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

Indoor Gardening Tips

Although you have the element of cover and warmth on your side when raising plants indoors rather than outdoors, it can also work against you: because your plants are indoors, you forget to look after them. You forget that the sun can still parch ’em, even though they’re not in direct sunlight. You forget that the elements can still wreak havoc. Here, we share our top indoor gardening tips so that your plants can flourish, whatever the weather.

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  • Sunshine: if the plant needs direct sunlight, it needs 6 or more hours of head-on sunshine a day. Moderate sunlight means around 4 hours a day, and indirect sunlight means it should be kept a few feet away from direct sunlight, otherwise, the leaves will likely burn. Low light? It’ll be perfectly happy in a room that receives little sunshine.
  • If the tag tells you to water the plant steadily, you should water it every time the soil’s surface gets dry to the touch. If it tells you to water it moderately, water it when the top two inches of soil have dried out. Instructions that tell you to water once every week or two weeks should be largely ignored as it depends entirely upon how warm or cold your house is and how much sunlight the plant needs.
  • Buy healthy plants, with firm, bright leaves and an established root system. Buy pots that are around the same size as the pot that the plant came in, and consider resin or fibreglass materials as they hold more moisture than terracotta. Pop a saucer under the pot, and make sure the pot has drainage holes so that the soil doesn’t get water-logged.
  • To re-pot plants, pop a broken shard of terracotta or a stone over the drainage hole of the new pot, then pour in a half inch to an inch of potting mix. Put the plant on top, then pour potting mix around the sides, making sure to centre the plant so that it doesn’t end up wonky.
  • Always pay attention to what the label tells you – don’t just buy a plant in a shop because you think it’ll suit a certain room, because it might not fit a certain room or may not be suitable for that room. Before you go to the garden centre, make a note of the amount of sunlight each room gets to make sure that you’re not buying blind.

Source: Real  Simple

Christmas Traditions for the Whole Family

Old favourites like kissing under the mistletoe, unwrapping one gift on Christmas Eve and laying out a mince pie, glass of whisky and a carrot for Santa and Rudolph are all brilliant Christmas traditions, but sometimes, it can be lovely to add new family traditions that are completely unique to you and yours! Maybe you leave the stockings to be opened after Christmas dinner, play a game of Scrabble in the morning or always have scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and bagels for breakfast. Whatever it is, celebrate this Christmas in style with your own traditions – and if you’re stuck for ideas, check out our list.

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  • As an alternative to opening all of the presents at 6am in the morning – and Christmas being “over” by 7am, plan to open the gifts after lunch. To keep the children (and you!) going through the day, open “taster” gifts from the pound shop (or similar) every hour or so starting from around 11, as a fun way to gather you all together until you sit down and eat lunch. Plus, opening the presents and playing with them will tire the kids out which means that they’ll go to bed ready for sleep – bonus!
  • Give each family member a new pair of pyjamas, slippers or a dressing gown on Christmas Eve so that they can wake up on Christmas morning nice and snug in their new winter warmers. Good for photos, too. If you have pets, don’t forget them!
  • If you find Boxing Day boring, try and make it as much of a fun day as Christmas Day itself. If you’re lucky enough for it to snow, go toboganning, or sledding. Or, you could always go shopping or to the local pantomine. If you always make a point of doing something on Boxing Day, be it watching Christmas films in your pyjamas with a box of popcorn or visiting family and having a nice meal out somewhere, when Christmas is over, it won’t feel quite so anti-climactic.
  • If there’s a cause that’s close to your heart, try to include it in your Christmas traditions. A lovely thing to do – that’ll also make a big impact on your children – is to visit the local hospital, carehome or dog kennels. Make a donation, visit with the patients and do something for someone else! It’ll be good for them, good for you and it’ll also boost staff morale, too. If you can’t make a donation of money, make a donation of time – it’ll be appreciated by everyone.
  • Something you can do in the day or days before Christmas is spend a few hours in the woods gathering holly and pine cones – lovely and Christmassy, but completely free!

Surprising Christmas Decorating Ideas

We know, we know. The Christmas ads start earlier and earlier every year. But as the saying goes, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail – so even if you don’t want to start thinking about Christmas until December, it’s worth planning your decorations in advance so that you can pop up the tree and make the house look festive in a flash, without having to worry about what to put where.

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  • Inject a bit of sparkle by hanging baubles from surprising spots in the house, as in the image above from a chandelier. You could also hang ’em from door handles, cupboard doors – basically, anything that you can drape them over. They also look fab piled into a pretty bowl.
  • You can create a festive look without going over the top. Use white fairy lights, silver and mercury finishes and voltive candles for an elegant, pared-back approach that’ll still look chic in the New Year.
  • Using winter florals and pinecones is a really simple way to add a bit of winter flair to your home without breaking the bank – plus, it’s wonderfully seasonal, too, as you can head to the woods with the kids and pick your own ornaments. Think of it as your very own Christmas tradition.
  • For a cool and quirky Christmas centrepiece, pile a three-tier cake stand with baubles, beads, pine cones and ribbons, and position a few fairy lights here and there to make the ornaments sparkle. Or, you know, use the cake stand to display cake. Cake is always a great centrepiece – particularly with a Christmassy sprinkling of icing sugar snow.
  • There is something about green holly and boxwood that immediately makes you feel wonderfully festive – and although it’s usually paired with deep, dark red, why not pair it with something a little bit different, like bright orange, turquoise or pink? It’ll add an unexpected and modern twist to your festive fayre.
  • Things like vintage toys are unexpectedly festive, so why not pop to your local charity shop or antique fair and buy some vintage toys? Display them in a little tableau on a side table for a lovely and rather unusual Christmas display.
  • Settle on a theme. Red and white are known festive hues, so you could recreate your usual decor with Christmassy-decor – for example, fill mason jars with red and white candy, candy canes, red pine cones, then hang up a framed print of the word “JOY” in place of your usual artwork. It’s an unusual way to decorate, but it’s really lovely, as your decorations slip right into your usual scheme so nothing feels overdone.

Source: Style at Home

Could You Handle a Lodger?

First things first, you need to find out whether or not you’re eligible to take in a lodger. If you’re a tenant, you may be able to take in a lodger to help with the rent – just ask your landlord. If you own the home, you may have to get the permission of your lender, and if you’re in a leasehold property or part of a shared ownership scheme, you’ll need to get permission from the landlord or the board of directors. Once that’s settled, you can get started. Post an ad to find a lodger, or, if you’re a lodger looking for a room, click here.

lodger

The demand for lodgings has dramatically increased year on year, with as many as 100,000 people now looking for a room. Lodgers can either live solely in their rooms, using the facilities in the rest of the house as they choose, or they can become part of the family, sitting and watching the soaps with you in the evenings. But how much, or how little they choose to engage is really up to them, although if you have a preference either way it’s important to make it known from the beginning.

Keep in mind too that you can make up to £4,250 each year tax free by taking in a lodger under the government’s rent a room scheme. This is a great financial incentive, and it makes an excellent contribution to your mortgage or rent. However, that room must be furnished. When it comes to pricing your room, be reasonable. Your lodger is not there just to pay your bills. Of course, that is part of the reason you’re taking one in, but if you’re simply thinking of them as a cash cow, you don’t really have the right attitude and your relationship with them could be frosty at best. Generally, you’re looking at around £50 to £150 a week dependent upon the area (the upper price range being inner London, for example). Ask your local council or other landlords in your area for advice if you are unsure.

New rules also apply whereby you must check that the lodger has a right to be in the country. If you fail to do this and it is later found that your lodger is in the country illegally, you could be criminally charged for aiding and abetting a criminal and failing to disclose criminal status of an illegal immigrant. Again, double check with your local council.

Once you have the legalities sorted out, there are other things to consider, too – such as decor, furnishings, who’s going to cook and do the washing up and most importantly, who’s going to decide what to watch on TV! Come back next week for part two.

Everything You Need to Know About Letting a Property: Part 2

Letting a property, or a room within your house, is a brilliant way to make some extra money and secure your financial future. But you have to be savvy – you need to know exactly who you should be renting to and you’ll need to read up on your legal responsibilities as landlord to avoid any potential problems in the future. If you’re looking to let a home and need to do some building work, click here. Post an ad for your property here, or take a look at the rest of the properties on the market here.

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  • Do your research when it comes to the local market. What are people renting? What are they looking for? Who is more likely to be renting in your area? For example, if you own a house in a student area, dependent upon the size of the house and the number of bathrooms, you could easily rent it to six or more people. The needs of students differ massively from the needs of a family, and so you might need to add an extra loo, improve the communal space, provide a desk in each room, or make sure that there is enough space for a family to spread out. Before you put the property on the market, make sure that you have a very clear idea of who your tenants are going to be and what they’re going to need.
  • Safety standards in a rented property are very important, and failure to adhere to these conditions could render your contract with the tenants null and void, whilst also leaving you open to legal proceedings for failure to provide a safe environment for them. These standards include having an up to date gas and electric certificate, which should then be updated every 12 months, safety certificates for any furniture, and electric testing certificates for any goods that the tenant pays for as part of their rent, for example, a television or a microwave. These certificates are easy enough to obtain and the cost of having an electrician and plumber visit the house on a yearly basis built into the rent, if necessary.
  • Where possible, cover yourself by obtaining rental insurance, which will pay out in the event that your tenant/s don’t pay the rent. This will keep your credit safe, and will prevent any problems further along the line should your tenant lose their job or get into any type of financial trouble.
  • If your property is going to be occupied by more than one tenant/family, legally speaking, this is known as a House in Multiple Occupancies, which comes with its own rules and regulations. You’ll need to speak to your local authority about this, as student lets have different rules to multi-family lets. Regulations for HMOs include providing fire extinguishers and fire doors to reduce the risk of accident or injury within the house.

For more information about letting a property, pop back next week for part three of our guide.

Everything You Need to Know About Letting a Property: Part 1

The lettings and rental market is booming at the moment as a result of the recession – fewer folk are able to prove their affordability in order to get a mortgage, which means that more and more people are choosing to rent instead of buy, so that they can still live in the postcode of their dreams without having to save up a 15% deposit. If you have more than one home (or even just have a spare room in your house), you could make a significant amount of money by letting it out. Buy to let mortgages are also an option if you have a deposit saved, allowing you to buy a house whereby the rent covers the mortgage. Once the mortgage is paid, the house is yours. Sounds simple, right? Although letting and renting is now as popular as its ever been, the market is fairly competitive across all price points, which means that you need to stand out from the crowd. Follow our guide to letting a property to learn everything you need to know and post an ad for your property here.

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Outside the House

Yes, you don’t live outside, but first impressions count and it’s very important to wow your tenants from the moment they set eyes on your front door. An untidy, dirty, messy exterior with cracked plaster and chipped paint can have an impact on the rental income, but it also sounds out a negative message to prospective tenants: that you’re not too fussed about household tasks, which means that they may worry should any issues arise inside the house.

Inside the House

The same goes for inside the house – it doesn’t need to be super modern, packed with designer furniture or even that stylish. But it does need to be clean, tidy, clutter-free and welcoming. If you’re renting out a house, your best bet is to give everything a lick of neutral paint, lay neutral carpets/wooden flooring, then let your tenant decorate (with permission). Alternatively, you could offer a range of colours that you’d be willing to use in the house, then let them have a say in how the place is decorated. If you’re letting a room in your house, the communal areas – kitchen, living room, bathroom – need to be clean, tidy and clutter-free. The space shouldn’t feel like “yours” – it’s a shared space and so it’s best not to have too many sentimental/personal items.

Make sure that everything works, too! For example, replace burnt out lightbulbs, make sure lamps/electrical goods work properly, that there are no cracked/broken tiles and that there aren’t any holes, lumps or dents in the walls or floors. Although it might sound obvious, the property should also be big enough for the number of person/s renting it from you – if you’re unsure about this, see a letting agent for advice.

Source: Prime Location

What You Need to Know About Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lighting has a bit of a bad rep. It’s definitely not the worst type of lighting (we’re talking about you, strip lights), but it’s definitely not the best. It can be used in a number of places quite effectively and doesn’t have to be ugly, either. New recessed fluoro lighting can be very chic and on trend – so learn where to use it and how to use it with these do’s and don’ts, and take a look at our selection of lighting.

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  • Don’t use fluoroscent lighting in your bathroom, or in any spot where you’ll be likely to catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror – your bedroom, your dressing room or your en suite. Fluoroscent lighting is not flattering and that means that you should keep it away from anywhere where you could spy grey hairs.
  • Do consider switching to LED bulbs. That might sound a bit counterproductive, but it isn’t, really! LED bulbs give the same kind of effect – i.e. bright light, but you can get them in a number of colours and hide them really easily behind recessed panels which are just perfect for accent lighting behind bookshelves or storage units. They might be more expensive than regular bulbs but they last for far longer – in fact, most LEDs come with guarantees of up to 25 years.
  • Do use accent lighting. Look for softer bulbs that are up to 400lumens, or go for a bulb that can be dimmed so you can control how bright the light is. Pop ’em in alcoves, on shelves, under kitchen cabinets, under floor units and inside units that have windows and you’ll soon see why they’re so popular. If you’re feeling fancy, try a colour-changing bulb – they might be a bit gimmicky but they’re really good for kid’s bedrooms and playrooms. They also work surprisingly well in offices.
  • Don’t use them as the main source of light in the room. Fluoroscent lights are especially harsh if they are the main source of light in the room – what some of us like to call the “big light” in the room. They’re harsh, unnatural, too bright and too white which makes them one of the worst choices for your overhead lighting. Instead, use them for task lighting, accent lighting or in lamps.
  • Do take the bulb from your lamp or lighting source with you when you go to buy new bulbs to make sure that you get the right size and strength.

Source: The Nest

Clever Moving-In Tips When You Move House

Moving house is one of the most stressful life events there is – there’s just so much to think about that it boggles the mind. Having to connect all of your utilities, making sure that the movers handle all of your belongings with care and that you have easy access to all of the essentials you need on your first night in your new home – pyjamas, for instance! Read on for some clever moving-in tips and take a look at this link for movers to help you get settled in.

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Pack the Stuff You Really Need Last

Things that you’re going to really need at the other end – jammies, the kettle, the beds, bedding, kitchen stuff, medicines and loo roll are probably the must-haves. Your must-have list might be a little bit different, but to get by during your first week or two in the new house, you’ll need to pack the stuff that you really need last – in fact, it should be the very last thing on the van.

Connect Utilities Before You Move

If at all possible, have an overlap between the day that you move into your new house and the day that you have to leave your current house. This means that you’ll be able to ring the cable TV company, the broadband company and the people who run your phone line before you move out, so that all of your utilities can be connected and ready to go on the day that you over. A hot shower and a silly film will really help you relax when it’s time to go to bed, instead of being stuck in moving-in mode.

Label Everything

It sounds really obvious, but labeling everything means that the movers will know exactly where to put which boxes. To make things even easier for yourself, make the labels fairly detailed: for example, kitchen cutlery drawer, upper right hand dresser drawer etc. This’ll make things really, really simple when you come to unpack – you can pretty much just empty the relevant box into the relevant drawer.

Pay in Advance

The last thing you need on moving day is added stress and if you can’t find your purse or hook up your laptop so that you can get online to pay via bank transfer, you won’t be able to pay the movers. And that’s really a huge pain in the bum. So either pay in advance, or get the cash ready in an envelope and get someone to look after it for you if you think you’ll forget where it is, or pop it into your bag.

Source: The Nest