Category: how to

11 Ways To Make Your Home Feel Happier + More Like You

Want to make your home feel happier? Of course you do? Click through for decor tips and design ideas that will make any space happier, cozier, and more personal
Many years ago, I went through A Very Bad Breakup. When my three-year relationship ended, I moved into an adorable little shoe box of an apartment and decided that this little place was going to be a bastion of joy and silliness and positivity.
Slowly but surely,  I happy-fied my apartment, making it impossible to feel anything other than glee while hanging there.

Here’s how I made my home feel happy + more like me 

1. Put up pictures of you and your friends being hilarious, adorable, amazing

Too often my walls are decorated with Etsy finds or tastefully abstract art. But isn’t it much more fun to cover the fridge and cork board with the photos of you and your friends wearing matching technical gear? Or hiking all over?

2. Make it smell happy

Aromatherapy is for real,guys. There’s a scent-treatment for whatever ails you. Buy an essential oil diffuser and then choose an oil for whatever ails you! Focus better, relax, or energize.  Smell your way better!

3. Paint an accent wall a color you love

Colors make a huge difference in how you feel about a space. When I moved into my apartment, it featured awful flesh-toned satin-finish paint on every blessed wall. No one wants to live inside a skin ball. But! Now it’s white with accent walls in a color best described as mermaid. And I feel so much better.

Choose a color that will help you feel the way you want to feel. Here’s a great article about how the colors of your space affect your moods and which colors are best for which rooms.

4. Stock your fridge and pantry with food you love

Things that are depressing: opening your fridge to discover you have a bag of moldy radishes, one Coors light and a slice of leftover pizza. Grocery shopping is the one avenue where I allow myself to spend indiscriminately and I love stocking my kitchen with food that thrills me: strawberries, wine, baguettes, fake bacon, tiny fingerling bananas. It’s lovely open those doors and feel happy about what you find.

Which (relatively healthy) foods do you love? What slightly-fancy foods do you ‘save’ for special occasions? What if your special occasion was “I nailed that presentation at work!” or “I finally purged my closet!” Celebrating little victories is one of the keys to a happy life.

5. Consider a Non-cheesy Inspirational Poster

Yes, such a thing exists. And no, I’m not talking about those awful black-edged numbers with someone standing on a mountain top. Art.com has some excellent choices that will work with your decor and won’t embarrass you in front of your friends.

6. Add a Bit of Greenery

Plants are our friends. I am absolutely in love with my balcony garden of tiny vegetables and herbs and I hope to increase my herb family to include a Venus fly trap and one of those fantastic tiny pepper plants. Plants seem to make a space feel friendlier, don’t you think? They’ve been shown to decrease stress while increasing productivity!

7. Incorporate Favorite Things into Your Decor

This might not be an issue for non-Virgos, but I get very hung up on the matchy-matchy and Decor with a capitol D. But it’s important that our spaces reflect who we are – not just what was on sale at Ikea. Let’s find a place for our high school dancing trophies and our pound puppies from third grade and that plaque in Swedish from our grandma.

8. Get a pet

Obbbbviously getting a pet is a huge responsibility. Of course you should give it a lot of thought and really, really consider if a pet would be a good fit for your lifestyle.

That being said, few things make you feel better faster than an animal friend. In fact, pet ownership has been shown to reduce stress and depression! If you want to dip your toe into pet ownership, consider fostering first.

9. Stock up on engaging, funny books and movies

If you’re trying to get over a break up/lay off/grad school rejection, put away the Dostoevsky and Dancer in the Dark. I can never get enough of Bill Bryson, David Sedaris or, as of late, anything by L.M. Montgomer. And few things can lift my spirits like Babe, Billy Elliot or American Teen.

10. Paint the inside of your closets or cupboards a crazy color

Such a lovely surprise when you open those doors every morning! How cute is this? I’m pretty sure even your sweaters will be happier, nestled in a place that colorful.

11. Incorporate the whimsical and ridiculous into your space

But I want to hear from you! What do you do to make your living space more happy?

P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!

photo by christopher harris // cc

More Than Fireworks and Hotdogs

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This Independence Day, let’s do more than wilt on the curb while people throw candy at us. A few ideas?
Buy a packet of sparklers, set your camera’s shutter speed to turtle-esque and write gorgeous, sparkly messages in the air. Here’s how.Bake the ubiquitous flag cake. Eat it with your hands and several of your closest friends.

Rock red, white and blue underthings.

Put on your bikini and run through the sprinkler. Bonus points for setting up a Slip n’ Slide.

Make an Independence Day play list. Mine would include Ryan Adams’ New York, New York, Steve Earl’s City of Immigrants, Ani DiFranco’s Independence Day, and inexplicably, Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.

Read about America’s Five Most Badass Presidents of All-Time (Andrew Jackson almost beat a would-be asassin to death with his cane?!)

Try these patriotic cocktails.

Take this quiz to determine how independent you are.

Dig out last year’s Halloween costume, buy a bucket full o’ candy and join the nearest parade.

Make a list of things you love about your country – America or otherwise. I love this list.

Rewatch Team America. Talk like MATT DAMON.

Jump off a rope swing into a swimming hole.

Put new things on the grill – peaches! pineapple! beets!

Kiss someone under fireworks.

Thus far, my plans for the long weekend involve a haircut, painting my living room the color of mermaid, vintage aprons, sweet corn ice cream, maybe an Elvis Costello concert (or maybe White Snake) new and old friends. What about you?

How to Let it Go (yup, just about anything)

Are you trying to let it go? That grudge? That bad breakup? That co-worker who stole your idea? I've struggled with all those things, too. Here's how I got through 'em >> yesandyes.org

A story: When I first got out of college I somehow managed to get a rather impressive job as an event planner. And I was convinced this was my true calling – list and plans and parties, oh my!But there was a catch. Of course there was. My boss gave that Prada-wearing devil a run for her money. She once actually uttered the words “You’re not wearing that, are you?”

I was the personal errand runner, the entertainer of her children and person who removed the bun from her burger when she was on Atkins. All of this in addition to spending my evenings and weekends planning parties for the trophy wives of Minneapolis/St. Paul.And after a year of nigh-on emotional abuse, she laid me off the day after I closed the deal on a $250,000 event.

To say that I was livid would be something of an understatement. I carried a deep and abiding hatred for this woman for the entirety of the summer, nursing it like a hobby, allowing it to ripen and consume a bit more of me every day.

But one beautiful summer day while I sulked, unemployed, in my living room, rehashing all the snarky things my boss had ever said to me, it occurred to be how deeply silly this was. This woman had already tarnished a year of my life. Why was I allowing her to ruin my summer? I wasn’t even on her payroll anymore and she was still controlling me.

Ridiculous. So I started the long and slow process of letting it go.

How to let it go (yes, just about anything)

Do something so fabulous you lose track of the anger. Click To Tweet
* Write a letter. Stuff it in an unmarked envelope and drop into the big blue mailbox on the corner.
* Realize that, cliche as it is, that friend/lover/boss probably didn’t mean to hurt you. Few people act with malicious intent. Many people are selfish or emotionally immature, but very, very few are malicious.
* If someone really was, in fact, malicious towards you, realize that they are probably a rather unhappy person with little in their life that brings them happiness. Happy, healthy, fulfilled people rarely try to ruin others lives, right?
* Remember that you can’t control how other people act, only how you respond to them.
* Create your own voodoo ritual for getting past this. Fill a metal garbage can with your boss’s business cards, those awful emails she sent you and a copy of that book that she threw at your head. Set it all on fire to end this era of your life. Douse the fire with a cup of coffee, because you’ll never be picking up her Skinny Half-Decaf Latte again.
* Scream into your pillow.
* Imagine you are lying in a clear, cool mountain stream. Imagine the water flowing through you and washing away all the frustration and dark, twisted feelings and leaving only calm and clarity.
* Know that, possibly, it really isn’t you. It really is them.
* Write it on a postcard and send it to Post Secret.
* Behold the wisdom of your grandma’s cross stitch throw pillow: “This too shall pass.”
* Hug it out.
* Know that your mom wasn’t lying when she said “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy dies.”
How do you let things go?
P.S. If you want customized, 1-on-1 help to let go of something that’s bugging you, I do that!
photo by: rosen harmens // cc

How To Stay Safe While Traveling Alone (+ Still Have Fun)

Are you a solo traveler? Are you concerned about staying safe while traveling alone? I've traveled to 36 countries - most of them on my own. Click through for my best solo travel safety tips!

When I tell people how much solo travel I do, I’m usually greeted with one of two reactions:
1) “That’s so fun!”
2) “HOW DO YOU STAY SAFE WHILE TRAVELING ALONE???!!!” (followed by an urban legend of someone who went missing while traveling alone.)

In my five years/twenty countries worth of travel, I have never been robbed, groped or seriously harassed. Mostly, I have been lucky. But I also employ the all-important “Don’t mess with me walk” and follow these tips:

Staying Safe While Traveling Alone Abroad

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How To Become a Runner Who Likes To Run

Can you become someone who likes to run? How do you become a runner? Click through for running tips from a marathoner who was once placed in remedial gym class!
Chrissy is a native New Yorker presently living in Texas. At Better Late Than Never 
she blogs about her life (being a librarian, being in love and walking her dog), her obsessions (vegan cooking, photography, and running) and her dreams (marathons and best-selling novels, naturally).

In the second grade, I was placed in Remedial Gym. How does a person get placed in Remedial Gym?
In my case, I was a stubborn seven year old who did one sit-up and stopped, who refused to even attempt a pull-up, and who sat in the grass, looking for four-leaf clovers, while the rest of my class ran a mile around the track. Needless to say, I scored low enough on the physical fitness test to warrant remediation. (On the bright side, I positively excelled at Remedial Gym.)

Somehow, that stubborn seven-year-old grew up to be a goal-oriented twenty-six-year-old, who recently decided to train for a marathon. Oh, if my Remedial Gym teacher could see me now!

These days, I love running. I love waking up at 5:30 in the morning three days a week and hitting the trail. I love the feeling I get when I’ve finished a run when my face is pink and my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest. I love the way running has strengthened my body and quieted my mind.

Running has made me better in a lot of ways – I’m healthier (can’t run without proper nutrition), I sleep better (running will wear you out), I drink less (have you ever run with a hangover? Not recommended) and I’ve found that the discipline of running has translated to other aspects of my life.

Writing, reading, my job – the sluggish manner in which I once approached the challenges of my life has faded away, replaced by the drive of an ambitious woman with a voracious appetite for adventure and knowledge, fueled by powerful legs and a whole lotta carbs.

I’m not going to lie. This whole running thing hasn’t been easy and it’s taken me a year and a half to get to where I am. I’d never been a runner before, had never once, in my whole life, run a full mile. And yet, in January of 2008, I decided it was time to try something new. Here’s how I went from jogging ten feet at a time to training for an upcoming marathon in fourteen not-so-simple steps.

How to become a runner who likes to run in 14 not-particularly-easy steps

1. First, I convinced several of my girlfriends to train for a 5K with me. We started a blog where we posted our runs, and we met up once or twice a week for group workouts.

2. The Google led me to a running plan that seemed do-able – it was called the Couch to 5K plan, which was right up my alley. The first week, you jog for 60 seconds and alternate that with 90 seconds of walking. Piece of cake!

3. That cake did not last long. By the fifth week we were expected to jog a full two miles! It was painful, but it got easier over time.

4. In March of 2008, I ran my first 5K in exactly 34 minutes. I was high for days!

5. Then I didn’t really run at all for about four months. I had completed my goal and considered myself done.

6. I missed running. I missed the little victories, like improving my speed or adding another half a mile to my run. I missed the routine of putting on my sneakers and being outside on the trail. I missed the muscles in my legs. I decided to start running again.

7. Four months off is a long time. It was even harder than I remembered, and I nearly threw in the towel for good.

8. But instead I pushed on. My boyfriend started running with me, which was challenging – he’s very fast with enviable endurance. I almost quit again, but then I noticed that I was getting faster, running farther.

9. I joined a great website, dailymile.com. I started logging each run and being able to see my improvement while connecting with a community of supportive athletes, was what I needed to break through my wall.

10. The first time I ran four miles, I was so proud I almost cried in the middle of the gym.

11. The first time I ran five miles (about three weeks later) I felt like I’d won a gold medal in the Olympics.

12. I started doing short runs during the week, and long, slow runs on Sundays. The long runs were actually relaxing, which was a pleasant surprise.

13. In April of 2009, I ran my second 5K – 25 minutes and 22 seconds. My calves were sore for the following three days.

14. On May 1st, I begin training for my first marathon. I have a training plan, I have a love for the sport of running, and I have confidence. I’ll be sure to let y’all know how it all turns out.

These are the steps that worked for me, and I’m not done running yet. I’ve got a lot of miles in front of me and I’m honestly looking forward to them. If you’ve ever thought of running, the only thing I can tell you for sure is to begin.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to run a mile, or whether you come in last place in your first race. The real challenge is getting out there and doing it on a regular basis – once you get that part down, the rest will follow.

Good luck, and I’ll see you at the starting line!

Are any of you runners? What tips can you share with us?

Photo by Andrew Tanglao on Unsplash

9 Valentine’s Day Ideas You Haven’t Heard A million times before

Looking for Valentine's Day ideas? Or romantic ideas for your anniversary? Click through for 9 great ideas your partner will love!

Looking for Valentine’s Day ideas other than chocolates + roses + dinner? You’re in the right place!

Romance is about soooo much more than flowers and candy (though I’d never sneeze in the face of some dark chocolate and a bouquet of spider mums). Romance is about knowing your partner, understanding what makes them happy, and then planning accordingly.

If you haven’t taken the love languages quiz, I so recommend it. It’ll really help you plan a Valentine’s Day your person will love!

9 Valentine’s Day Ideas You Haven’t Heard A million times before

Tell them you’ll cook what ever they want in the kitchen and do what ever they want in the bedroom.
Or maybe combine the two (winkity wink!)
Eagerly and uncomplainingly attend an event of your partner’s choosing
Yes, this includes movies starring The Rock, professional sports games, sports bars, hiking trips, and video game marathons in their BFF’s basement.
Get a membership/subscription to something that’s meaningful to both of you
It could be a season pass to the roller derby or the art theater, as long as it’s something you like to do together.
Recreate your first date, down to your outfit and what you ordered
Ours was renting a surrey at Hiawatha park, followed by dinner and wine. Annnnnnd I may have lectured Kenny about Kesha’s merits.
Get a calender made featuring photos of all the fun stuff you’ve done in the past year
Plan an escape
It doesn’t have to be extravagant! It could be camping in your neighborhood park and zipping your sleeping bags together. Or having a dirty weekend at a sleazy hotel with bad florescent lighting. Getting out of the house is sexy.
Write your partner a letter about the day you met them
What the weather was like, what was going on in the rest of your life, what your first impression of them was.
Get something meaningful engraved into something ridiculous
A spork, a guitar pick, their cleats, the handle of a screwdriver. You get the idea.
Make customized fortune cookies
I’ve done this in the past by microwaving fortune cookies for 30 seconds, pulling out the factory fortune with a tweezers and then stuffing my own inside.
What will you be doing with your special someone? Tell us in the comments so we can try it!

P.S. How to give great gifts to just about anyone

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash