How to Make Your Guests Feel at Home

You don’t have to spend a fortune to outfit your guest bedroom; instead, opt for a few fresh, affordable pieces to make your guests feel at home when they visit. The rest is all about hospitality – i.e., how you make them feel while they’re staying in your house. In addition to the suggestions below, show your guests where to find everything they’ll need – water glasses, extra towels and coffee mugs – so they don’t have to look through all of your cabinets.

Arrange Something Fresh

If a female is going to stay in your guest room, she will appreciate a bouquet of fresh flowers on the nightstand to make her feel more relaxed. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a fresh arrangement with the following: three or five white roses mixed with baby’s breath, carnations, Gerber daisies cut short or hydrangeas from your yard. If your guest is male, he might appreciate a potted plant on the dresser.

Read more: Breathe New Life Into Your Apartment with Houseplants

Have Clean, Soft Linens

Wash the bed linens, including the duvet cover or bedspread of your guest bed. Try to make the bed with 350- or 400-thread count linens, which you can purchase for cheap at discount fashion stores, such as TJ Maxx or Home Goods, or warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club, Costco or BJ’s. Provide your guests with extra pillows and an extra blanket in case they get chilly during the night, and put one set of clean, folded towels per guest in the guest bedroom or, the guest bathroom -if you have one, so your company doesn’t have to search for them.

Read more: In-Laws Visiting? 15 Ways to Tidy Up in No Time

Make Space and Storage

Clean out at least one drawer and the top of the dresser if your guests are staying more than a few days. Clear space in the closet for them to hang clothes, and provide a few empty hangers. You can possibly find a used luggage rack at Goodwill or the Salvation Army to allow your guests to place their opened suitcase on top, which is more convenient than bending over to search through a bag on the floor.

Read more: Celebrity Closet Cues: Style Your Small Space Like a Rock Star

Provide Appropriate Toiletries

In addition to the usual hand soap, bath soap and lotion in your guest bathroom, arrange shampoo and conditioner for normal hair, shower gel, unscented shaving cream, an extra razor, two new toothbrushes and toothpaste for your guests, just in case they forgot anything. You might also want to provide miniature packages of ibuprofen and a water glass, if their trip required long hours in a cramped car. Guests tend to use lots of toilet paper, so make sure there are extra rolls available in the bathroom they’re using.

Read More: 9 Bathroom Storage Ideas You Haven’t Thought Of

Indulge in the Extras

Provide an alarm clock for your guests, and set it at the correct time before they arrive. If figuring out how to set the alarm on the clock is complicated, provide a set of instructions for them and place it under the alarm clock. If you have a television in your guest room, make sure the cable is hooked up, and lay the remote control on the bedside table so guests can easily locate it. Purchase an extra hamper for the guest bathroom or bedroom so they don’t wonder where to put their used towels, and make sure there is a trash can in the guest bedroom, bathroom or both. Make sure there’s a lamp on the bedside table, and turn it on before guests arrive so the room appears warm and soothing. And, of course, chocolates on guests’ pillows are always appreciated.

Read more: 6 Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Cable

Prepare Something Homemade

You don’t have to whip up a four-course dinner to make your guests feel more comfortable. Instead, have a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies ready when they arrive, and tell them they can help themselves to them while they’re staying with you. If you’re not into cooking, you can always pop store bought cookie dough in the oven, or arrange a fruit and cheese platter with local cheeses and grapes.

Read more: Save Time and Money by Preparing Meals at Home

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Saving Money on Utilities

When it comes to monthly expenses, there are some costs you don’t think can get lower, like a utility bill.

But with some awareness, a bit of effort and a few phone calls, you might be surprised at how much you can knock down utility costs that once seemed set in stone.

Shop for the best rate

Though you may not have a choice in who handles your water or electricity, some apartment communities will give you a choice in which gas company you can use. Gas companies are always competing for your business, trying to undercut the other’s per-therm price. Many carriers even offer cash incentives for switching over and/or programs that let you lock in a per-therm rate.

For phone and cable, there are also savings to be had. Take a look at your bill and examine all the features that come with your service. If you have channels you don’t watch or phone features you don’t need, call your service provider and see if you can go with a simpler plan at a cheaper rate. Or investigate other providers to see if changing companies will drive down the price.

Look for bundled deals in which your phone, cable, and DSL are handled by a single company and you could significantly cut your bill. Another option is to do away with your land-line entirely and use your cell phone instead. Don’t forget to shop for the best cell phone plan as well.

Waste not, pay not

The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are always ways to use less everything. Energy Star appliances, low-flow toilets, and water-wise showerheads are just a few things you can install to cut water use. Collect water in rain barrels and buckets in the shower and use that to water your plants. Wash larger loads of clothes and use cold water instead of warm, saving you energy and water! Minimize the settings on your dishwasher;  do you really need to use the heated drying, extra rinse, and tough scrub cycles?

We are accustomed to having computers, lights, televisions and stereos on even when we don’t need them. Turn things off when you’re not in front of them and turn out the lights in the rooms you’re not using. You’ll be amazed at the satisfaction, savings and welcome silence these simple efforts provide.

It’s really not hard to cut utility costs, even those you assumed couldn’t budge. With some awareness and effort, your consumption and monthly bills will begin to drop.

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Cleaning Essentials for Your Apartment

No one likes to clean, especially if you’ve just moved into your new apartment and want to explore your neighborhood. But you can make it easier by arming yourself with the right cleaning supplies and tools, which will have your apartment looking spic and span in no time. Then, when you make friends with people in your neighborhood, you’ll have no qualms about inviting them over to check out your new space and have a drink. Here is a list of the 17 essential cleaning supplies you’ll need for your new home.

Cleaners

  • All-purpose grease cleaner: One of the most stubborn messes is grease, so having a cleaner made for the task will save you a lot of headaches.
  • Wood cleaner: This helps polish wood furniture and keep dust away from ceiling fans, vents and more
  • Mild abrasive bathroom cleaner with bleach: You need something strong for cleaning the shower, tub, toilet, sink and grout
  • Glass cleaner: There’s only so much you can handle streaks on your windows, and it can be hard to find cleaners that leave the windows completely clear. You can make your own by mixing 2 to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar with 3 cups water
  • Dishwashing liquid: A drop of this and a cup of water creates an instant spot cleaner for carpets and upholstered furniture – along with the obvious use for cleaning dishes.
  • Baking soda: Mix it with lemon juice for a scrub or sprinkle it on carpets before you vacuum to absorb odors, among many other tricks you can learn.
  • White vinegar: You can make a lot of good cleaning solutions by mixing vinegar with something else. Having some around is almost always useful.
  • Isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide: Similar to vinegar, these are often mixed with other things to make good cleaning solutions.

Read more: Tips to Tame Your Cluttered Room of Shame and Cheap Green Cleaning

  • A caddy: Having this will make it much easier to carry your cleaning supplies around the house. It also helps you avoid having to run back and forth to get what you forgot.
  • Broom, dustpan, and mop: These are crucial for cleaning up anything on hardwood or tile floors.
  • Microfiber sweeper: If you have pets, this will do wonders for getting pet hair off of your floors.
  • Vacuum cleaner: These are crucial if you have carpets, but even hardwood and tile floors can use a good vacuuming from time to time.
  • Rubber gloves: You really don’t want to get the mess all over your hands and forearms. This is especially useful when using bleach or other chemicals that can harm your skin.

Kitchen

  • Scrub brush: One of many tools to help get stubborn grease and other substances off your dishes. This can also handle a lot of cleaning and brushing tasks in other areas as well.
  • Dish cloth: Even if you use a dishwasher to dry your dishes, you’ll want something to dry dishes in a pinch.
  • Scrubbing pads and steel wool: These are needed when you have particularly strong grease that a standard brush or sponge won’t do anything to.
  • Cloth and paper towels: You have to clean up spills with something.
  • Plastic scraper: One of many tools made for getting really stubborn grease off of your pots and pans.
  • Sponges: These are essential for doing dishes. Just make sure to have a lot of them – they quickly become infested with a lot of bacteria, so replacing them consistently is vital.
  • Antibacterial wipes: There’s a lot of bacteria in raw food. After you cook or do the dishes, wipe down the countertops to keep the bacteria from building up.

Read more: Green Tips for Natural Kitchen Cleaning

Bathroom

  • Toilet brush: It should be obvious that toilets are a mess, so get a brush made specifically for cleaning them.
  • Toothbrush: No, not yours. Get one with hard, rigid bristles to make it easier to scrub stains out of grout.
  • Grout brush: Sometimes, the toothbrush just won’t cut it and you need something made just for the task.

 Read more: Bathroom Hacks without Chemicals

Living room

  • Lint roller: These aren’t just for your clothes. Running them over your couch and other fabric surfaces will get a lot of hard to deal with lint out of the way.
  • Duster: Something with a long handle will let you get the top of furniture that you’d otherwise miss most of the time. Either feather or microfiber will work well for most situations.

There’s always more that you can buy, but these essentials will cover the most common situations, and even some of the more uncommon ones.

Related: How to Clean Your Cleaning Tools

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10 Cheap Ways to Keep Cool in Your Apartment

To keep cool this summer, you could blast the air conditioning nonstop, but that will leave you with cooling bills that may give you the chills – and not in a good way.

Air conditioning is expensive, and not every apartment has it. Whether it’s by choice or forced on you, there are a number of ways to keep heat at bay during the summer. You’re probably already doing some of them, like running the ceiling fans, but there’s more that you can do to keep cool without abusing your air conditioner.

1.  Focus on cooling yourself, not the apartment: All these tips are built on this idea, but it deserves to be pointed out. Air conditioning cools the whole apartment, but your comfort depends on how you feel. It’s okay if the temperature is high, so long as you feel cool.

2.  Use ice packs (or other cold items): Freeze an ice pack and place it underneath you on the couch or bed. Keep it in a pocket while you’re walking or lounging around the apartment. Keeping it close to you will cool you down considerably. In a pinch, you can use frozen food, such as a bag of peas or popsicles, just be cautious of the mess they can make.

Read more: How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

3. Freeze your sheets and clothes: Place your sheets and pillowcases in the freezer a few hours before bedtime, and make your bed with them right before you get in.  The same trick will work for clothes, so while you can’t open the freezer to cool the room, you can use it to cool your clothes.

4. Take a cold bath or shower: If the thought of getting into a cold bath makes you sweat, fill it first with lukewarm or room temperature water, and get in. Gradually let the lukewarm water out and refill it with cold water until you’re in a mostly cold bath. You’ll feel cool for a long time afterwards.

5. Eat cool foods: Running the stove or oven just warms up the room. Instead, try to eat cold foods that don’t need to be cooked. Not only do you avoid creating more heat, but they also help cool you off.  Popsicles and other ice cream are really helpful for this, and who doesn’t want an excuse to eat more ice cream?

6. Wear cooler clothes: If you’re home alone, go without clothes or walk around in your underwear or a bathing suit. Otherwise, wear natural fabrics such as linen, cotton and silk. These breathe better than man-made materials, such as rayon, polyester and other artificial fibers. Athletic wear is an exception and can wick moisture away from your body. Looser clothes also tend to breathe better than tighter clothes.

Read more: Tips for Airing Out Your Apartment

7.  Close and cover windows and doors: Leaving windows open lets in warm air, and just leaving the blinds open lets in sunlight, which also warms up the room. At least close the blinds, if not putting up lined drapes or aluminum foil to reflect sunlight out of the room. Also, focus on just the part of the apartment you’re going to be in. Closing off parts of the apartment cuts down on air circulation, but that’s a benefit if most of the air that can circulate is warm air.

8. Set up fans cleverly: If you have multiple fans, set them up so that they intersect on you, the air hitting you from multiple directions. Make sure that your ceiling fan is set to counterclockwise, drawing the warm air upwards. Fill and freeze jugs of water, placing them behind fans (with a towel under the jug to absorb the water) to blow cool air at you. It’s helpful to have a fan blowing air at you, but setting it up properly can make a really big difference.

9. Drink ice water: Cooling down starts on the inside, so downing several glasses of ice-cold water will really put the chill on. Drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of your body weight. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink at least 75 ounces, or a little more than nine eight-ounce glasses, of water per day.

10. Use mint or menthol products: Smear cooling topical ointments with medicated vapors (such as Vicks VapoRub) or peppermint lotion on your skin. Bathe with peppermint soap, use lip balm with peppermint oil and brush your teeth with something minty. Mint refreshes the skin and leaves a nice cooling sensation.

11. Go somewhere with air conditioning: Just because you don’t want to run the air conditioner doesn’t mean that no one is. If a day is particularly unbearable, that could be the time to find somewhere else to go. Grocery stores, especially in the dairy aisle, are somewhere you probably need to go anyway, so why not now? You can also go to a grocery store, a friend’s house, or make it an outing to a movie theater. Wherever it is, someone else is paying for the air conditioning, and you get to really relax and embrace the cold.

Read more: Top Tips for Staying Cool This Summer

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Give Your Apartment Medicine Cabinet a Check-Up

Colds and the flu usually strike at the end of winter or beginning of spring. Are you and your medicine cabinet prepared to handle another cold, allergy and cough season?

In addition to readying you for spring, cleaning out your medicine cabinet also ensures you get rid of dangerous or outdated medicines. First, know what to get rid of. Throw out expired and old medicines and consolidate nearly empty bottles and duplicates to get rid of clutter. Don’t leave old pills lying out in open trash cans and available to the curious hands and noses of young children and pets; dispose of them securely

Next, inventory what you have and learn what to add, especially if you’re living in cold-prone, windy areas. Make sure you have the following items in your medicine cabinet:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Primarily known as a pain reliever, acetaminophen is also a fever-reducer.

Aloe vera: This soothing, oft-green gel treats burns.

Antihistamine (Benadryl): This over-the-counter medication calms allergy symptoms such as nasal inflammation, sneezing, runny noses and eye irritation. It’s also a lifesaver for allergic reactions and bug bites.

Antiseptics: Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol clean cuts and scrapes to help prevent infection.

Antiseptic creams or ointments (Neosporin): These prevent infection in cuts and scrapes and reduce scarring.

Bandages: Stock up on bandages in various sizes so you can cover and protect any wound.

Cold, cough and flu medicines: So you’re not treating symptoms you don’t have, purchase different over-the-counter cold, cough and flu medications, such as decongestants (for coughs), expectorants and cough suppressants, depending on the symptoms you typically have.

Read more of our health-related posts:

Cortisone cream: This topical ointment reduces inflammation and calms itchy insect bites and rashes.

Gauze bandages and adhesive tape: These two items are crucial for covering larger wounds.

Heating and cooling packs: Ice reduces fevers and swelling, while heat eases cramps and stomach aches.

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin): This pain reliever also reduces inflammation and swelling.

Medicine dropper or medicine cup: You need some accurate medical-use measure for dispensing liquid medications.

Nose spray: Decongestant nasal sprays quickly open up nasal passages by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the nose. Saline sprays help moisturize dry or irritated nostrils.

Thermometer: Purchase a digital or chemical-dot thermometer for checking temperatures, and know which temperatures are too high for all ages.

Tweezers: Find good tweezers with more pointy ends for removing splinters or ticks.

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How to Make Your Apartment Greener

In honor of Earth Day’s 40th anniversary April 22, Apartment Guide sat down with Ashley Caderet, author of green and frugal living blog “Our Little Apartment,” to get her thoughts on how everyone can live more environmentally friendly in their apartments or homes. Plus, there’s a bonus: In this down economy, anyone can benefit from Ashley’s money-saving, waste-less, live-simply tips.

Since launching her blog in 2007, Ashley’s green-living methods have ranged from the sensible (purchasing local produce from a farmers market) to the more radical (using cloth toilet paper). A few ideas didn’t work out – composting in the backyard created a mice problem – while some became routine favorites, such as using one car. Mike even built a winter-hearty bicycle that he takes to work, even using it in 10-degree weather.

“It just makes sense to try to be greener,” Ashley said. “It makes me feel better and saves money. Once you become aware of the amount you waste, you feel guilty about the environmental impact. You think about carbon footprints. In my day-to-day life, just thinking about how future children and countries will be impacted inspires me to keep being green.”

Read more about going green in your apartment:

To save the most money, Ashley and her husband rent their home near one of their workplaces and only use one car. Now Ashley drives the car on her 35-minute commute and Mike bikes to work, which is only two miles from their home, a duplex in a neighborhood where 100 percent of the streets have sidewalks. In addition to using one car, here are 10 other ways Ashley suggests apartment residents can be more environmentally friendly:

  1. When you’re deciding where to live, choose an apartment that is walkable, meaning you can walk to nearly anything you need. Use WalkScore to determine a neighborhood’s walkable rating.
  2. Choose an apartment that has good insulation so you’re not wasting energy. If you don’t know if it has good insulation, ask before you rent. If you are already renting, improve your insulation with door draft stoppers or by asking your apartment manager to add insulation to your complex.
  3. Avoid disposable things such as tissues, paper towels, disposable dishes, disposable napkins and plastic ware. Use reusable versions of these instead.
  4. Don’t waste food by planning meals in advance.
  5. Eat less meat. Ashley and Mike are both vegetarians, but even eating one meatless meal a week could save your family hundreds of dollars per year.
  6. Shop for secondhand furniture and clothing.
  7. If your apartment doesn’t recycle, ask them to, or take your recyclable goods to a recycling center. Recycling guidelines for most cities are on the city or county website.
  8. Wash almost all of your clothes on the cold cycle.
  9. Try a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program, which delivers local, seasonal produce to your home or a nearby pickup location. Visit Local Harvest to find a CSA near you.
  10. Don’t buy anything unless you really need or want it. Think hard before you buy.

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Prioritize Your Apartment Cleaning Efforts

If the interior of your apartment looks like an episode of “Hoarders,” then it’s time to get serious about your cleaning chores.

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Sure, nobody likes to clean, but if you create a plan and chip away at it during the week, you can keep cleaning under control. How good would it feel to never again have to waste a perfectly good Saturday afternoon on an intense, four-hour cleaning spree?

With that in mind, here are a few tips for developing an organized cleaning strategy you can live with.

Set priorities
When you’re in the mood to clean, you may be tempted to tackle every chore on your list: dusting, vacuuming, mopping, spit-shining, re-arranging, organizing your spice rack — the list can go on. Trying to tackle all of these chores at once can lead to an overload and subsequent meltdown. That’s why it’s important to set apartment cleaning priorities and work these tasks in reasonable chunks of time throughout the week.

The key to keeping your apartment clean is to decide which chores are the most important. First consider which chores are so important that you should be doing them every day — things like washing the dishes, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, and straightening up countertops should be on your short-list of daily chores. Next, think about weekly chores — the things you need to do at least once a week so that your apartment cleaning situation doesn’t get out of control. Weekly chores include things like vacuuming, dusting, and doing laundry.

Read more: 7 Obvious Signs That You Are a Hoarder

Once you’ve got these daily and weekly chore lists established, set the tasks in order. Create a daily chore pyramid and a weekly chore pyramid that shows how important each task is. Glance at your pyramid every day, and remind yourself that you at least need to take care of the most important task on that list. When you’ve completed that task — and if you have the time that day — you can tackle other chores in their order of importance.

Apartment cleaning checklists
Creating your own apartment cleaning checklist can help you manage your time. For each chore on your pyramid, create a micro-list that details the steps to finish the task. If “clean bathroom” is on your weekly chore list, for example, your cleaning checklist for the bathroom might look like this:

  • Switch out dirty towels for clean ones
  • Scrub shower
  • Clean toilet
  • Wipe off mirror
  • Scrub sink
  • Vacuum and mop floor

If you’ve got a chore checklist like this for every task in your cleaning pyramid, you can help yourself be as efficient as possible during your designated cleaning time. You can even keep your checklists in plastic page protectors and use dry erase markers to check off the tasks as you complete them. (All right — that might be asking too much.)

Red more: In-Laws Visiting? 15 Ways to Tidy Up in No Time

Use a chore chart
If you need a little extra motivation to stay on top of your apartment cleaning, a chore chart could give you a bit of visual encouragement. If you’ve got roommates or a big family, a chore chart can be an especially effective tool for apartment cleaning.  Write everyone’s name on the chart with associated chores and deadlines, and then hang the chore chart in a central location. If each person’s duties are all written down on paper, no one can say they forgot about doing their part.

Not only do chore charts foster better communication between roommates, they can also turn a boring round of apartment cleaning into a game. Assign points to the various cleaning chores and then have a weekly competition to see who can get the most points. The winner gets a prize (maybe a week off of chores?) and the friendly competition makes things a little more interesting. (Singing the Mary Poppins song while you clean is optional, of course.)

Develop good habits to stay clean
Maintaining a clean apartment boils down to keeping good habits. If your current apartment cleaning habits leave a lot to be desired, you can teach yourself to take a more organized approach — follow through and you’ll find yourself living in a cleaner space!

Read more: 17 Cleaning Essentials for Your Apartment

Photo credit: Shutterstock / LukaTDB

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6 Best Kitchen Gadgets for Small Kitchens

best kitchen tools

best kitchen tools

As an apartment renter, it’s highly likely that you are in a tight space and on a tight budget. So when it comes to building your kitchen gadget collection, the latest 12-piece stainless steel cookware set by Martha Stewart won’t be on your wish list.

But don’t let your small space or limited budget stop you from bringing out your inner gourmet chef. Instead, embrace a few must-have gadgets that let your culinary skills shine. Check out our suggestions for the six best kitchen gadgets for small kitchens.

  1. Can opener – The tip here isn’t so much to have a can opener, but to have a good quality one. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to buy a brand new opener only to have it fall to pieces after one or two uses. Avoid cheap, dollar store buys. A good quality can opener will generally cost over $5.00.
  2. Knife set – If you do a lot of chopping, slicing and dicing, a great cutlery set is a must. Sorry to break it to you, but you shouldn’t be using one single knife for cutting meat, vegetables, cheese and everything else under the sun. A decent cutlery set will have knives of different lengths and edging for various types of use.
  3. Corkscrew – The last thing you want in life is a struggle to get your bottle of vino opened quickly and easily. This is another item on which you won’t want to penny pinch. A good quality corkscrew will be pricey, but it’ll open your bottle with ease.
  4. Slow cooker – Back in the day, my mom used her Crock Pot a lot. She’d set it on low in the morning and by the time we returned from work and school that evening, dinner would be ready. I actually refuse to leave my slow cooker on while I’m not home. So instead, I let my meals simmer overnight. It’s hard to ignore the yummy aroma at 7 a.m. as I’m getting ready for work, but it’s such a time saver not having to come home and prepare a meal from scratch.
  5. Electric hand mixer – Are you into baking and trying new recipes? Then you may have to do a lot of mixing. If you’re lazy like me, you refuse to do any hand stirring with a large spoon. A small hand mixer is a steal. I got mine for about $7.00 and it’s lasted at least two years.
  6. Griddle – What I like about having a griddle is that you can prepare a fairly large amount of food at one time – more than a standard size frying pan will hold. I use mine for making pancakes, frying turkey bacon at the same time. It’s also great for grilling chicken and fish Tip: be sure to invest in a griddle that has a non-stick surface.

What kitchen gadget is an absolute must-have for you?

Make the most of your kitchen space:
How to Create a Retro KitchenSingle Serving: Tips on Cooking Smart for OneHow to Clean Your Kitchen Appliances

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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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Organizing Your Kitchen

Your kitchen can often be viewed as the heart of your home, as it’s one of the most used rooms in your house. Your family gathers here while a roast is in the oven, and your kids raid the pantry for snacks after school. It’s easy to see why it can get become unorganized quickly, which then causes a lot of stress to clean it. It’s not always easy to keep your kitchen tidy and organized, but with a few simple tasks and organizational pieces, you’ll have this popular room neat and tidy in no time.

Empty out cabinets. Starting with a clean slate is the best way to organize your kitchen cabinets. Put all of the items on the counters and kitchen table. You may want to clean the inside of your cabinets while they’re empty.

Read more: How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets

Divide your kitchen into activity zones. Kitchen zones could be defined by activity. For example, you can divide your kitchen into the food preparation zone, baking zone, serving zone, food storage zone and cleaning zone. If it’s easier, try drawing your kitchen layout on a sheet of paper with labels for each of these zones.

Think about your space and plan accordingly. You will want to keep your pots and pans in a cabinet by your stove, and keep the food storage by the fridge and pantry. The cleaning products and dishwashing supplies should be kept near the sink.

Read more: Single Serving: Tips on Cooking Smart for One

Sort and purge. Go through the items on your counters and kitchen table. If there are items that you no longer need, feel free to throw away or put in a box to give away. For example, if your kids are grown, you no longer need sippy cups. Throw away items that are broken, chipped or are missing parts. Now, sort your items into categories that make sense to you. If you have glasses and cups that are used every day, put those together. The glasses that are for guests can go in a separate area.

Souvenir items can pile up quickly and take up crucial kitchen space. If these items aren’t being used, put them in a box and save them or use them in a different room. Display only a few of your favorites.

Sort through the pantry and fridge as well. Use this guide to clean out your fridge. Throw away old items.

Clear the counters. Having too many items on your kitchen counters will make it seem cluttered and unorganized. Items that are not used often should be stored under the counters in your cabinets. These items could include your popcorn maker, stand mixer and/or food processor.

Buy clear storage. Using clear, plastic storage bins in your kitchen is an easy way to keep like items together while being able to do a quick inventory before heading out to the grocery store. For your pantry, have bins for snacks, bread and produce. Use over-the-door organizers for canned goods, spices, dry pastas and sauces. For your freezer, use multi-purpose file bins to organize frozen foods. Place frozen fruits and veggies in one and potato sides (tater tots, french fries, etc.) in another, and use another bin for breakfast items like waffles and pancakes. Label shelves in your fridge (condiments, dressings, dairy, etc.) to keep it organized.

Read more: How to Clean Your Kitchen Appliances

Tupperware. Finding the matching lid for your Tupperware can be tricky. The solution shouldn’t be a complicated one. When you’re through cleaning your Tupperware, place them in the cabinet. Keep the lids in a plastic storage bin to make it easier to find the next time.

Things that work together should be stored together. Pots, pans and cooking utensils should be kept near the stove. This gives you easy access to the tools you’ll need while cooking. Keep bowls, mixers, measuring cups, spoons and other baking items in the baking zone. Plates, dishes, cups and eating utensils should be stored close together. Items that are seldom used should go on top shelves. Mugs, coffee creamers and coffee supplies should be stored near the coffee maker for easy access.

Miscellaneous tips. Keep a clipboard with a sheet of paper hung in your pantry. When you run out of an item, you can quickly add it to the shopping list.

Lining your drawers with pretty paper and using clear dividers will remind you to keep the contents of the drawers to a minimum. Your goal is to see the pretty paper.

Use an organizer for your bakeware and cutting boards. This way, you won’t have to dig and pull items out to find the loaf pan that is stuck in the back of the cabinet.

Purchase magnetic hooks to attach to your refrigerator to hang aprons and towels.

After you have organized your kitchen and cleaned it, walk your family through the kitchen and give them the tour. Remind them that it’s their kitchen, too, and encourage them to keep it organized.

See also: How to Organize Your Bathroom

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Source: apartmentguide.com