Function over perfection

· An informal book review ·

Jun, 26, 2023

Life is crazy busy and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to calm down. I recently read a book that is helping me to graciously keep my head above water but has also changed how I think about a lot of things, including how to prioritize function over perfection. 

So here’s a slightly informal review of How to Keep House While Drowning, by K.C. Davis. 

The main idea: function

The main point of this book is that the goal of cleaning (keeping house) is not perfection and spotlessness, but function. In my own words, “what needs to be done for this space to functionally serve my family.” 

In the beginning of the book, the author encourages you to review each area of your house (generally by room) and determine its function. Then, only make a “cleaning plan” once you know the function of the room. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling to keep up with the illusive “clean/tidy” definition but never know if you’ve actually reached it. 

But since reading this book, I don't tie the cleanliness of my house to my worth as a woman, a wife, a mother, a home maker.

Go read the book

Wherever you are in your life, season, or journey with housekeeping, I recommend you go get this book. When I first saw the title I thought “I’m not drowning but that sounds interesting.” 

By the time my library hold became available and delivered the ebook to my phone, I was drowning. 

Even if I “hadn’t needed it” in that moment, I believe I’d have benefitted just as much from that book, as I believe you will as well. The author is gracious, funny, practical, and endlessly encouraging. She offers examples of how she does it and then some ideas for how you can modify it for your own needs. She’s also very understanding of those who read and process differently in the way she presents the book, something I’d personally never seen done in any kind of literature before. 

So the bottom line is I can’t recommend this book highly enough, so grab it yourself from your library or the ever-helpful A to Z store. 

Here’s a non-affiliate link to the author’s website

A snippet of my life

This really drove home for me the other night while my husband and I wound down for the day, the baby blessedly asleep. 

Me: Do you like the nice clean bedroom? (Gleefully eyes the floor which is actually visible due to removal of clothes piles). 

Husband, looking guilty: It’s not that I don’t care but I’m so sorry, I didn’t even notice.

Me, laughing: It’s okay, you always wear your special mess filter, I realize you truly can’t even see or process it like I do. (sighs). It must be so nice. I can feel  mess, even from other rooms in the house, calling to me, haunting me from here. 

Husband: That sounds terrible. 

Me: It is, though after unhooking cleanliness from some arbitrary definition, it’s been  a lot easier to handle. 

The truth is, I will probably always “feel” mess, I will likely always choose to tidy a little more frequently, a little more than is functionally necessary. 

Beyond housekeeping

Like all good books, the principles have been taking shape in my mind and I’ve been applying this to more than house keeping. 

In all areas of stewardship, there’s a temptation to strive for “perfection”, though when pressed we likely cannot give a clear definition of what perfection is. 

But what if we strove for functional over perfect?

    • What if we exercised our bodies in a way that kept us functional (no noodle muscles afterward) and helped us become more functional (getting up and down to play with the kids gets easier)?
    • What if we woke up as early as we could AFTER getting a functional amount of sleep? 
    • What if we read books that fulfill our souls and help us learn, instead of what someone else thinks we should read?

In each area of our lives where we are setting goals, let’s chose to set functional goals rather than guilt or perfection-driven goals. I think we’ll surprise ourselves with how empowering this gracious approach is, in whatever areas we choose to apply it. 

Courage, dear sister. Whatever season you’re in, whether you feel like you’re drowning or you can see the big wave coming, you’re not alone and perfection is not expected. 

What's next?

If you’re looking for more hands on work with stewardship, come check out our workshops in the Rising to Courage network!


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