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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Please, transform our house

This is the story of a home transformation. It starts in 2007, when an East Bay couple emailed me for help. Could I work with them to change their small "cottage" type home into the place of their dreams? Could it be done on a budget and could they do most of the labor themselves? Fortunately, the answer was YES to almost all their requests. And this is how we worked together to do it.

First, I went to the house, met them and photographed all the rooms. We talked briefly about what was on their wish lists. Then I went home and prepared the photos, gathered some ideas and met with them again for an extensive interview. We talked outside in their lovely backyard and when I showed them the photos of their house, they were shocked. Even though they lived in that house every minute - seeing it in a photo gave them a whole new perspective on what their home actually looked like.

I talked to them for quite some time because we needed to come to an agreement on the most basic issues of style, color, room uses, fabrics, flooring - everything about how they wanted their home to look and feel. The breakthrough came when I discovered that they both loved the homes they saw on their trips to England and Ireland. They both loved "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Ring" movies. They wanted a "hobbit house". Cozy, earthy, soft and comfortable. They both love to read, listen to music and watch movies together at home. This gave me the direction I needed.

After the interview we went back into the house and walked it room by room. By the end of the session we agreed: the TV had to have its own space, so the spare room/office would move out and the TV would move in there. The office would move to a new space built in the back of the garage just for that purpose. With the TV out of the main part of the house, the livingroom/diningroom could expand into the whole space.

Fortunately, they had a contractor who could do the work in the garage to create the new office space. Of course, that meant that the garage had to be cleaned out. A whole story unto itself! But that happened and several months later, they had a beautiful private office and exercise area. Which meant they could now concentrate on the new TV/movie room.

We decided to turn the room into a real home theatre. The walls are painted a lovely dark burgundy, the trim and ceiling are dark blue and the curtains are dark velvet. Comfortable theatre seating was created and I am still lobbying for the popcorn machine! They love going into this room to close out the world and snuggle up to a movie.

In my next post I'll continue this project and you'll get to see the above rooms as they are now... trust me, it's worth the wait!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Brightening your work day

I've become a big fan of Mudlark Stationery products. Beautiful colors and thoughtful designs to brighten/lighten up your home office. Find at any good stationery/card shop, as well as on-line.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Food hoarding

Q: My mother is elderly and lives in a senior apartment. For quite sometime she has been collecting food and paperware from any source she can. When she goes to eat in the dining room she fills her pockets with the sugar packets from the table. When she is out anywhere there are paper plates, napkins and plasticware, she collects as much as she can carry. She also visits food give away sites and picks up anything and everything they have - even when she doesn't eat the foods she collects. Her small apartment is packed with food and she won't part with any of it. Can you tell me what is going on?

A. I would feel very confident telling you that your mother is a hoarder and her obsession is with food. People with hoarding issues can be hoarding food, objects and even animals. I have met a woman who has more than 100 cats in her home. I've met a man who has so many books in his home he actually sleeps on the top bunk of a bunk bed so that books can stored below him. Hoarding is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed professionally. Given your mother's advanced age, it's going to be nearly impossible to cure. I recommend that you contact The OC Foundation at and for help.

If her situation is dangerous, such as building towers of food that may topple over and injure her, or blocking doorways, etc., you may need to take action. I highly recommend that you call in a professional organizer who specializes in working with hoarders. Hoarders can become hysterical, have a panic attack, scream, cry and even have to be rushed to the hospital when their home is being dismantled. They may even physically attack YOU and your workers.

In this house, the hoarder has been stuffing food into every cabinet and closet. Some of the cans had actually burst from age and glued themselves to the shelving. Nothing was allowed to be discarded no matter how old and how dangerous.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Zen Habits

A few posts back I talked about "downshifting". Thanks to Lindsey, a regular ATH blog reader, who suggested we look into the blog ZenHabits. I like it! Leo Babauta is the author and ZenHabits is one of the most popular blogs on the internet.

Here's Leo's list of suggestions for simplifying life:

1. Write down your top priorities. Limit the list to 4 or 5.
2. Reduce one commitment.
3. Simplify your to-do list. (Remember my suggestion is to turn it into an ACTION list)
4. Set aside some disconnected time. In otherwords "Step away from the computer and turn off the cell phone.)
5. Create your perfect day.
6. DECLUTTER! (Now you know why I like this guy!)

Read the details on his blog - let me know what you think...
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