House contentment hack

17 August 2017

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months, but I always stop just before doing so – perhaps because it seems too simple? It’s something that’s really made a difference for me, though, so I’m finally sharing!

coastal painting

Photo by Anagram Photo from our last home tour (since which a lot has changed – maybe time for a new one?)

On occasion, I find myself feeling disgruntled about our home. On any given day, maybe it’s the reddish tint in our wood floors. Or the size of our lot. Or the lack of natural light. Or that we still haven’t replaced our sofa pillows to match the vision in my head, four years into living here. Or maybe it’s just a vague feeling that creeps in of our home being less than, unsatisfactory, wanting…

Want to know the fastest way I’ve found to snap myself out of that (totally ridiculous but still very real) funk? It’s not rearranging the furniture, and it’s not even buying something new. It’s cleaning something. Or, more accurately, sometimes it’s simply tidying.

I am most content with our home in the moments before a dinner party (or a pumpkin party!) is set to begin: everything is in its proper place, the counters are wiped and free of lingering mail and crumbs, the place mats are straightened on the table, the rug has vacuuming lines, the table lamps are on, and a candle is glowing on the coffee table. I look around and think, wow, this place is so nice! (Ha!) Everything feels fresh and loved. As my friend Robyn said at Articles Club earlier this week (and I’m paraphrasing), we find ourselves loving things more that we spend time loving.

Of course, with a full life and a toddler bent on finding a new home for every item that’s not nailed down at least once a day, that “party-ready house” is not realistic most days. And that’s completely okay. But realizing that contentment is only a fifteen-minute tidying session, not a thousand-dollar shopping spree, away has been so fruitful for me.

Have you found this to be true for yourself? Any other house contentment hacks you want to share? :)

22 Responses to “House contentment hack”

  1. Natalie

    This is really helpful perspective and not at all obvious to me! Thank you for sharing!


    I’m so glad! These little nuggets are often my favorite types of posts to share :)

  2. I love this perspective shift and Robyn’s wisdom too.

  3. yes! Doing small tasks like picking up toys, making the bed, mopping the kitchen, or just sorting and purging a stack of mail make me feel accomplished and to me it feels like it gives the room a whole new life! Haha! I also like to “shop” new things in my house to repurpose other ways…like taking frames off of a shelf and hanging them up, moving throws and rugs around, or just rotating items to be styled on a shelf. I use the term “style” loosely because designer I am not. ;-) But I agree with you! I think social media can contribute to these feelings of disgruntlement.


    Definitely agree with you on social media. I almost included a line about it, but took it out because it sounded a little grumpy, ha! But seeing everyone else’s seemingly always perfectly-styled, gleaming homes can contribute to discontent for me in a big way!

  4. Sarah

    This is so true! The biggest part of of a nice home is not the actual things in it, but the cleanliness of it. I’ve also noticed that almost everyone I know in their 40s and up has a home full of lovely things. So I try to tell myself that It will happen over time! But it is hard because I have a very specific vision!


    I am with you, girl! I often get frustrated because I KNOW I could make my home look as “good” as the ones on Instagram, etc., but the money I’d need to get there is just not a priority in our budget right now. And that’s okay! As you said, we hopefully have years and years to build beautiful collections :)

    Mary Kate

    Goodness! I just got knocked over by the wisdom in your statement in this response!

    “… the money I’d need to get there is just not a priority in our budget right now.” #adulting

    I am currently expecting in December 2017 and am having all kinds of nursery envy. My husband and I are living in an apartment and are saving to buy a house next spring. It’s too easy to lose focus and put baby stuff ahead of down payment saving.

    Thank you for bolstering my resolve for our financial goals!

  5. Wow! I’m so honored I got a mention in this post! :) Definitely find this to be true for us in all things: home, car, even clothes, shoes, etc! Something about letting maximum natural light into our home by remembering to open the curtains/blinds/shades (or windows when it isn’t NC summer weather ha!) also makes me breathe deep and feel grateful!

    p.s. I love your home and style!!! And updated home tours obviously always get a yes vote from me! :)

  6. i love this so much. we have a little cottage on Columbia Street in downtown Chapel Hill and sometimes I think it’s so small compared to our friends’ homes in the suburbs. My husband always reminds me, though, that everything is relative. If our space were in Manhattan where some of our siblings live, it would be priceless because of how spacious it is. ps: your home is beautiful and perfect!


    So, so true! I’m sure many of your suburban friends compare their location to yours unfavorably – it’s all a tradeoff! :)

  7. Victoria

    I love this!! It really is so true. I’m always happiest in my home when it’s clean and a candle is lit!

  8. Emily

    Such a great post, Em. Thank you for being both honest and helpful. I’ve just moved into a new home and I have to remind myself that decorating and upgrading furniture is a PROCESS. and not an overnight one!
    Separately, you strike me as a really motivated and disciplined person — maybe you could delve into that realm. Is that just your natural way or do you use tactics?

  9. Kelly Strawberry

    So glad you posted this! As you know, home contentment is a huge struggle of mine! Now, if only my home had more natural light …. ;-)

    For me, I tend to cherish fall and winter the most in our home because it has such a cozy, mountain-lodge feel. So I really do it up for those seasons. For spring and summer, I try to spend a lot of time outdoors and get out of the house so I can really get the vitamin D! This took a while for me to learn, but the self-awareness has been so helpful.


    What an interesting perspective and adaptation! It totally makes sense, though, given what I know of your home!

  10. emma

    Not that I know her personally, but if Nancy Ray can have two kids and a business in her town home then I can be content in my home too! That is super inspirational to me because it speaks to the importance of humble beginnings and growing slowly. It also takes the pressure off the assumption that you HAVE to move just because your family is getting bigger or you’ve lived there for a certain number of years. I have come to really love and appreciate my home knowing that I don’t have to move. I come from a family that upgraded their home with their lifestyle every 3-5 years so staying put is a priority for me personally.


    Amen, amen, amen! We can be happy in much smaller spaces than our culture tells us we can – and I think our generation is really beginning to champion that! Personally, I’d rather have a much larger lot and a much smaller house than what is generally on the market these days!

  11. Caroline

    Em, I feel the exact same way – we are most content with our small, filled-to-the-gills house we’re renting with its imperfect kitchen and crummy backyard in the moments right before a dinner party. Maybe thinking of a clean and tidy house as an indulgence will help me keep it that way more of the time! Thank you for the reminder. I think it will help me feel more grateful for what we have!

  12. What great reminders. Your outlook encourages me! I can def fall in the trap of wanting more. We just celebrated 3 years of marriage and are still living in the same apartment we moved to when we got married even though we both long to have a house of our own. It’s so easy to play the comparison game and feel liked everyone else in your life stage is so much “further ahead” but we are trying to build financially as well as be smart about living “small” while I’m finishing up school. I know one day we will have a home of our own, but I am constantly having to check myself and stay content in the midst of the journey of life.

  13. Allison

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I don’t know what it is but a freshly vacuumed home makes a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE for me. If I can open the windows, bonus!

    Thank you for sharing this “real life” side. Everyone feels discontent with their homes when they get compared to someone else’s. You’re not alone in this!