Emily Ley is the founder of Simplified, a brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women. Ley has been featured in Forbes, Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping. She is the author of “Grace, Not Perfection,” “A Simplified Life” and “When Less Becomes More.” Ley lives in Florida with her husband, Bryan, and their three children.
What do you mean by grace, not perfection?
In 2008, Ley founded Simplified out of her home, and a decade later, her products are in stores such as Target, Office Depot and Staples.
“I was the weird kid who wanted to go home and organize her bedroom for fun, and I ended up making planners for a living,” Ley said. “Grace, not perfection is a phrase I’ve said for years. This idea that we all have to have it together all the time is so stifling and suffocating. I was struggling with wanting to have it all, be it all and do it all well, and you just can’t. I had started my company, and I had a new baby. I was pacing around my house. I had my laptop on my hip and a baby on my other hip. I was talking to a friend and I just said, ‘I’m so tired of trying to do all of this. I’m supposed to be the perfect mom. The perfect wife. The perfect designer. It’s impossible.’ Meanwhile, there’s a load of laundry in a chair. I can’t even sit down. I said, ‘I’m done. I’m going to hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.’”
Ley had to unlearn perfection and choose connection.
“I have witnessed it in my own house. Constantly trying to keep a house that’s constantly clean means that mom doesn’t sit down and play LEGOs,” Ley added. “That’s where it comes down to making choices and saying, ‘Now is going to be the time I spend with my kids and doing fun stuff.’ Then, I’m going to have a boundary and say, ‘Now I need to go get my work done.’ So you methodically sort through life and untangle these ideas the world is feeding me. What is it that God really wants for my life and who He wants me to be?”
How can we pursue excellence without getting lost in perfection?
“For me, that definition of good means we have to look at that through the lens of what God expects me to be and who I’m striving to be. For me, good means having time to sit down with my family for dinner, and maybe it’s not a perfect, fancy meal, but it’s McDonald’s and we’re together,” Ley said. “It’s better than perfect. This idea of everything always being absolutely buttoned up isn’t real. When we’re trying to be perfect, we’re trying to be something we’re not. When we’re growing in grace, we’re becoming better versions of ourselves. I found there’s a lot of joy to be found in the mess.”
How do you simplify your life?
“If you have a bunch of shoes, and you’re looking at 17 pairs of flip-flops and you say, ‘I’m going to buy this cool shoe organizer at the store, bring it home, organize all my shoes, take a picture of it and post it to Instagram,’” Ley said. “That’s awesome, but the very next day, you still have 17 pairs of flip-flops and your closet is probably a mess. The problem wasn’t having the perfect tool in place, but that you had a lot of shoes. So we have to declutter our lives the same way that we declutter a closet or cabinet. We have to take a look at all the things we’re committed to and say, ‘Maybe this is too much. What things do I need to keep and lay down for good or for a season?’”
Ley wants her home life to be a safe haven.
“Doing all the things that I do with three little kids, I have really tactical things in place,” Ley said. “I try to keep rhythms and routines in place so that our life isn’t the rest of the world—meaning we have that safe space to come back to—that comfort of home where the rest of the world feels really chaotic, especially this year.”
Ley shared a few ways to simplify your life:
1. Your space: How do you organize your room, wardrobe and workspace? Declutter drawers and cabinets to create a simple space to live in.
2. Your time: Manage a schedule. How do you prepare for your next day? Lay out clothes the night before or know what you’ll be eating for breakfast to make it an easier morning.
3. Your mind: Be aware of the trap of comparison on social media. Remember that social media is often a highlight reel, not a full disclosure of someone’s life.