How Tackling Homes For Her Millions Of Followers Helped Galey Alix Tackle Herself
Scrolling through social media you might come across one of Galey Alix’s popular design reveals—a complete surprise renovation and redesign of a home that she does in a single weekend. After a family reaches out to her on Instagram, they leave her with their keys and their credit card for the weekend. Yes, they trust her blindly. And if you are one of her almost 4 million followers on TikTok and Instagram (and counting), you might already know this isn’t her full time job. Galey is an executive at Goldman Sachs based out of Florida. Because of her day job, she has to fit all of her home renovations into a 72-hour-turnaround each weekend. When Monday morning comes, she’s back at work… perfectly timed with Wall Street’s opening bell.
Though it might seem like Galey is exactly where she belongs, this is not at all where she imagined her life would be. In fact, she was supposed to be married right now and living in her dream home in Connecticut. A home she purchased with her then fiancé and spent every weekend for a year flying to and from Florida to work on by herself. Once she finished their 10,000 square foot home, she planned to leave Goldman (a career she loved), while also parting with her life, home, and family in Florida in pursuit of starting a new one with her new husband.
At the time, Galey thought her life was great, maybe even perfect, but what she was showing on social media was not her true reality. She says, “I honestly believed I was living my dream life, just like I portrayed on Instagram. I had this handsome fiancé, a successful career on Wall Street, a beautiful home and cute dogs and, you know, life is perfect. But deep down, I was dying with my eyes wide open.”
Just weeks before her wedding, Galey revealed the truth behind her internal battle to the one person she thought she could trust. A battle she had never addressed out loud before, even to herself. She told her then fiancé that she had been struggling with an eating disorder and needed help finding a local therapist. Galey explains that it got to a point where felt she would die from her eating disorder, internal angst, or from depression, so she had to do something. She believed at the time, “I don’t know which is going to get me first, but if I don’t do something about this [now], I’m not going to be here much longer.”
Instead of receiving comfort or support, her then fiancé responded by asking her how she could do this to him and how she could “get sick and still let him love her.” He felt like she had been lying to him, which Galey admits she had of course been lying, “because I was lying to myself, too. I kept telling myself everything was great. I had it all under control. I didn’t.”
No less than an hour after this conversation he had her pack a suitcase, get her 2 dogs, and leave on a plane home to Florida. When she landed, she became acutely aware that she couldn’t do it herself anymore. She acknowledged that what she was doing, portraying her life on social media and to loved ones as perfect despite struggling on the inside, wasn’t working. It left her without a fiancé, a job (she promised him she’d resign from Goldman before their wedding, so she did), and a home. She describes it as rock bottom, but lower. She says, “They say graves are buried 6 feet under the ground right? I felt like I was buried alive in a cave somewhere below those six feet under the ground. It was so low and so dark, I couldn’t crawl out no matter how hard I tried. I lost everything I worked for, and all at the same time.” She knew she needed to try something different.
That ‘something different’ was mental health treatment. Her only previous interaction with the mental health system was a therapist briefly in college that she went to because her mom asked her to go for her stress. This time, she went to therapy and actually put energy into it, for herself. She saw an eating disorder therapist and a nutritionist who specialized in eating disorders. She knew she needed to “tackle it head on” and went to 2-3 sessions a week for several months. She says, “I was hyper focused on how do I make sure that the next chapter in my life doesn’t end the same way the last chapter did because I never want to go back there.”
When she emerged from her treatment, she felt calmer and less of a need to control everything around her, because she no longer felt out of control. She was also able to keep her job at Goldman. This was the official start of her next chapter. And then, feeling mentally strong enough to, she finally logged back onto her social media for the first time since her breakup. It was then that she discovered the old videos she posted of her redoing her home in Connecticut had gone viral. Hundreds of strangers were privately messaging her asking for her to come fix their homes, too. She thought, “Instead of staying home and feeling sorry for myself this weekend, I should say yes to one of these kind strangers and see if that makes for a better weekend. What do I have to lose?” This was the unintentional start of her surprise-design weekend business and explosive social media growth. One might even say, the start of her personal Empire. But, perhaps most importantly, it was when she realized how much helping strangers love their homes might actually end up helping her.
She explains, “Saving their homes is actually what saved me. It made me feel like I had something to live for again. Even though I wasn’t able to get married and start a family of my own, I am instantly adopted into the families whose home I am working on. I am getting to transform their houses into that “family home” I was trying so hard to create in Connecticut for myself and my ex-fiancé, but wasn’t healthy enough to. It’s like my pain found its purpose and its purpose is to help others. And now I’ve got a healthy outlet for the creativity I’ve always had burning inside me but never unlocked.” Without realizing it, this became her new therapy.
You wouldn’t know it looking at her finished products, but Galey has no design experience, has never watched a design television show, nor had a Pinterest account. Her childhood habits, however, speak volumes. For example, she tells a story about how she would play with Lincoln Logs not by actually playing with them but by stacking them, color coordinating them by length and width in their bin, and then organizing the rest of the toy closet so it would look “pretty” when she set the bin back where it belonged. She played by organizing her toys and then putting them away, always in an aesthetically pleasing way. From a young age, designing presented itself as an outlet for her perfectionism, and a healthy one at that.
Galey explains, “It allows me to take the weight off of trying to pick myself apart and make myself perfect. Today, I put all the energy I was putting into tearing myself apart into picking a room apart because that I can get perfect.” This has been particularly helpful in the pandemic, which would otherwise be very isolating for a single person, leaving her alone with just the thoughts in her head, void of distractions.
The surprise reveal (the moment she reveals the newly renovated home to the trusting homeowner on Sundays) also helps her mental health. She says sometimes she even looks happier than the homeowners in her reveal videos. She explains, “I am just so grateful to be alive and having that experience with them, in that moment. I’m getting to witness seeing someone genuinely happy first-hand. This is how I started finding my self-worth and my value again. How I started believing I am worthy of being kind to my body, taking care of myself, and most of all, that I do have something worth living for.”
Today, Galey has fixed over 100 spaces for dozens of clients and now she is averaging over 10,000 design requests every 7 days. About a year ago she booked 5 years worth of clients and stopped taking on new projects. However, Galey’s clients believe she is worth the wait and from every satisfied customer, it is clear they are right.
Being in such a different place and feeling healthier and more aware of her own mental health struggles, she has also realized that part of what she can do is use her social media influence for good—making it about helping people and her passions and not about airbrushing and photoshop. That’s one reason why you will only ever see her wearing a baseball cap and mostly T-shirts; she wants the focus to be on what she creates, not how she looks. She also has learned to be honest and vulnerable, like she is being here, and talk about the things she is struggling with and how she has turned her failures into opportunities. For example, she wants people to know that even though her reveal videos look like perfection and she is so proud of the finished product, the work takes a lot out of her. She is very candid about how mentally and physically exhausted she is by the end of the weekend. Her last install took 3 days and she only slept about 2-2.5 hours each night. On the last night, after crawling up the stairs to her bedroom, she tried to shower and her feet hurt so badly from standing for nearly 72 hours straight that she laid down flat on the tile floor to wash her hair, physically on the ground. This exhaustion is why she doesn’t do reveals every weekend and only does one or two a month. The other weekends she uses to prep whichever five projects she has running simultaneously.
She emphasizes, “I don’t regret the physical toll these weekend installs take on me. I love it all, but I want to make sure I’m not downplaying how difficult pulling this off is. Just because I’m doing something I am passionate about doesn’t mean it always jives with happy Taylor Swift lyrics. It is hard work, it is manual labor, it pushes me to my absolute physical and emotional limit. But if you do what you love, you push through because you know it’s worth it. Because it is.”
Ultimately, though her life is not at all what she expected, it is a different kind of fairy tale, you know, the kind where the princess saves herself from the tower.
She adds, “I just feel so fortunate, so grateful. This weekend surprise-design side hustle is so much more than a business. It’s the path that led me from being deathly insecure to discovering how to believe in myself and own my worth. It’s how I unleashed my passion so that I could unlock my purpose. To say I’m grateful for the pain I endured to get here is an understatement of epic proportion.”