Just Let Go: 5 Decor Worries to Abandon

by Grace Bonney


It feels like every time I open my laptop there’s a headline (always in bold) warning me about the “10 Mistakes You’re Making at Home” or “The Biggest Design Disasters and How to Avoid Them!” At first I clicked on these links, thinking I must have been missing something huge, but then I quickly realized it’s the same old click bait that haunts all of our communities online: stories that try to scare people into thinking they should be more worried than they are.

Are there things most of us can avoid to save money and not make unwise investments in our homes? Totally. But I can promise you that a certain paint color or the placement of your couch isn’t one of them. Most of the things we do to decorate our homes, design-wise, are easy to change, move around or, if necessary, redo. I definitely don’t want to repaint my walls all the time, but if I need to, it’s definitely not a “disaster” — it’s just a color that doesn’t work for me anymore.


So to counteract some of the design hyperbole happening online, I thought I’d walk through 5 of the things I’ve learned to just let the heck go of at home. From frayed couch edges to less-than-perfect paint, it’s all a matter of looking at what you have and not what you don’t. Have a favorite “letting go” moment you want to share? I’d love to hear about the moments when you realized that having a home you love isn’t the same thing as a perfect home. xo, grace 


*Disclaimer: If paying close attention to (or worrying about) any of these home decor issues doesn’t stress you out, that’s great! This list isn’t an attempt to say that it’s wrong to worry about these things, but rather a moment to remember that if you need to take a few things off your worry list, these are good places to start. Some of us find comfort in keeping things neat and tidy (and that’s great!) but not everyone does, so today I’m hoping to alleviate some of that stress for any of us who could use a dose of “relax” when it comes to worrying about “perfect” homes.


Scratches, dings and stains are a part of life: Back when I just had one pet, I worried about every tiny pet hair and scratch. I went so far as to cover everything in layers of blankets. But then I adopted our first dog, Hope. And then we adopted Winky, our second dog. And you know what happened? Our house turned into a big mess of pet hair, mud stains and scratches on the upholstery from where our pets look out the window. Sure, I wish they wouldn’t scratch the couch, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have a house full of happy, loving pets than a sofa without a ding on it. So if your pets are leaving their mark on things (within reason), don’t worry about anyone noticing — they’re far more likely to notice how loved and happy your pets are than to judge you about some rips on the sofa.

dining room

Paint can be changed: One of the least expensive (but most time consuming) changes you can make at home is paint. And while I understand the stress that can come with looking for the perfect color, I’ve also learned to let colors be what they are sometimes. I spent weeks looking for the perfect grey/green for our dining room. Then when we found it and invested in having it painted professionally on built-in cabinets (that were painted and then brought into our house), I realized it wasn’t the same color as the swatch. Was I a little bummed? Yeah. But I also took a moment to remember — it’s just paint. If it really bothers me I can redo it in a few years when I’m feeling up to a paint project. But until then, no one else knows (well now you all do, I guess) that it was supposed to be more grey than the forest green we now have (above). Also, when in doubt, get paint you can wash or scrub down — unless you don’t have pets or kids, you’re bound to need to clean it now and then.


Layouts will grow and change with time: One of the things I’ve never mastered about design is furniture layout. I’m always reimagining how rooms would look with sofas or chairs swapped and at the end of the day, I’ve come to realize there’s no such thing as one perfect layout. What works for me may not work for you, and what works for you NOW in life may not work later down the road when you add pets or kids (or new pieces of furniture) to your life. So if you feel like the layout doesn’t work, just move some pieces around and see what happens. Nothing needs to be precious or symmetrical or like a magazine — if you like your sofa covering a window, go for it. If it makes you happy, you can toss the “rules” out the window. (Above: our living room side table and artwork keeps moving around. We’ll settle on a style — maybe? — one day…)


It’s OK to have an empty wall: I love artwork and gallery walls as much as the next design blogger, but sometimes it’s best to let a wall be empty until you know what you really want to go there. With all the pressure that exists online to create and curate the perfect (and affordable! and indie!) art collection, it can be easy to forget that sometimes it’s nice to just let a wall be empty. No one will gawk when they walk in your home, they’ll just focus on talking to you and catching up. (That’s our empty hallway wall above, it’s been empty for two years and that’s okay with me.)


People who judge you for embracing what you love shouldn’t be regular house guests: If you’re worried about displaying your favorite framed album covers or having your beloved Rock Band set next to the TV — or just having a TV visible at all –– let those worries go. None of us have the exact same style, priorities or needs at home. And thank goodness, that’s what makes the world of home design so interesting. Holding yourself to someone else’s standards of “cool” is never a great idea. So if you really love your guitar collection and want to hang them above the sofa, go for it! There are plenty of cool ways to display and/or use just about everything (from toy robot collections and travel memorabilia to everyday accessories like remote controls and magazines) you love and use. So if you’re worried someone else will judge your home for embracing the “real” things you use and love every day, worry less about having them over and more about enjoying the things YOU have and use in your home.

Suggested For You


  • So true. I think the pressure to have instagrammable homs is really causing people to stress over interiors more than they should. If you have a space where you are comfortable and that you can afford, then that’s what matters! Thanks for the dose of honesty!

  • Thanks Grace you are learning at a much younger age than I—- houses don’t need to be perfect. They are our homes and we should be able to enjoy them- not work to make and KEEP them perfect. At almost 79 I am learning and your talk today is helping me find confidence in my new found approach as I look at my home.
    Hugs and smiles, Reva

  • This is so refreshing. After putting a great deal of time into improving our home by painting, rearranging furniture and decluttering, most of our friends didn’t even notice – they are far more concerned about what’s for dinner (and we love that about them). I will always work on improving it, but by our own standards now – I am learning that it’s usually confidence and intimacy, not decorating specifics, that shine through and makes a home warm and inviting. Thanks for this, Grace.

  • Great points to remember. Especially the points that pets add so much to our lives, even if they do leave hair everywhere.

  • I love this advice! I also love old crates and chairs. I use them for side tables and bookcases. Sometimes I use crates to hold snacks or flowers. They can be used as pull up stools or impromptu places for a drink. I use them everywhere and they make me happy. Every once in a while someone might comment that they are “unusual” decorating touches but I don’t care. They are handy and charming. Every once in a while one of my kids will give me one for a gift. That’s all that matters to me. Home should be where you are comfortable, not a showcase.

  • Love this post, Grace!

    As a cat lover and lifetime owner, I have many times found it frustrating trying to create the home I want (aesthetically) that will stand up to these two forces of entropy. The truth is, most things just don’t stand up to that kind of wear and tear. Sometimes I still find it frustrating, but mostly I try appreciate the fact that my cats force me to not be so precious with my things. I should probably never own a vase that’s worth more than $20. One of my cats eats ALL THE PLANTS. My boyfriend was gifted a plant two weeks ago that was eaten in it’s entirety over a course of a week (despite my attempts to quarantine it in the half-bath), and dirt was strewn over the floor on more than one occasion. In-home jungles are gorgeous and all but they are not worth the headache for me.

    On a more personal front, I started painting my apartment… maybe three years ago and I never got past one room. It took four days with two people due to the extensive level of prep work required. The moulding leading into the next room remains half painted, serving as a fairly blunt reminder. I’d love to have the paint job finished but I personally find it very exhausting and my boyfriend is less handy than I am so I don’t think it’s in the cards anytime soon. I actually just asked for a quote from a professional and it was way above my budget. *sigh*. I look at people who paint their walls at the drop of a hat like they’re superheroes! But I’ve learned that most DIY projects just aren’t for me, and that’s okay too. Hopefully, it’ll get done one day!

  • I agree with everything in this article except the photo of the dog’s ass on the dining room table is making me twitch.

    • I would hope, dog’s ass or not, that one would clean the table before eating on it.

  • Reading this post just took my anxiety level down a notch! Learning to let go is a constant battle for me.
    Thank you for this reminder and sharing examples from your own space.

  • I live alone and have no family, so having a pet to share my home adds so much love, laughter and happiness to my life. All of my furniture is bought second-hand so that my dog and I can both be comfortable. In this consumer-driven society, they didn’t stop making furniture, but the joy that I get from my dog is priceless.

  • Your first point really resonated with me. Since adopting my dog, my freak out factor has been drastically reduced. I love the stuffing out of my sweet pup and I realize that she’s messy like us. In some ways, it makes me adore her more because it somehow “humanizes” her! She sheds like crazy and it doesn’t even phase me anymore. I am armed with sticky rollers and my vacuum, but I am surprised how little it cramps my style (considering my clean freak tendencies). She’s taught us a lot about rolling with life and choosing happiness over perfection.

    • SEM

      I love this line, “She’s taught us a lot about rolling with life and choosing happiness over perfection.” I couldn’t agree more.


  • I heart you so much right now. Your post couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

  • I love the part about pets. We always had dogs growing up and all left their mark in one form or another. Which now my family finds comfort in the chair they scratched the blanket they slept on. They are lovely reminders after they are gone how much we loved them!

  • You’re so right. Home is about you and the love inside that home shining on the walls and every inch of it.
    Have a great day!

  • I love this! We just bought a house with a, wait for it…. astro-turf mini-golf green installed in the backyard. My kids are bonkers for it, and we love it. But, without even waiting to hear what we think of it, too many dear friends have looked at the real estate photos and immediately said, “oh, no! You’ll have to get that removed!” Um, nope!

  • The 5 “issues” you have cornered are SO spot on. This is the best post I’ve seen on this site (which is saying a lot!) Brava!

  • This is advice that can be applied to life in general. After 15 years in the big city I sold my apartment and bought a farm close to where I grew up. I don’t think I’ve heard one single comment from any one of my friends about my decision that couldn’t be paraphrased as: “It’ll never go well” Where was the joy and support for me and this new step in my life? I spent some time thinking about why this was so impossible for people to do and I arrived at this: envy. Not that I think they are envious about me buying a farm but it’s about the courage to take the plunge whether it be making the move or painting your living room that deep deep purple you just love. Throughout my life I have started project after project around my home and finished very few of them so now I’m learning the practice of the “temporary solutions are ok” approach and it’s going surprisingly well. It of course helps that I’m not rolling in cash. Some of it looks terrible but we have somewhere we can sit comfortably and watch the way too big tv – we are 5 friends sharing the house so the furnishing is a 3 homes 3 different styles mix and even at that we don’t have enough furniture to furnish the entire house but it works.

  • What a refreshing piece! My family is building a new home and I have to constantly remind myself to ignore the voices that tell me things like “my mother will hate the dark painted walls” or “in our new house the dogs won’t be allowed on the furniture and I’ll put little booties on their feet to protect the floors”…ha! In point of fact, none of that will happen and our home will develop a soulful patina in the result. I find this tends to make a home’s inhabitants and their guests more comfortable and at ease, anyway. Alas, one day when my kids are gone and my dogs have crossed the rainbow bridge, I will love seeing juice stains on area rugs and dog-sized dents in sofa cushions. Thanks for the reminder that the vestiges of life trump Instagram-esque perfection. xo