Thursday, December 25, 2014

Are You Making These Hosting Mistakes?

"Holiday Cookies" by Whitney is licensed under CC BY 2.0
‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings! If you’re inviting friends and loved ones over to your apartment this season, or have in the past, you understand that hosting is hard work and can be stressful! While your friends and family don’t expect every single detail to go perfectly, there are some main areas you can focus on to make sure your guests have an enjoyable experience! These are mistakes you’ll want to avoid at your holiday party, courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

1. Expecting guests to help themselves to food and drink.
Don't expect that your guests will know to help themselves to the beer in the fridge, or that they'll be able to find those cookies tucked away in the back of the kitchen. Guests may not be comfortable enough in your house to go hunting around, so make sure everything is in plain sight.

2. Not thinking about flow.
When you're arranging furniture and thinking about where to locate food and drinks, consider how people will move through the house. Generally everyone is going to walk in the door and then go straight for the food and drink, so make sure there's a clear path to the goodies. Think about places where bottlenecks will form and try to eliminate them by creatively moving furniture — if, for example, you have a small kitchen, putting out food in a different room will keep everyone from winding up uncomfortably jammed into a tiny space.

3. Thinking you have to provide seating for everyone.
Unless you're hosting a dinner party, your guests will probably spend most of the party on their feet, chatting. Usually people will only sit down at the very end of the party, when most guests have already left, so provide one or two conversational groupings of chairs, but don't feel like you have to have a seat for every single person. You don't want to wind up with a whole roomful of people, awkwardly standing around a bunch of unused chairs.

4. Serving food and drink that take a ton of prep on the day of.
If you have your heart set on on serving handcrafted cocktails at your party, hire a bartender (or enlist a friend to do the honors) — otherwise you'll spend your whole party mixing and shaking, secretly resenting your guests for having such a good time. Pitcher drinks will make your guests just as happy, and allow you to enjoy yourself too. The same goes for food that requires elaborate preparation — opt for something simpler, or even better, supplement with some appetizers from the frozen food section. With some creative plating, your guests will never know the difference.

5. Not having a plan for music.
You don't have to hire a band or come up with the World's Most Creative Playlist — but you do need something playing when guests arrive. Music provides a little background noise to make people comfortable during those awkward introduction stages, and it also helps set the tone for the entertainment to come.

6. Forgetting to check the thermostat.
A bunch of people all together in a little room = lots and lots of body heat. If you're having a large gathering, you'll probably want to do something — turn of the heater, open up windows, maybe even turn on the A/C for a little while — to cool down the room before people arrive, so you don't wind up with a sweltering apartment two hours later when it's too late to do anything about it.

7. Leaving your guests to introduce themselves.
Especially if you've invited friends who don't know anyone else at the party, don't just welcome them and put a cocktail in their hand and then leave them on their own. Make sure to introduce them to one or two other folks at the party so they're not floating around on their own.

8. Trying to do everything on your own.
Hosting a party is more than a one-person job. No matter how much you prepare ahead of time, you'll probably find yourself scrambling to get things ready at the last minute. If you enlist help — a spouse, a family member, a close friend — you'll be able to spend the first few minutes of your party greeting your guests, and not running around in the kitchen while they awkwardly stand about. (And chances are your friends will be happy to help.)

9. Forgetting to relax and enjoy yourself.
Which party would you rather go to — an event with perfect decorations, food, and drink, with a stressed-out, frazzled host, or a less closeup-worthy event where the hostess is relaxed and having a good time with her guests? Your guests feel the same way. You're the host, and your mood will set the tone for the rest of the party — so relax, have a drink, and let the little things work themselves out.

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

Calculate Your Holiday Gift Budget

"Christmas presents" by Mike_fleming is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Each year it seems like the holiday gift list grows longer and longer - from big gifts, like close friends and family members, to smaller ones for neighbors and co-workers. With a shorter shopping season this year (only three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas), time is of the essence! If you haven’t started shopping yet, the first step is to determine your budget. If you need some help, follow these tips from Apartment Guide:

A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way
By being a smart shopper every day, you will have more to spend when the holidays come around. Here are some easy steps to more savings.

When it’s time to go grocery shopping, make a list. Get into the habit of only shopping for the items on your list and leave impulse purchases at the door.
Do your online research in advance of a big shopping trip. When you know where the bargains are, you will save yourself a whole heap of time, effort and frustration.
Make shopping rewarding. Use store coupons and rewards cards and sign up for email campaigns that will send advance details of sales.
Pay yourself first! Grant yourself a weekly allowance and shop for necessary items guilt free. By paying yourself a weekly or monthly allowance you will avoid the very real temptation of a retail therapy blowout.

Basic Steps To Big Savings
There are many small measures you can take to reduce your bills and help you save for the holidays. When you leave your apartment for the day, remember to unplug all electrical items making sure that you don’t spend anymore on your electrical bill than you have to. This tiny step goes a long way to reducing your electric bill over the course of a year.

When you go to work, adopt a “cash free” day where you go about your day-to-day business without spending a single penny. This is easier than it sounds with a modicum of forward planning: plan your lunches around what’s already in the pantry or the fridge, and take a (reusable) bottle of water with you. Then make sure to put away the equivalent money you would have spent into a savings account.

Now that you have adopted basic budget saving tips into your day-to-day life, you will have a clearer idea of how much you have to spend on your holiday gift budget.

Holiday Shopping Tips
When it’s time to go shopping for your chosen gifts, take cash only. This important step will prevent you from being tempted to use credit to make your purchases. Adopt a stealth-like approach to your shopping trip, planning in advance the stores you intend to visit. Don’t be distracted from your mission; instead, make the purchases you have decided upon in advance. If necessary, you can always go back later and buy that impulse present if there is enough left over in your budget.

Use the envelope system for shopping trips. Make out a new envelope for each person on your list and place in the exact amount needed for their chosen present. Then if the product is further discounted at the cash register, you can put the extra money into a contingency fund.

If you choose to do your holiday shopping online from the comfort of your own apartment, keep an eye open for useful promotions such as free shipping codes or buy-one-get-one-free offers.

Finally, if you are forced to put your holiday shopping onto a credit card, it’s always a good idea to put it on one that will benefit you and your wallet. Use cards that offer cash back with every purchase.

Wednesday, November 26, 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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Should You Get Rid of Your Furniture?

"Repurposed trunk" by Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge is licensed
under CC BY 2.0
Furniture can be an expensive investment, depending on the quality of the pieces. Because it can be so costly, throwing furniture away should be a last resort. After evaluating these steps from Apartment Therapy, consider donating it or giving it to a friend in need and, then, if all else fails, toss it.

1. Can it be used for in another room, maybe for a different purpose?
Consider the other rooms of your house, and consider your household needs. Something that you don't want in one room, might serve a different purpose in another. I had been using a small dresser as my daughter's changing table in the nursery for the past couple of years, but now that she is a toddler, she doesn't need it and the dresser was just taking up space. At the same time, I had been needing a bed side table. After deliberating about its fate, I realized the dresser might work as a nightstand. I packed up the contents of the changing table dresser and moved it into our room next to our bed. Voila! It turned out to be the perfect height for a bed side table and so it will stay.

2. Can it be updated?
There are several ways that you can give your old furniture new life with a couple of simple updates. If you are tired of your coffee table that you've had since college, take a good look at it and determine if you can give it a new coat of paint and a different style of table legs. Maybe your old dresser can be spruced up with some beautiful hardware and that might inspire a whole new life out of it. If you know how to reupholster chairs, try a whole other color or pattern to change it up.

3. Can you take it apart to use its various parts?
I've determined that our coffee table needs to go, but recently I've been eyeballing it again to see if I could use its parts of other purposes. For example, I can take the legs off and then paint the table top with chalkboard paint, and stand it up in my daughter's room as a chalkboard. Or maybe I could replace the skinny legs with sturdier ones, add some cushions and turn it into a bench for our foyer area. Maybe you have a dresser that is falling apart but each of the drawers are still in good shape; paint the drawers, add a couple of table legs, and turn that into a side table.

4. Can you sell it?
It is always worth trying to see if you can sell the item through a service like Craigslist. Check your local listings, see what similar items are being priced at and put it up for sale with a couple of good pictures. You can take the money your earn from that sale and put it towards that new replacement item you are saving up for.

5. Do you have room to store it?
If you have room to store it, consider putting it away in that attic or basement. Especially if the item has good bones, it might be worth keeping around. You might end up needing it, liking it again or gifting it to a friend or family member who needs it in a few years. Even if you don't recognize a need for it in the present moment, the item might meet a need in the future.

If you have gone through these factors and determine that you have no more use for it, and the item is still in working condition, make sure to donate it to your local thrift stores. Give someone else a chance to squeeze more life out of it!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Mug Cake

Photo courtesy Faith Durand, The Kitchn
The snow is falling and it’s beginning to feel like holiday season. We still have a couple of weeks to go until Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge a little today! One of the things we look forward to most is the home-made pumpkin pie. This is a great recipe from The Kitchn to use if either cannot wait for Thanksgiving, or to file away for the rest of winter when you need a comforting dessert!

Pumpkin Pie Mug Cake
Makes 1

1 teaspoon unsalted butter
14 grams gingersnaps (2 small cookies), crushed into 2 tablespoons of crumbs
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk or cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Place the butter in a microwave-safe mug that holds at least 10 ounces, and microwave on LOW until melted. Stir in the crushed gingersnaps and press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the mug.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, egg, milk or cream, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Pour into mug with the gingersnap "crust."

Place the mug on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on full power for 2 to 5 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the mug pie comes out clean. The top may look slightly damp but it will set as it cools. (Cooking time will vary greatly depending on your microwave and the width and depth of the mug. Start with 2 minutes and continue cooking in 30-second increments until it is done.)

Use a hot pad or oven mitt to carefully remove the mug from the microwave. Let it stand for a couple minutes to cool, then top, if desired, with whipped cream and crushed nuts before eating.

Recipe Notes
Doubling the recipe: You can double this recipe, but only cook one mug pie in the microwave at a time.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Downsize Your Kitchen Before the Holidays

"Kitchen" by Patrick Morgan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The holiday season is almost upon us! Of course, this time of the year can be hectic, especially if you plan on hosting gatherings or dinners in your apartment. Space in your kitchen may already be hard to come by, but if you’re having a large gathering, it is even trickier to maneuver. To downsize your kitchen before the holidays come, follow these steps from Apartment Therapy:

1. Get rid of multiples, but keep the best.
Certain things add up over the course of a lifetime spent cooking: mixing bowls, roasting trays, serving platters, salad tossers. Think about how many of each you really need, and keep the best quality/most useful of the bunch. Donate or toss the ones that don't make the cut.

2. Forget about "everyday" vs. "good."
When it comes to china, or cutlery, do you really need two 12-person sets? For the three times a year your fancy china comes out to play, it's probably not worth the storage space. A simple white set of dishes works for every occasion, or just choose the set you like best, and get rid of the other(s).

3. Consider your single-use gadgets.
There's a lot of hate out there for kitchen equipment designed to just do one thing, and sure, those egg-poachers and garlic-peelers might be a tad silly in a world where a pan of boiling water or the blade of a knife does the job just fine. But I wouldn't write off every single-use gadget in your home. My aforementioned mother, for example, has both a European tomato press and a fancy-schmancy citrus juicer in her kitchen. Seems excessive, but you know what? The woman makes 500+ jars of various preserves every year, so those things will probably make the cut. Maybe you use that ice-cream maker every week in the summer, and maybe you don't, but either way— really think about it and be honest about what you need, and what you can get rid of.

4. Add more multi-use ones.
Downsizing isn't just about getting rid of things; you'll have to invest in some new space-saving pieces to replace those you're culling. Four different kinds of glasses for four different beverages, really? It seems that the oh-so-trendy stemless wine glasses work equally well for water and juice. Same goes for pasta bowls, soup bowls and ramen bowls: just choose one in-between size and be done with it.

5. Cut down on appliances.
If you're moving or making structural changes to your kitchen, you might want to carefully consider which large appliances you choose. In many North American homes, a full-height (and sometimes double-width) fridge/freezer is the norm, but in big cities and elsewhere around the world, people get by just fine with under-counter versions. Dishwashers, too, are another possibly-expendable luxury. It may not be for everyone, but depending on your priorities and lifestyle (more space in exchange for a bit more time spent), it's worth thinking about.

6. Same goes for small appliances.
Do you need a coffee maker? Blender and immersion blender? Stand mixer plus hand-held electric beaters? Toast can be easily made under the grill! Think about all these things, and keep the pieces that work for your cooking style best. If you haven't used it in months, chances are you can do without it always.

7. Use smart storage.
In a smaller space, you've got to be intentional about where you keep things. Think of a pegboard wall, a foldable stepladder which makes storing things on the upper cabinets feasible, maybe open shelving or wall-hung rails for those items you use frequently. Whether it's adding these options to your current home or building them into a new one, think about the way you cook and use space, and make your kitchen behave accordingly.

8. Don't neglect the pantry. 
Those large pantries and deep drawers can easily lead to a certain kind of "but I might need this for a recipe one day" food hoarding. Five different types of flour? Four varieties of artisanal chili flakes? Maybe you regularly use all of these things, in which case, carry on! But if those spices or nuts or whatever have been sitting in that drawer for three years, they're likely stale anyway, so clear them out and make way for more of what you will use. (Consider donating that which is unopened and still in date to a local shelter.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

5 Ways to Cut Energy Costs

"home office closeup" by megan ann is licensed under CC BY 2.0
While it’s wonderful to live in an age with so much technology at our fingertips, these devices also use a lot of energy. Not only does this have a potentially negative impact on the environment, but it costs us more money on our electric bills each month, too. So how can we conserve energy and save money without feeling like we’re sacrificing our dependency on technology? Try these tips from Apartment Guide:

1. Unplug
It goes without saying that turning off the lights when you don’t need them can reduce the cost of your electric bill–but did you know that simply unplugging your appliances can help reduce costs, too? Of course, you don’t want to unplug things that need to stay plugged in like the refrigerator.

However, unplugging phone chargers, toasters, hair dryers, and other small appliances when they’re not in use can shave dollars off your electric bill every time. Consider getting timed surge protectors or outlet additions that can turn off and on things that you don’t need to use while you’re not home, like television cable boxes, modems, routers and the microwave.

2. Cool Naturally
One of the biggest uses of electricity in a home, particularly during the summer, is the air conditioning. Nearly all air conditioners–whether they are window units that can be turned on and off, or they are controlled centrally by a thermostat–use electric power to run.

While some hot days are unbearable and it’s impossible to go without a/c, on more temperate days, try to cool your home naturally. Open windows, block sun from streaming in windows, and use fans. Try opening two windows; then place a fan backward in one open window to draw hot air out. This will allow the cool air from the other open window to flow in freely.

3. Go Green
If you use a lot of lights in your apartment, one way to reduce your electric bill is to use eco-friendly light bulbs. There are lots of eco-friendly light bulbs available, and they’re much more durable, long lasting, and environmentally-conscious.

Fluorescent light bulbs are not only better for the environment, they’re also better for your bank account. Switch your regular bulbs out for fluorescent ones; then reduce their usage as much as possible. Consider trying different fluorescent bulbs to find just the right color for your home (some can be very bright).

4. Upgrade and Update
New appliances are much more energy efficient and responsible than older appliances. You may not be able to upgrade major appliances in an apartment, but that doesn’t you don’t have any control. Some minor appliances whose newer models tend to be much more eco-conscious include computers, televisions, hair dryers, hair straighteners, toasters and blenders.

5. Clean Your Filters
Your air conditioner has a filter in it that keeps things like dust and dirt from blowing into the air. However, it needs to be changed regularly, and some people try to save money by not replacing the filter. In reality, a dirty filter is not only bad for your lungs, but it can also drive your electricity bill way up.

Full filters make air conditioners inefficient, causing them to work harder (or you to turn them on a higher setting) in order to make your space cool. If your “change filter” light is on, or if you haven’t changed yours in a while, check with your landlord to see if he has a replacement filter for you (or, if the air conditioner belongs to you, head to a hardware store to get a new one). You’ll spend much more on cooling your space with a dirty filter than you will on the one time expense of buying a brand new one.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Just because you live in an apartment, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know your neighbors. You never know when you might need someone to look in on your pet or join you at an apartment community event! Plus, it will make the inevitable elevator and hallway encounters much less awkward if you know who you’re saying hello to. Here are some tips from Apartment Guide on being an ideal neighbor.

1. Communicate
One of the keys to any relationship—but particularly the neighborly kind—is communication. It may be tempting to leave your neighbor be and stick to yourself, but if you want to be a good neighbor, it’s important to communicate from the get-go.

Introduce yourself right after you move in; then continue to say “hello” when you run into one another. Some other important things to communicate about are problems with the building, times you’ll be away from your home, or any other problems you might have with them.

By communicating with neighbors, you not only show them that you are a nice person who can be trusted, you also create an ally in your living space. Maybe you’ll even make a new friend.

2. Be Social
Another great way to establish communication (and also establish yourself as friendly person) is to be a social person. Organize a potluck or picnic for everyone that lives in your building or neighborhood. You can show your neighbors that not only do you want to know them, but you also want them to know each other, and that you’re interested in fostering a community where you live.

3. Be on the Lookout
One of the best parts about a neighbor is that they can be around your home to help you out when needed, so you should be there for your neighbor, too. Always keep watch and be protective of your neighbors’ homes, as well as your own.

This means that should something bad happen, you’ll be able to stop it or fix it so they won’t have to. Showing that you care about their space as well as yours is an excellent way to endear yourself to neighbors and to ensure you have someone looking out for your place and belongings as well.

4. Be Respectful
Everyone wants to live their own life, but it’s important to be respectful of other peoples’ time and space, particularly when you’re sharing a living area like an apartment complex. That means don’t have loud parties late at night and warn people who will be affected by noise from your home if you are planning to have a loud gathering.

Also, being respectful entails being mindful of shared walls, keeping your outdoor/shared space clean, and not using your space for anything dangerous or unpleasant.

5. Do Favors
It doesn’t have to be an everyday thing, but every once in a while you should do a generous favor for your neighbor. Putting out a little energy to do something nice will show that you’re a generous and considerate person, and it may just end up in favors being done for you.

6. Train Your Pets
Pets can be great additions to life, but they can also be a nuisance to other people. So, for your neighbors’ sake, train your dog. Your pets shouldn’t be noisy, and they should know only to go to the bathroom in designated spots. This is a good way to ensure your neighbor loves your pet and doesn’t resent him.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Turn Your Bathroom Into a Spa

After a long day at work, sometimes coming home and collapsing onto the couch just doesn’t help you to de-stress. But imagine if you had your own mini-spa right in your apartment bathroom! Some simple re-decorating is all it takes to turn your bathroom into your oasis. Use these tips from Apartment Therapy to get started.

"giant bathtub" by Erica Nicol is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
1. Enclose it
Part of the joy of a spa is that ability to take a break from life — to step away from the stresses and just focus on you. So consider a way to create a barrier between you, your bathroom and the rest of the world. It could be an extra lovely/dramatic shower curtain. It could be a curtain that you place over the door for an extra barrier. It could be big plants that partially obscure the rest of your bathroom from say, your tub. Get creative to think of a way you can enclose yourself to feel protected and a little bit transported.

2. Consider the presentation
As you can imagine, bath salts, yummy-smelling soaps and other treats for your body are a great way to treat yourself to a spa day. But don't just line them up unceremoniously on your bathroom counter. Think about the presentation. Put products in lovely containers you like handling. If you have a tub, consider splurging on a lovely-to-you bathtub caddy that you can slip into a warm bath under.

3. Add something surprising
Maybe it's a piece of art in your shower (or something more practical). Maybe it's a giant mirror in a weird spot. Perhaps it's just a bouquet of flowers on the edge of your tub. Just add something that will surprise you and perhaps transport you to a feeling of relaxation.

4. Consider all your senses
Start with neutralizing the things that might stress you out first. Loud noises from construction down the street or neighbors? Include white noise or soothing music to cover up sounds you don't want. Hate the overhead light in your windowless bathroom? Bring in candles.

5. Surround yourself with softness
When you're ready to leave your spa-like bathroom, take that relaxation with you by surrounding yourself with softness. Make sure you step onto a plush bath mat or into fluffy slippers. Towel off from a bath or shower with an extra cozy towel. Wrap yourself in a robe.

What would you put in your spa bathroom?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maximize Your Kitchen Space

"counter space!" by Maggie Hoffman is
licensed under CC BY 2.0
Regardless of the size of your apartment’s kitchen, it seems like there is never enough space for cooking, not to mention storage. If you are especially pressed for space to cook, storing your kitchen utensils in an organized and efficient way is paramount. Get creative with maximizing the space in your kitchen with these storage ideas from The Kitchn:

Add shelving anywhere you can: When space is at a minimum, you have to make the most of whatever you can find. That will likely mean adding shelving or a hanging cabinet to spaces that might otherwise go unused. Just make sure you have stylish storage containers if you opt for open shelving.

Hang your pots and pans: By storing your pots and pans vertically, you’ll free up cabinet, shelf, and drawer space for more pantry storage. We’d much rather see a beautiful Calphalon or All-Clad pan than a box of cereal or a bag of chips.

Make use of your cabinet doors: The inside of your cabinet doors are a woefully underused resource. Use them for storing spices or small kitchen utensils to free up even more space for larger items.

Put even narrow spaces to use: Think an awesome skinny storage rack is out of your reach? Think again! Find out how you can easily DIY a rolling pantry that is designed to fit whatever space your kitchen has to offer.

Organize in tiers: A simple and inexpensive addition, risers in your cabinets will not only make use of the vertical space on your shelves, but they’ll help you know what you already have and avoid buying duplicates.

Add a cart: If you have more space near your oven than you do in your pantry, keep a rolling cart with all your essential items at hand. You can move it around to wherever you’re cooking or stash it away when you have guests over and need more floor space.

Don’t forget about the space under your cabinets: Steal a trick from woodworking workshops, and affix lids to the bottom of your cabinets to keep jars of your most used items handy. Just be sure your cabinet is sturdy enough to hold the jars when they are full.
How do you make the most of the space in your kitchen? Share your tips with us!
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