How to Avoid Self Doubt & Burn Out While Decorating Your Place
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
Decorating your place from scratch or kicking off a refresh can be daunting. This week I was helping a client do just that and even though I have been doing this professionally for years, I still fell into the social media scrolling hamster wheel of doom. I ran mindlessly through beautiful washed out photos of curated rooms, each more impressive and extravagant than the last. It left me doubting my original concept, confused, and forgetting what my original priorities had been.
Whether you’re starting from scratch with a large budget or looking to freshen up your artwork and decor affordably there is a much better way to begin your project. In order to set up the space you want without burning out and doubting yourself endlessly along the way I recommend turning off social media and kicking off your project with a few very intentional exercises.
Seeing so much excess, waste and consumerism marketed to us on our screens each day is a wake up call to the importance of living as simply as possible and rebelling against the cultural pressure to make your space fit a new trend (which conveniently changes with each season). Despite what fast fashion culture would have you and I believe, the key to creating a space that is intentional, beautiful and uniquely yours is to strip away the excess in order to focus on the beauty in your essentials. Start out by establishing your intentions.
Beginning with a clear mind and intention is key. Answer the following prompts and keep your responses close by to help guide your decisions as your project progresses. Rephrase these as you’d like so they resonate with you.
1. How do you want to feel in the space? What do you want to do there?
Ex. I need a space to chill and take time for myself after a long day of work or classes I want my space to feel welcoming and fun, a place where I can get together with my favorite people.
2. What do you care about/ What causes do you support?
Ex. I try to live sustainably, minimally and with as little waste as possible I support slow design, ethical, equitable, and local businesses I make most decisions based on how it impacts my health and wellness
Find beauty in the essentials
Now that you know what your goals are, focus on the essentials first and foremost. The following four must haves are key to any space, and where you’ll want to focus your energy and budget first if they are not already in place. After you have these essentials, wait two weeks before adding in anything else such as side tables, nightstands, storage, lamps, decor, etc. If you still feel like you need an item after two weeks living without, go for it.
Quality mattress, pillows & linens, organic if possible
2. Work/ eat
A table & chairs will suffice for both if you’re on a tight budget. If you’d prefer separate spaces for each, sit stand desks and DIY tutorials are both easy to find online.
If you haven’t found a killer lounge & sofa yet, movies in bed are great for the short term!
4. Live well
Houseplants are a must. They lower your blood pressure, clean your air, fill your space with color, texture and warmth. In addition use your own photographs, dried local flowers, pottery and baskets to start adding art & life to your space
If you are shopping for any of these items, be sure you stick to the intentions you set for yourself. For example if one of your intentions was to prioritize good times with your favorite people, think about what you like to do together and what you might need in your space to facilitate it. An oversized wood table and mismatched chairs will add chill vibes, warmth and character to your space, making it great for dinner parties. A large and loungey sectional will make your room perfect for movie nights, etc.
In addition to making the space fit your lifestyle, setting up your place is an opportunity to select materials and products which embody your ideals, as you thought through in the intention exercise. For example if in your intentions you noted that sustainability is important to you, look for sustainably sourced and certified wood products, reclaimed materials or shop second hand. If supporting slow design, ethical and equitable manufacturers is important to you, seek out local makers, fair trade and ethically made resources online. If you care about the health implications on you and your people only support manufacturers who use healthy materials and are transparent about their ingredients and processes.
If you aren’t finding these types of items from your favorite stores, reach out and ask why they are not offering them. Current legislative policies in the home goods industry are seriously lacking... Until these policies are geared at protecting people and planet, it’s worth asking for the types of products you’re not seeing, especially if you’re sourcing from small shops looking for a competitive edge. (New Collective offers free online tools to guide you to manufacturers like these if you need additional assistance).
Just like the food we put into our body should fuel us (and yes, soft pretzels with mustard fuel me and I will eat them until the day I die), the materials you live with in your space should ideally have a positive impact on you, the planet and the person who made them. Wherever possible they should be natural and durable enough to last for many years to come.
Surrounding yourself with natural materials is a subconscious reminder that we are a part of a larger natural world that we rely on and need to support. Even if only understood subconsciously, studies show that this subtle connection to nature has the power to boost our well being, calm us, help us focus, be more productive, even speed up how long it takes us to recover from illnesses.
There are so many ways to surround yourself with natural, durable materials and take advantage of these great benefits. Here are just a few:
Wood, cane or wicker furniture and artwork
cotton or linen drapes
wool, jute, or sisal area rugs
wool, silk, or cotton pillows
stone vases or coasters
house plants in ceramic or clay pots
nature photography, fresh or dried flowers, artwork featuring plants
wool throws and tapestries
natural woven baskets
light and bright wall colors to bring in as much daylight as possible
The moral of the story is to avoid comparing your space to your social media feed. Social media can be a great tool to inspire you but if used too early it will send you spiraling. Instead, set your intentions early and focus on finding beauty in your essentials. Essential products that are natural and have a beautiful story behind them will bring soul to your space and help you feel confident about your decisions. In addition, the intentionality of this approach is a reminder to slow down, bring your ideals into your space wherever you can, prioritize experiences over stuff and appreciate artisans and their craft. For me, and I hope for you, this approach helps create a space that is uniquely me and welcoming to all the folks with whom I share it.
Thank you and a huge shoutout to the very talented photographers who created the photographs in this blog post: