Martha Stewart Perfect

A Former Devotee Speaks Up

Our main coat closet is neat and it makes me happy to see its neatness.

Order? I love it. I love an organized space. I have a perfectly organized closet, a neatly folded lingerie drawer, a coat closet where all the hangers face the same direction and every coat is neatly hung. Clutter? Don’t talk to me about clutter. I’m like a ferret after a sock: If one of my kids leaves an empty glass on the family room side table, I scurry in and snatch it up. That said, I’m more relaxed about how my home looks now than I’ve ever been. Do-it-yourself projects? Love’em! In moderation! Just ask my family!

I blame Martha Stewart for what turned into my major obsession with do-it-myself projects of epic scope and cost, obsessive orderliness and magazine-worthy living environments. You see I subscribed to her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, for many, many years.

Now I do projects that are fun for me -- like this silk flower arrangement -- not just because they're listed in a magazine.

Back when I was young and impressionable and trying to impress I bought into the idea that my home had to look perfect and operate perfectly, just like the people profiled in Martha’s magazine. Actually, just like Martha appeared to be. I filled out a monthly “To Do” calendar that detailed all the household chores I had to complete, just like Martha’s calendar, listed at the front of her magazine every month. I tried to accomplish many of the do-it-yourself projects she espoused in her magazine with varying degrees of success. I worked myself into exhaustion trying to create the perfect holiday environments, emulating the crafty projects, recipes and more profiled in Martha’s magazine.

My living room isn't magazine worthy, but I love it and I'm happy it's mine.

I became a Martha Stewart drone, more interested in completed a set of household chores than in watching my kids play. I cared more about do-it-myself projects than spending fun time with my husband. Looking back, I’m ashamed of myself. I can remember impatiently waiting for my kids to take a nap so I could complete another Martha Stewart-suggested project. Ack! I was so busy trying to be “perfect” that I wasn’t really living. I willingly gave up chunks of my life to a stranger and the ‘perfect’ lifestyle she and her magazine espoused.

Slowly I began to question what I was doing and how I was living: I read an article that mentioned Martha had a staff; she had household help!  I pondered the fact that I was one person working full-time with two children and a husband and two cats and church activities and all trying to do the projects and chores Martha did with a staff of employees. I read other articles about Martha and learned she was all-too-human: she had serious legal issues, relationship issues and didn’t seem all that well liked or regarded by many of those who knew her.  Is this really the person I was modeling myself after?! Is this who I wanted to be?

I began to chafe under the strain of trying to be Martha-perfect. It started with the one year I didn’t send out my usual 150 Christmas cards with personalized hand-written notes. No one noticed, or at least they didn’t say anything to me. The date came and went on my “To Do” calendar and my windows didn’t get hand-washed inside and out personally by me over the course of a two-day weekend. No one noticed! Thanksgiving came and went and I didn’t make the intricate place card turkeys with calligraphy lettering on them. Folks just sat where they wanted and everyone appeared to have a great time.

Then I made a bold move: I cancelled my subscription to (now called) Living and began to live — without slavish devotion to a monthly “To Do” list of chores, without a half-dozen craft and decorating projects to accomplish before every holiday. It felt weird, to say the least, but very freeing.

It’s been years now since that Martha-perfect period of my life. I love a clutter-free, well-decorated home, but I’ve learned that “perfect” isn’t my goal anymore. Do-it-yourself projects are fun, but I don’t do nearly as many. “Living” is my goal, but rather than relying on instructions from someone else, I’m figuring it out on my own.

Are you a former Martha acolyte? Did you get sucked in like me? How are you doing now?


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Cooking, Family, Martha Stewart, Perfectionism, Thanksgiving

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