Giving Thanks, and Being the Change

November 22nd, 2015

FOr Marie

There is lot going on the world these days.  Many hearts are ohso heavy, and the ongoing,  omnipresent ‘updates’ magnify the sorrow.

Dismiss the ‘there has always been great discord, social media just lets us see it more now’ argument-it doesn’t matter.

If being the change calls you, your energy is focused forward on what you can do now. And everyone can do something. 

This photo came from a clients’ house several years ago.  Save, Grow, Give, and Spend. They had several young children, and each child had a set of these jars in their room. I was profoundly moved, and share this at every opportunity.

No matter where you live, need does not go away because the calendar changes. Being the change is about taking action. Please take a moment, give thanks, and take stock: 

  •  Can you donate blood?
  • Have things you don’t need?  Sign up for, a free/safe/local kind of Craigslist. You will be stunned at the gratitude of your recipients.
  • Furniture Sharehouse is Westchester County’s furniture bank, but here’s a list of  sites in North America that could put your unwanted furniture into the right hands
  • There are coat and mitten drives everywhere now
  • Any Vets or seniors in your neighborhood that could use a hand raking leaves, cleaning out their gutters or other home-maintenance tasks?
  • Food pantries, soup kitchens, and organizations like Meals on Wheels operate year-round, not just on Thanksgiving
  • Languishing points or miles  on a rewards credit card? Many have ways to donate them to charity
  • If you have time or skills to donate, or a passion you want to further-google around to see who could benefit. The United Way runs a nationwide group of local organizations that function as clearing houses, matching people to opportunities. Here is link to ours in Westchester and lower Hudson Valley
  • Less dire, but still needed: Kids who need to be read to, or coached on nailing a free-throw. Parks that could use a hand staying clean, budding entrepreneurs who could benefit from your professional guidance.
  • And if donating funds is in your realm, check out the organization first with Charity Navigator.

YES. There are horrible things happening in our world right now. Prayers, good thoughts and giving thanks are all good, but actions matter. They matter to the recipients, and trust me, they will make a difference in your life too.

Much of our collective sorrow comes from feeling helpless. Instead of letting the latest news report, the most recent tweet or post define your day-take charge. Look around your neighborhood, or use technology and social media to your advantage: seach and share. Everyone can do something. What can you do to be the change?

Home Staging and Seasonal Decor: For Everything There is A Season

November 9th, 2015

Whether your frame of reference is Pete Seeger and The Byrds, or the decidedly more somber original, there is indeed a season for everything, including decor.p10007522

When you’re getting ready to sell, part of this Westchester County Home Stager’s job is to be sure ALL your property is in the right season. The Refreshed Home counsels clients: seasonal decor should be appropriate and current, if not even 2 steps ahead.

Appropriate is what makes sense, and resonates in your market. Appropriate considers the property, the geographic area, the buyer and their motivation. Here in Westchester County, appropriate might mean

  • A series of different sized pumpkins in that 5 BR house in the burbs, during the month of October
  • A fun snow sculpture with new-fallen snow
  • Gardening tools out back by the (empty) raised beds in March

Current is important because it’s seen as an outward  indication of the general state of your property. As the song says, for everything there is a season:

Weathered bunny figurines, folksy garden decor, empty bird feeders,  garden beds that are barren, overgrown or have dead things in them tell people waaay more than you might think. And “cute” does not put money in your pocket. 

I will admit to having a gnome weakness-one can be both cool and classic, but if his pointy red hat is all you see sticking out of the snow, that is just wrong.

Some examples of current

  • Replace Impatience and pastel Begonias by early September with marigolds, YELLOW mums or pansies. Decorative peppers or cabbages are good choices as well.
  • Pumpkins, or for that matter-anything should GO at the first sign of decay. Rubber-banding the spent tulip and daffodil leaves in April keeps it neat, and healthy for next year. Dead-head the petunias in June, pinch back the basil in August.
  • Leprechauns March 11th-18th, Easter bunnies and hanging eggs should be gone by sundown of that day.

Faarticle-2054719-0E93B94400000578-173_634x394ll Holiday Decorations seem particularly big this year-maybe because the last few Octobers have been wiped out by snow, and superstorms.  

Simply, your blowup goblins, cobwebs on shrubbery, and witches flying into trees should have been packed away last week.


Last, a new welcome mat, and a maintained, regulation US flag is ALWAYS in season

Patriotism: Military woman salutes American flag. Silhouette.

Veterans Day is Wednesday November 11th  

Thank you to all who served, as well as your families

Being Ready to Sell: Best Strategy for Westchester County Downsizers

November 6th, 2015

Longtime Westchester County homeowners planning to downsize have a lot to consider when they start thinking about selling.imagesCA68GX0I

The Refreshed Home says Home Staging is whatever you can do to improve the market position of your property, while easing your mind. My approach is break things into manageable segments, so homeowners and their families can think things through, and make their own best decisions.

Home Staging is a lot more pragmatic than most think. Interactive consults, which typically end up costing between 1/10th and 1/20th of one percent of a listing price are what get you started.

I teach, and lead a number of workshops around the county, ‘if’ and ‘when’ are two of the things homeowners struggle with the most. Shaping their biggest ‘a-haa!’ moments are two separate suggestions:

Consider the “WHEN” (and all the other questions) separately from the “IF”.  

GETTING ready to sell, and BEING ready to sell is NOT the same thing as putting your house on the market.

“IF” comes first.  Simply, there is no need for “when”, “what” or “how” if you are not ready or willing to sell. 

 The mechanics of actually having a listing go live-signing papers, scheduling photos-can happen pretty quickly. Preparing your house for sale- editing and packing, and lining up any needed repairs or updates is what takes time.

Starting the process as soon as you know you want to sell only work to your benefit.

  • Emotionally, you acclimate yourself to the decision gradually. You can work at your own pace, and ideally you’ll have fewer rushed decisions to make pre-listing (or regrets afterward!).
  • Financially, you’ll be in a better position to shop around and schedule any needed tradespeople of your choice. And you’ll be ready and able to act quickly should there be a significant change in the economy or your local market.

Minutes after the release of  todays’ surprisingly strong jobs report, the Wall Street Journal wrote of how this bolsters the case to raise interest rates, perhaps as early as next month.  Westchester County homeowners looking to downsize should heed this clarion call. Higher interest rates will mean buyers pay more in fees, and can afford less house. 

Ask around: a thoughtfully prepared property tends to attract the most interest and the best offers early on. And broken down, it can be a lot easier than you may think.

Even if you’re still on the fence about if-or when- GETTING ready to sell still puts the most, and best options in your hand. Shouldn’t we talk today about getting your house ready for sale?

Home Staging: 90% of the Game is Mental, the Other Half Physical

September 23rd, 2015

Today’s post is a proverbial tip of the cap to #8 Yogi Berra.  Writers write what they know about, PANews BT_P-159db5a7-fb86-4121-b4a3-29eeed0af72d_I1and regular readers know I love baseball.

Have had this analogy in my mind for months, planning to run it for Yogi’s birthday in May. Today instead I join legions of heavy-hearted  NY Yankee fans saying thank you for the memories.

Analogies can connect the dots, making the seemingly irrelevant relevant. Baseball might have little to do with Home Staging or Decorating,  after three-plus decades of working with people in their homes, and with their stuff I can tell you nothing rings truer about the process than this Yogi-ism. 

I came into the home furnishing business during the acquisition-driven status-seeking buying orgies of the early 1980s (I know,  how do I really feel?!). It was the rest of my tenure helped incubate more mindful ideals,  shaping my more organic beliefs about our spaces, and our possessions, leading to the launch of The Refreshed Home in 2007.

OF COURSE  Home Staging is about how a property looks. But it’s a fatal error to consider Home Staging solely as a standardized process, or an aesthetically-centric deliverable.  

Getting a property to the closing table is chock-full of twists and turns. Why open this messy emotional can of worms?  Another favorite Yogi-ism comes to mind-“If you don’t know where you’re going, you may wind up someplace else“.  Ignore that 90%, that mental game at great risk of ending up someplace else.

Minimizing or dismissing seller issues will often come back to derail the process, manifested as cancelled showing appointments, spaces intentionally unkempt, and pulling out of deals at the 11th hour. Similarly, buyers will pass on, or low-ball  a property that does not look its best.

Lessons of the last decade have shaped our current mindset. Change, and economic uncertainty weigh on everyones mind.  Home Staging may be really hard to explain, but here’s a definition I think everyone can understand, and get behind:

Home Staging is WHATEVER you can do to better the market position of a property, while easing the minds of all the parties.

Done correctly, Home Staging will:

  • Comfort and guide sellers,  making sense for their market and goals
  • Attract, engage and motivate buyers- making it easier for them to say YES
  • Support asking price of correctly-priced properties

Picking the right color of paint, knowing where to put the furniture is the easy half of the game. It’s that 90%, that mental part of the game where The Refreshed Home shines.  Whether planning for Spring Market, or need to get to the closing table by the end of the year, talk to me today about getting your property noticed, and SOLD!


   Thanks Yogi, you were one of a kind, and will be missed terribly. 

Home Staging and Loss: What I Know for Sure

September 18th, 2015

One of the biggest surprises people have about being a Home Stager in Westchester County is the sense of loss that’s part of most every job. Sometimes in wistful threads, sometimes much more dramatically, but it’s almost always there. 2015-09-14 15.23.17

One of the biggest surprises I find in others is their resistance or unwillingness to factor in the emotional component our space and our stuff plays in our lives.

Feelings of loss are not always logical. They can be perplexing. And it can sneak up on you in the most subtle, and confounding ways. Like when you really, really would like to be happy .

As I reflect on the last 96 hours of my life,  all this, and Gene Siskal’s touchstonewhat do you know for sure?’  query to Oprah Winfrey has been bouncing around in my brain….

  • Five properties I prepared for sale either went to contract, or were at the closing table
  • We celebrated a wonderful, warm and loving wedding with friends
  • An interview I gave months ago appeared in its full glory in the Fall issue of the very prestigious Westchester Magazine HOME (print AND online!)
  • And the neighbor I consider a sister I never had moved away

Not far.  And it was a great move for her, the right thing to do.  Had helped her get her place ready, and knew the agent she chose, so no surprises. And I handle these kind of feelings every day, for a living!!! So why did removing the turkey I had kept in her freezer, or the ‘last’ time I fed her cat STILL make me so feel so sad? Why did the sight of her welcome mat in the trash, or her name off the mailbox hit me so hard?

Waaay deep down, our cells know for sure that our relationships are our most precious entity, the most enduring testament of our time here on earth.  Things are the tangible connections to relationships…so when they threaten to change, actually do or go away, our synapses connect the two, so we fear, and experience loss.

“Understanding”-or even being a Stager does not automatically lessen, or make these feelings disappear. Had written on this before, about parting with  the outfit I wore the night Doug and I got engaged.

Clearing away personal things is a very real and necessary part of getting a property ready for sale.  The Refreshed Home counsels agents, executors and family members  that going through (not around) this issue is the way to get the job done. Acknowledging, and honoring the feelings moves you forward.

OK, as a Home Staging professional I knew all this…but this week brought it home, and reinforced what I really, really  do know for sure. 

2015-09-18 15.15.19