Day 26: The Bathroom (Actions Speak Louder Than Words)


If actions speak louder than words, then the most intimate rooms in our homes speak volumes. Without societal pressure–to conform, to make pretty, to be likeable–it’s easy to relax our hold on the lid and allow our subconscious to bubble up to the surface.

The previous owner of our home, bless her heart, loved floral wallpaper. It was in every single room of the house except the main living quarters, which is where I imagine her docile husband finally put his foot down. The yellow roses in the wallpaper of our bathroom match, in a way, the yellow tile of our shower. They do not match the atomic accent tiles.

Shortly after we bought the house, I had a few girlfriends over for a tour. At the time I was working; we expected my salary to pay for months and months of renovations. We started with the kitchen. I thought the wallpaper and yellow shower was charming in a grandma sort of way. It was on our to-do list, but it wasn’t terrible. It was functional and clean. The previous owner, she of the broom closet, was immaculate. The tiles in our house were all original, and there was not a single grout stain to be found in white grout over 50 years old. It was quaint and fussy, and I thought my friends would think the same.

Two of my friends were neither charmed or amused. Both gasped dramatically when they saw the bathroom. One even clutched her head and then covered her eyes.

“I couldn’t possibly live in a house with a bathroom like that!”

“I’d get dizzy just getting ready in the morning!” (She was the one clutching her head.)

“It’s too much, it’s just too much. I need my environment to be beautiful or I get depressed.”

And so on, and so on.

I’ve come to the realization that in life some people are just really stupid, and you can’t avoid them any better than a cold virus on the handle of a shopping cart. You can swipe the bar with a sanitizing wipe and you can limit your interactions to people who seem reasonably intelligent if it makes you feel better, but really all you can do is hope for the best. Stupid people, like viruses, are built to last. They plod through life extolling their special brand of wisdom, too dumb to be worried about natural selection. There’s no point in hiding. They’ll find you just like they found me.

This happened 7 years ago, when I wasn’t as confident as I am now. My reaction was to laugh and make jokes about my horrible yellow bathroom. I agreed with them. “Hah! Hah! I know, right? That wallpaper is crazy!”

Secretly, I wondered if they realized that 40% of the world’s population lives without indoor plumbing. They’d be thrilled with my yellow tile and rose wallpaper.

I allowed their words to infect me. They crawled up my nose, squeezed past my lips, and shot straight through my eyes to rest in the back of my brain. I found myself embarrassed of our master bathroom, the same one I once thought was quirky and funny. When I decided to stop practicing law and stay home, our budget changed and our renovation plans were put on hold. I treated our master bathroom like a project waiting to happen, always looking to the future when it would be better, more acceptable. Perfect!

Waiting for perfect takes a long time. More than 7 years, that I know. Since perfect takes at least 7 years to arrive, I should have taken a day or two of the previous 2,555 to, I don’t know, organize our toiletries? Toss out beauty products that didn’t deliver. Grab a basket and corral those tiny items that will always look messy no matter how diligently you line them up.

Appreciate what you have, keep it tidy. In the rooms no one sees, the ones solely for you, give it the same attention you would give the room everyone sees when they walk in the door. How you treat those rooms is how you treat yourself. That’s what I told myself as I shifted, cleaned, polished.

An imperfect room should be treated with the same gentleness you would use to treat your imperfect self. And, if you’re not so gentle with yourself–I know I’m not–maybe that’s something to think about as you toss out an empty bottle of lavender lotion.

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I didn’t put up the link-up code until early morning (PST) yesterday. I know at least one of you came to the blog before it was up. If you want to include your links, please do! The link closes in one week.

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New here? For the next 31 days I’m living according to the famous William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” You can learn more about the project here, and catch sneak peeks of my projects by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (I’m @pancakesfries).

Comments
50 Responses to “Day 26: The Bathroom (Actions Speak Louder Than Words)”
  1. Joy says:

    I just HAD to comment! I live in a rental home that has floral wallpaper in the bedroom and the kitchen and dining room. The first thing that i told the landlady was that the wallpaper had to go! I would gladly take it down for “her” and paint. There was no way that I could live with all that! Here we are two years later and the paper is still up and I still hate it. But, I CAN live with it. It’s not the end of the world. And when you are on a tight budget, and a homeschooling mom, the wallpaper can stay! Love your blog!

  2. I just linked a blog post to your link-up from yesterday. I hope it’s ok, I’ve never done it before and I didn’t put the william morris border on it or anything.

  3. fleur des champs says:

    This is one of the best blog entries I’ve read! it is wonderful, humble but beautiful and smart, and so warm. Yes so many people around the world have almost nothing, while too many bloggers get obsessed with the organisation of thousands of narcissistic details that do not really make them happier human beings, but rather never satisfied with what they have, and unable to realize how vain and superficial they may have become. You are right, we need to appreciate more what we are blessed with. It is truly nice to improve our environment, so that it makes us and others smiles, but trends are only trends, they will go away and fashion is not the essence of what life is made. I really like your thoughts about the dear lady owner that had the house before you, and how nicely and gracefully you spoke of her :) even though you have different tastes in interior decorating. I’m not a fan of flowery wall paper but at least these roses picture the beauty of nature, and tiles with the color of the sunrise in a bathroom offer a poetic way to start the day :) Congratulations on your blog, your approach of life and your beautiful personality :) With warmest wishes, from Europe

    • Jules says:

      Yes, sometimes the emphasis on stuff gets really annoying. It’s why I don’t read most organizational blogs. They seem to be promoting cubbies and bins to keep your stuff organized, instead of helping people decide whether they need the stuff in the first place.

  4. Jeanne says:

    Such wonderful writing!! You are talented!! And such stupid people to go through your pending home and blurt negativity! I hope you cut them loose. I love the tile but would have the same dilemma. It’s such a cool memory of the dawn of the space age and modern homes. I just read the Jetsons were only on tv about 5-7 years, but those of my age still remember them vividly. Your tile reminds me of that era of hope in the modern future. A mom in shaker Hts Ohio worked from her home in the 50s and 60s creating all those cool designs that made their way to dishes, tiles, towels etc. The paper just did a story on her. She was a trailblazer raising kids at home and drawing in her spare time. That’s what I think of when I see that tile. You know what’s important in life. It’s not the “burden” of living with sweet flowered wallpaper that a meticulous homeowner loved.

    • Jules says:

      I remember The Jetsons! I really believed we would press a button and have dinner pop out. That, and flying cars.

      No, those women aren’t in my life anymore–at least not regularly.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I love this. I, too, have had friends that perpetually look at life half-empty – which is what your “friend” was doing by noticing the wallpaper but not anything else. “I need my environment to be beautiful or I get depressed”???? How fragile can one person be? Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and if the eye is set to see the ugly – that’s what it will see. And sparkling clean grout – that is something truly beautiful!

    • Jules says:

      I’ve actually heard that beautiful/depressed sentiment on several blogs. A part of me understands that many people are visual and that their environments very much affect them, so it’s important that it be to their taste. I can be like that. It’s not like my house is poorly decorated or that I live in squalor.

      But, at the same time, I also think it’s an impressive load of bullshit. Sometimes people need a shot of perspective to move forward.

  6. Jasi says:

    Wow. I suppose they forgot they were guests in your home. Perhaps they forgot they were friends too. I hope you’ve either corrected them (people make mistakes!) or let them go. It’s a great piece. Reminds me of that quote, I wish I could place it, something like “right now someone is praying for the life you have”. We forget that right now, we’re living somebody’s dream and bad on us if it’s not our own. We should be happy and grateful. =D

    • Jules says:

      Honestly, I think they were both uncreative people with absolutely no vision. They need to be spoon fed by Pottery Barn and Home Goods to think something is okay to like.

      I’m no longer friends with them, but not in a bad way. We grew apart. Actually, with the previous connection we had at the time (work) we really had very little in common.

  7. Ris says:

    I am IMPRESSED with the sparkling clean grout–what a wonderful thing for an owner to leave behind! Maybe your tastes weren’t the same, but your sensibility about taking care of items and spaces you use every day is, and that’s something I can definitely support.

    • Jules says:

      Right?! 50 years!!! Do you know how hard it is to keep white kitchen grout clean for 50 years?! The woman was a maniac about her house. All the neighbors said so once we moved in.

  8. Jeanine says:

    I love this post and all the wonderful comments! God is teaching me a lot about grace, which is my word for the year. I used to be like your friends, so I get them. They probably thought it was their duty to point out everything that was wrong so that you could know what needed to be fixed. Now, I know that it’s not my duty at all! Instead, it is to give grace like you did to the previous owner. Grace is so closely connected to gratitude, and as we are thankful for all that we have, grace surrounds us and gives us joy. Besides, wallpaper is coming back in style, so if you wait long enough, you may even grow to love it:)!

  9. Fairfax Avenue says:

    That’s awesome tile!!! Fransiscan Starburst made in Los Angeles. I love Starburst! It’s quirky and not quite round. The factory was less than a mile east of Griffith Park – where Costco, etc. is now.

    My father worked all over Los Angeles fixing appliances starting the late 1950s. While the factory was in operation he’d stop in and buy my mother dishes, until they amassed a full set of Starburst for 12 plus a few serving pieces. They are now in my house, serving as my dairy dishes (we keep Kosher), and as a warm memory of my mother.

    • Jules says:

      I once found on CL an entire set of china with that pattern. I emailed them so fast I set the keyboard on fire, but they had already sold. I’ve debated trying to find them piecemeal. Plates today are so big! I’ve been wanting a smaller set, and it would be nice to get something with meaning.

      • Fairfax Avenue says:

        The Starburst plates are plenty big- don’t be surprised! What I like is a set with a large “salad” size. Serving on that makes portions look more generous, but that only works for younger boys and most girls. Just wait until you see how much teenage boys can eat. No more small plates, at the outset just fill two full-sized plates and offer thirds!

  10. Your story reminds me to be more grateful that my husband always cleans the master bath first–the bath nobody sees but us. I always clean the guest bath first, because that’s what other people are going to see. His order of cleaning triage always begins with our personal space, so that no matter the chaos of the rest of our home, we always have that haven to escape to. It’s not such a bad thing.

  11. Susan G says:

    “An imperfect room should be treated with the same gentleness you would use to treat your imperfect self. And, if you’re not so gentle with yourself–I know I’m not–maybe that’s something to think about as you toss out an empty bottle of lavender lotion.”

    Perfect example of the insights you have – and why this is so much more than a month of “How I organized my stuff.” Someone told me once to imagine a person sitting next to me in the car saying to me the things I say to myself: Why did you eat that doughnut? You didn’t need it. You’re too fat and have no willpower. You are worthless. And then to think how long before I’d shove that person out onto the road. Yes – we need to treat ourselves better.

    (And I think the bathroom is sweet even if it’s not what I would choose.)

    • Jules says:

      A month of “how I organized my stuff” sounds pretty freaking dull. You know how I am–I can wax nostalgic for an hour on the meaning of a banana peel.

  12. Jill says:

    I had a very similar experience with co-workers and our “tiny”, “ugly” bathroom. I haven’t offered to host a work holiday party since the words wormed their way into my head and left me feeling insecure (took me back to my awkward jr. high school/high school days). It’s too bad because I/we love to throw a party. Also, surprisingly, our “tiny”, “ugly” bathroom is clean, spacious enough to get ready in the morning, and can handle bathing two lovely, adorable children who enjoy putting their clothes down the awesome/fun/handy laundry chute! Ungrateful work acquaintances! (note: they are not my friends)

    I want to see the rest of that bathroom. I think it’s charming in a grandma sort of way, too.

    • Jules says:

      “wormed their way into my head” is a great expression. My “friends” were people I met through work and school. The rest of the bathroom is pretty hideous! They made some strange design choices–probably sometime in the 70s. Then again, I’ve never done anything to improve how it looked. Maybe I should do that.

  13. Linda says:

    This was an excellent/relevant/timely post! Good stuff I needed to hear.

    We live in a church parsonage from the 60′s era. It’s a great house, but when we moved in there were some things I thought I could never live with (wallpaper included). Well the wallpaper is gone, but everything else I just knew would kill me has not. More than two years later, this house is absolutely home and I love it despite it’s shortcomings. So many of us are spoiled brats because we’ve never suffered great loss and we have never lived without. But in a world where millions have never seen a faucet, much less turned one on, our dated bathrooms are luxurious blessings and our homes are great gifts, we better be using them well! I’m new to your blog, but I’ve read all of the October posts and then some, love it!

    • Jules says:

      Thanks, Linda. Can I just say that living in a church parsonage sounds so terribly romantic to me? I know the reality probably isn’t filled with rainbows and unicorns, but the word “parsonage” makes it sound like something out of Anne of Green Gables.

      • Linda says:

        You’re right, the word does sound romantic! But the reality is you live in a house you can’t change structurally and have to learn to live with quirks and building material choices you wouldn’t have made your self….but it does come with perks! When something major like a toilet or the a/c breaks you call the church and THEY pay someone to come install a new one–no DIY needed!

  14. Beth says:

    I love that Anna Quindlen quote. This is a great post, Jules.

  15. Danielle says:

    I love this. It’s so very, very true. I also just moved into a house with wallpaper in nearly all the rooms, except the master bedroom and the living room. It’s been a bear to take down (especially the glue -the worst part!), but the hardest part is living with all the mess. Aka, we moved in 2 months ago, why isn’t even one room ‘finished’?!

    Er, excuse the rant – I went off on a tangent before I even got to my point! And that point is that I’ve been having conversations with my husband and how important it is to make our bedroom a place we’re happy with – instead of an after-thought, like in our old house. He sees no point in updating our 15+ year old comforter/duvet when that money needs to be spent elsewhere in the house, like a new sofa. But it’s not that I want to spend a million bucks in there, just make it a space that’s warm and inviting – like the rest of the house.

  16. Jaimie says:

    I think the atomic tiles are seriously cool.

    We have done a ton of renovation work on our house, but the one room that remains pretty much untouched is our upstairs bathroom, complete with vintage ‘goldenrod’ tiles. It’s something I love about the house, although I know it wouldn’t be to many people’s taste. One thing that makes me smile is to look back on pictures of the house as it was when we first bought it. It was also left IMMACULATE by the previous owners, but many, many of the finishes and details were not to our taste. However, we had a vision for what the house could be, and our friends and family supported us in that. Looking back on the “before” pictures now, I think “Oh, man!” but if other people thought we were buying a lemon they were kind enough not to say so at the time.

    I love my home and am immensely proud of it, even though it’s not big and wouldn’t make a showhomes list. It’s good to be reminded of that.

  17. Sarah says:

    We used to live in FL, in house with a yellow bathroom, green bathroom, and a powder blue bathroom. The sinks, toilets, tubs and tile all coordinated in each bathroom. I got a kick out of it. Sure, if I had truckloads of money, I would have made changes. But, it all worked. The real kicker was watching someone get their kitchen remodeled, and having their cabinets removed because, “they just have to go.” Sometimes, it seems like the word “enough” has been lost. We don’t always have to have “new” or “more.” Sometimes we should be grateful to be where we are with what we have.

  18. Kirsten says:

    “I allowed their words to infect me. They crawled up my nose, squeezed past my lips, and shot straight through my eyes to rest in the back of my brain.” You must be reading quite a terrifying book (!) at the moment. (ha – just started Gone Girl last night- what a creep!).

    Thanks for making this blog more than ‘putting stuff in its place’, instead making it more about your journey, and using your writing skills to connect with so many others.

    And when you write about your discoveries on grace, I will be reading them!

  19. May says:

    I felt the punch of those words as though they were directed to me. One of the gifts of the William Morris Project really is armor against that kind of attack.

  20. May says:

    Can’t walk away just yet. The post really moved me. I wonder why we are complicit in these digs at our soul. I certainly know I have been there.
    Peace and power to you in your newly organized master bath!

  21. Lisa in Seattle says:

    Oh man, I want to go back in time and comfort seven-years-ago you for the snuffing out of your little spark of joy about the “granny bath.” Those women would have had an aneurysm about Andy and Alicia’s house – which is probably the warmest, most charming abode in the whole world.

    Posts like these are really helping me come to terms with how I have let my dissatisfaction with our house color my life, and how I can work to change that. So thank you!

  22. Karen F says:

    Jules, this may be your best William Morris post yet. So much wisdom in your words. I kind of want to print it and post it somewhere that I see often, so I can reflect on the words. Also, it perfectly aligns with your post a few days ago about the perfume bottles on your dresser.

    On a superficial note, I can totally relate. I live in a house built in the 1920′s. It has a lot of character. My only full bath has lots of avocado-ish green tile (which I doubt is original) and not the best vanity or toilet. But, you know, it all works. It’s a small room. I found a shower curtain that sort of coordinated and I have done my best to embrace the tile. Some day, when it needs it, we’ll redo that bathroom. For now, it’s fine. For the record, we removed wallpaper in there shortly after we moved in. Now, I kind of wish we’d left it (the walls aren’t in the best condition after the wallpaper removal).

    Also, when my husband and I were first married, we lived in a condo. That condo could have been so cute, but I never “made it my own” because in my mind it was temporary. We lived there 5 years before we bought our house. It’s silly, but I sometimes regret that I didn’t do more in that condo.

  23. Shaina says:

    Apparently, we need to trade tile. We have a tea-rose patterned quarter-tile strip that runs along the middle of our bathroom wall. We are far from tea-rose type people but your Jetsons patterned tiles fit our taste so much better!

    When we moved in, every single wall in the house was wallpapered. Multiple layers of wallpaper. We had the rooms important to us stripped and painted within a month. We have an “eclectic” taste when it comes to paint colors. The cat’s room (yes, the cats have their own room, lol) was painted lime green with the intention to have black/white accent pieces. When we gave the house tour, one of our friends exclaimed “This must be one of the rooms you haven’t gotten to yet – just LOOK at that color!” – at which point we heartily laughed at how little they knew us and informed them that we CHOSE and LOVED that color for a room. (here’s the room right after finishing: https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/20352_1337622406025_3843654_n.jpg)

  24. April says:

    Beautiful words!! Thank you for sharing, just like other commenters, this post really spoke to me as well! We get so caught up in the “have-nots” that we tend to forget and enjoy the “haves”.

    Oh, and I LOVE that atomic tile!!!

  25. Tammy says:

    I’m really just shocked that someone would come into your new HOME and say such things. :(

  26. Susan says:

    I thought the stupd people just found me and stuck to me like glue! It gives me stange comfort to know I am not the only one who has to deal with them. My solution is that they are not asked in to my home. I have to work with them, worship with them, be a member of orginizations with them but I do not have to let them in the front door. I only let in the in people who matter. And if a person can’t deal with floral wall paper, they automatically do not matter. Good for you for finding that out sooner rather than later.

    I am enjoying these posts again this year!

  27. Janae says:

    Oh I just loved this post! Our house is old and outdated. All of our friends are moving into huge, new homes and look down on us for our small old home, but I don’t care, I truly like it. This home is how I afford to stay home with my children everyday, that is truly worth more to me than anything! I love looking at my outdated rooms that others make fun of. To me they are precious because to me they represent seeing my sons all day everyday! Others can laugh all they want, I am smiling too!!!

  28. Fee says:

    Can only add to the the above commenters and say what lovely words these are.

  29. Erin says:

    Jules, I LOVE that quote; and love this post, because sometimes, it’s really about taking the 15 minutes to straighten up what you have to make it work, no?

    And about your response to the commenter above, I think it was when I moved to Japan with a suitcase and a carryon in tow (and most of that LSAT workbooks) that I realized you only need a few “things” to make a place home.

Leave A Comment

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.