Making things good enough

clean foyer
My clean foyer, at least it was for five minutes or so.

I got a very sad text last Wednesday. My cleaner, the beautiful angel who transforms our house, could not come this week. She was called in to her other job (the one I reluctantly helped her to get by giving her a glowing reference, I could do nothing else, she’s amazing) and she couldn’t get out of it. We were on our own.

So this morning I have been cleaning my own house.

I haven’t forgotten how. But I had forgotten how heavy my vacuum cleaner was. If you don’t see me lifting my hands in worship tomorrow it’s because I have had an ‘arms day’ today and I don’t think I’ll have the strength.

No, look, I’m just whinging.

But I have been reminded of my major problem when cleaning the house. It is this:

I am a perfectionist.

I’m the sort of person who can get hung up in cleaning the grout with a toothbrush all day so that one of the sinks is perfectly clean, and then be too exhausted or run out of time to do the rest of the house.

As I cleaned today I repeated the mantra given by Sandra Felton in her organising books, ‘Done is better than perfect.’ Just get it done. Get the house to a reasonable state of being. Then if you have the energy you can attack the grout with a toothbrush. Preferably not your spouse’s toothbrush.

It’s interesting though, because I’m reading two books at the moment (I’m actually in the middle of four, but I am reading them all for different reasons) that both mention the same idea.

One of the books is The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. I am reading it for book club (see our book club blog for our feedback on it). It’s pretty fascinating. But I was surprised to come across the heading in the chapter I’m reading today: ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.’

He’s talking about building communities that work and worship together and he’s making the point that if we wait to build the perfect community we will never get started. ‘It’s important to have some sort of vision and a plan but also to be open to possibility’ he says.

The other book, a quite different book, is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is talking about creativity. About writing, painting, all the creative things.  She talks about being a ‘deeply disciplined half-ass’. About disciplining ourselves to do the work regularly but not worrying so much about getting it totally perfect. She says ‘We don’t have time for perfection…[it is] unachievable’ and quotes Rebecca Solnit: ‘perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.’

Her point is to go to it, do the work, and release things when they are ‘good enough.’

It seems that this idea, of done, of good enough, of getting started and seeing what happens, is everywhere. It’s one of the fundamentals of life. We are all tempted to be perfectionists, and I’m all for striving for excellence, but let’s not let perfect get in the way of just getting stuff done.

My house is clean enough for today and I’m going to stop on it now and go do some other stuff – read some more, and relax a bit. My house is not perfect, but that’s life. It is good enough, and I am happy with my efforts.

What are you working on at the moment that you need to allow to be ‘good enough’? Do you find perfectionism to be your enemy?

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