How Will You Be Remembered?

I’ve been mulling over and over in my head now for several days how to word what I want to say on the subject of being remembered by others.  In fact, I had hoped to get this post out last week while the experience that prompted my musings was still fresh but it just wasn’t forming enough to put on paper.  So, here I am writing and I realized the publishing date is September 11th.  Coincidence?  Nope.  I don’t think anything is ever coincidental.  September 11th is one heck of a day for remembering others.

If you lived in the United States on September 11th 2001 today’s date is a day you will always remember.  Even if you didn’t live in the U.S. on September 11th back in 2001, you couldn’t help but know the horror we in America were experiencing that day that we still remember today.  Some things you just never forget.

All these years later I feel very certain that every single person that died that day by the hands of terrorists is remembered in some way by the people who’s lives they touched.  Any time someone passes, regardless of the circumstances, those around them reflect back on them.  I know this first hand as my future daughter-in-law’s father passed away unexpectedly a week ago – which by the way is what prompted the thoughts whirling in my head that I’m now writing about.  He got to go the best way possible- while he slept in his bed.  But, for his grieving family and friends, it was w.a.y. too soon to have him leave.  I had not had the pleasure of meeting Lailuma’s father yet.  I was going to meet him on September 15th at a party for Lailuma and my son, Jimmy to celebrate their engagement.  Instead I was getting to know him at a gathering in a funeral home and then later, at a memorial service.  You just flat never know what’s around the corner do you?

The funeral home and the service were filled with family, friends and co-workers.  My nieces, Blaire and Liz and I undoubtedly were the only ones there that had never met him.  I don’t know about Blaire and Liz, but not knowing Lailuma’s dad gave me a unique vantage point from which to observe.  Honestly, I think because I didn’t know him, I watched and listened more intently to get to know him.  After all, I needed something to remember him by.

Funny, I never knew him but I now dang sure have something to remember him for ~ LOVE.  The word “LOVE” was used over and over and over again regardless of the person speaking about him throughout the various events over the weekend.  I talked to family and friends.  I also listened to family and friends speak about him and reminisce over pictures of him.  Several co-workers spoke at the Memorial Service.  Sure, they praised his work ethic, his attitude, his enormous appetite and his physical strength but without exception the remembrances of him they chose to share were about his love of family – his deep from the heart but feel in the gut love for his four daughters that he wore like a uniform every single day.  I listened to each person and at the same time began to question in my head what people would say about me if they were standing at the podium at my memorial service.  What would they find most important to say about me?  And to make me ponder even more, while sitting there I learned my ex-husband and his young daughter were a mere few rows behind me in the church.  Was she thinking about what it would be like to loose her father?  How would she remember him?  What was he thinking about?  Was he wondering how the three children he had with me would remember him once he passed?  Odd isn’t it what enters your mind at times like sitting at a memorial service?

Life cycle events always mark change and give pause for reflection.  Celebrating the life of someone that has passed is no different.  So, my message to you dear friends is to aspire to inspire others with how you love.  Let it be the most important thing you are remembered for – not your brain, your job, your abilities or materialistic accomplishments.  Spread love in every direction and in every way that you possibly can.  Heck, just throw caution to the wind and let it blow from you wild and free.  It is the greatest gift and the greatest teaching you can give to others.  And in my book, it is absolutely positively the most important thing to be remembered for.  What greater honor than to be remembered for how you loved, I mean truly loved others while being part of this world of humanity is there?

As I left the church that day, I knew Phillip Walker Miller, III.  In fact, I knew all I needed to know about him.  I knew him through the eyes of his four daughters and through the eyes of many others.  What an incredible gift he was and continues to be through his giving and spreading love.

To love and actively spreading it …

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…

Artfully Celebrating Family Life In Your Home Décor

As a decorator I have my own design and décor philosophy that includes some critical components to creating a beautiful sanctuary for my clients to live in.   Making what I call “positive impact statements” is part of this philosophy.  As I wrote in a recent post, Positive Impact Statements In Your HOME, one way to make a positive impact statement in your home is to artfully display family photographs.  Without a doubt displaying family photos is one of the things on my list that can take a home from ordinary to extraordinary.  Why you ask?  First of all, displaying your family life in this way is unique in that no one else will have the same pictures.  Everyone can have accessories from Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn, but your family photos personalize your space.  Second, displaying family photos gives your space comfy, cozy warmth regardless of your décor style, as these personal glimpses of family life are art from the heart.  Finally, displaying family photographs is what I call “decorating with intention”.  In other words, the family pictures are displayed with the specific intention of artfully enhancing your homespace décor.

Like any other form of decorating you do in your homespace, decorating with family photography needs to be well planned and well thought out.  Look through your homespace.  Pay attention to where you are displaying family photographs and ask yourself these important questions:

  • Do some of the frames look outdated or badly worn? Unless you are intentionally using antique or “repurposed” frames for your pieces, be aware that outdated and damaged frames will absolutely, positively take away from your artful arrangement of family photos.
  • Do the frames fit the photographs they hold properly?  Though this question might sound silly, you would be amazed at how often I go into homes and immediately notice that family pictures have been put in frames willy-nilly without really taking the time to carefully select the appropriate frame.  Remember that decorating (even with family photos) is in the details.
  • Are you displaying family photos in too many places and spaces?  If you truly want your family photos to become a part of your décor, choose very specific places and spaces to display them.  Two areas I specifically like are: a focal place such as a hallway wall and a focal space such as a piano, sofa table or bookcase.  Remember however my decorating mantra, “less is more” and steer clear of becoming over zealous with places and spaces you display your family photos.

A Wall of Family Life

A glimpse of the Balzer-Solganik family life

A glimpse of the Balzer-Solganik family life

My personal favorite way to display family photos is to create what I call a “wall of family life”.  Over the years I have enjoyed creating many of these in the homes of friends and clients. Here are some points to ponder if you embark on your own creation:

  • Consider a theme for your display. My favorite theme is to use all black and white photos with black frames. By keeping to a theme you achieve more than just a way to display family photos.  You also create unique art to accent the beauty of your homespace.
  • Consider arranging the pieces to create a family timeline or story.  By doing this, your display becomes a conversation piece to return to over and over again.  Best of all you can mix and match frames and photo content since the idea is to simply tell the story of your family.  My mother did this in our home growing up and believe me, the frames and the photos were a total hodge-podge.  But it worked!  And with six kids and dozens of grandkids my mother created a look that told a story on the wall of each family as the Balzer Clan grew and grew.  Talk about creating a space for walks down Memory Lane!   Talk about creating a space for interesting conversations!
  • Consider the overall look of your arrangement and what you want to express. Carefully consider what you are trying to achieve with the display.  Be as conscious of the pictures and the frames you choose as you would be when choosing what knick-knacks get placed where in your homespace.  Also, remember your audience that will be seeing your photos and thoughtfully choose which ones you share.  (For example, more intimate family photos such as “pregnant belly shots” make beautiful art in more private areas of your home.)
  • Consider hiring a pro.  If you are planning to display a large collection of family photos I highly recommend that you have your display hung professionally.  The average John or Jane doesn’t have the knowledge to properly hang a large grouping of frames of varying sizes.
  • Consider making a trial run of your display.  I highly recommend this.  Arrange your framed photos on an open space such as the floor so you can visualize what the grouping will look like on the wall.
  • Consider leaving what I call “room to grow” in your collage of photos.  This is particularly important if you have a growing family.

Have fun with this wonderful way to make a positive impact statement in your home.  You, your family and all those that get treated to your display will enjoy celebrating your family life, true art from the heart for years to come!

To celebrating family…

Carroll Family Life with room to grow

Carroll Family Life with room to grow

Creating Homespace Beauty With Family Treasures

Ancestral medicine chest and Papa’s clock

The ancestral medicine chest and Papa’s clock

All of us like to get our decorating ideas from magazines and catalogs.  Not only does this allow us to know what the latest trends are but also, there is a certain amount of security in decorating how companies such as Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn show us to.  If these companies like it, well certainly we should, too.

Now I know that as an Interior Decorator I am supposed to represent the latest and greatest in the industry. I certainly do think that part of my job is to educate my clients with what the latest trends are but I like to think that I do so much more.

First of all, just like I espouse in my recent post, The Power of Color, not everyone likes the latest trendy colors.  More to the point, I believe that we shouldn’t change our color scheme every single time the industry gives us a new “in” color – that makes us far too much like everyone else.  (Reminds me of when I used to strive to be a Stepford Wife but I won’t go there…)

Home furnishing styles should also fit whom you are and how you choose to live – which leads me to my second point.  If we all decorate our homes like everyone else we become B.O.R.I.N.G.  Who wants to be that?!?

Be extraordinary not ordinary

For me, B.O.R.I.N.G. is just another name for ordinary.  Having your home décor be just like the house next door or the one down the street doesn’t show one iota of imagination.  Furnishing your home like you see in the catalogs or latest monthly magazines is oh, so ordinary.  You and your homespace deserve to be extraordinary.

There are a myriad of ways to become extraordinary.  (Remember the word extraordinary as I will be using it a lot in upcoming posts to show you other ways to achieve this level of distinction as well.)

My favorite way to live in an extraordinary environment is to infuse family treasures in it.  Now, notice I didn’t say heirlooms.

Nana’s blue and white pitcher

Nana’s blue and white pitcher

That’s because treasures are much, much more fun and important to us than heirlooms since they bring out emotion in us.  Heirlooms usually have a financial component, treasures need not!

I first learned about family treasures when my mother and her sister, Betavia were dividing up their mother’s estate.   I happened to be there with my mom to help with it.  After my mom and I loaded up all her share of the estate, we took it to our family home to later be divided between the six of us siblings.  That was back in 1976 and to this day, my greatest “treasure” is the blue and white pitcher I got of Nana’s (my grandmother).  Since 1976, it has been given a place of importance in each home I have lived in.  It instantly connects me with the grandmother I loved so dearly.

A military sword, a crystal candy dish and a silver lighter

Flash forward to February, 2011 and my siblings and I began the overwhelming task of dividing up our mother’s estate since she was now living in an Assisted Living Facility (Richfield) that I discussed in my post,  Creating Comfort In An Assisted Living Facility.

We siblings had planned this task as strategically as any business would plan a huge undertaking.  My brother, Tommy even had a written agenda complete with rules and regulations for how items in the estate would be picked by the six of us.  (And yes, we even had two fifteen minute breaks and a designated lunch hour each day of this task!)  Each evening the out-laws greeted us with wonderful meals to decompress from the emotional day we had just had in order to unwind and ready ourselves for the next day.  To say it was tough would be the understatement of the century but, we made it through.  At the end of several days of working through the estate, we celebrated with inviting old friends over to say goodbye to the family home and to celebrate the baby of the family, Tommy’s 50th birthday.  Thanks to our dear friends, we ended this chapter of our lives with fond memories!

Prior to the task  of dividing the estate, each of us siblings had polled our own children as to what they would like from their grandmother’s home.  I was and still am fascinated by what the different nieces and nephews wanted.  Every single item was in some way a memory, a treasure they wanted.  My three kids were no exception.  Ben wanted his grandfather’s military sword from Yale University, Sammi wanted the  crystal candy dish that sat in the living room and Jimmy wanted the silver lighter that always sat on the coffee table in the living room.  So, these three items were my first picks in the draw.  What joy for me to know that my kids not only wanted these things but that they held such wonderful memories of them and that now they would become family treasures in their own homes.  As for all the other grandchildren, each and every one of them now has family treasures from their grandmother’s home.  What might seem like little things such as the green salad bowl that Christy wanted will now become items to help tell family stories and history lessons to their own families and friends in each of their homes!

Beauty in your home need not include conspicuous consumption

Wally’s windows from his childhood bedroom

Wally’s windows from his childhood bedroom

I recently visited three of my nieces’ homes in Richmond, VA.  Each home was as unique as them (and their spouses).  I loved spending time in their homespaces and with my roving eye, took in what they were all about.  My niece, Marli and her husband have the coolest fireplace mantle décor.  Two large window frames that were the windows from Wally’s childhood bedroom are there for all to see.  I still smile over this unique touch of décor.  I bet everyone that visits them remembers what is on their mantle because it is so unique!  Oh, and best thing about this- the windows were sitting in the corner of Wally’s mom’s garage just taking up space.  They were free!  They didn’t go to the dump!  Now, I call this recycling life, living without conspicuous consumption and creating  a clever décor  all wrapped in one!  You go Marli and Wally!

The family crock for making eggnog

The family crock for making eggnog

As for me, I love all the new treasures I now have from my mother’s home.  My great-great grandfather was a doctor and I have his medicine chest he used and guess what?  It is solid wood!  And, you can bet this Christmas season I will be making eggnog in the crock that my parents traditionally made eggnog in year after year when I was a child.  I still can hear the peals of laughter as the night got later each year they hosted their “eggnog making “ party.  I never could understand why as the night got later, the laughter got louder.   Years later I learned that the eggnog was spiked!!!  Everyone was getting smashed!!!  Who knew?!?

Decorating your homespace with family treasures doesn’t involve spending money.  Who doesn’t find that appealing?  Also, decorating with family treasures sets your space apart from anyone else’s.  It makes your space unique.  Again, who doesn’t find that appealing?  Finally, decorating with family treasures makes for carrying on tradition and family legacy while keeping history alive.  THAT’S appealing!

Look in the attic, look in the garage and look through the closets for hidden family treasures that might just take your homespace from ordinary to extraordinary.  I guarantee that your home will become unique!

Here’s to life and for me, memories in the family home of 50 years!  5242 Shelby Drive we will miss you!

Our home and Tommy are 50

Our home and Tommy are 50

To life…

“I hope this article encourages searching for family treasures and storytelling in your family.  Feel free to share snapshots of your own family treasures on my Facebook Fanpage, livinginperfectharmony.”