Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recession Investments: Quality Time, Better Homes and Good Health

An interesting—and not terribly surprising—phenomenon is sweeping across our nation as the economic recession continues. People are spending more time at home—and together. They’re also working harder to improve their personal health.

Improving How We Spend Time Together

A Jan. 31 New York Times article stated that studies show “when a job is harder to find or less lucrative, people spend more time on self-improvement and relatively inexpensive amusements. During the Depression of the 1930s, that meant listening to the radio and playing parlor and board games, sometimes in lieu of a glamorous night on the town. These stay-at-home tendencies persisted through at least the 1950s.”

Clearly, stay-at-home tendencies have returned. One upside of American families not having a lot of spending money right now—or not spending the money they do have—is they are spending more time together. Modern inexpensive amusements may include Internet exploring, playing the Wii, or watching a movie on cable or satellite. Free museum exhibits and activities are also popular and rank among the most widely visited calendar postings on family-oriented social networks, such as Triangle TRACKS. Nearly 50 percent of the site’s unique page views can be tracked to the calendar, indicating the popularity of family friendly events right now.

The benefits of this quality time, especially to young children, are numerous. Anne R. Pierce, author of “Ships Without a Shore” (now in paperback), emphasizes the importance of a loving family environment to a child’s well being.

“Reason, common sense, instinct and the ‘evidence’ all point to the fact that children thrive upon love,” she writes. “And, since their parents are the ones who love them most, it makes sense that time spent with parents makes a huge difference in children’s’ lives.”

Improving Where We Spend Time Together

Another trend resulting from the recession is homeowners’ desire to make affordable value-adding home improvements. After all, it’s hard to compete with affordable, foreclosed and bank-owned properties in this buyers’ market. Making a home marketable makes sense—and cents.

Carolina Closets Plus’ booth at the Southern Ideal Homeshow in Raleigh Sept. 25-27 will display all sorts of ideas for little—and big—value-boosting home improvements. For starters, the company will display European soft-close drawer slides at the show—a standard feature of all home office and drawer installations. “We like to give our customers as many value added features as we can. We don’t add to the price for any of these,” says Co-founder and President Mike Hoffer. “It’s what I would want for my job and I see no reason not to give the same upgrades to everyone.” You can view a YouTube video of how the slides work here.

A space-saving and simplifying home improvement Carolina Closets Plus also offers is the Murphy Desk Bed. “The Murphy disappearing desk bed is one of the best uses of space that I’ve come across,” Hoffer says. “Some rooms are simply not big enough for a traditional Murphy wall bed and a separate desk. This really solves the entire problem.”

Central Vacuum Experts, a division of Vacuum Cleaner Hospital will also host a booth at the Southern Ideal Home Show. Since maintaining a simplified, cleaner and more organized home makes spending time there more enjoyable, sales have picked up on home appliances such as vacuum cleaners. Central Vacuum Experts’ booth will be featuring the Hide-A-Hose central vacuum system that sucks the hose right in the wall for storage purposes. The vacpan (dust pan connected to your central vac) and accessory products will be on display as well as the latest products from brand names such as Miele, Eureka, Dyson, Lindhaus and Sanitaire.

Another benefit of making home improvements right now comes directly from the federal government. President Obama's February 2009 economic stimulus package includes tax credits for homeowners who invest in energy-efficient home improvements. Qualifying garage doors, for example, can net up to $1,500, and you’ll save on your next power bill as well. Learn more about that here.

Improving How We Live Our Lives

Americans also look inward to improve their personal health during difficult economic times. The New York Times article cited above referenced a 2003 paper titled “Healthy Living in Hard Times” by UNC-Greensboro economist Christopher J. Ruhm, who found that the death rate actually falls as unemployment rises, to the tune of a 1-percent increase in the unemployment rate coordinating with a 0.5-percent decrease in the death rate. It seems people experiencing economic difficulties seek to manage what they actually can control, and personal health is one of those things.

Carolina Closets Plus offers a cleaner living program for children’s’ spaces in homes, day cares and other areas, which helps create a healthier environment. “There are a lot of HEPA filter systems on the market but none of them are the quality of the Beam system,” Hoffer says. “It’s made by Electrolux, the world leader in clean air living. It’s so easy to install and provides actual results that we can prove.”

Carolina Closets Plus will come to your home or business and uses a portable laser particulate counter to determine the exact level of pollutants in the air that your family is breathing. “Then, we’ll plug in our portable HEPA system to show you what the difference can be. The results are just amazing and Carolina Closets Plus is the only company in the triangle that can actually prove it to you,” Hoffer says.

Pete Bikas, owner of Bikas Building of North Carolina LLC, a wellness center and clinic contractor, just added a new employee who will assist him with client relations and business development. Lisa Herrington has 15 years of experience in medical and customer relations and she has also written blog posts about how real health care reform starts when people focus on taking better care of themselves. Check the out her posts here and here.

Walk your way to great health at University Mall in Chapel Hill as part of the Striders Walking Club. You may win some great prizes along the way. Join for free at the mall’s Customer Service near Roses. The club meets the third Tuesday of every month at 8 a.m., and walkers can use the mall Monday through Saturday beginning at 7:30 a.m., and Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. The program is being offered in conjunction with the local Seniors Center.

The Chinese maintain good health by eating with the seasons, and Chinese women use plants, herbs, minerals, clays, and flowers to relax and beautify themselves. Art is also an important part of Chinese personal health and mental well being. Turning Point Gallery is displaying the traditional art of Chinese paper cutting right now. The origin of this 3D Chinese paper sculpture is closely connected with the invention of paper during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD.) The art of paper cutting was on the verge of dying out during the past century as old China experienced successive years of war brought on by domestic turmoil and foreign invasion. Amidst a myriad of changes in their lives, most people had no leisure time to engage in the study of the art of paper cutting. Today Chinese artisans have revived traditional paper art and share it with the world.

American optimists are transforming the recession into a justification for improving the way they live—from time spent with loved ones, to how they care for themselves. Best of all, these life lessons and changes will last much longer than the recession itself.

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