Skip to content

End of Year Ritual: List Your Accomplishments!

It’s that magic time again. Do you know what I’m referring to? It’s that mini gap between Christmas and the new year when most are starting to come down from the high of carbs and cocktails to prepare for more of the same on NYE. However you celebrate it, no doubt you view the beginning of 2012 as a most exciting time of hope and happiness, things to do, resolutions to make, a fresh start. I welcome a new year though the reality of getting older is the least exciting part of it but there’s nothing to do to stop the passing of time except to be happy and live your life! There is no future date in which you can allow yourself the “right” to do something, this is your life – this is your time as Snow Patrol so cleverly puts it.

What are your end of the year rituals?

Sadly,  some get rather down over a year ending because they feel another year has escaped them, they somehow didn’t manage all they had hoped to, they’re getting older, life is passing them by, etc. Do you feel this way right now? If you have the end of the year blues try to turn things around…  Rather than think about what you didn’t accomplish in 2011, make a list of all that you managed to do this year that you are proud of. In fact, that is my end of year ritual and I think we should share it together on decor8. It can be a real mood booster!

So! In the comments section below we can each write down what we accomplished in 2011. Not what we HOPE to do for 2012, this isn’t a list about resolutions, but what we DID that made THIS year good. It never ceases to amaze me as to how BIG the list really is on paper compared to how it looks in my head (usually a lot smaller as I struggle with my inner critic/over achiever leanings), which is why I always encourage list making to sort things out, peel back layers and to expose the truth.

As 2o11 comes to an end, corks will be popped, wishes will be made and parties will be thrown around the world only this time you will clink your glasses remember all that you wrote down on your list below that made 2011 good for you. It’s important for our self confidence as we march into a new year to end it this way so are you ready to join me with my end of year ritual? Good, I’ll go first in the comments section and hope that you will join me there.

Lots of love to everyone! Kiss! – Holly

(images: holly becker)

Posted in real talk on December 29, 2011

You’ve Got To Find What You Love

It’s no secret that Apple founder, Steve Jobs, passed away. It’s a trending topic on Twitter, bloggers are busily tapping on keys to express their condolences and newspapers have plastered the sad news all over websites and on their printed pages. I wondered before writing this post what the point would be for me to chime in, just another voice, why would it matter?

Have a nice weekend!

Sure, I use Apple products daily but have always been equally loyal to the PC and never understood the need to pick one over the other because both have their place. That’s why this post isn’t about Apple (the product) or how much I love and rely on my iPhone, rather it’s about how important I think it is to find what you love, have courage, possess talent and then act on it just like the brilliant man the world just lost to cancer.

Have you ever read the text of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University? I watched the video years ago and was so touched and inspired by his words and thought that if you’ve not watched it already that now is a good time to do so. Here is the link, it’s a really good way to spend just over 14 minutes of your life. Some points from it that I’d like to share and discuss are below. Perhaps you feel the same or would like to chime in…

* “None of this (taking a random calligraphy class in school) had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.” – Steve Jobs.

My takeaway from his words above is that you have to experiment, get out there, and try new things. Take classes that often feel very unrelated to what you do and that seem to have no practical application, but that simply sound like fun or interest you in some way. An artist may try an astronomy course for kicks and several years later, translate some of that into a body of work that receives an incredible response. You just never know, do you? When I took a random writing workshop one snowy night in January 2006 (in Boston), my teacher said, “If you are not on the internet these days, you don’t exist”.  I immediately went home and started writing my first post on decor8 and I’ve been writing ever since. All because of something I heard from a class that I nearly missed due to heavy snow. Again, you never know where certain “moments” in time can lead.

Another thought from Mr. Jobs that stuck with me is,

* “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs.

I believe in this wholeheartedly. I’ve often tried to figure out the intentions of others, my own goals, put together a five year business plan (to the advice of friends in the business world)… but in the end I had and still have to ultimately trust my gut. I’d rather experience fear than regret. I may be scared to take a risk but I’ll do it because I’m more concerned to miss out or regret not taking the risk. None of this is based on what looks good on paper or even what is always the best action to take. If it feels like the right thing to do, if my gut drives me in that direction, I often leap trusting that my instincts will not let me down. I also trust in the circle of life and how, “What comes around goes around”, always applies to everything we do whether we want it to or not! It’s something my mother and grandmother always told me and it stuck, and so I tell the same thing to others – if you dish it out expect to receive it back in return! When it comes to connecting the dots by looking backwards — yes, always. That’s why you have to create the dots in the first place and that takes courage.

I really see the wisdom in these words also spoken by Jobs at the same address,

*”Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose… There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs

How beautifully said is that?! Having lost my talented and lovely aunt to cancer when she was only 40-years-old, I know how it feels to lose someone who was aware of how temporary life really is. In her final days, she was brave and told me to be happy and follow my heart – all this from her death bed weighing only 85 pounds. As a fine artist, art teacher and world traveler (she spoke several languages and taught at prestigious schools), her love for me and for others was proof that she valued life. I remember her making me bears, smocks for painting, dollhouses from wood and other beautiful things when I was a child. Her love of handmade craft and art influenced my life, look at what I do for a living! My mother’s love of making also had a strong influence on me. My aunt never feared death or anything – she was a fighter, a creator of joy, she followed her heart while also embracing others around her helping them to follow their hearts… I think it’s true, we have to step back and think that if we had only a few months left to live would we do anything differently today.  Most of us would answer YES. Now the question is, why aren’t we doing it then?

And finally, these words touched me as I’m sure they’ll touch you,

*”Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I can’t add anything to this – it’s so perfectly stated. When I first heard this I wanted to high five everyone around me.

In the end, we have to find what we love, who we love, what works for us because life is so precious, realized even more the moment someone disappears from this planet. Live for yourself, then others – this is not at all selfish. If you try living for others first denying your own happiness, you are ultimately denying others of happiness too because no one is inspired by a person who is trying to fix everyone else but hasn’t bothered to first be an example and fix their own life.

I hope this post has inspired you today, provided some encouragement, and helped you in even a small way. I know this is a design blog but I have to veer off at times and talk about things that matter most to me because it refuels my creativity and helps me to think outside of design for a moment, which in return inspires my work – being deep at times feeds me and allows me to enjoy my job even more.

To wrap up, I have to share the words from a greeting card I once gave someone when they lost their parent. It stuck with me for years and I refer to it whenever someone dies because it reminds me that the only way to look at death, since there is nothing positive about it in all honesty, is to remember what the person gave us while they were alive to breath some sense into it all and then to think of what they left behind — to take away something beautiful from their passing that will never die – what they taught us.

“The tide recedes, but leaves behind bright seashells on the sand. The sun goes down, but gentle warmth still lingers on the land. The music stops, yet echoes on in sweet, soulful refrains. For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains.” – unknown.

Your thoughts?

(image: holly becker)

Posted in real talk on October 06, 2011

Being Proud And Owning Who You Are

Oh yes, this is a long post and somewhat emotional so you’ll need a cup of tea and some time to read through it so hang in there. :) I’m hoping that by pouring out my heart that you’ll be encouraged somehow. And since I’m feeling a bit better (my cold is almost gone), I also feel chatty. I have a lot of work ahead of me between Monday and the end of July so this weekend I plan to be lazy and spend a lot of time in the sunshine since I have to get my energy up — I’m going on a book tour this summer! My next stop is Amsterdam on June 25 (info here) and then I’ll be back in London this summer and then over to my beautiful home country, the USA baby! I can’t wait to go home for a few weeks — I’ll definitely be in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco but the other 3-4 cities are yet to be confirmed. I love living in Europe but there’s no place like home and of course, shopping in the states is divine (and so cheap compared to prices here). I will get to see my family and friends, so I’m thrilled. I’ve not been over since last summer so I’m ready!

Pretty is as pretty does

How about you though, are you doing good? How was your week? You know, I was ill but also just exhausted. I have been working so much since the beginning of 2009 into 2010 and never really took time out to even get SICK never mind to rest. I’m not at all burnt out, I still have a lot of motivation and energy, but I definitely needed the pause that having a cold gave me – and an excuse to do nothing for 3 days. I loved doing nothing in particular but watching films and playing games on my iPhone in bed. I left the house once, yesterday, to go to the farmers’ market where I found the beautiful lilacs that you see above. Having fresh flowers around when you are down feels so cozy somehow, don’t you think?

Which brings me to thinking that when you’re sick you somehow need flowers around. They are a requirement. Chicken soup, water, tea, vitamins, cozy pajamas, a soft pillow and flowers. I remember falling once when I was a kid while rollerskating in the street and I broke my leg which kept me in bed for three months straight. It was such a hard time for a bouncy young girl like me! I hated being bedridden for so long. I remember though that my father sent me flowers several times when he left for work and each time my eyes were glued to the arrangement there on my bedside table because they made me feel so special, so loved, and being that I didn’t have a close relationship with him I held on to all of the attention from daddy that I could get. In fact, any small dose felt like a huge showering of affection and I took it, appreciated every drop, and I kept everything my father gave me until they had absolutely nothing left of them — including flower arrangements.

To this day, when I am sick, either I’ll buy myself flowers or my husband will pick them up for me and I associate them with feeling special, receiving love, and though physically I may be ill and flowers can’t help change that, they do lift me emotionally because I have such fond memories associated with bouquets of them growing up. Either my father would give them to me or my mother, I’d pick them on my grandparents’ farm, I’d watch my mother (a trained florist) arrange them for hours, or I’d help her landscape the yard (her passion).

I think that as I get older and more sure of myself that I feel at ease visiting my childhood and extracting the positive things so that my memories are layered, because when I was younger I often saw only the bad parts of growing up and I ignored the good. What about you, do you think about this at times? When you get to be of parenting age and think about how your own parents were your age once, and how you thought 30 or 35 was SOOOO OLLLLDDDD back then, you get a bit of a wake up call that they really were young and inexperienced just as you are today — don’t you think?

I remember my father coming home when I was a toddler and how I would jump up and down trying to leap over the child gate dividing my bedroom from the living room – seeing him excited me so much. I remember him standing there in his bright yellow hard hat with a big smile, coming towards me to lift me up and over the gate for a hug. He’d always look down at me there in my diaper say, “Let me see that Holly smile!” and I’d grin wide and big, exposing the huge gap between my front teeth that, combined with my chipmunk cheeks and massive dimples, was quite sweet though became the source of painful teasing once in school. When I would smile, he would smile and that is how I learned from an early age that being happy made me happy but also made others around me feel joy. I’ve not stopped smiling since. Now when I consider how old he was then, 29, I can’t believe it. He was so old and wise to me back then, my tall (6’3″), slim, handsome papa was so “perfect” and could do no wrong but he was a mere 29-years-old! Hello, right?!

If you’ll notice on my blog today, I’m talking a lot about my childhood. It mostly has to do with some diaries I came across on Tuesday that I’d long forgotten and hadn’t read for over twenty years. In one, I spoke of how I want to someday live in a city, travel around Europe, be a writer and have a book that becomes a best seller. I was 10-years-old. This completely flipped me out because two days after reading that entry, an entry I don’t even recall writing, my book became a Wall Street Journal bestseller (#2!). Also in the journal I saw all of the little floor plans that I remembered drawing as a little kid but didn’t realize I also had them in my diary. I read through years of my own history and it made me really love that once little girl who wrote them with her “big dreams” even more. I also felt the diaries that I kept in my teens and twenties. Whoa. What was that all about?!

Afterwards I felt this shift inside, a reconnection to my self in a sense, and I’ve been thinking about my entire life from the beginning until now and for the first time I really feel like I can be proud of myself. It’s hard to admit this publicly, I know so many people expect me to be “perfect” but no one is perfect and if you think they are then you are right – they are perfect in some way — they are perfect in putting on a grand show of what they want you to believe about them. Deep inside we all have our hang ups, don’t we? Do you know anyone who doesn’t? But I finally, for the first time in my entire life, feel absolutely 100% proud of myself, the life I’ve created, the ways in which I’ve changed or adapted throughout the years to become more true to self, and I am absolutely proud of ME.

I wonder if you are proud of yourself? I mean, truly proud?

I now wonder what is next. I’ve been waiting my entire life to feel this good about myself. I’ve been waiting to wake up one day and look in the mirror and say, “Holly, you have so much to be proud of, you really did it girl!”. And that day was yesterday. I finally said it, I meant it, I owned it and I didn’t even get emotional or apologize for it. I really, truly owned the moment. I’ve always been so hard on myself and though that drove me to do better work, it also drove me into moments when I simply felt no peace inside of myself until I accomplished this or that goal. I am feeling peace inside now and with this peace, I want to continue on my way as a blogger, friend, wife, daughter and maybe now I’m even ready to be a mother. I’ve been so worried about becoming one until yesterday. I think I needed to get to that place emotionally before I could imagine guiding and directing a young life.

I know, heavy stuff for a decorating blog. But you are my friends and I cherish how I have your friendship and how so many of you relate similar experiences to me in return and perhaps now you can share bits of your life that perhaps you share with me in the comments section. And I feel zero regret for posting this on a design blog because honestly, you can’t even begin to make your home an authentic expression of your taste and style if you are completely out of touch with yourself so emotionally, it’s good to be in the right place even when it comes to decorating. Funny how that is.

Have a wonderful weekend dear friends.

(image: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in real talk on May 06, 2011

Gardener & Marks + Noticing The Details

I’m a huge Lyn Gardner fan so naturally, I love browsing her decorating portfolio over at Gardener & Marks. Their business is so intriguing to me, Gardener & Marks, because it’s a full service decorating and props firm in Australia and I think their work comes across as very relaxed and personal yet also with such care over the details that you want to examine everything you see.

What I admire so much about Lyn, aside from her wild and very big hair and quirky personal style is her decorating work — she is a very detail-oriented person and I love that. I delight in the details, I can get so hung up on them though! Are you keen on the little bits and pieces? The photos throughout this post are from Gardener & Marks and show homes that they’ve decorated, Lyn and her partner Amanda Hendersen-Marks (please read their bio here). So pretty!

By the way, have you heard of The White House Daylesford? It’s Lyn’s amazing property that you can use as a location home OR you can vacation there — it’s quite drool inducing — you simply must check it out here. As you are browsing, notice bedroom two with that gorgeous black and white toile wallpaper and hints of emerald green around the room – so pretty.

It’s funny, because I’m very big picture which is why I was once a project manager. But I’m also creative and imaginative — I’m big on details and I notice every little corner and creation whether I’m shopping, staying in a hotel, riding on a train… I see it all. My friends often say that this is the writer in me – to notice things that most people breeze right by. And it’s true. I can be with friends and they’ll be chatting or zoning out on their iPods and I’m chatting and on the iPod too yet I’m also scanning the room, noticing every detail of what each person there is wearing – stripey socks, cuffed jeans, man who looks bored, woman who has lost an earring, boy with a chipped tooth.

You’ll laugh at this, but do you remember that scene with adorable Matt Damon in the first Bourne film when he is in a roadside diner in France with German supporting actress Franka Potenta and he tries to “prove” that he isn’t normal so he immediately starts to recite each detail about their environment while looking straight into her eyes – and he gets all of the facts right – he had memorized everything including how many people were in the room? Okay so he’s an assassin, I’m not (ha ha), but I can relate to that scene so well as I can do the same thing when it comes to noticing everything around me. I don’t always remember things that were said, I’m more visual I think, but I do remember things that I see or words that I can see on paper… In fact, that is what is helping me to learn German — not to hear it but to see it on signs and in textbooks.

When I shop, it’s the same. I think lots of us creatives notice the details, from the Lyn Gardeners of the world to everyday people like me who love to decorate and write for a living. Perhaps you too? I see everything and often can scan an entire section, zoom in on what I’m interested in and disregard the rest — I’m not one to waste time as I know right away whether or not I’m attracted to something. I often got annoyed with this personality trait, to see everything, to notice the good and the bad, to be able to “weed out” things that I don’t like or need almost instantly. In some ways, I had to get it under control in order to live a productive life. What I mean is that by noticing everything I’d often return home feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer stimulation of it all. Or I’d be so overwhelmed by what I’m looking at in a store that I’d leave empty handed.

It took me years to modify my behavior so that I could use this sensitivity of mine to my own advantage, and now that I’m older I definitely can see a huge improvement and my life is so much better now that I can edit and sort ideas, sensations, emotions, external data, all of it — quite efficiently without draining myself. I have noticed that one of the best ways to curb over-sensitivity is to simply acknowledge it first of all and then use it only in situations when you really need it. I use it when it comes to projects, work-related tasks, etc. I’ve learned to ignore it (sometimes to forcefully ignore it) when I’m in the train and everyone around me seems to be drunk or acting obnoxious which I find often on the train when I’m riding at night. I have to forcefully flip the “off” switch whenever I see things that cause me pain, annoyance or anger – those are the details in life that I’d rather not pay attention to.

A darker side to this though is that I pay attention to details but I also miss other things as I’m so intently focused on something else that the other important thing slips off my radar. My husband laughs, I have a short attention span, I am like a golden retriever in some ways — I can be running after a stick and the moment I notice a cat off in the distance, I start running towards the cat forgetting all about what I was retrieving in the first place.

I wonder, do any of you notice the details, even to a fault, and how have you managed this? Luckily, I’ve managed well over the years and now I feel very confident to speak about it publicly and to use it in areas of my life where paying attention to details matters, like decorating and writing. Please share your views, I’d love to learn more about you and creatives out there in general who are very detail-oriented and how you edit, sort, disregard some date, absorb others, etc. It’s a fascinating topic I think!

(images: gardener & marks)

Posted in Decorating Tips, real talk on April 27, 2011

Books:

Some of my books...

Further editions available: Decorate published by Murdoch Books for AU/NZ, Decorar BR, Alt om indretning DK, Inspirace pro váš byt CZ, Dekorácie SK, La décoration FR, Lust auf Wohnen DE, Sisusta tyylillä FI and Sztuka aranżacji wnętrz PL.

eCourses:

Next dates

Blogging Your Way: Blog Boss
e-course, October 10 - November 10, 2014
Find out more about this exciting class by bloggers, for bloggers, teaching you how to blog like a boss!