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Mary Mastroeni

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Finished Renovating? Now It’s Time to Tackle the Mess

June 27, 2017 12:36 am

Completing a home renovation project is so exciting. The new space or enhancement you’ve been dreaming about for months is now a reality.

But what about that mess? Nothing quite compares to the post-construction havoc a renovation can cause in your home. According to the ServiceMaster blog, your primary focus should be removing the dust created by just about every home improvement project, which has an insidious way of sneaking into the most random nooks and crannies. If dust isn’t dealt with promptly, it will make its way into your air ducts creating a health hazard for you and your family.

ServiceMaster Clean® offers the following checklist to get through the construction clean-up process quickly and effectively.

Vacuum Carpets and Upholstery
Vacuum all soft surfaces, removing and vacuuming each cushion and getting into the crevices of the furniture frame. It’s probably a good idea to give it a second round, too.

Wipe Down Hard Surfaces
Clean surfaces from the top down, starting with the dust that has accumulated on your walls. Dry dusting will ensure paint and wallpaper won’t be damaged, but a damp cloth will remove dust faster. Check with your paint or wallpaper manufacturer to see if it will tolerate a little moisture and test a small area to be safe.

Next, move onto moldings and cabinets using a duster. Make sure to target the interior shelves and hard-to-reach corners. Wipe off countertops and any other flat surfaces before tackling the floor. Then sweep and mop the entire surface area.

Clean Air Vents and Replace Filters
If your project is of a larger scale, it’s likely that dust has made its way into your vents. Treating the air vents in the renovated area is critical for preventing the dust from spreading to other areas of your home. Here’s how:

- Remove the vent covers from the surrounding walls and ceilings
- Clean each one with soap and warm water, and let them dry thoroughly
- Replace any exposed air filters with fresh ones before replacing the vent covers

Don’t Forget About the Little Things
Remember, dust gets everywhere, so remember to clean these areas as well:

- Ceiling fan blades
- Light fixtures
- Lamp shades
- Electronics
- Small appliances
- Decorative items

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pamper Yourself on Parent’s Day

June 27, 2017 12:36 am

Move over, Mother’s and Father’s Day! Parent’s Day lands on July 23rd this year. Annually, this celebration falls on the fourth Sunday of July. The holiday became official in 1994, and marks a sweet time to honor those who are toiling away raising the next generation. As a parent yourself, you may be wondering: how do I celebrate?

Focus on the experience. Rather than gifts, experiences create long-lasting memories for you and your family. Choose a favorite family pastime--the beach or the park--or go do something completely new. Whatever it is, make sure you do it together as a family.

Cook together. The stomach is the quickest way to the heart, after all. Plan a DIY pizza night, bake and decorate cupcakes together, or try to recreate your favorite restaurant dish.

Play a game. Turn off the TV, the iPad and the Kindle, and pull out an old fashioned board game to enjoy with your family.

Home sweet home improvement. Since Parent’s Day does land on a Sunday, ask your family to pitch in and help out with your honey-do list. Together, you can make cleaning out the basement or repainting the garage door a fun time. At the least, it will go much quicker with the whole family involved.

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Six Tips to Deep Clean Your Garage

June 27, 2017 12:36 am

On your list of summer to-dos may be cleaning out the old garage. For most, this sounds easier than it actually is. Garages tend to house years of accumulated and forgotten items, especially if you have a large family. Clearing all of this out is a serious job. Below are six tips to help you make the most of the big clean out.

Pick a date. To avoid procrastination, choose a hard date on your calendar for your garage clean out. Depending on the size of your garage, a full weekend may be in order. Tell your family members about the date to make sure they will be around to pitch in.

Gather your resources. Stock up on large trash bags, visit your local grocer’s for discarded cardboard boxes and--if you have enough lurking in your garage--consider calling your county’s waste management service to see if you can order a dumpster. 

Ask for help. Do you need to borrow a friend’s pickup truck to lug your unwanted items to the dump? How about a power washer to clean the floor once it’s clutter-free? Line these things up in advance for easy cleaning.

Pile it right. At the start of your clean out, create three piles: to keep, to sell, and to donate. As you come across items in your garage, add them to their respective area and keep moving.  Once something has landed in a pile, try to resist temptation by moving it around.

Organize, organize, organize. Set yourself up to re-organize your space once it’s squeaky clean. Do you need more shelving units? Hooks and bins? Gather these items in advance.

Power wash. Once you’ve organized, move every item out of your garage and power wash the floors and walls. Washing away a decade (or more!) of grime will really help your garage sparkle.

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Financial Smarts: Are You Prepared for the Unexpected?

June 24, 2017 12:36 am

While you may be living a comfortable lifestyle, what would happen if you lost your job tomorrow? Almost half of Americans say that if they lost their primary source of income tomorrow, they could only maintain their current lifestyle for three months or less.

A recent study commissioned by the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) and Harris Poll, revealed that many Americans, even those considered financially successful, do not account for unexpected risks during financial planning.

A majority of Americans (61 percent) say their family would assume debt if the primary earner passed away tomorrow, with 38 percent of U.S. adults saying the debt would be $10,000 or more. Additionally, only half of Americans (50 percent) have life insurance. Of those who have any dependents, 47 percent say their dependents would run out of money without their personal income in two years or less if they were to pass away tomorrow.

Americans are also not taking into account the possibility of disability or illness while planning for their financial future. One in 20 Americans (5 percent) are unemployed and unable to work because of disability or illness, but only 20 percent of U.S. adults have either short-term and/or long-term disability insurance. Of those Americans who do have disability insurance, only 39 percent believe it would be enough to cover their long-term care and medical expenses if they were to have an accident.

And it’s not just lower-income Americans who are vulnerable to financial risk. On average, those surveyed say their household has two sources of income, with 40 percent having income of $74,000 or more.

Future college expenses also pose a potential financial risk for many Americans. Although college expenses are rising faster than inflation, only 36 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 in their household are saving for their children's college education. Lack of college savings may be a result of many Americans still working to pay off their own student loan debt. According to the Quarterly Report on Household Credit and Debt from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans currently owe $1.31 trillion in student loan debt.

To help protect you and your family from these risks, talk to a financial planner and come up with a course of action for a secure financial future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4th of July Without the Fireworks

June 24, 2017 12:36 am

For many, the 4th of July means pooltime, watermelon, and fireworks. While these festive explosions can be fun, fireworks can damage the environment, start a wildfire, spook dogs and endanger children. If you’re looking to celebrate 4th of July sans fireworks, here are a few fun suggestions:

Water balloons! Your guests (and kids) won’t complain about a lack of fireworks if they’re dousing each other in water balloons.

Movie night. Once the sun has set, instead of lighting up DIY fireworks in the yard, traipse inside for a 4th of July themed movie night. Independence day, anyone?

Cook off. To create some healthy competition, have a cook off at your 4th of July party. Challenge guests to bring their best appetizer, chilli, or most inventive burger patty. Then vote on the winner and hand out fun prizes.

 Fire pit. A small backyard fire is much more controllable than fireworks. If you just can’t imagine the 4th without some fiery fun, build a small fire in the backyard and get to roasting those marshmallows.

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3 Ways to Keep Your Home Cleaner

June 24, 2017 12:36 am

We all wish our home was just a little bit cleaner. But between driving the kids to school and soccer practice and getting to work on time, cleaning your home can feel like a drag. But most of us can’t afford to hire a cleaning crew, and so the task of weekly tidying and disinfecting is unavoidable. To help, below are three easy habits to a cleaner home.

Set a timer. Every night after dinner, set a timer for 15 minutes and have your family run around the house cleaning: arm someone with disinfectant to wipe down the bathroom, set another loose on the living room picking up clutter, and hand out a trashbag to tackle any expired goods in the fridge. If you make this a daily task, cleaning your home will always feel a bit more manageable.

One room a day. If the timer method isn’t your thing (or if you family is a small one), pick a room or area each day to address. Living room on Monday, bathroom on Tuesday, laundry on Wednesday, and so on. Depending on the size of your room, many can be handled in 20-30 minutes or less.

Multitask. Pair cleaning with something you enjoy doing, like listening to a podcast, phoning a friend, or watching your favorite show. Fold the laundry while you catch up on television or wipe down the counters and surfaces while you gab with your sister or old roommate.

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Electricity Safety 101

June 23, 2017 12:36 am

After vehicular incidents, electricity is one of the top safety concerns for Americans across the country.  Whether you have small children to keep safe, or just want to be precarious yourself, below are a handful of tips from the Florida Power & Light Company to keep yourself safe around electricity.

Inspect your electrical system – Have a licensed electrician inspect your home's electrical system to ensure that it's running properly and meets current electrical codes. Flickering lights, sparks, non-functioning outlets and tripping circuits may indicate a problem.

Check bulbs – Ensure bulbs are screwed in securely and they are the correct wattage for the fixture. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended.

Examine cords – Replace or throw away electrical items that have frayed or cracked electric cords. Cords should never be nailed or stapled to walls, baseboards or other objects.

Use extension cords properly – Extension cords can overheat and cause fires when used improperly. Do not overload extension cords or attempt to plug them into one another.

Only put electrical plugs into outlets – Teach children to never stick fingers or objects into electrical outlets or appliances with openings such as toasters. Cover or cap outlets you are not using to protect children.

Plug-in one high-wattage appliance at a time – Plug only one high-wattage appliance – such as a coffee maker, toaster, iron or space heater – into an outlet at a time to avoid overloading it.

Water and electricity don't mix – Don't place any electrical appliance near water sources, such as a sink or bathtub. Appliances that are used near water should be unplugged when not in use. If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, unplug it and don't use it until it has been checked by a qualified repair person. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFIs) should be installed on outlets near water sources.

Before wiring, turn it off – Turn off the power at the breaker before working on electrical devices or wiring.  

Stay away from power lines – Keep yourself and anything you are touching more than 10 feet away from neighborhood power lines and at least 35 feet from larger high-voltage lines. This includes ladders, tools to pick fruit or trim trees, kites, metallic balloons and flying toys.

Report fallen power lines – Stay away from a power line that has fallen and anything it may be touching. Call 911 immediately to report it.

Call 811 before digging – Call at least two full business days before doing any digging to have underground utilities marked. It's free and it's required by law.

Check before using tools outdoors – Are the electrical appliances and tools marked for outdoor use? Make sure they are and avoid using them close to water or in the rain.

Source: Florida Power & Light Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Science of Odor In Clothes

June 23, 2017 12:36 am

(Family Features)--From perfumes to scented body washes, deodorants and lotions, people are constantly looking for ways to combat the body's natural scent and replace it with something more pleasant. Before you attempt to mask the aftermath of a few hours outside or at the gym, it's important to understand the science behind odor to get rid of it effectively, especially now that warmer weather is arriving.

Odor Buildup

Odor build-up in fabric, the reason favorite t-shirts begin to smell, happens. When the transfer of bacteria and sweat to fabrics such as cotton occurs, odor generates within the fabric itself. Then, the transfer of "odorous" mixtures produced by a person's body is absorbed by the fabric. Bacteria such as staphylococcus epidermidis (staph), MRSA and E. coli, among others, often remain in clothing washed in detergents without bleach, which is why it's important to use an effective sanitizer that can kill bacteria in your laundry load.

Odors and Materials

Polyester fibers tend to retain odor-causing bacteria. Since polyester typically repels water, those odors can be harder to remove. Some of the most common items that can be plagued with mold, sweat or musty scents are ones you use daily, like t-shirts and bedding, because they often come in direct contact with your body. Evidence shows that natural, non-synthetic fabrics like cotton are preferable to synthetics when it comes to keeping them smelling fresh because they tend to produce and trap fewer odors in the first place and release odors more easily during washing.

It's no coincidence that cotton has a legacy of being a favorite fabric because it's soft, durable and easy to care for. From the towels in your bathroom to the clothes you wear throughout the day and the sheets you snuggle into each night, cotton is a sensible choice to fight odors and the perfect breathable fabric for warm weather.

Eliminating Odors

In addition to choosing non-synthetic fibers and soft, durable fabrics such as cotton, adding a bacteria-killing agent like Clorox Regular-Bleach to your laundry can help sanitize smelly clothing and kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, which causes odor. 

Studies have shown that some bacteria on cotton can be reduced when washing with detergent only, but still remain on the fabric. The addition of an EPA-registered bleach not only removes tough stains to keep whites brighter longer, but it also can potentially prevent the buildup of odor in washing machines and the need to clean clothing more frequently.

For more information on tackling odor and keeping clothes whiter longer, visit WhyDoYourClothesSmell.com.

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Analyzing the Yin and Yang of Millennials and Markets

June 23, 2017 12:36 am

In a recent release from apartmentlist.com, I was interested to learn that while millennials are starting to buy homes, there are not enough homes in their price range on the market - and eve if there were, many could not come up with a down payment.

In his latest Apartmentlist Rentonomics report, Andrew Woo writes that during the Great Recession, investors bought countless foreclosed properties, most of which were starter homes.

And rather than selling when prices recovered, investors turned them into profitable single-family rentals. And as a result, Woo says there are very few existing starter homes on the market.

Woo points to Megan McGrath of MKM Partners, who says the housing recovery was primarily at the middle end of the market which drove up home prices and land prices followed. With higher land prices, it is harder for home builders to make a good profit at lower home prices.

During the housing recovery, the price spread between new and existing homes increased because builders were focused on the move-up buyer. But Woo says now middle-end sales are starting to slow down, and builders need to target new buyers to sustain growth.

He says big builders are starting to introduce new product lines at lower price points, and these starter homes are selling well. But the only way for builders to lower prices and take a hit to their margins is if they see big growth in new orders, and he is not seeing that happening anytime soon.

Woo says the demand is clearly growing but is not as strong as demographics would suggest. Single-family construction still stands at 18% below its 25-year average, and he warns about a developing affordability gap.

Aparetmentlist.com recently surveyed 24,000 millennial renters and found that 80 percent want to purchase a home, but face a huge obstacle in affording one. Woo says it's because millennials vastly underestimate the savings needed for a down payment.

Woo fears based on current saving rates most millennials will need at least a decade to save enough - and that a lack of savings, combined with the shortage of affordable starter homes, will leave a large share of millennials renting for years to come.

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Cost of Living Soars in These Cities

June 22, 2017 12:36 am

Do you live in one of the most expensive cities in the country? Are you unsure? A recent GoBankingRates study unveiled the places in the country with the highest cost of living.

According to the study, American household debt totaled a record $12.73 trillion as of March 2017, so cost of living concerns are more pertinent than ever.

The study evaluated U.S. cities based on two principal metrics:

- The increase in a city's cost of living index, which includes food, rent, utilities and transportation.
- The Increase in the amount of income required to "live comfortably," a concept used in GOBankingRates studies that combines the money needed to pay for necessities — including food, rent, utilities, transportation and healthcare — with the amount one should budget toward discretionary spending and savings.

Their findings? Read below.

Top 5 Cities Where the Cost of Living is Rising Quickly

5. Jacksonville, Fla.

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $2,095
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 3.36 points

4. Austin, Texas

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $1,407
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 3.84 points

3. Louisville, Ky.

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $2,066
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 4.49 points

2. Seattle

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $3,190
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 7.32 points

1. Nashville, Tenn.

- Live Comfortably Amount Increase: $9,135
- Cost of Living Index Increase: 8.61 points

Source: GoBankingRates

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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