Live Happy (The Best Ways to Make Your House a Home) is Kortney and Dave Wilson’s hot-off-the-press new book, and it’s fantastic. (Enter to win a copy on my Instagram account right now!)
The best way to describe it: after reading the book I felt like I had spent a few hours hanging out with Kortney, with Dave nearby throwing in his one-liners and words of wisdom – very similar to the banter you get when watching their hit HGTV show Masters of Flip. (This was a bittersweet experience for me, since I was actually supposed to hang out with Kortney in Toronto recently, but my double pinkeye had other plans.)
They are the perfect pair to be writing a lifestyle tips book like this: lots of professional wisdom to share when it comes to real estate, flipping and design, yet they’ve got a lot of personal stories that people will be interested in, for example their stalled music careers in Nashville and parenting experiences (including a bumpy road to adoption). Plus, nowadays any couple that’s still married after 16 years really should be celebrated, and their relationship stories and marriage advice are worth a read too.
After reading a book written by another reality-TV design duo, I messaged Kortney back in the summer and said she and Dave really needed to do something similar – and while I would love to take some credit, her response was “Thanks! It comes out in February but we haven’t announced it yet…shh!”
I recently asked Kortney to answer a few questions about Live Happy. Here’s what she had to say!
Can you share any insider info about the writing of the book? I’m always curious about process!
Someone on our team had been in touch with Harper Collins and had shared the opportunity with Dave and me. It wasn’t on our radar and we weren’t actively pursuing a book deal but we were intrigued. We just didn’t know what we’d write about. We were incredibly humbled by the opportunity but after months of brainstorming ideas, we turned it down. We didn’t want to write a book about house flipping because we felt we had already given the audience a clear idea of what that world looks like for us. Dave and I weren’t crazy about telling our story by way of a chapter book about our lives. Our editor, Kate had the idea of telling some of our stories through tips and interjecting pieces of our lives into each piece of advice. We loved that idea and we loved that the book wasn’t going to be about just one thing. I wrote the book from my perspective (although Dave has some Masterclass Tips). It was our friend, Amanda, who came up with the idea to give us both a voice through a script. Each script was written a little differently. We sat around a table several nights and told stories and took down notes when things were funny or insightful. We wanted to nail our actual voices so people felt like they were watching us on TV. At least that was the hope – ha.
(Some background before the next question: In Live Happy, Kortney confides that after sharing her amazing bedroom-to-dream-closet transformation on social media, she received some harsh criticism from a few people, calling her gluttonous and selfish and greedy, and she took down the post.)
What did you learn from that experience, and how did it change what you post on social media?
I learned that perspective is everything. If someone posting something negative about my closet or towards me for posting my closet had known my backstory, they may have chosen different words. I find that in general people are attracted to realness and sometimes to a fault. We’d rather like or respond to a post about someone expressing sadness. It’s human nature to want to extend a hand and show support when people are down but we are less likely to like or comment when someone is extremely happy or celebrating the little wins in life. Either way, knowing the backstory is helpful when trying to connect with people so I’ve learned to give a little bit more of the story when posting nearly every picture to social media. I don’t owe anyone anything when I post to social media but for me, it’s about connecting with those following me and for that, it’s worth taking the time to share the bigger picture. Again, it may not be the whole picture (see the last tip – ha), but it gives a little perspective.
(By the way, Kortney eventually got past the negativity – using the incredible closet every day helped – and now says, “Here’s what I believe. I work hard. And I bet you do too. So if you find yourself in a position to treat yourself to something that you will us and love, go for it, guilt free and without excuses.” There’s a photo of the dream closet in the book!)
You cover a lot of light topics in the book but also some heavy ones, like career disappointments, breakups and your adoption stories…what was the hardest section to write, and why?
The hardest section to write was definitely the adoption stuff. It’s not really our story and I had to show a little restraint. It’s our daughter’s story and we wanted to respect that. There is so much more to the process and I could have written an entire book about her adoption, our failed adoption, the fact that we started the process to adopt again, and relationships with biological families. Instead, we gave a small glimpse into why we adopted, and I chose to turn it into tips to educate people on refraining from asking adoptees and adoptive parents, silly questions. It is a “tips” book after all.
In Live Happy, Kortney says, “I know I’m not the only one who experiences anxiety over clutter. But I’m definitely the only one in our family, which is tough on all of us. It’s not easy for them to live with a neat freak.” (Although some of our tastes differ – Kortney is all about colour; my husband refers to our home as “The Gray House” – in many ways like this, and the fact that we’re both to-do list junkies, we are kindred spirits.)
For all the neat freaks out there like us, how much do you think we can expect kids and partner to meet our expectations about tidiness in the home and what things should we let go?
That’s a tough one. I started charging our boys $3.00 for each dirty clothing item they leave on the floor for me to pick up. As it turns out, the training period to achieve tidiness was cut by about 75% when they had to part with their own money. I can’t function when the house is a wreck so my job is to constantly stay on top of everyone. I’m always disappointed in how many times I have to remind my family members to pick up their things to keep clutter at bay, but it does get better and as a result of my consistency, they have all picked up some good habits. It’s like instituting time outs for a two-year-old. Stay the course and you will win in the end. As far as when it’s okay to let things go. . . I just can’t. I can’t even leave my suitcase unopened for a night. No matter what time I get home, I have to unpack it but I have learned to appreciate that some of my family members don’t see the same things as priorities. For example, I can’t stand that my kids all leave their big fuzzy blankets unfolded in the morning but it’s enough that they make their beds so if I want to go all Type-A on them, then I fold them myself. Is that considered a compromise? LOL
I think that’s generous! When someone walks away from this blog post, what’s one thing they could immediately go and do to improve their home?
Go and clean out a drawer or closet that stresses you out. Just one. What will likely happen is that it will make you feel so good when you open that newly organized drawer or closet that it will be cause for cleaning out one more. And then another. Do that until your house is organized and you only have the things that you use or make you happy in your house. Set out a plan. Use a calendar. Do whatever you need to do to keep your organizational goals on track and you will be one step closer to living happy.
Thanks, Kortney! With sections that cover the physical sense of “home” (“Make Your Front Door a High Five”, “Mix, Don’t Match”, “Hang a Gallery Wall the Easy Way” to the broader sense of the word (“Unplug to Recharge”, “Not Everyone Wants to Buy What You’re Selling”, “Traditions are Not the Boss of You”) the book really covers the gamut, and while it has its sweet moments, it’s pretty darn funny. (Example: stories about raising chickens.) They also keep it real: “I would be lying if I said the five of us sit down for a family meal seven nights a week,” starts Kortney. “You’d be lying if you said the five of us sit down for a family meal two nights a week,” responds Dave. And did I mention all the gorgeous colour photographs?
I also want to throw in a public message here about what an amazing person Kortney Wilson is. My first interview with her was formally arranged through a publicist, and even though she had just faced the death of a friend, she went through with the chat like a pro. When I told her how much (then seven-year-old) Eva loved Masters of Flip, she even asked to speak to her, and told us we would have to meet up whenever we are next in Nashville. (Here’s where you can find Part 1 and Part 2 of that chat. Part 1 continues to be one of my most-viewed posts of all time.)
Since then, our communication has become much less formal, and Kortney even agreed immediately to be the first guest for This Mom Loves – the Podcast, with no publicist involvement required. Not only that, she shared the episode on her social media channels, and even made it the link in her Instagram profile right after the launch. Anyone who works in social media knows what a big deal that kind of support is…and I am thrilled to be able to support her and her hilarious hubby right back by telling you all that you should read this book! (Thank goodness I legitimately love it!) Go pick up your copy of Live Happy right now.