the lazy gal’s survival guide : letting go of perfect.

Hey lovely people! First things first, We wanted to thank you for the wonderful, amazing, super kind comments, messages and support we received from you when we announced our ebook release on Monday. It seriously means the world to us. We’re so excited!

We’re diving right in today (eek!) so if you missed our first ever post in this new series last week, ya might want to hop on over and read all about it, here.

I have to admit, now that I’ve “officially” “begun” (emphasis on the gigantic air quotes) I’m absolutely terrified. Because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m used to writing about what I know…and I’ve repeatedly fallen on my face in the past when it comes to running a smoother household.

The definition of insanity per Albert Einstein: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So I decided to do something different this time.

It’s my dearest hope that with all of this, we can share and grow together from this series. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a community to whip our homes into shape.

Let me emphasize again that this entire series is not exclusively about organization. That’s the blessing and curse of keeping a home, and thus the keyword: Housekeeping. It’s never finished, and there are so many dimensions to it. From systems for paperwork to neater drawers and easier meals…developing a real process to deal with anything and everything for surviving. It grows and evolves as your family does. So that’s the beauty of it…I’m not sure we’ll ever run out of ideas and ways to conquer the daily mountain that is life. And that’s why we’re so excited about this series.

Where do we start?

The first step is admitting that you have a problem, right? Everyone struggles in different areas for making it work. Ours, right now, is organization. So I’ll be applying a few things today, to that specific area. I’m hoping we can use this as a springboard of concepts to help with your goals, and any questions on where to begin.

This isn’t about one miraculous purge a-la hoarders where a crew comes in or a magic button is pushed. Does anyone know the stats on these people? As soon as the cameras clear out, how long do they stay clean and perfect? I’m not really sure you can reprogram someone in a weekend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to get it all under control by declaring a Weekend Of War on Clutter. Jamin, the kids, and I all put on our Irish Kilts and thick accents, and Malone wears a beard. We run screaming towards the house with mops, brooms and trash bags in hand. It’s all fun and games until Aiden is bummed that he doesn’t get to stab someone with an arrow, and Emerson has to part with her dried bottles of Hello Kitty nail polish. The house is back to normal in less than half a week.

It’s like dieting. You usually yo-yo until you realize that maintaining your realistic, healthy-for-you ideal, is a lifestyle change. And just like the dieter, I need to find that happy balance between tofu burgers and the the all out, five day guilt ridden cupcake binge. Hi. I’m the dieting equivalent to a busted can of biscuits dunlap muffin top. I am a yo-yoing closeted crap stasher.

1. Letting go of perfect.

I’m pretty sure you’ll never be successful with anything, until you make this your first step. And by letting go of perfect, I’m even talking about redefining the word “success”. I have to let go of that eternal desire for my home to look photography-ready and super organized per experts. That simply isn’t attainable. We eat live and breathe here. My children play here. My home is not a museum. And It’s okay to have those areas that don’t work. I’m pretty sure some of them never will.

I’d like to think that our general approach to design in our home IS liveable. It IS realistic. It DOES work for us as a family. But as our family grows, so do our needs for even more practicality. I want to see more of that behind the scenes. Simply put, I want to look forward to stepping into my closet.

I’m showing you these ‘pretty’ photos because I’m about to go down in combustable flames of fiery admittance, and I want to be remembered for happier times. When you see photos like the ones above…please always know that the rest of my home, most certainly looks like this (below). As it pertains to the photos below: Cut me some slack, because I am technically in book deadline mode, and coming out of youth minister’s wife summer survival mode….and I had to wash my hair yesterday. All sad excuses aside it’s still bad.

Yes, I do (still) have brass doorknobs. Yes, that is a drawer that was {previously} organized. Yes, those are lampshades in my pantry. Yes, we could, in fact, survive a zombie apocalypse trapped in said pantry for months at a time on ketchup alone. I haven’t even shown you our bedroom closet yet.

But my point in all this, is that when I sit here and stare at these photos, my first thought is, embarrassment. I feel a real call to simplify my life. No one should own this much CRAP. There’s just not a better word for it. I’m ready for a change.

2. Why isn’t it working?

So, we’ve established that I’ve fallen flat on my face in past attempts, but why? It’s not a miraculous purge that’s the answer. The cure for an overwhelmed household isn’t more overwhelming chores in one fell swoop. I’m pretty sure that like me, most of you want to live your lives and not spend the next two decades daily color-coordinating your skivvy drawers. When it comes down to it, Jamin and I both work full time jobs that aren’t really your typical 9 to 5. We’re raising a family of three. We’re surviving just everyone else.

The big thing is…We just aren’t seeing eye to eye.

Yes, we did make mrs. britsnap take a photo of us posing like this. Yes, I am exposing myself on many different levels just for you today. And yes, I did put eyeliner under my eyes in a failed attempt to heed the battle cry. Flair for the dramatic.

It’s a team effort, and we aren’t agreeing. At all. We never do. I’m a surface cleaner, and an artist, and ‘we might need that one day’…so I shove bills in drawers to get them out of my way. Guilty. Jamin, on the other hand, wants to move away and never come back. If he can’t make it all go away at once, he’s all, abort! Abort! Left wing abandonment issues meets right wing crap stashing hoarding cleaner. This marriage desperately needs a middle ground. When we’re in between massive projects, here’s how our conversations on all things household management usually go:

We’re currently in a stalemate of absolution. And we can’t find anything. We realize we both need to change. Purging our home usually ends up with Jamin wanting to toss absolutely everything. I’m following behind him saying that ‘Emerson really likes that toy’, and ‘I could decorate with that’ and ‘I might wear this later…’

I heard on Oprah once, that the hoarder overwhelmed crap stasher always wins in a situation like this. Thus our closets.

3. Targeting the problem areas.

Now that I’ve let go of my idealistic perfection of a home, and we’re both ready to come to a common ground, I want real, feasible goals.

No, this isn’t Pop Up Video. This is my closet. And this process will take time.

I stood for a very long time in my home the other morning when I took these {nightmarishly messy} photographs. These are things that are taking up valuable space in my home. There are some major toss sessions that need to take place. There are some things we need to part with and donate. Once that is finished, there are some major reformatting for wasted spaces around our home that need to be utilized. And once that is complete…there is some realistic maintenance with systems that need to be initiated.

I realized what I want goes beyond organization. I crave simplicity.

How freeing that must feel to attain not perfection, but simplicity.

As an answer to all of this, I’m in the process of dividing my home into zones for problematic areas. Mostly confined to rooms on their own, in each zone I’ve come up with a few ideas of what will make each space work to it’s utmost to serve us as a family. Baby steps.

So, here we go. Rome really wasn’t built in a day.

Cliche’s are cliche’s for a reason. Here’s to craving simplicity…solutions…and letting go of perfect.

Dive in with me?

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Responses to the lazy gal’s survival guide : letting go of perfect.

  1. Lori H says:

    I am with you!

  2. libbywilko says:

    Sounds good to me! Can’t wait to see more of your posts about it. We seem to have similar roles working or should I say not working in our home too.

  3. Janet S says:

    Hysterical!!! LOL!!! I’m so glad it’s not just me!

  4. I’m here! loving your honesty and humor! welcome to my world x LOL

  5. vanessa says:

    We have a pretty small house so I am getting better at throwing things out. I once read something along the lines of: was it ever your goal to have so much stuff that it took time away from your family so that you can organize/tend to all of that stuff. That really put it into perspective for me, I don’t want stuff taking over my free or family time.

  6. Miranda says:

    I am so with you on this! We are currently building a home and sold the home we were living in quicker than expected. We’re now in a VERY small temporary apartment, and you never realize how much you’ve accumulated until you’re forced to really take a look at it all and decide where the heck you’re going to put it all. I’m going to use your article and future articles to help me let go of things I really don’t need.

  7. Well said! I loved every word (and every picture!). Thanks for being vulnerable and real…I think we all identify with “not perfect”!:) I love this series and look forward to more. Blessings to you today.

  8. Leigh says:

    I want simplicity too! I have three boys and we have accumulated sooooo many toys/clothes to hand down to each one that it’s ridiculous. I try to weed out broken toys, stained clothes. But have a really hard time letting go of perfectly good toys and clothes that they just don’t need! I get all sentimental. What do you think? Any suggestions?

    • Leigh-someone suggested to me recently, that all the things I’m having a hard time parting with, we should make them into blankets from their clothes. And donate the rest. I think that would be an amazing idea with sentimental onesies. There are some sentimental clothes I will save for my kids, but I will limit myself to one box, etc 😉 just an idea!

  9. Naomi W. says:

    I am SO with you on this one. I have re-purchased more things than I want to admit to because I could not find the original item. You may have passports in your closet – I have my daughter’s immunization records in a bathroom drawer by my husband’s sink. Go figure! I “lost” a purse I bought last year. How could it have escaped the home without me knowing? I need to work on this so that my 13 year old daughter sees a better model for her to follow. She is no better than the rest of us. My mother-in-law’s home would have qualified for the Hoarders show. We did a massive cleanout over almost a year. She died of a stroke in the middle of it. The OCD behavior is very hard to deal with. I do not believe she could have changed if she had lived beyond our cleanout. I heard a speaker on organization 2 weeks ago. That and your post are what I need to get moving. THANKS for being honest with us.

  10. Cheyenne Morris says:

    Hey! I am so glad that you posted this!!! I have been in a state of “do nothing” for months, and it’s driving me crazy! But I don’t know where to start!!! I want my house to look like your first pics!!! But it seems like my house always looks like your closets!!! My closets look like that too! LOL! :-) So, I am definitely with you on this project!!! And I LUV your posts!!! :-)

  11. Malissa m says:

    You seriously just my day! And for the record, I think we could be bff’s in real life. :-) its funny – all my friends and family know me by having this super tidy and organized home. Why?? Because I know they’re coming over!! In fact, a true test of my friendship is when I let you come over with toys strung across the floor, dishes in the sink and husband’s underwear on the bathroom floor. Okay not that they’d go into my bathroom to witness the underwear… But you know where I’m going with this right?? Anyway, it’s easy to look at blogs and think everything looks that perfect in real life… So it’s nice to hear you’re like the rest of us! Haha :-) i love love love having an organized home but it never seems to stay that way. I’ve been on a purging kick lately though so I’ll embark on this journey with you. Project bonfire it is!! (or at least a trip to Goodwill! :-))

  12. Connie Vasbinder says:

    I am so IN! I love your style & sense of humor, and am really looking forward to this series. I want to make room for “SIMPLE” in my home, and it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this. Thanks for adding a pop of color to my day :)

  13. Samantha says:

    Sounds awesome! I’m ready!

    I’m considering turning your quote, “How freeing that must feel to attain not perfection, but simplicity,” into a cutesy sign. That statement is oh so true in all aspects of our lives, at least in this temporal life.

  14. Tennille says:

    I too am with you Ashley. I have been allowing similar thoughts to percolate (?) in my brain for many months. I agree with you…It’s not just purging, tidying, cleaning and organizing. It really is about simplifying your life and learning to be content with less. I also think there is an element of learning to wait and save up for the things that you really want and need and love. I think when you invest time and learn to be patient for the things that you want 1. you buy better quality things that last longer 2. you appreciate the item SOOOO much more and 3. you probably use it more often as well. I’ve been on this journey for a couple of years now as far as the practical side of things go (purging, thrifting, weekly boxes to good will) and be encouraged that it does take a bit to get going but you will find that you start to crave and even enjoy the purge and get a great sense of satisfaction from it because of the peace and calm it gives you. Also, you do begin to build momentum and each day becomes eaiser. Although I’ve been at this for a while I’m really looking forward to this series. I can’t wait to see what great tips you compile. Let’s go!

  15. Kim says:

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on this as the series goes on – I’m a stay at home mom and realize part of me feels entirely swallowed up by my house and the stuff. The clutter. The unnecessaryiness of things. I don’t get to escape during the day very often. Time to get real!

  16. Gilit says:

    SO in! Except that I’m sort of half you and half Jamin because I get in moods to throw everything out, but I loooooathe throwing away things that we might need in the future (like this sock that is so cozy all by itself for the past two years)
    Fabulously honest post, love it.

  17. Melanie says:

    I’M READY!

  18. Tricia says:

    Hoarders unite! I’m battling this also, so I feel your pain!

  19. I literally laughed out loud at the pop up video comment and a few others throughout. I totally understand your pain, I’m the daughter of an “overwhelmed crap stasher” and every day is a battle to be organized. I love this post!

  20. Lisa Eng says:

    You mean to tell me I’m NOT the only one who lives like this?! I keep telling my husband that I’m pretty sure it’s just us…I guess he’s right (first time for everything :-) I have a similar issue with the pre-baby, post-baby clothes. Now to make it all go away!

  21. Jacqui-jac says:

    Nodded my head throughout reading this, with a smile on my face :)
    Thanks for the REALITY!! It has given me a little peace and NORMALITY!!

  22. Justasiam says:

    I’m in!! by the way, I have been able to part with some things by taking photos of them and scrapbooking them with the story/information I want to remember. After all, it is usually not the actual item I am sentimental about, but the memory associated with it.

  23. Lisa says:

    Thanks for keeping it real! This will Sooo help me!

  24. Erin Dolimpio says:

    I’m with ya sista. Ya Ya!

  25. Paula in NH says:

    Thanks for sharing reality photos!

    Like you, I have gotten into the mode of saving a lot of stuff. After all, I have an adorable grandson who loves to play and do arts & crafts. You never know when I might need that empty toilet paper tube!

    My husband is a heavy duty business traveler. I don’t expect him to a lot of housework, but he does tend to leave little piles of stuff around the house.

    I’m working along with you.

    • Oh paula. I think the piles might be a man thing. If I can’t load the dishwasher correctly or put things in the right places, it just might be because I’m overwhelmed by the piles. ;} So I stuff to manage. I need a therapist.

  26. Haley says:

    #1: I am with you 100% girl!

    #2: Thanks for helping the rest of us make this fun(ish) 😉

    #3: Love Love Love your writing style – you have a gift

    #4: Who can seriously expect us (creative types)to be organized! It’s counterintuitive!

  27. Bizuza says:

    We all are with you, Ashley. Take your time. Being organized isn’t a skill you’re born with but a learned skill. Use this opportunity to create an environment of teamwork within your family.Every cloud had a silver lining :-)

  28. Shalagh says:

    I admire the need and willfulness to grow and better your brain. The double dare to go “there”, the place beyond the crazy known. And I think the process isn’t all about the stuff but the definitions we cling to of ourselves. If I say I no longer am that body type or I don’t like blue, donations fly out of the closet.. And to see the mothers scoop up on the baby toys when I take them to the family support center in town, is the reason I encourage my child to do the same. He’s gotten better and better at letting go. So let me take your inspiration plan to redefine myself now up in the attic. Eeesh.

  29. margaret says:

    This coming week I’m pulling everything out of my closet and trying it on. If it doesn’t make me feel good.. straight to the donation bin. Some where in blogland someone talked about finding 40 things to purge in bedroom, then 40 things in study, etc. I would love to attempt this but my hubs is the hoarder and is not on board with the purge plan. So for now I must live with piles everywhere since our 1935 Sears home has very few hiding spots.

  30. Erin says:

    I had to laugh at your and Jamin’s differing approaches to housekeeping. My husband and I are the exact opposite. Last summer I was cleaning out my old room at my parents’ house. My wedding bouquet is still hanging, dried, next to the window. So I took a picture of it, then went to throw it out. My husband (and my parents) just about had a stroke. “YOU CAN’T THROW THAT AWAY IT’S YOUR WEDDING BOUQUET IT’S SPECIAL WHAT ARE YOU DOING.” O___O

    Sometimes I wish the house would burn down (while none of us are home, of course) so that we could just start over. I hate our Stuff. I am a stay-at-home mom with a nineteen-month-old and a seven-week-old and I am perpetually overwhelmed with housework and keeping up with Stuff. I don’t just crave simplicity–I am starved for it. :(

    • Hey Erin. I remember that feeling well, with very young children. It gets better with time, I PROMISE. Not the stuff, but the overwhelmption. It eases a little. ;} Hang in there! And the bouquet makes me laugh! That’s something my parents would say. HAHAHAHA!

    • Nancy says:

      I used some of the flowers from my wedding bouquet to make a Christmas ornament. When the holidays roll around and I pull out all of the sentimental ornaments, it is nice to remember the special milestones without it feeling like day to day clutter.

  31. Here, here! You and Jamin sound just like my husband and I. He didn’t realize until we were married that my “baggage” was actually boxes and boxes of stuff, mostly “projects.” Seeing that my “stuff” greatly outweighed his “stuff,” I decided that I would pair down and get rid of alot, but old stuff was replaced by new stuff and stuff we needed (or might need) for our kids. A couple of years into our marriage, during an arguement, I realized that all my junk and lack of organization was putting a HUGE strain on our marriage. I promised to work at it and simplify if my husband would learn to lighten up and be patient with me (he’s a borderline neat freak). Over the last 8 years, we have both made huge strides and while I’m not perfect (I pile instead of put away), we both have come a long way from where we started. It’s definitely a process and a mind change. I look forward to hearing more and working along! :)

  32. Ann H says:

    Got my goggle, swimsuit, sunscreen and big abnoxous flippers in tow…not to take that plung in winter… Guess that makes us the Polar Bear Simplicty Team! :-)

    Love your posts, PLEASE keep em coming!

  33. michelle says:

    Oh yes, paleeeaaase! This is my marriage situation exactly. I just don’t know where to start. I’d love to tackle our stuff together:) It doesn’t seem so overwhelming when you approach it with a pal.

  34. Kadie says:

    I am soooo glad you published these photos…it makes me realize that I am not alone in the hoarding/stashing/cramming of my closets and drawers. I have put off and put off what really needs to be done in my home. Thank you for helping me, and others, come to terms with these issues.

  35. alicia king says:

    great post! i love to organize and be organized… it’s hard to let go of the crap that you’ve had for years and can’t seem to get rid of…but once you do, you free up your mind and space!

    i’ve spend the past 3 weeks nursing my newborn and watching “clean house” on netflix! have you seen it? it’s pretty hilarious…and disgusting at the same time!

  36. tara says:

    We’re both “kill it with fire” over here, so we have to re-buy things constantly because we give things away or sell them in a garage sale and then realize we want to use them again or wear them again.

    I can’t wait to see this journey for you guys….transparency is always so beautiful.

  37. Katherine says:

    I totally want in on this project. I have piles around my house and I’m always nagging my husband and my 2 boys to tidy and put things away. Trouble is most of the crap is mine (hoarder) and there aren’t enough places to put the things we do want. I crave simplicity and yet love thrifting and crafting – they don’t sit well together. Thank you for sharing, it can’t have been easy but at least I feel that I’m not a failure and we all have issues similar to this. I look forward to working towards simplicity!

  38. Joyce says:

    Totally enjoyed this, loved the reality photo’s and he said she said. Have alot on my plate right now. I chuckled as I viewed your photo’s, writing and read all the comments. I will be looking forward to your writing , and all the other comments people are sharing. Wow, I am not alone with my struggle to be organized and that others struggle with their other halfs. Great photo’s too.

  39. leslie says:

    love your honesty! I’m in, and sharing this with a friend! Your first post of the series was pretty much at the same time as my revelation that with this third baby, things are going to have to be streamlined and older kids are going to have to be taught to help. Perfect timing!

  40. So, my husband and I have been in our brand new home for a year and a half. Before that, we lived in an 800 sq. ft., one-bedroom apartment. And somehow, in the course of this short span of time we’ve managed to accumulate so much crap that it feels like we’re bursting at the seams in our home that is almost double the size of the apartment!

    What happened?

    Despite all my brilliant attempts at organization, our home is over-stuffed and overwhelming. The strong desire we had for so long to “spread out” and “fill our new home”, coupled with an addiction to amazing DIY projects on Pinterest and style dislexia has resulted in the current state we’re in. And you’ve pinpointed my frustrations. So. glad. I’m. not. alone.

    Simplify. It’s so {pun intended} simple! Thank you! I look forward to your series, Ashley!

  41. Natalie says:

    WOW!!! Thank you for sharing! I am so scared to share pictures, but my closets are your closets’ long lost siblings!! I’m so glad I found your blog and I am definitely going to continue on this journey with you!

  42. Jennifer says:

    Oh my gosh. Dying. Laughing. You are so funny. :) I love this; I’m so all in. You should see MY closets. :-/

  43. Sherry says:

    I just found you via Jen Jones IHeart Organizing. I so….relate! Especially the he said/she said. I’ve actually crawled in a dumpster to retrieve what my hubs tossed. In my defense :), he once threw away his paycheck in his “cleaning up” rampage! I am following along. I also realize that what I need is to simplifyys and find better systems–that include less stuff. I have such a hard time putting things away after using them when I have to get on a step stool, to reach the counter, to climb up and put the bowl back on the high shelf I can’t reach. Yep. that needs fixing!!

  44. love.

  45. Julia says:

    This happens in New Zealand too!!!

    Down at the bottom of the world there is a house (mine) that has these exact same problems. Lol

  46. Colleen says:

    I can relate to this on every level. I too struggle with organizing. The funny thing is, the two sites that get the most traffic for my blog are Iheartorganizing and A Bowl Full of Lemons, both of which are mainly organizing blogs. Jennifer even featured one of my spaces in the past. It’s a daily struggle and I’ve finally come to realize that it’s not all about organizing the stuff, but being able to let go of enough stuff to make it easier to keep it under control. I look forward to taking this journey with everyone!

  47. tee says:

    You are so real. Thank you.

  48. Meg says:

    I am sooooo with you Ashley! Everything that you said is exactly how I feel. I thank you so much for your honesty, and for bringing into the light the issues of perfectionism and the unrealistic pressure to be superwoman! I am ready to let go of perfect and embrace balance and simplicity!

  49. Bethany Johnson says:

    Thank you for the “reality check”. Many of us long for the beautiful serene spaces seen on your webpages and can’t quite figure out just how you do it……. Thank you for being so honest and sharing your closets, drawers, and difficult spaces with us. I try to remind myself that interesting people have ‘stuff’, and so do people with many children. It warms me to the core to know I am not the only one out here battling the clutter!!

    Thank you for the many beautiful images and thoughts you share with all of us. Your blog is my oasis in a busy and hectic day.

  50. Jessica says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your reality pics! I love your home and how beautiful it is… I’m just glad that I’m not the only person who’s drawers and closets look like that!!!

  51. Nathalia says:

    I am just so grateful and glad, I can’t even tell you. Grateful that you have shown us your closets. Because I always look at these beautiful homes and feel the stinge of dissatisfaction with my small home. I felt that I as a single girl cannot possibly be more messy and have more stuff than a mom with a big house. And then the organized drawers nearly kept me up at night.
    Thankyou from freeing me of the illusion of perfection.

    On a different note, when I moved last February I got rid of a lot “stuff”. I kept two “sentimental boxes” that are now in my aunts cellar. But everything else just went. I decided to only keep things that had a use and to only buy things that were pretty and had a use. At first I decided not to decorate at all anymore, but now I decided only to decorate with things that are reused or can be recycled easily, such as twigs and the like.
    The only stuffy, useless things left are my books, and I swore I would downsize those too by re-reading each one and giving those that did not move my heart away immediately.
    On the clothesfront, I have decided to go for quality over quantity and to only buy staple pieces or things that I know I can wear for years and years. I used to feel confused by “fashion” even though deep down I always knew what my style was and I just stick to that now.

    Maybe those strategies could help you too.

    • Hey Nathalia! Yes! I am the farthest thing from perfect. Trust me. ;} We have bee purging all day, and these are great tips to remember. Especially about books. I love a good book, but I honestly don’t like them all over my house. ;}