I spent the first few years of my post-college adult life living in a very non-adult setting: 2 roommates, 800 square feet, 6th floor rental unit with no elevator. Leaks were frequent, appliances never worked, and we had no money whatsoever to invest in our apartment. My bedroom was so small that I could lay on my bed and touch all 4 walls at once. Anyone who has ever lived in NYC on a tight budget will immediately be able to relate to this experience.
After about three years of this setup, I moved to a new city with a reasonable rental market where I could actually afford a nice one-bedroom apartment in a luxury building with full amenities. I brought no furniture with me and had to start completely from scratch. This was a thrilling prospect: FINALLY I could flex my design muscles and I had a blank canvas on which to do so. But it was also very intimidating to jump headfirst into the home decor world without any real experience to lean on. The internet was a great source of inspiration, but also made me feel overwhelmed. I found myself impulse-buying things that I had admired on other bloggers’ Instagram feeds but often regretting these purchases weeks later once they were in my own apartment. After I tossed a brand new rug that looked gorgeous online but did not feel like “me” once installed in my living room, I realized that I needed to pump the brakes and develop a real strategy. This is when my journey to discover my own authentic style began.
Your personal style is inexorably linked to your character. It’s the stuff that makes you feel most like you; it’s the stuff that most authentically expresses to the outside world what’s going on inside of you. When designing your own home, it is vitally important to stay true to your Personal Style (capitalized for emphasis). A space that is decorated without regard for the inhabitants’ Personal Style likely wont become a place of rejuvenation. For example, have you ever admired an outfit on someone else, replicated it on yourself, and then felt totally out of sync with yourself while wearing it? This is exactly what happens when trial-and-error decorating goes wrong. It is great to source ideas from your favorite bloggers or decor websites, but not at the expense of your own authenticity. In fact, I believe that the internet can often be unhelpful in the process of discovering your own Personal Style: we are constantly inundated with visuals from Pinterest to Instagram to Tumblr and everything in between, and at such volumes these visuals cease providing inspiration and simply become distracting.
If I could go back and give myself advice after my move across the country, I would tell myself to go slow. Develop a strategy. Shop with intention. And don’t be afraid to live with the bare minimum for a while — there is no shame eating off of a folding card table for a couple months while you plan your dream dining area, for example. Taking your time can test your patience, but the reward is worth the wait: it feels really, really good to live in a place that not only looks great but also feels very authentically you.
So, before you make a big purchase, check your intentions. Ask yourself: do I love this? Will living with this thing make me feel good? If the answer is yes, go for it. If you are unsure, wait a few days and see if you find yourself still thinking about it.
Or… you can always take the YOLO approach and make sure the retailer offers free returns. It’s okay to make mistakes, right?