Best Tips for Selling Your Home During the Pandemic

Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Every year, 43 million Americans move. Surprisingly, despite job losses and uncertainty about almost everything as a result of COVID-19, people are still buying houses and relocating.

Sellers can be optimistic. According to Curbed, prices for homes are not expected to drop, in part because there is not a surplus of desirable homes on the market.

Of course you want to get the best price for your home. You don't want it to linger on the market. You want it to attract serious buyers who won't whittle away at your asking price. In some markets, people are buying homes without setting foot inside them. In these hot markets, bidding wars are not uncommon.

Where people buy

If the home you are selling is located within commuting distance of a major metro area like DC, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Austin, San Diego, San Francisco, or Miami, your property will be attractive to people moving away from city-living. They are looking for more space, less high-density living, lower cost of living, and a safer place to raise a family. The growing popularity of remote working has made these moves more practical.     

Even outside of these booming markets, desirable properties are in demand. Houses in inland cities, affordable mid-sized cities, even rural land and homes, are all more popular than years past. It's not just remote workers who are buying, but real estate investors as well. 

No matter what your target market looks like, the fact remains that empty houses and messy houses are not what anxious buyers are attracted to now. Let's take a  look at what will help your home sell.

Use what you own

You don't need to spend money on a home you expect to leave soon. Smart staging calls for creative use of the furnishings already in your home.

Jennifer Rizzo can show you how to
a set of old encyclopedias
to dr
ess up bookshelves for staging.

I've found that removing the not-so-attractive furniture and rearranging the best pieces goes a heck of a long way to upgrading a home's appearance.

Can those pieces that don't look all that stylish, that well maintained, or that valuable be put into storage, donated, or sold? You may want to decorate with a new look at your new home, when pieces can be acquired over time.   

Once you have major pieces in place, you'll want to select the decorative objects that -- shall we say -- reflect the lifestyle you want to become accustomed to?

For finishing touches, choose only the best accessories and pack up the rest. Narrow down your stash of objects like hardcover books, vases, decorative bowls, throw pillows, blankets, wall mirrors,  candles, and houseplants to the biggest and best. Incorporate antiques if you have them. Add a dash of whimsy.

Don't overlook forgotten items that you've tucked away in areas like your basement, attic, garage, closets, or cabinets. I've worked with homeowners whose most interesting decor items were in their garden shed or storage unit --  things we then brought out to help stage rooms that appeal to buyers. You can cover an old set of encyclopedias with white shelf paper, or age them the way the photo above shows. Use a vintage, galvanized washtub for an indoor palm plant. Hang a guitar, an antique sled or even a bike on the wall.

Go minimal for a clean look 

Even a little decluttering and depersonalizing will go a long way.

Homebuyers are especially attentive to cleanliness during COVID-19. A home needs to look clean and smell clean.

Start with a deep clean of your home. Then do what it takes to maintain that image of a well-maintained home, one that looks like it will be easy to maintain. That calls for a lack of clutter. The best staging has always been "less is more," and that approach is even more significant now.

The minimalist look doesn't have to feel cold and unwelcoming. Staging during COVID-19 should depend on what's being labeled "comfort decorating," and "grandma chic" to indicate the trend towards furnishings that emphasize comfort over high-end style. That's definitely good news for sellers who are staging with hand-me-downs and traditional pieces that have been around a while.

An outdoor oasis can suggest
that a home be the place
to staycation. Photo: DecorPad

Stage some special features 

What buyers are looking for now is a home where they can comfortably spend family time, and possibly work from home. They may be homeschooling children. They may have adult children returning to the nest.

Aim to create a space that can function well as a home office or homework central, with good lighting and well-designed seating. It needn't be a large area, so even smaller homes should be able to find an "office spot."

Outdoor areas are more important than ever to people who are relocating from cities. They want amenities like a porch, deck, or patio, the more spacious and private the better. If you have a backyard, add outdoor seats and anything else suitable in your climate -- a firepit or outdoor shower or herb garden or horseshoe pit.
A simple desk with a chair and some accessories are all it
takes to create the look of an office. Photo: DecorPad

Prepare for virtual tours

Most real estate agents are now offering virtual home tours in lieu of in-person showings. This way of showing a property can be a great way to reach buyers who might otherwise be unable to see your property. Make sure the Realtor you choose has the experience to do justice to your listing on a video.

Virtual tours reveal more of your home's interior and exterior than do edited still photos on an MLS online listing. Make sure there are no distracting objects like bathroom toiletries clustered on vanities, small items piled onto tables, or children's and pets' toys scattered about. 

It's a documented fact that staged homes sell more quickly and for more money than homes that are left as-is. Even in a seller's market, staging still pays off. With these tips in mind, you'll be more likely to field multiple offers and spend less time on the market. We all want that!

Your staging will go faster, easier and for less money when you follow the advice I give in my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. It's a 150-page pdf that you can instantly download now.

Top Photo: Lucan Allen, Country Living

All You Need to Know About Today's Trends

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Interior decor trends come and go. And after they've been gone a while, they come back!

A home on the market needs to acknowledge current trends to some degree or risk looking out of step.

When you include some carefully curated trends as part of your home staging, you're signaling that your house has kept up with the times.

Staging with some on-trend colors or furnishings implies that the home is well maintained, that money and energy have been spent caring for it. Buyers are more likely to get the message that the entire home, including systems like HVAC, electrical systems, and plumbing are all up to the latest standards.

Your trendy touches might be a certain paint color, the latest style coffeemaker, that backyard amenity people are talking about, or the newest look in bedding. Don't assume that buying into the latest styles is going to be expensive. Avoid fads. Upcycle what you have. And get smart about what today's home buyers crave.

These times are unusual

Especially now, because of COVID-19 we're seeing a return to styles of the past. People are spending more time at home. They're craving a sense of normalcy. They might even be sentimental about how things used to be.

Relaxing colors and comfortable seating should be part of
your home staging plan. Photo: Giannetti Home
More people prefer solid surface counters over granite now,
 and classic cabinets over open shelving. Photo: Bob Vila  
Luxury touches like this alcove staged as
a makeup station are impressive, especially
to women buyers.Photo: Courtney Hill   

Mix old and new

Aim for a layered look rather than the boring, formula staging of 20 years ago. You can do this by mixing old, traditional objects with brand new furnishings.

That skirted round table shown in the photo at the top of this post was popular decades ago, but now it's sitting beside a bed with today's style padded headboard and luxury linens.

Think about mixing textures, too. If you have faux fur rugs and wicker or rattan furniture, put them together for an inviting juxtaposition.

Don't be afraid to toss in some happy colors and frisky accessories, as long as you balance them with traditional settings. Sew up chartreuse pillow covers to decorate your duvet-covered bed. Stage grandma's china cabinet with a collection of seashells, cookbooks, or DIY Mercury glass vases -- something other than ho-hum china.

If the home you are staging has features like a tin ceiling, wainscoting in the bath, a  free-standing tub, a breakfast nook, a kitchen pantry, a large front porch, or mid-century furniture, ...well, you're in luck! These nostalgic touches make a house feel like a generous helping of comfort food right now.

Reflect the present lifestyles

The pandemic has affected every area of our lives. And real estate preferences reflect the changes. More people are working from home and will continue to do that as businesses opt into remote workforces when it makes sense to do so.

Families want accommodating spaces where they can congregate for Netflix and meals, but they also need places for privacy, homework, and office work. The open floor plan is not a high priority now. We could see more multi-generational families buying homes as younger career builders might be moving in with parents and grandparents might be needed for childcare. Suburban and rural homes have gained in popularity as people reassess their needs to live in urban areas.

This room looks fresh and contemporary, even though it's
decorated with an assortment of what can be called traditional
elements like the collection of books, classic textile patterns,
houseplants, a sunburst mirror over the fireplace,
and a slipcovered, retro chair. Photo: Meyer Interiors
The leggy, molded plastic 50s chair is an interesting 
companion to an old painted desk. Together, they create 
a charming corner workstation. Photo: Fine Furnished
Comfort is more important than ever. But it can't
look sloppy. An old wingback chair upholstered in 
fuchsia velvet, the fluffy pillow, primitive art,
and a modern side table balance the old-style
iron bed and plain white quilt. Photo: Meyer Interiors   
Stage indoor and outdoor spaces with throwback pieces 
of wicker and rattan. They are easily available, economical, 
lighthearted, and low-maintenance. Photo: Gumtree  
Older furniture pieces can take on a new life that
fits today's more casual styles, like this china cabinet, painted
and staged as a bookcase. Photo: Pencil Shavings Studio 
A bamboo bar cart like this one is right at home in today's
staged home. Be sure that there are no actual
alcoholic drinks accessible. Photo: Serena & Lily
Botanicals and florals are now more popular 
than geometric patterns that seem hard-edge. 
If you can't be bothered with caring for 
houseplants in a bath, a shower curtain like this 
adds that lush vibe. Spa-like additions are fluffy towels,
soaps, and sponges. Photo: Apartment Therapy

Get the look. Get the book.

I hope I've given you fresh ideas to help you get your home ready for the lively real estate market. It's never too soon to begin planning your staging.

It's rare that any one property checks all the boxes on a home buyer's wish list. You may not have the perfect house that satisfies the majority of buyers. But home staging can bridge the gap, encouraging buyers to value your property as a good fit. 

You can learn more about timeless methods to stage your own home in my $4.99 eBooks for home stagers. You're just two clicks away from reading how you can start today to prep your home for the real estate market. Follow me on Twitter for news, tips, and inspiration about home staging.

Top Photo: Rita Konig

What you can learn about home staging from my Garden Shed Makeover

Thursday, June 11, 2020
It's often the utility rooms, closets, storage buildings, and work areas of our homes that get no love.

They're the non-public rooms of the house that only family sees.

But if you're listing your home for sale-- and sooner or later, almost everyone will sell his residence -- it's not just immediate family who views these spaces.

It will be prospective buyers.

Why not make these necessary spaces attractive now, so they'll be safer, prettier, and more functional for you and yours to enjoy?

My garden shed was an example of one of those neglected storage buildings. It wasn't ugly, but it was crowded, disorganized, and dirty. It was no source of pride even before Hurricane Florence blew through our area a year and a half ago, but after the storm, it was a disaster. Floodwaters rose to three feet in the shed, where we had stashed potted plants, lawn furniture, and assorted outdoor equipment we didn't want to be blown away.

It took me a few weeks before I had the time and stomach to deal with the fetid, moldy remains of flooded bags of potting soil and organic fertilizers. Some things I was able to gradually dry out. But some things went to the curb where our still soggy furnishings waited for debris removal.

The steps I took to bring my shed back to a place I enjoyed using are the same steps anyone should take to stage a home.

Previously, the little outbuilding where I store garden supplies
looked like this. Since I see it from our dining room, from
the deck, and from my kitchen window, I wanted to
give it a little more character and color.   

Step One: Toss, then clean

Cleaning is always a good beginning when you stage a home. But even before a thorough cleaning, it makes sense to get rid of what shouldn't be there, whether you're staging a bedroom, closet, bath, backyard, front porch, or basement family room. There's no sense to cleaning what won't remain.

Cleaning gives you a new slate. Cleaning empowers you. Cleaning brings new possibilities to light.

It was mayhem inside the building after the storm.
So my first task was to take everything out of my little outbuilding.

Then I swept, hosed out, sprayed with bleach, and let it dry out for a full week of warm weather.

I knew I didn't want a gussied up she-shed. I wanted what my father called a "hut," -- a handy place to store all the supplies and equipment, big and small, a gardener needs that can't be left out in the elements.

While the building dried, I sorted through what was stored there.

Just as with a closet organization project, it helps to have everything out of the space and visible, in order to decide what needs to go back. I realized that some of the larger pieces of equipment should live in the garage, since they generally get used more by my Mr. Lucky. So, I relocated the power edger, leaf blower, and weed whacker to the garage. Amazingly, they all still functioned because we had secured them high up in the shed.

The back wall of the 8- by 8-foot building was dry and empty, but dirty.
I stood on a step ladder and hosed pine needles and branches
off the corrugated translucent plastic roof to let in more light.

Lesson: A blank slate makes home staging simpler. 

Step Two: Refresh the base

I wanted fresh paint on all surfaces. Because of the way it was constructed, with so many exposed studs and framing, I decided to use a small roller and grid in a one-gallon can to paint the ceiling, walls, shelving, and even the floor. I used a flat, interior, latex, white paint. On the floor I used a latex porch and deck paint.

You can see what a difference a new coat of white paint made. Rolling it on was
easier than brushing, but I still had to do a little bit of cutting in with a brush. 

Lesson: Paint solves a multitude of problems.

Step Three: Organize the essentials

Now came the task of placing the essentials in my hut, so that everything would be handy and the small space would not look crowded.

We've all heard the expression, "A messy desk is the sign of  genius." And research actually supports this fact. However, I'm still going to bat for team organized! Whether you are trying to sell your house, find what you need when you need it, or just clear your mind, an organized workspace is a plus all around.

I've blogged about how to easily create order from chaos with better organization and establishing systems to save yourself time and space. 

I clumped into groups all the items that needed to return to the shed -- hand tools, larger tools, bags of soil amendments and potting soils, labeling supplies, seed packets, string and ties, pots, and plant supports.
Before the hurricane, I took photos all around our property,
inside and out, so I could document damage for any
insurance claims. This was my messy work area. 

Lesson: Eyesores and excess junk need to disappear when you stage.    
The same area looked like this once I cleaned, painted,
and put supplies back where they should have been all along. 

Lesson: Buyers expect cleanliness and orderliness.
Before the storm the other side of the building didn't look
very pretty either. It was dirty and disorganized.

Lesson: Buyers will judge you by how you maintain your belongings.  
Now, this is what I see when I open the door to my shed.
I can locate things quickly, and it's easy to
keep the whole area clean.

Lesson: First impressions are important. 
All the long-handled tools went back up on the third
wall. There's no question where they belong, so replacing
each one is effortless.
Lesson: Make it easy to maintain orderliness.     

Step Four: Decorate with flourishes

Adding the finishing touches resembles the last steps you'd take when you actually stage a home, except I was staging to please only myself. I wanted things colorful. I chose teal and blue as unifying colors in order to reduce eye clutter. I shopped my house for boxes, bins, and other containers in teal tones.

What doesn't fit your new color scheme when you stage can be updated. I used things like paint, tape, and fabric to recover surfaces. I covered the main work surface with a plasticized cotton drop cloth that could be removed and washed. And I used 
duct tape and some washi tape to dress up these spray bottles.
Lesson: A simple, cohesive color scheme is a home staging essential.     

Gloves always need a place where they can dry out but still be
accessible. I mounted a cheap towel rod under the counter and used
clips with hooks to store all my garden and work gloves. 

Lesson: A well-staged home is a logically organized home. 
I wanted colorful accents outside the shed.
I used this faux finished container, and a vintage tin bucket set in a recycled wire seat
to keep costs down and add personality.
Lessons: Bright color makes sense when decorating
outdoors, especially mixed with some distressed items.
To make the plain jane building more interesting, I mounted
a small wooden shelf, added a Foo Dog, and hung
a small watering can from underneath.
Lesson: Touches of whimsy are always welcome additions.  

On the other side of the door I placed a wreath I made from
grapevines and artificial flowers. I know I will 
switch it up in autumn and spring with different DIY wreaths.  
Lesson: A home on the market should reflect the season.

Over the door I added a sign I stenciled on a
scrap piece of wood. It reminds me of my dad.
Lesson: Unique props can make a home on the market
memorable, as long as they are not too personal or controversial. 
The fence sections attached to the front corners helped
to ground the shed and make it look larger and more important.
The ceramic garden seat below the wreath added color.
Lesson: Buyers are impressed with size. Big looks like a bargain.  

Get Help with Home Staging

Because of social distancing guidelines, you may be dealing with boredom and restlessness as you stay home more. Improving a small corner of your property is bound to lift your spirits and provide a sense of accomplishment. 

For more tips about improving the value of your home, download my eBooks about home staging you can do yourself. No matter how long you plan to stay in your home, learning about what makes a property attractive to a wide variety of people is a smart move.


Feeling Blue? Think Indigo.

Friday, May 08, 2020
There's a reason people love classic bluejeans, and it has to do with their color. Classic blue denim jeans aren't just blue. They are indigo!

Their indigo color is one reason jeans are considered a basic, go-with-everything wardrobe essential. Indigo is a color that's a mix of true blue and violet.

It's a color that's easy to work with, versatile, available, stylish, and likable across different demographics, ages, and genders.'s the perfect color to incorporate into your home staging.

As a wall color for a home on the market, indigo won't rate high, because usually it's too light-absorbing and makes rooms look smaller.

But for almost everything else, it's a winner, either alone or sharing the spotlight with other colors.

It's easy to find pillows, art, and other
decor props in indigo shades for your
homestaging. Photo: CoastalStyleBlogspot
Indigo combines beautifully with neutrals like cream, tan, grey, and white. Experiment with it, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to see how it provides a foil for intense colors like tangerine, chartreuse, or bubble gum pink.

Do you have the blues? 

At a time when many of us are "feeling blue," I decided to poke around the Internet to determine the origin of that very phrase.

There are only theories about when and why feeling sad was given its own color!

History tells us that ancient Greeks believed when the skies were blue, it was because the god Zeus was sad and crying.

But perhaps the expression originated on naval vessels of long ago when an officer died onboard and sailors would raise a blue flag.

Or it could be that the color blue was associated with sick or dying people who had bruises or blue lips.

Well, I say, it's time to look again at blue, specifically indigo blue, for some more cheerful news!

Indigo has a history

What makes indigo unique is the way it dyes the surface of fibers, but only partially penetrates them. That's the reason indigo fabrics fade to give to a characteristic worn or vintage look.

Here's a little of indigo's fascinating story. In 1905 Adolf von Baeyer, of Bayor Asprin fame, was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering how to manufacture a synthetic indigo dye. 

It took him 14 years of research to develop a way to imitate the special qualities of indigo. Until then the dye was made from plant material in a labor-intense, time-consuming, multi-step process that remained unchanged for thousands of years. It was actually the mass production and popularity of Levi-Strauss jeans that necessitated the search for a modern synthetic substitute for real indigo dye. 

Here are photos that might spark some fresh ideas of how you can harness the appeal of indigo in your home staging.
Looking like the color of a loved and faded pair of jeans, 
the fabric on these slipcovers combines 
both ethnic and classic vibes. Photo: Luxesource
Three indigo-patterned pillows and an indigo-dyed throw are jazzing up a monochromatic color scheme. Photo: Raquel Langworthy Design 
A shibori print roman shade and an indigo floor pattern are perfect in this all-white bathroom. Photo: Samantha Todhunter Design
Indigo's the ideal foil for bright colors like this lemony
yellow, a color repeated in the abstract art. Photo: Tobi Fairley

Touches of indigo in surprising places can add a unique quality
to your home staging without shouting. Photo: rentpatina
Ceramics are another source of indigo accessories for
your home. Expect to find it in ethnic- and coastal-styled
pottery and textiles. Photo: Rae Dunn Clay 
Indigo holds its own as an exterior paint as well
as an indoor color choice. Shutters, front doors,
planter boxes -- they're all candidates for getting
a coat of indigo paint. Photo: Euamodecoracao 
You'll find indigo in Sherwin Williams most popular shades
of blue. This chart shows a dark tone of indigo, incorporating
some black pigment. Light and dark indigos mix well.    

Blue lifts us up

Color is powerful. It affects our emotional state more than we are conscious of. Just like the way decluttering or rearranging furniture or giving your home a deep-clean, injecting new color into your home can award you a sense of accomplishment and strength.

Right now's a great time to welcome some decor changes, even without leaving the house. If you don't have the paint or fabric on hand, go online and search for American-made products!

Search Etsy for indigo fabrics and order some today to stitch up pillow covers for your staging. Upcycle an old pair of jeans as a fabric-covered box or serving tray. Make an ink-blot work of art with some blue food coloring from your pantry.

It's a sad time in the history of the world. Each of us has a story to tell, but often not shared, about how the pandemic is affecting us.

You may be welcoming a slowed pace or more time with your immediate family, a new routine, the chance to be quiet in solitude or catch up on tasks usually ignored. Or not.

I hope your situation is not that you are haunted by anxiety, overwhelmed by homeschooling, worried about older relatives, or stressed about money for basic needs. You are not alone.

Most of us are little stir crazy, isolated and missing friends, coworkers, and family. Once we're reunited we're sure to savor more than ever our connections and friendships.

Meanwhile, no matter what your situation looks like now, I hope that the new normal that lies ahead is a good fit for you and all you aspire to. Let's hope the changes COVID-19 brings include improvements in the quality of life for every individual, globally.

How to DIY a Covid-19 Face Mask

Monday, April 06, 2020
If you read the Little House on the Prarie books, you'll know what I mean when I say I felt like Laura today as I repurposed fabric to use for face masks.

Common practice among pioneer women was to carefully take apart a dress that had faded, and then sew it together again "inside-out" so it looked like a new dress.

I've been self-quarantining myself for the past two weeks. Today I saw on Facebook that our local urgent care clinic is happy to receive homemade face masks. That's all I needed to hear, and I went to work.

I am sharing these tips with you in case you, like much of the world's population, are sequestered and want to do something to help. Case histories from other countries show that face masks help people from infecting others. Even if you are not sick, a mask, even a simple one like what I am making, will give you some protection.

The Center for Disease Control now recommends using a mask when going outside your home into settings where social distancing is difficult or when caring for someone with the coronavirus.

Wearing a mask will also remind you not to touch your face, an important part of the overall plan to slow the spread of the virus infecting millions of people. For my prototype, I made my first mask from fabric left from covering some chair cushions. You can actually see the chair behind me in this photo.

Instead of ties, that I thought would be bothersome, and possibly get all tangled up in the washer, I opted for elastic. You can order elastic on Amazon, or you might have some if you sew. Otherwise, you can cut the elastic out of the edges of an old contour sheet. If you recently purged a closet of clothing you don't wear anymore, perhaps there is an elastic waistband in that bag of clothes you've been meaning to take to the Salvation Army.

Using an assortment of fabric patterns
makes it easy for people to know
which mask is theirs. In some cases, I flipped
a fabric over to the backside to create variety.
It's recommended that you choose fabrics that are all cotton or cotton/synthetic blends. The fabric's weave should be a tight one in order for the mask to screen the small viral particles.

If you hold it up to bright light, you should be able to see just some light through it, and also to be able to breathe comfortably through it. The cloth used for good quality pillowcases and bedsheets will work.  Each of my style masks is made of two layers of fabric.

I watched and read quite a few DIY face mask tutorials, and then adopted the style and methods that made sense to me -- simple procedures that produced an effective yet comfortable mask that was easy to put on and remove, and easy to wash and reuse.

I didn't want to use elastic loops or hairbands that looped around ears. That seemed uncomfortable to me. I use a sleep mask every night, a mask that has two elastic strands across the back, so I figured that two large loops of elastic that crossed in the back of the head would be comfy and secure.

I encourage you to make a few masks of your own, so that after one use, you can carefully remove it, and then launder it and dry it, either in a clothes dryer or -- better yet -- outside in the sun and fresh air.

If you plan to make more than just a handful of masks, set up a system to make the process go quickly and smoothly. Gather all the supplies you need. Cut the rectangles and match them up. Cut all the elastic pieces. Then start your sewing.

It's comforting to make masks for those around you or people in your community. Since I started writing this post, my local library announced it is starting a drive to have people in our small town organize to make masks at home to provide for residents here. I'll be giving them my masks today. 

I cut my fabric rectangles (9 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches) on the bias because I knew it would
drape better and therefore hug a face better, just  like the dresses Hollywood
designed for starlets in the 1940s movies. Bias-cut edges are at 45 degree angles
to the woven edge of a bolt of cloth. Bias-cut fabric is easier 

to work with and more forgiving than "straight-of-the-goods"
fabric. The above photo shows a dish towel I repurposed.  
I traced around the paper pattern I made from a grocery bag, and then cut out two
fabric rectangles. I wanted to make the front and back of the mask different
so anyone using it would always have the outside away from the face. The fabrics
I used had been in my house for over a year and had been washed, so I knew
they did not harbor any virus. I leave groceries I pick up at the supermarket drive-up
in the garage for 2 days, so I felt confident using the grocery bag for a  pattern.
This photo shows the elastic pinned ready for sewing. I crossed the pieces 
so they would help the mask stay positioned on the head. 

I took a few machine stitches in each of the four corners,
to secure the elastic. Then I pinned the two rectangles together,
making sure the elastic was positioned correctly. 
This is how the mask looked after it was stitched around the
four sides, leaving a gap to turn it right side out. I clipped the
corners to reduce the bulkiness, but I don't think this was really necessary.
Once I turned the mask right side out, I topstitched around the entire edge, then made three pleats on each side
of the mask, making sure that I didn't stitch over any elastic.

The pleats on both sides need to lay in the same direction.  
This is how the pleats looked on another mask I made, keeping the pleats spaced
so they don't overlap one another, because that would make it difficult to stitch through
multiple fabric layers. On this mask, I used some thin elastic cording I had.
These are some of the masks I made for local health care people.

Once you are comfortable stitching up these masks, you'll want to make some for family members, or neighbors, or local health care workers who are on the front lines of defense. What better way to use your time, channel your creative energies, and recycle scrap fabric and thread you already have as you shelter in place? These masks can even be sewn by hand. If you have only rudimentary sewing skills, this is one time your handiwork will not be judged! 

Remember to follow CDC guidelines, wash your hands often, stay home, and don't touch your face. Wear your mask if you have to go out. By wearing a facemask, you'll be encouraging others to wear one, and doing your part to halt the pandemic.

Stay safe, so we can all return to a new, better normal. 

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