5 Ways to Boost Your Curb Appeal for the Fall Selling Season

Sellers looking to get the best price know that curb appeal plays a huge role in making the sale, even in the fall when the leaves begin to fade. Here are five simple ways to make the most of what fall has to offer and boost your curb appeal.

Sellers looking to get the best price know that curb appeal plays a huge role in getting buyers through the door. Once the flowers fade and the temperature drops, however, it can be easy to overlook your outdoor space altogether. Here are five simple ways to make the most of what fall has to offer and give your home the edge it needs for a quick sale.

1. Improve Your Entry

With every potential buyer passing through your front door, your entryway is critical to a good first impression. Cleaning the door, sweeping the stoop, and ridding the area of dirt and cobwebs can be enough to improve the overall look of your home, but for maximum impact, lay a new doormat and replace or paint any rusted or corroded hardware, mailboxes, or light fixtures. If you’re feeling adventurous, painting your front door a different shade can be a great selling feature that can be done in an afternoon.

Traditional brick colonial dressed up for fall with colorful mums and harvest gourds

2. Let the Light Shine

While the outdoors is the natural habitat for all manner of insects, they don’t need to reside in your outdoor light fixtures. Dirty lights and windows will not only reduce your nighttime curb appeal but can also affect how much natural light makes it through to the inside of your home. A thorough cleaning of light fixtures and windows will boost the overall impression buyers have of your home and can affect their impression of the rest of the home. For added impact, place inexpensive solar lights along the border of any gardens or walkways to illuminate your yard at night.

3. Love Your Landscape

Given that landscaping can amount for up to 15 percent of a home’s value, keeping your yard in tip-top shape is more important in the fall than ever. Fall colors and cascading leaves may provide a romantic vision, but may leave a potential buyer focusing on how much raking they will have to do. When seasonal plants fade away, be sure to cut back the dead growth and ensure your yard is regularly raked. Even if your yard doesn’t require frequent mowing, be sure to edge walkways with a straight-edge for a clean-cut look, and add some quick color by placing pots of seasonal plants in gardens and on porches.

Raking fall leaves with rake

4. Whisk the Water Away

The fall tends to bring increased precipitation, which can be a deal-breaker for buyers if they feel water penetration will be a problem. To prevent pooling water, be sure the grading around the foundation slopes away from the house and use downspout extenders, if necessary, to move water out into the yard. Clean the gutters regularly, and take a good walk around your home after a heavy rain to identify any problem areas that may allow water into the house, like door and window caulking.

5. Don’t Overdo the Decor

Finally, while the bounty of fall can be used to enhance the beauty of your home, be wary of overdoing the decor. Too many Halloween decorations, for example, can easily detract from the beauty of your home. Try instead for colorful mums, gourds, and pumpkins in a variety of colors and sizes that can provide earthy variety without overdoing it.

Regardless of the weather, the fall is still a hot time to sell a home, and can be an incredible opportunity to make a lucrative sale. Keep in mind that most buyers will either view your home online or drive by before making a decision to visit, so a sharp curb appeal can help keep your home above the competition.

9 Must-Haves for Low-Maintenance Kitchen Cabinets

Save valuable elbow grease and time with these ideas for easy-to-maintain cabinets.

The heart of the home may also be the toughest room to keep clean. Every surface in your kitchen is susceptible to crumbs, dirt, stains and splatters. This is especially true of cabinets. Fortunately, there are practical ways to keep your cabinet maintenance on the lighter side. With ideas like choosing fewer decorative details and picking the right color, these nine tips will make your cabinets easier to maintain.

1. Choose a door style with minimal detail. Raised-panel door styles have nooks and crannies that are magnets for dust and dirt. Shaker-style and slab door fronts don’t, so you won’t have to spend time scrubbing every recess of your door fronts.

If you’re designing a traditional kitchen and want a more decorative door style, select a stain or paint that has a glaze. The glaze will fill the doors’ cracks and corners and better hide the dust and dirt that your cabinet doors will collect.

2. Opt for flush cabinet ends. You normally have two options for finishing the ends of your cabinets: flush ends or matching ends. Flush ends (above) are plywood ends that match the color of your cabinets. They are smooth and sleek, which means you can run a cloth over it with a few swipes. They can certainly speed up cleaning.

Matching ends feature a panel with the same style as the door fronts, and while they can bring elegance and character to your kitchen, you face the same maintenance issues with matching ends as you do with raised-panel doors. There’s simply more to scrub.

3. Cut the trimmings. Designer details like crown molding, corbels, decorative legs and light rail molding add more to love but also more to clean, especially ornate styles.

There are other designer touches you can use that require less maintenance. Try a colorful cabinet paint, eccentric lighting or colored bar stools, like in this modern kitchen.

4. Pick a stain instead of a paint. Stains and paints have pros and cons. They can both show crumbs and fingerprints, and paint definitely shows food stains and splatters.

That said, a stain is easier to touch up than paint. You can give a scratched cabinet stain a quick spruce-up with a matching permanent marker. It’s often harder with paint for two reasons. First, it’s hard to find a marker that closely matches a specific paint. Often a touch-up kit from the cabinet manufacturer is needed. Second, paint doesn’t take touch-ups the same way that stains do. You’re more likely to notice a touch-up on paint.

5. Go for a grain with a dark stain. If you’re set on a dark cabinet stain, select a wood species that features the grain, such as oak or hickory. Grains don’t show scratches, stains and crumbs as much as a clean wood species like maple does. It’s also harder to tell that a cabinet stain has been touched up when the surface has grains.

6. Invest in hardware. If you want fewer fingerprints and less wear and tear on your door fronts, purchase door pulls and knobs for all of your cabinets. They help preserve the integrity of your cabinets’ surfaces.

Steer clear of stainless steel and chrome hardware. They show fingerprints and water spots and are harder to clean. Oil-rubbed bronze, satin bronze, polished nickel, brushed nickel and white hardware are the cream of the crop as far as easy maintenance goes. Choose the look that best suits the style of your kitchen.

7. Avoid glass door fronts. They may be windows to your kitchen’s soul, but they’re also extra surfaces to clean. They manage to attract their fair share of dust, dirt and smudges. Dirt can build up easily on glass door fronts that feature mullions. You also have to keep whatever is behind those glass doors tidy.

One benefit to glass door fronts is how inviting they can make your kitchen space feel. Luckily, there’s more than one way to design a warm and welcoming kitchen. If you want a low-maintenance alternative to glass door fronts, stick with lighter cabinet stains like golden browns. They can make your guests feel just as cozy as glass door fronts do.

8. Reduce open shelving. Open shelving is a great canvas for displaying your favorite decor and cookware, whether it’s on a wall, on an island or at the end of cabinets. But it takes more time and effort to ensure that these spaces are dusted and organized. The upkeep can become overwhelming along with your daily tasks.

To shorten your to-do list, place your decor on necessary surfaces like dining tables and countertops instead of unnecessary cabinet shelves. You can also use pillows, chairs, bar stools and lighting as decorative touches.

9. Protect your sink cabinet from moisture. This is more of a preventative measure — it will help you avoid issues down the road. There are a couple of ways to help protect your sink cabinet from moisture. You can order the cabinet with an all-plywood construction (most semi-custom and prefabricated cabinets are constructed of a mixture of pressed wood and plywood). An all-plywood construction makes the cabinet less penetrable. You can also purchase a cabinet mat, which looks like a tray and is placed at the base of the sink cabinet. It will serve as a moisture barrier and catch any liquid leaks or spills.

Toss These 5 Things Before You Move For a Fresh New Start

While you’re packing, consider throwing out these household items and give yourself a fresh start in your new home.

Houzz Contributor, Aly Finkelstein

It’s a great feeling to walk into your new home and know you have a blank space to work with. But making sure your new home stays this fresh, clean and exciting is much harder. Here are five things to consider throwing away before your next move.

1. Old trash cans. Old and used garbage cans and bins can be dirty and in bad shape. And nothing says “yucky” like an old trash can that you’ve used for years.

If your family is anything like mine, you have gum, stains and sticky spots on even the cleanest of indoor and outdoor trash cans. Do yourself a favor and throw out the old bins before you move to your new home. You can buy new trash cans that match, fit the space and are clean. This rule may also apply to recycling bins you have around the house.

If buying all new cans isn’t in your budget, definitely clean your cans before packing them into your moving truck or car. Fill the inside of the can with dish soap and warm water and let it soak. Then scrub. The soak will make scrubbing easier.

2. Toys. Moving is the best time to clean out the things you haven’t used and the things that won’t serve you in your new space. Toys are a major clutter culprit, and often many of them just aren’t being used anymore. My motto: Keep the favorites and toss the rest. Once you’re in your new space, you can buy a special new toy to celebrate the move.

Pro tip: If you feel too guilty about getting rid of your child’s toy, pack up the ones you think your child may miss and leave them in a separate box in the garage. If they don’t ask for them after a certain amount of time, get rid of them.

3. Old paint. Every client I work with has gallons of old paint. Chances are the colors match your old house but not your new one, so this is a great time to clean out all the old cans.

Before disposing of paint, check your town’s rules on recycling or disposing of it.

Pro tip: If you loved some of those colors, add them to a spreadsheet on your computer. Make sure you list the room a paint was used in, for future reference. Make sure to update the spreadsheet as you repaint in your new house too.

4. Paper. As long as you’ve rectified your statements, paid your bills and set aside important documents and receipts, you don’t need to keep all the paper that’s weighing you down. File the things you need to keep, such as tax documents, health insurance paperwork and property records, and get rid of the rest.

I keep three files on my desk at all times: bills to be paid, business receipts to keep and paid bills. Once I see online that the paid bills have been registered as paid, I throw the paper versions out. This keeps the files small and manageable year-round.

Pro tip: In the weeks before you move, carve out five to 10 minutes a week to tackle the paper piles you have around the house. Almost all of the items in these piles can be thrown away if you take the time to go through them.

Read more about which papers to toss and which to keep

5. Storage containers. Do yourself a favor and get fresh storage containers for your new home! The container drawer is often a major source of clutter and frustration for my clients. Your new home will feel even newer with a full set of matching storage containers.

I store my containers with the lids on so they don’t get separated. If for some reason the lid does go missing, I repurpose the bottom or get rid of it. I’m loving glass containers these days because I can microwave, store and eat from them. They can do it all and then go back into the drawer with their matching lids.

Pro tip: Buy storage containers based on your family’s needs. For example, if you cook often and send friends and family home with leftovers, buy inexpensive, disposable containers. If you use your containers weekly for whole meals, buy larger sizes.

How to Live Big in a Dorm Room

Transform any dorm room into a bright, organized, spacious home away from home.

Guest Post by NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm

Sending your baby off to college this month? I am sure your home is full of dorm room boxes and you are full of emotions! One way to ease your worry is to ensure your college student is living comfortably. Let’s face it; traditional dorm living is often bland, overcrowded, messy and cramped. That’s an idea we can simply throw out now!

The “less is more” rule is especially true when you are living in a dorm room.  With the latest creative approach to making small spaces more livable, we can transform any dorm room into a bright, organized, spacious home away from home.

Here are some bright ideas on how to make your dorm room big livin’:

Raise It

If you have watched any of the tiny house TV shows, you know that they find storage in every corner of the space to make the most of the space. The same goes for a dorm room. Purchase bed risers to add more storage space. A lofted bed will give you more space for your shoe collection, storage containers, study desk and more.

Functional Accessories

Most dorm rooms come with the basics such as a desk and dresser. Enhance the space by adding in functional furniture and accessories such as funky storage ottomans, a bench or couch with storage inside and over-the-door organizers. These stylish accents will help keep your dorm room feeling open and relaxed, all without cramping your space or style.

Strategic Décor

With that right décor you can make a space feel bigger. Here are strategies that will open up your dorm room while showing off who you are:

  • Walls: Wall decals are the latest home décor rage, from formal homes to tiny homes. They are beautiful and meet any dorm rules about placing nails in walls, etc. Shop online or in stores for the removable wall decals that speak to you. Another way to add cheer is by draping lights and calming fabric on the walls, softening concrete walls.
  • Mirrors: Hang interestingmirrors around the room. The views and reflected light from the mirrors will make the room feel bigger. Select big and small mirrors with interesting frames to add dimension to the room.
  • Color: Brighten a dark dorm room by using bright colors, but be sure to stick with one color scheme. Too many colors can close in the space. Check in with your new roomie(s) to see what they are planning so you can coordinate. For example, if you both love blue, make sure you choose blues or patterns that coordinate.
  • One POP Item: Choose one “pop” item that really makes it your home and wows guests. For instance, a chandelier, faux fur rug or throw, elaborate throw pillows, etc. Your room will pop with that over the top piece!

Become a Pro Organizer

While you may not be majoring in the art of organization, it is time to study up on professional organization. An organized dorm room is a bigger dorm room. Here are some tips from the pros:

  • Clothing: Lay folded clothes (t-shirts, sweaters, etc.) inside your drawers vertically on their side (not stacked on top of each other). You can purchase wooden or plastic planks to use as dividers. This way you can fit more of your clothes and see them all at once when you open the drawer. Organize your closet and drawers by color, light to dark so you can always grab just what you want when you want it.
  • Laundry: Keep your laundry basket on the floor of your closet if there is room. This will leave more free space in your dorm room.
  • Books: Arrange your textbooks by size and stand them up on a shelf. That way they will take up less room on your desk.
  • Storage Containers: Clear storage boxes can be a lifesaver in a small space and they come in cool colored tints. Use those boxes for school supplies, files, seasonal clothes, phone chargers, electronics, etc. The more stuff you have stashed away the bigger your space will feel.
  • The Big Stuff: If you have skis, snowboard, surfboard or other big items consider getting a storage unit close to the campus. Split it with your roomie!

Now sit back and enjoy your huge dorm room — big space, big character. Oh wait, now you need to hit the books and one more step…. Take photos on your phone of how it all turned out so you can refer to the images if you slip up on the organization and get it back in shape in no time! While you are at it, why not brag a bit and post them for all your friends to admire!

How Home Tech Can Improve Your Neighborhood

See how new technology could help you interact with the people who live next door.

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Houzz Contributor, Kayla Matthews

The web has connected people around the globe, yet it’s also played a role in disconnecting people from those living right next door. There is a growing trend of separation, with one-third of Americans saying they’ve never interacted with their neighbors. Technology could shift these trends, though, by bringing back the tradition of befriending and trusting your neighbor.

What is the Echo Show?

The Echo Show is a variation of Amazon’s Echo device. Echo is a smart, voice-enabled wireless speaker that features a personal assistant named Alexa. Users can ask Alexa questions about the weather, events or any other topic. Alexa also works by setting alarms and reminders, as well as providing a slew of other services.

Echo Show adds to Echo’s initial offerings by including an LCD screen and front-facing camera. Its design mimics the countertop TV sets that are still found in some kitchens, which hints at Amazon’s intended goal for the product.

One of Show’s unique features is Drop In. This feature lets people chat and visit with one another instantly whenever they want to. Only those approved, however, can drop in. If you’re unavailable, friends can leave a voice message for you to listen to later. You can also chat without using the front camera.

 

How the Echo Show Could Change Communication

Amazon’s promotion of the Echo Show and even the naming of Drop In indicates the company’s intention to re-create the openness among neighbors and families that marked the childhoods of baby boomers.

Staying connected through technology isn’t a new concept. Just consider phones. Now friends and families across the country, and even the world, use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch. Information on social media, however, can be inaccuate.

A study in the United Kingdom found 75 percent of polled users lied on their social media profiles, with only 18 percent considering their profiles to be an accurate representation of themselves. In a separate study commissioned by smartphone maker HTC, two-thirds of users admitted to posting pictures that made them appear more adventurous or outgoing to their social media family.

Because Echo Show doesn’t go through the filter of social media but instead provides a real-time view of your kitchen (or wherever you place your device), it lets your family or friends see you in your everyday life, without hashtags or filters. It’s you — cleaning the counter, putting away groceries or preparing dinner while having a conversation.

 

How the Echo Show Could Bring Neighbors Together

The Echo Show could bring neighbors together because it makes hands-free video communication so easy.

Children play a significant role in Echo Show’s potential. They go to school and ride the bus with other kids from the neighborhood, forming friendships that continue even after school.

The idea is that elementary or middle school-age kids will want to talk to their friends after school. Echo Show provides that option, but in a family gathering space that inevitably leads to communication between neighborhood parents.

Conversations then extend outside of Echo Show and to school events, play dates and get-togethers.

It’s a gradual progress, but one that could bring significant change to neighborhoods across the U.S. as people build friendships with those who live right next door.

While online relationships can be meaningful, relationships with your neighbors have been proven to offer health benefits.

Research has shown that when you’re connected with your neighbors, you reduce your chance of a heart attack. You also have an improved sense of well-being when you trust your neighbors — similar to the trust you have for someone who “drops in.”

Whether the Echo Show will impact neighborhood relationships is yet to be seen, but it does have the potential to change neighborhoods and foster a certain closeness that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s. That seems to be one of Amazon’s goals.

Other Tech to Keep You Friendly With Your Neighbors:

  • Nextdoor is a website that works like a private social network just for your neighborhood. Neighbors use it to do everything from alerting others about a break-in to finding lost pets.
  • With less focus on messaging and video chatting, Meetup is a great service for finding people near you who share your hobbies and interests. It’s a good way to find out about book clubs, hiking groups and pretty much anything else you can imagine. What better way to make new neighbor friends than by enjoying your hobbies together?

Your turn: Would you let your neighbors and family “drop in” on you with the Echo Show?

How to Use Smart Home to Build Your Advantage

Learn how staying sharp on smart home can help you build your brand

When 79% of agents say that buyers are interested in smart home tech and 54% of sellers say they would install it to make their home sell faster – you know that smart home is a trend worth understanding.

Being able to recognize smart home tech in a listing and guiding a buyer on how it can change the way they live in their home sets you apart. Smart home tech is no longer just a high-end upgrade. It’s now a must-have in markets as diverse as Boston and Des Moines.

“If a buyer under 35 walks into a home without a smart thermostat they’re walking out,” says Jim Hibbs, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group in Des Moises, Iowa.  “If a home doesn’t have smart upgrades you’re really limiting the prospective buyer pool. Smart Home tech also makes the whole home feel updated.”

The data supports this. Last year 71% of Americans said they wanted a move-in ready home and nearly half of that group said a property needed smart home tech to be considered move-in ready.

As consumer demand for smart home tech has soared so has the number of companies claiming to offer the best products and services. Wading through all of the info can be daunting. So we’ve compiled some resources to help you stay up-to-date.

Stay in the Smart Home Know

The Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog tracks all things related to smart home and real estate. It has a full library of videos and short articles with tips, data and advice from our network on how to use smart home to market yourself and your listings. CNET is another excellent source for smart home information. They’re famous for their in-depth and honest product reviews, their best of lists are a great quick resource for product recommendations.

Help Your Clients “Smart Stage” Their Homes

Another way to use smart home to your advantage is the smart home staging kit. The kit provides home sellers with an easy way to “smart stage” (upgrading a home with smart home tech) before putting it on the market. The kit provides you with a marketing edge. Preliminary data shows that homes designated and marked as a “smart home” on coldwellbanker.com are receiving two times more conversions than the site average.

“Putting in smart home tech helps a property stand-out against the competition,” says Ricardo Rodriguez, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boston, Massachusetts.  “Smart Home gives a listing an edge and can allow you to position it at a more advantageous price point.”

The smart home staging kit includes smart home tech from the most popular product categories: temperature, lighting, security, safety and voice control. The products all work together wirelessly and can be controlled by voice through the Echo Dot. As an added plus installing these products means that the home meets the Coldwell Banker / CNET Smart Home Definition.

Not only does installing these products give a home a marketing edge it also has lasting lifestyle benefits for the new buyer. The Nest Learning Thermostats helps self-regulate a home’s temperature and has long-term energy saving and money benefits for the owner. The August Smart Lock allows you to lock or unlock your home via your smart phone from anywhere in the world all while monitoring who is coming and going through your Nest Security Camera. And installing Lutron Caséta means never coming home to a dark home!

Coldwell Banker agents and their clients have a further edge when it comes to smart staging. The Smart Home Staging kit can be purchased at a discount by going here. Please note a CB Exchange Log-In is required to view this page and receive your discount.

Get Smart Home Certified

Coldwell Banker is the only real estate brand with an official smart home curriculum and certification. The self-paced course is available to all Coldwell Banker agents; upon completion your agent profile is automatically updated with a smart home icon showcasing your expertise to potential buyers and sellers.

Pare Down and Declutter By Knowing How Much Stuff Is Enough

Play the numbers game to streamline your belongings, for a neater home and a less-stressed you.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

So you want to pare down your belongings. But how much, exactly, do you get rid of? And how can you prevent stuff from simply piling up all over again? Part of the solution to a lasting clutter-free existence may lie in numbers. As in, the number of pairs of shoes, towels, place settings and so on that you decide to keep in the house. By deciding how many items in each category of stuff you really need, those numbers become a sort of fail-safe, preventing your home from free-falling into its formerly cluttered state. Check out these ideas on how to get started, then share your own numbers in the Comments.

The “sometimes” dilemma: What to do if you use something but only occasionally? Fancy china and highly specialized cookware come immediately to mind. If you really do love to have these things when the occasion calls for it, and you have storage space for them, by all means keep them. Just be intentional about what and how much you are keeping, and know why. Try to avoid keeping large sets of anything purely out of guilt — if you’ve inherited something you don’t want, see if someone else in the family wants it, sell it or donate it to charity.

More tips on what to do with sentimental pieces

How much to keep? Set a space limit. One way to keep rarely used items in check is to limit the amount of storage space you afford them. Instead of allowing your entertaining arsenal to multiply indefinitely over time, taking over not only cupboards but basement shelves and the attic too, decide on one space to store these items in and stick with it. For instance, keep all china in one nice china hutch — if you acquire more down the road, give away or sell something to free up space.

The Rule of Three: One in the wash, one in the cupboard, one in use. You may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating because it really works. It can be difficult to come up with what seems to be a rather arbitrary number of items to keep, but sticking with one for the shelf, one to use and one to wash keeps things simple. I follow this rule for sheets (per bed) and towels (per person).

What about guests? Unless you are running a boarding house, two sets of sheets for each guest bed and two sets of towels per guest are plenty.

The seasonal exception: Even minimalists may want to keep extra stuff on hand to rotate in depending on the season — and that’s whether or not there are chilly winters.

It can be a nice change of pace to bring out thicker blankets in warmer hues for the winter and light, airy linens in summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should double the number of sets you have, if some sets work well year-round. For instance, you could decide to keep one set of sateen sheets for year-round use, two sets of flannels for winter and two cool, crisp sets for summer.

Special case: Clothes. Clothes and shoes may be the most personal (and difficult) category of stuff to put limits on. That said, even those with intense attachments to their wardrobes can find it worthwhile to do a proper inventory.

After figuring out that you actually have 100 pairs of shoes or 20 nearly identical black tops, you may decide to bring that number down … or you may not, but at least you will be informed.

Special case: Kids’ stuff. When a child’s room is overflowing with stuff, it’s hard to focus on any one thing, and pretty soon all of those lovingly chosen toys become just part of the mess. Setting space constraints is a smart way to handle this situation. Dedicate certain shelves, plus perhaps a toy closet (for toys not currently being used in the rotation) for your child’s belongings, and keep it at that. When a bin or shelf begins to overflow, or you notice that stuff is piling up on the floor (because it has nowhere else to go), take that as a cue to give something away.

The everyday stuff: Count it out. Do you know how many basic plates, bowls, cups and wineglasses you own? If you’re not sure, go count them — you may be surprised at just how many pieces of “everyday” tableware you have. Of course it’s nice to have enough of everything that the whole household can eat a meal or two and not worry about getting everything washed and dried, and you’ll want extras on hand for bigger casual dinners with family and friends if you host that sort of thing, but you won’t likely need more than that.

Not everyone wants to stick with one set of white dishes (although for simplicity’s sake, that’s surely an easy way to go). But you can still set a limit at a certain number of sets. If you go over your number, it’s time to start culling.

Special case: Tupperware. What is it about plastic containers that makes them seem to multiply when you’re not looking (but hardly ever with a matching lid)? Start by removing any lids that don’t have mates, then count what you have left. Most of us probably have too many food storage containers — really, how many leftovers are you likely to wrap up at any given time? Three? Four?

Special case: Your passions. Book lovers, athletes, outdoorsy types, musicians, crafters … you know who you are. And more important, you know how easy it is to collect more and more stuff to support your passion.

Being aware of exactly what you already own is a good first step toward reining in your collections — perhaps your yarn stash is in such disarray, you end up buying yarn you already have.

But it’s also a good idea to start paying attention to what you actually use. If you treasure your books, notice which ones you actually pick up from time to time — I realized a while ago that I rarely pick up novels after I’ve read them, so I decided to let go of most books in that category.

Pain-free ways to declutter your library

Just because you have the room to store it doesn’t mean you should. Extra space is deceptive. If you are blessed with large closets and ample storage space, you may be thinking you’re off the hook — but the truth is, everyone can benefit from paring down a little. Having fewer belongings means less time spent cleaning, moving and mending them; less time looking for things; and generally less to worry about. And if you ever need to downsize in the future, the process will be far less gut wrenching if you have already chosen to live with less stuff.

Set your own rules. The point of this ideabook is to help you gain awareness of what kind of and how much stuff you need, so you can tailor your stuff to fit your life. And no one else can really do that for you. It may take a while to figure out exactly the right amount of stuff for you, but once you do, it’s bound to make your life a little easier.

Tell us: What are your numbers? How many sets of sheets, dishes or pairs of shoes are enough for you?

Dressing Up My Door: Adding Privacy to Doorways

Want to let sunlight into your home while keeping prying eyes out? Here are a few of our favorite options!

The benefits of allowing natural sunlight to flood into a home are manifold. An air of expansiveness, livability and distinction characterizes an exceptionally well-lit home. It’s no wonder, then, that the installation of French doors, sliding patio doors and door sidelights are among the most popular home improvement projects.

While many homeowners may desire the enhanced interior aesthetic that comes from these glass-paned solutions, they prefer to have them without compromising on privacy. There are many options for blinds and shades that let sunlight in and keep prying eyes out without compromising the look of newly installed windows and doors. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Vertical Blinds and Sliding Panels – Vertical blinds pair beautifully with sliding glass doors in both form and function, with their long, elegant drape and a myriad of available styles. Because they slide on a horizontal axis, they allow for easy opening and closing. The slats can be tilted at any angle you choose, so you have total control over how much light can filter in or change the direction of light while deflecting the wayward gaze of passersby. Vertical blinds also have sheer options, which filter some amount of light even when closed, and they provide a modern aesthetic.

Sliding panels are similar to vertical blinds, but they’re made of wider pieces of material and offer a more updated look. They also provide more options for opening – from either side or from the center. Available in a variety of materials and colors, they can complement any room’s décor.

2. Shades – Shades are a good option for doors that open in and out, like French doors. Unlike the many-slatted design of most blinds, shades are composed of solid pieces of fabric which offer full coverage for privacy. With options ranging from cellular to Roman, shades can be made from a wider variety of materials that match the look of your door, and may even feature some degree of translucence to allow a warm glow to permeate your interior even when they’re closed. Motorized options can be programmed to retract or extend per the time of day, giving you a turnkey window treatment solution that enhances the style of your doors.

3. Shutters – These window treatments are an excellent option for windows around doorways. Plantation shutters work particularly well as adornments for door sidelights.
Mounted into the window frame, shutters stay tightly attached from top to bottom so they won’t sway when the door opens and closes. Simply adjust the slats to control the light entering the home. Available in wood and faux-wood, the aesthetic of your shutters can be tailored to complement the look of your home. When closed, shutters form a barricading façade that guarantees your privacy from nosy neighbors and would-be intruders alike. With the proper angling of your shutters, however, you can still maintain that same privacy while letting natural light in.

4. Smart Glazing – For a thoroughly modern solution, consider smart glazing window treatments as an alternative to traditional frosted glass. Crystals inside of these high-tech panes respond to electrical currents to change your glazing from clear to opaque and anything in between, completely on demand. The best part? Your smart system can be programmed to change dynamically with the time of day, allowing you to adopt a “set it and forget it” philosophy to the privacy and aesthetics of your doors and windows.

The beautiful doors and doorways in your home can welcome visitors as well as natural light, while still allowing for privacy and security. Maintain their character with a customized window treatment that matches the style and function of your home.


Katie Laird is the Director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com and a passionate home decorator for her family with a love of all things Mid-Century Modern and blue. If you are looking for more information about window blinds or other options to help add privacy to your home, visit the Blinds.com website.

Does Your Living Room Feel Unfinished? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions

Your answers can offer clues to get from not-yet-done to perfectly designed.

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Houzz Contributor, Karen Mills

Have you ever felt like your living room looks incomplete but you haven’t been sure what to do about it? Being your own decorator can be difficult — you get used to your own furniture, and it can be challenging to think of new approaches to a space you’ve been living in for some time. If that’s the situation for you, ask yourself these six questions to jump start a new perspective and take your living room from not-quite-right to beautifully decorated.

1. Do you have a focal point? Many features in a room can be its focal point, including a fireplace, built-in shelves or even a grouping like a chest with a lamp and art overhead. If a focal point doesn’t seem to exist in your living room, think about where your eye goes naturally when entering the room and create a point of interest there with furnishings, such as a sofa table and lamp or maybe a curio cabinet with decorative items. To emphasize your focal point, add finishes or decor that will make it stand out: an accent wall can draw the eye, as can bold artwork, contrasting decor or a stunning piece of furniture.

In this photo, a wide doorway frames the focal point beyond: the sofa and art. The white sofa, light walls and rug create a bold contrast against the eye-catching red pillows and dark tables. The large artwork pulls together the different colors in the room.

In this room, the built-in shelving is the obvious focal point, thanks in large part to its fetching blue paint. The large framed art and contrasting shelf decor further draw the eye to this part of the room. It’s just as important that the sofa, end table, coffee table, gray chair and pillows provide a neutral foreground that doesn’t compete with the shelving.

Keep in mind that not every element of your room has to be special or colorful or unique — keeping some pieces simple allows the items you want to showcase to really stand out.

2. Do you have a cozy seating arrangement that enhances your focal point? Of course a wide range of options exist on furniture placement, but by placing your sofa or love seat facing your focal point with chairs laced in to create an intimate grouping, you naturally draw attention toward that focal point, whether a fireplace, artwork or view beyond. If pointing your sofa toward the focal point isn’t an option or doesn’t look quite right, try flanking your focal point with the furniture grouping instead to enhance it like in this photo.

Here, the bold green chair and colorful decor on the mantel give emphasis to the fireplace, while the yellow pillow and flowers add a cheerful pop of color.

This photo provides a great example of a U-shaped seating arrangement that enhances the fireplace focal point, providing an enticing place to sit. The striated horizontal tile and lit shelving flanking the fireplace call further attention to that wall.

3. Do you have stylish side and coffee tables? Not only are tables practical for holding lamps, drinks and decor like trays, books or flowers, but also they can make a design statement.

These quirky stacked tables are a great example of how to have an impact when mixed with simple furnishings. If you have upholstery that looks heavy — skirted, thick legs or no legs showing — try offsetting them with tables that show more leg for a lighter, balanced feel (and vice versa). In this photo, a gallery-style wall of art adds a personal touch and vibrant color to the room, as do the pillows and plants.

4. Do you have an ample-size rug that augments your design? Rugs not only help delineate spaces in open floor plans but also ground a furniture grouping, or help define it as a contained space. When selecting a rug, ensure that it supports your room’s style and that it is large enough to tuck fully under your seating area. If not, then place front furniture legs on top of the rug, as in this photo, to create a connection between the rug and the furnishings.

5. Have you added window treatments? Window coverings can range from draperies, as shown in this photo, to window toppers and hard treatments like shades, blinds or shutters. Window treatments need to be beautiful as well as functional, providing privacy, darkening, sun protection and insulation from outside elements when needed.

In this photo, the draperies add height to the room and reinforce the color palette, making the room feel more finished.

6. Does your room showcase your style and color preferences? As much as neutral schemes can be calming and beautiful, accent colors and stylish furnishings can bring a room to life. In this photo, bright orange and golden yellow pillows warm up the gray sectional along with the orange and yellow accents on the shelving beyond.

Wall shelves and a coffee table reveal an affinity for clean-lined furniture in light woods, while the rug and gold pillow fabric at the far end of the sofa demonstrate a fondness for graphic patterns.

Five Overlooked Ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale

How to get your home ready for sale in 5 easy steps.

Congratulations! You’ve decided to list your home on the market. You know it’s a well-cared-for house and you feel confident you’ll be able to sell it for asking price.

Well, maybe “confident” isn’t the right word. You hope you’ll be able to get your asking price, but you wouldn’t mind having an extra push to help put the odds in your favor. You know, just a tiny boost to help you sleep more peacefully at night.

Your home deserves to be shown in the best possible light. Fortunately, there are small steps you can take to facilitate this – tiny improvements which don’t require much time or money.

Here are five often-overlooked ways you can prepare your home for sale.

1. Repaint the Trim

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars meticulously painting every room of your house.

Instead, for a tiny investment, brighten the trim. We’re referring to baseboards, crown molding, and trim around doorways and windows. Focus on the interior of your house first. If you have the time and resources, paint the exterior trim as well.

Adding a new layer of paint to the trim can bring instant life back into your home, making the space feel fresher and cleaner.

Speaking of which …

2. Hire a Professional House Cleaner

Unless you’re excellent at deep cleaning, you should seriously consider investing a few hundred dollars in hiring a professional house cleaner.

They can undertake a thorough top-to-bottom scrub down, which includes cleaning the grout, polishing the faucets, wiping down the ceiling fan blades, and dislodging every crumb out of that irritating gap between your stove and countertop.

An ultra-clean house makes a huge difference in the eyes of a buyer. It can lead to the “wow” factor that may help put your home sale over the top.

3. Steam Clean the Carpets

Vacuuming the carpets is a good start, but when was the last time you had the carpets in your home professionally steamed-cleaned?

This type of cleaning can lift the smallest stains and imperfections out of your carpets. Your carpets will look as new as possible, at a substantially cheaper price than the cost of a replacement.

You can rent a carpet cleaner from a hardware store if you want to take the DIY route. However, you may get better results by hiring a professional company to take care of this on your behalf. Read online reviews about companies in your area or ask your real estate agent for recommendations.

4. Clear the Clutter

You may have a memory associated with every item in your living room – that old Coca-Cola glass bottle, a baseball cap from your hometown team – but a prospective buyer will view this as clutter.

Clutter overwhelms a space, distracting from your home’s more beautiful elements. Many people won’t notice the high ceilings or large windows if their attention is refocused on a pile of old magazines, heaps of unopened mail, and random wires, cables, tools, board games and DVDs scattered about everywhere.

Clutter also makes a space feel smaller. Your walk-in closet might be amply sized, but if it’s overstuffed with old clothes, jackets, boxes, suitcases and bags, your prospective buyers will think the closet space is insufficient. It doesn’t matter that the closet is actually bigger than the buyer’s first apartment; all they’ll see is the mess. You don’t want to showcase an empty closet – this looks uninviting – but you don’t want one that’s bursting at the seams, either.

Before you open your home for any showings, dedicate a weekend to clearing clutter from your home. Donate unused or unwanted items to a thrift store, or sell your old wares on eBay or Craigslist. If there’s inadequate space in your home for items you truly want or need, rent a storage unit.

5. Stage the Home

Professional investors often hire ‘staging companies’ to fill a home with furniture in order to showcase its potential.

If you’re still living in your current home, you’re already one step ahead of the game: your space is already furnished. Now you just need to up the ante by a notch, so that your home looks magazine-worthy.

Place a bouquet of fresh flowers on the coffee table. Position matching rolled towels next to the bathtub with a tiny decorative bar of soap placed on top. Arrange the bedspread so that the pillows create a ‘wow’ factor when buyers first enter the room.

Pay attention to fragrances within your home, as well. Light a scented candle (with a neutral aroma, like vanilla) in the bathroom or bedroom. Bake cookies just before a showing, so the smell lingers in the kitchen. Conversely, avoid cooking bacon just before a showing.

Open every window blind and curtain, to maximize the natural light that pours through. Keep the lights on in every room during open houses, so that every space appears bright and inviting.

Taking just a little bit of time to spruce up your home may result in better, faster and higher offers. You want potential buyers to fall in love at first sight. A cleaner, brighter look goes a long way toward helping you close the deal and walk away satisfied.