Incorporating Amethysts into Your Life

When speaking of the ideals of functionality, balance and peace of mind that I hope to offer clients, customers, friends and family it is hard to leave out some of my own personal habits.

According to crystal healing theories, Amethyst has the powers to help cure: physical ailments of the nervous system, emotional issues, insomnia and nightmares. Amethysts are also used in Chakra balancing therapy providing purifying, healing, and protective energies to help clear, open, and balance the Crown chakra.

So, what does this all mean for you and me and interior decor and style? 

For myself, I have taken an interest in amethysts and have incorporated them into my home and lifestyle. Most days, I wear an amethyst pendant around my neck. I now have two and a pair of earrings.  Sometimes I wear them more for style than for balance, but when I am feeling especially anxious, worried or having a bad day, I will wear my pendants to clean the negative energy away and keep my feeling balanced.



In my home, as well as my father's and mother's, I have placed small amethyst stones in the corners of the house an a large cluster on my office desk. The purpose of these stones are to provide protective energies throughout the home and stress relief from the work day. Additionally, because I sometimes have problems falling and staying asleep, there is a stone by my bed.  I recently gave a friend a nice uncut stone to hang in his room to over him some healing energy from his mental and physical ailments as well.  Can I prove these things work? No of course not.  But does it hurt to try to add some balance, purifying energy, and peace to your daily life, not at all.

If you would like to learn more about how to use crystals in your home, browse around the internet, visit your local crystal shop, or check out your library.  But be sure to read about how to energize and cleanse your crystals.

Its Time for a Change

According to a 2010 National Sleep Foundation study, fresh sheets have a positive impact on our sleep. This study found that 78% of Americans are more excited to go to sleep and 73% reported a more comfortable night’s sleep when fresh sheets are on the bed. Furthermore, the study found that 7 in 10 people who made their bed almost every day reported a better night's sleep as well!  Did you know the average American owns 3.4 sets of sheets for their own bed and reportedly swaps them every other week?1

The owners and founders of Brooklinen, a relatively new online seller of quality and inexpensive sheets recommends replacing your sheets every 2 to 3 years.  While the owners of luxury brand Vero Linens believe that luxury linens can last up to 12 years. Whether you believe one or the other, the fact is that the quality and care of your sheets has an effect on their lifespan.

Here are some key factors that will impact the life span of your bed linens:

  • Bed Sheets made with low grades of cotton will wear out quicker.
  • Exposure to high temperatures wil cause fiber breakage.
  • Stubble from shaved hair scrubs against sheets causing premature wearing.
  • Harsh chemical detergents and brighteners will lower the life span of sheets.
  • Heavier people and restless sleepers induce more friction and wear on sheets shortening the lifespan.2

So just think to yourself, how many pairs of sheets do you own?  How often do you wash them? How old are they? Do they feel worn out, pilled or rough? If you don't know the answers, you may want to start reconsidering your sleeping patterns.

I personally tested this theory and found that I had a wonderful night's sleep after changing my sheets for a fresh set! And another source close to me states that he too had a good night's rest after fitting his bed with brand new sheets and making the bed "properly". So the results are in! Why don't you try changing yours out tonight and let me know how you feel tomorrow! Sweet dreams!

1   https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf

https://www.verolinens.com/how-long-do-bed-sheets-last/

 

 

6 Quick & Easy Occupied Home Staging Tips

If you want to take advantage of the last of the spring and summer home sales, you'll want to follow these 6 quick and easy staging tips to get your home sold fast. Hopefully, you will have already organized, decluttered and updated a few things in your home in order to make it ready for the final touch - staging!

According to Zillow, Realtors name curb appeal the #1 factor in selling, so I have 3 tips to spruce up the outside of your home in minutes.

  • Do some landscaping, make sure your lawn in green and manicured, add some potted flowers to the front porch, cut any dead trees, touch up the wood chips or rocks.
  • Buy a brand new welcome mat and decorative door hanger
  • Power wash walkway, driveway, house and roof

The second group of tips is regarding in the inside of your home.  The essence of staging is to allow homeowners to visualize themselves in your home. If you are staying in your home while it is on the market, as a majority of home owners do, it is imperative to reduce the clutter! (I know I sound a little like a broken record..)

  • Pack up anything out of season, not used recently or frequently and store it in the garage, storage unit or get a donation run together!
  • Neutralize your home - take down family/personal photos, and extreme color or design choices.
  • Make the house look clean and smell nice (Some best choices of candles are cupcake or cookie scents as they make families feel at home!)

See I told you that was quick and easy!  If you aren't sure of how to do any of these, want some help executing these ideas, or want to know more of my suggestions, please reach out to me. I am happy to come out for an in-home consultation and provide my report of recommendations to get the maximum value for your home. Happy summer selling!

6 Simple Upgrades to Sell Your Home Fast


Continuing on my theme of helping you sell your home this month, here are some relatively simple upgrades you can do now to sell your home faster and get a better return on investment. Home buyers want a model home, ready to move in look, without having to pay for it. Therefore the best way to sell your home is to create that as best you can.

  • Paint - This is the first and foremost upgrade that home sell usually complete. But I am not just talking about the walls in your home. Sure, if you have a blue living room and a red kitchen, and a brown study, you should tone those colors down with neutrals that are more appealing a wide variety of prospective buyers; tan, pale yellow, off white, grey. However paint can do so much more! Consider a dated kitchen with dark wood cabinetry. A kitchen renovation may be due, however that makes no sense for your ROI, instead paint all of the cabinets white to attain a modern and bright look. Sherman Williams has a wonderful app (Color Snap Visualizer) in which you can upload a picture and test how their colors will look. I highly recommend that. tiles can be painted if you have outdated patterns or colors in the kitchen or bathroom. And you can really make your interior and exterior pop by painting the shoe molding, crown molding, chair railing and trim. Consider whether you want to have the trim blend into the walls/siding with a monochromatic look, or stand out with a complimentary color. Don't forget that your choice of paint should match the style of the home as well - American Colonial, Traditional, Victorian, Tudor, Craftsmen, Modern, etc.

Monochomatic - Craftsman home

Complimentary - Colonial home

Complimentary - Colonial home

  • Contact Paper - This is not really one of my favorite recommendations because contact paper is not very easy to work with. It is extremely sicky and difficult to get perfect without bubbles or creases. However, it can make a big difference if you have plywood shelving in your cabinets that is not easy to paint. It is also a practical solution to cabinets that already have aged contact paper that does not peel over easily. If that is your situation and you have that crazy 1970s Austin Powers/ That 70s Show pattern in your cabinets, I would suggest slapping a coat of primer down first so that the old paper does not show through. The positive thing about shelving paper is that is extremely multifunctional. It can be used on cabinet doors, shelving, counter tops, backsplashes, tiles, basically anywhere. Although I would not recommend it on a main thorough fare.
  • Carpeting - Here is the age old question: carpet or wood floors? Well if you have wood floors, in decent shape, under the carpet I always suggest removing the carpet and refinishing the floors. If that is not an option, you should always have new carpeting laid. It doesn't have to be special, stain resistant, or anything since you won't be living there and the new owner will more than likely replace it themselves. However again, we are trying to attain the model home, cared for visualization and a plush, clean, unused carpet will do that.
  • Fixtures - A home fixture is anything attached to the house, expected to be sold with the house. Replacement of some of the simplest to more complex items will give your home an updated and 'cared for' feel, especially if your fixtures of outdated or if you are drawn to a particular style that isn't common or doesn't go with the original character of the home. Below an outdated overhead light was changed with a more modern dome light, changing the feel of the breakfast nook immediately.  Replacing overhead and scone lights, kitchen and bathroom faucets, and cabinet knobs and pulls are your go-to choices. These can be done in a matter of hours. Then for maximum impact consider toilets, appliances, and bathroom vanities as well if you have more time and flexibility.
  • Bathrooms - A good bathroom is one of the most sought after places in a home, so while you don't want to spend too much of your time and money on this if you are moving out, you do want to give a prospective seller a good reason to buy your home.  Consider re-glazing the bathtub if it is cast iron and looks dated, chipped or worn. You can also purchase Rust-Oleum Tub & Tile finishing kit to update a discolored or worn ceramic, porcelain or fiberglass bath or shower yourself.  Lastly, bath fitters for bath and shower combos are also highly popular. While I don't like that concept as much as updating the current tile, placing a whole new fit fiberglass section over your tub, shower, or combo is a quick and seamless way to get a new modern look. 
  • Power washing - As I will discuss a little more in the home staging piece next, curb appeal is a HUGE part of selling your home!  So power washing is a really quick, cheap and easy way to upgrade and stage your home for sale.  Many people don't notice that their sidewalk, driveway, home siding, and roof have become discolored and stained over the years.  It's not until you actually power wash that you realize how bad it was before.  This one little clean up can make a huge difference in giving your home a manicured look, as seen below.

Before

After

I hope these ideas and tips have given you some things to think about and plan for in order to sell your home for the highest value in the quickest time! If you would like me to come out there and give you personlized recommendations, please feel free to reach out.  And if you have some of your own proven ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear about them! Happy selling!









Resources:  Exterior house colors - Better Home & Garden https://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/exteriors/curb-appeal/best-exterior-house-color-schemes/

4 Practical Steps to Decluttering

According to a recent NAR report, 95% of REALTORS recommend that sellers declutter their home before putting it on the market. So if you are trying to take advantage of the best time of year to sell or rent your home, preparing for visitors or just trying to achieved a lighter, stress free household, listen up!

In order to help clients, family, friends, and even myself organize and declutter, I follow a practical and methodical 4 step process that I want to share with you.

1. Declutter and organize by category, not by room.

More than likely you have similar things in different rooms.  If you have small closets, you may have clothes or shoes in multiple places.  The same goes for pots and pans, tupperware, bedding etc.  So when you start with each group, search the entire house for those items in order to evaluate and make decisions based.

2. Ask yourself the following 3 questions when evaluating your belongings:​

  1. Does it serve a function?
  2. Does it make me happy to own; give me enjoyment? Or does it make me stressed, annoyed, sad, angry?
  3. Do I have a similar item and do I need both/multiple? (Think less is more!)

The easiest items to evaluate with these questions are clothes and furniture.  I recently, finally, donated a shirt that I have had in my closet for 2 years and only wore once. I loved the way it looked on the rack. I loved the colors and pattern. The material was soft and light. But each time I took it out and put it on, it didn't seem to quite fit my body correctly and the colors washed me out, so I would put it back in my closet.  Finally one day I said, "why do I even have this?!" Yes, I had spent money on this shirt, however that money is gone, I don't receive it back each time I wear the shirt. Now the shirt is no longer in my closet and I no longer give any thought to the fact that I wasted money or that it doesn't look right.

Sometimes the situation calls for multiple questions to be asked.  Take a broken table for example: it no longer serves it's original function. If you are handy and fix things often, then physically schedule a day on the calendar to fix it. If you plan on getting to it some day, but for now it is one of many on a list of planned projects that you look at every weekend and think "jeez I'm just so busy, I never have time for my projects", get rid of it. It brings you more stress now than it does joy. So what is the point of keeping it?

I realize you might say, "what about mementos and keepsakes?" Keepsakes do serve a function, they do make you happy, but you can't let yourself get bogged down by them. Don't keep every greeting card you receive or every picture from the age of film camera rolls. Sort, make scrap books, decide on one category of item to save from trips or special events (ticket stubs for example), but be particular and mindful about your choices. In 10 years, will it still be important to you?

3. Have patience.

It can take months to fully declutter your life and change your way of thinking about your belongings, it will NOT happen over night. Yes you can clean out multiple rooms in a day, but in order to be successful in keeping yourself organized and decluttered, you have to be open and willing to practice these new tactics and change your way of thinking.

4. Ask for help!​

If you are not sure that you can truly go through your belongings​ and evaluate them subjectively, you are not alone. If you don't know where to start, you are not alone.  Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and especially professionals. I would be happy to help your start, get back on track, or complete your decluttering process.  I am just an email or phone call away!

Bonus tip:  Storage solutions can be your friend or your foe! They can truly help you organize yourself, or they can just be a device to hide the clutter (think junk drawer.) Be mindful of how you are utilizing them.

Furbaby Feelings Matter Too



So after talking about mental health in our lives and the importance of having your own personal space, I thought it was also important to talk about our pets and how we can help them have a positive mental life. I know it sounds kind of super hippy and new age of me but give me a chance to explain.

Your pets' mental health is often a reflection of your own, and vice versa. It is well known that cats purring has healing powers (the frequency of their vocalization can improve bone density and promote overall healing1). Dogs on the other hand are incredibly smart and capable of being trained to give all sorts of assistance to the disabled, as well as give comfort in time of sorrow or sickness, reduce anxiety, depression, and blood pressure2. Multiple recent studies show that horses are able to sense a person's emotions, moods, and trust3 . So it's not a far leap to say that making sure your fur baby is comfortable and at peace in your home is important for the overall well-being of the family.

In the Home

Just like a humans, having a little special place for our animals is good for their mental health. We have a rescue scaredy cat so it is imperative that we have a safe space for her to hide when friends with dogs come over or we have a get together. I have always created this out of that first room I put them in when we move because it is the first sight and smell they connect with during the moving process in the new home and therefore stays ingrained as "their" room.  The space has their water, food, cat tree, and their carry bags. Most days I often find them lounging in there, as seen below, left, my little Maggie sitting on her perch in the sun. For my mom, this space the mudroom where the dog beds and crates are. Also below is her pup Benji, happily sitting in his crate playing with toys and newspaper.  Often, we find him napping there and taking a rest from playing.

Routine

The other thing that makes animals feel safe and secure is a routine. Just the same as it is important for small children. It is widely believed that animals can't tell time and don’t know how long you have been gone. But my cats, and friend's and family's pets, know patterns. They know when it feel like time for dinner, bed, treats, a walk, etc. For example my cats know that on the weekends or a holiday, basically anytime my boyfriend and I are both home sleeping late, that they will get a little bit of milk when we get up and make coffee. So on the weekends they anxiously wait for us to get up sometimes if we sleeping very late they start jumping on us and running to the kitchen. On normal weekdays, they abide by our routine of getting up and out to work and don't really beg for any milk. Similarly when we clip their nails or give them medicine, it is always followed by a treat. So while they don’t enjoy the activity, they often sit still knowing they will get a reward afterwards. And should we hesitate on the reward, oooh they let us know! My sister told me the other day that her older cat comes downstairs and starts meowing at them if they don't come up to bed by a certain time. So it's obvious that while they may not know the time, they definitely know something! Patterns and routine things train or condition them to understand cause and effect, action and reward, but it also gives them a sense of security of the known - Knowing they'll always get dinner around the time the sun goes down, or time you come home from work, etc.. Whatever the pattern, a routine increases their feeling of security and stability.

During transition
Our pets are always intrigued with what we are doing. When you start piling your clothes on the bed to spring clean do your animals come to see what you're doing? When you are packing dont them come in and check out what's going on? Often sitting in or on your belongings and luggage? I would say this is 1) they just want to be in the same room as you, 2) they don't want you to leave, 2) as we discussed above, they can tell if something is going on with you mentally. So when you are moving or transitioning, seeing familiar items put into boxes and leave the house doubles intrigue with concern. And if you have a rescue pet that is prone to abandonment or separation anxiety, this can be very scary for him or her..

What I have learned from moving 5 times with my cats and helping friends with animals move is that you have to make the process as easy and carefree for them as possible. You have to conisder ift from their point of view - they can't ask where the boxes are going, why and more importantly if they are invited too. When you leave on vacation, they often don't get to come, so how should they know this is any different? They can only watch and hope.

The last time we moved was our most successfully planned and executed, because we had a new rescue kitten who does have some anxiety. Here are the things we leared and the tips we received from friends and family. (Note, these tips work if you are moving close by and completing the move in a day or two.)

  • Pack the small things you don’t use often first just as you would any move. These items are not important to you or the animals and may seem like a spring cleaning activity to them.
  • Find a room in the house that the animals are most comfortable with and that can be moved last. If it's not "their space" move some of their favorite items in and set it up for the animals a few days prior to your move so they get used to it - Ours had a litter box, cat tree, toys, a futon and a blanket they both like to cuddle on. We even gave them food in there the day before our move to get them adjusted.
  • Be sure to keep a few of their things out of this room. Ideally if you have a two day move, you can spend the night in the old house and a new room with toys and food set up at the new place for arrival. 
  • On moving day, try to stay as close to your animals' normal routine - food, walks etc. Some friends give their animals help relaxing in the form or homeopathic "Rescue Remedy" or vet prescribed assistance.
  • Close them into "their" room.
  • Get everything loaded for the move.
  • If possible, go to the new home and unload items. Then go back to retrieve the furbabies and the last few things.
  • If that is not possible, load them last. Make sure they have a comfortable hiding spot in the smoothest riding vehicle. Provide them with their toys, water, favorite blanket/bed/crate, etc. I will never forget my cat hiding inside his litter box for the entire 7 hour drive to move from Connecticut to Maryland. To him, that was safe.  My rescue cat hid inside the hole of the cat tree on our short move across two towns (see below).
  • Take them to the new place and set up their new room for them with the few things you brought. Maybe put a couch or blankets that they like in the new room with their food, water, and toys. Close them into this new room to learn the new smells while you set up the rest of the house. If possible have someone hang out with them – a child, friend, spouse – whom they know to reassure them and give them comfort during this confusing time.
  • When things are calmer and the majority of unpacking is done, the house has all the things they recognize unloaded, let them out to explore the new spaces.

If you have the ability to spread the move out, and/or are buying new furnishings this process is a little bit easier. As you can leave more at the old home for familiarity and can introduce the animals to the new home once everything is on its place. Instead of having them locked in one room. But the essential steps are the same.

Do you have any tips or tricks you have used when moving your pets? Do you follow a daily or weekly pattern for your animals? What kind of things do you do? Do you have a special place your animals are drawn to? A place they like best, where they can hide when the thunder rolls or many people come over? I would love to know your comments, thoughts, and ideas! And pictures are welcome on social media! I'll leave you with one of my favorite pictures, four of my mom's dogs, all lounging on the bed like it's theirs... well, it is.









Sources:

1 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-cats-purr/?redirect=1​

2 https://pethelpful.com/dogs/The-Healing-Power-of-the-Dog​

3 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/horses-human-emotions-remember-happy-people-response-sussex-university-study-a8324921.html​

Transforming Outdoor Spaces

As I said in my previous post, I grew up on a small farm in Connecticut. There was always things to do outside, riding the horses, cleaning the stalls, playing in the makeshift tree house, swimming, jumping on the trampoline, playing (and shoveling) snow, ice skating, sledding, raking leaves, and playing basketball on the concrete slab where we simultaneously hung my hoop and a clothesline. I think my favorite outdoor activity was probably mowing the lawn. I would pretend I was an open road race car driver winding around the intricate garden plots Mom had planted in a sort of open square with each side on its own and a bird bath in the middle. And just like a driver, I had to watch my course because mowing over the tiger lilies, tulips, hydrangeas, bleeding hearts, or echinacea flowers was just as dangerous as a crash.

That all being said, it is no surprise that an outdoor space in my home is a must. And the cute little screened in patio attached to my ranch house, has given my a small little retreat space I also wanted when we lived in a town house. Now my perfect outdoor space is the Hanging Garden of Babylon! Ideally there would be a Weeping Willow and a lake (like the Constitutional Gardens in Washington D.C. below) or a Weeping Cherry Tree, but that is a little extravagant for my budget and ability.

I would even settle for this pagoda with hanging wisteria I saw in the National Arbortetum last year. Purple is my favorite color…

But as a renter, it is hard to achieve that look without spending a ton of money that is really an investment in someone else’s home. So taking the key concepts for making a personal space indoors, I created a cool little boho vibe in my patio for under $500 and never really set out to.

So to continue on my theme of using home spaces to boost your mental health I wanted to share some ideas on outdoor spaces. Here are my must haves to transform your outdoor space into your very own retreat.

  • Not just patio furniture, but furnishings – Furnish your outdoor just as you would your home. Pick pieces that capture you and speak to your room’s purpose. Do you want to entertain or relax? I like a bit of both. So I have a table and chairs for outdoor meals and friends to gather around as well as a chaise lounge for myself to sit in the sun, read, listen to music or lounge (that is what is it for, right?). You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for decent pieces. At Home, Target, Wayfarer, or even Big Lots all have good looking items for packaged deal prices. If you want to splurge and get some really sleek looking pieces then go for Pier 1 or Pottery Barn.
  • Comfort every time – My mission in life is to bring you functionality and peace of mind, therefore if you need to decide between style and comfort, choose comfort. (Ideally you can have both). My chaise lounge is green wicker. Its not fancy, its functional. My mom gifted it to me and it blends into the background of trees and plants. But it was the item that first set the tone and direction for my patio.
  • Just add pillows – If you love the Moroccan vibe, then you know what I am saying! Just like indoor throw pillows, by adding beautiful statement pillows, you change the enter feeling of a space. And don’t be afraid to experiment and mix prints and patterns. A combination of patterns work well together when they are paired with a neutral background. Just make sure there is a single color that is creating continuity in the space. When I added my medallion pillow (above) and red lounge pillows from Lowes garden center to my chaise lounge, it right away gave my boring patio a softer feel and me a direction for decorating the rest. Red is my central color and green is my secondary (most because of the greenery throughout and outside the patio emphasizing the few green items within).
  • Make a statement–Among the cement floor and solid sling back chairs, that pillow became my statement piece. I followed the colors patterns to choose a bright green metal drum style table, and decided I wanted hanging plants instead of flowers. I saw a cute solar latern that I thought had a similar mosaic feeling at Plow & Hearth to put on the table. Then all of a sudden the personality of my patio started to come together. So what is your statement piece, do you have one? Next time you go to a store, why not buy that little thing you thought would be so perfect for the space.
  • Bring your personality – Just because it is outdoors doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a little piece of your in your patio, garden, porch area. What do you enjoy? What brings you joy? Similar to the indoor personal space, you want to feel at home, whether relaxed, energized, confident, or reminiscent. If you like hosting, have a little bar area. I crave that relaxation sanctuary feel, maybe something to do with reaching back to my childhood and feeling peaceful in the outdoors. I wanted to incorporate my travels and the sounds that bring me relaxation and peace of mind. So I put up Tibetan prayers flags on one side, which reminds me of being on the cement rooftop patios in India, and windchimes. It has now honestly become an obsession. I started with one. Then I bought a beautiful handmade beach glass one in Jekyll Island, Georgia. And so it began... and now I have 5 windchimes in my patio, each one gives off a different sound. Once is glass, two are seashells (but different types), one aluminum, and one steel. I have yet to find the perfect bamboo one. So whatever brings in that vibe you are looking for, go for it!
  • Lighten up Light and ambiance can change everything. Think of a dim light bedroom, a bright and airy sitting room, a fluorescent office. They all have their own light and feel. So jazz up your outdoor space with lighting. A friend of mine has Edison bulbs all along his fence in his pool area, it has a rustic without being too fancy. Since I was going for the hanging gardens feel, I bought solar light strings on Amazon, put them in mason jars I had and bought at the thrift store, and then hung them along the columns of the patio. There are 8 total solar lights, so now as the sun sets, each jar starts to sparkle and the mosaic glass on the table shines brightly. Its not enough to light up the entire patio, but it definitely adds a great ambiance that I have received many compliments on.
  • Tie it all together – Area rugs are used to tie a room and it's furnishings together, adding physical and emotional warmth. So the same can be said of utilizing an outdoor rug. I'll admit that I thought the idea of an outdoor rug was silly when my boyfriend first suggested it. However after researching the options, ranging from cotton to wicker, I settled on a light weight plastic material that could easily be shaken out and hosed off and complimented my medallion pillow and bohemian style. When I put it down the room transformed into a… room. It no longer felt like an outdoor space, but like an extension of the house. And my cats loved the ability to have a soft place to crouch and experience the sights and sounds of nature. Therefore I highly recommend adding this last item to your space.

Putting it all together, above is my beloved patio retreat.  

Martyn Lawrence, interior designer to the stars says, “don’t be afraid to be eclectic.” So have fun with your space, make it your own, be bold, and make a statement. Most of all get outside and enjoy the outdoors! I'll leave you with a picture of my cat, Mau, enjoying the full glory of our patio in hopes that you too may create such a haven for yourself in your patio, porch or backyard. 

Creating Indoor Sanctuary Spaces

Growing up in Connecticut, I lived on an 8 acre horse farm and we were always encouraged to be outside even if I was just reading my book. Now I live in a cute little ranch style house with a screened-in back patio, (which is what made me over look the age and condition of the rest of the home and the lack of usable backyard space, when we signed our lease 3 years ago). I enjoy going out there with my cats almost every day, but it wasn’t always like this.

I have lived in my fair share of dorm rooms, volunteer shelters when I worked in AmeriCorps, and the unbearable one bedroom 3rd floor condo with my boyfriend when I first moved to Maryland. What made that condo unbearable to me was the idea of not having a private outdoor space to enjoy. I felt like my skin would start itching and my feet start tapping. However, it dawned on me at some point that my need for “being outside” wasn’t really always about being outdoors. To me, the outdoors is a sanctuary, a calming, enjoyable space that feels refreshing to my mind and body. To others it isn’t as much. And since I had just moved in with someone for the first time, what I realized was that I really needed my own personal sanctuary space that would foster that same feeling, but indoors so that it was accessible year round.

Soon after that I created a little nook in the corner of our room. It had an alter that I set up with statues and stones I had brought back from my studies in India, a thangka (aTibetan Buddhist painting on cotton and silk appliqué, depicting dieties, symbols or scenes) and a comfortable place to sit next to the window. It was minimal but effective in giving me a sense of myself. 

That was 9 years ago and since then we have lived in 4 other homes.  After all the moving around in my life I have become pretty creative with making a personal space, even when there is not much room to work with. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I think this is a great time for everyone to consider whether they have a personal space and how they can create one. So, here is what I have learned.

The first step is to decide the type of spot you want to create. As I see it, there are two types:

  • Power Spot – think energizing, uplifting, invigorating - Marie Kondo says that you should embrace the things that make you happy with pride and confidence and use those to create a power spot.

My running medal rack - my biggest source of pride courage

  • Reflection Spot – picture calming, quiet and nurturing - A place to unwind; reading, meditating, yoga, knitting, whatever brings you joy and peace.

A sweet reading spot seen in a house for sale in Maui, Hawaii

Now this isn’t to say that these cannot be combined. I, personally, have taken aspects of both of those categories and tied them into my space. And if crafting or kick boxing is your passion; makes you happy and confident and also helps you unwind, then that may be your combo space.

Once you have decided what type of space you would like to have, its time to design it. While each space is personal to the owner, there is a formula to the creation.

  • Choose your color wisely.  Colors matter!  Depending on the use of your space, you will want to utilize different hues. Warm colors (red, orange and yellow) are energizing, positive, and passionate. Cool colors (blue, green and purple) are more peaceful and balanced.  Navy blue was just determined the world's most relaxing color! Green goes a little of both ways, bright green can be energizing, great for creativity and brain power i.e. reading and craft rooms.  Light green is often coupled with pale blue in yoga, massage and therapy rooms.  Purple which is located between blue and red on the color wheel has a great combination of both, leading it to be a romantic and whimsical color.  Your neutrals (black, brown, grey, white) can carry mystery and sophistication, however can also be stark and generic. For personalization I wouldn't recommend sticking only with neutrals., but using them to compliment color. Joanna Gaines, star of HGTV's Fixer Upper, says that "committing to color in a small area is also a lot less risky than having to repaint a whole house", so go bold!
  • Bring the outside in. If you can, place potted plants or flowers in your space. There are numerous mental and physical benefits gained from having greenery in your home. Taking care of plants teaches you compassion and empathy towards others, and also eases anxiety and depression. Research concludes that even the sight of plants can bring these feelings. Furthermore the oxygen released and carbon dioxide removed by plants can keep your home and inhabitants healthy. helping your body to heal faster, sleep better, stay focused, be productive and more.[1]
  • Sit facing a window or perpendicular to it. For many of the same reasons discussed above that bringing plant life into your space is beneficial, so is having an accessible window. You will have the added benefit of being able to open it for your senses to grasp the outdoors – sights, sounds, breeze, warmth, coolness, smells, etc. You can also gaze off and daydream when you need a break. If you are creating an office space or something with an electronic screen, a window is particularly important to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. A few of the outdoor my also entice you to get up and go for a walk or step outside for a it. And the natural light will illuminate your room for added radiance and energy. (This was very crucial during my condo days).
  • Carve out a space for your hobby. If you enjoy reading, add comfortable and cozy seating with pillows and blankets and whatever else you need to snuggle up with your book and fade away. Enjoy yoga? Make sure the space is large enough for your mat and pose extension. If you like crafting, set up your own craft corner or table that you could store and work on your projects.
  • Surround yourself with things that you love. This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.  If this space is your personal spot, then it should be able you.  Some of the things that come to mind are pictures of family, friends, or places you have visited. If you are a collector, then you should have those.  A friend of mine said she collect snow globes, so I would expect her globes to be displayed in her favorite spot for her to always see.
  • Ensure there is space for company, if desired. While this space is made to be yours, to bring you the feelings of comfort you need, our friends and family are also what and who we love. And we may want them to be able to experience our space. If you have kids, they may want to crawl up into your reading chair with you sometimes, or stretch out next to you when you are doing yoga. Instead of  pushing them away, embrace their need to be close to you and your mutual love for each other as it will make you feel even more powerful and confident.  Our fur family is no different. They often want to be with us for hours out of the day, so giving them a spot in your space. This will ease their minds and yours as well.

The picture above is my personal space. It has a reading nook piled with pillows, my bookshelf with stories, mementos and pictures from my life, as well as some artificial flowers because unfortunately my cats will eat real ones. A window to my front yard is just out of the scene. I can stretch out of the floor in the morning and usually have a furry companion while I do so. My favorite color is purple, so I have that and different complimenting colors to foster creativity, peace and power. Since we rent, I can not paint the walls, so unfortunately they are still white. Having spent 20 years competitively running, one of the recent additions is a place to hang my medals. I only just recently moved those from our television room that we had decorated in a sports theme. I had always had them in my space in previous homes and my space didn’t feel quite complete without them, but now, I truly feel that this room reflects me. It is calming when I need it to be, as well as providing me with confidence and energy from my past accomplishments and future goals.

And now that we finally have an outdoor area, I have made the patio more of my reflection spot, filled with the items that calm and sooth me. But that is for my discussion of outdoor spaces for next time!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite pictures. My sister created the peaceful spot seen below, left, for herself to read her Reiki and other books after moving in with her fiancé and feeling some of the same things I had experienced. Yet soon after she enjoyed her spot, so did her dog Pacha. Now it is Pacha’s favorite space to sit, just as my cats love to snooze on my reading ottoman, whether I am in the room or not.

Do you have a personal sanctuary space in your home? A power spot, reflection spot or something else? I would love to know what’s in it!



[1] https://www.ecowatch.com/health-benefits-of-having-plants-at-home-2608386260.html

My Favorite Places to Find Bargains

If you are looking for high quality items, there are a number of stores where you can purchase beautiful furniture, fixtures and accessories local to your area and nationally. However I am not going to talk about those, because that isn't my thing. If you are a little more cost conscious, like myself, then you are familiar with Overstock and Wayfair (some of the most popular online stores) as well as the popular physical store Pier 1. Then for organizers, The Container Store and Amazon can be our holy grail. But if you are on a budget and just looking to spruce up your space with a few decor or organizing items, those places can really add up.  So I have put together a few of my favorite bargain recommendations for you, that go beyond your local Target!

  • Home Goods – part of the same conglomerate as TJ Maxx and Marshalls, but as the name implies Home Goods is household oriented. This is probably a well know one, but I thought I would start us off simple. They are great for cheap kitchen and bathroom items, canvas artwork to fill odd spaces or blank walls, and ohh the selection of canvas totes and boxes for organizing! But beware, finding things there is hit and miss; they never have the same things twice and items are spread out across the store. So, if you see something you like, you better snag it because you will probably never see one again.
  • At Home – This store is new in my area. Maybe you know of it, but I absolutely love it! The first time I walked in, I just strolled up and down the aisles in awe. The throw pillows were organized by size and color. It was like a dream. Here is the awe struck picture I snapped, its ridiculous I know, but everything is arranged very easily to understand with tons of options. So as opposed to seeing only one kitchen pot rack, there are 6 kinds. Bathroom accessories, two aisles. Storage totes and boxes, 4 aisles.  Not just one centerpiece vase, but you have your choice of silver, yellow gold, nickel, rose gold, brushed metals, ceramics and glasses of different colors… I think you get where I am going.
  • Big Lots - This is an interesting store.  To be honest the quality is not very good.  It's a step up from the Family Dollar or similar, but if you are looking for something really simple like a cheap shower curtain, those plastic stackable storage drawers for the kids bathroom, basic outdoor furniture, or even a cute little gnome to put in your garden, they have all of that.  Just don't expect it to last more than a few years or make it through a few moves.
  • Charming Charlies - This is a jewelry and accessory chain store. So you are probably wondering why I suggest it. Well, they have darling little jewelry bowls, stands, and plates. If you are shopping for a statement piece to stage a home for sale, you may be able to grab something cute for cheap. Also perfect for pre-teen and teen gifts. I bought this little ceramic white and gold decorate plate that is perfect for a bathroom or a master bedroom, for $8.00.
  • Thrift stores! - This is really more for decorating than organizing. I am addicted to this one by my house, Wagging Tails. It’s similar to an antique mall in that it is HUGE and there are tons of things spread across the warehouse. But, it is all donations AND the proceeds go to MCHS, our local county humane society. Bargains and helping animals, what more do you need?! I have found great gems there including these amazing red glass votives, a mercury glass bottle, unused candles (flame and flameless), and surround sound speakers (ok that last one is irrelevant to home decor, but I wanted to make a point that the options are endless). I think it helps that I live in an affluent and diverse area as well. If you have a wealthier neighborhood/county near you, I would definitely suggest scoping out the thrift stores in that area as you will find better quality items. If you don’t have anything like that, Goodwill and Salvation Army are worth a peak as well. I personally haven't had good luck at yard sales or estate sales because often those items are out of fashion or very used, but if you have had some good finds or again a wealthier neighborhood, go for it!
  • Your own closet! Ok you came here looking for suggestions of places to buy new to you things, but I just started really thinking about repurposing and re-using items in a different way lately, so wander around your house and take a look. Is there something that you aren't using that may be better somewhere else.  Because not buying anything is the best bargain of all!

I hope this has been a little helpful, that I at least gave you an idea or two you didn't already have.  Let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions for your area, local to me or on a national level that myself or others should check out.  ​ Happy bargain hunting!

My Favorite Home Decor Items

Just like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, I have prepared a few of my favorite home decorating (and also staging) accessories that don’t cost a lot if you know where to look for them (i.e. check out my next post on great places for bargain buys!).  I think these items give you the most bang for you buck; eye catching and attractive. For staging, that little little emotional connection that a few of the create, is ideal to give a potential buyer the feeling of a home, not a house.  So without further adieu, here are my 8 personal favorite staging/decorating items.

1. Glass mosaic votives - I'll admit it, I may have a collection of mosaic votives in different shapes sizes and colors. I love them all. Some give off beautiful spectacle of light when holding candles or the sunlight hits them, others just remind me of stain glass. I have a gold glass one that is sophisticated and eye catching for a modern, chic staged home. This large red glass one holds a large pillar candle around the holidays, and my small challis style votives are more earthy; remind me of a Moroccan outdoor eatery. Whatever you choose, I don't really think you can go wrong, however it does have to fit the style of the rest of your furnishings.  So keep that in mind.

2. Decorative entryway bowl/tray – Mine is actually a candle stand, I bought it at a thrift store. There are only two of us in our household so it holds our keys and my boyfriend's wallet. Many people use ceramic or wood bowls and sometimes trays. For some families this is also the mail drop, but don't let this become your catch-all. Your entryway should be clutter free!

3. Imitation flowers - Not just any fake flowers, they have to be excellent imitations that make you take a second look to confirm they aren't real. Hearth & Hand (By Joanna and Chip Gaines) have adorable ones; Magnolias (obviously) and Hydrangeas. Home Goods has them in all different shapes and sizes; loose and in vases. I bought a few with gel that looks like water. And I even bought a few succulents, because somehow I always kill the real ones.

4. Windchimes – There’s nothing that says summer to me like windchimes blowing in the wind. Now I am slightly biased (I have 5 sets), but I think that for a home with a great patio or porch, this would be a marvelous little touch to the home staging. It would really create the ambiance of relaxation in the outdoor space.

5. Pillows with gold accents - As I look around my home I see that I have multiple sets of pillows with gold accents, all in different rooms. I would have thought that earthy reds and browns are the colors that tie my home together, but I think it is actually brown and gold. Gold accented pillows are great because they add a little pop and sparkle when natural or artificial light hits them. You can choose modern styles  like this pattern or a rustic twist like this adorable vintage pickup truck I picked up at the At Home store. My boyfriend has worked on cars his whole life, so I bought it for him (but obviously it was really for me 😀 )

6. Flameless candles - These can come in unscented or, somehow, scented.  I love these because they are safe around pets and children, you don't have to worry about putting them out, they don't melt everywhere, and they give off the same alluring glow of a flame.  I have bunched a few together on my table for quiet evenings.  Sometimes I even light one real candle or wax melt, while those are flickering in different rooms to make it seem that I have many candles glowing. I have to admit, this is my friend's arrangement, I just thought it was so beautiful that I took a picture.  

7. Nest candles – And what candle burns that gives off enough fragrance to trick someone into thinking all of the flameless candles are also scented, you ask? Nest candles! They are expensive but last a while and are totally worth it. Birchwood Pine is my ultimate favorite. It smells like the holidays to me for some reason – it reminds me of nutmeg and cinnamon and mulled cider and Christmas trees. Its funny because I was introduced to it by a friend in Hawaii so that is the opposite of my experience, but none the less. This says “home” to me, if I walked into a house for sale with that burning, I might be sold. I burn it before people come over and when I am trying to unwind.

8. Large decorative mirrors - These are a pretty well known tool of the trade, but I can’t make a list without mentioning it. Mirrors open up your space, making any room appear larger… just don’t put mirrors across the entire wall. It was a trendy idea in the early 80s, but it makes the room feel like a carnival. Boy am I glad that is out of fashion.

So there you have it. A few things you might want to pick up to spruce up your house before your next gathering, your in-laws come over, or if you are interesting in renting or selling your house.  But if you really want to get the most for your home, hiring a professional stager is really your the 9th and best purchase you can make.  Let me know what you think of my list and if you have any to add of your own!

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