lessons in design :: How to overcome decorating paralysis
Friday, March 16, 2012 by {darlene}

***UPDATE: to see the posts that have already been written as a part of this series, click HERE***

Today I am excited to introduce a series of posts that have been buzzing around in my mind ever since I went out to dinner with one of my dearest friends the other night.

You see, we both share a love and a passion for design, and a deep desire to make our visions for our homes come to fruition, but for both of us… our own selves are holding us back. We chatted for hours about the self-imposed struggles we face that prevent us from creating the spaces in which we know we would love to live.

In fact, we tossed out so many ideas that I really cannot begin to share them in one post. We started to realize that there was much more of a battle going on in our minds than we realized, when it came to creating a home of peace and beauty that we loved. And that battle has kept us paralyzed in one way or another.

So there you have it. This is the beginning of a series.

I will be sharing about the two main “needs” that we must have in order to move forward toward homes that we love:

1. We need to know what we love


2. We need help {and no, I am not talking about an interior designer OR a psychiatrist}

I will also be sharing about the actual obstacles that we face. Hah! Who knows how long this series might last!

Obstacles such as:

1. Indecision

2. Fear

3. Impatience

4. Money {it is never just “I don’t have enough.”}

5. Embracing Reality

6. Time

And oh, I could go on!

Truly, I cannot tell you how many times I have had a client tell me, “You should also have a degree in Psych! You have helped me with my decorating stumbling blocks.”  These words are such a joy to me… as my desire is to help my clients to LOVE their homes, and take a chance on beauty, no matter their obstacles. And there are certainly obstacles. Usually, the obstacle is us.

And I have news for you. I need my own psychiatrist too when it comes to decorating MY home. Why? Because this decorating stuff can be complicated. Homes are NEVER just about stuff! They are about so much more.

Okay. Are you game???

Are you ready to start overcoming your decorating obstacles and moving forward in this home of yours?????


If you have an obstacle that clearly prevents you from creating a home that you love, I would LOVE to hear about it in the comments below!

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Labeled: lessons in design, overcome decorating paralysis


  • Yes! I’m ready! I’ll be taking lots of notes.

    xoxo michele

  • You’ve spoken to the heart of the matter for me. Indecision and not knowing what I really love always hold me back. What if it doesn’t look right or I end up hating it? Then the money factor comes into play. I’ve tried new things recently, but I still have those anxieties. I painted my bathroom 6 years ago and still don’t have anything on the walls. My bedroom was painted three years ago with the same results. I’ve attempted to plan a gallery wall and freeze when I look at all that space. I seriously need help. You didn’t know what you were asking for, did you?

    • Southern gal, I can SO relate to what you wrote! I have a hard time finishing projects. I often have a hard time getting started as well, but that’s a different post. After living with wallpaper in my powder room that I hated for several years after we moved into this house, I finally stripped it and painted, and I do have art hung in there, but I have yet to finish a couple of simple projects such as painting the frames of some of the pictures so they will look “just right”. I am the worst procrastinator in the world, and I don’t really know why.

  • I’m glad you’re doing this, Darlene! I’ve found that the things that are obstacles in one area of my life tend to be obstacles in other areas, too. One of my biggest struggles is fear–fear of regret, fear of looking silly, fear of making a big mistake.

    I look forward to learning from you!

  • I moved into a new city and house last summer and after completing the big stuff, I am down to what should be the fun things-the decorating and fluffing. I can’t seem to go forward on that. I sometimes find my self trying to use things that I have accumulated over the years, but really don’t like now. I need help tossing what I really don’t love. Also, when I go to shop for things, I go into overload because there are so many choices.

  • Our house needs some carpentry work, however, my husband does not have the time for these projects right now. I love decorating, but I feel like I’m just putting a band-aid on the situation.

  • I am ready! to learn from your series, to face the music–truly the music of enjoying this process of responding to beauty and letting our home reflect the love we put into it, to know what I love and trust it.

  • This will be interesting Darlene. As you address the issues that some people have here, we may all learn something that will help us in ways we may not have realized that have been holding us back from having the homes that we would love! (:>)

  • YES! I will read every word of this series and TAKE NOTES. Decorating paralysis is the story of my life!!

  • Me too! I have a Fieldstone Hill part of my house notebook where I seriously do take notes! I know – I’m such a dork – but I love your tips and advice!

  • I am really excited about your series! My paralysis comes from liking so many different styles and colors. Sometimes it’s hard to decide, then I get stuck! I feel like a style or color choice is a life-long decision. :-)

  • i just showed my husband this post and said i thought it was written for ME! i am trying to re-do our family room – lighten things up and try to make them more “us” and i am afraid to make any changes. i have a hard time seeing the whole picture and i am terrified i will make all these changes (spend all this money) and i will still think it isn’t “us” or it isn’t “right.” i am anxiously waiting for this series!!! you are an angel for doing this!! :)

  • Thanks so much for this post! Why is it easier to make the hard decisions for someone else than for ourselves? I think it is mainly because we lose perspective when thinking about our own rooms, and we need fresh eyes to see the possibilities! I look forward to where you are going with this series.Always love the beautiful rooms you show in your “ditto” postings:)

  • My greatest obstacle is one color attraction. I find myself buying pillows, decor, drapes and furniture all with gold and brown in it….I am so stuck…my livingroom is drowning in a sea of blah! and the blah is seeping to other rooms!!! I am so glad you are going to discuss “fear” I see myself always afraid of picking a different color and then knowing when to STOP with the color.
    Thank you!!

  • This will be great. I know a few reasons I can’t make forward motion; expense, perfectionism, and lack of knowing what my style is (and getting tired of what I pick!)….just to name a few. CAN’T wait for this series!!

  • Yes, I have all the symptoms!! Not for others I help with design – but myself! How crazy is that??

  • This is absolutely what I need!!!!
    I’m paralyzed because I don’t like cookie cutter- I want my home to be different, quirky but not CRAZY. I can’t seem to figure out how to balance it so I just stay stuck. I want a cute cottage with a twist. Something pretty but not where you feel like you can’t touch anything and not something that looks like I bought everything at Home Goods (no offense Home Goods!). I like GENUINE things, not fake collections. Plus the whole money part of it– yeah that deters me. ;-)

  • Oh my gosh, I think you’ll be writing this series directly to me! I struggle so much with indecision anyway, and so making a big investment (in both finances and time) is terrifying. I’m so glad you started this, and I can’t wait to read more!

  • Have you been spying on me? I can not tell you how excited I am that I found you on Pinterest. I am now following and I’ll be taking notes. Lori

  • […] First, my friend, Darlene is hosting a wonderful serious on her blog called, Overcoming Decorating Paralysis. […]

  • I am so excited for this series! Recently, I’ve been paying more attention to decorating and am terrified it will look awful!

  • I had to grin about what your client said about a psych degree. I have been told that my whole career. Marriage counselor, family counselor, mentor. I believe that is part of our job, to totally understand our clients inside and out! I feel design comes from within, or at least it should and if it doesn’t the client will never be happy over the long haul. I developed several techniques to help diagnose what they truly love, not just what they think they love because of what is in style at the moment or the latest trend. It sounds to me that you are the same type of designer. You will do well in your line of work. I am now retired, but can truly say I had a Good life in Design, in fact that is exactly what I named my blog and for that reason. Happy Tuesday,
    ps, love the way you write!!

  • Traci at Beneath My Heart sent me over and I am glad she did. We have lived in our home now for 20 years and I still don’t have it “decorated”. I am not sure what my problem is… not sure of my style, little to no budget for decorating, but have quite a few things to work with – collections, art… I guess I just don’t know where to start. Looking forward to this series.

  • I also struggle with what’s my style and never seem to make the right purchases when trying to decorate… I donate a lot to Goodwill!

  • My paralysis comes from a variety of causes:

    * We rented for the first 18 years of our marriage and never put up a single piece of art. Then we bought our current house and didn’t know what to do. All those years of saying, “when we buy a house…” meant a lot of dreams and no pattern of action.

    * We have eight children. They break things, color on things, spill on things, move things to different rooms. They interrupt while I’m working on projects and carry off parts of my projects before I can close the loop on the interruption.

    * My husband’s attitude is, “Decorating is unnecessary and even a can of spray paint is money that doesn’t need to be spent.” He prefers completely bare walls to artwork.

    * My husband and I have different styles. He likes modern, sleek, spare, and all in glass, chrome, and blond wood. Me, I want to move in with Rachel Ashwell.

  • Can’t wait for this! the only thing that has spurred me on from decorating paralysis (so far) is this: I make the subject room look horrible (remove wallpaper, tear out a cabinet, peel off cabinet laminate, you get the idea) while there is a big event (Christmas, a graduation party, etc) on the horizon. That forces me to focus on the project and make choices while chanting to myself, “paint isn’t forever, paint isn’t forever . . . ”
    Starting a project is always the easiest part for me. It’s the finishing . . .

  • I originally came from your ditto post at Beth’s. This series speaks RIGHT to me. I come up with way too many excuses. I don’t know what I love. There’s so much to do. I can’t decide. I can’t find what I’m looking for. What AM I looking for?! What do I do with this awkward space? Do I really want to move everything and paint? Well, we’re going to move in a few years blablahblah. ugh! which leaves me at a standstill. I can’t wait to learn more and have the encouragement to stop thinking and JUST DO!

  • I am really “stuck” because i bought a seafoam colored sofa and can’t figure out what color to paint the walls, it’s been 3 years!

  • I love this series. For me, what holds me back most is an irrational sense that my choices need to be forever. I fret over paint color and catch myself thinking… will I still like this in 5 years? Reality: It doesn’t matter. It is paint. I can change it. However, b/c of the time and money (even just for a can of paint), it feels wasteful to me if I don’t intend on living with my choices forever. Something about decorating feels wasteful to me if I don’t keep it forever. Hmmm.. need to explore that one further!

  • […] and especially for anyone who’s having a hard time pinning down their style. Basically, this blog series by Darlene at Fieldstone Hill Design helps you figure out your style and gives you the guts to start decorating your house. Because, […]

  • […] I found this great blog post that is about finding your own personal design style.  I haven’t started on it yet, but it looks great!   You can check it out for yourself by clicking here. […]

  • Darlene, I have been very inspired by your site. Recently found you by chance a few times through Pinterest clicks, and I’m so glad, and today I was moved by your post “What I Really think about Decorating”. I decided to comment on this page because I am the poster of paralysis… when one of my children was barely 7 she came to me and said, “Mrs. H’s house is so nice. She has things all over the walls (describing photos, candles in sconces, and other decorations). When I grow up I am going to have things like that on my walls, too.” — because I NEVER put things on the wall. I only wanted to put art I loved (real paintings that I couldn’t afford) and didn’t want to put money into the premade artwork at the store because it could go somewhere “more important”. But just as I had to learn that keeping the kitchen clean was important for my family, decorating is too. You must decorate to create a sense of peace and rest for your family to escape to after a day out in the world. And just one more thing – this might have something to do with the wall-hangings, too, but I learned that I didn’t have to pull out the couch in order to vaccuum (I didn’t vaccuum ever – because if it couldn’t be done RIGHT I wouldn’t do it at all). I don’t have to be perfect! God took care of that for me :) Thanks again for the great thoughtful and fun blog.

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