March 8, 2016  

What I Wish I Would Have Known About Decorating As A First-Time Homeowner

Someone recently asked me what I wish I would have know as a first-time homeowner. After giving that question some thought, I rattled off a few things that came to mind like mortgages, yard maintenance and plumbing. Those things are super intimidating! Since that conversation, I’ve realized I neglected to mention a huge mistake I made when we first moved in.

If you are a homeowner, you may remember the excitement and optimism you had about your very first home. Just over a year ago, David and I experienced that same mix of emotions. We were ecstatic to finally have more space and a place to call our own, and we were also overwhelmed with fears that we’d regret our choice or that we’d majorly fail at this home ownership thing.

We didn’t have a lot of money and neither of us are very handy, so how were we possibly going to manage all of the maintenance that comes with owning an older house? If you don’t yet own a home, you’ll probably experience similar emotions if and when you do decide to become a homeowner.

What I wish I would have known as a first-time homeowner - such a great list!

In the mix of all of those emotions, the decorator and over-achiever in me was so incredibly excited. I finally had my own place that I could decorate to my heart’s content with no landlord standing in the way. I could paint things whatever color I wanted and hang things wherever I pleased.

When we were house hunting, I went into insane research and planning mode. You may think I would have been researching financing or home values or something, but I’ll admit I was actually designing furniture layouts and color schemes. You see, this is how my crazy brain works. As soon as I have a project on the horizon, I dive headfirst into planning it. Never mind the fact that we hadn’t even made an offer on a house yet. I made plans for all of the houses we toured. Am I the only one who does that? Living Room 1.2016-15

You can imagine how much planning I did once we officially decided on a house. A few weeks went by while we waited for the offer to be accepted, inspections completed, and mortgages finalized. By the time we were ready to pack up our apartment and move across town, I had a binder stuffed full of plans for this house. I had room layouts sketched on graph paper, a big stack of paint chips, a secret Pinterest board for every room, and detailed checklist of every home project we needed to tackle.

I was so eager to unpack and start turning this drab, dated house into a stylish, cozy home with personality. I was ready to rock at this whole home ownership thing.

Within a couple weeks of moving in, I had already painted over the paneling in our dining room. You see, I was on a mission to completely transform our house as fast as I possibly could. I needed to cover every beige wall with new paint and I desperately wanted to make use of all of those ideas saved to my Pinterest boards.

I'm so glad I read this! Such good reminders about how to decorate when you move into a new house. I'd totally be guilty of making these mistakes.

From keeping track of your grocery list to remembering all of those appointments, there are so many little things that need to get done every day. Check out this toolbox of digital tools for to-do lists, schedules, email, productivity tracking, file storage and sharing, budget tracking and password storage.

The Biggest Decorating Mistake I Made

After about a month of non-stop home improvement and decorating projects, I ran out of steam. I realized I couldn’t keep going at that pace forever, and I’ve slowed down a lot since then.

The biggest mistake I made was thinking I could decorate our new house in a weekend.

There will forever be a list of home projects I’d like to tackle. There will always be something else I want to paint. The half-finished basement might stay half-finished for a while. And I’ve made peace with that.

If you are moving into a new house, be careful not to make the same mistake I did. It’s so difficult to resist the urge to plan everything right away and it’s okay to dream big, but know that decorating a house is a slow process.

Creating a happy home with character happens over the years you live there, not in the first couple months of moving in. You’ll learn to love your home as you live there, and you’ll also learn a lot about your decorating style as you go. This is your home, so you can make improvements. But that doesn’t mean you have to make them right away. It’s okay to slow down and actually live life in your house.

This list is a must-read!!! 7 things to keep in mind when you start decorating your new house.

7 Things I Wish I’d Known About Decorating A New House

After living here for more than a year, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to decorate a new house. I hope these lessons will help you slow down and intentionally work on home projects, rather than rushing into all of them all at once.

1 | Rome wasn’t built in a day.

It is just not realistic to think you’ll be able to transform your new house into your dream home in one or two weekends. Creating a beautiful home happens slowly, just like building Rome did. Once you live in your home for a while and hone in on your decorating style, your house plans will undoubtedly change. Rather than quickly rushing into a million projects, take your time to do them right. There’s no need to rush.

2 | Fight the urge to buy a ton of new things.

Don’t make significant purchases right away or, worse yet, before you even move in. Although I’m sure the initial plans in your head are fabulous, they will change. I know they will. The cost of home projects can add up very quickly, so be careful not to throw your dollars away on projects that you may not love a year from now. As we’ve lived in our home, pieces of furniture have moved from room to room. We’re still figuring out the best placement of furniture over a year later, so there’s no way I could have accurately known everything we needed to buy on moving day.

3 | Live with the things that annoy you.

The beige paint in this house drove me insane when we first moved in, and I was determined to paint over every square inch of it immediately. A funny thing happened: I learned to live with the beige, which is still covering the walls of many rooms. Living with those things that annoy you is a really good thing because you may find that they aren’t so bad after all and slowly down gives you a chance to really figure out what you’d like better rather than rushing into fixing them. You might hate the layout of your kitchen, but living in it for a while will probably help you decide on a better layout than you could if you just came in and rearranged everything on moving day.

4 | Tackle one project at a time.

This has been a huge lesson for me, and one I’ve still not fully mastered. But I’m serious when I suggest focusing on one project at a time. It’s good for your house and for your sanity. I’m the master of starting several projects only to leave them in progress for weeks. So instead of doing as I do, try to break your projects down into small pieces and complete one piece before you move onto the next. This will help you see some actual progress and save you from living in a state of renovations for months.

Such good things to keep in mind when decorating my first house! As a new homeowner, I know I'll want to tackle every project all at once but this makes me think more about taking it slow.

From keeping track of your grocery list to remembering all of those appointments, there are so many little things that need to get done every day. Check out this toolbox of digital tools for to-do lists, schedules, email, productivity tracking, file storage and sharing, budget tracking and password storage.

5 | Begin with paint.

This your house, so don’t be afraid of painting it! It is truly amazing what a gallon of paint can do to change the look and feel of a room. Paint is a fairly quick and simple way to completely transform a room in a weekend without breaking the bank. I don’t think there is anything else you can do that would have a larger impact than painting a wall or a piece of furniture. Paint comes in a million different colors, so you can personalize your space to your heart’s content. It’s also a task that even non-handy homeowners can do themselves with few supplies, making it a fairly inexpensive project.

5 | Don’t break the bank.

A nice home doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and sometimes having a limited budget can make you look for creative solutions. When we moved in and I started diving into our first home projects, I quickly learned that our budget wouldn’t go very far. This has forced me to slow down and spread out our home projects, and it’s also pushed me to get creative. I’m always on the hunt for project supplies at thrift stores and yard sales, and it’s really paid off by not only saving me money but also adding unique pieces to our home that I would never find in a store today.

6 | Don’t reject hand-me-downs.

If you’re lucky, family and friends will offer you their used stuff when they hear you bought a house. You certainly don’t have to accept everything, but do keep an open mind. You might prefer brand new everything, but you’ll quickly learn that’s probably not possible with your budget. Think outside the box about how you can give your grandma’s old couch a face lift with a slip cover and new pillows. Dream up an idea for transforming your uncle’s nightstand into something eye-catching with a coat of bright paint.

Get creative and you’ll spend a fraction of what you would spend furnishing your home with new items. Plus, incorporating old items into your home will give it far more character than a room full of brand new things will. Transforming thrifted (or donated) items into your own treasures is a great skill to have. It’s turned into one of my favorite hobbies!

7 | Your style will evolve.

No matter how well you think you know your decorating style, it will evolve as you live in this new house. I promise you, it just will. This is yet another reason why it’s important to slow down, especially in your first house. This is your first chance to really experiment with colors and looks and to narrow in on what you really love. Your house will also affect your style as you start to see what looks great in it and what looks out of place. Oh, and news flash: trends are always changing. So it may not be best idea to spend a fortune on a chevron couch when chevrons will undoubtedly go out of style. Maybe put a chevron slipcover over Grandma’s old floral couch instead.

I wish I would have read this list when I started decorating our first home. So many good reminders that it doesn't all have to be done in one weekend.

From keeping track of your grocery list to remembering all of those appointments, there are so many little things that need to get done every day. Check out this toolbox of digital tools for to-do lists, schedules, email, productivity tracking, file storage and sharing, budget tracking and password storage.

Moving into a new house can be a very exciting milestone, especially as a first-time homeowner. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be making decorating plans the minute you start house hunting. While it’s fabulous to dream and plan, it’s so important that you allow yourself time to slow down and improve your house one project at a time (unless you’re on one of those wild HGTV shows that they supposedly do in a weekend).

The biggest decorating mistake I made was thinking I could decorate our house in a weekend. But that’s just not possible. I hope the seven tips I listed above will help you slow down and enjoy the process of transforming your house into a stylish, cozy home filled with personality.

What did I forget to include on this list? What was a decorating lesson you learned when you first moved into your house?


Looking for more decorating advice? Learn my method for planning a room makeover using Pinterest without getting overwhelmed by all the pretty pictures. I’ll show you how I collect ideas and inspiration and turn them into a cohesive decorating plan.

I needed this! It's about time I actually plan a room makeover on pinterest instead of just sporadically pinning random things. Plan your next decorating project using Pinterest and these tips!

You May Also Like...

About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

12 ways to automate your to-do list

(that won't cost a dime)

Discover practical, easy-to-implement ideas for automating some of the recurring tasks on your to-do list. Subscribe to have the free guide sent straight to your inbox.

  1. 4 years later in our “new house,” and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this thing is called decorating. Don’t get me wrong, I painted a few walls red and put out some trinkets that are memorable to us, but I think if we stay here 10 years, we will sell still Undecorated.
    Glad you can use your design talents to make a beautiful home though 🙂

  2. Just moved into our house a few weeks ago, and I’m already realizing the truth behind all of these lessons!! I was way overexcited/impatient about redecorating in the weeks prior to our move but as soon as we got here I quickly became totally stressed out… I’m realizing that it will be so much better to take my time and enjoy the process of redecorating slowly! I also think that it is important to try to love your home in all of its stages…some of the features I thought I wanted to change about our house right away are already starting to grow on me! Anyway, great post, so true 🙂

    1. That’s so exciting you just moved into your house! And I’m happy to hear it’s starting to grow on you, even before redecorating the whole thing. Take your time and enjoy the process!

  3. Reading this made me smile in every “rule”. We don’t even own a house anymore,we rent buy he doesn’t care.I needed to see this as we’re moving soon to a different state and buying. Thank you.

  4. This was exactly what I needed to read just now!! We just found out a few hours ago that our offer on what will be our first house was accepted and my husband and I got in a bit of a fight about all the things I want to change. I am going to have to read this post over and over to keep your tips fresh in my head.
    Thank you!!!

  5. Great post, Emily!! Such good tips here. Even though we are “perpetual renters,” so many of your tips apply to us as well! Each time we move, I am in such a hurry to feel settled that I often rush the process. These are all such good (and budget-wise!) reminders!

    1. I admire you for moving so often! And you always make the effort to decorate each home, which is so great. I don’t blame you for rushing the process, especially when you know your time in that house is limited. I’d be rushing to decorate it so I could feel like I could enjoy it before I moved again. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. We are in the process of purchasing our first home, and I made plans for each house we looked at too. It’s how I was able to get myself excited about a house that was not necessarily my dream home, and besides, it’s just fun! Love these tips and will be keeping them in mind as we start our own home owning journey.

    1. That’s so exciting you are purchasing your first home, Whitney! You will love getting to decorate it! It’s a lot of fun, but I’ve definitely learned a lot, especially about how Rome wasn’t built in a day. Thanks for visiting!

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}