Reality Check | Not So Neat

I have one or two big Disney World related posts I’d like to share and honestly was hoping to have put together by now, but time has gotten away from me.  I thought I’d take a moment this week to check in in an effort to *keep it real* here on my blog.  My office has been an absolute nightmare lately and in complete disarray for the most part.  I think this is an accurate reflection of how I’ve felt about my posting lately: not very organized and completely haphazard.  I’d like to feel as if there’s more structure to it, but letting myself go with the flow has been an important lesson over the past year as I find my balance with my new role as a mother in addition to the other parts I play.  Things are getting out of hand on my desk, however, and it’s about time I stopped and did a reality check of the situation.

reality check not so neat

Yikes!  Yes, that is a real time photo of my desk.  It’s been that way for longer than I care to admit and more and more keeps getting piled on.  The other surfaces in my office (and there are many!) look similar and the closet…well, let’s just say it’s hazardous to your health to go in there right now.  It’s easy to imagine from looking at perfect Instagram photos and immaculate home tours on blogs and in videos that some people just have it together all of the time.  And perhaps there are some that do.  I am not one of those people.  Yes, I like a neat home and I do my best to keep the majority of our house as tidy as possible on a daily basis, but it is never 100% organized at any one time.  Not even close!

I, too, catch myself swooning at beautiful photos of impeccable desk tops, pantries, closets, etc and sometimes can’t help but feel a little bit “less than” because my own spaces rarely reflect such order even though I consider myself a pretty organized person.  The truth is, life happens and there are only so many hours in a day.  If I have to choose between reorganizing my pantry to keep it ship shape or spending that time on the floor playing with my daughter, I always choose the latter.  And in the spirit of honest sharing, sometimes it’s a choice between organizing and sitting down with a cup of tea and a Pottery Barn catalogue.  Most of the time I feel like Inspector Gadget with my arms and legs whirling around a thousand miles a minute trying to get it all done, but even the busiest bee needs to sit down and take a breather once in awhile.

Precious nap time is split between basic household to-do’s like laundry and picking up and trying to keep up with my content.  This means there are some extremely neglected areas of my house right now, especially my office.  I know I’ve talked before about how it’s always the last area I devote time to keeping tidy, perhaps because it’s mainly a space just for me and it feels like I should prioritize the common areas more (my daughter, Charlotte, does spend time in my office when I am brushing our Shih Tzu, Winnie, every day so I do keep the floor and lower shelves pristine for her).  Honestly, though, I struggled with having untidy parts of my house that felt difficult to keep up with before I had a child, too.  It’s just a part of who I am: mostly organized (or pretty neat – yes, I went there). 😉

I’ve gotten better over the past year at cutting myself slack for not having it all together when it comes to maintaining order in my home.  Our first level is usually quite clean and I spend most of my daily efforts picking up and spot cleaning to keep it that way.  Charlotte’s room is also a priority for me in keeping tidy.  Our bedroom is pretty close, although there is an endless rotation of piles on our bureau that I can’t seem to keep clear for more than a day at a time.  The basement, garage, our closet, and my office, however, are a different story.  Let me paint you a picture…

The laundry room, which doubles as our main storage space, needs some serious attention.  I’ve spent the last year sorting and purging decor to make room and what remains is stacked randomly as I need to find dedicated space for baby things Charlotte has outgrown that we’d like to save for a possible future baby.  I long gave up on Don’s office ever being in any state of order.  It’s his space and I let it be whatever that is for him (he likes to joke that he organizes “chronologically by height” – aka piles upon piles).  The garage is overrun by bins from a mudroom renovation project we completed earlier in the year that I have yet to organize.  Our closet has been taken over by bins of maternity and baby clothes I’m tucking away just in case.  And my office?  Well, if a picture says a thousand words, the one above shows a thousand things.  I need to make a dedicated and organized space for my memory keeping projects that is also readily accessible since I work on them any spare moment I can.

Our main living spaces are not overrun by clutter.  On the contrary, they’re quite neat and livable, but also comfortable and welcoming.  I like that my personal feelings about an organized home have become less rigid over the years.  I function best when there is a place for everything, but I don’t feel like it has to be exactly a certain way all of the time.  I’m more flexible about implementing home organization systems.  I focus on functionality as opposed to the aesthetic.  For example, it makes sense to leave some of my daughter’s toys out in the family room all of the time, because she plays with them every day.  Our home feels more lived in and loved in than ever, and that makes it much more beautiful in my eyes than if it were picture perfect all of the time.

I know I need to make some time for the garage, the basement, our closet, and my office, but I also know it’s not absolutely necessary for me to do so right away.  Is it the end of the world if my desk looks like a scrapbooking bomb went off on it for another week or even month?  No.  As long as my family is safe, happy, and healthy, that’s what matters most.  I am not defined by the messes that are part of my life right now.  It does not make me less of a mother, wife, content creator, woman – human – to not have my sh*t together all of the time.  I can enjoy the beautiful organizational work of others shared online without being hard on myself for my home not reflecting perfect orderliness as well.

I am doing the best that I can every day and that is the best I can do.  That’s been my motto since becoming a mother and it means a lot to me as a recovering perfectionist.  Yes, I’ll continue to cringe at the spaces that need more attention until I finally get to them, but I no longer let them define me as “less than.”  Sometimes I still need to organize something to feel grounded again.  These days, however, those few minutes spent enjoying a cup of tea and the latest Pottery Barn catalogue with my pup curled up by my side while my baby rests bring me the most peace.  I relish them before my Go-Go Gadget arms and legs start whirling at break-neck speed once again.

What are your favorite ways to calm your mind and soothe your soul?  I’d love to know if you care to share.
I hope you can find some peace today, even if only for a moment. ❤️

60 comments

60 thoughts on “Reality Check | Not So Neat”

  1. Thank you for writing and posting this, Jen. I appreciate the courage that it takes to hit the publish button and post what you write. I relate on so. many. levels. My son is about 3 weeks older than Charlotte and I’ve been following you on your journey for the past year or so. It’s amazing how babies are so unique and yet exactly the same in so many ways! I work fulltime outside of the home and I can totally relate to all you wrote. My home is never 100%, if the kitchen looks awesome, the living room is a mess, if the bedroom is neat, the bathroom needs decluttering. It never ends. Thank you for the reassurance and extra boost of encouragement I needed for the day to know that it’s okay and that those extra 30 minutes of play time on the floor are far more important than a clean dining room table. One thing I’ve recently started to “calm my mind” is to keep a gratitude journal. Every night before bed I take 10-15 minutes to list as many things as I can that I’m grateful for. Everything–from the free cup of coffee from my co-worker this morning to my son sleeping thru the night. It’s helped so much to settle my mind and bring joy to my heart.

    1. Love this! Thank you for sharing ❤️ I, too, have kept up with a daily gratitude journal practice over the past 5 or 6 years and it’s made a huge difference in my life. It’s a great way to frame the day, especially on particularly tough ones.

      1. That’s amazing! It must be so wonderful to look back on all those grateful moments. And I agree! It seems as though on the toughest days, my gratitude journal becomes a sanctuary and safe haven away from the chaos. Completely life-changing.

  2. Hi Jen, you’re not the only with an office that looks like a tornado hit it! Doing a part-time degree the same time as a full-time job means a lot of stuff goes on the back burner around the house. Thankfully I only have two more months before I finish!
    The simplest yet hardest way I soothe my soul is to give myself a break. This “chaos” won’t be forever and if I want to take some time to read a book as an escape, then I do it. You can only do the best you can at the time.

  3. Good post! So true, it is very unrealistic to have our “ahem” together 100% of the time. We do the best we can and sometimes we just don’t do the best we can and that’s ok too and keep it moving.

  4. I am glad I am not alone…my craft room is a disaster. I have no excuse except that I am enjoying doing other things! I am glad you are taking this time with your family. You are blessed with a happy healthy family and that is the only priority right now! (Thanks for sharing the photo! I would feel right at home in your space :)! )

  5. Ah I feel like my whole house looks like your desk right now and honestly, it keeps me up at night sometimes! What I call a mess, my Mr called lived in, and I am finally, slowly coming around to that way of thinking. I’m not failing if I haven’t done a load of washing each day, and if I don’t manage to do all the dishes before heading out to work, it doesn’t mean my day is ruined. It’s hard, and I still clean like the Queen is coming when family and friends drop by, but I’m slowly coming around to a more relaxed, lived in home. It won’t always look like a show home and I’m becoming OK with that!

    Sarah 🙂

  6. I love this post. I agree, the lived-in and loved-in look is better than any perfect magazine-worthy home. Toys on the floor, blankets draped over the couch, rogue cups–they all tell the story of a family that’s alive. And that’s to be celebrated. Thanks for sharing, Jen!

  7. Jen ♡♡♡ this so much. You are describing my feelings perfectly. Family first. Less things will be my next focus. Really admire your transparancy and love for what truly matters.

  8. When my “ahem” isn’t together I neglect writing, ‘stickering’ my planner; But hey if it means I get even one more yoga session in, on more grounding meditation, I find Its worth it! 🙂

  9. I could not have needed this post more! In the spirit of being honest, I may have gotten a bit choked up at parts. Why? Because I’ve been following you on all of your platforms for years (and love you!!!) and since my first son was born, I have been struggling as a recovering perfectionist as well. Now, when son #2 was born, my Etsy shop closed and I feel like Inspector Gadget as well, 24/7! I always feel that mommy guilt during naptime every day (they are now 4 years old and 18 months, whew!) when I sit down with my lunch, a cup of tea, and spend 30 minutes on a blog (like today), watching YouTube, or in my planner. I feel so much peace reading and feeling another mommy’s feelings about needing that time for the soul and needing that functionality in my home over aesthetic (yes!!!!). I just love this post, Jen. I am sending you a big hug for posting this today because it’s exactly what I needed to read and I only love you more for it. (((hugs))) xoxo

  10. Hi Jen!
    This makes me think of a quote my grandma cross stitched on a pillow for me, when my daughter was born, “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow… For babies grow up we have learned to our sorrow…So quiet down cob webs…dust go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep!😌

  11. I just love that you shared this. I’ve wondering how all the organizing has gone since you have become a mother. I love this real look at life.
    It is not the end of the world!!!! If you have time, and you are up to I would love for you to share some of things projects you are tackling in your home now with a baby.

  12. Hi Jen. Thanks for posting. I’m feeling a little less than this week since I’m trying to squeeze everything into a day. A full time job with a long commute, improving my health habits by cooking at home and exercising, and trying to squeeze some time in for some part time work on the side. Not to mention the usual household duties of tidying up. All while seeing everyone’s beautiful posts online. When is there time to relax?? Well – today, I decided to drop it all and relax. I went to work, but that’s where it ended. I’m going to allow myself an evening without the extras. And the world will go on. I’ll be a better person tomorrow for it. I made some time to read your post and it’s refreshing to see the not so perfect side of things. Btw- your scrap desk area looks like mine! Enjoy your tea and PB catalog! I’ll enjoy my fave tv show tonight and an early bedtime with a book!

    1. Sometimes we all need to let go, right? Not all of the time, of course, but every once in awhile it’s nice (and necessary!) to just relax.

  13. This may sound strange but the more haphazard you may feel about your content, the more I have been enjoying it lately. It seems natural, and real and unforced. I think this is the best kind of content to put out. So, be reassured, your viewers will continue to watch you and enjoy whatever you post. Btw, I really loved your December Daily Album and recent WDW posts. Thanks for sharing your joy and love for your family with us!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that! I’ve been trying to let myself “go with the flow” with my content more, too 🙂

  14. Thank you so much for this, Jen. I think everyone needs a little reality smack once in awhile.

    My son is almost 3 and he’s embracing toddlerhood like whoa! Ha! Messes, chaos, sticky fingers…all of it. I’ve had to just embrace the fact that my house isn’t going to be spotless every day like it used to be. And when it IS clean, it’s going to be messy again soon. This has been (really) rough for me, but whenever I look at that silly little boy, my heart fills with so much joy that everything else can just take a number.

    Much love to you and your family, Jen. I’ve been following you since 2011, but the past year has been my favorite.

  15. LOVE THIS. I’ve always felt you were too hard on yourself, when you are so so wonderful just the way you are. I’m very happy to see you letting loose and cutting yourself some slack. Adore you <3

  16. I love this style blog post. Thank you so much for sharing this! It is exactly what I needed right now in my life. I’ve always struggled to be organized because clutter drives me nights, but lately I’ve been enjoying spending a little extra time making my planner look pretty (I love your plan with me videos, I hope you keep posting them) and just spending a few extra minutes on the couch with my husband. I’ve been watching your videos for many years and I absolutely love your spirit and attitude. I found your channel when I got my first shih tzu (I have 3 now 😁) and realized our organization styles are very alike. I hope you continue to post content, if is beautiful to see such positivy and honesty in the world these days. Thank you for everything you’ve done for your subscribers! Best wishes,
    Dominique

  17. Hi, Jen!
    You don’t have to post this to your blog, but I just wanted to tell you that I love this “new” Jen! You’ve changed so much over the years and I love how you seem more real and down to earth over the past few months. I can relate 110% to this post. It made me feel so much better about the state of my home. I used to envy you and wished I could be as organized as you were all the time but this post made me realize that not everyone’s (even your home) is immaculate all of the time. I kind of stopped watching your channel for a while, because I’m not really into favorites videos, but I have been loving your content lately. Keep it up, girl! And don’t push yourself too hard! You’re so right in the fact that your family comes first! I wish you and yours all the best, and Charlotte is so stinking adorable btw! My daughter just turned 18 months old a few days ago and loves seeing Charlotte in the vlogs!

  18. I loved this post so much! While not a mother, I am a perfectionist. I am so hard on myself to balance school, marriage, internship, friends, and job, all while keeping everything neat. I think it’s impossible to do everything 100% of the time, for god sake’s especially as a mother. I think you do more than just okay, you are an amazing mother. I can completely agree with this post. I know it’s tough on days when things seem chaotic Jen, as I too struggle with feeling down if my apartment isn’t super organized and neat. This was so refreshing. You are right, your mess/clutter is temporary, it doesn’t and WON’T ever define you or make you any less of an incredible human that you are <3 So loved this post. <33

  19. Thank you so much for writing this post! I ❤️ it because it made me feel normal in a way. I have 4 children ranging in ages of 8-11 months and I’ve always said I rather have family time and make memories than to worry about having a spotless, well organized home. One day when I have all the time in the world to clean I’ll be sad because the crazy chaos we call life will be on a different chapter. So for now…let it be and enjoy the blessed life we have.

  20. I am so happy you are cutting yourself some slack. I was hard on myself as a young mother — there always seemed to be graham cracker crumbs ground into the carpet and everything seemed sticky from little hands. I wondered if my house would ever be tidy all at once. Well. My children are now grown and live in another state. I see them maybe once a year. My house is tidy most of the time. I wish I could go into their rooms and see their heaps of clothes and make-up and books and “stuff” piled on their beds and floor. Enjoy every minute of this “untidy” part of your life — it will go faster than you can believe.

    1. Aw, this made me sentimental and CC is only 1! I can’t imagine when she leaves the nest. I savor these days!

  21. Thank you for this! I feel like so often we are all trying to be “instagram/magazine perfect” when in reality that’s just not life! After a stressful week it’s a positive reminder that people you admire are similar to you. Thank you!

  22. You are in the thick of it right now. Consider getting a person in once a week to do the main things and enjoy your daughter. My daughters are now 11 and 14 and trust me, you slowly get your life back and you sort of miss the craziness you are experiencing right now. It’s amazing how all the little things that used to matter no longer do when your focus changes. There is a book called 5 minute journal for moms I think. It’s just a couple of lines a day, but something like that can help take you back to this without taking a lot of time. The rest will wait, you will have lots of time once she starts school. Enjoy the chaos!!!

    1. We do have a cleaning person who comes one day a week and is a godsend! Our house is generally very *clean* it’s just not always 100% *tidy* if you know what I mean.

  23. Ah, the illusive quest for balance! It is so nice to know that none of us are alone in this struggle. I tell people that organizing is my hobby, which is true. I love it! But life is super busy right now with 4 kids in school, a 4 year old, a very busy 2 year old, and the fact that we are moving to a temporary location in less than 2 weeks and overseas in 4. The house just isn’t Pinterest worthy right now! Taking daily time each afternoon to myself to enjoy a cup of coffee in my favorite mug and the view of the mountains out the window or some inspiring YouTube videos is a sanity-saving must. Thanks for identifying with all of us. Your post was an encouragement this morning.

  24. Jen, reading your post just made my day! Last night we had our handyman come over a fixed a couple of things in our 2nd floor bathroom. I found my self cleaning hysterically my living room and kitchen (open concept) as I do not have a foyer and you just walk into my living room. Cleaned the stairs leading to the second floor as it was the “catchall” place and clean the second floor bathroom. I accomplished all of that in 2 hours. But once I was done I was thinking, why can’t I keep these spaces clean? And reading your post just reminded me that I have other priorities and it is OK to spend with family. I work full time, so time management is ALWAYS challenging! Thanks so much for sharing! I really appreciate it! Lucy

    1. You got it….life isn’t all about cleaning up all of the time! It’s nice to have a tidy home but it’s important to enjoy your time spent in your home as well.

  25. Thanks for sharing, I know what you mean about seeing those IG & blog photos where everything is so perfect! I dropped my better homes and gardens subscription a long time ago! You’ll have plent of time to tidy when CC is a bit older. Their only little once! I know a cliche.. my daughter is 17 and I still struggle. I suffer from depression and anxiety so sometimes it’s just overwhelming! I’m more a procrastinater than perfectionist. I appreciate your honesty & hang in there! I’ve been watching your YT & reading your blogs for a long while now And enjoy them immensely!

  26. This is going to sound sooo cheasy! But when I need to just get grounded instead of stressed out over all the messes – I watch one (often a couple) of your videos. It can be a favorites video, an old vlogidays video or whatever – your voice and world has just become my escape. (That sounds so creepy! – sorry) And it’s not just you as a person and the way you are, but the content is tailored to my interests (organizing, planning, tea and just became a mother 13 months ago).

    So, thank you very much for creating content – you are so inspiring! I really needed this post.

  27. Hi Jen….I appreciate your words so much and although I do not have a baby I have similar circumstances. I am a full time caregiver to my in laws that live with me and my husband they are both 92 years old and without being disrespectful to them it’s like looking after two small children! I make all their meals, we have to bathe them and unfortunately both are in diapers and require bibs as well when they eat. It’s a very hard job and at times very challenging but we both know that we are doing the right thing and caring for two lovely and appreciative parents! My daughter recently adopted two children so I’m now a proud grandmother to a two year old sweet granddaughter and a lovely 3 month old grandson! So my home is never empty or tidy but it is full of love!!!

  28. Such a great post Jen!
    I had my first baby a couple of months before you and I too accepted this fact. It’s OK not to have it all together and to put my child before reorganizing a space! TFS <3

  29. Love your post. Your priorities are right on point and you are enjoying your life. That’s all that matters, your family time always comes first and the rest will follow. Good for you!

  30. Thanks for keeping it real, Jen. Apparently crafting is messy business because @kwerner’s desk gets messy too, so you must be doing it right! Love to the Ross family!

  31. Love the post. Its so true though that we all get caught up in thinking we need things to be perfect that we forget sometimes the best thing is just letting it all go and having fun.

  32. I love that you posted this and I absolutely agree with you and many others that posted. This time is precious and it will go by fast. Enjoy the little moments you have and don’t stress about making everything perfect all of the time. My girls are 13 and 11 now. I feel like I have a little more time to get things done, but its always a struggle between being present with them and keeping up on my projects and cleaning. I thing it’s perfect that your content adapts to this time in your life. I have always found your authenticity and honesty to be so refreshing. Thank you for sharing!

  33. “Recovering Perfectionist”….Love it! It truly can be a balancing act, trying to find the right amount of “clean and clear” to keepy head from exploding, and ignoring the mess to spend time with my kids. Nine people create quite the mess, and it can get bad quickly! Thank you for sharing your real life with us. As much as we all know that no one has it all together, sometimes it’s refreshing to see it. 😉

  34. Hi Jen, Thank you for sharing! 🙂
    Yes, I struggle with this too all. the. time. To organize and have a tidy, neat and clean house or spend time with my three kids after they get out of school and working from home… This past year I have had to set some major boundaries because they are not getting any younger. #thestruggleisreal
    I’m also loving the more personal posts here on your blog!
    -Jade

  35. Just wanted to pop in to say that your blog and videos are my virtual “Pottery Barn catalog and cup of tea.” Thanks for being one of the bright spots on the internet! ❤

  36. I can definitely relate a bit. I don’t have a kid yet but as my career takes of and I juggle two other jobs and some continuing education classes. Along with my dogs competition and time with Caden there never seems to be a time where my entire house is clean and organized . So I’ve learned to just go with the flow and let small things slide enjoy time with friends the house can wait . My new train of thought is you only get one time to leave through each stage of your life make it count and enjoy it

  37. Thank you for this post. You are living real like and my husband is just like Don in his idea of organizing. I knew I needed to do housework this weekend but going and spending time with my family was more important and great for my soul.

  38. Fab post Jen. So true that everything doesn’t always have to be perfect. I always stress out when we have people coming over, will they judge me if toys are out or if there are a few jobs that I’ve been neglecting. But then I try to remember that I’m enjoying being a Mum with a toddler and that having a house that is lived in and not always perfectly tidy is definitely my preference. I will have years to focus on that when I have a teenager who won’t come out of their room lol. Thanks for sharing xx

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