Monthly Archives: July 2009

Do I really need a receipt for a pack of gum?

New ImageI’m noticing myself getting increasing irritated at having to tell cashiers at grocery stores and convenience stores “I don’t want the receipt.”   Is it just me that thinks in this debit-card, eco-conscious world it’s time to rethink the idea of giving out paper receipts for a bottle of water and pack of gum?  Or for a burger from the drive-through? 

Cashiers usually plop the receipt in my hand along with my change or hold it out for me to retrieve.  I then have to figure out where to put it in order to put my change back into your wallet.  I can throw it into my already unorganized purse, toss it onto the floorboard of my car, or find a trash can and immediately throw it away.  Granted, it doesn’t take much effort to do any of these things, but when I’m having a particularly busy day, even the simple task of dealing with the receipt feels like a major annyonance.

In these days of credit and debit cards a purchase will automatically be reflected in your monthly statement so you don’t need to diligently bring your receipts home and keep them safe.  With all the recent eco-conscious programs – particularly in Austin – why do we need to waste paper on printing out a receipt for a pack of gum and a bottle of water?  Don’t get me wrong, I still want receipts for non-perishable big-ticket items in case I need to return something.  But it feels impractical and grossly out-dated to keep handing out receipts that (I think) in most cases are simply thrown away.

 Am I the only one that’s having a problem with this?  Does this bother you? I’d love to know what you do with your receipts.

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Get greener with these inexpensive home projects.

FrontWho isn’t aware of the influence of green movement today? Green is a term widely used to describe buildings designed and constructed with minimal negative impact to the environment and with an emphasis on conservation of resources, energy efficiency, and healthful interior spaces.  In Austin, you can’t escape news stories about the latest green initiatives.  And with the current economy, it makes sense to save on energy efficiency by using green ideas to trim energy bills.

Here are a few inexpensive green home projects which might perk your interest in going greener.

  1. Clean your refrigerator coils.

  2. Replace weatherstripping.

  3. Install a programmable thermostat.

  4. Insulate hot-water pipes.

  5. Install a clothes-line.

  6. A tube-type skylight.

  7. Install a recirculating pump under your sink.

The Green Home Guide Web site www.greenhomeguide.org is a valuable resource if you’re interested in green remodeling.  Taking small steps which are practical to your household is a balanced way to implement green in your home today.

Feng Shui 101 – Why is it best to have your bedroom in back of your home?

Feng Shui involves more than most people realize.  Traditional Feng Shui examines different aspects of your home and one of the most important details is your floor plan.

So why is it best to have your bedroom at the back of your home?  It’s because it follows the most basic of Feng Shui Principles – the principal of Yin and Yang. (See Yin/Yang Page for more info).  Yin and yang are the two opposing universal forces which balance each other.  This is an important aspect of Feng Shui and here’s why.

Ying corresponds to stillness and tranquil energy.  Yang corresponds to activity and moving energy.  In your home, rooms that should be more yin are the rooms you want to relax in -bedrooms, reading, and mediation areas.  Usually, the back of the house is quieter because it is shielded from the street activity and it will naturally be more yin.   Wherever the quietest, least active areas are in your home will have yin energy.

What if your bedroom faces the street?  That’s okay.  In Feng Shui, there are lots of ways to make a space work better.  When you can’t change the floorplan, do what you can do — decorate to create more yin energy.  That includes:

  • Installing light-blocking cellular shades
  • Hanging heavy-weight curtains (velvet is a good choice)
  • Using subdued patterns on bedding and in artwork
  • Adding an area rug to ground the energy
  • Keeping fire colors to a minimum.  Fire colors are red, orange, pink and purple.
  • Adding “white noise” to quiet the space

When you walk into your bedroom or meditation area, you want to be able to drop the stress in your shoulders and feel relaxed.  The more yin energy the room exudes, the easier you’ll be able to do so.

Solar screening seriously helps keep you cool.

10 ways - WindowsI recently had solar screens installed on all the windows on the back of my home.   I liked the east-west orientation of my home so I could see the sunsets in the evening.  The sunsets are lovely.   However, during the summer months (and here in Texas that could be from May through October) the incessant sun rays coming in from the western wall of windows is oppressive and financially draining.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get the solar screens, but I can’t say enough about how well they are keeping my home cool. 

The screens come in different degrees of screening ability.  I chose the highest amount of screening which is 90%.  You can get less screening and still receive benefits.   It’s going to depend on how much the sun blazes into your home and how much darkening you can live with.  The screens definitely have a darkening effect on the interior of your home.  The 90% are quite dark and I couldn’t live in a home with the screens on all the windows -the front of the house has regular screens on it which let in the full amount of light.

I love lots of windows and lots of sunlight and but I’m happier having a cooler home.  I’m told that sun screens are less expensive than window tinting, and the City of Austin is offering rebates for the screening.  I suggest you consider doing one or the other.  If you don’t think you can live with the darkening affect of the screens, window tinting is a great alternative.

Feng Shui 101 – Find the Foyer

Have you ever had the experience of walking into a house through a front door that opens directly into a living or dining room?  Did it feel unnatural or awkward to you?  Would you feel more comfortable entering a restaurant with a hostess area rather than walking directly into the dining room?     

Having a front door directly opening into a home (or restaurant) contradicts the principles of Feng Shui. Why?  Because energy (“chi”) flows into a house through the front door and it’s best not to have it rushing in,  it’s best to gather it in a foyer, then let it gently flow into the rest of the house.  When guests enter and depart, doesn’t it inherently feel better to have a foyer in which you can greet them and then send them off?   As you receive guests through the front door, you also receive chi.  Even though you can’t see chi you can feel it.  Thinking of chi as a flowing current may help you see that a gradual flow is more natural than a rushing current.

“Comfort or discomfort is an intuitive reaction to energy that feels wrong.  It is bad Feng Shui.”

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Getting Real when Selling your Home.

Sold SignHome Sellers in the current Austin real estate market are having to face the reality of a market that’s great for buyers, but difficult for sellers.  Homes are selling, but the sales prices are lower than in previous years.  I’m in the unique position of being a Realtor® and selling my own home so I can relate to the challenges my clients are facing.

The things I recently accepted about my own selling situation were:  improvements I put in weren’t valued as much as I thought they were going to be; I was not going to realize the profit anticipated when I bought the home; and recent sales in the neighborhood indicated a down-shifting market so my sales price had to be in line with comparable properties.

For me, and any home seller right now, ignoring the following facts will only add to your stress of selling and will probably delay getting it sold.

  • First, I had to wrap my mind around the fact that it’s a buyer’s market which means, quite simply, there’s a surplus of homes on the market and the best-priced home is going to get sold.
  • Second, the improvements and features that I put into the home don’t necessarily bring any increase in sales price in this market.  Unfortunately, potential buyers may not value custom tile or landscaping as much as you do; however, the good news is that more amenities and features in a home can lead to a quicker sale and help your home stand out from the competition. 
  • Third, no amount of Staging will guarantee you the sales price you want.  I’m an ardent practitioner of Staging and Feng Shui Real Estate. Using these techniques will help you sell your home and distance it from the competition, but they won’t help much if your home is over-priced. 
  • Fourth, if you decide to accept an offer lower than what you had hoped for, don’t think of the buyer as the enemy.  Try to work all issues out amicably and don’t make it a war.  Be grateful for the offer and that you are selling your home in this market and create a transaction grounded on goodwill.
  • If you hire a Realtor® to sell your home,  follow the advice given.  Don’t confer with neighbor’s, coworkers, relatives, or anyone else that isn’t an active Realtor® in the current market in Austin, Texas.  The fewer opinions you have flowing into your stream of thought the better. 

A previous client hired my company to sell her home.  I meticulously staged it, marketed it, and gave her my recommendations for the listing price.  She didn’t follow my price recommendation, her mother rearranged all my staging, and she conferred with everyone she knew about what to do to sell her house – which ultimately made her fearful to take any action.  After 100 days (the longest time it’s ever taken for me to sell a house), we received a workable offer and the house sold.  But what could have been a relatively easy process turned into daily stress for over three months with the end result no better than if all that second-guessing had not been done.

Natural Cleaning Products.

KitchenUsing green cleaning products for household cleaning without toxins can work well, but since there are no federal requirements regarding the safety of each ingredient in the product, if you want to ensure you’re cleaning green, consider using these natural products.

  • Cleaning Counter-tops –  Baking Soda
  • Removing soap residue from shower stalls – Cream of Tartar
  • Deodorizing toilet bowl – White Vinegar
  • Removing stains from bathtub – Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Freshening laundry – Borax
  • General household cleaning – Castile Soap

You’ll love the natural smell from using these rather than an offensive chemical smell from countless cleaning products.  For me, it helps me stay in the green frame of mind by using natural products.