Category Archives: Tips

Essential Maintenance Tasks for Appliances

ESSENTIAL MAINTENANCE TASKS TO KEEP HOME APPLIANCES RUN EFFICIENTLY

Today’s typical family home is a buzzing hub of activity where meals are cooked, homework is done and family game nights are contested. In the background of it all: the home appliances that keep home life moving along. Focusing on a few maintenance tasks can keep home appliances performing efficiently and effectively.

Maintain tools

Keep appliances and cleaning tools running well so they continue to get the job done. Replace vacuum belts periodically to keep your vacuum cleaner running like new, and swap out lawn mowers’ spark plugs once a year to ensure the mower is easy to start. Stock up on extra batteries for cordless vacuums, leaf blowers or other lawn equipment used frequently.

Focus on filtration

Replace vacuum cleaners’ accessories often for best performance. Bags need to be replaced every one to two months, while a new filter is needed every three to six months. A full vacuum bag or clogged filter can inhibit the vacuum’s effectiveness, reducing suction and leaving allergens and dust behind. Washable filters should be replaced too, as they may begin to lose effectiveness after a couple of washes.

For great vacuum performance, use Arm & Hammer vacuum bags and filters to capture allergens, dust and pet hair from surfaces. The bags and filters also safely and naturally absorb offensive smells through the odor-fighting power of baking soda.

In addition to vacuum filters, make sure to replace HVAC filters. Furnaces and central air conditioners run more efficiently and provide higher quality air filtration with clean filters. Change filters frequently to keep home heating and cooling at a high level.

Clean appliances

While every appliance has a unique way to clean it, they all have one rule in common: Never, ever let spills or splatters linger. Whether it is on the stove, in the microwave or in the refrigerator, the longer deposits remain, the harder they are to clean. Keeping these appliances clean will mean that a deeper scrubbing is only needed occasionally.

Refrigerators – Twice a year, pull out the refrigerator to clean behind and under it. Mop the floor and use a vacuum to remove dust from the coils in back. This will decrease the stress put on the motor and can prolong the life of the refrigerator. Use soapy water to clean shelves, and a damp cloth to remove fingerprints from the front or sides.

Dishwashers – About once a month, check and clean the drain and wipe down the door seals and spray arm.

Oven – Embrace the self-cleaning option on the oven to do the heavy lifting whenever it is needed. Wipe down the inside of the door and creases to ensure there are not crumbs accumulating. Soak burners, knobs, racks and hood vents twice a year to keep them free of grime.

Microwave – Clean the rotating microwave plate weekly in the dishwasher. When needed, put a bowl of water with lemons in the microwave and run it for three minutes, then let stand for five minutes before wiping down the inside.

Washing machine – Always wipe out the machine to ensure there is no water left sitting in it. For a deeper clean, run the washer with bleach in the dispenser, pause the machine and let the bleach mixture settle for an hour, then complete the cycle before wiping it out.

Coffee maker – Hand wash the filter tray, exposed areas, and crevices weekly, and run water with a bit of vinegar through – without coffee – to clean the inner mechanisms.

Safety first

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in the home to keep families safe – but they need new batteries to ensure equipment is working as it should. Every six months, change the batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms and make sure fire extinguishers are still in place and not expired.

 

 

Increase Kitchen Efficiency with Ease

Increase Kitchen Efficiency with Ease

Now that the busy holidays are behind us it is time to resolve how you can stay organized and create a functional space for family and friends to enjoy in the new year.

Plan in advance
Set aside time early in the week to plan the menu, from simple appetizers to the main entree. Grocery shopping apps, like AnyList, allow the whole family to share and build lists together – which can help avoid any last-minute trips to the grocery store. Also, try to identify dishes that can be prepared in advance, so more time can be spent away from the kitchen when guests arrive.

Maximize storage and counter space
Optimize counter space by designing small stations for easy access to the necessities. A coffee bar “nook” complete with Keurig cups and mugs can help kick-start a busy day. Storage near the fridge should be stocked with foil and containers, ideal for packing up leftovers after a large party. Reserve the island counter for meal prep and the cabinets below for serving ware and glassware storage.

Keep all staples in arm’s reach
Cooking can be made simple by organizing the essentials. Keep similar tools together, such as bakeware and cookie sheets in one drawer, and pantry staples in another. Spices and herbs should be alphabetized and stored near the stovetop to effortlessly add flavor. For those with design in mind, opt for open shelves to showcase dishes and small kitchen accessories, such as succulents and cookbooks, while keeping everything within reach.

Simplify kitchen cleanup
Cleaning is often the most time-intensive chore in the kitchen, but if designed right, can be a breeze for home entertainers and kids alike. There are many new kitchen faucets that come complete with features that offer laser-like precision to contain splatter, meaning less soaking, scrubbing and shirt swapping.

Time-Saving Tricks that Save Hours Each Week

Time-Saving Tricks that Save Hours Each Week

When you look at your to-do list, does it seem a mile long? From running errands, returning emails and making hurried trips to the ATM, modern life has never been busier for Americans.

You can reclaim your day by using a few simple time-saving methods. By simplifying common tasks, you can open up hours each week plus reduce stress levels. The following are some strategies to consider if you want to make a big impact.

Handheld financial freedom
Need to pay the babysitter, split the lunch bill or send money to your sister for grandma’s birthday gift? No need to run to the ATM. Person-to-person (P2P) payment options make it safe and simple to send money instantly.
Gareth Gaston, executive vice president of Omnichannel for U.S. Bank, shared results from the U.S. Bank Cash Behavior survey, which shows that 47 percent of people prefer to use digital apps to make payments versus cash. What’s more, this desire crosses generations, so both boomers and millennials – and everyone in between – want to digitize personal payments.
A great, hassle-free option for P2P is Zelle, a payment network backed by leading financial institutions including U.S. Bank. Zelle works through your mobile banking app and allows you to quickly and securely send and receive payments. Plus, once you are registered, there is virtually no waiting period – accounts instantly reflect deposits and transfers. Imagine the time saved when you eliminate last-minute cash runs. Learn more at www.USbank.com/zelle.

Work smarter, not harder
Whether you are a bi-coastal professional or a stay-at-home parent, you have a lot to get done and little time to do it. With some strategic planning, your days will be less hectic while maximizing productivity.
Being proactive and organized can save loads of time. For example, on Sunday, organize outfits for the entire week for you and the kids. Another smart tip is to pack lunches, backpacks, and briefcases the night prior. Do these things and your mornings will be smooth sailing.
Another huge time-saver is how you communicate. Rather than responding to messages as they come, block specific times on your calendar – such as at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. – to respond to communication. When you return emails, calls, and texts in batches, you save time by stringing out these activities throughout the day. Bonus tip: for smartphone addicts, make sure you program to auto-fill words you commonly use to make finger typing lightning-fast.

Shop savvy and eliminate errands
Running around town can eat up a lot of your valuable time. If you can automate deliveries of frequently used items, do it. Common household goods that are always on your list will no longer be a reason that drags you out the door.
Additionally, many retailers now offer online order and pickup options. This means you do all your shopping from the comfort of your home or office and then just swing by the store and they load your bags into your car. No crammed aisles, no long lines, no stress.
From eliminating the need for cash on hand to easing email overload, these smart tips will save you time so you can spend your spare moments doing the things you really love. Reclaim your life by adopting these strategies today.

Winter Care For Houseplants

winter care for houseplants

As the weather varies each winter, there is a chill in the air and that usually means the heater is running inside. This is a good time to give your houseplants some additional attention. Here is a general list of helpful houseplant care tips:

  • Keep houseplants out of drafts and in the brightest spot possible.
  • Increase humidity around tropical plants.
  • Reduce fertilization, but continue watering (may water less often, but the same amount). Make sure your water is room temperature.
  • Address any insect and disease problems.
  • Keep plants clean by gently wiping or rinsing.

Also, you can:

  • Give extra protection on chilly nights by closing drapes and making sure plants do not touch the cold glass.
  • Give your holiday cactus a rest this month, by watering sparingly but keeping it in indirect light.
  • Plant into a new pot any indoor plants that are pot-bound.
  • Cover or wrap new houseplants when transporting to keep them from cold air on the trip home.

 

PASSWORD SAFETY: Top tips for locking down your online security

Passwords: Top tips for locking down your online security

We all know hiding your house key under the doormat is a terrible idea, but we do it anyway because it is a convenient backup. When it comes to safeguarding passwords, especially in a family setting, people often choose convenience over safety.
As families manage their digital information and online accounts, many will end up opting for that less secure key-under-the-doormat solution. People are already sharing passwords, and their methods of sharing are not always the best. Some 41 percent of adults with online accounts admit to sharing passwords with friends and family, according to an Americans and Cybersecurity survey by Pew Research Center. Yet, 90.8 percent of respondents say they know that having strong passwords helps them better protect their families.

Consider the number of security breaches that continue to make national news:
* In 2016, we learned the Yahoo data breach compromised 1 billion accounts.
* In that same month, we learned 167 million email addresses and passwords were stolen from LinkedIn.
* In September 2017, a security breach at Equifax was reported, exposing Social Security numbers and other personal data of 143 million users, which is nearly half the U.S. population.
Now more than ever, it is clear how important it is to protect our personal information online. According to a Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, 81 percent of data breaches involve weak, reused or stolen credentials. That is significantly higher than the 63 percent it was in 2016.

“If you were to dig into the reasons behind these repeated, overly simple, shared passwords, it is actually pretty understandable as to how this happens,” according to LastPass Senior Director of Product. “The average person has some 200-plus logins. If you were to give each its own strong, unique password, that is way too many for one person to keep track of and remember, let alone all the other family members that might also use some of those accounts.”

But there is no need to trade security for the convenience of digital access. With a password manager designed for individual or family use, you can create those strong passwords for all the accounts you and your family use, and store them within a secure vault that is accessed by a single master password only you know. These digital lockboxes protect your information under multiple layers of security, making it impossible for digital thieves to hack and access.

If you are debating whether to make the switch to a digital password manager, here are a few ways it can improve your family’s online security and help stop the struggle with passwords.

Create rock-solid passwords: Most password managers offer a secure password generator that allows you to set and create a long, strong and unique password for every online account. You can create a password up to 100 characters long, including numbers and symbols. Another way to do it is by using the “passphrase” approach, meaning string together words that create a phrase. Be sure to steer clear of birthdays, anniversaries, street names and other specific personal details that can be found through a social media search.

Secure more than just passwords: There is an endless number of passwords and sensitive information you can store in your password manager, including banking logins, passport and license numbers, shopping accounts, email and social media passwords and more. By storing all of this information in your secure vault, you will always have access to the information whenever and wherever you may need it.

Safely share passwords with family members: One benefit of a password manager that is designed for family use is that it lets you safely and conveniently store passwords and valuable documents in folders for flexible sharing with others in the family. LastPass Families includes unlimited shared folders, which means you can create multiple folders and store an endless number of passwords and share with those in your family. For example, you could put your banking account password into one folder and share access with your spouse, have another folder for your favorite streaming services and securely share access to them with the whole family. All the while, you can keep your personal accounts private.

Plan for the digital afterlife: When there is a death or serious emergency, it turns out that state and federal laws, along with service agreements, can block your family from getting access to your online accounts. With a password manager that allows emergency access, family members can get into your password vault and have access to whatever they need.

Quick Cleaning Routines

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Keeping up with an ever-expanding list of cleaning chores can get overwhelming. So, what is the secret to making it more manageable? Breaking your routine down to small chunks of time, setting a timer, and staying focused until you hear the “ding!” can help. Below are your go-to plans when the time is tight. When an out-of-town friend stops by at the last minute or you only have 30 minutes before your favorite show starts, these are the routines that will get your space tidy quickly. Depending on how much time you have, choose from the 10-minute quick tidy up, a 30-minute whole-house pick-up, or the 2-hour cleaning plan.

If You Have 10 Minutes –This is not enough time to really clean your house, but for those moments when friends drop by unexpectedly or when you get home from a long day and simply cannot stand how messy your house looks, this 10-minute plan works wonders.
#1: Divide the Room: One of the biggest time-wasters when straightening up is that we tend to go back to the same spot multiple times. We find a misplaced item on one side of the room, and cross the room to put it back where it belongs, only to end up getting distracted by another out-of-place belonging, or a spill that needs cleaning, or dust that needs wiping. To make a speed-clean more efficient, visually divide the room into a clock, with the door or sink at 12 o’clock. Move around the room clockwise, guaranteeing that each area will only be visited a single time. When you arrive at each segment of the room, return any collected items that belong there, and save items that belong in another room for later.

If You Have 30 Minutes – When your parents say they are stopping by later that afternoon, use this plan. A little more than just putting things away and wiping down surfaces, this routine involves vacuuming, cleaning mirrors, and replacing bathroom towels, too. The key to this method is that it targets the areas you (and any last-minute guests) are most likely to notice and use, such as the main living area and bathroom.

If You Have 2 Hours – You do not have to set a timer for each specific task on the checklist but use the timeline as a general guide.
5 minutes: Strip the beds and put the dirty sheets into the washing machine.
5 minutes: Grab an empty laundry basket. Go through your entire house and grab anything that doesn’t belong in each room. Do not spend time organizing—just gather the misplaced items.
15 minutes: Clean up the kitchen. Collect all the dirty dishes, load the dishwasher, hand wash any pots and pans, put away clean dishes, and wipe down the sink and countertops.
10 minutes: Quickly vacuum all the floors in your home.
10 minutes: Quickly mop your hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring.
10 minutes: Grab your favorite all-purpose cleaner and wipe down the bathrooms. Start with mirrors, countertops, and faucets, then scrub the toilets. Close the shower curtain and add a fresh hand towel. Make sure the toilet paper is stocked and the hand soap is refilled.
5 minutes: Gather all dirty laundry and sort it into two piles: towels and clothes. Switch the sheets to the dryer and start a load of clothes.
10 minutes: Put away the items you’ve collected in the laundry basket at the beginning.
15 minutes: Grab some wood cleaning spray and, starting at one end of your home, quickly dust all the wooden surfaces in your home. Don’t be too picky. Remember, this is a quick clean-up plan.
10 minutes: Pick up some window cleaner and, starting at one end of your home, quickly clean all the glass surfaces.
10 minutes: Unload the sheets from the dryer and add the clothes. Start a load of towels in the washer. Go make all the beds with the clean sheets.
5 minutes: Light a candle, grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up, and enjoy your clean home! (Just don’t forget to switch out the laundry when it finishes!)

Transform Your Home in a Weekend With These DIY Projects

flower cart

Now that fall is here, you will be spending more time at home. This is the ideal time for quick and inexpensive DIY projects that make a big statement around the home, but not a big difference in your pocket book.

Create wood accents: Use flooring to make headboards and accent walls. Retailers like Lumber Liquidators offer a variety of styles of flooring such as laminates, engineered, vinyl, click ceramic plank and more, and these flooring materials can easily be incorporated into many accent features. The flooring material can be affixed to walls and other surfaces with a special acrylic flooring tape. Flooring comes in a variety of styles, which can also be cut into striking patterns like chevron or herringbone.

Install butcher block countertops: Butcher block is a warm and rustic countertop style that is affordable and increasingly popular. Made from strips of wood bonded together, it can be sliced and chopped on directly – a great option for the minimalist homeowner. Installation is DIY-friendly, making butcher block an ideal weekend project with a good step-by-step tutorial in hand.

Build a trellis: Building a garden trellis is a great way to draw more attention to what your green thumb has created. Dedicate Friday to sizing the trellis and cutting and framing the pieces, Saturday to building the panels and assembling and Sunday for digging the holes and setting the trellis into place. Tailor the building materials to what is best for your backyard.

Repurposed planters: When gardening outside is not an option, bring the garden inside by making unique planter boxes. A DIY planter box is typically more affordable than store-bought, and the design possibilities are endless. Reuse vessels like shipping crates, Mason jars and tin boxes. Personalize them with colors and patterns to match your interior and inject personality and life into your space.

Add crown molding: Crown molding adds distinguished curves and angles to a ceiling, instantly elevating a room to a polished and sophisticated look. DIY crown molding does require attention to detail when measuring and marking the wall and cutting pieces, so measure twice to cut once.

These are just a few of the weekend-ready projects homeowners can knock out this fall to bring new life to spaces indoors and out. A weekend DIY project is a minimal time investment that not only creates a sense of accomplishment, but adds value to your home.