Wednesday, May 2, 2012

8 Perils of home decorating magazines

I like looking at home decorating magazines as much as anyone, but over time I've noticed that they can be dangerous.  Not dangerous in the sense of bodily harm, but dangerous in the sense of insidious materialism.. 

1 The most important thing to remember--decorating magazines deal in fantasy and they exist to market products for their advertisers.  (Remember, they have to make a living like everybody else, so they have to keep finding things to publish.)  Much of what they sell is cute but is also clutter, and each month they will show you something different.  They may keep you in a perpetual state of discontent with your own home. If your goal is to be happy, then you want to avoid anything that makes you discontented with what you have.

2 They show pretty pictures of STUFF that people can’t afford to buy, nor have time and energy to make or assemble themselves, nor have a need for.
Example #1 – I’ll never forget a picture I saw in Better Homes and Gardens of a series of shelves (big shelves too) entirely devoted to just ribbon.  Very pretty, but who are the people who regularly use shelves and shelves of ribbon?  Not me! 
Example #2  – I also remember a picture of a gift-wrapping corner, complete with desk and ribbon and paper and gift bags and tissue paper and scissors and tape.  But who wraps gifts so often that they need an entire corner devoted to it?  There’s Christmas, birthdays, and the occasional wedding and graduation gifts.  Unless your business is wrapping other peoples’ gifts, there’s no need for a gift-wrapping corner!

3 These magazines are so hypnotizing that frequently women feel like they have to keep them around in case they might need to do a craft in them.  Need?  For when?  If the need hasn’t appeared yet, it is not very likely to appear in the future!   Not only that, but if the need suddenly appeared, it is almost certain that particular magazine would not be found except by a long, arduous search through every single magazine.  Which issue was it in?  (scratching head) What page?  (At the very least, tear out the ads so that you don’t take all your time paging past them!)  Did you know that these magazines repeat content every few months?  You really don’t need to save that magazine.

4 I’ve also noticed in those decorating pictures there is a tendency to overdo it with the knickknacks and the coffee table books.  Try covering up those piles of books or those clusters of knickknacks with your finger and then see what the room looks like.  Does it seem “blah”?  Then the room is only “fake” pretty and not “real life” pretty.  “Real life” pretty is when the things you use all the time contribute beauty.   I recently looked at some pictures of decorated fireplace mantels and I noticed that although the general arrangement of objects on or around the mantel was artistic, when I looked at each individual object, I would never have found it interesting enough to buy for its own sake. 

5 Advertising in magazines (and catalogues) are cunning about showing what I call “add-ons” in the product pictures.  You know what I mean if you’ve ever seen a picture that is supposed to be selling a bookshelf and you get excited about the rug in the picture instead.  You pretty much have to mentally block out all the other stuff in the picture except for the product for sale in order to get an accurate idea of what you would actually buy.  Have you ever seen the wall-desks sold on the Container Store’s website?  If you believe in their pictures, you are buying into this vision that includes color-coordinated boxes for paper, little artsy knick-knacks, a wall painted and patterned in that hip lime green or robin’s egg blue, and a Macbook laptop.  To keep from getting sucked up in that, you have to imagine the object stripped of its add-ons and consider whether it is still interesting by itself.

6 If a real family lives in those houses, you know that the photographed rooms were most likely staged (i.e. the “real life stuff” was moved somewhere else so that it didn’t clutter up the picture).  And afterwards, if the kids were home, things probably got messy again in about 5 minutes.  Where do the cell phones charge?  Where is the homework done?  Where are the art supplies for kids coloring?  Where are the backpacks and coats?  Where are the library books, the musical instruments, the piano music, mom’s purse and dad’s wallet?  Where is the dog’s water and food dish or the pet grooming supplies?  Where are the remote controls, the videos, the video game equipment?  Where are the tissues for blowing your nose?  Decorating magazines do not take into account real life.

7 At some point the decorating magazines started advocating changing décor on a seasonal basis, creating this expectation that we have to have our homes decorated in perfect correspondence to every season or holiday.  Say what?  This creates a burden in one of two ways—either your storage space gets wasted by all the decorations for the seasons, or your money gets wasted buying decorations every season and getting rid of them afterwards.  And furthermore, getting out and putting away all those decorations throughout the year takes time that could be spent on better things.  Whatever happened to just decorating for Christmas? 

8 Decorating magazines always talk about “makeovers,” which are essentially spending lots of money to completely redo everything in a particular room (or house).  What is more practical is “evolution,” which consists of thoughtful purchases made over a period of years in such a way as to create the desired look.  This is the financially sound way to do it, and it allows you to cultivate patience.  Also, the pleasant anticipation of achieving the vision is drawn out over a much longer period.

So next time you look at a decorating magazine, if you must look, look with a critical eye for the reality behind the marketing.  Seeing the reality can help you be content with what you have.  If you are content with what you have, you won’t feel the need to buy more.  You might even find you can purge from your space the décor that means less to you.  Don’t let it stay a minute longer if you don’t absolutely love it.  Decorating magazines can inspire you through their pictures to work toward an uncluttered home, but you just have remember that they don't show the reality of where to store the little things you use in real life.

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