Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is it time to revamp your home?

If you do a search on the internet using terms like "feng shui clean home," "disorganized home relaxation," and "clutter stress," you will begin to see a pattern. Having a disorganized, unclean, or clutter-filled home blocks the energy flow within and around you, increases stress, and has an overall negative impact on your life.

Think about the last time you were in a space that made you feel so good, just by being in it. Go on, take a minute, close your eyes, and really remember what it looked and felt like...

Generally, it probably had a few, if not all, of the following traits: clean, open, filled with light, matching color scheme (even if it was a palette of neutrals), working fixtures/furniture, odorless/pleasing scent, and organized. It also probably felt welcoming, comfortable, and calming and/or invigorating.  It's a type of space that prompts you to say, "I love your place!" It's somewhere that you want to stay.

If you think back to a space that didn't make you feel so great (or if you are currently living in one), it probably had or has a few of these characteristics: filthy, cramped, odorous, not enough lighting, mismatched color scheme or obnoxious mix of colors, damaged fixtures/furniture, and/or disorganized. It probably felt unwelcoming, uncomfortable, or awkward, or perhaps you just had a sense of dis-ease without a desire to stay a while. Who wants to live or spend time in a place like that? You certainly don't deserve to.

There are several steps you can take to start to change your home. When I moved into my apartment five years ago, I took many small actions over the course of time that inevitably created the home I have adored for a long time now. I remember standing in the doorway of my living room one night after I had made a lot of changes over a few months and thinking, "Oh my gosh, I LOVE my apartment!" Coming home and walking in my front door always brings a sigh of relief, and when I look around, I feel joy and contentment. If you don't already, you can have this too. 

Step 1: Keep your home clean! (If you already do this, skip to the next step.) Just do it. Take a full day this weekend, throw on some sweats, turn up the music, and deeply clean your home. Put all the clothes away, organize the kitchen, mop the floor, make your bed, do the laundry, etc. Don't worry about doing anything else in your home on this day (you don't want to get distracted and then be too tired to finish the job) - just get your place clean, and find a place for everything. Then, from that point forward, keep up with it. 

Step 2: Start the process of eliminating clutter. There are all sorts of articles and books that can help you do this, but the main thing is to START. Get yourself into the mindset that you are ready to clear out your life to create more space for joy, peace, and other amazing things. Then take each object and ask yourself, "Do I use this? Do I absolutely love and adore this? Do I need this?" Give away to salvation army anything that does not get strong responses to these questions. Remind yourself: If it doesn't bring you joy, do you really want it around? Do a certain amount of clutter elimination on a regular basis (as it can be overwhelming) until you have gotten through every single one of your belongings. Trust me, the feeling of clearing out old, unproductive, unloved material items will literally bring about a physical feeling within you that shouts of glorious renewal. (This process is especially powerful if undertaken after or during a big life change.) Definitely consult with the many articles online about how to let go of material belongings and de-clutter your home!

Step 3: Get organized. Once you have eliminated the clutter in your home, you can start to think about what you have left to work with and what you want to do with it. You may realize that putting your jeans in that drawer doesn't work as well as putting them on a shelf in your closet. Or, you may realize after many sweaty hours of pushing your living room furniture into countless arrangements (like me) that the one you love is of course the one you designed three hours ago. But so what? Experiment! Experiment! Experiment! Move things around. Read about Feng Shui. Invite friends over to make suggestions on how you can rearrange your furniture and/or organize your belongings. Have fun with it! See what FEELS good.

Step 4: Think about design and decorating. Once you have done the best with what you have and organized your belongings and rearranged your furniture to a suitable design, begin to think about your style. What colors make you happy? What emotion do you want to evoke in different areas of your home - calm, energetic, creative? What types of artwork and decor make you smile? In other words, what are you drawn to? Are there pieces of furniture that you could use that you don't have, or that might work better in your home than what you are currently using? For some people, these may not be easy questions to answer. Or, like me, you may like so many things that you have a hard time making a decision. I found that looking in catalogs (like those from IKEA) was very helpful in directing my sense of style and helping me to conjure up my idea of an ideal home. Once you get an idea of what you like, you can slowly begin bringing elements of that style into your home. 

Note: Do not be afraid if you do not have a lot of money. I had pretty much no money when I moved into my apartment (true story). I just kept my eyes peeled, went into bargain stores and kept my ears open, and whenever I saw something affordable that I could handle buying, or whenever I was offered something, I snatched it up. Bargain shopping takes effort - yes - but it is not impossible. A television stand that also holds big stereo surround-sound speakers and a sound system for $29.99 from a local bargain shop that doesn't look cheap? Yup! A hand-me-down black coffee table from a friend for free but with a long, arduous walk in the blazing sun in the middle of summer with frequent breaks and cursing in order to get it to my place? You know it! A gorgeous modern re-design of an antique chair pulled out of the refuse area of an architectural design firm and brought on the subway home after work? That's right! Finding highly-rated pieces of inexpensive furniture for purchase on reputable websites, but needing to spend hours putting them together in your home only to find out you have put them together the wrong way and need to start all over again? Part of the joy! ...I think you get my point.

The process of creating a beautiful home that you love may take some time, but it is worth the effort! Again, enlist the support of the internet and friends for design ideas. Some ideas that can alter a space without spending much money include: wall decals, large art prints, curtains, wall tapestries, shelving, and decorative pillows, to name a few. Keep in mind that you do NOT want to add clutter. Design is about working with what you have (unless, of course, you can afford to start from scratch) and adding only that which will enhance the enjoyment of your home. As you bring in new things that you love, try to become more willing to replace or get rid of that which you don't. For example, bringing in a new bedspread can do wonders for the feel of a bedroom.

Step 5: Paint! Although painting is a part of design and decor (Step 4), I felt it should have a category of its own because it can be extremely influential on the entire mood of your home. Take your time with choosing paint. Color is powerful and has the ability to influence your emotional feelings, as well as the physical feeling of a space. Think about the images of homes or spaces that you liked in the magazines that you looked through and pick out some of your favorite colors. Consider whether or not they work with the color palette that your possessions already possess (such as your couches, carpet, furniture, etc.) Think about the paint choice from room to room. Are you going to paint every room and every wall? (For example, I only painted two opposing walls in my living room.) Do the colors flow? Does each color fit with the purpose of the room? (For example, bright orange can be a very invigorating color, so you may want to carefully consider if you want such a color in your bedroom.) Think about whether or not you want a space to look bigger or smaller. Cool colors recede and can therefore make a space look larger, whereas warm colors jump out at you and make a space look smaller. 

As you can see, there is much to consider when it comes to painting the interior of your home and I highly recommend doing some further research on the subject. However, one thing is certain, paint is one of the fastest, cheapest, most potent ways to change the entire vibe of your home. (Make sure you use non-toxic paint! Your health is too important not to.)

Step 6: Continue taking these steps. Of course, you won't be repainting very frequently, but it is important to continue keeping your home clean, consistently look out for newly accumulated clutter, and to bring fresh life into your home when you feel the need to re-work the design in order to get it up-to-date with your ever-changing, amazing self!

Again, I know these steps may seem like a lot of work, but remember that you can do them slowly over time (except Step 1!) Investing time and energy into creating and maintaining an enjoyable, welcoming, calm, comfortable space to call home is essential. Trust me, with everything we have going on in our lives, we need a safe oasis to return to that makes us happy and where we can rest and recharge. You deserve that!

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