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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. 

January Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

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January brings fresh starts and renewed hopes for the year ahead. Of course, with the excitement of the holidays done and months of winter stretching out before us, January can also be a bit of a downer — especially for those in cold climates. Make the most of the first month of 2014 by taking time to say goodbye to the old year (and the holiday decorations), give your home the TLC it needs to see it through winter storms, and dream up plans for the months ahead. Here are 10 to-dos to get your year off to a good start. 

1. Keep your home fresh and cozy postholidays. Once the glow of the holidays has passed and you shift back into your usual routines, the house can suddenly feel a bit empty. Fight the winter blahs by giving your home a good cleaning (those pine needles end up in the strangest places) and boosting comfort with extra candles, cozy throws, hot drinks and good music. 

2. Store holiday decorations properly. Yes, it’s sort of a pain, but taking the extra time to sort your Christmas lights, ornaments and decor now will save you loads of frustration next year — you owe it to your future self! Wrap each strand of lights around a stiff piece of cardboard to prevent tangling. (Remember to test them first.) Very delicate ornaments should be individually wrapped in tissue paper and stored in shallow boxes. Sturdier ornaments can be lightly wrapped and stacked in a box with cardboard dividers. 

3. Organize warranties and manuals. Get any new gadgets or appliances over the past year? Take a few moments to flip through that stack of old manuals and warranties, tossing out paperwork for stuff you no longer own — and remember to send in forms to activate new warranties as needed. Store everything together in one binder or document box. 

4. Install flood alarms. If you’ve had problems with flooding, you know how awful even a minor flood can be. Installing individual sensors in likely leak spots (behind the washing machine, toilet and drainpipes) can alert you before leaks become a disaster.

 

5. Keep hard surfaces sanitized. Cold and flu season is fully upon us. Do what you can to keep illness at bay by regularly sanitizing often-handled surfaces. Tables and counters are obvious spots, but don’t miss sneakier areas like doorknobs, faucets, phones and tech devices. 

6. Get inspired and set goals for the year. Want to get more organized this year or save up for a renovation? Then sit down on a blustery afternoon with a hot drink and your Houzz app or a pile of inspiring home magazines and start plotting and planning! Once you’ve settled on a few goals, try writing specific to-dos and deadlines on your calendar to keep your eyes on the prize.

 

7. Protect pipes from freezing. If you haven’t yet and still can, insulate any exposed outdoor pipes to prevent freezing. If you plan to be away from home during a freezing spell, have a friend or neighbor stop by to turn on your water to a trickle. Find out where your home’s water shut-off valve is, if you don’t know already, so you can quickly shut off water if a pipe does burst.

8. Inspect your house after winter storms. 
Get ahead of problems by carefully looking over your home’s exterior after each storm. Especially keep an eye out for any tree limbs that have come down and any damage to your roof or siding.
 

9. Provide for feathered friends. Wild birds in cold climates can use extra support. You can help by providing a safe place to land and fill up on fresh birdseed. Bigger birds like cardinals and jays prefer larger, dark seeds — look for a seed mix that caters to the kind of birds you see in your yard. Fresh (unfrozen) water can be difficult for wild birds to find in winter, so consider regularly providing a dish of fresh water, or a heated waterer. 

10. Out with the old, in with the new. Got some new goodies for Christmas? Instead of packing them into overstuffed closets and drawers, take a few extra minutes to seek out something similar to let go of. New set of sheets? Pick out an older set to give away. New pair of boots? Dig in your closet for a worn-out pair to toss.

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.

October Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

Article By: Laura Gaskill

From the first crisp mornings spent raking leaves, to the last exciting days preparing for trick-or-treaters, October is usually a busy month around the house. Mix in necessary home maintenance (clean rain gutters, roll hoses) with items you’ve been wanting to get to (finish a decorating project, pick up gourds for the front porch) and you’ll find your to-do list vanishing before your eyes. Work your way through the 11 tasks on our checklist, and by the end of the month you’ll have your home winter-ready — and a bit more beautiful, to boot. 

1. Clean rain gutters after leaves fall. Leaves and other debris that clog your rain gutters can cause leaks, so it is best to get to this chore as soon as possible after most of the autumn leaves have fallen. If your house is smaller, and you feel comfortable on a ladder, clearing rain gutters is a fairly straightforward job to do yourself. If your home is more than one story, hire a pro.

2. Repair roof and siding. If you see any damaged areas to your roof, siding or shingles, it is important to take care of the problem before winter storms come through. 

3. Scrub and store outdoor furniture and tools. By the end of October, with light fading earlier and weather becoming less friendly, your outdoor seating area is likely to go unused. Rather than leave furniture out in bad weather, put it away in a shed or the basement. This month, also aim to clean your gardening tools and put them away neatly. Those in cold climates should move winter tools (snow shovel, ice scrapers) to a convenient spot now so that you don’t have to scramble when the first frost hits. 

4. Put up storm windows and doors. If you use storm windows or doors, now is the time to get them installed. These features can help conserve energy during cold months and protect your home from drafts. 

5. Give porch a fall makeover. Sweep away the summer sand, refresh pots with fall flowers, clean front windows and use a broom or soft brush to clean up siding. An armful of decorative gourds and pumpkins makes an easy display that will last all month.

6. Shut off outdoor faucets and roll hoses.Freezing temperatures can damage hoses and water pipes, so be sure to shut off faucets and empty hoses of water before the first big freeze.

 

7. Organize mud room. In the rush of getting back to school — and work — this hardworking entryway can take a major beating. Schedule a weekend afternoon to sort through the mud room, putting away unneeded items and paper clutter and cleaning the floors. Invest in a few new baskets, bins and hooks to corral items. 

8. Check safety devices. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, as well as smoke detectors positioned throughout the house. Take a moment to test that yours are in working order, and change batteries if needed. 

9. Sharpen knives. If you notice your kitchen knives getting a bit harder to use, that’s a sign they are due for a professional sharpening. Regular sharpening at home can help extend the life of a sharp edge on knives, but once that edge is lost, only a pro can bring it back. Make a date to drop off your knives. 

10. Sort and store clothing. Don’t let summer swimsuits and shorts take up valuable closet space year-round if you only use them for a few months! 

Shift warm-weather clothes and accessories to an out-of-the-way closet in bins with tight-fitting lids. And be sure to store only freshly laundered items — bugs are attracted to dirty clothes but usually leave clean garments alone.

 

11. Tackle a decorating project from start to finish. Stop dreaming and start doing! Pick one realistic project (e.g., a single room or nook) that you would like to transform this month, and make it happen. 

It may help if you break your project down into bite-size pieces and schedule tasks throughout the month.

Easy Green: 23 Ways to Reduce Waste at Home

We all know that growing landfill mass and, sadly, even trash floating out at sea are real issues, but it can be hard to know where to start if you want to make a difference. Thankfully, it’s actually quite easy to cut way down on your household trash by making tiny changes in your shopping habits and daily routines. If you would like to reduce the amount of trash your household creates but are not quite sure how to do it, these 23 tips can help. They are all easy to implement and can add up to a reduction in waste that makes a difference. 

Living Room and Entertaining

1. Switch to digital downloads of movies and music if you haven’t yet.

2. Ask for and give consumable or homemade gifts. Think event tickets, dinner reservations and edible treats.

3. Stop junk mail and paper bills, and cancel subscriptions that you don’t read.

Bedroom and Wardrobe

4. Be picky. By choosing to buy only what you love and know you will wear, you can slim your wardrobe and love it more.

5. Shop vintage.

6. Bring cloth shopping bags of your own… even to the mall.

7. Mend and tailor instead of toss. Take a cue from our grandparent’s generation and work with what you have.

Kitchen

8. Buy soap in bulk and decant it into reusable containers.

9. Keep lots of cloth towels on hand instead of paper.

10. As long as it is relatively clean, you can reuse aluminum foil several times.

11. Give old clothes and linens a second life – cut them up and reuse them as cleaning rags.

Buying Groceries

12. Shop farmer’s markets, produce stands and natural food markets – you will find the freshest and most local food that’s minimally packaged.

13. Avoid buying single-serving packages. Pick the larger containers instead.

14. Keep plenty of reusable bags around. If you have trouble remembering to bring bags, try keeping stashes of them in your car, by the front door, in your office and anywhere else they might come in handy.

Dining

15. Use real dishes and cloth napkins every day.

16. Try an alternative to plastic wrap. Place a plate on top of a bowl to store leftovers in the fridge or purchase reusable dish covers.

Pets

17. Our pets don’t ask for much, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to buy them all sorts of things. Keep things simple and stick with a few favorite toys and accessories.

18. Buy your most frequently used pet supplies in bulk to cut down packaging.

Bathroom

19. Simplify your beauty routine – fewer products means less waste.

20. Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels for cleaning.

21. Buy the biggest packages of toilet paper you can find to reduce packaging.

Downtime

22. Make friends with your public library. If you haven’t explored your local library lately, consider giving it another look and borrow a book, movie or music CD instead of buying.

23. Rethink leisure time. Relax in your backyard, cook dinner for friends, walk in nature, go for a bike ride, have a picnic or read a book – from the library!

Prep your home for spring


Colorful-Spring-Garden---Wikipedia-Commons.jpg

Photo: Anita Martinz from Klagenfurt, Austria (Colorful spring garden) via Wikimedia Commons

Spring officially sprung on March 20, 2013 and now is the perfect time to begin prepping for the season ahead. From refreshing your decor and removing winter layers to performing needed home maintenance. The tasks on this checklist will get your house ready for spring inside and out.

Swap Home Accessories: after you remove its cozy winter layers, your house may feel a bit bare; take that as your cue to bring in spring color. A few bright throw pillows, a colorful glass vase and a fun printed rug are easy ways to wake up your rooms.

Switch the Bed Linens and Rotate the Mattress: give your bedroom a spring awakening by pulling off the heavy duvet or thick blankets and layering on lighter bed linens. Remember to have quilts and blankets cleaned before storing tem to avoid moth damage.

Freshen Your Entry and Mudroom: After a winter of snow, road salt, mud and grime; our home’s entrances are bound to be a little worse for the wear. Mop the floors, wipe down walls and doors, and declutter. Now is also a good time to take a look at your doormats and consider rolling out fresh rugs for spring.

Spruce Up Your Landing Zone: take a moment to assess the place where you put your belongings when you come in the door. Remove anything that doesn’t belong and make a neat spot for keys and mail. A green plant or small vase of flowers on a pretty tray and a dish for change are prefect finishing touches.

Remove Layers: in winter layering your home with textiles feels cozy, but spring is the time for streamlining and shedding excess. Roll up your fluffiest rugs in favor of flat-weave ones or bare floors, and put away throws and pillows that feel too wintry.

Rotate Toys and Books: after months of playing with the same toys, kids are primed for a room update. If you keep a portion of your child’s toys and books packed away in a closet, you can rotate in a fresh selection every few months – without buying anything new!

Bring in Spring Branches: if you have blooming branches right outside your door, by all means clip some and bring them in. Displayed in a large vase or jar, they can last for months. Even if it will be a while before the flowers appear, branches with green buds or leaves can make a lovely arrangement. 

Clean Gutters and Inspect Your Home’s Exterior: it’s important to remove debris from gutters before spring rains and melting snow overload the system – you can hire someone to do this or take on the task yourself (carefully) with a good ladder. Now is also a good time to take a quick walk around the exterior of your home with an eye out for damage that may have gone unnoticed during winter, and if you use storm shutters, now is the time to remove them.

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Your March Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

Prep your home for spring by shedding its winter layers and bringing in nature and fresh colors!

Photo: Anita Martinz from Klagenfurt, Austria (Colorful spring garden) via Wikimedia Commons

Spring officially sprung on March 20, 2013 and now is the perfect time to begin prepping for the season ahead. From refreshing your decor and removing winter layers to performing needed home maintenance. The tasks on this checklist will get your house ready for spring inside and out.

Swap Home Accessories: after you remove its cozy winter layers, your house may feel a bit bare; take that as your cue to bring in spring color. A few bright throw pillows, a colorful glass vase and a fun printed rug are easy ways to wake up your rooms.

Switch the Bed Linens and Rotate the Mattress: give your bedroom a spring awakening by pulling off the heavy duvet or thick blankets and layering on lighter bed linens. Remember to have quilts and blankets cleaned before storing tem to avoid moth damage.

Freshen Your Entry and Mudroom: After a winter of snow, road salt, mud and grime; our home’s entrances are bound to be a little worse for the wear. Mop the floors, wipe down walls and doors, and declutter. Now is also a good time to take a look at your doormats and consider rolling out fresh rugs for spring.

Spruce Up Your Landing Zone: take a moment to assess the place where you put your belongings when you come in the door. Remove anything that doesn’t belong and make a neat spot for keys and mail. A green plant or small vase of flowers on a pretty tray and a dish for change are prefect finishing touches.

Remove Layers: in winter layering your home with textiles feels cozy, but spring is the time for streamlining and shedding excess. Roll up your fluffiest rugs in favor of flat-weave ones or bare floors, and put away throws and pillows that feel too wintry.

Rotate Toys and Books: after months of playing with the same toys, kids are primed for a room update. If you keep a portion of your child’s toys and books packed away in a closet, you can rotate in a fresh selection every few months – without buying anything new!

Bring in Spring Branches: if you have blooming branches right outside your door, by all means clip some and bring them in. Displayed in a large vase or jar, they can last for months. Even if it will be a while before the flowers appear, branches with green buds or leaves can make a lovely arrangement. 

Clean Gutters and Inspect Your Home’s Exterior: it’s important to remove debris from gutters before spring rains and melting snow overload the system – you can hire someone to do this or take on the task yourself (carefully) with a good ladder. Now is also a good time to take a quick walk around the exterior of your home with an eye out for damage that may have gone unnoticed during winter, and if you use storm shutters, now is the time to remove them.


 

Home Resolutions for 2013


2013 Resolutions.jpg

The end of the year is a perfect time to look on the past year’s accomplishments, and to look forward to new ones in the next twelve months. Resolutions have a way to up our confidence and trust that the next year will be better than the last. They anchor us into goals and hopes and help us navigate the flow of time.

Most people make resolutions about themselves: I will eat better, exercise more, be nicer to people, find a better job, give more to charity, get involved in church groups. There are so many things to do, and yet we tend to forget one of the most important things: our home. Our home is where we spend the most time, where we sleep, where we eat, where we share happy moments or weather difficult times with our loved ones. Isn’t it time that you think about your home for your resolutions?

Resolution 1: I will keep clutter away

Clutter can be a sign of an unhappy heart or an unfocused mind. Especially for people who spend a lot of time at home, clutter can become distracting and reflect a lack of care about your space, and ultimately ourselves.

This year, we talked about the emotional baggage associated with clutter and how to move on without it. What are the things you’re holding on to? How do these things manifest themselves in your home? What should you be letting go of?

Keeping clutter away means keeping an open home and an open heart.

Resolution 2: I will make my home greener

Strand-woven bamboo flooring with an “ebony” stain. Sophisticated, and green too. You don’t have to give up one to serve the other in the 21st Century.

There’s no denying it: the Earth needs help. It has been the warmest period for hundreds of years. Even though it sometimes feels like an insurmountable mountain, every small gesture to reduce your use of electricity, your waste production of your carbon footprint helps. 

From low-consumption light bulbs to eco flooring like bamboo or woven grass, there’s always a way to make your home a little greener and a little gentler on the environment. Here are some more ideas:

  • Start a composting bin in your backyard

  • Install low-flow toilets and shower heads

  • Reduce your winter heating needs with new windows or e-film

  • Reduce your summer air conditioning needs with better ventilation

  • Install automatic light switches and temperature control

  • Start growing your own vegetables and herbs in a garden patch

How could your house be greener? Involve the whole family in choosing specific actions to do every day to help the environment.

Resolution 3: I will make something with my hands

When’s the last time you made an object with your own hands? Are the clothes you wear, the chairs you sit on and the bowls you eat in all bought from stores? Have you ever felt the satisfaction of making a useful object yourself? It may be time for a DIY resolution.

Naturally crafty people tend to like having their own craft room. Magical things happen there: clothes are sewed, scarves and mittens are knitted, jewels are designed and scrapbooks are put together. It happens with patience, practice and dedication, and the reward is always worth it. Crafters are naturally generous, giving away their objects to friends and loved ones; they are creative, always inventing new patterns and transforming materials into beautiful objects.

Making and DIY is a sort of retro-volution, going back to when things were made, proudly and lovingly, instead of bought, quickly and anonymously. DIY increases your sense of belonging in a space and your independence from a capricious market. There are whole communities devoted to DIY where people happily share their knowledge, experience and tips and tricks among themselves, build community and help each other. There are even more Makerspaces scattered across North America, where people without the proper tools or space can go and work on DIY projects. 

Maybe the first step towards making something with your hands is to look up your local Makerspace?

Resolution 4: I will spend more time outside

It seems counter-intuitive to suggest spending more time outside when speaking about home resolutions, but spending more time out of doors is linked to mental and physical health. Going outdoors means being more active, having more contacts with nature and being more social.

If time is scarce, you can always get more time outside by getting an outdoor office or an outdoor breakfast nook. The point of the exercise is to breathe fresh air, move around more and get more sunlight, even in winter. 

Making your home more comfortable doesn’t mean spending all your time in it… have you ever heard of cabin fever? Contact with nature is an essential part of human life, and spending time outside is just as important as having an inviting, relaxing bedroom.

What are your home resolutions for 2013?

Ready Your Home for Fall to Savor the Season More

Fall is a glorious season. With blazing leave and roaring fires, apple picking, harvest festivals and sweater weather, there is so much to look forward to. And with that studious, back-to-business mood permeating the air, we feel invigorated to take on new projects and work a bit harder. Kick off this busy season by taking the time now to prepare your home, incorporating both important tasks (like cleaning the chimney) and pure pleasures (like treating yourself to a luxury bath product).


fall_home-gutter.jpg

Photo: Handyman Matters

These 14 tasks will help you seamlessly transition your home from summer to fall.

#1 Inspect the roof, gutters and drainpipes

Depending on your climate, you may want to hold off until later in the fall (when most leaves have dropped) before cleaning the gutters, but doing a visual inspection now is a good idea. If any branches and leaves fell during summer storms, remove them so they don’t cause blockages during autumn rains. Inspecting your roof now will leave ample time to have repairs or a replacement made before the winter.

#2 Edit your crafting stash

If you knit, sew or practice any other craft that comes with lots of supplies, it’s time to begin sorting and purging that mountainous stash. Fall and winter will beckon with cold afternoons that are perfect for engaging in making something with your own two hands – be ready!

#3 Move firewood to a covered area

Be sure to check for insects before bringing any wood indoors. Don’t store wood with bugs, especially termites, indoors (or against the outside of your house).

#4 Have chimneys cleaned before you light the first autumn fire

Residue buildup and blockages in chimneys are a common cause of house fires, so be sure to have a pro take a look before sparking that first flame.

#5 Organize the entry

Fall brings with it loads of jackets, mucky boots and bundles of paper. Think ahead and give every type of item a home. That means baskets and bins for accessories, hooks for jackets and bags, and shelves or metal trays for shoes and boots. Add a pin board or a magnet board with a calendar, a place to drop keys and mail, and a bin for recycling, and you should have all your bases covered.

#6 Clear your desk

If you do any work from home (or have a student in the house), now is the ideal time to tackle those piles of paper and start this busy season with a clean and clear workspace. Have drawers, cabinets or shelving within arm’s reach so you can easily put things away and not clutter up that desk again.

#7 Sort the pantry

Set the stage for healthy dinners by creating a neat and orderly pantry with healthful choices front and center. Toss expired foods and consolidate packages that have just a little left. If you like, pick up a flat of canning jars and a packet of labels to create your own organizing system for bulk-bin goods.

#8 Deep clean the tub and treat yourself to something new

We may not be heading to the beach as often these days, but the time is just right for a relaxing soak. Give your tub a thorough cleaning and pick up something that will make your soak extra special, whether that is an essential oil you love, a beautiful brush or a luxuriously soft towel.

#9 Tidy the porch

After a season’s worth of sandy feet tramping back and forth, your porch deserves a good cleaning. Sweep away sand, clean the front window and door, check porch lights and add a few extras like hurricane lanterns or autumnal potted plants.

#10 Stock up on cold and flu remedies

Make a list of everything from your favorite preventative measures to the medicines and other items your family relies on while sick, and pick up these items now. You will fee good knowing you have everything you need if and when someone in the house feels under the weather.

#11 Check lighting throughout your home

As the autumn sun dips lower in the sky, you may find you crave a little extra light in your rooms. A few small table lamps or even a strand of twinkle lights can make all the difference in creating a cozy ambience.

#12 Refresh cleaning supplies

Take a few minutes to pull everything out from beneath the kitchen sink (yes, wads of plastic bags and all), sort it and put back only what you need. If this is where you reach when you need supplies for daily cleaning tasks, move everything not related to these tasks elsewhere.

#13 Swap out bedding

Bring cozy quilts and duvets out of storage so they will be within reach on that first chilly night. Check now if anything needs to be laundered and you’ll have time to wash it before you really need it.

#14 Savor you hard work

Sit back and enjoy a well-deserved rest. Brew a pot of tea, pour yourself a glass of wine, crack open a new novel or do whatever puts the icing on your cake.

Give Your Turf the Fall Tune-up It Deserves

Photo: Turfmutt.comYour lawn probably has taken a beating this summer – family gatherings, fetch with the dog, and kids’ games and toys have likely been working together with heat and drought to make your grass gasp for a breather. If you lawn is in need of a little TLC, you’re in luck – fall is the best time to revitalize it so that next year’s grass is the greenest and healthiest it can be.

Know Your Grass

There are cool season and warm season grasses, and several varieties in each category.

  • Cool Season Grasses: Kentucky bluegrass – fescue – perennial ryegrass; are better suited for cooler climates, are most productive in spring and fall, sometimes take more irrigation and are generally mowed higher than warm season grasses due to their erect growth habit. 
  • Warm Season Grasses: Bermuda – St. Augustine – big bluestem; grow best in warmer climates, are typically more drought tolerant and are often mowed at lower heights.

Be sure to check with your local lawn experts for specific recommendations for turf grass in you area.

Fertilize

In the fall, fertilize your lawn with an NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) ration of 3-1-2 or 4-1-2. The ratio doesn’t need to be exact, but do try to get a product with similar amounts. Plan to use approximately 1 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn and always follow the package directions. Applying too much fertilizer will not help your grass and, in fact, may damage it.

Dethatch

Thatch is the buildup of dead roots and stems that develop between the soil and the green grass blades. If you have just a little buildup, you can use a hard rake or a dethatching rake to remove the dead grass, but if you have more than ½ inch you will need to core aerate in the fall or the spring.

Core aeration uses rentable equipment to remove plugs of soil, increasing the soil’s ability to receive water, air and fertilizer. If your buildup is thicker than ⅔ inch, you will need to not only core aerate but add ⅛ to ¼ inch of organci matter like compost or peat. Water in well. 

Control weeds

September and October are the best months to control perennial broadleaf weeds like clover and dandelions. These weeds are busy taking in sun and nutrients to get them through the winter months, so that means they are open to receiving weed killers as well. 

If you have just a few weeds, pull them out by hand, but more numerous weeds may require additional tactics or chemicals – either organic or non organic. As with fertilizers, always follow the package directions when applying any chemical to your lawn to avoid damaging it and the surrounding plants. Don’t worry about any bare spots left by weed removal; your healthy grass will take over those areas in no time.

Sow grass seeds

If you have large bare areas left by weed removal or simply need to establish a new or extended part of your lawn, mid-August to mid-September is the best time to sow grass seeds. Always check with your county extension office or trusted local nursery about the best times to sow seeds in your area, however.

Before you sow, be sure you have prepared the soil correctly to get the best results. Till the soil at least 6 inches deeps, add ½ to 1 inch or so of compost or peat, rake the soil smooth and sow the seeds. Water in well and keep the soil consistently moist until after the new growth emerges, or about 6 weeks.