Back-To-School Organization

Back-to-School Organization

Organization is key for avoiding stressful school mornings. We've asked real moms and professional organizers to share their advice for making hectic mornings as stress-free as possible.

By: Alyson McNutt English

It's a fall tradition: School supplies line the aisles of retailers, attracting parents and children who will meticulously pack every glue stick and pencil into a well-organized back-to-school bag.

But while sending those packs of loose-leaf paper and boxes of tissues to school that first day may temporarily clear your home of clutter, for most families the back-to-school season also means a return to hectic mornings of searching for an errant permission slip or living with loads of lunchbox drama.

Families can cut the chaos and embark on smooth-sailing mornings, however, by entering back-to-school season with their own school supplies: a kit of organizational ideas for those manic mornings.

A Fan of the Plan

When 7-year-old Abbi Kious heads back to school this fall, her mother, Kimberly, is prepared to get her daughter out the door without a hitch.

"I use a combination of rules, organization and 'gestapo Mom' tactics, really," Kious, of Grants Pass, Ore., says. "Abbi has a checklist she has to complete each morning. If she strays and I catch her sitting and staring into space or something, I say, 'Honey, is that on your checklist?'"

Kimberly's checklist, however, isn't exactly back-to-school boot camp material. It's a visual reminder of harmonious habits she wants Abbi to cultivate to ease the morning malaise that can distract even the most motivated scholar.

To create your own checklist, look at your regular morning tasks, says Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart, a professional organizer who specializes in helping mothers streamline their overscheduled lives. Stewart says asking yourself questions about your routine can be a good way to figure out what you need to put on the list. "What does your morning routine look like? How could you make it faster, more efficient?" she asks, adding that once you identify the answers, you can begin to identify your most time-consuming activities and schedule accordingly.

Turn Back the Clock

Give yourself a little more time each day by setting your clocks 10 mins ahead throughout the house, then watch your stress levels go down too from not having to rush about so much!

Simple changes can make a big difference in getting out the door in the morning, and one timesaver is right at your fingertips. "Set all the clocks in your house 10 minutes ahead," says professional organizer Alicia Rockmore. "It may sound silly, but it really works."

Professional organizer Elaine Bloom says underestimating the time it takes to do something is one of the most common mistakes families make in the mornings. "They may think that it will take 10 minutes to get ready and get out the door when it will actually take 20 minutes."

Fashionably Great

With two little girls and a business to run, professional organizer Amanda Le Blanc says if she didn't have a handle on her kids' clothing, they'd head out the door to the playground wearing their Sunday best.

"We pick out all their clothes on the weekend, and they have five hooks in their closet, one for each day of the week," Amanda says.

True fashionistas whose outfits are not complete without the perfect accessories can be real time trouble in the mornings, says professional organizer Jill Graham. Jill says containers or hanging organizers for jewelry and shoes are the best option for kids who aspire to be runway-ready every day.

Jill also recommends color coding."By sorting all the clothes by like item and then having them arranged in rainbow color order in the closet, children can quickly match tops to bottoms."

"Cold Organized"

Getting lunches prepared is one of the top problems parents face in that crazy morning rush, but one bright back-to-school idea parents can feast on is professional organizer Janine Adams' suggestion of getting "cold organized."

"Take clear, shoebox-sized containers and create spaces in the refrigerator for kids' lunchbox supplies," Janine says. "Do the same in the pantry. That way, when it's time to pack kids' lunches, everything will be in one place. And by putting things like cereal or chips in clear containers, you'll know when you're running low, rather than discovering in the morning when you're rushed."

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Back-to-school time also means back to field trips, sports and school programs — and the paper piles and permission slips that come with them.

Joyce Dorny, editor-in-chief of Organize Magazine and mother of six, says her paper pile prevention plan begins with a relatively hands-off approach, "I have a philosophy that I touch the papers once." She signs and returns papers that need to head back to school with the children, and records key info on a large calendar that hangs on the side of her family's refrigerator.

"I write all the important information on the calendar, and that way I can take the paper, recycle it and not have a huge stack to rifle through to get the information I need," she says.

Overcoming Back-to-School Fears

When faced with everything that comes with the back-to-school rush, it's easy to feel like you don't have time to organize. But Joyce says, "Just take a few minutes. Get one little part of your world under control. Don't take on a whole closet if you're not ready for it — maybe just a drawer."

Amanda agrees: "When you carve out the little bits of time to start getting organized, you'll find more time to do the other things."

8 Home Staging Mistakes to Avoid

8 Home staging mistakes (to avoid):

1 –Just because you love it does not mean that everyone else will too.

Ensure your property appeals to a broad market of buyers. In other words, keep it neutral, a bright color reflects your personality and style which can be too much for buyers to get past. 

2 –Edit your storage places too.

Buyers will poke around, opening kitchen and bathroom cabinets and closets spaces too. Be sure to spend some time organizing those area too. A cramped space sends the message to buyers that there is a lack of storage.

3 –Scale and size of furniture.

Be sure that items such as furniture, plants and other decor pieces are in proportion with the room. You are selling the house (the space) not the items in it. Even if the rooms look somewhat empty, that is way better than over stuffed rooms. Store your larger pieces in a temporary storage locker or ask friends and family if they have some storage space you could borrow.

4 — Clean, clean, clean.

I know this means something different to everyone so keep yourself and your home on a regular cleaning schedule – if you have to contact a professional to help you out – do it, it will be worth the extra cost. Be sure your home is in ‘showing condition’ at all times. You may receive a call from your realtor about a showing while you are at work and your dishes from breakfast are still in the sink – that leaves a very bad impression.

5 — Your pet may be your best friends but he isn’t every one’s.

Some buyers are immediately turned off by any signs of animals in a home so keep pet hair to a minimum by vacuuming everyday, crating your furry friends or keeping them outside of the home while it is up for sale. When we were selling our home a few years ago, I went as far as paying my younger brother to “babysit” them during my open house.

6 — Pay attention to the details.

Don’t hide your flaws , either repair them before you go on market or have your price reflect that there is some work to be done. It is tough for a realtor to justify selling a house for top dollar when it is not in top condition.

7 — Upgrade periodically.

Change up your light fixtures, hardware, taps, faucets and drapery. You will likely get a better reaction from buyers plus it shows that the house has been maintained and cared for. Plus buyers are willing to pay more for a property that has already been updated.  Not sure where to update or what to do? This is where your real estate agent and home stager can really come into play.

8 — Don’t rush.

Get your house on the market once it is ready. Meaning get the little jobs done, listen to your realtor and home stager to help you get top dollar, an incomplete house is exactly that and buyers will not respond in a positive way. So take that time to finish up incomplete projects or tackle the to-do list from your stager – painting and small repairs can set up apart. Any time of year is a good time to sell, but when there is a lot of competition on the market (such as the spring season) you must be in peak performance.

Selling can feel personal but it isn’t – you need to now think of your house as a product that is up for sale.  Like a product in a store you want it to sell so put the time in to make it a product that a buyer will want! Be sure to avoid these home staging mistakes,

Guacamole Deviled Eggs & Texas Ranch Water

So delicious!

  • 6 large eggs, hard boiled (cooked in boiled water for 12 mins)

  • 1 medium ripe avocado

  • 2-3 tsp fresh lime juice

  • 1 tsp or less red onion, minced

  • 1 tbsp. minced jalapeno

  • 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

  • Celtic salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

  • 1 tbsp. diced organic tomato

  • pinch Chili Powder (for garnish)

Peel the cooled hard boiled eggs. Cut the eggs in half horizontally, and set the yolks aside. In a bowl, mash the avocado and 2 whole egg yolks; discard the rest.

Mix in the lime juice, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper and adjust to taste. Gently fold in the tomato. Scoop a spoonful of the guacamole into the 12 halved eggs. Sprinkle with a lieel Chili Powder for color and arrange on a platter. Enjoy!


Texas Ranch Water

When my lovely stepdaughter, Samantha, was home recently, she started talking about ‘Texas Ranch Water’. The name intrigued me. “What is that?’', I asked. She explained it was a simple ‘Texas” drink that starts with Tequila. I picked up the ingredients and the simple drink was then introduced to my husband and I. We also enjoyed this ‘sipping’ drink during our Grandson’s first birthday party in Denver as we introduced it to Samantha’s sister, Jenna and her husband, Calder. Here you go….


  • Lime wedges

  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) silver tequila, chilled

  • 48 ounces (6 cups) sparkling water, preferably Topo Chico, chilled

  • Splash of lime juice


  1. 1. Run a lime wedge around rim of each serving glass; dip in salt. Fill glasses with ice. Pour 1 1/2 to 2 ounces tequila into each, top with sparkling water, splash of lime juice and serve each with a wedge of lime.

Downsizing Guide for Aging Adults

Downsizing Home Checklist

The Ultimate Downsizing Home Checklist: Helping Older Adults Downsize

As you look around your own home or your parents’ home, you may begin to realize that sometimes we simply have too much “stuff” and often too much space to handle, especially as we grow older. You don’t need to keep on fretting over a home that’s too big to clean and maintain or has rooms that go unused for months on end. You can turn this problem into a great revenue opportunity by downsizing or rightsizing as many are now calling it.

Downsizing to a smaller home can be stressful, but with the right help, it can become an experience you’ll wish you would’ve done sooner. When moving to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), there are many things that will be provided for you or your loved one, to make life easier and more enjoyable.

We hope this guide to downsizing will remove some of the anxiety that often comes along with this less than desirable task.. Downsizing to a retirement community is just the next step on your journey. It can give you more financial and personal freedom to make the journey exactly what you want it to be.

Downsizing Your Home: The Mental Checklist

Whether you’re retiring and want to turn equity into an opportunity to travel, need to move for better access to care, or anything in between, there are a few things to consider before you actually start the process of packing, sorting, selling and so on.

This is also a good place to start if you’re helping a loved one downsize.

Determine Your Goals

What is your optimal plan? Are you looking to simply declutter your current home or are you considering moving or downsizing out of the home altogether? If the plan is to move to a CCRC -what will the new space look like, and how big is it relative to your existing home? Do you have fewer rooms to place your furniture in? Are you downsizing the number of bathrooms, which would make many items unnecessary duplicates? Are you losing outside space? Another goal is to have a safe and comfortable move that’s as easy as possible. When considering how to downsize your home, it’s best to start with any items that obviously can’t come with you. It allows you to get the process rolling on a good note and can make future decisions easier.

If downsizing to a smaller home raises questions about your furniture — like “Will this couch fit?” —you might consider seeking assistance from a local downsizing company that can make recommendations and understands common senior living home measurements. In many cases the retirement community might also be able to provide floor plans with room dimensions or allow you to walk through a staged cottage with furniture properly sized to each space giving you something to compare to your existing furniture.

Give Yourself Time By Getting Started Today

The earlier you can start the downsizing process, the better. There are likely closets you haven’t opened, boxes packed from years ago and junk drawers that can be cleaned out regardless of the size of your next home. Downsizing takes a long time because you have a lifetime worth of treasures to sift through. Start reviewing your possessions as you go, and you’ll make the process easier on yourself.

Another top reason to start early is that your timetable can change when you find the right place. Downsizing a home may need to happen much more quickly if your home sells more quickly than expected or if you find a place that’s perfect and need to make the purchase to take it off the market.

Think About What You Love

The hardest thing to downsize is your collection of personal treasures. Scrapbooks, jewelry, photos, papers, books, collections and other valuables have distinct memories and joys. Cleaning out these items is often the most difficult part of downsizing homes.

Create a mental or physical list of the things you love and find a place to set them aside. Protect them as you downsize your home and return to them at the end of the process. By saving them for last, you’ll have a better understanding of what you can take with you, and you’ll be primed for making the hard choices. Transferring photos or taking pictures of oversized valuables can then be stored digitally for you and loved ones to look at later on and can protect them for much longer periods.

What Would You Replace If Lost?

The last question to answer to get the mental ball rolling for this downsizing home checklist is: What items in your home would you pay to replace if they were lost in a fire, flood or other disaster?

This helps you ensure that you’ve got everything you love set aside. Sometimes there are elements we don’t think about, like paintings or photos on the shelf, a pair of comfy slippers or the hall clock that reminds you of a great vacation.

Not only does this list help you protect what’s most valuable, but it also shows you the large amount of other goods and items you’re willing to live without or replace with a right-sized version when you downsize your home.

Get Your Paperwork Together

Paperwork is a big burden for downsizing your home, but it is something many people overlook. The exact set of documents you’ll need will vary based on your situation. So we’ve put together just a few things to fill out and collect to get you started thinking about all of the information you’ll need for the big move.

Some documentation needs you’ll want to address include:

•      Making copies of your driver’s licenses and other state IDs. You’ll need to update these soon, but copies are a great idea just in case something is misplaced and hard to find during the move.

•      Updating your address with Medicare and Social Security, plus your voter registration.

•      Giving your new address to the companies who hold your investment accounts and retirement accounts.

•      Talking with your utility providers to turn your service off at the old home and on at the newer home. Don’t forget your phone, Internet and/or TV providers.

•      Copying all insurance policies and related documents. That may include your life insurance information and your auto policy as well as the car registration related to that policy.

•      Going to the post office to fill out a “Change of Address” form when you have your new location. You can also change your address online with the USPS.

•      Updating book, magazine and newspaper subscription information. Gather these and contact your service providers to change the address.

•      Discuss what you’ll need from your retirement community and if they handle any of these items – such as setting up utilities – for you.

One additional thing to consider is all of your current prescriptions. Speak with your doctors so you can refill them in advance of an address change. Last but not least, give your new address to your family, friends and people who help you manage your financial life. This may include accountants, lawyers, bankers or insurance agents.

Sorting Your Home Downsizing Needs

After your documents are in order, it’s time to start the home downsizing process. This is the next part of how to downsize your home, no matter your age or where you’re headed.

Head to the simplest room in your home and sort out everything in it. You’ll be moving from room to room, creating sorted piles in each — you can combine these whenever is best for you, but make sure they’re easy to tell apart. Sort — don’t pack — right now so you can see everything in one place and understand exactly how much you have.

Continued care retirement communities have a variety of services and offerings that you’ll want to consider. Learn about cooking and food options, emergency care supplies and other rules that can guide your sorting process.

When downsizing your home, start by sorting items into these piles:

•     Must-Have: These are the things you need, such as important documents and your most beloved possessions.

•     Like-to-Have: Items you enjoy but are not the most meaningful. You’ll come back to this pile as you minimize your life in order to identify what’s most important to you.

•     Useful-for-Others: These are objects you don’t need or want any more but others may enjoy. Items to include in here might be extra furniture that you can’t use but would still sell at a garage sale. Also, add items that you want to give away to friends and family or items you’d consider donating to local charities.

•     Throw-Away: Broken, old and unusable items go in this pile and are discarded. If you don’t think a donation service would take it, toss it in the trash.

Many people and downsizing services for seniors will use colored stickers and nametags for each item. This allows you to sort things quickly, and you can write notes that might be helpful. Sometimes that can include what room to unpack the object in or how much you think it’ll sell for in the future.

Don’t get too involved with notes, or it may slow down your process. Everything will have a chance to be packed soon, and that involves a lot more sorting and note-taking to make the process simple.

A Few Thoughts On Sorting

While sorting, keep the following tips in mind:

•      If you or your loved one are moving to a home or residence facility that serves meals, you should consider reducing the number of kitchen items and serving pieces that you keep.

•      Sort furniture into the same piles as the rest, but also rank pieces as you go. This will help you prioritize what to take in case the new home is too small to bring everything you like.

•      Keep most photos initially. When you unpack, you’ll have plenty of time to review each of them individually, but doing so now will greatly slow down the process and may make it harder to finish.

•      Be patient. Moving is tough, especially if you’re looking through a lifetime of memories.

•      It’s okay to keep some things. There’s no need to purge everything from people’s lives. You want to bring enough so you’re comfortable and your new location has the look and feel of a proper home.

Packing To Downsize Your Home

Packing comes next, and it starts with the items you want to keep most. Move room by room and pack up items that are related, with enough cushioning and packing materials to keep things safe.

Downsizing services for seniors and other moving services will be able to help you with this step. If not, it’s the perfect time to ask family and friends to help. This packing will take a while, but stick with it and finish each room one by one. If you move around too much, you’ll end up having a hard time knowing where your items are.

Be sure to reach out to your future continued care retirement community to learn if they have any services for you or can recommend someone for you.

Invest in thick markers for your packing and write out as much detail as you can on each box. If you have help, you can even write down a box’s contents and put this in the top of the box — that makes unpacking a lot simpler. When going with the inventory list, be sure to note which side to open up the box with your markers.

Always create one “important” box that contains toiletries, your phone charger, a little cash, moving agreement, keys, medication and other necessities. This should be loaded last so it is easy to find. This is the first one to open in your new place and can help you get everything you need. The cash is great for ordering a delivered dinner that night, because moving always seems to take longer than we expect.

Some labeling and packing considerations include:

•      Sheets may make good stuffing for a box, but be sure that you have at least one set of bedsheets available to make your first night comfortable.

•      Label boxes with the room where they go so you or your movers can place everything in the right place.

•      Ask your mover about specialty boxes or packaging they can do. This might let you do things like keeping clothes on hangers or properly protecting your flat-screen TV.

•      Put jewelry and other top items in as few small boxes as possible. You’ll either want to keep these with you or put them in a safety deposit box at your bank until the move is over.

Talk with senior downsizing services to see exactly what boxes can be used with their moving service. They’ll also help you with a lot of these steps. Selecting the right moving and downsizing service can make the whole process much easier.

Getting Rid Of Unneeded And Unwanted Items

While you’re packing up and setting things aside, it’s good to use a few ways to sell your unwanted items. We recommend getting rid of different items in different ways, and you may even make some cash along the way. The secret of how to downsize your home is making money where you can.

Some of your sale options include:

•      Having a garage sale that you and your family run.

•      Enlisting the help of an estate sale company and having them sell everything at once.

•      Selling collectibles through online venues and auction houses. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, don’t try it. This isn’t a time to try and learn something new, because it can add extra stress when you don’t need it.

•      Visiting antique shops to sell valuables.

•      Working with a consignment house to sell your goods over time.

Moving And Settling In

When it’s time to move, make sure you get a signed copy of the contract with your movers and keep it with you. Look at the coverage that’s offered and the time you have to make a complaint if something is damaged. Your contract will have a time for arrival at each location. Make sure you’re there for that.

After the moving is done, start with the “important” box. Get everything there ready and together, then start working in the bathroom and bedroom. You’ll want the toilet paper unpacked before the books are back on their shelves.

It’ll take a few days to unpack everything, and that’s okay. You’re just starting a new journey and want to take your time to make things feel like home.

If you’re assisting a loved one with the moving process, be sure to check in to make sure the move-in is going well. It’ll help you know if things are going smoothly or if you might be able to help by stopping by and saying hi.

Remember, it can take some time to adjust to a new living situation, and the more familiar faces and voices the better. You need to be a source of stress relief for them.

We would love to help you with your real estate needs while considering a downsize or any move at all. Please contact us at 913-283-7651 for a complimentary cost analysis of your home.

Top Five Home Buyer Turn-Offs

Selling a home in today's market can be a bit frustrating. There's all sorts of home staging and property preparation advice out there, and some of it seems daunting or impossible to follow unless you already live in a haute home or have a serious bankroll set aside to whip your place into shape.

You can't turn a rancher into a Victorian – so don't bother trying. But you do have more control than you may realize over how desirable your listing looks to potential buyers. In order to know what turns a buyer on you need to know what turns a buyer off.

Here are 5 big-time turn-offs that make buyers cringe at the thought of purchasing your home.

1. Cluttered, dirty and/or "fragrant" houses. You already know this one. Every seller does. Yet, even in 2016, the era of Houzz and HGTV, buyers across America walk into homes that would make your mother cringe every single day. The people who come to see your home are making one of the biggest decisions they'll ever make. Cluttered countertops, neglected toilet seats and unattended litter boxes not only invite the viewer to turn up their nose, they practically compel a buyer to walk away.

Luckily, you have all the control in the world over how your house looks to your would be buyer. Some sellers find it helpful to think not about de-cluttering, but about pre-packing. Everything that is not part of the home's decor or furnishing and that is not a must for your daily functioning should be boxed up, and neatly packed away in the garage or a storage unit. You'll have to pack it all up anyway when your home sells, and doing it in advance just makes it more likely the place will sell, stat!

Also, no matter how long it takes for your home to get an offer, do not show it without it being completely and totally tidied up: no laundry or dishes piled up, countertops freshly wiped down, mail and paperwork put away and smelly dogs or litter boxes cleaned and/or out of the house. Get every family member on board, kids/cats/canines included, and create a morning or evening cleaning ritual to minimize mad, pre-showing dashes.

2. Overpricing. Buying a house in today's market is hard work! On top of all the research and analysis about the market, buyers have to work overtime to separate the real estate wheat from the chaff, get educated about short sales and foreclosures and often put in many, many offers before they get even a single one accepted. The last thing they want to add to their task list is trying to argue a seller out of unreasonable expectations or pricing.

When buyers see a home whose seller is clearly clueless about their home's value and has priced it sky-high, many won't even bother looking at it. If they do love it, they'll wait for it to sit on the market for a while, hoping the market will "educate you" into desperation, priming the pump for a later, lowball offer.

Ultimately, you decide what to ask for your home. But you deprive yourself of the professional counsel and expertise you're paying for if you fail to listen to your agent's advice and insights on the subject of listing price. They will point you to other properties that have sold in your area with similar features and use that data to help you understand the right price range for your home. Worried about setting the price too low? Get buyer's brokers' feedback with an advance broker's open house, and work with your agent on an advance plan for bringing the price down if you get no showings or buyer interest.

3. Deceptive listing descriptions or pictures. Here's the deal: you will never trick someone into buying your home. If listing pics are photo-edited within an inch of their lives, buyers will learn this information at some point. If your neighborhood is described as funky and vibrant, because the house is under the train tracks and you live in between a wrecking yard and a biker bar, buyers will inevitably figure this out.

And misrepresentation alone is enough to turn otherwise interested buyers off. In cases where the buyer feels misled, whether or not that was your intention, they can't help but wonder: If they can't trust you to be honest about this, how can they trust you to be honest about everything else?

Buyers rely on sellers to be upfront and honest – so be both. If your home has features or aspects that most buyers will see as negative, your home's listing probably shouldn't lead with them. But neither should you go out of your way to slant or skew or spin the facts which will become instantly obvious to anyone who visits your home. And in any event, your pricing should account for all of your home's features, pros and cons.

4. New, bad, home improvements. Many a buyer has walked into a house that has clearly been remodeled and upgraded in anticipation of the sale, only to have their heart sink with the further realization that the brand-spanking-new kitchen features a countertop made, not of Carerra marble, but brand-new, pink tiles with a kitty cat in the middle of each one. Or the pristine, just-installed floors feature carpet in a creamy shade of blue – the buyer's least favorite color.

New home improvements that run counter to a buyer's aesthetics are a big turn-off. In today's era of frugality, buyers just can't cotton to ripping out expensive, brand new, perfectly functioning things just on the basis of style – especially since they'll feel like they paid for these things in the price of the home.

Check in with a local broker or agent before you make a big investment in a pre-sale remodel. They can give you a reality check about the likely return on your investment, and help you prioritize about which projects to do (or not). Instead of spending $40,000 on a new, less-than-attractive kitchen, they might encourage you to update appliances, have the cabinets painted and spend a few grand on your curb appeal. Many times, they will also help you do the work of selecting neutral finishes that will work for the largest possible range of buyer tastes.

5. Bad photos or no photos at all. Some of the listing photos that make it online are shockingly bad. They have dumpsters parked in front of the house, piles of laundry all over the "hardwood" floors touted in the listing description, and once, even the family dog doing his or her business in the lovely green front yard. Listing pictures that have put your home in anything but its best, accurate light are a very quick way to ensure that you turn off a huge number of buyers from even coming to see your house!

The only bigger buyer turn-off than these bizarre listing pics are listings that have no photos at all; most buyers on today's market see a listing with no pictures and click right on past it, without giving the place a second glance.

 Before your home is on the market, ask your listing agent-to-be to see the online marketing for their current listings, to get a feel for how they operate. After your home is on the market, don't neglect to check top listing sites to be sure that the pics for your home's listing represent your home well. If not, ask your agent to grab some new shots and get them online (and say pretty please, pretty please!).

Buying A Fixer Upper

Buying a fixer upper isn’t for everyone, but if you have patience, vision, and a good real estate agent to guide you, it might be an option for you. The term “fixer upper” can mean different things to different people. Can you see past a saggy roof, peeling paint, and a rotten deck? Or is your idea of fixing up a house updating a kitchen or remodeling a bathroom? Maybe you want a house that only needs minor repairs or cosmetic updates, such as floors, paint, or landscaping.

Here are some things to think about when looking at potential fixer uppers.

1. How long will you be in the home?

How long you’re going to live in your new home can help you determine how much you should invest in fixing it up. If you’re only going to live there a couple of years, you probably want to avoid moving walls or adding rooms. But if it’s your dream home, or a home you plan to be in for a while, then taking on more, and spending more, might make sense.

2. What are you willing to take on?

Having a roof replaced, updating an ugly kitchen, or redoing an outdated bathroom are fairly straightforward projects, but problems with the foundation or structure can get extremely expensive. You’ll also want to think twice before dealing with mold – it can be dangerous, as well as very difficult, sometimes impossible, to get rid of mold completely. Older homes can have their own hidden challenges too – especially when you start opening up walls. This can expose electrical or plumbing issues as well as rotting wood.

3. What can you do yourself?

Be realistic about your skills. Are you fairly handy and comfortable with home projects? Do you feel comfortable painting a room? Maybe you would rather hire someone to do everything. Knowing what you can and are willing to do is important.

4. How much do you have to spend?

Sticking to a budget can be one of the hardest things about renovating or remodeling, but being realistic about what you can afford can help you avoid a lot of stress and headache. For most houses, kitchens and bathrooms are where most of your remodeling dollars go. Before you decide to redo an entire room, take a look and see if there is anything you can save. Maybe the layout is good and the cabinets just need refacing or painting.

5. What is it going to cost?

A fixer upper can be very appealing if you can get it for a good price. But what looks like a good value at first glance could be a money pit if you don’t know what you’re really dealing with. Get realistic estimates from one or more contractors before you make an offer. And don’t forget the hidden costs that invariably crop up on all fixer uppers: add 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen costs.

Most people underestimate the amount of work and what it will cost to remodel or renovate a house. Talk to someone who has done a remodel and you’re probably never going to hear “it was so fast!” or “it cost less than we thought.” The stress of a remodel is another “cost” you should probably factor in.

Still think you want to take on a fixer upper? Your real estate agent should be able to help you navigate some of the ins and outs of taking on a fixer upper. They’ll be able to help you determine what is a good value for your market, and what remodeling projects make sense for you, depending on how long you plan to stay in the house. Your agent should also be able to suggest reputable contractors.

Source: Home Care Buzz  July 2017

Simplify Your Move

Oh don’t we all wish we would have gotten started sooner. The dreaded packing and all that entails. Moving can be a stressful time, so many things to do. Why didn’t we clean out the basement before now?!  Likely because there was no approaching deadline!  Thankfully there are many simple things you can do to make it easier on yourself and your family. Here are a few of them.



Start early to reduce stress

So often we feel that there isn’t enough time to get everything done so we end up rushing and cutting corners, which causes more work in the end.



Start by going through the individual rooms and choosing the items you want to donate or trash. There is no reason to take those items with you. It saves time, space and packing material getting rid of those items now. Take clothes, toys, bedding and furniture to Goodwill. Recycle old electronics. Throw away expired pantry items and medicine.


Come up with a packing system-

There are several different ways to pack to make the move more efficient. You can use color coding, place colored tape on the outside of the boxes. Have a color that is specific to each room and a list posted at the front door that shows those rooms and colors. That will allow the people unloading the moving truck to take the box to the correct room.

You can label each box clearly on the top and the side with the name of the room it’s going to and the number of boxes that go to that room. Example ( Kitchen 1 of 8 )  Or you can come up with your own system according to your preferences.


Stock up on packing materials-

It’s easy to forget that you don’t just need boxes and tape to move. Start a list of the specific items you will need.

-packing tape

-masking tape

-bubble wrap


-tissue paper


-specialty boxes



-king size sharpie

-colored duct tape or washi tape for color coding


Pack a suitcase-

You are likely going to want to unpack the kitchen or bathrooms when you first start unboxing everything. Eliminate the stress of having to unpack the bedrooms right away by packing an overnight bag for each family member. That gives you peace of mind knowing where essentials are for your first couple of nights. The same goes for pets, put together a “doggy bag” containing anything you will need for your furry friend those first couple of days.


Essential/Important Documents-

Anything vital keep with you in your personal vehicle. Gather those documents and put them in one box clearly labeled.


Hire a cleaning service - Please!

The day before closing, or what ever may fit your moving schedule the best, have a cleaning crew clean your home to have it ready for the new owners. This is typically done after everything is out of the house. This common courtesy goes a long way.  Get this scheduled and on your calendar at least two weeks prior to the new owners closing on the home. Nobody likes to move into their new home only to find it filthy.


Remember to change your address at the post office 2 weeks prior to your move AND call utility companies to transfer service.  Never turn off or cancel utilities.

Selling in Summer

With summer already upon us, I would like to take some time to discuss tips on getting your home ready to sell for this season. Summer is a great time of year to showcase all of your outdoor spaces. Some of the best memories I have made are those spent entertaining, hosting or enjoying family and friends outdoors. Potential buyers tend to keep and eye out for outdoor living spaces during their search so, why not showcase what you have! First, and foremost, the key to an attractive outdoor living space is simple upkeep and cleanliness. Sweep off the deck, wash off the windows and make sure the yard is free of brush, leaves and clutter. No deck, no problem. You can always create the illusion of an outdoor oasis with a few nice lawn chairs and a sitting table. You can add in potted plants and even a fountain if the budget allows it to create a relaxing environment outdoors. Finally, when it comes to showing your home in the summer the air conditioning temperature in the house is very important. The long summer days means maximum heat for hours on end. Make sure your AC is set at a comfortable and cool temperature to ensure potential buyers feel the cool air as they walk in the front door. 

Moving Tips for Dog Owners

A friend of mine was relocating from Kansas City to Boston. She didn't want to traumatize her Golden Retriever by putting "Beau" on the airplane so, what to do?  She hired a 'pet taxi' to take her dog from KC to Boston.  Pretty cool!  There are pet taxis across the US.  Goggle 'Pet Taxis' for more info.

Moving can be a nightmare ordeal for you, but it can be even worse for your pup. Dogs rely on stability to feel secure and all the activity of a move can seriously unsettle them. There is, however, an easier way to make your best buddy a bit more comfortable in his new surroundings.  Read More:

Considering Selling Your Home? Price it Correctly From the Beginning

Being a full time Realtor, one of my most important jobs, and one that I take very seriously, is pricing a seller's home.  I explain to my clients that it's not about what I think and it's not about what you the seller feel it should be priced.  Pricing is NOT about emotion.  Pricing is based on the current market trends also known as facts.  Pricing the home correctly right from the start will yield you, the seller, better end results.

Experienced Realtors, like myself, will tell you that pricing your home appropriately from the beginning is critical to getting it sold quickly and at the best price. Research shows that overpricing your home and then dropping the price several times while it languishes on the market usually leads to selling it at a much lower price than what you originally should have asked for it. The longer a home stays on the market, the deeper the discount is likely to be off the original price.

Read More:

Potato Waffles anyone?

They are rich and delicious.  This recipe is not in my Homes That Cook book, however, if you'd like the recipe, please shoot me an email!  

P.S.  Here is a pic of one of my husband's favorite breakfast dishes, my buttermilk pancakes (page 50, Homes That Cook) with an over easy egg on top.  Delicious!

Kitchen Countertop Options

It will be some time yet before we select a kitchen countertop material and colors for our new home. However, I wanted to know what the true difference was with some of the most popular kitchen countertops. 

My brother in Chicago has white Italian marble kitchen countertops - although gorgeous, with the amount of red wine we drink, I fear that if we made this selection for our new house, we would have a gorgeous countertop with red wine speckles forever embedded on it.

As we are getting our current home ready to put on the market, we just had our silestone kitchen island top and corion countertops replaced with granite.  It does give it a richer feel and as we know, granite is the #1 requested material for countertops - not only in the kitchen but also throughout the house (bathrooms, bartops).

In our 1940's rental home, we took out the tile kitchen countertops and replaced them with a cool looking laminate countertop.  They are making some really nice patterns and colors with laminate these days.  Still the most economical of countertops but at least now they are making some cool, funky, styles that you can choose from.

I often see magazine photos of butcher block countertops.  This idea really appealed to me because I use A cutting board everyday of my adult life (practically).  How handy it would be to just chop away right on your countertops. In the article that I have attached here, it states that you can even chop meat on this countertop - evidently it's sealed and not as pourous as a wood cutting board.  For those of you that have worked in a restaurant at one time or another, you likely know that they no longer use wood cutting boards as they are very inclined to hold bacteria.  I remember as a teenager working in the kitchen of a German/Austrian restaurant and every night, sometimes twice a night, I would have to 'bleach' the wood cutting boards that were used to cut meat.  I don't think butcher block countertops are for me as I would likely be way to concerned about bacteria because of my 'old school' wood cutting board experiences.  I am a germophobe, especially when it comes to my kitchen. 

I've attached a link to a HGTV article about different countertops, as well as a video that shows how they mine the granite.  Pretty cool.

How do I select the right paint color?

My husband and I are getting ready to break ground at our new home site. I told my husband, who is a home builder, that I would give him a list of my 10 wants for the house and then asked him to simply call me when the house was completed.  He laughed, although I was really quite serious.

I've sold many new homes in my real estate career yetI have never had the experience of building my own home. As I stare at the blueprints with excitement, I often get queasy when I think of all the time consuming decisions, from grand to minuscule,  that are going to need to be made.  I called a decorator friend of mine, asked her to help me through the process, with my first question being, 'Where do I start?'.  She replied, 'paint colors'. 

After reading several articles about how to make paint color selections, I found this one to be the most reader/user friendly - without getting too in depth and confusing.  Whether you're painting one room in your current home OR making selections for your entire house, I hope you find this article helpful.

Jan's Cheese Fondue

Big football weekend this past weekend.  A friend of mine texted me asking where they could find white American cheese for Jan's Cheese Fondue (page 42 of Homes That Cook book).  I get the white American cheese from the deli counter.  I ask them to cut a one pound block.  When I'm just about ready to make the fondue, I freeze the block of cheese for 3-5 minutes so that it firms up making it easier to shred.  Here is the delicious fondue recipe for you to enjoy!

Jan's Cheese Fondue

Best Friends, a glass of wine and a warm fire - the recipe for a great evening!

1 pound block of white American cheese, shredded

2 cups sour cream

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 or 3 dashes of garlic powder

A hearty loaf of bread such as baguette, French, Italian or sourdough

Apple slices

Heat sour cream.  When it's bubbling, drop in shredded cheese a handful at a time.  Stir continuously. Add remaining ingredients (except bread and apples).  When all lumps are smooth, it's done.

Enjoy this fondue with large cubes of bread and apple slices.