Hide Your Home’s Biggest Eyesores With These Genius Ideas

You don’t have to live with the ugly anymore.

 

Even the nicest homes have secret shames: a floor that never looks clean, a scratched and stained fridge, an AC unit that resembles a 1980s copy machine that didn’t even look good when it was new.

If you could move them out of sight, you would. Except you can’t. Instead, hide your home’s ugliest spots right where they are. Here’s some inspiration:

Exposed Laundry Room

Tanya, the writer behind “Dans le Lakehouse” DIY blog, has a laundry room that’s more of a passageway than a destination. Not an ideal place to be tossing around your, um, unmentionables. So she found a way to hide the washer and dryer from passersby. Plus, “this was such an easy DIY project,” she says.

White washer and dryer with with white cabinetsBEFORE
A blue green curtain hiding washer and dryerAFTER

She bought upholstery-weight fabric (around $15/yard) and a curtain track ($30), which she says is “much nicer than a curtain rod.” It took a couple of days to sew the curtain and only a few minutes to install the rod.

Instant hideaway!

 

An Ugly Fridge

When the first thing you see as you enter your kitchen is a huge slab of ugly, you get motivated to find a solution.

Homeowner Mary Russell found a unique way to hide her dinged and stained fridge — and turn it into a colorful message board, too.

Side of an old white refrigerator in a kitchenBEFORE
White and blue striped fridge panelAFTER

She stuck plain, white vinyl shelf liner (about $8) right over the ugly and then painted it in bold stripes. While the project isn’t a time hog, she says it does require patience.

“The hardest and most time-consuming part of this whole project was getting the liner onto the fridge evenly.” She says it took about 35 minutes of repositioning and adjusting. And, “since paint doesn’t want to dry on plastic surfaces very quickly,” she says you’ll be waiting awhile before you can actually use it. Completely worth it, though, she says.

Outdated, Dingy Floors

On a whim, blogger, retired registered nurse, and mother of six, Linda Louie decided to redo her laundry room. “I spend a lot of time in there doing laundry for six kids, and that room was boring,” she says.

She added cabinets above the washer and dryer and dressed the space up some, but the floor. The floor.

It was a wreck. Didn’t fit her vision at all. She went online for ideas and saw a checkerboard pattern someone did on a wood floor. “Why not on vinyl?” she asked herself.

Why not?

Painters tape creates checkerboard pattern on floorsBEFORE
White and black checkerboard floorAFTER

Louie sandpapered the vinyl so the paint would stick. Then she primed and painted it white using porch paint. Marking and taping the diamonds took a half day “but to my back, it felt like like 24,” she joked. Then she painted in the black squares, and added three coats of polyurethane to protect her DIY efforts.

Not an eyesore anymore!

 

The Utility Boxes in the Middle of Your Cozy Living Room

Why do builders seem to think things like circuit panels and thermostats are either a) invisible or b) a design element? Please. They’re neither.

A true design element is needed to cover up the builder’s lack of vision. Blogger Susan Forint says one of the most genius solutions she’s seen came from a photographer friend of hers:

To cover a breaker box, he matted and framed one of his photos, then hung it on a 1-inch-thick wood cleat screwed to the wall for easy “lift off.”

Utility box on a living room wallBEFORE
Utility box covered by a photograph on the wallAFTER

His next disguise was even more clever:

To hide a thermostat:

  1. Paint a white rectangle around the thermostat.
  2. Hang an open frame (with no glass) so the white looks like matting.
  3. Place a screw in the wall above the thermostat.
  4. Hang a decorative mask with enough cut out of the back to ensure air flow to the unit.

Brilliant! No need to look at that ugly stuff until you have to.

Clunky Air Conditioner Unit

The window AC unit in designer and blogger Holly Westhoff’s condo wall was seriously cramping her chic nest style. With about an hour and $10 in materials, though, Westhoff was able to give the cold shoulder to that in-her-face unit.

Air conditioning window unit in a living room windowBEFORE
Green designed wood box hides AC window unitAFTER

She measured the unit, including the “ugly strips attaching it to the wall,” she says. She bought cheap wood and molding, and had them cut to size at the store. She grabbed wood glue; hammer and nails; spray paint; thin brass disks punched out from a sheet (leftovers from a previous project); decorative paper; and a glue gun.

Then, she set to work:

She created a frame on the wall with the molding. She built a box to hang on that frame. She glued together the pieces of wood — top, front and sides, no bottom — then nailed them together for extra sturdiness. She glued molding strips on top of the edges of the flat panel to give it a finished look, then spray painted it white. She glued brass discs to the molding, cut her decorative wrapping paper to fit, and glued it to the front panel.

Now you’d never know it was there (underneath that vase)— until it’s time to crank the cool air.

7 Genius Entryway Storage Ideas to Get You Out the Door Faster

Clever entryway organization solutions for your time-starved family.

 

It’s so easy (and so unfair) how quickly your entryway can go from clean to chaos — and that chaos makes trying to get out the door brutal. Think of all that time wasted hunting for your keys and umbrella, or digging through a pile of coats in a desperate bid to find your buried purse. Five minutes spent riffling through your endless piles of stuff each morning becomes 35 minutes a week, or more than 30 hours a year!

Breathe easy. You’re not alone. And you can reclaim that crucial morning time.

“Most everyone that I’ve worked with has basically the same kinds of problems,” says professional organizer Yve Irish.

Corralling your clutter can feel overwhelming, but with the right mindset and a few clever hacks, your entryway can be what helps you get out of the house on time — not what slows you down. Here, we’ve rounded up seven entryway storage solutions for common problems.

Personalize Buckets

How do those hats and gloves end up all over the entryway? Half the time, it happens when someone tosses them aside while searching for their own stuff. That’s why separating each person’s storage space is so ingenious.

“Susie has her own basket, Tommy has his own basket,” says Irish. Assigning space and responsibility to each individual family member saves you — and your kids — time digging through other people’s belongings.

You don’t need a huge closet to do this — even little baskets in an inexpensive Ikea shelving unit can do the trick.

Irish recommends pairing a storage system with training to make personalized buckets work: “Teach your children to return items to their basket when they come home,” she says. “You want to make sure that happens and they get into the habit.”

Get Your Purses In Order

Digging through a forest of coats to find the right purse for your outfit is a hassle. It’s also not great to shove your bags onto a cluttered closet shelf or (ugh) pile them on the floor — a practice some believe is bad luck. There’s a feng shui saying, “A purse on the floor is money out the door.” So hang your bags from the closet rod using S-hooks instead.

S-hooks used to organize purses

Lacking a closet? If your walls are less than five feet apart, you can install a tension rod between them. Or choose a decorative wall shelf with hooks.

No matter how you hang them, do a purse purge first to avoid creating a handbag jungle. Keep that oversized bag you only pull out for special occasions tucked out of the way.

Charge Your Electronics

While you might charge your primary smartphone overnight by your bedside, creating a charging station in your entryway can save valuable time, especially if you have a work phone or use the kids’ tablets for car rides. When they’re always charging in the same spot, you won’t waste time in the morning hunting down chargers.

Assemble tech storage using assigned baskets with neatly-organized cords, or go big with a built-in. At organization blog “A Bowl Full of Lemons,” a cabinet with plugs inside was installed in the mudroom to serve as a neat home for laptops, tablets, and smartphones, which all charge up inside.

Create an Information Station

Papers can be pernicious devils, accumulating in ugly piles, blocking surfaces, and creating stress. Cut off the problem at its head with an information station, starting with a customized paper organizer on the wall.

“We had an extreme amount of clutter,” says Aniko Levai, the blogger behind “Place of My Taste.” As part of a grand entryway remodel, she created a wall organizer to keep papers and small items out of the way.

The process is simple enough for even the newest DIYer. Levai created the organizer by combining painted wood, fabric, a few small hooks, and a $15 wall magazine rack from Ikea.

But not all paper needs to be saved, and mail-sorting procrastination is the stuff cluttered entryways are made of. Setting up your recycling center near your entryway — in the closet or a free corner — can turn paper sorting into a quick, easy to-do task every time you walk in the door.

If you have the space, add a shredder into the mix or add a whiteboard for reminders.

Provide Ample Shoe Storage

Step into any big box home store and you’ll find two dozen shoe storage options, from stackable organizers to hanging canvas cubbies. The perfect option for you is a matter of taste and space, but let’s be serious: However many shoe cubbies you think your family should need, the truth is probably three times that amount. That’s why we’re partial to this clever solution from Sara Davis, who transformed an old wooden mail sorter — found at a local antique shop — into a gorgeous, 45-slot shoe cubby.

Shoe storage cubbies in a home's entry

While antique mail sorters may not be available everywhere, you can create your own by converting a bookshelf or cabinet, bundling cut PVC piping into handmade cubbies, or buying a large shoe cubby. Davis’ solution is perfect for her long, thin mudroom, which is 17 feet long, but only five feet wide.

“It’s hard to miss, so it’s a great reminder for the kids to take off their shoes,” Davis says.

Assign Lockers

Industrial-style decor is in — take advantage of the trend in your entryway by installing lockers. (Yes, we mean the aluminum models your kids use at school.)

While not ideal for a super-small entryway, lockers can instantly triple your storage space if you have the room, as each one has hooks on three surfaces, as well as shelving. Even better, install short tension rods and use S-hooks for even more hanging storage.

And they provide plenty of room for creative decoration. You can paint them to match a variety of decor.

Establish Weather-Safe Storage

Your entryway is always one of the first victims of nasty weather. Is it a rainy autumn? Say hello to a puddle of dirty leaves. Winter? Snow boots can leave the entire room soaking and soiled.

Weather-safe storage solutions can be the key difference between an unorganized mess and a pristine entryway. The biggest culprit is shoes. While a mat can go a long way toward preserving the cleanliness of your entrance, you’ll need to develop a plan for storing boots — without them dripping everywhere.

Try this DIY solution: Line the bottom of a chest with a mud tray, and then fill the tray with a layer of river rocks. The rocks allow the water to drain away from the soggy boots so they’ll be ready to use the next morning — and the whole process is hidden away inside the chest.

7 Organizing Strategies to Be More Productive When You Work From Home

Cat on top of a home office deskImage: Cal Leeming

Tips to create a home office space that makes the most of your time.

But then … something happens. Your Netflix queue beckons. You can’t unsee that pile of dirty laundry. Your fluffy bed seduces you into taking a two-hour siesta.

Now you’re behind and working weekends to catch up. You need help. You need an organized workspace. “It really allows you to focus on what’s important,” says Calabasas, Calif.-based organizer Lori Gersh.

Here’s how to fix your home work space to pump up your productivity:

1. Purge First

Sure, shopping for organizers is fun. They don’t call it “retail therapy” for nothing. But to create a system primed for maximum output, you first should soldier through the task of ditching paperwork and office supplies that clutter rather than help, and, most importantly, finding homes for all things unrelated to work (well, except for a sentimental photo or two — and plants; plants are good). Consider it boot camp to get your work life in shape.

Plus, the more open and organized your space is, the easier it’ll be to focus.

2. Create a Work Hub — Even if Space Is Minimal

A separate room with only one function — work — is ideal, but so is a beachfront address. Just because you don’t have a spare room doesn’t mean you can’t have an “office.” You can easily create one.

A small desk and storage ottoman for files and supplies may be all you need.

Or a small coat closet could be repurposed if you need something more substantial. Relocate the coats and jackets to hooks in your entry or move them to other closets, and convert that closet into a work nook with a built-in tabletop and floating shelves.

Yellow information station storage in home entrywayImage: Aniko Levai of “Place of My Taste”

But if you work from a multi-purpose space like the kitchen table, or prefer to roam from table to couch, it’s a bit more of a challenge — but still solvable.

Try a rolling cart loaded with your work supplies. “It helps you focus because you have things right where you need them,” says New York City organizer Stephanie Shalofsky. (There’s a ton of sizes and configurations to choose from, and most are less than $100.) Then simply roll it out of sight when company comes.

3. Use Vertical Space to Organize

It’s surprising how often wall space is overlooked as an organizing solution. When everything you need is right there on your wall and easy to find, your productivity jumps.

Buy ready-to-hang cubbies, or create your own system, and hang them just as you would a collection of pictures. Some other ideas:

  • Use a pegboard to store supplies such as scissors, calendars, and notes.
  • Stow files in magazine holders mounted to the walls.
  • Hang a shoe organizer with clear sleeves to keep supplies such as pens in plain sight (this will work on a rolling cart, too, if you cut it to fit).

4. Separate Household Files From Work Files

If you do business and household duties from the same space, you need separate systems to help you stay focused, Shalofsky says. This is super easy to do. You just need to commit to do it:

  • Keep two different calendars and to-do lists.
  • Use different drawers, cabinets, shelves, or file bins.

Then keep those household files out of sight when you’re working. Just like seeing a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, seeing bills waiting to be paid can entice your mind to wander.

5. Turn Away From Temptation

For most home-based workers, the comfort of home is the prime saboteur of productivity. Is your workspace in sight of distractions, such as your TV, or the dining room you still haven’t finished painting? “If it doesn’t have to do with your business, it will clog up your space and your head,” Gersh says.

If you have to work from the kitchen table, choose a seat facing a wall or window rather than the sink or stove.

If there’s no place to set up shop other than next to the TV, sit with your back toward it. If that’s not possible, think about hiding your TV, literally. You can disguise it behind a painting or mirror. That creates a barrier, forcing you to actively choose watching TV over doing business.

Or, if space permits, position a freestanding bookshelf or screen between your work space and household distractions.

Here’s a nice little bonus: These tactics also have the added benefit of putting your work out of sight when you’re ready to relax at home.

6. Set Boundaries on Browsing

OK, this is a challenge even people stuck in the office face: A little bit of Facebook browsing here and a few minutes of online shopping there is all too tempting. But it’s even worse when you work from home because your boss can’t see you.

But it’s your home. Your castle. Where you ARE the boss.

With that mindset, think about creating some accountability for yourself. Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Create a different browser profile for work use, so your favorite bookmarks aren’t beckoning during office hours.

2. Enlist the aid of an online tool, such as Focus or Freedom, which can keep you in check by blocking access to sites that’ll suck you in (ahem, Pinterest) when you’re working.

You just might boost your productivity enough to take Friday afternoon off. So maybe you’ll get to finish painting the dining room after all, and still have the weekend off to enjoy it. How sweet is that?

7. Tidy Up Before Clocking Out

When you work from home, there’s no cleaning crew to spruce up your space after hours, and no peer pressure to maintain a somewhat-orderly space. So although it’s tempting to let it be, take just a few moments to toss unnecessary paperwork, remove trash, and make sure your work space is ready for work in the a.m. By clearing the way today, you’ll hit the ground running tomorrow.

Congratulations. You’re now living the work-at-home dream!

 

MAKE THESE 4 HABITS AUTOMATIC FOR CREDIT YOU CAN BE PROUD OF

Smart planning and wise financial decisions can result in credit — and a credit score — you can be proud of. With the help of technology, make these four habits automatic.

  1. MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER WITH AUTOMATIC PAYMENTS

    Life happens, and we may fall behind on a bill or two. But beware — late payments can show up as “slow pays” on your credit report. Automatic bill pay is one way to guarantee it’s there on time. Plus, it takes the hassle out of remembering multiple due dates.

  2. CHANGE YOUR APP-TITUDE

    Remember life before apps? (Neither do we!) They make it easier to manage finances from anywhere. Download apps from your bank and lenders to help stay on top of your fiscal business and view alerts to unusual spending or payment reminders.

  3. KEEP SCORE

    The three main credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — offer email alerts and monitoring for a fee. (Or, keep score yourself using their free apps.) Don’t forget about your FICO score. For a monthly fee, you can track all three agency scores at once at myfico.com.

  4. STAY AWAY FROM ‘EXTRA’ CREDIT

    Once you’ve established credit, don’t apply for more than you actually need. Too many inquiries may affect your credit score. On-time payments for revolving accounts (think credit cards) and installment/fixed-payment loans (such as a car payment) can help get your credit score on the right track. Keep your credit card balances low so as not to appear overextended, says Experian.

 

By Felicia Pinkney, Guest Contributor

Felicia Pinkney is a Dallas-based writer with nearly two decades of experience. She’s gearing up for two teen drivers, less time in the carpool line and a partially empty nest.

Single Women Kick Butt in the Housing Market

ruler
Image 1Over the past 12 months, single women made up 17 percent of all homebuyers, purchasing at twice the rate of their single male counterparts, according to a new annual report from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Furthermore, 2016 research from MGIC Connects shows single women representing the second-largest home-buying group, right behind married couples. This is even more impressive when you consider wage inequality, which is still a country-wide issue. In 2015, women made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men working a comparable job—a gender wage gap of a shocking 20 percent.

So, women are kicking butt in the housing market. But who are these ladies? According to NAR’s 2015 Profile of Buyers and Sellers report, the median age of the single female buyer is 32 years old, and their median income is $49,000. But it’s not just 30-something ladies purchasing their homes solo, but baby boomers, divorced and out on their own, or downsizing from a family home they no longer need.

What’s in store for the future of female-owned housing? When you consider the consistent rise in the educated woman (meaning higher-paying jobs and more opportunities), well, things are looking pretty peachy.

By Zoe Eisenberg, RISMedia