Attainable Inspiration

lifestyle blogger
A picture of peonies because who doesn't love a picture of peonies!

Let me start by asking you a question. Do you read blogs? I'm willing to bet that if you're reading this post, you read others as well. Do you read magazines? How about cook books, decorating books, etc? Do you watch lifestyle programming like "flip this something" or "meals in x minutes"? So right now I am imagining you shaking your head in the affirmative, so let me ask you another question.

Do you find yourself overwhelmed and possibly disheartened by the overly staged, extremely expensive, "who has time for that" lifestyle that is being presented through these forums? Or maybe you're like me, living in Canada, and frustrated to the point of shouting at seeing so many amazing things, only to discover that the item is in US dollars and...they don't ship to Canada (Yes, I just heard more than a few of you scream yes!) and therefore cannot partake in any of the lifestyle we see in our media.

You might have been able to tell from my last blog post that something is brewing. It's the first instance of me using my new favourite phrase, "attainable inspiration". But, what exactly does that mean? First, I want to take you on a little journey to tell you how I got here. (*There is a TLDR at the bottom)

I work full time. Like anywhere between 37-47 hours a week. I also go to university part time to get my BA because I know it will help me grow in my career. I have a husband and kids, teenagers to be exact. I also run a blog. I spend my early mornings, nights and weekends trying to create content that I like and that I think others will enjoy as well. All that to say that I am busy and time is not something I have a lot of. And I hear this from all my friends, readers, frankly everyone. So when I pick up a recipe to try and feed my family for the evening and it is filled with 35 different ingredients, that can only be found if you live in Brooklyn, and takes six hours to prepare, I just shake my head and order pizza. Okay, I'm exaggerating but you get my point. What happened to simple recipes that highlight local, in season items that won't break the bank?

I love a good tablescape. Something about a perfectly set table with coordinated linens and fresh flowers just makes my heart sing. I even have a Pinterest board devoted just to tablescapes that I can look at. So you would think that I have a perfectly set table at every holiday and probably on weekends. Wrong. I try my best to set a nice table but they are far from magazine quality.  I usually use table top accessories that have been sitting in my storage area for ages. They are simple and attainable for me because I either already have all the things I need, or I buy additions cheaply from home stores or even the dollar store. I don't have the trendiest new items, but I still manage to be a happy person without them.

Clothing. I can probably be counted in the top 100 people who obsess over outfits. I started reading Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in grade school and I was an early follower of fashion bloggers and IGers. When you are clothing a family of four, priorities need to be made and clothing budgets need to be set. Do I buy all new clothing items each season? Absolutely not and I'm guessing you don't either. My favourite fashion bloggers have always been the ones who re-wear and remix their wardrobe with a few new items. That's what I strive for. Each season I buy anywhere from 2 - 10 new items. This could be a new pair of runners, a new blouse, or some new outerwear. I add the new in with the old and if I can toot my own horn for a second, I am incredibly proud of the timeless wardrobe I have created. You won't find too many trendy items in there because then I'd have to replace everything the second it goes out of style!  I don't spend a fortune on my clothes and (gasp!) have even been know to pick up a great vintage piece at a local consignment shop.

If you're still with me, you might be trying to piece together what I am trying to get at. I love the lifestyle industry, which in my mind includes home, gardening, clothing, career, anything that happens in your life, BUT I don't feel like that lifestyle industry represents me. And I'm not okay with that. For a while now I have felt excluded from lifestyle - like working full time somehow put me into another category. A category that is not marketed to, or written for, or paid any attention to. Somehow, even in 2017, you are expected to stay home full time to be able to redecorate or cook, or even have a clean home. I don't see simple, easy solutions for people like me, men and women who want a wonderful place to come home to after a full day at work. I recently Googled "adult lunch ideas" and I was presented with a plethora of menu items that required one to wake up at 6 am to prepare lunch, or spend all Sunday prepping a weeks worth of meals. I call bull. When did everything get so complicated? Shouldn't lifestyle mean making your life easy and wonderful so you can enjoy it? I started feeling a little inside my own head about this, so I asked around. Seems like I'm not the only one. What I heard is Pinterest fails are more common than Pinterest successes (actually, I've cut down my use of the app because I've found false information and too many advertisements on the site), and a general lack of trust in anything labeled "lifestyle" because, and this is the answer I heard over and over again "that's not for me, I work a real job".

But why has this happened? Has anyone paid any attention to the fact that people, consumers, are in love with locally made items, more interested in experiences than material goods, for christ's sake even Kim K just announced this week that she recognizes that she was materialistic and is now done with that and focused on her family.

Just a few days ago I was reading a lifestyle expert's book and came to a chapter where they talked about how to best manage your day. Perfect. At the time I was struggling to manage all my priorities and I was so excited to read the next few lines to gain some wisdom and tips from someone I admired so much. I'm paraphrasing but the next few lines were "get up and check your emails and catch up on newspapers while your driver takes you into your office" That was it. I was done. Book closed. No more reading. There is nothing else they are going to say that will relate to me. This person no longer knows what it's like to be an average middle income person. They can't relate, and therefore, can't teach me.

I work with a number of young people, new grads in fact. It's been part of my full-time job for a little more than six years now and I really enjoy it. While they always ask such clever questions about the role they are filling, and general career advice, I am always more amazed at the 'life' questions they ask me. Like how do I buy a house, how much should I be spending on food each week, or how do I save for a vacation. They ask the same kinds of questions I did when I was their age. We're all just trying to learn and figure life out and I can't believe how many people are afraid to tell the truth. The truth about how hard certain aspects are (getting a promotion and a mortgage are very stressful endeavors and anyone who says they are not is a big fat liar) and, more especially, how much things cost. When I was planning a Disney vacation for my family, I asked other people how much they spent because I wanted to prepare myself. And do you know what I was told, that they rather not share. Fine, that's your right. But, aren't you missing out on an opportunity to help and educate someone by sharing in your experience? When my husband and I bought our first house I was shocked at what things cost, like getting a driveway or installing a fence. I still can't believe that people refused to share what they paid when I would ask. I was asking because I didn't know and wanted guidance from the people in my life that I trusted. Sometimes it's a generational thing to not talk about money, other times it's a cultural thing. Who knows. But those same people are the ones that complain that the next generation has no clue. You're right, you didn't teach them!

When I look around at who is helping to guide the next generation I see reality stars and lifestyle channels that tout a lot of aspirational living. That can be a little disheartening when your generation is the first to require a college education, which equals starting your life in debt, only to find a soft job market. Couple that with soaring home costs and we wonder why every company and marketing agency just doesn't get how to reach them. You can't live an extravagant lifestyle when you don't have the money to fund it.

I wanted to start this year out with a word or phrase that would guide me and my blog and while I could feel it in there, it just wouldn't come to me. I felt so many things percolating inside me, frustration at the current norms in the industry, the constant stream of images of overly staged photo ops (yes I love looking at flowers in bicycle baskets and balloons by the dozen, but it's not real life!) and I finally came to 'attainable inspiration'. This is what I want to see - things that are attainable by me, my co-workers, my friends, anyone and everyone.  My goal with this blog is to bring you attainable inspiration. So what does that mean? It's actually quite simple. The reality of the world is we work, make a home and try to have a little fun on the side all while trying to navigate a career. Right now, we need more attainable inspiration and guidance in our media. We are sitting on the cusp of a new era focused on living well and within our budgets.

While I love reading blogs or pouring over catalogs to see how people are celebrating, decorating their home or dressing for the season, what I don't love is that to achieve that I need to either find loads of free time in my calendar or fork over a ton of money. With putting myself through university and figuring out how to pay for two children to go any day now, let's just say the days of buying all new table wear for one dinner party are on hold indefinitely. In the past I have held back from showing how I have styled my dinner table or decorated for a party for fear that I've "been there done that". The same logic of "if I was photographed in that dress, I can't wear it again". But I've come to realize that is complete and utter rubbish. Who can afford to life such a disposable lifestyle? This summer I am going to share any and all of the parties I throw, and I'll show you how to do it reusing the items that I keep in my storage, which you probably have in your own.

It also means I'm done with a certain style of lifestyle expert. The ones who wear $700 dresses with their next new Chanel bag but then produce a sponsored post from Old Navy the next day. Can we say disingenuous. We all know they are not wearing that Old Navy item again. Just like how the lifestyle expert doesn't understand me while they are being driven to work by a chauffeur, this blogger doesn't relate to the struggle of trying to clothe a family without going broke or having to come up with a cute outfit whilst running late for work. Same goes for the travel experts that fly first class, stay in luxury hotels and do not share the fact that it was all comped. If they are sharing that on their platform, then they are marketing to a certain 1% of the population that I do not fit into to. And I doubt you do either.

Think I'm making this up or entirely off base?

  • "In the US, under-30s are now poorer than retired people." The Guardian

  • "This is a generation that is bigger than the boomers in population, but their wallets are smaller, and they are more into the style of life than the stuff of life." Forbes

  • "...prefer home-cooked foods over processed, ready-to-eat meals" Business Insider 

So we see a generation that needs guidance on how to make and save money, and wants to put effort into bettering their life through travel, food and home. So where is it?

We are at a time where returning to our old fashion roots, making our own meals, is more popular then ever yet marketing efforts and traditional media are still stuck in their old ways. I recently watched some very old lifestyle programming from my childhood that shared simple recipes and home solutions and I thought that this is exactly what is needed now, just updated to fit into our busy lives.

So does this mean the future of Celebrating This Life is to show you how to live of your own homemade granola and goodbye to fancy hotel stays? Absolutely not! Celebrating This Life is about attainable inspiration. Meals, decorating, clothing and traveling that the average person can do.

From now on Celebrating This Life will provide my tips and tricks for managing life and everything it throws at you, in additional to our normal programming. Things I think you will find useful, like the post I am working on right now about what I take to work for lunch in a week. It's all tasty, nutritious, filling and bonus it's within your budget and you can find it all in any grocery store! I'm also working on a post about how I renovated my home's hallway on a budget, quick weeknight meals that take only 30 minutes that I guarantee you and your family will love (if my kids will eat it, and they are some of the pickiest eaters out there, so will yours) and when to save and when to splurge on a variety of items! And for all the "new adults" out there, I'm going to be teaching you all the things your mother might have forgotten to teach you, of which the inspiration was my own failing to teach my kids the proper name for the drawers on the fridge (they're called a crisper!).

And just to close the loop on the frustration of being a Canadian comment...after a most disheartening online shopping experience, I announced on my IG Stories that I would be publishing a post that details the best online shopping for Canadians. In case you're not familiar with the struggle of the online Canadian shopper we have to deal with outrageous shipping charges and astronomical customs and import fees and duties. And to top it all off, many retailers will either not ship the full spectrum of their offerings to Canadians or they just won't ship to us at all! This comes at a time where brands are up and leaving the Canadian retail landscape so our options are very limited. I have to admit, this upcoming blog post is taking longer than I had hoped! I thought it would be relatively easy to come up a list of the best bang for your buck retailers, but it is not. I'm still researching places, I won't give up!

For almost 20 years I have been making a home while raising a family and working full time. There are times I've failed at managing it all and times where I knocked it out of the park. And that's real life. Sometimes you win and sometimes you need to learn to dust yourself off. But the overly polished lifestyle industry doesn't allow for real life to seep in leading to an entire generation feeling disengaged and unrepresented. It's time for a change. We need some attainable inspiration to guide our lives and bring the lifestyle industry back to the art of living well.

TLDR: The lifestyle industry is dated and stuck in an era that doesn't represent what's really going on in the world. There needs to be a shake up and it needs to represent the interests of this generation while educating them on how to be successful adults. We need affordable and attainable lifestyle inspiration and that's what Celebrating This Life will be bringing to you.