Creative Mornings and Messy Bathrooms

Health & Wellness


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.



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.

BY Kate Arends - February 2, 2015

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
February 3, 2015 1:40 am

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 (

February 3, 2015 7:07 am

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 (

February 3, 2015 7:23 am

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!

February 3, 2015 7:34 am

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.

February 3, 2015 8:09 am

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!

February 3, 2015 8:51 am

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!

February 3, 2015 9:00 am

Such a wonderful post. I always come to your blog for much needed honesty in the design industry.

February 3, 2015 9:51 am

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… Read more »

February 3, 2015 10:21 am

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.

February 3, 2015 10:49 am

Thank you for sharing the link! Watched the entire presentation!!! You are a GEM!! That. is. ALL.

February 3, 2015 10:52 am

Such a great message and so very refreshing to read. Thanks!

February 3, 2015 11:20 am

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… Read more »

February 3, 2015 1:46 pm

You nailed it. AGAIN.

February 3, 2015 2:26 pm

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!

February 3, 2015 5:20 pm

Wow. Probably the single best blog post I’ve read from a lifestyle/beauty/fashion blog. Spot on. Embrace the mess!

February 3, 2015 6:07 pm

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.

February 3, 2015 8:51 pm

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. “

February 4, 2015 7:40 am

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… Read more »

February 4, 2015 8:35 am

you are easily one of my favorite humans that I have never actually met in person. Hope you are doing well lady! I loved your presentation. 🙂

February 4, 2015 1:42 pm

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.

February 4, 2015 2:07 pm

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!

February 4, 2015 2:43 pm

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.

February 4, 2015 10:51 pm

I love this! Very important piece.

February 5, 2015 3:06 am

interesting post 😉

February 5, 2015 12:20 pm

[…] always good to have a reminder that the perfection presented on social media isn’t the full […]

February 5, 2015 12:54 pm

You are a wonderfully curated person. I love the ugly mess. Nothing should be perfect. There is so much beauty in the flawed. Life is a balancing act with little moments that are fun to capture. Thank you for being inspiring!

February 6, 2015 4:56 am

[…] hos wit and delight holdt eit foredrag som eg syns var så bra og lærerikt. temaet var “ugly” og det var så interessant å høyra ein digital strateg som […]

February 6, 2015 12:35 pm

[…] all that talk about beauty, it’s only fitting to include Kate Arend’s post and speech for Creative Mornings about “ugly.” Really interesting read, as […]

[…] Creative Mornings and Messy Bathrooms, Wit & Delight […]

February 13, 2015 5:43 pm

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,… Read more »

February 13, 2015 7:26 pm

Thanks for being so real (and for stepping out of your shell a bit to talk about these things!). It is much appreciated

February 16, 2015 9:42 am


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!

February 25, 2015 4:55 pm

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.

[…] Advice on how to reconcile seeking beauty with finding depth. […]

[…] WITH | This post by Wit + Delight (x1,000). “Being alive is a messy, tragic thing. We come into the world– not on our […]

March 13, 2015 10:58 am

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.

May 10, 2015 4:04 pm

This blog post was absolutely refreshing to read!

May 10, 2015 4:06 pm

Were loving these postings! We just watched your presentation and feel inspired here!

May 21, 2016 6:38 pm

[…] proud of them too! Maybe what you need is balance. Maybe all you need is to come to terms with the contradictions in your life. Maybe you’re in a funk you need to get out of. Maybe you need to find your zen. […]

October 4, 2019 9:34 am

Modern time needs a modern solution! You can order a a dissertation tight here

Most-read posts:

Did you know W&D now has a resource library of  Printable Art, Templates, Freebies, and more?

take me there 

Arrow Alone

Get Our Best W&D Resources

for designing a life well-lived


Arrow Alone

the latest

Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

Hi, I'm Kate. Welcome to my happy place.











follow us on instagram @witanddelight_