Does Your Home Have A Recipe?

You walk into Target for toilet paper and mascara. You spend an hour and $15 in the home section but you get to your car and realize you forgot the toilet paper and mascara. (again? crap. maybe next time.) You get home and realize that the thing you bought for your home doesn’t really fit with your decor, but it was at Target so it must be trendy… right?

Does this sound like you? I know I’ve been there way too many times. My friend Briee and I both love Target, but we live in rural Iowa and the closest one is over an hour away. One time we drove there to just wander around. To walk through every aisle. To breathe the sweet Target air. (That last one was a joke… kind of). We don’t even really like Starbucks, but we bought drinks to walk around with while we shopped aimlessly. I don’t remember if I bought anything on that trip, but if I did it clearly wasn’t something I remember, and it probably cost more than $15.

$15 at a retail store can buy you a fraction of a pillow. (Or maybe something from an end cap, or the mascara you came for, but probably not both). Sure, you can guarantee these things will be trendy on some level, but your dollars won’t get you very far. This photo is what $15 at a thrift store looks like.

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A floral tablecloth that could be in an Anthropologie catalog ($2), an iconic framed “Grace” print ($3), an ORIGINAL framed oil portrait of a woman named Mary ($1), two vintage metal canisters ($5), and four coupe cocktail glasses ($4).

(Important Side Note: Did I need any of these items? No. This post isn’t about shopping for your home’s basic needs like food and toilet paper (and mascara 😉 ) You don’t need to decorate your home, but you probably do. I want to encourage thoughtfulness and resourcefulness in all areas of homemaking, including decorating. If we’re already going to be doing certain things (like decorating and meal planning and dressing ourselves), we might as well be doing them as thoughtfully, intentionally, and frugally as possible.)

$15 is on the higher end of what I would usually spend at a thrift store. I don’t go thrifting super regularly, but when I do I try not to spend more than $5-10.

I was a little hesitant at first to spend $15 at the thrift store, but then I thought about how easy it is to drop $15 at Target like it’s no big deal.

You put one pillow and some nail polish in your cart and suddenly you’re out $40. My husband, Ben, came up with a brilliant analogy as we discussed this strange phenomenon last night.

He said that retail stores are like restaurants. You go there and pay more for the convenience of a meal that is already prepared, when you could buy the ingredients for much less at the grocery store.

The struggle with grocery stores is that you have to know your ingredients beforehand (and how to combine them when you get home). A trip to the grocery store requires intentional planning and thoughtfulness in order to create the meal you want to make. You can’t go to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a Caesar Salad and come home with M&M’s and bread.

I thought this was brilliant.

This might make restaurants look more appealing. There is a menu full of diverse options that are guaranteed to be prepared and presented with no effort on your part. Sure, it’s more expensive than a trip to the grocery store to make the same meal, but you’re paying for convenience. Someone else is doing the planning and the preparing for you.

Walk into any big-box store and you’ll get your home styling already prepared- for a price. You’ll find new, trendy, curated collections of home decor that are priced for convenience.

Walk into a thrift store and you’ll find aisles of “ingredients” that require discernment and thoughtfulness to put together, but for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for retail.

I think the convenience and trendiness of big-box stores are why some people struggle to find their style. “I wanted a Caesar salad, so why does my home look like M&M’s and bread?” It doesn’t go together. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t taste good.

This analogy gave me an idea for a new perspective on thoughtful homemaking and resourceful decorating. To get your wheels turning… if the way your home looks and functions is a unique recipe, what are your ingredients? And can you source your ingredients from thrift stores for a lower cost and the same result? Have you been buying meals instead of ingredients? And if so, do these meals belong in the same restaurant?

Decor trends change as quickly as retail stores can get new products on the shelves.

It’s how they keep you coming back for more, more more. Example A is the farmhouse trend. A year ago, you would find chippy white knick knacks and “simple farmhouse” decor on the shelves of any retail store. But now? Women that have entirely redecorated their homes in the “farmhouse” style are coming to me and asking how they can “get out”. The trend is over, and women are stuck with decor that isn’t their style.

The number one question I get from readers is, “How do I know what my style is? I like so many different styles. My house feels like a crazy mess.”

I’ve thought about how to answer this question so many times in so many different ways. This analogy of restaurants vs. grocery stores and retail vs. thrift stores has given me clarity in my answer.

I think that women don’t know “what their style is” because they depend on retail stores to have style for them, and retail trends are always changing.

This is why your home might feel like a crazy mess. Last year it was “farmhouse”. But the year before that it was “industrial”. Maybe the year before that it was “boho”, but this year everything is “minimal modern”. If you exclusively decorate your home with trendy big-box ingredients, it’s going to feel dated and crazy really fast.

Maybe you’re thinking, “There has to be a better way!”

I’d like to suggest that a better way exists, and is accessible to everyone.

The “better way” is filling your home with things that make you smile, instead of following pre-packaged trends.

I’m not suggesting you scrap everything in your house and start over. I never want to promote unhealthy consumerism or “buying” your way out of a design problem. I don’t think it’s wise. I don’t think it’s good stewardship of resources. And frankly, it’s just not as much fun. Your home is about so much more than “things” from stores.

How your home feels and functions is more important than how it looks, but how it looks is inevitably part of how it feels

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing posts with tips and questions to help you find your unique home style (and guidelines to shop accordingly.) The goal is not to go on a shopping spree when we’re finished. The goal is to make more thoughtful and resourceful decisions as you inevitably encounter opportunities to purchase “ingredients” for your home. We will work together to write our “home recipes”, and talk about how to go “grocery shopping” at thrift stores. We will talk about when to pay extra for a “restaurant” experience, and when to opt for the “grocery store”. We will explore examples of common “home style recipes” that can be tweaked to serve your family’s unique “dietary needs”.


Thanks for following along with me here on Holland Avenue Home. This blog is an invitation to thoughtful homemaking, and it is my goal to encourage resourcefulness and good stewardship in all areas of home life. I want to use my love for design as a way to serve others, and your support of this blog makes that possible. Thank you.

If you want to be notified when new posts go live, click the “follow” button on the sidebar under the “Brighten Your Inbox” header. You can also follow Holland Avenue Home on Instagram for post announcements and daily encouragement toward thoughtful homemaking. 

With so much love, 

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