Is Downsizing Really Necessary? Or is it New-Sizing?

By Barbara Kaplan ~

Our lives at home have changed recently, and since the beginning of this year we are looking toward our personal spaces to meet our needs in different ways. For many of us, our home has become our place of work, too, as well as our gym, restaurant, movie theater, vacation and so much more! So, for people who have previously wondered if down-sizing is a good idea, they might be torn between leaving their home or making some changes that would give them greater opportunity for a new direction.

I have always been uncomfortable with the term “downsizing.” It has always had a negative connotation for me. It’s really about change and what you want to do with the change. I believe this can be a time in life to begin anew, to reflect on where life has taken you and how we can create a setting to live in that is more suitable — a space that speaks of the changes that have occurred —  and a time to examine what is working and what isn’t.

Many people look forward to downsizing — moving from a larger family home to a smaller, easier-to-manage residence. This usually occurs when people retire or when their children have gone. They suddenly feel that their homes are too large to live in by themselves. Their needs are less, and they don’t want as much responsibility in caring for a home, both inside and outside.

Stop! Don’t rush into any decision. Look around and decide where you would like to live. Picture yourself living in a new neighborhood. Imagine having fewer rooms or less space than you have been accustomed to. Plan how you will arrange your life in the smaller spaces — which furniture and accessory pieces you’d keep and which ones you’d give away or sell.

If, on the other hand, you would rather new-size or right-size, changes can be made to stay in the same house that will give you the experience of a new home. Many believe it is a perfect time to redecorate or just make small changes such as turning a child’s room into an office or exercise room, closet with room for packing for trips or hobby room.

Many need larger areas when their families grow through the marriages of their children and then, of course, grandchildren arrive. When we return to the new normal, there may be more people around the dining room table and more time spent with visits from family. It might even be a time to entertain more and invite old friends to visit so that you’ll need extra bedrooms.

If the living and dining rooms are connected, they can be combined to create a great room for entertaining and watching television. The family room then can become a larger dining room. Using rooms differently may be enough change so that moving isn’t necessary. You might even examine the things you have longed to have in your home, such as a home theater, meditation areas, music room or library.

Often a face lift is all that is needed to give a feeling of newness. New flooring and paint, and rearranging the furniture is enough to create the desired setting. If you want to splurge you can add new cabinets and hardware.

True, this can be a time of starting over. And there are many ways to do this. Most importantly, it is the time to determine what is new for you.

Remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU do!

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based Holistic Interior Design consultant and the founder of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for the best of the best Design and Lifestyle Resources. Visit for more information.

Make Sure the Pieces in Your Environment Promote Well-Being

Click to read more about Barbara.

By Barbara Kaplan ~

Q: I am having a hard time deciding what pieces to keep and what items to “release.” I have many items that have sentimental memories, and yet they aren’t what I would have picked to live with in my current home.

A: Most of us have items in our home that have belonged to others. Because we are affected strongly, either positively or negatively, by our environment, I have helped clients understand how some furniture and accessory pieces, possibly with family history, may have an effect on them. Often though, these pieces are cherished, because of the relationship they have had with the people who gave it to them.

Many people live with pieces that may have been given to them, that they dread having in their homes, yet they feel an obligation to keep them. Sometimes we remember how much these pieces meant to the people who owned them before us and would feel guilty letting go of them, but they may give us feelings of sadness or anger or just nostalgia. These items may even be a burden to keep, because we have no place to put them.

Several years ago, I decided to sell a house full of antiques that had been given to me by my parents, who had been in the antique business in New York. When the shipper came to pick up all the antiques and prepare them for packing to the dealer who bought them, I asked the shipper not to pack anything until the next morning. Being apprehensive, it was important to me to see how I’d feel when I awoke the next day and not see those precious pieces from my parents. Much to my surprise, I had a sense of relief, not to have the lovely antiques I had lived with all my life. I realized that these pieces were my heritage, but not my taste. I am grateful to have had them and now I am able to decorate for me and make my own personal statement in my home.

When decorating your home be aware of how the objects you are placing everywhere make you feel. Do they bring you joy and look beautiful to you? It is a source of happiness and well-being to surround yourself with what you love to see. This way, loving thoughts stimulated by the environment will bring you calmness and serenity where you need it the most. If you feel good in your environment, your family and guests will feel it too. You create your environment and others will respond.

Recently, a friend told me (after reading my book) that she had decided to redecorate her bedroom. She began by getting rid of the pieces she didn’t like. She also told me that she had been totally unaware that those pieces that had belonged to her ex-mother-in-law were causing her stress. Once they were gone, she was relieved not having to see them anymore, and even slept more peacefully.

In his book, “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now. We don’t need to know or prove anything. Just to be, to take a risk and enjoy your life, is all that matters. Say no when you want to say no, and yes when you want to say yes. You have the right to be you.”

Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is tell the person gifting us that we don’t want something. Most importantly, we need to know how we tell this person gently; however, it’s better to tell the truth. Tell them that you know the piece is significant and lovely, yet it does not work in your environment. When the offering doesn’t fit, I have suggested that my clients take pictures of these pieces and put them in an album, or put the gift into storage, use it as a re-gift, sell or donate it.

Follow your heart in these decisions and live with the pieces that give you comfort, confidence and joy. Always remembering, “Rooms and objects have no feelings, YOU do!”

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based Holistic Interior Design consultant and the founder of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for the best of the best Design and Lifestyle Resources. Visit for more information.

Photo: Alina Vilchenko

24 Ideas for Comfort, Productivity & Well-Being Working from Home or Anytime

Click to read more about Barbara.

By Barbara Kaplan ~

Interior Design for Holistic Living benefits a person’s well-being by supporting their wellness of mind, body and spirit in regard to the all the environments they are in.

To feel that holistic living can support our happiness and productivity in our most personal spaces, we must discover why we make the choices we do. By asking questions and being honest with the answers, we can better understand our authentic inner-selves and we are able to benefit confidently when making design and other decisions.

Holistic design delves into our thoughts and feelings for an outcome that supports and nurtures to bring us success and joy.

Below are easy to follow ideas for taking better care of ourselves during this time of change and uncertainty.

  1. Avoid eating at your desk. Enjoy a break elsewhere.
  2. Have fresh flowers or plants by your desk.
  3. Use favorite writing utensils — pens, pencils, paper.
  4. Change your favorite screen savers often.
  5. Stand up every 20 minutes to stretch and walk a few steps.
  6. Whenever returning to your computer, wash hands and refresh your wrists and back of neck with cold water.
  7. When waiting for a call, new screen to open, or anything — take a few slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  8. Don’t wear shoes if you don’t have to.
  9. Wiggle your toes, ankles and fingers as often as possible. Do arm curls at your desk.
  10. Wear lipstick or, guys, Chapstick to keep your lips moist.
  11. Take a drink of water every 15 minutes.
  12. Change the chair you sit on, at least once a day.
  13. Alternate working at a standing desk.
  14. When on a phone call, pace as you talk. You can even schedule some phone calls for when you walk outside.
  15. While sitting, be aware of your posture and move it often.
  16. Stretch your arms, back and shoulders and notice when you start to slump forward.
  17. Be mindful of your body and move it when and where needed.
  18. Don’t twist your body or cross your legs when sitting at your desk.
  19. Don’t read doom and gloom emails.
  20. Play music you enjoy. Let the people you speak to on the phone overhear it too.
  21. Keep lights off, as much as you can and work in natural sun light from windows.
  22. Open all windows, as long as the weather allows.
  23. Consider taking your work outdoors, if possible.
  24. Stick to eating healthy food at mealtimes and curb snacks, unless they are healthy ones, too.

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based Holistic Interior Design consultant and the founder of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for the best of the best Design and Lifestyle Resources. Visit for more information.

Photo by aniawinter on / CC BY-SA

Create a Spa Room in Your Home and Make Stress-Free Choices

Click to read more about Barbara.

By Barbara Kaplan ~

Creating a spa-like atmosphere in your own home is an opportunity for personal pleasure and enjoyment.  First, you have to have an extra room to make this happen. If you are fortunate to have the space, you can create a get-away just for you, a place you can get a quiet and soul-satisfying massage or use for meditation.  If this is important to you, here are some things to consider and choices to make.

Begin by determining which room will give you the privacy you need — where you will feel safe from the outside world. A place that is quiet with no phone ringing or TV sounds from other rooms. Bring in a comfortable chair, meditation pillow or pillows to lie on. Make the floor a different color than the rest of the house. You can also make the floor extra soft to the touch of bare feet. Paint the walls in your favorite relaxing color. Perhaps you can upholster the walls with fabric for additional soundproofing and softness. If you have special or spiritual objects, you can display them on an altar. Finish it off with soft lighting and you have created your own private haven.

If you have a regular massage, choosing the time of day you prefer is significant. Mornings before you begin the day are great because you can then be energized for the rest of the day. Facing stress can be less difficult. Perhaps you prefer the evening to relieve your stress. Yes, this may be considered an indulgence — but what better gift can you give yourself in your own home!

Here are some helpful tips. Make sure the air is comfortable, not too hot or cold. If it is winter, it needs to be warm enough without a blanket, and in the summer, it is nice to have a fan blowing cool air over you. Personally, I love having massages on my back patio when the weather permits. The birds and running water from my fountain carry me into nature. A fan and a heater as I need it make the area as comfortable as possible.

It is also nice to have music playing at the right volume to soothe you. Loud music is jarring to the soul — music needs to be audible enough to take you to places where your mind can rest. Regardless of the time of day, have candles flickering near you. Even with your eyes closed you can feel the glow. Sometimes, lightly scented candles give the same effect as aromatherapy. Small vases with flowers are another treat.

One of the benefits of home massages is that you don’t have to get dressed afterwards. You can lounge in your robe and drink tea in your favorite cup or water in your favorite glass. You can do all this sitting in your favorite chair or get back into bed and take a nap or read. Of course, your bed is an entire article by itself. How soft are your sheets, how comfortable is your pillow and how inviting is your blanket?

When you have these experiences in your own home, the memory stays with you. This is one of the reasons it is important to be sure that when you are designing rooms in your home that they are a reflection of you. Create your rooms to serve you and make each environment one that will give you pleasure and personal fulfillment. How you do this is up to you.

Remember, rooms have no feelings — you do!

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based Holistic Interior Design consultant and the founder of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for the best of the best Design and Lifestyle Resources. Visit for more information.

Teaser Photo on

Why Choosing Fabrics First Is Best

Click to read more about Barbara.

By Barbara Kaplan –

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “the fabric of life.”  This refers to the human threads woven together from life’s experiences, which can also define our personal style. Understanding this leads to designing environments that are a holistic reflection of ourselves.

There are so many things to be considered when choosing fabric. Using different types of prints and textures together can make a personal statement. If they are very different, find a common thread to bring them together, such as repeating a color that connects them. Color is used as the magic wand to create continuity and mood in a room. It can make or break a design project. Along with the color on walls and flooring, the color you choose for your fabrics is the most powerful statement in your home.

When I start a new design project, I usually begin with fabric selection. This is a wonderful way to learn my client’s taste. As we choose fabrics, I begin to understand the colors, shapes and textures that please my clients and best expresses their personality and style. This also sets the tone for the rest of the colors and composition of the room. It’s important to always see a large sample of the fabric before making a final selection. Picture it as it relates to the entire room — not just the individual piece.

How do you begin selecting fabrics? First you must consider your lifestyle and the statement you want to make. Are you more casual, sophisticated, dramatic, whimsical…what is the function and style that best suits how you want to live? What mood do you want to achieve? What energizes you and what gives you comfort?  Consider all these questions before selecting fabrics for your furniture and window coverings. Your decisions set the tone for the rest of your environment. Your floors, your walls and fabrics all interact in the same space. So, select the balance between them carefully.

Next, your senses come into play. Do you want texture? How does it look and how does it feel to the touch when you’re sitting on it? Is it inviting and cozy? Some fabrics even make sound when you move. What about pattern? Do you like looking at florals, geometrics or solids? Do the fabrics stimulate your sense of smell and taste? Is there a particular period style of furniture to consider?

Of course, colors are critical! This may be the most important decision you make. Many of us are comfortable picking out colors and others are afraid of color. When choosing colors to live with people often are afraid of making a mistake. Picking out our wardrobe isn’t as large a scale or as permanent, but we can use those choices to help us be more confident making fabric design decisions. Interestingly, the colors we look good in are also the colors we feel good in. So why not surround yourself in those colors. (you can take the quiz on to find out your favorite colors and style, for free).

Practicality and durability enter into your decision, too. You must evaluate the use of the fabric for different rooms and who will be mainly occupying the space.

Most important, live with what you love and don’t be afraid to take a chance if something special appeals to you. Nothing has to be permanent, and should you tire of a choice, it can be changed. You and your feelings are the main consideration. Remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU do!

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based Holistic Interior Design consultant and the founder of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for the best of the best Design and Lifestyle Resources. Visit for more information.

Teaser Photo by ahisgett on / CC BY

Surround Yourself With What You Love

"What type of wood do you prefer – light or dark color; light or heavy grain; laminate or lacquer?"

By Barbara Kaplan

You may have received the e-mail quoting George Carlin’s piece titled, “How to Stay Young.”  In it he says, “Surround yourself with what you love, whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants and hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.”  At the end he adds, “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

I was moved by that and couldn’t help but think how we have an opportunity to make this happen every day – surrounding ourselves with what we love.  It’s in our home where this comes to life for us to express. Once we decide what makes us happy, we can make it happen.  Our home is the only place in which we have that kind of control.

The things we allow into our homes, our most personal spaces, are intimate and revealing. They give us the opportunity to feel alive. These are the possessions that speak to us consciously and unconsciously. This is one of the reasons you hear so much about de-cluttering, which allows us to breathe freely. So many of us live with items that have no meaning to us, yet we hold on to them for reasons we excuse.

When I first meet my clients they often tell me about their ideas of what they think they “should” do.  My tendency is to ask if money were no object and nothing else had to be considered, what “would” you do?  What is your ideal style of living?  Many of us live someone else’s expression because we just haven’t taken the time and thought to find our own.

This opens a whole new world. This change in thinking generally results in a different outcome.  We hold ourselves back from what we really want because we think we can’t have it; however, when we talk it out, things change.  This leads us into a new way of thinking – it gives us the opportunity to think outside the box.  And when you do, amazing things can happen.

As an example, a client came to me not knowing how she wanted her new home to be decorated.  She was feeling overwhelmed by all the decisions she had to make, knowing she had to live with her choices for a long time.

She wasn’t sure what she wanted to live with.  I encouraged her to only make decisions that were essential to moving into the house and wait several months until she was ready to decide how to move forward.  After all, her new environment would be filled with things she hadn’t experienced before.

Next we discussed the things she was sure about – the things that would satisfy her senses.  I asked her:

  • What colors are you attracted to?  Think about what you like and don’t like.
  • What furniture styles do you enjoy – French, Tuscan, contemporary, etc.?
  • What type of wood do you prefer – light or dark color; light or heavy grain; laminate or lacquer?
  • What metals and finishes do you prefer – chrome or brass, shiny or matte?
  • What kind of window coverings, serve your needs?
  • What floor surfaces do you prefer – hard or soft?
  • What sounds are important to you – bubbling water from a fountain or music?
  • What variety of textures do you desire in fabrics?

These details are the ones that help you feel your spirit in your home, your refuge.  When you do, you’ll create an environment that takes your breath away.

And always remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU do!

To find more answers and discover how you can create this for yourself, go to my website or Facebook page and read all about it. There is also a Color & Design Quiz you can take that gives 12 pages of results to help you find your design style and preferences.

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA, Allied Member ASID, “Interior” Designer – Color Consultant – Lifestyle Behaviorist. Barbara invites you to join her for weekly tours to local design destinations. Best of all it’s free and you will receive savings on purchasing. Visit or contact Barbara by e-mail at

%d bloggers like this: