The following is a post from Kristin Hackler. Kristin is a mother, author and journalist. She is also a regular contributor to eBay on home decoration, DIY and parenting-related topcis. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
Even if you loved the style and color of your home when you first moved in, the most neutral of rooms can become eyesores over time. But with all the expenses of food, family and day-to-day living, it's hard enough to scraping together money for a new welcome mat, let alone remaking an entire living space. But, renovating a room doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, you can do quite a lot for less than $100.
Consider some of the following room renovation ideas, some of which cost nothing and others that will only lighten your wallet by a few bucks. You'll be surprised at what just a few simple changes can do.
Painting Outside of the Bucket
Painting is the number one change you can make for the least amount of money, but have you considered going a step further and adding some interest to that new coat of Fisherman's Wharf blue? For a solid matte wall paint, consider adding texture by rolling stripes in a clear glaze or layering crinkled tissue paper between coats of paint for an old world look.
- Paint a small section of wall, then crumple a sheet of tissue paper, unfold it and press it against the wet paint, spreading it out with your fingers.
- Paint over the tissue paper and repeat with the next section.
- For added dimension, finish with an antiquing glaze.
What is that Accent?
Add interest around the room with repurposed accent pieces. It not only costs much less to use items picked up used at the thrift store or online, or even found around the home, it also impresses guests to see your creativity at work.
Some interesting repurposing ideas include:
- an old crib railing attached to the wall for hanging pictures
- an old louvered shutter attached to the wall as a letter holder
- an old wooden ladder attached to the wall as a shelf
- a wooden ladder as a long shelf by attaching shelving boards across the rungs
- an antique wooden ironing board as a side table
- spoons bent into hooks and screwed into to a 1 x 4 board attached to the wall for holding kitchen items
- thin bookcases turned on their sides for instant benches with cubby space—cover with a strip of foam and decorative fabric for added comfort
From restoring old hardware to adding a touch of color here and there, a couple of small changes can make a big difference in a room. If you have a lot of hardware around your home such as door, cabinet and drawer knobs, hinges, light switches and socket panels, a layer of paint can clean them up quickly with little to no cost. But start with a fresh surface (and you may even prefer the bare look).
All you need to remove old paint is:
- An old crock pot
- Liquid laundry detergent
If you don't have a crock pot sitting around that you don't use anymore, you can usually find one for close to nothing at a thrift store. To remove the paint from your small hardware items, turn the crock pot on low, add water and a few tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent, and allow the hardware to sit in the solution overnight. In the morning, the paint will slip right off.
If your brasses are too bright, you could also use a matte black spray paint designed to work specifically with metal to turn your door knobs from bright brass to faux iron, or a brass darkening solution to give them an antique look.
Splashes of Color
Wall murals are another way to add a creative touch. Not only can you find free-form nature images that can add interest to a bare corner or wall, you can also use them to create temporary drawing stations for the kids. Removable chalkboards and whiteboards can be added to kids' rooms, kitchens and even the living room without worrying about how to cover it up when you have guests over.
Wallpaper can also add new life and character to a room, but enough to cover even one wall can get pretty pricey. Instead, you can add interest with small segments of wallpaper in eye-catching areas such as the back panels of bookshelves, the backsplash of a kitchen or framed and placed around the room in repurposed or upcycled frames.
Renovating a room doesn't have to mean shelling out big bucks for a few small changes. Instead, consider what you have and what you can repurpose to make a big difference with small changes.
What are some ways you've found to renovate a room at little to no cost?
The following is a post by Paco Vega. Paco is a single dad who writes about parenting issues and raising a family in the digital world. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.
Maybe you've just become a single dad, or perhaps you've been going it alone for some time. Either way, if it's time to go apartment hunting, you need to think about some things you'd never consider if you were looking for an apartment for yourself. Here are some tips to get you started:
Establish a Budget
To be affordable, your rent shouldn't eat up more than 30 percent of your monthly income, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Obviously, places in San Francisco or New York City will cost considerably more than apartments for rent in Atlanta, GA, or Billings, MT, and salaries don't always keep up with the increased costs of living. Local rents will also vary depending on the neighborhood.
Contact a local rental property expert to discuss neighborhoods within your budget. Certain factors such as who pays the utilities will cause variation in the rent amount. Find out what utilities you have to pay and how much they typically run.
Check out the Neighborhood
Look for a neighborhood that's accessible to your work place. If you take public transportation, make sure a stop is nearby, and take commute times into consideration and how it will affect your ability to get the kids to school on time.
Does the neighborhood look family-oriented, so your children can make friends with other kids? Are there parks, playgrounds and safe areas for them to play in? Larger apartment complexes may be more likely to have designated play areas, and this will help your child meet other kids right in the apartment community.
Don't forget to call the local police department to find out about the neighborhood crime rate.
Check out Apartment Ratings
Read the reviews on apartment rating websites to learn what past and current tenants think of the complex's management and maintenance department.
What to Ask on the Tour
- Who pays for utilities, and if tenants pay a portion, how much is that?
- What type of heating and cooling systems are used?
- Are pets allowed? Find out if there is a security deposit for a pet, if they charge extra for multiple pets and if you have to pay an extra monthly fee to have pets.
- How much is the security deposit and what is the refund policy on the deposit?
- What lease lengths are offered?
- How far in advance do you have to give notice if you want to move out?
- Is there on-site maintenance? Is the maintenance team available 24/7 for emergencies?
- Are there communal laundry facilities, in-unit washers and dryers or hookups? If facilities are shared, find out how much it costs to do laundry and what the laundry center hours are.
- Can you paint your children's bedrooms? What's the policy regarding painting when you move out?
- Can you put up shelves to add storage to childrens' bedrooms?
Make a List of Your Must-Have Features
Talk to your kids about what they want in an apartment and the apartment community. If you can financially swing it, make their requests high on the priority list, since those features may ease their transition.
Consider the features you think are most important. Storage for the kids' toys and such should be high on that priority list.
Finally, don't over-analyze things. It's the love inside the apartment that will make it your home.
What is one thing you consider when searching for a place to raise your child?
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The following is a post from Jay Harris. Jay is a writer for Home Depot's Blog and lives in the Chicago suburbs. Jay keeps families up-to-date with information on surveillance cameras and security systems. Interested in guest blogging for us? Email here.
Smartphones are getting smarter every day. It seems that there are apps for just about everything, from determining whether rain and clouds are likely to ruin your ballgame, to checking the scores (or watching it live).
Using free or low-cost apps, you can even transform your old smartphone into a wireless security camera to help protect your home and your family. Apps like 'Presence' allow you to turn a second phone into a remote video camera, allowing you to keep tabs on pets, kids or elderly relatives while you are at work or anywhere else, without having to install a pricey home security system.
Keeping Your Kids Safe
Most importantly, apps and other electronic tricks are available that will help protect your children. For example, the start-up company SmartThings is developing a "key fob" you can attach to your child's backpack. It signals you by text when your child leaves the house in the morning and arrives home from school in the afternoon. And you can download a variety of apps that will help ease your mind when your children are somewhere other than at your side.
1. FBI Child ID: This app, developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, lets you store photos and other vital information about your children. If it ever becomes necessary, you can easily provide authorities with a picture of your child, along with physical information such as height and weight.
2. Sex Offender Search: Download this app and you'll always know about sex offenders who live in or near your neighborhood. The information comes from the National Sex Offender Registry.
3. Find My Kids - Footprints: You can use this app to track your children in real time and also to find out where they've been recently. The app lets you set up geofences – your child's school, for example – and notifies you if those fences are crossed.
4. Near Parent: This app permits your kids to check in occasionally to let you know they are OK. If you child actually needs help, a request is sent to trusted adults chosen by you. In addition, you can be notified about impending violent weather such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes.
5. AMBER Alert: Developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, this app was designed to help find missing children. If you have information about a missing child, you can push a button that automatically calls NCMEC's toll-free hotline.
6. Hero (by Apptooth): This app helps spread information quickly about abductions, robberies and car accidents. By pressing a button, users can send video, audio and GPS coordinates to their social networking contacts and others within a five-mile radius.
7. Norton Online Family: This app allows parents to monitor their kids' Web browsing, social media activity and searches on the Internet, to keep them from visiting inappropriate sites and to limit their time on their computer.
8. McGruff SafeGuard Browser: This app permits parents to limit their child's access to pornography and gambling sites. Parents also can view a daily summary of their kid's travels on the Internet.
9. iEmergency ICE Family PRO: This app lets parents store health data concerning allergies, prescriptions and medical conditions. ICE stands for "In Case of Emergency."
10. Food Additives 2: This app offers information on food additives that can be harmful to your children.
11. iCam: Have you ever wanted to monitor what your kids are doing at home while you're at work? If so, this app is for you. It lets you watch live video from any room in your house, as long as you have a webcam and a computer in the room.
12. SecuraFone: This app uses a smartphone's GPS to locate your children and tell you how fast they are driving. It also can notify you if your child ventures beyond a specific geographic area.
13. mamaBear: You want your children to be safe in the physical world, but you also want them to be safe online. This app monitors your child's Facebook feed, alerting you about bullying and crude language.
Your smartphone can be a valuable weapon in the battle to keep your home and your family safe and secure.
What other apps have you found useful for keeping your family and home safe?
Summer is happening. If you’re like me, you can’t believe it’s almost the middle of July.
With a few weeks before the kids go back to school, it’s time to be intentional about making the most of the remaining time.
NFI has you covered.
We've created handy dandy checklists for your home, your car and your family relationships; assuring you and your family is prepared to get things done and enjoy the summer.
Below are just a few of the ideas you will find on our Checklist for a Stress-Free Summer:
1. Checklist For Your Home
-Are your doors and windows properly sealed?
-Is your air conditioning running properly?
-Does your A/C unit need a new filter?
2. Checklist For Your Car
-Does your car have enough fluids, especially oil and coolant?
-How old is your battery?
-Make sure you have the following items in the car:
- Plenty of water
- An emergency kit with flares, flashlight, jumper cables, and basic tools
- A first aid kit with bandages, Benadryl, antibiotics, and sunscreen (This is a must when traveling with kids.)
3. Checklist For Your Relationships
-Have flextime? Use your extra hours to take a daytrip with your family or a long weekend.
-When’s the last day you spent time with your kids doing something special for them?
-Keep it simple:
- Enjoy a sunset or catch fireflies
- Get wet at the community pool, or just with the backyard hose
- Go for a walk as a family or grab and ice cream cone
With a little planning, summer can be fun and worry-free. The point is to be prepared and spend time with your family creating memories that all involved will remember for years to come.
We have more ideas on how to plan your best summer. Just visit our Checklist for a Stress-Free Summer for more information.
What's one thing you're doing to make summer fun?
photo credit: Daniel*1977