Bold at home: moving past fear to tackle unfinished projects and learn new skills

Too intimidated by the pursuit of Pottery Barn perfection to even buy a throw pillow?

When I was a very young mom with a new baby and an almost-as-new husband, I devoured library books on sewing, cooking, extreme frugal living (anyone else remember The Tightwad Gazette?) and various other homemaker-y topics.

Inspired by my mom, who’d taught me how to make house feel cozy and warm even with dated furniture and little money; and in a different way, my stepmom, who served as a great example of tasteful decorating and all-around industriousness, I yearned to make our dingy one-bedroom apartment feel like a home.

But for all my reading, I had a hard time taking action. I longed to try to make a simple skirt, but never cut out the pattern. I perfected the (low-stakes) art of making a chocolate-chip cookie from scratch, but turned to boxes and bags for almost every meal. And our walls, for the most part, remained empty white canvasses. I even debated for weeks before being able to bring myself to buy closet organizers or storage bins.

What held me back? Fear: of choosing the wrong color, of burning the roast, of choosing the wrong system (and dooming myself to a life of disorganization), of accidentally making a skort instead of a skirt.

Over the years I’ve been slowly moving past the resistance of trying new things around my house – from finally (within the last year or two!) learning how to deal with cooking a whole chicken, to buying a series of Nikki McClure prints for my living-room wall just because I loved them:

…and for once I didn’t care what anyone else thought – though as it turns out, pretty much everyone loves them too.

It might seem strange that I would feel apprehensive about trying new things in my own home when I’ve done plenty of new things that seem much scarier to others, like auditioning for a musical or submitting a book proposal to a publisher. But I think there are lots of reasons we let fear hold us back in our homes – a place where we are supposed to feel safe to be ourselves – sometimes more than we do in other areas of our lives.

I have been really inspired by The Nester’s posts on decorating (or not?) out of fear. Since October is all about “home” here at The Happiest Mom, I’m going to be posting a lot on overcoming fear and intimidation throughout this month and into November, when we’ll be talking about food. That’s going to mean exploring some of the reasons I (and maybe you?) hold back instead of trying that DIY project we’ve been thinking about, why choosing artwork for the walls can be so. darn. hard., how to ease into learning new skills, and how we can all embrace our mistakes and learn from them instead of feeling paralyzed by the unattainable ideal of perfection in our bedrooms and living rooms and bathrooms and kitchens.

I’ve got a small budget for some renovations this fall, which is simultaneously exciting and a little terrifying. So I hope you’ll cheer me on as I try some new things – like laying down flooring and choosing countertops – for the very first time, and maybe you’ll feel inspired to do something that’s always made you anxious, too. If so, I hope you’ll tell us about it here!

Have you ever let fear or intimidation hold you back from jumping into a home project? Are you learning new skills despite worries that you’ll screw up? Please share!

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