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Own Your Own Private Island With NYC Views

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Billy Rose owned it, and Lillian Hellman and Marilyn Monroe are said to have visited.

Old-time showman and lyricist Billy Rose — best known for “Me and My Shadow” — knew a party island when he saw one.

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He held some doozies when he owned Tavern Island in Connecticut, a 3.5-acre property allegedly named for its use as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Or at least that’s how the lore goes, and the lore is epic for this particular island: It’s said to have been inhabited by European settlers in 1651 and occupied by the British during the American Revolution. Lillian Hellman finished her play “The Little Foxes” on Tavern Island, and Marilyn Monroe is believed to have attended at least one Billy Rose soiree there.

Whatever history the island holds, its trappings are impressive — and on the market for $10.995 million. Located about an hour from Manhattan, its centerpiece is a 1900 Tudor home with coffered ceilings and extraordinary views.

The three-story home boasts 6 bedrooms, 7 baths, 2 offices, an exercise room and steam room.

There’s also a 2-bedroom, 2-bath guest cottage; a boat house with a large game room, bedroom and bath; plus a tea house with stunning nighttime views of the New York City lights.

The island comes with two boats and a half-acre property with a dock and parking lot on the mainland for year-round access.

In case that’s not enough water, the island also boasts a 75-foot pool that overlooks one of four private beaches.

“Of all the homes I’ve seen in Connecticut, this is far and away the most unique and most romantic and just plain cool,” said Rick Higgins of Higgins Group/Christie’s International Real Estate.

Published by Melissa Allison on Zillow Blog.

Abandoned behemoth with 46 bedrooms – or ‘more like 70′ – is for sale in Texas (where else?)

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Now this is more like it! Don’t you think?

Forget Jackie Siegel and her biggest-home-in-the-nation Florida “Versailles” with its piddling 30 bedrooms or so, which was once on the market for $75 million unfinished.

This Texas structure is being marketed as a 60,175-square-foot “shell” of a single-family home on about 15 acres, with 46 bedrooms and 26 bathrooms — “more than enough room for the entire family inside and outside!” the listing says — for $3.5 million.

Those room counts are only estimates, by the way. “It’s probably more like 70 bedrooms,” listing agent Mona Miller tells the Houston Chronicle. “They’re not completed, so it’s difficult to tell.”

Rumors about this residence and its junior version next door, which is about half the size at a mere 32,000 square feet, have been circulating locally for going on a decade. They’re in Manvel, near Pearland, about half an hour’s drive south of Houston. In 2009 the Houston Press got a glimpse of the bigger one, which it dubbed“Pearland’s mystery mansion,” and judging from the current photos, the property has been essentially abandoned for the intervening six years.

Theater room perhaps??
There’s even an unfinished indoor pool.

Even Miller isn’t sure of the real story, but she’s heard that a physician and his wife started building the bigger structure in 2001 as a surgery rehab center, then turned their attention to building a smaller (air quotes) neighbor.

Old listing photos for Junior (shown at the bottom) show a furnished, finished and distinctly institutional-looking dwelling that was billed as being available for residential or commercial use.

The bigger behemoth now on the market was earlier floated as a “special purpose” property but apparently didn’t go over with prospective buyers. According to that listing, the property was “originally designed to be a senior assisted-living center, but was not completed.” No kidding.

The remaining photos — from a property listing from 2008 — show the smaller (air quotes) property next door. It’s about 32,000 square feet and was apparently built by the same physician and his wife sometime after they started and then dropped the 60,000-square-foot project in about 2001. They completed this one, as the photos show.

Originally published by Jennifer Karmon on Yahoo Homes.

Amp Up Your Curb Appeal for the Open House With This Exhaustive Checklist

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We know—selling your home is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a big decision that can take years of dreaming, years of waiting for home values to return all while second-guessing yourself, your life choices, and the market.

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You’ve been patient. The house you expected to live in for a few years has turned into a 10-year hold. Rejoice! The housing market has rebounded, and the time to sell may be now: Home prices are up, interest rates are still low (but rising), and inventory is tight.

Of course, the first thing a potential buyer sees is your front yard and your home’s exterior. Is your house as attractive as it could be? According to the 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value report by the National Association of Realtors®, home buyers are big on curb appeal. So here’s our checklist of everything you need to do to get the outside of your home looking as good as the inside.

Replace the entry door. Buyers are looking for safety and energy efficiency. Replace your dingy old door with a new steel entry door for a 102% return on investment, according to NAR. It is attractive, comes in different colors, and won’t break the bank (price range is $99 to $500). This, however, is good only for median- to lower-priced homes (those priced below $200,000). For high-end homes, be sure your front door reflects the grandeur of the price and neighborhood.

Replace the garage door. Sometimes it’s the first thing potential buyers see when they drive up to your house. If the garage door is dirty, worn, and hanging from a hinge, replace it. A new door can add pizzazz and, according to NAR, return about 89% of its value.

Wash the windows. If you don’t do windows, hire someone who does. Clean windows show potential buyers you take good care of your house. This attention to detail makes them want to see the inside.

Repair/replace the roof. This is a big one. Roofs are expensive; we know that. But a leaky roof can end up costing even more. Buyers always, always ask their agents how old the roof is. They want to know that they won’t get stuck with your postponed repairs. If you can’t replace it, have a roofer patch spots that show wear. It’s best to get this big-ticket item done before the inspector finds it and potentially destroys your sell.

Clear the gutters. If your gutters resemble potted plants, it’s time to clean them. If they hang lower than the roofline, reattach them. A cluttered gutter signals to potential buyers that you’ve given up, and they likely will, too.

Replace the siding. Buyers place a premium on fiber cement siding, according to NAR. If you home is sagging from warped siding, upgrade from vinyl to cement. Make sure your agent tells buyers about your recent investment.

Tuck-point the bricks. If you live in a brick home, be sure to have it tuck-pointed. Not only does a freshly tuck-pointed house look better, it is also sealed against water damage.

Replace the windows. Yes, this is another big-ticket item. Replacing windows can cost thousands of dollars. A quick hack: Replace the windows seen from the curb. New energy-efficient, double-paned windows are high priorities for buyers. You may not be able to afford all new windows, but some are better than none.

Paint the exterior. If you live in a painted house that used to be yellow but now looks beige, it’s time for a fresh coat. Don’t underestimate the value of a freshly painted house.

Mow the lawn. Do we have to say this? And while you’re at it, edge it, too.

Trim the hedges. There’s no need to get fancy—just trim the outgrowth.

Plant flowers. Adding pops of color with flowers and ornamental grass can boost curb appeal while making buyers feel welcome. If you want to landscape, try adding low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants to entice the eco-conscious.

Trim trees. Don’t make buyers duck down while walking to your front door. If the tree branches are hanging too low for the average person, trim them back. There should always be a clear path to the front door.

Powerwash the porch/deck. Buyers will always check out the backyard. If you have a deck, make sure it’s washed, sealed, and ready for entertaining.

Check the doorbell. While it doesn’t affect your curb appeal, a working doorbell matters. Sometimes open house visitors ring the bell before walking in. Make sure yours works!

Leave a light on. You can bet buyers are driving by your house at night, checking out the neighborhood. Sometimes they will drive by to make sure they want to attend the open house. To attract them, add strategically placed solar lights around your yard. Highlight your newly planted mums, your blooming roses. Make the house look as good at night as it does during the day, then watch (from a distance) as buyers line up to attend your open house.

Published by Chrystal Caruthers on realtor.com. Chrystal Caruthers is a Chicago native and a former Realtor, TV news producer, and newspaper reporter. Chrystal, who covers real estate news at realtor.com, enjoys cooking, hiking, and Bikram yoga.

10 Hidden Areas in Your Kitchen that are Really Dirty

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Spring is in the air and spring cleaning is tops on some people’s lists.  Knowing that, we often forget about some areas in the kitchen that need a really good scrubbing.

Without proper cleaning, bacteria can develop in areas around our kitchen. Yuck! So we decided to share some tips that you might want to think about cleaning to keep your home healthy and safe for the entire family.  

  1. Clean out your garbage disposal with some simple baking soda or ¼ of a lemon. This will remove odors and help eliminate any food stuck to the inside of the disposal.
  2. Change your sponges regularly. Sponges and dishrags have bacteria that builds up from cleaning.  Using bacteria filled sponges only creates more problems for what you thought might be clean dishes.
  3. Clean out your dishwasher with dishwasher cleaner or use a little white vinegar.  Using white vinegar to clean the inside and the sides of the dishwasher will keep your system purified and give your dishwasher a sparkle in addition to removing bacteria.
  4. Take a part your blender and clean all of it.  The connections at the base of your blender need to be taken apart to clean out the pieces of leftover food. Yes, I know many people do not think to take apart the blender, but you might be surprised at the build up of food and mold that you might find.
  5. Using a bowl of white vinegar and water, steam your microwave and then wipe down the inside. This will help you remove odors in your microwave, as well as, clean it.
  6. Using white vinegar, rinse your automatic coffee pot. Coffee pots generally have hot water and grinds running through them that can create stains and build up.  Running a cycle through white vinegar will help remove some of the stains and create a cleaning method that will be efficient.
  7. Get rid of old utensils that you are not using anymore. This especially applied to wooden utensils.  If you have wooden utensils that are old and stained, it might be time to move the old out and bring in the new.
  8. Clean your can openers. Can openers can have left over food from opening all the containers. This will create more dirt and bacteria that can be transferred to other products when you are opening them.
  9. Using spring cleaning to clean out your refrigerator and taking it a step further by getting rid of old or expired food. This is a great way to remove moldy food that might be in the back of your frig or just get ride of expired foods.
  10. Get down and dirty and clean out your fume hood that is associated with your stove.  Grease generally builds up in these vents or fume hoods. It is important to clean these areas not only because of the dirt but because excess grease can cause fires when you are cooking.

Many overlooked areas in the kitchen that are germy are your cooking utensils … from can openers to garlic presses. Cleaning these items is key to making sure you do not contaminate your food.  Giving your kitchen a deep clean will remove odors, bacteria and dirt and will result in keeping your family healthy!

Originally published on HomeZada.

Housing Update: Demand Up, Supply Down, Prices Increasing

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Earlier this week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their latest quarterly report.

The report covered three important aspects of the housing market:

  1. Buyer Demand
  2. Supply of Housing Inventory
  3. Single Family Residential Prices

Today, we want to break down the highlights of the report along with several quotes from Lawrence Yun, the Chief Economist at NAR.

Buyer Demand

Total existing-home sales (which include single family and condo) were at an annual rate of 4.97 million in the first quarter of 2015. This represents a number which is 6.2 percent higher than the pace during the first quarter of 2014.

Yun: “Sales activity to start the year was notably higher than a year ago, as steady hiring and low interest rates encouraged more buyers to enter the market.”

Supply of Housing Inventory

There were 2 million existing homes available for sale at the end of the first quarter of 2015 which represents a 4.6 months’ supply of inventory which is down from 4.9 months a year ago. A healthy balance of supply between buyers and sellers is 6 to 7 months.

Yun: “With supply remaining tight—especially at the entry-level price range—buyers will need the expertise and local market insight of a Realtor® to help them through each intricate step of the buying process.”

Single Family Residential Prices

Home prices accelerated in 148 out of 174 metro areas (85%) during the first quarter of 2015 and the number of areas experiencing double-digit price appreciation doubled compared to last quarter. Compared to last quarter, the number of regions experiencing double-digit price appreciation doubled.

The national median existing single-family home price in the first quarter was $205,200, compared to $191,100 in first quarter of 2014. This represents a 7.4% increase year-over-year.

Yun: “…stronger demand without increasing supply led to faster price growth in many markets…Homeowners throughout the country have enjoyed accumulating household wealth through the steady rise in home values in the past few years.”

Bottom Line

Whether you are thinking about buying your first home or selling your current residence to buy the home of your dreams, meet with a professional in your market to discuss how the numbers above have affected your neighborhood’s prices.

Published on Keeping Current Matters.

Top Outdoor Patio Trends for 2015

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These hot looks for outdoor spaces will make you want to linger long after the sun goes down.

Today, Zillow Digs announced the top outdoor patio trends for 2015, and three fads to ditch from last summer. The results were published in the Summer 2015 Zillow Digs Home Trend Forecast, a one-of-a-kind report that combines data from a survey of leading interior design experts and an analysis of the most popular photos on Zillow Digs.

So what are this season’s hottest trends? Check out the surprising results below!

Top outdoor patio trends for summer 2015

1. Lime green accent colors

Source: Urban West
Source: Urban West

Lime green will be the most popular accent color for summer 2015. Expect to see this fresh, natural hue manifest in a variety of materials and textures — from throw pillows and vases to outdoor umbrellas.

2. Vertical gardens

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab
Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Low-maintenance plants and succulents will be very popular this season, especially in regions that have water shortages and drought. Vertical or wall gardens offer a sophisticated home for succulents, herbs and other low-maintenance plants, and will be one of this season’s biggest outdoor patio trends, especially in condo and apartment decks where floor space is limited.

3. Hurricane candles

Source: Marc-Michaels Interior
Source: Marc-Michaels Interior

Hurricane candles are this season’s most popular outdoor lighting solution, and will be equally prevalent among budget and luxury spaces. When grouped together on tables or lined up along the patio floor, hurricane candles are romantic and create a wonderful ambiance that can be enjoyed on any budget.

Three fads to replace

1. Tuscan colors

Source: Zillow Digs
Source: Zillow Digs

“Khakis or yellow-based neutrals are out, as well as anything muddy or Tuscan-inspired,” says Zillow Digs designer Marc Thee of Marc Michaels Interiors. While these muted hues can bring warmth in moderation, they feel heavy and out of place in outdoor spaces, and don’t reflect this season’s fresh, streamlined aesthetic.

2. Shabby chic furniture

Source: Zillow Digs
Source: Zillow Digs

Intricate, shabby chic patio sets will fade away, as summer 2015 is all about simplicity and clean lines. Detailed wrought iron patio sets will be replaced with sleek outdoor sofas and loveseats adorned with pillows and throws in this summer’s hottest citrus colors.

3. Excessive patterns

Source: Zillow Digs
Source: Zillow Digs

“People grow tired of busy patterns, so keep them to a minimum,” says Thee. Instead, add interest and texture with natural greenery and pops of citrus colors. Look for more solid color choices on pillows and throw blankets this summer.

Originally published on Zillow Blog.

7 Ingredients That Can Clean (Almost) Anything in Your House

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Our favorite all-natural ingredients for cleaning, as well as a few recipes for good, clean fun.

Published by Julie Davis on Trulia Blog.

What includes a sprig of mint, a twist of citrus, and packs a real punch in every room of the house? Here’s a hint: It’s better suited to a spray bottle than a cocktail glass.

We’re talking about DIY all-natural household cleaners, of course — the kind that side-step harsh fumes and chemicals in favor of kitchen staples like vinegar, baking soda, and salt. (Booze and mini umbrellas optional.)

If your home is on the market, you might want to be careful to avoid offending a potential buyer’s sensitivities (ahem, please put down that bottle of industrial-grade bleach). If you rent, you might be looking to save money by making your own cleansers — or maybe you have roommates who can’t stand the smell of that lemon floor cleaner you’ve been using. Either way? These tips are for you.

1. White vinegar

The granddaddy of natural, eco-friendly cleaners, vinegar is, by definition, a water-based solution containing about 5% acetic acid — a powerful solvent. Translation: The secret ingredient in your mom’s recipe for potato salad spells “lights out” for most bacteria, viruses, mildew, and mold.

Concoct an all-purpose cleaner: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water (distilled is best), upping the amount of vinegar for tougher jobs. Spray it anywhere that could use a good cleaning, but steer clear of marble surfaces.

Disinfect and deodorize cutting boards: Spray full-strength vinegar onto wood cutting boards, let it sit, then rinse with clean water.

Deodorize dishwashers: Add 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your dishwasher. The vinegar smell will dissipate, de-stinkifying dishes in the process.

Soften clothes and reduce static: Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine in lieu of store-bought fabric softeners.

Sweeten garbage disposals: Freeze white vinegar in an ice cube tray and then run the cubes through the garbage disposal to deodorize and clean drains.

Remove mineral deposits from showerheads: Unscrew your showerhead, then place it in a plastic zip baggie filled with ½ to 1 cup of warm white vinegar. Let it sit for one hour to remove mineral buildup. For showerheads that can’t be removed, secure the baggie onto the showerhead using a rubber band. (This also works for sink faucets.) Postsoak, use an old toothbrush and a toothpick to further loosen deposits.

Clean fresh produce: To help remove pesticide residue, gently wash fruit and vegetables in a solution of 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to a pint of water.

Clean your coffeepot: Fill the reservoir of your automatic coffeepot with white vinegar, then allow the machine to go through a brew cycle as usual. Follow the vinegar with two cycles of fresh water to rinse.

2. Citrus

Like vinegar, the key to citrus’s cleaning power is its acidity, which proves the little lemon to be a cleaning powerhouse. What’s more, the peels of citrus fruit (grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, and the rest) contain limonene, the active ingredient of citrus oil, which is especially effective as a degreaser.

Soap scum and rust remover: Banish soap scum and rust from your shower by rubbing affected surfaces with the cut surface of a halved lemon. Allow the juice to work its magic for about a minute, then use a scouring pad to finish the job.

Scented all-purpose cleaner: Add enough citrus peels to fill one-half of a large Mason jar. Pour white vinegar over the top to fill the jar, then place the lidded jar in a cool, dark place to infuse for at least two weeks. Strain the solution, pour it into a spray bottle, and use it as you would an all-purpose cleaner.

Hands-off microwave cleaner: Add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to one cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl, then heat the mixture to boiling in the microwave. Allow the steam to penetrate baked-on grime for 10 minutes before opening the door and giving the interior a good wipe.

Surface whitener: Gently “bleach” stains from surfaces by rubbing the surface with the cut surface of a halved lemon. (Don’t try this on marble and granite.)

Fabric whitener: Add 1 cup of undiluted lemon juice to your laundry to whiten and brighten clothing.

Furniture polish: Combine one part undiluted lemon juice with two parts olive oil, pour a little onto a lint-free cloth, and use it to shine wooden furniture and fixtures.

3. Baking soda

The superfine grit of this powdery white substance, better known as sodium bicarbonate, comes in handy for those jobs that require extra-gentle abrasion. And what other ingredient do you know of that can make cookies rise, soak up bad odors, and sweeten a drain? It’s all in a day’s work for this wallet-friendly ingredient.

Clean hairbrushes and combs: Coat hairbrushes and combs in a paste of baking soda and water to remove product buildup.

Deodorize carpets and rugs: Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda all over your carpets, then allow it to sit, preferably overnight. Vacuum to reveal fresh, odor-free rugs.

Shine silver: Make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Massage onto tarnished silver to polish and shine, follow with a rinse of warm water, then dry.

Rejuvenate plastic food containers: Give new life to stained food containers by scouring the surfaces with baking soda, then soaking them in a solution of water and baking soda.

Clear a clogged drain: Sprinkle baking soda down a clogged drain, chasing it with double the amount of white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes, then follow the fizzing mixture with boiling water.

Fight household odors: Sprinkle a little baking soda into cat litter pans, into clothes hampers, and over the bottom of garbage cans to help ward off bad smells.

Remove crayon marks: If your pint-sized Picasso uses walls as his canvas, sprinkle a little baking soda onto a damp sponge and gently buff away the crayon.

Clean your oven: Coat the surface of your oven in a paste of baking soda and water, avoiding the heating elements. Allow it to sit overnight and then use a damp rag and a silicone spatula to remove as much paste as possible. Complete the task by spraying down the oven top with vinegar, then wiping with a rag once more.

4. Borax

For those of us outside the chemistry lab, sodium borate (aka borax) is better known as a laundry booster than it is a compound of boron. Borax’s roots can be traced back to well before the washing machine, however — 4,000-some years, in fact, when this white mineral powder is believed to have been discovered in dried saline lake beds in Tibet.

Laundry booster: Add half a cup of borax to your laundry to boost the power of your regular detergent.

Insect deterrent: Keep creepy-crawlies at bay by mixing equal parts borax and sugar and strategically sprinkling it around the house. The boric acid in borax is poisonous to many insects, and it’s also said to be an effective rodent deterrent.

Dishwasher detergent: Replace powder dishwasher detergents with equal parts borax and baking soda.

Goo remover: Make a paste of two parts borax to one part water and use it to tackle stubborn adhesive residue.

Outdoor furniture cleaner: Prep your patio furniture for the season by spraying it down with a solution of 1 teaspoon of dish detergent, 1 teaspoon of borax, and 1 quart of warm water. Wipe and rinse.

Pots and pan cleaner: Sprinkle borax onto a damp sponge, then use it to remove grease and baked-on messes from cookware.

5. Castile Soap

Castile soap is vegan and all-around Earth friendly, but that doesn’t mean you have to have a penchant for patchouli to keep a bottle of this stuff stashed under your sink. The gentle, vegetable oil–based soap can tackle dirt and grime on pretty much any water-safe surface — and that includes the hair and skin of people (and pets!). You can buy castile soap in bar form, but most cleaning applications call for the soap in its liquid state.

Window cleaner: For streak-free windows, spray your panes with a solution of 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of castile soap. Wipe down using black-and-white newspaper.

Liquid dish soap in a pinch: If you run out of store-bought soap, use diluted castile soap to hand-wash your dishes.

DIY baby wipes: For a better clean during diaper changes, soak a few reusable cloths in a solution of 1 cup of water, 1 or 2 drops of tea tree oil, and a teaspoon or 2 of castile soap.

Laundry detergent: Combine ½ cup of castile soap with 1 cup of borax and use it as you would regular laundry detergent.

6. Salt

Kosher, sea, table, iodized, noniodized — no matter what type of salt you sprinkle into your favorite recipes, the same crystals can be used to clean counters, carpet, coppers, and everything in between. Perhaps better still, this ingredient earns brownie points for being nontoxic and seriously affordable.

Remove coffee stains from mugs: Make a paste out of equal parts salt and vinegar and massage it into stubborn coffee stains on ceramic mugs.

Clean cast-iron cookware: Clean your cast-iron cookware without affecting its seasoning by heating a bit of oil in the pot or pan, sprinkling in ¼ cup of salt, then using the paste to scrub away baked-on food. Remove the paste from the pot or pan using a paper towel.

Clean copper, pewter, and solid brass: Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle the cut surface with salt. Rub the lemon all over the metal being cleaned before rinsing thoroughly with water.

Remove water stains from wood: Someone forget to use a coaster? Remove water rings using a paste of salt and veggie oil. Let it sit one hour before buffing away with a rag.

Bleach perspiration stains: Mix 1 quart of hot water with 4 tablespoons of salt, then apply it to the yellowed area with a sponge until it fades away.

7. Essential Oils

In the world of DIY cleaners, essential oils are the icing on the eco-friendly cake.

Reach for these tiny amber bottles to add a fragrant finishing touch to sprays, pastes, and powders while also boosting your cleaner’s antimicrobial properties. Who wouldn’t prefer the aroma of lemon, lavender, or mint over a whiff of bleach?

Toilet bowl cleaner: Combine 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and then direct the spray to coat the toilet’s inner rim. After it sits for half an hour, follow with a good scrub.

Vacuum freshener: If your vacuum emits a less-than-pleasant odor, try this trick: Add a few drops of your preferred fragrant oil to a cotton ball, then vacuum up the ball.

Stovetop cleaner: Orange oil is particularly effective at cutting through tough grease. Apply it to your greasy stovetop to wipe away cooking messes and leave behind a pleasant citrus scent.

Air freshener: Combine 10–15 drops of essential oil with distilled water in a spray bottle and use it to add a light fragrance to your home. Peppermint, lemon, and lavender would all work well here.