Helpful Hints for the Domestically Challenged

I can’t say I’ve ever really done any spring cleaning per se. The truth is housework is not that high on my priority list. It’s one of those things in life I dread doing, even though I know it has to be done, like taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn (oh, wait, my husband handles those things, but you know what I mean). When it comes to everyday cleaning, I usually limit it to only what the eye can see (like sinks and toilet bowls, dust on the furniture, dishes, and dirt on the floor), unless we’re having company then I try to make our home more presentable. Obviously I’m pretty lax when it comes to housekeeping. I even have a refrigerator magnet that says “An immaculate house is the sign of a misspent life.”

The thing is I need to start doing something about my untidy abode soon because my closets are overflowing with clothes I’ve never worn (they were on sale, what can I say?) or no longer fit (I keep telling myself that I’ll squeeze into them someday). The junk drawers in the kitchen are jammed packed with, well, junk, and my bathroom cabinets are harboring bottles of prescription and over-the-counter medications that expired in 2010. And, those dust bunnies behind my dresser are starting to multiply like real rabbits!funny-cleaning-quotesThis year I’ve vowed to change my tune and finally get to the nitty-gritty tasks I’ve been putting off for too long, like washing windows, organizing my closets and chucking those misfit toys that are taking up space in my son’s old bedroom. He’s 24 now, so it’s time.

How and where to begin…

Angry woman in a chaotic living room with vacuum cleaner

Aarrggh! Where do I start?

When I look at all the projects ahead of me it seems so daunting and overwhelming (one of those eye-twitching, pull-your-hair out kind of things). That’s why I’ve decided it’s best to focus on one room or project at time. I realize it’ll take days or even weeks to go through my list. I mean, let’s be real, unless you’re Superwoman or live in one of those tiny houses that are all rage now, there’s no way you can do it all in a day or even a weekend! Besides, I happen to live in a hundred year-old, three-story house with six bedrooms!

To help me stay on track and reach my goals, I’ve made up a checklist of things to do (I did some research online first to compile my list). I’m hoping this will help other domestically-challenged people like me.

The List

Take inventory of cleaning supplies. Usually that means mops, brooms & dust pans, dusting/cleaning cloths, pails, and cleansers. After experiencing adverse effects from harsh chemicals (they make me cough, sneeze and feel dizzy), I’ve decided to experiment with natural cleaning solutions like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda.

110_F_101640069_2pENzjjfeTibJ20YRrtF05LlFh3Ezr5r Try these homemade and natural cleaning solutions.

Declutter. Go through old mail, newspapers, magazines, piles of papers, etc. Recycle what you don’t need and file anything of importance, like unpaid bills, medical statements and tax forms, in a safe place. Just remember where you put them!

Organize closets. Pack up and store seasonal items. Donate apparel and shoes you no longer wear, but are still in good condition, to a charity or thrift store. You can also bring them to a consignment shop to get money or credit for purchases, or sell them in a garage sale. Rule of thumb – if you haven’t worn it for a year, get rid of it!

Reorganize kitchen cupboards and drawers.

  • Dispose of anything that’s worn, broken or expired (even canned goods have an expiration date). That includes any plastic containers without lids and lids without containers (seriously, where do those missing pieces go? Probably into the same black hole as the mismatched socks!) Click here for tips on storing containers & lids.
  • Take out and replace old shelf paper or consider covering your shelves with smooth and glossy paint. Find tips on painting kitchen shelves at hgtv.com.
  • Restock cupboards and drawers in an orderly fashion, keeping similar items together. My sister-in-law even arranges her spices in alphabetical order so they’re easier to find. Hey, whatever works!
  • Wipe down outside of cupboards and cabinets as well as appliances to remove any built-up grease and grime.

Clean out the fridge. NOTE TO SELF: this should be done on a regular basis, like once a week or at least a few times a month!

  • Toss spoiled or expired food (you may be able to use some of it for composting).
  • Clean shelves and bins with baking soda or vinegar and water.
  • Arrange items neatly on shelves/in bins.

Go through every room from top to bottom.

  • Sweep cobwebs off the ceiling and corners.
  • Dust woodwork and furniture.
  • Sweep/mop floors (don’t forget the dust bunnies!)
  • Vacuum rugs or carpeting.
  • Flip mattresses and remove dust/dirt from headboards and bed frames.
  • Scrub sinks, toilets, bathtubs/showers – this should be done at least once a week too.
  • Wipe down cabinets and vanities.
  • Clean out (and in some cases debug) light fixtures.
  • Wash curtains, bedding, towels, shower curtains, and throw rugs.
  • Open the windows and let in some fresh air!

Wash your windows inside & out. I plan to use my grandma’s tried-and-true method – a vinegar/water solution and newspaper. Grandma always said it makes your windows squeaky clean! NOTE: it’s best to do this on a cloudy day as direct sunlight dries the glass too quickly, leaving streaks. Don’t forget to wipe away marks on window panes too.

Shake out throw rugs and steam-clean carpets.
If you really want to get embedded dirt out of your rugs, hang them on the clothesline outdoors and beat them with a broom or an old-fashioned rug beater (fortunately I have two of these), then leave them on the line for a few hours to freshen them up. If you don’t have a steam-cleaner, you can usually rent one from a hardware store.

Who knows? Once I see the fruits of my labor, I may decide I like a clean house and want to keep it that way. Or, I may just hire someone to do it.

Happy cleaning!

Go to our Smart Perks Pinterest Board for ideas, inspiration and great tools on
Organizing Your Life. old fashioned quote

Blogger Catherine B., a Smart Perks employee, shares the same view as Erma Bombeck when it comes to keeping house – “My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”

How-To: DIY Home Renovation Project

 

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“Your home should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love.”
Nate Berkus

When my husband and I moved into our big two-story farm house in 1993, we knew it would take a lot of time, effort and money to update it. Besides having the wiring and plumbing redone to bring it up to code, the interior of the house needed a serious makeover. It was obvious the previous owners didn’t have any decorating sense whatsoever.

terrible interior

Though it wasn’t quite this bad, it was still pretty bad.

The walls in the dining room and living room were painted light green (the color of pond scum), the windows were hidden under heavy full-length drapes (the kind you’d find in a funeral home or the Munster’s house) and the floors were covered with filthy shag carpeting (I’m sure it harbored all kinds of nasty microscopic critters). The downstairs bathroom looked like it was straight out of a 1970’s flop house – big gold sunflowers against an olive green background, a grungy mustard-colored linoleum floor and a bathtub they probably hauled out of a junk yard. The bathroom upstairs had a long closet decorated with goofy duck stickers instead of a bathtub or shower. I kid you not. It was ridiculous!

Our realtor referred to this 1917 fixer-upper as the “Bates Motel”, but beneath all the unsightly trappings we could see that this place had a lot of character and loads of potential.

Bates_Motel

Not exactly welcoming…

For starters, beautifully carved woodwork, plate rails and beveled mirrors in the spacious dining room, bay windows in the dining room, living room and master bedroom, and underneath that hideous shag carpeting we discovered a magnificent oak floor with mahogany inlay. We were also impressed with the size of the kitchen – 17 ft. x 17 ft. with high 10 ft. ceilings – and the charming built-in cabinet, not to mention the transoms above the bedroom doors (something you’d usually find in grand hotels, not private homes.) Suffice it to say this house was a diamond in the rough.

Cathy's house.jpg

This is the detailing I’m talking about. Beautiful, huh?

After buying the house for a song, we decided we could save a lot of money if we tackled minor renovations ourselves. It’s taken quite a few years (and muscle) to do some of the improvements and, as with most old houses, there’s still plenty to do. But, anyone who has seen the before and after pictures will agree this place looks ten times better than it did when we first moved in.

If you’re thinking of remodeling your home, I have some ideas for easy and affordable upgrades you can do yourself.

guy painting

Look at that technique!

Red Walls

An example of a burgundy dining room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give walls a fresh coat of paint. Probably the easiest and least expensive way to change the look of any room is to repaint it. Think beyond the usual shades of beige and go with colors that reflect the mood or purpose of the room or your personal decorating style. For example, try bright yellow or tangerine in the kitchen, rich burgundy or hunter green in the dining room, and fresh lilac or jade green in the bathroom.

  • Need help selecting the right colors? Check out the interior paint guide at bhg.com
  • Learn how to paint like a pro with help from diynetwork.com

Restore or replace your flooring. If you’re lucky enough to have hardwood floors underneath your worn carpet (like we did) and they’re in relatively good condition, you may just need to spruce them up with a floor sander/polisher from a rental place or buy this handy Floor Scrubber/Polisher. You can always get an area rug if you want to add some color and warmth.

hand painting oil color on wood floor  use for home decorated ,house renovation and housing construction theme

It looks harder than it is, we promise!

On the other hand, if your floors are in bad shape, you’ll want to hide them under new carpeting or flooring. Look for special deals from Empire Today, one of the featured offers in Smart Perks.

Refinish cabinets, shelves and furniture. Instead of investing in new kitchen cabinets, consider refinishing your existing ones with paint or stain. Why not dress them up with different knobs or handles too?

Go to hgtv.com for a simple tutorial on refinishing kitchen cabinets.

Cabinet redo

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest User One Good Thing…

Replace faucets and sinks. Make an outdated bathroom look like new instantly by replacing your faucets and sink with more modern designs. You don’t even need a plumber to do it!

 

Re-tile the floor or backsplash. Tiling is relatively easy. All you need is a little know-how and the right supplies, like tiles (standard subway-style tiles are the most common and the easiest to install), a v-notched trowel, tile mastic (adhesive), a tile cutter, and grout. You can find most of these things at home improvement stores. Go to diynetwork.com for step-by-step instructions on tiling floors, backsplashes, showers and more.

Update window treatments. Get rid of those heavy drapes or dated curtains and put up some sleek new blinds, Roman shades or sheers. Or, you could create your own custom curtains, drapes, shades & more out of materials you already have on hand. Check out the amazing (and easy) DIY Window Treatment ideas from hgtv.com!

shades-products-roman-400

Just one of many options from one of our partners, 3 Day Blinds. Check out Smart Perks for a coupon!

You’ll also find some cool ideas in Melanie’s March 2nd blog post!

For supplies and products, look no further than Smart Perks! You’ll find some great offers from Build.com, Lowe’s, 3 Day Blinds, and more in our Home & Garden section.

Final Note: Before you invest in an older home, have it inspected by a professional to make sure it’s structurally sound. It’s easy to correct cosmetic flaws, but if the foundation is fragile you’ll have a nightmare on your hands. If you don’t believe me, rent the Tom Hanks’ movie The Money Pit!

Good luck and remember, it’s worth all of the effort once you see the fruits of your labor! Have any of you renovated your home yourself and have pics to send? Include them in the comment section!

Catherine B., a Smart Perks employee, may not be handy with a hammer, but she does know how to create an awesome honey-do list.

Ta Dah! Welcome Our New Baby…

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Meet My New Puppy Eloise!

Okay, so I did get a new puppy. Weezy is a Cairn Terrier, and almost 5 months old now. She looks very sweet, and has a keen fashion sense, (especially color-coordinating her stylish ensembles with her accessories, aka toys,) but don’t let the face fool you. Little Hannah Lecter will bite your nose off, if given the chance, which is why she started obedience training on Saturday.

But that wasn’t the new baby I was referring to. Last week we launched the new Smart Perks website with a bright, bold design, fun new features, and, of course, what Smart Perks is all about, great money-saving offers on merchandise and services.

Smart_Perks_screenShot

I don’t know if you’ve ever launched a website before, but months of planning goes into it. And not just the fun stuff, like making color choices, developing logos, artwork, and fun features; such as games, weather-bugs, and weekly merchandise deals.

There are also wire-frames to be created (don’t ask,) and seemingly endless discussions of navigation to make the site user-friendly and intuitive, so that ultimately site visitors can get to the deals that much faster.

The whole Smart Perks team got together and brainstormed content ideas, like the featured tips from experts, on everything from electronics to home improvement, decorating and organization, whatever we thought our Smart Perks audience could use to make their lives easier, using less of their precious resources – time and money, and help them work smarter, not harder, so they can simply relax and enjoy the good life!

After that came the coding, coding, and more coding from our brilliant tech team. And testing. Weeks of testing on every browser and mobile device we could get our hands on.

Finally the day came last week with much fanfare and a mostly pain-free labor, as we launched our new baby out into the world.

Pinterest_-_2015-03-10_11.24.30We’re proud of the new SmartPerks website, our Facebook page, Twitter feed, Pinterest boards,  and this blog. Our team consists of creative, passionate people with a wide variety of interests, hobbies, and talents, and we want to share them with you. We want you to look forward to more posts like the ones you’ve seen so far, including what we hope will be helpful information, tutorials, and inspiration. Maybe even some tips on training your new puppy – Miss Weezy has provided lots of hands-on experience.

So I hope you’ll stop by the new SmartPerks website, say “Welcome to the World, Baby,” and take a look at what we have to offer. There are over 35 new offers in the Spring Smart Perks mailer. If you’ve never received a Smart Perks mailing, visit the new site and sign up. There’s also a great offer for a free $25 gift card, when you receive your first free Smart Perks mailing. Smartperks.com – see you there!

-MB

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life are her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.