Getting Organized Is Good for Your Home and Your Health

For the last nine years, the HomeGain National Home Improvement Survey has been asking real estate professionals across the country the same question: What are the top 10 things a homeowner can do to get their home ready to sell?

And every year, the number one answer is: clean and de-clutter. In the latest survey, 99 percent of the real estate professionals queried ranked this task the most important. What’s more, they estimated that, for every dollar spent on the task, the homeowner would receive a whopping 403 percent return on their investment.

De-cluttering delivers big benefits to those who are not selling their homes, too. Studies show that living in a cluttered house is mentally stressful for the occupants and often leads to weight gain and other health problems.

So why do so many of us put off this important task? It’s hard work. It takes time. It’s physical. It’s emotional. And there are lots of decisions to make about what goes where, what gets tossed, and more. Worst of all, thinking about it makes it seem like an even bigger project than it really is—which is why experts say the best way to get started is to simply jump in.

The easy way to get started

The toughest part of getting organized is getting started. It’s too easy to say, “I’ll go through that closet later.” “I’ll get rid of those boxes later.” “I’ll donate those clothes later.”

Instead, replace “later” with “now.”

Grab a couple cardboard boxes and spend 90 minutes right now organizing one part of one room (a desk in your study, for example). Once you see that it’s not nearly as tough as you imagine, and actually feels satisfying and freeing, you’ll become energized and ready to take on even bigger organizing tasks tomorrow.

Here are some tips to keep you on track:

  • Tackle one room at a time.
  • Start with the easy stuff. Rounding up the things you know you want to toss, recycle, sell, or store.
  • Finish the task you start. Don’t pull everything out of a closet, for example, and then stop for the day, leaving the mess for later. Finish organizing the closet.
  • Get the whole family involved (these are important life lessons to pass along to your children).
  • Let phone calls and other disruptions wait until you’re done for the day.

Deciding what to keep

Once you make your way through the things you know you don’t want any more (broken appliances, unused gifts, outdated electronics, store returns, etc.), then it’s time to focus on the items that are useful, but don’t get used very often. Experts suggest two strategies. Choose the one that works best for you, or try using them in combination:

  • The 12-month test – If you haven’t used the item in the last year, get rid of it.
  • The cardboard box drill – Put items you’re not sure about in a cardboard box and set it aside. Whatever gets pulled out and used over the next two months can stay. The things that don’t get rescued should be sent packing.

How to handle keepsakes

Now for the toughest decision of all: What to do with those trophies, mementos, greeting cards, photos, kids’ art projects—and all the other things that trigger strong memories and emotional reactions.

First, go through these things and make sure they’re still things you want to keep. Some items may now remind you of a time—or a person—you want to forget.

Spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing each item. If you allow yourself to start wandering down memory lane, your organizing work will come to a screeching halt.

Take photos of items that are bulky or hard to store—especially the kids’ artwork, which tends to fall apart over time, anyway. Once you’ve captured the item in a photo, let the original go.

If there are keepsakes you inherited from your parents or relatives that hold no sentimental value for you, it’s time to say goodbye.

Stop saving so many things for your children. No matter what they say now, your kids will most likely only be interested in a few key mementos when they’re older. Designate a single memento box for each child.

Other people’s belongings

You should not be storing anything that doesn’t belong to you and/or the other current members of your household. Give back things you’ve borrowed. Get rid of the belongings of ex-spouses, ex-boyfriends, and ex-roommates. Get tough with your adult children; your days of providing a roof for their belongings are over.

Working with a professional

A professional organizer can teach you the tricks of the trade, help you make tough decisions about what to keep and what to let go, and consult with you about the best storage systems. Hiring a professional is also a good idea if you’re having trouble getting started or sticking with it. Expect to pay around $50 to $90 per hour for this kind of help.

Some final words of advice

While you’re getting organized, do not allow yourself to buy any non-necessities. Groceries, yes. But say no to clothes, toys, electronics, sporting goods, and other feel-good purchases.

When you’re done organizing, a good rule of thumb is that for every new item brought into the house, an old one has to leave.

 

 

Your Story is Our Story: Robert & Jane | Our Own Fixer Upper

When Robert and Jane called Windermere, they reached Agent Jeff Swingley to help make their move from Townsend back into Helena.  They both immediately liked Jeff and knew they could trust him and his judgement.

“Our house is important to us” Jane said.  With both Robert and Jane working from home, they spend a lot of time there and want their house to be a place they enjoy spending time.

After a new listing came on the market, Jeff called and said he thought he had found them their home.  “It was the perfect location for them and although it needed some work I knew it was the house for them.”

Not new to tackling remodel projects, Robert and Jane weren’t afraid of another remodel project.

Jeff showed them the house and with the confidence of their general contractor they put in an offer.  After purchasing the home they began remodeling.  This wasn’t a small remodel project they virtually gutted the entire house, new plumbing, new electrical, new flooring, new kitchen, new bathroom; very little was untouched.

The house is now exactly what they wanted in their prime location and they love spending their days working in their home offices.

Jeff also helped Robert and Jane sell their house and additional land in Townsend.

“All in all, it was a great success thanks to Jeff” said Jane.

#TackleHelenaHomelessness

Here at Windermere Helena we believe in giving back to the community that gives us so much.  Windermere Helena is locally owned and managed and we enjoy being a part of this place we call home.  This year we launched the first #TackleHelenaHomelessness campaign, because we believe no one should go homeless.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.5 million children experience a period of homelessness every year.  Forty-two percent of those children are below the age of 5.  After reading those statistics we wanted to do our part in helping fight the battle of homelessness locally.

Windermere Helena, a proud sponsor of the Carroll College Athletics, launched #TackleHelenaHomelessness in which we will donate $10 for every Carroll College Fighting Saint home game tackle to Family Promise.  Family Promise is a local non-profit organization who’s mission is to help children and their families overcome homelessness.

We invite others to join us, by donating to Family Promise as well!  Donate Now!

#TackleHelenaHomelessness

Buying is Better

Do you think you can’t afford a home right now?  Think again…7 Reasons Owning is Better (and Smarter) than Renting.

  1. Rental prices continue to rise
  2. Homeownership builds wealth
  3. Owning a home gives a sense of security
  4. Homeowners get many tax benefits
  5. Homes can be decorated and customized to your tastes
  6. A mortgage is like a forced savings plan
  7. Owning is cheaper than renting in the long run

Bottom line: You have to live somewhere, so instead of paying off someone else’s home, why not pay off your own!

Our Summer Bucket List

Summer has officially started and we’ve started our summer bucket list.  Helena and the surrounding areas have a lot to offer and we plan on taken advantage of it all.  Here’s a few things on our summer bucket list.

Kayaking/Paddle boarding – Helena’s not only central in Montana but also offers abundant access to water.  Top on our list is to kayak, paddleboard or float one of the many waters, Spring Mountain Lake if it’s just for the afternoon, Park Lake, Lakeside, or the Causeway if we have a little more time and the Missouri, Dearborn River or Trout Creek  if we want a full day float with great fishing!

Last Chance Tour Train – An exclusive attraction to Helena is our Tour Train, offering historic tours of Helena in the open-air tour trains.  It’s a fun way to see beautiful and historic Helena.

Hiking/Biking – Another one of Helena’s assets are our open lands, forests, and mountains and we can’t wait to check off our list a couple hikes up Mount Helena City Park and hit a couple bike trails. Helena was the only place in Montana to earn a spot on National Geographic Magazines recent list of America’s top 20 mountain bike towns.

Drive-in Movie – Although Helena doesn’t have a drive-in movie theater it’s on our bucket list, so we’ll head on over the short drive to Rocker, Montana to sit in the bed of our truck with an air mattress and watch a current flick at Silver Bow Drive In.

Gates of the Mountains – Nestled half way between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks sits the Gates of the Mountains. Located 20 miles north of Helena we are one of Montana’s not to miss destinations.

Disc Golf (Folf) – Did you know that Helena is the birth place of Disc Golf in Montana. Helena has more Folf courses than any other town in the state.

And of course we will hit the usual events, like Alive @ 5, the Last Chance Stampede & Fair, Brewers home games, Symphony of the Stars, Farmer’s Markets.  There is honestly too much to list and we can’t wait to start checking off the boxes on our list!  Hope to see you out there!

At Home in the Outdoors

More than 80 percent of Americans say they want an outdoor living space where they can relax and entertain. And it’s no wonder why; when you live in Montana you want to spend as much time as you can outside. Outdoor spaces extend your livable space, add visual interest, and increase not only your quality of life, but also the overall value of your home. (In some cases, the increase in your home’s value can cover most or all of the cost to create the new space.) Here are some options to consider:

DECK

Decks are still the most popular outdoor living spaces, not only because they work so well for entertaining and relaxing, but also because they have the highest return on investment.

Surprisingly, wood decks (made of cedar or pine) are actually the better financial investment, because building with Trex or other popular composite products costs considerably more, yet doesn’t increase the home’s value by as much.

Expanding and re-configuring your current deck is another option that’s popular today. The contractor will typically remove the old face boards, extend the underlying structure, and then put down the new decking. This is also an opportunity to add built-in furniture, privacy screens, even plumbing and electricity.

PATIO

Running a close second to decks – in both popularity and investment return – are patios. With a patio, you can relax and entertain at ground level, which can afford more privacy in urban areas, and allows you to be more engaged with the surrounding plants and landscaping.

Typically made of brick, concrete, or stone, a patio also comes with far fewer maintenance and repair issues than a deck. Plus, patios are generally easier and less disruptive to construct – which is why they’re often about 30 percent less expensive to have professionally built.

 

GAZEBO

For those who want even more privacy, as well as shelter from the sun and protection from mosquitoes and other pests, there’s the gazebo. Available with walls or as an open-air design, with screening or not, these modestly sized, affordable backyard structures can be built from scratch or purchased as a kit (for assembly by a do-it-yourselfer or a professional).

Popular in the Midwest for decades, gazebos have made their way west as homeowners here have discovered how nice and easy they are for creating a shaded spot for reading, relaxing, and backyard gatherings.

 

OUTDOOR KITCHEN

People tend to gather naturally in the kitchen. And when the kitchen is outdoors, it creates an ideal opportunity to mix, mingle and interact in the open air. Other reasons why cooking outdoors makes so much sense: less kitchen cleanup, the house stays cooler during the summer, and grilled food just tastes better.

Some may think an outdoor kitchen is only for cooks who host large parties, but homeowners who go this route say they’re more of an extension of the home, and great for daily use.

Designs for outdoor kitchens range from the simple (a grill, limited counter and cabinet space, and maybe a prep sink) to truly independent entities with a refrigerator, an elaborate grill, warming oven, freestanding island with storage space, rolling cart stations, and even a dishwasher. Depending on how elaborate your design, you may be able to list it as a second kitchen when selling your house.

SIX PLANNING SUGGESTIONS

  1. Before meeting with contractors, gather photos of designs and ideas that you like; this will make it much easier to communicate your ideas.  This is a lot easier now, thanks to Pinterest.
  2. Make sure the materials you plan to use, as well as the overall size of the structure, will be harmonious with your home’s current look and feel.
  3. Give serious consideration to a roof – which will likely add significantly to the cost, but will also provide much-needed shade on hot days and protection from rain and inclement weather. In fact, to ensure things are structurally sound and architecturally appealing, start with the design for the roof first, then set your sights on the roof supports and structure below.
  4. Incorporate lighting into your design, which will extend its usability into the evening and throughout the seasons.
  5. Consider convenience, comfort, and longevity when choosing materials. For example, a floor made of dirt or stepping stones may last forever, but one made of wood or concrete is much easier to clean and arrange furniture upon.

If you’re eager to live a healthier lifestyle and reconnect with family and friends, as most people are today, it’s time to consider an outdoor living space.

 

Your Story is Our Story: Payton & Kassidee | Our First Home

Buying your first home can be an intimidating and daunting journey.  For Payton and Kassidee Blood, they felt the gravity of this huge life changing step.  They were making a choice of going from renter to homeowner.  At first, it was a little scary for them but they went into the homebuying process with eyes wide open.  It’s impressive that they carefully interviewed a total of 3 agents using a list of questions found with a simple Google search.  It’s impressive that they had already spoken with a lender to get pre-approved before sitting down with an agent.  It’s impressive that they were willing to ask questions when they didn’t understand a housing industry concept or term.

Ultimately, they chose to work with Josh Ahmann with Windermere Real Estate, who was honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of helping the young couple find their first home.  Josh takes the role of educating buyers seriously and has a passion for finding buyers just the right match.  In Josh’s words, “Buying your first home can be scary but it doesn’t have to be.  Find an agent who will work with you.  They should work with your schedule, ask a lot of questions to figure out what you’re looking for, and coach you along so you have an understanding of the process.  After all, you may only buy or sell a home a few times in your life time.  Your agent should gather the necessary facts, be a good listener, and make the home buying process as simple as possible.”  Cheers to Payton and Kassidee in finding a great home and thank you Josh for mentoring them through the process.  Here’s to years of happiness and memories and thank you for making your story our story!