How to organize and update your home

Wright says we may be surprised at how many people park their cars in the driveway because their garages are filled with stuff they don’t even use.

ORGANIZE YOUR GARAGE

EXPERT: SAUNDRA WRIGHT OWNER, ORGANIZED WRIGHT, JACKSON TOWNSHIP
Wright says we may be surprised at how many people park their cars in the driveway because their garages are filled with stuff they don’t even use.

She advises, “Be ruthless. Get rid of what you don’t need.”

To decide what those things are, look at how often you use something. If it has been a year since you used something, she said, “sell it, donate it, or throw it away.”

If you’re not sure, ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen if you got rid of something.

As you organize what’s left, “think vertical. Get as much off the floor as you can,” she said.

Use peg boards for tools, sporting goods, chairs and fishing equipment. Get mounting racks for bikes.

Placing plywood over the garage rafters can make space for items used less often and cabinets with doors create a neat appearance if you are willing to spend the money.

Storage totes with labels, Wright said, are great for shoes and sporting goods. Another strategy, she said, is creating zones, as in a store. This way, your family always knows where items belong.

If your garage has a paint-can zone, get rid of the paints that no longer pertain to your home. To do that, Wright said, you can fill them with inexpensive cat litter, let them dry out, and put them in the trash.

“A garage is an extension of your home,” Wright said. “Are you happy with how it looks every time (the door) goes up?”

UPGRADE YOUR LANDSCAPE

EXPERT: TODD PUGH FOUNDER AND CEO, TODD’S ENVIROSCAPES, INC
Todd Pugh says that now is a great time of year to enhance your home with a new or updated landscape. He offers these basic tips for giving the front yard a facelift:

1. REFLECT THE ARCHITECTURE OF YOUR HOME IN YOUR LANDSCAPE.
In many cases, homeowners did not design or build the home in which they live, so it may not to be to their exact taste. Then they install a new landscape that is more to their likings but it doesn’t match the overall look of home. It is like wearing a tie with a T-shirt, he said. “No matter how nice the T-shirt or tie is, they just don’t go together.”

2. LESS IS TYPICALLY MORE.
“Focus on large brush strokes of colors and textures,” he said. “I encourage using less varieties of plants and more of them. You will make more of an impact that way.”

3. INTEGRATE SOME HARDSCAPES OR LOOK TO MODIFY YOUR HOME.
When focusing on giving the front of your home a facelift with landscaping, Pugh reminds us to look at all aspects. “Many of times there are very simple ways to enhance the front, in addition to landscaping. A few pointers would be paint the front door, change the trim color, and seal or stain porch or decking.”

4. CONSIDER A DESIGN THAT ALLOWS FOR COLOR ALL SEASON.
Plants flower at different times. Determine when you want your landscape to looks its best and design with plants that will flower during that period. Integrate some annual beds for year-round color.

5. INSTALL LANDSCAPE LIGHTING TO ENJOY YOUR LANDSCAPE IN THE EVENING.
Landscape lighting extends the usable time of your landscape as well as adds some additional lighting for security purposes, Pugh said.

6. CONSIDER THE MAINTENANCE ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR DESIGN.
Pugh says this is the most important thing to consider. “Landscapes are alive and growing. They need cared for. Some designs can be lower maintenance than others but there is no such thing as a no-maintenance landscape,” he said.

START A GARDEN

EXPERT: JIM HILLIBISH, GARDENING COLUMNIST
Planting a backyard vegetable garden requires planning and maintenance, said Jim Hillibish, The Repository’s resident gardening expert. He recommends taking the following steps for success:

1. PICK FAVORITES. Pick your favorite fresh veggies — no more than five — and leave out the corn unless you are doing a very large garden. At least five rows of corn must be planted for success because they self-pollinate.

2. INVESTIGATE YOUR YARD FOR THE IDEAL LOCATION. The garden needs a minimum of six to seven hours of sun for success, so check at different times of the day for direct sunlight. Too many trees? Consider a container garden. Remember, Hillibish says, “If you don’t have light, it’s not going to be right.”

3. THINK SMALL. Plant small, compact, bush-type plants, not seeds. These are available for almost any kind of vegetable, and they won’t trail all over the yard or shade other plants. You can plant them closer together than suggested to save space.

4. MIX SOIL. Prepare the soil with lime and organic compost.

5. AVOID FROST. Most gardeners wait until after Memorial Day to plant. Seeds may be planted earlier.

6. GO ORGANIC. Mulch with something organic to cut down the weeds.

7. WAIT FOR YOUR CROP. Visit every day to pull weeds and check for bugs. Hillibish said most gardens fail because of neglect.

8. PROBLEMS WITH BUGS OR VIRUSES? Look for organic treatments, he recommends, because you eventually will eat these vegetables.

9. IT’S IMPORTANT TO WATCH RAINFALL. One inch of rain weekly would be ideal. When the soil dries out, water in the morning. Watering in the evening leaves plants susceptible to viruses.

10. PREPARE. Add chipped leaves into the soil in the fall so it’s ready for next season.

CREATE A HOME OFFICE

EXPERT: TONYA PRESTON CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS
When adding office space to a home, it can be challenging to make it functional, yet at the same time reflect your home’s style and decor.

home_expert_chairNEWIt’s something with which many home workers struggle, says Tonya Preston, who believes that “comfort while working = higher productivity = more profit.”

To start, she said, “Select a wall color that comforts you, a carpet that feels great on your bare feet in the morning, artwork that inspires you, and display your favorite family photo to get you through your day.”

“A quick and easy way to brighten an office is to bring the outdoors inside by adding a lowmaintenance plant,” she added.

“Soften a wood floor or add additional color by placing a rug on the floor. Leave a spot in your office open for a small seasonal display such as spring flowers, fall pumpkins or other holiday decorations.”

Now, get down to business.

1. What are your computer and peripheral needs?
2. What tasks will you be performing?
3. What are your storage and filing requirements?
4. Do you need space for visitors?

To accommodate your needs, Preston said, develop a scaled drawing showing what you want to place in your office and where it will be placed. Provide the type of workspace needed to support the task.

“Lighting is typically overlooked, but don’t make the mistake of using poor lighting,” she advises. “It can create eyestrain, which affects health and productivity.”

Choose a combination of ambient, task and overhead lighting. Be aware of positioning to avoid creating glare.

Most home-based workers spend more time in the office chair than they do in their own bed, she said.

“Don’t be afraid to try out many chairs, even request to take the floor sample home for a test drive,” she said.

Finally, do not underestimate the importance of organization.

“Studies show that a cluttered office not only causes stress, but drains you of much-needed energy.”

CHOOSE A CONTRACTOR

EXPERT: AMANDA TIETZE VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, CANTON BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU
When hiring a contractor, Amanda Tietze said, the Better Business Bureau recommends homeowners solicit at least three bids and that they make sure those bids are based on the same building specifications, labor, time and materials.

“Discuss the bids in detail and understand the reasons for any variations,” she said, adding, “the lowest price doesn’t mean the best quality work or materials.”

Tietze said also to ask for local references and call those references.

If it is outdoor work, don’t be afraid to ask to drive by and see it.

Next, find out if the contractor is a member of any professional organizations and if he has any complaints filed against him.

Ask if he is properly insured for workers’ compensation claims, as well as for property and liability.

Tietze said it is extremely important to thoroughly investigate before signing a finance agreement with a contractor.

“I’ve seen cases where a homeowner has lost his home or had to file bankruptcy,” she said.

All oral promises, she added, should be added to the written contract. Building permits also vary considerably from area to area, Tietze said. She recommends researching what kind of permit you need, then have it put in your contractor’s name.

“If the inspector says it isn’t right,” Tietze said, “then the contractor is liable for making it right.”

Your detailed contract should include a payment schedule, a description of the materials, the contractor’s address, phone and
professional license number and a “release of lien clause” in case subcontractors are used.

And know, she said, that you have three days to change your mind and get out of a contract. Send a notice by certified mail.

MAINTAIN HOME VALUE
EXPERT: PAM OSTER REALTOR, DEHOFF REALTORS
In today’s market, says Pam Oster,
every home seller is in stiff competition
with the home on the next
street. Her professional advice is to
pay attention to the upkeep of
your home.
Preventive measures, she said,
will keep your home value growing
with each passing year.
If you are selling your home
soon you need to understand how
much minor things matter.
“Buyers are looking for every
defect possible. And it will cost
you,” Oster said. “Your prospective
buyer will see things that you may
consider as minor — or perhaps
you just do not see anymore. If
you are the busy last-minute type
of home seller, fix whatever is broken
before you list your home. It’s
almost always cheaper to do it
yourself than to let the buyer use
it to bring down the selling price.”
When it comes to “curb appeal,”
Oster said, a faded front door and
a shabby roof give the first impression
that the homeowners do not
take good care of the real estate.
A good warm-weather showing
tip, she said, is to define your walkway
to the front door.
If you are thinking about selling
a year or two down the road, Oster
advises a walk through the home
with “buyer’s eyes” to figure out
what needs updated.
“Keep in mind that today’s buyers
have often logged many hours of
HGTV. They expect all sellers to be
ready for their arrival, home updated
and staged,” Oster said. “Switching
outdated light fixtures for more contemporary
ones can have a huge
impact for little money. Not everything
needs to be costly.”