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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is Your Space Designed to Motivate You As it Should Be?

Take a good, deep look at your home today as if you are viewing it as an outsider, never having seen the items within before. It may be hard, but try to stay objective. What does the artwork on the walls reflect about the space that you're in, for instance? Have you kept the same painting on the wall since the 1970's in the hallway simply because you paid good money for it, and it matches the Fenton vase you bought twenty years ago sitting underneath it- or are they still there because you love them, and they reflect even your current tastes? Did you keep the pictures of your kids as they went through school up on the mantle out of habit, even though they've got children of their own in school themselves now, and in truth you'd really love to instead have a candle tray with stones up there instead? Are you keeping anything out in your home (or even hidden in a closet, but not dare throw it away) purely out of guilt, or in fear that by discarding it, you'll anger someone? Did you avoid putting out that framed black-and-white photograph you took in France years ago because you possess nothing else in the house that's either French or in that style of photography, even though that photo makes you smile each time that you view it? Think carefully about the limitations that you may be placing on yourself in decor. Our homes are like our clothing, makeup & shoes- ideally, they're a reflection of who we are at our best, what we do, what we live for. This isn't about proving anything to the world or impressing people. It's for the pure pleasure of your viewing, our senses, in the silent satisfaction that comes at each glance or whiff or feel you take of it, and whether another soul ever sees it or not doesn't matter.

If you have an area of your home set aside for exercise, for example, is that space designed to inspire you into performing your chosen method of movement? Is it clean, refreshing, open & motivating for you to work out in that place? Or is it a just a corner of a bedroom, office or basement family room with a few dumbbells, a torn workout bench & an old aerobic step, hastily thrown together in an attempt to get fit on a tight budget? Do you have the necessary instruction through books, DVDs or Cd's even needed for your exercise method(s)? Is the area well-lit, or do you constantly feel like you need more light? Are there cobwebs in the corner? Is the equipment dated or even possibly unsafe? Highly consider how you would redesign the space if this was a gym run as a business, and if you wanted to make money off of that gym space- as if your life depended upon making that money, in fact. How would you accomplish this? By bringing in customers through a beautiful structure, an abundance of high-quality supplies & fabulous instructors. Often, making great music available, tailored to the style of workout you're offering (new age or classical for yoga, hip hop or salsa for dance, pop for aerobics, etc.), is a selling point, too. Consistent, precise care of your chosen design matched with excellent service in a business will make the customers want to come back again & again. And what is it that makes them want to come back? Sanitized, bright, easy-to-find, easy-to-reach equipment, laid out neatly for their use. A color scheme that is put-together & well-matched, not overwhelming or bland. The gym's decor should match the theme of the exercise itself- a yoga studio will often have a different vibe to it than a gym meant for hardcore weight-lifters, for example. But regardless of design, some things never change. Proper ventilation, odor elimination, climate control & providing as much natural light as possible- while maintaining an appropriate level of privacy- is a huge part of great service. Clean water bottles, chilled & ready to quench their thirst are needed by all clientele. Thoughtful photography, framed and behind glass, of people doing athletic activities with pleasure- think about what it does to the mind to view a picture of a fit woman or man, someone who has a body similar to yours, but in ideal conditioning, set in a beautiful environment, showing off their best physical assets- it's incredibly motivating. Such art can show surfers catching a wave in Hawaii, yoga instructors on the beach in Malibu or toned runners crossing the finish line of the Boston marathon, which are often with an inspiring caption underneath the photo, or at least a one-word attribution, such as "PERSEVERANCE". Beautiful replicas of Greek statues which show the human form in ideal are frequently utilized in high-end workout studios. Everything around them should spell out visually, "Success & happiness can be yours!" This isn't all necessary in your house, of course- but I want to give you an idea of what could transform your own home, and consequently, your life. Even one small picture posted up on the wall above your dumbbell pairs can provide renewed determination to exercise again, if it speaks to you personally.

Continuing on with the example...you never forget the add-on items, if you really want to stand head & shoulders above other gyms. Fresh white hand towels for a post-workout dry-off or to use for stretching, rolled up neatly in a basket or storage cube, should be at the ready. Showers and/or saunas should be pristine, stocked with simple but elegant toiletries, with no shortage of fluffy towels just for that client. Crowding is out, and solitude is in. Care is put into the choice of cosmetic items available- you don't buy out of habit, but out of what brings pleasure & benefit for the present to the client. A powerful, sparkling-clean blender sitting at the ready with all of the necessities for a post-workout protein shake or smoothie- fresh and/or frozen fruit, milk (almond, soy, dairy, goat, etc.), protein powder, ice. Salons, yoga centers & other successful businesses put up reminders everywhere of what they want their clients to aim for all over the place, balanced with enough serene empty space to let the customer think straight. Every tool the professionals have available to use is clearly sanitized, has an exact spot of storage that it comes from & goes back to consistently, and alerts the customer to the fact that they are in good hands. Does your home do the same for you?  In your home, you have the advantage of being both the provider of service (usually) and the client. So you get to do things to your liking. It may take time- Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a business or a home design. It takes time, money & skill to make a dingy space into a dynamic one. But life is short, and we need to get the most out of our place in the world as we can. it should be a prime goal of ours, if we're homebodies especially, to make that home a haven.

I've spoken in other posts about the bathroom & bedroom being created as simplified, pleasant places to be. But what about your dining room? What is it that you want to do in there, or are already doing in the room all of the time? Have friends over frequently for cocktails & appetizers before heading out to the local theater downtime one Saturday a month? Set up a bar & a stereo console for Saturday-night parties with all of your college pals? Play poker with the guys while smoking cigars & drinking some good whiskey? Or is it a family-centered space, for warm country-food-based meals, aiming to soothe everyone's soul together at the beginning & ending of each day? There's no right or wrong answer- only you know what's right for your life, home & family. Be real with yourself, however- has paperwork taken over the dining table for so long that you don't ever know what you want the space to signify anymore? Do you own a stick of furniture for the room at all? Is it set aside only for big family gatherings, ones that you rarely even host anymore. Do you even want it to serve as a dining space, or would you really be happier placing a pool table & a couple of bar stools in the room. On another note, what does your living room entail- is it a home theater Mecca for your kids, a cozy cottage space that you knit in while listening to your favorite music each evening, or a formal entertaining space for frequent business associate gatherings? Whatever it is, whatever it's used & loved for, it should be reflected in your possessions & your decor. And that changes with time & age. Give careful analysis to each room as you go through life, with it's myriad milestones. Take out what no longer speaks to you- donate, sell, etc. Try to obtain what does speak to you, whether you make it, buy it or get it as a lucky cast-off item. You'd be surprised at how often stuff will start to come your way that's exactly what you want when you know in the first place exactly what you want.

Browse through a website such as www.art.com for inspiration. You don't have to buy anything, necessarily. You could just look there & find out what photos call to you. It could black-and-white photos of movie stars from the past- Mae West, Vincent Price, Bette Davis, etc. It could be sepia-toned shots from around Manhattan. Maybe Cuban-themed art will appeal to you. Or you might go on there & find that sprawling shots of sunny days in the Rocky Mountains is calling your name. Try to let go of the pre-conceived notions you have about what you want, and let yourself be truly inspired. Don't subordinate your desires automatically to the current style of your home, or how you think you should decorate your place. Just because something would look good in the style of home that you currently have doesn't mean that it'll speak to you & say "buy me". Again, I'm not saying that you have to buy or change anything. Just begin to get a look around at what inspires you. This is particularly important if you are in a funk right now over something. If you feel bored, dull or depressed, this exercise can be immensely helpful for gaining some insight into what you may need for revitalization. Or you may indeed find that you adore the current home you're in, and find some art to compliment it perfectly. You may be starting a new "wish list" for yourself, or getting a good gift idea here & there. The important thing is to begin to pay attention to your surroundings with a new eye. Simplicity means designing the space around you for the person that you are now, as a reflection of your soul. It has nothing to do with having white walls, stark bare floors, stainless steel appliances or modernist furniture. Minimalism is often thought of as just that- minimal stuff. I don't see it quite that way. Minimalism means that the unneeded & unwanted is removed from your life- but that doesn't necessarily mean that your space ends up looking like what a person traditionally thinks of as "minimalist". Yes, ideally, it should be easy to clean, incredibly enjoyable to look at, be free of clutter & inspire you to live life to the fullest.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,

Liz

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