Simple Ways To “Ground” Yourself In Your Home

As an “armchair psychologist of the home” I believe that everything begins in the home – so much so that my design philosophy grew from this belief and so I approach each and every decorating job with this key premise.  No matter what we do or where we go in life, I believe how we act, react and interact in the outside world takes root from how we live in our homes.  To put it simply, how we live in our homes should “ground” us, giving us the foundation to make us emotionally and mentally stable to go out into the world.  This means your homespace is vital to your essence.

I have always been a lover of Nature.  Hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, spending time at the beach, boating, white water rafting or gardening – no matter what the venue, my most favorite times have been spent outdoors.  For me being outdoors was a pleasurable experience.  Only after some trauma-drama infiltrated my life several years ago did I understand the healing powers of Nature.  Nature is flat-out the best tonic out there.  Period.  With this revelation I consciously decided to bring nature into my home in every way that I could knowing that if it worked for me outdoors by golly, it would work indoors, too.

This newfound revelation also became an integral component to my design philosophy and ever since, I have incorporated elements of Nature into all my jobs albeit often in really subtle ways that are only picked up on subconscious levels.  This allows for “grounding” to occur.  I also share with my clients’ ways to infuse Nature in their homes themselves (after I leave their nests) and on a larger scale to audiences such as the readers of my blog as in my post, Two Colors Every Homespace Needs.

Think of bringing Nature into your homespace as being part of getting back to the basics of what the earth has given us, literally.  Call it “grass roots” decorating.  Or call it simplifying your décor.  Heck, you can even look at it as a version of what is called “earthing”, a fascinating concept of connecting with the earth in order to become more balanced.  Ironically, just the other day Susan Weems Muehl, LIPH’s Nature Photographer emailed me a bevy of new nature images (thank you dear friend) and also mentioned that she was practicing the concepts of earthing.  No doubt about it, Susan and I are birds of a feather flocking together!  Both of us absolutely positively get the importance of nature and the earth’s connection to our bodies.  (With all due respect, “earthing” is more about physically being grounded; I am merely relating it to your home and how to bring Nature into your space.  To learn more about “earthing,” read the book, Earthing-The most important health discovery ever? Or go to www.earthing.com as well. )  Whatever you choose to call bringing Nature indoors, just do it.  Here are some simple, sure fire ways:

  • Decorate your home with found things in nature
  • Open up the windows and let fresh air into your home
  • Decorate with live plants, wildflowers and aromatic herbs
  • Pay attention to the seasons and honor them in your décor
  • When building, purchasing or moving into a new home, choose a home that offers you plenty of natural light (sunshine is healing)

Like many of us, I have times I’m in a real funk. I was in one recently for more days than I’d care to admit to.  Focusing too much attention on issues I had no control over and magnifying issues tenfold in my mind had gotten the better of me and quite frankly, I didn’t even find myself good company.  It’s a darn good thing my David had been traveling during this funk or he would have been rolling his eyes at me constantly, ignoring me or worst yet, pulling out his gorgeous silver hair over my attitude.  While in my funk my niece, Marli called me to chat and just my tone of voice when I answered her call made her aware that something was amiss.  I ended up telling her about my seemingly endless days of funk and she listened attentively.  Then she disrupted my pity party by saying, “Aunt Jamie, do what you always say to do.  Go to the woods.  Go to Nature.  Let it restore you.”  Whoa, was she preaching to me what I always preach?  Yep, she sure was.  And guess what?  I took her up on it.  I got off the phone and headed to the woods.  I simply needed an extra large dose of Nature’s medicine – more than my usual daily amount!  I walked and I walked, breathing in all the wonderful smells of Nature as I viewed the changing fall scenery.  So long funk. So long pity pot.  Nature restoreth my soul and I returned home more in tune with the earth.  I filled my lungs with the scent of fresh lavender on the counter.  I enjoyed watering all my plants.  I paid attention to the breeze coming through my opened windows and reveled in the sounds of nature I could hear coming into my home.  Later, as I readied for bed, I felt free of much of my recent anxiety and internally thanked Marli for her advice.

I believe that we all must singly as well as collectively connect or reconnect with Nature in order to truly be balanced and healthy. Infusing elements of the natural world in your home helps to accomplish this and is the single best way to ground yourself.  Remember to bring Nature indoors.  It might seem simple but simple’s good right?  And it might be a small step compared to the “barefoot steps” of earthing but by doing this you will give yourself gifts of healing that only Nature can provide.

To Nature…

Using The Color Green In Home Decor

It’s springtime so open your front door or simply gaze out the window and what color do you see?  Unless you look up, chances are you’re seeing the color Green – Nature’s very own!  Yep, springtime is the perfect season to witness Nature’s predominant color in its entire splendor.  And with all the feel good vibes that come with the green of spring, it’s no wonder that the color Green itself has positive emotional impact.

Green:

A secondary color on the color spectrum, Green is a blend of the primary colors of Yellow and Blue.  Green symbolizes Health, Well-being, Prosperity and Life.  Green is the color most favored by people in the helping and healing fields.

The psychology of Green

As I wrote in my post, The Power Of Color, the use of color is a form of non-verbal communication.  The color choices you make in your space greatly impact it and as I discussed in the post, colors not only symbolize certain feelings, they have the power to evoke certain feelings as well.

Studies have shown that Green has its own effects on us.  For example, using green creates a calming and soothing atmosphere.  Here are some other effects Green has on us:

  • Helps to alleviate Depression
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Reduces Fear
  • Nurtures us
  • Fills us with a sense of balance and harmony

It’s no wonder that many hospitals and medical establishments use Green as the color of choice for walls and fabrics!

Several people I know infuse shades of green in their own homespaces.  Oddly enough they are all in the medical field!  My childhood friend, Julie has soft sage walls in her dining room and splashes of green throughout her entire homespace.  A dedicated nurse and a person full of compassion for others, I’m not the least bit surprised that she loves Green.  Then there’s my dear friend Jolie.  She uses the color Green in her homespace and her office is furnished with beautiful green sofas and club chairs.  Immediately upon walking into her office you feel a sense of peace and calm – important for anyone that seeks out her medical expertise.  Last but not less, one of my niece’s, Jackie uses green in her home décor as well.  And yep, she’s also in the medical field- she’s a speech pathologist and in her personal life she’s always smiling, always upbeat and one that couldn’t hurt a fly!

So knowing that these three wonderfully caring individuals are drawn to the color Green gives me pause to consider the question of the chicken and the egg – you know, which came first?  Did a childhood love of green subconsciously draw each of them into career paths of helping and healing or vice versa?  Now, stay on the path of connecting the color Green with how we act and react and that flat brings out the wanna be psychologist in me and makes me say…

Go green in your space

Infuse the color Green in your homespace.  After all, if green can have positive effects on us, for heavens sake, we all should consciously incorporate it into our decor.  There are a myriad of ways you can do this without going over the top or ignoring the color palette that truly speaks to you such as incorporating it into throw pillows and accessories, but the easiest and for me the absolute best way to add the color Green to your space is with living plants.  Bringing green into your homespace in such a natural way by far changes the energy of your space – not to mention the health of your space (as discussed in a post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air).

Live green in your space

In recent years it has become the politically correct thing to go green by physically caring more for our environment in ways such as reducing water usage, reducing electrical usage, reducing gas consumption and of course, by recycling all that we can.  Our planet and humanity just cannot keep handling all our excesses, uses and abuses.  Every day the news gives us more ideas of how to physically care more for our environment.  But as a decorator and a homespace coach, what I call a “psychologist of the home”, I cannot stress enough the importance of psychologically caring more for our environment, what I call “living green”.  By going green in our home décor, we live green by reducing anxiety, feeling calmer, more peaceful and relaxed.  By going green we live green and can more easily live in perfect harmony within ourselves as well as with greater mankind.

Living green connects us to Nature

Richard Louv, author of the book, Last Child in the Woods and his most recent book, The Nature Principle, has some very compelling thoughts on the importance of nature in our lives.  He calls Nature the best tonic we can find and says,

“The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

I emphatically agree with Mr. Louv and have learned this for myself.  There’s no better medicine for me than to get outdoors and connect with Nature.  That’s why I also know firsthand the importance of bringing nature indoors as much as possible and so I highly recommend that everyone do this.  By infusing shades of green in our décor theme, we subconsciously connect to Nature.  It’s just that simple.

Early this morning I walked five miles at the park.  I was overwhelmed with the panoramic view of green around me.  With many of the trees in varying degrees of sprouting new leaves, the shades of green seemed endless.  I felt like Julie Andrew’s character, Maria in The Sound of Music as I realized my arms began stretching out to encompass the beauty surrounding me.  No, I can’t sing, but I sure come alive surrounded in green!

To living green…

Spring: A Season For New Beginnings

There’s a feeling that comes over me when I see the first hints of spring – the daffodils popping up out of the ground, buds on the trees and birds chirping their joyful noise all start something deep within me that feels good.  In fact, I start to feel the giddiness deep within me that I can only say is “a feeling of spring”.  This feeling always reminds me of Friend Owl and Thumper’s conversation in the Walt Disney movie, Bambi as Friend Owl tries to explain the changes that come over everyone in the springtime.  Friend Owl explains to Thumper why everyone is acting differently.  He says, “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.”   I love the word “twitterpated”.  It’s one of those words that really expresses the feeling well – you can feel the good vibes just saying the word.  Yep, I agree with Friend Owl and I know absolutely, positively that I become twitterpated myself – twitterpated with life.  That’s what spring does for me!

Spring-cleaning my house

At the same time I’m feeling twitterpated I turn to my nest and do some spring-cleaning to say goodbye to ole man winter and hello to a new beginning.  Psychologists say that spring-cleaning is good for the psyche.   When we declutter our houses of anything we needed around us to feel warm and cozy through the winter, we give our space a fresh new look that carries with it a fresh new energy.  (To learn more about how clutter affects you read my post, Clutter In Your Space Clutters Your Mind)  I remember well the rituals of spring-cleaning when I was growing up.  Things like changing the bedspreads on the beds to lighter weight coverlets and removing the heavy winter blankets from the beds were springtime chores.  These items would be cleaned and stored in cedar closets until the next winter.  We kids also had to clean out our bedroom closets because back then in the days of covered wagons (or so my own kids say) part of every season was changing our clothes out for the new season.  Away would go all the winter sweaters and coats and out would come the short sleeve shirts and cooler clothing items.  It was fun to make these changes because it gave me a feeling of newness and freshness.  To this day I actively participate in some of these same rituals.

As a decorator that focuses totally on details, I cannot tell you how often I go into homes and realize that they’re what I call “surface cleaned”.  By that I mean that on the surface things look OK, but on a closer inspection it’s another story altogether.  Now, the reason this is a problem is that these unclean spaces and places impact your health in ways you might not be aware of.   You see, accumulated dust and dirt affects the air we breathe as every breath we take contains particles of dust and pollutants around us.  I read recently that researchers believe that indoor air can be as much as ten times more polluted than outdoor air.  Much of this is due to how well sealed our homes and buildings are today as it’s only been in the last one hundred years or so that we have had air-conditioning, central heat, thermal pane windows, weather-stripping and other forms of insulation that keep everything air-tight.  Routine cleaning of these hidden spaces and places becomes necessary for good health.  So, this year while doing your spring-cleaning make sure you add some of these areas to your list to clean as they are culprits for overlooked accumulations of dust and dirt:

  • The top of the fridge
  • Behind the fridge
  • Behind furniture
  • The tops of frames on your walls
  • The tops of doorframes
  • On light bulbs
  • On electrical cords behind furniture
  • Under sofa and chair cushions
  • On closet shelves
  • On air return vents

Spring-cleaning my HOME

Springtime is also a time I do some cleaning of my interior space, my HOME.  For me it’s a time to look inward and reflect on ways to change and grow emotionally and spiritually.  All of us have dust and dirt accumulating in ourselves.  Just as we have dust accumulating in hidden spaces and places of our structural home and on boxes sitting in our attics and basements that we haven’t peeked into for years, we have the same accumulating in our hearts, minds and souls.  So, feeling twitterpated in spring gives me the added push and courage for new beginnings within.  Through the years, particularly since I began rehabbing my HOME after a chance encounter on a plane (read my post, Construction Zone: Rehabbing My HOME for more on this experience) I have found some real specific ways to declutter my HOME that have absolutely, positively worked.  Here are some of them:

  • Spending time in Nature
  • Bringing elements of Nature into my structural home
  • Meditating
  • Exercising regularly
  • Practicing my Faith
  • Surrounding myself with things that lift me up such as aromatic essential oils and candles
  • Listening to soothing/inspirational music
  • Bringing fresh air into my structural home and my personal HOME
  • Choosing to live in peace and harmony
  • Actively paying it forward each day

Review~Refresh~Renew

For me Spring-cleaning can best be summed up as a process of what I call “The Three R’s” – review, refresh and renew.  What a wonderful time of year to review the state of your space, refresh the areas that need refreshing and in doing so allow yourself to be renewed.  That truly makes for a new beginning!

As I’m writing this I have my office windows open and I feel a gentle breeze coming in.  I hear the birds chirping and have even spied two hawks harmoniously soaring in the sky nearby.  Yep, I’m twitterpated for sure and in the next few minutes the wondrous outdoors will entice me to come out and feel the splendor it has to offer me.

To new beginnings…

Simple Ways To Infuse Nature In Your Workspace

Most of us have very busy lives.  We go from home – to the office or our chosen place of work – to carpooling our kids – to activities.  Our lives are busy, busy, busy.  We rush, rush, rush through each task we have to check off on our daily “To Do List” ever reaching for the end of the day when we can relax, regroup and recover from the hectic pace to yet fortify ourselves for another day in the rat race of life.  This creates one big vicious cycle of commotion if you ask me.  It is no wonder that we hurry, hurry, hurry wherever we go.  If we stop and smell the roses along the way we get off task.  We are a silly bunch of humanity aren’t we?

My daughter Sammi and “God’s Littlest Angel”, Ansley were visiting us recently.  On Saturday Sammi and I raked leaves while my David cut the grass and Ansley played with her toys on a blanket in the fresh air.  Sammi hadn’t seen David cutting the grass in a long time and mentioned to me that he actually seemed to be enjoying it.  He was slow and methodical.  I told her that he used the time to think about life and mull over anything that popped in his head.  She said, “You mean he isn’t just rushing to get it done?”

This got me to thinking – thinking is something I regularly fixate on doing by the way, as I tend to over think everything. Anyway, I started thinking about how my David enjoys E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.  He enjoys yard work, housework and work at the office.  I know why, too.  David lives in the moment.

Not many of us have this gift of being able to live in the moment.  Most of us have to learn how to do it.  One absolutely, positively sure-fire way to help you learn to live in the moment is to get back to Nature on a daily basis.  Immersing yourself in nature every single day makes you want to smell the roses if you will.  You see there is healing found in Nature that is restorative and rejuvenating to the body, mind and spirit.  Spending time in nature is soothing, refreshing and inspiring and has the ability to clear our minds, providing a new and positive outlook on life.

Simply by infusing bits of nature in our workspace can give us this same soothing, refreshing and inspiring outlook on our work life.  Basic tools for thriving in the workplace I say.

Whether your workspace is in the form of an office cubicle, the corner office or a large spacious environment like my last office in Charlotte, NC here are some easy ways to bring nature into your space:

  • Bring live plants into your space.  Preferably use ones that are air purifiers such as the ones in Becky Balzer’s recent post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The AirFollow Becky’s guidelines for the number of plants per square footage of your space for the best results.  One other simple plant to use is Lucky Bamboo- place it in a unique glass container filled with water and enjoy.
  • View the outdoors as often as possible.  If you are fortunate enough to have a window in your space, position your desk to view the outdoors as often as you can.  If you don’t have ready access to a window, find other ways to look outside throughout the day.  Don’t ever go a full workday without seeing what is going on outside if at all possible.
  • View scenes of nature on your computer.  Make the screen saver on your computer nature friendly with pictures of nature on it.  Change the picture seasonally or even use pictures of your favorite season for inspiration such as a warm beach scene to ward off the cold winter blues.
  • Personalize your space with found things from nature.  This could be as simple as placing interesting rocks found on nature walks on your desk.  Visual cues such as found things from nature instantly connect you with the outdoors.
  • Display family photographs that have background settings in nature.  There is no better combination for feel good vibes than family photographs in outdoor settings.  This combination of family and nature is the ultimate visual cue that can make you feel a sense of deep connection to life without even realizing it.
  • Get a breath of fresh air.  If possible go outside at some time during the workday.  Take a short walk or at least enjoy the outdoors for a few minutes.  Breathe in the fresh air.  Even better, if possible open up the windows in your space to allow fresh air to circulate and revitalize your space.

Take the time to treat your workspace as a place to be honored.  By doing this you will connect more harmoniously with it and allow yourself to thrive each and every day.  All you need to do is make your workspace come alive with nature!  Without realizing it you will begin to feel better and begin to enjoy every moment of your day!

Enjoy your space, enjoy your work and don’t forget to live in the moment…

The Love Of A Roaring Fire

Feng Shui has become a new trendy discipline that we look to for guidance in our homes both in how we decorate and how we live.  Vastu Shastra is actually the predecessor to Feng Shui.  Both are sciences that are a bridge between man and nature and offer guidelines to help set things in balance with the five elements of nature- Earth, Fire, Water, Space and Air.

The element of Fire is important in Nature for many reasons.  For one thing, Ecosystems depend on fire to balance environments.  I love going to different Nature Preserves in the Chicago area and observing first hand how this all works.

Laura and Tommy Balzer’s Country Home

Laura and Tommy Balzer’s Country Home

Throughout the history of civilization humans have used fire as a means of cooking and to obtain warmth.  Most of us were taught in elementary school about the discovery of fire.   I can still remember some of the pictures in both science and history books depicting this discovery.  I can also remember thinking fire was a simple concept and what was all the hoopla about anyway?

In today’s world, we take fire for granted.  Electric and gas utilities have allowed us to become “modernized”.   An open fire in a wood burning stove or fireplace is rare.  What was once considered commonplace, a roaring fire, today is typically meant for a time of relaxation.

I love fire and everything about it.  I love the burst of colors, the flickering flames, the smell and the sound of fire.  Some of my fondest memories include times around a roaring fire.  Growing up, the fireplace was in our living room.  No Christmas morning was complete without a fire burning to set the mood.  At the beach (Sandbridge, VA) we used to have bonfires at night.  To this day I think the best hot dogs come from roasting them on an open flame as the waves of the ocean crash nearby.  Marshmallows?  Who doesn’t love roasting them and making s’mores in the beautiful outdoors under a starlit sky?  Now, all grown-up (supposedly…) my David and I enjoy sitting in front of fires both inside and outdoors.  We have a small fire pit that we enjoy on cool fall evenings.  A fire like this sets the mood for quiet contemplation for us both.  What better way to spend time with someone you love than in quiet contemplation?  And, early the next morning after an outdoor fire the smell of smoke still lingers.  Talk about warm fuzzies!

My children grew up loving fire as well.  In fact, all three of my children learned to love and respect fire and understood how to build a fire at very young ages while camping and enjoying the outdoors.  Just ask any one of them and they will tell you potatoes cooked deep in the coals of an outdoor fire are the bomb.  Bonfires at Hunt camp were and still are a family tradition as well.  And, my son Ben even designed and built his own outdoor fire pit.  In a recent post, Home Through The Eyes Of My Son, Ben said, “The fire pit always draws a crowd when friends are over but I can also sit there by myself for hours and feed my love of nature.”

Coco Brami’s favorite spot

Coco Brami’s favorite spot

One of my sisters, Mary Ann (along with her husband, Jim) even has an annual woodcutting tradition.  All four daughters and their families along with close friends spend an entire weekend cutting wood for the coming fall and winter.  Believe me, I have many times enjoyed the wood from this weekend work the McAden family does.  Just last fall I happened to be in Roanoke for a few days.  Mary Ann and I came home after a full day of visiting our mother at Richfield (Mom’s Alzheimer’s Facility) and what did we come home to?  A fireplace full of wood readied for a beautiful fire greeted us and all we had to do was light a match!  Jim was playing tennis or soccer, I can’t remember which but he had readied a fire for us.  It was wonderful!  What a loving gesture in this simple thing he had done for us!  We were able to sit back, watch the fire roar to life and enjoy time together as sisters.

Architects, Designers and Decorators incorporate outdoor living spaces in most plans for their clients.  There is no coincidence that homes of today include these outdoor living spaces with gorgeous stone fireplaces or fire pits. We silly humans have spent so many, many years removing ourselves from nature by way of advancing technology that we have forgotten what nature does for us.  No electric or gas heat is going to give you the feel good vibes of watching a fire burn.  It is no wonder we are now creating spaces to return to fire!

Marc Killips to the rescue

Marc Killips to the rescue

Clearly, the sight, sounds and smell of fire bring different images and memories to each of us.  Just last weekend a colleague of David’s came over to our house to cut down a tree that was damaged in a summer storm.  Marc Killips and his son cut the tree down and then cut the wood up to haul off for their own family fires.  I have no doubt that Marc and his family will enjoy the fire more knowing the work they put into getting it.  Talk about memory building!  (By the way, more on Marc and his boys in an upcoming post, Actions Speak Louder Than Words.)

Why not begin to enjoy the benefits of fire for yourself?  Just sitting in front of a fire can relax you in ways that are incredible.  Fire brings people together, too.  It is a great way to socialize!  Use this fall and the coming winter as one more way to connect or reconnect with nature and begin to enjoy a roaring fire.  I can almost guarantee that you will feel relaxed, restored and renewed.  Nature has a way of doing that to us!

Lilly and Thomas enjoying s’mores

Lilly and Thomas enjoying s’mores

Enjoy the fire…

For a full album of beautiful examples of fireplaces and fire pits be sure to go to my Facebook Fanpage, livinginperfectharmony.

A Breath Of Fresh Air

Funny how we use the phrase, “a breath of fresh air”.  This signals that we certainly understand that there are benefits to fresh air.  For example, you might describe someone new that you meet as “a breath of fresh air”.   Yet, very few of us actually take a breath of fresh air.  Why not use this phrase literally and reap from it what you can?

Fresh air has restorative powers waiting for us all.  We can take in this tonic outside OR we can bring it indoors.  Either way, it’s magical.

Breathing fresh air indoors

In any space, the oxygen content goes down continually as you breathe out carbon dioxide and other wastes.  For many of us the spaces we live and work in go from heat to air conditioning followed by heat and then air conditioning once again.  Staying in an environment that is closed-in like this for a long period of time means you are breathing in the same air over and over again.  One big vicious cycle if you ask me.  Fresh air rectifies the situation and breaks this nasty cycle by allowing for a steady supply of oxygen for both your brain and your entire body.

Have you ever noticed the stale morning smell that lingers in a bedroom that has had the door closed throughout the night?  There’s a reason for this.  While you sleep you breathe moisture, breath odors and tons of microorganisms into the air, your pillow and your bedding.  Added to that you perspire, exude skin oils and body smells.  Multiply the amount of all these smells in a room by how many people sleep there.  No wonder it’s stinky.  For goodness sakes, open the windows and let some air into the room!  Better yet, follow the lead of what many Europeans have been doing since the beginning of time and air out your bedding.  Years ago while living in the Washington, DC area my dear friend, Peggy Love’s family bedding hung out each bedroom window airing out for the coming night’s sleep.  I loved seeing this and it made perfect sense to me.  Peggy knew the restorative powers of fresh air for the family bedding.  (She also had one gorgeous silver tea service but that’s a story for another day!)

Physiologically, fresh air makes a healthier environment for us.  There are psychological benefits as well.  Psychologically, the feeling of being closed-in can be constraining.  I was talking about this just recently with one of my many niece’s, Sarah Shrader.  I was visiting her new home in Richmond, VA and she was talking about how different it was compared to her home in San Diego.  In her home in San Diego the windows were always open.  Now in Richmond, she tended to keep them closed and it made her feel confined.  I understood exactly what she meant by that.  My body actually craves fresh air and regardless of the weather or the temperature somewhere in my house there is at least one window cracked.  Even in the middle of a Chicago winter!  And if weather permits, I have every window possible open.  I do right now.

Breathing fresh air outdoors

Hiking in nature

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Many of us spend very little time outdoors.  If we exercise, we do it on the treadmills or machines in our homes or we go to the gym.  Just the other day a friend told me she asked her son to go for a walk after dinner. He was actually baffled and asked her why she didn’t just get on her treadmill.  She told him that the fresh air would do them both good and they could also spend some time together.  He grudgingly went thinking all the while she was weird.  Unbelievable.

In past posts on this blog I have expressed the restorative powers that nature has for us.  (An example is my post, Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home).)  I learned this first hand myself.  I have always been a lover of the outdoors but it wasn’t until the past few years when I became inundated with way too much trauma-drama that I understood the healing powers of nature.  Let me explain…

I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago.  I came here kicking and screaming.  I left my business, my friends, my organic garden, my beautiful yard and my family back in Charlotte.  Seriously, I thought God had decided a traumatic divorce, a stalker, a chronically ill child, serious health issues of my own and an earth-shattering chance encounter on a plane weren’t enough to send me over the edge.  God had to throw me one more curve ball.  A Mack Daddy one to boot.  I had to move away from my kids, their spouses and grandchildren.  How could I hover over them so far away?  Weren’t they supposed to move away from me and not the other way around?

In the woods

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Home was with my David so I moved.  Once in Chicago I was faced with endless time on my hands.  I took to walking in nature.  With forest preserves all around me, it gave me something to do besides gourmet cooking and Law And Order reruns.

I started feeling better.  I noticed I was less angry and grumpy.  (So did my David for that matter.)  I slept better.   I smiled more.  The bliss began…

I owe it all to nature and fresh air.  No two ways about it.

The benefits of fresh air

Regardless of whether your are outdoors or inside, fresh air is vital to your essence.  Ponder these benefits you reap:

  • Fresh air helps the airways to your lungs dilate more fully.
  • Fresh air improves the cleansing action of your lungs.
  • Fresh air rids your body of accumulated impurities.
  • Fresh air improves your heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate.
  • Fresh air strengthens your immune system.
  • Fresh air soothes your nerves.
  • Fresh air improves your sleep.
  • Fresh air improves the serotonin levels in your brain.
  • Fresh air clears your mind.
Fresh air

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Recently I found myself unexpectedly back in Virginia.  My stay there was action packed to say the least and so any time I could, I spent it outdoors.  I played on the swings with grand nieces and nephews, Gavin, Ellie, Whitt and Logan.  I took a walk with niece Marli and the crew of babies and kids.  Even my niece, Christy wanted to make sure two month old Carina spent time outside.  She told me that her pediatrician actually prescribed outdoor air daily for precious Carina.  (You go, Doc!)  So, one evening her husband, Ryan and I stood outside with tiny Carina asleep in her stroller and five month old Maya nestled asleep in my arms.  Both babies were getting nature’s tonic of fresh air while Ryan and I talked.  What could be better?

Find ways to get a breath of fresh air.  Both you and your homespace deserve it.  Like the words in an old 60’s song by Three Dog Night, titled “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, open up the windows and let some air into the room.  Otherwise you’ll choke on the smell of stale perfume!

You’ll be glad you did.

To a breath of fresh air…

Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air

Peace Lily

Peace Lily

As the autumn season approaches, the days become shorter and the nights become crisper.  Most of us begin to think of moving indoors and spending less time in the fresh air.

If your home is old enough to be leaky and drafty,  you may not need to worry about the many pollutants that can become trapped indoors with us.  But, if you live in a newer, energy efficient home with windows and doors tightly sealed, or you work in a building where circulation is poor and the air is stale, these pollutants have less opportunity to move to the outside.

What NASA says about houseplants

Over the years our space program has led the way to an important discovery about the role of houseplants indoors.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been researching methods to cleanse the atmosphere in future space stations to keep them fit for human habitation.  In doing this research, NASA has found that many common houseplants and blooming potted plants help fight pollution that occurs indoors.

The science of plants

Snake Plant

Snake Plant

Plant scientists already knew this!  Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process.

Now researchers have found many houseplants can absorb benzene, formaldehyde and many other air pollutants that are created as gases when we install man-made materials such as carpets, laminates, paints, wallpapers and fabrics in our homes.

While saving energy and money is important to all of us, we must remember that it is crucial to our indoor environment to have clean, fresh air in our homes.  So, houseplants take on a larger role in our homes (and all interior environments for that matter) than merely providing beauty in the décor.  They contribute to balancing internal humidity and cleansing the air we breathe.

The top twelve air purifiers

‘Janet Craig’

‘Janet Craig’

Here is a list of houseplants that have been found to play an important role in removing air borne pollutants:

  1. English Ivy   (Hedera helix)
  2. Spider plant  (Chlorophytum comosum)
  3. Peace Lily  (Spathiphyllum)
  4. Pothos  (Epipiremnum)
  5. Bamboo Palm  (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
  6. Philodendron  (Philodendron scandens)
  7. Selloum  (Philodendron selloum)
  8. Dracaena  (Dracaena marginata)
  9. Corn plant  (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’)
  10. Janet Craig  (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’)
  11. Snake plant  (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  12. Weeping Fig  (Ficus benjamina)

Helpful tips to know

  • Studies by NASA have generated the recommendation that you use one 6-8” houseplant per every 100 square feet of living space.  Think about it.  This is probably more than you currently have in your home and it is time to add some.
  • Houseplants need dusting just like any other “accessory” in your home.  When you allow dust to accumulate on the leaves of your plants, they cannot do the work they are meant to do in helping to purify the air.  So, be sure to regularly clean the leaves of dust and debris from your plants.
Fall beauty

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Enjoy your home in every way possible.  Use houseplants to add beauty and nature to your space.  At the same time reap the benefits of what nature allows them to do for the air. Houseplants such as these top twelve are what can be called “natural clean air machines”.  You, your home and all your interior environments deserve to be healthy spaces – start now to clean up your air!

Happy Fall!!!

***A special thank you to Townside Gardens Nursery in Roanoke, VA for providing the plant photos! ***