Window treatments—a catchall term for shades, blinds, shutters, and more—are one of the most impactful ways to make your new home feel cozier and more lived in. But once you start to explore your options (there are a lot) it can be easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why we asked experts to share the most important things you should know about window treatments, from the basics to the looks that are trending right now. Here’s what they had to say:

5 Essential Things You Need to Know About Window Treatments

Window treatments are for so much more than privacy.

One of the first things you probably think of when you think of window treatments is privacy. And yes, window treatments can provide excellent privacy, says Adam Skalman, Vice President of Sales Development at The Shade Store. But they also offer a variety of other benefits. Solar shades, for example, can prevent glare and block UV rays, while blackout shades can create a more healthful sleep environment. Throughout your home, cellular shades can help moderate temperature, keeping heat in during the winter and keeping it out in the summer. And, of course, they can be decorative.

“Window coverings are truly the jewelry of a room and frame the views beyond,” says interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. “I feel they finish a room and add warmth and comfort to a space.”

When considering your options, Skalman says you should take two main things into consideration: “what you would like your window treatments to accomplish in a space and how you would like them to look.”

Most window treatments can be motorized (and they work with your smart-home tech, too). 

Smart shades are the new thing in window treatments, according to Jaret Nichols, co-owner and founder of TBES, which specializes in smart-home systems. These days nearly all of his customers want at least one motorized shade, and while most of his clients are creating custom-made window treatments, he says nearly all window treatments can be motorized. All you really need is a motor.

Popular brands include Lutron, HunterDouglas, Somfy, Control4, and Savant. Regardless of which brand of motor you choose or whether you have a professionally installed system or a DIY system, Nichols says almost all products have integration with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit.

Window treatments can cost a lot of money, but they can also save you money.

When it comes to budget, there are plenty of affordable options out there: Cellular shades, wood, faux wood, or metal blinds, and roller shades are some of the most wallet-friendly options out there, according to Skalman. On the other end of the spectrum, there is no ceiling; the sky is really the limit, especially once you start adding in features like upholstered valances and automation. Want the option to have your shades be sheer or blackout? Considering blinds and drapes? Have to have Roman shades in heathered linen? It’s going to cost you.

The flip side is that window treatments can save you money by keeping heat out (and air conditioning costs down) or by keeping heat in (and reducing heating bills). The Department of Energy recommends looking for products with the Attachments Energy Rating Council (AERC) Energy Improvement rating to maximize savings, while Nichols suggests programming your system to lower the shades when it reaches a certain temperature. He also says that you can find specific fabrics, like KOOLBLACK, that reduce heat absorption and help your home stay cooler.

Colorful, patterned window treatments are having a moment. 

Some fabrics and styles will always be in vogue. Linen, for one, continues to be the most popular choice in materials, according to Bullard: “Its durability, natural beauty, and texture is always a winner.” Interior designer Cortney Novogratz adds that a textured white sheer on a French rod is her favorite classic look.”It is a style that is complementary to so many decors,” she says.

But if you’re looking to make a statement with your window treatments, the time to do so is now. “Both color and pattern are back in a big way,” says Bullard. “Patterns, like vines and palm leaves, are very strong motifs that transcend time and place, whilst green seems to be a very strong color in the design world currently. Florals and even chintz designs are back and making bold statements, especially in blinds.” As for linen? “Plain linen is giving way to textures and exotic weaves like the Moroccan basket weave and tone-on-tone embroidery.”

Window treatments should make use of the full window space.

Both Bullard and Novogratz agree that the biggest mistake people make with window treatments is not taking advantage of the full window space, including the space above the window. “You can create an illusion that your ceilings are higher, but you need to utilize every part of the window and above to be successful,” Novogratz says. Bullard adds that seeing a gap between the bottom of the floor and the hemline of your drape is definite no. “Either touch the floor or allow a small cuff of fabric to gather at the floor.”


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Many first-time homebuyers might presume they’re better off going used rather than new—in other words, purchasing a pre-existing property rather than pricey new construction.

While it’s true that brand-new homes often come with a heftier price tag upfront, these properties can actually end up being a good—even great—deal for first-time buyers.

“It is true that new-construction homes, on average, are 10% to 15% higher in sales price than resale homes, but that doesn’t mean that they are less affordable,” says Bob Seeman, vice president of sales for New Homes at “Simply put, total homeownership costs are more than a monthly mortgage payment alone.”

Here’s why first-time homebuyers shouldn’t rule out new construction, and how these opportunities can be a better deal than many might think.

Low inventory means first-time buyers should explore all options

Unless you want to be waiting a long time to buy your first home, you should consider new-construction homes.

(Getty Images)

In a housing market that’s still dealing with extremely limited inventory, the reality is first-time homebuyers can’t afford to dismiss this option.

According to the National Association of Realtors®, the inventory of existing homes on the market in December 2022 was at an all-time low of 910,000. That was a year-over-year decrease of 18%, and marks 31 straight months of declines in available homes.

“The housing shortage will get worse over the next year—we simply don’t have enough supply,” says John Hunt, chief analyst for MarketNsight.

For example, Hunt says, to get back to “normal” and meet demand, Atlanta alone would need 66,000 additional homes on the market over the next 12 months.

Compounding the problem is that homeowners who might normally sell aren’t doing so because they’re reluctant to buy a new home—and get a new mortgage—when interest rates are so high.

Translation: Unless you want to be waiting a long time to buy your first home, you should consider new-construction homes because there just aren’t enough homes of any kind to satisfy the current demand.

Builders can help first-time buyers with better financing

Many builders can offer financing through their company’s mortgage arm or through a lender affiliate and also have programs to help reduce the amount of cash a buyer needs to close on a home.

(Getty Images)

Let’s face it, price matters. That’s true whether you’re buying your first home or third luxury vacation property. The difference with a new-construction purchase, however, is you might be able to save money through builder incentives.

These promotions—meant to attract buyers to a certain development project—frequently come in the form of financing help, and this is what can make a new-construction home purchase workable for a first-time buyer.

“What many first-time buyers most need are cash to close and monthly payments that they can afford,” says Seeman. “Because many builders can offer financing through their company’s mortgage arm or through a lender affiliate, they have programs to help reduce the amount of cash a buyer needs to close on a home.”

A reduction in the initial cash outlay can make all the difference for a first-time homebuyer. Many builders are also currently offering much lower mortgage rates through their lenders as well in order to attract first-time buyers who would otherwise be priced out of the market.

“We’re seeing builders get creative with financing—offering rates as low as 4.99% to 5.99% right now, which is lower than what you’ll see for existing homes,” says Alex Toth, director of homebuilder partnerships at Opendoor.

Since mortgage rates spiked in October to over 7% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan for the first time in 20 years, this could indeed determine if a first-time buyer can qualify for a home or not.

Another benefit of working with a builder’s lender is that the lender is usually well-versed in FHA and VA loan options. These low or no-down payment loans might also be a huge benefit to first-time homebuyers trying to secure a mortgage if they qualify.

New-construction homes can save you money on utilities

New homes are built to the latest building codes which set more stringent insulation and energy standards.

(Getty Images)

Total homeownership costs include more than just a down payment and mortgage, but many first-time buyers forget that part of the equation.

“Even if a new home is 10% more than a resale home, new homes are built to the latest building codes, which set more stringent insulation and energy standards,” says Seeman. This means new homes might cost a buyer less in heating and cooling costs.

“Those efficiencies should help offset a slightly higher monthly mortgage payment,” adds Seeman.

Bill Samuel, owner of Blue Ladder Development, agrees.

“In most cases, a new-construction home will be considerably more energy-efficient than an older home since it was built to a higher standard of energy building code, so you’ll likely have lower utility expenses than an older, similar sized home,” Samuel explains.

However, Janice Glessner, the online sales and marketing manager for S&A Homes, suggests first-time homebuyers look for a builder that can offer proof of the home’s energy efficiency through a Home Energy Rating Score.

“This can translate to hundreds of dollars, even thousands, saved every year depending on where and how you live,” says Glessner.

New-construction homes often require fewer repairs—and come with warranties

Another way that a first-time homebuyer might save money by purchasing a new-construction home is through far lower maintenance expenses over the years since all of the components of the house are new.

“Older homes have hidden costs,” says Glessner. “For example, having to replace an HVAC system in an old home can cost thousands.”

But if something does go wrong with your new home, not only are there likely some manufacturer warranties in place, but many builders also include additional home warranties, which can save a first-time buyer from unforeseen expenses.

“Builder warranties usually come with multiple components,” explains Seeman. “For instance, a warranty may cover major appliances and systems—for example, plumbing, electrical—for two years, and structural defects for 10.”

Customization is cheaper than renovation

One of the biggest benefits of purchasing a new-construction home is the potential to customize the home to meet specific tastes.

(Getty Images)

“Cost aside, a lot of first-time homebuyers are of the millennial generation, who are used to and expect customization in almost everything they do–and a new-construction home provides that,” says Toth. “From integrated smart home systems and technology to customizable finishes, today’s builders are giving first-time homebuyers a wealth of options.”

Numerous experts also agree that one of the biggest benefits of purchasing a new-construction home is the potential to customize the home to meet specific tastes. And this is also a financially savvy move since renovating a resale home can be costlier than new construction.

“Oftentimes a builder will have access to favorable pricing from its subcontractors and suppliers,” says Samuel. “So it is typically much more economical for them to perform upgrades during the construction process versus buying a property as is and hiring a retail contractor to make the requested improvements.


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Finding a new place to plant roots isn’t solely about the price tag. Your real estate search is likely to include a range of options: condo vs. townhouse, condo vs. house, house vs. townhouse and more. As you stack different types of properties against each other, it’s important to think about not only what you can afford, but also your preferences and expectations as a homeowner or renter.

“When it comes to deciding which style of home to focus their search on, buyers should consider their budget and lifestyle, as well as their desired amount of involvement in home maintenance,” says John Ameralis, a licensed associate broker and leader of The Ameralis Team at Compass in New York City.

Maybe you’re a first-time homebuyer, or an empty nester looking to downsize. No matter where you are in life, consider this your primer on what type of housing will best fit your needs.

A comparison of four housing types

Condo vs. house vs. townhouse vs. apartment

Living Space Cost Ownership Best for
Condo Down payment, monthly mortgage payment and HOA fees Unit First-time homebuyers, downsizers
House Down payment and monthly mortgage payment, maintenance House and property it sits on Couples, families
Townhouse Down payment, monthly mortgage payment and HOA fees Unit and property it sits on Those who want more space than a condo, but not all the responsibilities of a house
Apartment Security deposit and monthly rent No ownership Those who want flexibility to relocate or are saving for a down payment


condominium (or condo for short) is a salable unit within a larger community, which could be a high-rise building. Condos can be a good option for anyone who wants to keep home maintenance to a minimum, including first-time homebuyers, singles, older homeowners or people who travel frequently. Condos are similar to apartments, in that both are likely to share multiple walls with neighbors. There is one major point of distinction, however: You own a condo, and you rent an apartment.

Of all the home types on the market for sale, condos “require the least amount of maintenance. You only need to maintain the ‘walls in,’” Ameralis explains. So, if the roof is leaking or the carpet in the lobby needs to be replaced, that’s not your responsibility — the condo association handles those duties. In addition, some condo buildings have doormen and offer an extra level of security, particularly in large cities.

Of course, you and all your neighbors pay HOA or condo fees to cover the costs. Condo association rules can be highly restrictive, as well. You may not be able to customize your unit the way you want, and you may be prohibited from renting it out to others.

Those who value privacy might find a condo’s communal areas less than ideal, too. “It is important to keep in mind that in condos, even the most exclusive ones, you are still sharing elevators and other amenities,” explains Judy Zeder, a Realtor with the Jills Zeder Group at Coldwell Banker in Miami.


  • Limited maintenance
  • Extra security


  • Monthly fees
  • Communal spaces


When most people talk about buying a house, they mean purchasing a single-family home, which is a standalone structure on a foundation. It doesn’t share walls or common spaces as condos, apartments and townhomes do, and it may also come with a lot of land to enjoy.

Two of the biggest points in favor of buying a house are privacy and the freedom to decorate and maintain it however you like. (Within the frame of local ordinances and/or HOA guidelines, of course.) “Owning your own house gives you more freedom to live how you want to versus condos, which have bylaws that govern what you can and cannot do,” Ameralis says.

Single-family homes are usually the most spacious housing option, and you can expect a higher price tag to reflect that. The average single-family home sold for $58,000 more than a condo in 2020, according to data from real estate brokerage Redfin.

In addition to paying more up front, you’ll likely pay more down the road, too. Owning a house means you’ll be responsible for all of the lawn care, maintenance and repairs, which can be considerably more cumbersome than you’d have with another type of home.

Here are more house vs. condo differences.


  • Freedom over aesthetic choices
  • More space, both outdoors and inside


  • Higher price
  • All maintenance is your responsibility


Townhouses can be much cheaper to buy than a single-family home. Some even have small yards or patios. However, most modern townhouses have fairly small footprints and shared exterior walls with neighboring homes.

Townhouses also usually come with HOA rules and fees. When it comes to the ability to make your own choices, you might have a bit more autonomy than condo owners, but your decisions still typically have to be HOA-approved.

“The older a townhouse development, the higher the maintenance fees tend to be, because the communal parts of the property — whether it’s the grounds, a pool, roofs or siding — need to be repaired over time,” explains Andrea Webb, a Senior Real Estate Advisor with Keller Williams Realty in Montclair, New Jersey.

For homebuyers debating between a house or a condo, a townhouse might be the best of both worlds. You get more space, often in multiple levels (like a single-family house), with less exterior maintenance (like a condo).


  • Lower price
  • More space


  • Monthly fees
  • Shared walls


An apartment is any residence inside of a residential building where the individual units are rented, not sold. In bigger cities, these can be condos that are being individually rented. Apartment buildings often have shared amenities for tenants, like a gym or a pool.

A big factor in determining if a condo or apartment is right for you comes down to money: Do you have enough cash to put toward a down payment? You can use Bankrate’s rent vs. buy calculator to get a good idea of which is a better financial move for you.

There are other questions to consider, too. How long do you plan to live there? Are you likely to have a job or lifestyle change that would require you to move? If you plan to move within five years, it could be better to rent than buy for now.

Renting an apartment provides a place to live minus most of the responsibilities that come with homeownership. However, as with condos, you’re limited in the changes you can make (think paint colors or fixtures), and the landlord can dictate things like whether to allow pets. Also, you won’t build any equity, nor get the tax perks that come with homeownership.

Here are more condo vs. apartment differences.


  • Flexibility to move
  • No maintenance


  • No equity or ownership benefits
  • Must abide by landlord’s rules

Bottom line

To help you choose among a condo, home, townhouse or apartment, consider your savings account, how much space you need, how long you plan to live there and how much money you can comfortably put toward repairs, maintenance and remodeling costs.

Visit open houses and search online listings to see what’s on the market in your price range. Consider working with a real estate agent to help you narrow your choices, and do in-depth research so you have a solid understanding of the process. If you aren’t sure of where you want to land just yet, follow Bankrate’s Housing Heat Index to get a sense of where you might be able to find a good deal today.


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Lessons from the field that will save you time, money, and stress along your co-buying journey.

Most co-buyers are excited about the adventure of buying and owning a home together. At some point, many feel overwhelmed. This is normal. Buying a home is complicated, full stop. Compared to a married couple or a singleton, co-buyers have more research and planning to do. In fact, co-buyers face greater complexity across every aspect of their purchase and homeownership.

Here’s where many co-buyers who come to us say they’re having difficulties:

  • Navigating the process
  • Finding the right professionals
  • Managing market competition
  • Setting up co-ownership

While the preferences, circumstances, and goals vary from one situation to the next, there are common patterns and friction points.

In this post, we’ll look at how these obstacles hold co-buyers back. Understanding where things get tricky makes it easier to navigate around roadblocks.

⛔ Mistake #1: Searching for homes before getting approved for a mortgage

It may sound obvious. Still, nearly half of buyers start the home search before sorting out financing. This approach to home shopping is inefficient and ineffective.

First off, it’s shopping without a budget. According to a recent HarrisX survey, nearly 70% of first-time buyers misunderstood their budget.

Second, it generally results in disappointment. In competitive west coast markets, the most desirable homes are currently on the market for less than 14 days. Say you do find the perfect home online. By the time you and your co-buyer(s) have:

  1. worked through the important details of your joint purchase
  2. agreed on key elements of co-ownership
  3. secured financing

…there’s a good chance the home has already sold.

The costs of this approach can mount quickly, particularly in an environment where home prices are rising.

⛔ Mistake #2: Not getting clear about participation and contributions

It’s essential to get clear on who will be involved, how each party will participate, and what each party is bringing to the table.

→ Who will be an owner?

→ Who will be an occupant?

→ How much is each party contributing in cash up front?

→ How much will each party contribute to total monthly housing expenses?

→ What is each party’s credit situation?

These are just a few of the decisions that need to be ironed out—the earlier, the better. What you decide will impact every aspect of the purchase process and co-ownership. For starters, mortgage pre-approval will require clarity on these issues.

⛔ Mistake #3: Sticking to unrealistic expectations

It’s human to want more than we can afford, particularly when it comes to our home. A recent nationwide survey of first-time homebuyers found that 40% had to compromise on budget, features, amenities, or location. In competitive metros—where home prices are two to four times higher than the national average—most buyers have to compromise to get an offer accepted.

Managing expectations against reality is tough(er) for co-buyers. When compromise is required to successfully purchase a home, everyone must agree on what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Co-buyers may or may not have the flexibility or appetite to increase their budget, widen the geographic search area, or give up certain features. The list goes on. Ultimately, you need to weigh the desire to become a homeowner with the concessions required to get there.

⛔ Mistake #4: Selecting the wrong professionals

If you’re not a soccer fan, you’d probably struggle to put together a U.S. Olympic soccer team that could take home gold. Selecting the best professionals for your joint home purchase isn’t so different. Co-buyers depend on guidance from a range of pros who have the right skills, experience, and approach. There’s a vast spectrum of talent and different types of expertise. To achieve a successful outcome, the players have to work together.

It’s understandable why co-buyers struggle to select the right professionals in the wild. A typical home purchase involves 11 or more parties. Finding the right real estate agent, lender, attorney, and others—all with relevant experience in co-buying and co-ownership—would be a tall order. But having the right professional guidance is critical to a smooth purchase and the success of your co-ownership arrangement.

⛔ Mistake #5: Starting the journey without a roadmap (DIY approach)

Co-buying involves a multitude of moving parts before, during, and after the purchase. The decisions on any given issue—the target home, financial considerations, structuring co-ownership, day-to-day running of the home, etc.—have implications for other aspects of the co-buying journey.

Without a roadmap, navigating the co-buying process and decision points is (at best) inefficient. More unsavory outcomes include: not being ready in time to submit an offer, making multiple offers without success, the purchase falling through during closing, incurring unanticipated costs, incurring financial loss after the purchase, and experiencing disagreements during co-ownership.

“If you invest the time earlier to create structure and process around communication, planning, and goal setting, you can prevent missteps before they occur.”

-Christine Tsai

⛔ Mistake #6: Forgetting to plan your exit strategy

It’s said that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. One way or another, the co-ownership period will eventually conclude through sale, buyout, or transfer of ownership. What an exit looks like depends on how co-ownership is structured.

When a married couple owns a home and divorces, the process of dissolving jointly held assets is defined. Still, 71% of divorcees wish they had more guidance splitting assets (Fidelity 2019). Co-owners who are not married to one another do not benefit from established legal frameworks or structures. Even amicable conclusions to co-ownership can have unintended consequences and costs in the absence of a defined exit strategy.


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Every new year, countless vows are made to declutter—which explains the enduring popularity of Marie Kondo.

This tidying expert “sparked joy” around the world with the release of her bestselling book in 2010, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Since then, she’s starred in her own Netflix series, “Sparking Joy With Marie Kondo,” recently released yet another tome, “Kurashi at Home,” and has even encouraged us to add to our pile of possessions by launching her own line of organizational products.

Yet in the 12 years since she first encouraged household purging, Kondo’s approach to organization has evolved, expanding beyond streamlining our closets and cabinets into a whole way of life. Curious to hear what’s changed, we asked Kondo about her own New Year’s resolutions, the biggest mistakes people still make when decluttering, and much more that will help you live your best life at home in 2023 and beyond.

Marie Kondo practices category-based decluttering.
Marie Kondo practices category-based decluttering.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

Clearing out clutter is a common New Year’s resolution. What’s your best advice for achieving that goal?

My best advice for those looking to initiate a New Year’s organization project is to think clearly about what intentions you want to set. Ask yourself what your ideal life looks like, and envision what exactly you want to be surrounded by.

When you work through this step of the decluttering process, you are really clarifying why you want to tidy and envisioning your best life.

I feel the same goes for setting a resolution; be honest with yourself and what you want out of the new year.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions and if so, what are they? What are you looking forward to in 2023 that will spark joy in your own life?

Winter months are the ideal time to go inward and plan for the year ahead. Journaling is how I sort my thoughts and tidy my mind. I use the opportunity to identify what I am looking forward to reorganizing, whether it be related to my personal or professional life.

To me, a fresh notebook can go a long way when it comes to getting your life in order, especially around the new year. I often will refer to what I’ve written to check back with my original resolutions and track how I’ve progressed, or if the original intention has evolved since working toward it.

The new year is a time of rich tradition in Japan, with family and friends gathering for days to celebrate the occasion. From writing intentions to eating symbolic foods, this time of year is great for resolution setting.

In 2023, I am setting the resolution to use something new. Replacing something that you often use, like a toothbrush, towels, or socks, can infuse fresh energy into our life and make the new year one that truly sparks joy.

What are the most common mistakes you see clients make when decluttering in the new year?

In the KonMari Method, we tidy by category and not by location. When clients tidy a single closet or room at a time, they’re repeating the same work in many locations. That is why my method believes in category-based decluttering, so you can tackle all of one category or type of item at once—beginning with clothes, then books, moving over to papers, then komono [miscellaneous items], and finally sentimental items.

Tidying in this specific order is not only efficient, but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the method and of yourself as you move along.

Marie Kondo journals to set organizational intentions.
Kondo journals to set organizational intentions.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

Gifts are an inevitable part of the holiday season. … What’s your strategy for giving presents that don’t contribute to clutter, and how do you deal with receiving items that don’t spark joy?

When giving gifts, I urge people to follow these three steps: Think about the recipient’s lifestyle, imagine them using the gift, and let go of the end results.

When you think intentionally about what your friend or family member may need in their life, the process becomes a little simpler. It doesn’t have to spark joy for you, but it obviously should for them!

Lastly, I urge people to give gifts without expectations or an agenda, which can help both the giver and the receiver from feeling undue pressure or like they’ve fallen short.

My recommendation for making the most of gifts you’ve received is to try it out at least once.

The ability to feel what truly excites you is only gained through experience. Be adventurous and welcome things that are different. After trying the gift out, if it still doesn’t feel like a fit, thank it for the joy it brought when you first received it and let go with gratitude. There are many ways to mindfully discard an unused gift.

Marie Kondo with her new book, “Kurashi at Home.”
Kondo with her new book, “Kurashi at Home”

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

How is your new book an evolution or next step from your prior books on organizing and living your best life?

Writing “Kurashi at Home” gave me the opportunity to show readers how [to] tidy all aspects of your life, not just your home. Mindful rituals have always been very important to me, and while everyone’s daily rituals will look a little different, explore the ones that encourage you to achieve your best life.

The book goes into more depth about the steps to take to achieve Kurashi. It also offers inspiration throughout via wonderful imagery and my own personal rituals that I hope will help readers better understand how to surround themselves with joy.

How do you approach organizing your digital life?

When it comes to your computer, phone, or tablet files, identifying what exactly sparks joy in this capacity is that your files are organized and tidy, so you can find what you need when you need it.

Digital clutter can be more tedious and time-consuming to sort through, but once it’s done, you’ll feel relief each time you log on. Don’t be afraid to archive and store a majority of your data. If you aren’t using it every day or needing it readily available, it can definitely live elsewhere!

Now that she's a mother, Marie Kondo embraces the occasional mess.
Now that she’s a mother, Kondo embraces the occasional mess.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

How has your organizing method evolved since having children?

Since having children, [my] method has not changed but my daily mindset definitely has. It will always stay true to its six basic principles, but since the founding of the method, I’ve become a mother and faced many business changes as well.

Before my children were born, it was easy to completely devote myself to tidying and the growth of the method and business. Now, since having children and learning to juggle my priorities, I have become less critical of messes in my life both literally and figuratively. I try to keep my life in order as much as possible, but with juggling a family and a brand, these days I am OK with—and embrace—the occasional mess.

When one family member—spouse or kids—is messy and other is not, how should they approach finding an organizational system that works for them both?

It can be hard to find middle ground when a family member or roommate has a different living style than you. A few tips I recommend to create a functional, shared organizational system is to find a time that works for everyone, including kids, and commit to tidying and organizing together.

I also recommend dividing and conquering. Maybe your roommate or partner doesn’t mind vacuuming and sweeping, and you prefer to do the dishes and fold laundry—lean into each other’s tidying preferences.

Lastly, if you’re looking to incorporate your children more, I always tell parents to make organizing fun for children. Teach your children that everything has a home so when cleanup time comes around, it can be made into more of a fun game where children will want to tuck their toys into designated spots.

All in all, open dialogue and understanding of preferences can help you develop an organization system where everyone under one roof is held accountable!

Marie Kondo gives a home to every item in her house.
Kondo gives a home to every item in her house.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

Working from home is now common. What’s the best way to keep spaces that serve dual purposes—work and personal—organized?

It is vital to keep dual-functioning, work-from-home spaces organized so when you are working from that area, you can have a productive and efficient day.

Go through your desk drawers and toss out old receipts, corral loose change, and recycle paper items that are no longer needed.

Consolidate same-category items versus having them loosely scattered in multiple areas. Office supplies, paperwork, books, and other items should all have a specific home within your desk area.

I also recommend making a clear separation of your professional and personal paperwork. Items like [a] bamboo file divider and organizer or letter and papers tray are a great addition to any desktop to keep important paperwork separate and neat.

You’ve been practicing and teaching your method for years. What new lessons have you learned, and what still surprises you about organization?

Since my first book, I’ve learned countless lessons both professionally and personally. Since meeting my husband and growing our family, I’ve learned how special raising children has been for both of us and helped us lead more fulfilled lives.

With the publishing of my latest book, “Kurashi at Home,” the opportunity to teach people how to apply the method to other areas of their life has been an exciting lesson that I’ve been developing for a while.

Organization is truly an act of self-care, and I am able to practice that craft each day, which is what makes my job feel so special. Tidying my surroundings and practicing a tidy lifestyle is constantly teaching me new lessons, and I cannot wait to continue to explore it further.


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You finally found your new home (yay!) and you’re ready to start prepping for the big move. One of the best things you can do to make the whole process of putting everything you own into boxes feel significantly less onerous is simple (and free): Ruthlessly declutter before you start packing your things.

Not sure where to start? We checked in with Shira Gill, home organizing expert and author of Minimalista, and Ioana Galdau, professional organizer and founder of Sleek Living NY, for their best advice. (Warning: some of their suggestions may make you feel as if they’re spying on you.)

8 Things You Should Get Rid of Before Moving Into Your New Home, According to Organizing Experts

Below, the key clutter creators you should attack before moving day:

Things you haven’t used in a year

“If you haven’t used it in the past year, don’t bring that to the new house,” says Galdau. “It’s bad energy and a loss of time.” Gill agrees: “If it’s coated in dust, that’s a good indication you don’t use it very often.”

Things that are broken or incomplete

Pretty obvious, but: Don’t move the broken thing just to store it in your new home and not fix it again. Also, sister to broken things: items with missing parts, incomplete puzzles and games—anything rendered useless because it’s not all there.

Mystery items

Another category of stuff ripe for tossing, according to Gill: “the ‘what if?’ things. Random keys, cords, remotes.” (Either Gill has been to my house or these are common things to cling to.)

Anything you’d need to put in storage

Galdau is adamant: Do not waste your money or time on storage space. “You end up never going back for it,” she says. “Just sell it. Give it to somebody.”

Unfinished projects

The macrame, the DIY lava lamp, the opened seed-starting kit. Let them go, says Gill.

Things you got for free

Those hotel toiletries, corporate swag bags, and other freebies? You won’t miss them.


Both organizers say people often have more than enough of everything from tea and reusable bags to holiday decorations and office supplies. The same goes for wrapping paper, vases, dishware, and glassware. “One of the big categories I see is an insane number of bowls and platters for people who seldom entertain,” says Gill.

Sentimental items

These are some of the hardest things to part with. Galdau suggests that each member of the household should have one manageable-sized box for their most cherished memorabilia. Got kids? Galdau recommends one box for each child’s baby clothes, art projects, birthday cards, etc. (Good luck.)

What to do with all that junk

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure–but it’s also true that sometimes junk is just junk. Below, a few resources for re-homing, reselling, or just getting rid of the stuff you don’t want anymore.

  • Charities like Goodwill and The Salvation Army are a great starting point.
  • Your local Buy Nothing Group is another great resource, especially for anything Goodwill won’t take.
  • For clothing, try Thredup or For Day’s Take Back Bag and earn credit toward someone else’s thrifted items.


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Tough financial times call for creative financing. Historically high mortgage rates and a cooling housing market have caused buyers and sellers to look for novel ways to stretch their dollar and seal a deal.

Buyers, scared by lofty mortgage rates that threaten to add hundreds of dollars to their monthly housing bill, are seeking out mortgage buy-downs as a way to trim some of that excess. Sellers, desperate to unload homes, are often willing to help out.

Simply put, a mortgage rate buy-down is upfront money, often paid by the home seller (builders and lenders can also front the cost), to “buy down” the interest rate on the buyer’s loan for a period of time. This temporarily eases a buyer’s mortgage woes.

But just how practical are mortgage buy-downs for homebuyers?

We reached out to real estate experts for insight into the benefits and drawbacks of a mortgage buy-down. Here’s what they had to say.

The Pros and Cons of a Mortgage Buy-Down for Homebuyers, According to Loan Experts

Pro: Lower monthly bills

There are different types of buy-downs, but all of them lower your interest rate.

“While these funds are temporary, they immediately lower buyers’ monthly payments, making homeownership more affordable in the short term,” says Shri Ganeshram, who works with real estate investors on financing as CEO of in San Francisco.

Con: When the buy-down expires, regular payments may come as a shock

One of the biggest downsides of a buy-down is that it’s temporary. A buy-down will offer homebuyers a lower monthly mortgage payment for a set period of time, typically one to three years. But once the buy-down expires, your bills could become a lot heftier.

“When the initial buy-down period ends, your interest rate may reset to a higher rate than before,” says Shaun Martin, owner and CEO of We Buy Houses in Denver.

If this does happen, it may defeat the purpose of the buy-down and potentially lead to more costly payments down the line. It’s a risk that buyers have to consider and should discuss with their lender.

Pro: They can provide cash flow for repairs or furniture

As every homeowner knows, moving into a new home—no matter how perfect it might seem initially, and no matter how many furnishings you already have on hand—often entails a series of unexpected fixes and furniture buys. The break you’ll get on your mortgage bill courtesy of a buy-down can leave you with some cash on hand.

“Buy-downs can be especially valuable for investors or owners who need to make repairs to the home or furnish it,” Ganeshram points out.

Con: Not all lenders offer buy-downs, and terms vary

Buy-downs are not offered universally, and when they are offered, one lender’s terms might differ considerably from another’s in the same region.

“Not all lenders will offer mortgage buy-downs, so you may need to shop around,” Martin says. “Additionally, the terms of buy-downs can vary from lender to lender, so it is important to do your research and find one that best meets your needs.”

Weighing the pros and cons

Whether or not a buy-down is right for you might also depend on your timeline and how long you plan to live in the home.

“If you’re planning on selling your home in a few years, a buy-down is a smart move,” says Emmanuel Guignard, senior mortgage broker and director of Loanscope. “But if you don’t have a steady income and are planning on living in the house long term, you may struggle to make the repayments.”

When making this momentous decision, it’s important to consult professionals.

“My advice is to consult a mortgage professional and understand the terms and conditions of the buy-down, including the buy-down period, the increase in payments after the period, and the costs associated with the buy-down before making a decision,” Ganeshram says. “Ask them to do a calculation of how much you would save on the monthly payment in total versus how much they are asking you to commit upfront.”

Buy now, pay later is great in theory. But in practice, it depends on how much you need to pay back and whether you have the cash to cover it.


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Your home’s floors obviously need regular cleaning, but what about your walls? Although painted walls don’t accumulate dirt the same way that floors do, they will start to gather dust, grime, and stains over time, particularly in high-traffic areas. Plan to clean your painted walls about once a year, doing so gently so as not to damage the finish of the paint.

Wall cleaning is just one part of keeping your home tidy, and it’s a big job. If you need help, consider calling a professional service like The Cleaning Authority. This nationwide company knows the best way to clean walls and other surfaces, and you can easily get a free estimate on its website.

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However, if you’d prefer to do it yourself, here’s how to clean painted walls.


Prepare to Clean

Before you start soaping up sponges, make sure to get your home ready for this process. For starters, dust the walls you’ll be cleaning to remove any surface-level dirt. You can do this with a dusting cloth, a vacuum cleaner with a dust brush attachment, or a rag around a clean mop head. To get into corners or around baseboards and molding, a foam craft brush is great for detail work.

Also, put down a drop cloth or tarp against the walls you plan to clean. Although you don’t want to use enough water that it actually runs down the walls, there are always drips and spills with any cleaning project, so protect your floors.


Pick Your Cleaning Solution

Which cleaner you use will depend on the type of paint on your walls. Matte, flat, eggshell, or stain finishes are slightly more delicate and need a very mild cleaning solution. Use a small amount of dye-free hand soap or dishwashing detergent dissolved in warm water.

Glossy and semi-glossy finishes are a bit hardier, and you can use cleaners with a degreasing agent, including stronger types of dish soap. You can also use most non-abrasive multipurpose cleaners on this type of paint or make your own by mixing one teaspoon of liquid dish soap and ¼ teaspoon of white vinegar into one quart of water. This cleaner should work on most latex paints.

Finally, oil-based paints can take a slightly stronger cleanser. Use the same mixture from above or substitute a small amount of ammonia for the vinegar. You can consider adding an ounce of borax for every pint of water, as well.

If you have any doubts about how well your wall’s paint will stand up to these cleansers, test a small, inconspicuous area first.


Wash Gently

It’s a good idea to have two buckets and two sponges on hand: one for the cleaning solution and one for plain water to rinse. Use non-abrasive sponges (that is, the smooth side—not the scrubby side) and wring out the sponge so that it’s only mildly damp before touching it to the wall. Too much water can create bubbling or watermarks.

Start at the top of the wall and work downward in small sections, rinsing each area after you’ve cleaned it. Scrub gently, applying very little pressure and working in circular motions. Glossy and semi-glossy finishes are prone to scratching, so be particularly careful on those surfaces. Give extra care to areas around light switches or door frames. Also, be careful not to let any water drip into electrical outlets, wall jacks, or light switches.


Spot Treat for Stains

Walls can accumulate stains over time, so if you encounter any streaks or marks that a mild cleaning solution can’t seem to remove, don’t panic. You can make a paste out of baking soda and water and apply it to the stain. Give it a few minutes to set, and then wipe it away. Be careful not to scrub the mixture too hard, though, because baking soda can be abrasive.

A little bit of hydrogen peroxide can take care of red wine stains, and rubbing alcohol is worth a try. Always try gentler methods before working your way up to harsher cleansers. Cleaning products like stain removal pens and magic erasers can also help out. No matter what cleaner you use, make sure to wipe any residue away with a damp sponge afterward.


Dry the Walls

Since your sponge should be merely damp, there shouldn’t be much water left on the walls after rinsing, but you may want to hand-dry your wall with a towel anyway. If you removed any hanging pictures or other items from the wall, make sure it has thoroughly dried before replacing them. You might want to wait to clean your walls until the weather is warm and dry so you can open your windows to speed the process up.

For help or advice on how to clean walls, The Cleaning Authority offers its services in 45 states across the country, including all but Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Get a free estimate from the company today.


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If you’re feeling the financial crunch right now, you’re not alone. Ever since inflation reached a record high of 9.1% this past summer (the highest it’s been in 40 years), life has started to feel pretty unaffordable.

Add the double-whammy of increased energy prices and the oncoming holiday season, and it’s gearing up to be an expensive end to 2022. And a wallet-busting new year as well.

It’s little wonder that everyone seems to be trying to save money in their home. So we spoke to home and energy experts across the country to get their insider tips for the best ways to save on basic living expenses each month. Here’s what they had to say.

Save on Monthly Home Costs With These 7 Hacks

1. Get a home energy audit

If you want to understand where your hard-earned dollars are going each month, one of the best things you can do is get an energy audit.

“Getting a home energy audit can help you identify energy efficiency upgrades you can make in your home,” says renewable energy expert Alan Duncan, of Solar Panels Network USA. “This can save you money on your energy bill in the long run.”

According to, making energy efficiency upgrades after an audit can save you anywhere between 5% and 30% on your monthly bill.

2. Winterize rooms you aren’t using

If you live in a big house (or even a normal-size one with a weird layout), then you might just consider winterizing any parts of the home you don’t plan on using—since this can save you some money when it comes to heating bills.

“I’m always surprised by how many people heat rooms or sections of their home that they never use or go into during colder months,” says Doug Greene of Signature Properties. “Be thoughtful about spaces like guest rooms where you can probably leave it unheated for longer durations.”

Set up a minimum temperature on your thermostat (to avoid freezing pipes), or add some extra insulation and opt to leave your heat off entirely in those unused spaces.

3. Lower your water heater temperature

Another unexpected way to save this winter? By lowering your water heater temperature.

“In hotter climates, air conditioning may be the biggest expense, and in colder ones, electric heating may come in first,” says Mark Dawson, president and CEO of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. “But no matter what climate you live in, electric water heaters are likely to come in third for electricity consumption.”

All heat-producing electrical appliances use tons of electricity, but water heaters are especially busy because we use hot water throughout the day for bathing, dishes, laundry, and other needs.

To help lower your bill, Dawson recommends lowering the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to capture savings without sacrificing hot showers.

4. Put something in your toilet’s fill tank

Nope, this isn’t a prank. Adding a placeholder to your toilet’s water tank (like a full plastic water bottle) can save you a pretty penny each month.

“It’s no secret that every flush comes with a cost,” says Kerry Sherin, consumer advocate at Ownerly. “With less room in the tank, it will be filled with less water and save you on your water bill.”

The average water bill costs up to $115 per month. And the average person uses around 88 gallons per day—plenty of which comes from flushing, with each flush being equivalent to 1.5 gallons. So anything you can do to offset your water usage is sure to result in savings.

5. Invest in power strips

If you’ve never considered the hidden cost of the energy vampires living in your home, now’s the time to get them under control with a few power strips.

“A bad habit many people have is leaving appliances or electronics plugged in when they’re not in use—which are known as energy vampires,” says Sherrin. “A power strip can help you save because of how easy it is to switch multiple items off at once.”

Turning off your energy-sucking devices could save you several hundred dollars a year.

6. Keep your freezer full

This might sound counterintuitive, but keeping your freezer (and fridge) full can actually help immensely when it comes to its cooling efficiency.

“With more cool items in a fridge or refrigerator, there will be more cool air circulating,” explains Sherrin. “This means the appliance won’t have to work as hard to stay cold inside, therefore saving on electricity and saving you money.”

7. Insulate your attic

Speaking of unused heat, many homeowners end up paying even more on heating costs due to poor insulation. And since hot air rises, your attic could be the main culprit.

“Adding insulation to your attic is an easy, low-cost way to increase your home’s comfort in winter and summer and help cut your energy costs by as much as 20%,” says Elyse Inglese of CertainTeed, manufacturer of sustainable building materials. “Since different climates have varying insulation needs, I also recommend using an insulation calculator tool to determine what’s best for your region.”


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The interest rate your mortgage lender offers you when you buy or refinance a house is not necessarily the rate you have to stick with. In fact, you can lower your mortgage rate by shelling out at closing for something called mortgage points. But what are they and how can they save you some serious cash (like, thousands of dollars over the years you make monthly payments)? Read on for the answers from loan experts.

What to know about mortgage points

There are two types of mortgage points:

  • Discount points: These points, also known as prepaid points, lower your interest rate but increase your closing costs, because payment for them is due at closing. Discount points are a kind of prepaid interest you “buy” from your lender, based on your loan amount, for a lower mortgage rate.
  • Origination points: These points are charged to recover some costs of the mortgage origination process. This would include compensating your loan officer, notary fees, preparation costs, and inspection fees.

One mortgage origination or discount point typically costs 1% of the loan amount. For example, 1 point on a $250,000 mortgage would equal $2,500.

What Are Mortgage Points? Upfront Fees That Could Save You Money

How do mortgage points lower your interest rate?

The primary purpose of buying discount points from the lender is to reduce your interest rate on your mortgage, and thus lower your monthly payment.

You can pay points during the home-buying process, or when you refinance your home. One point usually reduces the borrower’s interest rate between 0.125% to 0.25%, depending on the lender’s terms, although 0.25% is typical.

For example, if you took out a 30-year, $400,000 loan at an interest rate of 5%, you would pay $2,147 in mortgage payments a month (not including taxes, insurance, or anything else). Paying 2 mortgage points to the lender at 0.25% per point would lower the interest rate to 4.5% and drop the monthly payment to $2,027. You would also need to foot the upfront cost of $8,000 to buy discount points at closing.

Should you buy mortgage points?

Buying points from a lender makes the most sense for borrowers who plan on living in their house and making monthly mortgage payments for many years, either for the life of the loan or close to it.

Consider how long you think you’ll stay in your house and keep your home loan. Generally, if you buy points, you want to stay longer to break even and recoup the money it took to buy the points on the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan too soon, you won’t reach the break-even point, and you can lose money.

Let’s go back to the above example of the 30-year, $400,000 loan. The 2 mortgage discount points for $8,000 at closing saves you $120 in monthly payments. It would take about 5.5 years to reach the break-even point of $8,000, before you could start to save money.

However, it would also save you $43,394 in interest over the life of the loan. Deduct that $8,000 in point-buying costs from money saved in interest and you will have actually saved a total of $35,394. Of course, that’s if you see out the life of the loan. If you sell after six or seven years and pay off your mortgage, buying those points from the mortgage lender wasn’t worth it. Know your future plans and move forward accordingly.

You should also consider how much money you have to use for a down payment at the time of closing. If you are looking to pay the least amount possible in mortgage closing costs, and you can’t afford out-of-pocket points on your loan, you may need to opt for a zero-point loan program.

Tax breaks and mortgage points

Because discount points are a form of interest you pay on your loan, they’re usually tax-deductible as mortgage interest for the year you buy your home. However, origination points that are basically document fees for your mortgage are not deductible.

If you’re considering buying discount points, consult your tax adviser to determine if you qualify for these mortgage deductions.

When you refinance your home and pay for mortgage discount points, you amortize the cost of the points over the years you have the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan, you can deduct any remaining points in the last year you have the mortgage.

Generally, the bigger the mortgage, interest rate, and mortgage length, the more money discount points will save you. Buying points on mortgages with only a few years left, or on those with already very low mortgage rates, could yield monthly savings of only a few bucks and never reach a break-even point for your closing costs, so be sure to do the math before you finalize any mortgage decision.


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