Picture Perfect: 4 Ways to Photograph Your Home for a Realty Site

First impressions last a lifetime, and when it comes to selling your home this couldn’t more true. With nearly 90 percent of home buyers conducting online searches during the home finding process, the pictures they view play a huge role in determining if they wish to make an in-person appointment to view your home.

When selling your home, the first impression is generally the pictures, and the better quality the photos online, the more likely you are to get interested and qualified buyers. Being able to capture the right angles, show off the natural lighting and make your home look magnificent is necessary to advertise effectively online. There are a number of things sellers can do to make their homes look appealing, and below you’ll find a few of the most crucial ones. Here are just a few ways to make your desired first impression:

Bring Out the Natural Lighting

One of the first things home buyers notice when looking for their next home is the amount of natural lighting. Whether it involves the placement and number of windows, a skylight built into the roof or other ways that natural light can seep in, this is one vital thing for buyers.

Before taking pictures of your home, make sure to open all blinds and curtains around the house and turn on all the lights to fortify the natural lighting. Relying solely on the flash of a camera makes for dark and often gloomy pictures that are sure to turn-off buyers. By bringing in as much light as possible, the photos that are taken will provide buyers with the bright first impression they are looking for in their next home.

Experiment with Angles

Getting the right angle for each shot can be difficult. Experimenting with different angles and positioning can help you identify which photos are best in showing off the beauty of your home. When taking pictures of the interior, consider standing in different corner positions that will make your home look more spacious. If taking pictures of the exterior, standing at angles can show buyers the depth of your home rather than the traditional straight-on photos that are taken. Either way you look at it, experiment by standing in different positions to see which shots do your home the most justice.

Stage the Home Prior to Taking Photos

If you’re working with a top-rated real estate agent, staging the home is something they will encourage heavily. If you decide to contract a professional home staging company, be wary of potential incidents to ensure your homeowners insurance quotes aren’t impacted by their work. Even if you already have decor spread throughout the house, implementing a color scheme and theme through staging will help photos give home buyers a better first impression.

Staging your home requires more than just adding a few vases or hanging paintings. Making sure the home is clean and organize is another major component. Taking these steps prior to the photo shoot can do wonders in showcasing the beauty of your home to potential buyers.

Try to Avoid Eyesores

Nobody likes to see imperfections in photos, especially interested home buyers. Before taking photos to post online, try to cover up eyesores as much as possible. On the interior, these can include things like small cracks in the walls, nail holes from previously hung artwork, or other factors that take away from the attractiveness of the home. On the exterior, eyesores can include awkwardly placed light poles or wires, or other aspects on the street that look out of place when looking at pictures.

Getting all the right shots when taking pictures of your home can be difficult. Taking the time to research and implement ideas that will make your home standout. Since these photos are often the first impression online searches will provide to home buyers, having high-quality shots that showcase your home will bring optimal results when selling your home.

10 Common Household Fixes for Busy Moms

Common household fixes for busy moms

Common household fixes for busy moms

Time is a hot commodity for moms. There’s a lot going on in your home, and you can’t afford to slow down because of a faulty appliance or home repair issue. Here are 10 common home fixes for busy moms to try before they call a repairman:

Light switch doesn’t work

When a light switch doesn’t work, check the electrical panel to see if the circuit breaker is in the proper position. If that doesn’t solve the problem, change the light bulb.

Refrigerator runs warm

Your refrigerator isn’t as cold as it should be. If your household has pets, there may be a simple fix to your problem—check the coils behind the refrigerator and brush off the pet hair on the black grids.

Gas stove won’t ignite

You keep turning the stove burner on, but nothing happens. The culprit may be sauce that spilled over the burner. Take a toothbrush and clean the burner thoroughly, and your stove should ignite again.

Noisy faucet

As you grab that glass of water at night, you hear a screeching noise from your faucet. The likely problem is a rubber washer that hardened over time. Replace this washer and the problem is corrected. For more quick faucet fixes, check out Popular Mechanics.

Cloudy swimming pool

The kids want to go for a swim, but you are concerned about the cloudiness of the water. Try using a pool clarifier weekly to alleviate this problem. It collects all the smaller particles over the span of the pool. Turn to the In the Swim blog for more troubleshooting help with common pool issues.

Vacuum cleaner won’t suck

There are two potential fixes for this problem: 1) It’s time to empty out the canister that collects the debris and clean the filter out, or 2), the hose might be clogged, and you need to remove it to clean out the extra hair from the tube. Repair Clinic offers additional help on a variety of vacuum cleaner problems.

Electric oven won’t heat

Your electric oven doesn’t work. There may be an easy fix to this problem. Sometimes ovens are set on a pre-timed setting and won’t turn on until the delay or hold button is inactivated.

A faulty garbage disposal

You flip the garbage disposal switch and nothing happens. Is it time to call the plumber? Before you reach for the phone, your disposal might be overloaded and hot. Let the disposal cool and then push the reset button. Chances are it will work without any additional repairs.

Mold on bathroom tiles

Sometimes pesky mold grows in the bathroom on the tiles because of the moisture that collects on the floor. Use a fair amount of bleach and water and scrub the affected places.

Dryer won’t heat

If the dryer is not heating, then check the filter and determine if all the lint is cleared. Another embarrassing possibility is that you’ve set the dryer to fluff cycle and not on the heat setting.

Moms on the go don’t have the time to dedicate to involved home repairs or waiting for a service repairman. Try these easy fixes before picking up the phone.

Non-Toxic Cleaning With Bona

I received products for review, but no compensation. And as always, all opinions are 100% my own. 

The more I learn about the amount of toxic chemicals in our cleaning products and the instances of cancer and other diseases in the people I know and love, the more I associate one with the other. I personally don’t want to fill my home, clean my floors, and wash my dishes and clothes with chemicals that could actually be making my family sick rather than healthier. So when I went to the BlogHer blogging conference this summer, I was very excited to stop and talk with a representative from Bona, a line of more natural cleaning products and hardwood floor systems.

bona products

I’d already been using several of Bona’s cleaners in my home, and love them. The hardwood floor mop is the tool I use to clean all of our floors (we don’t have any carpet here), with its washable microfiber cloth and spray bottle attachment. Just like those other brands you see in every store, the Bona mop is easy and convenient to pull out of the closet and clean the floors with, quickly and effectively. Unlike those other mop systems, the Bona cleaner doesn’t use harsh chemicals to do so.

The only thing that would make the mop system more convenient is disposable pads to stick on the bottom of the mop and toss when you’re done. So imagine my delight when the Bona representative at the conference told me about their new cleaning pads for the mop! Again, the cleaning pads are just as convenient as the “regular” brand at the store, but they contain Bona’s non-toxic cleaning solution AND they contain 75% less plastic for the landfill. Awesome, right? When I tested a disposable pad out on my mop, I’ll be honest….my floors hadn’t been cleaned in a while. But one pad cleaned the floors of our three most high traffic rooms (kitchen, living room, and dining room) and it cleaned them well. I didn’t hurt my back scrubbing the spots off the floors (you know what I’m talking about). When I don’t have time to do a super thorough whole-house floor cleaning with the spray, these cleaning pads absolutely will do.

I also had the opportunity to try out the Wood Furniture Polish. Again, I’m just going to be honest here. Our dining room table has seen better days. Like, before-we-had-four-kids days. Our table is used for eating (obviously), but it’s also used for crafts, homework, LEGO building, glitter-gluing, etc etc etc. Usually, it looks, shall we say….not so pretty. It’s often dull and covered with breakfast crumbs, glue spots, stuck paper pieces, glitter globs, and marker marks. Like this:

bona before

bona before2

But the furniture polish (again, non-toxic, no harsh chemicals to ruin this wood that has been in the family for years and years) was able to remove all of the paper and glue and shine it up like new. It couldn’t remove the Sharpie marker marks, but I’m not sure anything could:

bona 1bona 2

Bona’s cleaners are GREENGUARD Gold Certified, meaning that they have been tested for their environmental impact and will not harm the air we breathe with toxic chemicals or particulates. In other words, they’ve gotten a third party seal of approval for being low on the scale of harmful to the environment as a whole, and especially the air. I don’t want my kids and pets to be walking around our house and getting toxins through their bare feet from the “clean” floor, or breathing in harmful fumes. Do you?

I’m a Bona for customer for life now.


You can find Bona cleaning products and professionals by entering your zip code here. And by going to the Bona website, you can sign up for special coupons.

Back To School: After School Routines

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again….BACK TO SCHOOL. One of the hardest things for our family (other than the dreaded transition from summer schedule to school schedule) is getting the kids into an after school routine that allows them time to eat, play, relax, AND get their homework done.

After school routines

Sometimes, you can use the same after school routine from year to year, but kids will probably grow out of it as their homework assignments change and grow, their sleep needs change, they become teenagers. And in the very beginning, that first year of school, everything is new and you just don’t know what will work.

Leigh Ann Torres of Genie in a Blog is the mom of three girls (twins and a little sister). Last year, she went through a tough tranisitional period in which she had to figure out what kind of after school routine was going to work for her twin kindergartners.

She finally did….here’s a bit of what she had to say: We’ve gone through a great many phases of change from the start of kindergarten until now. At the beginning of the school year, they were so, so, SO tired when they got home, they didn’t know what to do with themselves. I didn’t know what to do with them. Sometimes their tired translated into them being too rowdy, which always resulted in someone getting hurt. Sometimes it translated into them wanting to do nothing but stare blankly at the TV. Playing was too hard, eating a snack was too laborious, and don’t even ASK us to flush the toilet, Mom. We’ve had a hard day of coloring and ABCs.

To find out what finally worked out for her girls, READ MORE HERE.

When do your kids go back? Do you have a good after school routine already in place, or will you be doing trial and error to find a new one this year?

Popping the Perfect Family Movie Night Popcorn

In our family, we have a weekly “pizza and popcorn” night. We make homemade (gluten free) pizza and pop a bag (or two) of popcorn. They go perfectly together, and we go through so much of both that I shed a few tears when I accidentally burn a bag of the popcorn.

But get this….there’s a new APP for your PHONE that tells you exactly when your bag of popcorn is perfectly popped, so you never waste a bag. Because let’s face it, nobody eats burned popcorn except maybe me…the mom (always making sacrifices for the family, right?).

Isn’t technology fantastic?! Instead of standing by the microwave and counting between pops (how many seconds is it?) you can turn the Perfect Pop app on and enjoy the movie. When it tells you that the popcorn is perfectly popped, take it out.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop App

Pair our favorite weekly meal with a new movie from the library, and everybody’s happy. I’m happy because the popcorn came out perfectly so I don’t have to make another bag and try to salvage burned popcorn for myself.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop app

The kids are happy because they get to watch a different movie, eat in the living room, and stay up a little later before the weekend.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop app

You can download the Perfect Pop app for free and try it yourself. It’s a fun way to make sure your popcorn is PERFECT. I guarantee the kids will love it, too.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop App

The Perfect Pop app is available for free at the App Store, for iPhone 5+ with iOS 7+.

Thanks to Pop Secret for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

Organize 365 eBook Bundle: 23 eBooks for $20

Welcome to the eBundle that will have you organizing and spring cleaning your home, schedule and home based business! In these 23 eBooks, you’ll find tips, support and know-how about working from home, cleaning, organizing and mom support along with printables!

Update as of April 8, 2014: The bundle is no longer available, but the individual eBooks are. Click on the links to purchase.

Organize365 All Organized Ebundle 23 ebooks to organize your home and home based business for $20

The All Organized – Organization eBook Bundle is available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!

Organizing your home

Organize your home and home based business with the organizing mini bundle from Organize365.com

This 6 eBook mini eBundle will have you breathing a sigh of relief as you move through getting your pictures organized, know what paper you need to keep, help for homemaking and getting to less stuff & living more!

Working from home

Organize your home and home based business with the work at home mom mini bundle from Organize365.com

The ‘Working from Home’ mini eBundle will help you stay sane and productive when the kids are home and you need to work. It will also help you organize your direct sales business, and, along with an eClass, to learn about establishing office hours and a schedule that will help you run a family and a business. And, if you’re looking into starting a home business, or already run one, there’s an eBook about how to be a work at home mom.


Organize your home and home based business with the mom support mini bundle from Organize365.com

This mini eBundle will help all of us with meal planning and involving the kids in cleaning so we can work and live more efficiently. There’s also support here for the mothers of special needs children and those in the military to organize their homes even more efficiently than their military service.


Organize your home and home based business with the cleaning mini bundle from Organize365.com

This mini eBundle of 2 cleaning books is mighty! They’ll help you schedule your cleaning and know what’s clean enough so you’re not embarrassed when clients, friends or your mother-in-law stops by unexpectedly.


Organize your home and home based business with the scheduling mini bundle from Organize365.com

This ‘Scheduling’ mini eBundle of 6 will help you create a schedule, arrive on time and provide simple strategies that work for your entire life. With the planner printables included, you will be able to make a plan that works for YOU!

This eBundle will be available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!

The Fine Print: We have all the nitty gritty details over on the Frequently Asked Questions Page, but here are a few highlights:

  • Download and back up your eBundle right away! We all know how busy life can be, so don’t wait! We can renew download links until May 9, 2014.
  • Can’t find your eBundle? Check the spam folder in your PAYPAL email.
  • All sales are final. There are no refunds and the deadline for purchasing will not be extended.
  • If you have any questions or issues with any of the e-Books included in this bundle, please contact that author directly.
  • YES! This eBundle CAN be read on Kindles, iPads and more!
  • Have questions about the eBundle? Check out the FAQ page for support!

EXTRA fun!

Want to become an author or affiliate of our next eBundle? Head over and submit your eBook information!

This eBook bundle link is an affiliate so it will help your family AND mine!

Stay Organized With Home Office Accessories

Working at home means having to stay organized, so you don’t end up with Doc McStuffins coloring pages where you should have a copy of this month’s invoices. Whether or not you’re working in a dedicated office space or tucked in a corner of a family area like a dining room or open kitchen, having the right office accessories will save you time when you sit down to work. Organizing a home office often takes a few attempts, because different things work for different people. Start with these seven home office accessories — they’re stylish, functional, and won’t take up too much space.

home office must-haves

Start with a desk calendar

A large desk calendar can be a lifesaver for work-at-home moms. Even if you use an electronic calendar, seeing deadlines and tasks on paper helps many women organize their time and avoid double booking on important days. Try the bloom daily planner desk calendar pad in blue and pink chevron (Amazon, $13).

Desk Calendar
Stay inspired with a French memo board

A memo board, like the Hanging Fabric Wall Memo Board, is the perfect place to gather the things that inspire your work (Amazon, $20). Tuck in business cards of people you’ve been meaning to contact, your favorite inspirational quote, a note about a project you’re working towards, or even a photo that helps you feel less stressed and more centered.


Home Office Collection French Memo Board

Choose the right file folders

They’re a small thing, but choosing the right file folders will help keep your papers organized. The Semikolon Striped Vertical File Folders come in eight different color combinations — the pink and orange is fabulous — and have a reinforced vertical side to protect your files (Amazon, $8 for 6). Vertical file folders are useful because they tuck neatly into organizers like magazine holders or wall systems.

Semikolon Striped Vertical File Folders

Magazine files keep your workspace neat

Magazine files help you organize any workspace without taking up too much room on your work surface. You can go with a solid form and hide everything away or choose a decorative holder, like the Design Ideas Vinea Magazine File/Holder (Amazon, $20). It comes in white or black, letting you choose your favorite way to tuck in actual magazine, file folders, or old homework papers your kids can’t seem to keep off your desk.

Design Ideas Magazine File Holder

A divided organizer keeps small things in place

A desk organizer or hanging wall organizer helps corral small items like binder clips, business cards, letters, and pens. The Design Ideas Magnetic Divided Bin can sit atop your work space or attach to the wall (Amazon, $11).

Design Ideas Divided Bin

Small notebooks keep your thoughts in order

A simple notebook is a working mom’s secret weapon. Tuck it into a bag on the way out the door, and you don’t have to worry about wi-fi access or draining your phone battery. Keep shopping lists, notes about school, and project priorities all in one place. Moleskine notebooks are popular options — they’re lined, inexpensive, and come in all sorts of colors and sizes (Amazon, $12).

Moleskine Large Notebook

Pick the perfect pen

Gel pens roll smoothly, come in fun colors, and make writing longhand just a little more fun. When you’re used to spending your days typing, having the perfect pen makes your writing neater and more comfortable. Pilot’s Acroball pens come in a four-pack of fabulous colors (Amazon, $10).

Pilot Acroball Colors Pens

What are your favorite home office accessories?

Angela Amman is a busy work at home mom of two, juggling her blog, her job as a Listen To Your Mother-Metro Detroit co-producer/director, author/publisher, and various freelance writing gigs.

Links are affiliate links.

How to Have Stress-Free Weeknight Dinners

Every week day with three kids (or 1 or 2 or 4, or, you know, none) seems so busy, right? I feel like I’m constantly in search of ways to make the weeknight dinner rush less stressful – and reduce the number of days we resort to fast food. Over many years (almost 13 since my oldest will be celebrating her 13th birthday this summer), I’ve come up with several keys to stress-free weeknight dinners.

stress-free weeknight dinners

Planning Ahead:

The main step in the process for me is always taking the time to plan out our weekly meals on the weekend. I sit down and look at our calendar to see what evening activities we have in any given week first, so that I know if there are certain nights that need not just a quick and easy meal, but a super-fast one. I then look through our meal spreadsheet (yes, that makes me sound like an accountant) and the weekly grocery store ad to see which meats will be the center of the plate for us in the current week. I use some of my favorite Knock Knock pads to plan out the week in meals and make my grocery store list.

Prepping Ahead:

If I’m having a very productive weekend, I will do some of my prep work for the week’s meals. This is essential for weeks that are extremely busy, and while it takes a little bit of time out of the weekend, it makes the week go so much more smoothly.  The best days are the ones where I’ve managed to come home from the grocery store, prepare meat and veggies for 2-3 meals, store them in freezer bags and stash them in the freezer or refrigerator to be moved to the slow cooker on meal day. It makes me so happy to be able to take the food straight from the refrigerator to the slow cooker, and straight from the slow cooker to our dinner table.  A few of my recent recipes and tips for freezer-to-slow-cooker-cooking can be found here.

I also like to do as much prep work as possible for other meals to decrease the work necessary at the end of the day. For example, this Bubble Up Pizza can be prepared ahead of time and then simply placed in the oven at the end of the day.

Any type of pasta or rice casseroles are also great for early morning or mid-day prep so they just have to be popped into the oven at the end of the day – lasagna, baked ziti, chicken and wild rice casserole. And one more great meal to prepare ahead of time? Mini meatloaves.

Combination Cooking:

I also like recipes that combine slow cooker preparation with oven preparation. Cooking meats in the slow cooker really makes dinner prep less messy and more convenient – from the simple salsa chicken (chicken with a jar of salsa tossed into the slow cooker and shredded) that can be used in so many other meals like tacos, salads and casseroles, to some of my favorite recipes like Garlic Chicken Farfalle and Baked Chicken Parmesan Ziti. Making a hearty spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker and then boiling the pasta and adding some garlic bread at dinner time is another convenient weeknight meal. Since the meat has already been cooked for these recipes, most can be easily finished off within 30 minutes right before dinner.

Reviewing the Plan Daily:

Every night before I go to bed, I double check the meal plan for the week to see if anything needs to be done for the next evening’s dinner. Sometimes this just involves taking a bag out of the freezer. Or taking meat that hasn’t been prepared yet out of the freezer. Or cooking the meat and pasta for a casserole and putting it in the refrigerator. The nightly review keeps us on track and reduces the likelihood that we’ll decide to ditch the plan for a day and pick up fast food instead.

What are your tips for stress-free weeknight dinners? What are your favorite weeknight dinners?

Katie is a busy, full-time working mom of three. You can find her at her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Weekend Round-Up: Homemade Natural Household Cleaning Products

Katie Schmidt has a degree in Environmental Health Science, and she uses her blog Katie Thinks to share homemade natural household cleaning products and other ways to “go green” and get healthy.

She has a huge collection of “recipes”, and here are some of her favorites:

Making your own chemical-free All-purpose Cleaner

Homemade, non-toxic household cleaners save you money and reduce the amount of chemicals in your home!

Household uses of essential oils, including the all-purpose cleaner, air freshener, and a lot more!

Homemade powdered laundry detergent, which is great for sensitive skin and a HUGE money saver.

And homemade dishwasher detergent cubes!

Homemade, non-toxic household cleaners save you money and reduce the amount of chemicals in your home!

Not only do all of these homemade products reduce the amount of chemicals in your home, they also save you a lot of money. For even more homemade, chemical-free household cleaning products, follow Katie’s DIY Household Cleaners Pinterest Board. 

Do you have favorite “recipes” for homemade natural household cleaning products, or personal care products? 

Follow Katie for more ways to go non toxic, reduce chemicals in your home, and save money. She’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus.







Trash to Treasure Dining Room Set

My semi-flexible hours have made it possible to frequent local thrift stores during the day every few weeks. Much of what I see is absolute junk, but some of it, upon second glance, has promise with just a little tweaking on my part. Saving money on thrift store (and even curbside) furniture helps with our budget and gives me fun projects to do. I have zero carpentry or sewing skills, so any DIY projects I do must be SIMPLE.

Trash to Treasure: Thrift Store Dining Room Set


Today I thought I’d share our dining room set with you. When I first saw it at the thrift store: one orange-y brown table and five 70’s style chairs that reeked of B.O. and cigarettes, I almost turned on my heel and fled.  But something about the open design on the chairs intrigued me. This was six years ago, before we were seeing Moroccan shapes everywhere on fabric and furniture, but that’s what they reminded me of.

At the time, I’d been looking into buying a farmhouse table, but it was almost $1200,not including chairs, and it seemed like it might overpower our small dining room.

Before anyone else could grab it, not that it seemed like much of a risk, I plunked down $47 for the entire set. I then had the hassle of shoving all of the stinky chairs in my minivan and coming back later with a borrowed truck to pick up the table. I wasn’t sure my husband, Tim, would share my vision or even welcome the wretched furniture into the house, so I just left it on the porch to air out while I formulated a plan.

First, I cleaned the table and chairs with Murphy’s oil soap and threw the nasty fabric and chair padding away. It was a gag-worthy experience.

chair before

Then, I put the chairs in the grass and spray panted them with my favorite spray paint color, Heirloom White. It’s a soft, creamy vintage white that I thought would be very forgiving if the chairs got any dings over time.

Next, I added new foam from the fabric store, and used discount fabric to cover the seats. If I were to do this again, I would have chosen a more expensive, denser foam that would be softer on the rear during long dinners!

Making dining room seat cushions is one of the easiest, quickest home improvement projects, so if you are sick and tired of yours, don’t be afraid to jump in and re-cover them. All you need to do is fold the fabric over the padding and wooden seat base and then use a staple gun to secure it. If you can fold and staple, you can do it! I’m probably going to recover these soon, transitioning from the brown zebra print to the soft aqua velvet (right hand side of photos).

chairs after

Next, I bought a MinWax dark walnut gel stain.  Tim rubbed it on the table using an old t-shirt as an applicator, and the ugly orange surface transformed to a dark, almost ebony wood. It looked streaky at first, but as he added several coats, all of the streaks disappeared. He did not need to add a protective top coat, but that could make the surface even more durable.

When this project was finished, I had spent under $100 for the entire dining room set, and perhaps even saved this sad, smelly furniture from a land fill. What was going to be a temporary fix for our empty dining room, continues to serve us well. We add the two extra leaves and pull up extra chairs if we ever have a crowd.

What’s your favorite trash to treasure find?

Anna Whiston-Donaldson blogs about life and loss at An Inch of Gray. Her Memoir “Rare Bird: A Mother’s Story of Tragic Loss and Surprising Hope” will be published Sept 2014 by Convergent Books.

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