If Your House Looks Perfect 24/7, Please See a Doctor.

Interior decor & home expectations vs reality.

It’s impossible to count how many times we’ve heard people express dismay at the immaculately clean, beautiful home photos they saw somewhere on the internet.

Including—much to my horror—mine.

Why am I horrified? Because it’s not true or accurate!

And the truth is,

our house does not always look like these photos!

When this subject recently came up with someone (who, incidentally, had never been inside our home—she’d only seen it on the blog), this person admitted she’d assumed that that was what our house looked like on the average day! But after she listened to me passionately explain the reality, she laughed and said, “You should write that up for the blog!”

It’s not the first time I’ve thought about this, and I think it needs to be done. Not only for the people who know us from afar (which we have a number of after moving states and countries), but for all of man-and-womankind! 😄 Everyone should know the TRUTH about home design photography from an insider perspective!It’s really pretty simple, so let’s start with #1!

Truth #1: We CLEAN our house for pictures, people!

As does everyone who lives in that gorgeous home you saw a photo of on Pinterest, if they actually live there!

This is a non-tidied corner. (I’m just eeeeeasing you in right now…)

Example story:

A faraway friend texted me if I could help her make a design decision in her kitchen.

“Sure!” I texted back cheerfully. “Send me a pic!”

She hesitated. She didn’t send a pic immediately. Instead, she texted back something to the effect of, “My kitchen is messy and I don’t want you to see it…”

My first reaction was to be like, What the flip! Has she forgotten who she’s talking to?! Then I remembered and nodded like a wise old sage, Aha! This is the first time she’s asked me for help since we started the blog. She’s remembering all the beauty shots of our kitchen. Ah so! I can see clearly now…

I texted her back gleefully, almost doing a little excited jig, “Would it help to see pictures of my kitchen right now?” And then I didn’t even wait for an answer, I snapped a couple pics of my ABSOLUTE DISASTER of a kitchen while I did my jig. Then I sent them to her, laughing heartily at myself.

I could feel her relief and reminder of reality, as she sent back some funny comments admitting she felt better and immediately started texting pictures of her kitchen.

(I’ll share disaster pics of our kitchen down below for those of who you are highly interested. 😉)

Truth #2: This is our business!

This is our business, so why would I take pictures of a messy kitchen for a post on countertop design? No one could see my countertops if I didn’t!

And when people hire us to help them with their home renovations, are photos of a dirty bathroom with messy towels and bath toys everywhere going to make them ask,


About us.

No way, man! We show our best work. On its best day. This is just Standard Business 101. (See #1 about HOW MATT & I CLEAN BEFORE JESS TAKES PHOTOS. Hands down. Every time. It’s gotta be done.)

This doesn’t just go for home photos—think of the last xyz you bought online. Did the seller show you that item with scratches/tears/rips/chocolate all over it? Of course not! Would you have bought it if it did! Nope! You don’t want to see what it’s going to look like after years of use—you want to see what it’ll look like at its best, when you receive it, or what it’ll look like when you take care of it well.

Do I want my house to look like it does in our beauty shots all the time? SURE! (That would be sweet!)

Did I design the house envisioning it as it would look when perfectly spotless? YES! (That’s how a designer envisions!)

Is that at all reality? EN-OH!

Truth #3: Something’s prompting us to compare—what is it?

Really, I think this is the most important point. When we compare ourselves or our lives to another, it’s saying something about where we’re at.

  • Why does this bother me so much to see a seemingly-perfect X?”
  • What is creating these negative feelings in me about my apparently less-than-perfect Y?”
  • Where are the areas where I’m tempted to compare—versus the areas I don’t?” (Fascinating!)

Sure, some healthy comparisons can be helpful for life or self-improvement, or inspire us to move in a good direction we feel ourselves longing to move.

But comparison can also be a nasty piece of work if not used in a encouraging way.

home expectation vs reality

Welcome to our unedited home!

And now, the piece de resistance, I give to you


Let’s take a walk through our “spotless” and “perfect” house situation, shall we? (I can’t even type those two words without laughing + hearing them said with a healthy dose of Jess sarcasm.)

home expectation vs reality

Family Room: Forts, falling curtain rods, & more!

I’ll ease you in a little further with a glance at our family room, which has a fort being built in it. Now, this fort has been here for days. I have chosen to let this happen.

Can you guess where our TV is? Hint, it’s hidden!

Last year, I posted a picture of this same room with some helpful arrows showing an example of the type of Real Life we usually have going on in here:

If you don’t recognize the room, let me refresh your memory with the “beauty” shot of the same room:

Tour our servantless downstairs or see more of this room in our “5 Smart Strategies for Using Older Furniture in Your Home”

home expectation vs reality

Bonus Room: Sooooo minimalist that it gets overrun by stuff.

Upstairs, we have a massive bonus room which one side of serves as a homeschool and arts/crafts area. Here’s some reality of mess left for days/weeks/who’s counting:

Ahhhhh. If only my children could keep it looking like the below every day. (They actually said they love having it so clean, which I don’t doubt, but is that enough to make young children keep it up all by themselves? No need to even ask that question.)

See more of our simple homeschool room (and how we used IKEA pieces).

home expectation vs reality

Our Mudroom Entryway

Now to our mudroom, which is actually having a fairly good day! Only some library books to return, Kleenex, broken flip-flops, an Amazon return, sunblock, and water bottles to ruin the clean and crisp look. I’ve called this “The Drop Zone”, told everyone they need one, and so here you go! The Drop Zone in action!

And PS: children never put their shoes away perfectly neatly. (At least mine don’t. I’ve chosen other battles.)

Still, like I said, a fairly good day for this hardworking entryway of ours!

Buuuuut still not as good of a day as she had in the beauty shots, aye?

See our full mudroom entryway HERE.

home expectation vs reality

The Living Room

Recognize our famous DIY ottoman? Thar she blows!

She’s often covered with puzzles, perler beads, or dolls. And this couch is often used as a plane or a boat for pretend travel, but today it’s just the puzzle so not too bad at all…

…still nothing like when I have it spic and span!

See how we made our DIY faux tree or how we painted our fireplace the easiest way ever.


I’ll admit, this is the ONE room I really try to keep the kids out of as much as possible, so that even if the rest of my house is a disaster (especially the kitchen, which we’ll get to next and which is right next to this room), I can look over towards this “fireplace room” and breathe a sigh of meditative focus…

…and know that order exists somewhere in the world.

It helps.

home expectation vs reality

Big Daddy Daddy: The Kitchen!

Aight. Let’s get to the kitchen. Our biggest disaster zone of disaster zones. However, it’s hard to fully communicate to you JUST HOW BAD THIS KITCHEN CAN GET, because I never remember to take example photos of it on those days, because

I am too busy losing my mind to remember to take a photo of it then!

But here’s a snapshot of it a few steps/days before I usually lose my mind:

If you can look past the mess you can see our double island!

Note the dirty dishes to the left of the sink, and the dishes drying themselves on our countertop runnels.

I found a photo of our kitchen from the exact same angle on a “good” day (although you can tell this was awhile ago—no ottoman and no DIY faux tree!).

See our full kitchen HERE!

home expectation vs reality

Drawer interior.

Not all our drawers look like perfection all the time. In fact, this one pretty much drives me nuts regularly because it’s one of those “random” drawers where nothing has officially been assigned a home, and therefore it looks like this:

And even when one tries to get it organized, one can lose steam quickly…

Can you see why we focus on the other ones for El Interneto? Yep.

Want to have drawer dividers like this? We show you how!

5 Brilliant Kitchen Organization Ideas that Make Life Easier

Our #1 Tea Drawer Organization DIY

home expectation vs reality

The hardworking sink area.

Someone left a comment once asking what our runnels looked like with dishes on them, and here’s one (along with our sweet four-year-old and a random blackberry on the counter…she was eating blackberries washed in the sink and looking out the window to our pool, contemplating life…)

But do we let drying dishes and lone blackberries into our final sink shots? Nah. They’re not exactly professional photo stylist material in that way…

See why we ripped out our new kitchen!

home expectation vs reality

Speaking of our backyard…

While our backyard has been called “paradise” and “like a resort,” it’s more often a family-with-young-children-play-place. We have an outdoor play loft/art studio, sunken trampoline, a zipline, and more…

…but it’s #1 use is for what we call “The Mud Cafe!”

Honestly, hours and hours and hours have been spent in this Mud Cafe by our daughters, and it probably accounts for 78% of the use of our “resort” backyard in real life!

Backyard Makeover: BBQ, Patios & Pool, Oh My!

home expectation vs reality

Our pantry: here’s why you’ve never seen it until now.

Back to the kitchen.

Do we have a Pinterest-worthy, perfectly organized pantry? Nope! And we’re okay with that right now.

Maybe one day I’ll get on The Perfectly Organized Pantry Train. (But first someone will have to convince me why I should buy a ticket. Another post…)

home expectation vs reality

Our kitchen on 4 more different real-life random days.

Another pic I posted last year showing an example of a pretty average day in our Kitchen Central:

Real life involves lots of popsicle-making and apple picking and food left out on counters…

…days with messes of sunscreen and pool stuff and dirty dishes and vacuum cleaners on countertops and incomplete To Do lists and old coffee cups and unopened mail and 81,004 child drawings on paper everywhere in our house…

…not to mention days of tea left cold in my mug and half-eaten breakfast on the counter because I somehow got interrupted while I was eating breakfast (I’m savoring these days with little ones!), and more paperwork and dirty dishes and water bottles and food needing to be put away and a pile of precious passionfruit from some friends that we still need to eat or save before they go bad…

And please notice that in the last two photos, we are not hiding our appliances behind the appliance cabinets to make it look even nicer! Because in real life, that’s what happens!

For a photoshoot, this is what happens:

21 Genius Kitchen Hacks

I could keep going, but I think that’s enough for today.

How ya feelin’ now? 😄


Back to our regularly scheduled programming of cleaned-up pictures for Instagram!

If you’d like our help RIGHT NOW check out our plans & guides!

PS: You can find all of our posts here!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jane

    OMG – thank you for your honest dose of reality. I know I’m guilty of thinking everyone else has “perfect” houses all the time. This makes me feel so much better. ☺️

    1. Jess

      Love hearing that, Jane! We’re all guilty of falling for it at times, if we’re normal. 🙂 Hope you have an awesome weekend!

      Jess & Matt

  2. Ellen Cabral

    Reality must be acknowledged. Lol. Great job! Always entertaining.

    1. Jess

      😆 Thanks Ellen! Glad you were entertained! Hope you have a great weekend!

      Jess & Matt

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