How I Decorate Slowly (and why I do it!)

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It’s been five months since I shared my mood board inspiration for leveling up the living room. It’s been four months since I painted the walls white. It’s been two months since we installed the sconces . . . and nothing much has happened since. In terms of speed, this room transformation is practically glacial.

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve slowed down on the pace of home projects around here lately. This was a choice I made very intentionally for a few reasons, and I can honestly say it’s been such a healthy decision for me and my family. Today I wanted to take a minute to just talk about why I’ve moved to a more sustainable pace and how I approach slowly transforming my home.

One big reason I’ve slowed down is: money. The vast majority of our projects up to this point have been on the smaller scale. I’ve gotten creative with finding ways to transform a space with a small budget: stenciling instead of wallpaper, upgrading thrifted furniture, painting cabinets, painting countertops, etc and we’ve done the large majority of work ourselves. Now we’re looking ahead to hiring out some bigger projects in the next year or two, so we’re quicker to save money and slower to spend on smaller projects.

Another, probably obvious, reason I’ve slowed down lately is due to time. I have three kids, so life is full! I’ve learned I can take advantage of nap time and preschool and yes, their daily allotted screen time to get things done. I can work late at night or wake up early in the morning. I’m good at finding ways to squeeze in projects but also, I don’t want to spend all my time on projects. I’m so aware of how fast these years are going and have been working really hard to strike a healthy balance of life and projects.

A great example happened this past weekend: we had a gloriously empty calendar where nothing was planned for anyone in our family. It was the perfect opportunity to update the kids’ bedroom dresser. It was also the perfect opportunity for some quality family time. We landed on a best-of-both-worlds solution: for our family, we chose a Saturday family adventure day (science museum, lunch, walking to a bakery for a special treat) and Sunday afternoon campfire (popcorn + smores!) together.

For ourselves, Justin played tennis with his friends Saturday morning while I played with the kids, then he took the kids in the evenings and Sunday morning before church so I could have time for the dresser. Saturday night we even had a movie-in-the-basement date night while I waited on the paint stripper to work its magic on the dresser. We both got time away for hobbies that energize us AND we got quality family time and couple time together. True, the dresser could’ve been completed if I buckled down and said no to all the other things, but that’s not healthy for anyone in my family. We’re ALL much happier with a slower project pace and a balance of time together and time on our own things.

The last reason I’m slowing down is hard to describe, but is a mixture of learning contentment and leaving space to figure out how this home can best serve our family. It takes time in a space to discover what it needs. Do I want a gallery wall here or one large piece of art? Do I want a console table here or something with storage? Learning to live with a blank wall or empty space in the meantime has been an exercise in contentment – I don’t truly need anything and I don’t want to buy things just to fill the house, so I’m okay with nothing until I find just what I want. Spending time in spaces helps me hone in on a vision and think through possibilities, and half the fun is in anticipating/dreaming/planning anyways. Just recently I decided that eventually, I’m going to swap the dining room and playroom. Not now, because our current setup is working in this season, but long-term, the switch will make more sense for us. It takes time to let my mind wander and think through these possibilities. In the meantime, I’m learning to be content with my house as is and let me tell you, there’s joy to be found in that contentment too.

So how have I been approaching a slower, more intentional way of working on my home? I’ve been reflecting on this quite a bit lately and here are some of the things that come to mind:

Thrift for Budget-Friendly Items

It’s no secret that I love thrifting. Buying secondhand is sustainable for the environment and easier on the wallet – a win-win in my book. I have had great luck slowly sourcing items over the years, thrifting everything from bigger items like chairs, side tables, and dressers to smaller décor pieces like picture frames, planters, and little tchotchkes. Thrifting has allowed me to fill my home with unique items and allows me to try out different things without a big commitment. I can also hold onto items loosely – if it breaks or ends up not working in our home, it’s easier to let go of.

All that being said, thrifting is not a quick, one-click process. It took me months to find a little lamp I loved for my kitchen countertop! I try to carve out time once a week or every-other-week to pop in to a thrift store, whether I have an hour to browse or just ten minutes to glance around (if you’re not sure where to start or how to maximize a quick trip, I wrote a post about making the most of thrifting when I’m limited on time). I’ve been thrifting for items for years and over time, my home is slowly filling with items I truly love. The hunt for items that speak to me takes time and patience, but it’s so rewarding once I find a gem for our home!

Use Placeholder Items to Determine What I really Want

I bought a teal-colored accent chair for the living room in our last home and absolutely loved it there. We moved here with it and it just hasn’t translated the same way. I’ve tried it in multiple rooms and in multiple places and have come to accept it just isn’t going to be a piece I keep long-term in this home. BUT! It has been an excellent placeholder for me while I determine what I do and don’t want.

When it sat in the playroom, it helped me determine I wanted a couch instead of a chair for more seating. When it sat in my office bay window it helped affirm that space worked perfectly for a chair – and I soon thrifted my beloved yellow chair. When it sat against the stairs in our living room, it made us realize that the extra seating was nice but the placement felt odd so we’d have to find the perfect option, otherwise it’s better to have nothing there. When it sat against a small wall in our living room, it helped me determine I really needed something with a smaller profile, leading me to this $5 thrift store chair.

Now it sits in the bay window area of our living room and has confirmed we do want another chair there (just not this one). And with that, I think this chair is ready for its next home. I’m glad we kept it for so long, even when I knew it wasn’t meant for this house, because it helped us figure out what DID work here. Now that we’re filling up with things we love and that work for this house, it’s ready for its next life . . . at my sister’s house! I’ll be sure to visit 😉

Shop My House

I love shopping my home to find just the right thing for a space! This is different than a placeholder, because these are all items I use, love, and want to keep in my house. I used to get stuck in a rut with thinking one item had to stay in the place where I first put it, but I realized once I held a looser grip on arrangements, it became so much fun to see the same old items in a new way! If you want to know more about how I do this, I wrote a whole post about shopping my home.

Again, this takes a little time to walk through my home and try to look at items individually and objectively. And then obviously, when I move something to a new place, I might have a blank space where that item used to be for a while. Maybe I’ll thrift a new item for that spot, maybe I’ll find something else in my home, or maybe it will be an empty place for my eyes to rest for a bit. It’s a process!

Live with Less

It’s actually pretty refreshing to have some blank space in my home. For example, my dining room is pretty bare – just a hand-me-down table and chairs and a large blank wall – but there are perks to that. It’s super easy to clean and maintain. My kids love racing around the table and there’s space to do that. We have a nice big floor area beside the table to make messy art projects. The blank slate-like nature of the room also makes it easier to dream of the future possibilities. There’s no clutter distracting my mind and I can just breathe and imagine what it could be . . . while enjoying the freedom that comes with less for now.

I realized that living with less also helped me recognize when an item really speaks to me – if I see it in the store and it feels worth giving up the blank space for, I know it’s a good one!

Enjoy the Imperfect House

I have been craving slowness in other areas of my life and lately I’ve been leaning into leaving space for that. I love to curl up with a blanket and a good book. I love the rhythmic process of baking homemade bread. I love sitting around the table playing the 15th round of Old Maid or Go Fish (my kids are in an era of loving games and it’s so much fun!) Life is happening in this home whether it’s “finished” or not, and I have been savoring the moments I step back from the projects and just enjoy living here.

We live in an era of instant gratification (Streaming services! Same day delivery! Instant downloads!) and I think this impacts home renovations too. You can turn on HGTV and watch an entire home undergo months and months of renovations in the span of 60 minutes. Before-and-after pictures on Instagram can show you a room transformation with just a simple swipe of your finger. We’re used to the process happening quickly, or at least, being shown to us quickly, but that’s not reality. Most transformations happen slowly and I have become much happier with a slower pace.

It also feels worth ending on this clarification: my chosen pace feels slow to me, but may not feel slow to you. Previously, I was going from project to project, finishing one and jumping right in to the next. I was challenging myself to complete entire rooms in a small amount of time and I was working on big projects one after another. My current pace is much slower and is more sustainable for my life and my family; it’s a balance that works for us. What that looks like will be different for every person – maybe one space a year is all you have the capacity and resources to handle and my pace seems unsustainable. Or maybe you have the capacity and resources for one room a month and my pace seems super slow. It’s true what they say: comparison is the thief of joy. I encourage you to find a pace that feels right for YOU and enjoy how that works for your life rather than dwell on anyone else’s.

Now I’m off to keep working on my kids’ dresser – slow and steady, just the way I like it. 🙂

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