3 Steps to Creating an Organized Entryway (Even If You Don’t Have the Space)

Drop zones, mudrooms, utility rooms, entryways, “places to leave your stuff.” Whatever you choose to call them, these spaces are invaluable as a spot to kick off your shoes, drop your keys, and keep everything you’ll need for the next day right where you left it.

Sometimes these spaces can be hard to come by, especially if you live in an apartment or studio. Without organization, shoes usually end up piled in front of the door waiting to trip an unsuspecting victim, and an array of backpacks, mail, dog leashes and knickknacks can clutter your home to the point of embarrassment.

Photo from Zillow listing.

But having a dedicated, organized and stylish drop zone for all of your daily needs – and to welcome your guests – is absolutely achievable, no matter the size or design of your living space.

Try these tips to establish a functional entryway in a home of any size.

Make a little room

Since it’s generally not possible to remodel or add on to a rental apartment, you must work with what you have.

Try a narrow console table for tight hallways as a place to drop your keys or leave your outgoing mail.

If space is really tight and all you have is the wall behind your door, hang hooks for coats and bags so they stay off the floor.

Another small-space trick: Temporarily remove your coat closet’s door, and add a stool or small bench inside as a place to sit and take off your shoes – and still have room for coats.

If your apartment is inside a secure building, you may be able to leave out a basket or tray for shoes in the shared hallway.

Add functionality

A mirror can also go a long way in opening up and brightening tight areas by reflecting light and giving the illusion of more space.

Retailers like IKEA sell modern pieces that can be modified to fit narrow spaces or hung on the wall. Measure your desired entryway space, and find furniture that will make the most of the room you have.

Having dedicated spaces for accessories also will make your drop zone a functional center. A devoted bowl or hook to hang your keys, a folder to sort your mail, and a basket to keep your shoes in really makes a difference in the flow of your day.

Leave a message

Bump practicality up a notch by having a message center in your drop zone where you can pin important reminders or leave messages for family members. It’s a great way to keep everyone connected as they go in and out.

A docking station to charge all your electronics can also be useful here. Look for compact and small accessories that will fit your space, yet serve the purpose you need.

By customizing your drop zone with features you need that will fit your home, you’ll keep everything streamlined and easy to find when you need it.

See more entryway inspiration.

Related:

Originally published December 3, 2015.

Home Improvement – Zillow Porchlight

Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

3 Steps to Creating an Organized Entryway (Even If You Don’t Have the Space) was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Attract Birds to Your Yard (Hint: Don’t Just Wing It)

It takes more than a bird feeder to attract a colorful variety of songbirds to your backyard. Think of your feeder as a drive-thru fast-food joint in an unsafe neighborhood: The birds will stop to eat, but they won’t stick around for very long. They want to get home to their comfy nest in an exclusive deciduous broadleaf community, where they can get fancier food anyway.

If you want to see more than bird backsides at a millet buffet, you need to give them all the luxuries they’ve come to expect.

Create a habitat

Birds prefer townhomes to single-level ranch houses. They need perches for preening, thickets for hiding, branches for bickering, wide-open spaces for showing off, and, eventually, a tree cavity where they can nest and paint their nursery a nice robin’s-egg blue.

Give them privacy by planting walls of foliage. Native shrubs, small trees, and even tall grasses and perennials offer the versatility they need to make a quick escape.

Create a ceiling of tall deciduous and evergreen trees at the back of your property, and plant small understory trees between them and your house. Selectively prune lower limbs of shrubs and small trees so you can easily see perching birds from your window. They’ll appreciate the perch, and you’ll appreciate the camera angle.

Grow your own birdseed

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but, conveniently enough, birdseed does! It also grows on shrubs, perennials, grasses, annuals, and anything else that qualifies as a plant.

To grow the seed that your local bird species prefer, however, choose the native plants that they’d otherwise find in the wild. Native plants vary by region, but some good choices include coneflower, blanketflower, beautyberry, asters, and sunflowers.

Attract hummingbirds with nectar-filled trumpet honeysuckle and cardinal flowers. Native oaks, hollies, dogwoods, sumac, cedars, and spruces provide nuts and berries, as well as shelter.

Stage your birdhouse

Research the birds that you’d like to attract, and give them the house that suits their needs. For example, bluebirds like their nesting boxes out in the open, while chickadees like thick leaf cover.

Whichever bird you try to attract, keep that nesting box away from human noise and activity so you’ll never have to witness the heartbreaking sight of abandoned eggs in an empty nest. Also, keep your cat indoors, if possible. Otherwise, you may find birds not only in your backyard but on your front doorstep, too.

If birds haven’t moved in yet, be patient. Sometimes all your birdhouse needs is a little lichen, moss, or wear and tear to make it more appealing.

Turn a birdbath into a Jacuzzi

If your birdbath is emptier than a swimming pool in January, there could be a reason. The ideal birdbath doesn’t look like you’d expect – it’s placed directly on the ground in a shady space with nearby shrubs.

Add some gravel to the basin so birds can find their footing, and even add a few rocks on the outside to serve as steps. Include a small pump or fountain, if possible. This turns your birdbath into a miniature water feature, and the circulation keeps the water clean and helps birds cool off on hot days.

Leave the leaf litter

If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of gardening chores, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re absolutely allowed to keep that accumulation of dead leaves and small branches on your garden’s floor. It gives birds everything they could ever ask for – bugs and other small animals for snacking, materials for nesting, and even a hiding place from predators.

If things begin to look untidy, just break down the larger branches by hand or with a pair of anvil pruners, and spread everything out evenly. Everyone loves free mulch.

Invest in your feeder

Rather than spending money on multiple feeders that you have to replace year after year, invest in a feeder that’s made with quality materials, has a tightly fitting lid, and drains easily. Better yet, purchase a sturdy pole and squirrel baffle before you leave the garden center.

Even the best feeder will need maintenance, so give it a thorough cleaning every year, and break up any clogged holes so moisture doesn’t accumulate. Trust me on this – cleaning out a maggot-infested feeder is something nobody should have to experience in his or her lifetime.

Related:

Home Improvement – Zillow Porchlight

Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

How to Attract Birds to Your Yard (Hint: Don’t Just Wing It) was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Don’t Be Afraid of Design: Overcoming Home Decor Phobias

We’ve all paid mind to those pesky design rules: Don’t use large furniture in small spaces, stay away from bold colors, all four legs need to be on the area rug. Fortunately, rules were meant to be broken.

Here’s a look at common home design phobias you can overcome to get creative in your space.

Don’t be afraid of: Wallpaper

Call it retro, but wallpaper has made a comeback. Thanks to modern-day design, you’re able to change your wallpaper choice as often as your hair color.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Stick-and-peel options allow you to try a new design every couple of weeks until you find the perfect match. When you do, outfit the space in your favorite decor to bring the wallpaper to life, or let it stand alone and shine.

Don’t be afraid of: White decor

While a mixture of bold colors can strike fear in a few, the absence of color altogether makes most homeowners tremble. White is often synonymous with what they call a commercial look because it can become perceived as sterile.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Try dipping a toe in the water by picking a strong statement piece, like a white sofa or dining table. Once you’ve chosen one unique piece of furniture, complement it with lighting, linens, and decor in shades of white.

The idea is to slowly transition into a bright white haven, and before long you’ll forget your phobia all together.

Don’t be afraid of: Layering area rugs

One of our favorite new trends is the idea of layering decor. You can instantly brighten and boost any room’s design factor in a matter of minutes by adding another area rug.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

If you have a large woven rug in your living room, consider adding a cowhide on top for a chic update. The same can be done for several small rugs. Choose variations in color, textures, or patterns to keep the look fresh and interesting.

Don’t be afraid of: Big furniture in a small space

This is an understandable phobia. When you make a move into a smaller space with a king-size mattress, a 12-seater dining table, and an ottoman the size of your bathtub, it may seem overwhelming at first.

Try choosing one large piece to keep, and make it a focal point. Your large ottoman can also serve as a coffee table in the center of your living room, or additional seating during a housewarming party. Your king-size bed may only require one nightstand to create a cozy corner in the bedroom.

big furniture

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

And remember: With a key piece of furniture, it’s important to keep the rest of the room light and airy. Too much decor can get stuffy.

What design phobia will you conquer next? See home design inspiration to get started.

Related:

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Home Improvement

Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

Don’t Be Afraid of Design: Overcoming Home Decor Phobias was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Don’t Make These 6 Credit Card Mistakes

Whether you’re looking to rent an apartment or start a cellphone contract, your credit score matters. Lenders and third parties look to your score to indicate if you’re a risky borrower, and it can determine whether you’re able to get application approval for that Nashville, TN, apartment — or whether you’ll be living in Mom and Dad’s basement for another year.

Clearly, your credit score is an important component of your financial health — and your credit card habits and history are major contributors to this score. But the average credit score is a lukewarm 667, according to a recent Experian study. If you’re looking to improve your credit score — or simply maintain the score you have — make sure to avoid these six credit card pitfalls.

1. Racking up a high credit card balance

Even if you’re paying off your credit card bills in full each month, you may still be hurting your score by how much you’re spending. Your debt-to-credit utilization ratio — how much debt you’ve accumulated on your credit cards divided by the credit limit on the sum of your accounts — comprises 30% of your credit score. If you want a good credit score, you need to keep your credit utilization ratio relatively low. A good rule of thumb: “Shoot to keep your balance to no more than 10% of your credit limits,” says independent credit expert John Ulzheimer.

2. Developing a habit of making late payments

Payment history comprises a whopping 35% of your score. Translation: Even missing just one credit card payment can substantially hurt you. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prevent this. One option is to set up automatic bill pay by linking your credit card to a checking account. Alternatively, you can set up text message or email alerts to remind you when a payment is due. Still paying by snail mail? “Allow plenty of time for the bill to get there,” says Bill Hardekopf, CEO at LowCards.com. “Problems with mail delivery are not an acceptable excuse to an issuer for your late payment.”

3. Not checking your credit report

Every 12 months, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Because errors can appear on your report for reasons outside your control — such as someone sharing the same name as you and the bureaus mixing up your accounts — you need to vet each report. In fact, one in four Americans has spotted errors on their credit reports, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission survey. Because it can take time to get errors removed, you’ll want to be proactive and contact the credit bureau immediately if you notice an issue. Take note: Your credit report includes only your credit history — not your numerical credit score. (You can use myFICO.com’s free score estimator to get a rough idea of your score.)

4. Opening too many credit cards at one time

Every time you apply for a credit card, you trigger a “hard inquiry” on your credit report, which dings your credit score by up to five points. Although a slight ding may not seem like a big deal, opening multiple cards back to back could significantly damage your score. Also, each time you open a new credit card, you shorten the average age of your credit accounts; this can hurt your length of credit history, which constitutes 15% of your score.

5. Closing old credit card accounts

If you close an account, it reduces the average age of your accounts and lowers your available credit limit — a double blow to your score. Make sure you charge a purchase to each credit card at least once per quarter; if you don’t, the credit card company could perceive the account as inactive and potentially close it without giving you advance notice, says Beverly Harzog, a consumer credit expert and author of The Debt Escape Plan.

6. Carrying a balance

OK, this tip doesn’t boost your credit score, but it will save you money, so we feel compelled to mention it. Carrying a balance from month to month could mean you’re effectively wiping out any points or cash back you earn — even on a rewards card. “[Carrying a balance] doesn’t seem like a big deal when the debt is small, but compound interest on the balance can make your debt go from small to huge before you know what’s happening,” says Harzog.

The moral: Pay off your credit card balances in full and on time each month. “Credit cards are a tool to help build credit,” says Harzog. “They should not be used as a substitute for a personal loan.”

Have you noticed any suspicious dings to your credit score? What was the cause? Share in the comments!

The post Don’t Make These 6 Credit Card Mistakes appeared first on Trulia's Blog.

Trulia’s Blog » Money Matters

Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

Don’t Make These 6 Credit Card Mistakes was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Create a Dedicated Drop Zone When You Don’t Have the Space

Drop zones, mudrooms, utility rooms, entry halls, “places to toss your junk.” Whatever you choose to call them, these spaces are invaluable in a home as a place to kick off your shoes, drop your keys, and relax when you return after a long day.

Sometimes these spaces can be a little hard to come by, especially if you live in an apartment or studio. Without organization, shoes usually end up piled in front of the door waiting to trip an unsuspecting victim, and a disarray of backpacks, mail, dog leashes and knickknacks can clutter your home to the point of embarrassment.

Having a dedicated, organized and stylish drop zone for all of your daily needs – and to welcome your guests – is absolutely achievable, no matter the size or design of your living space.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Apartments aren’t usually optimized for grand built-ins or space for a mudroom. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an organized and useful space for when you come home. Use a coat closet, a narrow space behind the front door, or even your apartment complex’s hallway to give you the functionality you need.

Try these tips to establish a functional entryway in a home of any size.

Make a little space

Since it’s not possible to remodel or add on to an apartment, you must work with what you have. Temporarily remove your coat closet’s door, and add a stool or small bench inside as a place to sit and take off your shoes – and still have room for coats.

Try a narrow console table for tight hallways as a place to drop your keys or leave your outgoing mail.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

If space is really tight and all you have is the wall behind your door, hang hooks for coats and bags so they stay off the floor.

If your apartment is inside a secure building, you may be able to leave out a basket or tray for dirty shoes in the shared hallway.

Add functionality

A mirror can also go a long way in opening up and brightening tight areas by reflecting light and giving the illusion of more space.

Retailers like IKEA sell modern pieces that can be modified to fit narrow spaces or hung on the wall. Measure your desired entryway space and find furniture that will make the most of the room you have.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Having dedicated spaces for accessories also will make your drop zone a functional center. A devoted bowl or hook to hang your keys, a folder to sort your mail, and a basket to keep your shoes in really makes a difference in the flow of your day.

Instead of missing your big meeting because you couldn’t find your keys, or resorting to tying a piece of rope around your dog’s collar because his leash is tangled somewhere in a pile of unsorted junk, you can quickly and easily grab what you need and be on your way.

Leave a message

Bump practicality up a notch by having a message center in your drop zone where you can pin important reminders or leave messages for family members. It’s a great way to keep everyone connected as they go in and out.

Another cool feature is a docking station to charge all your electronics. Look for compact and small accessories that will fit your space, yet serve the purpose you need.

By customizing your drop zone with features you need that will fit your home, you’ll keep everything streamlined and easy to find when you need it.

You don’t have to live in a big house to have a useful and stylish entryway and drop zone. Even in an apartment or studio where space can be tight, you can make a world of difference by designating a place to drop your coat, keys, shoes and more.

See entryway inspiration.

Related:

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Home Improvement

Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

How to Create a Dedicated Drop Zone When You Don’t Have the Space was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How To “Live Small” (Even If You Don’t Have A Tiny House)

The tiny-home movement has become popular because it allows people to dream of a life of freedom — from expensive housing costs, clutter, and sometimes even neighbors. (After all, a noisy neighbor is much easier to deal with if your home is tiny and mobile so you can pick it up and tow it somewhere else.) But if you’re not ready to drastically downsize your square footage, you can still apply the ethos of a person who lives in a tiny house to make an impact in your own place, no matter its size. Case in point: Whether you rent a huge house in the suburbs or buy a three-level townhome, chances are you’ve been inspired to declutter and downsize your belongings, looking to tiny homes for inspiration — and a few tricks — on how to live that minimalist lifestyle. Here are several tips from renters and homeowners who have lived the tiny life firsthand that can be applied to any space, big or small.

Dont rush to buy organizing products

At least not right away, says Felice Cohen, a professional organizer who briefly achieved internet fame after a video of her 90-square-foot New York, NY, apartment went viral. (She’s since upgraded to a spacious, 490-square-foot one-bedroom apartment.) “One mistake people do when they want to organize their space is that they go to The Container Store and first buy a lot of supplies,” she says. “But why organize or store stuff you don’t need? Look for supplies only after you’ve culled everything down.”

Downsize your wardrobe

Cohen says that the lone small closet in her old apartment worked well because it forced her to narrow down her wardrobe to what she truly loved. “When clients have trouble letting go, I will ask why,” she says. “‘It was expensive, it was a gift, what if I lose the weight’ … there’s always a reason. Yet clothes you do not wear take up valuable real estate. Plus, if you did spend good money on them, wouldn’t you feel better if someone was wearing (them)?” Think of clothing donations as an opportunity to help others — not give something up. If you end up decluttering your closet in the meantime, and shedding what can feel like a daily reminder of a goal you haven’t yet achieved? All the better.

Curb clutter, pronto

Francis Camosse of Tiny Household lives in a custom-built, 155-square-foot home that allows him to live the dream of traveling with ease. He did find one surprise — a tiny house isn’t synonymous with “low-maintenance” as far as chores go. “The biggest adjustment that I had to make was the constant upkeep of tiny living,” he says. “Your house can look so good or so bad very quickly. Yes, it is very easy to clean up, but it is also very easy to create a disaster area in such a small space. I had to develop the habit of putting everything away immediately after using it. Sweeping and vacuuming very often (keep) the limited floor space you do have nice and clean.” Clutter can increase stress levels, and getting rid of excess belongings is one of the big draws of the tiny home life — but decluttering can be freeing and relaxing no matter what size your home is.

Take advantage of outdoor space

In tight quarters, an airy escape just outside your doors can do wonders — especially for entertaining. “Having a space to entertain is practical,” Camosse says. “There are no illusions of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house, but it does not mean I can’t have my friends and family over for a BBQ.” Study after study has proven that spending time in the great outdoors can help with better sleep, keeping stress levels down, and improves overall health. But there’s one more benefit, courtesy of those who live in tiny homes: the key to entertaining large parties is to take the party outside, says Camosse. Who doesn’t love a backyard cookout?

Have a kitchen storage strategy

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, blogger and author of Living Large in Our Little House: Thriving in 480 Square Feet With Six Dogs, a Husband and One Remote, made sure her small kitchen fit her lifestyle. It has recessed upper cabinets and a pantry for maximum storage. “Our plan included as much counter space and cabinets as we could fit in, with a Lazy Susan in the corner so there is no wasted space,” she says. “There is also a special cookie-sheet cabinet for tall cookie sheets and small appliances (such as mixers and choppers). Built-ins are the key to a good design in a tiny house. Also, we did not put in a dishwasher. Really, there are two of us. We can handle washing dishes by hand, and it gave me even more cabinet space.” Sure, if you rent, you might not be able (or want) to invest in a kitchen remodel or adding built-ins. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put Fivecoat-Campbell’s idea of a storage strategy to work: There are many temporary ways to add storage in a utility space like a kitchen or laundry room, from investing in baskets and containers to taking advantage of wall space and putting up shelves. Unsurprisingly, organization and planning is especially important in these kinds of spaces, large or small.

Think memories, not things

The challenge of parting with sentimental items was also a timely one for Fivecoat-Campbell, because her mother died five months before she moved to her current space. “I had thought all of my life that many of her precious antiques would be displayed in my home,” Fivecoat-Campbell says. “Instead, I kept only what I loved and what I could fit into the house. I’ve taken photos of the rest and have the memories of those things in my heart. It was really a transformation realizing that my mom and dad weren’t defined by the things they owned.” The lesson for the rest of us? If you want to live the tiny home lifestyle, keep what you truly love and let go of what you don’t. You’ll feel lighter, your home will feel more open, and, hopefully, you’ll be filled with a sense of appreciation when you look at your carefully curated belongings.

How do you gain inspiration from the tiny home or minimalist lifestyle? Share in the comments!

Trulia’s Blog

Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

How To “Live Small” (Even If You Don’t Have A Tiny House) was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home