After my recent house freakout (We need to move! Wait! Nevermind, I love this house!), I’ve spent a good bit of time rearranging and tweaking our home. I’ve thought about what we need in each room, what improvement would make it what we need to be able to fit a six-person homeschooling family into this 3/br 1/bath 1250 sq ft house for the next few years.
I’ve been reading about the concept of home (Thanks Sally Clarkson and the Theology of Home folks!) and I want to make our space cozier, more beautiful, more usable, ordered toward nurturing our family. Somewhere we love to be.
But I also know that this is a process. A sloooooow process. An…adventure, if you will. TV shows and home decorating books often make me think that to make our house a home means driving straight to Ikea, that it means having a vision board of exactly what you want and then buying what’s exactly to your taste and aesthetic.
And that’s fine if you have the budget for it, I guess. But the majority of families I know don’t have the budget for it. Bringing the touches of home-iness to a space isn’t something that happens in a weekend or even a year. It’s a matter of watching and waiting. It’s seeing what turns up. And if you have the right attitude…it’s fun to see what emerges. You’re like an artist who has no control over what medium she gets to use. Will someone hand you acrylics or water colors? We’ll find out on Craigslist!
I thought of the phrase “Slow Decorating” to describe this method and found, to my surprise, that it’s already been coined! So, clearly, I’m not the only one in this boat. And reflecting on the subject further, this is surely the home decor method of the literary mom I aspire to be: Molly Weasley. She didn’t apparate over to Wizard Ikea (Wizkea?) to put together the Burrow–which is just the coziest, homeist of homes. It was surely full of hand-me-down furniture from Great Aunt Muriel. The Burrow probably didn’t look like Molly’s dream home or her home decorating vision board. She may even look around and sigh sometimes. But we are drawn to the Weasley’s house because it is a true home–it has a life of its own!
As I look around my little home, I see the Great Hodge Podge of items we’ve put together. Tons of the furniture I scored for free in our local Buy Nothing Group. (If you’re not familiar with Buy Nothing groups, they are a hyperlocal gift economy. Got something you don’t need? Post it and someone in the group who needs it picks it up. No buying, trading, or borrowing–just gifts.) We’ve gotten brand new curtains for our dining room, dressers, picture frames, all kinds of things for nothing. And when I have a hankering for something, I always, always check there first before making a purchase. I had Sudden Onset Ceramic Pumpkin Desire last week and almost dropped $12 at Target when I decided to check in the Buy Nothing Group first and voila! Look at this cutie! I like it even better than the one at Target.
Other things we needed right away (hello, bookshelves for our ever growing library!) we found on Craigslist for next to nothing. Some furniture pieces are hand me downs from family and friends. One bed we actually bought brand new (wonder of wonders!).
We’ve been in this house for three years now and little by little it’s becoming a cozy home. Last summer I painted our kitchen cabinets (heavily pregnant, I might add. It was my nesting frenzy project and I’m still mad it didn’t send me into labor.) Last winter we purchased an area rug for the living room. This summer we had saved up enough to replace the cheap windows in the living room and dining room (they were so bad that we couldn’t open them because they might break!). And I’m absolutely reveling in the beauty of having open windows on crisp mornings. We’re currently saving to replace all the miniblinds with curtains. Is it just my progeny or do young children and miniblinds just NOT MIX? Between the kids and the dog they’re basically in shreds. We’ve done three rooms (two rooms to go!) and I’ve rarely been so gratified by a small change.
It’s slow going and it’s not perfect but watching it come together is something special. And having to wait for free things to pop up means we often have items I wouldn’t have picked out–but that’s part of the fun of it. I love the curtains in the dining room even though I would never have chosen the print myself unless they were free in our Buy Nothing Group.
Living in the same town as Joanna Gaines, it’s obvious how attracted people are to having their homes look a certain way. But what if we go the slow route? What if we let our homes have a bit of a mind of their own and let fate take a hand? What if instead of feeling like we need to aspire to a certain aesthetic or replicate a magazine, we embrace the Molly Weasley Method of home decorating? I think there’s a little bit of magic in it.
Are you a slow decorator? Let’s chat about it in the comments!
Erin Franco says
What a great post.:)
I love the term “slow decorating.” That’s me and so many other families I know!
Pick up a few things here and there…get gifted with a great decorative pillow or a side table for Christmas from my parents one year…splurge on a clearance item or two at Hobby Lobby occasionally…find a great lamp at Goodwill or a garage sale…or sell a row machine or a meat slicer we’ve never used and make a few extra dollars for new fabric to recover our old outdoor furniture. I’ve also started making my own wreaths over the past four or five years, and I’ve even sold a few and made money to make more of my own. Your post made me look around and smile at how much I really do love my home and how I’ve made this space my own over the past four years since we moved in.
There’s joy in having to wait to make your home reflect you…and there’s joy in the little touches that you make with what you have as you go. I see your little touches in your pictures.:)
Our homes DO reflect us, even if we don’t have the color pallettes we think are “us” or the decor items we’ve love to have everywhere or the perfect couch to have our homes reflect who we are. I think people notice the love and pride we take with what you have. At least I notice that in other people’s homes, even things they don’t notice themselves.
I find that my friends who have smaller budgets quite often (but not always:) have the most comfortable and homey homes for me to be in.
Yes. I think a lot of times I just need the reminder to move from “does my house look impressive to people” to “does my house make my family feel cozy, happy, and at ease”.
Jessica Poelma says
All I have to say to this post is Amen!
Kristin Heider says
Loved this! We are the very same way, and I find it deeply satisfying to wait for amazing thrift store finds rather than grab what’s trending at Target, etc. We’re also very concerned with labor practices with all the mass-produced trendy decor items, so that’s another reason this approach works for us. Great post!
Naomi Brubaker says
Blessings to you! I have come to this place too. Your blog is so refreshing and i feel as if I am not alone in this world. Our house is very literally being built around us. My husband is a builder and has been adding on to our home for many years now. I love the comparison to the Burrow. People have told me that my place feels homey. I decorate much as you do as we have one income and I also homeschool our children. I love your ideas of Slow decorating. We have very little that is brand new. We have been blessed to find cabinets, light fixtures and furniture for free or for very little money. Our culture seems to press us to hobby lobby or ikea to buy new and as you have said its not in the budget. Thank you for your refreshing take on this.
I love this post so much! I remember in my late twenties reading an article whose gist was “What You Should Own Before Turning 30”. One of the items was a “good piece of furniture you didn’t inherit from family.” 🙄 I can still remember how I felt reading that – I felt like I wasn’t keeping up with some ridiculous standard that this person had contrived. I think our generation really is up against completely unhealthy expectations with all of the home decor type shows, instagram, magazines, etc. that are constantly bombarding us.
When my husband and I moved states a few years ago we sold or gave away a lot of our possessions and have just been slowly filling up our current house. I really love how our home reflects the places we’ve been, memories made, and just our life’s journey in general.
I needed this today!! We moved over the weekend to a new house and I’m trying to be patient and not go out and spend ALL of my money making the new house look perfect. Most of our furniture is hand-me down from friends or family or bought used. I like to paint old furniture pieces and make them my own. But we gained 2 rooms with this move that need furnished and I need to be patient enough to find used pieces to cherish and not go buy cheap stuff from Walmart that won’t last anyway. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of “slow decorating”. Although I did splurge on a fun colorful rug for our family room that makes me smile and was totally worth it!
I love this! I guess I’ve always been a “slow decorator” and just didn’t have a term for it. We built our home 20 years ago, and I’ve always viewed it as a continual work in progress. We have lots of hand-me-downs and “finds”. In my 20’s I thought everything should be coordinated and matching, and now I revel in the eclectic style that’s evolved – every piece has a story! My kitchen table may be scarred and marked up from all the living that took place around it, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything now! This method has also taught me patience and prudence – waiting for just the right piece instead of flying to the store when something is needed (wanted?). I also love “shopping my own home”, moving pieces or art from room to room to make them feel fresh and revived.
Anne Glenn says
Yes yes yes! My husband and I didn’t even have a bed when we got married. Our living room consisted of some lawn chairs and a side table. The first couch we bought was $20 from a friend. I used to get more discouraged about slow decorating, because I would look around and see people with a perfect-everything-matches aesthetic. But then I realized that lifestyle is unrealistic for us (it’s not in our budget) nor is is something we value. We’d rather spend our money in other ways and be creative slow-decorators. I love to make my own artwork, and learn how to back a wall of art cohesive by finding like elements in pieces of artwork. I love to design vignettes especially with the changing of the seasons. And sometimes I get SOCPD like you mentioned above, but then I am grateful to just have touches of Fall, here and there, I prefer to have minimal decor anyway. I like having some empty spaces here and there. It makes me feel like I can breathe.
Suzanne Andrews says
What a wonderful post! My adult daughter shared it with me because she said it reminded her of how I’ve been decorating over the years. 🙂
Yep, definitely us. Most of our decorations and furniture are things we brought into the marriage or things we found free or at Goodwill. We’ve repainted some of it to look nicer.
Caitlin D says
I’ve always been a slow (passive) decorator. I love letting or home take the shape it wants to in its own time. It’s fun to watch “new” things whose place in our home I don’t yet understand become essentials that we could never do without. Like a scarred dining table that expands to comfortably seat 10 or an off-white leather couch. Wouldn’t have paid money for either, but they’ve gone from free to fabulous. 😊
I very much relate to the idea of building around what you find or are given instead of starting with a vision board. We inherited a lot of furniture from family and over the years collected mostly used pieces from a friend who runs an antique/used furniture store. It was a slow process and resulted in a antique/Victorian look that was perfect for our then-home, a Queen Anne Victorian. Shortly after we moved out, our new rental home burned down and we lost all of that. We had to start completely from scratch, and all our furniture was donated. Nine years later we are finally buying a few new things. Almost all our decorations and pictures have come from Goodwill (or free prints from Catholic artisans!). Our home now is a new one, and came with its own aesthetic (murals on some of the walls with an emphasis on peacocks) and we have embraced that as well, so we now have a home with a completely different aesthetic than our last.
We don’t have a Buy Nothing group in our Dallas suburb, but we do have a fantastic Catholic Google Group that’s all about giving things away. We’ve never paid for a couch in our ten years of marriage, and the last two have been given to us by families whose kids we teach.
Sometimes I wish I had nice matchy-matchy furniture like I was raised with, or (in my weaker moments) a perfectly-manicured Kon Mari’d home, but I also recognize in *my* desire for that (not saying it’s the same for everyone) another echo of my modern impulse to accept only what I chose in a void, what I created for myself, and what I can perfectly control.
Have you read the article Swedish Death Cleaning and the Anorexic home? It’s fantastic. https://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2018/02/swedish-death-cleaning-and-the-anorexic-home/
I always say our home has a definite decorator style: “free”. Hand me down (and occasionally curb side trash day finds) make up the bulk of our furniture. I’m finally getting to the point of buying little touches from the thrift store to fit my ideas, but with a new born, preschooler, and kindergartener, I remind myself that we should wait to spend actual money until they are a bit older and less likely to break/pee on things. 🤷🏻♀️
Love this! Elizabeth Willard Thames of Frugalwoods.com has a principle much like your slow decorating approach: “serendipitous waiting”. If you think you need something urgently, wait a while and maybe use something else on hand as a “make-do” measure. Then wait for the right thing to turn up—either at Goodwill or a Buy-Nothing Group or even on the side of the road! It’s so much more satisfying to find just the right item for your home when you’ve waited for it.
Maurie Roselaine says
So good! We recently bought a house and I’ve been so wanting to make it exactly what I want, but we’re also seriously lacking funds for anything but catch-up maintenance on the house. I appreciate the reminder that slow and mismatched is sometimes even better that quick and “perfect”.
We are slow decorating too, and we feel it acutely because we wound up buying new construction (mostly due to very limited inventory in our area.) So our house has that cold IKEA aesthetic (no window treatments, grey walls, and our furniture feels very spaced out because we moved from a smaller home) by accident—but it definitely needs some help to give it the warmth of a home. Every small addition makes a huge difference and means more when you’re slow decorating!
martha downing says
What I say: “Anybody can have new!”
Also, Amy Dacyzyn’s Frugal Zealot is great for how to manage, and how to thrive while doing so. With children.
More prosaically, my tightwad brother co-exists with his Jo Gaines-ish wife, by generous use of black spray paint. All their free-and-found décor items are cleaned, repaired, then spray-painted black. “That way, everything matches,” explains my brother the tightwad engineer.
We have been married 14 years and for 13 years, our home was less than 1200 square feet. Our couches were either hand-me-downs or love seats purchased from the used section at the furniture store for less than $200, which didn’t last long with 4 littles and I typically replaced them annually.
We have never had a brand new dinner table. I bought upcycled or second-hand. Our current table and 5 chairs were $150. The 6th chair has been a very used card table chair. I have scoured the flea markets for 2 matching chairs for the ends, but to no avail. We could feasably sand and refinish our table top and it would be lovely, but a table runner works just fine to cover up the worn spots.
I had wanted a wicker set for my porch for YEARS. Finally got a couple for $50 a piece at a seasonal sale at Big Lots. My GF has bought some beautiful things at Aldi, of all places.
I am a bit of a perfectionist b/c I want my purchases to have a story: who I was shopping with and where we were. Some of my favorite dinner and serving dishes were just a few dollars a piece at a flea market with my BFF.
It kills me a bit to just go to a box store to buy something b/c there is no waiting involved or hunting and pecking to find one unique piece. That said, I am not opposed to Target’s dollar aisle for fun seasonal stuff.
Most seasonal things I refuse to buy until they go on clearance the day after. I have amassed my collection over the years using this method.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Love it. Good for you. My white ikea chair slip covers are torn from washing. Remodelista said “ throw a blanket and sheep on them.” Bam, done and done. I can’t afford new slip covers but I do have sheep skin and blankets around here somewhere..let’s do this..
We too have a tiny house and I want to have the tweens an teens over but where do I put everyone? I’m not sure. Stress bubbles…But I’ll invite them anyway. We’ll make it work. It’ll be cozy with Trader Joe’s wine and cookies for the kids to make their parish priest. We can do this. We WILL change culture from within. Our families can affect Our Mother Church. We just need to stick together like Pieper says…
I lived most of my life with mini blinds, and hated them so much! When we bought our house 8 years ago, one of the first things we did was take down all the blinds. We lived with a plastic garbage bag taped over our bedroom window for a few months until we got curtains, but at least we didn’t have blinds! 😉
Our buy nothing group usually doesn’t have a lot of great things (and when it does it’s gone in 30 seconds), but I love finding the perfect piece on offer up!! We pretty much furnished our whole condo for $450 (mostly used Ikea furniture haha). I waited and waited till I found exactly what I wanted for a good price. I love all of our furniture/decorations so much more because I waited until I found what I liked for a good deal. I also love DIYing things. Our table and chairs I love because it has a built in leaf, which is great for our small condo. I hate the color of it and it’s got a lot of stains/marks on it, but I love the style and functionality of it. I plan on sanding it and restaining it soon. This isn’t exactly like your slow decorating, but I like having my vision evolve slowly. It makes your purchases more meaningful and helps you know what you want for your space. We spend a lot of time at home so I wanted a beautiful, light, and airy feel to our condo so it would feel happy and bright and my family would want to be there.
I love this so much! I bought my first house last year and struggle with “Pinterest syndrome.” I want my house to look like a magazine cover, RIGHT NOW! But there’s a beauty in the slow decorating process. I have my grandparents’ mid-century modern, Scandinavian designed living room set, which reminds me of the pennies they must have pinched to purchase those items for their first home back in the 1950s (when mass produced furniture was still good quality!). The oak bookshelves and bedroom set my dad lovingly crafted for me when I was a kid, using carpentry skills he learned from his own father. And my grandmother’s china cabinet, built by my grandfather that I received when they moved out of their home and into assisted living. Sure, sometimes I go on a frenzy and start pinning furniture and bathroom remodel ideas, but then I’m able to step back and take a look around at the ambiance I’ve created and I’m pretty happy with it 🙂
I get into “keeping up with the Jones’s” modes and plan my NEEDS, then snap back into sense before spending money. I love our home. The mismatch frames of the family photo wall. The black and white photos of my cousin who passed years ago, that my toddler declared beautiful and when I told him a little about her he replied, “I know mom, and she loves us very much.” The handmade quilts that dont match the decor or season. The bedsheets that the boys have decided are the favorite and must not be in wash overnight, and but favorite pillowcases that dont match. The handmedown furniture. The kids bedsets that my husband grew up with, which I painted while pregnant.
I am new to your blog and I am absolutely LOVING it. This has got to be one of my favorite posts so far. I’ve been stressing out about my apartment, and how it’s supposed to look way cuter and homier than it is. I even got into a fight with my boyfriend over how cute my friend’s apartment is in comparison to our own. This post makes me look at things a lot differently though! Slow decorating is a wonderful concept and I’m glad I’m not the only one practicing it!! Also, I am definitely checking out that Buy Nothing Group you talked about!
P.S. Your “The Grace of Enough” book is definitely next on my reading list!!
Thank you for posting this. I enjoy watching Fixer Upper but take breaks from it when I feel discontent brewing in my heart; seeing all of the perfect houses and people getting their dream homes makes me want more and better. But then I turn thr tv off and remember to be grateful for what we do have.
A home is so much more than sum of the items within it, yours exudes family, warmth and love from your snippets of it and I’m sure visitors feel that too. A home with odd bits and bobs acquired here and there tell a story, in a way that a wholly store-bought home just doesn’t. This chimes with being more environmentally aware too, keeping good items still in use. Ps.love the green containers 🙂