3 Tips to Avoid Overwhelm on Your Next Home Decorating Project

Decorating Overwhelm

 

I love my clients. My clients are my teachers. My most recent in-home design clients each shared three very similar fears and concerns about their own DIY home decorating. It occurred to me that these are things that I take for granted, but if they were getting stuck on these fears, maybe other home decor enthusiasts are, too!

 

One of my most trusted mentors has a rule of thumb when it comes to wisdom. When you hear the same principle repeated by several brilliant individuals, it’s time to listen up. What they’re saying is the truth. Trust it.

And so it goes in working with clients. They teach me a lot about home decorating and the fears and doubts they have to overcome. Everyone has his or her genius. For me interior design is one of those things that comes easily to me, so I assume it’s easy for everyone. For you maybe it’s making a perfect pie crust or fixing a flat tire—you think, can’t everyone do this?

Recently I realized that many of my design clients have the same concerns like knowing what colors go together, or how to arrange accessories so it doesn’t look cluttered. These concerns and fears of making a mistake often stopped them from completing projects, or spun them into an overwhelm cycle.

With just a few tips, each of these fears is easy dispelled and you can move forward to complete your DIY home decorating projects!

Here are just 3 lessons that my clients have taught me. May they inspire you to take on a project with a little more confidence.

showroom-555111_1280


#1 Shopping can be overwhelming.

When I walk into a home store, I’m a kid in a candy store. When I do personal shopping with my clients, I see that they’re relieved to have me along. Otherwise, they tell me, it can be nearly impossible to make decisions because there are so many choices.

Next time you’re facing a retail meltdown, try these tips:

  • Shop online first to reduce confusion when you get to the store. Most major retailers have websites with search capabilities that let you drill down to the most specific choices. Let’s say you’re looking for a yellow table cloth. Searching for “table cloth” brings up 247 choices; but if you specify the shape, size and color using the site’s refinement function, you really only have 5 choices. Confused minds don’t buy, and reducing your choices from 247 to 5 makes it much easier to see the trees in the forest, so to speak.
  • Ask for help. For many people, the thought of going to a home improvement center is akin to going to the dentist. Oddly, I have zero fear walking into a hardware or home improvement store. I may not know exactly what I’m looking for, but in my experience, the folks that work at these stores have great ideas and a lot of know-how. Explain your project, or what you’re looking for, and let them guide you to the right product. Many times they have ideas to make my project even better! Same holds true for furniture stores and many home décor shops.
  • Create a mood board. If you’re redecorating a room, I really encourage you to use a mood board. I explain it in more detail in the Room Makeover Planner, but essentially it’s collecting the colors, finishes and fabrics you have or want in the room—or even just inspiration photos—onto a sheet of paper or a file folder. Pinterest is like a giant mood board; create a separate board just for the room you’re working on and pin the exact items you’re considering. Here’s an example of my board when I putting together my outdoor office. When I do room consultations, I create mood boards so the client can see the vision for the room. Then, when you’re out shopping and you’re not sure about something, simply pause, take a breath and look at the mood board. It’s a compass in the sea of retail confusion.

 

#2 It’s OK to make mistakes!

Even if you follow all the tips in #1, there will be times that you take something home, or it’s delivered from an online shop, and you think, “Ewww! I don’t know about this!” Maybe the color looks completely different in your home, or it’s too big or too small for the space.

It happens all the time, yet I’m amazed at how afraid we are to make such mistakes.

It doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing or what you like, it simply means that piece isn’t right for your house. Return the item, or if it’s a final sale, donate it to a local charity or sell it online.

Do not feel like you have to live with it or stash it in the garage. It will forever be chanting to you, “You made a mistake!” and who needs that kind of energy?
Mood Board

 

#3 Plans change. Go with it!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of a project, either for myself or a client, when out of the blue an idea hits me. Totally not something on “the plan” but brilliant just the same. It’s important not to hold too tightly to a plan, a direction, or even a specific item.

For example, in the mood board shown above, I originally had planned to use three tiebacks from Anthropologie, priced at about $32 each to hang a fabric canopy over the headboard. But when I went to purchase them, I discovered they were an online item not available in stores. No worries! I used an $8 pack of clear Command brand adhesive hooks and saved the client some money.

When inspiration strikes, follow it. If the change helps to create a room you love without sacrificing the overall vision, embrace it.

I love supporting my clients to make their houses into homes, and I love learning from each and every one of them!

If you liked this article, please share it using the buttons below! And, be sure to follow me on Pinterest; it’s where I hang out for home decor-y stuff!

PIN ME PLEASE:

Avoid DIY Decorating Overwhelm with these 3 tips

Read More

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!

Read More

5 Tips to Clean Off Your Desk

©terex-Fotolia.com

The second Monday of January is “Clean Off Your Desk Day” and although its exact origins are unknown, it’s not hard to guess why we need to designate a day to clearing the clutter from our workspaces. Most of us feel unorganized and tell ourselves we need to make an effort to “get organized”—a perennial and popular New Year’s resolution.

The start of a new year, just getting back into the swing of things at the office, is the perfect time to begin again with our good intentions towards keeping a clean and organized desk.

And yet, setting aside one day for what can feel like an insurmountable task feels somehow unrealistic. So here are 5 tips to use Clean Off Your Desk Day as a starting point to a more clutter-free, organized and efficient work space.

1. Schedule time to work on your desk. One of the most common excuses for keeping a cluttered work space is not having enough time. Ironically, the busier we are the more important it is to be organized. An Office Max Work Space Organization Survey (2011) revealed that 90 percent of Americans feel that being unorganized has a negative impact on their productivity, state of mind, motivation, happiness and even their professional image.

Therefore, make an appointment with yourself to clear some clutter from your desk. Put your phone on “do not disturb” and give yourself that time. It can be as little as 15 minutes or all day. The amount of time doesn’t matter as much as the activity. Just getting started can help motivate you to keep going. Then make a reoccurring appointment every week to stay on top of clutter before it’s back to feeling insurmountable.

2. Use a system to sort the contents of your desktop. Many years ago when I was fresh out of college I purchased a Franklin planner to use for my daily schedule, and I signed up for a seminar on how to get the most from the planner. During that course, I learned a simple but effective system for cleaning off my desk that I’ve used ever since. It’s TAF – Trash, Action, or File.

Before getting started, it’s a good idea to create areas for each of these categories. It could be a space on the floor or an empty bin or box. Nearly everything will fit into one of the three categories.

TRASH – The no-brainers here are things that no longer work, are broken, or expired. Where it gets more complicated is knowing what to keep and what to toss. This is the #1 challenge to work space organization cited in the Office Max survey.

For work papers, always consult your company’s recordkeeping policies and any applicable state or local laws and professional rules on document retention. For home and personal papers, use this handy chart to help determine what needs to stay and what can go.

Anything that you no longer need but is still in working order can be allocated to a separate “donate” bin or pile rather than trashing it.

ACTION – Lost in the sea of papers on your desk might be time-sensitive documents that require a response or some other action. If you need to remind yourself what action needs to be taken, put a sticky note on the document (I put it in the upper right corner) with the action and date, if applicable. Current projects go in the action pile.

And what about all those newsletters, reports and articles you’ve been meaning to read? One system that might work for you is to create a separate “TO READ” file and write a “read by” date on the article. Then schedule time each week (or each day) to read something from that file. The next time you’re doing a clean out, if the article is past its read by date, then chances are it’s really not that interesting or important to you and it can go in the trash.

FILE – In my office, this is always the biggest pile! For purposes of cleaning off the desktop, anything that is not part of a current project or doesn’t require action goes in the file pile. This includes reference materials and notes that can be stored. If you have someone helping with you filing, make a note in pencil in the upper right corner of the document where it goes.

The bigger task here is usually creating a filing and storage system that makes sense for your home or office and then creating a time to actually file things away and maintain the system. For now, we’re just getting these things off your desk.

One final tip while using TAF: stand up when sorting your desktop. It’s an active position, whereas sitting down you’re more apt to open that magazine and start reading or reminisce about the event where that photo was taken. When you’re standing, you’re in action mode.

3. Dust and clean your desk. I’m always amazed at where dust can collect! Even if you don’t have time to sort through all of the piles and stuff on your desk today, take a moment to dust, clean and polish your desk. (Move the piles if you have to and clean under them.) Microfiber cloths and Swiffer® dusters are perfect for this. If your desk is wood, apply an appropriate oil or polish. I make a ritual of cleaning off and oiling my teak desk twice a year and it always gives me a lift to know I’m prolonging the life and beauty of one of my favorite pieces.

4. Think of your desk like the cockpit of a plane. The top of your desk and the top drawer are the most precious pieces of real estate in your office. Be mindful when arranging your desktop. Think about HOW and HOW OFTEN you use an item. Does it really need to be in easy reach?

The only items that should permanently live on your desktop are those things that are essential to your daily tasks as well as a few items to inspire you such as flowers or family photos. Your desktop is for working, creating and inspiring—not storage. Any non-essential items such as old notebooks, files, that box of 2,000 staples and the like should be stored elsewhere.

Of course while you’re working on a project, things will collect on your desk like files, papers, samples and what not. One of the most important steps in keeping your desk clutter-free is to remove those things when the project is complete, or better yet, when you’re done working with them for the day. Consider open boxes or trays to keep project-specific paraphernalia contained and place it on a credenza or bookcase when not in active use. I used this trick when I worked as an attorney, lining one wall of my office with active files.

5. Give yourself permission to take more than a day. As they say, Rome wasn’t made in a day, and chances are your desk won’t be clutter free and pristine in a day. Particularly if you’re fitting in some organizing time into your workday calendar. Take the pressure off yourself to “get it done” and realize that organizing isn’t an event, it’s a process. It can take time to find a system and a flow that works for you, your work style and your life.

Congratulations! You’ve taken a huge step towards a more clutter-free and productive workspace. For more tips on creating an inspiring and enjoyable office, grab my free resource “5 Essentials for Home Office” success here.

 

 

Read More

Decorating for the Senses: Add Aromatherapy to Every Room with Essential Oils

I recently surveyed my most loyal readers and found that more than a third of them don’t know where to start a room makeover, even when they know they want to make a change.

Philosophically, just having the realization that a change is needed is already “starting” but I’m all about practical information.

There are a lot of great places to start a decorating project and here’s one that you know off the top of your head, literally: start with the senses. Look at the room in terms of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

This week we’re kicking off a 5-part series on, you guessed it, Decorating for the Senses with a video chat about incorporating aromatherapy into your room makeover. Click the video for the full discussion. A handy chart is provided below—feel free to print it and share it online, too!

According to my guest Terri Allen, pure essential oils actually have specific healing properties that have a positive and powerful effect on the body, mind and soul. So while they smell good, they also create an environment to help you feel better.

This is because essential oils affect the part of our brains known as the limbic system which controls emotions, hormones, nervous system, blood pressure, heart rate, and the ability to concentrate.

Terri recommends using an ultrasonic diffuser, a device that mixes a few drops of your favorite oil in a chamber with cool water so the oils are released in to a fine water vapor that mixes with the air in the room.  Terri cautions against confusing a diffuser with a humidifier! She also says that diffusers that use intense heat (light bulb or flame from a candle) will alter the chemical makeup and therapeutic qualities of the essential oil.

Different oils have different effects on the body, as shown on the chart below.

Aromatherapy Makevover

When designing your aromatherapy, also keep in mind the quality of the oil. Terri says there are different grade of oils and it’s really important to understand the differences.

  • Synthetic Grade – used by the perfume companies and other manufacturers of bath and body products. These oils are made up of synthetic compounds or are chemically engineered so you really don’t know what you’re inhaling and in some cases, it could make you sick!
  • Food Grade – used in the food industry.  It only has to pass the GRAS standard (Generally Recognized as Safe).  They put this in our toothpastes, mouthwashes, gum, candy, and other food items.  It’s still not pure.
  • Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils – these are the oils you typically see at Whole Foods, beauty supply places or even the dollar stores.  These oils have fillers and other things mixed with the essential oil so you typically cannot not ingest them and the therapeutic benefits are diminished or non-existent because they’ve been diluted down and you also don’t how the essential oil was produced.
  • Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade – this is the highest standard of essential oil on the market today.  They are guaranteed to be 100% pure and free of synthetic compounds or contaminates.   Terri uses doTerra oils and they extract oils from plants that are indigenous to the region producing oils with the highest healing compounds.

There are a few of these choices that I would love to try! Personally, I use lavender in the bedroom as I feel it helps with a more restful sleep. I use lavender-scented linen spray on my pillow cases, too!

What sensory effect would you like to make in your next makeover? Post in the comments below, and be sure to follow Your Virtual Decorator on Facebook for more great tips!


 

About Terri Allen

Terri Allen is a holistic wellness coach and certified personal fitness trainer, who works with individuals, practitioners, spas, hotels, and corporations, educating them about nutrition, integrating fitness into every day practice, and assisting people at home, work, or on the go, in finding natural ways to treat physical and emotional issues utilizing aromatherapy. Contact Terri at (661) 993-5970 or via email at taawellness@gmail.com.

Read More

How to Make Your Hotel Room Feel Like Home

Lately it seems that I’m traveling a lot! As in, every other week. After a while, all those hotel rooms start to look alike … and not a bit like home. So I decided to change that and pack a few little things that I can use to decorate my hotel room and make it a little more cozy.

March 2014 082
1. Scarves
Scarves are super packable, taking up very little space in your case. But they go a long way to personalizing an impersonal space. Tuck a couple of scarves in your suitcase (mine are permanently stored in there now!) and use them to cover tables, chairs, or nightstands.

March 2014 077

2. Flowers

OK so it’s not that easy to travel with flowers, unless you’re driving to your destination. I do drive a lot, so it’s easy to put an arrangement in an expensive vase from the dollar store (so I can leave it behind if need be).

If you’re flying, you can order yourself flowers from one of the national retailers (or check with your local florist for recommendation in your destination city) and have them waiting for you on arrival. Or, pick up a bouquet at a local shop after you land, and ask the front desk to send up a vase. If the hotel has a banquet department, they should have something you can use.

March 2014 084

3. Vanity tray

I have a silver tray on my vanity at home, and I thought, why should a hotel be any different? I like to keep my toiletries out on the counter when I travel, but it looks cluttered. So I found a lightweight metal tray at the dollar store that packs easily and brings a lot of style to the bathroom! To keep the counter less cluttered and a little prettier, I stash other necessities like hairbrushes and rollers in inexpensive but sumptuous looking bags that I found at Cottage Arts in Los Angeles’ Little India neighborhood.

March 2014 080

4. Candles

With an abundance of caution and reminders about safety, I like to light up a travel-size candle (Voluspa, about $13) when relaxing after a long day at a conference. Again both the candle and the matches “live” in my suitcase at home. (Less to remember to pack!)

5. Photos

If photos on your phone or computer aren’t enough, pack a couple of favorites in your bag to adorn your desk or nightstand when you’re away from loved ones. (Tip: Make a set of  “travel photos” by copying the originals and using inexpensive frames for your favorites.)

As the saying goes, “it’s the little things” that can make you feel more at home when you’re on the road.

Read More

10 Ways to Spend Found Time

© Alis Photo - Fotolia.com

© Alis Photo – Fotolia.com

Time, it is said, is the only thing that once we spend it, we can’t get it back. That’s why I love “found” time: a client who cancels, a lunch date that falls through … any time you had scheduled for some activity or event that you suddenly have open, that’s found time.

Found time is equivalent to a windfall or mad money; therefore, spend it on something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, or to complete something that is weighing on you. Found time is opportunity time! Here are 10 ways to spend it wisely:

1. Treat yourself. What really makes you feel great? A manicure? A blow out at your favorite salon? Whatever it is, many salons welcome walk-ins and making yourself feel pretty is never a waste of time for busy people.

2. Write a letter. I mean it – a letter. Not an email. Find a pretty note card or a piece of stationery and write a thank-you note for a recent gift or kindness, or a “just saying ‘hi'” note to a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

3. Read a book. How many books are sitting on your shelf (physical or virtual) unread? They sounded so good in the bookstore or on the e-reader site, didn’t they? Crack one open and let yourself be transported or transformed for a little while.

4. Go outside. No matter where you are or what time of year it is, get outside for a little fresh air, a change of scenery, and a change of auditory input. Just listen to what’s around you. Take a walk. Sit in the sun.

5. Clean out a drawer. Okay, this is very practical but it can also have a tremendously big impact on your stress level. Is there a particular space or drawer that you never seem to be able to get to, or have a hard time finding anything in it? Take some time to sort, purge and replace its contents in an orderly way.

6. Refresh a room. I’m not talking about renovating a room, but in even 15 minutes you can make a difference in how a room looks and feels. For example, in a family room you could clear out clutter, go through that magazine “collection” on the coffee table, swap out the pillows on the couch, change the photos in the frames on the sofa table, or even re-arrange a bookcase. Sometimes even the smallest change can make a difference, and you don’t have to purchase a thing!

7. Swallow your excuses. Is there something that you tell yourself you “never have time for?” Well guess what!? Now you do have time for it! So set aside that excuse and get to it. Look at your list of undone or unfinished projects. Is there something on there that can be completed in the time you have? Think of the glee and joy you’ll experience crossing something off that list!

8. Nurture your relationships. Chances are, there is a backlog of emails, phone calls and Facebook posts from friends (not business associates!) that you’ve been meaning to return or reply to. Do it now! Just catch up with your friends and see what is going on for them.

9. See a movie. Has it been a while since you saw something on the big screen, or in your age bracket? If so, use some found time to be entertained.  If nothing else, it’s a chance to turn off your phone!

10. Go shopping! This is one of the keys to being a great gift-giver: shopping “when” you are. I love using found time to get a head start on holiday shopping, or to find gifts for events I know are on the horizon (birthdays, weddings).

Whether you have 15 minutes or a couple of hours, there are certainly lots more ways to spend your found time. What’s your favorite thing to do? Leave me a comment or post it on Facebook.

Read More