Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes work. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to rise and grind and get into work mode.
Having a designated workspace is quite possibly the most important piece to the work-from-home pie. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:
- Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
- To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
- Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
- Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
- Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.
Sleek design, open floor plans, and great natural lighting are all appealing characteristics of modern architecture. Over the years, modern design concepts in home building have become more popular, as is the resurgence of interest in modern real estate. More companies, like 360 modern, are specializing in modern properties. Modern homes vary greatly in style; however, they have some unifying qualities that distinguish them from other properties built over the last 60 years. Here are some characteristics often found in modern homes:
Clean geometric lines: The core of modernist values is the simplification of form. Modernist homes have a very ‘linear’ feel with straight lines and exposed building materials. Furnishings and adornment reflect this value, incorporating vibrant, geometric and abstract designs.
Modern materials: Large windows are abundant in modern architecture, allowing light to fill and expand the interior space, bringing the natural world indoors. Generally all exposed building materials are kept close to their natural state, including exposed wood beams, poured concrete floors or counter tops, stone walls and stainless steel.
Modern homes are well suited for technological and green upgrades, as well including eco-friendly building materials and energy efficient practices. Flat roofs accommodate solar power. Energy efficient appliances work with the aesthetics of modern homes. Modernist landscaping need not require water-thirsty lawns, but instead can reflect local flora.
Post-and-beam structure: One classic element in modern architecture is the exposed wood posts and ceiling beams. This style of building has been around for thousands of years; however, modern homes really emphasize the structure, rather than hiding the bones behind drywall. In new modern homes the post-and-beam structure can be made out of concrete, iron or other materials. The highly visible horizontal and vertical beams reinforce the clean geometric lines of the space.
Low-pitched gable or shed roof: One of the most differential characteristics of modern homes than more traditional home design is the shape of the roof. Classic modern homes on the west coast generally have a flat or low-pitched roof, highly influenced by architect Joseph Eichler. New urban homes also leverage roof tops for outdoor entertaining space.
Open floor plan: Modern design strives to “open” the space by eliminating enclosed rooms. For example opening the kitchen and dining room into an open living space, allowing the ‘rooms’ to flow into one another.
Large windows: Natural light and the incorporation of natural elements are important aspects of modern home design. Large, floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate the open space and highlight the natural landscape. Some new modern homes have adjusted the large windows to open, diminishing the barrier between the indoors and out.
Incorporation of outdoor elements: Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the pioneering modernist architects, incorporated the natural setting into his architecture, most famously with Falling Water. Outdoor elements are incorporated into modern architecture in many ways; through large windows, landscaped terraces, and patios, and through use of natural and organic materials in building including stone walls, and more.
Minimalism: With open and connected modernist spaces, careful curation of furniture, adornments, and household objects is important to preserving the modernist aesthetic. Generally, modernist homes have art and furniture that reflects the clean geometric lines and the natural materials of the architecture, leaving less space for clutter. Minimalist philosophies of few household items that serve both form and function work well within this design and architectural style.
One area of the real estate market that is thriving right now is rental property.
All indications suggest that the rental market will continue to improve because of low vacancy rates and rising rents. In fact, the demand for rentals is predicted to far exceed supply through 2016, with 4.5 million new renters expected to enter the market in the next five years.
What to consider before buying a rental
Being a landlord has its challenges. The recession took a toll on rental prices for a few years and any future economic downturns could do the same. Once the job market returns to normal, there’s a strong possibility that more people will choose to move from rentals into homes of their own. And the demand for rental properties could become over saturated at some point, resulting in an investment bubble of its own.
What’s more, while the income from a rental property can be significant, it can take at least five years before you’re making much more than what you need just to cover the mortgage and expenses. In other words, the return on your investment doesn’t happen overnight.
However, in the long run, if you select the right property, it could turn out to be one of your best investment decisions ever—especially since rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment.
Tax deductions for the taking
One of the greatest things about owning rental properties is the fact that you’re able to deduct so many of the associated expenses, including a sizeable portion of your monthly mortgage payment.
The commissions and fees paid to obtain your mortgage are not deductible, but the mortgage interest you pay each month is, including any money you pay into an escrow account to cover taxes and insurance. Whatever your mortgage company reports as interest on your 1098 form at the end of each year can likely be deducted.
For example, you may be eligible to deduct credit card interest for goods and services used in a rental activity, repairs made to the building, travel related to your rental (local or long distance), expenses related to home office or workshop devoted to your rental, the wages of anyone you hire to work on the building, damages to your rental property, associated insurance premiums, and fees you pay for legal and professional services. However, as is the case with any transaction of this type, be sure to consult your attorney or accountant for detailed tax information.
What to look for
As with any real estate investment, the location of the property and its overall condition are both key. But with rental properties, there are some other, unique factors you’ll also want to consider.
Look for a building with separate utilities (water, electric, and gas, etc.) for each rental unit. This will make it far easier to legally charge for the fair use of what can be a very costly monthly expense.
If your property is one of the few rentals in the neighborhood, there will be less competition for interested renters.
Rentals that are near popular public transportation options and/or major freeways (without being so close that noise is an issue) are usually easier to rent—and demand more money.
Properties with small yards and fewer plantings are far easier and less expensive to manage.
Not only is off-street parking a desirable feature (people with nice cars usually don’t like to park on the street), it’s also a requirement for rental properties in some communities.
How to start your search
Unlike homes, rental properties do not typically have a visible ‘for-sale’ sign standing out front (as landlords don’t want to irritate, bring attention to their current renters, or turn off any prospective renters). Therefore, if you are interested in a rental property, your best option is to schedule an appointment with your real estate agent/broker to discuss your investment goals and identify what opportunities currently exist in the market place.
Sanity Saver 1: Richard Bubnowski Design LLC, original photo on Houzz
1. Have a plan A … and a plan B and C too. Even when you set what seem like perfectly reasonable goals, things have a way of coming up unexpectedly to bump your project completion date further and further back. Having a back-up plan (or two) is key.
I find it helps immensely to think of your goal in three parts. There is the ideal goal — if everything went right and there were no snafus, this is what you would want done by a certain date. Then there is your plan B, where you pare down your list to the essentials. To make a plan C, pick just one thing that if you got done would still make you feel somewhat accomplished.
Sanity Saver 2: Soorikian Architecture, original photo on Houzz
2. Take “before” photos. In fact, take lots of photos throughout the process. When you feel motivation beginning to falter, take a look at pictures from early on in the process to remind yourself just how far you have come.
Sanity Saver 3: Young House Love, original photo on Houzz
3. Start a blog. Just like many diet and exercise programs recommend sharing your plans with supportive friends and family members, I advocate starting a blog as a way of holding yourself accountable during the renovation process. After a rough day, when nothing went as planned, at least you can vent your frustrations in a blog post and get kind words of support in return from readers all over the world.
They did it: Sherry and John started their blog Young House Love while they were fixing up their first home, and it became a wildly popular and award-winning site that attracts many visitors each day. Realistically, most of us won’t become the next Young House Love, but starting a blog can still be a worthwhile project and documentation of your home progress.
4. Focus on making it livable first. This may sound obvious, but it is all too easy at the beginning of a project to take on too much. By saving some of the cosmetic changes (like decorative tilework) for later and choosing to focus on essentials (like plumbing) now, you will make your life much easier.
Sanity Saver 4: Richard Bubnowski Design LLC, original photo on Houzz
5. Schedule your renovation in stages. During an extensive renovation, be smart about the order you work on things if you are staying in the house at the same time. Work to finish bedrooms and a bathroom first, so you can have a comfortable area to live in while other changes are going on.
6. Set one small, attainable goal each week. Tasks like putting up new house numbers, ordering something you need online, or patching holes in a wall do not take very long, yet being able to cross something off your list — and see visible improvement— will help keep you motivated.
Sanity Saver 5: Holly Marder, original photo on Houzz
7. Help the pros by doing your job: Be decisive. Yes, contractors, architects and designers can sometimes go beyond the original schedule, but each time you change your mind or put off key decisions, know that the process will take that much longer. The best thing you can do to speed progress is to maintain a clear vision of what you want and communicate it clearly to all of those involved in the project.
8. Stay busy during downtime. It is inevitable that there will be times it seems that nothing is happening. Whether due to a tight budget, workers vanishing midproject or simply a stretch of bad weather, it is important to keep your spirits up when work stalls out.
Try keeping a list of simple tasks that you can do anytime. Then, when you start feeling antsy, pull out your list and get to work. Cleaning, organizing, decluttering and doing small repairs are all good places to start.
Sanity Saver 6: decordemon, original photo on Houzz
9. Pitch in and do some work yourself. Even if you’ve hired pros to do the bulk of your renovation, consider taking on a small DIY project of your own. Using your own hands to pitch in and improve your home can be incredibly satisfying.
10. Make your bedroom a refuge. Even if outside your door is quite literally a disaster area, having a calm, relaxing spot to rest and recharge can do wonders for your spirit.
Sanity Saver 7: Mykonos Panormos Villas, original photo on Houzz
11. Use your outdoor space. If the weather is good and your project is taking place indoors, setting up a comfortable outdoor living space is a wonderful way to get away from the noise and chaos of the renovation. I’ve heard of people setting up full outdoor kitchens to use while the indoor kitchen is being remodeled, and I think it’s a wonderful idea.
12. Remind yourself why you are doing this … Clicking through your inspiration photos is a great way to get juiced up about your project all over again. You can also try simply closing your eyes and visualizing your home project completed, vividly imagining every little detail, and how wonderful it will feel to have it all done.
… and know when to get out of town. Of course there are times when it’s best to admit it’s time for a break. When the entire house in in utter disarray, taking a spontaneous weekend getaway can be just what the doctor ordered.
As we bid adieu to winter and usher into spring, it’s the perfect time to purge, clean and organize. As a realtor, I think about spring as my “busy time of year”. But as a mom, spring brings to mind the task of spring cleaning that seems like the Mt. Everest of housekeeping tasks. This year, I decided to tackle it one step at a time and try something different.
Make a Cleaning List
Lists help me stay organized – they also help me see what I’ve accomplished after I can joyfully check off each one and see my overall progress. This also helps you see exactly what you’ll need for supplies. There’s nothing worse than having to stop everything right as you’re getting in the groove to run and grab Magic Erasers for the crayon on the wall!
Make Your Playlist…
Or turn on your favorite radio station! When you can sing along to your favorite oldies station or dance around with your kids to New Hits, it makes time go by fast and puts everyone in a better mood.
Take it One Step at a Time
When you’re determined that you will get every last dust particle wiped and the entire house cleaned within 30 minutes, you’ll overwhelm yourself and anyone involved. You may even have the dog running for the woods. Take it one step at a time and set realistic goals. Try setting the goal of cleaning a certain number of rooms per weekend. You’ll be less stressed with the whole idea and you’ll have leftover time to spend with the family or take a hike.
Get Some Help
Open the windows, enjoy the fresh breeze and DELEGATE! Split your list into sections or particular jobs for the whole family to split. In our family, my husband usually tackles the outside while I am busy inside and the kids are running between us. Even the youngest of helpers can make a difference! My two year old helps mommy sweep the floors and pick up her toys. Then she bounces outside to help daddy bag any yard debris and rake the grass.
A rule I’ve always lived by is work smarter – not harder. If you’re having a hard time getting grime or stains up, spray your cleaner and let it sit. Move onto something else while your cleaner does all the hard work.
Reward Yourself When You’re Done!
After hours of scrubbing and dusting, you deserve a little something special. After all, having something to look forward to after a long day’s work makes it that much better when you’re done! So grab the fam or roommates and head off to one of our 20+ breweries and enjoy a cold one to celebrate that fresh-start feeling. If that’s not your style, relax in your freshly cleaned house and take it all in. You deserve it.