Living and living well

One of my favorite songs ever is by George Strait – Living and living well. The song is really about how you can have it all but none of it matters if you’re all by yourself and don’t have anyone to share it with. There’s definitely a lot of truth in that, but I’ve always thought that phrase to mean even more than George intended.

I think there really is a big difference in living and living well. Which one are you doing? I feel like a lot of people are just doing what they can to get through each day. Why are so many days filled with dreaded responsibilities and wished away weekdays?

In my 28 years, I’ve come to think there are two primary differences between living and living well…balance and gratitude.

It can be hard but we all have to keep a good balance between work, our commitments, and everything else in our life.  Any area of our life can get unbalanced, and when one thing takes an overwhelming priority, other areas in our life suffer; maybe even our health or our relationships. One of my favorite things my husband has taught me is that sometimes it’s ok to just do nothing…absolutely nothing.

The other living well lesson, I owe my parents for – gratitude. I think when we’re doing it right, we see and appreciate the value of the people and the things in our lives…everyday. Nothing is ever perfect, but there is always something to be grateful for.

If you can, think about what it would take for you to find balance and gratitude and let that be your difference in living and living well. Thanks for the wisdom George.

How to overcome the top 5 excuses for clutter

I think we’ve heard every excuse there could possibly be for the excess clutter that people have in their homes. From day 1, my mom has called our business a “tough love business”. We’re not there to pass judgment, we’re there to encourage and to help our clients overcome the challenges that come with excess clutter; to help people turn over a new leaf and live a more balanced, effective, enjoyable life.

Barbara Hemphill says that clutter is “postponed decisions”. We love how simple yet profound that is! In order to help people conquer the clutter, we have to recognize the specific challenges and excuses that they have for their clutter. What’s keeping them from letting go? Here are the top 5 excuses for clutter that we hear and how to overcome them.

1. I might need it one day
Maybe you will! But, it’s very likely that you won’t…especially if you haven’t used it in the past year…or sometimes in the past several years. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if you did let it go? You have to weigh the cost of the prime real estate that that bread maker, or deep fryer, or crafting gadget is taking up and make a decision. Something that we do in our family is borrow those things that are rarely used. We don’t all have to own everything – things like camping gear, party items, tools, can be shared and borrowed.

2. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or seem ungrateful
This is a tough one. We have many many clients whose homes are overflowing, simply because they’ve kept everything that was ever given to them or passed down to them. A lot of times they just need someone to tell them, it’s ok to let it go. Ask yourself if you love it, if you need it, if you use it. If not, it’s ok to make a decision, do what’s right for you, and free up some valuable living space in your home.

3. It was free!
Or was it? Is your cabinet now overflowing with free coffee mugs and you can’t find the one you really like to use? Do you get frustrated in the morning looking for your cosmetics because the drawer is loaded with free sample products? Is your child in sensory overload because of the ridiculous amount of toys that were passed down to them? Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to take it. Or, take it and consider donating it to someone who could actually use it. If it’s causing stress and taking up valuable space, it wasn’t free.

4. It was expensive or might be worth something
We often work with people who have called us out of sheer necessity. They have to be out of their home in two weeks, their spouse is fed up, or their world is spinning out of control. In most of these circumstances, there is no time for a garage sale, or to post the items on Craigslist or Ebay. Most likely, you will never get back what you paid for something and this can be hard to swallow. However, if you have the time and the resources, we absolutely recommend consignment stores, garage sales, and selling your items on Craigslist…you just have be realistic about how much you can get. If that’s overwhelming and too much, bless a local thrift store with your donations and get a nice tax receipt.

5. It has too many memories
Kids artwork, travel memorabilia, trophies…all of these things take up lots of space! We recommend taking digital pictures of as many of these things as possible. You can still have a photo of the item for reference or reminiscing, but you don’t have to keep the item itself. Let your memories be heart attachments, not physical attachments. If you keep everything, then nothing has real value. What are the treasures? Pick out a few and honor them.

New Years Resolutions Choices

Getting organized is one of the top ten most common New Year’s Resolutions that people make. Therefore, it must also be one of the most commonly broken resolutions. According to Psychology Today, only about 10 percent of people who make a New Year’s Resolution have stuck to them one year later.

So what’s the point? Well how about instead of a resolution, we call it a choice.

This intention and choice can easily apply to our homes and how we live in them. If we want a better quality of life, we have to consciously make the choice to get our home and life organized. And, we have to choose to keep them that way.

Here are a few choices that I have settled on and if you’re looking for a better 2013, I hope you’ll do the same!

I choose…to only have things in my home that I use and I love.

I choose…my family over my stuff.

I choose…to clear out the clutter on a regular basis.

I choose…to be mindful of the things that enter my home.

I choose…to put things back after I use them.

That’s it. If you choose those things and stick to them, you can live a more organized life…a better life!

Christmas Gifts…time to mix it up!

My mom has always said that gift giving is an art – either you have it or you don’t. I think most of us really enjoy giving – it’s the shopping part that can sometimes be a dreaded, stressful event.

A couple of years ago, my side of the family realized that pretty much all we were doing for Christmas was exchanging $50 gift cards. It really had no sentiment, and no point. So, my mom had the idea to do a “Homemade Christmas”. While I’m pretty sure we will never do it again, we definitely won’t forget it, and a year later, we’re still laughing about some of the gifts. We had homemade beef jerky, 4 hours of free handyman labor, a thorough car detailing, homemade kahlua…you get the point. My sister gets the award for creativity. She made Brandon and I a sports trivia game that took her hours! Too bad we learned all of the answers and could only play it once. She also sent my parents on a scavenger hunt all over Northwest Arkansas. Good try Chere’, good try. 🙂

This year, we decided to just draw names and everyone sent out an email list of 3 or 4 things they would like. We banned gift cards and this way everyone gets something they really want and we can spend a little more.

If “Homemade Christmas” or drawing names aren’t for you, here are some of my favorite gift ideas. They won’t collect dust and they can even be great options for the person who has everything.

Give…

Experiences
• A trip! Maybe a girls’ weekend getaway to Dallas, or a ski trip for your entire family
• An annual zoo pass (If you live in NWA, consider a day at the drive thru safari in Gentry)
• Concert or play tickets
• An IOU for dinner & a movie
• Think outside the box and consider what that person really loves. My sister and brother-in-law gave Brandon a day of a Harley rental for the two of them for his 30th birthday. He loved it!

Give…

Services
• Cooking Classes
• Art Lessons
• Spa Services
• Car Detailing
• Dance Lessons
Or time with a…
• Lifecoach
• Handyman
• Professional Organizer
• Decorator
• Personal Trainer

Give…
Practical & Useful Things
• Food & Wine
• Bath products
• Label Maker
• Sheets
• E-Reader

Give…
Something Different
• Harry and David Fruit of the Month Club
• Monogrammed bag or beach towels from Lands End (my go-to gift!)
• Personalized address stamp or stationery
• Magazine or newspaper subscriptions

Whatever you decide to give, have fun with it, sit down and really consider the person – their personality, their interests, something they would never buy for themselves. And most importantly, I hope you’ll remember the ‘Reason for the Season’. Merry Christmas!
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Be in Control!

Life is busy…and stressful…and it can be complicated. There are so many things out of our control…I’ve definitely come to understand that truth.

But, we do have a say when it comes to our homes. We CAN control what we bring into our homes and what we allow to remain in our homes. With all of those external circumstances over which we have no authority, why would we also let ourselves feel helpless at home? It may sound a little silly, but it’s true; when we are surrounded by so much excess and disarray on a daily basis, we lose…the stuff wins.  

Don’t be helpless in your own home.  Ask yourself if you need it, if you love it. Be intentional when it comes to your home, be in control.

Florida, abundance, & simplicity

Before we came to the great state of Arkansas my husband and I spent almost 3 years in Florida. I wouldn’t trade those 3 years for anything. We were newly married and fresh out of college. We moved to Cocoa Beach where my husband had a great job as a business manager for a construction company and I landed my first job in medical sales. We worked hard but we also played hard. We bought kayaks and a wave runner and spent all of our weekends at the beach with friends and traveling around the state.

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After two years, we were ready to do something different. We both felt like we eventually wanted to move back closer to family and buy a house one day but we weren’t quite ready. We had met working a summer in college at a dude ranch in Colorado and had both always craved adventure. So….we decided to do something crazy and went to work for a wealthy family in Miami Beach!

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We were hired as “estate managers” and were given a beautiful two bedroom apartment on the property. They had 3 homes, the one in Miami Beach, a gorgeous mountain home in Quebec, Canada, and another on a private island in the Bahamas. We traveled to their different estates, shopped for them, and did just a little bit of everything. Needless to say, I also would not trade this experience for anything!

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After a while, a perfect job opportunity opened for my husband in Fayetteville; and, I really wanted to be closer to my family…so we moved on. But…I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to get a glimpse into a world so different from my own. And, I know we both learned quite a bit along the way.

Some were true life lessons, and others were mere insights into how to achieve simplicity amongst such abundance. As a co-owner of Simple Spaces, this experience has been invaluable to me.

I was encouraged to do monthly closet and toy clean outs with the kids. They did get new things quite often, but in order to keep things simple and streamlined, a lot of old stuff was regularly given to charity. I did most of the grocery and supply shopping for the homes and, although they liked to purchase in bulk, the number of actual products were very limited. I think this is great to do with food, cleaning products, HBA products etc. Find one brand you love and stick with it, you’ll cut down on waste and confusion. Even the adults in the home had beautifully organized closets with mostly classic pieces. They were very expensive but there was not a ridiculous amount of anything and older items were regularly purged. Each bed in the home had only two sets of sheets that were kept in a labeled linen closet. When one was being washed the other would go on the bed until the next week. These are just a few examples of how their daily life (which could have been chaotic just by volume) was made easier.

The point of this is to share what I learned from this job. Simplicity can be achieved no matter what your income, your social status, the size of your home, etc. I took away a true appreciation for living simply…even amongst such abundance. They understood the importance of quality over quantity and the value of simplicity in a world of plenty. And, I can also never forget all the fun we had along the way!

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Thrift store find = Upgraded office

I was out hunting for furniture last weekend and found a great new desk for my office. Sometimes I really don’t get the pricing logic in the thrift stores that I frequent. I spotted the desk as soon as I walked in and as I approached it, I anticipated a high price tag. After all, it was next to a particle board dresser that was practically falling apart for $175!  Way overpriced in my book. When I saw that it was only $55, I knew it had to have a huge flaw.  I couldn’t believe it… the drawers all worked great, the legs didn’t wobble, it had no giant gouges, and it was solid oak. It was too good to be true.

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I knew I had found a gem and just couldn’t part with it, plus I didn’t realize just how much I needed a bigger desk.

Home offices are spaces that many people don’t give much thought to when it comes to decorating and organizing. In reality, they’re actually very important. With Simple Spaces, we tackle quite a few home offices and sometimes those are the most satisfied clients. People say how much more productive, creative, and motivated they are in a functional, attractive office space.

Here is my old desk. I remember my parents buying  this for me at Pier One when I was 20 for my first apartment in college. Since then, it has traveled with me to 5 different homes and now that I have a good-sized office, I think it’s ok to let it go. I don’t like visual clutter and so I was stuffing way too much stuff in the one little drawer. I also had my office supplies stored in a closet in another room..and of course, when I got up to get something I would be distracted by another task.

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I decided to paint the desk a chalky matte black called Tricorn Black from Sherwin Williams. I really like using this color on light oak colored furniture because I think it looks great when it comes through the paint. I slightly distressed the edges and the detailed parts. And, I kept the original, industrial hardware.

Now I have all of my office supplies in one spot, ample surface area to write and spread out documents, and drawers to conceal it all when I’m done! A small investment for a big office upgrade!

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Clothes part 2…Advice from a stylist!

My mom and I can organize a closet. We can help people make decisions and purge, we can put like things together, and we can make it look nice…but we cannot tell our clients what they should have in their closets. That’s the job of a stylist…and luckily, my best friend is one!

Blair Ver Meer lives in Denver and she’s awesome…really. I wish she lived closer for many reasons but also so she could do a full “wardrobe edit” on my own closet. I decided to pick her brain from afar and she provided some great tips for what specifically makes a great wardrobe. She has a degree from Baylor University with an emphasis in Fashion Merchandising. She has worked as an executive intern for Dillards and has experience as an Image Consultant.

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Here’s what she had to say:

Less is more when it comes to the amount of items in your wardrobe. If you find pieces that you “forgot you had” then it’s time to scale down. Get rid of items you didn’t wear last season. Reevaluate the condition of your clothes; people generally perceive their clothes as the day they bought them, but over time and through several washes they tend to lose their shape, pill, and fade. Watch out for fading especially with black as it is the most obvious.

Remove all items from your closet that need attention – missing a button, need tailoring, have a hole, etc, and either repair them asap or donate them. Avoid online shopping unless the shipping is free or low in cost as most items look different on the models than on you. This is an easy way to get “stuck” with items you like the idea of but will never wear. If you’re concerned about the financial loss, try consigning at a local store or eBay to recoup a portion of the cost. If there are clothes that do not fit, due to weight gain or loss, remove them from your closet, put them in a rubbermaid tub, and set a calendar date (6 months) to see if they fit again. If they don’t (and they probably won’t) then ditch them.

It’s better to invest in high quality items, and to avoid places where everything is on sale always. Avoid buy 2 get 1 free deals, you usually don’t want 3 of the same item in different colors, unless it’s something unidentifiable like work pants for example. Invest in jackets and blazers as they give more style to any outfit and are usually quite versatile, and offer more bang for your buck than say a cardigan. Sweaters are usually the first to wear out due to the nature of the material, so don’t put all your money towards that.

Take into account your lifestyle and budget. Casual doesn’t mean sloppy. Your closet should be 80% classic, 20% trend, otherwise you’ll look like you’re trying to hard. And, remember that there is no such thing as a one size fits all perfect wardrobe!

Clothes, clothes, and more clothes! Part 1

A very common denominator with many of our clients is piles and piles of clothes. It seems to be a roadblock for many people to getting and staying organized. I think the simple truth is that we just have too many! Too many clothes that don’t fit anymore or those that are out of style or out of season are taking up prime real estate in our closets…or the floor, or the bed, or everywhere.

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After sorting through all of this clothing and what was in the closet, we came up with several bags for donations. Now all of the clothes fit comfortably in the closet and the bed and floor are clear.2-bedroom-after

One of our favorite organizers and authors is Peter Walsh. He says that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.

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Are you inspired to tackle your clothing? Start by taking everything out. We always tell people it gets worse before it gets better. Your closet will probably look like it just threw up but it’s vital to see everything you have.

Start sorting and making piles. You need a box or big trash bag for donations or consignments. I like to use the under bed clear containers to store my out of season clothes and get them out of my closet for more space. Put like items with like items and once you have decided what can go, then you can start putting everything back in an organized, logical way.

The end of a season is the perfect time to work on your closet. And…while you work, remember the wise words of Peter Walsh – “You should only have clothes in your closet that you love, fit you well now, and make you feel good when you wear them!”

Simplify by choosing quality over quantity

One of the easiest ways to simplify your home is to control the influx. We live in a world where more is better, but I personally think that better is better. Do you really need those 4 can openers? 27 pairs of flip-flops? 3 printers? 8 sets of dishes? The answer is probably no.

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I’m fortunate that my husband and I have the same philosophy. If we’re going to make a purchase, it will usually be among the best you can buy. Why? Because if you buy good quality things, they last longer and you only need one (or a few in the case of the flip-flops!)

Even most people in fashion would tell you the same applies with clothing. Spend more on some of the classic pieces that you will wear often and you can eliminate the 10 cheap ones that take up valuable closet space.

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Choose quality over quantity and simplify your home. Save money in the long run and spend less time looking for the one you need!