I‘m a recovering perfectionist. You should know that about me, because I get asked all. the. time. “how I do it all” (whatever “it” is). The reason it’s important to know that I’m a recovering perfectionist is because I’ve long ago let go of the notion that I can do it all, or even that it should look like I can do it all.

Somehow, the message still doesn’t get through. Maybe I should say it again, right now, for the record — I don’t do it all.

I know I’ll still get asked this again next week. Oh well.

This is true both online and off — in my own home, as I raise little ones and make spaghetti for dinner (again) and watch dust flitter down on the bookshelf as soon as I wipe it off. If you were to come to my house right now, you would see an outgrown exersaucer smack-dab in the middle of the living room, waiting for the yard sale because we don’t have any other place to put it, and dishes in the sink waiting for the dishwasher because I haven’t gotten around to filling it yet. I promise.

My mother-in-law has had this quote on her fridge since my husband was a kid: “Dull women have immaculate homes.” It makes me smile every time I visit.

God is the only One who can claim perfection has an attribute
— always has, always will be true. Mistakes and shortcomings are part of the package of claiming Earth as an address.

We should strive for excellence, to be sure — God is honored when we give our all to the tasks He’s given us. But we need to be mindful of the task He’s given us that day. Is it to vacuum with gusto? Or to play Lego on the floor with our kids? Sometimes it’s both. But not always.

Be careful not to worship perfection. Strive for excellence as a means of worship. I tell myself this often.

I bring this up because last week, I asked Simple Mom Facebook followers what they would ask me if they could ask me anything. “How do you do it all?” came up again. Here’s a version of that question, with an important qualifier:

Q: “How in the world do you accomplish all that you do, with young children? Tell the truth, do you have help with the kids and the housework?”

Yes, I have help. He’s 6’2 and I sleep with him. Seriously — Kyle, my husband, truly shares the workload with me. We both work from home, so we’re able to divvy up the tasks pretty much down the middle. He cooks, cleans, and folds the laundry right with me.

When I wrote Organized Simplicity, I also had a mama’s helper come over two to three times weekly to watch the kids while I wrote.

And this fall, I hope to hire another person to come over while I work and write. No way can I do all that I do solo.

Here are few more questions you guys asked:

Q: “I would like to know what you did BEFORE you were a mom and started Simple Mom. I’m always curious about everyone’s ‘life before mom.'”

Between flights in China, pre kids.

I met my husband while I was an English teacher in Kosovo, and we were only married for two years before I became a mama. During those years, we were preparing to move overseas and do full-time ministry — pretty much continuing our life overseas, similar to ours in Kosovo. (As a side note, I share a bit more about this in just a few days on (in)courage.)

My educational background is in English and anthropology, so I guess you could say I’ve always had an interest in writing and cultures. My life pre-mama was about this — loving the written word and loving how God made people.

To pay the bills, I mostly worked as a freelance graphic designer.

Q: “Has there been a significant turning point in your life? An ‘Aha!’ moment — maybe in the every day, maybe a simple comment from a friend or teacher, rather than a momentous occasion such as marriage or childbirth?”

I can think of a few. Growing up, my dad always said, “Do for a living what you would do for a living if you didn’t have to do it for a living.” I loved that, and really took it to heart. I would blog, write books, and be a mama for free if I had to. Oh wait, my kids don’t pay me.

When I was 15, I remember looking out a frost-covered window in Riga, Latvia (I was on a mission trip), watching the circus-sized cars and fur-covered heads amble through the roads, and distinctly thinking, “This is cool — I’d like to live and work overseas one day.”

On August 1, 2000, Kyle was walking in one direction on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the former Yugoslavia, and I was walking the other. “Are you that new American?” I asked. Word had gotten around that there was a new foreigner in town, and in a village of 500 people, that’s a big deal. That blip in time on that dusty patch of road was a definite turning point in my life.

Yes, that led to the typical kids and marriage thing, which of course were the most momentous occasions yet. But you asked for turning points besides those.

On February 28, 2007 we moved overseas. Huge turning point. And then in spring 2009, getting an email from a book editor turned out to be a rather big moment as well.

Q: “What makes you laugh?”

The things my six-year-old says near daily — I could write another book based just on quotes from her. All my kids are pretty hilarious, actually. Kenneth on 30 Rock and Andy on The Office. Playing Apples to Apples and Things with my extended family. Reminiscing with my husband — we’ve been to a lot of places, experienced a lot of things, and met a lot of people together. And of course, Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. “Did you not tell them that they were the Lord’s chips?”

I was actually floored by some of the thoughtful questions asked on Facebook, and I can’t possibly answer them with justice here in this post. I think I may take some of those as post topics in the next few months on Simple Mom.

Thanks, guys, for your encouragement and loyalty. Is there anything else you’d like to know? Maybe something not quite as deep — such as, what’s my favorite color?* Ask away.


Affiliate links are used in this post. All proceeds go directly to Bloom (in)courage, to help fund the free books provided for future book studies.

  • http://madandhappy.blogspot.com Lauren

    Are you writing another book??

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      Yep! It’ll take awhile (kids, moving, real life, all that stuff), but I’m in the beginning stages of the next one right now.

  • http://itwasbroughtonbylove.blogspot.com Southern Gal

    I love these little peeks into lives. I’ve read your blog for a while yet some of the obvious questions aren’t answered there in the day to day, like your favorite color, for instance. ;) Thanks for sharing.

  • http://busyblessedbeautiful.blogspot.com Shannon Wheeler

    LOVE the t-shirt!!! Love the whole post, but your My Husband Rocks t-shirt caught my eye and made me smile. (I own 3 – I guess that’s because he rocks a whole lot?!) Every time I wear it, people remark, and it’s so fun to see another proud wife. Thanks for inspiring so many of us with your ideas and your words!

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      I love it, too! We all have a version of them (My Wife Rocks, My Mommy Rocks, My Daddy Rocks, etc.). If anyone’s curious, they’re from Union 28.

  • http://www.imperfectpeople.net Katie @ Imperfect People

    This is so great! It is so fun to learn about the REAL person behind all those amazing posts. Thank you for this!

  • Melissa C

    I laughed about your mother-in-laws sign! My girlfriend gave me a magnet for my fridge. It has an 1950’s housewife happily cleaning the tub and says “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying that, but it sure makes me laugh every time I see it!

  • http://jancoxabetterway.wordpress.com Jan

    I still find it extraordinary when God places people and posts in the same thought process as I have been. Yesterday I wrote a post called “I am a perfectionist” which will be posted Monday.
    I totally agree that only God is perfect but I try.. lol:) Except being perfect can be stressful and I don’t like stress. I am learning – very slowly – to relax in all things and not try to be perfect.
    I certainly wasn’t perfect in my housework when my kids were little – I played with them, so the housework took a back seat. Now, as a grandma, I have to relax when the grandkids come to visit because my house is now “perfect”. Thanks for the reminder as I will have 12 of us and 5 dogs for Easter weekend.

    Blessings on a “messy, fun-filled” day!

  • http://riverintowords.blogspot.com karen

    How do you find the time, strength, and money to nest in new homes in every new place you settle? and still keep your sanity? this missionary mama needs to know! :)

  • http://www.followingthewayhome.blogspot.com Sharon

    Thanks for sharing this-I love getting little peeks into others’ lives-it is so encouraging! I second Karen’s question above, we are in the midst of another transition, too!

  • http://thechurchcook.blogspot.com Kay, TheChurchCook

    Thanks so much for keeping it real. :) And glad to know more about you. Love your book.

  • http://lightourhearts.blogspot.com natalie

    Not so much a question, just an idea. I think you should do a ‘long after’ of the befores & afters from the last few weeks. Let’s see how many people are actually maintaining the work they did…I have failed in this already, but I did try and tidy my daughter’s closet AGAIN, just a reminder that organization is a daily battle. Trying to keep things looking nice for at least another week before I go into the hospital to have #3!

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      Hmm… Fun idea! I hadn’t thought of that.

  • http://unvasefragile.com misty

    this isn’t a question but rather something to add to what you said… a girlfriend of mine went on her women’s retreat last weekend, and came away w/ a pretty huge “nugget” aka walkaway point: in order to maintain simplicity, if you add you must take away. you can’t keep adding and adding and adding and expect to maintain sanity or order or even peace. this is across the board-in your home, workplace, as a mom/wife, etc. the speaker mentioned as an example the season of a newborn (which i’m about to undergo for the 4th time) and said that w/ the addition of a new person something has to be let go. that can look like just accepting the mess in your house for 6 wks, or hiring someone to help, or your husband dropping soccer for a season, but something has to be let go b/cs of the math. i thought that was so profound for being so simple and thought it resonated a bit w/ your “how do you do it all” queries.
    and it IS always nice to see the PERSON behind the blog!

  • Casie

    I have often wondered while reading your blog or reading your book, why did you go overseas? You make many references to it, but never explain the circumstances behind why you went, where you went or what you did. I understand the desire to live abroad, but I am curious about the logistics. What was your job? What was your husbands job?

  • http://parentplanet.info Nina

    I’d love to know more about your travels/ministry. how you decide where to go. are you affiliated with an organization or ?independent? (if that’s what it is called). I’m very intrigued by your travels all over.

  • http://livingthebalancedlife.com Living the Balanced Life

    Loved reading even more about your life! And I love that you admit to being a recovering perfectionist. I am too, and I think there are a lot of us out there!
    Can’t wait to read more about your overseas life!
    Have you made mistakes?

  • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

    About questions related to where we live/lived, what we did/do, why we travel, etc.:

    It’s honestly hard to talk about it online. If we were sitting across from each other over coffee, I’d be able to share much more. But because of the nature of our ministry, and because of the type of location, it’s hard to be totally blunt and spill the beans on the Internet. Basically: where we lived and what we did is considered a bit on the risky side — not so much for us, but for the friends we interacted with.

    I hope this makes sense. Sorry to be all incognito. Not trying to be, just trying to best love and protect the people we love and serve.

  • karrie

    What exactly does your husband do, and why are you all moving again?

  • http://www.raisingz.blogspot.com RaisingZ

    This was perfect timing for me Tsh. As I struggle daily with the “doing it all” piece :) It has been especially hard lately…..It was fun to learn all these new things about you! Great post :)

  • Hillary

    I read that you are living in a 2 bedroom home. HOW!?!

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      Patience. And grace.

      • Hillary

        Follow-up: I was asking more specifically…if that’s OK. Do all the kids sleep in one room and you guys in the other? 2 kids in one room (are they both boys/girls?) and a baby in your room?
        This might border on too specific. I am looking at renting a house and having my kids in the same room. But they are boy/girl…so looking for ideas of what other people have done :)

        • Mamamousie

          I have four kids and we have always rented houses where they shared rooms. When they were younger they shared what we called a sleeping room–after they outgrew co-sleeping–and then they had a communal playroom. This lasted, by their choice, until the oldest two neared adolescence. Now my 13 yr old son has his own room, and the three girls–14, 10 1/2, 8 1/2, share a very large room. Yes, there are squabble-fests at times, but they have no choice but to work it out. I think only the U.S. is so concerned about every child having their own room. Friends from many other countries have shown this to me.

        • Lea Stormhammer

          My 5-year old boy-girl twins share a room and always have. We’ve just enforced that bedrooms are for sleeping, reading, playing, etc. and changing clothes and other “private” things are done in the bathroom! :)

          We might separate them as they get older and space allow, but right now that’s not workable. My husband is the oldest of 9 kids. When he was little he shared a room with his sister and 2 brothers until he was about 7 or 8 and they got a house with more bedrooms.

          Make it work! When I spent time in Thailand the area I was in had many two up-two-downs for houses (four room houses, two rooms on each floor) where they had since added a bathroom and cooking porch on the back. Mom and Dad had one room bedroom and all the kids had the other. No big deal at all.

          Hope that’s helpful!

        • Sam

          I wanted to add to the It works! I have 3 kids, 6, 4 and 2 with the oldest being a girl and then 2 boys. They are all in one room and the older two have been sharing since my daughter about 18 months. They love it! We’ve recently moved into a house with more rooms and asked my daughter if she’d like her own room and she said no…so when she’s ready she can move out but until then it’s working well.

  • http://www.PurposefulTimeManagement.com Marcia Francois

    Love the glimpse into your life.

    I want to know what was your favourite thing about Thailand. I personally love Thailand for two reasons:

    1) the food
    2) the fact that you have no choice but to relax in that heat :)

    Another recovering perfectionist (this time from South Africa)

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      Definitely the food, and the cheapness of said food. It was just three of us when we were there, but I remember having a sit-down dinner with very full plates and drinks for all of us, and the bill was $7. Sigh…

  • http://www.thefaeryinn.wordpress.com Tiff

    It is rare that I find someone who can laugh at Napolean Dynamite and Nacho Libre!!! I would like to just say that, when I read your blog, I have never felt like you do it all. I have always seen the honesty in you, and while I admire your abilities to keep life simple, it’s easy for me to relate and believe that I can simplify things too. Indeed, I have.

    If I could ask you something…

    (btw – green is my favorite color as well)

    …What is your favorite season of the year, and what makes it so darn special to you?

    (That wasn’t too deep was it?)

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      Tiff, I’m so glad you don’t think I can do it all! That’s a huge compliment.

      Favorite season: It depends on where I am geographically. Here in Austin, it’s spring — I love the warm-but-not-sweltering weather, the breeze, and the wildflowers. Most everywhere else, it’s fall — I love the colors, the comfort drinks that go with that time of year, and the anticipation of the holidays.

      I honestly just like enjoying four distinct seasons. Perfection would be living somewhere where each season was exactly three months long. Pretty impossible to find, though.

      Fun question!

      • http://www.franklinsinthewoods.blogspot.com Kristy

        I agree with Tiff. That is why I love Simple Media. Everyone does such a fabulous job of being honest, yet you all have an ability to gently nudge us to do better. Love this article. Love Simple Media. :)

  • http://simplehomeschool.net Jamie~Simple Homeschool

    I’ve been to Riga, too! Summer of 1991.

    Love this interview, Tsh!

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      Really? How has this not come up before? Wild. Spring of 1993 for me. You were there right when the Iron Curtain fell then, eh?

  • http://artsy-betsy.blogspot.com/ Elisabeth@ArtsyBetsy

    Thanks for this post. Sometimes being a part of the blogosphere can leave me feeling just the slightest bit inadequate as a wife/mama/home manager/blogger who can’t quite seem to “do it all”…so I appreciate you keeping it real!

  • Tiffany

    Can you share where you are moving to in Oregon? I live in Portland :)

  • Mamamousie

    Your book came to me at a time when I needed something to help me clear away clutter and find what I had buried underneath it all. I don’t mean material things–although there was a bit of that, and I am working my way through our home with your book in hand. I am trying to dig out the things I want to do from underneath the things I “should” do.

    I homeschool my four kiddos (brilliantly creative people one and all who alternately inspire and frustrate me!), and over 14 years of child rearing I have set aside my passions and filled my time with so many other projects that lately I have felt suffocated by them. The projects, not the kids. My husband wants me to return to my artwork and writing, and I would love to, but I feel guilty working on things that don’t produce anything “tangible” for the family. So I get caught up in things that leave no time for art or writing–planning/planting a huge garden, sewing, knitting, cooking everything from scratch, repainting, cleaning…the list goes on. I have never claimed to be able to do it all–but when I look inward I see that I have been attempting just that.

    How do you let go of the–well, guilt, for lack of a better word–that is imposed by no one but yourself. I can picture the life I want for my family, but how to make that happen for all of us–myself included–that is the larger question.

    Long post…wordy poster…thanks if you made it this far,

  • Maia

    Thank you for this and for your book!!! Soaking it all in as I can get moments of time!!! :)

  • http://www.santabeso.blogspot.com LaDonna

    Seriously. I think you are my clone. Oh how I’d love to sit and talk to you over a nice warm cup of coffee for you, and hot chocolate for me. I imagine the laughter rolling and the tears streaming. Have you read Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee? It’s one to read every year, er… maybe day, to remind yourself of your worth through God’s eyes. Thank you so much for allowing all of your fans see you for real.

  • http://www.proudgrits.blogspot.com Tabitha

    Hi, Tsh!! Love Simple Mom, love getting to know you better!!
    The women’s ministry team where we serve has a favorite movie: Nacho Libre. Tooooo funny. “You look heeeedious!!!” and “stretchy pants” comments cropped up in virtually every meeting!! :)
    Can’t wait to hear more about YOU and your life–and your next book!
    BTW, you were one of the first (and only) early bloggers I read that acknowledged that they don’t do it all–when I first read that a while back, I breathed a big sigh of relief!! That’s part of why I’ve always been drawn back to you!! Your honesty!
    And my favorite color is green. Not pink, not purple like I once thought–it’s GREEN!! :)

  • http://www.wonderwomanwannabe.com heidi @ wonder woman wannabe

    Hi! :)

    I wonder with all the emails/comments you receive, do you begin to respond, answer, conntect with readers? It must be a challenge.

    I have personally tried to ask a direct question in a comment and/or email more than once and was not met with a response. Though I really do understand *why* and appreciate your obvious priorities (believe me – no guilt inducement intended here) I really am curious how you wrangle all that.

    Also, I am curious to know what types of blogs you read regularly and where you get inspiration for your posts.


  • http://www.simplebites.net Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Fun read, Tsh. Great questions everyone. =)

  • Ann

    Ok, in light of the other questions this is quite lame, but I’m fascinated by your interesting first name. Please tell me about it. (I’ve secretly been hoping you’d mention it in some random post on simplemom.)

    I love your blog, your honesty and your transparency. Thank you for being you.

  • Lexie

    Do people online often want to be your best friend? :) Because when I read your posts, I think, “Wow – our hearts seem so similar!” I bet you hear that all the time.

  • http://www.messywifetobetransformed.blogspot.com/ Messy Wife

    I found your website right when you announced Project Simplify. Love reading your posts.

    I wish my mother-in-law has the same quote as yours but she keeps her home meticulously clean. Good thing she didn’t impose it on me but it did raise my husband’s standard!

    I am wondering,
    – what is a typical meal (besides spaghetti) you make for your family?
    – what restaurant(s) would you go to if you choose to eat out (in the U.S.)?
    – do you have days when you have already made plan on what to cook but just can’t/don’t want to do it?

  • http://fimby.tougas.net renee @ FIMBY

    I have loved these posts at incourage this week (I don’t subscribe so have popped over from simple mom).

    Some pieces are coming together for me. Like that you were a freelance graphic designer before kids. Obvious given your talent with look and feel at Simple Mom. But of course knowing that makes me feel better since I have absolutely no idea how to make pretty font buttons and such (ha, ha!)

    It’s been fun getting to know you this way. Thanks for being so open and honest. My favorite kind of “getting to know you” posts.

  • http://www.charisscofield.com charis

    life is a balancing act, isn’t it?!

    i would love to know your religious affiliation (ie. what denomination you go to, what missions organization you were working with).

    oh, and what is the topic of your next book?

    my most recent post: a beginner’s guide to understanding the book of isaiah part 2

  • http://www.archerfriendly.com Archer


    I really like what you said about worshipping perfection. Your last two posts really spoke to me and I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to get to know you, even if only online. Thanks for sharing about your life and also being honest about it. I think your humility is beautiful.

  • Sharon

    I love the quote on your MIL’s fridge! I am going to add that to mine, as well as the one a commentor mentioned, “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” I do wish my house were clean the majority of the time, but the season of life I’m in doesn’t make that very feasible, so I’m working on embracing that! Thank you for reminding me that God is the only one who is perfect. I am hoping to one day be able to call myself a recovered perfectionist!!! Still having a hard time letting go in that area. I too want to know about your name!!! I haven’t ever heard it before. I love the story of how you and your husband met – so cool! And I love that you guys are in minsitry together. And, of course, I love your blog and am sure I will love your book, as soon as I get a chance to get a copy and read it!

  • Brantlee

    Big fan of Simple Mom for years…
    You may have answered this before, and I’m sorry in advance if you have, but how do you pronounce your name?

    • http://simplemom.net Tsh Oxenreider

      Someone asked me somewhere, but that’s okay — It’s pronounced “Tish,” with an I. It wasn’t me… it was my parents. :)

  • rachael

    Hi Tsh,
    I have been reading Simplemom for a few years now and have never commented, but I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading all of the posts on simple living media and here at incourage. I have 2 boys, 2 and 5 years old and am just starting to homeschool this fall. I am also learning as I go about healthy eating. We have several raised veggie beds and got 3 chickens 6 months ago that are so much fun! As a christian, I love the posts about marriage, parenting, relationships, money and reaching out to those in my community. Whatever I am going thru, or thinking about, you usually have a great post to encourage me! So thankyou, thanks for being real about not “doing it all” seriously, the web does have a way to make it seem like everyone else must just do it better, especially as I look at the constant mess in my home left by the kids (and myself, as I run from one thing to another!). Here is to living life to the fullest for God’s glory!

  • http://becomingyou.co.za Becoming you

    Great post – thanks for sharing a little bit more about yourself esp how you are a real mom trying to be better everyday just like the rest of us! Sometimes reading popular mommy bloggers you feel quiet inadequate which is the opposite of what the blogs are meant for…. I suppose it has something to do with you becoming a bit of a “celeb” ;)
    Looking forward to seeing what your next move and book bring about!
    Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa

  • http://www.incourage.me lbaker

    I think this may be my favorite post of yours Tsh, LOVED it. Thank you so much for sharing.

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