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baby in crib

You see that photo above? That’s a picture of my daughter’s bedroom. That’s her in the crib at 7 months old.

Today, her nursery looks about the same. I haphazardly hung a set of burlap-covered star-shaped lights, but that’s about it. She’s almost 2.

There were many questions and comments I surely overthought during my pregnancy, but only one still plagues me today: “Is the nursery all set?”

My perfectionist tendencies led me into a downward spiral of self-induced shame when I’d hear this:

What do you mean by that? Do I have diapers and wipes? Blankets? Onesies? Yes.

Do I have unique artwork on every wall that ties into the larger theme and coordinates perfectly with the drapes? Does the paint color pick up the undertones of the pattern in the sitting-area throw pillows?

We are talking about a baby’s room, correct?

I had managed to find some baskets to organize her toys, reused a crate to house her books, repurposed donated family furniture, and found a tin star and drapes on clearance at the store. My proudest moment was ordering a three-piece custom-framed art set of the Fantastic Mr. Fox characters from a London artist on Etsy. It seems like I accomplished a lot — yet it’s a far cry from the creative nurseries I came across on sites like Pinterest.

I barely scratched the surface of the board I pinned for the woodland-themed nursery: birch trees, foxes, owls, wooden shelves, a mini canoe mounted as a bookcase. There was a treasure trove of ideas on Pinterest, and the initial excitement I felt exploring the social-media platform soon deluged into vexation as I couldn’t find time to shop or create a single project.

To free myself from this burden, I needed to realize: Just because the digital world provides a bounty of ideas doesn’t mean we have to — or even should — feel obligated to do them all. The delight in life is making it our own.

This probably sounds a bit trivial to some readers. It’s not as if my newborn would have refused to sleep in a minimalist bedroom (a baby’s biology has a bigger part in sleep disturbance than my choice of bookshelves for her room). It’s troubling that our culture can be obsessed with acquiring “things” when so many are struggling to even find food to eat. Why do we Americans continue to purchase the noncritical “stuff” that fills spaces even when budgets are imbalanced and debt may deepen? Wouldn’t a family vacation be more satisfying? I ask myself these questions often when I’m at the store and feel the urge to spend — I need to remind myself to think, What’s driving this desire?

Still, when I walked into my friend’s new baby’s room and saw the exact same artwork I had pinned on my Pinterest “dream nursery” board — the same artwork I never got around to creating — I felt a sense of shame and frustration wash over me. As I stewed on the guilt I felt on the drive home, my husband quickly reminded me of global crises and national debt, and my pettiness was replaced by sadness for the state of the world.

When did decorating one’s home lose its fun factor? Can we still fashion spaces that are sustainable and responsible, create a feeling of peace and pleasure for the owner — and not be engaging in another contest to keep up with the Joneses?

There are several elements at play in how the joyfulness in decorating is shifting. While our vision for our spaces may still be strongly influenced by design magazines and HGTV, we face challenges with time and money, and a growing concern for waste. Minimalism and decluttering articles and blogs have gained popularity for a reason. Our ideas of making a house a home has morphed, and even our own thinking on what makes for comfort and beauty in a home is an evolving concept. Consider the Japanese art of wabi-sabi and appreciating the imperfect, for example.

While social media can give us a sense of community, it also intensifies these feelings of competition, comparison, judgment, and even depression, as one recent study found for young adults. Sure, I can find a wealth of ideas and recipes on sites like Pinterest, DIY every nook and cranny of my home and stock a freezer full of paleo casseroles — or feel remorse for failed kitchen experiments and arts-and-crafts messes, if I even get around to attempting them at all.

Perhaps on a chilly weekend indoors this winter I’ll put together that Pinterest art project I’ve had my eye on and hang it on my daughter’s bedroom wall. Or not. Either decision works for us.

Looking for ways to simplify your spaces? Decluttering is the first step to embracing the imperfect art of wabi-sabi home décor. Consider these tips from “Wabi-Sabi Home” by Robyn Griggs Lawrence:

  • Don’t try to declutter your entire house at once. Start with a drawer or shelf and move on to bigger areas once you’ve had some smaller successes.
  • Maintenance is key. Spend 15 minutes per day cleaning up daily detritus.
  • Take everything off a shelf or out of a drawer or closet before trying to organize the contents. You’ll eliminate more stuff and arrange what’s left more thoughtfully.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Bring it to Goodwill or give it away at or
  • Every time you buy a new item, strive to get rid of two.
  • Keep windowsills clear of knickknacks and potted plants.
  • Use baskets and bowls to collect mail, pens and pencils, and loose change.

Photography by Courtney Lewis Opdahl; artwork by Maggiesneedle.

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