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On Margin & Real Life

On Margin & Real Life by Paper & Glam

It's been a long time since I wrote about how I'm learning to live well. Those of you who are long-time Glam Fam will remember that in the beginning, when I had little to no margin to indulge my love of paper, we chatted about living well here regularly. 

This morning I woke up at 5 AM craving candles, books, coffee, and reflection, so let's rock it old school and talk about life, shall we? 

Last week I got a note from Elise, a long time member of the Paper & Glam community asking, "Would you talk in either a future vlog or blog post about your steps to create margin this year (what has or has not worked for you). I would love to hear if you have found anything that helped!"

At the outset of the year, I talked about my word for 2016: MARGIN. In my How To Set Goals & Reach Them video, I made a resolution for every area of my life, but the one that sits paramount above them all is my resolve to create more margin.

What is margin?

Margin refers to the space on the edge of a page where there is no text.

Dr. Richard Swenson, wrote an excellent book on margin called Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives as well as a devotional. He defines a marginless life as, “Marginless living is being 30 minutes late to the doctor's office because you were 20 minutes late to the hairdresser because you were 10 minutes late dropping the children off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from the gas station — and you forgot your purse. Marginless is not having time to finish the book you're reading on stress: margin is having time to read it twice." 

In my own words, a marginless life is a life without white space for leisure, rest, play, family, fitness, creating and hearing from God.

A prime example is how often I'm told someone wants to join our book club, but doesn't have the time or discipline to read. No one has the time or disciple to read (or insert your goal here), we either plan and execute something in our lives or not. And remember, there will not be more time in the future, don't take that bait.

This year, I'm planning and executing margin. Running late, overwhelm, and exhaustion are no longer permissible in my life. At times, exhaustion and the clock get the best of all of us, but those times will be the exception, not the rule. Those states of being don't allow me to soak in the blood and bones of my life. When I'm tired, late, and overwhelmed, I miss the moment entirely. 

How am I creating margin?

What I've done this year to create margin is simply do less, and expect less of myself. I know, super anti-climactic when you wanted my secret for doing it all, and then more, but hang with me.
First, let's tackle expecting less. Managing the expectations we set for ourselves is half the battle. In my ideal world, I maintain a sparkling clean, seasonal home, well-tended abs from 5 AM workouts, a thriving business featuring wholly original art, a thought-provoking blog, and a lifestyle YouTube channel dedicated to all things Paper & Glam. In addition, I make space for time with family and close friends as well as a deeply-rooted community here in Los Angeles. Plus, I'd cross a book a week off my to-read list (well-read goals!), my scrapbooks and planners would be beautifully styled and current, because memory keeping is enjoying life a second time, in reverse...all while crushing it in the Fortune 500 IT world.
The math of my expectations versus my time will never add up.
If I'm honest with you, those are the unattainable expectations I lived by for all of my 20s. Not surprisingly, I grew tired of coming up short. It was never about doing it all or earning love, approval, significance, or anything you'd hear in a counselor's office (and trust me, I did my time in that chair). Some of us are innately wired with a Type Awesome Operating System. We want it all, from life and from ourselves. In my 30s, I'm laying down all that and taking up God's highest and best for my life; nothing more, nothing less.
In The Good & Beautiful God (a perennial favorite), James Bryan Smith writes, "When we lack margin, it is our own doing and is a sure sign we have stepped outside the kingdom [of God]. So be honest and be ruthless with your schedule. Your spiritual, relational, and physical health depend on it. [At the core] holiness is essentially wholeness -- a life that works. Sin is dysfunction or sickness. Margin restores balance and restores our soul, thus increasing our capacity for joy. Joy is a bulwark against temptation." 
As Dallas Willard infamously said, "Ruthlessly eliminate hurry."
Do you find yourself overeating, undersleeping, overspending, or all of the above, and generally feeling like you're missing out? When I find myself doing the same, margin always comes up lacking.
How does margin look in my life?
Margin looks like doing the needful to pay my bills and service my customers, and creating content (vlogs, blogs, etc.) as a hobby within the time I've set aside for it. Then living IRL (in real life, not online) the rest of the time. This means I pass on opportunities left and right to build my business and my brand, and I'm missing in action here on the blog and on YouTube more often than not these days.
Is this ideal? Not at all, and I miss connecting with you when I'm not here, but that’s a better option than missing my real life. I’ve done enough of that in my 20s. In my 30s, I’m committed to cultivating balance: less work, more love. The 20s are the time of becoming - put your head down and get there, professionally, financially, physically, and spiritually. For a great book on this topic, I cannot recommend The Defining Decade highly enough. 
In my 30s, I’m taking my foot off the gas and investing in my community here in Los Angeles and the rest of my life that exists outside of my career and the internet. Now hear me right, this does not mean that vlogs and blogs will always be infrequent or I no longer intend to create content for Paper & Glam regularly, etc. It means that when other priorities arise or opportunities to invest in my real life in LA arise, I let the internet things go as opposed to giving up sleep or sanity, or producing something that doesn't reflect authentic work.
This year the God & Glam community is reading Savor together and as usual, Shauna's words resonate deeply:

I know plenty of people who give the very best of themselves to what they’re putting on the internet, and their church, their friends, and their family gets the scraps. I know that there is never enough time, never enough energy, never enough of everything to go around.

There’s only one way I’m going to make the math work in my life: IRL (In Real Life) above all else. If I can’t be present and available every second to the great and powerful vortex that is the internet, that’s going to have to be okay. You can trust that I’m [curled up with Sunday, a new book and a steaming mug or traipsing down an LA street with my mom or my cousins.] I’m with my family and my friends, people who know me well and keep my sane. When things get crazy, I’ve learned to dig even more deeply into IRL.

The best of me is not in my videos and not on my blog. My first priority is, and will always be, IRL.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. — 1 Corinthians 13:1,3, MSG

How are you creating more margin in your life or struggling to do so? I'd love to continue this dialogue in the comments. 

Here's to taking life at our own pace, with peace, purpose, and joy.

With much love and gratitude for all the time you spend with me,



Very well said. I also in my 20's was head down trying to make a career, In my thirties just trying to survive and raise a family with a crazy schedule. Now into my 50's I still struggle with Margin. Even though my kids are grown, I still have trouble creating that margin for living in real life. Juggling time spent with the people I love, and my job as well as time just for me.

Some days there is so much to do and I want is to just sit and just be

So anyway, Thank you for this reminder of the need to just slow down and enjoy life :)


I completely agree and feel the same way! I spent so much of my 20's running, running, running; trying to set myself up for a career and such. Now that I am officially 1 year into my 30's (Just turned 31 on Aug. 13th) I feel like it's my duty to myself and my family and friends to work on creating margin and ensuring a balance! Thank you, LisaMarie for taking the time to spend time with us and thank you for continuing to inspire us! And while I do miss the vlogs on occasion, I applaud you for making time for your real life.


Thank you for doing such a thoughtful and through provoking post. I think we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves for a number of different reasons. With activities such as blogging, vlogging ect I think there is that need and expectation to put on a specific regular basis (this is why I do neither). You have certainly made me think and reassess more about my life I've moved back to my parents for a few days and I've realised how much time I spend on social media rather than my real life hobbies such as planning, reading and knitting. These are activities I miss when I'm not doing them so put pressure on myself to fit them in but I'm not managing my goals and expectations in the best format.
It was lovely to read this blog post.
I hope you are well.
Gemma 😀


I have missed you but I am happy to know you are okay... in your core where it counts. Margin for me does not exist right now. There really is no me as I am living my 92 year old paralyzed mother's life instead. She has dementia incredibly bad and I am her caregiver. I currently struggle with it all, I was trying to live two lives at one time for a while but I see that I am no longer living my own at all... I do not mean to sound negative because I am a positive person really. This blog is yet another message to myself that I may have to do the difficult, not-wanted thing of finding her a place for professional care.

I really do enjoy YouTube in the early morning hours if she is asleep... I live vicariously through your excursions. When I think of the vlogs you have done, my favorite moment has to be the Christmas scene of you and Sunday in your matching plaid jammies.... I watched that several times because it just warmed my heart and made me feel good about the world...

Enjoy your margin, You are so wise to create it!


I love this post. I have a couple of autoimmune disorders, so my body creates the margin I don't set up for myself. If I try to do too much, my body shuts down and I have to recover. This is helpful for me to remember that I need to set very wide margins. I work full time outside the home, so I have to let a lot of things go and not feel too bad when the kitchen isn't spotless and the floors haven't been vacuumed. I just have to do my best and enjoy being with my family and friends. They have to come before a clean house. Thanks for the reminder.

Stephanie Stepp

For the past three years I have been caught in this. I switched career paths and with that it felt like my whole world collapsed on me. I've been struggling to find peace, purpose, and joy. To settle into an entrepreneurial, self-employed career when I always liked the comfort of a structured job. Now I struggle to balance home, family, and job. However, I find solace in your blog posts and seeing the result of your trials and tribulations. It gives me new ideas and inspirations for my own life. I am starting to be able to structure my life so that it has some balance, and learning to tell myself "It's okay if you don't get this done today". Since the book club just finished Gone with the Wind, I think Scarlett's famous quote is fitting: "I can't think about that today, I'll think about it tomorrow".

Carmen D. Lugo

Good for you- bravo! I too when young worked crazy hours, long hours. Thought it was ok, I can do it! Sometimes it cost me dearly. We learn by reflecting on ourself and really getting to know yourself- who are you? Well to say the least after all these years I figured out what was the most important- my family, friends but must important my relationship with God! I lost my dear father in April, he died at home which I wanted so much ( my mother also died at home 8 years ago). Seeing the life God gives to us all, and of course when he comes back for us can shake people to the core or you can receive the graces, abundant graces and enter into a beautiful mystery. Your getting it my dear one and I am thrilled! I'm in my early 60's and have been enjoying your love for God, your dedication to your job, especially Paper & Glam! Now retired after my father's passing I look for where God wants me now. Keep it up Lismarie! You charmed many and motivated many, keep it real and enjoy your life! God bless you and I look forward to seeing & hearing from you one way or another☺️💋


My heart goes out to you Gayla. Two years ago my husband died after I spent 3 years taking care of him in our home. He had dementia and Parkinson's. It does take a part of you away. You have to fight to keep it. Take care of yourself. I am slowly working my way back to finding me again!!


I loved reading this. And needed a gentle reminder to get busy creating margins in my own life. In my 20's I gave myself to my husband and kids. In my 30's I poured myself into building my nursing career. My 40's found me living the empty nest and loving every moment of it. Then the 50's hit and along with that came drug addiction from a son and two grandchildren arriving at our house needing a home. Then in my 60's my husband became very ill and I had to quit my job to take care of him as well as continue to raise two teenage grandchildren. Life is not over for me now. I just need to create margins and get back to finding what life I want for myself!! Thank you for this thoughtful post!!

Wendy R

This blog, as always, is so well timed. I'm currently on a stay-cation after my boss insisted I take time off for the first time this year. As I woke up on Monday with "nothing to do" I realized I have let so many life goals go by the way side. Lots of things started and not continued... it's disappointing and discouraging but I've told myself it's ok to pick up where I left off and not let the time lost bother me or keep me from moving forward. So... as I read your blog I have realized what's missing in my life is margin!!! So thank you for helping me today to keep putting things IRL first. Hugs to you dear friend.


Hi Gayla, Keep strong and ask for help when you need it. My Mum just died in June. My younger sister has been her caregiver for many years. You are right. You live your mother's life and a lot of people don't understand. My sister was living a 90 year-olds life. I tried to help her but I live overseas. I talked to her about getting help and her need for a life too but my mother had her convinced she could only have my sister as a caregiver. It's been just over a month and my sister is overwhelmed with even the simple things like - I can sleep in, I can go get groceries when I want, I can shower and not worry, etc. Its tough to let someone else do the caring but think of it like the care home or caregiver you hire lets you have a life so that your Mom gets the best of you when you are with her. As a Mom I have told my adult children to not feel guilty about finding a care home for me if my physical and mental health become overwhelming. I have had a fantastic life and I want them to be able to have theirs too without the responsibility of my care. Hugs to you and your Mum as you make this difficult journey.


Your messages seem to find me when I need to hear them the most. I resonated with you when you wrote about your expectations. When I read that, I realized that I too have so many expectations that I keep coming up short on - having a pristine, spotless house, being in good shape, having a steady job/career, being well traveled, etc. etc. After reading what you wrote I am done with holding onto these. It's like putting a really heavy back pack/suitcase down. It's not that I don't want to have these things in my life, but I would rather just have the peace of each and every moment, as it is, without missing out. I really truly appreciate the wake up call; that I don't need to achieve all of those things just to feel happy. I can feel peace in this moment, as things are, even if they aren't ideal. Even if I am struggling. It is okay and will be okay. And more importantly, I am okay. Thank you again for being a shining light! *HUGS*


Thank you!!

Paper and Glam

Hi Gayla!

Thank you for taking the time to share how this post relates within your story. My mom is also taking care of my 90 year old grandmother who suffers with dementia incredibly bad. I see daily and first-hand the toll it takes. Praying you're able to make space in your life and find a home for your mother.

Aww yes, Sunday's Christmas pajamas! Those are just priceless, right?! I do try to be a breath of fresh air in a worn out world and it warms my heart to know you felt that spirit.


Paper and Glam

Hi Kathy!

I hear you, it's a daily work!

Paper and Glam

Hi Christen!

Balance is such a razor blade...the minute we're balanced we fall to one side or the other.

I'm grateful to work it out with girlfriends like you!

Paper and Glam

Hi Gemma!

Absolutely, you nailed it. There is an expectation to put out content regularly and consistently and if you break from that the assumption is that something is wrong. When in reality, it likely means something is deeply right and grounded, and income is not dependent on view count or constant promotion.

We need to live lives that not only look good on the outside but feel good on the inside and that means creating margin.

Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!

Paper and Glam

Exactly, Adrienne! I can't imagine managing a full-time job outside the home with health challenges. I could barely manage it healthy! I completely agree, enjoying our lives with the people we love should be our first priority, not a spotless house.

Paper and Glam

Hi Stephanie!

I'm in a similar season. It's ok for us to step back and take the time to remake our lives in a way that works for us. Once we have that permission from ourselves, it's often downhill from there. :)


Paper and Glam

Hi Carmen!

Aww thank you for the encouraging words. Here's to keeping it real and enjoying life!


Paper and Glam

Hi Paula!

Thank you for taking the time to share. Even at 30, certain seasons can feel like the end of my story. I constantly remind myself, this is not the end of my story, keep going!

Love from LA,

Paper and Glam

Hi Wendy!

Yes, yes, yes! I loved what you said about lost time. I often feel the weight of lost time and it keeps me from moving forward as well.

Thank you for your candor,

Paper and Glam

Hi Remika!

Awww it's been too long, girlfriend. I hear you, it's time to leave those old narratives at the foot of the cross!

Paper and Glam

Thank you!!
Much love from LA,


I just turned 20.
Thank you for the reminder. I love reading your blogs.


Hi. This is my first visit to your blog. I was surfing concerning planner stickers. I read your current entries and was amazed to hear myself in your words. I am 42, and a stay at home mom of a 5 year old. I worked a professional job or two at a time from the time I was 15 until I figured out I was pregnant and NOT in early menopause at 37(funny story there :). I have been SO surprised that my mommy me now could run circles around the professional me then. I wouldn't have time for a job if I needed one! Between preschool, gymnastics, playdates, media ministry and women's ministry at church, not to mention the expectations I have of keeping up my home, and dealing with aging parents, I am tired just thinking about it. I am thrilled to have a name for what I have been doing for the last couple of months - creating margin! It started at the beginning of summer when I realized that my little introvert was staying overstimulated, causing a lot of heartache for her. It didn't take long for me to figure out that she needed 2 days a week at home just to stay grounded herself. It's amazing the difference in her already. When I figured out that God's best for her was time at home, of course Momma Bear came out and had no trouble saying no in response to, "could you...".

It is a continual fight to protect that time. And right now I'm working on making time at home real down time. Stillness, peacefulness, not running around working on 10 projects I want to get through. So I've started using the timer on the oven. An hour for play, a half hour to watch Disney Jr. together an then an hour to do project work or cleaning.

I'm so task oriented, it has been quite an adjustment. But it helps to conquer it when I know what to call it. So thanks. Really.

Jenn P

I love your blogs and your YouTube videos as well as the amazing stickers. We all struggle with when to say no and this was a great reminder that if we looked to God for balance, He will show us what is important to Him and therefore us. Thanks Lisamarie!

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