✧ Living Clutter-Free

Living clutter-free by eliminating junk and the stress, anxiety, frustration, and guilt that comes with it opens the door to the comfortable and rewarding lifestyle you so deserve. If you aspire to cleanse life of the nonsensical possessions weighing you down, maybe, just maybe, I have the perfect plan for you.

 

living-clutter-free
. source .

 

living-clutter-free

living-clutter-free
My mammy, her twin sister, my grandpa, and his cousins | 1923

 

Mammy, the Minimalist Gypsy ✧ Living Clutter-Free

I remember my great-grandmother’s home being small, modest, and completely clutter-free. She had few possessions, primarily adored heirlooms, most of which I have today.

Mammy had an intriguing aura of otherness. Besides her dark hair, skin, and eyes contrasting the light features of the rest of our family, her unique sense of inherently focussing on what truly mattered drew me in. She was a product of the depression but didn’t hoard like many others in her generation. She maintained and valued the few sentimental possessions she had, never yearning for more.

Although much of her life was a mystery, I felt an uncanny connection to her. Years after she passed away, I began poking around to learn more about her. After a lot of digging, I eventually discovered she descended from a band of gypsies. What an aha moment.

It’s no wonder I was especially drawn to this otherworldly woman. I too have always been a free spirit who embraces the impractical. The discovery of her lineage helped make sense of my own quirky yearning for frequent moves and new beginnings. I can’t help but believe she instilled the same vibe in me, preferring adventure over square footage and people over stuff.

 

living-clutter-free
Mammy and Me | 1973

 

A majority of our modern society clings to possessions, some in an extremely unhealthy way. We live in a world where instant gratification and more-more-more consumerism has run amuck. This can easily lead to frustration, guilt, unhappiness, and emotional, psychological, and even physical illness.

Do you suffer from negative feelings associated with your cluttered space? With a few tips and tricks, you too can break through to the realization that tossing all the unnecessary stuff will bring you the sense of wellness you’ve been craving.

 

The Big Question ✧  Living Clutter-Free

Let’s be honest, we need very little to live contently. It’s a proven psychological fact that the more things we acquire, the emptier we feel. Keeping things simple instills a calm peace of mind.

At some point today, scan each room of your home. Pay close attention to where your eyes hesitate. This hesitation is telling you how you truly feel about that particular space and the objects in it.

Pick up those objects. Do you feel distaste or indifference? Does this [thing] bring you joy?

 

living-clutter-free
Joy:  My great-great-grandmother’s Singer sewing machine brings me joy.

 

As you progress emotional questions might arise.

For example:

  • Should I let this go if I spent a ton of money on it?
  • What if I lose ten pounds and fit into it again?
  • Should I keep this ugly sweater my mother-in-law gave me in case she asks me to wear it?
  • Shouldn’t I save everything my child has ever created?
  • I might need this someday, right?

 

There are better questions to ask yourself.

  • If I were shopping right now would I buy this?
  • Have I used this in the last year?
  • Do I have a similar item that serves the same purpose?

If you apply the ‘does this bring me joy’ technique and ask yourself these three additional questions, you’ll resurface from the drowning depths of clutter a whole lot lighter and brighter.

 

living-clutter-free
Joy:  Old black + white family photos bring me personal joy.

 

Ditch the Dinge  ✧  Living Clutter-Free

When I help clients declutter their closets, I’m always surprised by how many keep dingy clothes ‘to wear around the house.’ There’s only one place for dingy clothing and that’s the donation drop-off. I’m a firm believer in wearing clothes that make you look and feel great, no matter if you’re out and about or in your own home.

I recently learned about the H&M Sustainability program. You can bring any unwanted garments (no matter the brand) to their stores, where they can be sold as second-hand clothes or broken down into fiber. Since its 2013 launch, the program has collected more than 32,000 tons of garments to be reworn, reused or recycled. This is a great resource for us and a much-needed reprieve for our landfills.

 

living-clutter-free
. source .

 

Tchotchkes are Clogged Chi ✧  Living Clutter-Free

Chi means energy flow. In feng shui, clogged chi is believed to affect health and wealth. Random items on your countertops or stashed in drawers and closets are stagnant energy weighing you down. Magazines, catalogs, manuals, spare cords, broken electronics, containers missing lids, gifts you feel too guilty to discard… it’s all clogged chi. Ditch it and make space for things that are useful and bring you joy.

 

living-clutter-free
Joy: Every single thing in my living room brings me joy.

 

Book It  ✧  Living Clutter-Free

How many physical books do you own? When is the last time you re-read those books? That’s what I thought. It’s time to book it to Half-Price Books for resale. Remember, if it’s not currently adding value to your life, it doesn’t belong in your life.

You may have a short stack of favorite books you refuse to part with. If so, display them with intention. Although I only keep my journal bedside, my kids have a few favorites they keep stacked beside their beds.

Although you will find books in their rooms, you will not find electronics or toys. This is another interesting facet to feng shui. The absense of electronics and toys keeps bedtime calm, peaceful, and free from stimulating distractions.

 

living-clutter-free
Books in the bedroom, good. Electronics in the bedroom, bad.

 

Frame It  ✧  Living Clutter-Free

If your kid’s artwork is that good, frame and display. There is zero reason to keep artwork stashed away. If it’s not worthy of displaying, out it goes. Little Van Gogh won’t notice it’s gone, although concealing it under recycled newspapers until pick-up day is not only recommended but strongly encouraged.

 

living-clutter-free
. source .

 

Shred It  ✧  Living Clutter-Free

Do you have piles of files? If your home was ravaged by a natural disaster would you need those files?

Probably.

The solution is scan, Dropbox, and shred, my friend.

It’s much easier to find electronic receipts than digging through papers. Block a Saturday and start shredding.

 

living-clutter-free
A decluttered desk is a decluttered mind.

 

Sale vs. Substance  ✧  Living Clutter-Free

Do you know someone who purchases a case of potato chips because it’s on sale? Where do they store all these chips? Where do they store the fat from all those chips? Like Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

Repeat after me: It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it.

I keep a Pinterest board of things I want. If an item on my board goes on sale, awesome. Otherwise, I don’t buy sale items, especially in bulk.

 

living-clutter-free
Try creating a Pinterest ‘want’ board.

 

The big takeaway from living clutter-free? If you don’t love it or use it, let it go.

If you happen to need a little extra inspiration, check out my recommended Books page that includes a few minimalism gems. And check out The Minimalist’s Blog: Our 21-Day Journey Into Minimalism. It’s an absolute game changer.

 

living-clutter-free

 

Clutter happens. Your kids bring home party goodie bags and your partner returns from business trips with conference swag. You should find it easier now more than ever to get rid of this clutter — because you have the tools to make it happen.

Feng shui teaches that everything we own carries energy that enhances or diminishes our happiness. Investing five minutes a day to return things to their designated spaces is the easiest way to keep the good energy flowing.

Your home should be a statement of who you are, a source of pride. Instilling respect for your home within your family members is of tremendous importance. Everyone living in your home must adopt the clutter-free routine and pull their weight. You’ll be doing a tremendous service to your children by brainwashing… I mean instilling these simplistic values in them.

And that’s good juju.

julie-pedraza

 

Share the good juju...Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someone

✧ Simple Feng Shui

Simple feng shui is the secret to creating crazy blissful zen within your home. So, if the energy of your space needs some refreshing, read on to discover five uber-easy tips to get your abode’s good juju flowing.

simple-feng-shui

simple-feng-shui
. source .

 

First of all, let’s define feng shui. [Fəŋ-ˈshwā] is the practice of creating harmonious surroundings that enhance the balance of yin and yang, the flow of positive energy, and ultimately good fortune. Seems like a bunch of woo-woo? Focus on the most noteworthy words: harmony, balance, and good fortune… all super good juju. And who doesn’t need more of that? So, let’s dive in and get our OM on with these five simple feng shui tips that will turn your ho-hum home into a refreshing retreat.

 

Step 1  ✧  Simple Feng Shui

Your entry is everything.

For starters, the easiest way to create a welcoming entrance is to place a clean welcome mat flanked by live potted plants or trees on each side of the door. Additionally, the direction your front door faces will determine which color it should be painted. If this seems like a bunch of hullabaloo, I promise it makes a huge aesthetic difference. These are the coordinated directional door colors you should consequently use.

South:  Red, Orange

North:  Black, Blue, Grey

East:  Black, Brown, Blue, Green

West:  Grey, Yellow

 

simple-feng-shui
. source .

 

Step 2  ✧  Simple Feng Shui

Bring nature inside.

Especially relevant is the continued flow of energy inside your home. This can be obtained with low maintenance botanicals. I know, it’s tough enough keeping your children alive, however, adding a few low maintenance succulents to your home will stir up stale chi (natural energy) and add instant positive energy. While live plants help clean the air, fake plants do the exact opposite. Faux plants and dried flowers are nothing but dust collectors. If you do nothing else today, kick those fake plants to the curb.

 

simple-feng-shui
. source .

 

Step 3  ✧  Simple Feng Shui

Cha-ching the kitchen.

The next feng shui step teaches that by displaying fresh fruit and flowers in your gathering space, the heart of your home,  you will recharge your health and wealth.  Therefore, keeping a bowl of fresh clementines as your centerpiece will not only look great, it will keep you on top of your health diet game. You could also use fresh lemons and grab as needed to add slices to your water. Seems like a feng shui win-win to me.

 

simple-feng-shui
. source .

 

Step 4  ✧  Simple Feng Shui

Your bedroom is a sanctuary.

Because a sanctuary includes zero clutter, the only pieces you need in your bedroom are a bed, nightstands, lamps, and a dresser and/or chest. Storing items beneath your bed is a no-no because it creates stagnant chi (natural energy) and is a breeding ground for dust mites. In addition, displaying only photos of you and your partner in your boudoir creates a much stronger romantic vibe. The biggest feng shui mistake in the bedroom? Exercise equipment. Maybe you could think of a better form of exercise for this particular space. Can I get a bow-chicka-wow-wow?

simple-feng-shui
. source .

 

Step 5  ✧  Simple Feng Shui

Honor your family.

The best way to tell your family’s story is to display photos of them. Rather than purchasing expensive art, spend a Sunday with the fam’ thumbing through photos. Select your favorites and find nice frames to create a gallery wall. Your living and dining rooms are perfect venues to show off your offspring and generational black and whites. And they make the perfect conversation pieces during social gatherings.

 

simple-feng-shui
. source .

 

In conclusion, feng shui isn’t all about crystals and woo-woo, rather, it’s about honoring your space and the precious people and pieces within it. As a result of simplifying the spaces with your home, you’ll be thrilled to see how much more harmonious your life will become. This creates a much calmer environment for you, your partner, and your children, one that opens the door to an abundantly thriving lifestyle.

If you have questions, suggestions, or good juju to share, please feel free to click the comment button at the top of this post.

julie-pedraza

Share the good juju...Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someone

✧ Operation Renovation

Almost two years ago, we left Austin, Texas, bought a modest Colonial on Chicago’s North Shore, and began Operation Renovation. After moving 1,200 miles, renovating 3,000 square feet, acclimating 2 little boys to new schools, and surviving 3.5 nervous breakdowns, I decided to reveal before and after photos and all the nitty gritty deets.

operation-renovation

operation-renovation
. after .

 

Full disclosure. We bought this house knowing we would most likely sell it within two years. We kept this in mind when selecting finishes. The goal was to neutralize the finishes to appeal to the most prospective buyers.

For years, I staged homes for numerous Realtors in the Austin area. The tips and tricks I’m sharing with you are absolutely tried and true. So, let’s get started with the home’s exterior, using our Operation Renovation as the perfect example.

 

Curb Appeal  ✧  Operation Renovation

You have one opportunity to make a first impression. A prospective buyer will form an opinion of your home upon first sight. It’s extremely important you clean-up your landscaping, clean the front door and add a fresh doormat.

We began the exterior updates by painting the taupe trim white and adding black shutters. We replaced the white storm door with a black one, replaced the lighting, and hung a new mailbox and address plate. Our landscaper designed a meandering brick path leading to the now useful side porch and transplanted two healthy boxwoods to balance the entry.

This is how it looked before… (See after photo above.)

operation-renovation
. before .

 

Living + Dining  ✧  Operation Renovation

You want to choose neutral paint colors. Some choose gray, but I prefer beige because it’s warmer. If you’re selling your house during cold months, beige will provide a much warmer appeal.

Our vibe is casual, neutral, and simplistic, so we painted throughout with Sherwin-Williams Accessible Beige, added crown molding, incorporated transitional woven wood top-down-bottom-up Roman shades, replaced the front door, and in keeping with feng shui, painted the northeast-facing door Sherwin-Williams Basque Green. I transitioned the furniture and accessories from our Austin home.

 

operation-renovation
. living room | after .

 

operation-renovation
. living room | before .

 

Lighting is super important. Update old fixtures and replace burned out bulbs. The message you want to send is:  If I take terrific care of the aesthetics of this house, rest assured I’ve taken care of the plumbing, electrical, roof, etc. If your house appears outdated, it plants a seed that you haven’t taken care of the home and there could be potential expensive problems if they buy it.

 

operation-renovation
. dining room | after .

 

operation-renovation
. dining room | before .

 

Breakfast + Kitchen  ✧  Operation Renovation

If you’re budgeting for updates, focus on the kitchen first, then bathrooms. These can be deal breakers. Most people would much rather buy a house with updated kitchen and bathrooms because these projects can be expensive and messy. Again, select neutral colors with classic design. Don’t add too many details and patterns with tile. Keeping it simple will appeal to more prospective buyers.

In the kitchen, we replaced the gray Corian countertops with white quartz, the backsplash with glass subway tile, replaced the lighting, and incorporated new appliances.

I’ve never met a bifold door I liked, so guess who removed all seven of them with her bare hands before realizing the door openings would require custom sized doors and cost five times what standard doors cost? Guilty. As. Charged. Sooo, our pantry and closets are doorless. And it’s the happiest little Scandanavian-style accident ever.

 

operation-renovation
. breakfast room + kitchen | after .

 

operation-renovation
. breakfast room + kitchen | before .

 

Family  ✧  Operation Renovation

I can’t emphasize how important it is to make the house sparkle. Imagine checking into a hotel and there is stuff all over the counters and floors. What if the furniture was dusty or the bathroom was crusty? Yuck.

Approach staging your home with this mindset. Dust, vacuum, clear-off the kitchen and bathroom countertops, conceal all toiletries, tidy the pantry and laundry room, and wash the windows. Prospective buyers will most likely look in your cabinets, closets, and the garage, so tidy these areas, as well. I promise it will make all the difference in the world.

 

operation-renovation
. family room | after .

 

operation-renovation
. family room | before .

 

Landing  ✧  Operation Renovation

The upstairs landing includes a coat nook, craft storage, and one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done, a graphic wall. Every time the boys hustle downstairs, they touch LOVE on their way down. Be still this mama’s heart.

 

operation-renovation
. landing | after .

 

Master  ✧  Operation Renovation

We continued the oak hardwoods up the stairs and throughout the second floor and replaced the double-doors with opaque French doors to allow more light which tremendously opened up this quaint room. Lightening the paint color made a huge difference, too.

 

operation-renovation
. master bedroom | after .

 

operation-renovation
. master bedroom | before .

 

I wasn’t sure I was going to like the vanity within the master bedroom, but after painting the cabinets, adding Carrera marble, installing Edison bulb lighting, and adding oil-rubbed bronze hardware, it morphed into an endearing little nook.

 

operation-renovation
. master vanity | after .

 

Bedroom Two  ✧  Operation Renovation

The second bedroom served as the previous owner’s study, but it’s now Thing 2’s room. We utilized the same woven wood top-down-bottom-up Roman shades, added an indoor/outdoor rug (a must for kids and pets), and replaced the dated ceiling fan with a Restoration Hardware pendant.

 

operation-renovation
. bedroom two | after .

 

operation-renovation
. bedroom two | before .

 

Bedroom Three  ✧  Operation Renovation

This is Thing 1’s bedroom. It’s the least favorite room of the house. I never quite got a handle on it. He was eleven when we moved in and now he’s thirteen. He wanted a gamer themed room, but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. His hormonal wish will be granted in our next home and Thing 2 will inherit this super cool one-of-a-kind Sundance Catalog bed. New paint, window treatments, ceiling fan, and hardwoods make this room  sparkling clean and move-in ready.

 

operation-renovation
. bedroom three | after .

 

operation-renovation
. bedroom three | before .

 

Study  ✧  Operation Renovation

This bedroom was once occupied by two princesses who’ve since moved to a bigger castle. In my all male fairytale, testosterone has run amuck. So there is pink no more and the room serves as our study. Before we left Austin, we enlisted Austin Table Studio to build the standing desk and paired it with linen upholstered barstools.

 

operation-renovation
. study | after .

 

operation-renovation
. study | before .

 

Basement  ✧  Operation Renovation

We carried the hardwoods down the basement stairs, replaced the carpet, and painted all the yellow away. It’s the perfect venue for watching movies, gaming-out, working out (gym is out of view), and ping-ponging.

 

operation-renovation
. basement | after .

 

operation-renovation
. basement | before .

 

The big takeaway is to showcase as much wall, floor, and counter space as possible. This will help potential buyers envision their own furniture and decor in the space.

Create positive energy. Get rid of dried flowers, faux plants and trees, and items that are incongruent with the function of the room, like a treadmill in the bedroom, computer in the dining room, or lamp shades in the closet, etc. These are energy suckers and will ruin the vibe of the space.

By simply adding a fresh plant to each of the main rooms you will improve the energy of the space, making it much more inviting. Placing flameless vanilla candles throughout the home and playing jazz at a low volume are additional tips that create a soothing and enticing ambiance.

This might all sound daunting, but your hard work will pay off. This has been the perfect little nest for our two-year stay. We’ll soon be bidding farewell to Chicago. I’m super excited about the adventure ahead. More exciting details coming soon.

Should you have questions, comments, or good juju to share, click the comment button at the top of this post.

julie-pedraza

Share the good juju...Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someone

✧ Finding Feathers

Some believe finding feathers is a sign from our loved ones who have passed on. Could they be communicating with us, offering love, guidance, and support? The saying goes, “When angels are near, feathers appear.” Are you a believer? After losing my grandmother and finding feathers, I certainly am.

 

finding-feathers

finding-feathers
. NaNa 1927 .

 

Losing NaNa  ✧  Finding Feathers

On February 3, 2012, I lost my mentor, my muse, and the closest thing to a mother I’ve ever known. We were together until the end, just the two of us.

For weeks, I was desperate for signs my grandmother had crossed over and that she was okay. Months passed without any apparent symbols or communication. And then I started finding feathers.

When I needed her most, I found feathers in the most random places. I was at the grocery store searching for ingredients to make her infamous banana nut bread. I’d forgotten my list and was desperately trying to recall the recipe. I thought: NaNa, I could really use some help here.  As I placed some vanilla extract into the cart, I saw a white feather gently resting on the gridded basket. I arrived home with the correct ingredients in tow. Thanks, NaNa.

While unpacking after our move, I came across NaNa’s mink hat. I smelled it and then opened it to place it on my head. –Out fell a feather.

There are far too many feather finding instances to mention, but suffice to say, my grandmother who loved me more than anyone in this world, has made her presence known. I love her for that.

 

finding-feathers

 

Goodbye, Kind Of  ✧  Finding Feathers

The connection my grandmother and I had was irrefutable. During her final days with us, she maintained her unwavering selflessness as she gradually and gracefully began her ascent. We said our goodbyes, I told her she’ll always be a part of me,  I’ll miss her like crazy, and that she can go when she’s ready.

…And so she stayed a while longer.

 

finding-feathers

 

Mini Miracles  ✧  Finding Feathers

Our last days together were full of heart-hugging mini miracles I’ll never forget.

My sixteen-month-old baby was used to receiving a big ‘Hello, Darlin” welcome from his NaNa. When he arrived and her welcome was absent, he leaned in at different angles so she could see him better. When still her reaction was void, he took his little hand and rhythmically stroked her arm, as if he knew she needed his touch.

After a mostly unresponsive day, I was combing her hair and telling her she looked beautiful when suddenly she arose and asked for her lipstick. She always made me laugh at inappropriate times.

Then, there was that rainy night when I exhaustingly slipped into my car. Bellowing a barbaric shrill, I begged God to comfort her. I pleaded for a sign she’d be all right. I cranked the ignition… and froze. I’d been listening to talk radio when I arrived that day. But it was Elton John’s ‘Circle of Life’ piping from the speakers, the sign I so desperately needed.

 

finding-feathers

 

Indian Givers  ✧  Finding Feathers

The next day, her kidneys shut down and her breathing became frightening laborious, but that generous heart kept beating. Her breathing would calm when I spoke, so I never shut up. It reminded me of the numerous times she flew in for a visit and we stayed up all night gossiping like good Christian girls.

We shared everything. We even bought two identical gifts for birthdays and holidays. We’d see each other wearing the gift we’d given and want it back. Hence our motto: Indian givers buy two.

 

finding-feathers

 

Triple Sex  ✧  Finding Feathers

I was beside her bed that Friday night and still talking. Sharing stories with her gave me the connection I needed. More importantly, repeating the stories was assurance I wouldn’t forget them.

  • All the times she made coconut icing cupcakes adorned with jelly beans when my birthday landed on Easter.
  • Bathing me in a minnow-ridden horse trough when, as a toddler, I fell face first into a cow patty.
  • Awakening on Christmas to a smoke-filled house because we forgot about the turkey. Then, giggling all the way to Honey Baked Ham.
  • Her begging me to drive from Los Angeles to Oklahoma to spend the millennium with her and her closest friends, sipping margaritas concocted with their favorite ingredient, ‘triple sex’.

I cried and giggled for both of us. I thanked her for keeping me alive as my circumstances should have landed me in a gutter. And I asked her to commit yet one more selfless act. I asked her to accept comfort and peace and to let go… for me.

Thirty seconds later, as I held her hand and kissed her forehead, she removed her ever-so-stylish foot from the door and crossed to the other side. Besides having my children, it was the most special experience of my life.

 

finding-feathers

 

Be Generous, NaNa  ✧  Finding Feathers

There are few people who infinitely impress and alter your life for the better. How fortunate I was to have someone love me just because I was born. Someone who adored me more each day no matter my faults. Someone who formed my moral compass shaping the woman I am today.

I never knew life without her infectious laughter, comforting wisdom, nor gentle touch. Thankfully, my boys will always know her joy, insight, and embrace because she instilled them in me.

I love and miss you every day, NaNa. I rest easy knowing you’ll have everything and everyone accessorized and amused by the time we get there. Please be generous with the feathers. …Oh, and don’t forget to buy two.

Bye for now, Darlin’.

 

finding-feathers
October 3, 1924 – February 3, 2012

julie-pedraza

Share the good juju...Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someone