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1. Strategies for Reading Out-loud with your Kids
(Carpenter Ave. PTA Newsletter October 2006)

2. Set your Kids Up for Success with Reading
(Carpenter Ave. PTA Newsletter September 2006)

3. Creating Homework Centers for Kids and Teens
(The SUN - October 2004)

1. Are you a Filer or a Piler?
(The SUN - April 2005)

1. Make Your Move a Positive Experience and Get Organized Now!
(TheSUN - March 2005)

2. Pack Smart. Anytime! Anywhere!
(The SUN December 2004)

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Strategies for Reading Out-loud with your Kids
(Carpenter Ave. PTA Newsletter October 2006)
By Deborah Kawashima, Founder of the Carpenter Ave. Book Club


No matter how long a day you've had, reading a story with your child is a relaxing way to end the day. Create a special bond that can also teach them story structure in a natural way.

  1. Choose one special book you only read together. Hide it if you must, so they can't read ahead!
  2. Do not become "the teacher". Instead become adventurers making discoveries. It"s about snuggle time and quality time!
  3. Read a chapter a night or just a few pages. What matters most is that it's a routine activity you share together, not how much you read! You are creating a habit that reading is entertaining!
  4. Start a dialogue about story structure. The technique is simple. Read in an animated way, then stop and ask questions. The focus of your questions is to make them aware of how the story is being told.
  5. How does the author shows us the Characters? Story is all about character. Who are they and what do they want? In “Chocolate Fever”, Henry is loves chocolate. He’s introduced eating his favorite breakfast; everything chocolate. Henry’s character determines the action; he eats too much chocolate and gets sick.
  6. Discover how the character moves the story along. What happens as a result of him getting sick? Everyone studies his strange illness. How does that make him feel? Henry wants to be left a lone. Relate it to your child, How would you feel if you were Henry?
  7. Problem by problem discover how the story unfolds. The character wants something, but obstacles get in his way. Henry runs away. He meets Mac and gets a ride in his truck. Then the truck gets hijacked. Reading out-loud makes them aware of problems, as they happen. Point it out, until they become the problem detective and point them out for you. Make it a game.
  8. Predict what’s going to happen next. Have them guess what the characters will do, based on what they know about the character. Remind them about what the characters want and what’s stopping them from getting it. Henry just wants to be left alone, but he’s on the news, so his only choice, for Henry, is to run away.
  9. Add layers of details when they are ready. Once they have basic story structure down, start adding more awareness, pointing out what action starts the story moving forward. Henry runs away. What action starts resolving the problem. Meets Alfred “Sugar” Cane who cures his illness.
  10. Explore Lessons learned. In “Chocolate Fever” Henry learns that we can’t have everything we want every time we want it.

The more you read with your child, the more they’ll be able to see the structure and the more it will pop out at them. Enjoy this time!

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Set your Kids Up for Success with Reading
(Carpenter Ave. PTA Newsletter September 2006)
By Deborah Kawashima, Founder of the Carpenter Ave. Book Club


As parents, we can set our kids up for success with reading. The key is to create a home where books are a part of their lives and reading becomes a real-life habit.

  1. Model reading to your kids! If your kids don’t see you reading, you can’t expect them to just pick up a book and read. Show kids reading is important by reading books or other reading materials, yourself.
  2. Create a mini library! In their room or another part of the house, give their books a special place to live. It says, books are important.
  3. Choose books that are a good fit! A book needs to capture their imagination and interest. Most kids who aren’t into reading just haven’t found the right book yet. Know your child. Choose books that fit their interests or situations they can relate to. Search for books together, to find ones that interest them.
  4. Don't be a book snob! If Captain Underpants gets your five year old into reading, great! A good book is any book that lets the magic of the words on the page come to life in a child's imagination. Your child's imagination!
  5. Don't force reading! When they lose their focus, take a break. You want reading to be a positive experience. If a book selection doesn't work, don't continue reading it. When they're ready, they'll come back to it. It's okay to stop reading a book if it's not a good fit.
  6. Read out loud to your child, at any age! This is a special way to bond with your kids. Choose a book to read together and take turns reading out loud. Being animated and acting out a story helps with comprehension.
  7. Jump-start your kids into a book! Start reading a book out loud, then stop in mid-chapter at a cliff-hanger most kids want to find out what happens next then let them finish the chapter. The next night have them retell the part you missed.
  8. Stop and Ask questions! While you read out loud, ask basic questions that break down the story structure. In the beginning, What does the character want? What is the problem? In the middle, What’s getting in the way of solving the problem? At the end, How is the problem resolved? Make a link. Does this remind you of someone or something you read before? Ask, What do you think will happen next?
  9. Make reading a real-life habit! Reading becomes a habit when you make it a priority. Schedule reading into their day so it becomes part of the daily routine. Set a goal for either a set time (20 minutes) or number of pages.

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Creating Homework Centers for Kids and Teens
(The SUN - October 2004)
By Deborah Kawashima, Organizing Consultant, creative Organizer


Home Sweet, Homework!

Mom, an alien flew off with my homework! If your spaceship just happens to be in the repair shop that day, you’re out of luck. And if outer space sounds more like an option than trying to get the kids to do homework, then a Homework Center is for you! After all, your spaceship is still at the repair shop.

Creating a Homework Center

Setting up an organized place for your kids to do homework, makes "doing homework" less stressful. Everything they need; the assignments, the supplies, the due dates, are all right there, to make it just another part of the day's routine.

A Homework Center becomes invaluable when someone else, besides you and your spouse, supervise the kid's homework.

Location, Location, Location: Outer space is not an Option!

Find a place in your home that can be a dedicated to just doing homework. Where do your kids like to work? Do they like a quiet place, like their room? Or do they like to be in the middle of everything, like the family room?

Work with what you have and improvise. Any space that can be dedicated to only doing homework is a place to use. Don't have a desk? Use a table. For younger kids, choose a central place where you can easily help them.

Tips: Siblings can share a desk, but need their own Homework Management System. Teens need their own workspace.

The Desk or Table Top: No Aliens allowed!

Get the kids involved by having them help set up the homework area. The more they make it their own, the more motivated they’ll be to use the space.

Keep the desk/table clutter free, with only these items sitting on top:

  • Homework Management System
  • Desk Organizer (for writing supplies; pencils, rulers, tape)
  • Electric Pencil Sharpener (nice to have!)
  • Pencil Holder (for coloring supplies; try the twist-up crayons. Great for any assignment. $5 @ Staples)
  • Dictionary (age appropriate)
  • Work Lamp

Tips: This is not the space meant for a computer. Your kids must have their own computer at the desk? Then use the pull out tray meant for keyboards, as a workspace instead. No computer desk? Make sure there’s enough workspace with the computer there.

Inside the Drawers: Beware of Junk-Drawer Aliens!

Keep it simple! The fewer things inside a drawer, the easier it will be to use.

  • Lined Paper (use age-appropriate line-spacing for kids)
  • Plain Paper (for pre-writing webs)
  • Art Supplies (for School Projects)
  • Extra Homework Supplies
  • Individual Child’s Drawer (Those Junk-drawer Aliens love to collect stuff! For agenda, folders and notebooks only!)


Tips: Using a table instead of a desk? For paper; use file trays, stacked and labeled. For art and homework supplies; keep nearby. For agenda's; make a separate file inside the Homework Management System.

The Homework Management System

This is a temporary place for homework before it's due.


  1. Tabletop File (standard 3.4” width to use with hanging files)
  2. Hanging files and tabs (use 1/5 Cut)


Keep categories general enough to cover the variety of homework in the classroom. How detailed you get depends on your child’s homework needs.

  • Due on Friday? Label per subject.
  • Due each day of the week? Label it Monday thru Thursday.
  • Other classes outside school? If it's homework, it's in here! Make separate files for each, religion, tutoring etc.
  • Finished homework to save? Make a To File section for memorabilia to store elsewhere.
  • School Projects? Make a Projects section to keep on-going research together.

How to Use this System: Once set up, it’s easy to use. For the first few weeks, do it together until they can do it themselves. This will soon become part of the homework routine!

Monday: Once they unload the homework folder and workbooks from the backpacks, have them highlight each subject on the Homework Packet and put each assignment into the corresponding file.

During the week: At homework time, they simply pull each subject out, one at a time, and do their homework. When they’re finished, they put it back into the file. Monday thru Thursday system? Finished homework goes directly into the homework folder each day, to return to school the following day.

Thursday: Put the finished homework into the homework folder, which goes into their backpack, to return to school on Friday. Double check everything, to make sure those aliens aren’t flying off with the homework again!

Creating Project Schedules: This system keeps track of school projects to get them done on time. It also helps students avoid working last minute and becoming overwhelmed. For teens, this is the organizing system. It can be as low-tech or high-tech as they want.


  • Academic Agenda (Try an Academic Monthly July-August.)

Tip: For projects and homework only! Use another calendar for activities/events.

How to Use this System:

Plan this together with your child, but have them write it into the agenda, to make it their own.

  • Break down the project into manageable steps.
  • Create due dates for each step, within the time frame.
  • Include a Reminder a few days before the project’s due.
  • Include a Rehearse for oral presentations.

Weekly Homework Rewards

Make getting their homework done worth their while! Create a rewards system each day for kids to choose something that has meaning to them, favorite games/toys or special treats. Make promises you can keep. That alien is back on Monday!

New Habits Take Time

Realize it takes three weeks for something to become a habit. Introducing new ways of doing things, takes time. That spaceship of yours will be coming back from the repair shop soon and then you and the aliens can go on vacation!

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Are you a Filer or a Piler?
(The SUN - April 2005)
By Deborah Kawashima, Organizing Consultant, creative Organizer

If you're spending more than 30 seconds looking for a piece of paper, your paper system isn't working for you. Every day, at home and in the office, paper is coming at you in all directions. Learn how to manage that paper flow, instead of getting frustrated and wasting valuable time. Create a paper system that puts YOU in control of your paper. The fewer steps it takes to store a piece of paper, the easier it will be to use and the more you'll be able to maintain it!

Determine which way you naturally organize your papers. Are you a filer or a piler? Understanding which method of organizing you feel the most comfortable with, helps you decide which paper system will be right for you. If you’re a piler, trying to be a filer, no matter how hard you work at it, your paper system of choice will make you feel like a failure. You’ll find yourself in a sea of paper, overwhelmed and wondering why you feel that way. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I file? Nothing is wrong with you. You just need to choose a different paper system that works for how you think. The key to choosing the right system is to listen to how you think.

Filers are usually people who are visually distracted by clutter and need a cleared work space to function. If you’re a filer, you are willing to make the time to file away papers as you use them. You need papers stored in a way that is neat and clutter free. In addition to files, you might try binders with sheet protectors for reference papers, desktop files and project boxes for active papers.

Pilers need to see everything they’re working with. For a piler, the whole filing thing becomes a black hole. Out of sight, out of mind, never to be dealt with again. If you’re a piler, you need to be able to actually see and touch your papers, as you need them. A paper system that works for you, lets you see everything, but still confines the clutter. Try creating an easy access space, behind your desk or to the side, to put your piles on. Contain it with a paper sorter system designed to store copy paper or brochures, or put each “pile” into a project box or portable pocket folder. The key is to choose a system you can maintain.

Most of us are a little combination of both. We like the order of filing for some papers, but have a tendency to pile up papers we are working on at the moment. If you fit into this category, you can use a filing system for the papers you don’t need access to on a regular basis (deep storage) and use a portable system that provides easy access to active papers. You can enjoy the best of both systems, as long as keep them in balance. If you lean more towards the filer system, make sure your workspace is cleared. If you are more of a piler, but can stand some filing, don’t go over board with the filing. Keep it simple and easy to maintain.

Understanding the function of your papers, determines how you’ll store them. There are two kinds of papers that we come across each day, Take- Action and To-File. Your Take-Action papers are active papers. Something must be done to them before you can either toss them or file them away. Active papers need to be at your fingertips, when you need them, and put away easily when you’re finished working with them. A paper can be active for a day or a few months, depending on the task at hand. If it’s an active project you’re doing, consider how it’s to be used. Does it need to be portable? Or is it something that you only can deal with at your desk? Create your Take-Action paper system around how you use your active papers.

Ask ten different people in an office to file the same piece of paper, and they will all file it ten different ways. What you label your files reflect how you refer to a piece of paper. Is it by the name, the category, or the location of reference? If it’s a personal file system, you can file it any way you refer to it. In an office setting, Central Files (archives, reference) are shared by many people and must be clear and logically labeled so that everyone concerned can easily understand them. Choosing a labeling system for your files depends on how much time you want to spend updating them. Color-coding is high maintenance, but might be the best way for you to quickly find something; so then it’s worth your time. Think of your labels as billboard signs, and keep them all to one side or in the center. Stacking your labels creates a zigzag effect that makes it more difficult to read.

At the end of the day, keep what you need and toss out the rest.You don’t need to keep that many papers. For your taxes, keep receipts and statements. Once taxes are filed, to play it safe and conservative, keep records for the past seven years. For your assets, keep paperwork for what you currently own. Once you sell it, hold on to it for seven years after that. For research archives, go through them every year or so and decide if you really need to save them. Is it more memorabilia (old journals and notes) or is it for the information? Clearing out old files is like losing weight. It feels great! Purge those old files and get rid of what you don’t use or need anymore.

Maintaining your paper system is the key to its success. When you open your mail each day, do you take the time to open it, sort it, toss out what you don’t need and put it into some sort of Take-Action organized system that works for you? Or does it just sit in a pile to go through later? But then later never comes and you add the next day’s mail to the pile? By the end of the week, your pile has grown from a simple task of opening the mail each day, to a major chore with a pile of mail you dread having to go through! A paper system is only good if it’s being used. If it doesn’t help you, then you need another system. Put yourself in control of your paper, so you can do-what-you-have-to-do and move on!

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Make Your Move a Positive Experience and Get Organized Now!
(The SUN - March 2005)
By Deborah Kawashima, Organizing Consultant, creative Organizer

If there was ever a more perfect time to get organized, it’s when you move. Weather you do it yourself or hire a professional organizer, the benefits of getting organized during the moving process cannot be overemphasized. It’s an opportunity not to be missed! Take the stress out of moving and turn it into a positive experience.

The reward is that within a week after you’ve moved in, you’ll be living in your new home, box free, with a place for everything. You can function in your kitchen, find your corkscrew, open up that bottle of champagne you found hidden in the garage, and throw a party the next week. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.

The moment you put your house up for sale, you start to move.

To sell your house you need to get rid of the clutter. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the mountains of stuff you’ve accumulated through the years and panic about having to pack it all. Instead, think of this as an opportunity to get rid as much stuff as you can!

Look at everything and categorize into:

  • Keep; you want it or need it.
  • Memorabilia; it’s something you cherish and want to save.

  • Toss; it’s broken or you can live without it.

Purge what you don’t want and arrange for your favorite charity to donate or use a service to haul things away for a fee. Try 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Have old boxes of sensitive documents? Hire a local Document Shredding Service to prevent identity thief.

A closet stuffed to the brim leaves any buyer thinking there’s not enough space. Organized closets that utilize space efficiently, speaks volumes to prospective buyers. They want to know, “How much storage space is there?” Inundated with so much information, prospective buyers need to see something rather than imagine it. The same process can be said about garages. The less stuff in your garage makes it more presentable, and easier to sell your home.

Create a schedule and move forward!

After you’ve sold your house and bought a new one, you need a plan of action. Do whatever needs to be done to your new home, before you move in; painting, closets, floors, and carpet.

Create a schedule of what needs to get done and in what time frame. Refer to a Take Action list you update daily to stay on top of things.

Keep your schedule and important papers for your move together in a portable notebook/expanding file to carry around at all times. Include contact numbers and invoices. Don’t forget a School section for kids; with class rosters to schedule those much needed play dates!

Get officially in the Moving Mode and prep the week before the Big Move!

Cover your basic needs so you can focus on moving.

  • Pack a suitcase for each member of your family; your “closet” for the week before and after you move. Include a toiletry Ziplock bag to keep in the bathroom with all your essentials. Going on a business trip? Pack for that as well.
  • Pack a First Aid Kit in a plastic bin (15 QT) and include medications and vitamins.
  • In the kitchen, have a cabinet for paper plates and cups, a drawer for plastic utensils and napkins, on the counter create a breakfast center complete with coffee maker, mugs and toaster. Food is the last thing you pack and the first thing you unpack when it’s a local move, so consume what you already have before moving.
  • Supply bathrooms with toilet paper and anywhere there is a sink, have hand soap and paper towels at the ready. (For both the old and new house.)
  • Before moving day, clean up after installations/painting. You want to be able to unpack onto clean shelves and closets!
  • If your move's local, visit your new home several times, to decide where things will go. Measure spaces and make a list of organizing products you need, to buy before the move. You want to be ready to unpack and organize all at once.

Start packing boxes by categories, to make unpacking on the other end, faster.

Pack like with like, using Ziplock bags to contain categories. As you open drawers, you’ll come across additional items to question; keep or toss? If another family member needs to decide, put it in a box to ask later. Don’t have time before moving? Pack it up and label; Master Bedroom Room, “Jeanne/Keep or Toss”.

Label the boxes, in detail; Family Room/Kids DVD’s/Video’s, so you’ll know what you’re unpacking and can find things. Older kids can help make boxes and label them.

Make this transition a positive one for your kids.

Prepare them ahead of time for the move. At bedtime, tell stories that mirror their anxiety/fears and have an ending that gives them concrete solutions on how to overcome their concerns. (“Annie Stories; a special kind of story telling” by Doris Brett; Workman Publishing)

Kids need to have as much of their normal routine as possible during the moving process, so always keep a few toys and a basket of books out for them. Put together a portable art center as you pack; include stickers and crayons, but nothing messy. Make life easy for yourself!

When packing, small children want to be right where you are. Go with the flow and have them help you pack! Even a two-year old can help put small items into a Ziplock for you. Let him repeat the activity as many times as he wants… it’s keeping him busy! Give your five-year-old a sorting activity!

On the day of the move, arrange play dates with friends or relatives to take care of the kids.

Moving Day: The object is to be able to unpack and organize at the same time!

If you have organizers working with you, this is done in a matter of days. If it's just you and your family, start with the rooms that you need to be functioning straight away; the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room. It makes all the difference and allows you to actually live in your new home and enjoy it while you unpack the rest of the house! If it's a local move, try moving these rooms in before moving day!

Any items you end up not using, put in the garage. The garage is the last place to unpack/organize. Re-evaluate what's in there. Do you really need it? Schedule a charity pick-up a week later, so it’ll get done.

Moving helps you seize the moment and motivates you to finally get organized!

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Pack Smart. Anytime! Anywhere!
(The SUN - December 2004)
By Deborah Kawashima, Organizing Consultant, creative Organizer

Tired of packing too much stuff and still forgetting things? On your next vacation or business trip, try taking the time to actually think about your trip before you pack.

Pack Smart!

Plan ahead and take the extra time now, to think about what you need, so you can be ready to travel, anytime, anywhere.

Pack with a New Attitude!

Rethink the way you pack. Think, Choose, Eliminate and then Pack. It’s a new attitude that’s worth your while!


>Carry around a Take Action Travel List to jot down things as they pop into your head.

  • You are going on a Trip, not Moving to the edge of Civilization! Most of us wear only 20% of the clothes we own. For a trip, you need even less!
  • Pack for Where you’re Going. Every trip has different needs. Realize those needs to pack appropriately. An eight- city tour in ten days? Pack comfortable walking shoes. (Dansko. Birkinstock.) A ski trip? Down and Technical Fabrics are lightweight and warm!

Check the Date and Time of your Flight! Have a midnight flight? Be at the airport the night before! Even Cinderella knows what happens at midnight! Don’t turn into a pumpkin and miss your flight!

Avoid those Should Haves, Would Haves Blues! Stuck with summer clothes when it’s cold and rainy? Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly!

  • Create a Travel Center for One-Stop Shopping! Store luggage and travel accessories in one area. Keep suitcases separated suitcases for easy access.
  • Pre-Pack as much as you can! On every trip, there are a few things you need to take, no matter where you go. (Alarm Clock, Document Holder, First Aid Kit.) Store in your travel center.
  • Re-fill your Prescription Medication before you go away. Avoid hassles refilling out-of-town/overseas.
  • When Shopping, think in terms of Buying a Complete Outfit. Resist that urge to impulse shop. Think! Do you already have something to go with it? If not, shop to complete the outfit.
  • Kids can have their own suitcases! Even small children can wear a carry-on backpack with their stuffed animals and blankies inside.
  • Kids Carry-on Backpacks should be chock full of lots of activities! Pack new books, activities and toys for them to discover on the plane. Plus crayons/drawing pads. Keep them busy, so you can survive the flight!


Choose first without editing. Don’t think, just do! Lay it all out and don’t worry about how much stuff there is, yet!

  • Go shopping in your closet! Grab the latest Lucky magazine for quick ideas that can work with what you already have.
  • Less is More. Packing fewer clothes takes a little more time to pack, because you have to think about it. You can create endless outfits with very few clothes.
  • Sleepwear: For pajamas, consider where you’re going and with whom! Romantic Weekend? Silk lingerie. The In-laws? Something you can lounge around in! Include a robe (silk is easy to pack!) and slipper socks.
  • Swimwear: Not sure about a pool at the hotel? Just pack the swimsuit! If you need it, you'll have it! Plus cover-ups, swim shoes/flip-flops, Ziplocks to pack wet suits.
  • Rainwear: Pack an umbrella and fold-up poncho, just in case, to avoid buying things you already have.
  • 'Pre-pack Toiletries in Categories! Most of us have extra's to spare! Use Ziplocks and store in a bathroom drawer, with a Toiletry Packing List, to check-off as you pack.


Start getting rid of things. Having everything laid out helps you see them better. Does each piece count and stand on it’s own? You want versatility.

  • Remember, just a Few Pieces can Create a Complete Wardrobe. Experiment with your choices to see how well they compliment each other.
  • The last thing you Need to Worry about is What to Wear on a Trip! Leave the decision making at home! Plan out outfits before you go.
  • Is Every Piece Essential? Does Every Top work with Every Bottom? Take away pieces, ending up with three bottoms, five tops, plus two jackets. (Take note: skirts create more looks than dresses, but dresses can replace shorts in warm weather.)
  • Do your shoes go with most outfits? Take two pairs plus the ones you're wearing. Include a good walking shoe. Pack shoes in shoebags. Include an Instant Shine polish.


Now you're ready to pack only the things you really need for your trip!

  • If you Forget Something, you can Buy it there. Don't drive yourself crazy. It's not the end of the world if you forget something.
  • Keep Carry-On light! Pack what you need for the flight (sweater/socks), any valuables (cameras/laptops) and whatever’s a hassle to replace. (Prescription medications, your make-up bag and a Mini-Toiletry Bag.)
  • Consider where you're going when packing your Make-up Bag. Special occasion? Pack shimmer and glitter! Warmer climate? Pack summer shades! Outdoors events? Bring sun block and lip block!
  • Pack Like Items together in Ziplocks for easy Search'n Find. Underwear, socks, accessories, pajamas and tees.
  • Two Gallon Jumbo Gladbags work just as well as Travel Spacebags! Cheaper and great space savers. Roll out the air and zip shut.
  • Men on Business Trips: Pack a shirt a day and match-up each with a tie. Pack each together in Jumbo Bags. Great time saver for those early morning meetings!
  • Woman on Business Trips: Three-piece skirt/pant suits give you versatility. Pack two to extend your wardrobe.
  • Kids do not Mix ‘n Match they Wear ‘n Wash, so pack per outfit. Separate socks, underwear etc. in Ziplocks with their names on it. Use their suitcase as a drawer. Roll tops on one side, bottoms on another for easy dressing. Or pack complete outfits in Jumbo Gladbags including underwear and socks. Pack their toiletries in your bag!

Pack smart for anytime, anywhere! The more you travel, the easier it gets!

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real-life habits!
Where does this go?
Before buying
messiest room?
38% - homeOffice
19% - garage
18% - attics/storage