Winter White

Cozy winter still life: mug of hot tea and warm woolen knitting on vintage windowsill against snow landscape from outside.

photo from istock

There are few colors that capture my imagination like white in the winter. The wind blows fresh snow into our gardens, and white frost greets us on our windows in the morning. The world slows down.



In January, the color white is a promise of simplicity. I am enchanted.




Even without a snowfall, white clouds in a winter sky have a stunning clarity.

The purity of white, its neutrality and its ability to blend with any other color makes it perfect in design, and art, and architecture. A white house, for instance:


white house

photo from istock

A white bedroom is so very peaceful.




I have always said that the most beautiful rooms are white plus one other color. That combination creates instant serenity, a feeling of airiness and openness that no other color can offer.




Benjamin Moore chose their Simply White (OC-117) as their color of the year for 2016.


If you use white plus one color, a great tip is to choose one fabulous fabric, then repeat, repeat, repeat! Less is often more. The eye needs a place to rest.




White has always been the color of new beginnings, a clean slate. It represents innocence, making it a perfect color for weddings. (At least here in the United States. In China, red is the color frequently chosen by brides!)

The tablescape, below, is from my wedding. I used white roses, white hydrangeas, white tulips and white lilies of the valley in silver chalices, along with white votive candles and white shells. It still takes my breath away.


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White is also associated with cleanliness, sterility, and safety, making it an excellent choice for kitchens.




Dogs look marvelous in white!


047 8x10 email Trudy, Frank and dogs

G.G., Tuffy, and Ellie. Also Trudy and Frank

Although some people (Women on Fire founder Debbie Phillips and her husband, Rob Berkley) prefer white cats.


debbie phillips wilbur


I love my white bedroom on Nantucket.


Dujardin Madaket 025


White is soothing in a place to sit and read.


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It’s perfect in a dining room.


blue and white vases dining room


I’ve always loved white sofas…


living room 2


white starfish…




or starfish with white…


Dujardin Website 306


the beauty of blue and white…


bedroom blue and white


White is the perfect color for marshmallows…


Gourmet Hot Chocolate Milk

photo from istock

for snow hares…


snowshoe hare

photo from istock

for outdoor furniture…




for flowers…


bee at work

photo from istock

and lamps.


cake plate on desk


As someone who has always lived on the coast, either in Connecticut or on my beautiful Nantucket Island, I think I like it best in sand–




and shells–


shells white

photo from istock

and sea.


stormy ocean

photo from istock

Luckily, I don’t have to choose.


sitting room


White is beautiful everywhere.






A Woman on Fire: Debbie Phillips

debbie phillips 2015

For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of being a member of an inspirational, uplifting and supportive group of women called Women on Fire. My good friend, Debbie Phillips, a life and executive coach for many years, began noticing that many of her hardworking, successful coaching clients shared something in common: isolation. That was the genesis of her life-changing decision to devote herself to a new passion: providing support, strategies and inspiration for women who are “on fire” in their lives, or who want to be.

Twelve years later, Women on Fire is a group of thousands of women all over the U.S. and the world, who meet for small group teas in their cities, get inspiration through a monthly mailing from Debbie featuring empowered and accomplished guests (supported by an online phone chat each month), go on retreats together, and share a members Facebook page to get a little more personal with new friends from far away. I’m so pleased to share my conversation with the woman who inspires me to live a life on fire every day: Debbie Phillips.

Trudy: It’s the Women on Fire tradition to ask in interviews what your day has been like so far–what a typical day is like for you? So what’s your day like, Debbie?

Debbie: I happily wake up at 6:30 a.m. when my thoughtful husband, Rob, who’s been up since 5 a.m., brings me a cup of coffee!

I then spend at least 20 minutes reading inspirational material; I meditate for 3-5 minutes; and I write down five things I’m grateful for in my Grati-Pad (a specially designed notepad by R. Nichols).

Breakfast is most often a healthy shake. Some days I work out or take a walk before heading into my office. My workday usually starts when I check in on the private Facebook page for Women on Fire members to see how everyone is doing!

I travel a fair amount so my days are different. When I’m home in my office, I am usually writing, interviewing, planning, thinking or working with members of our extraordinary Women on Fire team.

With the exception of our assistant, Daren, our team is scattered across the U.S. In different time zones, which actually works out nicely for our work flow. Thank heaven for the Internet so we can all work virtually! It is a blessing to work with the best people possible and not be contained by location.

If Rob and I don’t have plans in the evening, we usually wind down our day by cooking dinner together and then watching a movie or TV series (our current favorite is “Lilyhammer“) or reading.

Trudy: You are an inspiration to so many women, and I’m sure an equal number of men! Who has inspired you? When you were first deciding who Debbie Phillips was going to be in this world (and then maybe redeciding), who did you look to for inspiration?

Debbie: In my late 20s, I worked for former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, and I was extremely fortunate to meet a lot of fascinating people but none more so than Gloria Steinem. I later became the press secretary to Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste, and I saw and spoke to Gloria on occasion because she was an Ohio native and, of course, very politically active. She grew up in Toledo, Ohio, 60 miles from where I grew up in Montpelier, so I felt a geographic kinship to her.

She had (and has to this day) the kindest, gentlest, sweetest way about her–and yet she is one of the strongest, most powerful and accomplished women in the world!

When you speak with her, she is focused totally on you and no matter what’s being discussed, she is positive and empowering.

Not too long ago, I had the great pleasure of attending a gathering in her beautiful apartment in NYC. Typical of the way she puts people at ease, she warmly greeted her guests in the bedroom before we moved to the living room.

It was said of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “good mind, first-class temperament.” I would say the exact same of Gloria.

I am–we all are–so fortunate she and her colleagues in the Women’s Movement blazed the trail to make so many powerful changes for women in the world.

What Gloria showed me is that I could go after my own dreams with strength, drive and determination–and still be feminine, kind, caring, generous and loving. She exemplifies everything in a human being I aspire to be.


Trudy: As an interior designer, I believe in the power of our surroundings to uplift us, relax us, and improve our health. Home is very important. How would you describe your homes, both on Martha’s Vineyard and in Naples? Have you approached the interiors differently because they are in different climates and cultures?

Debbie: I learned early on from a certain brilliant designer that “a Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury (TM)” (Thank you, Trudy Dujardin!)

So we’ve approached both of our homes with the idea of what creates the best and healthiest environment.

We consider our home on Martha’s Vineyard “our mothership.” We built it and moved into it in 2001. Before we even dug the foundation, we wrote a vision for each room in it.

We carefully thought through how we would use each room and the feelings evoked when people were in that particular room.

We wanted to bring the beautiful nature outside on Martha’s Vineyard inside. So we focused on having big windows with lots of light. We chose colors that are soothing and found in nature.

We wanted to create “visual surprises” in the house. For instance, when you in the master bath shower, if you look closely, you’ll notice a sprinkling of hand-painted tiles of dandelions. Or, if you study the wallpaper that appears to be rather formal in one room, you’ll see squirrels in it!

In Florida, we have a two-bedroom condo that we recently redecorated. We removed the carpet and installed wood floors. The decor is more modern than our house on the Vineyard–and more colorful to reflect more of a Florida feel.

debbie phillips wilbur

photo credit: Rob Berkley

Trudy: You work with your husband, Rob, and I know partnership in a marriage is very important to you. My stepson, Nick, is getting married this September on Nantucket. What would you tell a young couple just beginning a life journey together?

Debbie: Congratulations, Nick! Rob and I started our life together by establishing a vision and a set of values for our life. Our vision is: we are together in this world to help people express their gifts, strengths and talents.

That was nearly 20 years ago–and having a purpose together like that has kept us strong and served us well–both personally and professionally.

You don’t have to work together, as Rob and I do, to have a couple’s vision. As coaches, Rob and I once worked with a couple in our Vision Day program who came up with one of my favorite visions: “We are a couple who  makes our family’s dreams come true.”

Soon after establishing their vision, this particular couple transformed dream into reality! They had wanted to expose their 10-year-old twin sons to a bigger world–and they moved to Australia for two years.

Best wishes to you and your bride, Nick! I hope the two of you will take time to create a vision for your relationship that will enhance your marriage over time.

debbie phillips with rob

Trudy: In your interview with Kristine Carlson, you said that maybe someday we can live to be 150. If you could, what would you do with the years between 100 and 150, assuming that you met your personal goals in the first 100 years. What would be your final gift to the world?

Debbie: Great question! On of my all-time favorite books is called Final Gifts by Patricia Kelley and Maggie Callanan, two Hospice nurses.

Grief has been a topic of interest in my life since my first loss of my beloved grandmother when I was 10; and Hospice has been important to my life since my late mother-in-law was one of its founders in Ohio.

I think often about what my “final gift” to the world might be. And, as I approach the Third/Third of my life, as we now refer to that period from 60-90, I wonder how I might contribute my talents to support families who are going through grief and end-of-life issues. I’ll keep working on it–and if I live to 150, I’ve still got plenty of time to think about it!

What I do know for sure is that with more than 3.5 billion women in the world, my work to create a world where women are supported, uplifted and valued for their gifts will continue as my life’s work.

women on fire

Trudy: A famous saying of Oprah’s is “once you know better, you can do better.” What’s something you had to learn to do better?

Debbie: I had to learn the importance of engaging in conflict with my husband! Marriages can die of still waters from failing to address conflict.

Ours was a second marriage and we both had a strong desire to create a great one.Having strategies for resolving conflict was essential to growing our relationship strong. It took skill-building, marriage counseling and therapy, study and practice to be able to have “good” conflict, which we can easily do now!

Did you know having conflict and being able to resolve it makes you grow closer? Well, I had to learn that! And it’s made all the difference in our relationship.

Trudy: Women have so many responsibilities in life, and as a result, a lot of commitments. What are some of your “must keep” commitments, to others, and to yourself?

Debbie: We don’t have children of our own. And yet we have many young people we love very much in our lives.

Our 21-year-old goddaughter Julia lived with us in the summers when she was growing up and she now lives and works full-time on Martha’s Vineyard where she’s opened Rosewater Market. Spending time with her and her inspiring group of roommates and friends is a “must keep” commitment that gives me so much joy!

My commitment to myself includes self-care such as exercise, massages, facials, manicures, pedicures–and a promise to keep my annual physical and medical appointments.

Trudy: What do you enjoy most in life? When you have a day off, what do you choose to do with your free time?

Debbie: At the top of my list, of course, is my husband whom I love to pieces and enjoy immensely–along with our 17 pound cat Wilber.

I also really enjoy my closest friends. Jan Allen has been my best friend for more than 30 years; and Holly Getty has been my close and dear friend for nearly 20. Any time I can curl up and chat with a great girlfriend, I am a happy camper!

When I have a day off, this is my idea of heaven:

I put on a pot of “stinky” coffee as my husband calls my favorite hazelnut blend; take a walk in nature; drive around Martha’s Vineyard and take in the ocean; relax in my hammock with a book; take an outdoor shower; call my mom for a long chitchat; and eat something decadent from Martha’s Vineyard favorites–a Chocolate Mousse Bomb from the Black Dog Bakery; toffee from Chilmark Chocolates; or a cream cheese brownie from Julia’s Rosewater Market.

debbie phillips horses in pasture

photo credit: Rob Berkley

Trudy: What books are on your bedside table right now?

Debbie: Poems from the Pond, an astonishing book, edited by Laurie David, about Peggy Freydberg who wrote amazing, powerful poetry from age 90-106!

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough; Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli; and a tower of magazines including Oprah, MORE, Town & Country, Rolling Stone, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Vanity Fair and Departures.

It’s not on my bedside table at the moment, but it is on my coffee tables on Martha’s Vineyard and in Naples, Florida:  Comfort Zone, by the fabulous Trudy Dujardin!


Trudy: A recent blog post on Holistic House was about finding our “right place” for the next part of our lives–sustainable communities that support our best selves. You seem to have made a great choice for yourself with Martha’s Vineyard and Naples. Where else did you and Rob consider making a home? Is there another, different place you dream of in your future? 

Debbie: Such an intriguing question! I’ve seen your exciting prospectus for sustainable homes and communities and find it so inspiring–and it will be the future!

I strongly believe each of us has several, and at least one major “geographic home” that feels “right” to us.

The only other place we considered living was Woodstock, New York where Rob grew up, but in 2000 when we were looking for our home, it didn’t feel quite right to me. Since I was 23, I’d dreamed of living on Martha’s Vineyard, one of my geographic homes. Once Rob visited the island, the Vineyard felt right to him, too, and he said he wanted to make my dream come true!

The only other location at the moment we’d like to create a home in is New York City. We are just waiting for that particular dream to line up! I know it’s coming.

debbie phillips pasture and pond

photo credit: Rob Berkley

Trudy: And last, how has launching Women on Fire changed your life? What have you learned from the process, and from all the Women on Fire?

Debbie: Launching Women on Fire in 2003 changed everything! It combined all my past work and experience as a reporter, press secretary, business executive and coach into the one thing that brings me the most happiness and joy.

And it has fulfilled a very deep desire I’d had my entire life to do something to improve life for women.

My beautiful and talented mother had a dream to be a nurse. When her father refused to pay her $150 application fee for nursing school, she, like so many women in the 1950s, put her dream aside, got married and raised five children.

I grew up seeing how detrimental for her not being able to express in the world her greatest gifts and passion was–as well as not having enough support to live life.

She came through life just fine (and today is Women on Fire member #00001, I’m proud to say!) but it could have been so much better and easier if she could have pursued her dream, even while raising a family, and received support.

Women on Fire solves those problems by providing inspiration, strategies and support for a woman to pursue her dreams–and to live her best life while reaching higher!

The women in this community are warm, loving, caring, talented women who cheer each other on to success! Most join us by saying, “I’m not quite ‘on fire,’ but I want to be.”

I believe “a rising tide lifts all boats” and when we all support each other and help each other to be our best, the world changes in a positive way.

More than anything, I am deeply grateful that I followed my heart and my dream to create and launch Women on Fire.

It is now a large business with the issues that any entrepreneur deals with! There were many times I thought I might give up.

Then I’d receive a call or a card or an email from a woman saying “Women on Fire is my lifeline,” or “I couldn’t have done what I did without Women on Fire,” and I give myself a little pep talk to get over my momentary fear, frustration or block–and I get back to work!

Trudy: Thank you, Debbie, for taking the time to answer my questions. I’ve known you for a long time, but I learned some wonderful new things about you today. I love the generous, heartfelt work you do in the world. I’m so glad my world includes you, and all of our Women on Fire friends!

women on fire 2

Brittany Eaton, Jan Allen, Debbie Phillips, Kacy Cook, Tandi Phillips Musuraca, Andrea Junk Dowding


Your Sacred Space: Part Two of an Interview with Trudy and Women on Fire Founder Debbie Phillips

Debbie Phillips

This is part two of my interview with Debbie Phillips for Women on Fire, the group she founded to bring an amazing circle of fabulous women together for inspiration, strategies and support.  The following is a transcript of part two of our talk on Your Sacred Space:  How to Create an Inspired, Healthy Living Environment. Read Part One here


Trudy:  What I’m striving for is indoor air quality–whatever we put in that space.  And the only space you can really control is your own environment, your home, so that everything in there supports your health and wellbeing.

Debbie:  Right.  Well, I love that notion, and I’m sure that people listening are thinking, “Well, how can I control other environments?”  But like you said, we can control our homes.  We can also control our cars, and some of us can control our offices.  Is there any way, Trudy, to control other environments–short of wearing a mask?

Trudy:  I think a lot of it is education, and you know I’m big on that.  I’m always trying to promote how to support yourself at home through my blog and also in the lectures I do on The Holistic House.  People ask, “Where should I begin?”  Begin in the nursery because your baby is sleeping in there 20-24 hours a day and breathing in that air.  But your own bedroom needs to be almost like a bell jar–really clean and free of dust and dust mites.  Don’t have a lot of wall-to-wall carpeting because there is so much that gets trapped underneath there.

Debbie:  Really?

Trudy:  Oh, yes, microbial growth.  At least area rugs can be sent out and steam cleaned.

Debbie:  Interesting.  So choose hardwood floors and rugs over wall-to-wall carpet.

Trudy: Hardwood floors, tile floors, stone floors–those are the cleanest.  They are the easiest to keep clean and dust-free.  When people who are really allergic or who have asthmatic children come to me, I tell them to damp mop their floors–as if we have enough free time to do all this.  But try to damp mop floors twice a week.  It is believed that our livers detox somewhere between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m.  Your liver and your kidneys are really hard at work, so you want to sleep in a really clean environment so you’re not still taxing your system and your organs.

Debbie:  Trudy, I’ve seen those air filters that often can be bought at specialty stores.  is there any kind or a particular air filter that you would recommend?

Trudy:  As you know, I had such a struggle with chemical sensitivity.  I had to go through a two-year detox program, which was almost like being on chemotherapy.  It was really rough.  So I don’t want to see other people go through that.  The one filter that the environmental physicians–there are only 400 in the whole world; it is a very specialized group–like is the Austin HealthMate Plus.  And the reason for that, Deb, is that it has a HEPA filter in there to filter out particulates–dust, mold spores, animal dander, pollen in the spring.  But it also has zeolite in the carbon filtration, which filters out vapors such as car fumes.  If you have a garage that’s part of your house, car fumes can infiltrate and go right through all the little perforations into the house.  The Austin HealthMate Plus filters out all of that.  It will filter out and lower the VOCs from your furniture because all furniture finishes have VOCs.  So that’s the filter I swear by.

Debbie:  That’s great.  Is there a particular kind of mattress or pillow or bedding?  I know it should be from organic cotton, but is there any particular brand or style that you think is best?

Trudy:  There are so many out there, so I want to tell everybody:  Buyer beware.  Make sure you really go to someone who can say that a mattress is truly organic cotton or it’s truly organic wool because it has been certified.  I personally like a wool mattress that’s been tufted, and then I have it encased in organic cotton.  I get my physician to write me a prescription slip, so to speak, to give to the people making the mattresses, saying that i refuse to have it sprayed with fire retardant.  By law, they have to add fire retardant in case there is a smoker in bed and a cigarette is dropped.  But it’s a problem because the rest of us have to pay the price by sleeping on a bed immersed in that chemical, and you really don’t want that.

Debbie:  Wow.

Trudy:  The other thing you want to do–because dust mites and the little things they leave behind are what a lot of people are allergic to, especially asthmatic children–is to get an encasement, a completely zip-around mattress protector.  It’s not just a pad on the top, and it’s made out of barrier cloth.  That keeps out dust mites, bed bugs, all those things that can happen, and you are much safer.  Your pillow really shouldn’t be foam or anything made of a chemical.  it should be organic cotton or organic wool, again, in an organic-cotton encasement protector.

Debbie:  Is there anything around the waterproofing of a mattress pad?  Would that necessarily have chemicals in it?

Trudy: It could.  Until I look at the label, I wouldn’t know.  You have to be careful of chemicals, especially where you are sleeping at night.  That’s the one room to change.  People say, “I can’t afford to go through and change my whole house.”  And I completely relate to that. But try to make your bedroom as clean, organic and chemical-free as possible.  That’s the goal.

Debbie:  This is so helpful because one of the things Rob and I have done is to create a couple’s sanctuary, but we have not gone to this level. This is very inspiring.  I want to talk about something else that would potentially be a tip, Trudy, and that is because we are talking about an inspired environment with a strong emphasis on creating a healthy environment.  I want to tell you a quick little story.  When I met Rob, who is now my husband, he had this rule that one way to create a sacred environment was that all shoes were to be removed before entering the house.  it took me a little while to get used to that, but I have adopted his ways and I have to say that I love it.  And, Trudy, you are the only other person I’ve met who has a porch full of shoes. I wondered if that’s a rule at your house–a shoeless house–and is there a good reason for not wearing shoes in the house?

Trudy: Absolutely.  I think it’s sacred.  It’s respectful to remove your shoes, to not bring in all that stuff from the street.  Asians do that a lot.  But there is also a very scientific reason for it:  When we are walking around on the street, we are actually walking through viruses, bacteria, chemicals sprayed on the streets to melt ice, and all of that.  We walk through that, and we definitely don’t want to track it into the house.  People I’ve studied with have said that if you could make pesticides iridescent and if you used a black light on them, they would glow.  And if you had somebody walk through his yard after it was sprayed for ticks or mosquitoes or whatever and then you tracked him as he walked through the house, there would be footprints everywhere he went in the house.  So that’s your practical reason.  Let’s not bring all this inside.  My biggest pet peeve is pesticides, chemicals, insecticides, mildewcides, and all of that.  I understand the purpose of it and I know what people are trying to do, but I think the public doesn’t always know the horrible side effects of it.

Debbie:  Right.  It’s funny, but I wonder if you have had this experience:  both of our homes on Martha’s Vineyard and Naples are shoeless, but I still feel a little embarrassed asking people to remove their shoes. 

Trudy:  You know what I do?

Debbie:  What do you do?

Trudy:  I go to Rite Aid and buy the little cotton socklets in all sizes, and I leave them right there at the door because sometimes people don’t want to slip on slippers if they feel that somebody else’s feet have been in there.  I relate to that.

Debbie:  I do too.

Trudy:  So get a fresh, sealed bag of little socklets, and you can get the ones that the men don’t mind wearing.  They’re almost like the little things they give you in the hospital when you’re walking up and down the halls.  And that just covers it when they’re in your home, and they can choose their colors.  Then it becomes sort of fun.

Debbie:  What a great idea.  Thank you, Trudy.  That solves that problem.  What are some other ways to detox our homes or space?  And, by the way, I hear a lot about that.  People will talk about, “I’m going to clear or detox my space.”  Is there an appropriate way to clear and detox a home?

Trudy: The biggest thing is what you put in it.  Let’s say you’re painting.  There was some wonderful person who sent me an email this morning, “How do you choose your paint?” I wasn’t sure if she was asking about color or if she wanted to know how to choose a safe paint.  For the latter, the biggest thing you can do, if you know you have oil-based paint and you’r’e going to repaint, is to go to a low-or no-VOC–again, Volatile Organic Compound–water-based latex paint.  Oil paint is a petroleum product.  People say, “Oh, my house doesn’t smell anymore.  I painted it three months ago.”  If you could dye those VOCs purple, you would see that they go on forever.  It’s truly deleterious to your health.  It’s truly injurious.  It’s not good for your lungs.  It’s just not good for a lot of reasons.

Debbie:  Do the major paint companies make those or do you have to find a special company?

Trudy: They do.  And so you don’t have to spend a fortune for that.  If you don’t have a chemical sensitivity, you probably don’t have to go as far as I do with it for my own health.

Debbie:  You were referring to a question from Jill Dulitsky, from Vernon, Connecticut.  She asked, ‘We are redoing our house and making a much more open floor plan.  How do you choose paint?”

Trudy: I emailed her back so we will continue that discussion, for sure.

Debbie:  I don’t know whether she did mean color.  Melissa McClain from Seattle, Washington, is very into color, and we should just bring up the color issue since I’m not sure what Jill meant.  Melissa asks, “What is your philosophy on finding the perfect color for your home or room?”

Trudy:  It’s really client-driven.  After I sit and talk with clients, I get a feel for what they like.  I also give them a client questionnaire.  It’s long.  I ask them, “What are your favorite colors?  What colors do you hate?” I tell them to get five of the current shelter magazines and tear out pages and write on them, saying, “Trudy, I love this.  I hate that.” By the time we’ve spoken and they’ve filled that out and I look at their tear sheets, I have a good sense of what they would thrive in.  There has been a lot of research done on people who have thyroid issues, which I do.  They thrive with the color blue.  Well, it’s no surprise that I have a lot of blue in my houses.  That’s my house in Connecticut.  Debbie would love it.  It’s more taupe and white and the sandy colors.  And say people with stomach issues really resonate to the color orange.  So, basically, what I do is interview everybody and I find out what they love.  Sometimes they don’t even really know what they’re gravitating to, but I can see it.  I can see it formulating.  Then we get a little report back to them, and we sit down and start with color swatches.  Then I see what they respond to.

Debbie:  I love it.

Trudy:  They always reach out with their hand for the things they love.

Debbie:  Really?

Trudy:  Oh, yes.  If they don’t like anything, the hand doesn’t come forward.  When they see a color they love, the hand goes out and they start rubbing it.  I say, “Oh, that’s it!  That’s the one.  That one likes Sea Glass.  She likes that color.”

Debbie:  This is why you are the genius you are.  That is really great to know.  I know you love blue. All those blues are so beautiful on your site.  What color don’t you like?

Trudy:  You know, it used to be orange, but I’m in love with that color now.  When I was going to art school, I took a course at Yale.  It was a color study course.  It forced us to become neutral about color.  Most people don’t know this–I think you might, Deb–but I was a fine arts major, and I was a painter first.

Debbie:  I did know that.

Trudy:  I approach color in a whole different way.  I had a studio in Rowayton, Connecticut, on the water.  I’m always by the water, whether it’s a river, a lake, Long Island Sound, Nantucket Sound, whatever.  I did commission paintings, and I loved it.  I taught art for a while in Rowayton, and I taught at New Canaan High School.  I loved working with the high-school students.  I just loved that.  But it was too solitary for me when I was working in the studio.  I’d come home at night and I’d think, “I didn’t talk to anybody all day.”  So I found myself gravitating toward doing rooms, and I thought, “OK, now I have to get more information about this.”  So I went back to school at Parsons in New York.  I also did a lot of on-the-job training.  I had some wonderful mentors and teachers.  You can shift course midstream.

Debbie:  Yes, you can.

Trudy:  It’s OK to do a mid-course correction.

Debbie:  Well, as I always say, we’re stomping our perimeter.  We’re building on what our interests are.  Like the fact that you were two years old and you were sketching, and then you just continued to build on that to be the person you are and create the amazing environments that you do now.

Trudy: You know, Deb, I really thought when I was younger that I was just going to grow up and be an artist.  I didn’t know I was going to go into interior design.  It just evolved.  It was an evolutionary process.

Debbie:  Melissa McClain also asked the question, “Was there a defining moment where you knew you wanted to be a designer?”

Trudy: Yes.  It was in that studio.  I said, “You know what?  I want to work with people.  I want to make rooms that they feel good in.  I want to work with fabric.”  I just jumped in and started.  I didn’t have enough training yet, so I went back and got the training that I felt I needed.  But the best training I had, Deb, was on the job, watching other designers that I really admired.

Debbie:  Oh, I’m sure.  Trudy, believe it or not, our chats just go so quickly.  In the ten minutes or so that we have left, I want to give our women some other tips for creating an inspired environment.  Are there other things, in addition to the advice that if you start with any place start with your bedroom?  Did we answer the question about what’s he right way to go about detoxing a room?

Trudy:  There are different ways to detox a room.  From a spiritual level, I like using sage.  When I first had a house in Monomoy on the water on Nantucket, I knew a wonderful woman who was a minister.  I had her come over, and she brought some other people.  We said prayers to the north, the east, the south and the west.  We asked blessings from every direction, and that was a truly blessed house.  Wonderful.  That’s one way to detox–mentally, spiritually and emotionally.  The other detox method concerns the materials you are using.  Say you bought a piece of furniture from a place where they use a lot of particleboards in the middle, and the formaldehyde levels are off the wall.  You can even smell it.  It has that kind of stinky smell.  I would get that piece of furniture right out of the room immediately.  I would stick it down in the basement until it offgasses enough.  That’s one way to detox.

Now the truth is that formaldehyde probably never offgasses enough that it’s truly safe.  But to detox a room, you have to minimize whatever is toxic in it.  So if it’s the furniture, that’s one thing that goes.  If it’s an old chemical-sprayed rug, one that you’ve used a lot of retardants for stain and stuff on, you just have to get rid of that.  It’s time to roll it up.  What people forget is that, even with area rugs, the pad underneath is disintegrating over time.  We have a friend in New York who is being treated for leukemia.  He had a stem cell transplant, and they’re calling me for a lot of advice on how to detox the home.  The big thing they talked about was that they had all of the Oriental rugs taken to be steam cleaned.  No chemicals, just steam cleaned.  But it was the pads underneath that needed to be changed.  There was too much microbial growth.

Debbie:  Interesting.

Trudy: Get a new pad for under your rug.  There are a lot of simple things you can do.  You can put a coat of nontoxic paint on the walls.

Debbie:  You’re inspiring me.  There are some really simple things like that I need to do.  I think we’ve had the pads under our rugs for ten years.

Trudy:  There’s always time for a change!  We vacuum the rugs all the time and even have them shampooed from the surface.  But it’s best to roll them up and send them out to be steam cleaned.  And we never check that pad.  I’m guilty too.

Debbie:  Hey, Trudy, I always hear about mold and how that is really dangerous in a home.  Is there anything we can do about mold?

Trudy: The minute you have heat and moisture and darkness, you have a breeding ground for mold.  Mold needs all three.  You don’t see mold growing in bright sunlight.  You don’t see mold growing where there is no moisture, and you don’t see it growing where there is no heat.  So, if it’s freezing outside, you don’t see mold growing on the rocks or anything.  Mold and pesticides–those two are my pet peeves.  It is deleterious to your health.  They affect respiratory systems. Stachybotrys atra is one.  There were some fatalities in Long Island of infants who were in basement rooms that had been paneled, and there was stachybotrys atra growing on the sheetrock behind the paneling.

Debbie:  How do you test for mold?

Trudy: You can get kits.  You can order them online.  You put these little plates out, and then you collect them and send them off to a lab.  They will tell you if you have it or not.  You can also use a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).  They are wonderful.  These guys are like doctors.  They are just amazing.  They have so much information, and they can come and check for you.  It’s truly like having people with doctoral degrees in all these chemicals and the molds.  They are very valuable.  I have one I use all the time:  Microecologies in New York.  I’ve known them for about 15 to 20 years, and I have a lot of trust and faith in them.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, Deb, but when I walk into a moldy house, it smells sweet to me.  Have you ever noticed that?  I can smell the mold or the mildew.

Debbie:  Well, you’re such a pro, Trudy.

Trudy: I don’t know if it’s being a pro or that I have such heightened smells from being chemically sensitive.  That’s one of the downfalls of being chemically sensitive.

Debbie:  And I’m just so glad that you’ve been able to recover.  One of the reasons is because you live in this holistic house.

Trudy:  Deb, there’s one last thing I wanted to say.  We’re probably getting close to the end.

Debbie:  We are.

Trudy:  I was so torn between just talking about how to make your home pretty and beautiful and talking about it being green and healthy.  Then I realized that I want the two to go together, hand in hand.  And that’s why I talk about “eco-elegant.”  I want the two to not be separate, but to be all one.

We focused on the “green” now, because let’s start with everybody’s health.  Their environment, their built-in environment, their home, or just their bedroom, if they can do only one room in the home, is truly supporting.  It’s their underpinning.

Debbie:  Yes.

Trudy:  It’s got their back, so to speak, and their heart, as (Woman on Fire) Agapi Stassinopoulos (author of Unbinding the Heart) would say.

Debbie:  That is a very beautiful way to put that.  And, you know, Trudy, you are such a part of Women on Fire, and I’m grateful for Women on Fire to have access to your wonderful work.  I could go on and on.  I’m grateful to have a woman like you.

Trudy: Thank you.  I am so honored to be a part of this interview.

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Your Sacred Space: Part One of an Interview with Trudy and Women on Fire Founder Debbie Phillips

trudy dujardin and debbie phillips

I recently had the honor of being interviewed by my good friend Debbie Phillips for Women on Fire, the group she founded to bring an amazing circle of fabulous women together for inspiration, strategies and support.  The following is a transcript of part one of our talk on Your Sacred Space:  How to Create an Inspired, Healthy Living Environment. 

Debbie:  Hello, Woman on Fire!  Women on Fire is one of the most dynamic communities of women you will find anywhere.  And my guest today highlights the bonanza of talent and expertise we have inside our organization.  Today’s interview is part of our series on exploring Your Life.  Each month for a year, we are presenting a life topic with strategies on living your best, healthiest and most inspired life.  Last month we looked at Your Health and Wellbeing, and today we are discussing Your Sacred Space.  Our guest expert, Trudy Dujardin, is a pioneer and a leader in green design and eco-conscious living.  She is a nationally recognized interior designer who will share her valuable tips with us today for creating your own healthy, sacred environments.  And she will tell us why it’s essential to your good health and your family’s health to live this way.  

A little about Trudy before I bring her on:  Trudy Dujardin is the president of Dujardin Design Associates based in Westport, Connecticut, and on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.  For more than 25 years, she has designed some of the most elegant homes on Nantucket, in Connecticut, and throughout the country.  Her interior design firm is nationally recognized by industry experts, the media nad her clients for her distinctive eco-elegant desings.  She is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers, and she is a LEED Accredited Professional, recognized for her expertise in sustainable design and construction.  Trudy was one of the early pioneers to use non-toxic materials to create interiors rich in beauty and full of health.  Her personal journey includes a struggle with multiple chemical sensitivities, yet today she is fully recovered and passionately carries her message that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury to her friends and clients, and the audience of her widely read blog,  

Trudy is someone I know well, and I love and respect her personally and professionally.  She has influenced my taste and my style and my thinking for more than a dozen years.  Trudy is married to handsome Frank, and they have three amazing Bichon Frises, the cutest little white dogs you’ve ever seen.  Plus, I am so proud that Trudy is one of our Women on Fire members.  When I want to take a vacation, I go to Trudy’s website and blog; I’m not kidding, her work is so extraordinary that to luxuriate in her website for a while is just like going on vacation.  Welcome, Trudy Dujardin!

Trudy:  Hello! Thank you so much.  I’m thrilled to be here.

Debbie:  Aww, I’m happy to share you with Women on Fire.  I know a lot of women who have attended tea parties (Women on Fire signature gatherings) know you and you know them.  I just want to introduce you to everyone else who hasn’t had that pleasure yet.  And our first question always is–and you know this, Trudy, because you get the membership packet–our tradition:  What’s your day been like so far?

Trudy:  My day was pretty interesting so far.  I usually get up sometime between 3:30 and 5:00 every morning because I have, as we talked about, my three Bichons, and they’re the loves of my life.  They make me laugh out loud every day.  But two of them are almost 11, and they can’t make it through the night.  So when I wake up in the middle of the night, I worry about them.  I tiptoe downstairs, trying not to wake anybody else up, let them out, bring them in, and give them a little rice cracker.  Then I sneak back upstairs to try to catch another 40 winks.  If I have a heavy workload, I lie there and think about my day.  But I always start my day with prayers.  I have two that I say every morning, and it helps me focus on my day.  But I have another favorite, Debbie.  Do you remember Shakti Gawain?

Debbie:  Of course I do.

Trudy:  I love her, and I have an old tape of hers.  It’s not even a DVD/CD.  It’s an old audiotape, and it’s a visualization technique.  So I visualized this morning how our interview would go and our wonderful day.  Next–I don’t get a lot of points for this because I haven’t been doing this for long–but at 7:30 I got in the car and headed to the gym, where I worked out with a trainer from 8:00 to 9:00.  And so that everybody knows, I’m not a saint.  I don’t do that all the time.  I had fallen off the exercise wagon for a long time because of my business travels, and I decided on the first of the year that I needed to get going again.  So last week I began, and I’m thrilled to be back.  It just feels good.  It sets my day on the right path.  And then finally, I came back, ate breakfast, showered, and here I am with you!  And I love having you all to myself!

Debbie:  Excellent!  Well, good for you!

Trudy:  Later on, I’ll be working with a new project.  Debbie, I’ve been asked to sit on the board of a new organization called Her Haven. It’s the creation of Carey Dougherty (founder and executive director) and she is an amazing woman.  I just want to tell you about it, as I’m brand new to it.  But what Her Haven does–it’s right up your alley–is to create environments for women in need.  They get applications, and it’s kind of like makeovers, but they find out what they woman might need to do.  It could be somebody who really wants to be a writer, but she has so many kids and works, and so they create a little haven in her home.  And that’s why it’s called Her Haven.

Debbie:  I love that.

Trudy:  For the project we’re working on now, Carey has been interviewing the PTA at Sand Hook, Connecticut.  We all know what’s going on there and what a tragedy it was.  But we are trying to see if maybe they need something in the teachers’ lounge that will help comfort the teachers, a respite where they can go.  Or if there is a particular person in that town who may need Her Haven.  So that’s our mission and that’s to be continued.  I’ll fill you in on that more later.

Debbie:  Oh, I love it, and you’re such a perfect person to be on that board.

Trudy:  I’m bringing in the “green” element.

Debbie:  Well, I love it.  That’s fantastic.  So let’s talk a little bit, Trudy, about how old you were when you first knew you wanted to be a designer.

Trudy:  I’m not sure of the exact age, but what my parents told me is that I wasn’t even two and I was already sketching.  The interesting thing is I was always sketching rooms, environments.  They were almost like stage sets.

Debbie:  I just wondered, you said you were two years old and you were sketching?  Were you sketching with crayons?

Trudy:  Pencils.

Debbie:  Pencils.  Wow!

Trudy:  And then crayons.

Debbie:  Do you have any of those sketches?  Did your parents save them?

Trudy:  Oh, I’m sure there’s a box in the attic somewhere.

Debbie:  Well, tell us more about what inspired you to work in the field of design.  So you grew up loving to sketch, but then was there anything in particular?

Trudy: My uncle–my father’s brother–was a furniture designer.  So, of course, that was a direct lead in.  He had gone to the New York School of Interior Design, and back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a tiny little kid, they used to take me to his studio in Greenwich Village.  I was so fascinated by it.  I would see these huge, thick slabs of marble and walnut.  He had a very elite clientele.  he was making racetrack-oval dining tables long before that was the fashion.  He was really ahead of his time.  We still have some of his furniture now.  It’s classic and timeless.  it should be in the Museum of Modern Art.  Just wonderful.  He was the inspiration for the art side of it.  My first present from him was his own wooden briefcase full of all his oil paints.  I carried that with me every day when I went to graduate school at New York University.  Now, for the flip side of the family, we go scientific, medical and then artistic.  My father worked for NASA.  He was in the space program, and he was a design engineer.  He designed thins such as the tile dial, as it was called for the space shuttle.  You know how the nose cone is all covered in tile for re-entry?

Debbie:  Oh, I’m quite familiar.  My brother Scott worked on the space shuttle from its inception to its last day.

Trudy:  My father designed the equipment for measuring how each tile should be slightly different.  It’s just amazing.  He also designed the Polaris Missile way back in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Debbie:  Oh, my goodness. 

Trudy:  My mother and I never knew what he was working on because he worked in a think tank with no windows.  he said if he had his life to do over again, he would get a job where he worked outside.

Debbie:  And now he can.

Trudy:  And now he can.  Right.

Debbie:  I know your father is still alive and well.

Trudy:  He is still alive and well.  He was my exercise buddy last week.  I thought, “I need someone to make me accountable.”  So, at 89 years old, he was getting up in the morning and going to the gym with me, just to keep me honest.

Debbie:  All right, Dad!  Well, Trudy, I love your motto: “A healthy home is the ultimate luxury.” Tell us a little more about that.  How did you come up with that?  What does that mean exactly? 

Trudy:  As you know, we have a lot of very high-end clients on Nantucket.  I was thinking that they have all these beautiful things, but to really make a house pay off and serve them well, it needs to support their health, which means that the indoor air quality has to be just sterling.  It has to be perfect for them, and they can afford it.  I’ve been at this since 1987.  I was very early in on it, and a lot of the builders on Nantucket thought it was a little loopy.  They’d ask, “What do you mean the paint is going to hurt you?” It’s hard for people to change.  So I had to educate my clients.  They would say, “I don’t have allergies, so that’s not important to me.” And I would say that it’s important for your long-term health.  Every item on the face of the earth emits vapors of fumes.  They’re called VOCs–Volatile Organic Compounds.  All of these things chip away at your armor.  So even if you are perfectly health, why start chipping away at it?  And then we have to think about our children and our pets and the elderly.  If we’re going to spend a lot of money, and have this luxurious home, let’s make it healthy too.  Why not?

Debbie:  Right.  And for our women, it doesn’t matter how luxurious it is.  We want to talk today about how anybody an make their home healthy.  I’d like to go back, Trudy.  How did your passion for “green” begin?  You were an interior designer, and you came upon these healthier materials and began to use them. 

Trudy:  It’s complex.  Just the other day I listened to your interview with Agapi Stassinopoulos and I was just so inspired by her and her feelings about her mother.  It jarred my memory.  But I used to think that the origin was that my former husband and I bought this beautiful piece of property on the harbor in Nantucket, and I was so in love with the island that I wanted to do this project right.  I thought it was a really healthy island, so let’s not have things silting off of the property and contaminating the water supply, hurting the scallop population  I thought that was the origin of my “greenness,” but then listening to Agapi’s wonderful message the other day, I realized that my mother was terminally ill with breast cancer.  She lived only to 51.  I helped her through those almost four years, and I realized that I just started questioning everything we were doing, having been raised on a farm in South Carolina with all the crop dusting and pesticides and insecticides.  i think I told you that I was the first-born, long-awaited grandchild, and they just cherished me.  So they would put me in a cot on a sleeping porch along a whole bank of windows to keep me cool at night.  It was nothing for it to be 105 degrees in South Carolina.  Then they sprayed my cot with DDT to keep the mosquitoes away.  That was probably the origin of the liver issues that caused my chemical sensitivity.  Am I answering your question?

Debbie:  Yes, you are.  And I want to just clarify because a lot of Women on Fire do know Agapi Stassinopoulos, and you are referring to the CD with her on it.  It’s quite inspiring.

Trudy:  But I want to backtrack a little bit.  I think “luxury” means when we luxuriate in something.  It doesn’t have to be a half-million-dollar home.  It doesn’t have to be anything.  The luxury of it is that you’re supporting your health.  To me, that’s the ultimate luxury.  I talk about how, every day, we’re in containers.  We get up in the morning, and we’re in our house.  We get in our car, and drive to work.  Then we’re in an office building.  We put the kids on a school bus and they go to a school.  We pick the kids up from school in a car and take them to the music teacher’s house or to the doctor’s office.  it’s endless.  We’re in a phone booth.  We’re in an airport.  What I’m striving for is indoor air quality–whatever we put in that space.  And the only space you can really control is your own environment, your home, so that everything in there supports your health and wellbeing.

To be continued:  in our next segment in July, I talk about my struggle with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and how I recovered, plus tips on how to make your home healthy and holistic!


The Power of One


I often speak about my belief in the Power of One, the power each of us has to make a difference in this world.  Sometimes the problems we face as human beings can seem insurmountable, but they are not.  Together we can create a better world and a kinder planet, but someone has to take the first step.  The second step is easier, the third step easier still.  That’s when you find other people following you.

Here are a few of the things that inspire me to take a step:  Earth HourLight It Up Blue for Autism Speaks;  Her Haven, a new organization I’ve joined as a board member; and sharing what I know about eco-conscious living.



Dare the World to Save the Planet.  Switch off your lights on Saturday, March 23rd at 8:30 p.m. your local time, and show the world what you’re willing to do.  The world is using the equivalent of one and a half planets to support life on earth today.  Earth Hour is the single, largest, symbolic mass participation event in the world.  Born our of a hope that it could mobilize people to take action on climate change, Earth Hour now inspires a global community of millions of people in 7,001 cities and towns across 152 countries and territories to switch lights off as a massive show of concern for the environment.

There is no doubt that the world is facing some of the most critical environmental challenges in history.  That may make a sustainable future seem difficult to imagine, but it is possible.  Change this big needs you.  It needs every one of us. Join the global community at Earth Hour to see where change is already underway.



Light It Up Blue, annually observed on April 2,  is dedicated to raising awareness of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. This initiative is intended to raise international awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis in support of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States.

Iconic landmarks around the globe – including the Empire State Building in New York City and Willis Tower in Chicago along with the CN Tower in Toronto and Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia – as well as airports, bridges, museums, concert halls, restaurants, hospitals, and retail stores, are among more than 100 structures in over 16 U.S. cities and nine countries around the world lthat lit up in bright blue on the evening of April 1, 2010 – the first night of Autism Awareness Month in the United States and the eve of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD).

Here are a few ways you can help in 2013:

  • Wear your Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin every day throughout the month of April, and tell people about autism if they ask about it. To purchase your pin and other Light It Up Blue items, visit the shop at
  • Wear blue clothing and ask your friends, co-workers and schools to wear blue too.
  • Take a group photo and upload it to
  • Purchase blue light bulbs and lanterns from Home Depot and replace your outdoor lighting with these blue bulbs, or you can buy blue lighting filters to cover existing lighting.
  • Buy a Light It Up Blue yard sign to show your support throughout your community
  • Visit and download the free Light It Up Blue iPhone application so you can add your photos to the Light It Up Blue website.  Visit the website for lots more ideas!




I recently was invited to join the board of a wonderful charitable organization called Her Haven, dedicated to giving women in need a serene and comfortable space for themselves, Her Haven aims to honor women who are inspiring, deserving and giving by redesigning a room in their home or work environment. I’ll be providing information on sustainable design and keeping it “green” for the clients helped by Her Haven.  Visit their website here to find out ways that you can help us in our mission to design a difference.  


Debbie Phillips, founder of the fabulous organization Women on Fire, a membership organization of women dedicated to making a difference in the world,  interviewed me on Monday, February 18th.  She wanted me to share my passionate belief that A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury with her 3,000+  dynamic followers.  We talked about the fact that when we begin to embrace the idea of change and holistic living, we must first start in our own homes. 

My website, blog, Facebook page and personal outreach efforts are all dedicated to helping people understand the importance of sustainable design and healthy lifestyles.  I hope if I’ve been able to help you learn more, that you’ll pay it forward by sharing my social networking sites with your friends and family.

It all begins with education.  I’ve also been asked to work with a Sustainable Design class at Keane University, and will be skyping with them on March 27th.  I’m excited by the opportunities I’ve been given to share the knowledge I have gained in my years of living an eco-elegant life, and sharing it with my clients, friends and followers.

Theodore Roosevelt said to “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  That’s what I’m doing.  I hope you’ll do it, too. 





People Can Be Hazardous to Your Health, Too! Guest Blogger Debbie Phillips

Photography:  Rob Berkley

 I’m delighted to share the wise words and thoughts of a special friend and this month’s guest blogger, Debbie Phillips.  Debbie is an author, speaker and the founder of Women on Fire, an organization that promotes women’s success through inspiration, strategies and support.  She and her husband, Rob Berkley, conduct “Vision Days,” life coaching retreats on Martha’s Vineyard which have helped me tremendously in my own life and work. 

I’ve just completed a weekend of Vision Days, and am re-energized with new goals, both personal and professional.    Please enjoy Debbie’s insights here, to inspire you in your own life.

You’d never roll toxic paint onto your beautiful living room walls.

And, you wouldn’t hand your precious child a cadmium-tainted toy.

Ditto for cleaning solvents with odors that knock you on your heels.

So, why on earth would you ever allow a toxic human being to contaminate you, your lovely environment and your peace of mind?

In my nearly two decades working as a life and executive coach, how to handle toxic people is right up there with “how do I discover my life’s purpose?”

Almost everyone has someone who wreaks havoc on their well-being – and many people live with an abundance of toxic intruders.

The offenders range from help-rejecting complainers to down-right nasty or hurtful people who zap your energy, leaving you physically or emotionally drained.

These include people with explosive tempers, offensive and annoying behaviors, people without boundaries who trample all over yours.  There may even be people you don’t feel physically safe to be around.

“But I’m related to her,” I will often hear.  Or, “he’s my boss and I’m at his mercy.”

There is good news!

Just as you can transform your home from toxic to eco-friendly, you can do the same to your life by removing toxic human energy.

Photography:  Rob Berkley

By following these steps you are on your way to a “greener life”:

1)      Make a list of toxic people in your life. They can be relatives, co-workers, bosses, friends, neighbors, anyone you may feel dread seeing, thinking about or being with. If you’re not sure who is toxic in your life, ask someone you trust who cares deeply about you.  Sometimes we’ve put up for so long with someone toxic that we become numb to the abuse.

2)      Create a scale from 1 to 5 — with 1 being annoying to 5 being harmful or destructive to your spirit and well-being.  Now rate each toxic person on your list.

3)      Starting with anyone who receives a 3 or higher score, decide how you wish to handle.

Photography:  Rob Berkley

Here are some effective ways for handling most toxic people:

1)      Minimize your contact with them.  Just because you’ve known gossipy, negative Jane since the 6th grade, it doesn’t mean you have to keep her on your invitation list or accept one from her.

2)      Declare your space a Positive Zone.  One client informed her toxic mother that she would no longer participate in any negative criticism about family members.  She then told relatives that if they heard through the grapevine anything she said that was less than flattering, they could be assured it wasn’t true. She created a Positive Zone in her life.  It worked! Over time, she simply politely excused herself from family conversations that devolved into character assassinations of others.

3)     Calmly and clearly inform toxic offender that “it’s not OK to yell, criticize, berate, etc.” Let them know you will remove yourself from the situation.

Photography:  Rob Berkley

You’ve turned the corner to a more non-toxic life when you can easily answer these questions and make a choice:

1) Does this person leave me feeling depressed, demoralized, belittled, misunderstood, criticized or exhausted?

2) Or, does this person leave me feeling uplifted, supported, understood, respected, cared about, and alive with possibilities?

May your life be filled with eco-friendly people!

Debbie Phillips  and her husband Rob Berkley live on Martha’s Vineyard and in Naples, FL.  Learn more about Debbie and her work at or at  www.visionday.comAll photos kindly provided by Rob Berkley.  See more of his work at


Photography:  Rob Berkley