House Lust

by Katy on October 16, 2010 · 12 comments

I’m currently in the middle of listening to an audio book of House Lust: America’s Obsessions with Our Homes, by Daniel McGinn. This is not a book recommended by anyone in particular, but simply something I pulled off the shelf at my friendly neighborhood ♥library♥. I am absolutely loving this book, and feel that it was written for me as a simple living wannabe, old house aficionado, recovering HGTV addict, chronic remodeler and book superfan. (Yeah, I know, I’m one screwed up broad.) Sadly, I can’t quote from the book, as it’s in spoken form. (However, I have put the actual book on hold at the library, so this is soon to change.)

The author makes many fine points throughout the book, one of which is how what may initially seem new and exciting, will normalize with time. My example of this is my dining room curtain. When we bought our house in 1996, our next door neighbor ran an illegal scrap metal business out of his side yard. To say it was a less than idyllic vista would be an understatement. Our goal for the curtains was something that would block the view, yet still let some light through. The budget solution was a super cheap curtain rod from my mother’s basement, paired with Goodwill sheers that my mother hemmed to the right length. Not particularly attractive, but functional. I was happy.

Fast forward 14 years and the neighbors have long since moved on, replaced by the loveliest retired couple, (hi Nancy, hi Beau!) but the utilitarian curtains are still in place. The curtain rod gets a little bent, (which I periodically unbend) but the window span is ten feet across, so it needs to be replaced by a serious piece of apparatus.

I am no longer happy with the curtain. I feel that it does not live up to my sophisticated design sense. (Don’t worry, I’m making fun of myself here.) I am no longer happy to just have a curtain. I have normalized the initial excitement of simply having a curtain. I look at blogs such as Modern Thrifter, (my fave new blog!) and see how the author has fashioned the perfect curtain solution for her daughter’s room, and I lust over the curtain rod, which has a center support which looks like the perfect solution to my super wide window issue.

And I over-thinking here? Of course I am, but that doesn’t mean that what once gave me satisfaction isn’t now grating on my nerves.

This phenomenon of normalizing what was once exciting is not exclusive to house related issues, as the thrill of many new purchases is that they are, well, new. And you and I both know how long that lasts.

I highly recommend this book, and feel it’s a good match with the content here on The Non-Consumer Advocate. You’ll be hearing more about it in the near future.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

WilliamB October 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

Normalization is a very important thing to remember when trying to be frugal and non-consumerist. Another is that the more effort we put into getting something, the more attached we are to it. This can work to our advantage! Thinking a lot about what the right thing is and looking a long time with lots of effort can contribute to our attachement and maybe contentment with an item.


Practical Parsimony October 16, 2010 at 10:17 am

Katy, you are to be commended for wanting something different after ONLY fourteen years. Most people would start yearning after much less time. It takes me a long time to get over the “new” of an item, even if it is thrift store or yard sale. Objects normalize slowly around here. Congratulations!


Jessica Wolk-Stanley October 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Hey Katy,

Thanks for sharing the link to Modern Thrifter. What a good-looking blog.


Kariann October 16, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Thank you for the heads up on House Lust. I requested the book from my library.



Diane October 16, 2010 at 10:55 pm

I have long dubbed the home improvement game “socially sanctioned self-indulgence”. You can’t drone on for hours at a party about your kids, in-laws or ailments, but if the topic is “improvements we’re making to our home…” look out. One spillover benefit of the current economic reality is that for the most part, these bragging conversations have abated somewhat.
I’m tickled that someone actually wrote a book on the topic.

I’m struggling with a variation on this theme: Being told by “experts” what I should do “for resale”. I don’t have granite counter tops, don’t like stainless steel appliances and hate the coldness of hard surface floors. Yet time and again, “experts” tell me I must make these improvements to “protect” my investment. I don’t get it. Where’s the balance between what I want or enjoy and what some mythical buyer might someday want to buy? I’d love to hear your thoughts, Katie, especially once you’ve finished “reading” the book.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 17, 2010 at 3:27 am

I just want to say that I really like the lighting in the photo of your curtains. lol


Katy October 17, 2010 at 7:59 am

Glad to hear the light the lighting. I think it looks kind of crappy, but I’m going to go with your take now. 😉



Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 17, 2010 at 10:48 am

It’s sort of moody and artsy…I mean, we can’t see your curtains super well, but it’s a lovely photo to look at!


Juhli October 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

While you are waiting to replace the curtains, I think you can buy the rod support thingy (technical term for the piece that holds up the middle of the rod) at home improvement stores. How about some colorful tie backs too?


Trina October 20, 2010 at 6:12 am

We have a wide-span window valance that was sagging in the middle, also. I placed a large cup hook (less than $1) in the middle to support the valance rod (you can slit the fabric a little if necessary to poke the hook under the rod) and voila – no more sag, and you can’t see the hook.


Ms. Oomph October 21, 2010 at 5:52 am

House Lust is on my “to read” list, thanks for the overview!

While I agree with the theory of normalization, I also think that there are some ( seemingly impractical) things that CAN give you a lasting thrill every time you look at them. Things that make you feel beautiful or calm or have emotional or sentimental value.

Of course, balance is crucial in everything, and contentment should not be based on our possessions. But don’t feel guilty because you dislike your sagging curtain rod. As several people have pointed out, there are a few super cheap (< $1) ways you can fix the issue, and improve your home environment.

I think there can be *some* legitimacy to "investing" in less functional or less practical aspects of your home (aesthetics) if it helps you to feel calm and at a peace. God doesn't give us an appreciation for beauty and create beautiful things in nature, and then expect us humans to enjoy sitting in a gray, windowless box. ;-D

Off to put the book on hold– maybe my opinions will shift after I read it!


Trish [ modern thrifter ] October 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I also tend to normalize things. Usually it ends up with a furniture rearrangement session (or a trip to the thrift store).

We actually used two of these same curtain rods side-by-side downstairs in our family room to cover a ten foot bank of windows, but we left out the center supports. The curtains are much heavier, and the rods are sagging a little, too. It works much better in Tula’s room, especially because the curtains are lightweight.


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