When there’s only time for one…

I want to make my home a welcoming place – but with a baby and with working from home and volunteering, keeping up with my idea of what that means is impossible. I have to re-evaluate what “welcoming” means, and decide how to best spend the time I have to make the most hospitable environment for guests.

I got a call from a friend this week who had an appointment in my end of town and wanted to stop by after. Of course, I said “of course!”

But then I went into a tailspin of chore panic. I have just spent 4 days away from home, unpacking is not yet finished, the kitchen is a mess, the bathroom hasn’t been cleaned and the cat has started shedding. I have emails and reports to work on, and not enough time to do it all.

My former-perfectionist-self is screaming in the background, stomping her feet and throwing things around. “It’s not worth doing anything if I can’t do it all, and perfectly!”

But when I only have time to clean one thing, I have to find a new strategy. Maybe making myself crazy, working myself too hard to create a “perfect” house is actually inhospitable, unwelcoming. Maybe taking the hit to my own pride, admitting and showing that I can’t do everything, and still welcoming friends to share my home and my life is the most hospitable option.

So today, when I only have time to do a quick cleaning of one room, I am choosing the bathroom. I wiped down the counters and sink and toilet, made sure there was enough toilet paper and put a few floating things in drawers – and that’s it! The mirror has toothpaste spray and the floor has hair, dirt, dust in the corners. But I had only the time to do one “extra” thing, and I chose this. If I had had the time to really only do one thing – not part of a room, but one thing – I would have probably cleaned the counter in the bathroom. That’s all.

I can be welcoming with clutter, with a sink half-full of dishes, with laundry piled up in the bedroom. I can share my home with friends even if there are baby toys and cat hair on the floor and papers spread across my desk. I can welcome without pretense, I can open my home without the falsehood of perfection.

I still fall victim to my perfectionist tendencies, preferring to do nothing rather than accomplish something with imperfection or incompleteness. It’s a battle to choose one small thing to accomplish, one extra chore that will make a difference. Today I did one small thing, and I will welcome my friend with open arms and dirty dishes.


  1. i'm working on this same thing. i keep trying to tell myself that people CAN be in my house if it is not perfect. i'm getting there. maybe.

  2. Megan, I am the same way: I want eveyone to see that my house is perfect and therefore my life (by extension) is perfect. ha ha ha, so far from it. It is really weird, because I do not have these unrealistic standards for my friends... I do not scoff at their dirty dishes in the kitchen sink or their wet towels on the floor of the bathroom, I just shrug and think to myself, "Well, duh, she is a mom, she has no time." WHY WHY WHY can I not be kinder to myself and let the "perfection" facade slide away a little bit?
    You nailed it with this essay, great post.

  3. i actually appreciate it when i go to a friend's home and there are signs of real life - because OF COURSE she doesn't have time, she's a mom! and i always feel guilty if i walk into someone's home and see that they've spent the last two days maniacally cleaning, upturning her own life to make things appear perfect for me.

    i am showing my friends respect, love and honesty by not cleaning every corner of my home (as hard as it is for me as a perfectionist!) and not building the expectation that they clean the entire home before i come over. it's a good thing... right?


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