Inspiration That Breeds Discontentment

by Katy on January 21, 2012 · 38 comments

I’ve recently discovered the blog Young House Love, and have been enjoying spelunking through the archives and drooling over their projects and creative . . . well . . . house love. However, along with divine inspiration, I noticed that their blog was also starting to breed discontentment with my own house.

Hmm . . . not really loving the light fixtures in our dining and living rooms, as they fuddy-duddy the aesthetic. Maybe I should keep an eye out for something more contemporary or look into painting them

But then I came across this photo of our spare bedroom from when we signed papers on our house:

Our downstairs bedroom, when we bought our house in 1996. I will leave the subject of how it smelled up to your imagination.

And I suddenly remembered how far we’ve come with our money pit fixer-upper. I can’t take a contemporary photo of the room, as it currently belong to Ayumi, the Japanese exchange teacher. (None of us wants people sneaking into our bedrooms to take pictures for the internet!) 😉 However, here’s a photo from a few months ago when I bought my stylin’ velvet pillow shams from the Goodwill Outlet:

I love, love, love our downstairs bedroom.


Same room, slightly wider shot . . . and obviously a different day as there's different furniture!

Finding inspiration without also feeling crappy about yourself is a fine line. Sometimes I cross it, but mostly I’m able to stay safe. It’s the reason why I haven’t spent much time on Pinterest. Too much unattainable perfection goin’ on there.

Do you find glossy haven blogs to be inspirational, or do they just make you feel bad? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Megyn @Minimalist Mommi January 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Oh I definitely get caught up! Whether it’s in motherhood superwomen or craft warriors or people with impeccable interior design or hardcore minimalists or the super-toned women in magazines–I have a hard time not getting pulled into feeling bad about myself. I too am not on Pinterest because I think it just perpetuates the idea that we all need to be perfect. I NEED to stop comparing, so I limit what I read/look at now. I often feel that there is a fine line between learning more, seeing more, creating more and just pressure to be more. I guess that’s where self-confidence comes in, huh? Glad you are able to come out of the other side of perfectionism 🙂


Liz January 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Hi Katy,

Interesting topic. I, too, have had that feeling with super design-y blogs. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is joy at first blush, and for me, that joy quickly turns into an icky feeling. Like inspiration overload. When that happens, I get away from the computer, take a walk, and remember how satisfying it is to live a little simpler. Thanks for putting it out there.



Cate January 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Like you, I find the inspiration vs. discontent line to be very thin. I find that limiting my time reading decor books/blogs in any one sitting is helpful. It’s like the longer I spend browsing beautiful rooms, the less inspiration I find and the more I simply want to move and start all over.


Cheapchick January 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I am not the glossy blog kind of girl – I love those blogs best that show the good bad and ugly of real life (and even failed projects) as I am not a great decorator, artist or crafter. What I love is thrifty-goodness. Some of my favorite blogs feature things found on the side of the road and redone ( comes to mind) although really, I have none of that talent either. I just admire people who do – and frankly, yes, sometimes it breeds discontent in my own home due to it.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land January 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I want to hug your comment.


NMPatricia January 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm

The glossy bogs, the decor books/blogs just make me feel bad. I work hard at not comparing. I find the most happiness when I find beauty in my own home. Usually, it comes from something I have made or created. I am no artist. But finding contentment in my own creations makes me happiest.


Brenna @ Almost All The Truth January 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I was in the waiting room the other day and picked up Martha Stewart’s ‘Living’. Yeah, that made me feel bad, She had a cleaning cabinet all lined up and perfect (like that would ever happen at my house even if we had the room!), but then I remembered that she has money, time, and resources that I don’t have. I quickly put it away. I can feel inspired on Pinterest or glossy blogs without feeling like I ever have to be that perfect. It’s just not who I am.


Madeline January 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I think most magazines and TV shows highlight an “ideal” that is mostly unattainable by most of us who are living in the real world.I get decorating envy when I look at magazines. ( I DON’T get envious at Martha’s world, however, I just think she is, well, anal!!)

I find I am most content when I browse my favorite sites on the web such as yours and other real people.

Luckily,I don’ t have cable and rarely watch TV so I totally miss the whole makeover thing that is so popular.

I’m not in the mood to make over me, my house, my pets, my anything! I kinda like us all the way we are including my house.

Any small improvements will come with time.. I know what they are, I don’t need magazines or TV to point it all out!


Bauunny January 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I don’t usually go there either because it can make me dissatisfied with what I have or don’t have. For the same reason I almost never go to the parade of homes that are held annually each spring. Ditto the mall. If you don’t go there, then you don’t know what you are missing and you don’t have to wrestle with all that consumerism. That is why the holiday season is so tough…..we are usually shopping more than usual (unless we are really strong/broke/organized. When I am surrounded by “buying opportunities” – the mall, blogs, materialistic people, all of a sudden “I see things I did not even know I needed until I got there!”. If I am honest, the people I most enjoy being with are those who are “real” and authentic and not caught up in the frenzy of consumerism. Don’t get me wrong, I like to refresh my possessions and appreciate quality and good taste…….but I try to keep it in it’s place and to stay true to my values.


Joanna January 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm

This is EXACTLY why I quit watching HGTV. I live in an adorable one-bedroom apartment with my hubby and dog and I LOVE it. Except that when I catch one too many episodes of House Hunters, I start getting the itch to buy a house and start getting on Zillow. We can’t afford a house right now and which I don’t even want the responsibility right now. I find watching too much TV in general breeds that kind of discontent.


Susan January 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I know what you mean but then I think of the hours and hours put into such HUGE projects and that would never happen in my life. Personally, I prefer my simple, quiet and uncomplicated life. I would rather admire people’s home in glossy blogs from afar!


Practical Parsimony January 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Glossy blogs or mag articles never make me discontent. They do inspire me or make me think.


Practical Parsimony January 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm

ooops, didn’t mean to post. They may give me initial pangs of wistfulness, but that does not translate to even short-term discontentment.


Becky January 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I very occasionally enjoy “inspiration” blogs or magazines. But only if I remind myself that even *those* houses don’t actually look like they do in the pictures!

I find much more inspiration in other media, such as paintings of interiors (i.e. fine arts), descriptions in books, movie sets. My house is inspired by two movies: Zeniba the good witch’s house in “Spirited Away” and Tumnus the faun’s house in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe;” and two books, Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching and Ray Jardine’s “Beyond Backpacking.”

I find that it awakens my creativity more to translate a feeling or idea from a different medium into the materials and situation I have at hand, than it ever does to look at glossy magazines and ask myself, “is there anything here I could copy?”


Indigo January 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I have a few design blogs a frequent but while they have a very strong aesthetic they are also very much the do it yourself with what you have, what you find, and over time. They give me inspiration as I plan out various home projects but I don’t go crazy reading all the archives at once because that gives a sense that this all happened in a very short time frame (exactly why I think tv makes us so discontent with our comparatively slow progress) when in face it took months or years of many small projects with a general aim due to the owner’s personal style.

When I watch some of the stuff of hgtv I think how I really don’t want to live there. Everything is so glossy and over designed, it feels like a very nice hotel, not a home.

So I’ll stick with discovering creative design solutions and figuring out which of them works for me and my home and where in the grand scheme of home improvement I’ll complete that project.


Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry January 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Hmm… I like getting inspiration and new ideas from blogs and magazines and pinterest. I know it is time to step away sloooowly when I start feeling defeated, not inspired.


Rowena January 22, 2012 at 5:35 am

I find them inspiring. We don’t all want the same things, or have the same opportunities, but good ideas are always welcome.

I had to laugh last night. I caught an episode of “Bang for your Buck” on HGTV and the realtor walked into a perfectly beautiful kitchen of dark wood cabinets, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops and pronounced the cabinets “dated.” The homeowners, who had spent $60,000 or so on the renovation, were dumbfounded.

I’ll spend my money getting the kids through college, thank you.


Elaine in Ark January 23, 2012 at 7:10 am

I *LIKE* the “dated” kitchen cabinets! I have newer cabinets (my house was built in 2004), and I don’t really like anything about them. Not crazy about the color, the size (why don’t they go up to the ceiling?????), and the fact that they don’t have knobs and pulls. My grandma’s kitchen (which grandpa built for her) was so much better – practical, functional, and not a bit of granite anywhere.

I know that I could paint or refinish the cabinets and add hardware, but money is tight and I have physical issues that would make doing this horribly difficult. I might do something with it when I prepare to sell the house, but that’s down the road a few years.


Linda January 22, 2012 at 5:46 am

I have a question: Since you buy things from Goodwill, other thrift stores and yard sales…how do you guard against bed bugs.

I would love to buy used furnature but I am really afraid of getting an infestation of bed bugs. I do buy clothes from thrift stores but I bring them home and immediately put them in the washing machine and wash them. I can’t do that with furnature. What do you do?


Elaine in Ark January 23, 2012 at 7:12 am

I have my house sprayed for bugs by a service, and my bug guy told me they had a bedbug case recently, and it cost the customer a couple THOUSAND dollars. Bedbugs are extremely hard to kill, apparently.

I won’t buy or take any upholstered furniture any more. Not pillows, either, although if they’re small enough, I could put them through the washer and dryer.


Samantha January 22, 2012 at 6:34 am

It’s a fine line for me. Over the past few years we have slowly been making changes to our lifestyle, and sometimes I find that reading blogs (yes, even yours) can make me feel like we’re just not where I want to be yet which leads to frustration. I have to consciously remind myself that changes do not happen overnight and everyone’s lifestyle is different. I love Pinterest though, it makes me feel accomplished when I’ve done absolutely nothing.


Linda H. January 22, 2012 at 7:14 am

I don’t like design magazines or blogs generally. I am more than happy with what I have, but I do feel that the longer you look at perfection you can be persuaded towards discontent. Pinterest never makes me feel like that though. I look at the cute animal pictures, inspirational quotes and I’ve found some kickin’ recipes on there!


Bonnie January 22, 2012 at 7:19 am

Glossy photo layouts can inspire me as long as I’m in right right frame of mind. I find new color palettes I haven’t thought of using, and I just enjoy looking at beauty. I became much more contented when I quit my HGTV habit. I also gave up Better Homes and Gardens for several years, but I do like the new approach they have taken recently toward more DIY and more affordability. It’s all a matter of balance for me. I like to see things that might make me stretch a little to achieve a similar result, especially if there’s an element of DIY, thrifting, or repurposing/recycling.

I have friends who faithfully attend the local Parade of Homes, and several years ago, I noticed that in the weeks and months after the tour, their level of griping about their homes skyrocketed. It seemed to fuel a flurry of furniture buying, remodeling, bemoaning, and real-estate shopping. I asked myself (and a few of the friends) why go to an event that bred such discontent. I don’t attend — even turned down free tickets this year.

The older I get, the more cynical I am about commercialism. When I find myself sucked in by a glossy magazine cover in the grocery checkout line, I remind myself that though there’s no price tag on each piece in the photo, someone is still trying to sell me something. And I kinda hate that!


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary January 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Oh, I remember “Parade of Homes!” We don’t have that around here, unfortunately. I used to *love* it. I loved getting different ideas, seeing the clever things the architect and designers had come up with. And I especially loved it when I *didn’t* like the design or functionality. That always cracked me up!

But I completely agree with you about commercialism in general. Advertisements and marketing are EVERYWHERE; it’s total overkill.


Anne Weber-Falk January 22, 2012 at 9:25 am

This is why I don’t window shop any more. I rarely look at the Sunday ad papers unless I am in the market for something. I have never gone to Pinterest. I stopped looking at all the YHL-type of sites too. I found myself dissatisfied with my surroundings. Things that were fine and I was once very happy with weren’t so nice to me anymore. We used to window shop nearly every day at a certain big box store. We were just there to look and enjoy our company. Instead we would come home with bags of things we just had to have or we thought we needed. As a result we had ridiculous debts and a home full of stuff we really didn’t need. A bunch of junk that we had nowhere to put. I don’t miss doing all that at all. Our debts are paid. We go on vacations now. Christmas is paid for in cash. We can sleep at night and we dream of each other instead of what we don’t have. It’s a nicer existence for all of us. Our children don’t have the gimme’s and neither do we. Well, not as often anyway.


Candi @ min hus January 22, 2012 at 11:04 am

I’m a home porn addict. When I used to look at only home decor blogs, and spent way too much time doing so, I did feel myself getting caught up in the wanting game. But that has changed since I’ve purged my belongings and experienced how little money you get in return for even like-new items. Now I’m able able to look at home decor blogs, browse mags, even window shop at Target etc. to my heart’s content without looking at my home differently or making unneeded purchases. I still find home decor blogs inspiring and enjoy them.


Trish January 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I am really caught up in the minimilist/tiny house movement. THOSE blogs inspire me. I can’t even watch the hgtv stuff anymore, it seem riduculous. For more inspiration, watch Garbage Warrior, a documentary about Michael Reynolds, and architect who builds ‘earthships’ in the southwest. It made me lose any desire for a conventional home. I only wish I were that creative.


Jinger January 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I love the simplicity of pinterest. I deleted all my bookmarks and have put all my best recipes, recipes I want to try, and craft projects to do on boards. The visual aspect of it really appeals to me. For me, it is a way to have everything in one place for reference. I have just a few pins on my Home board and they are really for fun more than anything else. That said, I don’t pin indiscriminately…each pin is purposeful and useful to me.

I also deleted a lot of blogs in my bookmarks and now just keep about 10 special ones ranging from frugal living to home decor.


Bauunny January 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I too am fascinated by the small home movement. (I wish someone would focus on a small “empty nester” house movement as I definitely don’t see myself sleeping in a loft in retirement.). It is my dream to have a cool small house some day….that would incorporate universal design and age in place features. My dream is downsizing…..with style and simplicity.


Kayla K January 23, 2012 at 4:34 am

I love this post! I am happy with my home, even proud of it. Then I watch shows and read blogs of people who totally gut and modernize a kitchen like mine.
The Internet is a double-edged sword. It is hard to draw the line between inspiration and competition.


Katy January 23, 2012 at 8:53 am

Great last line!



Elaine in Ark January 23, 2012 at 7:25 am

I love design blogs and TV shows! I’m not unhappy with my home (except for my kitchen cabinets, but that’s minor). I do get a lot of inspiration from the shows and blogs, and I’ve incorporated several ideas into my place. I also love to look at those glossy pictures and admire them, but it doesn’t make me feel discontented at all. I’m working at downsizing my possessions (that sounds like I’m turning them into miniatures, doesn’t it), and I do like having some blank spaces in my rooms.


Steph January 23, 2012 at 8:03 am

This is my favorite post of yours, pretty much ever. We are in the process of renovating, and sometimes we feel like our hard work fails to produce the desire result. I’ve had lots of time recently to do some introspection and reevaluation of what matters. My house is amazing, with every single missing baseboard and patch of scuffed paint. When inspiration turns to discontent, its time to walk away from the internet. And Home Depot. Ha!


Katy January 23, 2012 at 8:12 am

Thanks! I’ve written 1200+ blog posts through the years, so that’s really saying *something*.



Shelley January 24, 2012 at 1:39 am

I get annoyed when I begin to notice that all the beautiful houses seem to have floor-to-ceiling windows or 12 foot ceilings, balconies, etc. The views from the windows are all of spacious lawns… Those aren’t about decorating for me, I can’t create those aspects. Some of the best re-decorating books I’ve found are in those advice books with lots of lists, 7 steps to… etc. Grandiose pictures aren’t particularly helpful to me. If I had the eye for what I could learn from them, I would probably already have made those selections in my own home. Besides, I have a house full of inherited, bought second hand or homemade treasures I’m not about to throw away. I think you are right that these sorts of reading materials sit on a fine line.


Angela May 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I’m late to the conversation, but I wanted to read this post because it is very near and dear to my heart. Just for some perspective, I have a background in Interior Design, I have loved decorating for as long as I can remember. I have visited so many decorating blogs over the past 2 years I couldn’t count them, Pinterest included. I wasn’t a junkie, just an occasional observer when I get in the mood (because I am a homeschooling, stay-at-home, mom of 5 and a Pastor’s wife, so I have a busy life). There are a couple of blogs in particular that I didn’t have to follow for very long before realizing that the bloggers would paint and repaint something 3 (or more!) times in a year to get it “just right” (until next month!), always on the hunt for a new find, going on shopping sprees every week so they would always have something new to blog about, constantly discontented with their “stuff” (oh, and then complaining about how much junk they have to try and sell at the yard sale – so they can get money to go out and buy more stuff). Always a project…spend, spend, spend! Well, it did 2 things for me: # 1. It made me feel very sorry for their husbands, and #2. It led me to the decision to stop visiting decorating blogs forever. I am absolutely convinced that constantly changing one’s decor signals a lack of inner peace and is evidence of a troubled mind…it is an illness! What kind of life are you giving your family if you do nothing but shop and decorate, planning to shop and decorate, or blogging about shopping and decorating? Where is the meaning in that? How is that fulfilling? It truly is a mystery to me to think of spending all that precious time and money just to “impress people”. Does anyone make do with what they have anymore – and ENJOY it? I DO!! Thank you for this timely post.


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