5 rules for mindfully furnishing your new home

The pleasure and anguish of an empty home.                                                 image //  via

The pleasure and anguish of an empty home.                                                 image // via

As those of you who've moved recently -- or sworn off moving due to trauma with a past move -- know, moving is hard.  And it's not just the act of purging and packing up and schlepping your stuff across town or the country that can wear a person down.  You also -- all of the sudden -- end up in a new, empty space with all of your old stuff.

Cam and I have moved twice in the past 12 months.  Each time our family has moved into a larger, architecturally different space.  From our San Francisco psuedo-Victorian one-bedroom rental, to a little cottage in Marin County, to now being homeowners (!) in Boise, Idaho.

It was a beautiful mid-September day when we got the keys to our first home.

In a few short hours we were moved in; by that evening we were fully unpacked (#minimalismperks) and feeling mighty proud of how quickly we got ourselves settled.

And yet when we woke up that morning our house felt... empty.  It was strange how suddenly out of place and bizarre our possessions seemed in this new space.  All of the sudden, much like unframed posters after college and mini-skirts in your mid 30s, our hodgepodge of Craigslist finds and apartment-sized hand me downs felt inappropriate, out of place.  

I felt particularly worried when I told people I'd newly met what I do for a living.  Terrified that they just might invite themselves over, expecting to find an airy, effortless, clean, white home, when instead they'd find partially furnished, mix-and-match rooms.

Find some grace.

What I hated the most was the feeling of being unfinished.  I finally understood why some people just open up a West Elm or Restoration Hardware catalogue to furnish entire rooms.  To be done.  To feel settled.

And yet I knew that rushing around to "complete" a home leads to waste, mistakes, poorly made furniture, poorly made decisions, and, worst of all, a home that feels like it's missing some soul.  

So as I imagined my earth guides Anne Lamott and Glennon Doyle Melton would say, I found some grace for myself and my sweet little mix-and-match craigslist home.   I slowed down.  I allowed myself and my home to exist in it's imperfect, incomplete state.


The 5 rules for mindfully furnishing or renovating a new space:

1. Fight the impulse to get it all done.  NOW!

Within a few days my neurosis settled and I saw clearly the honest truth: which is that I love our Craigslist couch and consignment chairs.  I love the lamp I found on the side of the street.  I adore the planters my husband got on sale a decade ago.  I loved them in San Francisco and in Marin and here in Boise.  If I'd run around trying to finish everything at once, I'd have missed settling in with these charming pieces and seeing how at home they really did feel in our space.

2. Know yourself.

I remember right after college watching a show on HGTV where people were choosing their kitchen countertops from two options. My heart broke when they couple chose a pretty nice looking utilitarian surface over an expensive, goooorgeous, high-maintenance stone.  At the time I was certain I'd never make that "mistake" -- use over beauty.  Now, however, I'm crystal clear that for my needs and lifestyle, my kitchen is all about function.  I would never select a material that wasn't first and foremost highly utilitarian.  If it's beautiful, too?  That's just a bonus.

3. Get to know your new lifestyle.

Is your new space close to amenities and it turns out that you're loving eating out all of the time?  Is your home perfectly oriented for entertaining and you relish in hosting your large, extended family?  Did you happen to get a puppy who is in a "chewing phase" and particularly enjoys gnawing on your couch?  It is wise to spend time getting accustomed to the ways your life might have shifted since you've moved before making purchases!

4. Get to know your home.

If we'd run out to purchase furniture right away, we'd have done so without knowing the angle the sun hits the living room in the winter, which makes a perfect nook for lounging.  Or where the dog likes to snuggle for his mid-afternoon nap.  Or where the trees flower in the spring.  All of these learnings have influenced where in our house we like to spend our time and how we like to use our space.  

5. Bird by bird. 

It can feel overwhelming, all the changes or purchases you might want to make when you move in (which I believe is what leads to rooms looking exactly like catalogs).  The best advice I received had nothing to do with furniture per se, but everything to do with how to handle a seemingly daunting task: go bird by bird.   In other words, start with one small project and take it one at a time.  Maybe start with a coat of classic white paint in your brown living area.  Then perhaps you can hunt through second hand stores for the perfect desk for your office nook.  And so on you go, calmly, wisely, bird by bird.


What about you? What are your tricks for moving into a new space? Did you jump right into projects or take your time?