What you can’t tell your parents about their home

My decor education_suprise room makeover 1

Get your family to give your home a surprise DIY home makeover and it will reveal what they really think about you.

I spent the weeks leading up to my parents going on an overseas holiday casing their house and counting the days before they left.

I love my parents. They’re awesome, generous, silly, crazy. But I hate how they’ve decorated their house. It’s a reflection of two parts of their personality I loathe…hoarding and excess.

Every room is a tomb of too many items that don’t serve a function and have no sentimental value.

My decor education_surprise home makeover 1

The same hour they left for the airport, I corralled my brother and sister, and began my excavation.

  1. I started with all the nick-nacks. Gone.
  2. I extracted all the excess furniture.
  3. I rearranged the remaining furniture into a layout that makes sense.
  4. Then finally, I added some flourish by putting back art, photos, and object d’arts that were meaningful to our family.

The result is a functional space my brother, sister, and I actually want to hang out in – which, trust me, never happens.

No more navigating around a maze of end table after ottoman after occasional chair after a pile of books.

Now we have a comfortable and inviting space that feels like a home, not an antique store’s storage unit.

My decor education_suprise room makeover 2

We’ve spent every night hanging out in the ‘cleansed’ rooms since. We eat together, we hang out together, and we watch our favourite episodes of Daria together.

I’ve isolated all the excess items that were previously spread across the whole house, all into one room where you can’t hide from the excess.

More is not better.

My dad will buy things from Aldi at a ‘great price‘ and then store it in the garage until he has a use for it.

The thing is that, when the time comes (which rarely happens) he can never find the item. It’s lost in the Bermuda Triangle that is my parents garage. If he by some miracle does find it, 9 out of 10 times, it’ll be damaged or not fit for purpose.

He’ll then try to hack the item to make it fit/work. The result is something that doesn’t work quite right and looks sloppy.

My decor education_surprise home makeover 2

I don’t want to live in perpetual ‘maybe someday’.

I want to trust that when if a need arises, I’ll have the confidence to find the right item for me, my style, and my budget. I can’t predict and plan (and hoard) for every scenario.

If I need neo-traditional end-tables because my current set is damaged, I’m confident I’ll find what I need, then.

My parents have so many great momentos of the family and I want them to see the best of them everyday, not unnecessary souvenirs and items hoarded for ‘someday’.

They’ll be back in 2 weeks and I hope they’ll see the stark contrast between the over-stuffed tomb that was, and the useable space of all the most meaningful items that is now.

Also, follow my Snapchat (decoreducation) for a regular dose of decor life in Melbourne, Australia.



  1. How did they react? I’m really curious because I really tried to organize mom’s kitchen a few times and she was upset. Needless to say that it looked exactly the same as before only two days after each time I organized.

    The funny thing is she didn’t tell me she was upset, she appeared to be pleased with it and she even thanked me every time I did it. So I assumed it was just going to take time until she gets the hang of it, and I organized again and again (I think I did it 5 or 6 times over the past 4 years). Only last time she actually let me know she was upset, and that she never had the intention of using my system even though she recognizes the fact that it looks much better.

  2. My parents reaction actually wasn’t that great either. I’ve done it a couple times before but always on a smaller scale and they’ve always been pretty happy because it’s something they wanted to tackle themselves but didn’t have time for. This time I really went all out so I think they felt like their sense of order was shaken, particularly after being away from home for several weeks. They were probably hoping to return to their homely comforts. When they got home they ended up putting some of their things back in place, which I was disappointed by, but I guess I learnt the lesson that change needs baby-steps, particularly if you’re imposing it on others.

    It sounds like you didd a really nice thing for your mum. And she was trying to be nice and not to hurt your feelings by not telling you she was upset. It was probably difficult for her to admit. Do you thing you’ll try to help her again or leave it be?

  3. I also “helped” my parents on several occasions on trips down from Alaska. Their home was/is essentially what you showed of your parent’s home, possibly on a much ‘grander’ scale. About 20 years ago upon arriving my dad met me at the door and said, DON’T DO IT, this is where we live and if you don’t like it then stay somewhere else. What they do not seem to understand is that the hoarding, the huge overage of clutter and the resulting mess is very hard for most people to visit comfortably in because there’s no place to sit… and they wonder why family don’t come to stay with them anymore. Sad, really because they have a beautiful home and I often think about how I would love to clean it up and make it nice for them. Thanks for letting me share.

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