RE/MAX Collection Tom Carroll

Broker/Owner RE/MAX Partners
Serving the Andovers Since 1993

What to Do, Where to Go This Weekend!

Fall is in full swing and there's sooooo much to do! It's shaping up to be a gorgeous weekend, too.  Here are some ideas to get you started and take advantage of the good weather. 

Fall Pumpkin Float at Frog Pond in Boston, Friday 5-8 pm.  This is a MUST for the kids and the young at heart who love jack-o-lanterns. Besides the floating pumpkins, there are fun events and live music.  Bring your own 8" diameter or smaller carved pumpkin and it will be lit and added to the group to float.

Maudslay is Haunted in Newburyport, Saturday and Sunday from 2-4.  Take a one hour walk through the eerily decorated and populated state park!

The American Dog Show, an exhibit of Haverhill artist Dale Rogers' iconic dog sculptures. 20 of these 8' dogs will be on display on the Bradford Common on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 - 5.  There will also be food, vendors and music!

Witches Night Out in Newburyport, Friday from 6-9 pm. Enjoy a fun night of shopping, drinks and snacks at many of the local retailers, check out the Halloween decorations and enter the costume contest at Starboard Galley at 8:30.  A fun way to support local merchants!

Head of the Charles Regatta, Boston, Saturday and Sunday beginning at 7:45 am.  You've heard of the regatta, now's your chance to see it in person and experience the excitement up close and personal!

Birthday Party for Old Ironsides, Charlestown Navy Yard Saturday from 9 am - 6 pm. Celebrate history with a tour of the USS Constitution on her 220th Birthday, watch the crew perform drills, take a below decks tour, sample food from the trucks and more!

Boston All Stars Roller Derby, at the Shrine Auditorium in Wilmington on Saturday.  The WFTDA Division 2 champions take on the Brandywine Belligerents, collowed by an end of year celebration. Doors open at 4:00.

Fall Orchid Sale at the Lyman Estate, Waltham on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9:30-4:00.  This beautiful estate is a hidden jewel!  Visit the greenhouses to see and smell hundreds of varieties of the plants.  Purchase your favorites and seek advice from experts on staff.

Junior League of Boston Designer Show House, Belmont. Now through November 7th, the historic Italianate 1853 William Flagg Homer House in downtown Belmont is open. Some of the to Boston area designers have donated their time and materials to transform and adorn the Mansard-style mansion. 

Gideon Lodge Annual Open House and Craft Fair, Kingston, NH on Saturday from 9 - 3. Take a tour of the lodge, enjoy light refreshments and check out the local crafters and artisans selling wonderful hand made items.

Boo at the Zoo! Stone Zoo, Stoneham on Saturday and Sunday from 11-3.  Kids are invited to trick-or-treat among the animals, where they will encounter thrills and chills around every corner on the Trick-or-Treat Trail! Throughout the day, guests will have fun with crafts, games, contests and a haunted maze. 

The Addams Family at The Community House in Hamilton, on Saturday and Sunday. Gomez, Morticia, Lurch and the rest of the creepy family are on stage, dealing with a grown-up Wednesday's engagement to a "normal" boy. A fun trip down memory lane in a contemporary setting.

Hidden History Hike at the Great Hill Conservation Area in Acton on Sunday. Join local archaeologist Kimberley Connors at 1:00 pm for a 2 mile hike to discover the hidden history of Great Hill Conservation Area. The hike highlights the archaeological remains of the area's farming past as well as the longer Native American occupation which lasted thousands of years. There will be a discussion on how humans were able to survive and thrive in this rich environment.

Open House Events, Saturday and Sunday. Check out our Open Houses in Haverhill, Methuen, North Andover, Andover and Hudson, NH! 



Creating Good Furniture Flow

Have you ever walked into someone's home and immediately felt it was inviting and open, even though the room wasn't large? The way you place furniture in a room can make all the difference in the world. Placement can either make a space feel open and inviting or cramped and off balance. Follow these tips used by interior decorators to help create balance and flow in the rooms in your home. 

It's About Balance.  

Placing large or heavy pieces right next to slender or minimal pieces can feel off kilter. Maintain a more balanced feel by grouping items of similar "visual weight" together. An oversized leather recliner next to a small glass and chrome side table just doesn't cut it!  

 The 3-foot rule. You don't have to have 2 left feet to trip over furniture! Paths between and around furniture will feel less restricted when kept at around 3 feet. Keep in mind, too, that curved and oval pieces are easier to navigate around than square ones. They also soften lines when people look around the room.



Don't Be a Wall-flower. Don't push all your furniture up against the walls, or try to fill every corner of a room with furniture. Moving furniture toward the center of the room dramatically increases the flow of your space and makes it feel more open. If you don't have a room large enough to allow for the "3-foot rule" between walls and sofas, 12 inches will do. Be sure to add some art to the walls, just don't go to art-happy and make the room feel heavy and over crowded again! 

Highs and Lows.The flow of a room has a lot to do with eye movement and perception of space. Maintain a clear view across the room especially toward windows. Keep items low in the center and high around the perimeter. High-backed chairs and floor lamps, for example, can reduce the feel of space and make a room feel choppy when they're placed in the natural line of sight. Remember to draw the eye to the wide outdoors - or at least draw the eye across the room!

Grandma's Left-over Chairs. If you have lots of accent chairs but no one sitting in them, you probably have too much seating - or uncomfortable seating! Create extra room and occasional seating with double-duty pieces like an oversized ottoman that can act as a coffee table when you don't have as many guests. Nesting tables are also a great space saver. 



Light and Lovely. While people these days love overhead lighting, keep it for when you really need to see something.  It's is fine for sewing, reading instructions, doing the crosswords and playing board games, but in the evening it can be harsh and unpleasant. Secondary lighting from table or floor lamps is much better for defining seating areas and hanging out with family and friends. It also provides for a warmer, more inviting feel.

By making a few changes you can enjoy your home more!

Fall Festivals and Other Fun Stuff!

Fall is in the air and Halloween is on people's minds!  Here are some ideas for making the most of the weekend. 

King's Chapel Underground Tomb Tours, Boston.  This will definitely bring on thoughts of ghosts and goblins!  Guided tours will take you into 21 underground tombs, where you'll learn about the people buried there along with ancient burial customs. Tours are at 5:30 and 6:15 pm on Fridays and Saturdays through the end of the month.

Not-So-Scary Monster Safari Hayride at Smolak Farms, North AndoverFor those who want to anticipate Halloween in a less scary manner, bring the kids (costumes encouraged) to Smolak Farms on Saturday between 10 and 3:30.  They'll enjoy a tractor-pulled  hayride where they'll be greeted by friendly classic monsters, receive candy, a cider donut (parents get one, too!) and a sugar pumpkin.  While you're there you can meet the animals and check out the delicious offerings in the farmstand.

iFarm Fall Festival, 55 Towne Road, Boxford. Saturday from 12-4 there will be events for the whole family, including cook-offs, beer-tasting, pumpkin decorating, hay bale toss contest and garden tours. Come support a local farmer and have fun at the same time! 

Tewksbury Fall Harvest Fest, Livingston Field, Tewksbury on Sunday from 12-5. Festival events include rides, crafts, vendors, games and shows, including Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry tribute performances and Rattlesnake Alley, a country/rock band. There will also be a cornhole tournament, remote-control racecars. And a live broadcast of the Patriots-Jets game from a pub tent!

The Haunting of Manning Park, Billerica on Saturday. Be prepared for a frighteningly good time! Ages 2-8 can experience the thrills and chills from 6-7 pm while the older crowd (that includes you, parents!) will walk the Trail of Terror from 7-9 pm. There will also be games, prizes and treats.  Bring a flashlight and wear appropriate walking shoes! Parking in the Chelmsford Forum at 2 Brick Kiln Road, only!

Applefest at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA on Saturday and Sunday. Wachusett isn't just for winter skiing! Check out the 34th Annual Applefest with over 150 crafters and farmers' booths, foliage skyrides to the summit, pony rides, climbing wall, jugglers, barbecue, Celtic Celebration, beer garden and so much more! 

Grand Opening of Henry Bear's Park in Ipswich. Take a break from the scary events and apple festivals and bring the kids to the area's newest toy store at 3 Market Street.  Kids will love the facepainting, balloons, raffle prizes, craft making and more from 10-4.

Sing-a-long with Peter Sheridan at The Pike School on Saturday at 10. Your little ones will have a ball singing along with this favorite children's entertainer who accompanies his singing with guitar, harmonica and more. Free coffee for parents, too, who are invited to join in the fun!

Farmers' Market, Andover on Saturday. Opens at 10, offering the best local produce and artisan products. The end of the market season is almost here, so don't miss out! 

Hye Kef, Saturday at 7 pm at The Doubletree on Old River Road in Andover.  This 5-hour Dance features the legendary Onnik Dinkjian!! Sponsored by Armenian Friends of America, Inc. (AFA) of the Merrimack Valley. The band will include John Berberian on Oud, Mal Barsamian on clarinet, Ara Dinkjian on keyboard and Ron Tutunjian on Dumbeg. Ticket prices include a full dinner buffet.

Crossroads Music Series Kickoff, Saturday at 8 pm at the North Parish Church in North Andover. Crossroads Music Series kicks off its concert season with ‘Alice and the Groove Diggers’ on Saturday, October 14th. ‘Alice and the Groove Diggers’ (formerly together as ‘Oncoming Traffic’) presenting a mix of Classic Rock, R&B and Blues.

Sunday Open Houses! Yes, the Pats are on at 1:00 so plan your open house visits accordingly! Check out my website to get the scoop on Open House locations and times. 



Whole Lotta Stuff Goin' On This Weekend!

October - one of the busiest months for fun things to do, both indoors and out!

Newburyport Fall Festival in downtown Newburyport on Sunday & Monday. The annual festival offers a ton of great food, live music, and family fun, with craft vendor booths and specials in downtown shops and restaurants. Live entertainment in Market Square and a Scarecrow contest are some of the other events.

North Andover Fire Department Open House, Saturday from 10 - 1.  Bring the kids or the young-at-heart to see the fire trucks up close and personal, meet our firefighters and see what the station looks like from the inside out!

Teddy Bear Picnic at the Stevens Coolidge Place in North Andover on Sunday from 1-3. Kids and parents can enjoy storytime and a light picnic (refreshments provided) at the teddy bear garden. There will also be crafts, bubbles, and a Bear Scavenger Hunt. Stuffed animal best friends are encouraged to attend! Please bring your own blanket to relax on the lawn.  A portrait photographer will be here to take complementary portraits of children with their stuffed animals. Also, Mini Emporium, an Andover-based mobile children's boutique specializing in baby and kiddos will be on the property during the event. 

Fall Foliage Train Rides in NH.  Who doesn't love a train ride?  There are several different rides from which to choose, including both old restored and newer cars and engines.  Whether it's a one hour ride or several hours with a hot meal or snacks, you'll enjoy relaxing and taking in the views.

Salem is gearing up for its favorite and most popular time of year! Visitors from around the globe head to our famous neighboring town to take in the sights, sounds, food and vibes of the city. Events abound for all ages! This weekend's fun events include Lanterns in the Village on Sturday and Sunday.  This pumpkin-patch party is being held in Pioneer Village, where decorated pumpkins will be lit and spooky stories will be read, and you can tour the village.  For those looking for more scare factor, check out the Zombie Walk from 3:30-5:30 on Saturday, when zombies of all ages will be roaming the streets.  If you need help transforming into a zombie, there will be facepainters and makeup artists available to help you create the look you desire. Saturday and Sunday is also when the annual Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair takes place.  Dress up and join in the fun! 

Art Brunch at the W Hotel in Boston on Sunday from noon to 5 pm. Partake in the Bloody Mary bar and take in the art at the pop-up gallery - and meet and mingle with the artists!  on Friday at the World Trade Center (Boston) from 4-10 pm. Enjoy live music, food and beer, of course!

Fashion on Fire, Friday at 7 pm at the Hilton in Woburn. A Boston Fashion Week gala hosted by Erika Tarantal anchor/reporter of News Channel 5 Boston featuring a fashion show with top Boston area designers, dance and music by nationally recognized performers, special vendors with amazing shopping, a silent auction benefiting Project Smile, the Best-in-Shoe competition and delicious complimentary appetizers, desserts and a complimentary Svedka cocktail. Guests are encouraged to wear their fanciest or most outrageous shoes so they can strut the catwalk and compete for the title of Best-in-Shoe.

Classic Plastic Model Club Gala 25th Model Car Exhibition at the Elks Hall in Lawrence on Sunday from 8 - 4. See the best scale models in New England. The 2017 theme is 50th anniversary of the Camaro, Cougar & Firebird; sub-theme is Animal-named Vehicles.

FairyTale Players production of Cinderella, Saturday at 10 am at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Andover. The Tale of Cinderella's Sisters' Sassy Shoes includes kooky stepsisters, a scooter-riding princess, and, of course, silly shoe snafus! The magic of friendship blossoms when respect and kindness are remembered. We invite everyone to come dressed in costume, dance with us at the ball, and share jokes with Cinderella!

Open Houses in Andover and North Andover.  Check out the weekend's open houses at!

Fall Cleaning Tips

Well, we are officially well into Fall and for many people, that means Fall Cleaning time!  Here are some tips on fall cleaning and preparation projects.


Clean and Reverse Fans. Ceiling fans are increasingly popular here in the northeast, and they can be used year round to keep your home more comfortable.  Your ceiling fans have been hard at work all summer so they may have gathered more dust than you realize. With the fans off, clean the sides, tops and bottoms of the blades. You can get a special fan cleaning tool or use a Swiffer or regular dust cloth (be careful on the ladder!) to clean the blades and motor case.  Reverse your fans so the blades send air upward to disrupt the warm air that collects near the ceiling and disperse it downward. This is particularly effective in rooms with high or vaulted ceilings and rooms with stoves or fireplaces.

Clean Window Treatments. We often forget that window treatments ae also dust collectors! Don't ruin your investment by not cleaning them. Use a cordless hand-held vacuum to remove dust from heavier, permanently mounted hanging window treatments such as valances and swags. If you have lighter and removable hanging curtains, take them down and wash them in the gentle cycle or take them to the dry cleaner. While they're down, clean your windows and sills thoroughly.  Of course, you might want to clean your windows at the same time - or hire someone to do that unpopular task!

Vacuum and Clean Furniture. Vacuum your upholstered furniture, and spot-clean the big stains as needed. (Always test an inconspicuous area of your couch before applying any cleaning agent to a main area.)  If you have removable cusion covers, wash or dry clean them as indicated by the manufacturer.  You can also hire a professional upholstery cleaning commpany to ome and steam or otherwise clean the furniture.  It's amazing how different your furniture will look and feel after being cleaned.  You (and your pets) may not recognize it!

Clean Carpeting and Area Rugs. While shoes may track in dirt and salt during the winter, it's a good idea to clean rugs and carpeting now. Get rid of summer dirt and sand by beating smaller rugs - or washing if they're small and can withstand the machine - and steam cleaning the others.  You can rent a steam cleaner or call in a professional. And once your rugs are all clean, maybe people will take their dirty shoes off before they step on them! 

Seal the Air Leaks. Check your windows (you've got the curtains down, now's a perfect time) and doors for damaged weather stripping and cracked caulking, and make repairs as needed.  If you haven't had MassSave come to your house, this is a great time to do it and get some free products and labor! 

Check Your Snowblower! Take a few inutes to fire up the snow blower to be sure it's in working order before that first snow storm hits! If you store a car or motorcycle for the winter months, be sure you have a trickle charger to save your battery from draining while the vehicle is just sitting.  

Stock up on plastic covers and tote bins! Don't just stash your lawn furniture under the deck - or leave it out to suffer from the elements.  You can purchase covers to fit your furniture and lawn equipment, but you can also save money by buying heavy plastic by the contractor roll or getting tarps and cutting to fit.  Toss the cushions and pillows into large plastic bins; try the local dollar stores and the big-box home improvement stores for sales.  Plus, it will make you feel good to have everything stored away in good order. 

Make a Trip to th Dry Cleaner or Your Favorite Charity. Now is a good time to "swap out" your clothing and bedding.  Make good use of your washer and dryer or take things to the dry cleaner (or use a pick up service like Zoots or Anton's).  Clean your spring and summer items and store them away (think about those plastic bins again), or bring them to your favorite charitable organization or drop box.  Then get those sweaters and mittens and hats out. It won't be long now before you'll need them!

Weekend Wanderings!


This Friday kicks off a local favorite, the Topsfield Fair!!!  The oldest agricultural fair in the country features fun for everyone, and children under 8 are free.  Don't miss the food, amusements, exhibits and live performances. The fair is in operation through Monday, October 9th.

Love fireworks and wishing it were summer again so you could see some? Head to Connors Farm in Danvers! Not only can you pick up some local produce and baked goods, you can try your skill in the corn maze, feed the animals in the petting zoo, take a ride on the Grain Train and so much more! for all ages to enjoy. And of course the fireworks display goes off at 7:30 on Saturday night!

The Wings of Freedom Tour lands at Beverly Airport this Friday through Sunday.  See a bit of American aviation history at this display of vintage WWII aircraft, including a B-17 Flying Fortress, P51-C Mustang escort fighter and B-24 Liberator.  Tour the planes and grab a snack at the airport cafe.  

Participate or just encourage walkers from the sidelines at the annual Lazarus House Hike for Hope on Sunday. The 3 mile walk winds its way through Andover and raises money for those in need that Lazarus House helps throughout our community. The event kicks off at The Park on Bartlett Street in Andover at 1:00; registration begins at 11:30. After the walk enjoy food, music and entertainment.

Lots of deliciousness will be found Saturday and Sunday at the Salem Food Truck Festival in downtown Salem, MA. Enjoy live music, family fun and food from 40 trucks - the largest food truck event in the area.

Walk off your food truck coma at Salem Open Market in Derby Square (downtown Salem, MA).  The Open Market hosts over 100 crafts, artisan and designer vendors from around New England.

19th Annual Autumn Crafts Festival on the Lake at Mills Falls Marketplace in Meredith, NH. Over 100 juried artisans will hve their crafts, jewelry, photography, woodworking, clothing, food products and more on display for your buying pleasure on Saturday and Sunday. 

The New England Roots Festival in Nashua, NH takes place on Saturday from noon to 10 pm. Enjoy live performances of a variety of folk, bluegrass, Americana, rhythm & blues and more while partaking of the offerings of a number of food trucks and local artisans.

Open House event in Andover and North Andover! Come see the newest listings in Andover and North Andover - or check out the houses you've wanted to see but haven't been able to get to - at this weekend's open houses. Click on my website "propertysearch" link to search for a specific property or view my home page to see my listings! 




Things to Address Before an Older Relative Moves Into Your Home

It is becoming increasingly common in the US, as people live longer, for aging parents to move in with their baby boomer-aged children.  It's important to have  your home properly prepared before they move in so everyone can be assured of their safety.  But where do you start?  Start with these basic projects.


- Have a carpenter install safety rails in the tub and add a grab bar.  You can give the grab bar double duty by also using it as a towel rack. This will allow your loved one to avoid using the actual towel rack or toilet paper holder as a means of steadying herself as she moves around the bathroom. Since these racks aren't made to be weight bearing, they can give way under pressure, rip out of the wall and cause drywall damage.  Not to mention the resulting bruises and breaks that can happen to your parent when this happens.

- Add a rubber bathmat or peel and stick non-slip strips to the bathtub or shower to prevents slips while bathing

- Consider purchasing a shower chair to make bathing easier. It's often difficult for the elderly to stand in the shower or lower themselves into the tub, even with safety rails in place. Be sure it's a sturdy chair made for use in the shower, not just a plastic chair you use for barbecues!


- Remove throw and area rugs. The edges of the rugs can be trip hazards, as can any bumps or wrinkles in the rugs. This goes not only for living, dining and bedrooms, but also for bathrooms and kitchen. A trip on a rug in the kitchen or bathroom is especially dangerous as there can be water that would further impact a fall - and tile floors that are harder when hit than when falling on carpet or wood floors.

- Rearrange furniture so your parent doesn’t have to walk around any pieces as he goes through the rooms in your home. More direct routes mean less chance of falling or bumping into something.  

- Coil or tape any cords or wires to the wall, or have additional outlets installed so there aren't any wires to trip over. 


- Increase lighting in stairways, hallways and at your home’s entrances, including the doorway from the garage into your house. It is important to be able to see the edge of each stair tread.  There are some great new lighting products that are specifically made for bedroom, bathroom and hallway lighting at night, including lights that are motion activated when someone gets out of bed or a chair.


Add a second railing to stairways, so you have railings on both sides. This is important for any interior stairways as well! Be sure the railing isn't too wide or flat to grab; to be effective your parent must be able to wrap his hand around the railing. 

- Check the condition of your sidewalks and other exterior hardscaping. Are there uneven places, loose pavers, wobbly bricks or flagstones or anything else that could trip up someone who doesn’t lift his feet high when walking?  Even out any pathways and patios to make walking on them easier.

Everyone's needs are different, of course.  When thinking about making modifications to your home, give some thought to long term needs and goals, and how you can make life easier and happier for everyone, both now and in the future.  

The Three W's for the Weekend - What, When, Where!


Fall Festival on the Common, North Andover on Saturday from 10-4  

The annual tradition continues with fun for the family! Local food and craft vendors, live performances, pony rides, face painting, pumpkin decorating, sand art and all the things your kids love to do and that bring back childhood memories for you! 

Dueling Pianos, Friday at the Amvets Club in Haverhill, 7:30 pm

Sponsored by the Haverhill Exchange Club.  You'll feel like you're in a Chicago club at this event, with light refreshments available.  The event raises funds for the Child Abuse Awareness Fund.

33rd Annual Boston Film Festival, AMC Loews Boston Common

See world premier films, documentaries and Q&As with Hollywood directors, producers, writers and actors.  See the full schedule

Phantom of the Opera, Boston Opera House through October 1

One of the most loved musicals has returned to Boston! And how fitting that it is being performed at the gorgeous Boston Opera House!

13th Annual Portsmouth Fairy House Tour, Saturday & Sunday at 11 am

Who can resist these magical little fantasy homes! Over 200 fairy houses will be on display on the grounds of the beautiful Strawberry Banke. There will also be performances by the Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater and the New Hampshire Theatre Project Youth Repertory Company, as well as book signings by author Tracy Kane.

Punto Urban Art Museum Walking Tour, Salem, MA. Saturday from 1-2 pm and Sunday from 10-11 am

Family fun, pet friendly! Check out over 25 large-scale indoor and outdoor murals in Salem's Point Neighborhood, created by 12 artists.

Zero Waste Day, Wynn Middle School, Tewksbury from 9 am - 1 pm

Take advantage of the opportunity to clean out the stuff that's been hanging around in your closets, garage, attic and basement! You can bring clothing, household goods and decorative items, tires (off rims), TVs and more.

Museum Day Live - throughout the US! FREE on Saturday!

Here in Massachusetts, from Amherst to Worcester, take a look at all the options! Who knew we have so many museums so close by, and so varied. Or if you're on the road, check out what's around wherever you are.

Andover Historical Society & Andover Farmer's Market, Saturday

While you're picking up local produce and products, check out the exhibits at the Andover Historical Society.  The Farmer's Market is open from 10-2 and the AHS is open 10-4, so you'll have plenty of time to hit both!

Country Music Festival at the Amesbury Sports Park, Saturday at noon & Sunday at 11 am

It's more than just seeing national and regional musicians like The Charlie Daniels Band, Travis Tritt and The Steel Drivers, it's also a time to enjoy a wide variety of gourmet food and specialized craft vendors! 

Open House Event in Andover, Sunday  

Take a look at the houses you've been dying to see, and the one you want to make you own! See for addresses and times!



How to Create a Photo Inventory of Your Possessions

The Importance of an Inventory  
It's always a good idea to have an inventory of your possessions, but the need has been highlighted by the damage caused by the recent hurricanes.  Creating a photo inventory is a great way to document your possessions so you know what you lost if you ever have to file an insurance claim. 
Photographing Items
Be systematic. Start with the top floor and work your way downward to the basement (if you have one). Start in one corner or quadrant of a space and then move clockwise, standing in different parts of the room so you can take several photos.  Once you're finished with a room, tackle the individual items in it.  As you work, preview the images to ensure you got the whole item, good exposure and sharpness. You'll need to really be able to see the items if you have to file a claim.
Take multiple photos of objects to capture the backside, inside, details, brand or model name, serial numbers, etc. If you have receipts for items, take a photo of them to keep in the file as well. Don't forget to check in cabinets, closets, drawers and attic for items that aren't in plain sight!
When photographing rare or valuable items such as antiques, paintings, silverware, jewelry or fine china be sure to:
  • Create a background by placing a white bed sheet over a table and then placing the object on it
  • Fill the camera's viewfinder or LCD display with your subject
  • Shoot at your camera's closest focusing distance 
  • Use the macro setting if you camera has it
  • Be sure there are no shadows on the object or the photo
  • For decorative items, such as china, take a close-up of the pattern or trademark
Exterior Photos
While the exterior of your home may not seem like a "possession" it is important to be able to show the before and after condition of your home and yard if you need to file a claim. Take pictures of your home's exterior, including your roof, siding and porches. Next, add photos of landscaping and hardscaping features like decks, patios, fences, gazebos, sheds, barns and expensive or exotic plants. Note the size and materials used to build each exterior feature. When the time comes to file that claim, you want to be sure any repairs, replacements or rebuilds are done with like-kind/quality materials.
Save A Backup
Create a file naming system so you can group items by room.  As you work, print out a running copy of your inventory list.  It will take some additional time, but add a thumbnail size photo beside each item name.  Once you're finished, save a master copy of your written list on a flash drive and put it and a full set of photos in a location other than your home. A bank safe deposit box or a relative's home that's not nearby are good options. 
In  addition to creating an electronic file and backing it up in the cloud, you might want to make a hardcopy as well. If you are forced to evacuate you can bring the hardcopy with you.
Finally, don't forget to periodically update your photos and files as you add or delete items.  It would be bad enough to lose that precious painting you just purchased - you don't want to lose out on the insurance money, too!

To Pay Off or Not to Pay Off

Should you pay off your mortgage early?  While this is always a  personal decision based on your individual needs, wants and beliefs, here are some general pros and cons of paying the loan off early.  

Factor #1: Your Mortgage Rate

If you have a 30-year mortgage with a low fixed rate, financial advisers usually say it's best to stretch out your payments for as long as possible. With this kind of mortgage, you shouldn't even consider prepaying unless all your other debts are paid off and you have enough money to put in other investments as well.

Factor #2: Credit Card Debt

If you are carrying any credit card debt, the thought of prepaying your mortgage shouldn't even cross your mind. Because credit card debt typically carries a high interest rate, pay it off before anything else.

Factor #3: Investments

When your employer matches your 401(k) retirement contributions, that's like getting a 100 percent return (doubling) your money right now. Plus, that doubled money continues to grow (you hope) until you retire. Compare that to what you'll save with your early payments on your mortgage.

Factor #4: Savings

Having enough savings to pay your household bills for six months or more makes it easier for you to survive a financial crisis. It’s better to put your extra cash into savings instead of prepaying your mortgage until you have that financial cushion built.