Tabatha Wharton


{musings of an aging millennial trope}

The Life Cycle of a #Houseblogger.

Once upon a time, I was a house blogger.

The idea struck me in the shower -- as most good ideas usually do, with equal mention given to being on the toilet and 15 seconds away from falling asleep at night. (I'm actually prone to also dreaming practical ideas/solutions for things ... but I think that's more a personal quirk than an universal shared experience.) My ex-husband and I were maybe a year into renovating our 100+ year old home at the time, and it felt like a literal light bulb went off as I rinsed shampoo from my then very average hair.

I should blog about the house.

I already was a fledgling blogger -- now it would probably be called Lifestyle Blogging, but back then it was more just running commentary on the trivialities of my life, which included my relationship with my then-fiance, planning our wedding, and our surprise impending parenthood. Those were really just the broad strokes then -- everything that crossed my mind was on the table for discussion. I'd even blogged professionally for the university I attended the year prior, my first legit paying gig in the burgeoning blogosphere.

It was 2008. House blogging was just starting to pick up steam. Pinterest didn't exist yet. Entire sites were dedicated to decor, and fewer to DIY home improvement projects. I think Young House Love was on the brink of their monumental upswing and 15 minutes of fame. HGTV was king.

And that's how Turn Right At Lake Michigan was born -- my overly optimistic goal of flipping our urban home and getting the hell out of Dayton within a 3-5 year span (before two little babies upended those plans nearly entirely, but I digress.)

I never dreamed that taking candid photos of the projects and rehashing the learning curve would have blossomed into everything it did -- a side freelance career, featuring my home on several well-known house-centric sites and blogs. I wrote professionally for a handful of home improvement blogs and social sites, which afforded me travel as press to industry events and trade shows all over the country -- and most recently, internationally -- while meeting people from all walks of life and paths, some of which I'm still fortunate to call friends. And I learned -- not just the basic how-tos and terminology, but I learned that I loved learning, and that I was truly capable of doing anything with the right amount of research and determination fueling my creative process.

If I could have, I probably would have quit personal blogging and just done house blogging.

But as my little house blog was truly picking up steam, my life was falling apart from the inside. My efforts to create a space for my family to grow and flourish meant nothing in the face of having been working on keeping that family whole, alone. Stressors from parenting and careers and a troubled marriage took over a lot of my mental space and energy, and right as I thought my ex and I had recovered from his first indiscretion, another, more egregious one appeared and pulled that West Elm bargain rug right out from under me, for good.

I learned the hard way, it doesn't matter how pretty the house is, if the people in it are miserable.

Through the process of separation and divorce, the house had become more of a relic of my innocence and determination in the face of nearly every obstacle imaginable. Projects go permanently unfinished. Dreams settle in their final resting places between the floorboards and behind walls. I live each day knowing that in the span of just a few short months, this home will become nothing to me but a faded memory, preserved in amateur photographs and glib anecdotes on a website that, at the end of this year, will wholly disappear from the internet.

I stepped back from the house blogging scene, quietly shutting that door alongside countless others as I went from married, stay-at-home-parent to single working mom. I stopped logging on to Pinterest because my own posts being pinned felt like daggers to my already wounded heart. I closed myself off from my largest creative outlet in my adult life, aside from writing (though let's be honest, I wasn't doing much of that, either), resolute that I never again would be able to access that part of myself in a constructive way. I struggled to even give friends advice or opinions when asked, only barely feeling a hollow, lukewarm spark where a passionate inferno once burned.

I was hemorrhaging everything that once brought me true joy, the weight of so much loss too heavy a burden for me to bear and survive, especially when I didn't know where I would call home next, or for how long.

All of that is to say, at Target a while back, birthday gift card in hand, I saw something that instead of striking sadness and empty recognition for the home I'm losing ... actually stirred something in my core closer to ... inspiration ... than I've felt in a long time.


I know it's just a mass produced piece of decor ... but maybe it spoke to me because when I can swing it, I've been buying myself clearance bouquets at the grocery store to brighten up my mood. Or maybe it's the way the colors are both saturated and muted at the same time, striking without being overbearing. Or how it's unabashedly feminine without being too saccharine or precious, just simple in it's composition and execution. 

Or maybe it's just the hope of something working out, for a change, as my future goes marching on into the slightly less-unknown, beyond the walls I've built both physically and emotionally these past ten years. Of course, if I've learned anything at all, it's that you never can truly know what may lay ahead, but for right now ... for right now it appears all might not be for naught.

This post originally appeared on Tabatha, Etc.