you balance the desire for beauty and order with the longing for an authenticity? I think it’s a process, and I don’t have it all figured out. But I do think accepting these truths can help…
1. Imperfections humanize your home and make others feel free to be themselves.
Have you ever been to a friend’s house that was so spotless you were scared your clothes might stain their furniture? It’s not the most fun thing ever. You’re suddenly really aware of your own “mess” and can’t fully relax in that environment. But something about a lived-in house makes you feel easy enough to let your guard down.
2. Recognize that temporary mess might mean something wonderful is being created.
This could be a DIY project, artwork, or even just a fabulous new recipe. It might simply be a memory for your kids of being silly with their mom when she lets loose and embraces the moment (while ignoring the mess).
3. When your family feels safe to make a mess, you create a breeding ground for meaning and growth.
We try so hard to hold it all together and then train our kids to do the same, don’t we? It’s all well-meaning. We show them how to wipe up messes and teach them the “Clean Up” song the moment they can utter a syllable. (Guilty as charged.)
What if we were just as intent to teach our kids creativity as we were to teach them cleanliness? What if we could give our kids the gift of freedom to create without fear? (And then teach them how to do their own laundry later in life.)
4. When you give yourself permission to make a mess, you allow yourself the much needed space to engage in the creative process.
Nothing beautiful starts from a place of fear, and this is true for anything you create. You need to give yourself the space and permission to make a mess, make mistakes, and lose just a bit of control. It’s not comfortable, but this is totally natural and necessary almost anytime you create something. There’s no guarantee how things will turn out. And that scares the inner perfectionist in us. Here’s something I’ve learned…the more you create (and fail and try again), the less that “perfect” has a foothold in your mind.
5. The imperfections and “permanent mess” are just signs that your home is full of life.
Those coffee stains on the rug have a story. (Maybe not a good one, but a story none the less.) That worn out spot on your couch is evidence of all the times you nestled in and got cozy with a good book or an afternoon nap. (It’s also proof that you bought the right sofa because it’s comfortable enough that people want to go back time and again.)
At what cost does your home and furniture stay spotless?
Are you creating an environment based on purpose and freedom or appearance and fear?
I still struggle with this at times, but am in a much healthier place than I was a few years ago. Here are some things to try if you find yourself in the same boat…
1. Recognize your triggers. Start thinking about the things in your home that you feel most protective of…Why do you feel this way? Is it because you spent a lot on this piece and are scared of it losing its value? Is it because you fear that if you let a couple things go, then everything will turn to chaos?
2. Remember the purpose your home serves. My guess it that you never intended on it being a museum. So stop treating it that way. (A little dose of #toughdecorlove for you, friend.) Most things in your home are meant to be lived in and loved on by every member in your family. (Not your grandmother’s fine China, but you know what I mean.)
3. Leave the mess alone…just for a little while. This is going to feel uncomfortable, but just try it. Instead of rushing to wipe up, sweep up, or pick up the latest mess-just look around. Was anything being created or enjoyed? Could you jump to relish the moment before rushing to clean up the aftermath?
If you are tired of the worry and weary of aiming for”perfect”, join the club. Dear friend, won’t you just give up? I promise you will not regret it.
Emily @Random Recycling says
It may be deep, but this is a great reminder for those of us living with children. Especially creative ones! I finally was able to let go of perfection after having our third baby, I just couldn’t keep up with it all.
Thanks, Emily! I can’t imagine trying to keep up with that standard with 3 kids! It’s funny how sometimes “giving up” is really the best thing for us. Thanks for stopping by today:)
Carol @ CAD INTERIORS says
You called out the “old” me! Ha! Two boys later, I’ve really let go of minding the messes as they occur, as long as it all gets picked up at the end of the day. Great quality post, as usual… 🙂
Thanks, Carol! I’m with you…as long as I know that by the end of the day I can enjoy my glass of wine in a semi- picked up environment, then the day can be a mess if needed:)
Great post Heather! I’m in the perfectionist club and I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said it comes from needing approval. I also like to keep my things nice, but life is is much easier and I’m happier when I can let things go. I just ordered some chairs in an ivory fabric from a local furniture store. I’ve never owned a white or ivory piece of furniture before, but the fabric is stain resistant. I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂
Scotch Guard is great! (When you remember to use it…#guilty) I love how white pieces freshen up a room. I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome, Dawn!
Heather K says
You totally got me here!!! I STILL have the huge collection of milk glass plates in a bin in the basement. I have the disc hangers. I am terrified that it won’t be “right” and that I’ll make holes in the fresh new walls in the wrong spots. GRRRRR (cue Elsa here…. “Let it go, let it go…”)
You’re awesome. Thanks for this!