Do It Your Way: Starting and Growing a Home-Based Business

The traditional concept of a company that operates from an office with plenty of attractive furniture, conference rooms, and state-of-the-art equipment is still the dominant idea of an American business. However, changes in technology and evolving lifestyle choices have brought a new notion to the forefront, one that combines individuality, convenience, and ambition. Today, unprecedented numbers of Americans have opted to start businesses they operate from their own homes. If you’re entrepreneurial and have a service or product that fits well within a given market niche, you have the makings of a successful home-based business.

Finding Customers

The best scenario for starting a business is to have a core group of prospective customers lined up, perhaps people you’ve worked with in the past who know you well. That’s great if you do, but you’ll need to adopt other measures to keep finding new sources of business. Networking and word-of-mouth are excellent ways to find customers. Consider calling on former clients and business colleagues to gauge their interest, and find out who they know. Use social media liberally to spread the word about your new venture.

Marketing and promotions is the traditional means of reaching potential customers, though many individuals starting out in business lack the resources for an intensive marketing campaign involving media outreach. Online content creation, public relations, and business-to-business communication outlets (i.e. print and online trade publications) can earn you considerable attention without costing a fortune and, best of all, they’re tactics you can do yourself. Your best-case scenario should be to transform clients into a kind of “silent” sales force that is willing and able to talk you up to others.

Becoming a Consultant

If you’re considering going into business for yourself, you probably have knowledge and experience that’s at least somewhat unique and can benefit others. Ideally, a consultant helps businesses make decisions that spur growth, find new sources of revenue, and avoid problems that could damage their position in the market. Consultants often go to work for people they knew in a previous employment situation or with whom they had a client-service provider relationship in the past. Consultancy can mean contracting with a client on a short-term basis or being retained for services on a more in-depth basis. It’s a business idea that’s conducive to working from home, which suits many people.

Productivity Tools

This is a good time to go into business for yourself because there’s an abundance of free or inexpensive tools that can help you manage and run things yourself. For example, LastPass is a password management system that stores all of your passwords in one place. No more scribbling down passwords or trying to memorize them. Canva is a website that lets you create free graphics for logos, banners, and printed materials without having to hire a professional graphic designer. Tracking what people are saying about you and your business can be a great help when it comes to marketing. Mention is a website that lets you know what’s going on in social media space and shows where you stand in relation to your competitors.

Pet Sitting

There are many ways to fill a business niche these days. For example, professional people who own dogs are looking for places their furry friends can socialize and be entertained during the week while they’re at work. If you love animals, being a pet sitter is a great opportunity to make money doing what you enjoy. Best of all, you can set your own schedule and prices and specify the size, age and other pet preferences that work for you.

Starting your own business puts you in charge of when and how you work, and with whom you do business. As long as clients are happy, you can work whatever hours you choose. Take advantage of the many free and cost-effective online tools that can help grow your business.

Thank you: Amy Collett who is the creator of Bizwell.org, a website that helps professionals and entrepreneurs build and strengthen their personal brand.

Women in Leadership

June 4, 2013 As part of an ongoing “Women in Leadership” series honoring noteworthy Canadian women: Dr. Karyn, an educator, speaker, and media personality, was acknowledged for her wide-ranging work with families and professionals. We mingled in the lovely Park Avenue residence formerly home to Ken Taylor, who was instrumental in the covert “Canadian Caper” operation depicted in the Oscar winning film Argo.

In his introduction, John F. Prato spoke of Dr. Karyn’s work in New York City as being representative of the healthy relationship and strong bond between Canada and the United States, calling her “an incredible part of the Canadian fabric.” Dr. Karyn has taken her deep understanding and used it to build a larger platform to facilitate dialogue regarding parenting and relationships, Consul General Prato noted. Dr. Karyn Gordon: One of North America’s leading relationship and parenting experts, a best-selling author, media personality, motivational speaker, and founder of dk Leadership, Dr. Karyn’s mission is to inspire people to dream their best life and learn the tools and do it!

Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World

May 8th, 2013 attended “Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World” conference hosted by Angela Jia Kim founder of Savor the Success www.savorthesuccess.com. What an event with take away tips to make you think and grow your business. Simon Sinek-The Power of Why and author of “Start with Why” Stop managing and start leading: was one of many potent remarks he made: Now to get the book. Amanda Steinberg: rejection/disappointment.....what she does is gives herself two hours of intense rejection time to cry scream whatever then moves on. Make sure you are serving a market that can afford you. One important topic was how do you pay yourself from this business? Start with a separate business i.e. a checking account that you simulate a monthly draw. You have to look at money as a game and it is all a numbers game. Most importantly have to address stories we say about money and our feelings. May 8th, 2013 attended “Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World” conference hosted by Angela Jia Kim founder of Savor the Success www.savorthesuccess.com. What an event with take away tips to make you think and grow your business. Simon Sinek-The Power of Why and author of “Start with Why” Stop managing and start leading: was one of many potent remarks he made: Now to get the book. Amanda Steinberg: rejection/disappointment.....what she does is gives herself two hours of intense rejection time to cry scream whatever then moves on. Make sure you are serving a market that can afford you. One important topic was how do you pay yourself from this business? Start with a separate business i.e. a checking account that you simulate a monthly draw. You have to look at money as a game and it is all a numbers game. Most importantly have to address stories we say about money and our feelings.

The Future

April 22, 2015 What a fascinating day about the future held in conjunction with the Tribecca Film Festival.  Learned about companies without walls, AOL Tom Armstrong spoke about collaboration, advertising and eye balls (and shortly thereafter bought Huffington Post), how robotics are playing a role in our lives now and in the future.  But the most enlightening was a presentation about 3D printing and how it well even change the food we consume.

 

What's Your Dream?

Guest blog by Barbara Callahan Quin

Everyone has a dream. Dreams are not reserved for super-achievers or those who have plenty of money and time to pursue them. Everyone has a dream. How can you tell? Listen to you heart - it's there. It's speaking to you all the time. It wants you to make It come true. It stays in the back of your mind when you're thinking about the next thing on your list of must-do's. It haunts your daydreams and mystifies your night dreams. It catches your eye when you hear It in a song, see It in a headline, or feel It whispered in the longing of your heart. 

What is "It"? It is your Dream - your personal, heartfelt wish that you long to do, accomplish, or acquire. It can be anything under the sun. But you may have made excuses for not pursuing It. Why? Maybe you think It takes too much money, you don't have enough time, no one will believe in It for or with you. But you know what? The Truth of the matter is that You CAN make your Dream come true! You will never be satisfied unless you're pursuing your Dream in some way, shape, or form. Just look at those around you who seem to be living the perfect life. You know why? It's because they are living their Dreams, pursuing that "It" that speaks to their hearts in the still of the night. You can, too. You can start right now, today, going after that secret desire of your heart. Here are a few tips for claiming your right to your Dreams: 

1. Believe in yourself. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU SET YOUR MIND AND HEART ON! Yes, you can! Do not allow anyone to tell you no when pursuing the Dreams of your heart. Think you're not smart enough? Get an education! Read up on the subject - learn all you can! You don't have to go to school to start learning about something special to you. Listen to your Self Talk. What is that? It's what you say to yourself over and over all day every day. Do you limit yourself? Or do you encourage yourself? Talk to yourself every day and tell yourself, "Yes! I claim this day to be a day of growth and change for me! I can do anything I set my mind on! I am smart enough and deserving enough to go after my dreams! I begin today to takes the steps needed to make my Dream a reality!" 

2. Don't know exactly what your Dream is? Start identifying It now! Perhaps It's vague, hiding in the shadows of your heart because you have not allowed It to reveal Itself. Daily stresses and self-doubt make it easy for our Dreams to be reclusive, but they are still there, and if you take the time to start listening, feeling, observing, It will start to reveal Itself. Start keeping a journal just for yourself. Find a few minutes a day to enjoy quiet reflection (yes, you can find ten minutes - just turn off the radio, TV, or spend a few extra moments in the shower, or utilize those minutes waiting in traffic or lines at the grocery store). Carry a small notebook with you to write down ideas as they occur - you think you may remember them later, but sometimes they go back into hiding! Give yourself permission to think about your Dream. 

3. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. And most likely, your Dream won't be manifested in one day. This means you start taking steps toward your Dream, no matter how small they are. Every step is important and every step is a learning process for you to be able to accept and live your Dream when it is revealed. Maybe your Dream is not one thing that can be contained, but rather a way of living or thinking that is ongoing. Start NOW to be the person who has made her Dreams come true! Think like It's coming true! Act like It's coming true! Breathe It! See It! Smell It! Taste It! Touch It! Make It so real in your mind that It has no choice but to come true! Yes! Your Dream can come true! You have to believe in It as much as It believes in You! 

4. Action required! You have identified your Dream. You wonder where It is. When will It come true? It is important, once you have identified your Dream and begun to give mental attention to It, that you put Action behind your thoughts. Do something every day that will help your Dream move closer to your reality. Read about It, research the Internet about It. Network It. Find someone who has It or is doing It and talk to them about It. Pursue your Dream with gusto and It will meet you halfway! 

5. Best Intentions, Please! "With the highest good for all concerned" is a tagline often added to prayers or affirmations when seeking to align with our Greater Good. To be happiest, realizing real Dreams will not require you to treat anyone badly or purposely hurt another in your pursuit. You can still fulfill your daily obligations and go after your Dreams without too much sacrifice (unless you're unwilling to sacrifice those two hours of TV at night in lieu of reading or taking a class that will help you get closer to your Dream). When you are on track, you will also be helping others achieve their Dreams, resulting in a Win-Win result. 
6. Adequate supply? Is there enough to go around? Absolutely! The Universe is an Abundant place overflowing with supply! If you think differently, then you will need to look at your thinking in that regard - limit your thinking and you limit your supply! Expand your thinking and know that you deserve to receive, and your avenues of supply will open up, making it even easier for your Dream to come into Reality. 

A few steps a day can help you go a long way on the road to realizing your Dreams. You know they are real when they won't go away, won't stop speaking to your Heart, when you ache to make them come true. These kinds of Dreams are put into us by our Creator and are meant to come true if we will but follow our own Star of Grace, and open ourselves up to all the goodness there is here for us right now! You can do It! I know you can! Go for it! 

Your Choice: Aging Boomer or Ageless Bloomer

Guest blog by Barbara M. Morris, R.Ph

The American way of aging, steeped in stultifying tradition and flawed conventional wisdom of a bygone era, is slowly changing. 

But for now, tradition and custom still dominate. You know the routine: Around age 50 an accelerating number of sound bites, events and messages caution or imply, "The end is near." Everything from invitations to join AARP to dire warnings about inescapable problems and pitfalls of aging are relentless reminders life is winding down.

You are deemed lazy or irresponsible if you have not prepared to acquire that contagious, debilitating disease called retirement - a political absurdity of the Depression Era that short-circuits the life and potential of many capable people and, burdens society in too many ways to count. 

Bombarded by countless predictions of impending disability and death, you start looking for signs of your own decline. A momentary memory lapse, which everyone experiences, regardless of age, results in a panicky "I'm having a senior moment." I have never heard a teenager experiencing a memory lapse (and they have plenty of them) berate him or herself with "I'm having a junior moment." 

You drop something and immediately declare, "I must be getting old." Young people drop things all the time and don't imagine they are getting old. They just bend over and pick it up. Youth doesn't sweat the small stuff - why should you? 

The advent of age 60 can really accelerate the "old age" wrecking ball. Tradition says it's time to leave the real world. It's time to travel and play golf the rest of your life.

Social and family pressure convinces you the home you've lived in all your life is now "too much" for you. Therefore, you move to a retirement community where you not only enjoy the comfort and camaraderie of peers, but you are also vulnerable to the reality of the Grim Reaper who manifests himself in an abnormal concentration of sickness, depression, and death.

You adopt attitudes and behaviors that instruct your subconscious to help you let go of life. You kid yourself that you are just taking time to smell the roses but before you know it, the roses are on your coffin and you are pushing up daises.

Here's the good news: In spite of the pull of tradition and social expectations, people are beginning to opt out of the traditional aging process, refusing to slow down, fall into line, give up, and drop out. A 78 year-old friend and business owner is engaged to a successful younger executive and together they have a solid plan for future business and personal growth. A 92-year-old woman is flying across the country, participating in a Powder Puff Derby. A 78-year-old man is studying for a doctor's degree. 

These people and countless others are maintaining and improving the quality of their lives and making a valuable contribution to society. Unfortunately, examples of inspiring mature lives are too often hidden. When brought to light, we exclaim in astonishment, "Isn't she wonderful for her age," or "Isn't it amazing what he is still doing?" When people learn I am still working as a pharmacist, they gasp, "You are still working full time at age 73?" Big deal! Chronological age is an accounting of time gone by, not a measure of physical or mental capacity.

Expression of amazement for age-related competence is patronizing. Ability should be valued for what it is, without reference to chronological age,. That point will be reached when more influential and outspoken mature role models come out of the "old age" closet and show, if not flaunt, what they and others are capable of accomplishing. They are needed to help establish an enlightened society in which healthy, productive aging is no longer newsworthy as something special. It will open doors of opportunity and possibilities now closed to valuable and talented people afflicted with nothing more incapacitating than advanced chronological age.

How about you: Are you living a life that rejects they tyranny of chronological age? Are you happily marching forward to the beat of your own personal drummer? Are you gloriously "out of sync" with convention-bound peers? Are you productively defying archaic wisdom that no longer makes sense? If so, the world needs to know about you. 

In the past century, the American life span has increased 27 years. Boomers are the first generation ever to have the opportunity for a healthy, productive Second Life. They can choose the traditional aging route as their parents did, or forge an exciting, unprecedented transition from fantasy-driven "young forever boomer" to real life healthy, productive, ageless bloomer. It's a matter of choice, not chance. It's just that simple. 

Leave Mama's Junk Alone

Guest blog by Barbara M. Morris, R.Ph.

A young friend (about age 30) and I (age 74) were talking about all the "junk" we collect over time. The conversation turned to how much "junk" her mother had, and I understood because by the time you reach my age, even if you are not a chronic pack rat, "junk" accumulates. My lame excuse for saving things is that I work full time and deciding what should stay and what should go is not a priority. Another justification is that I grew up in a large family during the Great Depression, always wanting "things" of my own - and now I've got them - big time. Get rid of them? You've got to be kidding!

I know that regardless of sentimental value, ultimately it's all junk and must go, but not right now. Don't push me!

The conversation with my young friend shifted to her brother who lives with his parents. He needed more space in the garage for his car, and Mama's "junk" was taking up more space than he deemed necessary, so he threw some of it out when Mama was not at home. "She'll never miss it," he rationalized. My friend, normally a thoughtful ethical person, helped her brother commit the crime because she also felt, "She'll never miss it and doesn't need it." 

It appears that more than a few adult children feel the same way. On several occasions my Boomer-age daughter, who doesn't live with or near me, and should not be bothered by my junk, has suggested, "Why don't you get rid of all this stuff."

What should it matter to adult children, living in their own home with junk of their own, how much stuff you collect? After you are gone, they can back up a garbage truck to the garage, and get rid of it. On the other hand, if they are smart, they can have a garage sale. Some of the stuff my generation has been saving from "day one" now has antique status and may have value, perhaps not to unappreciative children, but to savvy collectors.

Let me explain something to adult children about old people, i.e., their parents: If retired, there are no more long or even short term goals, no more dreams or aspirations - nothing to strive for. Just about all they have are memories. When old people get together what do they talk about? Their aches and pains, financial situation, the grandchildren and - the past. "Remember when" is an integral part of a typical retiree's conversation. And that's okay. 

Those scraps of material Mama has been saving that you think she doesn't need and won't miss are tangible evidence of time that can be revisited by touching or seeing those pieces of cloth. I save pieces of cloth because I used to sew, and when my daughter was small, I made many of her clothes. What my daughter doesn't understand is that when I look at a piece of cloth, which is the remains of a dress I made when she was two, it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling and that's nice. She doesn't remember the dress and that's okay. Just wait until she has her own collection of warm and fuzzy tangibles from the past that she wants to hold on to.

Adult children often encourage parents to move into a smaller home or apartment. "You don't need this big house anymore, and it will be a good time to get rid of all this junk." Maybe Mama doesn't "need" the big house, but she's comfortable there with all her memories. The teapot on the stove, looking like a thrift shop reject is a happy reminder of when she just married. The linen closet with wedding gifts she never used harbors cozy memories just as clear as yesterday. The wallpaper that's been there forever, the carpet with the worn spots, the pictures, the bric-a-brac -- yes, the "junk" -- become arms that embrace her at a time of life when she may not have a lot to keep her emotionally warm. Sell or throw away links to the past to accommodate what you think is best for her? If she's content and can manage the upkeep, why hassle her to leave?

Until there is a good reason to do otherwise, leave Mama alone with all her junk. It's not yours to dispose of until she dies or asks you to get rid of it. How would you feel if she came into your home while you were away and threw out what she considered "junk" - after all, you are at an age when you've already collected a few useless trinkets that have great meaning to you but would be rated "junk" by others. 

What goes around comes around. Respect rights of others, especially your parents. Your children will learn from your good example and if you are lucky, they will not throw out your precious "junk" behind your back when you are old. 

Is The Earth Flat?

Guest blog by Barbara M. Morris

On occasion, I am asked, "Why bother trying to Put Old on Hold? Everybody gets old eventually. Just go with the flow."

Go with the flow into the abyss of decrepit old age? Moi? Not now at 73, not ever!

There is a difference between the aging process - the passage of time over which you have no control (at this time) and the traditional signs and symptoms of "getting old" over which you have an enormous amount of control.

Gerontologist Dr. John W. Rowe says how well you age is 70 percent lifestyle choices and 30 percent heredity and environment." That 70 percent (which I personally believe is closer to 80 or even 90 percent) is a lot to work with over a lifetime.

This is how it's done: Start early, have a vision of how you want to be when you are "old," stay focused on and committed to your goal and you are on your way. I guarantee that your success will exceed your expectations.

But how do you make a commitment to Putting Old on Hold when you are only 30 or 40, and filled with the arrogance of youth, convinced the image in the mirror you see each day will be the same forever? Begin by observing "old people" - how they live, how and what they think, -- their physical and mental condition. Then ask yourself, "Do I want to be like that when I'm 60, 70 and beyond? What can I do to avoid or prevent it?

It helps to internalize the reality that old age is not a TV mini series over in five nights - it can go on for a very long time, and when there are daily reruns of pain, depression, and debilitation, it is not prime time. Also internalize the reality that it doesn't have to be that way --it can be better than prime time; it can be the best years of your life.

Remember a time in history when the most brilliant thinkers in the universe declared the earth was flat and everyone believed it until a rebel came along and proved this undeniable "truth" was false?

Many widely held beliefs about "getting old" have about as much validity as the "earth is flat" theory. 

Assuming it is possible to Put Old on Hold -- specifically, what does it take? In Boomers Really Can Put Old on Hold I discuss the significance and importance of a non-traditional youthifying diet; the need to learn about cutting edge nutrition, proper use of resources that support and enable you to Put Old on Hold; the value of exercise, and the ingredients and benefits of a carefully cultivated mental attitude that empower you to take charge of the aging process. 

If lines are invading your face and your hair is getting gray, please understand that Putting Old on Hold is not all about "looking young," although that is part of the payoff. The real prize is getting to age 60, 70 and beyond and functioning like a healthy 40 or 50-year old. It does not necessarily mean you will live longer - it does mean that if you maintain that level of vibrant wellness for your remaining years, you will have an unprecedented Second Life. You can go back to school, start a new career or a new business. When you have physical and mental health, you can have it all. 

You have the power to Put Old on Hold, a power long suppressed by tradition and outmoded conventional wisdom, the influence of destructive consensus thinking and behaviors perhaps held by your immediate social circle, and belief in the "certainty" that you must succumb to physical and mental deterioration as the years pass. Right now, declare your freedom from "the earth is flat" impossibility thinking and do what it takes to remain healthy, productive, and ageless for as long as you choose.

We Must Stop The Cycle of Violence

Guest blog by B. J. Mitchell

For years our society has turned a blind eye to the crimes against women and children that occur behind closed doors. The old saying that "a man's home is his castle" has been taken to mean that whatever happens in the home is no one's business and should not be interfered with. Gradually, some states have passed strict laws that require any person who works with children to report to law enforcement any sign of abuse to a child. That is a major breakthrough in the battle against domestic violence.

Unfortunately, there are millions of children who have no visible bruises but who regularly suffer emotional and psychological abuse. They are warned (usually by mom) never to tell a soul about the abuse, and they never do. They suffer in silence and then grow up to abuse their dates as teens and their own children as adults. Thus, the cycle of violence continues and grows. Teens from abusive homes are 25 times as likely to abuse their dates than those from non-abusive homes. These children are not identified and for them there is no help available.

The statistics are horrifying, but largely go unrecognized or unacknowledged: 62% of teen mothers are prior victims of sexual abuse, primarily from step-fathers, mother's boyfriends, family members, and other they trust; 66% of children of teen mothers are fathered by adult men, 20 years or older; 33% of teen girls are in an abusive dating relationship before they are out of high school; 50% of dating women suffer physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from their dating partners; 35% of women who are killed in the U.S. are murdered by a boyfriend or husband, 25% of them are 15-24 years old. And so the violence continues, spiraling upward as millions of children grow up thinking that violence and abuse are a normal way of life. 

My own childhood was marred by emotional and psychological abuse by an abusive, alcoholic stepfather. I had no visible bruises or scars, and I would never, ever have told anyone. The person with visible bruises, my mother, would have been mortified at the thought of friends, neighbors, or even family knowing what she was suffering. I never spoke of it until, in my senior years, I sat down to write a proposal designed to help children who won't tell. My proposal is centered on a community listing of counselors and psychologists who agree to accept anonymous phone calls from children who are in abusive homes. The counselor would help them cope with their environment and counsel them on how to distinguish between abuse that is non-life-threatening and that which is bad enough to advise the child to talk to a counselor about it openly so they can get some protection from law enforcement. 

When I began to work with my pastor to set up such a program, I ran into objections from a church official who feared that my program would undermine the law requiring disclosure. In order to continue my effort to reduce the cycle of violence, my church will be working with children who have at least one parent already convicted of child abuse, so there can be no fear of hiding anything from the police.

One person, one church, cannot change the face of an incredibly abusive society, but if it were to become a pursuit of many people in many churches, change would eventually come. Details of the proposed program can be found in a children's fable titled The Huckenpuck Papers: the tale of a family's secret and a young girl's search for self esteem, by P.J. Pokeberry.

Stage® Your Listings to Make More Money

How do we get sellers to prepare their property without offending them and encountering resistance? Educate the seller. Let the sellers know that this is part of the total service that you provide and a necessary part of the marketing process.

Begin this education process with your very first contact with potential sellers -on the phone or in person. A phrase that I find successful is, "Let me tell you how I work," followed by a quick recitation of the service I provide in the listing and marketing of their property. I let them know I want to see the property and get to know them.

Second, I put together a two-part listing presentation which included an exclusive marketing program with details on how their property fits into today's market in price and terms.
Then I add information on an extra-special free service. With permission, we go through the home together room by room, for staging recommendations.

By starting this dialogue with sellers as soon as you meet them, not only do they get an overview of your services, but they also know that staging their home and helping them prepare the property is an extra service that you provide for your sellers.

At the first visit, I always have the sellers show me through the property. At that time I start to see the property both through my eyes and through the potential buyer's eyes. I follow along as the sellers explain improvements they've made and special things they have enjoyed.
As we go through, I comment on each room and build rapport, while I mentally stage each room. I think about what I will ask the seller to move, repair, etc., when we do the staging after completing the exclusive listing agreement. Never stage the property the first time through. Complete the educational process and have the sellers' commitment in writing first.
It is important during the listing presentation to once again point out your special service. Get their commitment verbally to do this. Take all the time you need to explain to that seller how staging will help potential purchasers mentally move in, then ask the sellers point blank, "Do I have your commitment to help you stage your property after we complete the paperwork bringing you on the market?"

When I have educated the sellers about the importance of staging their home, they always agree.

With the paperwork finished, it's time for staging. The primary areas of concerns are the "three C's" -clean, color and clutter.

To ease into the process, say, "The way you live in a home and the way you market and sell your home are two different things. Now the public will be coming through."

Also explain that because they have entrusted you with representing them, they know you'll be selling their home. And since they will be moving as soon as the house is sold, you suggest that begin packing certain items early.

In each room, look for any extras that should be put away. You, the agent, are like a movie director setting the scene for the purchaser to view. As you direct you sellers to the items that need to be packed up and put away, have them make a pile in the middle of the room to be packed when you are gone. 

Remind sellers to always close their closets. The open closet will be the first thing a prospect will see, missing the rest of the room.

I take my foot and intentionally stub my toe on the little rug. I want the sellers to think of the safety of strangers touring their home. "What if someone falls?" I ask. The little rug is easily rolled up and left under the bed.

Blinds should always be left open to flood the room with sunlight. The only exception is a window with an exceptionally bad view. In that case, the blinds should be open but slightly tipped down. There will be a light, but the view won't detract. Also, check the slats in the blinds. If some are bent, have the seller repair them.

Magazines should be quickly slipped under the bed to be accessible for evening reading but out of sight for tours.

Crucial rooms are the living room, the kitchen and the master bedroom, but take time to go through every single room in the house and stage it. Then move outside and go around the exterior.

I commit about an hour for staging. This is a small amount of time compared to the value both you and seller will receive in shorter listing time and larger selling price.

We owe it to our sellers to stage the properties, but we also owe it to ourselves. Your listings will look better than ever, sell faster, and be more profitable.
 

Open House Success

Guest blog by Barbara Kavovit
Author of Invest in Your Nest: Add Style, Comfort, and Value to Your Home

An open house creates excitement and lets a lot of people view the property at once. Even if your neighbors who have no intention of buying come by (and this will happen), they may have friends and friends of friends who are interested in buying a house -- and if they like what they see, they will spread the word. Make sure your open house is a success by:

  • Placing your house brochure in conspicuous locations around the house
  • Replacing light bulbs with bulbs of the highest wattage the fixtures will allow and turning on all the lights -- bright houses are more appealing than dark ones
  • Keeping draperies and window coverings open
  • Placing a bowl of fresh fruit such as apples or lemons and limes on the kitchen island or table
  • Making sure the bathroom towels are clean (or new), beautifully folded, and stacked or hung
  • Setting your dining room or kitchen table for a meal with your prettiest china and best linen napkins
  • Storing accumulated mail out of sight and tossing old newspapers and magazines
  • Cleaning out the fireplace and stacking new logs; if it's cold outside, build a fire
  • Turning off the TV and softly playing jazz or classical music
  • Grinding up a fresh lemon or orange in the garbage disposal or simmering some cinnamon and cloves in a pot of water on the stove
  • Locking up or securely storing small valuables
  • Keeping pets securely penned or contained so they don't frighten buyers or escape during a viewing

Know Your Credit Score

Guest blog by Barbara Kavovit
Author of Invest in Your Nest: Add Style, Comfort, and Value to Your Home

The most important part of qualifying for a mortgage isn't how much of a down payment you can make, it's how good your credit score is. The better your credit, the more easily you can secure a mortgage loan, even without a fat bank account or a high-paying job. The first and most important action you should take is to get your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You have to get all three reports because the companies and utilities that extend you credit don't report to all three bureaus. The result is that each consumer has three credit reports with three different sets of information. You can access the reports for free at least once a year. If you find errors and report them (see below for details), you can get a revised report for free.

Your credit score is based on the information in the credit report. In the simplest terms, the score indicates how likely you will be to pay back a loan in full and on time. According to Steven Burman, president of Credit Advocates and an expert credit counselor, it reflects your credit history, how much debt you currently carry (called outstanding debt), how much debt you're already approved to carry in the future (add up the credit limits on your credit cards for the answer), how long your credit history is, and how timely you are in paying bills. The higher the number, the better your credit is, ranging from a low of 300 to a perfect score of 850. Do everything you can to improve your score -- it's even more important than saving money, in my opinion! Why? Because the higher your score, the better the interest rate you will get. If you have a very high score, you may even be able to buy a house with no money down.

Improve Your Credit Rating
Steve says that you have to take personal responsibility for your credit, and I agree. The first time many people see their credit reports is when they are about to purchase a home or a car. Because it can take about 3 months (and sometimes much longer) to change a credit score, if the score is wrong or low at that time, it could be too late to fix it. You could lose that fabulous apartment! Don't let that happen -- start changing your score today. Here are six proven ways to improve your score:

1. Check and correct your credit history
Thirty-five percent of your score comes from your credit history, according to Steve. Unfortunately, 70 percent of credit reports contain errors -- mistakes that can adversely impact your score! Mistakes range from the misspelling of names, to reporting wrong addresses or places of employment, to confusing the accounts of people with the same name, to including outdated information. You can and should report errors to each of the credit bureaus since they do not share information. You can file disputes by phone or by mail, but you may find that it is most convenient to dispute errors online. Once the credit bureaus receive a dispute, they have 30 days to investigate. If they cannot verify the information in that time, it is deleted or corrected by default. Once you dispute information, the onus is on them to prove it. If your payment was late once or twice and the creditor reported it to the credit bureau, you can ask the retailer or credit card company to issue a letter of correction. For example, many retail stores would prefer to keep your business by issuing a correction than lose it by refusing to. Always follow up on promised corrections by rechecking your credit report. If some of the accounts on your report are old and closed, tell the credit bureau that you don't recognize them. They will investigate, find that you are not a customer, and remove them. It's best if your credit report lists only active accounts. Even when some of the accounts are closed, having dozens of them may make lenders assume that you are not a stable credit risk.

2. Pay down high balances
The amounts you owe on revolving credit accounts are responsible for 30 percent of your score. Steve says the fastest way to improve your credit rating is to pay down balances. After he advised one client to use all of his available cash to pay down his credit card bills, the client's credit score went up by 100 points. Keep revolving credit accounts under 30 percent of the available limit. For example, if your credit card limit is $10,000, keep the balance under $3,000. High balances adversely affect credit ratings. Plus, credit card debt is expensive to carry. Some cards charge up to 24 percent interest on unpaid balances. Are the designer jeans and fur jacket really worth that? Pay off your credit cards! You can also negotiate with your credit card company to reduce or eliminate interest charges and sometimes even reduce what you owe.

3. Make history with your credit
It's good to have some activity and history on the account. "Many people think closing accounts will make their credit look better, but it depends," says Steve. "Look at the accounts you are closing and keep the oldest one. Length of credit history counts for 15 percent of your total score."

4. Think twice about new credit
When you open a new credit card account, the creditor makes an inquiry to one of the credit bureaus to evaluate your history. The number of recently opened accounts and credit inquiries accounts for 10 percent of your score. (Note that checking your own credit report doesn't count as an inquiry, however.) "If you start applying for loans at an auto dealership or a bank and each one does an inquiry, it's a negative," says Steve. When a store sends you a sales pitch saying you're preapproved for credit, resist the temptation to fill out the application form. One credit card is all you really need. At any rate, closing an account doesn't mean it automatically disappears from your credit report. You have to ask them to remove it. Better yet . . . 

5. Pay with cash
Using debit cards and cash are good ways to control your debt (and therefore maintain a great credit score).

6. Pay all your bills on time
Late payments can have a substantial negative impact on your score. For example, you can raise your score by as much as 20 points simply by paying bills on time for 1 month!

For more information on improving your credit rating, visit the Federal Trade Commission's credit repair page at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/repair.htm. To dispute information in a credit report, here is how to contact the credit bureaus:

Equifax Information Services, LLC
Disclosure Department
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
800-685-1111
www.equifax.com

Experian
475 Anton Boulevard
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
or
955 American Lane
Schaumburg, IL 60173
888-397-3742
www.experian.com

TransUnion LLC
PO Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
800-888-4213
www.transunion.com

Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
877-322-8228
www.annualcreditreport.com

Annualcreditreport.com is the official site that helps consumers obtain the free credit reports they are entitled to annually, as required by law.

De-Cluttering Debunked

Guest blog by Brooke Stone
www.brookestonelifestylemanagement.com

Look around. Do you have stuff everywhere? Most people do, don't be embarrassed. Look around again, take it all in. Don't you deserve better? Isn't it time to live and work in spaces that support you, instead of inhibit you? Clutter is not just a mess, it stands directly in the way of personal productivity and peace of mind. And don't you deserve to be productive and have peace of mind?! Yes. Yes, you do. 

Now that we are in agreement, lets get one thing straight. Spring cleaning is a handy fad, but living clutter free is for every season and does not require a Container Store holiday to bring into focus. It all begins with understanding you deserve better for yourself, and internalizing the fact that a visually and practically organized space will afford you the calm you need to work or play. 

Ready? Ok. The first step is to de-clutter your cluttered spaces one by one. Star with your desk, or your living room, it doesn’t matter where you start as long as you do start! Begin by organizing all of the clutter into piles of like items. Toys with toys, papers to file with papers to file, etc. Make a separate pile for things that go other places than the place you are organizing. Throw away all of the trash. 

Now, put away the piles of things that actually live in the space you are organizing, file away the papers, and put the things that go other places, in their other places. Rinse and repeat in each area of your home.

The bad news? This can take a while depending on what you are dealing with, but trust me, it's worth it. The good news? You only have to do this once if you can commit to the maintenance plan coming up next. 

Ok, so your house is now (almost) perfectly de-cluttered and organized. Now, all you have to do to remain committed to living clutter free (remember, you are so worth it!) is spare 10 minutes every night before bed and pick up the debris from the day. 

Do one room at a time, just like round one above. I usually start in the room farthest from my bedroom, and work down the hall with collapsing into bed being the prize for this daily diligence. Pick up the things. Put them where they go. It’s pretty simple, but requires a real dedication to those 10 minutes each night. You can do it though. You are very worth it. Waking up and making your coffee in a de-cluttered kitchen is all the thanks you will need, promise. 

Once you commit to this little plan, a crazy thing starts to happen, beside you being able to actually find the things you need. You begin holding others who use or live in your space more accountable. You know those 10 minutes each night could be 5 if your partner or kids learned to pick up after themselves. You start requiring them to do just that, and are setting a great example by modeling clutter free behaviors. 

Sooner or later, your 10 minutes becomes 5 and your clutter becomes a distant (bad) dream. And, just like most things that stick, building commitment to these new habits begins with the simple reminder that you deserve better and can make it happen for yourself. 

Grow The Space You Have

Guest blog by Barbara Kavovit
Author of Invest in Your Nest: Add Style, Comfort, and Value to Your Home

Transforing existing raw space into an extra bedroom, a playroom, or a guest or master suite is an affordable way to make your house bigger. You can also winterize an unheated sunroom or porch to transform a two- or three-season room into a year-round retreat. You can transform a two-bedroom, two-bath house into a "new" three-bedroom, three-bathroom house just by making your unused space livable!

Be Your Own Project Manager
Finishing the existing raw space in your home for livability requires the help of specialists in several trades: plumbing, carpentry, electrical, and others, including flooring and possibly stoneworking for tile work. So while it's not a do-it-yourself job, you can manage the project yourself and become your own general contractor. That way, you'll save money and choose and work with the tradespeople whom you really like. Managing the project gives you tremendous control over personnel, quality control, and finishes. You're the boss! Here are the basic steps you'll want to follow:

Set aside some time
Expect to spend from 1 to several hours a day for several months dealing with some aspect of the renovation. Managing the transformation of any space in your home does not require you to be on-site every minute, but you do have to check in often, inspect the work as it progresses, pay bills, consult with the tradespeople who are on the site, coordinate with and schedule the tradespeople who need to come in, make sure the site is organized safely and in a way that protects workers (and therefore your liability), monitor rubbish removal, and troubleshoot.

Determine your budget 
Every decision you make flows from your budget, from how much to spend on flooring to how fancy you want your bathroom fixtures to be.

Decide how you want to use the space 
Will it be an extra bedroom and bath, a family room, or a children's playroom? The function will help inform many of the finishes you choose. For example, a children's playroom may benefit from a hardwood floor partially covered by a large rug. How elaborate do you want the bathroom to be? If you are transforming a space into a master suite, the bathroom should have double vanities and a glass enclosure for the shower, which should have extra wall and overhead showerheads.

Gather the right professionals 
Several professionals are involved in an addition project. They include:

Architect
Carpenter and/or drywall contractor
Flooring contractor
Licensed electrician
HVAC specialist
Licensed plumber
Window supplier/installer

As project manager, you coordinate the work, schedule, and budget. Jobs need to be completed in a particular order. Follow this general timeline:

Prepare the floor
Check the condition of the existing subfloor and floor joists. If you are finishing a basement, you must inspect the condition of its floor. Most basements have poured concrete floors, and sometimes they slope steeply for drainage purposes. If that's the case, the floor must be leveled before proceeding with the work. A handyperson or contractor should pour a thin concrete overlay to level it. Be sure that access to any existing floor drains is maintained! Drains need to stay functional in case of basement flooding. Check with a plumber to find out if you will be required to periodically pour water in them to prevent sewer gas from building up.

Install any necessary HVAC systems
Ductwork is cumbersome. In basements, where ceiling height is always a consideration, soffits may be required to cover up any vents running overhead, which can lower the ceiling. Basements are usually cool and may not require air-conditioning systems. They do require heating, however. Be sure the HVAC specialist locates supply ducts near outside walls. Install return air ducts on interior walls or ceilings away from the supply ducts. The idea is to "draw" air across the room. Particular attention must be paid to ventilating, heating, and cooling attic rooms.

Install plumbing
You can solve plumbing issues in other parts of your house at this time, too, if necessary. If the existing drain stacks in the house are made from PVC, they need to be wrapped with insulation to minimize sound transmission. Cold-water lines may need to be insulated if you have had problems in the past with condensation, because it may drip onto your new ceiling. Have the plumber rough in bathroom plumbing so he or she can come back later to install the fixtures. Rough plumbing is all the plumbing components that need to be installed before the finish tradespeople (drywall contractor, painter, and so on) come in to do their jobs, including the waste and supply water lines that are in the walls or framing of the building. Ask the plumber to use ½-inch or 1-inch lines instead of the more common ¼-inch lines in the bathroom for extra water pressure.

Have necessary electrical work done
All electrical work must be done in compliance with the National Electrical Code or the code adopted by your community. Don't skimp on the electrical system. Make a list of everything you intend to use in the room (appliances, light fixtures, electronic equipment, and so on) so the electrician can calculate the required load and make sure you have enough circuits. He or she can rough in wiring for ceiling fixtures at this time and come back to install the fixtures when the drywall or drop ceiling has been installed. Think ahead. Make sure you can access the main electrical service panel and telephone and cable TV termination points. Ask the electrician to install conduits through which additional wires can be run at a later date. Don't forget about wiring the space for surround sound.

Install cable and phone lines
Call your service companies and schedule a time for them to add new telephone, data, and cable wiring. Be sure to have them add extra phone and data lines now, even if you don't plan on using them all right away. Adding them later on is more expensive. 

Build and insulate the walls
A carpenter can install 2 x 4-inch studs if they aren't already there, as well as a variety of thermal insulation materials, from traditional soft batting to rigid foil-faced sheets to blown-in insulation. He or she should be able to advise you on what is recommended for your geographic region and application. 

Install walls
You can choose one of several types of wallboard or paneling. I prefer drywall because it gives you the most flexibility and doesn't scream "finished basement" the way paneling does. Plus, you can always apply bead-board wainscoting, faux finishes, wallpaper, or other treatments over drywall at a later date.

Install the ceiling
I prefer drywall ceilings, but I admit that the ubiquitous and industrial-looking acoustical tile or drop ceiling has come a long way. It now comes in a variety of styles, from bead board to decorative embossed styles that look like old-fashioned tin ceilings. The advantages of installing a drop ceiling are that it creates an accessible tray for ductwork and wiring and if one tile gets damaged, it's easy to replace (buy 10 percent more than you need for coverage). The disadvantages are that it lowers the ceiling height, which might be at a premium in your attic or basement. For drywall ceiling, the drywall contractor or carpenter builds soffits around any ductwork. That means that making a drywall ceiling takes extra work and is therefore somewhat more expensive than a drop ceiling, but the ceiling will be lower only in the areas where ductwork exists and headroom is maximized everywhere else.

Install the floor 
I love hardwood, as you know. If you happen to be finishing a basement-level room, however, think twice before choosing hardwood flooring. Hardwood flooring trade associations and manufacturers caution against using traditional hardwood below ground level, even in very dry basements. Instead, consider engineered hardwood click flooring, laminates, tile, or carpeting. If you are worried about wet floors or insect infestation, install treated or marine plywood as a subfloor before proceeding with the final finish.

Install final fixtures
Have the plumber and electrician return to install the permanent bathroom and electrical fixtures.

Paint trim and walls
Furnish your new rooms and enjoy them!

8 Ways to "Manage Up" --without Your Boss Knowing You're Doing It

Guest post by Beverly Flaxington
Author of Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior

A Gallup poll of more 1 million employed US workers showed that 17% of employee turnover is because of a bad boss or immediate supervisor. But the poll also concluded that 75% of all turnovers are influenced by managers -- that is, a bad manager is often the tipping point in an employee's decision to leave.

In my consulting and coaching work with employees, we spend far too much of our time working on "managing up" -- helping employee deal with a difficult or incompetent boss. Oftentimes the boss has an unpleasant manner. The boss is a bully or a poor communicator. Sometimes the boss is disorganized and blames their employee as a result for any ensuing problems. 

Unfortunately for most of us, we have, or will have at some point, a difficult boss. Instead of leaping to another job hoping that the next one will be better, it's important to develop managing-up skills. The more you learn to manage up, the more successful you will be wherever you are and whatever you're doing. 

Here are eight tips for managing your boss, without the boss knowing you're doing it.

1. Match your behavioral style to hers. Observe your boss's behavioral and communication style. Is she fast-paced and quick to make decisions? Is she slow to think about things and want time to process? The more you can match your style to your boss's style when communicating, the more she will really hear what you're saying.

2. Think about his "what's in it for me?" Every time you approach your boss, try to imagine what he cares about. What do you know about the view from his seat? Can you frame comments in a way that make him feel that what you're proposing or doing benefits him?

3. Be a proactive communicator. Find out your boss's preferred method -- email, in person drop-ins, or lengthy memos -- and be sure to pass along information to her regularly. Most bosses don't like to be caught unawares. Even if your boss doesn't ask it of you, tell her what's going on -- keep her updated. 

4. Accommodate his weaknesses. If you know you have a boss who's disorganized, instead of grousing about it, help him to be on top of things. If you know your boss is often late to meetings, offer to kick off the next meeting for him. If you know your boss is slow to respond, continue to work on a project while you wait to hear back from him. Will you be hiding your boss and enabling bad behavior? Maybe, but you're also giving him much-needed support to succeed -- and he'll appreciate you for it.

5. Do the best job you can do. Too many times people will start to slack off or lose interest or stop performing well because they feel entitled with a bad boss. Don't do it. Keep your mind focused on top performance. 

6. Likewise, keep a good attitude. Go home and complain to your spouse or friends all you want, but when in the office or workplace, stay upbeat and engaged. You never know who is watching or listening.

7. Don't react to a bully. Remember that bullies get their power from those who are afraid. If your boss is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge -- stand firm. If you're doing the best job you can do, keep your head held high and don't give in to the bullying. Ask questions, seek to understand, and work to diffuse a difficult situation instead of cowering or responding in anger. It takes practice, but the results are well worth it.

8. Know her place in the pecking order. Very importantly, know where your boss stands in the company. If your boss is well regarded and well liked, she probably does a very good job of managing up too. As a result, you will be considered the "problem" if you complain about her to higher ups. If you decide you want to take action against your boss, weigh your options carefully before you do.

Being Prepared for that Disaster

Guest post by Barrie Switzen

n a flash it was gone! Fortunately it wasn't your home that was demolished or severally damaged with all its contents as Hurricane Sandy came barreling up the Eastern Coast. There are many lessons to be learned from this. Mainly how prepared are you for any disaster? 

RECORDS: It is not only your home one has to be concerned about but also the contents. I don’t know about you but I am re-examining how I save and store my records and legal documents. I realized my attorney didn't have some vital records of mine:

1. Copies of my proprietary lease for my home
2. Cemetery plot certificate of where I should be buried
3. Birth certificate and any death certificates that could possibly be needed
4. Various financial agencies I deal with
5. Vital contact information for:
    a. my doctors
    b. relatives who should be notified in case of an emergency
    c. my insurance agent
    d. the superintendent of my building and/or the management company
    e. my IT people who are familiar with my computers and how I do business
    f. who has keys to my apartment

Yes, one could have a safe deposit box or a fire/water proof box on the premises. But when you carefully examine the warranty, how safe will that box protect your vital records. At a bank if you have to go downstairs to the vault: can it get flooded and if electricity goes out then what? 

While I’m not an advocate of doing my banking on line I feel many aspects of my communication has to be re-examined for now I’m exploring the “Cloud” at least for backup. 
What about those pictures: memories can’t be replaced. If you don’t have scanners use your cell phone to take pictures. I am in the process of duplicating in some format what I consider vital pieces of information/pictures and then sending it up to the cloud with backups on flash drives and CD’s. Yes, maybe I’m over doing it….but I would rather this than being sorry later. What a nightmare to replace all your day to day identification. How long do you think you would have to stand in line at the DMV to get your license? And we aren’t even mentioning proving who we are. The world is changing and we have to adapt.

FOOD AND WATER: it wasn't until days after Sandy left us I finally emptied my tub (I did mini-baths) along with all the pots and pans then I donated food I would not be using. However, for emergency purposes I still have two gallons of water. In preparation I purchased a lot of canned food I don’t normally consume along with packages of food that doesn’t spoil. This is good to have on hand anytime as events happen that are out of our control. I’m not big on frozen food thinking what would happen if and when electricity went out. One food to keep in mind is Peanut Butter as a staple, you might want to add dry cereal to the list. 

TOILETRIES AND FIRST AID KIT: this is almost as vital as food and water. What does your medicine cabinet have? Now is the time to stock up. One thing for sure: bandages don’t expire. What about toothpaste (OK baking soda for no water) and toothbrushes, special soaps, deodorant, shampoo and other personal items. Think of what you would take if you went to a third world country on vacation keeping those supplies in a separate place. Quite some time ago I was given a flashlight that runs on both batteries and a mini-solar panel. Those space blankets used for the New York City Marathon are an ideal item to have on hand and to keep them in your car. Newspapers are another excellent source to use to keep warm; I use them to dry out my shoes at times. And don’t forget to keep a pair of glasses handy. 

INSURANCE: Now is an excellent time to document your possessions by writing along with pictures as excellent proof. 
If you live in a house don’t forget to take pictures of your home listing all the extra things you did to it: added installation, upgraded the windows and doors, etc. If you have receipts of any and all add to the pile. When I was cleaning out my parents’ house I had receipts, warranties, for everything including my father’s first income tax he ever filed. One doesn't have to make copies of all this but make sure you have duplicates just in case of an emergency.

PETS: Don’t forget to plan for them as well.

 

Being Prepared for that Disaster

Guest post by Barrie-Louise Switzen

In a flash it was gone! Fortunately it wasn't your home that was demolished or severally damaged with all its contents as Hurricane Sandy came barreling up the Eastern Coast. There are many lessons to be learned from this. Mainly how prepared are you for any disaster? 

RECORDS: It is not only your home one has to be concerned about but also the contents. I don’t know about you but I am re-examining how I save and store my records and legal documents. I realized my attorney didn't have some vital records of mine:

1. Copies of my proprietary lease for my home
2. Cemetery plot certificate of where I should be buried
3. Birth certificate and any death certificates that could possibly be needed
4. Various financial agencies I deal with
5. Vital contact information for:
    a. my doctors
    b. relatives who should be notified in case of an emergency
    c. my insurance agent
    d. the superintendent of my building and/or the management company
    e. my IT people who are familiar with my computers and how I do business
    f. who has keys to my apartment

Yes, one could have a safe deposit box or a fire/water proof box on the premises. But when you carefully examine the warranty, how safe will that box protect your vital records. At a bank if you have to go downstairs to the vault: can it get flooded and if electricity goes out then what? 

While I’m not an advocate of doing my banking on line I feel many aspects of my communication has to be re-examined for now I’m exploring the “Cloud” at least for backup. 
What about those pictures: memories can’t be replaced. If you don’t have scanners use your cell phone to take pictures. I am in the process of duplicating in some format what I consider vital pieces of information/pictures and then sending it up to the cloud with backups on flash drives and CD’s. Yes, maybe I’m over doing it….but I would rather this than being sorry later. What a nightmare to replace all your day to day identification. How long do you think you would have to stand in line at the DMV to get your license? And we aren’t even mentioning proving who we are. The world is changing and we have to adapt.

FOOD AND WATER: it wasn't until days after Sandy left us I finally emptied my tub (I did mini-baths) along with all the pots and pans then I donated food I would not be using. However, for emergency purposes I still have two gallons of water. In preparation I purchased a lot of canned food I don’t normally consume along with packages of food that doesn’t spoil. This is good to have on hand anytime as events happen that are out of our control. I’m not big on frozen food thinking what would happen if and when electricity went out. One food to keep in mind is Peanut Butter as a staple, you might want to add dry cereal to the list. 

TOILETRIES AND FIRST AID KIT: this is almost as vital as food and water. What does your medicine cabinet have? Now is the time to stock up. One thing for sure: bandages don’t expire. What about toothpaste (OK baking soda for no water) and toothbrushes, special soaps, deodorant, shampoo and other personal items. Think of what you would take if you went to a third world country on vacation keeping those supplies in a separate place. Quite some time ago I was given a flashlight that runs on both batteries and a mini-solar panel. Those space blankets used for the New York City Marathon are an ideal item to have on hand and to keep them in your car. Newspapers are another excellent source to use to keep warm; I use them to dry out my shoes at times. And don’t forget to keep a pair of glasses handy. 

INSURANCE: Now is an excellent time to document your possessions by writing along with pictures as excellent proof. 
If you live in a house don’t forget to take pictures of your home listing all the extra things you did to it: added installation, upgraded the windows and doors, etc. If you have receipts of any and all add to the pile. When I was cleaning out my parents’ house I had receipts, warranties, for everything including my father’s first income tax he ever filed. One doesn't have to make copies of all this but make sure you have duplicates just in case of an emergency.

PETS: Don’t forget to plan for them as well.