“A man’s home is his castle”, and “Home is where the heart is.” Just two of the hundreds of quotes that speak to the importance humans place on the idea of home. Libraries and book stores have hundreds of books on home improvement, decorating, design, architecture, and other housing-related issues; a search with the keyword “home” brings up almost 423,000 books on amazon.com; there are several television networks devoted solely to the topic; and most financial experts agree that the single most costly purchase a person or couple will make in their lifetime is that of a home. Most of us would agree that there are two aspects of “home” — the emotional aspect and the physical, and much of the time and money spent on the physical aspect is spent in an effort to influence the emotional aspect as well.

Home is very important to me, and I love being at home. While I enjoy travelling, when I am in the city in which I reside I prefer to be at home. In fact, my dream has always been to work from home so that I can spend even more time there! Now that I live alone, I want to create a home that reflects me, my interests, and my loves. One of those loves is simplicity, and even though I’ve downsized tremendously in the past 4 years, I find I still have far too much “stuff”.  This past December, I set a goal for 2013 to go through each room, the basement, and the garage and ruthlessly purge anything that isn’t used on a regular enough basis to warrant it being kept and/or that isn’t something I love (or at least “really like”).  I was so excited about this goal that I didn’t even wait until January 1 to get started! Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1. I searched amazon.com for a book that would provide both inspiration and helpful tips. I was extremely lucky to chance upon You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s really cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel. This fantastic book was just what I needed *and* it led me to another fantastic resource, Strobel’s blog, “Rowdy Kittens” (www.rowdykittens.com). I cannot say enough about Strobel and her writing without gushing, so I won’t even try.  Instead, I hope you’ll check out her blog and purchase her book.

2. Strobel’s blog in turn led me to Simple Ways to be More with Less, an ebook by Courtney Carver, another very inspiring woman. In turn, Simple Ways to be More with Less so intrigued me that I became a regular reader of Carver’s blog “Be More With Less” (www.bemorewithless.com).  Again, to avoid gushing, I will simply say that Courtney has tremendously impacted my life (more on that in a future post, I’m sure) over the past 5 months, and I hope you will check out her blog and ebook.

(Both of these women address simplicity from a broader perspective than just the home.)

3. While channel-surfing one evening last Fall, I came upon “The Biggest Loser”, the famous reality show in which contestants vie to see who can lose the most weight while living at The Biggest Loser Ranch and working out under the supervision of some of the toughest people I’ve ever seen! I don’t know why exactly, but watching the contestants survive challenges, the screaming and even bullying of their coaches, their own lack of self-confidence, etc., inspires me to get to work on my own personal goals. While some people might find that watching this show inspires them to eat better and work out, it inspires me to simplify my life!

4. Another source of televised inspiration has been the various “hoarder” reality shows. Just seeing homes which are so incredibly full of clutter (and, often, filth) and watching as the homeowners struggle to overcome their obsessive-compulsive behavior to have a clutter-free home makes me want to fill up a trash bag of stuff and throw it away.

5. I’ve begun working through each room of the house, removing items and either listing them on a Facebook sell/swap site for members of my large planned community or donating them to a thrift shop that helps support (through 100% of the proceeds) a safe house for women and their children. I’ve made quite a bit of progress and hope to be completely done by the end of June. I get a little thrill every time an object leaves my home!

Do you wish you had less “stuff” or even a minimalistic lifestyle? Or, like a dear friend of mine with a beautiful home that has appeared in several national home magazines, do you prefer to be surrounded by a variety of collections, knick-knacks, baskets, etc? You may, like most people I know, fall somewhere in between the two. Whatever your personal style, does your home truly reflect it? If not, I hope the following ideas will help you move in that direction.

1. Browse through home decorating magazines and books at your library and/or a local book store. Pay attention to the rooms that cause you to pause, that you feel drawn to. What similarities do you see between those rooms?

2. Check the television listings for your area and watch a few shows about home decorating and even house-hunting. These shows will allow you a glimpse into a wide variety of homes, where you’ll see a wide variety of home-decorating styles. Again, look for any trends in terms of preferences and even in what you don’t like.

3. You might want to do what a dear friend of mine did after she was widowed. Sunday afternoons had always been spent with her husband, and now those afternoons were painful reminders of his absence. She began going to realtor open houses in her hometown. She shared with me that not only did this help her get through a difficult time each week, but she also became more aware of new-to-her decorating styles, some of which she liked much more than what she went home to!  (On a side note, she enjoyed the open houses so much that she decided to become a realtor and loves her new career)

4. If you know that a particular style or decorating philosophy (such as minimalism) appeals to you, use google and appropriate search terms to find blogs and websites that hopefully will inspire you. For example, a friend who loves “prims”, has bookmarks for well over 50 sites devoted to decorating with primitives; she visits them when looking for inspiration and new ideas.

5. Spend some time browsing Pinterest. I’ve found some of my favorite rooms, as well as DIY projects, while browsing the popular site.

6. As you find pictures, DIY tips, etc. online, save them to a “home decor” board on your own Pinterest site. For magazine pictures, create an inspiration folder or bulletin board.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts on creating a home that fits you — your successes, challenges, tips and hints, questions, and anything else that comes to mind. If you prefer not to comment below, please email me at aliferedesigned@yahoo.com.