Tip of the Week
Whether it's guests arriving for a holiday party, visiting relatives or holiday revelers, your home can feel like a revolving door during the holiday season. Unfortunately, all of this added traffic can also bring unwanted dirt and germs that can outweigh holiday cheer. Keep your home looking clean, germ-free and ready to welcome guests throughout the holiday season by establishing a cold-weather cleaning routine.
If you regularly take care of the tasks on the list, your home will be ready for guests who arrive on schedule or on a whim. And by giving your guests a clean environment to enjoy, you'll also be giving them the gift of health. To start a routine in your household, follow these tips:
Keep the air cleaner — and healthier. Because cold temperatures ensure that windows stay closed through the holiday season, air quality can quickly deteriorate. That problem can be exacerbated when you consider it's also cold and flu season. To help keep your air cleaner — and your family and guests healthier — make sure that your vacuum is helping air quality, not hurting it. Many standard vacuums release lung-damaging particles back into the air, which defeats cleaning efforts. For those guests or family members who are susceptible to allergies, the need for a vacuum cleaner that truly cleans the air is more important than ever.
Minimize clutter. Everyone gets a little bit busier at this time of year, and putting things away and keeping living spaces tidy can fall by the wayside. From the morning routine to the evening return home, encourage family members to put things in their proper places. Piles or stacks of clutter can collect dust and cobwebs and make your cleaning tasks take longer, so it's best to avoid them in the first place.
Establish a freshening routine. As you go through your day, take opportunities to do a bit of dusting and freshening up, even if it's one room at a time. Strip guest beds on a regular basis - even if they're not always being used - and launder the sheets and blankets to ensure they smell and feel fresh when guests arrive. Utilize the attachments on your vacuum to easily clean window treatments like blinds and curtains to ensure they're not hiding dust or cobwebs.
Don't forget pets and their belongings. While it's obvious to vacuum floors, carpets and furniture, you should also remember to keep your pet's bed and toys clean. Many manufacturers, like Miele, now offer specialized vacuums which eliminate pet hair and dander, as well as any lingering odors through special charcoal filters. For a thorough cleaning, be sure to launder your pet's beds and plush toys in the washing machine.
A clean home is a welcoming home, and your holiday season guests will appreciate the effort you make. By making cleaning routine, you'll be able to enjoy the benefits of a fresh house all winter long, as well.
Decorating Tip: Freshen decor with fabrics
Fabrics are a great way to add color and texture to a room. Browsing the remnant tables at a fabric store can lead you to some beautiful bargains. You can use remnants to recover pillows, add banding to drapes, or make runners for the table or buffet. Try adding a luxurious throw to the sofa or a small wool rug on top of existing carpet for a cozy, layered look.
You can also consider investing in having a quality piece of furniture reupholstered. Look for a fabric that is not only beautiful, but durable as well, so you get more bang for your buck.
-- Family Features
Home-Selling Tip: Pre-organize your closets
Just as stainless appliances convince buyers that they are better cooks, closet organizers make buyers believe that they are better homemakers. "They make you feel secure and calm and people need that," notes designer Sue Adams. While you don't need to use high-end organizers, make sure that the materials are up-to-date. "Twenty years ago, closet organizers meant wire shelves. You can't slide anything over a wire shelf. You can't even put a hanger in some of them. Today's ideal would be "melamine shelves, in bone or white, with some drawers and metal rods to maximize storage," Adams says.
How-to: Make a homemade spray-cleaner
"Mildly acidic white vinegar dissolves dirt, soap scum and hard-water deposits from smooth surfaces, yet it is gentle enough to use on hardwood flooring," according to cleaning expert Cynthia Townley Ewer, author of Houseworks. "White vinegar is a natural deodorizer — it absorbs odors instead of covering them up. And, no, your bathroom won't smell like a salad. The acidic aroma disappears when dry."
Mix in a spray bottle:
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Use this solution on:
Grout: White vinegar has no coloring agents, so it won’t stain grout on tiled surfaces.
Laundry: Vinegar cuts detergent residue so it also makes a great fabric softener.
Kitchen surfaces: Use a vinegar-and-water spray solution on countertops and backsplashes. It will remove fingerprints and streaks from stainless steel appliances.
Odor eliminator: Place a small dish of vinegar beside the stove when cooking fish to absorb the odors.
Bathroom: Use a vinegar solution on countertops, floors and outside of the toilet. For tough surfaces, like shower walls, boost the cleaning power by heating the vinegar solution in the microwave until barely hot. Spray the warmed solution generously; allow to stand for 10 to15 minutes, then scrub and rinse.
Did You Know ...
According to the American Lung Association, poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue.
New Products: Nest Learning Thermostat — 2nd Generation T200577 ($250)
A programmable thermostat reduces your home energy bill by adjusting temperatures to your needs. Only 11% of owners set them correctly, but Nest circumvents that problem: It programs itself. You adjust the dial, as you would on a nonprogrammable unit, and Nest learns these settings (it had our habits down pat in three days). Using sensors, it even figures out when you're home — and not — and adjusts the heat and AC accordingly. You can modify temps and timing remotely from your smartphone, tablet, or Web browser. Plus, it retrieves weather reports via Wi-Fi to check whether the settings are energy-efficient.
-- Good Housekeeping
Backyard Buddies: Brighten your winter landscape
In lieu of summer's blazing color, many gardeners brace themselves for a winter of gray and brown, if not flat-out white. No matter if your winter is just a little chilly or bone-freezing cold, try these tips to brighten your landscape:
Hardscaping rules. In the Zen-like conditions of winter, elements like the play of light and shadow and the curve of a walkway take on increased importance. Take advantage of this time to scrutinize the design of your landscape.
Plant colorful containers. Bring them close to a window where you can easily enjoy them from indoors. In areas with moderate winters, plants like heucheras, autumn fern, sedums and pansies keep right on going. In colder areas, conifers will accept the responsibility of colder weather. Before you plant, know how cold your plants and pots will go.
Where plants don't work, create inanimate color. Paint a piece of lawn furniture, a table or simply just a few rocks you place on the surface of containers. A spring-green chair can keep a patio looking vibrant all winter.