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Upgrade Your Home for Little Money

For many, the thought of home improvements can bring about worry. Between costly and lengthy projects, updates can often seem like they’re not worth the hassle. But not to fear! These cost-effective home upgrades can easily be done by yourself and can also increase the overall value of your home—a definite win-win!

Paint the kitchen cabinets.
New cabinets are costly. But a few coats of paint can transform both your cabinets and the kitchen itself for less than half of the cost. Simply remove the doors and hardware, sand, and paint a color of your choice.

Replace hardware.
Weathered cabinet handles can drastically age your home. Swap out the hardware in the kitchen and bathroom for modern knobs and handles. Your local hardware store will have a variety to select from.

Update light switch plates.
Did you know that you can replace a light switch plate for less than one dollar? You can even take it one step further by painting them the same color as your walls.

Add moldings to walls.
As long as you have the proper tools, DIY molding is relatively simple. You can choose from two popular types—crown molding and panel molding—each will give your house an elegant ambience.

Give the outside of your home a facelift and increase curb appeal.
A pop of color can take the outside of your house from drab to fab. Easy do-it-yourself projects like repainting your front door, adding new shutters, and planting bright flowers in window boxes can add a welcoming effect. Updates like adding trim to flower beds, modernizing outdoor light fixtures, and repainting your mailbox will not only be easy on the eyes, but will also increase the overall curb appeal.

Revamp indoor light fixtures.
Instead of spending your money on a brand new fixture, consider giving your current one a makeover. Transform the fixture cover either by adding a fresh layer of high-heat paint or replacing the glass.

Repaint walls with neutral colors.
Although bright colors are fun, a neutral palette can make your home feel more clean and act as a blank canvas. Try to stick to timeless colors—cream, gray, and tan.

Frame your bathroom mirror.
Does your bathroom have a plain plate-glass mirror? Adding decorative baseboard trim around it can make a world of difference.

Hang curtains high and wide.
Help a small window out! Hanging drapes high and wide will give the illusion of a larger window, along with making the room more spacious.

Add visible storage.
Is there anything better than extra storage without having to open either a door or cabinet? Floating shelves are both a simple and aesthetically pleasing solution.

Give your air grilles a fresh look.
Since a return air vent is a necessity, why not make it look its best? With just a quick trip to your hardware store for a can of paint, you’re able to transform an eyesore into something that’s worth looking at.

Organization 101: How to Make It a Habit

So you’ve spent some time on Pinterest or other social media networks, and suddenly feel that you need to overhaul your life and become more organized. Every time you discover an aspect of your life that needs organization, you find yourself rushing out to buy something new to help yourself with the project.

Then, after a few weeks, the inspiration fades away, and you end up back where you started. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s okay; it happens to the best of us.

The good thing is that being organized is not a personality trait; it’s a skill set. You just need to have the will to accomplish your goals and a few tips from someone who has been there. If you’re ready to be organized for the long term, here is what you’ll need to know:

Know yourself.
Be honest when identifying your biggest problem areas, and know what your goals are before getting started. Most importantly, prioritize your goals based on which ones will have the most positive impact on your home, office, or life.

Being organized is not the goal.
Don’t try to become organized for the sake of being organized or because your partner or colleague tells you that you should. Identify your own personal problems and priorities. Brainstorm (or write down) why each project is important to you and the benefits you’ll enjoy once the project is complete.

Expect hurdles and failures.
The process of organizing a space has a tendency to uncover some hidden uses or storage needs that you weren’t aware of. This realization can force you to make some big adjustments or even start over. Organized people understand that their system of organization is not a commitment; they know that when it’s not working, and it’s okay to just start over.

Free your mind.
Organized people don’t try to remember every item on their tasks list. Instead, they get their to-dos out of their heads and onto a list or calendar, so they never have to worry about dropping the ball. When you have a system and schedule in place, your mind is free to think about important problems, brainstorm a great idea, or even daydream.

Routines are the backbone of organization.
Create a routine, and stick to it. This might take weeks, months, or even years—there is conflicting research on how long it actually takes to develop a habit. So to find the routine that works best, think of it as a work in progress. Start by identifying the repetitive or undesirable tasks, and incorporate them into a checklist with milestones. These small actions will eventually become more and more familiar; they’ll save you time by adding efficiency and eventually become habit.

Minimize.
Have trouble letting things go? First, identify which of these common reasons is making you hold on to stuff—it’s sentimental, it was a gift, you think might need it some day, or it’s still in perfect condition. Ask yourself one simple question: would I choose to go out and buy this thing again right now today if I didn’t have it? If the answer is no, then you should let it go. Remember that having less means less to clean, less to organize, and less mess—less really does mean more.

Have a place for everything, and everything in its place. When deciding where to keep things, always consider where and how often you use each item. Store things where you use them, and don’t allow once-a-year items to eat up real estate that’s within arms reach.

Success is in the follow-through.
Procrastination is the enemy of organization. Once you have a plan for an organization project, or even a small clean-up task, schedule it. If something is scheduled, make every effort to complete it on time.


Remember, being organized is a skill, and it takes practice. Sure, organization comes more easily to some people, but that doesn’t mean an organized life is impossible to achieve if it takes you a little while to get your feet wet.

How to Be a Mindful Homeowner

Use this checklist to make sure you’re keeping up with all home and community matters, from home maintenance tips and money savers to being good to the environment and your neighbors.

Energy Savers

  • Invest in a drying rack and a clothesline so you can skip the dryer year-round.
  • Lower the temperature on your hot water heater to 120ºF, and toss a hot water heater blanket over top of it for extra insulation.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL and LED light bulbs for a 75 percent and 85 percent energy savings, respectively.
  • Check the amount of insulation in your home, and install more where needed. Let the home’s design and the climate you live in be your guides for the proper amount.
  • Plant mature trees on the east- and west-facing sides of your home to keep it cool in the summer and to block the cold wind in the winter.

Home Improvers

  • When making home improvements, be sure to check for national and state tax benefits.
  • Improve indoor air quality by maintaining your air filtration systems and decorating your home with houseplants.
  • Make sure all home electronics have proper surge protection, and consider a smart power strip, which will cut the power to auxiliary electronics when not in use, for electronics such as your TV.
  • Clean indoor and outdoor vents of dust and obstructions on a semi-annual basis.
  • Regularly check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to see if they are in working order, and your fire extinguisher to see if it is fully charged and free of leakage, corrosion, damage, and defects.

Community Matters

  • Make sure that you know and review your community and homeowner association (HOA) rules often. Rules are typically more applicable during the change in seasons.
  • Set boundaries with your children and pets to make sure they have good manners. Dog owners should be especially considerate of noise levels and designated bathroom spots.
  • Develop relationships with your neighbors, whether they are young, old, community locals, or new residents.
  • Be good to your neighbors by reporting suspicious activity, lending a hand with weather-related problems, or offering to help with a tedious home maintenance task.
  • Take pride in your community by helping to maintain the whole neighborhood, not just your own yard.

New to the neighborhood? Download this contact sheet to organize important phone numbers for easy access.

Devices to Deal with Home Dangers

As Ben Franklin once noted, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use these basic detection-device tips to help keep you and your family safe and sound.

Smoke alarms

  • Install one in and outside each bedroom, with at least one on every level of the home.
  • Test once a month, and replace after ten years.
  • Consider interconnected smoke alarms—when one goes off, all of them do.

Carbon monoxide alarms

  • Install one outside each bedroom, making sure that one is on every level of the home.
  • Install a few feet from the ceiling, and keep them away from heat and humidity sources.
  • Test at least once a month.
  • Consider interconnected alarms and combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms.

Radon detectors

  • Test for radon—a dangerous, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas—twice a year.
  • Use short-term kits (which test from 2 to 90 days) for quick results and long-term kits (several months) for greater accuracy.
  • Contact an expert about remediation if you get high readings.

The Landscaping Handbook

Having a yard can be both a blessing and a curse. The extra space is nice, but how can you make sure it’s properly cared for? These golden rules of landscaping can help ensure your lawn looks pristine all season long.

Work your way out

Your home is likely the largest portion of your yard, so it’s important to work your way out from the base of the house to the edge of your lawn. It’s easier to start small, where your lawn begins, than to end up with a disproportionate landscape.

Implement the rule of threes

There’s a reason three flowers in a vase look better than two—the rule of threes states that, by grouping items in a trio, the arrangement is more pleasing to the eye. The same goes for your landscaping, so keep shrubbery, flowers, and decorative items in threes.

Find balance

Our eyes are naturally drawn to clearly defined patterns, so utilize balance and contrast for your lawn by edging out flower beds, keeping pathways free and clear of weeds, and adding walls or fencing around areas you want to keep separate.

Capitalize on color

Nothing makes a lawn stand out more than complementary colors. If all of your flowers and plants are one color, your yard will look dull. Keep color theory in mind when gardening, and choose greenery in harmonizing shades.

Prioritize your plan

You’re bound to hit a few snags on the road to creating your landscaping masterpiece, but by having a plan, you can make sure you stick to your vision (and budget)!

Cleaning Up the Leaves

A stroll through leaves can be the best of times, but cleaning them up can be the worst of times—unless you know how to do it efficiently and effectively.

Tips for leaf removal

  • Check with your township first to see what’s allowed and what leaf-removal services it offers.
  • Use a lawnmower or a leaf blower to mulch leaves, and spread the mulch around your yard for better grass.
  • If you have a compost pile, add your unmulched leaves to it.
  • Add leaves to your garden to create soil-enriching garden mulch (also known as leaf mold).
  • Choose your favorites, dry them, and incorporate them into seasonal home decor or crafts.

Tips for leaf raking

  • Bend at your knees, and stand straight instead of hunching over.
  • Be patient: wait until all or most leaves have fallen to avoid repeat work.
  • Let leaves dry before raking; wet leaves are heavier and difficult to move.
  • Mind the wind, which can make a mess of your leaf piles.
  • Rake your leaves into manageable piles on a large tarp for easier disposal.

4 Reasons to Buy a Home During the Fall

Let’s face it, the fall market gets a bad rap. The majority of buyers assume that they’ll be unable to find a house that fits their needs during the fall—hence the mad rush during the summer. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are four reasons why a buyer should disregard the myths, and make a fall real estate purchase.

Star of the show  The realty market clears out as soon as the weather turns crisp. The majority of warm-weathered buyers have already found a home, meaning a fall buyer will have less competition for the available houses on the market that spark their interest.

Exhaustion is real
Countless showings and no offers makes for one tired seller.  After months of no action, lingering summertime sellers are more than ready to make a deal. This puts the buyer in a prime position to negotiate a price that more than fits their budget.

Home for the holidaysNot only are sellers tired after an unsuccessful summer, the holidays are looming. The majority are aware that if they want to be settled in time for the holiday season, they have to close quickly. Buyers can use this time crunch to their advantage.

Season of deals
After settling, furnishing the house is next on a buyer’s list. Fortunately, December proves to be an ideal time to purchase large ticket items. According to Consumer Reports, appliances like refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers are at their very cheapest. Buyers can also snag great deals on furniture and home decor during an end-of-year sale.

If you’re serious about moving, there’s no reason to wait until the spring. With just a little patience and persistence, you can be in your dream home before the start of the New Year!

Best Buys of the Summer Season

You might already know that the best time to buy summer clothes is in the winter, and vise versa. But there are a ton of other items that, when bought during June, July, and August, can save you major bucks in the long run!

Gym Membership
Though more people may be working out during the summer months to stay fit for swimsuit season, the warmer weather brings the majority of fitness fanatics’ outdoors. This means gyms try harder to recruit new members with waived sign-up fees and discounted rates.

Technology
Christmas time is another big pull for tech companies, which tend to reduce prices for the holidays, but back to school time (end of July and August) is another big season for sales on items like laptops and cell phones.

Summer Fruits and Vegetables
It’s wonderful to be able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are actually locally grown this time of year—but don’t only think of these items in the short term. Most berries and vegetables, like corn and cucumber, freeze well, so take advantage!

Jewelry
Where most months of the year have a major holiday, July is one of a few months where gift giving is less likely to occur. Jewelry retailers tend to reduce prices and increase sales as a result, making the summer a great time to think ahead on these purchases.

Furniture 
With new models arriving in September and October, stores love to reduce prices on popular furniture items in July and August to open up space by the time fall rolls around. If you’re in the market for a new sofa, summer is an opportune time to buy.

Vintage Home Decor Trends

In with the new? More like in with the old, at least, according to trends popping up in the interior design world. Vintage is making a comeback in homes nationwide, so why not incorporate some of these old-school elements into your space, as well? From fabric choices to color palettes, broaden your horizon with these trending interior options.

Bring on the velvet

There’s a luxurious quality in adding velvet touches to your home that other fabrics just don’t achieve. A sofa or a love seat could help bring velvet into your space, but if the splurge on a piece of furniture isn’t in your budget, consider throw pillows, poufs, or even curtains for a dramatic look.

Light it up

Do you have artwork you want to show off? Is your gallery wall not getting enough light to truly bring out the quality of the pieces? Think about putting light fixtures on the wall to enhance the artwork you have. While this used to be considered a dated effect, it’s something that many homeowners are bringing back to distribute light to decor that isn’t being put on display properly.

Accessorize with antiques

If your grandparents’ vintage luggage is sitting in the attic collecting dust, think about turning those timeless pieces into functional accessories instead. Repurpose to use for a coffee table, a bedside table, or even get crafty and turn a suitcase into a bar cart. Accessorize using other antiques that you or other family members may have lying around, and watch as your home transforms into a truly unique space.

Bold is the move

Neutrals—specifically all-white kitchens, muted living rooms, and earth-toned bathrooms—have been all the rage for the past few years, but color is finally having its time in the spotlight. Color schemes, reminiscent of the ‘40s and ‘50s, are making a comeback, and are great for really making your interior pop. Don’t be afraid to breathe more life into your home via bright- colored paint or patterned wallpaper.

Consider these vintage home trends to add more personality to your interior while paying homage to some iconic eras.

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