Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Using Your Doors for Storage

Tips for Tuesday

We’ve all seen storage racks for the door.  They can be used for shoes in your closet or mud room.  They can be used to hold towels in the bathroom or spices in the pantry.  But there are many more uses for door storage if you think outside the box.

For example, those shoe pockets come in handy for flip flops, but how about using it for hair accessories, small stuffed animals or socks for your child.  And those pantry racks are useful for canned goods, but they can hold paperback books, DVDs or accessories in your teen’s room. 

Here are more ideas for over-the-door storage:

·        Several towel bars can hold extra blankets and linens.

·        Hooks can hold purses and handbags

·        Small hooks inside a cabinet can hold measuring spoons.

·        Use pockets for a family communication center--mail, mp3 players, notepads,dog leashes, etc.

·        Use pockets inside your pantry to hold spices, small bags of food, plastic bags, etc.

·        Use a rack for giftwrap storage.

·        Use a rack or pockets for craft supplies.

·        Use “S” hooks to hold umbrellas.

What have you stored on your door? 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Remove Tripping Hazards for Seniors

Senior Thursday

We have all fallen at some point in our lives.  Maybe it was down a flight of stairs, or perhaps in a slippery tub or on a patch of ice.  With luck, we pick ourselves up and continue on.  As we age, though, these falls not only become more frequent, they also become more dangerous. 

Consider these statistics from the CDC:

·        One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year.
·        Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death.
·        In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments.
·        In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30.0 billion.

These are serious figures.  So what, exactly, causes this increased risk?  Medication is one.  Some meds can cause dizziness or drowsiness.  Another is poor eyesight.  And finally, tripping hazards.  Meds can be adjusted, and poor eyesight can be treated.  And yes, tripping hazards can be removed.  Here are some tips to help protect the seniors in your life:

·        Remove all throw/area rugs from the home.
·        Make transitions between rooms smooth.  Thresholds are dangerous even at a 1/4” high.
·        Install grab bars in the bathrooms.
·        Install railings on both sides of the staircase.
·        Improve lighting in the home.
·        Have the senior wear shoes or slippers at all times.
·        Have the senior use a walker if they are unsteady on their feet.
·        Purchase recliners that lift for getting up/sitting down.
·        Install a bath transfer seat.
·        Remind the senior to never climb on chairs.
·        Purchase a step stool with a handle for support.
·        Keep floors clear of clutter.
·        Keep sidewalks clear in the winter.

Keep the seniors in your life healthy and happy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Re-Use It Before Discarding It

Frugal Friday

Our society is so quick to throw things away.  And I don’t mean garbage.  We toss shirts missing buttons, or socks with holes or old electronics we’ve replaced with a newer and better model.  While this is good for the economy, it is destructive to the environment.  There are so many items we use in our everyday lives that can easily be re-used and kept out of the landfill--for a while at least.

Here are a few ideas for re-using everyday items:

  • Butter wrappers - Use empty wrappers to grease baking pans.
  • Opened envelopes - Use as scratch paper for your “To Do” lists, or for a grocery shopping list.
  • Inner envelopes - These are the ones that come in your bills, and are left over if you pay bills online.  Buy large stick-on labels and cover the window or pre-printed address and write the new address on the label.  Or use them to sort coupons.  Write the coupon category on the outside of the envelope, then put the envelopes in your glove compartment so you always have them when you are out shopping.
  • Plastic grocery bags - Use as liners for small trash cans, or to wrap paint brushes and rollers in the middle of a paint job.
  • Plastic bread clips - These make good cord corrals or small scrapers.
  • Styrofoam peanuts - Keep them to store fragile holiday items or to pack and ship holiday gifts.
  • Cereal liners - Clean and cut them, then place between meat patties before freezing, or covering food in the microwave.
  • Toilet paper rolls - Use upright to start seedlings in the spring, cut down and place in storage boxes for separating small items like beads, or use to protect small, fragile items when packing.
  • Shredded documents - Use for packing materials, whether moving or storing. This is especially useful for odd-shaped items.
  • Business cards - Turn over and use the back as a label for cartons or storage boxes.
  • Plastic bread bags - Use for liners in children’s boots to keep feet dry, or use to store your own home-made goodies.
  • Newspaper - Use to line bird cages, or as filler when packing.

How have you re-used some of your “trash”?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Remodel Now, Reap Rewards Later

Moving on Monday

When selling your house, the question usually arises--should I invest money in remodeling my home for a higher selling price, or leave it as is and take whatever offer I get?

This is never an easy answer because of the many variables.  When do you plan to move?  Do you want to enjoy the upgrades yourself before selling?  How fluid is your cash?  Can you afford to lose 50-60% on a project you undertake?  Would the house benefit greatly from the improvement even if you don’t get 90% back on the investment?

Answer these questions honestly before starting a project.

Should you go overboard and start putting in high-end appliances and granite countertops if you can afford it?  Or scale back and replace door fronts instead of all new cabinets?  

Before undertaking any remodeling project, consult with a real estate agent as to the return on investment you can expect.  If a $25,000 kitchen make-over will only net you 60% return, is it worth it?  Especially if a $5000 investment might net you 110%?  

According to Remodeling magazine’s recent study of the cost of various home improvement projects versus their resale value, some of the biggest bang for your buck is in the smaller projects.  For example, a new garage door can greatly improve a home’s exterior.  This is important when potential buyers are driving by to determine if they want to see more.  An average $1878 cost of a door yields a 62% return.  Vinyl siding can yield a 64% return.  However, a $54,000 bathroom addition added only about 42% of the value to the selling price.  

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t do any remodels.  If you will be in the house for a while, you can certainly enjoy the new spa bathroom.  But be prepared to eat 60% of what you laid out when the house hits the market. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Should I Retire?

Senior Thursday

One question more and more seniors are grappling with is whether or not it is the right time to retire.  With the cost of living going up, but income not keeping pace, coupled with the stock market collapse a few years ago, the question isn’t as easy to answer as it used to be. 

Another reason it can’t be answered easily is that everyone’s situation is unique.  We all have different levels of income, varying amounts of debt, and different health concerns.  Nobody’s portfolio (if you even have one) is the same, either.  Add factors such as health and life insurance coverage, ages of your children and grandchildren, your company’s pension plan and you start to see how the answer for you will be completely different from your neighbor or brother’s answer. 

If you’ve been earning a decent pay since college graduation, have put your children through school, and they are financially secure, you’ve grown your portfolio to six times your annual income, and your health is good, you can comfortably retire at 60 or 65.  However, if you’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck all your life, have medical bills to pay and only one year’s income invested with no company pension, then you may have to work well past 60 or 65 just to make ends meet.

Your financial advisor and accountant can best help you answer this question.  In order to arrive at the best answer, though, you should have the following information/documents together for review:

·        Previous year’s tax return

·        Current pay stubs

·        Most recent statements from investments

·        Most recent statements from bank accounts

·        Summary of monthly expenses (mortgage/rent, food, pets, transportation, utilities, etc.)

·        Summary of assets (real estate, vehicles, savings accounts, etc.)

·        Most recent Social Security Statement

·        Most recent pension statement

·        Life Insurance policies

·        Health Insurance policies

You are never too old to start planning.  But beginning early will help make your retirement years as comfortable as they can be.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adding Space to Small Kitchens

Tips for Tuesday

No matter the size of your family, a small kitchen can be a big drawback.  Where do you store your food, appliances, pots and pans, etc.?  It’s difficult preparing a meal or entertaining guests.  But there are some changes you can make to your kitchen to make it seem larger than it really is.  Here are some tricks of the trade:

·        Extend your upper cabinets to the ceiling.  The soffit above your cabinets is usually empty space behind the drywall.  Installing taller cabinets will give you space for storing those seldom-used items.

·        Use multi-purpose appliances.  Purchase a unit that chops and blends, or another that steams and deep fries.  Having less items to store will free up space.

·        Install a storage bench that can double as a seat for your kitchen table.  Use it to store linens, extra paper towels, or household files and bill-paying supplies.

·        Use the space under your upper cabinets.  Install hooks or magnetic strips for hanging knives or cooking utensils.  Install drop-down cookbook holders or spice racks.

·        Double the space on a shelf with a wire rack.

·        Use an island on casters so you can move it where you need it most.

·        Hang pots and pans from the ceiling.

·        Don’t buy in bulk, as tempting as the price is.  If you don’t have room to store it, it will be nothing more than clutter.

·        Downsize!  Get rid of everything you don’t need or use or like.  Be honest and brutal!  Peace of mind is worth more than the mugs you donate to charity.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Showing Your House Through the Seasons

Moving on Monday

As summer turns into fall, your house is still on the market.  You’ve been taking care of it, mowing the lawn and watering the gardens.  But now that the weather is cooler and leaves are starting to fall, there are other matters you must attend to for it to show at its best.

The most important part of your house when selling is the outside.  It is the first impression potential buyers have when they drive by or come for a viewing.  Before they even step into your house, they will be assessing the condition of the driveway, the size of the trees and bushes, and the amount of clutter on the porch.  If they are just driving by, they may decide to cancel an appointment with a real estate agent.  If they already have an appointment, they will probably still come in, but their opinions will be affected by what they saw outside, no matter how nice the house is inside.

So if you are showing your house during this change of season, make sure you keep up with maintaining the exterior of your home.

Rake the leaves, sweep the walkway and porch, and clean out the gutters.  Have your asphalt driveway sealed if necessary, or the cracks in your concrete fixed.  With the upcoming snow and ice, potential buyers know that little cracks can turn into large problems.

Clean all the cobwebs from the front door and windows.  This is what buyers look at when they are waiting for the agent to unlock the door.  All dead plants should be removed from the front porch, and replaced with fall foliage.  If there are any nests in the lights (bird or wasp), get rid of them, and any mess they may have left.  If the wreath or decoration on your front door is seasonal, swap it out for a fall version.

It gets dark earlier now, so make sure all the light fixtures are working properly.  Put both interior and exterior lights on a timer so buyers driving by at night can see the house lit up even if you aren’t home. 

Make sure your address is visible from the street both night and day.  Use numbers in contrast with your house color.  That is, use black numbers on a white house, or brass numbers on a brown house.  Look at your address as you drive up from both directions, both day and night.  Brass or silver numbers reflect the sun, making them difficult to read.  If your house is set back off the street, have your address on a mailbox or post near the street.

Finally, cut down flowers and plants as they die for the season.  If you have extensive landscaping with mature perennials and you want buyers to see what you have planted, then leave photos on the counter of what your house looks like in the summer. 

Keeping your house showing its best will keep you a step up from the competition.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hanging Door Organizers Not Just for Shoes

Frugal Friday

I am a big proponent of using vertical storage.  One product that is great for this is Over-the Door pockets.  They come in a variety of materials and sizes.  Some have large pockets for shoes, some have smaller pockets.  They are plastic, canvas or fabric.  And their uses are endless.  While these organizers used to be for shoes, now we can find many other uses for them.  Here are a few:

·        Bathroom--use for shampoo, toiletries, face cloths, hair accessories, etc.

·        Bedroom--use for small accessories like bracelets, scarves, bulky necklaces, and belts.

·        Bathroom--use for hair accessories like headbands, elastic bands, barrettes, and bows.

·        Pantry--Use for spices, small packages, small appliances, and appliance attachments.

·        Linen Closet--Use for medications, first aid supplies, and extra toiletries.

·        Bathroom--Use for cosmetics, brushes and nail polish.

·        Craft Room--Use for crafting supplies like scissors, glue, tape, and markers.

·        Use for toy storage, organizing pieces by toy, color or size.

·        Bedroom--Use for socks and tights.

·        Laundry Room--Use for cleaning supplies such as spray bottles, scrub brushes and rags.

·        Bedroom--Use for small stuffed animals.

And don’t forget to label the pockets so everything goes back where it belongs, and you know what to buy when the pocket is empty.