Blogging, Faith & FamilyBig Changes for 2016 January 6, 2016Thank y’all for your sweet encouragement on yesterday’s post. Even though I share personal stuff quite a bit, laying it all out there in that way isn’t easy. But as soon as I hit publish, a huge weight lifted off of me. I think so much good can come from not just sharing the positive, but also the hardship. Today’s post is a bit like yesterday’s. While it’s more about blogging, there’s a lot of personal realizations and convictions woven in. It’s something I’ve been mulling over in my mind for months now and to be honest, I’ve been so hesitant to write it. I know that these types of posts can be controversial and a part of me is scared/hopes I might change my mind, though what God’s been showing me doesn’t support that right now. Like yesterday, I hope I feel a huge weight lifted after hitting publish. We shall see… I need to say up front that my realizations and the changes that are coming to the blog are not what I think every blogger should do. I don’t judge anyone who chooses to blog differently for a second. This is just what I’ve personally been convicted about lately. I really believe that we all are supposed to walk a different path and reach different people. Our convictions refine us and right us toward our own unique path and purpose. What I need to do doesn’t mean I think every other home blogger should follow suit or is wrong for doing things differently. This is me and my story and let’s be honest, I may be a little crazy. As I said in yesterday’s 2015 reflection post, the year with it’s highs and lows taught me so much. I truly believe that life is a journey and we’ll always learn new things and change and evolve with that knowledge. In many ways, I feel like a completely different person than I was when I started this year and it’s actually not because of my health struggles. It’s more because of the major things God showed me. It really all began when a ladies’ mentoring group that I’m in started reading one particular book. I know I’ve mentioned this group before, but I have to say again how life-changing it’s been for me. It’s made up of women at different ages and stages of life. What I’ve learned from them is really shaping the kind of wife, mother, and woman I’m becoming. But back to that book. When I heard that we were reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker, let’s just say I wasn’t excited. I knew the premise of the book and it wasn’t something I wanted to get into. Not that I didn’t think she had a point or that it would be useless, but because I had this sneaking suspicion that it would turn my life upside down. A friend told me about this book several years ago. Jen became keenly aware of all of the excess in her life and sought to remove it. She tackled one area of her life a month for seven straight months. For example, for the food month, she ONLY ate seven foods. Say what?! Due to our groups’ time table, we decided to do two week stints for each area and we didn’t follow what she did exactly. We tweaked them and each did different challenges based on where we thought our struggles were. I now realize how crucial it was that I read this book when I did, in the midst of the health problems I talked about yesterday. Being broken down in the way that I was really made me aware of my need for change in many areas and I think that made me much more receptive to what God had to say through this book. I could write an entire novel on what I learned, so I won’t bore you with every realization and detail. The summary is that it made me so aware of how much excess there is in our lives. I don’t wear 75% of what’s in my closet, granted some of that is due to the current weight struggle, but I wasn’t wearing more than that when I could fit into it all. I rely on food for comfort and feel entitled to eat what I want, when I want. I watch way too much TV and it really makes me ineffective in so many areas. I want to start a garden, a compost bin, and get chickens (though this really doesn’t surprise me with my interest in healthy living). And I’m living with all of this excess when people are hungry, hurting, and going without. But one main thing that came from it, I really didn’t expect. Reading this book about excess made me start evaluating my blog. I started realizing that, though I try to be completely myself and transparent with you guys, a huge disconnect has grown between the Lindsay you get and who I am in real life. When I started blogging, I was a 23 year-old newlywed with a new house and no money. We were buried under so much student debt and both made very little at the time, but I was desperate to make our new fixer upper a home for us. I thrifted and painted. We made things. We used hand-me-downs. A $5 pink Goodwill chair sat under a majorly over-sized slipcover that didn’t fit in our living room for two full years. But I safety pinned, tucked in, threw a pillow on, and loved it. And though every piece wasn’t chosen because it was the perfect fit for that room, I loved our home. It was cozy and beautiful and ours. Somewhere along the way, I’ve lost that girl and the original purpose for the blog. We’re still almost as thrifty in real life. Things are tight right now after doing this big renovation, but even when there’s a little more breathing room, we’re on the Dave Ramsey plan and try to live with a budget (though we fail often at that – darn grocery budget goes over every single month without fail!). We try to focus on being a good steward of the resources we’ve been entrusted with. But when it comes to the blog: what the blog needs, what room needs to be revealed, or what deadlines are looming, all of that thriftiness goes out the window. Here’s where the controversial part comes in and this is something I’ve really, really wrestled with. Again, this is my story, not a guideline all bloggers should follow. The budget doesn’t go out the window because I go out and buy super expensive items, though I definitely spend more on home decor than we can afford in the name of “the blog needs it, honey!” This change has happened for several reasons. First of all, the more I’ve blogged, my vision for my home has gone more from cozy and homey to high-style. I’m not sure “high-style” is even the right term, but what I mean is that I’ve gone from making things work to compiling a room of ideal pieces regardless of budget and what I already have. It’s also changed because the blog has grown and I now have brands willing to provide expensive products that fit with my ideal vision for the room. As I was reading 7, I became so aware of how different this home is (our third home) than that first sweet place we created. Not just because some of the items are more expensive. I don’t believe there’s something wrong with saving for an expensive item to love in your home! But it’s so different because it’s missing the story. In our first home, we could point to every piece and tell you the story behind it. It was an amazing goodwill find. We made it out of such and such. It was my grandmother’s, etc. Here, when we get questions about items, the answer has almost always become, “A brand gave it to me.” That drastic change really broke my heart. All fall, I started reading other blogs and getting comments about the relatability of blogs now with all of the sponsored content and provided product. I know this is coming off like sponsored content is evil and that’s 100% not what I mean. I firmly believe that bloggers should be paid for their work! The issue comes in for me when I’m accepting products I would never, ever be able to afford. For a long time, I just told myself it was a perk of the job and I definitely think that it is! Blogging is a job for many people and jobs should be paid. But one single moment showed me that, for me personally, I have to start blogging a little differently. I was re-reading a sponsored post I’d published on a very expensive item. I’ve always been very choosy about sponsored posts and as I’ve told y’all before, I never accept it if it isn’t something I would STYLISTICALLY have in my home. I’ve always just considered whether or not it was true to my style and niche. What I hadn’t ever considered was how much that product cost and if I would buy that if I weren’t a blogger getting it for free, considering our family’s goals and financial situation. As I was reading that post, I immediately pictured my young, newly married self sitting at the desk her husband made her for Christmas out of old, weathered boards. She’s staring at her computer, reading that post on a blog she loved and wanted to emulate that style in her own home. She reads about how that product has made their life better or their home prettier and then she clicks over and sees the price. Her shoulders slump and she hangs her head because she knows. She’ll never, ever be able to afford something like that. And even if she could, her husband wouldn’t let her spend that kind of money on that…and she couldn’t really argue with him. Big, huge tears immediately formed in my eyes as it hit me that a post I wrote might cause that kind of reaction in others trying to create a beautiful home for their family on a budget. And it finally hit me how far I’ve come from where I started. Not just the budget aspect, but the heart and soul of what my blog was about. My initial goal was to inspire and encourage beyond how the rooms in our home look. And while I think I do that in some ways, there is a huge gap, a missing piece…the disconnect. I completely believe that we can’t be everything to everybody and this is in no way in response to readers’ comments on sponsored posts, though I’ve had those too. The changes I’m making aren’t seeking to please anyone…not really even myself! I mean, who doesn’t want a free room makeover that they could never afford on their own? But I’m making these changes out of faithfulness to where I feel God leading me. In 7, Jen Hatmaker didn’t expect everyone to start living the way she was. It was an extreme experiment she felt called to pursue to reveal the excess we’re living with. It’s kind of the same for me. I’m doing this not because it’s the right path for everyone, but because I feel like it’s my path for a purpose. I don’t know why or what the outcome will be, but I hope how I view my home will change. And I hope that others’ will see it as relatable and something that inspires them as they create their own cozy home. The issue here for me lies not in the price of certain things, but in the disconnect between our very budget-conscious family and how our life and home appears on the blog. They don’t match up and God’s shown me that it’s about time they did. I’ve known now for months that changes needed to be made, but I’ve really fought it. I’m all or nothing, so I’ve considered never doing a sponsored post again, but this is my full-time job and sponsored posts do represent a chunk of my income that my family depends on. I considered doing a full year where I only buy home items at thrift stores, but what about reasonable stores like Target? Everything adds up no matter where it’s from! I even considered (very briefly) selling everything and starting from scratch, but I love how our home is taking shape and know I can layer on the story and budget to what we have. I told you…crazy. And none of those extreme things felt like the right answer. I tossed around a lot of ideas and think I’ve come up with some key changes that I feel good about: Going forward, I will design with budget in mind. For each room that I design or item that I purchase, I will set a budget of what we would naturally spend on it. There will still be some sponsored posts and items, but I’m adding a budget question to my sponsored post vetting process. Would I buy this item for this price? And when they go in a room reveal, the cost of them is included in the budget. I’m seeking to let go of the search for the ideal item and use what we have, make some things, thrift, and buy budget-friendly pieces. I want to have full transparency with the budget. I’ll share the budget breakdown with you guys, the triumphs, the struggles, and even the thing I really wanted, but couldn’t afford. I think one key thing to point out here is that budgets look different for everyone at different stages. For example, we have more room in our budget today than we did as young newlyweds. But in ten years, we may have more room…or less, who knows. Some of you may see something I buy and think, “That is not budget-friendly!” Some of you may think, “She really should’ve upgraded that.” The goal here is to share how we’re living, renovating, and decorating our home on our budget. And hopefully, you guys can learn something from that and apply it to your unique situation. I want to really focus on items with a story wherever I can: hand-me-downs, things we made, or even purchased, new items that really meant something to us for some reason. I recently visited a friend and her home blew me away because it was insanely beautiful, but every single item had a story (I’ll be sharing her home tour this week!). That’s what I want for this place. Still completely my style, but done in a different way. I think one thing I’m most excited about is the infusion of creativity! While I do think there’s definite creativity in what I’ve been doing: choosing how to mix colors, etc., I miss the creativity of having $15 for a gallery wall and making something out of nothing. Our Christmas bedroom is an example of this for me. I haven’t “designed” this room yet, so when it came time to decorate it for Christmas, I just grabbed things I had. The comforter was a wedding present, the bedside table is my childhood nightstand with a coat of paint, the lamp I bought on clearance for our very first house, the painting, pillows, and throw are thrifted. And I love it. I love the memories and meaning most of all, but the minimal impact on my wallet is nice too. I already know this won’t be easy. I know there will be times I will wish I hadn’t written this post and I’ll have to turn down or not buy things I really, really want. But making this commitment and shift is freeing and I know it’s where I’m supposed to head this year. Thank you guys for reading what did actually turn out to be a novel! Thank you for how you encourage me. And I do hope you’ll follow along in this journey. A lot will be the same, some things will be drastically different, but I sure am excited to see what 2016 holds for this blog and our home.