5 Life Lessons I Learned from Your Candid Photos #DSCandid

by Grace Bonney

Social media continues to fascinate me like the herd of cows that lives just up the road. Why do they do what they do? What makes them happy? When will they shift next and what will inspire that random move to the other side of the field? I’m always wondering about them when we drive past and I’m always wondering what makes social media change, grow and take a sharp turn (just when we’ve all started to understand it). For that reason, our community hashtag challenges are one of my favorite pastimes now, and I love watching them take on a life of their own and trying to figure out why certain concepts do — or don’t — click with everyone. This month’s challenge was #DSCandid and was intended as a celebration of everyday life (sans filters and styling) and resulted in some of the greatest conversations I’ve had online to date.

What it also resulted in were some major life lessons and a great big reminder that social media is one of the most interesting educational tools we have to learn more about each other and what makes us tick, what makes us engage, and what makes us shy away from sharing. Today I’m sharing the 5 life lessons I learned that made me feel closer to our community as a whole. xo, grace


1. Pure joy will always be a more powerful tool of engagement than perfection. Likes schmikes -- the comments and connections that came with these photos were some of the most amazing I've seen in years. I loved watching people bond over their "real" life moments and connect over shared struggles, moments and messes. Photo by @hensfeathers_vintage (Baby gates are a huge part of our house, too. But for dogs.)
2. Few things are as precious as laughs with your loved ones. That super cool new throw you got? Yep, sometimes it's the perfect plaything for your pets or your kids (or both). And while it's always sad to lose something you spent $$ on, everyone's photos made it clear that the best investment was in moments like these with your family. Photo by @em_bot
3. Pets = a beautiful mess. I identified most strongly with photos of pets knocking things over, smooshing down couch cushions and generally making our homes feel more like theirs. Living with animals is an exercise in patience and valuing people (and pets) over things. But it's an exercise I'm so glad I have to do -- it will always put things in perspective. No mess is more frustrating than the joy and love that pets bring into our lives. Photo by @amodernmythology
4. Life is about the journey: even when it's not pretty. There's a reason why people rarely share process shots in magazines -- they're not as "beautiful" and styled as "after" shots, but they're always the photos I feel happiest to see. They remind me that even the most "perfect" room started as a project with drop cloths and spills and mess. Photo by @bloomwellandco
5. Unmade beds are often the happiest. I love the way a neat "made" bed looks. But I also love how inviting and fun a sheet with rumpled covers and a pile of fresh laundry looks. So do our dogs, and those moments lead to the best impromptu snuggles. And I'll take snuggles over hospital corners any day. Photo by @s.e.minegar
I wanted to share a few more moments from #DSCandid that remind us that everyone has these moments in life: broken pottery, piles of laundry, boxes that need to be broken down and recycled and splashes and messes that never made our final Instagram cut. Photo by @the_good_florist
I love this photo because my home office has never looked more organized than this. For me, my best work is often done among piles of things to-do, to-clean and to-put-away. Photo by @charliewhiskeydesign
Maybe it's because I can't seem to keep my own lunch (or craft supplies) on the table, but @erinloechner 's photo of her living room rug resonated with me.
...because before every perfect dinner photo on Instagram, comes a kitchen that has seen plenty of prepping and wiping. Photo by @erintoomey13
I had to include this photo because people never seem to show their exercise equipment. I totally understand, because usually it's not the "cutest" equipment, but I'm always proud that I even use it, so I love seeing it in other people's rooms. Hooray for core strength! Photo by @imperfectlines
Last but not least, the side of garden makeovers that you rarely see: a mountain of leftover plastic plant tubs. I'd love to see someone come up with some creative DIY projects with these. Photo by @pollenflowers

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  • Great shots! Totally empathize.
    You have to laugh about messes because crying is no fun and doesn’t make the mess go away anyway.
    I see that ball and think “bad back” instead of “core strength.” There’s one behind me right now.

  • Grace,
    Thank you for this! It is so great to see these photos and be reminded that everyone (even the most perfect seeming among us) has a trail of life and mess just out of the camera’s view.
    I know a woman who runs a small plant nursery and she takes many of the plastic plant pots, sterilizes them, and uses them for her operations. It might be worth readers contacting their smaller independent nurseries to see if they would like the left over plastic pots.

  • This is my favorite post ever. I appreciate all the beautiful shots we see online but let’s be honest, most of us don’t live in the homes that we see in the pictures. Pets and kids radically alter space all the time. More discussions about how we live within chaos, and on-going change would be great. We never fully arrive. We are always becoming. We can get the false impression that when a room is complete that some how our lives have arrived. Chaos is always there even when it’s in a nice container.

  • Hi Grace,
    Our garden centre (large grocery store chain) encourages you bringing back all plastic planter pots which they recycle and you get a small discount on your next purchase.

  • For me, Design Sponge has always been a place where the content was honest and yes, candid. This article just reminded me of it. I think it’s because of the voice you have ? I don’t know… but unlike many other blogs (AT for instance), I’ve always felt like Design Sponge was a place where actual people were not afraid to voice their opinions and be straightforward about what they are and love. I know it’s off topic, but I just wanted to say it.

    I’m not a social media user, but I would have sent you a picture of my stairs – or should I say, cat hair paradise ? Seriously, how can two cats produce that much hair ??

  • More please! I feel so disconnected from humanity sometimes.. REAL LIFE is always more appealing than styled shoots and that constant flow of perfectionism! ; )

  • Wonderful lessons here, thank you!

    I often look at home decor pics on design blogs, and wonder, “What does it REALLY look like when this space is not perfectly styled?” It’s great to be reminded that real life is messy, and I shouldn’t feel bad about my own clutter/messes!

  • Loving these picks – I definitely feel that the unifying message between them all is to always take a step back and smile – especially at life’s daily surprises!

  • I love that hashtag idea Grace… makes me smile. And the photos…. I couldn’t get enough! I ate them up! Mind you, admittedly I am guilty of sprucing my house up a little for Instagram photos, although I share a lot of ‘progress’ and ‘before’ photos on my own blog, and these are the photos I personally most love to see, whether on IG or on a blog. More and more when I cover a home on my blog I try to do it in a way that is natural and real and not hiding anything – I haven’t always achieved it, but getting there. Not everyone likes to see those photos, I know – there is always something enchanting and enigmatic about the picture-perfect home – but I find that the ‘real’, natural photos are the ones that make me happiest to post.

  • Loving this! I relate to the last photo – my driveway is piled with plant tubs, old bricks, astroturf offcuts and bits of kitchen. Every week I cram a little more into the bin…

  • The unmade bed is my favourite thing! I once commented on that topic in an Apartment Therapy feature. It was in one of those typical “10 things YOU MUST DO EVERYDAY”. I rolled my eyes and commented that I have a life. Not the right words I’ll admit. I just don’t feel that strong about it and yet I love to keep a house looking inviting. Many times, our unmade bed looks so good with the light coming in that I just want to take a picture. Even our kids can’t resist it and will sometime sneak in there. That’s the downside because sometimes they bring in crumbs too! ;) Made beds obviously look great and make a room look put together and more peaceful but they just become something that you don’t want to disturb, wrinkle or smudge. A little bit like a nice hairdo or outfit that you don’t want to play with out of fear of messing it up. I somehow can’t relax with that.

    I found out that in real life, I prefer the inviting and romantic effect of a gentle lived in mess. If you have nice sheets and pillows and cottony, cozy blankets, it’s going to look good! :)

  • I was enjoying this post (as I do the hashtag on IG), when I saw my little Tasha plopped on a pile of laundry! Thanks for including that pic. I agree with Kate, pets are always changing a space and it’s a nice reminder that relationships (fur or human) are always changing us. My dog has taught me to loosen up, let messes fly, and roll with the punches. :)