Nothing like a good quarantine to get your mind wandering into the philosophic. Some of you are probably pondering the very meaning of life itself. Others are maybe wondering what on earth a TikTok is. (And yeesh, are they public?) And then there’s me asking the big questions like, “What is that magic ingredient that makes one home feel so warm and welcoming, and other homes (that may even have nicer things) feel empty and antiseptic?” I know it’s not world peace or anything - but it is something to chew on for a minute or two that doesn’t involve baking.
So, if you’d like to join me, then think back. I mean way, WAY back. To a time and place nothing like we know today. Yes, go back at least seven… maybe eight weeks. Remember then? We were all walking freely in and out of each other’s homes and getting our hair cut and (speaking only for myself) wearing more than just yoga pants and oversized sweaters. Well, back then in the olden times (as my daughter used to say), do you remember the feeling I’m talking about? It’s when you walk into a house and you want to linger… there is a life happening there that you are interested in. And yes, a lot of that feeling comes from the host - not so much how the home is designed… but AHA! There I’ve got you! My point is that the magic ingredient is YOU. Our homes should be a true reflection of ourselves. And when we really let that happen - when we really lean in and are just 100%, entirely, unabashedly US! Well, that’s where that magic comes from.
Thinking about all that made me think about my kids writing their college essays. They had so many questions that they wanted black and white answers to! “Should I write about this… or should it be that? What are the rules?” And every source responds with the exact same message, “Be Yourself.” Be your true self. Be funny if you are. Be passionate if you are. If you are none of those things, maybe you need to write about that. (Hand to heart, my son’s college essay was about him accidentally farting in 7th grade gym class.) Anyway, at the end of the day, colleges want to admit interesting kids. “Go be INTERESTING!,” I used to yell when they were watching too much tv. Which was not my finest moment, and of course they already were.
So I won’t yell that at you, but in all honesty I still have the urge. Because I know just how interesting you already are! I know now like no other time. I’ve got the Zoom meetings and Zoom happy hours and Zoom long lost college friends to prove it. And I’m here to report that we are all wonderfully interesting, and deliciously complex and so uniquely genuine in these crazy uncertain times that it can make my heart swell. And that’s where this journey begins.
So imagine that together we are in whatever room in your house that really makes you happy. If you were my client, my first question would be: Tell me what’s working for you and what’s not. Because I don’t care one bit about the “design rules” if this room brings you (A) joy, and (B) function. So, for instance, do you love your bedroom and can’t wait to spend time there? And is your bedroom also conducive to (we’ll keep it clean) a good night’s sleep?
Well, I’m over simplifying, but my point is that it doesn’t matter if your room is painted a 1990’s Hunter Green, or
has threadbare furniture that your pets now own, or has piles of sea glass on the windowsill, or is cluttered with plants and stacks of books that have morphed into family members over the years. (Such a common design conflict, by the way.) I don’t care about any of those things IF this room brings you joy and, in this case, brings you sleep. Because when those paths collide—I guarantee you that room will be a genuine reflection on you, and you can’t get more interesting than that.
Of course, sometimes even those beloved rooms need attention. But treat those cherished spaces like you would a puppy. Embrace their messy goodness and try to cull out some of the… unfortunate. Clutter, for example, is a common “unfortunate” that can actually swing either way. I just offered you a romantic description of a room strewn with sea glass and old paperbacks. And under the right circumstances, a certain amount of curated clutter can really work. But the other side is when the clutter takeover. It can overpower the true function of the room, and it can bury all that interesting, quirky you-ness. And there is absolutely nothing interesting about stacks of bills and catalogs and old coffee mugs and abandoned crafts and wobbly furniture that Aunt Mary was getting rid of, but it still needs a small repair so don’t put your full weight on it.
Does that last part sound a little like you? Then you may also despair that you don’t have a single room in your house that genuinely reflects that real you. Or maybe you have the opposite problem? Maybe your home is very uncluttered, but it’s decorated only with spontaneous purchases from HomeGoods. And you may also feel the lack of you-ness in your home. But wait a minute … have I just yelled, “Just Be Interesting!” at you and you now you feel like you’ve come up empty? Well, putting some “you” into your surroundings is worth fighting for, and just start with baby steps.
Maybe you start by just getting your rooms back to being functional—that’s a really big first step. Watch a little of that Marie Kondo everyone was raving about before Tiger King came along. Don’t be afraid. It will all unfold from there. I believe in you. You will find your way. And thanks for letting me say that, because that’s actually what I meant to say to my kids.