All Posts by Miranda Forte

Tackling Your Overwhelming To Do List

Sometimes the universe is funny, I believe. I thought about writing this blog on the topics feeling overwhelmed with an ever-growing to-do list a few weeks ago after a conversation with a friend. Then I read a Thrive article with a great quote last week, while personally struggling with and recovering from three weeks of sickness that turned into walking pneumonia. And finally, a colleague reached out to me recently to ask if I could assist her in time and priority management, just as I had finished writing my thoughts down. So here are my Tuesday tips for tackling these feelings and your to-do list effectively to regain your balance.


We as humans all get overwhelmed in lives. Whether it’s due to returning from a vacation or time off, entering a particularly busy quarter at work, or personal and family issues, everyone gets to their threshold at some point. However, you can’t just curl into a ball and hide in your pillow fort, you still need to get your work done, care for your family and attend to your own mental and physical health. I have found that the key to getting through that feeling of being overwhelmed is not to focus on the list or tasks as a whole, but to address each one on its own.

Each day, chose one thing to focus on. Do that to the best of your ability. When that is completed, feel proud and productive in your success on that task. Then, chose another task and continue as you check off the items on your list. At some point, you will begin tackling two or even three tasks in a day and get back your mojo back again. Whether that is two days, a week, a few months, or a year depends on your situation. But you can do it, if you set yourself up for success, not failure. There is nothing that will stress you out and overwhelm you more than putting things off and continuing to have that growing list staring at you.

“If you seek tranquility, do less. Or (more accurately) do what’s essential. Do less, better. Because most of what we do or say is not essential.” - Marcus Aurelius.

So start today, do the essential items -well - not half assed and quickly to check them off, and continue from there. Let me know how it goes and how your path back to equilibrium goes.

Extra Extra Read All About It

Local Rockville Maryland Realtor Mary Scroth included a brief Q&A with yours truly in her fall edition of  “Hungerford Real Estate & More” newsletter. We had a wonderful discussion the importance of organizing, quick tips, and my thoughts on Marie Kondo!  Check it out.

The Honest Truth

Can we be brutally honest with each other for a minute?

If you are a business owner, you should not be doing your own bookkeeping; hand writing or printing checks, paying the bills, downloading credit card transactions, reimbursing cash receipts and expenses, etc. In the last few months I have met and talked to a number of business owners in the same spot at you are in some variation of it. Owners of startups, growing business, even established ones too, who say that they do all or part of the finance management.

I don’t want to come off rude, that’s not my intent here, but this just shouldn’t be. I know it is hard to let go of the control of making sure that every cent is accounted for when the business is your baby; your idea that you created, cultivated, and put into motion. It’s like letting go of the handle bars on your child’s first bike ride. But you have to do it sooner or later, otherwise your baby will never grow and prosper.

In this world, time is money. And your time is worth a lot of money. I am willing to bet that your hourly wage is a lot more than paying a bookkeeper, so the argument that you don’t have enough money to pay a bookkeeper, that doesn’t really work here. For every working minute you are working on tasks that are not 1) part of your scope of work or 2) business development, you are wasting your time and money. What does that mean? Well, unfortunately that means that you are not only not making money, but you are also losing it.

Don’t believe me? Well without going into too much of a cost analysis, if you bill your services at $150 an hour and a bookkeeper charges anywhere from $55-$85 an hour, for every hour you personally spend on financial tasks, you are losing $65-$90 an hour that you could be making elsewhere. Just let that sink in for a minute.

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So why not find someone you can trust and have faith in, who can take care of your finances and report all of the details to you?  It doesn’t have to be me (although I would truly love to help you take these services off your plate and start putting more time into your business), but it should be someone capable and qualified, not uncle Bob or your neighbor.  How about making that a 3rd or 4th quarter goal you can feel good about and let me know how it goes.

8 Mid-Year Business Tips

As the summer winds down and kids are going back to school, it is a great time for home owners and businesses to start getting their heads back in the game and considering their end of the year preparations.  Here are 8 mid-year finance and operation tips I put together from my 11 years of experience managing businesses. Please keep in mind, some recommendations may not apply due to the the size, industry or fiscal year of your company, but it is important to be aware and discuss these topics with your bookkeeper, CFO and or accountant.

Finances

  • Complete a brief review of your books, checking for errors in the accounts expenses and incomes were attributed to.  Correcting an error now will help you avoid 1) repeating it and 2) having to correct (or pay your accountant) at the end of the tax year.  If you expect to be audited, as many government contractors do, get ahead of those preparations early!
  • Forecast the rest of your fiscal year. If you know you historically have slow or heavy business in the second half, you will want to start planning for your upcoming expenses, incomes, and even HR needs.
  • Depending on your previous review and forecast, start saving for taxes, employees raises, bonus, and any slow periods. If you know a heavy business load is coming, you can also plan out how to use funds for the rest of the year and pay off debt from earlier in the year.
  • Have your Tax Accountant of CPA take a brief look at your reports as well. Not a full analysis, but a review. If you can afford an early tax payment after a good half of the year, you won't have to worry as much come the end of the year.

Operations

  • Depending on your financial status, or your HR needs, you should consider any upcoming hiring early. You will need at least 2 but usually 3 months to put together an employment description, advertise, interview, hire and onboard.
  • Whether or not you are hiring now, any down time or before you have requirements, is a great time to review your employment descriptions, policies, procedures, and handbook. You should consider your current office, company culture, employees, and the direction you want your business to go in and then be sure that your documents all reflect that.
  • Organize and declutter! (I couldn't resist). Gather up old documents, records, files, receipts that are past 7 years and take them to be shredded.  Now 7 years is the general standard, but be sure to check with your industry specific standards and legal requirements.
  • Start considering your business goals and intentions for next year. It is never a bad time to start working toward those and some may need a little prep work before they can be achieved.

And of course, if you are feeling overwhelmed, confused or interesting in having assistance with any of these tasks, I am here to help!  Please do not hesitate to contact me.  Have a great rest of your summer!

Featuring Fragrances in Your Home or Office

According to a Rockefeller University study performed in 2014, the human olfactory system can sense 1 trillion different smells1. That is a far cry from what you can find at Yankee Candle or Bath and Body Works.

Therefore it is no surprise that smells can have a strong influence on our psychology; most notably memory and emotions. With that in mind, surrounding your home or office, whether being staged for sale or for your own living comfort, with specific fragrances can have very positive results.

Here are some of the most common and pleasing smells, broken into different categories of their scent2, that you can incorporate into your life to stimulate a number of different emotions and feelings depending on your use.

Aromatic Herbs

  • Lavender - Calming and soothing. Reducing stress and increasing relaxation. Great for use in bubble baths, in a bedrooms before to assist with insomnia or relaxation.
  • Peppermint – Cooling and stimulating. Great for use with Epson salt baths for tires and sore muscles, for headaches and migraine. I have a smell stick of peppermint oil I keep with me to swipe across my forehead when I feel a migraine coming on. The smell and oil on my skin does wonders. Lastly peppermint can also be used for stimulating your mind to wake up and work in an office setting.
  • Chamomile – Calming and soothing effect for relaxation and sleep, often mixed with vanilla, lavender and other scents to emphasize this.

Citrus

  • Bergamot & Citrus fruit – zesty, bright, can boost your energy and increases your alertness. Often used in cleaning supplies and diffusers, citrus smells are great for conveying a clean fresh house. For an office, reception or common room setting Citrus scents would be ideal, not to strong, nostalgic or unpleasing to anyone.

Floral

  • Roses, jasmine, peony – sweet, perfumey, fragrant – Floral scents can boost your mood and brighten your day, but can sometimes smell too overwhelming to others.

Fruity 

  • Fruit scents are very much the same as floral. Sweet, tropical, nostalgic of places and foods we have experienced, but frequently too "sticky sweet" for some noses.

Greens

  • Lawns and grasses, - Australian research shows that the smell of cut grass can make people feel relaxed and joyful. These scents are again great for clean, bright spaces, both at home or at work.

Oriental

  • Cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom – The warm and sweet scents can be sensual, increasing both nostalgic memories, warmth in the body and soul, and passion.

Woods

  • Birchwood, cedar, pine, sandalwood, amber – Festive and forests aromas often reduces stress. depression and anxiety, by reminding us of winter activities and being outside in nature.

Dry Woody

  • Oak moss, leather, smoked wood, musk – The scents can be described as woody as the name implies, rich, earthy and sensual. Often connected more to the masculine, stimulating a sense of smoldering and beneficial for romantic endeavors. However they can also be fragrances people love or hate, often never indifferent of. So this category can be a little tricky.

If you are looking for inviting, homey smells for use in staging, house warming, or entertaining, you can't go wrong with your sugaed vanilla /cupcakes/cookies/pies scents. Those always bring a sense of nostalgia and make people think you are baking cookies! What more could you ask for? Of course if there is something specific, like the smell of cinnamon apple pie that brings back warm memories of your childhood, you should absolutely work that into your space as well!

I hope this has brought you some new ideas or helped you decide on something you were thinking of! There are plenty of ways you can incorporate these smells, whether purchasing a candle, using essential oils in a diffuser, making your own candles and diffusers, or boiling fresh peels and herbs on your the way my mom used to on our wood burning stove in the winter. Happy smelling!

http://vosshall.rockefeller.edu/assets/file/BushdidScience2014.pdf

http://www.fragrancesoftheworld.com/FragranceWheel

Incorporating Amethysts into Your Life

When speaking of the ideals of functionality, balance and peace of mind that I hope to offer clients, customers, friends and family it is hard to leave out some of my own personal habits.

According to crystal healing theories, Amethyst has the powers to help cure: physical ailments of the nervous system, emotional issues, insomnia and nightmares. Amethysts are also used in Chakra balancing therapy providing purifying, healing, and protective energies to help clear, open, and balance the Crown chakra.

So, what does this all mean for you and me and interior decor and style? 

For myself, I have taken an interest in amethysts and have incorporated them into my home and lifestyle. Most days, I wear an amethyst pendant around my neck. I now have two and a pair of earrings.  Sometimes I wear them more for style than for balance, but when I am feeling especially anxious, worried or having a bad day, I will wear my pendants to clean the negative energy away and keep my feeling balanced.



In my home, as well as my father's and mother's, I have placed small amethyst stones in the corners of the house an a large cluster on my office desk. The purpose of these stones are to provide protective energies throughout the home and stress relief from the work day. Additionally, because I sometimes have problems falling and staying asleep, there is a stone by my bed.  I recently gave a friend a nice uncut stone to hang in his room to over him some healing energy from his mental and physical ailments as well.  Can I prove these things work? No of course not.  But does it hurt to try to add some balance, purifying energy, and peace to your daily life, not at all.

If you would like to learn more about how to use crystals in your home, browse around the internet, visit your local crystal shop, or check out your library.  But be sure to read about how to energize and cleanse your crystals.

Its Time for a Change

According to a 2010 National Sleep Foundation study, fresh sheets have a positive impact on our sleep. This study found that 78% of Americans are more excited to go to sleep and 73% reported a more comfortable night’s sleep when fresh sheets are on the bed. Furthermore, the study found that 7 in 10 people who made their bed almost every day reported a better night's sleep as well!  Did you know the average American owns 3.4 sets of sheets for their own bed and reportedly swaps them every other week?1

The owners and founders of Brooklinen, a relatively new online seller of quality and inexpensive sheets recommends replacing your sheets every 2 to 3 years.  While the owners of luxury brand Vero Linens believe that luxury linens can last up to 12 years. Whether you believe one or the other, the fact is that the quality and care of your sheets has an effect on their lifespan.

Here are some key factors that will impact the life span of your bed linens:

  • Bed Sheets made with low grades of cotton will wear out quicker.
  • Exposure to high temperatures wil cause fiber breakage.
  • Stubble from shaved hair scrubs against sheets causing premature wearing.
  • Harsh chemical detergents and brighteners will lower the life span of sheets.
  • Heavier people and restless sleepers induce more friction and wear on sheets shortening the lifespan.2

So just think to yourself, how many pairs of sheets do you own?  How often do you wash them? How old are they? Do they feel worn out, pilled or rough? If you don't know the answers, you may want to start reconsidering your sleeping patterns.

I personally tested this theory and found that I had a wonderful night's sleep after changing my sheets for a fresh set! And another source close to me states that he too had a good night's rest after fitting his bed with brand new sheets and making the bed "properly". So the results are in! Why don't you try changing yours out tonight and let me know how you feel tomorrow! Sweet dreams!

1   https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf

https://www.verolinens.com/how-long-do-bed-sheets-last/

 

 

6 Quick & Easy Occupied Home Staging Tips

If you want to take advantage of the last of the spring and summer home sales, you'll want to follow these 6 quick and easy staging tips to get your home sold fast. Hopefully, you will have already organized, decluttered and updated a few things in your home in order to make it ready for the final touch - staging!

According to Zillow, Realtors name curb appeal the #1 factor in selling, so I have 3 tips to spruce up the outside of your home in minutes.

  • Do some landscaping, make sure your lawn in green and manicured, add some potted flowers to the front porch, cut any dead trees, touch up the wood chips or rocks.
  • Buy a brand new welcome mat and decorative door hanger
  • Power wash walkway, driveway, house and roof

The second group of tips is regarding in the inside of your home.  The essence of staging is to allow homeowners to visualize themselves in your home. If you are staying in your home while it is on the market, as a majority of home owners do, it is imperative to reduce the clutter! (I know I sound a little like a broken record..)

  • Pack up anything out of season, not used recently or frequently and store it in the garage, storage unit or get a donation run together!
  • Neutralize your home - take down family/personal photos, and extreme color or design choices.
  • Make the house look clean and smell nice (Some best choices of candles are cupcake or cookie scents as they make families feel at home!)

See I told you that was quick and easy!  If you aren't sure of how to do any of these, want some help executing these ideas, or want to know more of my suggestions, please reach out to me. I am happy to come out for an in-home consultation and provide my report of recommendations to get the maximum value for your home. Happy summer selling!

6 Simple Upgrades to Sell Your Home Fast


Continuing on my theme of helping you sell your home this month, here are some relatively simple upgrades you can do now to sell your home faster and get a better return on investment. Home buyers want a model home, ready to move in look, without having to pay for it. Therefore the best way to sell your home is to create that as best you can.

  • Paint - This is the first and foremost upgrade that home sell usually complete. But I am not just talking about the walls in your home. Sure, if you have a blue living room and a red kitchen, and a brown study, you should tone those colors down with neutrals that are more appealing a wide variety of prospective buyers; tan, pale yellow, off white, grey. However paint can do so much more! Consider a dated kitchen with dark wood cabinetry. A kitchen renovation may be due, however that makes no sense for your ROI, instead paint all of the cabinets white to attain a modern and bright look. Sherman Williams has a wonderful app (Color Snap Visualizer) in which you can upload a picture and test how their colors will look. I highly recommend that. tiles can be painted if you have outdated patterns or colors in the kitchen or bathroom. And you can really make your interior and exterior pop by painting the shoe molding, crown molding, chair railing and trim. Consider whether you want to have the trim blend into the walls/siding with a monochromatic look, or stand out with a complimentary color. Don't forget that your choice of paint should match the style of the home as well - American Colonial, Traditional, Victorian, Tudor, Craftsmen, Modern, etc.

Monochomatic - Craftsman home

Complimentary - Colonial home

Complimentary - Colonial home

  • Contact Paper - This is not really one of my favorite recommendations because contact paper is not very easy to work with. It is extremely sicky and difficult to get perfect without bubbles or creases. However, it can make a big difference if you have plywood shelving in your cabinets that is not easy to paint. It is also a practical solution to cabinets that already have aged contact paper that does not peel over easily. If that is your situation and you have that crazy 1970s Austin Powers/ That 70s Show pattern in your cabinets, I would suggest slapping a coat of primer down first so that the old paper does not show through. The positive thing about shelving paper is that is extremely multifunctional. It can be used on cabinet doors, shelving, counter tops, backsplashes, tiles, basically anywhere. Although I would not recommend it on a main thorough fare.
  • Carpeting - Here is the age old question: carpet or wood floors? Well if you have wood floors, in decent shape, under the carpet I always suggest removing the carpet and refinishing the floors. If that is not an option, you should always have new carpeting laid. It doesn't have to be special, stain resistant, or anything since you won't be living there and the new owner will more than likely replace it themselves. However again, we are trying to attain the model home, cared for visualization and a plush, clean, unused carpet will do that.
  • Fixtures - A home fixture is anything attached to the house, expected to be sold with the house. Replacement of some of the simplest to more complex items will give your home an updated and 'cared for' feel, especially if your fixtures of outdated or if you are drawn to a particular style that isn't common or doesn't go with the original character of the home. Below an outdated overhead light was changed with a more modern dome light, changing the feel of the breakfast nook immediately.  Replacing overhead and scone lights, kitchen and bathroom faucets, and cabinet knobs and pulls are your go-to choices. These can be done in a matter of hours. Then for maximum impact consider toilets, appliances, and bathroom vanities as well if you have more time and flexibility.
  • Bathrooms - A good bathroom is one of the most sought after places in a home, so while you don't want to spend too much of your time and money on this if you are moving out, you do want to give a prospective seller a good reason to buy your home.  Consider re-glazing the bathtub if it is cast iron and looks dated, chipped or worn. You can also purchase Rust-Oleum Tub & Tile finishing kit to update a discolored or worn ceramic, porcelain or fiberglass bath or shower yourself.  Lastly, bath fitters for bath and shower combos are also highly popular. While I don't like that concept as much as updating the current tile, placing a whole new fit fiberglass section over your tub, shower, or combo is a quick and seamless way to get a new modern look. 
  • Power washing - As I will discuss a little more in the home staging piece next, curb appeal is a HUGE part of selling your home!  So power washing is a really quick, cheap and easy way to upgrade and stage your home for sale.  Many people don't notice that their sidewalk, driveway, home siding, and roof have become discolored and stained over the years.  It's not until you actually power wash that you realize how bad it was before.  This one little clean up can make a huge difference in giving your home a manicured look, as seen below.

Before

After

I hope these ideas and tips have given you some things to think about and plan for in order to sell your home for the highest value in the quickest time! If you would like me to come out there and give you personlized recommendations, please feel free to reach out.  And if you have some of your own proven ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear about them! Happy selling!









Resources:  Exterior house colors - Better Home & Garden https://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/exteriors/curb-appeal/best-exterior-house-color-schemes/

4 Practical Steps to Decluttering

According to a recent NAR report, 95% of REALTORS recommend that sellers declutter their home before putting it on the market. So if you are trying to take advantage of the best time of year to sell or rent your home, preparing for visitors or just trying to achieved a lighter, stress free household, listen up!

In order to help clients, family, friends, and even myself organize and declutter, I follow a practical and methodical 4 step process that I want to share with you.

1. Declutter and organize by category, not by room.

More than likely you have similar things in different rooms.  If you have small closets, you may have clothes or shoes in multiple places.  The same goes for pots and pans, tupperware, bedding etc.  So when you start with each group, search the entire house for those items in order to evaluate and make decisions based.

2. Ask yourself the following 3 questions when evaluating your belongings:​

  1. Does it serve a function?
  2. Does it make me happy to own; give me enjoyment? Or does it make me stressed, annoyed, sad, angry?
  3. Do I have a similar item and do I need both/multiple? (Think less is more!)

The easiest items to evaluate with these questions are clothes and furniture.  I recently, finally, donated a shirt that I have had in my closet for 2 years and only wore once. I loved the way it looked on the rack. I loved the colors and pattern. The material was soft and light. But each time I took it out and put it on, it didn't seem to quite fit my body correctly and the colors washed me out, so I would put it back in my closet.  Finally one day I said, "why do I even have this?!" Yes, I had spent money on this shirt, however that money is gone, I don't receive it back each time I wear the shirt. Now the shirt is no longer in my closet and I no longer give any thought to the fact that I wasted money or that it doesn't look right.

Sometimes the situation calls for multiple questions to be asked.  Take a broken table for example: it no longer serves it's original function. If you are handy and fix things often, then physically schedule a day on the calendar to fix it. If you plan on getting to it some day, but for now it is one of many on a list of planned projects that you look at every weekend and think "jeez I'm just so busy, I never have time for my projects", get rid of it. It brings you more stress now than it does joy. So what is the point of keeping it?

I realize you might say, "what about mementos and keepsakes?" Keepsakes do serve a function, they do make you happy, but you can't let yourself get bogged down by them. Don't keep every greeting card you receive or every picture from the age of film camera rolls. Sort, make scrap books, decide on one category of item to save from trips or special events (ticket stubs for example), but be particular and mindful about your choices. In 10 years, will it still be important to you?

3. Have patience.

It can take months to fully declutter your life and change your way of thinking about your belongings, it will NOT happen over night. Yes you can clean out multiple rooms in a day, but in order to be successful in keeping yourself organized and decluttered, you have to be open and willing to practice these new tactics and change your way of thinking.

4. Ask for help!​

If you are not sure that you can truly go through your belongings​ and evaluate them subjectively, you are not alone. If you don't know where to start, you are not alone.  Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and especially professionals. I would be happy to help your start, get back on track, or complete your decluttering process.  I am just an email or phone call away!

Bonus tip:  Storage solutions can be your friend or your foe! They can truly help you organize yourself, or they can just be a device to hide the clutter (think junk drawer.) Be mindful of how you are utilizing them.

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