Category: Home Improvement

The Secrets to Being an Organized Family

Modern families seem to be juggling more than ever before. When time seems to be a luxury, an ability to stay organized can help families manage the hustle and bustle of daily life more effectively. An online survey conducted by an internal research team on behalf of The Huffington Post polled more than 1,000 American adults in 2013, revealing 84 percent of recently stressed Americans say they worry that their home isn’t clean or organized enough.

Within that group, 55 percent cited disorganization at home as a source of recent stress. Disorganization does not occur overnight, and neither will getting re-organized. But with some motivation, all families can become more orderly.

Manage mornings

Families can usually use more help getting out of the house each morning in a timely manner. Each member of the household should have a designated area where they keep the items they will need for the next morning. Backpacks and briefcases should be prepacked, and lunches made the night before. In addition, sort the next day’s clothes before going to bed. Such efforts should make it easier to get out of the house on time each morning.

Sort the entryway

Home entryways are usually hubs of traffic. Such areas are the first and last place family members go when entering or leaving the house. As a result, these areas are in need of some routine organizational attention. Use sorting bins for shoes, hooks for coats, trays for mail or homework, and other sorting equipment to keep things tidy and orderly.

Embrace the purge

Take a hard look at what you use and what you don’t use around the house. Holding on to items you rarely use can contribute to clutter and create a disorganized home. Save only a few sentimental items, donating, recycling or discarding the others. Many organizational experts suggest going through items one by one and asking oneself if this is something that has been used recently. If it’s been collecting dust for a year or more, it can go.

Sensible storage

Analyze what you have and then find sensible storage solutions. Store belongings in the same place each day so items are easy to find when needed. Frequently used items should be easily accessible. Seldom used items, such as holiday decorations, can be stored out of the way.

It takes commitment and time to get organized. However, life tends to move along much more smoothly in organized homes than homes marked by clutter.

Ways to Conserve Energy at the Office

Conservation methods can help save energy and preserve natural resources, but business owners may also be intrigued by the potential cost-savings of conservation. Utility costs vary depending on the size of a business, but the U.S. Small Business Administration notes that prospective business owners must estimate and include such costs when seeking loans to start their businesses. Estimated utility costs can be intimidating, especially for those owners who have never before owned their own businesses. Traditional conservation methods like recycling and reusing are great ways to conserve and save around the office, but business owners also can embrace some other ways to lower their office energy costs while benefitting the planet at the same time.

Order an energy audit.

Many utility companies will conduct energy audits free of charge or for nominal fees. These audits typically include onsite visits, during which auditors will look for areas where business owners can conserve energy.

Determine how much space you truly need.

Current business owners and prospective owners can save substantial amounts of money and avoid wasting energy by giving ample thought to how much office space they truly need. Large office spaces may not be necessary for businesses that recently downsized staff, while those starting out may want to start in small spaces before upgrading to larger spaces if and when their businesses expand. Small business owners leasing their office space can speak with their leasing agents to determine if they can include a clause in their lease that allows them to move into larger spaces if the need arises before their existing leases expire.

Allow employees to telecommute.

Based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005-2014 American Community Survey conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, a typical business would save $11,000 per person per year if it allowed its employees to work from home just half the time. Those cost-savings can be traced to numerous factors, and lower utility costs in the office as well as the need for less office space are among them.

Embrace green technology.

Many homeowners use programmable thermostats and other eco-friendly tech products to lower their monthly utility costs at home, and businesses can follow suit. LED lighting around the office can substantially reduce office energy consumption and costs, while business owners who own their office buildings might be able to install solar panels that will dramatically reduce energy costs and even pay for themselves over time.

Conservation is not just for home, and business owners confronted with rising energy costs can find numerous ways to lower their energy expenses while simultaneously helping the planet.

8 Tips for Maximizing Garage Storage

Most people are pressed for garage space, regardless of the size of their house, from DIYers overwhelmed with tools to moms searching for places to store holiday decorations.

Toter, a leading manufacturer of carts, cans and containers for use in a wide range of home and work waste management and storage solutions, is offering the following tips for making more of precious garage space.

Keep trash in its place.

To keep trash and odors contained, select a mobile trash cart with a tight-fitting lid that’s compatible with your haulers’ pickup requirements and comes with a warranty. Some manufacturers also offer cart and can liners and deodorizers to keep your garage smelling fresh.

Invest in a multi-purpose job box.

Most people tend to have the wrong size toolbox for their needs. Consider the shape, capacity and compartments needed for your tools. Rolling options are great for work done only at home, while a job box may be better for those who do work elsewhere. If portability is important, look at lighter-weight options. New plastic job boxes, such as the Toter HardHead, combine the strength, durability and security of a large metal box with enhanced maneuverability.

Build up, not out.

Ceiling storage racks are an excellent way to use what would otherwise be dead space. Many racks are designed to fit directly above the area where an automatic door goes up and down. Peg boards for tools and stackable totes are also good choices.

Choose multipurpose storage.

Needs can change over time, so invest in storage that can be used for a variety of items in multiple ways. For example, large, durable totes can hold lawn gear, tools or camping equipment.

Think mobility.

Being able to move containers within the garage is important. However, the ability to move them into your vehicle and hit the road quickly also makes life a lot easier.

According to Jeniffer Coates, director of product development and warranty for Toter, “Heavy metal containers are difficult to move, and cheap plastic bins are often too flimsy to stand up to long-term or outdoor use. Consumers will get the most mileage from durable, impact-resistant plastic containers.” These can cost a bit more upfront, but will stand the test of time.

Protect items.

Moisture and pests cause problems in even the cleanest garage. Look for durable storage containers with tight-fitting, critter-resistant lids.

Categorize.

Assign and color-code dedicated areas for each type of item — tools, decorations, lawn equipment, etc. — to avoid the hassle of searching.

Allow room to grow.

While it can be tempting to stuff every square inch, try to leave room for future additions. To ensure everything deserves the space it’s occupying, do a yearly purge of unneeded or unused items.

For more information on finding the right storage solutions for your needs, visit toter.com/storage-solutions.

Keeping the garage in order is a necessary evil, but with a solid game plan and the right equipment, it’s easier than you think. (StatePoint)

How to Streamline Household Cleaning

Travel down the cleaning aisle of a neighborhood store and you will be met with product after product designed for specialized cleaning. There are sprays for windows, cleansers for electronics, carpet-cleaning foams, and scouring solutions for tubs and showers. Although many of these are effective, the average person can rely on just one cleaning aid for a wide variety of tasks: vinegar.

Vinegar is a versatile product that can be used in everything from cooking to pickling to preserving foods to household cleaning. Vinegar is made by two distinct biological processes, offers The Vinegar Institute. Via fermentation, yeast will first change the natural sugars in the vinegar-to-be material solution into alcohol. The second process involves a group of bacteria called “acetobacter,” which convert the alcohol into an acid.

Vinegar can be made from any fruit or natural material containing sugar. For the purpose of generalized cleaning, white vinegar is the most common type used and is typically made from corn.Utilizing vinegar around the house is quite simple, and can be used in various ways around the house.

· Remove lime buildup. Vinegar is good for cleaning faucets and showerheads. Make a paste of one teaspoon of vinegar and two tablespoons of salt. Apply to sink fixtures and rub with a cloth. Fill a plastic baggie with vinegar and attach to the showerhead with a rubber band. Let sit a few hours to overnight and then rinse away the mineral deposits.

· Brighten laundry. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the wash cycle. It will help loosen stains and brighten clothing. An added benefit is the acid will reduce static cling.

· Disinfect cutting boards. Give cutting boards an extra cleaning by spraying them with straight vinegar, then rinsing to clean.

· Clean the disposal. Make sure food residue doesn’t clog garbage disposals and lead to odor. Mix vinegar and baking soda in the drain and allow the bubbling action to remove built-up residue. Use a scrub brush for extra scouring.

· Get streak-free windows. Mix a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Use to clean windows and other glass surfaces. Wipe away with a microfiber cleaning cloth so no lint is left behind.

· Eradicate pet odor. Pour a little bit of vinegar into an empty litter box. Let stand for around 20 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Vinegar also can be used to blot up pet stains on the carpet. Just test color-fastness in an inconspicuous area first.

· Banish water stains. Fix water stains and rings on wood furniture by mixing equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Use a soft cleaning cloth moving in the direction of the wood grain. Polish using a clean cloth.

Vinegar can be used all around the house – these were just a few of the dozens of ways to rely on vinegar. Just steer clear of using it on natural stone and marble, as the acid could cause damage.

Paint-Free Ways to Brighten Your Home

Autumn is a beautiful time of year marked by pleasant temperatures and colorful fall foliage. But as vibrant as nature can be in the weeks after summer has ended, homeowners know that the shortened days of autumn mean less light inside their homes, which can become dreary even in the weeks before the arrival of winter.

Many homeowners pick up their paintbrushes in an effort to make their homes more colorful. But homeowners need not embrace their inner Picasso to brighten their homes’ interiors. The following are a handful of paint-free ways to add some splashes of color to your home this fall.

* Bring nature inside. Flowers and plants can make colorful additions to a home’s interior. Flowers tend to be aromatic, which can make a stuffy house in which windows need to be kept closed a lot more pleasant. Plants and flowers also can improve indoor air quality. Several studies, including one published in the Journal for the AmericanSociety for Horticultural Science, have shown that houseplants improve indoor air quality by filtering out volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that can be harmful to human health. That’s especially important come late fall and winter, when homeowners typically shut their windows and keep them shut until spring, making it difficult for fresh air to enter a home.

* Invest in some colorful throw pillows. Natural sunlight brightens a room come spring and summer. But sunlight is increasingly scarce as fall turns into winter, and rooms that do not boast too many colorful accents can quickly grow drab as summertime sunlight dwindles. Instead of buying new furniture, invest in some colorful throw pillows to give a room a more vibrant look. Patterns can be mixed and matched to provide some contrast and transform a room from somewhere to spend time into a sight to behold.

* Paper the walls. While many of today’s homeowners prefer paint to wallpaper, those who want a less permanent solution to brighten up their homes may want to consider removable wallpaper. Such paper is less expensive than traditional wallpaper, and many do-it-yourselfers find removable wallpaper is easy to both install and remove. Choose a colorful pattern that can turn an otherwise plain wall into a potent palette that adds some life to your home’s interior. Because removable wallpaper does not require a significant financial investment, you can experiment with various colors or change things up each month if you so desire.

* Add some artwork. Another way to add color to the walls inside your home without dusting off your paintbrush is to hang some colorful artwork. Paintings that feature bold colors tend to draw your immediate attention when you enter a room, and that quality can make you forget the room is not benefitting from natural light. If you want to go the extra mile, find a painting that features colors which match throw pillows or other accessories in the room. This way your walls and your accessories are working in concert to make a room more colorful.

* Rug it out. A patterned throw rug is another accessory that can effectively brighten a room without much effort or financial investment on the part of homeowners. When choosing a throw rug, find one that’s colorful but does not clash considerably with existing furnishings, as you don’t want the rug to draw attention for all the wrong reasons. You have more freedom with regard to rugs if you’re furnishing an empty room, as you can choose whichever rug you look and then choose additional furnishings based on the rug.

Homes tend to darken as late fall turns into winter. But homeowners can brighten their homes in various ways, even if they prefer not to paint.

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How to Cool Your Home Without Breaking the Bank

Mother Nature is consistently inconsistent these days, when 30-degree Mondays might be followed by 60-degree Tuesdays. Fickle weather is often accompanied by large fluctuations in temperature, strong storms and unseasonable conditions, making it difficult for homeowners to maintain comfort levels in their homes.

As a result of fluctuating temperatures, home heating and cooling systems have been heavily taxed. Growing reliance on HVAC systems has also driven up energy bills, as moderate weather synonymous with spring has given way to more days of extreme heat or extreme cold. As summer approaches once again, reducing cooling costs is a priority for many homeowners. The following are a few ways to cool your home’s interior without causing a spike in your energy bill.

· Reduce sun exposure. Much of the hot air inside of a home can be attributed to sunlight exposure throughout the day. Walls and windows on the south and west sides of a home will bear the brunt of the sun’s rays, so close shades and drapes on this side of the house to maximize coolness. Shades and curtains can save you up to 7 percent on your bills and lower indoor temperatures by up to 20 degrees. Homeowners also may want to think about installing a retractable awning on areas of the house that get a lot of sun. Planting shade trees is another way to naturally cool down hot sides of the house.

· Draw more air into the attic. Hot air rises, and in the summertime hot air can get trapped beneath the roof in the attic and eaves of a home. While an attic should have vents, homeowners can speed up the exchange of hot air with a simple trick. Open up a window on a shady side of the home, and then open the attic door or take out the access panel and place a box fan inside to blow air up into the attic. This will disperse the hot air and help force it out through the vents.

· Use fans productively. Using box fans to suck cool night air in from east- and north-facing windows and to push out hot air from west- and south-facing windows is another way to increase circulation through a home. Running fans may be less costly than turning on air conditioners. Also, set ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise. This will pull cooler air up from the floor and create a wind-chill effect.

· Switch to LED or CFL bulbs. Ninety percent of the energy used for incandescent bulbs is emitted as heat. This not only wastes electricity but also can make conditions hotter inside a home. Switch to cooler, more efficient light bulbs.

· Reduce humidity levels. Humidity makes hot temperatures feel even hotter. Clean laundry, take showers and run the dishwasher at night or early in the morning before the day heats up. Don’t forget to vent bathrooms and kitchens by turning on exhaust fans when water is in use.

· Rely on a programmable thermostat. Setting a thermostat to adjust the air conditioning system automatically means homeowners can keep the temperature raised when they’re not home and then have it lowered shortly before they arrive home. The thermostat also can adjust temperatures for day and night use.

· Keep doors closed. Do not cool rooms that are unused. Maximize the cool air in lived-in spaces by blocking off rooms that do not need to be cooler.

· Invest in more insulation. Insulation does not just keep homes warmer in the cold weather. Insulation also prevents hot air from infiltrating living spaces while keeping cooler air where it’s needed. Sealant around windows and doors also will prevent unnecessary air exchange.

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Inexpensive Ways to Boost a Home’s Curb Appeal

Curb appeal can go a long way toward making a home more attractive to its inhabitants as well as prospective buyers once the house is put on the market. Improving curb appeal is a goal for many homeowners, and while many projects aimed at making homes more aesthetically appealing can be costly, there are ways for cost-conscious homeowners to improve their properties without breaking the bank.

· Put your green thumb to use. A well-maintained landscape can dramatically improve a home’s curb appeal. Pay attention to the plants, shrubs and trees throughout your property, watering them during periods of little rainfall and trimming them when necessary so your lawn does not look like an overgrown, neglected suburban jungle. Professional landscaping services can help you maintain your property, but even if your budget does not allow for such an expense, you can still make sure your landscape adds to your home’s appeal by keeping a watchful eye on the property and addressing any issues that arise. Maintain your lawn through the colder months of the year as well, making sure no one walks on the grass when frost has settled, as doing so can produce dead spots throughout the lawn.

· Redo your front door. While their eyes may initially be drawn to a well-manicured lawn, prospective buyers will eventually find their way to the front door. If your door is especially old, consider replacing it. If your budget does not allow for such an expense, you can still give your home’s front entrance an entirely new look by installing some inexpensive molding around the door before giving the door a fresh coat of paint. Molding around the front door can make an entrance more impressive, while a new coat of paint can make a home feel warmer and more vibrant.

· Plant flowers. Another inexpensive way to make a home more appealing is to plant some colorful flowers around the property. Line walkways with flowers native to your region, as such plants will last longer than exotic alternatives that may not be capable of adapting to the local climate. In addition to lining walkways, hang window boxes filled with colorful flowers or plants outside naked windows. Doing so can make windows seem larger and add some color to your home’s exterior.

Another creative way to make use of colorful flowers is to place a few planters at the foot of your driveway and painting the numbers of your address on the planters. This can be both effortless and inexpensive, but it can instantly make a home more inviting to prospective buyers.

· Spotlight certain parts of your property. Many homeowners focus on improving the curb appeal of their property during the daytime hours, but you can take steps to make a home more appealing at night as well. Solar spotlights placed around trees and other attractive features in your yard can shed light on those areas of your property you’re most proud of, even after the sun has gone down. Solar spotlights won’t add to your energy bill, as they are powered by the sun, and they can make certain accents on your property stand out at night.

Improving curb appeal may sound like a significant undertaking, but there are many ways budget-conscious homeowners can make their home’s exterior more appealing without going broke.

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How to Cut Home Energy Costs

Home ownership is expensive. First-time homeowners may experience some sticker shock when shopping for their first homes, and that awakening may only grow more rude when the first month’s mortgage payment and utility bills arrive in the mail.

But owning a home still makes more sense for many people than does renting. In addition to the potential financial benefits of home ownership, many homeowners see their homes as points of pride that strengthen their families’ ties to their communities. And while the sticker shock of home ownership may never wear off, homeowners can take steps to cut costs around the house, most notably by employing a few strategies to reduce energy consumption.

Cooling

Rising temperatures tend to produce higher energy bills, as homeowners look to air conditioning to mitigate the effects of heat and humidity. While abandoning AC is an unrealistic idea for people living in especially warm climates, there are ways to make AC units more efficient. Routinely clean AC filters so they can operate at maximum efficiency, replacing old or worn down filters when necessary. Keep AC units off during the day when no one is home, using the unit’s programmable functions to turn the AC on roughly 30 minutes before you arrive home so the house is not a sweatbox.

Heating

Heating costs also can do damage to homeowners’ monthly budgets. Wood floors might be more trendy than carpeting, but carpeting can increase heat retention in a home, especially if the home has little or no insulation beneath its floors. When the heat is on, make sure curtains or drapes are not blocking vents, and keep them open during the daytime when you are home to allow more warm sunlight in. Much like with your AC unit, clean heating filters regularly and program the thermostat so you are not heating your home while no one is there.

Lighting

Cut lighting costs by replacing standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which are more energy efficient and have longer life expectancies. When installing external lights on your home, install motion-detecting lights so you can safely get in and out of your house without having to keep a porch light burning for hours on end. When laying out rooms in your home, place lamps in corners where they will reflect light off of two walls, providing more bang for your lighting buck.

Electronics

Vampire power is a little known foe to homeowners. Electronics like televisions and computers consume energy even when they are not turned on. This is referred to as “vampire power.” Unplug electronics when they are not in use, or plug such devices into power strips that you can turn off when you aren’t home or when devices are not being used.

Home ownership comes with many hidden costs, but homeowners can reduce their monthly energy bills in various ways.

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Keep Cool in the Face of Summer Heat

The month of August is often referred to as “the dog days of summer,” a phrase that can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The “dog days” are a reference to the dog star, Sirius, which appeared to rise just before the sun in late July, when temperatures were at their hottest. As a result, the phrase “dog days” remains synonymous with summer heat in the Northern Hemisphere.

Keeping cool during the dog days of summer can be difficult, especially for people who live in humid climates. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States, with the National Vital Statistics System reporting a total of more than 7,400 deaths between 1999 and 2010. Many of those deaths could have been prevented had people taken steps to keep cool in the face of summer heat.

· Choose wisely when spending time outdoors. As hot as summer can be, many people still want to enjoy some time outdoors. You don’t have to spend summer indoors to survive the summer heat, but it helps to choose the time you spend outdoors wisely. Avoid spending time outdoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Temperatures soar and peak during these hours, and the American Melanoma Foundation notes that UV radiation reaches its peak intensity at approximately 1 p.m. The more intense that UV radiation is, the more susceptible people are to UV-related sun damage to their skin. If you prefer to exercise outdoors during the summer, do so in the early morning or in the evening, when temperatures tend to be lower and UV radiation is less of a threat.

· Limit time spent outside. It’s okay to spend time outside in the summer, just make sure you are not outside for extended periods of time on hot days. Exposure to sustained heat can adversely affect the body’s ability to sweat. Sweat might be uncomfortable, but it helps to regulate body temperature by cooling the body. People who cannot sweat or suddenly stop perspiring can succumb to heat exhaustion or heat stroke very quickly. If you must spend time outdoors on hot days, take periodic breaks to go indoors, heading inside immediately if you realize your body is no longer producing sweat.

· Stay hydrated. Come the dog days of summer, keep a water bottle with you at all times, refilling it throughout the day as necessary. The American Heart Association notes that the heart can more easily pump blood through blood vessels to the muscles when it is hydrated. That means the heart isn’t working as hard as it would have to if you were not staying hydrated. Dehydration reduces the body’s ability to sweat and maintain a normal body temperature, so stay hydrated on hot days by drinking water throughout the day.

· Make cool dietary choices. When planning meals on hot days, choose light foods and opt for small portions so you aren’t fighting feelings of sluggishness that can compound any heat-related feelings of listlessness you’re already coping with. In addition, choose meals that don’t require you to turn on the oven. Hot ovens can make homes, even those with fully functioning air conditioning systems, far less comfortable on especially hot days.

The dog days of summer are often marked by humidity and blazing sun. Overcoming those factors may require altering certain habits.

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How Homeowners Can Pitch In And Save Money

Home improvement projects can be expensive. While the size and complexity of a project will affect how expensive the project is, homeowners can expect to shell out a pretty penny when they renovate or remodel areas of their home.

According to HomeAdvisor, an online resource for homeowners looking to connect with home improvement, maintenance and repair professionals, the average bathroom remodeling project costs $9,348, while the average home addition costs slightly less than $41,000. But renovation-minded homeowners need not reconsider their commitment to remodeling, as there are various ways to cut the costs associated with home improvement projects.

One such way is for homeowners to pitch in and do some of the work themselves. Calculating labor costs can be difficult, as such costs can vary greatly depending on the project, the contractor and the amount of hired help that contractor intends to employ. However, some estimates suggest labor will account for anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the overall cost of the project. So it’s no surprise that homeowners can save themselves substantial amounts of money by doing some of the work themselves.

Homeowners who intend to do some of the labor themselves should discuss this plan with contractors during the vetting process. Before hiring a contractor, make sure homeowners’ expected labor contributions are clearly defined in the contract.

While it’s best to leave the most complicated parts of a project to the professionals, homeowners can pitch in during the following phases:

DEMOLITION

Demolition involves more than picking up a sledgehammer and swinging away. Some demolition projects are best left to the pros. For example, any projects that involve exposure to hazardous materials are risky and therefore best left to experienced laborers. However, many homeowners are capable of safely and effectively pulling cabinets from walls, removing flooring or knocking down drywall. Homeowners unsure of how to approach demolition tasks can ask their contractors to demonstrate the proper technique so the demolition is done right and on time.

SALVAGE

Removing debris and items that will no longer be needed once the renovation is complete is another way homeowners can pitch in. Homeowners remodeling their kitchens may be replacing their existing stoves and refrigerators and hoping to donate these items. In such instances, driving the items to the donation site or arranging for them to be picked up rather than taken off the premises by the contractor or his employees can cut labor costs, as it allows laborers to keep working toward the end goal rather than requiring them to leave the work site to drop unwanted items off.

CLEANUP

Homeowners also can save costs by cleaning up after the contractors at the end of each workday. Speak with the contractor about cleaning up the site each day, asking him or her what can be discarded and what must remain on-site.

Home improvements are costly. But homeowners who are capable of pitching in can greatly reduce the overall cost of their next renovation project.

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