Thursday, December 25, 2014

8 Things to Throw Away and Forget About

"the books I have to read" by conejoazul is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Forget about spring cleaning - winter is the time to go through things and clean. You’re stuck inside, you may have extra days off around the holidays and you need to make room for all the things you received as holiday gifts. If you hate to throw things away, these items (courtesy of Apartment Therapy) are things you can get rid of and never look back!

Coffee Mugs: Many people mindlessly collect mugs, much like business cards or matchbooks. There are instant, affordable souvenirs to mindlessly reach for and/or to accept as gifts. Harmless enough gestures at the time, there’s no denying their tendency to linger without true purpose. You’ll always reach first for your favorite morning mug, and ignore the rest of the porcelain in the back of your kitchen cabinet.

Travel Size Toiletries: Are you one of those people who just grab the hotel shampoo and soap, and stuff it in your luggage, even if you don’t need it? If you have a huge stash that you’ve squirreled away somewhere, think about paring down the collection.

Old Medication: It feels weird to get rid of something that requires a medical license procure. Yet most pills in your medicine cabinet are woefully out of date, or you have no idea what they were originally prescribed for. I’m all for pushing the expiration dates beyond what’s recommended, but do toss the ones that are dated from 2005 or that you have no idea what they are.

Vases: These breed faster than rabbits, especially those generic FTD-type vessels that lack personality. If you’ve ever been gifted flowers, you know these are unwelcome interlopers amongst actual useful glassware.

Food Storage Containers: These are the refrigerator gifts that keep on giving. They are cheap to acquire, yet just precious enough to cling to — without realizing that you really, really don’t need as many as you have. Take a moment to get rid of extra lids, super stained plastic ones, and the ones you never ever use. (I’m just realizing that I have “favorite” Tupperware. Kill me now.)

Party Supplies: Paper plates, napkins, and candles hold such promise and are hard to resist - of a perfect evening with friends and convivial conversation, decorated just so. Host enough events and you find yourself overflowing with extras and odd men out.

Craft Supplies: Every DIYer and crafter's Achilles heel is that fabric stash, that beautiful yarn waiting for the perfect project, and your fifty types of glue. You have enough stuff to make until the Apocalypse at this rate, so time to cull the collection, use what you have, or get rid of it.

Books: Don’t worry about the classics, go for the cheap thrillers in paperback you have lying around — the ones clogging your nightstand and needlessly crowding your shelves. Most likely you won’t pick up these same books twice, especially in today’s digital age. Let go of that visual notch in your literary bedpost, and free yourself from housing an entire library.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

5 Things to Take Care of Before Your Holiday Travels

"Stuttgart Airport at dusk" by Andrei Dimofte is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The time is almost here for those long-awaited days off and heading out of town for the holidays! Of course you’ll remember to pack and wrap all of the presents, but there are some things to take care of before you leave that are probably at the bottom of your list, if they’re even on there at all. Don’t forget to take care of these quick tasks, courtesy of Apartment Therapy, before you leave town!

1. Clean out stinky spots
The trash cans (not just the kitchen one — think about cans in your bathrooms, office or bedrooms), dishwasher, fridge and coffee maker can all be nightmares to come home to if they've been left full of stuff to rot and get stinky while you're away. Empty them all out before you go, but also give them a quick swipe to clean them.

2. Security check
Doors, windows, garage door — are they all closed and locked? Are blinds and curtains closed? Are you leaving a car at your place? Make sure you don't have any valuables in sight. Leave a light on or check your light timer. Can you go a step farther and lock gates to your home and other entrances, too? Make a quick sketch of your floor plan and all the things that need locking, and make check marks as you walk around the house. You can keep that sheet with you as you get on the road in case you get any of those "did I lock that?" feelings.

3. Save energy and protect from damage
Unplug all your electronics. Check the heating system and your water heater — are they turned down low to save energy? Even consider shutting off the water lines to your washing machines to avoid leaks or accidents while you're away. Make sure all your appliances are turned off like the stove, oven, coffee maker and others.

4. Water plants
Give all your green lovelies a nice long drink before you go, and move them to the optimal spot in your home — where the best light is and a spot where they won't get cold drafts (if that's something they wouldn't like).

5. Make sure your neighbors have the info they need
If your neighbors are watching your home for you while you're away, make sure they have keys to everything, phone numbers (and alternative numbers) to reach you if there's ever a problem. If they're watering plants, make sure they know how much and when to do it. Let them know if you'll need the garbage cans brought in or to the curb. Typing up a quick FAQ sheet to leave for them is often helpful.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Last Minute Apartment Cleaning

"clutter" by Alex is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The holidays are a hectic time of year for anyone, but add the stress of hosting people at your apartment, and a whole other layer unfolds - you need to decorate your place, order or cook food, send out the information and more. All this in addition to buying and wrapping gifts. Let’s say your stretch your time too thin - what can you save for last? Cleaning your apartment. Doing a quick clean is actually not as bad as it sounds. Just follow these easy tips from Apartment Therapy:

1. Clean the Three T's: Toilets, Tabletops, the Television. What? The television? Yup! Most living rooms are centered around your tv and the amount of dust that hangs on it, your Netflix stack and dvd box set pile that's off to one side could be tell tale signs of why the rest of your house isn't exactly spotless. Plus if you sit chatting in the living room, you'll be staring at it wishing you would have moved it. Toilets and tabletops are a bit more self explanatory, but important none the less.

2. Stash with Efficiency: When company drops in we've all been in a situation once or twice where things get tossed in a basket and shoved in the spare bedroom or closet. It's a quick solution, but it can be done with more efficiency so you can find your stuff later on. Add things to your basket according to the room they go in. That way when company leaves, you can remove the items easily without making 100 trips across your house or apartment to put things where they belong.

3. Pet Hair: Even if you have a sparkling clean house, if your sofa is covered with a layer of dog or cat fur, it suddenly looks less tidy. Keep a rubber glove or your favorite pet hair busting product on hand to knock it all down in a few sweeps.

4. Dishes Be Gone in Seconds Flat: Please don't judge me for this tip. Admitting that I've done it more than once is punishment enough alright? So here goes. Put your dishes in your oven. Wait, what? If you pile your dishes in the sink then it looks like you threw them all in there at the last minute as everyone knows you can't really wash dishes in that manner and you'll still look like a slight slob, even though you have clean counters. Instead, grab a baking sheet and stack like items together and slide them in the oven. They'll slide right back out, be prestacked and ready to be washed so you can recover from the guilt you just gave yourself for following through with this tip. Side note: don't preheat your oven... even by accident... until they're removed.

5. Spend 5 Furious Minutes on Your House Everyday: Isn't that cheating? We're talking about last minute company here, not preparing all week long for them to come! True, but think about how much you can clean in those few minutes before they arrive. 10 blocks isn't much. With traffic and parking and walking up your stairs, 5 minutes is a safe estimate. Bring that panic to your life every day and clean with the same intensity for just 5 minutes and your house will always look better for it. Plus, you still have time to watch Raising Hope without telling yourself you'll pick up on commercials.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Host a Holiday Happy Hour

"Cocktail anyone?" by Dana Moos is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving or want to have friends and family from out-of-town over for a gathering, happy hour is the way to go! Why? It’s cheaper, more casual and less stressful - especially if you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner, too. Follow this advice from The Kitchn for a happy Happy Hour!

1. Buy your appetizers.
The last thing you need is one more recipe to make! Pick up some shrimp and set it out with a quality cocktail sauce. Buy some nice pickles and ask a friend to set them out with good crackers. Keep it easy.

2. Ask someone else to bring the appetizer.
Or, instead of buying the appetizer at all, delegate your most prompt and on-time friend to get to your house a little early with a platter of something tasty.

3. Pitcher cocktails are the way to go!
If you want to go past beer and wine, then don't just set out a few bottles of booze. Make a pitcher cocktail the night before; no mixing, no shaking, and very festive!

4. Keep the appetizers very light.
Think crunchy and cold, not savory and hot. Think pickles, not cheese balls. Think shrimp, not hot dip. For our California Thanksgiving Outdoors we made some simple boards or relish trays with pickles, light chickpea dip with fresh vegetables for dipping, and some crackers. All very easy and pretty! Read some more of our readers' favorite Thanksgiving appetizers here:

5. Designate a host to keep an eye on appetizers and drinks.
Last but not least, you shouldn't be refilling ice buckets or sangria pitchers while trying to make gravy. Designate your partner or a friend to play host and make sure everyone is having a good time with a glass topped off.

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