The Simple Sophisticate - Intelligent Living Paired with Signature Style

"You would think weightlessness is a good thing, but it's not. Because people weren't meant to float. Without gravity, we lose blood volume, bone density, muscle. Without it, we're untethered. So when you feel yourself being pulled toward something, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It may keep you centered. It may keep you safe."Grey's Anatomy, season 16, episode #17, Shonda Rhimes

Thoughts, thoughts, all sorts of thoughts. With an abundance of time on our hands as we stay home, if we have not exercised our brains in this way, it may feel uncomfortable, and in these times we find ourselves collectively, understandably unsettling.

The above quote caught my attention this past week as it feels our attentions are being being pulled toward the necessities of life, what we sincerely need to simply live. Don't get me wrong, the past eleven years, economically, have been much needed and appreciated, and while each of our journey's is unique, perhaps we've forgotten what we truly need, what others truly need, to live well. At the moment, we are all being pulled to our homes, to our sanctuaries, to our immediate families with whom we reside with but perhaps never see often because of our busy schedules. Admittedly, some of our loved ones may be far away due to age, relationships, work, etc., but we at least have the phone, video chat and other technological ways of communicating.

Becoming grounded in what roots us, is what reminds us of what truly is a priority in our life, helps us to make better decisions to remain true to those values when the choices are vast. And sometimes when the choices are so vast and so ubiquitous for such a long time, we would only be being human to lose sight of our roots. I am not suggesting that we need to have a pandemic to root us, but that is where we find ourselves, so I am determined to see some good in this perilous situation.

There will be good that will come out of it when we come out of it on the other side, but as well, there is good we can partake in during this time of staying home.

Today, while I had originally planned a different topic for the episode to be shared, I have decided to focus on something that will hopefully be helpful to direct our attention to, to elevate the time we have indoors, wanted or unwanted. The gift and mood lifting power of daily and weekly rituals.

Under the umbrella of daily and weekly rituals lies our daily and weekly routines. Consciously creating routines in which we know boost the quality of our lives from our health, to our rest and rejuvenation to our productivity are ways to rest more easily which benefits our mind and well-being and decreases our stress. Each of these efforts strengths our immune system and ultimately strengthens our overall health, both physically and mentally.

Today I would like to share with you rituals you can incorporate into your daily and weekly routine even while you stay home.

1.Wake up well

Design a morning routine in which regardless of whether you are heading out the door (when our routines get back to normal) or staying home, you want to get out of bed and partake in. In episode #243 I share 12 Ways to Make Your Mornings Magical, Mindful and the Foundation of a Great Day.

2. Create a daily routine you love

As I shared with my students what would be expected of them while we stepped into our extended break (Oregon has announced they will be closing all schools through the entire month of March.), one student immediately decided she would find a favorite place she enjoyed being, give herself this window during her day to complete her schoolwork and then be done. I was so tickled to hear such thoughtful and conscientious attention to both her academics, but also her well-being by compartmentalizing and stepping away from work so she could relax and just be.

All of us, whether at home, and especially now that we are home, would benefit from creating a schedule in our day for productivity, but also meals, rest and exercise. Knowing we have accomplished something will let us rest more easily and make it easier to sleep at night. As well, we will be giving our bodies and mind a healthy balance to remain strong.

3. An afternoon brain break

Whether you enjoy an afternoon tea or an afternoon nap or an afternoon outside exercising, create a ritual that will be something you look forward to as you make your way through your day. If you are like me, and live alone, this may be a good time to call loved ones to check in. If you live with others, it may be a great time to be together if you are busy doing your own thing throughout the day. Either way, make a point of intentionally not doing work, but rather something relaxing and enjoyable. Something that elevates the everyday even more so that each day you look forward to such moments.

4. Welcome the flowers

I shared on Instagram yesterday (see below) how one of the items on my grocery list this weekend (I went early and wore gloves as well as washed my hands before and after) was to welcome a few bouquets of flowers into my home. Recent researched has shared that having fresh flowers can "lower blood pressure and heart rate, lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and more positive feelings and higher satisfaction [about one's home]". So while, we need to stay home as much as possible, if possible keeping in my sanitation requirements, welcome some flowers into your home and perhaps bring a bouquet for your neighbor and leave them on their doorstep with a note. You may help their health more than you realize.

5. What to listen to? What brings you joy.

Create a listening ritual that carries you through your day. From the classical music I wake up to on WRTI with host Gregg Whiteside and Breakfast with Bach at 5am to the jazz in the evenings from my Spotify playlist, as well as podcasts about food and France enjoyed while I walk the dogs along the river, around the neighborhood or through the trees, what we turn on melodically has a tremendously powerful effect over our well-being. Choose what you love and let it elevate your days.

Music I listen to:

Podcasts I have been loving recently:

6. Fitness Habits That Energize

The key to sustainable exercise routines is to keep them seemingly small, yet consistent and intentional. As I shared in the first episode of 2020 on the podcast, #272, 8 Ways Tiny Habits Will Welcome the Great Changes You Seek, tiny habits have a powerful way of instituting the change we desire. Why? Because they are more likely to stick, and truly become habituated into our daily routine.

From waking up and doing one set of sit-ups (by the end of the week you will have done five sets!), to meditating for one minute each morning, to sipping a glass of water upon waking up in the morning, when you choose thoughtfully the habits you want in your life, reduce them down to seemingly so small, there is no reason not do the task, and before you know it, as you see the positive change, you won't want to reduce your effort and may even want to increase it.

So as we find ourselves with more time at home and being unlikely to attend our favorite fitness class or gym, find exercise habits at home that will fulfill the exercise routine you need, but in a way that you enjoy. I am shifting my weekly yoga classes to a YouTube yoga instructor for the time being (but I cannot wait to return to the yoga studio), and my walks will be where I can keep my social distance at a healthy length from others, for their sake as well as mine.

7. Create an evening ritual for winding down before going to bed

Something I look forward to every day, weekday or weekend, is my evening routine. After the work on the blog has been completed, after dinner has been made and savored, it is this hour or two before I drift off to sleep that is priceless. My dogs as well have become accustomed to our routine and even though they do not know the time of day we humans live by, they know when bedtime is near.

From calming down the house, dishes washed, kitchen cleaned, work put away, to lighting a candle in the living room, turning on a pre-taped show or picking up a book or magazine I want to slip away to for a while, these simple activities tell my mind it is safe to rest, to relax, to be done for the day. All the while sipping some tea and nibbling on a piece of chocolate truffle, the ultimate signal to my body and brain that the day is done.

8. Be Conscientious About Your Daily News Intake

Going along with #5, what media we choose to be part of our daily routines has a profound effect on our mental health. I shared and encouraged my students to limit their news intake as it can easily overwhelm us. I did not suggest sticking their head in the sand and ignoring the news, but rather choose one or two times a day in which you check in with a credible news source, and then go about your day.

9. Work space set-up

Cultivate a welcoming work space whether it is temporary or where you work on a normal workday. Provide a clean work desk (check out this post - 10 Ways to Make Your Desk Space Efficient and Inspiring), welcome the natural light, reduce unhelpful distractions and decorate or rearrange in such a way to beckon you to work well.

10. Befriend water

Choose to bring and drink water with you throughout the day. Staying hydrated has oodles of benefits, but on the immunity side of things, it will help rid your body of toxins. Even if I am enjoying my regular cup of tea in the morning, afternoon or evening, I regularly will have a glass of water as well or have my Hydroflask full of water if I am out walking (it is in my car for when I return). Cultivating this habit will satiate your appetite, refresh your body and elevate many arenas of your life that we take for granted.

11. Turn your ideas into gold

Yes, William Shakespeare may have written King Lear during his quarantine tenure in the 16th century, and while we may not produce such masterpieces, we can use this time let our creative ideas run free so that we have time to see what they want to reveal. Keep a notebook or small journal handy and write down what pops into your mind. You may be able to tend to the idea now or it may be an idea you can implement later, but either way, it will be a positive exercise to focus on positive, hopeful, inspired things. Our mind is a muscle, and it finds the tracks we repeat again and again. So practice thinking in such a way that lifts you up, gets you excited and who knows where your creative thoughts will take you.

As for me, I am planning TSLL's upcoming British Week (the third full week in May), pulling together April 1st's TSLL's Spring Shopping Guide and whatever else wishes to reveal itself to me. :) Excited to see what I will discover. Have fun!

12. Incorporate regular self-care and model it for others in your life

That hot bath you used to take infrequently, but love and look forward to deeply . . . take it regularly, every week, every other day, but make it a ritual you look forward as well as savor when you slip into the hot bubble bath of comfort. Last year, I shared 31 Ways to Practice Self-Care, episode #242, and as I shared in this episode, while the bubble baths and other pleasures are certainly part of this regular self-care routine, self-care needs to go deeper. When self-care goes deeper, it has even more powerful and long-lasting positive effects on our life. Be sure to check out the show notes and/or episode for much more information on this topic.

The current situation in which we find ourselves is unprecedented in our times, but it has the potential to reveal a tremendous amount about our strengths, compassion and ability to rise in ways we may not have known we were capable. I am confident that while the unknown has the potential to paralyze, it can also teach us an abundance about ourselves, those around us, the world and then reveal to us what we should truly be focused on for a better world moving forward.


Petit Plaisir:

~Begin to cultivate a candle cupboard/closet.

I first learned of this idea from Queer Eye's Tan France when during his tour of his home for Architectural Digest he opened up a small closet (I would call it a cupboard) and shared his stocked candles. Now, mind you, my current Candle Cupboard has two candles in it waiting to be enjoyed, but as I come across candles that I love, if they are on sale, I purchase one or two more than I normally would. I don't expect my Candle Cupboard to ever be as full as Tan's, but I love this idea as a Petit Plaisir.

My Candle Cupboard is only barely stocked, but I love this idea and will continue to add to it as my budget and sales and treasures are found. Thank you Tan for sharing this wonderful idea!

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #280

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Direct download: 280Podcast_.mp3
Category:health -- posted at: 7:00pm PST

True contentedness is unremarkable to the outside world, or passerby.

Typing away in my cozy chair in the living room in my line of sight Norman eats his breakfast and Oscar acknowledging he will not be able to sneak a bite, takes a long cool drink of water. The croissant for my Sunday morning ritual is proofing in the oven and Sunday Baroque's weekly program fills my home.

Even having lost an hour of the day, I have decided to wake up with the sunset and use the dawn-filled hour to work early before we are able to go for our morning stroll in the woods. All is well, and so much surrounds me for which to be grateful.

I began the morning reading Maria Shriver's weekly email newsletter, and in particular this morning's letter resonated with me, and most likely would you as well as a reader of TSLL. I've included an excerpt below as she describes a moment in which she felt, albeit unexpectedly, truly and sincerely content.

"Over the last few years, I’ve settled into myself. I’ve focused more on my blessings and what I’m doing well rather than my shortcomings and what needs to be adjusted (something I highly recommend). As a result, everything in my mind has calmed down, and therefore my body has calmed down, too.  Today, my life finally feels centered, grounded, and solid. I feel like I’ve found my space and my place.

It was one of those profoundly simple, yet headshaking, moments of self-realization that no one ever really talks about. Sure, there are still things in life that give me anxiety (the coronavirus, the election, and Mother Nature as our neighbors in Nashville know all too well). But, through it all, I’ve been able to find my inner fortitude and soothe myself, something I’ve struggled with my entire life.

The truth is I never expected that the peace, joy or success that I chased my whole life would come to me when I was sitting alone, drinking coffee on my porch. I thought I was supposed to find that while giving speeches, accepting awards, and galvanizing change. That’s what our culture teaches us. It’s what infused into our beings at a very young age."

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that on this International Women’s Day, I’m a woman on my own path. I’m living my one wild, precious, joyful and meaningful life. In the end, my friends, that’s what galvanizes true change. Watching, witnessing and being in community with people who are following their authentic paths is what changes the world one breath at a time. I thought of that every time I washed my hands this week and it made me smile.

So, follow your heart personally, professionally, and politically. Because, when you do, you will discover the feeling I felt the other morning. You will find yourself saying to no one in particular, “Wow, I’m good just the way I am.” —Maria Shriver in her 3/8/2020 letter from the editor of The Sunday Paper newsletter

I realize the excerpt above was long, but hopefully, as it did me, it reassured as to what living well truly is. It's simple and intentional. It's internal and individual. It is purpose driven and intangible. It is also experiential and tactile. It requires of us to be present to be engaged with our world acknowledging much needs us to let go, but so too must we stay involved and aware. It is the daily practice of elevating our daily life by how we walk and open our eyes and minds to all that is around us and that is possible.

Each year when my birthday rolls around, here on the blog, I share a reflection of some sort of life lessons, aha moments and discoveries about the world found along my journey. To share, as well, admittedly, as a way to preserve my own growth, my hope is to prompt introspection amongst readers as sometimes, maybe even often, we do not realize all ways in which we have grown as it can sometimes be hard to see when we are the ones walking through the world each day.

I have yet to share my life lessons for my 41st birthday which fell during the final week of February, so I wanted to take today's episode/post to reflect.

1.Dreams, hopes, wishes can indeed materialize so long as we never let them go, we keep making small, yet steady progress, and keep refusing to not believe it can happen.

2. Clear, respectful, honest communication is to be treasured and a necessary ingredient for healthy relationship of all types.

3. Setting personal boundaries is a reflection of your recognition of your innate self-worth which will cause your self-esteem to grow.

4. Giving yourself closure on the past is healthy and necessary for being able to fully move forward. Your closure need not make sense to anyone else but yourself, but give yourself this gift of freedom.

5. Some friends, family and/or colleagues may not be able to travel with you into your next life chapter as you choose to grow and evolve or your life simply asks of you to travel a different way or in a different way. Letting go need not be dramatic or radical or even known, but rather a natural going about life's path perhaps to meet again at some other time or maybe not. And that is okay and healthy as it shows awareness of the social support that you need to be well.

6. Give yourself permission to be excited about your life journey, your everyday moments and just be giddy. Let your endorphins soar naturally and see your daily life experience improve as well.

7. Say yes to opportunities that cross your path but out of schedule with when you had hoped they might arrive. My trip to Paris and Normandy was not expected nor planned. In fact, I had told myself I would take at least a year off before returning to Paris since my trip in 2018; however, when an invitation arrived to return in 2019, I had to say yes, and all that I learned, experienced, savored and learned some more was more than evidence that I made the right decision.

8. Less truly can bring more into your life. The unexpected discovery of my now home and sanctuary which is half the size of the home I owned previously is precisely what I instinctively knew I needed to live well. Less to decorate, but what I choose can be investments that will last. Less to clean, so I have more time to explore and create on the weekends, a perfectly medium size yard and petite garden, but exactly what I enjoy to have Mother Nature at my fingertips without a requirement of more time than I can give.

9. Mother Nature, moving my feet in Mother Nature, is my creative muse and her gifts are priceless. While I walk nearly everyday outside on the trails in Bend or near the river that runs through Bend, even walking in San Francisco when I needed to get outside, I did so and saw the famed parrots of the Telescope Hill, and oh what a delight. Inspiration is everywhere when we step out into the fresh air.

10. My dogs have been for the past 15 years and are my companions in this journey of my life as they let me be "Shannon", provide company as well as freedom, yet keep me grounded as well. Savoring every moment with my two elder gentlemen.

11. Cooking, creating in the kitchen, is to play and forever be learning and savoring everyday moments.

12. Love really does live on inside you even after someone dearly loved passes away.

13. Host that dinner party you've been wanting to have. You may just bring beautiful moments and new connections to your guests that they will appreciate more than you will ever know. (read: 10 Ideas Gleaned & Confirmed from my Last Dinner Party, and be sure to check out my first book for details and a menus for hosting a successful gathering.)

14. Traveling with my mom created memories of getting to know each other as where we are now in our lives and wonderful shared experiences that I will never forget. Check out our trip to San Francisco. We also had the opportunity to go to Oregon's Garden which exceeded my expectations and opened my eyes even further to my mom's love and knowledge of "green-thumb" life.

15. Continue to follow your heart, its inklings, its tugs, its curiosities, and you will never be led astray. Even when it doesn't make sense to you, even when you do not have a model to forge the path before you traverse it, your insurance is that it is your heart leading the way. I am reminded of Julia Child's quote which she expressed on the penultimate and onto the final page of her memoir My Life in France.

"In Paris in the 1950s, I had the supreme good fortune to study with a remarkably able group of chefs. From them I learned why good French food is an art, and why it makes such sublime eating: nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn't use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture . . . But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience." —Julia Child

While Julia is directly speaking of her experience in the culinary world of Paris, she indirectly and perhaps most significantly speaks to how to live life well. Invest, have patience, do your homework, and trust the co-mingling of those who know more than you about topics which you love as well as your own passions and curiosities. Beautiful art, the art of life, your life, can materialize in its own time and in its own unique way.

May this birthday year offer insightful and inspired life lessons that elevate the quality of your everyday life even more and bring you all the more contentment, true contentment that you desire.

Petit Plaisir

~Dishing with Julia Child

Direct download: 279Birthday_copy.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 8:00pm PST

At the core of a happy home is a home that works for those individuals the four walls surround and keep sheltered and safe. Once the essentials are in place - a roof over our heads, walls to keep us warm/cool, then it is the inhabitants' responsibility to cultivate a sanctuary in which each person feels they belong and loved for being their true selves or having the space to understand who they are as they grow and evolve. Whether you share your home or not, both require clarity and willingness to be honest about the needs to live your best life and if you live with others to enable them to do the same without short-changing yourself or compromising too much.

If these steps sound familiar, you are right. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs builds on top of each of the necessities shared above. First we must have our phyiological needs met, then a feeling of safety before we can find belonging and feel and recognize love. Following the third step, once we have a home to feel free to just be, our stress levels drop, our health improves and strengthens and we find we think more clearly and thus make better decisions which leads to the opportunity to strive and try new things giving a boost to our confidence along our journey which builds the fourth tier - our self-esteem opening the pathway for us to have the choice to become self-actualized, the fifth and final tier.

Interior designer and author Rebecca West's new book Happy Starts at Home, which was just released in the states last month, takes the approach to decor that it is far more than the aesthetics, but rather thoughtful decor decisions that marry function with and supporting each person reach their goals which includes feeling welcomed and at peace in the present.

"The truth is your home can directly improve your well-being and contentment. It can help decreease your stress level and increase your happiness." —Rebecca West

What I was drawn to with West's book is her underlying definition of happiness is contentment which is something we talk about often here on TSLL. Contentment is something that has the capability of being steady day-in and day-out regardless of the events of our days - good, bad or just blah. In fact, when you are content, you rarely have blah days at all and when you do have bad days, you can confidently move through them and the good days are elevated even higher. How awesome is that!

While we must build contentment within ourselves, our homes play a critical part in supporting this contented state of going about our lives. And in even better news, our home decor need not break our budget. Just as it takes time to get to know ourselves, depending upon where we are in our life journey when we begin to cultivate our sanctuary, it will take time to understand how we live well, and what is needed to enable our best life to be enjoyed everyday.

Today I'd like to share with you the takeaways from Rebecca West's book that caught my attention as I am in the middle of customizing my home and making sure it works for me.

1.Understand "who" your home is and who it can be for you

As I mentioned in this post (#3), I have named my home, and I highly recommend you do as well. I think of how Paul and Julia Child named their home in Provence Le Pitchoune (translated The Little One), aka La Peetch. Naming our homes gives them a character, reminds of what our home means to us and signifies our appreciation and perhaps our vow to care for it as we are aware of how it cares for us.

If your home is not reflecting its full potential, not living up to its name so-to-speak, then let such a realization be motivation to give the home the care it needs to be the "who" you know it can be and need it to be as well.

2. Be clear about how your home needs to support your lifestyle

Begin with the more abstract concept such as supportive, strengthening, joyful and then examine how your home can enable you to feel these feelings. If your home is not supporting those feelings, examine closely why it isn't and go about creating the change you need.

3. Understand the priorities of your home

In other words, what lifestyle do you not only sincerely have to live, but also want to live? How can your home facilitate your needs and support you on your journey toward your goals? Do you need your own office space and right now only write on the kitchen table? Do you need more light, less light, lighter fabrics in hue and/or weight? Do you need furniture that is comfortable that asks you to relax and unwind? Is your kitchen organized and functional so you can easily step into it and make what you need easily?

Let's back step just a bit first because our answers to the above questions come after we know who we are and where we want to go and what are priorities are. Once we know the answers to these essential questions, the questions regarding our home, are far easier.

4. Make a habit of editing what comes into your home

As I have shared in previous posts, having a mood board is helpful to clarify and direct your purchases and decor aesthetic decisions. A mood board will also help when it comes to know what you need and what would work best in your home and being able to say no to otherwise beautiful items that would have found their way into your home, but they just are not needed or fit well.

Once you have decorated your home to support your contented life, become ardent about your shopping excursions, gifts that are received and get into a regular habit of letting go, consigning, selling for resale at used books/furniture shops what no longer serves you. You "have a say in what surrounds you", and when you feel as though you are the director of your home and decor, you can feel more confident in your life decisions as well because your home doesn't become overwhelmed and remains true to its purpose.

5. Examine the fear you have when it comes to letting stuff go

West examines the emotional attachment we have with material items well, as it often is a fear that we will not be able to fill the hole it may feel it is leaving. However, she argues that in fact, it is opening up space for something more in alignment with who we are and are becoming.

"When you take a leap and start letting things go from your home, you'll open the door to trust and opportunity."

6. Keep what brings you joy

However, make sure you are not keeping what brings you joy in a box tucked away in the garage. In other words, if you are not honoring it, if you are not letting it bring you joy in your daily life, does it really bring you joy, or are you just afraid to let it go? A self-examination, an honest self-examination, will help you answer this question.

7. Extend gratitude to your home

Whether you rent or own, your house is your dream house or not, extend gratitude to it for the good that it provides - at the very least, shelter and safety. One of the joys and things I am extremely grateful for in my home is that my key turns in the front door without snagging. As well, with an attached garage, my dogs are safer as we can move from the car to the house without having to worry about them seeing something to chase or say hello to. These simple changes are things I am grateful for each day I turn the lock in my door and cross the threshold.

It may sound silly to say thank you to our homes, but the expression of gratitude is a destressor and a good habit of looking for all that is going well in our lives no matter what the day might have brought us.

8. Understand that a well-decorated home that works for you will help you change your life

West cautions that if you have the determination to change your life, but you are not changing your home to support you, that may be an obstacle you are ignoring and should address. Why? From the simple reorganization and editing of your kitchen and pantry to support your new eating habit, your home can sabotage or support the new habits you are trying to welcome into your daily routine. More generally speaking if you get rid of the reminders of the bad habits you do not want, your home will most certainly better support you as it is with you each day.

9. Address the simple daily stressors

From a handle that is loose to a dishwasher that does not run properly or is not large enough for your needs, from small to large, tend to them immediately or as swiftly as your budget allows as you will be amazed how your stress levels will drop when you are not tripping over these items you know you need to tend to but continue to put off again and again.

An example from my own life, the dishwasher that came with my house had two racks and was too small for all of the cooking I do. Often I would have to run it twice to wash all of my dishes (yes, I know I could have hand-washed them, and sometimes I did, which is my point also - I wanted to save time!). So when my dishwasher unexpected broke down on my late last year, I took advantage of the first of the year sales in January to purchase a dishwasher that had the racks I needed and boy, what a significiant difference to my time allotted for washing dishes and daily stress.

10. Edit your bedroom to included nothing that isn't related to sleep or intimacy

Keep only reading materials that help you relax and fall asleep (no work items). Add elements such as softer lighting, candles, and a vase for your weekly flowers. Focus on what calms you down and eliminate anything that rachets you up.

11. Create a home you are proud to call your home

When you wake up in the morning, you should feel a sense of calm as you are expected to be nobody but exactly who you are. When you leave your home, it should give you a confident boost to enjoy the day to the best of the events' abilities. Upon feeling such ease in your home, you will become more confident to invite people over and build the social life you would like to have.

12. Be thoughtful with lighting

Consider where you need lighting and where you want people to relax and feel their best. In other words, nobody wants an overhead light shining down on them in the living room as they conversation casually. Nobody looks great under these lights and it is just too shocking. Keep the kitchen well lit, but use table and floor lamps instead in more relaxed settings. Welcoming in as much natural light as possible as this too will elevate your mood.

13. Find ease with your relationship status, whatever it is

A home that reflects where you are in your life right now is a home that allows you to feel settled and thus more calm.

"Once your home reflects you, you'll start to feel a lot more settled about being on your own."

I share the quote above because I think sometimes we decorate for the life we want, not for the life we have. When we choose to honor where we are, we are being present and enjoying all that life is giving us even if we cannot see all of the awesomeness. As someone who has lived alone most of my life, when I first began doing so, it took time to become comfortable with my own company; however, now, you could not convince me to live any other way. When we embrace we learn what we truly need to live well outside of another person or society's expectations. When we let others who we are living with express what they need and we then express what we need, we get to know each other better on a far more intimate level. But the key is to set aside expectations of something either beyond our control or that we think should be happening next.

14. Let your home customization be the medicine to finding your ease of living

If you have ever felt your life is not where you want it - your job, your relationships, the country, etc., start at home and change what you can to make yourself happier. Take the weekend and paint that room you've been meaning to paint. Vow that you will wallpaper the office so that your work space reflects who you are and you enjoy stepping across that threshold each day even if you do have a home office and do not have to travel that far.

West suggests if you are having trouble changing your thoughts and perhaps feel overwhelmed and not settled with life, start at home and change something aesthetically that makes your home work better for you.

There are times when my mind races and sometimes not in the direction I want it to and one thing I had not been doing four years ago was tending to my decorating as it was a rental. However, after living in my rental for two years, I realized, why aren't you doing something? So I did. I updated the blinds in the office and kitchen, two places I found myself frequently and wanted a beautiful frame to look out and see Mother Nature, I purchased a secondhand pedestal dining table, one I had been putting off until I bought my next house, and I framed photographs I had taken on my travels to France and England and enlarged them to be the artwork in the living room. Once I began making my home reflect who I was, the quality gradually lifted as well and I reveled in being at my home even more. In two short years of doing this, I did eventually find the home I wanted to buy, but even though the blinds cannot come with me, I felt as though I gave that rental some love, and don't regret it for a moment.

I could go on and one about the takeaways in Happy Starts at Home. It is a decor resource but also so much more as readers will come to understand the psychological power of our homes when we recognize it for what it can do to improve the quality of our life.

Currently as I type, it has begun to snow in droves after just an hour ago being a bright sunshine of a day. And I am smiling and saying thank you because I have a home that enables me to see outside far more easily and savor the changing of the weather while relaxing in my armchair while Norman snores away on the ottoman. These are the moments that I wanted to cultivate more of, and you can too. Whatever it is that makes your life sing, examine how you can bring it into your home so that it is part of your everyday. Your contentment will rise as a result.

The changes can be grand, but they need not be, they just need to be intentional and in alignment with what you need to work best for you and the life you want to live.

Enjoy examining your life and how your home is supporting the life you want to live. If it isn't exactly where you'd like it to be, enjoy the journey of figuring out what you need. Because although it will take time, when the right items cross your path or the right ideas cross your path or you all of a sudden discover what would work the best, you will be all the more grateful they made it into your life.

Petit Plaisir:

Le Blanc Linen Wash

~If you live in Bend, Studio Vero sells this line of detergent and the laundry sachets as well.

Ginger and Almond Bars (gluten-free)

~click here for the recipe

~as first enjoyed in Provence at Patricia Wells' cooking school~

Direct download: 278HomeHappy.mp3
Category:decor -- posted at: 7:00pm PST