Thursday, 12 June 2014

It's the Process, not the Product

My house is far from perfect. And I'm not talking about dirty dishes and laundry piles (although I have plenty of those too), I'm talking about the actual house. The renovations, the DIY projects, the repairs, the furniture and decorating.

I have blue bathtubs.

 My bathroom floor is swelling and lifting all around the toilet (TMI I know but I'm being honest here). The entryway tile is cracked in several places and the grout is chocolate brown colored, but it's supposed to be beige. I have a hole cut in my wall where a pipe burst two winters ago, and it's still not patched and painted over. My kitchen countertop is from the early 80's and it's gold fleck suface is covered in holes and cracks and scratches. I have a spare bedroom that is still painted the spiderman-esque red and blue that was left behind by the previous owner's teenage son.

We have lived in this house 2 1/2 years, and we have so far to go. Some times I look around and I feel like we will never get it all done. Aside from a couple of rooms,  I really don't feel like this house reflects "Us" or our style much at all. And I'm a firm believer in having a home that is meaningful and reflective of the people who live there.

I have moments where I feel frustrated with the process. I admit, I've had fantasies about winning the lottery and hiring a designer to make my home beautiful from top to bottom in a matter of weeks. Who wouldn't love that?

But then I come back to reality, and I remind myself of some other things that I believe when it comes to houses.

 -  I believe that homes should be personal. Should be real. Sure, if I wont the lottery I could buy out Pottery Barn and have a beautifully staged home tomorrow. But that's all I would have. A staged home that looks like a page out of the Pottery Barn catalog.

 Real homes should be filled with things that have meaning and are special. A bookshelf full of items rounded up on a Homegoods spree just doesn't convey the same warmth and realness that a bookshelf full of items collected over time does. Sure I could run to the home improvement store and buy everything I need to renovate my bathroom in one shopping trip, but would it be nearly as loved as a bathroom that took two years to renovate and countless hours of searching for "just the right" things would? Certainly not.

There's nothing wrong with Pottery Barn, and I own several things from there and will continue to shop there. But if all you have is room full of hastily purchased, mass produced items from a chain store then your home will always be lacking personality. Lacking realness.

 - I believe that taking time to source out the right supplies and find just the item I imagined is more important than sticking to a timeline. Sometimes I have a specific idea in my head, or even an inspiration photo, of how I want a space in my home to look. In our last two houses, I would start out with an idea and quickly compromise. The store wouldn't have any tile in stock that was similar to what I wanted, so I would settle for something that was "nice" or "good enough". I would set my heart on something and then discover that it was out of my price range, so I'd compromise by purchasing something that I didn't really like but was in my price range.

Now that we are in our long-term house, I have learned not to settle. I don't mean that I buy everything I want regardless of the price; we are on a budget and I can't just blow the bank in order to have an overpriced item just because I want it. But I have learned that if I have patience, I can almost always find what I am looking for at a price point I can afford. 

When we were doing our bathroom renovation, I had my heart set on square white sinks. The local stores didn't have anything square, and the next town over had some Kohler sinks exactly like what I wanted but were triple what I was willing to pay.

So I waited. I searched online regularly, I browsed home improvement store flyers. I stalked Overstock. I had some online friends keeping their eyes open. 

It was frustrating to have to wait. We had removed the medicine cabinet, painted the ceiling and the walls, ordered the countertop. All we were waiting on before we could finish it off were the sinks. It was tempting to just settle on some round sinks and get the project over with, but I knew that I wouldn't be happy with it in the end; I had my heart set on square sinks.

And then one day I was making a purchase on Amazon and before I checked out, on a whim I typed "Square white sink" into the search function. 2 minutes later, I had ordered the perfect sinks at an amazing price with free shipping right to my door.

Our bathroom renovation stretched out to an almost 5 month long process. We could have finished it easily in a few weeks, but we took the time to source out just the right materials and not compromise. And I love it! I am so glad we lived with a half-finished mess of a bathroom for the time we did; it was all worth it in the end.

 - I believe the real value is in the process, not the finished product. In college I took a course on teaching art for children and our instructor drilled this concept into us. It's not about how perfect the finished product looks - it's about how you get there. It's about the experience of creating, of exploring, and learning. Figuring things out as you go along, adjusting, testing.  At the end what you have isn't as important as the experience you HAD creating. 

I find that I get the most enjoyment and satisfaction of the projects that I did myself. I feel most happy with the things that were the hardest to figure out, or took the longest to finish. If someone came in and created my perfect room for me overnight, I would enjoy it, sure . . . but I wouldn't look at it and say "Remember when we built that?" and "Remember when we brought that home from a yard sale and I had to sit with my knees on the dash so it would fit?" 

The stories wouldn't be there. The memories, the pride of accomplishment wouldn't be there. Sure it would be a beautiful room but I know I wouldn't love it as much as if I had brought that room together myself slowly over time.

The experience of creating your dream home is a big part of what makes your home your dream home. Enjoy the process. Don't rush it along just to have a "finished" room. So what if you have to live with shag carpeting for another six months until you find the perfect hardwood flooring? In the end you will have the look you wanted and the thrill of finding just the right item, at just the right price. There's nothing like it! It's an easy trade off for a few extra months of living with that shag carpeting because you will forever enjoy the results of your hard work and perserverance.

I won't say that I am completely content to wait and have my house evolve over time. I get frustrated and I want things to look pretty; it's actually stressful for me to live with things that aren't visually pleasing because I am such a visual person.

I have my moments of wishing I could just jump into the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog, sure. But then I look around my home and I see all the stories that are in every piece. The memories attached to all of the rooms that we have worked on. And I wouldn't trade that feeling for anything. I just wish I could hurry it along just a little bit!

Spiderman room, I'm coming for you!

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