Episode 45 – Myquillyn Smith, Nester and Author

Myquillyn Smith is helping us with our “Restart” series by giving us wisdom to (yet again) tackle our homes in a way that adds more, but costs less! Jessica and Myquillyn chat about what it means to decorate your home in a way that isn’t necessarily perfect, but is beautiful and purposeful.

Myquillyn Smith, Nester and Author


Jessica: Hey there, it’s Jessica Honegger, founder of the socially conscious fashion brand Noonday Collection. And this is the Going Scared Podcast, where we cover all things social impact, entrepreneurship and courage. This week continues a special series that we’re calling the Restarter series. What does it take to start back up again after you have stopped? And we have an incredible line-up of people who are encouraging us to live better in our relationships, our bodies, and today in our homes. Today’s show is with Myquillyn Smith. Myquillyn is the founder of the very popular Nesting Place blog that she started in 2007, and she is the best-selling author of the recent book, Cozy Minimalist Home: More style, Less Stuff. This book guides you step by step on making purposeful design decisions for your home. And she’s all about doing more with less, which as you guys know, I’m right in the middle of a home remodel. I’ve been in it for like nine months now, and now we’re about to move out because we’re doing phase two, and it’s consuming my life. So this was a really great conversation that I know you’re going to take away so many tips from this show. So without further ado, here’s my friend Myquillyn.

OK. So, I need to know all the things because I met you many years ago at a conference, and I want to know what is the origin story of the Nester? How did you get into all things home?

Myquillyn: Well, I’ve always been into all things home, like even with Barbie dolls when I was, well, way too old, like 15. Still played with Barbies. But, you know, I don’t know if you know my sister, Emily P. Freeman. So, it’s me and her. She’s my baby sister. And we would play Barbies and she wanted to do, like, drama and stories and back stories and histories and play with the actual dolls. And all I wanted to do was decorate their pretend houses, and the dream house, and the cruise ship and whatever else I could get my hands on. And so, I always loved playing with furniture, dreaming about a home, moving my own furniture in my bedroom. It’s just been something I’ve always liked seeing how you can manipulate the things in your space, and then it looks different and you feel different about it, and it’s just fun and easy and kind of risk-free risk-taking.

Jessica: Why do you feel like it’s risk-free risk-taking?

Myquillyn: Well, I mean, when we think about it, all of the risks that there are in the world, making a nail hole or moving furniture in the privacy of your own home and then deciding you hate it or painting a table that you got for $5 at a yard sale is not a risk. And those little things can hold us back like, "You know what? I can’t." How many of us have a painting, like, leaning beside the sofa because we’re waiting for … you know, to hire someone to hang it because we’re terrified we’re going to make another nail hole in the wall? Like, make…we have to make the nail hole, we have to paint.

Jessica: Make the nail hole. I don’t even have nails. I mean, a lot of my stuff can be held up by bulletin board pins.

Myquillyn: There you go. You don’t even need a hammer. If you have a high-heeled shoe, if you have a rolling pin.

Jessica: We have this, we got through this, although I married a perfectionist husband who has a construction background.

Myquillyn: Well, your situation’s a little different.

Jessica: It’s different. Well, but here’s the deal though. I literally feel like I cannot hang something because he walks into a room and sees what is not straight. So it would be…so that’s sometimes hard for me because I have to kind of wait for him. It’s like it has to get in line. You know, it has to get in line.

Myquillyn: Yes. But he is the kind of man that will do it.

Jessica: Yeah, he will.

Myquillyn: Like, as long as there’s someone in your home that will do it, that’s what matters. It’s that it gets done.


Working from Home

Jessica: OK. So you’re into homes, you realized that as a young child. And then, how did that develop into a career?

Myquillyn: Let’s see. How did it? Well, at first, I thought…well, I just thought I liked houses. So what? Went to school, I thought I would be a teacher. My junior year, I realized I didn’t want to be a teacher because then I would have to keep being in school. And Chad and I got married and I transferred and started a design degree. And then, like a year into that, I realized I don’t know if a design degree is what I need because the way I want to … like, I want to help people in their house, Jessica, but I don’t want to have to leave my own house. I don’t want to have to go to their house and be in a stranger’s home and, like, touch their recliner and do that stuff. So, I was kind of stuck because I’m an introvert, and I love being home and I really like kind of figuring out quick fixes and just moving furniture around.

Like, I don’t want to go to the furniture store. I don’t want to go to the fabric store and do a COM order or anything like that. Like, I just want to kind of use what I have and make the experience better. And there really wasn’t a place for me 15 years ago, but then blogging happened. And suddenly I can talk about doing things in my own home without leaving my house, in a way that it also helps and encourages others and creates a community, which is the best thing about this online world, is all of the other women out there that we can be in community with.

And so, that’s where the magic really started happening, was once I started a blog. And then I saw that there were other women wanting to do the same thing I was doing, or doing the same thing I was doing, who were encouraging me. We were hot-gluing our drapes together. We were, you know … layering rugs, whatever it was, just doing these small changes in our home while we were home so that we could enjoy the place that we were, not so we could show off or be in a magazine, but so we could get our home looking the way we always hoped, so we could use it the way we always dreamed.

Jessica: So, would you say that your differentiator at the time then was you weren’t trying to do all of these … go to the craft store, go figure this out, a bunch of DIYs? It was really like, "Look at what you have, and how do you make it what you want it to be"?

Myquillyn: Yeah. It was somewhere in between. Like, I wasn’t the kind of girl who would hire a designer, but I also wasn’t the kind of girl who would just give up and not like my house and not worry about it. I wanted to do something about it, but I didn’t have a lot of money. I had limited time. I had little boys hanging onto my legs. And so, I thought, "There’s got to be some changes that I can make within my own gifting of, like, at least I can figure out what I like and what I don’t like. And I can look at something and figure out why." And I’ll tell you also what at the time I thought was really hurtful, but now looking back, it was so helpful, is that we have moved so many times in our life and in our marriage. We are in our 14th home.

Jessica: Wow.

Myquillyn: And there’s something about when you are moving in, setting up a house and then packing it up and setting it up again. And you know you might only live there for a year or six months or whatever it is. You learn pretty quickly how to set up a home. And I hated that for so long because I just wanted to be the girl that lived in the same house her whole life. And we kept moving. But now I realize: Oh! That taught me so much about, you know, how to do a bookshelf, where to put the sofa in relation to if the fireplace is in the corner or in the middle of the room or in the side of the room. It was really like a teaching experience for me.

Jessica: OK. And then let’s… So you started your blog in 2007.

Myquillyn: Yeah.

Jessica: And then how did you realize, "I want to start doing this, doing this. I really want to develop a community here. I really want to start sharing what I’m learning"? And how did the Nester evolve?


Evolution of The Nester

Myquillyn: Well, when I started the blog in 2007, it was because my sister had a blog and we moved away from each other. So, I actually moved away from her. We had lived 14 houses apart, and I moved to another city, an hour and a half away. And so, it was a way for me to keep up with her. Then I found other blogs. I found Pioneer Woman. And I wanted to leave a comment without…like, this was the time where, you know, you had your little photo, if you had a blog, a photo would show up for when you left a comment. But if you didn’t have a blog, it would just be like this anonymous person. So, I wanted to have a place to link back to if I left comments on my sister’s blogs or on Pioneer Woman‘s blog. Like, I wanted to be a part of the community.

So, I started a blog called Nesting Place because that was my little…had a little job in my town where I worked at a little bakery, and I sold handmade goods, and I helped her with the decor in there and that type of thing. And from time to time, I would kind of do redesign and help women with their houses. And then at that time, I used the name of Nester, because…I mean, Jessica, we talked about it. My name has a Q in it. Like, no one can look at my name and say it. It’s Myquillyn, like Jacqueline. It’s so weird. And also, I was kind of afraid of the internet. It’s full of killers and such. So, I just thought “I’ll just use, like, a fake name.” We’ll use The Nester. No big deal. This way I can leave comments. And what happened was, women started commenting on the posts that I put up. Just little dumb things about moving the sofa or, you know, making a wreath or hanging drapes. And I found this wonderful community and it just, I kind of grew from there. So it was never like this one decision of I’m going to do this. It was just like one little step at a time of trusting the community and them earning some trust with them and just taking the next little step.

Jessica: I love that. OK. And so, then you start, then, becoming this guru really that is helping other women to make their homes cozy, beautiful, simple, and to hang the freaking paintings, right?

Myquillyn: Yeah. And I think that was just like the biggest thing about it, was, you know what? It’s not going to be perfect. I look back, I mean, we all look back into things that we made 10 years ago, whatever creativity, whatever we were into. Mine was home. So, I look at my home 10 years ago and I’m like, "Oh man, that was a hot mess." And I’m sure in 10 years I will look back at my house now and say that. So, it’s not that I feel like I am a master decorator or have better taste than anyone. I certainly don’t. But I figured out how to create a home that I like and I figured out how to help women create a home that they like. And that has made all the difference in how I live in my home and I hope how lots of other women have lived in their home.

Jessica: Well, and that’s what I love, is I think a lot of women might be at home kind of fiddling around and deciding, "Oh, OK, here’s where I really like that plant. Or actually, my mom might’ve given me that, but I don’t like it, so I’m going to sell it," or whatever. But you really figured out how to package that in a way that other women are learning from you. Is that what led you to write The Nesting Place, which was your first book, to begin with?

Myquillyn: It really is. And what I really wanted to communicate with that, because the tag line is, or the subtitle, "It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful." And I think for so long I kind of function under the idea of looking at Martha Stewart magazines, which are beautiful. I still think they’re beautiful to this day. But feeling like the goal was perfection for my house, you know, to have the drapes that are made in the workroom, that are weighted and lined and felted and all of those fancy things, and they’re $1,500 a window.

Jessica: I don’t even know what you just said. I don’t know.

Myquillyn: I know. Exactly. No one does. That’s the thing. But I was in that world a little bit. And so I thought, "Oh that’s…it’s either that or nothing." And then I figured out, "Oh, we can have a really good life in a pretty house," by going to Target and just getting … just making little changes that do make us happy because we want to have a home that we’re proud of so we can invite people over. I know when I hate my sofa … like, I don’t care what your sofa looks like, I just want to come over and hang out. But if you hate your sofa, people either not invite me over, or when you do invite me over, you’re going to be preoccupied by the sofa that you hate. And so, just the decision of buying a sofa can be such a stressful event. Like, well, let’s just make that easy. Let’s just figure out how to buy a sofa that we won’t hate tomorrow. So that’s one of the things that we talk about, is just like, "How to buy a sofa that serves your family," not so you can have the most expensive sofa in the world or the sofa that costs nothing. You know, most of us have some type of sofa budget, but it’s a big … it can be a big scary decision. And I think we can…

Jessica: Yes.

Myquillyn: Decorating’s supposed to be fun.


Forgoing Perfection to Make a Home You Can Love

Jessica: That was me last week. My husband and I, we were like … went to three sofa stores and no one had what we were actually wanting. And we ended up buying something that we like, but it actually … we had to make compromises because I was like, "There’s a hole in the market, honey. Maybe we need to start ourselves an affordable custom sofa internet business."

Myquillyn: Yes. Yeah. It’s a hard… And I think we can…we have a little guilt and shame with that. Like, "Oh, I get to buy a sofa, I should be happy. Or you know, I feel like this is hard. And decorating is supposed to be fun." Like, there’s so many things that we carry with us that come along with making those home decisions. But it is. I mean, we’re using real money and we’re using real time and we’re going to have to live with it for a while. So, there is a place for wanting to know how to make these decisions in our home.

Jessica: The last week when my husband and I were, like … we literally … I had two meetings cancel. I was like, "This is it, babe. We have two hours, let’s leave. The decision-making has begun. We’re on the clock." And we stopped by one of my friend’s house who I had loved her sofa, and I love this friend’s house. And we walked in and she immediately … because now she knows we’re making all of these decisions around our home right now. And my husband and I, we bought our house 10 years ago. It’s a 1960s ranch. We’ve remodeled most of it, not all of it, but we were like definitely on a very, very low-end budget then and made a lot of just very scrappy decisions. And now we’ve decided we’ve built community, we’ve built community in this neighborhood and now we’re like, "This is where we’re going to be. So, let’s make the changes to our home that where teenagers can live in this." And of course, you know, I work in the developing world, so of course, we’ve had all of these complex feelings around our house is wonderful, it’s beautiful. We actually don’t need to do anything to it. But we also would love to have a swimming pool, and we’d love to make it what we want. But, you know, at the end of the day, these tensions exist and we’ve managed to, you know, we want to be generous with our money and we want to give. And then we also want to have a home that is the crash pad for all the people in the neighborhood. So, that’s … but we still are walking that tension. Like, you know what I mean? Like what you said, we can have some guilt around, "Oh my gosh, I’m debating about the sofa."

But it’s true. When I’ve been in homes that are big enough to fit a twin bed in and that’s it, it does give you perspective. But anyway, I’m completely digressing. I’m still in the middle of wrestling through this, as you can tell, because I’m like now we’re in a half-remodeled home, and I feel completely trapped. I’m like, "Oh crap. Like, we have to finish this now." Like, you know, I’m like, "Oh, no." I’m feeling very trapped in my own home. Like, we made this decision and now we have to, like, move out and remodel the kitchen. What have we done? OK, so we go to my friend’s house and she is like, "Oh, the tone color of my floor’s a little yellow. I wish I’d gone with a different color." She immediately is pointing out all these things in her home that she wished were different or that she could have done differently. And I’m looking at her like, "Your house is so beautiful." Like, it’s one of the houses I always bring friends to for inspiration. And I’m wondering, you hear that and you see that a lot. What do you think are the biggest obstacles for a woman just loving her home? What do you find?

Myquillyn: Well, I think one of the biggest is just embracing the imperfect and knowing that we’re never going to get that perfect house, no matter what level. If you’re in your first home, if you’re in your dream home, there are always things that we wish could be different. And it’s so easy to just apologize for the undone, but I think that dismisses all the finished and all the story and all the things that are there. And I know that, like you, I’ve had friends that I have been the apologizing person in the pretty house or in the newer house, saying, "Oh, don’t pay attention to these floors. I never would have picked them out or the kitchen cabinets." And what that does is it says, you know, "I believe my house isn’t good enough." And so, I might be judging your house as well, where we know that, you know, in my heart that’s not what I was saying at all.

But that’s what our guests hear when we apologize. And so, I try to really, really remember to instead of apologize, to just be grateful or just accept a compliment or whatever it is. And a lot of times when I … it’s really true, like, when you do focus on those things that you love about your home, because we all have … there is some redeeming quality, there is a silver lining in all of our houses. Those things that kind of bug us do begin to fade away. And when we pile on those little tips and tricks that we can do to kind of accentuate the positive, those negative things kind of fall into the shadows and we can just forget about them. But if we keep reminding ourselves about them by bringing them up and pointing them out, we’ll never get there.

Jessica: It becomes all you can ever see.

Myquillyn: Yes.

Jessica: OK. So, the next time I have friends come over for dinner, I won’t apologize that my boys are sleeping in the living room.

Myquillyn: I think there’s a difference between apologizing and just acknowledging. Like, oh by the way, we’re remodeling. You know, you can acknowledge the truth.

Jessica: Oh, my gosh. Right now you walk into our home, and it’s explosion of boy clothes, because my boys, like all boys, do not put their clothes back in the drawers or in the dirty clothes, you know? So, there you go. There we all are. I would say this is, oh my gosh, it’s memories. We’re creating memories. OK, so, tips and tricks, you said that once you can do these little tips and tricks that help you focus on the positive. What are some of those?


Imperfections Lead to Connections

Myquillyn: OK. Well, first of all, there’s something I want to go back to, which is what you just said about when you invite people in your home and your boys’ stuff is everywhere. Because the whole reason that we are wanting to be okay, embracing imperfection is that it’s the imperfections that put us at ease. It’s the imperfections that allow us to connect. Because, Jessica, when you open up your half-finished, beautiful home, but every time I see you on Instagram stories, I’m like, "Move it over so I can see that wall." What that does is it says we are people that you can relate to. We’re not perfect and we’re not trying to be, and we’re not pretending to be. And we’re not putting on airs. And that is such a gift to anyone that comes in your home. And in every group of friends, a lot of times there’s someone that has to go first, and for you to invite people into the imperfection changes everything and it sets the mood for the friendships. And so, if you can’t be the person to go first, think of someone in your life that has gone first and how, you know, just revealing those imperfect parts of life, even if it’s just a sofa that you hate … that can be the first step into friendship. And so, it’s a reframing of how we think about home. You know, it’s not there to impress our mother-in-law. And what home … the purpose of home really is, a safe place to take a risk, a place to come home to, a place of rest, a place of, you know, just a haven for your family. A place to come back to.

All of those things as you really re-frame the way you think about home, it changes just a shift on how you make decisions about your home. And ultimately it will change how you feel about it. And I think, until you get there, you can have all the DIYs in the world. And all the little tips and tricks, and go to Target and buy the bigger frame or get the bigger rug. But until you are content with where you are and what you’ve been given, none of those things are going to help. And so, that first book I wrote really gets you there. It’s like all about finding contentment with your imperfect life and your imperfect home, and then you move on. But a lot of times, I know for me I would do it backwards. I’m like, "Where’s my bandaid? Where’s my big brush? If I could just paint these walls in the rental, I would be OK." But at first I had to come to grips with, it’s never going to be my dream home. It’s never going to be the way I want. And that’s a change that needs to be made first.

Jessica: Yes. This morning I was like, I know I’m not going to be any happier with this new kitchen. It’s just going to be more convenient, and I can’t believe I’m going to go through all of this inconvenience just to get to a better kitchen. I’m like, "I’m happy with my kitchen. Why did I decide to do this?" No, it’s going to be fine. I just think I’m just so put out with it. We have been remodeling, and then we’re going to have to move out. It’s just crazy.

Myquillyn: It’s a really weird time for you.


The DIY Career

Jessica: It’s just crazy. OK. So the Nesting Place blog, and then you write this best-selling book that you just referred to, The Nesting Place. So, between all of this, you suddenly have a full-fledged brand on your hands. So what were some of the decisions that you made as a result of your last book and the success of your blog? Like, how have you managed to really continue to develop your career?

Myquillyn: Oh, thanks for asking that question, Jessica. I say no to most things. I say no to a lot of opportunities. So that’s how. Isn’t that what you do?

Jessica: I’m still in the yes phase. I totally am a little bit more of a yes person. I guess it’s different living in the country. No, we probably have a little bit, yeah.

Myquillyn: That’s so great. But yeah, I just want to do things that help women love their home. And so, if things…if opportunities come up that can do that, great. But like, if it’s like, "Oh, you could come speak at this MOPS group." Or I can do an Instagram post. Well, my Instagram post is actually going to reach more people than going to speak at a MOPS group. Plus, I’m an Enneagram 5. So speaking in a MOPS group makes me want to die, but someone else might be the opposite. So, I do make a lot of decisions based on, like, I want to honor the personality that God gave me, and maybe that has its quirks, but I’m going to be OK with that. And so, how can I get the message that I believe that I have been told to spread out in a way that honors my unique personality? You know, I have three teenage boys, so where we are with our family, the kind of job that my husband has, like, how can I talk about my book in that way, my classes in that way? How can I get the word out to women to encourage them in their home in a way that this introvert can live with herself in a social media world?

Jessica: Well, and you show up so authentically, which is what I love, because here your next book is all about, you know, doing more with less. And it seems like, you know, you could’ve made a lot more money taking sponsorships from high-end brands or taking your career in a different direction, yet you’ve decided to keep the aesthetic to something that most people could attain. And I think that is why your latest book is a crazy bestseller. Congratulations. The Cozy Minimalist Home. I mean, girl, this book has gone wildfire. Were you expecting that at all?

Myquillyn: No, I never expect anything. I’m so delighted that … I mean, you know how it is. You write it, and then for like a year and a half, you don’t know if it … if you put like a porn scene in it or if you said swear words or what it is, and then people read it. And for me, the great thing is then I see images of their changed home, and then I know it worked. And that is the most amazing thing, to think like, "Oh, these things that I’ve been doing in all of our 14 homes in the order that I’ve been." You know, you look at your mantle and you’re like, "OK, I like everything on my mantle, but why do I hate the way my mantle looks?" I mean, it’s a small thing in the world, but who cares? But, in the way that we function in our home, it can make all of the difference.

And really, my goal, I mean, this is a horrible goal, but like, in a way, my goal is to get women to forget about their home. But we can’t forget about our home until we get it looking the way that we’re proud of. And it doesn’t mean we’re showing off, but just in a way that, OK, now our home is our partner and we are ready to have people over, and home is there to serve us instead of being a burden. You know, home should be a blessing. But we have to do a little work in it to get it to that place. And man, I have done all the things wrong. I’ve painted the wall the wrong color, measured a thousand times, cut way too many times, bought the rug too small, returned big pieces of furniture. I’ve made all of the mistakes. And so, I think that’s the best way to learn.

Jessica: I love how you talk about how we often get stuck on finding our perfect style, and you say, “we’d love to have an irresistible style name like chunky, vintage cottage glam, or southern traditional primal, or mid-mod with a pinch of mountain man.” It’s like actually, your definitions freed me up a little bit. I’m like, "Oh, I wonder how I would describe my style." But we really do get caught up on, you know, for me honestly, my issue is, well, first of all, you know I travel at times, so I have to admit, when I read, Cozy Minimalist Home, I’m like, "Oh girlfriend, there is no minimalist in sight. You’ve seen my arm parties." I don’t have a whole lot of minimalism going on. I mean, I have stacks of textiles and, you know, I’m just … whenever I travel, I mean, I just love to have a storied home. And even right now, my office is just piles of treasures.

Myquillyn: I love that.


How to Know What You Want

Jessica: From around the world. But what are some other ways that we often get stuck before we actually, you know, do the thing? And you kind of talk about how to define what we really want. So, how do we go about to finding what we really want in our home?

Myquillyn: Well, I think for so many of us, we think, "Oh OK, it’s time to do some work on my home. Or I know I need to change our family room," or whatever it is. And the first thing that comes to mind is, "Well, we need to start in the furniture store because decorating starts in the furniture store," but home-making starts in our head. And it starts with just paying attention to not how the builders said to use the room, but how your family needs to use the room in the next couple of years. Paying attention to what your family allows. Some people are like, "Oh, no pizza in the family room." We are allowed to eat every meal in front of the … we don’t eat every meal in front of the TV, but like there’s no food that’s not allowed in our family room. There’s no animal that’s not allowed on our bed. Just every family has their own way to live. And so, paying attention to, who is in your family? How you use your home? And so, we always work one room at a time and we say, "How are you going to use this home and this room for the next couple of years? Are you going to be … do you need to watch TV with five grown men?" Which is basically my life. Well, four grown men. My boys are all old.

Jessica: Tell me how that did it, because we’re right there, girl. We’ve got, you know, two 10, 11-year-old boys and then a 12-year-old girl, and we are imagining, like, oh my gosh, within two years these boys are going to be giant monsters. They’re already, like, the biggest kid in their grades. How does that influence … yeah, tell me about your …

Myquillyn: It totally influences. We don’t have a big house. And we have a small family room. And so, for about two years, I had a sofa in front of our fireplace so that everyone would have a place. Because in the same way, I know your heart’s the same as mine, like, you want to be the hangout place. I want our family room to be the hangout room for our family. I feel like when our kids are little and toddlers, we’re like, "Oh, toddler, your toy’s here in the family room." And we almost go too far and let it take over. But then something happens when they’re teenagers, and we kick them out. And I say let the dropped cords and the phone chargers and the smelly shoes and the backpacks. I mean, within reason. I want it to be clean and neat and pretty. But I also want them to know they’re invited.

And if there is not a place for our entire family to comfortably sit and watch "The Office" together, then we will never sit and watch "The Office" together, and that would break my heart. So, we’ve sacrificed maybe what a designer would say looks the best and moved an extra sofa. So we’ve had many years with two sofas that don’t quite work together in our family room just because that suits our family. And I make it look as good as possible. So that’s what paying attention does. It allows you to prioritize what your family needs so that you can make the room work for you.

Jessica: And what about this personal style? Because, I mean, if you walked into my house, you would … I’m super eclectic. I am so … and I do, I have antiques from my grandma. And then I’ve got, Guatemalan textiles and I’ve got Moroccan rugs. And I’ve never really been hung up on personal style, but what are your tips, kind of, if you’re trying to figure out, am I a minimalist? Am I a color person? Am I Bohemian? Am I modern?

Myquillyn: Yeah. Well, I would say it doesn’t matter. I don’t think defining your style matters. I don’t think … Now, listen, when I see those quizzes, I take them all because they’re so fun. But knowing a name for my style has never helped me make an actual design decision. And I don’t think it matters if you have a specific name for your style or not. It doesn’t really help because like you, we all have the hand-me-down piano or the hand-me-down such and such. The sofa that we can’t replace right now but we would like to in the future. And then the new coffee table that we love that we just got. Like, we’re all dealing with things maybe on their way in, on their way out, whatever it is. So, you know, I think we’re all good at figuring out what we like.

We can pick out our clothes that we wear and our jewelry. We’re good at picking out furniture and our home stuff as well. Once we know the priorities, a lot of times it’s just doing things in the right order. And the way to figure out, like if you need to come back home to remembering what your style is, we do a practice—I call it a Pinterest reading. And so I just say, go to Pinterest with one room in mind. So if you’re thinking about your family room, you’re going to just spend some time on Pinterest, which is like one of the biggest gifts to us as we make over our homes and are working on our homes. And with that room in mind, just pin like 50 photos, maybe over an hour or a couple of days. And you don’t question it, you don’t say, "Well, I’m not going to pin that room because it doesn’t have a fireplace," or "I could never afford that rug, so I’m not…" No, no. You don’t do that.

You just pin anything that while you’re thinking of your family room feels right to you, and you don’t question why. And then you let a couple of days go by and then you look back. And sometimes I’ll even send like a link to a friend or say, "Send it to your sister and have her point out things that maybe you have stopped noticing about what you love." And you might notice that all of the rooms or many of the rooms that you’ve pinned have big windows and natural light or they all have some raw wood features or exposed brick, or maybe they all have a pink sofa. Like something super obvious, or plants. Like, things will begin to speak to you and stand out to you. And it’s almost more of a coming back to the things that you love. And what it will do is it will help you make those decisions in the future as you move forward in the room that you’re working on. And suddenly you’ll know, "Well, I love natural light, but I have plantation shutters that are closed all day on all of my windows. Maybe we should change that."

So things like that will come forward. And then it becomes fun. Like, you’re not even going to the furniture store. At first, you’re just making changes in your room. I have like eight steps like that. They’re all really simple. They’re all things you can kind of do while you’re in the room and moving furniture. And then, really, a lot of it is about the size of things and then putting things in a room in the right order so that your rug is in the right place or your sofa’s in the right place. So just little things like that. For a long time, years and years, I would do the wrong way. I would hang the art before I put the sofa, or I would, you know, hang the drapes before I painted the wall, whatever it was. The order changes everything, knowing the right order.


Pinterest Tips

Jessica: This is so helpful. This is so helpful. OK. I’m going to sound like a very old person right now, but I have not managed to master Pinterest and I barely ever get on it. But now that we’re trying to figure out our house, I’m like, "Oh, everyone says use Pinterest." So, I don’t know how to do it. I mean yes, I have boards and I know how to pin, but I don’t know how to go about, like, finding the ideal kitchen. Like, what do I do? I don’t even know how to begin. So, can you give me some Pinterest tips?

Myquillyn: OK. So you know how to make a board. I want you to have a board dedicated just to your kitchen.

Jessica: I got that. I got that.

Myquillyn: So you have that. Then you’re going to go on Pinterest. If you just go there, you’re just going to have a page that shows things that it thinks you want to see. Well, you don’t want to do that right now because you want to look at kitchens. And so, in the search bar, you’re going to start typing different things. You might just start with, like, “kitchen.”

Jessica: That’s it. Oh, just kitchen. OK.

Myquillyn: You can do that. And then you’ll be like, "Oh dear God, these are all contemporary." I know I don’t…you know, whatever it is. And maybe you’ll type in white kitchen or maybe you’ll type in a fixer-upper kitchen, if you like Joanna Gaines, stuff that she does. Or maybe you know you’re going to have a galley kitchen. So you might type in “galley kitchen.” So, you’re going to just different …

Jessica: So hone the search a little bit.

Myquillyn: Yeah, you’re going to hone your search. And then if you … maybe there’s a particular kitchen photo that you love. If you scroll down under that in Pinterest, it will show you photos that are similar. That is like a hidden gem of Pinterest because it does the work for you.

Jessica: Now, a friend has pointed that out to me, and that’s brilliant.

Myquillyn: Yes. So you are doing it right. You just have to probably do it longer.

Jessica: I don’t know what to search. Yeah, I think because I don’t know specifically about my kitchen … what I want about it just yet. So it’s just … it does feel like a giant abyss of photos when I go there right now.

Myquillyn: And sometimes, Jessica, you might start with knowing what you don’t like. You might be like, "Oh, well, I don’t want cabinets like that, you know. Or I don’t want open shelves, whatever it is." Like, you can almost start with what you don’t like instead of, you know, the sky is the limit.

Jessica: That’s so true. Yeah, that’s a very good point. OK. I want to talk a little bit…I mainly follow you on Instagram, so I haven’t done deep, deep into your blog. And of course, I have your, both of your books. I know you just built this farm. Did you build that farm from scratch? I followed the construction project but I was never able to fully piece together the full story.

Myquillyn: I know, it’s so weird. Well, and it was like five and a half years ago. No one needs to go back that far. We bought the property because … one of the reasons was because it had a tractor barn on it. So we kind of tore it apart, but it had the concrete pad and it was … it’s a metal building but we added windows, and we added electricity and tried to make it seem more…

Jessica: OK, so you bought a property. You bought a property five and half years ago?

Myquillyn: Yeah.

Jessica: And do you live on that property?

Myquillyn: Yes. So our barn is like 100 yards from our house. Closer. It’s right here.

Jessica: So you have a house that you live in, and then you have the barn?

Myquillyn: Yes.

Jessica: And the barn is a lot. That was like almost the recent remodel. Is that … or build?

Myquillyn: No. I mean, it depends.

Jessica: Or you’ve done everything, all the things?

Myquillyn: We’ve done all the things. We do a little…what we do is we’ll do, like, a house project and then an outdoor project or a barn project. And then we’ll come back and do a house. Then we did … like, we did our backyard and our pool project last year. That was our …

Jessica: That was so gorgeous.

Myquillyn: It was fun to do. And I know you’ve been doing the same kind of thing. So yeah, but the barn is something we just wanted to be…I wanted to be able to have community over. And I mean an online community. Like, we invite, every October we have a festival called Nest Fest and we sell 1,000 tickets and invite anyone that wants to come, to come to our house and they get to hang out in the barn, which is like a big family room, and we have vendors and food trucks and music and spend the day together. So it makes the internet a little bit of a smaller place.


Finding Your Story in Your Designs

Jessica: So how did your approach to that remodeling project and decorating project evolve as your own brand has evolved? Like, how has your thinking changed over the years?

Myquillyn: I think that I used to focus on tiny details over the years, in the past more. And now I think I have more of a patient, big-picture thought process. So it’s more like, let’s make sure we have enough seating and surfaces. And even if there’s nothing on the walls, it will be OK. Whereas in the past, I think I a lot of times would purchase things out of fear or would decorate out of like, "I hate the carpet in this rental, so I’m going to buy, like, 23 tchotchkes, and put them on my mantle and hope that that attracts the eye."

Jessica: Right. OK. And tell me what drove you to write The Cozy Minimalist?

Myquillyn: That’s such a good question. Writing books is a big, fat pain.

Jessica: It is.

Myquillyn: It takes forever. It’s so stupid because it takes a long time. But there are people… And I mean, I love Instagram. I wish I could just do Instagram. But there are people that will read a book that will never be on Instagram, or never read a blog or listen to a podcast. You know, when you have a message that you feel like could help people, you want to reach them. And a book is a great way, a trusted way to build some credibility. Because, like, if you have a book, then you’re legit. You know, you must know what you’re talking about if they let you write a book. It’s like … Not that that’s necessarily true. And so, it just…I had taught classes on…it’s a way to… So The Cozy Minimalist Home is basically a step by step way to decorate that helps to get the most amount of style with the least amount of your stuff. And everyone’s stuff threshold is different. And Jessica, when you talk about all of your stories and layers and your collections through your travels, there’s room for you in cozy minimalism. It’s kind of the grace in between like being a hoarder and being a minimalist. There’s a middle point, and that’s where most of us belong. It’s most of us are cozy minimalists and we just don’t realize it.

Jessica: You know, it’s actually true. It is actually true. I think, you know, and even the reason this remodel has taken so long is because we ordered handmade tile from Fire Clay tiles, and it’s all artisan done. It literally took nine weeks for them to make it. I mean, they hand-painted it all. And part of that was, I want my home to match my story. And, you know, I have this whole brand that’s all around style made with love, and it’s a story brand and I want my home to have a sense of story. And so, I have had to really learn to be patient, as well. And if the wall is blank and I’m like, "You know, I just haven’t found something just yet that I want because I want it to have meaning, then I’m just going to leave, let it be empty for a while instead of going, and yeah, buying the rando Hobby Lobby whatever.

Myquillyn: Yes. I think that’s a sign of maturity. We’re maturing.

Jessica: We’re adulting. This is what it looks like. It looks like having a blank wall.

Myquillyn: It does. It really does, Jessica.

Jessica: I love it. I love it. OK, so as we are entering 2019, we’re staring down our resolutions, our renewed promises, our restarts. This is how we’re going to do it differently this year. And as someone who is so focused on releasing us from perfection, what does a season like this mean to you?

Myquillyn: Well, it means a fresh start and a renewed sense of thinking about your home and how you want to use it, and giving yourself grace and permission and patience, and starting one room at a time, and finally deciding to take that little risk and paint that wall or make that nail hole or hang those drapes higher or pay attention to your Pinterest boards and, you know, do that big design on the wall that you’ve always thought looked so good, but you could never pull it off. Like, now is the time to take that little risk in the safest place on earth: your home.

Jessica: I don’t even want you to know how many hours I’ve spent on Pinterest since Myquillyn’s tips. It’s pretty bad, guys. Such a time-suck. I’m gonna have to delete it after my home remodel is over. I love the tips from today’s show. Make sure you keep up with Myquillyn when you go find her on Instagram @thenester. And you can also find her at thenester.com. Before we go, don’t forget to go on over to Amazon and give Imperfect Courage a buy. It’s such a great way to start off your year. And I talk about really one of the key concepts that really has been an impetus for this whole series. It’s about perseverance. If we’re going to be people that persevere, then we’ve got to be people who know how to start after we have stopped.

Thanks for tuning in to today’s podcast. Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend, Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz and I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.