Blog Archive for February, 2015

How to organize your kitchen cabinets

Categories: Blog | Posted: February 26, 2015

How to organize your cabinets

How to organize your kitchen cabinets

The kitchen and bathroom are the most functional rooms in your house. To maximize that function efficiently, you need to ensure that everything is easily accessible and smartly stashed. Today, let’s look at how to organize your kitchen cabinets (since there are a lot more of those than in your bathroom!).

Step #1: Start with nothing.

Empty out all of your kitchen cabinets, so you’re starting with a clean slate. While you’re going through this potentially time-consuming activity, dispose of any food items that have passed their expiration date. If you have opened boxes of cookies, crackers, cereal, or other edibles that might be stale, either toss them out or bravely taste-test them to see what’s still acceptable.

If you have unexpired non-perishables that you are likely not going to consume, set them aside to donate to a local food bank.

Check the dishes, pots, pans, and utensils as you remove them from your cabinet. Discard the chipped, cracked, dented, rusted, hopelessly tarnished, or otherwise damaged pieces. Donate to a thrift shop anything in good condition that you’re not using.

Discard any cleaning products that are old or almost empty. You probably have duplicates.

And, by all means, empty the junk drawer!

Step #2: Clean and prep.

Clean your empty cabinets. Wipe out the crumbs. Scrub the surfaces. Diluted white vinegar works well, and if you need a little extra scouring power, use baking soda. While you’re in cleaning mode, also scrub the exterior of the cabinets and drawers, including the hardware. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the build-up that occurs there.

Line the drawers and cabinets. Cork liners are excellent because they absorb some of the shock and create a more forgiving surface.

Step #3: Create a traffic plan.

Think about how you function in your kitchen. For example, if you have a coffee maker on your counter, where do you keep the mugs? When you’re cooking on the stove, do you have to search for pots and the matching lids? Are certain items not being used because they’re not easy to reach?

Break your kitchen space into zones, like food prep, cooking, baking, serving, and clean-up. Then separate the tools you need for each type of task and allocate them to the appropriate zone. Perhaps you’ve been keeping all the cooking utensils in one place—e.g., next to the stove—but you mix up batter and dough in a different area.

Step #4: Re-assign the space.

Now that you have a better understanding of how you function in your kitchen, it’s time to rethink where you store the food and tools. Your kitchen will be more efficient when you can easily get what you need without wandering from one corner of the room to another.

Differentiate your baking utensils (spatulas, whisk, wooden spoons) from the cooking utensils you use with your skillets and pots.

Match every lid to a pot or skillet, so you know whether or not you have sets.

Organize everything by function: cleaners, paper products, eating, cooking, drinking, cutting.

Organize the non-perishables according to who and how they’re used. If the kids need to reach the cereal, put all of it in the same place where it’s accessible. Gather all of your staples in one place (flour, sugar, spices), and do the same with other categories, like canned goods, snack foods, condiments, and beverages (tea, hot chocolate, powdered mixes).

Step #5: Shop.

Go online or visit your local home stores to find space-saving, clever ways to store your kitchen stash. Utilize storage pieces that can be attached to the inside cabinet doors—like spice racks and pot lid holders—or under shelves. Attachments that can slide in and out are very useful additions. Get drawer organizers for your utensils, silverware, and junk drawer contents.

Install a pull-out drawer under your kitchen sink, where products often are pushed to the back.

Step #6. Restock.

For anything you use frequently, be sure to store it in the front of the kitchen cabinet. Put the non-perishable items in front that have the soonest expiration date, so you use them first. Put the taller containers in the back.

instead of piling up skillets, baking sheets, and other long cookware, store them vertically in a rack so you don’t have to hoist a heavy pile to get to the bottom piece, but rather just slide them out when needed.

Attach any pairs—salad tongs, mixer blades, serving pieces—with a plastic tie, rubber band, or even a clean hair scrunchie. This step avoids the hassle of digging around for the matching piece when it’s time to use it.

On the inside door of a cabinet you’re using for food storage, attach a notepad, dry erase board, or chalkboard to create a grocery list. When something is getting low, ask the user to note it on the list.

Inside another cabinet, mount a piece of corkboard where you can post notes, schedules, reminders, and coupons. This doesn’t have to be an unsightly mess on your fridge!

Step #7. Maintain.

Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of organizing your kitchen cabinets, be sure that you and the other members of your household stick to this new system!

Stuck Inside For Winter? Make Your Home More Cozy!

Categories: Blog | Posted: February 20, 2015

Make your home more cozy

How to make your home cozy

Your home is your haven. It should welcome you every time you walk in the door. To do that, you need to make your home cozy. Yes, in real estate speak, cozy usually signifies “small”, but we’re talking ambience here, not size.

You don’t need to completely redecorate to make your home cozy. You just have to make it feel warm, comfortable, and inviting. It’s doable in just about any space, if you follow some basic ideas.

#1. Warm it up.

When you say “cozy”, people often think of a crackling fire in the fireplace on a cold day. But if you don’t have a fireplace or if the temperature doesn’t need a blast of heat, you can still utilize warmth to cozy up a room. Shift from cool colors, like blues and greens—to warmer ones, like earthy tones and autumn hues. Accessorize with the same theme—wood instead of shiny chrome or slick black. Use woven baskets for storage or accents, and earthen pottery instead of crystal, china, or other delicate materials. And even though the weather may be too hot for a roaring fire, it’s never too hot to light some candles to warm up the atmosphere.

#2. Set up a nook

A nook provides a cozy, intimate space where you can enjoy some peaceful time. Maybe you create a reading corner with a comfy chair, side table and a collection of books. Or you have a small parlor setting, with just a table and one or two chairs, where you can languish over a cup of tea or coffee. You can set up a nook anywhere that you can make space to indulge your private moments.

#3. Sink in.

A cozy room is furnished with pieces that make you want to sit or lie down for hours on end. Choose an overstuffed chair with a matching ottoman, a couch with plump pillows that say, “put your head here”, and accessories that encourage you to get comfy and stay awhile—like a stack of books or magazines, a chess or backgammon board set up and ready to play, and a soft lap throw to snuggle under.

#4. Soften up the flooring.

From hardwood or laminate to ceramic tile, a floor can underscore your room in a big way when it’s uninterrupted from end to end. Add an area or throw rug here and there to accentuate spaces (like the aforementioned nook). The splash of color and texture will instantly make your room cozier.

#5. Turn down the lights.

Switch your bulbs from cool to warm light. Install dimmers on your lighting so you can reduce the brightness. Use table lamps and wall sconces instead of overhead lighting. And light up some candles for the warm glow that gives a cozy feeling unlike any other!

#6. Tidy up.

A cozy space is free of clutter. You don’t need starkness. Just remove the excess. A few books or magazines are better than a large stack. Minimize the items on display to reduce distraction. Choose those decorative pieces—photos, sculpture, art, accents—that make you feel especially happy and relaxed.

#7. A blooming pleasure

There’s nothing like a vase of flowers to give a room that cozy sense of place. You don’t need an expensive arrangement. A vase, pitcher, bowl, or other container filled with colorful blooms is a small investment with many happy returns.

Oh, baby! Design trends for your nursery

Categories: Blog | Posted: February 12, 2015

Oh baby! Trends in nursery design


You’re preparing for a new arrival, but what will your infant’s haven look like? A baby’s room has changed over the years. To help you get started with the planning and decorating, here are some design trends for your nursery.

Popular paint colors for nurseries

The color choice is the first step in planning your nursery décor. Today’s nurseries are no longer dictated by pastels. Go bold. Go neutral. Earthy tones and navy blue have become popular paint colors for nurseries. And these color choices provide more longevity, beyond infancy. You can easily find bedding and decorative accents to complement any of these color palettes in your nursery.

Trending crib styles

Your infant will be spending most of his or her time in the crib, so your choice is critical. Parents-to-be are now looking to get more long-term value from the investment, so they’re showing a strong preference for convertible cribs that convert from a crib to a toddler bed, and possibly even into a twin bed.

Eco-friendly cribs reflect the commitment to preserving the environment by using sustainable materials, like bamboo and teak. Manufacturers recognize the design trends and are offering a wide range of crib styles, from country cottage and vintage to contemporary and novelty—everything from Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage to an airplane.

Creature comforts

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of birds taking flight in nurseries. The wise owl has been a popular decorative accent, but the current critter of choice is trending toward the fox. It might be the result of the song, “What Does the Fox Say?” or the fact that the cleverness of the fox is trumping the wisdom of the ubiquitous owl or the free-flying birds soaring across the walls and ceilings of recent nursery décor.

Distinct lines

Chevrons, stripes, arrows—are popping up on the walls, ceilings, flooring, and decorative accents in nurseries. You can soften the lines with colors, like a warm gray with yellow or turquoise, or go bold with any vibrant color coupled with white. You won’t have any difficulty finding nursery décor if you choose geometric patterns in your baby’s nursery.

The writing’s on the walls

Do you want more inspiration in your baby’s room? Consider adding a rub-on wall decal with a quote you like. They’re easy to apply, and you can get your wall decal customized, including your baby’s name and birthdate. And they’re easy to remove.

You can also frame quotes or children’s book covers to accent your theme. Decoupage a large letter (like your infant’s initial) or use three-dimensional letters to make your message stand out.

Like your baby, the nursery will change. You’ll add new items to make this space fit your growing baby. Keep your mind open and don’t be afraid to try something new!


Home tax deductions you might be missing

Categories: Blog | Posted: February 5, 2015

Find tax deductions

‘Tis the season to do your annual income tax return. Before you get started though, check out these home tax deductions you might be missing, which are all reported on Schedule A of your Form 1040 (unless otherwise noted below).

  • Mortgage interest. You can deduct the interest you pay on your home’s mortgage, up to a limit of $1 million, as long as the mortgage was taken in order to buy, build, or improve your home. If you also took out a loan secured by the ownership of your home—such as to pay for college—you can deduct that interest as well.
  • Mortgage insurance premiums. Homebuyers who put down less than 20 percent on the purchase of your new home are usually required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). That cost is deductible, but the amount will depend on your total income.Government loans—like FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service—may require a different type of mortgage insurance. This premium is also deductible.
  • Prepaid interest. If you paid points at your closing—whether first mortgage or refinance—you qualify for the prepaid interest deduction. You will need a Form 1098 from the lender or your HUD settlement sheet from the closing.
  • Property tax. You can deduct any real estate property taxes. If you bought your home in the past year, check the HUD settlement sheet to see if you paid any property tax at closing.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades. If you improved the energy efficiency in your home last year, you might qualify for tax deductions, which are reported on Form 5695. The upgrades include a wide range of products and systems, including solar panels, low-flow plumbing appliances, dual-paned windows, and tankless or solar water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, and wind turbines
  • Vacation home.

Talk to your tax advisor to learn more about the potential tax savings you can earn from your home.

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