My story

Remember when you used to be curious? Wondered about things, imagined, asked questions? To think that, you know, this could be the best day ever. Or worry that you are wrong about what you are almost positive about.

I think that pretty much sums it up for most of us. We’re all a mixed grill of happy anticipation and dread.

And then one day without warning, the open road beckons.

To just go, not knowing where or for how long.

Sometimes there’s nowhere to go, but on that road.

Sometimes you don’t have anywhere to go, if it’s not on that road.
 

A few years ago, okay, more than 30 – this happened to me. I left Edmonton for Calgary, lured by the liberal arts education promise of being taught how to live.

My ambition knows no bounds. 

Alas, I also had to leave the Shumka dancers behind.
Wait – that’s not them.

 

As the reality fell short of the promise and as my intellectual, creative, and spiritual development began to not unfold, I thought that there was a distinct and important lack in my new life, as I was mainly occupied with staying on my side of the road, keeping my coffee cup upright, and wondering why worker bees can’t have sex. 

I realized that was not ever going to be offered the experience of helping people sell their homes for more money faster. 

So at the end of 1999, all the stars were aligned and I conceived the idea of home staging.

The rest, as they say, is history.

You have been part and parcel of it. And I thank you.

I had no idea at the time that this labor of learning would animate me with a new sense of purpose. This would now become both my mission and something to do during the week, Saturdays and Sundays. 

I received a lot of television, radio, newspaper, and journal publicity in those early years because the concept was so newsworthy. As I like to say, I started at the national level and worked my way down.
 

“I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

– Mae West, P.T. Barnum, George M. Cohan, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Big Tim Sullivan

 
CORE PRINCIPLES
Now there are some salient core principles involved when undertaking such a fundamental endeavour as deciding to stage your listing.

Number One: Ours is a culture that measure our worth by our efficiency, our relatives, and our ability to make good decisions.

Anne Dillard said something like, how we spend our weeks is how we spend our lives.

Number Two: You need to allow yourself the luxury of changing your mind. 

We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on the face our seller makes, or the mutterings of your partner siting next to you, without investing the time and thought to come up with your own true feelings.

You may also have to make peace with the fact that some of the best people in your life are fallible, unreasonable, and downright annoying. Befuddlement is one of our greatest asset, one that distinguishes us from squirrels.

So cultivate that capacity for negative capability and take your God-given poetic license to say, “No – we need to stage this home.
 

I mean, once you start overachieving, people expect things from you.

Number Three: Expect anything tasteful to take a bit of time.

It’s hard to capture something so fundamental, yet so impatiently overlooked as the best presented house, yet, the myth of the overnight staging success is just that – a myth.
 

I know what’s going to happen here.

This is going to lead to a litany of questions. “Are two loveseats better than a three-seater and a chair?”, “What wall colour is best for selling?”, “Is grey trendy?”, “Should there be art on the walls?”, “Are matching chairs passe?”, “Would you have voted for Trump?” And so on.
 

Thus our present definition of success needs redefining. For example, you have to ask:
 

1. Does the house look like it just backed up to an IKEA store. 
P.S. If I never see another LACK wall shelf or an IKEA frame without a wire again, I will consider my life a triumph.

2. Does the furniture in each room act like wallflowers at a party – strained and stationed against involvement, quietly alone, making everyone feel awkward for having a good time?

3. Is the art hung correctly? Is there any art at all?
P.S. This may almost be my final post reminding you of the perils of hanging art badly. (Please hold your applause.)

4. And the last one. Upon entering the home, does it remind you of the aroma of your socks after a three day hike?
 

Number Four: Presence is far more intimate and rewarding than productivity.

Which is why I usually prefer the comfort of a beach chair and a good book. Preferably by the beach.

By the way, there is also a 97% chance of getting eaten while sitting at the water’s edge in a beach chair munching on Cheetos. That’s just a scientific fact. 

Showing up is good, but so is the hard, but rewarding work of getting the job done right, quickly and efficiently.  

Amen to that.

And now I’ve over-explained this, and none of this is even the point.
 

The Road More Travelled

Both And
I learned to watch, to put my trust in other hands than mine. And I learned to wander. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know – that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.  –  Beryl Markham
Remember when you used to be curious? Wondered about things, imagined, asked questions? To think that, you know, this could be the best day ever. Or worry that you are wrong about what you are almost positive about.

I think that pretty much sums it up for most of us. We’re all a mixed grill of happy anticipation and dread.

And then comes a day when, without warning, the open road beckons.

To just go, not knowing where or for how long.

Sometimes there’s nowhere to go, but on that road.

Sometimes you don’t have anywhere to go, if it’s not on that road.

Boredom and complacency have this horrible inertia, which means that once they hit, it’s easy to get stuck…for a long time. And you can’t chart a course around anything that you’re afraid of. You can’t run from any part of yourself, and it’s better that you can’t.
(It had occurred to me to go to a psychotherapeutic travel agency that may have been able to align my mental disorder with the parts of the planet that would best alleviate them.) 

Which is why I decided on South Dakota. 

My ambition knows no bounds. 

So I surrendered to getting lost, as a voyage should take you further than your destination. Or as they say in Maine – you can’t get there from here. 

I succumb to the philosophy that adventure is one of the five necessities of the truly civilized, next after truth and beauty, ahead of art and peace.
Reckoning and Repair
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes – including you.                                                                   – Anne Lamont 
Travelling, a real journey – not a typical holiday, cruise, trek or business obligation – is an entirely different way of knowing.  

It can be an intimate relationship. It can be a dark journey.  It can find new paths. But it is almost always, discovery.

While we are journeying, the mind is no longer on guard. We aren’t supposed to be doing much inside our heads. We are mainly occupied with staying on our side of the road, keeping our coffee cup upright, and wondering why worker bees can’t have sex.

Journeying lets us think freely and wildly with themes we’d lost touch with: childhood, a recent dream, a friend we haven’t seen for years, a hobby, why chocolate with 75 percent cacao is not actually a food, and whether we should buy an electronic wine breather.

We often arrive back subtly different: slightly more complete, serene, visionary. Maybe even more of a courageous and imaginative version of the person we knew how to be. 

But what is truly astonishing is that really, no one has missed us. Or even noticed that we had gone.

I know you didn’t.

The demise of one’s tenancies towards self-aggrandizement is a quiet, private, and sober moment of reckoning, for subtle feelings of imperfection. You may have to make peace with the fact that some of the best people in your life are fallible, unreasonable – and downright annoying.
Befuddlement is our greatest asset, the only feature distinguishing us from squirrels. 
We need certain things. Clandestine thoughts. Finding answers without needing to know why. Getting rid of the impression that we are indispensable. Not taking anything for granted. Gratitude.
And now I’ve over-explained it and none of this is even the point.
Now if we add contemplation with our journey, then Yea, this is what can truly change us. 
 
This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find nothing happens. But if you keep at it, something eventually will. 

Silence and aloneness are not luxuries, they are essential. 

We aren’t put on this earth to rise above life. We are here to walk through the muck, learning our lessons by going through intense life experiences, not skipping over them.

It’s somewhat like constantly clearing out and rearranging your living room. It’s as much about getting rid of all the furniture and trinkets that no longer serve you, as bringing in new pieces. And in that sense, it’s just as important to continue defining who we are, as to continue eliminating who we are not. 
Daniel Gilbert’s famous aphorism cites that “human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”
Which is why I usually prefer the comfort of a beach chair and a good book. Preferably by the beach.

By the way, there is also a 97% chance of getting eaten while sitting at the water’s edge in a beach chair munching on Cheetos. That’s just a scientific fact. 

Rapturous Rigor and Devotion
So I climbed into my car, plugged my iPod in AUX, and pressed “Shuffle” to listen to whatever music came up. (I was going to do the silence thing later.)

After a while I realized that kept having to skip past all the Christmas songs. So many Christmas songs. Which is when I discovered I hadn’t actually put my iPod on Shuffle, but rather at the letter “C”. A lot of Christmas songs start with the letter “C”, in case you didn’t know. 

I don’t think it’s an ideal system.

The bigger question is why I hadn’t taken the Christmas music off my iPod since it was, you know, almost August. 

This alone can give anybody a case of discouraged.
A wise person once said that if you keep going where you’re going, you’re going to end up where you’re headed. And if you keep moving ahead, you’ll find yourself in a different place.

Think that was me.

Yes. yes. He hath done yeoman’s service, and proved himself staunch and faithful.
The Art of Not Being Right
There is an art to getting lost, to being imperfect, to being disorganized and for being just plain wrong.

Although I wouldn’t know much about that. Except for the “lost” part.

Or finding.

Take this morning for instance.

I’ve never driven into Grand Falls before. It’s early enough. I’m starving. I’m un-caffeinated. I’m looking for a coffee shop. 

I head into the historic district, the business distinct, the tree district – nothing. Nada.

So I Google coffee shops. I come up with one called “Electric City”. Google says, “it’s the best coffeeshop in Grand Falls.” I have driven more than 3000 kms. so far and Google has not failed me. But this morning it won’t load.

I don’t know. Tired. Overused. No caffeine?

So not taking Google for an answer, I keep driving – slowly – when out of the corner of my eye, I catch the word “coffee” painted on a window front. I pull up, plug 2 quarters in the meter for an hour (Incidentally, I feel I have traveled back in time. Not only are these 1920 Calgary parking prices (maybe this was to tie up your horse), I have also been asked to sign my Visa slips the whole trip. When was the last time we had to do that? 

However, I do always remember to speak American and say “washroom” instead of “bathroom”

I get out of the car and walk in. I’m at “Electric Coffee”.

How do I do these things? Especially when I can hardly find my way out of an elevator.

While I was waiting for my coffee, I picked up a copy “What’s Up Yukon” and read an article all about the 95th anniversary of Urban Gold Miner that was maybe the most informative piece of journalism I’ve read in a long time.
The Importance of Changing One’s Mind Regularly 
“Most people do not see things as they are because they see things as they are!”                                                                                                  – Fr. Richard Rohr
Every viewpoint is a view from a point, and we need to critique our own perspective if we are to see and follow the truth all the way through.
 
We conduct our life as everyone does, by guessing at the future. When your time comes you want to be sure that you’re not leaving anything on the table, that there aren’t experiences left un-experienced.
It’s just for me, strains in my development has led me into some pretty strange territory.
As Ram Dass said, “When all is said and done, we’re really just all walking each other home.”
I think that’s it, but if I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. 
Well, night is closing in and I’ve still got all those lima beans to arrange.
 

 

P.S. Contemplating life, I just rolled up to a stop sign and sat there for a full two minutes as I waited for it to turn green.

I really believed I was living my best life. 

Yee-Haw!

 

The reason I’m writing a Stampede newsletter before The Official Beginning of Stampede is because it’s a well known fact that during the Greatest Show on Earth, 50% of Calgarians will be far away from here, and the other 52% will be deeply ensconced in discussing the meaning of life in some loud honky tonk bar in downtown Calgary, as will I.As you are poking your way down this nothing, if not totally engrossing missive, you may be saying to yourself, “Hey, I think I’ve read this before.” That is because if you have been faithfully reading my blog for the past say, one year, you have.

As someone famously said. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing again.”

I think it was me.

So now that I have your attention – maybe again – I would like to discuss the merits of mediocrity. In styling a home.

Lean closer because this is profound.

There are none.

Well, that was easy.

 
Now that the dust has settled (literally) on a long winter, and spring has bypassed us yet again, it may be time to survey the Ponderosa with more than one eye open. 

Besides, if you never try anything new, you can never fail. 

If y’all are completely flamboozzled on how to style your home – or even what styling is – you need to know that you have to get the best posse in town, because there are a few out there that couldn’t drive a nail into a snow bank.

You know the type…faded blue jeans, pearl button shirts, worn-at-the-heel cowboy boots, wearing hats with sweat lines, and driving rusty pick-me-up trucks with a couple of dented bumpers.

 

“Just ’cause you’re following a well-marked trail don’t mean that whoever made it knew where they were goin’.”                              – Texas Bix Bender
 
Don’t gamble on your establishment looking like an envelope without an address on it. 
Given most of you have lived in your home so long, there are probably things you no longer even see…things suggesting an element of brooding malcontent.
 
 
Many will say that they have an eye, good taste, definite opinions, and they like things done well, but still wouldn’t have a clue where to begin, second-guessing themselves.You don’t have to spend a fortune for good design. People think they are buying good looks. What they discover is that they get more than that. When a space functions well, it enhances your life. Think value not price.

As Kafka, the patron saint of self-criticism, said, “There’s only one thing certain. That is one’s own inadequacy.”

Not yours, everyone else’s. 

 

I do have to tell you, though, that my biggest excitement today (and I am using the term loosely, so this should really be an indicator of how little is going on with me), is discovering that the word cenosillicaphobia means the fear of an empty glass.

Oh, the times I could have used it – at bar-b-ques, pancake breakfasts, hanging around the peanut bowl at cocktail parties, and the like.

If only I could pronounce it. 
 

 
 
 

                              HOME ON THE RANGE

 

One thing is fo’ sure – updated kitchens bring one of the highest returns on investment, and they may end up being the deal-maker or deal-breaker whenever it comes time to sell. This is one room you want to deck out in its best finery. After all, you spend an inordinate amount of time in it, unless you order in a lot of Mexican.
 

Kitchens are pricey to redecorate or rebuild, so they rarely receive annual overhauls or frequent up-dates, even when they deserve them. Consequently, these rooms can slip into a time warp that echoes the era when the home was originally built or when you moved in. 
 
Granite or quartz work surfaces can really eat into the budget, so in order you don’t have to rob a bank, there are tons of attractive laminates as a less expensive alternative. I don’t advise installing granite or quartz countertops if you have dated cabinets.  

Speaking of dating, be careful out there. I once went on a date with a man would describe himself as resembling Kevin Costner. It was true in the sense of both men walk upright and have opposable thumbs.I propose a general rule: any man that claims to be a former Navy seal or cosmonaut should be disqualified immediately

Backsplash tile is the jewelry in a kitchen. Installing new backsplash tile is the best area to give punch to a kitchen. It’s a relatively small area, so this is where you can splurge to make the kitchen look more expensive, as well as updating and pulling the colours together.

 

Simple and less costly updates are to update the cabinet hardware or
 
…install a statement faucet.
 
                     
There’s Gold in Them Thar…
 
Not since the 1980’s have we seen this degree of popularity for gold-toned bath faucets, lamps, light fixtures, and doorknobs. In the ’80s it leaned toward polished brass, and now the gold tones are ranging beautifully towards a soft bronze-gold. This emerging trend may leave the popular silver and brushed nickel metals in the dust.
 
 
“If you’re riding’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.”                                                    – Will Rogers                                                  
 
 
Your ace in the pocket in styling your kitchen is to keep small appliances tucked away and a cappuccino machine at the ready.

Just in case I pop by. 

 

 

One of life’s little embarrassments is cove lighting or a Sunshine Ceiling. 

For me, that’s right up there with screen doors, deep-fried anchovies, and over-ripe tomatoes, not in that order.

Light the kitchen properly with slim LED pot lights, and if you don’t already have it,under cabinet lighting. Essential.

 Oh. Then there are Popcorn Ceilings.
 
And I quote: “It’s dingy, if it’s not painted it fades, and it can get stained easily and especially if you have any water damage, it can start flaking off; it attracts cobwebs, dirt, and soot, and it’s just one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen.” – Jim McCue, owner of Professional Drywall Services.
 
Removing the popcorn ceiling is one of the best improvements you can do to any home. You can quote me. 

After all, this isn’t my first rodeo.
 

Another bane of my existence are unframed, fraying posters curling at the corners and hanging onto the wall for dear life. If you can’t bear to part with your beloved posters, mount them in a deep frame so the character of those well-worn corners comes through, but the overall look is polished.

 

 
So…yo’all want to keep this in the back pocket of your ripped jeans. 
 

If you can’t remember what I look like, don’t go to my website. You won’t recognize me, it’s my high school picture.No matter how much or how little space you have, there’s always room for style. Make your home the “Greatest Indoor Show on Earth.”  It’s a one shot go for broke performance.
 
 
                                                                            – Karyn ‘Dead Eye’ Elliott, 

                                     Notorious Stylist of Fine Mercantile Establishments

 

‘”There’s two theories to a arguing with a woman. Neither one works.”                                                                                                  – Will Rogers 
 
It is worth noting that my pithy and often self-depreciating blog has been read by a decreasing audience since it’s inception in 2001.Yee-Haw!

 

Red, Hot, and Sold!

It’s our birthday, Canada.

A time to celebrate and continue in our quest to respect the reverence of life, all life.

So make a wish. 

 

I wish that…all your listings sell quickly for the optimum price. And we all know how to do that, don’t we?

Stage it and they will come.

I know I may be preaching to the choir, but just in case, I’m on my soapbox to say that there are two major reasons why professional staging gets more money for a property,  and I think you’d have a hard time arguing against either.

 

The first one is Lack of Imagination.
 

Call it what you want.

Saying it in a more winning manner by suggesting to buyers that the house has “maximum potential” or “infinite presentation,” but really,  the bottom line is that most buyers don’t have the imagination to see a house to its full potential unless it’s standing right in front of them – decorated fully and beautifully from the front step…

 

to the pillows on the sofa…
 

 

to everything neatly stored and organized…
 

 

to freshly baked cookies…
 

 

to fluffy towels in the bathroom…
 

 

to a beautifully made bed…
 

 

to the art hung superbly on the walls…
 

 

to the bear greeting you in the foyer.
 

 

Well, maybe we could lose the bear.
 

With imagination, comes possibilities.If you set everything out perfectly,  buyers will view the property in a whole other light – a better light,  and they’ll have no choice but to see the value in the asking price, or a higher than asking price.

Would any product sell if it weren’t advertised? 

Would not any company selling a product or service benefit from showcasing it in the most positive light?
 

FROM HOT TO NOT
 

Forrest Gump infamously said that you can tell a lot about a man (and a woman) by their shoes.

I do  acknowledge that one’s personality cannot be determined entirely from one’s shoes, and I don’t recommend totally writing off anyone who wear unattractive shoes, but hey,  wearing well-polished shoes every day,  is how we should think about preparing a house for sale.

Buyers are there to make a judgment call.

Is the home well-presented or it is not? Do they have to search out it’s “potential”? Do they have to “imagine” space for their furniture, clothes and historic collection of ceramic bears? Does it make them immediately say,  “Buy me.”
 

The second reason why staging gets more money for a property  is that it will lead buyers to a higher price for the property. When buyers are in a well-staged house,  they see professionalism, feeling that the listing has been done “right”,  and that the price of the house will follow suit.

A professionally staged house demonstrates that the sellers, the listing agent, and the brokerage all know what they’re doing, and that there’s no “deal” to be had here.

Cheers and Happy Birthday!
 

Why is the world so beautiful?

Come with me into the field…to the bright chrome yellow of goldenrod and the deep purple of the aster – together radiant in alpine meadows. 
 
Why do asters and goldenrod grow and look so beautiful together?
They have you right at hello.
 It turns out that not only is this pairing a matter of aesthetics, but also because of ecology.Purple and gold are complementary colours and opposites on the colour wheel, and because they are so vivid together, they grow together in order to attract more pollinators.Beauty and Reciprocity.
 
Beauty has a purpose.Beauty is our opportunity to relish life.  Nothing else in our lives can do that. 

How often do you stop to appreciate beauty?
 

Attention, says Mary Oliver, is the rarest form of generousity.If we are at all paying attention to the living world, we cannot help falling in love with it over and over again.
(Although I keep thinking about Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias saying,“There is no such thing as natural beauty.”)

 

There is also beauty in imperfection; of things that show their age and use.

Scratches, chips, cracks.

Bowls. Chairs. Us.

Reciprocity

Reciprocity broadens the notion of what it is to be human, not just a consumer.

Now, and more than ever, this is what we need to put our attention on.

The kind of deep attention that we pay as children is something that I cherish, that I think we all can cherish and reclaim — because attention is the doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity. 

It worries me greatly that today’s children can recognize 100 corporate logos and fewer than ten plants.

It means they’re not paying attention.
                                                                                         –  Dr. Robin Walls Kinnerer

Reciprocity is different than sustainability.We can no longer think regarding this planet that we live on only in terms of sustainability. We can no longer think we have ownership over what we call resources, continuing to take and consume without returning anything back.

We need to recognize that we humans have gifts that we can give in return for all that has been given to us. It is a way to exhibit our humanity.

It is such joy, and our ultimate responsibility to have this mutual flourishing, instead of being satisfied with the narrow definition of sustainability. 

 
 
Pathological consumption has become so normalized that we scarcely notice it.                                                                        – George Monbiot 
We continue to trash our living world through pointless consumption and commodification. While researching her film, The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% of it remains in use six months after purchasing. Even goods expected to be held onto are condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolescence (becoming unfashionable). http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/

So much now is comparatively inexpensive and easily accessible, that we almost condemn anything that is a bit worn. We see something that we want and instantly put it on our credit card, go in debt for it, dissing the idea of living without it. 

Instead of purchasing a sofa that should last decades, we buy one at a big box store, where not only are the materials substandard, but it is often uncomfortable, poorly designed, soon to be replaced and sent to the landfill.

Instead of purchasing quality bedding and towels, we buy the cheapest of materials, piling the multitudes in our closet.

Instead of buying art from a local artist, we purchase cheaply framed posters.

Instead of growing our own flowers and plants, we buy plastic or silk. 

Instead of using our special things everyday, we save them for special occasions, without realizing that being alive is a special occasion.
 

So many of us spend the first two-thirds of our lives accumulating stuff, only to spend the last one-third of our life trying to get rid of it.
 
So just how many towels per bathroom, bedsheets per bedroom, bathrobes, slippers, sets of dishes and placemats…does one need to successfully run a household?For the most part, the answer is two.

And two corkscrews. In case one ever breaks.

 

In our consumer-driven age, we have lost our sense of value, and I surmise, many more values that in the past, have served us well.

Humility, generosity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, and kindness.
 

Once appreciating beauty and it’s nurturing abundance, we have a deep responsibility to share this with others and to treat it with reverence and reciprocity.Vanity is the bane of us humans. Humility is the prize.
 
It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
 
We don’t know when and how we are leaving the greatest marks on the world. It all matters.
 
Everything belongs.
 
What I guessed when I loafed on the grass,
What I guessed while I lay alone in my bed…
        and again as I walked the beach under the
        paling stars of the morning.

                                                                 (p.59) Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

And we fly out, into the rest of our lives.

Bali-it or Not

Spring is the season for making summer travel plans. 

Except for Calgarians. We make them all year ’round. Basically because Calgary only has two seasons. Winter and Construction.

Travel is one of the few things that break us out of our potentially mundane routines and awaken us to the substance of happiness. Or at the very least force us out of our routine.
The mystic Thomas a Kempis said that when you go out into the world, you return having lost some of yourself.

Me, I just seem to get lost. Period.

For example. While following imprecise and incoherent directions for a post office in Ubud, I got (surprise) lost, and stumbled into a cultural dance performance. Wandering in, I found that the only place to sit was under a ficus religiousa tree. 

But I felt extremely enlightened sitting there, to say the least. (A Bodhi tree, to those of you less enlightened.)

Actually it was a jackfruit tree. But you weren’t there, so I can say anything I want to. 

Then again, Walter Benjamin said that to be lost is to be fully present, calling it, the “art of straying”. 
Although ‘straying’, I have historically discovered, can also lead to physical dysfunctions, impoverishment, a loss of a sense of humour, increasing irritability and facial tics.

At least that what happened to me while tangentially driving a weather-beaten and mis-managed scooter through an obscure Indonesian island with no headlights or helmet, one working brake, and with various mechanical parts periodically dropping off like Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs in the forest.
 

...travel has never really been about where you go. It’s about the person you’ve become when you return.     Brian Chesky – Airbnb CEO
 
Travel also gives us the opportunity to “see”. Maybe differently. Maybe better.

Hey, we might even act better. 

It may be an obvious point, but the places where most of us live are also someone else’s travel destinations, and there’s a huge difference between the way that we look at where we live and how other people see it.

If we only pay attention.
 

Travel means nothing unless you’re prepared to open your mind, as well as your eyes, to notice what you have already seen.

And to wonder why you really went in the first place.
 

Right.

Orchids. Heat. Sun. Beach. Ocean. Greenery. Humidity. 
 

To look at something familiar and see it anew; this is the defining characteristic of a curious mind –  the tricky and desirable feat of finding everything both familiar and surprising.
 
Along with a lifetime aspiration to cross off all twelve interesting places on the 1000 Places to See before you Die App, which incidentally does not add up to 1000, I also am aspiring to be a chronically afflicted biophiliac. 
 
This translates as “ the love of life”. (Wait while I luxuriate in the afflictions of my wanton emotions.)

Mary Oliver, the patron saint of hospice, as so many of her poems deal with the beauty of life, called this feeling, “the sudden awareness of the citizenry of all things within one world.” 

Travel is one of the things that seems to bring this on. While travelling, one finds oneself noticing all sorts of things afresh:

people in the street,
on the beach,
praying,
parading…
 

…beautiful fabrics, baskets.
 
…restaurant art.
 
….and other art.
 
 
Slow down. You’ll get there faster.

 

So walk slow, and listen.The only way to get to the places that matter is to slow down.
 
But maybe the real art of travel is in the art of letting go.

Letting go of expectations…agendas….maps…heavy clothes…your I-phone…

In your own self-deprecating way, of course.
 

Which brings us home. 

(Bet you never thought I was going to get there.)

To spaces that are maybe not as large as we would have hoped, or could afford, or have selected.

Like our chosen travel destinations, small-space living asks us to be a bit more demanding about what we need to get out of it.

We need to think beyond the single, conventional purpose and ask ourselves, “Am I using everything to advantage?” 

Just because an item was designed for one purpose, doesn’t mean that’s all it can be used for. If each room or piece of furniture or room only fulfills one purpose, it’s not working hard enough.
 

Photos courtesy of IKEA
 Now if you have lived on this planet as an adult for more than two decades, then it is highly probable that you have quite the accumulation. Nowadays people are a bit more aware of how much stuff they have because it is beginning to be a bit of a social stigma.

There is a name for these people. Hoarders. Back in the day, they were just called grandmas.

There are probably items that need to go — chairs, sofas, tables, lamps, umbrellas, shoes, your Grade Six photo— heroic for having lived life in happy or unhappy homes.
The best way to get rid of things you don’t need is to get rid of things you don’t need.

I don’t blame you if you need a minute to process this information.
 

Till next page…

 

Stay in your Lane

The meme, “Stay in your lane”, started with a controversial post by Luis Rosias, which basically meant, “You are beneath me, and I would prefer that you do not trouble me with your inferior life and petty problems, thank you very kindly.”

In other words, don’t challenge people who are better than you – you are wasting their time.

Ever the contrarian, I prefer to think of the meme this way.

ONE. Do what you do best. Play to your particular skills and experience.

And TWO. Slow down. There is no immediate need to pass that particular person at that particular time.

Unless of course, someone in your car is having a baby or you are out of red liquorice twists.

But the high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy – Hermann Hesse

Now what I know next, I know mostly from various unreliable sources.

1. Pick a lane.

These days we seem to be living by the motto, “As much as possible, as fast as possible.” We seek to be entertained, rather than entertain ourselves – or others. We then wonder why we continually feel dissatisfied, are left yearning, feeling less and less joy.

Know that if you are not content, there is nothing to buy this weekend that can change that.

We are barraged (and addicted) to social media that is constantly imparting the message that everyone is living an exceptionally exciting life, while ours is downright mediocre at best.

Knowing this not to be entirely true, (Yes, your best friend is now just jetting off to stay in a butler-attended overwater bungalow in the Maldives), is alone significant and consoling.


According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003.

That’s about five exobytes of data a day for those of you keeping score.

You might need a minute to process this information.

One reason that you may now be feeling a disquieting desire to move to a remote village in Latvia may be that questionable paint colour on your bedroom wall.

Or the fact that you can’t confidently entertain in your living room.

Or truly relax with a good book in a superb chair.

Or have run out of names for all your dust bunnies.


2. Get help if you’re lost.

Now if you have read any of my prior diatribes on my inability to find my car, my way home, or The Road to Ithaca, you may choose to skip past this section.

I think what overwhelms most people is that it’s hard to pick a lane to get started in.

Is it your overstuffed and unorganized closets, your old living room furniture, no space to do crafts, or the lack of storage in your home office?

Or have realized that your living space is not a storage space, and that 25 pairs of jeans is 20 pairs too many.

So get help. The best quality help you can find. They can help you drive in your desired lane, as well as avoid wrong turns, dead ends, fines, and potholes.

I know it all started the moment I entered your life…but you just have to stop living on the cutting edge of ecstasy.

‘Nough said.

Your home should be a place where you can live the life you want.

3. Research the Roadway

It’s kinda like a dry run before you have to show up to give your first Toastmasters speech.

This means thinking about how you want to live and feel in your home.

It’s thinking about what you want to do in your home and how to accomplish it.

You don’t need your home to be camera ready for Architectural Digest, have it look like a luxury hotel room, or decorate it for the gala event of the century.

Design success comes down to being confident in your choices.

Some people decorate for resale. Others try to reproduce what they saw on HGTV, their neighbours home, or reproduce the look they saw on the showroom floor.

What you need to do is make room for what really matters, to identify what is and what is not working, while wondering whether white shoes are ever really a tasteful choice.

4. Pick an estimated time of arrival.

This will help ensure you don’t get disillusioned because your plan is taking too long to yield results. If you’ve done your research/budget, you now have good information about how long it might take to get where you’re going.

Make your plans to match something reasonable and rhythmic.

Commit to your plan and stick with it for the duration or until you’ve reach your destination.
5. Enjoy the ride.

Don’t be distracted by other crazy drivers that seem to be outstripping you on the roadway. They all too often get caught in a traffic jam or get in an accident by rushing.

Besides, you might be right behind the car that when it turns off, you’ll go miles ahead in your journey – faster than you imagined.

’til next page.
P.S. This blog would’ve been shorter if I had more time.

Estate Sale – Before and After

Living “Danish-ly”

Today is either going to be a high or a low depending on your current outlook and station in life.

I realize we are living in times that are fraught with controversy and I certainly don’t mean to cause anymore strife amongst us, but sometimes you just have to go out on a limb and talk about what really matters.

And, today, that is the return of sweatpants.

https://www.google.ca/searchq=sweat+pants+zone+door+mat&biw=810&bih=741&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj7zYGwqbnSAhXi7IMKHSHFDN8Q_AUIBigB#imgrc=uxxJlnhpdtb9NM:

Now what in the name of heaven, you ask, do sweatpants have to do with staging a home?

Not to be accused of trying to rescue sweatpants from sartorial disrepute, it is merely a launching point for how a home should feel when buyers enter it.

Comfortable and cozy.
But at the same time, sweatpants will never be chic.

Just listen to the name. SWEAT-pants. They are designed to sweat in. Not cool. They are casual and sloppy, baggy at the knees, fraying and dragging at the heels.

A little like we feel by Friday afternoon.

Craft Boner Home is where the sweatpants are Art Print

(You know I’m about to give a lecture on everything I know about staging, which takes about 37 minutes, but mostly centres on how I am doing at any given moment.)
Many of the homes I go in to stage look and feel like droopy sweatpants, instead of comfortable and cozy.

The furniture is leaning around the edges of the room like wallflowers, little pieces of art are hung haphazardly on the wall, and closets are cluttered with, you guessed it, too many pairs of sweatpants.

So what is a stager to do?

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of HYGGE

One of the most important thing in staging a home for sale is setting out scenes of comfort.

The Danes know a thing or two about this, and it starts with one small word, HYGGE: roughly translated to ‘cosiness’.

For the Danes, it’s all about creating an ambient atmosphere and enjoying the good things of life: some material, some more important.

It’s the feeling of hands cupping a warm mug of tea; sheepskin rugs thrown over chairs; glowing candles and lamps; conversation around the fireplace and cinnamon buns fresh out of the oven.

Although imperative in staging a home for sale, hygge is hard to pronounce, especially if you’re eating a cinnamon bun.

Winter is the most hygge time of year. Yes, it’s STILL winter.

So now is the opportune time.
So how can you create hygge in your listings?

http://cdn.homesthetics.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/How-To-Add-The-Cozy-Feel-To-Your-Home-homesthetics-5.jpg

“Hygge” Ideas:
fluffy towels hanging in the bathroom
a thick down duvet on the bed with a cashmere blanket folded at the end
candles on the fireplace mantle
a stack of books on the night table
a tray of gourmet hot chocolates, coffees or teas, and sweet cardamon jam set on the kitchen counter
a bowl of popcorn in the family room
soft music playing in the background
a floor lamp beside a comfy reading chair draped with a nubby throw
fresh flowers on the dresser
a pair of sheepskin slippers set by the bed

 
Could all of this be any more hygge?

And by the way, no, you can’t use showhome pictures on MLS for your listings.
You might need a minute to process this information.
I don’t know when in Exodus, Moses says, “We’re out of here.” But I’m just so hoping it was on a Monday.

To Victoria, with Love

Victoria, B.C.

 

It was a day of mismanaged expectations and mysterious chocolates.
In other words, if you ever see me at Bernard Callebaut and I’m about to put five packages of ganache cream chocolates in my cart, please stage an intervention right there in the aisle. Thank you in advance.
I was there to style, source materials, and all be an all around design genius for my client’s newly purchased condo. Looking like forty miles of rough road, in that I had to be up at 5 am to catch the first bird out, I was greeted graciously and soon whisked away for nourishment.

 

 
Victoria is a city of gourmand and visual delights set against a background of sea and sky, peppered with shops to engross the most skeptical and reticent shoppers.

Sprigs of new growth shoot up intermittently through damp soil, paired with tentative, brave blooms, the rest waiting, timorous of another hit of snow.

The textures and nuances of green overwhelms! Mosses, evergreens, foliage. They revive, restore and renew – nature’s neutrals.


Any Canadian who drops in at this time of the year elegiacally resists perusing the real estate section of the local paper.

Given I had a multitude of days to complete my assignment, we decided that our sole purpose that day would be to purchase a few scant provisions to augment upcoming meals.

But true to form, we soon got on a tangential course sidetracked by the usual.


…a clothing store filled with a cornucopia of jackets and shoes. (You all know how I feel about shoes.) Yup, bought a pair…and a pair of vintage gold earrings and almost a jacket.

Next door a bookstore, which took another hour, and then – how is it possible to walk by the storybook wonder of Murchie’s Tea without buying a package and imbibing in a piece of passion fruit chocolate cake?

We then came to the most fabulous Good Will store in the world and fell in love with two chairs that were aching for a bold upholstery fabric. We hauled them down the street to an upholstery shop and pursued books of fabric samples until we found the perfect one.

They’ll be ready in four weeks.
And the masses and abundance of fresh flowers!

Between you and me, I think there should be a law against plastic flowers in Victoria. It’s scandalous.

One only needs a bit of patience or a few pennies.

We then purchased tickets for a play for that night, took photos of totem poles, slipped into a delightful coffee shop to sip a cappuccino and share an almond croissant, unearthed an antique train set for a son-in-law, and finally an art gallery where we settled on a small oil and a felted rooster for the fireplace mantle.

We were back home when we remembered that we forgot to buy the food.

 

Usually I’m so organized, sometimes I think I should just be put in charge of the world.

So I called my five days in Victoria, The Art of Carefree Timelessness (time spent together without an agenda).
Any relationship thrives when this is done on a regular basis. Nothing is to be gained by hurrying, the sure mark of an amateur. And most everything is to be gained by its converse.

There are so many trying to get somewhere, to get something done. They have longer to-do lists that time for the people that mean the most to them.

And the time passes, the day never to come again.


The Danes know a thing or two about living life well and it starts with one small word: hygge, which roughly translates to ‘cosiness’. It just might be the recipe for a better lived life.

Hygge is more than just a decorating philosophy, it is about creating an ambient atmosphere and enjoying the good things of life; some material, some more important.

It is a philosophy for the Danes that enables them to also understand the importance of simplicity. It’s prioritizing their lives with time to unwind and slow down with good people, camaraderie, and general well-being.

A glowing fireplace or candlelight can be hygge. A comfortable reading chair with soft music playing in the background. A down comforter.

And a great pair of shoes is definitely hygge.