Porch Sitting

The allure of a front porch – what else says summer, ease, timeless afternoons with no agenda quite as well?

We spent a week in Chautauqua, New York recently. All of the houses are wood-frame New England style homes and almost every one of them has a front porch.

Some of them have side porches as well. These porches are outdoor rooms which expand the living space of the house during good weather. And one thing that’s wonderful about a covered porch is that you can sit there in the rain as well.

Here in Virginia we spend a lot of time on our deck, weather permitting. Fall and spring are when it sees the most use, as the hot and humid weather make being outside most of the summer unpleasant here. I loved that the humidity was low in northern New York, so we were out on the porch a lot. Here are my daughter and her cousins and friend on the second-floor porch of the house we rented.

Another thing that’s different about a front porch versus a deck is that generally the deck is on the back of the home. That affords more privacy, whereas sitting on the front porch gives you more sense of community. It turned out the fellow who was teaching the improvisation class that my husband took at Chautauqua was staying across the street from us. We wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t been sitting on the porch and seen him coming and going there. It felt very neighborly to hang out on the front porch and be aware of the activity in the street – bicycle riders, walkers, folks across the street enjoying their porches too. I’m definitely a fan.

As is the dog!

Keeping it Cool, Clear and Clean

As a girl growing up on Long Island, I always loved the summertime.  It was a time of open windows and breezes, hot sun and cool waves, expansive days that stretched out into long dusks, and freedom to explore, play and dream.

What we called a “heat wave” was a hot humid spell that lasted for a week or so. Here in the Washington DC area, we call that summer, and it can be a bit more of a challenge to always love it.

I’m neat by nature, but I find that especially during the summer, I need things to be spare and clean to counteract the claustrophobic quality of the humidity here.  Less stuff lying around equals a calmer, more serene feeling; clutter and mess feels oppressive and heavy.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”   – William Morris

Here are a few simple tricks to lighten up the look of your home for summer and create the illusion of coolness.




 “Don’t put it down, put it away” is the first tenet of clutter-free living. Put it away right away and you will save time in the end. You’ll be forging a habit each time you do it, even if it feels cumbersome at first.

Recycle the newspaper daily into your recycle bin or into a basket that you take out to the bin once a week. Have a dedicated spot for magazines that you want to read, and only keep a handful at a time. If it’s more than a few months old, recycle it.

Paper is a relentless clutter challenge. Sort all paper coming into the house into three categories:

Throw away immediately: junk mail, flyers, catalogues.

Action items: bills, kids’ permission forms, items you want to order, etc.

File: insurance papers, medical records, etc. 

Have one dedicated place for paper so it doesn’t take over the house. Sort it there, and act on it once a week.


Scan the floor for piles. If what’s on the floor isn’t furniture or an intentional decor item such as a plant or basket, it doesn’t belong on the floor. Tackle one pile or item at a time until you’ve put them all where they belong. This can be done daily for ten minutes; it’s surprising how much effect a few minutes, done regularly, will have.

Some of these Better Homes and Gardens organizing tips are good ways to stay on top of things before they get out of control. Maybe one of these techniques will speak to you.

If you’re really stuck and clutter is a relentless problem for you, my friend Yvette Gluck at Lighten Up! Professional Organizing is a great help.         I had her come work with me on my home office, which also doubles as a sewing room and a guest room, and I was very happy with how much more in control I felt when we were done. Everything is zoned, in a logical place, and easily accessible for the disparate tasks I use the room for. Success!

Here’s to feeling unencumbered by stuff! – as well as cool, calm and collected.  Happy summer to all.