“Grace, Not Perfection” – Emily Ley

This amazing book was written by the creator of The Simplified Planner, Emily Ley.

The book itself is gorgeous – it’s a bright pink hardcover with a navy ribbon bookmark. It’s filled with great quotes and stunning photos. The book is ironically Pinterest-worthy, but what’s written inside this book will do wonders for your heart and soul. At just over two-hundred pages, this book is a fairly quick read, too, which is perfect!

Grace not Perfection – Emily Ley

When looking for it at the store, I found it in the category of ‘religion’. The author mentions her relationship with God and does quote the occasional Bible verse, but in good taste. It isn’t preachy or anything like that, so even if Christianity isn’t your thing, this book will still speak volumes to you. It really is about finding grace in all aspects of your life. I would summarize it as self-help, self-actualization and strategies for getting the most out of your life.

The book is broken up into three main parts: Part 1 – Grace With Yourself, Part 2 – Grace With Your People, and Part 3 – Grace In Your Calling. Throughout the book there are ‘workbook’ components and blank space for you to make your own notes, etc.

When I initially read this book and wanted to post a review, I thought I would be listing all of the great pieces of this book that spoke to me, in specifics. I really don’t want to spoil it for you as this book profoundly touches on so many aspects of life. I encourage you to pick up a copy of your own and see how it can help to bring you peace and contentment.

Here are just a few things that stuck out for me in this book:

I think that this ‘review’ would make more sense if I told you a bit more about me. I’m a planner, a Type-A personality and a classic over-achiever. I’m also a people pleaser and like everything to be “just so”. I swear I’ve been this way since birth. My Barbie accessories were separated into various bins – one for shoes, tops, brushes, clothes, etc. My pencil crayons would be laid out in the order they would appear in the color spectrum. This has since translated into my adult life.

Being this way has some advantages. Everything in my home has a place and is easy to find (and easy to put away). Folding laundry relaxes me (for real). It gives me a sense of purpose and calm and lets me clear my head. Scheduling things in a planner tells me when we’re free to meet with friends or to have a date night or work on a project together. It keeps me from being flaky because “oh, I forgot I had to…” It also allows me to see if there are too many activities filling up the days so I know when I say “no” to adding additional ‘clutter’ to my life.

Then there are the disadvantages. Clutter and mess give me anxiety. A messy or dirty kitchen counter makes me nauseous for sanitary reasons. If I’m stressed about something, a messy house can often put me over the edge and I can have a mini meltdown. I’ve tried to work on this and this book was really good in helping me to understand what is really important and how to manage the day-to-day.

I think that getting a puppy helped me with my clutter-anxiety. My precious Hattie loves to play with toys, especially stuffies, and they’re scattered throughout the rooms in our home. I really only take the time to throw them into baskets if they’re going to be in the way for something, or if I need to vacuum. Why  Because they aren’t harming anything being strewn across our living room floor. Hattie’s clutter doesn’t upset me because her toys bring her joy and she brings me joy.

Having a Pinterest-Worthy Life

The Pinterest-worthy life, translates into validation from believing that the likes mean people approve and what you’re doing and like you. Ley tells us that for her “It was a destructive way of thinking.  I thought if I proved my worth by wearing the perfect clothes, having home-cooked dinners on the table at six, raising perfectly dressed children, and presenting a perfectly curated Instagram feed, I could finally rest. Then I could say, “I did it!”  I would have earned the love and admiration of my friends, of my family and of God.” (p.8).

We all want to project an image that we can do it all and have it all – but do we want to really do it all?

As a blogger, this is something that I often struggle with. Confession – I may post cute outfits and great photos of my home, but as I write this, I’m sitting in my home office in my pjs, drinking a lukewarm cup of coffee with hair that should probably be washed today, if I can find the time. My desk is covered in a pile of pens and mail to be sorted and my computer monitor is framed with a dozen or more post-its. Things aren’t Pinterest-perfect all of the time and I think that if they are, you’re missing out. This speaks to another theme in the book that I enjoyed about making time for what matters.

Margin for What Matters

A family friend of mine named Sandra told me a story about when she was a young mother. One Saturday, her husband was going to take their three kids to the park and she decided to stay home and clean the house. When they all returned home, they burst through the door with excitement and stories about all the fun they’d just had at the park. They’d made a day full of memories and she missed all of it to clean the house. She vowed to herself that never again would she miss those moments with her children for something that could be done later or even together.

Yes, keeping a clean and tidy house is important, but some things can wait, or even be outsourced. It’s okay to pay someone to mow your grass if it means taking that time to go to the park with your kids or to do something more meaningful. Your kids won’t be this age forever, they won’t always want another bed time story or a snuggle. These moments are fleeting and we need to hold on to as many as we can.

When you’re sitting on a front porch or in a nursing home at the end of your life, are you going to remember a clean house or are you going to remember the memories you made in that house? One of my favorite quotes I’ve seen is “Forgive my messy house, but my children are making memories.”

“Our society glorifies busyness and champions the adrenaline rush.  If we’re not going fast, they say, were not moving forward.” (p. 23)

People often say things to my husband and I like “You guys are so busy!” or “What are you doing now?” We do often find ourselves doing some kind of project or renovation or change to our home. We also have busy hockey schedules that take up a good amount of our time. Here’s how it works for us: Hockey provides both exercise and time with friends. We love the sport and it brings us joy. We love working on projects to improve our home – there’s something so satisfying about working with your hands and seeing a tangible result. We’re adding value, we’re working together and spending time together and we honestly find it fun. This isn’t to say that we don’t stop and re-evaluate our schedules and how we choose to spend our time. We’re cautious about that and ensure that we aren’t becoming overwhelmed or resenting any activity that takes up too much of our lives.

It’s hard to do it all and quite frankly, I know I don’t want to. Learning that we all have a capacity and learning to say “no” is another great topic in this book. This book is full of great strategies to help balance the workload in a home with your partner. The author provides strategies for not only decluttering your home, but also for decluttering your life and cutting out the things that not only don’t bring you joy, but make you feel icky or not good enough.  I’d elaborate more, but I don’t want to spoil it for you!

Self-Care and Filling Your Well

How are you really doing? Like, for real? This book asks this question of its readers on multiple occasions.

On page 19, she says: “You are a living, breathing vessel of love, sweet friend, and so am I.  We need care, rest, nutrients, and full hearts to be able to speak life into the people we love.”

Running on empty doesn’t make us any good to anyone else. We can’t help others or care for our families if we don’t first fill our own wells and care for ourselves. Schedules these days seem crushing with so many activities – playdates, meetings, family responsibilities, house projects, sports schedules and more. It’s important to try and find some peace of mind in this circus – your circus.

One thing that really struck a chord with me was when she mentions the Bible passage of “loving your neighbour as yourself” and what we usually think this means. She says that “we usually think of that command as centering around others. But it’s about us, too. God is telling us to love, nurture, and care for ourselves and to love others as much as well…if I loved and nurtured my neighbour the same way that I care for myself sometimes, I wouldn’t be doing them a whole lot of good.” (p.20).

Seasons, Timing and Grace Through It All

Life can get overwhelming at times and it’s easy to wish that certain phases will pass so that we can move on to the next thing. This book speaks to ‘enjoying the season’ because seasons will come and go and they won’t come around again. It’s easy to get trapped in the monotony of bathing children and doing dishes, rather than to listen for the giggles and to cherish those splashes in the tub because that season will be over before you know it. Putting your phone away to enjoy the moments happening right in front of you is something we often forget to do.

Everything happens for a reason and things happen when they’re supposed to isn’t often a great source of comfort for people. Emily Ley discusses many personal obstacles in this book – starting her own business, dealing with fertility issues and more. It’s easy to say “why her and not me?” or “why isn’t this catching on?” or things like that when we’re really at our worst. It’s hard to have grace in these situations and this book offers a lot on how to handle both the ups and downs in life with grace.

My Conclusions

This book isn’t just about making time for yourself, or taking care of your needs so that you can help others. I mean, it is, but it also isn’t. It’s about realizing what is important, enjoying the moments before they’re gone and giving yourself permission to do so regardless of dishes on the counter, or laundry that needs to be folded.

I don’t have children yet, but this book certainly spoke to me about the kind of mother I’d hope to be someday. Ley says on page 67 that “Life is messy, but the mess is worth it.” I want to be present in those moments with my children – out digging in the dirt or covered in papier maché.

I’m reminded of a fond memory of a friend named Donna who popped over unannounced one day. She happened to be in town visiting her son (my neighbour) and wanted to see if I was home just to say hello and see how I was doing. When I got to the door, I was excited to see her, but said “I’m so sorry, my house is a complete disaster – please excuse the mess!” to which she replied “Well, I guess it’s a good thing I came to see you and not your house, then isn’t it?” This had to be more than five years ago and her words still have a profound effect on me. She didn’t care if my house looked like a hurricane had gone through it or as if I’d just staged it for a Pinterest photo shoot – she came by to say hello and see me.

Maybe you’re not like me – maybe you’re not organized at all and feel overwhelmed with how to move forward. Maybe you are very Type-A but need help in finding grace in other parts of your life. This book is full of ways to get yourself ‘on track’ to make the most of your life. A planner won’t solve all of your problems, but it can help you find time for what matters instead of feeling overwhelmed and guilty all the time. It’s not just about making time, either – it’s about enjoying the time.

You only get one life.


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Carlee Krtolica
Carlee Krtolica


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