Every once in a while, I read a book that changes my life. The Nesting Place is one of them.
I put it on par with the film “He’s Just Not That Into You“, which completely and in one fell swoop changed my thinking about relationships (or potential ones). (I will have to write a whole nother blog post on that, but if you are single and female, it is a must-read or must-watch.)
There are books that you read and don’t think twice of at the time, but over the months and years you notice it has had an impact. There are those you think are life-changing, but you realise later you can hardly remember anything from it. And then there are those – like the Nesting Place – which before you even open the book you have already started making changes.
I read a blog post about it (from another favourite author, Ann Voskamp), and then I read the Amazon description. I ordered it immediately – one of those decisions you don’t question- and by the time the book arrived in the post, I had already put up a few canvases on my wall, rearranged all the photographs in my flat, pounded in some nail holes that (gasp!) were in the wrong place, and in general embraced her rallying cry that “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”
This is a message every woman – whether you own your home, rent a flat, borrow a room, live at home with your parents – needs to hear, read, and embrace.
And it’s not just about our homes or living areas, either. It’s a concept that I realised with surprise after I finished the book was applicable to every single area of my life. My work doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. My photography doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. My clothes, my hair, my body, my relationships, my family, my birthdays, my attitude on a Sunday morning as I go to church – none of it has to be perfect to be beautiful.
It’s a lie we women have believed for far too long. I’m only renting, so I can’t paint the walls. I can’t start a blog because it won’t be as amazing as my friend’s blog, or Ann Voskamp’s blog, or Myquillan Smith’s blog. I can’t wear a bikini because I don’t look like Angelina Jolie. I can’t, it isn’t, we don’t, it’s not. We throw those around and – like in the aforementioned He’s Just Not Into You, where our girl friends tell us yes, we are right, yes, even though he hasn’t texted you or talked to you or even looked at you, he definitely is in love with you – we are continually supported by those around us. People tell me my flat is beautiful, and my response is that it’s too near the road and I am only renting. Yes, yes, they say, and we both are discontent, instead of both rejoicing in the open rooms, the bright light, the white walls, the comfortable papasan chair that every single visitor loves so much they never want to get out of.
The truth is, you have to love the home you’re in. Love the body you’re in. The family. The relationship. The church. The job. The business. The city. The life.
Here are just a few things I picked up from reading The Nesting Place – but please, for the sake of $13 brand new, $8 on Kindle, or $0 from the library, get the book for yourself. You are not me, your house is not mine, your life is not mine. You will pick up different things – and you should. But for the love of a happier, more contented life, in which you actually LOVE the home you are in (and all that goes within it), read it. (On the very slight off-chance you don’t click with the book, you can give it away as a gift to someone else.)
Put nail holes in your walls.
This one was mentioned on Ann Voskamp’s blog and on the Amazon description or reviews. It is such a freeing concept. Just go for it. Yes, you may put the hole in the wrong place, and need to shift the painting over a few inches. The hole might even be visible – or multiple holes might be. It is not a disaster. (quote re fashion police) It is phenomenal how many of us have paintings, canvases, prints, and other amazing things that could be showcased on our beautiful walls, but we hide them away in closets because we are waiting for the perfect spot, or because we’re not sure, or because we don’t have the perfect frame.
Shop your own house.
This is also great fun. We leave things in their current position so long that we no longer see them for what they are – or we fall into the trap of saying, “but the mop is always in the kitchen!” It reminds me of a book my mum loves called “But We Have Always Lived In The Castle”. I can’t even remember what the book is about – I think it’s a murder mystery – but as someone who used to be an auditor (where the rallying cry was “what did they do last year??”) and is now a photographer and a marketer (“how can we do things differently?”), it is good to remember that just because the flower painting has always been in the hallway doesn’t mean that is the best place to show it off.
There is also something to be said for seasons – I have started a new thing of printing off four canvases for each season. Right now I have four of my own photographs on my dining room wall, proclaiming to the world that it is summer, no matter what the weather looks like outside. When autumn comes, these will change to a blaze of gold and red and yellow glory. But it is incredible what you already have in your house that you have forgotten about, or never used, or were waiting for that perfect moment. Now is the moment. “Use the good stuff!”
Ask friends you admire for advice.
This is one of those tips that applies to all areas – food, clothes, relationships. And when it comes to your home, ask for ideas or thoughts or advice from people whose houses you love. If you like their style, chances are what they tried will work for you too. If you don’t, or they have a style that is not yours, then feel free to reject their ideas. Myquillan Smith spends a whole section on not listening to people whose style or ideas don’t match with yours. The man who tells you never, ever to paint over wood. The friend who insists that red should never be used in a living room. The sister who….okay I can’t think of anything there, because my sisters are amazing, and pretty much encourage me to do whatever darn thing I want to in my house. But not everyone is so blessed.
Buy table lamps.
For some reason, this is one of those little things that jumped out at me from the book and stuck in my head. She says that more warmth and light is always a good thing, so buy more table lamps. Overhead lighting is a start, but can be fierce or over-white or (God forbid) fluorescent. I was at IKEA and i found a lamp I really liked, but it was the most expensive thing I considered that day (even my DVD tower bookcase was cheaper). But I remembered her advice about warmth and cosy lighting, and splurged, and I suddenly feel like my living room is a place I want to…well…live. Not just use when company comes and shut up the rest of the time.
In your search for contentment in the house (or room) you now have, just give it a shot. Risk the nail hole, the physical effort to move an entire couch (only to move it back), the sawed-off table leg that you wish you had left where it was. One of the things Myquillan Smith mentioned several times, to my delight, were the mistakes she made. A mirror propped on a table that shattered. Purchases for her kitchen that were a complete colour fail. You read them and think, “Oh thank goodness, it’s not just me.” It’s the same way we feel with the other areas of our life. We obsess over a new relationship opportunity and discover that a friend did the same. We struggle to pay attention to a sermon and find that we are not horrible Christians, after all. We try our hand at painting and discover that ceramics are more in our line (or the other way round). The point is not to give up before we start. Try. Risk. Fail. Fail gloriously. When it comes to decorating your home, what is the worst that can happen? Try that exercise (link to fear blog post) where you pinpoint your fear to the furthest degree. You are not afraid of making nail holes, you are afraid your husband will be angry with you and never let you put up a painting again. You are not afraid of getting the paint colour wrong, you are afraid that all those who visit will hate your home – and hate you – and never speak to you again. When you take your fears out to that level, you realise what you can do to address the reality of the fear, not the thing that you thought was before you.
Move things around.
She has a whole chapter on how to look at a room with intentionality, and how to look at a room in a way that will help you maximise its potential. Obviously there is no need for me to repeat the whole message (since you have just bought the book before you even finished reading this blog post, and it is winging its way to your beautiful-yet-imperfect home), but this is classic advice – and a family joke in my family. As teenagers we would stare into the fridge, looking for something in particular, and shout to mum, “It’s not there! I can’t find it!” My mum’s constant refrain was, “Move things around!!” Move the pickle jar. Move last night’s lasagne pan. Move the entire crisper drawer. Of course, our response was always, “Ohhh-h-h-h”, and my mum would roll her eyes and go back to whatever we dragged her away from. It got to the point that she wouldn’t even come into the kitchen, but would shout from another room, “MOVE THINGS AROUND!”, and we would. I am sure that one of the happiest day of my mum’s life was a day she wasn’t even there for, a day when I was in my own flat with my own fridge unable to find something, and then suddenly said to myself, aloud, “Move things around!”, and found it. That whole “mother’s voice in your head” thing really does work.
It does have to be good.
Embracing beautiful imperfection does not mean that your house looks like junk. That your couch is stained and broken. That nothing matches (unless you want it that way). You have to be able to look at what you have done and be glad in it. When I was putting up my wall of framed photographs, I took down and put up many different times. I looked at the whole thing and thought, “No, that one definitely does not fit there”, or “I don’t like the red next to the blue”. In your beautiful imperfection, get to the place where you say, “That is good.” Not perfect, not even Better Homes and Gardens. But good.
Miracles do happen.
You wander into a charity shop and find that table lamp you have been dreaming of since you first moved into your house. You wish for a comfortable yellow chair with funky little claw feet, and a friend is giving one away. (That is my current dream – if you are in the UK and you have one, let me know. I will come pick it up.) A friend with an interior decorating business gives you a bunch of old fabric samples. While you are embracing the beauty of imperfection, be willing to hold out for what you dream of. Just don’t sit around miserable while you are waiting. Buy the almost-as-good chair and rejoice in it until the miracle chair arrives. Use the free couch until you can afford the dream one. But hold on to the hope that God loves to bless us with beautiful things for our homes, as well as beautiful things for our souls.
If this sounds like you, buy the book. I’m not getting any referral fees – I just love it when my friends’ lives are changed for the better from being told truth. When we stop believing lies, and see glorious beauty.