the how of “how i do it all” is that i don’t.

balancing life aceo

How do you do it all? How do you get it all done?

I get that question a lot. It’s because what you see on the surface is only the moderately polished, impressive, take-no-prisoners creative expression that I choose to share with you. It’s not smoke & mirrors – it’s just a matter of priorities. What I really care about on a day to day business is my family & my creative output, my business. I care about taking care of my daughter, taking care of my husband, and taking care of you.

I simply don’t have the time or energy for things that don’t fall into one of those categories.

And even though my husband prefers a very clean & tidy house, I leave dishes in the sink, the bed is left unmade most of the day, and forget about the laundry. Most days, all I do is work, make or pay for dinner, play with Lola, and say ‘hey’ to my husband. That’s it. You know why it works? Because I’m the best woman I can be when I’m pushing myself to create more & do more of what I’m good at. I choose to do remarkable things instead of the mundane, not because I don’t care if I have a cruddy house but because I care how I feel about myself on the inside.

People like me more when I’m fulfilling my need to create remarkable things – not because of the things I’m creating but because I am a better human being.

There simply is not enough time in the day to get it all done. So I choose to express myself – to create something bigger than myself. I choose to let my creativity hang out and sweep the rest of the mess into a closet. This might not work for you – that’s okay – but it does work for me.

“balanced people don’t usually change the world” — Chris Guillebeau

I may not have always know what I wanted to do with my life – still don’t – but I have always know that I wanted to change the world. If I have a creative spark that can somehow change people’s lives for the better, I will stop at nothing to make that happen. I’m not interested in balance if it means languishing in mediocrity.

So how do I do it all? I don’t. And I’m not interested in doing it all either.

I am interested in doing more of what I love: nurturing my family & my work. And less of everything else.

I made a short video post for Bridgett at Perideau Designs on this very topic. You’ll find a “day in the life” of me and 3 tips for finding more time in the day to do what you love. If you like this post and want to see more, why not subscribe to Scoutie Girl and receive daily email updates?

{image credit: theprojectroom}

50 thoughts on “the how of “how i do it all” is that i don’t.

  1. I’m so glad you posted this. The last few days (erm..weeks) I’ve been focusing even more than normal on my business getting ready for my first craft show. My daughter has been in an extra clingy mood during this time as well. I just haven’t had time to get much else done! It feels good to know others do the same and are even proud of it. Thank you!

    1. yes! there is nothing wrong with attending to what is most important to you. it’s so easy to forget that.

      thanks for stopping by, angie!

  2. Great! Me, too! I always tell my husband, “no one’s going to put, ‘she kept a neat & tidy house’ on my gravestone.” It’s not my life’s ambition. Sorry. … Although, I do have the goal of “15 minutes to company” to keep my house from getting too crazy & hubs helps out w/ housework, too. He likes things neat & tidy so I do what I can & he does what drives him crazy. Laundry, though, let’s just say everyone’s adept at finding their clothes in the clean laundry baskets!

    1. precisely. our house is less than perfect – but we keep things in order too 😉

      in the end, it’s just not that important to me! have a great weekend, melanie!

  3. Yes Tara,
    I have so much guilt, mostly when hubbin walks through the door, about what I didn’t do for housework that day. I look around while I am in my studio and I see enough dog hair to knit a sweater and I think “I really need to focus some attention on this house”. Well, thank you ssooooo much for helping me let go of guilt and telling my hubbin that he wouldn’t like me much if I focused on cleaning instead of being all over creativity every day.

  4. Very thought-provoking. And so true. We might be able to “do it all”,but not at the same time. I’ve come to accept the idea of seasons and this releases me from a lot of stress. Right now I am in a huge learning season and will soon be launching some creative endeavors online. This means tons of work in the next few months and for me, not as much going out to summer festivals, dinner, whatever. I thrive on that stuff, but I realize I’ll get back to it.

    Along the lines of housework – I loathe the boredom. But I’ve also come to accept that working in a place that’s too messy hinders my creative flow. So I keep getting rid of more stuff (less to clean), and I accept a minimum clean routine that keeps it at a manageable level. So far these are working for me. :) (I also accept that working really hard on my business ideas will hopefully help me one day employ someone who is wired to love routine and clean and needs a job. 😀 )

    Great post!

  5. i liked this post, tara, because it totally resonates with me.
    i’ve often been asked ‘how do you have the time to stay home with 2 kids, run a business, cook, clean? i don’t know how you do it?’
    My quick answer is always I don’t!! I’m not saying I live in dirt, but rather my husband + i spend a short amount of time each weekend to make it clean. We do what needs to be done, the basics. i also have an amazing husband who does the bathrooms + the dishes + the cooking. yup, he’s great.
    The priorities in my life are my kids, my husband, my dear close friends + family, and my creativity. I simply haven’t the time [nor the need!] for extraneous ‘stuff’. I feel like my life is richer because of the things I choose to focus on, and when i lose sight of that I can see it in my own eyes. As i get older, i realize that, and learn to say ‘no’ to the unimportant stuff. I would rather get involved in a creative community than focus on how clean i can get my floors 😉 with two small kids around, i’d be cleaning ALL day to keep up!! why drive myself crazy?

    thanks for bringing it to the forefront. we don’t *need* to “do it all” and why should we beat ourselves up about that? Let’s enjoy our lives, it’s the only time we’ve got.

  6. It is such an uphill battle, trying to do everything. I’ve got two part time jobs, a loving boyfriend, tiny apartment + fishtank, and extended family to take care of, as well as starting my own rockin’ indie-art business. It’s just not possible! But I still find time to call my sister sometimes, and walk on the beach with my boyfriend.

    It’s all about priorities, I know exactly what I want from life right now and I’m not afraid to take it!

  7. This is a great reminder. The list of a 1000 things begins with a 1000 steps – naugh! I don’t think so. I am balanced when I know when to say – UNCLE. Focusing on what truly engages me creatively keeps life centered + fulfilled. This means I gotta know when to ask for help with the everyday stuff like grocery shopping (yuck) or mopping the floors. It also means I gotta know what to outsource in the business so I best utilize my time and vision in serving clients.

    thanks for the reminder that no, it’s not about doing it all. Knowing this can be the difference between suffering and thriving – don’t you think?

  8. I’ve come to realize that I have a hard time focusing on the important things where there are dishes in the sink, crumbs on the counter or clean laundry laying around. I try to do a 10 minute clean up after breakfast on my way upstairs to my office which has been a huge help for my creative sanity! Also, my wonderful hubby is very supportive of me hiring help around the house when I need it and pitching in himself once and a while. Thank God for supportive husbands!

  9. What year is this? Women responsible for doing all the housework and cooking and husbands getting standing ovations for “pitching in” or “helping out” in their own homes? What’s next? Dad getting props for “babysitting” his own kids?

    1. hey angela – i really appreciate your comment & you’re exactly right. i really didn’t mean for the point of this post to be about housework – although, i guess it’s telling that it’s what people latched on to…

      i really wanted to tell a story about balance – and how for successful, creative people, it doesn’t really exist. whether it’s housework, or hobbies, or going to the movies, something suffers when we pursue our passion hardcore. but i’d rather spend 23 hours of the day doing what i LOVE.

  10. I make an attempt to make sure everything smells at least neutral. Big fan of Oust, Arm and Hammer and while I’m not that big on cologne myself, a spritz of two in the head of Caroline Herrara Chic or Lacoste (after the Oust) is just what the doctor ordered.

    1. That’s awesome, Dave.

      Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile soap and Clorox Bleach work wonders on odors too.

      The moment I hear someone is dropping by, I squirt Dr. Bronner’s in the toilet (yes, the toilet) and start a load of laundry with a 1/2 cup of bleach. Then, when they get here, their nose is so “occupied” with clean smells that their eyes don’t notice the scuffed woodwork, the dog fur tumble weeds and the toothpaste blobs on the sink. LOL. 😀

      Great post, Tara – I don’t “do it all” either. After my 3rd child, I realized that doing it all was futile and a pretty stupid goal anyway.


  11. You know, I’ve been getting your blog emails for a few weeks now and I’ve been meaning to comment because I didn’t realize we had so much in common and now you are quoting my friend Jolie’s husband, Chris Guillebeau? I’m so glad my circles are starting to connect in the USA…

    1. hey amanda! love love love your shop – fan for awhile. so “nice to meet you!”

      while i’ve been hearing about chris for quite a while, i haven’t actually been following his blog. i think this last interview was the tipping point. i’m officially a fan :)

  12. You are a wise women!!! Years ago I decided I could have money or I could have time… I choose time. I’m a potter…all the same balancing act as you have….but, when I do have time I am in the studio doing what I love. As I age I find I am able to continually discard things that take up time outside of the studio. It is a very freeing feeling. Who cares how your hair looks or if your kitchen floor every gets cleaned anyway!!!

    1. nancy – your work is just divine! i hope you’re making money WHILE you’re taking time to pursue your passion. because you sure deserve it!

      thanks for stopping by!

  13. Thanks for this, Tara. I would love to have a clean house, but I really don’t enjoy cleaning (I don’t mind doing laundry, and I clean the kitchen each night, but the rest of the house? Ooh, it’s a mess), and I’ve got dyeing, spinning and weaving to do. Making things is my job, and I won’t feel guilty for it.

  14. Amen!

    Thank you so much for this post – a lot of us stay-at-home creative moms still get the attitude: firts you make sure the house is clean and then, if there is any time left, you may focus on your “hobby”, but only if it doesn’t take you away from the children! And if hubby sees you have been good all week, he may “help” and iron his own shirts while watching a game on TV over the weekend…

  15. Tara, I really really enjoyed this post! I believe that if I follow my heart then I can’t go wrong and people accept me (and sometimes even admire me) for doing what I do (as long as I do it from the heart, and it shows).

    I would really love it if you read my blog post and left me your comments and thoughts. I like the way you think/live so I’d read your comments with a lot of interest!:

  16. I was *JUST* whining about this to my husband tonight. And then I read this blog post…amazing “coincidence.”

    My problem is that I am massively distracted by the mess….we have a tiny ranch-style house and if all my eyes can see is clutter, from my art table clear across the living room, I am nearly frozen in place, unable to create. But doing the de-cluttering I need to do to get some visual peace takes time I don’t have, as I have to do one kind of art to bring in income *AND* I want to do a whole different kind to nurture myself. (I am working on getting those two types of art to be the same) The time crunch is massive, as is managing the resentment toward the two males I live with (ages 57 and 7) for failing to help unless they’re told to.

    But anyway… I do love your blog and plan to visit it often.

  17. Tara,
    Thanks for such a good article, after reading your article I feel you have put words to what I feel and like doing.

    Rightly pointed about the balance, everyone has there own opinion on it but personally for me after all the household work done or not done I just need ‘MY TIME’ exclusively mine only where I can do what I love doing.

    Love this line of yours “So I choose to express myself – to create something bigger than myself. I choose to let my creativity hang out and sweep the rest of the mess into a closet.”


  18. Luckily my husband and I are both creative types with hobbies that tend to devour all parts of the house (it also helps to be in a 10 year house restoration project so that messes don’t matter and are part of the deal). He does N scale model trains so our kitchen table features various components of scale buildings and tools and our dining room table is my temporary sewing space until I get the upstairs room converted. Both of us have day jobs, so we take our hobbies seriously as an essential form of sanity saving. Not having kids also helps- I can only imagine how that can be challenging to achieve a sense of space for oneself.
    However, I have to de-clutter now and then so I can concentrate on working, so we both do that. I can live with some dust as long as I can see the surface of the table now and then!

  19. This is my biggest guilt factor of being a SAHM/WAHM/Biz owner. I find it hard to reach that balance of being great at all of my responsibilities. I try to remind myself (especially when the guilt sets in) that I’m a great mom, wife & business owner. Beyond that it will work itself out.

    It is nice to read about others who have the same feelings. Thanks for this!

  20. I really enjoyed ‘The How of How I do it all-is that I don’t.’ I have added you to my blogs on kitchen table talk. Today I wrote about My To Do List. I also watched your video on Perideau Designs blog. Very nice. I applaud your honesty! Thanks for sharing. Your blog design is wonderful. I will be reading your blog regularly now.

  21. Really great post! I used to try to do it all, but I’ve decided to do what I’m really good at and passionate about. Family and art. If the house isn’t tidy, too bad. The basic cleaning for hygiene, and the rest only if I have some extra time. And hubby of course does his share. When I do tidy my work area, I can never find anything, which slows me down…so I’m one of those people who works well with a certain amount of disorder and clutter.

  22. As much as I love a lot of what you have shared in this post and in the video clip. I was a little concerned about the third point on ‘burning out’ and ‘living a balanced life’ meaning a mundane life or mediocrity. I too am a very passionate person and have always indulged in my passions and believe that we as mothers have more to offer the world than just raising our children… but allowing yourself to burn out then rest is not always ideal when you have children involved… especially as they get older and start attending school.

    Having two children (8 & 2) and having experienced burn out, physically (not just creatively) when my eldest was about 3… during my recovery I decided that you can only really know your boundaries when you actually cross them. Having done so myself I now choose to avoid crossing those boundaries too often as when I do I loose my ability to be to really be there for my children… which is my priority first and foremost and also engaging in a fulfilling relationship with my husband… in essence my family… which is then followed by doing remarkable things with my own life.

    Actually, we all work together on achieving great things collectively, it is not just me that is leading us to success in life we are a team and need all members to be fit, happy, healthy and feel a sense of importance when it comes to our collective dream as well as being supportive to each others individual dreams.

    I applaud you for your drive and vision…. but just hope that you don’t let yourself burn out too often.

  23. great post ! and I totally agree. Let’s change the world by doing what we love, and stop doing all those useless things people think are necessary …..

  24. I think my husband would agree that he too prefers a very clean & tidy house. But you only have so many hourse in the day, don’t you?? After doing my hours at work, playing with the kids, cooking dinner, keeping the house reasonably clean I need some ME-time. That I prefer to spend the ME-time in front of the sewing mashine instead of in the couch is my choice.

    Besides, it’s my hobby. And my business. And how many people can honestly say that the MAKE money on their hobby?? Most hobbies costs money. Mine will *fingers crossed* pay at least for parts of the trip to DisneyWorld with the kids.

  25. Totally agree with Dave – if the house doesn’t smell I’m happy! :) Thanks for this amazing post Tara because it’s the absolute truth. Both my husband and I are much happier people when we can spend more time doing the hobbies we love and playing with our kids rather than cleaning. We keep the house picked up but the deep cleaning is beyond us most days and that’s ok. We occasionally have dirty house meltdowns and then spend the weekend polishing and deep cleaning and all is right with the world again for another few weeks. It’s a cycle that can be frustrating but in the long run we do what we love and it works!

  26. I’ve been thinking about this post the last few days after I was pointed to it.

    I’ve been thinking about the things I don’t need to do. How I can not do the dishes, the laundry, cook, or whatever, so I have more time to do what I want and need to do — make more stuff.

    It takes some thinking to figure out how not to have to do dishes, I’m working on it.

  27. Two quote June Cleaver, I have vacuumed my way around the world at least three times, and I don’t care anymore! Clean today and dirty again tomorrow. I have too many creative ideas in my head that have to be set free. Dear husband, you have a nice meal in front of you and clean clothes to wear in the morning, be happy with that!!!


    P.S. – Just in case I’m dating myself, June Cleaver, mother on “Leave It To Beaver”. Always did her house cleaning while wearing a strand of pearls and a dress with a crinoline.

  28. Wow, so many people are okay with living an unbalanced life Tara. Who knew? But they don’t sound very happy about it – sounds like they feel judged by their friends and family.

    In this day and age there’s no need to live an unbalanced life, unless that’s what you like, I suppose – and then that’s okay.

    But hey, why not do it all?
    How bad could things be that you can’t follow your passions, nurture your family and live in a clean tidy home?

    An unbalanced life is unsustainable and unhealthy. And judging by most people’s responses above – not very satisfying.

    The comments are very very interesting aren’t they?

  29. What I want to know is have you always lived this way – choosing a creative life and nurturing the things you love? Or did you learn how to prioritize and let go of things that had less importance to you?

    I love to create but find that my daily existence is so bogged down with a job that multitasks my mind to oblivion so when I get home I’m too exhausted to do much of anything. I have a constant battle inside between the one in me who wants to make everyone happy, meet all the deadlines, is responsible, dependable, blah, blah, blah… and the other one in me who wants to be happier, enjoy life more, spend more time at home, grow my own business, create beautiful things, and share them.

    It’s just sooo much easier said than done…

  30. Me. Too. Oh, me too! More hours in the day would be wonderful. Failing that… well, sometimes the place gets a little messy. Thankfully my husband is understanding and he helps sooo much!

  31. Thank you so much for this article! I don’t have a child, rather a husband, two dogs (my muses) and currently 3 jobs – one of which is the creative outlet, the business I started, Hound and Thistle. The 3rd job became a necessity when the economy hit us hard and sometimes I feel like I can’t do everything…including devoting the amount of time I’d like to Hound and Thistle. I’ve just signed up for your e-course and am excited about my plans and goals for 2011! Thank you for helping us with our goals and dreams…and for being honest about not being able to get everything done! Makes me feel much better. :)

  32. My lover said, the other day, that I am the least lazy person he knows. I stared at the sink full of undone dishes, thought about the pile of laundry in the bedroom, and asked him, “are you effing kidding me?” Then another friend said that she thought I got a crazy amount of stuff done. I thought about the huge dust bunnies, the unvaccuumed drifts of cat hair, and asked her, “are you JOKING?” They weren’t joking. But I still think they’re nuts.

    Maybe it’s just that sometimes we don’t see the value in what we are doing, in our creative work, because we’ve been conditioned to see the unmade bed as the gauge that shows whether or not we are accomplishing anything. Maybe we need to reset our gauges.

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