Declutter Your Home In Less Time

Declutter the Bathroom

If you have 5 minutes: Put away anything on the countertops, and pull the shower curtain closed to conceal any bathtub clutter.

If you have 10 minutes: Straighten any open displays, and relocate items that don't belong in the bathroom. Don't worry about what's behind closed doors.

If you have 15 minutes: Dive into the vanity cabinet and any other storage space. Toss items that are outdated or unused. Corral items by type into baskets or bins.

Declutter your Pantry

If you have 10 minutes: Stack and store items as they are, but align rows of cans and boxes for a neatened appearance.

If you have 15 minutes: Regroup food by item type. Toss anything that is expired. Wipe away any spills or dirt on shelves.

Take an hour and... Pull everything out of the pantry and do a deep reorganization. Look at your pantry configuration and what you need to store to determine what should go where. Keep the items you use frequently in the most accessible places. Give the shelves a good scrubbing before placing items. As you put things away, make a list of any storage accessories (such as trays or baskets) that would make your storage more efficient, and keep your eyes peeled for those items when you are out and about.

Declutter your Bookshelves

If you have 10 minutes: Straighten books, and dust the very edges of the shelves and any items on display that look dusty.

If you have 15 minutes: Do a quick bookshelf sort. Recycle magazines that are out-of-date. Pull books that you know at a glance need to be donated. Dust the shelf edges and around empty space, and move display items to dust around and under them.

Take an hour and... Pull everything from the shelves. In addition to recycling magazines and pulling books to be donated, reorganize books in alphabetical order, by subject, by color, etc. Dust the full shelves before placing books back in their rightful spots. Rearrange books and decor for a refreshed look.

Declutter your Closet

If you have 5 minutes: Hang up clothes that are on the floor or draped over your designated drop spot, such as on a chair or a stool.

If you have 10 minutes: Reorganize the hanging bar in your closet by item type, placing all your shirts in one section, pants in another, and so on.

If you have 15 minutes: After you organize the hanging bar, target one other area, such as a bin on the shelf in the closet. Come back as you have time, such as five minutes before hitting the hay, to organize the next section until you've worked through the whole closet.

Declutter your Kitchen Cabinets

If you have 5 minutes: Simply straighten the insides of open shelving or your most frequently accessed cabinets and drawers. Bringing order to the things you use most often will make daily routines easier.

If you have 10 minutes: Spend a little time doing the organizational tasks you always think about when you're cooking but don't have time to do in the moment, such as relocating your cooking utensils to a drawer closer to your range.

Take an hour and... Do a quick sort-and-toss. Put items you never use into a donation box, and toss gadgets that no longer work or are past their prime.

Declutter your Kids’ Room

If you have 10 minutes: Make a game of it. Challenge your child to pick up as many items as possible in five minutes. If you have little ones who aren’t old enough to pick up, spend a few minutes before they go to bed picking up a few things.

If you have 15 minutes: Target one area to clean up, such as a disorganized dresser, a messy desk, or a haphazard bookcase.

Take an hour and...  Pick an area that needs a purge, such as a toy collection or the clothing closet. If your child is old enough, have him or her work with you to identify items that can be donated or tossed if they are broken or no longer usable.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens


7 Warning Signs You're Not Ready To Buy A Home

1. You don't make enough money

You might think you make enough money to buy a home, but crunch the numbers first and see what your costs would actually be — a mortgage calculator can come in handy here. You need both upfront and ongoing money, says Roger Ma, a New York, NY agent. “Upfront money includes having enough for the down payment and closing costs and enough left over for an emergency fund,” says Ma. “On an ongoing basis, a buyer’s salary will need to be enough to pay for mortgage interest and principal, HOA fees, homeowners insurance, and taxes.” These costs, according to many financial planners, should be less than 28% of your gross income.

2. You have too much debt

Let’s say you do make enough money to afford to buy a house and make your monthly mortgage payments. You also need to factor in any debt you might have. Hint: If all your credit cards are maxed out, you may want to get those bills under control before entering homeownership. Lenders typically want your total debt load (which includes your potential mortgage payment) to be less than 36% of your gross income. “Take a hard look at your spending habits and change them to improve your chances of being able to support a mortgage,” says Casey Fleming, author of The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.


3. You don't have enough savings

If you’ve saved enough for the down payment, you’ve made it over one big hurdle. But you need more than just that. What if your home needs an emergency repair? Would you have the money to pay for it, or would a surprise expense put you in debt? “Expect the unexpected,” says Josh Moffitt, president of Silverton Mortgage Specialists in Atlanta, GA. “Your air conditioner may die on a sweltering holiday weekend, or a sewage pipe could burst in the basement.”

And then there are those costs that aren’t necessarily unexpected but that you might not have considered. “Not only does a prospective buyer need money for closing costs and the first few months’ mortgage payments, they also need money for moving costs,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and director of education at Spark Rental. “They need money for furnishings and decorating the new house. They need money to pay the property taxes upfront at settlement.” As you can see, you don’t want to drain your savings on just the down payment.

4. You haven't been on the job long enough

Most mortgage lenders like to see that you’ve been working the same job for at least two years. In fact, they calculate your average income based on your job history for the last 24 months. Being on the job that long shows a certain stability, and changing jobs or having an income gap signals insecurity. “A major job change, such as moving from salary to commission-based pay, may cause your income to fluctuate and can add to uncertainty about your readiness to buy a home,” says Moffitt. “Even if you qualify based on expected income, what if you don’t make that money in your new position?”

5. You have poor (or no) credit

A bad credit score indicates some sort of financial problem, such as skipping out on paying a bill or two, filing for bankruptcy, or carrying too much debt. “Take a close look at your credit report before making a decision to buy,” says Moffitt. “A mortgage lender may have questions about payments, loans, or other debts and may make suggestions that could require time to resolve. If it takes six months to fix, you might not be ready to buy just yet.”

Having little or no credit history can also be problematic. David Hosterman, the branch manager with Castle & Cooke Mortgage in Colorado, offers a tip: “We take into account ‘alternative credit trade lines.’ These types of credit are anything from rental history, car insurance, utilities, monthly subscription services, and cell phones. We are looking for a pattern of good credit with those companies for 12 months or longer.”

6. You're not sure what type of home you want

You might have thought only about buying a single-family home, but you have more options than you might think. For example, you could buy a duplex and earn some rent money by living on one side and renting out the other. Perhaps a condo or townhouse might better suit your needs — and be an easier transition from apartment living. “Each has unique considerations for upkeep and responsibility. It’s hard to say, ‘I’m ready to buy’ without knowing what each type of home has to offer,” says Moffitt.

7. You're not ready to stick around

Unless you’re pretty sure that you’ll want to stay in the area for the next three to five years, you’re not ready to buy. “If you buy a house and have to sell the next year, you’re likely to lose money because appreciation won’t catch up to the closing costs and postpurchase expenses during that short time,” says Moffitt. If your job is in limbo, or you’re considering moving a few hours away to be closer to family in the near future, it’s wise to hold off on buying a home.

Source: Forbes


A Complete List of Home Amenities and Features for Home Buyers

When the time comes for a first-time home buyer to tell a real estate agent what they desire in a home, will they know what to say besides simple things like a two-story home with a walkout basement in a quiet neighborhood.

There's much more to a home than that. One of the really great things about giving your agent a list of amenities and features is that your agent can utilize technology to find that perfect home for you from that list.

Using a List to Search Properties

Most MLS systems that agents use to find homes contain search parameters. Some will let you exclude certain types of criteria, which might be more helpful to you than you may first think. If, for example, you absolutely do not want to buy a home with carpeting, your agent can exclude all homes with carpeting from your search requirements. You might want to consider carpeting only for the bedrooms and installing hardwood-like floors elsewhere.

The more closely you define parameters, the fewer homes you may find that are available to you. If you include too many parameters, you may not find any homes at all. If is best to be more general and less specific. Plus, bear in mind that information exported is only as good as the information imported, and some agents might leave blank certain fields.

Location, Location, Location

This is the first rule of real estate. Location is the most important yet the most often overlooked rule. If you have to choose between a home with all of the amenities you want in a bad location or a home in a good location with only some of the amenities, choose the home with the good location. You can always add amenities, but you cannot change a bad location.

Narrow your list to your top 3 to 5 neighborhoods. Talk to the neighbors to find out if these areas are indeed where you might want to live. Let your agent know the ZIP codes you would like, or define the area by street boundaries so your agent can draw a map search.

Examples of Types of Locations:

    • View of coast, city or hills
    • Waterfront: River, ocean, lakefront
    • Greenbelt
    • Golf course
    • Suburban
    • City
    • Raised elevation or mountains
    • Cul-de-sac
    • Dead-end street
    • Gated community

Construction, Exterior, Style, Roof, and Yard Amenities

We all have some idea of what our perfect home would look like. But again, you'll get better results from excluding certain types than by choosing too many particulars.


Home Construction

    • Adobe
    • Brick
    • Concrete block
    • Log
    • Metal
    • Stone
    • Straw
    • Wood

Home Exterior

    • Brick
    • Cement siding
    • Lap siding
    • Metal siding
    • Vinyl siding
    • Shingle
    • Stone
    • Stucco
    • Veneer
    • Wood

Style of Home

    • A-frame
    • Bungalow
    • Colonial
    • Contemporary
    • Cottage
    • Dome
    • Log
    • Mediterranean
    • Ranch
    • Spanish
    • Tudor
    • Victorian


    • Composition shingle
    • Concrete tile
    • Metal
    • Rock
    • Shake
    • Slate
    • Tar
    • Tile
    • Wood


    • Size of lot
    • Swimming pool/sport pool
    • Spa
    • Sauna
    • Steam room
    • Fireplace or fire pit
    • Built-in BBQ
    • Outdoor kitchen
    • Courtyard
    • Patio: Covered or uncovered
    • Deck
    • Tennis courts
    • Trees and landscaping
    • Gardens
    • Lawn
    • Automatic sprinklers/drip/misting system

Basic Home Amenities, Types of Rooms and Flooring

Rather than picking a specific age of the home, try choosing a range of years. If you do not want a newer home, you can ask your agent to limit your search to homes built prior to a certain year. Bear in mind that if your cutoff is homes built before 1990, you will not receive a home listing for a home built in 1991.


Type of Home (Single Family -- Attached or Detached, Duplex, Halfplex, Condo, Townhome, Manufactured Home)

    • Age of home/year built
    • Number of bedrooms
    • Number of baths
    • Number of stories or levels
    • Orientation (direction home faces)
    • Utilities: gas / electric
    • HVAC: Central heating & air conditioning, propane, gravity, floor or wall
    • Parking/garage
    • RV parking or boat storage

Types of Rooms

    • Number of masters / junior masters / ensuites
    • Loft
    • Den
    • Bonus room
    • Great room
    • Home office area
    • Home theater
    • Media room
    • Family room
    • Gym/workout room
    • Library
    • Butler's pantry
    • Sunroom
    • Downstairs' bedroom
    • Basement
    • Guest quarters
    • Wine storage


    • Carpeting
    • Concrete
    • Bamboo
    • Stone
    • Tile
    • Laminate
    • Cork
    • Vinyl / linoleum
    • Manufactured wood
    • Marble
    • Wood
    • Waterproof vinyl planks

Specific Home Amenities and Features

Home buyers often desire certain features in 4 areas of the home: the kitchen, master bedroom, baths, and dining room. In addition, a growing number of buyers prefer to have home energy features, including accessibility features. Although some of these can be added after purchase as a home improvement project, sometimes the cost to do so is prohibitive.

Here are more specific amenities and features to consider:

Kitchen Features and Amenities

    • Appliances: Built-in or freestanding - stainless / colored / cabinetry match
    • Counters: Granite, marble, ceramic, stone, wood, laminate or synthetic
    • Islands and wet bars
    • Dining bars
    • Under cabinet lighting / recessed lighting / pendants
    • Farm-style sinks, dual or triple sinks, metal, steel, cast iron
    • Warming drawers, wine refrigerators, trash compactors
    • Remodeled / updated

Dining Features

    • Space in kitchen/breakfast nook
    • Dining/family combination
    • Dining/living combination
    • Formal dining room
    • Outdoor kitchen

Master Suite Amenities and Features

    • Large vs. small
    • Balcony
    • Outside access
    • Private patio
    • Remote area or sitting room/office
    • Ground floor vs. the second floor
    • Surround sound
    • Fireplace
    • Wet bar
    • Dual walk-in closets

Bath Features

    • Dual/triple sinks
    • Built-in dressing vanities
    • Vanity shelves & mirrors in showers/tubs
    • Jetted or sunken tubs
    • Separate shower
    • Rainshower heads
    • Stone/tile surfaces
    • Outside access
    • Skylights
    • Heated floors
    • Remodeled / updated

Home Energy Amenities and Features

    • Attic fans
    • Ceiling fans
    • Dual or triple pane windows
    • Programmable thermostats
    • Single flush toilets
    • Window shutters
    • Solar heat
    • Solar plumbing
    • Solar Screens
    • Storm windows
    • Tankless water heater
    • Skylights or sky tubes
    • Whole house fan

Accessibility Features

    • Extra-wide doorways
    • Ramps
    • Grab bars
    • Lower counter heights
    • Walk-in tubs and showers

Source: The Balance


6 Quick & Easy Dining Room Staging Tips

Dining Room Staging Tips That Are Quick & Easy!

A dining room can be a tricky space for traditional or virtual staging.  Some dining rooms are small, have very little light or are part of a shared space along with a living room.  When staging a dining room it needs to invite a buyer in and linger at the table.  A dining space should look comfortable and have good lighting.  Here are 6 Dining Room Staging Tips to help buyers envision that special place for family dinners or entertaining guests!

1.) Let There Be Light. If your dining room screams dark and gloomy, bring in the light!  If there is at least one wall of windows hang a mirror on the opposite wall to reflect natural light when staging the space.  Placing a pair of tall, skinny lamps on a console table or sideboard with a mirror hung above will make your dining room glow!

2.) Create A Dining Space. Buyers need to see a dining room, so create one!  A round table pushed close to a wall or a dining table on one side of a large living area will work for small spaces.  Utilize the surrounding space and hang large artwork or a grouping of pictures on nearby walls.  Make a statement when staging the space and show buyers the possibilities.

3.) Update The Look. If your light fixtures are outdated, purchase inexpensive new ones to instantly update your dining room. Gold or brass fixtures are OUT!  Go for brushed silver or bronze rod iron.  Remove outdated wallpaper and repaint personal paint choices with warm neutral tones which is always key in staging a home to sell.

4.) Good Traffic Flow. When staging a home it is important to show off the spaciousness of a room.  If a dining table seats 8 or more take a leaf or two out of the table and show 6 seats at the table.  Place the other 2 chairs on each side of a large window or one on each side of a buffet or china cabinet.  Buyers need to be able to move around the room and not feel blocked into a space.

5.) A Focal Point. A dining room is an easier room for buyers to envision laying out furnishings but you want to still capture their attention.  A large vase with fresh flowers centered on the dining table and colorful artwork on walls is key when staging this room and helps create a focal point which is easy on the eyes.

6.) Avoid Overstaging. It is not necessary to compeletely set the dining table with all your china, glasses, silverware, placemats and the like.  Again, you want to create a pleasing focal point in the dining room but setting the table is too much!  Overstaging a room can possibly stir up negative thoughts and make buyers feel the home is too fancy to live in.

Source: Virtually Staging Properties


How to Increase Curb Appeal on a Budget
  1. Update the front entry choose simple yet unexpected projects to you’re your house stand out. A new full-view storm door allows the freshly painted door to become the focal point of this budget-friendly makeover.
  2. Oversized house numbers stenciled onto the concrete are an easy DIY project: Use a copy machine to enlarge printed numbers to your desired size, then laminate the paper so your stencil holds its shape. Cut the numbers out with a crafts knife; you will use the negative of the numbers as stencils. Measure and line up the stencils, then apply outdoor paint with a foam pouncer.
  3. Create a Living Monogram Wreath to create a new way to incorporate clean and vibrant plants! Take plywood to use as the back, 2-inch cedar boards, and chicken wire. Then spray-paint, and fill with sphagnum peat moss and succulents. Hooks on the back make it easy to remove, clean, and add new plants.
  4. Replace barely-there light fixture with an inexpensive galvanized metal fixture to add a new look to your entrance!
  5. A coat of metallic spray paint and a stenciled "Hello" give the mailbox new life and make guests feel welcome.
  6. Design and install a custom railing that fits the entry and brings the stairway into compliance with building codes. From steel cords, to cast iron, the options are endless!
  7. to customize an inexpensive sisal doormat, apply painter's tape stripes, then sprayed on one color at a time, allowing each coat to dry between applications. The options are endless with the use of different colour combinations and patterns!

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

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