Archive for the ‘Household’ Category

Fall maintenance can prevent crises

November 4, 2017

Cleaning your gutters is one of several maintenance tasks you ought to do before winter.

Although November can sometimes still be flip-flops-and-shorts weather, there are a number of fall maintenance tasks to undertake, no matter what the temperature gauge says.

We asked Lucinda Hoe, field services director of the West region for Associa On-Call, for some tips to keep a house as functional as possible. The company offers maintenance services, as well as management, for homeowner and community associations.

“These are things that should be done on an annual basis,” Hoe said. “Fall is a good time because there is more chance for wind and rain.”

Here are some tasks that will keep your house in tiptop shape:

Inspect windows and doors, inside and outside. Hot, dry weather can crack and crumble the seals around windows and doors. Caulk cracks and install weather stripping where the seal has failed. Replace any broken window glass, too.

Clean or replace filters in your heating system. If you have a gas heater, be sure to inspect the pilot light to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Inspect, clean and repair fireplace elements, including the chimney and flue, especially for wood-burning fireplaces. Dirty chimneys — those with a build-up of creosote — can cause fires.

Change the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Drain and flush particulates and sediment from water heaters. Sediment builds up and reduces heating efficiency, and in gas water heaters it can cause hot spots that will lead to premature failure.

Trim trees away from the house. Branches that scrape the roof can cause damage to shingles or tiles. Even the leaves can cause damage because they can trap moisture and cause mold. Be sure to remove all dead and broken branches.

Check vents to ensure that screens are intact. Rodents and other pests can easily make their way into warm, cozy attics or crawl spaces through these access points if not properly secured.

Clean and remove debris from rain gutters and downspouts to ensure proper flow and drainage. Overflow from blocked gutters can eventually damage a house’s foundation. Gutter guards can help keep gutters debris-free.

Inspect painted exterior areas. Any chipped or bare areas should be painted as soon as possible. Paint or other surface coverings such as stains protect wood and stucco from damaging water intrusion and other harmful elements such as pests.

Inspect your roof or hire a professional to conduct an inspection. Be sure that tiles and shingles are in good shape and areas surrounding protrusions are properly sealed and flashing is sitting properly.

“Many of these items will probably take you five to 30 minutes and can avoid costly repairs,” Hoe said. And keeping everything functional will help protect your investment.





August 9, 2015
10 Decluttering Principles to Help Anyone Clear the Clutter

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Colleen Madsen of 365 Less Things.

This was copied from

“Declutter. Organize. Live.”

I have never considered myself a natural organizer. But in 2007, my family moved to Australia from the USA. Because we were moving into a smaller home, I found myself needing to declutter a large number of items. Fortunately, we were able to accomplish the task…but mostly, because I had no other choice.

Shortly after the move, a new stage of life surfaced. My husband was about to begin semi-retirement. And to prepare for our new life together, I set a personal goal to again reduce our possessions. Coincidentally, on January 3rd, a segment aired on morning television about people abandoning their New Year resolutions. Turns out, on average, most people only stick to their resolution for three days. Even though I had never been one to take on resolutions, I found great motivation in beating those narrow odds… in fact, the challenge was nearly irresistible to me

I decided at that moment to set a new resolution to minimize our possessions. I determined to remove one item each day for the next 365 days. I started with three items to make up for the missed days, and promptly began decluttering one thing a day for the rest of the year. I am happy to say I not only completed my resolution successfully but it was so simple and satisfying that I continued decluttering in my slow and steady pace (an average of five items per week) for an additional two years!

Over these last three years of decluttering, I have removed over a thousand things from our home. Also, through the process and through my writing, I have had opportunity to help many people realize their own decluttering goals as well. These conversations have sharpened my desire for simplicity and taught me important insight about clearing clutter. I have learned that understanding just a few key principles can help anyone clear their clutter.

The 10 Most Important Decluttering Principles I Have Learned to Help Anyone Clear The Clutter:

1. Stop the Flow of Stuff Coming In. Decluttering is a waste of time if you simply replace the old stuff with new. You’ll need to begin by slowing the flow of things entering your home. Determine today to buy less. Trust me, you won’t regret it. The freedom from desire to acquire is a beautiful thing.

2. Declutter at Least One Item a Day. Decluttering does not have to be a mad frenzy that disrupts your entire household. Over the years, my home has become quite minimalist by simply choosing one item a day to declutter. This gradual process began to change the way I think about stuff. Eventually, it became a way of life rather than just a crash diet of stuff.

3. Declutter the Easy Stuff First. There is no need to make things difficult by trying to declutter the hardest things first. Most likely, it will simply deter you from the task altogether. Instead, start with the easy stuff and then as you strengthen your will to reduce, the harder decisions will become easier.

4. Put a Disposal Plan in Place. Before you begin, investigate selling, recycling, donating and give away options for the items you choose to declutter. The more prepared you are for the task, the simpler it will be… and the more likely you will be to follow through. Ebay, Freecycle, and our local thrift store became my favorite disposal options. However there are endless others to explore.

5. Decide to Not Keep Things out of Guilt or Obligation. Your home should only contain the things you love or use. Don’t let incorrect thinking or other people dictate what you should keep or give away. Remember, if the items are yours, it is your choice to decide what to do with them.

6. Do Not Be Afraid to Let Go. The urge to hold on to items you think you might need someday can be eliminated simply by being realistic about what need really is. Many items in our homes may be useful, but they are not particularly necessary to our happiness, well-being, or the functionality of our homes. Seek to understand the difference.

7. Gifts Do Not Have to be Material. There are so many ways to honor loved ones without giving gifts that end up as clutter. Encourage people to follow this concept when buying gifts for you. Some alternative gifts are gifts of experience or adventure, a gift of time spent together, even cash gifts are appropriate in some instances. I have two clutter-free gift guides at my blog if you are looking for ideas.

8. Do Not Over-Equip Your Home. A home does not need enough linen, crockery, cutlery, or pantry supplies to serve as a hotel. Be realistic about your true needs. In the rare event an unusually large number of guests arrive on your doorstep, you can always borrow from friends, family or neighbors.

9. Do Not Declutter Things that are not Yours Without the Owner’s Permission. Everyone should have a choice about their own belongings, even small children. Honor them by allowing them to choose. You can encourage hoarding tendencies in others by ripping things away from them before they are ready to let go.

10. Do Not Waste Your Life on Clutter. Every item you own takes time out of your life: time to manage it, clean it, repair it, and maintain it; time to choose between objects of a similar category; time spent shopping for it… and that doesn’t even mention the time spent earning the money to pay for it in the first space. Decide to sacrifice less of your precious life on the pursuit and ownership of stuff.

These ten principles have kept me resolute for the past three years. I had no idea when I began this mission how much stuff I would relinquish over the next three years. What I originally thought was going to be an arduous task quickly became a way of life… so much so, we have just put a deposit on a beautiful, even smaller, apartment with fabulous views of our coastal city, a swimming pool, and gym all within walking distance of everything we want. Semi-retirement is becoming a beautiful thing. Decluttering made it possible.


Colleen Madsen blogs regularly at 365 Less Things where she inspires others to reduce their stuff one day at a time. You can find her on Twitter.

All About Pillows

April 13, 2013

Pillow of your dreams

No need to lose sleep about where to rest your head


Getting a good night’s sleep rests on a variety of factors — room temperature, peace and quiet, whether your partner snores — but none of those matter if you’re sleeping on a pillow whose better days are as faded as the pattern on its cover.
The nonprofit National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Bedroom Poll reveals that 91 percent of people believe the right pillow is the stuff of sweet dreams and restful nights. Chances are, most of us agree. When we lay our heads down to rest, we want them upon pillows so comfortable that we don’t even give them a second thought.
What type of pillow is the most comfortable? The answer lies with the individual, who must search for his ideal headrest in a vast and confusing pile of pillow types and materials — memory foam, anti-microbial, hypo-allergenic, down, feather, latex, polyester, buckwheat, contoured.
The variety of choices might make you want to hide your head under a pillow, if only you had the right one. Add to that trying to figure out when and how often you need to replace your pillow and you conjure up quite a headache. Recommendations range from every few months if you buy cheap pillows that lose their fluff quickly to every one or two years for more expensive models. If you need an orthopedic pillow for a back or neck problem, your doctor can make a recommendation of how often to replace it.
Dr. David Davila of the Baptist Health Sleep Center in Little Rock says you won’t know how well a pillow suits you until you sleep on it. He suggests starting a pillow quest by noting what appeals to you in terms of texture, scent, density and thickness. Think back to pillows at places where you’ve slept such as hotels and homes of friends and family, make a list of the most comfortable and try to find out the style and material of each.
While the right pillow can affect quality of sleep, Davila says he doesn’t tell his patients what pillow they should have because the best pillow for a person is the pillow he likes. For example, some people prefer squishy pillows while others want to sleep like a log on something nearly as hard.
Choosing a pillow can be a daunting task, but it helps to understand that unless you have a special consideration like a neck problem or a dust-mite allergy, all you have to do to begin pillow shopping is know your sleeping style and how much money you’re willing to spend. A polyester-filled pillow may cost as little as $12 up to $200, while a high-quality down pillow that has a long fluff life could cost anywhere from $60 to more than $200. Have your pillow custom-made and the price tag goes even higher.
Sleeping style more than price, however, probably will be your first consideration, according to, because how you sleep determines the type of pillow and filling you need. A person who sleeps on his back, for example, needs a thinner pillow so his head isn’t thrown too far forward, making him wake up with a stiff neck. A side sleeper needs a firm or contoured pillow to fill the hollow between the ear and outside shoulder. Stomach sleepers either should have a thin, flat pillow or none at all.
Then there are scrunchers, people who like to wad their pillow into a ball, the folders who want to fold their pillow into a desired thickness and the “Cloud Niners” who want a pillow that’s all puff and fluff.
How a pillow scrunches, folds, springs or holds its shape depends on its filling, for which there are two basic categories: natural and synthetic. Here’s a look at materials within those categories, based on information from the Better Sleep Council (bettersleep. org),,, and Prices are approximate and based on standard and queen pillow sizes.
Down — The soft under feathers of ducks and geese make wonderfully fluffy pillows because down holds its shape. The interlocking feathers also hold in warmth, which makes these pillows especially great during winter. Price: $30-$270
Feather/down combo — Most “feather” pillows actually contain feathers and down because down increases softness and fluffiness. The highest quality “feather” pillows contain more down than feathers, but a typical ratio is 25 percent down/75 percent feathers. Price: $30-$95
Wool and/or cotton — Both are dense and warm, but firm. They tend to pack down over time to become flat and hard. Price: around $50
Latex — Molded of soft foam, a natural latex pillow is made from the sap of rubber trees. Some companies mix natural latex with synthetic latex, so check the label if you want a pillow that’s all natural. Latex pillows are among the most durable and long-lasting — many hold their shape and firmness for up to five years. Price: $30 and up.
Buckwheat — Pillows filled with buckwheat hulls are firm, but also mold to the shape of your head and neck. Price: $20-$30
Memory foam —Dense foam that retains warmth, shaping itself to the contours of your head, neck and shoulders as you sleep. When you move, the foam will spring back to its original shape. Memory foam is often used for contoured pillows for people with neck or spine problems because it provides support and give where necessary. Memory foam pillows are rated by density, with a 3-pound pillow being softer than a 6-pound pillow. Price: $12-$160.
Gel memory foam — These typically have memory foam on one side and a gel-coated foam on the other to provide two sleeping surfaces. People who find traditional memory foam uncomfortably warm can use the cooler gel side, which retains less body heat. Price: $35-$70
Microfiber gel pillow — Made of polyester fibers that have been coated with a gel to extend their life and make them softer, these are supposed to be the synthetic equivalent of a down pillow. Price: $22-$70.
Polyester — Polyester fiber, often touted as a down alternative, is softer than other fill materials. It has the advantage of being machine washable, but pillows will lose their shape after a couple of washings. Polyester pillows are also the most common and least expensive pillows, with the type of covering (sateen, microfiber, cotton) figuring into the cost. Price: $6 to $60.
When pillow shopping, test firmness and resilience by placing pillows on a flat surface and pressing them with your palm until they are about half their original thickness. Firmer pillows need more pressure and the quicker a pillow returns to its original shape, the more resilient it is.
Sleep tight.