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Like Me, Do You Get the Urge to Do Spring Cleaning? Here Are Some Areas I Plan to Tackle.

One of my great realizations about happiness (and a point oddly under-emphasized by positive psychologists) is that for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should. After all, in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet is trivial. And yet over and over, people tell me, and I certainly find this, myself, that creating order gives a huge boost in energy, cheer, and creativity.

So I’m a big believer in the value of clutter-clearing.

Also, I’m a big believer in using outer milestones as a catalyst for action or change. Whether that’s New Year’s day, September (the other new year), my birthday, or a holiday, I think it’s helpful to be reminded that I might want to make changes in my life. (Yes, Questioners, I know you think that January 1 is an arbitrary date. Noted.)

So spring, for me, is a reminder to think about spring clutter-clearing. I’m not inspired to do deep cleaning like window-washing, carpet-cleaning, or anything like that. Spring reminds me to tackle nagging clutter build-ups.

I look for places where I tend to stick things and forget about them. Do you have this problem? For me, I’m looking at these areas: Continue reading

Got the Urge to Do Some Spring-Cleaning? Avoid These 5 Classic Mistakes.

Spring CleaningIt’s spring! (In my part of the world, at least.) And with spring comes the urge to do some spring-cleaning. The warmer weather and the fresh breezes make me want my home to feel orderly, spacious, and clean.

So far, I’ve tackled three kitchen cabinets, a closet, and my pile of white t-shirts. It feels great.

One of the things about happiness that continually surprises me is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and inner self-command. I write about this connection in Better Than Before, in The Happiness Project, and inHappier at Home. (All New York Times bestsellers, I can’t resist adding).

This connection fascinates me; in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box is trivial, and yet such things weigh us down more than they should. And clearing clutter is so energizing and cheering!

I’ve learned the hard way, however, to avoid these classic mistakes during spring-cleaning, or clutter-clearing generally:

Continue reading

Are You Clutter-Blind? Or Do You Know Someone Who Is?

4494987374_36e21d0849_bOne thing that continues to surprise me about the nature of good habits and happiness is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should.

In the context of life of a happy life, something like a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box seems trivial—and it is trivial—and yet I find that I get a disproportionate charge of energy and good cheer from clearing clutter.

An orderly environment makes me feel more in control of my life, and if this is an illusion, it’s a helpful illusion.

Many people feel that way, and even people who thrive on a little chaos tend to have a limit, and enjoy orderliness to some degree.

Oblivious to Clutter

However, there’s a group of people who seem oblivious to clutter. They don’t appear to see it at all. Just as some people are color-blind, these folks are clutter-blind.

“Clutter-blind” doesn’t apply to the people who can stand to see dirty dishes scattered around, because they know if they wait, a spouse will collect the dishes — perhaps complaining all the while; see these crucial facts about shared work.

The fact is, very often, people in a couple or in a group have different levels of tolerance for clutter, and the ones with the least tolerance end up doing the most tidying, and the ones with more tolerance end up doing less. Again, this is a problem of shared work. However, in most cases, the messier ones would eventually cave and do some clutter-clearing, too. They want to be in environments that are reasonably orderly (though others might disagree by what is “reasonable”).

But some people don’t seem to register clutter, ever. A friend told me, “My husband never notices anything. As an experiment, when we got back from a trip, I left a suitcase full of his dirty clothes right in front of the front door, so he’d have to step over it to get in the house. I wanted to see how long he’d put up with it.  After a month, I called off the experiment and dealt with the suitcase myself.”

Have you found anything that works?

Continue reading

7 Things I Learned About Myself, from Getting a Dog.

barnabycloseup-300x342As I may have mentioned, my family and I just got a new puppy — a cockapoo named Barnaby. He’s fourteen weeks old, and super sweet and delightful.

However, he is a dog, and even more so, he’s a puppy. I knew that his arrival in our household would mean big changes — and would also teach me a lot about myself.

So far, here’s what I’ve learned: Continue reading

What’s Your Favorite Quote About Coming Home?

LittleHousecover-300x433When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?”

“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

– Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods (last paragraphs)

This is one of my favorite passages in all of literature. I think of it often, especially when I come home after a trip. “This is now.Continue reading

Create the Green Dream with Home Automation

home automationby Elizabeth Eckhart

If you’re a homeowners like me who is interested in “going green” as much as possible, you should consider tapping into the many advantages of home energy control; new technology for home automation is making it so that we are not only conserving energy, but also choosing a money-saving alternative. A variety of technology and electronics manufacturers are taking notice, which means we finally get to benefit from multiple companies creating new, energy efficient products.

If you have already made the intention to refurnish your home, clean up your lifestyle, and contribute to a greener house, perhaps automation is where you, like me, should begin your search!

“Going green” is an expression that is used more and more in technology and business, and while it brings to mind the efforts of nature activists, and charitable causes to save the world’s resources, it is also becoming a big push in the business and consumer world (the one most of us live in!), especially when looking at home automation and appliances.

Whether it’s consumer electronics giant Samsung releasing networked appliances or home security companies like ADT’s new Pulse integrating more home automation features into their service offerings, allowing users to employ lighting and temperature control in the home, it’s clear that “smart” homes are quickly becoming an affordable reality. Essentially, home automation systems today can control many things in the home that have always been separate systems and make them work more efficiently than ever before. I’ve been looking at options to do everything from controlling cooling and heating throughout different zones in my house, automatically turn lights off and on as needed, open windows or shut them remotely, and even turn up the water heater as necessary or adjusting it to a lower temperature when it is no longer needed. Successfully automating all these things would waste less energy, cost me less, and have a positive impact on the environment!

The Latest and Greatest in Home Automation

Even Google made a foray into the world of home automation by gaining control of Nest Learning Thermostat, and as someone new to the home automation game, this was my first purchase. The Nest is basically just a thermostat that actually learns the preferences of a homeowner and controls the environment accordingly. For example, the Nest knows that I like it to be 68 degrees when I wake up, but can turn off the heat or air conditioning when I leave for work; when I get home, the thermostat ensures the temperature is comfortable, automatically dropping down to a lower level when no longer necessary.

Thermal powered lights are another popular product that I’ve tried; just like it sounds, they are lights that are powered by the solar energy that has been absorbed during the day, providing illumination at night. If you live in an area with a deregulated energy market like I do, it’s easy to find websites and resources for buying energy that comes from solar and other renewable sources, and so using your own solar at home cuts your carbon footprint down even further. Plus, it’s also a simple switch to solar powered motion sensor lights that are weatherproof, which are ideal for lighting the way outdoors or in the garage without the need for a light to be turned on for hours at a time since they’ll charge themselves during the day.

One product I’ve considered, but not yet made the jump to, is a full system for the whole house like mControl, which is ranked at the top of the list for companies providing the best in home automation. The system offers a way for homeowners to control every electronic device in their home, lighting, and climate. Relying on digital software, the mControl makes energy management more efficient and can address home security as well.

The Future of Home Automation

The sky’s the limit when it comes to the world of home automation. In the future, homeowners are likely to turn to cheaper do-it-yourself methods, from solar power to systems they can control to conserve energy and put more money in their pockets. Creative minds will take home automation to new heights, and if you can make the switch now, I’d highly suggest giving a few of the top-rated products a try!

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

Meditate to Start the Day

beach yoga

I would’ve never been someone who meditated.
It seemed to weird. To hippy.
What is a hippy? I wouldn’t say I was even 100% sure what a hippy was but I didn’t think I wanted to be one.

I like things to be orderly and intentional.
Sitting on a mat and lighting incense was not how I pictured myself.

Then I started a job where I worked from home and I was entirely responsible for my own motivation and organization. I thrive in those situations but it was a few weeks in when I realized I was having trouble turning of work. I was getting up in the morning and I wasn’t rested. There was no such thing as work time and home time. It all bled together and it was making me crazier and crazier.

I had a coworker suggest I take a few minutes in the morning to sit and think through the day. Maybe pour myself a cup of coffee and look over my calendar. Get a little perspective. I’d go through the process of getting up, making breakfast, taking a few minutes to sit and think and then get dressed. It was my cue that the day was officially starting. It was a few weeks into this successful practice that I realized I was meditating!

Or at least practicing some sort of meditation.
I was reminding myself of who I was.
I was reminding myself of what I was doing.
I was reminding myself of what it was all for and where I was headed.
It allowed me to approach work tasks with a broader scope and more patience.
It allowed me to feel less guilty when I got to the end of my work day and could shut my computer and move on even though I wasn’t necessarily headed out the door to something else. I could just be.

Maybe meditation sounds to weird and ethereal to you.
A couple of things to help you?

1. Inc listed morning meditation as one of the “7 Ways to Start a Great Day”. If it’s good enough for Inc, it’s good enough for me.
2. Mallika Chopra has a great eBook aptly titled “Meditation with Mallika Chopra” that is a great starting point for people new to the practice.
3. Deepak Chopra has been teaching and speaking on meditation for years now. We’ve assembled some great resources answering the questions of what and why for beginners here.

Worried to be the only one? Many of the folks at Intent.com are starting the day with meditation and love encouraging one another! (You can vote on whether or not you want the incense. It doesn’t hurt, I promise!) Let them help you get started:

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A Taste of England: Yorkshire Pudding (Recipe)

yorkshire puddingMy mom grew up in a small village 45 minutes south of London. Having a British mom has awarded me a lot of things in life that a lot of kids never get to have – true English Christmases, the ability to fake an accent better than anyone I know and getting the inside jokes on Downton Abbey. My favorite thing about being a half-brit though is yorkshire pudding.

It’s a running joke in our family that there are so many things to love about England, but food isn’t really one of them – outside of fish ‘n’ chips of course (and I don’t eat anything that comes out of the ocean – so bust.) I mean, would you be willing to be try a plate of spotted dick (that’s a real thing. Least appetizing dessert name ever)? Or maybe some steak and kidney pie? Didn’t think so. However, there is one delicious morsel usually reserved for Sunday roast dinners that make hearts appear in my eyes and the kickstart automatic drooling. Contrary to the name, yorkshire pudding are more like bread rolls and muffins had a baby than American pudding. As I said, they work as a side dish with a bit of gravy for roast dinners or can be eaten with jam for a light dessert.

Whenever I had a rough day at school or wasn’t feeling well my mom would whip up a batch of these delicious morsels to go with dinner and it was always the best surprise. As I’ve been trying to experiment more in the kitchen I decided to try them out for myself. Luckily, they are the simplest thing in the world to make! So get out your union jacks, put Monty Python in the DVD player and get in touch with your Brit side with this easy Yorkshire Pudding recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (It also works with water instead if trying to cut down on fat, but milk makes them fluffier)
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Cupcake pan

Directions:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 450˚F
  • Mix together flour, salt, milk/water, butter and eggs in medium mixing bowl until mixture is cohesive with no bumps
  • Pour mix into cupcake pan, filling each well about halfway (they rise a lot so be careful).
  • Place in the oven for 10 minutes (or until golden brown)

The recipe makes about 12 medium yorkshires so prepare accordingly. I was so

5 Simple Ways to Make Your New Home Yours

If you’ve just purchased a home, or moved into a new space, you’re most likely looking around trying to figure out the best ways to make it truly feel like your own. There are many ways that you can put your personal touch on a home. Consider some of the following options to make the house feel like home.

1. More Than Just Paint

home - pillows

Image via Flickr by MissMessie

One thing that many homeowners do when they first buy a house is start envisioning new paint. However, there is more to coloring a home than simply slapping on some paint. Think about the other places in the home that you’ll add color. Throw pillows are a great way to add your personal touch and some of your favorite hues. They don’t have to match the wall colors – just make sure that they match your personality.

Another place that you can add color is with the appliances and furniture pieces you choose. These all make a statement about you within your home. Are you into retro styles? Consider a bright red cooking set for the kitchen. If you’re more subdued, you may want to color the home with more earth tones. Keep in mind that adding color to the house requires more thought and effort than simply painting the walls.

2. Make The Walls Your Canvas

Image via Flickr by Webb Zahn

Some people love to have pictures of the family on the walls. Others enjoy beautifully painted art. Some prefer to hang shelving that has collectibles or delicate items on display. Whatever your preference, make sure to take a look at the wall space you have in the home. Hanging items on the walls helps the space feel more comfortable. On top of this, it puts your personal stamp on the home. Wall hangings can be quickly and easily changed, allowing you to change the look of the home with your mood.

3. Change the Floors

Image via Flickr by Christopher

When you buy a new house, you’re not always going to get everything you want all at once. Instead, you may find the perfect layout, but feel the need to change other things in time. One way you can truly make your house feel like yours is to ensure that the flooring is everything you want it to be. Is the house full of carpet, but you really wanted wood flooring? Pull up the carpet and make the change. Another option is to change carpeting or tile to a newer, better style that fits your preferences.

4. Feel More Secure

Image via Flickr by penelope waits

Safety is something homeowners often gloss over. After all, if you don’t feel secure in your own home, you may never feel truly relaxed. Set up a checklist of everything to be aware of before you begin moving into your new home. Here are some things it should cover:

  • Finances (budget for home inspections and insurance)
  • Electrical (check circuit breakers, switchplates, washer/dryer units for possible electrical hazards)
  • Set up emergency contact numbers
  • If you have little ones, be sure to take the necessary steps in baby-proofing the home
  • Develop and practice an escape plan in case of fires
  • Consider investing in a home security system

5. Incorporate Personal Touches

Image via Flickr by margaretshear

There are little things that you love and that are a part of who you are. Whether you love candles, or you collect baseball cards, these things are personal touches that you can add to the home. When adding little things, you make the house really feel like it is yours. Do you love spring? Add a bouquet of spring flowers to the kitchen table. The little things that you do will make all the difference in the feel of the home. Make yourself feel welcome with a batch of cookies. Though you may not want to bake cookies every day, if you’re feeling out of sorts in the home, this can be a helpful touch.

Whether you’re buying your first home or your fifth, there is always a period of adjustment in a new house. There are many ways to make sure you feel just right in your new digs. With just a few pieces added to the walls and some color splashed about, you’ll start feeling right at home in no time.

How Much Sodium Does a Water Softener Add to Your Diet?

When you think of drinking a glass of water, you probably don’t worry about drinking a bunch of sodium. However, depending on where you live and your local water supply, you could be drinking saltier water than you have to. Many households use water softeners that contain sodium to get rid of hard water. Understanding how water softeners work and your options for softening your water will help you make the best decision for your home.

What Is the Difference Between Hard & Soft Water?

As water moves through pipes to reach your house, it can pick up minerals from the pipes and the ground. Depending on the amount of minerals in the water, chemists classify water as hard or soft. Hard water has lots of magnesium and calcium ions. Soft water has less magnesium and calcium ions but may have sodium or potassium ions instead. These ions in your water can affect everything from the water’s taste to how well your detergent works to build up in your plumbing.

The minerals in hard water can combine with detergent to produce a sticky scum that will end up anywhere you use soap. Hard water can also leave water stains on glasses washed in a dishwasher. Because of these issues, most people use water softeners to remove some of the minerals from hard water and have better-washed clothes and dishes. Soft water may feel more slippery and sometimes has a slightly salty taste.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

Water softeners are systems that contain a resin through which your drinking water passes. As the water moves through the resin, the resin pulls the calcium and magnesium ions out and puts in either sodium or potassium ions instead. These sodium and potassium ions work better with your detergent to help remove dirt and oil, to the point that you can use less soap to get everything just as clean.

Water softeners typically treat your drinking water and not water used in irrigation. You need to backwash the resin in the water softener system to remove any dirt and make sure that the correct balance of sodium or potassium ions is present to remove the magnesium and calcium. Sometimes water softening systems need more salt added to recharge the resin with sodium ions.

How Much Sodium Is Added to the Water?

The amount of sodium added from a water softening system varies based on the manufacturer and specifications of the system. Untreated tap water already has a small amount of sodium in it. If you live in an area with very hard water, you will need to add more sodium to make your water soft. Typically water softening systems add between 10 to 40 milligrams of sodium per eight ounce glass of water. While this may not seem like a lot of sodium, it presents a source of sodium that most people don’t consider when they think of dietary sodium in their daily intake.

Why Should You Avoid Salt-Based Water Softener Systems?

If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you should avoid using salt-based water softener systems. These systems will introduce more sodium into your diet. Even if you are not concerned about the sodium, these systems use extra water during the backwashing phase. Salt-based water softener systems waste water because water is used to flush the system. Salt-based water softener systems are not environmentally friendly due the excess sodium pumped back into the sewer system.

There are options for non-sodium based water softeners to suit your needs. Saltless water softener systems do not use chemicals or salts of any kind. No added salt means that your water is not slippery or salty tasting. Because there is no salt, the salt-free water softener systems do not waste water or add sodium to the sewer system.

When dealing with hard water in your home, you have options to keep your plumbing free of buildup and your dishes and clothes as clean as possible without using excess detergent. Understanding the differences between the various water softening systems can direct you towards the system that will work best for your home. Which system would you prefer for your home?

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