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  • August 18, 2022 11:19 AM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    This month it is important to work with your budding student to get them ready for the big day.

    First day of school - how exciting!

    Every child is different, so you need to focus on what is best for your child.

    Will they adapt well to getting up early, getting dressed, and being out the door?

    A new morning routine should start a few weeks before the beginning of school so that it will be one less new thing to conquer.

    Do they know where they are going?

    Visiting the school and classroom, if possible, before the first official day will help ease the nerves of most little ones.

    Hopefully, you’ll be able to meet the teachers, walk the halls, and check out the playground and the cafeteria.

    Discuss their new schedule with them.

    Will they go to a before or after-school program?

    Where will they be picked up and dropped off?

    By whom?

    How will your family’s evening schedule change?

    Do you need to set aside time for homework?

    Will bedtime change?

    This takes work from all involved.

    You will have the most success if you have a plan and begin implementing it before the big day.

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl

  • June 27, 2022 6:40 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization 

    Do you know that we receive more mail in one day than our grandparents received in a month? These days, it seems like an endless task.

    The post office does a pretty good job of delivering a pile of decisions to you every day. On average, it takes ten minutes a day to sort through your mail and make those decisions. Should I keep this, can I throw away that? Do you have the time to ponder these questions for every piece of mail you carry in your home? Do yourself a favor and make helpful changes now.

    Decide to toss the junk as fast as you can. Pretend those envelopes have been sitting in your oven all day, instead of your mailbox, ready to burn your fingers. Remember “stop, drop and roll”. Use this lesson, ‘stop’ at the trash can or recycle bin, ‘drop’ the fliers, coupons, and anything else that’s junk, and ‘roll’ away with the important stuff. You should have much less in your hands to deal with.

    Try this method with the mail that has piled up inside your home. Instead of ten minutes a day, try adding five more minutes to that time to make it fifteen minutes to help get through the backlog. Slowly you will see the pile decrease until it is gone.

    Use these unsubscribing services to alleviate some of these decisions:

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.



  • June 27, 2022 5:54 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    have a small collection of glass vases. You know that kind that you get filled with delivered flowers. they are nice, but not as nice as the few crystal vases that I own. I never want to just toss them, so usually, I donate them. But every once in a while I want to keep them. How about you? Do you do the same?

    Here are 10 ideas to repurpose those glass vases.

    1. Use a vase outside to house a fat candle. The glass will prevent the flame from being blown out by the wind.
    2. Collect coins inside a vase. Place it near the front door and encourage everyone to toss their spare change inside when they enter the house.
    3. Serve a summer salad in a vase. You’ll make a beautiful presentation by layering a salad in a glass vessel.
    4. Use a vase as an ice bucket or to keep a bottle of wine cold for a party.
    5. Place a vase on your bathroom vanity to store jewelry or makeup inside.
    6. Replace your utensil crock near your stove with a vase for a modern look.
    7. Re-purpose a collection of vases on your desk to hold office supplies like pencils and pens, paperclips, or rubber bands.
    8. Display a collection by filling a vase with marbles, seashells, or whatever you love and want to show off.
    9. Decorate for the holidays by displaying jelly beans in the Spring and Christmas tree ornaments in the winter in a glass vessel.
    10. Offer healthy nibbling by placing fresh fruit in a vase and leaving it on your kitchen counter.

    In what ways do you repurpose your collection of glass vases?  Or are you ready to donate them to your local charity?

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.


  • June 27, 2022 5:19 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Samara Goodman

    Samara Interiors

    Have you ever wondered how to incorporate family heirlooms and sentimental furnishings into your home decor in a way that looks updated and intentional? At Samara Interiors, we love expertly blending old and new items to create beautifully curated design. 

    WHAT IS CURATED DESIGN?

    Curated design appears as though the decor has been collected over time and put together with a sophisticated design eye rather than overly planned and straight off of a catalogue page. Well-curated interiors are carefully and intentionally pulled together. This Thoughtful  planning results in interiors that reflect the homeowners personality, a.k.a. client-centered design, and with clients loving their spaces. One client told us that they "feel happy every morning" when they come downstairs and see the space we designed. Another client told us that they feel relaxed each time they arrive home and open their front door. Other phrases, such as "It's so us!" and "I love that my grandmother's chair in that new fabric works in my space," let us know that we have accomplished this goal.

    ANTIQUES


    What is the difference between antique and vintage items? Put simply, an ANTIQUE is an item that is at least 100 years old. VINTAGE refers to a younger item, typically at least 20 years old. In the article 'New Uses for Old Things' in Worthwhile magazine, Sarah Reeder of Artifactual History Appraisal offers fantastic suggestions on how the most commonly encountered antique and vintage furnishings can be repurposed in a new way. In the well-curated living room below, we strategically mixed the client's INHERITED items, such as the stunning art and beautiful dark wood furniture, with a contemporary rug, sofa, and custom-designed new fireplace. In the art-inspired dining room beneath, the client's antique grandfather clock was just the right size to flank the doorway in perfect balance with the modern artwork. Bonus – having sentimental pieces such as these invokes meaningful memories.

    BLENDING 

    Creating a well-curated look involves thoughtfully picking out new furnishings and mixing them with older items such as art, furniture, and accessories. Often, these are items that you already own and love. The 'How To Incorporate' box below highlights our top three tips. For a one-page GUIDE with specific examples on blending the old and new, please see this Samara Interiors Decor Guide.

    STARTING NEW

    When a client does not already own antique or vintage decor, we rely on the Samara Interiors 'Design Style Assessment' to determine the client's design likes, dislikes, and style. This allows us to acquire antique and/or vintage decor that reflects the client's personal taste. Starting with a BLANK SLATE  is a 'problem' that we love to solve! It allows us to shop in some of our favorite places such as auctions, vintage shops, and antique shows. For many clients, we seek out original art that complements their style and elevates the depth of the decor, such as in the images below.

    YOUR HOME

    This phrase, attributed to the British sitcom Ab Fab, is a fun one to keep in mind when decorating. To us, this humorously captures the principle that a home looks best when it appears as though it has been curated over time. Not every home needs furnishings that are technically older than the homeowner, but a well-curated home will definitely not look as though all furnishings were recently produced and purchased. 


    For more information, contact Samara Goodman.



  • May 22, 2022 1:46 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    May 22, 2022



    Recently, I was on my way to a client’s home. We were finishing up the transformation of his home office. Like many of my home office clients, he had compiled a bunch of mismatched, inexpensive pieces to furnish his office space. This client is a busy man with lots of paperwork attached to the various business ventures he is involved in. He was in great need of different furniture that would make his space function better.

    Why do we do this?

    We spend on the furniture that fills the rooms of our homes that we seldom use, like a formal living room and dining room. Typically these are spaces that we use for guests. At the same time, rooms that we spend hours in each day, hold our cast-offs. The stuff we didn’t want to get rid of but doesn’t really work for us.

    What does this say about how we are treating ourselves?

    If you spend a lot of time in your home office each day or you live in the family room or kitchen, look at how you are “living”. If you are putting up with furniture that doesn’t work for you it is probably making your life harder and more complicated. Think about changing things around. You will immediately see and feel a difference.

    Yesterday’s client now has a completely transformed office, with well-functioning furniture pieces. This will make it easier for him to work. Not to mention that the space looks great and he will probably enjoy the time he spends in the space much more.

    It has me thinking – maybe my home office needs a change?


    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.



  • May 03, 2022 5:23 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Samara Interiors

    Spring 2022

    Happy Spring! This newsletter presents ideas for how to display collections in your home in a way that honors your treasures and features them in an aesthetically appealing manner. Highlighting a client's special collection is a favorite part of decorating for us, and it is part of our design plan from the beginning. From bookcases and curio cabinets to gallery walls and coffee tables, your collections can shine!

    EDIT

    To highlight your collection best, PARE DOWN the items to your absolute favorites. Once this selection is done you can determine how much room you will need for the display. Only display the items that you treasure the most. If you are not ready to give away the other items, put them in storage. After editing your collection, display things according to these FOUR GROUPING OPTIONS.


    1. CLUSTER

    Instead of scattering all of your collections, go through and gather all LIKE ITEMS such as vintage pens, mantel clocks, ceramic figurines, or paper weights and group them together in just one area of your home. For example, we grouped all of one client's religious items into a curio cabinet with a gallery wall display above it. For another project, we used a mirrored tray to cluster and amplify a Limoges box collection.

    2. THEME

    We have numerous clients that are world travelers and highlighting their amazing travel-themed collections in their home decor is a treat. We love the look of grouping travel treasures from AROUND THE GLOBE all together as we have done with these two clients' collections.

    One client had lovely artifacts from various countries in Asia that we featured on a built-in bookcase in their family room amongst non-Asian décor to maintain a casual feel. Another client’s carefully curated global collection wows on a pair of oval wall shelf units. This client was thrilled to see the items expertly arranged in a thoughtful grouping that enhances their appeal. In the bathroom pictured below, we grouped the clients' Washington Nationals SPORTS MEMORABILIA in their second powder room and we complemented the collection by painting the walls in Nats red! 


    3. MATERIAL

    Instead of co-mingling materials, group all of your crystal vases in one area and all of your ironstone pottery in another. SEPARATE your leather-bound books from your canvas-bound books. For this client we gathered all of their brass candlesticks together and placed them on a side table where they accentuate the brass tones in the painting above.



    4. COLOR

    Display all of your blue and white objects TOGETHER in one space, as we have done with this client's ginger jars. For more blue and white collection display please see our Fall 2020: Blue and White newsletter here. Consider "rainbow arranging" collections such as all of your Lego creations; it will make more sense and be more pleasing to the eye.



    TIPS

    Our eyes enjoy symmetry and ODD NUMBERS, so arranging three or five similar items with the tallest in the center is visually appealing. For large collections with multiple colors, such as salt and pepper shakers, try grouping by both the cluster and color! For a one-page GUIDE on collection display, please see this Samara Interiors Decor Guide.


  • May 03, 2022 5:11 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    May 1, 2022



    We all spend a lot of time commuting. While it’s necessary, it’s just such a waste of time. Could it be spent getting something done?

    It could be used to an advantage that you haven’t yet thought about.

    Here are 10 ideas of ways to spend your commuting time.

    1. If you like to read then listen to audiobooks I find it’s more compelling than listening to the radio.

    2. If you want to learn something new then listen to podcasts. You might be able to catch an interview or a business lesson.

    3. If music is your desire then try Pandora or the plain old radio.

    4. If you like to be informed then listen to the news then you will be up on the latest happenings.

    5. If you are stuck in traffic and sitting still then make some business calls. Be careful, this may not be legal in your area.

    6. If you haven’t shown some love lately then call a loved one. They’d love to hear from you and you know you’ll get too busy once you get into the office or home.

    7. If you are a planner then take this opportunity to plan out your day. I do my best thinking in the car, maybe you do too.

    8. If you are carpooling then by all means get to know your passengers. If they are your kids this is a great opportunity to catch up with them.

    9. If you just want to relax then simply take in the sights. As they say  “enjoy the ride”.

    10. If you just need to relax then do nothing. Just breathe and drive. A little downtime could do you good.

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.


  • May 03, 2022 4:31 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Changing Where You Live On The Routine Spectrum

    Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing

    May 1, 2022



    The Story

    Part of my job as a Professional Organizer is to help people create habits and routines, and then stick to them. And I am great at doing that! In fact, my own life is filled with habits and routines that keep me on track throughout the day and week.

    But while I love my routine-filled day, I always marvel at those who take an hour to have coffee with a friend or even an occasional spa day. I want to introduce more flexibility into my schedule but my routines are what keep me tethered to a sense of normalcy. Without them, what would happen? 


    The Routine Spectrum

    My thinking led me to approach “Routine” as a spectrum. On one side of the spectrum is Flexibility and on the other side is Structure. There is a tendency for different neurodiverse brains to fall on different ends of the spectrum For example, when I organize with people who have ADHD, I often find they fall on the flexiblililty end of the spectrum. Because those with ADHD struggle with executive functioning, they need help creating structure and order.  On the other hand, when I work with people who live with OCD or Aspergers, I often find the opposite phenomenon. In their need to exert control, those clients tend to have highly routinized days and fall on the structure end of the spectrum.


    The Strategies

    So what do you do if your schedule is completely flexible and you want to create more structure? Or if, like me, your days are full of structure and you want to create more flexibility?

    Here are some strategies I created for those of you who would like to change where you lie on the spectrum:

    1. Mindfulness in your goals

    Yes, changing your behavior always starts and ends with mindfulness. In order to change, you first need to decide where you want to lie on the spectrum. What bothers you about your day? Which routines do you need and which ones are getting in the way? For example, perhaps you would like to have 2 days a month where you upend your work routines and make a playdate. Or maybe you would like to establish a morning routine because you feel your morning “gets away from you.”


    1. Ask “why” 5 times 

    The “5 Whys” techniqueis a problem-solving technique that gets to the core of your motivation. If you truly want to add more rigidity or more flexibility to your schedule, you need to drill down a bit. You can do this by asking a question, answering it, and then taking that answer and turning it into the next “Why” question. Here is an example of how it works:


    Why #1: Why do I want to establish a morning routine? Because I want to get something done in the morning.

    Why #2: Why do I want to get something done in the morning? Because I want to feel more productive.

    Why # 3: Why do I want to feel more productive? Because I feel bad when I don’t get things done by the end of the day.

    Why #4: Why do I feel bad when I don’t get things done by the end of the day? Because then I feel I am a failure as a parent.

    Why #5: Why do I feel I am a failure as a parent? Because I want to do more for my children.

    Motivation for a morning routine: I want to do more for my children

    1. Practice

    Look for small opportunities to implement change. Start small in order to create success that you can build on. For example, if you want to create more flexibility in your schedule, think about one fun thing you can do that month. Then the next month, aim for two fun things.

    1. Play to your strengths

    People can be hard on themselves. We tend to hyperfocus on our deficits with harsh judgment. For example, one person might say, “There is something wrong with me. I can never stick to a routine.” Another might say, “I am so boring. I never do anything spontaneous.” Turn that script around! For example, you can say “I am a caring person” and use your strength of caring to build a workout routine – go walking with a friend who can use the company. Or say “I am a great planner” and use your planning abilities to plan a fun day if you need time to adjust to a change in schedule.

    1. Be curious

    Lean into the “Power of the Pause” by reflecting on your attempts at changing your place on the Routine Spectrum. When reflecting, consider your goals, what happened when you tried something new, and how you felt about it. If it worked, consider the reason for your success and don’t forget to celebrate! If your attempt fails, consider why and tweak as needed. But keep trying! 

    In Conclusion

    Where do you lie on the Routine Spectrum? Where do you want to be? Which strategies resonate with you? Please share in the comments.


    For more information, contact Jill Katz.


  • November 09, 2021 7:53 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing

    November 9, 2021

    The History


    I missed my September Blog.

    I created my Organizing & Mindfulness Blog in March 2020 right before Covid hit. Every month since then, I have been faithfully publishing one blog at the end of each month. But when this September rolled around, insanity hit. I had so much happening - celebrating five Jewish holidays in a row (In order: Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret & Simchat Torah), preparing for guests, getting my two kids settled in school at home and abroad, and carrying my regular client load. So September came and went without a blog. And even though I preach self compassion to my clients, boy did I beat myself up about it.

    And it’s not just me who has this self-flagellating tendency. Countless times, I have shown up to a client session only to hear the client berate him or herself. Here are some common phrases that I hear:

    I am so embarrassed by this mess.

    I didn’t get to your homework. I am terrible.

    How could I let this room get so out of control?

    The Research

    Why are we so hard on ourselves? Psychologist Kristin Neff explains that we carry around these common misconceptions surrounding self-compassion and self-criticism:

    • We think that being kind to ourselves will stifle our drive to do better.

    • We think harsh criticism will push us to improve.

    • Our brain perpetuates the myth that “Perfection can be a reality.”

    However, in truth:

    • Self-criticism serves as a barrier to self-improvement

    • Harsh criticism is similar to corporal punishment: It will work in the short term but produce harmful long-term effects

    • We are by nature imperfect

      The Strategies

    So how can we break through these brain barriers and improve our practice of self-compassion? Here are some tips:

    Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is the first step in assessing your feelings and needs, an important part of any kind of compassion. How are you feeling at the moment? Are you hurting? Disappointed? Those feelings signal the need for self compassion.

    Connectivity

    We all make mistakes - attempting and failing is a universal struggle. Recognizing this imperfection in ourselves allows us to be more compassionate with others. For example, if I give myself a break when I am late to an appointment, I am more likely to treat others with compassion when they turn up late to our meeting. The next time you treat someone harshly consider: Are you perhaps intolerant in this area because you don’t allow yourself some leverage? Perhaps this is more about you and your feelings and needs.

    Practice

     Give yourself a hug

     We all know that “Practice Makes  Better.” (Remember, there is no such  thing as Perfection). But how do we  practice self-compassion?

    •  The next time you fail to live up to your  own expectations, say out loud. “It’s  OK, insert your name, everybody  makes mistakes” or “That’s OK, you will  do better next time.”

    •  Use soothing gestures such as a pat on  your own back or a self-hug, even a  shoulder kiss.

    • Speak as though you are talking to a friend or loved one instead of in first person (“You” or your name in third person instead of “I”). Studies have shown that we can think more clearly when regarding others over ourselves. Why? Learn more about the Solomon Paradox.

    In Conclusion

    In her Happier podcast, Gretchen Rubin shares that many teachers dub the first week of school, “Mercy Week”. During that week, teachers extend a free pass to any late students as they adjust to their school schedule. I have decided that September is my “Mercy Month” and am giving myself a free pass. “It’s OK, Jill - you deserve it!,” I am now telling myself. And don’t forget that YOU deserve self-compassion when you fall short of your own expectations.

    For more information, contact Jill Katz.

  • November 09, 2021 3:32 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Samara Goodman

    Samara Interiors LLC

    Fall 2021

    As we head into the fall with daylight decreasing each day, this is a good time to make sure that our homes have great lighting to keep our spirits bright year-round. Lighting is a critical decorating layer to consider in all aspects of home design. Whether you're lighting for mood, function, style, or safety, there are more options than ever to choose from. This article will look at the layers of lighting (general, accent, and task), as well as safety lighting and a brief overview of light bulb lingo.

    GENERAL 

    Most often, people think of CHANDELIERS as light fixtures for the dining room. But they aren't just for dining rooms! Consider installing chandeliers in a bedroom, walk-in closet, and over a freestanding bathtub. For more information on size, style, and placement of a chandelier, please see this Samara Interiors Decor Guide. PENDANT lights are sometimes used for task lighting, but often, they are used as a primary overhead light source. For that function, at Samara Interiors we prefer using clear glass to maximize the light output, as was done in the client's kitchen below. Other common overhead light fixture types are SEMI-FLUSH MOUNT and flush mount. These are typically used in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms. In both foyers below, we coordinated the style of the semi-flush mount fixture to complement the other fixtures throughout the home.

    Samara Interiors; Arlington, VA 

    ACCENT

    In both of the homes below, we used decorative TABLE lamps to enhance the clients' decor style. In the home with Southwestern flair, we found this eye-catching Jonathan Adler bullhorn lamp. In the Asian-inspired home, the client already had this lovely lamp that they had brought home from their time overseasIn the family room below, we placed these fabulous, contemporary, light-diffusing, 6 foot tall FLOOR  lamps to illuminate the corners while not blocking or distracting from the amazing view.






              Samara Interiors; Arlington, VA 

    TASK

    A critical lighting layer is FUNCTIONAL task lighting. Lights such as desk lamps, under-cabinet lighting, picture lights, and reading lamps provide directional illumination that will spotlight the task while causing minimal discomfort to the eyes. Good lighting is also critical for both security and for aging in place. Too much light is not visually comfortable and too little light causes eye strain and can be a safety hazard. For SAFETY lighting, consider lighting all staircases and steps, both inside and outside the home. Amber night lights provide safety lighting that does not interfere with circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. 


                                              Samara Interiors; Bethesda, MD & Arlington and Falls Church, VA

    In many of the photographs seen throughout this newsletter, one can see examples of ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING – lighting that is integrated into the rooms structure and is hard-wired as opposed to plug-in. This type of lighting is seen in many forms, such as recessed, spotlights, and cove. Architectural lighting can be used to create mood, to highlight artwork, or to function as the primary overhead light source. In the example below, we have used an LED puck light to illuminate the client's beautifully reframed artwork in the built-in niche.

                                                                                 Samara Interiors; Fairfax, VA 


    For more information, contact Samara Goodman.


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