Some Worthwhile Things to Do (While Everyone Else is on Vacation) Part One

August 18th, 2014

fallon-ice-bucket-hed-2014Other than participating in the white-hot and very worthwhile Ice Bucket Challenge, it seems many of us are grasping for some worthwhile things to do as summer ’14 winds down.

Each of us has things we keep meaning to do, but we get busy and forget. If you have some time on your hands in the days to come, here are some ideas guaranteed to make you feel good, and the easy links to get more info.

How’s  Your Voter Registration Status?

National Voter Registration Day is September 23rd, but why wait?? If you’re a new voter,  if your circumstances have changed (name, address) or if you’ll be in school, the military or traveling this election season,   this link will get you whatever info you need to register, change your info or request an absentee ballot. You can also volunteer at registration drives with the League of Women Voters, even just raise awareness in your own circles by asking if people are registered!

Give Blood

Every 41 seconds someone needs blood in the US, and each pint can help save up to three lives, but donations fall off sharply in the summer.  If you are in good health and qualify, it’ll probably be the best 45 minutes you’ll spend in a while, and there are even cookies and juice after! Here’s more info  including where to donate from the Red Cross, but trust me, any hospital will welcome you with open arms.

Snag  Some Free Tickets

Before everyone comes back from vacation, get your bid for tickets to the taping of your favorite shows in now. The SNL ticket lottery for 2014-15  season ends 8/31, but tapings for other NYC area shows go on year-round, lots of choice days around the holidays are still available.

Hit Some Museums

Yes, art can make you happy; quieter and less-crowded museums in late August can make you even happier. In lower Hudson Valley, the hands-down best deal is the Fairfield Westchester Museum Alliance: Membership to one gets you free admission to all 8, for a full year.

Get Your Safe Driver Discount

Besides just being a smart thing, this can pay off big. Here in NY one 6 hour course ( $40.00 or less)  will reduce your insurance by 10% for 3 years, and take points off your license…AND  now you can do it online!

TOMORROW: Donating, Drive-Ins and more!

Read this Book: The Icarus Deception

August 8th, 2014

The future economy will not be based on making things (we ALL already have waaaay too much stuff)…nor will it be solely on ‘smart’ people, or information. No, value in the future economy will be based on people who can connect these dots for others.

So is the message from Seth Godin’s most recent book, The Icarus Deception. Well, that’s one of the messages I’ve gotten so far, about 1/3 of the1 way into it.

Realized FB has re-wired my brain for real reading>you know, books, the things with lots of paragraphs, and fully developed thoughts!-but am fighting back, lucky for me I picked such a good book to start.

Have found this book to be like a very rich dessert, I have to keep putting it down and step back, to absorb and assimilate. But it puts words to everything I’ve ever thought about work, and what I’ve ever believed about being in business for myself.

If you work for yourself, or are thinking about making the jump, RUN to your local bookstore (or library) and get this book. REALLY.


Who’s Responsible for the Listing Photos?

July 21st, 2014

“Who’s responsible for the listing photos?” Usually asked regarding the cost, scheduling or physical taking of photos, but rarely asked, and IMO insufficiently addressed regarding

Each of us is responsible for our own success. It’s always dandy if you can turn it over to the pros, but that’s not doable for many.

This isn’t a call to invest in costly equipment, of the moment technology or other extended services, but preparing and marketing a house for sale is serious business. Whatever you can do, you need to do, in the best way possible, from Day One; ALL interested parties to get their Big Boy/Girl pants on, focus on what they can do, and do it.

In every MLS examples abound where no one took a few extra moments to care. Things that cost nothing to remedy yet carry a huge price tag: unmade beds, uneven towels, raised toilet seats, dishes in the sink, burned out lights, the list goes on.

Agents are responsible to address it at the first seller meeting. Honestly, and directly. Not doing so is a grave error of omission that will haunt you: an underwhelming listing at best; wasted resources, and sellers who’ll use your reticence against you to excuse their own culpability are certainties.

Don’t know what to say, how to do it? No one is born knowing these things….but get over it, and find someone who does: Shadow a colleague and develop your own style. OR suggest your sellers speak with a Stager! Having “these talks” with sellers is part of what what we do . (BTW, TRH also coaches and mentors agents who want to develop their own style, comfortably!)

Meryl_as_Julia_choppingBrokers are responsible for establishing, and maintaining standards within their brokerage. YES I know your time is diced more finely than Meryl Streep’s onions, and YES I know everyone has their hands in your pockets and YES I know how hard this business is…but sorry, you’re blowing it at the finish line.

Listing photos drive traffic and inspire showings, DO NOT try to convince me your agents’ thumb in the picture is an OK photo. Make the time to lead by example, and insist your agents follow.

Make sure your photos are the best they can be. Choose to either approve photos before they go up, train-or hire someone!-to work with your agents, developing their eye for detail, composition and even technical prowess with their smart phone. That whole teach a man to fish thing really works!

Sellers are responsible. As a Stager I drive this point home in every consult I make, and every CE class and workshop I lead. Use common sense, and be open to suggestions from people who know what they’re doing, who have no vested interest other than your success.

This is not a cerebral process, asking you to contemplate if you’d buy your house is not helpful. Look at some listings online, and take some of your own pictures. Are you stunned to see how much “crap” other people have in their photos? OH, WAIT>that’s YOUR Living Room…?!

Staging a house is a business decision. Whatever you can do, ALWAYS do the very best you can, from Day One. So who’s responsible for the listing photos? If you’ve read this far, really, you already know.

Marie Graham is an Interior Decorator, an Accredited Home Stager, and owner of The Refreshed Home. She puts her Big Girl pants on every day, helping people do what they can to better their space and circumstances. Contact her directly 914.607.2895



Decorating FAQs: What is Redesign?

July 5th, 2014

A good economic indicator>untitledDecorating FAQs are popping up all over!  Today’s question centers on a popular buzzword, “Redesign”.

Written or spoken, we communicate with words. The best word choices convey nuance and details, they also attract and engage listeners when they are different, or unexpected.

“Redesign” popped into our consciousness probably about 5 or 6 years ago; pretty much when the economy was fully on the skids. The prefix  ”Re-” meaning back, or again  gave us us this new word, meaning to create something new from at least some existing items. Un-specific, but snappy and less-indulgent sounding, it appealed to those craving change in their decor, alluding to dollar-centric change,  i.e. solutions based on creativity, not purchases.

On the other hand, Decorating, and Interior Decorator are words that carry a lot of baggage-even in sophisticated circles!- and IMO need to be un-demonized…ah, I mean further clarified.

The Refreshed Home considers Interior Decorating as a personal service, and anything that improves the look, feel, and function of a space,  and elevates the happiness level of its users. And yes, that often includes re-positioning furniture or art, re-upholstering a chair, re-glazing tile,  or re-evaluating the use/flow of  a space.

Further,  an Interior Decorator as one who evaluates all the circumstances, needs and goals of a client;  creates, and generally helps execute (at least some of) a plan that’ll lead to that level of  Spatial Nirvana.

Speaking practically, Redesign and Decorating both describe the process of bettering your space, Redesigners and Interior Decorators each as the people who’ll help you get there.  Chosen to describe what you think you want, how you want to get there, or how you want people to see you, but neither is a guarantee of price, or a defined approach…at the end of the day it’s about the individuals, how they click; the conversation and the relationship/framework they establish.

Personally, I chose the name The Refreshed Home to represent ‘bettered spaces, regardless of price point’, and describe myself an an Interior Decorator not because of my training, experience or accreditations, but because my focus is on solutions, not on a price point or market.

TRH is guided by three principles: working with nice people, who want to work with me, and want to get things done. Budget-conscious, but not budget-driven, bettering Westchester County spaces since 1981, your inquiries are always welcomed!

I’ll Tell You What You Want (What You Really Really Want)

July 1st, 2014

imagenes de James Dean 7We romanticize mavericks, and secretly relish the image of rebels or non-conformist, but home at night in our bunny slippers, deep down, we crave order, yearn for accomplishments, and welcome new beginnings.  YUP, it’s what we really, really want.

This week saw the first day of the month, a new quarter, the start of the second half of the calendar, a new fiscal year….lot of markers for fresh starts!

Nearly a dozen newsletters greeted me this morning, and more have arrived every day since. No spam, none were unsolicited, the common focus was quality of life, including my newest favorite, The Valley Table-eating and living local here in the Hudson Valley (check it out and subscribe, it’s great-this issue has a Fair calendar!)

We all wrestle with the question of  making good choices, and how to make the most of each set of 24 hours. As a Stager and Decorator I see how profoundly our spaces affect us first-hand.

Whether thinking about buying, selling or just staying and improving your Westchester County property- here are my best suggestions for small projects to take on this long weekend that’ll make a BIG difference…MAYBE even help you get this song out of your head!

Clean out a closet:  and do some good!  Thrift shops abound locally, they’re great sources for general donations of items in good condition. Google for options in your area, and call ahead for summer hours, and that they’ll take what you want.  Consider Maizie’s Consignment for any unwanted designer duds, or donate current womens’  business wear to Career Closet in Briarcliff,  and in a bit of serendipity, Men’s Wearhouse Annual Suit Drive starts TODAY!

…Or a bookshelf:  Most any Westchester library will gladly accept your hardcover books, even CDs and DVDs for their fund-raising book sales, find them here.

Buy new towels or bed linens: Remember the last time you stayed in a hotel?  Chances are you were delighted by fresh, fluffy, matching towels; clean, crisp bed linens with nice plump bed pillows.  With all the discount home stores and holiday sales,  you can easily wake up to a new and wonderful space tomorrow, for not a lot of money. (Your old and mis-matched linens are welcomed at most animal shelters, too!)

Wash your windows: Clean windows improve your entire  outlook, no matter what.

Organize your work space. Whether it’s your desk, your work bench, your spice rack>an organized space is a happy space that clears the mind.

Paint something: The front door or shutters, the powder room, the garage floor…completing a small but meaningful project will feel surprisingly rewarding, and you’ll be floored to realize how much energy you’ve spent putting it off vs actually getting it done!!

Marie Graham writes on, and consults about space, stuff, getting un-stuck, and on with your life (what Interior Decorating and Home Staging is really, really about!)  Owner of The Refreshed Home, contact her directly  or 914.607.2895