Furbaby Feelings Matter Too

So after talking about mental health in our lives and the importance of having your own personal space, I thought it was also important to talk about our pets and how we can help them have a positive mental life. I know it sounds kind of super hippy and new age of me but give me a chance to explain.

Your pets' mental health is often a reflection of your own, and vice versa. It is well known that cats purring has healing powers (the frequency of their vocalization can improve bone density and promote overall healing1). Dogs on the other hand are incredibly smart and capable of being trained to give all sorts of assistance to the disabled, as well as give comfort in time of sorrow or sickness, reduce anxiety, depression, and blood pressure2. Multiple recent studies show that horses are able to sense a person's emotions, moods, and trust3 . So it's not a far leap to say that making sure your fur baby is comfortable and at peace in your home is important for the overall well-being of the family.

In the Home

Just like a humans, having a little special place for our animals is good for their mental health. We have a rescue scaredy cat so it is imperative that we have a safe space for her to hide when friends with dogs come over or we have a get together. I have always created this out of that first room I put them in when we move because it is the first sight and smell they connect with during the moving process in the new home and therefore stays ingrained as "their" room.  The space has their water, food, cat tree, and their carry bags. Most days I often find them lounging in there, as seen below, left, my little Maggie sitting on her perch in the sun. For my mom, this space the mudroom where the dog beds and crates are. Also below is her pup Benji, happily sitting in his crate playing with toys and newspaper.  Often, we find him napping there and taking a rest from playing.


The other thing that makes animals feel safe and secure is a routine. Just the same as it is important for small children. It is widely believed that animals can't tell time and don’t know how long you have been gone. But my cats, and friend's and family's pets, know patterns. They know when it feel like time for dinner, bed, treats, a walk, etc. For example my cats know that on the weekends or a holiday, basically anytime my boyfriend and I are both home sleeping late, that they will get a little bit of milk when we get up and make coffee. So on the weekends they anxiously wait for us to get up sometimes if we sleeping very late they start jumping on us and running to the kitchen. On normal weekdays, they abide by our routine of getting up and out to work and don't really beg for any milk. Similarly when we clip their nails or give them medicine, it is always followed by a treat. So while they don’t enjoy the activity, they often sit still knowing they will get a reward afterwards. And should we hesitate on the reward, oooh they let us know! My sister told me the other day that her older cat comes downstairs and starts meowing at them if they don't come up to bed by a certain time. So it's obvious that while they may not know the time, they definitely know something! Patterns and routine things train or condition them to understand cause and effect, action and reward, but it also gives them a sense of security of the known - Knowing they'll always get dinner around the time the sun goes down, or time you come home from work, etc.. Whatever the pattern, a routine increases their feeling of security and stability.

During transition
Our pets are always intrigued with what we are doing. When you start piling your clothes on the bed to spring clean do your animals come to see what you're doing? When you are packing dont them come in and check out what's going on? Often sitting in or on your belongings and luggage? I would say this is 1) they just want to be in the same room as you, 2) they don't want you to leave, 2) as we discussed above, they can tell if something is going on with you mentally. So when you are moving or transitioning, seeing familiar items put into boxes and leave the house doubles intrigue with concern. And if you have a rescue pet that is prone to abandonment or separation anxiety, this can be very scary for him or her..

What I have learned from moving 5 times with my cats and helping friends with animals move is that you have to make the process as easy and carefree for them as possible. You have to conisder ift from their point of view - they can't ask where the boxes are going, why and more importantly if they are invited too. When you leave on vacation, they often don't get to come, so how should they know this is any different? They can only watch and hope.

The last time we moved was our most successfully planned and executed, because we had a new rescue kitten who does have some anxiety. Here are the things we leared and the tips we received from friends and family. (Note, these tips work if you are moving close by and completing the move in a day or two.)

  • Pack the small things you don’t use often first just as you would any move. These items are not important to you or the animals and may seem like a spring cleaning activity to them.
  • Find a room in the house that the animals are most comfortable with and that can be moved last. If it's not "their space" move some of their favorite items in and set it up for the animals a few days prior to your move so they get used to it - Ours had a litter box, cat tree, toys, a futon and a blanket they both like to cuddle on. We even gave them food in there the day before our move to get them adjusted.
  • Be sure to keep a few of their things out of this room. Ideally if you have a two day move, you can spend the night in the old house and a new room with toys and food set up at the new place for arrival. 
  • On moving day, try to stay as close to your animals' normal routine - food, walks etc. Some friends give their animals help relaxing in the form or homeopathic "Rescue Remedy" or vet prescribed assistance.
  • Close them into "their" room.
  • Get everything loaded for the move.
  • If possible, go to the new home and unload items. Then go back to retrieve the furbabies and the last few things.
  • If that is not possible, load them last. Make sure they have a comfortable hiding spot in the smoothest riding vehicle. Provide them with their toys, water, favorite blanket/bed/crate, etc. I will never forget my cat hiding inside his litter box for the entire 7 hour drive to move from Connecticut to Maryland. To him, that was safe.  My rescue cat hid inside the hole of the cat tree on our short move across two towns (see below).
  • Take them to the new place and set up their new room for them with the few things you brought. Maybe put a couch or blankets that they like in the new room with their food, water, and toys. Close them into this new room to learn the new smells while you set up the rest of the house. If possible have someone hang out with them – a child, friend, spouse – whom they know to reassure them and give them comfort during this confusing time.
  • When things are calmer and the majority of unpacking is done, the house has all the things they recognize unloaded, let them out to explore the new spaces.

If you have the ability to spread the move out, and/or are buying new furnishings this process is a little bit easier. As you can leave more at the old home for familiarity and can introduce the animals to the new home once everything is on its place. Instead of having them locked in one room. But the essential steps are the same.

Do you have any tips or tricks you have used when moving your pets? Do you follow a daily or weekly pattern for your animals? What kind of things do you do? Do you have a special place your animals are drawn to? A place they like best, where they can hide when the thunder rolls or many people come over? I would love to know your comments, thoughts, and ideas! And pictures are welcome on social media! I'll leave you with one of my favorite pictures, four of my mom's dogs, all lounging on the bed like it's theirs... well, it is.


1 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-cats-purr/?redirect=1​

2 https://pethelpful.com/dogs/The-Healing-Power-of-the-Dog​

3 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/horses-human-emotions-remember-happy-people-response-sussex-university-study-a8324921.html​

Transforming Outdoor Spaces

As I said in my previous post, I grew up on a small farm in Connecticut. There was always things to do outside, riding the horses, cleaning the stalls, playing in the makeshift tree house, swimming, jumping on the trampoline, playing (and shoveling) snow, ice skating, sledding, raking leaves, and playing basketball on the concrete slab where we simultaneously hung my hoop and a clothesline. I think my favorite outdoor activity was probably mowing the lawn. I would pretend I was an open road race car driver winding around the intricate garden plots Mom had planted in a sort of open square with each side on its own and a bird bath in the middle. And just like a driver, I had to watch my course because mowing over the tiger lilies, tulips, hydrangeas, bleeding hearts, or echinacea flowers was just as dangerous as a crash.

That all being said, it is no surprise that an outdoor space in my home is a must. And the cute little screened in patio attached to my ranch house, has given my a small little retreat space I also wanted when we lived in a town house. Now my perfect outdoor space is the Hanging Garden of Babylon! Ideally there would be a Weeping Willow and a lake (like the Constitutional Gardens in Washington D.C. below) or a Weeping Cherry Tree, but that is a little extravagant for my budget and ability.

I would even settle for this pagoda with hanging wisteria I saw in the National Arbortetum last year. Purple is my favorite color…

But as a renter, it is hard to achieve that look without spending a ton of money that is really an investment in someone else’s home. So taking the key concepts for making a personal space indoors, I created a cool little boho vibe in my patio for under $500 and never really set out to.

So to continue on my theme of using home spaces to boost your mental health I wanted to share some ideas on outdoor spaces. Here are my must haves to transform your outdoor space into your very own retreat.

  • Not just patio furniture, but furnishings – Furnish your outdoor just as you would your home. Pick pieces that capture you and speak to your room’s purpose. Do you want to entertain or relax? I like a bit of both. So I have a table and chairs for outdoor meals and friends to gather around as well as a chaise lounge for myself to sit in the sun, read, listen to music or lounge (that is what is it for, right?). You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for decent pieces. At Home, Target, Wayfarer, or even Big Lots all have good looking items for packaged deal prices. If you want to splurge and get some really sleek looking pieces then go for Pier 1 or Pottery Barn.
  • Comfort every time – My mission in life is to bring you functionality and peace of mind, therefore if you need to decide between style and comfort, choose comfort. (Ideally you can have both). My chaise lounge is green wicker. Its not fancy, its functional. My mom gifted it to me and it blends into the background of trees and plants. But it was the item that first set the tone and direction for my patio.
  • Just add pillows – If you love the Moroccan vibe, then you know what I am saying! Just like indoor throw pillows, by adding beautiful statement pillows, you change the enter feeling of a space. And don’t be afraid to experiment and mix prints and patterns. A combination of patterns work well together when they are paired with a neutral background. Just make sure there is a single color that is creating continuity in the space. When I added my medallion pillow (above) and red lounge pillows from Lowes garden center to my chaise lounge, it right away gave my boring patio a softer feel and me a direction for decorating the rest. Red is my central color and green is my secondary (most because of the greenery throughout and outside the patio emphasizing the few green items within).
  • Make a statement–Among the cement floor and solid sling back chairs, that pillow became my statement piece. I followed the colors patterns to choose a bright green metal drum style table, and decided I wanted hanging plants instead of flowers. I saw a cute solar latern that I thought had a similar mosaic feeling at Plow & Hearth to put on the table. Then all of a sudden the personality of my patio started to come together. So what is your statement piece, do you have one? Next time you go to a store, why not buy that little thing you thought would be so perfect for the space.
  • Bring your personality – Just because it is outdoors doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a little piece of your in your patio, garden, porch area. What do you enjoy? What brings you joy? Similar to the indoor personal space, you want to feel at home, whether relaxed, energized, confident, or reminiscent. If you like hosting, have a little bar area. I crave that relaxation sanctuary feel, maybe something to do with reaching back to my childhood and feeling peaceful in the outdoors. I wanted to incorporate my travels and the sounds that bring me relaxation and peace of mind. So I put up Tibetan prayers flags on one side, which reminds me of being on the cement rooftop patios in India, and windchimes. It has now honestly become an obsession. I started with one. Then I bought a beautiful handmade beach glass one in Jekyll Island, Georgia. And so it began... and now I have 5 windchimes in my patio, each one gives off a different sound. Once is glass, two are seashells (but different types), one aluminum, and one steel. I have yet to find the perfect bamboo one. So whatever brings in that vibe you are looking for, go for it!
  • Lighten up Light and ambiance can change everything. Think of a dim light bedroom, a bright and airy sitting room, a fluorescent office. They all have their own light and feel. So jazz up your outdoor space with lighting. A friend of mine has Edison bulbs all along his fence in his pool area, it has a rustic without being too fancy. Since I was going for the hanging gardens feel, I bought solar light strings on Amazon, put them in mason jars I had and bought at the thrift store, and then hung them along the columns of the patio. There are 8 total solar lights, so now as the sun sets, each jar starts to sparkle and the mosaic glass on the table shines brightly. Its not enough to light up the entire patio, but it definitely adds a great ambiance that I have received many compliments on.
  • Tie it all together – Area rugs are used to tie a room and it's furnishings together, adding physical and emotional warmth. So the same can be said of utilizing an outdoor rug. I'll admit that I thought the idea of an outdoor rug was silly when my boyfriend first suggested it. However after researching the options, ranging from cotton to wicker, I settled on a light weight plastic material that could easily be shaken out and hosed off and complimented my medallion pillow and bohemian style. When I put it down the room transformed into a… room. It no longer felt like an outdoor space, but like an extension of the house. And my cats loved the ability to have a soft place to crouch and experience the sights and sounds of nature. Therefore I highly recommend adding this last item to your space.

Putting it all together, above is my beloved patio retreat.  

Martyn Lawrence, interior designer to the stars says, “don’t be afraid to be eclectic.” So have fun with your space, make it your own, be bold, and make a statement. Most of all get outside and enjoy the outdoors! I'll leave you with a picture of my cat, Mau, enjoying the full glory of our patio in hopes that you too may create such a haven for yourself in your patio, porch or backyard. 

Creating Indoor Sanctuary Spaces

Growing up in Connecticut, I lived on an 8 acre horse farm and we were always encouraged to be outside even if I was just reading my book. Now I live in a cute little ranch style house with a screened-in back patio, (which is what made me over look the age and condition of the rest of the home and the lack of usable backyard space, when we signed our lease 3 years ago). I enjoy going out there with my cats almost every day, but it wasn’t always like this.

I have lived in my fair share of dorm rooms, volunteer shelters when I worked in AmeriCorps, and the unbearable one bedroom 3rd floor condo with my boyfriend when I first moved to Maryland. What made that condo unbearable to me was the idea of not having a private outdoor space to enjoy. I felt like my skin would start itching and my feet start tapping. However, it dawned on me at some point that my need for “being outside” wasn’t really always about being outdoors. To me, the outdoors is a sanctuary, a calming, enjoyable space that feels refreshing to my mind and body. To others it isn’t as much. And since I had just moved in with someone for the first time, what I realized was that I really needed my own personal sanctuary space that would foster that same feeling, but indoors so that it was accessible year round.

Soon after that I created a little nook in the corner of our room. It had an alter that I set up with statues and stones I had brought back from my studies in India, a thangka (aTibetan Buddhist painting on cotton and silk appliqué, depicting dieties, symbols or scenes) and a comfortable place to sit next to the window. It was minimal but effective in giving me a sense of myself. 

That was 9 years ago and since then we have lived in 4 other homes.  After all the moving around in my life I have become pretty creative with making a personal space, even when there is not much room to work with. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I think this is a great time for everyone to consider whether they have a personal space and how they can create one. So, here is what I have learned.

The first step is to decide the type of spot you want to create. As I see it, there are two types:

  • Power Spot – think energizing, uplifting, invigorating - Marie Kondo says that you should embrace the things that make you happy with pride and confidence and use those to create a power spot.

My running medal rack - my biggest source of pride courage

  • Reflection Spot – picture calming, quiet and nurturing - A place to unwind; reading, meditating, yoga, knitting, whatever brings you joy and peace.

A sweet reading spot seen in a house for sale in Maui, Hawaii

Now this isn’t to say that these cannot be combined. I, personally, have taken aspects of both of those categories and tied them into my space. And if crafting or kick boxing is your passion; makes you happy and confident and also helps you unwind, then that may be your combo space.

Once you have decided what type of space you would like to have, its time to design it. While each space is personal to the owner, there is a formula to the creation.

  • Choose your color wisely.  Colors matter!  Depending on the use of your space, you will want to utilize different hues. Warm colors (red, orange and yellow) are energizing, positive, and passionate. Cool colors (blue, green and purple) are more peaceful and balanced.  Navy blue was just determined the world's most relaxing color! Green goes a little of both ways, bright green can be energizing, great for creativity and brain power i.e. reading and craft rooms.  Light green is often coupled with pale blue in yoga, massage and therapy rooms.  Purple which is located between blue and red on the color wheel has a great combination of both, leading it to be a romantic and whimsical color.  Your neutrals (black, brown, grey, white) can carry mystery and sophistication, however can also be stark and generic. For personalization I wouldn't recommend sticking only with neutrals., but using them to compliment color. Joanna Gaines, star of HGTV's Fixer Upper, says that "committing to color in a small area is also a lot less risky than having to repaint a whole house", so go bold!
  • Bring the outside in. If you can, place potted plants or flowers in your space. There are numerous mental and physical benefits gained from having greenery in your home. Taking care of plants teaches you compassion and empathy towards others, and also eases anxiety and depression. Research concludes that even the sight of plants can bring these feelings. Furthermore the oxygen released and carbon dioxide removed by plants can keep your home and inhabitants healthy. helping your body to heal faster, sleep better, stay focused, be productive and more.[1]
  • Sit facing a window or perpendicular to it. For many of the same reasons discussed above that bringing plant life into your space is beneficial, so is having an accessible window. You will have the added benefit of being able to open it for your senses to grasp the outdoors – sights, sounds, breeze, warmth, coolness, smells, etc. You can also gaze off and daydream when you need a break. If you are creating an office space or something with an electronic screen, a window is particularly important to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. A few of the outdoor my also entice you to get up and go for a walk or step outside for a it. And the natural light will illuminate your room for added radiance and energy. (This was very crucial during my condo days).
  • Carve out a space for your hobby. If you enjoy reading, add comfortable and cozy seating with pillows and blankets and whatever else you need to snuggle up with your book and fade away. Enjoy yoga? Make sure the space is large enough for your mat and pose extension. If you like crafting, set up your own craft corner or table that you could store and work on your projects.
  • Surround yourself with things that you love. This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.  If this space is your personal spot, then it should be able you.  Some of the things that come to mind are pictures of family, friends, or places you have visited. If you are a collector, then you should have those.  A friend of mine said she collect snow globes, so I would expect her globes to be displayed in her favorite spot for her to always see.
  • Ensure there is space for company, if desired. While this space is made to be yours, to bring you the feelings of comfort you need, our friends and family are also what and who we love. And we may want them to be able to experience our space. If you have kids, they may want to crawl up into your reading chair with you sometimes, or stretch out next to you when you are doing yoga. Instead of  pushing them away, embrace their need to be close to you and your mutual love for each other as it will make you feel even more powerful and confident.  Our fur family is no different. They often want to be with us for hours out of the day, so giving them a spot in your space. This will ease their minds and yours as well.

The picture above is my personal space. It has a reading nook piled with pillows, my bookshelf with stories, mementos and pictures from my life, as well as some artificial flowers because unfortunately my cats will eat real ones. A window to my front yard is just out of the scene. I can stretch out of the floor in the morning and usually have a furry companion while I do so. My favorite color is purple, so I have that and different complimenting colors to foster creativity, peace and power. Since we rent, I can not paint the walls, so unfortunately they are still white. Having spent 20 years competitively running, one of the recent additions is a place to hang my medals. I only just recently moved those from our television room that we had decorated in a sports theme. I had always had them in my space in previous homes and my space didn’t feel quite complete without them, but now, I truly feel that this room reflects me. It is calming when I need it to be, as well as providing me with confidence and energy from my past accomplishments and future goals.

And now that we finally have an outdoor area, I have made the patio more of my reflection spot, filled with the items that calm and sooth me. But that is for my discussion of outdoor spaces for next time!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite pictures. My sister created the peaceful spot seen below, left, for herself to read her Reiki and other books after moving in with her fiancé and feeling some of the same things I had experienced. Yet soon after she enjoyed her spot, so did her dog Pacha. Now it is Pacha’s favorite space to sit, just as my cats love to snooze on my reading ottoman, whether I am in the room or not.

Do you have a personal sanctuary space in your home? A power spot, reflection spot or something else? I would love to know what’s in it!

[1] https://www.ecowatch.com/health-benefits-of-having-plants-at-home-2608386260.html

My Favorite Places to Find Bargains

If you are looking for high quality items, there are a number of stores where you can purchase beautiful furniture, fixtures and accessories local to your area and nationally. However I am not going to talk about those, because that isn't my thing. If you are a little more cost conscious, like myself, then you are familiar with Overstock and Wayfair (some of the most popular online stores) as well as the popular physical store Pier 1. Then for organizers, The Container Store and Amazon can be our holy grail. But if you are on a budget and just looking to spruce up your space with a few decor or organizing items, those places can really add up.  So I have put together a few of my favorite bargain recommendations for you, that go beyond your local Target!

  • Home Goods – part of the same conglomerate as TJ Maxx and Marshalls, but as the name implies Home Goods is household oriented. This is probably a well know one, but I thought I would start us off simple. They are great for cheap kitchen and bathroom items, canvas artwork to fill odd spaces or blank walls, and ohh the selection of canvas totes and boxes for organizing! But beware, finding things there is hit and miss; they never have the same things twice and items are spread out across the store. So, if you see something you like, you better snag it because you will probably never see one again.
  • At Home – This store is new in my area. Maybe you know of it, but I absolutely love it! The first time I walked in, I just strolled up and down the aisles in awe. The throw pillows were organized by size and color. It was like a dream. Here is the awe struck picture I snapped, its ridiculous I know, but everything is arranged very easily to understand with tons of options. So as opposed to seeing only one kitchen pot rack, there are 6 kinds. Bathroom accessories, two aisles. Storage totes and boxes, 4 aisles.  Not just one centerpiece vase, but you have your choice of silver, yellow gold, nickel, rose gold, brushed metals, ceramics and glasses of different colors… I think you get where I am going.
  • Big Lots - This is an interesting store.  To be honest the quality is not very good.  It's a step up from the Family Dollar or similar, but if you are looking for something really simple like a cheap shower curtain, those plastic stackable storage drawers for the kids bathroom, basic outdoor furniture, or even a cute little gnome to put in your garden, they have all of that.  Just don't expect it to last more than a few years or make it through a few moves.
  • Charming Charlies - This is a jewelry and accessory chain store. So you are probably wondering why I suggest it. Well, they have darling little jewelry bowls, stands, and plates. If you are shopping for a statement piece to stage a home for sale, you may be able to grab something cute for cheap. Also perfect for pre-teen and teen gifts. I bought this little ceramic white and gold decorate plate that is perfect for a bathroom or a master bedroom, for $8.00.
  • Thrift stores! - This is really more for decorating than organizing. I am addicted to this one by my house, Wagging Tails. It’s similar to an antique mall in that it is HUGE and there are tons of things spread across the warehouse. But, it is all donations AND the proceeds go to MCHS, our local county humane society. Bargains and helping animals, what more do you need?! I have found great gems there including these amazing red glass votives, a mercury glass bottle, unused candles (flame and flameless), and surround sound speakers (ok that last one is irrelevant to home decor, but I wanted to make a point that the options are endless). I think it helps that I live in an affluent and diverse area as well. If you have a wealthier neighborhood/county near you, I would definitely suggest scoping out the thrift stores in that area as you will find better quality items. If you don’t have anything like that, Goodwill and Salvation Army are worth a peak as well. I personally haven't had good luck at yard sales or estate sales because often those items are out of fashion or very used, but if you have had some good finds or again a wealthier neighborhood, go for it!
  • Your own closet! Ok you came here looking for suggestions of places to buy new to you things, but I just started really thinking about repurposing and re-using items in a different way lately, so wander around your house and take a look. Is there something that you aren't using that may be better somewhere else.  Because not buying anything is the best bargain of all!

I hope this has been a little helpful, that I at least gave you an idea or two you didn't already have.  Let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions for your area, local to me or on a national level that myself or others should check out.  ​ Happy bargain hunting!

My Favorite Home Decor Items

Just like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, I have prepared a few of my favorite home decorating (and also staging) accessories that don’t cost a lot if you know where to look for them (i.e. check out my next post on great places for bargain buys!).  I think these items give you the most bang for you buck; eye catching and attractive. For staging, that little little emotional connection that a few of the create, is ideal to give a potential buyer the feeling of a home, not a house.  So without further adieu, here are my 8 personal favorite staging/decorating items.

1. Glass mosaic votives - I'll admit it, I may have a collection of mosaic votives in different shapes sizes and colors. I love them all. Some give off beautiful spectacle of light when holding candles or the sunlight hits them, others just remind me of stain glass. I have a gold glass one that is sophisticated and eye catching for a modern, chic staged home. This large red glass one holds a large pillar candle around the holidays, and my small challis style votives are more earthy; remind me of a Moroccan outdoor eatery. Whatever you choose, I don't really think you can go wrong, however it does have to fit the style of the rest of your furnishings.  So keep that in mind.

2. Decorative entryway bowl/tray – Mine is actually a candle stand, I bought it at a thrift store. There are only two of us in our household so it holds our keys and my boyfriend's wallet. Many people use ceramic or wood bowls and sometimes trays. For some families this is also the mail drop, but don't let this become your catch-all. Your entryway should be clutter free!

3. Imitation flowers - Not just any fake flowers, they have to be excellent imitations that make you take a second look to confirm they aren't real. Hearth & Hand (By Joanna and Chip Gaines) have adorable ones; Magnolias (obviously) and Hydrangeas. Home Goods has them in all different shapes and sizes; loose and in vases. I bought a few with gel that looks like water. And I even bought a few succulents, because somehow I always kill the real ones.

4. Windchimes – There’s nothing that says summer to me like windchimes blowing in the wind. Now I am slightly biased (I have 5 sets), but I think that for a home with a great patio or porch, this would be a marvelous little touch to the home staging. It would really create the ambiance of relaxation in the outdoor space.

5. Pillows with gold accents - As I look around my home I see that I have multiple sets of pillows with gold accents, all in different rooms. I would have thought that earthy reds and browns are the colors that tie my home together, but I think it is actually brown and gold. Gold accented pillows are great because they add a little pop and sparkle when natural or artificial light hits them. You can choose modern styles  like this pattern or a rustic twist like this adorable vintage pickup truck I picked up at the At Home store. My boyfriend has worked on cars his whole life, so I bought it for him (but obviously it was really for me 😀 )

6. Flameless candles - These can come in unscented or, somehow, scented.  I love these because they are safe around pets and children, you don't have to worry about putting them out, they don't melt everywhere, and they give off the same alluring glow of a flame.  I have bunched a few together on my table for quiet evenings.  Sometimes I even light one real candle or wax melt, while those are flickering in different rooms to make it seem that I have many candles glowing. I have to admit, this is my friend's arrangement, I just thought it was so beautiful that I took a picture.  

7. Nest candles – And what candle burns that gives off enough fragrance to trick someone into thinking all of the flameless candles are also scented, you ask? Nest candles! They are expensive but last a while and are totally worth it. Birchwood Pine is my ultimate favorite. It smells like the holidays to me for some reason – it reminds me of nutmeg and cinnamon and mulled cider and Christmas trees. Its funny because I was introduced to it by a friend in Hawaii so that is the opposite of my experience, but none the less. This says “home” to me, if I walked into a house for sale with that burning, I might be sold. I burn it before people come over and when I am trying to unwind.

8. Large decorative mirrors - These are a pretty well known tool of the trade, but I can’t make a list without mentioning it. Mirrors open up your space, making any room appear larger… just don’t put mirrors across the entire wall. It was a trendy idea in the early 80s, but it makes the room feel like a carnival. Boy am I glad that is out of fashion.

So there you have it. A few things you might want to pick up to spruce up your house before your next gathering, your in-laws come over, or if you are interesting in renting or selling your house.  But if you really want to get the most for your home, hiring a professional stager is really your the 9th and best purchase you can make.  Let me know what you think of my list and if you have any to add of your own!

My Favorite Home Organizing Essentials

April is a glorious month. A month of rain showers, slowing rising temperatures, blooming flowers, earlier sunrises, runs and walks outside, and overall just happier days. So on that note, I have decided that April will be my month of favorite things! But don’t worry, I won’t just share videos of ninja cats or babies giggling (because who doesn’t love a good baby giggle?)

Since I was just talking about all the great ways you can start organizing your life, I have come up with a list of my favorite organizing accessories to help you get started; all of which drumroll… are all in my house!  I have split up the items by use.

General Use

Under cabinet organizer - These are crucial if you have small cabinets or spaces in order to use all of the vertical space efficiently. The ones below I bought on Amazon and have moveable drawers so that I can pull one out without taking the whole thing.  I have one in my kitchen for cleaning supplies and one in my bathroom for hair, nails, and makeup.

Wicker or canvas totes – I have two cats, they LOVE wicker, therefore wicker baskets and bags are not allowed in my household. So instead we have canvas and faux leather totes and boxes. I have one for extra blankets and pillows in the living room and bedroom.  One for office supplies on a shelf under my desk. They are so versatile and almost every home, office or department store carries them these days.


Under the bed boot organizer - I knew shoe organizers existed, but not for boots. When I found this, it was a game changer because I only have 4 pairs, but they take up way too much space in my small closet. To protect the integrity of the boot, I still put the plastic inserts in there, don’t worry.

Storage cubes - These are great for so many things and if you like the minimalist, modern style, then they are perfect for you! Most people I know use them for their kids, its the same cubbyhole system we are used to from childhood.  I have a client that uses them for all her son's toys, my best friend created an entire entertainment system for their playroom, some people use them for shoes. I personally use it to organize all my workout clothes.  I appreciate that I have a little canva box for my sports bras, socks, gloves and hats, and then open spaces for tshirts, tanks, leggings, hoodies, etc.  When everything is at a glance, as Marie Kondo likes, I can find exactly what I am looking for, whether I am going to the gym, going for a run in the park or just lounging around.


Spinning spice rack - There are so many different kinds and they are sold everywhere.  This is great because you don't have to rummage around looking for spices. You can see all of your favorite ones and it uses more vertical space on your shelf! Mine is actually on the kitchen counter along with our other essentials for daily use.

Knife magnet strip - Never again will you put your hand in a drawer and cut it on a sharp knife (which by the way I hope you sharpen your knives, but I digress).  When we first moved into our current home, we had just been given a really good commercial grade chef's knife and sharpener from a dearly departed chef friend.  Low and behold, they didn't fit in the drawer of the late 1950s kitchen.  So we bought this strip above and it has saved our butts in many ways!  And it also looks pretty professional, so even if you don't cook much, you can look like you do!  

Wire Rack - As I have mentioned a million times, small old house = little to no closets and cabinets.  So we of course don't have a pantry and being the home of a runner and a carb-a-holic, who both also like to cook and bake a lot we found that the space didn't offer enough options.  So, we found the ClosetMaid Ventilated Storage Rack at Home Depot.  I think its for the garage, or utility closet, but we don't care! It perfectly fits all our different food items from canned to oatmeal to my protein powder and bars and even my cookie butter (a girl has her weaknesses).

Flour container - If you are a baker or home chef, this is essential.  I don't know how I was baking for this many years without it! Its ingenious, 1) You can see how much flour you have, 2) It has a secure top (although it may not last if you drop it from the top cabinet), 3) It doesn't hold static like my previous metal jar, 4) IT HAS A LEVEL FOR YOU SCOOP OR SPOON.  I am not sure if that is as exciting for you as it was for me upon picking it up in the aisle of At Home.  Wow.

Clear glass jar - This is a Martha Stewart brand one my friend gave me because she didn't want it. Its large and it weighs A TON.  So now I get why she didn't want it.  They can be used for anything, I used to have flour in it however it was really hard for me to take in and out of the cabinet because of the weight, so I got the amazing one above. I honestly didn't have this on my list originally, but it just popped into my head as I was writing because of something my boyfriend said last night.  I asked if he wanted to use a different container to hold the Nespresso coffee pods, a bronze metal one that is light weight and smaller and kind of reminds me of coffee. And he said that he liked this one because he can see which pods are in there and Nespresso makes their pods so decorative and colorful, it looks pretty.  So there ya go. I just thought, maybe you want to get a big heavy glass jar but you aren't sure what it could be use for. The answer is, whatever you want!

I am pretty sure I can go on about my faux leather pen holder that I originally bought to hold the tv controllers or any other little storage essentials I have around, but I will leave you with this list. I hope you found a few new things that can help you stay organized and clutter free!  Let me know what you think and if you have any of your own recommendations!

9 Simple Tips for a More Organized and Tidy Life

Happy Spring! Along with March’s warm up, April’s showers, and May’s blooming flowers, comes “spring cleaning”. A favorite American past time, well for me at least! For those who have put off de-cluttering and organizing all year, this is usually the time they start. Soon we will see yard and garage sale signs popping up everywhere. So, in anticipation of that, I have put together a list of 9 simple organizing and tidying tips. These are not just once in a moment tips, these are small changes you can make now that can help you to reduce the clutter, stay organized and minimize your housework on an ongoing basis!

1) Make your bed every morning. And teach your kids to as well. Ever since I can remember, my mom had us make our bed as soon as we got up in the morning, (she even taught us to do “hospital corners”, but I have to admit, mine are not that great). Now as an adult I can't leave the room with out it being done. This small act sets the tone for your day as organized and efficient and will be ingrained in your children’s routine as well. Then when you retire to your bedroom at the end of the day, you will be welcomed by the sight; helping you to feel relaxed and calm.

2) Take a few minutes each day to straighten up. This can be extended to your nightstand, couch pillows, coffee table and kitchen table after using them. This may sound seems silly, but think about how much of your cleaning housework is actually tidying up first. And if you teach your kids to mind a few of their personal spaces in the same way they must clean up their toys, they and you will feel less overwhelmed at the number “chores” to do.

3) Have a clear, defined, uncluttered entry space. If you have a mudroom or foyer and kids, set up a backpack and shoe station. At the very least you want a small entry table with a bowl/plate/basket for keys, purses and wallets. Maybe even a separate container or drawer for mail. If you don’t have a coat closet, you may want to put hooks on the wall, but try not to overwhelm the space. Just as your bed sets the tone for your day, this sets the tone for your return home and guests’ arrival. A space cluttered with everything and anything dropped at the door will invoke disarray and stress (and probably raise your blood pressure as your walk in the door), while a clean space will give you a sense of welcoming calm. Think of the welcome desk as your favorite hotel - a nice flower, bowl of candy maybe, not much else.

4) Break down cleaning into manageable tasks. Similarly to straightening up, the goal here is to reduce your stress. Maybe you clean the bathroom one day, then the kitchen another. Or even smaller; tackle the toilets one day, the shower/bathtub another. If you have a one story, cleaning like items is very efficient too. I often vacuum one day because I don’t want to have to start and stop in each room while I am doing other things. What ever way you decide is best for you, by breaking up your cleaning tasks, cleaning will seem less overwhelming. Therefore you will be more likely to complete them instead of waiting to schedule a whole house deep clean day.

5) Plan out your meals. Many of my friends with children plan out their weekly meals so that they can buy the ingredients on the weekend or when the kids are at school in order to avoid the terrible after school question, "Mom/ Dad what's for dinner?!" My friends that follow paleo/keto/whole30 or other eating routines plan out their meals to make sure they always have the right ingredients and are not tempted by ordering out or grabbing pre made meals. But what about the rest of us that don’t have to plan? Well I plan too. Because even if I'm only making dinner for one or two, life is so much easier when the ingredients for pot roast are all in your fridge and that's on the schedule for Monday night. I don't have to think. I just chop and throw it all in the pot. Sure if Tuesday comes and we want to go out for Thai instead of having what’s on the schedule, we can. But it’s our choice. And when we are tired from work, the last thing we want to do is open the fridge and be creative. Bottom line, meal planning is for everyone!

6) Organize your pantry, cabinets and refrigerator by like item in easy to distinguish containers and on different sehlves or drawers. Marie Kondo says that “You should be able to tell at a glance where everything is” This avoids over or under buying of items. My freezer has protein (meat and fish) on one shelf, veggies and fruit on another, and misc (frozen bagels and ice cream on another). My pantry has different shelves for rice and pasta, canned food, oatmeal and pancake flour, and protein powder and bars for my workouts. That way at any given time I know what I do or don’t have and I am not over stocking on chicken or marinara sauce. The same goes for your cleaning supplies, hair supplies, makeup, etc. When it's time to clean you don’t want to find out you have 4 bottles of Tilex but not windex.

7) Keep a notepad in your most frequented /convenient space. For me, there’s a magnet notepad on my refrigerator. Every time I think of a grocery item, cleaning supply or other reminder, I write it down on that paper. If there’s a recipe I want to try, i check the ingredients and my pantry and write down what I don’t have. Then when it comes time to do our errands I have my whole list ready to go and with my organized shelves, I can take a quick look to see if there’s anything else I am low on. This avoid scrambling to remember what I want while standing in the middle of the produce section, or worse getting home having forgot the potatoes for shepherds pie.

8) Get e-statements for as many documents as you can. These days 80% of filed papers are never looked at again, so why bother getting them and filing them? If you don’t file them, then there really is no point to wasting the paper and mailing. By receiving statements online, they are in your inbox waiting and available to review, print out, etc. and you can always request pdf. or hard copy if you need to.

Last but not least – 9) Address things as they come – This is my summary statement. In order to prevent stress and the sense of overwhelming tasks, don’t let them pile up. Whether it’s the laundry, cleaning, groceries, shredding mail, home repairs, sewing the button back onto that shirt, for one client it was just breaking down delivery boxes , if you take half an hour to do it now, you will feel better than the constant feeling that its hanging over your head until its 5 hours worth of work.

I hope these tips are helpful and that you can apply them to your life. Next blog will review some of my favorite items that can help you get and stay organized!  But if you feel like you don’t know where to start and it is all too overwhelming, that's OK. Give me a call or email and I would be happy to help you start or finish down the road to a more organized, relaxed, and healthy home.

Top 6 Reasons to Get and Stay Organized

“Getting Organized” is consistently ranked one of the top five New Year's resolutions made every year. And with the craze for Marie Kondo's Tidying Up tearing across the nation, everyone wants to take part!  People usually start off strong, emptying their closets of unworn items and pantries of expired goods, but then, as with other resolutions, by this time of year they lose steam.

Then when the weather starts getting nice "Spring Cleaning". In another few weeks, you won't be able to drive around a neighborhood without seeing a yard sale, tag sale, garage sale, sign every weekend. 

But why wait? Why make resolutions at all? Why not make getting and STAYING organized part of your life? I can help you start on that road today! If you're not sure you really want or need to embark on that journey, here is my countdown of the Top 6 Reasons to Get and Stay Organized. I would love to know what you think!

6. If one in four Americans have a clutter problem, then that would suggest that atleast every one family does. According to Statista.com the average American household in 2018 was 2.53 people.  So is it you or your sister or brother or parents or neighbor who needs some decluttering and organizing? It's nothing to be ashamed of, some people just need to learn a few quick tricks, others just don't have the gene.

5. Wow, 80% of papers we print out, receive in the mail or by fax are never even looked at again. So why bother getting them at all? Why not receive via e-statement?  Or at the very least, cut down on your files by reviewing then recycling or shred to keep your private info safe.

4. Almost 10% of Americans own a storage unit. Ok that doesn't sound like too many, but there are upwards of 40K units in the US! But when you think about it, storage units are usually barely frequented, not exactly used like a basement freezer. When I had a unit, it sat for an entire year before I visited it once. If you have a unit, how often do you visit it and sort through your items? Does the volume grow or diminish? Does it look like something out of storage wars? Are there papers you filed away in there?

3. This one ails almost everyone I know. Garage are a coveted item on most home buyers' list of wants, however are they really just storage units these days? Do you have a garage that is used for everything except your automobile?  Thing about all the money you would save if you are didn't have the rain, snow or sun beating down on it year round.  More than the savings on that bulk Costco paper towel pack I bet.

2. Having worked in many small businesses on the administration side, I can attest to the fact that this is true. Small business owners, CEOs, even administrative staff, often have an overwhelming about of information that they are taking it and turning over to put our their products. Decluttering and organizing is a must for productivity and efficiency in the workplace.  And it is not different at home.  Are you one of those people that can never find their keys?  Or spend 30 minutes looking for a shoe or purse you could swear was in its "normal place" but was really under the bed?

1. Even if you don't have a clutter problem, the Huffington Post research found that 84% of Americans think that their houses should be more organized and/or clean. Busy families have enough to do with grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, school pickups, etc., why add organizing to your long list of daily activities?

 So, if you are motivated to start working towards a more organized, less stressed, you today, please contact me!​ Together we can start gaining back that year, and start reducing the time you spend on housework.  And don't forget to follow me here and on social media for more ideas, tips, and insights. Next week I will share some of my best organizing tips.

My Journey into Owning My Own Business

One of the things I have been asked frequently as of late is how I got into this business.  While a lot of this information can be found on the About page, I thought I would give everyone a little bit of my back story, pull all of my thoughts together into one place to explain My Journey to Home Organizing, Staging and Redesign.

I was born and raised in a small town in Connecticut. We had two tiny gas stations, an orchard/petting zoo, and a few stop lights.  No other commercial business were and are allowed to this day. Starting at a very young age, every few months I would get the itch to reorganize my life. For a child this essentially just meant my bedroom. I would go through my clothes, books, and accessories to get rid of the things I wasn’t using, either by donating them to the church where we served hot dinners once a month, having a “tag sale” or just throwing them away. Once this started, it would inevitably end with my mom finding me dragging my furniture across the room to create a new and more pleasing layout. I'll tell you a secret, I always thought the girl in the mirror had a cooler room than me. I may have grown up, but that itch has never ceased.

After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, I spent a year doing AmeriCorps service across the country. During that time I got my first real taste of the home improvement industry, working alongside volunteers and professionals at Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans and Miami. I specifically worked on framing and roofing. However, when my service was completed, I assumed it was time to start working in the "business world" So I began my professional career in the Residential Property Management field, something that related to homes but required bookkeeping and administration. Over the years I excelled in financial management, business management, operations, and social media marketing. In 2015 continued to achieve my Master of Business Administration (MBA).

So in 2013 when my father expressed his desire to renovate his New England Colonial house as well as a concern that he would not be able to manage everything with his busy travel schedule, I saw an opportunity. See after graduating from college, I had got my first taste of home improvement while completing a year of AmeriCorps service; working alongside volunteers and professionals at Habitat for Humanity. My father knew that I had loved the work. Due to some extenuating circumstances outside of my control, my long time boyfriend and I found ourselves in a position to make a move. Therefore he and I decided that I would move home and become the general contractor and designer on hand for my father's project.

Over the next year and a half, I supervised the renovation of the kitchen and four bathrooms, as well as the overall organization and redesign of the rest of his home, inside and out. We addressed a variety of items that had just been overlooked in the last 30 years ranging from pulling down the dated wallpaper, to refinishing floors, sealing the home, upgrading the electric, landscaping, and more. And I loved it! It was amazing to see how the small and large changes not only upgraded the quality of the home, but also my father's life in it. He would like to move out of the old family home one day, maybe not right this minute, but now it has evolved into a modern Colonial home with those options available.

While I was home, I also saw up close the snowball effect that "collecting" can have on a person. Someone close to me has unfortunately spiraled from collecting, to cluttering, and now to hoarding. And at some point, the "organized mess" I remember from my youth turned into an overwhelming task that no one even knows how to start. And while I don't think everyone has tendency of having this happen to them, I just wished that something had been done earlier; organizing and de-cluttering along the way. And more over, I wished I had been there to help and slowly encourage progress. Too often, this happens to seniors after a loved one passes away, or they are unable to physically address their belongings, or they must downsize to a different location.

Upon completing my father's renovation project, I tried to return to the business and financial management world I had known, taking a position as a Business Manager at a national commercial furniture liquidation company. Using my precision for planning and process, I helped to streamline the company procedures and finances. Having some history in home improvement and styling always helped my understanding of the services and assets we dealt with, however something was always missing. Something about the things I had done and seen stayed with me. Something about being inside of the office, without the ability to touch and feel and put my thoughts into physical action bothered me. I spent some time researching and considering what my strengths and interests during the past had been. And what I realized is that I enjoyed the work at my father's the most. Working my brain and my body and seeing the tangible results of my labor! So in 2018 I spent the year studying the theories and ideas behind the work I had been doing instinctively, and become an HSR Certified Professional Home Stager and Redesigner. And after a total of 11 years in various offices, I took a leap of faith launching my own business that combines my professional experience with my creative and problem solving abilities.

Most importantly I want people to have a happy, healthy and safe living environment. Since one of my main inspirations has been seeing my own family's experiences sorting out finances, belongings and paperwork after a death, I hope to help other families and businesses avoid that in their future by getting an early start now. It's not just my name, these things really are my forte!  

Top 10 Reasons to Stage Your Home for Sale!

These days you can't flip through the TV channels without either seeing a home buying/selling show or a story about one of the hosts; they are just as famous as movie stars! There are shows on buying "fixer uppers", "flipping" homes, remodeling all sizes of home, building tiny homes and tree houses, getting amazing deals, winning makeovers, and of course nightmare transformations.  So it's safe to say that every new home buyer wants that remodeled look and doesn't want to pay top dollar for it. 

That's why Home Staging has become a fast moving industry. Home Staging is the stylized preparation of a home for sale by a professional who has been trained in this specific design.  And many Real Estate Agents believe that staging is crucial to selling a home for the maximum return, just like us Home Stagers do!  So if you are on the fence about whether paying a Stager is right for you, here is my Top 10 Reasons to Stage Your Home for Sale. 

So, if you are motivated to start working towards getting the most for your home, please contact me!​   We can start with a consultation and a list of recommendations for as little as $200.00.  Don't forget to follow me on social media for more ideas, tips, and insights. And of course, your thoughts are always welcome.