How to Overcome Design Paralysis

I am indecisive. There I said it. Especially when it comes to my home. We built our house about 5 years ago and all the walls were painted an off white color to save money. It cost more to have a different color for each room than it did to just do one color. Anything that saves me money, I am all over that! Plus, I didn’t have any idea what colors I wanted anyway. And making a quick decision – quick as in not having months of mulling over paint colors and changing my mind a hundred times – was not my strong suit. When we moved in, I figured I’d decide on what colors and paint them myself…that’s what I told myself at least. I really do like to paint actually. So it wasn’t the lack of motivation to paint, it was the indecisiveness.

Design Paralysis. It’s a thing – in my world at least.

Symptoms may include: staring at a room not knowing where to begin, buying supplies for projects but never finishing the project, not starting a project because you might think of something better later.

How did I overcome this Design Paralysis? It’s a work in progress. But I’ve learned what helps me work through it.


I recently discovered Polyvore, which is a website that lets you style and share collages of anything from fashion to home decor. It’s a great way to put items together so you can see the whole picture. It’s nice to be able to see the “finished” design of a room before ever purchasing anything. Even just cutting out magazine pictures or taking pictures of something you see in a store and making your own moodboard on a piece of paper can help you to see if everything works together….or doesn’t.

coastal bedroom


Pinterest For Inspiration

How could I not give credit to Pinterest? I’ve spent hours on Pinterest looking for design inspiration. I don’t think I need to explain Pinterest, but for all you that have been living on another planet….Pinterest is another site like Polyvore that can help you see how certain items look together. Just make a board and pin away! Once you step back and look at everything you have pinned to a certain board, you may see a common item or style which could help you determine what you really like.

Take That 1st Step – Even If It’s Small

Start with something small. Paint the walls….remember: it’s only paint. For me, it helps to get the ball rolling. Starting somewhere, anywhere helps get your momentum going so that you feel accomplished and more likely to keep going. Even if you end up scraping what you started with, which has happened to me many times, it helps just by getting started. Once you’re in the moment, hopefully more ideas may come to you, you may enjoy the activity more than you thought, or it may not take as long as you thought it would.Make A List

If painting or diving in to a project is too big of a step, try just making a list. It could be as simple as a list of materials you need for a project. Then go buy the items. Set them where you see them everyday. If anything, you’ll get tired of stepping over them and get the ball rolling that way!

Make a list of mini goals or projects that need accomplished to make it to the big picture. Nothing is more satisfying than crossing something off your list! Except for a Snickers bar….or a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Equally satisfying.

I’m a big list maker. To do lists, grocery lists, clothes shopping lists, project lists, winter boredom lists…..if it can be made into a list, I’ll do it. Don’t be afraid to put it on your list as you are doing it just so you can have the satisfaction of crossing it off!Find Something That Speaks To You (A Jumping Off Point) And Design Around It

This is easier said than done. You hear designers say they find a fabric, rug, or artwork that speaks to them and design around it. If you can find something that has a great pattern or colors that you really love, then try to coordinate or match the rest of your furniture and decor to it. It doesn’t even have to be a big object. If it’s something that you love, then go with it. This doesn’t always work for me, but when it does it’s great.

Lower Expectations – It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

This is hard for me. Trying to get the vision in my head to match the end product is difficult to say the least. Especially with my frugal mentality and desire to DIY everything. My husband is a perfectionist too, so he is really hard on himself when things don’t line up or aren’t perfectly square. I just have to keep telling myself that not everything is going to be magazine or Pinterest worthy. We don’t always have to be ‘Keeping up with Jones’s.’ We are the ones living with it, not everyone else. As long as it makes us happy and comfortable, then that’s all that matters.

Enlist Help – Ask For Advice

I’m constantly asking my sister and even my husband and kids if they like something. It’s just nice to have that second opinion or validation. You may even find that your opinion on which you like better becomes clear when asking someone else’s opinion. Even though I start thinking I really can’t choose between the two, it becomes clear as soon as someone else states their opinion even if they’re not agreeing with me.

Sometimes other people are able to offer their experiences or show you a different perspective you hadn’t thought of. This isn’t to say you have to take the person’s advice or change your mind because of their experiences, but it may help you make a more educated decision. Remember you and your family are going to be the ones living with the paint color, light fixture, new chair, etc.

If you too suffer from Design Paralysis, hopefully at least one of these tips will work for you. Remember to take that first step even if it’s small, try making a list, don’t be afraid to ask for help, look for outside inspiration, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself! All that really matters is that your space is functional for you and makes you happy!


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