trolling consignment antique stores: You find great used stuff
that’s cheaper and better than many new products. Like
vintage Christmas decorations? You’ll score big time.
bugs: Have an ant problem? This Old House magazine suggests
spreading cinnamon across the path where they’re entering
the room. They’ll avoid it like the plague.
don’t tell: Have a small repair job that’s hard to
describe to staff at home stores? Snap a photo with your phone
and show it to them. A picture is worth, well, you know ....
museum stores: From books to jewelry to one-of-a-kind art and
crafts, unusual decor and gift items aplenty are to be found
in museum shops — and many times shopping is tax free!
1000Museums.com is a good starting place, with links to
merchandise from museums around the world.
Create an outbox and use it: Find a spot where you can stash
stuff you might want to get rid of, suggests Apartment Therapy’s
Maxwell Ryan in Good Housekeeping magazine, then ask yourself:
Do I love it? Do I use it? Does my home need it? If any answer
is "no," place the item in the outbox for a week.
After that, decide whether to keep it or get rid of it. Still
unsure? Wait one more week. Once your separation anxiety has
passed, it’s easy to clear out a space, Maxwell says.
Protect your lawnmower: Want to avoid that expensive spring
lawnmower tune-up? Invest a few dollars on a spray can of
starting fluid. Squirt a few spritzes into the carburetor when
you wheel your mower out in the spring, and it should start on
the first pull. (Eliminates that trip to the shop — and
saves your aching back, too.) Starting fluid is less than $5
from makers such as Gunk, Gumout and Valvoline.
pops of color: Fabric baskets, like throw pillows, are a quick
way to add splashes of color to any room. They’re affordable
and easy to replace when you want a change. And they’re
handy, too, for stashing everything from magazines to the kids’
toys. See an amazing array at .
password thieves: Use an accented letter in your password.
Upholster a door: Charlotte, N.C., designer Gray Walker tells
Southern Living magazine that doors decked out in fabric and
trim — say leather and rivets, for instance — are making a
comeback. "Upholstery upgrades doors to a furniture-like
status that’s really beautiful," she says.
discounts on meat: Many supermarkets discount their meat late
in the evening, says Womansday.com. Ask at the meat counter
what time the manager makes markdowns.
the box: If you’re updating your lighting or your bath
hardware, save the box and use a section to create a cardboard
template. When mounting an overhead fluorescent light fixture,
for instance, cut a piece of cardboard the size of the
fixture, then poke holes through the cardboard that line up
with the mounting holes on the fixture. Use painter’s tape
to mount the cardboard to the ceiling. Then you’ll know
exactly where to mark the spots for drilling holes for plastic
anchors or toggle bolts.
a foolproof art wall: Use painter’s tape on your wall to
mask out an arrangement of art and objects; you’ll see right
away if you have enough to fill the space and make it
"important" looking, Domino magazine suggests. For
balance and variety, include both vertical and horizontal
Legos clean: Put Lego pieces in a mesh laundry bag, zip it
closed and toss into the washing machine full of hot water and
a bit of soap, says the toddler-mom who blogs at
Gettinby.wordpress.com. When the cycle is over, spread Legos
on a towel to dry.
handier: If you’re semi-handy and want to get better, buy
one new power tool a year. Black Friday is a great time to get
a quality item at a good price. And once you have a tool, you’ll
find a way to use it. This year, we got a great hammer drill
for $50. If you own a home, you’ll need one for drilling
into brick or concrete.
Bring an outdoor rug inside: Many designs are a good fit for
today’s casual decor and have the look and softness of
cloth. Best of all, you can just wipe – or hose – stains
away, making them ideal for a playroom or breakfast nook.
those "tiger stripe" aluminum gutters: Your gutters
are probably the dirtiest, dingiest surface on your home’s
exterior. So, if you wash just the gutters, your whole house
will look better! Krud Kutter makes a gutter wash that gets
decent reviews. It’s about $12 for 32 ounces. Be sure to
read and follow directions. Some homeowners swear by whitewall
tire cleaner, too.
a trouser hanger as a kitchen tool: Attach a recipe to the
clips and put the hanger on an upper-cabinet knob so cooking
directions are at eye-level when you need them. Or detach the
clips from the hanger and use them to close opened bags of
chips and pretzels.
free home improvement advice: Thinking about tackling an
intimidating home repair? Start Googling videos. You’ll
learn a lot. Still need advice? On a slow weekday off, go to a
home improvement store. You’ll find many people working the
floor who are former contractors and know how to get the job
done. They may offer a solution that’s easier than the one
you had in mind.
Create a magnetic wall: A roll of printed, cut-to-fit magnetic
wallpaper makes it easy to turn an odd niche or a closet door
into a useful spot to display reminders and kids’ school
projects. Houzz.com shows thousands of ways to use it.
a deck box do double-duty: These storage units are affordable,
easy to assemble — and truly handy. They keep stored porch
cushions dry and can double as seating. Pull the deck box up
to the outdoor table if you don’t have enough chairs for
guests. Ideal for storing gardening and grilling supplies, or
the kids’ outdoor toys.
organized: Shoe organizers that hang on doors make great
storage for cleaning supplies.
Clean a splattered, stained cook top: As soon as the stove has
cooled enough to touch, wipe away the mess. Cover dried-on
spills with a wet, soapy dish cloth and let it sit, then use
the cloth to wipe up the softened spill, Real Simple magazine
recommends. For stubborn, neglected messes, make a paste of 3
parts baking soda to 1 part water. Apply to the spill, leave
on for 10 minutes, and wipe away with a damp paper towel. You
can also use a nonabrasive cleanser.
an overhead garage shelf for more storage: These innovative
devices hang from the ceiling; if your garage ceiling is high
enough, you might be able to hang one in the space above the
open garage door. Prices start at about $60.
Grill on the cheap: Use a lot of charcoal for grilling? Big
box stores have huge markdowns around Memorial and Labor Day.
And if you use a Weber kettle, invest in a hinged grill that
lets you adjust the coals and drop in smoking wood more
easily. Watch for year-end markdowns on charcoal as well.
it clean: Real estate agents say dirty, smudged light switch
covers are a real turnoff for buyers. (Sorry – couldn’t
resist.) Clean or replace switch or receptacle covers.
Experiment with a different color. Crisp white adds a designer
touch. Switch and receptacle covers come in different sizes,
too, so you might want to check out larger covers.
Collect lidded boxes: Decorative boxes make perfect risers for
displaying mementos on a book shelf and provide interest and
storage on a side table or nightstand.
new curtain rods: Especially, Houzz.com says, if you update
other hardware such as door and cabinet knobs. Replace simple
brass rods with, say, bronze or brushed nickel. Choose
something more sculptural, more dramatic. Or go
outside-the-box creative and try something like re-purposed
electrical conduit or a gnarly tree branch.
Fight pet hair: Always shake clothing (preferably outside)
before tossing it in the wash, FamilyCircle.com recommends,
and add a couple of yards of nylon net to your dryer to catch
pet fuzz. You can use each piece several times.
new uses for old things: Allyou.com says cutting a few strips
of tin foil will keep your scissors sharp; that you can make a
koozie by cutting off the ankle portion of a sock and slipping
it over a bottled or canned beverage to keep it insulated; and
that a dab of white toothpaste can be used to fill small nail
holes in a wall.
over your linen closet: January is prime time for white sales.
Toss worn-out bedding and replace with sheets and pillowcases
that are color-coordinated to indicate size (blue for king,
beige for queen, etc.), Heather Chadduck Hillegas suggests in
Southern Living magazine. If space permits, assign a shelf for
each bedroom. Hillegas likes keeping towels white but
coordinating monograms with each bedroom’s color theme.
Spray it: If you can spray paint something instead of using a
can and brush, do it. It’s faster and easier. If you don’t
have a can of stain-blocking primer, get one.
Restore a scratched wooden table: Dip a soft cloth into a
mixture of ½ cup vinegar and ½ cup olive oil and rub it onto
the wood. The bloggers at Domestic Bliss Squared say scratches
a tidy litter box area: Used plastic bags from the supermarket
are ideal for disposing of used cat litter. Store them in an
empty tissue box next to the cat box for easy access. Some
tissue boxes come in pretty designer patterns.
Update a light fixture: Transform an old brass light fixture
or table lamp with Krylon’s oil-rubbed bronze spray paint.
(Or hammered metal or stone texture spray. You’re limited
only by your imagination.) Just clean the metal well, and
follow the instructions on the can.
a better BLT: Arrange raw strips of bacon in a basket-weave
that will fit on a slice of bread. Cook till crispy. Enjoy
with your favorite sandwich fixings. Thanks to Buzzfeed.com
for the idea.
blister packages easily: A hand-held can opener will cut
through the packaging with ease, according to a list of 99
tips to make your life making the rounds on Pinterest and
Freshen your entryway: Paint the railings when you paint your
front door. For iron railings, use a wire brush to remove
loose rust, coat with rusty metal primer, then finish with a
coat of oil-based enamel. For a little more sparkle at your
bright new entry, choose the semigloss finish instead of flat.
kids’ toys out of the tub: Position a tension-type shower
rod about 12 inches above the tub, next to the wall. Use hooks
or ties to attach ventilated plastic baskets to the rod to
stash bath toys. Rubber duckies, tub crayons and other toys
will drip-dry between baths and be out of the way.