Living With Intention

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and found some time to relax, entertain, and bond with friends and family.

I am always filled with great anticipation in January. I look forward to thinking through all that I hope to accomplish in the coming 12 months. This year, I am taking this process VERY seriously and centering all of my aspirations around the following theme: living with intention.

I am looking at everything with greater questioning and intentionality. I’m asking important and sometimes hard questions in many areas – including our home, finances, possessions, physical health and even travel plans. I think many of us are often on auto-pilot or worse, functioning in the reactive mode instead of living with forethought and planning. I’m guilty of it in some areas as well, so I’m definitely not pointing fingers.  Instead, I’m hoping to bring awareness to the table and approach each month with greater planning and intention.

I’m hoping you’ll join me on this journey. Each month my goal is to challenge myself and inspire all of you to tackle a project that will help us achieve greater productivity, peace and joy at home. I’m going through all the rooms in our house with fresh eyes and asking:

  • How can we increase the functionality of this room?
  • Do we want/need everything that takes up space in this room?
  • How can we feel more inspired in this space?
  • What can we add/take away to increase our enjoyment of this room?

A Year of Intentional Living at Home

Here’s what you can look forward to in the next 12 months:

  • January ~ Home Office Challenge: How to Create a Space that Supports Productivity and Creativity
  • February ~ Bedroom: Your Place to Recharge, Relax and Sleep
  • March ~ Bathroom: Order, Storage and Function
  • April ~ What’s in Your Closet? Wardrobe Organization and How to Maintain Long-Term Order
  • May ~ Kitchen & Pantry: Where Zones are Key
  • June ~ The Great Outdoors : Porches, Patios, Decks and Balconies
  • July ~ Bon Voyage: Summer Travel Organization
  • August ~ Kids’ Spaces: How to Keep Them Clean, Organized and Functional 
  • September ~ Foyers, Entry Areas & Mudrooms: Where Function and Form Work Together
  • October ~ Living Room: Sit and Stay for a While 
  • November ~ Dining Room: Gather Around the Table (Also ideas for holiday entertaining!)
  • December ~ The Organized Home: Organizational Systems that Sustain Themselves

I will be doing a lot of work and reporting back to you to make your work easier. I will also be sharing resources, tips and strategies regarding both organization and design (both home- and life-related!), so you won’t want to miss the blog. Make it easy on yourself: SUBSCRIBE! That way everything gets delivered right to your inbox.

Here’s to a new year filled with greater awareness, productivity and intentionally driven decisions at home and life in general.  




Friday Finds: Make Room for What You Love by Melissa Michaels

Happy Friday, everyone!  I, for one, am really happy it’s Friday.  It’s been a long, emotional week and I’m ready to carve out some time for relaxation.  What about you?  Any fun plans?

This week I attended the Memorial Service for my friend, Carrie Gilmore, who recently passed away.  Some of you knew her as well, and it felt good to stand beside you and remember her spirit.  During the slideshow at the reception, images of slumber parties, snow days playing outside, dinners with friends and many such small moments were on display.  As I watched the photos cycle, I was again struck by how it’s the little moments that make up a big life.  It’s not the grand gestures, but small moments like pancake breakfasts or birthday celebrations with cake and ice cream that stay with us.

All of these moments need a back drop and it’s most often called home.  Our homes don’t need to look magazine worthy for life to occur, but we do need space for things like play, dinners, hobbies, relaxation and gatherings.  We need to be intentional about making space, both physically and emotionally, for the moments of life to unfold.

I was recently selected to be on the launch team for Melissa Michael’s new book, entitled,  Make Room for What You Love. I’m so excited to share this book with you because it so perfectly captures the habits and ideas that lead to creating a purposeful home and why it’s important.  In the introduction, she writes, “Whatever our style, our home should be life giving and soul refreshing, a soft spot to land on a hard day and a beautiful place to recharge and rejuvenate.  The things we bring into our home can be a reflection of who we are and the life we live.”


The problem I most often hear clients and friends alike complain about is owning too much stuff.  Piles of “stuff,” better known as clutter, take over our homes and get in the way of living life.  So what do most of us do?  We feel overwhelmed and just choose to not make any decisions at all.  Melissa however, makes an incredible observation in this book.  Our indecision is actually a decision to continue living with clutter.  Stop and reread that last line.  I know, crazy, right?

This realization alone was so powerful and made me view my home in a whole new way.  It motivated me into action in a BIG WAY and had me questioning what things and spaces I had been postponing making decisions about, like my closet, our bonus room and our garage.  It turns out that, “the more decisive you can be, the less clutter you’ll face.”  This past week, I was making LOTS of decisions and filling the garbage bin and boxes destined for Goodwill.



This book is not only about clutter management.  Melissa offers so much inspiration and concrete suggestions for how to set goals, cultivate habits and reimagine our homes so that we can live the life we’ve imagined for ourselves and our families.  She invites us set goals and reconnect with the home we’ve dreamed of creating.  She provides great ideas for how to achieve those goals.  Here are some examples:

  • Embrace the Pursuit of Less:  “Simplification of both our inner and outer world will allow us to take a deep breath and appreciate more fully what we really value.”
  • Spend Mornings Intentionally:  “If you want to reorganize your home, you have to make order a priority in your day, starting with the moment you open your eyes.  Mornings become like dominoes, setting the pace and tone for the entire day.”
  • Know What to Keep and Where to Put It:  “The two most important decisions you can focus on to bring order to any space are: 1) what to keep, and 2) where it belongs.”  If you can’t find a place for an item, chances are you probably don’t need it or it doesn’t belong in that room.
  • Find More Joy in Your Home:  “How could you find more join the space you have?  Take a walk around your house and look at closets and rooms.  Are you honoring and making the most of the rooms you have, or are they filled with too much stuff?  How could you pare down to better reflect the space you have to love your home even more?”

I think there is something for everyone in this book.  I consider myself fairly organized, but this book galvanized me into action like no other book thus far.  And most significantly, it made me consider how I make decisions about the items taking up space in my home.  I think you are all going to love this one!

Make Room for What You LOVE, by Melissa Michaels, author of the Inspired Room blog.

Make Room for What You LOVE, by Melissa Michaels, author of the Inspired Room blog.

Enjoy your weekend!  Let me know what you think of the book…you can pick up a copy on Amazon!  xoxo ~Maria

Creating a Home on Purpose

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with a family that is moving into a 7,000 square foot home. It might sound large (and it is!) but they also have nine – yep, nine – kids.  What I’m enjoying so much about this project is the intentionality and thought that is going into prepping this home for their June  move-in date.  We are painting walls & built-ins, adding lighting, selecting new furniture, changing out light fixtures, setting up kid spaces, home-office spaces and much more.  It’s very exciting for both them and me!

I’ve thought a lot about this process.  Specifically, the intentionality that is going into the planning of this home.  I think most people would agree that it’s motivating to move into a new home.  The process of moving always seems to inspire people to sift through their belongs, reconsider what they own and most significantly, reimagine how they want to live.  But here’s some wonderful news: you don’t have to move into a new house to reimagine how you want to live.  You can do that anytime you want.  Even today or this weekend.

It’s very powerful to look at your home and wonder, “If I were just moving in, what would I do differently?”  Or, “If I could start over with my home, what would I change?”  The beauty is that you can ALWAYS start over.

The first step to any kind of change is imagining.  For example, could you:

  • change the wall color? trim color?
  • change the orientation of the room?
  • add an architectural feature like a fireplace or bookshelves?
  • swap out throw pillows?
  • replace the carpet or add some rugs?
  • hang up some new art?
  • reframe existing art?
  • create a gallery wall of photos?
  • go through your belongings and purge what you no longer use or love?

My company tagline is, “Create a home on purpose,” and I stand behind this idea with all of my being.  I think home is the most important space of our lives.  Anna Spiro captures this sentiment beautifully in her book, Absolutely Beautiful Things, “My mother taught me there is nowhere more important than home.  Home is where we entertain, relax, celebrate, play, hide, nurture our children, create memories and rejuvenate our souls.  It is a reflection of all that we are and all that we love.”  I’m not religious, but I think that deserves an, “Amen!”

So, I want to inspire you to reimagine how you live in and use your home.  Reconsider what you own and what’s taking up space in your home.  Do you still love every vase, every pillow or knick knack you own?  If you’re not in love with something, you can change it.   And, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  You can change the entire energy of a room by rearranging or reorienting the furniture or removing some things.  Just play with it and see what happens.  It’s only through doing that we discover what’s possible both in our homes and in our lives.

I can’t wait to hear about what you’re going to take on!

Tune in tomorrow for an awesome new book by Melissa Michaels, blogger extraordinaire over at The Inspired Room, entitled, Make Room for What You Love.  I was selected to review the book and put its advise into action in my own home.  I’m really excited to share it with all of you, and it fits so nicely into this discussion of being more intentional about our homes.

xoxo ~Maria

How to Make Time for Exercise from Guest Blogger, Alyssa Alegre

Happy Monday, all!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and for those of you on spring break with your kids last week, I hope it was a good one!

Today I’m thrilled to welcome my first guest blogger ever, Alyssa Alegre.  Alyssa has her own blog over at   A Fit Mess is a lifestyle blog that shares Alyssa’s interests in fitness, health, and family.  She is a mother to two-year-old twin girls, blogger, and full-time Marketing Director residing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  And, I will add, she is lovely – both inside and out.

Alyssa is passionate about self-care and being intentional about our overall health, whether it’s diet, exercise or making time for the things that bring you joy.  She practices what she preaches, too.  Today, she shares how she makes time to fit in physical exercise, while juggling motherhood (with twins, no less!), full-time work, blogging and marriage.  She is an inspiration.  I hope you enjoy this one!  Please feel free to reach out to her over at A Fit Mess.  xo ~Maria


I’Making Time to Exercise

I recently had a conversation with some friends about making time to exercise. Many of them are moms who work outside of the home either full or part time. We talked about how it can be really challenging to carve out time for a workout during the day. Mornings can be very rushed as we all hurry to get out the door and then the day fills up quickly. Before we know it, it’s time for school pickups and dinner prep.

It often seems like if we add something to our schedule then we must take something away. For a lot of us, when our workload increases the first thing to be let go is our workout. Sometimes it feels like exercise may not be as important as the other tasks on our to-do list. Shouldn’t we spend our energy on something that will have an immediate outcome (finish the laundry, complete that project, make dinner)?

I definitely understand. My schedule has changed so much since the girls were born and I know how hard it is to break away for exercise when there are a million other things left to do. There are a few things that have helped me stay consistent with my workouts and I wanted to share those with you.

Put it on the calendar. Every Sunday I take a look at the upcoming week’s schedule and decide what days I am going to the gym, what days I will be going to a group class, and if I am going to take a rest day. And then I add it to my calendar as I would any other appointment or meeting and I commit to it as best as I can. Yes, there are times when I just can’t make it to the gym for whatever reason, but I almost always stick to my schedule. For example, I typically go to the Y during lunch 3-4 days per week. It’s on my calendar. I take a class on Wednesday evening. It’s on my calendar.

Making Time to Exercise

Commit and pay in advance. Knowing that I have already paid for my class and would essentially be wasting money if I didn’t go really motivates me to show up. The same holds true if you have a personal trainer. You’ve paid for that session and someone is expecting you. That definitely keeps me accountable. A lot of places also charge a fee for late cancellations/no shows, which also encourages me to stick to my schedule.

Recruit a buddy. If I make plans with a friend to take a class then I don’t want to disappoint them by skipping out. Find someone who would go to that 7 am yoga class with you or plan on meeting at lunch for a workout. A friend and I occasionally text each other our workouts and share fitness ideas. Even though we aren’t physically together, it inspires me to try the workout so I can report back to her.

Have a detailed goal. A consistent message in my personal training coursework is to have detailed and measurable goals. I cannot stress this more. It’s not enough to say, “I want to lose weight.” Be specific. Think about what you want in as much detail as possible. When do you want to achieve this goal (be realistic!)? Take into account how many days per week you can workout and what your level of commitment is. By having a clear picture of WHAT you want you want you have a real goal to keep you focused and motivated. If you aren’t sure how to get there, you may want to enlist professional help from a personal trainer, health coach, nutritionist, or counselor.


Your workout is YOUR workout. Do your thing. I don’t believe we should ever judge others by their choice of exercise or how they want to spend their time. We all have different needs, goals, and preferences. There’s nothing wrong with someone who wants to use the elliptical or walk on the treadmill for an hour everyday. Or someone who wants to do cross fit five days a week. Or 20 minutes of yoga in the morning. Let’s applaud one another for carving out that time and showing up. The best workout for YOU is one that you enjoy doing and will stick to consistently.

How do you make time to exercise? Do you prefer to exercise with others or by yourself? ~ Alyssa

#100…Lessons Learned

I can’t believe this is blog post #100. One hundred times I’ve come to you hoping to inspire and share things related to creating a home and life that comfort and fulfill you. I’ve learned A LOT along the way, and met some amazing people, too. I’m so thankful to all of you for your encouraging words and the inspiration you reflect right back to me.  Thank you, thank you.

Today, I wanted to share the top 10 lessons I’ve learned as I’ve attempted to create a home and family life. In no particular order, here they are…

  1. Let your walls tell your story. The walls of our home are covered in photographs of our family, kids’ artwork and other pieces of personal art we’ve collected through the years. If you walked into my home and had never met me, you’d know we love our kids, prioritize family and have an appreciation for art of all kinds. You’d also see fingerprints in the kitchen from lots of cooking and a bulletin board with funny notes, inspirational quotes and more family photos. I love it that our walls tell our family’s story.
  2. Consider Scale. Simply put, scale refers to proportion. I didn’t realize how important scale was when designing a space. This became abundantly clear to me as I tried to find a sofa that wouldn’t look too small in our living room, which is 17’x17′. Got a large room? You’ll need furniture pieces that don’t look like they belong in a doll house. Have a small room? A large sofa or an overpowering piece of furniture such as an armoire will make it feel even smaller. So, in addition to color and texture, consider the scale of your pieces.
  1. Pick a sturdy kitchen table and chairs that can be easily cleaned. I honestly think that so much life happens around the kitchen table. In our house, it’s where we regroup after long days and share our “oyes” and “joys.” Sometimes our kids share things at the table that they’ve been holding in all day long. A strong and sturdy kitchen table = a strong and sturdy family.
  1. Keep a basket of cozy blankets in your living room. We love movie nights, slumber parties and curling up with a good book, so our basket of cozy blankets gets a lot of use. I didn’t always have this, but as soon as I added it to our living room, it literally changed how we lived in that room.
  1. Invest in beautiful light fixtures and lighting of all sorts. This has been a lesson learned along the way of updating our home. As soon as I started swapping out old fixtures, I was STUNNED with the immediate impact it had on the feeling of the rooms. Consider overhead, mood and task lighting.
  1. Buy original art as much as possible.  And, try and meet the artist if you can, even if it’s just by email.
  1. Take time and spend money on one or two professional photo sessions for your family. This is some of the best money you’ll ever spend. I am so, so thankful I did this when my children were young.  It’s never too late to do this.
  1. Set a pretty table once in a while, even if company is not coming.
  1. A good sofa is money well spent.
  1. Create an entry that is both functional and organized. You’ll never lose you’re your keys if you have a hook (or bowl) for them as soon as you walk through the door. Hooks, baskets and benches are all fair game in this space. This will make coming and going so much less stressful.

LIVE. In the end, the most important aspect of a home is living. It’s not about the sofa, the table, the rugs or the artwork. It’s about shared meals, slumber parties, movie nights, birthday celebrations and all of the other events that when taken together equal a life well-lived. When I look around our home, I love recalling the place where my daughter first pulled herself up to a stand or the cabinet where she used to hide when we played hide-and-seek. These memories are the best part of my home. The furniture and décor are just the backdrop to something so much more important: life.


xo ~Maria


Small Projects, Big Impact


Many people resolve to get more organized at home around this time of year. However, many quit before they even start because it feels too overwhelming to tackle everything at once.

Now, let’s think about this in a different way.  Instead of thinking you have to get the whole house organized in one fell swoop, consider small projects you can easily approach that will have big impact on your day-to-day functioning. I’m not talking about projects that involve taking down walls, emptying rooms of their contents or rearranging an entire space. I’m talking about things like the junk drawer in your kitchen, your bathroom vanity, or your medicine cabinet. Maybe even your sock drawer…

Starting with smaller projects builds momentum and more significantly, inspires many of us to do bigger projects. So, even though your attic or garage are enormous endeavors (and feel impossible to begin), starting with smaller projects is a great way to strengthen your, “I can do this,” mindset.

And, just because a project is small in scale doesn’t mean it has minimal impact. Here are a few small projects I’ve tackled this month that have improved life around our house in big ways…

  • Junk Drawer No More: Our kitchen junk drawer was a disaster. It had become the final death stop for anything that didn’t have a home. I found it difficult to find necessary things like clips, tape and scissors. So, I decided to give it a clean up and get it organized. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to open this drawer now. I added some great sorting trays and some decorative paper to the bottom of the drawer for added pretty.  My kids’ response: “Mom, you can’t call it a junk drawer anymore.” Well, that was the point.
Where things go to die in the Siegel house.

Kitchen Junk Drawer: Where things go to die in the Siegel house.

A few drawer sorters and quick clean up: Junk Drawer No More!

A few drawer sorters and quick clean up: Junk Drawer No More!

We keep hair accessories in our kitchen because I help my kids with their hair in the morning before school (in the kitchen).

I help my kids with their hair in the morning before school (in the kitchen).  I highly suggest extra hair accessories for your kitchen if you have girls!

  • Bathroom Vanity Clean Up: I knew I needed to take on this project when I was getting frustrated finding my makeup and putting away my hair dryer. It didn’t take long (around an hour), but it has made getting ready for my day and getting ready for bed so much more pleasant. And, I got rid of SO. MUCH. CRAP. I had toiletries and medicines dated 2013. Seriously.

Before: I know… I can’t believe I’m showing you this.


Little project…BIG Impact!

  • Small Switch-Up, Big Impact: We have an armoire in our bedroom that has housed a television for years. However, we never watch tv in bed. Like, ever. I decided to move the tv upstairs to our bonus room where we have our elliptical so that we can watch movies while we exercise.  We usually watch shows on our tiny phone screens. Talk about big impact!  Our armoire is now being used for linen storage – something we desperately needed in our bedroom.  This small change is major for us and has made exercising so much more enjoyable! And…I love having a big space to store extra sheets and towels.

So what projects can you do that are small in scale, but will have big impact on your day-to-day life?  Think about spaces like your entry, a bookshelf, or various drawers.  Maybe even your laundry room?  How could a small change / quick clean up make a big impact?  Here are some common clutter spaces you might start with…

  • Hall Closet
  • Entry Area
  • Tupperware Drawer
  • Linen Closet
  • Undergarments Drawer
  • Toy Bins / shelves
  • Bookshelves
  • Your Closet drawers
  • Entertainment Console
  • Dining Room Buffet
  • Shoe basket/rack in the entry area of of your home

I hope this has inspired you some. If you need more ideas or suggestions, please feel free to reach out. I’m always happy to help.

Happy Organizing!


G.R.E.A.T. Goals In Action

If you tuned in yesterday, I laid out an approach that can be easily used to achieve goals for projects in your home this year.  I created the acronym G.R.E.A.T to help guide your efforts.  Here it is again:

G – Identify the Goal.  What do you want to accomplish? Be as specific as possible.

R – Relevant Right Now.  Your goal should be relevant to your life right now.  How will accomplishing this project improve your home/life right now?

E – Execute the Plan.  Write down a step-by-step plan for how you will achieve your goal.  Be as detailed as possible.

A – Accountability.  Having accountability helps many people achieve goals.

T – Time Frame.  Some goals are lofty and need to be accomplished over time, while some can be achieved in one session.  But, every goal needs an “end date.”

G.R.E.A.T In-Action

To help you see this approach in action, I tackled the cabinets of our master bathroom, which were in dire need of an overhaul.  Getting ready had become frustrating because I was hunting for things and there was too much stuff to dig through to get to what I needed.   This was definitely a relevant right now project.

It looks so pretty, right? open the actual cabinets.

It looks so pretty, right? Until…you open the actual cabinets.

INSIDE… it’s really not pretty.

The good, the bad and the totally disorganized!

The good, the bad and the totally disorganized!

Goal~ Empty, sort, purge and organize contents of bathroom cabinets.  Clean out space, then return relevant, usable contents to clearly labeled areas.

Relevant Right Now ~  A more organized vanity will make getting ready so much more efficient and pleasant.

Execute the Plan ~

  1. Empty all contents out of cabinets and drawers.
  2. Purge and discard expired/unused toiletries, medicines, and makeup.
  3. Wipe down drawers and cabinets.
  4. Return remaining contents to specific areas / drawers.
  5. Label drawers and bins to remind me where to store items and maintain order over time.

Accountability ~ That would be you – reading this blog!

Time Frame ~ Done by end-of-day Monday in order to share with readers.

Here’s how it went down.


Why am I saving all of these hotel bottles of lotion? I have no idea.  And what are these pliers doing here??


I just love a clean, blank slate…




I threw away so. much. stuff.  An entire garbage bag of stuff, to be exact.


One drawer dedicated to hair care. Easy.


When I look at this I wonder, “Why did I wait so long to do this?”

I purchased nothing to accomplish this goal.  I used baskets I had lying around and repurposed what was already there.  The entire project took about an hour.  I love instant gratification!  Starting with a manageable project like this will get you motivated and build up momentum to tackle larger projects.  And, like so many things in life, starting is the hardest part.

Ready to do great things in your home?  Go!  Let me know how it goes…

Happy Organizing,


Creating GREAT Goals for Your Home in 2016

Happy New Year!  I hope your 2016 is off to a fabulous start and that you have used the new year as an opportunity to reflect on all that is good.  If you are like most, you’re also using the new year as an opportunity to identify some areas in your life you’d like to change or improve upon.  Greater home organization is high on the list for many of us (myself included!), so today I’m sharing an approach to help you achieve G.R.E.A.T.ness at home.  You can apply this approach to just about any goal, but I’m focusing on home organization projects.  Here goes…

How to Create G.R.E.A.T. Goals for Your Home

GIdentify the Goal.  Be as specific as possible.  For example, instead of saying, “My goal is to organize my bathroom,” say, “Purge, sort and categorize contents of my bathroom. Discard expired/unused toiletries. Return remaining contents into cabinets in an orderly manner.  Label areas to help maintain order.”  The latter has specific actions embedded in the goal.  These action words will help you hone in on exactly what you want to accomplish.

R – Relevant Right Now.  Your goal should be relevant to your life right now.  All home projects take time, so make sure your energy is going to the most relevant ones.  Start with projects that will have the greatest impact on your day-to-day living.  They can be small projects, like your junk drawer or medicine cabinet.  Be clear about why the project is relevant to you and/or your family members.

E – Execute the Plan.  Write down a plan for how you will achieve your goal.  If you created an action-oriented goal, the plan for execution will be easy.  Today, I’m tacking my bathroom cabinets.  Here’s the plan:

  1. Empty all contents out of cabinets and drawers.
  2. Purge and discard expired/unused toiletries, medicines, and makeup.
  3. Wipe down drawers and cabinets.
  4. Return remaining contents to specific areas / drawers.
  5. Label drawers and bins to remind me where to store items and maintain order over time.

A – Accountability.  Having accountability helps many people achieve goals.  This blog is my accountability!  Maybe your spouse or family members can hold you accountable.  Maybe have friends over at the end of the month for dinner to hold you accountable for organizing your dining room.  The buddy system works wonders here, as well.  If you have a friend that also has home projects on their “To Do” list, motivate and hold one another accountable.

T – Time Frame.  Some goals are lofty and need to be accomplished over time, while some can be achieved in one session.  But, every goal needs an “end date.”  One of my favorite quotes is, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”  Write your goal on your calendar.  Set an alarm.  Just give yourself a due date.

I will report back to you with my bathroom vanity project by tomorrow.  But, to hold myself accountable and to be totally honest with you, here are the before photos… (Warning: It ain’t pretty!)


The good, the bad and the disorderly…


Those drawers hold way too much stuff….


Not sure why there are cleaning supplies stored here, but there you have it!

Now go set some GREAT goals!  I hope I’ve inspired you!

xo ~Maria

“Ready for the Holidays” — A Recap!

Happy Friday!  The sun is shining and there is a nip in the air this morning….LOVING this November day!  I’m still on a bit of a high from the wonderful event I hosted last night with curator extraordinaire, Jen Devlin.  Her amazing store, Vintage Home South, was the backdrop of a lovely evening where we shared inspiration and ideas for staying organized and personalizing your home for the holidays.  Here are some fun shots from the event:


Great people, yummy food and a beautiful setting…such a wonderful night!


For those of you that came out, THANK YOU!  We loved the exchange of ideas and sharing design inspiration.  For those of you that weren’t able to make it, fear not!  Here’s what we shared…

Ideas for Staying Organized and Finding Calm This Holiday Season

  • Look at the 6 weeks of the holiday season as a whole. (Thanksgiving week through New Year’s weekend.)
  • Map out your travel
  • Look at the weekends and prioritize what you will say yes to. “Saying ‘no’ to one thing means saying ‘yes’ to something more meaningful.” You may decline a party or dinner in order to carve out some downtime for you and your family. That’s ok. Don’t put pressure on you and your family to accept every invitation.
  • Decide what events are “must attend” and what events you will pass on.
  • Book babysitters ahead of time for parties and events.
  • Make sure you intentionally plan out DOWN TIME. (This will provide you with opportunities to regroup emotionally and physically – and give you some time to connect with your family.)
  • Order / Reserve anything you can ahead of time: holiday cards, food, desserts, tickets to events, dinner reservations, etc.
  • Avoid the post office if possible. Your carrier can pick up your shipment free during regular mail delivery if you’re using an expedited service like Priority Mail®, Priority Mail Express®, Global Express Guaranteed®, or Merchandise Return services. All of this can be arranged online at You can also order holiday stamps online. Do it now!
  • Keep a master list of “To Do’s” on hand and prioritize 3 things a week that need to be accomplished.
  • If you have family coming into town to stay with you, consider what you’ll do for meals ahead of time and also think about what “activities” you’ll do with your guests while they’re visiting. Have a “master list” of fun activities you can do and then reference it while they’re in town. Don’t forget about Umstead Park and Eno River Park for hiking, the Nasher Museum, Ackland Museum, NCMA, 21c Museum, NC Orchestra holiday concerts, DPAC, Duke & UNC Performances, etc.
  • Make time for exercise. Giving yourself 30 – 60 minutes a day will be so powerful in helping you manage stress and giving you more energy. Endorphins are a wonderful thing! Connect with a friend by making exercise social.

Ideas for Personalizing Your Home

The Mantle ~

  • Center (or slightly off) an old window frame, large art canvas, framed photo or map, old tin tile, vintage architectural piece, etc.
  • Layer things in front of your “center” piece but always make sure to vary heights to create interest.
  • Add in a natural element for texture and a sensory treat – preserved boxwood, lavender, freshly cut pine, pinecones, etc.- really depends on the time of year but the texture of adding these in are great.
  • Incorporate illumination – either by battery-operated copper pin lights, tea lights or varying sizes of candles.

To create this mantle, we started with the mirror as a focal point, then framed it with two lamps.  We varied the height of the display with holiday trees, a festive sign and a nutcracker. Golds and silvers play well together and add a bit of shimmer to this otherwise distressed buffet.

The Dining Room ~

  • Use unexpected items in the center of your table – an old cutting board, marble, pedestals, etc. will create interest and are practical for placing serving dishes. Vary heights but make sure all guests can see one another.
  • Layer on fabrics – burlap, lace, linen, metallic fabrics for shimmer
  • Incorporate family heirlooms – one the best ways to personalize is to actually use treasured items instead of leaving them on a shelf or in a drawer. e.g. Grandma’s lace doilies can be layered under a serving dish, teacups or a vase.

Here, Jen used an oversized cutting board to anchor her table setting. She added candles, votives and greens to add interest, texture and natural elements.  Those adorable velvet pumpkins are the perfect accent to this rustic table setting!

Sofa/Chair/Bed ~

  • Switch up pillows, throws or bedding each season – color, pattern and texture changes can transform the look quickly.
  • Add a personal touch with a city or home state pillow – these make great gifts too!

Add Warmth to Any Space or Corner ~

  • Layer in candles of various scents, sizes and shapes.
  • Cluster lots of tea lights together for drama or scatter them around a table, mantle or console.
  • Add evergreens, chrysanthemums, paper-whites for color and texture.
  • Display seasonal photos: snow play, Santa visits, ski trips, etc.
  • Have a basket of blankets of various textures and sizes next to sofa or fireplace: knit, chenille or cashmere.

Have a wonderful weekend and I hope this inspires you to start looking around your home and envisioning how you will decorate for the holidays.



A System for Organizing Paperwork

Happy Tuesday, all!  Hope you had a great weekend and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather.  I was away yesterday with my kids for the Columbus Day holiday, but am back to work getting things organized around our house.

One of the top organization issues for many people (including myself!) is paper.  Even though we have all shifted many aspects of life online, mail, catalogs, invitations and paper bills still pile up on our counters and desks.  This tends to be a nagging problem so I thought I’d share some strategies for processing and organizing paper.

When starting to strategize about how to handle the paper that enters your home, consider the sources.  For example, start with your mailbox.  What do you receive via snail mail?  Catalogs? Bills? School notices? Magazines?  Invitations? Junk Mail?  Instead of checking your mail and bringing it all into your house, head straight to your garbage can and recycling bin.  Immediately get rid of items that you don’t need/want.  Then, you are only bringing in mail that needs action or attention in some way.

Once in the house, there are THREE options for action you take with paper.  You are either going to do something with it (PROCESS, READ or PAY), capture information on it (CALENDAR DATES, etc.) or file it away (ARCHIVE).  Everything else really just gets shredded or thrown away.  I tend to shred any paper that contains personal information such as medical documents, tax papers and credit card offers.  This is a personal preference, but shredders are a good investment (they can be as little as $50).

A Landing Place

My office is the place that I “process” all the paper in our home.  However, I don’t process it daily so mail and other paper has a “landing place” in the entry area of our home.  This is almost like a “holding center” for our paper until I’m ready to deal with it.  I use a 5-pocket wall-mounted magazine sorter to organize our paper.  The five pockets allow for 5 categories that paper can fall into.  These categories are similar to the ones I outline above.  They are as follows:

  1. To-Be Paid:  Anything that needs to be paid either online or with a check goes into this category.
  2. Action Needed:  This is for paper that requires review, a phone call or some action other than payment.  This might be reviewing a note from my children’s teacher or a doctor’s report.  It just requires that I review it, then either archive it or throw it away.
  3. Calendar Items:  This is for things like invitations, save-the-dates, field-trip notices or the like.  Anything in this category needs to be captured on our family calendar.
  4. NEIL Review:  Since I primarily process our family’s paperwork, my spouse has a slot for items that require his attention.  This way, he knows what pertains to him specifically.
  5. File / Archive:  I capture items in this slot that need to be saved in hard-copy, such as a child’s report card, tax-related documents, legal/financial documents  or something of the like.  I don’t file “on the go” so I collect it for about a month (or two!), then do it on a rainy day.

You might also designate a slot for magazines or other items that you need to read, but this is the system that’s worked for me.  Here’s my sorter — nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

This type of sorter is often referred to as a magazine sorter and can be found at office supply sources.

This type of sorter is often referred to as a magazine sorter and can be found at office supply sources.

HABITS Around Paper

Cultivating habits that keep paper from piling up are important and will save you time and aggravation.  Keeping a sorter like this close to the entry area of your home is a good way to prevent paper from landing in several spots around your house and getting lost.  We have all experienced the pain of having to pay late fees because we forgot about or lost a bill.  So, have a place where paper lands as soon as it enters your home.  You don’t have to deal with it immediately, but storing it in one place is important.  I like having categories for quickly sorting paper, but even it you have a single basket, collect it all in one place as soon as it enters your house.  That way, you’ll always know where to look for any document or bill.

SCHEDULE TIME to Process your Paper

Some people process their paper weekly, some bi-weekly and others once a month.  The frequency is a personal decision, but the important thing is to schedule it routinely so that you can process items in a timely manner.  I usually do mine the third week of the month so as not to miss any end-of-month deadlines or due-dates.  Think about what might work best for you and your family members.

Here are some other options for collecting paper in your home:


Simple, but functional. Paper is either coming in or going out. “Mesh Mail Sorter” from The Container Store.



The Charleston Wall File from The Container Store. Lovely and functional.


This could have three categories: Action, Calendar, Archive.

Hope this helps and inspires some of you!  See you tomorrow for a fun post on displaying children’s art work!