6 Steps for Designing Your Garden

The following is a guest post by Francesca Singer

Spring is coming, which means it is almost prime time for gardening. Whether you are a novice gardener or an old pro, there are a few critical actions to take when you set out to design a garden. Read on for six steps for designing your garden–and get started stat!

Step 1: Location, Location, Location

Like so many things in life, with gardens, location is everything. Determine where you want your garden to be. There are a few important considerations to keep in mind. If you want a landscaped garden around your home, you will have to take into account the shadow cast by the house, drainage, and other logistical issues. If you want a vegetable and herb garden, you will need a place that receives full sunlight for most of the day but especially in the morning.

Step 2: Map it Out
These days, drawing out an aerial perspective isn’t difficult. Use some of the tools technology has given us, like Google Earth, to make an aerial image of your property or the specific part of your property where your garden will go. You don’t have to be a skilled artist to do this: you need a printer and some tracing paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect, either. You just want a visual reference of your site.

Step 3: Evaluate Your Options

Walk around your future garden site, make observations, and take notes. Note where the shadows fall during the day, which direction prevailing winds come from, and where water drains during heavy rains. Using your site drawing and some tracing paper (or multiple copies of the drawing), note these conditions on your map where they occur.

Step 4: Scale Your Drawing

This may sound difficult, but it really isn’t. The easiest way to make a scale drawing is to find the edge of a wall, measure it, and then decide on a unit to represent each foot. A good scale for design is ¼ inch to a foot. That would make a fifty-foot length just over twelve inches in your drawing. Again, it does not have to be perfect.

Step 5: Plant Selection
Finally, the fun begins! Make a list of all the plants you want, and if you’re not sure, visit a local gardening center and see what types of plants are available. There are also numerous online gardening guides to ornamental plants, or you can visit a local campus or botanical garden for inspiration. Make sure you select for species that will thrive in your hardiness zone.

Step 6: Planting Plan
Garden designers everywhere love this step: it’s the reward for all your hard work. Using your scale drawing and your notes on site conditions, create a design for planting. Have fun with colors, heights, and textures, but bear in mind which plants can tolerate shade and sun to ensure their success. Draw in your plants to the dimension they will be when mature so you can make sure they aren’t overcrowded.

And voila– you now have a solid design for a successful garden. If these six steps for designing your garden seem like a little too much work, or you aren’t sure how to put them in action, don’t hesitate to ask a landscape professional for help. It may seem like a lot of work, but that work will pay off when your garden is the envy of the neighborhood.


Francesca Singer is a former farmer & landscape architect who is passionate about organic gardening, DIY everything, and the great outdoors. When not writing, she can be found working in the garden, wrangling her toddler, or wielding power tools.

5 New Homeowner Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid (And How to Avoid Them)


The following is a guest post from Jessica Thiefels

Become a first-time homeowner is one of the most exciting and stressful times of your life, even after the closing papers have been signed and key is in hand. Suddenly, you’re faced with a whole new set of challenges: how to manage a home that’s yours, not your landlord’s. There are a lot of opportunities to learn—and as you learn, mistakes will be made.

Luckily, many new homeowner mistakes can be easily avoided with a little preparation. Don’t let the following potential mistakes damper your excitement. Instead, plan ahead and keep these tips and tricks in mind as you learn the ropes of being a homeowner.

Ignoring Routine Maintenance

You likely just did a walk-through with a licensed inspector during the homebuying process, so you’re aware of what issues need attention and which can wait. That’s not where home maintenance stops. Home maintenance includes tasks you may have never thought of before, like cleaning the gutters, power-washing the house, prepping your pipes for winter and much more.

The best way to avoid missing these critical tasks, which could lead to costly damage, is to set up a quarterly or monthly maintenance schedule for all of the areas of your home. This should include indoor and outdoor maintenance as well as details like plumbing and electrical. Use this checklist from Better Homes and Gardens as a starting point to creating one that’s specific to your home’s unique needs.

Not Budgeting for Additional Expenses

Moving can be expensive but any veteran homeowner will tell you that there’s always more to budget for—and these issues seem to pop-up out of nowhere, like a broken washer right after you need to patch a leak in the roof. Plan for the unexpected by putting away extra money for emergency house needs.

Experts at HGTV suggest putting away 1 to 3 percent of your home’s purchase price each year to develop an emergency fund. They give the example, “For example, if your home cost $300,000, set aside at least $3,000 each year. Make one large deposit or spread the amount out in monthly deposits.”

Getting Locked Out

Being a new homeowner can make you more susceptible to being locked out: you have the new keys, you run out to get something and realize that the new key isn’t on your old keyring. You walk outside with the trash, forgetting that the new door locks behind you.

This mistake can lead to another one: choosing a locksmith that’s not reputable. In your hurry to get back into the house, it’s easy to forget to do your research and listen for clues that something’s not right.

That’s why experts from Lokology Locksmith share an important tip, “Ask the locksmith for an estimate prior to their arrival. If the locksmith cannot give you a quote or a price range over the phone—that should be a red flag.” This is a simple way to test whether a company is reputable to reinforce the quick research you did.

Making Major Renovations Right Away

It’s exciting to think about how you’ll make your new home feel more like yours with renovation projects. While small changes are to be expected, major renovations should wait. Give yourself time to live in the home, see how it feels, and determine what larger renovations will look like as needs arise.

For example, you may find the location of your fridge makes it hard to move around the kitchen seamlessly. This might be a focus of your kitchen renovation that would have otherwise not been considered.

Making Major Life Changes at the Same Time

 As you can see, becoming a first-time homeowner is a lot of work. Adding to that by having a baby or getting married at the same time only increases the likelihood that you’ll make mistakes or become overly stressed. If possible, leave yourself time to get to know what it’s like to be a homeowner and avoid making costly mistakes that come with being stressed, and in-turn, overlooking simple details.

Avoid New Homeowner Mistakes

There are some mistakes you can’t avoid—but many others that you can. As you get familiar with your role as a homeowner, keep these simple mistakes in mind. If you plan ahead as best you can, you’ll be able to enjoy all the excitement of owning your first home with less stress and frustration.

 

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.

Spotting Foundation Issues When Buying a Home


The following guest post is from Sarah Hutchinson

Buying a home is both exciting and stressful. After all, you want to find a place that suits your living needs and is in great condition. One of the biggest concerns is that the property you purchase is structurally sound, and this often starts with the foundation. Consider these tips about how to spot potential issues when viewing homes with your real estate agent.


Courtesy of Ram Jack

Watch for these warning signs
When touring homes, keep an eye out for the following signs of foundation problems. Pay extra attention if you’re looking at homes built more than a decade ago or in an area with clay soil, which is notorious for damaging foundations.

What to look for on the outside:
• Horizontal cracks in the foundation itself
• Stair-step cracking in exterior bricks
• A chimney that leans away from the house
• Gaps above windows and doors or around the garage door
• Sunken porches or stairs

What to look for on the inside:
• Cracks in the drywall
• Misaligned windows or doors that are hard to open and close
• Sloping floors or cracked tiles
• Cracks in the ceiling
• Any separation between walls and the ceiling
• Moisture in crawl spaces or the basement

What should I do if I see these warning signs?
Many buyers run for the hills when they think a home’s foundation isn’t structurally sound, but you don’t need to immediately rule out a house if you believe it has foundation problems. Take a deep breath and investigate the issues—the more you know, the better decisions you can make. Keep in mind that some situations will only require minor repairs, while others can be quite complex.

Start here to weigh the pros and cons:
• Ask the seller if they’ve had foundation repair work or an inspection done. In most cases, sellers are required by law to disclose foundation issues.
• A routine home inspection may not be enough, so have a specialized foundation company, like Ram Jack, assess the home.
• Research the potential cost of repairs to help you determine a fair price. A wealth of information is available online—search for “foundation repair cost” to get an overview of what to expect.
• Find out if the issues will affect your financing. Often, houses with unresolved foundation problems can only be purchased with cash or a special type of mortgage.

What if a home I’d like to buy has had the foundation repaired?
Many buyers would look at this as a positive, especially if the repairs were done by a reputable contractor who offers a warranty. The best foundation repair companies offer a lifetime warranty that is transferable when the home sells. Just be sure that all the proper permits were pulled at the time of the repair and that there hasn’t been any trouble since. If the foundation has been stabilized, any remaining cosmetic issues can be resolved easily and quickly.

What if I’d like to make an offer but don’t want to end up with a nightmare on my hands?
Make sure your offer is written up with contingencies that protect you if things turn out differently than expected. A contingency will make your offer dependent on specific conditions, such as inspections or repairs. Discuss your options with your real estate agent.

Should I ask the seller to fix the foundation as part of the sale?
You can ask the seller to make the repairs, but it’s common for them to reduce the price of the home and sell it “as is.” If you aren’t up for making the repairs yourself, you may need to look for a different house. Additionally, some buyers worry that if the seller is held responsible, they will choose the most affordable option, not the most thorough one.

5 Ways to Pay for a Pricey Home Remodel

Remodeling your home can be a great way to change your living space without buying a new house. Whether your overgrown starter home needs an extension or you want to add luxury upgrades to your basic bathroom, a remodel can give you the home you want using the resources you already have.

One roadblock, however, can be cost: renovating or remodeling can end up being an expensive ordeal. Before you write off your chances of renewing your living space, consider these five methods of raising cash for your project. No matter what credit profile or financial situation you have, you can find a way to afford the changes your home needs.

  1. Taking out a home equity line of credit

If you own your own home, you may be eligible for a line of credit that ties to the equity you already have in your home. HELOCs are variable-rate loans that you can borrow against over time, and the terms of your HELOC will vary due to your creditworthiness. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) works best for those who have paid off most or all of their home’s mortgage.

You can expect to borrow up to 85 percent of your home’s value, minus whatever’s left on your mortgage. Since the amount you’ve already paid toward your mortgage will be used as the collateral for your loan, a HELOC won’t be an option for those who owe more than their home is worth. Remember that with a HELOC, your home is put up as security and can be forfeited to the bank if you don’t make your payments on time.

  1. Choosing a personal home improvement loan

A personal loan comes with less risk than a HELOC, so it’s a safer way to borrow for that new tile in the kitchen or an upgraded garage door. A personal home improvement loan is generally unsecured, meaning it’s only tied to your creditworthiness. With an unsecured loan, you won’t lose your house if something goes wrong. You also have more freedom on how to use the funds from this loan, including:

  • Home repairs
  • Renovation supplies
  • Consolidating existing credit card debt

Homeowners often choose a personal loan because they don’t require collateral for approval and because they offer set monthly payments that can be paid off in a few years. With that lower risk level comes a lower loan amount: home improvement personal loans will generally be smaller than a HELOC.

  1. Borrowing from family or friends

Asking for money can be difficult, especially when you’re asking people you love. But turning to your friends and family for help funding your renovation may be worth considering. With a legally-sound contract in place for repaying the money, borrowing from your personal circle may be profitable for both parties. Your friend or family member will earn interest on the loan amount, and you will move one step closer to that dream addition.

If you have a solid relationship with someone who has expressed an interest in helping out, they may be a sound choice for financing that home remodel. For the sake of your relationship (and your financial security) make sure you create a contract that both parties are willing to honor.

  1. Finding a low-interest credit card

Credit cards can be a helpful way to finance purchasing the supplies and building materials you’ll need for your home renovation project. You may even qualify for a retail card to a home supply store, which come with cash-back rewards and big discounts on your home repair buys.

Unfortunately, not all builders and contractors take plastic, or they may charge an exorbitant processing fee. While it might be tempting to simplify your purchase with a cash advance from your favorite card, remember that this comes at a hefty price. Interest on cash advances can be 25 percent or more. If you choose a credit card cash advance, make sure you are prepared to pay the debt off quickly. Pay close attention to even the standard credit card APR as well. If you carry a balance month to month, you may end up paying high amounts of interest.

  1. Saving up your cash

This method of financing won’t cost you a cent in interest or origination fees, making it the only risk-free option on our list. If possible, saving up for a large expense is one of the most compelling financial options. 

However, depending on the reason for the renovation, you may need to act quickly.  Leaky pipes or a damaged roof can become huge problems if you let them go untreated. One other drawback to cash is inflation: the cost of building supplies can increase anywhere up to 30 percent in a given year, with new tariffs only driving up the costs. By the time you save up what you need, your project cost may have doubled.

To choose the right financing option, we recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • How much will I need to borrow?
  • Do I want to put my home up for collateral?
  • Will borrowing money from family or friends strain those relationships?
  • Does my funding choice carry additional fees or penalties?
  • Will I need a one-time loan or an ongoing line of credit?
  • If I need additional repairs or upgrades in the future, do I have to apply for a separate loan or account?
  • Do I need to consolidate other debts or pay for additional purchases?

With the right funding, you can act quickly to turn your current home into the house of your dreams. Your renovations should also raise your home’s value, giving you more equity and even making it easier to sell your home someday.

Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group, Realtors® Announces New West Des Moines Branch Manager

(Des Moines, IA – April 26, 2019) – Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group, Realtors® President, Marne Sirfus, has named Jim Hibbs as the new West Des Moines office Branch Manager.

Jim understands the importance of living by our values, the growth of the individual agents and overall office, the Coldwell Banker brand and our tools and resources,” Sirfus said. “He will also be a strong leader and he is eager to help support our agents’ success.”

Hibbs is currently working on winding down his successful real estate business as he transitions into the Branch Manager role. He is excited to take on this new role and said he is grateful for the opportunity to lead the West Des Moines office and expand and grow the Coldwell Banker brand.

Hibbs is a Central Iowa native and presently lives in Johnston with his wife, Amy.  He also has three adult children and enjoys family, baseball, classic cars and welding in his free time.

Previous to real estate, he was an anchor and manager at WHO-TV 13 and a Public Relations and Crisis Communication Trainer and Consultant.

Hibbs also served on the Johnston City Council and is a member of Johnston Rotary and the Urbandale and Johnston Chamber of Commerce.

“We are a local real estate company founded on integrity, honesty, ethics and respect. Under my leadership we will continue to lean on those core values, as we embrace the digital tools of modern real estate and the needs of today’s buyers and sellers,” Hibbs said.

“With his background in real estate and communication, I have no doubt Jim will be successful in this role,” Sirfus said.

Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group, Realtors® is an Iowa based member of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation. Mid-America Group, a land owner and developer with over 35 years of experience, affiliated with Coldwell Banker in 1990.  By combining local ownership, market expertise and national support services, Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group, Realtors® offers a full range of premier real estate services.


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©2019 Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation. ®, TM and SM licensed trademarks to Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation, except REALTOR.com®. An Equal Opportunity Company. Equal Housing Opportunity. Each Office Is Independently Owned And Operated Except Offices Owned And Operated By NRT Incorporated.


Seasonal Allergies: 7 Plants to Be Aware of As the Seasons Change

Guest post by Rose Weber

As the seasons change, you should be enjoying the changing weather and scenery that come with the time of year. Unfortunately, during the spring and fall months in particular, millions of Americans are faced with a myriad of health problems that are brought on by the same culprits responsible for the seasonal beauty–plants.

Common allergy symptoms include runny nose and congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing, and swollen skin. You might have post nasal drip or even feel more tired than normal. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you’re not alone. Educate yourself on the most common plants to be aware of as the seasons change, and you’ll be one step closer to keeping yourself healthy throughout the year.

 1. Ragweed

Ragweed is arguably the most common trigger of seasonal allergies in North America, about one in five people suffers from a serious ragweed allergy. Ragweed counts are worse on hot, windy, or exceptionally dry days, with the highest levels of pollen being produced in mid-September. However, depending on the weather and the geography of the area in which you live, ragweed season can stretch from late July all the way to Thanksgiving.

2. Oak

Oak is grown all over the country, and many people prize these statuesque beauties for their ornamental value, making them common in residential landscaping as well as in recreational parks. However, many people are allergic to this plant’s pollen, and even if your own property doesn’t have oak on it, there’s a strong likelihood that some can drift by from a neighboring lot.

3. Mountain cedar 

Mountain cedar, technically a juniper, is part of a huge plant variety. There are dozens of trees and shrubs in this grouping that can cause allergic symptoms in people–and you might not be allergic to all types, either. Mountain cedar, however, are some of the most common trees, and one that should be on any allergy sufferer’s radar.

Juniper is common throughout most of the country, and it has a long pollen season. In some states, allergy season starts in January, and can last all the way into late June.

4. Elm 

Elm trees grow in every state in the United States, except for those with harsh winters. These trees produce their pollen in the fall and can cause serious symptoms like sneezing and watery eyes.

5. Grass pollens

There are dozens of grass types that can produce allergic symptoms, and it’s difficult for allergists to test different strains of grass. There are a handful of grass species that are significantly more likely to induce allergies than others.

Bermuda grass is a common culprit. This grass type is frequently grown on residential lawns in southern states such as Texas, and produces pollen when grass blades reach half an inch in height. It can grow throughout most of the year, producing serious problems for allergy sufferers.

Bluegrass is another common trigger. It tends to produce pollen in the summer months, and this grass type is commonly used on lawns throughout the United States. Other common grass allergens include johnson grass and ryegrass.

6. Birch 

Birch is a common allergy in the spring, as these plants begin to spread their pollen. These are easy trees to spot. Birch trees have distinguishing white bark with black stipples, and can be found throughout most of the United States. They are less common in the southern and western portions of the country, but their pollen is especially potent because many people tend to plant these trees as a landscaping feature. While they are beautiful to look at, beware of their sneeze-inducing potential.

7. Poplar 

These trees also produce pollen in the spring, and can be grown just about anywhere in the country. Their pollen is much more likely to trigger allergies in warmer climates as well as those in more polluted areas, but luckily, only the male trees make pollen. Poplar are great landscaping trees, being well-adapted to many soil types, so if you want to enjoy a beautiful yard without the running nose, consider planting female varieties instead.

While there’s not much you can do to eliminate an allergy, you can work to treat your allergies. Although growing research suggests that immunotherapy, or “allergy shots,” may be an option for reducing the body’s histamine response to certain allergens.

You can also consider taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine or antihistamine long before the allergy season begins. Limit your exposure to allergens by staying inside on warm, windy days, and use saline to help flush the allergens from your nose.

Another option is to get yourself tested at an allergist’s office to help determine which of these pollens produces the strongest allergic response. Once you are armed with this information, you will have a much healthier–and more enjoyable–allergy season next year.

 

Rose Weber is a garden care extraordinaire. She has been gardening since she was a child in and loves to spend her weekends teaching her grandchildren all about growing a vegetable patch. You can find her sharing her crop with her friends and neighbours.

9 Overlooked Items to Prep Your Home for Sale

Guest post by Cara Ameer

So you’ve prepped your home cosmetically for sale in every imaginable way – fresh paint, a deep cleaning, new landscaping, decluttered closets and even organized the garage!  Your house looks better then it ever has and you are ready to hit the market!  Before you proceed with the “For Sale” sign in the ground, there are several key pieces of information that you should consider gathering that today’s savvy buyers are going to want to know.

1.  Survey

Do you have a copy of a current survey on your home?  Have this document available and provide to your listing agent so they can include in the information about your home.  Buyers want to know about property lines, easements, conservation buffers, if there is room for a pool, if the property line extends to the water behind your home, etc.  Having a survey to provide upfront will help to eliminate these types of concerns vs. waiting until a property is under contract.

If you’ve made any changes that would affect your property such as adding a pool or fence since you took ownership and are not shown on your current survey, it’s important to advise the buyer.  A new survey will usually need to be ordered prior to closing in this scenario.  If you don’t have one from when you purchased the home, try contacting the title company or attorney’s office that handled the closing of the property.  Depending on how long ago that was, they may be able to retrieve from their archives.

2.  Floorplan or Appraisal Sketch 

Buyers often need to know room dimensions as it helps with determining furniture placement and to ensure how what they have will fit (or have to be reconfigured) in the new space.  As any real estate agent can attest, many hours have been spent measuring spaces while looking at a home and comparing that against the existing buyer’s furniture dimensions.  I’ve encountered entire home searches that revolved around a great room accommodating an entertainment center and the garage size so a motorcycle could fit in addition to the cars!

An appraisal is helpful as it can confirm the exact square footage of a home vs. relying on tax records which may not be accurate.  We’ve all heard stories where the appraisal showed the actual square footage that was smaller than what was initially represented in a listing sheet.  Having an appraisal will help to ensure that does not happen.  You should have received a copy of the appraisal if you obtained a mortgage loan from your lender or if you refinanced.  If you don’t have either, consider having a floorplan drawn up or home measured by an appraiser when prepping your home for sale. Your agent can assist with resources to this effect.

3.  Utility Bills 

Buyers want to get an idea of what they can expect the heating and cooling bills to be in a home.  Review your bills over the last one to two years to get an average in the various seasons, or call your local utility provider as they can often provide you with information on the high, average and low costs.  This information can be very beneficial when a buyer sits down to number crunch their total costs of owning a home.  If you had an unusually high or low bill, provide some explanation to accompany the numbers.

4.  Termite Bond 

In many markets where termites are alive and well, it is common place for homes to have some sort of protection plan in place which is also known as a bond.   In Florida, where I live and work, this is a primary concern and often one of the first questions buyers and their agents want to know.  Prior to listing your home, obtain a copy of your termite bond policy from the provider, know exactly what type of bond you have – repair or treatment bond and up to what dollar amount of coverage is it good for.  Also know how long the bond is in effect, when it is up for renewal and what the renewal fee is, if there is a transfer fee and what does it provide protection for – not all bonds provide protection against all different types of termites.

5.  Pest Control 

If you maintain any type of pest control on your property, compile information as to who the provider is, what you have done, how much you pay and how often does the company come out to treat the property.  A copy of your service agreement is helpful in this instance.

6.  Insurance 

Buyers especially want to know who a seller uses for their homeowners insurance and how much they pay.  This is particularly the case in higher risk areas (where there are hurricanes, floods, fires, etc.) With homeowners insurance potentially more difficult to obtain in some areas, going through the existing seller’s insurance company can help streamline the process, particularly on an older home.

7. Product Manuals and Warranty Documents  

Now is the time to gather the various product manuals for all items that will be staying in the home such as appliances, water heater, heating and cooling system, ceiling fans, pool equipment, etc.  If your home came with any warranties, be sure to include these for the new owner as well.  Putting all of these in one large envelope makes it easy for everything to be readily accessible in one place for the new buyer.

 8.  Service Providers

Compile a list of all service providers/vendors and their contact information who you have used on your home – lawn service, pool service, A/C company, etc. While a new buyer may or may not choose to use these services, they will certainly appreciate having resources available to them and may elect to initially use them as they make the transition to living in your home.

9.  Covenants and Restrictions, Neighborhood Rules and Information  

This is key critical information for a new owner to have on hand.  A contract may likely hinge on the buyer’s review of this information, so easiest to have it available ahead of time.  If you don’t have these, contact your neighborhood’s association president or management company for assistance in obtaining a copy. Many of these documents are matters of public record and are available by going online to the appropriate municipality’s website.

Work with your agent to create an informational package or binder that you can provide to prospective purchasers that come through the home with the information mentioned above.  Gathering this information before you put your home on the market will save time and make the process that more efficient once you find a buyer.  It may even help your home to sell faster as all of this information is available upfront, eliminating the need for guesswork and waiting on answers while another property could possibly come on the market to grab the buyer’s attention.  You want to help keep the buyer focused on your home, so make it easy for them to buy by giving them what they want.  Happy selling!  You can read more home seller tips here.

 

Cara Ameer is an agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and serves as a regular contributor on the local lifestyle show called First Coast Living where she covers a variety of real estate trends and topics of interest. Click hereto view Cara Ameer’s profile.


How to Swap Rooms to Make Your Old Home Feel New in 2019!

Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

 Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to give your house a makeover or declutter? Tired of the old paint colors, the piles of catalogs, over stuffed closets and toys that your kids haven’t touched since 2013? Is your tween not lovin’ the Winnie the Pooh theme room anymore? Well, then its time to room swap!

Most of us move homes every 5-10 years but many stay put for decades. Moving is the time when we get rid of the most stuff, so if you haven’t moved in 5 or 10 years things are piling up! Remember when you first moved into your home? Life in your new home was full of possibilities: the empty space, clean shelves, the fresh paint, and newly organized, just moved into closets. Come on admit it, you want that feeling back. You can have all of that bliss again just by moving rooms in your home. It is a giant way to clean, get rid of unwanted belongings, redesign a room to fit your new needs and get set-up to attain your goals for the year.

Want to work out more in 2019? Transform your guest room into a work out space. Does your child need better study habits? Have them swap rooms with a sibling for a new fresh space with a new desk to inspire focus. Create rooms in your home that match your current interests, style and your kids’ ages. Move your house around to support your resolutions. Your newly arranged home will function so much better for your current goals and needs. The bonus is your house will feel bigger and new because you have gotten rid of so much stuff!

Convinced? So, how do you go about a room swap? I reached out to my cousin, Krista Burdine, who just implemented a room swap of her own. A freelance writer with three growing kids, Krista needed a quiet workspace away from the busy hub of the house. At the same time, her youngest daughter needed a bigger room. She has named the process: “Out-With-The-Old Room Switcheroo.” Here are the switcheroo steps to room swapping:

  1. Set Goals: Besides a cleaner, more organized, newly designed home, what do you want to get out of the room swapping? Sit down with each family member to determine what their goals are for the year and their new space. What type of room will support those goals?
  2. Make the Match: Based on the goals of each family member determine what room fits with their goals and desires for a space. Does Maren’s room best fit little Larkin’s desire for grown-up bunk beds? And, does Jesse’s room best fit Maren’s hope to create a space for her art? This planning also includes shared spaces. Has the office been unused? Change it into another living space, media room or game room. Make a detailed plan of what each room will be used for, who gets each bedroom and arrange each room to support each person’s goals.
  3. Measure: Save yourself major headaches by using a measuring tape. Make sure all the furniture will actually fit in the new dream layout. You can make drawings of each room to scale and use scale cut-outs of each piece of furniture – ala paper dolls. Move your new design layout around with your finger tips a few times before you actually do the heavy lifting.
  4. Design: Here comes the fun part! Each person gets to pick out the paint color for his or her new room, as well as drapes, new bedspread, furniture layout, etc. It is up to you how much you want to spend. Repurpose your old furniture – sand and repaint. Maybe’s Jesse’s desk is really the right size for Larkin now? Just sand it down and paint it her favorite color. Give your older kids a budget and stress they need to stay under budget. Tell, them: “It’s like having your own design show – how far can you make the money go?” No need to spend a lot, some heavy lifting and just a new paint color can transform a room!
  5. Move Out: Okay, brace yourself for a little bit of chaos but it will be so much better on the other side of the transformation. Set aside one week for each room swap. Move everything out of the chosen room. That child is now going to be camping in the living room and/or sleeping in the same room with a sibling for a week. Make sure they have a packed suitcase of what they will need that week (clothes, meds, school books, fish food, etc.…). Now, designate a space in your home where all of the furniture and belongings can sit for a couple of days. Garage? Basement?
  6. Sort: Now, sort EVERYTHING as it comes out of the old room into five piles: keep, recycle, store, donate to your favorite charity (a good start to this year’s taxes!) and items to pass along and repurpose for another family member. If you don’t have the time, hire a moving & storage company to help you move furniture and place items in storage, etc.
  7. Clean: Scour each room. This includes shampooing the carpet, waxing floors, washing windows, and dusting closet shelves. Clean the walls, fill up the nail holes, etc.
  8. Decorate: Once clean, paint the room in the soon to be new owner’s chosen color. Make any other DIY decorating makeover that this room’s budget allows. New carpet? New flooring? New area rug? Window coverings? New bedspread?
  9. Move In: Carpets are clean, paint is dry, its move-in day! Move in only the furniture and items that were selected to keep. Hang new and old wall art, put away clothes (clothes go vertically in drawers to save space) and handle every detail down to hanging the new occupant’s name on the door. That night the child gets to sleep in their new room that they designed themselves! Or, Dad gets to read a book in his new office. Whatever the new space is designed for, it is clean, organized and will inspire you in 2016!
  10. Next! Keep going until each room has it’s makeover and each person has their new space.

You really do have a way to have a fresh start in 2019, make it happen with new living space! Ready, set, swap and experience the Switcheroo! Yep, it’s going to be a Happy New Year, indeed! You’ve set yourself up to make your resolutions your reality!

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.   www.northstarmoving.com

5 Kitchen Update Trends

The following is a guest post from Patti Stern

Whether you’re looking to invest in simple updates or a complete kitchen renovation, you can’t go wrong incorporating the latest design trends to enjoy now as well as boost your home’s value when it comes time to sell. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out our list below featuring on-trend elements we think will give you the most “bang for your buck.”

Kitchen Renovations by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating; Photo Credits: Steven Seymour and Jeff Kaufman

1. Cabinet Color. Replacing or repainting dark, dated cabinets is a priority in any kitchen update as cabinets are both an aesthetic and functional focal point which get noticed immediately by buyers. In the kitchens pictured above, we use bright white shaker cabinets which remain a current favorite to brighten the space and provide a clean, modern appeal. For the first kitchen pictured, we introduced on-trend navy blue for perimeter cabinets and a built-in pantry and coffee bar to add depth and contrast to the white subway tile backsplash, white Quartz counters, wood flooring and stainless-steel appliances.

Kitchen Renovation by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating; Photo Credit: Steven Seymour

2. Custom Storage. According to a recent Houzz study, “a top functional priority, cited by 63 percent of renovators, was having a kitchen in which it’s easy to store and find items.” In the kitchen above, we chose a large island that functions as both a work area with extra storage below as well as a casual eating space with bar stools. The surrounding custom cabinetry and built-in storage units add to the room’s efficiency and enhance the clean lines and modern style.

Kitchen Renovation by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating; Photo Credit: Steven Seymour

3. Quartz Countertops. The Houzz study also found that Quartz (used for the island and counters in our kitchen remodel above) was the most popular countertop material in 2018. It has become a growing alternative to granite and marble for its durability, versatility and custom appeal.

Kitchen Renovation by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating; Photo Credit: Steven Seymour

4. Full-Tile Feature Walls. With the popularity of open first-floor layouts and kitchens with wall-free transitions, there is more of a need for a focal point. One of the trends we continue to see is beautiful feature walls with counter-to-ceiling tile either behind floating shelves or a range hood (as shown above). Whether choosing a shimmery glass finish or a bold geometric pattern, it’s a cost-effective way to add high-end style, texture and depth.

Image Credit: Houzz

5. Mixed Metals. Designers are now selecting a mix of metal finishes for faucets, hardware, lighting and appliances to add a new level of depth, sophisticated style and personality to a space. Be careful not to choose too many different finishes that compete with the surrounding colors and materials. Keep it simple with two metals that balance the room well. A primary finish such as a cool chrome or stainless steel should take up two-thirds of the fixtures then choose a warmer accent such as antique brass for the remaining third.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.