There’s something you should know about me…I am a recovering perfectionist. In my early twenties, I channeled that unhealthy tendency into dieting and working out.
But I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years. (#stretchypants)
I’ve shared my ex-perfectionist ways with my Instagram friends a time or two but never really delved into it on the blog. I decided to really spill the beans on my messy journey from the pursuit of perfect to embracing what I call intentional decorating and a lot of “been there, done that, avoid this” type advice for any of you who might be feeling like your home will just never measure up.
“PERFECT” CREEPS IN LIKE FLOOD
When we bought our first home, the only furniture my husband and I owned was a hodge podge collection of stuff that followed us from first apartments and dorm rooms. Our new-to-us 1940’s cottage warranted some new purchases. No doubt.
But I turned that legitimate need into never-ending wants.
At the time, Pinterest was just taking foot in the online world. With every new Pin, my expectations for our home rose higher and higher while making me forget about little things like timelines or budget or spousal approval. (Whoops.)
I had craved this first home for so many years for so many reasons, and finally we had it. But my temporary elation with the purchase of the house was quickly overshadowed by a compulsion to “finish” decorating it. And by decorating I mean obsessing over every little detail and resenting 90% of my home because it wasn’t how I wanted it yet. I poured all my spare time and energy into dreaming, scheming, (and complaining) about our new house.
I might be a professional now, but back then I was a designer’s worst nightmare.
After several years, impulse buys, splurges that I would soon regret, and several come-to-Jesus moments with my bank account and my husband, I’ve learned a thing or two about how NOT to approach your home.
Probably the of my most humbling point for me (even more so that returning a cart load of throw pillows to Target because I had overdrawn my checking account) was when I recognized a feeling…The one that reminded me of my early 20’s when I was running 6 days a week and weighing myself three times a day. It was in a different context this time, but I knew the familiar feeling meant that I was once again chasing perfect. That was the low point…and then some really good stuff slowly started to happen.
I let go. I gave up. And I learned a lot of lessons.
One of my biggest turning points in this journey away from perfectionism was the realization that a “perfect home” only existed in my mind.
THE “IF ONLY…” LIST
For the longest time, I could never fully appreciate the great aspects of my home because I was so focused on the things that I had yet to change. I let these areas distract me from acknowledging the progress I was making and create a sense of compulsion around decorating.
Do you ever feel that constant nagging when you look around your home? You think things like…
“If only I could just replace that awful sofa.”
“Ugg, if only my trim color was white.”
“If only that rug would just disappear.”
“If only I could start all over from scratch and just get all new things.”
And I’m sure you have lots of other things on your personal “If only” list. Here’s the thing, friend. If we aren’t careful, the “If only” list goes on indefinitely no matter how many updates or new purchases we make. (Think of the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.)
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about making intentional changes that help your home better function and better reflect your style and values. And setting goals to get some big projects done is SUPER important. (In fact my friend Jackie has a great book on this topic.)
It’s both my job and my passion.
However, I think many of us have an unhealthy dissatisfaction about our homes that blocks us from getting to a place of what I call intentional decorating. And all the resentment and worry and feelings that our home will never measure up are exhausting, right? If perhaps you’re ready to throw in towel on chasing “perfect”, I have some new paths for you to try…
1. Gratitude & Goals
The thing is if we still believe in the notion of a “perfect home” we will never-I repeat NEVER-be happy with what we have. Being grateful for the home we do have (even if it isn’t our dream) doesn’t mean that we lose sight of the goals we have to improve it…It means we have a healthier outlook and more patience during the process.
2. Focus on progress over perfection.
I first heard this advice from Lara Casey referring to business, but I think it relates to so many areas of our lives and most definitely our homes. Here’s a big one…ready for it?
There is no “finish line” to cross in your home. There is no moment when the final puzzle piece is placed.
Think of your home less like a puzzle and more like a garden. Some things will get planted and others get weeded. The landscape will change over the years. What we’re really trying to do is create an environment that speaks to us, not a picture perfect room that’s Pinterest worthy,
3. A realization of substance over stuff.
It’s not about the stuff. It’s just not. Perfection focuses on external appearance of things. Intentional decorating realizes that the “stuff” is just the representation of something deeper. Learning how to select, layer, and live with physical items to convey a deeper sense of self is to engage in the creative process on a very complex and deeply personal level. NO WONDER so many people can become overwhelmed when trying to do so!
4. Quit obsessing over the details.
Attention to detail is one thing, but obsession that causes you to lose sight of the big picture is something else completely.
Here’s a tip…you can almost spot the difference between attention to and obsession with detail by the following…Obsession with detail feels like panic or a relentless drive to “get it right”. Attention to detail instead constantly reimagines or questions things like, “What if I tried ____?” or “Wouldn’t it be interesting if I did ______?”
One accuses, the other questions. Do you see the difference? Once comes from a place of fear and the other from a place of creation.
5. Recognize and fight the comparison trap.
No, you probably don’t have the most amazing home on the block. So what? Yes, maybe your sister-in-law’s house is ginormous, and she has an unlimited budget to fill an entire cart at Home Goods while you settle for some new tea towels. Good for her. You have to STOP comparing others’ homes, budgets, and situations to your own.
And while we’re on the topic of things that make us feel less-than, let’s chat about Pinterest for a sec, ‘mkay? Pinterest should be used a tool, not as a mirror that makes you judge and resent the state of your home (or cooking abilities or fashion sense or lack of a workout routine). #toughdecorlove
(If that last one struck a nerve check out my post on 5 Healthy Ways to use Pinterest.)
Realize when you feel comparison sneak up and fight those thoughts of “Home Shame” that pop into your head. Remember the good stuff like creativity and intentional decorating can’t happen when you start from a place of shame.
This big crazy journey led me to develop Decor Coaching. When I work one-on-one with my sweet clients, I’m not just helping them pick out color schemes, floor plans, or a great rug. (Even though that may be end result of the process.) I’ve done traditional interior design in the past, but my current approach is much more collaborative and takes a deep-dive into the “why” and “how” before we ever get to the “what”. My coaching clients come away from our work together not only with ideas on what to look for and what to buy, but they have a better sense of themselves, their home, and of interior design in general. Make sense?
This is the same thing I want for you, friend. Even if we never work together, I hope that you are able to let go of the myth of a perfect home and begin to create a meaningful space that truly helps you live more fully.
If you’ve reached this far, you probably have a hunch that it’s worth the effort:)
PS: Are we friends on Instagram yet? I share a lot of behind-the scenes, inspiration, and coaching tips with my IG friends and I’d love to meet you there!