What Martha Taught Me about Living

Toss, toss, toss.

Keep, toss, keep.


No, wait.  What does this say? I released my parked right foot from the pedal of the kitchen garbage can and stepped back to read the small type which said something about Martha Stewart Living ceasing publication and being happy to replace it with Southern Living. Not “would be happy,” but “is happy;” a fait accompli. Well, that was a three-punch blow. First, no Martha. Next, Southern Living is a whole other thing. And last, I already subscribe to Southern Living. I was flummoxed. The small, white, generic postcard that bore this sad news was so “un-Martha-like.” To the new publisher, it was “just business,” I suppose. To me, it was a whole other thing.

I went online. Of course, I did, and there it was:Martha Stewart Living magazine is the latest print casualty of the $2.7 billion sale of Meredith ’s portfolio of magazines to Dotdash…” Blah, blah, blah. I stopped reading and began reminiscing.

Martha Stewart Living was launched in1994. Shortly thereafter, while whizzing through the airport enroute to work, I picked up the glossy magazine, filled out the pretty little card and subscribed. With eager anticipation, I awaited the arrival of each monthly issue. Once retrieved from the mailbox, I’d place it on my nightstand where it would sit until the weekend, when I could switch gears and savor its lusciousness. Martha’s world – perfectly-imbued with upper middle-class affluence and stiff-backed traditionalism – was a world unlike my own. And yet, it very much appealed to my strong sense of esthetics, my vision of how life might be lived a few levels up from practicality and pragmatism. It was the elevation that spoke to me.

Many have described Living as aspirational. For me it wasn’t that; it was instead inspirational. There is a difference. Living’s message to me was this: you can create a harmonious visual, esthetic, tactile world in which to indulge your five senses and take good care of yourself in the process. I liked that but knew that I would do it my way.  Taking in the inspiration of each issue, I was highly selective about what I tore out for reference to tuck away in a three-ring binder. No fancy souffles or crafts projects. No complicated flower arrangements or uber-anal cleaning routines. But over the years, what I did claim from Living helped me to design my personalized version of living. Of living better, more beautifully.

That is no small thing.

Martha was an Influencer before there was such a thing. A woman ahead of her time, she dared to chuck Wall Street for an apron and a fledgling catering business. She dared to suggest to women – at a time when we were still taking baby steps on the corporate career ladder – that home matters, that self-care matters, that the small things in life carefully tended will always have a place in a well-lived and well-loved life.  For me, her message was timely. While several friends scoffed at her fussy perfection, I held fast to the inspiration which resonated in my being.

Ever the reinventor, Martha has launched online content and shopping which I will likely peruse now and then. I know that I will miss Martha Stewart Living and the quiet, creative inspiration it has brought to my thoughtful leisure hours. That said, I have enough experience with change and loss of every magnitude to let it go with grace and deep gratitude. For now, I will enjoy Magnolia Journal, Traditional Home (yes, traditional!), and Real Simple as “comfortable familiars” and hope that they each have a long run.


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