Thursday, December 18, 2014

42 years of clutter

I recently helped a client shuffle through 42 years of 'stuff' - some precious, but most forgotten or no longer needed. For Virginia, the very thought of culling through her belongings sent her running in the opposite direction. She had postponed selling her house because the job seemed too overwhelming.  That's where I came in.

Together, we devised a plan, broke that plan down into manageable chunks and went at it. It took a little over three months to clear out her house, but once on the market, her clean, open and freshly updated home sold in less than 2 weeks. It also listed and sold for $200,000 more than what a friend had offered her in its cluttered condition.

This didn't surprise me one bit. The number one question I get from homeowners is "What are the top 10 things I can do to get my home ready to sell?" The number one is "clean and de-clutter".

For the last nine years, the HomeGain National Home Improvement Survey has ranked the top producing tasks. They estimate that for every dollar spent on the task, the homeowner would receive a whopping 403 percent return on their investment.

De-cluttering delivers big benefits to those who are not selling their homes, too. Studies show that living in a cluttered house is mentally stressful for the occupants and often leads to weight gain and other health problems.

So why do so many of us put off this important task? It's hard work. It takes time. It's physical. It's emotional. And there are lots of decisions to make about what goes where, what gets tossed and more. Worst of all, thinking about it makes it seem like an even bigger project than it really is - which is why experts say the best way to get started is to simply jump in.

The easy way to get started

The toughest part of getting organized is getting started. It's too easy to say, "I'll go through that closet later." "I'll get rid of those boxes later." "I'll donate those clothes later."

It's time to replace 'later' with 'now'.

Grab a couple cardboard boxes and spend 90 minutes right now organizing one part of one room {the desk in your study?}. Once you see that it's not nearly as tough as you imagine, and actually feels satisfying and freeing, you'll become energized and ready to take on even bigger organizing tasks tomorrow.

Here are some tips to keep you on track:
  • Tackle one room at a time.
  • Start with the easy stuff - round up the things you know you want to toss, recycle, sell, or store. 
  • Finish the task you start - don't leave a mess for tomorrow.
  • Get the family involved, include your siblings, parents and kids!
  • Let phone calls and other disruptions wait until you're done for the day. 
Deciding what to keep

Once you make your way through the things you know you don't want any more {broken appliances, unused gifts, outdated electronics, store returns, etc.} then it's time to focus on the items that are useful, but don't get used very often. Experts suggest to strategies. Choose the one that works best for you, or try using them in combination:
  • The 12 month test - if you haven't used an item in the last year, get rid of it.
  • The cardboard box drill - put items you're not sure about in a box and set it aside. Whatever gets pulled out and used over the next two months can stay. The things that don't get rescued should be sent packing. 

How to handle keepsakes

Now for the toughest decision of all: what to do with those trophies, mementos, greeting cards, photos, kids' art projects, and all the other things that trigger strong memories and emotional reactions.

First, go through these things and make sure they're still things you want to keep. Some items may remind you of a time, or person, you choose to forget.

Spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing each item. If you allow yourself to start wandering down memory lane, your organizing work will come to a screeching halt.

Take photos of items that are bulky or hard to store - especially the kids' artwork, which tends to fall apart over time. Once you've captured the item in a photo, let the original go. Create a custom photo album for each child as a more manageable keepsake.

If there are keepsakes you inherited from your parents or relatives that hold no sentimental value for you, it's time to say 'goodbye'.

Other people's belongings

If you're storing anything that doesn't belong to you or others in your household - give it back! It's time to get rid of the ex's belongings and get tough with your adult children!

Working with a professional

A professional organizer can teach you the tricks of the trade, help you make tough decisions about what to keep and what to let go, and consult with you about the best storage systems. Hiring a professional is also a good idea if you're having trouble getting started or sticking with it. Expect to pay around $50-$90 per hour for this kind of help.

Some final words of advice

While you're getting organized, don't allow yourself to buy any non-necessities. Groceries, yes. But say no to clothes, toys, electronics, sporting goods, and other feel-good purchases.

When you're done organizing, a good rule of thumb is that for every new item brought into the house, an old one has to leave!

coming up next - Storage Solutions that really work {and buyers love}!

Until then,

la chasse au bonheur

Sunday, August 10, 2014

European elegance in Montlake

Nestled next to the Arboretum, and tucked behind a walled courtyard, is this gracious fully remodeled 1925 residence designed with exceptional attention to detail. 

The city fades away as you enter this remarkable home which draws inspiration from classic architecture found in traditional residences. 

The grand day rooms, including an impressive conservatory boast high ceilings, beautiful millwork, rich hardwoods, wood wrapped beveled glass windows and a stunning limestone fireplace. 

The open concept kitchen is appointed with classic European details, including limestone counters, stainless appliances, and eat-in counter with was access to the Pinterest read laundry and mudroom. 

Located on the main floor are two bedrooms with serene views and perfectly appointed 3/4 bath. 

The second level boasts a sunny landing, third bedroom en suite, and sumptuous master suite with decadent master bath, walk-in closet and well appointed dressing room with built-ins. 

Private terraces and decks make outdoor living and entertaining easy and gracious. 

English gardens surround this stunning home. 

This 3270 sq. ft. 4 bedroom/3 bath residence has been fully remodeled and boasts a 40 year architecture grade composition roof with copper gutters tied into a perimeter drain, high efficiency gas/forced air furnace, in-floor radiant heat in the bathrooms and laundry/mudroom, on-demand tankless water heater, wood wrapped double pane beveled glass windows, gorgeous French doors leading to brilliant gardens with sprinkler system, extensive hardscaping with outdoor lighting, custom wrought iron detailing, sophisticated color palette, natural materials including limestone and hardwoods, and seriously gorgeous light fixtures. 

The one car attached garage with automatic garage door opener, lower level with finished rec-room and loads of storage makes this home as functional as it is gorgeous!

Just steps to the gardens, grounds and trails of the Arboretum, University of Washington campus and hospital, the shores of Lake Washington, and the local shops, cafes, restaurants, and Montlake library, with easy access to downtown and the eastside. This refined residence is a warm and welcoming place to call home!

Offered at 1,350,000

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

on the move

Whether you are upsizing, downsizing or simply sidewinding, moving can be a very overwhelming task. Cleaning, sorting, labeling, packing, storing, hauling - it's a lot! And of course, it rarely comes at a time when you have any extra time!

The nature of my work puts me in contact with people moving almost every month. I know all too well how overwhelming this process can be.

If broken down into bite size pieces, however, this process becomes a lot easier. Here are some tips to help you during your next move.

1) Start early. Even before you know you will be moving, keep your home and personal belongings organized.

2) Continually sort/cull/donate/store your personal property. Don't wait until moving day to decide if you really want to keep or donate your Christmas Jumpers. I read a helpful tip a few years back - "for every item you bring into the home, one item should leave".

3) Downsizing. If you are moving into a smaller space it is important to decide what will fit and what you need to "let go of". Your children, family or friends might want certain pieces. Talk to them earlier than later and have them remove these pieces at a leisurely pace. This really saves on your mental and physical well being. If you have personal property like furniture, home accessories and appliances that doesn't make the cut (yours or others) then donate them. There are many charities that help those in need outfit their home. The Sharehouse (turning houses into homes for Seattle's homeless) is an amazing organization. If you are downsizing, this article might be helpful.

4) Boxes can be expensive. See about borrowing or buying used boxes from friends/colleagues/craigslist. If you still need to buy boxes, use my list of companies below. Either way, get your boxes asap so you can pack at a less hectic pace. Keep an inventory of what is in the box (photos are ideal, but a list is fine) and tape it to the inside of the box. Use strong packing tape and clearly mark the outside (top and sides) of the box where that box is going (i.e. 4015 E Madison Street/Main Floor Bedroom/Closet 1). Think of a sharpie as your new best friend!

5) If you really, must, absolutely, have to, store your items, then arranging for a portable storage unit is a necessary (my list of companies below should be helpful).

6) Hire a qualified moving company (see my list below) and make sure you fully understand and agree with their scope of the job. Ask for recent references, check them out on Yelp, and ask for the names and photos of the movers who will be there on move day. Understand the company and their employees/contract laborers' full liability, and make sure you understand what they expect from you.



A&R Moving
7745 Aurora Ave N/206-262-0404

Budget Moving
6910 Roosevelt Way NE Ste 106 / 206-522-0600

Cascade Moving and Storage, Inc.
430 S Cloverdale St / 425-458-3829

Express Movers, Inc.
218 S Mead St / 206-276-4599

Gentle Giant Moving Company / 206-213-0426

Hansen Bros. Moving and Storage
12645 Stone Ave N / 800-365-0303

Neighbors Moving and Storage
117 E Louisa St / 206-381-1234

Reliable Moving
2608 Second Ave Ste 123 / 206-443-0210

Seattle Movers
PO Box 17789 / 206-284-9445

Sunshine Movers
2237 N 106th St / 206-723-8898


2515 Rainier Ave S / 206-723-4265
2601 15th Ave W / 206-285-0860
6403 MLK Jr Way S / 206-723-1685
6343 35th Avenue SW / 206-937-9320

PUBLIC STORAGE / 800-688-8057
1334 Alaskan Way
1515 13th Ave
1815 12th Ave
700 Fairview Ave N
2964 SW Avalon Way
3600 Stone Way N
3000 15th Ave W
2746 NE 45th St Ste 100

1st Ave Self Storage
2400 1st Ave S / 206-682-1291

While this is an exhausting process, when broken down into more manageable steps, you will get through it (hopefully with your nails and sanity in tact)!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Thursday, July 31, 2014

follow up to our New England Clam Bake

I've received so many inquiries on how our clam bake went that I thought I would share a few photos and some thoughts from the night.

It was one of those iconic Seattle summer days - warm, without a cloud in the sky, and a soft breeze to keep things bearable for us true Northwesterners.  

such a beautiful view from the roof top deck of our houseboat
Our guests were greeted with a breezy summer cocktail and seafood inspired appetizers.
Our 'summer in a glass' drink was made with
Cranberry juice, Malibu Rum with Coconut
Liquer, and topped off with Prosecco
Appetizers included this lobster mac 'n cheese
(check out the lobster crackers Laura made)
While the guests soaked in the sun and views on top, we (ok, it was really Laura and Shannon) were busy with our boil, which was carefully balanced on the side deck. 

our outdoor kitchen where, at one point,
four people were cooking and plating 
our boil consisted of mussels, clams, craydaddies
(as Shannon likes to call them), chorizo, corn, potatoes 
such a fun table to decorate
(don't you love how the bibs pick up the color of the mirror?)
The night ended back on the roof top deck, this view, and a berry crisp

I have had the good fortune of working along side Shannon and Laura before. We co-chaired my daughters' (and their childrens') school auction. That was an enormous undertaking and through careful planning, consistent communication and hard work we produced a spectacular event that raised over $500,000. 

Working in a committee can sometimes be challenging, but with these ladies, it is effortless. Hosting this Clam Bake was no exception. 

with Laura Kosinski and Shannon Manley - two amazing ladies!
Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

new england clam bake

If you know me at all, you know I love to entertain. It doesn't take more than a soft breeze to get me in gear. So when my daughters' school auction needed some dinner themed donations, I jumped at the chance to host a New England Clam Bake (keeping in theme with the auction). Joining me as host are my co-chairs, Shannon and Laura.

It's been fun scouting local venues for hosting this type of a dinner. Wanting to be on, or near the beach, we looked at some charming VRBO properties and historic sites offered through Seattle Parks and Recreation.
charming waterfront VRBO property

The beach house at Golden Gardens can be rented for events
But in the end we found a charming house boat on Lake Union. With stunning views of the Seattle skyline as a back drop (and 80 weather), this will surely be the perfect spot for our guests to sit back and enjoy a lovely evening.

If you're looking for a fun idea for a casual party, I encourage you to host a New England Clam Bake. It's pretty easy to pull together and creates a festive event perfect for connecting. Here's our menu:

lobster mac 'n cheese
jumbo shrimp in cocktail sauce
Chesapeake Bay crab cakes
first course
chilled melon with mint soup
traditional boil with
clams, mussels, crawfish, chorizo, potatoes, corn cobs
berry crisp with vanilla ice cream
specialty drink (lemonade, Malibu rum, coconut liquor, prosecco)
lemonade, dry white wine, beer

If you feel compelled to find your own beachfront home to host a New England Clam Bake, this beautiful 3.77 acre property on 400' of waterfront on pristine Case Inlet is on the market. 
until next time.
la chasse au bonheur