Overcome Perfectionism with Baby Steps

Housework can feel like a rat race. A rat race we’re losing. If you ever feel overwhelmed by housework or frustrated by your lack of progress (and who hasn’t?!), then you need a deep breath and a perspective shift.

I have the perspective shift to help you make and notice real progress at home. ​Learn how to replace perfectionism and procrastination with baby steps!

What are baby steps? Baby steps are actions that are simple to start that are quick to take that do not get the job done, only begun. Baby steps add up more than you’d think and are always worth doing.

Why do we fight baby steps? We want to just be done already. We don’t want to take the time or admit we’ll need to take the time. We are too proud for baby steps. We want instant gratification for our goals and projects.

Fighting baby steps is choosing perfectionism and procrastination. Instead, we need to remember:

  • Some is better than none.
  • Make it better, not perfect.
  • Progress over perfection.

The point of our work at home is never to complete everything all at once, but to do something to make life better. Choose baby steps to make real progress. Progress doesn’t come after you’ve figured out the perfect system. Progress comes one step at a time.

During the month of October, we worked on adding baby steps in our housework inside Simply Convivial Continuing Education and the examples and insights were so helpful! This point features just a small selection, but I hope it helps you give baby steps an honest try.

They are worth it.

“So I cleaned the microwave. Did anyone else’s microwave look like someone rubbed butter on the inside? It was SO GREASY!!!! But now it’s clean. And it took me less than 10 minutes.

I challenged myself to do it while I waited on my cup of tea to brew (about 5 minutes for chai) and got caught up in cleaning it. I procrastinated doing it because I thought it would take forever and I wanted to put the glass plate in the dishwasher.

It took me 10 minutes to clean it, including hand washing the plate.”

Laura Brown, Simply Convivial member

Baby Steps: so small you can’t say no

So much of the housework we have to do is daunting. We notice big projects: clean the kitchen, scrub down the bathroom, dust the public rooms, mop the hard floors, vacuum the bedrooms, catch up on the laundry.

We stare at the list and know we won’t get very far. So we don’t do any of it.

Instead, we need to choose 1, then break that 1 down into the smallest possible step. Load the dishwasher. Swish the toilet. Dust the mantle. Spot mop the kitchen. Spend 5 minutes tidying up bedroom floors. Start 1 load of laundry.

We need to break the huge project down into not only a doable step, but a very small step so we can just get started.

“I like the thought of finding a task so small you can’t say no to it. So many times it’s just getting started that is what I need. But I am guilty of saying ‘that’s so small I don’t want to worry about it right now.'”

Clarissa Ramsay, Simply Convivial member

“I often add an extra small task. I say to myself something like: ‘If you just put this away it will take 20 seconds, but if you leave it then it will take longer to pick up another time.’

So that helps me, especially if it is a tag along task, just an extension of something else.”

Judy Troxler, Simply Convivial member

Progress Over Perfection

We want something we can check off and be done with, but that’s simply not the nature of housework. The fact that housework won’t be done in this life does not need to discourage us.

Instead, we can choose to practice, to make progress, and give up on our false hopes of being “done.”

The goal isn’t a perfectly clean and put-together home. The goal is making our resources useful and available for building up people.

That means that those large housework projects don’t need to be complete for you to be faithful in your work. The room doesn’t have to stay clean for it to be worth your time.

Just baby step toward progress, because there will always be the need for small steps.

“Baby steps to me is almost synonymous with progress over perfection. For me, I’m such a perfectionist that baby steps are not enough to say yes to.

I say,’It’s so small, what’s the point,’ but that’s really not true. I have had to adjust my attitude towards baby steps and how important they are.”

Cathy LeBlanc, Simply Convivial mentor member

“I’ve been babystepping filling my freezer as I prepare for postpartum life. I’ve just decided on a ‘one for now, two for later’ approach for meal preparations instead of taking 2-3 fulls days to do it all. I just don’t have the energy for the latter anymore.

Since baby stepping it, I have over 2 weeks of food prepared thus far and still have another month to go before my due date. This is my fifth kid…why have I not done this before?! It’s sanity saving!

Patrice Lucio, Simply Convivial member

One small step leads to another

As we take those small steps, we find that they lead to momentum rather than the boom and bust cycle we’re used to.

When a task is so small that it’s not intimidating, we experience a win, a well-done, that we never get when we set our hopes on “finishing” the job. One win leads to another. We’re willing to take another small step because we know we can and we see that we will appreciate it.

Too often we dismiss and deny value to the small tasks, the repetitive mundane chores. But that’s like whipping a lame horse to get him to go faster. Finding and taking baby steps is like wrapping the lame leg so it can heal. Small steps get you farther down the path than digging holes ever will.

“I looked at things like wiping down the door and thought that it didn’t really matter, but then it was hard to stop. 🤣 

I went down the rabbit trail of washing a few windows and sweeping where I moved the furniture to get to the window, shaking out the rug, and ended up sweeping all the wood floors. 😆

Even with things I’ve never really bothered with – like windows – I really had to fight perfectionism once I had started.

Sarah Nelson, Simply Convivial mentor member

I think my biggest take away from baby steps so far is that I often think chores are “too big” for my kids to do, so I try (and fail) to do it all myself.

Baby steps make it so they can help and we can advance a project (or just general life) together.

Jen Dickinson, Simply Convivial mentor member

I cleaned three windows and wiped a door, which also led to a few other projects like sweeping under a couch that I needed to move to wash the window.

I resisted perfections by NOT moving the other couch in the room to sweep under today, other things needed to be priority.

Abby Wahl, Simply Convivial team member

Baby steps: when you fall, get back up

One often overlooked part of baby steps is that babies fall down all the time as they take steps. Not only are a baby’s steps small they are also faultering.

But what do babies do when they’re stepping toward a toy or mom? They get right back up and take another small step, no matter how teetering.

As adults, we want our steps to be smooth, suave, and sizable.

So we end up not taking any steps at all because we’re afraid we’ll fall.

We need to be more like babies.

Every week in Simply Convivial Continuing Education, I have a 20ish minute pep talk on our monthly topic. Here’s a short clip from one such meeting where I encourage us all about falling off the bandwagon:

“Ladies, I LOVE this community. I just listened to the Oct 14 Baby Steps Crowdcast, and it is so good to hear that we all fall off the bandwagon. Mystie included.

I’ve been scrambling to grab ahold of the bandwagon myself for the past few weeks, and I felt like I just keep getting knocked back when I tried. But that’s okay.

I can just keep getting back up and try again, or build a new bandwagon. 😉 The effort is worth it. Just baby step again and keep going.

Stefani Mons, Simply Convivial Community Manager

Baby steps help you get started

If you’ve ever used baby steps to help you get started on a daunting project or never-ending task, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

These examples from our Convivial Circle community are inspiring:

“I’m realizing that looking for a baby step might actually reveal where you need to start and allow you to start… the project you thought was one thing, might have a different start than you thought about.

Sarah Nelson, Simply Convivial mentor member

Remember, we don’t need to break down our ideas from start to finish, just start breaking them down.

If we know the middle or end, we can start there and work our way backwards or around to find the first baby step to help us get going with the task or habit.

Once we’ve come up with some baby steps ideas, we need to also give ourselves permission to ONLY do the baby step.

Yes, baby steps can lead to more, like the great story of one clean window leading to more clean and scraped windows that was told in Convivial Circle, but we don’t have to fret if all we do is the one small thing.

Stefani Mons, Simply Convivial Community Manager

Examples of baby steps

Any kind of job or project can be broken down into a baby step. Find what you think is the smallest possible bit of the job to do, then make it even simpler and smaller.

What counts as a baby step will vary from person to person, as Misty Daily points out:

“Putting on shoes would definitely be a baby step for me since I’m always barefooted or in flip flops. For my mother-in-law who puts shoes on straight out of the bed, the 10 minute walk would prob be the baby step.

I hadn’t thought of “self talk” being a baby step, but I do often have to talk myself into things. It’s exhausting.”

Misty Daily, Simply Convivial member

When you know your own overwhelming project, and you recognize it’s not going to end or go away, then you might become willing to try baby steps to tackle it.

“Laundry is always a baby step for me. I always do whatever I can in the time alotted (15-30 minutes, depending on the day), then walk away when the timer calls me for Morning Time.

The next day, I pick up exactly where I left off. Occasionally, I see the bottom of the basket.

Cathy LeBlanc, Simply Convivial mentor member

“I found myself today checking the time, seeing it was 27 minutes past the hour, starting to think, ‘oh well, that half hour is done’ and catching myself. I quietly did a small baby step right then. So far, in the last two days, I’ve cleared off my bedside dresser and two desk tops, cleaned out my purse, and read a chapter of Proverbs. So encouraging. And this all with major brain fog from jetlag. 

Michelle Geffken, Simply Convivial member and writer at paperblogging.com

FREE Baby Steps Workshop:

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