Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Being You, All The Way.

Isn't it funny - the obvious things we have trouble noticing? The lessons we hear spoken in cliches and quotes and we think, "Yep, that sounds right," - but until we realize it for ourselves, it doesn't sink in?

I had a moment like that recently.

The boys and I had a playdate with some friends from school, and because of the weather we got together at their home. We had a really great time chatting and having fun together, and the boys loved playing with all kinds of new toys. I genuinely like their family and enjoyed getting to know them better, so I hope that what I say next doesn't sound like I think otherwise. It's just that, beneath the enjoyment and connection we had with them, I felt a little - no, a lot, insecure.

Their home was gorgeous. It was huge, very organized, well-decorated, and very new. It was part of a new development of homes that still smelled like new drywall and hadn't yet collected decades of dust and wear. All the furnishings looked like they were purchased new and they all coordinated and flowed flawlessly. And when I left, there was something that stuck with me for a couple days - I couldn't shake it.

I'm not 100% sure what the feeling was. Insecurity? Yes. But maybe also...Jealousy? Less-than-ness? Intimidation? All of the above?

I knew there is no way we could afford a home like that - not now or in the next decade - but I was suddenly feeling like my family didn't measure up. Is that the type of home my son's peers all grow up in? Am I cultivating a home environment that is far inferior to his classmates?

When we lived in Charlotte, these developments were commonplace. That's where everyone lived. And housing was not only more affordable, property taxes were a small fraction of what they are here in NY. People our age, that were just starting their families and beginning their careers could afford homes like those, so they were more normal - almost every playdate we went to was in a home like that. We even lived in one! Well, sort of. We were in one of those new pop-up developments, but our home was one of the more run-down houses - it was used as a rental for many years before we moved in. We put down fresh carpet, added new tile to the bathrooms, bought new appliances, and put paint on every wall, but that was the extent of the renovations we could afford. It was still very nice, and A LOT more house than we have now, but we were barely "in" with everyone else.

Now we live in a really tiny ranch with three teeny tiny bedrooms and microscopic closets. We've only had a fully functional kitchen for 18 months - it was basically an RV set up in here when we moved in. The yard, finished basement, and school district make it more than worth it, but this is what we were able to do when we essentially had to start over.

Here's the truth: A big, brand new home like that sounds like a great idea. It seems like it would be easier to keep clean and organized, and the house itself is nice enough that it doesn't need a lot of stuff or work or decor. But I would get bored. After a while, I'd be itching to fill it with color and florals and polka dots and lace. I would never be able to keep it in it's fancy, well put-together state. It would be flooded and splashed with craft supplies and projects in no time.

So the day after the playdate, I stood in my kitchen, arms crossed, laying my eyes on the piles of works in progress I've collected, and I realized something incredibly obvious.

It's not about working to be something you perceive to be better, but being the best version of yourself.

When we first bought this house, I saw the potential to make it really cute and cozy, but it's been hard to piece it together. Finding the time and money for renovations and projects is really tough when you've got three little ones. We have completed some big projects, though. We replaced carpeting, painted everything, totally renovated the kitchen, resurfaced the basement floor, and added a few decorations and pieces of furniture here and there. But I've never fully invested myself into this house. And THAT is the real point.

And it instantly became obvious to me that worrying about my kids growing up in a home unlike their peers isn't worth my time. What is, however, is creating the environment that suits us as we are, all the way. What's important is showing them what it's like to love and care for their home in a way that loves and cares for the family that lives inside it.

That sounds like a really confusing theory, but it makes sense to me. If a home is loved to its full potential, it will ooze love back into our environment.

I thought back to our Charlotte house, when I was proud of my home. I always took pictures of it and relished the chance to share it with visitors. But that house - the way I loved it - I was trying to be something I wasn't. I was trying to make my home act as a billboard that said, "We fit in with you!"  Even the paint colors I chose were just, popular and neutral. It wasn't until I decided to renovate the bathroom that I infused some of myself into that house. I chose a gorgeous deep purple for the walls and a Nicole Miller damask shower curtain. I hung black and white photos of flowers that I took myself, and bought new towels and candles to fill the room with. So many people commented on how pretty it was, but I was almost embarrassed by it. And that's kind of the point, I think - I'm a creative person, but I'm afraid to let people see too much of it. I'm scared of the criticism that can potentially come with creating something. Letting people see my creations, even in just the decorations of a room, felt very exposing. (I realize how ridiculous that is - I didn't say it makes sense!)

I'm constantly finding myself stuck beneath glass ceilings that I installed myself.

I guess you could say, against popular opinion, I took some chances in this house. I put that same deep purple front and center in my dining room. And I painted my bathroom a screaming shade of aqua back when it was the Pantone color of 2010. (Did you know the color scheme of my blog is based on 2014's Pantone color? Well, it is ;)

But beyond those risks (that are met with mixed reviews - most people love my purple dining room, others are not as fond of my bathroom), I haven't done a whole lot. I haven't filled our small, cozy space with all the love I have for it.


When we were at our playdate, one of my very first thoughts upon walking in their home was, "OH gosh, I can never return the favor and invite them over to our house after seeing this!"  But - why?

Embarrassment? Again?

Probably. But if I was properly loving my home, I wouldn't have anything to be embarrassed about.


I'm not even talking about keeping it clean. I've already got a mostly-functional cleaning schedule (that, admittedly, has been hard to keep up with during the as-it-comes relaxed flow of our Summer days). What I mean is - I have dreams and plans for every room in the house that have been put on the "someday" list for years. YEARS! I half-heartedly hung some picture frames on our living room wall - and not even all of them had photos in them! It was kind of a running joke with Matt, and regular visitors. They'd say "that is my favorite picture of Henry!"  Har-har. ;)

Making the decision to love your home is step one. Check.

But now - what's my style?

As I already pointed out, my previous home was kind of mimicking popular style with a little bit of me splashed here and there. Only enough to make me smile but not invite too much criticism. I'm over that.

I took a style quiz in the book House Beautiful Style 101: 400 Designer Secrets to a Beautiful Home and it said I was a mix of "The New Ruralist" and "The Accessorator". Whatever that means!

I don't know if my personal style has a name, or even a combination of names. I sometimes refer to it as "Eclectic Crafty Thrift-Store-Feminine Shabby (with a touch of Granny/Cottage/Farm) Chic." That's a mouthful.

Here's what I've realized about my taste over recent years:

♥ I love color. Bright, sunny, bold, happy colors. Neutrals need not apply.

♥ Typical decorating tips and books don't seem to apply to what I like.

♥ My heart flutters over seeing handmade pieces, crafted decor, and items that represent the members of my family and our love and traditions.

♥ I feel the most longing and inspiration from seeing homes in the Home Made Lovely series than anywhere else. No thanks, HGTV!

♥ I always knew I loved pink, but I didn't realize I felt just as strongly about aqua, lilac, pale yellow, and powdery blue.

♥ I really, really REALLY adore florals.

♥ I'm also drawn to lace, doilies, polka dots, contrasting pastels, plants, and anything that brings the outdoors inside.

♥ I think if I had the supplies, time, and permission, I would put a garland on everything. EVERYTHING.

So what do you call that? It doesn't need a name, I'm just curious. ;)

I've been working hard at creating pieces to fit my vision for my home, and it's because of this whole playdate situation. It woke me up to something I needed to see - to feel. If my house wasn't in a permanent half-way state, then it wouldn't be so embarrassing to invite others over. Leaving it all unfinished is confusing to guests. But pulling things all together, even if my home is totally different from theirs, could be beautiful and inspiring.

And I'd like to cut myself a little slack. I've been raising babies with a commitment to attachment parenting, and that's no easy task. Who has time to decorate when you're busy spending months at a time in a rocking chair with a nursing baby? I certainly didn't. And I'm happy that I didn't - as I'll never, ever get those moments back. But now, with my babies getting older, napping on their own, going to school, and developing their own interests - it's time to love on my home a bit more.

Last week I shared a super simple craft with you that I used as decor in my kitchen, and tomorrow - I've got something BIG to share with you. It's one of the biggest projects I've tackled since the kitchen renovations, and I did it all in a single weekend. That kind of hard work (with gorgeous results) was SO rewarding - I can't wait to share it with you!

Here's a sneak peek ;)

I know that without a "ah-ha" moment of your own, simple lessons like this are hard to fully realize, but I hope that this post inspires you to pick up that can of spray paint, or pull out your sewing machine, or take a trip to the thrift store to see what you can find. Don't hold back. Turn your home into a place that makes you smile for a whole new reason every time you turn a corner. Make it so YOU, all the way, that the idea of sharing it with guests makes your belly flop.

And enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. ♥

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