Trends in Landscaping Design to Try This Year

The following is a guest post by Cat Murphy.

Whether you’re trying to sell your home or update the one you recently bought, there are plenty of ways to modernize your landscaping and add a touch of refreshing curb appeal. The latest trends include homeowners stepping outside the box with landscaping designs that have Mother Nature’s best interest at heart. Here’s a list of this years most up and coming popular trends.

Growing Produce

If you’re going to add plants to the garden, you might as well also grow something to eat. Planting edible options, like fruits and vegetables, is a great way to add interest and beauty to your landscaping that also offers plenty of health benefits. Growing food in your yard is a trending design that allows you and your guests to appreciate how food is grown. It’s also great for the environment and helps cut down on the weekly grocery budget. Choose fruits and vegetables that thrive in your community for an easier way to manage your garden.

Privacy

Speaking of privacy, you don’t have to install an ugly wooden fence. Plant a quick growing hedge or shrub to provide an extra barrier between your outdoor living space and your neighbors. Even a low growing shrub, like a boxwood, can create a semi-private feel to an area without hindering the view. Planting trees is another excellent way to add privacy and natural beauty to compliment a house.

Asymmetry

Shapes found in nature are rarely perfectly straight lines. Many homeowners now prefer the creativity of nature by reflecting curved or slanted lines in their landscaping. Slight curves on the outside edge of a garden bed and curved walkways are trending right now. These asymmetrical lines not only make your home more appealing, but they also create a softer overall look that embraces nature’s shapes. You can also include a free formed garden bed in the middle of a large lawn space that will add value to your home as well.  Be sure to use a weed eater to properly trim all edges for the best look possible. 

Xeriscaping

So you want a beautiful lawn and garden, but what if you don’t have time to keep it maintained? Xeriscaping is both a popular landscaping technique and design that incorporates plants acclimated to a specific region and decreases the amount of maintenance by using less turf. These plants are typically locally native plants that require little to no added water. They do well in the current climate conditions of the area and can be left alone for the most part.

Xeriscaping also encourages homeowners to replace lawn areas with non-organic mulching options, like stone, to create a truly unique look. While xeriscapes are more common in arid regions of the country, some homeowners use this type of landscaping in smaller portions of their yard that are either hard to access or have trouble growing other plants.

Adding any one of these landscaping techniques to your yard will help raise the overall curb appeal of your home. Consider changing a problem spot in the yard to a xeriscape or adding plants that provide nutritious food options. Creating privacy with quick growing plants as well as incorporating curved lines into your yard are other trends in landscaping design to try this year.

 

Cat Murphy is a gardening and landscaping writer, and outdoor extraordinaire. She enjoys cooking for family and friends and going on long hikes anywhere and everywhere in nature.

4 Tips to Making Your Home More Energy Efficient in 2019

The following is a guest post by James Witts.

If your resolution for 2019 includes cutting back on household expenses, making your home more energy efficient should be at the top of your list. You’ll find a wide range of products to help decrease your home’s energy consumption. Check out these four tips to make your home more energy efficient this year.

Go Solar

Harnessing the power of the sun is an easy way to incorporate energy efficiency into your home this year. Rooftop solar panels are becoming more popular and less expensive. Tax incentives can drastically reduce the cost of these systems.

Other solar powered options include outdoor lighting. You can choose a variety of lighting options that won’t consume any electricity. Solar powered flood lights, pathway lights, garden and porch lights are just a few of the many options available. Many of these lights are also motion censored, making them even more energy efficient. Consider installing a few of these around the outside of your home.

Auto-Renew Filters

The heating and cooling systems of your home are the primary source of energy consumption. Replacing older furnaces with newer energy efficient models is an excellent way to instantly cut down on energy costs. Can’t afford the newer options? Consider ordering your furnace filters online with an auto-renewal option. You’ll receive a new filter every few months making it easy to change. Doing so can help reduce energy costs as the heating and cooling systems won’t have to work as hard to force air through a clogged filter. Having the filters sent directly to your home also makes it more likely that you’ll replace them more often.

Plant Trees

If you live in the city of trees or an area with plenty of shade you may already be living more efficiently than you think. If not so much, an excellent way to add prolonged energy savings to your home is to plant shade trees in the yard. Not only do trees cut down on the amount of heat that hits your home, but they can also raise your home’s overall value. Trees help the environment by providing more air filtering qualities to the neighborhood. They also provide homes for pollinators and area wildlife. An Auburn University study concluded that your home’s energy costs will be reduced up to 11% by just having a mere 17% of your home shaded by a tree. Planting a few shade trees around your house today is a great investment that will make your home energy efficient for years to come.

Install A Tankless Water Heater

Many homeowners are choosing to ditch the large water heaters that can take up a good chunk of energy by continuously heating many gallons of water. A Tankless water heater only heats up the water that you immediately use. These smaller water heating systems cut down on the amount of space needed for heating water and cut down on the wasted energy of heating water that will need to be reheated later. Both gas and electric powered tankless heaters are available in these on-demand applications.

Any of these four tips will save you money and make your home more energy efficient in the new year. Upgrading to a tankless water heater and solar powered lights may cost you up front, but think of the savings you’ll see in 2019 and for years to come.

 

 

James Witts is an eco-conscious home improvement writer. He is constantly trying to find new ways to live off the grid while living in a tiny home with his wife, Andie. 

A Mindful Move: Home is Where the Om Is


Written by NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm

We are all trying to be more mindful. No reason to “try;” instead, relax and be. Easier said than done, right? We all strive to be mindful: aware of emotions, present in the moment, attentive to the needs of others, conscious of our planet and calm. But, in our mindful practice, we tend to let the stressful moments of life knock us off course. And, we all know that one of the most stressful times is moving. Even during your move, you can be mindful which will actually help you relieve the stress.

The goal is to stay present, aware and to not allow the outside turmoil of all your added to-dos for your move dictate your mood. Here’s a proven trick: Flip your mindset from reacting to the moving and packing to-dos, to how your move can impact you and others. By remaining thoughtful throughout the process and using the power of kindness, you can make your move a positive experience. After all, kindness is contagious; so spread it all around on moving day and in your new hood!

Here are simple ways to conduct a Mindful Move:

Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

Moving can be a time of giving. Show your new community and your old community some love by thinking about their needs. Now, take another look at all your stuff and your clutter. Do you really want, or need, all that in your new home? Perhaps, you have clothing, furniture, kitchen items or even food you have been meaning to clear out? No time like the present to give presents to those in need.

This is not just another to-do on your moving list, it’s very simple and the rewards are immense – it’s the ultimate win-win! You assist others and at the same time you receive a clutter free home. And, a clutter free home is a more mindful space, nurturing a clearer mind and calmer life.

  1. Donate Non-Perishable Food:
    • Find your local food bank here.
    • Visit www.MoveForHunger.org, a non-profit organization that will connect you with a local moving company that will deliver your non-perishable food donations to your local food bank for you. Check out their Find a Mover tool
  2. Donate Clothing:
    • Salvation Army
    • Epilepsy Foundation
    • Veteran organizations
    • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
    • Red Cross
    • Check with your local fire department, churches, synagogues and schools, to see if they are hosting clothing donation drop offs
  3. Donate Toys:
    • Local children’s hospitals
    • Local Ronald McDonald House. Find a local Ronald McDonald location or care mobile here.
    • Local Boys & Girls Club
    • Many local shelters or children’s charities accept toy donations. Use this Homeless Shelter Directory to find shelters in your area.
    • Organizations like My Stuff Bags and Stuffed Animals for Emergencies offer children a familiar object in times of crisis.
    • Other places to check include a children’s social services office and even stores often have a donation bin at the front entrance where you can place donations.
  4. Donate Household Goods & Furniture:
    • Habitat for Humanity ReStore
    • Salvation Army
    • Epilepsy Foundation
    • Veteran organizations
    • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
    • Red Cross
  5. Donate Vehicles
    • Habitat for Humanity Cars for Homes
    • Salvation Army
    • Kars 4 Kids
    • Wheels for Wishes
    • Cars Helping Veterans.org

Be Mindful of the Environment

Time to show Mother Earth some love. Moving is the time we finally clean out those closets, junk drawers, spare rooms, attics and garages. Moving time equals major trash time. What if you were more environmentally conscious on moving day? That would be pretty mindful, wouldn’t it?

The great green news is there are simple steps you can take during a move to reduce your waste. Being eco-conscious on moving day will boost your mood and your wallet!

1. Use Eco-Friendly Moving Supplies: From boxes, packing paper to bubble, there are now green 100% recyclable materials to keep our neighborhoods cleaner and greener. Yep, there is even biodegradable eco-bubble, pop away guilt free.
ECO-BONUS: Save money by asking your moving company for used boxes made of recyclable materials. You can get used boxes at a discount and some moving companies will even give you a refund for returning your used boxes at the end of your move. Pop! Pop! Cha-ching!

2. It’s Not Just for the Movies: Instead of the foam popcorn and peanuts, use real popcorn to pack fragile items! Just pop and fill the gaps in your boxes to secure and pad fragile items. Cheap and earth friendly!

3. Be Kind to Your Electronics: Contact a domestic e-waste recycler so your old computers, microwaves, etc. are recycled domestically, under strict environmental laws, rather than being shipped off to be processed by highly toxic and polluting techniques.

4. Don’t Just Toss it out. Upcycle and recycle everything you can. Don’t just send your old stuff to the land fill. See above on how to Donate. Donate. Donate.

5. Hire an Eco-Conscious Moving Company: Use your “green” to influence and encourage green habits by hiring companies that use environmental-friendly practices. Make sure your moving company is bright green by asking: Does the staff recycle? Are the offices and warehouse designed to be energy efficient? Do they use biodiesel to run their trucks? Do they use 100% recyclable materials? Do they sell used boxes? Do they buy them back at the end of the move? Chances are if they care about the earth, they are mindful of their customers too!

By using the power of mindfulness and kindness, you will feel more relaxed and calm during your moving experience. There is no better way to start a new chapter in life than feeling good about giving back, free of clutter and present in your new home! Time to relax and say how good it is to be om.

 

 

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.

5 Apps to Redecorate Your Home with Your Phone

Guest post by Lori Cunningham

With dozens of decorating apps to choose from and inspiration just a finger touch away, redecorating your home has never been easier. Augmented Reality (AR) now lets you use your phone to see how colors, accessories, and furniture will look in your own house. On the horizon, you can expect to see apps using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to learn your style through your interaction with them.

Whether you’re looking to give your living room a quick refresh or want to completely revamp your home, these five apps can help you get started. Create a stunning look without blowing your budget — no professional interior designer needed.

Houzz: Start with online inspiration

Apps like Pinterest and Instagram have plenty of pictures and designs to start your inspiration journey. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and keeping track of design ideas can be cumbersome.  It’s not always simple to buy an item featured in a picture, and you might need to search around to find a similar item. A site like Houzz can help you keep everything organized and in one place.

Houzz covers architecture, interior design, decorating, landscape design, and home improvement. It has over 17 million high-resolution photos, all of which can be filtered by room, style, budget, size, color, or a combination.

 

Many of the pictures have purchasing information on the featured items, allowing you to purchase them within the Houzz app.  You can also save pictures to an “Ideabook” to help keep your style ideas all in one place.

The app uses AR to help you see what an item will look like in your home. Click the “View in my room” button to see the item in 2D using your phone’s camera. 

The Houzz app is free on iOS and Android.

MagicPlan: Create a floor plan from your phone

To ensure that the furniture you plan to purchase fits in the room you’d like to decorate, it helps to create a floor plan.  The MagicPlan app lets you input the dimensions of a room by measuring, drawing, or using your phone’s camera to create the floor plan.

Once you’ve added your room’s dimensions, you can add doors, windows, structural features, plumbing, appliances, electrical, HVAC, furniture, flooring, and more to your floor plan.  Many of these features are free to use, but there is an in-app cost for things like cabinetry, light switches, and outlets.

When you add MagicPlan’s 2D furniture, you can adjust it to the size you want by using your fingers or inputting the dimensions.  You can add your own photos to your floor plan, as well.  

If you are planning to paint or replace the flooring, estimate how much it would cost by clicking “Estimate” for the approximate price. Just remember the estimates do not include the cost of labor.

MagicPlan is free on iOS and Android.

TapPainter: Virtually paint your walls

Swatches from your local home improvement store make it hard to envision the color of the whole room, and buying paint samples can get expensive. The TapPainter applets you choose paint colors from Benjamin Moore, Behr, Sherwin Williams, and other popular brands.

Use the app to snap pictures of the room you want to paint and try out different colors by entering the code from a paint swatch, choosing a color from one of the brands included, or mixing your own custom color.  You can even add different colors to different walls.

TapPainter is free on iOS.

DécorMatters: Design a room using AR

DecorMatters is an app that lets you virtually add pieces and design elements to a real room.  Take a picture of the room you want to decorate and use AR and the AR ruler to add and measure 3D pieces. This is a simple way to see if a piece you’ve been eyeing will fit. 

The app features items from popular stores like Crate & Barrel, Target, Overstock, West Elm, IKEA, and Ashley, and you can make in-app purchases right from your phone. You can save your ideas to your mood board to share with friends, and the DecorMatters in-app messaging also offers free feedback and suggestions from real DecorMatters interior designers.

DecorMatters is free on iOS.

Art.com: Add some art to your walls

Finally, the Art.com app offers hundreds of frame styles and sizes to help you plan your gallery wall. Use the app to arrange different layouts to see how your gallery wall could look.

Art.com’s latest app release also lets you upload your own artwork and family pictures to pair with any style frame, and you can even have them printed on canvas, wood mount, acrylic, and more.

The Art.com app is free on iOS and Android.

It’s easy to create a stunning look that suits your style, all from your phone. These five apps offer the inspiration, confidence, and guidance you need to get started on your redecorating project.

Lori Cunningham is a family tech advocate and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. She is a mom to two creative children and started the WellConnectedMom.com to share her passion for technology with others.

Top Tips for Keeping Your Garage Neat and Organized

The following is a guest post by the Closet Works Inc.

The garage ranks high along with the basement for spaces where families tend to dump things they don’t know what to do with.

It’s easy to store a box you never unpacked, some outdoor equipment or some unused paint in your garage and simply ignore the fact that it’s there when you pull in your car each night.

But the clutter becomes more difficult to ignore when, for example, you’re stuck clearing snow off your car or running out to your driveway during a downpour because you’ve filled your garage with too much stuff.

You can’t ignore your messy garage forever; and in fact, spring is an excellent time to clean and organize it. It’s not too hot, and you’ll probably need to get to items in your garage like lawn and garden equipment and your kids’ outdoor toys.

Here are our top tips for organizing your garage so it stays neat and tidy.

Clean and Sort Everything

If you actually do park your car in your garage, pull it out into the driveway or, better yet, park it on the street so you’ve got plenty of room to clean out your garage.

Unload everything first, even the boxes that haven’t been emptied since you moved in eight years ago. It might be helpful to lay a few tarps on the ground to protect your goods while you do this. Arranging specific piles of your stuff on tarps is also a helpful way to force yourself to keep a smaller number of items—keep only what you can fit in a given area.

Sort your goods into a few piles—what you want to keep, what you’d like to sell or donate, and what should be thrown out. Importantly, if you’re getting rid of paint, paint thinner, used motor oil or household chemicals, be sure to dispose of them properly.

After the space is organized, you’ll have plenty of room for a garage or yard sale to get rid of those unwanted items at a later date.

Figure Out How You'll Organize Your Stuff

 

Garages typically house a unique mix of car-related items, tools, gardening equipment, bikes, kayaks, fishing gear, snow removal tools, beach items and more. It can be a challenge to figure out how exactly to store everything.

To give things their own place, you might want to consider a custom garage storage solution with options to store a wide range of items.

A design professional can create a plan that affords you enough space to add a workbench with drawers and cabinets for tool or hobby storage. For the gardener in your family, you could also add a potting area with a work surface.

During the cleaning phase, you should inventory any dangerous chemicals to see if they’re still usable. Then you can add locked cabinets to keep those dangerous chemicals and sharp tools safely away from curious kids.

The garage is a prime area for storing sports equipment like bikes and skis and gardening tools like a hose or rake, which can all be stored off the floor with wall racks. You can also add baskets for bulky things like balls, gloves, masks or pads.

Cabinets, both with swing-out and sliding doors (if space is tight when cars are parked), can house many other items you need to store like bottled water, things you buy in bulk or even outdoor furniture accessories.

Find a New Home for These Items

Consider a new home for some items which are best stored in areas other than your garage.

  • Paint should be stored inside where the temperature remains somewhat consistent. Store it out of reach of children and pets in your basement or a closet.
  • Propane tanks shouldn’t be stored in your garage; a spark could ignite the tank. Instead, store the tank upright and outside in a well-ventilated area away from any ignition source.
  • Paper towels, plates, napkins, cardboard and other paper goods are better kept in your pantry if the packages are open. Storing them in your garage could attract bugs. They could also get damaged by moisture.
  • Pet food also belongs inside; storing it in your garage could attract mice, rats, possums and other creatures you probably don’t want hanging out there.

While your initial garage organization effort may not be the most fun chore, you’ll be glad you tackled the clutter and created a better storage system later in the year. Rather than spending precious time searching for your kids’ bikes and skateboards, you’ll be able to easily find them and enjoy yourselves.

If you’re interested in learning more about organizing your garage, reach out to us for a free, in-home consultation.

Dumb Smart Kitchen Gadgets and Smart Smart Kitchen Gadgets

The following post is a guest contribution from Matthew Rathbun, executive vice president of Coldwell Banker Elite.

I am a geek. I admit it. I’m fascinated by the Internet of Things and smart devices. I also love to cook. Cooking lets me create something offline. It takes me away from my monitors, and most importantly, it lets me indulge in my second favorite hobby – eating. So, when I get to mix my first hobby with my second, I’m one happy geek.

Do We Really Need This?
However, a lot of kitchen devices are touted as “smart,” but these technologies are being developed just because we can. Do we really need a smart fork that tells you when you’re eating too fast or putting too much food on it? Does our toaster oven need to be controlled by our phone? Does my trash can lid have to scan the UPC code on the item I’m throwing away and automatically add it to my shopping list? Nope. These devices just make my life more complicated.

Recently while walking through the miles of technology at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I found a lot of amazing technologies – but I also saw some that just didn’t hit home for me. Although most of these gadgets and devices will be the harbinger for more advanced and practical technologies one day, I’m going to stick with things that are clearly useful to me today.

All of that said, there are some very useful smart technologies that I do want as I create my connected kitchen. Here are a few that may not have made your list yet:

Meater+ Smart Thermometer
This smart thermometer can be inserted into and left in the item that you’re cooking on the BBQ or in the oven. Meater+ connects to your smart phone and sends alerts when your meat hits the right temperature. It has other features as well, but not having to run and check the temperature every few minutes is among my favorites.

FridgeCam
If you’re not quite ready to buy a new smart fridge, but want one of its most valuable features, FridgeCam is a great option. FridgeCam takes a photo of the inside of your fridge every time you open the door. You can then access that photo on your phone. So when you’re stopping by the grocery store on your way home from work, you can quickly check the app to see if you need to pick up additional items.

Drop
Drop is a smart scale for the kitchen that has a companion app. The app helps you measure and mix in a single bowl based on the chosen recipe. It will even suggest alternative ingredients if you’re out of something. And let’s face it – who hasn’t realized they were out of a key ingredient in the middle of cooking?

Anova Precision Cooker
I was honestly skeptical of the sous vide method at first, but it’s definitely becoming more popular. The Anova Precision Cooker is a heating device that attaches to the side of your pot. You control the device using your smart phone and place the item you’re cooking in a plastic bag. Then, you place the plastic bag in the pot of water with the sous vide device and wait until your smartphone tells you the items are ready. The reviews on this devices are pretty awesome.

Ember
The Ember coffee cup is sitting next to me as I type up this post and is still keeping the coffee that I bought several hours ago warm. Ember mugs have been around for a bit, but I still love mine. I can program the temperature of the coffee or travel mug using my iPhone. The Ember device will then keep that temperature constant throughout the day. Tea, coffee and other warm drinks all taste better at different temperatures, so I can alter the temp based on the beverage. It’s one of my favorite connected devices.

But wait! There’s more!
Of course, all of these connected devices are in addition to the smart stoves, refrigerators and other large appliances that are popping up in homes all over the world. Everyone places a different value on the convenience of the these devices, but as the march toward a smarter connected kitchen moves forward, the devices are becoming more intuitive and easier to use each day. I’m excited to see what the tech world comes up with next!

What is a Storage Vault?

Guest post by Laura McHolm

You have probably heard of mobile storage and self storage, but if you aren’t familiar with a storage vault you are overlooking a third key option when it comes to deciding what type of storage to use for your belongings. In fact, a storage vault is the greenest storage solution and can save you green: you only pay for the space you need!

Here are the three top factors to know if storage vaults are the storage solution for you:

1. Adjustable Space & Pay for the Space Needed

Storage vaults cater to your storage space needs. If you need more space one month, you can easily add more space. And, if the following month you need less space, you can move things out and pay for less space. You only pay for the space you actually use. It’s not one size fits all storage. Mobile and self storage units offer standard spaces and default prices that make you pay for space you don’t want and don’t need.

2. Management of Your Stuff

Most storage vault providers are professional moving companies and they are skilled at packing your belongings into the storage vault. They are doing the heavy lifting for you, saving you time and effort. It is critical to think about how often you actually need access to your storage unit. If you need weekly access to your stuff in storage, then self storage is probably a better solution for you. However, if you are looking for long term storage and you are likely to only need access on occasion, then a storage vault is a great option. If you’re going to be remodeling, going on an extended vacation, building a home, etc. then vault storage could be the perfect solution for you. Just call up the moving company and they will move your items for you when you need them.

3. Secure & Temperature Controlled

Storage vaults are secured in a warehouse so they are protected from the outside elements and often have top security. Before choosing a storage vault provider, ask about their security system and temperature control. They should have security cameras in place as well as limited access to the vaults for authorized employees only.

Lastly, the bonus feature of storage vaults is that they can be eco-friendly! Ask what kind of vaults the company uses. Your belongings are stored inside a warehouse and can be stored in eco-friendly recyclable and reusable wooden vaults. This type of storage reduces land usage because it is warehouse based and is not long paved rows of self-storage “garages.” The wooden vaults are cleaned, recycled and renewable, not giant metal tin cans.  It’s a double green win! The earth wins and so does your pocketbook. Plus, it’s always nice to be kind to your Mother,  Mother Earth that is!

 

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.   www.northstarmoving.com

Winter Lawn Care Tips

Guest post by Henry Walsh

Caring for your lawn during the winter can look different from other homeowners depending on your location. Unless you live in the extreme Southern areas of the country, most grass types will go dormant during the cold winter months. However, just because winter isn’t the primary growing season doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to still do. Check out these winter lawn care tips to keep your lawn healthy.

Apply Fertilizer
Choosing to add fertilizer to your lawn before the snow falls is a great way to give your grass a boost of energy to stay alive during the winter months. Use a slow-release fertilizer when you want to give your lawn root systems a slow and steady stream of energy over a more extended period. Make sure to follow directions and refrain from applying too much fertilizer in one area of the lawn which could cause burning due to too much nitrogen.

Let It Breathe
Aerating your lawn once every couple of years is a great way to make sure that your lawn is receiving essential nutrients at a deeper level. Aerating will allow sunshine, water, and energy to penetrate deep into the soil which will make the lawn healthier and stronger come spring. Renting an aerator is an excellent choice for many homeowners or consider your local winter lawn care professional that can do the job for you. Aerate your lawn before any winter weather, like snow or ice, fall on the grass this winter.

Consider Overseeding
For those homeowners in the South looking for a way to keep their warm-season grass lawns green all year, consider overseeding with the opposing season grass type as part of your winter lawn care, once the lawn goes dormant. The cool-season grass will love the colder temperatures that winter brings while the warm-season grasses take a much-deserved nap. Unfortunately, homeowners in the northern parts of the country will have to accept dormant lawns in frigid temperatures or snow-covered lawns in other winter areas.

Mulch Fallen Leaves
Many parts of the country will see the addition of fallen leaves onto lawns in the early parts of winter. Instead of raking up the leaves and bagging them up for removal, consider using this free source of energy to create a stronger lawn. Mulch the leaves with a leaf mulcher, or by merely using your lawn mower, to cut the leaves into smaller more manageable parts. Dead leaves provide a natural source of nitrogen to the lawn making it a welcome addition for future growth.

Apply Compost
Compost is one of those items that every homeowner needs to keep a healthy lawn. Compost can be created at home in a compost pile or is available for purchase from a local garden center. Compost is helpful to add to a lawn before winter arrives to provide a natural energy source for underlying roots. The compost will be gradually worked into the soil by microorganisms making it a great option to cure many lawn issues.

There are plenty of ways to care for your lawn even if winter temperatures have already arrived in your area. Race against Mother Nature before the arrival of snow and ice to provide your yard with essential added nutrients like compost, fertilizer, and fallen leaves. Aerating and overseeding your lawn are other ways to make sure that your lawn looks great year round. Consider all of these winter lawn care tips this year for a beautiful lawn.

 

Henry Walsh is a gardening writer and eco-conscious living advocate. He recently began his homesteading journey after many years of incorporating the principles into his urban lifestyle.

Learn To Say YES!

This is a contributor post by Lori Arnold, broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Apex, Realtors

A few months ago, I had the privilege of speaking to the latest class of Ascend Leadership Summit participants at the Realogy headquarters in New Jersey. It’s always an inspirational opportunity for me as the new leaders are so excited about their careers and what the future holds for each of them. As much as I love my home state of Texas, I also LOVE New York City.  Anytime I can get close to NYC, I am going to find an excuse to spend a few days there. I arranged a long weekend in NYC before going to the Realogy headquarters with my daughter-in-law, who happens to be our Marketing Director, and my sister-in-law, who happens to be a mortgage superstar.

To add a bit of context, I have to share a few things that led up to the Ascend Leadership Summit. About a year, some of my fellow CB owners pointed out that my company was the largest woman owned and operated Coldwell Banker affiliate in the US based on closed sales. And for the record, they were all guys. Frankly, I had never given much thought to that fact before that day.  To say I am passionate about my business and leading my agents is a bit of an understatement for anyone who knows me. I am busy each day building something that I hope matters to those around me and contributing in a way that leaves a legacy. I am highly competitive and want to win in my market simply because I know we are the best so thinking from only a “women’s perspective” never occurred to me. Once we began sharing the fact that Coldwell Banker Apex is the #1 woman owned and operated CB in the US, I felt a calling to do more for women in our community to hopefully inspire and motivate them in their own personal journey. A quarterly meeting for area real estate professionals called “Listings & Life With Lori” was born from that idea. For the first time in my career, the idea of women leading and supporting each other was really on my mind.

On our NYC girls’ trip, we were shopping in a stationery shop in Grand Central Station when I saw a “big green button” novelty item that had the word “YES” written on it.  You pressed the YES button, and it audibly shouted “YES!”. I began chatting with a sales person about the YES button, and she went on to tell me that they had NO buttons too, but those sold out immediately, while the YES buttons were slow sellers.

Oh my. My mind immediately went to the true-life application of that lesson. Why would the NO buttons sell out fast while the YES buttons lingered on the shelf? One of the principles of the Coldwell Banker Apex leadership staff is that we try to say YES! as often as we can.  Can I market my team this way? YES! Can you assist me in getting this tool set up? YES! I want to think a little outside the box and implement this new marketing idea. Can I do it? YES!  I know I did not follow the process, but I need this today, can you help me? YES! Although it sounds intuitive, it really is not. It’s much easier to say “No, you can only do it this way” or “No, you need to follow the system.”  No stifles originality, new thinking and progress towards goals we have not yet set!

As I reflected on YES, I realized how important that one little word has been in my real estate journey.  I got my license at 19 years old. Often people thought my clients were the Realtor instead of me! I could have said, “No, I am too young to succeed in real estate.” In 1993, when we joined Coldwell Banker, I did not have the funds to purchase the franchise without borrowing it. I could have said, “No, it’s just too much risk to commit to a franchise when I don’t even have the money to get started,” but instead I said YES! When Coldwell Banker assigned me an incredible mentor to guide me and he shared ideas of what I needed to do, I could have said “No, I can’t do that idea.” Honestly, I was so afraid to implement many of the ideas he suggested. At that time, I truly loved and excelled at selling real estate, but only in a one-on-one setting. The idea of speaking up in public was way out of my comfort zone. I was so timid that I would not even share about my new listings at the local MLS meetings. Those that know me now do not believe that story, but it is the truth. I ignored my fears and just did what my mentor told me to do. I said YES! When we wanted to grow, and it was time to open another office from scratch, as a start up, I said YES! I had no idea how to open a successful office and really didn’t even realize how risky start up offices were and how many start up offices fail to launch. I said, “Yes, let’s do it!”  We’ve now opened 11 start up offices, with plans of opening more in the future.

We often say NO to the things we should say YES to while saying YES to things we should say NO. We say YES to things we feel obligated to do and NO to the things that would drive our goals forward. The question becomes, what should we say YES to?

  1. Say YES to things that you fear but you believe are important for your growth. You don’t know what you can accomplish until you say YES. You have no idea how much capability you have until you say YES.
  2. Say YES to mentors. Mentors are a HUGE component in growth. A good mentor will challenge you and hold you accountable. They will inspire you. Find a mentor and say YES to what they tell you to do.
  3. Say YES to learning from others. Anyone. Not just those you feel are ahead of you in the journey but anyone. Being open to learning exposes you to growth you don’t even know is possible, while learning from those who are behind you on the journey keeps your ego in check. They do know more than you in lots of areas that matter.
  4. Say YES to a big dream. Chances are, you are not dreaming NEARLY big enough. I know I didn’t. But if you say YES when you are scared (revisit #1 if you need to!), your dreams will grow as fast as you grow.
  5. Say YES to giving back. That is why I went to New York City in the first place. So many people in the Coldwell Banker system have given to me. They have invested in my life and my company. I need to say YES to giving back every time I can.

Today, we have 15 offices with 650 of the most talented, successful, kind, warm human beings that work together as a team at Coldwell Banker Apex.  Truly remarkable, inspirational people who work collaboratively in an industry that sometimes is filled with ego and drama instead of collaboration. I look around at this group, and I am truly amazed at the blessings that have come my way through these people. As I look back from where I am at today, I wonder what would have happened if I said NO, and I am so grateful I said YES. Now, I need to buy that YES button!

If you’re a part of the Coldwell Banker network and interested in listening to the next Women in Leadership call, be sure to visit CB Exchange and search “Women in leadership” to find out the details.

Top Three Devices Buyers will Love – and What I’ll be Looking for at CES


The following post is a guest contribution from Angel Piontek, associate broker and vice president of marketing at Coldwell Banker Elite.

The popularity of smart home devices has continually increased year over year.  In 2019, 33.2% of households are equipped with smart home devices, and this figure is expected to rise to 53.9% by 2023.  The increasing popularity and ubiquity of these connected devices can be used as a marketing differentiator when selling a home.  New home builders are incorporating smart home in their offerings and buyers are already starting to expect move-in ready homes to have smart home upgrades. And that’s why I’m back for my third year in a row at CES. Below are three smart home classics that buyers always love. I’ll be looking out for new takes on these old favorites, as well as mind blowing innovations, and sharing what I find all month long.

Using smart home devices as a marketing tool can be tricky.  Be sure to install devices from brands consumers will recognize.  Privacy and security is a concern for many, so using reliable and recognizable brands will help put those buyers at ease.  Here are the top three devices you should consider including when selling your home that will attract buyers.

A smart doorbell camera

Chances are, you’ve seen porch pirate videos online.  They make a pretty compelling argument for installing a camera with a clear view of your front porch.  They not only alert you when there is motion detected but some devices use facial recognition technology that lets you know when a stranger is at the door.  In most cases, an associated app on your smart phone will send you a push notification when someone rings the doorbell, enabling you to speak to your visitor in real time.  Most smart doorbell cameras also store recorded video and audio, depending on the settings you choose.  The 24-hour surveillance gives homeowners peace of mind.

A smart lock

Gone are the days when you had to hide a key under a fake rock.  A smart lock provides convenience, security, and safety.  You can give virtual keys to neighbors, visiting family members, or your cleaning company. Since the keys are virtual, they can be set as temporary or simply revoked when no longer needed.  An activity log will allow you to see a complete history of who has accessed your home, complete with dates and exact times.  Remote access will let you lock and unlock your door from anywhere that you have a smart phone, tablet, or computer, with internet access.  Some are equipped with geofencing which will allow you to automatically lock your doors when your phone is outside the configured perimeter.  Buyers will love the security and peace of mind that smart locks can provide.

A smart learning thermostat

A smart thermostat is an investment that will actually save you money.  From energy conservation to convenience, it’s a must-have smart home device.  The best smart thermostats learn your habits and create a schedule based on your actual usage.  You will be able to control your heating and cooling system even when you’re away from home.  Buyers will love that they will be saving money on utilities.

Each of these devices typically range in price between $200 – $300.  There are many other smart home devices that can attract buyers depending on where you live.  For example, if you live in an area where water management is important, it may be worth investing in a smart sprinkler system. Since these systems use environmental sensors to collect information about weather conditions real time, this is a great way to adjust automatically and reduce water consumption. A smart sprinkler system also lets you easily schedule waterings, and some will even allow you to create watering zones in your yard.

If you’re a buyer looking at a home with smart devices installed, devices like smart light bulbs and voice assistants are considered personal property and may not convey with the sale.  If there’s a question of conveyance, get things in writing up front.  It will save you a lot of unnecessary annoyance at closing if everyone is on the same page.  It’s important to work with an agent who knows smart home whether you’re buying or selling.


If you’re already affiliated with Coldwell Banker and want to learn more about our smart home resources, visit CB Exchange and search “Smart Home.”

If you would like to know what Coldwell Banker agents have access to, head to https://www.coldwellbanker.com/careers and explore the possibilities of moving your business to Coldwell Banker.