Decorating: use your ears

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

The sounds in your home. What are they? Do they add or subtract from the overall atmosphere you want?

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Photo by Max Williams

Sounds in our homes as decor? I think so. After all, decorate simply means “to furnish or adorn with something becoming.” And while yes, I’ve stretched the connotation a bit, it still works. After all, in this series of Decorating with the 5 Senses, my goal is to simply spark ideas to further make your home a haven. Please remember this – I’m not talking about making your home magazine-worthy. I’m about making your home a haven, a place where you, and others, want to be for solace and refreshment. A place to break from the chaos of life – in a simple, stress-free home.

Stop for a few seconds and take in the sound surrounding you. Is it pleasing to your ear? Or is it stressful? Is there cacophony? Or is there a method to its madness?

As moms with young kidlets, we can’t always control this, of course. Babies scream, preschoolers whine, and battery-operated toys wail the most horrific sounds (and okay, we can control that last one. It’s called taking the batteries out.). But when we can control sound, are we proactive in making it part of the mood we want in our homes?

MUSIC

Music is the most obvious sound-maker, in this instance. And we all know how oddly powerful music has a way of calming or energizing us. Depending on the circumstance, music can add just the right touch of peace, or joy, or whatever mood we want.

flowerslatte.jpgI love having music in my home. I like to adorn my place with music that makes me want to be there. Am I writing, paying bills, or reading stories with my kids? Then I purposely play low-key, unobtrusive music, so that while my soul is treated to beauty, I’m not needlessly distracted. Am I cleaning or having an impromptu dance party with my preschooler? My natural choice is energetic, happy music.

And I think of others and their tastes – what would my family or my guests like to hear? Should the mood be peppy and fun, soothing and relaxing, or something else altogether? If we’re having guests over for dinner, I make the background music part of my set-up before they arrive – I take a stab at what their music preferences would be and what ambiance the meal might have.

When it’s just a typical day at home, I play different music depending on the time of day and what’s on the docket. I don’t have any hard and fast rules, but I enjoy classical or folksy stuff in the mornings and evenings, low-key-yet-happy music when I’m doing the mommy thing, and more subdued music for dinner.

Where to get music for FREE

There are scads of tools on the internet. I like making my own free compilations on Playlist and creating a stream of music for our home’s different moods. To get ideas, I sometimes head to iTunes’ Essentials section – I’ve lately had fun exploring their “My Groove” compilations.

When I can’t think of specific songs I want to hear, Last.fm is a good tool – I type in an artist I enjoy, and it will find a station playing similar artists for me. I’m introduced to new music, and chances are, I’ll like it because they’re similar to the artist I searched.

If you want to actually own and download music, cNet is a great place to find free mp3s – just search by the artist (thanks for the hat-tip on this one, Josh).

We’re really not in short supply of free music tools on the internet. Pandora, Rhapsody, Napster, Jukebox Alive, Radio Tower, and Deezer all provide free music streams in some format. Unfortunately, if you live outside the US, like me, most of these are not available for us. Grrr.

Where to BUY music

If you want to own the mp3s, you probably head to iTunes. Amazon is another good choice, and I actually prefer their interface better than iTunes’ (it loads faster for me). On the right sidebar, I’ve got two Amazon playlists – one is just music I’m currently enjoying; the other is a mix of good kids’ music that isn’t too kiddie, if you know what I mean.

ENJOY THE SILENCE

Playing music implies that there aren’t other sounds to compete. One of the biggest ways you can immediately transform your home’s mood is to turn off the TV. Especially when no one’s watching. We don’t watch TV, we only watch movies, and while we let our preschool daughter watch a little something nearly every day, we’re really proactive about limiting the time. We turn it off (and close the media cabinet door) when she’s done. Neither my husband or I watch TV until the kids are in bed for the night. Not only does this positively alter our home’s mood, it also really increases my productivity. I’m amazed.

And of course, silence is also a great tool. If peace is the mood you’re after, you can’t go wrong here.

VOICES

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Photo by Melody

How do you speak to each other in your home? Do you yell? Are you sarcastic? Do you listen to each other? Do you laugh? Do you sing silly songs with your kids? Do you let your kids be loud when they have friends over? Do you encourage “quiet time” with your children for part of the day? All these factors make up the sounds in your home. Your guidelines on these things will be different depending on your personality, the personality of other family members, and simply your priorities and preferences, but it’s good to take time to think about them.

If you don’t let your kids be loud, but only because that’s how it was when you grew up, not because it bothers you, then maybe you can change the rules. It might relax them, it might cheer you up, and it just might help your whole family enjoy being at home more. Who knows – it’s just an idea.

(I also love podcasts, and from time to time I listen to quality radio shows or sermons. But I don’t really think of them as decorating or adding to my home’s ambiance – they’re more purely for information. Sometime in the future I’ll write a post about good podcasts for home managers.)

LISTEN

Make a mental note of the sounds you hear in your home today. Think about what mood and atmosphere you’d like. What can you do to add audible decor? What sounds make your home a haven?

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Just for fun, I’ve below is the current playlist I’m currently enjoying during my kids’ afternoon quiet time. The first half is my blog-writing, budget-making, email-responding music. The second half is my cleaning, organizing, and cooking music. I hope I’m not embarrassing or dating myself by revealing my current favorites – we’ll see.

Do you use the internet to play music? What are your favorite tools? Do you have any guidelines for music in your home? What are your music tastes – and do they differ from your family members? What about the noise level in general – is your home quiet or loud? I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts. I’ll see you in the comments section.

Additional photos by Courtney Filer-Dougal, Victoria Smith and Tomsch.

Check out the other articles about Decorating With the 5 Senses:

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Comments

  1. Great idea to have music as a deco instrument. Each day we have half an hour ‘silence’ so that the children learn to hear their environment: birds, wind, what kind of car etc. I feel they need this silence to calm down from the noice of school and TV.

    sevenjobss last blog post..Verdienen Frauen weniger Geld als Männer? Women earn less money than their male collegues?

  2. @sevenjobs – Ooh, I really like that idea. Especially for us, we really have to listen for those nature sounds in such an urban city. And I agree, quiet really does calm kids.

  3. itunes was the best and worst invention for me. I LOVE music and to have it at my fingertips and to be able to just sit and go through all different types of music is awesome. I feel that music really can change your mood so easily. What a great post.

    aimees last blog post..Please Explain…

  4. @aimee – Worst because all your money goes there? :) I’m assuming that’s what you mean. I, for one, am so thankful for resources like this. Living overseas, it’s so great to know I have access to music from my home with the touch of a button.

  5. I’m new to your blog and am enjoying it already! I feel like the Lord has called me to simply my life in order to enjoy my God, my family and my life more! Thank you for putting so much thought into a very pertinant topic! God Bless – Ellen

    Ellens last blog post..It’s Official

  6. (oh and I just thought of something I wanted to suggest in the “sound decor” category… We listen to the music stations that are on our tv – we have a great Christian station which is usually on but we also click over to the 80′s, classical, and kids worship on occasion as well!)

    Ellens last blog post..It’s Official

  7. I love music and I also love the quiet after the kids go to bed. I actually have a computer in our kitchen and we have playlists for the days of the week (Jazzy Jazz for Sundays, Starbucks-style music for when I have my coffee, and romantic music for quiet dinners with my spouse). I also have two playlists on my iPod. One is quiet soothing music for when I am knitting and the other is fast paced music for when I am working out or mowing the lawn :)

    I am a big fan of Pandora and Launch on Yahoo for music as well!

    Amys last blog post..Adventures in Breadmaking: Artisan Bread in 5

  8. @Ellen – Great idea, too! I’m always forgetting about those music stations on TV since we don’t have them. Thanks for the reminder.

    @Amy – Ooh, I love it! Different music for different days. I especially love the music just for coffee idea. That’s right up my alley.

  9. Beautifully Brilliant Post !

    Ever heard the sentiment that moms are the first educators?

    Bravo!!

    ~ Alex

    Alexander M Zoltais last blog post..Perfectionism . . .

  10. When I clean house and the kids do chores we always try to have fun music with a fast beat on. When they where young it was disney tunes now its what they have on their mp3.

  11. Great blog this morning! I love music, love finding new music and have music on most of the time (it was also the topic for my blog this morning).

    I use iTunes to organize my music. Although most of my music does not come from iTunes, I add songs from other sources (from internet or CD) to iTunes so that all my music is in one place. I organize them in playlists (whether by mood, activity, genre, etc.) The playlist I listen to the most is “current favourites” which I move songs in and out of. When I love a song, I want to listen to it over and over again so I like this playlist the most.

    Our computer is wired to a receiver with speakers in the living room and in the kitchen. We can have all the speakers on (if we all want to listen to the same thing) or just some of them on.

    I get some of my music from television shows. Many shows will have songs heard prominently during episodes (like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, etc.). I google a few lyrics to find out who the artist is then either visit the artist’s website or the artist’s MySpace to listen to their songs before deciding whether to purchase or not and which songs to download. Q magazine (and their website) is also a great place to find what is new in British music (or popular over there).

    I loved your thoughts on the topic. I will definitely save this one so that I can read it again later and follow the links when I have more time.

    Suzes last blog post..What is a music lover to do?

  12. @Suze – Great minds think alike, huh? I’ll head over to check out your thoughts in just a moment. Just wanted to say thanks for your insights – I had not thought of googling lyrics to find an artist. Very smart.

    We, too, have speakers wired to our laptop. In fact, right now that serves as our sound system at home.

  13. I echo other’s comments on this post. I love music but am new to highspeed so have not had a clue how to access free music, make a playlist etc. The bit samples on Amazon are the extent of my Internet music. Your post is a HUGE help in getting me started. Not too mention I love, love, love, your playlist. That will give me much listening enjoyment while I venture myself. One day maybe you can have a draw for your reader’s with the prize being a playlist created by you!

    I listen a lot to CBC ( Cdn. Broadcast Corp. radio) but mid-story I am always interrupted. Very frustrating and of course the kids receive the brunt of that. Music would be a much better background sound in our house than the constant “talking heads” as much as I appreciate the broadcasts.

    I limit myself to reading 10 blogs. When I find a new one I like it means I have to delete a blog. Yours is a keeper for sure. Keep on keeping on simplemom. Your blog is a blessing.

    Andrea

  14. avatar
    Stephanie says:

    One of my favorite websites with free streaming music is http://www.kickradio.nl. I love the ’80′s! Because it is from The Netherlands, I would think it would be available in other parts of the world…?

  15. I really enjoy your playlist, but I would like to suggest (and I think you probably do this from time to time anyhow) listening to a full album– sometimes playlist-making can get crazy fast and some albums have beautiful stories to tell.

  16. I love the peaceful quiet. Since I’m used to it, I have a hard time when the tv is going in the background. I love that you mentioned how we speak to our family during the day. I always want to watch that, and reminders are good.

    Rachel@SmallNotebooks last blog post..Two

  17. I am really enjoying your series and so glad I came upon your blog.
    I spent a day noticing the sounds of my home today before I jumped in with a comment here. I realized that with 3 little ones under the age of 4, I actually aim for silence as much as possible. Even when I drive alone in the car, I keep the radio off where I used to love that opportunity to listen to my country music LOUDLY. :)

    Today was magnificent because I had the windows open (loving the fresh air aroma in my home…although today it was more of sweat b/c it was so humid here in Maryland) and we enjoyed the sounds of God’s creation about us. I was able to talk to my boys about the sounds of the birds and how God created them to use their melodies to speak to one another.

    I do love worship music, play books on CD for my kids often, will listen to a sermon every now and then, but mostly anymore I just love having all the extra sounds quieted to leave nothing but the sounds of my boys playing imaginary play with each other and my baby girl babbling away having her conversations with nobody but herself.

    Now, when my hubby comes home, all that goes out the window. Nearly the first thing he does is turn on some music. He has made a habit out of putting on classical music or some other kind of instrumental, calming music for dinner. We laugh and say it makes us feel a bit more civilized while having dinner with 3 toddlers around the table. :)

    Brianas last blog post..Our Florida Vacation, April 2008

  18. @Andrea – Thanks for keeping me on your reading list. ;)

    @Stephanie – Thanks for the hat tip! I’ll look into that for sure. I love 80s music as well, if you couldn’t tell.

    @Tammy – Oh yes, I do that, too.

    @Rachel – Quiet is in such short supply when you’re a mama. I soak it in whenever I get a chance, too.

    @Briana – Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Sounds like you do an awesome job taking in your surroundings and appreciating you’re kids where they are. That’s funny about classical music during dinner. Kids can make dinnertime a whole new adventure. :)

  19. Okay, I have to say I am a total music geek and I have never heard of last.fm

    I’m listening to it now and loving it :)

    Laurens last blog post..School’s out!

  20. I have to say I’ve never quite thought of using music this way, but you do make a good point. Music has a way of creating a mood and ambience that is hard to do with anything else. I just wish I could have peace and quite decorating my home more often :) My daughter and nieces just turned the TV off, and I had forgotten how great it is to be able to hear birds outside and the dog barking softly a few houses down.

    Jennae @ Green Your Decors last blog post..Lovely Lighting: Recycled Cardboard Lampshades

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