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What to Unpack First in Your New Home

Where are the towels? Which box holds the can opener? Who packed the cat food? When you’re surrounded by boxes, what you need is a strategy.

Once all the moving preparations have been made, all the arduous moving tasks have been taken care of, and everything has gone more or less according to plan on moving day, you finally find yourself in your new home, surrounded by piles of boxes, tired and glad that your relocation is about to end.

To fully complete your moving adventure, however, you need to unpack your belongings and make your new place feel like home. But how to even begin unpacking?

First things first

No matter how much you want to get it over with as soon as possible, there are several important things to do before you can actually start unpacking.

  1. Clean and prepare your new home. It’s easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows, and mop floors before your belongings have been put in place. Make sure your home-to-be is spotless when your items arrive. If you can’t get to your new place early enough to do a thorough cleaning, consider hiring professional cleaners to do the job for you.
  2. Inspect and organize your belongings. Check all the delivered boxes and household items against your inventory sheet to make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Then have each of your possessions taken to the room where it belongs. If everything was properly marked and labeled, sorting out your items will be a piece of cake.
  3. Open your box of essentials. There should be tools, toiletries, clothes, medicines, packed food, basic kitchenware, and other “lifesavers” in it that will allow you to refresh yourself, open the sealed boxes, reassemble your furniture, and so on.
  4. Set major furniture and appliances. Position your large furniture pieces and bulky household appliances first. Then you can put any smaller items you unpack later directly in their rightful places. Plan your interior design well in advance so you don’t end up moving heavy pieces around several times.

Tackle the necessities

What matters most when unpacking your items after a move is ensuring that your essentials are immediately accessible. So prioritize your belongings, and unpack only the necessities first.See More!

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Top 10 Questions To Ask During An Open House

Be prepared with this list of must-asks while touring open houses.

For buyers, visiting open houses should be more than just a casual walk-through of the home, with commentary on the paint colors (remember, you can change paint!). Open houses are a prime opportunity to not only get a feel for the space but also to speak directly to the listing agent and get detailed information on the home. In fact, this may be your only opportunity to openly ask the selling agent questions during the entire home-sale process. The best way to take advantage of this personal meeting is to be prepared. Get the inside scoop on that home for sale in Seattle, WA, and elsewhere by asking these 10 important questions.

1. How many offers have been made?

Does the listing agent look suspiciously happy? They might have received word that an offer is coming in any minute. If they’ve received offers, they’ll probably be eager to tell you, in hopes that you’ll bid as well and drive up the price.

2. How stable has the price been?

Your real estate agents can find out how many times the price has changed since the house was first listed, but the seller’s agent will likely jump at the chance to explain why. Perhaps the price dropped because the seller has to move on a tight timeline. Intel like this might even clue you in that the list price is somewhat flexible, enabling you to make a more competitive offer.

3. Why do the sellers want to move?

If the sellers are moving because the area is unsafe, the schools are terrible, or the neighbor practices the drums at midnight, their agent is unlikely to tell you. But ask this question anyway and look for hesitation from the agent or an answer that seems half-baked.

4. How long has this property been on the market?

You can find this information yourself on Trulia or by asking your agent to check the local multiple listing service, but the seller’s agent will be able to put this information in context. Perhaps it’s been on the market for a long time, but only because the sellers received an offer from a buyer whose financing fell through. Or perhaps the house went on the market this week, but the sellers have had a lot of interest and expect it to sell quickly. All of this is useful when you’re deciding whether to make an offer.

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A new Houzz survey shows how couples cope with stress and make tough choices during building and decorating projects

Everyone knows that remodeling a home takes a lot of planning. What will it cost? What will it look like? Who will build it? Where will we stay during construction? These questions help people map out a path to a successful outcome. But couples who embark on such a project together often forget to think about one crucial question: What effect will the stress have on our relationship? 

A recent Houzz survey of homeowners in 10 countries — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States — offers insight into the many perils and pitfalls couples face during building, remodeling and decorating projects, and the tips and tricks to help solve those challenges and relieve stress. “Insist on what you want, but know that sometimes close to what you want is just as good,” said one anonymous commenter from the United States.
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A slanted yard may be challenging, but it also provides opportunities for beauty and fun



 
Steep or hilly yards can pose some of the biggest landscaping challenges, but also some of the most beautiful solutions. Make the most of your sloped lot with artful stone, terraces, built-ins or even a slide — these 10 creative outdoor spaces tackle the problem with style.

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Get busy indoors this month with some time spent cooking, improving air quality and prepping for spring


Outsmart winter weather by making your home inside a clean, cozy and healthy haven. Put a pot of soup on the stove, plan a trip or get a jump-start on spring cleaning with a whole-house refresh, from the air you breathe to the floors underfoot. And since this is a leap year, you’ll have an extra day this month to get it all done.
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How Buyers Should Prepare for Their Final Walk-Through

Think you just show up and make sure the house hasn’t fallen down? There’s a little more to it than that

The final walk-through in real estate was designed so that the buyer can confirm the home is in the same condition as when they made their offer and had the home inspected. Its also an opportunity to make sure the seller has actually vacated.

From time to time, a buyer and seller will have negotiated any number of fixes during escrow. The walk-through gives the buyer a chance to make sure all the agreed-upon work has been done to specifications, and that everything is in working order.

Sometimes, buyers are so excited to close that they quickly whisk through the walk-through without taking time to inspect the property. This can lead to small issues once the buyers take ownership. On the other hand, the final walk-through can raise both positive and negative emotions during this final part of the sale process.

It’s smart to take the walk-through seriously. Don’t see it as simply checking a box.  You should run all the faucets and check for leaks. Flush the toilet bowls, open every window and close it and make sure the appliances work.

Here are some tips for buyers to help complete a smooth and effective walk-through.

Don’t do the walk-through the day of closing

A walk-through can uncover repairs that need to be made, but that you didn’t know about before. If you do the walk-through the same day as the closing, there may not be time to get problems remedied.

It’s not uncommon for two walk-throughs to happen. The first identifies some issues for the buyer, and the second makes sure those issues were addressed.

The alternative is to push the closing back to address the issues.  The problem here is that your lender may not have approved a delayed closing. It’s better to hammer out any issues in advance.

Use your mobile phone to check the outlets

Plug a phone into all of the outlets to make sure the electricity works. You want to avoid moving in all your stuff, only to realize some outlets don’t work, and you lack light in a bedroom.

Bring your phone and charger to the walk-through and test all the outlets. It’s quick and easy.

Be on the lookout for the sellers’ leftover belongings

Sellers are notorious for leaving junk behind, so take the time to check the garage and attic, and under the deck. The sellers may just assume you want their old paint cans or a propane tank for a future grill.

In fact, they should leave the place completely empty. Some left-behind items, such as the paint, can be toxic or require special provisions for disposal. For example, one seller left behind all kinds of used oil that needed to go to a certain, state-approved car repair shop to be disposed of properly. These unwanted items become yours after you close.

Be emotionally prepared for a surprise

Buyers often fall in love with a home that’s full of furniture, art and belongings. They see it as a home, and remember a warm feeling.

Fast-forward to the close of escrow and you’re faced with an empty home, which can feel cold, sterile or hollow.

Buyers are often surprised by how they feel entering an empty home. Not only is it absent any furniture and “stuff,” but sometimes an empty home shows its imperfections, too.

Read More!
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10 Projects To Tackle Before Selling A House

Looking to get a leg up on the housing market? These easy upgrades can make your home more appealing to buyers.

Like all sellers, you want your house to appeal to a wide range of buyers who can afford your asking price — it doesn’t matter if your home is competing with homes for sale in San Angelo, TX, or Columbia, SC. But to stand out in a crowded market, you need to make your home look as desirable as possible.

Tried-and-true tactics such as painting and decluttering can go a long way toward achieving this goal — but these other simple home staging tips can up your home’s wow factor and lead to a quick sale.

1. Have all of your carpeting cleaned

This is especially true if you have pets. (Eau de dog is not the odor you want wafting through your home as potential buyers walk through it.)

If your carpeting is old and tired and you have hardwood flooring underneath, remove the carpet, says Erica Walther Schlaefer, an associate real estate broker at Keller Williams Realty in Rochester, NY. Chances are, buyers are going to want to know the condition of the floors anyway.

2. Give your moldings a makeover

If your moldings are chipped or scuffed, give them a quick touch-up, recommends Schlaefer. Ditto any walls that have scuff marks or stains.

3. Do up your deck

If you have outdoor living space such as a deck or patio, make it look as inviting as possible, says Schlaefer. Upgrade existing outdoor furniture by purchasing new cushions or pillows, give your grill a good cleaning, and add some potted plants or flowers. If it’s winter and you live in a cold climate, be sure to keep these areas shoveled to show them off.

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Little touches go a long way toward making your place feel more like you.


When you first move into a new house, it’s only natural to want to put your personal stamp on the space — after all, unless you built your dream home, it’s likely that the finishes, fixtures and paint colors were chosen according to the previous owner’s taste. So where to begin? Here are 20 projects, both small and large, that should help make your house feel like home.

Incorporate these elements to create a stylish and worry-free environment for you and your family


A child’s laughter can permeate a home and warm the coldest of hearts. Kids can also create lots of messes, from the living room to the bathroom and everywhere in between. Here are 12 features that can help you create a kid-friendly home that’s clean, organized, safe — and fun for all.

Privacy and space can be hard to find in urban areas, but these ideas can make a difference


Being in close quarters with what feels like the whole neighborhood may be par for the course in city living, but it can nevertheless be challenging. With some smart planning, however, you can ensure that you hear, smell and see only what goes on inside your own home — and remain blissfully oblivious to what’s occurring beyond your walls. Consider these tips to help you enhance the privacy and sense of space in your home.

You don’t need to worry so much about scuff marks and dings when you accept the character and beauty of wear


Living in a beautiful, well-designed home that suits our needs certainly enhances our quality of life. But if a house includes too many precious surfaces and furnishings, the experience can slip from uplifting to exhausting from the effort required to maintain its pristine condition. On the flip side, could a house that forgoes perfection for durable surfaces and intentionally weathered pieces elicit a more relaxed approach to living within its walls? It’s an idea worth considering as we design and decorate. Materials that stand up to wear without unnecessary upkeep just may be the secret to more thoroughly enjoying our homes.

Incorporate features and materials that will make your landscape fun and accessible for everyone


Your yard, like your home, should be an enjoyable asset for the whole family, with spaces for kids to play, adults to hang out and older people or anyone with limited mobility to access. Landscape design for all ages is a common theme in our public landscapes, since universal accessibility is required by federal law, but there’s a lot you can do to bring the same principles of universal design to your home landscape. Here are helpful tips on how to plan a multifunctional yard that’s useful for all.

Tackle these tasks month by month for a decluttering strategy that will really pay off

With an entire new year ahead of you, decluttering your home may not seem so hard. But after January, when that new year energy begins to wane, the prospect of tackling such a big project tends to overwhelm. 

Enter your New Year Clutter-Clearing Plan, a month-by-month guide to clearing the clutter from every room in your house. I’ve zeroed in on areas of the home that I find fit with certain events, such as back-to-school or spring fashion, but feel free to reorganize as you see fit to tackle specific areas of your home that need attention sooner. 

No matter what, by the end of the year, your home should be feeling more spacious and, perhaps more important, you should be feeling more capable of maintaining a clutter-free space.
Read More!

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How To Spot Homes For Sale With Investor Potential

So you want to be a landlord? Here’s what to look for in a rental property.

If you’re thinking about buying an investment property, now is a great time. People aren’t buying their first homes, for the most part, until they’re around 30. So what are they doing in their 20s (besides living with Mom and Dad)? You guessed it: renting.

Buying investment property that you rent to tenants can bring reliable cash flow … assuming you know how to spot homes for sale in Charleston, SC or Atlanta, GA with the best investment potential. If you’re ready to be a landlord, here are nine strategies to help you decide which house to buy.

1. Look in urban areas

You might long for peace and quiet, envisioning yourself listening to the soothing sounds of nature as you relax at home. But renters want to be where the action is. One big draw of renting is living near shopping, restaurants, and public transportation — amenities that typically make homes expensive to buy. Choose a location that renters will find convenient.

2. Choose a good school district

Many of your potential renters will be young families, and they usually care about the schools their children will attend. “School districts are key,” says Jed Bratt, a California real estate agent. “Many renters are often willing to pay more if a property is in a desirable school district.” Search Trulia Local to find out school ratings in various areas.

3. Check out the job market

When people have jobs, they can afford to set up their own households versus living in basement apartments or with roommates. So demand for rentals is higher in strong job markets. “Always buy in a market where there is a strong workforce and housing is needed,” says Joan Brothers, a New York, NY, real estate agent.

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From black stainless steel appliances to outdoor fabrics used indoors, these design ideas will be gaining steam in the new year


The modern home is always evolving. And to get an idea of what it’s evolving to, look no further than what’s happening within its walls today. With that in mind, we delved into our New This Week series, sifting through Houzz discussions and data to find out what materials, strategies and concepts will be coming to more homes in 2016.

Got the champagne and party hats but stumped about what to do next? Try these festive entertaining ideas to ring in the new year


 
From the simple pleasure of hanging up a fresh new calendar to late-night feasts and off-the-wall traditions (polar bear swim, anyone?), there are myriad ways to welcome the new year. Perhaps you’d rather stay in for an evening of quiet reflection, or invite friends over for brunch on New Year’s Day — whatever your celebration style, these eight ideas are fun and festive alternatives to the notoriously expensive (and sometimes disappointing) New Year’s Eve dinner out.
How To Avoid These 4 Mortgage Calculation Mistakes

From failing to comparison-shop to forgetting about extra costs, these mortgage calculation mistakes can throw a wrench into your budgeting plans.

It’s difficult to buy that home for sale in Portland, OR, without taking out a mortgage. After all, not many of us have hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash sitting around just waiting to be spent. With the median price of homes in America resting right under $200,000, a home loan is the only option for most of us who want to own.

When we’re talking numbers like this, it’s no surprise that a mistake when trying to figure out how much house you can afford — and how high a monthly mortgage payment you can handle — can cost you big time. From failing to comparison-shop to forgetting about extra costs, it’s important to avoid these four mortgage calculation mistakes when buying your new home.

Not knowing your credit score

Not understanding your credit score is a big mortgage calculation mistake, because your credit score impacts the interest rate you’re likely to receive on your loan. And that interest rate can mean a difference of tens of thousands of dollars saved or spent over the life of your mortgage.

It’s tempting to give yourself a great interest rate when using mortgage calculators to estimate your monthly payment. But you may not be able to secure a 4% rate if your credit score is poor — which would mean your estimate could be very different from your reality.

Know your credit score and understand whether it’s good (and therefore likely to help you get a lower interest rate) or not. If your score is poor, take a step back from the home-buying process and work to raise your numbers first. Doing so can save you serious cash over the long run.

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Carpeting adds a layer of warmth and softness to a space. Here's what to know about today's materials, costs and trends

Carpeting can make a room feel warmer, plusher and more expansive — and with the huge array of colors, textures, patterns and materials available, there’s sure to be something perfect for your space. We caught up with Adam Caldwell, furniture manager at Stark Carpet, and Ken Gurley, Boston showroom manager for Landry & Arcari Rugs and Carpeting, to find out what you need to know to get new carpeting in your home. Read on for the full scoop on choosing the right fiber and pad, carpeting trends and more.


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How to Survive Living in Your For-Sale Home

You want your home to sell for the highest price — but you still have to live there.

Your home has always been a sanctuary, your personal space. But when that “For Sale” sign goes out on the front lawn, you need to be prepared to bare all. Eager real estate agents will be waiting in line to stampede through your front door, and strangers will comb through every nook and cranny during open houses.

All of this will happen while you are trying to continue with your life as normally as possible. Prepare for your new, hectic life living in a listed home with the following tips.

Start packing now

As of this moment, you probably have fewer than 120 days left in your house. Keep in mind that over the next few months, you’re not going to need many of the space-gobbling items currently filling your rooms and closets. So if it’s May and you won’t need those winter clothes for the next few months, pack them up!

The secret to getting a house clutter-free is to remove the things you can live without while your home is on the market.

Store it, sell it, chuck it, or donate it

While you’re packing, work on decluttering and throwing away or donating things you no longer need. It won’t just give you a head start on moving — buyers appreciate extra space when searching for homes.

As obvious as it seems, a buyer will naturally be drawn to and pay more for a home that feels as if it has extra space than for one loaded to the ceiling with stuff.

Get squeaky clean

Lacking motivation to clean every cobweb off the ceiling fan or scrub the floor? A clean house can gain you $5,000 to $10,000 on your home sale. Aim for five-star-hotel perfection when cleaning sinks, glass, mirrors, windows, and toilets.

Maintain your privacy and safety

People will look through your drawers, closets, and medicine cabinets at open houses or showings. Make sure your listing agent insists that other agents accompany their prospective buyers during open houses. Don’t keep anything in the house you don’t want anyone else to see, and protect your valuablesRead More!



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Take or Toss: Follow This Chart for the Best Move Ever

“If you’re vague about when you might use something, you probably won’t,” says Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers in New York. “By definition, ‘someday’ never actually arrives.” Instead of stockpiling remnants of your life in the basement (or living room … or bedroom …), follow these decluttering tips to organize your space once and for all.

Go big

When you’re looking to get rid of stuff, start with the big, bulky items first, says Zaslow. Doing so will free up space quickly, and once you see how good getting organized feels, it may motivate you to keep going.

Give it a gut check

“If you can’t decide whether to keep or toss an item, ask yourself, ‘If I saw this in a store today, would I buy it?’ or ‘If I were moving across the country, would I pay to take this with me?’” says Stacey Platt, author of What’s a Disorganized Person to Do? If the answer is no, toss it.

Embrace technology

Nowadays, you can find most things online — including another copy of a book, DVD, or CD that you regret parting with. “You can get [lots of] books online for under $5,” says Zaslow, who also recommends selling your books on Bookscouter.com. “And aren’t you streaming all of your media these days anyway?”

Say so long to swag

That beer koozy with the logo of a software company you interned with 10 years ago? T-shirts with now-defunct corporations on them? Or the countless cheap nylon bags these freebies often come in? Into the garbage bin they go.

“Most of this stuff isn’t worth donating and no one will buy them in a thrift shop,” says Zaslow.

Consider an item’s afterlife

Your old living room couch isn’t doing anyone any good collecting dust in your basement, but it could be just what a college grad furnishing their first apartment is looking for. “Furniture doesn’t age like fine wine,” says Zaslow. “Give it away now, while it’s still usable, to someone who needs it. Ditto old electronics or appliances.”

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8 Tips For A Winning Winter Open House

When buyers brave the winter weather to view your house, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure they’re comfortable and taken care of.

It’s wet, it’s cold, and knowing that you have to bundle up in boots, coats, and scarves to go outside keeps many people from wanting to do routine tasks such as grocery shopping, much less trek out to see homes for sale in Boston, MA, or even Atlanta, GA. But while the winter season is understandably slower for open house events and private showings, when buyers do show up at your open house, it’s crucial that you make their tour pleasant and worthwhile.

Whether you’re showing your house to multiple buyers or a private family, here are eight tips to draw people to your home and ace your cold-weather open house.

Get them inside without a slip

If there is any snow on the ground, pick up that shovel and start plowing. You want to make sure all the walkways from the street to your front door are completely cleared of snow. Make sure to de-ice as well. Nothing ruins a home tour experience for a buyer like a slip-and-slide into a snow mound on their way in.

Create a landing area

If you have an outdoor front porch, make sure it is cleared of snow and ice and kept as dry as possible. If guests enter directly into the house, make sure you have a rug or mat by the door so they can wipe their feet. Once inside, have an umbrella stand for those wet umbrellas, and a coat rack to hang bulky winter gear. You can also purchase some shoe covers so guests can cover their wet boot soles. Bonus: Your potential buyer will be thankful you took precautions to keep stains off their future carpet!

Make your house cozy and inviting

Make sure the heat is on and the house is just the right temperature during the event. The front door will be opening and closing, so you will want to allow for that continuing loss of heat. But don’t forget that people will have on heavy clothes and be walking around — don’t crank up the heat and make things too cozy.

Find the light

Winter brings shorter days and cloudy weather, so it is extremely important that you bring in and turn on as much light as possible. Bright and airy is always more appealing to a buyer than dark and stuffy. Even though you may not be able to have the windows open, you can certainly make sure they are sparkling clean and that all the drapes are pulled back.

Depersonalize your home

Prior to any open house, take down pictures of your family, collectibles, and memorabilia — a difficult task to complete around the holidays. Buyers will want to visualize their lives in your home, so leave just enough furniture and decor to bring your home to life (this means your snowman figurine collection will probably have to be boxed up until after you sell). Start in one room and systematically go through every drawer, every closet, and every shelf and carefully edit out personal belongings.

Remove anything “polarizing”

While depersonalizing your home, remove any polarizing elements — anything religious or political. Most people have strong emotional reactions to religious artifacts and political mementos or statements, especially around the holidays. Don’t give your buyer a chance to prejudge your home because your political or religious beliefs are on display.

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A designer offers a few illuminating insights on this key design element


Lighting is one of the most overlooked yet important elements of interior design. What’s the point in creating beautiful spaces if there’s not enough light to see them? Lighting is also essential for creating the mood and ambience of a space. Come up with your lighting plan during the conceptual design phase so your contractor knows ahead of time where to run electrical wiring. Once the drywall goes up, changing wiring is much harder, so don’t leave this consideration until the end. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to lighting your home.

Keep your home and yard safe and running smoothly as temperatures drop and activity moves indoors


Fluffy snow and sparkling icicles may make for a winter wonderland, but they can also bring on drafts, fallen tree limbs and worse (hello, ice dams). Avoid spending your holidays handling winter-related disasters with a bit of preventative maintenance — we spoke with experts to get the lowdown on the best ways to prevent ice dams, frozen pipes and other winter woes.
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A renovated bedroom and loft make room for middle-of-the-night feedings and quiet time.


This couple wanted to get their bedroom ready for their baby on the way. A high gabled roofline and extra attic space were going to waste in the low-ceilinged room. The pros at Reliance Design, Build, Remodel raised the ceiling to the roof, opened up access to the loft and finished both spaces to create a cohesive look with the rest of the home. And perhaps most important, they were able to finish the job in time for the newest family member’s arrival. 

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Great Home Project: The right window treatments can provide privacy, light control and safety — or just better style.


Of all the design decisions homeowners make when decorating a home — paint color, furniture, fabrics, rugs, lighting, accessories — window treatments often get overlooked or receive inadequate attention.

But window treatments are an important piece of the decor puzzle in any home. Sure, curtains, drapes and blinds can complement a decor scheme and look nice, but they’re also important for privacy, light, hiding awkward features, providing insulation and more.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your window treatments, this guide will help you navigate the process more easily.

Who to hire: A window treatment professional or an interior designer is your best choice. Designer Karen Ruggiero of Judith Grossman Decorating says the industry is constantly changing, and a knowledgeable professional will be privy to the many choices available on the market. He or she will be able to consult on color, pattern and design and to properly measure and install your window treatments.

If you DIY, the material (and sometimes size) choices are more limited and you sacrifice professional expertise for the sake of convenience. You’ll need to do your own measuring and installing too.
Read more!

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Shopping your house and doing a little rearranging can make those long, cold nights a lot more enjoyable


I don’t know about you, but days that get shorter and shorter bring my mood down — it’s too dark to go for an early-evening walk and the hours until bedtime seem to stretch out before me. However, I’ve found some ways to enjoy this time by cozying up my house for the coming cold months — without, I should clarify, spending any money. Here are some of the easy things I do to create a warm ambiance that I hope will help you cozy up your own nest.
 

Set up a comfortable environment that encourages relaxation and rejuvenation


A home should be more than just somewhere to live. It should also be a retreat — a place in which you feel relaxed and nurtured. All too often, though, our houses slip into a more perfunctory role. Sometimes they even cause stress, confronting us with reminders of things to do as soon as we step through the door. How can we steer our homes toward more cozy shores? Try these mood-enhancing ideas and housekeeping tips to add comfort and keep the to-do-list worries at bay.

Go easy on yourself this year and allow some breathing room to enjoy the holiday

This Thanksgiving, learn to embrace imperfection for a less stressful and more meaningful holiday. Whether it’s setting a simple table and preparing dishes ahead or finding mindful moments throughout a busy day of cooking and socializing, these 10 ideas should help make your Thanksgiving more relaxed. Now that’s something to be grateful for!

The Quick Guide to Buying a Home

When you’re buying a home, it can be exciting and frightening! If you’re a first time homebuyer, it can be hard to know what to expect. That’s why we created this infographic that walks you through the complete home-buying process.

Surprisingly, buying a home doesn’t actually start with looking at homes. It starts with looking at your budget to see how much of a mortgage payment you could afford each month. Then, you begin saving for a down payment and shop around for the best mortgage with the least expensive interest rate. During this time, you can hire a highly recommended buyer’s agent who can help you find your dream home.

After getting your finances in order, you should decide what you want and need in a home, and then give that list to your buyer’s agent. The agent can take this list and find possible houses that you may be interested in at your price range.

Once you have found the perfect home, make an offer. Depending on your offer, you and the seller may haggle until you agree on a price, in which time you will enter into contract on the home. While the home is under contract you as the buyer must finalize the mortgage, have the home appraised, surveyed and inspected, and purchase title and home insurance.

Finally, you and the seller enter closing, where you will pay for the down payment and provided services that got the home ready. (Title insurance, appraisals and home inspections.) The seller hands over the keys, and with that you’re the owner of a home! Read More!
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25 Creative Hacks That Make Cleaning Your Home So Much Easier

Ah yes, cleaning the house – that activity we all must get around to, whether we like it or not. If you’ve been looking for ways to cut down on the amount of work cleaning your home can bring, check out these insanely practical tips for hacking your cleaning list.

1. If you have a front-loading washer, get rid of mold with water, a bit of bleach and a towel.

 

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It’s surprising how much gunk can build up in a small, unacknowledged area!

2. Your iron can be made smooth and shiny again (meaning cleaner, fresher, crisper clothes) with some salt.

 

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Just take some salt and gently but firmly rub the face of your iron in the pile of salt. Your clothes will be happier, it won’t be an eyesore, and you’ll be back to ironing shirts in no time.Read more!

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Dozens of Cleaning Hacks For Your Home

If you are like a lot of people, it really only takes one episode of Hoarders to make you want to break out all the cleaning supplies. Or perhaps you are just the kind of person who likes to keep their abode tidy all the time. Regardless of the motivation, there is always a smart way and a harder way to get things done. Regular readers will have checked out these 150 tips and tricks, but in case you are interested in more, here are over four dozenadditional cleaning hacks waiting to be utilized.

 

toyclean

 Spilled something sticky all over some handy Legos or other small toys? Use a laundry bag in the washing machine or even the dishwasher.

 

case

An extra pillowcase can make a great substitute cleaner for ceiling fans.Read More!
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How to Transfer a Home Warranty When Moving


Are you selling your home? If so, you probably know that increasing curb appeal and staging your home can help it to sell faster and for more money. What you probably didn’t know, though, is that selling the home with a home warranty can help you do the same thing!

A home warranty is a bit like home insurance, except it covers the systems and appliances in the home, instead of the home’s structure. Things like your furnace, air conditioner, kitchen appliances or plumbing are repaired or replaced for a low service fee if they fail. According to a study done by the Service Contract Industry Council last June, homes with a home warranty sold for almost $2,500 more than homes without a home warranty. Not only that, but homes with a home warranty sold 16% faster than non-warrantied homes. Why is this? Besides the peace of mind that comes with a home warranty, there are a few reasons. Sometimes companies offer free listing coverage, but usually it’s because a home warranty can be transferred to a new owner during the time of closing.

How do you transfer a home warranty to a new owner? Well, all home warranty companies are different, but usually all it takes is a phone call. Some home warranties may also charge a minimal transfer fee. When you sell your home, all you have to do is call the home warranty company and let them know who the new owner of the home is, and the home warranty then becomes theirs.

If you decide you want to protect your new home with a home warranty, you can look for a home that includes a home warranty in the purchase, or purchase one yourself. Some home warranty companies also let you cancel your current contract, and put your refunded money toward a contract on your new home.Read More!

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50 Ways You Can Save The Earth From Your Home

It really doesn’t take much to make your home more environmentally friendly. Swap some lightbulbs and switch to a smart thermostat and you’ve already cut your homes emissions AND utility bills significantly! Here, Good To Be Home has listed fifty incredible ways you can change your home so that it is actually saving the planet.

The tips include incredibly easy and enjoyable tricks such as opening your blinds, cuddling up with your pet, and using a microwave instead of an oven; things almost all of us are capable of doing! Check out all fifty ways and tell us which you’re going to try out!Read More!

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4 Questions To Help You Organise Your Home


You know what they say: messy room, messy mind. At least I think that’s what people say. When you know where your belongings are and that everything has a purpose things can seem simpler, more fluid. Joelle Birano creator of Twenty One Delights has four questions you should ask yourself in order to create a more organised home:

We moved to this house back in May (it’s now October) and I’m still trying to get it to maintenance mode.

What is maintenance mode you ask?

Maintenance mode is where everything we have actually belongs here, and everything has a home. Maintenance mode is where our space is planned out in a way that makes sense to us. Maintenance mode is where I’m done sorting and re-arranging and I can simply maintain our space and focus more attention on other things…like my family…or this blog…or some business ideas that are floating around my head.

Some of you may think “Well I’m not moving anytime soon”, or “I haven’t moved recently,” but there are lots of things that may cause a shake-up in our living spaces – a new pet, baby, business, or hobby just to name a few. Some of us simply live in chaos for years and are numb to what a energy-drain and time-sucker living in “set up” mode can be.

If you came to my house today, and then visited again tomorrow, it’s very likely that some piece of furniture would be in a different place. In fact, that’s what often happens to my husband – he comes home from work and something is different. A few weeks ago I completely re-arranged our living room furniture. The next day I switched our dressers over to different walls. Then I moved a bookshelf from our bedroom to the dining room, and during this whole process, I’ve built up a big box of stuff I want to get rid of.

All of this takes time and energy and I want to get through it as soon as possible (I know…it’s October….and I said we moved here in May…in my defense I was either very pregnant or very early postpartum. Even now at 2 months post-baby it’s hard to get stuff done)

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself as I work toward “maintenance mode.”

What do we want the function(s) of this room to be?

This almost goes without saying, but I’m asking this question because I’m thinking of turning our living room into a little preschool for my daughter, so I’m seriously questioning exactly what we want this space to be. This would mean a huge shift in our current arrangement. NOTHING would be where it is now. It’s all about making this space work for our purposes.Read More!
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50 Ways You Can Save The Earth From Your Home


It really doesn’t take much to make your home more environmentally friendly. Swap some lightbulbs and switch to a smart thermostat and you’ve already cut your homes emissions AND utility bills significantly! Here, Good To Be Home has listed fifty incredible ways you can change your home so that it is actually saving the planet.

The tips include incredibly easy and enjoyable tricks such as opening your blinds, cuddling up with your pet, and using a microwave instead of an oven; things almost all of us are capable of doing! Check out all fifty ways and tell us which you’re going to try out!Read More!
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How NOT to Be a Victim of Home Theft


When we were renting an apartment, we were a victim of home theft. I discovered the burglary this way — I woke up around 2 am, disturbed by unfamiliar noises, and I was shocked to see a man in our anteroom wearing a camouflage paint on his face; just like in the movies.

I was still groggy from sleep, so all I could utter was a weak, “Hey, what are you doing here?” With heavy steps, I stood up, and ran towards the man. Startled, he attempted to run immediately, but I was quick to catch with him. He was shocked to find someone stopping him to steal our things. So, there we were, face to face for seconds, then he went for the stairs. It’s good, we lost only a few not so valuable things.

Why were we a victim of home theft? First, me and my wife were busy workers. Most of the time we were out. Second, our front door, the back door, and our windows were not secured properly. Third, we didn’t install a security system. Let’s learn from the above personal experience.

Here are facts you need to know regarding home theft.Read More!
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A Printer-Friendly Moving Checklist


Are you planning to move in the near future? Then print out this handy moving checklist and make sure you follow the instructions to a tee.

While you don’t need to start focusing on the actual packing during the 5-8 weeks ahead of the move, you can actually start working on many of the important details, such as arranging for your child’s school transfer, selling large items you don’t plan to take with you, cleaning out your shed, etc.

One thing this moving checklist infographic fails to mention is when to actually pack your stuff. I find it is best to start packing everything you don’t need or regularly use about a month in advance. Continue packing throughout the next month, moving on to items you won’t need for the next few weeks, week, month, etc. Pack a “survival kit” with a few dishes, kid’s toys, toilet paper and other necessities and put this in the moving truck last so you can have it on hand while you unpack everything else in your home.

Pack a suitcase with your prescriptions, toiletries and a few days worth of clothes for the move itself and be sure to set aside important documents as well. Keep your suitcase and documents with you at all times during the move, just in case something happens to the rest of your stuff.Read More!
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Improve Your Home In Under 10 Minutes


It may sound impossible, but you really can improve your home in less than ten minutes. Installing window boxes takes about five minutes and makes the outside of your home look spectacular -especially if you clean your windows, which takes about 30 seconds each.

Instead of setting aside hours every weekend to weed and mow your yard, try investing in an automatic mower and try pulling up a few weeds every day when you get home.

When you want to improve your home from the inside, the same principles apply. Installing a mirror and a rug in your hallway will make it look bigger and help you hide worn carpeting practically instantly.

Of course, as this infographic points out, some methods to improve your home will take longer than ten minutes, but adding in a few minutes of preparation will make these bigger jobs go smoother and faster.Read More!

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Preparing to Buy a Home: 4 Things to do to Get Ready 


Buying a new home is a life-changing experience. It can be long and tedious at times; however, it can also be a pleasant experience if you do some hard work in advance to get prepared. Here are four things you can do to get ready when buying a house.

Check Your Credit Report

Mortgage lenders use your credit score and history from your credit report in order to determine whether or not you qualify for a mortgage loan. Your credit score also determines the interest rate for your loan. You should check your credit report on a regular basis to make sure all of the information reported by the three credit bureaus is shown correctly. There are many online websites where you can monitor your credit report. If you don’t currently have any credit, it will be hard to get a loan. Many people will open a credit card through their banking institution. Once the card has been received, they buy gas or groceries with it and pay it off each month. The better your credit score, the lower your interest rate will be.

If you have any delinquent accounts on your credit report, you should work with the creditor to bring your account up-to-date, offer a settlement, or pay it off in full. For any errors or discrepancies you find, you should send a letter or a claim form to the reporting credit bureau to dispute it.

Downsize Your Living Expenses

In order to purchase a new home, you will need to have money saved for the down payment, closing costs, and other expenses, such as moving.  By downsizing your current living expenses, you can use the money that you save for your new home. You can cut your expenses by moving into a cheaper place, stop eating out frequently, and reducing your cable bill.

For example, if you are currently renting a house with a large rent payment, you should consider moving into an apartment with cheaper rent. If you are not sure where the best apartments are in your area, you should do an online search for “Dallas apartment reviews” or “Phoenix apartments.” Be religious about saving money as well. It may be hard at first, but once you are adjusted to cutting back, it will seem like a breeze and you will be in your new house in no time.

Take a Home Buyer Course

Enrolling in a home buyer course is helpful, especially for first-time home buyers. These courses provide information on steps that you need to take to purchase a home, look for a real estate agent, or apply for down payment assistance programs, and other helpful tips. The length of the course varies from one day to a few weeks based on who is offering the course.

If you are interested in attending a home buyer course, you should check with local banks, real estate companies, and nonprofit organizations in your community. You may find that some companies offer this course for free or for a minimal fee.Read More!

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How NOT to Be a Victim of Home Theft


When we were renting an apartment, we were a victim of home theft. I discovered the burglary this way — I woke up around 2 am, disturbed by unfamiliar noises, and I was shocked to see a man in our anteroom wearing a camouflage paint on his face; just like in the movies.

I was still groggy from sleep, so all I could utter was a weak, “Hey, what are you doing here?” With heavy steps, I stood up, and ran towards the man. Startled, he attempted to run immediately, but I was quick to catch with him. He was shocked to find someone stopping him to steal our things. So, there we were, face to face for seconds, then he went for the stairs. It’s good, we lost only a few not so valuable things.

Why were we a victim of home theft? First, me and my wife were busy workers. Most of the time we were out. Second, our front door, the back door, and our windows were not secured properly. Third, we didn’t install a security system. Let’s learn from the above personal experience.

Here are facts you need to know regarding home theft.Read More!

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40 Incredible Home Life Hacks That Will Simplify Your Life

Ready to simplify your life with 40 new life hacks? Most of these are actually very useful. Have you ever ironed a shirt with ice cubes or used bread to clean up? If not, then keep on reading to see these awesome tricks.

You will also find out how to easily clean a shower head, wash kids’ toys, wash you mattress, keep your iPhone cables from constantly getting broken, and even how to reheat pizza without the crust getting all soggy the next morning.Read More!

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The Best Temperature For Your Home


Do you know the optimal temperature for common items in your home? If not, you could be adding unwanted wear and tear to your AC unit, while also increasing your monthly electric bills. This infographic shows the ideal temperatures for common household items, family members and task performances. If you’re looking to make your home more cost effective, this is a great guide.

You’ll also see some common heat producers in your home that can create unwanted heat and push your AC unit to the limit, thus increasing your electric bill. Knowing what these items are and shutting them off when not in use can help to lower your electricity bills.Read More!
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Why You Should Have a Safe in Your Home


Do you have a safe in your home? If not, you may think twice about having one after seeing this infographic. Not only does it go through the different types of safes, but it also explains the importance of having one. Most people own a safe in order to protect valuable possessions like money, jewelry and electronics. They’re also great for hiding firearms away from children and outsiders.

Everyone can really benefit from having a fire safe, since they’re great for protecting important documents in case of a fire or natural disaster. There are a variety of models available, each one with a different level of fire protection. There are also gun and commercial safes.Read More!
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Common Electrical Mistakes That Burn A Hole In Your Pocket


When it comes to using home appliances, both big and small, many people tend to make common electrical mistakes. Repeatedly making these mistakes then leads to negative effects on your appliances and on your wallet.

For instance, constantly overloading your washing machine will lead to strain on bearings and suspension of the machine. Eventually, your washing machine will stop working properly altogether and you’ll end up spending $40 – $350 on repairs. In some cases, you may have to buy an entirely new washing machine. Not only is this frustrating, but if you don’t have the funds at the time, you could be without a washing machine for weeks or months.

It’s common electrical mistakes like these that can really burn a hole in your pocket, plus add unneeded stress to your life. If you’re looking to save money on your electric bill and make the most out of your electrical appliances, this infographic is worth a look.Read More!
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20 Smart Tips To Make Moving a Breeze

Most people dread moving. Packing, organizing, transporting, attempting to bribe your friends to help — the whole process can seem daunting, but if you use these tips and tricks, moving day might be a lot less stressful. Happy packing!

1. Be thrifty, find free moving boxes

Save a little cash and acquire all the boxes you need for free. Best places: the ‘free’ section on Craigslist, grocery and clothing stores, and warehouse style stores.

2. Purge your stuff

Now that you’re sorting through all your things, it’s a perfect time to see what can be donated or chucked altogether! Make an effort to pare down your possessions so your move will be a little easier and your new home will be a bit less cluttered.

3. Create a schedule so you don’t get overwhelmed

Plan ahead! Don’t forget to defrost, towel dry, and clean your refrigerator 24-48 hours before moving day. Otherwise, it’ll be pretty stinky and leaky! Read more!

 

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Noisy Neighbors? Solutions for Creating Sound Barriers
It’s a common complaint among city-dwellers that the walls and floors separating one apartment from another allow sounds from one

It’s a common complaint among city-dwellers that the walls and floors separating oneapartment from another allow sounds from one side to pass too easily through to the other.

Loss of acoustical privacy hasn’t been a grievance in the suburbs until recently; as land prices increase, lots are getting smaller and houses are getting closer together. Houses are also getting closer to the street and its associated noise pollution. And attached condominiums are being built at a rapid pace – your next-door neighbor may be just on the other side of the wall.

It’s more critical now because so many of us have powerful multi-media centers in our homes, and we like to enjoy our movies with the sound turned up high.

The closer you live to your neighbor, the greater the opportunities for a loss of acoustical privacy. How can you keep the sounds of your daily life from bothering your neighbors and theirs from bothering you?

Hear Ye, Hear Ye…

Sound is transmitted from its source to the ear by waves traveling through the air. The volume of the sound when it reaches you is affected by the distance from the source and the presence of obstacles between the source and the ear.

It’s those obstacles we’re concerned about – how can we make them stop the sound waves?
Some materials are better at attenuating sound energy than others; generally the thicker or more massive the material the more sound energy it absorbs. But placing big, thick, heavy materials between living units can be impractical and expensive, especially if you’re remodeling an existing home.

Fortunately there are some easy and inexpensive ways to build good “soundproof” walls and floors and to greatly improve the sound characteristics of existing construction.Read More!
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14 Commandments of Small-Space Furniture Arranging

These rules will make any room feel bigger.

quadrille island ikat
 











Furniture arranging is often puzzling when you're designing a room, and it doesn't get any easier when space comes at a premium.

In hopes of making things a little easier, home store Amara has created an infographic to help. The handy guide features tricks of the trade that help optimize the space in any room. 

In short, there are two steps to proper furniture placement: Planning your layout and then bringing that layout to life. But you'll also need to consider traffic flow, furniture function, comfort, and aesthetics. Phew! Yes, that's a lot. Let this infographic break it down for you: Read More!


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Conquer the habit of running late with these ideas for getting yourself — and your family — out the door on time


ith the first weeks of school underway, and most adults settling back in to work (however grumpily) after vacations, mornings are bound to be more hectic. From searching for missing shoes, backpacks and important papers to remembering all of the minute details of shifting daily schedules, the tasks of the early hours of the day can put everyone out the door in a sour mood (not to mention late). A well-choreographed morning routine, on the other hand, can help start the day on a positive note, and can give you the opportunity to connect with your family or gain some extra personal time. Take a deep breath — tomorrow is another day, and with a bit of planning (and these 10 strategies), it can start off without a hitch.

14 Commandments of Small-Space Furniture Arranging

These rules will make any room feel bigger.

Furniture arranging is often puzzling when you're designing a room, and it doesn't get any easier when space comes at a premium.

In hopes of making things a little easier, home store Amara has created an infographic to help. The handy guide features tricks of the trade that help optimize the space in any room. 

In short, there are two steps to proper furniture placement: Planning your layout and then bringing that layout to life. But you'll also need to consider traffic flow, furniture function, comfort, and aesthetics. Phew! Yes, that's a lot. Let this infographic break it down for you: Read More!

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What to do when you’re contemplating home improvements after a move and you don't know where to begin

I recently received a desperate email from a friend. For a variety of reasons, school and work related, she and her husband and two little boys had been bumping around the globe for years. They had just moved back to the States and bought their first home. As excited as she was to be close to family and settled down, she was also exhausted from the move. In her email she wrote, “I am feeling crazy because I need to furnish a house and pick paints and it is all so overwhelming for me. I’ve been a nomad my entire adult life. Do you have advice?” 

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to change continents with a family. But a big home project can feel like too much for anyone starting out or going through a big life change. Adding to the pressure, in this age of instant everything, it’s easy to think that you ought to have a perfectly appointed home within seconds of moving in. I think we’ve all seen the before-and-after articles in which a designer gives a house a makeover in less time than it takes most of us to buy a can of paint. If you are in my friend’s shoes, looking around your place worrying and wondering, this is what I recommend.

13 Ways to Create the Illusion of Room Height

Low ceilings? Here are a baker’s dozen of elements you can alter to give the appearance of a taller space



We are enamored with height. Countless people travel the globe to stand in awe before towering natural and human-made monuments. Tall interior spaces evoke that visceral reaction as well, whether it’s Grand Central station in New York or the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

In our homes, high ceilings lend a sense of grandeur on a smaller scale. But what if your ceilings aren’t that high and you’re starting to feel boxed in? The answer is simple: Cheat a little. You can create the perception of height without making your ceilings any higher. Use these 13 features to create the illusion of higher ceilings and help make a smaller space feel more open.
3. Doors and passageways. One of the most effective ways to make your space feel more open and taller is by using full-height doors and taller passageways. Having lower passageways can really make your space feel oppressive. Read More..

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10 Furniture Essentials for Small Spaces

Here are items to opt for when a full-size sofa would be the elephant in the room



In a compact space, choosing just-right furnishings can make all the difference between your home feeling cramped or comfortable. From practically invisible acrylic chairs to shelving that flexes with the needs of your space, these 10 furniture pieces should be on any small-space-dweller’s must-have list.

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13 Ways to Create the Illusion of Room Height

Low ceilings? Here are a baker’s dozen of elements you can alter to give the appearance of a taller space


We are enamored with height. Countless people travel the globe to stand in awe before towering natural and human-made monuments. Tall interior spaces evoke that visceral reaction as well, whether it’s Grand Central station in New York or the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

In our homes, high ceilings lend a sense of grandeur on a smaller scale. But what if your ceilings aren’t that high and you’re starting to feel boxed in? The answer is simple: Cheat a little. You can create the perception of height without making your ceilings any higher. Use these 13 features to create the illusion of higher ceilings and help make a smaller space feel more open.
 

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Relocating Help: 8 Tips for a Happier Long-Distance Move

Trash bags, houseplants and a good cry all have their role when it comes to this major life change


We all know about turning on the utilities at the new place and filling out the change-of-address form for the postal service, but when you make a long-distance move, some other things come into play that can make getting from here to there a bit trickier. Here are nine tips pulled from my recent experience of moving from the East Coast to the West Coast — from packing the moving van to handling the inevitable meltdowns.
 

Professional Tips for Cleaning and Organizing Your Closet

As the end of summer nears, consider the experts' advice on putting your clothes closet in order

Transitioning out of summer means swapping flip-flops for boots, making room for winter coats and trading swim stuff for snow gear. And that’s why it’s the perfect time to clean and reorganize those closets you’ve been meaning to conquer. Tackle the task with tips from professional organizers skilled in the art of making sense of your space and your stuff.
 
 


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To-Dos: Your September Home Checklist

As life transitions back indoors, bring elements of nature in with you and make your spaces cozy and warm

 
After the excitement of summer vacation, getting back into the swing of school and work in September can be a challenge, but also a welcome change. Enter the new season ready for a fresh start by focusing on the positive — getting cozy indoors, bringing nature in and boosting your home’s energy efficiency to prepare for the cooler months ahead.
 


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7 Bedroom Styling Tricks Anyone Can Do

Short on time or money? You can spruce up your bedroom quickly and easily with these tips

 
We spend a great deal of our time at home in the bedroom. Even when we aren’t sleeping, we’re breakfasting in bed, blogging, reading or just relaxing. But the bedroom can be one of the last rooms we decorate; the main living areas often take up most of our time and budget. Here are some simple styling tricks to help you give your bedroom a professional, polished and finished look in next to no time at all.
 

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How to Create Better Flow in Your Home

Learn how much room to allow for furniture, and tricks you can use to make the most of a tight space

 
Someone once said that a well-designed space is like a good pair of shoes: If you’re wearing a good pair of shoes, you don’t even notice that you have them on your feet. But if you’re wearing a bad pair of shoes, you notice them every step of the way. Interiors work the same way.

If you haven’t considered the circulation space around your furniture, cupboards and built-ins, you will feel it with every step you take. You’ve probably encountered poor room circulation at some point: bumping into corners while walking around furniture, dinner guests standing up to let others slide through, stepping sideways to get to your toilet, not being able to open your doors all the way. If any of these situations exist in your own home, it’s a pretty easy fix. Here are some ways to achieve better flow in your space.
It’s also important to allow enough room for your guests to sit at the table comfortably. Allowing 24 inches (61 centimeters) per person will enable your guests to feel comfortable and let them sit down at and get up from the table without bumping shoulders. Read More!

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10 Things You Didn't Think Would Fit in a Small Kitchen

Don't assume you have to do without those windows, that island, a home office space, your prized collections or an eat-in nook

I am learning so much by checking out Houzz photos from all over the world. For instance, I’d forgotten just how many European families get by with what we Americans would consider “a dorm room fridge.” Rather than stocking up on a decade’s worth of pretzels and cereal at Costco, a lot of Europeans pick up just 24 hours’ worth of fresh food at a time. This is why we’re seeing so many stylish small kitchens submitted to Houzz from across the pond — a double-size refrigerator and a walk-in pantry are of no use to most people over there.

Of course, plenty of Americans also have small kitchens. We’re just so used to seeing kitchen spaces larger than our entire homes that we don’t realize we can incorporate some of their great features into our modest nooks and galleys. You might not realize you have room to chop to your heart’s content, include an eat-in space or even set up a home office. Check out these 10 small-kitchen extras for inspiration.
 
1. Corner of windows. This one may take some sacrifice — you’ll have to stash seldom-used items in storage and purge those you don’t really need. In return, your kitchen will expand and feel so much less cramped thanks to your new views and all that wonderful natural light. Read More..
 

We Want to See the Most Creative Pet Spaces in the World

 
Pets aren’t just animals who live with us. They’re members of the family, and we go to great lengths to make sure they eat the right foods, get enough exercise and receive all the snuggles they can put up with. Whether you’re in Milan or Moscow, we want to see the little personal pet space you’ve created in your home.

Show us: Do you have an area in your house dedicated to your pets? We want to see how you’ve gone the extra design mile for your furry (or scaly or feathered) friends. Have you designed a particularly pet-friendly space inside your house? How about a doghouse with midcentury modern style or a backyard
catio? Post your best photos in the Comments below. Your pet’s pad could be featured in an upcoming Houzz story.
 
In Costa Rica, Houzz user Shirley McKale built a barn for her three rabbits who needed a little shade and shelter from that Central American sun. With a door and two windows on either side, the barn has a lot of ventilation, and that tin roof reflects the sun, keeping the interior cool.Read more!
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10 Ways to Create a Dressing Area Large or Small

Consider these ideas for carving out space in a corner of your bedroom, bathroom or closet.

Have you ever watched a film or TV program and been struck with a serious case of room envy? While some people fall in lust with beautifully designed kitchens, living spaces or bedrooms seen on the small or silver screen, walk-in dressing areas are what set my heart aflutter. Carrie Bradshaw’s dressing room in the Sex and the City movies is a personal favorite.

If you dream of having a similar space, here are 10 ways you can work one into your home, regardless of the size of your budget or interior. While there are a few Carrie-worthy dressing rooms below that are large, a little extravagant and may cost a pretty penny to re-create at home, there are just as many ideas that are more affordable and space-efficient, and can be achieved with a few simple tweaks to your space.
 
 
 

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5 Ways to Pare Down Your Stuff — Before It Gets in the Door

 

Want to free up some room around the house? Rethink gift giving, give yourself a shopping mantra and just say, ‘No, thank you’ to freebies.

 
Can you nicely refuse unwanted things others might try to foist on you? What can you say when relatives do not see the gifts they have given you proudly displayed on the mantel? And how can you win the battle with your own mind as you try to shove yet another item from the Target decor section into your shopping cart? These five tips can help you navigate these sticky situations, leaving your home unburdened by things you don’t use — and your friendships intact. 
 

First Things First: How to Prioritize Home Projects

What to do when you’re contemplating home improvements after a move and you don't know where to begin

I recently received a desperate email from a friend. For a variety of reasons, school and work related, she and her husband and two little boys had been bumping around the globe for years. They had just moved back to the States and bought their first home. As excited as she was to be close to family and settled down, she was also exhausted from the move. In her email she wrote, “I am feeling crazy because I need to furnish a house and pick paints and it is all so overwhelming for me. I’ve been a nomad my entire adult life. Do you have advice?”

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to change continents with a family. But a big home project can feel like too much for anyone starting out or going through a big life change. Adding to the pressure, in this age of instant everything, it’s easy to think that you ought to have a perfectly appointed home within seconds of moving in. I think we’ve all seen the before-and-after articles in which a designer gives a house a makeover in less time than it takes most of us to buy a can of paint. If you are in my friend’s shoes, looking around your place worrying and wondering, this is what I recommend.
 
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How to Keep Your Stainless Steel Clean

Protect this popular kitchen material with a consistent but gentle cleaning routine

For the past few years, designers have debated whether or not stainless steel will continue to reign supreme in kitchens across America or lose its popularity to glossy black or white appliances boasting sleek, smooth finishes.

While the trendsetters debate, however, millions of us continue to choose to live with the commercially cool look and functionality of stainless steel. Whether you have a little or a lot of the shiny stuff, here’s what experts suggest we do about those fingerprints, and how to care for and clean one of the hardest-working surfaces in the house.

Set up a few systems now for an easy and organized routine when school starts.

 
Are you the parent of school-age children? If you are I would like to talk to you about the end of the school year. 

“What? Why? It’s August!” You may protest. 

Don’t I know it, but that’s exactly why I want to have this chat. You may not remember last May. You probably blocked it out, and I certainly don’t blame you, but let’s look back. Did you stagger through the gauntlet of spring concerts, parties, field trips and teacher appreciation week only to find yourself coughed up on the shores of June exhausted and twitching? With your last breath did you swear, “Next year we are going to be more organized”?
 
Well, I’m sorry to remind you, it is August, which means the drumbeat of back to school is growing ever louder. I know there are some of you who can’t wait to get back on a schedule and get everything organized, but for many of us, organizing anything is … Hey, put down that bottle! I’m here to help. We can do this.
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