Put a pad of paper on a clipboard. On the top right-hand side of the pad, write the date. On the top left-hand side, write “Punch-List.” Items on your punch list should be numbered and should contain keywords to identify areas that need to be remedied. Select any room in your house to write up all the areas that need improving. After the workmen leave a decorating job, invariably they have to return to touch up the paint, install a switch plate, paint a screw white, or remove paint from a brass hinge. I’ve had punch lists with more than a thousand items that need attention. The idea of this exercise is to notice, to see everything. Pretend you are a rich perfectionist who won’t pay the bill until every detail is corrected.
You don’t need to renovate or decorate to have a long punch list
Your eye becomes complacent when you settle into a space. Clipboard in hand, look at your room as an inspector or doctor. You want to make a report, an evaluation. What doesn’t look right? What bothers your eye? This is the time to be critical. Are your windows clean? Is there a full wastebasket? Are your chairs worn and dingy? Is the lampshade on your desk crooked, dirty, and much too big? Take it off the lamp and throw it away. Look at the lamp with fresh eyes. A bad lampshade can completely alter the way you see a lamp—and the room. Look up at your chandelier. Turn it on. Does it need to be cleaned? Are all the bulbs lit?
As you write down each item you intend to fix, number them
One item might be to clean your fireplace hearth. Another might be to tidy up the books in the bookcases. Perhaps your wooden baseboard needs to be touched up, or you are missing a drawer pull. Try to find at least thirty-five to forty details that can be improved. I’ve never walked into a room that couldn’t be made more harmonious, more charming. Sometimes a room is too rigid, needing to be loosened up. Don’t consult anyone; let your eye negotiate the truth.
You will be amazed how much better you see when you have a clipboard in hand and are making a punch list. You’ll see spots of dirt, a ripped piece of fabric, a seriously ugly end table, a rug lining that shows a spot on the floor. The switch plate could be dirty or crooked. There could be a missing piece of plaster or broken mirror. Are there flowers in your bouquet that are dying and turning brown. Remove them.
Eventually, you should have a punch list for every room
Your sight improves with every item you have on your list. When you are at a friend’s house, your eye will notice things it didn’t the last time. You will see the harmony of good workmanship and feel disappointment when you see something sloppy where someone didn’t take pride in their work.
Decorators, architects, and contractors keep running punch lists, trying to notice everything that needs to be corrected before our clients complain. You can see for yourself what needs to be fixed. If you want to see a mess, open the cabinets under the kitchen sink. Look in your broom closet. Loo at the grime around your dustpan. Look at the inside of your washing machine. Do you see caked soap and dirt? Look at your dryer. Is the dial panel dusty? Look at your ironing board cover. Is it faded and discolored? Utilitarian spaces, private spaces, and public spaces are all seen by your eye regularly. You don’t have to love your mop, but its good discipline to see it well. The reason some spaces lure you into them, inviting you to open up all your senses and feast your eyes, while other spaces make you feel uneasy, is the energy of the seen objects and how they affect you. The more you “love up” your spaces, the more you will love being in them.
There shouldn’t be any depressing space in your immediate surroundings
Remember, how you feel has to do with what you see. If you have positive seeing experiences in a space, the space will have good karma, good feelings.
We dignify ourselves when we see well and when we see well, we can improve each space where we live. There is never a dark, disinherited space that can’t be transformed into a useful place filled with positive energy. See how you can alter your spaces into more fertile spots. If you want to create a library where you feel cocooned, you should be surrounded by books, if possible, on three walls. When you are surrounded by books you feel balanced. Whether used as a refuge for reading or as an uplifting place used for contemplation, all sizes and shapes can be turned into an oasis. Look and you will see.