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…

Fifteen Ways To Practice Sustainable Living In Your Home

Because I believe that everything begins in the home, our respect for the environment begins in the home as well.  We have the power in our own hands and bodies to help even in small, simple ways to protect the Earth.

Recently I was on a mini-vacation trip in Florida.  My David had some work to do there and on the last leg of our trip we stayed in an awesome resort in Orlando called The Gaylord Palms Resort.  We stayed there at the same time last August for the same convention.  While I was there last year I walked the grounds one morning for exercise.  I spotted a few signs sporadically placed on the grounds that made it clear that the water used for the sprinkler system was recycled water and of course, not fit for drinking.  I was thrilled to see that the resort was using recycled water for the massive grounds, took a picture of one of the signs and posted it on my Facebook page (I put it on the LIPH Fanpage, too) giving the resort a great big shout-out with the phrase, “Understanding how to care for the environment” with the image.  Oddly enough exactly one year later literally almost to the day, a Facebook friend from high school made a comment on the picture.  Clearly this guy was looking through all the images on my page for the first time, or so I figured.  Anyway, it was interesting to me that he commented on the picture one year after I took it and just when I was there at the resort again.  Now I have to admit that I thought it was a weird comment.  In fact, much to my chagrin it sat a tad funny in my stomach while I tried to digest the meaning of his words.  I finally responded back to him asking him what he meant with the words he chose – and that my friends started a few more comments.  Here’s a replay of our exchange of comments as well as a copy of the picture he was commenting on:

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

The caption for the picture:

“Understanding how to care for the environment.”

My high school friend:

“Having a small family is the single most important anything, anyone can do to help the environment”.

My response:

“Are you referring to the Balzer clan?!?”

A childhood friend, Lisa Atkinson-Cox chimes in (coming to my rescue maybe?):

“LOL! I love 8 Balzers including the one in heaven.”

My high school friend:

“I’m referring to the Homo sapiens clan.”

Later my high school friend added:

“ ‘Understanding how to care for the environment’ means we must understand our ecological impact on this planet.  Adding 1 million humans a year is not consistent with caring for the environment.  Since HS, the human population has ballooned from 3.4 billion to over 7 billion.  This exponential growth is not sustainable.  Doing things like using reclaimed water and recycling at the curb, while nice and I do it too, it is a mere drop in the bucket when each second another human is added to the earth.”

While I enjoyed his pun about the drop in the bucket, I decided not to respond to his last comment.  I’m not a mathematician that’s for sure but I certainly get that my very own family has grown exponentially.  Like the Eveready Bunny that keeps going and going, we Balzers keep growing and growing, so I was a bit offended to be honest!  Besides which, the intent of the picture I posted was to simply applaud a resort for its efforts to conserve water.

All this Facebook exchange came after I had been working on a new blog post on Sustainable Living – and my suggestions on simple ways each of us can “go green” in our own homes.  So, after this happened I knew for sure I had to finish the post- not because I was miffed that my picture turned into a discussion on family size, but because I’m all about the home and everything that happens in it.  (Well, I guess many babies begin in the home but I’m not going there!)

Here’s a list of fifteen very simple and easy ways to do your part in protecting our natural resources:

  1. Turn off your electronics nightly.
  2. Shower more; bathe less as it takes more water to fill a bathtub than it does to shower.
  3. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you can save hundreds of gallons a month.
  4. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save approximately four gallons of water each time.
  5. Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  6. Turn off the water while you shave (you, too David) and save several hundred gallons a month.
  7. Make and use a yard compost to reduce usage of your garbage disposal thereby reducing water usage as well as electricity.
  8. Change your light bulbs to CFL’s as they consume 75% less electricity than the standard bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
  9. Clean the lint filter on your dryer before every load.
  10. Choose cloth napkins and dish towels over paper napkins and paper towels.
  11. Donate old clothing and household items rather than throwing them away.
  12. Change the filters on your forced air heating and air conditioning regularly.
  13. Support local farmers.
  14. Use reusable bottles for water instead of plastic water bottles.
  15. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle everything possible.

Remember the words that Neil Armstrong spoke after he stepped on the moon about one small step for man being a giant leap for mankind?  I believe that each of us can in our own small step(s) collectively impact our Earth.  Sure, some of us can and will go to more extreme forms of caring for our environment like limiting family size.  But personally, I think we can get more people on the bandwagon of conservation and sustainable living by making it easy.  What do you think?

To caring for our Earth…

UPDATE:

This article was written and sent for publishing before the passing of Neil Armstrong on Saturday, August 25th.  I considered removing the reference to him and decided instead to look at it as a way to honor the man even in this sad time.  I remember vividly my family and I glued to the TV watching him take his first step on the Moon.  What a gift this man was to all humanity!

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.