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How to Grow Succulents

There’s a reason these cool little hardy plants are having their moment. Succulents are great plants for both indoors and outdoors, and can withstand most weather conditions. They generally can live through harsh weather conditions such as droughts. However, there is a way to grow them that’s more optimal than others.

  • Be mindful when it’s too cold for them: Just because they can usually withstand freezing temperatures doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best thing for them. Most types of succulents do better when they are sheltered from frost. Some types can do okay in the cold when they are kept dry; too much rain can make them more susceptible to frost damage, while some types can even rot. If you can, make a temporary cover for them during harsh winter months, initially plant your succulents in planters so that you can bring them inside.
  • Think about soil type: the best kind of soil to plant succulents in is very porous soil. If you have clay as the main type of soil in your yard, then you might be better off with keeping succulents in planters. These plants also like layered soils, like potting mixes with sand or gravel underneath.
  • Watering: Since they obviously store water in their leaves, you don’t have to water succulents as often as other kinds of plants. However, if you see wrinkly leaves, then they are too dry. Before you ever water, make sure the soil is dry, as getting too much water can make succulents die.
  • Feeding: It’s not always necessary to feed succulents that are planted in a garden; however, potted plants will run out of nutrients over time, so you might want to for these.
  • Lighting: The best lighting amounts are mainly specific to each type of succulent. What can be generally said is that you don’t want too much shade or too much sun for any type of them.
  • Pests: If you have healthy succulents, pests shouldn’t be too much of a problem. There may be a few seasonal exceptions, such as mildew, but they most likely won’t be detrimental to your plants.
  • Location: Succulents usually do best when they are grouped together; even regarding varying types. You can also plant them around other breeds of plants completely, as long as they are similar in their needed conditions. However, many of these will do the best living in planters or pots.
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Pros and Cons of Different Floor Types

There is an abundance of floor types that are available to become a part of your home. However, they are not all created equally.

  • Hardwoods: Yes, the coveted hardwood floors. These are an ever-popular, timeless classic. There are so many varieties of hardwood floor types; between solid and engineered, each available in various types of wood, there’s a choice for everyone. Hardwoods also can be refinished, allowing them to last for centuries. Because of all of these great things, their resale value is great. However, as with anything, there are a few negatives. They aren’t always great for homeowners with a tighter budget. Hardwoods can scratch more easily, can be harder to clean, and can be damaged when exposed to moisture too often.
  • Tile: Tile has popped in and out of home decor trends throughout the years, but lately the popular tile has been in varieties that look like stone, concrete, and wood. There are a multitude of variations of styles, colors, sizes, and textures of tile now, along with prices. It does not get scratched easily, and it can be easily cleaned. It also can last for years to come. The only cons of having tile are that it can be chipped or cracked if something is dropped on it, and it can be slippery to walk on if it gets wet.
  • Travertine: Traverine is a very durable, timeless flooring material. It is available in many different forms, colors, and textures. Because of this, the pricing varies greatly. Travertine is harder to chip or scratch than hardwood or tile. It also is less slippery than tile because it has more texture. The cons of travertine are that it can easily stain, it requires a more specific kind of floor cleaning, and also requires sealing.
  • Vinyl: Vinyl is one of the more relatively versatile floor types. It can look like stone or wood, and it can have one of several methods of installation. It is almost always cheaper than any other kind of floor. Vinyl does not chip, scuff, or scratch, and it can hold up to moisture, unlike other flooring types. It’s also easy and comfortable to walk on. The only possible downside to having vinyl is that furniture can leave marks, and so can foot traffic patterns.
  • Laminate: You can get a lot for your money with laminate floors; they look like hardwoods, yet are cheaper and scratch less easily. They are also easy to DIY, since they are made to easily fit and stay together. The downsides are that they can become damaged if exposed to water, unlike tile or vinyl. You need to give them a moisture barrier, and also use a specific cleaner. Last, they generally last less time than other kinds of floors.
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Why and How You Should Save Rainwater

Saving rainwater can save you money, and is a great pro-environmental choice. Here’s why:

  • Easy to store: A rain barrel easily stores fallen rainwater from your roof; connecting a downspout or rainchain to the barrel will allow water to be collected. Make sure your rain barrel is opaque so that mold can’t grow, has a screen to filter things out, and has a spigot.
  • Water, whenever: If your city has watering restrictions for certain times or days, then rejoice- now you can give your plants much-needed hydration whenever you want. Keeping a rain barrel is especially great in drought-prone areas because of this. 
  • An investment: “harvesting” rainwater saves you money over time- rain barrels and rainchains are relatively inexpensive, and you would spend more money paying for water from the tap in the long run. 
  • Better for plants & the environment: of course rainwater is better for your plants and grass- it’s all natural! It’s cleaner, and contains less minerals and salts that could potentially build up in the soil. When the water percolates through the soil it’s naturally cleaned, as compared to being dirty water that ends up running back into water systems. If more people did this, there would be less erosion, flooding, and pollutants ending up in water.
  • Decoration: not to mention rain barrels can make a cool decoration, or you can hide them if you don’t like their aesthetic.
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Home Renovation Mistakes

There are some things that can, and need to be, avoided during your home’s renovation.

  • Rushing into it: Before you get too excited, look at all your options. Deliberately weigh your options based on the right fit for your home and price. Consider your budget, the quality of the materials, the aesthetics, and the amount of work it will take to put it in your house. Don’t regret your home renovations; be semi-cautious about the whole thing.
  • Set a budget: Don’t go into the home renovation process without a semi-strict budget. Along the same lines as the point above, you need to understand just how much it will cost to do what you want to do. It might be awkward to have to stop your renovation right in the middle of it, and then hold off until you save up more money.
  • Hire the right contractor: You need to find a local contractor who is properly insured (just in case anything goes wrong), and who can also show you examples of his or her work (like a showroom). Avoid the contractors who are suspiciously too cheap- when business gets slow, some will under-charge homeowners just to survive, but then have to go out of business, and leave them high and dry. Do your research!
  • Lay out a clear vision: Don’t get too side-tracked by all those extra pretty, shiny things that you would just love to get your hands on. Keep a clear-cut plan and vision for what you are doing so that your budget won’t be blown to bits. Make lists, sketches, etc. to lay everything out. Also, be sure to keep a very clear line of communication with your contractor so they know exactly what you want. Have them confirm what you said you wanted, before they start planning and carrying it out.
  • Secrets: Sometimes renovations will unearth water damage, etc. which is more necessary to fix than your renovation is to complete for now.
  • Remember: not to accumulate too much clutter in your renovation area; this will create more stress, and make it harder to move around. However, plan out your ventilation, lighting, and how you will collect and dispose of trash. Don’t overlook dripping paint and damage to furniture! Also, remember to plan around your home renovations, accounting for areas of your home you won’t have access to, and when.
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Easy Fixes to Help Sell Your Home

You don’t have to spend a whole lot of money to freshen up your home in order to sell it. There are some easy fixes that can make a world of difference.

  • Check out your curb appeal. Check your gutters to ensure they’re not clogged or loose, mow the yard, trim shrubs, inspect your shutters, & power wash your driveway and/or house if needed
  • Check out your doors; if you need to replace it, then do. You can also replace just hinges and knobs if that’s the better option. Make your front door look extra attractive for a great first impression to potential buyers.
  • Give your house a nice scent on the inside
  • Spot clean/treat anything wrong with your walls, moldings, windowsills, etc.
  • Add fresh paint and/or repaint your trim
  • Check the quality of your floors; your rugs, carpets, & hardwoods
  • Organize everything- your closets, rooms, etc.; anything the buyers will see
  • Improve your window treatments; get rid of dust, stains, etc., or replace them
  • Check your drawer tracks, because you don’t want lopsided drawers
  • Shine your appliances
  • Refinish cabinets; kitchen remodels are very expensive
  • Update your hardware & light fixtures to something classic, yet attractive that pairs well with the rest of the room
  • Install ceiling fans or change them if they’re old
  • Add crown moldings
  • Install hardwoods in your living room
  • OR restore hardwood floors
  • Re-tile your bathroom floors; this has great return on investment
  • Change out your shower curtain to something literally and aesthetically fresh  sell sell sell 
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Why Zillow “Zestimates” Are Inaccurate

If you have searched for houses on the internet in recent years, you have probably come across Zillow’s “Zestimate” tool. The “Zestimate” is an automated approximation of a home’s value. Many buyers and sellers have begun to view this tool as a great way to determine a property’s value, but how much should you rely on Zestimates to determine the value of your home?

The “Zestimate” tool uses sales data from tax records and Multiple Listing Services to determine an average value for each property. It finds homes priced similarly to yours, pulls the price per square foot information from the tax records, and then multiplies that price with your house’s tax records.

The negative thing about this algorithm is that tax records are commonly innacurate. If you’ve made home additions that weren’t permitted by the county, the added value of these won’t be taken into account in the tax record. The algorithm doesn’t “know” of any upgrades you’ve made in your house either. Those things you’ve spent your valuable time and money on are factors that you probably want to be considered into your home’s deserved price. Another thing Zestimates do not account for is the distribution of the square footage in your home in relation to its layout; some buyers would be willing to pay more for a ranch home than a two-story. Last, the location of your home is another factor that doesn’t get factored into the Zestimate; some cities are growing rapidly, and the housing prices rise or fall in accordance to this.

Even though Zillow’s Zestimates are handy to give the general (uninformed) public a basic ball-park figure for their house, they do not account for other important factors that would affect its true price. A Realtor is truly your best resource for comparative and knowledgeable home pricing. They know exactly how the housing market, area, home layout, additions, upgrades, and everything else would impact your home’s best price and its sale. After all, it is their job!

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What to Remember When You List Your Home

The decision to list your home is already hard, but then you have to worry about all the other things that come with that decision. But don’t fret-we’re here to help you with this.

  • Probably the single most important thing to remember when you list is to find a good, qualified realtor (and we’re not just saying that because we’re biased!) Your realtor can help you with the whole home-selling process, from real estate jargon to technical legal aspects.
  • Fix up your home. Make sure the standard of your curb appeal is up to par. Walk through your home with a new perspective for things that you see every day, but might not actually realize need repairing or fixing up. Inspect the tiny yet important details, like the door and window frames, floors, and everything else. Take into account the age of your big items, such as your air conditioning unit, your roof, gutters, water heater, etc. Pull your records. Hire a home inspector to walk through and let you know what needs repairing so that you won’t be surprised later on. If you decide to renovate or repair yet have a limited budget when you list, decide what you will get the biggest return on investment for, and what buyers will be most geared towards.
  • Look at the comps for your area. Sure, you might love that outdoor fireplace you lovingly placed on your back patio, but for buyers it may not be worth that extra money. Yes, you lived in your home and created memories there, but stay objective about what your home is really worth. Pricing your home too high compared to the surrounding homes may be a pitfall; buyers won’t want to pay a lot more for your house compared to what the neighbors’ homes are worth. Be reasonable, and don’t price based off of emotion. Your agent can help you out a lot with the adequate pricing of your home. They are the expert, after all.
  • Clean your home. give it a good deep clean before it starts being shown, and also remember to put away all your clutter. And make sure it stays this way, because you will get unexpected drop-by showings at some point at least. Stage it as well, either by yourself or by a professional staging company.
  • Account for some unexpected costs. Minor renovations, closing costs, staging costs, etc. might arise, so prepare yourself mentally and financially.
  • Don’t assume anything. Not everyone is going to love that same blue paint that you adore. Just because you originally fell in love with your house the minute you saw it doesn’t mean that everyone else will too. Also, don’t set up any expectation of the time frame your home will sell in- it might fly off the market, or it may take a bit of time.
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How to Create a Great Home Office

Working from home is pretty awesome, but sometimes it’s so awesome that it’s a distraction. Here are some tips to create a home office conducive to working.

  • Try and find a space to set up in that doesn’t make you think of other, non-related things; if your bedroom only makes you think about sleeping, then you might want a more neutral space to work from. If you have a TV in your space that you know is going to distract you, then take the initiative and either move the TV, or move to a different location. Take into account the direction you’ll be facing, and what will be in your line of vision from where you sit. Keep that psychological boundary between where you work and where you live otherwise.
  • Be comfortable. Find a chair with good support and that’s a good size for you. You don’t want to feel the urge to get up and walk around ten times an hour simply because of discomfort.
  • Make sure your lighting is good. Whatever light you work best in, whether it be natural, yellow, fluorescent, etc., invest in the appropriate lamp/s based on your preference.
  • Stay organized. Studies have shown that a cleaner, more organized work space allows you to be more productive. Do whatever you need to do to work more efficiently: get rid of things, move them to a different location, or organize them in containers. Keep an effective filing system, and a place for each thing you’ll need and use (don’t forget about your desk drawers!) Don’t hesitate to buy some more shelves, cabinets, dividers, etc.
  • Keep a calendar, planner, stick notes around, etc. Anything to help you organize your schedule, your work, and your life.
  • Wrangle and organize your electronics. Chances are, you’ll be using at least one at all times. Charging stations are great for keeping them all in their designated places. If you are the type to get distracted by technology, then be sure and keep the station out of your range of eyesight.
  • Keep positive vibes. Whatever drags you out of the work doldrums: pictures, quote plaques, decorations, plants, etc.  home office home office 
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Better Ways to Organize Your House

Keeping everything you own in order can be hard work. Luckily, there are some tricks out there that can help you organize better.

  • Charging station: Keep and charge all your small electronics in one place, so you won’t have to keep running to different outlets.
  • Vacuum-seal food: You’ll be surprised at how much extra space plastic bags and containers take up when you store your food. Invest in a vacuum sealer, especially if you keep a lot of things in your freezer.
  • Slim bins: You can store cereals, pastas, pet food, etc. and it saves more space than having lots of clunky boxes laying around.
  • Hangers: You can buy those descending chip hooks they have in stores, as well as hanging chips with the clothes hangers that clip.
  • Labeling food: Label your spice tops, and put them in a spice rack that holds them horizontally so that you can find them much easier. Also label your food containers like flour and sugar to make them look good, and to better tell them apart from others. Also label baskets and containers holding food as well.
  • Bake ware organizers: The vertical wire file dividers used in offices can benefit your kitchen as well. Find ones that are wide enough to organize your pans and other bake ware.
  • Towel bars: Install these if you need extra room to hang your pots and pans, using shower curtain hooks.
  • Peg boards: Put one in your pantry for even more storage for pots.
  • Lazy susan: These are great in cabinets and pantries that have a limited amount of space. Never dig through the many layers of your pantry again.
  • Magazine holders: Keep your cans stacked horizontally in these to save space and to keep them all in one location. you can attach them to the insides of cabinet doors as well to store aluminum foil, plastic wrap, etc.
  • Magazine/cookbook holder: You can install these easily in your kitchen or living room to keep your reading material corralled in one place. Attach them the sides of counters, tables, or kitchen islands.
  • Makeup/Cosmetics/Craft organizer: You probably have a lot of makeup and bathroom/body products you’ve acquired over the years. There’s a better way to keep them than by having them just sitting around, taking up space. You can find many varieties of boxes with drawers to keep all of these in. Read below.
  • Clear containers: For anything you have a lot of, and for food like flour and sugar. These let you see what’s in them so you don’t have to open up every organizer you have to find what you need. Plus, the lucite trend is currently underway.
  • Rolling carts: Even if they’re small, these babies definitely are helpful to have. You can use them in the dining room for drinks, the bathroom to hold products, a craft room, etc.
  • Paper towel holder: Reconfigure metal (or really any kind of) paper towel holders to hold bracelets and necklaces. It’s any easy way to organize your jewelry so you won’t have to dig around for it.
  • Push pins: Use these to hang and organize necklaces.
  • Shower caddy: These are versatile for holding things in places besides the shower. Fresh produce, spices, electronics, etc. The possibilities are endless.
  • Shoe caddy/hanging rack: These can come in handy in your kitchen pantry, in your bathroom closet, and your clothes closet.
  • Binder clips: These come in handy for keeping cords coiled and together. You can also hang food in your freezer by clipping bags to the shelves with these.
  • Tables with storage: Your coffee tables, end tables, etc. are all even better when they have storage capabilities included.
  • Key holder: Creating a small cabinet for your keys can work for your best interests. You can even just install a few small hooks by the entry of your house if you don’t want to make a new cabinet.
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Home Decorating Trends for 2016

While some things remain classics, it’s sometimes nice to get some fresh takes on them. Here are some projected home decorating trends for 2016.

  • Black stainless steel: Fingerprint-proof and more aesthetic than its silver predecessor, as it remains part of the background more; plays more into the minimalist ideal.
  • Formal Dining Rooms: Great for hosting, and great for spending quality time with your family over a meal.
  • Mismatched Cabinets: We’re not talking about having all different kinds, but rather two that pair well together.
  • Heated Entryway Floors: Okay sure, we know most people aren’t going to fork out the big bucks for these. However, the people who can, and will, are going to be installing more of these this year in their homes.
  • Minimalist-Looking, Sleek Kitchen Appliances: People are finally ready for appliances that don’t just work with them, but with their kitchen too.
  • Uniquely Beautiful Tiles/Backsplash: Tiling and backsplashes have been increasingly used as a channel of self expression in home decor. With more options than ever, creating or changing a backsplash is a cheap yet advantageous home project.
  • Golden accents: Copper, rose gold, & brass are becoming the new “it” metals for home decor, including kitchen ware and appliances.
  • Scandinavian-Inspired Decor: The Scandinavian look is usually minimalist and somewhat “unfinished”, with whites, creams, and pops of neutral colors including black. It has some industrial elements, but also some natural/earthy ones mixed in.
  • Hidden Wires: There are more products that group and mask your wires than ever. There are also many DIYs for this same purpose all over the internet.
  • Shades of Gray: Maybe not as many as 50, but gray has definitely been en vogue lately, and probably will continue to be.
  • Statement Bathroom Mirrors: This gives you the chance to personalize your home even more, and to get rid of that generic mirror that comes with every other house.
  • Statement Light “Pendants”: They can complement a room very well, and take a theme or aesthetic even further.
  • Graphic Throw Pillows: They allow your personality to shine through, and for you to customize your decor even more to your taste.
  • Woven & Unique Textiles
  • Space-Saving: Clever storage, and hacks that let you save space where you never dreamed of before are the new “it” way to go. home decorating home decorating