In Living Out Loud,  Keri Smith’s a fun book of creative exercises, she writes, “In recent years lifestyle stores have become the rage selling products related to all aspects of living, eating, decorating, bathing, sleeping and dressing.

“If you were to open your own lifestyle store, what would you sell?”

Here’s how I answered that question.

The first thing you notice when you walk up the stone path to the sprawling English cottage that houses Cottage Industry is that the front yard is a luscious garden where flowers and vegetables grow side by side.

Pass under the rose-covered archway and you’ll enter a large room that resembles a comfy old library. You’ll be greeted by the faint smell of nag champs incense and soft music.

There are shelves of books and inviting chairs for browsing. Each corner has a different subject:
there are personal growth books in the Taking Care of the Boss corner, and eclectic mix of favorite authors in the Kindred Spirits corner.

In another are helpful books for Making a Living Without a Job and in the fourth corner  you’ll find books to Feed Your Wanderlust.

Vintage travel posters hang on the walls and favorite quotes are painted over the doorways.

Shelves in the center of the shop hold a collection of tools for creative entrepreneurs. You’ll find arty file folders, kaleidoscopes and framed quotations to add to the decor in your own World Headquarters.

But Cottage Industry isn’t just about stuff. It’s also about stuff happening. Walk toward the back and you’ll enter a glass conservatory known as The Idea Room overlooking another garden. Tea and coffee and treats are served in this room that invites gathering to brainstorm ideas.

Another large room to the left, known as the Follow Through Center, serves as a perfect setting for classes and coaching. 

I like to think of Cottage Industry as a spa for your imagination.

Do you have any idea how much fun that was for me to write? Try it for yourself. As Smith urges, “”Make a list of what it would contain. Draw pictures of what it would look like. What items best represent you? Come up with a name for your store.”

Feel free to rave about your store in the comment section below.

Several years ago I decided to start a list of things I loved doing so much I could do them every day without getting bored. I wanted the list as a reminder to integrate beloved activities and things on a daily basis.

I thought of that this morning as I was driving home from yet another visit to the DMV and heard one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, one of the things that made my Everyday Love List.

It’s not just the music I love, however. I also love the story. Those lovely pieces were written for a competition held by the city of Brandenburg-Schwedt, Germany. It was a competition won by somebody else.

Nobody seems to remember winner’s name, nor his musical entry, but Bach’s concertos frequently top the list of public radio listener’s favorites 290 years after they first were played.

Today I was also reminded that even onerous tasks can be more pleasant if we include things we love. It doesn’t do much good, after all, if we know what we love, but don’t have regular contact with them.

A while back, Alice Barry and I had a conference call with participants who had attended our Follow Through Camp retreat. I asked everyone to complete an exercise before the call.

This fun idea comes from Keri Smith’s delightful book, Living Out Loud . It’s called Lifestyle for Sale and it goes like this:

In recent years, lifestyle stores have become the rage, selling products related to all aspects of living: eating, decorating, reading, bathing, sleeping and dressing. If you were to open your own lifestyle store, what would you sell?

Make a list of what it would contain. What items best represent you and your many layers? Are they eclectic? Chaotic? Minimal? Calming?

Come up with a name for your store—maybe it’s a character from your favorite book, or something that reflects the store’s contents.

Before the call, I  also created my own imaginary lifestyle store. Like many of the other callers, I envisioned my store in a funky old house reached by walking through a garden.

My store wasn’t just about stuff, but also about stuff happening. There was a conservatory on the back called the Idea Factory for collaborative brainstorming. Another spot was called the Follow Through Room where people who felt stuck could find inspiration and support to get moving again.

The bookshop section had four distinct sections, each housed in a separate corner. One was devoted to personal growth, another to biographies of kindred spirits, another on business building and another on supporting wanderlust.

Every room was furnished with big, comfy chairs and vintage travel posters adorned the walls. Happily, the place where I live resembles my imaginary store.

Although none of the folks who did this with Alice and me were interested in opening a shop, creating this vision got them dreaming about spending time in the kind of place they’d imagined.

It’s a great exercise and I urge you to try it yourself. More importantly, surround yourself with people, things, and ideas you love as much as you possibly can.

As the John Ruskin poster in my office never lets me forget, “We are not sent into this world to do anything which is not in our hearts.”

Of course, first we need to know what that is.