Learn about 3 hidden household hazards

When you bought your home you most likely had a home inspector visit to find out what, if anything, is wrong with it.

The professional home inspection, however, only tells a potential homeowner what’s wrong with visible areas of the home and its systems. The inspector can’t, for instance, tell you what’s happening inside the HVAC system in the areas that aren’t visible.

Nor can she tell you what is lurking behind the walls or under the floorboards of the home.

This is why it’s so important to expect your home’s systems at least once a year.

Let’s take a look at three areas of the home to inspect closely to mitigate hidden household hazards.

1. Invisible, odorless and lethal

Radon, a radioactive gas, is a common indoor pollutant. It creeps into the home through cracks and holes in the foundation and walls and, once there, it becomes trapped and the levels continue to rise.

Exposure to radon gas, for long periods, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.

Testing the home for radon gas is easy and inexpensive, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“There are many kinds of low-cost “do it yourself” radon test kits you can get through the mail and in some hardware stores and other retail outlets,” the agency states in “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon,” its consumer information booklet (you can find it published online at EPA.gov).

The booklet is full of information about how to test for radon and what to do if levels are above a certain threshold.

2. The deadly arc-fault

If you’ve ever experienced an arc-fault in your home, you need no explanation about the hazard. If you haven’t, read on.

“An arc-fault is an unintended arc created by current flowing through an unplanned path,” according to the experts at the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

An arc is like a mini lightning bolt and its “temperatures … can exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” and may ignite anything surrounding it, such as wood framing or insulation.

Although it seems like a longshot that this might happen in your home, that assumption can be deadly.

“Electrical failures or malfunctions were the second leading cause of U.S. home fires in 2012-2016,” according to the National Fire Protection Association.

And, they don’t just occur in hidden areas of the home. A damaged cord or loose connection can cause an arc-fault as well.

The experts at NEMA suggested that protecting the circuit is the best way to reduce the chances of this type of electrical fire.

An arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is “… a product designed to detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults to help reduce the electrical system from being an ignition source of a fire,” they claim.

Find out why it is important to have an AFCI installed in your home by visiting AFCISafety.org.

3. Swimming pool drains and filters

The drain in your swimming pool uses suction to filter out debris such as dirt, oils from your body and other items.

This suction can be strong enough to trap a child underwater which can lead to drowning.

While on a family vacation, “A six-year-old British girl almost drowned when her hair was sucked into a swimming pool filter at a hotel in Lanzarote,” according to a reporter at BBC.com.

She was trapped for more than two minutes before being rescued. Thankfully, she lived.

While these cases are rare, “… long hair is considered a safety hazard when entering a pool or hot tub,” according to Amy Kapetta at YahooNews.com.

But, it’s not only long hair that can trap someone underwater. Dangling straps from bathing suits, jewelry and more can be sucked into filters and drains.

Tie back long hair before swimming (better yet, wear a swim cap). Teach your children to “…stay away from drains,” Elizabeth Klinefelter, Pool Safely Campaign Leader tells Kapetta.

“Another important safety tip is that while using a spa, always locate the emergency vacuum shutoff before getting in the water,” she continues. “This emergency vacuum shutoff stops the suction in the spa, freeing whoever or whatever is stuck in it.”

Finally, ensure your home pool drain has an antivortex cover.


Autumn in the garden

Summer 2020 brought record-breaking heat, leaving many home gardens in tatters.

In fact, “July 2020 has tied for second-hottest July on record for the globe,” according to scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“… the Northern Hemisphere saw its hottest July ever,” they concluded.

The results included crispy foliage, flowers that didn’t bloom when expected and vegetable gardens starved for shade.

Temperatures are thankfully falling as we head into autumn, a welcome change for gardeners and their plants. A new season and a new opportunity to grow, whether you’re a flower gardener or crave home-grown vegetables.

Let’s get rid of summer’s detritus and get that fall garden underway.

Prepare for planting

The first step to a successful autumn garden is to clean up the beds. Get rid of plants that sizzled over the summer and anything else that needs to come out to make room for new plants.

Don’t allow the roots to remain. Use a hand tiller to get at them and get them out of the ground.

  • Trim the dead and dying leaves and flowers from your perennials and add a layer of mulch over the root zone to protect them from winter’s cold.
  • Divide perennials that have become overgrown. Those that tolerate October division include Oriental and Asiatic lilies, daylilies, bearded iris, sedum and hosta. For a walkthrough on dividing hosta, visit Gardenologist.org.
  • Add a layer of compost (about 6 inches is fine) to the top of the soil and dig it into the top 12 inches of soil.
  • If you’ll be growing in containers, add some compost to those as well.

Get planting

October is a great month to plant new trees and shrubs. Keep them well-watered so they establish quickly. Stop watering when the ground freezes.

It’s also a good time to plant those cool season annuals, such as:

  • Chrysanthemum
  • Daisies
  • Echinacea
  • Pansies

Don’t forget to get your tulip, crocus and daffodil bulbs into the ground this month.

There are many vegetable plants that thrive in the fall weather, especially if you experience frost-free winters. Consider growing the following:

  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Onions

All of these can be planted from now until late October.

Keep an eye out for pests

Don’t let late-season pests take control of your vegetable garden. Prepare yourself to do battle with them and you’ll have a bountiful harvest. Here are some of the more common fall garden pests to look for:

Aphids—The bane of summer gardens, they’re almost as prolific in fall. Lady beetles can help manage their numbers, but your best recourse is to squirt them off the plants with a strong blast of water from the hose.

Cabbage loopers—Small green caterpillars, cabbage loopers have voracious appetites. Keep an eye on the undersides of foliage, especially on cabbage, broccoli, collard greens and cauliflower. When you find them, treat the plant with Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki). Learn more about cabbage loopers and how to control them at arbico-organics.com.

Cucumber beetles—Don’t let the name fool you; cucumber beetles enjoy lots of vegetables. These include:

  • Beet
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Pea

You’ll win the battle if you can get to the larvae before they hatch in the soil. A spinosad spray can be applied as a soil drench and should do the trick.

Slugs and snails—And we thought bunnies are prolific! Snails – all of them, male or female – “… lay hundreds of eggs at a time with a gestation period of only 2-3 weeks, according to the pros at Superior Pest Defense.

“They lay more than half of their eggs in the fall making them a prime garden pest,” they conclude.

They feast mainly at night or on rainy days. Unless you control them you may not have a crop at all. Use a product like BONIDE® Slug Magic or Monterey All Natural Snail & Slug Spray.

Happy fall gardening!






Is Halloween cancelled this year?

There are Halloween folks and then there are those among us who can take it or leave it. Oh, and a handful of downright scrooges who despise the holiday. Those are the people who don’t buy candy, don’t put pumpkins out and refuse to turn on the porch light.

The latter are the ones who so hope that the holiday is cancelled this year, because of the pandemic.

Guess what? Halloween 2020 is on

Yes, we need to be a bit more creative and a lot more cautious, but Halloween is alive and well, despite COVID-19.

How to celebrate Halloween safely

The Hershey Company and The Halloween and Costume Association have partnered to provide Halloween safety guidelines. Head over to Halloween2020.org. There you will find a map, color-coded by a county’s COVID risk level.

Once you know your county’s color, you are then invited to read a list of safe Halloween practices in your area.

Most counties in the U.S., by the way, are in the “yellow,” or moderate risk category.

Naturally, if you or a family member are in a high-risk category, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions or compromised immune systems, you should stay home and not risk your health.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released its suggestions for keeping safe during the fall holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and, yes, Halloween.

The safety guidelines presented by Hershey and the Halloween and Costume Association are based on the CDC’s guidelines.

Tips on celebrating according to your “risk zone”

In any of the zones, if you decide to throw caution to the wind and head out into the night to get your share of candy, look for the official Safehouse certificate on homes.

“These are the folks that will have a table or sanitized barrier to help you maintain a safe distance as you grab your goodies!

Watch for 6-foot markers in front of homes and in driveways, that’s a great sign that those folks are going the extra mile to help keep you healthy!”

Green Zone

Counties in green zones have the lowest incidence of COVID-19 infections and the recommendations for Halloween celebrations include Trunk-R-Treat.

“It’s not just for parking lots anymore! Neighborhood Trunk-R-Treats will be popping up everywhere this Halloween to help minimize the close quarters of pathways and porches.”

The same goes for the Garage Trick or Treat. “Check out the neighbors that are going all out and paving the way for garage give-outs. Driveways offer up more room to roam than a traditional walkway and can even sport more fun and frightful décor.”

Consider an outdoor (front yard or cul-de-sac) costume party. “…just don’t forget the strategically spaced seating, full moon music and bucketloads of candy!”

Yellow Zone

You’ll need to pay a bit more attention to safety measures if you’ll be trick-or-treating in a yellow zone.

We like the “reverse trick-or-treat” suggestion where the kids, in their costumes, stand in their front yards while the grown-folk neighbors do the walking from house-to-house, handing out the goodies.

Orange zone

The reverse trick-or-treat is also suggested for those in orange zones. Or, load your costumed kids into the car and drive to friends and family and exchange candy.

This one takes a bit of planning and coordinating with neighbors, but it sounds so fun. Create a trick-or-treat treasure map to where the goodies are hidden around your home or neighborhood.

Or, make it HallowEaster and skip the map. Hide the treats in orange and black plastic eggs (maybe even paint them with glow-in-the-dark paint) and let the kids loose to find them.

Naturally you’ll want to ensure that social distancing guidelines are in place.

Red zone

The experts suggest that “At-home celebrations are safest for red zones.”

  • Backyard movie night with your closest friends and family
  • Zoom party—This one can be organized via the NextDoor app. Put the idea out there and you’ll be surprised how many of your neighbors want to participate. Feature “games, scary stories and a costume contest. Goodie bags and candy buckets can be dropped off on doorsteps in advance or porch pickups can be arranged from one location.”
  • House scavenger hunt—Transform each room of the house into a theme room, then “… send the kids on a scavenger hunt for fun swag. Hide candy, toys and prizes or even make some gift certificates to stay up late, choose the movie or eat an extra piece of candy.”
  • Family movie or game night with a twist—at the conclusion, hang a piñata and let the kids go wild getting at the goodies inside.

Halloween 2020 will be different, and in more ways than we’ve mentioned. We’ll enjoy the second full moon of the month (known as a “blue moon”). and it also leads us into the end of daylight savings time

However you choose to celebrate, we hope you stay safe and healthy.


Working on the house? Talk to your insurance agent first

The folks at Pew Research released the results of a recent poll that shows “Half of adults who say they lost a job due to the coronavirus outbreak are still unemployed.”

How they are faring financially depends a great deal on how prepared they were to lose their paychecks.

Apparently, some are doing ok, according to another survey that finds slightly more than half of unemployed Americans are performing some sort of home improvement project. Many are going the DIY route, but handy men and women and painting and flooring contractors are quite busy as well.

If you’ve performed home improvements, or are considering doing so, you may want to speak with your homeowners insurance agent to learn if and how these projects will affect your policy.

Certain renovations will increase the home’s value significantly and, thus, the cost to rebuild it as well. Let’s take a look as some of these projects.

Swimming pool installation

Judging by the enormous spike in U.S. sales and installations of inground pools, you aren’t alone in your desire to add one to your backyard.

Although they’re pretty to look at, fun to swim in and one of the best ways to cool off on a hot summer day, they’re also considered a liability risk to insurers. Yes, it probably will raise your premium.

You can mitigate some of the risk by constructing a fence, with a locked gate, around the entire pool.

Speak with your insurance agent before the excavator arrives to get the skinny on what else you can do to keep the cost of your homeowners insurance from skyrocketing.

Need a new roof?

Adding a new roof to the home isn’t one of the more exciting home renovations, but when it has seen better days, adding a new one is a necessity.

The impact on your insurance premium depends on several factors, including the material you choose. Definitely run this plan by your insurance agent because you could qualify for a discount on your premium, depending on the roofing material you choose.

On the other hand, a new roof may increase your property value and you will need additional coverage.

Basement renovation

A finished basement is many a homeowner’s dream. It also adds to the usable square footage of the home thereby increasing the home’s market value and the cost of your insurance premium.

There is also the issue of flooding and most policies don’t cover flood damage.

“There are several reasons why a basement may experience water damage,” according to Guy Kopperud at InsuranceJournal.com.

He goes on to suggest that some of these instances are covered by homeowners insurance and others will require you to buy a certain type of flood coverage.

“Your standard policy flood damage coverage is most often based on whether the event was sudden and accidental, like an overflowing tub or product failure such a malfunctioning washing machine,” Kopperud says.

“Storms and other rising waters are generally not covered under a standard homeowners’ policy and require additional flood insurance.”

He goes on to recommend using one or more sump pumps and keeping them maintained to avoid flooding.

Most important of all is to pick up the phone and call your insurance agent while your home improvement project is still in the planning stages. Ask about discounts and how to get them and how to mitigate anything that will raise your premium.

The Best Ways to Get a Shine on a Laminate Floor

It’s difficult to believe when looking at it, but a laminate floor is actually just a photograph of wood.

This picture is generally attached to melamine and then particleboard and the whole strip is coated with aluminum oxide.

The floor looks like wood but the aluminum oxide coating makes it four times stronger than wood, according to the experts with Lamanator Plus.

While laminate flooring provides the attractiveness of hardwood floors with less maintenance, caring for it regularly helps to maintain its shine.

Protect the Laminate Floor

Use rubber-backed rugs at all doors leading into the room with laminate flooring to catch the dirt before it hits the floor and dulls it.

Place felt pads on the legs of furniture on the floor – especially dining room chairs that are repeatedly dragged over the floor – to prevent scratches.

Use a dry dust mop or vacuum cleaner when you clean, instead of a broom, which may leave tiny scratches that build up over time, dulling the laminate’s shine.

Keep it Clean

Routine dry-mopping or vacuuming keeps small particles of dirt from scratching the laminate floor. Although the scratches may be tiny, from a distance they make the floor appear dull.

Depending on how much and what kind of traffic the floor receives, such as crawling babies or pets, you may need to sweep or vacuum daily.

Running a damp mop over the floor also helps keep the dirt from collecting in the scratches and grooves.

Remove Built-Up Residue

If you use a cleaning product on the floor, such as oil soap, it may build up over time, leaving a residue on the laminate.

Some cleaning products also leave streaks, which dulls the shine.

Remove built-up residue with 1 cup of vinegar in a gallon of water. If the residue layer is particularly thick you may need to use straight vinegar on a cloth.

It’s time consuming to have to clean the floor on your hands and knees but once the residue is removed, the laminate will shine.

Additional Tips

Since excess water may streak the laminate floor, use a slightly damp mop when cleaning.

After mopping, go over the floor with a micro fiber or terry cloth towel to remove excess water and buff the finish. As the towel becomes damp, use another, dry towel.

Remove stains, such as candle wax or chewing gum, with a plastic scraper, or putty knife. Don’t dig deeply into the finish, but lightly scrape the material from the floor.

Then, use a rag dipped in nail polish remover to remove any residue left after scraping.

How Do Late Payments Impact My Credit Reports?

Since the middle of March, more than 57 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits. Even with those benefits, millions are falling behind on their debt payments.

Greg Iacurci at CNBC.com, citing a “new study,” claims that the late-July expiration of the additional $600 a week unemployment subsidy “… puts 6 million people at risk of not being able to pay their bills this month.”

For most of them, their credit reports aren’t top-of-mind right now. But if you are among the group, it’s important to at least consider how your unemployment is impacting your credit score.

First, evaluate where you stand

The credit bureaus often make errors in their reporting, so it’s a good idea to check your reports from “the big 3” to ensure there are no errors (such as late payments not dropping off after the time limit and others).

Americans are entitled to one free credit report from Experian, Trans Union and Equifax, every 12 months.

“However, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, all three nationwide credit bureaus … are offering free weekly online credit reports via annualcreditreport.com (the only source authorized by Federal law) through April 2021,” according to Beverly Anderson, president of Global Consumer Solutions at Equifax.

This is such an amazing offer that there is simply no reason to not be keeping an eye on your credit score.

About those late payments

Seven years from the date of the missed payment is the length of time a late payment will remain on your credit report. This applies even if you pay the bill in full, Anderson claims.

If the reason for the late payments involves a Covid-19-related job loss, you may want to consider adding a consumer statement to your credit reports.

Anderson suggests that you keep the statement to 100 words or less and “… clarify why you were late making your payment.”

She includes a sample of what to say in a statement:

“Be advised that the negative accounts on my credit report are related to a temporary reduction in income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I intend to make these up as soon as I can.”

Of course, the statement won’t hide any negative information, but lenders can view it and learn of the mitigating circumstances. All three bureaus accept these statements in their dispute departments.

To add a statement to your Equifax credit report, visit my.equifax.com.

The folks at Trans Union offer options as well. On their site, “… you can easily choose from pre-worded options like, ‘I am unable to make timely payments due to the impact on my job/wages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,’ or you can write your own.” The “Disputes” section of their website is where to get started. Visit transunion.com/disputes.

Experian also directs those who wish to file a personal statement to their dispute area, which you will find at Experian.com.

When things get better for you

Sometime down the line your situation will change. It’s important not to forget those statements you sent to the credit bureaus.

Remember, the negative entries have a life of seven years. Once that time limit occurs, the information will drop from your reports and you should then remove your statement as well.


“Once the negative information is removed, the statement may unnecessarily notify lenders that you had a payment issue in the past,” warns Jennifer White, consumer education specialist with Experian.

In the meantime, prioritize your bill payments

The top priorities, after paying your living expenses include those related to your ability to get to work. If you need your car to get to work, car payments and auto insurance come right after basic living expenses.

Next, because failure to pay may lead to a driver’s license suspension or arrest, take care of child support and alimony payments. If you are on good terms with your former spouse, the pros at Equifax suggest speaking with him or her about your situation. Try to come to an agreement on when you can make up the missed payments.

Or, contact the Division of Child Support services. “In some cases, you might be able to change your monthly payments to something more affordable,” according to Experian.

If anything is left after paying these bills, pay the following three before anything else:

  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Tax debt

Chin up! There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Easy tips to secure your home in one weekend

When moving into a new home, securing it is typically on the “to-do” list. After you’ve lived in a home for a length of time, however, security becomes an after-thought, which puts yourself and your family in danger.

FBI data claims that “In 2018, there were an estimated 1,230,149 burglaries.” Nearly 60% of these were classified as “forceable entry” burglaries.

We don’t want you to be among the victims, so let’s get started on at least the basics of securing your home against intruders.

Start with the doors

It’s easy to overlook the unsecured window or other access points when you go about daily life. So, take a tour of the entire home, with an eye toward security.

Examine all doors that lead to the exterior of the home first. They should have deadbolt locks, yes. But, if the home is old, the door may be feeble and easy to knock in. You may need to replace the door with something sturdier.

Security experts recommend metal or solid wood doors. They also suggest that you place the hinges on the interior of the home. Finally, don’t forget the deadbolt lock with a minimum 1-inch bolt length.

You might also consider adding an additional lock. “You should have a minimum of two locks at main entryways,” cautions Manasa Reddigari at BobVila.com.

Many Americans have sliding glass doors to the backyard and these, experts claim, are the ones burglars like the best. Why?

“Sliding glass doors use latches, not locks,” according to Bobby McAfee with Crime Prevention Security Systems. “Even inexperienced burglars can quickly overcome most factory-installed latches,” he continues. Or they might simply lift the door off its track and out of the way, which usually doesn’t even require tools.”

There are a number of options a homeowner can use to secure these doors:

  • Install a security pin (sold on Amazon.com and at large home improvement stores)
  • Install shatterproof film – while it won’t keep a window from breaking, it will slow the process
  • Install a home security system with glass-break sensors

While you’re assessing the doors to the exterior of the home, take a look at what’s outside the doors. Is the area well-lit? Are there shrubs or trees that can hide a burglar who is trying to break into your home?

Clear away any overgrowth and use a porch light with a strong bulb.

Secure the home’s windows

Go through the home again, this time paying close attention to windows, especially those that are accessible at ground level.

Check the locks on each window first to ensure they’re engaged and, second that they are actually securing the window.

For extra security for ground-floor windows, consider installing inexpensive window alarms. You’ll find them for sale online at Amazon.com, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

We hope you’ll take the time to tour your home to determine how to beef up security.





How to Cover a Hole Left By Removing Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is a popular lighting method in new residential construction. Lying flush to the ceiling, it provides a sleek modern accent to kitchens and baths.

Although attractive, recessed lightings are not energy efficient. They require higher wattage bulbs and, if not sealed properly, the hole allows cold air to enter the house.

For this reason, many homeowners are choosing to remove recessed lights. Once the canister is removed from the ceiling, though, you have a gaping hole to contend with.

Commercial blanks are available, in various sizes, that use a spring to hold the blank flush with the ceiling, or you can make your own patch.

Here’s what you’ll need for the project:

  • Pencil
  • Drywall saw
  • Utility knife
  • Rag
  • 1 x 4 pine
  • Saw
  • Construction adhesive
  • C-clamps
  • Measuring tape
  • Drywall
  • 1 ¼ inch drywall screws
  • Mesh drywall tape
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Drywall knife
  • Medium or coarse sandpaper

Use a pencil to draw a square around the hole, centering it on an adjacent stud.2.

Follow the penciled outline with the drywall saw, cutting off all sides of the square, except the one on the stud.

Use a utility knife to cut that side.Use a moist rag to dust off the edges of the hole to remove drywall dust and flakes.

Measure the height of the square hole and use the saw to cut the 1×4 6 inches longer than the square’s height.

Apply the construction adhesive to the top and bottom of the board in a 4-inch wide band, insert the board into the hole and press it to the inside wall, on the side adjacent to the stud.

Apply C-clamps to the top and bottom of the board to hold it in place against the wall. Allow the adhesive to dry completely and remove the clamps.

Measure the square and cut a piece of drywall to fit. Use the screws to fasten the drywall piece over the hole, screwing two into the stud, at the top and bottom of the square and two into the 1×4, at the top and bottom.

Cut the mesh tape into strips that are 2 inches longer than the square’s height and apply them to the wall, overlapping one another.

Apply the drywall compound with the drywall knife by spreading it over the mesh. Don’t apply too much – you should just barely see the mesh beneath the layer of compound. Feather the edges to the wall. Allow the compound to dry overnight.

Sand the area thoroughly to smooth it and remove rough edges.

Apply a second coat of drywall compound, spreading it an additional 4 inches on all sides, beyond the first application. Feather the edges so that they blend in with the surrounding wall.

Allow the compound to dry thoroughly and apply another coat. When this coat dries, sand again.

Tips for National Preparedness Month

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Each September, National Preparedness Month encourages and reminds Americans to be prepared for disasters or emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities.”

Nothing could have prepared us for the COVID19 pandemic. Basic disaster preparedness, however, would’ve kept Americans out of the lines at the grocery store, facing bare shelves.

While California burns and two tropical storms threaten the Gulf Coast, it’s a good time to remind homeowners that preparation is the key to meeting your most critical needs during an emergency.

Make a plan

Preparing your home and family for emergencies requires planning. The first step is to make a list of what you’ll need, such as food, medical supplies and lots of water.

You’ll find an extensive list of emergency supplies at Ready.gov. Some of the most important, aside from the aforementioned, include:

  • Batteries
  • Books, puzzles, games for the kids
  • Cash
  • Cell phone chargers and a back-up battery
  • Change of clothing (including shoes) for the entire family
  • Contact lens solution and an extra set of prescription glasses
  • Feminine supplies
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlights
  • Important documents such as copies of insurance policies, birth certificates, bank account numbers
  • Infant formula, bottles and other supplies
  • Manual can opener
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Moist toilettes
  • Non-prescription medications
  • Paper and pencil
  • Paper plates and cups and plastic utensils
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

If money is tight right now, as it is for many Americans, take the accumulation of supplies at a slower pace. Purchase an extra can of food when grocery shopping, or stock up on water first.

Store your supplies

You’ll want to keep your kit in a cool, dry place that is easily accessible in an emergency. Ensure that every member of the family can access it safely.

Many preppers suggest keeping the emergency supplies in backpacks in case you need to leave the home quickly. Even a child can carry some supplies in a lightweight backpack.

You aren’t finished yet

To be fully prepared, you’ll need a smaller version of the home kit for your car and one for your office.

For the latter, pare it down to at least 24 hours’ worth of food and water, but also include any medications you use daily, walking shoes or boots and a jacket.

Your car kit can, and should, contain much of what you are storing at home, plus the addition of the following:

  • Blankets
  • Car cell phone charger
  • Cat litter or sand (for better tire traction)
  • Extra change of clothing, including sturdy walking shoes
  • Flares
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Map

Learn more about how to prepare the car for emergencies at Ready.gov.

On a final note, keep those important documents in a secure container where they will remain dry. Consider investing in a metal lock box, such as this one sold at Amazon.com

You must contact your homeowners’ insurance company immediately after the disaster to be eligible for FEMA assistance, so keep that policy safe.

Hate your home? Check out 5 inexpensive ways to cure that

Who knew that it would take a pandemic and being forced to remain in your home all of the time to turn it from something you love to something you despise?

It’s interesting how we learn to live with a home’s flaws, be it decorating that needs updating to that way-too-small kitchen. But living with these flaws 24/7, especially with children underfoot, while trying to remain productive, isn’t easy.

If you’re still reeling from the remnants of cabin fever and you don’t plan on selling the home for something comfier, how about giving it a bit of sprucing up? You’d be surprised at how easy and inexpensive it is to make your home easier to live in.

Get rid of the stale and boring

Too often we learn to live with something, never considering how it makes us feel. This includes home décor items.

Go through the home with the aim of looking at every piece of art, all the throw rugs and curtains, every hanging mirror, every accessory on shelves and tabletop – every object of décor in the home, top to bottom.

Those items that no longer appeal to you, or that you find stale and boring, need to go. Sell them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp or even Ebay. Or, have a garage sale. Use the money you make to buy items that better appeal to you.

Stock up on live plants

What goes around comes around and that couldn’t be truer in 2020. In the 1970s, houseplants were all the rage. Americans created urban jungles in the apartments and homes with hanging plants, tall trees and even food crops.

It’s back. Today, it’s primarily millennials catching the houseplant fever, but others are enjoying the trend as well.

Indoor plants can add color and interest in the home and they don’t necessarily require a lot of care. From the Chinese evergreen to the peace lily and ponytail palm, there are a variety of low-maintenance houseplants from which to choose (you’ll find a list of 10 of them here).

If you have children and/or pets, you’ll want to ensure the plants you choose aren’t toxic. The ASPCA online offers a database of thousands of plants and rates their toxicity when it comes to pets. Type the name of the plant into the box labeled “Enhanced by Google” to learn all about pet-safe plants.

For information on which plants to avoid if you have children, visit Poison.org or check out the list at BHG.com.

By the way, plants don’t clean the air in homes. Surprised? Learn how the NASA study was misunderstood and manipulated when presented to the public and how the media and the landscaping industry’s claims have been debunked.

Spend a lot of time in the kitchen?

It’s easy and inexpensive to help your kitchen get over the blahs. Start with the cabinets and install new hardware.

Be aware, however, that the array of choices is dizzying. Take a look at decorating websites for kitchens that appeal to you. Do you like knobs or handles, contemporary or country or antique? Which finishes appeal to you?

Then head to the hardware store or shop online at HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, Wayfair.com, Signature Hardware or Amazon.com.

Light it up

We get it – some people feel perfectly comfortable in the dark. But when it comes to the interior of a home, a dark atmosphere is dreary. It’s also unhealthy.

A National Institutes of Health study found that “… inadequate light in housing is independently associated with depression and falls,” in those older than 18 years of age.

In fact, those participants who claimed to have inadequate light in their homes were nearly 1.5 times more likely to be depressed than those with adequate lighting. The rate for falls was 2 times that of folks with good lighting in the home.

If you lack lots of windows through which natural light can stream, consider either brighter bulbs in the lighting you do have or adding additional lighting.

Start with the room you feel the least comfortable in and change the ceiling fixture. Or, purchase some table lamps. We’re betting that these small fixes will change the entire atmosphere in that room you previously couldn’t stand.

New paint can make you fall in love with your home all over again

Paint is the wonder drug for what ails a house. Not only does it change the appearance of a room, but it makes it feel fresh and new.

Consider wallpaper if paint isn’t your thing. If you haven’t purchased paint before, be aware that the color choices now are just about endless.

Other easy ways to make your home more fun to be in include rearranging the furniture, recovering the sofa or using slip covers. Buy new window coverings or flooring.

You don’t have to live in a home that no longer appeals to you. We’d be happy to help you sell it and find one that makes you happy. Or, do an inexpensive makeover, one weekend at a time.