The Hidden Magic of HGTV Design Shows

The Hidden Magic of HGTV Design Shows

We all love those HGTV design shows. Whether it is “Love It or List It”, “the Property Brothers”, “Good Bones”, “Mountain Mamas”, or a rerun of “Fixer Upper”, we absorb their contents with joyful passion.

I recently enjoyed a “Love It or List It” marathon. Episode after episode confirmed the fact that when homeowners want to move or engage in a significant home remodel, they invariably mention that “the space no longer works” for them.

After this fact has been established, we then see the interior of these houses and most of the time we see a cluttered space that gives the impression that truly the space does not work for the family anymore.

Typically, the common denominator in these homes is the clutter. Why does the space “stop working” for a family? What does that even mean? Maybe homeowners have stopped trying to conform to the space they have and instead, have gone out of control holding on to much more stuff than they need. Maybe they have stopped objectively looking at their possessions altogether. Things accumulate without anyone noticing and one day they realize there is stuff everywhere and many things can no longer be put away, or they cannot even use certain spaces because their stuff occupies such space.

Do not take me wrong. I love these shows the same as everyone else. In particular, “Love It or List It” is fantastic. The dynamics between David and Hillary are wonderful, and this is one of the few shows where you see the Designer really fighting for a budget to be able to deliver her proposed plan. I have never understood the budget distribution on these shows’ renovation projects. How can $100,000 completely renovate a home, including a whole new roof (and I don’t mean shingle replacement, I mean removing the entire existing roof where you can see the sky, and replacing the whole thing – like I saw on “Mountain Mamas”?)

But back to my main idea, what is so interesting to point out about these shows is that it would be impossible to present, and truly appreciate, the “reveal” of the new spaces if it was not for staging.

Staging plays a fundamental role in the final product. Obviously, the initial clutter is gone because homeowners move out of the property during the renovation. But at the time of the reveal, we see that every area has new furniture, accessories, even plants and flowers- everything perfectly appointed and that goes flawlessly with the new concept. Well, of course it needs to be like this. Nothing less will do.

But the point is that what we see is none of the homeowners’ belongings in the space. We see hanged clothes in closets, for example. It is a carefully curated selection of clothes that barely occupies the space. And just like the clothes and shoes in the closets, we do not see the real toiletries in the bathroom, or the real contents of the living room cabinets or kitchen dishes or an over-abundance of forgotten appliances.

What would the end-product look like with all the homeowners’ stuff and their original furniture? Not quite as impressive for sure. What is the missing link here? The part they do not discuss is the staging involved.

For the homeowners to move back in and have this wonderful layout “work for them”, they would need to flex those long-neglected organization muscles. Otherwise, the place will very shortly stop working for them again. No matter what changes are made in the space, if life is not lived considering the space available, and belongings are not kept in check and managed, no HGTV design wonder will help in the long run.

So, the hidden true hero in those HGTV homes we love is the staging. For obvious reasons, the staging needed for the big reveal cannot be discussed in the show, or the focus on the design would be shifted.

Rest assured though, without staging, there would be no big reveal whatsoever. Staging does not seem to be compatible with day-to-day normal living. Unless we look past the design and into the way the home gets organized around the space available, the shine of the big reveal will fade as soon as clutter returns.

These HGTV shows do not discuss that for homeowners to continue being delighted in their wonderful new space when all staging props are removed from the scene, they had better reconsider the amount of stuff they keep and how everything is stored in their house. That is precisely what organization is about.

Staging is the true hero on these shows, but organization is ultimately what can make the magic stay alive once reality sets in and homeowners’ stuff makes its way back into the house. Clutter the area again and nobody will care about, or even notice the wonderful design that once took their breath away.

There are very valid reasons to want to move or renovate a home. But when it is just a matter of the “space no longer working for us”, maybe the costs and complexities associated with renovations or moving could be avoided if organization is given an honest chance. When organization is given an honest chance, then it is possible to live in a staged home worth a design show reveal any day of the week.

As an organization expert, I wish to show homeowners how they can permanently live in a state of bliss with their home environment. They can have a home and a space they truly love for its functionality and beauty.

And speaking of organization experts, there is a new show premiering in late June on HGTV – “Hot Mess House”. It is about the organizing perspective in all of this. An organization expert is to be the central figure of this show (as in Professional Organizer). Finally, the recognition organization deserves! We will see what this new show will bring.

20 Easy DIY Home Projects to Spruce up Your Space

20 Easy DIY Home Projects to Spruce up Your Space

Is spending so much time inside making you go stir-crazy? Well with life outside seemingly on hold, this may be the perfect opportunity to make a few easy home improvements to transform your house into a nicer and more refreshed place to spend your days. From adding a pop of color to your front door to cleaning out your closet, here are 20 DIY home projects you can tackle to spruce up your space while you’re hunkered down.

green front door - 20 Easy DIY Home Projects to Spruce up Your Space

Put leftover paint to use

Many of us probably have an extra can or two of paint lying around. So why not use it to add some pizzazz and depth to your rooms with these DIY home projects.

1. Give your cabinets a makeover

Painting kitchen cabinets a fresh new color is a fantastic way to completely transform your kitchen. If you tend to be more adventurous when it comes to color, your cabinets are a great place to have some fun. If you already have a lot of color in the room or if the space doesn’t have much light, it’s best to go with white or neutral cabinets.

2. Make your mailbox the star of your front yard

Your mailbox is one of the first things people see when they pull into your driveway, so why not give your visitors a great first impression. Whether you live in a ranch-style house in Phoenix, AZ or you just bought a craftsman style  home in Portland , OR, you can instantly boost your curb appeal by adding a fresh, vivid coat of paint to your mailbox.

3. Add a pop of color to your front door

Changing out your front door can be expensive, so painting your exterior door is an easy way to give the front of your home a makeover and also save some money in the process. Painting the inside of your front door is also a fun way to add a bold pop of color and some character into your home.

4. Give new life to old furniture

If the paint is chipped or wear and tear has gotten the best of some of your older furniture, a quick paint job can give it a new life. Transform a dated (but functional) dresser, nightstand, or bookshelf with this fun DIY project for a fraction of the cost it takes to replace it.

bookshelf - 20 Easy DIY Home Projects to Spruce up Your Space

Clear the clutter

Getting organized can feel like a major undertaking, which is probably why a lot of us tend to put it off, and then put it off again and again. But since you can’t go anywhere, you might as well spend a morning or afternoon tackling the clutter you typically ignore.

5. Maximize the utility of unused corners with shelving

Running out of storage space? It’s time to finally make use of the corners in your rooms. Installing floating shelves is one of many DIY home projects you can try to create more space. It’s a simple way to spruce up your wall decor while adding more storage in your home.

6. Clean closets

Chances are, you’ve opened up your closet and grabbed one of the same few items since spending most of your time indoors lately. Now’s the time to carefully clean out your closet and decide what you really need from those you haven’t touched in a few years. Start by taking every item out, setting aside the items you don’t need, and cleaning the inside of the closet. If you’re organizing a closet full of clothes, sort clothes into piles by season. Put clothes that you’re not currently using in the back of the closet, like that holiday sweater. Keep frequently used items in the front for easy access.

7. Organize photos

In a digital age, it’s likely that most of us have our photos stored online. But for those that still have hundreds of photos stored away in boxes, now’s the time to organize them. Start by grouping photos by date or event. Use leftover flashcards or cut up pieces of printer paper as an easy way to separate groups of photos in boxes. If you already keep your photos organized, think about digitizing them. You can use Google’s PhotoScan app to scan old prints and upload them. Organize your photos online into albums to better keep track of them and finally find that picture of your puppy when someone asks.

8. Rearrange bookshelves

Bookshelves may not initially come to mind when organizing, but they can easily make a space feel brand new. Think about taking some of the books you’ve got hiding away in a back closet and swap them with the current selection on your bookshelf. Wondering what to do with that collectible mug? Add it to your bookshelf for a fresh take on your decor. Best of all, it’s a free way to change up your space.

9. Tackle under-sink storage

The last place you probably think to organize is under your sink. From the bathroom to the kitchen, it’s likely filled with near-empty cleaners, dishwashing soap, or even makeup wipes. Set aside 10 minutes to toss out those old household supplies, instantly freeing up space to make way for all that hand-soap and disinfectant you just bought.

10. Organize your pantry

You may or may not have months’ worth of groceries in your kitchen right now. Before things get too cluttered, take this time to reorganize your pantry – move things around to maximize space, group like items together, and throw away expired items. You may want to break down the work into smaller parts to avoid being overwhelmed. For example, instead of cleaning out the entire pantry, just do one shelf or area at a time. It will be so refreshing to see the pantry all neat and tidy with everything in its place.

light fixtures - 20 Easy DIY Home Projects to Spruce up Your Space

Transform your space with lighting

Nothing can change the look and feel of a room quite like choosing the right lighting. The perfect lighting can lift your spirits and make your home a more comfortable place to spend time.

11. Replace your lightbulbs

If you have a few extra light bulbs lying around, go from room-to-room and replace any that are burned out. You can also completely change the ambiance in your home simply by replacing any harsh white bulbs with calming yellow ones.

12. Switch up lamp shades

Lamps are commonly overlooked in the design of a home, but they add a lot of character and style to a room. So take a look at the shades on each of your lamps. If you have a similar size lamp in another room, swap the shades to give your space a new feel. You can also update a boring old lampshade with a few DIY home projects such as adding fun print or pattern, or a coat of paint.

clean bathroom - 20 Easy DIY Home Projects to Spruce up Your Space

Tackle those forgotten about cleaning projects
Since you’re spending so much time inside, you’re probably noticing all of the overlooked cleaning projects around the house. If you tackle them now, you’ll be rewarded with a living space that feels brighter and refreshed.

13. Restore rugs and carpets

By now, you’ve probably noticed that your carpets and rugs might not be in the same state they were when you moved in or had them replaced. Maybe you don’t even remember the last time they were properly cleaned. Even if you can’t hire a professional to clean your carpets, you can likely rent a carpet cleaner from your local hardware store or carpet cleaning company.

14. Clean under your bed

When was the last time you looked, let alone cleaned under your bed? This is one of those DIY home projects that everyone needs to tackle. The space under your bed is a breeding ground for everything from dust to forgotten items. If you use the space under your bed for storage, like seasonal clothes or extra bedding, make sure you’ve stored those items in vacuum-sealed bags to prevent moisture and mold buildup. Bed skirts also collect dust so throw those in the wash while you’re busy vacuuming underneath.

15. Refresh tile grout

Refresh your entire bathroom by cleaning and brightening your tile grout. Cleaning grout requires two things: a grout brush or sponge and a suitable cleaner. While there are plenty of store-bought grout cleaners available, it is just as easy to do this with ingredients you already have on hand, such as vinegar and baking soda.

16. Pressure wash your home’s exterior

Get some fresh air and restore your home to its former beauty by pressure washing the exterior of your house and hardscape areas. You can even bring back to life patio furniture and cushions.

17. Deep clean the refrigerator

With the extra groceries you’ve probably bought lately, it’s time for a refrigerator clean. First things first, throw out any leftover takeout or expired items. When cleaning your refrigerator, use a surface-safe all-purpose cleaner for the exterior and warmer soapy water for the interior. Be sure to wipe down surfaces before putting your items back inside. Keeping similar items grouped together when refilling your fridge will make finding your favorite condiment or coffee creamer easier to find.

wall art - 20 Easy DIY Home Projects to Spruce up Your Space

Rethink your wall design

Redoing your wall design is a fast way to transform the look of your living room, bedroom, or really any space in your house.

18. Rearrange or hang up a gallery wall

If you’ve always wanted to try to create the perfect gallery wall, this is the time to go for it. If you already have one, change it up to revive the space. Try pieces here and there: a new mix-up might surprise you and showcase your photos and art in an entirely new light.

19. Use empty frames

Go through the house, pull out any empty frames and put them to good use. Dust off those old photographs and display them proudly or find some printable art online. Hang your frames throughout your home or place them on tables, dressers, and desks.

20. Put old fabric swatches to use

When we think of fabric, we usually think of curtains, linens, or pillows, but there are plenty of DIY home projects you can do to turn a basic piece of fabric into a statement piece of wall art. So dig up any fabric swatches that you have laying around the house and put them to use. You can wrap the fabric around a canvas, hang it in a frame, and much more, letting your creativity soar.

Originally published by Redfin

Dog Days

Dog Days

If you know me or if we have worked together reclaiming your space, you know I love animals more than words can express.  You probably also know how I tend to the needs of my furry friends with the same importance and urgency I take care of my work.

When working with a new client with pets, I make sure those little ones have an adequate, clean and comfy place to sleep (I will celebrate big if I hear they sleep on the bed!). I will note where they eat and drink.  I will inquire about and observe the type of relationship my clients have with their animals.  I can’t help it. It’s in my nature to look out for these defenseless, loving beings.

Many have never noticed when I clean their companions’ bowls and feed them fresh food from their pantry and serve them clean, fresh water.  I try to be discrete to avoid my fellow humans from feeling self-conscious.

But today I’d like to say a couple of things about that.

  1. Feeding Bowls – Please wash your animal companions’ bowls daily with soap and water. It does not matter that you only feed your furry-friends dry food. Their dishes should be thoroughly cleansed daily.


  1. Water – Grant them constant access to fresh, clean, abundant water. Their water should be changed at least once a day.  Water gets dirty when they drink.  When changing the water, thoroughly wash the bowl so the new water stays fresh for longer.


  1. Food – If you feed your animals dry food, consider transferring the food to a sealed plastic container and place this container in your pantry (floor level). Food will remain clean and fresh this way.  You will easily know when to buy more, and the food will be accessible and easy to serve.  Do not keep their dry food open bag in the garage! If you feed your animals wet or raw food, it is even more important that you adhere to a schedule, so that the leftovers are removed after feeding time and properly stored or discarded.  In this case, food bowls should be washed after every feeding.


  1. Veterinary care – provide routine veterinary care, including immunizations, general check-ups, and professional dental cleaning at least once a year. Bacteria in the gums can affect their hearts! Spay/neuter your cats and dogs.  There are too many animals without owners out there.


  1. Bathing – Bathe your animals (if appropriate) at least once a month. I’m tired of listening to people say they don’t cuddle with their dogs or let them inside because they smell. Whose fault is that? What do you think will happen if YOU don’t bathe in weeks?


  1. General cleanliness – Even when bathing your animals regularly, homes with pets tend to develop strong odors when proper hygiene is not followed.  Wash their beds and clean their quarters as often as possible. Make this part of your cleaning routine (as in schedule it!)


  1. Microchip and ID collar – Microchip your dogs and cats. Don’t forget to register them in all possible national registries.  This will substantially increase the chances of finding your animal if he/she ever gets lost.  Keep their collar on all the time (with proper ID plate).  If your animal sleeps in the room with you and the metallic sound of their ID plate bothers you, consider following a routine to remove the collar last thing before going to be and putting it back on first thing in the morning.


  1. Don’t leave your animals outside – If you have chosen to share your home with an animal, then be a responsible owner and be kind. They deserve so much better from us.  They did not choose to be your pet.  You did.   Don’t get an animal to ignore them or leave them outside. They have socialization needs, strong feelings, and they too feel the heat and the cold.


  1. Adopt, don’t buy – Millions of animals need a good home out there! Don’t pay hundreds of dollars for an animal. Whenever money is involved unscrupulous behavior follows. Nothing good ever comes from seeing animals in terms of dollars and cents. If you only knew the horrors these animals go through in places like puppy mills (that supply pet shops), you would absolutely consider adopting instead of buying.


If you have the privilege of sharing your home with an animal, then honor that.  Honor them!

Don’t consider that a privilege?  Then allow someone else to give those creatures the happiness, care, and honor they deserve.

The Greatest Pitfall In Home Management

The Greatest Pitfall In Home Management

That laundry basket that does seem to find its way to its right place nor get empty…. Do you know that basket?

Families don’t have time to finish laundry.  Seems like cleaning up the kitchen is another problem for most people.  Laundry, paper and kitchen are the nemeses of so many!

The argument I hear over and over is “there is not enough time to keep the house in order”.   I think the problem here is lack is systems and lack of time management skills.

I started thinking about this the other day when I counted over ten car trips in a single day.  This was not an exception.  I have three children and I never had a chauffer, a maid, a nanny, or a cook.  There was a time in our lives (not that long ago), that I was averaging fourteen car trips a day.  And during most of my children’s lives, I have either worked outside the home or have been developing my business (and working with clients).

But in all these years, my home always looked and felt like the place you want to come to fully rest and recharge your energy.   This is to illustrate that my life is no different than yours in terms of time demands. I have no magic or external help.  What I have is good time management skills and systems. These are things we can all learn if needed or apply to the home if you already master them.

I have detected the most common pitfall of every “household manager” – not acting as a manager at home.  A good number of people do not apply to the home the same skill set that makes them successful at work.  Why not?

If you work outside the home, you have managed to keep your job.  Doing so has required you stay on top of things and not allow things slip through the cracks.  Regardless of the type of work you have, there are specific projects or task that are out of the ordinary, but there are many others that comprise your day to day.  Those tasks comprise the backbone of your job.  Whether you are supervising those tasks or executing them, the responsibility at some level, is yours.  If you stop paying attention, stop ensuring the processes happen and those tasks are thoroughly executed, things will go south rapidly.

Why can’t we all plan and execute like that at home? You might think it is because home is home and you want to rest and not think of chores and duties.  The irony here is that the more you think that way, the more chaotic your home environment will be and the less you are able to have a rest and relax at home.

Whether it is looking for the million things you can’t find in your home and buying duplicates (time, effort and money wasted), forgetting important family affairs, not having family time when you don’t even have a dining room table to gather together around, every single time you neglect your “duties” at home, a new roadblock is created that adds to the environment of chaos.  Not to mention the energetic shift that such chaos brings.  Are you sure your home is where you want to rest and forget about the stress of your job?

The first thing needed to run the home like a well-oiled machine is to schedule what needs to happen.  What get scheduled, gets done.

You would not leave it to chance or leave for “when you have time” to make those appointments with clients at work or write that report for the boss, right? Why not schedule house chores and involve everyone in the household? This way everyone contributes to the household (it is not a hotel, and Mom is not a maid).  Everyone will learn to execute all these domestic tasks.  This knowledge is very important.  Your kids don’t want to go to college to realize they don’t even know how to boil an egg.

Restocking Household Supplies

Restocking Household Supplies

It was New Year’s morning (some years ago).  As I lay half-awake in my bed, I saw my husband coming out of our bathroom.

“Good morning! Happy New Year!” I said.

His response almost caused me to fall out of bed laughing – “It would have been a much happier New Year if there had been toilet paper in the bathroom!”

To this date, I still laugh hard remembering the scene.

Joking aside, this is a situation that should never happen.  Oftentimes, we need a new bar of soap, but we notice when we are already in the shower.  Or we need a Q-Tip and there are none to be found.

I’d like to suggest we take care of restocking our supplies while doing the cleaning of an area.  It’s the same principle as changing the smoke detector batteries when the time changes.

The point is to be proactive and “schedule” the activity to ensure it happens before there is an unfulfilled need. That is the point of being proactive and scheduling things that need to happen on a routine basis.

If you schedule and proactively take on even the most menial of tasks at home, your brain will be much freer and your household will run like a well-oiled machine.

The Grass Is Greener….

The Grass Is Greener….

I think we can all agree we like this picture.

How would this picture look with boxes around, dirty dishes on the counter, half of the lights burned out, uncollected trash on chairs, breadcrumbs and all kinds of things belonging to the bathroom on the counters?  The magic is absolutely gone!

I like featuring beautiful interiors and exciting buildings on my feed to get my viewers in touch with their aspirational mode.

It really does not matter what you have or how expensive your home is.  If the space is all cluttered and/or dirty, no design in this world will stand out.

Don’t we all love staying in a hotel room? It might be because it is a new place, out of our routine. But I’d bet the neatness and simplicity has a lot to do with how we experience that hotel room.

It is the same magic that a perfectly staged, new model home exerts.  You might even purchase that same model home, but as soon as your big, disjointed, mixed-up moving boxes arrive into the space, the magic is gone as fast as it came.

The irony is that no matter where you live, you can have a place that excites you to the point of gasping.  You can absolutely be in love with your own place.

Yet, so many take their own home for granted.  They stop paying attention to details, they forget to repair broken items, they use their homes as storage space instead of living space.  When we stop really seeing our environment and stop keeping track of what we keep and why we keep it, clutter creeps up and disaster follows.

Hmm… that makes me think of relationships; like after some years of marriage, people start taking their partner for granted, stop trying, get bored, and simply don’t care.  What if we should try to keep the magic alive?

The grass is greener elsewhere?  I don’t think so.  Keep your grass green and enjoy it.