How to Get Your Home Organized for the Holidays

Before putting your home into full holiday mode, take some time to set the stage first. Doing so will help ensure that you and your loved ones fully enjoy the spirit of the season. Home organization expert Marie Kondo provides the following tips for holiday prep.

1. Take some time to visualize. What’s your ideal holiday scenario? A festive open house teaming with friends and family? Or a cozy family gathering with hot cocoa around the fireplace? Visualizing what you want your holiday experience to be like will help you focus on creating the perfect environment.

2. Take inventory. Before you start buying decorations and home goods to outfit your home for the holidays, move through each room of your house and take stock of what you already have and what you’d like to get rid of. Focus special attention on the rooms where you’re likely to gather most, such as the kitchen, dining room and living room.

3. Make room. From bulky packages arriving in the mail to decorations of all sizes and greeting cards, the holidays often involve a degree of disruption to your usual living space. Take some time to carve out spaces to house all of these holiday-related extras so that your home doesn’t end up feeling cluttered and messy.

4. Prep the fridge. Holiday entertaining, baking and all-around indulging often means a fridge and freezer packed to the max. Before you start stocking up, take an hour or two to clean out your refrigerator and freezer. This will ensure that you have ample space for incoming groceries, as well as a frozen casserole or two for unexpected company or nights when you’re too exhausted to cook.

5. Clear space for decorations. Holiday decorations make our homes come alive with sparkle and warmth, but not when they conflict with existing items. In order to ensure that your holiday decorations enhance instead of detract from your interior ambience, clear appropriate spaces by removing framed photos, knick knacks and plants.

Throughout the holiday season, Kondo also advises to “accept the unexpected,” whether it be a canceled flight or a burned roast. Remember that holiday spirit doesn’t come from external factors, but from within.

Photo by Алсу Вершинина on Unsplash

Halloween Safety Tips for Your Home

Halloween may be full of spooky fun, but this year, make sure that the scares are fake by keeping Halloween property safety on your mind. While you are busy decorating with ghosts and ghouls, be certain that you are keeping potential hazards at bay with these tips.

Make a Clear Path
Between a lack of natural light, ill-fitting masks and draping costumes, sugar-crazed children are poised to fall quite easily. This is especially true if there’s an obstacle in their way. Make sure that there is a clear-and-easy path for trick-or-treaters to follow to get to your door. Don’t forget that a child ready for candy may try to cross your lawn to get to the door quicker. Mark or fill any holes or hazards on the lawn, and make your front path as enticing as possible to avoid a tripping injury at your property.

Mitigate Fire Hazards
Candles and Halloween have always been synonymous. Between spooky candelabras to the glowing ghoulish faces of jack-o-lanterns, a flickering flame can add mysterious drama to your decor. However, with the multitude of flameless options, it is best to opt for an electronic version this season–especially if children will be frequenting your door. Keep your household extra safe by avoiding decorating in a way that can block exits. As always, avoid placing any flammable items (such as those spooky faux spider webs) next to furnaces or other hot objects.

Keep Your Pets Secure
For your safety and your pets’, keep animals secure during the festivities. Unusual masks and loud sounds can spook a normally docile dog into attacking, and in-and-outdoor cats may get lost or otherwise due to Halloween pranks. Some experts indicate black cats are particularly susceptible due to superstitious associations, but the evidence is up for debate. Regardless it can be best to be safe-rather-than sorry.

Keep your family ready for fun this Halloween, and ensure your home is protected in the process. With a little effort, it’s easy to ensure the scares are pretend ones this season.

5 Tips for Frugal Living

5 Tips for Frugal Living

1. Know the 3 Ns: Necessities, Nest Egg and Non-Essentials – Necessities, like rent, food, clothing and transportation, should take no more than 50% of your income. Aim for a nest egg—savings in an interest-bearing account that includes cash enough for three month’s expenses or emergencies, plus a chunk of your monthly income going into a retirement account—and designate no more than 20% of your income for discretionary items such as entertainment, dining out, vacations and other non-essentials.

2. Know the 4 Rs: Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle – Before you buy something, ask yourself: Do I really need it? Can I buy it second-hand or trade for it? Can I recycle or repurpose something I already have? Can I find it on the cheap? Get acquainted with local websites devoted to buying and trading used merchandise.

3. Stick to a List – Resist impulsive buying. Whether it’s groceries, clothing, household goods or non-essentials, make a list of what you need and do your best to stick to it when you shop. And a good piece of advice…never do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach!

4. Try Not to Pay Full Price – Clip coupons, download apps and sign up for loyalty programs. Check the internet for books and tips on purchasing almost anything you need at a discount. Facebook Marketplace is a good place to start looking for preowned items at affordable prices.

5. Put People Over Things – Money can’t buy relationships. Even casual conversations can lead to friendships, and friends can be your greatest asset. Apart from the emotional support that friends provide, you can live more frugally by cooking together instead of eating out, playing games at home instead of spending on expensive entertainment, and keeping each other on the straight and narrow when it comes to spending wisely.

🍂💜 It’s beginning to look a lot like Autumn! 💜🍂

6 Security Tips for Your New Home

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6 Security Tips for Your New Home

Buying and moving into a new home is exciting, but it also requires a lot of attention to detail, from closing the deal to figuring out the logistics of getting all your belongings from point A to point B. Amid all the excitement, planning and unpacking, many new homeowners overlook one essential factor: the security of their new house.

If you’re moving, consider these six tips from the home security experts at ADT to help keep your family and your property safe and secure:

Change the Locks. You never know who lived in your property before you moved in. Do yourself a favor and change the locks regardless of the situation.

Transfer or Invest in a Security System. There’s no better way to ensure your home is secure 24/7 than installing a home security system. Burglar-proof your house by adding video surveillance and motion sensors for complete security. If there’s already a security system in the house, have it properly looked over and reactivated. If you’d like to bring the security system that you’re currently using to your new house, consider relocation services.

Install Indoor and Outdoor Lighting. Don’t stand out as the “new neighbor” by being the only dim house on the street at night. Keep your family protected by making your house look occupied at all times using light automation.

Keep Your Outside Area in Excellent Condition. Did you know burglars see the exterior of your property as a bullseye? If your lawn is unkempt or you have large shrubbery, burglars will see that as an invitation to break in.

Talk With the Neighbors. Having trusted neighbors can immediately make living in a new place much safer. They may be able to help keep your house look occupied while you’re away by simply picking up the newspaper, shoveling your walkway, etc.

Remind Your Kids to Be Cautious. Moving to a new neighborhood means a lot of unfamiliar faces for you and your family. Make sure your children are aware that they should never let a stranger into the house, leave the garage door up when they come in or go exploring too far until you’re more familiar with the area.

By taking care of these security measures when moving, you can turn your focus to truly enjoying your new, safe home.

How to Find Money for a Down Payment

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FHA insured loan - Down payment

One of the most important steps in buying a house is saving enough money for a down payment. Depending on the type of mortgage you obtain, you could have to put down as much as 20 percent, or significantly less. Even if your lender only requires you to put a small percentage of the purchase price down, that will still total thousands of dollars. There are many ways to come up with the money.

Seek Government Help
The federal government and many states offer down payment assistance programs. Rules and amounts available depend on location, the size of the loan and the buyer’s financial circumstances.

Beef Up Your Savings Account
A small amount of money, if set aside consistently each time you get paid, can add up over time. The key is to transfer money to a savings account no matter what. If you don’t have the discipline to do that yourself, set up automatic transfers.

If you expect to get a tax refund or year-end bonus, resolve to use it for a down payment. You can use part of it to reward yourself, but focus on your long-term goal of owning a home.

Pay Off Debt
If you have credit card balances with high interest rates, you are probably paying thousands of dollars per year in interest. That is money that could be used to fund a down payment on a home. Create a plan to pay off your credit card bills as soon as possible. That could mean cutting expenses, working overtime, getting a second job, paying a little more toward your credit card bills each month, consolidating your balances, or taking out a loan with a lower interest rate.

Once you have eliminated your debt and interest payments, the money you had been putting toward those bills each month can be devoted to saving for a down payment. Paying off credit card debt can also improve your credit score and help you get a lower interest rate when you apply for a mortgage.

Tap Into Retirement Funds
In some cases, you might be able to withdraw money from an IRA to fund a down payment on a house. Depending on the type of account you have, you might have to pay taxes and penalties. If you have a 401(k), you can borrow money to buy a house, but you will have to pay it back with interest. Any money that you withdraw from your retirement savings won’t be able to accrue interest, so think carefully before choosing one of these options, especially if you’re getting close to retirement age.

Figure Out a Strategy
Saving money for a down payment can feel overwhelming. It may take several years, depending on your price range and financial circumstances. Explore your options and come up with a plan, preferably one that combines a variety of approaches.

5 Reasons Aurora, IL is a Great Place to Move

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Aerial photography - Bird's-eye view

By Haley Kieser

Whatever your reason for moving–a growing family, a need for a change in scenery–Aurora, Illinois has something everyone will love. As the second the largest city in Illinois and a stone throw away from Chicago, here lives a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a thriving job market.

Fun fact: this city is also known as the “City of Lights” because it was the first place to illuminate its streets with electric lights in the U.S.

 

You’ll find this, plus many more charming reasons are what makes this city the perfect place to call home. Here are just five to note.

1. Exploding with culture

Located just 40 miles west of the greater Chicago metropolitan area, Aurora is overflowing with cultural significance and fun things to do. The city is known for notable architectural landmarks and historical sites, such as The Keystone Building, Healy Chapel, and the Old Second National Bank, all designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Paramount Theater, located in downtown Aurora, was even recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to great architecture and history, there are plenty of family-friendly places to enjoy like the Phillips Park and Zoo and the Aurora Regional Fire Museum. Downtown Aurora is bustling with delicious restaurants and bars, as well as an annual festival called Downtown Alive, which features live music and food booths. Blues on the Fox and the AuroraArtWalk are other festivals that happen throughout the year, providing a place for local musicians and artists alike to showcase their work, and for the residents to enjoy.

2. Above average household income

The cost of living in Aurora is considered on par with the rest of Illinois and the rest of the country’s average. Housing is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference, as the median income for a household is $63,967, according to Data USA, which is more than the median annual income in the U.S. This being said, majority of Aurora’s residents are considered middle class with only 14% falling below the poverty line.

3. Great neighborhoods

The city of Aurora is divided into three main sections–the West Side, the East Side, and Fox Valley, also known as the Far East Side. The Fox River naturally divides these areas, and despite its name, Fox Valley is actually located the farthest from the river. The West Side is considered more upper-class, while the East Side is more blue-collar. Fox Valley is considered more undeveloped compared to the other two areas, so you’ll want to keep this in mind when picking out a new home.

4. Plenty of employment opportunities

Aurora has a long manufacturing history, home to companies such as the Aurora Brewing Company, Caterpillar Inc., National Metalwares, the Chicago Corset Company, plus many more. The Hollywood Casino also drives much of the job market, providing tourism for the city and features memorabilia from several famous movies. The most common employment sectors include administration, support, and waste management services, manufacturing, and wholesale trade. Over the last year, the job market has increased by 1.5% and is expected to grow to be 37.4% over the next ten years. Meaning, there are jobs to be taken by newcomers moving in!

5. Residents are highly educated

Aurora is home to great schools at all levels. And even better, the education level of the city’s residents are substantially higher than a typical U.S. community–over 30% of adults in Aurora have at least a bachelor’s degree. At the highest level of education, there is the Aurora University, and the Regency Beauty Institute-Aurora. The DuPage County and Kane County school systems serve as the school district and contain a total of 46 public schools. These counties are split by the Fox River, so your child’s education depends on if you live in the East or West. Both sides are solid options, however, the city also has 22 private schools. For students wishing to specialize in math and science, there is the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy for students in grades 10 through 12.

Before you move, know the rules

It’s important to note that Aurora is very strict about enforcing various rules and regulations in regard to all moving services. It’s required that all moving companies present a certificate of liability insurance to the building management before they start unloading. This is to ensure that if any property damage occurs, the building manager can be sure the moving company will cover it. This certificate is free and easy to obtain from the moving company you use. Also, if you plan to move into an apartment, be sure to book the elevator well in advance. Moving into the downtown area will also involve parking permits so your truck won’t get a ticket.

Still looking for a house?

If you haven’t found a place to call home just yet and need some guidance, we’d love to partake in your home search. Relocating from out of state? Let us work together to identify where you best fit in Aurora – we can’t wait to welcome you!

10 Easy Ways to Refresh a Tired Living Space

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Living room - Room

If you’re like many Americans who’ve been working from home for many months, you may be tired of the living space you once enjoyed and find it is now totally uninspiring. Decorators suggest 10 simple refresher solutions to perk up your living and work space.

1. Repaint one wall. Add a new splash of color by repainting one wall of your kitchen, bedroom or living room. Choose a color you find relaxing or pleasing and add new interest to your day. You can tryout new paint colors for your walls using the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer.

2. Bring in a few plants. A little greenery can do wonders to brighten up a space and lift your spirits as well. Try an easy-care philodendron, a low-light friendly Devil’s Ivy or Chinese evergreen, or mini-sago palm or weeping fig. If you’re looking to liven up your living space with some house plants, check out Schaefer’s Greenhouse.

3. Hang a mirror. It will get a little more light bouncing around, which can make a room look more spacious.

4. Try some new wall art. Add interest and create something fun to look at while you work by hanging one larger piece surrounded in an interesting way by several smaller pieces. You can even use framed photos or a variety of smaller watercolors to make a pleasing gallery wall. Have you seen the artwork at If These Walls Could Talk recently?

5. Change up the lighting. Overhead light can be pretty boring. Bring in a table or floor lamp or two to get light coming from different heights and angles around the room. No one knows lighting quite like Light Source Lighting.

6. Bring in a rug. In addition to adding warmth and texture to the floor, an area rug helps ground a room and the furniture in it. Even a small rug in the kitchen or in your entryway can make a big difference. Check out Loloi Rugs.

7. Do some rearranging. Speaking of furniture, you can completely change the look of a room just by moving it around.

8. Toss some pillows around. Make a tired room more inviting by tossing some comfy, bright-colored pillows on the sofa, a chair or a bed.

9. Change out the nick-knacks. Accessorize a bookcase, shelving or a mantelpiece with some new decorative pieces, such as a couple of framed pictures, a small vase or sculpture, a pretty clock or whatever pleases you. Warehouse 55 is a fabulous place to find unique accessories!

10. Try adding scent. If you find the scent of pine or hyacinths relaxing, bring in some scented candles. Bringing scent into a room can liven it without breaking the bank. Head over to The Little Traveler for new candles and diffusers.

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

 

How to Redesign Your Dining Room

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COREtec Floors - US Floors COREtec Plus HD

If you’re unhappy with the current layout and furnishings in your dining room, or if you would just like to switch things up, you have many options. Think about how you typically use the room, any problems you have encountered with its design, and ways to make it more functional and attractive.

How Do You Use the Dining Room?
Some families think of the dining room as a place to host formal gatherings and want its design to reflect that purpose. Others use the dining room on a regular basis for ordinary family meals and want a space that is functional and that has a relaxed atmosphere.

If you use the dining room for daily family dinners, choose a table that’s large enough for your immediate family and guests. If you use the room only for holiday gatherings and other special events, a long table that can accommodate a large group may be the best choice. If you would prefer to seat guests in smaller groups to promote more intimate conversations, two or more smaller tables can make that possible.

If the dining room is typically used for formal occasions, you may want to include a cabinet to store dishes and silverware. A table to place food and beverages can help you minimize trips back and forth to the kitchen.

Where Do You Want People to Focus Their Attention?
If you have a beautiful table, you may want that to be the first thing that guests notice when they enter the dining room. You may prefer to have their eyes drawn instead to a painting, a light fixture, a rug, a fireplace or patterned wallpaper. Figure out what you want the dining room’s focal point to be and base its design around that.

Choose furnishings and decorative pieces that reflect your personality. Look for objects that are unique or that have a personal story behind them so they can help you and your guests break the ice.

Your dining room should reflect who you are and how you want your guests to feel. Don’t be afraid to experiment with custom pieces, mismatched furniture and less traditional colors, patterns and textures. Select light fixtures that will provide adequate illumination, capture people’s attention and add a sense of style to the dining room.

Get Help From an Interior Designer
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to make decisions, a professional can help. An interior designer can listen to your goals, present a wide range of options that you may or may not have considered and help you choose pieces that will give you the dining room you want without breaking your budget.

Decor Trends Shaped by a Pandemic Era

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Table - Couch

For many Americans, 15 months spent mostly at home has made it the center of our universe, and pandemic-driven needs have altered the way we see and use it. From paint colors to lighting, decorators say that at least six notable design trends have been shaped by how much time we’ve spent—and are still spending—within our own four walls.

Warm, Wild Colors – Neutral paint colors have given way to warmer and bolder hues, from old standards like coral, peach and yellow to bolder choices such as orange and brick red. The trend to warm colors reflects a growing desire to feel nurtured and protected at home. You can tryout new paint colors for your walls using the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer.

Indoor Plants – More than ever, people are bringing the outdoors in, as evidence grows that greenery helps us to reduce stress and connect with nature while spending more time at home. If you’re looking to liven up your living space with some house plants, check out Schaefer’s Greenhouse.

Multi-Purpose Lighting – With more people sharing the same light sources, lighting has had to become more flexible and efficient. Dining rooms, for example, which have been doing double duty as office space, have seen overhead fixtures become more functional light sources. No one knows lighting quite like Light Source Lighting.

Durable Fabrics – As they have been getting more daily use than ever, some upholstery fabrics have been showing wear and are being replaced by microfiber and tightly-woven cotton fabrics that stand up well to dirt, dust and liquids. Check out Ethan Allen’s high performance fabrics.

Plaids – Cheery plaids have been making a comeback, especially small-scale plaids in high-intensity colors, which are showing up more often now in table linens, bedroom decor and upholstery.

Bidets – A growing desire to be cleaner and germ-free—strengthened by the short-term hoarding of toilet paper—has brought the European tradition of bathroom bidets to more American homes. Bidet vendors here have seen as much as a ten-fold interest in their product over the past year.