Friday, January 30, 2015

Avoid Apartment Fever

"DSC08785-Yoga Time" by Gary is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Whether or not we have winter weather, spending too much time in your apartment around your roommate or significant other can make you go a little crazy. So while you may not literally be snowed into your apartment, you can still get “apartment fever.” How can you create little spaces for yourself or times for yourself to take at least a mental break? Apartment Therapy offers these tips for when you need some alone time.

Stagger when you're home
Even crazy-in-love couples may need a few minutes (or hours) apart every day and it's okay to talk about it. Try staggering your schedules to carve out some time when each of you gets to be alone in your apartment. Maybe your mate goes to the gym before work but he could switch to after work to give you a free hour at night. Maybe you can start going into the office early instead of getting a head start at home. There are always little tweaks that can give you some alone time.

Create a physical barrier
Just because you're both home doesn't mean you have to be interacting. It's totally acceptable to close a door, close a curtain or unfurl a screen to give yourself the illusion that you're alone while you think, meditate or just chill.

Create a mental barrier
If you really are squished in and need a minute to reflect, something as simple as putting on headphones with your favorite music may be enough to give you a little mental break. Or simply say to your partner that you need some quiet time sans interruptions and go sit in your favorite chair with your nose buried in a book. Works every time.

What tips do you have for keeping your sanity in a tiny apartment?

Friday, January 23, 2015

DIY Like a Pro

"Rope Napkin Rings DIY -Beach Table Decor -1" by Maegan Tintari
licensed under CC BY 2.0
Do you spend hours a day on Pinterest in search of projects to do in your spare time? Does the sound of Martha Stewart’s name make you insanely happy? If you live for a good craft project, then you are a member of the DIY (do it yourself) club! If you want to actually get around to doing some of the projects you’ve pinned, make sure you have these essential items and tools, courtesy of Apartment Guide, on hand!

1. Mod Podge
If you’ve never heard of this stuff/used it, let me tell you, it’s amazing. It might sound like the name of an ’80s pop rock band, but this decoupage medium actually comes in handy for a number of different projects.

It acts as a glue and sealant to attach anything from fabric to paper and glitter to a number of different surfaces. With Mod Podge, you can make your own jewelry, decorate mason jars, customize sunglasses, update your nightstand and more.

2. Washi Tape
Even if you have zero craft skills, washi tape is so easy to use. It feels like masking tape, but it’s adorned with different colors and patterns, so it’s much prettier.

Not sure where to use your washi tape? Here are a few easy project ideas to get you started:
  • Wrap washi tape around a toothpick and cut the tape in a triangle shape to form cute cupcake toppers
  • Adhere washi tape to your keyboard to create colorful keys
  • Line the inside or outside of a lampshade with washi tape of your choice
  • Wrap washi tape around unsightly chargers or routers
  • Cover pieces of tile with strips of washi tape to create coasters
3. A Drill
Every DIYer should have a power drill in their arsenal of craft supplies.

Yes, it can be a pricey item, but if you craft often, the drill will end up paying for itself. Use it to put furniture together, hang art on the wall or make your own jewelry.

4. A Hot Glue Gun
A hot glue gun can be a quick and easy alternative to sewing, and once you apply the glue, there is very little drying time. This DIY tool is especially perfect if you love to make jewelry and little decorative projects. I plan on using my glue gun to create a monogram out of all my leftover wine corks.

Hot glue is also great for fixing things, like putting that handle back on your favorite mug or reattaching the bottom of your shoe. No matter what you end up making with your glue gun, just make sure you proceed with caution. After all, it has “hot” in its name for a reason.

5. A Sewing Kit
Don’t quite have the funds for a sewing machine yet? Then a simple sewing kit will do.

It typically contains mini scissors, needle threaders, and some colored thread so you can sew buttons and embellishments onto that new pillow you just made or fix the tear in your favorite shirt.

Don’t have the first clue about sewing? Watch a few tutorials on YouTube to help get you started.

6. A Rotary Cutter
If you plan on working with fabric, you’ll definitely want to have a rotary cutter on hand. This tool can slice through fabric like a knife slices through butter. Of course, a rotary cutter can be used to cut other thicker items as well, such as cardboard or foam board.

Make sure you have a gridded cutting mat to go along with your rotary cutter. You don’t want to cut your fabric directly on your kitchen counters, as the tool could easily make marks and scuffs on their surface. Plus, the mat allows you to form straight, precise lines.

7. Scissors
Scissors are a must-have for any crafter, but you can no longer get away with that dull pair sitting in the back of your drawer.

Invest in new pairs of regular scissors and fabric scissors to help you out with any DIY project you want to tackle.

8. Paint Tarps
As you probably know, DIY projects can tend to get messy quickly. Paint tarps are always there to help clean up that mess.

Whether you’re painting, using lots of glitter or spray painting something, lay down a tarp beforehand to prevent your floors or rugs from getting stained. If you do make a mess, try making your own DIY cleaning spray.

9. Painter’s Tape
You can’t get accurate lines while painting if you don’t have painter’s tape.

Use the tape to paint an accent wall in your apartment (if your landlord allows), or wrap some of the tape around kitchen utensils like ladles and wooden spoons to give them a quick splash of color.

10. Measuring Tape
Building a new coffee table or bookcase for your apartment? You’ll need this tool to measure the room in which you’re placing these items to make sure there’s space.

From hanging wall art to sizing fabric, a measuring tape will come in handy throughout your DIY days!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Illuminate Your Space

"test" by jinkazamah is licensed under CC BY 2.0
A new year signals a new, fresh perspective on things - like your apartment style! If you’re not in the mood to complete big projects like moving around furniture or painting, there’s something simple you can do that will make all the difference in your apartment’s atmosphere - let the light in! Your apartment will feel bigger and happier by brightening it up with these tips from Apartment Guide:

Keep Shades Light
Since you probably want to avoid drilling into the ceiling of your rental, much of your lighting is bound to be in the form of floor lamps or end table lamps. The good news is that lamp shades offer an opportunity to really show off your style, so you can handle the whole daylight savings time issue with grandeur.

To keep your apartment as bright as possible, stick to light-colored lamps shades. Think white, cream, light gray, or similar hues when selecting a lamp shade. Darker lamp shades will filter out a considerable amount of light and may leave you sitting in the dark.

String Additional Lighting
If you still need more light once you have lamps set up, consider buying string lights, also known as fairy lights. While you may associate this type of lighting with the twinkle lights around a Christmas tree, there are other options available.

Designers now offer string lights with large bulbs, black or silver string, and a sleek modern look. Buy a decorative wooden ladder and string lights around it; set up your pyramid shelves in the corner and adorn the piece with string lights; or simply string them around a window.

Accessorize with Wireless Lights
Some rentals have a limited number of electrical outlets, and rewiring your home is not an option as a renter. Turn to wireless lighting that operates on battery power and is extremely mobile. Wireless LED candles, for instance, offer ambiance and go on with the flip of a switch.

Best of all, faux candles don’t pose the same fire hazard as an actual candle. Tap lights are also wireless and a good way to illuminate shelves or other small spaces. These lights are typically small and round, activated when you apply a small amount of pressure to the top of the light.

Use Mirrors to Maximize Lighting
Add a few mirrors to your rental space if you don’t have a lot of room or money for new lighting. Mirrors propped up against your walls won’t damage the drywall, and can reflect light from your lamps and other home lighting.

Mirrors create the illusion of more lighting sources, and doubles the amount of light that bounces around your apartment. Place larger mirrors next to a floor lamp and small wall mirrors adjacent to end tables with a lighting fixture.

Space Out Your Lighting
Now that your space is outfitted with several floor lamps, a few strands of string lights, and a handful of large mirrors–take a moment to consider the placement of each piece. Don’t put all the lighting in your living room, for instance, while neglecting to consider your dining nook.

Instead, space out your lighting fixtures. Put at least one light source near each corner of larger rooms. Place your mirrors within a few feet of a lighting fixture; this allows them to better reflect the light out into the rest of your space.

Lighting your new apartment should be at the top of your daylight savings to-do list. If you neglect to properly light your apartment, you will soon realize that it’s not possible to enjoy all of your lovely decor in the dark.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Keep Your Resolution All Year Long!

"Fireworks" by Mariya Prokopyuk is licensed under CC BY 2.0
New Year’s resolutions are difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still achieve your goals. Don’t think of your resolution as something you have to make because everyone else is, think of it in terms of what you want to achieve for yourself over the next year. Apartment Therapy offers some great advice on keeping your resolution going strong all year long!

Start right now this minute — Whatever your resolution is, there's no sense in binging on your bad habit prior to beginning your "good" behavior. It'll just give you farther to go. You are at your most motivated when deciding to take on your resolution so ride that wave and get going immediately.

Set specific goals — Instead of "lose weight" which has no accountability attached, try "lose 20 lbs." If your resolution seems overwhelming, set smaller, manageable goals to build on throughout the year, like "lose 2 lbs a month."

Think about HOW you'll accomplish those goals — You need a step-by-step plan, addressing all parts of your resolution. If you want to lose 20 lbs, take a look at your diet plan and figure out an exercise routine. Figure out exactly what you will do when so when it comes time to put your plan into action, it's a no-brainer.

Write down your plan — You've gone over every detail and you know your plan by heart. Even so, write it down. The act of writing will help it sink in that much more and having a copy to refresh your memory during trying times will come in handy.

Make yourself accountable — Now it's time to share your plan. You can tell everyone or tell just one understanding person, but getting support — a sympathetic ear, an encouraging voice, a sensible opinion — is an essential part of accomplishing your goal.

Reward yourself when you reach a goal — After your initial rush of motivation fades around February, you're gonna need something to keep you going. A periodic reward may be just the thing to keep you honest, all year long.

Make it complicated — Don't make things harder on yourself than they need to be. Choose a simple, powerful resolution so you can really focus in and get it done.

Beat yourself up if you get off track — You will eventually make a mistake but the real test of your character is how you respond. Do you let one little slip up drag you down for the count? Rebound the very next day and pick up where you left off with no guilt.

Let others' failures lead YOU to slide — When other people get off track, they might try to mitigate their disappointment by tempting you to give up, too. Don't fall for it! Even though they look like they're having fun, indulging in all the things they'd resolved to give up, they're secretly jealous of your resolve.

Ignore small accomplishments — It may be hard to get excited about finishing a tiny sliver of your goal when you have the bulk of it looming ahead, but you must remember that this is a year-long process so giving yourself a pat on the back when it's due will keep you positive and motivated.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Grocery Planning 101

"Thanksgiving Supplies" by Phil! Gold is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
We’ve all heard the saying “never go grocery shopping hungry,” but that isn’t the only rule we should keep in mind when we’re at the store. Like many things, the prices of food keeps increasing, so how do we stick to a budget? Heck, how do we even set one in the first place? We’ll demystify grocery shopping in ten steps, with these tips from The Kitchn.

1. Track what you actually spend for a month.
Before you can make a realistic grocery budget, you have to have a realistic idea of what you usually spend. You might spend more on food (including drinks and eating out) than you realize. Start tracking what you spend for a month. Keep your receipts.

Whether you use a spreadsheet or a Word document, or just paper and pencil, it can be helpful to divide your food expenses into itemized lists. Drinks: coffee, tea, soda, alcohol, juices, mixers. Fresh produce. Frozen meals. Baking items. Meat. The key is to track everything that you consume.

2. Budget per month, but plan per week.
I track my income monthly, so I also track grocery bills monthly. Some people track weekly; it's a personal preference. I've found it's easier to stick to a monthly grocery bill, as I often go for two weeks without shopping. On the other hand, it is equally key to plan your meals per week, to avoid eating out or ordering in. I suppose you could plan your meals for an entire month, but for me that's not realistic. Having a rough idea of what we'll be eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner helps me shop accordingly.

3. Name your priorities.
I'm learning to tell myself, "If this, then not that," as I shop for groceries. There are certain items that I prioritize for my wellbeing, such as fresh foods and basic whole foods. Towards the end of a month, I'll nix fringe items before cutting out my priority items, such as that new flavor of tea, juice, optional toppings for meals, and desserts.

4. Don’t eat out.
Just don't do it. Eating out is the Trojan horse of grocery budgeting. It sneaks into your monthly budget and destroys everything you've worked so hard for. Dramatic, yes, but true. We eat out for special occasions or with friends, but have made it our personal policy to never eat out as a response to laziness. Knowing your priorities and keeping basics, frozen double batches, and quick meals on hand can help with this.

5. Prize (and plan) variety.
...Or you will eat out, unless you have a willpower of steel. Plan variety into your grocery lists to stay well and keep food enjoyable. Some people can eat ramen for a month in the name of saving money. I can't. However, I'm also the kind of person who finds something they love and wants to eat it endlessly... a habit which always results in me tiring of that food for months afterward. So I try to plan budget-friendly meals that I know I'll enjoy, and rotate those meals throughout several months.

6. Keep a fridge list.
Keep a running list on your fridge and write down items that you need as soon as or shortly before you run empty. This is a basic tip but it can make all the difference between grocery runs that result in spending sprees or incomplete shopping.

7. Learn to love your leftovers.
They are your friends. They will feed you while protecting your budget. Invest in a good set of glass food storage containers—your food will last longer with better flavor. Plan meals that make good leftovers, and if you're feeling ambitious, make double or triple batches and freeze.

8. Don’t be duped by coupons.
Coupons are great — if they are for items that you need and from brands that you like. Too often, coupons trick customers into buying unnecessary items "because it's a good deal." Furthermore, generic versions of many items in the coupon book are even cheaper than the price you'll pay for a discounted name brand item. So if you find a coupon for an item that you usually buy, celebrate and purchase. Otherwise, steer clear and seek out cheaper options.

9. Stock when there’s a sale, but don’t overstock.
Sales are the cousin of coupons: they can often dupe customers into buying more because it's "a great deal," not because they need that item or can even use that quantity. On items that keep well, stock up with sales.

But a common mistake is to buy a few extra items of each product, thinking that you're saving time and money by not having to return later to the store. I did this for years before I realized I was still shopping at my usual rate, buying a few extras of this and that each time, which was inflating my grocery bills. Unless you live hours from a grocery store, this sort of pseudo-bulk shopping isn't helpful.

10. Take the time to comparison shop.
The suggestion of comparison shopping is inevitably met with a chorus of voices protesting the efficiency of "driving all over" just to find cheaper items. And I would have to agree. I used to shop at a closer grocery that was more expensive, than transitioned to a larger, cheaper store much further away, then began shopping at three different stores, with a separate list for each. Now I'm back to shopping at the closer store that's a bit pricier. Time and driving costs must always be factored into budgeting. There are still a few items that I will buy once a month at the larger, more distant store, but I don't have the time to go to several stores on each grocery run.

However, I also comparison shop within stores: some items are cheaper in the international aisle, or the yogurt in the organics aisle, for example, might be on sale when my usual yogurt selection isn't. So pick the stores that are most efficient for your shopping, familiarize yourself with your options, and make a plan.

What other grocery shopping tips to you have? Are there any apps you have found useful?
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