Rather than purchase an expensive automatic coffeemaker with a built-in timer,
buy a model without the timing device. Pick up an appliance timer at the home
improvement center (the kind used to turn lamps on and off) for about $10, plug
your coffeemaker into it, set the time, and you’ll have a quality, timed
coffeemaker that costs a lot less than the built-in variety. And it will work
Appliances—dishwasher, energy savers
Select the “energy save” option on your dishwasher, run it only once a day (at
night), and allow the dishes to air-dry rather than use that expensive heat-dry
portion of the cycle.
If your clothes dryer seems to take twice as long to dry a standard load, try these
two tips before calling the repairman: (1) Go outside, remove the vent cover, and
clean out any lint that missed the trap and has become stuck at the vent opening.
(2) Pull the entire dryer away from the wall. This will alleviate a possible “kink”
in the accordion tubing, which can impede efficient operation.
If your home is dry during the winter, and you have an electric dryer (never do
this with a gas dryer), you can detach the vent pipe from the outside vent, cover
it with a piece of cheesecloth or nylon stocking to serve as a lint filter, and
redirect that moist hot air back into your house. Come summer, return the vent to
its normal position. You can buy a heat diverter attachment at your local
hardware or appliance store and install it yourself. There is a lot of moisture in
that diverted heat, so you need to keep an eye out for condensation and mildew.
This technique is not advisable in areas with humid winter climates or for homes
with humid indoor air.
Appliances—freezer, count the cost
Think twice about buying a separate home freezer. It can be convenient, but it
takes a lot of savvy food management to make it really pay for itself. If a freezer
makes economic sense for you, a chest style costs less to run than an upright
Appliances—freezer, energy saver
Be sure to keep your freezer packed full to consume the least amount of energy.
As your store of food is depleted, fill the gaps with plastic jugs filled with water.
You’ll accomplish a keep-it-full technique and have a good supply of fresh water
in the event of a power failure.
Appliances—iron, water refills
Keep a plastic ketchup bottle full of water on your ironing board for handy
Appliances—refrigerator coil maintenance
Vacuum the coils at the bottom or back of your refrigerator frequently to prevent
dust from building up around them. Dust makes the refrigerator kick on more
often, as does keeping it too close to the wall. Refrigerators and freezers need
room to breathe or else they can get too hot, run too often, and guzzle too much
Appliances—refrigerator warmer setting
Turn your refrigerator to a slightly warmer setting when you go away for more
than a day. As long as the door stays closed, food won’t spoil. Just don’t forget
to restore it to its colder setting when you return!
Appliances—vacuum cleaner, hose on hose
Attach pantyhose with a rubber band over the end of your vacuum hose when
cleaning drawers or searching for a tiny lost object like a contact lens or earring
back. The small item cannot be sucked into the nozzle, but you’ll find what
you’ve been looking for because it will stick to the hosiery.
Appliances—washing machine, pantyhose filter
If your washing machine drains into a laundry sink, attach one leg of an old pair
of pantyhose to the end of the washing machine drain hose to catch lint and
prevent clogged drains.
Appliances—water heater, blanket
Insulate your water heater with a blanket manufactured just for this purpose to
reduce heat loss. On an electric heater, this could save $20 a year.
Appliances—water heater, empty house
Turn off the water heater when your house is empty, whether it’s for a weekend
or a week’s vacation.
Appliances—water heater, size
Match your water heater size to the needs of your family. If you are constantly
heating enough water to service a family of eight and your nest is empty, you’re
wasting a lot of money.
Appliances—water heater, timer
A $30 timer on your water heater will pay for itself in saved energy in less than a
year. The unit turns the water heater off while you sleep and then back on again
in plenty of time to heat water for morning showers. Also consider taking
advantage of off-peak electric rates. Call your utility company for more
Learn a plumber’s trade secret and hide a few pieces of charcoal in your
bathroom to absorb moisture and odor.
Bathroom—not down the toilet!
Don’t throw dental floss or colored toilet paper or colored tissues down the
toilet. The insides of sewer pipes are very rough, and dental floss has a tendency
to stick to the pipe and accumulate over time. Colored toilet tissue might look
good, but it doesn’t break down as readily as white toilet paper and could cause
problems down the line.
Bathroom—shower curtain hooks
To prevent shower curtains from slipping off the hooks, alternate the direction
each hook faces.
Bugs and such—ants, repelled by lemon juice
Squirt lemon juice on windowsills and doorways. Ants hate it and will
absolutely refuse to come into your home.
Bugs and such—ants, repelled by spices
Drive ants from the kitchen by sprinkling shelves or windowsills with cinnamon,
cloves, or baking soda. Put these ingredients into crevices too, and reapply
Bugs and such—ants, repelled by water and vinegar
Repel ants by washing countertops, cabinets, and floors with equal parts water
Bugs and such—catch with tacky flyswatter
For fruit flies and other tiny flying insects that a regular flyswatter seems to
miss, put a few strips of double-backed tape on your flyswatter.
Bugs and such—catch with tape
Don’t squash a bug that is crawling on your wall, drapes, or anywhere else it can
stain. Just “apply” a strip of clear tape. The bug adheres to it and can be disposed
Bugs and such—cockroach deterrent
Cockroaches often enter homes through plumbing holes under the kitchen or
bathroom sinks. Plug these tightly with rags or steel wool and you’ll cause a
permanent traffic jam on that roach freeway. The same trick keeps mice at bay
Bugs and such—cockroach killer
Mix ¼ cup shortening with ⅛ cup sugar. In a separate container mix ½ pound
powdered boric acid (available at pharmacies) and ½ cup flour; add to
shortening mixture. Stir well with enough water to make a soft dough. Form into
small balls the size of marbles, and hide in those out-of-the-way places roaches
love to hide. This recipe works far better than commercial products. Just make
sure you keep this out of the reach of children.
Bugs and such—fruit flies
Set out a small dish of vinegar that contains a few drops of detergent to repel
Bugs and such—keeping out of food
Insects are attracted to the glue in cardboard cartons and brown paper bags, so
when you keep things stored in them, it’s the same as inviting the bugs to a
banquet. Seal items in plastic before placing them in cardboard boxes and paper
Bugs and such—mothproofing
Make sachets of dried lavender or equal portions of rosemary and mint. Place in
closets, drawers, or closed containers to mothproof garments.
Bugs and such—moth repellent
Here’s an easy and inexpensive way to make a moth repellent. Purchase a bag of
cedar chips from a pet supply shop—a large bag is only a few dollars. Put 1 or 2
cupfuls into resealable plastic bags and poke small holes in them. Hang the bags
in your closets and drawers. The lovely, fresh scent repels.
Bugs and such—natural repellents
Fill vases with geraniums or eucalyptus. Bugs stay away from their scents.
Bugs and such—silverfish
To get rid of silverfish, put about ¼ inch of flour in a small, straight-sided glass.
Run a strip of adhesive tape on the outside of the glass from bottom to top.
Silverfish will travel up the tape and drop into the glass, but they won’t be able
to get back out. Place one of these traps in each room where you’ve seen
To make new candles dripless, soak them in a strong saltwater solution for a few
hours, then dry well.
To straighten those droopy, warped candles, dunk them in a pan of warm water
until they are just pliable enough to bend back to their original shape.
Candleholders—easy candle removal
Coat the inside of a candleholder with a tiny amount of petroleum jelly to ensure
easy removal of the candle.
Remove wax from candleholders by placing them in the freezer until the wax
freezes and snaps off.
Fit a candle into a really tight holder by holding the bottom end of the candle
under hot tap water. It should soften just enough so you can firmly place it in the
Invite company over at least once a month so you’ll be forced to clean up. Keep
the bathtub clean so you can hide clutter in it at a moment’s notice.
Dejunk drawers and closets in one room each week until you’re done. Prepare
one box for charity, one for items in need of repair, and one for a garage sale.
Don’t sell your kids’ outgrown bicycles, skates, or sports gear at a garage sale.
You may not raise enough money to replace it in a larger size. Instead, organize a
neighborhood exchange. You’ll be surprised to find out how many of your
neighbors are in the same boat.
Cleaning—quick magnetic pickup
Pick up spilled nails, screws, or pins with a strong magnet wrapped in a paper
towel. When the spilled items attach to the magnet, gather the towel corners over
the pieces and pull that tidy bundle away from the magnet.
Communication—chalkboard from window shades
Paint an ordinary window shade with chalkboard paint and mount it on the wall
in front of your garage workbench or in your utility room. When you need to
make a note, just pull it down.
If you’re worried about remembering something, wear your watch on the wrong
wrist. It doesn’t look as silly as a piece of string tied around your finger, but it
works just as well.
Leave reminders for family members by writing notes on the bathroom mirror
with a dry erase marker, available in all kinds of colors at office supply stores. It
wipes right off with a tissue, and it’s sure to be seen. If a note is not erased for
some time, use a bit of rubbing alcohol on that tissue to wipe it away without a
Communication—voicemail for reminder
If there’s something you absolutely have to do when you get home, just call your
answering machine and leave a message for yourself. That’s probably the first
thing you’ll check.
Communication—welcome map for new owners
When you move, leave a “neighborhood guide” for the new homeowners.
Include items such as a map of the surrounding area, and names and phone
numbers of the best babysitters and trustworthy repair companies.
To display posters, maps, or children’s artwork on the wall without marring the
art or the wall, put a dab of toothpaste at each corner of the paper and press it
onto the wall. Sounds goofy, but it works really well, and you end up with an
undamaged, minty-fresh wall.
Crafts—artist paintbrush protection
Slip tiny artist paintbrushes into drinking straws to protect them.
Mix 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch, and 1½ cups water. Heat in a
saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Mixture will become thin and
smooth at first. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is too thick to stir. Turn
the mixture out onto a cookie sheet to cool. Cover with a damp cloth. When
cool, knead until smooth. Store in a tightly closed plastic bag in the refrigerator
for up to 2 weeks. Clay will harden at room temperature. Most items made with
this clay will be dry after 24 hours. If desired, you can preheat the oven to 350ºF,
turn it off, and then put the clay into the oven to dry, turning the pieces
Crafts—glue caps stuck on
If your glue cap keeps getting stuck to the tube, coat the inside with petroleum
jelly and it will open easily.
Use dental floss for restringing beads.
A touch of black adds punch to any decor. But use a light hand. A lamp shade,
needlepoint pillow, or area rug is all it takes.
Go to the home improvement store and pick up a pair of glass blocks to use as
bookends. They are heavy enough to hold the books and small enough to fit on a
shelf. Because they are clear, they go with any décor.
Decorating—dye to change your look
When redecorating, remember Rit dye. Light-colored curtains, bedspreads, and
throw rugs can be dyed a darker shade of another color and will give a room an
entirely new look. Remember to wash these items separately in cold water.
Drying in the dryer or direct sun will fade the colors quickly, so remember to
allow time for air-drying indoors or in a shady place.
Use a length of picket fence as a headboard. Cut it to size, stain or paint it to
coordinate with your room, and bolt it to the wall or bed frame.
Decorating—lamp shade pizzazz
Brighten up a boring lamp shade. Sponge or stencil designs on the shade with
If you have miscellaneous quantities of leftover paint sitting around, you can
pour it all into one container for your own custom blend. As long as you are
careful to mix only latex with latex or oil-base with oil-base, it won’t matter if
you mix flat, glossy, and semigloss. If your garage is a typical one, it won’t be
hard to come up with a full gallon that easily covers an average-size bedroom.
You’ll achieve the best results if you mix colors that are similar. Store tightly
sealed paint cans upside down to extend usable life.
Decorating—paint, goofs for sale
Most home improvement centers, paint stores, and hardware stores have bins of
“goofs”—gallons and quarts of high-quality paint in custom colors that have
been tinted wrong. Typically these items are available at near-giveaway prices. A
gallon of paint is plenty for the typical-size kid’s room or bathroom. There’s
nothing wrong with the paint or the colors—it’s just that for some reason the
color didn’t exactly match someone else’s expectations.
If you want to give a room with dark wood paneling a new look but a complete
remodel is not in the budget right now, consider painting the paneling. First treat
the paneling with a paint de-glosser. This will remove all grease, dirt, and the
high gloss. Next apply a coat of white primer and follow with regular wall paint.
This is a very inexpensive way to redecorate a room. Check with the paint
professional at your home improvement center regarding the kind of products
that would be best for this job.
Decorating—photograph rooms for reference
If you have a wall arrangement you are fond of or a furniture arrangement that
works particularly well, photograph it to use as a reference when you change
your decor for the holidays or you move.
Decorating—pictures, groupings on walls
To hang a group of pictures, try arranging them on a big piece of butcher paper
first. When you have a grouping you like, trace around each frame with a pen,
and mark where to put the nails. Tape the paper to the wall and nail through the
marks; then remove the tape and paper.
This is the formula that professional picture hangers use: (1) Measure up 60
inches from the floor. (2) To this, add half the height of the framed picture.
(3) Subtract the height of the wire (the height of the triangle that the wire would
form if the frames were actually hanging in place). This magic number is the
distance from the floor at which you should nail the picture hook regardless of
the height of the ceiling or even your height.
Decorating—pictures, prevent marks on the wall
Put masking tape on the backside of the corners of a picture to keep them from
marking the wall.
To save money on decorative pillows that match your room’s decor, you can
stitch them yourself from elegant cloth napkins.
A baby-size quilt draped over a plain table rather than hidden in a drawer can
give a room an instant face-lift.
If you have a home appliance that runs well but is simply the wrong color, have
it repainted at an auto body shop. This type of finish looks great, holds up well,
and isn’t terribly expensive.
Decorating—shop with a photo album
Fill a purse-size photo album with paint, fabric, and wallpaper samples
organized by room. Take the album when you go shopping or to garage sales,
and you’ll take the guesswork out of finding coordinating accessories for your
Give your current shower curtain a brand-new look. Remove the rings, slip
pieces of ribbon through the holes, and tie the curtain to the rod with big bows.
Decorating—wallpaper, not over wallpaper
It is best not to apply wallpaper over wallpaper. Proper adhesion of the new
paper to the old paper can present a problem, and even if you can finally get it to
stick, years later the layers will be very difficult to remove.
To remove wallpaper, mix equal parts white vinegar and hot water. Dip a paint
roller into the solution, and apply until the paper is thoroughly wet. After two
applications, most paper will peel off in sheets. Patience is the secret.
Decorating—window boxes inside
To show off your plants, hang a window box under the window, inside the room.
If you would like a nice-looking and functional doorstop but don’t want to spend
a small fortune, fill a tin box that has a lid (the kind that holds cookies or candies
at holiday time) with dried beans. You can choose a size and style to coordinate
with your room’s decor for a fraction of the cost of a ready-made doorstop. What
a simple way to add a unique and functional decorator item to any room in the
If you drop an earring or pin down the drain, attach a small magnet to a stiff
piece of twine or wire, put it down the drain, and use it to attract the item and
pull it out.
Place mats, because they’re washable, make excellent drawer liners.
Until you can get that leaky faucet fixed, tie a piece of fabric, long enough to
touch the drain, around the faucet. The water will run down the fabric,
eliminating that annoying drip.
Empty, squeezable plastic bottles can serve as bellows; use them to fan a wood
or charcoal fire.
Fireplace—logs from newspaper
Make homemade fire logs for the fireplace. Stack some folded newspaper,
alternating the folded sides, until the stack is about 1 inch high. Don’t use
colored comics or advertisements. Roll the stack as tightly as you can. Hold it
together with wire or by slipping over each end a small tuna fish (or similar size)
can from which you’ve removed both the top and bottom. Don’t use string
because it will burn off and the paper will fly all over the place. When rolled and
secured, thoroughly soak the “logs” in water and set them outside to dry
completely. Burn with can rings in place.
For a fireplace log starter, stuff the cups of a paper egg carton with lint from the
dryer. Melt paraffin or an old candle, and pour the wax over the lint in each
section and allow it to harden. To use, place one of these neat fire-starters under
the logs. Light it and it will burn for about 20 minutes.
Fireplace—wood in the bag
When gathering kindling or pieces of wood from outdoors for the fireplace,
carry them into the house in a brown grocery bag. Place the entire bag and its
contents into the fireplace and light the bag. This prevents that inevitable trail of
wood dirt and debris that always follows the person carrying wood into the
house, and it’s a tidy way to start a fire.
Instead of buying finished area rugs, purchase a remnant from a carpet store,
have it bound, and save a bundle. The carpet store can either bind it or refer you
to someone who can.
If you are not in a big hurry and are fairly flexible as to color and quality, let the
carpet stores in your area that offer “Complete Satisfaction Guaranteed” know
that you would be interested in purchasing the carpeting someone else rejected.
Many times when new carpet is installed, the homeowner for one reason or
another is not completely satisfied with some aspect of the carpet and takes
advantage of the carpet supplier’s satisfaction guarantee. You should be able to
make a real bargain on the like-new goods, including installation.
Here is how to make those carpet indentations rebound: Place an ice cube in
each indentation. Let it melt, then wait about 12 hours before blotting up the
moisture. Gently pull up the carpet fibers using a kitchen fork.
Floors—rocking chair marks
If a rocking chair is wearing the finish off your wood floor, put a strip of
adhesive-backed weather-stripping tape on the runners.
Wad up a mesh produce bag and stuff it in a vase. It will act as a “frog” to hold
fresh or artificial flower arrangements.
Flowers—artificial flower base
To hold artificial flowers in place, pour salt in the container, add a little cold
water, and arrange the flowers. As the salt dries, it will solidify and hold the
If you forget to pick up flowers for the table, set a houseplant in a basket and add
a pretty ribbon.
Place daffodils in a separate vase of water for half a day before combining them
in a bouquet with other flowers. They excrete a sap that clogs the stems of other
Here’s a remarkable method for greatly increasing the useful life of freshly cut
flowers. Add ¼ teaspoon of bleach to the vase water. Recut flower stems at an
angle to encourage absorption and arrange them in the bleach water. Place them
in a cool, dark place for several hours, then put out on display. (Flowers should
be angle-cut and the water refreshed daily.) The bleach retards the growth of
bacteria in the water, which causes flowers to wilt much more quickly.
Flowers—plants on their own
If you must leave small potted plants unattended while on vacation, push a
needle threaded with wool yarn into the soil, and put the other end in a jar of
water. The plants will stay moist through this wicking system.
Put cut flowers in the refrigerator when you’re at work, asleep, or otherwise
unable to enjoy them. This will extend their indoor life.
Don’t throw away wilted roses; dry them instead. They can almost always be
salvaged by hanging them upside down, stems and all, and putting them in a
dark, dry place. It takes 1 to 2 weeks, but when they’re good and dry, they are
absolutely gorgeous. Just spray them carefully with shellac or craft glaze and use
them in wreaths, vases, or give them as gifts. Dried roses cost up to $12 per half
dozen in craft stores.
Flowers—roses, longer lasting
To keep cut roses looking beautiful longer, remove the roses from the vase and
refill the vase with fresh warm water and one crushed aspirin every day. Angle
cut a tiny bit from the bottom of each stem and quickly plunge it into the vase.
This makes the roses open more slowly.
To give stemmed flowers more length for an arrangement, slide the stems into
drinking straws before putting them into an opaque vase. If you need to shorten
any stems afterward, just snip off the bottom of the straws.
Cut flower stems on a slant with a knife. Angled cuts permit absorption even
when the stem rests on the bottom of the container. To aid water intake, scrape
stem ends for about an inch; split woody stems with a knife or mash with a
hammer. Plunge stems into water immediately after cutting. Remove excess and
damaged foliage as well as foliage below water level. Fill the container with
clean water; refresh as often as possible by holding the vase under the faucet and
flushing with tepid water until the old water is forced out.
Flowers—stem trimming, with lukewarm water
Hold cut flowers under lukewarm water as you trim the stems. It gives them a
surge of water they don’t get if you cut first, then put them in water. Put heavy
and tall stems in the vase first, and use lighter ones to fill out the arrangement.
If you don’t have a free wall for a bookcase, try squeezing a compact library
around a doorway. Find a home for cookbooks in the same way by encircling a
kitchen window with shelves.
You’ll gain shelves without sacrificing floor space if you break into the wall and
install built-in shelves between the studs (vertical structural supports). If you
have no idea what this means or would entail, you probably are not a good
candidate for this tip. But if you do know how to handle basic home remodeling
jobs, go for it!
To replace a foam cushion that has been removed from a zippered cover, place
the cushion in a plastic garbage bag and insert the bag open-end first into the
cover. The cushion will slide right in. Once in place all you have to do is pull out
the bag, leaving the foam perfectly in place.
When moving heavy furniture across the room, protect an uncarpeted floor by
first placing a soft-sole slipper, thick sock, or the bottom half of an empty milk
carton under each leg of the furniture. The piece will slide across the floor easily
without scratching or damaging the floor.
If you have a lovely old couch you don’t want to part with, consider having it
redone at an upholstery school for a fraction of a professional upholsterer’s
price. There is a fee, plus you’ll be expected to purchase fabric through the
school. Plan on students taking a little longer to complete the job—their work is
done under the supervision of teachers. Research “Upholstery Schools” online,
or call the industrial arts divisions of your area high schools and colleges.
Furniture—sofa cushions don’t slide
To keep your sofa cushions from slipping and sliding, place a bath mat or square
of foam rubber under each cushion.
If your switches are mislabeled in your electrical circuit box, or they were
labeled in pencil that has become too faint to read, plug in a small radio to an
outlet in a room. Turn up the volume so you can hear the music in the room
while you are standing at the circuit box. Flip all the circuit breakers until the
music stops. Remember that circuit then repeat for each of the outlets in that
room. Label the circuit breaker accordingly, then repeat the procedure for all the
rooms in your house.
Garage sale advanced pricing
Price all items you put aside for a future garage sale before you store them away.
Doing the pricing ahead of time will make preparing for the actual sale a breeze.
Garage sale ambience
Take time to create the right sale ambience. Play upbeat music; you want to
make an inviting atmosphere. Make sure your best and biggest items can be
easily seen by folks who drive by to do a quick curbside survey.
Garage sale coffee
People will stay longer and be in a better mood if you serve coffee, and—who
knows—you might even sell the coffeepot.
Garage sale displays
Create an inviting display. Your knickknacks should not look cluttered. Put them
against a dark background and arrange the tables so the sale goods can be easily
viewed without customers’ movements becoming restricted. Hang clothing items
to make them visible.
Garage sale for early birds
Avoid negotiating with early birds. If a buyer is hot for an item at 6 a.m.,
chances are you’ll get your asking price before the day is over. Be nice but firm.
Offer to take their phone number. If the item hasn’t sold by day’s end, do not
hesitate to call.
Garage sale giveaways
When advertising your garage sale, mention you’ll have “giveaways.” This
conveys a spirit of generosity on the part of the seller.
Garage sale guidelines
Be ready to begin your sale an hour before the advertised start time. Keep the
doors of your home locked while you are having your sale. You’ll get the best
prices if your merchandise is clean and well displayed. Have batteries available
so shoppers can confirm that items such as toys and radios work.
Garage sale permit
Check with your city hall to see if you need a permit to hold a garage sale. The
last thing you’ll need is the police showing up to shut you down just when things
are picking up.
Garage sale pricing
For fairly new items in good condition, charge a quarter of what you originally
paid for them.
Garage sale profit margin
Decide on the price of each item and then mark it up 20 percent. This allows
room to negotiate with a customer, and you’ll find most yard-salers love to
Garage sale seasonal merchandise
Seasonal merchandise sells best. If it’s spring, haul out that old lawn mower,
gardening tools, and so on. People buy what they can use now, not what they’re
going to have to store in their own garages.
Heating and cooling—air conditioner, location
If you have an option, install window air conditioners in north-or east-facing
windows. South-and west-facing windows receive more sun and will make the
unit work harder.
Heating and cooling—air conditioner, proper size
Make sure your window air conditioner is the proper size. An oversize unit will
use more energy than necessary and will not dehumidify properly. If you’re in
the market for a window air-conditioning unit, choose the size you need to cool
only one room. Window units aren’t designed to cool more than one room.
Heating and cooling—air conditioner, relief
To keep your air conditioner from having to work harder than it should in the
summer, cook outdoors or prepare cold meals to avoid heating your kitchen.
Place heat-producing appliances such as lamps and TVs away from the
thermostat. Change or clean the air-conditioning filter once a month during the
peak season. Don’t forget to clean the filters on window units. They’re behind
the front panel. Clean them with soap and water.
Heating and cooling—air conditioner settings
Set your thermostat on the highest comfortable setting. Raising the temperature
just 2 degrees will reduce cooling costs by 5 percent.
Heating and cooling—air-conditioning and the cook
You can reduce your air-conditioning use by preparing oven-cooked meals in the
cool of the day. When it’s time to eat, simply reheat the entrée in the microwave
or toaster oven.
Heating and cooling—air-conditioning, blockage
If you have central air-conditioning, make sure your registers for supply and
return air are not blocked by furniture or drapes.
Heating and cooling—air leak test
Here’s how to check for air leaks. Shut the doors and windows in your home.
Move a lighted candle around the perimeters of the doors or windows. If the
flame flickers, you have an air leak. Plug it with caulk and weather stripping.
Heating and cooling—blinds behind drapes
Hang blinds behind drapes to help keep the room warmer in winter, cooler in
Heating and cooling—buy heating oil and firewood in summer
Buy heating oil off-season. Start checking prices in the spring. Typically you
should be able to take advantage of the lowest prices from July to September.
The same applies to firewood.
Heating and cooling—fabric wall hangings
A quilt or decorative rug will insulate interior walls, keep your room cozier, and
allow you to turn down the thermostat a few degrees in the winter without a
Heating and cooling—insulation, free or low-cost
Take advantage of your community’s free or low-cost programs for insulating
your home. Check with your utility companies or community action center to see
what might be available to you. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Heating and cooling—light exterior colors are best
Light colors on the outside of a house reflect the sun’s rays, reducing the
temperature inside. If your cooling bills are higher than your heating bills,
consider white or light-colored roof shingles when you replace your roof.
Heating and cooling—programmable thermostat
A programmable timer thermostat is really worth its weight in gold. Reasonably
priced, it will pay for itself in no time at all in reduced heating and cooling bills.
Heating and cooling—window coverings
During the winter daylight hours, open all drapes and window coverings on the
side of your home that is receiving the most sunlight (all day on the side facing
south). When the sun goes down, be sure to close all window coverings to retain
the natural heat.
Home office—funky envelope
Need to mail something but you don’t have an envelope that’s large enough?
You can use a small paper bag. If it is larger than 6 by 9 inches, you will need to
add additional postage. The maximum size allowable is 6⅛ by 11½ inches. The
top can be folded down to meet length requirements and stapled or taped.
Home office—out of glue
Clear nail polish makes a good emergency glue for small items like stamps,
recipe clippings, and so on.
Home office—packaging material
When mailing something breakable to family or friends, use intact rolls of toilet
tissue as filler to cushion the item. It’s lightweight and inexpensive filler—and
something the recipient can use. If you remove the center cardboard tubes, the
rolls become more compressible.
Home office—pencil sharpener
In a pinch you can sharpen a pencil on a piece of sandpaper, if you work at it for
a few minutes.
Home office—recycling with style
For just a few bucks you can order a rubber stamp that reads something like:
“Personally Recycled by (your name).” Now you can collect paper that has been
printed on one side only, like computer run, flyers, and junk mail. Just cut it to
size, stamp it, and you have your own personalized notes and stationery.
To loosen a stuck jar lid, hold the jar upside down and pour warm vinegar
around the neck at the joint between the glass and the top.
When you can’t remove a tight lid from a jar, this handy hint may do the trick:
Take a heavy-duty rubber band, put it around the lid, and twist. Because the
rubber band gives you something to grip, the lid should come off easily.
Cut off the bottom of a clean plastic quart or liter soda bottle and use the top as a
Keep a fingernail sanding block (available from a beauty supply store or
drugstore cosmetic counter) on hand. Use it to sand, polish, and smooth out
chipped corners and edges of glassware and glass baking dishes. With just a few
minutes of gentle sanding and polishing with the block, the jagged dangerous
edge or corner will be smoothed out and the glass piece will be restored to
Kitchen—glasses, stuck together
To separate two stacked glasses stuck together, put cold water into the inside
glass. Place both glasses in warm water up to the rim of the outer glass. Remove
the glasses from the water, then gently pull them apart.
Kitchen—plastic wrap, clingier
Plastic wrap will cling better if you moisten with a bit of water the rim of the
bowl or pan you are covering.
Kitchen—plastic wrap, end finder
When you can’t find the end of the plastic wrap, put a piece of clear tape, sticky
side out, around your index finger. Run your taped finger around the roll until
the wrap lifts up.
Kitchen—plastic wrap, in the freezer
Store plastic wrap in the freezer. The cool air will keep it from clinging to itself
and makes it a lot easier to work with.
Install a small hook near your kitchen sink to hold rings, watches, or other
jewelry you remove when washing, cleaning, or cooking.
Here’s how to make sure your kitchen measuring scale is accurate: Place 9
pennies on the scale. They should weigh 1 ounce.
Lay a washable rolling window shade in the space behind your range top. When
you cook, pull the shade up and attach to a mounted cup hook to protect the wall
Kitchen—trash can liners
Store the roll of tall kitchen bags in the bottom of your kitchen trash receptacle.
Now no one has a reason not to put a new bag in when the full one is removed.
Kitchen—vegetable bin liners
Place paper towels in the bottom of vegetable bins to absorb water.
Kitchen—wooden bowls and cutting boards
Freshen wooden bowls and cutting boards. Sprinkle the surface with salt and rub
with half a lemon.
Add dimmers to switches on overhead lights. Soft light uses less electricity and
creates a more appealing environment in a room.
Lighting—on or off?
When leaving the room for under half an hour, you should leave the compact
fluorescents on, and when leaving for under 5 minutes, leave incandescent lights
Use three-way bulbs. They are more efficient, provided you use the lower
wattage whenever possible.
Install timers or motion detectors rather than leaving lights on all night. This will
ensure that you use lights only when necessary and will greatly reduce your
Cutwork and lace bed coverlets can be expensive. Use a lace tablecloth instead.
A 70-by 90-inch oblong cloth will fit a full-size bed.
For a subtly sweet-smelling table setting, put cinnamon, raspberry, orange, or
lemon herbal tea bags in the drawers where you store your table linens.
Linens—napkins, no creases
To store cloth napkins without creases, wrap and store them around a cardboard
Linens—napkins, sturdy for kids
Washcloths in lieu of paper napkins are a tidy and environmentally friendly
alternative for messy young eaters.
Pillowcases are very expensive, so you might want to consider making your own
set. When buying new sheets, pick up a fitted sheet and two flat sheets, making
sure the second flat is queen-size, regardless of the size of the bed you will be
outfitting. Out of the queen-size flat sheet, you will be able to make three sets of
pillowcases. By analyzing a commercially made pillowcase, it is easy to
measure, create a pattern, and see how it is put together.
Linens—sheets, full to queen
You don’t need all new bedding if you replace your old double bed with a queensize
one. Lay a full-size flat sheet on your new queen-size mattress. Fold a
hospital corner (this has a pleated rather than gathered look) at all four corners
and pin them in place. Stitch elastic completely around the pleated corners. You
will have a queen-size fitted sheet. Buy coordinating flat queen-size sheets when
you see them on sale. Make extra pillowcases from the full-size fitted sheets.
Linens—sheets, queen to king
Buy queen-size top sheets for king-size beds. King-size top sheets are usually
way too big and require a lot of tucking in. Queen-size flats work great on most
king-size beds and are a lot cheaper. Note: All sheets vary in size, and it seems
the better the quality, the more generous the amount of fabric.
Linens—table linens, on a hanger
Use a multiple shirt hanger to organize place mats, cloth napkins, and folded
tablecloths. Hang it in the entry closet, and they’ll always be neat and wrinklefree.
Linens—table linens, spritz to protect
Spray table linens with a fabric protector a few days before you plan to use them.
The inevitable spills will be less likely to stain, and spills will simply bead up so
you can remove them quickly.
Linens—table runners, no creases
Use the cardboard tubes from rolls of gift wrapping paper to store crease-free,
freshly ironed dresser scarves and table runners. Simply lay the tube over one
end of the item and roll it up. Secure with a piece of ribbon or string.
Linens—table runners, unique
Use a pretty muffler or scarf as a unique table runner.
Linens—unique with fabric paint
A touch of washable fabric paint, available at craft and fabric stores, can
customize plain-Jane napkins, place mats, or tablecloths into fabulous
accessories that coordinate with your dishes, floors, or wall coverings.
To remove the wrinkles from a new plastic or vinyl tablecloth, toss the tablecloth
in the dryer with a damp cloth (for moisture), set on the lowest heat possible, and
let tumble for only a minute or two. To be on the safe side (putting plastic in a
clothes dryer sounds like a fire hazard just waiting to happen), do not leave it
unattended. Stand there for the short time it takes to do this, and personally take
out the beautifully wrinkle-free tablecloth.
Graphite from an ordinary soft pencil can be used to lubricate a resistant lock.
Rub the key across the pencil point, then move it in and out of the lock several
Use peanut butter as bait for your mousetraps. You can reset the traps and catch
several mice before you need to add more bait.
If you’re moving, do it on a weekday. Fees can be as much as 50 percent higher
on the weekend. Pack everything yourself and save at least 10 percent. Most
movers provide cartons.
Odors—air freshener with eucalyptus
Available at a reasonable cost from many florist shops, eucalyptus makes a
unique bathroom air freshener. Simply place fragrant eucalyptus stems in a vase
and add enough water to cover about 2 inches of the stem bases.
Odors—basements and garages
Fill a net vegetable bag with charcoal and hang it in the musty basement or damp
garage to absorb odors.
Keep an open, shallow dish of baking soda behind your toilet to absorb odors.
Remove ashes often for optimum fireplace performance. Each time you remove
the ashes, place a shallow pan of baking soda in the fireplace. Leave it overnight
to absorb unpleasant fireplace odors.
Here are several ideas for a home, sweet home: (1) To make your house smell
sweet, sprinkle cinnamon on a pan and warm it on the stove. (2) To fill your
home with the smell of citrus, throw a handful of orange peels in a pot of boiling
water. (3) Each time you clean a room, place a few drops of a fragrant oil on a
lightbulb, or spray the room with a fresh potpourri scent to give the house a nice
smell and to leave a subtle sign that this room is clean! (4) To make your own
carpet and room deodorizer, mix 1 cup Epsom salts with a few drops of
perfumed oil. Spread the mixture on waxed paper to dry. Store in an airtight
container. To use, sprinkle the grains on the carpet, allow to stand for a few
minutes, and vacuum as usual. (5) Don’t throw away lemon rinds or old spices.
They make fabulous room deodorizers. Simply place them in a pot of water and
bring to a low boil. The scent is better than any potpourri you can buy.
Keep your linen closet smelling fresh. Spray cotton balls with your favorite
fragrance. Once dry, stash them into closet corners and shelves.
To restore a musty suitcase, fill it with crumpled newspaper, then close it up.
Change the paper every 2 to 3 days until the odor is gone.
Odors—vacuum with cinnamon
Place a cinnamon stick in the vacuum bag before vacuuming to naturally
deodorize your home.
Organization and storage—bathroom, magnet metal corral
If you often misplace tweezers, manicure scissors, and nail files, try this trick:
Attach these items to a large magnet placed on the inside of your metal medicine
Organization and storage—bathroom, shoe bag
Hang a shoe bag on the back of the bathroom door. The pockets are perfect for
washcloths and toiletries and other small items that cause such a clutter problem
in the bathroom.
Organization and storage—bed-making storage
For quick and easy bed-making, keep linen sets together. For each set, fold and
wrap a top and bottom sheet and one pillowcase together. Then stick them all in
the matching pillowcase and store in a drawer right next to the bed.
Organization and storage—blankets
Eliminate the question of where to store extra blankets. Keep them between the
mattress and the box spring.
Organization and storage—bowls and lids
To save space and promote neatness in the kitchen, nest all plastic storage
containers, and place the lids in a resealable plastic bag. Hang the bag of lids
from a hook inside a door.
Organization and storage—broom
Cut the fingertip from an old rubber glove and slip it over the end of your broom
handle. Now it won’t slip when leaned against the wall.
Organization and storage—bureau instead of table
If you have a table with no storage space by the front door, replace it with a
bureau that has drawers galore.
Organization and storage—CD container
Keep your compact discs neatly organized by storing them in the perfect-sized
container—an empty shoe box. Place them upright in the box so the titles are
visible, and you’ll be able to easily flip through them to find the ones you’re
looking for. The box can be covered with contact paper or painted.
Organization and storage—closet’s top shelf
Attach a mirror to the closet ceiling so you can keep track of top-shelf contents.
Organization and storage—clutter in a bag
Take a large brown grocery bag and load into it all the clutter that’s driving you
nuts. Stash it in a cupboard or another out of the way place. If family members
are missing something, send them to the bag. Anything not retrieved in 2 to 3
weeks can be considered a likely candidate for the trash—just in time for another
clean sweep of the house.
Organization and storage—cords
Keep extension cords neat. Stuff the looped cords into individual cardboard
Organization and storage—cosmetics in desk organizers
Check out those acrylic desk organizers you see in office supply or art stores.
They’re ideal for cosmetics, brushes, and nail polish, and much cheaper than the
same thing sold to hold cosmetics.
Organization and storage—cubbies
Here’s an uplifting idea: Don’t forget to look up for extra storage. A row of
cubbies (storage boxes) attached to the wall over coat hooks is one example of
found space. Other logical locations are above a washer or dryer, chest of
drawers, medicine cabinet, or window.
Organization and storage—family in-boxes
Decorate a colored file folder or plastic in-box for each of your children. When
they come home from school, have them place important papers, forms, and
other school information in their special place. And they’ll know where to find
the papers and items they need to return to the teacher the next day.
Organization and storage—flowerpots as storage
Paint small terra-cotta flowerpots pastel colors and place on a small tray in the
bathroom to hold makeup, soaps, and other small items.
Organization and storage—hide your valuables
Spray-paint the inside of a mayonnaise jar white. Store it in the refrigerator as a
hiding place for money and valuables.
Organization and storage—in the luggage
Suitcases, which spend the greater portion of their functional lives completely
useless and taking up space, should be considered for storing almost anything,
from holiday decorations to out-of-season clothes.
Organization and storage—jewelry
Keep your earrings, small bracelets, and necklaces in the separate compartments
of a plastic ice tray. The tray fits in a dresser drawer so jewels stay neat and out
Organization and storage—jewelry box
Don’t throw out that old tarnish-retardant silver chest designed to store
silverware. It will make a wonderful jewelry box. Earrings clip to the band
designed to hold knives; chains, rings, and brooches fit nicely in the open
spaces; and you won’t have to worry about tarnish because of the specially
treated material that lines this type of chest.
Organization and storage—keys
Keep a pretty, decorative bowl on a table near the front door to hold house keys.
You’ll always know exactly where they are.
Organization and storage—ladder
Nail a sturdy, old leather belt to the garage wall. Store the ladder by wrapping
the belt around its top step and buckling it closed.
Organization and storage—lost and found
Keep a lost-and-found basket in a central location where family members can
stash things they find lying around the house and also look for things they’ve
Organization and storage—roll under the bed
Attach casters to the bottom of an old dresser drawer and use it for storage
underneath a bed.
Organization and storage—shoe storage bags for small stuff
The perfect solution for organizing all the little stuff that clutters the rooms in
your home is a large, clear plastic shoe storage bag—the kind with lots of
pockets. All of its contents are clearly visible, neatly separated, and easily
portable. Hang one on the back of the door in the nursery, kitchen, bedrooms,
Organization and storage—table leaves
Store extra table leaves in the closet behind your clothes. They won’t take up
room and will be out of sight and protected from scratches.
Organization and storage—table pedestal
Top a new trash or garbage can with a piece of plywood and cover it with a piece
of floor-length fabric to turn it into a lamp table. The receptacle provides a fairly
large storage space for Christmas decorations or other infrequently used items.
Organization and storage—under-the-bed box
Keep a cardboard storage box in each bedroom (under the bed is good), and use
it to collect outgrown clothes and toys. Full boxes means it’s time for a yard sale
or a trip to the Salvation Army or consignment store.
Organization and storage—velcro the remote
Attach an adhesive-backed Velcro strip to the side of your TV and another to the
back of the TV remote control.
Before you tape shut a box, run a piece of string along the path where you’ll be
placing the tape. Press the tape over the string and seal the box, leaving a bit of
the string hanging loose. When it’s time to unpack, just pull on the string to rip
Photos—clean with rubbing alcohol
If photos have marks (even permanent marker), sticky stuff, dirt, or they are
stuck together, clean them with 91 percent or more rubbing alcohol, and then
carefully pry them apart. Dry them printed side up and not touching other
photos. Anything less than 91 percent alcohol will ruin the photos because it
contains too much water.
Photos—keep memories with a camera
Does this sound familiar? You’ve made a commitment to dejunk your life.
Suddenly you and your family get hit with the sentimental bug. Instead of
hanging on to all that stuff, why not take a photograph of the special items? A
photo of the giant stuffed animal that was your daughter’s favorite when she was
three will take up a lot less room in the photo album than in the attic. The picture
will call up the same memories as the item itself, and you’ll be freed emotionally
to get rid of the things that are cluttering your life.
Photos—magnetic photo album nightmare
The warmth from a hair dryer can loosen photos that have become stuck within
the pages of a magnetic photo album.
Safety and readiness—ceiling work on bucket stilts
If you need to do some work on the ceiling, 5-gallon buckets make good, stable
stilts. Remove or tape down the wire handle on each bucket, turn the bucket
upside down, make a foot stirrup out of duct tape, and off you go. You don’t
want the tape to stick to your shoes, so double it, sticky side to sticky side, on the
part that your foot slides under.
Safety and readiness—disaster “Go Bags”
Every household needs a Go Bag. This is a collection of items you may need in
the event of a disaster that requires you and your family to be self-sufficient
when all services are cut off. And because you may need to evacuate, your Go
Bag needs to be packed in an easy-to-carry container like a suitcase on wheels.
Then each family member needs to have a backpack that contains enough basic
supplies to last for 72 hours—all packed and ready to go. Each backpack should
contain a change of clothing, including underwear, socks, and a jacket or
sweater; some food and an emergency lightweight blanket; copies of personal
documents that are sealed in zip-type plastic bags such as photo ID, emergency
phone numbers, social security numbers, insurance cards, and so on. When it’s
time to evacuate, each person grabs his or her backpack and a gallon of water
and gets out. The larger family Go Bag or box should be compact enough to
carry easily and should fit in the trunk of the car—a vehicle whose gas tank is
never less than half full.
Safety and readiness—fake vent for valuables
Cut a hole at the approximate location and size of a heat vent in the wall, and
attach a vent cover. Paint it to match all the other heat vents, and you’ll have a
great hideaway for your treasures.
Safety and readiness—fire extinguisher
Everyone in the family needs to know how to operate a portable fire
extinguisher. Just remember the word PASS. P: pull the pin to release the locking
mechanism. A: aim low, at the base of the fire. S: squeeze the handle. S: sweep
the spray from side to side, as if you were hosing down a sidewalk.
Safety and readiness—holding nails in place
If you can’t hammer a nail without hammering your fingers in the process, use
the tines of an old fork instead of your fingers to hold the nail in place.
Safety and readiness—out-of-area contact person
Every family needs to identify a friend or relative who lives in another state to
be their disaster point person, and then keep that person’s phone number and
contact information with them at all times. Now instruct all of your family
members to call this person to check in with their location and conditions. Longdistance
phone service is often restored sooner than local service.
Safety and readiness—prevent a child’s being locked in
Toss a towel over the top of a bathroom door so it won’t close completely. This
way, little ones are less likely to lock themselves in.
Safety and readiness—smoke detector battery changes
Fire safety officials remind us to change the batteries in our smoke detectors and
home security systems every 6 months. Get into the habit of changing batteries
when the time changes in the spring and again in the fall. But don’t throw away
the old batteries. They still have lots of life remaining and can be used in radios,
toys, pagers, and so on.
Safety and readiness—surge protector for computer
Voltage spikes and surges through the power lines can fry the electronics of your
computer and printer. A good surge protector is far better insurance for your
machines than an extended warranty policy. You just plug your computer into
the protector, it’s quite inexpensive, and it’s available at any computer or
Safety and readiness—water
You don’t have to live in “hurricane” country to get hurricane prepared.
Disasters can hit anywhere, which means water could be in short supply. For
flushing toilets and showers, line 30-to 45-gallon garbage cans with those large
contractor plastic bags available at home improvement stores. Then, fill the
garbage cans with water. Most people forget that three weeks without electricity
means three weeks of no water if your supplier has not attached a generator to
pump it to the houses.
Scales—for the home
Here are three scales worth their weight in gold in any home: a 25-pound scale
in the laundry room so wash loads are right; a 5-pound scale in the kitchen to
measure food portions for serving, freezing, and storing; a 300-pound scale for
weight control. The kitchen scale also serves to weigh mail. No more wasting
stamps trying to make sure you have enough postage.
Sewing—bedsheets for extra-wide yardage
Buy flat bedsheets instead of yardage. Buying sheets on sale gives you extrawide
yardage at a fraction of the cost of yard goods. They’re perfect for making
curtains, tablecloths, napkins, pillows, nightclothes, and crafts.
Sewing—dryer sheets for appliqué
Another use for dryer sheets: Use these sheets, new or used, as interfacing when
appliquéing a quilt. They form the layer between the cutout and the quilt top.
They keep the quilt fresher longer between washings and airings, add
increasingly lightweight insulation, and extend the life of the quilt.
Sewing—lazy Susan for notions
Put a lazy Susan on your sewing table to store your notions. Now everything you
need is just a spin away!
When the bobbin apparatus in your sewing machine needs dusting, blow the dust
out by aiming quick bursts of air from an empty squeeze bottle.
Sewing—magnet for pins and needles
Keep a magnet in your sewing box to pick up pins and needles that fall on the
Sewing—make your own washcloths
The next time you see cotton bath towels on sale, buy one and give this a try:
Cut it into 8 washcloths. Either serge the edges or use a zigzag or overlock stitch
on a regular sewing machine. You should be able to make loads of wonderful
washcloths for a fraction of the cost of ready-made.
Sewing—mend with newspaper
Slip a folded newspaper through the leg or sleeve of the garment you’re mending
so you don’t sew through both layers.
Sharpen a sewing machine needle without removing it from the machine by
“stitching” through a sheet of fine-grain sandpaper.
Sewing—pincushion of soap
An unwrapped bar of soap makes a terrific pincushion. Bonus: Needles and pins
that have been stuck in soap will glide through fabric.
Sewing—stuffing made easy
Cut clean, used pantyhose in rings and use as stuffing for pincushions, pillows,
and children’s toys. The fabric is washable and can easily be coaxed into tight
Sewing—thread color choices
A good rule of thumb is to use a thread that is one shade darker than the fabric
you are working on. Thread has a tendency to fade more quickly than solid
Sewing—threading a needle
If you have trouble threading a needle, wet the end of the thread and draw it
across a bar of soap. The thread will stiffen and slip right through the eye of the
needle. Or, draw the end of the thread across a wax candle first.
Shelf lining—adhesive-backed shelf paper
Put adhesive-backed shelf paper in the freezer for about an hour before using.
The frozen paper will be less limp and easier to apply. Smooth it out with a
blackboard eraser or dry squeegee.
Shelf lining—bath rug
Use an old bath rug to line the cabinet under your bathroom sink. It will soak up
spills and leaks, and is easy to clean. Just toss it in the laundry.
Shelf lining—contact paper
The warmth from a hair dryer can remove contact paper from a shelf. If there’s
any glue left behind, use rubber-cement thinner, Soilove, or WD-40 aerosol
Shelf lining—freezer or butcher paper
White freezer or butcher paper is perfect for lining kitchen and bathroom
cabinets because it is sturdy, extra wide, and quite inexpensive. Place the coated
side up to make for easy cleanups, and use thumbtacks to hold down the corners.
Shelf lining—vinyl flooring
Use pieces of vinyl flooring to cover shelves. This product can be cut to size and
is easily removed when you want to clean. Vinyl flooring is also very durable
and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Put the vinyl in the sun to soften it
before cutting. Do not glue or attach the vinyl in any way; just lay it on the shelf.
Sound of music
Put a clock radio in every bedroom. Instead of the buzzer, set them all on the
same radio station that plays lively music, and your family will get up to
surround sound each morning.
To straighten a warped vinyl phonograph record, place the record between two
pieces of sturdy glass and set the glass in direct sunlight for 2 hours.
Put self-stick plastic hooks on the wall or window frame next to drapes and
blinds. Keep any loose cords looped around the hooks.
Windows—curtain rods, unique
Instead of the typical drapery rod, hang curtains from a copper pipe or a sturdy
tree branch set on brackets.
Windows—curtain rods, wide
Many window valances are hung on 2½-inch rods rather than the typical skinny
ones. If you don’t want to spend money to get the wider ones, update your
skinny rods. Cut 2½-inch strips of wood from an old piece of paneling and use a
hot glue gun to attach the strips to the skinny rod. Attach the rod to the existing
hardware, which should still be in place on the wall. New valances can be
slipped right over the rod.
To hang sheers and curtains quickly and easily, insert a table knife—blade-first
—into the open end of the curtain rod. It will act as a guide and sheers will glide
onto the rod without snagging.