Monday, May 20, 2013

8 Signs Your Home is Out of Control - And What to Do About it

It happens without warning. One day you notice your home has turned into a collage of papers, junk, and stuff - everywhere. You're not alone. Today more than ever it seems that the flotsam and jetsam of living, like the waves of an ocean, continually beat at our doors, flooding our houses with all manner of stuff until our homes are bulging at the seams. A typical home is now cluttered and dirty to the point of exhaustion -- yours.

All this accumulation also makes going home, or being at home, fill us with a sense of dread because we're overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things surrounding us. Once islands in the stream, many homes are often now just as jumbled, crowded, dirty, and chaotic as the public places we try to escape from. Housekeeping and cleaning house is not the greatest of fun, but it is vital to our well-being.

Recently a study by the UCLA Center for Everyday Lives of Families found that families are overscheduled, child-dominated, and cluttered. The study touched on something that's become a common problem in most households today: too much stuff. And all that stuff, makes us feel out of control.

Could your home be out of control?

If you have a perfectly ordered home or just don't care about the state of your surroundings, then having an out of control home isn't a problem. But, if the thought of your home raises your blood pressure to an unhealthy level or spending time there would make you rather have your teeth drilled, then you do have a problem - and you may have a home that's out of control.

An out of control home is a source of frustration, embarrassment, and tension. So where do you start if this describes your home? The first step in learning how to cope with an out of control home is to recognize the signs. Only then can you address the problem.

The 8 Signs You Have an Out of Control Home (OOCH)

1. It's messy.
Anything that can be straightened up in five minutes or less does not qualify as messy. A truly messy house has been hit by more than its fair share of bombs: toy bombs, clothes bombs, paper bombs (magazines, mail, and other piles of paper), dirt bombs (general dirt and debris), pet bombs (hair, smell, food), collectible or hobby bombs, etc. And, the mess is everywhere: the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room, the bedroom.

2. It's disorganized.
No one can find anything, from the car keys to last year's tax returns. A disorganized home is one where too much time is spent looking for things, and where you have doubles or triples of everything because when you couldn't find what you were looking for, you went out and bought another to replace the one you couldn't find.

3. It stinks.
The smell can come from the puppy training on the new carpet, the moldy smell from the roof leak, the cat box that's never changed, or the trash that everyone forgets to take out.

4. It's dirty.
This is that garden-variety filth that makes you hope no one will ever come to visit. It's the ring in the toilet, the dust bunnies the size of Dallas, and the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling that wave gently in the breeze. The dirt is pervasive and ground in.

5. It doesn't work.
This is a home where the furniture is broken, the bed sags in the middle, things don't work like they should, and repairs that need to be made drag on for months or years. It's not truly functional and lots of things have "work-arounds," such as pliers to turn on the washing machine because the knob fell off.

6. It's anxiety-producing.
Does the thought of going home make you feel anxious? If you're happier at work or in places other than home, then chances are it's because your home is out of control. It makes you uptight because it's dirty, disorganized, or messy - or all three. And, when you're there, you can't relax and you often find excuses to go somewhere else to unwind, such as at the movies or driving in the country.

7. You avoid having visitors.
If you feel panicked when the doorbell rings then you're living in an out of control home. Guests should be a welcome sight in the house and you should feel confident enough to invite visitors in.

8. It's cluttered.
If every square inch of your home is covered with something, then you've got too much stuff. There's got to be some open space somewhere in your home because open space give us a "visual rest." Look at interior design magazines and you'll notice the homes pictured in them because there isn't stuff everywhere to distract you.

Most houses have out of control areas
Of course not all homes are out of control, but many homes suffer from one or more Out-Of-Control-Home (OOCH) symptoms, or they have an Out of Control Area (OOCA). These are areas such as the laundry room or garage that tends to get out of control, and most every home has one. But, regardless of whether your home is truly OOCH or OOCA, it doesn't have to stay that way. You can take steps to bring your house back to order and get it under control.

The 8 Steps to Get Your Home Back in Control

1. Declutter and straighten first.
Take a trash bag with you to each room, throwing away anything you no longer want or that doesn't work. Take another box with you from room to room for items you want to donate.
If you have paper bombs, clothes bombs, and toy bombs that have gone off in your house, get these under control. Handle the paper by throwing it away, recycling it, or filing it. Get the clothes picked up and put in the wash, folded or hung up. Next, corral the toys, throwing away what's broken. And practice saying "When in doubt, throw it out."

Next, don't forget to contain yourself. It's easy to work in the living room, pick a toy for your child and wander into that room and then start working there. This is important: Stay focused on the task and the room at hand or you won't get anything done.

2. Clean second.
Now that the mess is handled and everything is picked up, it's time to get down to serious cleaning. Thoroughly clean each room, including the kitchen and laundry room, and don't forget to sweep porches and walkways outside. Get kids to clean the baseboards, windowsills, and clear the cobwebs from the corners of ceilings. Go from one room to the next and don't leave until each room is completely cleaned.

Lastly, schedule some hired help and have your carpets and upholstery steam cleaned. Steam cleaning does not use soap, which can make carpets get dirtier faster and actually attract more dirt. This will also make your home smell better, too. Schedule this at least once every year. If your house still smells musty, air it out or consider having your heating and air conditioning vents cleaned.

3. Repair what's broken.
The house is decluttered, clean, and now it needs to work. Fix broken panes of glass, leaking faucets, or repaint water stains on the ceiling. Put your husband on the job while you're cleaning or decluttering.

4. Edit your stuff.
Collections and knick knacks everywhere is what's classified as clutter. Clutter is a problem because of the emotions associated with it. For instance, many people feel guilty about getting rid of things because certain items were gifts or were inherited.

But the first rule of clutter-busting is that you have to absolutely drop-dead love something in order to keep it. If you just can't part with something, then don't. Put all the items you can in a box and then put it into storage. Then once you've forgotten about all those guilty feelings, you can put the items in a garage sale, donate them, or just throw them away.

In short, if your house is overrun with family pictures on every inch of wall space, an explosion of sports memorabilia, or a porcelain pig collection that won't end, for example, pare them down and then find one central spot to display these items rather than spreading them all over the house where they can make you feel overrun.

5. Create visual space.
Clear as many items as possible off the floor, off the tops of dressers, countertops and nightstands so your home will have plenty of clear space. You know how a hotel room makes you immediately want to go flop on the bed? That's because it's clean and clear. Clearing away excess stuff will give your eyes -- and your mind -- a rest.

6. Get pets under control.
If possible, evaluate your pet's impact on your home. Do what you can to create a living situation where both you and your pets are happy, but not where one of you is at the expense of the other. Many homes are controlled by pets to the point that woodwork is scratched, the home is damaged, every surface is covered with hair, and there is an unpleasant odor in the home.

7. Organize your home.
Create areas for coming and going where keys, backpacks, purses, wallets, mail, and other needed items can be placed. This area should have a trashcan where you can sort mail, and a small hanging basket where bills that need immediate attention can be placed.

Then, work on organizing bill-paying, files, warranty booklets, and all the little areas of your home that get cluttered, such as medicine cabinets, home offices, desk areas, pantries, laundry rooms, garages, spice cabinets, and so on.

8. Keep at it and involve everyone.
This is probably the most important step for getting - and keeping - a home under control. A home that's under control is not something that happens once and then it's done, like taxes. Keeping your home in order is more like exercise or taking vitamins. You have to keep at it. Keeping a home in control is a process, not an event. I have to tell myself all the time don't put it down, put it away.

It also takes commitment on everyone's part. My pantry is an OOCA in my home mostly because an orderly pantry is important only to me. But, a family meeting was called so that everyone does their part at keeping the pantry orderly. It will also keep us from having five boxes of raisin bran or three bags of marshmallows.

Bringing your home into control is a wonderful way of bringing a sense of accomplishment and order back into your life. It will also save you money because you won't purchase multiple items because you can find what you're looking for. It will also help you create a home that is your refuge and where you enjoy spending your time. Lastly, it will make you proud to live there and have guests over. Now, let's get to work!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Home Equity Loans - There's Gold In That There House

To paraphrase an old familiar quote that goes "there's gold in them there hills, you could say, there's gold in that house. As Martha Stewart would say, "it's a good thing".

A home equity loan can be a very good thing if you formulate a plan and stick to it. Home equity loans are becoming much more common and most banking companies have specific re-financing plans available for today's consumer.

Read on and you will see that a home equity loan used for the proper purpose and managed correctly can indeed be a "good thing".

A Home Equity Loan - Just what is it?Types Of Home Equity Loans HEL or HELOC?

There are two types of home equity loans. A regular home equity loan and the home equity line of credit or HELOC. A regular home equity loan is a fixed sum borrowed at a fixed rate over a period of time. A HELOC allows the client to borrow various sums up to a fixed amount over a period of time. A line of credit works in a similar way as a credit card; you use it when you need it. Different States set their own laws on limits you can borrow against your house.

The Financial Plan - Making your home equity work for you

For a home equity loan to work best for you, it's a good idea to have a budget and a financial plan. Having a budget will help you decide how big a loan you need and a financial plan will be the map to accomplish your goals within that budget. Here are a few suggestions on ways to use a home equity loan.

1. Home Improvements

You may want to build up the equity in your house by making home improvements. The first and best place to visit is a home improvement warehouse store. These stores, especially the large ones have whole rooms set up and priced. Use caution however, husbands and wives have been known to have gone into these rooms for days and when they came out they were muttering "but I liked the blue room best."

2. Debt Consolidation

Pay off all the nagging little balances that seem to have accumulated on various store and gas cards in your wallet.

3. A holiday in the sun or snow!

It's a matter of interest, if you shop around; you may find a couple of percentage points on a home equity loan that can make a world of difference. Consider a holiday South of the border or North to Canada.

Mexican or Caribbean destinations are very attractive during the winter months but if skiing and winter activities is more to your liking then consider Vancouver, Canada. Whistler, British Columbia is one of the locations that will host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Shop around for the best rates and dream on.

4. A retirement Savings plan

It's not an easy fact to accept but one day we will all need to retire. Planning for retirement requires good financial decision making. Many banking and financial companies offer free retirement planning advice. Some home equity loans are designed to be used for investment purposes. Talk to a trusted Financial Planner before signing the dotted line on this idea.

Loan Terms - Points To Ponder

Now you have a plan and are ready to talk with a lending company. You may want to do this on the Internet to save time and maybe a few dollars. If that is the case then it is a must to know these terms. Before you proceed to do some serious web surfing here are a few you will want to become familiar with before you consider a home equity loan. These points to ponder are:


Equity is the appraised value or Fair Market Value of your home less the outstanding mortgage balance.

Mortgage Broker

A mortgage broker is the "go between" whom you pay to negotiate the best deal. This person has access to current financial information and can be very important if financial savvy is not your strong suit.


A HELOC is a Home Equity Line Of Credit. This term is discussed under types of home equity loans.

Debt Consolidation Loan

Over the years as you have paid off your home, you may have also acquired a few credit cards along the line. These credit cards include gas cards, store credit cards, and some bank credit cards. The interest rates on these cards vary and you may find that you are paying through the nose for the convenience of a store credit card. That is where a home equity loan can be very handy. You can borrow the amount you need to pay off each card and make one payment each month. With current financing plans, one payment at the end of the month is less than the minimum payment that was required on each card. Once you have done this, get out your scissors and cut up all of the cards except one bank credit card for emergencies. Remember the plan!

Balloon Loan

This type of loan can be difficult. The first few payments are low with low interest rates. The last payment however is exactly as the name describes; a balloon. It is a very large payment at the end of the repayment period. It is essential to stick to your financial plan because in this case you may need another loan to pay off the balloon amount.

Interest Rate

The periodic fee charged for a loan. This is expressed as a percentage point and some financial institutions are offering approximately 5.6% on a thirty year fixed $150,000.00 home equity loan. The lower the interest rate the better the deal, just make sure you aren't negotiating a balloon loan though.

Transaction Fee

Unfortunately no matter how good the deal on the loan you get, there is no free ride. In the business of credit management someone has to make money in order for home equity loans to exist. There will be some type of transaction fee built into the loan application. Lenders have costs and these costs are passed along to the consumer as a transaction fee. Depending on the loan company you decide to use, a transaction fee can be lower or higher, so make sure you shop around.

FICO Score

A sliding scale based on a point score created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. This score is used to determine a borrower's behavior and potential risk factor.

Credit Rating

Using the point system based on the FICO score, a credit rating can be anywhere from poor to excellent. With a good to excellent FICO score, a person's credit rating can determine how much money can be borrowed and what interest rate will be charged.

Re-Financing - Finding A Gold Mine In Your Home

Many people consider their home to be their castle but few consider that they could be living on a potential gold mine. If you have lived in your house for 10 years and have been making payments, especially bi-monthly payments, you have built up a considerable amount of equity. Pair that with a good FICO score and there is indeed gold in that there house.

What's Your Fico?

Mortgage Brokers use a FICO scale to determine the amount of money you can borrow against your home and at what interest rate you can borrow this money. This number is between 300 - 850 points and showcases a person's credit history.

This scale was developed in California by the Fair Isaac Corporation, a global decision management company. A credit rating of 700 points is considered "good" and based on a $150,000.00 fixed thirty year mortgage, your rate of interest would be 5.7 percent VS 9.3% if your FICO score was below 600 points. Having a high FICO entitles you to borrow more money at a better rate.

Improving Your Fico

You've taken the test, (which is available at most lenders websites), and your score is not as stellar as you had hopped it would be. There are a couple of ways to improve this score:
1. Pay all your bills on time.
2. Keep a small balance on one credit card to keep it "active".
The FICO website gives you all the "who, what, where, when and why" of the two above suggestions. You can read about the rationale in great detail at that site.

Buyers Beware

With today's credit options and a good credit rating, you can borrow a lot of money against your home. This ability if not used responsibly and with a good solid financial plan can be ruinous. Some borrowers have gotten over their head and ultimately had to file for bankruptcy. So beware of potential risks.

Home Equity Loans - A Golden Opportunity

As you can see, a home equity loan is a great way to improve your living space, go on a holiday, plan for retirement or pay off some debts. With the right combination of a good FICO score and proper planning, there really is gold in that there house.