Demon of Domestic Perfection – Be Gone!

I love to decorate. I have been known to wander around for hours with a picture looking for that perfect spot, until I finally find it – over the antique table with the pottery on it, or above a chair, or whatever it is I find. Until it’s hanging at the perfect height in the perfect place, I will not rest.

I attribute my love of decorating to Nancy and Bettie Addleton. From the time I was a little girl, I used to love seeing what “Auntie Bettie” had done in her home. She could turn a mud hut into a mansion, using all locally made materials. In some of the villages where she lived during her years in Pakistan, that was quite a feat, but she found pottery, wicker, plants and fabrics that would make interior decorators in Paris envious. Her daughter, Nancy, followed suit and always had a great eye for putting things together to create a perfect ensemble. As I began to experiment with creating and decorating, I discovered that it was fun as well as a way to express myself through my surroundings until a few years ago.

It was at that time that I realized I had been inhabited by a demon of perfection and it was a terrible place to be. I was living in Phoenix in a beautiful home, surrounded by homes that were even more beautiful. There in lay my dissatisfaction and my quest for domestic perfection. The God-given gift of creativity had become a demon that couldn’t be satisfied, despite numerous trips to Home Goods for wall art and trinkets and Home Depot for light fixtures and paint.

I, the person who sat on floors eating curries in villages in Pakistan, the woman who didn’t think she would ever own a house, the person who lived in Pakistan and Egypt, who had traveled around Turkey and the Sinai with small children, had become a crazy person addicted to perfection in my home.

It took a move to a city and losing 1000 square feet of living space to exorcise the demon. The designer paint and cathedral ceilings I was so proud of are long gone and in their place is a decent sized condo that will not be in a magazine but smells and looks like home with all its comfort and imperfection. I still love the occasional poring over magazines and creating, but the love is in its proper place and no longer an obsession with perfection.

When does a love for something and a gift cease to be either, and become bondage? It can happen with almost anything – our intellects, our art, our jobs, our “ministries”, our backgrounds, or the achievements of our children. It’s a subtle cross-over where something goes from being a gift given by God to be developed and used  and moves to a place of taking over our identity and giving us value, instead of the opposite. Our attachment and obsession is not always noticeable, until we lose what we had. Then the crisis comes.

In the case of domestic perfection, I have realized that my home is to be a vehicle by which to share my life, if it becomes anything more, or anything less, then I need to examine why.