How to Love Your Home Again

If you’re not “feelin’ the love” for your home that you did when you first moved in, that doesn’t mean it’s time to “up anchor” and find a new place to live – often all it takes is a few changes to make your house feel like home again.

Start by remembering where it all started.

Think back to when you first moved in. What was the first meal that you cooked…you know…the one you made after all of your dishes, pots and pans were put away and the new place finally started to feel like home?

Or the first birthday party or anniversary? Then ask yourself…what’s changed?

Once you’ve figured out what’s different, you can do what you need to do to love your home again.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Banish clutter and disorganization

You might not realize it, but clutter adds to stress and can impact the love you feel for your home in a big way.

Are your closets stuffed to capacity? Do dishes try to slide out of your cabinets when you open the doors?

How much time do you waste looking for things that you’ve misplaced?

Clear out the clutter and you go a long way to feeling more affection towards your home.

Baby steps

Don’t let the idea of decluttering and organizing your home add to your stress. Set aside as little as 15 minutes each day to tackle your mess and it will be done in record time. It’s better to do a little every day than overwhelm yourself getting it done over a weekend.

Decorative storage

Once you’ve rid your home of things you no longer need or love, it’s time to organize what remains. Decorative storage (e.g. a wicker basket or vase) serves double duty as both a place for your things and a beautiful piece that makes you smile.

Use aromatherapy

Use a mister or scented candles in a fragrance that you love to wind down after a long day. While you might be tempted to save them for only those times you have company, don’t – when you bathe your senses in beautiful scents you’ll reduce your stress level and feel more affection for your home.

Put wasted space to good use

Have a spare bedroom that’s filled with clutter or a back entryway that’s sitting unused?

Repurpose those areas of your home that aren’t being used or that can be repurposed. For example, if your dining room table is also home to your computer, reclaim the table for family dinners (instead of eating in front of the tv).

Place a beautiful centerpiece and/or placemats and keep clutter from reclaiming it and you’ll be surprised just how much you’ll love having your dining room table back!

Revamp your existing furniture

Nobody said you had to spend thousands of dollars on furniture to give you warm fuzzies about your home.

Once you know how to do it, it’s really not that hard to change the feel of your home by modifying your existing furniture. Products such as chalk paint and milk paint work wonders and can really breathe new life into a tired (boring) piece of furniture.

Finally, remember that your home is your escape from the stress and pressures of everyday life. All it takes is a few small touches of colors, textures, lighting and beautiful fragrances to help you fall in love with your home all over again.

 

Posted on HomeZada

 

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10 Ways to Conquer Clutter and Simplify Your Life

New year, same old mess? Curb your family’s clutter quirks with these 10 simple organization tricks.

It’s the season of fresh starts, which means it’s the perfect time to rejuvenate your home organization strategy. Spoiler: It’s not as hard as you think! In fact, these stress-reducing tips will help you solve some of the most common home organization woes — simply and with minimal effort.

1. “I can’t find it!”

Cutting clutter is an obvious starting point for resolving this issue. Having too much stuff can make it hard to locate items you need. Favorite shirts get lost in a crowded closet, the perfect spatula hides in the overstuffed kitchen drawer, and necessary tools float to the bottom of an unsorted toolbox.

But getting organized may be easier than you think. Let’s take those tools as an example. The garage can be one of the messiest places in the house, but this simple and easy starting point will help you get it under control.

  1. Hang a pegboard, and install some hooks.
  2. Using a marker, draw an outline around each tool to indicate its location.

You’ll have a tool organization system that not only keeps you organized but also alerts you when the tools are missing. Plus, organizing is contagious — once you start, it spreads rapidly throughout the house.

2. “I left home without it (again).”

Have you ever walked out of the house and forgotten the birthday card for your friend? Left the set of directions to your niece’s wedding on the printer? Or failed to retrieve the receipt for returning the vacuum you purchased last month?

If only we could remind ourselves about these things before walking out the door.

Whether the front door or mudroom is your jumping-off point each morning, you can set it up for total success. Create an organizing system with pockets that hang on the knob or over the door to hold items you’ll need before you leave for work, school or events.

A simple door organizer usually costs under $15 either in stores or online.

3. “Did you wash my soccer uniform?”

The laundry room is often the nemesis of an organized house. Here’s a laundry system that will restore household harmony and save you time: Get each family member their own laundry basket, and label it.

Rather than placing the clean laundry on the stairs or couch and watching everyone walk by without picking up their clothes, ask them to pick up their personalized basket in the laundry room.

There will be no lost items or mix-ups — and no more blaming you.

Photo from Zillow listing.

4. “Do I have to do everything?”

The kitchen is the pulse point of most homes. It’s a high traffic area that everyone uses all through the day. We open our mail here, study for school here, use the computer here, pile our stuff here — plus, it’s where the food is!

Dedicate one part of the counter to be set up for daily routines, like a lunch-making station. Stock it with paper towels, wraps, baggies and a cutting board. You could also make a coffee and tea station, equipped with supplies like filters, strainers and sugar.

If you create an organized space for your family to make their own lunches or coffee drinks, your life is easier. That’s called delegation.

5. “Where’d I put the phone number for the doctor’s office?”

Another tip for the kitchen is one that can save a life: a household manual, in either a physical or digital form. You can create this in just a few minutes, and it costs you nothing.

To get started, grab a binder and three-hole punch, and put all your vital information in the binder. This includes emergency contact info, the name of your family doctors and vet, school rosters, alarm codes, medications and dosages for the kids, caregiver names, the location of your wills — anything you’d need someone to know in an emergency.

When you have a minute, make it digital. But start with step one: Simply gather important information in one place, and keep it contained.

6. “I can’t corral these crazy cords!”

Phones, chargers, remotes and mismatched cords are always scattered throughout the house. The shortcut for pulling everything together? A central charging station.

A charging station hides cords, keeps all electronic items together and can even blend in with your furniture.

7. “There are toys all over the place!”

Many parents’ biggest home organization issue is the kids not picking up their toys.

The solution here might be as simple as teaching your children organization skills early on and making it easy for them to put things in their place.

Here’s one idea that will allow you to shift from frustration to elation:

  1. Use bins to hold the toys. Each bin should hold toys of the same type.
  2. Find a picture of the toys being stored in each particular bin. For example, if you have dolls and stuffed animals in one bin, attach a picture of dolls and stuffed animals to the front of it.

Photo from Zillow listing.

8. “Can everybody please clean up after yourself?”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could clean up their own mess in at least one communal room? Does your bathroom come to mind? Make this a reality by creating a system that works fairly universally.

Get each person in the house a toiletry caddy. Just like at summer camp or in a college dorm, put names on the caddies, and store them on shelves in the bathroom or, if space is really at a premium, ask folks to carry their caddies back and forth from their bedrooms.

The bathroom stays organized, and there’s an automatic tidying-up system built in after every visit.

9. “I have no place to really relax.”

Clearing clutter can create a peaceful home — away from overstimulation and the demands of our external world.

Take that idea to one room in particular: our bedrooms, which are meant to serve as a sanctuary for rest and romance. The piles of laundry, books and magazines living next to the bed nix any possibility of a calm and relaxing experience.

Let’s get the laundry and closet into a workable system and put a cap on the number of books and magazines in your personal space.

You can start to create a peaceful space by:

  • Getting rid of clothing you don’t need anymore. Box it and store it, sell it or give it away.
  • Going through all the books on your bedside table (or floor), and selecting just one to read. Store the others in an alternate location. Keep just this month’s magazines on your table, and either relocate, recycle or donate the rest.

Photo from Zillow listing.

10. “I don’t have time to get organized.”

One of the top reasons for not getting organized is lack of time. It seems we devote all the energy we have to work, family, school, volunteering and other commitments.

While many of us dream about alphabetized folders and color-coded sheets and towels, the fact remains that there is often little time in the day to organize or even clean.

The best way to manage this issue is to reduce — and then repeat after me.

  • Reduce. Eliminating clutter is the No. 1 thing we can do to create more time for ourselves. When there’s less clutter, we spend less time cleaning it, less time putting it back where it belongs and less space storing it. Take just 10 minutes today, and eliminate 10 items you no longer really need.
  • Repeat after me. Here’s a mantra for you: Avoid perfection at all costs. Don’t get too hung up on the details. Your home doesn’t need to be perfectly organized every day. Sometimes “good enough” is all you need.

 

Posted by Dorothy The Organizer on Zillow

How to Declutter Your Bathroom So It Isn’t So Gross

Figure8Photos/iStock; realtor.com

Want to learn how to declutter your bathroom? We feel your pain. Despite often being the smallest room in the house, it is also one of the hardest to keep organized. If you’ve ever been late to work because you couldn’t find that new can of shaving cream you know must be stashed somewhere, you also understand that decluttering your bathroom could seriously change your life.

We can help! In this second installment of our 2018 Declutter Your Home Guide—a series of articles that will pare down your possessions room by room—we tackle this oft-neglected space and show you how to declutter a bathroom correctly. Try some of these tips to bask in a cleaner, calmer bathroom (ahhh).

Nab every inch of space

Photo by The Painted Home

The first step is to find a home for everything: Take advantage of any place you can carve out some real estate. Consider the back of the bathroom door, the inside of a closet door, or a mounted bin or rack on the wall.

“These spots are often overlooked storage opportunities,” notes Katie McCann, an organizing pro with Maeve’s Method.

Installing shelves over the toilet is smart, too, adds Marty Basher, a home expert at Modular Closets.

If you don’t have a product shelf in your shower, pick up a caddy or small plastic basket, suggests Jacquie Denny, co-founder of Everything but the House. “This way, you can easily move items from the shower to replenish it and then back again in one motion,” she explains.

Give it a spin (or use bins)

Photo by Houzz.com

A Lazy Susan under the bathroom sink to house products makes decluttering easy, says Julie Coraccio, the organizing genius at Reawaken Your Brilliance. “Take everything out, remove what you no longer need, put your essentials back in, and you’re done,” she says.

The same principle holds for pull-out bins.

“With baskets or bins, you can stop clutter before it starts, because you’re less likely to add more items than you can hold in each one,” she points out.

Go a step further and label your containers, as seen above, or invest in dedicated drawer dividers, suggests Basher.

Break up with your makeup

Photo by bluejey024

Face it, ladies—you’ve probably got too many eye shadow palettes, and they’re getting old, too.

“Many women keep makeup much longer than they should,” notes Coraccio. Pitching expired items should be a no-brainer, she adds, and it’s an easy step if you’re having trouble decluttering this area.

Not sure if something’s too old to use? Go to the Cosmetic Calculator and find out.

Group like items

Photo by Dura Supreme Cabinetry

As you plow through each drawer and shelf, create piles with similarities so you can put them away methodically. Makeup, of course, will have its own section, and the rest should be easy to arrange, too (hair care products, body lotions, perfume).

And to keep toiletries from piling up, commit to a single item at a time.

“Half-used bottles and tubes become clutter in a hurry, so be disciplined—use and finish what’s already open before trying a new product,” urges Basher.

Check your meds

Photo by Harry Braswell Inc.

Keeping unused or expired medications in the bathroom adds to clutter and can be dangerous. Kids may sample a pill, or you might inadvertently take something in the dark when you’re half-awake. The best advice: Let those meds go.

“Why put your health at risk?” asks Coraccio.

But please don’t be lazy and toss them down the toilet.

“Make sure you dispose of medications properly as some have been making their way into municipal water systems,” she notes. Most cities and counties have drop-off locations or specially designated days when they take unused medicine (check with your local health department).

Learn the difference: Regular vs. Special

Photo by Clare Gaskin

Not every product deserves a spot on that Lazy Susan or in the bins close at hand.

“Keep items you don’t use regularly separate from those you grab on a daily basis,” suggests Basher. This means special fragrances, expensive body cream, and once-a-week hair and face masks can live in their own drawer or basket. You’ll streamline your products and won’t be waylaid pawing through the bin during the morning rush.

Corral kid stuff

Photo by timothy bell photography

Sharing a bathroom with children? Their things need an overhaul as well. Pitch toys they’ve outgrown as well as those threadbare towels, and create separate storage for the under-10 set. Wire baskets, a plastic bucket, or mesh bag that hangs over the shower rod are a few options for storing toys.

Say buh-bye to samples

Photo by Houzz.com

The smaller the product, the harder it can be to locate. We’re talking about those hotel-size shampoos, lotion samples you’ve ripped from magazines, and the tiny makeup tubes that come with larger purchases at department stores.

“Donate these unused items,” says McCann. There are many worthy groups that’ll gladly take unopened toiletries, including homeless shelters, church committees, and school drives for the needy.

 

Posted by Jennifer Geddes on realtor.com

 

 

Don’t Put a Freeze on Home Maintenance! Your Handy Winter Checklist Is Here

Robert Kirk/iStock; realtor.com

Ah, January. The time of new beginnings, new resolutions, and, in most of the country, a seemingly endless stretch of cold and gloom. We get it: You just want to hibernate, catch up on “The Crown,” and scroll Instagram. But before you take up permanent residence on the couch (or treadmill, if you’re on that kick), take heed: This is the absolute worst time to have a major home maintenance problem.

“Catastrophic issues tend to happen in the winter—and when those occur, nine times out of 10 it’s due to failing to plan,” says Janet O’Dea, owner of Powers Plumbing in San Diego. “Taking some time to anticipate and be ahead of maintenance issues throughout the year takes a lot of pressure off.”

We couldn’t agree more. And that’s why we’ve done the heavy lifting for you, season by season, so you can avoid the pain (and expense) of costly home repairs. Now that’s a resolution we can get behind!

1. Get ready for (more) winter storms

In most parts of the country, ’tis the season for freezing rain, sleet, and blizzards. Ensure you’re ready for the next big storm before it strands you.

DIY: First, make sure you have a working generator, and keep a stash of batteries for flashlights and lanterns at the ready. 

“Heavy snows and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark,” says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of home safety and security company SafeWise.

Also a must-have: a solar-powered or battery-operated radio to keep you up to date on news in case cellphone reception goes out. Check the condition of your snow shovels, gloves, and window scrapers, and store snowy weather supplies near the door where you can access them easily.

We also love this novel tip from home maintenance expert Laura Gaskill: Mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles, to help snow plowers see where to go.

Finally, a buildup of heavy snow on tree limbs can make them more prone to breaking, Gaskill notes, so brush snow off tree limbs after each big snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach.

Call in the pros: If a limb is buckling, have it removed as soon as the weather permits—expect to spend $75 to $150, depending on how much of the tree you lost.

2. Clean your oven

Now we’re cooking! Clean your oven to make it more efficient.powerofforever/iStock

“Homemade food can really contribute to winter coziness at home, but unfortunately, the oven and its vents can easily turn into the dirtiest feature in the kitchen because they collect a lot of grime and grease,” says Jasmine Hobbs of London Cleaning Team.

And over time, built-up grease can cause your appliance to use more power while turned on.

DIY: To clean your hood filters, fill a sink or a bucket with boiling water; add a quarter-cup baking soda and some liquid dish soap. Mix well and submerge the filters. Let them soak for a couple of minutes and rinse thoroughly. If your oven has a self-cleaning function, use it at least once a month. If not, apply a paste of baking soda and water, then scrub.

Call in the pros: If you never clean your oven and the thought of all that stuck-on grease is putting you in panic mode, you can call a reputable cleaning service. Most pro cleaners will charge a flat rate for whole-house cleaning and will include the oven; you’ll spend between $115 and $236 for the whole kit and caboodle, depending on where you live and your home’s grime level.

3. Inspect the property

Yes, it’s cold and the last thing you probably want to do this time of year is walk around outside. But trust us, it’s time well-spent.

“Home issues that are more susceptible in the winter—such as frozen pipes, window and door drafts, and the condition of a home’s gutters—can be easily detected during this time of year,” says Patrick Knight of WIN Home Inspection.

DIY: Most big inspection issues are best left to a pro, but while you’re taking stock, check off this easy to-do: Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You should be doing this regularly, but it’s even more important in the winter months, when windows tend to be closed and heaters are running overtime.

Call in the pros: Consider spending some of that Christmas cash on a professional inspection, especially if it’s been a while. Strong winter winds and cold temps help inspectors detect drafts and insulation failures. Plus, winter gives inspectors a better idea of how the home structure and roof holds with the extra weight of snow and ice. And fireplaces and heating systems are more active during the winter months, making identifying problems easier.

It’s also a great time to check out crawl spaces and attics, which can easily reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the summer months, making safe inspections nearly impossible.

Expect to spend upward of $300—and be sure you select a licensed, insured, and experienced pro for the job.

4. Take care of your wood floors

Woodwork: Clean your wood floors to protect them from winter’s wear and tear.seb_ra/iStock

Winter can wreak major havoc on wood floors: Rock salt can stain wood (and its rough crystals can scratch floors), while indoor heaters can dry it out, causing problems like shrinkage and cracked floorboards.

DIY: Avoid using vinegar to remove stains, advises Dave Murphy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Instead, place rugs and mats in the highest-traffic areas. To lock moisture in the air and prevent heat-related damage to your floorboards, run a humidifier. And, of course, engage in routine sweeping, dusting, and mopping.

“This will also prevent particle and salt buildup,” Murphy says. “And remember to mop with the boards, and not against the grain.”

Call in the pros: In the end, winter’s effects may be too harsh to manage on your own. Consider professional refinishing, which averages between $1.50 and $4 per square foot.

5. Block drafts

With temperatures down and indoor heaters working overtime, you’ll know if your weatherstripping isn’t up to par. And over time, all that unwanted cold air can increase your energy bill in a major way.

DIY: If the cold air is getting in under a door, pick up a door sweep at a local home improvement store. This doodad is typically made of hard plastic and attaches to the bottom of your door, sealing any gaps.

Call in the pros: Feel like you’re wasting way too much energy during the winter months? Conduct an energy audit. A trained auditor can assess your home’s current energy efficiency and give you a list of recommended improvements. You can also find instructions for a DIY energy audit at Energy.gov.

6. Alleviate allergens

An estimated 50 million Americans live with allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and many of their conditions are exacerbated by indoor allergens such as dust mites and animal dander.

The main sources of indoor allergens? Pets top the list, of course, but other culprits include wall-to-wall carpet, soft furniture, stuffed toys, bedding, damp areas, indoor plants, mattresses that aren’t in allergen-resistant covers, and pillows and bedding that can’t be washed in hot water.

DIY: Clean dust from your blinds and ceiling fans using your vacuum’s attachment kit, and make it a regular practice to vacuum all upholstery and carpets.

Once a week, wash your bedding in hot water (at a temperature hotter than 130 degrees), and consider investing in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can filter almost 98% of allergen particles in the air, according to the AAFA.

Another good buy?  A zippered allergen-resistant cover for your mattress, which the AAFA says is even more effective than an air purifier at removing indoor allergens.

Call in the pros: For your living room upholstery and other soft furniture, consider professional steam cleaning. Expect to spend upward of $200.

 

Posted by Holly Amaya on realtor.com

This Checklist Is the Key to Taking Care of Your Home (Without the Stress)

2018 is going to be your home’s cleanest, most organized year yet.

Here’s an easy way to get on top of your home maintenance checklist in the new year: Take it one small chunk at a time!

Little steps add up to big results. And if you dedicate some time to home maintenance — two hours a week, an afternoon per month and a couple of days a year — your home will remain in tiptop shape this year.

Here’s our easy-to-follow checklist:

Weekly home maintenance

Your weekly home maintenance ritual will be largely determined by the features of your home, but may include some of the following tasks:

  • Give all your carpets a thorough vacuuming. Or, if you have hardwood floors, give them a good once-over with a large dust-mop.
  • Plan to spend 30 minutes performing one small maintenance task in your yard, such as pruning a tree or shrub, painting a mailbox, or blowing leaves and debris from a garden path or sidewalk.
  • Do some bathroom maintenance. Again, we’re talking about biting things off in small chunks here! Some examples:
    • Pick a drain used by a person with long hair, and clean it out with a Zip-It tool.
    • Spend some time repairing damaged tile grout in a shower or tub.
    • Clean the mineral sediment out of a showerhead.
  • Freshen up your garbage disposal. Run a tray of ice cubes through it, along with some baking soda or lemon rinds, and voila! It’ll be clean and fresh again.
  • Clean the outside of all appliances and the inside of one appliance per week. For instance, if you clean out the refrigerator this week, run a cleaning tablet through your dishwasher next week, and wipe out your dryer the following week.

Shutterstock ID 683730031; Requester Name: Cat Overman; Project: blog post; Client/Licensee: ; Other:

Monthly home maintenance

These are the projects we all know we should do regularly but often don’t get to. Just pick an afternoon, and go for it!

  • Clean the range hood and filter. This is one of those areas that we often forget about, but if you don’t take care of it on a regular basis, it will become unmanageably greasy and dirty over time.
  • Clean the furnace filter, and replace it if needed. This will help your furnace run efficiently, keeping utility bills down.
  • Polish wood furniture, dust light fixtures and wipe down baseboards.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re functioning and don’t need new batteries. If you have a fire extinguisher, make sure it’s fully charged.
  • Visually inspect the outside of your home for problems or issues, such as loose shingles, damaged siding, insect nests, or overgrown trees or shrubbery. Make a note to correct the problems!

Shutterstock ID 281534546; Requester Name: Cat Overman; Project: blog post; Client/Licensee: ; Other:

Yearly home maintenance

Schedule these tasks in a way that makes sense to you. You can do them on a seasonal basis or just schedule one or two days per year to knock everything out.

Here are some bigger tasks to take on once a year:

  • Clean and organize your garage, basement or attic. This is a maintenance task that everyone dreads doing, but it feels so good once it’s done! Plus, you’ll most likely discover some forgotten treasures to either donate to charity or sell online.
  • Wash windows and window screens, and let the sunshine in! While this task is often done in the spring, you can do it any time of the year.
  • Take on one major outdoor improvement project per year, and schedule a day or two to complete it. For example, you might want to install a fence, refinish a large deck, patch up an asphalt or concrete driveway, or install raised garden beds.
  • Clean out gutters, check under the eaves, remove trees or shrubbery that are encroaching on your home, and install wire grates in any holes to keep pests out.
  • Freshen up one room in your home. Pick any room, and give it a mini makeover. For instance, you can repaint it, switch curtains, move the furniture, and add plants and knickknacks to give it a whole new look. If you do this with one room per year, in a few years, your whole home will look terrific!

By following this easy checklist, you can have a wonderfully maintained home with a minimal investment of time and energy.

 

Posted by Jane Drill on Zillow

Check Yourself: 7 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle in October

schulzie/iStock; realtor.com

Ah, October. Temperatures are dropping, the days are growing shorter, and the pumpkin spice latte is, in a word, inescapable. But before you go hog wild with the Halloween decorations and settle in for that horror movie binge session, take some time to prep your home for winter’s onslaught (buzzkill, we know!).

Luckily, we’re here to make it a breeze with our handy checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this month. Some of these are so quick and easy that you won’t even miss a beat of that “Friday the 13th” marathon (although we’d recommend skipping “Jason X.” He’s in space—do we need to say more?) Read on for details about where to start, and who to call if you need reinforcements.

1. Clean your dryer vents

This one’s a lot more serious than it sounds. Excess lint can dramatically increase the risk of fire.

“A key indicator of a dryer vent needing to be cleaned is if clothes aren’t drying as fast as they usually do, or if it takes multiple cycles to get them completely dry,” says Maria Vizzi of Indoor Environmental Solutions.

DIY: Prevent buildup from the get-go by emptying your lint trap every single time you use your dryer. If possible, move your dryer closer to an exterior wall; if your vent pipe is particularly long or has to snake around corners, you’re at a greater risk of a clog.

Call in a pro: If you want peace of mind that all your vents are squeaky clean, call in a professional. You’ll spend anywhere from $90 to $180.  Look for a dryer technician specially trained by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

2. Seal your outdoor surfaces

Cold temperatures and snow can cause your paint to peel, leading to moisture intrusion and wood rot, says Brian Osterried, a product manager at paint company PPG. Protect your exterior surfaces by applying a stain and sealant.

DIY:  Clean the surface first—taking care to remove any built-up ickiness between planks or in crevices—using a screwdriver or putty knife. Wait at least 48 hours before sanding the surface using 80-grit sandpaper, then sweep or vacuum, and apply your sealant.

Call in a pro: The cost of professional sealant jobs vary depending on size and the surface to be sealed, but for an average deck, expect to spend around $800.

3. Store your yard furniture

The fastest way to make your outdoor furniture look faded is to leave it out in the elements. Store your grill, deck chairs, and outdoor set in a shed or garage.

Shortcut: If you don’t have the storage space, invest in durable covers for your furniture to protect it from snow and rain.

Call in a pro: We suppose you could hire a personal assistant for this task (who are you, the Queen of England?!), but this one really just requires a little lifting and five minutes of your time. You’ve got this!

4. Stow that hose

If you live where it snows (yes, it’s time for that word again—sigh), it’s a good idea to drain and store your garden hose before temps start significantly dropping.

“Hoses with water in them will freeze and burst,” says Lisa Turner, author of “House Keys: Tips and Tricks from a Female Home Inspector.”

DIY: Here’s a clever hack: Unroll your hose on a downslope and then recoil it upslope so the water drains out, Turner recommends. You can store the hose outside in a shed or underhang if most of the water is removed. But it’s best to stash it inside if possible.

Next, shut off the water supply to your external faucets. Then drain the line by turning the faucet on and letting the residual water drain out.

For extra protection from freezing temps, install a foam insulator cover over each external faucet.

Call in the pros: If you see any faucet damage or leaking that won’t stop, call in a pro ASAP to repair or replace it. Expect to spend anywhere from $150 to $300.

5. Do a ‘fall cleaning’

“Open those windows up wide and do a thorough fall cleaning of your home that includes dusting areas that don’t always make the cut, like ceiling fans and ceiling corners,” says home organization expert Marty Basher.

DIY: Wash your draperies, dust your blinds, remove your window screens, and wash the windows inside and out.

Call in a pro: Depending on where you live, a professional home cleaningcould run you upward of $100. Now is also the time to have your carpets and rugs professionally cleaned to rid them of dust and other allergens (you should do this once a year). For a professional carpet cleaning, expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $250.

6. Feed and seed your lawn

“After a long, hot summer your lawn could probably use a bit of extra TLC, and seeding is proven to be the most effective way to repair damage,” says Bryan Raehl, general manager of Agronomic Lawn Management in Virginia Beach, VA.

Plus, by seeding now—before the first frost of the season—you can allow seeds to begin taking root in the soil and get a jump on spring growth.

DIY: Choose a seed for your lawn that’s right for your budget and your geographic region. You can complete a soil test, which will allow you to measure your soil’s health and nutrients, using a DIY kit. You’ll then have to prepare your lawn, lay the seeds by hand or using a spreader, and water.

Call in a pro: If you don’t know what you’re doing (or if your thumb isn’t the greenest), call in a professional landscaper, who will charge between $250 and $1,300.

7. Inspect your gutters and downspouts

Maintaining gutters and downspouts, which direct water away from your home, can go a long way toward preventing catastrophic roof leaks—especially if you live in an older home. This is particularly important during autumn, since it’s prime time for those gutters to get clogged with fallen leaves and twigs.

DIY: If you’re comfortable shimmying onto the roof, grab a ladder and have at it. Clear leaves, dirt, and pine needles from gutters, and examine downspouts for damage or loose pieces. Use a hose to flush out small bits of debris, and check the underside of the gutter to ensure no water leaks through. Inspect the downspout to verify that water is running freely through it and away from your home. Then inspect the flashing around your chimney and any openings in the roof (like skylights) for leaks.

Call in a pro: If you’re afraid of heights (guilty!), call in a pro for a thorough inspection. Expect to shell out around $150.

 

Posted by Holly Amaya on realtor.com

How to Organize Your Refrigerator (Because It’s Gross)

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“How do you organize a refrigerator?” is a question that, for most of us, simply doesn’t get asked enough. You pile your groceries in, and it’s not until you find moldy broccoli buried beneath a 2-month-old burrito (or at least what you think might have been a burrito) that it dawns on you: Yuck. It’s time to clean this sucker! 

If you’re finding that you have to rummage endlessly for that bottle of rose or never lay your eyes on fruit until it’s too far gone, then read on. These refrigerator organization tips will help you find your food faster—as well as waste less and maybe even eat more healthfully, too.

How to clean a refrigerator

“The absolute best tip I’ve got is to clean the fridge out the day before you go food shopping,” says Darla DeMorro of HeartWork Organizing in Wayne, PA. “The fridge is probably mostly empty at that point, so it takes very little effort to toss the few mystery containers and quickly wipe down the shelves.”

Start by moving what’s left to the counter or piling it onto one shelf while you give the other (now-empty) shelves and bins a good wipe-down (don’t forget to also wipe the shelf in use). A spray bottle filled with one part vinegar to 10 parts water works well.

How to organize your fridge

Next, group like items together to make it easier to find what you need. For example, if you put all the condiments together, you’ll be able to assess your selections quickly and avoid opening duplicates since you couldn’t find the first one, says Janet Schiesl of Basic Organization in Washington, DC.

Also, if sandwiches are a staple in your house, keep all of the fixings together.

“That will save you time by being able to pull everything needed for a quick meal, and it will also be easy to put everything back,” Schiesl says.

Tools to help you organize your fridge

If you find you need more space, you can always add an extra shelf or find a slew of organizational products to make maximum use of your space.

Tatiana Knight, a professional organizer with NeatWithKnight.com, says she’s particularly fond of products from The Container Store, such as soda can organizers and wine and water bottle holders.

“When you have the right tools for organizing, you’ll create more space and improve the appearance of your refrigerator,” Knight says.

Others have found creative ways to organize with tools that aren’t made specifically for the refrigerator. For example, a simple office supply holder (see below) can be used to keep kids’ snacks organized.

Keep safety in mind when organizing your fridge

Don’t forget about food safety while you’re organizing your fridge.

Judy Barbe, a registered dietitian in Casper, WY, offers these tips to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide where to place items.

  • Don’t store milk in the door. That’s the warmest part of the fridge. Milk needs to stay cold, so the back bottom area is ideal.
  • Don’t store eggs in the door. Keep them in their carton (to help retain moisture) in the middle of the fridge, where it’s colder. They may be refrigerated four to five weeks. Once cooked (such as in a pie or casserole) or out of their shell, eggs should be eaten within three to four days.
  • Store packaged raw meat on a tray on a bottom shelf. Plan to use refrigerated roasts and steaks within three to four days and ground beef within one to two days of purchase.
  • Do not store potatoes in the fridge. They like dark and cool places such as a cellar or pantry. Sweet potatoes, garlic, and onions are also best stored in a cool, dark, and ventilated place.
  • Use the crisper drawer levers if your refrigerator has them. An open lever allows moisture and gases to escape for apples, pears, peppers, mushrooms, mangoes, and avocados. A closed lever keeps moisture in for lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and strawberries.

How to keep your refrigerator clean

Once everything is organized, the challenge is keeping it that way. One big problem that often thwarts that plan: leftovers. Schiesl says having a strategy for leftovers—such as taking them for lunch or using them in other dishes like soups or quesadillas—is key to keeping a clean refrigerator.

“So often leftovers linger in the refrigerator until they turn fuzzy and green, but not if you have a plan,” she says. “Incorporate leftovers into another meal to save time, make the next meal prep quick, and save money by not having to buy another whole meal.”

Or just toss them. Your fridge (and family) will be the better for it.

Posted by Julie Ryan Evans on realtor.com