4 Ways to Prepare Your Home for the Winter

Loft Christmas room

Now that autumn is rolling in with force, the nights are getting ever longer and the temperatures are quickly dropping up and down the country, it is clear that winter is just around the corner. You need to make sure your home is prepared for the colder months.

This will help you to cut down on your expenses, particularly with your utility bills, so you really should at least try to make one or two adjustments. It will pay off in the long run!

Give Your Boiler a Tune-up

Although this will probably put you out of pocket to begin with, it’s never massively expensive, and it will definitely be preferable to having a boiler breakdown in the dead of winter when all the technicians have a massive backlog of heaters to repair.

Get in there while it’s not so busy and get your boiler looked at. The technician will give it a good going over, making sure it is clean and in good health, then tuning it up so you can get the maximum levels of efficiency and thus save a little money in running costs.

Check out Your Roof

Have a quick gander around your roof while it’s still light, checking for any tiles or shingles that are missing or damaged and might end up leaking ice cold water into your home as the snow settles and melts.

If you need some repairs, it will be more cost efficient in the long run to get a roofer out to do the work. Leaving it will only end up causing a much greater deal of damage. While you’re at it, make sure you clear out the gutters so that they don’t get blocked up.

Get Insulating

Insulation is your friend during those long, cold months. The main way to protect yourself from ice dams is by ensuring there is plenty of insulation up in the attic – if too much heat is escaping through the attic, it can melt the snow on the roof. If this then refreezes, you can be in big trouble, so make sure you’ve got enough insulation.

You can also help cut down your winter energy bills by caulking your windows and adding weather stripping to your doors; these will help to prevent heat getting out and draughts getting in.

Be Prepared for the Worst

Although it is fairly unlikely – at least, depending upon where you live – that you will experience any “real” winter emergency at home this year, it really will stand you in good stead to be prepared for any eventuality.

Familiarise yourself with the location of your pipes and learn how to shut off your water in case of a freeze or a leak, trim any dead branches from the trees so that they can’t do any damage if they freeze and fall, and make sure to stock up on salt or grit well ahead of schedule.

How You Can Cut Your Chore Hours in Half

Cute mother and her daughter ready to cleaning room

It kind of feels like for every hour of free time, at least forty five minutes are spent doing the chores and other bits and bobs around the house, doesn’t it? Well, we say enough is enough – it is time for you to put down that dish cloth and get away from the vacuum cleaner for a while!

No one wants to waste their life doing all the little odd jobs. They’re not much fun, no one really enjoys doing them, and they build up and build up until there’s no time left to do anything else. So let’s try and cut that time down to a reasonable amount, shall we?

Here are some tips so that you can spend a little less of your life scrubbing dishes and cleaning floors and the like.

Stop Doing Chores at the Weekend!

Okay, so we’re going all-out crazy with our first tip. We know – if you’re not using your weekends to do the chores, where are you going to find the time to get them all done?

We’ll spell it out for you: Do Fewer Chores. Lower your chore standards! Chores will always expand to fill your time – the more free time you find you have, the more chores you’ll manage to find which all “need” to be completed right away. Things don’t have to be entirely perfect; the house isn’t going to fall down just because you didn’t spend your weekend elbow-deep in pots and pans.

Also, there is an added advantage to avoiding housework on weekends: it forces you to find the time to do the necessities during the week. That doesn’t mean to have to conjure up any “extra” time – instead, you will find that you simply spend less time procrastinating, checking your phone and so on.

Be Less Creative in the Kitchen

Obviously, if you love cooking, we’re not going to tell you to cut it out. However, not every evening calls for a dish straight out of Masterchef! By making sure that you embrace simplicity in the kitchen every once in a while, you will find that you will spend less time slaving over the stove, and you will use fewer dishes, which in turn means that there are fewer to wash, dry, and put away!

And hey, if you’re eating simple dishes more often, that means you get to enjoy and appreciate simple flavours! Let the ingredients do the talking; you don’t need to go crazy all the time to get some seriously delicious food on your plate.

Do the Laundry Less Frequently

Now that might sound like an “in an ideal world…” sort of scenario, but really, there is an easy way to do the laundry less frequently: you simply create less of it to do.

Clearly we’re not telling you to go to work smelling stale. But there are loads of ways to ease up on your laundry-dirtying! Wear sandals when it’s warm and there are fewer socks to wash. Go longer between washes for things like jeans and pyjamas. Easy!

How to Fully Restore a Sagging Sofa

Postindustrial Loft Conception (panoramic)

Sometimes, you come across a piece of furniture that you really fall in love with. You end up with a piece that you simply love so much that you couldn’t possibly even imagine your living room without it, never mind having to get an adequate replacement.

Sadly, time will always degrade things in the end – entropy will always win. However, this does not mean that you should just give up; we can always fight back, even if just for a short while. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do!

Sure, our introduction was maybe a little overblown, but this is serious stuff we’re talking about here. If your most prized and beloved sofa is beginning to look its age and it’s starting to sag, there is something you can do. Read on to find out how to stage your daring rescue.

Step #1 – Wash and Dry

This is a nice and easy step, which makes it the perfect place to start off with. All you need to do is to take off the covers from all the cushions on your sofa, then pop those covers into the washing machine. Make sure you follow the washing instructions, otherwise you might be in for a nasty surprise.

If your sofa is upholstered in fabric coverings, take these off as well – if that’s possible, of course. These also need a good wash and a proper drying off.

Step #2 – Fill It Up

The next step is pretty simple as well – lucky for us! All you need to do is to get hold of some Poly-Fil (or non-brand alternative) and start filling up the spaces in those saggy old cushions.

It really is that easy! Simply open up the zips or buttons on the cushion covers and get stuffing, adding more and more until you have some nice, plump cushions once more. As soon as you think they’re about as good as new, you can give it a rest and zip ‘em back up again.

The same sort of principles apply to the seat cushions, as well. Open them up a bit and use some Poly-Fil. This time, however, we would recommend using the Quilt type: the variety of Poly-Fil that you put on in layers, rather than stuff. This will give you a much more suitable seat cushion type of feeling when you’re sitting down. You don’t want it feeling like pillows or duvets, after all.

Step #3 – Sit Down and Enjoy

No really, that is actually all there is to it. We told you it was simple, didn’t we?

Well, if you really need us to break it down: zip up all your various cushions, pop them back into place, plump up the throw cushions with a couple of bashes, then sink into your gloriously un-saggy sofa. Wonderful!

How to: Deep Clean Your Bathroom

Learn how to bust all of those sneaky bathroom germs by following our nifty guide to deep cleaning your bathroom, from the shower to the grouting, right through to your loo!

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  • Clean your shower by pouring white vinegar into a bag and tying over the head of the shower. Leave overnight – it’ll dissolve limescale around where the waterjets come from the shower, as well as soap scum.. Just run the water to rinse it. For the curtains, pop ’em in the washing machine with your normal detergent and some old towels, and for the shower doors, mix a paste of baking soda and white vinegar and then apply to the the doors.  Sit for 15 minutes, then buff away with a microfibre cloth. Leave the windows open for 1 hour a day in your bathrooms to reduce humidity.
  • For grout, your best bet is to dip a grout brush into straight bleach, then scrub the grout until it turns white, making sure that the room is very well ventilated. But to prevent the grout from getting mucky in the first place, try sealing it every six months with a moisture-resistant product. It’ll save you a big job down the line.
  • For general tiles, walls and ceilings, spray everything with all purpose bathroom cleaner, then turn the shower on to generate some steam, get out of the room, then shut the door behind you and go and have a sit down somewhere for half an hour. Wipe everything down with a clean sponge or cloth, then rinse with clean water/a clean cloth and use a clean microfibre mop to reach particularly high/hard to reach areas. A nifty way to prevent water marks on tiles? Apply a coat of car wax onto them once a year so that the water can just roll off of the tiles instead of  marking them.
  • For toilets, pour a cup of baking soda into the bowl, then leave to sit before brushing and flushing. It should leave the loo sparkling. Another option is to invest in a handheld steam cleaner so that you can clean hard to reach areas without having to get your fingers involved, like the hinges of the loo seat. Don’t forget to either clean the loo brush either – using a dirty toilet brush to clean your loo will only result in a dirty loo so make sure you clean it after every use either in bleach or soapy water.
  • For the sink, you can use the baking soda/white vinegar trick – it’ll reduce dirt and get rid of any soap scum. For taps, it’s much cleaner to use disposable cleaning wipes than regular cleaning products – if you use the same sponge to clean the kitchen as the bathroom you could just be spreading the bacteria around

The guys over at Cleaspiration, have some great home cleaning tips, it is still fairly new but it looks like a nice site

Source: Real Simple

Top Dusting and Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Have a glance over our tried and true top tips for cleaning and dusting to get your home spick and span in time for spring. Or – if you’d rather have someone else do it for you – hire a cleaner to get the job done faster!

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  • Don’t dust any surfaces that are taller than your tallest friend. Dust ceilings, of course, but try not to put yourself out!
  • Banish pet hair by popping on a wet rubber glove and brushing it lightly over the hair. It’ll lift right off.
  • If you’re prone to getting distracted when cleaning, set a timer for 30 minutes so that you can get more done more quickly – then get back to more interesting stuff, like watching TV, or cooking, or going out – or getting to the pub.
  • Keep cleaning products in a shoe holder hung over the back of the laundry closet door – they’ll be super easy to see and use.
  • Shaving foam can work wonders for lifting red wine out of carpets and upholstery, especially if you haven’t got any actual carpet foam or stain remover.
  • Washing the tub is actually really easy if you just hop in and do it nekkid. Be careful with the harsh chemical cleansers, as obviously, you don’t want your bits to get chemically burnt, but you can get into all of the nooks and crannies much easier without worrying about getting your sleeves soggy.  When you’re done, run the shower, then take a shower yourself.
  • Get someone to help! You help them clean their house, they help you clean your house – ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, everyone’s house gets cleaned a little bit quicker.
  • Instead of running up and downstairs all the day taking stuff back up with you, keep an empty basket at the foot of the stairs and toss toys or any miscellanous bits that need to go back up – then just take the basket up at the end of the day. Saves running yourself off your feet all day!
  • Only got time to clean one room before guests arrive? Make it the bathroom – it’s the only room they spend any time in on their own and it’s the only room they’ll likely notice any mess in.  The rest of the place? Just a quick tidy round and a shove of things into the cupboards will do.
  • Remove food odours from plastic containers by washing with warm water and baking soda – it’ll lift heavy odours right out.
  • Speed through chores in the best possible way – by putting on your favourite music and enlisting the help of your children. Or, your friends. Offer them their drink of choice as a reward or a cartoon instead!

Source: Real Simple

7 Steps to Creating a Sleep Sanctuary

Create a cool and calm sanctuary in your home by following these eight simple design tips – thing like the perfect height for your headboard and how to match your bedside tables. If you’re not particularly good at painting and decorating, get a decorator in to help, or if you need an extra helping hand – such as the services of a handyman – hire one by clicking here.

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  • If you want to buy a new headboard (and you should, they really make a room), it should be approximately 45-54 inches in height from the floor to the top of the headboard if your room is eight to ten feet tall, whether you’ve gone for an arched design or a regular flat design. Any taller and any artwork that you get will end up too high on the wall. Get something that’s upholstered for extra comfort.
  • Bedside tables look best when they sit just an inch or two lower than the bed, which is usually 24-27 inches tall. If you’re going for mismatched tables, they should still be the same height, and they should sit around 15 inches deep so you can fit lamps and bits and pieces on them.
  • Pop a bench at the end of the bed for valuable storage space and to pull the room together. If you’ve got little ones, it provides a really good spot for them to curl up on when they can’t sleep, too. It should be about 2/3 the width of the bed, and at least three feet away from the wall opposite the end of the bed.
  • Art above the bed, whether you choose bright modernist pieces or religious museum-worthy art, should fill around 2/3 of the space horizontallty and 2/3 of the space vertically.
  • If you’re trying to unify two different bedside tables, make sure you choose two matching lamps. For a style that’ll never date, opt for drum style shades, as they’re very clean and unfussy, which means that they won’t interfere with the rest of the decor and you can keep ’em even if you change the furniture.
  • When it’s cool out, keep a throw or bedspread laid out over the bottom of the bed – that way, you can just pull it up if it’s chilly overnight. When it’s warmer outside you can simply fold it up and toss it over the back of a chair.
  • If you want something comfy and cosy to sink your feet into when you step out of bed in the morning, opt for a cotton or plush rug instead of a sisal rug ‘cos it’ll be softer on your toes. There should be at least three feet of rug on all three sides of the bed, otherwise, it’ll just look a bit small and awkward.

Source: Teal Simple

How to: Clean Your Closet

Cleaning out your closet isn’t a particularly fun job, but it’s one of those jobs that just has to be done every now and then, to make space for all of your new clothes! But sometimes, starting the job is more difficult than actually doing it, so we’re here to tell you how to clean your closet!

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  • The very best way to get organized, in our book, is to make a ruddy good mess first. In the case of cleaning your closet, one of the simplest things to do is to take all of the clothes from your closet, and then dump them out on your bed. That way, you can’t go to sleep until it’s all done, can ya?
  • Same goes for your dresser drawers and bedside tables, too. Get em out. Get everything out. Now is not the time to worry about cleanliness. Start this job early in the day, as in, 8am. Not at 10pm, as you won’t be able to sleep, and if you like a tidy house, dragging everything out of your drawers and your wardrobe late at night only to make a massive mess is just going to stress you out, so why bother? Get started early, preferably on a Saturday or on a weekend or when you have a couple of days to spare.
  • What do you want to keep?  You’ll want to make three piles, obviously – keep, chuck, and donate. Chuck or donate stuff that’s either too big, too small or that you bought on a whim and have never, ever worn.
  • Before you put everything back away, invest in a few clever organizing essentials – things like plastic boxes for your shoes, hangers that you can hang multiple tops and blouses from, boxes under the bed for off season items that might not fit into your wardrobe and mini storage boxes that can store things like jewellery or makeup. That way, you’ve got stuff to put your stuff in, as it were, so that everything is fabulously organised by the time you’re done, instead of just being shoved back into drawers onto shelves.
  • Sort your clothes by type and arrange them on shelves so you know exactly where to find the specific item of clothing that you’re after right away. That way, you can put together outfits with ease – yay! If you’re feeling really, really fancy, or if you have loads of space in your closet, you could even arrange your stuff by colour.
  • When you’re using the closet once you’ve done the big clean up, make sure that you keep it clean and tidy – it might take a few seconds longer to fold things and to leave everything neat, but it’ll make life soo much easier when it comes to actually using it!

Source: Real Simple

6 Tricks to Make Doing the Washing a Breeze

The average family runs their washing machine around 400 times a year – which averages out at more than once a day. If you have little ones, you’ll know that it’s way more than that – sometimes four, five or even six times a day. If it feels like your washer is constantly running, and you want to cut down the load a little bit, use these six tips to make doing the washing a breeze.

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  • To save dragging around a heavy basket, or carrying around armfuls of laundry, just buy a basket on wheels! That way, you can wheel it from the bathroom or wherever the laundry is kept to the washing machine and bada-bing, bada-boom, you can do your washing without dropping any socks along the way.
  • A brilliant way to store lost socks when you’re looking for the other lost socks, is to use a free “lost sock” print that you can find online. We found one with the text “Clean. Single. Looking for a mate.” with applique detailing. Pop it into a frame, glue gun clothes pegs to the bottom of the frame, and when a lost sock appears from the machine, you can simply peg it up until its partner appears.
  • Use the same kind of dispensers you can use for water to hold your detergents – the kind with little taps. That way, you can dispense the perfect amount of detergent or conditioner into the ball that you pop into the drum. Just be sure to keep them on a high shelf if you have children, especially if you’re planning on keeping them on display.
  • Insert hooks and shelves into any nifty little spaces that you can find, however small or awkward. They might not seem as though they’d be particularly useful, but even if they can only handle a bag of pegs, a laundry bottle or some sponges, they could come in really, really handy.
  • Create a bookshelf/shelving unit-cum-ironing station. Sounds weird, but it’s a pretty handy way to store everything that you’re going to need to store, like your iron, ironing fluid, dryer sheets, conditioner, etc, etc, etc, and the top doubles as your ironing board! You won’t be able to buy one (we haven’t seen one anywhere) but if you have a handy husband then you can ask him to help you out, or get a builder to fashion one for you.
  • 3 laundry bags/boxes. Instead of having to sort out laundry when you’re in the laundry room, have 3 separate bags/boxes for coloured clothes, white clothes and delicates. Viola. No need for sorting. Just do your washes as and when.

Source: Real Simple

Clever DIY Projects for Every Room

Little bit bored this weekend? Or want to change the way your kitchen look? Adding more storage? Whatever your needs, whether you want to change the look of your room, add more storage solutions or are just in need of a bit of a project, these clever DIY projects are just the ticket – and there’s one for every room, too.

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  • Kitchen cupboards: paint the inside of the kitchen cupboard with chalkboard paint, frame using some leftover edging strips from your skirting board or panelling, then use to write your shopping list, or to hang measuring cups and spoons as in the handy little guide above. It looks lovely, too.
  • Living room: If you’re anything like us, you have tons of photos and cool images lying around that just need to be framed, do it! Frame them in either matching frames or an array of mix-y match-y vintage or modernist frames, arrange them on the floor in whatever pattern looks best, then put them up on the wall in a gallery style.
  • Bedroom: You can make your bedroom look fresh and funky by adding new pillows – and you don’t need to fork out a fortune for new fabric, either. Use some that you already have, or stitch a few dishcloths together! You don’t need fancy sewing skills, either, just turn the fabrics opposite to the way that they’ll be displayed when the cushion is finished, and then it doesn’t really matter if you have a wobbly edge on the fabric. Practice a little bit first, if you can, but remember – sometimes the homemade look is better!
  • Painted floors: It’s as simple as that, really. Paint. The. Floor. Sand it, clean it, dust it.  Prepare it for painting. Paint it. Varnish it. Apply the desired finish. Viola! Your floors look totally different, and it took you a day or two? Just be sure to move all furniture out the way, then make sure that the floor is completely dry before moving the furniture back into the room so that you don’t get any scuff marks.
  • Patterned shelves: a brilliant way to brighten up your bookshelves is by adding some pretty stencilling to the back panel of the shelf. It adds interest, and gives you a great excuse to de-clutter, so that you can see the lovely pattern that you added! The best part of all is that you can download and print the stencils onto cardboard at home, then stipple the paint onto the shelves so that there are no drips, no mess and no fuss.

Source: Real Simple

How to Increase the Value of Your Home: Part 2

In part two of our series about home renovations you should be doing – whether you’re trying to increase the value of your home because you’re moving, or because you want some extra equity in the house for a future move, we mention the few major renovations you can make without forking out a ton of money that’ll not only improve the value of your home but that could even boost your bank balance in the short term, too.

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  • Go green: The government’s Green Deal scheme means that if your home isn’t particularly well insulated, or if you pay over the odds for your electricity for any reason other than “because you’re greedy” and keep your appliances switched on all day every day – for example, if your roof is leaky or your home isn’t draught proofed or you could do with wall insulation. The scheme enables you to take advantage of finance through your energy bills to pay for the cost of the refurbishments and calculates what you could save – for example, £2000, and then allocates £2000 of finance to pay for the refurb which you pay back through your energy bills. The finance is attached to the house, too, rather than the person. These renovations could take your home from an energy rating of a C to an A, for example, which could potentially increase the value by up to £15,000 – and so most people would be happy to pay for the finance for the Green Deal if it means that the house is worth more money!
  • Plus, you’d be amazed at how much difference a little bit of insulation can make to how warm your house feels – plus, it doesn’t cost a lot of money either, even if you don’t go through the Green Deal. Pop into your local builder’s merchants and pick some up – pop it into your attic, your cellars if you have one, and seal up any gaps you can find around doors and windows with sand and cement. Any permanent methods – that aren’t just draught excluders behind the doors – will work a treat.
  • Techy homes stand out from the rest because they’re literally sticking their neck out above the rest. In the next ten to twenty years, new homes will be built with tech right from the ground up – and if you add it into your house right now, you could potentially add a lot – a lot – of value. Do it right, though. Make sure that the tech can be upgraded down the road and that it can be reached relatively easily, either through one “control room” or “control pad” somewhere in the house, and that the wiring can be changed if necessary.

Source: Real Simple