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The reality's not real | Pretty Handy Girl

The reality is that what you see on TV and magazines isn’t real life. We all know this, but do we tend to forget after a while?

I was watching one of those popular HGTV reality shows the other day. This one happened to be filmed in our neighborhood, so I was very familiar with the home that was being renovated. I drove by the house several times while the work was being done and I only saw the show hosts there three times. Those were the few days that filming was being done. The rest of the time (many months of renovating) I never saw the hosts. But, I’m sure you probably already realized this fact. It’s understandable, the celebrity hosts have to record other shows. And there’s no reason for them to stick around and watch joint compound or paint dry.

As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to see the episode. Before the show aired I ran into the homeowners while walking our dogs. We chatted for a while and I thought they were a super delightful couple. Both polite, kind and fun to talk to. They both shared my love for our neighborhood. When the show finally aired last month, I was dismayed to see this young couple turned into picky, hard-to-please homeowners that fit into the “script” of the show. But, what surprised me most was the final reveal of the “new” value of the improved house. The home was valued above homes almost 1,000 sq feet larger in similar condition in our neighborhood. I shouldn’t have cared much. But, I did.

I’m not sure why I was feeling anger. I’ve known for a long time that reality tv isn’t really reality. Maybe I was angry because I see too many photos and TV shows that portray “real” people living in perfect homes. I think I was angered because the more we watch, the more we read and the more we pin — we begin to forget that what we see isn’t reality. I think we all need a reminder about how unreal “reality” is.

Last year I found myself feeling less and less adequate after pinning hair tutorials, inspiring rooms and home décor ideas. I could barely open a magazine without feeling depressed that my life didn’t resemble what I was seeing. I had to take a few months hiatus from Pinterest. I read less magazines during that time. I felt the need to put blinders on and focus on my life and my home.

With these thoughts still running around my mind, I was very hesitant to share the news that my home is featured in the latest Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen & Bath Makeovers.


I don’t want anyone to look at the pictures and think that we live in a picture perfect home. Quite the contrary.  To prove my point, I took these photos two days before the magazine shoot:


80% of the time, my home office looks similar to this. (Although Handsome Guy may say it looks like this more than I realize.)


At any given moment I can be in the midst of an organization project or getting ready to sell furniture on Craig’s List. Or, more likely, in the middle of a project where I have to leave everything out while I run to pick up the kids from school.


EVERYDAY the kids come home from school, they are met with a similar sight in our mudroom.  With all the clutter on the floor (and mountains of laundry piling up), they think that a few more pairs of shoes on the floor won’t matter. Never mind that they only have to deposit them 6 inches to the left into the shoe storage bench.


But, the truth is that my home never looks like it should be in a magazine, unless:

1. We have company coming.

2. I pick up everything; I clean everything; and I have a fantastic stylist, like Andrea, to decorate…

The Reality Is...

…and a talented photographer, like Brie, who knows what angle to turn her camera and how to light the shot with lighting and reflectors. Plus, how to adjust and color correct the final images on the computer.


I truly believe that if you had a stylist and a professional photographer come to your home, they would make your home look magazine-worthy too!

And just so you know, this is the REAL Pretty Handy Girl doing real laundry in her most comfortable sweats and jeans. And her REAL day old hair in a bun. I lead a truly glamorous life, don’t I?


Now that you know the reality — if you do want to pick up a copy of the latest Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen + Bath Makeovers issue — you will get some ideas on how to pull off a bathroom renovation on a budget:


And take on a kitchen renovation where you can save oodles by doing most of the labor yourself:


Just don’t forget that your home can be just as beautiful when it’s clean, clear of clutter, and you have professionals to make it look good.

The reality's not real | Pretty Handy Girl



58 replies
  1. Cassie
    Cassie says:

    Congratulations! Showing the “other side” is so important, it’s always nice to be reminded that the magazine homes have real families living in them!

  2. Bettye
    Bettye says:

    Thanks for showing us how a real house looks. My children are grown and have their own homes. Even with just two of us, it’s hard to tame the paper and keep the kitchen counter clear. Sometimes I pretend I am having company just to motivate myself. Ha!

  3. laurie at laurie jones home
    laurie at laurie jones home says:

    It’s sorta like the models you see in a magazine even they don’t look as good as we imagine! I go through the same thing about getting overwhelmed by the beauty of homes, etc. but I find taking a break like you did helpful sometimes I also feel like the older I get the less I compare myself to others. Your home is so beautiful, and although it may look lived in from time to time don’t cut yourself short, because you’ve really done an incredible job making over your home!

  4. Marta
    Marta says:

    I love this! It seems like no matter how many times I clean for company 2 days later our house is back to clutter. We adopt the “don’t put it down, put it away” mantra several times throughout the year and it never seems to stick. I even sleep sound as a baby at night with the occasional sick full of dishes till morning. Thanks for sharing, I needed that reality check.

  5. Lisa E
    Lisa E says:

    Great post, but you definitely deserved to be in the latest addition because your kitchen reno is that good, especially since it’s mostly DIY. I don’t have children, so my house does stay picked up more, but the paper can still pile up. Real life and no apologies made! 😀

  6. Kimberly Bruhn
    Kimberly Bruhn says:

    Hey…loved this reminder of our humanity! I was wondering where you bought the round table in the picture with “your’ stylist? And thank you, thank you for all your inspiration!

  7. Colleen Jorgensen
    Colleen Jorgensen says:

    Once again your integrity shines, Brittany. (I’m sure without even meaning to.) As a fellow blogger, I know that having your work in print is a HUGE accomplishment, something that is only a dream to most of us. But the fact that you openly admit (with pics) what your everyday is and then, almost as a footnote, you “mention” your spread in BHG is just another reminder to me – and I’m sure many others – why you’re a wonderful role model. So, yes, congratulations, but really, THANK YOU for being who you are with integrity and #DIYCourage. 🙂

  8. Cammie
    Cammie says:

    Bravo! Thank you so much for your honesty! Like the real body campaigns we see today, we need some real home campaigns. 🙂

  9. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    So this might be one of my favorite posts ever out of any blog in the blogosphere. I love the candidness of this post. I’m with you in that I have to remind myself that I shouldn’t compare my behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. Congratulations on being featured by BHG! So well deserved!

  10. Kim (TheKimSixFix)
    Kim (TheKimSixFix) says:

    Preach it sister!!
    It used to be that the difference between blogs and magazines was that bloggers were ‘real’ but it seems harder and harder to be real, since in the perfect Pinterest world you never seen a dirty dish or shoes on the floor.

    But I like the REAL people behind the blogs since they make me feel more normal and the fact that I have a bunch of cheerios in the sofa cushions or a strange unidentifiable sticky substance on the floor in front of the fridge doesn’t mean I”m a failure.. but that I’m real.

    Now that being said.. I would gladly clean my kitchen for BH&G!! Congrats on the feature.. even dirty, your kitchen is beautiful!!

  11. Beverley Leonie
    Beverley Leonie says:

    You are the “awesomest.” Super talented, creative, honest and real. Thank you for all that you teach us. Such a kind and generous heart to remind your readers not to aspire for what’s unreal.

  12. Claire
    Claire says:

    Just love you even more….thanks for sharing the pretty styled magazine-home and the ‘real’ home. BOTH are beautiful…as is the owner/talent behind the scenes! LOVED seeing you last weekend and sharing your special spread. You deserve it and I’m honored to be your friend (and for the mention!). 🙂 xoxo

  13. brenda
    brenda says:

    THANK YOU. this is what I like about your blog. I never feel like you have left out the hard spots in a project. congratulations on the magazine spread.
    how are the contractor boards coming along? I once many times ago toyed with the idea of doing that so I could work with my hsb. he had some challenges with finding help plus some health issues. working full tim just never left that much time to study. I admire your ambition.

    MARY FRANCES says:

    I LOVE YOU…thank you so much for this blog post! I too get depressed and overwhelmed when my house looks like a bomb went off in it and I pick up a magazine or check Pinterest and want to throw everything I own away and start over. But…we LIVE here and I have a messy husband, two cats and lots of stuff I like to look at….and guess what..I wouldn’t have it any other way! Congratulations on the BHG story. YOu work hard and deserve it!

  15. Alicia S Campos
    Alicia S Campos says:

    Kudos to you for this post! I think like you, the majority of people forget REALITY in “reality tv” only refers to what they want you to see. I’m a huge fan of all the shows on HGTV and the magazines, I have learned so much. But whenever I see the pictures, I know that it only looks that way because of the stylist, decorators and photographers. Honestly it should look that great when a professional is doing it. We also all should be so lucky to have our homes/apt styled and de-cluttered every weekend so they can look magazine ready.
    Kudos and Congratulations!

  16. horthapp
    horthapp says:

    Bless you for being so very real. I work as a professional organizer & so I know full well the reality of most folks’ homes. I, too, love a beautiful environment but I also appreciate the different kind of beauty that’s not portrayed on the tv shows & in the magazines. A home that’s a true reflection of life being lived to the fullest. To my eyes, that’s love in action and that is more important and more lasting than any perfect room. Keep looking at your home through that lens and you’ll never feel that you fall short. All the best to you & your family.

  17. Timisha
    Timisha says:

    This is an AWESOME Post! I can totally relate to this. It’s what I’m always talking about when I go through the magazines and home blog sites “after” pictures. Who’s house looks like that? especially when you have an active family.

    Thank you! & Congratulations on BHG! I am so proud of you!

  18. Gail
    Gail says:

    Oh Brittany – What a Terrific, Honest Post!! Thanks for being brave enough to let us know that you too live like the rest of us. It’s hard to believe that you can get overwhelmed by all the perfection of blogs and magazines and Pinterest that show seemingly perfect rooms and homes and lives with all of your skills. I definitely feel hopeless sometimes that my home will ever look anywhere near what we see in magazines, on tv and online. That’s what I love about your blog – I always learn something and enjoy seeing your real lived-in home! Thank you!!!

  19. Barbara Shively
    Barbara Shively says:

    Just like how our house looks in the realtor listing – pretty bare and sterile (but it did sell in two weeks thanks to that staging). But I liked it better with all the kids and grandchildren there; dishes and food all over the kitchen; toys and children all over the living room and the foyer filled with coats, bags and shoes. That was MUCH more fun!

  20. jet
    jet says:

    Hi, hi,
    you’re right tele ins’t real live. I have experianced that myself as well.
    Only differend from your story. I was a member in a tear jearking choire, we where fun to watch.
    Really. There was a dutch talenting show , that had a leak in the choirs , so a prof of the show asked us to come. it was awefull to watch how the proff took profite of people that where trying to steal the show.
    I was the only one that was a wheelie so i was afraid that they made me a ill weak persone.
    I’m tottally not like that. And all the views they made where mostly of me.
    After all we didn’t came far in the show, and the views of me where okay, and like i’m.
    But of all the others it was horrible and i know now for sure televion ins’t real live like we all think.
    So be pleased that you wheren’t be choossen, it’s not fun that all people see you in your home .
    I have been for several years a kind of celeberty in my old city. Which i didn’t like mostly because i’m allways in the picture of my wheels.
    So don’t be angery or something else , just be glad that you haven’t be the one on the tele, because it’s not only fun.
    I still like your blog and all the things you shared to do ourself, you’re my fave instructer;-D

  21. Kathy H
    Kathy H says:

    Very well done! My daughter runs into this “reality” mindset with many of her clients. They want instant results that they see on TV and can’t understand how the project can take six to eight weeks! Or more depending on their contractor. They don’t realize all that those shows have behind them including lots of donated products and skills that don’t get figured into the cost. And because they have production crews to contend with, they have a tighter schedule. Your local tile guy is not just working on your project so he can’t just be at your disposal when you make the final decision. If he is any good, he has jobs lined up and has to keep to a schedule.

  22. Katie @ Addicted 2 DIY
    Katie @ Addicted 2 DIY says:

    I love this, Brittany! Congratulations on your magazine feature! I can’t wait to go pick one up! And thank you for showing the real side of your house. It definitely is hard sometimes to see these beautiful homes in magazines and on Pinterest and not feel a little down about the current state of my home. I have to remind myself that the camera hides a lot;) And I totally agree about how reality TV twists things to make people seem different than they actually are. It’s awful what they do for ratings.

  23. Mrs Major Hoff
    Mrs Major Hoff says:

    I love you Brittany. Thank you for being bold enough to stand up and show the world the reality of life. I’ve been guilty of not including a project because the surrounding area wasn’t perfect, or cropping a picture just so. There are days I remind myself that I have 4 boys that need a mama to love them and nurture them and not have a fit over all the toothpaste in the sink. (Why do they do that??? Or leave the shoes outside the basket? 4 inches??? WHY?).
    Can’t wait to check out the magazine. I adore your happy kitchen!

  24. Vivian Foster
    Vivian Foster says:

    Thanks for sharing real “life” …. it’s wonderful to look at magazines for ideas and to dream of that perfect room, but it’s even more wonderful to see that life gets messy! I love how my home looks when I’m expecting company …. but it’s exhausting trying to keep it that way and it makes me cranky! Laundry happens, projects happen, offices are where work happens ….. thanks for sharing yours!

  25. Laura
    Laura says:

    I’ve been following your blog for ages, but this time I felt compelled to figure out where you live and come over and give you an ENORMOUS hug for this post!! Since that seems a little stalker-ish and inappropriate, I’ll settle for commenting on your blog. 🙂 But seriously, I freakin love you for this.

  26. gabrielle
    gabrielle says:

    Kudos to you – a great blog! I prefer reading authors I consider to be grounded, and you’ve made the list!

  27. Ellis
    Ellis says:

    Women tend to compare themselves….usually to their detriment……best hair, makeup, skin, weight and magazines and advertising only reinforce this feeling that we are on our own somehow inadequate. Now there is the tyranny of beautiful homes and DIY and Pinterest and TV shows.

    I would say by the number of comments on your “reality” post, you have let a lot of us take a collective sigh of relief and say “Gee, and here I thought it was just ME”.

    Thank you so much for sharing and reminding us that not only do we not live in a perfect world but that we are also PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.

    You are a treasure, and I’m getting you’ve just gained an ocean of committed readers and new fans.

    Well done, my girl!

  28. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I love that you shared this. So very much.

    Because the honesty reminds us that the posts we read about fabulous white couches and clean countertops aren’t always all there is and everyone out there writing them are often human, too. 😉

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a fantastic post. And congrats on the magazine spread. How awesome and exciting for you!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Andrea, thanks for your comment! Oh yes, the white couch posts with perfectly decorated coffee tables. My couch pillows stay put all day while the kids are in school. The minute (make that second) they get home the pillows are strewn all over the floor and I leave our ottoman (doubles as a coffee table) clear now. ;-D

  29. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    God Bless You! When I was a young woman with 4 children I constantly felt depressed that I could not make my home beautiful. Not only did I not have the expendable cash to decorate, (I chose to be an at home mommy and we lived on a single income, and no I do not regret that at all), but I was constantly fighting the uphill battle of cleaning against four children and the fifth child I called my husband. *sigh* If only someone had told me back then that all those Better Homes & Garden’s photos were unreal. You have my undying gratitude for this blog!

  30. Stella Mac
    Stella Mac says:

    Great article. Our home was on an episode of House Hunters International, and as someone who had watched that show previously it was an eye opener. The “hunters” had already made an offer to purchase on the home of their choice before filming even began. The other two homes were just filler!

  31. Sandy F
    Sandy F says:

    Brittany– Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I just got home today after unexpectedly becoming ill and spending 2 horrible weeks in the hospital and having surgery. I’m a single mom and my friends had come over to my house to tidy up, do dishes and laundry, clean the bathrooms, etc. All I could think about was how embarrassed I was that clutter sat in piles on the kitchen counter and my bathrooms were definitely not company-ready. But they said it was okay; that’s life. I have such wonderful friends. Thank you for writing about what true “reality” is.

  32. Jordan
    Jordan says:

    Great post! Even though we tell ourselves reality tv isn’t reality over and over, it’s still a little bit of a shock to see the results of that filming and editing. Love seeing your “reality” photos – definitely puts a lot of things back into perspective. Thanks so much for sharing that!

  33. Calla
    Calla says:

    Thank you so much for this. Its so nice that other people live lives too and I am not a failure at being the (Martha Stewart) decorator failure of the year.

  34. Toni Overby
    Toni Overby says:

    Google took me to your website because I have a drippy sink sound that I suspect is coming from the wall. 🙁 But I stumbled upon your kitchen post and came all the way to this one. I have to tell you: Game Changer for me! I’ve been so depressed looking at my home and garden magazines and pinterest lately and thinking my home will never be as polished as the pictures I see.

    THANK YOU for keeping it real! You’re inspiring!

  35. Linda
    Linda says:

    I’m inspired to be able to fix things myself (uh oh). I Like your honesty too. I love the transformation in the DIY shows and that someone can make something from nothing, but it all comes back to hard work and paying for things that you want. Saving and working hard. But that’s the way it should be.

  36. Charlotte Lindsay
    Charlotte Lindsay says:

    I really appreciate this post. It is so true that we all get sucked into a “false” world that we feel we need to fit into. With children, animals, and life in general it is hard to keep everything in order all of the time. I often find myself purchasing home decor that I think will transform a space just because I saw it on pinterest but proceed to discover that it is just more clutter.

  37. Laralee Boyd
    Laralee Boyd says:

    What is the name of the color that you used on the cabinets in your kitchen ? I saw the picture in the magazine – I have been looking for that color !

  38. Holly Walters
    Holly Walters says:

    Thanks, Brittany! We all need to see that we’re not the only ones who struggle with clutter and non-magazine-worthy homes!


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