Category: Homemaking

Whether you own a home or rent, here I share various tips on home improvement, organization, interior decorating, do-it-yourself projects, maintenance routines, and other aspects of homemaking.

Rug pads make a difference

Rug pads make a difference

Disclaimer: This post contains links out to products. I am not affiliated with the companies in any way nor am I receiving any compensation. These links are used as examples for informative purposes only.

I have moved eleven times so far in my entire life (not counting the two summers I studied abroad), and most of the houses I have lived in had fully carpeted rooms with hard surfaces in designated areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Perhaps that is why I have not given much thought to rug/carpet pads… until recently.

Our current rental house has tile flooring throughout, which is nice in the hot, desert summers but not so nice in the cold winters. I like that the tile floor is easier to clean but it is a bit hard when standing for a long period of time (like when washing dishes at the kitchen sink). When I moved in on New Years 2014, a large area rug to warm up the living room was at the top of my must have list (along with a new TV console that had a built-in electric heater).

My husband, who was my fiancé at the time, helped me rug shop and, after trips to numerous stores, I finally settled for something that had colors and patterns I could live with. Though it helped warm the room, it was not a very lush carpet and provided little to no extra padding underfoot. We bought it, rolled it out right away, and have been content with our choice.

For the next few years, I did not give the living room rug much thought.

Then we had our first child, and the first time he fell and hit his head hard on the living room floor, I was horrified. Our area rug provided no extra padding, and it was as if he had bumped his head on the tile itself! We bought a cute head protector (similar to this one) for when he was learning to crawl. That definitely helped save his precious noggin during more than a few tumbles but did not solve the real problem.

Around the same time, we bought a gorgeous area rug for our master bedroom that was thicker and softer, and I realized just how unpadded the living room rug really was.

Our little Peanut is 13-months-old now and he is now learning to walk. Three weeks ago, he took his first steps on his own, and he is now walking quite a bit. He likes to kneel, take one knee, or even sort of belly-flop onto the floor. He also loves to sit down, lean back until his head bumps the floor, kick his feet in the air while laughing, and then roll around.

And in another four months (give or take), we will have another little one who will also pass through the crawling, tumbling, walking phases!

If you have been following this blog for even a little bit of time, you know that we live on a budget and when making larger purchases, we try to find good deals. We will often save up for our purchases and then wait weeks or months more for a good sale or deal. This time, we had to take into consideration the urgency of this need for our son’s safety.

So with some extra money from one of my freelance projects and taking advantage of free shipping, we bit the bullet and purchased a pad to go under our living room rug. (We settled on this one from Amazon.) It should be arriving any day now, and we cannot wait to lift the rug, roll out the pad, and see how well it works at cushioning our feet and softening our son’s… tumbling.

Update: 2 October 2017

The rug pad arrived promptly last Friday, the exact day it was scheduled to. At first, we thought they sent the wrong size as the roll was only about 4 foot wide, but we quickly realized they had folded the pad over before rolling it to make it easier to ship. Sunday my parents came over to help us do a few improvements around the house, and one of the projects was to roll back the living room carpet and put the pad down.

It was actually more challenging that it sounds. Our living room is a bit tight and we have a 8’x10′ rug to maximize floor coverage. One side is tucked under our couch and the opposite site is beneath our heavy TV console (with a built-in electric heater, shelving, and a large flatscreen television). We knew we could not get the pad under the TV console; it was just too heavy to try to lift up.

As it was, it took three of us to lift the couch, pull back the carpet, lay down the pad, straighten the pad, put the carpet back, and smooth out the lumps. Then my dad took a straight edge and trimmed the carpet pad where it was showing.

We are so happy with the result. The 3/8″ thickness provides just the right amount of cushion on our feet (and our son’s head) without raising the carpet edges too high, thus preventing a tripping hazard.

One takeaway from this whole experience, it is easier to cushion area rugs and carpets when you are first moving into a residence (before the large furniture is brought in). Ideally, we should have bought a pad when we purchased our area rug. It is possible to add a rug pad later, but it is more of a challenge and may require additional helpers for lifting and re-arranging furniture. If you live in a house with hard floors, this is something to consider.

How much of your current home is carpet or hard floor? Do you use rug pads under your area rugs?

The idea of a heavenly home

The idea of a heavenly home

The title of this blog is A Heavenly Home, and I chose this name because of the hope and inspiration that it gives. If we are all honest with ourselves, I am certain that each one of us desires to have a warm, loving home that resembles a small piece of heaven on earth.

In our hectic, busy modern world, such an ideal home environment can seem hard — maybe even impossible — to achieve. Sometimes our best laid plans go awry or life circumstances force us to be flexible in ways we had not intended.

Our home is no different.

Is our house always tidy? No.

Do we have more clutter than we should? Yes.

Do we always put away our clean laundry? No.

Do dishes sometimes pile up in the sink? Yes.

Does our home look like a glossy magazine spread or a bright photo op on a fancy home blog? Absolutely not.

At the moment, I work full time outside the home with some freelancing on the side while my husband stays home with our one-year-old son. This was not our original plan, but it is where we find ourselves at this time. My amazing husband keeps our household running by not only caring for our son but also taking on a large share of domestic duties, including but not limited to laundry, vacuuming, tidying, yard work, taking care of the aging dog, etc. I appreciate everything he does so I try to pitch in and ease his burdens when I can.

We had a fairly good system working for us before we discovered I was pregnant with Baby #2 back in May and the first trimester all-day-every-day sickness struck. Around the same time, our little Peanut began to teethe… badly. Everything quickly dissolved into barely manageable chaos. For a little while there, it was a struggle. Then we realized that stage of our life was merely temporary, and it was ok to let the less important things slide for awhile.

Do not misunderstand. I do believe having a clean and tidy home tends to make the home more inviting and is more nurturing for those who live there.

However, the physical house is only part of what makes a home feel like a little bit of heaven on earth. To create a home that is a welcomed retreat from the cares of the outside world, warm and inviting, you need more than simply clean rooms.

A heavenly home is built on love, courtesy towards those who live with you, quality time spent together, and laughter.

My natural tendency at times would be to stare at the three days’ worth of dirty dishes piled up in the sink and feel like a failure for being too exhausted (and sick!) to do them. There were times I had to remind myself: “At this moment, cuddling with my little son who is crying for “Mama” because a new tooth is working its painful way through his gum is far more important than some dirty dishes.”

When times became challenging, we chose to focus on what is most important. For our little family it was spending time together as a couple, spending time with our son, and doing what was best for our health. For me that also meant extra sleep!

Since then, things have begun to even out again. (Praise the Lord!) I am no longer feeling sick, and my energy has returned to normal. We are now in a place where we have a handle on the weekly housekeeping duties again and can also re-start some of the projects we had to put on hold for those couple of months, such as what I like to call “the big purge”. (More on this later.)

A clean house is important for physical health and a tidy house is good for mental health, but never forget that what truly transforms a house into a home is the people who live there and the atmosphere you cultivate.

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 2:3-4, ESV

Our home and family is built on the love of Christ. If we keep Christ as our focus and His love in our hearts, everything else falls into its proper place. Our home becomes a warm, inviting, nurturing place full of the most important riches: love, selfless service, and grace. We know what is most important and are able to be flexible when circumstances change.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore a little bit more into the idea of a heavenly home and share some of our plans for improvement.

Join the discussion

What does your home look like? What does a heavenly home mean to you? In what areas do you need improvement?

Budget Guide: 3 tips for big ticket items

Budget Guide: 3 tips for big ticket items

In this follow up to my Budget Guide series, I will be sharing with you how we were able to furnish our home and prepare for the arrival of our first child while staying within our budget.

Both my husband and I work full time and what limited free time we have after work is filled up with family events, church activities, and helping to launch a family business with my parents. After our little Peanut was born, we had to do some creative juggling to maintain our old schedule and care for a newborn. Our house was lacking some much needed furniture, but we did not have the time nor the energy to go store hopping to find the best deals.

So here are three tips for big ticket items based on how we stayed within our budget.

Shopping Online

If you have a busy life and do not have the time to travel from store to store comparing items and prices, I recommend shopping online from reputable online retailers.

Last year we purchased four dining room chairs, a small cabinet for the kitchen, two bedside tables for the master bedroom, two large area rugs, a rocking chair, and a crib mattress all online. In most cases, we did careful research to find the items that we wanted that were within our budget. Then we waited until the online retailers were running sales, had discounts, or offered free shipping.

Free shipping is crucial, especially with large/heavy items, or you will find yourself spending $20+ on shipping and handling fees!

Buy secondhand

If you do have the time to visit the secondhand stores in your area and are patient enough to wait until you find the right items, buying secondhand may be the right direction to go in.

Depending on the time of year, you may find good deals on larger furniture items. Almost year round, you can find curtains, throw pillows, artwork, and other pieces to accent your home. There are two keys to successful secondhand shopping: 1.) visiting thrift stores located in the higher income neighborhoods, and 2.) having the time and patience to shop around.

Be very specific about what items to you buy. Even with secondhand stores, you need to carefully consider your purchases. You might find an excellent deal on a couch but is the item in decent condition, would fit your home and style, necessary at this time? Basically, even at the discounted price, ask yourself if buying the item is worth it.

It is very easy to slip into a shopaholic mindset and buy anything that catches your eye, only to regret it later when you look at your dwindling checking account.

Get items from family and friends

This third tip is similar to buying secondhand and is very useful when you are first setting up a home but may not have the funds yet for furnishing it. That is: get items from family and friends for free.

Coffee tables, couches, end tables, dressers… sometimes our family and friends have a treasure trove of items they are replacing or just no longer want or need.

In our house, our couch and recliner in the living and the long dresser in our master bedroom were free from my older sister and brother-in-law. A dresser with a hidden desk, a china cabinet, and two bar stools were from my husband’s grandparents. Our current coffee table and a corner accent table we use in the hallway were from friends.

Do all of these pieces match? No, but they are all great pieces individually, fulfilled a genuine need in our home, and, most important for us, were free!

This means that they fill our home with desperately needed storage and comfort while giving us time to discover our unique “style” and save up for big purchases. Couches, for example, can be very expensive when you buy new. Why rush into a purchase you may not really love or may not fit you in a few months?

We have a decent-looking and comfortable couch that has work for us for two years now and, because it was free, I do not freak out when the baby spits up all over it. We know that eventually we will be replacing the couch with a better one, but it does its job for now.

In conclusion

So to sum up: to save some money if you are furnishing a new place or haven’t discovered your style yet, see what big items you can get for free from family and friends. Then, if you have the time, visit secondhand stores, especially those in the higher income areas of your town, to find items at bargain prices. To finish up, shop online to find quality items on sale and with free shipping.

These three tips can help you stay within your budget when shopping for big ticket items.

9 inexpensive ways to personalize a rental property

9 inexpensive ways to personalize a rental property

Disclaimer: Before making any significant changes to a property you are renting, remember to talk with your landlord and/or refer to your lease agreement so you know what is allowed and not allowed.

Do you find yourself daydreaming about owning your own home some day, browsing home decor blogs, or creating Pinterest boards to pin your favorite looks? Are you tired of empty white walls and a lack of personality in your home? If you are one of the millions who rent and thought that you cannot customize your temporary “home”, think again!

There are a number of things that you can do to personalize a property you are renting without spending a great deal of money or breaking your lease contract. Here are nine inexpensive ways we have and are currently transforming our current rental house into a cozy home that fits us.

1. Hang Curtains

Yes, I know it sounds simple, but you would be surprised how a properly hung curtain can radically transform a room. We went two years with a makeshift curtain in our master bedroom even though we already had a rod, curtain, and sheers simply because 1.) we were not certain we would be staying in this rental long, and 2.) we were lazy and did not want to remove the hideous and broken vertical blinds.

When we finally decided to make the switch, it took us maybe twenty minutes to remove the old vertical blinds and the plastic mounts, mount our nice double curtain rod, and hang the sheers and curtains. We went two years with a cheap curtain draped over a plastic mount and closed with clothes pins when we could have been enjoying a gorgeous and relaxing master bedroom with a mere twenty minutes of work!

A properly hung curtain can take a room from shabby to chic in as little as twenty minutes!

Curtains do not have to be an expensive purchase. Browse your favorite home decor stores to find the style and color that fits you. If you are on a tight budget, visit online retailers to find better deals on similar items or wait until the store has the desired item on sale.You can also try visiting secondhand stores, consignment shops, or even asking friends and family if they have old curtains they no longer use.

Just be sure that you get two matching panels (one for each “side” of the window) of the correct length. Measure your window!

To take it up a notch also hang sheers. Sheers allow light to enter a room while protecting your privacy, and sheers can take a window from looking average to elegant.

2. Change Out Toilet Seats

Though toilet seats may not be even on your mind when you move into a rental home or if you have been renting for awhile, they can transform a bathroom. Toilet seats wear out and some even break over time due to daily use. Some seats are heavy and tend to SLAM! if accidentally dropped. Some are just plain uncomfortable, ugly, or so old that the cleanliness is questionable.

Take a trip to your local hardware store and browse the toilet aisle. There are many options to choose from and at $30-$40 dollars, it is fairly inexpensive to change out a seat. Just be sure you choose the correct shape (circle or oblong) and color (white or beige) for your toilet!

We recently replaced the oblong toilet seat in our master bathroom with a wood, no-slam toilet seat for around $35. It has made a huge difference, especially during those middle of the night or early morning bathroom visits when, before, we would accidentally drop the toilet seat lid and it would make the loudest sound ever! We will be replacing the circle toilet seat in the guest bathroom this weekend.

Toilet seats are very easy to replace. Just follow the instructions on the box to remove the old seat and add the new one.

3. Switch out basic fixtures

Since we are already talking about changing out toilet seats, how about switching out other small and basic fixtures, especially in the bathroom? Sometimes towel rods and toilet paper holders in rental properties are old, mismatchy, or, let’s be honest, some landlords go too cheap and simply slap a dowel rod up on the wall where a missing towel rod should have been.

A new towel rod or toilet paper holder, especially one that matches the finish of the bathroom faucet, can bring a sense of cohesion to a small space.

Also in the bathroom, switching to a brand new shower head — especially one with multiple settings — makes a world of difference. No matter if the shower is old, a nice and new showerhead can turn your daily routine into a spa-like oasis! Depending on the type you want, you can get a multiple settings showerhead for as little as $12.

One more tip: improving the atmosphere of a room can be a simple as changing out the type of light bulbs used.

4. Remove accordion doors

One of the worst inventions in home decor, at least in my opinion, are those heavy and hard to use metal bifold doors. They tend to be found in older homes and used for closets. More often than not, they no longer slide smoothly on their tracks, may not even close all of the way, and can pinch fingers and hands.

We had one on the coat/pantry closet in the house we are currently renting and after months of fighting with it, my husband simply removed the door.

If you desire, you can leave the closet open, for example in an office or child’s room. There are really cool things you can do with a door-less closet, such as turn it into a little office nook by adding a desk. If you would still like the privacy, you can hang a curtain that compliments your decor on an inexpensive tension rod and place it inside the closet opening.

5. Brighten up cabinets and drawers with lining

If your kitchen and bathroom cabinets are older or stained on the inside, you can easily pick up inexpensive rolls of lining and lining paper. The second night after we moved into our current rental, I cleaned and put lining in all of our kitchen cabinets and drawers before unpacking our dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. It gave me peace of mind and also made cheap and very old white cabinets look presentable-ish.

Recently, I picked up some cheap paper lining with a subtle white and gray chevon pattern to place underneath our kitchen sink. When I say “cheap”, I mean it was literally $1 from a local dollar store. Dollar stores and the “dollar” or “clearance” aisles at other stores are the perfect place to shop for things like cabinet/drawer lining, because you can experiment with the look (and texture) without spending a lot of money.

The nice thing about utilizing lining around your house is that it freshens up a space, can be customized to fit your individual style, and if it is damaged, it is easily replaced.

6. Display themed artwork beautifully

Nothing screams “rental” more than empty walls or, even worse, poorly hung artwork with no theme or cohesiveness.

First, you need to talk with your landlord about their policies when it comes to wall hangings. Some landlords do not want you putting nails/screws in the walls at all so you will have to look into using an alternative method (such as command strips) that will not “damage” the wall. This may limit the size and weight of the artwork you choose to display. Other landlords have no problem with you drilling into the walls but may require you to spackle over the holes before you turn in the keys on move-out day.

Before you rush out to buy new artwork (if you do not already have some), take time to consider your personal tastes in art, colors, subject matter, and where you would like to feature pieces. The last thing you want to do is throw random pieces all over your walls.

Also, like I mentioned with curtains, you do not have to spend a great deal of money on artwork. Depending on your location, a visit or two to some second hand shops may result in a few treasures at severely discounted prices. If possible, try visiting a second hand shop in the higher income area of town. Some places have beautifully framed paintings and prints that originally cost over a hundred dollars for anywhere between $5 to $20.

Keep an eye on sales at your favorite home decor stores as well.

However, be careful not to rush into purchases that do not quite fit your theme and color scheme simply out of a desire to fill your space. It is worth living with an empty room for awhile to save your money for the perfect fit.

When it comes to hanging artwork, browse Pinterest and home decor blogs for visual inspiration. You can hang a large picture by itself or you can cluster a variety of small pieces for a gallery look. Before drilling into the wall (or applying your command strips), cut brown paper into the size/shape of your artwork and tape those on the wall to get a feel for placement.

Image of potted plants, one of nine inexpensive ways to personalize a rental property

7. Add a few potted plants

Potted plants not only bring a bit of life and color to a space, but the oxygen that they provide has a cleansing affect on the air within your home.

But not just any plants will do. You need hardy specimens that will thrive in the low-natural light of your apartment/home or won’t die if you forget to water them for a few days or can adjust to the temperature variations (if you do not use air conditioning in the summer).

Some of my personal favorites include philodendron, snake plant, aloe vera, and spider plant. We have little potted plants, mostly philodendron, on a buffet table beneath the dining room window.

The nice thing about philodendron, specifically, is that it is a trailing plant, which means its stems grow very long. You can let them trail, wrap them up, or snip them off. Place the trimmings in a jar of clean water, and they will grow roots so you can replant them. More plants for free!

A sweet bonus about keeping an aloe vera plant or two around is that you can cut a piece off and spread the gel it secretes on your skin to treat sunburns.

If having live plants is a no go for you — perhaps you travel too often or every plant you ever had died on you — try adding a few nice fake plants. Just be sure you clean the fabric leaves as they easily collect dust and dirt.

8. Paint

If your landlord has granted you permission to paint, a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color with an accent wall is a relatively inexpensive way of customizing your rental home. Take your time to consider your color options. I recommend getting the paint samples from your local store and placing them in the room(s) so you can see how the color looks throughout the day and night in various types of lighting. When painting, take special care to protect the floor and ceiling from ‘accidents’.

Some landlords do not allow tenants to paint — and for good reason! Many people have no clue how to paint so the floors and ceilings end up a disaster or the tenants choose horrible colors that the landlord will have to paint over later. Before moving in to a new rental, consider asking your potential landlord if he or she is willing to give the home a new paint job in a neutral color of your choice or even just white, off-white, light sandy beige, or a light gray. These neutral colors will usually compliment any decor scheme.

If your landlord originally did not allow painting but you have been a good tenant for a handful of years, you may want to bring the subject of painting up again. Having “proved” yourself by taking care of the residence for two or so years, the landlord may allow you more freedom to re-paint or may offer to re-paint for you.

9. Change out light fixtures

This can be a little more expensive, depending on if the landlord covers the cost and, if not, where you purchase your light fixtures. Landlords are obligated to replace damaged or broken fixtures (if it is not your fault), and some landlords may be willing to replace a fixture that is inconvenient, old, or simply hideous if asked.

If your landlord decides not to replace a light fixture for you, you may want to consider replacing the fixture yourself. Talk to your landlord first to see if he or she is willing to deduct the cost of the new fixture from your next month’s rent. (Our landlord deducted the cost when we replaced our kitchen faucet.) If not, it might be in your best interest to just eat the cost.

For example, we had a functioning light in our kitchen but it was hideous and hung too low over a high-traffic walk area. We have some friends who are taller-than-average, and one in particular kept banging his head on the light. The final straw for us was when he hit his head so hard I heard the impact of it in the living room over the hum of conversation.

So we found a nice four-bulb track light on sale at our local hardware store for around $60, and my dad helped my husband remove the old light and install the new one.

For a little out-of-pocket expense, we not only removed a hideous light that some of our guests hit their heads on, but we also were able to direct the bulbs to the areas of the kitchen that needed it most: the fridge, the stove, the sink, and the island. Now the kitchen is brighter and is a more pleasant space!

We are thinking about replacing the three outside lights with lights that are either on a timer or light-sensitive to help us save money on our electric bill, especially in the summer when the sun rises early and sets late.

 

Whether you are renting an apartment, a condo, a single-family home, or a mobile home, we hope that you have been inspired by these nine ways to personalize a rental property.

Maintaining an older car

Maintaining an older car

Back to school time also means back to work for my husband, who currently works for a local school district. Over the summer, he spoiled me by driving me to and from work everyday. It was great to be dropped off right at the front of my building instead of parking a mile away and either walking (not wise to do while pregnant during Arizona’s extreme summer months) or hopping a free bus.

It was also nice that we could spend a little more time together. We usually spent our ten-fifteen minute car rides in the morning making plans for that evening or the rest of the week, and after work, we would run errands before heading home.

Unfortunately for me, our nice little trips are coming to an end as a new school year begins, and I will once again drive myself into work. At least for the month of August, because I will be going on maternity leave at the beginning of September.

That said, my car — a reliable 1998 Ford — was in desperate need of a tune up and the air conditioning has not worked for three years. So Bradley and I took the car into the autoshop yesterday morning and chatted with the mechanic.

I have been preparing myself for the air conditioning to be quite expensive and we did not know if there was anything else wrong that would also require immediate attention. This is one reason why we chose to wait to take the car in. Another reason was that Bradley’s vehicle, which we use more often and for longer distances, needed a few major repairs earlier this year. So we waited to work on my car until we had saved up enough money in our Vehicle Maintenance Fund to cover whatever repairs might required.

To our surprise, the mechanic quoted a significantly lower price than I anticipated, though we knew it could go up once they got under the hood and poked around. Still, when Bradley dropped me off at the office, I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

About lunch time, Bradley received a call saying that the air conditioning damage was more extensive than they had seen in a long time. Yes, my poor car experienced an incident three years ago that caused a bit of damage, and yet it has continued running faithfully. Sometimes old cars are better than new ones! Especially old cars that are completely paid off and just need a little extra care to get it back in proper working order.

After work, we swung by the autoshop to pick up the car. I was actually surprised they were able to fix the air conditioning in one day. In addition to the AC, they did the usual check up and an oil change. The mechanic did let us know that a few other items will need to be replaced down the line. For example, the radiator reservoir has a big dent in it. No cracks or leaks yet, but it probably should be replaced in awhile. The final price, including labor, was actually a tad lower than the price we were quoted in the morning. Praise the Lord!

Driving home was amazing! The car drove nice and smooth and the cool air was heavenly!

You have to understand, I have been without air conditioning in this car for three years, and I live in Arizona where temperatures in the summer often stay above 110° and it is even hotter inside a car driving on asphalt in rush hour traffic. Mornings were always fine, but driving home in the afternoons, I would be soaked in sweat and have to shower!

Now the vents are blowing lovely and wonderfully cool air! It is also powerful. I actually had to turn it down to low before I arrived home. Driving into work for August will be a breeze now, and once our little son is born, I will be able to take him on errands during the day instead of having to wait for Bradley to get home.

Maintain an older car or get a new one?

So how do you know if an old car is worth maintaining or if it would be more cost effective in the long run to trade up?

Here are a few things to consider before ditching your current vehicle and rushing out to buy a new or new-to-you used one:

Current monthly payments

Is your current vehicle completely paid off? If it is, than the only monthly expenses you have is your insurance and gas. Every once in a while, you may have to take the car in for a tune up or repair, but you are free from the burden of large monthly car payments.

I love that my car — old as it is — is completely paid off! I only have to pay for the insurance on a monthly basis, routine maintenance once or twice a year (which I admit I had neglected over the last two years), and repairs rarely.

Tip: If you are not already, you should start tracking your monthly expenses so you can get an accurate idea of how much you are spending each month and where that money is going. Learn more about tracking your expenses with our Budget Guide: Tips for Saving series!

Total maintenance costs

How much have you spent in the last year or two maintaining your current vehicle? Sure, a few hundred dollars here and a thousand there can feel huge when you are on a budget or, like us, want to pay cash and not use credit cards or loans. However, even if you spent $3,000-$5,000 on your vehicle in the last two years, that is significantly less than you will pay on a new car. Even if you get a new-to-you used vehicle, you do not always know upfront what the cost of maintaining that vehicle down the road will be.

Tip: You can have your local, trusted mechanic give you a list of items that may need to be addressed in the near future but do not have to be repaired immediately. This can help you decide whether or not it is worth keeping your current vehicle and also help you properly save up for those repairs. Learn more about creating a Vehicle Maintenance Fund in your savings account!

Reliability of the vehicle

If properly maintained, how reliable is your vehicle? Does your car have a history of unexpected breakdowns? Is there a major repair looming in your near future that you will not be able to afford even with the savings from your Vehicle Maintenance Fund? Depending upon the past reliability of your car, you may lean towards keeping it or trading it in.

Satisfying needs

Does your current vehicle still meet the needs of you and your family? Sometimes, an individual or family simply outgrow a vehicle. Perhaps your current vehicle can no longer accommodate your growing family or changes in your profession, hobbies, or budget. However, if the car is still satisfying your needs, you may want to keep it longer and save the money that would otherwise go to a new car, monthly payments, and higher insurance.

After taking all of these things into consideration, you will have a better idea on which course of action is right for you. There may be unavoidable and practical reasons that necessitate a new car. Or perhaps you realize just how reliable and cost effective your current vehicle actually is — despite its age, quirks, and odd looks.

I understand. My Ford is, unfortunately, not the most attractive anymore. Hard water when I lived in California years ago damaged the paint pretty badly, but despite its looks, the extremely low maintenance costs, no monthly payments, and reliability of the vehicle make it a keeper! I think we can get a few more years out of it.

The $3 Faucet Fix

The $3 Faucet Fix

Disclaimer: This post contains a link out to a product. I am not affiliated with the company in any way nor am I receiving any compensation. This link is used as an example for informative purposes only.

My husband and I are currently renting a three bedroom, single family home in a nice little neighborhood that is a mix of home owners and renters. The house itself was built in 1977 and has a floor plan that was exceptionally popular for houses built around that time in our area. At one time, the house was very well cared for — the kitchen was renovated and the backyard had an irrigation system. After it was turned into a rental, it has not been kept up and there are quite a few things that are falling apart.

Our landlord is nice, but unless it is an emergency (like when our water heater started spraying hot water everywhere), he is very much hands off and a bit… uh, frugal. We do not like to bother him unless we absolutely have to so we either just live with a minor inconvenience or we try to fix it ourselves.

About two months ago, I thought I broke the faucet of our guest bathroom. When using real candles in the bathroom, I always place the small candle in the sink so if it tips, it is not as much of a fire-risk. Even more so in this old house which is made of wood and extremely dried out. Unfortunately, we were trying new candles with wood wicks, and I learned pretty quickly that wood wicks burn a lot hotter than traditional wicks.

It melted the aerator!

Of course, at that time I did not even know what an aerator was. I thought I had damaged the whole faucet and was worried we would have to replace it. Since we are saving money for both the arrival of our son in September and fixing the air conditioning in my car, the thought of spending money on a faucet did not sit well with me.

So I did the mature thing: I procrastinated.

We have had numerous guests over the last month, and every time they would go to wash their hands, they would either get sprayed with water or accidentally spray water all over. Determined to try to save money and avoid having to eat the cost of a whole new faucet, I finally searched the Internet and discovered that aerators are removable and easily replaceable. Turns out, it was just the plastic screen insert that melted anyway!

So what is an aerator?

An aerator is that piece at the end of your faucet where the water comes out through a screen. It separates the stream of water so that it does not splash and spray everywhere. Aerators can also be used to limit the amount of water for conservation purposes. Learn more about faucet aerators on Wikipedia.

The Fix

Sometimes you can unscrew an aerator with just your hand, but ours was stuck tight. A few gentle taps with a hammer loosened the aerator body so we could unscrew it. I confirmed that the screen on the insert had melted and needed replacing so we took the whole thing — aerator body and insert — with us to Home Depot. We searched around the plumbing/faucet aisles until we found the section with replacement parts for sinks.

Almost immediately, we found an identical replacement insert of the correct size, and it was only $2.99!

We happily purchased the insert. Once back home, we put in the new aerator insert and chose the correct rubber washer for our aerator. Aerators either are male (the ridges for the screw are on the outside) or female (the ridges for the screw are on the inside) and depending upon your aerator, you need a larger or smaller washer for a correct fit. Our aerator was female so the smaller washer worked for us. We assembled the aerator and screwed it back onto the faucet.

Viola! The water streamed beautifully and calmly out of the faucet.

It was wonderful to fix the faucet ourselves for under $3, and now our guests will no longer have water splashing and spraying all over them when they wash their hands!

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

It has been a little while since our last Project: Organization update, and I’d thought I write a few lines. We have been extremely busy over the last week and a half. We volunteered with the Vacation Bible School at our church every evening from Sunday through Thursday, and Friday morning we left for a weekend trip to San Diego to help support my parents’ Lesson Book Ministries.

Therefore, not as much was done around the house as we would have liked. However, I like to tell Bradley that as long as we get a little bit done every day or every few days, we are making progress! With that type of a positive mindset, we were able to accomplish a few things in spite of our very busy schedule.

We were able to go through most of the storage bins that were crowding up our office. We put books we are keeping on the bookshelves in no particular order yet (that will come later) and set aside others for donation. We got rid of quite a bit of recycling and trash, and ended up with a few empty bins that we can now use to store more important things! One day while I was at work, Bradley neatly stacked the remaining bins against the far wall and now the office feels more open and you are not afraid of running into things. We still have a lot to do in there, but this was a huge step in the right direction!

Bradley took quite a bit of things to a thrift store and also surprised me with finishing tidying up our back patio, which we had started a few weeks ago when we cleaned out the shed. He moved our patio chairs up to the folding table and straightened some things. It looks much better!

We are nearly done with the re-organizing of the master bedroom. After doing a lot of hunting at thrift stores and box stores for decent beside tables and not finding anything that fit our needs and were in our price range, we stumbled upon a cute end table at Target. I went online and discovered that they were having a sale so we purchased two. We ended up taking advantage of two discounts (a 15% off and a 10% off) and free shipping, which saved us so much money. The end tables arrived earlier than we were expecting last week and so we had the boxes sitting in our living room while we did VBS and went to San Diego.

Last night while watching an old western movie, we assembled the first end table. It was very sturdily built and easy to put together, though it took awhile as we kept pausing to watch parts of the movie. So one table is done and nicely located beside the bed. It is the perfect size and color, and I cannot wait to organize the drawer and lower shelf. We are hoping to assemble the second one tonight or tomorrow tonight.

We have not had time to make much progress in the nursery yet, but we have some time. We did find the perfect curtains at Ross and some artwork for the walls. We just need to paint before we start hanging things ups. Some of the old decor (artwork, etc.) that we purchased second-hand in the last two years when the room was being used as a guest room, will be re-donated to thrift stores for someone else to enjoy.

That reminds me! We need to finish putting together our baby registries and start sending out the Baby Shower invites.

 

Our “Project: Organization” list:

Dining Room

  • move dining room table
  • organize china cabinet
  • organize overflow pantry cabinets
  • buy six dining room chairs

Living Room

  • move exercise bike
  • find rocking chair or loveseat (ON HOLD)

Master Bedroom

  • find a chest of drawers (4-6 drawers)
  • toss broken drawers
  • hang curtains
  • find two bedside tables Purchased and delivered! One bedside table has been assembled. One more to go!
  • finish cleaning out / organizing the closet

Nursery

  • go through everything: keep, toss, or donate
  • move any storage bins to the shed
  • paint walls
  • hang curtains
  • find low dresser with flat top for baby things
  • find rug
  • get crib from my parents
  • hang pictures/artwork and accessorize
  • organize baby things (after baby shower)

Office

  • sort all books: keep or donate – progress: 40%
  • organize bookshelves
  • stain second desk and move my tablet onto it
  • return glass breakfast table to my parents
  • find some curtains
  • find a rug
Project: Organization

Project: Organization

For the last month, Bradley and I have been working hard (with some help from family) to get our home ready for the arrival of our dear little boy. In just two years of marriage, we had somehow collected enough stuff to overrun a three bedroom home even with the purchase of a nice shed for the backyard. Mostly, the problem was lack of proper organization, but there is no denying we also had too much stuff! Thus “Project: Organization” was put into action.

It began with moving the gorgeous dining room table my parents found for us a year ago into it’s proper place in the dining room. (Shocking!) We had been using it as a temporary desk in our office, but it was far too large from that bedroom. Also I was envisioning a grown up dining room and realized, after seeing so many houses during our months of house hunting, that our dining room is actually quite spacious. Dad helped Bradley move the table into the dining room, and Mom helped me figure out how to arrange the other furniture. We ended up moving a buffet table from the living room to the dining room and it is now the home of half of our house plants under the window. It really opens up the space and gives it a wonderful feel.

That same day, Dad and Bradley built framed screens for the windows along the back of the house. None of the windows in this house have screens and the landlord would not put them in, but with mosquito season upon us and Zika a worry, we knew we had to get screens in. Now the back of the house is protected from the little buggers, which is important since most of the breeze we get comes from the back. At the same time, my parents helped put up some outside shade screens for the corner of the patio that is scorched by the blazing Arizona summer sun in the late afternoons.

The living room is almost completed. We just need have to find a comfortable rocking chair.

Last week, we worked very hard clearing everything out of the shed in our backyard. It needed a good sweep and wash to get the bugs and spiders out. While the shed was drying, we sorted through the mountain of stuff on our patio. We ended up getting rid of some things and when we put the rest back in the shed, we were surprised with how much room there is. That will come in handy as we move some items from inside the house to the shed in the next month.

Yesterday Bradley and I were able to put curtains up in the master bedroom. It has only taken two and a half years! The curtains and rod we had the whole time, but we kept thinking: why go through all the trouble if we are moving? Once we decided not to move for at least another year (possibly two), we decided it was time to finish all of the little unfinished things like putting up curtains in our bedroom. Hahaha! Anyway, the curtains and sheers really polish the room and look great. We should have done that the week I moved in years ago. *face palm*

And we will be doubling down on the nursery now. We plan to paint the room next Friday so we have a week and a half to get all the stuff currently stored in there cleared out. And next week is VBS at our church so our evenings are completely unavailable. Hmm…

So what is left on our massive “Project: Organization” list?

Dining Room

  • move dining room table
  • organize china cabinet
  • organize overflow pantry cabinets
  • buy six dining room chairs

Living Room

  • move exercise bike
  • find rocking chair or loveseat

Master Bedroom

  • find a chest of drawers (4-6 drawers)
  • toss broken drawers
  • hang curtains
  • find two bedside tables
  • finish cleaning out / organizing the closet

Nursery

  • go through everything: keep, toss, or donate
  • move any storage bins to the shed
  • paint
  • hang curtains
  • find low dresser with flat top for baby things
  • find rug
  • get crib from my parents
  • hang pictures/artwork and accessorize
  • organize baby things (after baby shower)

Office

  • sort all books: keep or donate
  • organize bookshelves
  • stain second desk and move my tablet
  • return glass breakfast table to my parents
  • find some curtains
  • find a rug
9 Things People with Clean Houses Do Daily

9 Things People with Clean Houses Do Daily

I read an article recently that provided a list of nine relatively simple tasks that people with clean and organized houses do on a daily basis. Now I am a semi-neat individual, but there are a few areas that I struggle with so my curiosity enticed me to click the link. Not all tasks will apply to every situation, but it does provide a simple guideline that you can use to do a better job of keeping up with the little things around a home.

The nine daily tasks include:

  1. Make the bed
  2. Empty dishwater in the morning
  3. Do a load of laundry a day
  4. Use baskets to organize
  5. Don’t procrastinate
  6. Put clothes they wore that day away before going to sleep
  7. Clean as they move about the house
  8. Never go to sleep with a dirty kitchen
  9. Plan ahead

Obviously, doing laundry everyday may not fit your lifestyle or needs. Likewise, some people may not use or own a dishwasher. However, the principle of keeping up on the laundry, dishes, etc. can help many families improve the tidiness of their homes.

As for me, I need improvement in two areas: cleaning the kitchen every night (instead of leaving it for the next morning) and getting the clean clothes from folded in the basket(s) or on the guest bed and into their proper drawer or closet.

What areas or tasks do you struggle with?

Backyard transformation

Backyard transformation

At the beginning of the month, Bradley and I received two wonderful gifts from my older sister and parents: a washing machine and dryer. Unfortunately, this meant losing our primary storage area in the house: the laundry closet! Though we are enjoying our rental house, it is severely lacking in both indoor and outdoor storage. To accommodate the new machines, we have to re-arrange pretty much the entire house, and we realized the necessity of purchasing a shed for the backyard.

We searched online and found a fantastic deal on a 6 ft by 8 ft shed that we would be able to dismantle, move, and re-assemble in the future whenever we leave this rental. It was shipped and arrived in two massive and extremely heavy boxes. Fortunately, my parents were able to come over and help us move the boxes to the backyard and put the shed together. In the beginning, the instructions were a little confusing, but we managed to get the floor and walls up on the first evening. My parents came back the next day to help finish the shed.

Due to the extreme sun and heat of the summers here, we put the shed under the gorgeous mesquite tree (the only shade tree that is in the backyard) to provide as much protection as possible. The trailer in the third picture actually belongs to my older sister and brother-in-law. They recently moved to a new house (hence the free washer/dryer) that did not have space to store the trailer so we offered a corner of our large backyard.

Since the shed went up, we have slowly been moving our outdoor, camping, and other extra items into the shed. Just this evening, I moved two metal shelving units into the shed for storage. The first is a 6-tiered wire tower kind of like this smaller one and the other is a 3-tiered unit this one. I moved a battery-operated light into the shed as well. Things are coming along nicely!

Bradley has worked hard over the last few weeks pulling weeds and cutting the grass corner. I’ve cleaned up some grass piles and cut the grass along the walls. Just Sunday, my parents brought a pick-up truck full of wood from their trees over and my dad also helped Bradley put brand new bricks around our fire-pit. Our backyard is almost ready to host summer parties!

Now we need to work on the major re-organization of the inside of the house. Having moved the 6-tier shelving unit out to the shed means that our kitchen table is filled with stuff. Our office is crowded with everything we had to pull out of the laundry closet to make room for the washer and dryer. Our guest room has been taken over by camping gear. With the progress we’ve made with the shed, we’re slowly improving our storage situation and reclaiming our house.

Next on our list to do is organize/re-arrange the following areas:

  • Laundry closet shelves
  • Linen closet
  • Guest room
  • Dining room
  • Office

Hmm… No small task, but do-able! It is kind of funny how getting a washer and dryer can throw the organization of the whole house into chaos. But what wonderful chaos it is. You will not hear me complaining, because a washer/dryer means clean clothes whenever we need instead of having to haul our laundry every two weeks to my parents’ house in Chandler!

Another project we finished today was cooling off the master bathroom. Our bathroom is small – just large enough for a small sink, toilet, and shower. No air conditioning reaches the room and the small window faces due west, directly into the harshest and hottest afternoon/evening sun, which makes that small room feel like a sauna in the summer. And our rental does not have screens on any of the windows, which makes keeping the windows open to save on electricity difficult as the flies and mosquitoes will invade the house. Today, we put sunscreen up on the bathroom window with the goal to block out the heat of the desert sun and to prevent insects from intruding. Since we do not want to put money into a rental that we don’t own, we are trying out heavy-duty outdoor Scotch dual lock mounting tape. If successful, we will put sunscreen up on the three large windows in the backyard that we want to keep open: the master bedroom, kitchen, and dining room windows.

In addition to the sunscreen on the master bath window, we purchased a small fan and extension cord and set it up in the small bathroom on a plant stand we were not using. This should help keep air moving and help dry the room after showers. (The landlord won’t fix the exhaust fan because the room “has a window”.)

So… progress!! 😀