Illustration by Christopher Silas Neal
When Angela's husband, Mike, passed away, he left her with wonderful memories, a considerable fortune and a gorgeously decorated mansion. Angela had personally designed the interiors with objects she'd found while traveling around the world. But with Mike gone, the massive, empty house felt like a relic of a bygone era. So Angela moved into a smaller home and started decorating again, but this time she couldn't seem to get it right—in her eyes, anyway.
No sooner had she realized one vision than she'd launch into another and begin anew, rearranging the furniture, replacing art and swapping out the drapes. Angela's friends, who kept being invited over to see the ever-changing decor, insisted each time that the place was perfect, hoping that their praise would help her take a sorely needed break. Not a chance. Angela had become a compulsive decorator, and her anxious energy prevented her from stepping back and actually enjoying the fruits of her labor.
This unquenchable need to tinker can happen to any of us, whether we live in a mansion or a studio apartment. But the drive to make everything beautiful—taken too far—creates disharmony. If you can't rest easy with the look and feel of your home, if you fear that you've stopped making it better but can't stop making it different, it's time to put yourself—and your house—back into balance with these three steps.
Step 1: Plan Your End Game
The momentum of decorating can have a hypnotic effect that keeps people like Angela fussing long after a room is finished. It's easy to get caught up in this loop when you don't set an end point before you begin. Envisioning a state of completion helps you know when it's time to stop.
Do this in two dimensions, not three. Find pictures of rooms that have the look you want. Draw a floor plan or sketches of the finished space. Don't worry about your artistic ability; all you're doing is imprinting a mental model of "doneness."
When your 3-D space matches your 2-D photos and drawings, you'll feel a sense of resonance. It will be visually clear that the room will look less like your goal—not more—if you continue to decorate.