Worse Homes And Gardens

by Courtney Sirotin on January 25, 2013

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I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I say that my life looks very little like the idyllic domestic landscapes portrayed on the pages of magazines like Real Simple and Better Homes and Gardens. It’s more like Real Complicated. I find it challenging just getting full garbage bags into the bin where they belong outside of the house, never mind trying to create inspirational living spaces using reclaimed furniture and various sized mason jars.

I don’t have an office job. I only have one kid. I am healthy (knock on wood), educated and competent and yet I somehow can’t figure out how so many women live such elegantly simple lives in such well-maintained houses. Just for fun, let’s look at all the ways that I fall short as a domestic diva. I’ll use the typical features of a home magazine to juxtapose my inadequacies. This post shall be self-deprecation at its best!


Magazines love to tell me about hot stone massages, nail colors for spring and the latest eyelash treatments. My reality is more like throwing nail clippers in my jacket pocket and hoping I get a few seconds to cut them sometime this week, which will probably happen surreptitiously while watching Dylan on a playground somewhere. I mentioned over a month ago, the day after I got my hair cut, that it didn’t turn out right and I needed to get it fixed. That never happened; I just deal with getting annoyed every time I get out of the shower and have to do something with it. Not only have my eyebrows never been threaded, they’ve never been waxed or touched by a professional who knows what she’s doing. About twice a year I take out some old tweezers and make sure there aren’t any random brow hairs where they don’t belong. Real talk.

Home Décor

According to magazines, tables need centerpieces. Centerpieces can be as simple or as complicated as I want them to be. A nice bowl of seasonal fruit or even fresh flowers would be just fine. My reality looks more like this:

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And this:

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And speaking of fruit, I felt very magaziney recently when I brought home three pomegranates because they are at least 50% fancier than bananas, but for the life of me I can’t find enough free time to sit down and enjoy them! I like to eat poms seed by seed and that takes a good half hour or more and I can’t justify taking that much time to eat a piece of fruit, so they remain sitting in my “fruit bowl” losing their luster by the day. Guess what I do have time to eat? Bananas. And chocolate chips. Straight out of the bag.

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Not only do I put literally no effort into home décor, I haven’t even managed to get screens installed in our windows and I set out to tackle that project last summer. I would love to have white curtains billowing in the breeze around here, but at this point I’ll just be happy to open the windows without letting in bugs.

Food and Wine

I “should” be making weekly meal plans and their corresponding grocery lists. I “should” be taking an afternoon each week to clip and organize coupons. I “should” be preparing simple yet nutritious home cooked meals using local and organic ingredients for my family. We “should” be sitting down together each night to share those meals. Ugh! These expectations stress me out more than anything else! My reality includes trying to feed a picky two-year old who lives off dinners like these:

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And the closest he gets to a fresh vegetable is the occasional cheddar and broccoli soup from a chain restaurant. (He won’t touch the soup when I make it.)


I can’t tell you how many hand-stamped, custom notecard tutorials I’ve seen in home magazines! If I want to send someone a thank you card it goes out a month late on a card that comes from a value-pack I got from Wal-mart or, more likely, I end up just sending a text or email.


From what I can tell from magazines, I should have a well-edited closet filled with high-quality and interchangeable basics that I can dress up or down depending on my day and the events that I am attending. From what I can tell from my closet, I am a fashion failure. My closet is overflowing with clothes, two thirds of which I haven’t worn in two or three years, and most pieces are stuffed three to a hanger so I can’t even see what’s really in there anyway. Also, my dress-up clothes are only one degree fancier than my pajamas, and they are not event-specific. So there’s that.

By now you might be wondering where I’m going with all this. (Ha! you too?) Well, if you read this blog regularly you know that I am a self-described “mess” and that I usually choose to embrace it. You also know that I value my time with my husband and son more than my baseboards and cuticles. I think its like this: I know that I am not domestically inclined. I have accepted this. I even realize that I have some unique and special talents that make up for my inability to make headway in my living space. Even so, occasionally I read something on a blog or see something on the cover of a magazine that depicts a reality that I would like to have but can’t personally achieve and it gets me down. I imagine this happens to all of us one way or another, so I’m going to do what we all do when we start to doubt ourselves. That is, I’m going to remind myself of what really matters and why I choose to embrace my life, and all its messes, on an ongoing basis.

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It all comes down to the small moments and being present as I raise my son, love my family and, as my grandfather used to say, enjoy my ride on the third rock from the sun!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

SARAH January 25, 2013 at 6:36 am

First of all, I just want you to let you know that I’m one of the faceless but faithful followers of your blog, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts on stay-at-home-motherhood for a number of weeks now. I’m the one who googled something a few weeks back along the lines of “feeling inadequate as a SAHM” and came across one of your truth-filled posts from months ago. My son was battling a nasty cold and we had been couped up for days. Anyway, I think you wrapped this one up best with your last sentence, and felt compelled to share what I do when the things in my life don’t seem to be lining up with what I see/read in magazines (or whatever/whomever else I choose to compare myself to on that particular day)… I just walk over to my 2.45 year old boy, do something goofy to make him laugh, and remind myself that HE IS HAPPY, therefore, I’m doing something MONUMENTALLY GREAT whether I realize it or not. I can truly tell so much about you and your family, just by all the genuine smiles in your photos, etc. I tell myself that someday, sooner than I know, when my son Lincoln has “calmed down” with age, I can have the picture-perfect, smartly decorated home with a place for everything and everything in it’s place, but I can’t help but think that when that time comes I would trade it all for a chance to go back for just another day of “mess” and my little happy boy. Keep up the loving parenting, you are an integral part of GREATNESS that is your son! p.s. Your whole pomegranate-scenario was flippin’ hilarious, because it’s soooooo true and can relate to anything. I have so many pomegranates in my life right now! 😀


COURTNEY January 25, 2013 at 11:28 am

Whelp, you just made my year. Sarah, THANK YOU for your comment and sharing about your own life! I’m so excited to know there is another woman living a life like mine out there with the same perspective on it all. I also love what you said about doing something MONUMENTALLY GREAT because it has to be true right!? I often have to remind myself to stop worrying about the laundry and to enjoy playing with Dylan because there will always be more laundry to do, but there won’t always be a little boy handing me a book to read him and getting super excited when I do it. I, too, would trade in a pristine home for one with finger paint smudges any day. Thank you again for sharing! Can I also just say that I love that you call him your 2.45 year old boy? Ha! So specific!


SARAH January 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Well, I’m just glad that I’m able to say something to help support/validate what you’re doing, and to me what you’re doing is helping to support/validate all parents in general. You’re not forcing any of your ideas or opinions on anyone, you’re just opening your life to people (with it’s ups and downs) and letting us take from it what we will. It’s just plain refreshing to, as you put it, “know there is another woman living a life like mine” and being so honest about everything. I get fed up at times with certain aspects of society that load on all the parent-guilt, feeding on our feelings of inadequacy (which I think is an innate quality in any mom or dad who cares about their child). We only have these beautiful little ones on loan for far too short of a time, and we just wanna do the best job possible as parents. So anything any of us can do to make parents feel like they’re not alone is tremendous in my mind. When I feel good about the job I’m doing, I do a better job, it’s as simple as that. So thanks for helping me to do a better job! And my 2.45er thanks you too! 😉


COURTNEY January 25, 2013 at 5:16 pm

That line, “We only have these beautiful little ones on loan for far too short of a time…” makes me happy and sad all at once. Its so true. Also, I’m pretty sure Dylan is exactly 2.45 too. He was born in August, how about Lincoln?


SARAH January 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm

I know what ya mean, just the thought of Lincoln not “needing” me someday breaks my heart. But I’m not gonna think about that right now. 😉 That’s crazy about Dylan, because Linc was also born in August! August 4th, 2010 at 4:41am to be exact!


DONNA CUSHING January 25, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Well, I have enjoyed reading you and reading Sarah and I think you both are great moms. I will stick with my “show me a really clean and neat house and I will show you a really dull and boring family. Is there any life there at all? You are forming real bonds with your children, and what could be more important? Nothing in my book. I love the Grandpa quote! It still gives me comfort.


SARAH January 25, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thank You Donna, that’s very sweet of you to say. If I were you, I’d feel pretty accomplished as a “great mom” when you read all the wisdom your daughter has to share. You must be really proud! 🙂


COURTNEY January 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Thank you! 🙂


DONNA CUSHING January 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Thank you for your kind words, Sarah! You made my day!


NICKI WOO January 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Ha! You’re hilarious. And I think you are very cute and wonderful. I’m a bit of a mess myself, but I have a sneaky suspicion that so are 99% of the world, and its all just a mad conspiracy to get us to by more magazines.

PS – On the POM tip. You need to get another kid. One who will peel the POM for you, and feed them one by one into your mouth as you go about your daily business. It may take it a few years to train them effectively, but. . .it’ll be worth the effort:)


COURTNEY January 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I just checked out your blog…5 kids and a beautifully decorated house…you’re one of THEM!!! Ha ha j/k. It sounds like we are on the same quest, except you have more Pom-helpers. 🙂


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