Home Staging, Nutritonal Counseling

New Adventures

The last 10 months have seen many changes in my life: I became a plant-based vegan to better my health and life, I became a grandma (eek!), I moved (again), and started taking ballroom dancing lessons, I started a local Meetup/Facebook group focused on plant-based/vegan lifestyle, got interviewed and featured in the local paper regarding vegan dining options, took over a local ladies social Meetup/Facebook group, began doing volunteer work for a local non-profit, am writing a cookbook, and getting back into Real Estate Home Staging work! Phew! Good thing I changed what I eat because I need all the energy these days. Since I don’t drink caffeinated beverages so the energy has to come naturally :). Stay tuned for more details on my work on Real Estate Home Staging and Nutritional Counseling.

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ASCP Old White
House for sale, kitchens, Moving, Painting

I love how Chalk Paint transformed my kitchen!

Been a bit busy for the past few months. We have been wanting to sell our home and move west of the Mississippi for quite a number of years. FINALLY everything seemed to be coming together to allow us to take the leap and make the change.

But first, I had to sell my townhouse. Whoa. When you’ve owned a home for more than a dozen years, and that includes some years with renters living in it, sometimes you just accept things as they are. Until you put on the eyes of a new buyer. Get out the wallet! Money is going to disappear faster than you will believe.

We were fortunate to have gotten a tax refund and that was my budget. I didn’t want us to spend any additional money on sprucing things up…not only am I the Fix It Diva, I am the Frugal Diva as well. Our kitchen cabinets were the biggest concern: 1984 builder grade cabinets…blech…with the same year laminate countertops that were “supposed” to look like butcher block. Oh my!

I had a few contractors come in and not one of them gave me a quote for under $20,000…cough, choke, gag…are you kidding me? I had already upgraded my appliances to stainless steel – what in the WORLD would cost that much? Most of that cost was labor…and cost for upgrades needed to electrical panel. You see, in good ole Virginia, if a contractor touches your kitchen, then the electrical has to be upgraded…automatically. And that meant more breakers needed than what was in my panel already…and that meant heavy up and a subpanel box created. The electrical work alone was going to be $5,000.

Ok, so what if I do the work myself? I did lots of research and found some great cabinets at a great price. Check! Then I priced out countertops and new flooring (the floors were atrocious…so ugly it was sinful to look at them). Even with doing the work myself, it was way over my budget.

Grrrr. So instead of replacing the cabinets, I decided to paint them. Now let me state that I do NOT like painted cabinets. They are uber shiny and look so “fake”. Usually folks paint them white (I don’t like white cabinets – feel like I’m in a hospital). I did some pinterest searching and kept seeing people with pictures of their painted cabinets. Didn’t like most of what I found until I stumbled upon Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. The pictures of the cabinets (and other objects) painted with ASCP were amazing. Ok. This might work.

Next I went to good ole YouTube. Man I love technology. I watched dozens of videos of people painting their own items with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Could it really be that easy? I took the plunge…no not on my cabinets but on a salvaged nighstand my sister and I picked up at a local thrift store. I was able to buy locally some paint (Duck Egg blue) and within a few hours, this HIDEOUS nightstand transformed into an adorable nightstand! We picked out some white knobs and some red/white drawer liner paper (my sister has such good taste :). POP!! Wow!

I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to get started on the cabinets!

Because our kitchen was in use during the process (breakfast in the mornings and dinner in the evenings), it took me longer than expected – almost 4 weeks – to paint 22 doors and 16 cabinets. What a difference the paint made! The laminate countertop actually looked perfect for the cabinet color (Old White – which really isn’t white but more of a creamy pale manila folder color). We invested money in a new floor, new hardware, new faucet, new light fixture and our kitchen turned out adorable!

I wanted to paint more pieces of furniture but we had to pack and move quickly – our house sold within 48 hours of being on the market. I will begin painting again once we have fully settled into our new apartment…no piece of furniture is safe 🙂

If you are considering painting furniture or kitchen cabinets, please don’t hesitate to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. There’s a Facebook group you can join where folks, like me, post their work and ask questions. It’s a great worldwide community.

Happy painting!

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enjoy life, simplify

Simple Living

You’d think with all the great technology and gadgetry available today, we’d have more time to enjoy life. After all, aren’t cell phones, leaf blowers, cappuccino makers, and computers supposed to make our lives more convenient? In theory, they sound like time savers. But somehow, they just seem to create the need to “do” more, and they often make our lives more complex. What would happen if you put away these time savers for a weekend? Imagine two days without the blaring ring of your cell phone. Imagine raking leaves by hand, enjoying the sounds of crispy leaves and nature sans the roar of the leaf blower. Imagine warming water for a cup of simple herbal tea, rather than dragging out that huge coffee-making contraption. Imagine reading your favorite book cuddled on the couch rather than hunched over your computer. Living simply sounds inviting and compelling!

By paring life down to its essentials — the things, activities, and relationships you either truly need or genuinely cherish, you unburden your life and live with fewer distractions. When you live simply, you determine what is important, or enough, for you, and discard the rest.

Millions of Americans are consciously practicing this “new” way of living. Reasons to move away from complexity and over-abundance and toward simplicity vary. Some people want to save money, eliminating their debt and living within their means. Others want to help the environment by reducing and reusing things rather than purchasing more stuff. Others simplify to find more time — less stuff to maintain means more time for family, friends, and hobbies. Some see it as a spiritual journey.  Others view it as a way to reject consumerism or embrace social justice. No matter what the reasons, simplifying your life makes simple sense. Research shows that the more people fill their lives with things, the emptier they feel. Give simple living a try instead and discover its life-changing benefits.

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kitchens, Organizing

Creating a Functional Kitchen

As we head from Spring into Summer, now is a great time to do some reorganizing (or organizing for the first time) of our kitchens. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time in my kitchen all year long. Here are some tips to help you assess and organize the central part of any home.

STEP 1: ANALYSIS

As you ponder where to place your kitchen things, begin by analyzing your old storage systems. Were some things working well? If so, don’t change them! If you love storing your mugs by the coffee maker, stick with it. If it’s convenient to have your recipe books on the countertop, keep it up.

Now ponder anything inconvenient. How could you make those things work a little better? For example, if you hate having piles of cans and bottles littering your countertop as they await a trip outside for recycling, then make a new plan. Clear space under the sink to install a pull-out trash can to capture those recyclables immediately after use. If you hate reaching to the top shelf to get your favorite, frequently-used mixing bowls, make a plan to house them in a more convenient location like an eye-level shelf. Where you put your stuff is as important as what you own. If you can’t find it when you need it, or it’s inconvenient to reach, you’ll likely not use it!  (Here’s a tip from my kitchen: my trashcans sit out in the open in the kitchen since we do not have cabinet space for them. I purchased two slim trashcans – one black and one white – and sat them side by side. The black trash can is for trash; the white trashcan is for recycling. You can choose any two colors that would work for your kitchen but this is a great way to have a sleek look while gathering recycling. We use paper grocery store bags in the recycling can and when it is full, we lift it out and put the bag in the larger, trash company provided recycling bin.)

STEP 2: PLACEMENT

As you look over your groupings of kitchen items, start pulling aside the things you use most often. Then store them where you use them. For example, your everyday dishes might work great directly above your dishwasher or close to the table. Perhaps your pots and pans and cookie sheets could go near the stove.

Keeping similar things together will help you navigate your kitchen more easily. For example, store everything related to cooking in one area. You might group your pots and pans, bakeware, hot mitts, and cooking utensils in one area. Create a food preparation area by grouping cutting boards, knives, and mixing bowls. If you love to bake, consolidate cookie cutters, mixers, measuring cups and spoons in one area.

There are many helpful organizing products available to keep your kitchen orderly. Baskets and bins come in a variety of sizes and hold foods, like onions and potatoes, as well as cleaning supplies. A wall-mounted spice rack saves cupboard space. Inside cupboards, double-decker wire shelf stackers double storage space. Wooden cookware racks keep pot lids tidy. An attractive vase or crock near your stove top corrals utensils. (Here’s a tip from my kitchen: I have stainless steel appliances and bought a stainless steel ice bucket and use it to hold the stove top utensils on the counter next to the stove – it is easy to wipe clean and keeps the stainless steel look flowing.)

If you use something frequently, keep it close and convenient. Put infrequently used items way up high, down low, or in the back. Place anything you use daily (such as everyday dishes) at eye level, so you’re not stooping down or reaching on tip-toe. Keep heavy things down low and lighter things up high. For example, if you use your turkey platter or punch bowl only once or twice a year, place them on a bottom shelf.

STEP 3: MAINTENANCE

Once your kitchen is organized, pat yourself on the back. Job well done! But you’re not quite finished… Establish an “in/out” system where some purging takes place before you purchase a new item. If you buy a new set of plastic storage containers, toss out an equal amount of your old storage containers. If you come home with a new mug, an old one must go! It may be helpful to stash a donation box somewhere nearby as an easy reminder of this rule. Also, take time once each year to review your kitchen and all its accouterments. Discard anything broken, donate  anything unused in the past 12 months, and make sure the storage systems still make sense for you and your housemates. Consider your kitchen a work in progress, and like fine wine it will only get better with time.

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Organizing, Procrastinaton

Conquering Procrastination…now!

I covered procrastination in my newsletter last year but since it’s Tax preparation time and Spring is here, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the subject.

The word procrastinate comes from the Latin procrastinatus, which means, literally, “forward tomorrow.” If you’ve been putting off till tomorrow what you could — and should — do today, then recognize that procrastination is a habit that can be broken. But it won’t happen overnight. It takes 21 days to form a new habit. So set a date, (Mondays work well, because they feel like a fresh start) and track 21 days to stay the course. (Comment to this post with your START DATE – accountability helps us get started.)

First of all, give yourself a reason to stop procrastinating. Will you improve your financial situation because you’ll pay your bills on time? Or will you impress your family, friends, and coworkers because you’ll appear productive and efficient? And — gasp — will you be less stressed because you are on top of your to-do list and arrive on time? (collective gasp is heard when you arrive on time)

Whatever the goal, keep it in mind throughout the first 21 habit-forming days.

How can you get started? Start writing. Yes, most of us have smartphones and if you’re like me, you are using up EVERY SINGLE bit of memory, but a good ‘ol fashioned notebook is a great tool…seriously. Whatever you do, scraps of paper and sticky notes won’t do – they have their place but not for getting started on stopping procrastinating. Remember, you’ll want everything in one place because you are forming a new habit.

In this notebook, keep a running list of tasks that need to be done. (It might be really long.) But then, each evening, make a smaller “to do today” list for the upcoming day, on a separate page in your notebook. List only the most important things you need to accomplish that day, and keep the number of tasks realistic and attainable. (About five things usually works well.) The next morning, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done, and you can concentrate on those tasks above all else. That evening, re-evaluate your list. Anything not completed moves forward to the following day’s task list, and a few more items are added. And take a moment to permanently remove tasks from your list that no longer contribute to your goals or happiness.

I use a paper calendar for my business. It has sections for personal, family and business items for each day. I review it in the evening, and in the morning. I keep a notebook beside me and on me at all times and this goes with me when I’m out and about.

REALISTIC-SIZED CHUNKS OF WORK: This is so key because procrastination is usually tied to poor time management…yeah, sorry but it’s true.  So as you’re writing your to-do list, make sure to break tasks down into realistic-sized chunks. If your goal is to organize your messy kitchen, the enormity of it will seem daunting. Instead, break it down into one-hour tasks: toss out all expired foods in pantry; clean out refrigerator; organize junk drawer; set up mini-filing system for kitchen. Completion dates are important, so assign specific tasks to specific days. You won’t organize a kitchen in a day, but over the course of a week, you can do it! And each day’s successes will give you the drive to keep going.

For truly unpleasant tasks (for me that’s cleaning the bathtub…ewww), set a timer for 15 minutes, and just do it. Nearly anything is palatable for a quarter of an hour. It’s also helpful to see that most unpleasant things don’t take nearly as long as we think they will. You may hate going through your in-basket at work. But just 15 minutes each morning and evening is enough to review, sort, do the quickie tasks, and assign the longer ones to your planner. If you’re feeling sluggish, complete an easy job first, to get your momentum going. Also, do the toughest tasks when your body is most alert — some people function better first thing in the morning, while others perk up later in the day. I am not a morning person, more of an afternoon person, so I schedule tough tasks for the afternoon.

Treat time like a precious gift. Are you a people-pleaser? If you’re truly behind in your own tasks, don’t add any more optional to-do items until you’re caught up. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to delegate. It’s okay to take some time for yourself. And stop saying, “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all.” This is what has kept you stuck already…and that’s not working too well for you, is it? Just limit your choices, let well enough be okay and move forward. Perfection is not realistic or required in life…just “let it go”.

Reward yourself. After 21 days of “just do it” action, treat yourself to something nice… lunch with a friend, a luxurious nap or bubble bath, a hot-fudge sundae, a concert, or an afternoon with a favorite book or movie. You’ve earned it!

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organized mail
Decluttering, Organizing

Spring is Here!!! Quick Tips to Start the Organizing Process

Spring is Here! These tips will help you stop procrastinating and get organized today! Inspire and motivate yourself with the “Quick Start” projects. Each of these should take no longer than 30 minutes. Next, try the “Keep Going” tips to really put clutter and chaos in its place!

Kitchen

Quick Start: Take everything out of the refrigerator. Toss anything expired or mysteriously fuzzy. Clean the shelves. Then replace food items, grouping similar things together.

Keep Going: Tackle each kitchen cupboard and drawer the same way. Remove everything, clean, and toss anything not fresh or useful. Give most-used items your prime, easiest-to-reach space. Put infrequently used items up high or way in the back.

Clutter

Quick Start: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Grab a garbage bag, walk through your home, and quickly remove ten things you no longer use or love. Also, recycle newspapers older than one week and magazines older than 12 months, plus expired coupons and junk mail. Dispose of the bags immediately.

Keep Going: From here on out, put things in their proper places right away. Before buying something new, ask yourself if you really need it. If you decide to purchase, get rid of two similar items to make room.

Paperwork

Quick Start: With the exception of bills to be paid and truly important documents, grab all the paperwork you can find into one big pile. Plop it in a big box, seal it, and write today’s date on it. If you haven’t missed any of it two months from now, recycle the entire box without opening it.

Keep Going: Set up a new, easy filing system starting with paperwork you receive from today forward. Think of broad categories of papers you receive on a frequent basis: bills to pay, people to call, medical, school, etc. Get a desktop filing box, keep it in the kitchen, and file only what you’ll truly need to reference later. Be ruthless in your paper disposal. (Shred sensitive documents.) Review file contents weekly.

Touch paperwork only once: Open mail, and immediately act on it and recycle the paper, or file it in the appropriate spot.

Kids’ Stuff

Quick Start: Every evening, set a timer and have the family do the “Ten Minute Tidy-Up.” Holding an empty laundry basket, each person grabs anything out of place, and returns it to its correct home.

Keep Going: Limit clutter with the “new item in, old item out” rule. If you buy a new toy or clothing, get rid of at least one old one. Limit school art and paperwork. Save only the best, and keep them in an under bed storage box or portfolio.

Time Management

Quick Start: Set your watch ten minutes ahead. You’ll have a built-in buffer for running late.

Keep Going: Any task that can be completed in five minutes or less should be completed right away. Schedule a chunk of time each day to handle paperwork. Don’t schedule appointments too close together.

Email

Quick Start: Move everything more than two weeks old from your email inbox to a file marked “Holding.” Keep it for two months. Then, delete everything you haven’t needed in that time.

Keep Going: Treat your inbox like a real mail box. You’d never leave old mail sitting in there! Take the time to set up files where you can immediately move new emails. As emails arrive, either read and delete, file appropriately, or put in a “to do this week” file.

Garage/Attic/Basement

Quick Start: Set a timer for 30 minutes and toss/recycle dried out paint and chemicals, and anything broken, musty, or moldy.

Keep Going: Sort the space into zones. For example, a garage might have areas for sports, tools, gardening, and recycling/garbage. Group like items in those zones. Use appropriate storage containers and label clearly.

(courtesy © 2013 Articles on Demand™)

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Decluttering, House for sale, kids, Organizing

Prepping your kids room before listing your house for sale

Prepping your kids room before listing your house for sale:

One of the many challenges with listing a home for sale when you have small children at home is “what do I do with all the toys?”  A related challenge is “how do I show my house when there are toys everywhere?”

As part of prepping your house for listing for sale, you will need to tackle the somewhat daunting task of toys – deciding which toys can be donated or sold and which toys can be discarded.

For toys that you want to hang on to and keep for DURING your house listing, the rule of thumb is to have toys in only one room – your child’s bedroom. This can be impossible if more than one child shares a bedroom and that bedroom is small. When this occurs, I recommend you designate a room elsewhere in the house (and preferably not on the main level where your entrance is located) as a “play room”. This might be just an area for the toys to reside in as part of a family room or guest room.

For toys you are going to sell, be prepared to take pictures and list immediately on either Craigslist or FB yard sale groups while you are sorting through them. Set a deadline for when the toy will be sold – for example, list the toy and give it 5 days. If it hasn’t sold, donate it. Otherwise you will not be clearing out space but instead will be in a holding pattern to make a sale…forward movement is what you want to maintain so you don’t get stuck.

After sorting and purging of toys, then come up with storage solutions for the toys remaining in the house. Don’t purchase any organizing containers until after the sorting and purging is finished. If there are more toys that you want to hold on to for AFTER the sale, but need to “hide” while your house is on the market, consider using plastic storage tubs (with labels on outside) and either storing the tubs in the attic or renting a storage unit while your home is listed. (Personal tip: I have utilized storage units while showing my home for sale. I rented an interior unit in a temperature maintained facility and rented the smallest unit/closet. If I had too many things to fit in there, then I had to do more purging. I also utilized plastic shelving units that I assembled and put into the storage unit so that I could stack tubs/items higher within the unit.)

Remember, potential buyers are going to know you have kids – that’s okay. What you don’t want to do is distract them with too many things or with a mess. When a potential buyer walks into your home, the first thing they notice will set the tone – if this is a pile of toys in the main entrance area; it will off put the buyer. This is why the toys should be removed from the main level if at all possible. You want a buyer to get a good feel for your home on the main level so that when they do see your child’s toys and room, it’s not the first room/sight they see.

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