Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Is Working from Home Working for You?

Every job comes with its own set of problems.Whether you work at the kitchen table, in a cardboard cubicle, on a building site, or in a gorgeous, glass office, none of them are worry free; the grass always seems greener, when really it is just a different variety of grass (with its own set of weeds).
But, working from home is still seen by many as the holy grail - the luxury of being able to type in your underwear, and the giddy thought of quietly trying to eat potato chips during an important teleconference.

When I began to work from home, the concept of saying I was "working" sounded kind of crazy (even to me). My daughter would see me, in my fun, little office, writing lists and updating my business Facebook page, and I know it didn't make a whole lot of sense. It barely made sense to me, so we had to slowly convince ourselves that just because I wasn't commuting, wearing a suit and waving around stock market tips scribbled on bits of paper (or whatever they do) it was still something that contributed to me earning a living.
It took me a while (a long while) but eventually I managed to train myself to work fairly effectively from home. It will never be a perfect system, but I have still managed to find several ways that make my work at home, office appropriate...
  • Have a designated office space where you just work. I know it goes without saying, but often, a laptop can mysteriously travel to the comfiest place, and you will find yourself curled up on the sofa. Before you know it, you find yourself simultaneously googling the latest Fall fashions and watching the Weather channel as if your life depended on it (which is ironic, considering you don't have to step outside unless you really want to).
  • Don't wear pajamas, work-out clothes or gardening clothes (me). This tells you (and everyone around you) that you are ready to do something else at a moments notice (take a nap, go to the gym, eat chocolate, or mow the lawn... ) and, you are not taking it that seriously.
  • Adjust your time to suit you. I admit, this is one of the perks of working from home. I am much more focused in the morning, so I can begin at 7:30am and do the most important things then. Late afternoon is kept for tasks that require less brain power, and the evening for nothing more than Pinterest and Facebook.
  • Surround yourself with items that support what you do for a living. Not what reminds you of home; what you see should motivate you to work, not distract you. If you work for a financial corporation, then you probably want to keep it simple and business orientated - framed certificates, the latest projection statistics, and a piece of classic art, is probably all you need. Likewise, if your job is more creative, vision boards, success stories and color may inspire you.
  • Indulge yourself by being organized and comfortable. Filing cabinets, shelves, noticeboards, a comfortable chair, and a desk or table, all contribute to a more productive work environment. If the space doesn't work for you, you're not going to use it. 
  • Have a routine. Commit to yourself that at a certain time you will always go to work. Ignore the laundry, walking the dog, or whatever else that you think should be done, because there is always going to be something to do around the house, and it is so easy to get distracted for an hour or two (or three).
  • Tell everyone that you are working from home. And mean it. Write dates and times on your calendar, so that you and your friends and family know it is important.
  • Take lunch and coffee breaks. Walk away from your office, have something to eat, and take a walk outside. Again, it might be a luxury that not everyone has, but when you are home alone it is also easier to park your bottom at the computer for four or five hours at a time without moving more than your fingers and eyeballs.
  • Schedule time off and mental health days. Stop work at a certain time, take a day or afternoon off now and again, and be aware when it is leaching into your family life. We don't get Sick days, Personal Leave, Weekends Off, or Public Holidays, so it is okay to turn off the computer, ignore the emails, and give yourself a break when you need it. 
  • Be grateful, enjoy your time at home, and (note to self) stop apologizing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

At Home With Fur

A lady once sat next to me on the bus with a very large, full length fur coat on. The fur spilled over onto my own coat (a bright green puffer jacket which kept me warm, but I am sure made me visible from outer space, and made any movement feel like an extreme aerobic exercise. In fact, I bet I lost several pounds every time I wore it). Anyway, by the time we got off the bus, I was nauseous from the occasional touch of the fur, and the unusual smell that the falling, wet snow had created as it seeped further into the skin of her massive coat.

Never an activist, this experience has shaped my feelings about fur for the rest of my life, and it has taken me almost twenty years before I would even wear a dress with an animal print on it, never mind consider bringing a piece of fur into my home.

Now, it is different, and faux leather and fur are everywhere, and they are simply gorgeous. It is so popular that we are even changing the name from faux (fake) to Vegan Leather (thank you Stella McCartney) which sounds much nicer from a retail perspective, and almost makes us feel that we are doing something healthy for ourselves when we buy it.

Strangely enough, adding a piece of animal print, vegan leather or faux fur is sometimes all you need to update your home. The interesting thing is, that despite being a little unexpected they do actually go with every design style; never enough to throw your entire room into turmoil, you will find that they are just enough to up the decorating ante, while adding a carefully measured dose of personality that you never even knew you were missing.

I imagine there will always be real fur and leather in our lives, but if you are a bit like me, and can be prone to a weak tummy, just walk into any store, or check your favorite place online, and blissfully indulge in lots and lots of fabulous faux's.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Sweet Dreams of Reality

A friend recently asked me about decorating her bedroom. After living in her home for many years, her bedroom had become a transitional mess; a place for laundry (in all it’s stages), a storage facility, and a home office that was slowly reproducing technical equipment when no-one was looking.

Why do we put ourselves last? Bedrooms should be the simplest room to decorate; the focal point is already established, and the function is pretty much self-explanatory. More than anything else in the modern world, people are lacking sleep and relaxation, so wouldn’t it make sense to focus on these things before picking out kitchen cabinets, or deciding what book to carefully place on your coffee table?

I promise, that whatever the state of your bedroom, all it takes is an afternoon to make it a much better place to spend time in.
  • Why not start with the obvious, and take out everything that doesn’t belong in there. (I know this can lead to a horrible mess somewhere else, but I think your bedroom is more important than that other space, and you will be so much happier when bedtime - and morning - arrives). 
  • Minimize or eliminate all electronics (including your cell phone). 
  • Then, decide what you do (and don’t) want to see first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Close the closet doors, make the bed, straighten the dresser, and take a look at what is happening on the walls. What should stay, and what should go? Take them out now.
  • Remove family photographs. This is not a popular idea, but I think the bedroom should be an escape; your personal space to relax, and just be who you want to be. So why not take these down and move them to a family room, the hallway, or a small wall in your kitchen?
  • Add some artwork above the bed, but only if you think it needs it; don't feel that it has to be "decorated" - a minimal room can look beautiful too. 
  • Use color and texture for interest. I like bedrooms to be quite simple, but this is the perfect place to experiment with something a little unexpected and daring (not an afternoon project, I'll admit, but next time you want to paint, consider a gorgeous red or the deepest navy blue). Texture is also a great way to add interest without clutter - just use several things in the same shade family, and leave the rest alone.  
  • Have something warm on the floor for your feet, and don't be afraid to layer a rug over your carpet if it is looking a little worse for wear (this will also make your room feel more sophisticated and cozy). Shop your house for a rug if you don't already have one.
  • Be selfish, and only surround yourself with what will make you happy as you drift off to sleep - a worn love letter from years ago, soft, fluffy pillows and blankets, your favorite books, a piece of Art, silence, notepaper and pencils, flowers, an old stuffed teddy bear, plants, perfume, music, nothingness ...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Your Decorating Personality

Sometimes, knowing where to start is the hardest part. It's that first move that paralyzes us, and we over-think what we imagine may happen, or worry about doing something in the exact right order. In life, that can lead to some tricky decisions, but in decorating it is rarely complicated at all; hopefully, no-one will freak out if you put the chair in a different spot, and the children will still find their way home if the door is painted yellow instead of red.

But, it's the starting that gets us. I think that we say so much about ourselves without speaking, and if we just trusted that instinct a little bit, we wouldn't find decorating so hard. Okay, yes, it might still not be fun or easy, but if we can see what we like, then we are more than halfway there, and it gives us a visual blueprint to start from.

There are a gazillion sites and apps out there that will help us design our home, but I tend to go back to basics; partly because I like to keep life simple, but also because I want the ability to change my mind whenever I want to, without spending a lot of unnecessary time and money. Sometimes, by the time we have waded through the User Id's and help button, it seems far simpler to tear bits out of a magazine, scribble a note on a piece of paper, and bookmark a favorite room into a computer file.

So, as an experiment, I pretended I was trying to figure out my own style.
I set my timer for five minutes, and scanned through my photographs. Without thinking about why I was choosing them, I clicked and grabbed the images that appealed to me at that moment.
From these images, you get a quick snapshot of what type of person I am, so, if you do the same, you will see what appeals to you as well, and it might help you to have a clearer direction when you go to decorate your home.

At the top of the post are my pictures, and based on the result, it would seem that I lean towards Fashion, Flowers, Elegance, Quirkiness, Simplicity, Comfort, Nostalgia, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Color, Character, Texture, Chandeliers and a good dose of Organized Chaos.
You should try it, because for a five minute experiment, it's pretty accurate.

*  By the way, I used PicMonkey, because I find it ridiculously easy, and there is never any sign up or passwords needed. I went to Design, then applied canvas color (I kept it white) then went to the butterfly image on the left (Overlays), added my own images from my computer, then saved.

Friday, September 23, 2016

For the Love of Realtors

I think that Realtors must be some of the most positive people on the planet. Their job is to steer you in the right direction, and help you fall in love with a home; they earn your trust, build a relationship, and hopefully complete the deal. Before they know it, they have become the unsuspecting Matchmaker's of the work force.

And, they have their own love language. We all watch the selling, flipping and goodness-knows-what-else shows that are saturating television right now, but my favorite's are the international one's. It seems easy to sell the attributes of a seven million dollar loft in New York City, but when faced with a small pied-à-terre in the back of a rather questionable alley, the challenge becomes a little more real.

Sometimes, it can require an almost fairytale kind of imagination (and a very positive attitude). So, with respect and love to Realtors everywhere, I wanted to share some of my favorite words from their dictionary:

OPEN PLAN - No privacy. Ever.

COZY - Much smaller than you think, and not suitable for anyone over six feet tall.

CHARMING - Has not been renovated, repaired or cleaned since 1973.

A VIEW - It has a window that you can look out of.

OUTSIDE SPACE - If you go out the door, from the inside of the house, you will be outside, in a space.

NEEDS SOME TLC - Watch your step, sign the insurance waiver, and don't forget to wear a helmet when you visit.

PRIVATE - You will never, ever get any visitors unless they have a GPS, an overnight bag and four wheel drive.

LOW MAINTENANCE BACK YARD - A slab of concrete with room for a small, potted geranium and a white plastic chair.

VERY SPACIOUS, WITH AN OPEN PLAN CONCEPT - Larger than anyone could possible need, and please don't ask me how you're supposed to arrange your furniture.

LOTS OF NATURAL LIGHT - Bring your own lamps, because there are no ceiling lights (anywhere).

BUILT IN HOME OFFICE - An open shelf in a corner of the kitchen.

AN EASY WALK TO ALL AMENITIES - No garage or parking space for your car.

UP AND COMING NEIGHBORHOOD - One day it will be safe, but for now don't go out after dark, and don't remove the bars from the windows.

PARTIALLY FURNISHED - The current owners don't want to pay to remove the pool table, the beds have bugs, and they can't be bothered to clean out the refrigerator.

HAS POTENTIAL - Not for the faint of heart - contractors only, please.

MOVE IN READY - We are desperate, we've done all we can, and we have to leave.

UNIQUE HOME - Dad retired early, and decided to fix the place up; he bought a bunch of tools, a sledgehammer, a circular saw, a packet of 8-penny nails, and industrial strength duct tape (just in case).