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10 Ecofriendly Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Your Home

Article by: Luisa Rollenhagen

Chemical based cleaning products have drawbacks: They’re pricey, they may trigger health issues and their manufacture, use and disposal can harm the environment. So if you’re approaching a spring cleaning of your home this year, why not consider these effective all-natural cleaning alternatives?

Lemon

Lemons are nature’s cleaning wunderkind. They have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties and are a natural deodorizer due to their high acidic content. Here are some suggestions for how to use lemons in your home: 
Have your copper pans lost their shine? Dip half a lemon in salt or baking powder to scour your pans to their former glory.Mix a bit of lemon juice with baking soda to remove stains from plastic containers. Combine lemon peel and white vinegar in a jar, allow to marinate for a few days, then strain out the peel to use the vinegar as a cleaner. A small dish containing vinegar and lemon juice will absorb odors.Rub a slice of lemon across your chopping board to disinfect the surface.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, like lemon, is another one of nature’s cleaners. Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this mildly alkaline substance functions as a gentle abrasive, deodorant and more. 

A thick paste of baking soda and water can be useful in removing surface rust. A more liquid mixture of baking soda and water can function as an all-purpose light cleaner that’s particularly effective on grease. 

Clean your oven. A thick paste of baking soda and water can be applied to the bottom of the oven to clean it. Let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight before scraping it off and wiping the surface.

Brighten the bowl. Baking soda also is a winner in the bathroom. Throw a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and let it sit for more than an hour. Then add a cup of white vinegar, let the mixture sit for a while longer, and flush.


Safely clean your clothes. Baking soda also is a great addition to your laundry room. When added to your washing machine, it can soften your clothes and remove any unpleasant odors.

Fun fact: If your clothes happen to be contaminated with uranium, add a cup of baking soda to the wash to get rid of that pesky nuclear radiation. This sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Apparently scientists have discovered that sodium bicarbonate will bind with depleted uranium dust and remove it from clothes, which chemical detergents can’t manage. Talk about an all-purpose cleaner. Nonetheless, don’t go playing in uranium dust anytime soon, kids.

White Vinegar

Mentioned a couple of times already, white vinegar is a weak acetic acid that can be used in almost all aspects of home cleaning, as it has strong antibacterial properties. 

Vinegar diluted in water is an effective stain remover for various textiles. It’s also a great natural deodorizer, and can be combined with various other natural products, such as lemon juice, to absorb odors. Simmer vinegar with water on the stove while cooking to prevent cooking odors. Vinegar can help remove strong scents left over from fish, onion and garlic too.

Refresh your dishwasher. If your dishwasher could use a thorough cleaning, ditch the expensive chemical tabs and instead fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with two cups of white vinegar and set it on the top rack. Let the otherwise empty dishwasher run one cycle to get rid of any odors and bacteria.

Descale your kettle. Vinegar is your friend again here, although you can use lemon juice, too. Pour a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water into your kettle, allow it to boil, then rinse the kettle out once it cools down a little but is still warm.

Make your windows shine. Vinegar to the rescue again. Fill an empty spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water and use a microfiber cloth to wipe down your windows and avoid any streaking. This also works wonders for mirrors.

Keep those tiles sparkly. The grout between tiles in the bathroom can quickly accumulate mold, which is both unsightly and unhealthy. Remove it by mixing one part carbonated water with one part white vinegar and spray it on the moldy areas. 

If the grime still doesn’t scrub off, add two parts baking soda to the vinegar-water mix to make a thick paste. Let the mixture sit on the grout for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing it off. 

February Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

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February means the thick of snow and cold across most of the country — but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream of spring. Spruce up your home this month by giving your bedroom a feng shui makeover in honor of Valentine’s Day, plus take stock of cleaning supplies, keep road salt out of the house and refresh walls with paint (and maybe some new art, too). These 10 to-dos can help you keep your home in top shape, even if the weather outside is still frightful. 

1. Tune up the bedroom with feng shui. With Valentine’s Day this month, it seems like a good time to spruce up the bedroom. If you are in the market for new bedding, consider shades of pink and red to encourage romance. Rotating your mattress regularly will help prevent it from developing hills and valleys, which in feng shui can be seen as separating partners in the bed. While you’re moving mattresses around, have a peek underneath the bed — what’s hiding down there? In feng shui a clean area beneath the bed is best for relationships, so be sure to vacuum up dust bunnies and deal with hidden clutter. 

2. Fluff pillows and duvets. Duvets and pillows looking flat? That’s because over time, air is pressed out of them, and the filling (whether down or synthetic) can shift and clump.

Some synthetic-filled pillows and duvets can be machine washed (check the labels for instructions), and even down-filled items can be fluffed up in a dryer on a no-heat setting. Toss a few tennis balls into the dryer with your duvet to help it regain maximum fluffiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Clean up road salt from entrances. If the winters are chilly where you live, you know how grimy road salt and melted snow can leave your floors, especially in high-traffic areas. After giving these areas a thorough cleaning, stow your supplies nearby so it’s easy to sweep floors regularly.

4. Clean seat cushion covers. Like floors, entryway seat cushions can take a beating at this time of year. Take off removable covers and launder them; spot clean upholstery. 

5. Tidy and restock cleaning supplies. Get prepped for spring cleaning by sorting out your cleaning supplies. Toss products you tried that didn’t work and fill in gaps with fresh cleaning supplies and tools. Look over your dish towels, mop heads and microfiber cleaning rags, and replace them as needed. 

6. Rotate art and touch up walls. Give your home a winter wake-up call by swapping out a few pieces of artwork, patching dings in the walls and touching up paint. 

Make rearranging your collection easier in the future by installing a few narrow shelves around the house, like the one shown here.

 

7. Recycle e-waste. Old tech devices, CFL bulbs, ink and toner cartridges, and batteries contain dangerous toxins and cannot be tossed in with your other garbage or recycling. Store up your e-waste in one place and take it to a recycling center that accepts these items. Some office supply stores, like Staples, have free e-waste recycling programs — just drop everything off at your local store, and you’re done. 

8. Change furnace filters. A clean furnace filter will help your heating system work more efficiently and trap more dust and allergens. Most high-efficiency filters should be changed every three months — but it helps to inspect them every month, just to be sure.

9. Spruce up your favorite reading nook. This is a good time to get cozy with a book. Spruce up your reading corner with a warm throw, a soft rug and a comfy ottoman to put your feet on. And if you find yourself stuck in the house on a snowy afternoon, why not spend it organizing your books?

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Book a summer rental … and consider renting your home out, too. Seem a little early to be thinking about summer vacations? Not if you want to book a cottage — highly coveted locations arebooked months in advance. 

And if you want to offset the costs of your trip this year, consider listing your home as a rental or look into doing a house swap to stay somewhere for free.

How to Remodel Your Fireplace

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The fireplace is often the most commanding element in any room it’s in. Size and abundance of material are often factors, but as renovation specialist Ron Parko points out, our eyes are naturally drawn to the darkest object in a room anyway. Oftentimes, that’s the firebox when it’s unlit. 

Naturally you want this element, and everything that surrounds it, to complement the rest of your home. In many older homes where large brick fireplaces prevail, this can pose a challenge. What do you do? Cover it, paint it, rip it out? Here’s what to consider. 

Project: Remodeling a fireplace wall.

Why: Replacing a fireplace wall is mostly an aesthetic choice, but besides pleasing you now, an updated fireplace can also can add resale value. 

Who to hire: Someone with plenty of experience remodeling fireplaces is recommended if the job is more than just drywalling or plastering. Someone like Rita Henry, will consult with clients through email and provide renderings and design plans so they can hire a local general contractor to do the actual work. 

Brick fireplaces are the most popular to replace. Henry says a quick and easy solution is to simply wrap the brick in either tile or wood, leaving the exposed brick for the firebox. “It’s a more updated look that’s one of the least expensive,” she says. And that way the brick will remain beneath the new material in case a future home buyer prefers brick. 

For the brick fireplace shown here, she wrapped the whole thing in tile. 

AFTER: The stone tile runs wall to wall, creating a dramatic look. It completely changed the tone of the living room in this Denver home

You could also choose to drywall or plaster over the brick, creating a blank canvas that you can then do pretty much anything you want with.
 

Painting is also an option. While Henry doesn’t prefer the look of painted brick, it’s a relatively inexpensive update that can easily be changed. 

For this project Henry ripped out all the existing elements, flattened the niche and cleaned up the wall. 

AFTER: A new mantel and built-ins transformed the space. Henry says an upgrade on this scale could be done for around $3,000.

Length of project: A standard drywall installation with mantel and surround can be completed in two days. A custom mantel or more extensive ductwork or electrical installation can take five or six weeks. 

For this 1950s fireplace, renovation specialist Ron Parko’s client wanted to add bookcases and extend the hearth to each wall.  

AFTER: Because the fireplace is off center, Parko tried to mask it while also extending it out. Raising the elevation made it dominant, while photos and accessories help distract the eye from the imbalance. 

Cost: Drywalling over a brick fireplace could run about $1,500. Parko says a 6-foot-wide floor-to-ceiling paint-grade oak or poplar fireplace with a tiled hearth could run around $2,000. Wrapping an entire fireplace wall in stone and adding a custom mantel could run around $9,000. The most expensive remodel Parko did was for $12,000, which included bookcases, hidden drawers and a mantel leg that concealed a shotgun. 

Permit needed: Only if you’re altering the firebox, adding a wood burner or converting to gas.

Best time of year to do this project: This is a year-round project, but if you’re considering adding hardwood to a room or doing anything to the walls, including painting, it’s best to do the fireplace first. 

7 Tips for Designing Your Bedroom

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Have you ever been in a room that just feels right? Nine times out of 10, it’s because it has a simple design that functions well. But creating a simple design is harder than it looks — particularly in bedrooms. 

Why? Because every bedroom absolutely has to have a bed in it. And beds are big and ungainly, and dictate the placement of every other object in the room. But if you’re lucky enough to be planning a bedroom from scratch or remodeling an existing bedroom, you can control the other elements and create a space that’s both practical andpretty. 

The bedrooms shown here manage that feat with panache. Even if you don’t have a great view, access to the outdoors or plenty of space to work with, the principles they embody and the simplicity they show can inspire your own bedroom design project. 

Because the bedroom is one of the simplest rooms in the house, it’s often overlooked. One of the first steps to a great bedroom design is having an efficient and well-designed floor plan that gives you everything you want — no matter how much space you start with. 

Here are seven tips to help you get the most out of your bedroom. 

1. Simple circulation. Try to keep your circulation on one side of the room. Hotels do a great job of this. There’s a reason 90 percent of hotels have the same floor plan: because it’s simple and it works. 

Circulation plans become a little more challenging with en suite rooms (bedrooms with bathrooms attached) or bedrooms that have doors to the outside.

 

To save on space, pay attention to where you locate the bathroom and closet in your bedroom. Rooms that have bathroom or closet access before the sleeping area require a longer hall (see the left-hand plan). If you organize the circulation so the bathroom and closet are accessed through the sleeping area (right-hand plan), you don’t need a separate hall, and you can add the circulation space into the room to make it feel larger, too. 

2. Focus on the view. A bedroom always feels nicer when the first thing you experience is a pleasant view out the window — as opposed to a view looking straight at the bed. If you’re designing a new bedroom or reworking an old one, try to come up with a layout that focuses on the vista — whether it’s something as stunning as a lake or as simple as your backyard. 

3. Keep privacy in mind. It’s always nice when you can leave the bedroom door open without forsaking all of your privacy. The small foyer in this example provides separation from the family room. I always try to avoid designing a layout in which you look directly into the bedroom from a more public space, like a great room, kitchen or family room.

 

4. Connect with the outdoors. While this might not be feasible in all climates, connecting a room with the outdoors is a great way to make the space feel larger and admit more natural light. If your bedroom is on the ground floor (or is on the second story and has an adjacent terrace), adding a set of French doors can instantly increase visual space.  

5. Consider the furniture layout. Your bedroom’s architecture should take your furniture into account. Bedroom floor plans usually have a bed wall — but what about dressers, nightstands, TVs, chairs and a desk? Work with your architect or designer to make sure there is enough space beside the bed for nightstands and ample circulation so you can access three sides of the mattress. 

6. Increase light and ventilation. Locating your bedroom at the corner of your home can give you windows on two or more adjacent walls. This gives you the added benefit of cross ventilation and a softer natural light. 

7. Take your time. Great design takes a while and usually requires refining before you come up with the perfect plan for your lifestyle. Don’t rush through the design — it’s worth taking a little extra time up front to make sure you have a more efficient and functional plan in the end. 

The truth is, great design doesn’t necessarily mean a space that’s overly complex and expensive to build. A space that functions better, costs less to build, is more efficient to run and is easier to maintain can be an outstanding example of great design. 

December Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

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With winter officially beginning on December 21 and holiday festivities around the corner, there is a lot to prepare this month! For those in cold climates, it’s time to begin thinking about snow and ice removal, blocking drafts and getting cozy indoors … and we can all use a good dose of Zen as the busy holiday season gets rolling. Here are 13 home tasks to consider adding to your list this month. 

1. Put up holiday decorations. If you like to decorate for the holidays, now is the time! Dig out the Christmas lights and test them early in the month, so you have ample time to replace nonworking strands. Hang exterior lights, wreaths and swags, being sure to use only exterior-rated lights, and plug them in safely to an outside outlet if possible.

2. Plan for holiday home safety. With night falling earlier this month, and many people headed out of town, it pays to be extra safety-conscious — whether or not you are going anywhere. Always lock doors and windows, set your alarm system if you use one and keep the area around your house well-lit and your bushes trimmed back. 

3. Simplify your holiday. Take a moment to sit down and really consider what you love — and don’t care for — about the holiday season. No one can do it all, and trying to accomplish too much only creates stress and disappointment. Pick your top three favorite holiday activities or traditions, and commit to doing them this month. Then list your threeleast favorite holiday activities and vow to skip them this year. 

If you are feeling pressure from friends or relatives to keep doing certain things (i.e., baking a dozen different kinds of cookies), tell them that you are simplifying your holiday this year, and are focusing on the things you love most. Then invite them to share in something youdo want to do, like going ice skating or drinking hot cocoa. 

4. Add layers of warmth. Drape soft throws or thick sheepskins over chairs and sofas, and roll out plush rugs on your floors. Aside from being decorative, extra layers of textiles provide a wonderful boost of warmth in winter.

5. Add weather stripping and door sweeps as needed. Feel a draft? Don’t ignore it. Apply weatherstripping to the drafty area and your house will feel warmer right away. If the problem is cold air flowing in from under a door, what you need is a door sweep. Usually made from hard plastic, a door sweep attaches to the bottom of your door, closing the gap that lets cold air in. 

6. Carve out your own space to get Zen. Boost energy and relieve stress during the holiday season by creating your own private space to meditate, do yoga or simply relax. Ideally, choose a sunny corner of your home where you can get a bit of morning sun. 

7. Consider a backup heat source. If you live in a cold climate with regular winter storms that sometimes knock out power, it may be beneficial to invest in a woodstove or generator— something to provide backup heat if your regular heat source is unavailable. If a woodstove is your backup, be sure to stock up on plenty of firewood. If you decide to go with a generator, enlist a pro to teach you how to set it up and use it safely — when used improperly, a generator can start a fire.

8. Update your emergency kit and store it with your camping supplies. If you already havea household emergency kit, check the expiration dates on food and medications in it, and replace as needed. If you do not yet have one, get one! You may find many of your camping supplies helpful in an emergency, so consider storing your emergency kit and camping gear in the same (easily accessible) place. 

9. Beware of sneaky mice and rats (ugh!). Not so nice to think about, but if you see signs (i.e., droppings) that little critters have invaded your home, it’s best to take care of the problem as soon as possible. To prevent future problems, store all food in airtight containers, clean your pantry regularly and seal up any holes or cracks in your home that may lead outside.

 

10. Keep walkways clear of snow and ice. As we get further along in December, many folks living in cold climates will get their first snow. Be prepared by stocking up on snow shovels and ice melt, and store your tools where you can easily get to them during a storm. Just be aware that certain ice melting products can be harmful to pets and plants — read the labels carefully before buying, and try to keep products off of your lawn and garden beds.

11. Check your roof for ice dams. Ice dams are areas of built-up ice that can accumulate on your roof, potentially causing leaks when they melt. If you can safely reach them, break them up now to prevent future damage.

12. Knock snow from tree branches. Large amounts of snow can cause trees to lose branches, which can be especially dangerous if a large limb is positioned near your home. Use a long-handled broom or other tool to gently knock snow from branches. 

13. Thinking about remodeling next year? Use downtime this month to begin creating ideabooksand scouting for pros, and have an initial discussion about the job.

Easy Kitchen Updates for a Lazy Weekend

Have you ever had a moment of staring at your space, feeling all kinds of antsy and knowing that something has to change? It might be the wall color that you never liked anyway or that storage issue that is driving you batty. All you know is that in order to continue living in your house, you must embrace that urge to change something!

I often get the urge when I look at my kitchen. No matter how awesome it looks so far, there is always room for improvement. If you have kitchen restlessness like me, here are a few great ideas that you can implement in a weekend. They will make you feel much happier about the way your kitchen looks – for awhile anyway.

Paint Something


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Photo Credit: Build Direct BlogEveryone knows that a fresh coat of paint can make a room look like new. But did you ever think about painting not just the wall, but anything else that takes well to a paintbrush. Put chalkboard paint on the front of your refrigerator (assuming it’s no longer under warranty), paint your cabinets or create a new backsplash with designs painted directly onto stick-on tiles.

Add in a New Material

Painting is one thing, but an entirely new material is another. Spruce up that boring ceiling with beadboard panels, painted a lighter shade than your walls. Into something more intricate? Try tin ceiling tiles for a much more traditional look. If you don’t want to go that far, consider simple new molding in a contrasting color. 

Get Rid of the Doors

Cabinet doors are nice, but it might be even nicer to remove them. If you have a great collection of china or colorful pots and pans, getting rid of the cabinet doors can allow your creativity to shine in new ways. This can also force you to do some spring cleaning on your cabinets, and who doesn’t  need a bit of that?

Light Things Up!


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Photo Credit: Build Direct Blog

Sometimes the kitchen can seem dreary, especially if the summer sunlight is shining through the windows. Brighter lights, lights that highlight certain areas of the kitchen and fixtures that make a sunny statement are all good options for chasing away the shadows – and the doldrums.

Change the Hardware

It might be a small thing, but it has a big impact. Changing the hardware on your kitchen cabinets and drawers can be as easy as looking at a home improvement store, estate sale or speciality boutique. Choose something that suits your cabinet style but adds a pop of color to your space. It can be done in an afternoon with little cost, and can brighten up the space and your mood.

Get Some New Furniture

Are you tired of that little space beside the fridge? How about that old desk that has seen better days, the one that you parked beside the counter for a place to catch the mail? Plenty of kitchens have furniture, and you can spruce things up with a gorgeous piece of furniture that seems as though it wasn’t meant for a kitchen. For instance, a big bookcase to hold all those cookbooks and lovely dishes can make a nice new attraction for the eyes. 

Plant Something


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Finally, bring the outside in with a tiny herb garden. Colorful pots that line your windowsill can play host to such delicacies as sage, parsley, chives and rosemary. Depending upon your climate, you could even include a few dwarf trees or plants, such as a Meyer lemon.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your kitchen look like a million bucks. All you have to do is take a weekend, invest a small bit of money and elbow grease, then step back and admire your new place to cook and entertain.

(You are reading an article orignally posted on Build Direct Blog)

December 2012 Newsletter

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NEW American Cabinet & Flooring Design Center Opening Soon at Mission Trace at Thornton Shopping Center!

New Design Center Opening Soon!

We are excited to announce that we have expanded and will be opening a second design center at 120th and Colorado Boulevard in Thornton, CO at the Mission Trace Shopping Center.

It will be a pleasure to serve you at our additional location with the same quality and service you have come to expect from us.

Please keep an eye on our website, Facebook, Twitter, and email announcements for our official grand opening!

We hope to see you soon!

In-Stock Merillat Cabinets at American Cabinet & Flooring

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Our in-stock Merillat cabinet collection features a clean, modern style with a traditional overly door and a flat center panel design providing you, our valued customer, straightforward choices that can create exceptional looks. All at a price point that makes them extremely practical and simple.

Click here to print a listing of our in-stock cabinet collection.

Happy & Safe Holidays from all of us at American Cabinet & Flooring

Holiday Home Improvement Projects

The run-up to the holiday season is a good time to be taking care of home improvement projects. Friends and family will be dropping by a bit more frequently, so they’ll be able to see the fruit of your labors.

Even if your home isn’t a major social setting, if you’re like most of us, you tend to spend a bit more time indoors in the winter, so you might as well be making the most of your home for the people living in it: you!

Seal the driveway and fix those cracks in the sidewalk
Salt on the roads and frequent temperature changes can break down your entrance-ways. Make a good impression on the outside of your home and avoid curious looks from guests thinking “was that crack always there?”
Home theater area
You’ve got a big screen television and a great sound system, but what about the stand that the TV rests on? How about the decor? You may want to look at custom cabinets or storage for your DVDs and related items. Is the couch your guests will be sitting on looking a bit worn? Upgrade and replace as needed. You may also want to consider mounting your flat screen television on a wall for more effective use of space and a sophisticated look.

The kitchen: the most used room in the house
When you’ve got company over the holidays, even if the main event may be in the living room, people naturally gravitate towards the kitchen for an extra cup of cocoa or a gingerbread cookie from the pantry. Think about new cabinets, solid slab countertops or a coat of paint that brightens up the room & can create a welcoming feel. And if you’ve upgraded your kitchen utilities like your dishwasher, you’ll have an easier time after the party is done.

Bathroom fix-ups
New tiles and re-grouting can add a fresh look to your bathroom. Maybe it’s also time to add little touches like a new mirror, shower curtain or bathroom mat.

Designer fireplace and maintenance
A lot of holiday parties tend to center around the fireplace. Custom fireplaces that double as art installations are becoming more popular. More homes are also including them in other parts of the house besides the living room, such as in the kitchen or master bathroom. If installation is a bigger job than you were thinking and you’ve already got a working fireplace, at least get your maintenance done, cleaning it up, checking connections and ventilation and ensuring cracks in the mantle or other areas get sealed properly.

Give yourself a home improvement schedule
You’re not going to want to deal with dust and packaging from home improvement projects while your guests are arriving. Give yourself plenty of time to work through your improvements, and don’t bit off more than you can chew. Give yourself a realistic list to accomplish and if you can’t get it done before New Year’s Eve, well, there’s always next year!
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10 Smart Organizing Ideas That Make Life Easier

Go beyond mere neatness by making small changes around the house that will help you out each day. When your home is primed to efficiently support common activities and tasks – from dealing with mail, bills, and memorabilia, to gifting, cleaning and more – it’s as if a little weight is lifted from your shoulders.


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Photo: Stagetecture 

Read on for ten easy (yet ingenious) organizing ideas to try today.

#1 Buy enough storage containers to fill your shelves or cabinet – even if you don’t need them all now

Having storage boxes and bins waiting for you will help avoid future clutter pileups. This is especially useful for storage of items you know you’ll be accumulating: photos, kid’s artwork, and financial records, for instance.

If you have children, consider purchasing slim plastic containers with lids that fit under a bed, and/or paper art portfolios. Limit yourself to filling one container per school year, but supplement with digital photos of large or 3D artwork that would be impractical to save.

#2 Store medicines in a labeled box in the kitchen

The medicine cabinet is actually one of the worst places to store medications. The warm, damp conditions can damage sensitive ingredients, and the bottles and tubes tend to clutter up what should ideally be a spot for getting ready in the morning.

Instead, transfer your medicines and first-aid supplies to labeled storage boxes with lids and keep them on a high shelf in the kitchen or pantry. Sort them in a way that makes sense, and label accordingly. For example: kids, first aid, cold & flu.

#3 Be prepared for birthdays and last-minute events with a grab-and-go party prep spot

Keep a yearly birthday calendar taped to the inside of the door, a basket filled with easy gifts bought in bulk (and an assortment of cards), as well as a few favorite party drinks, snacks and serving dishes.

Extra credit: choose a “signature” gift wrap and ribbon for your house and wrap all your gifts with it, no matter the occasion. People will begin to expect it, and it will certainly save you the hassle of buying themed gift wrap for every holiday and occasion. 

#4 Make a moveable baking station

Unless you bake constantly (or have a massive kitchen), it’s likely you, too, struggle with where to keep all of those specialty baking supplies. Instead of scattering them throughout the kitchen, keep baking supplies (including equipment like mixers) on a moveable cart in the pantry. Simply wheel the whole thing out when you’re ready to bake, and tuck it out of sight when you’re done.

#5 Store extra liners in the bottom of the trash can

The next time you take out the trash, put a big stack of liners at the bottom of the can. Do this for every trash can in the house, and you will never find yourself in that awful “who forgot to put in the new bag!?” situation again. Bonus: putting a dryer sheet under the pile will help absorb odors and moisture.

#6 Keep a “donations” box in your entryway

Any time you see something around the house you no longer need or want, plunk it in your donations box. When it’s full, carry it out to your car, so it will be easy to drop the contents at your local charity thrift shop the next time you run errands.

#7 Keep everything you need to pay bills under your coffee table

Stock a pretty basket or lidded box with checks, envelopes, stamps, pens, and current bills. When you sit down to watch TV, just grab the basket and write checks during the commercial breaks.

#8 Keep a second set of basic cleaning supplies in the bathroom

It is so much easier to tackle an undesirable chore like cleaning the bathroom when the supplies you need are at hand. So why do most of us keep cleaning supplies only under the kitchen sink? Store a second set of bathroom-specific products and tools in the cabinet under the bathroom sink, or in a lidded basket on a shelf or the floor.

#9 Presort your incoming mail rather than putting it all in one big tray or pile

Magazines, catalogs and other things you’d like to peruse get stashed in a magazine file; bills to pay go in you bill basket; personal correspondence goes in a toast rack or on a pretty tray; notices for upcoming events and items to file can go in another magazine file or a folder.

#10 Use photos as labels

Try snapping a pic of the contents of a box before storing it in the garage or basement, then use that photo to label  the outside. A quick glance at the photo and you’ll instantly know what’s inside.

How to Work With a Remodeler

Avoid costly mistakes and get exactly the upgrade you want for your home by working with a professional remodeler.

Lifestyles evolve over time, and so do our homes. Babies are born; kids grow up and leave the nest; aging parents join the household. And even if a house functions just the way it needs to, changing design trends and new materials can leave older spaces looking a little musty and dusty.

That’s where a professional remodeler comes in. Read on to find out what a remodeler can do for you and how to get the most out of your experience. 

What a remodeler does: A remodeler is a contractor with a focus on making structural alterations to an existing home or building. He or she implements architectural plans and sometimes provides residential design services. Remodelers also perform many of the same duties as a general contractor, such as hiring and overseeing subcontractors and sourcing materials. Many states have certification requirements for remodelers. 

When to hire one: If you’re planning a significant change or addition to your home, hire a remodeling contractor to ensure the integrity of the design and construction, and also to ensure that you’ll meet current building codes. Remodelers also are well versed in cost estimating, legal issues and other nuts and bolts concerns.

What it will cost: Remodelers’ fees take several different forms, and costs vary widely depending on the nature of the work and the materials used. While some will agree to a flat fee, others charge a percentage of the total labor and materials cost (typically 10 to 15 percent, but sometimes as high as 25 percent).

It’s worth noting that, as with many aspects of home improvement, you get what you pay for – a remodeler who may charge more but has deep experience and a sterling reputation is generally worth the extra cost. Don’t hire based on the lowest estimate alone. 

Where to find one: Browse the directory of professionals on Houzz.com or use a reliable source such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Check to see if there are remodelers’ trade organizations in your area as well. Another professional you’re working with, such as an interior designer, also may be able to give you leads.

If you notice that one of your neighbors is having work done (remodelers often place a sign with their name and logo in the front yard during construction), ask whether they’d recommend the professional they’ve hired. 

Have a clear idea of what you want: Maybe you’re looking to double the size and change the footprint of a dated kitchen, or perhaps you want to convert your attic into a guest suite. Think through the scope of the project you have in mind and create a Houzz ideabook or pull other design resources for inspiration. Don’t worry too much about whether every detail is feasible; your remodeler will help you brainstorm alternatives if it isn’t.

Interview the candidates on your short list: Not only should you confirm that they have experience with the type of project you have in mind, but you’ll also want to be sure that you have a good rapport and communicate well.

Ask detailed questions about job history, professional training and affiliations, licensing requirements and insurance, and get the names of a few references. If lead paint is a concern in your home, you may also need to confirm that the remodeler is lead-safe certified under EPA guidelines. 

Visit an in progress job-site (if possible): Ask to drop by one of the remodeler’s current job sites. This can give you a sneak peek at what your experience might be like. Is the site clean and well maintained, and does work appear to be progressing in an orderly fashion? Look closely at the quality of the construction and the attention to detail as well.

Be sure you understand the terms of the contract: Once you’ve chosen a pro, go over the contract in detail to be sure you won’t encounter any surprises. Besides basics such as contact information for the remodeler and others who will be supervising, license number, insurance information, it should include a start-to-finish timetable, a materials list with price breakdowns, payment terms, change order specifications, blueprint or detailed sketches and provisions for conflict resolution. Don’t be shy about asking the remodeler to clarify any details you find confusing.

Confirm which areas of your home the project will affect: You may be remodeling a single room, but the temporary disruption could extend to adjacent spaces. Plumbing, electrical wiring and other behind-the-walls systems might be affected as well. Ask the remodeler which rooms the work will touch so that you can prepare accordingly.

Do your part to make the remodeler’s job easier: Clear out furniture from affected rooms, be sure the work crew has adequate space to park and transport materials, and make provisions to keep pets and kids well out of the way. Give the remodeler an idea of your family’s daily schedule and stick to it as closely as possible to minimize disruptions to the workflow. 

Make sure you’re easily reachable even when you’re not onsite. And if you decide to make a change along the way, try not to drag out the decision-making process, which can throw the timetable significantly off schedule.

Don’t wait to call attention to issues: Few, if any, remodeling jobs reach the finish line without a few bumps and snags along the way. Speak up as soon as a problem arises, whether it’s substandard work quality, a communication breakdown or a subcontractor who leaves the site in disarray. That way, you and the remodeler can agree on a plan to resolve it as soon as possible, before work proceeds too far – and you’ll feel reassured that you’ll be completely satisfied when it comes time to make the final payment for the job.