dear reader | to the one with “internet intimidation”

by | Nov 13, 2015 | All Things Home, Decorating, My House, Secret Weapons | 56 comments

One of my milk paint retailers sent me an e-mail, asking for some decorating advice for her home.  I gave her my opinion on it and this was her reply…

“Thank you. I lived so long with wrong decorating choices that I started to get too used to the way things are.  Wrong mindset. I’m tackling things now. I started with the toilet haha, it felt safest. All three bedrooms got a makeover. Working on the kitchen now.  It’s not blog-worthy but I got over that, it’s our home!! It kept me from moving forward: out of fear that it wasn’t going to look like a look book or magazine, I froze.

Blogs can be inspiring and intimidating at the same time. Your before-after posts from a couple of months ago made sense. I realized that renovating and decorating your home was a long process.”

I think this is a pretty common feeling and I decided to write about it…

Dear Reader,

There was a time when I was a decorating magazine junky.  I still am to some extent, to be truthful!  I love pouring over magazines packed with inspirational spaces…textures, colors, furniture, ideas.  I would tear out my favorites and keep them in a notebook.  That notebook was filled with hope of future homes that I would transform into everything I wanted it to be.

The hope, though, turned to discouragement.  I realized that most of the spaces I loved were put together by professional designers on a budget I could never afford.

Then, the home decor/DIY blog world rolled around.  These were real people, sharing their thrift store finds, clever projects, and budget-friendly, family-friendly, real life spaces.  They have Cheerios crushed under their sofa cushions.  Just like me.

It didn’t feel intimidating or unattainable.  It felt encouraging, inspiring and I felt that hope bubbling up again.

Now, we’re in the world of professional blogging, Pinterest and Instagram.

And, I’m afraid that, as beautiful and inspiring as this world is, it might not feel as relatable and attainable.  A lot of readers might feel just as I did, years ago, about my clipped magazine pictures.  My house would never be anything close.

It’s a fine line for bloggers.  I can speak for myself in saying that my house has messy moments.  It’s a real space my family lives in.  But, you don’t want to see my dirty laundry and fuzzy floors.  And, from a business perspective, those are the pictures that get pinned, posted and shared.

Which one inspires you?  This?

Or this?

Yeah…I’m sort of lazy about making my bed most days.  I should go take care of that.

Here’s our everyday kitchen…

And my pretty blog-ready kitchen…

My blog dining room…

…and the stuff that’s just outside of the frame.

Now, I realize that my messes aren’t that bad.  I’m a generally neat and tidy person and have been since I was in, oh, sixth grade.  I’ve actually gotten a little more relaxed since then!

But, I want to show that what you’re seeing on the blog is my best.  You’re seeing the best of the pictures I took, the room at its best, the best projects.  You’re seeing years of experience in styling, editing, upholstery, painting, arranging and rearranging put to use.  You’re just seeing where I am now, where my house is now, not how far both have come.

So, if you feel intimidated by magazines, blog, Pinterest, Instagram, please don’t.  That’s not fair for you or your home or the people who live there.

Be inspired.  Do projects.  Work towards the home you dream of.

But don’t be discouraged and don’t let us showing our best, prevent you from doing yours.

Every house is special, because it is someone’s home.  That includes yours.



  1. Johanna

    “…you don’t want to see my dirty laundry and fuzzy floors…..Which one inspires you? <>… This? <<insert Marian's messy room"

    Actually, I think you may be making a mistake, Marian. They are BOTH encouraging. The pretty pictures are encouraging for all the obvious reasons. But the messy pictures are encouraging because they show the rooms with LIFE! They show me pretty design and real life can coexist in one space. They show me pretty can be comfortable and doable and livable and family-friendly.

    Sometimes I've looked at your beautiful home and gorgeous pictures and said to myself, "it looks like a movie set – perfect and untouchable; my family could never live there, we have dirty hands."

    Seriously, I really enjoyed the "messy" pics and the chance to see your rooms at work. Your rooms rock! I knew they rocked looks-it's and now I've had a chance to see them rock in life, too.


    • Julie

      I was just going to say close to the same thing Marian! The ‘messy’ pic is just as inspiring to me(and even more so) as the clean one! I and most anyone else can see the gorgeousness of that room but to see it with the mess we realize that it IS actually used! And yes, you are definitely not a messy person, maybe you should come to my house sometime(ok maybe not lol).

    • Jacqueline

      I so agree with what you said, Johanna and Julie! I’d love to see some sort of happy medium – like the staged pictures plus the real-life ones. Or a staged picture that’s maybe not “messy”, but shows some evidence of life in the house. I like a cleaned up house too (though mine’s often not), but sometimes all the perfect pictures start to look sterile and lifeless (to me at least). So thanks for sharing the behind the scenes versions as well this time, Marian!

  2. Delilah

    Love this post! I’ve often wanted to do a post on “The REAL rooms of blog land…” Just so readers can see that these picture perfect rooms are staged and are not expected to continue to look like that 100% of the time! Real life happens in these rooms!
    Thank you so much for sharing!


  3. beverlee

    looks like life to me. one thing I do…without fail, even tho I groan…..I make my bed as soon as I am out of it. completely. every day. and if the rest of the room isn’t perfect, it looks better. I haven’t always, but moving to a small home from a large one….I had to learn. try it…even if you don’t want to. every day.

  4. Radiant Raven

    Love feeling the relief from this blog post! Thank you, I really needed to read this today. I am in the middle of painting my living room right now and I keep wondering if it will look even close to a magazine. Instead I am just gonna go have fun! Cheers!

  5. Karen

    Marian, you are a SPECIAL GIFT to all of us! THANK YOU…..❤️

  6. Mary Stewart

    I love your blog and thanks for keeping it real. Now excuse me while I go and order your bedroom wall fabric so that I can put it on the top half of one of my dining rooms just above where a seating banquet is being built. Your style works for me …just not always in the same rooms you may have used them. You inspire me and that’s why I follow you! Have a great day and blessings!

  7. Christine S.

    Thanks so much for writing this post and sharing your real-life room photos! Although I am currently tackling several projects right now, with 19 month-old twins and four dogs, I have very little time to devote to these projects. I sometimes become discouraged that my home will always be “in progress,” with toys strewn about and dog footprints all over the floor. When I look at your blog and others, I forget that the rooms are shown at their best. The toys are put away, the fur balls are vacuumed up, etc. Your real-life room pictures are such a wonderful reminder that you (and other talented designers) have messy moments too! Thanks for being brave enough to show us that your rooms aren’t perfect all the time; it makes me feel like there’s hope for my home yet.

  8. Candy Hill

    Dear Marian…That was so nice. You choked me up. Thank you. You are so sweet. Sincerely, Candy:)

  9. Hope Williams


  10. Amy

    Amen, Marian! I think this one hits the nail on the head! Because your posts and pictures are so incredible, it can become intimidating to think outside the box in our own decorating attempts sometimes. We shouldn’t be striving for perfection, but making our homes a beautifully peaceful, restorative, (functional), and reflective space for ourselves and loved ones. Thank you for your inspiration!

  11. Lyndsey

    Thank you for the real life pics. They are encouraging in a different way. I think you should show both now and then. This reader will love you more for it!

  12. Corinne


    Loved this post! Thank you for the kind words of encouragement and showing us an authentic glimpse of a day in your home. It looks like a spaced filled with life and love!


  13. Holly chabon

    You are awesome and you made my day!

  14. Maureen

    I keep telling my friends I want to start using the #honestproject on instagram with all of the DIY people. Here’s the pic I post where people say “ooooo you’re amazing” and here’s the part you can’t see where everything from the kitchen counters has been deposted on the washer and dryer while I do that project (and now I can’t do laundry for two weeks). Love this post. And I love both sets of your photos. My line to myself and aspiring DIY friends is to simply start somewhere. And to take a before and after picture to encourage themselves 🙂

  15. Janice

    Your 2nd photo of your bedroom made me laugh out loud!! This is a great post. This summer I painted my entire kitchen and put in new flooring. Even on the days when the kitchen is a total mess is still looks so much better than before I painted.

  16. Celeste

    Thanks for showing your real kitchen. We’re planning a Christmas Party and I told hubby that the only things allowed on the counter are the Keuring and the Kitchen Aid mixer. Plus I need some rosemary topiaries. Okay, he says what about the paper towel and the salt and pepper and the cashews in the plastic container? I reply that no blog ever shows tacky plastic containers from Costco and the salt and pepper holder is red and nothing else is red. His look of long suffering and lack of enthusiasm for clearing the counter tops of our regular items makes me feel a bit obsessive. Oh well, it can all come back out after the party. Hmmm, maybe I’ll paint the salt and pepper holder.

    • Camille

      Oh Celeste, this made me laugh out loud! It’s SO my house!!! LOL

  17. Alice R

    I cannot thank you enough, Marian! It helps a great deal to see the everyday rooms next to the perfect ones. Life is messy so why do we always want things to be perfect? Thanks for helping me stop expecting so much from myself.

  18. Lisa

    I love you. ?

  19. Camille

    Oh Marian, this post is PERFECT! When we look at blogs and magazines and especially Pinterest, we forget that those people DO live there and life isn’t perfection everyday…unless you’re REALLY OCD! I think showing us your lived in rooms is also inspiring! #1. Takes the pressure off trying to achieve the perfect look. #2 We realize that we can actually live in our homes everyday.

    Thank you for showing us ‘keeping it real’!

  20. Melissa from Hey, Girlfriend!

    Such a sweet and considerate post. Your home in its imperfect state is still inviting and beautiful.

  21. Ruth Reeser

    Marian, yours is a very kind and considerate response to the letter writer. At one time or another I think we have all been intimidated by something or someone we have seen online. It’s nice to know that we’re all just out here together, trying in our own little way, to beautify the spaces we live in. And that we can encourage each other to try something new, to keep going and not be afraid or overwhelmed. We’re all in this life together.

  22. the uncommon pearl

    So beautifully stated, Marian, and a good reminder for us all.

    A home is not “things” anyway, but the people we live with or invite into our lives. Relationships…those can be eternal. 🙂

    Enjoy a blessed weekend with those you love.

  23. Donna

    Marian, love your blog, love your heart and honesty. Thank you!

  24. maria

    Of course you have rooms that aren’t picture perfect all the time! You have kids, don’t you!? Most people have messy rooms at least some of time if not most of the time! Still, it is fun to see the same beautiful rooms in different stages of life! Thank you for sharing! It definitely helps people to relax about their own lived in looks whether they are a regular thing or not!

  25. Laura B

    I’m one of the intimidated ones. I see how far my home is from the all beautiful pictures I’ve seen, and in the past I’ve just felt bad. But that’s my problem. We live in a fixer-upper that has needed the kind of fixes that don’t make things beautiful, but useful. Things like wiring in the kitchen, and a new water heater, and a toilet that flushes. And I refuse to keep people out, so I’ve had to learn to ignore the embarrassment and keep reminding myself I’m making (very slow) progress, and that anyone who comes over would rather see old, dingy wallpaper than have to use a toilet that doesn’t always work. I’m learning to appreciate the little successes and small pieces of beauty I’ve been able to create.

    One thing I wonder when I look at the home blogs – what does a room look like in everyday use? I don’t need to see piles of laundry or dirty dishes. But on a normal day, when friends stop by in the afternoon – maybe after you’ve done whatever cleaning you normally do – what do things look like? You don’t keep everything styled with cute vignettes on every surface all the time – right? Is there something between the magazine-worthy photos and the after-party mess? (Not, like you said, that your mess is very messy at all 🙂 !)

  26. Emily Redman

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have three children under the age of three years old, so my house is filled with Cheerios on the floor, toys everywhere, and sippy cups under the couch. I have a decorator’s mind and I struggle with the fact that my pillows never stay on the couch because I live with little boys who love to build forts. I see your pictures and read your blog all the time, and I just love your house! I’m actually preparing myself to make a slipcover for my ugly couch, thanks to you! But the fact you showed your messy lived in pictures of your house, makes me like you and your blog even more!

  27. Marlene Stephenson

    Good to see what you hide,even though i knew there was no way with children it would be perfect . Perfect is living and enjoying your family and home. At least we know you vacuum! lol!

  28. Sally

    Thank you for this post. I have felt so depressed and overwhelmed with my home lately. I quit reading blogs for a while because I just felt like I couldn’t do anything right. What was I doing wrong that my house doesn’t look like those pictures I kept seeing? What was I doing wrong? Apparently, I need to realize that most pictures are staged, some have more experience, different talents, different ways of going about things. I can not tell you how much I appreciate this post. I feel like a weight has been lifted off the middle of my chest! You are certainly intuitive and understanding and humble. Thanks again

  29. Velia

    Thank you for your most inspiring and honest post. You have given many of us encouragement to try new decorating ideas and to not feel intimidated. Blessings to you and yours.

  30. April

    Such a great post! When I picture my dressers, it is a wall and a floor and sometimes, a million things behind me. 🙂

  31. Leah Prevost

    What a great post. I too love seeing the messy pictures haha. I guess it makes you seem more real, and your home more real. I hope this post inspires that reader because it was on point!!!!! You’re so encouraging, I love reading your blog.

  32. Sarah Phillipps

    Thank you for sharing these imperfect pics, I know it probably feels a little vulnerable.

  33. patricia

    HA HA HA I love the reality check and the lovely sensation you are just like many of us who live busy lives and o a mad make over when someone is coming. As a creative sewer, gardener, woodworker, devoted friend 0 no partner these days, my house has been tidier this past few weeks while the painter has been busy 🙂 Bless you marion

  34. Dottie

    Thanks for sharing the messies–I was beginning to believe that you all lived off-premises :). You give me hope, Marian!

  35. anne b.

    Thank you for the “real life” photos. And all the beautiful ones too. We need both. 😉

  36. MaryLisa Noyes

    I’ve moved my furniture and accessories around since I was a kid. My bedroom set was second hand back then from my parents and my dad painted it his own version of antique white. Shop your home and discover your treasures are right before your eyes. When I read your blog or go on Pinterest I zero in on the detail of a room, maybe it’s the color or a cool vintage piece in the corner. It takes years of trial and error but loving the process makes it all ok. I now live full time in a cottage that is over 100 years old. It started out as a weekend place with all its crooked floors and walls and is slowly and wonderfully becoming a gem. When I first laid eyes on it I thought this place needs a bulldozer but my husband gave me the nudge to see through all it’s flaws and be patient with each project we set out to repair. It’s far from magazine perfect but it is my idea of perfect.

  37. Barbara Bussey

    Another great post, Marian! I imagine that many of your readers are new homemakers and it’s easy to feel intimidated. Our homes are a place we love, want to feel comfortable and a place that transitions as we mature and build confidence in our tastes. I recommend that if decorating is new to someone, to start in the smallest room in your home and make it pretty. A guest bath would be a good place to start. Beyond the Internet, there are so many resources for (free) advice. We are a MMS milk paint retailer and antique shop. People come in with pictures all the time, when purchasing paint, asking for advice. It’s what we love to do and are happy to let you bounce ideas off of us. And no, I don’t make my bed every day, but it makes me happy when I do! 😉

  38. Jenny B.

    I love the pretty pictures, but the messy pictures are the ones that actually inspire me to do something in my own home. I look a the staged pictures and think, “That’s beautiful, but I could never keep it clean, so why bother?” The messy, lived-in pictures help me see that it can still be beautiful even if real people live there and it doesn’t always look magazine-worthy. So, I think a happy medium is the most inspiring — some beautifully staged “perfect” pictures, with a healthy dose of reality too.

  39. Donna Dell

    Thank you for being real! Loved this!

  40. Alice

    Thanks, ever so much, for sharing. We all need to see that we aren’t the only ones who have messes that keep the house from looking like a magazine picture!

  41. Naomi S.

    A very sensitive and compassionate post, Marian. It’s an example of why I think you are a down-to-earth, caring person. You seem to have genuine concern for how your followers feel about the whole subject of home decor and all it entails. You can relate to us and our lives. That is why we all love your blog–and you–so much. Thanks!

  42. Addie

    lolololol….my kitchen looks just like that right now….and what am I doing about it????
    Why, catching up on my blog reading!!!! Priorities!!!!!
    Thanks for being real!!!

  43. Cynthia

    Well said ! It’s true about feeling you can’t measure up ! So glad you posted this with great pics ! it made me feel better ! Thanks !

  44. Christene Madsen

    Fabulous blog today, thank you so much for your transparency and authenticity!!!

  45. Rachel

    You’re home is just as beautiful when it’s messy. I do love it when bloggers share “real life” with us.

  46. Sandi Magle

    LOL, Upside of blogging my husband says, “I like the table clear in the kitchen, now.—There are always cups next to the coffeepot now, …etc.”

    Blogging has already after 5 months, improved our everyday living. Why? Because I know I may need to take a picture at anytime…lol, sometimes you edit messes out. Grins and thanks for the ‘RL’ tour….appreciate reality, everyday here. Sandi

  47. Robbie Zeller

    You are such the real deal! Thanks Marian!

  48. Sandy

    Loved this post! Yes, picture perfect rooms can be intimidating becasue we know real people don’t live like that. I’m glad you showed us your real lived in space! Pictures tell such a story. They can help me edit my room. I was recently featured at the Cottage of the Month blog and I was horrified at how my rooms looked with the television in the kitchen, too much stuff and a wall hanging sitting outside in one of the photos because I forgot to take it out. It’s so refreshing to see photos that aren’t picture perfect because we don’t live in a perfect world. I found such encouragement as you showed the photos of how your decorating style evolved from when you first moved into your home. Like you said, it takes practice learning what works in a space and what doesn’t. Your style has evolved into your very personal style. You have a very distinct look that doesn’t look like everyone else’s home. That is what we should all strive for, not a magzaine worthy look but our own personal style. A home that has personality and looks like people live there.

  49. Miller

    Love it! You did a fantastic job. I never would have looked twice at that room, now after seeing what it can look like I feel like I have to have one. Click here

  50. Loralai


  51. linda

    What you have shared is spot on! We all live in a real world of restrictive resources. I think when I see some photos pretty but all that dusting??? Mom, Magazines, friends’ homes were my inspiration before blogs. Now it mostly comes from blogs and books. I love books. As to the beauty on blogs; sometimes they just make me smile.

  52. HON

    Hi, you have a really nice kitchen. I love your table and chairs, thank for sharing 🙂

  53. Aimee

    Thanks for sharing this! It is easy to forget that most people’s homes are lived in and it is not reasonable to expect picture perfect and staged every second of the day. I agree that your “messes” are very small; I wish mine were so manageable!

    I really enjoy your blog, very inspirational!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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