Gratitude: It’s Just Good for You!

Gift of Gratitude

There is so much in the world to be upset about right now. Truly, deeply, justifiably upset about. And I  believe there is just as much to be thankful for. Truly, deeply, wildly thankful for.

I bet if you stopped and took a nanosecond to think about it, you’d come up with at least 100 things in your life you’re grateful for.

Personally I find that practicing gratitude makes me feel better. Whether it’s finding a penny in a parking lot and lifting my eyes to the sky and saying, “Thank you!” or commenting on someone’s social media post that impacted me, or a thousand other situations large and small–expressing the feeling is a gift to myself and the other person.

Today I’d like to share two resources with you. The first is a worthy cause that is helping children in Guatemala by showcasing some of their precious artwork on a series of thank-you note cards. Check out their Indiegogo campaign at www.SayItWithGratitude.com. Founder Scott Colby says on the site that his research into the powerful and positive effects of gratitude on us as humans is what convinced him to share this knowledge with the world. Please hop over and pick up one of his packages–you can write your first thank-you note to yourself for doing something good for yourself and others.

The second resource is my new Kindle version of “101 Ways to Say Thank You.” I wrote the book a few years ago and recently decided to share it more widely with the world. I’m happy and humbled to say in the first day on the market, it was the #1 Hot New Release in etiquette books on amazon.com!

In it you’ll find a well-phrased “thank you” for 18 of life’s occasions and situations (from getting married to getting a ride to the airport) and more than 70 specific gift items. I also included ten common business thank-you letters as a bonus. It’s available this month only for a promotional price of 99 cents. You will never be at a loss for sincere words of appreciation and gratitude again.

Between note cards for a great cause and 101 thank you’s, you’ll be all set to begin your own personal journey of gratitude. Sounds like a great way to start the fall holiday season to me!

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How to Create a Spa Bathroom

Spa Bath FB post
Sunday nights are for relaxing. (At least I think they should be!) What’s better than retiring to your own spa oasis, having a nice long soak in luxurious bubbles, and just enjoying the moment?

If we follow our 5 senses, putting together a pretty good facsimile of a spa experience is quite doable. Here’s a video explaining it all, and I’ve put some notes and resources below the jump. Or, if you’d like the thumbnail, here’s an infographic/cheatsheet.

1. SIGHT

Two major themes here: decluttering the vanity surfaces, and creating a soothing color scheme.

When it comes to beauty “stuff” — all of our lotions and  potions — I get it. There can be a lot. And if your bathroom is on the small side, storage can be an issue. If your beauty care items have a home, put them back when you use them. That one simple act alone can make a huge difference in reducing visual clutter.

If you find you have a lot of things you use daily that don’t have a permanent residence in your bathroom, get creative with storage. There are a lot of inexpensive but stylish ideas out there. Here are 10 organizing ideas under $10 each.

Next, let’s talk about color. Think about your favorite spa. What colors did you see there? Chances are, the color scheme was designed to inspire a sense of calm. That usually means a monochromatic (one color) scheme in neutrals (white all the way up to taupe) or blues and greens. (For tips on how color affects the human mind and body, check out this infographic.) A monochromatic scheme is less stressful because the brain has less to process, fewer contrasting colors to process.

Whatever your color of choice, bring it in with paint on the walls, the shower curtain, window coverings, rugs, and of course towels. Here’s how I turned my guest bathroom into a more spa-like space for under $100.

2. TOUCH

Here’s a designer tip: whenever you’re using a monochromatic color scheme, your room needs varying textures to keep the design from being bland and boring.

In your spa bathroom, bring in texture through soft, luxurious towels. Buy the best you can afford, start with just a few pieces and build up your inventory if you have to. Because I see good towels as an investment, I want to know how they’ll perform before I plunk down my money, so I purchase a wash cloth from each brand I’m considering and I use them. Really use them and wash them a few times to see how they do. Then I can purchase more pieces of what I want.

Other ways to bring in different textures: the shower curtain; a soft looped cotton rug underfoot or a gel mat by the tub; floral arrangements; a loofah scrubber or mitts; a natural sea sponge; and/or a luxurious robe. (Seriously, isn’t that the best part of some spa treatments?)

A more ethereal texture: bath products. Yes! The silkiness of bath oil, whipped body butters and bubble bath all count towards the sense of touch. They also bridge the way to the next sense …

3. SCENT

(I think I said “smell” in the video, but “scent” sounds nicer.) Of course here is where the core of many spa experiences is found. I love going to my local Aveda spa where they give you a choice of aromas to incorporate into your treatment. So pick up a few of these elements in a variety of scents to cover an array of sensory needs from de-stressing to energizing.

  • Scented candles
  • Reed diffuser
  • Bath products
  • Essential oils

Here’s a quick aromatherapy tutorial to help you decide on your perfect scents.

4. SOUND

One year for my birthday I treated myself to the spa at one of the big-name casinos here in Las Vegas that had great reviews online. I was already familiar with other spas in their chain so I had every expectation it would be a great experience. Wow was I under-impressed with the sound environment! I could hear jackhammers, cars, and every other treatment going on since the walls didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling! It was totally distracting.

That’s when I realized the power of sound to transport us to that sacred zen place of bliss. Don’t skimp on this sense! Bring in a CD player, your smartphone or tablet (be sure not to get anything too close to the tub!) and play soothing music. Put together your own playlist, pick up a compilation CD (I always find them at Target), or listening to one of the spa/relaxation stations on your streaming music service.

5. TASTE

The final spa element that you can replicate at home is taste. Spas are famous for their flavored detox waters and teas. Make yourself a pitcher of flavored water. Simply slice up some fruit of your choice, add some herbs if you like and place it all in a pitcher with some good, pure water. Chill for at least 1-2 hours to let the flavors infuse. Some traditional combos: cucumber-mint; lemon-mint; and blackberry-apple. Of course there are no rules here — use what you like best!

In a pinch, pick up one of the naturally flavored waters widely available at supermarkets. Make sure there is no added sugar.

So there you have it! The 5 easy steps to make a spa at home. I’d love to hear how you’re incorporating these elements and senses into your spa night routine. Please leave a comment over on the Facebook page and be sure to follow my master bathroom board on Pinterest.

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Trying on a Capsule Wardrobe

CAPSULE WARDROBE Fall 2016

I’ve been looking for ways to simplify life, to free up some time and energy so I can pursue everything that I want in life.

This past month it was a 30-day detox and clean eating program that has revolutionized how I think about food.

Starting tomorrow, my monthly quest/experiment will be trying on a capsule wardrobe. For anyone unfamiliar with this concept, let me explain just a bit.

I was first introduced to the concept of a capsule wardrobe last holiday season while reading Jennifer L. Scott’s lovely book, Lessons from Madame Chic. Jennifer uses a ten-piece wardrobe each season. That’s it! Ten pieces! How could this be, I thought? Doesn’t she like clothes?

Well, yes, she does — and her goal for all us is creating a wardrobe we love to wear. The pieces she chooses are perfectly her, for her style, and they are impeccable. Definitely a case of quality over quantity. I should point out, those ten pieces are the core wardrobe and do not include outerwear, occasionwear, shoes, accessories, or layering tees and tanks. Whew! Thank goodness! (Here’s a video of her explaining her capsule theory.)

I’ve done a bit more research on this idea of capsule wardrobe, and I’ve learned that lots of theories are out there. Two blogs that I found particularly instructive and inspiring are Pinch of Yum (easy step-by-step for beginners like me) and Un-fancy (who is credited with popularizing the concept of a capsule wardrobe). Each offers a great printable download to map out your capsule.

Now, I love clothes and always have. I remember what I was wearing on my first plane ride to Orlando when I was 4 years old. (I felt very fancy with my mom’s magenta and purple scarf around my neck.) I had a pink boucle sheath dress with a matching coat with white and brass anchor buttons for Easter when I was 8. One my favorite shopping memories is buying my first designer cocktail dress with my dad at Marshall Field’s department store.

So the idea of having less than my full closet at my disposal for an entire month much less a whole season seemed challenging. Until I really started looking and seeing what I actually wear. The outfits I go to again and again. What colors are really best for me. What pieces fit the best and make me feel fantastic. Ahhhhh. I see.

Using the worksheets from Pinch of Yum and Un-fancy, I fashioned (pun intended) my own version of a capsule wardrobe that fits my life. These pieces are my “going out of the house” outfits for work at my law job, coffee with a friend, dinner, brunch, the movies, etc.

My Capsule Wardrobe – Fall 2016

Dresses – 3

Bottoms – 6

  • 2 dress pants
  • 2 jeans
  • 1 leggings
  • 1 skirt

Blouses – 5

Sweaters – 5

Jackets – 4

Tees, tanks & camis – 15

Shoes – 5

  • 1 pair leopard print flats
  • 1 pair black flats
  • 1 pair nude wedges
  • 1 pair black pumps
  • 1 pair strappy coral sandals

Scarves -2

Overcoat – 1

Not included here are “stay at home” leisure or work clothes (working in the yard, cleaning house) or sleepwear. I do think including shoes is a good idea for me. What fits, works with all the outfits and provides enough support for a busy day. I can quickly choose, grab and go!

I admit 15 tees, tanks and camis seems a bit much, but I’ve included a long sleeve, short sleeve, tank and cami in teal, orange, black and white/ivory to go through the entire season. Living in Las Vegas, it can be in 100+ degrees well into September and I may not transition to long sleeve layers until sometime in October. (I may need to add a turtleneck for Thanksgiving in Chicago and trade my trench coat for a wool winter coat as well.)

Should be interesting!

For more inspiration, check out my Pinterest board. What are your go-to pieces? Do you think a capsule wardrobe would work for your life?

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7 Ways to Refresh a Room in 15 Minutes or Less

Time is relative. Fifteen minutes may seem like an eternity if you’re stuck in traffic and late for work. Or, it may seem like the blink of an eye when you’re in the zone working on a project.  It’s the same quantity of time, and it will pass whether we are sitting still or moving fast.

When decorating your home, you can make an enormous difference in a room just 15 minutes at a time. So without further ado, here are 7 ways that you can start to refresh your entire home. Simply set a timer and work for 15 minutes. You might be amazed at what you can do.

Who says there’s no time to decorate?

 

1. Clear some clutter

Cluttered table

Sometimes refreshing a room is like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Meaning, there’s just too much stuff in the way of seeing the room and its features and furnishings.

I’m not saying you’re going to completely de-clutter and organize your entire house in 15 minutes. But what can you do? Maybe it’s just cleaning off the kitchen table or the counter. The room will look and feel better instantly!

Nearly every decorating plan starts with cleaning and decluttering—removing anything that is not used frequently, belongs somewhere else, or gets in the way of the room’s purpose. Examples might include shoes, toys, magazines, papers, clothes, dishes and glasses, or even furniture.

Look at your room with an objective eye. What really doesn’t belong there? Unless you belong on a show about hoarding, chances are if you slow down and look at the room from a new, fresh perspective, you’ll see lots of items that can be removed.

When in doubt, ask a neighbor or friend what they see as clutter in your room. (Or try my Clutter Clearing and Organizing audio course.) There’s a great Polish proverb, “A guest sees more in an hour than a host in a year.” Sometimes we just get comfortable with all the stuff. Pare it down and let the room breathe.

 

2. Let there be light

Lots of lights

Light is one of the most overlooked elements of interior design, and yet it’s one of the easiest to acquire and manipulate.

Light makes a room feel larger, brighter and fresher, so take some time to assess the lighting situation in your room. If the room has a window, wash it inside and out to let in more sunshine. Open any shades or blinds during the day to maximize natural light. If there are window treatments, are they too heavy, dark, or outdated for the room? Just taking down drapes—even if you don’t have anything to replace them with just yet—can have a dramatic impact on a room.

Then look at the light fixtures and lamps in the room. Is there enough light to move around the room at night, or if there are no windows? If not, add more lamps to the mix. Check the maximum wattage stated on each fixture and lamp, and install higher wattage bulbs to bring in more light.

 

3. Rearrange the furniture

Room arranger w arrows

Arranging furniture in a room is a lot like a puzzle. And once we think we have it figured out, we keep it that way. For years. (I’ve certainly been guilty of this!)

But what if there was a different way? Switching up the furniture arrangement can shift the feeling of a room in an instant.

Before you start moving anything, play with the arrangement on paper. Create a scale drawing of your room on a piece of graph paper, measuring the walls and noting any doorways and windows. Then measure and draw shapes to represent the furniture pieces and place them on the room drawing, playing with different layouts until you find one that feels right. Pay attention to traffic patterns and how the room is used, and try to create “zones” for each use. I’ve created a design tool that makes it super easy to try this designer trick. You can get it FREE here.

And, it may be that the current arrangement is the best for the room, and that’s great! At least you’ve looked at other options.

 

4. Get your group on

Grouped items

Have you noticed most of these tips so far have been fast and free? #4 follows that lead with a “use what you have” approach to accessorizing your room.

Shop your house for accessories—objects, candleholders, vases, picture frames, figurines—that have a common, unifying theme or motif. Maybe they’re all red, or they’re all ducks or apples or sailboats. Chances are there’s a collection of something hiding in plain sight around your home. Bring everything together and display items together on an end table, dresser, sideboard, console.

Displaying similar items together gives them more presence and makes the room more personal. Visually link smaller items together by placing them on a tray. This is a heart display I put together for Valentine’s Day a few years ago.

 

5. Update with textiles

Pillows on sofa 2

One of the easiest and fastest ways to change the entire look and feel of a room is with fabrics.

Look around your room. What fabric elements could be changed, either by bringing in something new or swapping them with something from another room? Think about:

  • Drapes
  • Area rugs
  • Toss pillows
  • Slipcovers
  • Throws
  • Table coverings
  • Shower curtain
  • Towels

As a bonus, updating the textiles also means bringing in new (or more) color, texture, and/or pattern.

 

6. Add life … literally

green plant

Live, leafy green and/or blooming houseplants (not silk plants or cacti) are great additions to nearly any room. Their green color is automatically calming to the eye, and they produce oxygen. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive and can easily fill a large area—like an empty corner— if need be. Or, opt for one or two smaller plants placed around the room. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, ask your florist to suggest a hearty variety, or add a self-watering tube like an Aquaglobe®.

Fresh cut flowers are also a great decorating secret. Their color, life, texture and fragrance can be elegant or fun, indulgent or whimsical. And with most supermarkets now selling flowers, they’re convenient, too!

To get the most from supermarket bouquet, be sure to re-cut the stems when you get home and make sure the vase is scrupulously clean to prevent bacteria from killing the blooms prematurely. If it’s a mixed bouquet, consider making smaller arrangements and tuck them all over the house, in the bedroom, bath and kitchen for example.

 

7. Alter the art

Blank art

Art can set a mood, reinforce a theme, or be just plain wonderful to behold. Like light, art is often an afterthought in a room’s design plan, but it deserves much more attention.

Art is also fairly easy to swap from room to room and season to season. Think of your rooms like a gallery with an ever-changing collection. Look around your room. Does it currently have or need some art? Is there a focal point piece, for example over the bed or fireplace? If so, is there another piece in the house that could be traded out to give the room a fresh look?

Anyone who’s followed this blog knows that at holiday time, I love to change up the art all over the house. Here’s a quick and easy seasonal tip: Use the same frame and mat, but swap out the image. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from some simple silver frames in the guest bath, with a rotating display of everything from calendar pages to greeting cards and trip photos to scrapbook paper.

Children’s art is also a great addition to any room, and can be updated as the child creates new masterpieces. Nearly anything can be art!

A few tips about displaying art:

  • Be sure to hang it at eye level. Not too high and not too low, although most folks hang their pictures much too high. Look at magazines and home catalogs to get a feel for placement.
  • If there’s any doubt about how high to hang something, make a template of the art piece with some newspaper or kraft paper and tape it to the wall, then stand back. How does it look and feel in comparison to what you’ve seen in magazines or on design shows?
  • As a general rule of thumb, the top of the frame should be no more than 6 ft. from the ground.
  • Or, hang up on hanging art and use a gallery ledge instead. By far the easiest way to swap and rotate your favorite works of art.

What’s your favorite 15 minute life or design hack? Share your comments and stories on the Facebook page!

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