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Working 9 to 5 (with a Clean House)

When you dedicate more than 40 hours a week to your job, oftentimes other obligations fall to the wayside—like the upkeep of your home. Although balancing your time is a juggling act, these tips will help you stay ahead of the cleaning throughout the week.

Start small.  
When it comes to cleaning, small efforts can make all the difference. In fact, just simply straightening up before you to go bed—i.e. washing the dishes, folding and putting away laundry, and picking up after your family—will help you start the next morning off on the right foot. Because really, who doesn’t want to wake up to an organized living space?

Ensure that every minute counts.
With a busy schedule, time is of the essence. Since nobody enjoys coming home to a mess, there are a few things that can be done while you’re away at work. Before you leave, consider throwing in a load of laundry, and hanging it to dry once you return. Since most dishwashers have a heated dry feature they can run during the day. Another option is utilizing a robotic vacuum that can run on a set schedule.

Create, and stick to a schedule.  
Like anything else in life, a schedule can help immensely with cleaning. Creating and sticking to a schedule will enable you to chip away at the chores throughout the week, and not feel completely overwhelmed on the weekends. Consider breaking down the tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal goals. Download this printable household cleaning schedule to keep your housework running like clockwork.

Make it a game.
If you have children, getting them involved can make a world of difference. To keep them interested, consider making the cleaning process a game. Simple things like hanging a chart on the refrigerator and offering an incentive once they complete a certain number of tasks will keep them entertained. Keeping it fun will help to teach them how to clean up after themselves, all the while making less work for you.

Practicing these tips will help keep your house in tip-top shape, regardless of your work schedule!

Don’t Let Mother Nature Ruin Your Floors

Without always realizing, the conditions from outside can quickly cause damage to your floors—no matter the type. Refer to these tips when a winter storm hits to protect the integrity of the flooring in your home this season!

Utilize floor mats.
Placing a mat in your entryway is the easiest way to ensure clean floors when it snows or rains all day. This encourages your family and guests to wipe their shoes off before entering your home. Don’t be afraid to suggest they take shoes off completely, either!

Invest in a steam mop.
If you’re worried about the damage to your floors, it may be time to invest in a steam mop. The technology in this method effectively gets out tough marks on finishes like linoleum, vinyl, and even hardwood (just make sure your floors are sealed), while being gentle enough to use weekly.

Try to be diligent.
While you can’t be expected to walk around your house with a paper towel roll every time someone forgets to take their shoes off, at least aim to be more attentive to your floors. You don’t want to wait until spring to clean up the spots from snow and sleet, which by then will be harder to deal with.

Cover the carpets and rugs.
Hard flooring may be pesky, but nothing compares to getting stains out of carpets and rugs. On a particularly snowy day, cover your floors with furniture pads. It may seem excessive, but you’ll thank yourself later for not having to do a deep clean of these areas!

Choose cleaners carefully.
The right cleaners (and cleaning methods) can make all the difference to the longevity of your floors. Traditional mopping your hardwood floors is no longer the way to go, and will just add more moisture to the mix. Use a cloth to take care of excess water whenever possible, and be quick about cleaning up areas that are prone to damage.

Follow these cleaning tips to keep your floors looking shiny and brand new this season!

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.

9 Home Repairs You Can Count On (and When to Expect Them)

If you have ever purchased a home, you know that saving for that down payment is tedious. After budgeting and making financial sacrifices, the last thing any new homeowner wants to worry about is expensive home repairs. But unless you are prepared to ask the right questions of the previous homeowner, you may need to stick to the dreaded budget for longer than you think.

Here is what you need to know about common home repairs before you buy.

Roof (every 30 years)
The life expectancy of an asphalt shingle roof (the most common type in America) is about 30 years, with the average roof replacement costing around $12,000—although more accurate estimates are based on size, pitch (slope), and surface material. More high-end roof materials include slate, sheet metal, ceramic, and, of course, solar panels, all with varying life expectancies.

Windows (every 30 to 50 years)
When it comes to windows, wood casement windows have a longer life expectancy than aluminum casement windows, averaging about 50 years (wood) versus 30 years (aluminum). Obviously, the number and quality of the windows will greatly affect the replacement cost, should it be necessary. And for a better return on your investment, look for windows that are ENERGY STAR qualified. To get the most of existing windows, or when replacing windows, go to www.energy.gov for more information.

Gutters (every 30 years)
Gutters and downspouts are estimated to last for about 30 years; however, inefficient or improperly installed gutters can lead to a backup of water or ice, and can damage roofs, siding, and even a home’s foundation. Any standing water near the drainage point of a downspout may indicate improper installation, and you should ask the previous homeowner how long this has been occurring.

Central Air (15 years)
Much like a furnace, the lifespan and efficiency of a home’s central air conditioning depends on the relation of the size of the unit to the home. Several factors come into play when choosing the right unit for a home, such as the amount of wall and attic insulation, the efficiency and placement of your windows and doors, and the orientation of your home to the sun.

Furnace/HVAC (15 years)
A furnace replacement is on the mid-to-higher end of the home repair spectrum. Proper maintenance plays a big part in the lifetime of a HVAC system, so be sure to ask the previous homeowners about their upkeep. If you do need to purchase a new system, make sure you do your research, and understand the term annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which measures how efficiently a furnace converts gas into heating energy.

Hot Water Heater (13 to 14 years)
A water heater replacement is one of the most common household repairs, considering their life expectancy is about 13 to 14 years for a gas and an electric unit, respectively. It is not difficult to determine when you need to replace your water heater, as a decrease in water temperature will dictate the replacement.

Carpet or Vinyl Flooring (11 years, 30 years)
Interior projects, like flooring replacement, are often for aesthetic purposes rather than need-based replacements. But if you are considering a home with carpet, you should know that the lifetime of a carpet is only about 11 years. When considering an update, know that vinyl or tile flooring usually has about a 30-year life expectancy.

Hardwood Flooring (100 years)
Real hardwood floors have the longest life expectancy—up to 100 years—but may require refinishing to keep them looking new. Since there are many variations of wood flooring, it would be wise to do some research into which type best fits your family’s needs. Some flooring may be more sensitive to moisture or prone to scratching, and therefore require more maintenance.

Fireplace (100 years)
If you’re considering a home with a fireplace, you should know that, while fireplaces look nice and create relaxing environments, there is some very serious maintenance required to ensure safety. Although the lifetime of a wood burning fireplace is around 100 years, annual maintenance is still required. You should also consider the amount of homeowners insurance coverage required for a home with a fireplace.

By considering these important and often costly parts of your home, and asking questions about them beforehand, you will feel more confident in your purchasing decision, and you’ll be more likely to avoid headaches during the home inspection process. And once the home is finally yours, use the home maintenance schedule to protect your investment and get the maximum life out of your home.

Stuck in the Renting Rut

If you’ve been renting an apartment for longer than you’ve had a Facebook, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. But if you’ve been teetering on the fence of buying or renting, going over the pros and cons, all whilst watching your friends settle into their own place, it might be time to say goodbye to the landlord.

It’s normal to be afraid to take the plunge into home-buying territory, but with the help of a great agent and a little research, you can determine if the time is right for you.

If you have a healthy savings account.
Perhaps the scariest part about buying a home is making the financial commitment, but if you’ve managed to save enough (and then some) to put a down payment of at least 10 percent, you should feel confident in your ability to make the purchase.

If you’re ready to commit.
Another common qualm about buying a home is the uncertainty of where you will be a year or two from now. However, if you have a steady job and are happy with the location, there’s really no reason for concern.

If the price is right.
An agent can help you determine whether or not the price you are looking to pay is reasonable for your specifications and needs in a home, but ultimately, if the market is favorable and you’ve found the right deal, there’s no better time than the present.

If you’re sick of pouring money into someone else’s pocket.
It sounds harsh, but if you’ve been renting for three, five, or even ten years, you have been spending thousands of dollars on something that doesn’t even truly belong to you when all is said and done. Sure, a mortgage is likely more than your current rent, but you’ll have a place to really call your own.

To Rent or Not to Rent

Today’s market shows that really no matter where you live, you are likely to have renters interested in your property. People are utilizing sites like VRBO and Airbnb in record numbers, but there are plenty of things to consider before putting your space up for rent this season.

Know the rules.
First and foremost, it’s important to make sure that renting your home falls within the specific guidelines and regulations in your state and county. These rules vary greatly depending on what part of the country you are in, so you’ll need to make sure you are following protocol.

Clear your schedule.
Preparing your home for rental can be time-consuming to start, but once you get in the swing of things, it shouldn’t involve too much time and energy on your end. Some of the basic tasks you will need to consider are advertising, responding to inquiries, handling taxes, managing maintenance, and hiring service people (e.g. housekeepers and handymen).

Market your home.
Getting renters to want to stay in your home shouldn’t be difficult, so long as you know what people are looking for. When searching for a vacation property, most people consider its proximity to popular attractions, accessibility and size, available dates, and cost. Be sure to check the going rates for other rentals in your area, and focus on advertising your space’s closeness to must-do activities, fine dining, and kid-friendly spots.

Make it stand out.
Your home will likely be up against hundreds of other rentals, so you’ll want to make sure to emphasize special deals and amenities. If you have things like a pool, an HD television, a large movie collection, or beach equipment in the shed, you will want to highlight it so you let potential renters know that your space is one of the best!

Protect yourself.
Anytime you open your home to strangers you, are leaving your personal property and belongings in the hands of others, and, accidents do happen. If you plan on renting your space for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to consider taking anything valuable with you or placing it in storage. It might seem like a pain to have to remove these things, but it’s worth the hassle to prevent damage or added expenses later.

How to Tackle Spring Cleaning in One Month

Care to knock out your spring cleaning in a month? It may seem impossible, but take it week by week, and you’re sure to have a sparkling clean house before April showers give way to May flowers.

Week One: Declutter
Decluttering is a big aspect of any cleaning project. Whether it be your closets, bathroom, basement, garage or other areas of your home, don’t leave this to the last week of your spring cleaning responsibilities. Decluttering and organizing should be done before any major cleaning, as you don’t want to be dusting and wiping things that you may not even end up keeping.

Week Two: Clean
After decluttering, it’s time to start deep cleaning and disinfecting your home. Do a wipe down of your countertops, furniture, and flooring. Don’t forget about those often skipped over areas—like the baseboards, dusty corners, and behind and under furniture. Break out the cleaners (better yet, make your own), put on a winning playlist, and you’re one step closer to making your home brand new again.

Weeks Three and Four: DIY or Remodel
A DIY project or a total remodel can take longer than a week, but is often a part of spring cleaning. When bins are stacked with winter’s goods and the counters are shiny again, you may decide you want to completely redo a portion of a room or an entire area. There are plenty of projects to consider—turning your typical storage bins into hanging shelves, making decorative trays to spruce up your decor, replacing kitchen hardware, or repainting areas in desperate need of a revamp.

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a daunting undertaking. Break up your tasks in a reasonable order to get your home in tip-top shape for summer, and the months to follow!

What Bulbs to Plant in the Fall

Preparing for spring can never start too soon! These are the best bulbs to plant this autumn to make sure your spring garden blooms in full.

Daffodils

One of the first signs of spring comes in the form of these familiar yellow and green-stemmed flowers. Plant bulbs of the Carlton or Sunlight Sensation variety to make your yard the brightest shade of yellow on the block come spring.

Hyacinth

Few things bring you back to spring like the fragrant of hyacinth—too strong for some, but reminiscent of the season nonetheless. Popular bulbs are delft blue: a periwinkle color that stands out from the crowd, or Carnegie, which is a bright white staple.

Snowdrop

Consider planting snowdrop bulbs, which are one of the earlier spring bloomers. These white and green flowers do best when they’re not fully exposed to the sun. Plant the giant bulb type for these lovely flowers to bloom in full this spring.

Tulips

Who can forget these colorful and bold flowers? Darwina is a bulb you’ll want to plant if you want the biggest reward, i.e. a garden that will make any neighbor envious. If you’re worried about the rodents, try planting a smaller type, like whittallii.

Dwarf Iris

These flowers bloom in early spring, and give the perfect elegant look to your exterior. Pauline is the most familiar variety—with the classic purple and white color combination. Pixie and rhapsody are other types that when planted now, will make spring that much brighter.

Bring the Autumn Aromas Inside

It’s no secret that distinct smells go hand-in-hand with certain seasons. But when it comes to fall, there’s nothing more noteworthy than hints of pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and apple. With these easy solutions, your house will radiate the irresistible aromas of autumn, and create an inviting living space for friends and family.

Create a fragrant simmer pot.
Simmer pots are an easy way to keep your house smelling amazing for a longer period of time. Simply bring a saucepan to a boil, and add your favorite autumn scented ingredients—oranges, nutmeg, cinnamon, apples, cranberries, and vanilla. Let it simmer on the stovetop during the day so the delicious aromas can waft throughout the house.

Incorporate pinecones.
Make the most out of the excess pinecones in your backyard by incorporating them into table centerpieces. With a few drops of essential oils and cinnamon sticks, you can create your own potpourri.

Make a special treat.
Who doesn’t love a delicious fall treat? Whether it’s a rich and creamy pumpkin cheesecake or a warm kettle of homemade apple cider, your house will be brimming with both delectable smells and edible treats.