(Family Features) It’s that time of year when you think about getting organized for a fresh new start. But how many times have you thought about finally clearing out your closet, decided it’s just too overwhelming, and simply shut the door only to think about it later?
“Let’s face it, most of us put cleaning out and organizing our closets at the top of our New Year’s resolutions’ list every single year,” said Barbara Reich, professional organizer. “But how many of us just think about it without actually doing it? To get serious and take action, you need a plan of attack.”
Once you make a commitment and get on board with the project, go from there with these tips from Reich.
Start by determining your overall goal. Are you simply organizing what you have or do you need to purge unused items? Get rid of things you don’t need or won’t wear. Remember that items in good condition can be donated to those in need.
Once you’ve determined just how much stuff you’ll have to organize, it’s time to consider what systems will best fit your space and needs. A do-it-yourself closet organizer product, such as ClosetMaid ShelfTrack, is affordable, easy to install and adjustable, making it simple to create a customized design. Accessories, such as drawers and shoe shelves, help personalize the space, while fabric bins are perfect for storing handbags and other smaller items.
Before you decide exactly which pieces you need, sketch out your plan on paper or use an online design tool. ClosetMaid’s DIY Design Tool even provides a parts list to help ensure you buy the right pieces for your design. You may also find it helpful to make a categorized list of all the items you need to store and mark them off as you identify the right storage products for your space.
Once you install your new system, the fun really begins. Start by hanging as much as possible; this makes it easier to see what you have. Group and place like things together by category, such as pants, skirts, tops, etc., then within each category, group by season and by color. Take advantage of prime real estate by positioning the things you wear most often in the place that is most accessible and easiest to reach.
Once you have everything hung and stored in its proper place, congratulate yourself on having the closet makeover checked off your list. However, to continue enjoying your newfound organization, you must be vigilant about keeping the space organized. Have a plan in mind when you purchase new things. Ask yourself if you really need the item and determine what you can discard to make room.
(Family Features) Wiping away the grime of winter doesn’t have to mean launching an attack with dangerous chemicals. As you tackle this year’s spring cleaning chores, take a note from Mother Nature and rely on the cleaning power of a surprisingly effective natural product: vinegar.
During the last century, vinegar has become increasingly recognized as a low cost and eco-friendly household product. From cooking and canning, to cleaning items indoors and out, homeowners are discovering that this eco-friendly, acetic liquid is as versatile as it is useful.
“Cleaning with vinegar has always been an effective way to banish dirt and grime in kitchens, bathrooms, the garage and the outdoors,” said Mike Smith, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Mizkan Americas, the makers of Four Monks Cleaning Vinegar.
Despite its strong cleaning power, vinegar does have one downfall: its distinctive odor. You can experiment with dozens of DIY recipes online to overcome this dilemma, or you can rely on a store-bought non-toxic cleaning vinegar such as Four Monks, which is made from a proprietary process that reduces the strong aroma and leaves a clean, crisp scent.
Learn how vinegar can make it easier to tackle common tasks around the house with these hacks and discover more uses for cleaning vinegar at VinegarTips.com.
In the Kitchen
Clean off the blades of a well-worn can opener with an old toothbrush soaked with vinegar to help remove dirt and grease.
Clean your ice/water dispenser by running vinegar through the system. Flush the vinegar out by running water through the system for 30-60 seconds.
Rid your dishwasher of mineral buildup by pouring half a cup of vinegar into the reservoir and running an empty cycle. You can also use vinegar in the dishwasher instead of another glass cleaner to keep your glassware sparkling.
Renew sponges and dishrags by placing them in just enough water to cover them. Then add one-fourth cup of vinegar and let them soak overnight.
Remove dark stains on an aluminum pot by boiling two cups of vinegar. For stained and smelly plastic food containers and lunchboxes, wipe them with a cloth dampened with vinegar.
To clean a grease-splattered oven door window, saturate it with vinegar. Keep the door open for 10-15 minutes before wiping with a sponge.
Deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring in half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar. Let sit for five minutes then run hot water down the disposal.
Avoid using toxic chemicals where you store food; wipe up spills in the fridge with vinegar.
In the Bathroom
Rid a faucet of lime deposits by tying a plastic bag containing one-third to one-half cup of vinegar around it and leaving it there for two or three hours. Wipe down with a sponge and scrub any remaining deposits with an old toothbrush. The same approach can be used to remove buildup on a showerhead.
The fizzing combo of vinegar and baking soda can unclog and remove odor from a tub drain. Pour half a cup of baking soda in the drain, then follow with two cups of hot vinegar. Immediately plug the drain with a rag to keep the bubbles contained for 10 minutes. Rinse by pouring a kettle of boiling hot water down the drain.
Spray shower doors with vinegar after you’ve squeegeed the glass – or before you turn on the water – to help release hard water deposits.
Clean shower door tracks by filling them with vinegar and letting it sit for a few hours. Pour hot water into the tracks and scrub away any remaining film with a toothbrush.
To make the toilet bowl sparkle, pour in a cup or more of vinegar and let it sit for several hours or overnight. Scrub well with the toilet brush and flush.
Remove old bathtub decals with vinegar heated in the microwave.
In the Laundry Room
Remove coffee and tea stains by flushing the area with vinegar, rinsing and repeating. For wine stains, saturate the spot with vinegar and allow it to stand for several minutes. Then, wash as normal. Tip: For more delicate fabrics or precaution, test on an inconspicuous part of the garment first.
Restore yellowed clothing by soaking garments overnight in a solution of 12 parts warm water and one part vinegar. Wash them the following morning.
Soak new garments in a few cups of vinegar for 10-15 minutes before washing to stop dyes from running in the wash.
If frequent ironing has left your iron plate dirty, make a paste from one part vinegar and one part salt to scrub it clean.
Remove scorch marks from an iron by rubbing it with a warm solution of equal parts vinegar and salt. If that doesn’t work, use a cloth dampened with vinegar.
Forgot that you left wet laundry in the machine and it now smells moldy? Pour a few cups of vinegar in the machine and wash the clothes in hot water. Then run a normal cycle with detergent to rinse the clothes.
Prevent lint from clinging to clothes by adding half a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.
What Is Vinegar?
Vinegar is the acetic liquid that results when a product containing sugar is allowed to ferment. Vinegar can be created from nearly any product containing sugar; fruit and grains, such as barley and corn, are common sources of vinegar.
The ingredients in vinegar depend on the type of vinegar produced. For example, Four Monks uses distilled vinegar processed from corn, so it’s safe for your family. All vinegars are diluted with water to the preferred acidity before bottling. Four Monks has 6 percent acidity, which is 20 percent stronger than traditional vinegar, but gentle on everyday surfaces. This acetic quality is what enables vinegar to effectively clean while being safe for the body and the environment.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Source: Four Monks
(Family Features) Purchasing a dozen eggs offers nearly unlimited preparation possibilities. Enjoying any egg dish, however, starts with these four tips for purchasing safe eggs:
Safety Tips to Protect Your Flock
Once purchased, it’s also important to follow these safe food handling practices to ensure egg safety and quality.
Does Hen Housing Affect Food Safety?
To better understand how different hen housing systems may affect food safety and other sustainability factors, the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply recently completed a three-year research study.
The study compared flocks of egg-laying hens in three different types of housing systems: conventional cage, enriched colony and cage-free systems. As consumers are becoming more interested in the type of environment in which animals are raised, the coalition elected to conduct research in order to develop science-based information to use in supporting informed decision-making.
The research found that with proper management, eggs produced in any of the three different housing systems are safe and of comparable quality, but also accompany a variety of positive and negative aspects across other elements of sustainability.
Check out sustainableeggcoalition.org for more information about sustainable egg production, videos, interactive infographics and the CSES research results.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Source: Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply
(NewsUSA) - With any new year comes a clean slate and a chance to take on new goals. For many, resolutions revolve around healthy changes, but experts caution that resolve begins to waver at the end of January -- which is why setting specific, realistic goals is proven to be more effective.
"When it comes to fitness resolutions, the focus should be on small steps," said Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and Bowflex Fitness Advisor. "While having a big goal to work toward can be motivating, it’s important to have small, manageable goals that allow you to celebrate the milestones along your fitness journey."
Here are three examples of lofty fitness resolutions -- and how to break them down into achievable goals:
"I want to run a marathon." Training for a race takes months of commitment. Start with a 5K and work your way up to a 10K or half marathon, before deciding if you’re ready to complete the full 26.2 miles. To build endurance before you hit the pavement, consider an in-home cardio machine like the Bowflex TreadClimber TC200. This machine combines the motions of a treadmill, a stepper and an elliptical for a low-impact, total-body workout.
"I want to look like a bodybuilder." This route takes serious patience. Begin with smaller goals, such as gaining one pound of muscle per month. You can accomplish this by increasing the amount of weight and reps with each workout. The Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells condense 32 different weights down to two -- maximizing space and storage at home. A smooth weight-changing mechanism in the handle allows you to adjust weights in varying increments and create a customized strength workout to sculpt your body. These first-ever "smart" dumbbells record reps, weight lifted and speed, sending your workout data via Bluetooth technology directly to your mobile device.
"I want to go on a cross-country bike trip." Like a marathon, months of training go into preparing for this long-distance journey. Experts suggest building up your stamina over time to avoid injury. For an at-home workout, try the Schwinn Airdyne AD Pro Total Fitness Bike. The technology in this bike allows users to tailor intensity levels during workouts -- the more effort given, the more resistance it delivers through the bike’s smooth, quiet, direct-drive belt system.
(BPT) - Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are typically the rooms in any home that get the most use, which could also be why homeowners, when surveyed, consistently cite those rooms as the ones they most want to renovate. It makes perfect sense to upgrade the rooms where you spend the most time, but in high-traffic areas, you can’t afford to make changes just for the sake of cosmetics. You want improvements that can enhance your enjoyment of a room and its functionality.
Here are five smart improvements to make in the rooms users of Ranker.com voted as the most popular ones in their homes: kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and game rooms.
1. Add natural light
Most rooms in the home look better and are more functional in natural light, and more daylight can help reduce the need for artificial light. What’s more, there’s no arguing the positive mental and physical health effects of natural light. Daylight stimulates the body to produce Vitamin D and boosts brain levels of serotonin, which is thought to be associated with positive moods.
Adding skylights is a practical, cost-effective and attractive way to bring more natural light into virtually any room. Remote-controlled, solar-powered fresh-air skylights from Velux America provide not just natural light, but passive ventilation, a real plus in kitchens and baths. Adding solar powered blinds, in designer colors and patterns, increases energy efficiency while giving you total control over the amount of sunlight entering a room through the skylight.
In kitchens, Energy Star-qualified fresh air skylights increase natural light and ventilation without requiring any loss of wall space you could better use for cabinetry. In bathrooms, they provide the perfect combination of privacy and healthful natural light and ventilation.
If you already have older glass or plastic bubble skylights, you can upgrade to the latest solar powered models, plus solar blinds, and receive a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products as well as installation costs. You can even bring more natural light into rooms or areas without direct roof access, like half-baths, closets and hallways, with Sun Tunnel tubular skylights. Visit www.whyskylights.com to learn more.
2. Add organization/storage
Clutter and chaos not only make a room function less efficiently, it can impact your mood as well. Adding organization and storage to rooms where clutter typically collects - such as bedrooms, living rooms and game rooms - is an easy, cost-effective way to improve the function of the room and how you feel about spending time in it.
In bedrooms, maximize closet space by installing organization units. A variety of manufacturers offer ready-made units you can install yourself. Or, for a bit more investment, you can have a professional closet organizer custom-make a unit to fit your space and needs. In living rooms and game rooms, built-in shelving and cabinetry is a functional and beautiful way to improve organization.
3. Improve ventilation
Air flow is critical to the health of your home and everyone who lives in it. Ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms carries away excess moisture that can cause mold and mildew, and creates a fresher, more healthful environment by exhausting stale indoor air.
Bathrooms should be equipped with exhaust fans, and kitchen hoods should vent to the exterior of your home whenever possible. You can further improve ventilation by installing Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh-air skylights, like those made by Velux. Because these skylights open, they provide passive ventilation to allow stale indoor air to escape and admit fresh air. A sensor operates a motor to close the skylights automatically in case of rain.
4. Replace older, inefficient fixtures and appliances
Fixtures and appliances are key elements of kitchens and bathrooms. Older ones not only look dated and shabby, they can cost you money because they use more electricity and water than newer, more efficient models.
Replacing old faucets, shower heads, dishwashers and washing machines with newer models that use less water can reduce your water bill and give kitchens and bathrooms a whole new look. Energy Star-qualified appliances such as stoves, clothes dryers, refrigerators and washers also use less electricity than older appliances, so you can also lower your energy bills.
5. Freshen the foundations
Every room benefits from a good foundation, and that doesn’t just mean sturdy flooring. Wall color, flooring materials and trim are fundamental elements in any room. Simply repainting walls and woodwork can completely change the way any room looks. Or, if you like the colors you have, a fresh coat in the same color will make the room look brighter and newer. Replacing worn carpeting or dated tiles, or refinishing a hardwood floor are also great ways to improve the foundations of any room.
(BPT) - Meeting in Paris, delegates from 195 nations ended 2015 by reaching a landmark agreement to make significant efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The historic pact represents a global effort to curb climate change and a move toward widespread investment in zero-carbon energy sources and other sustainable practices.
Many saw the Paris climate deal as a major change in global policy and a step in the right direction. Though nations at the highest levels might be in agreement on the next steps to take, there is still a lot to be done at the ground level. While there is plenty of discussion about how an individual can lead a more sustainable lifestyle, what doesn’t get a lot of coverage is what businesses can do to reduce their carbon footprint.
This is an unfortunate oversight because businesses have a vital role in addressing global environmental issues such as climate change, carbon emissions and water security. As it stands, buildings in the United States account for 39 percent of CO2 emissions and consume a staggering 70 percent of the electricity load. Over the next 25 years, it is projected that CO2 emissions from buildings will grow faster than in either the industry or transportation sector. Among these, commercial buildings are projected to increase their CO2 output the fastest, by 1.8 percent a year, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
Through its green guidelines and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the U.S. Green Building Council is responding to an urgent need to help businesses around the world save energy, water resources and money while amplifying human health and wellbeing.
Though it is a demanding set of guidelines, many companies have made it a priority to make their buildings LEED certified. One successful example is the Colgate-Palmolive Company, which currently has 11 LEED certified facilities and eight more in the works. The company has been so successful in their efforts that they were awarded the 2015 Ray Anderson Radical Industrialism Award for exemplifying leadership in the evolution of green manufacturing. This award reflects the company’s global strategy that includes a commitment to “Reducing Our Impact on Climate and the Environment,” and “Making Every Drop of Water Count.” To do this, they have set such goals for 2020 as reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing plants by 25 percent compared to 2002 levels, and cutting production water use by half and energy by one third.
Widening its sustainability efforts beyond its plants and office buildings, Colgate has launched a “Save Water” campaign which includes a coming Super Bowl ad, a discussion forum on social media, #EveryDropCounts, and “Save Water” messaging on product packaging. The overall aim of these efforts is to remind consumers that by simply turning off the faucet while brushing, one person can save up to 3,000 gallons of water a year.
While Colgate continues to make substantial strives in these areas, they are not alone. Manufacturing plants for Fortune 500 companies such as Coca-Cola, Mars, Kraft and Intel Corp. are making strong efforts to reduce carbon emissions. As of August, 2015, there were over 72,500 LEED building projects around the world. In fact, the world’s second tallest building, the Shanghai Tower, has achieved an LEED Platinum rating.
The range of these efforts to reduce carbon emissions encompasses daily activities, business practices and the global community. While such accomplishments don’t make headlines like the Paris climate deal did, they are a reminder that a sustainable future begins at home with people, families and with the brands they trust.