As someone who looks at a great deal of photos of beautifully designed homes every day, I know how the pangs of design cravings have the potential to overwhelm. Even three years after moving into our first home, my to-do and to-buy list is still a mile long. In fact, I think it may be several miles long at this point, and any chance of checking everything off my wish list is pretty much shot. For instance, how likely is it that I will add French doors to my (yet-to-be-built) deck from my remodeled kitchen, complete with marble counters and an antique farmhouse table? Probably not so likely.
Luckily, despite the fact that we may be wishing for something different at home does not mean we can’t also learn to love our homes just as they are today. Over time I have developed an arsenal of strategies to help cope with any feelings of my home being “less than” what I see in the glossy design magazines. Here are some ideas for gaining a new appreciation for your own beautiful, imperfect home.
Embrace wabi-sabi style. The wabi-sabi philosophy, which has its roots in Japan, finds beauty in imperfection and impermanence. The flowers whose petals are just beginning to turn brown, the thick slab of wood with an interesting crack running down the center — these are more highly valued than something flawless. Isn't that refreshing?
Tune in to your feel-good factor. Forget, for a moment, everything you ever learned about design and just answer this one question: What makes you feel good? What color instantly lifts your mood? What sort of artwork makes your heart sing? Instead of trying to live up to someone else's ideal, allow yourself the luxury of choosing what you love.
Focus (your camera) on what really matters. Try toting your camera along during an entire day spent at home. Photograph every little thing that makes you smile, that you love or appreciate: your child, your cat sunning herself on the window ledge, your favorite mug filled to the brim with steaming coffee.
Use your kitchen more. The more you use your home, the more you will appreciate its usefulness in supporting everything you do. There is something about the rhythm of shopping, cooking and sharing meals around the table that brings a sense of warmth and coziness to a home that just can't be replaced.
Find beauty in the mundane. Sure, designer spaces are beautiful to look at. But that doesn't mean your refrigerator, crammed full of snapshots and handmade magnets and postcards, isn't beautiful too. Take a moment to be aware of the meaning behind the little "messes" strewn about your house. They are the sign of a life well lived.
Start a gratitude journal. Whether you use a notebook and pen or a digital tool, the important thing is to begin. Try starting or ending your day by recording three things you are grateful for around your house.
It could be as basic as having a roof over your head or something more specific, like the way your garden looks through your kitchen window or the beautiful rug handed down from your dad.
Lighten your load. It seems counterintuitive, but giving something away can actually make you feel more abundant. Not only will making a donation to charity make you feel virtuous, but you will gain a feeling of lightness and space in your home. Start small, with a single box of books or a bag of clothes you don't wear; but if it helps you appreciate your home more, don't stop there.
Tackle a home project you've always wanted to try. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making something for your own home. Whether it is painting furniture or trying your hand at a DIY repair, there are tons of great home projects out there that cost next to nothing.
Use your space in a new way. I find that when I am craving a big change but can't afford to go on a major shopping spree, it helps to move furniture. Change your living room arrangement, carve out space for a creative studio or home yoga practice, or swap two rooms entirely (dining room for living room, or den for study, for instance).
Experiment with an unplugged evening or a media fast. Technology is a marvel, but setting limits will only help you appreciate it more. And going without the constant stream of news and updates can help you feel more grounded and satisfied. Try setting a "last call" for checking email in the evening or choose to avoid the news for an entire weekend, and see how it makes you feel. There is so much beauty in our lives — and in our homes — if only we take the time to see it.