Don’t Let Your Home Decor Sabotage Your Identity
(PLUS A FREE WORKBOOK TO CREATE YOUR OWN HOME STYLE GUIDE)
(PLUS A FREE WORKBOOK TO CREATE YOUR OWN HOME STYLE GUIDE)
When you have guests, you want to feel good about the way your house looks. Besides doing a last-minute clean before they come, you probably also rushed to hang that picture you’ve been leaning against the wall for months. You know their impressions of your home matter to you, and you’ve probably thought about how the way they think of you could change based on what your home looks like.
In some ways, you’re already aware of how your home decor affects your identity in the minds of your visitors. You’re probably especially aware of this with guests like in-laws, or bosses.
The things you love and placed in prominence. The things you choose to keep--even though you don’t like them--because someone else gave them to you and you’d feel guilty about getting rid of them. The things you just ended up with because they were cheap or free or helpful at the time.
They all affect the story you tell yourself...about yourself.
Remember this from Joe vs. The Volcano? Marshall, the taxi driver, gives Joe (Tom Hanks) a lecture about how “clothes make the man,” so essentially by asking Marshall where he should go clothes shopping, Joe is asking Marshall who Joe is. It’s an identity thing.
In the same way your clothes can make you feel more confident, or more comfortable, what you put in your home (and even how you arrange it) becomes a part of who you are.
Everyone is different, but I’ll bet you probably fit at least a little into one of these three camps:
You’ve never really intentionally thought of your home decor as a whole. You’ve collected, over the years, some things you like, but mostly you have a lot of what worked at the time, or what other people gave you as gifts or didn’t need anymore. You’d feel bad getting rid of gifts, and the stuff you have works...sort of… so you just let it be. It may not be helping you feel more like you, but at least it’s not dragging you down...right?
You aren’t important. At least not as important as the people that gave you those gifts.
You’re not fully owning who you are. It’s time to step up to the plate. Being intentional about your own personality will help you gain confidence and gravitas. You’re worth it.
You’ve definitely thought of your home decor as a whole. You’ve read the magazines, browsed for hours on Pinterest. You’ve done DIY projects and bought furniture and pictures and vases all to fit a certain style you’ve seen trending. Others comment it looks like a magazine, and you feel good about how it looks. But in the process, you mostly hid anything that didn’t fit the style. Including your own pictures and other special memorabilia. You kind of feel bad about it, but it looks so nice now.
Just make sure everything looks beautiful on the outside.
Your home may look lovely, but it’s not you. Just looking beautiful isn’t special. The world needs you, not just magazine pretty.
At one stage of your life, you had a particular style you followed. You decorated your home nicely, and don’t have a lack of things to cozy up your space. But those things are all from awhile ago now. You’re in a new phase of your life, and the way your house feels just isn’t right anymore. But you don’t know what direction to go in, or how to change it.
So you put it off and think you’ll get around to it someday.
Hang on to the past version of you.
You don’t have to hang on. Life is always changing--you are always changing, and that’s not a bad thing. Though past you may not be at all bad, it’s not moving forward and living into who you are now.
and it won’t jumpstart your career or make your kids instantly respect you. But even the practice of thinking about what you want your home to look like and feel like and how you want to feel in it, will help you be more intentional about who you are and who you are becoming.
And actually doing something about it? It's going to help.
On a practical level, feeling stifled by clutter makes you grouchy. The colors you surround yourself with affect your mood, and your mood your thoughts, including about you. The pictures on your wall can remind you of those wonderful moments in life when you felt most happy, the most you. They can take you back to that moment or show you what the future could be like.
I drew this picture of me and my (now) husband, Ethan, right before graduating college. At the time, I was excited and scared about the future. This image, with it’s calming, beautiful blue and gentle waves, helped me focus on the excited part--on the adventure of the next stage of life, instead of the terrifying parts like finding a job and the challenges of getting married and learning how to be a “real” adult. It wasn’t that I was ignoring those real difficulties, or pretending they didn’t exist--but this image bucked me up to be the brave, adventuresome me in it instead of the timid, under-a-blanket me. Just the feel of the story in that image was empowering. This is true of any picture, whether it’s of us or not.
So how do you make sure it’s good?
Ethan and I have moved every year since we got married. It’s involved a lot of sorting through stuff, a ton of getting rid of stuff, and so, so many decisions about what to keep and how to use it in ways that support how we want to live our lives. Creating an environment like that isn’t as hard as you might think.
Or even stuff that’s “just right.” You don’t have to have tons of money to redo your whole house. You don’t even have to have tons of time.
It’s not about doing things the way they’re “supposed” to be done.
--about who you are, and what you like, and what kind of a story--and home--you actually want to have.
A great way to start with that intentionality is to make a Style Guide. Essentially, a Style Guide is a visual guideline for the colors, textures and mood you’ve decided to shoot for in your home. It doesn’t have to take long, but it does involve asking yourself some kinda big questions.
Grab a paper and pencil and get started creating your own style guide with these steps:
Take a few minutes to think about you.
What are some defining features of your personality? What traits do you already have that you want to foster and grow? Which ones might you want to phase out of? This is all part of creating a positive environment for you to grow into yourself in good ways.
Write these down.
What one word could you use to describe the way you want to feel in your life (and home)? Some examples: peaceful, happy, joyful, creative, boss, content, confident.
This doesn’t mean you don’t actually want to feel more than one thing, it’s just the main one we’ll focus on for this style guide. Don’t overthink it. Really go with your gut on this.
Write it down.
Think of a time when you really felt_______ (whatever your word from step 2 is). If you don’t have a specific memory to use, imagine what that mood feels like. What kinds of colors stand out? Smells? Textures? Sights?
Write these down.
What colors, places, textures, styles, smells, etc. do you just plain like? Are you all over an industrial look? Bohemian? Mint green? Ratan? Florals? Jot down anything that pops into your mind here as something you truly like, that makes you happy.
Where do the things you like and the answers from question 3 overlap? Whichever things pop up in both answers, write them down here.
We’ll make a visual guide in a minute, but for now we’ll use words to consolidate what we have so far. Let's sort through everything you've written so far and get clear on three things: your mood, your colors, and your textures. In a clean space on your paper (or on a new one), write down your chosen mood (from Question 2). Then choose 2-3 colors, and 2-3 textures from your answers to Question 5 and write them underneath. These are the bare bones of your style guide.
There are lots of ways you go go about doing this, and there isn’t really a wrong way, but here are two quick, easy ways to create your guide. Pick one, or do both!
Pinterest is the perfect place to start a style guide! If you don’t have an account, you can get one for free here. Start a new board (you can make it secret if you like) for your style guide.
Start searching for the colors and textures you chose, keeping your mood in mind. It’s pretty easy to find color palette pins, but make sure you’re not pinning anything to your board that doesn’t fit your choices from the previous page
for this part.
To add even more personalization, search one of your colors, and some specific home decor objects you like (ex. coral embroidered pillows or black leather sofa). You can also add things you already have in your home and want to include.
Canva is a free online design software. You can sign up here, and immediately have access to TONS of templates for any number of design projects. You can really use any of them to create a style guide. I’d recommend a large one, like the US Letter template for printing or the desktop for a wallpaper.
From there you can go to the elements tab on the left, choose “Grids” and pick one with lots of areas for content. You can make these solid colors using the custom color tool, drop in photos you upload, or add text and choose form their fonts.
The whole point of creating a style guide is having something you can glance at to remind you (and guide you back to) where you want to be going with design in oder to create the best environment for you to be you. It’s like an itinerary or road map. It keeps you focused, so that when design possibilities come up that would go in a different direction that you planned, you don’t get distracted. You can look at your guide and remember where you were actually planning on going, and get there.
But you have to use it.
Of course you can leave it as a pinterest board and come back to it any time, but if you’re in the middle of actively changing up your home arrangement and decor, don’t leave it that.
Print it out. Washi tape it up somewhere. Use canva to make it into a desktop wallpaper for your phone or computer so it reminds you what to look for as you come across things and ponder new ideas, you always know what you’re headed for. That doesn’t mean you NEVER keep anything that wouldn’t fit perfectly with your style guide. But it gives you something to shoot for.
When you go to get something new, take your printed style guide along. The new thing doesn’t have to fit perfectly, but remember, this is a guide you made for yourself to stay focused. Does this new thing fit into that focus? Sometimes you have to make compromises, but having a guide will help keep you focused.