what I do

what I do

Monday, February 28, 2011

Snow Day

The mountain ranges where I live, even though an hours drive away, are usually obscured by smog. Most of the time I forget they are even there. But sometimes, on a clear day, after a good rain or a brisk wind, they show up like a good friend that has been there all along. And sometimes in the winter, when they are capped with snow, they are majestic. Today was one of those days and I had to share.

View from Signal Hill 
View from the 2nd Street Bridge
Happy Monday! And Happy Birthday Sis!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

True Freedom

I am reminded today that God is in control. Of everything. And I am not. Nothing is too great for Him. Nothing. Not the weather, or schedules, or pregnancies or the flu. Not even cancer. I do not need to worry. I just need to trust that everything is in his hands. And that, for me ... is freedom.

"Nothing occurs that is beyond His control, apart from His command, or without His permission. Nothing. He rules over all events, including blessings and calamities. He rules over everything seen and unseen, material and immaterial, good and evil."                                                                - Charles R. Swindoll

Friday, February 25, 2011

Towel bars or hooks?


I'm not really a towel bar person. In fact, I realized I don't even have a towel bar in any of our bathrooms. Oh, I have had them, but somehow in remodeling or re-painting, they have been removed and never replaced. I couldn't tell you why exactly ... maybe it is the fact that it is hard to keep the towels hanging neat. Or maybe it is because the bars cut the wall in half. It doesn't really matter why, the question is, what do you do with towels if there are no bars?

I do like them stacked ....

And I enjoy them rolled ...

And oddly enough, I don't even mind them thrown over the side of the tub:

Country Living

But what I really love are towels on hooks. I love the simplicity of them.

Country Living

And to my eyes ... they are never messy!

Country Living

There are some really great hooks to pick from.

Pottery Barn

Restoration Hardware



And speaking of hooks ... I saw this at Crate and Barrel this week and really liked it:

Jig Silver Coat Rack

In person it was so much better looking, the hooks slide and the uses are endless!

I say hooks ... what do you prefer?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Letting go of a few things: De-cluttering continued

"Getting rid of the clutter is not about letting go of things that are meaningful to you. It's about letting go of the things that no longer contribute to your life ... so that you have the time and the energy and the space for the things that do." - Elaine St. James (from the chapter, "Getting rid of stuff doesn't mean getting rid of everything" in the book, Living the Simple Life)

via Windlost
Yesterday, when I was helping my client sort through old papers and files, we actually came across that quote. How perfect, right? She had written it down in a little notebook and then had forgotten about it. I love that we found it in the middle of going through our first de-cluttering day.

via Windlost
It says it perfectly. Today I worked with another client. We are working on a guest room, but as is common, working on one room often leads to other rooms. She wants to simplify her life and make things easier to care for. This gal is a quilter and has a room that is devoted just to her sewing but it is cramped and filled with a lot of other things (dolls, kid's toys from days long ago, and a lot of memorabilia). The things she has in the room make her happy but they are cutting into the space she has for working. And so we talked about how sometimes, letting go of a few things is actually freedom if it opens up time or space (and energy) to do other things. We talked about how sometimes we are willing to take things out of a space but are not willing to part with them completely. I think that sometimes 'the process' is a gradual letting go. And so we decided that some of the things that she is not sure of, we will place in boxes and put away for now. Sometimes that is a gentler way to begin.

Anyway, that's it for today ... just a little 'food' for thought.

Medallion Damask Soumak Rug - Shades of Light
Oh, and this rug ... my current 'love'!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A home office remodel. Part one: de-cluttering

I know. Another post about clutter.



I worked with a client today de-cluttering her house. It was the first phase of many. She is a long-time client who happens to be a very good friend and honestly, it can't get any better than that for me. Did I tell you I love to de-clutter? So to be doing what I love and doing it along side someone I like to spend time with is great.


What I want to share with you is the process. The end result is to give her a space that is "her own". This room will be her office where she will have her computer, her personal files, stationery (etc.) and also a space to work on photo albums, sew, or curl up in a comfortable chair and read a book. It will also serve as a guest room when one of their married kids come to visit. She wants it to be pretty, organized, free of clutter, and set up in a way that makes sense to her so that it will stay (key word stay) organized. It is going to be a great room for her and I know she will love the end result but before it can get to that place there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Hard work.


They have a home office that her husband uses now primarily and many of her papers and files were in there. Some of her files and books and things were already in the new room that we are working on and then there were a large amount of papers and files that had been in the first home office she had in a small closet in her kitchen before they remodeled. They had been stored cupboards during the remodel and were still there.


What needed to happen before we could do anything was to determine how many files, papers, books, binders, etc. I would need make space for. In order to do that, we had to get everything into one place. From there we will separate things in to piles of "like things". And then I will help her set up files, binders and determine how many drawers, bookshelves, etc. we will need to order.


For a lot people, getting rid of the papers are painful. Even though they want the "end result" it is hard to let go of the memories, the feeling they might need something one day, or the fact that it is a daunting task to go through years worth of papers, receipts, notebooks, records, etc.  Sitting down with a client and walking them through the process is really important. Sometimes just sitting with a client and helping them stay focused and reminding them of what the goal is, is necessary. When there are a large amounts of papers and files to go through, I recommend doing it in stages - a little at a time - or it can be too overwhelming. When I am working along side a client, 4 hours is the maximum I recommend. When I leave a client with 'homework' (papers to go through on their own) I recommend spending no more than 2 hours a day. Doing it a little bit at a time is less disruptive and burn-out is less likely to happen.


Today we took all the papers, files, notebooks, cards, journals, books - everything she will want to have in her new space - and moved them all into that room. It is important for a client to see everything together as it has more of an impact when it is all in one place. We started making piles of things that would eventually be put into new files and binders for her (inspiration, memorabilia, gardening ideas, travel, etc.) and she will also be adding to the files that we had set up for her years ago that will be stored in the home office (medical records, automobile records, warranties & owner manuals, school records, etc.) Her homework is to continue going through each piece of paper, getting rid of what she can and making piles of like things until she is stuck. Then I will go back and help her. 

To be continued ... 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday George!


In honor of George's birthday today I thought I would share a gift with all of you ... 10% off any Overstock purchase (except for movies, books and electronics). If you have never shopped Overstock.com, they are a great resource. I have used them many times from small things like jewelry to larger furniture items and have never been disappointed. In fact, they one of the places where I go to first when I am looking for something like a chandelier. Wouldn't this be darling over a bed?

Crystal Chrome 3-light Chandelier for $113

This ceiling light actually sells on another lighting website (that I also use) right now for $277.99:

Crystal Finial Chrome Ceiling Lamp for $111.99

They also have tons of smaller furniture items like benches, side tables, and even bathroom vanities
I think this would look great at the foot of our guest bed:

Tyler Leather Saddle Bench for $195.99

Not bad, right? Oh, did I mention that they only charge $2.95 shipping regardless the size of the order? So, if you are interested, here is your discount code to use at checkout: 121745, good for 10% off Overstock products (excluding movies, books, and electronics).  This discount code never expires, however, it can only be used once per email address.
(202234 - free shipping promo code for electronics).

Happy Shopping! 

Discloser: All the ideas and opinions expressed are my own. No monetary compensation was received for doing this post, however, I was provided with a discount code.

Monday, February 21, 2011

De-cluttering is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge

I heard once that the Golden Gate Bridge is being painted continually. That they start at one end and when they get to the other end, it is time to go back and start all over again. It turns out that is not really true, but that is what it feels like in my home when it comes to de-cluttering. I start at one end and when I am done, it really is time to start at the beginning again. Do you have that problem?

I am generally a very neat person. I grew up with a belief system that everything had a place. My father's garage had all his tools hanging neatly on peg board; each one with its own special place. We did not have piles of stuff on the side of the house and things were expected to be put away.

So why am I constantly de-cluttering? It seems like I should be able to do it once and it would stay that way. But it doesn't. Part of the reason is that as life changes, there is a natural moving around that occurs in the house as well. Children get older, certain toys are not needed any longer, other things are. Kids move out, new closet space is available, kids move back in... those kinds of changes. We went from needing one office in the house to needing two. I was able to downsize in certain areas ... and required more space in others. It seems it is a constant moving around. But there is more to it then just that. I just have way too much stuff.

I just finished going through every cupboard in my house and gleaning out every thing that wasn't being used - all the excesses. I started with my kitchen, went through my clothes closet, the linen closet, the bathroom drawers, my office and the final stop was the garage. The garage was the worst ... everything that did not have a place inside the house was stashed out there. I did pretty well going through all of the cupboards; made some brutal decisions about things I was just holding on to and it felt good. I saved the tools until last.

"Garages are the elephant burial ground of the 21st century. Stuff goes in; stuff never comes out." - Peter Walsh

Garage drawer before:

Garage drawer after:



When we put in the new garage cupboards and drawer systems several years back, all the tools were put away neatly and everything had a place. But that was not how I found it when I went out to straighten it up. I wanted to blame it on my husband (it couldn't be ME, right?). But then I opened up the paint drawers. Since I am the one who paints I cannot blame this one on anyone but myself.

Paint drawers before:

Paint drawers after. (Better but still not "Martha worthy!").

I know that part of it comes from bringing more stuff in. New paint cans, more painting supplies, extension cords that were needed for those new lights I added two Christmases ago ... but most of the time I would say the problem lies more with not putting things back where they belong in the first place ... sheer laziness (its out in the garage for goodness sakes - who sees it, right?

garage cupboard before:

garage cupboard after:

I don't have the answers (obviously!) but I think the question is a good one. Why does clutter form? Is it a lack of time? Or space? Or just the case of bringing in too much stuff. Probably all three I am thinking.

Do we really need this many screwdrivers?

But one thing that I do know, "my stuff" is taking up way too much of my time managing it (keeping it neat, finding space for it...) and that needs to change. I am tired of going through, getting everything cleaned up only to have to start over again.

And yet I know, that like everything else, it is a process. I want to own only what I use / only what I need. But there are things I cannot (or am not willing to) get rid of yet. Things I am saving for my daughters who might want them someday, toys they may want for their children, books I am not ready to part with, and dishes that are beautiful and even though I do not use them now, I may want to at some point. And so the cupboards although honed done and definitely neater, are still more full than I would like and will stay that way until I can part with more... maybe the next time around.  In the meantime, my goal is to maintain what I have done so far (so that I do not have to re-do what I have worked so hard to achieve) and to evaluate each and every item I bring into the house from now on.  

Quote of the day: "We love our stuff, we hate our stuff, we can't live without our stuff. We lust after other people's stuff ... We donate our stuff to charity, stick our stuff in a bookcase, auction our stuff on eBay, and then we go out and get ... more stuff!" - Lisa Kogan for Oprah magazine, March 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Oprah and Gandhi have in common

As I am writing this post I can hear the rain coming down and watering the earth and I am reminded that I am very fortunate to have a good roof over my head. I love my house. And I love the things I have put inside it. They give me pleasure. I am in a business of helping people love their homes in the same way that I love mine. And sometimes I struggle with that.

I spent a good part of the day enjoying one of my favorite pastimes ... reading a good book. Currently I am reading Philip Yancey. I love reading Philip Yancey. I love his writing and I appreciate his perspective. He stretches me and challenges me to think deeper. He validates a lot of what I struggle with as well.  This particular book I am reading, "Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church", touches me on so many levels.

Here is an excerpt from what I read today:
     "In the autobiography, Gandhi traces the evolution of his simple lifestyle. He had tried Western ways as a law student in London, outfitting himself in an evening suit, silk top hat, patent leather boots, white gloves, and a silver-tipped walking stick. He remained something of a dandy when he returned to India, and did not begin to change until he went to South Africa. First he ironed his own shirts, much to the ridicule of his law colleagues. Then he practiced cutting his own hair, leaving patches of unevenness that drew even more laughter. While drawing a good salary, he experimented by halving household expenses, then halving them again. At the end of every day he made a meticulous accounting of every penny spent.
     From these experiments, Gandhi found the the process of spending less money and acquiring fewer possessions simplified his life and gave him inner peace."

Yancey continues,
     "Voices in the West today are calling for a return to simplicity. Some Christians uphold the virtues of a simple lifestyle and raise questions about the morality of Western standards in the light of world inequities (though, in fairness, the level of simplicity they recommend more closely resembles what Gandhi started with than what he later attained). I will leave the issue of lifestyle morality to others more confident than I. What I learn from Gandhi is the reason for simplicity, not its level. Gandhi pursued simplicity not out of guilt but rather out of necessity, for the sake of his own spiritual health."

Sitting on my desk beside me right now is the new Oprah magazine. I haven't read it yet; haven't even opened it up. I bought it tonight because my sister said it was all about de-cluttering your life which is something I am passionate about. Written across the cover in large print are these words, "De-Clutter Your Life! Say goodbye to the stuff that's weighing you down." Apparently Oprah had one of her "Aha moments" as the cover relays, "I want to be lean and clean for the future."

And it all makes me think, what are we doing? We accumulate things because we think it will make us happy. We work hard to be able to afford the things we love. And then we work even harder to manage the things we have. Do our 'things' weigh us down? Do they keep us from having inner peace? What do you think?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Choosing a paint color - a few suggestions


Often when I am at the paint store I watch people struggle to select a color from the library of swatches they have on display. Just recently I was at Home Depot trying to find a match to a Benjamin Moore color for an out of town client. While I was there I overheard a couple arguing about the colors they were trying to select for their new home. It was painful to listen to them because neither one of them was going about it the right way. I felt bad because I knew they were making a mistake and they didn't know any better so I walked over to help them. 

The following are a few tips I shared with them: 
1. You should not select a color based on a 1" swatch of color. 
2. But if you insist on doing it, take the color down a shade. The color will intensify when it is up on the walls. 
3. The lighting in a store is going to be different then the lighting in your house and the paint chip will look very different when you get it home, so at the very least, take the swatch home and look at it in your own lighting before making a decision.

The best way to select a color is to have a large enough swatch to be able to really see the true color. I like to paint a poster board size sample and I use foam core so that it can stand up on its own. I prefer to paint my samples on a board rather than on the wall directly so that I can move the sample from wall to wall and from room to room to see what the color does in different lighting. 

Another important thing to consider is what you are putting your sample against. Different colors affect each other and can make a swatch look wrong just because you have it up against a conflicting color. I solve this by keeping the edge of my sample white. When I am painting my samples, I tape the edges with blue painter's tape to keep the edge clean. I write the name of the color on the back so that when I am testing colors I am not swayed by knowing what color it is. 

A lot of paint companies are now offering small size paint samples. These are great. The 2 oz. samples that Benjamin Moore sells for $4.99 perfectly cover the poster boards that I use with two coats. Always paint your samples with at least two coats.

And finally, remember that paint will look different in every space and at different times of day. A wall color that looks great in one house may not look great in another.  I have my tried-and-true colors that I love but I always check them in each space I am thinking about using them in. What looks good in one room, may not in another depending on the amount of light the room gets and the surrounding decor. Matching your new paint color to the existing elements in your room (your woods, your fabrics, etc.) is another factor to take into consideration which is another reason why selecting a paint color in the store is not a good idea.

Canadian Home and Country via House of Turquoise
House of Turquoise
House of Turquoise