February Project: Make Memories Visible

The Goal

I love love love looking at pictures and souvenirs and scrapbookable items and artwork we made years ago. I love the people and places they represent, and I love rehearsing the events that brought them into being. I love it when, once every 3-4 years, I trick some hapless acquaintance into studying them with me. I like feeling like my family and I have a history.

I don’t love that I never quite finished my high school scrapbook, which prevented the completionist in me from ever starting my college, graduate school,  teaching, wedding, honeymoon, house, and baby scrapbooks. I don’t love that all my photos and souvenirs are locked away in drawers and external hard drives and file folders. I don’t love that our walls are mostly empty.

So, this month, I’m going to use these feelings to drive the fashioning of the front two rooms in our house: the piano room and the “formal” dining room. I’m not sure I’ll finish both…creative pursuits risk more paralysis than practical projects. I think I’ll start with the dining room and see how far I get.


Formal dining room, a.k.a. the dining room


Piano room, a.k.a. baby parking lot

The Why

I accidentally already covered this.

  • I like looking at and sharing personal memorabilia, but it’s hidden.
  • The walls in these two rooms are empty, which makes them feel less homey than I would like.
  • Last month, I implied that I find projects to be more worthwhile if they’re accomplishing multiple goals at the same time.

The Problems

  • We easily have upwards of 10,000 pictures to consider for this project. As a deliberative maximizer, this means endless fretting over finding the most meaningful 10-20 pictures to display. Now you know why I can’t finish a scrapbook (it took me five years to get as far as I did on my high school one).
  • Although we picked the wall colors for these rooms, I don’t love them.
  • The walls in these rooms have design elements that boggle my mind. WHY DOES THE DINING ROOM HAVE THAT EXTRA WINDOW??? When you put a table in the mix, it makes it very difficult to know how to center things on that wall.
  • I don’t really know how to properly frame, hang, or otherwise display pictures. I bought a picture-hanging kit once, and I didn’t know what 5/6 kinds of pieces were. The one I did recognize was a nail.

The Intermediate Goals

  1. Identify periods of life from which I want to display things. Then I can focus on a single “era” at a time, making it all feel less overwhelming.
  2. Research picture frames/display options. It feels kind of pretentious to call this “research”, but I need to justify my Pinterest time.
  3. Consider other decorative elements, like curtains! They might help me make sense of that extra window.
  4. Print pictures, buy frames, etc.
  5. Put it all together.

The Prizes

I’m not really sure that this is ever going to be an essential component of my projects. I’ve been giving myself prizes for non-project-related achievements (e.g. exercising every day, taking my lunch to work, etc… see my achievements page), but if I’m excited about a project, I don’t need a prize.

The Win

I’ll consider us successful if we:

  1. Put more stuff on the dining room wall(s).
  2. Buy and hang some curtains. Unless Pinterest teaches me that curtains are stupid.

The End

About Sarah

10 years ago, I was a computer science student. 5 years ago, I taught kindergarten. 2 years ago, I trained teachers. Now, I'm a technical writer. I have thoughts about most of these things, but most likely I'll just write about neuroses and why I love Mr. Gatti's pizza. Which might be a neurosis.
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2 Responses to February Project: Make Memories Visible

  1. Kirstin says:

    Interesting about the extra window there – we also struggle with how to center things when we hang them. It’s not often totally straightforward. I think in that case I would try to center your art on the wall itself, and not worry about where the table is?

    Since you mention not being sure about paint color, here is my unsolicited opinion. :) I like the yellow color a lot, and I like how crisp it looks with all the white trim. I think I’d repaint the brown sections (in both rooms) with a version of that same yellow. I think I’d go lighter. You could go just slightly lighter (one over on the paint chip) or all the way to the lightest version of that yellow. Close to white, but against all that white trim it would still be definitely yellow. Right now with two colors it’s almost like there’s enough going on without hanging up anything. But if you had only one color in different tints I think it might make hanging up pictures more impactful.

    Of course, you could do the same thing but with browns if that’s the color you like better in there. Find the lightest version of that brown and cover up the yellow. Either way would make the room more unified, but still highlight all the great architectural details on the walls.

    Alternatively, if you really want both brown and yellow, then I think the contrast between the two colors needs to be stronger. Right now they’re both kind of medium-yellow and medium-brown. You could keep the yellow and go with a very dark chocolate brown and I think that might improve the rooms. But I like the idea of sticking with one color and different tints of it better.

    Or, are you thinking of changing both colors all together?

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for the advice! I wish I had a better eye for these things. That’s probably another reason I can’t finish a scrapbook… :)

      I didn’t have any immediate plans for changing the paint colors, not because I don’t want to but because I figured that was a bigger project than I wanted to tackle right now. I mentioned it here because I want my framing solution to be flexible enough to work with different colors, though that might be asking too much. In my head, it just meant that I’d look for neutral frames :)

      I hadn’t thought about changing one color without the other, but I like the idea of covering the brown with a lighter yellow! That also feels like a less ambitious project than repainting the whole room. Holding one color stable cuts the decisions in half, AND it’s a lot less work. AND I wouldn’t have to take down my pictures in the dining room if I delay the painting until later.

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