Some things come naturally to certain people: baking, drawing, decorating a room… For the rest of us, it takes an education. When I decorated my first house, I knew what I wanted but had trouble bringing that vision to life. I guess you could say I was overwhelmed. The daunting task of pulling together a space that wasn’t just a bedroom in a fully furnished house, seemed like an impossible chore. As with all things, it took practice, a few moves, and some divine (design) inspiration to finally feel comfortable decorating my home.

Whether your space is simply a room or an entire house, there are a few things I’ve learned about interior design to help you conquer your design demons…

#1: Personalize your space.
Your home (or room) should reflect who you are. If someone were to walk into your home, they should know that it’s yours. The best way to achieve this is by including accessories that reveal your hobbies and interests. What’s important is that you distance yourself from what the stores are telling you to buy. Often times we are drawn to ideas that are trendy or pre-done: “Of course this white lacquered elephant statue would look great in my bedroom!” But is that really you? Maybe not. Instead, aim for pieces that compliment your personal clothing style. You may be surprised to discover that styling an outfit isn’t too different from decorating a room. So take a look in your closet. What colors are you drawn to? Do you prefer mod or modern? Clean cuts or lacy ruffles? Use your taste in clothing as a style guide for your home–it’s an easy way to ensure your space is 100% you.

#2: Work with your surroundings.
It’s important to understand your design limitations. Be familiar with the size and scale of the room. Also, consider your environment and respond to it. Whether you’re in the city or the countryside, it helps to take a cue from your surroundings. In turn, you can narrow down your choices based on the context of your space.

#3: Keep comfort in mind.
Have you ever purchased a piece of furniture simply because it was pretty, only to discover that it’s painfully uncomfortable (or useless)? I don’t know about you, but I am definitely guilty of this offense. Nevertheless, the silver lining of this mistake is that I learned an important lesson: comfort is key. When I think of “home sweet home,” the first word that comes to mind is cozy. Making your home comfy and cozy is a must. Nothing is worse than going to a friend’s house and awkwardly balancing on their old shabby reclining chair. Your space should be inviting and comfortable.

#4: Stick with the classics.
There’s a reason classic is, well, classic. Incorporating pieces that have withstood the test of time gives you the freedom to translate them as your design style evolves. Using classic furniture, prints, and fabrics provides you with a basic foundation to build on with trendy or personalized accessories and finishes. Let’s say you find a gorgeous antique credenza or a traditional armchair. You love the shape and feel of the piece, but the finish or fabric is all wrong. In this situation, I say: invest! There are plenty of ways to transform an older, classic shaped piece of furniture. If it’s a sofa: reupholster, add throw pillows… An aged dresser: paint it! The possibilities are endless when it comes to updating a timeless piece.

#5: Less is more.
Keep it simple. You don’t want to overcrowd your space. If you edit the items in each room, the area will appear to be cleaner and even bigger. Just remember, you can always add more!

I hope you find my tips helpful the next time you find yourself face-to-face with an interior design project.

Stark white walls and a hodgepodge of teetering stacks of paper aren’t exactly the ingredients for an inspired workflow. Preventing your workspace from turning into a desktop disaster is crucial for productivity and sanity, but what about inspiration? What about color? I’m talking about after you’ve perfected your filing system and organized your clutter.

For many of us, a clean workspace or cubical just isn’t enough. When your eye wanders from your computer screen or drifts north of your paperwork, wouldn’t it be nice if it landed on something that made you smile? There are dozens of colorful desk accessories that can give your space a preppy pick me up. So let’s ditch that lifeless stapler and those dreary paper clips!

Take a peek at how you can make your 9 to 5 space a little more fun and a lot more stylish…

Coast through life: …With glitter! These eye-catching coasters are a no-brainer way to put some pizazz under your icy beverages. Kate Spade Gold Glitter Coaters Set ($35), Sip Sip Sip Skinny Tumbler ($13)

Cute clips: Go ahead and gift your coworker that jumbo pack of lackluster paperclips and prepare to become the coolest cubical in your office. These unique and adorable bow and tassel paperclips are total showstoppers. Courtnies Bowtique ($6)

Spike it: A little pink cactus is a refreshing alternative to flowers and it doesn’t take up much space. Plus, these spiky succulents are super low maintenance. You can pick from a variety of colors for just $3 at your local home improvement store.

The mini reminder: Let’s be honest, all those days between Sunday and Friday can pretty much blur together. This super cute desk calendar will brighten up your desktop, while keeping you on track. GingerPDesigns Desk Calendar ($12)

The chic caddy: This glam gold magazine/notebook caddy is perfect for housing your daily reads in style. Golden Glam Magazine Caddy ($29)

I’ve had a few people ask me recently what my secret is for juggling a career, a relationship, friendships, etc. I’m definitely still figuring it out, but one of my best tips is staying organized. If you ask me, a person can never be too organized. We’re all so overscheduled nowadays. And when you have a lot on your plate, organization is key. Life is bound to get busy and when it does, having your thoughts, space, and life in order can be the difference between success and failure.

Today I wanted to share 10 common habits of the most organized people out there. If you can adopt them, they are sure to bring a bit more clarity and precision to your life…

1. They write everything down.

Making to-do lists is a given. But for ultra-organized people, it goes beyond that. No matter how good your memory is, you’re bound to forget the small details every once in a while. So anytime there is something important you want to remember—from the name of the acupuncturist your coworker recommended to the funny short story idea that came to you in your sleep to your brother-in-law’s birthday—just write it down.

2. They give themselves deadlines.

The most organized individuals know that it’s not just about having a to-do list. It’s about having a specific deadline assigned to each task you want to complete. By checking tasks off by a certain time and date, you will avoid leaving anything important until the last minute.

3. They take breaks.

Stopping in the middle of the day to de-clutter your desk isn’t always just a form of procrastination. Taking a few minutes to catch your breath and get your space in order can help you be more productive when you return to the task at hand. So if you need a breather, go grab coffee if you must, but consider an “organization break” as an even more productive alternative.

4. They have a home for everything.

Extremely organized people won’t bring anything home unless they know exactly where they are going to put it. This means being more selective in what you purchase, and also having proper storage solutions. Here are a few creative storage solutions I love and some tips for organizing your craft supplies.

5. They have shared online calendars.

Organized people know that having shared online calendars makes for so much less back-and-forth when you are trying to schedule something. So consider syncing your Google or iCal calendar with your closest colleagues, family members, or anyone else who would benefit. And for times when you are trying to set a meeting with a larger group, I highly recommend using a scheduling tool like Doodle.

6. They have a detailed email filing system.

You might think it was a little bit ridiculous if you saw how many different folders I’ve created for filing my emails (er… 26). But the fact of the matter is that having a detailed filing system makes it easy to go back and find old emails in a snap.

7. They tackle one task at a time.

Trying to do too many things at once can lead to chaos. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a step back and focusing on one thing at a time. Prioritize the items on your to-do list and start either with the items that are easiest to check off or the most important. I promise that your to-do list will be cut in half before you know it.

8. They have less stuff.

The more stuff you have, the more likely it is to become disorganized. Organized people love to eliminate the clutter and regularly purge items they no longer need. This also includes learning to walk away from bargains. As far as the space in your closet is concerned, it’s better to purchase one investment piece you really love than five so-so tops you found on sale. Also, consider donating items you no longer need. It’s easier to part with your possessions if you know they are going to a good cause.

9. They delegate.

Asking for help is never a bad thing; in fact, it’s the quality of a good leader. Organized people know when it takes a team to get something done and are just as good at organizing people as they are at organizing objects.

10. They set their alarms 15 minutes earlier than they have to.

Being an early riser gives you some uninterrupted time in the morning to organize your home, your workspace, your thoughts or whatever else needs it. Not having to rush out the door also ensures that your clothes and toiletries won’t end up strewn across the floor or counter, and will instead be put back in the appropriate place.

What are the best tricks you have for keeping your life organized?

In most households, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s the place to whip up a healthy meal, bake a sweet treat, or mix a delicious cocktail. But it’s also the area most prone to mess. And since we take our spring-cleaning pretty seriously around here, today we wanted to share a few tips for keeping your kitchen sparkling. Follow the five easy steps below to ensure your kitchen gets a deep clean…

The Prep

Before you begin deep cleaning your kitchen, you will want to gather all of your supplies in one place. A secret that professional organizers swear by is storing your cleaning supplies in the room you use them. Not having to run to a separate hall closet will save you valuable time when you’re deep cleaning. Plus, it will make in-between touchups so much easier, too.  Using gentler cleaning products has so many benefits. They are safer for everyone (including pets and little ones), they are eco-friendly, and they don’t leave behind a residue or funny fumes like many conventional cleaning products do.

In addition to cleaning products, it also helps to keep a cleaning checklist on hand so that you remember to reach all the nooks and crannies of your kitchen. Also, never underestimate the power of an upbeat playlist or your favorite podcast to get you through the job. Having something entertaining to listen to will make the time pass so much faster.

The Sink

Most people’s least favorite part of cleaning the kitchen is doing the dishes. So it makes sense to bite the bullet and get that over with first! Load up the dishwasher if you have one, wash any pots and pans by hand, and then give the sink itself a thorough scrubbing. If your sink is porcelain, you can polish it with  Oxy Boost (turns out it has a few surprising uses besides laundry!). Before you move on to the countertops, toss half a lemon and a little white vinegar (or a bit more Oxy Boost) down your disposal to keep it smelling fresh.

For doing dishes, we use Palmolive. Doesn’t matter which scent. They smell so good that you might forget you’re doing dishes for a second and think you’re indulging in some aromatherapy!

The Surfaces

Once your sink is clean and free of all dirty dishes, it’s a good time to wipe down all of your kitchen surfaces. Keep a basket on hand to gather any odds and ends that don’t belong in the kitchen or just need to be moved out of the way temporarily while you clean. For granite and other countertops without grout, start with a squeegee (yes, like for window washing!) to quickly and easily sweep any crumbs into the kitchen sink. Spray all surfaces and the stovetop with a multi-surface cleaner and let it sit for a minute before you begin to wipe them down with a scrubber sponge. Letting it sit will help break down grease and grime, and soften any crusted on food. Don’t forget the backsplash, walls, and exteriors of the cupboards— Use a toothbrush to tackle any tough food stains around burners on the stovetop. Wipe dry with a clean cloth, and dust off any decorative accessories while you’re at it.

The Appliances

It wouldn’t be a deep cleaning if you didn’t get inside the appliances. Begin with your refrigerator, emptying the contents one shelf at a time. Toss out any food that’s past it’s prime,  multi-surface cleaner. Keep an open box of baking soda in the fridge and freezer to neutralize odors. When it comes time to clean the microwave, microwave a clean, wet, organic cotton towel on high for 3 to 5 minutes. The steam from the towel will soften grime, and you can then use the towel itself to wipe down the interior. Remove oven racks and give them a good soak in a sink full of warm, soapy water. If your oven has a self-clean setting, take advantage of it before wiping it down with the same multi-surface cleaner. Dispose of any crumbs that have gathered in your toaster or toaster oven.

The Floor

Remove and shake off floor mats outside. Give your floors a good sweeping, and then finish with your swifter. ( Well that’s what we do).It’s designed to safely break down grease, food, bacteria, and dirt without damaging your floors. The best part is that it’s is a rinse-free formula, which means no bucket of water sloshing around. Pay special attention to the spaces below the sink and oven, since that’s where water and grease spots tend to gather.

Finish by taking out the trash and loading any sponges and scrub brushes into the dishwasher to disinfect them. If you don’t have a dishwasher, microwaving them on high for one minute will do the trick too.

And voila! Your kitchen should now be sparkling from top to bottom.

Besides thinking up creative Halloween costumes and cooking up some of my favorite fall foods, one of my favorite things about October is that I finally get to add cozy touches to my home. My house looks different each season. In the spring and summer, it feels bright, airy and light. And in the fall and winter, it feels cozy, warm, and comfortable. The best part about changing up my décor is that it doesn’t take much effort at all. With just a few simple touches to each room, I immediately feel ready for crunchy leaves and sweater weather.

Without further ado, here are 5 easy and inexpensive ways to cozy up each room of your home this season…

1. For your family room: get a cozy throw blanket.
I love bringing out all of my softest and coziest blankets to snuggle up on the couch with during the colder months. Most people have a nice fuzzy blanket on hand, so this is a change you can make without spending a dime. And if you’re looking to spend a little on a fresh throw, opt for one that will feels like fall to get you in the spirit

2. For your dining room: change up your table scape.
In the summertime, I usually place a row of succulents down my dining room table with seashells scattered around. But during the fall, I like to opt for a warmer color scheme, using natural décor like pine cones, colored leaves, and white mini pumpkins. You can also add apples, squash, cranberries and candles into the mix for a fall feel.

3. For your kitchen: treat yourself to fresh fall flowers.
Just as some flowers seem perfect for the spring and summer months, other blooms, like chrysanthemums and sunflowers, are ideal for fall. Adding fresh flowers to your kitchen (or really any room in your house) will make it feel festive and fresh. I like to make sure I know which flowers are in season before buying a fall bouquet from my local flower shop.

4. For your living room: add candles to your fireplace.
A blazing fire adds the best cozy feeling to a living room in the wintertime. But since we’re in fall, a time that is a little spookier, I suggest adding tons of candles to your fireplace for a warm, peaceful feel. When winter rolls around, you will be excited to change things up with a log fire.

 5. For your bedroom: get a heavier comforter.
When the weather gets cooler, I like to swap out my lightweight summer bedding for my warm winter bedding. It’s heavier and cozier. If you can’t budget for an entirely new set of bedding this fall, just buy a cozy blanket and throw it on top of your comforter for added warmth.

No matter how long two people have been together or how much they’ve endured in their relationship, few things compare to the challenges they face when it comes to redesigning the house. You may think you know your partner inside and out, but strange behavior may occur when you’re making seemingly innocuous design decisions. Know this. It is totally normal but can be mildly alarming. To put it bluntly, if you aren’t the only inhabitant of your house, yours isn’t the only design style that counts.

I’d say that 99 percent of the time, redesign happens because one half of a couple decides they’re sick and tired of the way things look or feel. Usually it’s the nester in the pair who grabs the reins. A take-charge attitude can be a great thing, but keep in mind that whether you’re redoing one room or several, every member of your household should feel represented.

It can be nearly impossible to put aside personal prejudices when faced with your mate’s 1980s dorm room sofa. To you it’s an uncomfortable, ugly piece of garbage. To your partner it’s a reminder of being young and single and not caring what anyone else thought about the sofa.

Blending styles, tastes and needs can be tricky. This room shows how beautiful a mixed-style space can be. Adding a little bit of feminine with a dash of masculine creates an elegant and inviting room everyone can feel comfortable in.

Figuring Out What Works

Decide ahead of time what your objective is. Be it a quick refresh or a complete remodel, make sure that you and your partner are on the same page about the project’s scope and cost. Unexpected meltdowns may happen during the design process, but you can minimize those by opening the lines of communication:

  • Decide what stays and what goes. If you’re asking your partner to get rid of things, be prepared to do the same. There has to be a clear give-and-take so no one feels that they’re being pushed out of the home or overrun with the other person’s design decisions.

  • Make a list of things that require both partners’ approval, like a new television or dining room table. Larger purchases are usually a good rule of thumb. If it costs over X amount, both people need to agree.

  • Decide which items you’re both willing to concede on. If you truly don’t care about electronics but are obsessed with what they sit on, divide and conquer. Not everyone has the same love of throw pillows and picture frames, so figure out which things you can each contribute.

  • Learn to compromise. In a relationship you both bring unique things to the party. You might not love your partner’s Van Halen record collection, and he or she might hate Shabby Chic. Find a middle ground that you both can live with such as putting the records on display in the family room while working in a few Shabby Chic pieces in the guest bath.

  • Don’t confuse relationship issues with design dilemmas. A lot of pent-up aggression gets released during times of great change. Painting the living room walls shouldn’t degenerate into an argument over whose mother is worse. Don’t fall prey to stress and exhaustion. Get the rest you need and agree to table deeper discussions until after the redo.

Make decisions with love and respect. As much as you want to love your space when you walk through the door, your partner should love it just as much. Create an environment that reflects who you are as a couple and the life that you want to live. By keeping the lines of communication open, setting expectations and being willing to compromise, you can design a space that truly represents everyone who lives there.