I have a confession to make: I have had the itch to sell our beautiful home quite a few times during the 7 years we lived there. We even have gone through the selling process once (thankfully we failed and I learnt something). The reason? Simple, really. I never felt at home. Somehow, everything about the house was wrong. Why, you ask? Here is the story.
We found our current house by chance as we were driving in the neighbourhood to check out a few home opens. From the outside the house didn't look too impressive, but as we saw the home open sign, we decided to look anyway ... and immediately fell in love with its interior. The house was fantastic, and everything was so well presented! The size was great, the wooden floor was beautiful, and the rooms were huge. The only thing I disliked straight away was how blue and dark everything was but I dismissed the feeling as being overly picky. We made an offer within a few days and it was accepted.
Happy ending? Well d'uh, NO.
From the outside it looked as if we were getting the house of our dream, but as the months passed, restlessness started to creep (in me). It wasn't long before I realised that... I wasn't happy at all with the house! I started nitpicking every single element of the house: the wall colour wasn't right, the rooms didn't look as good as when I first walked in, the black kitchen counter top wasn't so easy to clean after all, and I wasn't happy with the sunken trampoline in our backyard because that means mowing the lawn is a huge pain in the neck.
So what's my solution?
Right after Miss O turned one, I made the proposal to my husband to sell the house. Yes, yes, I know. I was young and foolish. I thought I could actually feel better by building from scratch, or perhaps find something that was totally made for me (if I was lucky)! Husband, bless him, indulged my whim. We tried selling the house for a year. Without result. Which was a good thing in the end, because I end up learning a few things about myself, our marriage and the house itself.
One, you will never be 100% happy with the houses you found in the market. As I went from one home open to the other, I found myself thinking, 'Heeeeyyy.... I love this house, but!' Even the best ones had a flaw or two in my eyes. Second, when I went to a display home, it was like, 'Hmmmm...I love the way this house was built, but if it were me, I would do etc, etc, etc...' See a pattern there?
I conveniently forgot that when we first walked into a home open, the house was made up with the intention to sell and therefore it had to look its very best. Plus the house probably looked great because its colour scheme and feature lighting matched the previous owner's furniture. In the event that we bought the property, our existing furniture might clash with its interior. Without our touch, the house will still feel like somebody else's home. Yikes!
Plus, my desire to move is not doing my relationship with my husband any good. Husband did not understand why I despise such a good looking house (he saw things from practical perspective and everything was great already for him) while I tried very hard to prove that the house was not for us. It took me a long time to understand.
To feel at home means you have to create the home, which means you have to make the effort to make changes in the house itself.
You're nesting, so it makes perfect sense to create an environment that totally suits you and your family. This is where decorating comes to play.
Decorating is a way of living as a family, a way to connect. After all, a family initially is made of two connected souls, and to stay connected we need some channels. Decorating is one of those channels.
To cut the story short, my husband and I had a heart-to-heart after we decided to stop all efforts to sell the house. We have no extra fund, and we have to prioritise the family's need, so moving is no longer an option. This is where my respect for him grow. He was the one who saw through the source of my restlessness. He started with a simple suggestion. Let's change the wretched blue paint in some of the rooms and reassess the layouts of the rooms. And he wasn't even the DIY type.
We learnt so much more from then on, and decorating has become an integral part of our family. And believe it or not, the family life grows as the house becomes more and more like a home each and everyday. But taking the first step takes courage. These are 6 of the steps that help us start our decorating journey as a family.
When decorating is in the agenda, make sure you've got your partner on board Picture this: hubby wants nothing to do at all with decorating. For him, a fully furnished house encompassed all the decorating that is needed to be done. Never mind if the curtain that the previous owner left clashes with your furniture or if your wall colour is the colour of wilting spinach.
If decorating is a significant process of your home-making, get your partner to see how important it is for you. Better still, get his participation, even if it is only as far as moving the furniture around. Who knows, the idea might just grow on him.
My husband was a reluctant participant at the beginning (he probably just started the mini makeovers just to sooth down my house-to-house wanderlust), but now he is just as full of ideas and at times even more discipline and organised than me with our projects.
Takeaway: support from your significant one is very important.
Don't overwhelm yourself and your family with the burden of big projects. Even if as a whole the project is huge, you can always divide them into smaller chunks. That way you're more likely to finish the project and feel the satisfaction from clear progress. Decorating is a journey, not a destination. Let it unfold slowly and be an activity that you love.
Takeaway: small projects are better for your sanity.
Have a heart-to-heart about your visions with your partner-in-crime
Everyone is different, and when it comes to decorating, the difference in your taste can clash or complement each other. No matter how extremely talented and artistic two individuals are, but if you couldn't reach an agreement, nothing will happen. Agree on whose style is going to be dominant in what room. But the other can always have the veto right. You'll be surprised how much you can achieve this way.
Takeaway: The geometric wall pattern idea? It's useless if you can't have your significant one say yes to it.
You don't always have to buy your decorations
Don't let your rampant ideas get the better of your financial sensibilities. While buying a hero piece of furniture or one-of-a-kind room accessories is something we might aspire to do, when our bank account doesn't permit, it is always prudent to see if there is always a more affordable alternative or even an existing piece we could renew with a new coat of paint. You know, the DIY way. It may be daunting at first, but don't be afraid to make mistakes. It's a learning process. And if in doubt, refer back to point no. 2. In addition, you can even save up by taking those furniture people left out for garbage kerb collection. Besides, our Earth will thank you because we reuse and recycle.
Takeaway: DIY is not as scary as you think.
...which bring us to:
- There are things that you can't do by yourself and it's okay to wait (until you save enough fund)
When you absolutely couldn't bring yourself to brave a project or if there is a Pièce De Résistance you really, really covet, that's okay too. Understanding your limitation and desire is one of the keys to great decorating. When you absolutely need help, get help! Get a friend to teach you, or - dare I say it - pay someone else to do the task for you.
Takeaway: save up for that killer marble kitchen counter you've always wanted!
- Don't forget to have fun!
Decorating may have come more naturally to some couples more than the others, but it doesn't need to be avoided at all. In fact, when you adopt the practice, it may have even inspired you to spend more time at home and with your family! And nobody is perfect, so don't expect yourself to produce an interior worthy of your local home magazine. In fact, all great decorating involves trials and errors. What's more important is to create a space where you and your family can thrive together.
So, what about me? Have I achieved the state of my dream home yet? I have to say that it's a long journey, and we're still at the beginning of it. And I'm also a human being whose old habit dies hard, so the temptation to take a short cut and move out still resides in my mind. When I'm not sure of what I'm doing with my home, the temptation beckons. Just like what happened below.
Want to read more about how to decorate or how to be happy in your own home? Here are some articles that help me: