Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes: Are you prepared?

Hurricane season in 2018 was brutal. We saw eight hurricanes, with Florence and Michael producing the most significant damage.

Hurricane season this year begins on June 1.

Last month, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, declared a state of emergency in preparation for the 2019 wildfire season. The declaration allows him to waive environmental restrictions “to speed up fire prevention projects …” according to CBS Los Angeles.

Notice the key concept in that announcement: Preparation.

With a couple of months’ lead time, even the most unprepared homeowner can take steps to keeping his or her family and home safe during natural disasters.

Family first

We’ve all seen the news reports about people who wait until the last minute to stock up on supplies when a killer storm is expected. Don’t be one of them, facing picked over hardware items and empty shelves at the grocery store.

First, make a plan. Questions to have the answers to include:

How will we contact one another?

It is especially important for children to know the plan in case of an emergency. Designate one adult family member to be the designated contact. Ready.gov recommends choosing someone who lives out of town in case cell service is down in your area.

Write down the contact’s phone number and a reminder of the meeting spots and keep it in your child’s school bag. Cell phones may not be working

Where will we meet?

If your children are older, pick a meeting spot that’s close to home and an alternative spot that is outside the neighborhood in case roads are blocked.

If we have to evacuate, what is the best route?

Plan your route before disaster strikes. Figure out where you can go if evacuation is ordered. Think friends, family members or a hotel. The experts at Ready.gov suggest that you “Choose destinations in different directions so that you have options during an emergency.”

Always follow the instructions of local officials and remember that your evacuation route may be on foot depending on the type of disaster.

Always keep enough fuel in your car to get to your destination.

Do you have emergency supplies set aside? You’ll need a lot more than water if the power is out for any length of time. Find a list of what to set aside for emergencies at Fema.gov.

Keep an emergency survival kit in the trunk of your automobile (especially if you live where earthquakes occur). Include, at the very minimum a portable radio, cell phone charger, matches, flashlights and batteries, blankets, extra shoes and socks in case you need to walk to your destination and drinking water.

You’ll find a list of other items to include at Almanac.com and on the National Safety Council’s website.

Don’t forget the pets

Although many Americans consider their pets as part of the family, they’re frequently left off the to-do list when considering prepping for the expected or unexpected that nature throws our way.

So, we’ve compiled that list for you and your pets:

  • Ensure that each of your pets is microchipped. Then, if a hurricane or other natural disaster is expected, ensure that they’re wearing collars with up-to-date identification tags firmly attached to the collars.
  • Don’t leave your pets behind if you need to evacuate. Have a plan on where you will take them before finding shelter for yourself. Ideas may include hotels that allow pets, boarding facilities outside of the danger zone, a friend or relative’s home, also outside the danger zone.
  • Keep a pet emergency kit. You can buy them online or create your own. TheSeniorDog.com has a brilliant list of items you’ll need in your kit.

Get more tips at ASPCA.org.

Items you’ll need for an insurance claim

Do you have an inventory of all of your belongings? If not, get that done now, before hurricane and wildfire seasons arrive. Photographs or video are ideal ways of cataloging your belongings. Be sure to include purchase dates and places and serial numbers.

If you need help visit the Insurance Information Institute’s website.

Then, keep copies of other important documents such as your driver’s license, insurance paperwork, bank account numbers, the deed to your home or your mortgage company’s contact information, vital statistics documents (birth, marriage, citizenship or Green Card).

Go to Fema.gov for more information on how to protect important documents and which ones you may need during and after a disaster.

5 Outdoor Spring Cleaning Tips

Most of us homeowners consider spring cleaning as the project that clears the home’s interiors of winter’s nastiness. You know, the mud in the mud room, the stale odors, the fireplace scent clinging to draperies and rugs.

The home’s exterior rarely gets our spring-cleaning love, but it should, according to the founder of Winkelmann Design & Construction in Akron, Ohio. In fact, he provided Weather.com a list of 10 home exterior cleaning projects that are inexpensive and won’t take up too much of your time.

Is that grime on your garage door?

When the garage is at the front of the home, it’s even more important to keep the door clean – especially if you have an overly-picky HOA or your home is on the market.

Winkelmann claims that about 85 percent of garage doors today are made of fiberglass, an easy substance to clean.

In fact, all it takes is a solution of warm water and a small amount of bleach, a scrub brush and a hose with which to rinse the door after cleaning.

Winkelmann cautions owners of metal garage doors to ensure they follow up the rinse with a thorough drying. Otherwise, you may face rust in the future.

 

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk?

Your garage, when the door is closed, is a sparkling marvel for the neighbors to behold. Open that door, though, and “all that junk” is exposed for all the world to see.

But, appearances, as we all know, aren’t the only things that matter. A garage is the ultimate storage solution, whether for your autos or for belongings. But it’s useless if it’s cluttered and disorganized.

No, it’s not exactly a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but get it done and vow to keep it organized, and it may just be the one household task you are grateful you performed.

 

Ew, what’s that smell?

Our HOA demands that our trash cans and recycling bins be kept in our garage. You can imagine what they smell like right around mid-summer after sitting, full of garbage, in a hot garage.

And, if you’re blessed with an HOA that allows your cans to reside outdoors, the stench may act as an invitation to critters. You know, rats, mice, raccoons, coyotes.

Winkelmann suggests, again, using bleach to get rid of the crud and the stench. We rather like the job that ammonia does, especially when it’s allowed to sit for a time.

Then, add water and get to work wiping down the walls. An old mop works well for this job or, purchase an extendable tub and tile scrubber, like this one.

Naturally, you’ll want to wear gloves and a mask when working with either substance – they’re both pretty caustic.

And never, ever mix bleach and ammonia. Ever.

If you just can’t stand the thought of using either substance, consider a powdered cleanser or white vinegar.

 

Keep spring showers outdoors

One of the best ways to avoid moisture intrusion in the home is to clean the gutters and downspouts. After a blustery fall and winter, they’re most likely full of all kinds of stuff that will impede drainage and end up backed up into the home.

Need some inspiration and instructions on how to get the job done safely? Lowe’s has produced a brilliant video walk-through and you’ll find it on YouTube.com.

 

Summer is coming

Whether you store your patio furniture indoors or out over the winter, it’s in need of at least a wipe down. We’d wager that it probably needs more, though.

Remove the cushions and, hopefully, they have zippers and are machine washable. If not, grab a can of upholstery cleaner (Car Guys or Resolve are both highly rated) and scrub away the grime from last year.

Then, get to work cleaning the chairs, table and umbrella.

Still have some energy? Grilling season is coming up so tear into that barbecue. Steel wool and scrubbing will get the mess off the grills.

The pros at TodaysHomeonwer.com recommend using aluminum foil and vinegar. You can learn that technique, here.

The best part about exterior spring cleaning is that it can be done in chunks. Save the projects for those spring days that aren’t sunny or warm enough to beckon you out to play.

Trending: Danish modern furniture

What’s old typically becomes new, right? Whether it’s fashion, music, dance styles or décor, never count a trend down and out, because the chances are good that it will see a revival.

Scandinavian décor hit it big again a couple of years ago, especially in the midwest United States. And now, we’ve niched that down to a return to the “Danish modern” period of furniture design.

While once the epitome of tasteful, modern décor, Danish modern is now considered vintage, and in high demand. While some authentic pieces may run into the thousands of dollars, there are still bargains available if you don’t mind using pieces from lesser-known designers.

The Danish modern period runs, roughly, from 1920 to the 1960’s.

Danish modern history

The early 1900’s saw a plethora of new inventions including adhesive tape, the airplane, the ballpoint pen and the Model T. Furniture designers around the world also became caught up in the movement toward new concepts and ideas.

Kaare Klint, a designer from Copenhagen, felt otherwise. According to Andrew Hollingsworth, author of “Danish Modern,” Mr. Klint, a traditionalist, felt that there was no need to reinvent furniture.

Changing the lines and materials were all that was required to modernize traditional pieces. Klint ascribed to a design ideal that put comfort and utility over design.

Subsequent designers of note, such as Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl and Ole Wanscher expanded on Klint’s foundation to create what is now known as Danish modern furniture. 

Form

Danish modern furniture is, overall, simple, or, as Andrew Hollingsworth describes it, “austere.” While chairs were designed primarily for comfort, designers carefully sculptured them into works of art.

Free-flowing designs, such as Finn Juhl’s Pelikan chair, are examples of this concept: comfort combined with artistic flair.

Danish modern cabinetry has simple lines, chairs typically contain pointed arms and sofas are streamlined, many with asymmetrical backs.

 Wood

One of the hallmarks of true Danish modern furniture is dark wood. Teak was one of the more commonly used materials, with European oak running a close second. Rosewood was employed in higher-end designs, according to Andrew Hollingsworth.

Mahogany, while not common, was utilized during the latter half of the period. After World War II, when materials were scarce, designers began using plywood, bending it and molding it into their designs.

The famous Ant Chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1952, used a single piece of plywood, bent into the design.

Metal

Poul Kjaerholm’s designs diverged from those of his contemporaries by his extensive use of steel instead of wood. In keeping with the main hallmark of Danish modern design – comfort – he combined steel with wood, leather and other materials.

Overall, the play of light on steel ignited his artistic sensibilities and provided stunning Danish modern pieces that today’s collectors clamor after. Check out this 3-seat sofa that sells today for more than $44,000.

Fabrics that define Danish Modern

Another common hallmark of Danish modern furniture is the choice of leather for upholstered pieces. Chairs and stools were frequently upholstered in different types of leather, with the patterns of ostrich leather in high demand.

Later in the movement, while leather was still prominent, stretch fabric was utilized frequently. While the darker colors, such as black and deep brown, were the most popular, toward the end of the period green and light blue leather were in vogue.

Learn more about Danish Modern at Collector’sWeekly.com and HiveModern.com and view creations from some of the more famous furniture designers at DanishFurniture.com.

Rental Property Tax Tips

Rental Agreement
Owning a rental property poses tax considerations that are more complex than the residential property you live in and requires a more refined tax strategy. Below is the tax information you need to know as well as some top tax tips for owners of rental properties.

Rental Property Tax Considerations

When filling in your tax returns, your rental property is listed in Schedule E, which documents your tax year income and expenses from the property itself. Income covers the rental payments you received while expenses covers your mortgage, repairs and maintenance, utilities, management fees and all other costs the property incurs.

If you pay points on the loan you used to purchase your rental property, you cannot deduct them completely from your taxable income like you can on a property purchased for residence. You must deduct the points over the whole length of your loan.

If your rental income from your property exceeds the expenses that the property incurred, that income is taxable.

If your property’s expenses are larger than the Schedule E rental income you accrued, you can deduct any losses from your taxable income if your non-property based income is less than $150,000 in the tax year. If you earned less than $100,000 in non-property income, you can deduct up to $25,000 of any losses your rental property incurred and if your non-property income is between $100,000 and $150,000, you can deduct up to $12,500. If you earn a non-property income above $150,000 you are not able to deduct any rental property losses from your taxable income.

If your earnings are above the threshold to deduct any rental property losses, you can amass losses as a counterbalance to capital gains taxes when you sell the property.

Speak to your tax adviser to see whether you can deduct rental losses from your taxable income or whether you can accrue losses against future capital gains taxes.

Tax Considerations When Selling Your Rental Property

When you sell a rental property, you are liable for capital gains taxes on your appreciation. It’s advisable that you seek out a tax adviser to give you an accurate breakdown of your costs and any profits that will be taxable as capital gains. However, there is a simple process to give you a rough idea of your net profit and estimate of your capital gains taxes.Take your property sale price and deduct the purchase price, cost of any modifications to improve the property, and all selling costs, including local taxes, agent fees, etc. The figure you are left with is your capital gain on the property, and based on your non-property income, you will have to pay up to 30% in federal and state taxes on your capital gains. Let’s see an example of how this formula works. If you bought a rental property 8 years ago for $200,000 and put 20 percent down with a standard 6% fixed rate 30 year mortgage, your current balance would be $140,435.If you made $10,000 in improvements to the property over the 8 years and sold it for $300,000, with no losses to offset you would be left with capital gains of around $69,000, after paying local taxes, agent fees, etc. Of the capital gains accrued you would have to pay somewhere between $17,000 and $21,000 in taxes, leaving around $120,000 from the sale of the property.

How To Minimize Rental Property Capital Gains Taxes

If you intend to buy a new rental property immediately after selling you can defer paying any capital gains taxes.The 1031 Exchange IRS benefit enables you to defer paying any capital gains taxes if you can identify, in writing, a new rental property within 45 days and complete the purchase of the property within 180 days of selling your previous rental property. To defer paying any capital gains taxes your new rental property should be of at least equal value of your sold property and you must invest all of the proceeds from your rental property sale.The 1031 Exchange defers and does not eliminate the taxes on the sale of your rental property. However, the IRS does not prohibit turning your new rental property into a primary residence in the future. Before taking part in a 1031 Exchange you should consult a tax advisor to ensure eligibility and how it relates to your unique tax situation.

Front yard landscaping for ranch-style homes

Designed by Cliff May in 1932, the ranch-style house was conceived specifically for California living.

Mr. May combined elements of the Spanish hacienda and Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie-style design and expanded on them to include large windows to bring the California landscape visually closer to the home’s interior.

Other identifying features of the ranch house include the long, low layout and the gable roof.

Ranch-style home landscaping goals

The main goals when landscaping the ranch house are to visually raise its low profile and soften its sharp, square silhouette.

While other plants, such as trees and grasses, help meet these goals, the right shrubs do double — and sometimes triple — duty.

Low-growing shrubs in the front bed also help preserve one of the ranch home’s key architectural elements: picture windows.

Break up the straight lines with curved planting beds

Widening the front planting bed to at least 4 feet, and curving it, helps break up the straight lines of the front of the ranch house.

As you design the curved bed, place the center curve directly in the center of the front of the house, curving toward the house.

Raising the bed 10 inches with topsoil helps bring the eye up when viewing the home from the street.

Shrubs

We referred earlier to the importance of shrubs when landscaping the yard in front of a ranch house.

Toward the front of the beds, plant shrubs that remain small and have a rounded growing habit, or tolerate heavy pruning to make them round.

Winter Gem or dwarf English boxwoods are ideal and will thrive in the shade cast by the house’s eaves.

Variegated or colored foliage, such as the soft yellow of the gold thread cypress, draws the eye away from the house’s low profile.

Balance is an important landscaping concept, so a tall, conical tree or shrub is something to consider planting.

Shrub Placement

Plant the low-growing shrubs in the front bed, set back from the edge, in the same arc as the bed. Consider the following:

  • Box-leaf Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus’) USDA Zones 6 – 9
  • Prostrate white Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Prostrata’) USDA zones 6 – 9
  • Cream De Mint™ dwarf mock orange (Pittosporum tobira ‘Shima’) USDA Zones 8 – 11

Enter your ZIP Code here to find your growing zone.

Set larger shrubs, such as azaleas, or the conical tree, at the corners of the house to provide a definite end to the house’s long line. These corner plantings also add a vertical focal point.

Aim for an asymmetrical grouping of plants. Ranch houses are supposed to be informal and were designed for simple, casual living.

Spring lawn care schedule

Lush green lawns don’t happen without some serious help from the homeowner. Sure, grass may not die if not routinely cared for, but homeowners with a lawn-care schedule are the ones with the yards that are the envy of the neighborhood.

Spring is the perfect time to set about creating a lawn-care schedule. Stick to it and if it ever comes time to sell your home, its curb appeal will make it the belle of the local real estate market.

Early spring lawn care

After the gloom of winter, it’s tempting to want to jump outside and get started cleaning up what the season left behind. Tempting, yes. Wise, no.

Wait until the soil beneath the lawn is dry (or at least not sodden) and then get to work. Start by raking debris from the lawn. If it’s still a bit moist, work gently with a plastic leaf rake.

Grab a pocket knife and use it to dig out a plug from the lawn. Look particularly at the area of the plug between the soil and the grass. That layer is called thatch, a buildup of dead and living organic material between the soil and the grass blades.

If the thatch layer is more than ½-inch thick, the grass will end up rooting in that instead of the soil. This causes all kinds of problems, from making the lawn more susceptible to drought to providing safe haven for pests and disease organisms.

Dethatch the lawn by using a thatch rake. You can rent these at the big home improvement stores and learn how to use it by watching This Old House’s video at YouTube.com.

Avoid the crabgrass invasion

Crabgrass is that nasty, grassy weed that pops up when the weather warms and does its best to take over the lawn.

The best time to show crabgrass who’s boss is right now, before it shows up. Yup, it’s hiding under there, waiting for the just right time to pop from the soil.

And you can assert your bossiness by using a pre-emergent crabgrass control product. Not all of these products are safe to use on all grasses, so check the label to ensure it’s safe to use on yours.

Surflan is best for Buffalograss, for instance, since it doesn’t tolerate many of the herbicides on the market today. It’s even harder to find crabgrass control for St. Augustine lawns. Call the county extension office for ideas on what to use for our area and your specific grass type.

You’ll need a rotary spreader to apply pre-emergent weed treatment granules to the lawn and also for fertilizer application.

The first fertilizer application of the season

Wait until green-up has achieved at least 50 percent to apply your lawn’s first dose of fertilizer. Learn how to calculate how much fertilizer you need and how to apply it at YouTube.com.

If you plan on reseeding, you may want to wait until fall, but spring is the second-best time to do it. Ready for another video? Check out this one.

But, wait at least one month after fertilizing to reseed. And, if you’ve applied a weed killer, read the weed killer’s label to find out how long to wait to reseed.

Finally, mow the lawn. The first mowing of the season should be to 4 inches in height.

Now you can let the kids and pets out – that’s what lawns are for, right?

Easy ways to add more color to your home

Home improvement projects are missing from the list of Americans’ top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2019. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t undertake one or two this year, especially if what you do makes living in the home more relaxing. And changing up the color, even if it’s in small ways, can do just that.

Intimidated?

Intimidation is usually what stops homeowners from experimenting with color in the home. Despite learning the color wheel and all about complementary colors as kids, many of us still clench up when it comes time to choose a color that we’ll live with.

We scoured the internet for advice on how to choose a color you can not only live with but enjoy as well.

A good place to start

Looking at paint chips can be overwhelming if you do it for too long. Some industry professionals say the best way to start your search for a paint color is by doing so in short stretches of time.

Whether you’re standing in front of the paint chip rack at Home Depot or perusing colors on Pinterest or other online sites, don’t dwell on the process.

When you see a color that speaks to you, grab the swatch or save it to a color folder that you create on your computer. Don’t’ overthink the process. The idea is to go with your first reaction.

If it’s “I kind of like that one,” save it. You’ll revisit it later when it’s time to narrow your choices. Then, take it a step further and choose a lighter and a darker shade of that same color.

“Colors look brighter on the walls than they do on a tiny chip. You may be surprised by which you ultimately go for,” color expert Amy Krane tells Houzz contributor Tiffany Carboni

What to do with your new color

The choices are plenty. Consider:

  • Painting an accent wall. Remember, this wall will become the room’s focal point, so choose your wall carefully.
  • Accessorize with it. If you choose to start small with your new color, consider choosing fireplace mantel or coffee table accessories in the hue. Other ideas include sofa pillows, a throw or an area rug. The latter is especially useful in a smaller room because rugs make small spaces appear more inviting.
  • Painting just the trim with your new color. Unexpected pops of color are fun.

Color is the wonder drug for home interiors. It can make a space feel clean, new and energized or it can calm it down. It all depends on which you choose.

Find inspiration online at HGTV.com, BHG.com and, for ideas on how to add color to your home without picking up a paintbrush, head to ApartmentTherapy.com.

Your 2019 home, according to Pinterest

As huge fans of Pinterest, we’re always eager to read the year-end wrap-up and predictions of what will be trending on the platform in the new year ahead.

The beauty of Pinterest is that so many of the projects on display are DIY-able, meaning huge savings over hiring someone to do the work for you.

In fact, searches for DIY projects on Pinterest made up 83 percent of all home searches in 2018. Remodeling and landscaping were popular as well.

So, what are Pinterest’s prognostications for 2019? Read on and find out.

Your walls

Pantone is the undisputed leader when it comes to showing us the Color of the Year. In 2019, it’s “Living Coral,” so don’t be surprised if your neighbor paints her dining room a peachy orange.

Pinteresters, on the other hand, are opting for yellow. And, not just your standard sunny yellow, but “bold mustard yellow walls,” according to the platform’s “Pinterest 100-The Top Trends for 2019.

Searches for “mustard yellow” were up 45 percent.

But new wall covering doesn’t necessarily have to be of the latex variety. “People are wrapping up their walls – and themselves—in fabric for a textured, artsy aesthetic,” according to the report.

They may just be onto something with that. Many designers are predicting the return of wallpaper in 2019. Today’s wallpaper, however, should be one with bold patterns and bright colors.

Consider geometric patterns for the kids’ rooms (searches on Pinterest for geometric décor are up a whopping 1,178 percent).

Once you’ve decided on wall covering, it’s time to turn your attention to what to hang on those walls. Naturally, Pinterest offers their 2019 obsession: textile art. Searches for the term have increased nearly 2,000 percent and you’ll find inspiration here.

Or, if you prefer green, consider a vertical indoor garden. There are lots of ways to approach this trend. Check out some of the ideas at Decoist.com.

Under foot

There’s no need to rip out the old vinyl flooring; just paint right over it. Keep the colors bold (the theme for 2019, apparently) and consider mosaic patterns.

The secret is in the stencil you choose and, thankfully, there are many. Check out what some of Pinterest’s DIYers are doing with stencils and paint on a dated floor.

Succulents have been at the top of the must-have list for a couple of years now, but 2019 sees the trend moving more niche, to cacti. Searches for cactus arrangements have more than doubled at Pinterest and here’s a sample of what they find.

The great outdoors

Outdoor living spaces are popular with homebuyers and homeowners alike. The outdoor fireplace, as long as it’s “modern and sleek” is what they’ll be clamoring after in 2019, according to Pinterest.

This trend is, of course, useless to homeowners whose beloved garden is of the cottage or other less-modern style.

So, turn your attention instead to the aforementioned vertical garden. Whether you intend to cover an entire wall or create a privacy screen, you’ll find gorgeous inspiration on Pinterest.

We’ve saved the best trend (in our opinion) for last. If you’re considering the addition of a swimming pool, forget the chemicals and consider a natural swimming pool.

This trend has been simmering on the back burner for a year or so now and trendwatchers expect it to move front and center this year.

These low-tech alternatives offer not only that luxurious sensation of swimming in the wild but can be tailored to your particular landscaping style and the size of your yard. From huge ponds to plunge pools, we hope the natural swimming pool is a trend that’s here to stay.

Get ideas at AquaMagazine.com, HouseLogic.com and HGTV.com.

 

 

3 of the Best Home Organization Blogs

If you’ve just purchased a home, putting all your “stuff” away is something you’re most likely not looking forward to. Unpacking boxes and then finding a place for everything can take a while.

The good news is that if you make a vow to get organized now, instead of promising to do it later, it will make the unpacking a lot easier.

Home organization isn’t just for new homeowners, however. In fact, the longer you’ve lived in a home, the more you most likely need a little help in getting things sorted.

It wasn’t easy choosing “the best” home organization bloggers but we found two criteria that helped us whittle down the list: the blog must be primarily about organizing (recipes and decorating tips tolerated, but not if they dominate the blog) and the blogger must actually BLOG at least once a week.

With a little input from friends and clients, we give you our list of 3 of the best home organization blogs on the internet.

It apparently takes a village to produce the Unclutterer blog and, judging by the volume of posts every week, we get it.

Canadian Jacki Hollywood Brown is the woman in charge and writes from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The site also has an editor at large, Erin Rooney Doland, in the D.C. area and a staff of writers.

You’ll find advice here from how to organize just about everything in the home, from prescription medication bottles to books, computer data, closets and more.

We love this post, with brilliant advice on speed decluttering (breaking the task down into five, 10 or 15 minute sessions).

Visit Unclutterer online at Unclutterer.com or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Canadian Laura Wittman is a self-professed “organizing junkie,” while many of us can be described as “clutter junkies.” If the latter describes you, this is your new favorite blog.

Laura and staff not only offer up brilliant solutions for decluttering but helps us dig deep into why we hang on to so much stuff and why we’re so disorganized.

You know those nights (at our house it’s almost every night!) when you can’t figure out what to make for dinner and when you finally hit on something, you’ll need to head out to the market for missing ingredients?

Laura fixes that for you by not only advising that you create a weekly menu, but posts sample menus for you as well. It doesn’t get any more no-brainer than that!

Find Laura and her amazing tips online at orgjunkie.com or connect with her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube

While we’re north of the border, take a look at Laurence MacSween’s storage solutions blog, Storage|Glee. Once you get on the organization bandwagon, you’ll need these solutions and MacSween has plenty of them.

While she doesn’t offer how-to advice, you’ll find no shortage of inspiration. Take a look at the right sidebar to get started. You’ll find storage solutions for everything from salsa to vodka and from utensil to photos.

Prefer room-specific suggestions? You’ll find those as well.

Visit Storage|Glee online at storageandglee.blogspot.com.

Honorable Mentions:

Clutter Bug

If you can stomach the huge push to buy products, you’ll find that Clutterbug offers brilliant organizing tips.

They’re a bit challenging to find, nestled in among the products for sale, but if you scroll down the home page, just under the book for sale you’ll find her tips, organized by room.

A lot of what’s on the site is in video form (who has time for that?). Your mileage may vary. Visit them online at Clutterbug.me

A Slob Comes Clean

Again, lots of podcasts, videos and “please buy my stuff” to wade through, but we love her decluttering and organizing tips. Find them online at ASlobComesClean.com.

Decorating on a budget with sofa slipcovers

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new sofa whenever you wanted? Good news: when the seasons change and the urge to update your living room accordingly strikes you, you can have that “new” sofa, or at least one that looks new, with sofa slipcovers.

Couch covers are a wonderful way to update your home’s decor. With the variety of fabrics, colors and styles offered by manufacturers you are sure to find a way to create sizzle in your home redecorating project.

Fabric slipcovers have become so affordable that it would be easy to change your decor with the seasons.

Tips for choosing sofa slipcovers

The folks at Calico Corners caution against choosing linen or linen blend slipcovers because the fabric is wrinkle-prone.

Instead, opt for couch covers in textured fabrics, such as denim, cotton duck and twill – any fabric that is tightly woven. For inspiration, check out some of the fabric choices at Ikea.com, BallardDesigns.com and MyBluPrint.com.

Of course, it’s easy to get excited about a certain fabric or pattern, but keep in mind how heavily the sofa is used.

If it’s used often, choose a slipcover that has stain resistance and is washable. If you have pets and kids, choose a fabric that won’t tear easily. Durable poly blends are ideal.

Avoid slipcovers with a latex backing. “Latex backing causes the fabric to buckle and wrinkle instead of sliding over the fabric beneath it,” according to the pros at Calico Corners.

Then, there is style to consider. Do you want a tight, tailored fit or something looser and more casual?

“A fitted slipcover provides a seamless look where it is nearly impossible to tell that the furniture has been covered,” according to the decorators at Overstock.com.

Measure your sofa accurately to get the proper fit. Huffpost offers a walk-through of how to do it.

If you’re more of a DIYer and handy with a sewing machine, head over to BigDuckCanvas.com for a yardage estimator

 Winter sofa covers

It’s winter and folks tend to spend a lot more time indoors. Our homes become somewhat of a haven from the harsh elements. Therefore, a winter home should provide warmth and an air of coziness.

When deciding the fabric for your slipcovers in your winter redecorating scheme look to the heavier more textured types of fabrics. Corduroy, brushed suede, soft chenille, are all fabrics that provide a feeling of warmth. 

Recover your sofa in spring

Spring is, of course, a time of renewal. If you decide to renew your sofa to match the season, choose from lighter, airier fabrics in floral prints or soft solid colors.

Think “Easter,” and you’ll be on the right track.

 Summertime color

Summertime sofa slipcovers tend to be a bit more casual and your choice of fabric a little broader. Since we spend so much time outdoors in the summer, your slipcovered furniture won’t be getting as much use, and abuse, as in other times of the year.

This affords you the opportunity to go with a lighter-weight fabric such as cotton and cotton blends and silk-like polyester.

Color choices are fun – turquoise, peach, sunny yellow and crisp white. 

Fall ideas

Fall marks the transition from summer into winter. It’s harvest season, offering you a ton of color and print choices. If you opt for a solid colored couch cover, you can get more creative with accessories, such as pillows.

If you imagine colors associated with all of the seasons you can probably come up with more connections to fall than any other season. Brown, auburn, gold, and orange are the predominant colors of the season. Prints can range from botanical to plaids.

Where to shop for sofa slipcovers

Some of your favorite brick-and-mortar stores carry couch covers, including WalMart, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Target, Macy’s, Pottery Barn and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Shopping online for sofa slipcovers is a snap with lots of retailers from which to choose. These include Overstock.com,  Wayfair.com, SureFit.com, Hayneedle.com and even Amazon.com (check out this gorgeous Micro Fiber slipcover).

With sofa slipcovers you truly can provide a whole new environment in your home each and every season.