Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Perfect doesn’t beget clean

I was replacing the brush head on my electric toothbrush yesterday – a move long overdue due in part to the outrageous cost of these things and also to the even more outrageous way they build up a horrifying green goo that can only be described as yuck – when I realized something.

Perfectionists are dirty.

It’s completely counterintuitive to what most people and even perfectionists themselves would think.

Wouldn’t someone bent on keeping things perfect be one of the cleanest people you know? That’s logical. But it’s not always so.

Here’s how it works, or rather doesn’t work, at least for me. I like being clean, and like having the things around me clean and orderly. I think it actually gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

However, stronger than my penchant for cleanliness and warm fuzzy feelings is my need to be able to devote the amount of time it takes to achieve this perfect state of clean. And guess what? That time never comes. So I find myself tiptoeing by my nightstand so as not to disturb the dust that would most certainly land on my pillow should I exhale too forcefully.

And now I realize, it is this hate for living with dust that seems to be the reason why I so rarely dust! Maddening, isn’t it?

Here’s what’s going on inside my head at these intersections of life and dust: If I try to wipe up those nightstand dust mites, no matter how carefully I wield my Pledge-moistened towelette, some of that dust will inevitably go up in a poof and land on my pillow, which will then require I change the sheets, which might mean I’ll have to do laundry. And while I’m at it, I really should vacuum this rug while the sheets are off so none of the stirred up rug dirt lands in my bed.

But I don’t have time to do all this. So I tiptoe by the nightstand.

And this brings me back to the toothbrush. So long had it been since I’d cleaned out the hollow inside this thing – knowing that waiting inside was the sickening, electric-toothbrush-gelatinous-goo (anyone with an electric toothbrush will know exactly what I’m talking about here) – I actually literally shuddered and screamed when I saw what was in there. It was black, yet green, and looked most likely toxic and was probably not helping the cold I’ve been battling back all winter.

Here’s where that day’s light bulb went on – perfectionists, or just people with a few perfectionist traits, are so bent on doing things right and completely and to the best of their ability, that a lot of things never get done. Even important things. Probably especially the important things. Sound ridiculous? I know.

Sound self-defeating? Definitely. And therein lies the problem with doing things perfectly. You can’t. So save yourself from the toothbrush goo gone wild – or from putting off writing that job application until the perfect moment, or from slapping some new paint on your walls until you’ve sampled 42 colors in all lights of day – and just do it. Sure, giving it your best is great. But giving it your anything is better than not.


  1. I had this exact conversation last night. Perfectionist would rather do nothing at all than do something imperect, which leads us to letting things pile up. Oh the conundrum ;) Great post!

  2. I just saw this comment now. I'm so glad you agree! How warped, though, huh?!