Tag Archives: decorating

Tips to Avoid Harmful Chemicals and Make Your Home a Healing Space

Δ†In the naturopathic profession, often one of the first challenges a doctor will tackle in working with a new patient is to determine and remove the “barriers to cure” – things that are interfering with the body’s ability to heal. In the past, I’ve written about treatments for common barriers to cure such as insufficient sleep, food sensitivities and seasonal allergies. I’ve learned through many patient experiences that no matter how amazing a medical treatment or how hard I work, a patient will be hard-pressed to truly heal as long as barriers stand in the way.

Often, some of the toughest barriers to remove are allergens and irritants in the home.  Chemical usage in home products has skyrocketed in the past few decades. Everything from laundry detergent to stain-resistant carpets, air-freshener sprays and synthetic-fiber bedding is a source of chemicals that put stress on our livers and immune systems. If you’re not aware of what I’m talking about, here’s a touching video from Healthy Child Healthy World that puts this issue into focus, especially as it impacts children (who are even more susceptible to the negative impacts of these chemicals than most adults).

My mother happens to be a Seattle-based interior designer with a fluency in eco-design and hypo-allergenic products for the home. While visiting her recently, I took some time to ask her for resources and tips she could share for those of us who are looking for ways to create a healthier home environment. The following are highlights from our conversation:

Q: What kinds of materials and treated fabrics are best to avoid in order to minimize chemical exposure?

A: Ideally, avoid anything synthetic. Synthetic materials, such as polyesters and acrylics, contain chemicals that can be harmful.  In addition to the material itself, these types of products are often treated with other chemicals to make them stain-resistant or otherwise “low-maintenance”. Unfortunately, buying convenience can also mean having to live with toxins that can be harmful to health. Terms like “easy care”, “water-repellant”, “no iron”, “anti-cling”, “static-free” and “flame retardant” are all signs that the product may be treated with harmful chemicals.

Q: What are some of the healthiest and least allergenic fibers to look for when choosing fabrics and floor coverings for a home?

A: The easiest rule of thumb is to stick with natural fibers. Linen, hemp, ramie, and abaca are all natural fibers that are hypo-allergenic and tend to be free from additional chemical treatments. When possible, look for organic textiles, not just organically grown materials, but products that are processed using organic-compliant compounds. Sometime a material will be organic, but then it’s processed with a harsh, non-organic dye and that can defeat the health benefits of sourcing the original organic material.

Q: In general terms, how to you suggest approaching the design of an eco-friendly and hypo-allergenic space?

A: Keep the space free of clutter where dust and allergens can accumulate. Opt for wood or tile floors and avoid carpet. Use natural fibers for window coverings, like wood-based plantation shutters instead of heavy fabric curtains. Optimize air circulation by strategically placing doors and windows to optimize air flow and utilize the air-filtering mechanisms of plants to improve air quality.

Q: Are there certain products, brands and resources you can suggest for people who are looking for products or just want more information on how to make smart choices when it comes to creating a health-promoting space?

A: The following are all great resources to check out:

  • O Ecotextiles is a Seattle-based textile company that creates luxurious fabrics that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable. Not only do I love their products, but they are leading experts on this topic and their website has an incredible amount of information for how to make smart choices for the home.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful chemicals often found in paint and other home-based textiles. This site does a great job of explaining the dangers of VOCs, what products typically contain them and how they can be avoided.
  • Unique Carpets, Ltd. sells eco-friendly floor coverings made from natural fibers that are treated in an environmentally-safe way. If you are looking for floor coverings to soften a space, this brand is a great option to check out.

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4 Tips to Make Your Home Office Less Stressful

Home OfficeBy Jessica Snow

Working from home is an excellent way to make a living while balancing other crucial aspects of life. And depending on your family’s dynamic, it could be the only way you’re able to work. The flexibility of having an office at home makes it possible to raise small children without having to foot the cost of childcare providers, and otherwise reduces travel expenses most people accrue by commuting.

This option can be remarkably convenient, but all the distractions that tend to come with this setup can give it the potential to be disastrously stressful. There are a few things to keep in mind as you’re setting up your office that will help make it the most productive space it can be.

1. Keep Energy Positive With Feng Shui Principles

Keep your office as far away from your bedroom as possible. This will help you mentally separate work from home life by eliminating possible distractions and temptations. Also, position your desk area so that your back is to a wall. Sit at the desk so that you can see out a window or through a doorway. Keeping your immediate surroundings open and not boxing yourself in will help prevent anxiety and promote a positive outlook.

2. Prevent Clutter

According to Feng Shui consultant Natalia Kaylin, “Clutter is vicious, it takes many forms, and is the biggest contributor to stress.” Reduce the possibility to accumulate stressful clutter by installing a filing system to keep records organized, and make a conscious effort to keep unneeded supplies and knick-knacks at bay.

3. Let The Light In

The plants you use to decorate your office will need a certain amount of natural light, as will yourself. Let as much sunlight into your workspace as you can, as this is the purest form of light. Avoid using fluorescent lights if at all possible. Over-exposure to fluorescent lighting has been known to cause or worsen migraines, headaches, eye strain, and anxiety. You’ll want to find a balance between having enough light that you can see your computer monitor and read freely, but not so much that your eyes become strained.

Choose the right shades for your office that will let in the right amount of light, and the environment in your workspace will be ideal for producing your best work.

4. Purify Air With De-Stressing Plants

Houseplants are a lovely way to decorate a home office. If you choose the right plants though, they will do so much more. Ivy, Peace Lilies, and bamboo palms have been known to have air-purifying qualities in addition to their peaceful beauty.

The home office is supposed to be a very productive, practical space, so it’s understandable that decorating it may not be at the top of your list of things to do. You’re human though, so a workspace that doesn’t accommodate that will not be conducive to productivity. Keep these tips in mind while you’re setting up your space. Your office will be an inviting, positive place to be, and your work will reflect that.

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Jessica Snow is a young writer from sunny Florida who enjoys learning and writing about a myriad of topics. When shes not glued to her laptop you can find her running the trails with her Great Dane, Charlie

What Your Home Environment Says About You

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 10.37.07 PMI’ve written before about Christopher Alexander’s brilliant, strange book, A Pattern Language. Few books have made such an impression on me and the way that I think. The book sets forth an archetypal “language” of 253 patterns that make the design of towns, buildings, and–most interesting to me–homes the most pleasing.

This book doesn’t need to be read from front to back; I often just flip through it and study the parts that resonate with me–and look at the pictures, too, of course.

I’m a very text-centric person, and not very visual, and this book helped me to identify the elements about spaces that I like, or don’t like. I’m able to see the world in a new way, and as a consequence, I’ve been able to do some things differently in my own space, to make it more enjoyable.

Here’s a list of some of the “patterns” that I love most–and I even love the aptness of the phrases used to describe them:

Half-hidden garden–this is an example of something that I love but just can’t put into practice in New York City, alas.

Staircase as stage–ditto.

Cascade of roofs–once I started looking, I realized that many of my favorite buildings had a cascade of roofs.

Sleeping to the east–after my parents moved to a new place, they both remarked, independently, how much they enjoyed having a bedroom that faced east.

A room of one’s own–yes!

Light on two sides of every room–after I moved to New York City, I became acutely aware of the importance of light, and it’s true, having light on two sides of a room makes a huge difference.

Six foot balcony–this pattern explained something that had always puzzled me: why people in New York City apartment buildings seemed so rarely to use their balconies. It turns out that when a balcony is too narrow, people don’t feel comfortable on it. It needs to be at least six feet deep.

Windows overlooking life–our apartment has good light, which I’m so thankful for, but we can’t look down on any street scenes, just the sides of buildings; it’s surprising how much we miss being able to overlook life.

Sitting circle–odd to me how many people place their furniture in ways that don’t make for comfortable conversation.

Ceiling height variety–I was astonished to notice how much more I enjoy places that have ceilings at different heights.

Built-in seats–yes! Window seats, alcoves, banquettes, love these. Especially window seats.

Raised flowers–yes!

Things from your life–in Happier at Home, I “cultivated a shrine” to my passion for children’s literature, as a way to make a special place for certain things from my life (for instance, my old copies of Cricket magazine, my complete set of The Wizard of Oz books, my mother’s old copy of Little Women, my Gryffindor banner that a friend brought me from the Harry Potter Theme Park.

Child caves–so true that children love to play in small, low places. My sister had the “Cozy Club” with a friend, and my younger daughter now plays in an odd little space she has decorated.

Secret place–ah, this is my favorite. Again, as I write about in Happier at Home, I was inspired to create my own secret places in our apartment. I couldn’t stop with just one. As Alexander writes, “Where can the need for concealment be expressed; the need to hide; the need for something precious to be lost, and then revealed?”

How about you? Have you identified some “patterns” in the design of the places you love?

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Speaking of beautiful places and things, I love the book sculptures of Su Blackwell.  Books and miniatures!

Are you reading Happier at Home or The Happiness Project in a book group? Email me if you’d like the one-page discussion guide. Or if you’re reading it in a spirituality book club, a Bible study group, or the like, email me for the spirituality one-page discussion guide.

 

Love Yourself by Loving Your Home

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 8.12.12 PMA great way to love yourself is to create a beautiful home that nurtures and inspires you. Your home is one of the few places in the world that is truly just about you. The one place we should always feel loved, at peace, at one, and “at home” is at home! So honor yourself by creating a space that feeds your spirit.

One of the most effective ways to create a home that nourishes and inspires you is to live with things you love. This may sound obvious, but when you take a close look around your home, you might be surprised to find that you’re living with things that bring your energy down rather than inspire and lift you up. It’s amazing how easy it is to tune out to our surroundings and stop really seeing the stuff in our homes that get in our way, drain our energy, or in some way make us feel badly. Sometimes it’s little things such as a drawer that gets stuck and frustrates and slows us down each morning, the sharp edge of a table that we regularly bump against, or an uncomfortable chair. Or it could be something more significant like sleeping in a bed we bought with a former partner that continually brings up memories and keeps us stuck in the past. These things can nag at us, deplete our energy, and wear on our self-esteem.

Everything around us is made up of energy. Even things that we may have considered inanimate are made up of moving molecules and have a life force and vibration of their own. Objects also come “alive” because of how we relate to them, i.e. the memories and associations they trigger. Earth wisdom traditions, such as Feng Shui or Vastu, affirm that all of these objects and materials in our homes interact with our own unique energy—either positively or negatively. When you look at your home from this perspective, you can clearly imagine the importance of surrounding yourself with things that you love—whether they are useful, comfortable, beautiful, have positive personal meaning, or just make you feel good.

Below are three steps to living with what you love:

  1. Go through your home room by room and look at each object one at a time. How do you feel? What thoughts come up? Did you notice any sensations in your body? Imagine the object has a voice—what would it be saying to you? Does the object trigger any memories? Are they positive, negative or neutral? Your answers to these questions will give you a pretty good idea of how these things are affecting your energy.
  2. If something is not serving you, let it go. Give it away, throw it away or sell it. Generally it is better to live with empty space knowing that something better will be coming your way than it is to live with something that brings you down. An exception to this would be if the object is functional and necessary—for example, your only computer or your only sofa that you can’t afford to replace at the moment. In these cases, set an intention that you will easily find a replacement in a timely manner and keep your eyes open for an opportunity to replace that item.
  3. If you discover that you are surrounded by many things you don’t love, but at the moment can’t afford to replace them, make sure you move things around so you have at least one object you love in every room. Then make sure that object is the focal point of the room. The object you love will inspire you as you’re waiting to attract other things that will serve you.

Be on the lookout for the following:

  • Possessions that have negative memories associated with them.
  • Things that look beautiful or are valuable, but that you just don’t like. Often we keep these because we feel we have to or should, but if you don’t like something let it go and chances are someone else will give it a home where it will be appreciated and loved. And you will now have space to find something you love.
  • Similarly, things you inherit and perhaps feel an obligation to keep, but that you don’t like or are associated with a negative memory.
  • Things that don’t feel good but you aren’t sure why—trust your intuition!
  • Disturbing art—even if on one level you can appreciate the image or artistic expression, sometimes our bodies will respond instantly and physically to a disturbing image. Your mind may then kick in with reason or logic or an association with the image that is more positive, but your body has already registered your first reaction.
  • Things that don’t work well, are broken, get in your way, and/or lead to frustration in your daily routines.
  • Broken items that you have been planning to get fixed for a long time—commit to fixing it in the next month or get rid of it.
  • Items that are stained or dirty—same as above, clean them if you can, but commit to doing it in a timely manner. If they can’t be cleaned, consider a replacement.
  • Perceived dangers—which mean things that look threatening and elicit a ‘fight or flight’ response in our bodies. For example, a very heavy chandelier or artwork hanging over a bed or sofa—we may know it is anchored to the ceiling or wall, but it can still makes us feel uncomfortable to having something heavy hang over you. Similar to the disturbing artwork, your body will have already registered a response before your mind kicks in with logic to override your body’s reaction.
  • Things made with unhealthy or toxic materials—replace with natural materials to connect you to nature, create more harmony, and support your health.

Our homes should be a supportive, loving sanctuary. There are many things in the world that are less than loving and often we feel we can’t control those things, but we can control our home environments by choosing to live with what we love. We need to insist that, at the very least, we feel good and can ‘win’ in our own homes. The same qualities that we create in our homes—love, peace, joy, inspiration—will be the same qualities that we experience in our lives.

 

Originally published February 2011

5 Best Sources of Home Improvement Inspiration

Home improvement is an important topic for many homeowners. If you’re a current homeowner, you may just want to give your house a little pick-me-up by refreshing walls, installing kitchen upgrades, or simply buying new curtains to complete a look.

On the other hand, it’s a buyer’s market, and if you’ve recently purchased a home, you’re probably looking for inspiration to make it your own. If you’re a visual person or just looking for ideas to jump-start your creativity, here are some of the best sources of home improvement inspiration:

5. Pinterest: Where Your Inspiration Board Becomes Digital

Image via Google Images

Pinterest is the very popular online inspiration board website that just keeps gaining users left and right. Create specific boards for yourself based on what items you want to save from the internet and then “pin” images from your favorite sites.

With more than 40 million users, Pinterest is sure to offer inspiration for anything imaginable. Want to explore DIY improvements? Interested in viewing specific color schemes? Need to find a picture of a bathroom with bamboo? Pinterest has a whole page of search results for that.

4. Home Depot & Lowes: Specialty Stores You Can Connect With

Image via Flickr

Speciality stores Home Depot and Lowe’s have created inspiration magazines that are available for free download via iTunes. The Home Depot’s Style Guide and Lowe’s Creative Ideas Magazine both provide gardening and other visual inspirations to design ideas and trends, making both digital publications invaluable for home improvement inspiration.

3. Zillow Digs: Combining House-Hunting & Improvement Guides

Image via Flickr

If you’ve been in the market for a home, chances are you’ve heard of Zillow. This popular website is a great tool for buyers to view valuations and other data. With the new iPad app and Web service called Zillow Digs, Zillow is now competing against Pinterest for those users looking for home improvement inspiration.

Just like Pinterest, users can “pin” their favorite images, but unique to Zillow Digs  is the ability for users to view the estimated cost of the featured rooms and easily connect with local professionals in the industry. And if you’re looking for a way to protect your investment on a a particularly costly project, see this page for some good home security options.

2. Houzz.com & Merrypad.com: Inspiring Trends for Do-It-Yourselfers

Image via Flickr

Aside from online boards like Pinterest and Zillow Digs, there is an unbelievable number of websites dedicated to home decor, improvements, and DIY projects. Houzz.com features house tours, advice, how-to help, and more. Merrypad.com is a website dedicated to DIY projects and those homeowners who want to embrace the do-it-yourself lifestyle.

1. BrightNest: Your Guide to Innovating & Renovating

Image via BrightNest.com

Possibly one of the most artsy and most places on the web for home renovators and innovators is Brightnest. The site is a great resource for almost any aspect of home improvement. The site also recently launched an excellent iOS app that not only offers advice and inspiration, but it also helps you to organize your tasks.

Due to the advancements of technology, it’s become easier for homeowners to find improvement inspirations to make renovations fun and easy. By taking advantage of all the tools in front of you, you’re most likely to generate the most diverse and creative ideas.

What sources do you use for home improvement inspiration?

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