50 Creative Reuse Ideas For Your Home And Garden

Creative reuse“Creative Reuse” is the transformation of everyday items that would otherwise be thrown out into something useful. It’s where being “green” and the arts can converge. 

In every home, there are literally hundreds of items that be reused and repurposed, including such disparate items as chipped coffee mugs, step ladders, and bubble wrap. After transformation, for example, these three items can become a simple storage container, a plant stand, and greenhouse insulation, respectively.

Real Simple made a list of “50 All-Time Favorite New Uses For Old Things“. It’s a list of Creative Reuse projects from which you’re bound to find inspiration.

For example, the magazine suggests using an old Twister Mat as a children’s party tablecloth; or an old eyeglasses case to hold nail care essentials such as clippers, files and scissors.

Some of Real Simple’s other top ideas included :

  • Distinguish your glass from other party-goers’ glasses at a party with peel-on/peel-off window decals
  • Protect counter tops from hot dishes with and old mousepad-turned-trivet
  • Eliminate travel bulk. Carry non-prescription medicines in an old contact lens case.
  • Use Play-Doh as a candle or sparkler holder
  • Pour pancake batter into an old ketchup bottle for no-mess cooking

With Creative Reuse, you’re limited only by your imagination and, even then, Google can be a terrific project resource.

Check the Real Simple list for 50 great ideas.

Make Your Own Organic Fruit Wash

Make your own organic fruit washHow clean are the fruits and vegetables you eat? Unless you pick your food straight from the farm, your food is likely more dirty than you think.

In addition to pesticide treatment made while food is still “on the vine”, fruits and vegetables you buy at a grocery are often coated in wax to preserve their “shelf life”; and you can never know how much dirt your food has rolled in.

Even organic foods are handled multiple times on the way to the grocery store. They may be pesticide-free, but they’re not dirt-free or free from human handling. 

This is why we wash fruits and vegetables before consumption — to wash off dirt. But, there are extra precautions you can take to make sure your food is truly “clean”.

One such method is to use a make-it-yourself, organic fruit wash. The recipe is basic and simple. All you need is a large, lidded pitcher for mixing, some everyday foods, and a spray bottle.

  1. In the large pitcher, pour 1 cup of water, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of baking soda.
  2. Add 25 drops of grapefruit seed extract. If you can’t find this at your local grocery, check with a natural food store or specialty store.
  3. Mix ingredients in the pitcher, and pour into a spray bottle

That’s it. 

Then, when you’re ready to clean fruits and vegetables, use your homemade spray wash and coat the food liberally. Let the food stand for 5 minutes, then rinse the spray wash from the food in the sink.

Expect dirt to roll off fruit and vegetables surfaces and for the spray’s vinegar component to neutralize pesticides. You’ll be left with cleaner, healthier natural foods.

To make the fruit wash should take less than 5 minutes. Each batch should last one month, depending on the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume.

5 Simple Ways To Declutter Your Home

Declutter your home to help it sell fasterWhen a home is listed for sale, its “clutter” can be the difference between a rapid sale and no sale at all.

Clutter, in its strictest sense, is defined as anything untidy; or in a disorderly state. In real estate, the term is broadened to include unnecessary furniture pieces; unwieldy artwork or collections; stacks of papers and/or magazines; and anything that otherwise restricts the open flow of a home’s floor plan.

In other words, clutter is anything that distracts from your home’s natural footprint.

As a home seller in Winter Park , understanding how your home’s clutter can affect a buyer is paramount to helping your home sell faster, and at a higher contract price.

First, there’s the psychological angle. A potential home buyer may see clutter and think “mess”. Few people want to buy a house they find messy or otherwise disorganized.

Second, there’s the practical angle. A home that appears full of “things” also appears as if its lacking in storage space. This, too, can turn off buyers.

When you list your home for sale, here are basic tips to de-clutter your home. Some of this advice may not be practical with respect to your home, in particular, so make sure to ask your real estate agent for follow-up help.

  1. In each room, remove photos, trophies, plaques and other personal items on display.
  2. Remove large collections such as dolls, cars, miniature cans, and the like.
  3. Remove worn throw rugs
  4. Remove items from kitchen countertops, including small appliances
  5. Remove items from bathroom countertops

You should also consider removing distinctive artwork from your walls, or replacing pieces with items that are more bland.

The over-reaching goal of de-cluttering is to depersonalize and neutralize your home so a buyer can visualize himself/herself living there. De-cluttering your home can also make your home appear larger, accentuating the features of each room. 

It’s no wonder that minimally-cluttered homes tend to have a wider appeal among buyers.

When Should I Change My Home’s Air Filters?

Keep a clean air filterHow long has it been since you last changed your home’s air filters? 

Home air filters trap and remove dust and particles from the air you breathe; leaving “clean air” to circulate your home. 

Clean air in your home is important because it promotes better health.

One way to keep to keep your home’s air as clean as possible is to replace its used air filters at least once per quarter; or once monthly in homes with shedding pets or that otherwise “get dusty”.

Changing air filters is among the easier do-it-yourself chores for a Winter Park homeowner; a task that takes less than one minute. The secondary benefit of doing it is that new filters help keep your HVAC unit in tip-top shape. 

Here’s how to change your home’s air filter :

  1. Open the air filter compartment door/slider on your HVAC unit.
  2. Note the size of your current filter. It’s typically written on the frame.
  3. Note the direction in which the filter is pointing. There may be an arrow on its frame.
  4. Purchase a new filter at a hardware store. Make sure the sizes matches the size from Step 2.
  5. Remove the old filter. 
  6. Replace old filter with the newly purchased one from Step 4. Make sure the arrow is pointing in the same direction as the original filter’s arrow.
  7. Using a marker, note the date of filter change on the side of the filter.
  8. Close the air filter compartment door/slider.

And that’s it.

When you find a filter type and style that you like, consider buying them in bulk — it can be helpful to have extra air filters laying around the home for when you need them — especially during season changes when you may want to replace filters more frequently.

In addition, when purchasing air filters, don’t opt for the cheapest available. Often, the least expensive filters allow large particles to recirculate through the HVAC unit, and back in to your home. Choose a middle- or top-line product instead.

Your home and your health will thank you.

How To Clean An Exposed, Interior Brick Wall

How to clean exposed interior brickExposed interior brick can add a nice, decorative touch to your Winter Park home, but because brick is a porous material and prone to staining, it can be cumbersome to clean.

Standard household detergents alone are rarely enough to clean brick properly, so if your home features exposed interior brick, plan to use alternative cleaning methods instead.

Here is how to do it.

First, find a pair of sturdy rubber gloves to protect your hands from the harsh brick surface and from your cleaning agents. Then, with a dry dish cloth, gently wipe the entire surface of the brick wall to remove loose dirt and dust.

Next, pour a grease-cutting dish detergent into a small bucket. Do not add water to the detergent. Add a small amount of table salt instead.

Mix well.

Next, apply a thin layer of the soap-and-salt mix to the bricks using a cloth and allow the mix to sit on the bricks for 10-15 minutes. Then, with a hard-bristled scrub brush, gently scrub the brick to remove the stubborn dirt.

Lastly, dip a clean dishcloth into a warm water-filled bucket and use the dishcloth to remove the detergent mix from the wall.

Allow the wall to air dry.

Cleaning exposed interior brick is more complicated than cleaning other household surfaces but a clean brick wall can help reduce in-home health hazards and keep your brick in its best possible condition for the long-haul.

How To Clean Your Microwave Without Harsh Chemicals

Clean microwaves, organicallyMicrowaves are often well-worn. Spills and splatters dot their ceilings; splattered food stuffs line their walls.

To clean your microwave, you can use the harsh chemicals on sale at supermarkets and hardware stores, or you can apply an all-natural approach which yields the same results, with only slightly more preparation time.

The extra time may be worth it, too, considering that the chemicals of an over-the-counter cleaner may seep into your foods over time.

To keep your microwave fresh and clean, using organic materials only, here’s what to do :

  1. Unplug your microwave from the wall for safety.
  2. Gather a microwave safe bowl; 1 1/4 cups of water; a lemon; baking soda; white vinegar; and cleaning cloths.
  3. Slice the lemon and place the slices into your bowl. Add the water.
  4. Heat the bowl in the microwave for 7 minutes. Leave the microwave door closed for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the bowl (CAUTION : Bowl will be hot).
  6. Remove the microwave’s glass cooking surface and wheel system. Hand wash and set aside to dry.
  7. Dip a clean cloth in the lemon water mixture. 
  8. Wipe down the microwave’s exterior and interior surfaces, remoistening the cloth as required.
  9. Moisten a clean cloth with vinegar. Wipe down the microwave door’s interior surface. 
  10. Replace glass and wheel system, and plug the microwave back in to the wall.

If you find lingering stains in your microwave, mix baking soda with water to form a thick paste. Dip a corner of your cleaning cloth into the paste and apply it to the stain directly, gently rubbing in a circular motion until the stain is gone.

Microwaves should be cleaned at least once weekly for optimal performance.

How To Clean An Oriental Carpet

Clean an oriental rugIf you own oriental rugs, you’ll want to clean them at least once annually. But take special care — the process of cleaning an oriental rug is different from cleaning plain carpet.

Extreme caution is required.

To clean an Oriental rug, first vacuum the rug on both sides, then follow these cleaning instructions:

  1. Prepare a solution of cool water and gentle shampoo (i.e. shampoo without ammonia) 
  2. Test the solution on tiny corner of the rug to make sure that the rug’s colors won’t bleed
  3. Using a soft brush or dense sponge, brush the rug with the shampoo solution
  4. Use only light pressure and follow the “grain” of the rug
  5. Shampoo the rug’s fringe, then comb it gently with a large comb or brush
  6. Rinse the entire rug and press out as much water as possible
  7. Lay the rug flat and leave it to dry

After several hours, test the front of the rug for moisture. When it feels dry, flip the rug over to dry its back.

Note : Do not dry an oriental rug in the sun because the sun’s rays may cause it to fade.

Once both sides of the rug are totally dry, feel the top surface. If it feels stiff, crunchy or hard, take a dry brush and make gentle strokes. A light vacuuming will also do the job.

Oriental rugs that receive proper care can become family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. Make sure you clean yours properly.

How To Keep Your Dishwasher Mold- and Mildew-Free

How to clean a dishwasher Your dishwasher is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. It’s warm, it’s dark, and there is a bevy of decaying, organic material in the form of both food particles and soap.

Therefore, you’ll want to periodically scrub and disinfect your dishwasher so that it remains it clean and healthy, and so that your dishes stay that way, too.

Here’s how to clean your dishwasher :

  1. Remove all racks from the dishwasher. Wash with dish-washing detergent and set aside to dry. 
  2. Mix 1 part vinegar with 4 parts very hot water into a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the mixture on the dishwasher seal and anywhere else you see discoloration, mold or mildew.
  4. Scrub the affected areas with a non-abrasive scrub brush.
  5. Replace racks in the dishwasher.
  6. Fill a small, dishwasher-safe bowl with white vinegar and place on the top rack.
  7. Without soap, run the dishwasher at the highest temperature setting available.

Then, after performing these steps, you find that your dishwasher still has an “odor”, or if mold or mildew remnants remain, immediately pour 1 cup of baking soda on the floor of your dishwasher, and run the cycle a second time at the highest temperature setting available.

If your mold/mildew problem persists, you should check the dishwasher’s drain line. If it’s kinked, water may be unable to drain and will pool at the bottom of your dishwasher — a mold-breeding situation.

You should also check the food trap at the base of the dishwasher for too-large-to-drain pieces of food.

A good dishwasher will last years with proper care and maintenance. Keep yours mold- and mildew-free. 

How To Install A Dimmer Switch

A Winter Park home’s lighting accounts for 15 percent of its total energy consumption, a fact that’s both costly to homeowners, and “un-green” to the environment. It’s simple to reduce those effects, however — all you need are dimmer switches.

A modern dimmer switch works by rapidly opening and closing a light circuit, providing less energy to the bulb, and consuming less energy from the source.   

In this 2-minute video, you’ll learn how to reduce your home’s standard on/off lighting switches using dimmer switches. The dimmer-switch project is a do-it-yourself project and requires only basic handyman experience. 

First, determine whether you need a 3-way dimmer switch, or a single-pole dimmer switch. If your fixture is controlled my two light switches, you’ll want a 3-way dimmer switch. Otherwise, the single-pole choice is best.

Next, just follow the directions :

  1. Cut the power to the light switch via your home’s circuit breaker
  2. Remove the existing light switch plate and pull the switch from the wall
  3. Disconnect the in-wall wires from the existing light switch plate
  4. Connect the in-wall wires to their same-color wires on the dimmer switch plate
  5. Push the wires into the wall and reconnect the power via the circuit breaker

The amount of energy that dimmer switches will save your home depends on light-types and to what degree you use the switch’s dimmer capabilities. One caveat, though — not all energy-saving light bulbs are dimmer switch-capatable.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, for example, don’t work with dimmer switches unless the bulb is specifically designed to be “dimmable”.

The rooms with highest wattage rates are typically the master bathroom and the kitchen. 

Home Improvement Projects : How Much Equity Will You Build?

Is that next home remodel worth it?

Home improvement projects are booming, expected to cross $110 billion in total volume this quarter. Unlike in recent years, however, the projects aren’t helping to create much new home equity.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs Value Report 2011-2012, for each home improvement dollar spent in 2012, homeowners can expect to recoup just 58 cents in home equity. 

This figure is down sharply from 2005, when the cost-to-value ratio was 87 percent. 

Today’s Winter Park homeowners get a much smaller payoff on their home improvement projects. If you’re planning to remodel/update in preparation for sale, therefore, consider the following projects, each of which carries a high cost-to-value ratio.

From Remodeling Magazine’s “Mid-Range Project” list :

  • Steel Entry Door Replacement : Cost, $1,238; Recoup, 73.0%
  • Attic Bedroom : Cost, $50,184; Recoup, 72.5%
  • Minor Kitchen Remodel : Cost, $19,588; Recoup, 72.1%
  • Garage Door Replacement : Cost, $1,512; Recoup, 71.9%
  • Wood Deck Addition : Cost, $10,350; Recoup 70.1%

By contrast, other projects carry a low cost-to-value ratio, and should only be undertaken if the project’s utility exceeds its cost. These projects don’t do much to raise a home’s resale value.

  • Home Office Remodel : Cost, $27,963; Recoup, 42.9%
  • Sunroom Addition : Cost, $34,133; Recoup, 45.9%
  • Backup Power Generator : Cost, $14,760; Recoup, 47.5%
  • Bathroom Addition : Cost, $140,096512; Recoup, 51.0%
  • Fiberglass Entry Door Replacement : Cost, $3,536; Recoup 56.3%

In the “Upscale Projects” category, projects including the replacement of doors, siding and windows occupy the list’s first 6 slots in terms of cost-to-value. 

If you’re planning a home improvement project over the next few months, the timing is right — both contractor costs and material costs are low nationwide, and improving a home can extend its useful life.

See the complete Cost vs Value report online.

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