Friday, June 20, 2008

Clutter Clearing

Clutter is an unwelcome guest in many homes. It sneaks in quietly, pounces, and takes over. Before you know what's happening, your house is filled with its nonsense from corner to corner, and top to bottom. Undoubtedly, prevention is the best method, but if clutter is already sitting comfortably in your house, then there are some things you can do to push it out the door.

Start small. Clutter is best fought one battle at a time. If you try to tackle the entire house in one go, you are only going to end up shuffling things around and feeling more frustrated than ever. Pick one room to start, and make sure you finish it. For instance, if you decide to begin in a bedroom, don't quit until you have pulled everything out from under the bed and from inside all the dressers. Then, once you have everything together, get rid of it! Or at least, a good portion of it. Bring some bags or boxes with you and sort into three categories: donation, trash and keep.

If you haven't seen it or used it in more than three months, you don't need it. If you have strong sentimental attachments to any of the objects you are sorting, limit the quantity that you are allowed to keep. If you have twenty useless but memory-full knickknacks, you only get to keep two or three. Take a picture of the rest, a great way to preserve the memories without filling your house.

Choose the things you keep with great discretion. Keep only things that you actually use and have a purpose--and have a place for. Keeping things that you "may" need someday is not allowed. Once you have everything sorted, put it all away and make sure there is room for it all. If not, you still need to let go of some of it.

Immediately take the donation boxes or bags out of your home. Put them in the trunk of your car and drive them to a donation center. Same goes for the trash bags. Take them out to them curb, get them out of your home. Clear that clutter from your home and you will see the results appear before your eyes.

In the future, when you are tempted to acquire new clutter, ask yourself if it is something you really need. Does it have a place? A purpose? Those questions will help you keep clutter from invading your home again.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Art of Picture Hanging

Are your pictures too high? Too low? Are there extra nail holes behind those family pictures on your wall from when you tried to “eyeball” it?

If you don’t have the faintest idea how high a picture should be hung on the wall, or know anything about grouping pictures or designing an arrangement, don’t despair-- there is hope.

Hanging a picture sounds easy enough, but the reality is there are many elements to this deceptively simple process that can make it frustratingly difficult and leave you with a ridiculous number of holes in your wall from failed attempts. Luckily, there are a few tips that can help you avoid butchering your wall and almost guarantee your pictures will be sitting pretty.

First, remember that the center of a picture should be at eye-level. This applies to a grouping of pictures, too, only using the center of the combined collaborative instead of the individual piece. Because height can vary dramatically from person to person, the default measurement is approximately 66 inches from the floor to the center of the object. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. For instance, if you are hanging a particularly large painting or mirror, 66 inches isn’t always spacially correct. Adjust accordingly and with great prejudice. Remember, too much “eyeballing” can lead to too many holes.

Another good rule is to use two picture hooks with picture hanging wire on the back of your frame. This prevents shifting and tilting, so you won’t have to be forever straightening your pictures. It also provides extra support for heavy objects. To determine where to place your hangers, measure and find the center of your picture. From this point, measure equal distance to a point that’s about half to two-thirds the length of the picture. You will need to remember how far these hooks are placed apart from the center when finally driving the nail, so make sure you write it down or commit it to memory.

Now, the moment of truth: hammering the nails (or drilling the screws, which may be a better option for really heavy objects. Using wall anchors with screws to hang your art will definitely keep things where they’re supposed to be.) When deciding how high to hang your picture, don’t forget to measure it first and find its center. You will need to measure from this point vertically to the wire and add x number of inches to 66 to allow for this space. Mark on the wall lightly with a pencil 66 inches from the floor where you want the center of the picture to be. From there, you will use a level to mark two more places the distance from the center to the picture hooks (you wrote it down, remember?). This is where you want to put your nails. After you hammer them in, it’s just a matter of hanging you picture!

If you have more than one picture of the same size and need to repeat this process, it is easy to hang them together symmetrically. If you have multiple pictures of varying size, sketching out a composition before trying to hang them is a good idea. It can help to visualize the smaller pictures as pieces of a larger whole and arranging them accordingly

Simple Ways to Update Your Kitchen: Part 1

Sad. Neglected. Pathetic. If these words describe your kitchen, but you don’t have the budget to change them, don’t give up hope—there are many simple, low-cost ways to improve your kitchen and make it feel loved again. Even if your kitchen hasn't had an update this decade or last, you can still give it a make-over that will "wow" even the toughest critics.

A dramatic way to show your kitchen some love is to give some attention to its cabinets. Painting is a cost-effective alternative to cabinet replacement and takes only a little time and effort. Preparation is key for this project, and, consequentially, the most time consuming.

Begin by removing all drawers, unscrewing the cabinet doors from their hinges, and taking off all the hardware. Paint can be messy, so make sure you protect all your work areas including taping the walls around the cabinet frames where you don’t want stray splatters. Remember, prevention is easier than cleaning up a sloppy mess.

Traditionally, rigorous sanding is the next step in this process, but because modern day advances have produced the miracle of liquid sander, this step is remarkably painless. The directions on the label are simple and easy, and the results are just as effective as those achieved by the old fashioned sander. This step is crucial for spectacular results, because roughing up the wood ensures a strong bond with the primer and, ultimately, the paint.

The next step is priming the cabinet surfaces. A good primer will guarantee an enduring finish on your paint by providing the perfect foundation for a coat of paint. It adheres more strongly than paint to surfaces and covers flaws and imperfections that would show through otherwise.

Once you have your cabinet doors, drawers, and cabinet frames prepped, the last step is painting. When choosing your paint color, keep in mind the countertops, floors and other surfaces in your kitchen and coordinate accordingly. Two coats of semi-gloss or eggshell paint (for a washable surface) should be more than adequate for properly prepared cabinets.

Make sure you allow enough drying time before replacing doors and drawers. It can take up to one week for the paint to cure to a point where it won’t stick and mess up all your hard work.

Once the paint is dry, and your cabinets are back in place, consider replacing the hardware for some extra dazzle. If this is beyond your monetary means, a great alternative is spray painting the existing hardware in a metallic sheen. Before painting, take a wire brush and clean vigorously to remove caked on dirt and provide a better surface for the paint to adhere to. Don’t forget to replace or paint exposed hinges, too.