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!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

5 Things to Know About Living Alone

"166" by Mitya Ku is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
For many people, living alone is best for all involved. If you're not home a lot or just like to have your space and things arranged your way, living alone is probably ideal. As with any living situation though, living alone comes with its pros and cons. Here are some common issues faced by those who live alone and some solutions on how to cope, courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Problem: Generally, the more you buy at one time, the cheaper it becomes. While a family of six cruises through a pot of chili, that much food can get wasted in a household of one. It's also more expensive to buy smaller quantities of toilet paper and other household supplies.

Solution: The Kitchn has some great tips for cooking on your own. For everything else, consider teaming up with a friend, family member, or neighbor to split that 24-pack of toilet paper. You’ll save money and space in the process.


Problem: You get an itch to decorate first thing on Saturday morning and find yourself stymied by your grandmother’s huge, six ton armoire.

Solution: Don’t hurt yourself by trying to lift things yourself. First, break the piece down in any way to make it manageable: empty contents, remove drawers or legs. If it's still too big or heavy, round up a friend or next-door neighbor to help you out on the fly. Otherwise, save up all your little odd jobs and hire someone one Saturday afternoon to knock out everything out on your to-do list that requires help.


Problem: Even if you have tons of friends, a boyfriend/girlfriend, sometimes being home alone at night is a downer. Everyone likes someone to turn to to express outrage over Ann Coulter’s most recent comment, or to rub it in when you get that night's Final Jeopardy question correct.

Solution: Create structured ways to leave the house and regularly interact with others— especially if you also work at home — at the times you feel most alone. Sign up for yoga classes, or join a book club. Host regular dinner parties, or even low-key television watching sessions with another person who shares your love of Mad Men. Lastly, think about adopting a furry friend. (Because everyone talks to their pets, no matter what we tell others.)


Problem: Maybe you are scared of axe murderers at night. Or, you worry about falling down the stairs and having no one find you for days. These are very rare yet valid concerns that shouldn't be deal breakers.

Solution: Yes, there’s always LifeAlert. And the pet (dog) you adopted to thwart loneliness will also help deter any meanies. Otherwise, set up a check-in system with a friend/neighbor and agree to touch base with each other regularly via text or phone. Ideally, this person will live alone as well, so the benefits go both ways. If one party is suspiciously quiet, either expect a welcome knock on your door, or head on over to check out your buddy.


Problem: You're only one person, and can only be so many places at one time. If you expect a package during the day, or need something repaired, there are only so many times you can take off work to be there in the flesh. There's no one right answer for this problem: the solution depends on your unique situation and needs.

Solution: For mail, check out this post on How to Manage Home Deliveries. For repairs, arrange to work from home one afternoon (again, if this is feasible). Renters can often ask landlords to greet the person on site. If you know and completely trust your repairman or contractor, install a key safe outdoors, then change the combination once the work is done. If all else fails, and you have to take the time, try scheduling appointments first thing in the morning, or as the last slot in the day.

Do you live alone? What to you do to combat these common problems? Share your advice below!
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