Laundry, dishes, picking up clutter…it's a daily (sometimes hourly!) merry go-round ride that never ends, whether you live in a house, apartment, or in my case, an RV.
And because I also struggle with perfectionism, cleaning creates a formula for either (or both) of these two things:
- Procrastination perfectionism—where you put everything off until you have time to deal with it perfectly (which almost never happens).
- High-stress perfectionism—where you try to do ALL THE THINGS perfectly ALL THE TIME and wind up in the fetal position on the couch because you can't keep up.
C'mon, I know I'm not alone!
The root of the perfectionism-cleaning issue
Deep down, fellow perfectionist, you harbor this subconscious thought: how well you do a job defines who you are.
A perfectly pristine sink and dishes put away in their proper places means we must be perfectly put-together ourselves.
But a dish drainer full of clean dishes and an empty sink with one minuscule crumb stuck to the drain? We might as well be falling apart.
It doesn't have to be this way.
After 11 (almost 12!) years of managing a home, I've discovered a few ways to tame my perfectionism-cleaning issue in a way that still allows me to take pride in my work, but also get things done … most of the time (and not cry when I don't!).
If you identify as a perfectionist yourself, allow me to help you prioritize what is important to you so housework isn't a constant nagging, frustrating chore. Here's how to clean your home … as a perfectionist!
1. Rely on Habits and Routines (rather than perfectionism)
Perfectionists often take an all-or-nothing approach—something I'm very guilty of! But when you rely on mini habits and routines to help streamline your work, you can tackle your to-do list in small bits rather than all at once.
You'll avoid some serious overwhelm too!
Here are some examples:
- Instead of devoting a weekend to KonMari the entire house, choose one decluttering “hot spot” a week to stay on top of the most clutter-prone areas.
- Instead of spending an hour putting items back where they belong, adopt a daily 10 minute pickup routine. Even better, get the whole family involved.
- Instead of waiting until the laundry piles up and tackling it all at once, do one small load a day—lights, darks, towels, sheets, etc.—to keep it manageable.
Pretty quickly, you'll get to the place where you don't have to overthink your routines because you've done them before. You've trained yourself to know what to do, which provides a sense of familiarity AND as an added bonus, reduces decision fatigue.
2. Use a housekeeping schedule that fits your personality
I've tried SO many different cleaning schedules over the years and here's what I've found:
There's no one perfect housekeeping schedule, except the schedule that fits your current season of life and your specific personality.
- If you don't want to think about housework for an entire week, go ahead and tackle it all in one day.
- If you find joy in the sense of accomplishment and routine, then a set schedule might work for you, like this one from Clean Mama.
- If you struggle with overwhelm and worry you'll never keep up with a “strict” cleaning routine, this flexible option leaves more room for grace.
Here's how to motivate yourself to clean: Set a timer (I love the Pomodoro method!) and push yourself to do the best you can before you hear it ding. Then force yourself to move on to the next task.
This will empower you to be efficient (and perhaps not so picky as you try to beat the clock!). You can always make a list of extra projects you see need attention (like scrubbing the baseboards or grout) to tackle at a later time.
3. Teamwork makes the dream work!
When you have a mindset geared toward perfectionism, cleaning can seem like something only we can do well. This means we have to do everything ourselves, because no one can live up to our very specific expectations.
It's not always easy to let others help—I've had to be okay with a few crumbs left in the sink after my husband washed the dishes and I've been known to unsuccessfully suppress a grimace when I see that the bathroom mirror still has spots.
But when that happens, I ask myself a few questions:
Would I rather drive myself crazy trying to do it all myself? Or lower my expectations a bit and be thankful for the help?
Because here's the reality: DONE is so much better than perfect when it comes to housework. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather spend time doing other things I love (like reading!) rather than re-doing what's 95% done.
Pro Tip for how to clean your home with help: Don't just expect people to volunteer. Ask your husband or children whether they want to do “this” or “that.” Give them a choice to complete one of two tasks (and resist the urge to fix it later!).
Perfectionism-Cleaning vs Excellence
Though you might miss it at first glance, there's a big difference between pursuing perfectionism and pursuing excellence.
Perfection is about your best never being good enough. You can never attain perfection. But excellence is allowing your best to be enough. Excellence keeps you focused on the things that matter.
Remember: how well you do a job does not define who you are. Simply put, how well you clean your home does not reflect on your identity.
So the next time you're tempted to obsess over what you could have done better, take a step back and acknowledge the perfectionism for what it is, then switch gears toward pursuing excellence. Keep moving forward toward the end result and give yourself permission to celebrate the effort it took to get there.
Because that, my friend, is what I call a cleaning success.
As someone who struggles with perfectionism, what do you struggle with most about how to clean your home?
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