How-To Tuesday: Organize Your Space


kitchen sample 3

Though many areas in the country have had especially harsh weather this winter, springtime is just around the corner. It’s starting to warm up, and soon Charleston area homes will be ready for spring cleaning! Though it’s not quite time for that yearly deep cleaning we tackle when the weather warms up, now is the time to get your home ready for it. Cleaning will be much easier if you take the time now to de-clutter. Here are some room-by-room organizing tips and tricks to help you get your home shipshape in no time flat.


Get Motivated

  • Make small goals. Organizing can be a daunting, overwhelming task. Instead of looking at it as one giant project, divide it into small goals.
  • Play some music! Make up an upbeat playlist that will get you up and moving.
  • Start in one room and stay there until it’s finished. Zig-zagging all over the house tiring and distracting, and you’ll get discouraged by the lack of visible evidence. If you have a particularly large room to deal with, divide that up into smaller sections so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Set a timer. Give yourself 5, 10, or 15 minutes to complete a task. If you beat the timer, reward yourself! If you don’t, just set it again and keep at it.


Living Room

  • Small space? Invest in dual-purpose furniture. Use an ottoman with a removable top to store blankets, pillows, and DVDs. Turn a desk into a dining table with a large leaf insert. The possibilities are endless.
  • Keeping things monochromatic can also create the illusion of a bigger space. Create a “landing station.” Set up a small space near the front door to catch all those little items you drop as soon as you come home. Things to include: a bowl for keys and wallets, a hook for your coat, a container for loose change, and an in/outbox for mail.
  • Put remote controls in a pretty basket or vase on the coffee table or side table.


Kitchen/Dining Room

  • Clean out the refrigerator every trash day. This will keep unwanted items from accumulating and leading to a bigger mess later on.
  • Group like items together. In the pantry, keep salty snacks in one basket or bin, sweets in another, canned items on one shelf, and dry goods on another. In the fridge, put all dairy items in one spot, vegetables and fruits in another, prepackaged foods on a separate shelf, and condiments and drinks in the shelves on the door.
  • Don’t spend a lot of money on countertop organizing. For things like flour, sugar, and pastas, paint old coffee containers and stick a chalkboard label on the front.
  • Keep the dining room table set with pretty dishes and flowers. This will discourage your family from tossing things on the table that don’t belong there.



  • The closet is usually the most difficult area to rein in. Sort your clothing into groups and designate hanging sections for shirts, pants, and dresses. Keeping like items together makes it easy to choose an outfit.
  • Bins and baskets on shelves are the perfect place for belts, purses, and scarves.
  • Add a narrow shelf closer to the floor for shoe storage.
  • In the kids’ rooms, sort various belongings into appropriate bins. Make sure to label them for easy access. If your children are too young to read words, label the bins with pictures instead.
  • If keeping the kids’ clothing organized is a hassle, think about putting coordinating items in gallon-sized kitchen bags before putting them away. Getting dressed will be a snap when they only have to reach into the drawer and choose a bag.
  • If toys are taking over the bedroom, consider donating the ones that the kids have outgrown. It’s also a good idea to have kids purge their toy collection before every birthday or holiday.



  • Keep countertops clear of clutter.
  • Designate specific areas for hygiene items. Keep the ones you use most front and center. Those that are only for occasional use can be stored in cabinets or baskets.
  • If storage space is an issue, get creative! For example, paint an old wooden ladder to lean against the wall and hold towels. Mount repurposed crates on the walls to house necessities and décor.
  • Leave a decorative bowl on the counter to hold jewelry.



  • Use a binder clip to keep cords together and out of the way.
  • Bolt jar lids to the bottom of shelves to create storage space for jars of paperclips and rubber bands.
  • Organize a bookshelf by keeping similar-sized books and magazines together. If you really want to get creative, sort the books by color on the shelves. It might not be functional when it comes to looking for a specific book, but it is visually interesting!
  • Organize mail and other documents using accordion files. Designate separate files for receipts, warranties, tax information, etc.


Most importantly, don’t do it all by yourself. Enlist your family (or even a friend or two) to help. Turn it into a game by setting a timer to see who can de-clutter their area fastest. Once you’re all finished, sit down, take a rest, and appreciate your handiwork. And don’t forget to treat yourself for a job well done.


Friday Five // Five Links We Think You'll Find Interesting and Informative

We're starting a new weekly post called the Friday Five, in which we share with you five links to articles or other information we find interesting or important. Just click on the highlighted links to be taken to the recommended articles or sites. Among this week's post are links from Realtor Magazine, The New York Times, and the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. 

Business Insider says "Americans Are Still Moving To The Suburbs."

The New York Times reports on "Retiring on the House: Reverse Mortgages for Baby Boomers."

Realtor Magazine presents "Big Year Predicted for Commercial Success": findings from an NAR annual forecast report.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, historic Charleston is named one of the Most Romantic Places in the World.

And finally, don't forget about the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition this weekend! It begins today, Friday, February 14th, and ends on Sunday, February 16th.

All of us here at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a happy and safe weekend!





5 Things Homeowners Should Know About Tax Season

If we asked you about your least favorite times of the year, tax season might rank pretty high on the list. Doing your taxes can be incredibly confusing and stressful. Those who own a home might find it even harder to know exactly what’s what when it comes to homeowner tax deductions. In a lot of cases, it’s smart to leave it to a professional. On the other hand, if your tax information is pretty straightforward, most homeowners find themselves comfortable with e-filing. But whether you do your own taxes or take them down to your local preparer, it’s important to be armed with the right information. With that in mind, here are a few things we think all homeowners should know this tax season.

1. You can only deduct the actual amount of property taxes paid, not the total amount you’ve paid your lender. Some homeowners pay their tax bills all at once on their own, but others pay a monthly amount to escrow for property taxes. Sometimes, the amount you’ve paid the lender is more or less than the actual tax bill. Here’s a quick example:

Say your property tax bill is $3,400, but your lender has collected $3,600 from you this year. You may only deduct the amount paid toward the bill by your lender, which is $3,400. That extra $200 you paid your lender will either be applied toward next year’s taxes or sent you a refund.

2. You may deduct points paid to refinance your mortgage… BUT you must spread the deduction out over the life of your loan. Though you may deduct the total points paid to secure your mortgage in the year you bought your home, the same is not true for a refinance. For example, if you paid $3,000 to refinance a 15-year mortgage, you must spread that out over the 15 years. So your yearly deduction would be $200.

3. There is an easier option for home office deduction. Good news for those who claim deductions for home office space! In the past, the guidelines for this type of deduction were somewhat involved. For the 2013 tax year, there is a new option that makes home office deduction much simpler. Instead of having to figure the actual expense of operating a home office, you can now claim $5 per square foot of office space for up to 300 square feet. What has not changed is the definition of a home office. The room or area still must be used exclusively for business purposes on a regular basis.

4. You can receive a tax credit for having an energy-efficient home. If you have made upgrades to make your house more energy-efficient, you may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 10% of the amount you spent to upgrade. The cap for this credit is $500, but the added benefit is the amount you’ll be saving on energy bills!

5. Not every home repair counts as a tax deduction. Of course it’s always best to check with a tax professional on this one, but there are typically only two ways you can claim repairs. The first is if your home is used for a business. If repairs were done to your home office, you may deduct those. If a repair was done to the entire house (such as painting or adding a new roof), then you may deduct a percentage. So if your office takes up 10% of your house, you can deduct 10% of the repair. The second reason to claim repairs is when they are made due to casualty losses. That includes losses retained after federally declared disasters and other major damage. This is a complex process, however, and our advice is to consult a professional.

Above all, it is extremely important that you keep your records organized and accessible! Having everything organized and in one place will make tax season much more bearable. We hope you’ve learned something new from our tax season tips. If you think we’ve left out an important tip, feel free to add it in the comments section below. 

How-To Tuesday: Open Up a Dark, Drab Kitchen


The kitchen. It’s where your family makes dinners and bakes goodies together. It’s where your friends gather for coffee and dinner parties. Whether you’re entertaining, relaxing with a cup of tea, helping the kids with homework, or doing a craft project, it’s likely that a good amount of your home life is spent in the kitchen. In fact, the kitchen is one of the first rooms buyers look at when shopping for a new home. If this room is a turnoff, it can distract from the other great qualities your home features. For this week’s how-to, let’s take a look at a few ideas for brightening a dark kitchen.


1. If space is an issue, sometimes all you need is to open things up. Removing cabinet doors can do a lot to open up a small kitchen. As a bonus, you can use this opportunity to display particularly colorful dishes or other collections. If keeping things clean and organized is not your forté, however, this might not be the best idea for you. Instead of getting rid of the doors completely, replacing the wood with glass can also create the illusion of space.


2. Does your kitchen lack light? The culprit could very well be the color of your walls and fixtures. While dark, designer colors can be stunning in the right room, they can also bring a poorly lit one down. If your kitchen is on the dark side of the house or doesn’t have enough windows, brighten things up with a lighter paint color. If you’re brave enough, go with an all-white color scheme. Not only is bright white a design “do” right now, but it also allows you to go crazy with fun decorating accents.


3. Get rid of clutter! This is important for any room in the house, but it’s especially true for the kitchen. Start by removing everything from the counter tops. Put it all on the floor for a little perspective. As you pick each item up, really think about whether it actually belongs on the counter. If it’s not something that’s used often, it should probably be stowed away in a cabinet or pantry until it’s needed.


4. If your kitchen is truly tiny and you have the time and resources, think about knocking out a wall or two. Opening your kitchen up to the rest of the house allows for better flow, more space, and affords you the opportunity to converse with friends or family in the living room while you take care of kitchen duties.


5. When all else fails, turn to the obvious—lighting!  Natural light is always best, but it might not be possible to open up your kitchen to the outside. Sometimes you have to resort to the next best thing. Buy some beautiful pendant lights. Install under-cabinet lighting. Do whatever you can to shed some light on the situation.

If you’re thinking of selling your home, the kitchen is one of the first rooms that should be spruced up and updated. Opening up your dark, drab kitchen will certainly help possible homebuyers see your home’s potential. As a bonus, it might just inspire you to enjoy more time there with a few new recipes. Has your kitchen undergone a renovation or update lately? Share some of your own tips and tricks in the comments section below!


CTAR Releases 2013 Annual Report on the Charleston Area Housing Market


The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors® recently released its annual report on the Charleston area housing market. This report contains a plethora of information about the local real estate market.

“It was a banner year for residential real estate across America,” states CTAR. “Nearly every metropolitan housing market embarked upon or continued along the road to recovery. Local and regional markets once burdened by excessive supply levels and heavy foreclosure loads have given way to multiple-offer situations, homes selling in record-low market times, and prices rallying to multi-year highs.”

The numbers don’t lie. Charleston real estate has made a great recovery over the past two years. Closed sales were up 21.1% in 2013 from 2012, and pending sales were up 21.5%. There was a 13.9% rise in new listings, and at the end of the year, inventory of homes for sale was down 12.3%. In addition, sales prices were up and average number of days on the market were down. These are all definite signs of a recovering market.

For more information on CTAR’s 2013 report, check out our infographic below.







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