With the recent outbreak of Covid-19 in the United State a record number of people are finding themselves working from home that never have before. If you are struggling with how to create a space to be productive and efficient in your home, here are my 3 quick tips for you:
Feeling restless, bored or fidgety at home while social distancing yourself from others? Whether you have kids, are looking after family members or are flying solo, you can use some of this new found time at home to get a little more organized (and maybe a little less focused on the world outside your door).
Now, I realize not everyone has the time or energy for this if they are working remotely, still reporting in to work or caring for and entertaining their loved ones, but if you are interested here are 5 ways to stay productive:
Start or finish your taxes- If you have been procrastinating, wouldn't it be nice to get that off your plate? If you file on time, the Federal government is allowing people an extra 90 days to pay any amounts due and states may follow suit.
Clean out the fridge – This is something everyone always puts off, but now is just as good a time as any to throw out the half used mint jelly from two years ago, switch out the baking soda container, and wipe down those sticky drawers.
Spring clean your closets a little early– Going through my seasonal clothes and “purging” the things I didn’t wear always gives me satisfaction, plus I like to put all of the nicer things together to donate to a local mission or homeless shelter. Kids can go through their playrooms or toy chests.
Organize the pantry – Just like your fridge, this is an often neglected area. So why not get a jump start? You can tackle just one shelf a day or empty out the whole thing and start fresh.
Sort through those papers - For many with a home office, there are probably stacks of papers around, or even unopened mail. Some to throw out, some to shred, some to file. Well, there's no time like the present!
The best way to reach successful results without getting overwhelmed is to set measurable goals and guidelines, especially if you have kids in the house. Don’t forget to:
Designate a time-frame so you don’t burn out: 30 minutes to an hour for small children, 1 to 2 hour for older children and adults.
Identify a specific task: e.g. pick out all of the canned items that are expired. You can even make it a contest for kids such as who can find the most, who can finish before the song ends, or whoever finishes their task first gets a prize.
Set a benchmark: everyone must pick out at least 3 pieces of clothing or toys to donate.
Make it fun: Especially if working with kids! Use colored sharpies, post-its, stickers, even glitter pens to mark items.
And remember, whatever you do is an accomplishment to be proud of!
In the last few months, the winds of change have blown and I got a carried away. But don't worry, they blew me in a wonderful direction! Many business meetings, networking events, coffees, and contracts later the demand for business operations and organization skills has grown exponentially. That being said, I thought it right to shift the business in a way that reflects the direction the wind is blowing.
After much debate, I am proud to announce that we are now myForte Consulting, dedicated to assisting home and small business owners achieve streamlined operations and organization. From your bookkeeping to your bookshelf helping you find balance and peace of mind isn't just my specialty, it's my forte!
Holiday decorating and spirit, for me, doesn’t start until December. It isn’t December 1st or anything specific like that, I just like to take some times to decompress from the Thanksgiving craziness, then start focusing on Christmas and the New Year.
This year I decorated on December 7th, because it was the first weekend following Thanksgiving holiday. I had already heard a number of Christmas songs on the radio, saw the decor in stores and commercials on television and felt the holiday spirit bubbling inside. Now I don’t go all out, but I do like to bring holiday joy inside and outside the house. So here are a few of my tips for creating the perfect holiday decorating experience in your home.
1. Pick a style and color combination to carry throughout your decorating. There are a number of styles you can choose from and they usually coincide with your home style or family traditions.
a. Classic– red and white
b. White Christmas – just as it sounds
c. Traditional – red and green, heavy ornamental and décor emphasis (I think of my Grandma’s Christmas tree)
d. Rustic – pine cones, mason jars, burlaps and plaid, natural elements
e. Glam – metallics, sequins, mirrored glass, with a few bright colors
f. Modern – unconventional colors and items: think white faux tree, hot pinks, and turquoise décor.
g. Vintage – antique items, Saint Nick décor, muted colors, heirloom items.
h. Coastal – blues and whites and seaside decor
i. Bohemian - lots of bells, tassels and beads
j. A combination of these or your own personal style
I would call my style a whimsical classic theme. It starts with my use of Santa Claus and nutcrackers figurines, there's an air of playfulness in my loves of snowglobes, but also includes romantic elements with multiple flameless candles and glass votives. I gravitate towards classic reds and metallic golds with a little green and white splashed in there. I prefer white lights outside my house with a mix of muted colored lights inside.
2. You can’t go too big or too small – maybe you’re a Griswald and want the brightest house in the neighborhood and your house to look like Santa's workshop. Go for it. New York City interior stylist Erin Swift, featured in Better Homes and Garden Magazine this month, uses the rule of 100 light per 1.5 feet of tree and 10 ornaments per foot. Her tree is overflowing with pezzaz. On the other hand, maybe you just like simple understated tree and a quaint wreath on the door. Or maybe you are somewhere in between. The holidays are about family, traditions, being thankful for what we have, giving back to others. Do what feels best for you, your family, and your fur family. And if that is sitting on the couch watching some football and ignoring decorating and music, well that is fine too.
3. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get in the holiday spirit – Sure if you want to get the mercury glass set of ornaments at Pier 1 or West Elm, do it! But you can also get steals at your local thrift stores and the dollar store. You can take the dog and kids for a nature walk and pick up evergreen pieces and pine cones to decorate the entry table, dining table or breakfast bar.
4. Play your favorite Holiday music! I was excited to decorate, but not exactly overjoyed to climb up on the roof and string my icicle lights myself. But you know what? I put on my favorite Michael Buble Pandora station, ate my breakfast and drank my latte, sang along to Santa Baby, rocked out to Trans Siberian Orchestra and was ready to roll. Music always makes everything better in my mind!
5. Last but not least - don’t take yourself too seriously. Here's is one of my two cats sitting under what he believes is his own safe space. I have come to terms with this annual tradition of his!
Local Rockville Maryland Realtor Mary Scroth included a brief Q&A with yours truly in her fall edition of “Hungerford Real Estate & More” newsletter. We had a wonderful discussion the importance of organizing, quick tips, and my thoughts on Marie Kondo! Check it out.
Can we be brutally honest with each other for a minute?
If you are a business owner, you should not be doing your own bookkeeping; hand writing or printing checks, paying the bills, downloading credit card transactions, reimbursing cash receipts and expenses, etc. In the last few months I have met and talked to a number of business owners in the same spot at you are in some variation of it. Owners of startups, growing business, even established ones too, who say that they do all or part of the finance management.
I don’t want to come off rude, that’s not my intent here, but this just shouldn’t be. I know it is hard to let go of the control of making sure that every cent is accounted for when the business is your baby; your idea that you created, cultivated, and put into motion. It’s like letting go of the handle bars on your child’s first bike ride. But you have to do it sooner or later, otherwise your baby will never grow and prosper.
In this world, time is money. And your time is worth a lot of money. I am willing to bet that your hourly wage is a lot more than paying a bookkeeper, so the argument that you don’t have enough money to pay a bookkeeper, that doesn’t really work here. For every working minute you are working on tasks that are not 1) part of your scope of work or 2) business development, you are wasting your time and money. What does that mean? Well, unfortunately that means that you are not only not making money, but you are also losing it.
Don’t believe me? Well without going into too much of a cost analysis, if you bill your services at $150 an hour and a bookkeeper charges anywhere from $55-$85 an hour, for every hour you personally spend on financial tasks, you are losing $65-$90 an hour that you could be making elsewhere. Just let that sink in for a minute.
So why not find someone you can trust and have faith in, who can take care of your finances and report all of the details to you? It doesn’t have to be me (although I would truly love to help you take these services off your plate and start putting more time into your business), but it should be someone capable and qualified, not uncle Bob or your neighbor. How about making that a 3rd or 4th quarter goal you can feel good about and let me know how it goes.
When speaking of the ideals of functionality, balance and peace of mind that I hope to offer clients, customers, friends and family it is hard to leave out some of my own personal habits.
According to crystal healing theories, Amethyst has the powers to help cure: physical ailments of the nervous system, emotional issues, insomnia and nightmares. Amethysts are also used in Chakra balancing therapy providing purifying, healing, and protective energies to help clear, open, and balance the Crown chakra.
So, what does this all mean for you and me and interior decor and style?
For myself, I have taken an interest in amethysts and have incorporated them into my home and lifestyle. Most days, I wear an amethyst pendant around my neck. I now have two and a pair of earrings. Sometimes I wear them more for style than for balance, but when I am feeling especially anxious, worried or having a bad day, I will wear my pendants to clean the negative energy away and keep my feeling balanced.
In my home, as well as my father's and mother's, I have placed small amethyst stones in the corners of the house an a large cluster on my office desk. The purpose of these stones are to provide protective energies throughout the home and stress relief from the work day. Additionally, because I sometimes have problems falling and staying asleep, there is a stone by my bed. I recently gave a friend a nice uncut stone to hang in his room to over him some healing energy from his mental and physical ailments as well. Can I prove these things work? No of course not. But does it hurt to try to add some balance, purifying energy, and peace to your daily life, not at all.
If you would like to learn more about how to use crystals in your home, browse around the internet, visit your local crystal shop, or check out your library. But be sure to read about how to energize and cleanse your crystals.
If you want to take advantage of the last of the spring and summer home sales, you'll want to follow these 6 quick and easy staging tips to get your home sold fast. Hopefully, you will have already organized, decluttered and updated a few things in your home in order to make it ready for the final touch - staging!
According to Zillow, Realtors name curb appeal the #1 factor in selling, so I have 3 tips to spruce up the outside of your home in minutes.
Do some landscaping, make sure your lawn in green and manicured, add some potted flowers to the front porch, cut any dead trees, touch up the wood chips or rocks.
Buy a brand new welcome mat and decorative door hanger
Power wash walkway, driveway, house and roof
The second group of tips is regarding in the inside of your home. The essence of staging is to allow homeowners to visualize themselves in your home. If you are staying in your home while it is on the market, as a majority of home owners do, it is imperative to reduce the clutter! (I know I sound a little like a broken record..)
Pack up anything out of season, not used recently or frequently and store it in the garage, storage unit or get a donation run together!
Neutralize your home - take down family/personal photos, and extreme color or design choices.
Make the house look clean and smell nice (Some best choices of candles are cupcake or cookie scents as they make families feel at home!)
See I told you that was quick and easy! If you aren't sure of how to do any of these, want some help executing these ideas, or want to know more of my suggestions, please reach out to me. I am happy to come out for an in-home consultation and provide my report of recommendations to get the maximum value for your home. Happy summer selling!
According to a recent NAR report, 95% of REALTORS recommend that sellers declutter their home before putting it on the market. So if you are trying to take advantage of the best time of year to sell or rent your home, preparing for visitors or just trying to achieved a lighter, stress free household, listen up!
In order to help clients, family, friends, and even myself organize and declutter, I follow a practical and methodical 4 step process that I want to share with you.
1. Declutter and organize by category, not by room.
More than likely you have similar things in different rooms. If you have small closets, you may have clothes or shoes in multiple places. The same goes for pots and pans, tupperware, bedding etc. So when you start with each group, search the entire house for those items in order to evaluate and make decisions based.
2. Ask yourself the following 3 questions when evaluating your belongings:
Does it serve a function?
Does it make me happy to own; give me enjoyment? Or does it make me stressed, annoyed, sad, angry?
Do I have a similar item and do I need both/multiple? (Think less is more!)
The easiest items to evaluate with these questions are clothes and furniture. I recently, finally, donated a shirt that I have had in my closet for 2 years and only wore once. I loved the way it looked on the rack. I loved the colors and pattern. The material was soft and light. But each time I took it out and put it on, it didn't seem to quite fit my body correctly and the colors washed me out, so I would put it back in my closet. Finally one day I said, "why do I even have this?!" Yes, I had spent money on this shirt, however that money is gone, I don't receive it back each time I wear the shirt. Now the shirt is no longer in my closet and I no longer give any thought to the fact that I wasted money or that it doesn't look right.
Sometimes the situation calls for multiple questions to be asked. Take a broken table for example: it no longer serves it's original function. If you are handy and fix things often, then physically schedule a day on the calendar to fix it. If you plan on getting to it some day, but for now it is one of many on a list of planned projects that you look at every weekend and think "jeez I'm just so busy, I never have time for my projects", get rid of it. It brings you more stress now than it does joy. So what is the point of keeping it?
I realize you might say, "what about mementos and keepsakes?" Keepsakes do serve a function, they do make you happy, but you can't let yourself get bogged down by them. Don't keep every greeting card you receive or every picture from the age of film camera rolls. Sort, make scrap books, decide on one category of item to save from trips or special events (ticket stubs for example), but be particular and mindful about your choices. In 10 years, will it still be important to you?
3. Have patience.
It can take months to fully declutter your life and change your way of thinking about your belongings, it will NOT happen over night. Yes you can clean out multiple rooms in a day, but in order to be successful in keeping yourself organized and decluttered, you have to be open and willing to practice these new tactics and change your way of thinking.
4. Ask for help!
If you are not sure that you can truly go through your belongings and evaluate them subjectively, you are not alone. If you don't know where to start, you are not alone. Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and especially professionals. I would be happy to help your start, get back on track, or complete your decluttering process. I am just an email or phone call away!
Bonus tip: Storage solutions can be your friend or your foe! They can truly help you organize yourself, or they can just be a device to hide the clutter (think junk drawer.) Be mindful of how you are utilizing them.
So after talking about mental health in our lives and the importance of having your own personal space, I thought it was also important to talk about our pets and how we can help them have a positive mental life. I know it sounds kind of super hippy and new age of me but give me a chance to explain.
Your pets' mental health is often a reflection of your own, and vice versa. It is well known that cats purring has healing powers (the frequency of their vocalization can improve bone density and promote overall healing1). Dogs on the other hand are incredibly smart and capable of being trained to give all sorts of assistance to the disabled, as well as give comfort in time of sorrow or sickness, reduce anxiety, depression, and blood pressure2. Multiple recent studies show that horses are able to sense a person's emotions, moods, and trust3 . So it's not a far leap to say that making sure your fur baby is comfortable and at peace in your home is important for the overall well-being of the family.
In the Home
Just like a humans, having a little special place for our animals is good for their mental health. We have a rescue scaredy cat so it is imperative that we have a safe space for her to hide when friends with dogs come over or we have a get together. I have always created this out of that first room I put them in when we move because it is the first sight and smell they connect with during the moving process in the new home and therefore stays ingrained as "their" room. The space has their water, food, cat tree, and their carry bags. Most days I often find them lounging in there, as seen below, left, my little Maggie sitting on her perch in the sun. For my mom, this space the mudroom where the dog beds and crates are. Also below is her pup Benji, happily sitting in his crate playing with toys and newspaper. Often, we find him napping there and taking a rest from playing.
The other thing that makes animals feel safe and secure is a routine. Just the same as it is important for small children. It is widely believed that animals can't tell time and don’t know how long you have been gone. But my cats, and friend's and family's pets, know patterns. They know when it feel like time for dinner, bed, treats, a walk, etc. For example my cats know that on the weekends or a holiday, basically anytime my boyfriend and I are both home sleeping late, that they will get a little bit of milk when we get up and make coffee. So on the weekends they anxiously wait for us to get up sometimes if we sleeping very late they start jumping on us and running to the kitchen. On normal weekdays, they abide by our routine of getting up and out to work and don't really beg for any milk. Similarly when we clip their nails or give them medicine, it is always followed by a treat. So while they don’t enjoy the activity, they often sit still knowing they will get a reward afterwards. And should we hesitate on the reward, oooh they let us know! My sister told me the other day that her older cat comes downstairs and starts meowing at them if they don't come up to bed by a certain time. So it's obvious that while they may not know the time, they definitely know something! Patterns and routine things train or condition them to understand cause and effect, action and reward, but it also gives them a sense of security of the known - Knowing they'll always get dinner around the time the sun goes down, or time you come home from work, etc.. Whatever the pattern, a routine increases their feeling of security and stability.
During transition Our pets are always intrigued with what we are doing. When you start piling your clothes on the bed to spring clean do your animals come to see what you're doing? When you are packing dont them come in and check out what's going on? Often sitting in or on your belongings and luggage? I would say this is 1) they just want to be in the same room as you, 2) they don't want you to leave, 2) as we discussed above, they can tell if something is going on with you mentally. So when you are moving or transitioning, seeing familiar items put into boxes and leave the house doubles intrigue with concern. And if you have a rescue pet that is prone to abandonment or separation anxiety, this can be very scary for him or her..
What I have learned from moving 5 times with my cats and helping friends with animals move is that you have to make the process as easy and carefree for them as possible. You have to conisder ift from their point of view - they can't ask where the boxes are going, why and more importantly if they are invited too. When you leave on vacation, they often don't get to come, so how should they know this is any different? They can only watch and hope.
The last time we moved was our most successfully planned and executed, because we had a new rescue kitten who does have some anxiety. Here are the things we leared and the tips we received from friends and family. (Note, these tips work if you are moving close by and completing the move in a day or two.)
Pack the small things you don’t use often first just as you would any move. These items are not important to you or the animals and may seem like a spring cleaning activity to them.
Find a room in the house that the animals are most comfortable with and that can be moved last. If it's not "their space" move some of their favorite items in and set it up for the animals a few days prior to your move so they get used to it - Ours had a litter box, cat tree, toys, a futon and a blanket they both like to cuddle on. We even gave them food in there the day before our move to get them adjusted.
Be sure to keep a few of their things out of this room. Ideally if you have a two day move, you can spend the night in the old house and a new room with toys and food set up at the new place for arrival.
On moving day, try to stay as close to your animals' normal routine - food, walks etc. Some friends give their animals help relaxing in the form or homeopathic "Rescue Remedy" or vet prescribed assistance.
Close them into "their" room.
Get everything loaded for the move.
If possible, go to the new home and unload items. Then go back to retrieve the furbabies and the last few things.
If that is not possible, load them last. Make sure they have a comfortable hiding spot in the smoothest riding vehicle. Provide them with their toys, water, favorite blanket/bed/crate, etc. I will never forget my cat hiding inside his litter box for the entire 7 hour drive to move from Connecticut to Maryland. To him, that was safe. My rescue cat hid inside the hole of the cat tree on our short move across two towns (see below).
Take them to the new place and set up their new room for them with the few things you brought. Maybe put a couch or blankets that they like in the new room with their food, water, and toys. Close them into this new room to learn the new smells while you set up the rest of the house. If possible have someone hang out with them – a child, friend, spouse – whom they know to reassure them and give them comfort during this confusing time.
When things are calmer and the majority of unpacking is done, the house has all the things they recognize unloaded, let them out to explore the new spaces.
If you have the ability to spread the move out, and/or are buying new furnishings this process is a little bit easier. As you can leave more at the old home for familiarity and can introduce the animals to the new home once everything is on its place. Instead of having them locked in one room. But the essential steps are the same.
Do you have any tips or tricks you have used when moving your pets? Do you follow a daily or weekly pattern for your animals? What kind of things do you do? Do you have a special place your animals are drawn to? A place they like best, where they can hide when the thunder rolls or many people come over? I would love to know your comments, thoughts, and ideas! And pictures are welcome on social media! I'll leave you with one of my favorite pictures, four of my mom's dogs, all lounging on the bed like it's theirs... well, it is.