Not Waiting for Perfect

Photo by Krikit ♥

When I was in college, I always carried the idea that “next semester would be better.”

Next semester I wouldn’t have this class with such a heavy reading schedule.

Next semester I wouldn’t be bothered by a work-study job grading papers where the professor would call me at home early in the morning asking me to come in for a half-hour of work. I can hear her now: “Rachel…?” (I would still be in bed.)

There was always something wrong that I would be able to fix “next semester.”

Finally one day it occurred to me that there would always be something to fix, something I wouldn’t like, and something that couldn’t be fixed. I didn’t need to have something be “just right” for it to be good.

Now when I see something about my appearance, my home, my circumstances, my job, my family, or really anything at all that I want to be different, I know that’s part of this life. Even though I keep goals, hopes, and plans, I’ve learned not to let “perfect circumstances” be a condition for my contentment.

How about you?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I used to do that in school too! I’d always start out saying, “This semester, I’m going to get all my projects done early and finish all my readings before class!” etc. Well, of course, by the 3rd week in, I was back to procrastinating and being behind. I guess I learned that for the things that really mattered to me, I WAS early and doing everything with detail and for the things that didn’t matter to me, I didn’t care enough to do my best. That’s pretty much how my life has been since college too.

  2. the cottage child says:

    Sadly, yes, I do this all too often. Procrastination and self-denial are odd elements of perfectionism. This week?…I haven’t painted the living room (because I’m worried about what other people think) so I can’t unpack the china cabinet boxes (that are dirty and depressing to look at and aren’t terribly good for the china) so I can’t enjoy some of our favorite family pieces (I don’t deserve to because I haven’t painted the living room and unpacked the china cabinet boxes). Crazy town.

    Thanks for the nudge of encouragement.

    • We are in almost exactly the same boat. We just finished a move last week, and I made unbelievable progress on Saturday, but yesterday I just wasn’t good enough, because I didn’t get as much done as I did on Saturday. (Although I did take my son to the mall to get school shoes and a new backpack, and went to the grocery store.) Why can’t we just pat ourselves on the back and be content?

  3. This is my biggest problem, especially during Autumn. Fall is my favorite season; it just conjures up thoughts of preparing to hunker down in your home for winter while still venturing outside for adventures. However, we live in a constant limbo. My husband is going to school and trying desperately hard to find a job that will support our family. Meanwhile, while we work hard to achieve our goal our three children are growing up and we can’t provide the family home we dream of and they are making memories of us stressed and living in a low income apartment. I find myself thinking often, “Someday, it will be better.” Fortunately, these thoughts are what drive us on, not bog us down. We have hope and ambition that we can make our lives better and we work hard in spite of set backs.

  4. Thanks! I’ve found that while self-improvement is of course a great ideal, that the constant need for “more” or “better” tends to bring us down rather than empower us– and that goes for so many areas of our lives (school, work, appearance, relationships, etc). It’s something I’ve been thinking about in depth lately, so I’m happy you brought it up! Cheers!

    Tara´s last post…New Member of the Family

    • I know the temptation to upgrade is there even when what we already have is perfectly good and fine. Sometimes I find myself reminding myself “What am I really trying to fix?”

  5. This is so true about everything in life. There is always something that makes the present less than an ideal time to do something. There is also “No time like the present,” to begin. I guess it is just a matter of how we chose to look at it.

    Lauri V.´s last post…I’m hooked

  6. Thanks so much for the post! You are spot on with the point that there will always be something to fix so life will never be utter perfection. I have been working on this for a couple of years and the earth did not fall off it’s axis if I missed making the bed one day! =)

    Paula´s last post…Hydration Creation

  7. Thank you. That is exactly what I needed to hear today!

  8. Oh, my! How do you always know exactly what I need to hear??

    We just enjoyed a fabulous long weekend; we had some money to spend so we updated our wardrobe (I adore Fall clothing!) and spent a relaxing few days with family. Then yesterday as we were heading home, it hit me: I was absolutely dreading going back to our life.

    I talked about it with my husband because I was literally feeling sick about going home. We’re in a “transition” period. We’re both in our last year of college, we’re trying (unsuccessfully) to conceive, we’re working a job that we don’t really like but still need to do for 11 more months, he’s working another job that he doesn’t really like, and while we’re saving a ton of money (like, down-payment on a house kind of money), we’re not very happy.

    I’m missing my little apartment and the days when I was free to read books and listen to music and spend time with him.

    But then I realized something else: You can live through a transition period and still be happy. I like all of our stuff, our marriage is better than ever!, there’s a light at the end of the college tunnel, and I have faith that I will become pregnant very soon (Faith is an ESSENTIAL element in transition periods).

    Waiting for everything to settle in and be hunky-dory all the time means you’ll end up waiting for an awfully long time… like, eternity. Looking at all the wonderful things that ARE going right can get you through the things that aren’t.

    Jennie´s last post…Why I Adore Simplicity

    • I used to have a job that made my heart sink with dread every morning as I got on the elevator. There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel!

    • Why are you trying to do so many things at one time? It sounds as if you need to slow down a little. Trying to conceive while you have so much stress in your life (finishing college, one of you working two jobs) doesn’t seem like a great idea. Why the rush? Everything in life doesn’t need to happen all at once.

      • Well, we started trying to conceive before all of this happened, when we were in a smaller apartment and had more time to be together and prepare. I understand that we could wait and maybe this is to personal, but I feel like putting it on hold would crush me. This is the one thing that we are doing that makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. For me, being busy with school and work is not fulfilling, and they are simply placeholders until I can be a mother. A lot of people judge me for feeling this way, but school and work are the things I would cut out of my life before stopping trying to conceive.
        I put it off for a while waiting for my husband to wrap his head around the idea and we waited for emotional reasons. Logistics doesn’t seem like enough of a reason to wait again.

        Jennie´s last post…Why My Husband Read- Mother-in-Law is a Genius

  9. Thank you much, for some brilliant insight! We all need this kind of a reminder.

  10. yes. just the other day I washed my floor. with soap and water. soap and water. not anything fancy. recently I’ve been washing it with just water, if that’s all the time I have – sometimes its even me pouring some water from a bottle on the floor on the stains…because I could wait till I have the perfect floor cleanser and all the time in the world to do it perfectly…or I could recognize that is NEVER going to happen and just do it.

    the other day a friend emailed me and said “I hope your life gets better” and I honestly had to think what in the world is she talking about? I mean my life is pretty great. ok I don’t have a job and I’m losing my house but we’re healthy and I get to spend time with my son and we have a great puppy and the weather is gorgeous and life is pretty darn good. the other stuff is just stuff…ya know?

  11. This puts things in perspective. One big thing is my house. There are almost always legos or matchbox cars laying on the floor. I need to give up the “I want a magazine house”, & embrace the mess & imperfections it has. :)

    I need to set some goals myself, & would love to hear some of yours. :)

    • Right now my goal #1 is finishing this book that will launch this month.

      The next is one that Doug & I are still working on. I’ll let you know more about it as soon as I can.

  12. Love this. I’ve only recently realized just how much of my life I’ve put off living in the moment because the real, better, perfect life is coming later. No more!!

    Sarah´s last post…Summer Storm

  13. Oh, that’s so true! I’ve been saying, “In the new year, when my husband has a better job schedule…..” but, I need to live NOW and enjoy our life together, no matter what the circumstances. Thanks for the timely reminder!

  14. Perfection is overrated. If you’re always looking for it, you don’t see the mostly-wonderful things around you.

  15. My husband came across the kitchen and touched my shoulder as he passed by. It is not big deal… he just expressed that he loves me, that everything is fine, that life is good in general. You know what, it is actually a big deal and I am grateful for it. The little stuff I can deal with.


  16. Thank you. I will print this and place on each of my children’s pillows tonight. This was a big deal today (first day of school) and they were struggling with letting go of summer. The oldest (junior in high school) really did not want to go and was sure that “nothing important” would happen today. He will move on to hoping that things change. This is a nice description of losing some of your happiness and life to hoping for change. I agree with you – just run with what you have and life will be as it is.

  17. This totally used to be me, too! Interestingly, being a mom has been a huge help to me in overcoming this mindset. Each phase of my sons life has elements of both bliss and frustration and they are breezing by so fast…a true reminder to stay present and appreciate each (imperfect) stage, day, mood, etc…

    Yoga helps, too ;)

    Robin´s last post…Happy Labor Day

  18. Thank you! This is such a great post, and it is so true.

  19. Excellent reminder-there’s joy and happiness to be had in every day, no matter how imperfect we may perceive it to be : ) Thanks!

  20. Has anyone considered that the word “perfect” means “finished” or “complete”? Nothing we do in this life, especially with regard to our homes and families, is going to be finished, and we wouldn’t want it to be. We want our homes to change as we change. We want our children to grow and mature. Not even God created Eden perfect. When He was done with His part of creation (he left some for us to do), He didn’t say, “It is perfect.” He said, “It is good.” And, when he created man and woman, he went all out and said, “Very good!” God built into creation the idea that things would mature and grow. In other words, things would change. So NOTHING was created perfect, because that would have left no room for growth. God is obviously delighted with “good.”

    Staci´s last post…A Daughter Given Me

  21. Same thing with my wardrobe.

    “Oh I’ll wait to buy new jeans when I lose 10 pounds…”

    In Tim Gunn’s book I love that he says to keep only clothes that fit you perfectly and flatter you just as you are.

    Plus if I ever do lose weight it’ll just be an excuse to go shopping again!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Travels to Canada- Too Much To Do!

  22. Isn’t this the truth!!! I so discovered this a when I first had kids and I kept not doing things because we were so busy!!! Things we really really wanted to do, but we were sticking to routines and all sorts of stuff!!! Now I think of it as building memories and we do stuff … really life is the new busy, if you want to do something badly enough you will find the time for it – even if it is an hour of peace and quiet in a shady spot… there is time, we just seem to make excuses for why “we can’t” do stuff!!!

    se7en´s last post…The Week that Was – 39…

  23. I love how you worded this.

    I can hardly think of a time when I wasn’t waiting for SOMETHING to start or end or improve in one way or another. It’s such a habit to keep wishing my imperfect world into the future… it’s mind-blowing to think what would happen, how would my life change, if I could just embrace what’s happening now.

    Jill´s last post…What we always used to do

  24. Me too! I had that epiphany after some difficult things when I was 18. Since then I’ve been saying that “If you can’t be content with the way things are now, you’ll never be happy with what you think you want.” It’s about your perspective in your attitude, not your circumstances. Thanks for the post!

  25. Your posts are so down to earth and inspiring! It’s great to read sound advice and know that other people go through the same things you go through and we can all learn from it and be stronger. Thanks for writing!

  26. Wonderful! This is such a good reminder for me :)

    Emma´s last post…feeling the quiet

  27. Lovely. It is always nice to be reminded to quit the need for perfection. I think what matters most is if you and those you love are truly happy and content. That, for me, is perfection.

    Prerna´s last post…Guest Post on Making Waiting Time Fun for Toddlers at Zen Family Habits!

  28. Thank you! Thank you! Thank YOU!!!!!! I needed to hear this today. I actually made a Facebook status update this morning saying “Two steps forward, one step back – but I’m still going forward”. I feel like I never get to where I’m meant to be, but I have to realise that right here is where I’m meant to be, and to enjoy the journey.

    There’s always something else to do, and I’ll never be caught up.

    Actually, how boring would life be if there was nothing else to do?

    Kirst xx

  29. I keep putting off sewing because I don’t want to put up the ironing board and make a mess in my den. Well, I put it off long enough that the summer top I was going to make with that great fabric I bought certainly won’t be worn this year! So, I’ll start looking for a fall project and learn to live with a little mess

  30. I needed to read this today. Thank you.

    Meghan´s last post…Closing Bags if Youre Ghetto

  31. What a great reminder. I find myself not doing things because I am not sure how to do it PERFECTLY. I leave piles of papers on the counter because I don’t have JUST the right thing to organize them. The pictures are not hung after being in this house two years because I don’t know JUST the right place to put them. Time to just MOVE ON!

  32. Salvador Dali said “Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.”

    That’s so liberating!

    Janet´s last post…Review- Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

  33. This is a great post. I can completely relate. Sometimes it is hard to take things slow and put everything in perspective. Right now, I am in the third trimester of my second pregnancy and it is so easy to say: “Well, after the baby is born…(life will be this way).” Time to embrace the now. :)

    Rachel´s last post…Family Tree Brooch

  34. I love your blog!

  35. Oh, the truth to this post just sings to me. Well said, and well appreciated!

    Anna´s last post…A Woodland Celebration

  36. Smart. Just plain smart. Excellent writing, btw.

    Kathryn Grace´s last post…Scooting through No Impact Week – Day 3- Transportation

  37. I too did the work study only mine was scribing for the disabled; making sure they understood the homework, taking notes so they would do the homework. My biggest beef about the job was the students who didn’t call me. I was left holding the bag on test day, or in the computer lab or when homework was due; I felt like it was my fault they didn’t perform the way the I would and that was to take college seriously. I had a full load each semester when I was helping and had my own homework to do and then I had that light bulb moment–this wasn’t my class and I neither was responsible for the lack of work or acheivement on the part of the student. I am disabled also and muddled through getting no less than a B+ in any class and that was because I didn’t study, do homework, etc. I put this ‘bulb’ moment into the rest of my life, graduated with a 3.8 and am successful helping others manage what I learned in that ‘bulb’ moment.

  38. That’s good stuff right there. I’m so glad you didn’t say “I used to feel that way and then I realized I needed to DO something about it!” Because while it may be necessary to change some things, sometimes we need to learn to be happy in the journey as well.

  39. Yes! I am constantly saying (to myself, I hope) “this week is too full, next week will be a break” – and it never is. Especially these first few back to school weeks while we shake off our summer habits.
    Thanks for the reminder to appreciate the right now.

    melanie´s last post…10 on Tuesday- Running Late as Usual

  40. Jaclyn Reynolds says:

    Loved this and it’s all true!

  41. What a lovely post. So poignant and relevant. I think we all want to think like this and have the ability to, but we get in our own way. Thanks for the reminder that perfection can’t be the condition for our contentment.

    Kendra @ My First Kitchen´s last post…Change the View

  42. Well said! Thanks so much for reminding me of this :)

    angelvalerie´s last post…getting in a groove…

  43. I can’t remember how I ran into small notebook but I’m glad that it has been brought to my attention. :]

    This is something that I’ve realized as well- but I still can’t get myself out of the mentality to constantly fix something. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can be content with how things are.

    Well done!

  44. I love this idea! It reminds me of this quote:

    For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. ~Fr. Alfred D’Souza

    Kristy´s last post…re-entry

  45. I love this post. I am a big fan of the idea that life is what is happening when you are living it. I am trying to be present. And, really, “perfect” isn’t always so perfect anyway.

    I love your blog. Keep up all of this wonderful stuff. :)

  46. If we sit around waiting for life to get perfect before enjoying it, or before doing something else, we will mever get anything done and we will miss out on so many great things in life!

    Ramblings of a Woman´s last post…Trying so hard to be myself