All posts by jdecker

Take 5 with Realtor Jessie Sessions

I’m starting a new series of five questions with experts in various fields. Featured today is Jessie Sessions, a Realtor who has helped people on both the East and West coast find their dream homes. She currently resides in sunny Santa Barbara and sells beautiful houses on the ocean – one of which will be my dream house one day. Here are her five tips for moving cross-country.

Become Organized (BO): How do you move a family’s possessions, from furniture to a car, cross-country? (For example, do you hire a moving company for the furniture and a have the car shipped by rail?):
Jessie Sessions (JS): I recommend Amtrak to ship personal belongings, they charge by the pound and my two-bedroom condo was about 500 pounds! Some furniture is shippable via train as well, check with your Amtrak representative to see what you can and can’t ship. Overall, shipping via Amtrak is fairly economical but for larger, heavier items like furniture it makes sense to hire movers to pack and haul the items for you across country. For shipping cars, I highly recommend hiring an automobile-shipping carrier. It usually takes less than 1 week for long-haul trucks to move a car from coast to coast. I personally have shipped 2 vehicles through Philam Transport www.philamtransport.com/.

BO: What is the average timeframe needed to undertake a cross-country move?
JS: A cross-country move takes time. If you have the luxury of time, begin thinking about your move as far as one year in advance and research the area where you’re moving. Planning the logistics of the move will take at least six months. This includes selling or moving from your existing home and taking exploratory trips to your new destination to get acclimated with the area. When you’re unfamiliar with an area, it makes sense to rent in your new city before making the commitment to buy real estate. When you rent, you can learn about your new area and hire a local real estate professional that can familiarize you with the new market.

BO: What are the biggest mistakes people make when moving cross-country?
JS: It makes the most sense to be as familiar as possible with your new destination before making the move – moving without any pre-planning could be considered a mistake. Research the area online and make the trip, or several trips, out to the new location. You want to be comfortable with the local real estate market, the jobs there, the schools, the local economy, the climate, and more!

BO: What is your #1 tip as a realtor to ensure a smooth cross-country move?
JS: Engage in conversations with a local Realtor in your new market prior to making the move. You can ask your hometown Realtor to refer you to someone in your new area. That local Realtor can send you information on your new city before your move so that you are already informed of prices and inventory in your new market. It would be worthwhile to even meet that local Realtor on an exploratory trip to your new destination so that you have a trusted contact to help you when you are ready to buy or rent.

BO: Should people wait until their home is sold before they move across the country?
JS: Yes! Attempting to sell a property on one coast and buy a new property on another coast in a contingent-style sale is very complex. If you can, it is best to sell and close escrow on your current property and rent short-term in your new location. Not only does this reduce the complexity of your transaction but it also allows you time to really find the perfect new home in your new town.

Jessie Sessions is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Santa Barbara, California. She can be reached at 805-709-0904 or jsessions@bhhscal.com.

Entryway Organization & Decluttering

The entryway sets the tone for your home. It’s the first impression your guests have when they walk through your door. This is the zone of “out-the-door” where you’ll house things that go out-the-door. In addition to coats, this could include backpacks and sports equipment. And in small apartments, luggage often resides here. Make the entryway inviting and keep it clutter-free and well lit. Have a cheery mat so people can wipe their feet upon entering and in the rainy/snowy season have a rubber mat with a lip for rain/snow boots to reside.

Ways to keep entryways clutter-free:

· Use a hall closet or armoire to store coats and bags and shoes. Remember to maximize vertical space on the back of the door with an over-the-door shoe holder to store shoes or other out-the-door items like hats and gloves.

· Use a bench with baskets underneath so guests and household members can comfortably sit and remove their shoes. The baskets can store items like umbrellas, hats, shoes, dog leashes and bags. The possibilities are endless and tailored to how your household runs.

· Have a landing zone for your keys, outgoing mail, change, and anything else you remove from your pockets daily. A small side table or even a shelf can act as a landing zone.

· Use hooks to hang coats on and double up those hooks to hang purses and backpacks. Always have kids hooks at their height. If kids can’t reach the hook they can’t hang their coat and backpack up.

Office Organizing Tips from a Professional Organizer

The year is quickly coming to a close and I can’t think of a better way to end 2016 than to organize yourself in preparation for 2017. Before I was a professional organizer I worked several jobs in corporate America. The number one thing that kept me sane and on top of my workload, and gained praise from my coworkers and superiors, was my ability to keep projects and my workspace organized. If you’re wondering how to conquer the clutter in your office, let me give you some organizing advice.

Create and maintain a filing system. Whether you’re paperless or not, having labeled folders (virtual or in a filing cabinet) is essential to maintaining project clutter and aiding in retrieving information. Create a folder for each project or client and file away corresponding communication and documents. Imagine how productive you would feel upon opening your email to an inbox containing only current issues. Think of how easy it would be to find a file by opening your filing cabinet rather than shuffling through papers on your desk.

Manage your time effectively. Create a schedule for yourself at the end of the day that will detail your next day. Block off time where you will only respond to emails, work on a project, or meet with coworkers. Multitasking is not favorable to productivity. Focus on one task at a time and schedule buffer time to cover any issues that arise and need your attention immediately.

Clear your desk. A clear desk is paramount to productivity and professionalism. File away the papers cluttering your desk and use an inbox to corral incoming paperwork. Put office supplies away in a desk drawer. Recycle and toss trash and finished projects. The only things out on your desk should be beautiful and useful. Put up a family photo if you wish and only have your current projects on your desk when you’re working on them, otherwise those too should be filed away.

I spent all of my 20s and early 30s working in an office and no matter what company or position I was in, maintaining order in my projects and office space helped me succeed. I am confident that you too will increase productivity by just simply becoming organized.

Easier, Organized Holidays

It’s the holiday season again. Where you’re traveling or having out-of-town guests this blog post will give you tips for an easier, organized holidays. No matter what you’re doing for the holidays you need to Become Organized.

If you’re hosting a crowd, clean out your closets. At the very least you’ll need hall closet space for guest coats. Move the majority of your coat collection to an auxiliary closet or in the back of a bedroom closet. A collapsible, rolling coat rack can help increase coat storage the day of when you anticipate a lot of guests.

In the guest room, make sure your guests have enough space in the closet to store their suitcase and hang their clothes. Clean out some drawers in a dresser to give them space to unpack and feel at home. Change the sheets before arrival and leave a fresh set of towels out on the bed.

If you’re traveling for the holidays by plane, train, or automobile, make a list. Have a list of the items you need to pack and a list of the things you need to do to prepare your home for departure. Each packing list varies but should include your toiletries list, medications/vitamins, clothing list, and entertainment items like books or an iPad and charging accessories. Leaving for vacation is nearly as stressful as the actual traveling.

Your home departure list is a checklist of things that need to be done before you walk out the door and should include items such as washing the dishes, feeding the pets and arranging pet sitter information, emptying the garbage, turning off lights, and finally setting the alarm. This list will help ease your mind that you haven’t left anything out and you can enjoy your trip unencumbered.

I hope this helps you enjoy the holiday season more and stress less. The more you prepare and organize, the less you stress.

Easy Ways to Conquer The To Do List

Ever since becoming a mom I’ve had to manage my time very closely. I work in the precious few hours while my daughter naps. No longer are my days my own to create my own schedule, I am on her schedule for eating and sleeping. Keeping a detailed list of what I need to accomplish during the day is essential to staying on top of it all.

Prioritize your To Do list: not everything on your list needs to be done at once. Put a star by the important, essential items on your To Do list. Anything with a highly negative consequence if not done is a priority. When you write out your To Do list, see what you can eliminate as unnecessary. Separate your list into Must Do and Nice To Do. I bet a lot of things on the Nice To Do are time stealers and can be crossed off.

Schedule your To Do list: knowing when you’re going to do something takes the pressure off. No more wondering “How am I ever going to get that done?” it’s already scheduled. Because i’m on the baby’s schedule I keep a flexible timeline by only listing what I need to do in a day, not the time I’m going to do it. It may work best for you to schedule the time you’re going to accomplish your tasks. Remember to work within your own time strengths (ex. if you’re a morning person or you know you have a few uninterrupted hours while your children are at school) when scheduling.

Limit distractions and procrastination:
you may have to mute your phone or hide away in another room without the TV to limit distractions. If you stay focused on your task I promise that you will be more productive with the time you have. When I need to work online I have to resist the urge to open a browser window and check out my favorite blog http://www.aliluvs.com/. When you get distracted you lose focus and lose precious time. In addition to distractions, procrastination also sucks time from your schedule. When you fritter away your task-scheduled time you’re not accomplishing what you told yourself you needed to do. You’re not being true to yourself by procrastinating and distracting yourself from your tasks.

Try these tips and see how you feel about your To Do list. I know I feel more productive when I write things down. Just the thought of crossing something off my list makes me happy. I’ve even been known to complete a task I hadn’t written down and then write it down just to cross it off! Now I can check “write blog post” off my list.

Organizing a Nursery

By starting off organized in the nursery you can avoid the stress of disorganization and have items that you need at your fingertips. It is important to create homes for clothes, accessories, and toys. You’re going to be exhausted caring for a newborn so organizing the nursery before birth makes your life easier.

When planning your nursery, ensure that items used frequently are easy to access and store items that will be used in the future. For example, set out newborn clothing and store any clothing or accessories your baby will not fit in or use for the next three months or so. While you may have received a high chair from your registry, you don’t want to clutter your home with too many baby accessories.

Gather all your baby items together and assemble them in the nursery. Take them out of their packaging and wash items as appropriate. Assign zones in the nursery where items are easily accessible. Diapers and wipes and a few changes of clothes should be kept at the changing table. Have a basket of baby books near a comfortable chair. Keep small accessories like socks, hats, and mittens in a top dresser drawer, along with onesies. Additional outfits can be placed in lower drawers. Extra linens and blankets can be kept in a bottom drawer in the dresser.

Leave some toys out and accessible and place others in baskets or bins away on a shelf. You’ll want to have a bouncy seat, swing, and play mat scattered throughout the house so baby has a place for activity and you don’t have to bring the item to where you are while also carrying a newborn.

The more prepared you are before the baby comes, the easier things will be on everyone involved. You can spend your time concentrating on the baby and yourself without having to stress about things left undone.

Preparing for a Baby

There will be a lot more baby posts coming in the future as I’m expecting my first baby in July. I will now know what it’s like to be a mom and deal with kid clutter on a personal level. I feel like I’m part of a club now and my life has a BC (before children) period.

While I was preparing my nursery I knew I needed to wash everything my baby came in contact with because the manufacturing process introduces chemicals into clothing, toys, and bedding. What I didn’t know is that chemicals like formaldehyde are found in household products, including products that could be in my baby’s room.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, found formaldehyde in household sources such as carpets and permanent press fabrics. Their recommendation for reducing exposure includes providing fresh air and washing new permanent press clothing before wearing.

Think of all the new things you’ve brought into your home for the baby. Unless you’re buying organic, non-toxic items, everything newly manufactured has gone through a chemical process. This means the furniture, mattresses, carpeting, clothing, and even new toys need to be aired out and washed, as appropriate, before baby comes into contact with them.

When setting up your nursery, unpack everything from plastic to let it air out. Open nursery windows to let products off-gas. Wash all fabric items in a detergent free of dyes and perfumes. Even clothing you’ve stored or picked up second hand should be washed to reduce allergens for your baby.

Clean new and used toys as well. Fisher-Price recommends washing small plastic toys (without batteries) in the dishwasher or by hand in a sink full of warm, soapy water. If you can’t submerge the toy due to size or non-submersible parts, clean the surface with soap and water, then wipe with a diluted bleach solution and let air-dry.

There are a lot of unknowns with babies but at least you’ll know that the nursery is more baby safe after washing and airing out your baby products.

Anatomy of a Perfect Closet

Most people would admit that their closet isn’t quite as clean as they would want it to be. It happens! Clutter quickly comes together and before anyone knows how, the closet is all but overrun with junk. Well, these easy tips will help make sure that your closet is cleaned out and molded into the perfect closet!

1. Clean It Out
The first thing that you need to do to attain the perfect closet is to take out everything. A fresh start is important! After you have removed all of your clothes and accessories, it is time to clean and vacuum. Clearing everything out will help you organize it all later!

2. Throw Away the Extras
This is probably the most important step in getting a more organized closet. Coincidentally, it is also the hardest. Most closets just have too much stuff. Everything from your high school prom dress to clothes with the tags still on needs to go! You’ll want plenty of trash bags on hand. Watch out for the tricks your mind will play on you. If you haven’t touched it in two years, you’re not going to suddenly start wearing it again!

3. Organize
The hardest part of the process is over. Sort your clothes and accessories into various piles, from shirts to shoes and everything in between! If you really want the absolutely perfect closet, go ahead and organize these categories by color or type. For instance, your tank tops would be separated from your t-shirts. If that doesn’t suit you, there is always arranging your clothes by color! It can be a neat visual experience to open your closet and see it sectioned off by colors! Once this task is finished, gather any equipment you will need before you begin to figure out where things will go in your perfect closet. This includes things like hangers, tie organizers, shoe stands, etc.

4. Find a Place for Everything
Depending on the size and layout of your closet, your options may be limited. You will want to come up with specific “zones” for your sorted clothes. Low-hanging bars are useful for hanging things like skirts and shirts, but high bars easily lend themselves to pants and blazers. In general, it is best to keep your dresses and shoes together. Most people have a few accessories like ties or purses in their closets, so keep these separated from your real clothes in a designated accessory “zone”. This will all depend on what works best for you, but in general these are handy guidelines!

5. Make the Most of Your Space
There are plenty of storage systems available to you; everything from jewelry boxes to storage baskets. With a creative plan to make the most of your space, you will be able to keep things neat and organized in the long-term. If you live in a region with harsh winters, maybe put the shorts and skirts in a bin for a few months of the year. There’s no sense in cluttering up your space with an adorable miniskirt if it’s snowing outside!

An organized closet can do a lot more than make things look neater; it can save you a lot of time during your morning routine. If you can clearly see what’s in your closet, outfits are much easier to piece together. As an added bonus, you’ll feel better with everything looking so neat and clean! So? What are you waiting for? Start clearing out your closet and optimizing your space. If at all possible, be creative! This can be a fun experience!

Jessica Kane is a professional writer who has an interest in keeping things organized and in order. She currently writes for FlexCon, a leading vendor of corrugated plastic bins and boxes.

Organize with Ease using a Planner, Calendar, and Digital Apps

Every year companies make the cutest calendars and planners and there’s always a new app to aid in organizing and time managing your life. And invariably, we fall prey and purchase the new shiny thing that promises to keep us on track and on time and help us do things like remember the milk (there’s actually an app called Remember the Milk www.rememberthemilk.com). After a few weeks or months, our resolve falls by the wayside and we stop writing down appointments or jotting down notes and the whole system falls apart.

So how do you use a planner, calendar, and/or digital app for your greatest benefit? Don’t try to go against the grain. If you’re a paper person use a paper option. If you do well in the cloud and are managing a few people’s schedules, use a digital option. With the push to go digital there are so many apps that can keep families connected. Digital family organizing apps can share calendars and invite people to events they need to attend, such as doctor visits and school meetings. You can share lists and messages with the click of a button. By sharing information in real-time, everyone stays up-to-date and on the same (digital) page.

You may want to use separate systems for work vs. personal to reduce information overload. Also, many workplaces use an intranet calendar and planning system (such as PERT or Gantt charts) that you can’t take home with you. Of course mark big events like business travel or any major deadlines on your personal system so you can schedule yourself around late nights and important events.

Challenge Yourself:

Decide on the Best Planner for You: the choice shouldn’t involve a paradigm shift in thinking; use whatever you feel most comfortable with. If your children come home with a school planner, have them use that as important school days are already marked for you and teachers refer back to those planners in class. If you find that the planner you chose doesn’t fit with your life, choose another one. It may take some finessing to find what works for you, especially if you’re used to storing all your information in your head.

Pick an Option and Stick with it: like the old saying goes “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. You may have the best, most comprehensive option available but if you don’t put your appointments or lists down, the option is useless. Get into the habit of reviewing tomorrow’s schedule the night before and immediately writing down appointments or reminders as they come up.

Get the Family on Board: If your calendar option is a huge whiteboard in the kitchen, make sure everyone writes down their activities and schedule on the calendar and checks back frequently to stay appraised of the household schedule. It only takes a few missed appointments or double-scheduled events to realize how crucial a synchronized schedule is to a family.