Better Homes and Gardens. I should have been warned by the magazine's title. It is not, after all, Contented Home and Gardens or Make Do Home and Gardens or Thrifty Home and Gardens or even Happy Home and Gardens. Better, being the key word. As if this is what we should all be striving to attain, as if what we have is not good enough, but in constant need of improvement. An attitude I regrettably already find myself possessing.

It really peeved me off as I flipped through January's skinny little issue. (Why do January editions of magazines have to be so flimsy, btw?) Sometimes I like the January magazines because they focus on getting organized. An obnoxious goal, but one I can't seem to let go of. But in this issue, the home decor articles featured people who somehow at the dubious age of mid-30 had neatly arrived at their brand new or newly remodeled dream home. And the "organization tips" seemed to be mostly centered around homes with lots of square footage, modern layouts, brand spanking new furniture, expensive remodels and built-in cabinetry - the sort of things I've seen in a multi-million dollar Parade of Homes tour. They give us average Janes something to dream about, but they're not obtainable in middle class homes or budgets.

These are all lovely things. Lovely. Really. For those who can afford them. And I don't knock those people or dislike them just because they can afford built-in custom storage. But let's get real here. It's the want of this crap, the expectation of it, the ache for it, that's bankrupted and impoverished many a middle-class American.  (Rant alert!) And seeing it posited in a magazine as the "better home" we should be modeling our home after only feeds this problem.

As I fumed and thumbed through the magazine, the word that came to mind was "aspirational".  And the truth is that most magazines (and many blogs for that matter) are aspirational. Fashion magazines want you to aspire to their trendy clothes and accessories. Health magazines want you to aspire to their skinny "role models". And so on, and so on. But I just seem to tune it out most of the time. Probably because I"m in a hypnotic state myself as I read them.

But gosh darn it I snapped awake this week and just got annoyed.  It's lovely to dream from time to time of waking up in a Parade of Homes home. But if it starts to dwell inside of us as some kind of standard to aspire to, some kind of standard of perfectly organized, gorgeous lifestyle we should all be living, then it can eat you or your bank account alive. And that's not living. That's disease.

Guess it's time to cancel my subscription.


  1. I totally understand the impetus of this rant, but I have to pipe up and try to defend mags a bit. Sadly, I am leaving the demographic of a lot of the pubs that I have loved in the past. However, those publications are ok with that, as they are a business that needs to focus on a specific demographic to sell ads. (And January issues are a notorious tough time to sell those ads which makes for thin January issues.)

    The thing I have always loved about mags is not so much the accumulation of things - but the idea of simplifying your possessions to being the very best and perfect for you. This is not an obtainable goal, but one I find personally fulfilling. (I am only slightly ashamed to admit it.)

    All of this being said - I can also find it all pretty overwhelming sometimes, and just want to hide away from all outside influences. I really do totally get where you are coming from. I do! But it's not the mag's fault. They only print what they feel we will read.

  2. Well I love your perspective! I hope I didn't come off as pissed-offedly ranting against BHG. It's nothing against them personally, it's more our society, our culture as a whole.

    I can get pretty obsessed with decor. So I'm not immune. That's the thing, I see it from the inside too. And I've seen the reality of trying to make my 80s house "better" for 8 years and sometimes it just feels like treading water. I have a homey cozy house, but it's never going to live up to what I have in my head unless I just move into a brand spanking new house that costs about 4 times what my house cost. I'm pretty okay with where I'm at most of the time (freedom is good!) but sometimes my "I-want-itis" is stirred up and it pains me that we live in this world where there is always something newer and better trying to get us to want it! So I guess this is less of a rave at BHG and more at American culture of aspiration to a lifestyle that just is not feasible for most Americans.

  3. Yes, I totally get that and I do agree! AND - I would be willing to bet that your house is lovely and perfect.

    I didn't mean to get defensive, I just feel so clingy to print media sometimes. :) (This from a girl who is addicted to digital media. Probably just guilt.)

  4. Well I understand the feeling about print media. I'm not cancelling my subscription to BHG (btw), but I think I feel like there aren't many magazines out there anymore that "speak" to me. I was pretty much in love with Domino. Yes. In love. And I was definitely in like with Country Home. And I ended up with a BHG subscription when Country Home bit the dust. But it just seems like there isn't anything out there anymore that I love in print and that bums me out. I may just be the wrong demographic! It will be interesting to see how it all evolves with these online magazines and digital reading devices. I peruse the online mags, but online still doesn't feel quite the same to me for a magazine.

  5. Oh, btw, I do love Living Etc. But it's British and costs a pretty penny to buy.

  6. Domino feels like an old dear friend that passed, doesn't it?? I will check it out! Martha and The Atlantic are doing GREAT things in the digital environment. I hope to help Chicago mag progress digitally this year, too! :)

  7. Heh, just reread that- I meant that I will check out living etc, thanks!

  8. I just got my January issue of BHG and it IS skimpy. ugh.

    I miss Domino so much! I still have issues I refer to and page through and everything it's still relevant! Do you have the Domino book of decorating. It's the best of the best of Domino. :)

  9. Yeah, there's not much out there anymore, as far as good American print shelter mags go. I still like Country Living sometimes, though I prefer the British edition. I like the British Living Etc., too, though it's often too modern for my tastes. I like Anthology and Apartamento, but they're pricey, too. At least Apartamento shows real-life houses, unstaged and unstyled--and sometimes more than a bit messy!

  10. I find that hardly anyone is selling an actual product anymore...everyone is selling "the dream"...they don't tell you how much or how hard it is to accomplish the "dream". Once I realized this I have become very happy with what I already have...much better than a dream.