A house full of favorites

by | Apr 20, 2021 | All Things Home, Decorating, Favorite Finds | 38 comments

While purging and no-spending through February and into March, I found myself thinking a lot about my favorite things vs. things I have as a default.  No matter how many times I’ve purged over the years and taken the oath to be intentional about every single thing that enters our home, it’s so easy to be a lenient gatekeeper and to become complicit in bringing in things that are not well-loved and/or well-used.  When you’re managing an entire house – bills, laundry, meals, schedules, homework, not to mention work, it can be a low priority.  Sometimes you just need to grab something quickly.  Sometimes you buy things on impulse.  Sometimes a bargain was just too good or it’s hard to refuse a hand-me-down.  But as I’ve been thoroughly cleaning out cabinets and drawers, closets, and cupboards and I’ve been living with it, I’m getting so much more joy out of all of the things I own.  I’m no longer skipping over the clutter to get to the good stuff.

It’s all the good stuff.

dining room | wall mural | miss mustard seed

As I’ve been going through this journey, I’ve had this thought – Everyone should all have a house full of favorites.  

That doesn’t mean we own everything we want, but it means we want everything we already own.  Not only do we want it, but we love it and use it.  Doesn’t that sound delightful?

Here are some of my thoughts on curating a house full of favorites…

don’t buy things you don’t love

I have gotten much better about this, but I have certainly been guilty of buying things that I feel a little lukewarm about.  I buy it because it’s the right price, because it’s a good fit, because I’ve been looking for something similar for a long time and my patience is running thin.  I buy it simply because I’m in the mood to have something new.  A few years ago, I established these simple buying rules – I have to love it AND I have to have the perfect place/use for it.  Both have to be true and this has helped me be more selective, but not certainly not perfect.

antique hutch | painted furniture | ironstone collection | shelf styling | miss mustard seed

Making some rules about what you will and won’t buy and adhering to them (even most of the time) will ultimately be one of the best ways to curate a house full of favorites.

I would also add to this that those rules can be applied to what you keep and what you sell/donate/give away.  If you don’t love it and don’t have the perfect place for it (or whatever your rules are), it might be time to let it go.

buy quality, not quantity

I spent many, many years buying for quantity.  How far can I stretch $50?  While thriftiness is a great thing and we all want to stretch our money, it can also be a way to fill your house with good bargains that you feel mediocre about.  I have learned that I would rather walk out of a store with one thing that makes me giddy instead of ten things that are okay, but were really good deals.  This isn’t about the amount of money you spend, but what you spend it on.

When you shop, shop for favorites, not for bargains.

living room | antiques | blue and white | feels like home book | miss mustard seed

don’t have so much stuff that you can’t interact with it all in a meaningful way

I definitely have the “collector gene.”  I enjoy the hunt for something whether it’s ironstone, art supplies, or seashells.  This is a fantastic quality when you’re an antiques dealer, but it can get out of hand if things are coming in and nothing is going out.  (This can also be an issue if you inherit an entire household from a family member who passed away.)  You might have a house full of awesome things, but you probably don’t fully know what you have and you’re certainly not interacting with any of it in a meaningful way.

If going into your attic, basement, garage, shed, storage unit or even closets is like a suspenseful treasure hunt, then this is you!  If your craft room is so stuffed with fabric and supplies that you have no room to create, this is you!  You probably have a bunch of favorites and you can’t reach them, use them, or you don’t even know you have them!  If you can’t interact with your stuff in a meaningful way, then you have too much stuff. (And some drawers in my studio were like this recently!)

messy watercolor drawer | art studio | miss mustard seed

appreciate your favorites

I think appreciating and using your current favorites is one of the best ways to foster contentment.  When you really enjoy your things, you are far less likely to buy more things you don’t love and won’t use.  As someone who likes to collect, I’ll hone in on something and then I don’t just want to buy one, I buy one and all of its friends!  Collections are great but carefully curated collections of favorites that are displayed, used, and loved are even better.

butler's pantry | green painted cabinets | ironstone collection | miss mustard seed

I realize this whole concept is a bit romantic and idealistic.  But, I really do think our environment matters.  What we surround ourselves with matters.  It can contribute to stress or it can inspire creativity.  It can encourage togetherness and rest or it can be disruptive and distracting.  It can remind us of people and places we love or it can be baggage, physical evidence of poor decisions, or roads not taken.

A part of our home feeling like a sanctuary, being a place that really feels like our home, is the details.  While the four walls and the roof make a house, it’s what’s inside – the people and the things that populate it, that make it home.

antique hutch | ironstone collection | shelf styling | miss mustard seed



  1. Babs

    I wish you were around when I was just starting out! Early in my marriage we didn’t have much money so we had to compromise about a lot of things we needed. Fast forward 40 years and now I am in the position to choose and not have to compromise too much. The funny thing is now I want to get rid of stuff! As a collector of teapots, vintage kitchen implements, platters, creamers, and rabbits I am on overload. I had fun collecting these items and did enjoy them but I am ready to get rid of most of it with the exception of some special pieces. It has been liberating!

    • Jo Ann Bastanjoo

      Me too! I’m tired of dusting it all. I’ve accumulated many beautiful things, but none of the family wants it. Sigh.

      • Addie

        One day they will live with regret.

      • Katherine

        I’ve worked out a solution for the “no one in the family wants” most of my various collections. Each child knows he/she will be given certain collections with the directions to keep any of it you want, give away anything you don’t (and get the charitable tax deduction or sell it and buy something you’d really like! They all laughed but each is already planning what they will do with their booty!

        • Marian Parsons

          I love this so much! Just because we love something doesn’t mean we need to turn it into an obligation for our children and grandchildren. Let them enjoy your things however it brings them joy…keeping them, selling them, giving them to someone who does love them, etc. It turns something that can cause real tension into something positive. 🙂 Stuff shouldn’t make anyone feel guilty!!

      • Charlotte

        I used to buy things just to fill my apartment or now the house… and some of these things are just sitting in the house… in a box. I’m working on purging, every day when I see something I no longer love, it goes in a box. When we drop off our recycling, the box of donations go as well. Now, the item has to bring me joy. Pure joy for me to pick it up. But I will pick something up and wander around the store with it and if I still love it, it comes home. But if I don’t, I put it back…

  2. Kim

    Now THIS is the post for me. I can relate to all the things you have said. Now that we are 7 months into the empty nest stage of life, I want to mindfully purge most of the clutter and whittle it down to a “house full of favorites.” I plan on doing this through Etsy, if possible, so that my wonderful items can find a new home to give someone else cheer. As a creative person with a love for color and the collector gene, this is a big project, so I appreciate this series of posts on the topic. The thought process of paring down is a complex one. With all of our stores here closed for most of a year now, there hasn’t even been an opportunity to buy or even window shop. Ditto for no opportunities to sell anything, no garage sales, flea markets, etc. All cancelled (I am in Canada). So really the only options we have left are online buying and selling, and I sure hope that my Etsy venture will work.

    • Michelle

      We’re almost a year into empty nesting and we’ve been working slowly but diligently on clearing the things we no longer want or need. Our goal was to buy a smaller house and be ready to move into it when we finally found it. We close next week and we are at the point that we can move directly into the new house and whatever I choose not to take with me is the final layer of stuff to get rid of – I think it will be mostly wall hanging decorations and a few pieces of furniture. It’s a beautiful feeling.

  3. Cathy

    We downsized (for the second time) a few years ago. I say our new house is “Our Favorite Things” house. It’s so nice to be surrounded by (mostly) only things that bring you joy.

  4. Karen

    Follow the rule of William Morris…

    Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

    I think he said it best.

  5. Donna

    This was a great post! I think we all can relate in some way or another. I just love the way you write and articulate. So lovely. Cant wait for your new book!

  6. Nan, Odessa, DE

    Good post!
    Tell me, is that push willows mixed with apples in the first pic?
    Details, please.

  7. Anna M.

    I have the hardest time parting with vintage photos and linens that were handed down to me by family. Some of the people in these photos my children have never met and they have no interest in these old photos. I’m working hard to organize the best photos into albums and journaling family history so that maybe someday one of my grandchildren will appreciate their history.

    • Sue

      Anna, as the daughter of someone who got rid of everything, trust me when I say a grandchild or great-grandchild will love to see a photo album of long-gone relatives and a box of linens passed down!

      • Rita

        Great post. This resonated a lot with me. I am thinning out all the stuff. Lately I have left things in the store because I didn’t really need it or have a place for it. And quality over quantity is what I’m striving for now in life.

    • Michelle

      When my aunt went through my grandparent’s belongings after they passed away, I got to take a few favorite pictures – my grandmother’s high school graduation photo, one of my grandad in his airplane and a few of my dad and aunt with their grandparents. I realized that these few photos are enough. I don’t need hundreds of photos. I am keeping that in mind when I go through the photos of my children. I do not need pictures from every soccer game they ever played!

    • Connie M.

      Anna M.- When my grandfather was living he created genealogy books and included photos with the names. This was before computers so all typed! 2 volumes what a treasure. He used carbon paper so each of his children and grand children received both volumes. Love mine and the photos are extra special.

  8. Brenda

    This was so helpful!

  9. Crystal Brown

    I’ve been purging off and on for THREE years! How can one person have so much stuff? I’m happy to say that I finely got my collections down to just what I love and am curating those to keep just a few of the things I love…. do I really need 35 baby Bens? Nope. Do I really need 40 Dundee pots? Another nope. Happy to say that most of my hard earned Brown Transferware was purchased by a sweet young woman who now gets the benefit of my years of searching for all things brown. I probably still have too much, but right now It’s giving me happiness.

  10. Teddee Grace

    So hard to do when you live in a one-bedroom apartment with limited storage. I’m still spry enough to rotate my decor between my apartment and rental storage at each holiday and each season, but it is getting harder and, yes, I rarely find everything for each holiday or season all at the same time and I often do find things I’d totally forgotten about. More and more frequently, though, I do find shopping my own stash does keep me from continuing to buy more.

  11. Michelle

    I read a suggestion somewhere about a year ago to limit what you buy to one type or brand. For instance, I love ironstone, but occasionally I see milk glass that I like. I forced myself to choose one or the other and then within that, I really limit myself. Candles are another thing I love and can really go crazy on, but there are so many brands and scents. I chose one and I have a couple of favorite scents. It makes my life so much easier to have these bright lines in place for my shopping.

  12. Joelle

    I have noticed lately that I when I am shopping, be it Marshall’s or an antique store, I will carry around the items I am interested in purchasing for at least half an hour as sort of a probationary period. I now usually put back at least 75% of the items instead of purchasing them. I have discovered that if I give myself enough time to be thoughtful, it is enough for me to admire an item without needing to buy it. I usually won’t remember a week later what I almost bought! I wish my younger self had done this!

    • Marian Parsons

      I do this a lot more, too! When I was antique shopping with my mom, I would leave something and think about it. I didn’t go back for anything, but only bought a few things I knew I immediately wanted and had a good spot for. At one store (a huge antique mall that used to be a favorite), I didn’t buy anything!

    • Cheri Dietzman

      My friend and I call this (at TJMaxx) “catch and release.” It works!

  13. Kimberly Westby

    What is the cat doing, trying to open the cabinet ? Are there cat treats or catnip in there?, that picture made my day, toooo funny!
    Love pet photo bombs.


    • Marian Parsons

      No cat treats in there! I think she’s just stretching!

  14. SueA

    I would shop with my beautiful friend Louise and she would turn up her nose and say “it’s not to die for” and walk on. That has remained my simple yardstick.

  15. Kathy M

    Great advice! I needed to hear it. Thank you!

  16. Sandi from the Cape

    Beautifully and thoughtfully said! I’m going to take this blog to heart and put your ideals into practice. I’m sure I’ve given myself stress and disruptiveness due to the excess I have! Thank you!

  17. Betty Bashaw

    Thank you, Marian. You said everything perfectlly. I will continue to strive toward this goal.

    • Joan B

      My husband and I have both been prolific collectors over the years, resulting in a house full of things we really didn’t want or need. Last Sept. he finally gave me permission to start paring down his stuff since he was no longer able to mount the stairs to his study. Together we priced and sold off his ham radio equipment, camera equipment, computer equipment, and a countless number of books, collectibles, and odds and ends that had been cluttering up his study for years. Today, two months after his passing, I am still struggling to finish the job. But I have turned his wreck of a study into a pretty nice room for my daughter who has temporarily come home to roost. My advice for any one who has this “collector’s syndrome” would be start early, don’t give up, try to get ruthless, and know that you are doing it not only for yourselves but for your kids and grand.kids as well. None of our offspring want much of what we have so lovingly accumulated, so why not let go of it now before it becomes a burden to others. I like the idea of apportioning it out with the guilt free instructions of doing what ever you want with it. When the time comes to down size the house, I will have to do the same process with
      my stuff, but I plan to start soon and try to get ahead of the game.

  18. Miep

    I hear you ! I collected old teddybears and old tins for many, many years. A few months ago I took the decision to sell them all. I even sold my old cabinet from the living room. It feels sooo good to let things go. Bit by bit I have room again in my closets and it feels so liberating. Not everything I wanted to sell is sold yet but I am on my way. 😜😉

  19. Cheri Dietzman

    I have the collector gene as well and it can be such a curse! One thing covid did for me was limiting my shopping — and adding things I don’t love or need to our home. I currently have a pile of items to take to donate this weekend and it feels SO good!

  20. Teresa

    Well after reading the comments I don’t feel so silly now! I also will pick up something in a store such as HomeGoods and put it in my cart until I am ready to leave. After walking around with a item a while it gives me time to think about it and if I really love and have a place for it. Many times, I talk myself out of it or realize its something that I really dont love. This technique helps me avoid impress buys.

  21. Dixie

    I found a method of decluttering that totally works for me. It’s helped me declutter & organize 80% of my home in the past 9 months, and I’ve traveled 3-1/2 of those months. The process is simple. Three choices – throw away, give away, put away. No holding items to see if they move me, no eBay or garage sale, no stacking in bin after bin only to be gone through at a later time. If something is out of place, you immediately go put it up. Immediately! I love this method. It has worked wonders for my retirement decluttering plan. By summers end, my home will be clutter free, and hopefully completely organized. My adult children have thanked me a number of times… #deslobification

    Now I need to follow Marian to a no spend month or two… or three…

  22. Marilyn Holeman

    Oh dear. I think I missed the point of the article because of those beautiful scalloped Jadeite colored bowls–and you showed them twice! May I ask where you got them? I do love Jadeite, and have just a few pieces. Thanks, Marian.

  23. Robbie Zeller

    Thanks Marian! You have taught me many valuable things in life!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


Subscribe today

and receive a FREE e-version of my planning sheets!


Articles by Date


our sponsors

Bliss and Tell Branding Company