I know that sounds like a crazy question.
How could you possibly be punishing a house? How could you even do that anyway?
Years ago, I hired a professional organizer to help me with my kitchen. And she told me something that changed my life.
She pointed out that I was punishing the kitchen for not being the way I wanted. Ouch.
You see I longed to rip it out and start again – but I couldn’t.
I was angry that it wasn’t the way I wanted.
So instead of trying to make the best of it, I was neglecting it.
But here’s the thing: it wasn’t working.
The kitchen didn’t have feelings. It didn’t feel shame about how ugly it was or how outdated. The kitchen wasn’t suffering.
I felt embarrassed about how it looked.
I felt shame about how I had tried to fix it up. (I painted the cabinet doors this wonderful Farrow & Ball green … trouble is I think green is a good colour for plants. Period.)
I felt angry when I tried to cook it its messiness.
Not taking care of the kitchen was making me feel worse. I was taking my disappointment and frustration out on something that literally couldn’t have cared less.
Obviously it wasn’t going to work. The only way the kitchen was ever going to look better was if I did something about it.
I had to take care of it
The kitchen wasn’t magically going to become a lovely space where I could happily cook.
It seems crazy when I write about it now. But how often do we unconsciously do similar things in our homes?
How often do you ignore something because it isn’t the way you want?
If you’re anything like me, a lot more than you would like to admit.
It’s easy to take care of things we love. And it’s easy to disregard things that we don’t.
Trouble is when you do that in your home, you end up living in a mess.
Not only do you end up surrounded by things that haven’t been taken care of – dirty floors, peeling paint and the like, you also end up disliking your home more and more. On top of whatever the original problem was, you have added mess … and the self-recrimination that usually comes along with it.
Caring for your home is about caring for yourself
Creating a home you love is a way to care for yourself and your family. It’s a way of showing that your comfort and pleasure is worth some effort. It’s a way of showing that you matter.
What would happen if you stopped punishing your ugly spaces?
What if you started taking care of them? What if you tried to make the most of what was already there?
How would you feel then?
Sure, it may not make a huge difference in the way the space looks (although you’d be surprised), but it will make a big difference in how you feel about it – and yourself.
Once I started caring for my ugly kitchen, our relationship totally changed. I was able to make small changes to improve its function and enjoy using it. It stopped being my enemy.
So here’s some ideas to get you started on taking care of a space that you would rather treat like an outcast.
Lavish your uglies with some good old-fashioned care
Give it a good scrubbing. Empty it out. Wash everything. Give it a lick of paint. Fix things that are broken.
If you can’t do a complete overhaul right now, perfect. See what you can do with one day’s sweat equity and supplies you have around the house.
Do the easy things you already know need doing.
Ask yourself – if I was taking care of this space, what would I be doing differently? Then do that.
Tell the truth
Grab a sheet of paper and write “What I Want” on the top of one side – and “What I Need” on the other. Then let loose.
Write about what you want to feel in your space, what you are longing for.
What matters to you in this space? What do you want to experience here? What do you want to do here?
Pour it all out. Don’t worry if it seems impossible or impractical. Give your spirit a moment to speak.
When you’re done, flip the page over and make note of the things you know you need.
Maybe you need more light, a place to put your books or your tea. Maybe you need a new sink. Maybe you need something beautiful on the wall over your desk.
Again, tell the truth about what you need. It doesn’t have to be practical or even “logical.” Some things that you write down might be a total surprise but you feel their rightness.
Be willing to find out what you truly want and need – it might not be what you first thought.
Try something new
Now that you’ve shifted your internal conversation about the space, notice if you feel even a tiny bit better. Maybe a tiny bit less trapped.
On another sheet of paper, ask – what could I do here?
Write down any idea that pops into your head. No censoring. No judging. No worrying.
Just be curious. This is only a list of the things that you could do. You won’t have to do anything you can’t afford or that stresses you out.
What on that list would you actually love to try right now? Does any particular thing make your heart lighten up?
Maybe it’s moving some furniture around to try a new layout. Maybe it’s looking for some inexpensive prints for that wall behind your desk. Maybe it’s clearing off the bookshelves and rearranging things so they look nicer – and you can find your books again.
Just try something. DO something different.
Who cares if it isn’t perfect – you have a whole list. Try one and see how you like it. Rinse and repeat.
You can’t shame a space into looking better
It doesn’t work. Neither does ignoring it.
But once you start caring for a space, no matter how ugly and no matter how much you hate it, you’ll feel better about it. It’ll open up your eyes to easier and cheaper solutions to get what you want.
Remember that ugly kitchen of mine? In the end, she got new cabinet doors and hardware, new tile and new counters. All done for a small fraction of what my original solution would have cost. And we were delighted with her.
Now it’s your turn
Have a particular room you love to hate? I’d love to hear about what you have been punishing – and what you are going to try instead. Share it with me in the comments below.
Wondering what could be done with your ugly space?
I want to talk to you!
I’m interviewing lovely women like you about creating a beautiful + functional home. In exchange for answering my questions – I will give you a complimentary Design Vision Consultation. Click here for more info or email me to say you’re in.
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