You all know the drill: it’s time to pick a paint color. Cue the internal groan. Trudge to the stack of swatches. Tape a bajillion on the wall. Come back and visit them in every possible form of light. Compare one to the next. Repeat 85 times because it needs to be *perfect* and this is, you’re told by countless experts, how to do it. Hem and haw and refuse to make a decision for weeks because you don’t want to waste money—and, ironically, time—redoing it.The life of a person who cares what their house looks like, right?
There I was, standing at the paint counter at ACE Hardware, waiting for my gallon of flat Simply White to be ready. An older gentleman approached the counter with a coupon for a free quart of paint, and, when asked what color he would like, he replied, “Brown.” I smiled a little to myself, finding humor in his oblivion to the thousands of Benjamin Moore color choices laid out in a rainbow behind me, a rainbow that had sucked me in even as a child, enchanting me with its fantastically immense variety of hues. Just “brown”? What was that? He obviously didn’t do what every “How to pick the perfect paint color” guide tells you to do.
The worker kindly showed him that rainbow of swatches, instructing him to pick out which specific brown he would like. A few seconds later, the man reappeared at the counter with his chosen swatch, at which point he was informed by the worker that the “brown” he had chosen was not, in fact, brown.
It was purple.
So back the man went with the worker, who selected a few brown swatches from which the man grabbed one, thus ending the quest for “brown” paint. It took him mere seconds.
As I stood there taking in the whole scene, I thought how freeing it would be to have that kind of contentment about a paint color. To simply walk up to the counter and ask for brown, without taping half a million swatches to the wall, without googling images of said brown, without needing the perfect brown to be called something like Mink or French Press. Just brown. And to even be content with it not being brown at all, but purple.
And then I thought, Benjamin Moore carries nearly 3,500 paint colors, not including the shades blended for annoying customers like me who ask for it mixed at 50% strength. And dear old Ben is just one of countless brands of paint, each with their own versions of Mink and French Press. At what point did we begin needing hundreds of thousands of choices for our wall colors? At what point did things stop being just brown and start being Chocolate Truffle and Timber and Autumn Dusk? At what point did I decide that it was okay for me to spend a whole lot more than mere seconds agonizing over decisions that don’t actually matter?
I walked away from the paint counter with my Simply White—because just regular off-the-shelf white was not acceptable; I had to have that extra ounce of black added to the gallon—and asked the Lord to not let me forget what I witnessed with the older gentleman. I prayed that I would have the same kind of contentment with the choices I make for our home, not constantly wanting to change or scrutinize or worry about them being “perfect.” I prayed for constant reminders that neither perfection nor happiness actually comes from the “perfect” color or chair or curtain fabric. A fleeting feeling of perfection and happiness, maybe, but it doesn’t last. It’s not supposed to. This is just stuff of the world.
This is not to say that I’ve stopped caring what my house looks like. No, I have been blessed—and cursed—with a critical eye, and I doubt I will ever give up on trying to make our home beautiful. This house is a creative outlet and hobby for both me and Rick, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s not just a matter of “finding balance” with things like hobbies; it’s a matter of prioritizing. Because I can balance a 16 pound bag of cat food, two gallons of milk, four shopping bags of cereal, and my man-eating purse all while attempting to unlock the house door, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Something will always demand the brunt of my strength. And which of those things wins when they all go crashing to the ground?
See, I want to pick my just brown and move on with life. This goes for every house choice, not just paint. At the end of it all, I want to be able to say a lot more than, “Well, I sure did have some great-looking walls in my house after I painted them 42 times each, and I once spent a lot of marvelous days staring at pages and pages of fabric options.”
Because let’s face it. That’s lame.
The new drill: it’s time to pick a paint color. So I pick one. And am content with it. And learn how love and thankfulness and joy look with those walls as the backdrop.
And with that, “just brown”—yes, even “just brown”—can be perfect.