A friend and I were recently discussing the popularity of renovation, DIY, and home decor. She and I both feel pressure to have the perfect house. “It’s the Magnolia Movement!” she said, and I’m borrowing her term.
The Magnolia Movement starts, obviously, with a base of Joanna Gaines. Add two parts all-other-HGTV, two parts social media, and a healthy dash of Crate & Barrel. (You may substitute your home goods store of choice). Shake well, and serve with a garnish of wainscoting.
My husband and I bought a new house in June. Baby #2, more space, etc. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
We created a strict timeline of updates, so the house would be move-in ready by the end of summer. This included a completely renovated kitchen, my dad (a.k.a. our personal contractor) doing plaster work, renovating a bathroom, and installing new fixtures, while my mom painted every room, ceilings included. We also hired contractors to refinish the original hardwood floors, strip wallpaper, and install recessed lighting.
Nine weeks later, true to our trusty timeline, we U-Hauled all of our earthly belongings two miles north and officially moved in.
After months choosing color schemes, making almost-daily trips to Home Depot with one to two children in tow, and scouring Wayfair every night, I was ready to relax. I assumed these preoccupations would subside after the move. *Narrator voice:* They did not.
In addition to second-guessing most of my design choices, my current hobbies include scanning empty walls and debating what would look best there. I’m a stay-at-home mom; it affords me ample time to ruminate.
This is the epitome of first-world problems. Did my mother or grandmothers worry about “what would fit this space” while they had young kids? My boys are fed and clothed and playing happily, but I’m losing sleep over reglazing bathtubs and arranging gallery walls.
Have you ever caught yourself looking at the background of a friend’s Instagram story to see how they decorated their mantle? Just me?
Why am I doing this to myself?
Maintaining the perfect house is an arms race. Clearly, I cannot feign innocence from this, with my Fixer Upper-themed Summer 2018. What’s worse: I documented much of it through Instagram stories.
We just renovated 80% of our house, but it’s not enough. Somehow I’ve conflated having a perfect home with having a perfect life. Instead of being grateful for what I have, I get stuck fixating on the flaws. If I’m not happy with it now, when will I ever be?
During a conversation with my husband, at a time when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by it all, he asked, “What’s actually important to you about this house?” I said the first three things that came to mind: that it’s safe, comfortable, and that we make happy memories here.
This is where we will raise our children, where we will have family dinners, gatherings with friends, after-school snacks, and movie nights. None of that will be affected by shiplap.
Now, when I’m driving myself crazy over how to arrange the knick-knacks on our living room shelves, I ask myself, does this contribute to a house that’s safe, comfortable, and filled with happy memories? If not, I remind myself to let it go.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have beautiful spaces in our homes. Decorating can be fun. I’m OK with thinking about it sometimes, just not all the time. I need to look less at the house itself and more at the people in it. This place is a collection of wood and plaster and paint, not a metric to compare myself against others.
Someday our house might finally be “done,” but I hope by then I’ll have learned to put the Magnolia Movement behind me.