Minnesota-based Wit & Delight attracts an audience from around the world, and the company’s origin story revolves around founder Kate Arends’ feelings of anxiety. “I started in late 2008 when the stock market was going crazy and I was worried about losing my job. And I thought I might as well deal with the anxiety by betting on myself.” More than a decade later Wit & Delight reaches millions of people every month through its website and social media channels such as Pinterest and Twitter.
In the beginning, Wit & Delight focused primarily on design and decor – but that focus changed in 2013. “I decided to bring sort of a lifestyle aspect that didn’t have to do with material things, that had a lot more to do with how you view the things in your world and how you’re treating yourself. Mental health became a huge platform and topic for us to champion, and things really changed when we began to talk about being good to yourself so you can live a better life,” Arends says.
With success came a full-time staff, but the heart of Wit & Delight is Kate, herself. She writes content for the website and is the woman behind the company’s popular Instagram account. She credits honesty and openness as keys to attracting a loyal audience. “On platforms that are about communicating one-on-one, we found that it’s a lot easier and a lot better for everyone if I’m the one talking to people and listening to what they’re interested in and then letting that drive what we try to do next,” she says.
What better way to get a real sense for the work that Kate and her team do day-in and day-out than to experience it firsthand. Here, she shares an article that originally appeared on Wit & Delight.
Why Decorating Your Home Is Good for Your Mental Health
By Kate Arends
When I can’t control my worries with meditation or a good SSRI (praise be), I will indulge in a night of rage cleaning—wherein I feverishly tidy every corner of my home hoping to uncover some sort of calm and peace. Sometimes I feel better. Sometimes I feel worse. It’s almost always a sign I’m not managing my stress levels. And now that I’m talking about rage cleaning, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
We all have little quirks we turn to when feeling a little (or a lot) anxious. Mine? Well, rage cleaning became the coping mechanism in my teenage years. Every time a stressor loomed, I would get into organization mode, sometimes taking it upon myself to organize my siblings’ rooms along with my parents’ kitchen. Once, I placed notes on everyone’s bedside tables outlining how we could all do our part in making mornings a little less hectic and chaotic. My parents thought it was cute (mostly because I wasn’t out getting tattoos—still a cardinal sign in their eyes). They saw and appreciated my gusto for self-improvement, but in hindsight, my propensity to improve and control myself and others came from anxiety and battered self-esteem.
It came from the expectations to win another national title; the pressure of maintaining a size zero pant size; the genuine struggles with ADHD I kept hidden from everyone. In trying to improve and control everything around me, I was just looking for an escape from the pressures of looming adulthood. Perhaps my inclination to control my surroundings was the beginning of an itch to “leave the nest,” coupled with a bit of teenage angst. Yet a little over 15 years later, home (for me) needs to be a place where the external stressors of my world are required to wait outside.
I rage clean less today because I found a new way of dealing with the chaos of the world around me, and that is… being slightly obsessed with nesting and ALL things related to interior design.
In many ways, caring for your space is a form of self-care.
Our personal spaces are the ones that set the stage for our lives. They do not require a vision board or even a Pinterest board. And while removing clutter is a huge part of caring for your space, it won’t necessarily reveal the home you NEED, just the one you might think you want. While we can’t control much of anything in this world, we can control what our spaces do for our psyche and our time spent with one another. We don’t need a picture-perfect house or designer furniture to create a haven for ourselves. In fact, if you’re feeling triggered by what you don’t have as it relates to material things, it probably means it is time go inward and explore what you may need emotionally or physically at home to feel more at peace. Easier said than done, but it’s usually what I need when I start comparing my life to someone else’s.
So what does my personal haven from the outside world look like? It’s a place where it is ok to be as messy as I’d like, to cry as loudly as I please, to indulge in frivolity without guilt. It’s the place where my kids feel like they can be 100% themselves, and can also begin to learn their own tactics for self-care—like when they need alone time or a little nook that’s all their own. It’s having that spot on the couch where we have our hard talks and good fights. It’s where everything that really matters happens. And most of it is right within our four walls.
Start with what you cherish about your life that money can’t buy. Then build your home around it.
What I’ve realized as we prepared for our 2019 remodel is this: The care I put into my space is almost always a reflection of the care I needed myself. It’s a reflection of what I’m teaching my kids about advocating for their own needs, and recognizing that my space is their space. In a way, designing my home became a subconscious way to heal during the years I was in therapy, and the way I prepared to become the best mother I could be before the babies arrived. Today, taking care of my space is just another way I show my family I love them. And really, there isn’t one style, design aesthetic or budget that can make that happen for you. It’s much simpler than that.
And speaking of love and simple pleasures, as I am sitting here writing this—hot coffee in hand and light streaming in from the windows—this song came on:
I’ll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me.
Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is done.
Such a cozy room,
The windows are illuminated by the evening sunshine through them,
Fiery gems for you, only for you.
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy ’cause of you and our—
La, la, la
– “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Special Thanks: Bridgette Dutkowski, Bridget Borden
Minnesota Music: J. Briozo, Javi Santiago, Ellis
Production Team: Amy Melin, Brennan Vance, Ezra Gold, Joe Demko
This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.
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