Spring Cleaning 101: Make It Fast, Easy and Effective

Spring is the perfect time to open up the windows in your house and clean every surface inch, but there’s no reason to spend more time on this task than necessary.

Use these tips to quickly get your home spic and span.

Have a plan

When it comes to spring cleaning, the best approach is an organized approach. “I recommend having a plan, which includes an outline of the areas you plan to clean, a schedule with time slotted to do that work (for you and any family members), as well as a list of products, tools and even cleaning techniques or tips pertaining to those areas,” says Melissa Maker, blogger and host of the popular YouTube show “Clean My Space.”

Choose the right supplies

When you’re making your spring cleaning plan, take inventory of what supplies you need to gather to begin cleaning. Once you figure out what you need, be sure to choose the most effective and powerful cleaning supplies so that the product is doing most of the work – not you.

Clean room by room

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are going from room to room to complete various tasks. Choose to target one room at a time so you can see the results of your productivity quickly and not get discouraged.

Work smarter, not harder

Don’t scrub any more than necessary. Simple steps like soaking pots and pans before you scrub them, waiting for cleaning products to sit before you wipe down surfaces, and using the self-cleaning setting on your oven can save you tons of time.

Clean your cleaning supplies

Did you know your cleaning supplies, such as sponges or microfiber cloths, are most likely the dirtiest items in your home? It goes without saying that you can’t effectively clean your home with dirty supplies. So be sure to disinfect sponges or other cleaning supplies in a mixture of one part bleach and nine parts water for 30 seconds.

Don’t forget the …

There are several items in our homes that we often forget to clean on a regular basis. Among forgotten items, Maker recommends cleaning behind the oven, bathroom exhaust fans, refrigerator coils and window coverings.

Focus on the MIAs

Spring cleaning can be a huge undertaking (especially depending on the size of your home), so Maker suggests focusing on the MIAs, or the Most Important Areas. When deciding which area to choose, think about the most visible ones, like the living room or home office.

Get rid of the clutter

You can never truly have a clean and tidy home if you are buried in your own stuff. When cleaning out your things, remember the 80/20 rule: Only 20 percent of the items we own are truly important – so 80 percent of our belongings are just getting in the way.

Figure out ways to be more efficient in the future

While you are cleaning and organizing your home, take note of all the clutter that you most often find. For example, if you are finding that most of your clutter is paper, figure out the best ways to go paperless throughout the year.

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Originally published March 24, 2016.

 

How to Install a Kitchen Faucet

If you’ve been washing your hands a lot lately, you might have started paying extra attention to your faucet. Does it drip? Is the chrome flaking off? Is it dated?

Plumbing projects can be intimidating, because no one wants to accidentally flood their entire home. But installing a new kitchen faucet truly is a DIY that anyone can handle.

As long as you work slowly and follow the directions, you can add a beautiful faucet to your kitchen with zero emergency calls to the plumber.

Supplies:

  • New kitchen faucet (and the installation manual)
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Flashlight
  • Bucket
  • Rags
  • Cleaner
  • Screwdriver
  • Towels
  • Teflon tape (optional)

Before purchasing a new faucet, take note of your current setup. Look under the sink to see how many holes yours has (usually between one and four).

This determines the type of faucet that will work with your sink. A single-hole faucet can be installed in a three- or four-hole sink by adding a deck plate, but not vice versa.

Step 1

Remove everything from under your sink. This DIY takes place in tight quarters, so you want to make it as roomy as possible. Also, be sure to keep a towel nearby for any water drips.

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Step 2

Turn off the water supply lines to the kitchen faucet. There will be a cold water and hot water valve underneath your kitchen sink.

Turn each of these water valves clockwise until you can’t turn them anymore. Then turn on your faucet and make sure water doesn’t come out.

Keep the faucet in the “on” position to relieve any water pressure.

water_turnoff

Step 3

Now that the water is safely off, you can unhook the hot and cold water supply lines. You will need a wrench for this step. Simply loosen them (counterclockwise) until they unhook.

A little water may drip out, which is totally normal. Just keep your bucket and rags handy.

unhook_water_line

Step 4

Unscrew your old kitchen faucet from underneath the sink.

Every faucet is different, so yours may look a bit different than this one. Ours had a gold ring that we just had to loosen with our hands. Others might be connected with a nut. If that’s the case, you’ll have to use your wrench again.

unscrew_faucet

Step 5

Pull your old faucet through the top of the kitchen sink and out.

remove_old_faucet

Step 6

Clean up any gross residue that was hiding underneath your old kitchen faucet with your towel. This is the time to get it nice and clean, so put some muscle into it!

Step 7

Grab the manual for your new faucet, because you’re going to need it! Since every faucet is different, they all come with their own set of directions. But we’ll walk you through the general steps.

Feed your new kitchen faucet into the hole at the top of your sink. You may want to enlist a buddy to help keep the top secure as you venture underneath the sink.

feed new faucet

Step 8

Secure your faucet from underneath the sink. Ours required tightening a few screws.

screw_new_faucet_in_tightly

Step 9

Attach your cold and hot lines to their valves, and make sure they are nice and snug with your wrench.

You may want to wrap your threaded pipes with some Teflon tape to make sure your seal is tight and your connections remain leak-free!

attach lines

Step 10

Turn your water supply valves on … slowly! Then check the faucet to make sure both your hot and cold water are working.

turn water on

That’s it. Seriously easy, right?!

You can elevate the look of your kitchen in under an hour, and it will only cost you the price of a new faucet.

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5 Ways to Refresh Your Space

With springtime comes a sense of renewal, and a desire to clean, organize and refresh – especially if you’re spending a lot of time at home. Get your creative gears turning, and whip your space into shape. You’ll be surprised how a few simple changes can give you a whole new outlook.

1. Embrace natural light

Create the feel of windows with large mirrors. Photo via Laurel & Wolf.
Create the feel of windows with large mirrors. Photo via Laurel & Wolf.

With warmer days comes more sun, so open those blinds and bask in the natural light. Instead of flipping on your lights in the morning, pull back the curtains and let sunshine light the way. The simple act of opening your windows can help lift your mood, and you’ll save a little on your electric bill too.

Don’t have many windows? Fake it by using large mirrors to reflect light and brighten up your room. Bonus: mirrors also give the illusion of a bigger space, making your home feel brighter, larger and clearer.

2. Give your furniture a clean slate

All white furniture creates a spring vibe in a living room. Photo via Laurel & Wolf.
All-white furniture creates a spring vibe in a living room. Photo via Laurel & Wolf.

Spring is the perfect time to break out all of your lighter and cooler clothes – and this also goes for furniture. A white, beige or light gray couch is the perfect nesting spot.

Light neutral chairs set the tone, reflect light and keep you from getting too warm. If desired, you can keep these pieces out year-round to invoke springtime memories and stave off wintertime blues when skies are gray. If you don’t want to commit to white furniture, invest in slipcovers that you can use seasonally and remove once colder temperatures return.

3. Let nature be your guide

Wickers and wovens are materials that work through spring and well into summer. Photo via Laurel & Wolf.
Wickers and wovens are materials that work through spring and well into summer. Photo via Laurel & Wolf.

Incorporate lightweight natural materials into your decor – think wicker, woven baskets, light wood grain and cotton curtains. Keep it airy and light, leaning on nature to inspire you.

Switch out heavy blankets for summery throws, and pack away heavy, dark decor items in favor of woven baskets paired with colorful or nature-inspired accessories. By adding earthy materials to your home, you invoke nature inside and out for a fresh and renewed feel.

4. Pack some punch with pops of color

Spring is the perfect time to ditch all those moody blacks and grays of winter, and trade them in for something a bit cheerier. Oranges, pinks, yellows, purples, blues and greens are all colors that recall spring and sunshine. Pick your favorite hue from the rainbow and run with it. Try a few peachy throw pillows, springy green candles or periwinkle decorative bowls.

Step out of your comfort zone and try a bold statement, or keep it cool with subtle hints of something you know you love. You’ll be surprised how much your mood lifts when you’re surrounded by a sea of pretty shades.

5. Go green and breathe deep

Adding potted plants, bouquets of flowers and herb gardens to your home is a great way to bring the outdoors in. Not only do they provide beautiful focal points and improve your mood, they also give off little hits of oxygen – so breathe deep.

Hit up your local farmer’s market for pretty blooms on the cheap, or grow herbs in windowsill pots. And for all those black thumbs out there, faux plants will still give off a fresh green look, but without all the hassle and maintenance.

Whether you’re looking to freshen up a couple of rooms in your house or overhaul your whole space, there are easy steps you can take to get your home spring-ready. Give yourself a new outlook and a fresh perspective by taking the time to rejuvenate your space and your mindset.

From mixing up colors to looking to nature for inspiration, you can completely transform your home into a sunny, light and airy space.

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Originally published March 2016

‘Where Should I Keep My …?’: Solving the Ultimate Small Space Dilemmas

When you’re in a small space – especially if you’re sharing it with others, and you’re spending a lot more time there than you ever have before – you’ve probably come to realize that square footage is something to be savored, not squandered. If things are feeling a little crowded, this may be a good time to assess your organization methods.

Whatever your hobby or collection, there’s an organizational hack to help you store it. Here are some clever storage tricks for six of the toughest, bulkiest space-takers you may own.

Offseason wardrobe

Tuck those bulky winter sweaters (or shorts and flip-flops) in plastic bins under your bed. If your bed’s too close to the ground, lift it up with sturdy wood blocks. Even a few extra inches create enough space for a sizable storage container.

If elevating the bed isn’t an option, maximize your closet space with a few sets of cascading hangers. Put blouses on one set and T-shirts on another, and you’ll most likely double your closet space.

Extra linens

Extra pillows, comforters, and bedsheets are great for guests, but not so great for your small space. Try vacuum storage bags – stack your items inside, and use your vacuum cleaner to remove the air. Your items will shrink significantly so you can store them under your bed or on a shelf.

Shoe collection

A burgeoning shoe collection can take on a life of its own if not properly corralled. Take it back to dorm-room days with an over-the-door shoe organizer. These college favorites are popular for a reason – they store a dozen pairs of shoes or more, plus scarves, baseball caps, belts and chunky necklaces.

Bikes

Bikes can be one of the most difficult belongings to stash, especially if you don’t have a deck, garage or basement. Try installing a strong hook in the wall, and hang your bike by the front tire. Pro: It’s a great way to get the bike off the floor. Con: It still protrudes into the room.

For a less invasive option, hang your bike flush against the wall – like you’re hanging a piece of art. The hardware can be as simple as two wooden dowels that support the bike’s horizontal bar. (Just make sure you anchor the supports in the wall’s studs so they can hold the weight.)

Exercise equipment

An inflatable exercise ball is a great workout aid – and a real space suck. You could always deflate it, but the hassle probably isn’t worth it. So, why not get creative and make it a usable piece of furniture?

Repurpose medium or large exercise balls as dining room chairs, and store them under the dining table when you’re done.

No room for a dining table? The bike trick applies here, too. Install a couple of dowels high up on the wall, and set the ball there until you’re ready for a crunch session.

Decorations and keepsakes

Have a collection of things you just can’t get rid of? Maybe old photo albums, holiday decorations or crafting supplies? Strategically placed shelves are your storage lifesaver when seeking space for infrequently used items.

There’s often a wealth of unused space above and behind your hung clothing in bedroom and hallway closets. While shelves in these locations may require a footstool or flashlight to access, it won’t matter if you only need the items a few times a year.

Top photo from Zillow listing.

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Originally published August 2017

10 Spring Cleaning Projects to Tackle This Weekend 

Spring cleaning is all about getting our homes ready for a new season of sunshine, warmth and time outdoors – and indoors, too – especially if that’s where you’re spending a lot of time right now. Get ready to wipe off the grime, clear out the cobwebs and refresh your living spaces.

Add these project to your spring-cleaning checklist, and you’ll be rewarded with a home that feels brighter, cleaner and more functional.

Best of all, you can knock out most of these jobs in a weekend.

Wash windows, inside and out

Some say clean windows make your whole home look better, and we think it’s true.

For a DIY cleaning job that yields professional results, use a solution of water, ammonia and white vinegar. Apply the solution to your windows with a large sponge, and remove it with a professional-grade squeegee.

Clean refrigerator and air conditioner coils

These appliances create a cooling effect by circulating air through the coils. Over time, dust builds up on the coils and decreases their efficiency, making your refrigerator or air conditioner work a lot harder.

Unplug the appliance, then vacuum out the coils with your vacuum’s crevice tool. You can also use a special refrigerator-coil cleaning brush, available at most hardware stores.

Check ceiling fans

Clean your ceiling-fan blades to remove winter dust build up.

And if you reversed your ceiling fan’s direction to clockwise for the winter, turn it back to counterclockwise for the warmer months. This sends the air straight down, creating a cooling effect.

Clean dryer vent

Cleaning a dryer vent is easier than you might imagine. First, unplug the dryer from the power source. Next, clean out the vent with a special dryer-vent cleaning brush or a vacuum.

Deep-clean carpets

Even if you vacuum regularly, a thorough carpet cleaning once a year will reach deep down into the fibers to clean out debris, dust, and food particles.

If you don’t own a carpet cleaner, you may be able to rent one from a home improvement store or even your local grocery chain store.

Inspect roof, gutters and chimneys

Spring is the perfect time to check your roof for damage that may have occurred over the winter. If you can’t use a ladder to get up on the roof, try inspecting it with binoculars.

Check decks and patios

If the finish on your wooden deck still looks good, that’s great! You might just need to clean the deck to get it ready for summer.

If the finish appears to be worn, then you’ll want to consider both cleaning and resealing the deck. For decks made of composite material, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and preserving the deck.

Prep lawn equipment

Get those lawn mowers, weed whackersnand pressure washers out of storage, turn them on, and make sure they are running properly. Sometimes a little lubricant or cleaning is all you need to get your tools back in shape.

Clean outside furniture

Use Murphy Oil Soap for wood furniture. For most other types of outdoor furniture, a solution of dishwashing liquid and water should do the trick.

Freshen up your front entrance

Sweep and/or wash the front porch and steps. Shake out your welcome mat, or replace it if it’s starting to fray or fall apart. Add a pot or two of brightly colored annuals, and your home will feel renewed!

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Originally published April 2017

7 Simple Ways to Keep Your Kids’ Toys From Taking Over Your Home

If having your family at home all day, every day has made your space feel chaotic, and your days and nights seem to run together, regain a sense of order with these simple tips.

1. Reduce the clutter

It doesn’t matter how organized you are – a surplus of toys will always ensure your house is a mess waiting to happen. Fortunately, getting kids on board with the idea of ditching their stuff is a lot easier than it sounds.

The trick is to make it an opportunity for them to define themselves and their interests. Encourage kids to make a pile of “baby toys” to donate, and have them set aside any toys that no longer interest them, such as action figures from a forgotten TV show. Separating these toys will help them appreciate how much they’ve grown and rediscover the toys they love.

2. Choose toys wisely

Since you’ll probably be stuck with them for a while, it pays to be picky when it comes to buying toys. To make toys more meaningful to your child, only buy them for holidays, special occasions and rewards – don’t shy away from asking relatives to do the same.

Avoid toys that are poorly made (cheap), not age-appropriate, unnecessarily large, pointless or anything tied to a movie – unless it’s that one you’ve been playing on repeat every day. The best toys are versatile, encourage creativity and can easily be expanded upon, such as Legos, wooden train tracks and dollhouse sets.

3. Leave some toys out of reach

If you’re constantly finding play dough and puzzle pieces in the sofa cushions, it’s time to put them on the top shelf of the closet. Designating these messy toys as “family toys” will give you more quality time with your child instead of scrubbing pen marks off the curtains.

Also, try to set aside a tote of toys, games and puzzles for rainy days. This ensures you’ll always have a trick up your sleeve for sick days or when a boring relative visits.

4. Set boundaries

If toys are already sprawled out over every available surface of your house, don’t worry! You can quickly reclaim order in your household by setting a few ground rules, such as “no toys in the kitchen” or setting limits on the number of toys allowed out overnight.

While that might seem a bit draconian, children are generally happier when they’re given clear expectations and few surprises. That’s why it’s important to follow through and pick up every night, no matter how exhausted you feel at the time.

5. Give kids ownership

Picking up toys doesn’t have to be boring. Babies, toddlers and big kids alike can have fun organizing and picking up, just as long as it’s not a negative experience. This means you should provide enough time for enjoyment without resorting to counting “1, 2, 3” or shouting empty threats.

A great thing about setting aside extra time for picking up is that you and your child can do fun things like scoop up blocks with a blanket or deliver toys across the house via tricycle. If you make it fun enough, your kid will eventually pick up without even being asked.

6. Give every toy a home

Without a simple organizational system, picking up can be a major headache. Don’t throw everything into one big toy box; there’s a better way.

Buy a series of matching plastic bins and line them up along the wall where your child can easily put away and retrieve toys on his own. Designate one box for Legos, one for stuffed animals, one for train tracks … you get the idea.

Use stacking plastic boxes for smaller toys like matchbox cars and dolls. Organize them further by storing puzzle pieces, doll clothes and other annoyances in Ziploc bags.

7. Hit the books

It’s not your imagination. That pile of storybooks by the couch really is getting taller, and if you wait much longer, it will likely turn into a giant heap.

Worse yet, your kid uses those books to stall and push back bedtime a little later with each passing night. That’s why it’s important to either keep the books in your child’s room, or keep a small selection of favorites in a basket for easy retrieval.

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Originally published December 2017

How to Attract Birds to Your Yard (Hint: Don’t Just Wing It)

While you’re spending time at home, why not find ways to bring the natural world to you? Backyard bird watching is an enjoyable way to experience your local ecosystem up close.

It takes more than a bird feeder to attract a colorful variety of songbirds to your backyard. Think of your feeder as a drive-thru fast-food joint in an unsafe neighborhood: The birds will stop to eat, but they won’t stick around for very long. They want to get home to their comfy nest in an exclusive deciduous broadleaf community, where they can get fancier food anyway.

If you want to see more than bird backsides at a millet buffet, you need to give them all the luxuries they’ve come to expect.

Create a habitat

Birds prefer townhomes to single-level ranch houses. They need perches for preening, thickets for hiding, branches for bickering, wide-open spaces for showing off, and, eventually, a tree cavity where they can nest and paint their nursery a nice robin’s-egg blue.

Give them privacy by planting walls of foliage. Native shrubs, small trees, and even tall grasses and perennials offer the versatility they need to make a quick escape.

Create a ceiling of tall deciduous and evergreen trees at the back of your property, and plant small understory trees between them and your house. Selectively prune lower limbs of shrubs and small trees so you can easily see perching birds from your window. They’ll appreciate the perch, and you’ll appreciate the camera angle.

Grow your own birdseed

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but, conveniently enough, birdseed does! It also grows on shrubs, perennials, grasses, annuals and anything else that qualifies as a plant.

To grow the seed that your local bird species prefer, however, choose the native plants that they’d otherwise find in the wild. Native plants vary by region, but some good choices include coneflower, blanketflower, beautyberry, asters and sunflowers.

Attract hummingbirds with nectar-filled trumpet honeysuckle and cardinal flowers. Native oaks, hollies, dogwoods, sumac, cedars and spruces provide nuts and berries, as well as shelter.

Stage your birdhouse

Research the birds that you’d like to attract, and give them the house that suits their needs. For example, bluebirds like their nesting boxes out in the open, while chickadees like thick leaf cover.

Whichever bird you try to attract, keep that nesting box away from human noise and activity so you’ll never have to witness the heartbreaking sight of abandoned eggs in an empty nest. Also, keep your cat indoors, if possible. Otherwise, you may find birds not only in your backyard but on your front doorstep too.

If birds haven’t moved in yet, be patient. Sometimes all your birdhouse needs is a little lichen, moss, or wear and tear to make it more appealing.

Turn a birdbath into a Jacuzzi

If your birdbath is emptier than a swimming pool in January, there could be a reason. The ideal birdbath doesn’t look like you’d expect – it’s placed directly on the ground in a shady space with nearby shrubs.

Add some gravel to the basin so birds can find their footing, and even add a few rocks on the outside to serve as steps. Include a small pump or fountain, if possible. This turns your birdbath into a miniature water feature, and the circulation keeps the water clean and helps birds cool off on hot days.

Leave the leaf litter

If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of gardening chores, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re absolutely allowed to keep that accumulation of dead leaves and small branches on your garden’s floor. It gives birds everything they could ever ask for – bugs and other small animals for snacking, materials for nesting, and even a hiding place from predators.

If things begin to look untidy, just break down the larger branches by hand or with a pair of anvil pruners, and spread everything out evenly. Everyone loves free mulch.

Invest in your feeder

Rather than spending money on multiple feeders that you have to replace year after year, invest in a feeder that’s made with quality materials, has a tightly fitting lid, and drains easily. Better yet, purchase a sturdy pole and squirrel baffle.

Even the best feeder will need maintenance, so give it a thorough cleaning every year, and break up any clogged holes so moisture doesn’t accumulate. Trust me on this – cleaning out a maggot-infested feeder is something nobody should have to experience.

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Originally published June 2017

10 Tips for Organizing Your Whole House

Getting your home and space organized can help you feel more in control of your environment. That sense of order can reduce stress, help you focus on your own well-being and achieve your other goals. Follow these tips to organize your whole home quickly and easily.

Set up a no-fail garage system

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A place for everything, and everything in its place (or at least you’ll be able to tell if it’s not).

I suggest starting out in the garage, because it can be one of the most overcrowded places in the house. Picture yourself driving into your garage and seeing at least one new system set up for easy use in the coming year.

Here’s an approach that’s simple, inexpensive, and quick to accomplish.

  1. Hang some peg board
  2. Put some tool hooks in the holes on the board
  3. Using a thick marker, draw an outline around each tool to reserve its location.

Your new tool organizing system will keep you organized, and alert you when tools are missing. This garage system also helps other family members put things away because it’s easy to see where to place each item.

Cut laundry time in half

How can one of the smallest rooms in the house seem so chaotic? And why does doing laundry seem to take up so much time?

Here’s a laundry system that will save you time and restore your sanity. First, provide everyone with their own laundry basket. Put family members’ names on the sides of the baskets so there are no lost items or mix-ups.

laundry
Photo from Zillow listing

Now here’s the sweet secret. When the wash is done, rather than placing the clean laundry on the dining room table or the stairs (and watching everyone walk by without picking up their clothes), have everyone come to the laundry room to pick up their personalized basket of clean clothing.

Work some kitchen magic

The kitchen is the activity hub of most homes. It’s a busy area because family members or roommates use the kitchen at least three to five times a day. We open our mail here, study, read, use our laptops and tablets here – not to mention, it’s where the food is.

Because we have so many varied activities happening in the kitchen, it’s wise to create separate stations for those activities. One way to accomplish this is to invest in a rolling cart – whatever style and size works best in your kitchen.

Use this cart to establish a dedicated space for one of your most common activities. For example, create a lunch-making station stocked with a cutting board and knife, salt and pepper, paper towels, and non-perishable food items (bread, oranges and apples) and snacks. Create the space for your family to assist in making your life easier while also keeping one station of like-items together.

Put it in writing

Whether you’re a one-person household or a family of five, one tool can save your life or home: a household manual. The beauty of this handy tool is it doesn’t have to be compiled all at one time, and it costs you nothing to create.

Grab a three-ring binder and a three-hole punch, and keep your essential information in the binder. To get started, collect your emergency contact info and other vital information such as the name of your vet, school rosters, alarm codes, medication doses for your kids, the name of your father’s caregiver, and where your home’s gas shut-off valve is located.

As you continue to organize your home and find more essential documents, you can add to the binder. For those who prefer a digital approach, store your manual on a highly secure cloud service.

Get a charge

Many people are frustrated by cell phones, iPad chargers, memory sticks and tangled cords sprinkled throughout the house. Relaxation and recreation activities often seem to need the power of a charging station that’s easily accessible – and it doesn’t hurt if it’s attractive too.

One simple solution is to consider a charging station that conceals the cords, keeps all the electronic items together, and looks good while doing it.

Tell a tidier toy story

Whether it’s grandparents or new moms and dads, one of the biggest complaints of people who share their home with children is about picking up toys.

The “putting away” task is a skill that can and should be taught to children, as it’s important for establishing personal responsibility in kids as they grow into teens and then adulthood. Besides, putting away toys can be fun.

Here’s one idea that will shift your play storage situation from frustration to elation. Use colorful bins to hold toys, designating each bin to hold one type of toy, such as musical instruments, cars, dolls, games or Legos.

To make it even easier, find pictures of the toys in magazines or online, and use them to label the bins.

If you have dolls or stuffed animals in one bin, attach the matching picture to the front of the bin. Keep the number of bins small, but make sure the bins are large and easy to access.

Declutter the grownups’ bedroom closet

Bulging closets and growing piles of clean and dirty laundry may nix the possibility of either rest or romance. Decluttering in the bedroom creates a sanctuary for both.

Starting with the closet is good move. Once the space is clear, it all boils down to finding what you need when you need it.

Here’s a quick process for getting your closet in order:

  1. Clear the floor so you can move around easily.
  2. Make sure you have proper lighting.
  3. Pull everything out.
  4. Only put back in what fits you right now, is stain-free, and requires no repairs.

Set kids’ closets straight

For organizing kids’ clothes, there’s no better tool than a hanging shelving unit. Designate one pocket for each day of the week, and label it. Each weekend, pick out clothes for the following week, and put them in the pockets for the day your child will wear them. Imagine a calm morning without clothing conflict.

Bundle toiletries and grooming tools

Some bathrooms are small, and everyone seems to have their own favorite shampoo, hairbrush and brand of toothpaste. Drawer, cabinet and counter space tends to run out quickly.

If this is your situation, try assigning everyone in the house a bathroom caddy, loaded up with all their cosmetics, toiletries and grooming tools, and labeled with their name.

Store the caddies on a shelf in the bathroom or carry them to and from the bedroom. The bathroom stays organized, and there’s an automatic clean-up built in after every visit.

Simplify – and go easy on yourself

Eliminating clutter is the best thing you can do to make your home feel more manageable. Less clutter means less stuff to clean and organize in the first place; take just 10 minutes today, and eliminate 10 items you no longer need.

Most importantly, don’t get too hung up on the details. Your home doesn’t have to be perfectly organized every day. Sometimes “good enough” is just fine.

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Originally published January 2016

Recession Alert: What Home Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Housing Market

Recession Alert: What Home Buyers, Sellers and Need to Know About the Housing Market

ADragan/Getty Images

Last year, there were fears that a trade war with China or the fallout from Brexit could torpedo the strong U.S. economy. Instead, it was the unforeseen force of COVID-19, caused by a new strain of coronavirus, that has led the president of the United States to declare a national emergency and made a global recession seem all too possible.

As flights are canceled, school suspended, and professional sports put on ice around the world amid the deadly pandemic, an economic slowdown appears inevitable. That’s terrifying to those whose memories of the Great Recession are still fresh, but many housing and financial experts believe this looming downturn—which may not even devolve into a full-blown recession—may not be as painful as the last.

“I don’t expect the slowdown to be like the last recession where prices fell,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “There are more than enough buyers out there to keep home sales from slowing in any major way.”

While it doesn’t look like it will be business as usual anytime soon, home prices aren’t expected to fall off a cliff and low mortgage rates may help buoy home sales. At least that’s what experts are saying this week. But this is a fast-moving, unprecedented crisis, and no one knows yet how it will all play out.

“The next eight weeks are critical. We will learn, and we will turn a corner on this virus,” President Donald Trump said in a press conference on Friday, as he announced the national emergency. During his appearance, the stock market went up more than 9%. “We will get through this altogether.”

While there will likely be layoffs, many economists don’t expect them to be widespread, but rather concentrated in industries such as tourism and hospitality. If employment stays high, most folks will be able to make their monthly mortgage payments and hold on to their homes. Subprime loans, which helped to tank the economy in the past decade, have largely ceased to exist today, as credit requirements for loans got much stricter after the housing bust. Plus, home prices have risen so much in the past few years that most owners have substantial equity in their properties. So they’re much less likely to find themselves underwater on their mortgages.

“It will be different than the Great Recession. Things unraveled pretty quickly, and then the recovery was pretty slow,” says Hale. “I would expect this to be milder. There’s no dysfunction in the banking system, we don’t have [many] households who are overleveraged [with their mortgage payments] and are potentially in trouble.”

Will home sales and prices go down?

If folks are worried about their jobs, and being able to pay their bills, they’re less likely to want to buy a home. Ditto if they’re nearing retirement and the stock market volatility wiped out a big chunk of their 401(k) accounts.

But that caution is likely to be at least partly offset by some of the lowest mortgage interest rates in nearly 50 years. They were just 3.36% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage as of Thursday, according to Freddie Mac.

“I don’t know which force will be greater: the negative impact of job cuts, if that was to occur, or the positive influence of low mortgage rates,” says National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

Most housing economists don’t expect housing prices to fall, since we’re still seeing a housing shortage. There aren’t enough existing homes or new construction to satisfy the high demand from buyers, many of whom have been looking for a home for a while and perhaps have lost bidding wars. After all, the life changes that lead people to buy a home are still ongoing: expanding a family or having kids leave the nest, or relocating for a new job.

Also, sellers will likely be reluctant to accept less than they would have just a few weeks or months ago. Those not in a hurry to sell may simply pull their abodes off the market and wait for prices to rebound.

As for current homeowners who might find themselves in financial straits if they lose their job, lenders may offer forbearance and payment deferral programs to help them stave off a short sale or foreclosure, says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“They’ll be very understanding,” Zandi says of lenders, particularly of government-sponsored loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Federal Housing Administration loans. “Especially in an election year, I don’t think there’s [much of a] chance they’ll take a hard line.”

What real estate markets could be hurt the most by a downturn?

The markets that are most likely to be affected by a downturn, at least initially, are those that rely heavily on travel, tourism, and hospitality. Manufacturing sectors that rely on a global supply chain that’s been disrupted by the virus could also take a hit.

With conferences and conventions being canceled at a rapid clip, places such as Las Vegas could feel the economic toll. Similarly, tourist hot spots like Orlando, FL, home to Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld theme parks, which have all announced closures, could also feel the pain.

Their saving grace could be the retirees moving in to those communities, says NAR’s Yun. That demand could keep prices stable—and therefore sellers happy.

“Those [type of] markets are worth watching,” says Yun.

Booming markets that grew very quickly with big price gains could also experience a bit of a slowdown. Metro areas like Denver, Salt Lake City, and Boise, ID, could potentially be affected, says Moody’s Zandi. These markets, which have growing tech scenes, have become popular with retirees and priced-out folks from California in recent years.

“You might see some price declines in the Western markets that got very juiced up, very speculative,” he says.

Zandi thinks those real estate markets could rebound fast—maybe within a quarter or two, or as soon as the economy improves.

The luxury market could have a harder time. A multimillion-dollar home isn’t exactly a necessity, and they typically take longer to sell in normal times. And those who have enough money to buy high-end real estate often have quite a bit of money in the stock market, which has been on a wild ride lately, making them less likely to want to commit to another pricey property. Even luxury rentals, which is where builders have been focusing in recent years, may end up sitting empty.

“Prices are going to come down,” says Zandi. “In a recession, people will look for the best bargain. They’re not going to look for the luxury, high-end home. … They’re going to look for the ‘give me what I need at a good price.’”

The post Recession Alert: What Home Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Housing Market appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Checking in on the Reality of Life in Port Protection, AK

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There’s getting away, and then there’s going entirely off the grid.

Port Protection, AK, is a tiny town (population 100) along the southern edge of America’s largest state, where harsh winters put its residents to the test. If this kind of isolated life appeals to you, you can consider the single listing in the town on the market for $120,000.

But beware: This way of life isn’t made for those who like their morning Starbucks.

“It doesn’t work for everybody,” says listing agent Melissa Matecki. “It’s people who take a lot of pride in doing things, as opposed to having things. But it works really well for the right type of person.”

Folks drawn to the area might include “adventurous people who want to live life on their own terms and don’t want to get caught up in the rat race and the hustle and bustle,” says Matecki.

The town was made famous in 2015 thanks to “Port Protection“—a National Geographic reality TV show about the frigid cove. After a five-year hiatus, the show is back and has been rebranded as “Life Below Zero: Port Protection.” But the subject matter remains the same: resilient residents who weather a very nontraditional lifestyle of challenges.

Sole cabin for sale in Alaska’s Port Protection

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One listing available in Port Protection

As for the $120,000 residence available for one hardy buyer, it’s the home of a native son.

Homeowners Kalon Jones (who grew up in Port Protection) and wife Gina Jones, who have a new baby, aren’t in Port Protection right now, but they plan to return in the summer. They also own another property in the community.

Calling the difference of seasons “night and day,” Gina says the show is accurate—to a point. But it shows life only during the bitterly cold and isolating winter months.

“In the summertime, it’s one of the best places you can imagine being,” says Gina, who has hosted fans of the show. She’s noticed an uptick in tourism during the more temperate seasons.

Port Protection is located at the northwest tip of Prince of Wales Island and can be accessed only by boat or seaplane in the warmer months. The tiny town has one general store, Wooden Wheel Cove Trading Post, which also doubles as a post office.

Amazon deliveries (with free shipping) are available for canned goods and nonperishables like dog food. Grocery stores in nearby cities will also deliver by plane (shipping is $1 per pound). Deliveries can be picked up at the trading post, but you’ll need a vehicle to cart them home.

The home for sale is about 400 feet from the beach, and a boat dock is about a half-mile away, Gina says.

Home for the hardy

“People who call [about the listing] don’t really know what they’re in for,” Matecki says. “They have the wrong idea. It looks cute. They get excited, but they’re also daunted.”

The adorable cabin sits on 1.29 acres and is located next to a community garden. The cabin measures 1,800 square feet and has three bedrooms and one bathroom. It features a vaulted ceiling and a greenhouse on top. The property receives water from the city and has a running tap in the kitchen and bath. The grounds also come with a fire hydrant.

However, the hot water isn’t working, and given the extreme cold during the winter months, that’s a top priority for an immediate fix. Some roof and foundation updates may also be needed. On the plus side, there are no property taxes.

Heat comes from a wood stove, and the cabin comes with cold storage. Landline phones and satellite internet can also be set up.

The sellers are willing to leave the place furnished. Needless to say, any potential buyer should be a DIY type who knows how to navigate the waterways.

Vaulted ceiling

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Dining area

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Kitchen

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Bedroom

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Can you weather the winter?

During the winter, planes can’t land and a month can easily fly by with no supplies coming in.

“You really have to stock up,” Gina says. “It’s just one of those things of living out there in the wintertime, it’s really isolating. You have to be hardy. You have to be able to withstand bone-cold conditions.”

And to be clear, there are no cars, only a plank boardwalk throughout the town, which is located in a rainforest.

“It’s like living in ‘Water World,’” Gina says. Boats are the primary means of transportation, and residents motor to the dock to pick up supplies and get around. Although there has been a school in the past, right now there are only two babies in town, she adds, and no children to keep a school open.

Boardwalk

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There is a road which sits within a five-minute boat ride of Port Protection, and residents can keep a car or truck at the end of the road, which is open only during the summer.

If you can make it through the winter, the summer months are your reward.

Gina says most residents spend the warmer months foraging and fishing to stock up for the winter. Wild blueberries, huckleberries, and many types of mushrooms are ready to be picked. Beach asparagus and line-caught salmon are also plentiful.

“It’s incredibly abundant with wild food,” Gina says. “You stock up with meat you gathered, duck, fish, crab, halibut, deer,” which is all stored in a chest freezer.

“My biggest piece of advice is [live] there in the winter,” Gina says. “If you’ve survived and you think you want to do that, then Port Protection would be a good place for you. Or you can do what we’re doing and spend the summer out there. It’s a super, awesome place to be.”

If either the sunny summer or the harsh winter sounds like a bit much, we have great news. You can simply sit on your couch and watch the show.

The post Checking in on the Reality of Life in Port Protection, AK appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.