Organizing Your Home

When organizing your home, knowing where to start can often be the most difficult part. Breaking the process down room-by-room and keeping the following tips in mind will help you get started and keep your home organized in the long run.

Image Source: Shutterstock

Kitchen

Given how much time is spent in the kitchen, it can get disorganized easily. Kitchen countertops are also one of the most frequently touched and used surfaces in a home. Taking items off the counters and storing them on shelving above or below is an effective first step. Open shelves are a great fixture for easy access while preparing and cooking meals. Store the items you use the most here and stow away large tools that you don’t use as often.

 

A lazy Susan is a must-have for kitchen organization, bringing the back of the cabinet to your fingertips. A great home for kitchen items that are heavy, clumsy or messy, they are highly accessible. Cleaning out a lazy Susan is much simpler than cleaning out cabinets, which frees up shelf space for those items that usually sit out on your kitchen counter.

 

Living Room

A good first step for your living room is to take inventory. See what items can be disposed and what might belong elsewhere in the house. Take time to think about the flow of the room and how you envision foot traffic will interact with the space.

 

Multifunctionality goes a long way in the living room. Coffee tables, side tables, and ottomans that are designed with more than one purpose in mind will help to declutter. Look for pieces with underneath storage, drawers, or magazine holders.

 

Bathroom

For both aesthetics and functional storage, open shelving will help take your bathroom to the next level. It provides plenty of room to stow bathroom supplies, towels, toiletries, and brings a more welcoming feel to the space.

 

This is a great time to go through your bathroom products. Discarding old, expired, and unused items will free up additional space and give the room a cleaner feel. Once you’ve cleaned everything out, take this time to reorganize your medicine cabinet with your newly reduced bathroom inventory.

 

Bedroom

Keeping your bedroom organized is a matter of maximizing space and minimizing clutter. If you have limited closet space, try placing a garment rack in a corner or against a wall, or store out-of-season clothing items elsewhere. The underside of your bed is useful for storage. Try functional organizers such as bins and roll-out shelving. Using your dresser as a nightstand or your bookshelf as a décor piece will add flair and cut down on clutter as well.

 

Making the most of the hanging space in your closet is a sure-fire way of keeping it decluttered. Position the most-used items at eye level and stow lesser-used clothes and accessories higher up. Not only does this give priority to your closet which helps you stay organized over time, but it can save you time when getting ready.

 

Garage

A common tactic for creating storage space in your garage is to go vertical. This will help free up space for your stuff while maintaining the space reserved for your vehicles. The garage is also a good home for large or bulky items that you don’t use every day.

 

Going room-by-room will help you piece together the look and feel of the organized home you want to achieve. Be comfortable with clearing out a space in order to put it back together the way you have in mind. Sometimes rooms have to get messier before they get organized.

Originally posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on June 29, 2020 at 5:27 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |

A Guide to Mortgage Assistance During COVID-19

For some homeowners who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high level of concern about paying their mortgage. Fortunately, there are options to aid struggling homeowners from governments, financial institutions, and loan providers. The following information is intended to provide clarity on which financial relief options are available to you during this time.

Image Source: Shutterstock

 

What are my mortgage relief options?

Newly placed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides two protections for homeowners with federally backed mortgages:

 

  1. Your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you for 60 days following March 18, 2020. The CARES Act prohibits lenders and/or servicers from beginning a non-judicial foreclosure, or finalizing a foreclosure sale, against you within this time period. While 60 days has passed since this was put into place, it is still important to be aware of in the event that any of these actions were taken against you.
  2. You have a right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days if you experience financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also apply for a 180-day extension beyond the forbearance period. This does not require submitting additional documentation beyond your claim, nor will you incur additional fees, penalties or interest beyond what has already been scheduled.

 

Forbearance is…

  • With forbearance, mortgage servicers and lenders allow you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a period of time while you get back on your feet financially.
  • Different types of loans beget different forbearance options, understanding the differences and which options apply to your loan is key to navigating the forbearance landscape.
  • Once your income is back to a normal level, contact your loan servicer and resume your payments.

 

Forbearance is not…

  • Forbearance is not a means to forgive or erase your payments. Any missed or reduced payments still require payment in the future.

 

Which relief options do I qualify for?

The first step in discovering your mortgage assistance qualifications is to contact your mortgage provider. If you are unsure of how to get in touch with them, look at your mortgage statement for contact information or see what contact options are available online.

After you have successfully made contact, find out if your mortgage is federally backed. To be eligible for assistance under the CARES act, your mortgage must either be backed federally, or by one of the entities in the list below. These links show the agencies’ current advise and related loan information:

 

For non-federally backed loans, contact your lender or servicer to learn more about their forbearance repayment options.

 

Today’s financial landscape can be stressful for homeowners, especially those that are struggling to keep up financially. Fortunately, these entities, institutions, and servicers have provided options to help lessen the burden. Knowing which options apply to you and your household will help you navigate through hardship as your finances recover.

Originally Posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on June 15, 2020 at 5:13 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |

Saving in the Laundry Room

When it comes to household expenses, staying at home has brought about savings in some areas, while increasing expenses in others. The laundry room has likely seen an uptick in usage, with its associated costs following suit. Save your energy and money by keeping these tips in mind as we continue to adapt to being home more often.

Image Source: Shutterstock

Master your machine settings

Review the owner’s manuals for your washer and dryer. There may very well be energy-saving settings you’re not using. For example, your washer’s “high-speed” or “extended wash” cycles will remove more moisture, which can help reduce drying time. A dryer’s “cool down cycle” allows clothes to finish drying using only residual heat.

Think twice before washing

Once you’re aware of the costs associated with washing and drying, and the natural resources this consumes, you may decide you don’t need to launder certain clothes as often – which can also extend the life of these garments. Some clothing, like jeans, sweatshirts, and sweatpants, can be worn a few times without a cleaning. Washing these items only when necessary will help you cut down. Another tip – keep another laundry basket in your room for those lightly worn clothes that you could wear again, so they keep separate from your clean clothes.

Use hot water only when necessary

Using warm water instead of hot can significantly cut down your washer’s energy expense. Using cold water puts less pressure on electricity grids, saving your household even more money and energy. Cold water washes are less likely to shrink or fade your clothing as well. To ensure your clothes still get clean, try using a cold-water detergent.

Right-size your loads

For both washing and drying, taking into consideration the size of your load can factor greatly into your savings. No matter the size of the load you wash, it costs the same amount to run a cycle. So instead of doing two small loads, wait until you have one large load. When drying, keep in mind that an overly full dryer will take longer to dry the clothes. A dryer with too few items inside costs more to operate.

Clean the dryer vent and filter

When the lint filter in your dryer gets clogged, airflow is reduced, and the dryer can’t operate effectively. Make a point to clean the filter after every use. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter every month to remove any film buildup. The venting that attaches to the back of your dryer also needs to be kept clean and clear.

Air dry

When the weather is sunny and warm, consider putting your clothes out to hang-dry. Doing so will keep your drying expenses to a minimum. It can also be a better drying method for clothing with delicate tailoring.

With staying at home being the new status quo, taking a look at the ways our homes use energy and incur expenses is more relevant than ever. These small changes in the laundry room are just some of the minor adjustments you can make in your household during these unique times.
Originally posted by Sandy Dodge

Posted on June 1, 2020 at 4:51 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |

What Makes A Home Modern?

Sleek, sustainable design, open concept floor plans, minimalism, and eco-conscious thinking are defining characteristics of modern architecture. Recently, modern design concepts in home building have become more popular, and the resurgence of interest in modern real estate has followed suit.  



Image Source: Shutterstock

 

These characteristics are what define Contemporary Architecture: 

 

Clean geometric linesAt the heart of modernist values lies the simplification of form. Modernist homes have a very ‘linear’ feel with straight lines and exposed building materials. Furnishings and adornment reflect this value, incorporating vibrant, geometric and abstract designs. 

 

Smaller, multifunctional spaces: With the Tiny House subculture consistently on the rise, and the new generation of homeowners expressing a desire to move away from the sprawling dwellings of the past, multifunctional living spaces are a must for modern homes. Built-in storage is commonly used to reflect this multi-purpose; space-saving feel. 

 

Eco-conscious: Modern homes are wellsuited for technological and green upgrades, as well as eco-friendly building materials and energy efficient practices, and flat roofs to accommodate solar power. A new trend is to bring nature into each room for a calming, soothing effect. Large windows are abundant in modern architecture, allowing light to fill and expand the interior space, bringing the natural world indoors. 

 

Post-and-beam structure: Exposed wood posts and ceiling beams are classic elements in modern architecture. This style of building has been around for thousands of years; however, modern homes significantly emphasize the structure, rather than hiding the bones behind drywall. In new modern homes the post-and-beam structure can be made of concrete, iron or other materials. The visible horizontal and vertical beams reinforce the clean geometric lines of the space. 

 

Open concept:  Modern design strives to “open” the space by eliminating enclosed rooms. A common tactic is to open the kitchen and dining room into an open living space, allowing the spaces to flow into one another. 

 

Minimalism: With open and connected modernist spaces, careful curation of furniture, adornments, and household objects is paramount to incorporating the modernist aesthetic. Generally, modernist homes have art and furniture that reflects the clean geometric lines and the natural materials of the architecture, leaving less space for clutter. Minimalist philosophies encourage few household items that serve both form and function, which work well within this design and architectural style. 

 

Originally posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on April 27, 2020 at 3:34 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living, Market Updates |

Saving to Buy a Home During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way people plan for their future. For those saving to buy a home, the landscape may seem daunting. However, this new world of social distancing and stay at home orders is an opportunity to rethink your spending and saving plans. Keeping the following suggestions for your budget and finances in mind can help make your dream of buying a home a reality.

Image Source: Canva

Rethink your budget:

If there have been changes to your income amid COVID-19, adapting your budget is a logical and necessary step. If your income has gone unchanged, certain tweaks to your budget can yield significant savings. Knowing the leisure portion of your normal expenditure has been removed for the time being is a great starting point for reassessing your spending.

 

  • Begin with your income and assets
  • Determine your household’s new baseline and arrange your new budget accordingly
  • Divide your budget expenses out into Fixed and Variable
  • Adjust for changes in essential costs—Housing, Utilities, Insurance, Food
  • Put into savings what normally would have been your leisure spending money

 

As the stay-at-home lifestyle continues, take a look at your unnecessary costs for such things as memberships, subscriptions, and online shopping. Reach out to the subscription organizations and see if they are offering any options to delay your membership until a later date.

 

  • Categorize all active memberships as Cancel, Adjust, or Keep
  • For live entertainment, research how far out the venues have postponed shows
  • Adjust your online shopping needs for your current lifestyle
  • Reassess the must-haves of your new stay-at-home daily life

 

Review your finances:

If you’re planning on buying a home in the near future, you are likely already on your financial planning journey. With added uncertainty around COVID-19’s effective timeline, the more information you can gather, the better. In these unprecedented times, flexible solutions are being provided to customers. Exploring what options your banks and issuers are offering will keep you informed and prepared while keeping your finances in order.

 

Contact your credit card issuer to see if they are offering any of the following options to customers:

  • Payment deferral or forbearance
  • Flexible fee policies
  • Lowering your monthly payment or interest rate temporarily
  • Forgiveness or relief from late fees

 

Following the steps outlined above can go a long way towards helping you save for a home. As your finances are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, take time to adjust accordingly. Continuing to gather information and developing a strategy will help you steer your eventual home purchase in the right direction through these uncertain times.

 

Originally posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on April 20, 2020 at 4:22 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Buying, Living |

Your Guide to Spring Cleaning

Many of us have found ourselves spending much of our time indoors as of late, and as spring blooms in the sunlight, you might be noticing that it’s time to treat your home to a little TLC. When it comes to wellness, your health and the health of your home go hand in hand. Here are some tips to guide you through your spring cleaning this year.

 

Image Source: Canva

 

First clean, then disinfect​

​​​​​​​General cleaning rids your home’s surfaces of contaminants, but disinfecting targets pathogens. A combination of the two before—as well as after—your spring cleaning will have your home in peak health. When disinfecting, target high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, and faucets.

 

Devices like your computer, phone and tablets are worthy of disinfecting as well, since they are high-touch surfaces that we carry around constantly. Avoid cleaners heavy in toxins and chemicals, which spread throughout your home. Look for plant- and mineral-based ingredients and natural solvents.

 

  • Work top-to-bottom
    • ​​Working from ceiling to walls to counters to floors guides dust and debris downwards and prevents any re-cleaning of the same areas.

 

  • Ceiling
    • Being the season when allergies kick up, a quality dusting can be even more important for your health. Curtains, blinds, carpets and ceiling fans all collect dust easily; being thorough in these areas will pay off in the long run. Don’t forget the corners where cobwebs collect.

 

  • Walls & Windows
    • Consider giving your walls a cleanse with a damp towel, especially in the kitchen near your oven and coffee maker. Cleaning your windows helps bring in more natural light and is the key to getting the most out of your home’s view.

 

  • Floors
    • All floors need a good cleanse, but different materials require different cleaning methods. With laminate and vinyl flooring, dry mopping will do the trick. Sealed wood floors can take mopping, but waxed floors can’t—they require sweeping or vacuuming instead.

 

Declutter

Decluttering can be a daunting task. But with more time at home, we have more time to conquer this task day by day. Divide the rooms up by how much time they will take to declutter. Rooms like the kitchen and playroom will likely take longer than the living room or bathroom.

 

  • Separate the unnecessary or underused items into two categories: Donate and Storage. Gather your donated items—whether they’re going to thrift stores, local shelters, or charity—so they can be distributed out in one trip.

 

  • When it comes to storage, consider which items are likely to be taken out more often, like tools or seasonal items. Put them away last so they are easy to access. Hopefully this exercise, done year after year, will cut your storage stockpile down to what is essential.

 

Go for multipurpose

  • Minimalism is a space-saving movement that has picked up momentum in recent years. Even if you aren’t looking to downsize, incorporating multifunctionality into your home can bring an added dimension to your spring cleaning.

 

  • ​Common multipurpose features include lofted beds with below storage, using a corner desk to create an office nook, and folding tables to transform a dining room to a dinner party with ease.

 

Originally posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on April 13, 2020 at 6:09 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |

The Life Expectancy of Your Home

Every component of your home has a lifespan. Common questions asked by homeowners include when to replace the flooring or how long to expect their siding to last. This information can help when budgeting for improvements or deciding between repairing and replacing when the time comes. We’re all familiar with the cliché: They just don’t build things like they used to. And while this may be true when it comes to brick siding or slate roofing, lifespans of other household components have increased in recent years.


Image Source: Shutterstock

 

Here are the life expectancies of the most common household items (courtesy of NAHB):

 

Appliances: Among major appliances, gas ranges have a longer life expectancy than things like dishwashers and microwaves.

Appliance Life Expectancy
 Oil-burning Furnace  20 years
 Heat Pump  16 years
 Gas Range  15 years
 Electric range / Refrigerator / Dryer  13 years
 Electric / Gas Water Heater  10 years
 Garbage disposal  10 years
 Dishwasher / Microwave / Mini Fridge   9 years

 

Kitchen & Bath: When choosing your countertops, factor in the life expectancies of different materials.

Kitchen / Bath Item Life Expectancy
 Wood / Tile / Natural Stone Countertops  Lifetime
 Toilets (parts will require maintenance)  50+ years
 Stainless steel sink  30+ years
 Bathroom faucet  20+ years
 Cultured marble countertops  20 years
 Kitchen faucet  15 years

 

Flooring: If you’re looking for longevity, wood floors are the way to go. Certain rooms in your home will be better suited for carpeting, but you can expect they’ll need replacing within a decade.

Flooring Material Life Expectancy
 Wood / Bamboo  Lifetime
 Brick Pavers / Granite / Marble / Slate  100+ years
 Linoleum  25 years
 Carpet  8 – 10 years

 

Siding & Roofing: When choosing roofing and siding for your home, climate and maintenance level factor into the life expectancy of the material. However, brick siding and slate roofing are known to be dependable for decades.

Siding / Roofing Material  Life Expectancy
 Brick Siding  100+ years
 Aluminum Siding  80 years
 Slate / Tile Roofing  50+ years
 Wood Shingles  30 years
 Wood Siding  10 – 100 years (depending on climate)

 

Are extended warranties warranted?

Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty.

You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you. For some, it brings a much-needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also consider if the cost outweighs the value of the item. In some cases it may be less expensive to replace a broken appliance than to pay for insurance or a warranty.

 

Originally posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on March 30, 2020 at 5:45 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |

Protecting Your Home’s Air Quality

Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too. Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in home products have increased drastically, while homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. 

 

Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well. 

 

How pollutants get into our homes 

 

Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. Mold is a VOC that can build up in the dampest parts of your home like the laundry room or crawl spaces. Another example is the “new car smell” that seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone. 

 

Many materials used to build a home contain chemicals like formaldehydetoluene, xylene, ethanol, and acetone, and even lead. VOCs can also be in the form of pet dander or dust. Fortunately, VOCs from building materials dissipate over time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested. 

 

How to reduce VOCs in your home 

Choose your building materials wisely  

 

  • – Use tile or solid wood for flooring—hardwood, bamboo, or cork
  • – Choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde. 
  • – Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes 
Purify the air  
  • – Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, air out newly renovated areas for at least a week 
  • – Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly 
  • – Install air cleaners if needed 
  • – Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals 
  • – Plants are a natural solution to help clean the air 
  • – Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner 
Pick the right carpet 
  • – Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal
  • – Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet 
  • – Install carpet LAST after completing painting projects or wall coverings
  • – Air out newly carpeted areas before using  
  • – Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors
  •  
Prevent mold  
  • – Clean up water leaks fast 
  • – Keep humidity below 60 percent, using dehumidifiers if necessary 
  • – Refrain from carpeting rooms that stay damp 
  • – Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation 
  • – Use one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water to kill mold in its early stages 

If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/ 

 

Originally posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on March 25, 2020 at 8:17 am
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |

5 Small Things You Can Do to Improve Your Home Office

Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of us now find ourselves working from home. While it’s hard to complain about the commute, working from home can be an adjustment. For example, you may find yourself doing tasks around the house and suddenly you’ve missed several important emails. If you feel like you need some help being more productive while working from home, here are five tips to improve your workflow.

Image Source: Canva

Add Light

The best kind of light is natural light. Try setting up your workspace by a window. If that’s not possible, add a desk lamp or floor lamp to brighten your space. Not only will it help with visibility; it brightens your mood, which helps you to be more productive.

 

Declutter

Remove distracting clutter. Take everything off your desk that you don’t need. Store it elsewhere or use shelves on your wall to display it.

If you find yourself cleaning throughout the day, set aside time specifically for these tasks. If you’re still waking up at the same time you did when working at the office—which studies show is a great strategy when working from home—using your would-be commute time to tidy up helps avoid those periodic distractions.

 

Bring the Outdoors In

Bringing plants into your home is beneficial for productivity and health alike. Greenery is a natural mood booster and gives life to a room. Plants naturally purify the air, helping you breathe easy as you make your way through the workday. Try arranging both hanging and potted plants to improve the mood around your workspace.

 

Change Your Chair 

A chair that’s too tall, too short, or not comfortable is a fast track to back and shoulder problems that inhibit your workday and linger afterwards. Being in a stationary position for hours at a time requires the right kind of support to stay productive. Features to look for in a quality office chair include proper lumbar support, sturdy wheels, and an adjustable base that allows your shoulders to relax and your feet to rest flat on the floor.

 

Add Decor

It’s important to keep your home office professional and dedicated to your work. However, adding personal touches to the space will help you feel at ease. Position your work computer and phone front and center with any related work tools close by and handy. Adding pictures of loved ones, artwork, and inspirational quotes will help inspire you to generate ideas while working productively.

Originally posted by Sandy Dodge


Posted on March 23, 2020 at 5:17 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |

Incorporate Pantone’s Color of 2020

Classic Blue has officially been anointed Pantone’s 2020 “Color of the Year”.  Pantone says it picked this color because of its ability to instill calm, confidence, and connection as we cross the threshold into a new decade. A dependable color, Classic Blue is timeless, and enduring, making it a great addition to just about any room in your home.

Here are some ways to add this stunning shade of blue to your home:

 

Image Source: Pantone

 

 

Furniture

Image Source: Stacy Zarin Goldberg 

Add a splash of color to any room with Classic Blue furniture, such as these dining room chairs, which express a sense of tradition and elegance, as well as unexpected boldness.

 

Tile Work

Image Source: Stacy Zarin Goldberg 

Geometric patterns are all the rage this year, so why not liven up your kitchen backsplash with tiles that incorporate the color of the year? Here’s an example that achieves this through bold, colorful design that doubles as a piece of art.

 

Cabinets

Image Source: Davonport Kitchen Designers and Remodelers. 

If geometric tile isn’t your thing, the are other ways to bring your kitchen to life with this stunning shade of blue. If you’re not in a position to purchase all new cabinets, simply paint your current cabinets for a more affordable update.

 

Walls

Image Source:Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Whether it’s built-ins, panels, or an accent wall, Classic Blue can make your furniture and décor pop. Consider this color when you paint your living room or bedroom as a way to encourage calm and confidence in your favorite spaces.

 

Originally posted by Meaghan McGlynn


Posted on February 10, 2020 at 5:06 pm
Elizabeth Dolton | Posted in Living |