Perfectionistas anonymous

My name is Dana McCauley and I am no longer a perfectionist.

After a couple of weeks away from home and work, I realized that I make a big deal of too many things. Take entertaining for example: I’ve been known to obsess over every detail before a party, staying up to all hours to get my house, the food and the table ready for a get-together. Last winter, I worked for two days to get ready for my Christmas Eve cocktail party and then stayed up until the wee hours of Christmas morning cleaning up. Was the party a wonderful success? Absolutely. Did my guests ooh and ahh over the food and the table? Certainly. Did I enjoy Christmas day? Not really. In fact, I had a pounding headache and a crick in my back that hurt when I stood or sat.

Refreshed from my holiday, I have a new outlook and attitude and I’m going to do my best to keep it up. See that table above? That level of detail was the old me. The new me eschews such finery! From now on guests will get what they get:
• If I have time to make something fabulous, it will be served. If I don’t, I’ll buy something.
• If my linen napkins are ironed and folded, we’ll use them. If not, paper will do.
• If someone offers to help with the clean up, I’ll gladly accept his or her help.
• And, from now on my larger parties are going to include a new budget line; I’m going to hire someone to help serve and clean up so that I can have my party, a good time and a clean house, too.

Do any of you dread entertaining because of all the schlepping and cleaning? If so, maybe you should join my new club.

If not, what strategies have you developed to help you enjoy your parties from the planning stages to unloading the dishwasher the morning after?


13 Responses to Perfectionistas anonymous

  1. I love my annual Christmas party, but admit it’s a ton of work. I don’t go overboard on decorating, but do make all the food myself (except for the cheese and crackers). I’m okay with this since I do all the baking ahead of time in a three-day bake-a-thon with my mom. I love this special alone time with my mom and would do the baking blitz even if we didn’t hold a party.

    As for the rest of it? Paper plates, same basic menu every year and no party closer than a week before Christmas.

    Also, I used to clean the house before the party and a friend said, “You’ve got it backwards. Clean the house AFTER the guests spill food on the floors, not before.” So, I keep the lights low and clean up the next day.

  2. Amy S. says:

    You hit the nail on the head. One of the huge hesitations of entertaining on any scale. How does the house look from an “outside” eye, i.e. someone else who doesn’t live here? The all so special details, and of course if you like to eat, delicious food specialities. Wow, what a concept to have a party that the hostess actually enjoys. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Are you should that perfectionism, unlike alcoholism, is something you can be cured of?

    Your last line: “If not, what strategies have you developed to help you enjoy your parties from the planning stages to unloading the dishwasher the morning after?” says it all for me. For me, the fun is in the journey—not the destination. A couple of years ago I threw a 50th birthday party for my wife for 40 guests in our condo. By all accounts, the party was a big success. I had fun during the party because I spent most of it in kitchen, away from the guests. I wound up writing about it at — or at least how it was planned and executed.

  4. Cheryl says:

    The only time I entertain on a grand scale is New Year’s Day, when we hold an annual brunch. I work hard the days prior baking my heart out — danish, quiches, scones, and the like. My husband does all the pre- and post-cleaning, so at least that’s off my shoulders.

    That said, I can cook, but I have no sense for nor interest in decor, so that’s never stressed me out. I just don’t bother decorating cause I can’t do it worth a damn, and I’ve got to tell you, if you’ve got enough coffee, mimosas, and homemade danish — and everyone’s hung over from the night before anyway — no one will care if your napkins are pressed or not.

  5. danamccauley says:

    My problem is that I have all the right forks, serving pieces and do-dads and I can’t resist using them. That leads to a lot of organizing before my parties as well as a lot of clean up and organizing afterwards. Must. Learn. To. Simplify. = my new mantra.

  6. Terry says:

    I’m not sure that I can jump right to not obsessing about everything, but I did make a big change this summer. Everyone we know is late and we are to the second on-time for everything which was driving me crazy when it came to planning when to put a meal on the table. Now I wait for everyone to arrive, put out some nibblies, and don’t start cooking until I see the whites of their eyes. Well, something like that. I think it takes small steps, lol.

  7. danamccauley says:

    I think you’re right, Terry. Small steps are likely going to be in my future, too.

    I think you and I have a lot in common. I’m also always right on time and have friends who are perpetually late…interesting!

  8. Rosa says:

    I’m also a big perfectionist! It’s really easy to get obssessed… Having people at home stresses me a lot as I want to serve them a great meal, have a clean apartment, etc… and that’s a lot of work!



  9. Aviagra says:

    I loved the post. I think your thinking is nearly matching the great sukrat’s cocept.

  10. danamccauley says:

    Thanks Aviagra. If only I could actually live up to my intentions….

  11. […] countless batches of pastry in my home kitchen. (And yes, I know that the people who remember my Perfectionista Annonymous post from a few weeks ago are shaking their heads. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I’ve become […]

  12. […] The party, held at the Halpern’s gorgeous house in Forest Hill, was easily one of the most elaborate house parties I’ve ever attended. It literally humbled my status as a Perfectionista.  […]

  13. […] I have proclaimed perhaps a bit too loudly, I’m no longer a perfectionista. And, to prove it, I’m going to tell you that this Christmas, when my family gathers around my […]

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