Breaking Up With Pottery Barn

As it turns out, it wasn't my houses that were unfilled. It had been me.
05/14/2014 04:38 pm ET Updated Jul 14, 2014

I stood in the middle of the newly-painted great room and began sobbing.

Seeing the 17-foot walls slathered in Tuscan yellow paint, I felt like I was living inside a jar of French's mustard. My husband reminded me that I'd searched through hundreds of paint chips and went through several tests to pick this shade. It took a few more tears until he relented to have the room redone.

This emotional turmoil about decorating my home was not new; in fact it had become an ongoing obsession to make it perfect. I'd spent years on the hunt for furniture, accessories and fabrics. The constant need to redo rooms was fed by the home furnishing catalogs that were delivered daily. My heart actually raced when I read the new Architectural Digest.

I had house envy for as long as I can remember. When I visited friends and saw their new furniture or remodeled kitchens, I immediately felt deprived. Why didn't my dining room have cove lighting? Why wasn't my refrigerator a Subzero?

Endless trips to Pottery Barn brought a mixture of orgasms and anxiety attacks as I coveted more pillows, more throws, more art books and more book ends to keep them in place. Even movies brought out cravings. Did you see Diane Keaton's beach house in her film Something's Gotta Give? Yes, you gotta give me that home.

I was clearly a decorating addict, and there's no 12-step group for us. (If there were, we'd all talk about how to redesign the meeting room -- can you just imagine?)

Everything changed when I got divorced and said goodbye to my beautiful home. I couldn't buy a place until we were legally divorced, so I rented a 700 square-foot apartment -- about as big as my former master bedroom. Moving in with a few meager belongings -- a total of 12 pieces of furniture, counting my bed -- left me feeling sad. Hey, the only people with fewer possessions are monks and college freshman.

This unanticipated new life had me wondering how would I adjust to giving up so much? Until the first night I came home after a hectic day of work. Walking in the front door, I felt an immediate "Ahhhh", like sinking into my old Jacuzzi tub filled with bubbles. The apartment was so, well, so welcoming. It was unbelievably cozy.

Day after day, coming home was a Goldilocks moment: It wasn't too big, and much to my surprise, it wasn't too small.

There was everything I needed. One set of dishes, one set of glasses, four fluffy new towels and two sets of 500-thread count sheets in the linen closet. I felt as if I were 22 years old again, setting up my first apartment (without the Peter Max posters, of course.)

It fit me like a glove. A snug, soft Italian leather glove.

Liberated from the testosterone-laden themes my ex-husband liked, I expressed my inner girly girl. The pink bathroom channeled Marilyn Monroe with a pink see-through nighty hanging on the wall. I love that everyone leaves the bathroom blushing. I can only imagine what the maintenance men fantasize about when they unclog the sink.

I gave up trying to impress friends with my style. Now it's just about having fun. There are dinner parties and book club and game night. Yes, we're shoulder to shoulder, but stuffing a room with guests revs up the energy and the conversation. (Just think about all those clowns in the Volkswagen.)

The biggest change, however, came about without an intervention from Dr. Drew. With so little space to put anything, I stopped buying anything new for my home. Where would I put it? Forced to accept the way things are, I stopped obsessing about the way I thought they should be. ("I could tear out that wall and open up the dining room" or "I'll add a second sink in the bathroom.")

With the decorating voices tamed, I now hear my own voice speaking about who I am and what I want. As I stopped focusing on changing the floor plan, I began to change myself. And the rewards have been new work and new friends and ultimately new love that I can embrace with an open heart.

As it turns out, it wasn't my houses that were unfilled. It had been me.

Clearly the stuff that makes me happy is discovering the stuff I'm made of and creating a life that delights me, not finding a delightful nick knack.

So goodbye Pottery Barn. It was a nice relationship while it lasted.