overcoming decorating paralysis: we need to know what we love; part 1
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 by {darlene}

Thank you so much for joining me in this series.  Your comments are so invaluable to me, as I am reading every word you write {I always do!} and thinking about what YOU have to say as I write. And there really is So much to discuss. If you hang in there, and go through the nitty-gritty of these posts, I think you will start to break free of some of the things that keep you frozen when it comes to decorating.

Have you read the first two posts in this series? In the introductory post, I shared the two main ideas we will be diving into, with the goal of breaking out of our decorating paralysis: 1. we need to know what we love, and 2. we need help. And in the first main post of the series, I actually took a step back to let you know what I really think about decorating. The comments on that post alone are worth reading!

But today, we are going to take on the first main idea toward Overcoming Decorating Paralysis:


We need to know what we Love, part one

I am not positive that everyone struggles with decorating paralysis… but my hunch is this… I bet that everyone who is honest with themselves does! Yes, even interior designers. Even the legends.

You see, there IS so much beauty in this world to admire. So much art. So many creative people who are out there creating, that we are so often caught like kids in a candy store. There are so many choices… gorgeous choices. And even within our personal limitations, there are STILL so many choices.

With blogging, and Pinterest, and magazines, and HGTV-galore… we have SO many fantastic resources that are delivered straight into our homes. Some of these images are nothing short of breathtaking. And then there are all of the great DIY projects that  give us the know-how to add nearly anything gorgeous to our homes, if we put forth that effort. And if you are like me, these images are delivered into a QUITE under-finished home. So, we see picture after picture of loveliness and we are overwhelmed. As we absorb all these gorgeous images, I think we all waffle somewhere in between inspired, discouraged, and confused. “I really THOUGHT I wanted a gold leaf chair for that spot…. until I saw that glossy red one on Nate the other day”….

And so, with all this input, many of us have decorating ADD. SO, how in the world are we to know what we love, let alone define a personal style?  We can’t seem to find any direction for defining our styles. And it leaves us paralyzed in making choices for our homes.

How on earth are we to move forward with decorating our homes, when we don’t even know what we love?


There are a few steps to finding what we love:

1. We need to start by accepting that our opinions can and will change.

2. We need to put in the work to narrow down what we love, and discover we CAN have a few definite things that define our style, and

3. We need to have confidence. If we have confidence in the things we truly love, we can even begin to move toward having a “signature look.”


As you can imagine, we can’t handle this all in one post. So, we will be visiting each of these subtopics, as we move forward toward defining the things we love. In the next three posts, we will chat about the steps to finding what we love!

I do hope you will join the discussion! I would love your input in the comments.

What prevents you from being able to define what you love?

Do you find you can find plenty of things to “like,” but have trouble knowing what you confidently “Love!” ?

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Labeled: defining your style, overcome decorating paralysis


  • This is so hard for me cause’ I love so many different styles. It is easier for me to say what I don’t like. I love this series and I look forward to narrowing down my “loves”. Thanks bunches, Lori

  • When I have hesitations of this sort, I believe it stems from the mantra, “I’ve just never done THIS before!” Fear, perhaps, would sum it up in one word.

    When we first got married, we were given a devotional written by a pastor. He recommended not buying anything substantial in size/cost for a pretty long period of time so that a couple could have time to chew on what their likes & dislikes were apart from home/a college apartment/roommates/etc. It was wonderful advice as we merged our belongings and began traveling with the military. We’ve been married nearly 12 years and I would say that within the last five I’ve really been able to pinpoint more of what I like as the foundational pieces for our home. Perhaps just giving ourselves more time without huge commitments would help define things for us.

  • I don’t have all that much opportunity for doing things in my home right now but I do think all this is very true of clothing style too. In fact that’s probably even
    more of a place for feeling paralysis for me! And styling everything for work as well like website/ leaflets etc. But especially with clothes I agree about there always being this possibility that there’s something better. I may wear things I think I like then see someone in something I wish I had more – so I’m always turning down options looking for this ultimate eureka moment of style I may find. I feel like I am very restless creatively. Do you think that’s helped the more creative things you do? I think also you can get an idea from images what you like and actually I have very strong aesthetic reactions to things but it can get quite lost in translation: making it work in real life! Love this topic, excited for future posts! X

  • Styling used to be easier. Buy a set of bedroom furniture or a set of living room furniture, all matching, and you are done, done, done, Add a couple of accessories, a picture of the fam, throw in Grandma’s candy dish, ah, nice, acceptable, until the couch wears out. As our culture encouraged more expression and gifted designers found ways to get their work out there (blogs, hgtv, magazines, etc), we have choices at so many price points. Not only must I learn what I love and why but also how to afford what I am responding to. So chic for less or copycat posts have really helped me. What I am striving to do, however, is work on my skills at seeing the big picture (the design board) so that my house doesn’t become full of really good buys that don’t really relate to each other.

  • I agree about styles changing and evolving. What I am drawn to now is a bit more streamlined than in the past. Maybe that’s my age! ;) I have never really decorated my home, but always used what has been handed down or what we had because it was functional, even if I hated it. I also struggled a bit with guilt – this is perfectly fine, why do I hate it? In the past 2 years, I have realized how stifling that has been to my creative expression, but when you are in the throes of having babies, homeschooling, a husband that travels, a lot of times these things get pushed to the side. When it was time for us to move last August, we sold a ton of things on Craigslist and donated a bunch of stuff. I have always loved decorating and looked at shelter mags, etc., I just have not put in the time, effort & money into making it happen. I still have several antique pieces from family members that I plan on painting, re-upholstering and changing, and I will not feel guilty about it! :) Thanks again for your thoughts & direction!

  • I have used Pinterest to help me define my style. I choose to pin only the photos that please me, that inspire me, that make me happy. My pinning is totally based on how I respond to the photo, and that has been so helpful for me, because I tend to over-think design decisions in my home. Now I am better at knowing what I like, direction I want to take, RISKS to take, etc. I also draw from my fashion choices and instincts…I think people dress their homes as they dress themselves, some clean-lined and elegant, some bold and bright and fun, some more casual and comfortable, and so on.

    Enjoying this series, great conversation!

  • I, too, love many different styles and my personal style has changed over the years. Now when I’m decorating, I try to look at the more long term picture. There are plenty of styles I like but know I’ll get tired of quickly so I go with things that will satisfy me longer. Does this make sense? Blessings, Tammy

  • Bravo! As a designer I probably struggle even more as I have even more to choose from. There is also the reality that an all white linen home would make my husband, children and dachshund miserable. So it appears only in small amounts. :)

  • I thought about these things a lot when undertaking our kitchen remodel and simultaneously discovering all the available online resources about a year ago (didn’t know what a design blog was before that…or houzz, or pinterest, or decorpad, etc!) It was tough with so. many. pictures. before my eyes to narrow down what I wanted for every. minute. choice! (BTW, I loved Edie’s rebuilding series, particularly the help with narrowing down your style…and if I remember correctly lots of that advice came from you) Anyway, I finally decided that if something over and over made me catch my breath or made my heart leap that I would go with it and not worry (too much) about whether it would “go” with everything else. It works for me. Everything really does end up coordinating with a pieced together look and I love the end product! No matter where I look in my kitchen, something makes me smile. I’ve been wondering, though, if this is legitimate design advice (if I ever realize my dream of helping others one day)? Am I the only one whose heart can leap at a particular refrigerator?? Or a paint color or a piece of a tile, or a sofa or an end table? Just thinking out loud :) Thanks for the steps. I particularly think #3 is soooo important and you’ve put it well.

    • What YOU SAID!!!: “Anyway, I finally decided that if something over and over made me catch my breath or made my heart leap that I would go with it and not worry (too much) about whether it would “go” with everything else. It works for me. Everything really does end up coordinating with a pieced together look and I love the end product!”
      yes. yes. yes. yes. yes. yes!!!!!!!

  • i have a hard time with this b/c i have tons and tons of pictures pinned on pinterest, but how to incorporate that style or look into my house confuses me. i have a hard time seeing the whole picture, so i have a hard time picking each thing out individually. also – i have a darker “fall” house and i am trying to change it to a more light “spring” house and i am having a hard time knowing how to do that.
    thanks for your series!! :)

  • So glad you are covering this topic. I have spent years in the design business and my main goal with my clients was getting them to KNOW what they truly loved and not just the passing trends. I developed a few techniques that seem to be helpful in diagnosing their true style loves. Being in tune with your TRUE design preferences is paramount in feeling free to make the right decision for you and your family’s home. Can’t wait to see what you have to say. So glad to have found YOU and your blog. xo Kathysue

  • This is such a great series. I’m so looking forward to you shedding some light on this decorating dilemma.

  • My two cents: what prevents ME from being able to define what I love is 1) a general overload of ideas; 2) not using an idea board to sort the ideas; 3) forgetting that NOTHING BUT GOD IS FOREVER; 4) not committing to the ENTIRE process and being organized in the project before me. Setting a budget and costing things out is so important. It’s the first step in any decorating project and the one we all like to avoid. If I don’t set a budget, I have to admit that I’m just window shopping.

  • my problem is that there is so much that i actually DO love. i love vintage mixed with modern, i love all white palettes and rustic and chippy, i love glossy clean painted finishes, i love colorful and bohemian,i love gray, beachy… that is why i always get so confused…. i really do love it all.

  • Like another commenter, Pinterest has helped me define my style more. I always thought I was just traditional. I realize I am traditional with very clean lines…bordering on contemporary. I also realize that I don’t like as much color all over as I once did. These two “revelations” have helped me immensely as I would make decisions before and not be able to pinpoint why I didn’t like it. Knowing what I am going after and using insertion has helped me narrow my choices and make wiser, more cost effective purchases. Now, my only dilemma is convincing my very traditional, strong willed husband to break out a little! Ha!

  • You are so right. I do get blocks once in awhile. I find that it is usually because I haven’t found a inspiration piece to pull it together.

  • You absolutely hit the naill on the head….every hesitation…every uncertainty…every reason I feel out of my league. I’m looking forward to more insight and direction. Thanks for taking the time to address this!!

  • How did you get into my head to read my mind???!!! This morning I was on my way to TJ Maxx and Home goods to check out any new merchandise and I had this big thought: I just have decorating ADD! I love bright tropical colors, BUT I also love the calming effect of neutrals with a very light spa blue color. So then I get so frustrated! I’m trying to decide on a new kitchen wall color, redecorate my BR, change the pillows in my LR, recover my DR chairs — I can’t concentrate on one room. I feel that I’m wasting money and I feel guilty because this “decorating” (hmm) is so insignificant in the great scheme of things. So many people in this world would love to just have a home! I’m anxiously waiting for your inspiration!

  • It’s hard because there are so many beautiful things and I like many styles. I try not to buy unless something “sings” to me. If I feel like that about a piece, I know I’ll love it forever. I’m not one to change the decor every year or two, based on trends. It’s too expensive to change it all up, but my home is usually in a constant evolution – a new pillow now, new lamp later, change the paint, refinish a piece of furniture and over time, there is constant change. It feeds my constant need to do something creative or decorative and prevents me getting tired of the house. I also lean toward traditional design that won’t go out of style any time soon.

  • This series continues to be so helpful – can’t wait to see what’s next! Thanks for making the process less intimidating.

  • YES you nailed it! I love step one – I always get frustrated that my opinion changes, but you’re right. It’s GONNA happen. That’s freeing!

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