I’m so excited to share with you this conversation I had with my friend, Emily Ley! She is an author and the founder of Simplified—a brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women, which I obviously love. Her new book, When Less Becomes More, just came out recently and I’m so excited for her to share how she came to write this book because the story is so raw and so vulnerable. Let’s jump in to the conversation!
In This Episode Allie and Emily Discuss:
What’s new in Emily’s life
Their biggest challenges in raising kids right now
How they handle technology when they work from home
Why Emily wrote When Less Becomes More
Who this book is for
Boundaries for working from home
The reward of pushing through mommy-guilt
What is frequently misunderstood about Emily
Mentioned in this Episode:
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Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Hi, beautiful friend! I’m so glad you’re here! Welcome to The Purpose Show.
Today I am sharing a conversation that took place with my friend Emily Ley. She is the founder of Simplified, which is a brand of planners and organizational tools that are designed for super busy women, which I love.
Emily is amazing. She has been featured all kinds of places including Forbes, Better Homes & Garden, Glamour, and Good Housekeeping. She has been recognized with numerous awards including Best New Product at the National Stationery Show and Top 10 Designers To Watch by Stationary Trends magazine. She’s amazing. Her brand is so clean, perfect, and inspiring. She just creates beautiful things.
Emily is also an author. She’s actually written a lot of books. I have them all. If you’ve ever been a part of my giveaways, you’ll recognize them because I often include at least one of them in my giveaways because they’re just really simple. They’re really easy to read and they pack a punch too. They’re really good.
Her books include Grace, Not Perfection and A Simplified Life and her newest book just came out recently and it is called When Less Becomes More. It’s really cool because when I first saw the title, I imagined what I thought it was about and I was wrong. It’s actually different. It explores the power of choice and how you have a choice in how your days go and how your life goes—which I love and I’m always telling you guys that, so I’m so excited to promote the crap out of this book. It’s amazing.
Basically the choice that she really draws attention to is your choice to either run on empty or live a life thoughtfully constructed around your values and what you want and your dreams.
And so, you’ll see this pattern of less rush/more flow, less distraction/more connection, less fake/more real, less fear/more community, less stuff/more things that really matter, more treasures. It’s just really, really cool.
Emily was very open with me in sharing how she came to write this book. And that story is pretty raw and hard to share when there’s so many people listening that you don’t know. It’s really scary to share these kinds of things when you just don’t know who’s listening and what people are going to think or say. So, I want to give Emily a virtual hug for sharing that and for being so open with us. It’s really an honor that somebody like her would come and share her story and be so open and vulnerable. She did not need to do that and she did that for us.
I want to encourage you guys, please take a screenshot when you’re listening to this episode. Tag myself and tag Emily and just say, ‘thank you’ to her for an amazing conversation. She really deserves that. I can attest to how difficult it is to share things and she did a great job with that.
When I recorded this episode, I had not yet read her book because the publishing house sent it to me accidentally a little bit later than they said they would, so I did not get a chance to read it. But I know Emily and I trust her and her brand and I’m always happy to lift another woman up who’s doing good things and being vulnerable and sharing.
But now that I’m recording this, I have read the book and it’s amazing. It’s so good. I literally read almost the entire thing in one sitting in an afternoon and it’s amazing. It’s so good. You need to get this book. We will link to it in show notes, but instead of yammering on and on, I would like to welcome Emily Ley and invite you guys into this amazing conversation that we had.
ALLIE: Oh, hi Emily!
EMILY: Hi! How are you?
ALLIE: Good. It’s so good to talk with you again. I love everything that you’ve got going on. Your book is right in front of me. It’s amazing and so beautiful, as is everything that you do.
EMILY: Thank you so much! I love this little book baby so much.
ALLIE: Yeah. I’m in the very beginning process of my book. The proposal has been edited and re-edited, edited and re-edited, and getting pitched right now all over the place. It’s such a weird feeling. Like your heart and soul is out there and to know that people in high power are critiquing it and deciding things about it is so vulnerable.
EMILY: It’s a little bit vulnerable. That’s the right word for it.
ALLIE: Well, it’s so good to see you. How is your family doing? What’s going on with you guys other than your book?
EMILY: Yeah, we’re good. We moved to Pensacola, our hometown, last year, so we’ve been here about a year now and we’re just so glad to be back. It’s so nice to have family around and to be back where Brian and I were both raised. The kids are good. Our oldest is eight and our two little ones are about to turn five, which is bananas. So, we’ve been great. We’ve had a really busy year, but it’s been a growth year. It’s been good.
ALLIE: Yeah. I think one thing I love about what you talk about is that there are seasons (and that word is so annoyingly overused) but there are seasons of: “We’re going to say, ‘yes’ to growth and just go all in and know that it’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be extra busy and then balance it out with a slower holiday season or a slower next year or whatever.” You’re so good at that.
EMILY: Oh, thank you. I feel like we’re just coming out of that really busy season with the book release and everything. It’s exciting to look ahead at the holidays and think, “Okay, let’s be proactive about the holidays and not let them get out of hand and really just enjoy some time off.” You know?
ALLIE: Yeah, totally. Okay, so I want to talk about your book, but first I have a question for you. I asked people what they wanted me to ask you and one of the biggest questions was: “What is your biggest challenge right now in raising your kids in these ages?”
EMILY: They’re very different. My husband and I always laugh and say it’s funny that three kids who have the same DNA are completely different children and they have to be parented differently. And then we have two that were born at the same time. They’re twins and we often want to think, “You should be the same.” Our oldest is 8, he’s almost 9, and our two little ones are 4. That’s a big difference. Eight has been a year of like, “Oh wait, you’re not just a little boy anymore. You actually have opinions and thoughts about things and this big personality.” And so, it’s been a year of us almost like getting to know this new child that he’s becoming, this new ‘big boy.’ It’s been a different dynamic being home too. And then our little ones are coming into their own starting pre-K and all of that. So, I would say the biggest challenge for us right now is just being really aware of the fact that they’re three completely different kids with three completely different needs.
And sometimes it’s hard because when you have three, you’re outnumbered. I think especially with our oldest entering that phase of parenting where it’s so different than parenting little kids and you’re dealing with friends and school stuff. In 3rd grade they expect you to be independent, so helping him navigate that is awesome, but it’s also like, “Wait, I feel like I’m kind of good at the little kid thing and now we’re in new territory.”
ALLIE: Yeah. I feel the same way. My second born is the same age as it’s Brady, right?
ALLIE: Okay. 3rd grade, 8 about to turn 9. And then Emmett is my youngest and he’s just turned 5 on Halloween. But then I also have Bella who’s 10 and Hudson who’s 7. And they’re all on different sensitivity levels. It’s not one size fits all. It’s changing minute-by-minute. I think for me my biggest struggle right now is my daughter. She’s just so big, so old now, and she has friends and she’s wanting to chat with them on her little games that she plays. And I’m like, “Wait, no! We avoided this kind of thing for so long!” It’s weird, hard, and uncharted for me.
EMILY: That’s the right word: uncharted. It’s like, “Wait, this is all new stuff. What is all this technology and how do we navigate it?” I’m really grateful that we have a lot of really, really good friends here who have kids who are older, just a little bit older, so we can talk to them about things that they’re experiencing and encountering with kids who are preteen or teenagers. And Lord, help us all raising kids with technology. I’m not even ready for that.
ALLIE: Yeah. And we’re really the first generation walking into this much high-touch technology like this. They don’t go out in the street and play as much anymore. It’s like, “Hey, can I chat on Roadblocks with Esther,” or whatever. And I’m like, “I don’t know.” It’s just so hard. And we’ve kept everything so low tech up until this year, and so I’m just like, “Why can’t I live in a commune where no one does anything?”
EMILY: Right…where nobody needs a phone.
We just got my son, Brady, a Gizmo watch. Have you seen those? It’s a watch where if he’s at golf practice or whatever and it starts raining, he can call me on it and say, “Hey, come get me.” But he can only dial five numbers and he can only text those five. So, it’s like his grandparents, me and Brian, and then he can text preprogrammed messages. And it’s funny to see even with just that limited ability—and he doesn’t take it to school or anything—how drawn to it kids are just naturally like, “of all the preprogrammed messages, how many can I send? How can I put words and phrases together?” Just having that limited technology has already made Brian and I start thinking, “Oh, okay, how are we going to navigate that when he gets older.”
ALLIE: Yeah. They’re like, “Okay, I’ve been given three inches and I’m going to literally walk along the line as many times as I can until mom is like, “Stop.”
EMILY: Yeah. We’ve taken the watch away a few times.
ALLIE: Yeah. Bella is about to turn 11 and she has the oldest iPhone that they still sell with everything turned off except texting and everyone blocked except us and her best friend who lives in New York City. That’s their only communication. And still, I’m like, “What are you doing? What are you still doing with that?” And she’ll say, “I’m just texting Mimi.” I’m like, “I just wish you didn’t want to be a person.”
EMILY: I know. And it’s funny because Brian and I have talked about how we want to just cut it off at the knees and be like, “No, we’re not doing that. We’re not having social media.” But the truth about it is, it is a part of life. I can’t shield them from it forever, but I want to be able to navigate it with them, answer questions, and help them through the things that it brings into their lives when it’s appropriate.
What it comes down to for us is modeling the right behavior because they see it and they’re sponges, man. They suck it all up. They see it all. They hear it all. And they’re tucking it in their pocket for when it’s time for them. So that’s been the biggest thing that we’ve tried to do over the last, really the last year, as we’ve kind of dug into this ‘less is more’ philosophy of, “Okay, they’re watching us. We need to be cognizant about the way we’re letting technology run our lives too.” You know?
ALLIE: Yeah, totally. And that’s probably the hardest part because it’s our job too.
EMILY: Oh yeah. I took 30 days away from social media in January of this year and I was terrified that I was going to come back absolutely hating it. And what do you do when you’ve built a business on Instagram and Facebook? You know, you can’t hate it. Obviously, it is valuable and it has been fantastic. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have it.
But what I’ve realized is that we’ve been very reactive to, not just social media, but technology of all sorts and conveniences in our lives. We’ve let them all into our lives, accepted them as normal, and let them take over. And I got to a place where I said, “Okay, yes, I need social media for my company. I need technology for my business. A lot of these conveniences like Amazon and things like that are great, but we have to be proactive about setting boundaries and deciding what part they’re going to play in our lives rather than just letting them take over.”
That’s what I did for a long time. I narrated my life in Instagram story captions. I mean, it’s crazy to say, but when I came back from it, I found that I didn’t hate social media. I just realized that my habits were a little out of control and I had to get them under control and decide that I wasn’t going to let X, Y, & Z be an enormous part of my life like it had been.
ALLIE: Yeah. I find that as well, especially with just being a creator. I mean, I’m constantly creating. And I love my business. I love it so much. I don’t have any complaints with it, but it’s tied to our lives, so it just seeps in. It’s accidental and it’s not always bad. But I’m noticing we just had this moment or whatever, and I was immediately thinking like, “Oh, I see the lesson in that for these women who are a couple of steps behind me and I can help them, so I’m going to go right now and brain dump it out.” But it really can wait. If it’s really that good, it’ll come back to me later.
EMILY: My husband, Brian, is an entrepreneur as well and he owns his own company and just the other day he had a really big day. They had something going on and he was on his phone a lot around dinnertime. And it’s easy for me to be like, “Put your phone down!” And we’ve done that. He’s done it to me; I’ve done it to him. We talked about it afterward because it was also during book release and I was on my phone a lot, and we just decided like, “Okay, if there is something that we have to take care of, which happens during family time, we’re just going to go in the other room.”
And it sounds so easy, like duh, of course you would. But we don’t often do it. If I have something come up or someone calls, I’ll just do it right there at the table, but I realize they’re watching and I need to model it correctly. So, I’ll go to my office or go out of eyesight of everyone, take care of it, and then come back. And that way it doesn’t feel like mom’s distracted or that sort of thing. And then Brian started doing the same thing and it is such a small tweak. But once I started getting into this whole “what could our lives look like if we took over this stuff” philosophy mindset, I realized there are small changes that we can make that make a big difference. Our kids just know that mom left the room for five minutes, not that mom was staring at her phone, not listening to what they had to say at dinner, you know?
ALLIE: Yeah. That’s very obvious, simple and brilliant, right? Yeah, I love that. I’m gonna borrow that. That’s amazing.
Talk to me about the book. I’ve read about where you were at when you were coming up with this book and when you realized this needs to happen for your family. Can you talk to us about where you guys were as a family that inspired this book?
EMILY: Yeah. I had a book deadline and I had a couple of ideas of what I wanted to write about, and I might write about them again one day, but I sat down with my husband upstairs here in our house and I looked at him and I was like, “I can’t write. I don’t have a book. I have ideas of things I want to write about, but Brian, I am so tired.” And he just looked at me and he was like, “What’s going on?” And I said, “I feel empty.” And he was like, “That’s a really big word.”
The holidays were over, it was late December, and I said, “I feel like I have been running ragged. I own a company called Simplified. My life is not simplified. I let everything get out of control and I feel like I gave all of me and then some to everybody else, to my business, to my team, to my kids, to you. And here I am and I’m running on empty and I’m so burned out. I’ve never been this burned out.” And he was like, “That’s your story.” And I was like, “I don’t know. That’s not what I was saying. I don’t want to write about that. That’s not fun to write about. And I’m not through it. I don’t have the lesson that comes at the end and I don’t have that hindsight, that bow to put on it to say, “here’s the beautiful story.” And I was crying and I was like, “I just feel, ugh, awful.” And he was like, “I think you need to dig into that.” And he’s seen me write books before so he was like, “I think you need to dig in.”
I immediately texted my team and I was afraid of what they would say. But I said, “I’m taking the whole month of January off of social media (we had the whole month planned for business.) I’m literally deleting it off my phone. I’m going to put up an out-of-office with my email. Tell everyone that I’ll be back, but I’m going to take some time away because I’ve got to get my head right and I just want to do this in an analog way.”
And so, every day for 30 days I sat down by my fireplace—it was freezing—I sat on the couch with a blanket and I wrote. I poured my heart out and it came so quickly. I wrote too many words, which is often not the problem. And I literally cried through every chapter. And it was like you said earlier: ‘vulnerable.’ It felt so tender and so raw because it was stuff I was figuring out as I went. It wasn’t something I was looking back on and being like, “Well that was hard and here we are.” It was like, “Ah, this is a mess right now.” You know?
What would it look like if I looked at all of these different areas of life and just flipped them on their heads? Do I have to have a Facebook account? Do I have to allow all of these things to seep into our lives? How can I, as the mom here, spearhead this decision for our family for us to live a different way? Because I am tired of exemplifying to my daughter that when you grow up you will be a stressed out, burned out mess all the time. I don’t want that for her. I don’t want it for me.
But I look at her and she’s four and she’s like…I wish you could see her; I have a video of her so you can go watch that…Caroline is this tiny little blonde thing. She has the biggest smile, the brightest blue eyes. She’s so loud. When she was born I was like, “Wow! what’s that sound? Is she okay?” And they were like, “No, she’s great. She just makes that noise.” And I’m not kidding you, she still makes that noise. She is a big, big, big personality. I could just go on and on. She’s just bright and awesome.
ALLIE: I love that!
EMILY: I used to be like that. My mom tells me all the time, “You used to be that girl,” and I’m not anymore. I’m 36 and I have a mortgage, laundry, work, kids, worries and thyroid problems, you know, we just have all this stuff and I don’t want that for her.
And I know that we change and grow, but I don’t want that stuff to get turned off in her because life is too busy and too loud and too fast. I know that I can live a different way and she can live a different way. So, I wrote the book for her and it is the most special thing I’ve ever written, honestly.
Every day I would voice record the chapters because I write like I talk, and so I wanted to make sure I did things right. I would send them to my team and my friends and they would give me feedback. And I sent it to my mom when it was all done and she listened to it and she said, “This will be the best gift you’ve ever given your daughter.”
ALLIE: That’s amazing.
EMILY: And I was like, “Well, okay, I’m done. I quit.” It was an amazing experience to write it. It’s been terrifying and awesome to put this special of a book out into the world.
Girl, I can get your housework down to 30 minutes a day or less. I can help you create a home that supports the lifestyle you want to live, the kind of mom you want to be, the amount of presence you want to have in your home and your family instead of smothering it and keeping you from it. The answer to all of this truly is getting rid of clutter.
So, what I’ve done is I’ve created something that I’m calling The Clutter Page. It is resources for every area of your home that you might have clutter. We have paper and digital clutter, kids’ stuff clutter, events like birthdays and holidays and other people in your life that add to your clutter.
If you’re just overwhelmed and don’t know how to start and you just need the beginning help. If you’re a visual learner and you need video tours of a minimalist home as inspiration, if you’ve already purged but the clutter keeps coming back, what do you do? Or if you need help with all the things…if you’re like, “Just give me all of it. I need serious help in every area.” I’ve got you covered.
Go to alliecasazza.com/clutter and pick your poison or I should say choose your own adventure. Pick what you need help with and I’ve got resources ready to go. All you have to do is select your trouble area to get started – alliecasazza.com/clutter.
Guys, this is what I do. This is where I shine. Let me come in and just breathe simplicity over these areas of your home so that you can stop maintaining the mundane all the time and start living according to what you say your priorities are. alliecasazza.com/clutter
ALLIE: I think that, for me at least, I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I think that we are putting everything out into the world and the critique of the public, the comments, and all the follow-up questions that just go further, can just be a lot. Like people want to know things that I don’t even think about. I’m a pretty chill person and, we’re not in-person friends yet but, you seem like a detail-oriented person. I’m just like, “Ah, it’ll probably be fine.” Like I’m too much the other way. And my audience will ask things like, “Well, what about this?” and they’ll ask detailed questions about what I’m teaching and I didn’t even think about that. I don’t even know.
And so, I tend to feel like I need to come in ready and perfect and I’ve gotta have like you said, the “hindsight.” Like I know how it ended up and now I’m bringing it to you guys. And I think that it’s so flawed sometimes when you do things like that because you’re missing out on the raw feelings and the raw emotions.
Like when I tell our business story and I say off-hand, “This pulled us out of poverty.” It’s just like, yeah that happened. But that was the worst. Actually going back and remembering things like the repo guy banging on our door for the car and me pretending like everything was fine with the kids…That was awful. And you forget those raw moments.
So, writing a book like this about how everything is a total crap show and it’s not okay and I have this company that’s about simplifying and everything about my life is the opposite of simple. It’s embarrassing, hard, wrong, and weird and I’m just going to write about it. The book got to me super late so I haven’t read it yet, but I can’t wait because I think that it’s going to be so amazing to walk with you through that.
EMILY: We’ve had Simplified, the company for 10 almost 11 years, and we’ve always taught these tactics of organizing your life: decluttering, meal planning, routines in your day and your schedule. At the end of the last year when everything felt so messy for me, I was like, “I know better. I know how to meal plan. I know how to declutter our home. I teach it. I’m the expert. I’ve written a book about simplifying your life. Why does it feel so messy?” And what I realized…and it was almost like a light bulb moment for our company…was that those things are so valuable and they’re so important and necessary for us to know how to do, but there is something underneath it all and it is really, really deep down there. And for me what it turned out to be is burnout. I think women today are facing an epidemic of burnout. An actual epidemic because we are all stretched so thin for a 1,000 reasons.
EMILY: That’s the underlying sickness that’s there. When you have 50 pairs of shoes in your closet, it’s impossible to organize your shoes. When your refrigerator or pantry is a disaster because you have 700 things going on in your day and you don’t have time to even know what’s in there, it’s impossible to meal plan. So, there’s this underlying thing to all of it that if we don’t address it, those things become hard and impossible.
ALLIE: I see this a lot too. Going back to the responses from the audience that I’m delivering to, I’ll be like, “Hey, this is what I’m teaching you to help this part of your life.” But then they’re like, “Well, what about this? Well, I have this many and what about this…” And they’re picking it apart and obsessing over it and it turns into a performance. Now they’re burning themselves out trying to simplify. They’re so obsessed with: “What does this list look like? What would Emily do? What would Allie do? What would Joshua Becker do? What would all these people do?” And I just want to be like, “What is the simplest form of this for you? How many shoes do you need for your lifestyle? How many meals do you need for the month?” We are just so used to running, hustling, performing, showing up, and showing off—for our own selves usually—that we burn ourselves out even in an attempt to clear the clutter.
EMILY: Yeah, it’s, it’s so true. I think a lot of times we’re thirsty for this one-size-fits-all answer and there’s not one. All of our lives look so different. One of the most important things to me in writing the book and then editing the book thoroughly, is that I am a 36-year-old married mom of three who owns her own company. My life looks different than everybody else’s. I’ve always felt it very important that the concepts we talk through, especially in this book, are applicable to the single mom who is gathering quarters to do her laundry 10 floors down in an apartment building or to the grandmother whose kids have left the nest. All of our lives look really different and I think taking bits and pieces of concepts…there’s a chapter on parenting…even things that are in there can be parlayed into having grace, not just with your kids or your spouse, but having grace with the people in your life. The friends’ kids that we are loving and being part of their lives.
I also think a lot of times we want to look at someone in their life and be like, “You got it perfectly. How can I get it perfectly?” And the point of it all is it’s not a destination that you get to. It’s not a finish line. In September and October of this very year after writing the book and editing the book, I got back into a place where it was book release time and I was so busy again. But I had this knowledge in my heart now of here’s the standard, here’s how it felt to get through it and here’s where things are coming unraveled in our lives again—because they will—and here’s how we’re going to dial it back, slow down, and say, ‘no’ to some things so that we can get back to that rhythm that we feel comfortable with as a family. And it’s so much easier once you have put some things into play.
ALLIE: Yeah, I love that. So, when you’re talking about this book and you were writing it, describe the girl that this is for. What is her life like? Who is this for? You’re like, “If I could just get this into her hands, then I’ve done my job.”
EMILY: I think it’s the girl that feels like she’s a little bit alone, that her life is messier than everybody else’s, and that she’s a little bit less equipped than everybody else because I felt like that writing it—and I’m the expert at it. I’m the one who is teaching about simplifying your life and for whatever reason I couldn’t get a grip on it and it’s because of what was underneath it all that needed to be addressed. I would say to any girl in any season of any age with any amount of kids or no kids or whatever, if you feel like your life is out of control and you can’t catch your breath, then it’s for you.
I wrote a story at the very beginning of the book about having infant twins and a 4-year-old and my best friend, Kristen, coming over to our house in Tampa and telling me, “Put the kids in the stroller. We’re going to go for a walk.” And I was like, “But there are dishes all around the kitchen and somebody took a roll of toilet paper and rolled it down the hallway. There’s stuff everywhere. And I’ve got to change the laundry to the dryer. It’s going to smell weird.” And she was like, “Put the kids in the stroller and we’re going to go for a walk.” And I just sobbed and pushed the babies down the sidewalk. And I remember thinking, “My neighbors are going to think I’m losing my mind.”
We just walked. We did it every day and she was like, “We’re just going to walk. You can get through this tough time.” It was a lot of postpartum stuff, but it was also life. When you love to have life in certain little buckets, nice and neat and lined up and it’s just a season where you can’t do that, it’s a little unraveling.
Getting out, clearing my mind, walking, talking with a friend, all of those things really, really played a big role in recovering from that season of burnout.
But all in all, if you’re feeling that way, like you can’t catch your breath, like you’re not really sure where to start, I hope that this book feels like a balm to that and it feels like sitting down with a friend who’s been there and who’s going to get back there again someday soon probably.
I think we all do and it’s just a matter of encouraging each other and cultivating that community of women who are living life in a real way.
ALLIE: Yeah, absolutely.
I wanted to switch gears a little bit and move into just being a working mom. There’s so many working moms and work-at-home moms, which I think is hard in its own special way, and we both do that. And again, much like our content creation, it leaks into the personal because you’re here. I walk up there and I can hear my laundry machine going and all these things. So, what’s your process with work and home? I don’t want to really talk about balance. I want to talk about the cutoff and the boundaries. Does that make sense? What does that kind of look like for you?
EMILY: For a long time, I operated out of fear. Fear that if I wasn’t working 24/7 it was all going to fall apart because I couldn’t really believe what it had grown into. And so, I had to be on my phone all the time. I had to answer every email the minute it was received. I had to be available if someone wanted to have a phone call at 6:30 at night. I think experience and time has taught me that that’s not the case. That if your business is tended to well, properly, and you’re working in a smart way, then it’s not going to fall apart and you can say, ‘no’ to things. You can say, ‘no’ to good things. I’ve also learned that there is such a thing as saying, ‘no’ for now, not just, ‘no’ forever.
I was asked to do a Ted Talk a few years ago and I was like, “What an honor. I would love to do a Ted Talk.” But I had baby twins and I had to say, ‘no’ for now but, “maybe come back to me in a couple of years. I would love to do it in a few years when things have calmed down.”
I’ve also kind of said…and you alluded to this earlier…but I’ve said “balance” is such a funny word. It’s like riding a bike. You know, one day I’m pushing hard into work, like with a book release, and one day I’m pushing hard into family, like post book release. I’m working 40/50 hours a week on this side and on the other side I’m working 10. And I’m going to go volunteer at the Thanksgiving thing on Friday. And I’m going to take next week off, the whole week, because my kids are out of school. The beauty of having that kind of control over your schedule is that you can ebb and flow and not feel guilty about it. And instead of operating out of fear that you’re going to miss something, that something’s going to fall apart, trusting in your own strengths, your own skills, and knowing that it’s going to be the way it’s supposed to be is so much better than living life with your hair on fire. It is so much better.
Do you have any hard rules for yourself like: “I won’t work when the kids get home from school,” or “I’m going to be done by 5.” Do you have those or do you intuitively flow through different seasons?
EMILY: That’s such a good question because for so long I did. And maybe it was a season of life I was in. But I don’t think it was the wrong decision.
ALLIE: I think when you have babies and toddlers, for me it was helpful to be like, “no” because growing the beginning of a business I was in that mode and I had a baby that was breastfeeding. I needed to say, ‘no.’
EMILY: Hard and fast, ‘no.’ And for me, I tend to like extremes, like no carbs whatsoever or no sugar. I tend to be drawn to that because for me it’s like there’s a very clear line and it’s black or white.
And so, when my kids were tiny, yes, I wouldn’t work after a certain time or I would make sure that I worked after they went to bed. And I think that was helpful. Now all that’s out the window and I think it has a lot to do with my kids’ ages – 8, 4, & 4 – they’re at school all day and I get uninterrupted quiet work time from 8-2. And that’s awesome. And then I go pick them up and I don’t really work.
The other day, my literary agent called me at like 4:00 and I was like, “Hey kids, y’all play. I’m going to go take a phone call in my office. I’ll be right back.” They’re not crawling and trying to knock the door down. I can leave them unsupervised for a few minutes in the other room. And it worked.
I found when my kids were little, I have not stressed I don’t think about anything more than what my kids are doing all day. Are they going to school? Are they at daycare? Are they with a nanny? Or am I working and taking care of them? What’s going on? And now that the kids are in school and then they’re not in school, it’s so much easier to go with the flow.
They also understand a lot more. They know what mom does. They come to book signings. They’ve been a part of launch days. They get it. It’s so fun. But holy cow did I drown in mommy-guilt when they were tiny. I had the option of being a stay-at-home mom. Brian’s career was doing awesome and it was an option. I had so much mommy-guilt for being like, “No, I’m going to do this too.”
And now (hindsight) I’m able to be like, “I got to take Brady on an airplane to go to New York to visit our paper people up there. I got to go visit Mohawk. I got to see how it was made and meet them and what a cool experience that has been for him.” So, I guess that’s my way of saying to anyone who’s listening to this, who’s in that early stage, keep going. You don’t need a one-size-fits-all solution for childcare or balance or any of it right now. Just do your best every day and know that there will come a day when you will be like, “Oh my gosh, I have a kid home from school sick today. I can hang out with them and do what I need to do with them and then go get work done while they take a nap. And it’s fine and it works.”
ALLIE: They don’t need you every second. They can enjoy their time. Like, “Hey, you just watch this movie. Lay on the couch. If you need me, I’m here.” I think also when they’re little, it’s literally you’re choosing, if they’re home with you, are they going to be off doing something and needing me and I’m distracted or what is getting my focus. But when they’re older it really is more like you can choose and they’re good either way.
I found that my having a business when they were super little has made them really resilient, really chill and up for whatever—if that makes sense. And it’s been really good. I’m so happy that I kept going and pushed through.
And when you’re in that, you’re like, “It’s never going to get better. This is so hard. How can I do this until they’re 18?” And it’s a blip and then it gets so much lighter and better. They’re excited for you. And they’re like, “Good job speaking, Mom,” or “You did really good on that.” They watch. They’re in it with you. It’s a family affair and it’s really cool. But you wouldn’t have that if you didn’t push through those hard parts.
EMILY: So true. It’s so true.
ALLIE: Okay, so to wrap up, what is one thing that you feel like…and this might be a little bit putting you on the spot; I didn’t prep you for this…but what is one thing that you feel like maybe gets misunderstood about you and what you do? Does that make sense? Something that’s misunderstood about you a lot?
EMILY: You know, it’s funny, when we moved to Pensacola I had a lot of friends that were like, “Hey, what are you guys doing this weekend? I want to invite you over, but my house is a mess.” And I’d be like, “Wait, what?” And they were like, “You’re all about… your pantry is picture perfect.” I’m like, “Come see my pantry right now. Maybe we took a magazine photo for it a few weeks ago, but it looks just like yours. Yes, I have some systems in place in there that help me keep it 80% good.” But my house…my laundry room is piled full of laundry just like everybody else’s. That’s been funny.
My son’s friend’s parents have become good friends of ours and they’ll come over and be like, “I love that your house is not perfectly picked up.” Instagram is a high light reel, guys, it’s a highlight reel.
ALLIE: Yeah and even when you say it, people don’t really realize. And I think you’re similar in this too, you like design and your house is pretty. It’s decorated. And I love design. That’s what I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing this. Just because you like pretty things and we’ve invested in beautiful things on the wall, these framed photos and this style, it doesn’t mean that there’s not a pile of laundry on the couch that I forgot to put away.
ALLIE: It’s Domino Magazine. It’s Instagram. I had to make it perfect. We taped cords under the table so there wouldn’t even be a cord. So it’s not me being like, “This is how it is; this is our life.” It’s a photo.
EMILY: Yeah. There’s a 99% chance you’re going to step on a Lego when you come to my house.
ALLIE: I love it.
Okay, so When Less Becomes More is officially out. It came out on the 12th of November. It’s beautiful you guys. It’s a small-sized coffee table book. It’s so beautiful and so happy. I love it so much. I’m so proud of you. Good job!
EMILY: Thank you so much. I’m just thrilled with the way it turned out and you can find it all the places books are sold.
ALLIE: Yeah, we’ll link to it in show notes too, and we’ll link to all things Emily.
Thank you for spending time with us, doing what you’re good at, opening up your life a little bit and letting us peek inside because I think that like anyone else, it’s easy to look at your socials and your life from what we can see and think like, “Gosh, I just need to get it together.” Just knowing that, “You know what? No. We’re all doing our best.” Yeah, there’s some life hacks and things that we’ve learned from other people, but that’s all it is.
EMILY: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on!
ALLIE: Yeah, absolutely.
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