We've lived in our first owned house for a little more than a year now, and even though I've made a lot of progress — most of the rooms are painted and decor nicely arranged — I am plagued by this nagging feeling of not good enough. One of my resolutions in 2012 is to let that go.
Writing for a site like Apartment Therapy — which means I look it at all the time, as many of you do too — it's hard not to compare my humble abode to all the stunning homes we feature, both from our readers and outside sources. Sometimes I start to pity myself (in a haves-versus-have-nots kind of way) and sometimes I'm really rough on myself (I'm a loser for having a lame kitchen!).
Nothing good ever comes of such negative thinking. I work very hard at fixing up my home, and although it's far from perfect, here's the thing: Nobody thinks her place is perfect. There's always room for change and improvement. That's part of the excitement of creating a home, not just living in a house.
Here are some tips I've thought up to help myself be happy with my home, flaws and all.
• Prioritize your improvements. When we first moved in, there were so many changes I wanted to make right away, from tearing out the beige carpet in the bedrooms and hallway to replacing the ugly vinyl tiles in the kitchen. My fiancé, being the financially sensible one in the family, allocated the small sum of money we had left after closing to replacing the wheezing old furnace with a new, energy-efficient one, which also earned us a big tax rebate. I still hate the carpet and tiles, but I love being cozy on a chilly winter night, which I remind myself of often. We spent the remainder of our budget painting the exterior of our house, improving its curb appeal substantially in case we had to sell earlier than planned.
• Get estimates and dream big. Seriously, just knowing how much stuff costs brings out the goal-maker in me. When I have a number to work with, I can pinpoint a realistic timeframe to make the improvement happen. I know approximately how much it will cost us to refinish our floors, and although we can't afford it right now, it's nowhere near the expense of, say, remodeling an entire kitchen, so I know it's within near-distant reach.
• Look for the positives. The carpet, though not ideal for me, is functional and quite soft underfoot. As long as I vacuum daily, it doesn't look terrible, and it's pleasant to wrestle with our dog on a padded surface. The kitchen floor, while unattractive, always looks clean (even when it's not), especially compared to the beautiful but constantly filthy vintage ceramic tiles I had in my old apartment.
• Focus on small improvements. I spent less than $50 painting the interior of my front door, and now it lends a cheery pop of color to our living room. Small can be huge.
• Ignore the naysayers. My soon-to-be father-in-law, who has a contractor's license, is a swell guy, but he has a habit of pointing out every single flaw in our house. After he visits, things I hadn't even noticed or cared about suddenly loom large in my mind. Then I remember that I actually like our house a lot better than his, which is a newer build — big but kind of blah. I would much rather live in a banged-up 1924 bungalow. (Anyway, he resides in a different state, or I'd enlist him to do lots of work for us.)
• Don't compare yourself to others. Sometimes, when I tour an amazing house, I feel an inferiority complex welling up. But then I realize that, just as I can't afford runway fashions or flying in private jets, I can't afford to hire a boldface designer to fill my house with exquisite and mind-bogglingly expensive furniture and artwork. I like my stuff, even if a lot of it is from budget sources such as Ikea and CB2. I'm proud of my super-cool thrift scores.
• Don't apologize for your house not being perfect. When guests came over, I used to apologize for everything: "Sorry the guest room is so boring," or "Sorry that beige carpet is such an eyesore." If somebody expects you to be sorry that you don't have the most awesome house ever, they're not much of a guest. Instead, I bite my tongue and graciously (and gratefully) accept the compliments about what does look good in my house.
• Remember that slow and steady wins the race. Actually, there is no race. You're not competing against anybody! I put as much effort into my house as I can without compromising other aspects of my life, and I know that someday I will get to the finish line.
• But wait, there's no finish line either! That's the string tied around my finger when it comes to loving my home. It may be frustrating that I can't do everything I want to, when I want to, but hey, that's life. I'll keep plugging away at my house, and I guarantee that when I finally get around to replacing my floors, something else will take over as my new focus. I'd think I'd actually be pretty bored if it were all "done."
What are your strategies for loving your home, flaws and all?