Friday, October 9, 2015

The Kett-Files: Thoughts and Lessons from the Keeping Up Appearances Project

Holy Cow. 

I knew before we started that this would be hard. I thought it would be hard just to keep on schedule and get everything done, but beyond that I didn't think it would be too bad. It was only a week. Because I wasn't trying to change my entire life to this, and I wasn't actually trying to life a picture perfect so others would think I'm cool or have it all together, I didn't think there would be much emotional or psychological "trauma". I'm embarrassed to even admit that I even worried, in my pride, that maybe I'd actually do just fine this week. 

The best word for this week is Humbling. 

It was hard time-wise. Against what I thought though, that wasn't where the only difficulty was. I cried. On the first day. It was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. I can't imagine trying to do this to impress people or for more than a week. 

We meant this week to be mostly entertainment for you all, and I hope it was just a little bit, but it ended up being so much more than that to us. It surprised us. It taught us. And maybe, in a small way, it has changed us. There were things I enjoyed about the week, things I learned about myself, things I learned about what I was trying to do, and things I hated. Let me recap for you:

It was expensive! 
  • I spent twice as much on food as normal. The food was yummy, but I can't afford to feed my family like that all week. Not to mention Darrow wouldn't eat anything I made (good thing there were bananas around that I can't eat and Cameron won't eat...Darrow ate many this week!). 
  • In addition to the food, I bought the makeup. While it was supposed to be a cheaper route to do the contouring supplies, I still spent $21 on it. 
  • And then there were the crafts. I purposely tried to pick projects that I thought would be cheap. I didn't plan on having to buy more orange paint for the table ($8). I also originally planned on taking apart a pallet we found in the yard when we moved in, painting it with paint I already had, and making a sign. By the time it got to the scheduled day for that I didn't have the oomph or time left. Technically the welcome step I didn't have to pay anything for, but I did end up spending $12 on the wreath. 
  • That doesn't seem like much when you look at each piece individually, but it adds up! I can't spend $20 a week on craft supplies, nor $21 a month on makeup, nor double our food budget.  
It was hard on my family!
  • Daily keeping a picture perfect house, making cute crafts, spending good time on appearance and working over big meals does not leave much time for family. Darrow and Cameron both felt neglected during the week. I ended up unintentionally brushing them off thinking I'd have time later in the day. Darrow has gotten extremely clingy and wild. Cameron's felt a little lonely and forgotten. My house could look perfect, but if the people I love don't feel loved in that house, what's the point? 
  • Cameron didn't know how to respond all week. Did I want constructive criticism? Did I want pats on the back? Did I want help? Did I want to do this on my own? He hasn't been himself completely, and I think it's because he's just not sure how to respond. 
It did reinforce how important good habits are! 
  • The days where I got up, immediately got my hot lemon water, got dressed, and got Darrow ready for the day were my most productive days. I didn't waste time online in the morning, I didn't just lie around. In my head I knew those tricks before, but this really helped bring the points home. I do want to make this a habit in my life.
  • Water! I do feel so much better when I have the water I need. I like this cup system, it helps me remember. 
  • Meal planning. I loved knowing what meals we were having on what days. It made life so much more simple! No time wasted on Pinterest every day at 4 to try and decide what to make. No last minute runs to Taco Bell because I just didn't want to decide or pull food out. No late night runs to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for the meal you just decided to make. 
  • The cleaning schedule is doable! That schedule works perfect for our little house. It didn't take me long each day to do my daily chores. 
It was exhausting!!
  • I was pooped and ready for bed by 8:30 or 9 each night. That didn't mean I could get in bed by then, but I was ready to crawl in bed. I'm normally good till at least 10. It took all my energy and my efforts. I was so beat by the end of every day!! 
It helped me try new things. 
  • I loved all the new things I got to try this week. I'd never made ganache, or used pickle brine for anything but storing dill pickles, or tried spray painting furniture. I'd never tried contouring, or mimicking an outfit from Pinterest. I loved how this pushed me to get up and do and try. I'd like to continue trying new things...just not all at once in one week. 
Oh the guilt!
  • As we were closing up our Keeping Up Appearances weeks, we had the following discussion: 
  • I couldn't believe the guilt and pressure I felt all week. I felt like if I didn't have every minute of my day accounted for that I wasn't doing enough, or that I'd "get in trouble", which is silly, because no one was standing over me. But I felt guilt. Anxiety. Stress. That was not what I was expecting. This was just going to be fun. As some of my planned pins had to get cut out I felt disappointed in myself and like I wouldn't have much of my week to show you and you'd all think I was lazy. Isn't that ridiculous?! The pressure I felt was real. And it was all self inflicted and basically made up! 
  • The more guilt and pressure I felt, the less I wanted to do and the more guilt I felt. There were some days where it was hard to get going because I just didn't want to do this anymore. But then that made me feel guilty. See the bad cycle here?! IT'S NOT WORTH IT! The frustration, the guilt, the picking on myself, is not worth a "Pinterest Perfect Life". 
  • I felt pressure to make sure I matched up to Emilee's efforts. This wasn't a competition. This wasn't a test. And yet I felt like I needed to keep up with Emilee and make sure I was doing at least as much as she was. And I hated that I felt that way! It put a spark of worry and competition where I didn't want it. 
I don't feel like I lived the Picture Perfect life that matched all the "Social Media Standards", but I feel pleased with what I was able to accomplish. I tried hard. I didn't reach perfection though. That image is an illusion. Sure, I could show you the highlight reel from the week, and it would look like I had a fabulous week. 

At the same time though I could show you all the messes and "fails" and it would look like I had a horrible week. 

But neither collage there gives you an accurate view of the week. Even if I showed you every single photo from the week it wouldn't capture it just right. There was the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the insane, and the mundane. It is so easy to create a persona online by carefully selected photos and status updates!

Keeping Up Appearances was just what we needed at the launch of this blog. For us, it drove home all the points we want to make.

Yes, there are people who seem to have a beautiful life, and it looks so effortless and easy. It's ridiculously easy to fall into the trap of wanting what they have and looking at yourself and finding yourself lacking. It's so easy to take the praises and the criticisms of others and try and mold our lives around those (and trust us, we've had both regarding this project). We have to stop that! It's so destructive. It's so consuming! It makes us ungrateful for what we do have or what we can do. 

And that's the easy part. Saying "Stop it!" Learning how to stop is a whole different issue.

-We have to learn that people's criticisms aren't the final word, and aren't always right or even sound. There will always be naysayers, internet trolls, nosy neighbors, overbearing family, or whoever to dampen your spirit. We have to learn not to let them dampen our success or our willpower to keep pushing on.

-We have to learn that it doesn't do any good to be bitter jealous over someone else's successes. There's no point. Success is a pie factory, not a single slice of pie. When I start getting jealous about the pie that someone else is eating I try to remind myself that my pie's just taking a little longer to bake, but it'll still come down the conveyor belt, and when I get to dive in and eat that pie it is going to be amazing! And then we can all have a pie party together, rather than hoarding our pies and snarfing it all by ourselves, alone and bitter. -We have to learn to be okay being who we are. We strongly believe in always trying to improve yourself, but not to try and look good on social media. We love social media. It can be such a good tool! But you can use it as a weapon against yourself as well. Use it for good! Use it to spread cheer. Use it to find inspiration. Use it to share ideas. But quit trying to be social media. That is not you. You are you. And you are fabulous!


  1. Thanks for your honesty! Not many mom's have the courage to publicly share the teary "I can't do this anymore!" moments that we all have (at least I certainly do!)

    1. I think we all have them!! At least I hope we do, and I know I sure find it reassuring to find out I'm not the only one that loses it sometimes. :)

  2. Not sure I've ever commented before, but I've been reading for a while before you guys took your break. First off, I love the new design, and I think it's great how you decided to kick it off with a big event.
    I think it is really interesting that both you and Em said you spent about double your weekly grocery budget, but I wonder what contributed to that? Since I don't know how you normally eat, I can tell what was different about this specific week- was it just buying more expensive food in general, buying more food, having to buy things like spices that are expensive to buy all at once but last a long time, or some combination?

    1. For me, the dessert (the cake) I tried was out of the norm for desserts around here (we're more peanut butter cookie dough straight from the bowl type of people). The puff pastries and cherries are not things I ever buy. We also went through more meat this week than we normally do. In general we're simple stir fry, soup, and casserole eating people because they are cheaper and easy...which is why I tried to go beyond the normal this week...spiff it up. There were a few items we bought that weren't used up all the way (like the wild rice), but most of it did get consumed that week (or in the days following as leftovers). Obviously the cornish hens were more than normal, and I do realize that was for a special event...but it did definitely add to the cost of the week.

    2. That makes sense- we definitely have times where we blow our grocery budget on a party or family get together... like for my husband's birthday when he smokes like $100 worth of meat from Costco, which gets eaten up practically before it hits the table! It was so good at my hubby's bday that my brother asked for the same for his bday and we were like- OK, that's your present! lol
      Recently for everyday I have been getting more creative with our basic meals- learned how to make tandoori chicken and thai peanut sauce with only a few investments from the grocery store- and changing how I prepare some things has definitely added more variety and interest, like shaving carrot noodles with a peeler actually makes my hubby enjoy carrots!

  3. I actually found this whole project super encouraging, so I'm grateful to you both for putting in the effort. I'm a SAHM to a two-year-old, and I tend to get discouraged that I don't accomplish more during the day. This project helped remind me that it is a LOT of work running a household, and trying for perfection every day is just not feasible. At the same time, it encouraged me that you were able to do as much as you did, even though it was too much to do all the time. It makes me feel like I can try doing the occasional craft or food adventure, instead of just giving up before I start. So, thank you for your un-perfect week!

    1. Nina, this is encouraging to me and exactly what I needed to read tonight! It's been another rough few days in the house, and I'm not even trying for "perfection" this week, and it's draining! But you are right. Running a household is a LOT of work. Important work. Work I should be proud of. And I am. I didn't craft this week. I didn't try new recipes. I did my makeup a whole 2 times. And it's easy to look at what we didn't do and dwell on that. What I did do though was come up with a new room arrangement that is getting us more sleep (as all three of us share a bedroom and have mattresses on the floor while we're waiting for the bed we ordered). I did finally realize that maybe Darrow wasn't interested in drawing or coloring because I always gave him blank paper to color (duh! there's a reason they make coloring books,lol). I did create a new organizational binder that is helping me get working on my day. Those aren't things we can really show off to people, and that can be hard. It feels like we have nothing to show. But we do! And I've got to remember to look at what good was done, not all the millions of things that "might" have possibly been done "if" I were superwoman. Thanks!


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