5 Decluttering Tips To Get Your Home Ready For Holiday Visitors

The holidays. It’s a time for celebration, a time for good food and good cheer, and – for many homeowners – a time for out-of-town visitors. And while gathering your loved ones from all corners of the globe to celebrate with you and your family undoubtedly brings holiday joy, it can also bring more than a bit of holiday anxiety.

If you’re like most homeowners, you’ve probably accumulated quite a bit of clutter since spring cleaning. And with piles of toys and clothes and all manners of STUFF spilling out of every drawer, closet, and cabinet, the thought of hosting guests can quickly have you singing the holiday blues.

But don’t worry! It’s not too late to get your home in order and your clutter under control. Here are 5 decluttering tips to get your home ready for holiday visitors:

1. Prep Your Kitchen For Maximum Efficiency.

A large part of any holiday gathering is the meal, and if you’re the one playing host, you’ll likely be the one responsible for getting that meal on the table. The last thing you want is to spend your entire celebration stuck in the kitchen, rifling through cabinets looking for that casserole dish you haven’t seen since Mother’s Day. Organizing, getting rid of unnecessary utensils and tools, and prepping everything you’ll need to get your meals cooked, plated, and served is key. The right preparation saves you a ton of time, energy, and frustration, leaving you free to spend the holiday enjoying the company of your family and friends.

Go through your kitchen and remove any tools you won’t be using for your holiday meals, like your frozen yogurt machine or Halloween cake molds. Organize your pots and pans by size and function so you can easily locate them as you’re preparing your dishes. Clear everything off the counters so you have plenty of space to work on and aren’t wasting time trying to find room as you go along.

Not only will prepping your kitchen help you prepare and serve your meal more efficiently, but it’ll also save you time on your cleanup… which means more time to enjoy those delicious holiday desserts.

2. Get Your Kids Into The Spirit of Giving.

If you have children, clutter is par for the course. Between clothes, shoes, sporting gear, and toys, it seems like their clutter multiplies overnight. Factor in that your children are just going to be getting MORE clutter from your holiday guests in the form of presents, and things can quickly get out of hand.

But the holidays are all about giving, and they actually present the perfect opportunity to help your kids downsize, declutter, and give back to people in need.

Find a local charity that’s accepting holiday donations, and talk to your children about the importance of sharing the holiday spirit with other children who are less fortunate than they are. Help them work through their clutter and identify toys and clothes they’ve outgrown to give to charity.

Not only does this help to declutter your home, it also helps teach your children an important lesson about the spirit of giving, and your children will feel good knowing that their things are going to give someone else a wonderful holiday season.

3. Keep The Holiday Decorations To A Minimum.

While holiday decorations can add a nice ambiance to your home for the holidays, overdoing it can cause more clutter and overwhelm your visitors. Take stock of your holiday decorations, and be honest with yourself about which will add to the space and get your guests in the holiday spirit and which will just take up space and make them feel like they’re in the holiday aisle of the local Target.

To keep holiday decoration clutter to a minimum, think of them as an accent, NOT a focal point. Instead of displaying your entire collection of snowglobes, choose 1 or 2 that have a sentimental meaning and display them on your mantle. Hang up one Thanksgiving art project that your child made at school, not every project from the past 5 years.

Taking the less is more approach to holiday decorations will make your home feel more spacious and less cluttered while still creating that special holiday experience for your guests.

4. Rearrange Your Furniture.

While your current furniture setup likely works perfectly for you and your family, it might not be the most functional as you add more people for the holidays. Too much furniture + too many people = serious clutter.

Take stock of your current furniture arrangements and see how you can maximize each space. Rearrange the couches in your living room to form a circle around the middle of the room so everyone can face each other. Take any unnecessary tables or shelves that are taking up space without adding functionality and move them to the garage. Move, remove, and rearrange your furniture to create a space that feels more open and inviting.

5. Make Room For Your Guests’ Clutter.

No matter how well you declutter before the arrival of your holiday guests, the truth of the matter is they’ll be bringing clutter with them. And if you don’t have a place for them to put their clothes, suitcases, and other things, your home will feel just as cluttered as it felt pre-holidays within 10 minutes of their arrival.

Clear out space in a closet or garage for each guest to store their suitcase. If possible, give them space in a closet or drawer to put away their clothes. Make room in the bathroom for things like extra curling irons and electric shavers.

By being prepared and having a plan of action for your guests’ clutter, you can stop it from re-cluttering your space.

With these 5 decluttering tips, your home will feel organized, spacious, and ready to host your out-of-town holiday visitors.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Mother-in-Law Suite

There’s many reasons why you might be considering having your mother-in-law (or your mom) move in with you. Perhaps it’s for health reasons. Maybe it’s due to finances. Or, it could just be that you all want to be closer to each other.

There’s no single definition of what comprises a mother-in-law suite. But, in the grandest sense, they are often considered to include a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen (or kitchenette), a living room, as well as an entrance that’s separate from the main house. Sometimes they may be free-standing structures, known as “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs). In other instances, homeowners get creative and simply repurpose a room in the house, basements, attics, or even garages to accommodate their loved ones.

For a variety of reasons, multigenerational living continues to increase in popularity. In fact, in 2016, a record 64 million people, or 20 percent of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of census data.

Some families choose to buy a home with an in-law suite, or add one to their existing property because it makes financial sense. In other situations in which both parents work full-time outside the home, having built-in babysitters who are ready and willing to lend a hand is a welcome relief.

That said, blending generations isn’t always easy, especially after years of both parties living independently.

Whether you’re overjoyed or not-so-secretly seething at the thought of your mother or mother-in-law becoming a permanent fixture on your property, there are certain things you’ll want to consider.

Here are four questions to consider before moving in with your in-law.

1. Can everyone coexist peacefully?

It’s one thing to visit with your in-laws during the holidays, it’s another to see them 24/7. No one wants to watch the phrase “Familiarity breeds contempt” come to life in their own home. Still, you don’t need to be a family therapist to know that too much togetherness can quickly lead to trouble.

Chances are you’re accustomed to having your privacy, as is your mother-in-law. A separate entrance, kitchenette, and soundproofing can go a long way toward establishing boundaries that will ensure your relationship survives your new roommate status. But will these be enough to allow for harmonious living?

It’s not a bad idea to give the scenario a test run by having Mom spend a week or two and see how it goes before you commit to adding on to your home.

2. Will your city or town allow it?

If you’re considering constructing an addition for your in-laws, check with local and city zoning regulations as many have strict building codes. You may or may not be able to extend your house, or enough to accommodate your plans.

Some homeowners contemplate placing an entire new structure—an accessory dwelling unit (ADU)—on their property. Again, you’ll have to check on zoning laws before just plunking down a free-standing structure on your property.

But even something quite simple as renovating the garage, a basement, or section of the house with a separate kitchen area may not be allowed.

Every municipality will have different regulations. Check with yours before making any concrete plans to move mom in.

3. How much will it cost?

Whether you add on to your home or repurpose an area within it, most likely it won’t be cheap. According to Realtor.com, an in-law suite will set you back anywhere from $40,000 to $125,000, while ADUs (aka Granny Pods) are estimated at $85,000 to $125,000.

You may also want to separate the utilities between the unit and the primary residence if possible, to divide expenses. This can also save money if your relative goes out of town for lengthy periods, and you want to shut down the utilities temporarily.

Compare these expenses to the cost of an assisted living facility or nursing home if your motivation is to ensure the safety of older family members.

You should also weigh your options to buy a house that is already set up with a mother-in-law suite. It may actually cost you less (and easier), than doing construction on your existing house.

4. How will it impact your resale?

Because few homes include in-law suites, having one can attract multigenerational families. So when it comes time to sell your home, you may find that you have a lot of interest. Or at least specific interest from buyers who this would appeal to.

However, the layout and flow of the house may not appeal as much (or at all) to buyers who have no need for this kind of set-up. So, it may also reduce the pool of buyers your house will appeal to.

Not that resale value, or the ability to resell it, should dictate whether or not you create this sort of space in your home. You need to make the decision based upon your own situation, wants, and needs. Life needs to be lived, and enjoyed. If resale value is higher in the future, great. If not, perhaps you can renovate it back to the original layout if it makes good financial sense to do so.

While these are certainly not every question you may want to consider before making a decision, it’s a good start. And, hopefully, taking the time to ask and answer questions before moving Mom in, will save you time, money, frustration and, most importantly, your relationships.

13 of the Scariest Haunted Houses in America

As Halloween season quickly approaches, thoughts turn to the supernatural, the undead, and the downright creepy. But, really, regardless of the season, is there anything scarier than a haunted house?

From coast to coast, homes that boast a little paranormal activity abound, attracting curious ghost-hunters who hope to catch a glimpse of someone or something from the great beyond.

There’s still time to plan a spooktacular road trip. Let’s take a look at some of the most legendary haunted houses you may want to check out this season. Read on if you dare.

1. Amityville Horror House

What took place inside this Long Island estate is so chilling, it inspired a book and multiple films. In 1974, six members of the DeFeo family were found shot to death inside this stately home. Ronald DeFeo Jr., 23 at the time of the brutal killings, was later convicted of murdering his parents and four siblings.

Though the home sold a year after the grisly killings, the new owners quickly moved out citing unusual odors, sudden, unexplainable cold drafts, and a ghost that appeared to be half-demon-half pig.

But despite all that bloody history, the five-bedroom waterfront home has had numerous owners since. It was back on the market in 2016, listed at $850, but sold in February of 2017 for $605,000.

2. Myrtles Plantation

This otherwise-attractive plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana is considered to be “one of the most haunted houses in America.” Since it was built in 1797, the sprawling southern estate has been home to multiple owners as well as countless deaths and murders.

Today, visitors have an opportunity to take a day or evening tour, or even stay over at the bed and breakfast for a chance to sample a side of the occult with their coffee and pastries. Legend has it that in addition to ghost sightings, a grand piano has been known to play sans musician, and furniture has rearranged itself. Definitely intriguing.

3. The Joshua Ward House

Located in Salem, Massachusetts, one of the most haunted locales in the United States, the Joshua Ward House has earned a reputation for inhabiting the spirit of none other than George Corwin, the High Sheriff during the Salem Witch Trials. Corwin, aka “the Strangler,” is said to be responsible for the gruesome killings of more than a dozen men and women he suspected of practicing witchcraft. Legend has it, Corwin’s body was buried in the basement of the three-story Federal style brick house.

Visitors say Corwin and the ghost of one of the warlocks he killed at this location haunt this home.

4. The LaLaurie House

New Orleans’ French Quarter is home to the LaLaurie Mansion, where a socially prominent couple, Dr. Louis and Delphine LaLaurie, lived with their daughters during the 1830s. It was inside this three-story Creole mansion that Delphine reportedly tortured slaves, causing one to jump to her death.

The house, which was owned by actor Nicolas Cage from 2007 to 2009, is said to be haunted by screams of terror emanating from the ghosts of Delphine’s slaves.

If this tale sounds familiar it may be because it was popularized in the TV show “American Horror Story: Coven.”

5. The Lemp Mansion

Life magazine named the St. Louis-based Lemp Mansion one of the America’s most haunted houses in 1980. Built in the 1860s, it was the home of brewing magnates who had a history of suicide in the family. In fact, three are said to have died inside the home, which currently houses a restaurant where murder mystery dinner theater takes place. Paranormal tours are offered as well.

6. Franklin Castle

This Queen Anne-style Victorian is known as the most haunted home in Ohio. While he lived there, Hans Tiedermann, a German immigrant, lost multiple children under mysterious circumstances. Despite the charm of the exterior, the Cleveland-based home is said to be filled with spirits.

7. The Lizzie Borden House

Located in Falls River, Massachusetts, the Lizzie Borden house is where, in 1892, Borden was believed to have murdered her father and step-mother with an axe in their home. Though she was acquitted, Borden was never able to shake her reputation as a cold-blooded killer.

Those who are brave enough can visit this home, now a bed and breakfast, and stay in the room where the couple slept or the room where Borden’s step-mother was found after the grisly murder.

8. The Kreischer Mansion

By Thomas Altfather Good (Original Work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This Staten Island, New York home has been the site of multiple deaths, including a suicide and a murder. The otherwise-charming Victorian is said to be haunted by the spirits of those who died within its confines. Despite its history, the home, set on five acres, was listed at $9.5 million in 2016. Ghosts included.

9. The Logan Inn

This Bucks County, Pennsylvania inn reportedly receives frequent visits from its most famous ghost, Emily, the daughter of a previous owner, who lived in room 6 and died in that very room as well.

Capitalizing on its haunted history, the inn hosts monthly dinners featuring a medium who delivers messages from beyond. Intrepid guests can spend the weekend and even sleep in room 6 where visitors have noted the scent of smoke, which could be attributed to the military men who once stayed there during the 1700s, and flowers, a favorite decoration of Emily’s.

10. Winchester Mystery House

Filled with dark passages and spider web windows, this home in San Jose, California has had millions of visitors pass through its spooky hallways. Guests can take part in a Friday the 13th flashlight tour or a Halloween candlelight tour and see if they discover any of the phenomenons that have made the house infamous with mystery lovers and fans of unique architecture alike.

11. The Whaley House

This Old Town San Diego-based home is said to be among the most haunted in the U.S. as it’s the site where a northern criminal named Jim Robinson was hanged. To this day, he’s said to haunt the home, which you can tour — if you’re feeling brave.

12. The Octagon Museum

Known for its innovative architecture and beautiful but haunted spiral staircase, the Octagon Museum in Washington D.C. is said to be haunted by at least two ghosts. One is believed to be Dolly Madison, while the other is the daughter of a colonel who fought with her father about her love for a British soldier and fell to her death in that famous staircase.

13. Culbertson Mansion

Located in New Albany, Indiana, this stunning mansion will have you swooning over that Mansard roof, but what lurks inside? Well, for starters, there’s occupied coffin in the cellar. Creeped out yet? Even scarier, lightening struck the property’s carriage house in the 1880s, killing everyone inside. Those who lost their lives are said to haunt the place ever since.

Brave souls who aren’t frightened by ghosts can rent the space for balls or even tea parties. Or, simply take a tour and revel in the architecture and perhaps the supernatural.

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