Rookie Mistake: Shop First, Plan Second

Rookie Mistakes: a series of common decor mistakes made by rookies… aka us. And no we are not judging because we have made (and continue to make) these mistakes too!

Remember the Rookie Mistakes series is a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE. We’ve both made ALL of these decorating mistakes in our own homes, and simply want you to learn from us so you can make your home look amazing without having to make the mistakes we did!

Rookie Mistake – Shopping Without Intention

We love to make lists before we shop for home decor or clothing. This makes it easier to buy only what we really need!

Real Talk: We are 2 gals who like to get sh*t done and crossed off of our to-do list. So in the early days of decorating our homes, we wanted our spaces furnished and decorated as quickly as possible. We didn’t measure our spaces, we didn’t research to find the best prices, and we didn’t live in our spaces to get a feel for the things we actually NEEDED to buy.

Instead of doing any of those things, we shopped and bought items that caught our eye without a plan!

And guess what?! We ended up with a big case of design regret.

Casey: I bought a green, white, and black comforter when Finn & I first moved in together, thinking it wasn’t too masculine or too feminine. In reality, it was pretty darn ugly and didn’t go with any of the furniture or decor we already owned.

Casey once bought this ugly green comforter for her and Finn, just because she needed a comforter. Rookie Mistake!

Here’s a veeerrrry old pic…

Not exactly my current style, right?! But wanting to get “buy comforter” off my to-do list, I didn’t shop around at all or make a plan about what I eventually wanted our bedroom to look like.  Instead I just went with the first thing I found that I thought would work.

Bridget: I have made this mistake WAY more than I care to admit. Probably the biggest (and most expensive) example of this rookie mistake was when I bought all of my furniture immediately after we closed on our house. Instead of slowly going through the process and conscientiously planning what I eventually wanted our home to feel like, I just started buying to check it off the to-do list.

Bridget bought this table from World Market as part of a large set and then discovered she didn't like the look at all!

Bridget’s old dining room setup

World Market had their huge, annual furniture sale about a month after we bought the house and I bought matching everything. A dining room table, a coffee table, a set of chairs — all dark brown, rustic pieces that matched. I later found out (the hard way) that dark + rustic is not my style. Because these were such investments, I’m stuck with a few of these pieces. Don’t get me wrong, alone I like all of them, but having dark, matching everything in my small space was too much collectively.

Our Shopping Tips

Shopping Tip: Know what you are buying. It helps to see things in person if you can. If she had seen it in person first, Bridget never would have bought this rug.

Before you hit up any stores, make a gameplan ahead of time. That way you’re not buying just to buy, but you’re instead going in with a concrete plan of attack.

Here are our tips when it comes to planning first, and shopping second.

  • Read reviews: Bridget bought a rug online for her dining room (seen in the Rookie Mistake picture above) and did not read the reviews. HUGE MISTAKE! Although the rug looked very similar from how it was pictured online, it shed like crazy. It was like she had a pet in the house… that’s how much it shed every. single. day! If she had read the reviews, this whole situation could have been avoided. Lesson learned. Now we always do our research, read reviews, and price match whenever we are buying something online. This obviously helps avoid mistakes like B’s, but also forces us to sit down and be more intentional about everything we buy online.
Us our smart shopping tips to buy the perfect items for your home every time - not just what's on sale.
  • Watch for sales: Just because you walk by something at Target and you think it is so perfect for your home today doesn’t mean you have to walk out with it right then and there. We’re super guilty of spotting a cute accessory and buying it right away. Sometimes these items seem perfect at the time, but turn out to be a bit of an impulse buy. Waiting for the item to go on sale after seeing it in the store, will not only save you money, but it will also give you time to process whether this item is that perfect or was just super cute, but not for you.
  • Always keep your eyes peeled: Bridget did this for the bench she eventually wanted at the end of her bed. She ended up looking at stores, at garage sales, on Pinterest,and Craigslist for over 4 months before finally finding “the one”. Because she LOVES the one she ended up with so much (more on that bench next week!), she’s so happy she waited and didn’t settle for something less just to check it off the to-do list. Lesson Learned: Don’t rush the process just to end up settling.
Find a cute notebook to use for home decor planning. This will make it more fun to create those shopping lists!
  • Save a list: We like to keep a running list of decor items that we are currently looking for in the notes of our phone. That way we always know what we are looking for in advance and don’t come home with an impulse piece that wasn’t on the list. It’s almost like making a grocery list before going to the grocery store so you don’t come home with everything you don’t need, and nothing you actually need. #hatewhenthathappensThe tape measure is your best friend when it comes to buying furniture for your home! Always measure!
  • Measure & keep those measurements handy: We are also huge fans of keeping the measurements of these “wish list” items on a note in our phones. We usually take the MAXIMUM measurement of the height, width, and length of the specified space so we know what “wiggle room” we have to play in that space. Then we always have a tape measure (or at least a mini tape measure) in our purses so we’re prepared just in case we find the perfect piece and need to check those measurements.
Use our shopping tips and your home will turn out to be perfect. It might take more time, but you'll end up with more pieces you truly love.
  • Live in your home for some time before you buy: This one is SUPER hard for us Type A people, but we do think it’s important to FORCE ourselves to do this. We feel that it’s important to live with what you have and establish a routine in your new home before buying new. This way, you don’t rush to purchase a new piece of furniture only to find out it totally doesn’t fit your “routine” in this new home. Once you know where you drop your stuff when you come in the door, where you entertain most, how often you host guests overnight, etc. THEN you’ll have a more clear picture of what you need to add to your wish list.
Dining Room Mood Board. Mood boards are a great way to make sure you know exactly what you want your look to be before you buy!
  • Create a mood board: Like we mentioned in this mood board tutorial, you don’t have to be a computer expert to create your own mood board. If we can make one of these with zero photoshop skills, we KNOW that you can too! We love creating these boards because it gives you a visual of how pieces will fit together without having to physically buy them. Sometimes you can already tell that what you envisioned in your head really will not look that great once it is laid out on a mood board.
  • Don’t just buy because it’s so cute… buy with more intention: It’s seriously that simple, buying with intention rather than impulse is extremely important to avoid design regret. Even if buying with intention takes you three times as long to get the job done, waiting for that perfect piece is far more valuable than just buying something CUTE that you may get sick of by next month. Home decor is too expensive not to give it a little lot of thought in advance.  

Being aware of our closets

These same tips can be used when it comes to fashion. We used to just buy items in store when we thought they were cute, but have since completely changed our ways. We each cleaned out our closets and made a note of all of the “wish list” items we want to slowly add to our fashion arsenal. That list lives on our phones, and we can consult it whenever we’re out shopping to give us some direction.

We also took a serious look at what we want our fashion style to be and have been intentionally buying items that align with this style ever since. No more buying just because it’s cute! There are a lot of things that are “cute” out there, but will we love them in a week, a month, a year or even a decade from now?! Surprisingly, this new philosophy has made shopping for new clothes so much more efficient & enjoyable!

Shopping Tips Moving Forward

We’ll probably never be completely free from design regret but we’re far more confident now that we follow these steps to plan before we purchase for our closets or our homes! We want to be in LOVE with everything we bring into our homes. Intentional decorating is our ultimate goal. As far as we’re concerned, more intention = less design regret.



The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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