Spring-Cleaning Your Way To A “No Clutter Zone”

A few months ago I wrote a post, Clutter In Your Space Clutters Your Mind.  My intention was to alert you to the importance of having what I call a “No Clutter Zone” in your homespace.  It is intriguing to psychoanalyze why we have clutter in our homes, particularly when it appears in very specific areas.

And as I wrote in my recent spring post, Spring: A Season Of New Beginnings, spring is a wonderful time of year for new beginnings both in the structural home you live in and in the personal HOME that is uniquely you.  The tradition of spring-cleaning is one great way to refresh and renew your space while also decluttering it of all the things keeping your space from being truly beautiful.  So with that in mind, I am reprinting parts of my original post on clutter.

Reasons for clutter

I think the reasons people have clutter in their homes are usually for one of the following:

  • Lack of proper storage space
  • Life changes such as a move, a new baby or anything that throws life out of whack
  • Poor time/life management skills
  • Psychological issues such as depression, family dysfunction, low self-esteem, poor personal boundaries and even attention deficit disorder

I call the first three of these reasons “temporary clutter”.  In other words, all three are easy to fix with a little effort and determination.  Still, clutter is clutter, which can be unsettling to your mind.  My recommendation to you if your homespace is cluttered for any of these reasons is to find simple solutions for them.  Your stress will decrease, your feel good vibes will increase and your space will become truly beautiful!  I guarantee it.

Now, the fourth reason – that’s a tough one.  It takes a lot of work to rid your homespace of clutter if there are psychological components to it.  Mind you, I’m not talking about the extreme of hoarding here.  That’s a whole other ball of wax.  I’m talking about routine clutter that detracts and distracts from your sanctuary – the place you call HOME.

The psychology of clutter

Here’s a list of some of the spaces in your home where clutter accumulates and what the clutter there might symbolize:

Kitchen – Difficulty with emotional nourishment for yourself or others

Main Living Space – Feelings of isolation

Hallways – Obstacles in your life

Bedroom – Distancing from partner and/or intimacy with others

Bathroom – Low self-esteem

Closets – Hidden Issues

Basement – Ignored Issues

Garage – Confusion about direction in your life

Exterior and yard – Low self-worth and a sense of giving up

Anyone find the symbolism of clutter in these spaces thought provoking?  I certainly do.

After the first printing of my post on clutter, it was fun to hear from readers and friends about the state of their own homes and what they planned to do about it.  One dear friend, Jolie even decided to tackle her office and do some necessary decluttering there after reading my post.  She told me that it felt wonderful to remove over seven boxes of files and paperwork and send it all to the shredder.  Imagine- she discarded seven boxes of paperwork just cluttering up her space!  As all things go, it propelled her to continue the decluttering in other areas of her space as well.  That domino thing you know…

Every homespace should reflect the best of those that dwell within it.  So, if spaces within your home suffer from constant clutter, look inside (both your inner self and your home) and get to work.  Honor yourself this spring with actively participating in decluttering your space.  It will put you on the road to a whole new you.

To a no clutter zone…

How To Best Display Children’s Artwork In Your Home

Almost everyone that has children also has the dilemma of what to do with all their artwork that they either bring home from school or that they do on their own time at home.   Children are proud of their work and nothing can bring a smile to their faces quicker than a parent proudly displaying their creativity.  To this day I have files in my cabinets of the artwork my children did over the years!  When my kids were young, I felt the need to display their art on the refrigerator so that they knew how proud I was of each new artistic endeavor completed and ready to be displayed for all to see.  Looking back, I remember feeling like my kitchen always looked messy and that at any given time during the day I was straightening, arranging and rearranging the pictures boldly overtaking the front of the fridge.  This might not seem like an issue to some of you, but I was and still am a tad bit on the obsessive side of being a neat freak.  Having the front of my refrigerator crammed with artwork all the time got on my nerves to put it bluntly.  But, I just didn’t see a better way to display their works of art from the heart.

With age comes wisdom or so they say and so clever me, once my children were grown and I wanted to find ways to display their childhood artwork, I finally got smart!  You could say that I also had one of those “if I had known then what I know now” moments for sure.   Instead of on the front and side(s) of the refrigerator, I came up with the idea to display their childhood artwork in other spaces that not only made for Walks down Memory Lane by highlighting years gone by, but also added immensely to my décor.  In fact, I will go a step further and say that this newfound way to display my children’s artwork became an art form in and of itself and piqued the interest of anyone visiting my home – a conversation piece just waiting to happen!  After I met my David and we joined households, our home became forever more a “Brady Bunch” of artwork.  It makes us both happy-sappy to see our children’s early years so beautifully portrayed in our homespace.

Children’s art speaks volumes from what is in their hearts.  I say honor this and display their art in your homespace in ways that make them smile and at the same time that is pleasing to the eye.  Simply choose very specific ways and places to do so.  Here are three of the best ways I have found to achieve this in my own homespace:

  • In the Laundry Room/Mudroom
  • On Bookshelves
  • In the garage

In the Laundry Room/Mudroom

Addison and Austin’s special art

Addison and Austin’s special art

Being a utilitarian space, most of us forget to decorate our laundry rooms and mudrooms. Yet, much of our time is spent in both spaces.  Years back I decided to frame selected pieces of my children’s early art in floating acrylic frames.  This was easy to do myself and very affordable.  You can do this for yourself by going to retailers such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.  Simply choose appropriate size frames for your artwork.  (By the way, using this type of frame gives you the flexibility of changing out the artwork over the years as your children age.)  Another way to display children’s art is on a corkboard that you can continue to change and update.  I have a handmade, hand-painted corkboard that traveled with us from Charlotte to Chicago.  In fact, I had the movers literally pack the corkboard exactly as it was so that once I unpacked it I had an instant connection to Charlotte.  You see we have our step-grandchildren’s works of art on it that they have made especially for David and me.  Addison and Austin’s art from the heart is the first thing we see when we enter our home from the garage.  By the way, I cannot wait to add our precious granddaughter, Ansley’s first piece of artwork on it once she draws something for us!  Talk about a love connection…

Gavin and Logan O’Connell’s Artwork on an old door

Gavin and Logan O’Connell’s Artwork on an old door

Here’s another example – one of my fave niece’s, (OK, so all my nieces and nephews- all 20 or so of them – are my faves) Jackie O’Connell has a brilliant way she displays Gavin and Logan’s artwork in the mudroom.  She has an old door hanging on one wall that she puts all their artwork on.  Jackie and Scott’s mudroom is the entry into their home from the garage where the kids put their book bags and shoes each day.  What a wonderful way to start and end the day viewing such personal art from the heart!  Plus, displaying their work this way makes things neat and tidy all around!

On Bookshelves

I am a lover of books so no matter where I live I make sure I have plenty of bookshelves for my books whether they are built-in or freestanding.  For example, when David and I moved to Chicago our home had a wonderfully large bonus room that I turned into a home office.  On one long wall I have placed bookcases from IKEA – inexpensive but classy looking – and mixed in the books I have arranged bits and pieces of our children’s artwork.  What fun to see these pieces of art from the heart each and every day I work at home.  Nothing could be better if you ask me!

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

In the Garage

The Blake Family Laundry Room

The Blake Family Art

I love to decorate all spaces in my home and I recommend to my clients that they do the same thing.  The garage is a great place to display works of art as well as sports pictures of your children through the years.  In the garage I tend to keep to the outdoor theme regardless of what pieces of my children’s art or childhood history I hang.  Whatever you do in this space, make it family-friendly and also make it a wonderful greeting to you as you enter your home and sanctuary away from the daily grind.

Regardless of where you display your children’s precious artwork  ~ true art from the heart ~ give it what it deserves.  Give it a place of recognition.  Furthermore, let it become part of your décor in a way that beckons others to look at it, marvel over it and make them want to head home to make space in their place for their own children’s works of art.

To children and their endless ability to love…

Home – Through the Eyes of My Son

Ben, three years old

Ben, three years old

Today is my son, Ben’s birthday  (I call him “Bub”)– he is 33 years young.  He is the oldest of my children.  The world totally changed for me the day he was born.  Nobody’s going to tell me there is any real responsibility in life until you have a child.  Everything else is simple stuff if you ask me. As I have often said, you aren’t playing in the big leagues until you parent a child.  Ben put me in the big leagues for sure.

Some days I think he is wiser than I am.  I call him an old soul.  Sure, he drives me nuts at times but most often I enjoy listening to his unique view on life.   He’s a little bit liberal where I’m a little bit conservative and he’s often a little bit conservative where I am a little bit liberal.  This makes for some wonderful conversations! I have even learned to enjoy times of silence with him in the last few years.  I believe it is in these moments of silence together that I learn so much about him – merely through being together.

My Wish for my son

Ben and Kathleen visit Chicago

Ben and Kathleen visit Chicago

Ben married a wonderful woman in 2007. Kathleen and I have a great relationship and have shared many moments of commiserating over his quirks and what I gently refer to as his “issues”.  I always remind her that yeah, I birthed him but honey, you chose him!  Ben and Kathleen got engaged in November of 2006 and married one year later.  I needed every day of that year of engagement as I needed time to prepare myself for the mother-son dance at his wedding.  You see I chose a powerful song by Rascal Flatts, My Wish.  It said so eloquently all that I wanted to say to him.  I literally listened to it every day while I exercised or worked in my garden to prepare to dance with him without crying buckets and buckets of tears.  Seriously, I listened to that song several thousand times.  To this day it still chokes me up as it expresses all I wished for him on that day and every day after.

There are many times in the last 33 years that have been special to me.  There are even a few times I regret the situations we found ourselves in as mother and son.  Forget those – I want to talk about the wonderful ones.

My grown-up son is a little bit Fred Sanford, Archie Bunker and Tim, The Tool Man wrapped all in one with a HUGE heart and an incredible analytical mind.  He loves dark beer, slapstick comedy, Civil War history and anything in nature.

From the time I first explored nature with Ben I saw his love for it.  Searching for rocks, walking in the woods, berry gathering – you name it.  We did it together.  I also loved reading with Ben, hearing about his antics with his imaginary friend, My Friend Monkey, working in the yard (he had his own little lawn mower and would follow behind me) and now as an adult simply spending time together in whatever capacity possible.  He has even unknowingly given me the title for my book I am writing, And so…The Shadow Woman Emerged as a few years ago he gave me a book for Mother’s Day on Native American History.  This book gave me the inspiration for the title of my own book.  Thank you dear son.

So, today is his birthday.  I wanted to give him a gift from my heart so I decided to write about him on my Blog.  I asked him to give me his top five things that are important to him in his home.  I wanted to hear directly from him what they were in order to write a post from his point of view.  What I got was oh so much deeper.  I found a new side of my son.  His words he wrote told me who he is in a way I never paid attention to.  What an incredible gift he gave me.  While reading his top five, I got to visualize him deep in the woods where he finds the most peace.  While reading his top five I felt closer to him than I ever have.  I could hardly read through it all as the tears flowed for this man that my son has become.  What started out as a gift to my son (this post) has turned out to be a precious gift for me.  Clearly, it exemplifies that it is in the giving that we receive the most.

HOME according to Ben

Here are the answers to the question I poised to him the other day of what five things were most important to him in his home.  Except for a few typos he made, I have copied what he wrote word for word.  I hope you enjoy!

  1. Keeping a clean and organized home.  Without that my life outside of home feels discombobulated and stressful.  It is easier to do things when you see them than it is to procrastinate and try to do them all in one day- plus you never know what else will come up.  I try to improve at least one thing in my home each day.
  2. I am not a hoarder, but a bit of a pack rat.  I don’t like to waste things that can be used later.  When I fix things around the house I try to use things that I already have instead of buying new.  For example, my wife and I got a new knife set for Christmas one year and we put the old one deep in a kitchen cabinet.  I decided to sharpen them one day and guess which set we use now?  It seems as though sometimes fewer is better.
  3. Fire.  I love fire.  We have a fireplace in our living room with what I think is a beautiful mantle.  There is nothing better in the winter than a few beers and a roaring wood burning fireplace.  We also have a fire pit in our backyard.  I designed it, dug it and built it myself.  It declines from the front to the back inside the pit and the rock wall does the opposite.  With the absence of very strong winds, it always draws in the same direction.  I specifically planned it this way with both the way it is placed in the yard and the seating around it.  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 for nature.
  4. My garage and tools.  There are few things I enjoy more than tinkering in my garage.  I have quite a collection of tools and enjoy doing everything from hands on tasks to fix up the home to simply cleaning old tools and arranging them in order so I can find them when they are needed.
  5. Guns.  As I am writing this I am sitting in a tree stand in South Carolina with a deer rifle across my lap.  Don’t worry, I am still peeking up every few seconds and scanning the woods with my eyes looking for meat.  I love everything about guns.  How they look, feel and sound.  I have an extensive (probably excessive to most) collection of guns.  Everything from old style black powder rifles to the new stuff you see in the movies.  Each one is special to me in its own way.  I enjoy shooting them in target practice and in hunting, cleaning and disassembling them and taking them apart.  I will never have too many.
Enjoying a fire

Enjoying a fire

Ben (Bub), you already know what my wish is for you today ~ just listen to the song once more.  Happy birthday and love forever and always…

Mom

For any of you reading this today, humor me – google the lyrics to ”My Wish”.  Read the words carefully and then hand them to the universe as a prayer for every person you encounter.  Wishing that life were all that someone wants it to be is a powerful wish.  Reach out and touch someone today with the words of this song.

Clutter In Your Space Clutters Your Mind

Waterfall in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

As an Interior Decorator, I have been privy to many homes and offices.  I love what I do for many reasons.  An obvious reason is that I love to create beauty. I often say I have the best job in the world as I am always creating what I call new dollhouses.  But, another reason is that I love anything to do with psychology and absolutely, positively, undeniably I believe that a person’s most private space is a window to their psyche.  So, working in a client’s most private space gives me a glimpse into who they are.  It is utterly fascinating.

What I have discovered through the years is that often the homes I have worked in mirror my life and what I am experiencing at that given time.  In other words, they seem to become an outward manifestation of my inner self.  I know this might sound strange to some of you reading this but, I believe it to be true.  I believe that everything on the physical/material plane is a manifestation of the inner workings of our lives and becomes symbolic of what is going on both on a spiritual and emotional level.

So…

Living in clutter

No wonder for a few years I seemed to be drawn to homes that personified the word “cluttered”.  My life at the time was one great BIG cluttered mess due to some ridiculous “trauma-drama”.  Seriously.

Path of life in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

A few homes I began to work in had to go through months of third party “decluttering” before we could even begin the project I designed.  It was as if these homes outwardly got decluttered while I set about inwardly decluttering my own life.  I call this a direct mirror I went looking for to reflect my inner self and the struggles I was dealing with at the time.

I am happy to report that the work I did on my “inner” home was successful.   It has taken way too much Blood, Sweat and Tears but hallelujah, I am clutter free!  (Rediscovering Nature was my tonic as I write in my post, Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home).)

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the homes I worked in.  Once my projects were completed, the owners went back to their old habits and the clutter returned.  I believe the reason is simple – clutter can be an indication of underlying issues.  It’s that “mirror” thing again – your exterior space mirrors your inner space.

Clutter in your space really does clutter your mind.  Or more importantly,  clutter in your mind clutters your space.

Where there is clutter, there is work to be done for sure – both figuratively and literally.

Reasons for clutter

I think the reasons why people have clutter in their homes are usually for one of the following:

  • Lack of proper storage space
  • Life changes such as a move, a new baby or anything that throws life out of whack
  • Poor time/life management skills
  • Psychological issues such as depression, family dysfunction, low self-esteem, poor personal boundaries and even attention deficit disorder

I call the first three of these reasons “temporary clutter”.  In other words, all three are easy to fix with a little effort and determination.  Still, clutter from any of these sources is clutter and it can be unsettling to your mind.  My recommendation to you if your homespace is cluttered for any of these reasons is to find simple solutions for them.  Your stress will decrease and your feel good vibes will increase!  I guarantee it.

Now, the fourth reason – that’s a tough one.  It takes a lot of work to rid your homespace of clutter if there are psychological components to it.  Mind you, I am not talking about the extreme of hoarding here.  That’s a whole other ball of wax.  I am talking about routine clutter that detracts and distracts from your sanctuary – the place you call HOME.

Here is a list of some of the spaces in your home where clutter accumulates and what the clutter there might symbolize:

Kitchen – Difficulty with emotional nourishment for yourself or others

Main Living Space – Feelings of isolation

Hallways – Obstacles in your life

Bedroom – Distancing from partner and/or intimacy with others

Bathroom – Low self-esteem

Closets – Hidden Issues

Basement – Ignored Issues

Garage – Confused about direction in your life

Exterior and yard – Low self-worth and a sense of giving up

Anyone find the symbolism of clutter in these spaces thought provoking?  I certainly do.  I think every homespace is worthy of reflecting the best of those that dwell within it.  And,  this means that if  spaces within your home suffer from clutter, look inside (both your inner self and your home) and get to work.  Honor yourself.  You are worth it.  Those that live with you are worth it.  Your homespace is worth it.

Period.

Your home is your sanctuary

Absolute calm

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Yep, your home is your sanctuary.

It is where you deserve to have peace and comfort away from the outside world.  It is meant to be your safe haven and should calm your mind.

Clutter in your space clutters your mind.  Clutter in your mind clutters your space.

Free every space that is part of you and your HOME from the mess that clutter creates.

HOME is also where the heart is.  Fill your heart with love and your home(s) will reflect it – both your inner home and the one you use for shelter from the outside world.  Now, that’s another thing I can guarantee!

To loving life…