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



60 replies
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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. gabrielle
    gabrielle says:

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

  12. 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.

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