Y’all know very well that last year was an incredibly unproductive year for me. Looking back, I have a hard time even pinpointing one project that I did on my house that actually has staying power. I’m sure there’s at least one, but I’d have to go back through old posts to find it because nothing comes to mind.
I mostly remember lots of doing, then doing over, then doing over again, and finally scrapping the project altogether and moving on to something else and repeating that whole frustrating process. I remember a lot of time and money spent with pretty much nothing to show for it at the end of the year.
We’re not even 1/3rd of the way through this year, and already it feels so much different to me. I’m enjoying the process of DIYing and decorating my home again. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. And most importantly, I’m making progress. Real, actual progress.
So what made the difference? Well, first of all, it took a change of mindset, followed by a few practical changes.
I returned to what I love.
We all hear the phrase quite a bit, “You have to force yourself out of your comfort zone.” That may be true in some areas of life, but the one area where that’s not true is your home.
If nothing else, your home should be the very representation of your comfort zone. It should be filled with the colors and things that bring you comfort. Your home should be your sanctuary from the crazy world that lies just outside those walls. There’s absolutely no reason at all to force yourself outside of your comfort zone when decorating your own home.
Last year, based on one comment from someone that made me feel embarrassed and ashamed, I forced myself out of my comfort zone. And then I proceeded to waste an entire year trying to force myself to decorate my home in a way that just wasn’t me. I finally realized that I was having such a hard time because I had abandoned what I love, so last fall, I changed directions. This year, I will unashamedly fill my home with the blues, greens, and blue-greens that I love and that make me feel calm, peaceful, and energized at the same time.
I’ve decided that when it comes to my home, the very best place to be is standing right inside my comfort zone.
I learned to make lists — reasonable lists.
I’ve always been a list maker and goal setter, but in the past, I’ve actually gotten more satisfaction in the process of making the list than I did out of crossing things off of the list. I loved to sit and make a loooooong list of things that I needed to do, and then I might not even look at the list again after that.
I know. It’s odd. I just really liked the act of writing lists. 😀 And I would always end up with super long lists filled with completely unreasonable goals that could never get done in the amount of time I had.
This year, I’ve actually discovered the excitement of not only making reasonable to do lists, but also of actually following through, getting the things done within the amount of time I’ve allowed, and crossing things off of that list. I’m not so married to the lists that I’ll be devastated if I don’t achieve all of my goals, but it’s just nice to be able to refer to that list each day, see my accomplishments, see where I might need to make changes in my schedule in order to optimize my time, and actually see things getting crossed off of the list.
I’m learning to limit my options.
This is still a lesson I’m learning, so I can’t yet put it in the “lessons learned” column. But I think I’m getting a bit better with each passing day. The fact is that the more options we have, the more overwhelming the decision making will be.
When I used to do client work, one thing I learned immediately is that options have to be limited. If we were choosing a wallpaper for a room, I would bring three options to my clients. Just three. That was it. Three options were manageable. If I gave them more than that, it became too much. And I never, ever, EVER took clients to the wallpaper store with me to look through the 100+ wallpaper books. That would have been so completely overwhelming, and no progress would have ever been made.
Obviously, I don’t limit my own options to only three. On my kitchen cabinet color, I tried probably 20 different colors, and maybe more. But I did limit myself by telling myself, “I’m starting on these cabinets on this date, and if I can’t make a decision by that date, then I’m going with this color.” At some point, the decisions have to be made and the work has to start.
In my breakfast room, I started out looking for “the perfect table” online, when I have four perfectly good dining tables sitting in my sunroom and garage. So I put a stop to my searching and forced myself to choose from what I already had on hand. And it’s done. If I had given myself all of the options online, I’d probably still be looking for “the perfect table.”
I’m learning that perfection is the enemy of progress.
I’m a perfectionist, and we perfectionists are our own worst enemies. Perfectionism can be crippling. That goal of perfectionism causes us to never be satisfied and never be finished. It can also cause us to never get started, and to continually remain in the “planning” phase of the project. As long as we’re planning and planning and planning, we convince ourselves that we’re making progress even when we’re not.
And yes, that continual quest for perfectionism is the enemy of progress. This is something that some of you told me repeatedly last year, and initially I thought, “How ridiculous! Perfection is a good thing!”
The main problem with perfection is that it’s completely unobtainable. So if that’s the goal, it’ll never be reached, and you’ll spend your life on a hamster wheel getting absolutely nowhere.
The main lesson that I’ve learned is that abandoning the goal of perfection doesn’t mean abandoning quality. I still do my best to do quality work, but I’m learning to be okay with imperfection.
Rather than spending a month fretting over my unlevel ceiling in the breakfast room, hiring the drywall guys to come back out, rip down drywall, shim the joists, and reinstall drywall to make sure that it’s level and that my crown moulding will all be perfectly level with the rest of the trim, I instead tell myself, “Well, it’s an old house. Things are going to be unlevel, and that’s just part of the charm of an old house.”
Believe me, trying to convince myself that an unlevel ceiling and trim is charming wasn’t easy. I was convinced for a while that it was going to totally destroy the final look of my breakfast room. I did fret over it, and try to come up with solutions (remember my window valance idea in an effort to disguise the unlevel trim?). But in the end, I made myself get over it and move on, and now I don’t even notice it.
I’m allowing myself to redo projects…later.
I’m the queen of the do-over, and while I’m generally okay with that, I’m really trying to limit my do-overs this year by telling myself that it doesn’t have to be done now.
I don’t just love my breakfast room table. I really would like to get a new table. But there’s no reason it has to be done right now. The table I have now is good enough, and will be perfectly functional for the rest of this year as I focus on other projects and other rooms. Spending time now obsessing over the imperfections of it, and searching for the perfect table, will only distract me from my bigger goals. So I’ve made a deal with myself that I can come back to it later. Once I’ve achieved my goals for this year, and have all of the main areas of my house decorated, I can go back and make tweaks here and there. I can change the color of this, or buy a new such-and-such for over there. But for now, my goal is forward momentum without obsessing over the details. I can come back later and tweak the details.
It has been a great year so far. A growing year. A year of self-revelation and learning self-discipline. I’ve got a long way to go before I conquer some of these bad habits and old mindsets that I’ve nurtured for so much of my life, but I think I’m off to a good start this year. Only time will tell, though. It’ll be interesting to reach the end of this year and look back and see just how well I did.
I know just from comments and emails that some of you have left/sent that some of you struggle with some of these same things, whether it’s your perfectionism that never lets you be satisfied with a completed project, your inability to make reasonable to do lists, or the inability to make a decision because of the 1000 options you’ve allowed yourself to consider. I’m here to tell you that the excitement of progress feels so freeing compared to the weight of perfectionism, unreasonable to do lists, and 1000’s of options.
Let’s all make this the year we give ourselves a break, get things finished, and revel in our accomplishments at the end of the year.