Holiday Time: Simple vs. Pleasures

During the holidays, do you prefer to keep things simple, or do you go all out? Do you decorate your house from top to bottom, send out tons of holiday cards, plan and prepare a large family dinner, bake lots of cookies, plan special family events, follow traditions, and so on? Or do you feel overwhelmed just by reading that list?

Christmas Tree

I think it is a balance between keeping things simple, but also satisfying your pleasures.

I absolutely love Christmas time – decorating, gift wrapping, spending time with family, seeing the holiday lights, going to various events, and so on. And, sometimes, there is even snow! It is so beautiful when you can stay inside and watch it, or when it doesn’t interrupt travel plans.

The holidays are the one time of the year that I typically break out the cookbooks, search online for recipes and really plan out a menu. Yes, if I host a party I may do this on a smaller scale, but it is really Thanksgiving and Christmas that I get into it.

But it can also be a lot of work. My family says, oh just keep it simple. Just make some basic everyday food. That will be fine.

Yes, that is simple, but that is what we have every day the rest of the year! The holidays are my time to experiment, try new things, and feel proud of those accomplishments. Each year I also like to add to “my favorites” binder of recipes. I can only do this if I try out new ones.

So I have to find a balance between keeping it simple and not stressful and satisfying my pleasure of cooking and baking. It is a challenge.

However, since I find pleasure in planning the menu, shopping for the groceries, cooking, baking, and even making the little menu cards, it really feels fine to me to not keep it too simple. Because in this case, keeping it too simple would take away the joy of it for me.

How I simplify my holiday cooking and baking pleasure:

  • I flip through my cookbooks or search online for ideas or inspiration. It is fun to discover new recipes. I print out or photocopy all the recipes I plan to use.
  • I order my groceries online. It is so simple to type what I need in a search box than spend time searching for it in the store! I pick up my groceries from the store: I drive up, I pay, and they put the bags in my car! Very simple!
  • I do any baking and pre-cooking or prep that I can the day before the big event or holiday.
  • I use slow-cooker recipes when possible. Just throw in the ingredients and let it cook itself. I have a couple of slow cookers so I can keep the food warm as guests arrive.
  • I use recipes that have similar ingredients and that make a lot of extras (leftovers take care of several days of meals!).

So when it comes to whatever you take delight in during the holidays, remember to keep things simple as much as possible, but don’t let the “simple” take away the pleasure in the things.

What types of holiday pleasures do you enjoy that aren’t quite simple?


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A Cozy Chicken Noodle Meal

chicken noodle meal

With colder nights upon us, it was time to bring out one of my favorite dinners. It is super simple to make, is very warm and filling, and there are almost always leftovers! It is a perfect meal for a cold winter’s evening. Oh, and it is delicious!

This Cozy Chicken Noodle Meal includes 3 simple ingredients:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Biscuits

For the chicken noodle soup:

First, cut up and cook some chicken. Then make the noodle soup. I use Mrs. Grass Homestyle Chicken Noodle mix. It is simple and delicious. Mix the cooked chicken in with the soup mix.

Mrs. Grass Noodle Mix

For the mashed potatoes:

You can use the instant potatoes if you are short on time and like those, or peel and boil 4-6 potatoes, depending on your family size. If I make about 4-5 potatoes, it is enough for 4 people, but with no leftovers. Once the potatoes are soft, mash the potatoes using butter and milk, or as desired.

For the biscuits:

Simply make a package of Pillsbury Homestyle Original Biscuits, or your favorite biscuits!

Put it all together:

Cut a biscuit in half and place both sides, inside up on the plate. Put some mashed potatoes on top of the biscuit halves. Spoon chicken noodle soup over top. Enjoy!

What cozy, cold winter meals do you enjoy?


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My k.i.d.s. formula for organizing with kids

Organizing with KidsWhile I don’t have any children of my own, I do know that children’s toys, clothes and other items need an organizing system just like the rest of the items in our lives. This is especially true for all those toys! And with birthdays and holidays every year, the toys quickly add up!

As a parent or caregiver, you might be tempted to just grab a big bin and throw in everything together, or even grab a trash bag and start hauling items to the dump.

But take a deep breath and remember my K.I.D.S. formula for organizing with kids.

  • Keep it at their level
  • Involve them in the organization
  • Designate a home for everything
  • Set up systems and stay supportive

Keep it at their level

  • Set up closet rods and shelves so that your children can reach items. Store seasonal and less frequently used items higher.
  • Hang some Command hooks within your children’s reach so they can easily access and hang up jackets, backpacks and bags.
  • Create storage solutions with fun and attractive containers that are convenient for your children and where they typically play.

Involve them in the organization

  • Consider your children’s needs, wants, frustrations and concerns. They may be upset because their toys always end up broken, they can’t find something when they need it, they lose their homework and get in trouble, or they are bothered by something you didn’t even realize. They may really want a place where they can store their rock collection or have a dress-up area for their dolls.
  • Help your children understand that it is important to donate items they are no longer using, or to throw away broken items that cannot be fixed. Provide guidance and support, but let your children make decisions about what to keep and what to throw away.
  • Teach them the importance of putting items back after they are done with them. Items are less likely to be broken, lost or messed up in some way if they are put back where they belong.

Designate a home for everything

  • Create a place for everything – every toy, every art supply, every memento, and every piece of clothing. If something doesn’t have a home, your children will have no place to put it and it will look like “clutter.”
  • Make sure your children know where the home is for everything. Use labels wherever possible. If the child cannot read yet, use pictures.
  • Keep a bin in the closet, or somewhere else in your children’s rooms, that can be used to gather items to be donated.
  • Create extra space in a room by using over-the-door hanging solutions and under-the-bed storage. A bunk bed with a desk or play area underneath is also great for small bedrooms.
  • Create memory boxes or books. Every year gather all your children’s creations and take photos of them. Then pick out your favorites together. Include the originals of the favorites and the photos in your chosen memory container and toss the rest. Over time, you and your children will create a treasure that will be cherished forever, and be reasonable in size.

Set up systems and stay supportive

  • Create family rules to help keep everything and everyone organized. For example:
    • Make your bed every morning.
    • Tidy up the living/family rooms and bedrooms every evening. (You can even set a timer and make a game out of it.)
    • All items that need to be taken upstairs at the end of the night should be placed in the basket on or by the stairs.
    • All outside toys must be put back on the patio or deck before coming in for the evening.

Basically whatever rules will work for your family and home.

  • Stay supportive. Once you and your children organize all the items and have a place for everything, reward yourselves for your hard work. Make sure your children feel proud of their accomplishment. However, remember that it needs to be maintained and that requires new habits to be formed. This takes time, reminders, support, patience, and adjustments as your children grow and things change. If your children start to become disorganized again, reframe from blaming the children or yourself, or getting angry. Talk to your children and run through the K.I.D.S. formula again to find the real problem and the right solution.

Products that can help organize children’s items:

  • Chrome Locker Baskets
  • Double Duty
  • Gear Pockets
  • Handbag File
  • Peek-a-Boo! I See You
  • Peek-a-Book! Treasure Box
  • Toy Hammock
  • TuffTotes
  • Bin There
  • Bin Pulls and Cubes
  • Stuff It
  • Over-the-Door Pantry Organizer
  • Clever Bucket

Visit my website at http://clevercontainer.com/kristystephens to order these and other products.

Contact me if you would like any suggestions for your organizing dilemmas!

What tips do you have for organizing with kids?

 


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25 Kitchen Organizing Tips

kitchen

The kitchen is where people gather. It is the heart of the home. It is the most important room in the house, or at least one of the most important rooms. But with everyone using it daily, it can quickly become disorganized.

Here are 25 kitchen organizing tips for your cupboards, drawers, pantry and fridge.

You can save a lot of money by knowing what you already have in your kitchen, what you really need, and what you should eat before it goes bad!

Tip #1: The first thing you should do is throw away all expired items and questionable items. When in doubt, throw it out! Donate working kitchen appliances and extra dishes, glasses, utensils and other gadgets. By removing what you don’t use or like, you’ll be able to find the items you do use and love.

Toss:

  • Broken items
  • Duplicate items that you don’t use (and consider donating those)
  • Pots and pans that are burnt or rusty
  • Items you don’t like or think are ugly
  • Excess plastic containers – keep your best ones and ones you have a matching lid for!
  • Appliances and gadgets you never use
  • Expired items
  • Bruised or rotting produce
  • Food you are not eating or really didn’t like

Tip #2: You can organize a pantry or your cabinets by packaging type or by item type. Organizing by packaging type means grouping items by their packaging – such as cans, small boxes, or large boxes. Organizing by item type means creating groups such as pasta night ingredients, baking supplies, BBQ items, soup ingredients, etc.

Products that can help:

  • Expandable Pantry Shelf
  • Corner Shelf
  • Over the Door Pantry Organizer
  • Chrome Locker Baskets
  • Drawer Designers (yes, they can be used in the pantry too for lightweight items and they don’t have to be placed in drawers!)
  • Fridge Cubes (also think-outside-the-fridge when it comes to this handy product!)

Tip #3:  When placing items in containers, use a label marker and label everything clearly so you know what it is.

Tip #4: Make sure heavier and fragile items are placed on the lower shelves, and lighter and bulkier items are placed on top.

Tip #5: You can gain more space by taking items out of their bulky packaging, such as individually wrapped bags of chips, crackers and cookies. You can store these items in Chrome Locker Baskets, Bins and Cubes, and ZipVac Bags.

Tip #6: If your pantry and kitchen shelves are adjustable, adjust them to fit items in your pantry and cabinets better. The Expandable Pantry Shelf, Over the Door Pantry Organizer and Corner Shelf will also help provide needed space, whether or not your shelves are adjustable.

Tip #7: Open, breathable containers are perfect for potatoes and onions. They extend the life of the produce. You can use the Chrome Locker Baskets.

Tip #8: Create an information station to control mail, papers, messages and reminders. All these things seem to make their way into the hub of the home – the kitchen.  Consider the Black Scroll Letter Holder, Single Chrome Letter/Key Holder, Magnetic Message Central, Magnetic Clips Set/3, File the Pile and Panic No More, the Project Board, or Pretty Paper.

Tip#9: The fewer items you have on the counter, the easier the counters are to clean. In fact, the less stuff you have anywhere, the easier those areas are to clean! Try using the walls, the inside of cabinets, and any vertical space you have. Try products such as Wraprack, Under the Shelf Cup Rack, Over the Cabinet Towel Bar, Over the Drawer Double Hook, Over the Door Pantry Organizer, and Hold Everything.

Tip #10: Organize your drawers by using products as the Drawer Designers, the Drawer Organizer or the Basket Bins.

Tip#11: Everything in your kitchen should have a home! And each item should be put back in its home when you are done using it.

Tip#12: Use a dual garbage bin for trash and recycling sorting. Or use a Chrome Locker Basket to temporarily store recyclables.

Tip#13: Place plasticware containers and lids in a dedicated deep drawer. Use the Drawer Designers to keep them separated and lined up as needed. You can also store plasticware in the Chrome Locker Baskets. Use plasticware containers that have stackable lids for easier storage.

Tip #14: Create zones in your kitchen, such as a baking zone by the oven, a dishes zone by the dishwasher and sink, and a cooking zone by the stove. Do not fill any extra space in a zone with unrelated items. Pick the appropriate “home” for each zone based on the best location and how many items the “home” needs to hold.

Tip #15: Keep an “Out” list on the fridge where family members indicate what they are out of. This could be a blank sheet of paper or it could be part of a shopping list that includes typical items you buy, organized by the layout of your favorite store. When you need them, check them off. Take the list with you and cross them off while you shop.

Tip#16: Use containers to organize food in the fridge. The see-through Fridge Cubes and Bins are great for holding lunchmeat, fruit drinks, yogurt, bottles of water, fruit cups, cheese sticks, and more. Organize your items by type such as meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, dairy, beverages and ingredients to make a meal. You can also organize by person or by size and shape. By having an organized fridge, you can save money by eating what you have before it goes bad and by not buying items you already have.

Tip 17#: If you need more space in your kitchen and you have a dining room, move serving pieces, tablecloths, napkins, etc. to a cabinet in the dining room. You can even store your cookbooks in the dining room. Appliances or pans that you only use for special occasions or holidays can be stored in the basement, if available. For dishes you inherited from family members – consider taking photos of the pieces and donating them. If you really can’t part with them, store them securely in the attic, basement or a spare closet.

Tip#18: Stack pots and pans by using cookware protectors between them. You can purchase cookware protectors from Pampered Chef (#2888 Cookware Protectors from pamperedchef.com).

Tip #19: Organize pan lids, baking sheets and serving trays with the Wire Chrome Dividers.

Tip #20: Store plastic grocery bags in the Chrome Plastic Bag Recycler or by using the over-the-cabinet-door Plastic Bag Holder. Use a Double Duty cube to store the reusable bags and easily transport them from the kitchen to the car.

Tip #21: Organize takeout menus in the Takeout Menu Organizer and organize recipes in the Collected Recipes Cookbook, Accordion Recipe File, or Recipe File Folders and Bamboo File Folder.

Tip #22: To help remember what goes where in your pantry and cabinets, label the shelf edges with a label maker. You might create labels for areas such as pasta, canned goods, snacks, and beverages. This is also helpful so others in your household know where to put items.

Tip #23: Clean off the front of the refrigerator and toss old coupons, notes or duplicate magnets. Keep what you need, and organize it in a way that makes sense. Take a picture of your children’s artwork and store your favorites. You can use the bottom part of the Peek-a-Boo! I See You for artwork storage.

Tip #24: When storing your drinking glasses, create columns for each size glass. For example, let’s say your cabinet allows you to have 5 rows of glasses and you have 3 types of glasses: short, tall and wine. You might then have two columns of short glasses, two columns of tall glasses, and one column of wine glasses. The point is to be able to easily see and reach each type of glass you have.

Tip #25: Go to bed each night with an empty sink and clean countertops. Put things away as you use them, when possible, and wash dishes or load the dishwasher after each meal. Wake up every morning to a clean, organized kitchen. It will be rewarding!

You can purchase many of the items mentioned in this post at www.clevercontainer.com/kristystephens.

What other kitchen organizing tips do you have?

 


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7 Closet Organizing Tips

If you struggle with locating your clothes, putting away your clothes, or you just find the experience unenjoyable, it is time to organize your closet and dresser drawers.

By getting your closet and dresser organized, you can:

  • save time by being able to find outfits when you need them, and put them away easily on laundry day.
  • save money because you will be able to see what you own and realize that, yes, you do have clothes to wear – they were just a little buried!
  • start to love your clothes again. Having an organized closet and dresser makes getting ready in the morning much easier and enjoyable.
  • feel more confident because you will be able to dress your best with less stress!

Here are 7 tips to help you get your closet and dresser organized this spring!

Closet photo

Tip #1: Make your closet look more organized by using the same hangers – same size and, if possible, same color.  White or light colors work best because they are neutral. My goal is to have all white hangers, but we still have a few colored ones. You don’t have to throw away good hangers, just try to always buy the same ones. Also, use the plastic or wood hangers instead of the wire ones.

Tip #2: Americans tend to wear 20% of their clothing 80% of the time. Here’s a simple trick that you can do two times a year to help keep your closet overflow to a minimum. You’ll start this one in the fall for your fall and winter clothes and in the spring for your spring and summer clothes.  To figure out what you really use and what you need to lose, turn all your hangers backward in your closet.  After you have worn a piece of clothing and are returning it to the closet turn the hanger around before putting the piece back.  Do this for 6 months.  At the end of 6 months, you’ll see what was left untouched.  Strive to empty out half of the unused clothing.

Tip #3: Roll socks instead of folding them together.  They’ll last longer since the elastic will not stretch out each time you wash them.  You can keep socks organized by using drawer designers. You can buy these from my website under the Closet category.

Drawer Designer Combo

Tip #4: When placing socks, underwear or bras back into the drawers once they’ve been washed, move them to the back of the drawer.  This way you’ll be wearing each item in cycles and you can extend the life of your articles.

Tip #5: Make sure your closet has very good, bright lighting so you can actually see all your items.

Closet Ceiling Light

Tip #6: Keep a “Donate” container nearby so when you find something you never wear or don’t want anymore, you can easily drop it in. Once it is full, take it to Goodwill or your favorite donation place. If you struggle with giving something up, think about how it can benefit someone who needs it much more than you. You can use the Jumbo Eyelet Tote as your “Donate” container. You can buy this from my website under the Storage category.

Jumbo Eyelet Tote

Tip #7: Use every inch of closet space to its maximum potential. The single rod-and-shelf configuration that comes standard in most closets is not practical and wastes tons of storage space. Use a double-rod configuration for short hanging such as shirts, skirts, and jackets. Use a regular rod on top and pant hangers on the bottom, if possible.

Closet photo

Place a shelf above the top rod and use shelf dividers to separate clothes and to keep them from falling on top each other. You can buy shelf dividers on my website under the Closet category.

Curved Shelf Dividers

Consider storing those bulky winter coats and sweaters. To save space, you can use the Clever Cache – just fill, seal and roll and you can go from 10 inches of sweaters to 3 inches of storage. You can find that product in the Storage category on my website.

Clever Cache

Use clear shoe boxes or a shoe rack on the floor to organize your shoes. You can buy shoe boxes under the Closet category.

Shoe Boxes

Use a “hanger hamper” to store extra hangers. You can find the hanger hamper online at my Amazon store.

Hanger Hamper

What closet organizing tips do you have?

 


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Simple solution for hanging tanks and camis

It’s getting hotter outside, and our wardrobes are going from warm and cozy to “help keep me cool!” lightweight fabrics, with, well, less fabric! It’s time for summer tanks and camis. While these little tops are cute and cool, they are tough to hang on traditional hangers. You might find more of them lying on your closet floor or stuck between other clothes than actually on the hangers.

Here is a simple solution for hanging tanks and camis: use a belt hanger!

Sure, a belt hanger can be used for belts, but it is also great for tanks and camis.

Belt Hanger with Tanks and Camis

Need a belt hanger for your tanks, camis, or even belts? You can buy one by visiting my website at http://clevercontainer.com/kristystephens and looking for the belt hanger in the Closet category. Just click on Shop Now in the upper right-hand corner of the site and then click on Closet.

What other clothing items do you have trouble hanging, storing or organizing?

 


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Simple. Delicious. Homemade. Hamburgers

You can buy some ground beef or turkey in the grocery store, cook up some patties, grab some rolls and toppings, and hamburgers are served.

But those are just plain old hamburgers. Or maybe you throw in your “secret” seasoning to jazz them up a bit.

Well this week I found my “secret” ingredient for making the best hamburgers I have ever had.

The recipe is so simple, and the burgers are so delicious!

Homemade Hamburgers

The Fresh Take Cheddar Jack and Bacon packet is the secret ingredient.

Kraft is not sponsoring this post. I honestly love these Fresh Take packets! 

Fresh Take Cheddar Jack and Bacon Packet

Inside the packet, you will find four recipes, one of them is for Sliders. You simply combine the Fresh Take packet with some ground beef or turkey (I used beef for mine), cook them and you have some mighty delicious burgers on your hands!

Recipe on inside of Fresh Take package

Here is a close-up of the recipe so you can see how simple it is!

Sliders recipe from Fresh Take packet

Click on the image to enlarge it. 

What is your secret ingredient for homemade hamburgers?

 


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10 solutions for the what’s for dinner dilemma

Dinnertime comes around every night along with that dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?”

It is always a challenge to come up with ideas for dinner, to keep dinner interesting and to still make it simple, easy and not stressful.

Plate with question mark

Here are 10 possible solutions for the “what’s for dinner” dilemma.

Find dinner ideas:

1. Look through the coupons in the Sunday’s paper or gather coupons online. Not only could you find some coupons for meals you typically make, but you could also find new dinner ideas.

2. Grab a cup of tea, dust off your cookbooks and take a look at them! Also check Facebook and ask family and friends.

3. For 40 quick and easy recipes, you can download The Confident Mom Got Dinner? e-book for $4 (affiliate link).

Got Dinner? Quick & Easy Recipes

4. Look at various sauces or marinades while at the store or online. If you find an interesting topping for meat, you can just add some complementary side dishes (potatoes, rice, noodles, vegetables, etc.) and you’ll have a new dinner idea.

One of my favorite brands is Stonewall Kitchen. They have several different sauces, seasonings, chutneys and more. Look under Specialty Foods on their site (affiliate link).

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

5. Check the back of boxes, cans and other packages for recipes you can use. See my post on 5 simple back-of-the-box recipes for some of my favorites.

6. Use sites and apps to find recipes based on ingredients. Here are a few you can try:

Free version:

Pro version:

7. When people ask you what you want for your birthday and you are not sure, suggest restaurant gift cards. That way you can have a night off from making dinner, guilt-free!

Get Organized:

8. Take a few minutes to write a meal plan for each week. Grab a piece of paper and write down each day of the week. Then next to each day write a dinner idea. Start with some meals you typically make to get you started. Try to add one new recipe every week.

When creating your meal plan, consider the ingredients. If one recipe requires carrots and celery, or example, think about something else you could make that would use those same ingredients. This will make sure no food gets wasted, will reduce costs, and will shorten your grocery list.

Try to make at least one or two of the meals on your weekly plan ones that usually have leftovers. This will give you a night off from cooking. Pasta meals typically work well for this, but you can always double a recipe to make extra as well.

9. Make a shopping list based on your meal plan so you buy everything you need to make dinner each week. Remember to also add items you buy regularly to your shopping list so you don’t forget them (milk, yogurt, juice, bread, etc.).

Organize the items on your list the way your grocery store is laid out. This will get you in and out of the grocery store faster.

10. Organize your recipes. This may seem like an overwhelming task but if you work on it 10 minutes at a time, you will be amazed at how quickly you can get them organized. This will make it easy to find recipes, and to get a sense of what recipes you already have to work with.

When you find a recipe you like either in a magazine or online, make sure you save it and/or print it, if you want a paper copy. You will need something to store and organize your paper recipes. You can buy the Collected Recipes organizer from my Clever Container website in the Kitchen category. This recipe solution has 8 pocketed tab dividers and 36 two-sided magnetic pages to hold your recipe clippings.

Bonus: If you collect and organize a book of recipes, you can share this treasure with family members. My husband’s family gave me a “collected family recipes” binder as a wedding gift! 🙂

Collected Recipes Book

If you like to store your recipes electronically, create a Recipes folder on your computer or a folder in your browser bookmarks so when you find a recipe you like, you have a place to store it.

 How do you solve the “what’s for dinner” dilemma? 

 


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No mess in 10 minutes or less

By the end of the day, do the rooms in your house look something like this?

Messy Room

If so, what can you do about it? You have several options, including:

You could –

1. Leave it as is and go to bed.

2. Stay up later, pick everything up and return it to its proper home.

3. Play a game with your family to get everything picked up in 10 minutes.

Consider trying number three and turn something “not so fun” into a fun game.

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Everyone needs to pick up their items and put them away before the timer stops. At the end of the 10 minutes, everyone can congratulate themselves and perhaps have some dessert, watch a favorite television show, read a book, play another game, or whatever your family enjoys.

That’s it! It’s simple, it gets everyone moving and involved, and it reduces your work!

You can use a timer on the microwave, your cell phone, or an actual timer. You can purchase the timer below from my Clever Container site under the Kitchen category.

Timer from Clever Container

Another idea is that you could start playing some music. Everyone must have everything picked up and put away before you turn off the music. You might even get some people dancing! You can take turns in your family whom will be in charge of starting and stopping the music. Perhaps the person who “won” the last time.

Most importantly, you need to create some game rules to make sure no one falls, gets hurt, trips over the dog, or accidentally breaks items. You will probably want to have a “walk, don’t run” rule for sure.

Just think in 10 minutes or less, you will have gotten rid of the mess!

Clean Room

What tips do you have for making daily cleaning fun?

 


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5 questions to ask yourself when considering a new home

Purchasing a home is a big investment and a big decision. The process can be overwhelming and stressful, but all very exciting at the same time. When considering a new home, we always hear that it is all about location, location, location. But there are several other things to consider as well. Here are five questions to ask yourself when considering a new home. There are related sub-questions below the main questions to really get you thinking.

Houses in Small Town Neighborhood

1. What is your family situation?

a. Children: Do you have children? Are you planning on having or adopting any children, or more children? Will your children be moving out soon?

b. Parents: Do you have parents that may need to come live with you? What will their needs be?

c. Pets: Do you have any pets now? Do you foresee having any or additional pets in the future? What are or will their needs be? If you ask me, pets are family members too!

2. How much space do you really need?

a. Declutter Before You Buy: Do you actually use all the items in your home?  We typically use only 20% of what we own. The other 80% is stuff we think we should own or think we will use someday. What are some items you never use that you could donate, recycle, repurpose, or throw away? After you do that, do you still feel like you need more space than you currently have?

b. Cleaning and Maintaining: Remember you’ll need to clean and maintain every square foot that you decide to purchase. How much do you like to clean? How much time do you have to clean? Do you plan on hiring a cleaning person? Do you feel like you have too much to clean and maintain now? Do you like to work on the house? Are you handy? Can you downsize?

c. Bigger is Better Mentality: If you live in a small apartment, condo or townhouse now, you may think you that you need a lot more space. You may actually need more space. But first consider, how would you use that additional space? Do you have a purpose in mind for the additional rooms and square footage?

3. How much land do you want?

a. Yard Maintenance: Do you like to work outside? Do you like to mow the lawn? Do you like to garden or landscape? Do you plan to hire someone to take care of this for you?

b. Privacy: Do you like a lot of privacy? Do you like neighbors nearby? Do you like to live within walking distance to shops? Do you prefer a more country-like setting?

c. Entertaining: Do you like to entertain and use an outdoor space? Do you need a yard for your children and pets to play? Do you need a fenced-in yard? Will you ever want to add a playground set, a hot tub, a pool, a gazebo, or other outdoor structure? Do you enjoy the seasons/weather in the area where you live?

4. How much can you really afford? 

a. Reality vs Pre-approvals: You may get pre-approved to spend more on a house than would be fiscally wise. Take time to figure out your income vs. your expenses and debts to determine how much you can truly spend on a mortgage payment each month. If you are not ready to buy yet, consider putting aside a “pretend” mortgage payment each month and see if you still have enough money to comfortably live. Seek advice from a financial advisor.

b. Flexibility: If you live in a two-income household, what if one person wants to stop working to take care of the children, go back to school, or work in a volunteer position. Or what if one person wants to go from full-time to part-time? What if one person gets sick or becomes disabled? Try to make it so you can afford your house payment with just one person’s income. Seek advice from a financial advisor.

c. Priorities: What are your priorities? Is having a beautiful and spacious home one of them? What about paying for private school for your children, or saving for their college education? Do you want to travel often? Do you want to have extra money for a side business or hobbies? Do you want to work less and spend more time with your family? Don’t let a mortgage prevent you from doing what is most important to you.

5. What kind of layout and features will really fit your lifestyle?

a. Layout: Tour homes, go to open houses, browse houses online, and pay attention to the layouts of your friends’ homes. What do you like about each one? What do you dislike? What would really work for you and your family? Do you want to be able to talk to people in the family room while you are in the kitchen? Do you want to be able to see the children playing while you are in the kitchen or the office?

b. Rooms: What rooms do you really need? Do you plan to use a formal dining room or would a large eat-in kitchen make more sense? Do you need an office? Do you need a guest room? What about a mud room? Do you need a garage or workshop area? Do you need storage for bicycles, sports equipment, hobbies, collectibles, holiday decorations, etc.?

c. Character: Do you want a home with character? What does character mean to you? Is it something that only comes with an older home, or can you add it yourself? What features of a home would be nice to have, but are not deal breakers? What features of a house really make it a “home” to you?

What other questions are important to ask yourself when considering a new home?

 


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