IMG_0413LIVING SIMPLY: INTRODUCTION

     When I was a child, I received the greatest of all furniture pieces for my bedroom: my very own desk. I was thrilled to organize my school and office supplies in the built-in drawer and cubbies. I stashed pens and markers where they belonged and I stacked looseleaf paper in a bin. A new level of order entered my world and brought with it sheer delight.

     If you have a memory similar to mine, you can bet that you share in some Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tendencies. Organization is my game and freaking out over neatness brings no shame. In fact, doing what I do simply by nature, I figure I can help others create order in their homes. You don’t have an OCD reflex? Not a problem. I’ve been thinking this one through and I have an approach to get you systematically creating order and a new sense of calm in each room of your house. Are you ready?

     I’ll never forget the first time I did a talk at a Mothers of Preschoolers group. I was asked to share on this very topic. I focused on just a few tips for maintaining order in the home, thinking it was nice information, but probably nothing these dear women hadn’t already thought of. That’s when my eyes were opened to the fact that not everyone naturally creates order. It really is a gift. One of the moms saw me the next week and emphatically said the information I shared changed her life. I was dumbfounded. I wish I had stopped whatever I was doing at that time and published a manual for living simply. But let’s be honest, I was probably too busy keeping a house in order to write about it.

     Now, always before I teach a how-to I like to explain a why. I hope you don’t mind a bit of philosophy… I promise to move expediently into the nitty gritty. But I think this part is important, so I shouldn’t skip it. That “O” in OCD stands for obsessive, a trait that can be quite bothersome to self and to others with whom you live. There’s a productive angle that produces perseverance, but there’s a destructive one as well: not finding contentment in the now. If I only can have _______, then I will be happy. You know the mindset, and so do I. Not only is it counter-productive, but it’s ugly.

    Apply discontentment with our home environment, and we can become some irritable women. Let’s face it, whether it’s one unfinished project or a whole slew of them, postponing satisfaction until certain things are checked off quickly becomes a dangerous path to travel. But if we instead aim for daily gratitude, we can avoid the I’ll-never-be-happy-because-my-home-as-it-exists-is-not-enough-rut.

     How do you intentionally dwell in a spirit of gratitude? If that happens to be a natural gift of yours, consider writing a manual of your own to help others! What you know and practice is needed information! But, for the rest of us, let’s really think about a technique we use to redirect our minds away from a critical attitude and toward a grateful heart. It’s called disciplining the thought-life, and no one can do that for us. The burden rests on each one of us to take thoughts captive and make them obedient to truth. Here’s what I know: we are a blessed people. We have so much more than we ever have deserved. And when we start becoming grateful for what already has come into our lives, more pleasures seem to find us without our even striving to attain them. I believe this is the first place to begin a quest for peace in our homes. It starts within…

 

LIVING SIMPLY WORKBOOK

What three ways can you intentionally filter your thoughts about your home through the lens of gratitude?

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LIVING SIMPLY: A COHESIVE DESIGN

     If you have the goal to simplify your household and to do some major decluttering, you also can conquer a streamlining of your home’s interior design. Recently, I was forced to do this. In fact, I did it two times! We moved twice in a six-month time frame. You would think that one move alone would help a girl to weed out all the fluff, but, no, there was still so much junk to go through the second time around. The thing about a move is you’re under the constraint of time, and you don’t deliberate over the necessity of every item. Goodness, some things eventually get heaped into a box and labeled “junk.” And we still take it with us to the new address!

     The strategy I share with you is better than up and moving to a new location. Now, you may want to consider calling in some reinforcements. A good interior designer or a home organization expert could really expedite your home’s transformation. But, if you’re looking at doing your project on the cheap, I’m here to help.

     We’re going room by room, starting with the rooms you use the most. At the end of it all, I want you to walk into the busiest space in your home and exhale a sigh of relief because everything about it says, relax- you’re home. I know what you’re thinking: that’s going to take some work! And you’re right. The initial investment may be intense, but the payoff will be worth it.

     There’s something about the eye appeal of your rooms. Visual messages translate to feelings, and we women are especially in tune to that. So let’s grow in our marketing proficiency and sell ourselves our own homes!

     One of the best social media apps to get us started in choosing a design style is Pinterest. If you’re unsure of your particular taste, you can search interior designs such as coastal, traditionalmodern, farmhouse, French country, mountain cabinboho, or something more general like, home design trends. Start pinning pictures you really like. Don’t overthink it and wonder what you should like- go with your gut reactions. After collecting a dozen or more pins, start looking for patterns. Is there a consistency in a particular style? If you don’t see one dominant category, you possibly have an eclectic style. Now search pins for eclectic interior design and create a collection of those that excite your eye.

     Once you know your style, it’s time to move on to decision-making about what to keep and what to discard. You can follow through on this with greater ease when you have an identified décor style. If it doesn’t fit the mold and it’s not a sentimental item, toss it.

     Something else to consider before you tackle your first room: are you going to donate or try to sell your unwanted items? If you’re going to donate, you can designate a low-traffic area of your home to stockpile items until you make a run to the local thrift store. If, however, you’re thinking of selling online or at a flea market, it would be better to store all discards somewhere out of sight. Keep in mind that your decluttering may unearth some things unsuitable to sell or donate. You’ll want to have trash bags nearby while you work.

     This is probably the hardest paragraph ever to type… I fear you will dismiss me, because you don’t want to read what I have to say. But I promise I’m trying to help. And have I told you yet how pretty you look today?  Here’s our approach to decluttering… Wait. I’m not ready. {Take a breath, Renee, and say it!} I want you to empty out the room and evaluate all the contents. I know. That sounds completely horrid! Why would anyone do that unless she was moving? Exactly. That’s what you’re doing. You’re moving from a cluttered state to a decluttered one. And it’s going to be good for you. It’s going to nourish your soul. And here’s the best news yet! You’re not doing your whole house over the course of a weekend! Not even a week! Not even a month, unless you’re crazy, or unless you live in a two-room dwelling. This is really doable if you take your time. First, get yourself psychologically prepared. Consider entering into your calendar a couple of blocked out weeks in which you give yourself time to empty the room, stockpile discards, deep clean your blank slate, and reload all the keepers in accord with your design style.

     Remember, I’m going to help you with a systematic approach. We’re putting this OCD to work for good! I have room-by-room design tips, and you’re going to love how you put everything back with a sense of purpose. Our goal is to declutter. Our benefit is we get to come out from under the load of too much stuff.

     Can I speak hope over you? Get ready for some additional positive changes to occur in your life! When we discipline ourselves in the physical and make drastic changes, other things seem to follow suit. So mark this day and be prepared to refer back to it when you later experience realities that you thought were only dreams!

     I so believe in you! Decluttering is a good goal, and you’ve got this! Remember, be grateful in the moment. You already are blessed. Also, tell yourself, especially if you’re the hoarder type, “I’m going to get rid of stuff.” That’s right, we’re going the propaganda way and repeating a message we need to hear ourselves say. Vocalize it as often as necessary- until you’re convinced and ready to put action to words. And when that day comes, let the unloading of unwanted weight begin!

LIVING SIMPLY WORKBOOK

Is your home redesign going beyond decluttering and including wall color and surface changes? Use Pinterest to search rooms designed with options you’re considering. For example: Many images will pop up when you type, Comfort Grey paint with white cabinetry, carrara marble, white subway tile and dark stained oak floors. You’ll love how this app takes the guess work out of many decisions to make.

 

LIVING SIMPLY: KITCHEN CLEAN-OUT

 Are you ready? No? We’re going in anyway! We’re going hard at the start of this declutter project. If you can do this room, you can do any room. The focus for our kitchen clean-out is cabinets, counter space and décor. If you have a pantry, a utility closet, or a mudroom, you can address those areas later. For now, we need to think in three specific categories:  NEED, DISCARD, and UNSURE/SENTIMENTAL as you take everything out, one cabinet at a time. Do you have the space designated as a discard pile? Do you have trash bags handy? Have you been self-coaching with the words, “I’m going to get rid of some stuff?” Let’s go!

  1. Empty under-the-sink cabinet and wipe down interior. Consolidate as much as possible. Put cleaning products into one bottle if you have multiples of same type. Use empty pump bottles and sprayers to make handmade cleaning products as seen on Pinterest. Limit number of cleaning rags stored and designate extras to a different utility space. Put sponges in dishwasher to clean and throw out those beyond repair. Restock supplies and group like items together in baskets or plastic bins.
  2. Clear countertops of all items and store on a table during the next step. Wipe down counters.
  3. Progress through the kitchen cabinets emptying sections at a time. Wipe down interiors. Toss out oddball dishes and chipped pieces. Do you have Grandma’s everyday dishes that you never plan to use but you keep for sentimental reasons? Consider giving them to someone you know who is in need of assistance setting up a new home. Knowing the person you help will give you so much pleasure in giving her something so meaningful to you. And you know Grandma would have treated that friend graciously as well.
  4. As you replenish your cabinets, imagine storing the items as if they were in full view, like open-shelving. Create neat rows and uniformity as much as possible. On that note, maybe you don’t need all 40 coffee mugs. Maybe.
  5. Touch every piece of your kitchen linens and transfer shabby towels into your cleaning rag pile. Throw out tattered and burned oven mits. Don’t hold on to tablecloths, aprons, table runners, etc. if you haven’t used them in the past year. If you didn’t use the pretty poinsettia print tablecloth last year at Christmas, you probably won’t use it this year either. Donate it.
  6. Bakeware: unless you have an extra-large family, you probably only need two pieces of each type. Keep the ones that are in the best condition and get rid of the others. You can do this.
  7. Pots & Pans: Typically one set of 5 – 7 pieces serves a household well. Wash down the interior of the cabinet and store pots and pans with lids in tact.
  8. Special occasion dishes should not take up prime real estate in your kitchen unless you have excessive cabinets or a piece of furniture for their display. Options for these types of dish sets: pack in a box and store in a closet or use in décor if a dish display fits your design style.
  9. If you find during your clean-out some gifts that friends and family members assumed would complete your kitchen, but you never actually use them, it is okay to discard them. Really. No one has to know, and I promise not to tell.
  10. Utensils and silverware. Use drawer dividers for every utensil drawer you have. Two of each type of utensil is more than enough. When possible, store items in drawer to avoid countertop clutter. Switch drawers if you need to make space for utensils to be within reach of your cooking and food prep surfaces.
  11. Counters. If you are prone to keeping counters cluttered, consider storing away items in easy-to-reach spaces in cabinetry, pantry or mudroom. Counter space should be reserved for cooking preparation, so keep décor to a minimum. A rule of thumb: if a countertop item can fit on a decorative tray, it can stay! For example: Have a tray on each counter space and group things together according to function. One tray can be for olive oils and decanters, another for coffee service, and another for needs at the kitchen faucet.
  12. Wall décor. Sometimes we can overdue kitchen décor and perpetuate our clutter dilemma by putting too much on the walls. Don’t be afraid of empty wall space. Don’t be afraid of empty wall space. (This one begs repeating.) One large piece for the walls or just a few small hangings will keep your space looking clean and fresh.

LIVING SIMPLY WORKBOOK

Create a shop-for list according to your fresh needs. The list should not burden you as something that must be done right away, but should serve as a reminder to keep your eye out for these items while you’re out and about. Do you have friends who shop flea markets and thrift stores? Put them to task in keeping an eye out for your list items.

 

LIVING SIMPLY: AN ORGANIZED FAMILY ROOM

     I think the term family room came out of a need to differentiate between the formal living room and the informal. The more pristine place that the family typically didn’t use took on the identity of formal. The place where we could leave shoes under the coffee table and prop our feet up onto comfy furniture- this we know as the beloved family room.

Come on in. Relax. Here, you’re family.

     All of the casualness related to our favorite places to gather can make for a never-ending stream of clutter. We’re not too particular about the appearance of the family room, because, honestly, this is where we live. It begs the question, can the space be both functional and pretty? Absolutely! And we’re focusing on the goal to live simply and to have a family room that is both casual and inviting.

     Before we tackle going through all furnishings and accessories in the family room, we must first revisit our desired theme for the interior design of the home. This room more than any other will reflect the design goal. All decision-making during the organization of the family room will be easier if we maintain continuity in our desired personal style.

    I think one of the mistakes we make is finding something functional and incorporating it without much thought of how it will take away from the style. For instance, while antiquing, I find a floor lamp that I think will bring needed light to a dark corner, and I add it without giving consideration to the room’s existing elements. This is why knowing my design preferences should always be in mind when making purchases.

     As much as possible, empty the family room and clean floors, baseboards, lighting and windows.  Wash window treatments and wipe down hardware. Play around with furniture placement to promote good traffic flow through the room and optimal positioning around the television, fireplace, or your central focus.

     If furnishings do not come together to your liking, and replacing pieces is not in the budget, consider enhancing the room’s continuity through matching slipcovers on soft surfaces, and paint on hard surfaces. With the addition of chalk paint to the crafting world, refreshing furniture and accessories could not be easier. There’s no need to strip wood of protective clear coats and stain; chalk paints adhere to almost any surface.

     If you are purchasing new items, keep in mind that retail stores put a high mark-up on furniture. With some research online, you may locate a furniture warehouse or outlet store within driving distance. The cash and carry style of purchase usually equates to a substantial savings. In addition, your favorite store’s scratch and dent section is worth a regular visit, just in case that must-have piece gets a handsome markdown.

     Family room furnishings should have storage possibilities to aid in the elimination of clutter. When adding shelving to the room, think scale. If too small, the piece will look like an after-thought. If in right proportion to the space and other furniture pieces, the shelving will complement your design. Optimize this storage space through use of baskets and other organization pieces that stow unsightly print media, remotes, children’s toys, etc.

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    Occasional tables can serve as hideaway places for blankets, games and accent pillows. Some have shelving, drawers or removable lids. An oversized basket that coordinates with your room’s decor also works well for keeping pillows and throw blankets tidy but accessible.

     Family room textiles are the most cost-effective way to update your style and change the look of the room according to the season. Heavily patterned window treatments complement nicely a monotone palette among the furnishings. The same holds true for an area rug: big patterns work well with understated furniture pieces. Try to avoid competing patterns.

    Your wall décor shines with your personality. Take care in showcasing the right pieces. If wall space is limited, consider using one larger accent. If the things you want to hang are small in comparison to the scale of the room, create a gallery wall with a collection. There are multiple ways to achieve the look and complement your style. Also keep in mind, it is perfectly okay to have a blank wall.

     This is a good time to talk about a recommended design ratio. To help us prioritize a good structure to the family room, we can think in terms of 50:30:20. The fifty percent represents the functionality of your space and its components. Is there seating for everyone in the family? Is there quick access to additional seating for guests? Are there hard surfaces for resting drinks and other things we utilize while lounging? And, do the pieces work well together? The thirty percent puts a decent emphasis on storage, because this is where the declutter battle is fought and won! Lastly, twenty percent helps us to not ignore décor. It has its place in the overall feel of our room, but, at the same time, room décor should not overwhelm us.

     Plants add a unique quality to the home. Look for ways to incorporate a few year-round. Even adding fresh-cut limbs from your property to a tall vase enhance the comfy environment. Seeing something living in the room automatically translates to freshness in our minds.

     With the health benefits from your plant-filtered air, you’re bound to be more energized to maintain tidiness in your most lived-in room. A great rule-of-thumb is to never make a trip through the house empty-handed. For example, if going into the kitchen, take empty glasses from the coffee table with you. To develop the habit and to get others in the home onboard with the practice is to stay devoted to having a decluttered home.

     Ultimately, we desire an organized living space for our own peace of mind. It’s not that we want to impress anyone; although, those who visit will assume the house is the cleanest they ever been inside of. But you and I know it’s not necessarily the cleanest; it’s simply an ordered home.

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