My pursuit of perfection: How the veil of illusion was lifted

This post is the first in a three-part series on embracing imperfection. 

My pursuit of perfection started when I was a young girl, growing up in the 1980s and 90s. I remember poring over pages of perfectly styled bedroom suites in JC Penney’s “Big Book,” trying to mimic the look in my yard sale-furnished bedroom.

But even worse than my early preoccupation with home décor was my fascination with the models in “Teen” Magazine.

“How can someone’s skin look so flawless close up? It must be that brand of makeup they’re using,” my naïve teenage mind concluded.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to the world of Photoshop as a twenty-something journalist that I understood how simple – and common – it is to digitally concoct perfection for the pages of magazines and websites. But the final veil of illusion was lifted from my eyes when I began blogging.

While attending my first blogging conference in 2012, a few months after I launched Living Rich on Less, I nervously struck up a conversation with a seasoned blogger whose work I admired. “Tonya, your home must look so perfect, with all the amazing projects I’ve seen on your website,” I remarked.

I’ll never forget her response. After a loud laugh that continued for several seconds, she managed to spit out the words, “Yea right.”

“What a strange reaction,” I thought. It wasn’t until later, after many projects and posts of my own, that I truly understand the lunacy of my statement.

When I showcase projects on my blog, I usually meticulously – and painstakingly – stage the environment I’m photographing. And in addition to setting the scene with the decor, I use a professional-grade camera and a studio lighting kit. In other words, I do my best to make sure everything in front of the camera looks perfect.

What isn’t conveyed or reported is what’s behind the scenes. So the audience is left with only the reality in front of them – the staged, “perfect” version of reality.


Because most of us saturate ourselves on a regular basis with the perfectly staged eye candy we find online and in magazines, we assume that our homes, or worse, ourselves, are somehow in need of improvement. Inevitably, we continue to chase a horizon of perfection we’ll never reach. And when our real lives don’t match what we see in media, we’re left feeling frustrated, empty and inadequate.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel frustrated, empty or inadequate! That’s why I decided to start this blog series on embracing imperfection, because it’s one key to ridding ourselves of these nasty feelings. Later this week, I’ll be sharing my top three reasons why we must learn to embrace imperfection. I’ll conclude the series with some practical ways we can do it!

Do you struggle with perfectionism? What coping strategies have you learned?

Craft projects that don’t look like a preschooler did them

I have a confession to make. I am craft-challenged. Just ask my sisters about December’s gingerbread house competition (spoiler alert: I lost), or the graveyard of self-made wreaths in our basement.

Now hold the phone. (Yes. I realize that expression shows my age.) 😉 I know what you’re thinking. How can I be craft-challenged when I write a blog filled with DIY decorating, organizing and home improvement projects?

Well, I’ve discovered there’s a big difference between gluing microscopic eyeballs on a snowman ornament versus remodeling a room. One requires fine motor skills and the other simply requires a high tolerance for drywall dust and public meltdowns. That’s my theory anyway. 😉 If any of you have insight on the difference between crafters and DIYers, I’d love to get your feedback.

Despite all the disappointing craft projects I’ve attempted over the years, I have managed to squeeze out a few good, craft-ish ones. So I thought I’d showcase those today. Click on the project title to be taken to the full tutorial.

1. DIY laundry room sign


2. Driftwood candle holder


3. Pottery Barn knockoff DIY birch candles


4. Family Rules sign from scrap wood


5. Wooden block letters


6. Faux metal wall letters


7. Stenciled table runner


8. Hair accessories holder


So would you say you’re a better DIYer or a better crafter? 🙂

Why I won’t quit my daydream (plus an upcoming trip with Rust-Oleum)

About five years ago, I discovered blogs. I remember stumbling upon Sarah’s (Thrifty Decor Chick) dining room redo after googling “chocolate brown dining room” images. Her space was one of the first photos that popped up. In her post, she shared every detail from her molding techniques to the paint color on the walls. I.was.hooked!

Two years later, in July 2011, I started my own blog. After all, I’d been DIYing stuff since I was a kid. I remember, at age 8, sewing together Barbie clothes out of scrap fabric using my mom’s sewing machine. And I’m not sure if poring over room photos in JCPenney catalogs and rearranging bedroom furniture weekly is typical behavior for 9-year-old girls, but it was normal for me.

Making ugly things beautiful (and occasionally beautiful things ugly) 😉 is simply part of my DNA. It’s what I was born to do. It’s my calling, this whole Living Rich on Less thing. And that’s why I stick with it. Because, frankly, if it wasn’t a “deep down in my guts” dream to do this for a living, I would have quit a long time ago. Heck, I still think about quitting at least once a week, in spite of the dream.

Blogging is way more difficult than most people realize, especially in the DIY/home niche. Not only are we required to photograph stuff and write quality content, but we also have to actually do projects … often really hard and time-consuming projects.

Blogging does generate income, if you stick with it long enough. But it definitely won’t be the easiest or quickest buck you’ve ever made. You have got to love this gig … like, sweating-in-the-heat, paint-on-your-face, back-aching, on-the-verge-of-tears-over-a-thrift-store-dresser kind of love.

But every time I think about how bonkers I am for doing this, I get a little encouragement from somewhere (or someone) letting me know I’m on the right track. My most recent pick-me-up came from the folks at Rust-Oleum.


They invited me to Chicago to attend a blogger innovation summit, where I’ll have the opportunity to tour the Rust-Oleum manufacturing, research and development facilities; work with some brand new products; and more.

This will be a much-needed mommy break for me. I’ll be putting on my big-girl pants (aka something other than paint-splattered sweat pants), acting like a professional, and maybe even doing my hair for a few days. I know. Rare.

Rust-Oleum and I have been BFFs for awhile, so I’m pumped to see what they’ve got coming down the pipeline.

Remember the dumpster-bound patio table redo?


What about the Great Outdoor Fan Renovation?



How about the knockoff Tuscan-style planters?

Knockoff-planter-graphic-2 Or the master bathroom cabinet redo?


Yea. Me and Rust-Oleum go way back.

So I’m over-the-moon excited for this trip and I’ll be sure to share all the details of the event with you.

In the meantime, what is your daydream? Do you ever feel like quitting? What keeps you motivated? I’d love for you to leave me a comment with your feedback.