I Tried “The Four-Word Method” and It Completely Changed How I Shop for My Home

published Apr 22, 2024
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Credit: Erin Derby

Have you ever experienced the feeling of staring into an overstuffed closet, panicking because you somehow still have nothing to wear? Sitting in my apartment (after years of working as a home design editor), I felt the exact same way, because I disliked everything around me. I felt like a fraud, and I was sick of making design decisions based on interior trends, like the latest “core.” 

This unsettling feeling was happening with everything — my clothes, beauty products, and now my decor choices. Each time I fell hard for a new trend or color, I felt bored by it after a few months. Decorating like this wasn’t sustainable, and I wasn’t experiencing the peace I wanted to feel when I stepped through the door. 

I was tired of following trends, only to be dissatisfied with my space weeks later. Borrowing from a self-help/manifestation group I was in, I decided to copy this concept and apply it to my home to help me begin to create an apartment that felt comfortable and more like me. 

I Swapped Home Decor Trends with Meaningful Words Instead

I came across a concept that suggested choosing four words that I wanted to emulate in my life and represented what matters most to me. This practice comes from To Be Magnetic, a neural manifestation program. I found it immensely useful for my career, relationships, and future goals, and clocked that it would likely be a useful tool for getting my interior style in check, too. 

According to designer Nina Lichtenstein, by choosing your four words, “You craft a living environment that becomes a true reflection of your essence — a personal sanctuary that withstands the test of time.” That sounded like exactly what I was looking for. I wanted my home to speak to me — and my personality and preferences — for longer than a trend cycle. The nice thing about this method is that it doesn’t mean you can’t follow trends — you just have to make sure they adhere to your words. 

The words I was drawn to were serene, comforting, peaceful, and light. I found that many aspects of my life felt stressful and overwhelming, so coming home to a home that embodied these phrases lit me up and felt like a sanctuary. And now, when I go shopping for decor or I’m considering a paint color for my walls, I run all of these decisions through the lens of these words

Essentially I use these words like a design filter when I’m considering bringing something into my home. This has allowed me to become more mindful about just buying items on a whim — or acting on design decisions that I haven’t fully thought through.

Credit: Melissa Epifano

Recently I purchased a reading lamp, as comfort for me comes in the form of reading books. It contributes to my word “light” as well, figuratively and literally, as it’s white and sheds a glow. I also purchased a new white diffuser (because my old one needed replacing) to contribute to the overall sense of peace in my space. Scent helps me set the mood at home, and that levels up into serenity and peace, too.

Credit: Melissa Epifano

I have a few other things in my cart currently, like a soft wool blanket and a piece of art, but I’m giving these things time to see if they resonate with my words. What I’ve learned so far is that it’s essential to have any purchase hit at least one of my chosen words, but the best things hit at least two or three and keep me from making inessential purchases.

How to Find Your Home Design Words

Want to give this method a try? These super-simple steps will allow you to home in on the words that work for you. 

  • Sit with a notebook in a quiet space and list out 10 to 20 words that make you feel good.
  • From that list, pull out 10 that can relate to a living space.
  • Then distill this list even further, choosing three or four words that you’d love to feel when you come home.
  • Keep these words in the back of your mind for a few days and give yourself some time to settle on them. If one feels off, it’s OK to replace it.
  • Finalize your list of words, knowing that it can change in the future. 
  • When you go to buy something, are intrigued by a trend, or want to take on a project at home, look back at your list and see if this purchase or design decision aligns with your words.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Tried the Four-Word Method and It Completely Changed How I Shop for Decor