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What Matters to You?

By 03/15/2013February 20th, 201755 Comments

Nate Berkus Interiors

I am not a person that feels sad or depressed for long periods of time but this week I have not yet gotten over the fact that we had to turn the clocks back an hour last weekend.

My sister Elizabeth couldn’t sympathize. She looked at me blankly and said “I don’t even get up with the kids until 7:30 am and I love that they can play outside longer at night”.

However, I am a morning person and since it rains so much here, back in the day, before the time change was moved up two months I really loved waking up with the light earlier and earlier as Summer approached.

Nate Berkus

Terreeia wondered if I had SAD. She said I’m like this every March and she ran out and bought me one of those light therapy kits from Coscto. It’s still sitting in the plastic packaging? Do those things even work? I’m a little skeptical.

Irene arrived on Monday morning and chased me out of the office at around 11:00 am. I think it was because she got tired of looking at my sad face. She said “Go, get a latte and have a break, you work too much”.

So I walked into a bookstore and happened upon Nate Berkus’ book, The Things That Matter. image

It’s fascinating. He tells the story of his life and about why you should create a home that tells your story.   It really makes the title of the book meaningful.

“Each object tells a story and each story connects us to one another and to the world. The truth is, things matter. They have to. They’re what we live with and touch each and every day. They represent who we’ve seen, who we’ve loved, and where we hope to go next. They remind us of the good times and the rough patches, and everything in between that’s made us who we are.” Nate Berkus.

I thought about me and the things I have and noticed I don’t have a lot of old. And I realized that it’s not about the old as much as the reason why you love something, doesn’t matter what it is, or what it costs or where it’s from.

What matters to me?

The wonderful basket I have of toys filled to the overflowing in my living room that remind me of my sweet nephews who dump them when they come over to play.

The small grey ceramic elephant that sits in my bathroom window sill my mom made for me when she was in a ceramic, painting stage.

The candelabra I brought back from Paris on an end table in my living room reminding me that I need to go back there ASAP.

After reading this book, it’s still dark outside in the morning but when you really get clear about what matters, you realize the sun will rise and what matters is why I live in a rainforest. Because of my family. That’s what matters to me the most.

What matters to you?

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If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. April in Toronto and Vancouver in May.



  • Carol Anne says:

    What matters to me? Interesting question that I do not think we think about often enough! First of all my family, my hubby and my two girls… the oldest one is in nicaraugua for a month as I write this, I know she is 35 but if I do not get a facebook message each day I start to worry. After that still my family is my fur daughter Kocadon coco, she is the best cat ever, really…
    Now things that matter, our antique table/desk, our antique trunk that my husbands grandparents brought back from Paris in the 1920’s, my antique judie from Paris…and my family cookbooks…interesting to me is that these are things I could not replace, time to start photocopying all those recipes and leaving them with my girls. Thanks Maria, you just reminded me I need to do that! Hope your weekends Sunny, were expecting snow all weekend…

  • Design & Decor says:

    Hi Maria, I am writing this post long past my bed time..I too am a morning person and do not generally stay up past 9:00 p.m…I rise just before 5:00 a.m. and have done this for years..
    The time change certainly has an effect on us all. Most night owls enjoy the dark and most morning people love light..
    Thing’s that matter to me most aren’t truly thing’s. They are the memories those thing’s have..For instance I have thing’s that were left to me by my Grandparents, countless heirlooms that I treasure mostly for the memories I have of my Grandparents and not necessarily the items themselves..I cherish them and display them proudly in there memory.
    What matters to me most is family and friendships.
    Every morning when it is dark Maria I listen for the birds as they are telling me that daylight is fast approaching..

  • StagerLinda says:

    The Hokey Pokey is what matters to me. Short and simple–laughter. Like the Hokey Pokey–that’s what it’s all about. I love to laugh, hear people laugh, share laughter. I was in Pier 1 yesterday with a buddy. The piped in music played an old Billy Joel song. I lament “do you remember when Billy Joel was HOT?” It was a silly observation (said out loud) but it caused so many people in the store to laugh it made standing in line fun! I covet those Hokey Pokey moments that make life FUN!

  • Nate’s book nails it! My home is a work in progress and a collection of things, each with their own story. What matters to me are the stories, the memories, and the people that made them real…

  • Elise says:

    My family. God.
    We are a young family who moved into a house and I have wanted to transition from college furniture to a real home. I have struggled the last three years with this project, with lots of indecision and fear.
    Last week I made a mission statement for my home. A list of what is important to me in our house….my child’s play is not hindered by our furniture, we can comfortably host people. I am trying to find out what matters to us. This might mean a leather sofa. It might not mean a magazine picture house. But I strive to create a meaningful home that is beautiful when possible. Clarifying that is helping me make decisions.

  • Victoria says:

    You got it, Maria! So glad Irene kicked you out to go get a latte’ and discover Nate’s book to remind you what really matters — the love of family and friends. That says it all for me too!

  • Sharon E says:

    Yes Maria those lights do work! I have SAD and even get it in the summer sometimes. On encouragement from a friend I bought a light and it works. Give it a try and time to make a difference!

  • Cyndia says:

    Maria, I have been getting very clear this year about the things that really matter to me. I have had to help empty out the homes of several relatives after they died, and I can tell you they were FULL of stuff that mattered to no one but them! I’ve also been talking with my daughter about things that she might like me to pass on to her, and she is adamant that things just don’t matter to her. We have completely different styles. I’m a collector, and she doesn’t even like a bowl by the door for her keys! (We had the most bizarre argument over that one when I was helping her decorate.) Anyway, what we’ve learned from all of this is that a)what’s important to me isn’t important to her and vice versa, and b) I don’t want to burden her with the exhaustive job of having to sort out a lot of junk! So I’m clearing the house of excess junk that I don’t even care for anymore, and I’m feeling lighter already.
    SADD is a very real possibility, but it also just may be taking you longer to bounce back from the time change. In any case, try the light. I have friends who swear by them. And make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, and get out in the sun as much as you are able! Hope you bounce back soon!

    • Lynne says:

      Wow. I have been having this same conversation with my mother recently. She has a house overflowing with memories encapsulated in ‘things’, whereas I don’t attach sentiment to possessions at all (the exception being my grandmother’s wedding ring which came to me and will go to my daughter). I know she feels hurt that all those things that are very precious to her do not mean anything to me, and I feel an immense amount of guilt and sadness for her that I CAN’T feel anything for them. I am utterly dreading the day that I have to sort it all out and give her things away or donate etc because it will feel like I am stabbing her through the heart.

      • Cindy says:

        Dear Lynne,
        My beloved father recently passed away and the job fell to me to clear out his home (my dear mother died ten years earlier). Last night as I was going through one of the boxes I brought home, I wrestled with what to keep or more importantly, what I thought he would want me to keep. But a good parent only wants their child to be happy, and they wouldn’t want their things causing their child stress. Take a photo of the things you hate to part with but have no room for. I must remind myself that their essence lives in our memories and in our hearts, not in their belongings.

        • Jill Buckingham says:

          Wow, that’s a realy good idea, I wish I had thought about taking photos of my parents stuff.

      • Cyndia says:

        Lynne, at first I was hurt too by my daughter’s dismissal of those things I loved and hoped to pass on to her. But then I realized that the reason those things are special to ME is because of the memories attached to them; MY memories, not hers. She didn’t know my grandmother the way I did.
        I came to terms with it, and gave her permission to get rid of anything of mine she doesn’t want when I die. I even made it easy for her. In my estate file is the name of a local estate sale company who will do it all for her- I’ve done business with them for years and they will help her, hopefully without the stress I have gone through with my own relatives!
        I hope you can let to of your guilt! It’s not worth it.

    • Shana says:

      I emptied my mom’s house 10 years ago after she died. She kept everything. Most things we got rid of. We kept a few things. But I dread my daughter doing this for me…….. so I am trying to do it myself. Get rid of the stuff that REALLY means something to me!!

  • Nate really does put the this into perspective… I’m not a collector at all, but I do like my things. What matters to me most is my family, then maybe family photos followed by some special plants in my garden. After that it’s all about the experiences!

  • Cherie says:

    For me it’s God and family first, and the experiences we have together like traveling, and the special events we have at home that in some way honor each other.
    However, Nate is right. Things do matter because they relate to all of the above and to our interests, to the things we enjoy like art, books, music, etc.
    One more thought…things matter because they are what makes us human!

  • ModernMommie says:

    Hi, Maria,

    What matters most is a very important question, and for me it’s my faith in God and His great love for me. My husband and son come next, and making a home for them that meets their needs and is comfortable. This year I’ve been working on creating a more minimalistic lifestyle–clearing our house of things we don’t use or need. I’m also working on freshening things (we’re going on 8 years in this house and 10 years of marriage). In a way it’s symbolic of the healing God has brought into my life from a difficult past, making it easier for me to give out love and to care for my family.

    I appreciate your advice so much and read all of your posts! You have helped me so much in making decisions about my home, even down to the smallest things. And I’m learning to identify what I really love and to let go of what I don’t.

    Wishing you all the best! I hope your depression is over soon! When I’m down I read God’s word, the Bible. When I realize His love and good plans for me, i have difficulty staying blue. 🙂

    • susan says:

      Thank you for your e-mail.
      This is EXACTLY what I would have written .
      God is GREAT and only He can satisfy our greatest needs. And this is THE most important issue we face.
      He gives us all of our STUFF … He owns it… He is gracious to give it to us … let us not confuse the GIVER with His gifts … but thank Him , Praise Him and follow Him !

  • Susan says:

    I didn’t think I was sentimental about stuff. I purge and replace all the time. Lynne and Cyndia talk about Mothers wanting Daughters to have their things once “they’re gone.” I am sitting at my Mom’s beautiful antique desk, which she always wanted me to have. I wish I had protested less (“It doesn’t go with my style”) when she talked about passing things on to me. My advice to daughters is to fib a bit, fein enthusiasm about some of Mom’s treasures. You might change your mind about them later AND Mom will feel better knowing her things will have homes.

    • Carol Anne says:

      oh my I never thought about it that way, fib a bit, fein enthusiasm…wonderful advice for daughters (and sons)
      my mom had me put my name on stuff I wanted, it seemed weird but it makes her so happy to see those pieces of tape with my name on them, she mentions it all the time…

    • Pam says:

      We have a joke with my mom, when she has something we really like, we say, “put my name on that”. She initiated the idea years ago because she has stuff and four daughters. It makes her feel good knowing her stuff will carry the memories because she has made it a point to share those over the years.

  • Amy says:

    I like a house “collected” rather than “decorated” but this can be in direct opposition to the current decorating/fashion/everything world where new/”in”/trend delivers sales. It is hard with collected pieces if they don’t match what is in style. It feels dated/looks dated. Unless you have a large, spectacular, eccentric home (I suspect Nate does) it is hard to pull that off. Or you need a LOT of money because your trend pieces are expensive originals.

    As I age, I grow an appreciation for: 1.) Selected treasures from important people in my life; 2.) Not buying “Made in China” stuff to stay on trend; 3) storing stuff for later. It is hard with large pieces. I sold an antique china cabinet from my mom 10 years ago because it was not “in style” for my home; I didn’t perceive it as a family heirloom; and honestly, I was kind-of irritated with her. Sure wish I hadn’t done that now!

    (PS: I hear you on the time change! Rest assured, that sun will be waking us up at 6 am soon enough!)

  • Lee Ann says:

    The lights work, to one degree or another. For some they are amazing, for some, they help to a lesser degree.

    Am more curious as to why you have not even tried it. (heh)

    Nate’s premise is good for him, but not everyone gets attached or cares about things.

    *I* do, every every item in my life has a story and I can recount it in depth, if you are unaware enough to ask. ha!

    Same with my garden. My plants come from friends who shared, and I look at the leaves or blossoms, or as the tapestry as a whole, and feel overwhelmingly blessed as i feel their friendship and caring.

    At the same time, almost everything I have owned has been gone, several times in my life (for different reasons). Although I cherish what is there, it does not “own” me.

    Others are just not like that, though — they like what they have, but things just don’t resonate with them. Or, the things they have are their identity. Or somewhere in between.

    And that is perfectly fine, as well. There is no need for us to be like Nate, or me, or anyone else. We all be jes’ fine as we iz.

  • Franki says:

    Well…I’m “so thankful” for choices…to be happy or to be reflective…to be fortunate. franki

  • Susan@Susan Silverman Designs says:

    A very interesting post Maria! It made me think.
    What matters to me most are my 4 children, my husband, my 3 beautiful delightful grandsons, my 3 cats, one of them being the light in my life. My sons-in-law matter to me because they matter to my daughters, and my sister and her family. My health matters to me, I have had one scare too many. That made me realize the importance of my life and who I mattered to. My home in general matters to me because that’s what brings my family and I comfort on a daily basis. My possessions only matter to me as long as they bring me visual and functional pleasure. Otherwise, they don’t matter to me. My photos, especially those of my dead parents matter to me. I’ve created a beautiful B and W vignette of some of the old family photos that I stare at every day. My relationships with certain people matter to me, others who have given me grief don’t matter to me any longer. Life is too short for other people’s nonsense.

    Thank you Maria, you really got me thinking!

  • Carla says:

    The light kits do work.

  • It is sweet to read of some of the special things in your home, Maria.


  • Roz Kavander says:

    I hate this clock change too. Mostly because I am a night person and having dark in the morning makes it oh so difficult to wake up. When it is light in the morning I am an all the time person who doesn’t need much sleep except in the early dark hours of a morning. I have dragged myself around like a heavy suitcase all week. My solution was to book a trip to Paris in two weeks. Something to look forward to….the city of light.

  • mrsben says:

    Maria, re changing the clocks. I know the province of Saskatchewan doesn’t but does British Columbia not ‘Spring forward’ and ‘Fall backward’? (“………we had to turn the clocks back an hour last weekend.”)

    Agree with Nick to a point as IMO determining ‘what things matter’ is a process of evaluation and maturity as one journeys through life thus it is not as ‘cut and dry’ as he wishes to make it out. Hope that doesn’t sound bleak or harsh. ☺☺ ☺ -Brenda-

  • Susan K says:

    I’m using my light right now as I read your post. They really do work (at least for me) and I highly recommend giving it a try if you feel the blues seasonally, summer or winter.
    I agree with your post in that we should surround ourselves with items and decor in our homes that reflect what is truly important to us and what helps us to create our best lives. We are deeply affected by our surroundings whether we realize it or not.
    My home continues to evolve as my family grows and our needs change. I’m continually reminded of how important our visual spaces are, especially when it comes to colour, whenever we freshen up and redecorate a space. It’s that wonderful aha! moment each time.
    I’ll be sure to get Nate’s book. Thanks!

  • Sandy says:

    With the time change, I don’t like “springing forward” but I love “falling back”. Until reading your blog I hadn’t realized thats also a metaphor for my life: falling back. I know I’ve been hanging on to too much stuff, and even started a clean-up blog to make me focus on clearing out clutter. Though it’s stuff that always mattered in the past, I need to focus on what matters now and not fall back into old patterns. I’ll definitely look for the book. Thanks again.

  • This is a beautiful post. I agree that decorating a home is not just about picking beautiful things. It is about telling your story and having an emotional connection with the things around you.

    It’s also creating a space where your home becomes a backdrop for your life. Your life should be filled with what is important to you. Friends, family, laughter, music, books…whatever brings joy and meaning to your life. A well designed home will become the setting where you make memories.

  • Maureen says:

    I don’t know why we don’t ALL have SAD living in our dreary gray rainforest, that said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The best days for me are the ones I see the sunrise, I am in the forest so don’t actually see the big glowing ball come over the horizon, unless I go to the beach, but enough light coming through the branches and limbs to know it’s above the Coast Mountains.
    About things : I once had a tea leaf reader tell me I felt other peoples souls through their belongings. Don’t know if that is really true, but I have a hard time getting rid of some things that really shouldn’t matter. Especially when they haven’t been gifts or come from family, but have somehow found their way into my possessions.
    I am in the process of spray painting all my mismatched frames off white in order to have a family photo gallery wall. I haven’t had these photos up for a long time; matted and framed they seemed so sad and imposing. Now in smaller frames without mats they look to me to be more lifelike and happy. PS This past week since the clock change I have been up early as usual and out in my workshop happily painting more furniture! A friend told me yesterday it’s the most animated she’s seen me in a while!
    It’s working like a charm. Hugs

  • Heather says:

    Hi Maria,

    Take that light out of its packaging! They do work. For some they make a very significant difference. With your care for detail I know you will, but just a reminder to “use as directed”.
    For more details check

  • Natalia says:

    Hi Maria – here in the States we turn our clock forward in March. Sorry I can’t leave a more meaningful comment, especially since I believe that stuff is meaningless. People, relationships and experiences matter, everything else is fleeting. So away with reminders from the past and make today the best day ever.

    • Maria Killam says:

      We do the same thing here but then it’s back to darkness at 6:00 am instead of light. That’s all I’m sayin’ Maria

  • Jerseyjan says:

    Living now in SW Florida, I’ve noticed that our Costco doesn’t sell those lights, but they do near you. Costco is very business savvy, no? You should try the lights, Maria.

    What matters most to me doesn’t necessarily shout out when you walk through our doors. Of course family comes first. Pleasant, tidy surroundings do make me happy, though. Comfort comes through loud and clear. (But it must coordinate, Ha ha.)

  • Dorie says:

    Hey Maria,
    Just a quick note of advice: I had that Costco light and it DOES work…too well! LOL! Start out the shortest time you can until you find the right amount of time that works for you or you will be up and very agitated at night for 2 weeks straight with no sleep! I just went ahead with the full amount of time and was climbing the walls! It sure is an energy-booster. It was too much for me, actually and I shouldn’t have started out at such a high amount of minutes with it. 🙂

    What matters most to me is loving God, loving people, and being the person He created me to be. Traveling is also way up there. 😉
    Love your blog! Keep up the good work.

  • Nancy O'Brien says:

    I have read every response today and now I sit here on the east coast reflecting on the things I value from my family and friends to my home and the special possessions to the big picture things like kindness and caring…all the things that make my life special and have meaning. Wonderful post today, Maria as this is the kind of reflection that lifts the spirit 🙂
    Thank you all for sharing.
    Wishing you all sunny days!

  • Kathy says:

    Re: clock change. So interesting – I have that exact reaction in the fall when the clocks go back an hour. I never really get over it, just wait it out until my favorite day of the year when they spring forward again. I just can’t stand when it is cold and dark at 5pm, I just want to climb in bed and call it a day. I feel sort of reborn and energized now that it stays light much later. My whole mood is lightened!

    I hope the light helps you!

  • Pat says:

    I’m with you, Maria, on changing the clocks. Takes my body awhile to adjust and the cats just don’t adjust at all. I think they are wiser for it.
    My Mother put marks on the bottom of her things that were to go to each of us. I think of her each time I turn over a bowl and see the mark. Know she’s still thinking of us in a way.

  • SandyCGC says:

    Another super post, Maria, on so many levels. With regard to Nate’s commet about your things mattering and representing you, I had two sets of visitors to my new home this week, my late husband’s daughter and son-in-law (from Oregon) here visiting his son and on their way to Sedona, and my book club ladies (my month to host). My house is still a work in progress but every “thing” I have and kept is where I want it to be. My husband’s daughter loved the grass and trees (so remincent of their Oregon and my native Houston, TX) and thought my house was so much prettier than our other one surrounded by rock and catus (so desert and sorta barren). But the most special comment from both groups was “Sandy, love your new house – it’s so “you”. Made me feel wonderful. And this coming from my book club ladies, only one of whom, my former next-door-neighbor, was ever in our other home. I’ve had immense pleasure in “doing” my home and it has involved evaluating possessions and making decisions (i.e., artwork that once was very meaningful to me but no longer speaks to me or about me; luckily I kept only furniture that was meaningful and useful and am delaying purchase of new until I find what speaks to me (per Pier 1). Of course, the selection of this houose ties in to the issue of light – I crave it and, even if the sun is not pouring in all day long, the big windows opening to the grass and trees make my house feel airy and bright. Couldn’t see moving to Portland when we married as the months of rain and gloom would have done me in. Even here in Arizona, I get quickly depressed with just one cloudy day. SAD is real and I think the lights do work – if not perfectly for everyone, there may be additional issues, but since you have the lights, give them a try, Maria. The problem is very real and can be debilitating, moving elsewhere is not an option. Re Cyndia’s comment about passing along your possessions to you kids, there are a lot of recommendations to involve your children early on and let them pick items they would want or request options to choose later but mainly don’t feel hurt that they don’t feel the same way you do about your things – very hard to do but worth it, I think, and maybe actually very liberating for you. I, too, have read all the posts and this has been a very thought-provoking morning cup of coffee. Thanks, Maria and all!

  • Beth Scott says:

    I don’t mind the clock changing, except for one thing: I forget about dinner, and it takes me a good 2 weeks to get it organized so that we are not eating at 9:00 – It has taken me well over a year to get unpacked from a move – and part of that is because it has involved organizing and discarding things that are really crowding the smaller living space. This should be our last move ‘before the assisted living home’ so it’s even more poignant going thru’ things. I have always become disturbed, when I see the decorators run around to find appointments for makeovers! It is always more sensible and tasteful to use objects that the people already own. We recently tore out the wall over the fireplace (gas) and built a false chimney where the tv outlet had been (sign of the nineties?) Painting the new chimney and then selecting something to hang on it took over a week to decide – until it just came together so naturally. We lived in Mexico for several years, and have mucho things from our travels, so when the chimney came alive with red clay paint, and I hung the painting that I remembered where and how we acquired – viola!!! Happiness! I can now say that I have the wall color selected for the rest of the room, no hurry, enjoy the process!! Everything we have has a story, and I have learned to put those unhappy stories away, only see the happy ones!!

  • Fran says:

    Faith, family and health are what matter most to me. I can’t imagine where I’d be without even one of these. As far as things go, my decor includes items from both of my grandmothers and my mother-in-law. As some of the other readers have pointed out, our loved ones live on in our hearts and memories — and not necessarily in the objects they left behind. Still, these items remind me of the blessings of a good family, and they bring back warm memories of some of the most special people in my life.

  • Like most people, the most important thing to me is my family. We have a large house, lots of stuff, and I really want to downsize. But, my husband and son won’t get rid of anything, they’re pack rats! So, it’s hard when I really want to change and let go, and they don’t. They’re both into nostalgia, and I want to move forward. What’s important to them, isn’t to me, and vice verse.

  • Mary says:

    My husband & I are polar opposites in regards to stuff. I like to donate/throw away. He hangs on to everything. I guess it depends on how we are hard-wired.
    So the things that matter to him are in his room & my room is clean. Yes…we sleep in seperate rooms.

  • Sandy says:

    The light in the afternoon is my favorite and having 3 solid hours of light after work is something I look forward to every year! Time to play and do things while its still light is heaven for me. 🙂

  • Mme Trish says:

    Between my husband and myself we have lost all our parents along with a sibling in the past 4 years. We have disassembled 3 full households and have added so many pieces into our already large yet lovingly curated collection of “stuff” that I have come to know for sure it is all just stuff. None of it matters in the end. But, while we are here together, stuff tells wonderful stories and contains our history. I have learned to purge, because I have learned that I LOVE some of the stuff more than the rest. I have a mental catalogue of “Favorite Things” (new & old) and a habit of rearranging and editing my display areas, always peppering in a different combination of special pieces. Our home is full of stories and I love the whispers of memories that fill me up when guests marvel at our eclectic style.

  • Candy says:

    Hi, Maria…Love your site and the thought provoking question, of what matters! Everything matters, life is such a gift! My home is definitely, my favorite place, and it’s really coming together, this winter. I’ve been painting and redoing, and color is really bringing things to life. Right up your alley, Maria! I can’t believe, how great color makes me feel. Thanks for all your wonderful advice, and for sharing!

  • Julia says:

    I love, Love, LOVE when we get to move the clocks ahead one hour. I have been looking forward to it for weeks now! All that extra daylight at the end of the day gives me so much more energy! That being said…what matters the most to me is my faith in God and my family!

  • Kathy says:

    SAD is real, especially here in Oregon where we have so many cloudy winter days and rain. My adult son and I have it. While the light therapy helps some, Vitamin D, like 5000 IU’s a day, is what works best for us in the winter. Since we don’t have enough sun exposure to make Vit. D in our bodies here, most people are deficient. A doctor can do a blood test, or try taking it and see if it helps you. Helps with concentration and mood….

  • Connie says:

    Love Nate’s view, thanks for sharing. I love looking at all the beautiful inspirational decor photos on the internet and use them to make design choices. It is really obvious to me which homeowners have their “life” things in their homes, and which ones are “decorating” their homes. Everything looks purchased to match, rather than reflrecting the home owners. They look “staged” and those are not homes easy to be comfortable in. I think it is important to remember this.

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