How to Get Over Decorating Paralysis



You know when a post is serious when there are few images. Well, this is a serious post about a serious affliction affecting a large part of the decorating enthusiasts community. I’m assuming since you’re here, you, are one of us. Resistance is futile. OK, so it’s not that serious.  It’s fun!

I’m an interior designer by trade and by passion and I wish that made me my own best client. So not that! I’ve been putting off decorating our master bedroom. So much so that when I finally decided it was time to get going on the master bedroom project I ended up re-doing my office instead. I used the excuse that my office was disorganized, and it was, but it could have waited. The good thing is I have two more future posts for you! And, with LOTS of DIY stuff, putting off rumours that I don’t DIY that came from some friendly ribbing (you know who you are ;)). But first I needed to accept my own advice.  It’s been a case of doctor, or in this case, designer heal thy self!

I help people get over their decorating stagnation and indecision all the time, that’s why I named my business Just Decorate! I realized that I never actually provided a written manifesto for how to get UNstuck and move forward.  So from the Just Decorate! book of Interior Design Psychiatry let’s look at the causes, symptoms and cures for Decorating Paralysis!

How do you know you are suffering with Decorating Paralysis?

1. Weeks, months and maybe even years go by and the space you moved into is still  in the same state as when you saw it when it was up for sale or rent. Or, worse you started a project and it’s been in the same state for months.

2. You make excuses like, “I just need to find the right (fill in blank here) to get organized,” or “my partner and I can’t agree on what to do”. All valid points, but for how long?

3. When people come over you sell the version of your ideal space and furnishings. Eventually, you will change that vision since it’s gone out of style.

Decorating Paralysis Causes

Fear. The mind says, “I’ll get it wrong.” I say what is wrong? Can you describe the wrong way or the wrong furnishings?  If yes, than the right is the clear choice.

Indecision. I find that indecision is linked to too much choice. Too much stuff is just part of an everyday bombardment of the newest and latest ever evolving trends in consumer society. Ever notice the over whelming selection of, well, everything from shampoos to cell phones to feminine hygene?  Editing your selection goes a long way in narrowing the field.

Facing up to the Reality.  The reality is there is only so much you can do on your own, so much money you can direct to the project and so much time you can dedicate to it.

Dedication (noun; the state of being dedicatedHer dedication to medicine was so great that she had time for little else.) and 

Commitment (noun; the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.). Although we interchange these words all the time I wanted you to see the definitions for each word is different.  Also, these words are action words which require action. I’m not going to go on, I know you get it.

Lack of Confidence. You’re barraged by beautifully crafted interiors just about everywhere you turn.  Interior design has it’s own TV network, TV shows, magazines and more internet websites and images than you know what to do with. And yet, you think, “I can’t pull that off”. Why is that? My dad instilled a saying in me, a phrase that I live with to this day…”how hard can can it be? ” He was right.  The only thing you have to consider is, if it doesn’t work out you’re OK with having a professional take over. Besides, when was the last time you learned something by not attempting it?

 Cures for Decorating Paralysis

1. Make a list of what the space NEEDS versus what you WANT.  Does your room need color, better light, privacy, better traffic pattern or storage? Consider the use of the space first.  The space must first meet it’s functional duty prior to decorating.  Think about an improperly insulated basement, if it’s never been properly done no one will want to use the space. Now you can dream about how you want it to look.  Do you want the space to be more calming, charming, formal, or laid back? Flip and tear through magazines or better yet, don’t destroy any trees and create a vision board on Pinterest.  I’ve linked mine in case you’re looking for a good place to start, especially if you want to narrow your design style. Just Decorate! Pinterest Boards. Have a budget for the needs and the wants.

2. DIVIDE & CONQUER. Reduce the room to manageable tasks. For instance for my bedroom I had some DIY projects I wanted to do and others that just required some shopping.  If you have a partner than delegate a few tasks to make the job easier like patching holes on the walls, picking up supplies, etc. Use each others strengths to conquer and fast track the project.  For instance I prefer to paint because I have a system I’ve developed over the many years of doing it myself and I’m too picky about the finish so I drive everyone else crazy. It’s important to pick your battles and know when to let go.

3. SCHEDULE. You’ve got to have a set timeline, but also be flexible because things always come up you did not expect. Having a timeline means the project will not go on forever. Scheduling involves some commitment and dedication from everyone.

think less do more

4. DON’T MAKE COMPARISONS. I know this is difficult for all of us. So many great things out there to compare to. This is about your needs and wants.  Don’t get distracted. Focus on  YOUR outcome. Comparisons are especially dangerous around the halfway point of your project.  It’s normal to start second guessing yourself before the project is completed, but don’t give in.  It’s not about the next best thing, it’s about YOUR thing.

5. ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. This is a tough one for me.  I always think I can do it all myself. The truth is things go a lot smoother if you ask for help not only because it takes some of the pressure off you, but also because others in the household may be feeling a little left out.   There are some things you must leave to the professionals like electrical, plumbing, etc.  Also, I’ve found when you hire an interior designer or decorator even for a consultation it often reaffirms what you already knew to be true and boosts your confidence about the decorating project. Also, designers and decorators often point out some otherwise costly mistakes to avoid.

6. ENJOY THE PROCESS. Decorating is part process and part fun. Your project will have it’s ups and downs. Just keep thinking of how much more use you’ll get out of it and how great it will look when you’re done.  Trust your instincts. You got this!


do-your-thingI couldn’t agree more.  Well said.

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25 thoughts on “How to Get Over Decorating Paralysis

  1. Great read! I am in a decorating paralysis myself over my master bedroom. I keep looking at it swearing I am going to get on it, but alas have not. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I would say I did not decorate but more of re-arranged the furniture around the house. My husband is recovering from hip replacement surgery so I had to move things around so he has more space to walk in. Some time I would consider getting some organizing stuff to keep things in order. Thanks for sharing. Lots of things to consider when I get the chance to decorate. 🙂

  3. Great advice! I’m totally guilty of avoidance — our master is the culprit too. Great motivation to get on track… I’m off to make my needs list 🙂

  4. Oh my, this is me and our bedroom. About a year ago I got inspired and all fired up – I have the space plan, some of the furniture for DIYing has been sourced and now sits in my garage, and I even have the hubs on board! But… we are a year later, and there’s really only been one thing checked off the plan! Rome, the say… oh, I think that’s an excuse isn’t it? 😉 Your tips and checklist are excellent – now I just need to do them!

  5. I know there is part an excuse and part a valid reason LOL, but since the kid came to our lives I find less time and energy to do the pending projects. I also silently blame the lack of involvement (interest) by husband.
    But then I realize I have had time in my hands, but I go back to the second reason. Catch 24 in my head.

  6. Great tips! I have to take breathers every once in awhile and also try not do do too much at once so I don’t get burned out. Thankfully I have a very understanding husband who doesn’t say a word when there’s new furniture or if everything is rearranged. He also goes with all my ideas, the good ones and the not so good ones! I like what you said about enjoying the process – yeah! Have fun and you can always change it later!

  7. You’ve hit the nail on the head with all of this! Indecision, that’s me, or maybe more like fickle and procrastinating? By the time I get started I’m already changing my mind about what I want. I might be driving a certain person crazy around here!

  8. Fear is my big thing. I’m in a budget, so I’m always afraid that I won’t like it.

    It also doesn’t help when I don’t have much options in the town I live in. I also have FEAR of shopping online for decor.

    • The thing is we are all on a budget no matter how much you can afford. I love buying online I’ve outgrown the driving around for that perfect area rug or light fixture.

  9. lol, this is very timely! Before I posted my, help me pick my next DIY I asked myself, if I do this for a living, why can I not just jump in and do these projects? Strange, but you hit the nail on the head… we don’t follow our own advice sometimes.

  10. I’ve lived in my apartment for almost 2 years now – and it doesn’t look much different than it did when I moved in – I have a few things on the walls, but vow to get over my paralysis this summer! I have been stuck because I didn’t want to invest too much time or money, but I think I’ll be here for a while still!

  11. I had been clipping along…thrilled with how our home was turning out, colors picked…ideas written down, new floors, new carpet, new paint Framed interior windows on “catwalk” and faux stain glassed them and they are BEAUTIFUL, First bathroom done…I love it. Then the rail caps on the walkway and stairs looked wrong (white) so metallic under dark faux leather application…Perfect, and then I painted the decorative rope moldings (about a billion feet of it…ok maybe only a million) started to put it up, and the painting was soooo wrong on the moldings! It took me forever to repaint them, much longer than original painting. I would do 9 feet and change my mind, over and over again! Well, many late night tears later it is finally right and I love it…but then I bought a huge amount of architectural onlay corners for the doors…they are too small and stick out too far, and I already painted them. These two mistakes cost me quite a chunk of $ and worst of all, I can’t get my confidence back. I have completed other projects since, but they were already completely planned out. I can’t even pick the new cloth for the dining room chair upholstering….aaargh. Thanks for letting me vent!! By the way love your site!!!

    • So sorry to hear you’ve had trouble, but it happens to the best of us. I once painted a dining room 3 times until I could live with the color. I look at it as a labor of love. I believe there are some of us who are very sensitive to their surroundings, it’s not just about making it pretty, it’s also about feeling comfortable, relaxed in your surroundings. So glad to hear you kept going! Glad to have you vent here. Ask me anything! 🙂

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