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Let’s Stop Photoshopping Our Lives

Let's stop photoshopping our lives

“If most of us stopped to examine the expectations we set for ourselves, we would discover that our concept of perfection is so unrealistic that it can’t exist in one person. Instead, its a combination of pieces or snippets of what’s perceived as perfect. We don’t just want to be good at what we do, we want to be perfect–we want to edit together all the best clips of what we see to form our lives.”

Brene Brown, page 174, I Thought It Was Just Me But It Wasn’t

Last week, I brought you all into our home for the Clean Your Home for Christmas Challenge. I showed you my messy drawers, my unpacked suitcases, my untidy closets, and gave you a peek into real-life here.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how those posts would be taken. It’s always a little intimidating to press publish on posts that are far from perfect.

You know you’re going to disappoint some people. And as a recovering people-pleaser, that’s hard for me to voluntarily do.

Let's Stop Photo Shopping Our Lives

But can I be really honest with you? Letting you into our home — to see the underbelly, as it were, of our lives — was so freeing for me.

Again and again, women commented and said, “Thank you for being real. It’s so good to know I’m not alone.”

You’re Not Alone

The messes, the fact that I don’t hit all my goals, the unkempt closets, the suitcases that don’t get unpacked for months… they all bear witness to the fact that I’m a work in progress just like you.

I hope that it encourages you to know that I don’t have my ducks in an alphabetical row. Far from it. I deal with have stuff bombs and dust bunnies and bad hair days, just like you.


In this online world beaming with Pinterest-staged pictures, it’s easy to start feeling like we’re the only one who has laundry piles, unwashed dishes, and sticky countertops.

We can be tempted to try to photoshop out the messes, slap on plastic smiles, and pretend we don’t have some ugly, messy, or struggles in our life and home.

But that’s not real life.

We All Have Struggles

I tried being a people-pleaser for years. And let me tell you this: not only is it completely exhausting, it’s lonely.

I’ve discovered it’s so much better to let people get to know me for exactly who I am — messes and struggles and all — than to wear myself out putting on an act in an effort to please someone.

Let's Stop Photo Shopping Our Lives

Real, authentic relationships only happen when we’re willing to stop pretending and start being honest about our struggles.

No one — no matter how put together they may seem — is exempt from hard things.

We all have struggles. We all have burdens. We all have areas where we fall short. We all have literal and metaphorical “junk drawers” in our homes and lives.

Let’s stop photoshopping our lives and instead welcome people in right where we’re at. It won’t always be pretty, put-together, or Pinterest-worthy, but it will certainly be much more fulfilling and freeing!

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  • Jody says:

    Crystal I continue to just be so incredibly blessed by you. I am so very grateful for the day several years ago when I stumbled upon your blog. And I still excitedly read all your posts and always am blessed by what you share.

    This post really struck a chord. I am working so hard to have authentic friendships but feel I have hidden my authentic self for so long that I am even having trouble knowing who I really am. I feel like I’ve minimized some of my struggles to not run people off but then I realize I still feel lonely, even with others around. I crave not being afraid to just be me, I crave being sure of myself and knowing who I am, and I crave discernment to know when I am not being my authentic self. Thank you for being so transparent, your transparency has been such a breath of fresh air. Lol I actually thought the other day when I woke up and was behind again, “it’s ok just go with it, even Crystal has days like this.” Love this post! And so many of your other posts! Thank you for all you do, share, and bless us with!

  • Sue says:

    Thank you. I’m struggling with this right now because I’m having people over for a cookie exchange tomorrow and my house looks like Christmas and a toy store and a laundromat threw up all over it. I plan on having it picked up tomorrow, but it will be far from perfect. But, I had promised myself that I would “Settle for Satisfied” – my new mantra. If I am satisfied and people have a place to sit and enjoy themselves, then it will be good enough.

  • marilyn fuentes says:

    Thank you for this really I have found what you say to be true it is very freeing to let it be & I have also found that the family & friends that know what its like to not have a picture perfect look that if truth be told who lives in a spot less home? If you have kids & fill your life & home with love&joy then that makes it the best homey feeling, if you are critical or judgemental about someone else’s home, instead of talking about it to others humble yourself & offer to babysit or offer to pitch in to do some laundry or help out we all need to help each other not put them under a microscope

  • Fantastic post Crystal … so important that we are honest about our struggles. Our constant efforts to “keep face” are exhausting so many of us mums and can be so destructive of our mental health.

  • Kelly S says:

    Crystal, I enjoyed last week’s series SO much! It is not because of the results; I didn’t end up with a clean and organized house. The community, inspired by your brave pictures, let it all hang out. It is always good to hear that your crazy is normal!

  • MaryBeth says:

    What a wonderful post! With Facebook, Twitter, etc., it’s so hard to be real and authentic especially when it seems everyone’s lives are perfect. But everyone has a struggle and no one’s life is perfect — despite what they post on Facebook. Thanks for the reminder to let people into our messy homes and lives.

  • Jillbert says:

    You nailed it! We all need to be real, not perfect. Years ago, I gave up only having friends over when my home was clean and perfect (which, alas, is almost never for me). It was freeing to fling open the door and, let my friends see my life — shoes in a pile by the door, backpacks strewn about, etc. My friends love me for who I am, not how my home looks.

  • Julie C says:

    Love covers a multitude!!!

    On a frivolous note, where did you get that great black leather bag with the tag still on it? Ca-ute!

    • I have been searching and searching and searching for a travel laptop bag that was durable, would hold my laptop+ personal items, and not be too bulky. I think I *finally* found one! I just got it in from Amazon and have used it twice this week when I went somewhere with my laptop in tow and I am loving it!

  • Tracy S. says:

    I am blessed through you. 🙂

  • Kim says:

    Simply put…thank you.

  • charity says:

    Seems really funny what we as individuals perceive as messy or bad in our lives then when we show or tell others they seem to think it not as bad as their own messy or bad. Your messy house looks clean compared to mine. Thanks for showing it real!

  • Rose says:

    I am physically and mentally incapable of leaving my house, going to bed, or simply sitting on the couch if things are out of place or messy in my house. I joke to family and friends that I’m like this for my own mental health, but the older I get I realize that if there are dishes in the sink or there are crumbs on the counter, I am unable to relax and I become frantic. It’s not because I’m worried someone will stop over and see it, it’s because it simply makes me feel better when my house is clean and orderly. It calms me. My head become clear. My mood becomes lighter. I have tried over and over again to just “leave it be” and that does nothing but make me feel like I’m going to have a panic attack. It sometimes irritates me that my family and friends joke about how neat and orderly I keep my house. I don’t do it for appearances, I do it for myself. It literally makes me happy.

    • charity says:

      OCD maybe?

      • Rose says:

        I’ve thought about it, but I don’t do things over and over. I just make sure there are no dishes in the sink before I go to bed. Or I wipe down the counters, straighten the pillows on the couch, and vacuum at least once a day (ok, maybe twice a day depending on how many family members are home all day). I still have junk drawers and cabinets that could use straightening up. But I also make sure everyone in the house helps out. It’s not just me doing it. Everyone has a job(s) and contributes. Thankfully no one complains about it to. My kids are older though. I WISH I could just go to bed with dishes in the sink….

    • Jen says:

      I can so relate to this!!! I am getting better (3 boys, enough said), but there’s a threshold where I just start to get a little panicky inside….it’s always hanging over my head and weighing me down and cluttering my mind. I really do love having people over, because it’s the one time when everything is all clean all at once. I have tried telling people that I do it for me, but I don’t think they believe me! I just feel the best when everything is in order.

      It is so apparent when I’m gone for an evening and come home and the kitchen is mostly cleaned up but the table wasn’t wiped off and he forgot a pan on the stove, and most of the toys are picked up, but there’s still clutter lying around…..and my hubby is relaxing on the couch with a book!! I appreciate what he has done, but can’t fathom how he can relax in that environment! But he doesn’t see it!! I wish I was that way!!

      • Rose says:

        I know exactly where are you coming from so you are not alone. We don’t do it to impress others or appear that we have it all together, we do it to because it helps us physically and mentally. For some it’s a challenge to keep their house clean, but for people like us, it’s a challenge to not keep it that way. I think that concept is hard for others to understand and realize that a messy house can put us over the edge.

        • Meagan says:

          I can totally relate to both of you, Jen and Rose! I feel so much more relaxed when my house is orderly. Cleaning is therapeutic to me- it gives me time to clear my mind and unwind. It’s just the way I’m wired.

          • Rose says:

            Oh I so agree Meagan! It IS therapeutic! I have to stop myself sometimes from picking up at my in-laws house when we are visiting because I don’t want them to be offended even though I completely enjoy straightening up their kitchen counters!

    • Debra Nobel says:

      I also like a neat and tidy home. I do it not only for me but for my family. If I am calm and the house is neat and tidy then my family is happy. I find that I am the one who makes or breaks the mood in the house. A sense of calm is always welcome. If the house is a mess then my mind is a mess and chaos will erupt not only in my mind but in my reactions with those I come in contact with. My husband likes to come to a place of peace and rest and I love to give him that place to come home to. It is not about anyone but me and my family. And thankfully we thrive as a happy family. Do my kids make messes.. Yes they do. Do I get frustrated, sometimes, but then I go about helping them to clean up with a joyful and helpful attitude. What are they learning. That doing chores and picking up after themselves can be done happily for we are all working together to bring peace and clamness to our home. They are happy and energetic and messy children and I love all 6 of them…

      • Just to clarify, in case anyone was confused: This post is not about having a messy house or a clean house, but about being honest about our struggles and difficulties instead of pretending we have it altogether. The struggles and messes are going to be different things for different people as we’re all wired differently.

        I’m all about working on our messes and doing all we can to improve and make progress — both on our literal and metaphorical “messes” — but I also think it’s important that we don’t try to hide them from others and put on the persona of perfection.

        I hope that helps to clarify.

  • Well, my house on a regular basis looks much messier than your photos, but it’s amazing how much cleaner it can look when the kids and I clean for even 15 minutes. 🙂 I hope people won’t look at my life and think I have it altogether because I certainly don’t. No Christmas cards mailed this year. I’m buying food at the store to bring to a family gathering. My bedroom is an explosion of packages and gifts that I still need to wrap. Our Christmas tree is set up (but not decorated), and that’s the only decoration we have out so far. You know what? I’m enjoying this Christmas season much more than in years past. We’ve read countless Christmas picture books and 2 read-alouds. I’m choosing a no-stress time of rejoicing this Christmas.

  • The longer I live, the more I realize that everyone…EVERYONE…has something that has something they are struggling with, some hurt they are carrying, some burden that weighs heavily on their heart. We would do well to be more kind to others, because most of us are doing the very best we can. A little grace goes a long way.

  • Heidi says:

    I LOVE this! 2014 has been a very challenging year for me. I was working so hard at being perfect that I was failing at everything with the end result of my family almost being ripped apart. With a lot of soul searching, I’ve realized that I’m buying into this idea that women need to be perfect wives, mothers, homekeepers, employees, friends, and it’s unattainable. So, over the past few months I have really been working to transition from this way of thinking to slowing down and enjoying my family and life. It’s hard to get there and yes, my house is not magazine ready, my laundry pile is huge, but we’re so much happier and at the end of the day, that is what truly matters to me. Thank you for writing this, I plan to share it with the many of my friends who haven’t yet had this Ah-Ha moment.

  • jenn says:

    Love this…this is WHY I read your post on a daily basis! Thank You! Merry Christmas!

  • Sarah says:

    If your house is a mess than i am in trouble. It makes me think of how people will clean their house and then say “oh sorry for the mess”. My kids need a bubble and my husband needs to learn what a laundry basket is haha. Maybe I need to go through the house and get rid of 90% of what I have. Then i wont have to pick it all up off the floor. But then what the kids play with and what will my husband wear 😀

  • Amanda says:

    Your “messy” pictures inspire me to continue decluttering the house! Less stuff = smaller messes.

  • Martina says:

    Every time I get overwhelmed by those “pretty lies” on social media, and get discouraged about how my house looks like…my husband gentle reminds me that 1) we live in this house 2) that people usually stage their photos 3) dishes=our boys had food to eat, laundry=the we have clothes to wear, toys strewn around=we were able to give them above the necessities

  • Amber Fowler says:

    Crystal, I have been reading your blog regularly for about five years. I am such a Type B person, that seeing your mess inspires me to tackle what I can in this season of toddlers and babies…but even better, it makes you even more relatable, to me, the Non-Type A person! So, rest-assured, you certainly haven’t disappointed me!! 🙂

  • Thank you Crystal. While I like having a clean house, our house isn’t perfect and there is always something that needs to be cleaned. I have also started documenting our life as we live it. I like organized and functional spaces but I also live and work in those spaces so things will get messy. My goal, to not only help myself but, to help any readers that stumble across my little piece of the blogosphere is to show them that more and more there are real moms and women who don’t have everything perfect but that based on what we have and what we try is a little step to success.

    The more and more that you share, the more I find myself reading your blog. It is so much more real than some of the other picture perfect blogs I’ve read. I like real. I need real. Why? Because real helps me, and I’m sure others, back down to reality and how we are all on this same journey.

  • Jessica says:

    In 2010, I had a horrible year. It included hospitalization for post-partum depression, several severe illnesses, a death in the family, and several household problems such as a sewer backup, a washing machine flood and our heat pump / ac unit broke and had to be replaced.

    When it came time to put together a holiday card, I was ready to give up! We spent an hour trying to get the perfect picture of our then 4 year old daughter and 5 month old son. After reviewing the 100+ shots, I finally settled on one. My daughter had this extremely naughty look on her face and my baby son was screaming. It pretty much summed up our year. I created the cards and mailed them out. And wouldn’t you know, people still remark on that card years later. It was so REAL. Everyone understood! It got a good many laughs out of many people who also had a bad year.

    Looking back at that photo now, I laugh too. I now have another child… so my oldest is 8, my son is now 4 and my littlest will turn 2 on … Christmas Eve! What seems so annoying can years later turn into something that brings a smile to your face.

  • Steve Kobrin says:

    Great advice. I think a lot of times people don’t reveal their true selves because they sell themselves short. If they truly appreciated all their own wonderful qualities, they would be glad to let the world see who they are!

  • tess says:

    “Perfectionism” is an elusive thief. It will steal your joy, contentment, and vulnerability. At the heart of the matter, it is about competition. It isn’t about striving for excellence (a good thing), but striving to impress. The check test for me is asking the question…”Would I change xyz if no one was looking?”
    This advent I will not find myself in mistletoe mayham (as I have before). I will choose to focus on people… I will choose to focus on a precious gift given to mankind thousands of years ago… I will relish “comfort and joy”.

  • I’ve come to realize that many of us are more concerned about having the appearance of an amazing life than actually having an amazing life. I don’t think we should bare all on social media but if we are one person online and a completely different person in real life, there’s a problem.

    • This is such. a. good. word. Thank you for sharing!

    • Cari says:

      Although it’s not what you meant, it made me think, we probably don’t even realize we are aiming for what looks like an amazing life to everyone versus a life we would really enjoy living.

    • JOYce says:

      Am considering that some being judged as plastic and untrue and stagers and not authentic/transparent enough are being judged harshly. Extending a little grace might have us understand a different perspective than first blush. Many ladies my age and of my mother’s generation and their ensamples were taught to extend their best efforts considering comfort when inviting folks into their homes. Offering disheveled to invited guests just isn’t the way offline and thus not the way online for those folks. Of course, drop ins always understand daily routines with dropping in very measured in number of times and length to be considered mannerly. In the virtual realm, however, there are no drop ins…everyone is an invited guest and hospitality rules to many a hostess. 🙂 I doubt any of us should tell our hostess they didn’t feel comfortable because the house/home was too clean/orderly for their comfort and the hostess too considerate of them as guests?

      Some folks are genuinely the same online and off ~ yet simply not apt to share what they hold too dear for global critique by knowns and unknowns alike. One knows there are lurkers with bad intentions so no fodder! Plus such basic online conduct means no room for comparisons over who has the messiest or most pristine daily OR hospitality-to-friends-and-strangers life. Simplicity. Sincerity.

      • I should have written out my response a little better, I was on my kindle and it’s hard for me to write on it. I am sometimes included in that group that wants the appearance of an amazing life without actually having the amazing life. And it has nothing to do with how clean or messy my house is. Having good relationships with my husband and children and others (to me, this is an amazing life) is much more work that giving the appearance of having good relationships. And that is the way it is for much of life. Social media has given us an outlet to showcase just the good and sometimes we get caught up in believing that keeping that appearance is more important than the lives we really live.

        By the way, I also believe that not everything should be shared publicly and that we should tidy up before having guests over.

  • Sam says:

    I wonder if this is a bigger issue among those in the online/blogging world? In my group of friends, we all have little kids, work full time outside the home and our houses are disasters on a regular basis. I don’t know a single person that isn’t honest about that or pretends they aren’t frazzled most of the time.

    I appreciate your posts about being more authentic. There was a time a few months ago that I was going to stop reading because I felt this blog was very “photoshopped”. I remember asking the question about your grocery budget in a comment and you replied that it hadn’t gone up very much, but did appreciate when you came out and said you in fact had increased your budget dramatically. I think most people appreciate those “what you see is what you get” people. Just be honest, it works out better in the long haul.

    • I’m so, so glad to hear that you have such a great group of authentic relationships in your life. That’s such a gift!

      Also, just to clarify: We only recently raised our grocery budget — as I wrote about in this post here:

      I didn’t want you or anyone else to think that I had given you an untrue answer, because it was true at the time. It was a months-long struggle for me to finally see the light when it came to our grocery budget and realize it was time to stop fighting it and just raise the budget. 🙂

      Honesty is very, very important to me as a blogger. While I don’t think everything needs to be shared and there are some things that shouldn’t be put out there publicly, it’s very important to me that everything I do share here is 100% accurate and true (as far as I know it be so).

      Also, if you (or others) missed this post about why I’ve been a lot more authentic as a blogger this year, be sure to read this:

  • Amy says:

    What a wonderful notion, especially at this time of year, when there’s so much pressure for perfection – decorations, gifts, food, Elf on a Shelf placements 🙂 It’s downright exhausting to put so much effort into creating an image, let alone trying to live up to it!

  • karen cripe says:

    I’ve felt guilty about my own house keeping. Having to help my elderly family and working. My husband pitches in and it all turns out ok. It’s the stress we put on our sells to be perfect.

  • Ashley says:

    Whenever you post cleaning pictures, I’m in awe of how spacious your home is. Your rooms and closets look so empty to me.

  • Tia says:

    We appreciate your ability to be honest with us and show your home in its unkept state. Being able to be vulnerable is something we all could stand to do more often.

  • LOVE this Crystal! Oh, if you could see my homeschooling and blogging station right now.

    Blessings to you and yours! Appreciate you. Shared on Facebook.

  • Veronica says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  • Melissa says:

    Your home, in all of it’s “messiness” doesn’t touch my mess. I wish my mess was as tidy and organized as yours.

  • Dani says:

    Thank you so much for this real life lesson I have learned the hard way! My mom used to say that that the dust and dirt will always be there but your kids won’t always be young and your friends not always around. I didn’t let people into my home for years and if I did I was embarrased or felt so judged. However in my life’s journey I’ve realized if they are judging they are not a friend I want to have. I love going to a friends house who let’s me into their imperfect world too, it confirms sincerity to me, and sincerity is a better character trait than any cleanliness judge! Keep it real, and be blessed!!

  • Jamie says:

    I’m a working mom with a toddler and I homeschool my step-daughter who has trauma issues and 3 disorders. Most days I’m home it’s either get through some school or clean the house but never both. Needless to say my house is never clean. Not even a little bit. I don’t even pretend.

  • Annie C. says:

    Crystal, you rock! I think you should start a hashtag for women to post a “real” moment of their day. I think it would be very freeing for so many women including me. Maybe #imnotpinterestperfect #thisisreallife

  • leah says:

    This is a beautiful thought though I most agree with several others in says my home is much worse. Lol! I have probably 20 loads of laundry to do (half that needs packed away or donated) a rubber maid tote full of dirty dishes ( I prefer my sink to be clear) and a huge box of Christmas presents that have found a home yet (can you say kids toys from the in laws that I already want to toss? Lol)
    All this on top of the usual clothing toys shoes trash (4 kids 🙁 ) that accumulates daily. But I’m learning to embrace it all and gradually building routines. I’m not exactly the fun mom I want to be, and story time doesn’t happen nearly enough but I’m learning and growing and giving myself grace. I know that someday I’ll be that mom. Not the one with the perfect house. The one who’s kids think she’s the best in the world ( oh wait, they’ve already told me that!). I may not be perfect or have it all together but I for sure am super blessed! <3

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