What 2014 Taught Me

By Kate Riley December 31, 2014

I don’t share too many deep thoughts here on the ol’ blog, I like to keep the content more on the surface about inspiring DIY projects, design, and home improvement.

The last day of the year gives me pause and an opportunity to think about the past year before starting a new one. Rather than a Best Of roundup, I wanted to write about what I learned this year. This is one of those reflective posts looking back at 2014 but not at projects, instead it’s a look at what I achieved beyond and behind the blog.

winter walk through snow

Take Time for Other Interests. I learned this year how revitalizing it is to spend time on something unrelated to your job. One thing I’ve longed to do for years is be a better student of history. I had my share of classes in college but it was more about survival and a good grades back then, my mindset now is so different, my focus is on the richness of the writings and the lessons from amazing stories and people. Presently, I’m deep into a study of the Civil War, absorbing everything on the North and South, on Lincoln, his advisors, his assassin, and podcasting a Yale University course. I feel enriched thinking about things other than design.

Lesson: take up a hobby or interest that you’ve longed to pursue!

Get Healthy. This year I learned how important (and good) it feels to take charge of my health. At the beginning of the year I realized I had gained almost 20 pounds in two years and was feeling very fatigued. I took control and made a huge dietary changes. I eliminating processed, fried, and fast food from my diet and opted for clean eating instead. I relearned how to exercise with the help of a personal trainer. I started lifting weights and sculpting my body. I lost 15 pounds, almost all the weight I gained and feel more energized and stronger than ever. In another month or two I’ll have reached my weight loss goal and intend to keep myself strong and healthy for life!

Lesson: discipline and consistency with diet and exercise is hard work but the benefits are life changing. What a gift to have a strong healthy body again!

Just Say No. Feeling a sense of emotional fatigue in the beginning of 2014 I made a deliberate choice to practice the art of saying no to things that threw me off balance and focused instead on the things that I deemed essential. I read a wonderful book on the subject Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, highly recommended if you’re feeling overwhelmed. This deliberate practice of saying no occurred for me on two levels, the first was turning down several professional opportunities and the second was taking significant breaks from the internet and social media. The practice brought a peace, balance, and contentment that I haven’t felt in years.

Many opportunities came my way this year, I consider myself fortunate to receive many offers but I had to stay true to the principle that partnerships must be mutually beneficial and so I turned many of those offers down because they weren’t a good fit. Being conscious of what is or is not a good fit makes that yes or no decision so much easier. It had to feel real, it had to be authentic, or I wasn’t willing to write about it.

I stopped worrying about statistics or pageviews. I took long breaks and set aside large blocks of time for relaxation or creativity. I resisted and restricted distraction. I released any fear of losing readers or advertisers. I stopped paying attention to the likes and followers or what I “should” be doing according to the blogging experts, and chose to be true to myself, come what may. Those choices are liberating.

I learned in 2014 to stay sane in a world of constant distraction I had to pinpoint when enough was enough and clock out. There is a stream of constant unending information coming at us from our screens. It will always be there, you can’t see, watch, or absorb it all. To survive and thrive we must shut down the barrage of information and tune it out as a daily habit.

Lesson: the practice embracing the essential and rejecting the nonessential leads to a stronger sense of balance and contentment.

What I will continue to value as essential on a professional level are the two things that fulfill me most. The first is the creative process, whether it’s a home remodel or textile design, the expression of my style and the process of combining color and pattern bring me joy so I’ll continue in those pursuits. The second is the conversation that happens here on the blog and among so many friends about how to improve our homes so that they’re not only stylish but functional and places that serve the lifestyle of the residents. 2015 will bring more of both, I’m excited to jump in.

As we enter 2015, I encourage you to let go of your fear, relax more – embrace what you value, say no to the rest. Don’t let anything (a job, a relationship, a blog) suck the life out of you. Do the things that make you smile, the things that fill your heart and feed your soul. Take care of yourself, you’re worth it!

Happy New Year my friends… cheers to 2015 and learning something new!


  1. I learned in 2014 that I can do anything I wanted to do if I just put my mind to it. I accomplished many diy projects which includes repurposing items I had in my home versus buying new.

  2. I read you often, but rarely comment. I wanted to specifically share how much I enjoyed this post and how true these words are. I am at a different place in my journey….an empty nester planning to retire in May from a demanding career and excited about what the future holds. Saying no, to continuing to work is opening many new possibilities for me! I look forward to 2015…best wishes to you and your family.

  3. Hi! Thank you for this post. I’m a new blogger and even just 6 weeks in I am already learning to trust my instincts and be true to my own vision. It’s inspiring to hear that path confirmed by someone who’s been doing this for years and made it as a professional. Warm wishes and happy new year! ~Ali

  4. I have read your blog off and on over the past couple years, but this year I found myself enjoying it more and wanting to read it more. I appreciate that bloggers want to earn money, but I dislike when I feel that I am reading unending advertisements. Your blog has been quite enjoyable this year.

  5. Good for you! Very inspiring and well-written. Continued renewal and self-fulfillment in 2015!

  6. Thank you for your post! Its in sync with whats going on with me as well! Can’t wait to see your designs and ideas in 2015! Happy new year!

  7. So well written. Your blog is the smartest blog on the internet. I have to read every word you write. Happy New Year.

  8. This was a great read, as it allowed me to view your challenges and changes and it also pointed quite clearly to me that some of your choices have been niggling away in the back of my own mind for some time. Reading this piece has given me a clear look at my own past paths and my 2015 one. Improving my quality of life will bring back the person I used to be before internet business kind of took over. So thank you for this, as your story has allowed a clarity to form painlessly in my mind. Have a wonderful, happy and healthy 2015. Mary

  9. I echo what Melissa posted earlier. Some blogs are so full of adds and pop ups that they make it painful to read on my iPad. I appreciate blogs that don’t do this. I also am glad you shared this post as this very much resonates with how I’m feeling.
    Frankly I really dislike “year end best of” articles and am thankful you did this instead. Have a fulfilling new year!

  10. Very refreshing post after so many..top posts of the year type things. Were these lessons goals last year or things that just unfolded.

    I know bloggers need to make money and its great they can and do….however, you can usually tell who is sincere and who is just over the top with ads that jump and follow you as you scroll and subscribe buttons that are so distracting you cant concentrate or half see the post!

    Love your blog and your heart…Happy NewYear!

  11. Kate, you are the best, hands down! Thank you for this post. It reinforces what’s been on my mind today as I ponder what I want the coming year to look like for me personally. Thank you for sharing your clarity and creativity.

  12. Amen, Kate! I can resonate with everything you say. I am going to look up the book you mentioned and try block all the meaningless distractions out and focus on what’s necessary and also what brings joy. Happy 2015, and thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  13. And this is why your blog will always be my favorite. So refreshing to watch someone become successful and not lose sight of what they set out to do in the beginning. Have been a fan for years now. Thanks for the inspiration whether it’s home design or just getting through life in general. Looking forward to following you in 2015. Happy New Year (:

  14. This is so wise, especially intentionally setting aside time to learn. You are right, it’s refreshing to step away from what we do with jobs and blogs for awhile. It’s a way to recharge different areas of our brains which actually makes us more creative.

  15. Happy New Year! Thank you for the reminder of making happiness and balance the focus of life.

  16. God bless all of you, who like me, are dealing with a family member or friend who has cancer.

  17. Wonderful and well said. Best of luck for your personal and professional endeavors in 2015.

  18. I do love your photography. I dabble in watercolor painting and would love to try your winter scene photo. I always ask for permission before I use photos other than mine.

    Is it OK with you if I paint this scene?

    • Yes Kathy, I’m flattered!
      Thank you everyone for your kind comments, so appreciated !

  19. I sure did enjoy reading a little about ‘you’. And, I am just starting to read the book Essentialism as well and looking forward to putting it to practice in my own life. Looking forward to continuing to see your beautiful posts in 2015!

  20. Inspirational! Why don’t you take a new photo for your blog. We’d love to celebrate your success!


  21. I appreciate what you are saying and where you are in your life. I am 61 so perhaps think differently. I love your ideas and hope you will continue to show them…and do them. Yours is one of four blogs that I get most of my ideas from for my home. We had a hurricane in 2004 and I am still not back together in any way. We are just now digging out to have a kitchen. Thank you for all your help over the years. We will someday have a multi-generational home with my youngest daughter. I read 4 Gens One Roof for my ideas for making that happen and be successful. My blog is not full, needs revamped, and I love having it but can not afford to make it nice…although I try to post nice things when I can. It is Southern Style on Fifth Avenue. I must post the reason for the name. I am guessing most bloggers have their blogs designed by someone? And I don’t know how to post from another blog to attach a link back to it from my blog. Any ideas? I am on blogger. Thanks. Happy New Year!

  22. The fact that you turn down many offers and don’t follow the blogger bandwagon is the reason I love your blog. Your blog is the gold standard other blogs should aspire to – please don’t change a thing! You are classic and your words are always a breath of fresh air. Thank you!

  23. So glad you are taking care of yourself, Kate! Blogging is a part of your life, not your life. Thank you for your timely reminders and a very Happy New Year to you and your family!

  24. I very much enjoyed your post! As someone who is going through some beginning of the year emotional fatigue, I enjoyed your matter of fact post with some very helpful reminders of what I should strive for in the New Year.

  25. Kate, I love love love your day-to-day posts but I also truly appreciate when you take the time to share these deep thoughts with us. You have a knack for getting to the heart of the matter and making points that resonate with me too. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, not always easy to open your heart to the world! I loved it and think what you said is so profound! Happy New Year, I am new to bloglovin’ and look forward to reading more of your lovely blog in 2015!

  27. Nice post and congratulations on your weigh lost! Believe it or not I’m trying to regain weight that I lost trying to eliminate foods that I thought were causing my allergic reactions. In my latest blog post I’ve deemed 2015 as the year of what matters. Based on your post I see we’re in synch. Have a great 2015. Here’s to balance!

  28. Make that “weight loss” For 2015 I guess I should make a resolution not to depend so much on spell check that I don’t double check what I’m typing! My fingers have a mind of their own.

  29. One thing I’ve always admired about you is your confidence and sense of self…I feel like you’ve always written this blog on your own terms and derive great joy from it. And even though you’ve achieved great success with it, its encouraging to see you step back and reassess and ensure the choices you make are aligned with your heart. You treat this blog as a passion, not a job, and it shows. Congratulations on the weight loss! Much love and happiness to you in 2015.

  30. Kate, I’ve been reading your blog for 6 years now and I still remember like it was yesterday when I read one of your “deep thoughts” posts regarding your stepdaughters graduation from high school/the all-too-fast passage of time. That post gave me the push I needed to resign from my teaching job and stay at home with my soon-to-be daughter. 2 kids later (and one on the way) and I have never regretted that decision. My point? I love your “deep thoughts” posts and all of your other posts and you could write once a week, month, or year, and I will always be a reader. Cheers to you for leading the life YOU want to live. It is very inspiring and refreshing to me as I enter 2015.

    • Wow Jill, thank you! You’ve reminded me of that post from long ago, and thank you for the encouragement to share more often!

  31. Thank you for this wonderfully inspiring and timely post. I feel like the Universe is sending me constant messages of support right now; reminding me that it’s OK to do things my way and to take care of me. This is one such message. I call them Bruce Almighty moments. Did you ever see the film? Thank you and all the very best for 2015. Sue x

  32. You know that this just made me love you more, right? These are my goals for 2015. I quit keeping up with FB and focusing on real & tangible things for myself and for my family. I am ignoring the blogging shoulds and trying to say no a little more. This book recommendation couldn’t have come at a better time.

    I am REALLY impressed with what you are learning right now, Kate! You have (and continue to be) one of my blogging role models.

    Love you!!

  33. Thanks so much for sharing your deep thoughts. While I love and am inspired by all your projects and design ideas, this “deep thoughts” post is terrific as well. Thanks for reminding me how reflection, change, and follow through can bring about some wonderful things in our lives. You’ve inspired me to begin the process myself. Have a great 2015!

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