Why I'm Turning Off HGTV

The first house I remember living in, where I have many happy memories that took place before I was in third grade, was in a large neighborhood of post-war houses.

They were smallish houses with boxy rooms.  Most had one bathroom and a low-slope roof called a flat top, covered with white rocks.  They were nothing fancy.  But the first owners, those returning soldiers and their brides, must have felt happy and fortunate to move their few belongings into those little rooms.  Home ownership was an honor, especially for those who had come of age during the Great Depression.  There was a severe housing shortage after World War II, and these unassuming houses were the response to that problem.  They were usually affordable on one income, and many of those young couples were content to grow old together in those homes, never moving again.

HGTV sows unhappiness.

The real estate shows on HGTV portray the exact opposite of that mindset of gratitude and contentment.  (For those of you who don't live in the U.S., that's Home and Garden Television, an American pay channel.)  I'm especially annoyed by the shows that display the shocking entitlement that Americans feel when looking at homes and property in Europe or other parts of the world.  The reactions are always, "Oh, I wanted hardwood floors, an open concept, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, at least two bathrooms, bigger bedrooms, a private backyard with a pool, a great view, close to where I work, and all for only $600 a month!"

Of course, the shows exist to make you dissatisfied with your own home.  They're like infomercials, pretending to tell you a story or give you information while selling you something.  And some of them are addictive.  I'll admit, I can sit and watch reruns of Fixer Upper, even though I know that after all of the over-dramatized snags in the renovation, the final reveal will be another variation on Joanna Gaines' signature farmhouse style.

But these shows plant seeds of doubt about my own simple home and the way we live in it.  They're very good at doing exactly what they're designed to do, which is to get viewers to start making long mental lists of home improvements they "need."

Now I'm not saying we should never paint, or replace a floor, or buy a house that's been neglected and do the repairs and renovations that are necessary to make it a comfortable home.  I'm certainly not averse to beauty or craftsmanship or putting some of your own personality into your living space.

But HGTV intends to make you unhappy with what you have so you'll go out and buy buy buy.  Home styles are like clothing styles, and change almost as quickly.  It's fast fashion all over again, only what we're constantly discarding and replacing in our homes entails far greater volume and expense than a few jeans and tee shirts.

So I turned it off.

at home, summer 1965
I don't need the temptation toward discontent or the invitation to take on debt.  When the young client on one show lamented that she and her husband wanted to move out of their 2500 square foot house because she was having a baby and they "needed more room," I wanted to shout at the television, "Have you ever seen a baby?  They don't take much space!"

What most of us need isn't more room.  We need less stuff.

We need to pay attention to what we already have.  We need to take care of it and be grateful for it so we can be happier and more contented every day.  And when we do make a repair or an upgrade, it needs to be for a reason greater than, "I saw it on HGTV," or "No one who's anyone has Formica anymore," or "Jonathan Scott on Property Brothers says it's the next big thing."

Even an older, little, boxy, flat top house can be the scene of a happy life.

Updated April 2023


  1. I had read this article when it was published the first time and enjoyed it just as much the second time I read it. My Mom was wanting to remodel her kitchen, again. I told her exactly what you had said, turn off HGTV it is making you unhappy with what you got. I went on to ask why she got rid of her first kitchen and she replied it was falling apart. My dad spoke up, well it is still all together downstairs in the basement. We all choked laughing. She remains dissatisfied and no need to be in any way, she has plenty!

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I'm glad you found the post worth reading a second time.

      I'm sorry to say my own mother was the same way. She would redecorate or remodel, be excited about it for a little while, and then be longing for something new again. The "honeymoon" never lasted for long. Always wanting the latest and greatest styles made her very unhappy and also cost a ton of money. I suppose that my desire to be different was one stepping stone toward minimalism.

    2. Oh Karen my Karen!! Direct shot to my Costa Rican heart with which I read you with the same passion with which I see my beloved (Scott brothers) renovation programs!! Hahaha, Lots to think about! Especially if, like in my country, you don't get the same materials and styles. By the way, I understand the quartz countertops replaced the granite lol. Thank you for contributing so much to my life. Love from Costa Rica. (Traducido con Google)

    3. Yes, home styles change all the time! This post was only written a little over two years ago, but granite is "out." Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. A blessed New Year to you!


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