We’ve officially been in our house two years, and each year I want to do a little house tour to document how it looks right here and now, and also to talk about our latest organizing streak.
For some reason getting myself together to do this simple thing has felt like a monumental task, so I’m cheating by taking cell phone photos instead of using my nice camera, and spreading it out a bit (if nothing else because it’s impossible to keep more than one room in the house looking neat and child-free at a time).
Why do it at all?, you ask? Because it’s fun! Because I love peeking into other people’s houses! And most of all, because it makes me feel a tiny bit like I have one of my old hobbies back.
And so I give you, the living room!
It’s been fun for me to discover my decorating style and rhythm over the last few years.
When we bought our house, I had a specific vision of how I wanted it to look (paint colors, big bookshelves, etc), and over time I’ve tweaked bits and pieces. Through the process I’ve discovered the decorating philosophy that works for me, and that is to spend a season gathering ideas and working on a room, and then be done! Walk away! Stop perusing Pinterest and design blogs. Stop frequenting yard sales and the Target home section (oh how I love the Target home section!). Stop looking at my friends’ homes longingly and wishing I could totally redecorate. Refuse to gather more ideas.
Because there’s a fine line between inspiration and total paralysis. If you wonder where this line falls, remember: you are always going to find something you like better for your house. If you spend lots of time on the internet or in stores, there will always be cuter textiles and furniture paint and area rugs. That’s the reason those websites and stores exist! Trends will change, that adorable chevron throw pillow you just bought will be declared outdated, and something else will take it’s place.
That’s why I’ve found that it’s important to know what I like. Not what someone else likes; what I like (and to some extent my husband, of course). It’s also been revolutionary to read The Nesting Place and to really come to believe: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” I know when I’m finished with a room, not when it’s perfect or even complete, but when it makes me happy. Who cares if chevron is supposedly outdated? If I bought it because it made me happy rather than because it’s trendy, then I can keep it around for years without worrying about the fashion police.
Um, here’s where I’d like to point out that I have a lamp shade problem: they are always crooked. All my lamp shades. My mom brought over a lamp I adored a couple months ago and I swear from the moment it entered my home, the shade became crooked. Anyway. This is where I embrace the not-perfect.
I had “ceiling fans” on my to-do list ever since we moved in. We didn’t have one ceiling fan in the whole house. In South Carolina! So this spring we bought them for the living room and our bedroom and David’s dad kindly installed them for us. It makes this hot summer much more bearable. We hope to add them throughout the house over time.
In addition to little projects like fans, I’ve let myself stay on the look-out for a couple smaller pieces for different rooms: that old battered Coke bottle crate from a great flea market in Florence where my brother Danny lives, a couple of candle holders, a vintage tray. I added that black-striped basket by our front door right before we adopted the boys for little people’s shoes.
To keep from just amassing clutter though, I have a specific list in my phone of things I’d like for the house, for instance, a new crock for the mixing spoons on my kitchen counter. I’ve seen dozens of crocks over the last couple years and more than once been tempted to grab one at Ikea or Home Goods because it’s cute. But I refuse to do it, even though I dislike the one I have. I want to wait until I find one I love (and it could still turn up at one of those two stores). In this way, I’m trying to fill in the corners of my house thoughtfully with things I won’t immediately get tired of.
A word about “things I won’t get tired of.” I still have those things in my house. All of us do. I’m very, very tired of our two angular, bulky sofas, which have remained a little worse for the wear after sailing thousands of miles across the ocean from India. We aren’t going to spring for new living room furniture anytime soon. But even though they aren’t my favorite, I’ve found ways that they make me happy:
I’m happy when I see Judah sprawled contentedly across his “favorite couch” playing with toys. I’m happy because they’re comfortable. I’m happy when we have enough living room seating for our church new member’s class. I’m happy when someone spills a glass of red wine on the couch because it doesn’t bother me at all. And I’m happy because I’ve filled my living room with several other things I love, so the sofas just don’t really dominate my attention.
That’s a whole lot of words to say that I’ve discovered I’m one of those people who’s going to decorate in spurts, and then leave well enough alone. I have to make a decision to turn my attention away from viewing a room as a project, and turn it toward simply living in and enjoying it. And it’s working! I’m not perpetually obsessed with decorating. I’m able to let several projects go that I know we’ll get to one day.
And I’m not threatened when a friend’s house is way cuter than mine. I can enjoy going over and sitting in her adorably vintage living room and not feel like I need to race home and change everything. I also thoroughly enjoy living vicariously through friends/family who are in the midst of decorating projects.
Since I promised to talk about organizing, here’s my un-cute photo: this has become our homeschool book shelf/cabinet. And here’s a lesson I’ve learned in fitting into a small house: I can usually find space for everything, but I need to let go of it being exactly where I want it.
I wanted our school books to be in the dining room, where we do the majority of our school work. I wanted the books on this shelf to remain color-coordinated. But try as I could there just isn’t space in the dining room for everything, so here we are. Those are all our fun Sonlight read-alouds on the shelf right above the cabinet, and because they’re now eye-level, the kids are constantly picking out books to read and look through. This makes me happy and I see that this solution is going to work just fine.
The easiest rooms to keep clean in our house are the ones that have the least amount of stuff and the rooms in which everything has a place. This is true of our living room, so it takes very little effort to tidy it up before naptime and bedtime. For this season of life I removed all throw pillows and blankets from the sofas because they just ended up on the floor all the time and it drove me crazy. The kids are all four responsible to clean up their own things when they’re done playing with them.
It takes some reminding, but Judah and Amie got really good at cleaning up when they gained two little brothers who snatched up anything they left laying around. And Gabe and Noah are at that fun preschool age where they actually like to clean up their things (especially if it involves a Barney song).
Our living room is one of the reasons we feel like we can stay in our little home: it is wide and spacious enough for the six of us to comfortably hang out and it makes the whole house feel bigger.
We love it!