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Decluttering 101

by Desi Sowers

Having a cluttered house makes life more challenging than it has to be.  The emotional toll of clutter can be surprisingly draining.  Take these steps to declutter your house and before you know it you will start to experience the positive effects of a clutter-free life!

  1. Stop the flow of stuff coming in. Some people have a rule that if you buy something, you must get rid of something. That is all fine and well if your house isn’t already cluttered.  But, if you have too much stuff you are going to need to get rid of things and NOT replace them with other things.
     
  2. Declutter at least one item a day. You don’t have to do it all at once.  You likely feel overwhelmed by the thought of trying to declutter.  Take it one small step at a time.  Some days you might get a lot accomplished, others you may not. But try to declutter at least one item a day. 
     
  3. Declutter the easy stuff first.  If there are things that you know are going to be difficult to part with, don’t start with them.  Start with the easiest things.  Ease your way into the process. 
     
  4. Have a disposal plan in place. Do your research. Find out where you can donate or sell items.  After all, your trash might be someone else’s treasure. Websites like Freecycle and Ebay, as well as local thrift stores, are good disposal options.
     
  5. Decide not to keep things out of guilt or obligation. If you love it, keep it. If you use it, keep it.  But if it is meaningless to you and simply taking up space, get rid of it!
     
  6. Don’t be afraid to let go.  If you are hanging on to something because you might use it someday, don’t.  Be realistic.  If you haven’t used it in years, chances are you will never use it.  Let. It. Go.
     
  7. Only declutter what is yours.  All family members should participate and go through their own belongings to decide what to keep and what to dispose of.
     
  8. Do not waste your life on clutter! Clutter drains your energy.  It’s a physical manifestation of chaos that can often make you feel like you are not in control.  Take that first step and start enjoying life without clutter!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Autumn-Home-Maintenance-Must-Do-List

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Lunch-Logistics-Organizing-Your-Kitchen-for-Back-to-School-Lunches

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Packing-it-Up-and-Moving-it-Out

Majestic Fall Flowers

by Desi Sowers

If you’re lucky enough to live near the mountains in VA, you know that fall foliage provides a natural, extraordinary backdrop of color during the autumn months.  But if you would like to add some of the glorious autumn colors to your home’s landscaping, now is the time to start planning and planting.  Whether you are partial to yellows and golds, burnt oranges and rusts, or deep reds and burgundies (or if you like to mix it up with a variety of hues), there is something for everyone when it comes to fall flowers.  Here are some favorites:

Chrysanthemums -  These popular flowers come in a variety of sizes. With seasonal, festive shades of yellow, red and orange they provide a perfect backdrop for all your outdoor fall décor.  Learn how to plant and grow chrysanthemums here.

Pansies - Found in just about every shade of the rainbow, these versatile flowers create a majestic ground cover and look equally amazing in hanging baskets.  If planted in fall, pansies can last up to eight months, so you definitely get your money’s worth of beauty with these hardy plants!

Celosia - These lovelies are durable and easy to care for.  They provide bright yellow, warm orange, crimson red, and rich burgundy accents to your container gardens.  You can also add celosia to your landscape beds and borders.  Their flame-like plumes add a whimsical look to any fall garden.

Croton - An ideal plant for autumn, this plant has brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow and purple.  It works as a houseplant in cold-weather regions or as a shrub in frost-free areas.  It also can be grown outdoors as an annual. Be on the lookout for different varieties to find the best crotons to complement your fall garden.

Black-Eyed Susan - These golden-yellow stunners bring to mind happy daisies.  Bees and butterflies love them and they brighten up any landscape or container garden. Learn how to plant and care for black-eyed Susan and create a blanket of color for fall!

Helenium - Also known as “sneezeweed” (don’t worry, it doesn’t make you sneeze…the name comes from when they used to make snuff out of their dried leaves) they look like small, copper hued coneflowers.  They can grow quite tall and add a burst of warm cheer to your fall garden.  Get planting and maintenance tips for Helenium here.

Take advantage of what’s left of late summer and start your fall garden while the days are still longer and the temperatures are still mild.  Before you know it, you will be enjoying the glory of Autumn!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Autumn-Home-Maintenance-Must-Do-List

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Ten-Décor-Trends-to-Avoid-in-2017

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Creative-raised-bed-and-planter-gardening

 

Autumn Home Maintenance Must-Do List

by Desi Sowers

Summer is winding down and Autumn is just around the corner.  Take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather and get started on your Fall home maintenance to-do list now!

  • Check for peeling paint on the exterior of your home.  Don’t ignore it!  If paint is peeling or blistering, it’s a sign that it is no longer providing a protective covering for your siding, which can leave it vulnerable to damage that will cost you dearly in the future.  This doesn’t mean you have to repaint the entire house though.  You can repair the damaged areas and save yourself a lot of grief and money.
  • Clean your gutters.  Clogged gutters are a major source of wood rot problems and pest infestations.  Make sure downspouts are clear and joints and brackets are in good working order.  If they are damaged, replace them
  • Make sure windows and doors are sealed properly. Caulking and sealing is an inexpensive way to protect you home from the elements.  It also saves you money by preventing heat from escaping during the colder seasons.  Check your weather stripping as well. Replace it if it is damaged.
  • Take a good look at your roof.  Make sure there are no missing or loose shingles. Avoid having to deal with a leaky roof during the first snow by preemptively repairing any problems
  • Get your fireplace and/or wood stove ready.  If you have a wood burning fireplace, have a professional come out to clean your chimney. Making sure your fireplace/woodstove are in good working order is crucial for home safety.

Check these home maintenance projects off your list now and you can enjoy your Fall weekends in your cozy, warm house!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/To-Renovate-or-Not-to-Renovate-Should-You-Fix-Up-Your-Home-or-Sell-it-As-Is

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/4-DIY-projects-for-your-first-home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Upcycle-your-summer-treasures-with-these-5-DIY-tips

If you are preparing to list your house for sale, you may be wondering if the financial reward will be worth the time, effort and money to fix up things that are in disrepair or that are dated.  The answer to that question depends on a myriad of circumstances such as the current real estate market, the condition of competing inventory and whether or not the renovations that need to be made generally provide a return on investment.

Some home buyers are looking to purchase a "fixer upper".  They are looking for properties priced to sell, perhaps because they don’t qualify for more expensive homes or maybe because they want to make a profit by fixing the home up themselves.  Most fixer buyers want to do simple repairs such as painting walls, replacing light fixtures and putting in new carpet. Only a few want to take a house down to the studs and completely redo it.  These potential buyers will want a price for the home that will allow for all the repairs, the inconvenience of doing the work, and often a bit more.  For example, if a home is worth $200,000 fixed up but needs a new roof, and the roof costs approximately $10,000, a buyer most likely will not offer $190,000 for this home.  The reason is that they can probably find a similar house that already has a new roof for $200,000 and save themselves the headache of replacing it themselves.  A buyer in this situation might offer $175,000 or less, in which case it would make more sense for the seller to replace the roof and sell it for $200,000.

It’s important to note that many buyers are looking for "turn-key" homes.  They fear having to make major repairs because they might be more costly than anticipated or other problems might be revealed.  Even if the price is right, homes listed for sale in “as is” condition might not attract as many buyers.

However, before doing major renovations, there are many things to consider.  Smart sellers will research what their home’s market value will be once improvements are made and compare it to the cost of the renovations. If an upgrade won’t provide return on the investment, it probably doesn’t make sense to do it.  Knowing the condition of your competition is helpful.  For example, if other homes for sale in your neighborhood all have modern kitchens, it might make sense to update yours.  This doesn’t mean you should tear it down and start from scratch.  Often a minor kitchen remodel will suffice.  Also, keep in mind that kitchen and bathroom remodels are known to bring the best return on investment.

Start by making a list of the things in your home that are dated or in disrepair and then prioritize.  Here is a list of 10 minimum improvements to make before putting your house on the market:

  • Patch all holes and cracks in walls and ceilings.
  • Fix all appliances and HVAC systems.
  • Repair leaky faucets.
  • Replace worn carpeting.
  • Repaint dark or marred walls in neutral colors (not white).
  • Replace broken windows.
  • Repair the roof.
  • Change dated light fixtures/ceiling fans.
  • Replace old linens/window coverings.
  • Fix any code violations.

If your real estate market is a seller’s market and homes are moving quickly, you can get by with fewer fix ups, however a home that needs repairs will still deliver a lower price.  If it’s a buyer’s market, people might not even be willing to look at homes that need repairs.  Desi  Sowers can help you understand the current market in The New River Valley so that you can make informed decisions about whether to sell your house “as is” or not. 

Protect Your Home from Fire: Four Surprising Fire Hazards

by Desi Sowers

It is estimated by The National Fire Protection Association that over 47,000 home fires reported to fire departments are caused by some kind of electrical failure as a trigger to ignition.  But there are some other unusual ways that fires can start that we should all be aware of.

Dishwashers

While you may be aware that overheating dryers or ovens can cause fires, you might think dishwashers are safe because they have water. And water puts out fires…right? Wrong!  Dishwasher fires can be caused by liquids coming into contact with the machine’s wires.  Serious damage can occur when fires are ignited in dishwashers.  According to a 25 year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, any appliance that powers a motor, heating element, or both always has a higher risk for fire - and dishwashers are a common example.  He advises that they never be turned on when going to sleep or leaving the home.

Jars and other glass objects

According to survivalists, one of the best ways to start a fire is to use a piece of glass to refract sunlight onto dry wood.  Without proper care, that same scientific process can happen on your own kitchen table.  In 2015 a fire broke out in a southwest London home because of sun rays reflecting through an empty Nutella jar, the Associated Press reported.  While it may seem to be an freakish way for a fire to start, the fire brigade’s investigative unit confirmed that the glass jar was to blame.  The chances of this happening in your home are slim, but it is important to remember to never store flammable liquids like gasoline, cleaning fluids, paint thinners and even cooking oils in glass jars that you intend to leave out in the sunlight.  Metal cans for commercial-use flammable liquids and plastic containers for things such as cooking oils are safer options.

Rodents

Small rodents like squirrels and rats like to burrow into your attic insulation in cold weather and chew anything they can get their teeth on, including rubber covered electrical lines.  Unfortunately, if electrical wires become exposed dud to their protective insulation being compromised, there is a likelihood of igniting a flame.  The key to preventing this from happening is to keep the critters out to begin with. Before winter season, make sure all vents are covered, holes are patched and cracks are sealed.

Laptops

If you have ever had your laptop computer in your, well, lap for an extended period of time, you know that they get hot.  Because of this, it is a bad idea to leave one sitting on a flammable surface such as bedding, furniture or carpet.  But the real culprit behind laptop fires is the lithium in the batteries.  A poorly made battery can overheat and burst into flames.  Recently the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones were recalled because they were catching on fire and it was the lithium batteries that were the problem.  Any device powered by lithium ion batteries should be shut off when not in use and stored away from any flammable items.

 

More hidden home fire hazards  HERE!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Home-Maintenance-for-Winter

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/12-Simple-Home-Repairs-to-Lift-You-Out-of-Winters-Funk

Spring Curb Appeal

by Desi Sowers

Whether you have your house on the market now or you are planning on putting it up for sale this spring, now is the time to start sprucing up your yard for curb appeal.  Here are some tips for how to rid your yard of that wild, unattended winter look and replace it with a space that will give prospective buyers a first impression that will have them wanting to see more!

  • Send Winter Packing! Pull out your rake and remove all the debris of winter.  Leaves, pine cones, sticks etc. are not appealing and keeping a visibly tidy yard can make the difference between a potential buyer driving on by or stopping in for a look.
  • Declare War on the Weeds! Weeding is no fun, but it’s a necessary part of maintaining your lawn and garden.  Taking the time to clear your yard of weeds will not only make it look nicer, it will also show that you take pride in all aspects of your home. Six Ways to Prevent and Remove Weeds
  • Time for a Trim! As spring approaches, it is time to start cutting your grass regularly again.  Healthy, even grass is attractive and gives the yard a pleasing appearance.  Don’t forget to trim the edges as well to complete the look.
  • Quench That Thirst! It’s important to keep your grass hydrated.  It will become dry and a dull shade of green if it’s not watered regularly. The same applies to your garden. Pay special attention to areas that are sheltered and don’t get as much moisture when it rains. Watering Your Lawn the Right Way
  • Dress it Up! Planting seasonal plants and flowers will dress up your yard and enhance curb appeal. Look for plants that will be in bloom during the time your house will be on the market for sale. Go to your local nursery and ask an expert what will work best for your space. Crow's Nest Greenhouses
  • Prune Away! Trim back any large shrubs, trees or plants to frame your house in a way that is inviting.  Pruning also encourages new growth, so start doing it a few weeks prior to your selling period in order to have fresh, full plants when buyers start to look at your property. 
  • Mulch it Up! Once you have planted and pruned, mowed and edged, it’s time to spread mulch around your garden beds. Mulch helps to keep moisture in your plants and makes the garden easier to maintain.  Make sure you choose a mulch that compliments your garden type and style.

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Spring-cleaning-6-areas-to-repair-replace-and-refresh

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Brighten-up-your-home-and-bring-in-buyers-with-these-easy-ideas

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/12-Simple-Home-Repairs-to-Lift-You-Out-of-Winters-Funk

If you are interested in buying or selling a New River Valley home, contact Desi Sowers at 540-320-1328, and discover the difference she can make during your family's move. 

 

5 DIY steps to help you stay warm and save money this winter

by Desi Sowers

(BPT) - With the dead of winter fast approaching, it’s never too soon (or late) to prepare your home for the cold months ahead. With the goal of keeping cold air out and warm air in, make sure you’re doing all you can to keep your family warm and your heating bills low.

Proper insulating and air sealing can help lower your energy bills by up to 30 percent, according to the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). Additionally, the average U.S. home has a half mile of gaps and cracks spread throughout, according to energystar.gov. If you’re seeing spiders, dust, cobwebs and feeling drafts or uneven room temperatures, your home likely has gaps and poor insulation. Here are five DIY air sealing steps to help keep your home comfortable during the frigid weather using insulating foam sealant:

1. Scope out the problem areas

Start by checking around doors and windows that lead outside or to the garage. Gaps around water and waste pipes often lead to exterior walls which can let in a lot of air. Don’t forget to look around in your basement and attic where you may find gaping joists, holes in wood or cracked blocks.

2. Take safety precautions

Before starting any DIY project, be sure to take the necessary safety precautions. Begin by reading and understanding all of the instructions on the foam sealant can for proper use and handling. Sealant is sticky and will adhere to your skin, so cover all skin.  At a minimum, you’ll need both gloves and long sleeves to cover your hands and arms, along with a pair of safety glasses. Protect the floor and surrounding area by laying down a ground cover and make certain the room has proper ventilation with no sparks or flames nearby.

3. Start with windows and doors

To seal the openings around windows and doors and their rough openings, find an entry point for the nozzle to spray the foam sealant, such as Great Stuff(tm) Window & Door Insulating Foam Sealant. Fill the cracks only about half way, because the foam will expand the rest of the way. Not only does this block out cold air, but it’ll help keep those unwanted bugs and spiders out of your home.

4. Move on to cracks in the foundation

Cracks in your home’s foundation tend to develop over time. It’s important to take action when you find them, to help prevent major damage down the road. Apply a water-resistant, air-tight sealant to any cracks you find in your basement or attic. Shake the sealant can and turn it upside down to begin filling. If you spray too much, wait for the sealant to cure, and after about eight hours when it is fully cured, level it with a serrated knife.

5. Seal off pipe penetrations

Pipes that penetrate floors and walls in your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room are prime areas for air flow and pests to sneak through. As a result, the space that surrounds the pipes should not be left wide open. Using a can of foam sealant, point the straw into the opening around the pipe and start sealing. Do not force foam into spaces or voids behind walls.

6. Safely store and dispose of cans

Most one-component insulating foam sealant cans are for one-time use so before you start, make sure you identify all the areas around your home that you can seal. Also be sure to follow all of the instructions on the product label for both storage and disposal. Disposal regulations for these types of products may differ from one location to the next. Because a sealant is pressurized it must be stored upright and at room temperature.

Follow these steps to help keep your home warm and cozy this winter. For more information and tips on winterizing your home visit: www.dowgreatstuff.com/winterize.

12 Simple Home Repairs to Lift You Out of Winter’s Funk

by Desi Sowers

home-repair-jobs-winter-talc-squeaky-floor_9d6d88a9d3591085405678a30f441441_3x2_jpg_600x400_q85Accomplishments — even little ones — go a long way toward a sunny outlook. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, quick home repair chores you can do when you’re mired in the thick of winter. For max efficiency, make a to-do list ahead of time and shop for all the tools and supplies in one trip. On your work days, put the basics in a caddy and carry it from room to room, checking off completed tasks as you speed through them.

What to Look (and Listen) For
In each room, look around and take stock of what needs fixing or improving. Focus on small, quick-hit changes, not major redos. Here are some likely suspects:

1.  Sagging towel rack or wobbly toilet tissue holder. Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

2.  Squeaky door hinges. Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

3.  Creaky floor boards. They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet — the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

4.  Rusty shutoff valves. Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most. Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

5.  Blistered paint on shower ceilings. This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

6.  Loose handles or hinges on furniture, cabinets, and doors. You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

Safety Items
You know those routine safety checks you keep meaning to do but never have the time? Now’s the time.

7.  Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. If you don’t like waking up to the annoying chirp of smoke detector batteries as they wear down, do what many fire departments recommend and simply replace all of them at the same time once a year.

8.  Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. You’re supposed to test them once a month, but who does? Now’s a great time. You’ll find them around potentially wet areas — building codes specify GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, and for outdoor receptacles. Make sure the device trips and resets correctly. If you find a faulty outlet, replace it or get an electrician to do it for $75 to $100.

Another good project is to replace your GFCIs with the latest generation of protected outlets that test themselves, such as Levitron’s SmartlockPro Self-Test GFCI ($28). You won’t have to manually test ever again!

9.  Exhaust filter for the kitchen stove. By washing it to remove grease, you’ll increase the efficiency of your exhaust vent; plus, if a kitchen stovetop fire breaks out, this will help keep the flames from spreading.

10.  Clothes dryer vent. Pull the dryer out from the wall, disconnect the vent pipe, and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the place where it connects to the machine. Also, wipe lint off your exterior dryer vent so the flap opens and closes easily. (You’ll need to go outside for that, but it’s quick.) Remember that vents clogged with old dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

11.  Drain hoses. Inspect your clothes washer, dishwasher, and icemaker. If you see any cracks or drips, replace the hose so you don’t come home to a flood one day.

12.  Electrical cords. Replace any that are brittle, cracked, or have damaged plugs. If you’re using extension cords, see if you can eliminate them — for example, by replacing that too-short lamp cord with one that’s longer. If you don’t feel up to rewiring the lamp yourself, drop it off at a repair shop as you head out to shop for your repair materials. It might not be ready by the end of the day. But, hey, one half-done repair that you can’t check off is no big deal, right?

AUTHOR 
Jeanne Huber is the author of 10 books about home improvement. She writes a weekly column about home care for the Washington Post.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Bright Idea

by Desi Sowers

 

Bright Idea

 

 Looking for a cost-effective way to

 increase security in your home and
 save energy at the same time?
 You could put some of the
 lamps in your house on a   
 timer — or you could
 consider wireless lighting.

 According to Frontdoor.com,
 wireless lighting enables you to
 replace switches in your home with
 receivers that respond to radio frequency
signals from remote controls. It might sound complicated, but it’s fairly simple: Disconnect the manual switches and replace them with dimmers. Freestanding lamps that must be plugged into an outlet can be plugged into wireless receptors connected to the outlet. You can even program one remote to operate multiple lights throughout your house, no matter
the size.

Aside from the ability to turn off a light downstairs when you’re already upstairs or turn on a light from anywhere in your home if you hear a suspicious noise, the main benefit of installing a wireless lighting system is reducing electricity and energy consumption. You can connect the system to a timer to set lights to turn on and off at specific times.

Wireless systems can range in price, from as little as $30 for a starter kit to hundreds of dollars to equip your entire home. Before installation, talk to a certified electrician to ensure the kit you purchase is the best for your home.

 

What's the Magic Color for Selling Your House?

by Desi Sowers

What's the Magic Color for Selling Your House?

Color plays a big part in selling a house. How you decide to dress your walls can convince a buyer that your home is move-in ready or leave them looking elsewhere. If the goal is to see the sparkle of “love at first sight,” consider picking the right paint palette to suit a range of buyer tastes.

 

Proper Preparation

When you paint your walls, make sure you prepare the walls properly. Before you start, use a pre-made crack filler or drywall compound to fill in minor cracks and old picture hook holes. Lightly sanding baseboards, window frames and doors is also a great way to ensure that your paint will adhere to the surfaces properly. Make sure you are using the same base paint that currently exists on the surface you are repainting. Latex on latex, and oil base on oil base.

Picking The Magical Colors

Color choices are plentiful, as are the types of paints. When selecting interior colors, consider how you use each room or the feeling that you want to create for the space. White is a great accent, but for walls it is a harsh and cold color. Instead of white, choose warm, inviting and neutral paint colors such as yellows, warm beige and olive tones.

The best rule of thumb for home remodeling is to stick to a color palette that isn’t too bland but also isn’t too bold. For smaller spaces, such as bathrooms, choose colors that make the room look bigger such as warmer whites. For the bigger rooms, select a paint that is a couple shades darker to create a cozy atmosphere. For bedrooms, calming paint colors work best.

Make sure the palette you create flows from room to room. At paint stores, purchase a smaller can of paint and test it on the walls before committing to the color for the entire room.

Wallpaper Can Be A "Turnoff"

Potential homebuyers don’t always like wallpaper or at least the wallpaper you may have chosen 15 years ago. They want simple, clean, warm and inviting rooms and not the potential headache of steam cleaners and wallpaper removal. It is a good idea to consider removing wallpaper or at the very least painting over it where necessary in order to open the space and make the room feel fresh and clean.

Don’t Forget To Look Up

Potential buyers notice water stains and old-fashioned ceilings. If you have a home with a stucco ceiling, it can date your home to a buyer. Before you show your home, consider painting the ceiling with flat white paint. If you have crown molding, make sure you use the same ceiling paint for a consistent professional look.

 

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