A Few Quick Holiday Decorating Tips

Holiday decorating and spirit, for me, doesn’t start until December. It isn’t December 1st or anything specific like that, I just like to take some times to decompress from the Thanksgiving craziness, then start focusing on Christmas and the New Year.

This year I decorated on December 7th, because it was the first weekend following Thanksgiving holiday. I had already heard a number of Christmas songs on the radio, saw the decor in stores and commercials on television and felt the holiday spirit bubbling inside. Now I don’t go all out, but I do like to bring holiday joy inside and outside the house. So here are a few of my tips for creating the perfect holiday decorating experience in your home.

1. Pick a style and color combination to carry throughout your decorating. There are a number of styles you can choose from and they usually coincide with your home style or family traditions.

a. Classic– red and white

b. White Christmas – just as it sounds

c. Traditional – red and green, heavy ornamental and décor emphasis (I think of my Grandma’s Christmas tree)

d. Rustic – pine cones, mason jars, burlaps and plaid, natural elements

e. Glam – metallics, sequins, mirrored glass, with a few bright colors

f. Modern – unconventional colors and items: think white faux tree, hot pinks, and turquoise décor.

g. Vintage – antique items, Saint Nick décor, muted colors, heirloom items.

h. Coastal – blues and whites and seaside decor

i. Bohemian - lots of bells, tassels and beads

j. A combination of these or your own personal style

I would call my style a whimsical classic theme. It starts with my use of Santa Claus and nutcrackers figurines, there's an air of playfulness in my loves of snowglobes, but also includes romantic elements with multiple flameless candles and glass votives. I gravitate towards classic reds and metallic golds with a little green and white splashed in there. I prefer white lights outside my house with a mix of muted colored lights inside.

2. You can’t go too big or too small – maybe you’re a Griswald and want the brightest house in the neighborhood and your house to look like Santa's workshop. Go for it.  New York City interior stylist Erin Swift, featured in Better Homes and Garden Magazine this month, uses the rule of 100 light per 1.5 feet of tree and 10 ornaments per foot. Her tree is overflowing with pezzaz. On the other hand, maybe you just like simple understated tree and a quaint wreath on the door. Or maybe you are somewhere in between. The holidays are about family, traditions, being thankful for what we have, giving back to others. Do what feels best for you, your family, and your fur family. And if that is sitting on the couch watching some football and ignoring decorating and music, well that is fine too.

3. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get in the holiday spirit – Sure if you want to get the mercury glass set of ornaments at Pier 1 or West Elm, do it! But you can also get steals at your local thrift stores and the dollar store. You can take the dog and kids for a nature walk and pick up evergreen pieces and pine cones to decorate the entry table, dining table or breakfast bar.

4. Play your favorite Holiday music! I was excited to decorate, but not exactly overjoyed to climb up on the roof and string my icicle lights myself. But you know what? I put on my favorite Michael Buble Pandora station, ate my breakfast and drank my latte, sang along to Santa Baby, rocked out to Trans Siberian Orchestra and was ready to roll. Music always makes everything better in my mind!

5. Last but not least - don’t take yourself too seriously. Here's is one of my two cats sitting under what he believes is his own safe space. I have come to terms with this annual tradition of his!

Have fun and Happy Holidays!

xoxo​

A Resolution to Look Up

Building upon my blog from two weeks ago, I want to speak about resolutions. But not in the way you think. As I talked about last week, Be x Do = Have. We need to be certain ways, in order to do the things that we must to have what we want in life. So I want to speak more to self-reflection and resolving to be different.

I enjoy my seasonal issues of Magnolia Journal from Joanna and Chip Gaines. To be frank they are my idols. They are creative and humble and family oriented and funny and stylish and basically everything I want to be as a home and business organizer, but also as a person. Their magazine, Magnolia Journal “inspiration for life and home” is my favorite thing to read because it is not just about how to decorate your mantel or which shade of paint to choose. It is also not a self-help journal, it is a beautiful mix of articles, stories, how-to, recipes, and ideas. Enough with the advertising. This winter issue’s theme is Resolve. We often speak of resolutions this time of year but not the root of the word, RESOLVE, which is a synonym of determination. Determination is what we need to be and accomplish the things we want.

The issue speaks of resolving to be a better person, more positive, more festive, seeing the beauty in the rough, appreciating moment, etc.

One thing that most caught my eye and mind was Jo’s note it’s about time in which she says she challenged herself to live 2019 in the moment and developed the mantra “look up” to say to herself when she felt herself passing it by.

I believe that I am a person that has wonder and awe. I like to travel, see and experience things, and appreciate other people, cultures, architecture and lives.

Yet conversly, I also find that I do not live in the moment. I have a lot of worry and concern about what if. I have been told I am cautious and hesitant is all facets of my life. And only after having been injured and taken out of marathon running, have I realized that I did not fully appreciate the events and experiences I had. I barely remember what I saw while running through New York City with 40,000 other people, across the bridges and streets closed to traffic. I can tell you how I felt at certain junctures, that they played New York New York at the start, that I ran with an NYP squad who kept me on pace, and the feeling in my legs as I entered Central Park. But I don’t remember how the sun rose over the Verrazano bridge as we started, or seeing the skyline undisturbed from that bridge, or the character of each burrow we passed through. I remember even less about the Boston Marathon. I remember the start, Heartbreak Hill, and that beacon of light called the Citgo sign that meant I was almost done. I remember shaking and shivering at the end because it was freezing rain and having to hold a cup of coffee from a food truck while waiting for my sister to cross the finish. But I don’t remember the people braving the cold outside their homes to cheer us on or the fact that I ran downhill most of the way. I don’t remember who I ran next to or even if I met anyone new other than the people I traveled to the race with.

What I am saying is, sometimes I go through life looking forward to the end goal and worrying about the obstacles along with way, so much so that I don’t see what is in front of me. I have done that with my personal and professional life. If I self-reflect for a minute, I formally established my business a year ago, I really went out on a limb and left my place of employment 9 months ago, and I started getting business 4 months ago. The average new small business takes 2 years to become established. And my personal life is in a very different place, arguably more positive place, because of some of the professional and independent decisions I made this year. So I would say I am doing pretty darn good. My goals for 2020 will be higher and more defined than they were at the end of 2018 when I first started on this journey. And most importantly I have appreciation for the path I have taken and the obstacles and achievements that have come my way this year.

Therefore while I continue to consider my goals and resolutions in my personal and professional life, the one thing I want to be is someone who looks up. In the words of Joanna Gaines, “These are the days. These are the moments. This season, let’s look up and behold the beauty of the here and now.”

Be Do Have

This time of year is often a time of preparation. Whether you are a homemaker, business owner, employee, or combination of both you are probably beginning your preparation for the holidays, family visiting, winterizing, end of the year finances, last minute projects, deadlines, etc. With preparation, also comes reflection. Reflection of your accomplishments for the year, the goals you had, those that you achieved, those you surpassed, those your missed and then considering why.

In my monthly Business Owners Mastermind meeting this week, we started the conversation on end of the year preparations and reflection and came upon what I thought to be a very interesting topic that can be applied to personal or professional life. Jeff Miller, our faithful leader, business coach and owner of Jeff Miller Consulting, posed to us an exercise to consider this equation:

In order to solve this equation, we have to consider it from the answer backwards, just like Jeopardy. First we considered what we want to have, i.e. what are goals are as business owners. We mentioned things like:

  • Take 2 weeks vacation
  • Have time with family
  • Have time for ourselves (exercise, reading, learning, etc)
  • Own a second home (or in my case a 1st!)

Then we had to determine what we need to do in order to get there, most of which are obvious:

  • Make and schedule time (Time management)
  • Make more money
  • Have trusted employees
  • Set boundaries for clients/customers

Lastly, we were asked to think about what type of person we need to be in order to accomplish these tasks? This was the hardest part of the exercise because you can reflect on your goals all you want, but without seeing the true nature of how to achieve them, you will not get very far. So in order to do those things listed, to achieve the goals, we need to be:

  • Disciplined
  • Dedicated
  • Honest
  • Trustworthy
  • Determined

Because if you want to make time to exercise for example, you may need to get up earlier, before work, before the kids get on the bus, or after they go to sleep. If you want to take a two week vacation as a business owner, you need to train your employees to the best of your abilities, give them responsibility and confidence that they can take care of the company and your clients while you are gone, and trust them to do so. If you don’t think that is possible, then unfortunately you either 1) haven’t provided them with the tools or training to succeed 2) need to started delegating and trusting more or 3) you don’t have the right employees.

In the end however, it is about how you are a person and what you do that will bring you the things you want to have.

Looking Forwards not Backwards

My last post talked about prioritizing and getting your to do list done when you are feeling overworked, overwhelmed, drained, etc.  Well, I have felt all of those in the last two months. Having a combination of personal and family situations, as well as coming down with a cold that seemed to never go away and finally manifested as pneumonia, was a kick in the stomach.

While I tried to tackle my list and follow my own directions of at least accomplishing one thing at a time, things still fell to the wayside. I had to cancel work events I planned on going to, skip out of a few engagements with friends, take 5 weeks off of my physical training and scratch myself from two running races. I barely posted anything on my company social media pages and didn't write the blog last week I had planned to. I had to say goodbye to a family member I had not been as close to recently as I could have been. All of these missed opportunities for business and personal experiences had me feeling that I was squandering the things I had worked hard for. 

Then I picked up a Dove chocolate bite that said "Keep life moving forward, looking backward is only for time travelers." And it made sense. There wasn't anything I could do about the missed events or downtime from working out.  All I could do was appreciate knowing my body and mind has limits. Know that I gave as much of myself to my family when they needed me as I could, and know that I can continue do those things going forward. 

So that's my message for you. Don't harp on the things that you may not have done yesterday, the to-do tasks you didn't check off, the emails you didn't answer, the conversation you should or could have had with that friend or family member. For me personally, doing anything more would have dragged out my sickness and made me even less valuable to family, clients and myself as time went on.  Just do what you can, be proud of it, and do better tomorrow.  And if you need help with your home or business tasks, give me a call, I am feeling much better these days!

Tackling Your Overwhelming To Do List

Sometimes the universe is funny, I believe. I thought about writing this blog on the topics feeling overwhelmed with an ever-growing to-do list a few weeks ago after a conversation with a friend. Then I read a Thrive article with a great quote last week, while personally struggling with and recovering from three weeks of sickness that turned into walking pneumonia. And finally, a colleague reached out to me recently to ask if I could assist her in time and priority management, just as I had finished writing my thoughts down. So here are my Tuesday tips for tackling these feelings and your to-do list effectively to regain your balance.


We as humans all get overwhelmed in lives. Whether it’s due to returning from a vacation or time off, entering a particularly busy quarter at work, or personal and family issues, everyone gets to their threshold at some point. However, you can’t just curl into a ball and hide in your pillow fort, you still need to get your work done, care for your family and attend to your own mental and physical health. I have found that the key to getting through that feeling of being overwhelmed is not to focus on the list or tasks as a whole, but to address each one on its own.

Each day, chose one thing to focus on. Do that to the best of your ability. When that is completed, feel proud and productive in your success on that task. Then, chose another task and continue as you check off the items on your list. At some point, you will begin tackling two or even three tasks in a day and get back your mojo back again. Whether that is two days, a week, a few months, or a year depends on your situation. But you can do it, if you set yourself up for success, not failure. There is nothing that will stress you out and overwhelm you more than putting things off and continuing to have that growing list staring at you.

“If you seek tranquility, do less. Or (more accurately) do what’s essential. Do less, better. Because most of what we do or say is not essential.” - Marcus Aurelius.

So start today, do the essential items -well - not half assed and quickly to check them off, and continue from there. Let me know how it goes and how your path back to equilibrium goes.

Extra Extra Read All About It

Local Rockville Maryland Realtor Mary Scroth included a brief Q&A with yours truly in her fall edition of  “Hungerford Real Estate & More” newsletter. We had a wonderful discussion the importance of organizing, quick tips, and my thoughts on Marie Kondo!  Check it out.

The Honest Truth

Can we be brutally honest with each other for a minute?

If you are a business owner, you should not be doing your own bookkeeping; hand writing or printing checks, paying the bills, downloading credit card transactions, reimbursing cash receipts and expenses, etc. In the last few months I have met and talked to a number of business owners in the same spot at you are in some variation of it. Owners of startups, growing business, even established ones too, who say that they do all or part of the finance management.

I don’t want to come off rude, that’s not my intent here, but this just shouldn’t be. I know it is hard to let go of the control of making sure that every cent is accounted for when the business is your baby; your idea that you created, cultivated, and put into motion. It’s like letting go of the handle bars on your child’s first bike ride. But you have to do it sooner or later, otherwise your baby will never grow and prosper.

In this world, time is money. And your time is worth a lot of money. I am willing to bet that your hourly wage is a lot more than paying a bookkeeper, so the argument that you don’t have enough money to pay a bookkeeper, that doesn’t really work here. For every working minute you are working on tasks that are not 1) part of your scope of work or 2) business development, you are wasting your time and money. What does that mean? Well, unfortunately that means that you are not only not making money, but you are also losing it.

Don’t believe me? Well without going into too much of a cost analysis, if you bill your services at $150 an hour and a bookkeeper charges anywhere from $55-$85 an hour, for every hour you personally spend on financial tasks, you are losing $65-$90 an hour that you could be making elsewhere. Just let that sink in for a minute.

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So why not find someone you can trust and have faith in, who can take care of your finances and report all of the details to you?  It doesn’t have to be me (although I would truly love to help you take these services off your plate and start putting more time into your business), but it should be someone capable and qualified, not uncle Bob or your neighbor.  How about making that a 3rd or 4th quarter goal you can feel good about and let me know how it goes.

8 Mid-Year Business Tips

As the summer winds down and kids are going back to school, it is a great time for home owners and businesses to start getting their heads back in the game and considering their end of the year preparations.  Here are 8 mid-year finance and operation tips I put together from my 11 years of experience managing businesses. Please keep in mind, some recommendations may not apply due to the the size, industry or fiscal year of your company, but it is important to be aware and discuss these topics with your bookkeeper, CFO and or accountant.

Finances

  • Complete a brief review of your books, checking for errors in the accounts expenses and incomes were attributed to.  Correcting an error now will help you avoid 1) repeating it and 2) having to correct (or pay your accountant) at the end of the tax year.  If you expect to be audited, as many government contractors do, get ahead of those preparations early!
  • Forecast the rest of your fiscal year. If you know you historically have slow or heavy business in the second half, you will want to start planning for your upcoming expenses, incomes, and even HR needs.
  • Depending on your previous review and forecast, start saving for taxes, employees raises, bonus, and any slow periods. If you know a heavy business load is coming, you can also plan out how to use funds for the rest of the year and pay off debt from earlier in the year.
  • Have your Tax Accountant of CPA take a brief look at your reports as well. Not a full analysis, but a review. If you can afford an early tax payment after a good half of the year, you won't have to worry as much come the end of the year.

Operations

  • Depending on your financial status, or your HR needs, you should consider any upcoming hiring early. You will need at least 2 but usually 3 months to put together an employment description, advertise, interview, hire and onboard.
  • Whether or not you are hiring now, any down time or before you have requirements, is a great time to review your employment descriptions, policies, procedures, and handbook. You should consider your current office, company culture, employees, and the direction you want your business to go in and then be sure that your documents all reflect that.
  • Organize and declutter! (I couldn't resist). Gather up old documents, records, files, receipts that are past 7 years and take them to be shredded.  Now 7 years is the general standard, but be sure to check with your industry specific standards and legal requirements.
  • Start considering your business goals and intentions for next year. It is never a bad time to start working toward those and some may need a little prep work before they can be achieved.

And of course, if you are feeling overwhelmed, confused or interesting in having assistance with any of these tasks, I am here to help!  Please do not hesitate to contact me.  Have a great rest of your summer!

Featuring Fragrances in Your Home or Office

According to a Rockefeller University study performed in 2014, the human olfactory system can sense 1 trillion different smells1. That is a far cry from what you can find at Yankee Candle or Bath and Body Works.

Therefore it is no surprise that smells can have a strong influence on our psychology; most notably memory and emotions. With that in mind, surrounding your home or office, whether being staged for sale or for your own living comfort, with specific fragrances can have very positive results.

Here are some of the most common and pleasing smells, broken into different categories of their scent2, that you can incorporate into your life to stimulate a number of different emotions and feelings depending on your use.

Aromatic Herbs

  • Lavender - Calming and soothing. Reducing stress and increasing relaxation. Great for use in bubble baths, in a bedrooms before to assist with insomnia or relaxation.
  • Peppermint – Cooling and stimulating. Great for use with Epson salt baths for tires and sore muscles, for headaches and migraine. I have a smell stick of peppermint oil I keep with me to swipe across my forehead when I feel a migraine coming on. The smell and oil on my skin does wonders. Lastly peppermint can also be used for stimulating your mind to wake up and work in an office setting.
  • Chamomile – Calming and soothing effect for relaxation and sleep, often mixed with vanilla, lavender and other scents to emphasize this.

Citrus

  • Bergamot & Citrus fruit – zesty, bright, can boost your energy and increases your alertness. Often used in cleaning supplies and diffusers, citrus smells are great for conveying a clean fresh house. For an office, reception or common room setting Citrus scents would be ideal, not to strong, nostalgic or unpleasing to anyone.

Floral

  • Roses, jasmine, peony – sweet, perfumey, fragrant – Floral scents can boost your mood and brighten your day, but can sometimes smell too overwhelming to others.

Fruity 

  • Fruit scents are very much the same as floral. Sweet, tropical, nostalgic of places and foods we have experienced, but frequently too "sticky sweet" for some noses.

Greens

  • Lawns and grasses, - Australian research shows that the smell of cut grass can make people feel relaxed and joyful. These scents are again great for clean, bright spaces, both at home or at work.

Oriental

  • Cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom – The warm and sweet scents can be sensual, increasing both nostalgic memories, warmth in the body and soul, and passion.

Woods

  • Birchwood, cedar, pine, sandalwood, amber – Festive and forests aromas often reduces stress. depression and anxiety, by reminding us of winter activities and being outside in nature.

Dry Woody

  • Oak moss, leather, smoked wood, musk – The scents can be described as woody as the name implies, rich, earthy and sensual. Often connected more to the masculine, stimulating a sense of smoldering and beneficial for romantic endeavors. However they can also be fragrances people love or hate, often never indifferent of. So this category can be a little tricky.

If you are looking for inviting, homey smells for use in staging, house warming, or entertaining, you can't go wrong with your sugaed vanilla /cupcakes/cookies/pies scents. Those always bring a sense of nostalgia and make people think you are baking cookies! What more could you ask for? Of course if there is something specific, like the smell of cinnamon apple pie that brings back warm memories of your childhood, you should absolutely work that into your space as well!

I hope this has brought you some new ideas or helped you decide on something you were thinking of! There are plenty of ways you can incorporate these smells, whether purchasing a candle, using essential oils in a diffuser, making your own candles and diffusers, or boiling fresh peels and herbs on your the way my mom used to on our wood burning stove in the winter. Happy smelling!

http://vosshall.rockefeller.edu/assets/file/BushdidScience2014.pdf

http://www.fragrancesoftheworld.com/FragranceWheel

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.

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