Just start...you'll be so glad you did!
Updated: Jan 26, 2020
“But the kids are messy,” she said. “Yes, absolutely. They are. They’re pigs, really,” was my reply. “I’m not sure I can afford a lot of changes,” she chortled. “You’d be surprised how many things we can use that you already own,” I answered. “Let me think about it.” Ahhh...got it. The 'let me think about it' card. I’ve heard the same conversation so many times that it really doesn’t matter who the ‘she’ is. The deal was broken before it even became a deal, but I’m not disappointed for me. I’m disappointed for her. The minute she wants to ‘think about it’ is the minute she’s given up on the hope of having a home that tells her family’s story. It’s the moment she’s given in to the fear of change or the work it’ll take to get there. It’s the moment she’s said yes to complacency…even though she admittedly doesn’t find joy in her space.
I get it. Change is tough, fear of the unknown is rough, and the ability to give directorial and artistic reins to someone else can be challenging. But it can also be worth it. Like, “I wish we would have done this years ago!” worth it. Or, “What took me so long?” worth it. Or even, “This looks amazing and now I don’t want to move!” worth it. These were things I have heard some of my clients say after collaborating with me to get the look and feel they had been longing for in their home. Read alone, those are really big statements. “I wish we would have done this years ago!” WOW!
“This looks amazing and now I don’t want to move!” This statement broke my heart. I was decorating one of my dearest friend’s homes to prepare for sale. Our kiddos grew up together and the adults relied on each other to help out in a moment’s notice. They lived five doors down the street. Their house sold above asking within days of listing. Want to talk about rough? By helping them I basically packed their bags, loaded the moving truck and hired the driver, all while nursing a broken heart at the news of them moving in the first place.
I want to encourage you, in whatever stage of life you’re in, if you aren’t happy in your home…TAKE ACTION! In the words of Marie Kondo, if your home doesn’t ‘bring you joy’ do something about it! Here are a few things to do to get started:
Prioritize your rooms based on which rooms you see first and/or spend the most time in. For me, this would be the entryway, the library, dining room and main living room. But maybe for you, you spend most of the time in the kids’ play room or the master bedroom (lucky you!). Whichever rooms made this list:
Think about the way you want your room to feel and how you want to use it. Write those ideas down. Don’t worry if you can’t identify the name of the style you like – it’s not necessary. Even I don’t have a name for my decorating style. You can read all about that here
Now start Marie Kondo-ing. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a verb. Only because I said so, but it’s a verb. Identify things in your room that bring you joy and especially the ones that DON’T. You don’t literally need to handle each item, nor do you need to say thank you (or maybe you do – you decide), but make another list of the things you know you definitely want to keep and the things that you definitely want to toss. And if you don’t want to make a list, then make a pile of the things you want to toss and immediately load them into your car for give away.
Now that some items are gone, it’s time to make a plan. This is not the time to go shopping. I repeat…this is NOT the time to go shopping.
Making a plan can take some time and if it doesn’t, you’ll probably end up in the same boat you’ve been in for years. Trust me. I like Pinterest for plan making, but magazines and a file folder work just as well. Try HGTV Magazine, House Beautiful, or Better Homes and Gardens as a starting point if you’re using magazines.
While on Pinterest or using magazines, start identifying the rooms like yours that you like. Did you choose a living room for step 2? You should be looking at pictures of living rooms. What is it about those rooms that keep drawing you in? Are there any similarities between the pictures you’ve pinned or cut? You don’t need to speak fluent designer for this process. Maybe identifying “I like the colors” or “I like the couches” will be enough.
WARNING! This is the part where I caution you about Pinterest and magazines. Even though these are the very tools I’m encouraging you to use to plan out your space, it’s really easy to be drawn in by the pictures and to mis-identify your actual space as the one in the pictures. This step right here is where it might be helpful to remind yourself the realities of your physical space and repeatedly say to the photos you’re using as inspiration, “This is not my home. This is not my home.” Or, better yet, this might be the time to call in reinforcements in the form of a decorator. Here’s a rea-life story to explain why Pinterest can be a trap:
I encourage my clients to use Pinterest all the time and in the same ways as the steps above. One client was drawn to white: walls, trim, carpet, furniture, curtains, pillows, blankets. The only variants in the room were small doses of wood for the accent tables and legs of the armchairs. The pictures were beautiful! The client’s space: brown. Walls, carpet, trim, doors, couches, armchairs, accent tables. If there was a shade of brown, she had it. When I pointed out that all of the pictures that she was drawn to had various shades and tones of white and that the starting point in her home was brown, she was shocked! She didn’t see it for herself. I assured her that the white look could be accomplished, but with a little more work than she was hoping or expecting. Nothing daunting and certainly with some DIY it could be accomplished, but when it came time to talk ‘plan of attack’ the thought of a white carpet frightened her. She had dogs and kids. The idea of a white couch was terrifying because they often had movie snacks (including wine) while lounging. The idea that painting the walls and the trim white would mean not stopping in the living room, but would need to contine throughout the house was intimidating. She fell into the beautiful picture trap and, although those photos were absolutely lovely, they weren’t reality for her lifestyle, her home and the goals she had for decorating. The Pinterest Trap.
9. If you know that you haven’t fallen into the Pinterest Trap and are ready to proceed on your own, keep planning. Have you thought about your budget for the room? How realistic is it? Is your budget a monthly budget or one lump sum? You’d be surprised at how reasonable the advice from a decorator can be (especially if you’ve already done the above hard work) – is that within the budget?
10. Know how much space you’re working with. Do you know how big of a couch you can put in your space? How many accent chairs will be enough or too many? How about a rug? What size should that be? Measuring your space and drawing out a furniture placement plan will help.
11. Start browsing. I suggest browsing on-line and making yet another list. Do you need a couch? Browse for couches similar in style to the ones in the pictures you pinned or cut. Where are they from and how much do they cost? Don’t forget to read the reviews and the return policy (critical!). Do this for all the items you’d like for your room. Is a holiday coming up? Chances are there’s a sale that will come along with it.
12. Can you find any of those items in person to look and feel? Go check them out. Are there any stores that you LOVE shopping in? Go, wander, take a seat and bring all of your notes so you know how to proceed.
You CAN do it, but if any of that sounds daunting, intimidating and tedious…guess what?! That’s what decorators do and generally nerd-out doing! I can’t speak for all of them, just myself, but the tighter the budget the more fun! The more help in DIY form a client is willing to give, the better! The more I can collaborate on a project with the person(s) actually living in the home, the happier everyone will be! Whatever the route is that works best for you to turn your house into a home you love, just START! You’ll be so glad you did!