Make Your Home Romantic for Valentine's Day


By Cara Greenberg

The stuff of family life -- from excessive clutter to funky odors -- can be domestic downers, whether you're planning a sexy evening or simply want your home to be a peaceful retreat. Here's how to put the spice back in your home life.

Clutter Begone

Clutter is a national epidemic, and chances are you're living with the disease. Well-meaning plans to organize and store it all (by purchasing more stuff, such as shelving units and containers) are essentially rotten at the core.

As Gretchen Rubin, author of the book Happier at Home, says, "If you plan to store something in an inaccessible place, why are you keeping it?"

Whatever form your personal excess takes -- magazines, clothing, holiday decorations, or general bric-a-brac (flea-market addicts, we're looking at you) -- don't underestimate the havoc clutter can wreak on physical and mental health.

Dust, mold and mildew thrive in a cluttered house, seriously affecting air quality. Research shows that people who live with a high level of clutter are more likely to have headaches, asthma, allergies, and sleeping issues, not to mention feelings of low self-worth, fatigue, and depression.

As for your love life, Peter Walsh, an L.A-based organizational consultant, puts it bluntly: "It's tough to make love in a pigsty."

Don't love it, need it, or use it? Get rid of it: to charity organizations, via online or yard sales, or right into the trash. Get rid of your rationalizations, too: "Maybe someday this will come in handy ..." It's your space and your life; live it now and live it freely, not bursting at the seams with useless objects.

Un-Drecking the East/West Way

The queen of clutter-clearing is Karen Kingston, whose book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, explores the psychological underpinnings of hoarding. Kingston provides a step-by-step, room-by-room walk-through of common clutter danger zones, from kitchen junk drawers to garages full of rusting tools.

A few of Kingston's tips:

- Don't allow things hanging from hooks and doorknobs or standing on the floor to prevent doors from opening fully, or clutter to accumulate in halls and passageways. That's a surefire way to "obstruct the flow of life-giving energy."

- Remove junk stashed under the bed; it affects your quality of sleep.

- Let go of old books. Kingston calls them a "relationship substitute," and says holding on to too many old books can keep you from absorbing new knowledge and ideas. Don't want that to happen!

- Be especially vigilant about "sentimental archives" of cards and letters, and clutter of the obsolete technology kind.

Sweeten the Air

Once you've got a handle on the objects, consider the air around them. On a warm day, throw open windows and turn on ceiling fans to maximize fresh air circulating through the house.

Other sweet tips:

- Banish musty odors and smells from cooking and pets by lighting soy-based candles that don't have a cloying artificial scent.

- Some green cleaning products add lovely aromas, such as lemon verbena and honeysuckle, and are good for the environment. Or, kick it old-school by adding the juice of a fresh lemon to your mop water.

- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, be sure to use dry, seasoned firewood that burns with less ash and soot. Make sure the fireplace is damped properly so smoke doesn't enter your rooms, and have the chimney cleaned at least once a season.

- Did you know that you can scent the air by burning fragrant things you can probably find in your kitchen cupboard or backyard? Try dried orange or lemon peels, dried pine cones, cinnamon sticks, and sprigs of rosemary or other aromatic herbs.

This article was originally published on HouseLogic.

See more on HouseLogic:
Romancing the Home: The Sexy Kitchen
How to Make Your Home a Soothing Sanctuary
Home Improvement With Heart -- Just in Time for Valentine's Day