I have this crazy idea in the back of mind that I will finish writing reviews for books read in May and THEN do an April/May Rearview… except it’s already June 12… ah well. Yesterday was my last day of my seasonal job, so I’m anticipating a better pattern of reading and reviewing (haha) in between playing with the puppy, keeping up the garden, doing laundry, running my Etsy shop, etc….
Somewhere along the line I stumbled into this book. I’m rather drawn to home organizational books and magazines; I love looking for ideas that I can use (or tweak a little and then use), especially since we somehow seem to always be remodeling something around here. This book had delightfully smooth and glossy pages and perfect binding; lots of photographs and beautiful font, so I was immediately attracted. And once I started reading, Smith’s friendly and encouraging writing kept me turning the pages.
This book felt like a letter from a friend, possibly because Smith is actually a blogger. But despite the warm tone, the book stayed focused and orderly, making it not just enjoyable for a one-time read, but a book that can be referenced again and again.
I was expecting a typical book about organizing your home – step-by-step instructions and suggestions. I was also hoping for some tips on home decorating, as I sometimes struggle with making things look ‘right’, especially in our small home where it is very easy to cross the line to ‘cluttered’. What I wasn’t anticipating was an actual message that would both encourage and challenge, as Smith believes that the first step to decorating your home is getting your heart and attitude in the right place.
She starts by outlining her own house history, which involves 13 houses in 18 years of marriage – I believe this qualifies as a lot of moves by any standard. As Smith talks about the different houses, she also talks about how, at the time, each one wasn’t ‘the one’, and so she didn’t make much of an effort to nest in. But what she began to realize was that everyone house is ‘the one’ for the current season, and while it may not be worthwhile to throw down thousands of dollars on projects in every house, it is always worthwhile to make every house your own home.
A lot of what Smith discusses has to do with the importance of contentment. So often we cheat ourselves out of enjoying the present because we are wishing we had something different. I love the quote that she attributed to Epicurus – “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Smith’s message is not a complicated one; in fact, I was rather blown away by its simplicity. Appreciate where you are now. Work within your current means. Be willing to try something new. Stop worrying about what other people think and instead create something you love. Remember that your home is a haven, and go from there.
According to Smith, perfection is overrated. Because we set “perfection” (a somewhat vague term when it comes to home decor) as our goal, we become frozen with fear and do nothing. “Done is better than perfect,” Smith says. “Welcoming and comfortable do not have to equal perfection.” She quotes Sandy Coughlin –
Excellence is working toward an attainable goal that benefits everyone, while perfection comes from a place of great need – usually the need to avoid criticism and gain praise and approval.
One of the big things that really hit me was Smith’s discussion about apologizing for things in the home. “Sorry, it’s such a mess today,” or “I’m so embarrassed by what a disaster this kitchen is!” These types of comments do not make people feel comfortable and welcomed. Instead, apologizing not only broadcasts your discontentment with your current state of affairs, it sets up whomever is receiving your apology to wonder how harshly you would judge their messes if you were in their home!
After quite a bit of time on attitude and contentment (time that was not at all wasted, in my opinion), Smith gets down to some of the nitty-gritty of nesting. She says that a big part of making decorating decisions is first of all determining the purpose of your home and of the different spaces within it. She points out that most of us want things that are somewhat intangible for our homes. Smith suggests taking a moment to “think about words you would use to describe the feel of the home you’ve always wanted,” and later she lists several words that she gathered from some of her blog readers. The words were things like “restful,” “welcoming,” “comfortable,” “safe,” “fun,” and “joyful.” Start with your words, she says, and go from there to create intentional spaces.
I’ve rambled on quite a bit about this book, but it really impacted me, and I highly recommend it. While I’ve talked a lot about Smith’s thoughts on attitude and contentment, she also has a lot of practical advice. A huge take-away for me was the importance of making the spaces in my home purposeful – to look at each room/area and decide what it is I want that space to do, and then only place things in that space that further the purpose.
Funny story, I thought I would start with the little dining nook off our kitchen, and I started to write down the different things we use that space for, and realized that the one thing we don’t use it for is eating… and now we’re in the process of turning the entire area into a pantry, and there are boxes of food stacked all over the place and construction dust everywhere, so be careful whilst reading this book!
I also have to say that Smith has been a renter throughout the majority of her married life, and her book reaches out to renters as well as home-owners. So many of her suggestions and thoughts are inexpensive and easily changed (hanging pictures, moving furniture, painting things, etc). I found myself wishing that I had read this book back when we were renters and I so often found myself staring at those dreadful flat-beige rental walls!
All in all, The Nesting Place was an unexpected encouragement. Warm and thoughtful, challenging and practical, I highly recommend this book if you are feeling a smidge overwhelmed about creating a “look” for your home.