A little design magic can make even the tiniest bathroom feel spacious.
Small bathrooms aren’t the easiest spaces to work with. They’re usually cramped and crowded, with limited natural light and awkward layouts.
Whether it’s your powder room or your apartment bathroom that’s cramping your style, here are a few tips for making any small bathroom seem bigger — no wall demolition required.
1. Brighten the room
Bring in as much light as possible. Light, bright rooms always feel more spacious than dark and drab ones.
2. Add mirrors
Install larger — and more — mirrors than you typically would in a bathroom. The reflected light will open your small space into one that feels more spacious.
3. Streamline storage
Keep all storage as flush with the walls as possible, because anything that sticks out will chop up the space and close it in. Install recessed shelving and medicine cabinets instead.
4. Eliminate clutter
Nothing crowds a space faster than clutter. A good rule of thumb: If you don’t need it there, store it elsewhere. Pare what you keep in the bathroom down to the bare necessities.
5. Raise the bar
Raise your shower curtain bar all the way to the ceiling — it’ll draw your eyes up and make the ceiling seem taller, creating the illusion of a larger space.
The same goes for any window treatments. Raising sheer curtain panels to the ceiling also creates the illusion of a larger window, making the small bathroom seem larger.
6. Hide the bathmat
Having a bathmat on the floor all the time can make your bathroom feel smaller. Put your bathmats away when you’re not using them to expose the flooring and make the space appear larger.
7. Install a sliding door
Swinging doors can take up almost half the room, depending on how small the space is. A sliding barn door or a pocket door won’t encroach on your bathroom’s already limited real estate.
8. Think pedestal sink
The added bulk of a full vanity takes up valuable space, so try a pedestal sink instead. You may not have a place for soaps or towels on the vanity, but there are plenty of wall-mounted solutions perfect for bathroom accessories.
9. Choose light-colored flooring
Even if your walls and ceiling are light and bright, a dark floor will negate their effect and close the space in. Keep the flooring light to create a space with a bright and open flow.
10. Go frameless, clear and cohesive in the shower
Clear glass shower doors make the room appear larger, while frosted glass breaks up the space and makes it seem smaller. The same goes for a frame around the glass. A frame can make the area seem choppy rather than smooth and open.
Additionally, install the same shower tile from floor to ceiling. The seamless look from top to bottom adds cohesion and openness.
Just a few changes to your small bathroom can make dramatic differences in how open it feels. Once you’ve tried these tips and tricks in the bathroom, apply them throughout your home! It’s all about creating the illusion of space.
On Point Homevestments
Your parents' rite of passage may not make sense for you
When the Baby Boomer generation was venturing into adulthood, it was common to buy a “starter home” — a modest, small dwelling. As their families grew and careers advanced, they moved into bigger or better homes.
Now, many people struggle to come up with the down payment for a first home. They may wonder if it’s smarter to wait and save more money so they can buy a home that makes more long-term sense, or go the other route, buying a starter home and planning to stay in it for more years.
It’s a personal, practical and financial decision, but here are some pros and cons of buying a starter home.
Pro: Build stability quicker
Lots of lessons come from homeownership. It exposes you to a new set of decisions and circumstances.
One surprise benefit that strikes most people is the stability they feel when they become homeowners. They might feel more grounded, and a part of a larger community.
After making a few cosmetic changes to make a home “theirs,” many new homeowners find they enjoy nesting at home, having friends over, and enjoying their own space.
Con: Buying twice means moving twice
Think you’ll be ready to upgrade in just a few years? It might be more cost-effective to save and stretch for the larger house, so you can stay in it longer.
Although mortgage rates are low, there are costs associated with buying and selling a home: title insurance, inspections, brokerage commission, along with a handful of loan fees.
Plus packing up and moving twice can be expensive and exhausting. Some prefer to pick one house for the long haul. While staying put and continuing to rent may seem wasteful in the short term, it might be a more strategic move.
Pro: Build equity sooner
Although not the guarantee it was a generation ago, odds are good that when you get into your first home, you can realize some equity. If you can commit to at least five to seven years, there’s a chance you can come out well ahead.
By making improvements that add value, you can take the equity you’ve built and apply it as a down payment on the next home. In essence, the starter home might help you purchase your dream home.
Con: You may spend more than you planned
There are soft costs to home ownership. Property taxes and mortgage payments aren’t the only expenses to owning. You’ll need to furnish your new home, purchase window coverings, and pay for landscaping improvements.
You’ll likely want to paint, refinish the floors, or change the carpet before moving in. And, you’ll surely make mistakes along the way by hiring the wrong contractor, making a poor landscaping decision, or mistakenly waiting to install the new AC condenser.
Some parts of homeownership are trial and error. It adds up. You might be better off avoiding those expenses by renting and saving for your long-term home.
Pro: Start realizing the tax benefits
When you own a home, the interest portion of your monthly mortgage payment can be written off, dollar for dollar against your income. If you spend $1,000 per month on mortgage interest, at the end of the year, you can deduct $12,000 off your taxes.
When you pay rent, the money goes to your landlord, and that’s it. The sooner you own, in theory, the faster you can save some money — perhaps toward your next home.
Con: Homeownership isn’t a sure thing
The world moves at a faster pace today, and that affects home values. Just a generation ago, people stayed closer to home, got married earlier, stayed married forever, and kept the same job through retirement.
Today, people choose to stay single longer, and may even purchase their starter home solo. Divorce rates are higher, the global economy moves people all over the world for work, and we prefer to stay more mobile.
That means homeownership may not be part of the equation. What happens if you buy your starter home and then get a job transfer, divorce, or the opportunity of a lifetime to live abroad? You might be stuck being an accidental landlord or selling your home at a loss.
It’s up to you
If you play your cards right, you can get into the starter home sooner rather than later and make a smart financial decision. If you buy the right first house, are open to building sweat equity, and plan to hang out there for five to seven years, there’s a good chance that you’ll have made a smart move.
This decision will enable you to get into a larger home, in a better neighborhood or school district, or maybe just your dream home.
Homeownership is a personal choice, and there is no one path to take. Stick within your comfort zone, and always go with your gut
On Point Homevestments
No matter your budget, there's always an upgrade or two that'll up the resale ante.
Whether your home improvements are for you or potential buyers, consider their impact on your home’s potential resale price before picking up your toolbox (or the phone to call a contractor).
A brand-new kitchen or bathroom will undoubtedly wow potential buyers, but there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup the money you put into those pricey remodels.
To help you navigate the choices that lead to the best return on investment, we asked two industry experts (and one enthusiastic DIYer) to weigh in.
“Renovating the kitchen is always the biggest way to add value to your home,” says Grace Fancher, real estate agent at Kansas City firm Sarah Snodgrass. “People love to cook, and everyone tends to gather in the kitchen. If you add seating, such as an island with barstools, buyers go crazy for that.”
A full remodel is a major investment, but smaller projects make a big difference if you can’t — or don’t want to — go all out. “Nicer appliances really stick out to potential buyers — even if you’re planning to take them with you,” Fancher says.
She also suggests replacing tired finishes with fresh, neutral materials. “You don’t want to be too trendy, but you want it to look up-to-date,” she says. “Everyone loves clean, white subway tiles now, but they’re really a timeless look.”
Replacing dated countertops (quartz is your best bet, according to Fancher) and flooring is also worth the time and money.
The smallest rooms in the house can have a big impact on its value, so Fancher suggests adding a second bathroom or upgrading existing ones so your home features at least two full baths.
Joe Monda, co-owner of Seattle-based general contracting firm Promondo, agrees. “People are spending more on upgrading their houses before listing them,” he says. “They really want to maximize the potential house value.”
But if you’re remodeling a bathroom just to put your house on the market, keep it simple. “Most people don’t want to pay for upgrades, so you want it to be a neutral space that doesn’t look straight out of the big DIY warehouse stores — even if it is,” says Fancher.
She adds that an easy solution is spending a little more on details, like high-quality towel bars and upgraded hardware for those big-box store vanities.
Not in a position to remodel? “Re-grouting tile, or even just using one of those grout paint pens, gives any bathroom a fresher look,” says Sharyn Young, a self-proclaimed DIY addict from Minneapolis.
“The brighter a room feels, the bigger it looks,” says Fancher. “And when you’re selling, you want every space to look as big as possible.”
She recommends replacing flush-mount ceiling lights with recessed and/or pendant lighting — a relatively cheap upgrade that looks modern and makes a huge impact.
“LED lighting has changed everything,” says Young. “There are so many readily available, inexpensive options now that are easy to install. I added Ikea under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen of my last house, and I was amazed at how that one simple upgrade made the space feel larger and cleaner.”
Like lighting, a new coat of paint can also make a space feel cleaner and brighter. Stick to neutral shades, such as light gray and beige, and if you don’t have time or budget to do the whole house, start with the living areas you see when you first walk in.
An even quicker fix is refreshing just the trim. “Beat-up, dirty trim can give buyers a subtle impression that the whole house is dingy,” Fancher says. “Repainting gives a sharper look and shows the buyer that you’ve taken care of the house.”
“A lot of people overlook how important landscaping is, especially when you’re selling in the spring or summer,” says Fancher, adding that you can increase curb appeal by just putting down new, dark-colored mulch, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on planting.
Monda suggests paying special attention to the entry. Repair or replace any damaged stepping stones, concrete paths, and porch plants, then give the front door a fresh coat of paint and add some potted plants. “You want people to be excited to walk in the door,” he says.
On Point Homevestments
Do your homework to get the best deal on a brand-new home.
If you’re in the market for a brand-new home, you’ve got a ton of options. Sales of new homes surged to an eight-year high in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau, and single-family production is estimated to reach 840,000 units in 2016, an 18 percent increase over 2015, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
Unfortunately for home buyers, new residential construction is coming at a steeper price: Last year the average price of a new home jumped to $351,000, up $100,000 from 2009, reports the NAHB.
Nonetheless, there are still ways you can save when buying a new home. It’s like shopping for a new car: You need the right strategy to nab the best deal.
Ask prospective builders these six questions in order to find the right home at the right price.
“What financial incentives do you offer for using your preferred lender and title company?”
The bad news: Production builders are often reluctant to set a precedent for negotiating sales prices. (Custom builders tend to be more flexible.)
“If a new home is listed for $370,000 and it sells for $360,000, the next buyer in the development is going to want to pay that lower amount,” says Craig Reger, a real estate broker at Keller Williams Realty in Portland, OR. However, many offer handsome incentives to buyers who use their preferred lender and title company.
Some may even knock off up to $10,000 in closing costs, says Peggy Yee, a supervising broker at Frankly Real Estate in Vienna, VA. Others will sweeten the deal by negotiating prices on finishes, such as upgrading carpet to hardwood floors.
You should still shop around and get quotes from at least two other lenders before making your decision. But don’t just pay attention to the interest rates. “You need to compare each loan estimate’s terms to make sure you’re getting an apples-to-apples comparison,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.
“Which are the standard finishes?”
When you tour a development’s model home, keep in mind that you’re previewing a high-end version of the standard home. “The model has all the bells and whistles,” says Dossman. Therefore, you need to find out from the builder which options are standard, which options are upgrades, and what each upgrade costs.
One way to cut costs: Move into the home without an upgrade, then hire a contractor to do the work. “Builders charge a huge markup on certain finishes and products,” says Reger. “The builder might charge $4,000 to $6,000 for a high-performance air conditioner, but you may be able to get another company to install that same unit for as low as $2,500.”
Granted, opting for the latter means you’ll probably need to pay the contractor in cash. “For some people, the benefit of paying the builder to do upgrades is that they can roll the costs into their loan amount,” Reger points out.
“What are your long-term plans for the community?”
Depending on the size of the land, the builder might be planning several subdivisions. This could impact your decision to buy.
For example, let’s assume that only a few homes have been built and sold. If the developer plans to construct an additional 50 homes and you’re one of the first people to move into the neighborhood, you may have to deal with loud construction crews for several months.
There’s also the risk that the builder loses funding and another company takes over the development. Dossman advises proceeding with caution: “If the builder changes and a lower-quality builder takes over, that could affect the value of your home.”
“What are the homeowners association rules and regulations?”
Each homeowners association (HOA) has its own Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. Get these from the builder and review them carefully.
“I’ve seen HOAs that don’t allow storage sheds in the backyard, solar panels, or private fences,” says Reger.
In most cases, the HOA can assess a homeowner penalties for infractions, and some associations are more restrictive than others.
Also, look into when you’re required to start paying HOA dues. Many builders cover the costs until at least 50 percent of the homes in the development are sold, says Yee.
“What warranties do you provide?”
Most builders offer a one-year workmanship warranty and a 10-year structural warranty, says Reger. Make sure the warranties you receive explicitly state what is and isn’t covered, and what the limitations are for damages.
You should also receive manufacturer’s warranties on the washer and dryer, hot water heater, air conditioner, kitchen appliances, and roof.
“Can you connect me with some of your past clients?”
Always check references when vetting home builders, says Dossman. Ask past clients questions such as, “How responsive was the developer when you expressed concerns?” and “Would you use the builder again?”
Caveat: Most builders will only provide glowing references, so you should still scout out some past customers on your own. You can find these people through reviews on Angie’s List, or knock on doors of homes in the neighborhood that have already been built.
Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.
On Point Homevestments
Rule #1 of the best week off at home: Plan ahead.
You don’t need to stay in a hotel and play tourist to have a proper staycation. Look no further than your own home for a staycay dreams are made of.
Make no mistake, an at-home staycation doesn’t just mean a lazy weekend on the couch. Turn your humble abode into a resort made for relaxation with a few days of planning and prep work.
Here’s your guide to creating the ultimate staycation.
Tackle chores in advance
Sure, a hotel stay comes with amenities like maid and room service, but you can have a work-free staycay with a bit of planning.
Make a list of chores you want to tackle a few days before your staycation begins. At the very least, cover the basics, like washing linens, dusting, and vacuuming.
For an added level of sparkle, schedule some time to clean your windows. That way when you’re staring out to your backyard garden or pool (aka your staycay resort spa), your windows will be as spic-and-span as those at a five-star bed and breakfast.
Don’t ruin your staycay by thinking about household tasks you should be doing. Better yet, for a totally chore-free staycay, consider setting aside extra cash for a housecleaning service to do the work for you beforehand.
Maximize your comfort
Maybe your home is already perfectly comfy and cozy. But for maximum staycation relaxation, why not add a few extra comfort elements to make your home feel like a luxury B&B?
Create designated spaces
Think about what kind of environment will best help you reach peak relaxation. You can do a quick makeover of your bathroom to create a calming home spa, or carve out a quiet corner for a meditation or reading nook. Just think Zen.
If a spa setting is more your style, look at bath pillows, aromatherapy candles, and bath oils. Or if you simply crave a reading corner, pick up some new reads that have been sitting on your wishlist for too long.
Don’t forget the kiddos: Create a designated craft or board game corner, or come up with a few activities they can enjoy during your staycay.
Look outside for added comfort ideas, too. Whether you add a hammock, porch swing, or patio furniture, look for ways to blend your staycay lounging with the great outdoors.
If your family members are big fans of the outdoors, set up your camping gear in the backyard for part of your staycay, or try out a DIY firepit and enjoy fireside chats and s’mores.
Manage meals ahead of time
Just like with tidying up your home and amplifying relaxation spaces, you’ll want to plan your meals ahead of time for a quality staycation.
Don’t waste precious relaxation time during your actual week off figuring out menus. Pick your favorite family recipes, plan which meals you’ll have delivered from favorite eateries, and knock out grocery shopping before your staycay begins. Bonus tip: When you do go on that grocery store run, pick up a few special snacks and treats for everyone.
If you enjoy cooking, consider using some of your staycation time to make more intricate meals than you typically have time for — or bring in a local chef for a family cooking lesson.
Plan ahead to make it count
With a few well-planned tasks on your pre-staycation to-do list, you can turn your house into a staycay sanctuary. Map out what you want your staycation to be like and delegate tasks. Soon you’ll be ready for a few days of ultimate relaxation — without ever having to leave your home.
On Point Homevestments
What if your dream home just happens to have ancient wiring and a cracked foundation?
So you’ve set your sights on a home that, to put it mildly, needs a little repair work. The stairs are creaky, and you’ve noticed a leak (or three).
Still, your mind is made up. What’s a love-struck home buyer to do?
If your heart is set on a fixer-upper, this advice from real estate experts can help you make that “needs-work” house a home.
Check the zoning
“Any municipality has zoning districts, and you need to know what uses are permitted,” says George Vanderploeg, a luxury real estate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York. Knowing the zone is important because it will tell you what you can and cannot do to the home.
For instance, when interiors photographer Josh Gibson decided to renovate his 19th-century cottage in Beaufort, SC, he had to contend with the historic district landmarks commission, which required hours of research and visits downtown. Among the many requirements he had to adhere to were installing single-pane windows and maintaining the home’s unique brick-pier structure.
To research your prospective home’s zoning requirements, you can visit its municipality’s website, or arrange to meet with a staff member, who can walk you through the legalities.
Bring in a home inspector
Once you’ve made a verbal agreement to buy the house and are waiting for the contract to be drawn up, you’ll want to hire a home inspector.
A home inspector will look for structural issues and advise you on things that may or may not need to be replaced, such as plumbing, electricity, and roofing.
Your broker can refer you to an inspector, but it’s important that this person not be biased, as you’ll need an objective opinion. With this in mind, Vanderploeg advises finding someone who will work for you — not for the broker or seller.
Be sure to set aside about an hour or two to walk through the building with the inspector and ask questions. “This allows the buyer to get to know the house really well before they buy it,” Vanderploeg says.
Home buyers tend to ask questions about asbestos and termites, but Hal Einhorn, the principal inspection consultant for Old House Inspection in New York, says it’s equally important to ask about the “general age of certain systems,” as those will indicate when they’re nearing replacement. A 26-year-old boiler, for instance, is likely to go kaput soon, whereas a newly-installed air conditioning unit probably won’t be a problem for the next 20 years.
Depending on the home’s location, you may also want to ask about issues specific to its region, Einhorn says. In New York City, for instance, where the water mains tend to be dated, you’ll want to clarify that the one in your coveted home isn’t made out of lead.
And with today’s families using more electricity than ever, you’ll need to find out if the amount of power coming to the house is suitable, or needs an upgrade. Doing a little research online can be helpful.
Another important topic to bring up is any work you’re preparing to do, like upgrading the bathroom or turning a one-bedroom home into a two-bedroom, Einhorn says.
Find out the agency requirements, and if the home is in a landmarked district, make sure you know the ramifications. Will your project require filing documents, and if so, what is the process?
Hire an architect and/or contractor
Hiring an architect is important because you’ll want their take on what you can do from a design perspective, says Vanderploeg.
The architect will also be able to point out the home’s load-bearing walls, which will determine whether they can be moved around or not, says Scott Oyler, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Cincinnati.
When hiring a contractor, be sure to do your homework so you find someone you can trust. “I’ve heard of horror stories where contractors left in the middle of the job and never came back,” Oyler says — so make sure your crew has good references.
Also be sure to recruit more than one, he adds, as you can never have too many opinions.
Research tax incentives
Depending on where you live, you may eligible for a tax abatement, a tax credit for homeowners who improve their property’s value, Oyler says.
Philadelphia offers one; Cincinnati does, too. Check to see what’s available in your area.
If you decide to buy and improve a fixer-upper, have patience. Once the sawdust clears, you may just find the home of your dreams.
On Point Homevestments
Save some room in your budget for expenses after move-in
By the time you get the keys to your new construction home, you might feel stretched thin in the finance department. From earnest money and design center upgrades, to closing costs and moving expenses, buying a brand-new home is never cheap.
As you take a look at the costs on the horizon, it’s wise to look a little past your closing date. There are a few post-closing costs that are unique to brand-new homes and some that are familiar to all new homeowners.
Set aside a little money for these expenses now, and it’ll be smooth sailing once the “sold” sign is out front.
Unless you’ve negotiated a washer and dryer into the price of the home with your builder, your new laundry room will likely be a big empty space when you move in — no washer and dryer to be found.
Many builders don’t include a refrigerator either, opting instead to let homeowners choose a style that suits their needs.
Here’s a tip to ease your wallet woes: Start shopping appliance sales once you know your approximate close date. Many appliance stores will let you purchase ahead of time to take advantage of a good price, then delay your delivery until you move in.
If you’re upgrading to a larger home, your utilities will likely increase, especially heating and cooling. And if you’re moving to a new city or a location with a different utility company, you may have to pay a deposit to start service.
If you’re interested in services like cable, satellite TV, or Internet, you may have to install some equipment that would already be installed if you were buying a pre-owned home.
Look at all those big, beautiful windows in your new home! And then notice that they’re bare — no blinds or curtains in sight.
Most new homes do not come with window coverings, and they’re definitely something you’ll want to quickly look into when you move in. There are better ways to introduce yourselves to the neighborhood than through wide-open windows — or bed sheets pinned up for privacy.
There’s nothing more exciting than picking up some great new furnishings and decor for a brand-new space. You may have pieces that worked well in your old space but don’t fit your new home’s layout.
Or maybe you have a new guestroom to furnish, a deck that is begging for patio furniture, or beautiful hardwood floors that need area rugs. Set aside some money now so you can start decorating right after move-in day.
Did you know that some builders only landscape the front yard, leaving the backyard unfinished and unfenced? And, if your new neighborhood has a homeowner’s association, the rules may require you to finish your yard within a certain time period.
That means you foot the bill for landscaping your new home’s yard, and whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, it’s still an expense you shouldn’t overlook.
Setting foot in your brand-new, just-finished home is an exhilarating experience, and something you won’t soon forget. With just a little planning and saving in advance, you can spend more time making your new house a home, and less time stressing over how you’re going to pay for it all.
On Point Homevestments
Transform your standard-issue rental kitchen with these tips.
Is there some kind of law that requires rental apartments to supply no more than a single square of kitchen counter space to each unit?
Between the white walls, scarce and often outdated cabinets, and a lack of amenities, it’s rare to find a solid kitchen in the world of yearlong leases.
But no good makeover starts with a beautiful subject, right?
All you need to transform that bleak little kitchen into a well-designed, functional space is a bit of imagination, some basic home maintenance skills, and a few solid pieces.
Here’s where to begin.
Before moving into your new space, make sure to get rid of all those things you don’t need anymore.
Have you actually used that discounted bundt pan in the past year or two? If not, donate to your favorite local charity shop. Someone else might get use out of it, and you’ll be saving yourself from more clutter in your new home.
Vertical storage is a tried-and-true method of using space, and the kitchen holds some unique opportunities for making the most of it.
Hanging pot racks, magnetic knife strips, mounted dish-drying racks installed above the sink, and rods with hooks for towels, aprons, small tools and oven mitts are all excellent ways to keep clutter in its place — and keep the surfaces and lower area of the room free.
Find beautiful cleaning tools
The ugly truth is that a lot of everyday items just make sense to keep out — but that doesn’t mean they have to be such an eyesore.
Skip the plastic and get yourself a classic wooden broom, natural fiber dish brush and a glass soap dispenser. These items don’t cost much, but they add a softer look while also getting the job done.
Tap into change
Just because your place didn’t come equipped with a dishwasher doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Installing a quality faucet with a pull-down sprayer can make your chores less of a chore (and, as long as you swap it back before you move out, it shouldn’t violate your rental agreement).
Have space and the budget for something more? Portable dishwashers are a massive timesaver. From small countertop models to wheeled butcher-block-top options, there are sizes that fit into almost any space and require nothing more than your standard sink to function.
Live the island life
A kitchen island is a versatile tool for almost any space — even the tiniest micro apartments!
Whether you choose a larger center-of-the-room-style piece or a small butcher-block number, these additions create more counter space and storage, all in one piece.
Bonus: If your island has wheels, it can serve as a portable bar for your next party. (Hey, if we can call bingeing our favorite shows with a few of our closest friends a “party,” so can you.)
Light it up
Another timeless tip: Good lighting is everything.
If your kitchen is dedicated to getting things done and starting your day, invest in cool lighting — the kind that washes everything in a bright, sunlit glow. A refreshing, cooler light wakes us up and creates an invigorating feeling.
If you’re more of a romantic and enjoy taking your time in the kitchen, keep relaxing, warm lighting around so that you can let the day melt away as you sip your merlot.
For those who prefer a bit of both, app-enabled bulbs can customize the mood for any occasion, and some even use every color of the rainbow.
Think (temporarily) BIG
If there’s one common complaint about renting, it’s the stark white walls. Removable wallpaper adds a touch of personalization and won’t break the bank — or at least, it doesn’t have to.
To keep costs low, stick to one accent wall. Finding a large-scale print will make the space feel larger, and layering a sizable mirror on top will maximize the look and any light.
Curate unique displays
One of the best ways to keep an assortment of oddly shaped kitchen items is to dedicate either one section of the room (think: the top 12 inches of the walls) or one wall to showing them off.
Whether it’s your grandmother’s antique creamer collection or the jumble of cookie cutters that won’t fit into your drawers, making them into a vignette adds a layer of personalization to your space while also providing covert storage in plain sight. Easy-to-install hooks or some simple shelves are great ways to achieve this solution.
Keep it alive
Every room deserves a plant. Not only do they look good, but they also improve the quality of the air around them. If you don’t have the floor or counter space to spare, a hanging plant will do the trick.
No natural light in your kitchen? Or perhaps you’re better at killing plants than keeping them green? No matter — there are plenty of realistic artificial plants these days, which means everyone can benefit from the organic shapes of ferns, succulents and the ever-popular fiddle-leaf figs.
Have pets? Make sure to check the toxicity of your plants before choosing their placement.
No matter how uniquely challenging your space might be, there are solutions waiting for you to find them.
On Point Homevestments
Thought that all-white kitchen was timeless? Think again.
Home design trends come and go — and this year, one look that’s on its way out could actually cause your home to sell for less.
Here’s a look at five design trends you’ll be seeing more of in 2018, and three it’s time to kiss goodbye (especially if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to sell your home).
Trending in 2018
Interior design experts predict floral prints in bold, contrasting colors will make a big comeback in this year, particularly on large billowing fabrics, like drapery, as well as chairs and throw pillows.
Forget statement walls — this year will be about statement floors. From bold colored geometric tiles to soft herringbone-style hardwoods, expect to see fab floors everywhere, especially in bathrooms and laundry rooms. They’re a great way to make a small room pop, without adding clutter.
Light wood cabinets
Homeowners are gravitating toward medium and light wood cabinets, particularly with flat fronts and clean lines. The warmth, texture and natural element wood cabinets add help make the space feel more inviting.
From warm reds to caramel browns to soft beige, moodier color palettes, both on walls and in artwork, will be popular.
Matte metal hardware
What kind of drawer pulls and light fixtures do you want with those wood cabinets? Matte metal! Homeowners are moving away from shiny silver- or gold-accented kitchen hardware — they can make the space feel cold.
2017 fads to forget
This look has been popular for a while, but it’s on the way out, according to the Home Trend Forecast.
Expect to see more color in kitchens next year, especially if the homeowner is planning to sell. Data shows homes with blue kitchens sell for $1,800 more than homes with white kitchens.
Adding color and texture in the kitchen can help make the space feel more inviting. “While homes with all-white kitchens can be beautiful in photos, they are hard to keep clean and they may sell for less money,” says home design expert Kerrie Kelly.
You’ll see designers and bloggers painting their kitchen islands navy blue or deep red (maybe even purple!) or using white countertops to contrast with medium or light wood cabinets.
While perfectly staged bar carts look beautiful, most people don’t use theirs every day. Instead, the carts take up space and collect dust.
But don’t get rid of your cart just yet! Experts predict a shift toward coffee carts, which can be equally trendy, but far more practical.
Succulents are easy to care for and relatively affordable, but so many other vibrant indoor plant options are out there. Nobody’s saying to toss out your beloved Haworthia, but do consider incorporating other plant varieties into your home — perhaps a palm or hearty fiddle-leaf fig.
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In the simplest sense, developed land has been fully prepared for home building while undeveloped land has not. Each has advantages and disadvantages. If you’re thinking about building your home on undeveloped land, be sure to consider the additional work and expenses.
Are We There Yet?
One of the most important things that a developer does with raw land is bring roads onto the site and connect those roads to the public right-of-way. Lots are usually located adjacent to the new road and have direct access to it. If the subdivision remains private, the homeowners will maintain the roads but often they’re deeded to the city and maintained by the municipal service department.
Vehicular access to undeveloped land can be more difficult, although isolation might be one of your primary goals in choosing a rural location. You’ll almost certainly spend much more to build an access road back into the site (I can recall several “driveways” that are more than one-third of a mile long) and you won’t have city snowplows to clear it for you.
Red Tape and Green Paper
Buying a lot in a subdivision means buying into additional layers of government regulation including building departments and homeowner associations. Both groups will have a say about the size, location, design, types of exterior finishes, and maintenance of your house. Municipal building departments usually hold builders to a higher standard of construction quality than rural departments – a definite benefit to the homeowner – but that can mean higher construction costs, too. Subdivisions also usually have minimum house size requirements, so your home might even end up being larger than you want.
On a rural property you’ll have much greater freedom to decide what your home looks like, what it’s made of, and how it’s arranged on the land. And with that design freedom comes more control over the costs of construction. Because the options are far less limited, undeveloped land is where most truly unique custom home designs are built.
Power to the People
The development of a lot in a new subdivision typically includes bringing all utilities onto the site, where the new house is easily connected to them. Electricity, gas, water, and sanitary sewer services are available at the edge of the property, ready to be used.
Undeveloped property won’t have water and sewer taps on site. In fact, there may be no utilities anywhere nearby. Building on undeveloped land usually means providing your own private septic system and water well, installing a propane storage tank for gas appliances, and bringing electric service lines in from a distance – maybe a very long distance.
Can You Dig It?
By the time a subdivision is ready for construction, the developer’s engineers have tested the soil and graded the land for proper drainage. You’ll have access to information about the possibility of sub-surface conditions that might affect your construction plans and in many cases the developer will take some responsibility for the site’s suitability for building.
If you want the same information about your rural property, you’ll have to order and pay for it yourself. Your county extension service can provide some of this information but it may not be recent, or specific to your site. If you discover bad soil or underground rock in your building area, you’ll have no avenue for redress except your own pocketbook.
More Than One Kind of Value
A house in a subdivision may have a temporary price advantage over a “stand-alone” home, since its value will be related to the selling prices of other homes in the area. If you value predictable price appreciation, closer neighbors, and want less “hands-on” involvement in the creation of your house, you’ll probably find your dream home in a development. The majority of American home buyers do just that.
Building on undeveloped land will require more from you, your architect, and your builder. But if you’re willing to assume the risks of undeveloped land; if you’re interested in a truly custom home design; if you want to be more involved in the creation of your home, you might find your piece of paradise somewhere a little further outside of town.
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Looks like efficiency is the name of the game and costs are kept to a minimum because there’s simply nowhere to put additional items. Apartments appears well appointed and seem to suit your needs just fine- – for now. It may be a different story when the little one starts to run around.
Tried to put the concept of a small living space into the context of the home we currently have. 265 sq ft. is a little smaller than our kitchen and dining room combined.
There is no doubt that living in a space that small would take some compromise. First compromise would be that we could only have 1 computer, no more of the networked, geeked-out gaming sessions that we enjoy currently. Second, no more letting the laundry pile up before it gets addressed. And once it is done, it will need to be put away immediately, unlike these days where it sits in the basket for days. Third, if you come to visit, stay in a hotel. Sorry friends, we love you, but there’s no room. All is not lost however; the tour would take all of 5 seconds, or however fast you could do a full turn without getting dizzy.
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The New York Times recently ran a piece in their Ask the Contractor section (membership required to read article) about renovating for the purpose of adding value to a home. According to the contractors interviewed, the biggest bang for your buck comes from… drumroll, please… remodeling your kitchen. No surprise here since the kitchen seems to be everyone’s favorite gathering spot.
Other worthwhile projects include bathroom remodel, window replacement, roof replacement, basement remodel and central air-conditioning. Of course, one should always take into consideration the location of the home when considering home improvements. For example, central air-conditioning has little value here in Seattle where the average summer temperature is in the mid-70s.
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Teardowns, knockdowns, bash-and-builds vs. McMansions, pop-tops, and snout homes: It’s a war out there these days, as detailed in New York Times article that would get anyone’s heart racing — even if you didn’t own a home.
What’s happening is that folks are buying homes and hoping to tear them down to rebuild bigger ones or take existing homes and morph them into McMansions, of sorts. Communities where this is happening such as Laguna Beach, Calif., Nantucket, Mass., and Ocean City, N.J., are putting their foot down and getting help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to slow down the madness.
One funny anecdote in the article dealt with a real estate agent who was given the OK to build an addition to his home in Lewes, Del., but to make room, he needed to knock down a dilapidated chicken coop on the property that dated back to the 1800’s. Thinking it would be a slam-dunk to get the go-ahead in a public hearing he was met with fierce public disapproval and did not get the OK. The reason? It lent "value to the streetscape."
So, whenever you drive down the street and see a dilapidated building ready to fall over, a community ordinance could be protecting its right to stand there.
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Routine inspections and maintenance can help keep these issues from becoming bigger problems
Fact: Things in your home can break. Faucets might leak, windows can stick and ceiling fan motors occasionally burn out.
Whether your home is newly constructed or listed on the historic registry, repairs will be needed. Here are five common household problems you’re likely to encounter within the first five years of owning your home, plus tips for dealing with the repairs:
1. Leaky faucets, running toilets
Your toilet flushes fine, but it won’t stop running. Or, perhaps you have a bathroom faucet that drips, drips, drips.
Those leaks are annoying, but they can also be very costly. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average household’s leaks waste more than 10,000 gallons of water each year; 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. Worn-out toilet flappers, dripping faucets and leaking valves are among the most common types of residential leaks.
To check for leaks in your home, the EPA suggests taking these steps:
If you find a leak, get fix-it tips from the experts at your local hardware or home improvement store, or have a licensed plumber do the work for you.
2. Peeling, cracked paint and siding
Beyond keeping your house looking great, exterior paint protects your home from wind, rain and insects. If exterior paint is chalky, peeling or cracked, or caulk around windows and doors has failed, your home’s key structural components are at risk. Most homeowners can handle small repairs such as sanding and painting trim around windows and doors.
If you need a full exterior paint job, you’ll likely need to hire a professional. It could cost $2,600 to $7,500 to have a 2,400-square-foot house professionally painted, depending on your location and the amount of prep required. Remember that the longer you wait to repaint, the greater the likelihood that water and pests can damage your home.
Other types of exterior materials — vinyl, stucco and brick — also should be inspected and repaired on a regular basis.
3. Jammed disposal
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the average household garbage disposal has a life expectancy of about 10 years — less if you use it a lot or don’t properly maintain it.
If the disposal is jammed or clogged, you may be able to fix it yourself, following instructions in your owner’s manual.
If the unit grinds poorly or is unreasonably noisy you may need to replace the blade, impeller or motor; this should be done by a pro. Because these types of repairs can be expensive, it’s often cheaper and faster to replace the entire unit. Expect to pay $325 to $400 to have a mid-grade disposal professionally installed.
4. Nail pops
If the walls of your brand-new home are dotted with unattractive mounds, you’ve got nail pops. In most cases, drywall nail pops are cosmetic defects that result when the lumber used to build the house dries and shrinks, oh so slightly. This shrinkage often causes the heads of drywall nails to push the finishing compound loose, allowing the nail heads to “pop” out of the wall. Nail pops most often appear near the corner of a wall or ceiling.
If your home is still under warranty, you should ask your builder to repair these blemishes. If you need or want to tackle the job yourself, you can. Simply use a punch to drive the nail deeper, then apply new finishing compound, sand and repaint.
5. Concrete cracks
Extreme weather, improper mixing, shrinkage during curing, pressure from vehicle loads and tree roots can all play a role in the cracks that form in concrete driveways and slabs. Not only are these cracks ugly, they can allow water and insects to infiltrate and lead to more significant damage over time.
Sinking concrete or widespread cracking could indicate a serious problem requiring the services of a professional and could cost upward of $2,000 to fix.
Products ranging from epoxy injections and concrete caulk to polymer-based resurfacers are available for homeowners who want to repair cracked driveways or slabs themselves.
No house is perfect, and no building material lasts forever. By keeping tabs on your home’s well-being and preforming regular home maintenance tasks, you can save yourself money and aggravation.
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Chilling out this summer will be a breeze with these tips for getting the most out of your cooling system
Summer may be lazy and hazy, but in many areas of the country, it’s also a time of sweating and sweltering in scorching temperatures. To cope, homeowners employ a variety of methods to ensure a steady supply of cool, fresh air.
These cooling solutions include a wide variety of fans and in-home ventilation systems, as well as some tried-and-true techniques from the days before air conditioning. Here’s how to keep your whole home cool this season.
The advent of air conditioners
By far the most common form of cooling in the U.S. is air conditioning, which can be found in more than three-quarters of all homes.
Keeping the house comfortable this way, however, can be a costly investment in terms of both equipment and energy use — according to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioners use about 6 percent of all the electricity produced in the U.S., at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners.
So, it makes good sense to carefully evaluate your home’s cooling options to select the right system to meet your needs.
Stay comfortable, spend less
No matter what unit or system you choose, adjusting your thermostat will make the biggest difference on your electric bill. Start by setting the temperature as high as you can while still comfortable, keeping the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures as small as possible.
Use the energy-saver mode on window units, and use programmable thermostats for multiroom or whole-house systems so your machines don’t do extra work to cool the place when nobody is home.
When you’re ready to cool down, don’t drop immediately to a cold temperature — starting that low won’t speed up the cooling process, but it will make your machine work harder and expend more energy.
If you want to offer your machine — and your energy bills — a little relief, proper ventilation in your home can certainly aid your cool-down efforts. Ventilation improves indoor air quality, removes moisture and odors, and exchanges stuffy indoor air for fresh, cool outside breezes.
Start boosting your home’s natural ventilation by opening doors and windows, especially in the evenings. Encourage airflow by installing ceiling fans, window fans and attic exhaust fans to push hot air outside and draw cooler air into your home.
In the summer months, run ceiling fans in a counterclockwise direction, drawing cooler air up from the floor. A whole-house attic exhaust fan will pull hot air into the attic, where attic vents can dissipate the heat. Even positioning a few portable fans near windows or a basement door at night can draw the cooler air from these areas into the home.
Regular maintenance, maximum cool-down
Maximize the efficiency of your cooling efforts by performing proper maintenance.
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Before you start picking out tile and paint chips, be sure you know how much it will cost to remodel your house
Ready for a kitchen renovation? Anxious for a bathroom remodel? The easy part is knowing your goal for home remodeling — whether you’re trying to keep up with your growing family, add office space, or increase your home’s value.
But figuring out how to plan a home renovation that doesn’t break the bank can be tricky.
Here are five key steps in planning your home remodeling project.
1. Estimate home renovation costs
As a general rule of thumb, you should spend no more on each room than the value of that room as a percentage of your overall house value. (Get an approximate value of your home to start with.)
For example, a kitchen generally accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the property value, so spend no more than this on kitchen renovation costs. If your home is worth $200,000, for example, you’ll want to spend $30,000 or less.
Something else to keep in mind: Contrary to popular belief, kitchen renovations offer among the lowest return on investment, according to analysis from Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate. Every dollar you spend on a kitchen remodel increases the value of your home by 50 cents.
The highest return on investment? A mid-range bathroom remodel.
2. Consider home remodeling loan options
If you plan on borrowing money to fund your home renovations, there are a number of loans out there to help with just that.
Refinancing, getting a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan are all big decisions, and it can be tough to know which one makes the most sense for you. As with any new loan, consult with a lender to see which option is best for your situation.
3. Get home renovation quotes from contractors
Some contractors will give you an estimate based on what they think you want done, and work completed under these circumstances is almost guaranteed to cost more. You have to be very specific about what you want done, and spell it out in the contract — right down to the materials you’d like used.
Get quotes from several contractors, tossing out the bid from the one who gives you the lowest estimate. Going with this choice could be asking for problems, as low-priced contractors are known to cut corners — at your expense.
4. Stick to the home remodeling plan
As the renovation moves along, you might be tempted to add on another “small” project or incorporate the newest design trend at the last minute. But know that every time you change your mind, there’s a change order, and even minor changes can be costly. Strive to stick to the original agreement, if possible.
5. Account for hidden home renovation costs
Your home may look perfect on the outside, but there could be issues lurking beneath the surface. In fact, hidden imperfections are one of the reasons renovation projects end up costing more than you anticipated.
Rather than scramble to come up with extra money after the fact, give yourself a cushion upfront. Factor in 10 to 20 percent (or more) of your contracted budget for unforeseen expenses, as they can — and do — occur. In fact, it’s rare that any project goes completely smoothly.
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Keeping the peace with your roomies can be as easy as setting expectations and giving everyone their own space
Renting a home with other people can be stressful. But with careful planning and clear communication, living with others doesn’t have to lead to passive-aggressive notes and arguments.
Whether you live with your sibling, your bestie or your significant other, try these tips for making smart use of those shared spaces.
What matters most when sharing closet space is equality. No, you don’t need to make a line with tape on your closet floor (please don’t). But you should stick to your designated areas.
Hang vertical cloth shelves in the middle to store your shared towels and extra sheets, while also creating a closet divider. And when you toss your shoes in the closet, make sure they’re on your side.
Maximize the cabinet space you’re given by adding stackable wire shelving racks. In the kitchen, they’re great for storing plates on top and bowls below. And under your sink, you can put extra sponges, cleaning rags and garbage bags below with your cleaning spray bottles up top.
Storage bins and plastic stackable boxes can also save the day — especially when it comes to bathroom storage. Put your skincare items in one and your dental products in another.
These stackable boxes come in all sizes — the ones with more depth can fit your bulkier products, and the shorter boxes are better for smaller items, like your travel-size products.
Once you place those stackable wire shelves in your kitchen pantry, you’ll soon learn that labels and plastic bins rule.
If you decide to share spices and other items like flour, vegetable oil and cooking spray, try arranging them in bins with labels that say “Shared.” Use more labels to mark shelves and bins with each roommate’s name, if you think you’ll all need the reminder.
Decide with your roommates if it’s OK to keep items on the kitchen and bathroom counters. It may seem silly to discuss countertop space, but you’ll be glad you did.
Decide how many and which items you agree to allow on the counters. Does the toaster that you never use drive your roomie crazy? Are you okay with your BFF’s curling iron always being on the bathroom counter?
Air out your countertop pet peeves — you can always find ways to avoid potential disagreements.
Avoid any possible product mix-ups with a couple of shower caddies. Hang one over the shower head, and put another one (or two) with suction cups on the shower wall. Plus, storing your bath products in hanging caddies leaves the corners of your tub easy to clean.
If your place comes with its own storage space, try using a tall shelving unit and dividing the shelves equally among you.
If someone ends up slowly taking over the unit, try putting your belongings in labeled plastic bins. If things really get out of hand, see if your storage buddy may be willing to pay a bit more in rent or utilities.
Your apartment comes with a covered parking spot? Sweet! Oh, it only comes with one parking space? Not so sweet.
Try rotating its use every week or month. Or make an arrangement saying that whoever uses the parking spot can pay more in rent each month. Another idea: The roommate with the covered parking spot could do more chores than the other roommates.
The key is deciding as a team in advance what’s fair — and sticking to it.
If one of you has a pet, how do you decide where the crate, toy basket, and food and water bowls go? It may make sense to put pet items in common areas, but the pet owner shouldn’t assume all roommates are cool with squeaky toys all over the living room floor — no matter how cute that pup is.
Just like you’d pick up your things from the living room, you’ll want to pick up Fido’s stuff, too.
Don’t hang your art in common areas without getting your roommates’ opinions first. Turn decorating your walls into a roommate activity. Gather all the art and decorative wall items you want to hang, and have everyone choose their favorites.
You can even turn it into a chance to get to know your roommates better. Have a cool story about where you got that tapestry? Got your favorite mural while studying abroad? Tell your roomies all about it — and listen to their stories, too. They may be willing to put up all of your wall decor once they know the meaning it holds.
If all else fails, stick with similar color palettes, and decorate based on shared color groupings. Remember that what doesn’t go up in the living room can go up in your room.
You can use all the fancy organization materials you want, but sometimes the basics are best.
Even if the people you live with are not quite as organized as you, rest assured that at least your belongings are contained on their shelves and in their assigned containers. Having smart shared spaces allows you to enjoy your time with your roommates without stressing over whose stuff is whose.
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Take care of your home's hot-weather needs now, and you'll have more time for fun in the sun.
Summer will be here before you know it, and you know what that means: Heat, hornets and yard work.
If you’re starting to miss spring already, fear not. Here are some quick projects to make your home and garden more comfortable and cost-effective this summer.
Inside the house
Out in the yard
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Between vacations, barbecues and pool parties, we can lose track of routines, projects and "stuff."
Sometime about now in mid-summer we begin asking ourselves, “Why do things seem to be out of control? I planned on organizing my photos, painting that cute dresser I picked up at the yard sale last fall, and waking up without an alarm clock on Fridays. None of it has happened!”
This scenario is all too common — and yet there is good news. It’s never too late to get and stay organized for the remainder of the summer.
People tend to get busy with outdoor activities and become distracted by vacations, plus household schedules and routines tend to be different than during the school year. The most common areas that seem to spiral out of control are:
Here are my tips for getting and staying organized through the summer.
We’re conditioned to create traditions and rituals. We buy new outdoor furniture and decorations for our backyard barbecue, and bring friends and family together for camping trips chock full of new-fangled gadgets and equipment. We have family reunions and summer vacations.
We’re used to buying, creating, and preparing for events — yet we don’t really have a method or system to deal with the aftermath.
It may be time to say goodbye to the stuff we buy “on the fly,” like walkie talkies for playful banter on road trips, floaties for the swimming pool, collapsible picnic tables for the beach, croquet sets for the backyard, and rain ponchos for the fast-moving and sudden rainstorm.
We recommend two steps for handling summer clutter:
Often we feel more disorganized or confused about our perceived “free time” during the summer months. This can happen because we spend the first half of the year postponing projects until summer vacation.
Each year we stack the projects-in-waiting for summer, and each year we seem to forget that we would really rather enjoy some time off in nature, traveling, or getting together with friends.
If you want to reduce the pressure for yourself, release yourself from too many good intentions, like repainting the powder room; reading the stack of books you’ve collected; and that wishful photo-organizing project.
Instead, pick just one project and focus on it. By making one project the priority, you can do little bits of it from time to time. So, instead of putting off the project and feeling badly that it isn’t getting done, break your priority project down into doing one small step per day.
Sample summer project
Want to paint that dresser? Allow yourself 13 “moments” to complete the project and never miss a bit of summer fun. Use this project breakdown to make any project fit in around your unpredictable summer schedule.
Painting a dresser purchased at a yard sale
Most of us realize instinctively that sleep is important.
“You know that babies and children need sleep to grow,” says Val Sgro, a professional organizer and author. “You know that an injured body heals itself faster with good sleep. You know that if you don’t get enough sleep, you become sluggish and cranky, and you have trouble thinking straight. That old saying, ‘I’ll sleep on it,’ comes from the realization that the solution to a problem often seems to reveal itself after a good night’s sleep.
“Contrary to common belief, your brain does not rest when you sleep,” she continues. “It is often more active than when you’re awake. It’s busy — busy making sure it stays organized.”
And therein lies the key to getting and staying organized in the summer months. Though our sleep routines will likely be off kilter, it’s worth asking the question, “How will I be able to get seven or eight hours of sleep tonight? How will I fit it in?”
Maybe you need to grab a mid-day nap or put yourself (not just the kids) to bed an hour earlier. Getting more sleep will help you make better decisions when you pack (and thus have fewer items to “buy on the fly” while traveling).
More sleep means being more alert driving on road trips; consuming less sugar or caffeine for a mid-day boost; and showing up with an overall better outlook for the day. And in the middle of summer travel or hosting guests who are visiting for a week, that couldn’t be a more welcome benefit.
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