6 lessons learned from 2021

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We have mastered a lot together this year, from transforming lights into the power of love, from purchasing less to planning more. And that was only the first half of 2021.

In January I brought my home from the dark ages. Months of shelter (and climbing the walls) made me fixate on the shortcomings of my house, including the dark, oil-rubbed bronze lights that looked like something out of a medieval torture chamber. I called the style “early dungeon”. Today’s homeowners want lights that are light and airy in color and weight, rang the designer choir. I joined them and pulled the plug on the old fittings.

Lesson: Upgrading the lights in a house or changing the ones that came in the original “Builder Pack” is one of those simple steps that get great results. Highly recommended.

In February I read a survey on my two favorite subjects love and home. Like the researchers, I was concerned about what a study of love in the age of COVID would reveal.

Lesson: Love may not conquer everything, but love can conquer many and do-it-yourselfers can fix the rest. Homes.com found that 63 percent of respondents said spending more time at home to improve their relationships. And every third couple mastered the new unusual by doing home improvement.

The number one COVID-driven home improvement project? Setting up a home office. In March, I asked Chris Peterson, author of Home Office Solutions: How to Set Up an Efficient Workspace Anywhere in Your House (Chapel Publishing), for tips.

Lesson: The most important component of the work environment is the chair. “The wrong chair can literally be a pain in the back,” said Peterson. Also important: daylight, furnishings that blend in with the rest of your home and a place away from others.

In April I stumbled upon the Buy Nothing Project, a worldwide network of Facebook groups where members post things they give away or need. The free forum, said co-founder Liesl Clark, removes one of the biggest excuses I hear from people who want to clean up but don’t want their things to go in the trash. That way, your items will go to someone who can use and appreciate them.

Lesson: Since then, I’ve been giving away plastic hangers, home accessories, and furniture, and I’ve joined a movement that is saving money, reducing waste, reducing the burden on our planet, and bringing communities together.

In May I acted out a vicarious fantasy. Admit it. You too have always dreamed of buying a shabby old house for a song, renovating it, putting on fresh paint and – poof! – Selling the dump that turned into a dream home for a nice profit. But Matt Lavinder, president of New Again Houses, says his job isn’t always a dream – unless your dreams include dry rot, black mold, burst pipes, or snake dens.

Lesson: Successful flips are all about math and data, not emotions. Each flip is different, but the method is the same: choose the right home, evaluate the systems before buying, and then plan out the entire renovation before you begin. “Too often people make 80 percent of the decisions about what they’re going to do and decide the rest in an instant,” Lavinder said.

After several bad experiences with florists, I grilled a few industry experts in June to find out what I’m doing wrong, what florists are doing wrong, and how consumers can increase their chances of satisfaction.

Lesson: Avoid middlemen. Go straight to a store in town where the flowers will be delivered. Do not go through a phone service or call center posing as a business. Don’t call your local florist to arrange flowers in a remote city. Realtors take up to 40 percent of the payment and then pass the order on to a real florist who has no relationship with you and can work with less money.

Come see me next week to learn more.


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