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Do you Suffer from SSTD: Sh*t Scared to Decorate?

A common ailment sweeping this nation and many others is a condition I like to call SSTD: Sh*t Scared to Decorate…

SSTD takes hold without warning but can leave your home (and heart) empty for months or even years.

It first makes its presence known through your inability to make a decorating decision out of fear you’ll make the wrong one, and can leave you with an empty or outdated home for decades if not promptly treated.

Reckon this sounds like you, a family member or friend? Read on to be sure…

dining room setting made from blonde timber and light teal upholstered dining chairs

Symptoms of SSTD

You want some art for your wall, for example, but you don’t want to mess it up. So you buy nothing. That’s SSTD.

You known your sofa needs oodles of cushions, but you’re so paralysed with fear over which colour combinations to try that you still have an empty sofa months after you purchased it. That’s also SSTD.

You’re painfully aware that your dining chairs were only once considered cool back in 1993, but you’re overcome with anxiety over trying to find the perfect replacement. And so your precious posterior is still sitting on those tatty old chairs decades after you decided to start looking for new ones. That’s definitely SSTD.

Another common symptom: you buy the cheap version of most decor and furniture pieces, because you can’t commit to the more expensive version you’ve lusted over for months – and you’re fearful you’ll waste money. That’s SSTD at its worst.

black dining chairs around white dining table and herringbone floor

I used to have SSTD

Years ago, before I studied design and interior styling, I had SSTD to the max.

My SSTD kicked in shortly after I suffered from HPA: Homewares purchase anxiety. I detailed in this post about my journey with HPA, but in short… HPA is what you experience when you’re so unsure about what’s right for your home (and you’re overwhelmed by all of the options), that you end up purchasing a whole load of random crap that doesn’t even remotely work together in the space.

That’s the easiest way to end up with a home you hate. And often, if you’ve been on that expensive journey, you end up terrified to buy anything else; questioning your own taste over and over again.

Because I wanted to stop buying homewares and furniture that didn’t work in my space, I developed SSTD to counteract the spending. At the time, I thought it the best way to stop wasting money. If I kept making the wrong decorating decisions, surely the best way to make things right was to just make no decision at all. Right?

marilyn monroe artwork leaning on floor in white apartment

Overcoming SSTD

You can’t end up with a home you hate because it’s filled with things you bought on a whim that don’t work together. But you also can’t live in a home that’s empty and soulless because you fear making the wrong choices. So here’s my advice for overcoming SSTD – and making the right decisions for you and your space.

1. Mood Board – every room!

Don’t just flick through mags or blogs and think… I love that art – gimme gimme gimme! Think about the style you want for the entire home. Think of the colour palette you want, the materials you like, particular patterns you feel drawn to. Then mood board every room. I did this when I moved into my forever home recently (more on that here) and it works wonders.

I planned everything… right down to the coffee mug colour I wanted – and went shopping knowing the exact palette to look toward.

Once you have the colour palette and style worked out for the whole home, then think about individual pieces – and if they play into the overarching design.

living room mood board ideas from the life creative | TLC Interiors

2. Consult your Partner – they actually care!

Another thing I discovered along the way when it came to decorating: even if your partner claims to not care, they do. They care. And you should ask their opinion.

Often your partner will tell you the harsh, ugly truth. No, you don’t need that IKEA armchair because it’s been slashed to $199. And you certainly don’t need the matching footstool.

I bounced a lot of ideas off my partner and he actually made some really amazing choices for our home (more on that here). You should definitely do the same – especially if the item in question is expensive and is a piece you’ll both use day-to-day.

3. Ask about exchanging

I get it; sometimes you just don’t know how a piece of furniture or decor will look until you see it in your space. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. Just ask the store about their return policy, or if you can take a sample home (if it’s carpet, or similar). If it’s paint, get a sample pot and see how you feel about it on your wall.

For the most part, smaller decor items can be easily exchanged, but some stores won’t allow you to exchange if you change of mind – especially for larger items. Ask about the policy before you buy, and it’ll give you piece of mind that you can bring the decor back if it doesn’t work in the room.

TLC Interiors Interiors Scandinavian Bedroom for Feast Watson 1

4. Realise… it’s just money!

I don’t say this as a wealthy person. But I’ve always been of the philosophy that decorating and design is a journey, and you will make mistakes. Money; you can make more of it. You can also sell something online if you buy it and hate it months later. You gotta spend your money on something, right? Why not spend it on making your home a stunner?

Unless you’re a professional, there is always going to be an element of trial and error. That’s half the fun. There’s honestly a nice sense of satisfaction in getting to a point where you see something and think, nope… I know that won’t work. That usually only happens because you’ve made the mistake once before. So don’t be afraid to make them.

the life creative interior designers melbourne monochromatic living room | TLC Interiors

5. Bring in the big guns

Yes, this is a shameless plug. But as an interior stylist and decorator, I help clients all the time with this very dilemma. So many clients of mine either don’t have the time, or don’t have the know-how to ‘pull it all together’ or ‘make it feel like home’ as I’m often told.

A professional decorator, stylist or designer can come into your home, take all of the guesswork out for you and deliver you a room (or entire home) that feels amazing, functions well and involved no regret or mistakes on your part.

If you want to know more about my home styling service, click here.

Are you Scared to Decorate?

Are you scared to decorate your home? Does it intimidate you? I’d love to know if you’ve suffered from SSTD or HPA in the past, and what you did to overcome it. Drop me a comment below and join the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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