4 Ways to Have Fun With Feng Shui

On January 17, 2014, in Feng Shui, by Naomi Cook
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Have you ever heard of Feng Shui? Or, are you a little uncertain about what it means? Those two little words may seem odd, but they can create an abundance of positive energy in your home.

Feng (wind) and Shui (water) is defined by Merriam Webster as “a Chinese system for positioning a building and the objects within a building in a way that is thought to agree with spiritual forces and to bring health and happiness.”

So, if you’re thinking about shaking things up a bit and making some design changes, why not have a bit of fun with Feng Shui? It doesn’t have to be complicated and you can use some basic principles to get started.

Fun with Feng Shui

Original Image Credit: Lindus Construction


4 Ways to Have Fun With Feng Shui

1. Incorporate Mirrors. Mirrors reflect light and can help give a room the appearance that it is bigger.  Plus you can check out your beautiful face whenever you pass them by!  Try them on a wall across from a window to maximize the most light.  After all, who can’t use more light on gray winter days!

2. Remove Clutter.  As wind and water are elements that flow and circulate, clutter becomes a dead end in the movement of Feng Shui.  A pile of magazines or too many papers on a desk can halt the Chi, or life force, in a room.  Try a more minimalistic approach and put magazines in a pretty basket and file papers away in your file drawer.

3. Rearrange Furniture.  Just as clutter can obstruct the flow of Chi, so can furniture. Too much furniture in a room, or poor placement, it can be hard not only for you to get around it, but also for energy to as well.  Try a new placement and create natural pathways to other rooms without obstacles such as coffee tables.

4. Add Accessories. By adding in symbols of fire, wood, earth, and metal to the water and wind, you can round out the elements and create a cohesive and energetic atmosphere.

  •  Fire:  Use candles or candle holders, picture frames, pillows, art, lamps, and vases in fire colors like reds and oranges.  If you have a fireplace…well, then you have a wonderful fire element right there!
  • Wood:  Consider incorporating healthy plants (no faux ones!) to help oxygen flow as well as objects made of wood.  Additionally, bring in accessories that are green and brown.  If you have wood floors, there is your automatic wood element!
  • Earth:  Use natural raw crystals and items made of clay, like figurines, decorative tiles, and pots. Choose warm brown and terracotta colored accessories. If you have any earthenware pieces, there is your automatic earth element!
  • Metal:  Incorporate metal frames and sculptures as well as accessories in bronze, silver,and gold.  If you have a fireplace and with tools, chances are they are made of metal…and there is your automatic element!
  • Water:  Be sure to use water features like fountains and accessories in blues, as well as images of water in a piece of artwork.  If you have a mirror, there is your automatic water element!

Most importantly, have fun with Feng Shui. It may sound like a serious thing, but it is designed to make your home a beautiful and exciting place to be! If you have found this very interesting, take Feng Shui to the next level and read about a Bagua (affiliate link), which is an energy map of your space.


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The holidays are over and it’s 2014!

How were your holidays? How did you make out this year? Get some good gifts? Receive any not-so-good gifts?

Perhaps you received a gift card to a restaurant that isn’t nearby or to a store you would never buy something from? Great! Yep, you read that correctly. I said, GREAT!

Gift Card Exchange Websites

There are some totally awesome websites out there that can help you turn these seemingly useless gifts into valuable little nuggets. And that means no more fake smiles and phony displays of appreciation for a gift you want to throw out the window immediately.

How, you ask?! I’ll tell you…

  • EXCHANGE – You can swap your unwanted gift cards for ones you actually want. It’s easy, just use one of the below websites and you’re done!
  • CASH – Not interested in getting a different gift card? Fantastic! Then simply sell your unwanted gift cards for straight cash and get a bill paid or take out your significant other for some good grub.
  • REWARDS – Don’t care about a gift card exchange or getting cash? Superb! Then trade your unwanted gift cards in for rewards such as Best Buy points or United Mileage Plus miles.

All of this good news is made possible by utilizing one of the four websites below. Check them out!

1. CardPool.com – This website offers the ability to exchange gift cards by selling yours and then buying what you want or trading your gift cards in for cash.



2. PlasticJungle.com – This site allows you to trade in gift cards for Best Buy points, CVS gift cards, or United Mileage Plus miles.



3. GiftCardGranny.com – With this website, you can buy and sell gift cards AND you can also buy and sell gift cards in bulk.



4. CardAvenue.com – Avoid getting useless gift cards ever again by using this website to create a registry of gift cards that you want. It’s great for weddings, birthdays, holidays…you name it!


So, now you know! Getting a bunk gift card that you can never actually use does warrant a real smile. Show off those pearly whites and thank your family member genuinely, because you can now use this gift card one way or another. Hooray!  Crisis averted.

Now, what to do about that hideous, hand made Christmas sweater Aunt Sally gave you? Well…you can always wear it to the next “ugly Christmas sweater” party!

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“… while waking up to a chilly, soggy morning may very well dampen your mood … unpleasant weather is thought to improve concentration and productivity, in part because a rainy day or snowy day kills the potential for leisure time outdoors … “

Read More:

Winter Weather = Bad Mood? It’s More Complicated Than That. | Entrepreneur.com | 1.6.14



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January is known as Get Organized Month for those of us who are professional organizers. We’ve talked about it many times on this blog (like here and here and here). Since increased organization is usually on the top ten list of New Year’s resolutions, it’s only natural that we focus on this specific goal at the beginning of each new year.

The start of a new year is also a time that usually gets people thinking about other goals. This is a time to reflect on past achievements and to look toward accomplishing new ones. Some people recycle their old goals or look at them in a new way when a new year rolls around.

This is a helpful practice that can allow you create a reasonable plan for the year, but there is …

One Goal That Trumps All Others

And, that goal is to remain calm and balanced as much as possible.

Remaining stress-free makes it more likely that you’ll achieve just about anything you set out to do. (Tweet This)

Think of stress-free living as the thread that, when woven into the fabric of everything that you do, creates beautiful patterns … worthwhile habits that are easy to keep and that don’t feel burdensome.


Stress-free Zone_500x500

What Stress Does to You

Stress can have a big, unpleasant impact on your general well-being and how successful you are with completing your goals. It can also negatively affect the people around you.

Keep in mind that stress can …

  • Sap your motivation. When you feel anxious or stressed on a regular basis, you’re likely to experience an emotional and physical depletion that can lead to burnout. The pain of burnout is obvious: You just can’t get motivated. You might feel worn down, ineffective, and unproductive.
  • Create negative emotions. You’ve likely experienced burnout at some point in your life and though you may not always be able to pinpoint when it’s about to attack, you do know how it feels. You might often find that glass to be half empty and about to break. Stress can make you tense, agitated, and unhappy. These feelings (along with other negative emotions) work quite well as people repellers, which only exacerbates the problem.
  • Reduce your productivity. Feelings of negativity can often be reflected in your performance. How well you get stuff done and how consistently you cross things of your task list may decline and color your year in a dark hue … even before you really have a chance to get started on those important goals.
  • Waste your time. Stress is a waste of time and energy because while you’re in the midst of it, you might not even realize it. You might keep rushing around trying to get stuff done when you could actually be having an amazing, fulfilling personal and work life. 
  • Make other people feel anxious. Did you know that stress is contagious? Yes, really. Secondhad stress can be passed to those around you.

Sometimes burnout creeps up on you, building over time, while other times it jumps out of the blue and blindsides you. Be prepared and …

Make 2014 a Stress-free Zone

We’re all susceptible to feelings of stress. Unfortunatley, there is no magic pill that can remove anxiety completely from our lives. But, there are some simple things you can do to keep feeling of anxiousness and overwhelm at bay.

1. Focus on a stress-free theme for the year. Focus on cultivating a habit of an emotionally balanced life as you work toward achieving milestones. You may find that the more you focus on being calm and positive, you’ll …

2. Be more mindful. Being more aware of what causes you stress will help you be more strategic about what you allow in your life. You’ll also find that the more mindful you are, the more in tune you will be to how you’re feeling.

Consider the circumstances, people, and projects that trigger stress for you. Stay away from them. (Tweet This)

3. Check your stress meter

… before making a decision and gauge how anxious you’ll may feel when you come out on the other end of project or a decision you say “yes” to. Make a habit of doing a stress check before taking a step. When you’re stressed, you’re likely to make poor decisions and there’s research to back this up.

4. Call in the troops. You’ve likely heard this one before (and it’s a strategy I probably need to use more often) — you should ask for help. When you don’t have to do it all yourself, you can breathe a little easier. You can be still involved but not solely responsible for carrying out every single action.

Who can you tap on the shoulder for a little assistance?


5 Tips for Toy Organizing

On January 6, 2014, in Home Organizing, by Ellen Delap
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5 tips for toy organizing

The holidays have come and gone and your home might resemble a toy store! With the gifts from Santa and Grandma, your kids’ toys are probably overflowing. And, there might also be too many toys for your kids to really enjoy and for you to put away easily.

Now’s the time for toy decluttering and organizing to get things back to normal.

1. Teach Toy Organizing Skills

Uncluttering and organizing are skills that you can teach  your children.  Promote the idea that sharing your toys is a family value.  Then, just start organizing with a timer set for 15 minutes.

  • Ask your kids to donate 3 toys to those who have less.
  • If your kids are motivated, keep going.
  • Place the toys immediately into bags and have your kids drive with you to the donation location.  This can be a wonderful after Christmas holiday tradition for your family.

If you are meeting resistance,  you can ask your kids which three toys are most important to them. Sometimes, children need help prioritizing and making decisions. Reframing these decisions can help your kids think about their toys in a new way.  Once you know what is too important to part with, you can proceed from here with decluttering and donating.

2. Archive Special Keepsake Toys

Some toys are special. Archive the most precious ones in a 66 quart bin (affiliate link) labelled “Toys” and place this in storage.  As parents and grandparents, we know there are special items to keep. Our family has a set of metal trucks that my husband, son, and grandson have all played with and enjoyed.  Not every toy is special, so be discerning about what you keep and how much you keep.

Toys can also go on “vacation” from time to time. You can rotate some items seasonally and move toys to new locations in your home.  Your children will likely enjoy them again and again in new ways.  Toys on vacation can also be stored in 66 quart bins.

3. Use Kid Friendly Storage

Keeping items in easy to access and easy to return storage makes for great organizing.

Define the toy space (i.e., create zones for specific activities/toys). This will help the toys look more organized and help your children find (and put back) the ones they want to play with.

  • Decide how many toys you want available in one area.
  • Its best not to overload shelves or baskets.  Even if you can fit more toys on a shelf, use good judgment on how many to place there.
  • Add one item or group of items per basket.  The adage less is more definitely applies.

4. Create Play Zones

Consider grouping toys around themes, like kitchen and dolls together or matchbox cars and race tracks together. Your kids will play more when they see these toys together in sets.

  • Sterilite, 3-drawer bins (affiliate link) work great to store items near related toys.
  • Just like in a preschool classroom, store pretend food and dishes near the kitchen, and blocks and other building toys together, books together, art supplies together, and so on.
  • When clean up occurs, separate out the items into the storage spots.

As for Legos, multiple drawers (affiliate link) for different colors makes sorting and finding pieces for new creations easy. One clever mom came up with her own Lego storage solution. Check it out on Pinterest.

  • A  shelf for completed projects can help keep projects in process safe from destruction.
  • Store instructions in a drawer near the construction site.

5. Use Labels to Make Clean Up Easy

Everyone can help when storage containers are labeled!

  • The labels can be simple words or pictures or both.
  • Labels can be preprinted and adhered with  clear packing tape or Zots Clear Adhesive Dots (affiliate link).
  • Clean up more frequently than you think you may need, at least twice a day.
  • Frequent clean up sessions makes it easy to keep the space more organized.

Most importantly, with more organization and fewer toys, your children will be entertained for hours!




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It’s time to shake things up for 2014! When was the last time that you updated your living room or bedroom?  Moving some furniture or artwork and accessories around can give you a fresh perspective and breathe new excitement and energy into rooms that might have gotten a little stale. 

Think of your rooms as giant snow globes.  Imagine them being picked up and shaken about and realize that your belongings can land in an infinite amount of positions. 

shake it up 2014

Layout Your Space on Paper

While doors and windows can affect the placement of furniture, think about moving your sofa across the room. Or, consider breaking it away from the anchor of the wall and into the center of the room.  A fun and easy (free of back breaking labor!) way to try things out is by creating a furniture layout.

When I was setting up my living room for my home (almost 8 years ago), I went old school, drawing out the room’s shell on paper in ¼” scale and cutting out the ¼”pieces of furniture using blue 3×5 cards. This was a fun way to figure out the layout because I could just shuffle the pieces around like a puzzle until I got the right fit.

Important Tip!  Make sure to note your cable jack and outlets, so that you can have the lighting and your TV where you want them.

Layout Your Space Using an App

Another even easier idea  is to use a furniture layout program on your computer!  I found a great FREE one on Better Homes and Gardens website called, “Arrange-a-Room,” which allows you to not only  quickly and simply shorten or lengthen walls, but drag and drop furniture pieces in as well.

Old school ¼” templates are a thing of the past with these programs.  Sofas and chairs have always come in different shapes and sizes, not just one, right?  This program allows you to manipulate the length and width of your furniture pieces, as well as color, so you can get an ideal representation of what your room can look like!  Technology is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Get Started!

1. Get help. Once you have a plan in place the physical work can begin.  Enlist the help of family and friends for large, heavy, and awkward items and let the transformation begin!  Furniture gliding pads (affiliate link) are a great investment for helping with those heavy items as well.

2. Get creative. When it comes to your framed artwork, use the same furniture program, but just give a measurement of the wall (where you will see your items as an elevation) instead of the floor (where you will see your items in a bird’s eye view).

And, use the rectangular dining table that you can modify to be the same size as your artwork!  That way you can play around with them until you get a nice grouping set and you’ll know the ideal spots to put those nails in.  Often the ideal height for a framed piece of art is 5’ or eye level.  Make sure you account for the heights of your furniture pieces, so you don’t have anything running into each other.

3. Get groups of three. Finally, play around with your accessories when all the furniture is in place.  Groupings of three are popular in interior design and offer a visual appeal as well as a sense of balance.   Think of one tall vase flanked by two smaller ones. Or, going back to paintings, you can group a pair of two smaller paintings, hang one above the other, and then put them next to one larger one.

Groupings of 3

Original Image Credit: All-free-download.com

However you decide to shake it up in 2014 … whether you update your room by just playing around with your accessories or by shuffling your furniture, I hope it brings you peace, joy and calmness this New Year!

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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize BlogHow often do you take breaks that involve mindlessly eating chips while scrolling through Twitter? While it still helps to take your mind off of work briefly, this type of respite is not very effective in rebooting the brain. The better break? Get up and move around to get the blood flowing and clear the mind (Bonus points if you take a walk outside!). In addition to providing mild physical exercise, walking has been shown to relieve stress, reduce fatigue and boost mood.

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You’ve Been Taking Breaks All Wrong. Here’s How To Do It Right. | HuffingtonPost.com |12.19.13



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It was a wild and chilly Saturday night, and I was home alone unsupervised and finally folding the laundry I had been avoiding for a week.

It really was super cold outside …

… at least for us in Houston. We may not have had ice or snow like the rest of the country, but some people here covered their outside plants. That’s like DEFCON 5 blizzard preparation in other parts of the country.

While my friends up north were lamenting about ice, snow, and power outages on Facebook, we in Houston were in dire straits because it really was freaking cold. Really cold. So cold that people stayed in on a Saturday night.

That’s when things can get crazy.

The case of the lonely socks and “string bikinis”

There I was folding a neglected basket of laundry, minding my own business, when I saw it: a pair of bikini underwear with strings hanging off the elastic waistband. The strings were so numerous that underwear manufacturers would have reclassified it as a “string bikini.”

“Good gravy,” I muttered to myself, tossing them to the side. “These have seen better days.”

As I dug through the basket, I found a couple of socks missing their mates. How does this happen? It’s the age old question. Scientists can send people to the moon, but we can’t solve the mystery of why socks disappear in washing machines and dryers.

Then things got really crazy. I pulled my underwear and sock drawers out of the dresser, sat on my bed, and I went through each of them.

Wardrobe Purge

With the socks, I made sure the pairs were matched up, and the solo socks were put to the side. If the mates don’t show up in the next two laundry episodes, they’re out. I may even do my Heidi Klum imitation when I kick them to the curb. Psst! If you’re looking for things you can do with your unmatched socks, check out the book The Lonely Sock Club: One Sock, Tons of Cool Projects! (affiliate link).

Because I live on the Gulf Coast and can wear flipflops and sandals for 80 percent of the year, I really don’t have that many socks. (Hey – don’t hate me because I’m in a warm climate.) So, I stacked the paired socks all according to color and type so I can easily reach in and grab what I need without digging. For example, I grouped all the workout socks together, and then I put all the black trouser socks in another section.

Over in the underwear drawer, I sorted out the sad ones to throw away. It felt good to rid myself of ones I was avoiding wearing because they induce wedgies or had just worn out their welcome. Let’s be real. When your underwear gives you a wedgie, there is just no disguising how to remove it, and life is just too short to worry about how to deal with a wedgie.

The funny thing is that I usually don’t fold underwear. I just toss them into my drawer. But, since I was unsupervised and living life on the edge, I wound up folding them all so neatly and placing them into the drawer with dainty precision. It was frightening, but Martha Stewart would have been proud (btw, check out some of her printable homekeeping and organizing checklists).

Afterwards, I had to recover by drinking hot chocolate and watching BBC America.

How to start your own wardrobe purge

You, too, can have your own exciting wardrobe purge on a cold and blustery 40 degree night.

To get started, ask yourself:

  • Do I love it or hate it? If you don’t like it, it doesn’t fit right (or cause wedgies) or is not your style, ditch it. Donate clothes in good condition to charity.
  • Does it still fit? For my morning routine, I must be able to wear anything in my closet, and everything in my closet must be my current size and ready to wear. This saves me time and energy in the mornings. So, be sure to only keep things that fit and flatter you.
  • Do I wear it? If you don’t wear it, donate it. It doesn’t matter how much of a bargain it was when you bought it or how much you think you should keep it. If you never wear it, let it go.
  • Am I waiting for it to come back into style? The fashion mavens will tell you that if you were around the first time a particular clothing item was trendy, you don’t get to wear it the second time around. It’s okay. Let it go. The big shoulder pads we rocked in the 80s need to be left in the 80s or with football players.
  • What condition is it in? If you need to repair a seam or sew on a button, make a stack so you can tackle several pieces at once. If you’re not handy with needle and thread, most dry cleaners will make minor repairs. Otherwise, use a tailor.

I’m sure most of you will find other more interesting activities on a chilly Saturday night, but these are things that happen when a professional organizer is left home alone and desires to be wedgie-free.

*Original Image Credits: Rik Panganiban and Thomas Hawk

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Happy Holidays from the OTR Bloggers

On December 25, 2013, in General, by Deb Lee
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Today is Christmas Day in the United States and the OTR bloggers wish you good times and good eats! =) Whether or not you celebrate, may your day be stress-free and relaxing. Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from the OTR Bloggers



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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize Blog“In the first empirical study into how these orientations originate, researchers found that how adolescents perceive their parents’ work ethic is central to the development of their own work attitudes. People who perceive their father to have a strong career-orientation are more likely to be career-oriented themselves—but career-determined mothers have no effect on their kids’ work orientation. 

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Are You a Workaholic? Blame Your Parents | TheAtlantic.com |12.5.13



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