The thought of moving into a new home can trigger many emotions. At first the excitement of a new home, the many ideas for decorating, new neighbors to get to know, wonderful new areas to explore and all the fun things about the move make this a very exciting time. Once the contracts are signed and a move-in date established, anxiety over how to pack up and clear out a home can set in. This will be particularly difficult if the new home is substantially smaller, or if a long distance move is planned. And then there is the sentimentality that will come over you as begin to pack up and start remembering the past. How to decide what to take, what to leave, how to dispose of items, how to pack and how long it will take to pack are all common issues with a whole house move. Don’t let the difficult issues deprive you of the satisfaction that moving/decluttering/downsizing can bring. If you are organized, and maybe with some help, you will find that clearing out your home can be very empowering.

When we moved out of our family home after 27 years, I was surprised at how quick and easy it was to figure out what was coming with me to the new house, and what was not. The wedding and Christmas gifts that you never used, old furniture from the basement that you were going to one day refinish, the kids old clothes and toys – all were either donated or consigned. Our town’s “Put and Take” area at the Transfer Station was so happy to receive all these things. Local Salvation Army and Goodwill donation centers also eagerly accept gently used items of all shapes and sizes. You know what they say – one woman’s junk is another’s treasure!
Momentos and family heirlooms were all stored in labeled boxes. Storing these items in boxes reduced their bulk and removed any decision making about if an item should be taken or not. They all were moved! Plus I think it will be fun for future generations to look through these family time capsules in the future.



Clearing out one room at a time helps to see progress, rather than tackling the entire house all at once. Work room to room and soon you will see more boxes than household possessions. Don’t forget to label the boxes so you know exactly where that box will go in the new house!

There are many articles on the internet on how to pack up a house, including YouTube videos. Try the website The Spruce for several good articles on moving and packing (, or if you are looking for professional help, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals ( has lists of professionals by zip code. Or look me up on the web at a free one-hour consultation.
Good luck and don’t forget to have fun!

Although moored in Princeton,  New Jersey now, I keep drifting towards coastlines. I call them ‘capers’–my jaunts by ferry, car, train, and foot to other states and countries where the sea settles me or big, new-found lakes have circumferences I can’t see when swimming. “Just over the horizon,” I keep thinking, “I’ll find a lobster shack, a lemonade stand, a dilapidated old garage with a potter’s wheel spinning beautiful bowls.” I am not alone in yearning for the romance of pausing in the paradise that is the slower, salty spice of life.

Wife and husband Karen and John,married for thirty-four years, have worked hard all of their lives. Now retirement is just over their horizon once their long, daily commutes to jobs in Boston finally end for good. They are counting the days while sitting on the front porch of their just-purchased condo home in The Pinehills, a new village located in the seaside town of Plymouth, MA.

“We want a totally new beginning,”Karen said emphatically as I sat with her and John in their decoration-in-progress living room, “that’s why we sold almost everything when we moved. All of the new furniture we’ve purchased, the new kitchenware, the new linens, any new artwork represent this new phase of our lives.” “This is ‘My Time,’ ‘Our Time’ now,” John explained.

“They must really mean it,”I thought, looking around the house. I saw no trace of their beloved 30-something son and daughter both now living on the West Coast. Downsized out were the teddy bears, the soccer trophies, the thumb-indented coasters created by their kids in kindergarten.

The ‘bones’ of the house–its layout, was terrific with the kitchen, living/dining room, master bedroom all set around a light-filled courtyard. Yet Karen and John realized that the home’s freshly painted bone-white walls needed color. Their windows needed treatments. Bookshelves needed filling. Accessories needed to be placed with TLC to make the house feel some place like home.

As a Design Psychologist I had come to help. Having known this couple for years, I felt that they (like all of us) deserved, not just a ‘house beautiful’ but a nurturing, loving home oasis. Yet psychologically speaking, oases aren’t just built with bricks and mortar, painted with valentine-red plucked from a color wheel, or made private because you’ve bought light-blocking shades.

Instead as a Design Psychologist, my job was to probe more deeply to understand ways this house could be personalized to create their ideal home. With this in mind, I asked, “When you imagine your ideal, what would that home be like?” At first Karen and John answered using off-the-shelf brochure lingo: “Master bedroom on the ground floor, plenty of light, big kitchen.” Guiding them, I asked, “Not practical or aesthetic things. Tell me about your ideal home oasis.” Suddenly (as if I’d waved a magic wand), they described a long-yearned-for log cabin in the Montana woods.



Rather than settle in Montana, however, John, especially, had “returned home” since his mother used to live on this Massachusetts South Shore. I’ve learned, in fact, that people often rework their past history of place–replicate or reject it (or do some combination of the two). Then, also, a hallmark of Karen’s and John’s coupledom was that they both loved nature and had hiked and camped together for 34 years. Retirement for them meant not only pioneering a new life-path but wending their way together through real-life trails in yet more woods. No wonder they’d purchased a place where they could walk in the pine forests of The Pinehills.

Probing further, I began asking them questions based on my Design Psychology Toolbox of Exercises to identify their positive associations with past place–associations that could be translated into home design elements–“triggers” that would help them envision a life-enhancing future together.

“Which pieces of furniture here really symbolize ‘My Time/Our Time’—your new life together?” I asked. “This rocking chair,” John answered immediately, “it’s the place where I can sit, relax, and really take time for myself to sit and think.”

“Our new dining room set,” said Karen, gesturing toward the beautiful, high-quality wooden table they’d purchased. “Like all of the furniture we’ve bought, it’s different from the traditional style we lived with for years. It’s transitional style furniture–not traditional, or modern. It’s a new look for our new life.”

The stunning wooden table and chairs and matching sideboard certainly fit with the theme of “all things rustic” that grounded them. Given their cabin dream, I likewise suggested using a long, lyrical branch rather than a rod to hold their living room curtains, thus giving the space a subtle, outdoors feel.

 “What about our kitchen backsplash?” asked Karen with enthusiasm as she began to recognize how the house could be a symbol of their best-dreamed-of-future life and ‘selves.’ She and John were stumped as subway or glass tiles seemed to be “the thing” nowadays. But “THE THING” belonged in a brochure, not in their personalized place. Instead, they settled on slate, an earthy material that would work well color-wise with their kitchen cabinets and have psychological impact by reminding them that the earth’s hills beckoned…

 Together, the three of uscontinued to imagine ways echoes of their best-past and visions of their dreamed-for future could be designed into their home spaces. In the present, however, the kitchen was the heart of their home. Both Karen and John wanted to paint it a color that would exude the sense of warmth and joy they felt each time they opened their new front door. They chose a cherry color that also would create a ‘visual break’ as they looked down their home’s long hallway.

Then, too, in the present, John was using their home’s den as his office, a space that felt incomplete with a makeshift table as a desk, printers and computers placed haphazardly here and there. Yet he pointed to another rocking chair previously owned by his mother, saying, “In this room, in that rocking chair I spent time healing after my hip operations. From here I could look out at the hillside yet also take ‘me time’ to just rest.” On the house’s floor plan, the builders had labeled this room a den/office. Yet, beyond such labels, spaces in one’s home can be designed to meet one’s deeper psychological needs. In fact as we talked further, John became psyched about more deliberately turning this private office into a ‘healing room.’

As we go through transitions,life is a long walk–a journey. On our journey, our home can help us become our best selves not only via layout, use of color, furniture, textures, etc. but via the careful placement of meaningful (not just beautiful) objects around the house. In the process of moving, for example, Karen and John had ‘curated’ their collection of objects by throwing most of their possessions out!

 “I have less and less old photos of my parents as we are the older generation now,” John explained.

Nevertheless, they were soon to unpackmore boxes and prominently place photos of their son and daughter on their bookshelf. Then, too, John, an amateur photographer, remembered the hundreds of artful photographs he’d taken, now stored away in their new basement. “Perhaps the best of these can be framed and hung in our hallway,” he remarked.

Karen then mentioned the uniquefridge magnets she’d collected at each place they’d vacationed through the years. I suggested mounting, framing and hanging these mementos in the dining room. This would mean replacing a painting they’d bought at Pier One “which had the right colors,” but which, in no way mirrored the heartfelt story of their lives and future dreams.

 In fact, by now doubting that theyhad thrown out everything, I asked John, “If God forbid there were a fire in the house, what one object would you save?” John quickly mentioned, “The little statues of Karen and myself that we displayed at our wedding.” He ushered me into their master bedroom. There, on the dresser, in view when they awoke each morning, were simple, ceramic male and female figures–separate, yet hugging–caring for one another as their life begins again.

Please watch out for our Home Design Psychology Webinar series starting Sept. 13 for other homeowners who want to Design from Within. They are held four times a year and our next one should be Nov/Dec.

There’s nothing worse than when you walk into your house and think “Oh no! What’s that smell?” Now imagine if it is the house you are looking to buy. Offensive scents and smells are surefire ways to turn off a potential homebuyer. And often we are oblivious to the smells of the most beloved members of our families…our pets. Selling your home in itself can be stressful but when you have animals it can bring it’s own set of challenges. Here are some tips to keep you, and your pets, out of the dog house!

Keep under the bed storage boxes available to gather up toys, bedding and food and water bowls for stashing during showings. Avoid throwing items in closets. People will look in your closets but most likely will not look under your bed.

Use citrus scented home cleaners and regularly wipe down windows and windowsills or anywhere your pooch likes to look out and rest his head. Chances are, your dog’s breath stinks. So keep in mind anything he drools on probably stinks too.

Vacuum. Every. Day. I know it sounds tedious but you never know when your next showing will be. I have owned some pretty large and furry dogs (and cats) and I swear by the Bissell Cordless Pet Hair Eraser. It is great at grabbing pet hair off upholstery and is so lightweight you have no excuse not to use it daily, especially in areas where your pets like to hang out.

Tend to liter boxes at least once, if not twice a day. Place a small mat under the box to help keep the liter from being tracked away. Try to keep the box in the area of your home where people will spend the least amount of time. So your master bath- not a good idea. I personally have mine in my basement with a kitty door for them to come up and down.

Avoid placing plug-in air fresheners through out the home to mask smells. I just screams “Hey, I know my house smells too!” Placing a lightly scented candle or bowl of potpourri will sometimes do the same trick but in a lea obvious way.

When at all possible, take your furry friends with you when you have an open house or showing. This is imperative if they are aggressive or if they would take any chance they could to escape. I once left my dog crated when I had opened up my house for a service call. The technician later called to tell me he was done- and that he let my dog out of her crate because she looked “sad”. I arrived to find that my beautiful 125 lb. Great Pyrenees had gone into my daughter’s room and chewed up every Barbie doll and accessory in the place- including all the furniture in Barbie’s beautifully appointed townhouse! My point being, don’t assume everyone is going to take care that your animal doesn’t get out.

Our pets are such a huge part of our family and our lives. However, it’s important to keep in mind that unfortunately not all people feel the same way. I hope you found these tips helpful. Be sure to come back for more tips on everything from preparing your house for the market, design ideas for your new home and tips and tricks I use to make the homes I work in look their best. And feel free to drop us a line anytime to let us know what you think.