Why Leading Through Authenticity is More Critical Than Ever

This is a contributor post by Sue Yannaccone, regional executive VP, Eastern Seaboard and Midwest regions of  Coldwell Banker/NRT

There is an obvious lack of women in leadership positions across the board in just about any industry one looks at. Within my own industry, real estate, women make up nearly 70% of the industry yet rarely are represented at the top of the industry in leadership. Fortunately, Coldwell Banker Real Estate is facing this upwards mobility challenge within real estate through their work with WomanUP!® and by spotlighting the women who lead within the company.

Recently I was invited to lead a conversation with the women of Coldwell Banker on achieving dreams, leading through changing times and driving to results from the perspective of, well, a woman.

Why the perspective matters, I’ll get to. But first let me encapsulate my leadership philosophy, which focuses around authenticity and inspiration bolstered by execution in the form of accountability, and how critically important that is when leading through change.

Somewhere along my path, I realized that to be a true leader and gain a following, you must lead from your authentic self. A few game changing thoughts that I believe every aspiring leader (woman or man) should follow:

1) Do not create yourself in the likeness of what you think a leader should be, but rather through the likeness of yourself leading.

2) Don’t apologize for using your voice; but be sure to use it in ways you are proud of.

3) Don’t shy away from making tough decisions; but be sure they are in fact your decisions because you, and you alone, must own them.

4) Don’t create a look, a feel, a perspective that blends in with all others; Amplify your unique perspective and approach to create your unique path to success.

It boils down to something as simple as this…do not create yourself in the likeness of what you think a leader should be, but rather through the likeness of yourself leading. The amount of energy it takes to show up in the guise of what you believe someone else expects is exhausting and that energy is better channeled to excel in your career. Also, the people who chose to put you in a position of leadership put you there for who you are or else they would have selected someone else.

And remember when on that path, a true leader is less consumed with their individual results than those of the overall organization. That perspective is typically fueled by a belief in the mission, belief in the company for which you work and the charge you are leading. And when that company you believe in is faced with change, focus on understanding the case for change through a clear and open mind.

Great success lies in one’s ability to harness the power that comes with change; by embracing the opportunity that is created when a business, market or organization is faced with a new direction for the future. As a leader, it’s my role to get others to share that view. To galvanize the masses and charge up the hill.

It is in these moments that the ability to inspire others to be the best version of themselves is critically important. Even more, it is imperative that you provide your team the tools, support and coaching to achieve greatness. While that may sound somewhat altruistic, and maybe it is, think for a minute about the best leaders you’ve seen — do they charge up said hill alone? Or do they have an army behind them working together to get to the top?

As a leader I believe it is my responsibility to build future leaders, to take those who have the talent, the passion and the commitment to the next level. I am all in when they are. I will provide the tools, support, guidance and coaching to succeed. And I will hold them accountable to doing their job.

Being held accountable to accomplishing a goal is a good thing; it means the goal matters to the organization and it means your success matters to your leaders. We fail as leaders if we don’t clearly set expectations, consistently measure performance, report back and, importantly, coach our team when needed.

Now, why does a women’s perspective on this matter? Honestly it shouldn’t. But it does because there are aren’t a sufficient number of us leading the charge up the hill. Are we afraid to inspire others to “dream big” or are we afraid to do so ourselves? Are we hesitant to hold other’s accountable or to hold ourselves accountable? Do we fear how we will be perceived if we grab that seat at the table or if we fail? I have no idea, but I do know that too often we look for someone to follow rather than lead and we wait for someone else to define our path, our limits.

In a time of constant change the pressure to conform can be great. During these times it is most important to be your authentic self as your sustainable success depends on it. It is my personal goal to inspire women to set their sights higher, to know that they can achieve their dreams, no matter how big. And if no one else is doing it, hold yourself accountable because sooner or later I know you’ll be in a position to do the same for others.

If you’re a part of the Coldwell Banker network and interested in listening to the next Women in Leadership call, be sure to visit CB Exchange and search “Women in leadership” to find out the details.

12 Ways to Curb Sugar Cravings at Home

 

We’ve all had it—that intense feeling when you get home from work, or while you’re watching late-night TV, when you need to have a piece of chocolate right this minute. While satisfying your sweet tooth may feel good at the time, giving into sugar cravings too often can wreak havoc on your health and waistline. Here’s the scoop on why you should rein in your sweet tooth, and how to do it.

The Dirty on Sugar

“Added sugars” are sugars and syrups added to processed foods while they’re being made. They’re not the same as naturally occurring sugars in foods like fruit or milk, which also provide vital nutrients like calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Added sugars come with calories but have little to no vitamins and minerals. And when you go overboard on calories, it can lead to weight gain.

What’s more, a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that having too much added sugar in your diet can raise your risk of dying from heart disease. Other research shows that added sugar is linked with type 2 diabetes, obesity, cavities and certain types of cancer.

How Much Is Too Much

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say to limit added sugars to no more than 10% of your total calories per day. This means if you consume 2,000 calories each day, no more than 200 calories, or about 50 grams of sugar, should come from added sugar. If that sounds like a lot, consider this: One can of cola contains a whopping 41 grams of sugar. This is why it can be easy to exceed the limit.

Where the Sugar Hides

A high amount of added sugar isn’t just in obvious treats like soda, candy and ice cream. In fact, much of the sugar people consume today is in processed foods that we don’t consider sweets. It’s added to frozen meals to enhance flavor and pasta sauces to balance out the acidity. Added sugar may also lurk in protein bars, cereals, barbecue sauces, ketchup and sports drinks.

Finding out how much added sugar is in your food and drinks can be tricky, because the nutrition label does not differentiate between sugars that are added and those that occur naturally. Instead of relying on the number of grams listed on the label, check out ingredient lists to learn how much sugar has been added to a product. Some common names for added sugars include:

  • Corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
  • Trehalose
  • Invert sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate

If any of these names show up first or second on the ingredient list, the item is likely packed with sugar. Consider swapping it for a healthier choice.

How to Kick Your Sweet Tooth to the Curb

Sugar tastes good and it surrounds us, so controlling your cravings is often no easy feat. But know that with the right tools and mindset, you can tame your sweet tooth and reduce your sugar intake, replacing nutritionally-void choices with options that are higher in vitamins and minerals. Try these tips:

1. Go cold turkey.
Some people find it’s best to avoid all added sugars to nip their cravings. With this approach, the first 48-72 hours will likely be especially challenging, but some people say that their cravings go away within a few days. Remember to read labels closely since sugar is hidden in many packaged foods.

2. Give in a little.
On the other hand, giving up sugar altogether isn’t for everyone. In fact, being too restrictive can backfire and cause you to crave sugar more. Then you may overindulge and feel guilty. Allowing yourself one small treat each day may keep you from overdoing it.

3. Avoid processed foods.
Sugar is added to most processed foods to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. Swapping processed foods for whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grain products, lean sources of protein and dairy can help lower your overall sugar intake.

4. Eliminate temptations.
You may be more likely to eat sugar if you can get it easily. Clear the candy bar stash from your cupboards and avoid the snack aisle at the grocery store. When you host gatherings, send guests home with leftover treats. Out of sight, out of mind.

5. Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter.
If the urge for sweets strikes and you can’t resist it, have a piece of fruit instead. Its natural sweetness should quench your craving, and it will give you a dose of vitamin-rich nutrition. Stock up on apples, oranges, watermelon and berries so you’re always ready the moment a craving hits.

6. Roast your veggies.
It’s true—you can satisfy your desire for sugar by eating vegetables. This is because roasting veggies brings out their natural sweetness. Try roasting sweet potatoes, purple cabbage and Brussels sprouts for a tasty, nutritious treat.

7. Schedule snacks and meals.
It’s not uncommon to mistake hunger for a sugar craving. Eat healthy meals and snacks at set times to prevent yourself from feeling famished and making unhealthy food choices. Keep snacks at your desk and in your car. You’ll always be prepared with a nutritious option when hunger strikes.

8. Buy single servings.
If you really want ice cream, don’t purchase a half gallon. Instead, buy a single serving size. This way, once you’ve eaten it, it’s gone. The rest of the ice cream won’t be in the freezer tempting you to polish off the carton.

9. De-stress.
A lot of people eat when they’re stressed. But it’s not usually broccoli we’re reaching for. Studies show that people crave “comfort foods” (foods often high in sugar and fat) when they’re under physical or emotional stress. Finding ways to ease stress may keep you from turning to sweets. Consider taking up exercise or trying meditation to combat stress.

10. Distract yourself.
Cravings tend to be short-lived. Instead of giving into a craving when it hits, take a break from whatever task you’re doing. Go on a short walk or call a friend. Distracting yourself for a few minutes can make you forget about a craving.

11. Keep a journal.
When you crave sugar, make a note of the time, the food you want, how you feel and how you avoided giving in. Eventually, you may notice a pattern and learn what strategies work best to beat your cravings. Then you’ll be better equipped to overcome cravings in the future.

12. Enlist a buddy.
Don’t go at it alone. Ask a friend or family member to cut down on sugar with you. Having a buddy can help you stay motivated and hold you accountable. Plus, you can trade tips on how you’ve cut down on sugar.

The Coldwell Banker Way of Culture

Products evolve. Technology inevitably improves. Exciting advertising campaigns shift conversation and hopefully make a real impact.  Everything changes. Yet, the one constant I’ve noticed in my 12 year career with Coldwell Banker is that there’s a special kind of person who joins this legacy brand – whether it’s here at the Corporate headquarters or out there at one of the 3,000+ offices across the globe. 

Our company was founded by two “twenty-somethings” in 1906 because they wanted to protect homebuyers from unscrupulous predatory real estate practices following the “Great San Francisco Earthquake.” That initial commitment to ethics and doing right by their customers and community is at the core of who we still are 112+ years later. Over 90,000 agents and countless others have taken that legacy, carried it on and even built upon it. Today, Coldwell Banker is home to some of the most successful, talented, driven, charitable and inspirational people you could ever meet. Here are just two examples:

Coldwell Banker is Home To: No Limits 

Coldwell Banker is Home To: The American Dream 

Number 1 ranked advertising, over $148M in luxury home sales every day, a long and (dare I say impressive) list of industry-wide firsts and a commitment to technology and charity – these are hallmarks of the Coldwell Banker brand and a reflection of the caliber of people who call this brand home and bring this culture to life in communities small and large.

There’s a name for the Coldwell Banker Way of culture. A name that unites us all who hang our hat here. That name is Gen Blue. We can wax poetically and call upon the most flowery language to describe our culture, but our Gen Blue documentary is the single best manifestation of what makes our culture so unique and special. It is a film that follows a new and experienced agent as they attend last year’s epic Generation Blue Experience – a gathering of over 6,000 of our people to share ideas and move our company and industry forward. 

Gen Blue is more than just a conference, it is an experience. It is the manifestation of what makes Coldwell banker such an inspiring place to call home. Watch the full video here.

If you’re interested in joining a global legacy brand with a connected network of some of the industry’s best – visit coldwellbanker.com/careers. 

Understanding and Choosing Smart Home Products that Are Right for Your Lifestyle

Many people are drawn into the world of smart home technology by cool features like smart lights and smart assistants, because they help make life more convenient. But it can also be somewhat intimidating for people to get started when they’re faced with a bevvy of technical terms and limitless options. Getting past the jargon and understanding how smart home devices can work together can all add up to a much more convenient lifestyle.

Here’s how to figure out which smart home products can work best for you.

Consider How Devices Communicate

When you’re selecting smart home devices, you may come across the terms Insteon, Zigbee, and Z-Wave. These are different types of networks that smart home products use to communicate with one another. Insteon can communicate over a Wi-Fi network or through the existing electrical wiring in your walls, while Zigbee and Z-Wave communicate only through your Wi-Fi network.

The main thing to keep in mind is that there are compatibility differences to consider. Not all smart home products are compatible with these networks, but the vast majority of smart home products will work with Zigbee and Z-Wave.

Choose Devices that Can Simplify Your Life

The number of available smart home devices grows with each passing day. Where once there were only smart lights and security systems, now you can purchase everything from a connected oven to a smart robot that vacuums your home for you. The majority of newer products are compatible with most existing products, and even those that don’t work together straight out of the box can be made to work together through smart home hubs.

1. Security
Take a moment and think about the conveniences you want in your home. If you invest in only one type of smart home technology, make it a security system complete with security cameras. Connected home security systems make it easy to keep an eye on things around the house when you’re away, and even the presence of a security system can be enough to deter someone with malicious intent.

2. Smart lighting
For people who work out of the home, go away on vacation, or simply want an easier way to manage their lighting, smart lighting can help. With smart lights, you can control your lights from afar with a mobile app. Because smart lights have been around for a while, there are a lot of different options to fit every budget and color range.

3. Smart assistants
A smart assistant is just what it sounds like — a voice-activated device that can tell you everything from the news to the weather, control your smart home, play music, and much more. Although each device comes with varying levels of complexity, most of the difference lies in the volume level of the speaker.

4. Smart appliances
These days, you can connect everything from toaster ovens to washers and dryers. Most of these alert you via smartphone when something is finished cooking or a load of laundry is ready to go in the dryer, but certain appliances offer different features. Any homeowner with a busy schedule and lots of chores can benefit from the conveniences of managing appliances remotely.

5. Smart power strips and outlets
Smart outlets are one of the easiest ways to add smart home tech to your home without breaking the bank. Smart outlets can control the flow of power to and from a device. You can monitor the status of an outlet from your phone and turn it on or off. Are you one to leave the house and panic over whether the iron was plugged in? Next time, plug it into a smart outlet and you won’t have to worry.

6. Smart thermostats
Many people are introduced to smart home technology through a smart thermostat. These devices learn how you like your home to feel. If you keep it cooler at night and turn up the heat in the morning, a smart thermostat will pick up on that after a few days and adjust automatically. Like other smart devices, these can be controlled from your phone or via voice input with a smart assistant. They’re also an energy-saver. Homeowners who are concerned with energy efficiency would benefit from this device.

With these devices, you can get creative and customize them to the needs of your lifestyle. Services like If This, Then That (IFTTT) make it possible to connect devices together in ways you never would have imagined. You can also connect them through a smart home hub, like one provided by your internet service provider. For example, program a smart light next to your bed to simulate a sunrise if you have to wake up before dawn, and trigger your heat to turn on. Program smart lights to turn a certain color based on the temperature outside. Set your smart coffee pot to be linked to a motion sensor so that it begins brewing the moment you get out of bed. Make your life smarter, and a lot easier, with the limitless options.

3 Staging Touches That Up Your Chances of an Offer

It takes more than finding a realtor and posting a “For Sale” sign in the front yard for a successful home sale. Getting your house in order is the first step to a quick offer. The secret is to give potential buyers the opportunity to imagine their “stuff” and family living in the home. Plus, you want to put your home’s best foot forward and present it in the best possible light. Here are some tips to touch up your home staging to increase your chances of an offer.

1. Clear Out Your Belongings 

You may be attached to your stuff, but the first rule is to clean it up, clear it out and pack it all away. It can prevent new buyers from imagining the house as their own.

  • Pack away personal items like family photos and kid’s artwork for your new home.
  • Make sure toiletries, clothing, jewelry and accessories are in drawers and out of sight.
  • Eliminate excessive clutter. Display only a few generic items on your shelves and make sure the bathrooms are pristine.

Some rooms are harder to streamline, especially children’s or teens’ bedrooms. Clean them out and clear away as much clutter as your son or daughter will allow. Invest in covered containers that will fit under the bed or in the closet.

2. Make the Rooms Look Bigger

You want to make each room look as spacious as possible. Start with these tricks:

  • Take out some of the furniture. Move it to the basement or storage shed, or sell it if you won’t need it in your new place.
  • Clear off the kitchen counters.
  • Roll up area rugs, which tend to make rooms feel smaller.
  • Arrange furniture in intimate seating groups that encourage conversation and coziness. Don’t line everything up along the wall!

Installing curtains and blinds as close to the ceiling as possible draws the eye up and makes the room appear bigger. Panels should skim the floor. In this living room corner, a classic chair and small table before a window suggests to the future homeowner here is place for a morning cup of coffee in a well-lit room. 

3. Pay Attention to Your Decor

Highlight your home’s best features and downplay the less-than-perfect areas to create a welcoming space.

Paint is an easy fix. When possible, paint walls in pale, neutral colors like soft grey, beige and off-white. Neutral colors allow the buyer to imagine their own furniture in place. Plus, it screams “move-in ready.”

Don’t overlook the power of the view and the importance of natural light. Window treatments can help solve many issues. Windows without draperies make a room feel empty or undone. Curtains also help absorb sound in rooms with wood floors and they can hide an unsightly view or enhance a lovely one.

If a major selling point is your view – such as the ocean, the mountains or a gorgeous garden – don’t cover it up! Install stationary panel curtains that hang well off the window. If the scene outside is less than stellar (like an alleyway or the building next door), hang sheer draperies that allow the light in but camouflage the view.

As with paint color, choose drapery fabric in neutral colors and traditional patterns. This woven geometric check blends in with the rest of the space and will coordinate with almost any style of furnishings.

After the living room and kitchen, a great master bedroom is high on buyers’ checklists. In addition to natural light and the view, privacy is paramount.

Follow the same rules to make the space look bigger, hang as high as possible and skim the floor. Sheer curtains that can be closed allow light and hide an unappealing view while providing privacy. Keep surfaces clear of personal items and choose plain, neutral bedding. Open up the wall space with minimal artwork and move the excess furniture out. Buyers are looking for large rooms that feel serene and calm.           

Don’t forget to spruce up any secondary bedrooms as well. Keep the window treatments simple with Roman shades and valances. If the room needs a touch of color, a classic plaid or small print that works for boys and girls is in order. Temporarily replace superhero bedspreads with coverlets or duvets in solid colors and encourage your kids to keep their room neat and tidy.

Follow these few simple staging tips and your next showing could produce a winning offer.

Tricks to Treat Yourself to a Renewed Home

Guest post by Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

Is your home fulfilling your current lifestyle needs? Has your home been on the market for months and still not sold? If you answer “Yes” to either of these questions, your home may be going through an identity crisis; it is not configured to best meet your current way of living – or to attract potential buyers. Your home needs a jump-start and a newly defined purpose.

It is time for “OPERATION: RECONFIGURATION.” Follow these tricks to treat yourself to a renewed home:

EXAMINE YOUR HOME

Begin by assessing the rooms in your home. Each room should serve a distinct function for you and your family – or for your prospective buyers. Are you offering a home office to buyers or just all bedrooms? Have you been recently practicing yoga or painting more pictures? Do you have a room set up for these activities?

If you determine that rooms in your home are not serving your family’s needs or are not pleasing to buyers, then now is the time reconfigure rooms within your home. That’s right; moving is not just from one house to another house. By reconfiguring rooms, you can discover a new home within your old home.

STRATEGIZE; CREATE YOUR ACTION PLAN

Set Goals. What do you want to achieve from the room reconfigurations? Consult with each family member or your realtor to determine the goals for each room.

Re-assign rooms. Based on the goals of family members or the selling points you discussed with your realtor, create a detailed plan of what room fits best with each goal. Maybe you daughter’s room would better accommodate your son’s wish for a bunk bed? Would your son’s room be a good space for your creative art projects? Is one of your bedrooms so small it would be better to present to potential buyers as a yoga space or a home office? Has the existing guest room gone unused? Transform it into a media or game room.

Design. Let family members choose the paint colors for their new rooms, as well as accessories (new bedspread, window coverings, throw rugs, etc.) and furniture layout. Instruct older kids to stay within a certain budget amount. No need to spend a lot, a little hard work and a new paint color can transform a room. Repurpose old furniture – sand and repaint.

ROLL-UP YOUR SLEEVES; SET ASIDE ONE WEEK PER ROOM MOVE

Move out. Transfer all of the furniture and belongings from the chosen room to a temporary space in your home (garage, basement). If you are short on time, space, and/or help, hire a moving & storage company to move furniture and place items in storage.

Clean. Scour each room. Shampoo the carpet, wax floors, wash windows, wipe down walls, dust closet shelves. An empty, sparkling clean room provides the best blank canvas in order to reinvent that space.

Decorate. Paint and/or wallpaper the walls. Install new carpet or flooring, window coverings, etc. Complete any other DIY projects that the room’s budget allows.

Move in. Using both new and old pieces, arrange furniture, hang wall art and thoughtfully place accessories to personalize for each new occupant – even hang their name outside the door.

ENJOY YOUR NEW ROOMS

Take it all in. Your children get to sleep in their new bedrooms that they helped design. Perhaps Dad can read a book in his new office or you can have some quiet time in your new meditation space.

Get inspired. Whatever the new space is designed for, it will be clean, organized, and provide inspiration for you or your potential buyers.

Some of us move to a new home every 5-10 years, but many stay put for decades. Over time, a home can lose its way, lose its identity. Reconfiguring rooms within a home can push the restart button, set you and your home in a different direction, giving everyone a fresh perspective and a renewed home!

Closet Organization Ideas that Are Borderline Genius

If your closet is a clutter, it could be that you just need some closet organization ideas. Closets, no matter the size, tend to be a catchall. We often toss in our shoes and handbags, and hang up our garments without any consideration to organization. But, fret not. It’s easy to clean up those closets and establish some structure. Here’s how.

Invest in a Closet System

If you crave more closet space, you don’t have to put your home through a full-scale remodel — just put a closet system in place. The idea with a closet system is to maximize the space your closet already provides. By using hanging bars, drawersAud, shelves, and cubby storage, you can properly organize your clothing and other items. This way, when you open your closet door to put something away or retrieve something, you’ll know exactly where to go. 

Put a Pull-Down Bar in Place

This is a good closet organization idea when you want to keep clothes out of the way but still accessible when you need them. Many movable clothing rods are designed with telescoping pull rods to adjust to any closet size. Here’s a good example to learn more about how pull-down bars work in a closet.

Keep Your Shoes at a Slant

Many homeowners are satisfied if their shoes make it onto a storage rack instead of being tossed on the floor. But here’s a smart tip for you: By storing your shoes on slanted shelves, you can better see what you’re grabbing. No need to stand on tippy toes to see the top shelf — one quick glance and you’ll know whether you’re reaching for those strappy black sandals or sassy ankle boots. If you’re storing tall boots (because every Texan should have at least a couple pairs of cowboy boots), look for inserts that help boot shafts stay upright.

Get Creative

When it comes to closet organization, it pays to think outside the box. Want a clever way to keep your scarves from getting into a tangled mess? Grab a paper towel holder from the kitchen and roll your scarf around it. Searching for an orderly way to store your t-shirts? Keep them organized with stacking letter trays from your office. The trays keep the tees separated so when you need one, you won’t disrupt the whole stack.

If you’re tired of haphazardly cramming stuff in your closet, tap into the ideas above to restore some order to the closets in your home. Do you know of some other closet organization ideas? Share below!

8 Genius Ways to Organize Your Kitchen

The following is a guest post from Andrea Davis of HomeAdvisor

The kitchen is one of the most difficult places in the home to keep clean and organized. Between your dishes, utensils and cooking appliances, you have lots of oddly shaped and bulky items to store. If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the stuff in your kitchen, or maybe just need a more efficient way of storing and organizing, consider these genius ways to tidy up your kitchen.

#1 Group Similar Items Together
Grouping items together according to their use is a sensible way to organize your kitchen. Categorizing similar items makes it easier for you and your guests to find things quickly.

#2 Use Baskets to Store Commonly Used Items
Searching for commonly used kitchen items is frustrating. Rather than storing them in random cabinets, use a simple wicker basket to corral and hold popular items. It looks nicer than just stacking utensils on the counter and it’s more organized than stashing them in available cabinets.

#3 Install Slide-Out Pantry Drawers
There’s nothing worse than having to pull everything out of a drawer or cabinet to reach something you’re looking for. Rather than shuffling with all of that mess, install slide-out pantry drawers or cabinets. Now, when you need a spice or are looking for specific dry goods, you can slide the entire cabinet out.

#4 Use Open Shelving
There’s nothing wrong with showing off some of the items you own, like your formal dinnerware or antique teapots. The only challenge you’ll face is keeping it all straight and tidy on your shelves. Installing an open shelving solution will help you organize everyday kitchen items and bring an open, airy energy to your kitchen. As an added benefit, you won’t have to open drawers and doors to find the items you’re looking for.

#5 Explore Alternative Storage
Traditional kitchen storage is great, but sometimes alternatives are just as functional. Consider storing extra kitchen items in wooden crates, baskets and other containers. Do you have a movable kitchen island with space underneath? Use woven baskets to hold your plates and bowls below.

#6 Don’t Waste Space
If you’re struggling to find space to organize all of your cutlery, plates and other utensils, consider high-shelf storage. Remember to only store rarely used items, like your fine china or fondue pot, on high shelves.

#7 Cut Down When Necessary
The kitchen is one of the most popular places in the home to display knick-knacks. If your assortment of collectibles has outgrown your space, the easiest way to organize is to eliminate what you can’t put out on display. This cuts down on clutter and opens up the visuals of your kitchen.

Conclusion
These are just a few simple ways to improve the organization of your kitchen. Now you can enjoy less frustrating meal preparation and less overwhelming visuals.

How Much House Can You Afford?

HOUSE POOR [adjective | hous – poo·r] A person who can afford his or her home mortgage payments, but can’t afford much of anything else. Discretionary spending on restaurants, furnishings, travel and clothes are severely cut back, due to a large proportion of his or her income going towards the mortgage payments, upkeep costs, and energy/utility bills.

You don’t want to find yourself stuck at home while your friends are out having fun. Buying more home than you can afford comfortably will place serious restraints on your financial life. This doesn’t sound like fun, does it?

Sure, you want a nice home. But you also want to make sure that it fits in the landscape of the rest of your life.

Here are the ABC’s of finding a dream house that you can reasonably afford.

Assess Your Ratios

Finding that magic mortgage number of how much home you can realistically afford.

  • Front-End Ratio: A front-end ratio is also known as the mortgage-to-income ratio. You can find this ratio by using a debt to income calculator or simply by dividing your projected monthly mortgage payments by your gross monthly income. For example, if your monthly mortgage payment would be $1,500 and your monthly income is $6,000, your front-end ratio would be 1500/6000 or 25%This projected mortgage payment should include the principal, taxes, insurance, and interest payments. Many lenders have limits on the maximum front-end ratio that they’ll permit. If you’re seeking an FHA loan, the federal cap on front-end ratios is a 31% percent limit.
  • Back-End Ratio: Your debt-to-income ratio is your back-end ratio. The back-end ratio can be found by adding all of your monthly debt payments, including your car payments, credit card payments and any other outstanding debt, then dividing this number by your gross monthly income, which is the amount earned before taxes or other deductions.The higher your back-end ratio is, the more difficult it is to meet your monthly mortgage payments. Lenders will also have maximum caps on this. The absolute highest back-end ratio you can have and still qualify for an FHA mortgage is 43%.

Pause and reflect on whether or not you should borrow as much as you qualify for.Consider your own ratios. Do you want to allocate your money elsewhere besides your mortgage? What percentage of your income do you feel comfortable spending on your mortgage?

Bet on Life

Are you starting a new career? Returning to graduate school? Do you plan on growing your family? If you don’t expect any big changes to your life or finances, then you may be able to afford a larger mortgage payment. If you do have life plans that will impact your finances in the near future, it may be best to secure a more manageable mortgage payment.

Also, job security is critical when deciding how much home you can afford. How long have you been working? Do you suspect any major upheavals in the company anytime soon? Have there been any major layoffs?

You never know what the future holds, make sure that you have an emergency fund that can cover all of your necessary expenses while you get back on your feet. An emergency fund should cover at least three to six months of your living expenses.

If you haven’t built this fund yet, plan out how you can put some dollars towards creating these reserves before you decide how much you want to spend on buying a house.

Calculate Other Monthly Expenses

Your total monthly expenses will affect how much home you’re able to afford.

Calculate all of your expenses, such as groceries, gas, dining out, clothes, miscellaneous goods, toiletries, cosmetics, utilities, and car expenses. Don’t forget to include line-items for travel, holidays and other annual expenses. Forgetting to calculate these annual or biannual expenses can have a reverberating impact on your ability to afford your home.

Once you’ve added these numbers, look at how much wiggle room you have left. Think about how much you want to spend on your home, while still leaving a buffer for any other costs that might creep up. After all, more savings is always a good thing.

Now that you know the ABC’s of what you can afford, check out more home buying resources.

Do You Have This Common Household Product in Your Cleaning Arsenal?

H2O2…or for non-science nerds…Hydrogen Peroxide! Did you know Hydrogen Peroxide has magical cleaning powers? Well, OK, maybe not magic but it is a pretty awesome green product to have handy around the house. Here are some of my favorite ways to use it to get my home nice and clean. Be sure you are using the  3% solution.

Whiten Grout

Cleaning grout is not a fun household chore but the good new is DIY grout paste is AH-MAZE-ING. Mix hydrogen peroxide with baking soda and then spread it over your grout. Let is sit for about an hour and then use the rough side of a sponge to wipe away the grime. Voila!

Disinfect Sponges

Dirty sponges…yuck. Who wants to clean the items they eat with or off of with something covered in germs. Um not you and definitely not me. Give your sponges a new life by soaking them in a bowl of hydrogen peroxide for half an hour.

Disinfect Your Fridge

We all know you can use HP to disinfect a cut (ouch, I know) but did you know you can also use it to sanitize your refrigerator? Yup, that’s right! Just spray some inside (make sure the bottle you use is opaque) and let it soak for about ten minutes then wipe away the grime.

Looking for other ways to use this product as a green way to clean up your home? Here are TEN more:

  1. Whiten Laundry
  2. Clean Your Cutting Boards
  3. Clean Rugs (test a small area first)
  4. Clean Toilets (even if you have a septic!)
  5. Clean Children’s Toys
  6. Remove Tablecloth Stains
  7. Clean Doorknobs
  8. Clean Glass Surfaces
  9. Disinfect Countertops
  10. Clean Your Veggies (Yes, really! Read more here)

Do you have another way to use this magical solution in your home? Let us know!