Dirty secrets of DIY bloggers

Last week, I had the privilege of attending another Atlanta-based Haven Conference for DIY bloggers.

There’s so much I love about this conference: rubbing elbows with famous DIYers and thought leaders; connecting with my favorite brands; gathering information from other bloggers to help me grow my business; and making new friends in the process of it all.


Chatting it up with HGTV star Kelly Edwards


Enjoying an inspiring keynote speech from Jon Acuff


Taking a break with LaZBoy (Yes. They’re wearing upholstery-fabric suits.)


Enjoying a balmy Altanta evening with fellow author (and Pa. gal) Darla DeMorrow

But there’s something way more special to me about Haven than all these amazing opportunities. And it wasn’t until this year’s conference that I actually realized what it was …

It’s the dirty-secret sharing.

Let me explain.

We DIY bloggers work very hard – as in blood, sweat and tears hard – to bring our readers the very best we have to offer.

We try to produce clear, concise and professional-looking tutorials like what you might expect to see on TV or in magazines. And we painstakingly stage our photographs the same way.

We do all this because we know you’re looking for attainable inspiration that you want to replicate in your own homes. Plus we know we’re in competition with a lot of other media for your attention. So we’ve got to bring our “A” game, all the time.

But the reality is that, even as hard as we try, the life of a DIYer is fraught with unpredictable insanity. And that’s why I love Haven so much … because I love other DIY bloggers so much! These folks embrace the crazy with me. 

They refresh me and reassure me that I’m not alone. They empathize with me when I’m in my backyard with gnats stuck to my sweaty face, crying as my vision of a spray-painted work of art turns into a dumpster-bound nightmare.

Not only do we DIY bloggers share similar stories of heartbreaking, tragic project fails, but we also find ourselves in synonymous, somewhat scary (yet later hilarious) situations while picking up Craigslist furniture or chasing down deals.

When these other bloggers share their crazy DIY moments with me, I feel connected to them. (Plus I enjoy the fact that they make me laugh so hard I almost pee my pants.)

So my big take away from Haven this year is that I want you to experience this connection, too. In short, I want you to read a post of mine and feel like you might pee your pants. 😉

Historically, in my rush to get a blog post out with its pretty pictures and meticulous how-to details, I’ve often left out the “good stuff.” I’ve been guilty of omitting the crazy moments that weren’t pretty – or may have even been interpreted as downright insane. Next time, I’m going to include those moments.

Why? Because I think it makes us feel good when we realize we’re not the only crazy people out there. 😉

This post is dedicated to my Haven roommate, Shanna, who’s got the juiciest Craiglist stories I’ve ever been told. 


From left to right, Shanna, Christy, me, Ashlynn (Christy’s daughter), and Debbie

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? 🙂