To-Dos: Your June Home Checklist

Get your house ready for summer with a mix of maintenance musts and breezy room refreshes

By Laura Gaskill  |  Courtesy of Houzz.com

Summer officially begins June 21 this year, but why wait until then to get into the summer spirit? Get a jump-start by prepping your home and garden for warm weather, setting up the perfect drip-dry spot for beach towels, reorganizing the kitchen (hello, smoothie bar) and more. These 21 to-dos cover all the bases, so you can enjoy the season to the fullest.

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Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

1. Make your summer must-do list. Beach days, lemonade on the porch, pick-your-own fruit farms — with so much to look forward to in summer, don’t let it zip by in the blink of an eye. Be sure you are making the most of your season by creating a list of your personal must-dos and posting it where you can see it. A big chalkboard or family bulletin board would be ideal.

2. Empty standing water regularly. The best way to keep mosquito populations down is by regularly checking your property for standing water and emptying it. Even a saucer of water can become a mosquito nursery, so leave no pot unturned!

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3. Set up a spot to dry beach towels and bathing suits. Soggy, sandy beach towels getting dragged through the house is a mess waiting to happen — but you can easily prevent this with a bit of planning. Choose a dedicated spot, either just outside the door (a covered porch works well) or in the mudroom, as shown, and hang a row of sturdy hooks for wet towels and bathing suits. Once dry, sand can be easily shaken off outdoors, so it doesn’t end up in your washing machine.

4. Corral summer necessities in a bowl or basket. Stash extra sunscreen, shades and bug repellant in a container near the front door for easy access when you’re in a rush.

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Tackle These Tasks Over a Weekend

5. Install screen doors. If you use them, now is the time to take down the storm doors and put up screen doors to let the summer breezes pour in. Be sure to inspect screens carefully, patching holes as needed — even a tiny hole can be enough to let in a mosquito.

6. Check play equipment for safety. Over time, wood, ropes and fastenings can degrade, making outdoor play equipment potentially unsafe. Check swings, zip lines, slides and other structures for safety; repair or replace as needed.

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7. Hang a clothesline for summer energy savings. While the weather is nice and warm, consider skipping the dryer and hanging your clothes to dry in the fresh air instead. It may not always be possible, but even occasionally putting a clothesline or drying rackto work will save energy. 

If hang-drying isn’t an option, you can still reduce your energy bill by washing in cold water, cleaning the lint trap and having your dryer vent serviced to increase airflow.

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8. Reorganize your kitchen. The change in seasons is a good time to rethink how you have things arranged in the kitchen. If there are small appliances you use more in the warmer months (a blender for smoothies, perhaps, or an ice cream maker), move them to a more accessible spot, and you will be more likely to use them. 

Stations devoted to a certain purpose can also do wonders. If you have children on summer vacation, create a self-help station stocked with healthy snacks. Or create an iced-coffee bar or smoothie-making station for yourself with all needed supplies within reach.

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9. Make space for summer crafts. A dedicated space for arts and crafts can provide screen-free entertainment and a creative outlet — and it’s not just for kids! Even if you must work all summer, having a space to devote to a hobby can re-energize and inspire you.

10. Organize and put away school papers. If you do have kids, at the end of the school year, it can be tempting to jump right into summer. But taking the time to sort through each child’s school things will help prevent clutter from piling up, and you can start the summer fresh. Sort through the papers, artwork and projects from the year, choosing the best representative pieces (and those that most pull at your heartstrings) to save in a portfolio or document box and then recycling the rest. If you want to preserve more than you can keep, consider scanning the artwork into your computer and creating a photo book with the pictures. 

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11. Keep cooling systems running smoothly. Take the time before hot weather sets in to dust ceiling fans, install window air-conditioning units and schedule maintenance for a whole-house cooling system.

12. Lighten up decor. Roll up heavy rugs, put crisp percale or cooling linen sheets on the beds and bring in accents in lighter hues for the warmer months ahead. Breezy white curtains look delightfully cool in summer, but if the weather gets quite hot where you live, you may want to leave heavy window coverings in place. Closing the shades during the heat of the day can actually help keep your house cooler

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13. Plant bee-friendly flowers. Help give pollinators a place to thrive by adding bee-friendly native plants to your garden now for fall blooms. Which flower species you choose will depend on your region; ask for assistance at a local nursery specializing in native plants if you are unsure.

14. Keep an eye on irrigation systems. A faulty sprinkler or irrigation hose that goes unnoticed can quickly cause big problems for your lawn and garden. Make a habit of checking each component once a week, especially in summer.

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15. Give your garage or shed a clean-out. Since you’ll likely be spending more time in your outdoor spaces during the summer, it’s a good idea to take some time at the start of the season to clear out space in your storage area. Take old paint cans to a hazardous waste drop-off point, sell or give away items you no longer want and organize what’s left into zones of use: garden tools and supplies, outdoor adventures and sports gear, and household tools.

16. Get seasonal gear ready. What with camping and beach trips, summertime activities come with a lot of gear. Get it cleaned up and ready now, so you’re not surprised by a leaky tent or blown-out beach umbrella when it’s too late to replace them. And if you plan to waterproof anything (tents or outdoor tablecloths, for example), now is the time.

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Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Month

17. Refresh your bathroom. Shower curtain liner looking a little dingy? Bath towels seen better days? Give your bathroom a mini spa makeover, and swap out your tired old bath linens for fresh, fluffy new towels and a new curtain liner. Use a woven basketto corral rolled towels. And contain toiletries on a tray or in zippered containers.

See a wide range of bathroom makeovers

18. Update first-aid kits and emergency supplies. Be prepared for everything from minor snafus to natural disasters with well-stocked first-aid kits in the house and car, plus emergency supplies for your family and pets. Not sure what to include? The American Red Cross has a helpful checklist.

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19. Clean gutters and downspouts. If you did not get your gutters cleaned in spring, be sure to get this essential task checked off your list as soon as possible. Leaf- and debris-clogged gutters can lead to leaks and siding damage with summer storms.

20. Schedule major outdoor projects. Whether you are dreaming of a new patio or need to replace a deck, don’t delay booking a landscape architect or contractor for your projects. Their schedules tend to fill up quickly in the summer. 

21. Catch up on projects and maintenance. No one is perfect, and chances are there are a few home-maintenance projects you’ve been meaning tackle. Why not make June the month to get caught up?

Fly a Flag! 7 Ways to Make the Most of the Long Weekend

Honor our veterans on Memorial Day, and use the extra downtime to rest up or prep for summer

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of Houzz.com

Memorial Day is coming up on Monday, May 28, in the U.S., which means it’s time to salute those who died while serving in the armed forces by displaying the flag, visiting a memorial or attending a local parade. It’s also part of a long weekend — and the unofficial start to the summer season. Use your extra time off to get that grill ready for backyard barbecues, spruce up the garden and relax in bed with an extra cup of coffee. Here are seven ideas for your long weekend.

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1. Get the grill ready for barbecue season. This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer — and grilling season. Get your grill ready by scraping the grates with a grill brush, checking gas burners for clogs and wiping down the exterior with warm, soapy water. Check your setup and get any tools or supplies you still need, including fuel, heavy-duty oven mitts, tongs, foil and a grilling spatula.

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2. Declutter the kitchen counter. Give your counters a fresh start by clearing off all the papers and random items that have accumulated there. Recycle old paper, give mail and keys a dedicated home (a tray, for example), and corral tech devices and chargers in a basket or drawer. When you’re done decluttering, wipe counters clean and set out a small potted plant or a vase of flowers to beautify the space and encourage future neatness.

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3. Relax with coffee in bed. Breakfast in bed can be less fun than it sounds (hello, crumbs). But coffee in bed? That’s a winner. Make your weekend morning feel extra special by making yourself up a tray with coffee or tea, reading material and a bud vase of flowers. Even a few extra savored minutes in the morning can really help start the day on a positive note. 

Kids barging in on your morning peace? If they’re old enough, pass out fun reading material like comic books, graphic novels or kids’ magazines. Or put on a kid-friendly story podcast (Circle Round from NPR is a favorite at our house) and let kids listen and draw while you sip and read.

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4. Stock your picnic basket. Picnic season is upon us. Is your basket ready? At minimum, a good picnic kit has a blanket or tablecloth, bottle opener, small cutting board and knife, and a few reusable cups and plates. Nice-to-have extras include reusable cutlery, a tiffinfood container, cloth napkins, salt and pepper shakers, and a tray to set drinks on. 

And while you can’t go wrong with a classic wooden picnic basket like the one shown here, a picnic backpack, French market basket or cooler would all work as well.
 

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5. Freshen up mulch — or just add more plants. The right mulch, applied judiciously, can help suppress weeds and add organic matter to the soil. If you use wood chips or shredded wood mulch in your planting beds, chances are a lot of what you applied in the past has broken down or blown away. After weeding, apply a new layer of mulch to freshen up the beds. 

Tired of adding mulch year after year? Instead of switching to inorganic mulch, like river stones, which can absorb and radiate heat, consider planting ground cover. With enough plants covering the area, you may be able to skip the mulch entirely, which may be best for the plants, soil and wildlife.

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6. Give your parking strip some TLC. That poor sliver of dirt beside the road gets trampled, splattered with mud and sprayed with road salt. No wonder it’s often called the hell strip. But this little zone is also often the first thing visitors — and you — see when approaching your house, so it’s worth putting some time and effort into making it look good.

How to Design Your Hell Strip

  • Check with your homeowners association or local code enforcers before getting started to learn what is allowed in your area.
  • Incorporate gaps so visitors can exit vehicles without stepping on plants.
  • Add interest with low-growing perennials or soft ornamental grasses.
  • Not sure what to choose? Ask at a local garden center for recommendations on local plants that can stand up to the abuse of a parking strip planting spot.
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7. Honor service members. Memorial Day is May 28 this year. Get involved by attending a Memorial Day parade, visiting a cemetery or memorial, or flying a flag. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, if you do choose to fly an American flag on Memorial Day, you should fly it at half-staff from sunrise until noon and then raise it briskly to the top of the staff and keep it there until sunset.

What to Do for Mom on Mother’s Day

Show Mom you care by giving her a special dinner, taking care of household tasks and creating new memories together

By Becky Harris  |  Courtesy of Houzz.com  

Houzz readers have the best ideas. When we asked you about the most special things you’ve done for your mom (or had done for you) on Mother’s Day, you had great stories from the past and suggestions for this year’s celebration. Here are some of the best.

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1. Make her coffee or tea. Houzz user Joel Restel noticed that the best start to the day was missing from our original list: Wake up before Mom does, get that java or tea brewing, grab the paper from the lawn, arrange fresh flowers from the yard in a vase and set it all up. She’ll wake to the wonderful aroma and be drawn right to the nice welcome in the kitchen. If you want to add a gift to the mix, treat her to a bag of gourmet coffee or her favorite tea, or a lovely new teacup or mug.

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2. Set up a brunch spread. Houzz user helenjorna likes the sound of something a little more elaborate. “I’d like to add getting in a hard workout and then coming home to mimosas and brunch,” she says. 

If Mom enjoys doing the cooking, then you can set the table and offer to be a sous chef she can order around — gathering and prepping ingredients, making the toast and handling all those other sous chef tasks.

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3. Plant a vegetable garden. The idea of completing gardening tasks together was big with Houzzers. Reader darla1116 was excited about getting a vegetable garden started with her kids on Mother’s Day. 

If you’re not ready for veggies, starting an herb garden is a nice way to begin growing your own edibles.

Houzz user penthousenester also liked the idea of getting out into the garden on that special Sunday. “In our neck of the woods, Mother’s Day marks the time it is safe to plant tender annuals — so that is what we always did,” she says. If spring hasn’t sprung enough to put in plants, start sowing seeds as a Mother’s Day project.

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4. Help with the spring mulching. “As for me I would love for my son to go pick up some mulch for me and lay it in my garden,” reader tshome says. 

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5. Tackle Mom’s household to-do list. “My grown sons, 28 and 30, have given me the gift of a Honey-Do list for the past 10 years,” reader 55snownowwrites. “I make a list, they show up with tools and start working. It’s a great time to talk and laugh together while we work.… I absolutely adore them for making the day special for me.”

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6. Take care of a week’s worth of household tasks. One Mother’s Day, “my hubby and kiddos surprised me with a card that announced it was Mother’s Day Week,” reader swsunshinewrites. “They said I could relax, and they were going to take on all the chores and cooking that week. I have been married for 20 years and this was a first. I was totally surprised and may have shed a tear.”

To do this yourself, attach a blank numbered list to your Mother’s Day card and invite Mom to write down tasks she’d like done that week. Hang it on the fridge to remind you of your new duties. You’ll finish with a whole new appreciation for all that your mother does for you — and maybe an idea of a task or two you can take on from here.

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Taking care of Mom’s to-do list will give her the gift of time to do things she loves, reader candoli notes. “I personally like spending time doing projects at home, so it would be lovely to have the house tidied on its own without me having to do that in lieu of a project I wanted to start and finish,” she writes.

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7. Put your cooking skills to use. Reader Andy Gibbs cooked Mom her favorite dish. If you’re lacking in kitchen skills, pick up her favorite restaurant dish instead. Get out the tablecloth, the good china and the candlesticks to mark it as a special meal.

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8. Don’t leave the cleanup to Mom. “The kids cleaning their room and planning, putting on and cleaning up dinner is music to my ears,” reader daffodilmama writes. Clean up the kitchen, clear the table and do the dishes. (That includes putting them away.)

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9. And don’t forget the most important thing you can give your Mom: time spent together. “Any day I can spend time with my kids is special,” Ann Stewart writes. “No money can buy the memories we make.” 

To-Dos: Your May Home Checklist

Get your house and yard in order now, and you’ll be ready to enjoy the summer days ahead

By Laura Gaskill  |  Courtesy of Houzz.com

With Mother’s Day and Memorial Day coming up this month, there is plenty of incentive to get those outdoor spaces ready for entertaining. From scheduling house painting to organizing your outdoor cooking tools, tick these 13 items off your to-do list so you can get to the good stuff: hanging out around the grill, kicking back on the porch and savoring the season. Let the countdown to summer begin!

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Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

1. Check outdoor lighting. Make sure all outdoor lights are in working order, including porch lights, landscape lighting and motion-sensing security lights. Replace bulbs or schedule repairs as needed.

2. Give potted plants some TLC. If you have potted plants that stay indoors over winter, bring them out once the danger of frost has passed. To help your plants acclimatize, find a protected spot out of direct sun for the first several weeks outdoors.

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3. Inspect kitchen and bath fixtures. Keeping an eye on these areas can help prevent costly water damage and repairs later on. Make a plan to regrout or recaulk around counters and tile as needed. If you come across any slow leaks, have these repaired as well.

4. Check safety devices. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month and replaced every 10 years — even if they still appear to be in working order. Test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; replace batteries as needed. Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace it if necessary.

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Tackle These Tasks Over a Weekend

5. Get ready for grilling season. Giving your grill a deep cleaning before the start of the season will help it work more efficiently and prevent flare-ups. Clean the grates and interior with a grill brush and wash the exterior with warm, soapy water. Clean and organize your grilling tools (tongs, spatula, skewers) and pick up charcoal or propane if needed.

If you have a gas grill, be sure to check the fuel line for cracks and clean out any clogged burner holes.

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6. Maintain and repair garden paths. Create neat edges, pull weeds, fill in gravel paths with fresh gravel and replace or reposition broken steppingstones.

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7. Clean walls and touch up paint. Use a dusting attachment on your vacuum or an electrostatic duster to remove dust from walls, paying special attention to corners and baseboards. For a deeper clean, wipe down walls with warm, soapy water after dusting. Rinse with clean water, using a lint-free cloth. Touch up paint as needed on interior walls and trim.

8. Clean items on open shelves. Infrequently used items stored on open shelves can get pretty grimy over time. For items with a thin layer of dust, swipe with an electrostatic duster. If there is a thicker layer of dust, of if the items are in the kitchen (where cooking grease can be an issue), wash each piece in a tub of warm, soapy water. Rinse and allow everything to dry before replacing.

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9. Refresh bedrooms.Rotate the mattresses on all beds and flip over if possible. Dust nightstands, lamps, headboards, blinds and decor. Swap heavy duvets for lighter-weight bedding for the warmer months.

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10. Thoroughly clean the laundry room. Run the washing machine with a specialty tub cleaner (or with vinegar for a natural solution) on a hot water cycle. Wipe the rubber rim inside the washer and dryer doors and remove lint from the dryer vent with a vent brush or vacuum attachment. Clean countertops, mop floors and restock supplies.
 

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Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Month

11. Paint or stain your home’s exterior. Longer days and generally milder weather make May a good month to schedule house painting. If your home has a wood-shingled exterior, replace any damaged shingles and have a fresh coat of stain applied if needed.

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12. Put together a picnic kit. This is the season for alfresco feasts. Be ready for impromptu picnics by sorting through your outdoor dining supplies at the start of the season and keeping a basket of essentials within easy reach. 

Your kit doesn’t need to be extensive to get the job done: a cheese knife, small cutting board, bottle opener and blanket, plus a few outdoor dishes and cups, should see you through many a picnic. Note any supplies you’re missing and restock your basket as needed.

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13. Add a relaxing porch feature. Make your porch an inviting place to relax and hang out with the addition of a porch swing, rocking chairs or a glider. Too much sun? Crisp white outdoor curtains can provide shade and look chic. Just add a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade, and you’ll be ready to savor the season in style.

Spring-Cleaning Moves to Help You Feel Better About Your Closet

It’s possible to love your clothes storage space, no matter how small

By Becky Harris | Courtesy of Houzz.com

It’s a good time of year to go deep into closet cleaning and, while you’re at it, add a few new features that will make you love your closet. At first glance, some of these gorgeous, spacious closets may make you feel bad about your small one, but hang in there. I promise each demonstrates a design move or two that can make the tiniest of closets feel fresh and appealing.

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Take everything out of your closet. This can be a big project, and it will take a while. Find a spot to put everything from your closet (this place is not your bed because if you don’t finish or you want to do some painting or light construction, you’ll have to move it all again before you can tuck in for the night). Once the closet is empty, begin at the top and work your way down. I like to start with a vacuum hose attachment to suck out all the loose stuff before wiping everything down. Get every shelf, rod, hook, nook and cranny. Clean the inside of drawers and get the corners of the floor too. 

Now stand back and assess. What do you like about your closet and what bums you out? Would more color, light or whimsy make you like it better? Is the carpeting collecting an alarming amount of pet hair and dirt? Would more hooks or an over-the-door rack help you keep more things organized? Make a list and see if any of the following suggestions appeal to you.

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Replace wire hangers. I cannot endorse this recommendation enough. Using flat velvet hangers made my closet a much happier space. The flat profile allows you to pack in more clothing, and the velvet covering prevents clothes from slipping. Plus, the uniform look of matching hangers helps your closet feel more cohesive and appealing (they come in all kinds of fun colors). Before a garment makes its way into my closet, I replace the wire hanger from the dry cleaner with a velvet one and immediately put the wire hanger right into my dry-cleaning bag for recycling — I have yet to meet a cleaner who isn’t excited to get them back for reuse. 

Start with one pack and see how you like them. I took quite a while to replace all of mine, as I couldn’t afford to buy them all at once. I bought a pack or two every now and then, replacing all the hangers composed of torn paper, broken cardboard tubes and bent wire over time.

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Upgrade the drawer hardware. Hey, the Ikea closet built-ins so many of us have are great for organizing, but the drawer hardware is a little lackluster. Find pulls with a fresh finish, whimsical color or more sculptural shape to give your built-in drawers a mini makeover. Measure your existing pulls or unscrew one and bring it to the store to make sure that your new selection will fit in the existing holes. This is a project even the most DIY-challenged of us can complete with ease in a matter of minutes. While you’re working, carefully put the parts of the old hardware into a resealable plastic bag as you remove them so that you can reuse them or pass them along to someone who will.

Those of you who are crafty may be able to give your existing ho-hum knobs a makeover with paint, yarn, colorful tape or a leather belt.

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Enhance the lighting. A closet can be a black hole sometimes, making it easy to accidentally pair a black shoe with a navy one during the wee hours of the morning and not realize it until you arrive at work. Undershelf lighting like LED tape lights or lighted rods are good options for illuminating your sartorial options. If that’s not in the cards, see if you can aim a ceiling light or track light outside the closet to provide illumination.

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Put a donation bin inside or nearby. I include this tip in just about every closet story I write because it’s the best closet tip I’ve ever received (thanks, Lisa Adams) and I don’t want anyone to miss out on it. Immediately after rejecting an item of clothing because it will never be your color, feel flattering, suit your personal style or fit just right, throw it in there. When the bin is full, donate the clothing to charity. I like to use a cylindrical collapsible hamper so I can smush it down when it’s not full. Another space-saving idea is to hang a laundry bag from a hook, doorknob or hanger in the closet.

Get rid of the carpeting. I had never given a second thought to the carpeting in my closet until the contractor working on my bathroom renovation suggested continuing the floor tile from the bathroom into the closet. I hadn’t realized how dirty the carpeting had become in the hard-to-reach corners. Clothes hung too close to the floor, which was covered in shoes and boots, to really get in there with the vacuum on a regular basis. Using a hard surface like tile or hardwood makes it easier to get a broom, mop or even just a duster into those corners. There are some great peel-and-stick tile options that can help you accomplish this on a tight budget.

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Another solution that solves the carpeting issue is a relatively small carpentry project that doesn’t involve grout or worrying about the subfloor. Create a wooden platform beneath the clothes-hanging area.

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Paint the inside a favorite color. Whenever I’ve had a basic one- or two-door closet, the white paint inside tended to get banged up, scuffed and dingy-looking. I know, this beautiful closet is much larger than most of our living rooms, but a colorful paint job works well in the smallest of closets. Brighten up yours with a favorite color, and it will provide delight whenever you open the door.

When you’re choosing a paint, ask for the most durable stain- and scuff-resistant product. This means paint made for high-traffic areas that get a lot of wear and tear, like commercial waiting rooms, offices and public restrooms, or paints specifically made for hardworking bathroom vanities or kitchen cabinets. Some products include Scuff-X from Benjamin Moore, Premium Plus Ultra from Behr and ProClassic Waterborne Interior Acrylic Enamel from Sherwin-Williams.

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Or wallpaper the inside. The good news about small closets is that you’ll likely need to purchase only one roll to cover the entire back wall. Opening the doors and seeing a favorite wallpaper pattern peeking through the clothing is one of home life’s little pleasures.

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Use accessories as decor. If your closet and dresser space is built into your bedroom, have some fun decorating your shelves or hooks with purses, hats, a jewelry display, scarves and other accessories.

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Give drawers a special treatment. New lining paper and scented sachets will freshen up your drawers, making it a joy to refill them with neatly folded socks and pajamas.

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Reassess and refill. When your improvements are done, it’s time to evaluate every single thing before it goes back into the closet. Keep bins at the ready for items to donate, toss, clean and repair. To stay honest, have a full-length mirror nearby — try on clothing and let go of everything you no longer wear. This will give the duds you enjoy more room to breathe and make it easier for you to put together an outfit from your revamped closet.
 

Pizza Time: A Compendium of Seattle’s Superb Slices

From thickly cut squares to slender rounds with crusts so golden Louis-Camille Maillard himself would swoon.

By Nosh Pit Staff  Edited by Rosin Saez  2/7/2018 at 3:30pm | Courtesy of SeattlMet.com

 Former Bruciato pizzaiolo Brandon Thompson, a man perennially covered in flour.  IMAGE:  SARA MARIE D’EUGENIO

Former Bruciato pizzaiolo Brandon Thompson, a man perennially covered in flour.

IMAGE: SARA MARIE D’EUGENIO

Ballard Pizza Company

Let’s cut through the confusion: Ethan and Angela Stowell’s fast-casual pizza chainlet has three locations. One in its eponymous neighborhood of course. The other, Frelard Pizza Company on Leary Way, has a slightly different name (and a rocking patio and perhaps the best kid pit in town). Then the newest addition of the pizza trio is called Ballard Pizza Company despite being located in South Lake Union. All three serve thin-crust pizza by the slice and in pies laden with Italian-leaning toppings like prosciutto and arugula, or spicy coppa, Italian sausage, red peppers, and onions. Throw in a few salads, local drafts, and wine on tap and you’ve got a go-to spot for casual meetups, happy hour, or family outings.

Bar Cotto

One can pretty affordably assemble a giddy repast from some 10 varieties of salumi, several vegetable nibbles, a half dozen bruschetta, and a dozen or so pizzas at empire builder Ethan Stowell’s sleek nosh bar. Toppings are beautiful on the pizzas—particularly housemade guanciale, mozzarella, and a sweet dusting of fennel pollen—but the crackly-pillowy-blistery crusts skew oily. Then there’s some salumi with torta fritta (the hot, savory beignets Northern Italians melt their salumi around) along with a perky toss of, say, marinated beets with pistachios and golden raisins, and a nice, stiff (exquisite) cocktail. (Despite the Stowells putting this Capitol Hill place up for sale, it’s still going strong for the time being.)

Bar del Corso

Lucky Beacon Hill, that its pizzeria so embodies the soul of the neighborhood restaurant. The place bubbles, from the sheer crush of devotees inside its tidy, clean-lined quarters to its wood-fired pizza crusts—crispy and flavorful like Neapolitan with a little more tooth to the chew. These pies are the province of master pizzaiolo Jerry Corso, who delivers a short list of Italian regional antipasti, seasonal salads, and terrific Italian desserts—along with cocktails, wines, and beers—to round out the main event. If it’s on offer, don’t miss the sassy anchovy-lit puttanesca, or whatever garden special he’s got going.

Big Mario’s

The New York–style pizzeria slings slices and 18-inch pies seven days a week. And, hello munchies, it’s open until 2am Sunday through Wednesday, and until 4am the rest of the nights. Other perks: A full bar and a takeaway window. Other other perks: three locations of carbo-loading for the post-drinking masses. 

Cafe Lago

This exemplary streetside Italian cafe on Montlake Boulevard is run with a perfectionist’s standard, from handcrafted pasta to fabled gnocchi, featherweight lasagna, and crackle-crusted wood-fired pizzas. The result is a destination restaurant masquerading as a neighborhood joint, with a neighborhood joint’s clattering aesthetic. (And lack of parking.) So take the bus already; just get there for a plate of the best butternut squash and sage ravioli you’ll ever taste. Cocktails, too.

ChinaPie

This may be the only pizza place in town that offers metal chopsticks alongside forks: The starter menu is full of dumplings, but most of what emerges from the ultralegit Valoriani pizza oven is reasonably familiar—then there’s the Uncle Sau, that replaces sausage or pepperoni with pork darkly caramelized in fish sauce, the usual peppers with bright jalapeño. 

Cornuto

This Phinney Ridge spot, care of brothers Andrew and Giancarlo Martino, doles out legit pizze napoletane. Fresh out the wood-fired brick oven comes rounds of thin pies with the exact right amount of char and toppings like salame piccante, prosciutto di Parma, and smoked mozzarella. The Vongole pizza bears local oven-roasted clams, a wealth of garlic, and a healthy glug of olive oil. And don’t sleep on the Mezza Luna Nutella, a half moon of sweet pastry dough brimming with hazelnut spread that takes a spin in the oven before landing table side—insides all melty, outer crust nice and crisp. 

Delancey

If you’d wait an hour for beautifully simple combos of carefully sourced toppings on char-bubbled New York–style crusts—the modest Ballard haunt Delancey is your jam. (It’s everyone’s jam.)  Savor a brilliant chemistry project of a cocktail and a vegetable plate at the sister bar next door, Essex, then return for a pillowy-crackly crusted pie with untempered tomato brightness and pairings of Zoe’s bacon, cremini mushrooms, basil, what have you. Gray salt, bittersweet chocolate chip cookies sustain a fan base.

Dino’s Tomato Pie

The latest project of Delancey co-owner and pizzaiolo Brandon Pettit—a pizza scholar who knows from wet dough and dry ovens—Dino’s is an intentionally crafted dive at the Capitol Hill epicenter of Denny and Olive, whose deep booths and long bar pay homage to the pizza taverns of Pettit’s native Jersey. Also its pizza: Sicilian thick-crusted squares with bright sauce, first-rate toppings (Zoe’s bacon, aged mozzarella, extraordinary Grana Padano), and a high quotient of char. Done well, char will caramelize the sugars in the crust and lend a transporting complexity; too well done, it will blacken the crust to ash. Both have been known to transpire here at Dino’s—but they’re ready with a do-over if warranted. Thin crust pizzas, salads, and cocktails too.

Flying Squirrel Pizza Co.

Pizza’s the chow of now, thanks in part to Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. in Seward Park. It offers a few tables in shiny, crisply appointed new spaces and one-size pies for around $19 each, along with salads and apps and ice creams. But Flying Squirrel is all about artisan toppings—cured meats from Salumi, chicken from Roy’s BBQ, Maytag blue cheese, and locally grown produce—on chewy, sinking crusts bound up with tangy tomato sauce.

Humble Pie

Not even the Space Needle delivers a stiffer shot of Seattle than an organic pizza joint, hand built of recycled materials by its LEED-certified architect owner—he even made the stools. Humble Pie smokes its own GMO-free pulled pork, imports just five ingredients from out of state, processes its own rainwater, and maintains a chicken coop. Snicker at your own peril, for these are killer, wood-fired pizza crusts, thin but with plenty of spring in the chew, topped with combos like organic Fuji apples, Beecher’s Flagship cheese, and bacon or smoked eggplant with cherry tomatoes and red onions. Mostly outdoor seating makes this a mostly-in-summer place, but bevs (boutique brews, rotating ciders) and the neighborhood vibe are irresistible even if you have to cram into the tiny building.

The Independent Pizzeria

The Independent Pizzeria, owned by one Tom Siegel, has taken over the lake-facing space that once held Impromptu Wine Bar Cafe. Expect a steely, handsomely minimalist decor, four beers on tap, and wood-fired pizzas available for dining in or carrying out.

Italian Family Pizza

If the family owners at this First Hill pie shop don’t know your name on your first visit, they will by your third. And there will be a third, for their Jersey-style pies feature golden, perfect crusts crackling with heft and bursting with flavor. Of course such hifalutin descriptors are all wrong for pizza this down to earth; order a white pie (built on ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella) or bright tomato pie, with choices of toppings, to the strains of good old ’70s rock. Checkered tablecloths, family photos, and cheap price tags dial up the sense of community. Hint: The large pie means it.

The Masonry

No-nonsense thin crust pizzas from the wood oven, a small list of thoughtful sides (could be a beautiful seasonal salad, could be hearty pozole) and a top-notch draft list that leans more European than hophead. Lower Queen Anne needs more casually grownup hands like the Masonry, but for now that blessing goes to Fremont, where the Masonry opened a second spot housing a few more taps of craft beers and just as much satisfying pizzas.

Mioposto

The Mount Baker neighborhood has embraced the intimate light-drenched space with the wood-fired pizza oven, and why shouldn’t it? It’s just the kind of come-as-you-are-for-just-what-you-feel-like joint that raises community fellowship—and appetites. Mornings there’s egg dishes, buttery pastries, and plenty of Caffé Vita espresso, followed by counter-service pizzas, sandwiches, and salads all day. At dinner there’s table service for the same menu of simple Italian eats. Blue-ribbon toppings generally best crusts in the execution department, but that stops none of the families who cram the joint from toting their doggie bags across the street to Mount Baker Park.

Pizzeria Bruciato

Hitchcock’s weekly pizza popup has morphed into its own restaurant on Bainbridge’s Winslow Way. Flour, cheese, tomatoes, and technique hew to Naples tradition, but toppings take some cues from Hitchcock Deli’s hearty sandwiches—bursting with whatever’s in season, and often finished with paper-thin ribbons of cured, fatty flesh of owner Brendan McGill’s own Mangalitsa hogs.

Pizzeria Credo

Jacques Nawar captains the glorious pizza napoletana situation in the Junction, where loyal diners come for his pies made with homemade mozzarella, imported Italian flour, and legit San Marzano tomatoes (it matters). As for what’s sourced closer to home: pizzas are fired in an oven that burns applewood from Yakima. 

Pizzeria 22

Verifiable Neapolitan pizza with the credentials to prove it, this West Seattle pizzeria on Admiral is ultralegit. See, owner Cary Kemp learned the ways of pizza napoletana on Via Tribunali in Naples before launching the local chainlet of Via Tribunalis in Seattle circa 2004. Then the pizzaiolo opened this Admiral District in 2011 and has been sating the neighborhood with hot pies topped with the likes of buffalo milk mozzarella, sweet Italian sausage, and, for a couple of bucks, you can put an egg on it. Something wholly American though: wood-fired s’mores with melted chocolate and marshmallows bubbly and golden brown from the oven’s flames.

 

Pizzeria 88

Capitol Hill’s mellow new house of Neapolitan-style pizzas is the latest from the family behind Mondello (and original owners of Queen Margherita and La Vita è Bella) and the latest in a string of Italian restaurants to call this Broadway address home: Now it’s full of actual Italians. Your best bet is a seat at the marble-topped bar and a pizza roughly the size of a dinner plate, with a pillowy crust and a paper-thin center barely supporting ample combos like broccolini, slivers of sweet onion, and crumbles of fenneled sausage or lamb with mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese.

Proletariat Pizza

We’re pretty sure the soul of gritty, folksy White Center emanates directly from the busy ovens of Proletariat Pizza, where the young Albaeck family labor to feed the masses simply spectacular pizza. Self-taught, they figured out the basics of thin crusts–puffed and golden and bursting with flavor–and pristine ingredients, from the organic over-easy eggs and prosciutto and meadow of fresh arugula on the ham and egg pie to the anchovies and ricotta and milky mozzarella on the anchovy. “Nothing that we use contains…anything we don’t feel good about putting in our bodies,” the menu reads. “Except Spam.” Taken together with the U.S. Army Medical Department dishes, the utterly sterile interior decor, the toe-curling homemade tiramisu for dessert, and the rainbow coalition of families eating it all up–in the community–well…soul of White Center indeed.

Serious Pie

Tom Douglas’s trio of pizza places hold shared plank tables, with enormous granite ovens for the serious business at hand: rustic applewood-smoky pizza crusts with blistery crackle and satisfying chew topped with seasonal harvests, like Yukon Gold potatoes with rosemary or Penn Cove clams with pancetta and lemon thyme. Short lists of vegetal starters and memorable finales round out the brief menu. (Serious Biscuit, downstairs from the Westlake branch, brings the same attention to swoonworthy biscuit sandwiches.)

Sizzle Pie

In some ways, Sizzle Pie’s decision to open an outpost in the last gritty vestiges of Capitol Hill is almost comically obvious. The Portland pizza outfit’s locations on either side of the Willamette River fuse punk and metalhead sensibilities with a deep respect for dietary restrictions (pies have names like Universal Order of Parmageddon and Vegan Angel of Doom). Cofounder Mikey McKennedy grew up in Olympia and since high school frequented nearby venues like Neumos and the Comet. His business partner Matt Jacobson owns a heavy metal record label. Their joints are fueled by cocktails, local beer, and loud music; like much of Capitol Hill, they keep going until 3 or 4am.

Southpaw

Lark’s original home on 12th Ave is now a casual pizza tavern, serving John Sundstrom’s interpretation of pizza: Sturdy wood-fired crusts somehow both chewy and crunchy, topped with cool seasonal combos like chickpea pesto and feta, or padrone peppers, chorizo, and cotija. Pies skew vegetarian, but meat lovers get to choose from the add-on menu, which goes way beyond the traditional salami and sausage with toppings like crispy chicken skins, oxtail, and spicy nduja. There’s a kid’s menu and some pies come by the slice.

Supreme

Mark Fuller, the busy chef that he is, has bequeathed West Seattle with his latest: a pizza joint-slash-bar. Along the California Ave stretch slushy machines dispense the likes of a rum and root beer slush or a jungle bird, again, in slush form. Negroni on tap? They have that too. Come for the bar vibes, stay for the pizza. Fuller’s tapped the knowledge of John Montenegro, a sous chef from Dino’s Tomato Pie, who clearly knows his way around some pizza dough and sauce. Pies are made New York–style: big, round and hand tossed. Naturally, there’s a supreme that comes with the familiar combo of toppings. Then there’s The Reaper, which appears to be almost a dare: spicy coppa, ricotta, ghost chili, carolina reaper chili, plus the same fiery spice blend he uses for Ma’ono hot chicken sandwiches. If you don’t feel like mopping up your spice-induced tears, there’s plenty else like some classics such as cheese and double pepperoni, both of which you can grab by the slice, too.

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria

Time was, 20-plus years ago, you had to trek to Filiberto’s in outer Burien to find pizza made the way it was meant to be made: thin crusted and barely scorched in a wood-fired brick oven built by Neapolitan masons. Now, many burn wood, but none to better effect than the cozy Tutta Bella, a cornerstone of Columbia City’s renaissance. The toppings show zealous attention to proportion, quality, and authenticity, from real San Marzano tomatoes in the sauce to a seasonal wild-mushroom special heavy with funghi. Salads and desserts are the only extras; the shaved fennel in the insalata di Salerno is an especially nice home-country touch. Newer outposts in Wallingford, South Lake Union, and Issaquah spread the love—if not the warm, old-brick atmosphere.

Veraci Pizza

Seattle’s always been hungry for a good pizza, but Neapolitan-style pies in particular are the chow of right now. Out of this sparkling space at the eastern portal to Ballard come consistently excellent wafer-thin crusts, blistered and crackling from the maw of the enormous pizza oven (which they also haul to farmers markets and private parties). Toppings run to simple lovelies like bell peppers with CasCioppo Brothers sausage, or sun-drieds with artichoke hearts and kalamata olives; our favorite is the amante di carne, with pepperoni, sausage, black olives, red onions, and shaved Parm. There’s beer and wine and antipasti and housemade gelato, too. 

Via Tribunali

The folks we have to thank for Caffé Vita have given Seattle Neapolitan pizzerias with atmosphere so thickly Italian you could cut it with a pizza wheel. They’re storefront slots making little visible to-do from the street and going enchantingly dusky in the evening. As for what they serve, it’s the real Neapolitan deal: springy, salt-licked, heat-blistered crusts sparsely topped with sprightly tomato sauce, along with every imaginable combination of mushrooms, bufala mozzarella, fresh garlic, cured meats, fresh sausage, and so on. The pies are slid into the roaring brick oven for, oh, 20 seconds or so, whereupon all they’ll need for company is an olive- and prosciutto-packed house salad, a good bottle of sangiovese, and an appreciative maw. Don’t bother with a doggie bag: The Trib’s pies, ephemeral joys, go soggy upon cooling.

Windy City Pie

It’s the halo of crisp cheese that makes this Chicago-style pizza worth the advance online order (no longer necessary at the new Interbay quarters, but still highly advisable). Deep dish is often a gut bomb, but owner Dave Lichterman layers flavors with thought—a lighter, briochelike crust, just enough cheese to mean business, a surface of tangy tomato sauce. Request mushrooms and olives on a meaty pie, and he’ll politely suggest these add-ons will mess with his moisture and salt ratios, not to mention the very specific conditions necessary to turn slices of mozzarella layered around the sides of the pan into a fortifying wall of mahogany burnt cheese. Take heed: Windy City Pie’s dine-in hours are 21-plus only and slightly more limited than its takeout schedule.

World Pizza

Entirely vegetarian—and entirely lovely—this pizzeria in the Chinatown–International District slings hot pies whole or by the slice, like one with thin rounds of potato and aromatic rosemary or the Dragon topped with fresh basil and sweet roasted red peppers. And if meat cravings must be satiated, the Field Roast pepperoni is a solid, savory approximation. To drink: Wash everything down with a Manny’s or another one of the handful beers on tap. To sit: At the counter, watching passersby walk down King Street.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated on February 8 at 1:30pm to reflect that Brandon Thompson (pictured above) is no longer a pizzaiolo at Bruciato.

Celebrate Earth Day! 7 Ways to Make the Most of This Weekend

Try a couple of tweaks to save resources at home and then set up your kitchen for a rise-and-shine Monday

By Laura Gaskill  |  Courtesy of Houzz.com

With Earth Day coming up Sunday, April 22, this is a good weekend to fine-tune your home’s energy efficiency, try a buy-nothing day and participate in a local nature cleanup. And with milder weather on the way (depending on where you live — we hear you, Michigan), it’s also a smart time to jettison clutter and start planning for that big home project on your to-do list this year.

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1. Pick one (or more) simple earth-friendly tweaks to up your energy-efficiency game. Something as simple as remembering to always shut off lights and unplug devices when you leave a room can add up to energy savings over the course of a year. Other easy tweaks to make right away include swapping traditional bulbs for compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, sealing up holes and cracks around the house, and installing low-flow fixtures.

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2. Buy nothing (new) for a day. Reduce consumption and save cash by intentionally avoiding unnecessary shopping for a day this weekend. If you do have a need for an item, opt for secondhand, thrift or antiques stores over your regular go-to shops. Want to take it a step further? Join a local Buy Nothing group and swap goods with neighbors to avoid unnecessary purchases. 

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3. Pare back your book collection. If the weather is looking less than springlike in your area, keep busy indoors with a decluttering project. Bolster yourself with good music and start filling a bin with books to give away or sell.

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4. Find a good home for hard-to-donate items. Whether it’s a stash of leftover yarn, spare building materials or unused personal care products, when your go-to local charity won’t accept an item, it can be hard to know what to do — which usually means these things pile up in closets and cupboards. Ferret out your stashes of stuff you’ve been holding on to for far too long, and track down a good home for it. 

It’s always a good idea to call a potential donation spot first, as policies vary by location. The tips below can get you started. 

  • Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores take building materials and furniture.
  • Some homeless and women’s shelters accept unopened personal care products.
  • Senior centers are often happy to accept donated yarn.
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5. Set up your kitchen for a rise-and-shine Monday. Combat that case of the Mondays by doing a little extra prep on Sunday evening. Fill a blender with smoothie ingredients and store it in the fridge, fill the coffee pot with water, and make sure everything is neat and tidy. You may not have little birds helping you get dressed in the morning, but at least you’ll have something good to drink.

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6. Start planning for house painting. Spring and summer are prime times for house painting, and if you’re hiring pros, it helps to get on their schedule early. Start searching for painters, checking references and scoping out paint colors so you (and your house) are ready to go when it’s painting time. 

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7. Help clean up a natural area. Earth Day offers lots of opportunities to pitch in and make our parks, beaches, forests and wetlands cleaner, safer places for wildlife. Search for a cleanup event happening near you, or gather with friends and family to clean up a favorite nature spot on your own. Even when cleaning up, remember to stay on marked trails and carry out everything you bring in.

House-Hunting Checklist: 10 Essentials to Bring on Your Search

Camera, checklist, slip-on shoes — these and 7 more take-alongs will help you make the most of a house-hunting weekend

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of Houzz.com

Embarking on a house hunt is a little like planning a wedding — both require insane attention to detail and lead to what we hope will be a satisfying long-term commitment. So grab that clipboard and channel your inner wedding planner: It’s time to get organized with these 10 take-along essentials for your search.

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1. List of properties you plan to visit. It makes sense to cluster your home search by neighborhood, so you won’t be driving back and forth across town. If you think a visual aid might help you remember which house was which, circle the addresses on a printed map and number the properties to correspond with your notes.

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2. Notepad and pen. Whether you want to make general notes on what you thought of each home or sketch out a quick floor plan so you don’t forget later, a notepad and pen are key. Note what you like as well as what you don’t like about each home, and then review your notes once you’ve had a chance to rest. Of course if you prefer to take notes digitally, that’s fine. Go with whatever makes you comfortable.

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3. Slip-on shoes. Taking shoes off is sometimes requested, both at private showings and open houses, so it helps to be prepared. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and nice, comfy socks to keep your feet warm.

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4. Checklist. Facing a day packed with open houses can leave the best of us feeling flustered. Come prepared and stay focused by bringing a checklist with the main points you want to remember to look for at each property. When you get home, this will also make it much easier to do a side-by-side comparison of the houses you saw.

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5. Camera. Your smartphone is completely fine and may even be preferable to a big, clunky camera for this purpose. With permission, aim to snap a photo of the front of each house you visit, plus each main room. Then you can share the photos with someone who couldn’t be at the showing, or use them to refresh your own memory when all those properties start to blend together.

6. Helpful apps. Downloading an app or two before you leave on your house hunt can enhance your search. From traditional real estate apps that help you search homes for sale, to more specialized apps like Sun Surveyor, which can help you understand the solar orientation of a home (which could be important if you’re hoping to use solar power), pick one or two that will helpfully fill a niche in your search.

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7. Measurements. Do you have a piano, large painting or big piece of furniture that you would be heartbroken were it not to fit in the new place? Measure it before you begin house-hunting and bring the measurements — and a measuring tape — with you when you view properties. There’s no need to break out the measuring tape at every open house, but when you’re seriously interested in a particular house, it can be worth getting to this level of detail.

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8. Flashlight. When you want to get a closer look in that dark basement or scope out the potential of an unfinished attic, the built-in flashlight on your phone will get you only so far. You may not end up using it, but a small but powerful flashlight is a smart extra to have stashed in your bag, just in case.

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9. Stakeholders. There’s certainly an argument to be made for not bringing kids along on those initial house-hunting trips. Having little ones fall in love with a home that won’t work for you will only make tough decisions harder to make. However, once you’ve narrowed down the search to a handful of solid choices, getting input from everyone who will be living in the house is invaluable. 

In fact, just having your kids (or parents, if you’ll be sharing a multigenerational home) along may help you see things you wouldn’t normally notice, like potential safety or accessibility issues — or positives, like a great tree in the backyard perfect for fort-building.

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10. Personal priorities. When it comes to homebuying, it’s nearly impossible to get everything on your wish list — and it’s easy to get charmed by special features that you hadn’t even considered (“Oooh, a pool would be nice!”). This is where your personal priorities come in. Make a list of your top three to five priorities in a house, and refer to this list when you’re comparing the homes you’ve seen. 

12 Projects to Indulge Your Spring Fever

Get busy beautifying your home with one of these budget-friendly DIY decorating projects

By Laura Gaskill  |  Courtesy of Houzz.com 

If you’ve made it through the snow, sleet and rain, and it’s warming up where you are, take advantage of your spring fever and get to work! Read on for a dozen doable, budget-friendly ideas for making over your home this spring, inside and out.

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1. Put up statement wallpaper (permanent or removable). If you want to make a bold change to your home, you can’t get much more high-impact than wallpaper. The cost is more than paint, it’s true — but if you take into account the fact that a gorgeous wallpaper pattern makes additional artwork unnecessary, it can be well worth the investment. For those looking for a shorter-term (and lower-cost) commitment, temporary wallpaper can be a good solution. Just remember that it can still be tricky to apply, so if you plan to DIY, choose a wall without windows or other openings, and be sure to have an assistant on hand to get the positioning just right.

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2. Remove a few cabinet doors. Open cabinetry can make your kitchen look bigger. It’s a great way to show off some of your favorite ceramics and glassware, and if you save the doors it’s reversible, so you can close things back up if you tire of the look. Pick a cabinet that will be easy to keep neat (so not the overstuffed Tupperware cabinet), and use a basket to keep small items contained if needed. If you’re not sure you’ll love the open cabinets long-term, live with them for a while before filling in the holes from the hardware.

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3. Invent your own repurposed planter. Get creative and search your house for off-kilter planter possibilities: rubber boots, old shoes, discarded sinks, chipped teacups, toy trucks — it’s all fair game. If the item you choose isn’t permeable, you may need to drill a few drainage holes before planting. And even if your experimental planters end up lasting only one season, the fun of the process will make it worth your while.

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4. Hang a chair (or two). It’s a fact: Hanging seats make outdoor spaces more fun. Install a hanging chair, porch swing or hammock in your outdoor space and it’s sure to become your family’s new favorite relaxation zone. Just add a tall glass of something cold to drink, and enjoy.

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5. Reinvent a room. If you find that you rarely use your formal dining room for meals, why not give it a new purpose? Transform the space into an art studio, playroom, study, yoga-meditation room or whatever else your heart has been desiring. It’s just furniture — so you can always move things back if need be.

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6. Make over a flea market find. If you love a good DIY project, revamping an old piece of furniture is just the thing to tackle on a warm spring day. Pull your piece outdoors if possible, and cover the work area with a drop cloth before beginning.

Remove all drawers and hardware and elevate the piece on bricks or wood blocks over the drop cloth. Sand lightly and wipe away the dust. Tape off glass as needed with painter’s tape. Give the piece a coat of primer and let it dry. When you’re ready to paint, use a small roller, starting at the top and working your way down. Let the paint dry completely between coats.

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7. Update your bedroom. Give your bedroom an overhaul without breaking the bank by working with your existing furniture but tweaking the details. For example: Paint the wall behind the headboard a vibrant hue, frame a new art print to hang above the bed and swap out the bedding for lighter spring linens.

8. Add pretty shelves to the bathroom. Short on bathroom storage space? A few wall shelves can make all the difference. Use them to hold a stash of towels or a basket filled with extra toiletries, or simply beautify the space with fresh green plants.

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9. Re-cover a small chair or bench. Reupholstering a sofa or armchair can be pricey, but smaller projects (like a bench or stool) are easier on the budget yet still make an impact. It’s important to discuss your project with a local upholsterer before ordering fabric, since he or she can tell you how many yards you’ll need to purchase. 

If your upholsterer doesn’t carry any fabrics you love, don’t feel pressured into buying. Quality upholsterers are usually happy to use fabric you’ve purchased elsewhere, as long as it’s the right amount and type for the project. They may even be able to refer you to a favorite fabric source.

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10. Add an edible window box. Who says window boxes are just for flowers — or just for windows, for that matter? Add a window box to a sturdy balcony or deck railing and plant with quick-growing lettuces or fresh herbs for a pickable bounty steps from your door.

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11. Make over your plant pots. Plain terra-cotta pots are affordable and come in a wide range of sizes — give yours a customized look by taping off simple geometric designs and painting them. If you want to keep the natural terra cotta as the base color (as shown here), simply use painter’s tape to tape off your design and paint with the color of your choice. If you want a different color as the base, paint the entire pot first and allow it to dry before tackling the design.

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12. Repaint the front door.It’s less costly than having your whole house painted, but it can make nearly as big an impact. Take your time, gather front door color inspiration and swing by a paint store to pick up paint chips. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, be sure to test the colors you’re considering in both bright and low-light conditions before committing. 

To-Dos: Your April Home Checklist

Kick spring cleaning into high gear, and troubleshoot cooling and irrigation systems for the warmer months ahead

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of Houzz.com 

With lengthening days and milder temperatures in many parts of the country, April is a wonderful time to freshen up the home inside and out. To get sparkling windows, a clutter-free garage and more, here are 16 tasks to make the most of the first full month of spring.

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Things to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

1. Keep mosquitoes at bay. Having warmer weather and longer days means we’re entering mosquito season. Take preventative measures by regularly checking your property for standing water and emptying it. Any open containers (empty flowerpots and saucers, a wheelbarrow) can become mosquito breeding grounds when filled with rainwater, so store items like these upside down or in a shed.

2. Inspect paths and driveway. Repeated freezing and thawing can take a toll on asphalt and concrete. Check your driveway and paths for cracks, scheduling repairs as needed.

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3. Clean out trash cans and recycling bins. Take empty cans outside and spray them with a hose to start. Spritz inside and out with the cleaning spray of your choice. Let the bins sit for a few minutes before scrubbing them with a stiff-bristle brush. Rinse with the hose and leave them upside down to dry.

4. Check safety devices. Test batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing them as needed. It’s also a good idea to periodically check for recalls of your home safety products; you can find up-to-date listings at Recalls.gov.

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Tackle These Tasks Over a Weekend

5. Clear clutter. Create more space in your home by clearing out unloved items. If you have a lot to get rid of, set a date to hold a yard sale. Or contact a local charity to schedule a pickup — some will send a truck free of charge if you’re donating large items like furniture. If you have a lot of one type of item (for example, books or baby clothes), look for a consignment shop in your town where you may be able to sell them.

6. Schedule cooling-system maintenance. If you have central air conditioning, be sure to schedule professional maintenance before the start of summer. A properly maintained system cools better, uses less energy and lasts longer.

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7. Spruce up the front porch. Clean the porch floor, exterior windows, windowsills and front door. Wipe cobwebs from the ceiling and high corners. Lay down a fresh doormat, and plant a pot of flowers. If you have porch furniture, clean it off and wash the cushions.

8. Test sprinklers and irrigation system. Don’t let the first sign of a malfunctioning irrigation system be a drooping garden! Take the time this month to test each part, adjusting or repairing as needed. And if you don’t already have drip irrigation for your garden, consider putting it in — a properly installed system can save time and water.

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9. Wash windows. Welcome the spring sunshine by clearing dirt and grime from windows inside and out. After cleaning the glass, take an extra moment to wipe the window frame and sill.

10. Clean and inspect screen doors and windows. Pollen and grime can also build up on window screens, so it’s a good idea to clean them once a year. For a quick cleaning, leave screens in place and vacuum with a dusting attachment. For a deeper cleaning, remove screens (mark which is which if cleaning multiple windows) and gently scrub with warm, soapy water. Rinse and let dry. 

Before putting up window screens and screen doors, inspect each one for holes and rips — even small tears can let in mosquitoes. If you find any holes, repair them with a screen patch kit (available at most hardware stores).
 

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11. Clean out the garage. Can you park your car in your garage? If not (or if it’s a tight fit), it may be time to make some more space. 

Clear out the junk, and schedule time to take unused paint, motor oil and other hazardous items to a recycling center that accepts them. (If you’re not sure where to go, search Earth911 to find a center near you.) Once your garage is cleaned out, consider adding wall-mounted storage to keep things neat and off the floor.

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12. Wash siding. Using a regular garden hose, attach a siding cleaning kit (available at most home improvement stores) to clear away winter grime from your home’s siding. If your siding could use a really deep cleaning, it can be tempting to use a pressure washer to get the job done quickly. But if you do, use it with care: Consumer Reports advises avoiding any pressure washer that comes with a 0-degree nozzle, because it can be too dangerous (to you and your house) and wider nozzles can get the job done just as well.

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Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Month

13. Clean gutters and downspouts. Having your home’s gutters and downspouts cleaned (and repaired if necessary) is one of the first important tasks to schedule this season. Clogged gutters during a rainy spring can cause water to pool, potentially damaging the roof and siding.

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14. Boost curb appeal. Spring is a wonderful time to make upgrades to your home’s exterior, and even small changes — like putting up bold house numbers and a shiny new mailbox — can make a big impact. 

If you’re planning to put your house on the market this spring, increasing curb appeal can help lure in potential buyers, making it especially important.

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15. Maintain wood decks and fences. Keep outdoor woodwork in top shape by staining or resealing it each spring. Check gates, fencing, decks, railings, pergolas and other outdoor structures, and make repairs as needed.

16. Keep an eye out for termites. From now through May or June, be on the lookout for these winged insects. “Termites swarm in the spring,” says Victor Sedinger, certified home inspector and owner of House Exam Inspection and Consulting. “If there’s a bunch of winged insects flying out of a hole in the woodwork, that’s probably termites.” If you notice any, call a licensed professional pest-control company.