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Get your New Home Insured in Time for the Flooding Season

Protecting your new home is crucial during the colder months of the year, but this year, prolonged rainfall demands that protection starts early. It’s not only important to obtain flood insurance, it’s also important to prevent damage from floods so the repairs are lessened.
Welsh Floods, 2012
MoneySupermarket flood insurance provides a number of useful tips for guarding against the potential for floods. And, if the recent floods in Wales have taught us anything, it’s that people can never be too careful when the British weather is concerned!

Effective Cover
Flood insurance plans should include both contents insurance and buildings insurance for homeowners, as this will protect the fixtures, fittings, and furnishings within the home and garden, including any outbuildings such as a shed or garage, and the structure of the home. Tenants only need to take out contents insurance as the safety of the building is the duty of the landlord.

Plan
It doesn’t matter whether your new home is in a flood-prone area or not. Flooding in recent times has been random throughout the country. Always prepare for the worst. This includes packing a survival kit with bottled water and energy bars, and having a torch and candles to hand.

Utilities
Whenever a flood strikes, it’s important to turn off the gas, electricity, and water immediately. Make sure access to these switches is clear at all times, as electricity and water don’t mix.

Sandbags
Many of the recent floods in Wales have shown that sandbags can’t always stop floodwaters, but they do stall it for a while. There will be much more damage to a home if sandbags are forgotten when the flood waters arrive.

The Roof
If there are any gaps in the roof, then it can compound matters if a flood commences. Water within the roof cavity can completely ruin things. It can also invalidate any claim on your insurance if the roof is deemed to not be in good order.

Chandeliers: How Low CAN You Go?

Can those of us with shorty ceilings still hang chandeliers?

Despite loving high ceilings, some of us are forced by circumstance or budget or whatever to reside in dwellings with low ceilings, and when those low ceilings are especially low, that can limit lighting design options. Now as I enjoy my summer vacay and finally spend some real time working on my own home, which has felt terribly neglected these past months, I’m finding that my lighting choices feel quite limited by my own low ceilings. Recessed lighting? I can’t say I dig it. Our current lighting is comprised mainly of those flush with the ceiling lights shaped like boobies, complete with nipple, and they’re not my favorites. Which is why I’ve been wondering, and thought I’d ask you, how low do you think you can go with hanging lighting in a space with low ceilings? Are chandeliers paired with low ceilings just ridiculous? What about when they’re over a table or piece of furniture that guarantees no one will bang their heads? Leave your thoughts below so I can use your help to decide what I really think about big dramatic lighting in wee unassuming spaces!

6 Simple Tips for Keeping a House Clean Enough

Housecleaning tips that make presentability no prob at all

Housecleaning, who needs it? Well, all of us excepting bachelors who feel comfortable living in squalor. But even if we do clean now and then and get excited about a thrice-yearly deep clean, many of us have trouble keeping things guest-level presentable day in and day out. How, we wonder, do those people who seem to have clean and organized houses – or mostly clean and organized houses – keep things so neat and nice when they work and have children and serve on the board of their volunteer organization and and and. It’s enough to make a girl feel like a slob!

Turns out, though, that it’s easy enough to give the impression of a clean house without having to do a daily deep clean by doing little things that add up. Add up to a clean enough house, that is. A house that is for all intents and purposes guest-ready without your having to put a ton of effort into it. Here are six simple housecleaning tips to get you started on the road to a clean enough house:

1. When you see something out of place, pick it up and put it back when it’s convenient. Really, how many times were you planning on walking past the sneakers in the bathroom? Or the extension cord in the kitchen? Presumably at some point you will visit your closet or the basement – if you know that’s your destination, bring the sneakers, etc. with you. No special trips necessary.

2. Create a “kitchen dump.” Or an X dump, where X is the first room you enter when you get home after a long day in the outside world. On the surface it may be a basket or an upright filer, but at its heart it’s a representation of your desire to cast off the shackles of the working man. What goes ion a kitchen dump? Your keys, the bills that came with the day’s mail, the pine cone your daughter found – anything you’re not ready to put away but want to keep.

3. Clean as you do. Cooking? Then wash a few dishes while you wait for the water to boil or wipe down the counter as soon as something splatters. Fixing a bike? Put your tools back as soon as you’re done using them. And so on. Make clean-up just another part of chores and fun activities, and you’ll be less likely to lose your tools in the backyard or have stains on your kitchen counters. Even more basic examples might include hanging up your towel after a shower or wiping down your dining room table as part of the dinner ritual.

4. Prepare for tomorrow today. Unless tomorrow is a holiday where you are – you lucky thing – you probably have THINGS that will need doing in the a.m. that you will prep for before heading off to bed. Make tidying up part of your prep – nothing complicated, just putting things in their places – and your house will never get truly dirty. And, bonus, you’ll wake up to a nice, neat abode!

5. Do a 15 minute sweep when the mood strikes. Feeling uncomfortable in your environment? Or maybe you’re just a little bored and have a quarter hour to spare. Devote those 15 minutes to doing a quick sweep. That could mean a literal sweep if you have hardwood floors, or wiping down bathroom and kitchen surfaces, folding some rogue laundry, or putting away those dang dishes. Finally.

6. Stay focused on one room, one floor, or one task. Big cleaning jobs can be intimidating, but those big spring cleaning frenzies shouldn’t be a part of a clean enough strategy. Facing rooms full of possessions out of place can be overwhelming, but one room? That’s a snap. The same goes for tasks – maybe you’re wiping down surfaces with a damp cloth. Give all the furniture on one floor a wipe. Trying to do too much is why so many people hate cleaning and breaking big tasks down is the ultimate antidote.

What are your ‘good enough’ cleaning tips? Messy people like me want to know!

Inspiration: Mason Jar Lights, Y’All

If you drink homemade iced tea from a mason jar, you may be from the south. Or you may just be visiting me, since a good portion of our drinking glasses actually started out as pasta sauce jars. Surely, mason jars aren’t everyone’s cup… of tea? But I like the way they feel: not delicate, but not particularly heavy, either. Substantial, you might say. And that heft is precisely what makes them good for using in DIY projects. Like mason jar centerpieces, for example. Or how about lights!

Easy enough to do, I should think, and virtually free with the right sauce.

Design*Sponge has an easy tutorial (though it does require an electrician)

Well, y’all, what do you think? Oh so awesome, or way too rustic?

Still Discombobulated, Have a Tutorial Link!

No sewing machine required!

True story: I can sew. I can even sew big stuff on my sewing machine that was absolutely not designed to make anything bigger than a dress or wee baby blanket. BUT I’d rather not sew big stuff because it is a big pain in the rear. That’s why I was so jazzed to find THIS, a simple no-sew fabric blinds tutorial by Regina Morrison, owner of Acute Designs. Check it out, give it a try, and if you do, share it! Also, while you’re still here, tell me:

Can you sew the big stuff? Do you like to?

Inspiration: Sunburst!

(FYI: If you have any interest in winning a $155 gift certificate to any CSN stores, head over to my personal blog and enter my latest giveaway!)

…or should I call them starburst mirrors? I’ve seen the two terms used, pretty much interchangeably and with equal frequency. So I hope we can agree that both labels are correct. Sometimes what’s labeled a starburst mirror looks more like a sun, and what’s labeled a sunburst mirror looks more like a star, but I think that’s okay. I think they’re keen no matter what you call them!

Blue Room

Tobi Fairley

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10 Home Staging Basics for the Noob

10 home staging basics

Whenever the topic of home staging comes up, I like to tell the story of my mother-in-law. She was trying to sell her house… a beautiful house, full of beautiful antiques and fine furniture. Prospective buyers would walk through, oohing and ahing, but no one put in an offer. Why? Because all the buyers spent all their time in the house entranced by all the nice stuff.

When did the house finally sell? After my mother-in-law put the majority of her nice things into storage.

Home staging, in case you haven’t maxed out on it watching the home and lifestyle channels, is the art of creating neutral, inoffensive environments that appeal to the majority of people (or at least don’t offend anyone) and don’t distract from the space on display. There are plenty of people making a living staging homes, but with a little trial and error, most people are capable of DIYing it.

Here are 10 home staging basics to help the noobs out there who are looking to sell a house or apartment:

1. Clean EVERYTHING. When The Beard and I were looking for homes, it was hard to see the “good bones” in the dirty ones. After viewing one home, all I could remember was the big pot of nasty… something… on the kitchen counter and the gnarly smell. In another house, the grime everywhere distracted from the house itself. When there’s no dirt to look at, people will look at the space for sale.

2. Nix the CLUTTER. Your stuff is almost as distracting as dirt. Not everyone can afford to put their stuff in storage like my mother-in-law, but put away what can be put away, and maybe start packing whatever isn’t necessary for daily living a little early. Boxes in the basement are less distracting than books stacked in corners.

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Adventures In Scaled Down Living, Two Ways

Think you can’t take your living situation to the bare minimum because you’re X or you’ve got Y or it would never work out because of Z? Maybe you’re right, but two stories I read recently suggested that you might just be wrong.

In the first, a couple abandons their condo (along with many elements of their modern lifestyle) to build a home in rural Iowa entirely without debt. With $7,000 and the help of friends and family, Hap and Lin Mullenneaux built a tiny cob house along with an open shed, summer kitchen, and a straw bale house. For water, they collect and filter rain. For heat, they use a small wood stove. And to power a laptop, modem, light, and fan, they have a wee photovoltaic system. Simple stuff, except when consider that they designer and manufactured everything themselves after taking a workshop!

In the second, two adults and two kids aaaand two cats lived for six years in a itty-itty camper and tiny tepee to save money and use fewer resources. It was much less luxurious than cob house living, with outdoor showers, water hauled from springs, human waste composting, and freezing winters. But you know what? They survived and enjoyed themselves, and while they’re in a house now, they seem to miss scaled down living as they practiced it.

There’s a song that says “love grows best in little houses” and my guess is that both families profiled above would be inclined to agree. I might agree, too, so long as you let me append the statement with something like “when the kids are grown up and there are no teenagers around.”

10 Easy Holiday Gifts for the Home

Gifts for people are easy, but great gifts for people’s home can be a lot more difficult to find. With that in mind, Manolo for the Home has put together a Black Friday list of ten(ish) gifts for the home and for the men and women who live in it in case you’ve found yourself at a loss as to what to buy her or her or him. Have a look and see what inspires, then tell us what are your favorite holiday gifts for the home?

1. A less expensive lookalike:

It’s not always possible to give the best when you can’t afford the best, which is why copycats are so pervasive. I can’t afford the Herman Miller Eames reproduction, but I can afford this Eames-inspired cradle rocker at 24% off with free shipping. Not everyone is cool with designer furniture knockoffs, but if you are, this chair isn’t a bad deal.

2. A little DIY inspiration:

We all know someone who manages to have kids (or dogs), a house, a full-time job, and 15 hobbies, none of which get neglected. Me? I don’t have much time for projects these days *sniff* but I’d still love to get some books like The Big-Ass Book of Home Decor, Real-Life Decor: 100 Easy DIY Projects to Brighten Your Home on a Budget, and DIY Art at Home, which are all on sale at 25% or more off the cover price.

3. Something to cuddle:

owl pillowunion jack pillowgold sparkle pillow

Too many throw pillows? Not so great. Just enough throw pillows? Great. I love little pillows because they’re such an easy way t add some fun color to a space without a lot of commitment. What’s on my gift giving list? Some of these, definitely: a Owl Nature pillow (a steal at $18), a Union Jack pillow, and a gold sequin pillow. Don’t they look fun and cuddly?

4. You can’t go wrong with:

… aLe Creuset 5-piece cookware set at 34% off! All right, so it’s kind of a big, probably for someone special on your list.

5. Quickie gifts:

burt's bees gift setkitchen utensilscandle gift set

Who hasn’t found themselves scrambling for a last-minute gift for someone friendly but not exactly a good friend? The Martha types will keep a store of small gifts around for just such occasions. Here’s a trio of good keep-around gifts for emergencies: a sure to please Burt’s Bees gift set, a Feng Shui gift set (under $20!), and a cute rainbow utensil gift set.

6. A way to keep your books in check:

james book endpolar bear bookendarrow magnetic bookends

As recently discussed, book lovers with lots of books can end up with books falling off of every conceivable surface. To keep books in check, give the gift of fabulous bookends, like James the Bookend, adorable Polar Bear bookends, and these neat Arrow magnetic bookends.

7. Gifts for the wintertime green thumb:

indoor gardening setmini greenhouse

Indoor gardening requires the right tools. That’s why I love my Threesixty indoor gardening tool set, which was just $19.99. And I wouldn’t mind receiving a Smith & Hawken mini greenhouse so the cats would stay out of my herbs. Or a pair of toasty, dry Bogs Classic Hi Fern boots, for that matter, when I do have to go out in the muck.

8. A tasty treat or two:

french presspeppermint barkfondue pot

Sweet treats to eat, drink, and prepare make always appreciated gifts. Who wouldn’t want a Bodum coffee press or a nice big package of King Leo peppermint bark or even a Sierra fondue set for those mid-winter get togethers that aren’t precipitated by any particular holiday?

9. A quick fix for almost anything:

It goes without saying that homeowners and apartment dwellers will need at least some must-have tools. Give the tool deficient recipient on your holiday list a Denali 115-Piece Home Repair Tool Kit and you’ll have the comfort of knowing they can deal with all the little mishaps of modern life.

10. Something to bank on:

white piggy banktartan piggy bankskull and crossbones piggy bank

And finally, for the little ones on your list who are hopefully saving their pennies, piggy banks are in again. My faves are the clean white Cilio Piggy Bank, the silly McPig Posh Piggy Bank, and the awesome Pink Piggy Pirate!

How to Clean House for a Party

It should be so simple… How do you clean a house for a party? You just, I don’t know, clean it?

But then why does party prep send so many folk into spirals of the kind of procrastination where instead of doing what you ought to be doing, you end up doing something you want to do even less? It’s just one of those things. And frankly, too many articles that purport to show the reader how to clean house for a party are too involved, too boring, and assume that everyone just loves to clean and probably also doesn’t have a job or children.

So with that in mind, here is a quickie guide to the busy person’s party prep cleanup that will get you through your upcoming event with the least amount of stress and the maximum amount of returns.

Make a Plan, Man
This is where you identify “problem areas.” Is your sink perpetually full of dishes? Is your bathroom totally gnarly at the moment? Has your couch disappeared under a layer of dog hair? Imagine that you are a first-time visitor to your house – what messy, dirty thing would you notice first? That’s the thing you want to clean first. Once that’s done, it will be (mentally, and possibly physically) a lot easier to clean everything else. Making a list can help you stay focused, but at the very least clean one room or area all the way before starting another.

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