Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shop(ping) Talk

Some people love to shop. Some people hate to shop. Because building a house involves a LOT of shopping, no matter which category you are in, you’d better have a strategy for getting all that shopping done.

If you love to shop, you run the risk of overwhelming yourself with the choices available. You’ll spend unbelievable amounts of time deliberating over each of the thousands of decisions that go into building and furnishing a house. Believe me, I know, because this is my shopping style!

If you hate to shop, you have other pitfalls to avoid. In your desire to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible, you run the risk of choosing items one-by-one without thought to how they work together as a whole. Or you choose too quickly and without enough information. This leads to regrets down the road when you find a better product or a better price elsewhere.

Building a house is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ve got to have a strategy for making it across the finish line with enough energy left to enjoy this creation of yours.
If the process of building—and shopping—leaves you so spent that you begin to resent and even dislike the house before you have had a chance to live in it, then all your effort will have been for naught.

First, figure out your shopping style. Do you love it or hate it? Which one (or more) of the following descriptions most resembles you?

If you LOVE to shop…

The Perfectionist: You are always searching for that one exquisite product or solution. Your critical eye makes you a discerning shopper, but also leaves you dissatisfied more often than not. The reality of the purchase never quite lives up to your fantasy and you end up disappointed with the end product, knowing its inherent flaws (that you discovered) and the qualities of all the other choices you passed up.

The Hunter: You seem to thrive on what others would feel is sensory overload. For you, looking at 2000 rugs and 400 wall sconces is all in a day’s work, and it (mostly) leaves you energized. It’s all about the hunt and less about the find. Unlike the perfectionist shopper, you aren’t disappointed in the final product as much as you are disappointed that the shopping itself is over. You hate to finish, so you keep shopping and, consciously or unconsciously, postpone the decision-making.

If you HATE to shop…

The Hasty Shopper: You are most interested in getting to the final product; ANY product, just so long as you can call it “done.” You become impatient with the process and will do anything to reach its conclusion as quickly as possible—even if this means buying hastily and later regretting your choices. You think that making decisions quickly and firmly means you are decisive and in charge. But you forget that you’ll have to live with your choice for a long time. Or else tear it out and choose again, wasting all kinds of energy, resources, and time. Decisive? Or impulsive?

The Insecure Shopper: You hate shopping because you feel insecure about your choices; you never feel certain whether you are making the “right” choice or whether you can trust your instincts. You’re not sure if you have any instincts. You worry that choosing poorly will reflect on you as a person—your taste, your status, your very worth—and that others will find you lacking. You hate shopping because it confronts you with your own feelings of inadequacy at every turn.

Well, obviously these are extreme examples, but don’t you think there is a bit of each of us in these profiles? None of these shopping styles lead to what most of us who are building a house really want: A beautiful home built within our means that reflects our history and our aspirations, and that becomes the stage upon which we live a contented life. So, what to do? For what it’s worth, here are some tips I’ve arrived at through my own trial and error.

Tips for the Perfectionist
1. Remind yourself (or finally accept) that perfection is boring. Really, it is! And unattainable anyway. You don’t want a perfect house; you want a real house that real people live in.

2. Set priorities and spend the most time, energy, and/or money on the things that matter most to you. Don’t apply your perfectionism to every minute detail—just pick the most important ones.

3. Delegate some of the lower priority items to someone else. Feel the weight lift off your shoulders knowing that you don’t have to be responsible for every single decision and purchase. Enjoy the serendipity that someone else’s choices bring to the overall house design.

4. Set time (or money) limits for choosing products and stick to them. Choose wisely within these constraints and then move on. Believe in “good enough.”

Tips for the Hunter
1. See numbers 3 and 4 above.

2. Before googling for every hooked rug in the universe, think about whether this is really the best way to spend the next 4 (or 6 or 8…) hours of your life. What book could you be reading instead? Which friend could you catch up with over a cup of tea? What hobby could you return to?

3. When you find a product that works and is a fair price, just buy it. Don’t second guess your decisions. You likely have very good instincts about design and what you really love, so run with these instincts and forego the exhaustive search.

Tips for the Hasty Shopper
1. It’s a cliché because it’s true! Haste truly does make waste. Slow down and savor some of the choices available to you. Take the pressure off and just enjoy discovering new products, fabrics, colors, appliances, etc. Window shop. Imagine.

2. Remember that your house purchases are all connected so don’t buy anything in isolation. The flooring needs to go with the cabinets which need to coordinate with the countertop and the lighting must fit with them all. Make a folder and keep images, color swatches, fabric samples, whatever, in it to refer to when choosing a product. Think “big picture.”

3. Test-drive your purchases. Post an image of the product on your closet door and stare at it for a week or so. If you still like it 2 weeks later, buy it. Rent a product, or borrow one, or try one out at a friend’s house. Some appliance stores have ranges hooked up so you can actually try cooking on them before buying.

4. If you really don’t want to do the research and reflection needed to make a sound and sustainable purchase, find someone whose expertise you trust and pay them to do the work for you. Ask some intelligent questions about their recommendations, and then go forward in confidence.

Tips for the Insecure Shopper
1. See numbers 2, 3, and 4 above.

2. Confidence comes with experience and knowledge. You don’t feel equipped to select your dining room chandelier? Overwhelmed and nervous about paint colors? Read, research, observe. Go to the art museum to see how various artists use color and in what combinations. Everyone is a beginner at some point. Educate yourself.

3. Gather opinions from experts, and even friends if you must, but make sure the final decision pleases YOU. They won’t be living with the flooring (or whatever); you will.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. A booboo here and there won’t ruin the house. Take a few risks with the smaller, less permanent items (see below) so you can begin to define your own style.

5. Be conservative with the permanent fixtures if you want to play it safe, and experiment with the things that are easily (and more inexpensively) changed like paint, light fixtures, throw pillows.

Building a house isn’t the end; it is the means to an end—living your life. Never confuse the two. And don’t get stuck thinking that your house defines you. It can never encompass all that you are or can be. Enjoy the process for what it is and keep a light heart!

No comments: