4 Decluttering Ideas & How They Benefit You

packing

Before we get started, let me be clear: I am a self-confessed enemy of clutter. Its effects are both mental and physical. Spending time in a cluttered environment will eventually leave me feeling stressed, overwhelmed and unproductive, causing a feeling of lethargy. That’s why I want to give you some ideas I use for decluttering.

 Just do it

Living amongst clutter will cause you to procrastinate. Soon your belongings will own you and you will struggle to get rid of them. The most important thing you can do is to begin. It doesn’t mean you need to spend a full day decluttering, but it means you need to accept that you need a change and then actively do something about it.

It’s just stuff

This is a critical point. All the stuff that’s currently lying around, gathering dust and getting in the way of life is just that: stuff. Inanimate objects that add no value. You have to get to the point where you can accept that, otherwise you’ll fail at the stage of throwing things out. Of course this doesn’t apply to things of real emotional and financial value, but when it comes to cheap decorations from Ikea, meaningless old newspapers or even a CD collection that gathering dust, I say be ruthless. It’s just stuff and it doesn’t own you.

Decluttering as a process

Clutter is as much a mental problem as it is physical, which means you’ll likely struggle with it and there may be a tendency to let the clutter build up again. If every room in your house is cluttered, then address the problem a room at a time.

When you have decluttered, you need to institute some new rules. One very simple new rule: any time you leave a room, leave with something that shouldn’t be there. As a parent, that means taking a toy back to a bedroom or putting some food in the bin. You get the idea though.

Another idea is to calendar certain repetitive tasks. For example: on Mondays you will always make sure that the kitchen is cleared, on Tuesdays you do a sweep of the bedrooms, every last Friday of the month you do a sweep of your wardrobe, etc. Reserving time like this means you are always addressing any possible build-up before it gets too entrenched to easily do anything about it.

Some swear by this one simple rule: you can only buy something new if you remove at least one thing. You can scale the ratio up if you want to declutter faster, e.g. one new item for three old. It’s simple, scalable and proven. Try it.

 Rewarding yourself

How do you encourage yourself to resist and persist with these good habits? It’s obvious. Clutter can become so endemic that the true, often sorry, state of repair is hidden. Once you have it removed, you have room to manoeuvre. So perhaps now would be a good time to improve your interior décor? If so, you can save up some cash or take a look at what’s on offer at CB Online or similar bank. Set yourself a strict budget, set some guidelines in terms of what you will replace and get stuck in. Not only will you have a decluttered home, but it will also be fresher, more appealing and therefore easier to keep free from clutter.

 The end result

Essentially, you have two options here: do nothing and continue to live a shadow of a life, or do something about it. It really is that simple. If you initiate some of the tips above, you can declutter quickly and more importantly stay that way. The benfits are myriad. You’ll be able to think more. You’ll be a lot less stressed. You’ll generally have a healthier and more fulfilling life. If I was you, I’d start binning stuff right now.

Storing PC Parts

computer part storage

Storing excess computer parts and peripheral devices, such as motherboards, memory, hard drives, fans, sound cards and graphics processing units, may keep your office or home from becoming too cluttered. However, it’s important to know how to store these parts and devices properly so that they’re not damaged while they’re in storage.

Clean first

Residual dust and grime – for example stuck in fans and heat sinks – can attract moisture and lead to corrosion. So it’s essential to clean PC components and devices before putting them in storage. Use some canned air or an antistatic vacuum with a thin pipe attachment to get dust out of places that are hard to reach, and a soft-haired paint brush to dust items like keyboards.

Use antistatic bags

It’s essential to use antistatic bags to store cards and any pieces of circuitry with chips in them. This prevents static charge from building up and potentially causing irreparable damage. Antistatic bags are usually made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and have a distinctive, metallic silver colour. PET also comes in the form of foam or bubble wrap, although this is less common.

Image source: Flickr user joebeone

Image source: Flickr user joebeone

Although antistatic bags look like they’re made from regular, non-conductive plastic, they’re actually very slightly conductive. This causes them to function almost like Faraday cages, keeping charge in the bag rather than allowing it to be deposited on the protected hardware.

Compartmentalise

It’s always easiest to keep like with like, especially in the case of smaller parts. Screws and clips, for example, should be kept together in a small bag, and cables of the same type – for example, Ethernet or USB – should be kept together. If you’ve still got the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) boxes that computer parts came in, it can be easiest to store the parts in these boxes. Although they may consume more space than other packaging, you can stack them, and they’ll make it easy to find what you’re looking for when you’re ready to take something out of storage.

If you don’t have the original boxes, it’s a good idea to invest in a stackable plastic drawer system and keep one type of hardware in each drawer for better organisation. The drawers should preferably be made of clear plastic so that you can find parts without having to dig around too much for them. If possible, keep the bottom-most drawer slightly off the ground to reduce the likelihood of moisture coming from the ground and building up inside the drawers.

Keep an inventory

If you’re planning to store a fairly large volume of PC parts and devices, you may want to create a spreadsheet detailing what pieces of hardware you’ve put into storage. Then update the inventory each time you add to or remove items. This can save you from the frustration of digging around in storage only to realise that what you want isn’t there.

About the Author: Anton is a writer for XtraSpace, a South African self storage company offering a wide range of personal and business storage services.

Title image source: Flickr user wolfie_fox

5 Great Home Improvement Tips for First Time Homeowners

Hardwood floor installationYou’ve picked up the keys to your new house and have started moving in. Now comes the fun part: making it your own. Here are a few home improvement tips for first time homeowners.

Get a home energy audit

Poorly insulated, drafty houses will send your heat, and your money right out the roof. Companies specializing in home efficiency will come into your home and figure out where it is losing heat. Common areas of concern are lack of attic insulation, drafty windows,or an inefficient furnace. Check with the state office where you live; many government agencies offer this service for free if you meet the income requirements.

Spruce up your old windows

Are your beautiful old windows worth repairing, or should you replace them? The answer depends on your home energy audit. Storm windows can often be purchased inexpensively, but if the windows are really leaky, they should probably be replaced. A bit of beeswax rubbed on the edges of the sash will usually help with windows that are hard to open and a few coats of exterior paint will make even old windows shine. If your windows still need a face-lift, consider shutters, or other window treatments. There are many styles available to match the period and style of your home. Check out some ideas at a site like www.sunburstshutters.com.

Make your entry way shine

Your entryway is always on display. A fresh coat of paint and some fun containers with colorful plantings will go a long way in making your entrance stand out from the crowd. Consider a front door in a unique color that really pops. Popular choices are yellow, red, or even turquoise if it fits your house.

Small changes make a big impact in the kitchen

If a total kitchen makeover is out of the questions, there are still a few updates you can make with very little overhead. Replacing dated sink, cabinet, and lighting fixtures can have a dramatic effect in the kitchen. If your cabinets are dull and tired looking, give them a face-lift with a coat of glossy paint in a neutral color. For a bit of color, add back-splash tiles above your counter tops.

Landscaping gives your house curb appeal

Opt for large, carefree plants and bushes around your foundation to create a framework. If you are a gardener, you can add unique perennials and annuals to create color. Plants create privacy screens and make your house stand out from the crowd.

These are some easy ways new homeowners can really spruce up their homes without a big investment of time or money.

Proper Storage Practices

Clutter and Curb Appeal

When you rent a storage unit, is important to consider how your items are being stored. Proper storage practices will help maintain the condition and safety of your belongings. No matter how long your items remain in storage, these tips will ensure they remain in good shape.

Store items on wooden pallets. Flooding can do a great deal of damage on the items you have in store. Storing items on wooden pallets will help prevent damage should flooding occur. Storage unit facilities often provide pallets, as well as boxes and containers to prevent damage from other things like bugs and vermin. Storing items in secure boxes or containers can help prevent pests from getting to your belongings.

Maintain inventory of the items you have in storage. Make a list of the items in storage and keep track of any items that you add.  The list should contain a description of each item, including its whereabouts within the storage unit. Make lists to attach to the outside of boxes or containers so you know what is inside without having to remove everything from the box.

Cover furniture with cloth, not plastic. Plastic coverings keep dust off of furniture, but retain moisture, which can turn into mold or mildew. Use a cotton cloth or canvas cover to repel dust while allowing air to reach your furniture and prevent mold and mildew growth.

If electronics are being stored, opt for a climate controlled unit. Storing electronics on wooden pallets may be enough to prevent water damage, but steep drops in temperature can do a great deal of damage on electronic devices. If you need to keep electronics in storage, rent a unit that is climate controlled, like those at Manayunk Self Storage, to protect your equipment.

Use a high quality disc lock to secure your unit. Purchase a disc lock as opposed to a traditional pad lock. Disc locks are harder to cut open and make breaking into a storage unit much harder. Ensure that is made of stainless steel inside and outside so it doesn’t rust and become a problem for you to open. Avoid purchasing locks that are flimsy and common at supermarkets or drug stores. Most storage units offer high quality locks for your convenience.

No matter what you use you storage unit for, following these helpful tips will help protect your items from damage and theft.

Guest Post by Jim Nolen

Don’t Let Bad Drainage Clog Up Your Home Purchase: A Pre-Offer Checklist

draining damageA home purchase is a huge event in most people’s lives.

It’s easy to get hung up on the price and location – as well you should – but it’s important to take a close look at the property before you get emotionally attached to it.

A plumbing problem such as poor drainage or a leaking toilet may not be the difference between buying and not buying a house, but it’s important information to have when you’re negotiating, as well as when you’re planning your post-purchase expenditures.

With that in mind, I’ve put together some tips that you can use to quickly spot problem areas with a house’s drainage.

The quick walkthrough

If you’re like most people, you’ll visit quite a few houses before you narrow down your list of potential purchases, and you’re probably not going to go crawling around under the sink in all of them (at least not on your first visit).

Some obvious signs of trouble to look for in a brief house tour:

  • Water damage around the baseboards of the basement or lowest floors. Signs of water damage on the lowest level of a structure may be an indicator of serious drainage issues or even flooding.
  • Water stains on the ceilings. You should pay particular attention to the ceilings directly below bathrooms on upper levels. Water stains on the ceiling and/or signs of repairs in that location are a good indicator that there’s been trouble.
  • Clogged gutters and downspouts. Problems from water drainage don’t all come from the interior of the house — poor exterior drainage can lead water from heavy rains or melting snow right into your basement.
  • Damp basement. It could just be a humid day, but a damp basement could be a sign of inadequate drainage or an underpowered (or non-existent) sump pump. A damp basement can quickly become a flooded basement if you’re not careful.

The longer look

Depending on the real estate market you’re shopping in, you may or may not be able to have a longer visit to the property, but if you do, there are a few more things you should consider looking into.

  • Is there repaired water damage? It’s hard to tell for sure if the damage has been properly fixed, but if there’s been repair work on a problem that is persisting, there should be some signs to look for including warped or patched drywall behind the toilet and repairs to woodwork under the sinks.
  • Is there a toilet leak? Toilet repair is probably a minor cost in the bigger picture of purchasing a home, but it’s something you could ask the seller to fix prior to purchase. One easy way to spot a slow leak in a toilet is to put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet’s tank and then check the bowl after 20 minutes or so. If the water bowl in the bowl is clear, you’re probably safe.
  • How well does the tub drain? A slow drain may just be some hair clogging the line, but then again, it could be something more serious. Completely fill the bathtub and open the drain. Anything approaching five minutes or so for a standard-sized tub would probably be considered slow.
  • What about the shower? A shower drain is easy to check; just run the shower at full force and watch the drain – the drain should be able to keep up with the shower.
  • Where does the rain go? It would be great if you could visit a potential house purchase on a rainy day to see just how effective the exterior drainage is, but that’s generally not something you can control. However, a quick stroll around the house should give you a good idea of how well it does. Muddy patches in an otherwise grassy yard might be a sign of water pooling, and if those spots are close the structure, you may need to be concerned about water seeping into your basement or underneath your foundation.

Be sure to ask about what you find.

You should always bear in mind that just because there have been drainage problems in the past, it doesn’t mean that the problems still exist or even that they are likely to recur. Every house has its issues and most problems can be permanently fixed if repaired properly, but if you see evidence of past leaks or repairs, you should inquire about them.

Any of these problems should be diagnosed by a good pre-purchase home inspection, including related issues with water heaters and other plumbing fixtures, but with a little careful observation, you can spot potential pitfalls on your own and maybe even save yourself some money and time in the long run.

Since 2000, Chris Long has been a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago suburbs. Chris also in a frequent contributor to the Home Depot website, providing home plumbing tips to homeowners on topics ranging from sump pumps to water heaters.

The 5 Essential Steps for Selling a Home and Making Sure You Get the Best Offer

selling your homeSelling your home in the real estate market today can be difficult. Selling your home in a hurry is even more of a challenge, especially if you still want to get a fair price that will help you to recoup your initial investment. However, there are plenty of things that you can still do to your home to make it the top option for potential home buyers. And when you have a house that they won’t soon forget, your house will sell faster than you could ever expect. Here are five essential steps for selling a home and making sure you get the best offer.

Be Different

If there are a lot of houses for sale in your neighborhood, it is of the utmost importance that you differentiate yourself. You want to stand out to home buyers, but obviously in good way. Offer something different from the beginning, whether it’s unique landscaping or a brand new roof. Look at the other homes and try to find something that they are not offering, then spend the extra money to make that service a part of your own home. Having something that makes people pay more attention during a showing will help you get more traffic and it will help to  generate interest towards your home.

Be Ready

You never know what circumstances people may have when they look at your home and want to buy it. Some people may want to see your house with little notice, and others may decide that they want to move in sooner than you expected. Having your home clean and move-in ready will help you sell your house more quickly. It is also more likely that you will get a great price for your home when you are prepared for these surprises, since most people in urgent need of a home will be less likely to waste a large amount of time trying to negotiate a low price.

Make It Less Personal

This doesn’t just mean not taking low-ball bids by home buyers personal, but rather the things that are physically in your home. Sure, it’s great to have pictures of your kids first day of school or wedding photos on the mantel, but that is the last thing that potential buyers want to see. Be sure you get rid of all these things before you start showing your home. You might also want to consider removing all of your old and worn furniture, replacing it with rental furniture that will give your home a new and fresh style for all of your showings.

Hire A Cleaner

If your schedule and life is just too busy to keep everything clean, then consider hiring a cleaner to come in and do a quick deep clean. One small investment will pay off in terms of making your home look spotless and brand new. Cleaners will also have the expertise to clean your home and get it in a condition that is ready to sell and fetch top dollar. As well as a cleaner, you can also get pest control services that will come and check out your home, in order to assure that there are no dead animals, droppings, or pests that are living behind your walls and under your floors. The tiniest squeak or click here in the walls when you are showing a home will often lead to the house not being sold, since most people do not want to deal with a pest problem immediately upon moving to a new location.

Get The Word Out

Whether you hire a real estate agent or decide to sell the home on your own, it is important that you do all that you can to get attention for the house. Consider posting about it online to all of your friends, make a video so people can take a guided tour, or even post it to the classifieds. The more unique you are when selling your home, the more likely you are to stand out. Some people have even made specific websites for their home, with infographics, social sharing buttons, and plenty of other content that can generate an enormous amount of attention for the home, while also presenting the house in its best light.

Moving away from your home can open you up to an entirely new life, and with these tips, you will be able to sell your old house for a price that will help you to get properly established in your new area.

5 Hidden Health Hazards in Your Home and How to Prevent Them

5 Hidden Health Hazards in Your Home and How to Prevent ThemSometimes, the biggest dangers to you and your family’s health are the ones that you can’t see. To ensure the safety and well-being of your loved ones, here are five hidden hazards in your home and tips on how to protect against them:

1. E. Coli and Salmonella

These two bacteria can affect the intestinal tract and cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to life-threatening dehydration. Humans are most often infected with salmonella after handling or consuming contaminated raw foods such as fruits, eggs, poultry, beef and vegetables. An E. coli infection may occur if you eat foods that weren’t properly cleaned or cooked.

Before handling food, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands and use two cutting boards: One for raw meat and one for fruits and vegetables. Keep raw foods separated from other refrigerated goods and clean all plates and utensils with hot, soapy water before using them again.

2. Carbon Monoxide

This odorless, flavorless gas gives no warning before you feel sick and come down with flu-like symptoms. Common sources include gas water heaters, gas and kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, tobacco smoke and automobile exhaust.

Ensure that your water heater, heating system and oil, coal and gas appliances are serviced every year. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and avoid using a coal-burning or gasoline-powered device in your home.

3. Lead

Lead exposure can cause serious health conditions including changes in mental behavior and development and nerve disorders. Although regulations have eliminated or minimized lead in consumer products, it remains in homes that haven’t been updated. Major sources of exposure include contaminated soil, drinking water, household dust and paint.

Test your home and water, particularly if your residence was erected prior to 1978. Consult an environmental lab, buy a home test kit or hire a licensed risk assessor who can determine if the lead levels are safe.

 4. Mold

Mold grows where oxygen, moisture and organic material are present – practically in any damp area with poor ventilation. Exposure to mold can cause chronic cough, sinus and nasal congestion and eye irritation. It may also trigger lung infections and asthma attacks for those with chronic respiratory disease.

Use dishwashing soap and water or a non-ammonia cleaner and wear a respirator, eye protectors, gloves and long sleeves and pants to remove the mold or hire a professional cleaner for larger areas.

5. Pesticides

Weed killers, insect repellant, roach baits and sprays and tick and flea shampoo are pesticides you may find in your home. If stored improperly or used in the wrong way, these chemicals can be dangerous to your health and cause breathing problems and nerve damage.

Only use pesticides according to their instructions and wash your hands after use. Some homeowners eliminate the products from their households altogether and hire advanced pest management services to assist them instead.

By keeping an eye out for these hidden health hazards and knowing what to do if you encounter them, you can help to protect yourself and your family for years to come. Both seen and unseen dangers can wreak havoc on a family and a home, so make sure you are fully prepared for any hazards that can come your way.

Author’s Bio: Brionna Kennedy is native to the Pacific Northwest, growing up in Washington, then moving down to Oregon for college. She enjoys writing on fashion and business, but any subject will do, she loves to learn about new topics. When she isn’t writing, she lives for the outdoors. Oregon has been the perfect setting to indulge her love of kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking.

Moving for Work? You Might Qualify For a Tax Deduction

tax-calculatorImage source: Flickr

Moving Due to a Job Loss

It’s a common reality in life that we sometimes need to move because of work-related situations. Some companies – as seen during the economic downturn in 2008 – close facilities, resulting in thousands of nationwide layoffs.  Where do these people go? How do they manage to find new employment in a town where their skills are no longer needed? More often than not the answer involves relocation, which can be quite expensive when considering a number of variables related to any specific person’s circumstances.

Moving Due to a Job Opportunity

Where some industries crumble, others rise. New markets provide ripe employment opportunities to those who qualify. A prime example: the tech bubble in San Francisco. Talented candidates from around the U.S., let alone the globe are fighting to get their foot in the door at the next big tech startup. Besides, who wouldn’t want to say they were one of the first ten employees at an internet-based monster of a company? Regardless, in these instances, many are willing quit their current jobs at the drop of a dime to make the move.

Finding Out if You Qualify

In looking at the two examples provided above we see a stark polarization between the causes behind work-related relocation: economic downturn vs. economic expansion. In either outcome, you might be surprised to learn that it’s possible to deduct your moving expenses from your income.

According to the IRS, if you’ve moved for work, you’re potentially eligible to deduct your “reasonable” moving expenses. Reasonable moving expenses include the costs necessary to pack and ship your belongings. They also include travel and lodging expenses, with the exclusion of meals.

Of course, in order to benefit from this tax break, you must meet two criteria:

  1. The “distance test”: your new job location must be at least 50 miles farther from your residence than your current or old job. If your current job location is within a 20 mile radius of your home, your new one must exist at or greater than a 70 mile radius.
  2. The “time test”: following your move, you need to have worked fulltime for at least 39 weeks during your first 12 months of employment and have lived in the general location of the job during that time. Furthermore, if you’re self-employed, you are required to have worked at least 78 weeks in the 24 months following your move.

What Counts?

  • Gas, oil needed to drive your vehicle
  • 20 cents / mile traveled
  • Storage fees up to 30 days
  • Packing material costs and / or mover fees
  • Animal transport

*Remember to keep all of your receipts and document everything.

What Doesn’t Count?

  • Food
  • Anything outside of moving what you already own
  • Unnecessary route deviations

 If you’re looking for a great local moving company and live in a big city like Boston, consider a local Boston moving company to help you make the move across town.

About the author: Mark Healey enjoys reading and writing about DIY projects and home improvement. He regularly contributes to a variety of blogs across the web.

Damsel in Distress? Home Repairs Every Woman Should Know

Damsel in Distress Home Repairs Every Woman Should KnowNo man handy? That’s not really an excuse for a woman not be able to repair most of the repairable problems that routinely crop up in a home. These repairs don’t take a lot of elbow grease, and take only a few minutes. Best of all, they save the homeowner lots of money. Here are but a few of them.

Replacing Ceramic tiles

To replace a cracked tile in the shower stall, chip away the grout around it with a grout scraper or a chisel. Smash the tile and pick out the pieces. Scrape all the old adhesive from the wall and spread the back of the new tile with an even, but thin coat of tile adhesive. Put it into the old spot, then place a wood block over it and tap it in place. Wipe off the excess adhesive. Clean out the spaces for the grout and add the grout.

Repair Venetian Blinds

A Venetian blind is made of a head box that contains the gears that work the lift and tilt cords. Below are the adjustable slats, the tape ladder that holds them in place, and the base piece at the bottom. Remove the clips that hold the tape to the base. Use a pair of scissors or a utility knife to cut the lift cord on both sides. Remove it by pulling it like the blind is being raised. Pull the slats from the ladders if they need to be replaced. If only the cords need to be replaced, keep the slats where they ware. Find the clips in the head box that hold the tape to the tilt tube. Take off the clips and free the tape. Attach the new tape to the tilt tube and the base piece. Then, extend the ladders and put the other slats into place. Thread the lift cords from the base piece up over the pulleys and back down through the Venetian blind’s lift lock. Do this on both sides. The rungs in the ladder are offset and the lift cords will need to be woven on alternate sides of the rung. Then, cut the tassels from the old tilt cord, thread the new cord over the worm gear pulley and replace the tassels.

Repairing A Toilet Flush Mechanism

According to the professionals at Ritz Plumbing, if the water keeps running after the toilet tank is filled, it may be the float ball’s problem. Lift the float rod. If the water shuts off, the float ball needs to be repositioned. Bend the rod so that the float ball is about a half an inch lower, then flush the toilet to check. If the ball sinks completely beneath the water in the tank, it might be leaking. In that case, it’ll need to be replaced.

Repointing Bricks

If the mortar between one brick and another has begun to deteriorate, the bricks need to be repointed. Clean out all the crumbling mortar to about a depth of three quarters of an inch with a hammer and cold chisel. Be careful not to chip the brick. Brush the joints with a scrub brush, then wet them down. Mix the mortar till it’s the consistency of peanut butter. Use a trowel to place it on a hawk, then pack the mortar into the joints with the tip of the trowel. Slice off any excess mortar. After the bricks have been repointed, rub the joints with a wet brush, then compact the mortar further. Then, use a joint strike on the joints. Dampen them now and then for a couple of days.

Learning to do her own home repairs not only saves money, but gives the female homeowner a sense of confidence and competence. It’s good to have a man around the house, but for some things it’s not strictly necessary.