Category Archives: Home

5 Ways to Step Up Your Spring Cleaning

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While warmer temperatures and sunnier days have many of us breaking out the short sleeved t-shirts, it also makes us notice all the clutter and dust that has collected in our homes over the winter months. Giving your living space a good spring cleaning lets you hit the refresh button, helping you feel less mentally cluttered and ready to take on the year. It can be hard knowing where to get started, but by picking a task and just getting going you can make the most of your spring cleaning efforts. Start with these five easy ways to get started helping your surroundings to feel cleaner and more conducive to productive living. Continue reading

Finding the Right Landlord when you Rent

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As more and more of the nation turn away from homeownership, the number of people renting has increased greatly. Many of those now living in rental homes were once homeowners.   Some are no longer able to own their own home due to foreclosures and bad credit reports, while others are unable to purchase a home due to more restrictive credit standards.

Make no mistake; there are benefits to renting a place to live.  To begin with, as a renter, you often do not have to worry about maintenance and repair costs. If something breaks, the landlord or superintendent is usually the one to repair and replace it.  Along with this, there are those rental options where some utilities are included.  Credit requirements are also less strict for those who rent as opposed to those who purchase a home.

With renting on the rise, finding the right place to rent, and to live, can at times be a lengthy process.  Perhaps the most important part of this process is finding the right landlord.  It is important to recognize the signs of what a bad landlord might look like. Continue reading

Intent of the Day: Clean House

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I am never five minutes into stripping the clutter from my life before I start running into
the clutter that is my life.
-Robert Brault

It’s funny how our home space says so much about our brain space. For some, the clutter in their brain is the opposite of their spotless home. For others, the exact opposite. For still others, the clutter they feel is exactly the picture you discover when you enter their living space. Sometimes the overwhelming feeling can feel very debilitating. Sometimes it’s the weight that keeps you from feeling like you can dive into something new. There is something important about the practice of deciding what needs to move forward with you and what needs to be let go that extends beyond just getting rid of stuff.  Either way, cleaning house figuratively and literally is a great task to take on as you prepare for a new year!

Our intent of the day is to clean house! Thinking about it? Here’s why it’s good for you! Continue reading

Intent of the Day: Family First

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With the lightning speed that everything is happening these days, are we alone when we say that our families usually end up with the short end of the stick? Because we come home to them, we assume that time will naturally happen but this isn’t always the case. When our family gets the in-between time as we rush from event to event and task to task, we end up communicating that they aren’t a priority more than they are. Our intent of the day is to put family first. We want to be intentional in protecting our calendar, making space for the unscheduled and slowing down enough to enjoy our time because the time spent with the people who matter most is what will be the most valuable in the long run.

You too? Here are 3 resources to help: Continue reading

Create the Green Dream with Home Automation

home automationby Elizabeth Eckhart

If you’re a homeowners like me who is interested in “going green” as much as possible, you should consider tapping into the many advantages of home energy control; new technology for home automation is making it so that we are not only conserving energy, but also choosing a money-saving alternative. A variety of technology and electronics manufacturers are taking notice, which means we finally get to benefit from multiple companies creating new, energy efficient products.

If you have already made the intention to refurnish your home, clean up your lifestyle, and contribute to a greener house, perhaps automation is where you, like me, should begin your search!

“Going green” is an expression that is used more and more in technology and business, and while it brings to mind the efforts of nature activists, and charitable causes to save the world’s resources, it is also becoming a big push in the business and consumer world (the one most of us live in!), especially when looking at home automation and appliances.

Whether it’s consumer electronics giant Samsung releasing networked appliances or home security companies like ADT’s new Pulse integrating more home automation features into their service offerings, allowing users to employ lighting and temperature control in the home, it’s clear that “smart” homes are quickly becoming an affordable reality. Essentially, home automation systems today can control many things in the home that have always been separate systems and make them work more efficiently than ever before. I’ve been looking at options to do everything from controlling cooling and heating throughout different zones in my house, automatically turn lights off and on as needed, open windows or shut them remotely, and even turn up the water heater as necessary or adjusting it to a lower temperature when it is no longer needed. Successfully automating all these things would waste less energy, cost me less, and have a positive impact on the environment!

The Latest and Greatest in Home Automation

Even Google made a foray into the world of home automation by gaining control of Nest Learning Thermostat, and as someone new to the home automation game, this was my first purchase. The Nest is basically just a thermostat that actually learns the preferences of a homeowner and controls the environment accordingly. For example, the Nest knows that I like it to be 68 degrees when I wake up, but can turn off the heat or air conditioning when I leave for work; when I get home, the thermostat ensures the temperature is comfortable, automatically dropping down to a lower level when no longer necessary.

Thermal powered lights are another popular product that I’ve tried; just like it sounds, they are lights that are powered by the solar energy that has been absorbed during the day, providing illumination at night. If you live in an area with a deregulated energy market like I do, it’s easy to find websites and resources for buying energy that comes from solar and other renewable sources, and so using your own solar at home cuts your carbon footprint down even further. Plus, it’s also a simple switch to solar powered motion sensor lights that are weatherproof, which are ideal for lighting the way outdoors or in the garage without the need for a light to be turned on for hours at a time since they’ll charge themselves during the day.

One product I’ve considered, but not yet made the jump to, is a full system for the whole house like mControl, which is ranked at the top of the list for companies providing the best in home automation. The system offers a way for homeowners to control every electronic device in their home, lighting, and climate. Relying on digital software, the mControl makes energy management more efficient and can address home security as well.

The Future of Home Automation

The sky’s the limit when it comes to the world of home automation. In the future, homeowners are likely to turn to cheaper do-it-yourself methods, from solar power to systems they can control to conserve energy and put more money in their pockets. Creative minds will take home automation to new heights, and if you can make the switch now, I’d highly suggest giving a few of the top-rated products a try!

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

5 Simple Ways to Make Your New Home Yours

If you’ve just purchased a home, or moved into a new space, you’re most likely looking around trying to figure out the best ways to make it truly feel like your own. There are many ways that you can put your personal touch on a home. Consider some of the following options to make the house feel like home.

1. More Than Just Paint

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Image via Flickr by MissMessie

One thing that many homeowners do when they first buy a house is start envisioning new paint. However, there is more to coloring a home than simply slapping on some paint. Think about the other places in the home that you’ll add color. Throw pillows are a great way to add your personal touch and some of your favorite hues. They don’t have to match the wall colors – just make sure that they match your personality.

Another place that you can add color is with the appliances and furniture pieces you choose. These all make a statement about you within your home. Are you into retro styles? Consider a bright red cooking set for the kitchen. If you’re more subdued, you may want to color the home with more earth tones. Keep in mind that adding color to the house requires more thought and effort than simply painting the walls.

2. Make The Walls Your Canvas

Image via Flickr by Webb Zahn

Some people love to have pictures of the family on the walls. Others enjoy beautifully painted art. Some prefer to hang shelving that has collectibles or delicate items on display. Whatever your preference, make sure to take a look at the wall space you have in the home. Hanging items on the walls helps the space feel more comfortable. On top of this, it puts your personal stamp on the home. Wall hangings can be quickly and easily changed, allowing you to change the look of the home with your mood.

3. Change the Floors

Image via Flickr by Christopher

When you buy a new house, you’re not always going to get everything you want all at once. Instead, you may find the perfect layout, but feel the need to change other things in time. One way you can truly make your house feel like yours is to ensure that the flooring is everything you want it to be. Is the house full of carpet, but you really wanted wood flooring? Pull up the carpet and make the change. Another option is to change carpeting or tile to a newer, better style that fits your preferences.

4. Feel More Secure

Image via Flickr by penelope waits

Safety is something homeowners often gloss over. After all, if you don’t feel secure in your own home, you may never feel truly relaxed. Set up a checklist of everything to be aware of before you begin moving into your new home. Here are some things it should cover:

  • Finances (budget for home inspections and insurance)
  • Electrical (check circuit breakers, switchplates, washer/dryer units for possible electrical hazards)
  • Set up emergency contact numbers
  • If you have little ones, be sure to take the necessary steps in baby-proofing the home
  • Develop and practice an escape plan in case of fires
  • Consider investing in a home security system

5. Incorporate Personal Touches

Image via Flickr by margaretshear

There are little things that you love and that are a part of who you are. Whether you love candles, or you collect baseball cards, these things are personal touches that you can add to the home. When adding little things, you make the house really feel like it is yours. Do you love spring? Add a bouquet of spring flowers to the kitchen table. The little things that you do will make all the difference in the feel of the home. Make yourself feel welcome with a batch of cookies. Though you may not want to bake cookies every day, if you’re feeling out of sorts in the home, this can be a helpful touch.

Whether you’re buying your first home or your fifth, there is always a period of adjustment in a new house. There are many ways to make sure you feel just right in your new digs. With just a few pieces added to the walls and some color splashed about, you’ll start feeling right at home in no time.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas : 3 Ways to Make Your Holiday Environmentally Friendly

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.10.28 AMBy: Elizabeth Eckhart

The holidays are a time of family celebrations, reconnecting with old friends, and celebrating all that we’re thankful for. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a time of stress, busy schedules, and worse of all, excess. No matter how frugal you may be, chances are you’re finding that extra cold weather and party hosting costs are eating into your budget. And perhaps, if you’re like many other Intent Blog readers, the idea of so much waste, with food and energy, may bother you quite a bit. In order to both keep our habits clean and green, and save some costs, we’ve put together a list of energy saving holiday tricks to get you through the season.

Decorating Tips

If you haven’t already, consider replacing all your holiday lights with energy efficient LEDs, which actually perform better in cold weather. For larger lights, switch to 5-watt bulbs, and place all your lights on a timer or just unplug, ensuring that they won’t be left on during the day when no one can enjoy them. When shopping for outdoor decorations for yourself or others, keep in mind the wide availability of solar powered options.

If you’re really feeling green, you can also decorate with candles. Many families already use luminaries along outdoor walkways on special nights. Consider holiday scented candles, which are a beautiful addition to any home. You can also turn off the lights inside when your brightly decorated tree is on and lit. This will not only save energy; it will immediately make your home feel full of holiday spirit.

Hosting Tips

It may go against holiday tradition, but you can cook some party dishes in the microwave. The typical microwave uses 75 percent less energy than a conventional oven, so even one dish can make a large difference. Using the same reasoning, look up recipes you can create using a slow cooker. Since you’ll still be using the oven for trickier dishes, check progress through the window instead of cracking open the door (which can make the temperature drop 25 degrees in less than a minute!), and feel free to turn the oven off before the food is fully cooked. As long as the door stays shut, your food will finish perfectly and on time. Using glass or ceramic pans also means your dish will cook more quickly, so turn the oven down 20 degrees to save costs.

To keep your fridge running efficiently no matter the number of guests, keep it as stocked as possible — an easy task if feeding a large group of people! You can also defrost items in the fridge instead of a watery sink. Both tips will result in the fridge keeping cooler with less energy.

If you do happen to find your fridge is full, hold off from hauling out the spare fridge, and instead keep extra beverages and holiday leftovers cold by storing them in the garage or in the backyard. And as much as you’d like to clean up quickly following a large holiday meal, your fridge will thank you if you wait until all the food has cooled to room temperature before storing it away.

On the day of your party, turn down the thermostat to 66 degrees. Most people will find this is a comfortable range in a holiday sweater, and the increased body heat should take care of the rest. Keep a few blankets handy for older guests and chronically cold friends. If you plan on setting the mood by using the fireplace, install a tight-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a window nearby. Open-hearth fireplaces actually draw in the heated air from your home and send it straight up the chimney — a problem glass doors can stop. With increased holiday lights on top of heat usage, your bills may still come out higher than expected. If you haven’t already, start monitoring your light usage and reevaluate your energy plan using sites like Energize Connecticut and TexasElectricityProviders.com. Not only can you switch to less expensive plans, you can also choose to have most or all of your energy generated from green sources such as wind or solar.

Gift Giving and Shopping

Although many of us enjoy wandering around decorated stores during the holidays, perhaps even stopping to see Santa, before the perfect gift emerges on its own, you can save time and costs by planning out the gifts necessary for each person. Make use of outlets and strip malls, which mean you have less driving to do from store to store. You can also shop for products made locally or buy materials to craft gifts on your own, which not only supports local businesses but detracts overall from the amount of overseas transit costs and pollution that trucks, boats, and planes cause. The same goes for shopping online  — if you buy your gifts from one store instead of three, you’ll have lower costs associated with packaging and transit.

Regarding the actual gift, aim to buy fewer gifts that use electricity and batteries. An amazing 40 percent of all batteries are purchased during the holiday season, which means a lot of energy is used. If you must buy electronic gifts, definitely opt for the energy efficient versions, and maybe even throw in rechargeable batteries instead of singular usage batteries.

The holidays are the perfect time to show appreciation for those around you. Whether it be through gifts, parties, or decorations, the holidays can be exciting, albeit expensive. But, if you plan accordingly and shop wisely, you’ll find the damage to your wallet and the earth can be greatly reduced.

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

How to Green-Up Your Home to Live a Happy Healthy Life

greenvalentineBy: Elizabeth Eckhart 

It seems today that more and more Americans are concerned with the current state of the environment, and what we can do to help. Everywhere you look, companies are “going green” in an attempt to appeal to the demands of the increasingly educated public. Even electric companies in places like Texas, the oil capital of America, are touting their green energy options, and it’s all beginning to turn the tide: according to the EPA, in 2008 Americans were able to avoid releasing the equivalent of 29 million cars worth of greenhouse gases through eco-conscious living. This translated to a savings of $19 billion for Americans that year.

However, it’s not just our commercial goods we are wanting to be eco-friendly – many of us want to live greener and thus healthier lives defined by mindfulness of our place on the Earth, and making our home as green as possible is an undeniably important part. Our homes should be a haven, not a harm to us, and shouldn’t be reducing the quality of the environment.

So what exactly is a “green” home? Compared to an average American home, green homes are gentler on the environment because they use less energy, water and other natural resources while avoiding waste and negative environmental impact wherever possible. Standard homes consumes about 30 percent of total energy and 65 percent of all electricity generated in the US. By making plumbing, fixtures, landscaping and irrigation systems more efficient, greens homes can use 50 percent less water than standard American homes. Also, constructing a green home generates about 50 to 90 percent less waste than standard homes.

Based on these facts and simple observations, it should come as no surprise to see the rise in the number of eco-friendly homes being built, and for good cause. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that buildings in the U.S. contribute 70 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and residential buildings produce 20 percent of our total CO2 emissions alone. It is clear that our homes and offices play a major role in the environment, so it’s our responsibility to limit the damage we inflict with them.

Also, not only do standard constructed homes negatively affect the environment, but they are affect our wellbeing. Green homes create less indoor air pollutants than standard homes, which can enhance allergies and asthma and may lead to lung cancer.

There are many options for current homeowners to turn their homes into energy efficient ones. One of the most popular programs to help with this process is the Energy Star program, which was launched in 1995. Energy Star certified energy efficient products typically use 20-30 percent less energy than what is required by federal standards. While Energy Star certifications are for what’s in your home, LEED Certification, launched by the United States Green Building Council, is for the building itself. LEED-certified homes aim to reduce their negative impact on the environment by reducing their energy and water use by an average of 20-30 percent as well as maximizing fresh air within the home to reduce exposure to domestic pollutants.

The reality is though, that most Americans simply can’t afford to build a new LEED certified home, or buy new Energy Star certified products. Luckily, there are many steps all of us can take to reduce our impact on the environment that don’t break our bank.

The first step would be to get an energy audit — many electric companies offer these at minimal to no cost, or you can do it yourself. A DIY audit consists of checking for, and sealing, indoor and outdoor air leaks that could be driving up your energy bill by 5-30 percent a year. This is particularly important for older homes, since they are more prone to having drafts.

Next, compare home electricity providers to see which companies offer green products, such as solar panels. Many companies today are utilizing renewable sources from solar, to wind, hydro and geothermal to generate electrical power. If you live in states like New York, Maryland, Texas, and other parts of the South, you can try here to see which companies offer eco-friendly options for household electricity in your area and which would work for you and your household’s electricity needs.

The next step is to check your home’s insulation, which keeps the heat from escaping through the ceiling and walls. The attic is the biggest culprit for heat loss, so look there first if you have one, then consider checking and re-sealing the borders of windows and doors.

Your heating and cooling equipment should be next on your list. Cleaning or replacing filters, inspecting ducts and pipes for leaks, and replacing the unit every 15 years will ensure tip-top energy efficiency and will protect your lungs from breathing in mold and other harmful toxins.

The last, and easiest step is to monitor your use of electronic devices. Aside from using any electronic devices less frequently, make sure to unplug everything that isn’t being used at that moment, and definitely do so if you’ll be out of the house for a few hours or more. Unused, but plugged in, electronic devices are leeches of electricity and cost you hundreds of dollars a year without you being any the wiser – this includes power strips and surge protectors, so be sure to unplug these as well as they will continue to draw power. To get more tips on a do-it-yourself home audit check the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.

Other greener options for the home are to use less water, use fewer paper goods such as paper towels (opt for cloth towels instead and reuse them), get newer appliances that are more energy efficient and whenever possible buy green household cleaners that don’t contain harsh chemicals or toxins.

Not only will doing everything you can to make your home green reduce your impact on the environment, it will also lead to a happier, healthier life. Wellness begins at home, so make sure your house is part of your solution!

Have any other tips for making your house more green? Share in the comments below! 

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Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

Rebecca Pacheco: I Have a Mouse Problem

Hello? Are you there?Yesterday, I made two disturbing discoveries. One: I was living with a mouse. Specifically, this unwanted house guest ravaged one of my cabinets in a binge that included gnawing through 2 packages of polenta, 1 large bag of organic Irish steel cut oats (which are expensive by the way), leaving bite marks on the cap of a bottle of cooking oil, and then, running around throwing handfuls of cocoa powder in the air like he was having some kind of 1 mouse, 1 shade of chocolate brown, Color Run. I even heard the little jerk over the weekend and reasoned with myself I was imagining things. I think the lesson here is: trust thyself… and store your grains in glass jars.

Two: the trackpad of my computer stopped functioning last night. The trackpad, as you likely know, serves as a computer’s mouse on laptops  So, yes, I have a mouse in my home and faulty mouse on my computer.

I have a mouse problem.

Laugh it up, everyone.

I couldn’t believe how scared and angry one little mouse could make me. (To be fair, he chewed some massive holes, so I thought he must be a hideous rat, initially). I stared at his mess for a good 10-minutes before taking a deep breath, rolling up my dish gloves, and saying to my salad tongs, “We’re going in.” I removed the food, cleaned up, and lined the empty shelves with Bounce dryer sheets for the meantime. The Internet says mice do not like the smell of them. Ditto peppermint, cloves, or cayenne pepper. Such dummies, cayenne is awesome for boosting metabolism, fighting inflammation, and strengthening immunity.

I put my writing on hold and proceeded to the Apple store this morning with its lack of mice and abundance of mouses to sit patiently on the sidewalk with all the other people standing outside before it opens, like we were waiting to buy tickets for some kind of mini concert for nerds inside. I couldn’t part with my machine today, so I made an appointment to return later.

Thankfully, both nuisances will be remedied soon. My boyfriend bought me a mouse—the computer kind—so that I could write today and pledged to help ward off the other mouse tonight. I can’t even take credit for the joke about having a mouse problem. He made the quip while I was still seeing red, err, cocoa.  Witty, isn’t he?

If misery loves company, I’m pretty sure it loves a good pun and a guy who will save you from said mouse problems even more. It makes me realize that these problems aren’t so bad after all, and the disturbances in a given day don’t reveal only the precious time or steel cut oats that get eaten up but, also, the people, places, and things that help us restock our shelves, reboot our computers, and reframe our perspective.

 

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

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