A Guide to Using the Debt Snowball Method

  • Get Out of Debt

Debt snowball is a debt repayment strategy that can help you to pay off debt, improve your credit score, and make you feel better about your finances. It’s one of the most effective debt payoff strategies and has helped millions of Americans to escape mounting credit card, student loan, and personal loan debt.

In this guide, we’ll look at the basics, presenting you with a debt snowball calculator and some essential information so you can use this method for yourself when paying off debt.

What is the Debt Snowball Method?

Debt snowball is a payoff strategy designed to boost your confidence, reduce your debts, and improve your credit report. The idea is simple: Continue meeting your current monthly payment obligations and put all extra money you have towards the smallest debt. Unlike the debt avalanche method, which focuses on the debt with the highest interest rate, the goal is to focus on the smallest debt, whether that be a car loan, credit card, or student loan.

There are some obvious flaws with this strategy, but there are also some surprising advantages, both of which we’ll discuss below.

How the Debt-Snowball Method Helps You Repay Your Loans

Payoff strategies like debt snowball work by increasing your interaction with your debt, encouraging you to increase your monthly payments, thus reducing the loan term and the total interest.

The reason debt escalates so quickly is that your monthly payment only covers a small percentage of your total balance and most of this is interest. If we use credit cards as an example, the average monthly payment is around 2%. With an APR of 18% on a balance of $10,000, you’re paying $1,800 a year or $150 a month. This means your first month’s balance is $10,150, which in turn means that your monthly payment of around $200 (2%) reduces your balance by just $50. The same happens again the next month, with the interest now calculated against the remaining balance of $9,950.

Every additional payment you make once that 2% has been paid, reduces the principal/balance further. If you pay just $50 more in that first month, you’re repaying twice as much of the principal and next month’s balance will be $9,900. This strategy not only increases the rate at which you pay off the loan, but because the balance is much smaller, the interest payments are also smaller, which means you spend less.

Debt Snowball Calculator

You can use a debt snowball calculator to help you pay off debt, but you don’t need one. A debt snowball calculator will simply tell you how long it takes to clear your debt and which debt is the smallest, but the latter is easy to calculator yourself and the former may do more harm than good.

Simply gather information on all of your debts and then zero-in on the one with the smallest balance. You don’t need to worry about the interest rate or monthly payment—it’s all about the balance. As an example, your list of debts from smallest to largest may look like this:

Type of Debt

Interest 

Minimum Monthly Payment

Balance

Credit Card 1

20%

$50

$2,000

Credit Card 2

20%

$200

$10,000

Credit Card 3

16%

$240

$12,000

Car Loan

5%

$400

$20,000

In this example, the first $2,000 debt won’t take very long to clear. And once it does, you have one less debt to worry about; one less monthly payment to make. You can then focus on the next smallest debt and keep repaying them until you’re 100% debt-free.

Keeping Accounts Open

The goal is this strategy is to clear accounts, improve your FICO Score and ensure you remain on-course for complete financial freedom. It’s tempting, therefore, to close accounts as soon as they clear and place a big green tick next to them in your mind. However, doing this could seriously reduce your credit score and undo all your hard work, at least in the short-term.

This is all down to something known as credit utilization, which accounts for close to a third of your FICO Score calculation. Lenders want to know that you’re not credit-hungry and won’t use every cent of credit that’s offered to you. It displays a level of irresponsibility and a lack of control and it’s a major concern. To account for this, the credit utilization aspect of your score compares all your available credit (such as the credit limit on a credit card) to all your used credit (such as the debt on that card). The higher the percentage of used credit is, the more of a negative impact it will have on your total score.

Every time you clear an account, you reduce this ratio by decreasing your debt, but if you then close that account, you’re also reducing your credit.

How to Get the Money You Need

Debt snowball is designed to be simple and easy to implement, but it also relies on you finding additional cash every month to increase your minimum payments. No extra cash means you won’t pay off debt early and this strategy will be a bust.

So, how can you hope to find this extra money?

  • Sell What You Don’t Need: Most American households accumulate huge amounts of junk over time, from old tech and furniture to clothes, media, ornaments, and more. If it’s gathering dust and doesn’t have a sentimental or collectible value, you don’t need it and can sell it.
  • Budget: The average household wastes thousands of dollars a year on food (40% of the average grocery shop ends up in the garbage) lottery tickets, cigarettes, and other luxury expenses. If you want to save your way to an easier life then you need to budget.
  • Ask for a Raise/Promotion: You won’t get it if you don’t ask. If you’ve been at your place of employment for a long time and believe you deserve it, then put your case forward and see how it goes.
  • Get a Part-Time Job: Have a few extra hours on an evening or a weekend? Look for part-time work that won’t be too taxing and will still allow you to relax and enjoy life. Every cent you earn takes you one step closer to clearing your debts.
  • Become Part of the Gig Economy: Freelancing has created endless opportunities for writers, designers, artists, coders, and anyone with some time on their hands and a little skill. Check freelancing portals and put those skills to good use generating extra cash.
  • Cash in Savings and Investments: It’s important to have a rainy-day fund, but there’s no point clinging onto it if you’re standing in the middle of a downpour. The same goes for investments earning a few bucks a year. You’ll spend more on interest payments than you’ll ever make through dividends and savings.

Debt Snowball vs Debt Stacking

There are several strategies for paying off debt, but the most common are debt snowball and debt avalanche, also known as debt stacking. The debt avalanche method focuses on the debt with the highest interest rate and then works its way down. The principal is the same as the debt snowball method in that you keep meeting your minimum payments and use all extra money to focus on a single debt, but the debt you focus on changes.

You can read our guide to Debt Snowball vs Debt Avalanche to learn more about how these two compare. We also have a complete guide to the Debt Avalanche Method.

When is Debt Snowball the Best Option?

The debt snowball method works well when you have multiple debts of similar interest rates and monthly payments. It also works very well if your costliest debts (in terms of interest) have the smallest balances. 

But it’s not all about the size of your debt as this strategy is also very good at boosting your confidence and motivating you. People get stuck in a cycle of debt because they focus on the short-term instead of the long-term. They don’t think, “This $10,000 balance will cost me over $5,000 in total interest” they just think, “This $10,000 debt is only costing me $200 a month.”

If you find yourself rooted in this mindset, then debt snowball might be right for you because it focuses on a long-term goal while also providing you with short-time success. You will see the results happen right in front of your eyes and this could spur you on to continue. This is important, because without that motivation boost and without those visible results, you may start using your additional income to spend on luxuries and not to clear your debts.

When is Debt Snowball the Worst Option?

As discussed under out Debt Snowball Calculator section above, this strategy can ignore high-interest debts in favor of debt with small balances. If your debt is mainly credit card or loan based, this shouldn’t be a major problem. However, if you have a credit card with a massive balance and interest rate, as well as a few small loans and installment plans, it could be.

In this case, you’re allowing your credit card balance to go unchecked while you focus on small interest loans. You will still pay off debt in the long-run, but it will cost you much more than if you were to focus on that credit card debt in the first place.

If your minimum payments are at their biggest with debts that won’t be touched for months or years, maybe it’s not the right strategy for you.

Summary: Is the Debt Snowball Strategy Right For you?

The problem with debt is that we tend to focus on the smaller picture. If we have debts of $30,000 costing $500 a month and generating over $20,000 in total interest, logic dictates that a sudden windfall of $30,000 should be used to clear those debts. It would save $500 a month and $20,000 over the term.

However, the vast majority of debtors would sooner put that money towards a car, home or vacation, seeing the cost of the debt as $500 a month and not $20,000 over several years.

The debt snowball method may not make much financial sense over the long-term, but the same can be said for loans, interest, debt consolidation and everything else that we willingly subject ourselves to. The point is that it creates small, achievable milestones; it makes the impossible possible, and that’s why it still serves a purpose when compared to the avalanche strategy.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

10 Things You Should Do Before Applying for a Mortgage

I recently wrote that you should look for a mortgage before searching for a property to buy because unless you have lots of cash, you’re going to need a loan.

Now let’s talk about what you should do before you apply for a mortgage to avoid common setbacks that could, well, set you back.

1. Rent a Place First

While it might sound like a no-brainer, renting before you buy a home or condo is a smart move for several different reasons.

For one, it’ll show you firsthand what goes into homeownership. If things break or go wrong while renting, you can typically call the property management company or landlord for help.

Once it’s your own place, you’ll be fixing it yourself or paying out of your own pocket for a professional to assist you.

Additionally, if you rent first you’ll have a lower chance of payment shock, which is when monthly housing payments jump exponentially.

Mortgage lenders like applicants who have shown in the past that they can handle large housing payments to ensure they don’t default for that very reason.

So renting will make you both a more knowledgeable homeowner and a better candidate for a mortgage.

That being said, it’s perfectly acceptable to live at your parents’ house before you apply for a mortgage too, at least in terms of qualifying.

2. Check Your Credit Scores and Reports

Most cliché advice ever. Yes, but there’s a reason. It’s very, very important, if not the most important aspect of home loan approval.

It also happens to take a lot of time to fix credit-related issues, so it’s not a last-minute activity if you want to be successful.

These days it’s also super easy to check your credit scores and reports for free, thanks to services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.

Simply taking the time to sign up and monitor your credit could make or break you when it comes time to apply for a mortgage.

It may also save you a ton of money as higher credit scores are typically rewarded with lower mortgage rates, which equates to lower monthly payments and lots of interest saved.

If your scores aren’t all good, tackle the issue(s) immediately so you’re in excellent standing (760+ FICO) when it comes time to apply.

3. Pay Down Your Debts

Similarly, knowing much how outstanding debt you’ve got, along with the associated minimum payments, can play a huge role in a mortgage approval.

Simply put, the less debt you’ve got, the more you’ll be able to afford on your given salary, all else being equal.

It can actually be a win-win to pay down debt prior to a mortgage application because it’ll boost your purchasing power and probably increase your credit scores at the same time.

The result may be even more purchasing power thanks to a lower mortgage rate, which drives payments down and increases affordability.

To determine how much debt you’ve got, grab a copy of your credit report and add up all the minimum monthly payments.

These all eat into your affordability, so eliminating them or reducing the balances can help.

4. Put the Spending on Hold

Staying in the credit realm, avoiding unnecessary swiping (or now dipping/tapping) weeks and months before applying for a home loan can have a big impact.

First off, your credit scores may drop as a result of more outstanding credit card debt. It’d be silly to make a small or medium-sized purchase that jeopardized your very large home purchase.

Secondly, the new debt may eat into your DTI ratio, thereby limiting what you can afford, even if you pay off your credit cards in full each month.

In other words, it may be best to just wait and make your purchases a month later, once your mortgage funds.

This is also true during the home loan process – don’t go buying the furniture until the mortgage crosses the finish line.

5. Organize Your Assets

Now let’s address assets, which are a close second to credit in terms of importance.

After all, you’ll need them for your down payment, closing costs, and for reserves, the latter of which shows the lender you’ve got money to spare, or a cushion if circumstances change.

But it’s one thing to have these funds, and another to document them.

You’re typically asked to provide your last two months of bank statements to show the lender a pattern of saving money.

To make life easier, it could be prudent to deposit all the necessary funds in one specific account more than two months before application.

That way the money will be seasoned and there won’t be the need for explanation letters if money is constantly going in and out of the account.

The ideal scenario might be a saving account with all the necessary funds and little or no activity for the past 90 days.

6. Think of Any Red Flags

Asset issues are often red flags for loan underwriters. They hate to see money that was just deposited into your account, as they’ll need to source it and then determine if it’s seasoned.

Same goes for recent large deposits. They need to know that it’s your money and not a gift or a loan from someone else since it wouldn’t technically be your money.

Try to think like an underwriter here. Make sure assets are in your own account (not your spouse’s or parents) well in advance and that it makes sense based on what you do for a living/earn.

Also take a hard look at your employment history. Have you been in the same job or line of work for at least two years, is it stable, any recent changes?

Any weird stuff happening with any of your financials? If so, address it personally before the bank does. Work out all the kinks prior to giving the underwriter the keys to your file.

And don’t be afraid to get a pre-qual or pre-approval just to see where you stand. You can have a professional take a look for free with no obligation to use them when you really apply.

7. Decide on a Loan Type Yourself

I see it all the time – a loan officer or broker will basically put a borrower in a certain type of loan without so much as asking what they’d like.

Not everyone wants or needs a 30-year fixed mortgage, even though it’s far and away the most popular loan program out there.

An adjustable-rate mortgage may suit you, or perhaps a 15-year fixed is the better play.

Whatever it is, do the research yourself before the interested parties get involved.

This ensures it’s a more objective choice, and not just a blind, generic, or biased one.

8. Think How Long You’ll Be in the Home

Along those same lines, try to determine your expected tenure ahead of time.

If you know or have a good idea how long you’ll keep the property, it can be instrumental in loan choice.

For example, if you know you’re just buying a starter home, and have pretty strong plans to move in five years or less, a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage might be a better choice than a 30-year fixed.

It could save you a ton of money, some of which could be put toward the down payment on your move-up property.

Conversely, if you’re thinking forever home, it could make sense to get forever financing via a fixed-rate product.

And also pay mortgage points to get an even lower rate you’ll enjoy for decades to come.

9. Understand Mortgage Rates

This one drives me crazy. Everyone just advertises interest rates without explaining them. Where do they come up with them? Why are they different? Why do they move up and down?

These are all important questions you should have the answers to. Sure, you don’t need to be an expert because it can get pretty complicated, but a basic understanding is a must.

This can affect the type of loan you choose, when you decide to lock your mortgage rate, and if you’ll pay discount points.

If you’re simply comparing rates from different lenders, maybe you should take the time to better understand the fundamentals while you’re at it.

This can help with negotiating rates too, as an informed borrower who knows the mortgage lingo will have an easier time making a case if they feel they’re being charged too much.

10. Check Reviews, Get Referrals, and Shop Around

Lastly, do your diligence on lenders upfront, not after applying.

It’s a lot harder to shop once you’ve applied because you won’t want to “lose your place in line.”

You could also lose your deposit if a lender charges you upfront and you go elsewhere.

It’s a lot more difficult to even be bothered once you’ve given someone all your financial information and signed a bunch of disclosures.

Whenever you buy a TV or a car, or even a toaster, you probably put a decent amount of time into research and price comparisons.

You don’t just show up at Best Buy or the car lot and purchase something that day.

With a mortgage, it’s even more important to put in the time since it’s such a massive cost, and one that sticks with you a lot longer. Try 360 months longer.

If you make missteps or fail to shop for a better price, it’ll sting month after month, not just once.

Remember, real estate agents influence lender choice for nearly half of home buyers. Wouldn’t you rather make that choice yourself?

(photo: Javi Sánchez de la viña)

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smell

The struggle is real.

Getting rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment is a common question. But the smell is only the beginning of the problems that residual smoke can cause.

Smoking materials contain toxins like ammonia, arsenic, formaldehyde and acetone. American Cancer Society reveals that there are thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke. More than 70 are carcinogenic and can potentially cause cancer. Several are radioactive. The chemicals in cigarettes contribute to heart disease, respiratory problems and stroke.

Even if you aren’t in the room with a smoker, the scent, the health risks and the toxins can linger in the air for hours. The exhaled chemicals create a sticky residue. The residue combines with other indoor pollutants, clings to surfaces and infiltrates carpets and air ducts. The chemicals can even contaminate dust.

The chemicals that linger on surfaces and absorbed into objects is thirdhand smoke. You can’t eliminate thirdhand smoke by opening a window or putting out an air freshener. Unless you scrub or replace every item in your home or seal thirdhand smoke in under a new coat of paint, it poses a lingering threat to your health.

Get rid of the cigarette smell before you even move in

The best time to deal with cleaning up thirdhand smoke is before you move in. A thorough check-in is an important part of the move-in checklist. So, if your new home smells smoky during your walkthrough, insist that your landlord or property manager resolve the issue right away.

If the smell is definitely emanating from your apartment (and not drifting in from neighbors who smoke) the property might shampoo the carpets, deep clean, scrub the walls and provide air purifiers. If the smell is very strong, replacing the carpet and repainting the walls may also be required.

Once thirdhand smoke has infiltrated an apartment it’s very difficult to get rid of. So, resist the urge to live with the smell or hope it goes away on its own. It won’t.

How to get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment

If the smell is minor or if you’re cleaning up an apartment you already live in, there are several ways to banish that cigarette smell from your home. It isn’t enough to simply mask the odor. You have to clean every surface, absorb and neutralize the smell and purify the air.

1. Throw away the source of the smell

cigarettes

To get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment, first, toss out all the smoking materials. Then clean out everything they’ve touched and anything you don’t want to keep.

  1. Put the contents of ashtrays into a garbage bag. Make sure you wet the remnants down first to eliminate fire risk.
  2. Tie up the garbage bag and remove it from the apartment.
  3. Throw away unsmoked cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco. If you just quit, you don’t need any additional temptation. And keeping extras on hand will just encourage guests to smoke forcing you to clean all over again.
  4. Toss out anything that’s too smoky to salvage or that you don’t want to commit time to clean. That can include furniture from a smoking area, ashtrays or porous items like magazines, newspapers and cardboard boxes that soak up the smell.
  5. Set aside garbage cans for cleaning.

2. Increase airflow

open windows

Still, stale air makes that smoky smell even more potent. So, get the air moving to help things smell fresh.

  1. Open windows to get the air flowing.
  2. Place portable fans in the windows of the smokiest rooms.
  3. Make sure the blades are blowing out, pulling the smell outdoors.
  4. Run the fans for a full day, if possible. If it’s too cold, try for an hour or two at a time.

3. Sprinkle and steam

steam cleaner

If you can’t wash it by hand or throw it in a washing machine, try a sprinkle of baking soda and a steam cleaning. It’s simple but effective.

  1. Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) on rugs, carpets, mattresses and sofas and anything else that can’t easily be laundered. The molecules in it bind to odors, neutralizing them.
  2. Let it sit for several hours (or even a full day) when there’s no foot traffic.
  3. Vacuum up baking soda residue.
  4. Repeat the process if the smell persists.
  5. Then, steam clean carpets and upholstery if the label says it’s safe to do so. You can rent a cleaner or purchase your own at a big box store.

4. Wash what you can

washing clothes

A run through the washing machine is a quick and easy way to eliminate odors. Be sure to check labels to make sure everything is machine washable.

  1. Launder all clothing that’s been exposed to smoke.
  2. Then, move on to bedding.
  3. Don’t forget to remove decorative items like tablecloths, pillow covers and washable couch cushion covers.
  4. Dry items outdoors, if possible. The sun’s UV rays also break down odor-causing compounds, so a little sunshine will help.

5. Scrub all the hard surfaces

scrubbing hard surfaces

After you’ve cleaned or discarded clothing, textiles and other soft items, move on to hard surfaces. Pay particular attention to walls, counters and floors. Don’t forget about ceilings, windows, window sills and light switch covers. The smoke residue will be sticky, so you’ll have to scrub.

You can make your own natural cleaners or purchase heavy-duty cleaners at the local home improvement or hardware store. Leave options like sodium phosphate to your landlord or to the pros they hire, since it can damage paint, metal and wood finishes. Here are a few of the most popular natural options you can make at home.

Using vinegar to remove cigarette smoke smell

Vinegar is a very effective smoke residue remover. Fill a bucket or spray bottle with a solution made of two-thirds distilled white vinegar and one-third water. This will effectively clean most surfaces.

  1. Spray walls, floors and counters with the water and vinegar solution.
  2. Wipe clean with a sponge or soft, clean rag, rinsing frequently.
  3. For windows, use a 50-50 water and vinegar mix and wipe with a newspaper or lint-free cloth.

Using ammonia to remove cigarette smoke smell

For tougher stains and residue, try an ammonia solution. Just take care to make sure the mixture isn’t too concentrated. And never combine it with bleach or cleaners that contain bleach. It can result in toxic fumes that cause headaches and seizures.

  1. For counters and floors add a tablespoon of ammonia for every cup of water.
  2. Wear protective gloves and open the windows to additional ventilation.
  3. Test in an inconspicuous place before applying to surfaces.
  4. To protect painted walls, reduce the concentration to 1/4 cup of anomia per gallon of warm water.
  5. Let it sit on surfaces or walls for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a clean sponge or rag.
  6. Follow with a rinse of warm water.

6. Don’t forget the ventilation

replacing air filter

To get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment, you need to clean every space, no matter how small. That includes the spaces that move air through your home. Turn off the power before you start disassembling.

  1. Put in a maintenance request for a clean furnace filter.
  2. Vacuum out the ducts so polluted dust doesn’t move through the ducts into the rest of the apartment.
  3. Scrub the air vent covers and registers to remove dirt and grime.
  4. Wipe down the vents in air conditioning units.
  5. Clean all fan blades, fixtures and light bulbs on ceiling fans.
  6. Gently remove vent covers on the microwave and range top in the kitchen.
  7. Vacuum or dust inside.
  8. Wash the fan covers with soap and water.
  9. Put in a maintenance request to clean out exhaust fans in the bathroom, as well. This is a little more complicated, so your landlord may prefer you let the pros handle it.

7. Clean overlooked items

cleaning window blinds

Once you’ve tackled the big items like furniture, carpets, walls and counters, it’s time to think small. Make sure you’ve scrubbed all surfaces, even the overlooked ones.

  1. Look high and low. The tops of kitchen counters and baseboards are dust magnets.
  2. Wipe down little things like lamp bases, towel racks and window blinds.
  3. Place un-washable items outdoors in the sun (or by the window) to let the UV rays neutralize the smell.
  4. Put a cup of baking soda in a garbage bag with any items you can’t wash, like books or important papers. Let them sit in a sealed bag for a day, then shake off the powder.

8. Neutralize odors

baking soda

As we’ve already learned baking soda and vinegar can effectively get rid of cigarette smells. But activated charcoal works, too. Use all three to help neutralize odors in your apartment.

  1. Place bowls of baking soda around the room to absorb the smell in particularly pungent areas. The baking soda will eventually reach a saturation point, so you may have to rotate fresh bowls in.
  2. Boil a pot of vinegar on the stove for a few hours to neutralize the smell of stale cigarette smoke. (Don’t worry, the smell of vinegar will fade in time.)
  3. Purchase small bags of activated charcoal at home improvement and hardware stores and set them around the apartment.

9. Purify the air

air purifier

Once you’ve removed or neutralized the odors and cleaned the surfaces as well as you can, turn your attention to the air itself. An air purifier that meets HEPA standards will filter out 99.97 of larger particulates like many of those found in cigarette smoke.

  1. Set up purifier with approved HEPA filters.
  2. The most effective options also have an activated charcoal filter to filter out smaller particles, as well.
  3. Change the filters as recommended.

Snuff out the smoke

These cleaning, deodorizing and air purifying tips can help you get rid of the cigarette smell in your apartment. They can help whether you’re moving into a new home or refreshing your existing space.

Source: rent.com

Healthy Work From Home Habits to Incorporate

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3-healthy-work-from-home-habits-to-incorporate-today

Guest Post

We’re seeing a major trend in employees working from home in 2019. In fact, work from home is the new standard for 50% of the workforce.  While there are perks aplenty when you have a home office (sweatpants for the win), it’s easy to forget to take care of your health.  Below are some tips to make sure you take care of your mind and body while cranking out solid work.

Invest in good furniture

If you’re going to be working from home, it’s important to invest in good furniture to ensure you’re taking care of your body ergonomically speaking. You don’t want to be slouched over at your dining room table all day or sitting on your couch for 8+ hours. It’s important to read up on ergonomics and find the best furniture to support your work. This may be a chair with lumbar support, a wrist rest for typing, or even a footrest, it all depends on your comfort and job duties. Furniture that supports ergonomics can be pricey but this is an investment in your health, especially if you work at home every day.

Be aware of digital eye strain

Digital eye strain is the discomfort felt from extended use of digital devices. This includes your computer, television, smartphone, gaming device and tablets. You may feel the effects of digital eye strain after just two hours of device usage, maybe even less if you use multiple devices at once. Natural blue light isn’t harmful (it’s the light that makes the sky appear blue) but the artificial light from digital screens is emitted at a much higher frequency. Consider buying a new pair of eyeglasses to help avoid headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision, which are common physical symptoms of digital eye strain.

Schedule your days

Scheduling your work day to the fullest extent possible can have many positive effects. Firstly, if you are able to schedule your day by the hour then you can be as productive within that hour as possible and avoid overworking yourself. It’s common for people who work from home to work from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep at night. This can cause the inability to be productive in your work and ultimately, burn out.

Second, it’s important to schedule a time to workout, have lunch, and take breaks. Seeing these breaks on your calendar will allow you to be more mindful about actually taking the time for yourself, not skipping over it. Take breaks to stretch, go for walks, or grab a coffee. Things you’d normally do with your coworkers to get time away from your desk are still important to do at home! If you need some inspiration, treat yourself to a new planner to help motivate you to plan ahead, take time for yourself, and be the most productive that you can be.

Working from home is an amazing perk that the Internet has brought us. However, it can be harder to pay attention to your workplace health when your workplace is your comfy home. These tips are an easy way to improve your overall wellbeing! Do you work from home? Share your tips to stay healthy throughout the day below!

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3 Healthy Work from Home Habits to Incorporate
Article Name
3 Healthy Work from Home Habits to Incorporate
Description
As the trend of work from home employees continues, it’s important that we remember to take care of ourselves. From scheduling out our days to protecting our eyes, check out these three habits to incorporate when working from home.
Holli Beckman
Publisher Name
Apartminty
Publisher Logo

Source: blog.apartminty.com

How to Decorate for Outdoor Entertaining

Even though you don’t have a sprawling backyard, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy entertaining outdoors. Make the most of your petite patio and turn it into a pocket-sized paradise. Here are our tips for how to decorate small spaces for outdoor entertaining.

● Arrange furniture the right way: The best way to maximize space is to arrange your furniture around the perimeter of the deck or patio. Think twice before placing a table in the center, and instead give your guests plenty of room to stand or move around.

● Add extra seating with large pillows: Get a few extra spots for guests to sit without taking up too much space by throwing in some large floor pillows. They add an extra element of coziness, plus they’re easy to add or subtract.

● Use color wisely: Color can make all the difference when decorating, especially in such a small space. Keep things fresh and airy by sticking to a monochromatic palette in whites or grays. Or add a bit of fun by using colorful accents in eye-catching patterns.

● Be strategic when choosing furniture: Save space by investing in two-for-one pieces of furniture, such as nesting tables, storage ottomans and benches (which can also be used for seating), and folding tables and chairs.

● Bring on the plants: There may be plenty of foliage outside already, but use it strategically in your entertaining area. Plants are a simple way to liven things up and make your modest space feel like an exotic retreat.

● Hang up lights: Strings of bistro lights can instantly open up a small space. Plus, that warm glow will give things a cozier vibe.

Get ready for a summer full of outdoor entertaining!

Source: century21.com

An Eye-Opening Timeline of Tarek El Moussa’s Own Homes, From His First to Where He Lives Today

Tarek El Moussa is known for his impressive home renovations on his HGTV shows “Flip or Flop” and “Flipping 101 With Tarek El Moussa.” But what are his own homes like?

That depends, since this 39-year-old reality TV star has purchased, and rented, quite a few properties for his personal use over the years.

Each reflected where he was in life at the time, whether he was single (when his home had a shark tank), married to Christina Anstead (time to upgrade to a massive family mansion), divorced (hello, “dadchelor” pad!), or starting fresh with his fiancée, Heather Rae Young.

For a good look at how life changes can affect the home you have, check out this timeline of El Moussa’s many homes through the years, and how much his tastes have evolved.

Early 2000s: Tarek El Moussa’s first home

Even El Moussa had to start somewhere! Back when this HGTV star was just 21, he bought his first home—and spent way more than he expected. He set out to find a house for around $400,000, but ended up falling in love with a home that was listed for over $800,000.

“It was the perfect bachelor pad—1,400 square feet, massive master bedroom, man cave all to myself, and coolest of all, a 300-gallon shark tank—may I remind you I was 21 at that time?” he wrote for realtor.com®.

Let’s just say that El Moussa’s first home was a huge life lesson for him that you should never bite off more than you can chew—financially or otherwise.

“I was very, very broke,” he admitted. “With no money for furniture, I ended up living in an empty house for nearly nine months.”

2013–18: El Moussa’s first family home with Christina Anstead

This Yorba Linda, CA, mansion was Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead's family home when they were married.
This Yorba Linda, CA, mansion was Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead’s family home when they were married.

realtor.com

By 2013, El Moussa was married to Christina Anstead, and they had their daughter, Taylor, so they needed a bigger family house. The couple’s hit TV show, “Flip or Flop,” had completed its first season, so they had the cash to upgrade.

El Moussa and Anstead did a lot of work on their backyard.
El Moussa and Anstead did a lot of work on their backyard.

realtor.com

And upgrade they did: El Moussa and Anstead’s home in Yorba Linda, CA, was purchased for an even $2 million at the end of 2013.

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Watch: Kate Gosselin Vacates Her ‘Kate Plus 8’ Pad

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With six bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms, this property was already impressive, but the couple ended up spending an additional $1.5 million to improve the property, turning the backyard into an oasis, with a gorgeous dining area, swanky pool, and fire features.

El Moussa and Anstead lounge at home in a Season 4 episode of "Flip or Flop."
El Moussa and Anstead lounge at home in a Season 4 episode of “Flip or Flop.”

HGTV

Despite all that renovation equity sweat, when the pair split in 2018, they sold the house at a loss, accepting an offer for just $2,995,000—proving that renovations don’t always pay off.

2017: El Moussa’s Bad Decisions houseboat

Originally, El Moussa and Anstead bought this yacht together, naming it Flip or Flop. But soon after they separated, El Moussa pointedly renamed it Bad Decisions.

The boat, which cost almost $1 million, has two bedrooms and two bathrooms—making it virtually as spacious as some of his flips.

With teak flooring and cedar-lined closets, the boat is stylish, and it has a kitchen and a washer and dryer. It is also convertible and can either be left open to the ocean breezes, or closed up so that the heater or air conditioning can make the ride more comfortable.

As it turns out, this boat played an important part in El Moussa’s meeting his fiancée in Newport Beach, CA.

“His boat was parked next to the boat I was on,” Young explained on Netflix’s “Selling Sunset.” “And my girlfriend happened to be on his boat.”

She jumped aboard, she recounted, and El Moussa turned around.

“And he was, like, ‘Hi, I’m Tarek,’” she said. “Then we were just, like, texting and kept in touch.”

2018–20: El Moussa’s postdivorce ‘dadchelor’ pad

El Moussa's "dadchelor" pad
El Moussa’s “dadchelor” pad

realtor.com

After El Moussa and Anstead split, El Moussa moved into a four-bedroom “dadchelor” pad”  in Costa Mesa, CA. A good mix of family-friendly and all-El Moussa—without Anstead’s feminine touches—it was only a couple of blocks from his ex-wife’s place, making shared custody of their kids much simpler.

The home had a pool, spa, and outdoor dining space. The interior was styled in bold colors, making it homey but masculine. With a modern fireplace and high ceilings, the space was perfect for El Moussa.

April 2020: El Moussa and Young’s first rental together

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By April this year, El Moussa and Young were ready to move in together. They rented a snazzy Newport Beach home, just a block from the ocean. El Moussa and Young’s home had fun swivel chairs, a dining table perfect for a family of four, and lots of family photos.

This rental was temporary, but these two certainly looked comfortable!

September 2020: El Moussa’s beachside fixer-upper

Of course, Young and El Moussa didn’t plan to rent forever, and in September, they bought a home in Newport Beach. Originally, El Moussa bought this house to flip, but after he proposed in July, they decided it would make a great home for both of them.

Unfortunately, it looks as if it will be a while before these lovebirds can move in to their new abode.

In November, El Moussa reported that his new house had flooded. “Ugh, when it rains it pours! We are now way behind schedule and way over budget lol,” he said.

It may take some work to get this place ready, but if El Moussa has proved anything, it’s that he can roll with the punches and is always up for a challenge—with his homes or otherwise.

Source: realtor.com

Why maximalism is the perfect decor trend for people living in small spaces – Insider

Why maximalism is the perfect home decor trend for small spaces

Megan Zeitz/Sarah Unsworth
  • Maximalism has become more popular over the last year, particularly in small spaces.
  • It brings personality and depth to a home, according to experts.
  • The key to making maximalism work in your small space is to be intentional about your design.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Before the pandemic, there was a period of time where nothing was everything when it came to decor.

Whether it was Kim Kardashian West’s all-beige home or your friend’s new affinity for throwing away things that didn’t spark joy, minimalism was definitely “in” throughout 2019.

But over the last year, people have grown less interested in the less-is-more lifestyle, especially those who live in tiny homes or apartments.

According to Pinterest data, people are searching for “maximalist decor” five times more and “maximalist decor small spaces” three times more often on Pinterest now than they were a year ago.

Likewise, a quick scroll through Instagram or TikTok will show you a plethora of small spaces filled with color that are much more in line with maximalist decor.

Experts told Insider that the rise of maximalism is likely a result of people spending more time at home — and it’s a change they’re excited about.

Maximalism is a ‘more is more’ design style

As the name suggests, maximalism is a design aesthetic that leans into “more” to make a house feel like home. You can expect to see brightly colored walls covered in artwork, an abundance of plants, and statement furniture in a maximalist space.

It’s the polar opposite of minimalism, which was popular in 2019 thanks in part to shows like “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”

And while there’s certainly something to be said for decluttering, Michelle Fahmy, an interior designer and one of Apartment Therapy’s Changemakers for 2021, told Insider she thinks maximalism is often more practical for people in their day-to-day lives than minimalism.

megan zietz 2.JPG

Maximalism encourages personality in home spaces.
Megan Zietz

“Minimalism is quite beautiful when done right, but there is also a starkness to it, an unlived-in and museum-like quality which makes it much less practical when you are living your everyday life, making your home your place of refuge, trying to raise a family, or setting up an impromptu home office,” Fahmy said.

“There is something about maximalism that allows people to be free and experiment, to have fun with the items and design choices in their space,” she added. “Maximalism gives people the freedom to express themselves through their surroundings.”

Megan Zietz, who decorated her space with maximalism in mind, echoed Fahmy. 

“For me, maximalism encourages utilizing our small space in the boldest way possible,” she said. “It gives me the opportunity to play with colors, prints, and textures you wouldn’t necessarily think to use together.”

Maximalism has become more popular in the last year

Experts think it’s no coincidence that maximalism started trending during the pandemic.

“While stuck at home, people want to decorate their homes in a way that makes them feel good and reminds them of special moments, hence the rise in maximalism,” Swasti Sarna, Pinterest’s senior insights manager, told Insider. 

Danielle Blundell, Apartment Therapy’s home director, agreed, telling Insider maximalism has a “cozy factor” that makes sense for people spending more time at home.

“It’s the idea of layering and filling a space with the things that you love in a way that can make you happy,” she said. “When your home is full of all the things that you like, it can actually boost your mood and make you happier and provide lots of different stimuli to let your eye wander around the space.”

sarah unsworth 2

Maximalism can make homes feel bigger.
Sarah Unsworth

Fahmy also said maximalist decor can actually make a home feel larger when done right, which makes it a great design style for small spaces.

“Your eye only has so much ground to cover in a smaller space, so packing it in with thoughtful elements helps to actually make the space feel larger,” she said.

Experts told Insider that people who live in small spaces often pair maximalism with mid-century modern decor, as the latter can be a grounding style.

“The mid-century serves as a strong grounding presence in a small space because of its streamlined aesthetic,” Karina Lameraner, a creative stylist for the online interior design service Modsy, told Insider. “Maximalism beautifully contrasts this by inviting playful and adventurous elements into the space.”

The key to making maximalism work in your small space is intentional design

Maximalism is effective in a small space when the things in a room don’t look haphazard or thrown together, so it’s important to focus on the overall effect of a room when picking out pieces for it. 

“The trick to achieving maximalism in your small space is ensuring that colors, textures, and patterns all work together — and not against one another,” Lameraner told Insider. “Small spaces require layering as opposed to spreading, which means that the pieces you choose need to play off one another.”

She suggests picking items that have similar patterns or shapes to create a sense of cohesion. For instance, your couch and your bookshelf might both have rounded edges, or you can pick pillows that match the pattern on your rug.

Blundell said it’s important to keep in mind that even maximalist spaces need to have some negative space, which can help ensure the room doesn’t feel too busy. 

You can create negative space by leaving some parts of the walls blank, by having open space on shelves, or by making sure flooring is visible under a rug, according to Blundell.

Blundell also suggests buying simple furniture to ground a room, leaving the maximalist touches to more decorative pieces.

megan zietz 1.JPG

The key to maximalism in a small space is intentional design.
Megan Zietz

Fahmy encouraged people who want to embrace maximalism to decorate slowly rather than all at once. You can add one statement piece to the room, and then see what you might need from there.

“As you add more, take a moment to stand back and look at the space,” she said. “There is an element of just the right amount of restraint that is needed when being a maximalist.”

Likewise, Fahmy thinks it’s important to remember that maximalism gives people the opportunity to put things that are important to them on display.

“Bring out those tchotchkes from your travels that have been tucked away and group them as a fun display on your mantle or shelf,” Fahmy gave as an example.

Maximalism can help you turn your home into one giant keepsake, quite literally turning a house into a home.

insider.com

Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King

It is often hard to stay inspired during this difficult time. Things can look bleak – whether you’re reading the news or braving the world outside of your home. San Francisco has lost its charm during the pandemic. Streets are deserted. Businesses are boarded up and graffitied. All the cultural vitality that draws one to a city like this is canceled. If if we wanted to go somewhere….there’s no nowhere to go.

And so we turn inward. Back towards home. If you’ve been looking to scratch a creative itch, this post is for you.

Stay Home Inspo: Colin King on Apt34

As this pandemic has continued, I’ve been sharing #StayHomeInspo on Instagram – a respite for the eyes and inspiration for design ideas and creative projects we can do in our own homes to boost our spirits. One of my primary resources of inspiration has been stylist and photographer Colin King. I discovered Colin’s work on Instagram and have been following his creative journey every since – as he styles editorials ranging from corporate clients like Zara Home, to homes that grace the cover of Architectural Digest. As part of his own #StayHomeInspo journey, Colin started his own hashtag – #StayHomeStillLife chronicling his Covid creative outlet – creating stunning still life vignettes in his Manhattan apartment during New York City’s lockdown. I looked forward to a new image from Colin every day and even though he’s back to work outside his home, I still do.

Colin was gracious enough to share some of his creative tips and tricks with Apt34 today. I hope you find his insights as inspiring as I do.

Q: How did you get started, especially doing still life work? Did you have a mentor? Study something? Or just start experimenting?

A: I’m really good at doing, and not so good at being. Out of all of the careers I’ve had, none of them afforded me the flexibility to work from home. So in an attempt to cope and self soothe, I quickly found comfort in creating still lifes at home. My apartment is small, and there are only so many combinations when it comes to rearranging furniture, so I was forced to think small. It started organically shopping at my favorite decor shop (and the only one that was open) – nature. Foraging quickly led me to taking unrelated, inanimate objects, fruit, and anything else I could find around the house; placing all of that on a clean surface and trying to find an arrangement that felt poetic. The act of creating these still lifes gave me a schedule and presented a challenging, healthy way for me to step away from my screen, disconnect from fear and worry, and just be.

Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34

Q: What would you say are the key components of a captivating still life?

A: For me there are three key components of a captivating still life.

Each still life I create, my goal is to conjure the feeling of being a tourist in someone else’s reality. I never want any of my photos to feel as though you’re on a set or that the elements were contrived specifically for the photo. For example, when I am at a museum or even in someone’s home for an editorial shoot, I am always noting the forgotten corners, the stanchions, the coat rack, the half-drawn closet curtain; these are the places where there was no thought or extra care given to the placement of things – it’s just where everything naturally fell. Every captivating image I’ve seen has this almost eerie element of a human having just been there moving about unapologetically, and what’s left is unstyled but perfectly settled. Ultimately, creating a moment that seems more unearthed than contrived.

When approaching my still life I let go of the practical, intended use of each object. To me, a vase isn’t a vase and a fork isn’t a fork – they’re just things with their own materiality and form. I love it when I see an image and don’t even realize what the objects are until examining closer. Whether it’s upside down, balancing on its side, or completely submerged in a glass of water, there is an irreverence with a nod to surrealism that I love.

Lastly, light. Finding the depth between and beyond the surface the objects are on and how they relate to each other is key. Not only do I want to feel the dimensionality of the image, I also want to use objects that absorb light, reflect light, and bend light arranging them in a poetic display to generate an unexpected conversation.

Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34

Q: Are there any tricks of the trade you regularly rely on (tools, adhesives etc)?

A: No tricks. Just patience and a good playlist. I’ve never used a tool or an adhesive, I recognize I have so much to learn but right now I am having fun shattering glasses, chipping ceramics, cursing under my breath, and the freedom that comes with not being bound by any way of doing it. And music has always been a part of my process. As a trained dancer, music brings me a sense of comfort, routine and ritual while keeping me in the present moment.

Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34

Q: Your photography is also amazing. The way you use light is incredible. Are you self taught? Do you only use your phone and if so what do you use to edit your photos?

A: Aw, thank you. I am completely self-taught and I only use my iPhone. I just looked and I have 143,885 images on my phone. For each still life I create, or any image really, I take anywhere from 20-40 images per set up. It’s practice. it’s repetition, it’s trial and error. It’s like going to the gym and working out. Taking photos is a muscle I’ve been working on since I first got a camera phone in college. I use VSCO and Snapseed to manipulate shadows, contrast, and perspective. We’re all learning from each other. I look to photographers and other creatives I admire and dissect their images, find what I like about them, and then tinker with my own.

I had to let go of the concept that there was the perfect preset or formula for any of my work. No one was going to share a map or rulebook with me, and through a lot of trial and error, I learned that I can’t think my way into being a good photographer or stylist – it’s in the action. I have to use my hands to pick up something tactile – a book to sift through or a couple of objects to arrange. From there I just play, sometimes it’s there and sometimes, I walk away. I get myself into trouble when I wait for inspiration to hit, I have to get up and find it.

Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34

Q:You have a very distinct look. I can recognize your work a mile away. How did you go about cultivating that?

A: Intuition has always been my leader in life. I didn’t know I was cultivating a look – I just kept taking photos of what I liked and using the limited resources I had. Although the aesthetic strands running through my work are pretty consistent, the influences feeding into the design process are typically eclectic and even the most unlikely of subjects can provide food for thought. Simplicity and finding beauty in the mundane interested me. At first, my minimal sensibility came from not having a large portfolio or a lot of pieces to work with. And ultimately, I’ve always admired the edited life – less color, less clutter, and fewer things sustained by purposeful restraint.

Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34

Q: Where do you turn for creative inspiration?

A: I draw my inspiration from other people. I’ve learned to surround myself with people who have something that I want; and challenge me to be more honest, take more risks, and ultimately how to not fear failure. I am energized and encouraged by other people’s victories; the immense joy I get from watching peers succeed gives me hope that I too, can achieve anything I put my mind to.

I am also very inspired by nature – I am in constant awe of what it produces. Nature has a way of humbling me and is a great reminder to abandon the idea of perfect – nothing about nature is linear or symmetrical and nothing is immune to decay.

Stay Home Inspo: Creativity at Home with Colin King on Apt34

Q: What about your work brings you joy?

A: I get to tell stories for a living and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I get to connect with people and help create a context for the intimate rituals of peoples’ lives. And I also get to surrender to the subjectivity of what I do and knowing that the narrative I’ve created will be interpreted differently by each viewer – it challenges me to be vulnerable in a way – it’s all part of being a creative – and I feel grateful to be able to make a living by being creative.

Also, objects that have been given to me or are inherited from a shoot or trip, bring me joy. The handmade pieces in my place, knowing the story and process of the artist brings me joy as well. Ultimately, the smallest object can embody an entire relationship or single experience; they’re tied integrally to memories and can shape the identity of the room.

Q: Your career has been taking off of late. Where do you hope to be in five years?

A: This time has presented irrefutable evidence that I don’t have the power to know where I will be in 5 years. Doing the best at this moment puts me in the best place for the next moment. The saying Time takes time has always been a hard pill for me to swallow, I spent so much of my life wanting to be the fastest, youngest, and the best at everything I did but these unrealistic expectations only brought me pain. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Surrendering to the idea that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, going through exactly what I need to be going through, AND being content with that is where I hope to be in 5 years. I am learning that the most important relationship I have is with myself. When that relationship is strong I am a better son, brother, friend, employee and partner.

Colin you are wise beyond your years and talented beyond belief. Thanks to you I’m going to continue to try to improve my foraging skills! f you find Colin as truly inspirational as I do, I hope you’ll give him a follow on Instagram.

What are you doing to stay inspired during this weird time??

For more Stay Home Inspiration, CLICK HERE.

images courtesy of Colin King

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Source: apartment34.com

6 Creative Storage Solutions for Efficiency or Studio Apartments

If you’re hoping to live in a popular city, neighborhood or building while sticking to a budget, considering a studio or efficiency apartment could help make your real estate dreams a reality.

These smaller living spaces are often located in desirable parts of town at a price point that’s more affordable to single renters. The downside? Less square footage. The upside? A chance to declutter and less space to keep clean!

With a few organizational skills and a little creativity, moving your belongings into a studio or efficiency apartment doesn’t mean you have to give everything up. Here are some creative storage solutions for studio apartments, efficiency apartments and other small spaces.

1. Multipurpose when possible

Because floor space will likely be limited, choose your pieces of furniture carefully and wisely. Opt for furniture that will suit your lifestyle and meet your needs (even better if you can meet multiple needs with one piece.)

Think sofas that pull out into a bed, TV stands that offer ample storage, coffee tables and ottomans with built-in storage and other creative solutions. You may not be able to fit in every piece of furniture you’ve always wanted, so decide what’s the most important and the most functional.

pots on a wallpots on a wall

2. Go higher up

You might have limited floor space, but the walls of smaller spaces are often underutilized. Use bookshelves, mounted shelving, hanging fixtures and hooks to give yourself storage options without taking up too much valuable space on the floors.

You can hang pots and pans in the kitchen, use a hanging clothing rack to maximize closet space, display your personal items and more. The key is to be willing to think outside the box. Just be mindful of your security deposit and check with your landlord before installing any serious hardware in the walls or ceiling.

3. Baskets and bins

If storage is lacking, you may find yourself struggling to find places to hide necessary items that aren’t so visually pleasing. Today, baskets and bins are available in a wide range of materials to help give you some storage space without sacrificing your design aesthetic.

Store linens, office supplies, small kitchen equipment or clothing accessories in one easy-to-find location.

4. Don’t forget doors

Your studio or efficiency space may not have a lot of doors, but you have at least one! Doors are also often underutilized in small and large spaces, alike.

Add a hanging rack or hooks for compact, discreet storage of coats, hats, jewelry, towels or anything else you might be struggling to find a home for. Don’t forget about the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, too!

pillow and blanket storagepillow and blanket storage

5. Rotate with the seasons

In order to be as efficient as possible, focus on keeping items you’ll use on a daily basis in the easiest to reach places. In the winter, store summer linens, shoes and clothing under the bed or in another location you don’t need to access often.

In the summer, do the same with heavy blankets, winter coats and boots.

6. Channel Marie Kondo

Stay organized and purge often. Learning to be and stay organized might be the biggest challenge you face in a studio or efficiency apartment, as clutter will become apparent much faster.

Use this as an opportunity to downsize and get rid of items you don’t really need — unworn clothing, excess dishware, materials for past hobbies and the like. Make a point to practice decluttering at least once a year to reassess the necessity of items you’ve collected throughout the year.

Don’t let a small space get you down

A small-space apartment can seem intimidating at first glance, especially if you’re downsizing or used to living in a larger space. Instead of worrying about the size of your space, use your move as an opportunity to reorganize and restructure your belongings.

If you’re willing to get a little unconventional and consider some creative options, you’ll find a place to store all of your favorite things.

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Source: apartmentguide.com