I’m sure you’ve see the image of a psychiatrist’s couch.                        

The study of Design Psychology is, according to Dr. Toby Israel, an nationally known expert in this field, a little like “making buildings  lie down on a couch and telling her their problems.”

Of course, that’s a bit difficult to do. However, as individuals, we have the ability to speak for our homes and reveal whatever secrets are hidden there.

As it happened, I shared with you last week my own experience of personalizing a ‘home away from home’ while on vacation. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that I had touched on the relatively unknown concept of Design Psychology –those unconscious forces that essentially drive each and every design choice we make.

Not only in how we furnish our homes, but also what kind of home we are drawn to in the first place.

It’s that feeling you get when you first step inside an unfamiliar space and think “This is home!”

In fact, I’d venture to guess that anyone who has ever searched for a new house or apartment has had this experience. And for every potential dwelling that you walked away from – you did so for a reason.

At the time, you probably explained that vague feeling as ‘something didn’t feel right’

What we fail to realize, is that every time we find ourselves in such a situation it is usually something from our past that is speaking to us – something that says “No, this won’t do. Keep looking.”

What do I mean by this, exactly?



The ancient Chinese revered their ancestors.                                            

Perhaps this is nowhere more evident than in the ancient Chinese bronze vessels used for sacrifice.

These priceless objects were part of an elaborate ritual ceremony to commemorate the deceased, based in part, on the belief that one’s’ ancestors would continue to watch over you from the afterlife.

As long as you kept them happy, that is.

In those days, Bronze was an expensive metal, not easily obtained. It was reserved for use by the elite members of the aristocracy and upper class citizens – those that could afford to honor their ancestors properly.

Thus, by offering food and wine in these intricately carved bronze bowls and ewers, honor was maintained.

In our Western culture, we have a different set of customs that dictate how we honor our loved ones, and we do this primarily through family heirlooms and treasured keepsakes.

A common practice is to cherish an object that we know was previously loved by the deceased – such as an antique chair, a decorative object or other works of art.

It’s as if our loved ones live on in these keepsakes, and so, for sentimental reasons, we continue to keep them in our homes and our hearts.

However, at some point, we may need to ask ourselves whether these family treasures are still fulfilling their original purpose.

Do you truly love those keepsakes that you’ve treasured for so long? Are they inherently beautiful?

Or, is your devotion due to sentimental reasons only?


Losing Luggage, Losing Stuff

Earlier this summer, on a return trip from Hawaii, my luggage made a detour to San Jose. I live in Seattle, so while this was still on the West Coast, it wasn’t home. You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? That feeling of forboding when you are about to deal with some Unplanned Event? For any of you who’ve ever had missing luggage, you will know what I’m talking about.

True, it’s not the end of the world. Worse things can happen. And that’s precisely my point. Once I got over the initial shock of arriving home without any of my ‘stuff’, I slowly accepted the situation for what it was. I started to figured out how I was going to make do, and even went so far as to explore the worse case scenario.

What if I NEVER got my suitcase back? I wouldn’t be a happy camper, but I knew I would survive. After all, it’s just stuff, and that stuff can be replaced. I also realized it would be one, very large shopping trip. I started to make lists. As it was, I didn’t get my luggage back for three days, and I was never happier to see it again than I was at that moment!

If you really think about it, isn’t it silly how attached we get to our things?

Which brings me to those piles of clutter we all have in our homes, be it a closet, a junk drawer or just papers piled on a desk. We know we should set aside some time to sort through everything and either get rid of it, donate it or better yet, recycle it. Yet we don’t.

There are any number of reasons why. We’re too busy. It’s too overwhelming. Maybe we’ll need it again – someday? Some things have sentimental value, and that’s a different story all together.

I have worked with clients who were downsizing from the family home into a small condo, or retirement home, and it can be a major project sorting through years of accumulated belongings, trying to decide what to keep and what has to go. There are family heirlooms and so many memories – some good, some bad.

Whether you are downsizing or remodeling or gearing up to re-design the rooms you live in, give yourself time, first, to thoroughly contemplate the situation. Then be ruthless. If it is out of date, invokes bad memories, or is simply old and falling apart – get rid of it. Consider re-cycling, giving to other family members or donating to charities.

Some things will always be non-negotiable, and that’s fine. Those are the things that make you happy, that nurture you and are part of who you are.