Buying my first place has been a really educational experience. I posted earlier about how I got boxed in with paint colors. Today I reflected on another lesson. When it comes to software development, I always try to follow a step-by-step approach. Mock something simple, see how it feels, decide what to do next. Rinse and repeat, and let the design unfold. It’s a slow game of patience and confidence, and I swear by it for the best results.

Why then, am I doing the exact opposite with our condo? We still haven’t closed, and I have a precision scaled floorplan in Illustrator full of furniture arrangements. I have a Backpack page detailing the exact sofa, sideboard, console, shelving, and landing strip gear. It’s a master plan with every piece fitting into the puzzle. And I haven’t the faintest idea if I’ll actually like it all.

I know I’m doing it all wrong. I should go to the real space and start with one thing. Pick the perfect sofa, put it in the living room, and feel it out. What is needed next? What would compliment the room now? What’s the next-most-important thing? My top-down plan is the total opposite of such a sensible bottom-up approach. So what’s going on here?

Here’s the secret: Uncertainty. It’s the same reason why so many people balk when we tell them to throw their functional spec out the window. I care so much about the design and feel and function of my condo-to-be that I can’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing how it will turn out. I want to know NOW so I can stop worrying about it. And of course, it’s impossible to really know what the best design will be without actually building the real thing step by step. But still, I don’t want to wait for such realities. And so I plan, and I plan, and I plan.

Plans are a strategy against uncertainty. The problem is, they only make you certain of your imagination. I’m lucky enough to know that my plan is a nervous occupation, not something I’ll follow. I haven’t purchased that sofa, that sideboard, or those shelves yet. And the next time someone furrows their brow when I tell them to slow down and go step by step, I’ll remember the feeling.