I’m not waiting for the next house.

I’m not waiting for the next house.

I had a little meltdown back in February about the state of our old house.

I suddenly realized—after living in that house for more than a decade—how little I’d actually done to make it mine. We’d done a lot of fixing up, but there was so much I hadn’t done to that house. When it came to shaping the space I wanted to live in, I kept waiting for that moment when I would know exactly what step to take next, what style I wanted to pursue.

That moment never came. Because I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to end up, I didn’t even begin.

Stupid perfectionism.

I was so disappointed when I realized what I’d done. I didn’t even realize I’d been waiting.

paint-colors

But then a couple of things happened.

• The Nester’s book came out a few weeks after I had my revelation, with its anthem of “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” It helped reinforce what I’d already realized: that you hone your style by experimenting, learning from your hits and misses. In theory, I believe in failing forward. It was time to apply that concept to my home.

• We were house hunting this spring, and ended up finding something much quicker than we expected, while my regrets about the old house were fresh.

• Then the universe gave me another kick in the pants when we moved out of our old place.  We were dismayed by how many projects we had to wrap up to make it renter-ready. One painful example: almost ten years ago we installed ceramic tile in the kitchen, creating a one-inch height difference between it and the adjoining living room. I’ve been minding people to “watch the step” for ten years.

After we moved out, Will put in a little transitional piece that eliminates the tripping hazard and makes it look a million times better. It cost twenty bucks and took less than an hour.

What had we been waiting for?

We’ve been in the new house a little over a month now. (When I say “new house” I mean new to us. It was built in 1960 and has lots of deferred maintenance.)

We want to live in it for a few months before we make any huge changes (like, the kitchen), but we’re getting to work on the basics immediately.

fairy-door-2

First, the fairy door. I did this the day we moved in.

twinkle-lights

Because it was spring, we tackled outdoor stuff next: planting jasmine on the arbor and hanging the twinkle lights. (And digging out the poison ivy. Ugh.) With lovely landscaping and no boxes in sight, the patio is the best room in the house right now.

cornices

Choosing paint colors came next. I love painting: it’s cheap and easy and instantly gratifying. I’m terrible at picking colors, but thankfully I have friends who are geniuses with a fan deck.

I rolled a few samples to hone in on the right shades (with lots of feedback from friends with good taste). I painted the living room last week (after taking down those cornices—another no-brainer), the dining room over the weekend, and I hope to finish the family room today.

I’m not sure exactly what the next step is: we need to find a few foundational pieces and rearrange the living room. We need to pick accent colors. We need to make a giant IKEA run.

I’m not terribly decisive about stuff like this. (Who am I kidding? I’m not terribly decisive about anything.) But it’s not stressing me out anymore. I’m just happy to be doing something to make this space ours.

And this house feels a little more like home every day.

Now excuse me, I have an accent chair to go pick up.

Encouragement, commiseration, tips, and warnings welcome in comments. 

P.S. Stop waiting for the next house, and slow design for a fast age.

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40 comments

  1. Abby says:

    We’ve been in our house for about 8 years and 6 months ago was the first time I’d hung family pictures on the wall. We bought a former rental house, so everything was beige. I was very proactive about some of the painting projects, bedrooms were finished before we moved in. And not so quick on others; our kitchen was painted about 5 years ago, but the daunting task of 16 ft ceilings in the living room has kept me from working on that just yet. (I think I’m waiting until I have a teenager to give me a hand, and next summer I’ll have one.) I have this idea that one day my children will be old enough that I don’t have to worry about the house being destroyed, then I can try to make my house pretty. At 9 and 12, I’m not sure they’ll ever reach that age, I don’t even think my hubby has reached that age yet.

  2. Jen says:

    It’s funny, I’m extremely indecisive about almost everything, except decorating my house! I think it’s because I just love color, and most of our projects have been pretty low budget. Don’t wait to make your bedroom feel like it’s yours, since it’s the last thing you see when you go to bed and the first thing you see when you wake up, it will go a long way toward making you feel at home. 🙂
    Love the patio lights! That is one area of our home that I would like to add a little comfort and personality to!

  3. kimmie says:

    We’ve been here too many years. I always played it safe on decor. And my mom “talked” me into tooooooo many things. Like a wallpaper border that is a pain in my booty as I try to remove it. And the dark color in my living room that makes the room warm but also dreary in the afternoon. SO. This summer, we’re hitting the kitchen AND living room. Brighter. And beachy!

  4. Rebecca says:

    We have only been in our house for a year and I have come to realize I am just a slow mover. I do have a particular look I like and I won’t buy or use something unless I enjoy it. My mother in law moved in her house and within two days it was looking like she had lived there for years. Seeing her pictures inspired me to get moving a little quicker. The thing is, is even if you are thrifty with your home purchases, it still takes money and sometimes I would just rather buy books. 🙂

  5. Jennifer says:

    I have done much to my house (condo) that we have been in for 11 years. No paint, no change in floors, no real wall art (I put up some things I had from the previous house where there were existing nail holes – some of it doesn’t even match anything). The only thing I have done to make it “mine” is change out the pulls on all the cabinets and add curtains/valances to all the windows. And I’m with Rebecca – I’d rather buy books!

  6. Anne says:

    I love the decisiveness of the post title! Go, Anne! How does it feel?

    I can so relate. When we first bought our house, I looked at design books (and enjoyed them) but got overwhelmed. I was very much “first the paint, then the furniture, then the lighting” etc. The YHL idea of phases or Nester’s go with it/make it yours now philosophy would’ve been pooh-poohed. I sure feel differently now!

    But what chair were you linking to?? 🙂 It only goes to a general World Market chair page.

  7. This sounds just like me! There was a list of stuff that I knew I wanted to do to the house as soon as we moved in three years ago. I crossed that stuff off the to-do list but minus the deck we built, we are at a stand-still. Thanks for the motivation to get moving! 🙂

  8. Mimi says:

    I can so relate to this post. We just put our house on the market and did so many little spruce-up fixes that would have made living there for 6 years more enjoyable, including painting, updating bright brass fixtures and even new appliances!

  9. Molly says:

    We are looking at houses now and hopefully will be in a place of our own within the next 12 months. As we are in a rental now there is little we can do to personalize it. As I go through various houses I am finding myself noting what I would change to make the space mine.

  10. I completely understand your indecisive feelings about the house! 🙂 My husband and I were married 3 years ago, and I moved into his home that he had had as a single guy for about 10 years! We have similar taste, (and I consider myself very inept at decor decorating), so I pretty much left everything as it was, with the exception of a few things hung on the walls, and my piles of books. 🙂 We just moved into a new house the first week of June, and while we LOVE it, I’m feeling overwhelmed at the decorating ahead of us! I’m SO grateful the Nester’s new book came out when it did! It’s my favorite (and only!) read on home decor, and I’m trying to implement her design ideas into our new home. So far, we’ve found a crazy cheap rug for the family room, and I’ve found some great odds and ends bargains at Home Goods. We slowly but surely moving in, and I’m taking tiny steps daily toward settling in. Really enjoyed this post! (and love your fairy door!) I actually was inspired by the Nester, and Edie at LifeinGrace blog, and found a cheap white plaster Greek bust head that I’m going to paint and put in my bedroom or study. (future blog post for sure! 🙂 I would never have had the courage to try a $14.99 design risk before reading that book! Love reading your blog as always – I’m always inspired at the volume of posts you write – I read it daily! Thanks Anne! 🙂

  11. We’re getting ready to move too, and I’ve been taking stock of this kind of thing. What should I have done earlier with this house? What should I have let simmer longer? I’m awash with ideas, but not plans. Yet. 😉

  12. Catie says:

    My husband is the same way–he needs the perfect setting to get started on something. I used to be more like that, but have gotten better, mostly out of necessity. (Read: having 3 children.)

    And, you have to show us more pictures!!!!!! 🙂

  13. Kelty says:

    OH! so true! I’m trying to live that now.
    I’ve repeatedly asked my sister, who always has an artistically inspired house, how she does it. “I just buy stuff that I like,” she would say. For many years that didn’t make sense to me (which sounds completely dumb) but it’s finally starting to sink in. A home filled with the things that we love will be beautiful to us and that’s all that matters. Also, there’s no reason to rush that, or buy crap accessories just because I think I’m supposed to like them. (which is often what I try to do, to rush the process.)

    And, agreed with the rest! Would love to see more pics on how this works itself out in your home.

  14. There are a few things I’d like to do around the house. The other adult living here would be perfectly happy with a bare lightbulb hanging over a single folding chair. I think my delaying issue is thinking I should confer with him, but I probably don’t need to.

    • Brittany says:

      Laura, I know EXACTLY how you feel! My husband had a Snuggie as his bedroom curtains for the 2 years he was in the house before we were married. smh. Currently trying to get him to appreciate how the small changes improve the feel and comfort of our house with the hopes that I can convince him to help me with the big things! But you’re right, I need to not rely so heavily on him or care too much about what he’ll think, especially since he’d be happy with pretty much anything. 🙂

  15. Brittany says:

    Oh man. I am so there right now. There are so many projects I want to do, I don’t know which one to start first. On top of being on a tight budget, and not really knowing how long we are going to be staying in this house. Thanks for the motivation/kick in the butt! 🙂

  16. Bonnie says:

    It sounds like you identified easily the little fixes you needed to do to rent your house out. So, what about doing that? Every month you could make a list of little things you would do if were renting the house out see what you tackle given the time you have available. Maybe treating yourself like you are your own customer (so to speak) would give you the distance you need to see clearly what would make the house more pleasurable.

  17. wendy says:

    Just FYI in case your poison ivy comes back – I have had good luck with pouring boiling water on it. Thanks for this post. I am in the same shoes, old house, ten years, shoulda coulda woulda. I have started too.

  18. Erin says:

    This struck a chord this morning because as my husband rolled on paint in our bedroom I was reading this post! And I took it as a timely confirmation that his labor ( and paint streaked hands and achy back) were not in vain:)
    I read The Nester’s book and that’s why there was painting happening here today. Your very timely post added the extra inspiration we needed to get through the day!
    Thank you!

  19. Becki says:

    I envy anyone who gets to stay in a place for more than a couple years. I’m ready to have a place of our own…only 8 more years! I wish I had more of an eye to have items that I could throw in a room and they would look amazing. I just hate the idea of being able to paint, but then having to paint again back to original colors when moving out (lots of our rentals have had this, as well as all military housing).

  20. Guest says:

    We learned this lesson also from our first house. We had only been married a few months when we bought it and we had to do several big update to make it livable. After that, we didn’t do much at all even though we loved the house and knew there were things we wanted to change. Just like you, we did a number of them when we were putting it on the market and I actually cried because I was so disappointed we hadn’t done them earlier. My big lesson learned? If we really want it and/or, we would do it if we sold, do it NOW.

  21. Angie says:

    Oh my goodness I do that too! We’ve been putting off our kitchen remodel because why spend the money when we could put it off until “the next house”. Five years later and we still HATE our kitchen and show no signs of moving! I feel your pain and I’m glad you’re working past it. Oh….and just finished The Nester’s book…..AWESOME! It’s so inspiring! Thanks so much for this post!

  22. Lisa B says:

    My husband and I bought a small starter home right after we got engaged. It was built in the 50s and needed a lot of updating. We spent 6 months renovating before we moved in. We continued to work on the house but some things never got finished. After renovating the kitchen, baseboard never got installed, converting the breezeway into a laundry room/den was a 60% completed project. After living there for 8 years (3 years longer than our original intent), and when we weren’t even looking, we found our dream home. Since we weren’t really looking, our current home was nowhere near ready to go on the market. With the help of my parents, we were able to get all of the little things done and the house staged and ready for listing in 2 weeks. I vowed to never again let those 8 year 10 minute projects linger. Since we moved into our dream home 2 years ago, we have conquered every project as soon as we decided on it. Why wait and fix it up for someone else? We live here, we should get to enjoy it!

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