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I’ve been a DIY blogger for seven years and I always regret not taking more before photos. Will I ever learn?

When you are in the midst of the before it just seems like one big mess where the goal is to get through as quickly as possible and then forget so that you can focus on all that is pretty and fixed up. I hate taking before photos and usually rush through it and move on.

At the time I cannot imagine wanting more before photos because all I want to do is fix it yesternow. I forget that the Before has its own purpose, and it’s not to shame me. It’s to inspire and encourage me.

Because all good change takes time.

that awful before picture

Good, important changes don’t happen overnight. And while we are in the midst of the hard work of changing, we can so easily forget how far we’ve come. And this is where the Before picture is your closest friend.

This applies to so much more than decorating a room.

When we were in the middle of what seemed like a forever quest to pay off more than $150,000 in debt, what encouraged me the most? Not the un-pinpointable finish line, but calculating how much we had already paid off. When Chad and I have one of those scripted arguments (you know the kind that you keep having over and over again?), and I wonder if we’ve learned anything about marriage in our 19 years of being married, I remember how I used to pout and take a day to get over a disagreement and now we can laugh and move on.

So the other day I dug up the few before photos from my office and compared them to our during. The during doesn’t look all that impressive until you see the grody before.  And even though I can still vividly remember the before when I look at the photos, I realize that I didn’t take the time to truly capture and appreciate where we started from. It was too gross and I wanted to get out of there. I regretted not getting a closeup of the rusted door with 20 years of dirt around the handle and broken cat door.

The gross imperfection is part of the story. And if I leave that part out, I can’t fully appreciate how far I’ve come.

enjoy the during

Looking at our before and during photos are a great reminder to stop comparing ourselves to someone else’s beginning, middle or end. And if I insist on comparing, I want to compare myself to where I started so I can be encouraged with how far we’ve come.

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  1. 1

    I am LOVING the easy chair I see along with the two lamps. My “dream room” consists of turning our extra room into a reading “nook” for me with a comfy reading chair. So when I saw your after photo, I just went “ahhhhhhhhhh”. :)

  2. 3

    This is so true! We can easily become caught up in the waiting and wanting. We want the answers and promotion to the next place, which usually only leads us to another room looking pretty familiar to our previous before picture. Looking at the before gives us opportunity to praise God for where He has brought us even if we aren’t exactly where we want to be in the process yet. This is beautiful encouragement today! Oh, and I LOVE your office space!!!

  3. 4

    On Wednesday my divorce became final. My husband was abusive. To get out of the marriage, I had to maneuver some things and one of the bottom lines of that is I am leaving my current home with nothing. No furniture, no lamps, no rugs, etc. I have put the call out to friends, and am collecting free things. Each time someone gives me something, I can feel God telling me he is providing and I am going to be all right. I have a $1000 furniture budget, which I’m pretty sure will be completely taken up buying my 2 children and myself new beds so literally, every other thing we need will have to come our way through the generosity of others.
    I turn to your blog often, and now will do so with renewed fervor! Thank you for the inspiration.

    • 5

      p.s. I will take loads of “before” pictures, even though at the moment, they might make me want to cry!

    • 8

      oh Shelly, I hope this fresh start is so sweet for you. And that that $1000 will be stretched beyond anything you can imagine.

    • 9

      Praying God’s hand upon your new beginning, Shelly. I know this can’t be easy for you.

      • 10
        Joanne Peterson says:

        26 years ago, I started over with a breaking down car, my clothes, and a vacuum cleaner and working at a job that paid minimum wage. God does the miraculous. I remember looking back at the first month after I left when all was said and done, and realized Jesus had carried me. I don’t really know how I ate, or somehow paid my bills, my finances should not have allowed for that. But, it happened.

        I am praying for you Shelley. Grant peace that surpasses all understanding guard her heart and mind, and provide for her needs. You know what they are before she even asks or even knows what to ask for. Let your Presence be her security, and let your loving Father’s heart be her comfort. Bring people into her life who represent You who will be your heart, comfort, provision, and hands and feet. Let your Word ring true in her heart, and to be so close to You she hears Your loving heartbeat.

    • 11
      Beth Williams says:

      Prayers for you Shelly.

      May God give you the comfort and peace that you and your children so deserve! Prayers for peace and contentment!!

      Father God,

      Please bless Shelly now! Give her the peace that only you can offer. Guard her heart, mind and soul. Allow her to be a good mother to her two children and provide security for them! Shower them with your grace and mercy!

      AMEN! :)

    • 12

      A new Russian friend of mine told me this story. His Jewish grandmother, in Moscow, used to say: Someday you are going to have to run. You won’t be able to take anything with you. But don’t worry, you will have your brain. And that’s all you will need. Shelley, you have everything you need right now. Peace of mind is probably the biggest gift. Good luck to you.

    • 13

      I was where you are 4 years ago and my prayers are with you. I left with the 4 most important things- my 3 kids and my dog. I had no budget but I knew I needed the basics- beds and a sofa. Craigslist to the rescue. I ended up with 2 sofas, from Broyhill & Ethan Allen, bunk beds and a queen bed and other pieces as i could afford.
      When I bought the bunk beds home, my youngest son ran up to me and hugged me saying ” I love this place”. At that moment, I knew things would be ok. I’m in a better financial situation now, but have become attached to this furniture. I’m in the process of getting the sofa’s upholstered and the bunk beds painted. I’m so thankful to God for blessing my family through this transition.

      I pray that God gives you strength to endure this change, and the faith to see that brighter days are ahead.

      Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he [it is] that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

  4. 14

    Whew! What a post. While I can see the absolute beauty in another person’s broken cat door and gross door handle…mine? Not so much. Much needed reminder that this phase in life is part of it…even with the couch that makes me crazy.

  5. 15

    so true, it IS easier to see it when it belongs to someone else!

  6. 16

    Thank you for that ending sentence! It is exactly what my heart needs to be reminded of, as I tackle switching things up in our family room. I’m hanging in to the “it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you’ve got.” mantra as I go.

  7. 17

    Hey Nester … you’re the first blogging decorator who hung it all out there for us to see. On a regular basis. And that transparent realness, always with a sense of humor, has drawn us to you, my friend. For most of us don’t see ourselves in those glossy magazine spreads. We see ourselves in the dailyness of another’s real life stuff, warts and all.

  8. 22

    So, I’ve been doing a workout boot camp thing at 5am for two months. After pics are tomorrow…I don’t think my pic will be very different, BUT thanks for the reminder, that progress is sometimes slow…and sometimes we don’t notice the little changes along the way bc we are so focused on perfection-the way I didn’t say the snarky unnecessary comment to my husband…or laughed at spilled milk instead of cringing at it (not there yet), or did just two more pushups on my feet than I did last month…
    Good word. Thank you!

  9. 23

    This is why I started blogging – to have a tangible way to remember what God has done in my life. The times when I think I’ll never learn or I’m such a big mess, I can look back and see that God has moved me farther down the path than I realized. Thanks for sharing this! :)

  10. 24

    I always forget to take befores too! But I like what you said about thinking of them as a way to inspire and encourage me in the process.
    And oh, the application to life and relationships. So true. I want to remember that when I’m feeling like progress is slow in coming.

  11. 25

    i also identify so much with the fact that you keep it real on your blog! Sometimes maybe it’s hard to show or commemorate the befores in a picture because it’s vulnerable to let somebody see the mess you start with– it becomes proof! And whether it’s a before you inherited or created, it can be nerve wracking. So thanks for being open with us- for letting us in and see the real deal behind the scenes process of decorating because everyone has a before and they shouldn’t be afraid to share– and just like you said it doesn’t just apply to decorating, but to everyday life too : )

  12. 26

    I love this. We’ve recently come nearly to the end of an almost seven-year-long kitchen remodel. It’s still not done (just some details left, now) but I recently put all the before and during (and during and during and during…) pictures together in an album, to see how far we’ve come and because I kind of can’t believe how it’s evolved over these years. (Here is the album: http://tinyurl.com/nwtzz3y)

    I used to be angry that it was taking so long, but now I’m glad for the slow process as it forced me to consider and reconsider what I really wanted in there. I would never have dreamed up the final version when we first started tearing out cabinets seven years ago.

    • 27
      kelly m. says:

      Absolutely beautiful…you have much more patience than me! Praying for many happy meals and blessed memories in your dream kitchen!

  13. 28

    {Melinda} I love looking at old prayer journals because it reminds me of how far God has brought me, the ugliness that He has worked out in me. It encourages me to keep going even when I feel like I has so far to go in many areas. And the PROCESS is where I found a deeper intimacy with God.

  14. 29

    Love this, my friend. I think before and after photos are so key in keeping us motivated to keep pushing forward. There is something intrinsically satisfying about seeing how far we’ve come, especially if we still have a ways to go.

    And your office? I am drooling. I just love it so much.

    :)

  15. 30

    This “after” is gorgeous! I wish I could take photos of so many of my life “befores”, but so many of them will have to live as a mental snapshot:)

  16. 31

    White. Paint. Nothing better! Thank you for this post and the reminder that we are all just a work in progress, becoming beautiful as we make ourselves over with Jesus as the Master Renovator. Yes! (And btw, LOVE the big, glass, chunky pieces…lots of weight but see-through! Brilliant. You must love working here!) Praying grace for you today!

  17. 32

    As if I didn’t love you enough already – you go and use words like “yesternow” and “grody” and go and take this post way beyond DIY! Thank you for the reminder of the power and value of Before and During shots!

  18. 33

    I love this thought. Thank you…

  19. 34

    Hello! I was sharing something similar with a group of friends recently. Years ago, I have life saving surgery due to a -wait for it- 14 pound ovarian cyst. I did not take any before pictures of my body because I was too embarrassed, but now I wish I had those as a reminder of God’s goodness in granting me a miracle. Blessings to all!

  20. 35

    This is exactly what I needed today and from exactly the right person. Thank you for providing wisdom and comfort with your beautiful words and images!

  21. 36
    Jennifer Smith says:

    Love this post! My goal this last year has been to work on my faith, to open my eyes, my heart and my mind to what God is giving me in my life. Counting my blessing for sure! Your blog has been the icing on the cake my dear! I wish you weren’t so far away, I’d love to meet you in “real life!” You’ve been such an inspiration to me, thank you!!

  22. 37

    Wow. That’s so encouraging.
    Need to do a fix myself. A little here and a little there. Day by day.
    :)

  23. 38

    In the sloppy middle of massive transformation myself. My before pics wouldn’t have shown reality, everything was masked and hidden under the stamp of married. Like Bev and Shelly (^above) I too am in the process of an unnecessarily nasty divorce from an emotionally abusive man. Having to let everything go that I struggled so hard to keep together. Reminding myself it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful or to be a place to heal. Praying for you Shelly, God will provide. He always does.

  24. 39
    Christina says:

    I went through a divorce two years ago, except I kept the house, which was in the middle of an entire renovation. I did not have much left after we went our separate ways, but my friends rallied around me and started giving me furniture, appliances and accessories.

    What turned out to be an awful experience has blossomed into a wonderful adventure. I am slowly finishing the house the way I want to finish it, with pieces of furniture and fixtures that I have found from friends, flea markets, yard sales, and Craigslist.

    And this blog entry has reminded me to take more “Before” photos.

    I am re-purposing these found pieces, just like I have re-purposed my life.

    And honestly, I am the happiest I have been in probably 5+ years.

    Freedom is a wonderful thing – and something that you should embrace. Don’t be afraid of your freedom!

  25. 40

    Shelly, you are doing a huge good thing to reach out and be transparent with those around you who are probably, like many on here, waiting to bless you and help out. I went through another type of loss (husband had cancer), and though I know it’s not the same sometimes all you really want to do is curl up in a ball and shut out the world.
    Thnx so much to Nester for bringing in the real, taking off the gloss, and walking with us through a new start…exciting!
    Andrea

  26. 41
    Jennifer says:

    I want you to know that I needed this as well. I have taken over a children’s ministry that was not run as well as it should have been. I have not even been in two months and it has been overwhelming at times. God has been faithful and I am following what he wants. I realize that as you said if I will step back and look I will realize that we have already come so far. For someone who wants things done yesterday it has been easy. So that you for the reminder to stop and look back. :)

  27. 42

    Thanks so much for the reminder that during has it’s place and purpose too. I know that I’m often in such a hurry to get to the after that I miss God’s message in the during.

  28. 43

    I love this…the only person we should ever compare ourselves to is ourself. How am I doing? Am I progressing? Look how far I’ve come! Or, I seem to be slipping, better kick it in gear.

  29. 44

    This has been the word dropped into my heart for weeks now: Process, It really is about the process in so many levels of life. I think of David who became king -twenty years- after he was anointed in front of many people. He went though a lot of process to fully become the person that would lead a dynasty.

    Glad not everything takes that long. I’m kind of wanting some of your room in my office. Thanks for the inspiration!

  30. 45

    Amen! As someone who is so future focused, this is a very encouraging word. Thank you!

  31. 46
    Joanne Peterson says:

    This is a lovely reminder of the promise Jesus has been telling me. Perfect post expressing what has been happening in my life. He is creating a new thing, do I not see it?, do I not perceive it? Don’t consciously dwell on the former things. Remember the markers of what I have seen Him miraculously work out!

    Thank you!

  32. 47
    Stacey Monaco says:

    First, love, love the analogy. I mean LOVE. Oh my before and my after…and the more beautiful ever-after to come. Second…what don’t I love about the space you created. Soothing, artistic, and what writer/do-it-yourself-er/home manager does not want a table for a desk?!

  33. 48
    Beth Williams says:

    Nester,

    I, too need to take before pictures of my marriage. The start was fine–then came bumpy roads and the arguments (same ones all the time). Like you, we wonder good stuff will come and what in the heck have we learned in 10 years of marriage. Fortunately through tons of prayer and heartfelt talk we have made through the rough spots.

    Blessings :)

  34. 49

    “All good change takes time.” Thank you! This is just what I needed to hear right now….in my life and my decor. But life especially.

  35. 50

    I wish there was a way to take a picture of our spiritual hearts, our personalities, or our maturity-levels! It’s difficult to quantify the difference between “before” and “after,” because, as you said, change happens so slowly over time. I’ll have to pay attention to my actions and reactions to see if I can determine: “Is this the way I would have responded twenty years ago?” You’ve given me a start, admitting that twenty years ago it was difficult for you to get over an argument with your husband and now you can laugh and move on. Thank you for a thought-provoking post, Myquillen!

  36. 51

    Myquillen the office is looking wonderful! I really love that painting too by the way. That was great advice about the before pics. So often I will start a room and then realize that I have not even taken a before yet so I quickly take a few snap shots so I can dive back in the work. I will definitely take more next time! As usual great post!
    Peace and love, Sara

  37. 52

    Nester, I agree with this! I love looking at the before pictures when the after is in place. I’ve found this is true for my body too. When I feel fat I don’t want people to take pictures of me and tend to hide from the camera. But when I make positive changes, those before pictures really show me how far I’ve come. Pictures, pictures pictures! Just because I take them doesn’t mean they will end up in a frame–they might serve a greater purpose :) .

  38. 53

    Well I sure do need to see the before sometimes to remind me of just how much I needed the after. Thank you for this. Sanctification is a lot like remodeling, isn’t it?

  39. 54

    What a great reminder. Looking at how far we’ve come by looking back. Today is the 2 year anniversary of the day my dear friend lost her battle with breast cancer. It’s also my daughter’s 5th birthday. So much has changed in these last 2 years. I can now look back and see how much my friend’s children have grown and how happy they are with a new mommy and a Daddy who has found happiness again. I can look at my own baby girl and see how God blesses every breath on this earth with the minutes He gives us. I read a quote the other day by CS Lewis, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” How true.

  40. 55

    Absolutely! I think I am still so far away from where I want to be, but then I look back at where I was, and I notice the changes.

    We’re getting ready to do our major home renovation and I keep looking at the mess and the boxes and clutter, and thinking once some stuff is gone I’ll take pictures….thank you for the permission to share the mess…in my house and in me.

  41. 56

    I don’t think of taking “before” pictures either. Which is funny because I’m obsessed with before and after pictures. We are slowly, slowly decorating, updating our home of 3 1/2 years and I wish I would have taken a picture before we moved in! It IS encouraging to see progress. Even snail crawling slow progress. I did make a list of everything we’ve changed–from small things like cabinet pulls to big things like a landscaping make-over–and I go back to look at it and add to it now and then. I praise God for my funky house and remember how he’s blessed me to enjoy each phase and season. One of my first DIY was your paper book wreath–how I found my favorite blogger! It’s my conversation piece in my front room. Love it and your posts! Thanks for being real! (Virtually real? Ha ha.)

  42. 57

    “Remember where you started.”

    “Because all good change takes time.”

    “Good, important changes don’t happen overnight.”

    “The gross imperfection is part of the story.”

    With furniture…with homes…in life. Great post. Thank you for sharing.

  43. 58

    That last line.

  44. 59

    I sit here on my back sunroom overlooking our pond. Birds chirping, sun shining. I have been married 21 years to a man who is purely a gift from God. I had been sexually abused by my father during all of my growing up years. I left home at 17 and the country I was raised in. I ended up married and with a daughter by 19. by 22 I had 2 daughters and was trapped in a marriage with an unfaithful alcoholic husband. I was having panic attacks that left me trapped in my home. I was hospitalized. I put myself in therapy and 6 months into it took my girls and left the marriage. I got a job making$4.50 an hour and surrendered my life to The Lord. A few years later I met my husband and had a daughter. I have been in kids prison ministry for 11 years and have led hundreds of sexually abused girls to The Lord. I also forgave my Dad and led Him to his Savior.
    God is truly amazing! He does make beauty from ashes! Trust Him!