Making Mistakes

I’ve been decorating, so I’ve been making lots of mistakes.

The latest is the Mistake of the Bedroom Curtains. Yes, they have names, like Sherlock Holmes cases. The mistake was that I bought the wrong curtains, but it actually all started with the bed.

When I first started decorating the bedroom, I put the bed in a perfectly logical place, close to the window. I added the bedside tables and hung pictures above them. I thought, that’s it: one corner of the bedroom done. And then I realized that late at night, through the wall, I could hear the low buzz of conversation from the building next door. Not words, but the buzz that lets you know a conversation is taking place, like bees in the walls. I don’t know how, since the buildings are a hundred years old and the walls are a foot thick. But then, I have very good hearing. So I had to turn the bed around, which actually ended up being a much better place for it. And the bedside tables had to move. And the bookshelves. So now I had a window with a bookshelf beneath it, which meant rehanging the paintings. I will have to find spackle and paint to cover the initial holes — to hide my mistakes.

But what about the curtains? The first set of curtains I put on the window were dark red cotton, to match the curtains in the living room. But the window in the bedroom is tall and narrow: those curtains blocked out too much light. The second set of curtains were cream, with flowers on them (one of my favorite patterns, Waverly’s Norfolk Rose). They were perfect, but always meant to be temporary because they will eventually be the bed curtains (by which I mean the ones that go over the bed — a bed doesn’t feel finished to me, without curtains). So I bought a third set of curtains, with dark red and cream stripes. I thought, that will match everything else in the room, right? And they did. They matched perfectly, and would have worked, except . . . the room was too dark again. And then I thought, why not get plain cream cotton curtains, just like the dark red curtains I started with — except, you know, not dark or red. By now you’re thinking, I never ever want to decorate with this woman . . . Because yes, I had gone through three different sets of curtains for the bedroom, although the only one I couldn’t reuse elsewhere was the striped set. But I had actually learned something from the experience. Not that I’m incredibly picky when decorating my living space — that I knew. But that the most important thing, for me, was light.

You see, the bedroom is where I have my writing desk, and sometimes I write during the day, although right now I do most of my writing at night. It’s important to me that the room get as much light as possible during the day, although at night I need to close the curtains. The mistake — buying the wrong curtains — led to the realization. So now I have plain cream cotton curtains. If I could, I would have a pattern, because I like patterns. But the most important thing is the light. Without buying the wrong curtains, I would not have realized what I actually valued the most.

And that’s why I’m writing a blog post about curtains: because they led to a revelation. I blame myself for mistakes, beat myself up mentally for them.  But the mistakes are actually part of the learning process. They aren’t wrong turns, but how I get to the right place. We’re told to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, but what I’m saying goes deeper than that: our mistakes are necessary. We could not succeed without them. Often, it’s just after doing something wrong that I suddenly realize how to do it right. If you’re not making mistakes, it’s probably because you’re not trying to do anything particularly complicated. Anything at all complicated (in which I include hanging curtains) takes time, and finding the right way to do it — and that usually involves starting with wrong ways.

So what I’m saying is, don’t blame yourself for mistakes. Don’t forgive yourself for them. Thank yourself for them . . . maybe even, if you can, celebrate them. Because without them, you can’t get wherever you’re going.


This is the window, and the shelf, and the pictures rehung. And the curtains . . .

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10 Responses to Making Mistakes

  1. Eileen Nephin Bish says:

    I understand completely – light is what one needs if the bedroom is to be a place of solace and joy while working. You are not wrong headed – You have chosen the correct path. Best wishes, Eileen from my Lancaster County bedroom where I am still recovering – and will be for a long time to come – from post op infections.

  2. emily says:

    !!! Somebody who gets natural lighting! My living room has no windows. I didn’t realize it would be so dark. It’s awful. And I’ve known for a long time that I like natural light and windows — anyone who has lived with me or gone into housing selection with me knows that’s on the top of my musts. So that’s the best part. =[

    I also find for me that I need to see. I find having my desk face a wall so unproductive: I don’t do work at home, I barely get work done at my lab desk. I’ve settled to working in public places with massive windows and lots of space, where when I look up, I can see for meters.

    With my future flats, I’d really like a place large enough so I don’t have to put desks, beds, tables, and the likes, along walls. Someday . . .

    • My desk is on a wall, but I have a cork board above it, made all pretty with a flowered covering and inspirational sayings. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it really, really helps!

  3. runwright says:

    Love love love this. Celebrate the mistakes. At least you did something! And next time, you’ll know better. Plus the experience always makes for a great story.

  4. As someone that makes way too many mistakes (some of them more than once- because I always love to give a benefit of doubt), this was really reassuring. Celebrate, not berate my mistakes.

    Thank you as always, for sharing.

  5. Lala says:

    ….this is why I hate decorating.

    I mean, I love the finished product, and I feel guilty for not loving the artistic process of it all, but interior design is an obnoxious animal at times. Rooms are not always good canvases; sometimes the arrangement of windows & doors makes no sense, sometimes the color scheme you have in mind just won’t fall into place. When you paint walls dark, for instance, the effect can be striking….but you have to rely on the room’s lighting, and it’s hard to tell (for me, at least) whether it’s going to work until the mess has already been made.

    Kudos for your insight, though. I could stand to be more thankful for my mistakes.

    • I find that I make decorating mistakes all the time, and often have to do things over! Over time, I’ve found some things that work for me, so you do learn from the mistakes, thank goodness. But I totally understand what you mean . . . decorating can be frustrating!

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