Setting up a new home rarely equals instant gratification. And all that cleaning, unpacking, and rearranging — often with no end in sight — can lead to one particularly hazardous form of retail therapy, the impulse buy. So how do you protect yourself against the first shiny new decor item that bats its eyes at you? Here are a few useful weapons...
In the past I fancied myself a pretty competent shopper when it came to home furnishings. However, one recent afternoon, after a particularly tiring week of home cleaning, furniture rearranging, and house guest prepping, I ventured out for a little break only to fall into the clutches of an unfortunate (and unreturnable!) impulse buy. They were drapes. Yes they were cool, but they happened to be way too expensive, exactly the wrong color, and totally unnecessary — we already have perfectly acceptable window coverings. Demoralized and several hundred dollars lighter, I vowed to amend my impulse buying ways. Thankfully, all it took was a good anti-vulnerability system.
• Step 1. Steal Sarah Rae from Apartment Therapy Chicago's idea of making a pocket-sized floor plan.
Be sure to check out the full how-to, but basically it's a way of fitting your whole home — paint samples, room dimensions, layout, even fabric swatches, etc. — into your hand when you're out and about, ie most vulnerable. This will definitely save you the trouble of schlepping that oh so perfect sofa up three flights of stairs only to find that it won't fit through the door or harmonize with your beloved heirloom arm chair.
• Step 2. Make a Wish List and check it before buying anything!
This no-brainer idea was the hardest one for me to put into practice, but it's probably the most important. After the drapery episode I realized that I could have bought half a sofa for the amount I spent on something I didn't need. Having a list of my top ten wish list decor items helps me realize what items I really want for our home and not just what happens to be new at Target at a moment of retail therapy weakness.
• Step 3. Take a picture of you and your dream item.
Don't roll your eyes, this does have a practical point. Even if you know the dimensions of a room, visualizing the scale of a piece of furniture in it can be difficult. Sit in the dream chair, stand next to that perfect bookcase, lean again the antique mantel. Then have a friend or salesperson snap a picture, and study it. It's much easier to envision the piece in your room once you can envision its scale, and it's much easier to envision its scale when there is someone with familiar proportions—you! If you don't want to lug around a camera, picture quality isn't that important, just use your phone's camera.