The Imperfect Goal of Perfection

by Katy on July 31, 2016 · 10 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy! 

The Monday of Christmas week is a special kind of day, i.e., the day when you realize that as much as you may think you’re on top of the details of holiday giving, decorating and entertaining,  you’re kidding yourself.

Big time.

I dumped all my Christmas gifts on the bed the other evening to get a bird’s eye view of everything I’ve bought so far. And despite a successful last minute shopping push on Friday, there were still a lot of holes to fill. Yes, I had enough Christmas gifts for my niece and nephew, but my nephew’s birthday is on December 23rd, necessitating extra presents. And yes, I have enough gifts for my 14-year-old son, but I also drew his name in the holiday gift exchange with my in-laws.

Is it ever enough? And really, who am I comparing myself to? Am I trying to be better than these people or trying to be as good as those? Is there anyone out there who models that standard of perfection in real life?

I follow a local blog called Frugal Living NW mostly because the authors are mightily clued into the tricks of frugal living in Portland. But a column from the other day jumped out at me. Unlike the bloggers whose homes are always clean, meals are always healthfully delicious and whose lives seem to smoothly flow without incident, this column showed actual true to life messiness:

“Why do I post all of this? Sometimes I read blogs written by other women and think, ‘How do they do all of this?’ (whatever ‘this’ happens to be). I see one thing that someone is doing well and assume that the rest of her life is just as ‘perfect.’

I’m here to tell you it’s not. All of us let laundry pile up until we run out of clean underwear. All of us have a bag of garbage in the kitchen, waiting to be taken out, in my case for two days. And even the most precious Christmas picture requires 134 attempts (I still haven’t sent them out).

We want Frugal Living NW to be an encouragement to each of you, not a source of guilt or frustration. If you don’t have time to do a deal, let it go. Spending time with your family, taking a nap and staying sane is more important than taking advantage of every saving opportunity.”

Thank you. I know I can’t possibly be the only person whose clean laundry waits to get put away until the baskets are needed for the next round of laundry. Whose living room is decorated and camera ready, but has a bedroom that resembles a post-hurricane docu-drama. 

Whether we admit it or not, we all compare ourselves to others. And I am hardly immune. I admire in others what I know to be lacking in myself. A friend whose house is always immaculate, a fellow soccer Mom whose slim figure fills out her stylish jeans just so. But here’s the important part, when I actually get to know these people I see that they are flawed in ways that balance things out.

Nobody is perfect. Nobody. And in this week where we try and be all things to all people, we need to recognize that we can do our best and it’s still never enough. I will get enough gifts for everyone on my list, but my bedroom will still be a mess.

Because the goal of perfection is an imperfect goal.

Do the holidays leave you feeling frustrated because you’re unable to tick off every box on your to-do list? Or are you that rare individual who’s able to provide perfection for everyone, all the while filling in your designer jeans just so? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

And if you are that perfect person, please keep it to yourself. I hate you.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer July 31, 2016 at 2:04 pm

I struggle to keep up on a daily basis. We own a business and it takes up a lot of our time. I feel like most times I can only get things done that I have to do to keep the household running such as wash clothes, wash dishes, cook, and clean bathroom. It seems that other things like dusting, cleaning windows, tackling half complete projects, and organizing always get pushed aside. When we home at 5:00 pm or so, by the time I cook, clean that up, give kids a bath, homework, and do a few necessary chores it’s time for bed. I guess I am also making excuses because when we finally get home sometimes I just want to do nothing because I am hardly ever home so I want to relax when I get there. So admittedly, sometimes I am being lazy. As for Christmas, I spend the entire year carefully and thoughtfully picking up gifts a little along so by the time Christmas is here I am usually done. I already have 6 gifts for my family. I really don’t like spending the Christmas holidays frantically searching for over priced gifts. I would rather bake nice treats for my family and watch my kids roast marshmallows in the fireplace while old Christmas movies play on my old boxy projection screen TV while everyone else is frantically shopping.


Bee July 31, 2016 at 2:41 pm

I am a recovering perfectionist. Over the last several years, I have learned that perfection is not necessary for happiness. I just do the best that I can. Better yet, sometimes I even do what I want to do; not what I should.


nicoleandmaggie July 31, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Maybe instead of worrying that other women are perfect (and then saying they’re not), it’s better just not to find one’s worth from comparisons with other people.

I really hate the way that so many bloggers try to cut down tall poppies. Women can’t win. If they’re good at something they’re hated. If they’re bad at something they’re expected to feel shame and guilt. Fight the patriarchy.


Denise August 1, 2016 at 12:12 pm

What a catty little comment…


Mrs. Picky Pincher July 31, 2016 at 3:40 pm

As Mrs. Frugalwoods says, I ‘m also a recovering perfectionist. It’s hard because I don’t realize my goal is to be perfect until I really step back and think about everything.

I’ve started doing “frugal fail” posts on my own blog because I think it’s so so so important to acknowledge failures. We equate failure with being bad, but it’s just the opposite. It’s a wonderful, beautiful thing. It’s all about learning and growing and being alive.

Thanks for sharing this. 🙂


Jean July 31, 2016 at 8:09 pm

A few years ago, we invited some new friends to our annual Oktoberfest–my once a year culinary extravaganza and social soiree. My closest friends know that this involves 2 weekends of deep cleaning and three days of cooking and set up. (And frequently, my basement looks like the aftermath of a hurricane because that’s where we banish everything we don’t want people to see!) But I hadn’t thought about how this looks to someone who is new to our circle of friends–I think she thought I was Martha! (Ha–if she had only been here Friday at noon instead of 7 pm on Saturday!)
A few months later they invited us to their home for dinner, and one of the first things she said to me was “It’s not a contest , is it?” Oh my–why do women do this to each other?? I’ve since told her what a blessing that question has been to me–especially when I am fussing over what someone else might think. Or having a moment of judging another woman. We are not perfect–we all have skills, and we all have faults, and we hopefully have a circle of family and friends who we can bless with our skills, and in turn be blessed by theirs that balance our deficiencies.


chris July 31, 2016 at 9:05 pm

I had a similar experience with a woman that I really was trying to build a friendship with…but she seemed unsure. One day we were talking, in the hesitant way we often did, when she let it slip that she thought I must be a Martha type and she wasn’t and it embarrassed her. She had only been to our home for parties. I scour and scrub and polish for parties. I finish putting things on the walls, I buy new dishtowels, I weed the neglected garden. I am a better than fair cook, when I don’t get distracted and burn it, so I make hors d’oeuvres and desserts and marinate flank steak and whathaveyou. I like our parties to be loud and yummy and pretty and fun. And they are. It made her feel inadequate. I had no idea! I busted out laughing and insisted she come over immediately. I sat on the couch and waited. I answered the door 15 minutes later and said, ” I hung up with you and sat down. I didn’t make it messier or clean it up. This is how our life looks normally. Don’t mind the toddler’s underwear there on the floor. I don’t THINK it is dirty.” We have been close friends ever since. She now knows about the woman behind the curtain, so to speak.


JD August 1, 2016 at 6:10 am

I worked with a young woman of 23 who became a new mother only a year after marriage at 22, and on top of that, a stepmother to two lively young boys, plus she often kept a single friend’s child, because the friend worked some weird hours. Her husband worked on the road for weeks at a time. She asked me in despair one day, “How do I do it all? I can’t keep the house clean, the laundry caught up, the dishes clean; how did you do it when your kids were young?” I told her I didn’t do it all, that’s how! I told her to clean what was really important to her, such as the kitchen or bathroom, pick up what really bothered her, and ignore the rest. Wash what clothes you have to have washed and learn to re-wear the stuff that isn’t really dirty. If you have time and aren’t exhausted, run a vacuum or swish a dust cloth for 15 minutes, but start the kids helping right now, and don’t fret about what the house looks like in the meantime. She was really surprised to hear me admit that. I think she thought everyone was managing better than her and getting it all done.
Having lived almost 30 years under the scrutiny of a much older sister-in-law who thought a perfect house proved a woman’s worth (and conveniently forgot that she had a maid when her kids were young), I am all too ready to let other women play to their strengths and abilities and not sweat the rest of it. If a professor of music sings like a bird, plays multiple instruments, teaches college and donates much of her time and musical talent to church and charity–I know someone like this– but her yard is a weedy mess and her email is always full, who cares? Not me!


Rachel H August 1, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I cannot remember the last time I vacuumed my house, and spring cleaning was confined to cleaning the two living room windows. But I spent a week in June with all six of my grandchildren, and just had the unexpected opportunity to spend another week two of them. I had a great day at the beach with two friends, and took my mother to see Jungle Book at the $1 theater. I do cook, grocery shop and keep up the laundry, and I make a weak attempt at other chores. But we only get one life, and I enjoy living it.


Jennifer N. August 2, 2016 at 7:05 am

I love this. It took a long time for one of my closest, neat-freakiest friends to understand how hard it is to manage maintaining a clean home when you have two small children and a messy husband (and three pets!) I clean ALL THE TIME and at least half of my house is a disaster at any given moment.

It is so hard at the holidays when you want everything to be perfect because it’s Christmas! and you love everyone! and it should be awesome! But I have learned that my desire to try too hard really just stresses me out and shuts me down and then I hate the whole thing. I really need to go into the next round of holidays with a plan. One of these years, the season will be fun!


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