Creative Mornings and Messy Bathrooms

A few Fridays ago I did three things outside of my comfort zone: I spoke in front of 300 people and shared photos of my messy house with a bunch of strangers. Keeping your mess away from public scrutiny– even friends and family– is fairly commonplace. Messes are our own private business, and while I’m happy many lifestyle bloggers are adopting a more authentic tone with their readers, our messes are just as uninspiring as yours. They’re a part of life, our daily janitorial work, an occurrence so common we have entire industries built around controlling and avoiding it.

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Last December, Creative Mornings MSP invited me to speak at their January event. The theme was Ugly. I was so flattered to be invited, I replied “yes!” without fully wrapping my head around what was asked of me, or how nervous I get speaking in front of strangers.  Compulsivity and timidness. A fun combination, huh! (Not really. Not in the slightest.)

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The theme “ugly” is a fitting one for W&D. Our social media presence has become more refined as readers expect content that rivals glossy magazines, and I have become more aware of my proximity to the message W&D projects. Yes, there’s a lot of Wit & Delight in my everyday life (see image 2), but this bizarre stand-alone toilet is just as much a part of my everyday as our light and airy bedroom. Our “second bathroom” (if you can call a toilet with no walls, sink, or door a real bathroom) is located in our unfinished basement, right next to the washer and dryer. Joe and I named it The Interrogation Toilet; also known as the illogically-placed, 50 year-old bane of my existence. This toilet is Joe’s favorite stop on the house tour, because it’s so obviously not a part of the perfect little W&D world that’s projected on Instagram.

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The CM talk was centered around the contradictions we often wrestle with, like my pursuit of interior perfection and my husband’s love for his ironic man toilet. Being a perfectionist with ADD. An introvert living a semi-public life. Attaining beauty when we really needed substance. The toilet is just an example of many.

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Beauty without substance is a truer definition of ugly than it is to say something is unpleasant to look at. Does this mean to reveal true beauty, we must be willing to face our flaws? Accepting imperfection has always been hard for me, especially when society celebrates those working so hard to achieve perfection. This obsession is really dangerous and it’s REALLY bad for you. Why? Because once you achieve it in one part of your life, you’ll crave it in another. It’s a cycle that never loosens it’s grip, and before long, you’ll realize you’ve spent 10 years killing yourself for something that never made you feel full in the first place. All we can do is become aware of this drive to control outcomes, disengage with those who exploit this trait, and refrain from air punching at the messy, imperfect stuff in our lives.

 

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There are far better things to cry about than a messy house. Most often it’s failure and loss that bring positive change. I think they remind us that being human is so much more than the people and things we surround ourselves with. Being alive is a messy, tragic thing. We come into the world– not on our own terms– equipped with the ability to create, love, find joy in each other, while we grapple with the fact all good things really do come to an end. It’s so tragically ugly, it’s beautiful.

It’s never been more necessary to understand how contradictions like beauty and ugliness are intrinsically linked, especially as our culture’s obsession with aesthetics make it easy for creators (and bloggers) to make things that don’t add value to the conversation. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for lightheartedness, entertainment, and humor in the things we make. Above all, it’s never been more important to be good.

If you’re interested in hearing me talk (nervously) about some of these topics, you can watch me here at Creative Mornings MSP.

  • Wow needed to read this. The mess does my head in, but when it’s all tidy I’m probably exhausted after the effort. Let’s just stick to creating a few Instagram inspiration moments and keep living (sometimes messy) in the meantime. Thank you from claudia (www.fatherrabbit.com)

  • I am so impressed with this post AND really enjoyed your talk @ creative mornings – (thanks for sharing the link!). I’ve been a fan of W+D since your launch and am so impressed and inspired by your honest blog posts and curated view of life & home.
    xoxo, Kari (eightytwentyalmanac.com)

  • I love that “ugly” bathroom. That’s what’s interesting about your life (obviously just one of the many things). But to me, when every blog is shiny and polished and full of beautiful, inspiring stuff (that I can’t afford, ha), it’s the photos of the ugly bathroom and the story of how you worked to MAKE it beautiful that connect with me. Feel free to share more of that story!

  • Very well said. I would have loved to attend that event.

    As you write, “being alive is a messy, tragic thing.” And the beauty of life is made precious because the messiness and ugliness do exist, not because we make life “perfect” by removing the mess.

    Japanese wabi-sabi concept deals with ugliness much better than Western aesthetics, because the idea of beauty in the traditional Japanese culture isn’t one of adornment or decoration. Perfection does not exist without imperfection, which is so contradictory yet so true at the same time.

  • As someone with an online presence I also struggle with my own contradictions torn between wanting to be honest and open but also making a living and providing readers with what they want to see. You manage to do both. This post is refreshing and your talk was really inspiring so well done and thank you!

  • I love this! Its especially nice reading YOUR thoughts on ugliness, because thanks to your great eye and beauty filter I see Minneapolis in a totally different light. Most semy famous bloggers would run off to NYC or LA the first chance they get, leaving this slightly creepy and industrial place behind, but you seem to find the most amazing cafes, restaurants and street corners and put this city back on the map!

  • Such a great talk and a true reflection of your honest blogging style. I’ve loved watching Wit & Delight grow and change over the past few years as you’ve opened up about personal struggles and began incorporating content that covers more serious issues. I follow Wit & Delight now not only for continued design inspiration (which never lacks) but I keep coming back to hear your unique and honest perspectives on life that are rare to find in the blogosphere. Thank you for putting yourself on the line as difficult as that is for an introvert, for the greater good of honest online content!

    • I’ve always hoped to strike that balance and it’s really flattering hearing that feedback, Carly. I’m so glad you love this space. I love the work you are doing, too!

  • Inspired by your honesty and the important message here. As the father of a teen daughter who is very active on social media, this hit me square between the eyes.

  • A beautiful post and a wonderful presentation!

    One thing I have grown to love about the “internet life” is that there ARE so many awesome people that think and view things like I do! It’s amazing.

    But one thing I DON’T like is that I get to see all these wonderful people and think, “Man, I wish we could have been friends.” Because of distance, time and what not, it’s like I”m viewing relationship that “could have been.” It’s almost heart breaking!

    What I’m basically trying to say is: I think we could have been really cool friends! Does that sound weird? Probably, but I’m not deleting it!

  • It’s so important that we realize that things aren’t just like they are online. It’s not just in blogs, but on facebook and instagram also. A lot of us get competitive because we think that if we tried our lives could also be that perfect, when in reality everyone online (myself included) is picking and choosing what to share.

    Great post, thank you!

  • I spent an hour between 2am-3am tossing and turning because I was dissatisfied with my ‘imperfect’ life. Worldly expectations really mess me around. Worse of all I think I’ve instilled them upon myself. This is really a reality check for me.

  • Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. It is very easy to talk about being “real”/”ugly” and it’s an entirely different thing to actual step about in it. “It’s never been more necessary to understand how contradictions like beauty and ugliness are intrinsically linked, especially as our culture’s obsession with aesthetics make it easy for creators (and bloggers) to make things that don’t add value to the conversation. “

  • Good Morning! While I am appreciating the imperfect bits, I began to laugh and I said to myself, wow this is the cheapest fix in the world! The look of the man-oilet down there is rather amazing and simple and one could simply hang from clips on a slide wire or direct from the ceiling drop clothes or better yet a navy fabric with tiny white dots. lol
    At least there would be privacy!!! lol you could also get an old greyed scrap wood and messily paint: The Man-oilet
    onto it and put it on the wall above the toilet 😀
    An old kid trophy in a white frame box with a plaque or label on it that says: The Man-oilet Award is an honor given to a stupendous and absurdly blunt toilet only once every ten years.

  • The line you wrote about beauty without substance was so arresting. You have a knack for embracing the mundane in a way that is not falsely modest, but that inspires your readers to look for more beauty in their own messy lives. Thanks for genuinely sharing.

  • Wonderfulness. So proud of you and your bravery, your intelligence and your generosity, and most of all, your immense and beautiful heart, dear Kate. Rock on!

  • Exact right conversation, exact right time. All signs pointing to uping the real-ness behind the life that is freelance and dispelling myths around the gloss that can be all that others see through what we share.

    side note: your dad (im making the bold assumption that’s the ‘Dad’ that commented above) ROCKS.

  • Hey Kate,

    I’m really grateful you shared the link to your talk It’s one thing having giving a talk and being nervous, fight through the dry lips, having to take a gulp of water in front of 300 people (I’ve been there!) but another thing to share it with the rest of us internet folk.

    I really liked what you talked about, authenticity and the difficulty of feeling like you contradict yourself in your life and work. I feel the same with what I do with my own business. It bothers me about portraying something that doesn’t always feel true, scared to show something about real life, that it is messy and can be really bloody difficult.

    I have recently lost interest in being online, participating and consuming. Sometimes I won’t even check Instagram for days (and this from the person who could live off Instagram love!). It is ugly. It doesn’t interest me. Nothing seems meaningful or has any truth. It’s all photos of a magazine on a desk next to some flowers! For a while I’ve been thinking this is some kind of internet dark ages. Even a lot of blogs I enjoyed a few years ago now seem so empty and vacuous. It’s all about perfectly staged, sponsored events or over photoshopped style shots. Bring back the days of poorly lit WIWT photos with clothes on the floor! Your talk has inspired me to get back on the internet and start sharing something real again.

    Well done for doing something really difficult!

  • Kate,

    I just watched your presentation and am feeling convicted and inspired. I needed the reminder that no one is perfect and that we all have this inner struggle of desiring perfection and simply being human. The posts you write about the real things you are going through are my favorite ones. There is a quote about life starting when we step out of our comfort zone. 🙂 Wonderfully done!

  • Incredible speech. As a blogger, I can relate to those internal contradictions as well. You don’t have to be perfect to inspire people; instead inspire people with how you deal with those imperfections.

  • This was absolutely refreshing to read! I love how you not only spoke about imperfections but also shared your own. It’s a lovely reminder that we’re all human, no matter how glamorous our Insta-feeds may be, ahaha.