9 Gorgeous Spring Decorating Ideas to Usher in the New Season

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Spring is officially here, and the days are longer and lighter—if not warmer, in some places. And with the new season comes a chance to hit the reset button on your home’s decor. It’s time to stash away heavy throws and that snowflake-themed doormat and bring out a brighter look.

“Springtime is your chance to renew the spaces you live in and take them out of hibernation,” says Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

To help you ease into the new season, we’ve gathered nine gorgeous ways to upgrade your interior and exterior style. The best part? They’re cheap and easy. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and bring some spring fling into your home.

1. Add cheery wallpaper

Quick and easy peel-and-stick wallpaper is ideal for spring, especially if you choose a joyful, bright print. Seek out lively patterns, including pink and green branches, pastel polka dots, or bird themes.

And if you’re not sure you want to redo the entire room, put this temporary look on an accent wall. You’ll still have a pop of springtime color, but with less commitment.

2. Display rustic birds’ nests

What says “rejuvenation” more than the very structures that nurture life? Bring these natural elements inside by collecting old nests that you’re certain aren’t in use or by hitting up the crafts store for faux versions.

Place your nest collection under a glass cloche or fill it with fruit, flowers, or, as Easter approaches, colored eggs and bunnies.

3. Show off fresh flowers

Fresh flowers are a must this time of year.

“I love calla lilies, irises, and tulips in a bouquet placed in a nontypical spot such as your nightstand or bar cart,” says Sara Chiarilli, an interior designer with Artful Conceptions in Tampa, FL.

And in the yard, look to pansies and azaleas.

“Azaleas [can act] as colorful and well-behaved foundation plants on the east side of your house, where they’ll receive afternoon shade,” recommends Matt Michaels of Lowe’s.

“Pansies are a great springtime bloom because they’re hardy in cold weather and come in an array of shades, many with bicolor faces,” adds Rhianna Miller of rubber mulch. Plus, they thrive in both full sun and part shade and can be planted in pots, flower beds, and hanging baskets.

4. Change up your throw pillows

The beauty of a neutral couch is that you can change out your accessories with every season, Chiarilli notes. Pack away dark throw pillows and accent blankets, and go for lighter colors.

“If you live in a warm-toned house, pick yellows, soft pinks, and orange—and for cool tones, select light blues, greens, and silvers,” she says.

5. Swap in brighter lampshades

Out with dark, tweedy toppers, and in with paler, more delicate shades. Pinks, lavenders, and lime greens herald the season, offering your living room a spring glow for not much money. Check out chain stores such as T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, and Target for inexpensive lampshades for every room.

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Go Green At Home! Your Wallet Will Thank You!

Heating & Cooling 

Heating and Cooling your home takes up the lion’s share of energy consumption, but there are plenty of ways to mitigate the cost.  For starters, keep your ceiling fan running even in the winter when it is cold. The ceiling fan circulates more air, which makes heating and cooling easier. Next, consider insulating your attic.  Although this sounds like a big task, some insulations can be installed with just a small hole and there are lots of eco-friendly insulation fibers these days, like Green Fiber Cocoon. And while you’re insulating, make sure to seal up any gaps around doors and windows.  Last, set your thermostat at 68 during winter months and light up the fireplace. You’re probably thinking that chopping down trees to burn in your fireplace isn’t a green alternative? Try burning an eco-friendly alternative made from recycled coffee grounds; there are several brands to choose from these days, Bio-Bean, Java Log, and Pine Mountain to name a few.  They burn for 2-3 hours like a traditional log but produce 3 times the flame capacity. These logs burn 7 times cleaner than wood, produce 96 percent less residue and 54 percent less carbon dioxide than wood. You’ll love the gentle coffee aroma too!

Water

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Conserving water can be as easy as taking a shower instead of a bath, but for those looking to go the extra mile here are some more suggestions.  Try installing a water aerator on the faucet’s in your home; they’re inexpensive and almost invisible. They work by adding air to the stream of water coming out of the faucet, which still gives you a steady flow of water but can reduce water consumption by as much as 50% per use.  Another low-cost way to save more water is by installing low flow showerheads. These water efficient shower heads can save as much as 26 gallons of water per shower. Last, for all the garden lovers; try planning a garden composed of native and adaptive plants that require little to no watering.

Electricity

Whenever you leave a room, its best to turn off the light and most of us already know that.  But did you know that many of the devices in your home are drawing power even when they’re not being used?  It is best to unplug your gadgets when you’re not using them, but unplugging your TV, Bluray, etc. can become tiresome.  An easy way around this is using power strips which make it easy to switch everything off at once. Of course, these days there is another easy way to save on your electric bill if you have not already made the leap, consider installing solar panels on your home!  In sunny California, solar panels can save many homeowners about half of their entire electric bill!

 

Meditation Room Ideas to Get Your ‘Om’ on at Home

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Need some meditation room ideas to get all Zen in the comfort of your own home? Transforming a room into a dedicated yoga/meditation space—even if you try to be Zen about it—can sound daunting. How do you even start replicating the peaceful vibe your favorite studio delivers time and time again?

“Meditation and yoga are all about connecting the mind and body with the universe, so it’s essential that the [room] enhances the experience,” says Lisa Melone Cloughen, owner of Melone Cloughen Interiors, a residential design firm in the New York area. “The space you create should be reflective of you and your nature.”

There are no rules, she assures. But keep your drishti (to nonyogis, that would be your focused gaze) on these crucial concepts.

Less is more

No one’s saying your space needs to be devoid of design, but it should be free of visual clutter.

“An excess of ‘stuff’ can be unsettling to the eye and ultimately cause the mind to wander,” Cloughen says. If possible, empty the room first and then add back only what you need or truly want.

Create a focal point

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If your studio has a well-situated window, you’re in luck! You just found yourself a lovely and natural focal point.

“Your practice will benefit from natural views and ever-changing light,” says Cloughen. If you chose to cover your windows (because maybe you don’t want your neighbors to watch you deep-squatting in horse pose for two minutes), keep it easy and ethereal: Use shoji paper shades or soft sheers.

No windows? No problem. You can also create a focal point on a blank wall. Consider a mandala for artwork—this geometric figure represents the universe in Buddhism and Hinduism.

Color yourself serene

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Whether you go with light or dark colors is a personal preference, but stay away from vivid colors, which can create a mental distraction.

“A grass cloth or bamboo wall covering’s also an alternative to paint,” Cloughen notes. “It adds warmth, subtle coloration, and textural variations, and furthers the Zen-like vibe of the space.”

Get your glow on

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Dimmer switches, lanterns, or well-spaced candles will add to the ambiance of your hopefully sacred space. You can even incorporate sconces, says Cloughen, since the shadows they cast will serve as an additional design element.

Bring in the outdoors

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“Natural elements have an inherently restorative quality and enhance feelings of harmony and balance,” says Veronica Parker, a yoga teacher and meditation coach in Voorhees, NJ. Bring in something from the outdoors that resonates with you, be it crystals, shells, river rocks, branches, or a little greenery.

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5 Tips To Refresh Your Home For Spring Time

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It may still be snowing in some parts of the country, but spring is almost here. Before the flowers start budding outside, refresh the inside of your home to give your interior spaces that springtime glow.

Bring the outdoors inside
Adding fresh plants or flowers to an otherwise ho-hum space can spice things up in the blink of an eye. Even if you don’t have a garden full of fresh flowers to choose from, greens make a lovely addition to your living room, or even an eye-catching centerpiecefor your dining room table. Better Homes and Gardens suggests gathering a few fresh fern fronds for dramatic texture and rich color.

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Don’t be afraid to add color One of the easiest ways to perk up your space is to invest in a gallon of paint, call in reinforcements to help you out, and go to town with brushes and rollers. If you’re not incredibly adventurous when it comes to color choices but still want a pick-me-up, try going with a warmer, creamier version of the neutrals you already have; a creamy barely-yellow adds so much more warmth and interest than stark white. You could even paint an accent wall a bold, fun color and use that space to showcase some of your favorite art or family portraits for your own personal art gallery. ForRent.com suggests incorporating bright colors in a breakfast nook or one of the smaller spaces of your home or apartment. It’s less of a risk than painting your entire kitchen or living room, but still packs a punch.

Reorganize your bookshelves If you’ve got a fantastic library, now is a great time to take everything off the shelves, blow the dust off the covers, and reorganize. You might even consider artfully stacking books in different directions, some horizontal and some upright. Apartment Therapy reports some pretty impressive results simply by arranging books by color for a uniquely eye-catching display.

Update window treatments Spring is a great time to trade in your richly-textured drapes for lighter, breezier, more summery colors. If privacy isn’t a huge issue in a space, try adding light, breezy sheer curtains on a thin, minimalist rod. You’ll love how much the change automatically brightens your space. You might also consider substituting your ordinary blinds with Roman Shades. They’re a classier way to control light and privacy, and to update your style.

Make your entryway welcoming Upgrade (or thoroughly clean) your front-door mats and add a wreath to your front door. This could be a fun DIY project for the entire family. Make sure you have an efficient landing spot just inside your front door — a place to drop keys and hang up a coat or jacket before coming inside. This is also a great place for a fun mirror and a flower arrangement. Your home’s entryway often gives guests their very first impression of your home, so make it shine with your family’s personality and a touch of style.

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Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: 6 Beautiful Ways to Add the Color Black in Your Home

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It’s time to switch over to the dark side—at least in your home decor.

Yep, that’s right. When it comes to today’s hot trends in interior design, black is the new black. From bold accent walls to chic black-and-white living spaces to onyx kitchen cabinets, designers are increasingly turning to the darkest shade on the spectrum to create a dramatic statement.

Sure, using black can be a little intimidating. But just like a little black dress, it goes with everything.

“Black is a great choice for interiors because it never goes out of style, it goes with every other color, and it conveys a feeling of luxury,” says Val Malnar, principal designer at Orangetree Interiors.

Plus, black works seamlessly with most styles, no matter if your home is Hollywood glamour, Mid-Century Modern, or even industrial (farmhouse chic, anyone?).

Ready to go dark? We asked some top designers to show us the way.

1. On your cabinets

So your kitchen or bathroom needs a style upgrade, but you don’t want to spend a boatload of cash on a major renovation. What’s a homeowner to do?

Paint the cabinets black, says Cynthia Spence, an interior designer in San Francisco.

“It can be very grounding and the hardware can shine against it—be it brass, polished nickel, or even satin nickel,” she says. “It becomes a very different architectural element, and it’s also gender-neutral.”

2. On an accent wall

 

If you’re feeling brave, a black accent wall can hit all the right notes, says TC Chou, founding partner at Design Determination in New York City. In your bedroom, living room, or dining space, a brush of black can offer a classic look without feeling overwhelming.

“It gives the sense of a cozy, warm space, and is a great backdrop for artwork and statement furniture pieces to pop,” Chou says. “And it’s a less common wall color, so it gives the room a sense of uniqueness.”

3. In a hallway

If using black in a high-traffic area such as the living room or kitchen is a little too bold for your tastes, consider it in a hallway instead. You can go all-in and slather everything in black or pair it with other dark tones.

In a recent home project with a long vestibule, Spence painted all the doors a semigloss black (with brushed-nickel knobs), and kept the walls and trims a platinum gray.

“The result was quietly impactful and made space more of a destination rather than an eyesore,” Spence says.

In the past, Spence also painted a hallway ceiling black for extra flair.

“It literally made the ceiling disappear, and the light fixture and wall covering became the focal points,” she says.

4. On the ceiling

Speaking of a dramatic ceiling, don’t limit it to the hallway.

“A black ceiling can help emphasize architectural features in the room such as moldings,” Chou says.

It can also make kitchen fixtures pop and help define an area in an open floor plan, he notes. Plus, if you think about it, black is known in fashion for its ability to cover up any flaws—and the same goes for the home.

“For rooms like basements, it’s a great way to hide exposed ductwork or ceiling tile,” Chou says.

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8 Things You Must Do Before Renovating Your House—or Else

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1. Know what you like

Oh that part’s easy, right? You want a totally new kitchen. But what exactly does that mean? You have to narrow down whether that’s just cosmetic (e.g., new cupboards, counters, and appliances) or structural (e.g., reconfiguring your space or knocking down a wall).

“I suggest my clients spend time browsing Pinterest, flipping through home decorating magazines, and watching design shows on TV to assemble a ‘visual wish list,’ which helps them get a handle on their design direction,” says Barbara Mount of Barbara Mount Designs and Windermere Realty Group, in Lake Oswego, OR. This is a particularly crucial exercise to get couples, whose tastes could be wildly different, on the same design page.

2. Run the numbers

There’s a reason we call it a “dream house”: It might not exist in real life—at least within the parameters of our budget! So before you get too attached to single-slab counters or spendy light fixtures, take a stroll down the aisles of your local design center to start pricing materials and labor.

3. Do a reality check

You might be wildly off base on what’s feasible in home renovation. For example, a project that might seem simple, such as adding a laundry room upstairs, can easily become a budget buster when you realize you have to configure complicated plumbing because of the location you chose. Having a consultation with an architect or a contractor can give you some insight into which projects will be workable—and which you might want to abandon before you even get started.

4. Decide to DIY or go pro

For all but the simplest jobs—or if you’re extremely handy (and patient)—using a professional contractor is the way to go. And even if you want to do some of the work yourself, be realistic about what skills you have to complete it to your satisfaction. Also consider how much free time you have; no one wants to have to use the downstairs bathroom for a month because the convenient one in the master bedroom is all torn up.

If your goal is to move load-bearing walls or tackle other more involved projects, it’s definitely time to bring in the pros. You might even want to consider enlisting design help in addition to a contractor, suggests Mount.

“A designer can go a long way in easing the pain of design decisions and decorating drama,” she says. There’s also the sizable discount a designer is often able to wrangle at building supply and furnishings markets.

5. Test run your colors and materials

Have you settled on the most amazing periwinkle for the powder room or aged oak for the cabinets? Order samples of absolutely everything you can, from carpet to fabrics, recommends Mount, and then take a few days to live with them.

“Color and pattern change with the light throughout the day, so walk by the room several times and get a feel for what you really want,” she says.

Also, don’t be shy about putting as many paint colors on the wall as possible. She suggests clients paint a sample on a board or piece of sturdy cardboard and move it around the rooms throughout the day and into night.

6. Vet your contractor

We’re not talking about doing just a cursory audit of online reviews or references, although those are helpful. You have to do a full-blown checkand get proof of the following:

  • Contractor’s license
  • Certificate of insurance for general liability and workers’ comp
  • Lien history
  • Bond number and certification

And remember, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your contractor, as well as parting with a lot of cash and potentially a good bit of your sanity over the duration of the renovation. Your contractor is soon to become an almost-roommate, so take the time to conduct in-person interviews to find both a personal and professional fit.

7. Insist on an airtight contract

Starting a project is the “honeymoon” phase, but you want to be prepared for the days that are less dreamy. That’s why your contract with an outside professional needs to be specific and include the following:

  • Payment schedule (make sure you never complete final payment until you are 100% satisfied)
  • Timeline
  • Potential penalties for missed milestones
  • Details on all the work, down to how many cabinets are being installed and how many square feet of which tile will be laid

Not only will the document protect you, it will also show your contractor you mean business, says Jody Costello, founder of ContractorsFromHell.com.

“Requiring a detailed written agreement with protective clauses for the consumer will certainly deter a smarmy contractor who prefers vague language and little detail—the very thing that destroys a homeowner’s chances of having a drama-free renovation,” Costello says.

8. Time your renovation right

Renovation projects are notorious for running over schedule, often through no one’s fault. Weather can delay projects; necessary materials can be on back order; subcontractors can get sick; tricky wiring can take longer than expected. It’s wise to just expect there will be delays, so plan the renovation with ample time if you have a “due date,” such as house guests coming or a special trip that will take you out of town.

 

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Best Renovations for Small Bathrooms

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Small bathrooms, or half-baths, present unique design challenges. You want functional storage without cramping an already tight space or a trendy design without being visually overwhelming. Whether your goal is to make your small bathroom more functional for everyday use, or just more aesthetically appealing, you have several options.

Luxe Materials on a Small Budget

With less square footage to cover, you can opt for those pricier materials. Go for a more expensive tile and give your bathroom a luxurious feel without breaking a budget. If you’re feeling adventurous, take advantage of the lower cost and hop on the one material trend, making its comeback this year.

You can also install high-quality countertops since material costs will be low. Quartz is a durable and trendy material that typically costs $70-$100 per square foot. A typical vanity size in a small bathroom is 3.5 square feet, meaning you could install a quartz countertop for about $300.

Maximizing Storage with Minimal Space

Even small bathrooms are full of stuff. Makeup, lotions, toothbrushes, cotton balls, curling irons—the list goes on. Where can you put all your daily items that is accessible without adding to the clutter?

  • Floating shelves give you storage room, while taking up less visual space than cabinets. To make the space look better, put items in matching jars or containers. This will make the space look cleaner and keep items within reach.
  • Floating vanities are a big trend in 2018. Lifting the vanity from the floor gives visual space without sacrificing cabinet storage.
  • Corner/over-the-toilet shelving units make use of under-utilized space. Using baskets and jars to store your items vertically will keep your bathroom spacious and functional.

Design and Functionality

Before deciding on a design for your bathroom, consider its use. Is it the main bathroom that you use every day, a guest bathroom, a powder room? Understanding its main function will help you decide on a bathroom design that works best for your needs.

  • Dark vs. Light: A small room should use light or neutral colors to visually maximize space. While this often holds true, if your bathroom has a natural light source, you can opt for something more dramatic.
  • Pocket doors maximize floor space by sliding directly into the wall. This will leave you more space for much-needed storage units. If pocket doors aren’t in your budget, consider trendy interior barn doors, which are often more affordable than pocket doors while still upping resale value.
  • Glass shower doors can make your bathroom seem larger, because you can see the entire square footage of the room. Shower curtains create a visual wall, cutting down your already small space. If privacy is a concern, consider frosted glass as an alternative.

Bright lighting is not only useful in a bathroom, it will make the space seem larger. Multiple light sources will help eliminate dramatic shadows, making your space seem more open and airy.

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How Many Homes Will It Take to Find ‘The One’?

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When you’re house hunting, you can start feeling like Goldilocks pretty quickly: This one’s too small, that one’s too big, and that other one has crazy wallpaper—the list of “not quite right” goes on and on.

The average home buyers will visit 10 homes over 10 weeks’ time before they find “the one”—that special place that inspires an offer. But that number can vary widely: Some may fall in love with the first place they see, while others feel compelled to check out several dozen.

To prove that the path to homeownership can take some wild turns, we got three home buyers to reveal how many houses it took to find the perfect place. Let their stories inspire you to find your dream home!

We bought the very first house we toured’

Becky Dacona and her husband toured only one house—one!—before buying it. Given they had so few reference points, how did they know there wasn’t something better out there?

The secret, says Dacona, was doing a thorough vetting job online.

“In reality we searched for about three years,” she says of her digital home-shopping saga. “We would first search the listings and find things in our price range, and that met our requirements. Then we would do extensive research online about the place like the taxes, and check out Google Earth to see how the home was situated in relation to the neighbors. Then, if we still liked what we saw, we’d compile a list and do a drive-by.”

At long last, they cruised by a house for sale in Fremont, NY, and they were persuaded to take a look inside.

This house is the first that inspired us to contact the real estate agent,” Dacona says of her current home. “It wasn’t an ‘aha’ moment or anything like that. We did our drive-by, and it really appealed to us. Then we drove by again, and again. Then we realized that we wanted to take that next step and see where it led. And it led to us buying this home.”

Take-home lesson: Doing thorough research online can really help you narrow your options—and save you time and effort. Make sure to vet the home and the neighborhood using Google Maps, and use tools such as realtor.com/local to get neighborhood info.

‘It took five years and 50 houses’

“I looked at houses for years,” admits Steven Eliades. “You name it, I looked at it. There was always something just not right. The yard was too big. The yard was too small. It was too far from town.”

It was an exhausting process, but when he saw the quaint yellow Victorian in Philadelphia, Eliades immediately knew it was perfect.

“I knew I wanted a Victorian house that wasn’t too big, that had a wraparound porch, that I could drive to the grocery store from in five or 10 minutes,” he says of his home since 2002. “And I wanted to be in a community. I wanted to have neighbors!”

He and his wife made an offer on the spot. “We didn’t even pull out of the driveway, didn’t think about it overnight,” he recalls.

Take-home lesson: Sometimes you have to shop around to get a firm handle on what you like—and dislike—and what your market has to offer. So don’t think of it as wasted time if it takes a while for the right house to appear; consider it time well spent honing your house hunting skills.

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What Is Your Property Really Worth?

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Question. Over the years, I have been involved in questions dealing with the value of certain property. This has involved such diverse issues as appealing the County’s assessment for tax purposes, obtaining a refinance mortgage to avoid private mortgage insurance, and recently challenging an IRS valuation of property we just inherited.

Is there a way to determine what our property is really worth. We have often obtained different appraisals on the same property and would like to determine our true net worth. How do the appraisal prices work?

Answer. The most commonly used method to determine the value of one’s property is to obtain an independent appraisal from an experienced appraiser. However, appraising market value of real estate is an art — and not a science. And at best, it is an inexact art. My own experience with appraisals and appraisers has led me to question the validity of a number of appraisals.

It should be understood that an appraisal is an estimate and an opinion of value. The appraisal will not determine or establish the value of your property, but it can only estimate what that value is. The Supreme Court of the United States has defined fair market value as “the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having a reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.”

All too often, however, the appraiser does not understand — or even know — the neighborhood, and brings to bear his or her subconscious prejudices while considering the value of your house. This is even worse now since lenders often have to rely on appraisers who are not even in the locality of the property.

There are three methods used by appraisers. First, the cost approach. Under this method, the cost of reproducing the building is added to the value of the land, and a discount is applied for depreciation and deterioration that the buildings might have suffered.

A second approach is known as the capitalization of income. Since this is generally used in considering income-producing property and is complicated and controversial, this column will not enter into a discussion of this approach.

The third formula is known as the market comparison. Here, the appraiser must consider the value of comparable properties, and once again, this is a highly subjective task. For example, your next door neighbor’s house recently sold for $410,000. Your house looks identical to your neighbor’s from the outside.

But inside your house, there are major differences. You have a finished basement; your neighbor does not. You have wall-to-wall carpets; your neighbor does not. You have recently installed a very modern kitchen; your neighbor’s kitchen is from the l940’s.

Needless to say, unless the appraiser actually visits and inspects both houses, the comparable method may adversely affect you.

Nevertheless, this market comparison method is widely utilized by appraisers in determining property values for mortgage lenders.

This does not mean to imply that you must take the appraisal without question. Here are some tips for dealing with your appraiser:

  1. 1. Insist on obtaining a written report from the appraiser. Obtain the appraiser’s name and address, and inquire as to the methods used to determine the value of your property.
  2. 2. If the appraisal was obtained by a mortgage lender, appeal that appraisal through that lender. Advise the lender you are dissatisfied with the value placed on the property, and that you will insist on a second appraisal being done, by an appraiser of your selection.

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February home to-do’s

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You started off the new year with resolutions for yourself and goals for the home. As you now begin to settle into your new lifestyle, it’s important to clean up clutter at home and look forward to the months ahead. Winter is slowly coming to an end, and your house maintenance needs to reflect a fresh spring feel. Take a look at five chores to help give your home a boost of spring.

Clean up indoor paint

Unless your wall needs a fresh coat of paint, go through them with a sponge and freshen up the paint on your doors and cabinets. Take a deeper look and spot the smudges and dust that builds up in these areas. An easy run through will freshen the paint in the house and reduce the need for a new paint job.

Clean under the heavy stuff

It took time and lot of energy to put the fridge where it currently stands, the oven in its place, and the dresser in its corner. It’s understandable not to want to move them again. Though, there is dust and trash that can slip into these areas. These are not everyday chores, but it is important to clean under these untouched spots to prevent bad build up over time.

Raid the Fridge

A common trend that tends to happen during the new year is putting more food in the fridge than we take out. With our new diets or eating styles we outlined in the new year, eventually, there are a few of those items we just don’t get around too as much as we had hoped. Take some time to dispose of those items that got pushed to the back of the fridge.

Mattress and Bedding

Clean up the mattress by vacuuming and laying it on its side to fully air itself out. Replace the current sheets you have to give the bed a fresh new feel. It might be a good time to start packing up the winter weather bedding and start replacing it with a springtime vibe.

Windows/Screens

There are a few windows that get all the attention while the rest get none. The dust and grime that gets into the surface of your windows will make them look old and cloudy. Take a look at the windows around the house and grab some window-cleaner to take the cloudiness right off.