5 Gorgeous Airbnb Homes We Wish We Were Quarantined In

5 Gorgeous Airbnb Homes We Wish We Were Quarantined In

As stay-at-home mandates are extended through April, many of us are getting a little stir crazy and — let’s face it — bored with our apartments and homes. To help you daydream about other places you could be stuck in, we rounded up some of the most beautiful, peaceful and social-distance friendly Airbnb homes.

1. The Pool House — Scottsdale, AZ.

16+ guests, $648/night

This house has an entire lazy river built into the backyard. Lay back in a tube and drift through a maze of palm trees and waterfalls in the Arizona sun. And that’s just the beginning. This home also has a hot tub, basketball court, golf driving net, a putt-putt course, shuffleboard, a fire pit, and a game room — suffice it to say, you’ll never be bored. Bonus perk– the listing mentions on-demand grocery delivery.

2. Breathtaking Designer Mountain Retreat — Cottonwood Heights, Utah. 

10 guests, $1,250/night.

Tucked right into a mountain, this house would certainly keep you calm and relaxed while quarantining. The view is tranquil and the interior has a mellow modern design. The house has both a pool and a hot tub. There are tons of windows for natural light and mountain views in every room. We can envision endless self-care and spa days to keep the stress at bay. It even has a recreation room with yoga mats, candles, books and meditation pillows.

3. The Mansion in the Pines — Myerstown, Pennsylvania

16+ guests, $519/night

This house would surely host the most epic game of hide and seek. Built in the 1860s, the place is full of history and character. It has a large yard with a volleyball net and plenty of shade beneath a variety of tree species. With vine-covered brick, shuttered windows, gothic fireplaces, a reading nook under a staircase, and a small creaky attic in a tower — this home can fulfill all your spooky mansion dreams.

4. Boca Grande All-Inclusive Island Estate — Boca Grande, Florida

14 guests, $1,500/night

Pure paradise can be found in this lush three-story Florida estate. The secluded yard has a 50-foot pool and is surrounded by tropical greenery. It has terrace seating for sunbathing or some shaded relaxation. The home comes with 10 bicycles for riding around the neighborhood, paddleboards and snorkeling gear for the beach. Get a glimpse of how the other half lives with a giant kitchen, a private beach and an elevator (seriously.)

5. Wilton Castle — Bree, Country Wexford, Ireland

14 guests, $1,202/night

Yeah, it’s a castle. A 19th-century castellated residence in Ireland set on the banks of the Boro River, to be exact. The interior is a mix of regal and rustic with beautiful wallpapers, long halls and cozy sitting rooms. You could kill hours of time wandering around and going for walks on the large estate and surrounding countryside. You might even spot a herd of cows wander by. With an Airbnb this elegant and charming, who wouldn’t want to stay in?

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Shutters on Windows: Everything You Need to Know

Shutters on windows are installed for privacy, to control sunlight and to enhance your home’s curb appeal. Both interior and exterior shutters offer benefits for homeowners, and because there are so many choices on the market today, this guide covers everything you need to know before you decide what kind of window shutters to buy.

What are window shutters?

There are interior shutters and exterior shutters available for homes. Interior shutters are window treatments that are used in place of curtains or blinds. They offer privacy, enable you to control the amount of light in your home and add to the design and style of your home. Exterior shutters boost your home’s energy efficiency, improve its curb appeal and can also enhance your privacy, depending on the type you install. 

Difference between interior and exterior shutters

Shutters for windows have become popular as more and more people discover their aesthetic and practical benefits. If you are wondering which kind to buy, here’s a review of the differences between exterior and interior shutters:

Exterior shutters

As the name suggests, exterior shutters are installed on the outside of your home. Decorative shutters can be installed on virtually any type of home. They are available in a plethora of styles, designs and colors, giving you the freedom to personalize your home’s exterior.

For those living in areas prone to extreme weather conditions, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, outdoor window shutters can help prevent the windows from getting damaged by debris.

You can also install exterior shutters for security purposes as a deterrent for burglars.

Interior shutters

Since they are installed inside, you have more control over the daily operation of interior shutters to control airflow, lighting and privacy. You can also install interior shutters for energy-saving purposes. Closed interior shutters can trap warmed air in your house during the winter, thus helping you save on heating costs. In the warmer months, shutters can keep sunlight from making rooms too hot.

Materials for house shutters

When installing shutters on windows, one of the primary factors you need to consider is their material which should complement your home’s color scheme and architectural style. Options include:

  • Wood shutters: These are perfect for a classic look. Wood is the material of choice when it comes to plantation shutters. Wood can be painted, shaped and stained in different ways to suit your preferences. However, wooden shutters might not be ideal for bathrooms and kitchens, as they cannot withstand prolonged exposure to water and moisture.
  • Wood composite shutters: Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a common alternative to wood shutters. MDF shutters are made of compacted softwoods and hardwoods, thus making the shutters quite durable and economical.
  • Plastic shutters: When looking for a shutter material that can withstand abuse from the elements and moisture, plastic is arguably the best option. Plastic shutters are relatively affordable and easy to install and maintain.
  • Hurricane shutters: Hurricane shutters are made of aluminum or steel and are ideal for all types of homes. They are lightweight and can be installed both indoors and outdoors. Unlike wood or plastic shutters, hurricane shutters are not prone to cracks, rot or warping. On the downside, they are prone to rust and corrosion, particularly if they are untreated.

Exterior window shutters

Installing exterior shutters adds depth and architectural detail and protect the windows from harsh weather. The different types of exterior shutters include:

Louvered shutters

Exterior louvered shutters feature angled slats that allow light and air to pass through. Initially, their sole purpose was for rain protection. Thematically, they best fit Victorian, Colonial and traditional-style houses. Louvered shutters can be fixed or movable, and can be made of wood, MDF, vinyl, aluminum or steel. Standard vinyl louvered shutters cost between $35 and $100 depending on the size and material. Keep in mind that the slats can sometimes get in the way, limiting the amount of light you’re able to let into the room.

Raised panel

Raised panel shutters look more or less like kitchen cabinets or doors. They enhance traditional Colonial, country-cottage, Georgian, Federal and Victorian homes. Vinyl raised panel shutters cost about $32 to $44 a pair, depending on the brand. These shutters might not be ideal for tilt-in windows. 

Board and batten shutters

Commonly referred to as “B&B shutters,” board and batten shutters consist of several boards that are held together by a horizontal or z-shaped panel on the back. These shutters are ideal for barn-style buildings, country bungalows and cabin homes. Board and batten shutters are mostly made of wood, but also come in vinyl. Board and batten shutters cost between $100 and $450 a pair. Compared to other types, B&B shutters require more time to install and are harder to maintain. 

Plantation shutters

Plantation or contemporary shutters have become a common replacement for curtains and blinds. They originated from the South and were used in homes on plantations. They are characterized by tilted wooden louvers which help with ventilation and light control. Plantation shutters are available in a range of materials, with the most common being vinyl and MDF. You can DIY plantation shutters or have professionals install them. Plantation shutters cost you between $50 to $350 per pair, depending on the material. Plantation shutters can be custom-built, which will typically cost more than a shutter you could pick up yourself from a local store.

Cut-out shutters

Cut-out shutters are an example of custom exterior shutters. They can be raised panel or board and batten, but feature a cut-out design. Common cut-outs include hearts, stars and even palm trees for beach homes. The price of cut-out shutters depends on the complexity. As they are custom-made, they tend to be pricier compared to other types of shutters but can add a lot of personality to your home.

Scandinavian

Scandinavian shutters first started in the Alpine regions to protect homes from snowstorms and blizzards. Today, they are typically used in places that experience hurricanes and extreme weather conditions for additional reinforcement to the windows. They are characterized by board and batten designs, bright colors and cut-outs. As the design is more or less like that of B&B shutters, their prices are usually similar as well. As they are more durable to withstand extreme weather conditions, keep in mind they can be harder to operate.  

Combination

You can mix one or more shutter styles. For instance, you may choose louvered, raised-panel shutters with a cut-out design. These often custom shutters are ideal for people who want to achieve a one-of-a-kind look in their homes. The price of your combination shutters depends on the design you choose. 

What to think about before buying outdoor shutters

To get the most out of your exterior shutters, you need to consider a few factors. The shutters’ size needs to be such that they can cover the windows when they are closed. They should give the illusion that they are usable though they might not be operable. Their color should also complement your home’s exterior.

Another factor you need to consider when choosing your home’s exterior shutters is the shutter material. Different materials have different characteristics when it comes to their appearance, durability and functionality. Due to exposure to the elements, exterior shutters should be strong and moisture-proof.

You also need to consider the type of operation you prefer for your exterior shutters. Some of the most common options are bi-fold, fixed, hinged and sliding shutters. 

Interior window shutters

Interior window shutters have become a common window treatment because of their convenient, flexible, hassle-free and versatile nature. They are great at regulating the amount of light that gets into your home and offering you privacy. The different types of interior shutters include:

Shaker style

Shaker-style shutters are similar to raised-panel shutters, but they have a flat body. These types of shutters are made of wood and are available in a wide range of colors. They are ideal for rooms where you do not want much light coming through, such as a bedroom. On average, shaker-style interior shutters will cost you $150 to $300. Shaker-style shutters are purely installed for aesthetic purposes as they aren’t adjustable.

Café shutters

As the name suggests, café shutters were inspired by French cafés. They normally cover the bottom half of the window and feature a louvered design. Café shutters are available in a wide range of colors, can be made of wood or vinyl and start at $21 per square foot. Café shutters do not provide you with complete light blockage since they cover only half of the window.  

Tier on tier

While these shutters cover the whole window, the top and bottom tiers can be operated independently. This versatility means you can fold back either of the shutters to give you an unobstructed view of the outdoors. As such, they are perfect for living rooms or patios. The average cost of tier-on-tier shutters is $21 to $31 per square foot. These shutters are great for large windows, but they can sometimes overpower small ones. 

Solid panel

A solid panel shutter is neither slatted nor louvered. For this reason, they let in less light compared to other interior shutters. They are made of hardwood and are normally available in a variety of colors and stains. Solid panel shutters do a great job of creating a peaceful and dark bedroom while not completely blocking out the light. An average solid panel shutter will cost you $150 to $300. Keep in mind that since they are opened and closed on horizontal or vertical slats, they can be rather difficult to clean. 

What to consider before buying indoor shutters

Before choosing indoor shutters for your home, you need to consider what style and functionality will suit your home best. Do you need more privacy? What amount of light do you want to let in? You might consider talking to an interior designer or an architect who will help you to settle on a shutter style that suits your needs.

Another consideration is the material used for your indoor shutters. Interior shutters are made of polyurethane, vinyl and wood. Polyurethane and vinyl shutters are long-lasting and require minimal care and maintenance. Wooden interior shutters might need to be treated annually to prevent molding as a result of exposure to moist environments.

Final thoughts on window shutters

Shutters are a practical window treatment option which light up your space and increase your home’s privacy. They can be installed on the interior or exterior of any room. Even cheap exterior shutters and cheap plantation shutters can help keep your windows safer in a storm. Any outside window shutters have the potential to add curb appeal and value to your home while indoor window shutters add interest and control over the light. 

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Electrical Generators and Home Security: What to Know

Make sure your home security system stays armed with a backup generator

Anyone living in a winter-weather state can tell you that when the power goes out having a backup generator can bring a huge sense of relief. A generator for home use keeps your appliances, heat and lights on when you’re without power. And if you have a home security system, generators also help with safety by keeping the system engaged no matter what.

People tend to shop for generators at Home Depot and other stores right before or after a storm when generators are in the highest demand. Products like Generac home generators help to keep your home safe and secure by making sure your home security system stays armed during a power outage, but there are several different types of generators to choose from. In this article, we look at the different generators out there and how to choose the right one for your space. 

What is a backup electrical generator and how does it work?

A generator is a machine that produces power when an outage occurs. A backup generator kicks in when the power is out, either automatically or with a switch, usually restoring electricity to your home within a few seconds. How it does this depends on the type of generator. 

Types of power generators

To determine the right generator for your home you need to understand the different types available. Generators vary by size, fuel used and how they operate. While the most common is a portable generator, a standby generator is best for when you want to keep your security system armed. Here are the different types of generators:

  • Portable generatorThese generators provide a temporary solution when the power goes out. Some use gas while others use diesel to provide electrical power. If you’re running the basics, like your refrigerator, freezer and television, this is an excellent choice. However, because of their fuel, these machines also have a high emission rate. Prices range between $140 for an 800-watt generator to $5,000 for a 10,500-watt generator.
  • Standby generatorstandby generator, also called a backup generator, doesn’t require a manual start. That means when the power goes out you don’t have to do anything because your electricity will restore automatically. Standby generators have a larger fuel tank compared to a gasoline-powered portable generator, so you can run them for longer. On the downside, the larger fuel tank makes these machines bulkier and more challenging to move. Prices range between $500 for a 7,000-watt standby generator and $13,000 for a 22,000-watt standby generator.
  • Inverter generatorAn inverter generator offers the same benefits as a portable generator, but they’re more efficient, lighter and quieter. As this generator runs, its engine speed varies according to electrical demand meaning that it produces less noise and uses less fuel than a standard standby generator. Prices range from $29 for a 200-watt inverter generator to $4,000 for a 7,000-watt inverter generator. Inverter generators are cheaper than standby generators because a standby generator turns on automatically and runs for several days without the need to refuel.
  • Portable power stationInstead of using fossil fuels to deliver power, a portable power station uses a rechargeable battery. They’re excellent for charging anything with a USB port. Because there are AC outlets, you can use them to power things like small appliances, small coolers and CPAP machines. Prices range from $38 for a 20-watt portable power generator to $12,000 for a 48,000-watt portable power station.

How to keep your security system armed in a power outage using a generator

When your power goes out that means there’s no electricity to run your security system. If you’re away from home, that’s problematic. Installing a standby generator restores power automatically. And while it may be tempting to pick up the most affordable generator, the goal should really be picking the generator that will do the best job keeping your security system armed.

For example, a standby generator with 20,000 watts or more should power everything you have under your roof, including your security system. If you would prefer to use a smaller portable or inverter generator, you’ll need at least 7,500 watts to keep your home security system, lights, refrigerator and chargers going. Your home security system alone will need at least 100-watts to maintain its ability to keep your home secure when you’re away.

A recreational inverter or midsize inverter that’s up to 2,000 watts will keep your refrigerator, lights, chargers and home security system activated. If your power is going to be out for an extended period, you can get away with using one of these machines for keeping the bare necessities running.

How to use a power generator safely

Whether you’re using Generac home generators or Home Depot generators, they all come with safety guidelines you must consider. Generators have safety features to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, injuries, fires and electrocution. 

Electrical generator safety tips

  • Use it safely: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid electrocution, fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you’re using home generators correctly to avoid disaster.
  • Keep generators outside: Position generators away from structures on the outside of your home.
  • Keep generators dry: Otherwise, they aren’t safe to operate.
  • Disconnect your electricity: Before operating a portable generator, disconnect power going into your home to prevent power surging or back-feeding.
  • Ground the generator: Prevent electrocution and shocks by grounding your generator. 
  • Don’t use wall outlets: Never plug your generator into your home’s wall outlets or electrical panel. That could cause a fire, shock or electrocution. Instead, hire a professional electrician to hard-wire the unit.
  • Let it cool: Before refueling, turn off your generator and let it cool down.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does a generator work? 
    Generators don’t create electricity. Instead, they convert chemical or mechanical energy into electricity. Generators for home use force electrons created by motion and force them through a circuit.
  • What is the best generator? 
    The best Home Depot generators include Generac home generators, as well as generators from Briggs & Stratton, Champion and Durostar.
  • Is it safe to use a generator indoors? 
    No. Using a generator inside your home can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Should I use my generator outside? 
    Yes. The only safe place to operate a gas or diesel-fueled generator is outside of the home.
  • Can I receive a tax deduction for a whole-house generator? 
    According to Intuit, there are no tax deductions for a whole-house generator.

Author Biography:

Jenn Greenleaf is a professional writer from Maine who also works part-time as a bookkeeper for her husband’s residential construction business. She specializes in writing about HVAC, commercial construction, and other home-related topics.

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Cable vs. DSL: Which Is Right for You?

When searching for a new internet provider, you’ll come across the terms cable, dial-up, DSL and fiber. DSL runs through telephone wires, while cable internet is transmitted through a coaxial cable network. Cable internet is usually faster than DSL and tends to have higher peak speeds, which makes it a better choice for households that do a lot of high-definition streaming. But it can come at a cost. To figure out which one is best for you, compare the details of cable vs. DSL below.

Cable vs. DSL

When comparing DSL vs. cable internet, the differences are not just in speed and price but also in how each service functions.

Speed

Price

Best for

Cable

25 Mbps – 940 Mbps

$30.00/mo.–$150.00/mo.

Browsing, streaming, gaming and downloading 

DSL

3 Mbps – 200 Mbps 

$40.00/mo.-$80.00/mo.

Browsing and checking email

*As of 3/19/2020 

What is DSL internet?

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is internet service transmitted using standard copper telephone lines. These lines most likely already exist if your house is wired to support a landline telephone. Because DSL piggybacks on phone lines, it is available to 89% of the American population and can connect using a modem and a standard telephone line jack.

Top DSL providers

The top DSL providers that have been in the internet game for a long time are AT&T, Frontier Communications and CenturyLink. These three providers offer a variety of plans to fit different customer needs. When choosing a provider and internet type, make sure to look at availability for your area.

Speed

Starting price

AT&T

Up to 100 Mbps

Starting at $50.00/mo.

Frontier

Up to 150 Mbps

Starting at $27.99/mo.

CenturyLink

Up to 100 Mbps

Starting at $49.99/mo.

*As of 3/19/2020

DSL internet speeds

DSL speeds have gotten faster over the years and go up to 200 Mbps. Though higher speeds are out there, such as with a fiber-optic connection, 200 Mbps exceeds the requirements of most homes, which is why 100 Mbps is sometimes called “lightning-fast” internet speed. And though streaming is one of the activities that eats up bandwidth, an HD movie still only uses around 8 Mbps while playing a video game requires around 3 Mbps (depending on the type).

When thinking about DSL vs. cable, it’s important to note that maximum speeds will vary according to the provider and specific plan. Fast DSL service can deliver speeds of up to 200 Mbps while slower plans can start at fewer than 10 Mbps. If you plan on streaming often across multiple devices, you should opt for a plan that offers at least 50 Mbps.

DSL pricing

DSL is a decidedly cost-for-speed service – the higher the speed, the higher the cost. For example, Parallax Systems’ maximum speed is 3 Mbps and costs $39.95/mo., while Harrison Telephone Company offers up to 200 Mbps for $59.99/mo. The type of internet you choose will depend on your typical online needs and availability. 

Who is DSL good for?

There are other options besides DSL, like cable, fiber and satellite. So who (and what) is best suited for DSL internet service? If you’re mainly browsing, streaming movies and TV, or playing single-player games, DSL is fine as long as it’s a relatively small number of users (three or fewer). The key to remember is that fewer users equal faster speeds. Once many users are doing different activities online, speeds can slow down.

Who isn’t DSL good for?

DSL isn’t good for people who need to stream a lot of high-definition content or regularly engage in online gaming. Because DSL’s bandwidth is limited, high-definition content may bog down the connection—if it shows at all. Also, because online gaming often requires instantaneous transmission of video, sound effects and live voice input, a DSL connection may not have the bandwidth to manage all of the data.

Pros and cons of DSL internet

Pros

  • Wired systems are more reliable 
  • A variety of DSL plans available to suit the average internet user
  • Supports common internet activities like browsing, reading emails and social media
  • Widely available since it uses existing telephone lines
  • Dedicated bandwidth that is not shared with neighbors

Cons

  • Price for the service is high when compared to cable and fiber 
  • For a little more per month, you can get up to 10 times the speed in some cases
  • A large family with multiple devices will find it hard to stream simultaneously
  • Multiplayer gaming may not be adequately supported by lower speeds 
  • Maximum speed available is only 200 Mbps

What is cable internet?

Cable internet is sent by a cable service provider that transmits data using space on a specified television channel. The signal enters the home via a coaxial cable which is connected to a cable modem and when a user connects their computer or other devices to the modem via either an Ethernet cable or a wireless router, they gain access to the internet.

Top cable internet providers

Speed

Starting price

RCN

Up to 250 Mbps

Starting at $39.99/mo.

Spectrum

Up to 940 Mbps

Starting at $49.99/mo.

Cox

Up to 940 Mbps

Starting at $29.99/mo.

*As of 3/19/2020

Cable internet speeds

Cable internet speeds typically range from 25 Mbps to 940 Mbps. Cable internet is slower than fiber-optic internet because the copper lines inside the cable cannot handle the same amount of bandwidth. Cable lines transmit electrical impulses, which can’t travel as quickly as the pulses of light that move through fiber-optic lines.

However, with speeds between 25 and 200 Mbps you can still do a lot of streaming, gaming and searching. With only 100 Mbps you can stream on several devices at once and it will only take about 5 minutes to download a four-gigabyte file. If your internet speed is limited to 10 Mbps, you can still stream movies, but you may have trouble if you’re doing so on more than one device at the same time. You can easily check and send emails or stream music with a 10 Mbps connection.

Cable internet pricing

Cable internet prices range between $30.00/mo. and $150.00/mo with higher speeds costing more. One of the main reasons cable internet is so expensive is because it costs companies considerable money to lay the cable used to transmit the signal. Every time a company expands its service area, they have to pay to install the necessary infrastructure. The rates often vary from one area to the next due to local variations in labor and installation costs.

Who is cable internet good for?

Cable internet is a good choice for individuals and small households who won’t be using a lot of devices simultaneously. While cable internet will allow you to stream video or do some gaming, the more devices you use at once the slower your internet will be. People who mostly use their internet to check email, make voice over internet provider (VOIP) phone calls or stream music can also use cable internet. But note that even with advertised high speeds, the speed you actually get may be limited, particularly as other users connect their devices.

Who isn’t cable internet good for?

Cable internet is a poor choice for families or households that want to connect multiple devices at once. The bandwidth cable internet providers offer is limited, and the performance of your internet connection will be significantly worse when multiple devices are streaming simultaneously. Cable internet also has very limited upload speeds, which makes it a poor choice for gamers who often need quick upload speeds for interactive online gaming.

Pros and cons of cable internet

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Good for small families
  • Widely available due to the use of cables
  • Does not require a phone line
  • Faster than DSL and satellite internet

Cons

  • Slower than fiber-optic internet
  • High initial connection fees for the user
  • Forces you to sacrifice upload speed for strong download speeds
  • Slower performance during peak hours

FAQs about cable and DSL

Is cable internet or DSL internet faster?

Cable is generally faster because it can handle more bandwidth.

What is the difference between cable and DSL internet?

DSL transmits the internet signal through telephone lines, while cable uses copper wire. Cable internet also has a higher maximum bandwidth than DSL.

Which is better for people living in remote areas?

DSL tends to be the common choice for people living in remote areas because cable is often not available. However, if you live in a remote area, and cable internet is an option, you may experience superior performance if you choose cable over DSL.

Is DSL or cable better for gaming?

Cable is better for gaming because it usually has a higher bandwidth limit.

The bottom line

Even though both cable and DSL internet are convenient options, people who need faster speeds are often better off going with cable. However, if you don’t live in a household where there are several devices streaming content at the same time, DSL may be an adequate solution. In the end, it’s best to first assess the needs of your household by carefully examining how much streaming, gaming and downloading you and others will be doing. Then check which services are available in your area and choose the best package for you and your family.

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All about laminate flooring: Understanding your options

Laminate flooring buying guide

Laminate flooring has come a long way in recent years. Rather than just a cheaper alternative to natural wood or stone flooring, laminate flooring is available in a spectrum of styles to offer a beautiful and durable complement to any decor.

When purchasing laminate, there are a lot of variables to keep in mind, like the surface on which the floor will be laid, in what room it’s going, cost and the look of the space. Read on for the ultimate guide to laminate flooring, including what to consider when buying and laying the floor in your newly designed space.

What is laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring is sometimes called a “floating floor” or “floating tiles” because it can be laid right on top of existing linoleum, subfloor or on any hard surface, including concrete, without gluing it or fastening it to the floor. It’s made by bonding four layers of materials together, coated by resin on the top and bottom. 

Laminate flooring consists of:

  • Wear layer: The wear layer is the top layer of flooring that gives the whole floor a shiny, finished appearance. It also gives the floor much of its strength and durability. It protects the flooring from pet’s claws, chair legs, kids’ toys and all other daily wear. It also protects the printed layer from the sun’s rays, which could otherwise discolor it over time. 
  • Printed layer (or decor layer): The printed layer is the look of the flooring — the pattern or markings you see. It can look like natural wood flooring, stone or marble, and comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Fiberboard layer (or core layer): High-density fiberboard (HDF) is made up of processed softwood, which is mixed with resin and wax. This layer is formed with both heat and pressure, creating panels. The panels are then cut so that they “click” together, eliminating the need to attach each board with the floor or another board.
  • Backing layer: This layer helps to keep the flooring straight and even, and is sealed to keep out moisture, so your flooring shape and stability won’t be compromised from underneath. Some higher-end laminates also include foam padding, eliminating the need for a separate underlay for the flooring.

Where to install laminate flooring

Laminate is manufactured to be tough and sound regardless of where it’s installed. Still, extra steps may be necessary when it’s installed in basements, bathrooms and kitchens. When installing below grade (below ground level like in a basement), a moisture barrier should be installed between concrete and laminate to keep natural humidity away from the flooring. 

In bathrooms, laminate can outperform hardwood for ease of cleaning. But particularly in full baths where moisture is common, glue should be used between laminate planks to make sure any drips or leaks in the bathroom don’t make their way in between floorboards. For kitchens and baths, silicone sealer is also recommended where the floor butts up against walls, tubs and toilets.

How to buy the best laminate flooring

Now you know where you can install laminate flooring, but how do you choose the best laminate flooring to buy? There are a few factors to consider:

Types of laminate flooring

Laminate flooring can resemble anything, but it most commonly mimics the look of stone, tile or wood. Though the patterns can be relatively convincing, their repeating nature often gives away their manufactured origins. 

Laminate flooring also comes in glueless “click” format, while other types need glue applied during installation. Others still come “pre-glued,” but may need the glue to be moistened when the floors are laid. 

Laminate flooring thickness

Available in thicknesses of 6 to 12mm, a laminate plank’s thickness will determine its sound insulation, its resistance to warping over time and how well it masks imperfections on the floor beneath. A smooth subfloor will allow for a thinner plank, while a thicker plank will be necessary for more uneven floors. Generally speaking, thicker planks are more expensive to buy.

Laminate flooring width

Just like many other flooring types, laminate comes in planks of various widths, ranging from 3 inches wide to 7 inches or more. Which you choose will depend on price, the size of the room and personal preference. Smaller spaces often do well with narrower planks, both for looks and for ease of installation, while a big, wide room may look better with wider planks.

Texture of laminate flooring

While many laminate floors offer a smooth, even surface, others are textured or embossed to more realistically imitate natural materials. Some have wood grain-embossed textures or are bumpy like natural stone. Laminate floors are also available in a distressed-look to mimic antique floors. Patterns and textures may hide wear and tear on the floor, and testing shows deeply textured floors don’t suffer damage as quickly as smooth ones. Personal preference and ease of cleaning will be deciding factors in which texture you choose.

Read laminate flooring reviews

Any new flooring is a big investment in a home, so get as much information as possible before making any firm choices. Reviews and ratings are a great way to determine the right flooring for you. In particular, seek out AC (Abrasion Criteria) ratings which determine the durability of the flooring. It is especially crucial to consider AC ratings when flooring a kitchen, a well-used hallway or an entryway of a home. 

AC ratings range from AC1 to AC6. Lower-range AC ratings are manufactured using direct pressure laminate, while AC5 and higher are created using high-pressure laminate. Generally speaking, higher-traffic areas of a home should do well with an AC3 or AC4, while lower-traffic areas like bedrooms can use a lower AC rating.

Installing laminate flooring

One of the reasons laminate floors are so popular is because of their ease of installation. Panels are manufactured to fit tightly together, so DIY installers can easily put the floor down themselves, sometimes completing a whole room in a day. To install a laminate floor, you will need the following tools:

  • Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Hammer
  • Tapping block

Depending on the space, a mitre saw might also be useful for cutting the wood panels into shape.

Professionals can also install the flooring at minimal expense because the panels go in very quickly. Generally speaking, installation can cost about $2 to $3 per square foot.

Compare laminate flooring cost

Laminate flooring ranges from $3 per square foot to around $7 installed, while flooring alone can range from $1 to $5 per square foot. Factors that go into pricing are thickness and the AC rating of planks, whether the flooring has pre-attached underlayment or no underlayment and by brand name. Pergo and Mannington flooring, for instance, will generally set you back more than laminate flooring from Shaw.  

Top laminate flooring brands

Pergo 

Pergo manufactures laminate, rigid vinyl and hardwood floors that are widely available. Pergo’s floors are known for being extra tough, with superior wear, scratch and water resistance. The company has been making laminate for over four decades, and their top lines are:

  • TimberCraft
  • Outlast
  • Portfolio

TimberCraft is a realistic wood-look panel that’s completely waterproof, making it well suited to the areas of the home at risk of getting wet. 

Mohawk 

Mohawk is a flooring brand that’s been around since 1878. Their RevWood Plus series of flooring is coated in Hydroseal, a waterproof and scratch-resistant coating. You can opt for the All Pet Plus protection (an extra available warranty) to cover pet accidents and damage. Mohawk’s best-known laminate lines are:

  • RevWood 
  • RevWood Plus

Mannington 

Mannington takes a step into more environmentally-aware flooring manufacturing. I laminates are made from 70% recycled materials, and the company also gives its floors FloorScore® certification for better air quality inside the home. Its laminate lines are:

  • Restoration
  • Revolutions Plank

Mannington’s Restoration collection comes in a huge selection of colors and features SpillShield®Plus waterproof technology. 

The post All about laminate flooring: Understanding your options appeared first on Freshome.com.

How to get free internet

No matter if you’re a student, a freelancer, looking for a job or researching how to improve your finances, an internet connection is necessary. Free internet access is beneficial for people on a budget and for maintaining access to school work, home banking tools, streaming services and more.

The average consumer spends approximately $800 for internet services annually. This guide explores how to avoid those costs and get free internet instead. Learn how to find free internet service, where it’s available and how to best keep your information safe while using it.

How to get free internet service

Because connectivity is such a necessity, finding legal ways to get free internet is becoming more of a priority. Here are a few methods for finding free internet service.

Use apps to find free WiFi hotspots

There are many smartphone apps that will show you where to find free WiFi hotspots. For example, WiFiMap and Avast WiFi Finder compile databases containing every free WiFi hotspot throughout the world. Wi-Fi Free Spot offers a tool to find free WiFi hotspots by state, including hotels, airports, restaurants and even campgrounds.

Find free Wi-Fi hotspots from internet providers

You can connect to free WiFi hotspots offered by internet providers like Cox or Xfinity if you are a paying subscriber of their home internet services.

Another option is to sign up for a service like FreedomPop, which offers a portable router that acts as a mobile WiFi hotspot. The service offers 500 MB of data for free each month ($0.02 cents per MB after that), which should be sufficient for simple internet browsing.

Use your mobile phone as a hotspot

Also known as tethering, you can connect your laptop to the internet by using your phone’s 4G or 5G data connection. The steps to take to set your phone up as a hotspot depend on the brand of your device. For most newer iPhones, for example, you can easily find this feature by navigating to Settings, tapping Personal Hotspot and setting it to “on.”

Free internet for your home

Finding free internet services for your home is a little more challenging, though not impossible, especially if you don’t mind using a dial-up connection. For example, NetZero offers consumers free internet with a dial-up connection. If you only use the internet for the essentials, Juno provides ten hours of internet for free every month.

If you’re a paying cable customer, some companies may offer deals if you bundle internet with another service. Call your provider and ask if there are any available deals or find a new provider.

Federal programs offering discounted internet

ConnectHomeUSA is a program launched by EveryoneOn.org, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the White House in 2015. The program, which provides free or low-cost broadband access to low-income families, currently has 28 pilot communities throughout the country.

Where to get free public internet

Many businesses offer their guests free WiFi. Here’s a list of a few places you can find free public internet service.

National chains offering free internet services

In some communities, you don’t have to travel far to find free internet. For example, you can find it at the Apple Store, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Best Buy, Target, Whole Foods and more. When visiting these locations, you’ll often see a link posted to the company’s free WiFi or, when you click on your WiFi icon on your phone, you’ll find a connection option in your list.

Free internet in bookstores, libraries, museums and more

For those looking for quieter locations to find free internet, check out your local bookstore or larger chains like Barnes & Noble. You can also find free WiFi at your local library, at some public parks, in museums and when you’re traveling by bus or train. You might have to ask for a password to access their WiFi connection, and, in places like hospitals, that password will change periodically.

How to be safe when using free public internet

It’s important to consider that free public internet connections aren’t always going to be secure. Each time you connect to a network with other users, your personal information is at risk. Take the following precautions to ensure your information stays safe when using free public internet:

  • Use free VPN services: Programs like Hotspot Shield Free VPN and TunnelBear help protect your device by connecting to a virtual private network (VPN),  an extra layer of security when you’re connecting using a hotspot.
  • Avoid inputting sensitive information: When you’re on an insecure free connection, avoid accessing your banking or shopping apps. That way, you’re not inadvertently exposing yourself to credit card fraud or identity theft.
  • Avoid data sharing: Unless you’re using an encrypted connection, avoid sharing data when using hotspots or public WiFi. Disable file sharing when you’re on a public network to prevent strangers from sending you malware or trying to access your files.
  • Stick to using secure websites: Each time you see “https,” that means you’re visiting a secure website. Some sites, like email providers and Facebook, automatically convert URLs to a safe connection. If you’re a Chrome user, you can also install an extension that encrypts data.
  • Uncheck the option to connect automatically: If you’re in range of a free internet connection or hotspot that remembers your device, that could put you at risk. It’s a good idea to opt to have your device forget the network and reconnect manually each time you’re in range.
  • Use two-factor authentication on password protected sites: Visiting password-protected websites means you need an extra layer of protection. For these sites, add two-factor authentication to provide an extra layer of security when logging in.

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7 Ways to Make Your Home Feel Bigger and Brighter

7 Ways to Make Your Home Feel Bigger and Brighter

Thanks to nationwide stay-at-home orders, we’re all suddenly spending a lot of time in the same small spaces. To combat the coronavirus cabin fever, we’ve talked to professional organizers, interior designers and an organizational psychologist about ways to make your home feel more spacious. 

Before you begin, think about spaces that have made you feel calmed and how they were arranged. Shalae Price, a professional organizer, gives hotel rooms as an example, “Most hotel rooms are designed to feel much bigger than they actually are. The furniture placement is well thought-out and the decor (in most cases) would be considered minimalist.”

1. Declutter, declutter, declutter

Decluttering is an obvious first step to clearing up your space. Anyone can do it and with few resources. Walk from room to room and put things away, clear up random papers or cardboard boxes, and collect together small things that don’t have a home. If an item isn’t for decor and isn’t used on a regular basis, consider storing it out of sight or donating it if your local donation centers are still in operation.

Craig Anderson, Editor at Appliance Analysts, says you have to earn your free space. “Any good minimalist will tell you that free surface space makes you freer. It’s also the first thing to go when we get lazy and leave clutter around. Having unused surfaces (desks, tables, counters) makes a room feel MUCH larger.”

A good way to get into the habit of regular decluttering, according to Amy Bloomer, a professional organizer with an MA in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University, is a bin dedicated to clutter. “I encourage clients to keep a basket at the bottom of their stairs. This becomes the “catch-all” for things that have migrated downstairs and/or out of place. Once a day, make it a habit to put back everything you’ve accumulated in the basket. It won’t take long and it will help to maintain clear, calm spaces before retiring for the night.” 

2. Clear the floors and the walls

The more floor space, the bigger the room will feel. 

“The floor is not a storage space but we often create piles in corners that grow and expand over time. These piles tend to be delayed decisions, items that have no home so they get set aside on the floor. As these piles encroach on our living space we feel weighed down. Our actual physical living space shrinks. Tackling these piles and freeing up floor space will immediately create lighter, brighter spaces. In our experience, if you haven’t looked at items in these piles for a long time they are often items that can be let go.”

– Andrea Walker, Certified Professional Organizer, Smartly Organized

This applies to the floor space between furniture and walls, too. When all your furniture is set against the walls, it really outlines the boundaries of your room and highlights how small that space is. By making sure some of your furniture has a little air between the wall, it creates a better sense of roominess.

3. Store smartly

Get creative with the way you store things and be more critical with what you choose to have out. You can keep it simple by folding blankets into a chest or basket, having a dedicated basket for pet toys, and hanging photos instead of resting them on furniture.

Multi-functional furniture that doubles as storage is a great way to optimize your space. Seats, coffee tables and ottomans with hidden storage can help keep blankets, movies, games or clutter off of furniture and the floors. You can also install floating shelves to elongate the walls and store things away from the floor.

Anderson advocated for putting away the things you don’t use every day, “There are SO many things we own that we use maybe once or twice a year. These should be kept well hidden in a chest, under the bed, or in a DIY-cupboard.” 

4. Mirrors are magic

Debra Newell, owner and President of Ambrosia Home, told us that “large mirrors are a must. You want to reflect back into the room and give the illusion that you have more space.” 

Mirrors will bounce more light around, give a sense of movement, and visually double the size of your space. You can use floor-length mirrors, mirrored closet doors or hang smaller mirrors on the walls.

5. Be deliberate with your decor

Decorate your space with intention and don’t be afraid of some dead space. A bunch of small things scattered around can feel more like clutter than a few larger statement pieces. Walls, shelves, dressers, countertops and computer desks can all benefit from a critical “do I need this?” scan.

Price advised us to, “Pick one room at a time, then look at your walls and surfaces. Do you really LOVE everything you see? Remove the items that you don’t love, and of course, keep the items that mean something to you or define your style.”

Concentrate that decor in a few spaces, like an accent wall, rather than spreading it out all over. Leaving some surfaces and walls open will visually elongate the room.

6. Keep the furniture low

If you’re in a position to buy new furniture — keep it low. Furniture that is generally lower can help an area feel much bigger simply because it leaves more open space above. This applies to the leg style of furniture too; open or post-style legs will show more space and appear to be floating, compared to large furniture that rests directly on the floor.

Newell advises: “Keep the arms and backs of chairs and sofas low, even legs on a sofa are important. Add ottomans for seating. No floating large furniture in the middle of the room.” She also recommends dining chairs you can push all the way under a table to store when you’re not using them.

7. Utilize lighting

Light is a simple and powerful tool that can completely transform a room. Lighting up dark corners and having multiple sources around the room will create space.

“Spread out your lighting. It may be more cost-efficient to just use one large light in the center of the room – but it’s a sure way to make everything seem smaller. Cultivate an atmosphere using 2 or 3 ambient lamps around your space. By literally spreading out the lighting, you’ll also be metaphorically stretching out the room.”

— Craig Anderson, Editor at Appliance Analysts

Now is the perfect time to rearrange your space. Use what you have at home, order online, and minimize trips out. You can also use this time to prepare and plan bigger projects for when stores are open and it’s recommended to go out again.

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Is Now a Good Time to Start a Home Garden?

Woman and child gardening

Home gardening, especially among millennials, is more popular than ever. Between 2008 and 2013, there was a 63% rise in millennial gardening. Now that most of the nation is staying home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it could be the perfect time to start a home garden (as long as you don’t violate stay-at-home orders or social distancing practices to buy supplies). We spoke with some expert gardeners about how to get started.

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Why it’s a great idea to start a garden right now

Fresh produce. Having your own source of fresh produce can be healthier, save you money and be really rewarding. There’s also no mystery about potential contamination or chemicals.

It’s good for you. Gardening has both physical and mental health benefits. It’ll get you outside for a bit of Vitamin D and help with any stir-crazy feelings. Gardening can help relieve stress, make you feel more productive and provide some exercise. Timothy Hammond, a home gardener, told us, “Gardening for 2.5 hours a week can help achieve the same target heart rate as a moderate-intensity workout. It also provides light strength training.”

You’ve got kids at home. If you have kids home from school right now, gardening is the perfect activity. Sarah Cook, founder of Sustainable Cooks, told us it covers many homeschooling subjects like biology, history, social studies, math and P.E., “We also use our garden to teach our kids about taking care of others. You can always plant a little extra to make sure you’re able to donate to neighbors in need.”

Community. New hobbies can connect you to new communities. You can connect with other gardeners in your area – online for now, of course –  to learn about local soil and seasonality. You can also donate and share your produce with your current community of friends, neighbors and family. Cook told us having a garden has made new connections for her, “My garden is in my front yard that faces a street that people use as part of a common walking route. One of the unexpected benefits of my garden has been all the amazing people I have met while I am out working. Without the garden, those people would never have stopped to chat.”

What you need to know before you start

Start small. It can be easy to go crazy and try to build the perfect Pinterest garden, but if you’re new to home gardening, it’s best to keep your first try simple. You’ll also want to think about how much time and money you’re able to invest in the garden once the stay-at-home mandates lift. Consider what you’ll be able to maintain once you go back to your normal routine.

Resist the urge to jump in and convert your entire gardening space during your first season.  Let the garden and area grow with you as your knowledge expands. You may start off thinking you want to grow food crops, and after doing research, you realize you would instead grow flowers.”

Timothy Hammond, Big City Gardener

Scope out your space. Before you buy seeds or start building garden boxes, consider where your garden can live. Cook told us to consider the year-round sun exposure and the reach of your water source, “I guarantee you won’t want to be hauling buckets of water in the middle of summer out to your garden. Find an area that can easily be reached by a hose.” If you live in an apartment, you might use balcony or terrace space, or consider plants that thrive indoors. 

Research your region. Where you live will impact some of the things you can plant and when they’ll thrive. For some states, it’s the perfect time to start planting for a summer harvest. In other areas, the soil is still frozen in the Spring and you’ll want to consider cold-weather options. Our expert gardeners recommend the Old Farmer’s Almanac for all your regional garden planning. You can also connect with local Facebook groups versed in home gardening. 

Easy projects for beginners

Save your scraps. You can start growing food with the produce you already have in your kitchen. All you need is water and small plastic containers. Chelsea Wells-Barrett, owner of The Green Acre Homestead, said to “Cut off the butt or end of a bunch of celery or head of romaine lettuce and place it in a shallow container with an inch of water. Within a week, you’ll see new growth. Be sure to change the water once or twice a day and take pictures daily to document the growth!” This method works best with sprout and root veggies like celery, potatoes, lettuce, leeks or green onion. 

Herbs. Like succulents, herbs are hard to kill. It’s a great starter plant with low up-front investment (in money and labor). Herbs like cilantro, mint, parsley, rosemary and basil may have slightly varying needs, but are pretty adaptable. You can plant them in a pot on your windowsill, or in the backyard. And if you use a starter plant, rather than seeds, you’ll be able to harvest in no time. 

Seed starters from your local farms. Many local farms and garden centers are offering drive-up or delivery service to purchase seed and plant starter kits for your own garden. It’s a great way to support local businesses while getting a jump start on some home produce. 

Flower beds. Food isn’t the only thing you can garden. Flowers can brighten your landscape and spirits. Wells-Barrett told us, “Flower beds can also be a fun beginner gardening project because they add a little pizazz to your landscape, whether that be a balcony or front porch. Try planting flowers that attract pollinators: Calendula, marigolds and my personal favorite, sunflowers.”

If you decide to start gardening at home, take a picture of your progress and tag us @freshome

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10 Inspiring Work-from-Home Office Setups

Get inspired with these work-from-home office setups

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, most companies are shifting to remote work. As a result, plenty of people are reconfiguing their spaces and scrounging for the tools to effectively work from their homes.

We reached out to our coworkers for some work-from-home inspiration. Some of us are having to make do and get creative with the space we have at home. Others are seasoned remote employees who have mastered an aesthetic. 

Abby Dauchess — Home Jungle, Charlotte, NC
“My setup is what used to be my painting/art area now turned into my WFH sanctuary. Once I knew we were going to be working from home for a while, I wanted to prioritize a dedicated space I could focus in. It’s very nice sitting by a window because I have a great view throughout the day while being stuck inside during social distancing. I especially love having a large portion of my indoor plant collection near my workspace to look at and care for.”

Ali Dunlap — Parent’s Basement, Raleigh, NC
“My father joked about him setting up a workspace for me and when I got home this is what he showed me. Snapped a pic, then got myself back upstairs to set up at a desk.”

Brandi Myers — A Funky Space, Charlotte, NC
“This space is my home office that I use for freelance design work so I needed a room that was energizing and also comfortable to spend time in. My love of color and eclectic sense of style challenges me to balance contemporary pieces with antiques. This is by far the funkiest space in my house.”

Brian Miranda — Quarantined Paradise, Puerto Rico
“During this time of the year we enjoy not-too-hot, mid-70s weather from time to time, which makes it perfect for the hammock! Since I’m working from a back-breaking dining room chair, I thought it would be cool to use the hammock for a while so I came up with this crazy setup.

Carlos Jimenez — Apartment by a Boat Marina, Puerto Rico
“My dad’s favorite hobby is fishing, so the apartment is PACKED with fishing gear. Even though we’re stuck inside most of the day, it’s nice to have a nice view to work with and for running after work.”

Claye Stokes —  The Game Room, Waxhaw, NC
“Showing off the new content performance dashboards to my best co-worker in my music & gaming room. The table is a pool table but I can put a topper on it which makes it my office/conference table. Coworker’s name is Rusty, he’s a two-year old Australian Shepherd.”

Clint Branch —  Designer’s Desk, Charlotte, NC
“I think having a lot of plants around my desk helps fuel creativity and brings life to my work space.”

Ken Hocker — Visual Representation of His Mind, Charlotte, NC
“If I’m going to be stuck at my desk, I need to be surrounded by visual and auditory stimuli to keep the creative juices flowing. The walls of the office are constantly being added to in the hopes that one day every inch will be covered. Very similar to the interior of McSorley’s in NYC, minus the beer and history.”

Taylor Leamey — Home Art Studio (AKA Guest Bedroom), Charlotte, NC
“I angled my desks to take advantage of the natural light instead of facing it. I selfishly hung the things I am most proud of in front of my face, hoping they will sometimes inspire me. (Does it work? No idea. But I like looking at them.)”

Shannon Ullman — Walking Office, Philadelphia, PA
“I bought this treadmill about two months ago because I wanted a healthy alternative to sitting all day. I walk super slowly while working and aim for 10k steps a day!”

Show off your work-from-home set up and tag us @freshome with the hashtag #freshWFH. 

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8 Expert Tips on Organizing Your Home While Sheltering in Place

Organizing your home while sheltering in place

If you live in one of the many cities advocating for (or mandating) a self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re suddenly spending a lot more time at home. Whether you’re working from home, homeschooling your kids, or just need to arrange your space for staying in, it’s a good time to organize. 

After consulting with some top-tier organizing influencers and the president-elect of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO), we’ve compiled a list of ways you can organize your home for quarantine. 

1. Organize your pantry

As you’re prepping your home for quarantine, going through your pantry and shelf-stable items is a great first step. 

“Shoved way back in a corner of your pantry might be food that’s about to expire. What a great time to use up those older items rather than letting them go to waste. Since grocery store shelves are more empty than ever, I would suggest organizing your pantry and fridge/freezer before anything else in your home. It’s important, especially under the current circumstances, to rotate your food, consuming the oldest first – so that nothing goes to waste!”

Shalae Price, Professional Organizer

Start by pulling everything out and marking expiration dates. Take an inventory of your shelf-stable essentials and what you might need more of. If you have an excess of some items, consider reaching out to elderly family and friends or donating what you don’t need. Wipe down your pantry and cupboards before you start putting everything away.

Debbie Sandler, owner of A Life Better Organized, told us to “sort remaining items into like categories. Keep spices together, canned goods, oils and vinegars, baking supplies, cereals and so forth.” Use baskets, jars, bins, crates, lazy Susans and containers to optimize the space. 

2. Designated a space for work or school

If your job has shifted to working remotely, or your kids are doing their schoolwork at home, you’ll need to clear some work space. Setting aside a designated space will help keep the line between work and home from blurring, and make it easier to be productive. 

According to Price, “You need a clutter-free space in order to focus. Use vertical space to store things whenever possible. Keep only the essential items on your desk. Wall pockets can be hung on the wall to store files and papers. Paper sorters on a desktop keep things separated and vertical, eliminating visual clutter and freeing up space to work.” 

3. Create physical space for mental space

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in your home, we recommend decluttering and rearranging your general living spaces. Clearing the space will help it feel less cramped, has several mental health benefits and can make you feel productive. 

You may also need more free space for quarantine activities — like movie or game nights and exercising in your home. There are many free online resources for yoga and exercise classes.

Start by putting loose items away and finding more efficient homes for things you don’t use every day. Utilize closets and space under beds. Take a stab at rearranging your furniture to create more open areas.

4. Organize your closet

Turn on “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and do a deep dive into your closet. Try everything on and consider donating clothes you haven’t worn in a year or more. Neatly fold and organize the things you want to keep by activity, style or color. Box away seasonal items, like big coats and warm scarves, to give your clothes more breathing room. 

You can also get creative and repurpose older items. Crop an old sweatshirt, iron a patch onto your faded jeans, or tie-dye a t-shirt. If you want to hang on to old T-shirts that still hold memories, Sandler recommends turning them into a quilt

5. Sort through your entertainment collection

Do an inventory of all your books, movies and games. Find efficient places to store them, discover some old favorites to pass the time and donate the items you don’t enjoy anymore (local youth centers, retirement homes, children’s hospitals).  

This might be the time to let go of old CDs and VHS tapes — things that take up space and have limited use. You may find you don’t need a lot of older movies that are available on the streaming services you subscribe to.

6. Pass the time with the past

Parse through your photo collection — both physical and digital. Going through photos is the perfect time-consuming project for social distancing. You’ll get to reminisce and remember good times, while also making it easier for your future-self to create albums or find specific photos. 

“Now is a great time to do a clean out of your digital photos. Delete all those utility photos you took, delete bad photos and dwindle down the multiples. If you have time to take it a step further, decide how you want to share your photos. You can create a book or share with family in a cloud account. This can be a great time to share family stories with kids or ask older family members to share their stories.”

Amy Tokos President-Elect of NAPO

You can then take those photos and work on unfinished baby books, albums or scrapbooks.

7. Go for the garage

Garages and sheds are often host to random gear, tools, storage and the remnants of moving. Cleaning and organizing your garage is a physical task, great for some exercise and fresh air.

These spaces tend to collect more dirt, dust and grime than inside spaces. Empty out the garage or shed, then sweep and hose down the area. As you’re filling it again, go through everything and decide what you want to keep, sell, donate or throw away. Sort things by category and plan out where you want to store different item groups. 

Utilize shelves and hang things to create vertical space. Consolidate similar items, like the Christmas decorations, into larger bins. Get creative with your containers — old paint cans, gum or mint containers and filing cabinets can all hold smaller trinkets and tools.

8. Clean out the car

A detailed cleaning and organizing of your car is great preparation for the eventual return to work and normal outings. Go a step beyond washing the exterior and sort through all the random nooks, crannies and glove compartments. Sandler says, “Bring with you two bags, one for the garbage and one for items to relocate. Like extra eyeglasses, coins, receipts, old DVDs, empty drink bottles, and expired coupons (except for Bed Bath & Beyond, they still take those). Remove mats and vacuum floors. Dust the dashboard and clean inside windows.”

One task at a time

There’s an opportunity to use your time during quarantine for things you wouldn’t normally have time for in a pre-coronavirus routine. Cleaning, organizing and reflecting on your material possessions will help you feel productive. 

Price put it best when she told us, “We’re all going to be aware of the things that we really need. We might find out that some of the clutter we’ve held on to for years…does nothing for us even when we’re living in crisis. That tells us it’s OK to purge and make space for other necessities. On the other hand, we might find out that we need to make space in our homes for items we never thought we needed until now.”

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