• Suggestions for First-time Home Buyers

    Owning a home is a dream many people want to fulfill, and the real-estate market offers a wide range of opportunities for first-time home buyers. With attractive mortgage rates and plenty of properties on the market, just a few tips are required to help potential buyers explore their options.

    While many opportunities exist for home ownership, first-time buyers need to understand important concepts in real-estate market before they purchase a property. For starters, they need to know the type of home to buy. This depends on a number of factors, including location, family size, lifestyle and the income range of a buyer.

    To go through that stage smoothly, it is advisable to engage a certified real-estate agent to provide the appropriate advice. By virtue of their work, they have the adequate experience and knowledge to ensure that buyers select the right properties to meet their needs. They also have access to multiple listing services, which can provide buyers with customized property solutions that fit their needs and budget.

    Reach150 and RealSatisfied suggest that the real-estate market has various types of properties for both buyers and sellers. However, first-time home buyers need to ask themselves what they need in a home: number of bedrooms, affordability, nearness to amenities and other options. Once these are thoroughly reviewed, they are likely to come up with a strong decision about the type of home they should buy.

    New homes may offer attractive extensive warranties and modern features, but they may lack mature trees for landscaping. Alternatively, older homes can offer finished basements, decks and patios, but they may need repairs and upgrading to make them look new. Preferred location also matters when choosing a home. A buyer can choose a home in town or in a rural environment, depending on individual preferences.

    Properties within the precincts of urban centers offer the advantage of being closer to schools, hospitals and major roads. However, for a quiet environment free from the discord of the city, a home located in a rural area provides a better alternative. I bought a property from Peter Harris a few years ago and it had the exact aforementioned qualities.

    Ultimately, a first-time buyer needs an affordable home. To achieve that goal, it is advisable to look at a wide price range instead of considering only the higher price. This can help a buyer take care of any extra cost or fluctuation in income that may arise in future. A better guideline for buyers is to ensure that the total value of loan payments and home mortgage do not exceed forty percent of the buyer’s gross income.

    While a real estate agent can offer valuable advice and act occasionally as a real estate coach, it is important for buyers to plan and know what they want. Also, advice from a real coach like Freedom Mentor is preferable. The tips mentioned here are helpful in making the right choice.…

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How To Make Sure You Sell Your Home For Top Price

In order to sell your home for top money, you need to invest a bit of time. You need to invest time fixing minor issues in your home, but also to research the world of real estate. It is people who have learned about real estate that tend to sell their properties for the highest amount. Hopefully, the hints and tips below, which come from real estate professionals, will ensure your home gets sold for a really good price.

First of all, you have to decide why you want to sell. You need to know your motivation, as it will also help you to determine what your available resources (effort, money and time) are. Those who want a quick sale will act differently from those who want a huge profit.

After looking at the outside, it is now time to look at the inside of your home. Of course, you must make sure the whole house is clean and tidy. Also, do not be tempted to put up loads of air fresheners or scented candles. You may believe that they smell gorgeous, but the reality is that not everybody enjoys them. Also, a potential buyer may believe that you are hiding something from them. Next, make sure you take care of clutter. No matter how important your pictures and nicknacks are, they mean nothing to others and they stop them from really seeing the potential of your home. In order to make your home look big, which is what any buyer wants, you have to get rid of as much stuff as you can from your walls, floors and shelves. The exception to this rule is the mirror. Mirrors create a false sense of size, making your home look bigger. Also, you have to make sure that you have at least something on your wall, or your home will look hollow. Take the time to try how things look and whether it makes your home look bigger and better and use common sense.

Hopefully, the above information will have given you the knowledge you need to make a quick sale at a good price. Clearly, there is no need for you to invest a great deal of money, nor do you have to be an expert in anything. They are all simple, common sense actions that make a huge impact. Good luck with your own home sale.…

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Optimizing Your Profit When You Sell Your Home

The motivation you have for selling your home will be a huge driver for how much you end up getting for it. Hence, even those who want to do nothing but make a quick sale should try to be motivated by profit as well, as this will help them get more for their property. To get your home sold at the best possible price, there are a few things you should do.

The first thing you need to do is figure out why you are selling. You must learn about your motivation as this is the driving factor behind the resources (money, time and effort) you will be willing to invest as well. Those who want a quick sale will act differently from those who want a huge profit.

Now, you need to go check the inside of your property. Of course, you must make sure the whole house is clean and tidy. Do not try to make your house smell nice with scented candles or air fresheners. Although you may love these scents, other people may not agree. Also, you may find that people who smell a lot of these overwhelming cents may believe that you are trying to hide something. Do make sure your home is also completely free of clutter. No matter how important your pictures and nicknacks are, they mean nothing to others and they stop them from really seeing the potential of your home. What you want to do is make your home look big, which means there should be as little as possible on your walls, floors and shelves. The exception to this rule is the mirror. Mirrors are good because they create the illusion of more space. To complicate matters, do make sure that you have at least one thing hanging on your walls so that your home doesn’t look hollow. It really is about trying things out and using your own common sense to see what works best and what makes your home look the biggest.

Hopefully, the above information will have given you the knowledge you need to make a quick sale at a good price. Clearly, there is no need for you to invest a great deal of money, nor do you have to be an expert in anything. None of these things take more than a bit of common sense and the impact they have is substantial. Hopefully, you will sell your home quickly and at a good price yourself.…

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Run A Few Simple Checks Before Home Buying

A home purchase is both exciting and fun. The only problem is that you have to make sure your excitement doesn’t make you stop from seeing any issues that a property may have. Although we do sometimes fall in love with a property, we should never purchase it without running a few necessary checks. Let’s review a number of these red flags.

Start by checking out the neighborhood. Are there many homes for sale and many boarded up shops? Ask people who live in the area whether it is a good place to live. Also check out the land. If you find that the yard slopes downward towards the property, it is possible that rainwater would run down it and damage the foundations. You should also look into whether there are any weird smells in and out of the property. Look into whether there are pests. This is also something to ask others in the neighborhood about as they are likely to know all about past insect, rodent or other pests problems.

You are now ready to see whether the property was looked after properly. Signs of regular maintenance are hugely important. If you notice that there is a lack of structural maintenance on the outside, the inside will probably be the same. Always look at the wiring too. Real issues can only be identified by a qualified professional, but you can get a good idea yourself. If lights flicker or outlets are warm, there is a chance that the wiring is faulty. Owners may be trying to hide a problem if you notice that single walls have been painted very recently. Also look at the windows. If a window is condensed or moldy, or it opens with difficulty, that may be a sign of very expensive problems.If an owner declares certain rooms as “off limit”, then go find a different home to buy. Additionally, if you notice that any structural work has been done, such as the removal of walls or floors, you need to find out whether that work was done properly by a qualified architect.

The reality is that you are the only one who can decide whether or not to buy a property. Also, homes with problems are often available at much cheaper prices. You do have to ask yourself whether that bargain is worth the potential financial hassle you are putting yourself through. Do always remember that a house is more than just bricks and mortar, but rather a place for people to build memories in, and those should be good memories. Although it is certainly true that you should look into the condition of the actual property, focusing on the neighborhood is equally important. To check on the actual property, all you really need to do is hire the services of a property inspector. When it comes to checking out the neighborhood, however, it isn’t so much about cold, hard data, but rather about personal feelings and emotions and whether or not you like it.…

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Some Things To Look Into Before You Purchase A Home

When someone tries to sell their home, they do not always tell the whole truth. Sadly, most of us cannot afford hiring a professional inspector for each property that we view. Therefore, here are some things that are obvious even to a novice which can tell you not to buy the home.

First, inspect the neighborhood. Are people seemingly leaving in a mass exodus? Ask people who live in the area whether it is a good place to live. Have a look at how the land is shaped. If you notice that the yard is on a downwards slope towards the property, the foundations could be affected by rain water. You should also look into whether there are any weird smells in and out of the property. Next, check whether there are pests. This is also something to ask others in the neighborhood about as they are likely to know all about past insect, rodent or other pests problems.

A number of things may also have happened to a property that are very hard to restore. A few of the things you need to look for are signs of water damage, pest damage, asbestos, mold and faulty wiring. But it often takes a professional eye to actually spot these problems. It is very much possible that the sellers don’t know these problems exist. Those home owners that do know the issues are there will try to keep them hidden. All that needs to be done in order to hide problems like this is a bit of cleaning and reducing power usage. Besides organizing a professional home inspection, what you can do is speak to members of the community. They will be happy to tell you about any historical issues that have occurred in the area. Generally speaking, major problems like pests, water damage and mold will occur in more than one property.

At the end of the day, you should never purchase a property that you haven’t had inspected professionally. With the information above, you should be able to tell whether or not you might want to hire a professional inspector, or whether it is a clear no on the purchase. If any problems are present, you can choose to walk away from the property, or you can request a huge discount on the purchase price so you can arrange the necessary repairs. Do also consider the opinion of your home inspector. Home inspectors will tell you honestly whether or not a certain property is worth investing in.…

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A Few Checks To Make Before Home Buying

If someone is eager to sell their property, they may keep a few defects hidden. Although a professional inspector would pick up on any problem, it is expensive to hire one for each viewing. So, here are some red flags that you can look out for that could tell you to avoid the property.

Firstly, always look at the neighborhood. Is the number of homes and businesses dwindling? Ask people who live in the area whether it is a good place to live. Have a look at how the land is shaped. If you find that the yard slopes downward towards the property, it is possible that rainwater would run down it and damage the foundations. You should also look into whether there are any weird smells in and out of the property. Bugs and insects are a bad sign as well. Make sure you speak to others in the street about this, as they are likely to know about pests.

A number of things may also have happened to a property that are very hard to restore. A few of the things you need to look for are signs of water damage, pest damage, asbestos, mold and faulty wiring. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to spot any of these problems. The current owners themselves may not be aware of the presence of these problems. If they do know any of these problems are present, they may do all they can to keep them hidden. In order to hide these types of issues, all that needs to be done is a bit of cleaning and reducing how much power is being used. To find out whether these issues are there, you can organize a professional home inspection, but you can also speak to community members. They will be happy to tell you about any historical issues that have occurred in the area. It is safe to say that most major problems like pests, water damage and mold will occur in more than one home.

The reality is that you are the only one who can decide whether or not to buy a property. It is also true that if you are looking for a true bargain, then a house with problems is what you are looking for. On the other hand, if you then have to pay even more money to fix it up, or if you can never sell it again, then it was a waste of money. Homes, whether purchased as an investment or not, are places for people to live in, which means they have to be inhabitable. Naturally, you do also have to look at the property itself, but the importance of looking into the neighborhood cannot be denied either. A property inspector is all you really need in order to look into the condition of the actual property after all. When it comes to the neighborhood, however, you need to have a personal feel, something that cannot be achieved by a check box list.…

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Want Your Security Deposit Back? Ask These 6 Questions

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When you’ve just landed a new apartment in Boston, MA, a security deposit is kind of like the pile of work on your desk at 5 p.m. on a Friday. You could push it aside for now, but you’ll still have to deal with it on Monday (or when it’s time to move out). But until that time comes, it’s easy to be distracted with decorating, meeting the neighbors, and celebrating your new place.

However, it’s important to be proactive so you can help ensure you’ll get back every penny you deserve – and you can’t just assume the security deposit will let you “live out the last month,” either. That concept exists only in tenants’ minds and isn’t really a thing (ever) … unless your landlord has agreed to it.

Here are six important questions to ask before you sign the lease that can help save you some dough.

1. Does your landlord want the place returned spotless?

Your landlord might be the white-glove type that meticulously checks for cleanliness, and not just by putting on a white glove and inspecting for dust. They might expect a sparkling-clean oven, microwave, and fridge (and freshly spackled and touched-up walls). Find out by asking your landlord what they expect at move-out time. If you’re a bit of a slob, you might want to pay a cleaning service to scour your place before you move out. That way, you control how much you spend instead of leaving a mess for the landlord to clean … and to charge you for. Don’t leave dilapidated furniture behind. If the landlord has to discard it, expect to pay for any charges incurred.

2. What is normal wear and tear?

If you’ve lived in a place for several years, it won’t look as good as the day you moved in. The carpet will show wear, the paint will fade or show smudges, and there might be small nicks here and there on the walls. These things are just normal wear and tear – stuff that happens over time in any home or apartment. The landlord shouldn’t charge you for that. In other words, the landlord can’t remodel the place on your dime. But if the wear and tear is excessive and outright damage has occurred (wine or vomit stains on the carpet, the unmistakable odor of cat pee, a child’s “artwork” painted directly on the walls, broken doors or holes in walls from who knows what), that’s on you and will come out of your security deposit.

3. What’s the charge for repainting?

Were the walls in your rental just painted, but you already know that you simply cannot live with those “builder beige” tones without losing your mind? You might not have to cover the walls in floor-to-ceiling artwork. If you wish to paint the walls a soothing aqua chiffon or maybe a lovely hyacinth, you first need permission from the landlord. If you get the A-OK, you’ll either need to paint the walls back to beige before you move out or let the landlord take a repainting fee from your security deposit. Unless you know how to prep walls for painting like a pro and can be certain you won’t get paint on trim, baseboards, or anywhere else it shouldn’t be, let your landlord do it. Once you know upfront how much they’ll charge you for the privilege of painting, those beige walls might start to look kind of nice.

4. Who is responsible for lawn maintenance?

Lawn maintenance is a tricky area for renters and a subject that should be spelled out explicitly in the lease. If it isn’t, generally speaking, when you rent a multifamily unit, the landlord is responsible for lawn care. If you rent a single-family home, you are probably responsible for the upkeep of the grounds. But there’s upkeep and then there’s upkeep. What you consider kept up might not be what the landlord has in mind. Find out, for example, how often you need to mow the lawn and whether you need to water it, trim bushes and shrubs, and keep weeds under control. If there is any doubt, maintain the property of the house you’re renting as you would your own house.

If the landlord needs to spend money to get the grounds in the same shape as when you moved in, that will come out of your security deposit. Keep in mind that maintaining is one thing, but making the yard your own is another. Get permission before you plant a flower or vegetable garden, and know that any bushes or trees you plant should stay with the house when you move.

5. What about pets?

Pets can cause damage. Cats might ruin the carpet by using it as a scratching post, and dogs sometimes dig holes in the yard. Landlords know this, which is why some don’t allow pets. The ones who do might charge a pet deposit (if your state allows it). If you paid a pet deposit, the landlord uses it, not the security deposit, to pay for any pet-related damage. If you weren’t charged a separate pet deposit, the landlord can use the security deposit to repair any pet damage.

6. What if something breaks?

If you spot a problem, tell your landlord right away, whether you caused it and need to pay for it through your security deposit or whether the repair is one the landlord pays for. Either way, if you neglect to tell the landlord and said problem later turns into a disaster, you could be on the hook for the excessive damage. For example, if you spot water coming in from a leaky roof, the landlord needs to fix it right away, and they will pay for it. But if you don’t report the dripping water and a mold problem eventually develops, those mold-removal costs could very well be on you.

Bottom line

The closer you can get to having your place look just the way it did when you moved in (take photos!), the more likely you’ll be to get your full security deposit back. But if the landlord does keep some or all of your security deposit, they almost always need to present you with an itemized receipt detailing the reasons. How long landlords have to get this done varies by state, so familiarize yourself with your state’s laws. If you don’t get your security deposit back or a written explanation as to why not, write to your landlord and ask for your security deposit. If that doesn’t work, you may want to take your landlord to small claims court. You’ll probably get your deposit back that way. In some states, landlords must also pay you a penalty fee in such cases.

Do you have a tip for getting back a security deposit? Let us know in the comments!

 

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10 Insanely Clever Home Hacks Every Renter Needs To Know

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Apartment living can be tight, but these little tweaks can go a long way toward making your place feel more spacious.

Apartment life can come with many perks, like a doorman, pool, and fitness center. Unfortunately, loads of space isn’t often one of them: Even the roomiest New York, NY apartments have their limits. With a little bit of creativity, however, you can make your 500 square feet (or less) seem like a palace.

Here are 10 DIY hacks to maximize your living quarters:

1. Turn to trunks

Vintage suitcases displayed in a corner can pull double duty as storage for sheets and towels if you don’t have a linen closet, says Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers in New York, NY. A large decorative trunk that doubles as a coffee table can hide a home office too. Store file bins, a box for supplies, and a wireless printer inside, and just pop the top when you’re ready to work. When you’re entertaining, the trunk can be used as a bench for additional seating (just make sure it’s sturdy!).

2. Rethink hanging storage pockets

We’ve all seen those over-the-door organizers that have a million pockets for shoes. But don’t limit their use to footwear. If you rent a townhouse with a garage, use these hanging organizers on the door for holding cleaning bottles or scrub brushes. In smaller rentals, sneak in extra storage by adding a hanging organized on a closet door for stashing small canned foods or spice jars. Cut to size, they can be used on bathroom cabinet doors: They are the perfect size to corral hair dryers, brushes, or curling irons.

3. Maximize your sofa space

“Pull your couch 12 inches from the wall and use the space behind it to store suitcases, sports equipment, holiday decorations, and other infrequently used items that are hogging limited closet space,” says Zaslow. You can also take it a step further and build a slim “table” that covers the stored items behind your sofa, really camouflaging them from full view. An added bonus? You can put drinks on it when there’s no room on your coffee table.

4. Get creative with magnets

For starters, magnetic knife racks can be used beyond knife storage. “In the kitchen, [a magnetic knife rack] can hold measuring cups and spoons,” says Zaslow. “In the bathroom, it keeps tweezers, nail clippers, scissors, and bobby pins and barrettes handy. In a home office, it works to hold pens, scissors, clips. In a kid’s room, it can hold small cars and trucks.” For more magnificent magnet tricks, use a single magnet to attach a small item that’s easily misplaced (like tweezers) to the inside of your medicine cabinet.

5. Hang temporary curtains

Landlords usually discourage tenants from hanging curtains, since the rod holders need to be secured into the wall with anchors, and the holes left behind can be unsightly. Circumvent this problem by using large adhesive hooks and setting the rod into the hook. Just make sure your curtains are somewhat lightweight (think sheers or linen panels).

6. Invest in binder clips

That’s right, binder clips. These gems have unlimited uses. When clipped to the edge of a desk, they can keep computer cords in place. In the fridge, they can keep bottles in a perfect pyramid. Or they can be used to secure your duvet corner to the duvet cover. The list goes on.

7. Use tension rods to increase your storage space

Apartments can be limited when it comes to cabinet space, so it’s important to make use of every square inch. Pick up some tension rods and get to work. Stick one horizontally in your under-the-sink cabinet to hang cleaner bottles from, freeing up the bottom of the cabinet. Alternatively, put a few vertically in a cabinet to keep baking sheets and cutting boards organized. They can also be used in a closet to create a small hanging section (just don’t overload it with clothes, or it’ll fall!).

8. Eliminate wasted space in the kitchen

Attach hooks with adhesive backs to the wall between your cabinets and countertops or on the bottom of your cabinets to hold mugs, utensils, and gadgets, says Zaslow. (Bonus: They won’t cause damage when you remove them.) Or place a cutting board over an unused stove burner or two to extend your counter space.

9. Use a shelf as a table

If you don’t have floor space for a nightstand in your bedroom but need a spot to rest a glass of water or reading lamp on, install a small floating shelf as your nightstand. Not only are these relatively inexpensive at home improvement stores, but they also are surprisingly easy to hang – usually just two screws. Floating shelves can also be used couch-side as an end table.

10. Perfect your paper product storage

Paper towels and toilet paper take up a surprising amount of room when you store them under a sink. Use a wall-mounted wine rack to hold paper towels (pro tip: These can also store rolled-up towels) or a hanging closet organizer for both paper towels and TP.

 

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How to Turn Up the Heat Without Using Electricity

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By Robyn Woodman

Whether you’re in the middle of a blizzard without electricity or you’re trying to save some cash this winter, it’s wise to have an alternate heat source on frigid days. Instead of reaching for the thermostat, warm up with these creative, no-power heating solutions.

Use our tricks and tips to keep warm this winter. Your bank account will thank you come spring.

1. Get fired up.

Does your apartment have a fireplace? Whether it operates on gas or good old-fashioned wood, fireplaces can be energy-efficient heaters. If you have a gas insert, check to see if it’s a direct-vent, vent-free, or B-vent unit. Direct-vent inserts can offer more heat, while B-vents generally push any warmth out of the home. Vent-free gas fireplaces are the most efficient. Although not all states permit vent-free inserts for use in apartments, ask your landlord what type of gas fireplace you have to determine its heating potential.

Does your rental have a wood stove? Rather than building a roaring fire, concentrate on building a constant, slow-burning flame for the most heat generation. According to the Wood Heat Organization (WHO), circulating the heat with a ceiling fan regardless of its placement within the room will help disperse the air and keep your space warmer. (Some wood stove inserts include a built-in blower.) The WHO also suggests using the driest wood available, as it burns 25 percent more efficiently, ignites faster, and smokes less.

While it’s tempting to rest your cold feet close to the heat, always be sure to put the screen in place and keep safely back from the flames. And if you have a traditional fireplace, close the flue damper or get a chimney balloon when the fireplace is not in use to prevent warm air from escaping.

2. Bundle up.

Instead of cranking the thermostat to warm up, try warming yourself instead. Keeping your whole body covered is the best way to prevent heat loss. It’s an old wives’ tale that we lose the majority of our body heat through our head. The truth is, we experience heat loss throughout our entire body.

Keep your feet warm with cozy slippers and wear a knit hat, even indoors. Be sure your hat covers your ears. They’re thin but have large surface areas and can lose heat easily. Warm yourself from the inside out by breathing through your nose; doing so warms the cold air to body temperature before it arrives in your lungs.

3. Try thermal curtains.

Whether you have double-pane windows or the dreaded single-pane, all windows are a source of heat loss. To conserve energy, choose window treatments that offer aesthetics as well as function. Heavy curtains with a thermal lining can drastically reduce heat loss. For additional savings, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests hanging the curtains as close to the window as possible and securing them at the bottom and sides to reduce the energy loss by 25%. And if you’re a DIY warrior, try using caulk will seal off the pesky leaks and help keep you warm and toasty.

4. Seal windows with plastic.

Check with your landlord before tackling this project, especially if you want to get your entire security deposit back. Head to the local hardware store and get an inexpensive plastic window-insulator kit. Use your hair dryer to install it and create an insulating barrier you can take down in the spring. The clear plastic covering helps prevent heat from escaping through window crevices, prevents frost buildup, and reduces condensation.

5. Use a draft stopper.

We tend to spend the majority of our time in the main part of our apartment — the kitchen and living rooms. Rather than trying to heat your whole home, shut interior doors: That will help keep the room that you’re in feeling warmer. To ensure that cold air doesn’t seep in, purchase a door draft snake or plastic draft stopper. You can make a draft snake yourself using scrap fabric and sand.

6. Invest in a rug (and liner).

There’s nothing worse than waking up on a chilly morning and plopping your feet on a cold, bare floor. To make your space more comfy and warm, lay down a plush area rug. Not only will a large rug make your room feel cozier, but it also will help mitigate any cold air coming through cracks or gaps in the flooring. Choose a thick felt rug liner – it’ll make your rug even plusher and add extra insulation.

7. Raise your body temperature.

When in doubt, sweat it out. There’s no better way to get warm than to move your body. Even in a small space, there are plenty of ways to raise your heart rate and generate some heat. Push back the coffee table, improvise some weights (canned goods or bottled water will work) and prepare to sweat. If you need some quick home workouts, YouTube is your best friend.

 

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How to Get Your Home Organized

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By Kendal Perez

Amid the typical New Year’s resolutions, getting organized is an oft-promised, seldom-achieved goal that plagues busy parents, office workers, college students and everyone in between. Clutter and a messy environment are proven causes of distraction and increased stress levels, both of which prohibit creativity and productivity. Despite our best efforts, staying organized is a big challenge when life gets hectic and tossing our belongings wherever they fall trumps storing them where they belong (assuming they have a designated home at all).

Those seeking a more streamlined lifestyle this year are likely influenced by the rise of the minimalist movement, the allure of tiny houses and the surprising popularity of such texts as Marie Kondo’s bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” These trends are not simply strategies for enhanced organization; they’re lifestyles that espouse a more intentional approach to living. Underlying the need to be organized, after all, is a desire for more control.

“Organizing is about making decisions,” says Alison Kero, owner of ACK Organizing in New York City, adding that it’s ultimately about wanting the best for yourself. Consider these steps toward a more organized and intentional life in 2016:

Toss or Donate

Decluttering is a natural first step in getting organized, but experts agree tossing things you don’t want isn’t just about making space for more stuff. “It’s more about becoming aware of what you’re choosing to bring into your life and making a decision to keep it or let it go based on what’s best for you and what you really like,” Kero says. Practically speaking, it’s best to group like items together before you start purging so you can easily identify duplicates and keep your favorites.

“Start by doing an initial sort,” says Sandra Schustack, owner of Clear Your Space East in Manhattan and New York Chapter Board Director for the National Association of Professional Organizers. “Only keep what you use and love; the rest is taking up precious space.”

The idea of your space being “precious” or valuable is key to keeping sentimentality from sabotaging this process. “If you don’t love it, need it, or use it, then it doesn’t deserve a place in your home,” says Janet Bernstein, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of The Organizing Professionals, LLC, in Philadelphia. “I keep my clients focused on this mantra as we’re decluttering,” she says. “It speeds up the process when you’re forced to categorize your possessions in this way.”

Experts also note that getting organized takes time, so don’t expect overnight results. Remove items room by room, starting with the area that bothers you most. That way, you can carry the sense of accomplishment you feel in tackling that room to others throughout your space.

Find a Home for Everything

Putting back items you’ve decided to keep is not as simple as tossing them into a storage container. In fact, rows of clear plastic bins with expertly-applied labels simply disguise chaos as order, and don’t provide for long-term organization.

“The reason so many people find it hard to stay organized is that they do it once, dismantle it when they need something stored at the bottom of the bin, and then don’t have the energy to put it all back together again,” says Holly Rollins, minimalist and blogger at HollyLaurel.com. Instead, determine the proper home for items based on when and where you need them, so access and storage are both intuitive and practical. Moreover, continue the “like with like” grouping strategy you employed during the decluttering process so you always know where to find (and store) batteries, light bulbs and even important documents.

Keep Functionality in Mind

Most experts agree storage containers are worthy investments, but purchasing these items before deciding how they’ll be used is a waste of money. “I see far too many potential clients purchase organizing products believing these items will solve their clutter woes,” Bernstein says. “What they don’t realize is they’re putting the cart before the horse.”

Placing all your cosmetics in a decorative box under your bathroom cabinet may be tidy, but it’s neither functional nor sustainable. Since you use these items frequently, they will likely end up strewn about drawers and countertops more often than tucked behind cabinet doors. Instead, organize your makeup by type within the top drawer of your vanity for easy access. “Get some shallow square and rectangular trays from the dollar store,” suggests Alison Warner, owner of Prepped to Organize, LLC, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. “Stick Velcro tabs on the bottom of each tray to adhere them to the drawer. No more rolling items every time you open the drawer!”

This strategy can be applied elsewhere in your home, including the “junk” drawer in your kitchen or the utility cabinet in your garage. The trick is to organize spaces well enough that replacing items once you’ve used them becomes habit.

Maintain Organization

It doesn’t matter how organized you become; the moment you start to accumulate more stuff, you’ll be surrounded by the very clutter you sought to eliminate in the first place. Before you buy anything new, remember the criterion you used during the decluttering phase. “Keep only what you use, what you love, and what you need,” Rollins says. “If you make and keep this promise to yourself, you’ll never have organization problems again.”

 

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How to Avoid a War with the Neighbors

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Hispanic referee between arguing neighbors
Hill Street Studios

By Devon Thorsby

A disagreement between neighbors can escalate quickly. One minute you’re mowing your lawn, the next you’re plotting revenge on the homeowner next to you for parking his car on your freshly cut grass.

“You hear about neighbors chasing each other down with spades and all sorts of weird things,” notes Nick Hall, director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Harris County, Texas, which offers mediation for civil disputes, including neighborhood problems.

It doesn’t serve you well to pick a fight with the people who live on the properties surrounding yours, and especially not when you’ve just moved in. But it can be all too easy to start off on the wrong foot with a neighbor, and it can haunt you for years to come. (Another strategy: Check out the neighbors before you buy the house.)

While you don’t have to be the next Lucy and Ethel, you and your neighbors should be able to get along amicably enough to avoid major disagreements when it comes to what you each do with your properties. Follow a few simple guidelines to get on your neighbor’s good side from the start.

Introduce Yourself

You’re not required to bring a casserole, but a knock on the door and friendly handshake will go a long way. It’s harder for your neighbors to make assumptions about you when you approach them with a friendly greeting — and it’s not as easy for them to hate you when they think you’re just so darn sweet.

“Don’t have the first contact with your neighbors be when you need something, or when you have a complaint,” says Stuart Watson, a staff mediator at Resolutions Northwest, a center for dispute resolution in Portland, Oregon. “Build some kind of relationship first, so that when you do want to remodel your garage into a spare rec room … you’re not coming up to somebody you don’t know with demands.”

If you’re moving into a community with a homeowners association or other kind of neighborhood group, Hall says it’s a good idea to attend the first meeting you can and start the relationships early. You can even go as far as offering to organize a community event. “Everyone likes potlucks, so why not do a block party or a street party and invite everyone?” Hall says.

Know the Rules

Everyone wants to think they’re right, but before you do anything to your property, be sure you’re following the neighborhood or municipal rules when it comes to construction, noise and other hot buttons for cranky neighbors.

Reading up on the community’s regulations should happen even before you buy the property, says Brad Aldrich, senior attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth, Michigan, who specializes in real estate law, among other areas. Especially if the home you’re buying is part of a homeowners or condo association, be sure any construction or landscaping you do on your property doesn’t put you in the wrong.

“Forget bothering your neighbor — if you wanted to put in a pool, but for whatever reason your local homeowners association didn’t allow pools … you’re not going to be able to put one in,” Aldrich says.

Being familiar with regulations and local ordinances, like setback requirements from the property line for any structures, could help you know if your neighbor is infringing on the rules as well.

“We get a lot of people call in and say, ‘I’ve never owned a home before, and I don’t know if my neighbor is doing something wrong,'” Aldrich says, adding that familiarity with regulations can help you avoid speculation, so any issues are based on fact and written rules or laws.

Let Them Know of Any Changes

Whether you’re planning to redo the landscaping or put an addition on the back of your home, it’s a courtesy to give your neighbors advance warning of any construction on your property.

Renee Bove, a staff mediator with Watson at Resolutions Northwest, says many of the neighbor disputes that come to mediation reach a heightened level simply because one person didn’t communicate well with the other. “Oftentimes, it’s just a simple misunderstanding that somebody had a pretty good intention that kind of backfired and had a negative impact. And they don’t talk about it, so it takes a life of its own,” Bove says.

For example, warning that you plan to put up a tall fence because your dog can jump high will probably go over better than erecting a privacy fence without any notice.

If it Would Bother You, Don’t Do It

The rule of treating others the way you want to be treated still applies as a homeowner. If you keep your neighbors in mind when you make decisions, you’re far less likely to tick them off.

An example: You don’t want excess water runoff on your property, so don’t assume your neighbor will think any differently if you direct your drain pipes at his foundation. Yet, Aldrich says water runoff is a common cause of neighbor disputes.

“If the natural topography of the land is that water runs off into an adjacent property, that’s really not the other property owner’s fault — it’s just the way the land is,” Aldrich says. “But if that property owner were to put in a sump pump and then route the water line to where it dumps directly on the neighbor’s property, well then, that is an act of the one property owner where it does negatively impact the neighbor,” Aldrich says.

In Portland, Bove says a growing topic of dispute involves using a home for Airbnb stays, whether it’s the whole house or individual rooms. The new home rental trend “just brings a lot more traffic and new people into a neighborhood that can be disconcerting for other neighbors,” Bove explains.

It can be useful to have a conversation with your neighbors before listing your home for rent, and, ensure you are not infringing on any laws, guidelines or regulations.

Count to 10

Being a good neighbor doesn’t mean you have to let everyone walk all over you (or your land). If you believe your neighbor is encroaching on your property or your ability to live peacefully, you shouldn’t have to suffer.

But keep in mind, people have a tendency to dig in their heels when they feel their property is being threatened, so it’s best to tread lightly when addressing issues.

“If you give someone a ticket, or if you go to court or to trial of some kind, you’re going to make even bigger enemies of the neighbors,” Hall says. “And yet, [you’re] going to have to continue living together in the same neighborhood.”

Bove uses the example of a homeowner parking a few inches in front of a neighbor’s driveway during a personal emergency. Seeing the car blocking part of the driveway, but not knowing why, the neighbor assumes it is an intentional slight.

“They just didn’t take a moment to come from a place of curiosity: ‘Hey, I noticed your car was in my driveway a little bit. What was happening for you?'” Bove says.

In the event you simply can’t resolve a problem on your own, mediation is often an effective way to ensure both parties are heard, and put some rules down without taking it all the way to court.

Watson estimates mediation through Resolutions Northwest resolves about 80 percent of the disputes brought to them, with a solution made that day. But the number of parties that come out of mediation feeling it was a positive experience is even higher, he says. “Even in those more rare times when they don’t come to some kind of agreement, it was helpful for them to be able to have a discussion and to feel their concerns were heard.”

 

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