Is the Home You Love Worth It? Home Pre-Inspection Tips to Put to Use

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To hear professional home inspectors tell it, Americans take better care of their automobiles than their homes. Consequently, every homebuyer should plan to spend the $400 to $600 necessary to have the house they like best thoroughly examined by an independent third party before closing.

But wait: Before you’ve made your final choice and order a home inspector to take a look, you should do some preliminary investigating of your own. That way, you can protect yourself from picking the wrong house and allowing a better maintained property to slip away.

Even rookie buyers can get a good idea of just how well kept a house has been. Even when the seller has given the place a fresh coat of paint and trimmed the lawn, there still are often telltale signs that the owner may not have been as diligent as he could have. But keep it mind, it would be counterproductive to put every house under this kind of microscope. Once you narrow your choices down to two or three homes, it’s time to take a harder look. Then, after you make your final decision, call in the experts.

Look at Small Details

For example, a clean furnace filter can be taken as an indication the house has been well cared for. But who’s to say the seller didn’t just replace a filter that hadn’t been changed in years? If the filter hasn’t been changed regularly, the furnace hasn’t been working efficiently and it may not live up to its expected life span.

So how do you now? You don’t for sure. but if you spy a pile of spare filters tucked away in a storage closet, it’s a pretty good sign that the owner is on the ball. Someone who is in the process of selling isn’t buying extra filters he won’t use.

Home Service Log

Another clue that the furnace is in good shape is to look for a service log showing that the machine has been serviced regularly, at least once a year.

Of course, homebuyers, even those who have purchased several houses, shouldn’t substitute this kind of rudimentary investigation for a complete and exhaustive inspection by a trained professional. Even if the furnace has been serviced consistently, it could be on its last legs, and only a pro will be able to determine that.

Go Through the Motions as an Owner

Don’t be afraid to kick the tires and act like you’re already living there. You have every right to open closets, flush toilets, run the dishwasher through a full cycle, turn on all the stove-top burners, check the refrigerator and open the in the windows. The owner shouldn’t object – not if he really wants to sell.

If you are really interested in a property, make an appointment with the owner to return with your agents in tow. Give yourself plenty of time to give the place a good once-over. Then, you can decide if you want to proceed.

Tips from Professionals

Here, in no particular order, are some other suggestions from professional inspectors to help you decide if the choices you are considering are inspection-worthy:

Tips for Inspecting Basements

If the house has a basement, follow your nose. If there is a damp, musty smell, there’s usually an issue. A dehumidifier is another tip-off to a wet basement. They aren’t part of the decor. Also, look for stains or rot where the stringers, or side pieces, on the basement steps touch the floor. If there is a water problem, the moisture will wick into the wood. If there is nothing on the basement floor, that could be a sign of water problems. Inspectors love to see stacks of old magazines in the corner with spider webs. That means they have been there a long time and the there is no water problem.

Water Damage to Look for

Some owners will try to hide water damage in their bathrooms by re-caulking and grouting tiles. But you can beat them at their own game by tapping on the tile where it hits the tub or shower floor. The tile should sound and feel solid. If it sounds hollow, give it a nudge to see if there is any give to the wall. If there is, something’s going on behind there that isn’t good.

Electrical Inspections that are Amateur-friendly

After water issues, improper electrical wiring is the second most common defect found by home inspectors. It is difficult for an amateur to determine if the electrical system is adequate, but there are clues. If you see a lot of fuses lying around, especially burnt-out ones, it’s a dead giveaway that the wiring is probably undersized. Another sure-fire indication that the wiring is insufficient: A bunch of extension cords snaking around, hither and yon.

Always Check the Roof

Roofing problems also are fairly common, so look for shingles that are cupping at the corners. They may have to be replaced. If the roof appears to be sagging between the joists, the entire thing may have to be removed. And if there are already are two layers of shingles, the cost could be 20% higher or more. If the house has been well maintained, the owner will know exactly how many layers are on the roof, the age of the top layer and if new sheathing has been put down between the two layers.

Turning on Faucets is Always a Great Idea

Turn on the faucets on the bathroom sink and tub and flush the toilet, all at the same time. If there is an appreciable drop in water flow, there could be a serious pressure problem, possibly caused by mineral buildup in old pipes.

Keep in Mind…

* Maybe one in 20 houses examined by the pros qualifies as well maintained. But if the seller keeps a maintenance log backed by files of receipts, warranties, instruction manuals and color swatches, it’s probably a safe bet that the house has been a labor of love. Neatness counts, too. There should be access to all space, and nothing should be blocking the furnace or electrical panel.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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Source: homes.com

How to Keep Your Apartment Cleaning Earth-Friendly

You can have a clean apartment and keep the whole process Earth-friendly, too. Read on for ways to keep a spick-and-span apartment by replacing cleaning chemicals with eco-friendly products.

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The wonders of soda
Baking soda can do a lot more than help your baked goods rise. To pretreat fabric stains, make a paste out of baking soda and a little water, rub into the stain, and let it sit a little while. Then wash as usual. You can also add soda to the wash to boost the cleaning power of your detergent and fluff up blankets and towels. Use it as your powdered detergent, either in the washing machine or for your hand-washed clothes. It will soften, deodorize and clean at the same time.

Read more: Portable Washing Machines-No Laundry Required

For household cleaning, the paste you created to pretreat stains can scrub counter stains without scratching and safely clean grout, faucets and tub and shower surfaces.

To clean carpet, sprinkle soda on the affected area, rub gently and let it sit for a few minutes to absorb surface stains and odor. Then vacuum it up. You can deodorize an entire carpet by sprinkling baking soda and letting it sit before vacuuming—no rubbing required.

Lemon juice
Lemon juice has dramatic bleaching abilities along with all other kinds of cleaning benefits from its citric acid. You can shine chrome, clean wooden cutting boards or add some salt for an effective compound that cleans copper and brass.

Bring on the baking powder and mix it with lemon juice for a power-packed cleaning paste or combine lemon juice and olive oil for a fragrant furniture polish.

Fresh lemons work great, but a bottle in your fridge will do just as well. And if you’ve got some to spare, you can make a refreshing glass of lemonade to relax with when you’re done.

Read more: 10 Tips to Detox Your Apartment

White vinegar: not just for salads
There are few natural substances as versatile for cleaning as vinegar. You can dilute it with warm water to clean floors, disinfect laundry (and soften at the same time), clean/disinfect cutting boards, clean stainless steel, degrease dishes and wipe down virtually any surface you can think of!

You can even unclog a drain by throwing down a handful of baking soda, followed by a half-cup of vinegar. Let the mixture sit for a while and rinse it down with hot water. You can also run vinegar through your coffee maker and dishwasher to clean and deodorize them. You’ll be amazed how effective this simple concoction is!

Earth-friendly commercial cleaners
It’s fun and cheap to make your own eco-friendly cleaners at home, but sometimes it’s hard to resist prepared versions. Mrs. Meyers makes a variety of fresh-smelling cleaners and environmentally-friendly products for the household, along with hand, body and baby care lines. Try fragrances such as basil, lemon verbena and geranium.

Read more: Go Green in Your Apartment Month-by-Month (Infographic)

Trader Joe’s Cedarwood and Sage Multi-purpose Cleaner is great on a wide variety of surfaces. You can also try the oxygen-powered Bio-Ox, a wide variety of green cleaning products from Caldrea, or search online for countless other green cleaning options.

You can have a sparkling clean apartment without having to sacrifice the environmentally-friendly approach — just fill your pantry with green alternatives to harsh cleaning chemicals.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / matka_Wariatka

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Style a Nursery

Bringing home a new addition to your family is one of the most exciting moments of your life. Savor each and every day with your little one in a nursery that your family will enjoy.

Here are our style tips and nursery essentials:

Color Palette: Colors evoke emotions. Surround your baby with pastel colored walls, furniture, and bedding to create a calm, safe, and soothing environment (Custom Home Group).

Crib: A comfortable and safe crib is essential for any nursery. Choose soft, plush bedding to increase the likelihood that your baby (and you) will get a good night’s sleep. You’ll also need bumpers and a comfortable mattress. You may want a crib mobile to help your baby fall asleep (and be entertained if he or she wakes up during the night).

Chair: We recommend having a comfortable chair or small couch so that you have an area to sit with your baby.

Bookshelf: Keep picture books on a bookshelf because, as a new AAP policy recommends: “pediatric providers advise parents of young children that reading aloud and talking about pictures and words in age-appropriate books can strengthen language skills, literacy development and parent-child relationships” (Parents Who Read to Their Children Nurture More Than Literary Skills, Lori O’Keefe). You and your child will enjoy reading together, and the time you spend will introduce a love of reading at a young age.

Storage Space: If your baby has toys and stuffed animals, keep clutter at bay by storing them in a trunk, storage box, or large basket. This will make the room cleaner and safer (as your baby starts to explore) Plus, as an added bonus, it will also make the room feel larger!

Safety Essentials: Buy a baby monitor, night light, outlet covers, and other items to baby-proof your home.

Dresser: Keep your baby’s clothes in a dresser and use a drawer for diapers and changing table necessities. Buy a changing table pad for the top of the dresser. Once your child is older, he or she can use the dresser, meaning you’ll have one less piece of furniture to buy.

Rug: A soft rug will give your baby a safe, soft, and comfortable place to play.

Gallery Wall: Set up a gallery wall with your favorite art, prints, and photos. We recommend putting together a wall of your favorite family photos!

These tips will help you to create a nursery where your child can grow, play, learn, and (hopefully) sleep through the night.

Source: century21.com

5 Ways to Take Your Living Room from Good to Great

Take your living room from good to great! A few small steps will make your living room a space that is great for entertaining, making family memories, or curling up with tea and a good book.

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Try these five ways to take your living room from good to great:

1. Add Extra Seating: In order for people to spend time in the living room, there has to be somewhere for them to sit. Add extra seating so that your guests and family members can congregate. Buy an extra couch, love seat, chair, or build a window seat. Adding comfort to the living room will help create an environment where memories can be made.

2. Natural Lighting: Increase your living room’s natural lighting. BrightNest recommends maximizing natural light by strategically placing mirrors across from windows to reflect light from the windows. They also recommend hanging translucent curtains instead of opaque ones. Paint your furniture, walls, and ceiling a light color to increase the illusion of natural light. Learn more of BrightNest’s tips here.

3. Clear the Clutter: You probably have several coffee table books that haven’t been opened since 1994 (we all do). Instead of letting them sit in your living room collecting dust, put them away (or get rid of them), along with all other non-daily items. Clear off surfaces and floors to create as much open space as possible. It’s both practical and aesthetically pleasant.

4. Add Art: Fill your living room with beautiful art that you love. You’ll love admiring it every day. Art is also a great conversation starter. Tell your guests why each piece is special to you and your family.

5. Add Personal Photographs and Family Heirlooms: Your family will love spending time in a room that is filled with family memories. Hang photos on the walls, keep photo albums in a bookshelf, and display family heirlooms around your living room.

Follow these suggestions to make your living room a room where everyone will want to spend time. Get ready for cocktail parties, family game nights, roasting s’mores in the fireplace, and spending lots of time in your new room.

Source: century21.com

Clean Green: Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Kermit the Frog got it right. With all the dangerous, corrosive and effective cleaning chemicals on the market, it really isn’t easy being green. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. With just a few modifications, you can create a safer environment for you and your family while saving money and protecting the environment.

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These eco-friendly cleaning products are safe, affordable alternatives to all the dangerous chemicals stored under your sink.

Remove toxic products. The first step to clean, green living is to get rid of all the toxic chemicals stored in your home. Check with your local recycling center for safe, environmentally friendly ways to do this.

Reuse when possible. Instead of using abrasive throwaway scouring pads full of harmful cleaning agents, look for things you can use more than once or twice. Mops, sponges, washcloths and paper towels made from recycled paper will get the job done without filling the landfill.

Look for natural alternatives. There are several great all-natural alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners. Here are a few of the most basic:

  • Baking Soda. This simple substance has many uses around the home. Sprinkled on a damp cloth or sponge, it can be used as a gentle, non-abrasive cleaner for kitchen countertops, sinks, bathtubs, showers and ovens. Add a cup per load to your laundry to neutralize perspiration odors and chemical smells in your clothes. It also makes a great air freshener and carpet deodorizer.
  • Washing Soda. Similar to baking soda, washing soda is much more acidic. Wear gloves when you use it, because it is caustic. Washing soda cuts grease, cleans petroleum oil, removes wax and lipstick and neutralizes odors just like baking soda. Just don’t use it on aluminum, fiberglass or waxed floors, unless you want to remove the wax.
  • White Vinegar and Lemon Juice. White vinegar and lemon juice are acidic, and useful for combating scale from hard water, dissolving gummy buildup, eating away tarnish and removing dirt from wood surfaces.

Make your own disinfectant. Many essential oils, such as clove, lavender and tea tree oil—a natural fungicide—and grapefruit seed extract, are very good at killing household germs. To make your own disinfectant, add one teaspoon of essential oil to two cups of water in a spray bottle. You can make a spray from grapefruit seed extract by adding 20 drops of extract to a quart of water. Be sure to keep all homemade cleaning products clearly labeled and out of the reach of children.

Liquid Soap or Detergent? Soaps and detergents are necessary for cutting grease, but they are not the same thing. Soaps are made from fats and lye, while detergents are made from chemicals designed to not react with hard water and create soap scum. If you have hard water, buy perfume-free biodegradable detergent. If you have soft water, purchase liquid soap.

Green living doesn’t have to be a chore. By following these tips you can have a cleaner, healthier home in no time.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Geo-grafika

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Source: apartmentguide.com

18 Simple Storage Tips for Small Apartments

The average U.S. household has 300,000 things in it.

From the tiniest thumbtack to each book on your shelf and every piece of clothing hanging in your closet, there’s a lot of stuff to keep organized. It’s even more daunting if you’re bringing it all into a smaller apartment.

Many people tend to look at a smaller home and see what’s missing — space. Yet, fewer closets and less built-in storage doesn’t mean you’re missing out on somewhere to put your stuff.

If you’re smart with your furniture choices, color picks and organizational tactics, every corner of a small space can become a “beloved spot.”

Cut the clutter

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When working with a smaller living space, your goal, according to Michelle Crouch writing for Reader’s Digest, should be to remove clutter not create more storage space. Clutter can manifest as items you want to keep, but not display, as well as things that you no longer need.

Certain keepsakes you want to hold onto can spend some time in a storage unit until you have a larger home. Paper records, greeting cards, mementos from special events (that aren’t that special anymore) and old letters from past relationships are all things that no longer need to follow you from place to place.

In fact, having a smaller apartment can help you triage what you really want to keep with you. What’s left can either go into storage or head to the round file (a.k.a. the trash.)

Rearrange what’s left

After narrowing down your necessities, take a look at your apartment for hidden storage opportunities. Each room can yield more space than you may think upon the first inspection. Taking a close and thoughtful look can help you find the right place for all your belongings, even in a small apartment.

Bedroom

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There are two areas in your bedroom that can be great for storage — your closet and under your bed. Maximizing space in your closet is possible with a variety of storage ideas. From special hangers to repurposing household items, your closet can hold twice as much stuff as you think.

  • Use vertical space: Stack shirts or pants on shelves
  • Shower curtain hangers: Install these in your closet to hold scarves, belts or even tank tops freeing up drawer space in your bedroom for bulkier items
  • Over-the-door shoe organizer: Less stuff on the ground helps your small space feel less cluttered
  • Under-bed storage: Even if you have a bed that’s lower to the ground, special storage bins exist that will slide under. Store your off-season clothing here to free up more space for the items you need.

Bathroom

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Tips for organizing small spaces are handiest in the bathroom. It’s most likely the tightest space in a small apartment, but there’s room to spare in there, too. Overlooked areas ideal for extra storage include above the toilet and inside cabinets.

  • Over-the-toilet shelf: Since it slides in around the toilet, you’re not adding to the footprint within the bathroom. This is a great place to hold toiletries that don’t fit on the sink.
  • Over-the-door hooks: Perfect for wet towels or bathrobes
  • Shower caddies: Hang these over your shower head to hold soap and shampoo
  • Small storage containers on the inside of your bathroom cabinets: A great place for your hairdryer and straightener
  • A wine rack or special shelf for fresh towels: Putting them up on the wall makes sure they aren’t taking up valuable closet or cabinet space. It also looks decorative if you incorporate towels in vibrant colors.

Kitchen

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The best way to increase storage space in your kitchen is to add more counter space.

  • Make use of all free space: Large bowls have a lot of space in them. Condense your Tupperware or dishes by putting smaller objects inside of larger ones.
  • Appliances for storage: No cabinets, no problem! Your oven or microwave is a great place to keep dishes, pots and pans out of sight.
  • Portable chef’s cart: Put cutlery or even small kitchen appliances under it, then wheel the cart near an outlet when you have to plug in something. It gives you an extra surface to prep food, and you can move it out of the way when you’re done.
  • Wall hooks and over-the-door storage: Hang large utensils, pots and pans, cleaning supplies and even pantry staples

Living room

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Most likely the largest room in your apartment, the living room can serve as a catch-all for the stuff you need to store that won’t naturally go somewhere else.

  • Decorative boxes: They can fit under coffee tables or desks, and can hold almost anything. Store magazines, board games and puzzles, along with any personal items you want to keep but don’t need to display.
  • Book cart: If your couch is set up against a wall, consider moving it forward a little bit to create even more storage space. Slide in a cart to hold all your books in a way that’s easy to access.
  • Portable desk: Living rooms in small apartments often double as an office. Make the space less cluttered with the convenience of wheeling your small, portable workstation back into a corner when it’s not in use.

Hallways

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While not technically a room, don’t dismiss the potential for storage in seemingly useless spaces. Your hallways are the perfect location for things like coats, shoes or umbrellas.

  • Coat rack: Give your guests a spot to hang their coats when they visit, rather than tossing them on a chair or your couch
  • Shoe cubby: Clear some space off the floor and keep your shoes organized

A word about shelving

Small storage shelves can go in almost any space in your home. They’re a universal space-saving device because they turn wall space into storage space. Especially in corners, which can feel like unusable areas of your apartment, shelves can save the day.

Trade in the cute, framed pictures you’ve put up on one wall and install shelves for instant storage. Deeper shelves can hold small bins, masking the appearance of anything that’s not so cute, and special corner shelving units nestle in nicely. There are so many shelving ideas out there, it’ll be easy to incorporate a few in your apartment.

After everything gets put away

Now that you’ve found a spot in your apartment for all your stuff, it’s time to decorate. Just because you have a small space doesn’t mean every nook and cranny has to go to holding stuff.

Leave a little room to make things pretty and transform your small space into the perfect home.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to DIY a Citrus Vinegar Cleaning Spray

If you’ve made the switch to green cleaners, you’ve made a smart, healthy choice for yourself and your household. And if you choose to DIY your own cleaning solutions, even better! Making your own cleaners is cheaper, healthier and better for the environment than buying toxic commercial cleaners.

Even if you’re not crafty, don’t be daunted by the DIY process. In fact, there’s only one ingredient you really need to make most DIY cleaners: Vinegar. It’s a wonder solution for killing germs and removing odors. But let’s be honest: It doesn’t smell great. Fortunately, you can take advantage of vinegar’s cleaning power without that pickled smell. Here’s how to make your own citrus vinegar cleaning spray.

What you’ll need

  • Vinegar
  • Empty jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • Orange

1. Peel the orange, but don’t throw the peel out. Do whatever you like with the inside of the orange; I recommend eating it.

2. Place the orange peels in the jar.

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3. Pour the vinegar into the jar until the jar is full. Screw the lid on tightly.

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4. Give the jar a good shake, then place it in a pantry for two weeks, shaking it every other day or so.

At the end of two weeks, your citrus-infused vinegar will be ready. Just pour it through a strainer into a spray bottle in a 1:1 ratio with tap water, then use it to clean everything from your bathroom to your kitchen countertop. Enjoy the refreshing orange scent as you clean. If you’ve got any left over, store it in the fridge.

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More expert advice on green cleaning from the AG Blog:

Other ways to use vinegar in your home

  • Place an open dish of vinegar (whether it’s citrus-infused or not; either way will work) in a room to remove the smell of fresh paint or stinky cooking smells, such as fish.
  • Remember how you made a volcano for your second-grade science fair? That same chemical reaction — combining vinegar with baking soda — produces a bubbly substance that’s great for cleaning drains. Just let it fizz for half an hour or so, then flush the drain with boiling water.
  • Clean your stainless steel appliances with a light misting of undiluted vinegar. Wipe with a soft, clean cloth to remove fingerprints and bring out the shine in your appliances again.
  • If you’ve got carpet stains, dissolve two tablespoons of salt in half a cup of white vinegar. Pour it on the stain, lightly rub it in, let it dry for a few hours, then vacuum. For darker stains, add 2 tablespoons of borax to the mix, then use it the same way.

An orange, some vinegar, an empty Mason jar and an empty spray bottle are all you need to make your own citrus vinegar cleaning spray.An orange, some vinegar, an empty Mason jar and an empty spray bottle are all you need to make your own citrus vinegar cleaning spray.

For serious cleanup, skip the vinegar

Vinegar is a mild disinfectant that’s perfectly effective for most household messes, but if you’ve got something that needs serious disinfecting – such as meat juice on your countertop – don’t turn to vinegar.

You don’t need to buy toxic cleaners even for these messes; hot, soapy water will do the trick. First, wipe up the mess with a paper towel and immediately throw it in the trash. Put a few drops of castile soap in a bottle of hot water, spray the area where the juice was, then rub vigorously with a different rag or paper towel. Finally, wash your hands thoroughly.

How do you use vinegar in your home?

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Think Outside the Shoebox with These Organization Ideas

So you’ve found the perfect apartment, but you aren’t sure how to make the space work for you. For many renters, the relief that comes after finding a budget-friendly apartment is swiftly followed by the feeling that there is a lack of storage space. If you feel a little cramped in your small apartment, don’t despair. Check out these effective organization ideas that can help you settle into your apartment more comfortably. All you need are some shoeboxes!

Organize Those Deep, Dark Drawers

Drawers are one of the saving graces of a small apartment—especially if they’re extra-long! The problem is, if you have a set of dark, long drawers under the bed or in the closet, it’s tough to find what you’re looking for inside.

The solution? Transparent shoe boxes! Organize the contents of your drawers into different types of items; then put those into clear shoeboxes to make finding everything much simpler. Pens, papers, and crayons might take up one box, electronic devices another. It all depends on what you need to store! Just make sure that each shoebox is filled with similar items so that you don’t need to search through more than one when the time comes.

Clean up the Closet

If your socks are falling out of the shelves or dresser drawers, you aren’t alone. Underwear not staying where it should? Again, this is a common problem.

To keep everything in your closet neatly in place, try designating 2 or 3 shoe boxes into your dresser drawers or closet space. Once paired, throw your clean socks into 1 one the boxes; underwear into another; bras into the third. Are you a swimsuit hoarder? Toss those suits into their own shoebox and keep them from mixing with the rest of your clothing.

This way, you won’t have to search through an entire drawer full of undergarments to find what you’re looking for. Keeping small clothing items in shoeboxes will also stop them from migrating into other parts of your wardrobe. This kind of organizational system gives you an ideal place to toss popped buttons, zippers and other clothing items for later repair.

De-Clutter the Kitchen Cabinets

There are so many tiny items floating around in most people’s kitchen cabinets, some only get found before moving house. Between loose tea bags, packets of juice crystals and gravy, stock cubes and the odd Hershey’s Kiss, the kitchen cabinets can become littered with stray items.

For those non-perishable cupboard dwelling packets, introduce a couple of clear or color-coded shoeboxes. Keep it simple, but not too strict: 1 box for savory; 1 box for sweets. Another for all those tricky little bits and pieces that get used only a couple of times a year, say for cake decorating.

Your spice collection can also benefit from the use of a spare plastic shoebox, preferably one that has a solid color. Dried herbs and spices do get stale over time, so it’s best to keep them stored carefully in a dark, cool place.

Depending on the climate where you live, the ideal place for a shoebox full of herbs and spices may be the corner of your pantry, a top shelf in the cabinet or even inside the refrigerator. Make sure that the lids of each bottle are tightly closed to ensure the longevity of their contents.

Get Creative with Shoeboxes

Nearly anything is possible in a rental apartment, no matter what the size—especially when shoeboxes are plentiful! If you’re worried that plain shoeboxes aren’t going to fit into your decor scheme, why not fancy them up a bit?

All it takes is a bit of measuring, glue, and some wallpaper or gift paper that you like. Wrap the boxes up neatly in the paper, and you’ve got an attractive theme piece that can be added to every room in the apartment!

Once you’ve prettied-up your shoebox collection, you can use some boxes to hold useful daily items that have no real home elsewhere. Batteries, spare remote controllers, unmatched socks or gaming controllers can all sit comfortably in their own shoebox, completely anonymous until you need them. It’s a great way to conceal unattractive items within a cute, decorative box!

How do you make the most out of your apartment space? Are shoeboxes a regular part of your routine? Share your ideas with us on Twitter!

Photo Credit: New Africa / Shutterstock

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water?

From your cable and Internet bill to utilities like heat and electricity, there are a lot of costs that must be added into your monthly budget (as I discovered upon moving into my first apartment). There are always ways, however, of cutting back on those expenses. You can save water and lower your water heating costs by installing a low-flow showerhead.

What is a Low-Flow Showerhead?

In short, a low-flow showerhead is one that comes with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. While this still seems like quite a bit of water, these showerheads can actually decrease your shower water usage by about half.

A regular showerhead has a water flow of about 3.8 gallons per minute, so if you took an eight minute shower, you would be using approximately 30 gallons of water. But with a low-flow showerhead, you would only use about 20 gallons.

With this fixture, you’ll also need less energy to heat your shower, reducing your power bills.

How do Low-Flow Showerheads Work?

With a low-flow showerhead, it may not feel like you’re using less water, but you are. The showerhead restricts water flow while still maintaining a strong pressure, giving you the experience of a normal shower.

Aerating showerheads mix air in with the water stream. This maintains strong water pressure while still using less water than a traditional showerhead. However, because there is air combined with the water, the temperature may not stay as hot for as long as traditional showerheads.

A non-aerating showerhead doesn’t use air; instead, it pulses to keep the pressure strong. The water with a non-aerating showerhead tends to be hotter because there is no introduction of air.

How to Measure Your Current Flow Rate

In order to discover whether you would benefit from a low-flow showerhead, it’s important to figure out the flow rate of your current fixture. Turn on your shower and let the water run into a bucket for 10 seconds, then turn it off.
Measure the amount of water that’s in your bucket, then multiply that figure by six. The number you end up with will be your water flow per minute, or gallons per minute. If your shower is releasing about 3.8 gallons or more per minute, think about replacing your current showerhead with a low-flow fixture.

Here’s another helpful rule of thumb: If it takes fewer than 20 seconds for your showerhead to fill up a 1-gallon bucket, you could benefit from installing a more environmentally friendly fixture.

Which Low-Flow Showerhead is Best for Your Bathroom?

If you’ve chosen to get a low-flow showerhead for your bathroom, then you must decide which type you would like. You could opt for the traditional stationary model or a handheld showerhead that’s attached to a flexible hose.

While handheld models may offer convenience, they’re typically a bit more expensive than the stationary fixtures. However, a handheld showerhead may be slightly more environmentally friendly than the traditional model because there is less distance between the showerhead and your body.

Other Green Bathroom Ideas

Installing a low-flow showerhead isn’t the only way you can go green. Here are a few other bathroom ideas that may lower your overall energy costs:

Use Green Cleaning Products: Some bathroom cleaners contain harsh chemicals, which is why it’s more environmentally friendly (and often cheaper) to just make your own.

For instance, a tub cleaner can be made using 2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mildew can be removed by mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup borax.

Rethink Your Towels: Think about swapping your current regular cotton towels for towels made from organic cotton. This material requires the use of fewer pesticides, natural dyes and softeners, making it better for your skin and for the environment.

Bamboo towels are another eco-friendly choice, as bamboo is a fast-growing sustainable alternative to cotton, not to mention it has antibacterial properties.

Fix Leaks: A simple leak in your tub or sink might not seem like a big deal, but you may actually be losing a lot of water. Talk to your landlord about the problem and get it fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can put a bucket under the leak and use the collected water to hydrate your houseplants.

Replace Your Shower Curtain: Many shower curtains are made of polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC plastic. The material actually releases chemical gases, and it can’t be recycled. Instead, opt for a PVC-free shower curtain. Hemp shower curtains, for instance, are resistant to mold and mildew.

Take Shorter Showers: A low-flow showerhead can only do so much to save water when you’re taking extremely long showers. Do your best to cut back on your bathing time by creating a five-minute playlist of a song or two. This way, you’ll know exactly how long you have before you should turn off the water.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Top 5 DIY Home Skills You Should Know

One of the best parts about living in an apartment is that when something goes wrong (like the heat isn’t working or the toilet won’t stop running), you don’t really have to take care of it yourself — maintenance can help!

But there are some DIY basics you should know how to do yourself. Sometimes maintenance may not be as quick as you’d like, or it may just be something you’d rather handle on your own. From fixes to decor, here are five easy DIY projects you should know how to do:

How to unclog a drain

Small plumbing inconveniences like a clogged drain or toilet can be frustrating, but the great news is they’re pretty easy to take care of on your own. Unclogging a sink requires just the tiniest bit of plumbing know-how, but it’s relatively simple.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Unclog a DrainTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Unclog a Drain

First, remove the drain stopper by locating the pivot rod that’s holding it in place under your sink. The pivot rod should be stuck through the pipe and secured with a nut on the pipe near the bottom of the sink. Remove the nut and the rod, and the drain stopper should be easy to pull up and out.

Then, use a snake to clear the drain (you can buy these at any hardware store). Thread the snake as far as it will go into the drain– you want it to reach as deep into the P trap as it can go (that pipe that’s shaped like a U). Pull it out slowly, and repeat until you hook whatever’s clogging the pipes. Then, replace the drain stopper and pivot rod, and you’re finished!

Keep in mind that most landlords prohibit tenants from using products like Drano to clear clogs because they can damage pipes.

How to change a showerhead

​There’s nothing worse than a showerhead that makes taking a shower feel like you’re standing underneath a leaky faucet. But while showerheads can’t dictate water pressure, many can adjust the spray into something a little more bearable– and low-flow versions are better for the environment, too.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Change a ShowerheadTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Change a Showerhead

As far as easy DIY projects go, changing a showerhead is one of the simplest– just buy a new one and some Teflon tape (aka plumber’s tape).

Unscrew the old showerhead from its arm using an adjustable wrench or some pliers. You may have a fight on your hands if it’s old, but be careful not to apply too much pressure or squeeze too hard.

Once the old head is removed, clean the end of the pipe and wrap it in a new layer of Teflon tape to prevent leaks. Then, screw your new showerhead on over the tape, and voila! Good as new.

How to hang something heavy

You should know one DIY skill in particular to hang something heavy: how to find a stud. Studs are strong enough to withstand heavy items like floating shelves or mirrors, many of which could damage drywall. One easy way to find a stud is to use an electronic stud finder– just pick one up at the hardware store.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Hang Something HeavyTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Hang Something Heavy

You can also do it the old-fashioned way and simply knock on your walls– a hollow-sounding knock means no stud, while a solid-sounding knock means you’ve hit gold, so to speak. Remember that studs can always be found around windows, doors and in corners, and they’re located every 1.5 to 2 feet.

How to patch a hole in the wall

If you hang a bunch of stuff in your apartment, patching the holes in your walls may be necessary when you move out to ensure you get your security deposit back. All you need to patch holes is some lightweight spackle, a putty knife and some sandpaper.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Patch a Hole in the WallTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Patch a Hole in the Wall

Simply use one corner of the putty knife to scoop out a small amount of spackle, and use it to fill the hole. Then use the straight edge of the putty knife to smooth and even out the spackle. Let it dry for a few hours (or overnight), then sand the area lightly with your sandpaper, blending the spackle into the surrounding drywall.

How to fix your toilet

There are any number of toilet issues renters may want to learn how to fix themselves, but if there’s one you should know it’s how to fix a clog. If your toilet is clogged, it’s time to break out the plunger.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Fix Your ToiletTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Fix Your Toilet

First, place the plunger over the hole at the bottom of your toilet, making sure the rubber head is completely covered by water. If there isn’t enough water in the bowl, simply use a pitcher to add some more. Then, pump the handle into the head a few times and pull the plunger up sharply, breaking the seal. The power of suction should do the trick.

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Source: apartmentguide.com