Monday, September 28, 2015

345 IHeart Blogiversary - Six Years Later

Happy Monday!  Did you have a great weekend?  Our weather was about as good as it could get and that made for the perfect combination of getting out and about with the family and also getting a really good start on Preston's headboard project.

Writing this post is a bit surreal for quite a few reasons. Mostly because when I started blogging just over 6 years ago, never would I have imagined that I would be still blogging six years later. Or that many of the amazing opportunities I have experienced over the last six years would be because of this blog. But also because I can barely believe that another year has already come and gone since I hit 5 years. (You can catch up on my 5 year blogiversary series here: Blogging Photography Tips, The Bread & Butter of the Blog, What I Have Learned Along the Way.)  It is like I blinked and boom, a whole year has come and gone.

So much has changed since a year ago, yet, I feel like I haven’t moved forward. In fact, this was a bit of a rough year for me and I maybe even took a few steps back.

Over the last year, a lot has happened behind the scenes and with me on a personal level, which I fear can be sensed in my blog writing here and there as well. That paired with writer’s block, project burn out and being over-saturated in the world of blogs, Instagram and Pinterest, I have been stuck in a bit of a rut. So for those of you that take the time to come here and visit on a frequent basis, I just want you to know that I sincerely appreciate and value those minutes, and I only want them to be 100% happy and positive minutes. And I thank you so very much for continuing to read and for your incredible support.  This community sure is a great one!

Although I have experienced natural highs and lows over my years of blogging, this past year had a higher frequency of feeling tired, stale, burnt out and even a little lost. Throw in a kitchen/living room renovation that has taken us much longer than expected and has also impacted how we utilize our home every day... it was all the perfect recipe to crash and burn. It is truly challenging when something that you love so very much isn’t going the way you envision it, and that is true for me when it comes to our home, my blog and my business as of late.

That said, I without a doubt LOVE organizing and creating order out of chaos. I thrive when I can look at a closet, drawer, cabinet or room and find ways to remove the unnecessary and create peace. It is equally as important to me to make every project special, beautiful and functional. It is what I crave and I know in my heart it is what I am meant to do.

I also enjoy sharing those projects with you. I have always believed that if even one single person was inspired by something I shared, then my day was a win. That is what brings me back here and wanting to continue with this amazing journey.

Looking back, blogging is not the same today as it was five years ago, and has even continued to change over the past year. There are more and more blogs on the scene every day. Ideas are on repeat. The bar is always being raised. Expectations from readers have shifted. I have never been one to want to create “quick” or “filler” content or post for the sake of posting (I have done it but have always regretted it), but I have also begun to feel that every post has to be a post of magnitude. That if we don’t have new projects or meaty posts to share multiple times per week, we are failing. This feeling came from two sources; my own personal expectations and standards as well as the feedback I have received in the form of a comments. Slowly, the blog became more of a place to showcase and provide tutorials and less of a place to get personal with friends over a cup of coffee. 

Although I am currently teetering on the edge of blog burn out, I don’t want to burn out. I still love what I do, and don’t want to come to a point of resenting it. So many of my favorite bloggers have been sharing similar feelings or have even stopped posting all together, and although I find myself nodding my head and relating to a lot of the reasons why, I always miss their online presence and am not personally ready to leave.  #stuckwithme.

I frequently think about when I started blogging back in 2009.  I was posting 3-5 days per week and we were pumping out content and projects. We had an entire home that was waiting for our touch and that had not been seen or shared. Sure, we would get tired and there were definitely moments when I wasn’t maintaining a solid work/life balance, but we worked through it and usually came out smiling because of all we were accomplishing.  It was sort of the honeymoon phase of blogging.  But ultimately there was no healthy way to sustain at that pace. Today, every post takes me twice as long to write because my heart wants to create pretty, inspiring and detailed content to share. From working on a project to documenting every step, photo editing, graphic creating and writing a detailed post, I am spending anywhere from 6-10 hours on a simple project post to 12-18 on something more in depth (that is averaging the time it takes to do the actual project all the way to hitting the post “publish” button). And being that I don’t blog about recipes or fashion or typical lifestyle items, lately it has really come down to creating a project in order to have something worth sharing. Working on projects around the clock for six years has become both expensive and honestly a bit exhausting. Our home has project piles in every corner and my husband is always waiting for his next assignment. And we are constantly forced to decide between working on our home and enjoying our home and typically we pick the first option.  We know we are fortunate to be faced with those choices, but they do still wear on us from time to time.  Magazines create pages of content with the help of a team, photographers, writers, idea makers, sponsors, etc… and each issue takes months to put together. These days it seems as though bloggers are trying to keep up with similar inspiring and fresh content multiple times per week, as a 1-2 person team, while also managing hours of behind the scenes admin tasks and maintaining an online social presence as well. Throw in a shop to run and there really are not enough hours in the day. In fact, my shop hasn’t been given the attention it deserves at all in the past year and my “big plans” have been just that for quite some time. 

Six years in, below are the items I would like to focus on moving forward:

  • Content: I can’t only share project posts as content and still post 3-4 times per week (it is just not realistic and is part of where this burn out feeling is coming from), or feel guilty if a day or two goes by and I have nothing new to share. Aside from our home projects (big and small), what other type of content would you like to see me share and create? I personally have been brainstorming a few ideas and would love to hear some from you all as well. One thing I would like to start is an occasional series of “What Would Jen Do?” based on a frequent email subject line from my readers. I would share a reader dilemma and before photo (a topic many people may see as a problem area) and offer up my solution, action plan, illustration and product recommendations. I would also like to design a free printable each month, share more quick tips, new organizing trends and products that catch my eye.  Occasional specific and quick organizing challenges are always well received. There are also many times when I read a great article or come across a super cool project/tutorial, and I want to share those as well. Maybe even small moments from around the home once a month (I am always swapping out bedding, accessories, finding new products, etc…).
  • Projects: My money maker has always been my shop, not my blog (little to no sponsored content happening here and still using Google Adsense as revenue which is so last year - ha). We are looking into ways of making the blog more profitable in order to keep up with project costs and content demand, but I also want to focus on my shop and diversify what IHeart Organizing is as a business. There will be days going forward that I will be dedicating to evolving, diversifying and growing additional arms of IHeart Organizing as a brand, so if I go quiet from time to time, that is where you will find me.
  • Balance: Nothing is more challenging than having to say “no” to family time in order work on our home and create content