I have this thing for clear counters. It just makes me feel good. At peace, grounded, organized… maybe it's all the things I wish I had more of in my life. Clearing surfaces is my go-to when I need to refresh a space in my own home and it’s my standard advice to clients before any design transformation takes place.
I don’t think I’m alone, either. I often hear from clients that doing this simple first step gives them a clean slate, space to breathe and opens them to thinking about all the possible ways they want their space to feel after we are done working together.
It’s simple but then again, it’s not. We probably all know it should be done, but we just don’t get around to it, probably because it just seems overwhelming or tedious to deal with all the loose ends of life that are piled up there. Things we need or might need soon, things that need to be dealt with in one way or another. I will suggest, though, that for most of us, there is a very small amount things that actually do need to be dealt with in any time-consuming way. The rest? Quick, fast, simple, and done.
Today I’m throwing out 5 quick steps to get you started. I encourage you to just pick one surface and give it a try. See how it feels afterward – I’m guessing you’ll develop a thing for clear counters, too.
1. Let go
Don’t overthink this. Toss garbage and let it go. If it’s recycling or trash, off it goes into a bag or receptacle. If it’s something that no longer serves you or makes you happy but you think would be useful to someone else, bag it up and take it out to your porch or car right away. Take action and keep your momentum going here. Just stand there with your garbage bag and a recycling box and look quickly at papers with expiry dates, newsletters that are outdated, and at broken bits and pieces. Toss and keep moving.
There are definitely things that don’t belong there. Gather them up. I use an empty laundry basket for this and just pile things in that belong elsewhere in the house. All that stuff you’ve been meaning to put into the storage room, the little bits and pieces that belong in the office or bathroom, the extra stuff you’ve been meaning to move elsewhere when you get time – now is the time to clear it out. Once you’re done with this step, just set the basket aside. Afterward, after everything else is done, take a quick tour around the house with your basket and put things away. Don’t get stuck in each room mulling over where to put things, either, just set them down in a logical spot or out of the way and move on. Momentum!
This is the time to look at what you are using on a daily basis. If you’re not using it every day, clear it away. Items that you use less frequently should be stored in a place that reflects how often they get used. Be wise with your storage and prioritize. The toaster you use every few days should get prime real estate in the kitchen cabinets. The punch bowl you only bring out at Christmas could go to the basement.
Is there anything that can be stored in the drawers rather than out on display? Common offenders that could easily be stored in cabinetry (but often aren’t):
- ye olde grease-dusty spice rack (you know the stickiness of which I speak)
- the ceramic crock full of spoons of questionable aesthetics (no judgement here, my favorite cookie lifter has not had a handle for several years and my go-to bamboo spoon is missing one edge)
- the spreading pile of papers by the phone (school notices, appliance warranties, birthday invites)
- the bedside bowl filled with personal items (nail files, lotions, hair ties, loose change and lego bits… usually some goodies emptied from a pocket at bedtime)
4. Be ruthless with your décor
Take an objective look at the decorations you have on your surface. Seriously consider if you love what’s there. A clear, clean space might feel a bit empty at first, but it feels much better than one that is bogged down with items that don’t really suit you. It’s okay to let things go, to evolve your style or to have a clear space for a bit. Take your time, later, to find a few things that feel right for the surface and make you happy to look at. It doesn’t take much – one lovely, wonderful, colorful little thing in a bowl or on a tray is worth a dozen tired, boring, no-personality, no-connection pieces.
5. Scrub & polish
Finally, give a good soapy wipe down to the surface and everything that’s staying. Give a good clean to all the little nooks and crannies in the woodwork. Polish up frames, lighting and mirrors. Stand back and smile. Doesn’t that feel good?
I’d love to know if you also have a weird love for clear counters… or maybe I convinced you to try to feel a bit of the love?
Have you heard of Hygge yet?
Whether the answer is yes or no, let's settle in for a nice cozy little chat about my new favorite thing. Grab a hot drink and a thick, fluffy blanket and curl up in a chair. Light a candle or 12 if that's more your style. I'm so happy today to talk about Oxford Dictionary's 2016 word of the year finalist 'hygge'.
If you're one of my winter people in the Northern Hemisphere, savoring every extra minute of daylight we get this time of year, but slowly depleting your vitamin D (and, with it, easy joy & energy) as you wait for spring, you're going to feel just plain good after you even imagine your life with touches of hygge in it. Just please trust me on this.
Simply put, hygge is a mindset, a way of enjoying good things with good people.
It's about creating a warm atmosphere.
British journalist Helen Russell wrote “The Year of Living Danishly” and defines hygge as “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things.” Warm, fresh from the oven buns, hot homemade coffee and thick warm blankets.
Louisa Thomsen Brits, the author of “The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection,” talks about hygge as “a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life” and “a cure for SAD”— seasonal affective disorder.
Wellness guide and cookbook, "How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life" written by Signe Johansen, says hygge also has something to do with simple, hearty food and drinks. Well if that doesn't sound like heaven in the middle of a very long, cold, dark season, I don't know what would.
Here's what some Danish folks have to say about this beautiful tradition that the rest of the world is slowly falling in love with.
Danish people are the happiest people in the world.
They are on to something beautiful that gets them through what can easily sink anyone's happy-ship: grey, endless winters. I think it's a concept that could bring nothing but good, happy, comfortable feelings to your home and your life, so I've put together a list of 15 of basic elements you can add to your living room to get a little hygge feeling going.
My Top 15 Hygge Basics for Your Living Room
1. Soft, natural throws and blankets.
2. Plush, oversized pillows in fabrics that are soft to the touch.
3. Warm, soft lighting. Dimmers, warm-toned bulbs. Twinkle fairy lights.
4. Candles. And a few more candles.
5. A roaring fire.
6. A tray for an eclectic mug and small plate collection for treats and snacks.
7. A few more blankets. Why not?
8. Fabrics in natural fibres and colors.
9. Good quality, sturdy, natural elements - baskets, boxes, furniture.
10. Bring a bit of nature inside - a few pine boughs, branches with red berries, a small bowl of stones.
11. A stack of great books to immerse yourself in.
12. A small collection of puzzles, board games or cards.
13. Music. Find something earthy and calming that makes you feel like you're in a chalet in the mountains.
14. Casual family photos of happy times.
15. A thick, plush rug.
I can't wait to see what kind of good vibes you can cultivate for yourself at home this winter! The mission of hygge is simple: relaxation, gratitude and indulgence in a beautiful intimate atmosphere.