Secretly Jealous? 5 Ways to Combat “Home Envy”

By Lyn Wise

There is a feeling I get every time I go on a house walk or spend a spectacular day with my mother at a charitable designer show house.  And even though I know that the little nagging “green monster” might appear, I just can’t help myself.

It’s that feeling of looking at each perfectly decorated room and knowing that it will never be my reality …  every last detail, accessories placed just so, fabrics and wallpaper chosen with an artistic eye.

As I take in my surroundings, the thoughts start running through my head: “Why didn’t I choose a white kitchen, what was I thinking when I chose a white sofa, and why does my bathroom look like a cyclone went through it, after rushing to get out of the house this morning?”

Of course, I cherish those days I spend with my friends or Mom, but …

I know my little house addiction has a definite downside. So, I will admit it here … I am a sufferer of a malady I refer to as Home Envy.

I could pretend that no one knows what I am talking about, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that many of us have shared similar feelings while living in our suburban ‘hoods.  It’s not exactly pretty, and when these feelings strike — size, neighborhood, and décor, matter.

Unfortunately, I am passionate about something that causes me angst, but I can’t seem to stop feeding the monster. I subscribe to no less than five home décor magazines.  I love nothing more than grabbing them from the mailbox; first thumbing through quickly then putting the magazine aside to tackle it page-by-page later that day. The only way I can hold back is if I have an upcoming trip and I want to save the magazine for the flight. If I am traveling with friends, that baby may never make it down to the pool for fear of accidentally ending up in the wrong beach bag!

The magazines themselves don’t usually take me to that envious place. The celebrity and hedge fund mansions are just too far out of reach.  I am even amused by some of the things I read; I can never understand why a couple with no children feels the need to live in a 12,000 square foot house.  I also can’t help but laugh when I read the typical shelter magazine verbiage: ”When Heather and John aren’t spending summers in their rustic, Provence chateau set amongst the fragrant vineyards, they call historic Sagaponack home to their family of five and two golden retrievers.”

A little closer to home, it makes me wonder why my friends tend to fall into one or two “camps.” There is Camp Blotter and Camp Property Transfer — and some are even members of both camps. It’s suburban voyeurism at its finest.

You may ask yourself how come your friend is SO lucky to find her name in the property transfers (movin’ on up) when you are just happy your kid didn’t end up in ‘The Blotter’.

It’s not all gloom and doom when the monster rears its ugly head.  First, ask yourself why you are feeling shortchanged … what’s missing in your life that you feel that you need to use others’ homes as a measuring stick for your own self-worth? Are there things that you can do both internally and externally to help alleviate these feelings?  My answer is a resounding YES!


1. Whenever I start to get these feelings, I realize that I don’t have enough going on in my life that’s fulfilling.  Often there is so much time and energy focused on the day-to-day stuff of child rearing, spouse, and never-ending grocery shopping, that I forget about the things that I need to fulfill me!  Figure out what fills YOUR void and stop procrastinating. Join that book club you have been thinking about, go see that documentary you have been dying to see,  and get involved in a charity you care about.

2. Start your own “Home Files”.  If you are reading décor magazines, I suggest tearing out the pictures that speak to you.  If you like doing things on-line, checkout the website “Houzz” — you can literally look at thousands of photos and save them to your own file.  You can even post  your own questions along with photos and receive suggestions to your design dilemmas!

By saving all these photos, virtually and physically, you will start to see a pattern emerge — it will  be clear what you find appealing as far as style, color, etc. Now, when you have the opportunity to make changes, you will have some really great ideas on how to start achieving “your look.”

3. Don’t forget you can always get The Look for less!  How often have we all seen a fabulous dress or pair of jeans but balked about the huge designer price tag?  Later that day we find ourselves in Target (pronounced the French way Tar-zjay), pull something for less than $30 bucks off the racks, and get tons of compliments. It’s no different with items for your house. Yes, big thick crown molding will look fantastic when painted — who cares if it is not made from the finest wood?

4. If feeling totally consumed, think of your home as a way to gain control when other aspects of your life are spinning out of control. Clean out your closets, donate to charity, purge the junk, throw out unnecessary papers … you will feel so much better.

5. Lastly, if none of the above is working, and you need to do something immediately, go with one of my favorite design hints: Get out of your house and run to HomeGoods … hit the sections arranged by color, buy a bunch of objects in one color family, go back home and arrange. It will look like a curated collection for less than $100!

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Lyn Wise is a Broker Associate at @properties in Highland Park, Illinois. When she is not working with clients and their real estate needs; she is busy helping to launch three young adult males into the “real world”. Lyn can be reached at lynwise@atproperties.com

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