We don’t do ourselves any favors when we adhere to an “all or nothing” mindset. If we choose to do nothing because we can’t do it all, or do it all perfectly, we’ll frequently find ourselves in a state of chaos. Because…let’s face it…things happen. We need to change this mindset and determine that sometimes, a little is better than nothing.
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Ten Ways to Avoid the “All or Nothing” Mindset
I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. Okay, maybe that’s an understatement. I was the child who, after the extended family Christmas gift opening, had a neatly stacked pile of gifts and the wrappings all in a little pile ready to throw away. Meanwhile my siblings and numerous cousins had created a mountain of chaos in our grandparents’ den. I remember the adults chuckling over this.
It was cute when I was 4 or 5 but it’s been an ongoing issue for me. These days I simply do not have the energy for it.
I’ve had to develop habits that better suit this stage of life. And even if your circumstances are different, I’m sure there are plenty of times when you can’t do everything perfectly. Unfortunately, many opt for the “do nothing” approach and this can really backfire in the long run.
Wouldn’t it be better if we developed a minimum standard for each of the major parts of the care of our home — and ourselves! — that we could use when time or energy are short?
Here are some examples…
I’m a big proponent of daily bed making. I consider it a gift to myself when I can climb into a neatly made bed at night. On good days, my bed and all the various pillows are perfectly arranged. But I have a Plan B for days when time is short or I’m not feeling very energetic. The bottom sheet is still smoothed out, the top sheet and blanket neatly pulled up and tucked in. Then I just leave the bedspread or comforter folded back at the foot of the bed and stack the pillows we sleep on (a total of six!) at the head. I leave the decorative pillows stacked in a chair where we put them each night. This saves a couple of minutes but still provides that comfortable experience at bedtime.
Bathroom Swish and Swipe
This one is part of The FlyLady genius. Each day or at least a few days a week, take a minute to quickly swish the toilet, wipe out the sink and any splatters on the mirror. If you get in the habit of putting away each item as you use it, hang towels neatly and put dirty clothing in the hamper, your bathroom will stay at a tolerable level.
Yes, we do still need to do a proper cleaning which includes cleaning the tub/shower, disinfecting surfaces and cleaning floors. Ideally this is done weekly. However, the daily “swish and swipe” is a lot better than just ignoring the bathroom entirely until it’s filthy.
Use a Feather Duster
My least favorite household chore is probably dusting. It was one of my jobs as a kid and I found it very tedious. I grew up in a house with many decorative items on every flat surface. And it was not considered sufficient to dust around things. Nope. Every item had to be removed, the furniture polished with Pledge, each item dusted and then replaced.
As an adult, I’ve learned this is not necessary. At least not every week. Get yourself a high quality ostrich feather duster and use it regularly. This will cut back drastically on the frequency of more thorough furniture polishing.
The best feather duster I’ve found is the one available on The FlyLady site. It’s expensive but if well cared for should last many years.
In the Kitchen
I love a spotlessly clean and tidy kitchen and I’m sure you do, too. But I know a lot of people allow dishes to pile up when life is busy. Even if you can’t manage to thoroughly clean your kitchen and shine the sink each night after dinner (maybe you’ve got kids in several activities), it’s so helpful to have a “minimal clean” routine that can be done in minutes.
Put away food, throw away trash, do a quick rinse and stack dishes in the sink, give the table, counters and stove top a quick wipe. This can usually be done in less than 5 minutes and while it’s nicer to wake up to a totally clean kitchen, at least this much will keep you from feeling defeated first thing in the morning.
Don’t have time to thoroughly vacuum your floors? Five minutes spent vacuuming the main traffic areas can make a big difference.
The same is true of floors that need to be mopped. Grab a wet, soapy rag and wipe up a few obvious spills and spots.
Use a Basket
One of the best ways to keep a house tidy is for everyone in the household to habitually put away everything they use as soon as they are through with it. And if you know how to make that happen, please let me know. This comes naturally to me but I’m the only one in my family with that inclination.
A good family habit is for everyone to go through the house once a day and put away all of their things. But honestly, making that happen every single day may not be possible. On those days, grab a basket and make a quick pass through the house gathering up stray items. Even if they don’t get put away that day, the house will look better. This is an especially helpful tip in a household with young children.
I truly enjoy cooking but even I have nights that I’m just not feeling it. Instead of that all or nothing thing – either a gourmet, home cooked meal or fast food – have a few super easy meals in your repertoire and always keep those ingredients on hand.
One of my go-to meals for “those nights” is soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas. I can whip up homemade tomato soup almost as easily as heating up canned soup but canned is fine, too.
We also really like the Parmesan Herb Encrusted chicken tenders from Aldi. I put them on a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet so cleanup is easy. I usually serve them with baked potatoes and frozen veggies. This meal takes almost no effort and very little cleanup (I even leave the microwaved vegetables in the bag and just dish them up from that.)
There are plenty of super easy meals for the slow cooker or the Instant Pot. I highly recommend investing in one or both. A rice cooker is another kitchen appliance I use all the time.
Even a Little Exercise
I might as well admit it. I hate to exercise. I don’t like to sweat and as an asthmatic, I hate breathing hard. But I also know it’s necessary for good health. Due to my chronic illness my ability to exercise can vary a lot from day to day. On bad days I still try to do a very small exercise routine.
Consider having two daily exercise routines. Your usual one plus a bare minimum routine you can do when time is short or you don’t feel well. I like to tie exercise to things I do every day. I have a little routine I do when I brush my teeth, for instance. I also read this article recently about how even a two-minute walk after meals can be beneficial:
Create an At-Home Uniform
Even if you are a full-time homemaker or work from home I believe that it’s important to get dressed and look nice each day. Slouching around in pajamas or sloppy clothing can’t possibly make you feel good about yourself.
I have an ongoing love affair with sitcoms from the 50s where the homemaker wears lovely dresses, a strand of pearls and heels. David and I are currently watching an episode of Father Knows Best each night before we go to sleep. I must say I’m rather envious of how beautiful Margaret looks even while vacuuming or cooking dinner. Yes, I know it’s television and not real life. And there is no way I’m wearing heels in the house.
Still, by giving some thought to it we can come up with a comfortable yet attractive “uniform” to wear around the house. My personal choice is a maxi dress. One piece dressing is so easy. I also wear earrings and a necklace every day.
5-Minute Hair and Makeup
Finally, let’s talk about hair and makeup. A perfect blow dry and full face of makeup is lovely but I think it’s good to also have a 5 minute routine. A little tinted moisturizer, mascara and lipstick can be applied in a couple of minutes. While it may not be enough for a night out on the town, you’ll feel okay answering the door or catching sight of yourself in a mirror.
If you don’t wear makeup, wash and moisturize your face and apply some lip balm.
As for hair, this will depend on your own hair style and cut. I purposely wear mine long enough that I can put it in a ponytail. I often tie a scarf around the ponytail for a bit of extra style that only takes seconds.
For the final touch, a little perfume or scented lotion is nice unless you are sensitive to fragrance.
These are just some of the ways I avoid the “all or nothing” mindset. What about you? Have you given yourself permission to be less than perfect while still doing something? This concept can be applied to almost every area of our lives and I think it’s worth thinking about.
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