Monday, February 16, 2015

Your House Beautiful

Golden Sunlight
Golden Sunlight
Philip Leslie...
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It might come as a comment on a post, on your social media, or an email in the inbox, and usually goes something like this: "You are so perfect. Your house is so perfect. Your family is so perfect. There's not a thing wrong in your photos. It makes me feel like such a slob [makes me feel like mud-- makes me feel bad-- discourages me from even trying]. I wonder if you have real-life problems. Can you show us all your kitchen when it is filthy and with dirty dishes in the sink?"

As a blogger, it is very tempting to let others "contribute" to the blog, steering your subject matter and making you add or retract things according to comments. Feedback on a blog can appeal to the blogger's sense of generosity and friendliness, or make the blogger feel guilty, backward, or as if they omitted something. Some of these comments can become downright discouraging, taking the wind our of your sails. The worst feeling is when a blogger thinks she has alienated her readers by coming across "snobby" or perhaps given the mistaken impression that she is a "perfect" housekeeper, organizer, etc.. To correct the misunderstanding becomes top priority!

The remedy to this is to have a "tell all & let it all hang out" post, in order to humbly let readers know that you, too, are human. There must be many admissions plus photographic proof that you are not a liar. Blog owners lower themselves to the dust-under-the-rug and show pictures of the messiest parts of their house, their children in PJ's at noon, or the blog author herself in some unflattering photo. This exercise may be to strip bloggers of the last shred of dignity they might have, or to get her to scramble to show the behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot instead of the photo shoot. This gratifies the readers who somehow assumed that you, the blogger, were from another planet or perhaps a fake, temporarily quiets the complainers, and provides amusement to the back-seat-blog-drivers who are probably snickering in their sleeves at the whole thing. For a while, the blogger feels better, too, and let's hope all suggestions of such a nature will stop and let her get on with her life.

I don't know if my opinion counts for anything, but I, as a reader, am sorry to see those kinds of posts. I go to many blogs on purpose to see something clean and pretty; to rest my eyes on beautiful vignettes, like a vase of flowers in a well-lit room. I go to see someone's table made beautiful for a tea party-- someone's table that isn't covered in projects at the moment. I go to see the ideas in decorating. Sometimes the decorating isn't even my taste, but I like the colors, or the arrangement, or just to see someone else's style. Sometimes it is a homemaking blog I go to for ideas on how to organize my home, or homeschool my children, or to see a new crafty project. 

Sunday Tea-Time
Sunday Tea-Time
Stephen ...
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I don't go to see blogger's dirty dishes, their piles of laundry, or clutter on the coffee table, I can see that without the aid of the computer screen. I know those things exist in everyone's home; I also know that as soon as I see those posts, the poor blogger got that email or comment.

I never assume that the person who posts fabulous photos of her clean and pretty home is a perfect person! We all have sick days, sick children, busy family schedules, Thanksgiving-and-Christmas-aftermaths, big projects, house renovations, tons of company, or just the plain old "I'm too tired" day. If my house was ever all clean at once, it would be enough of an event to warrant a photo shoot, too. All that assumed already, I can go and enjoy the moment of beauty that a blogger spends time to set up and share with the public, without worrying that they never have a mess in their house. I don't think that a blog has to have a "mess" post just to justify its existence.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't ever post something "real life." Some messes say "home," such as the flour on a cutting board next to a bowl of bread dough, or a game with all its pieces out, sitting on a side table. There are the posts that have an amusing story that we all enjoy, about housekeeping mishaps or what the kiddos did to make a mess, but those are published for the humor and not to humor. Construction or renovation posts are interesting and sometimes informative to follow along with. At the same time I'm sure that the blogger who is living through a renovation must enjoy setting up a photo shoot of a pretty, undisturbed part of her life to share on her blog.

There is nothing wrong with staging a photo shoot for the art of it. If the kids are playing with their toys strewn over half the house, I think it is okay for a blogger to set up a photo shoot of a toy-less part of her home and stage a pretty picture. I've never ever seen a photo caption that says "this is the way my house is: perfect all the time" and I doubt I'll ever see one.

I can also understand the reader longs for a pretty house, well-mannered children or a better organized space, and writes to ask the blogger "how do you do that?" As a matter of fact, I enjoy the "how to" posts very much. A post on "how to fold the laundry" is one thing, but I hate to see bloggers intimidated to the point that they start showing pictures of the dirty laundry just to appease a few.

For further thoughts on similar subjects, see  qualifying your blog posts and  cold-water dumping.
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