Rosemary Papp

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Courtesy of By Mary Hunt  Photo credit: misteraitch

Iknow it’s time. It’s been time for at least two years, possibly longer. I need to clean my kitchen. Now, before you send the Health Department to my address, let me explain. What I mean by “clean” is that I need to clean out and organize my kitchen pantry, cupboards and drawers. 

If you walked into my kitchen, you’d see a tidy and sanitary place. But don’t walk into the pantry or open a cupboard too hastily. Something might hit you on the head. At this moment, a bottle of Advil has been tossed on top of cereal boxes, which are resting on pudding boxes that have long ago expired.

Cynthia Ewer, editor of OrganizedHome.com says the first thing I need to do is harden my heart. An efficient, convenient kitchen, she says, must be pared to the bone. I must dare to dump anything and everything that is not absolutely necessary and useful.

CLEAR THE DECKS. Ewer instructs me to prepare four boxes with these labels: Put Away (Kitchen), Put Away (Elsewhere), Give Away (or Sell) and Storage. Now I am to tackle one shelf, drawer and cupboard at a time, putting each item into its proper box.

KITCHEN KEEPERS. Once everything has found its box, send three of the boxes out of the kitchen. Now comes decision time. Ewer is ruthless in suggesting I need to just get rid of the electric french-fry fryer, that strange gelatin mold in the shape of Mount Rushmore and the odd collection of sports bottles from all those walk-a-thons. Ditto for pans I don’t use, dishes I don’t like and specialty cooking tools that I never use because they’re too much trouble to clean.

NO MORE STALLING. I’m going to follow the Organized Home kitchen decluttering plan starting at the top: The top shelves, which Ewer says resemble an unknown landscape at the back of the moon. (I keep wondering when she’s been sneaking into my kitchen because she seems to know this place quite well.)

Here’s the rule: If I’ve used it in the last month, it’s a candidate to stay. If I used it yesterday, that will be the backbone of my newly organized kitchen.

I am committed; I am determined. I will box and banish. I will not stop until every shelf, every cupboard, every nook and cranny of my kitchen is cleared, cleaned and organized.

I don’t think I’m alone in this need for kitchen organization, so I’m extending an invitation for you to join me. Let’s call it the EC Spring Clean Kitchen Challenge. All who dare are invited to join me in this marathon event. Actually, I could use the company. Somehow knowing others are participating in the same drudgery will keep me on track and moving forward.

The only requirement to join is a willingness to get your kitchen organized. And to post a comment below telling me how you are going to get started.

Stay tuned because next week I’m going to help you get motivated to declutter books, CDs, DVDs and electronics—and quite possibly get paid to do it!

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From, Bjorn Rygg, Pillar to Post

You may not want to admit it, but the days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping, and winter is on its way. No matter what the season means to you whether that’s embracing the snow, avoiding the outdoors altogether, or taking off for a sunny destination - winter-proofing your home should be at the top of your list.

Roof: Before it’s covered in snow be sure to have it checked for any damaged shingles, replacing them if necessary. Also have your gutters cleared to ensure drainage will flow smoothly when the snow melts.

Furnace: It’s no secret your furnace will be of paramount importance as temperatures continue to drop, so prevent a breakdown by making sure its service and maintenance is up to date.

Windows: Double check that all windows are tightly sealed and water isn’t collecting in the sills. Ensuring windows with multiple sliding panels are in the closed position is important to avoid drafts.

Doors: Similar to windows, it’s important to check door frames are securely sealed without any cracks. Consider sealing or insulating mail slots or doggy doors.

Floors: Check for gaps between exposed floorboards, especially in any unfinished rooms in the house. If you have central heating, it’s important to ensure ducts connected to floor vents are well insulated.

Everything else: When setting your home up for seasonal success, it makes sense to take a look at your current insurance policy as well. Winter often means extreme weather that can result in damage to your property.

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Here are 7 features that date your home and tips on how to improve them: 

Wacky Bathroom Colours 

It's unlikely that you will find pink toilets making a come back anytime soon. They instantly give your home an outdated vibe. You're better off leaving the colorful bathroom at your Grandma's house. If your bathroom is sporting too many colours, consider replacing what you can in crisp white. Paint the walls a warm neutral tone and add soft white towels, as well as a solid subdued shower curtain. Designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz suggests, “ For a clean, modern look, paint all surfaces with white epoxy paint to make everything one colour. “That way,” he says, “you can make the room's story be about textures. Do the accessories all in white as well.” 

Wood Paneling 

No matter how lovely the home, a room covered in wood paneling takes the buyer on a time-warp back to the 70's. Not only does wood paneling date the home, it also makes the room look smaller, which can give potential buyers a negative impression from the start. Andrew Leahay of Design Media shares some removal advice, “Removing wood paneling is not a particularly difficult job in and of itself. Removing the paneling and not damaging it, or removing the paneling and replacing it with drywall, can be a more difficult task. Having a good sense of what is behind your paneled walls will dictate the amount of work involved in the project.” If tearing the wood paneling off the wall is not an option, a fresh coat of paint will help give your home a more modern appeal. Elizabeth Weintraub, a Home Buying/Selling Expert suggests, “ Even if your wood paneling is not real wood but composite, you can paint it. Dated paneling must go. Older wood paneling such as walnut, mahogany, cedar and pine, it's all gone out of style. Paint it a neutral and soft color after priming it.” 

Ugly Carpet 

Walking into a home with nasty old carpet is a huge turn-off for potential buyers. Nothing is quite as distracting as an ugly pattern, scary shag, or mystery stained rug. If the carpet has to stay, you should have it professionally deep cleaned. Hardwood flooring certainly offers a cleaner more updated look, and according to HGTV, it is the top desired request among renters and buyers when searching for a new home. Buyers also tend to prefer hardwood as it cuts down on the allergy inducing problems associated with old carpet. With that in mind, it might be worth the extra expense to ensure a faster, more rewarding sale. 

Gold-plated fixtures 

Brassy, flashy, gold-plated fixtures had their hay day and now they tend to give an outdated first impression. If you are unable to stretch your budget too far, consider spray painting your fixtures. When done right, you will have a high-end looking durable solution without having to replace each piece. This will save you money and amp up the appeal of your home to potential buyers instantly. Ashley a creative and self proclaimed DIY enthusiast will show you how with these easy steps:

Home Improvements—Painting Old Chandeliers and Light Fixtures. 

Hideous Walls 

Sponge painting, fancy wallpaper, and hand painted murals might hold special meaning for you and your family, but they are more likely to scare potential buyers away. Busy walls are not only distracting, but they can close a room in making it appear smaller and darker. Beth Jaworski shares her Realtor insight by suggesting, “Buyers just do not like wallpaper. It's so personalized. If you go into a wallpaper store, there are thousands of patterns. Why is that? It's because people are very particular.” Neutralize your walls, by pulling down that busy wallpaper or painting over any flashy colours with a soft subdued tone. 

Countertops 

Old countertops can be a deterring factor for potential buyers. Retro tiles, dirty grout, and cracked laminate just make a house look old. Don't be overwhelmed though, if replacing your countertops is not within the budget, there are still things you can do to help update the look of your home. There are many different approaches you can take when updating your counters, but it depends greatly on how much you want to invest and what look you are trying to achieve. Rose Kennedy of HGTV, offers these tips for painting over your laminate countertops

Popcorn Ceiling 

Not only because of asbestos, but popcorn ceilings in general remind us of days gone by. Potential buyers prefer a ceiling that does not resemble cottage cheese. According to Armstrong.com, “Removing a popcorn ceiling is a messy, time-consuming job—and in most cases, it's not necessary because you can easily cover up that unsightly texture with ceiling panels of planks. They install directly over your existing popcorn ceiling in a few easy steps that you can do yourself using common household tools. In as little as a weekend, you can hide that ugly ceiling and enjoy a decorative ceiling style that will completely change the look of your room.” However, you should consider having your ceiling tested for asbestos, as this could be the motivation you need to have it permanently removed. 

It might be overwhelming to think of trying to fix all of the retro quirks in your home at once, but by starting with just a few of these, you'll save yourself the disappointment of having your home passed over due to it's awkward retro quirks. 

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The following 6 tips will help you prepare your home for a quick and successful sale: 

Clean Countertops 

Walking into a home with bare countertops provides an instantly well-kept first impression. The minimalist counter also highlights extra space in the kitchen that could otherwise be lost under too much clutter. Cambria Bold, the design and lifestyle editor from The Kitchen says it best, “Messy countertops—heck, even countertops that have pretty things, but just too many of them—can make a kitchen feel untidy and claustrophobic, whereas mostly clear countertops are invigorating and inspiring. They also invite you to cook, instead of feeling like your kitchen is unready for you.”  

Make-Over the Refrigerator 

Quirky magnets, colorful art, and postcards might remind you of special memories, but when it comes to selling your house, less is best. Avoid turning the front of your refrigerator into a gallery wall. This not only takes away from the functionality of the kitchen, but it can be extremely distracting to potential buyers who are trying to envision their life in your home. After you've successfully cleared the front, make sure you give the inside a thorough cleaning. Go through your fridge and toss expired, leaking, or odour causing foods. Try to keep your shelves clear and organized, in order to display the storage capabilities of your main kitchen appliance. 

Keep it Kitchen 

For most families, the kitchen is typically one the busiest gathering places of the home, which is why organization is key. It's easy for a kitchen countertop to become the dump zone for miscellaneous household items, but if it isn't kitchen related, it must go. Keep a bin on the end of your counter as a catchall for the random things that end up cluttering your space. Then at the end of each day, go through the bin and re-home all the wayward items. This will cut down on the time you have to spend tidying up before each showing. Rather than spend precious time corralling all the bits and pieces, the catchall also makes it easier to store out of sight in a hurry for those last minute showings. 

Stage the Pantry 

Your pantry might usually look more on the haphazard side of things, but when preparing your home for sale, great staging can cinch the deal. Use your pantry to play up the functionality and storage capacity of your kitchen. Laura Gaskill of Houzz shares, “Pare back the contents of your pantry until you have some open space on each shelf. Organize what's left into a set of matching food storage containers or open baskets. This may mean removing a bunch of food—just remember that a staged kitchen is not necessarily a practical kitchen! As with items from your cupboards, keep extra pantry goods in a box out of sight during showings if you must.” 

Eliminate Odours 

No one wants to cook up something in a kitchen that already smells questionable. Avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink and purge the refrigerator of old food on a regular basis. Kathleen Squires of Real Simple advises, “ Place a box of baking soda in the freezer and another in the refrigerator to absorb and neutralize smells; replace them every three months. Alternatives: a mound of charcoal; coffee beans in a bowl; or a cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract and kept in the refrigerator until dry.” You can also keep nasty odours at bay, by using odour blocking garbage can liners, and play up that 'freshly baked' smell by using a candle warmer in a welcoming kitchen scent. 

Reduce Excess 

Potential Buyers want to explore the space in your kitchen, as they imagine what their life might look like within those walls. Go through your cupboards, drawers, and pantry with the objective to only leave items that are frequently used and essential. Professional Organizer Debbie Lillard suggests, “The kitchen is a very practical place, and most people I meet have more stuff than storage. So only keep what you use on a regular basis. If there is something you use only a few times a year (ice bucket, punch bowl, warming tray, etc.) those items can be stored away in a basement or closet.” Streamlining will not only cut down on clutter before showings, it will enhance the important features, so that your kitchen can truly shine.

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When you’re preparing your house for sale, the basement is often overlooked when it comes to home staging. While rooms such as the living room and bedrooms take staging center stage, any smart buyer will want to explore all the rooms of your home – and that includes the basement. A clean and finished basement is an excellent addition to any home, and can really add some zeros to your home’s market price tag. It’s clear that it’s in your best interests to get your basement up to speed with the rest of your home staging efforts, but where should you start? And what should you stay away from? 

Do: Clean It Up, No Matter What You’re Planning

Of course, whether you’re planning on an aggressive basement improvement project or just getting things together for an open house, the first step is to clear and clean the basement. Pack up boxes and move them into storage, mop and clean the walls, and air out the room if musty smells have taken over. Give potential buyers a clear view of what your basement looks like – a finished basement is a plus, but an unfinished, clean basement won’t make them bat an eye. A messy, smelly basement, however, will remain a black mark. 

Don’t: Ignore Water Damage 

A well-built basement is bone-dry, and if you’ve got pools of water or drips in the walls, you’ve got water problems. These can easily damage your home’s foundation and encourage mold growth, resulting in your responsibility for some costly repair bills. You’ll want to take care of the issue before any buyers come calling, even if you’re not planning on any more intense finishing projects. Many home improvement contractors offer consultations, tests, and services for waterproofing basements, but there are some simple fixes you can perform yourself. Cracks and gaps in pipes and walls can be plugged with caulk or cement, but if water is seeping in along the floor, you may need to consult with a professional to determine the cause and your options. Solutions can range from pump installations to landscaping changes. 

Do: Insulate Your Walls 

An insulation project is one of the easiest ways to add a bit of comfort to your basement, without trapping yourself in a more complicated project. Moreover, it’s inexpensive, and generally quite easy to DIY if you do your homework. Insulation will keep in the warmth and the cold, and covering it with a wall installation will give your basement a clean look. Before installing any insulation, however, be sure that your basement is entirely waterproofed – insulation and moisture will make for mold city. Even if you don’t have obvious water leakage problems, be sure that no condensation is coming through from the outside with hairline cracks and holes: tape plastic sheeting to the walls, and leave it there undisturbed for a few weeks. If you return to dry plastic, you’re golden. 

Don’t: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew With Finishing 

Remember: you’re trying to sell this house. Thus, you don’t want to tie yourself to it with a basement finishing project that could potentially take years to complete. No sane buyer will purchase a home with a basement project abandoned half-finished, so you’ll need to consider what you can really handle in the time frame you’ve decided on. If you have the money to spend, a professional job can give you the speedy results you need, but take care with your finances: you don’t want to wind up spending more on the project than the returns it’ll grant you on your home’s price tag. 

Do: Familiarize Yourself With Your Local Codes 

Housing codes vary from area to area, and when undertaking any kind of home construction project, you’ll need to make sure you don’t wind up in hot water by accidentally violating an obscure footnote. Codes address everything from ceiling height to water and electrical rules, so no matter what you’re planning, you’ll want to pay attention. A consultation with a home improvement professional is a great help in this area, even if you’re determined to DIY: they’ve got expert hands-on knowledge, and a more down-to-earth understanding of what local codes mean and how they apply to you and your project. 

Don’t: Get Too Determined to DIY 

We understand the DIY urge, especially when you’re tempted by the thought of increasing your home’s value – if you’re out to get more money in the long run, why spend money now on professional work that you can do yourself? (Theoretically.) The fact of the matter is, a home’s basement is an entirely different ballpark than any other above-level rooms. There are foundation and water factors you have to take into account, and when things go wrong here, they can potentially affect the rest of your home in the worst of ways. YouTube tutorials and online articles can only give you so much assistance, and a contractor with years of hands-on expertise is going to have an edge no matter how many blog posts you’ve read and how-to videos you’ve watched. By all means, you’re free to try your hand at basement finishing projects, but if you wind up out of your depth, don’t be ashamed to call in a pro to consult. They’ve got a passion for home improvement that’s a great addition to any team. 

Finishing your basement is a great way to add value to a home you’re getting ready to sell. Basement improvement jobs are excellent undertakings due to their flexibility: whether you’re just out to add some insulation and soft lighting fixtures, or if you’re out to transform it into a fully-functional social room, any level of effort can spell big results when it comes to selling your home. Consider what you have time to go through with, get the pros on the line to lend a hand, and go forth to improve.

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