Your Natural Home
Creating a cozy hearth for the family

How to Ensure a Better Sleep Environment

modern minimal bedroom design
Photo by Pexels 

Have you ever found yourself staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night despite being exhausted after a full day of work and stress? Sometimes, all it takes to prevent the twisting and turning and fall right asleep is to tweak the design of your room and make a few lifestyle adjustments.

Before you transform into a night owl, with several layers of eyebags and a sudden craving to take up night-time knitting lessons, take a look at the following steps you can take in order to increase your bedroom’s sleepability and enjoy every second of your zzz’s before your head hits the pillow!

nest smart thermostat
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Keep an Eye on Temperature

If you’re a warmth-loving lizard like myself, then you might be in the habit of keeping your bedroom windows shut for the best part of the day, and purposefully avoiding lowering your room temperature when it’s finally sleep o’clock.

However, rooms that are too hot are one of the main culprits of poor sleeping habits, leading you to either stay awake for too long, or make you feel drowsy and sluggish in the morning. Think somewhere along the lines of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, and your room will be perfectly crisp and fresh to tell your body it’s time for some shut-eye.

bedroom with neutral color palette
Photo by Pixabay

Rethink Your Color Palette

This is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill – if you choose to paint your bedroom in neon green with splashes of crimson red, then you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself wondering about the meaning of life at three in the morning.

A soothing shade of sky blue, soft green or yellow, or any creamy, pastel hue of your choice can be incredibly sleep-inducing. Avoid grey, purple and brown at all cost, and make sure that your accent colors are not too vibrant to cause a disturbance in the sleepy force of your bedroom.

Learn more about the connection between color and mood in The Psychology of Color.

simple potted succulent
Photo by Pexels

Air Quality Matters

For people who suffer from allergies or asthma, but even for the rest of us all-year-round, there are so many airborne irritants that can wreak havoc on our quality of sleep. Think pollen, dust, smoke, soot, pet dander and other pollution buildup, all of which makes it close to impossible to breathe freely and enjoy uninterrupted sleep.

To that end, finding a HEPA air purifier for your bedroom can keep your indoor air clean, without making excessive noise or messing up the Feng Shui of your décor. In fact, it makes for quite an asset, since it will seamlessly fit in with any room design and you’ll even forget it’s there after a while, but your lungs will surely be able to tell the difference.

Find five more ways to improve your indoor air quality that will also keep toxic emissions at bay and improve overall health.

simple bedroom decor
Photo by Pexels

Think Minimal Thoughts

Just like clutter destroys your focus and plays tricks on your mind during those creative hours of the day, a chaotic bedroom can also affect your mindset when it’s time to turn in. On the other hand, if your design revolves around purpose, then your bed will be the centerpiece of your bedroom décor as well.

Some items that are commonly placed in the bedroom and don’t belong there are TV sets, exercise equipment, and similar action-inspiring things should be moved to a different area of your home. Keep it a private, Zen nook and make sure that even the smallest details, such as your photos, reflect a serene mindset that will help you sleep.

white mussed bedding
Photo by Pexels

Revise Your Bedding

Even if you do comply with all the tips above, yet still choose to sleep on a disturbingly uncomfortable mattress with bedding of equally poor quality – your efforts will be futile, to say the least. Yes, I realize that spending time to think about mattresses and bedding is nowhere near exciting or glamorous, but it’s essential for quality sleep.

Find a suitable replacement for your bedding by looking for hypoallergenic materials, test a mattress before you choose the one with the right firmness for you and, by all means, use separate blankets with your partner, so that both of you can sleep comfortably without hogging the covers.

Catherine is a passionate home design consultant from Melbourne. She loves making homes beautiful and buildings sustainable, but she also like sharing her advice and knowledge with people. That is why she is also a regular contributor to the Smooth Decorator blog. Besides all this, she loves reading and enjoys a superhero movie from time to time. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Calculate Your Peak Sun-Hours

One important question that many individuals have when deciding whether or not installing a solar energy system is the right move for them is “do I live in an area that receives enough sun to make solar panels worth it?” To answer this question, it’s critical to understand how much sun solar panels need in order to operate effectively, what peak sun-hours are, and how you can calculate the peak sun-hours in your area to get the most out of the solar power that’s up for grabs.

solar panel grid
Photo by Pexels

How much sun do solar panels need to operate effectively?

Although direct sunlight provides optimum conditions for solar energy systems, solar panels produce electricity from the photons present in natural daylight, rather than from the sunlight itself, which means that panels don’t actually need to be installed in direct sunlight to work. Heat isn’t a factor that affects how much electricity PV solar panels can generate either, so a cool spring day could be as productive, if not more, than a sweltering summer day. Even in cloudy weather solar panels can absorb energy to produce power, but it will be at a reduced rate compared to sunny days—typically between 25 and 40 percent.

Panel placement is perhaps a more important factor than natural conditions. If panels are installed in an area on your property that receives a significant amount of shade, they may still be able to produce some electricity (depending on the equipment), but this will usually pose more of an issue than clouds or cold weather. Ideally, solar panels will be installed facing south, but a solar professional can help you determine the best placement for panels on your specific property.

bright sunlight and clouds
Photo by Max Pixel

What are peak sun-hours?

While the amount of sunlight your panels receive is important, a more accurate representation of the amount of power your panels have the potential to produce is peak sun-hours. Note that peak sun-hours is not the same as hours of daylight; a peak-sun hour describes the intensity of sunlight in a specific area and is defined as an hour of sunlight that offers 1,000 watts of photovoltaic power per square meter. Peak sun-hours occur when the sun is highest in the sky and generally increase during summer months and the closer an area is to the equator.

Photo by Pexels

How do I calculate the peak-sun hours in my area?

Knowing the average number of peak sun-hours where you live can help you decide whether or not solar panels are a worthwhile investment for your home. Most areas in the United States average between 3 and 5 peak sun-hours per day, but this is likely to fluctuate depending on the season.

To calculate your peak-sun hours, use an isolation map to see how much solar energy your location receives throughout the year. You can also take a look at different charts that compile data on solar radiation, including monthly and seasonal averages. To calculate the exact number of peak sun-hours that solar panels will receive on your property, you can purchase an isolation meter or build your own. After placing the meter in direct sunlight, it will give you a reading on current light intensity and solar power supply, which can help you to determine peak sun-hours.

If you find that your peak sun-hours are relatively low, don’t fret — solar energy may still be a viable option. As mentioned above, even with less-than-optimal conditions, solar panels can still produce a decent amount of power and be beneficial for both you and the environment. Consider consulting with a solar expert if you’re unsure whether or not your home is a good candidate for a solar energy system.

A proponent of renewable energy and green living, Sarah Hancock enjoys writing about sustainability and manages the solar blog on You can also find her work on Twitter.

7 Essential Oils for Your Home and Family

Are you trying to stay away from harsh chemical products as you move towards living a more natural and Earth-friendly life?

Essential oils are probably the solution you’re looking for due to their incredible versatility. There’s a ton you can learn about using essential oils in your home and family, and this article briefly explores how seven of these oils could help you in different ways.

1. Lemon Oil

Let’s start with one of the three most popular essential oils on the market—lemon. Lemon is one of the most popular essential oils due to its helpful and reliable cleaning ability, coupled with a citrusy, fresh scent that everyone loves.

Furthermore, not only is it an incredible antibacterial agent but it can also help remove sticky residue from things such as bottles after removing their labels. You can do this to recycle them and use as a container for something else.

Pour a few drops on the sticky area, rub it in and let it sit for a minute or two and then just rub out the residue.Other popular uses for lemon essential oil are degreasing and paint stripping.

plastic bottles
Photo by Pixabay

2. Melaleuca

Melaleuca is also known as tea tree oil and can be used as a natural cleaner for your home. Although it has a particularly strong scent, it is a strong antifungal cleaner that can be used to kill off mold and bacteria.

The most popular use for melaleuca oil, however, is in the skin care area, specifically for acne treatment. In fact, many skin care products have tea tree oil added in order to make the product more effective.

3. Eucalyptus

A stuffy nose is one of the most irritating conditions you can have because it’s not only hard to breathe, but you can’t exactly sleep it off either. Eucalyptus essential oil is an excellent home remedy to clear those nasal airways and have you breathing again with no problems.

If the whole family is dealing with stuffy noses, diffuse 10 drops in a diffuser of your choice but if there’s just one unlucky person, pour 3 drops in their palm, have them rub them together and inhale. You can also add 3 drops to a tablespoon of coconut oil and rub into the chest and the back of the neck.

woman experiencing congestion
Photo by Pixabay

4. Clove

Clove essential oil has been shown to be an excellent mosquito repellent. There was even a study that showed it to be the best out of a list of 38 different oils, working for two to four hours on different species of mosquito.

The main active ingredient, eugenol, is also a great antiseptic for cleaning cuts and wounds to prevent infection.

5. Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil has a refreshing and familiar scent and like eucalyptus, it is a powerful decongestant. Furthermore, many small insects, such as spiders and ants, dislike menthol scents like peppermint essential oil.

To use it as an insect repellent, pour a few drops onto a cotton ball and rub it in areas where you’ve seen or expect to see insects. With ants, for example, you may see a trail of them walking along the wall—use this method to not only break up their scent trail (how ants let each other know where to go) but to keep them away as well.

To take it a step further, you can try this DIY ant killer solution, wait a few days for them to bring some of it back to the colony, then apply the peppermint oil.

ants on barbed wire
Photo by Pixabay

6. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is another natural insecticide which works the same as peppermint, except that the effects are due to its active ingredient, cinnamaldehyde.

7. Lavender

Like lemon, lavender is one of the most popular essential oils due to its incredible versatility. It acts as a mild sedative to help induce sleep and is also a great anti-inflammatory for dealing with joint and muscle aches, as well as headaches.

For aches and pains, massage a few drops into the target area. For headaches, however, inhalation (whether directly or by diffusion) and a temple massage are recommended.

It has also been shown to help accelerate wound healing.

All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

Trysh Sutton is a wife, mother, attorney, interior decorator, strategic leader and teacher. She runs a website called Pure Path Essential Oils, a naturopathic wellness company that promotes healthy living and healing through the use of essential oils and sustainable living. You can follow her on social media to learn more about the benefits of essential oils, and healthy living practices.
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3 Best Artificial Christmas Trees

Ah, the great tree debate. I love writing about this because there are so many good points. Artificial trees can contribute to major waste if cheap variations are purchased. And real trees, if not sustainably farmed or replanted, pose risk to our environment as well. Allergens and fungi have also been an expressed concern.

To me, it's a total toss up. I typically lean toward artificial because I know I'm committed to using it year after year, and recycling if it ever bites the dust. My childhood Christmases revolved around that simple hook-style, lovably unrealistic tree. These days construction has become more sustainable and recycling efforts have improved. Love me or hate me for it, but if you're sold too, here are the three best picks.

faux christmas tree without lights
Photo courtesy Oncor


Concern over landfill waste causes some ill feelings toward the use of artificial trees. Oncor has been working to solve those problems by completely designing their trees from recycled material. They've changed some of the dynamics and stick to the old-school hook branch method, which improves the strength and lifespan of their trees. 30 years is the minimum projected time of usage for an Oncor tree.

Trees come in a recycled, sturdy cardboard box, which the company encourages customers to use as a storage method. Lastly, part of their proceeds fund a variation of charitable organizations.

LED pre-lit tree
Photo courtesy Tree Classics

Tree Classics

A complete showstopper, Tree Classic’s Colorado Blue Spruce Snap Tree is unbelievably realistic and full. It's design mimics the official tree symbol of the state, and it will stop anyone in their tracks when they walk by.

Snap trees literally tilt upward and "snap" into place. With two people, assembly can be accomplished in less than five minutes. The tree is solid, which makes it a little heavy, so having help is important. After Christmas it can be stored upright in the garage or a closet.

The LED lights system is the coolest part; fade from white lights to colored, use the twinkling effect, or choose if you want to keep it on multicolored or traditional. The option to choose is wonderful since it's easy to be torn between a classic white look, or festive colors.

decorated holiday tree
Photo courtesy King of Christmas

King of Christmas

King of Christmas’ realistic trees are more affordable than most realistic variations, but still boast the high-quality construction that can last a lifetime. King of Christmas also has several unlit options, meaning you can reduce power consumption by selecting your own energy conserving lights while being able to use your own creativity. Candy cane stripes with red and white lights perhaps? Or maybe a good old fashioned blue Christmas tree.

Whether you pick a real or artificial tree, Merry Christmas!

Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

12 Quick Kitchen Updates to Make Before the Holidays

The winter holidays are coming, and with them plenty of time in the kitchen. You’ll be whipping up holiday favorites, hanging out with family and friends, and preparing festive dinners.

Does the thought of people hanging out in your kitchen make you cringe? Maybe you yearn for a redo, but the budget won’t stretch as far as you’d like? No worries. There are plenty of ways to do quick kitchen updates that will make it look amazing. Many quick kitchen updates are also surprisingly affordable. People will notice it looks spruced up even if they can’t immediately put their finger on what looks fresh and different.

modern kitchen
Photo by Adobe Stock/Africa Studio

Here’s 12 quick kitchen updates that you can easily accomplish before the holidays.

Paint the Kitchen Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets is quick and very affordable. If you’re feeling ambitious, you might even create a holiday theme, with red and green cabinets. Citrusy colors are also bright and lively and will add cheer to the winter holidays.

Add Updated Cabinet Handles and Pulls

It’s easy and affordable to replace your old cabinet doors and pulls with new, spruced-up ones. If you’ve had plain handles for years, buy some in bright contrasting colors for a great pop in the kitchen.

Paint an Accent Wall

Painting an entire kitchen can be a major effort, given the number of large appliances that have to be pulled out from the wall. Painting just one accent wall can be smooth sailing and done in an afternoon. Here, too, you can choose a color that’s great for the holidays, like scarlet or navy, which will also lift your spirits come February.

Purchase Small Appliances in Vibrant Colors

If you’ve been thinking of purchasing some small appliance, do it now. Choose an eye-popping color to provide a bright contrast with your existing color scheme. In a yellow kitchen, you can choose a deep tangerine-colored juicer. Are your walls light blue? A navy toaster will look right at home.

Change Around Your Cabinet Doors

If you’ve had the same cabinet doors for years and don’t want to paint, it’s equally fun to simply change out the doors. A contrasting door or two can present an appealing pattern to observers. Glass cabinet doors are a great option, and they show off your china to great advantage. Plus point for the holidays: Glass doors let guests locate the dishes they’ve been asked to find.

Add a Backsplash

Nothing says country kitchen like a beautiful tile or tile pattern. Backsplashes in tile can comment on the kitchen, like a retro milkmaid, or be scenes of dairy cows in the spring. Tiles can be added in a few days. Only a few are needed for a lovely backsplash.

Add New Rugs

If you currently have no rugs, adding some will give your kitchen an entirely new look. Be sure to either harmonize or contrast with your existing kitchen. If you currently have a rug, buy a completely different look. Is your current kitchen rug beige? Add a bright, vibrant peach.

Create New Window Treatments

Window treatments can entirely alter the look of a kitchen. If you currently have curtains that allow you to look out, wooden half-shutters will be an entirely new look and add a green and sustainable feel to your kitchen. Japanese blinds can also be a new, environmentally conscious look, and they harmonize with all colors.

Change Your Light Fixtures

Give your current light fixture the once-over. Change it up. Many kitchens have one central light, often rectangular. There’s no reason you have to stay with that — you can replace the fixture with a bright circle or diamond shape. One key advantage to a new light fixture: They remove the necessity of cleaning the old one for holiday parties.

Replace the Countertops

This is a pricier redo, beloved of many TV home renovation shows. However, there are many ways to replace countertops that don’t run a high price tag. Many laminates are less expensive than marble and granite, and equally durable. It’s also possible to replace just one or two countertops in textures and materials that harmonize with the old.

Add a Vase

Fresh flowers can make a kitchen look spruced up. Even just one carefully chosen rose on the table makes the area look special and expectant. Choose a pleasant vase that will look equally good with the kids’ wildflowers and a sprig of Christmas holly.

Choose Some Holiday Kitchen Magnets

If you always have magnets decorating your refrigerator or message space, go all out to get some holiday-themed ones. They’re a bright and cheery piece of décor that doubles as a utilitarian way to hold your shopping lists and school reminders.

Want to do some quick and easy kitchen updates for the holidays? This dozen will have your kitchen looking like the merriest place in the house.

5 Ways to Repurpose Old Leather

You probably have a million of them. A not-so-reasonable stash of leather belts you’ll honestly never wear again. Big buckles, punch designs, skinny, wide, battered or barely worn. Don’t worry! Below you’ll find five innovative ways to turn all that leather into creative, functional and unique items.

Of significant note are the many benefits for repurposing old leather. A non-sustainable material, leather is made from the hide of an animal. The tanning process utilizes highly toxic substances which off-gas directly into the environment. Detrimental to tanners individually, the physical area in which tanning plants function and our carbon footprint, hazardous effects of leather-production pollutants are far-reaching and severe.

Repurposing leather gives old product new use. Doing so in your home as a DIY project extends material life, eliminates fossil fuel transport costs, and let’s face it—saves you money. Never mind how much fun it is to design inventive items and revel in the wow-factor of their final form!

leather pieces and tools
Photo by Adobe Stock/279photo

1) Weave a New Chair Seat

Do you have a sturdy chair with classic lines but a worn seat? Consider a woven leather replacement. Using the current seat form as a guide, gather several belts and line them up to measure against both the length and width. You’ll want to leave enough length on each to allow for slack. Cut and weave leather strips basket-style. Staple each end securely to the bottom of the chair form, stretching first to reinforce weave strength.

If you use belts with different shading and design features, try to balance them out, so the finished product doesn’t look too piecemeal. For a more uniform look, check out leather paint options. Specialty leather paint products provide full coverage or can help you add specific artistic detail. Painting as a final step enhances conditioning and protection of your repurposed leather.

For this and other projects listed below, it’s best to use a staple gun appropriate for working with leather and a pair of heavy-cutting shears.

2) Customize a Camera Strap

Add vintage charm to your Digital SLR — single lens reflex—camera by customizing a leather strap. Measure belt length based on how you routinely carry and maneuver the device. At each end of the fitted piece, punch a hole and thread copper wire through. Attach the wires to your camera’s side clips and twist securely.

Holes can effectively be punched through leather with an awl, electric drill, Phillips head screwdriver, leather punch or — in a pinch — the corkscrew of a wine opener! Make sure you drill through the belt into a scrap piece of wood that is well-weighted to guarantee stability.

3) Design Drawer Pulls

Picture a farmhouse bureau or rustic kitchen cabinetry sporting specialty leather drawer pulls. Consider whether long, thin strips or boxier pieces would best accentuate your desired look. Grab leather colored to stand in direct visual contrast from the article in question. Darker belt shades will highlight well against light-colored drawers and vice versa.

Simply cut leather strips with scissors and attach with small nails or rivets. That’s all there is to it!

4) Hang an Indoor Terrarium

For this project, you’ll need two belts, one wide and one narrow. Gather a glass milk container or small-mouthed vase that remains relatively full on the bottom. You will build your terrarium in this receptacle with an air plant and some pebbles. Consider adding a bit of natural moss as well to regulate the watering process, which can be tricky.

Both belts will be fashioned into a unique hanger. First, glue the terrarium bottom to the middle of the wider belt. Once the glue has dried, pull the belt buckle up into an oval and glue along the terrarium sides, leaving enough free space on top for hanging. Think of the garden as sitting in a narrow hammock. To secure the jar, cut to measure and firmly fasten your narrow belt around the neck.

5) Fashion a Strapping Wreath

Purchase a wreath form from your nearest craft store and wrap belts about in a slight crisscross manner. Arrange buckles as ornaments. Garnish with greens, berries, fall foliage or hang as a fashion-savvy year-round piece.

Don’t be alarmed, as you get the hang of repurposing old leather, to note surprising belt junkie tendencies. You may compulsively ask friends and casual acquaintances for their old belts or systematically haunt thrift shops. It’s all good. After all, the more leather is reused, the more sustainable it becomes!

How to Keep a Healthy Home with Pets

Pets can add an immense amount of joy to the lives of their owners. No matter what animal you have, your pet quickly becomes your whole world. They love unconditionally and provide great companionship, which is why they deserve to live in a happy, healthy home, just like you do.

One of the biggest issues with bringing an animal into your home is that it becomes more difficult to keep your living space clean. Each kind of animal presents unique cleaning challenges, most of which can only be dealt with over time. You’ll eventually build a routine around your pet and come to know how dirty they can get and just how to clean up after them.

The concern comes in when you consider how the filth pets create can actually harm your health and that of your pet. Germs are germs, even if they come riding in on the furry back of your best friend. There are some easy ways to combat the dirt and grime left behind by pets, so you can continue loving and living your life together.

labrador puppy with toy
Photo by Adobe Stock/Ilurii Sokolov.

Shelve Those Pet Supplies

The only exception to this rule is possibly fish food. Pet supplies make a mess. Picture your dog’s brush that’s full of hair or the hay you feed your guinea pigs that always ends up on the carpet. The best way to keep pet messes minimized is by storing whatever you can out of the way. Keep small pet supplies in a closet or cupboard. They’ll be out of sight, and the mess they create will stay in a small space.

Clean Carpets Often

Owning small animals that live in cages may make you feel like you’re exempt from cleaning your carpets, but that isn’t true. Dirt brought in on pet paws or bacteria left by what’s tossed out of small animal cages will live and multiply in your carpet, especially microscopic bacteria too small for the eye to see. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly clean your carpets twice a year if you own pets.

Vacuum and Dust

Cleaning up after animals results in the need to vacuum and dust more regularly. As all pet owners know, pet hair and dander get everywhere, and that includes on top of ceiling fans and underneath rugs. A big part of keeping your home healthy is vacuuming and dusting.

If you have a dog, one time you may not think to vacuum is after washing your pet. Getting dog fur wet makes it much easier for loose hairs to come out. Groomers recommend drying your dog with a safe dryer in a small area that’s easy to vacuum. This will minimize what you have to clean while keeping your dog happy and healthy.

pets eating together
Photo by Adobe Stock/Monika Wisniewska.

Designate an Eating Area

When dogs and cats eat, food can get everywhere. Whether you feed them dry or wet food, it’ll always get outside the bowl. Water will, too. If you change up where your pet eats, the mess will travel, so keep your pet’s eating space to one spot — and maybe even raise the bowl — to make cleanup easier on yourself. For owners with small pets, try getting heavy bowls that can’t be tipped over or ones that can be hooked onto the side of the cage.

Keeping pet mess to a minimum will not only keep you happier, but healthier too. When living with pets, be aware of the germs and bacteria that can multiply from what your furry or feathered friends leave behind. No matter how cute they are or how much they love you, pets need to be taken care of and it’s better for everyone if owners know exactly what they need to do.