Category Archives for "Home and Garden"

Space Clearing – Clear The Cutter, Feel The Force

Space clearing, clear the clutterSpace clearing first became fashionable in the 1980s and has since become firmly embedded in our culture.  It’s not hard to see why when we know that architecture, interior design, lights, colours, and sounds have a measureable effect on moods and concentration.

There is both and art and a science to enhancing and optimising all these aspects of the spaces in which we live, work, play, and rest.

However, two things that make space clearing even more interesting and appealing is the fact that it goes beyond the physical, and that it can be practiced by anyone, even those with no talent in the more orthodox aspects of design.

Feng Shui, Bagua

The Bagua

Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement, designed to harmonise rooms, buildings, and landscapes by controlling the flow of chi throughout, has spread to the West and is now widely practiced but it takes a certain amount of learning and diligence to apply it correctly.

What is the difference between Feng Shui and space clearing?
I like to think of it like this:

  • Feng Shui is all about making changes that will optimise the flow of chi in your local area earth energy network.  It’s about enhancing the Quality of Service in your network.
  • Space clearing is rebooting your network components and clearing the memory of bugs that might effect performance.

Not everyone has the time to study Feng Shui and perhaps they can’t afford to hire a consultant, so what can we do to optimise our spaces ourselves?

Happily, there is plenty we can do beyond just having a general tidy-up and doing some housework.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Clear The Clutter

Clear the clutterThis is the first and most obvious task.  During the course of our daily lives we accumulate so much stuff.  Our cupboards, wardrobes, and garages are full of it.  Most if it will never be used by us again but we hang on to it just in case.

Some people have so much stuff that they don’t have enough room in their houses, garages, or sheds and they end up paying monthly storage fees just to store this their stuff.  It might be out of sight but it is not out of mind as the awareness of it nags at us, even if it’s subconsciously.

We are bloated with possessions.  I suspect there are strong similarities between the obesity epidemic in Western culture and the excessive accumulation of possessions.  Some people hang on to stuff and excess body weight for similar reasons i.e. there’s an underlying emotional or mental cause.

So your first task to to clear the clutter.

You have these options but be ruthless.  Do this for every room in the house, the garage, and the garden shed.  Give thanks and let go of your unwanted stuff.

  1. Sell it. Ebay, Ziffit, or in your local paper.  Turning unwanted possessions into cash is very rewarding.
  2. Give it. Free-cycle it or give it to a charity shop.  Let someone else make use of it and enjoy the benefit of it.
  3. Dump it.  Take it to your nearest recycling centre.  Dispose of it thoughtfully.  Some recycling centres sell the best bit to raise money for charity.
  4. Store it. If it really is that important and you’ve used it within the last few months clean it and store it.

I love books and I enjoy browsing bookshops.  After I’ve read one I place it on one of my bookshelves and leave it there for a few months.  I soon run out of space for new books so every few months I give my bookshelves a thorough audit and sell or give away all those I’m highly unlikely to read or refer to again.

Some I keep because I dip into them or because they are rare but those I sell bring in a little cash and make way for new books.

Space Cleaning

There is little point in carrying out elaborate space clearing rituals and ceremonies in a dirty room with filthy windows.

You’re going to have to do some housework first.  I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining how but make sure you clean everywhere, including all corners and hard to reach areas that are above and below eye level.

Before we cleanse the more subtle atmospheres take care of the physical chores first. Pay particular attention to the windows, the eyes of the house.  Clean every nook and cranny.

This house is like the Moon – it has no atmosphere

A difficult atmosphereSpeaking of atmospheres, what are we talking about here?  Many may scoff at the idea of meditation, visualisation, ritual, or ceremony having any real effect but there is widespread acceptance of the idea that atmospheres can be generated by the presence of people.

You could cut the atmosphere with a knife is an idiom that describes how most people can sense when there is tension in the air.  It could be due to an argument between two people, a tense meeting, or an angry audience.

The spaces we occupy and the buildings that form them soak up these tensions.  If left unresolved they may dissipate over time but then again they may not and they may pollute the atmosphere until they are neutralised and removed.

Sound in the form of clapping, laughter, and cheering can diffuse tension in an audience.  The ringing out of church bells in a parish can have a similar effect on the local neighbourhood.

Holy atmosphereClapping, bell ringing, and drumming are space clearing techniques used all over the world.

The same applies to beneficial and uplifting atmospheres.  Repeated religions ceremonies over time can create an atmosphere of sanctity and stillness.  Just pop into one of those old parish churches tucked away up a country lane, sit in a pew and sense it.  It’s unmistakable.

Chanting, meditation, and rituals can make a place holy in the sense that the atmosphere is calmed and transformed into an area of stillness in an otherwise tempestuous world.

Use the Force, Luke

Creative visualisationNow that you’ve cleared the clutter and cleaned the house it’s time to get down to business with the cleansing on the more subtle levels.

The tools you use and the steps you take are best left to you to choose.  It will depend on so many things; your upbringing, culture, interests, religion etc.

Perhaps you won’t use any physical tools at all.  Perhaps you’ll just sit and meditate for half an hour as you go around the house visualising every room being cleansed.

After all, it’s what’s going in your imagination while you ring the bells or wave the smudge sticks that really counts.

Here are some of the tools that can be used.  It’s not an exhaustive list and there are some books listed below that will provide more detail about these and other methods.

  • Hand clapping – simple but effective, and you carry the tools around with you.
  • Bell ringing – Balinese bells are favoured by some but you might use an old school hand bell bought at an antique shop.
  • Smudge sticks – waft it around and fan the smoke into corners using a feather.
  • Prayers and chanting – learn the lines and repeat as necessary.
  • Meditation – full on visualisation of purifying white healing light flowing through the house and removing every last bit of non-physical dirt and grime.

The important thing is to experiment and develop methods that suit you.  In the end, it’s not the paraphernalia you use, it’s the will and intent that counts.

Try to cultivate a quiet meditative state in which your ego and self-consciousness is temporarily set aside.  While in this frame of mind visualise a connection between the Divine, the Source, God, or whatever term you’re comfortable with and the space you’re in.

See this connection acting as a conduit, a channel through which you can download a powerful boost of pure energy that gently but firmly removes all vestiges of stuck and stagnant energy.

See it acting as both a purifying and a creative force that enables anyone passing through and occupying the space to use it for their health and well-being.

Hotels and Offices

Finally, remember you can use these meditative techniques in any space, particularly those in which you need to be discrete.  For example, when travelling you can use them in hotel rooms or at work you take a few minutes of ‘mindfulness’ in which to clear a meeting room or work area.

Hotel rooms may be cleaned physically but what actually takes place in them and what residual atmosphere is left is anybody’s guess.   It could be harmless but it could also be sinister and unhealthy.

Give the room a mental space clearing cleanse soon after you first arrive not only for your own peace of mind but as a gift for the next person who uses it too.

January 2, 2017

Home security cameras – 7 reasons why they are a great idea

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that the Police are placing more and more reliance upon the public to provide evidence of crimes before they will investigate thoroughly.  However, there are distinct advantages to installing covert cameras that go beyond the evidence gathering when crimes occur.  In this post I explain several reasons why home security cameras are a great idea and why I think you should invest in some.

Disclosure:  this post contains affiliate links.

Home Security Cameras – what are they?

Home security cameras can be categorised into the three main types:

  1. Outdoor cameras – more expensive due to the cost of the weatherproof casing
  2. Indoor cameras – less expensive but of course limited to indoor use
  3. Covert cameras – hidden spy cameras inside the home

Home security cameras can be wired or wireless and they come with a variety of features and functions depending on model and manufacturer:

  1. home security camerasData stored on a an SSD card on the camera itself
  2. Data (images, video, and sound) transmitted to a local PC, NAS (Network Area Storage) or to a cloud account
  3. Motion Detection – recording triggered by movement (or sound)
  4. Night Vision – infrared capabilities
  5. Pan and Zoom – remotely operate and pan around and zoom in to areas of interest
  6. Internet Access – the camera’s view available over the internet with an app or website account

You’ll sometimes see them referred to as IP cameras (Internet Protocol) because they are devices connected to your LAN (Local Area Network) in the home, just like your computer, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet computer.

There are hundreds on the market and the technology is evolving.

Vehicle Surveillance Camera

burglar deterrenceA single bullet camera installed on the outside of your home can keep a watch on your vehicle parking area as well as your front garden.  In urban areas it is often the case that you have no option but to park on a driveway that is just off the road.  Your vehicle is therefore exposed to any passing miscreant with mischief in mind.

If your vehicle, caravan, or motorcycle is of particular monetary value and importance to you then the risk of theft or vandalism is greater.

If another driver reverses into your drive and collides with your vehicle then your bullet camera will capture the event.  It will make your insurance claim so much easier if you have video footage of the incident that clearly exonerates you and shows what really happened.  Without this evidence you are left to explain the damage and your insurers may not believe your story.  You may also be able to read the number plate of the vehicle and you can then pass this on to the Police.

The same advantages in terms of insurance claims, exoneration, apportioning blame, and helping the Police in the event of an accident occurring within your field of view are also reasons for installation a dash cam in your vehicle.

Burglary Deterrence

Just as fake security cameras in shops can act as a deterrent to shoplifting so too can real home security cameras deter thieves.  They are almost certainly going to be real cameras and they’ll be filming anything that moves.  Given the choice between ten houses in a street, nine of which have cameras installed and one does not, it is a fairly safe bet that the house without the additional security is likely to be the burglar’s next target.

The same is true of alarms, but the cameras have all the additional benefits.  A house alarm is a deterrent and it may be monitored, so it can alert the neighbourhood and perhaps the Police, but it’s the security cameras that collect the evidence.

Obviously, to be a deterrent the camera has to be seen by the would-be thief. In the clip below the trespasser hasn’t seen the camera but a clear image of his face is captured in the footage.

Nanny Cam

Sadly, not everyone who is entrusted with the responsibilities of looking after children, adults, or pets has the integrity and professionalism to do so properly.  Let’s face it, some people are just downright cruel.  They may hurt or abuse (physically, emotionally, or verbally) those in their care, steal from them, or just behave in an unprofessional manner by neglecting to carry out those tasks that you have delegated to them.

An indoor security camera can be left in place and on clear display as a deterrent, or a covert camera can be installed to capture evidence if you suspect any wrongdoing but haven’t got any proof.

This is particularly useful for occasions when you have to hire temporary staff, and of course it refers to all kinds of staff or contractors, not just nannies; carers, cleaners, tradesmen, builders, house/pet sitters etc.

Pet Camera

Many pet owners have no option but to leave their pets alone in the house or flat.  This can be a source of worry for the owner and anxiety for the pet.

A home security camera can be used to check up on a pet while you’re at work or absent for any other reason.  Some models can now transmit sound and video so you can even speak to your pet and reassure them with a visual and aural message.

Wildlife Cameras

Many people who have installed home security cameras have discovered that they capture all kinds of wildlife passing through their gardens at night.  Foxes are of course common in urban areas, but some cameras have also captured footage of badgers, deer, and other mammals.

Outdoor cameras can be pointed out bird feeding areas where they can capture footage not only of the more common garden birds but also the occasional rare visitor.

If your garden is particularly active you might want to consider adding a wildlife camera specifically designed for the task, just like the trail cameras we so often see on wildlife documentaries.

Neighbourhood Watch

Communities and neighbourhoods that cooperate and communicate with each other are safer than those in which everyone is a stranger and no one talks to their neighbours.  The scheme works in close association with the Police and has proved its worth many times throughout the UK.

By joining your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme you can meet others who have also installed home security cameras and share tips and ideas with them.

You can cooperate with your neighbours and use your security devices to deter anti-social behaviour and crimes of any sort.

Helping the Police and Security Services

As the population grows and budgets for the Police seem to be diminishing rather than increasing the public are being called up on to help both deter crime and provide evidence when it has occurred.

A security camera installed on the outside of your home may capture the movements of a criminal or terrorist suspect passing by on the street.  That small piece of footage may be of great value to the security services.

Indoor and outdoor cameras may capture evidence that convicts anyone who vandalises your property, steals from you, or commits acts of violence against you or your family.

Surveillance Society

Surveillance SocietyThe subject of home security cameras and CCTV surveillance is the subject of rigorous debate, with strong views held on either side of the argument.  On the one had there is the case for deterring crime, and gathering evidence and intelligence.  On the other hand there is the increasing amount of intrusion into our daily lives, and near constant surveillance.

For example, here in the UK there are thousands of CCTV cameras filming us as we pass through urban areas.  In Germany there are far fewer as the consensus has been that they are a violation of privacy.  However, in light of the December 2016 terror attack in Berlin (and the lack of intelligence and footage of the attacker) it may be that the German people and government agree to more CCTV cameras being installed in the streets of their major cities at least.

Installation, Usage, and Maintenance Tips

  1. Pet CameraRead and follow the instructions.  Indoor cameras are very easy to install and configure but you may want to ask an electrician to fit any outdoor cameras as the power cable will probably need to come through an exterior wall.
  2. If your WIFI signal is weak in the chosen area then consider using Power over Ethernet plugs.  These use your household electrical wiring as an extension of your computer network.  Put one plug near your wireless router and connect it using a LAN cable.  Put the other near the camera and connect it using another LAN cable.
  3. Indoor cameras can be used to monitor the outside of the house by positioning them on a window sill but they tend to pick up glare on the glass of the window and they don’t have the coverage of an outdoor camera.  However, as a low budget option you can put them on the ground floor windows to monitor the areas in front of at the back of the house.
  4. Motion detection sensitivity can be adjusted so if you’re getting too many alerts reduce the sensitivity and confine the motion detection to certain sections of the camera view.  For example, you might be able to de-select the area covering a branch of a tree that keeps moving in the wind.
  5. Regularly check that your cameras are working and that your images and video are being captured and stored.  Clear out any archives so that your storage quota is not exceeded.  Some NAS software will do this automatically by overwriting to oldest archive.
  6. Keep your camera’s firmware up to date but check it’s working again after any upgrades.
  7. Familiarise yourself with the app for remote access and test in periodically so that you can use it easily when needed.
  8. Respect the privacy of your neighbours and don’t point your cameras in such a way that impinge on their privacy.  Domestic properties are not covered by the Data Protection Act but if you film or photograph your neighbours they could take action against you on the ground of harassment or voyeurism.

Where to buy home security cameras

Some of the more well known and popular brands are Y-Cam and D-Link and both companies have an extensive range available on Amazon. I’ve used both and I’m quite happy with the results.  Check that you’re buying the latest version of the camera and read the reviews.  You’ll find the vast majority of the reviews are positive.

If you have any feedback, suggestions, or tips you’d like to share please do so in the comments below.