ORGANIZING YOUR PANTRY

pantryOne of the most overlooked—and probably one of the most despised—jobs around your home would be that of reorganizing your kitchen’s pantry.  It’s one of those tasks that generally isn’t even on your radar.  When it occurs to you is when you are digging through shelves of items hurriedly looking for that spice or canned good you know is there somewhere.  You saw it a while ago, but now it seems to have vanished.  You make a mental note that “one of these days,” you’re going to take the time to straighten up everything on those shelves and put them in some kind of order.  And then you forget all about it until the next time you can’t find something.

And here’s a bit of bad news:  There is no easy way to reorganize that space.  There are no short cuts.  Once you’ve made your peace with that bit of bad news, you can move on to actually doing something about it.  With that in mind, here are some tips that will make the process somewhat less painful, and the end result much more effective.

Step one is to remove everything from the shelves and other storage space in the pantry.  This enables you to give the space a thorough cleaning and to inventory all of the items on hand.

Toss out the empty or nearly-empty containers and check labels to see whether anything is past its expiration date.  Get rid of those things, as well.  Scrutinize what is left and determine what is worth keeping.  There’s no point in holding on to items that have seen no use over the past few years.  Decide also whether there’s anything that has been occupying space that really belongs in another area of the house, such as in a linen closet or desk drawer.

You’re still not ready to return anything to the pantry just yet.  Instead, group everything you intend to keep into appropriate categories.  For example:  spices and baking goods together, beans, grains and pastas together, condiments, oils, salad dressings and vinegar in one area.

Consider which articles you reach for most often, and which ones see less regular use, and let that be you guideline for how you return them to the shelves.  The more frequently you need to reach for something, the more convenient its regular spot should be.

Finally, scrutinize your pantry space closely while it’s still empty and uncluttered.  Consider additional storage options.  What about using an over-the-door shoe organizer to hold some items?  Does your pantry space allow for pegboard backing on a wall or a door?  These can be amazingly versatile and strong.  You can anchor hooks or suspend plastic baskets for these, creating room for cutting boards, utensils and shelf-stable items.

Take a few moments to plot out just how and where you will store things in your refurbished pantry area and what you might want to buy before everything goes back into the space.  Be realistic and reasonable in your goals.  Using clear plastic storage containers with labels can be time savers and efficient places to keep cereal, snacks or bulk items.  Remember, however that those require some ongoing maintenance (transferring the contents from the boxes and bags in which you purchase them, and keeping the bins clean).  If you know yourself well enough to know it’s not something you’ll keep up with regularly, then buying things like these may be nothing more than a needless expense and a waste of your time.  You might be better off simply keeping things in their original containers!

One last key element to pantry reorganization…  If you’re going to go to all the trouble of doing it, then keep up the good work!  Incorporate a few moments in your week to making sure things remain tidy and in their proper space.  Don’t fall into the trap of casually tossing something back into the pantry telling yourself that you’ll put it away properly later.  At least once a week, take the time to make sure everything is in its designated spot, package labels facing outward.  Wipe down the shelves and inventory items regularly so that you know approximately when amounts are getting low and things don’t remain well beyond their expiration dates.

It’s easy to let messiness and disorganization creep in.  It’s also easy to prevent it with just a little vigilance.

If you are looking to expand your pantry’s space or to create a new one, remember that your local Handyman Matters office is happy to assist you with this or with any other repair or remodel jobs around your home.

WINDOW DESIGN CAN IMPROVE YOUR HOME’S ENERGY EFFICIENCY

PSHD (Passive Solar Home Design) is the term used to describe the process that takes advantage of a building’s site, climate and materials to minimize energy usage.  A passive solar home gets at least part of its heating, cooling and lighting energy from the sun, and windows—and their ability to either retain or lose heat—play a large role in regulating that energy.

The efficiency of existing windows can be dramatically improved by utilizing weatherstripping or caulking, and by adding storm windows or window treatments and coverings.  In some instances, the better option is to replace older, less efficient windows with new ones that are better-designed for energy-saving purposes.  They quickly pay for themselves in reduced utility costs.

Before installing new windows, it’s important to determine the type that will work best in your home’s configuration.  Consider that south-facing windows will collect the most solar heat.  This is advantageous in the winter months, but less so in summer months, particularly in warmer climates.  In those areas, overhangs, glazing, or other shading devices will help to prevent excessive heat gain.  In colder climates, owners will welcome the additional warmth that southern-facing windows can absorb.

Windows on east- and west-facing sides of your home admit less sunlight.  It is more difficult to control the heat and light that come through them; ideally, they should have a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC).  This is a scale that determines the fraction of solar radiation admitted through a window or shading of some type.  You can learn more about this scale at www.energy.gov.

Northern-facing windows collect no solar heat and generally are used only for lighting.  They can’t be counted on to provide sustained warmth.

Consider, too, the type of window operating system you want to install, since different styles have different air leakage rates.  Fixed panes do not open at all, making these generally airtight, but no ventilation is available, either, which can reduce their appeal.

Single- and double-hung windows have two separate panes of glass.  In single-hung windows, only the lower half of the window opens, sliding upward.  In double-hung windows, both halves are moveable.  Both types have a much higher air leakage factor, since they don’t seal as efficiently as other styles.

Similarly, single- and double-sliding windows feature glass which slides horizontally, and they, too, have higher air leakage.

Casement windows are hinged at the sides and open outward.  Both these and awning windows, which are hinged at the top, are more airtight since the sash closes by pressing against the frame.

Naturally, your selection is going to come down to the style that looks best on your home but, armed with this information, you can make a choice that balances aesthetics with energy-efficiency.

Even the most energy-saving windows must be installed correctly to ensure their efficiency.  The craftsmen at Handyman Matters are always available to assist with this important home upkeep task.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME to locate the office nearest you.

 

 

RE-CONFIGURING YOUR HOME’S STORAGE SPACE

Are you a recent empty-nester?  Have you just finished decluttering the house?  Or maybe you’ve simply been contemplating the current layout of your living space and you wonder if there could be a more efficient—or a more attractive—way of arranging your belongings.

You could, of course, put your home on the market and find an entirely new place to live, but if you’re looking for something a little less disruptive and complicated, here are a handful of smaller suggestions to consider.

EXPAND AN EXISTING ROOM – Is there a room in your home that’s rarely used these days?  Consider the idea of knocking down the wall between it and an adjoining room to create a more open and welcoming space between the two.  Interestingly, a larger expanse can give a stronger sense of intimacy!

ADD A CLOSET OR INCREASE THE SIZE OF A CURRENT ONE – Maybe it’s time to consider turning that small, cramped closet into a walk-in space where your clothes, shoes and other paraphernalia aren’t competing for visibility.  Examine your options:  is there some adjoining space that could be better served by making it part of a larger closet?

ADD OR MOVE CABINETS – Every home seems to have that catch-all cabinet and/or that junk drawer, the place where everything that has nowhere else to be winds up.  Even those storage spots that have an assigned purpose tend to accumulate items that don’t belong there, because they don’t quite seem to fit anyplace else.  Conduct a walk-through of your home for the specific purpose of inventorying cabinet/cupboard locations and their contents.  It’s probably been awhile since you actively considered whether things are stored in their most convenient spot.  You’ve simply become accustomed to retrieving them as needed without much thought about how far you have to walk, or how deeply you have to dig.

LOOK AROUND FOR UNUSED AREAS – Most homes have a lot of unoccupied space…if you know where to look.  Is it possible to open up space under a set of stairs for cabinets, sets of drawers, or even shelves?  Also, “think vertical!”  Floor-to-ceiling built-in-shelves enable you to put overhead space to better use.  In your kitchen, can you mount a second bank of cabinets above the existing ones?  These are good locations for those seldom-used items that are taking up valuable real estate in the more accessible cupboards.  Are there stray corners in your home, particularly behind doors, where diagonal shelves could be installed?  These don’t impede traffic or block the door and serve as both a point of decoration for things like vases and framed photographs, and for objects you typically grab on your way out of the house.

LOOK FOR FURNITURE THAT CAN DO DOUBLE-DUTY – Furniture has become amazingly functional in new ways these days.  Many beds, couches, coffee tables, credenzas and other items are now designed to have multiple uses, including hidden storage space.  A trip to a local furniture store can open you up to all kinds of new ways to relocate your possessions.

These are just a few of the options worth considering if you are looking to upgrade your home with an eye towards space reconfiguration.  Our many Handyman Matters offices have qualified craftsmen who can help you decide what the best option for your home may be, and to help you complete the job to your satisfaction.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the phone number of the Handyman Matters location nearest you.

 

INSOMNIA-PROOFING YOUR BEDROOM

There are any number of reasons why you might experience sleepless nights, and more than a few of them can relate to your sleeping quarters.  Sometimes the cure to your insomnia can be found in examining the layout of your bedroom.  Here are some things to consider:

Sleep experts agree that keeping a room as dark as possible helps to promote a good night’s rest.   Are your furnishings, decorations, window treatments or wall colors preventing you from sleeping as well as you might?  It might be time to consider redecorating in hues of darker blue, purple, or maybe even black.

Are lighter-colored drapes or blinds allowing too much outdoor ambient light into the room?  Consider heavier or double curtains, or shades/blinds that are better light-blockers.

Are you sleeping on a twenty year-old mattress that has outlived its usefulness?  Even just your well-worn pillow can be preventing that restful night’s sleep.   Begin by changing out your pillows for new ones, to see if that simple change can provide the cure you seek.   A heavier, high quality set of pillows may make a huge difference in the type of sleep you get.  Try this before investing the money in a new mattress or bed; then, if the problem persists, consider making the larger purchase.

Pay attention to the temperature.  Try experimenting by adjusting the thermostat up or down a few degrees from night to night.  Perhaps a slightly warmer or cooler room will be more conducive to your rest.

It’s actually possible for the clutter in your bedroom to make a difference, as well.  It could be overt—the “busy-ness” of your knickknacks and decorations can inhibit your sleep.  Or it might be a little more subtle.  Are you falling asleep each night staring at stacks of things you’ve been planning to move, clean or rearrange?    Your brain carries these thoughts into your sleep, impacting it in all kinds of negative ways.

Some people sleep better when things are absolutely still.  Others do better with some sort of ambient noise—perhaps soft music or the sound of a fan.  Do some experimentation, if you aren’t sure which works best for you.  If light seeping under the door or the sounds of other occupants moving around in your home creates distraction, take steps to layer your walls and windows to provide better insulation.  This can be done with additional plaster or “popcorn” texture.  If soft noise provides a more soothing environment for you, look into purchasing a white noise machine or a small fountain that trickles water over stones.

These are but a few of the possibilities that may open up a whole new night’s rest for you.  Some are more easily tackled than others, of course.  In any event, Handyman Matters stands ready to assist with any sort of bedroom renovation, whether it’s to help you track that elusive better night’s sleep, or to do an extensive remodel when you are ready to change things up a bit.  Our expert craftsmen can provide both consultation and expertise for every kind of job, big or small.  Contact them at 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or by entering your zip code on our website.

Protect Your Home and Family from the Threat of Fire

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that fires kill more than 4,000 Americans annually and injure 20,000 more. U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 2 million fires each year, with three-quarters of them occurring in residences. In order to avoid becoming one more of these unfortunate statistics, the NFPA recommends that every family implement the following safety procedures:

  • Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
  • Practice a home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
  • Teach children how to escape on their own, in case you can’t help them.
  • Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked, and easy for the fire department to find.
  • Close doors behind you as you leave—this may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.
  • Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.

Additionally, how long has it been since you’ve conducted a safety inspection of your home? Here’s a quick checklist:

  1. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Test them at least once a month.
  2. Keep a fully-charged fire extinguisher in an easy-to-get-to spot.
  3. Don’t overload circuits or extension cords.
  4. Make sure there’s ample space around all portable heating units. Anything that could catch fire should be at least three feet away from these.
  5. Position appliances (TV sets, kitchen and other appliances) away from curtains and water sources.
  6. Clean your dryer’s lint filter after every use and check behind your dryer for lint build-up regularly.

Most items on the standard home fire safety checklist are relatively easy for anyone to implement. But for those that may present more of a challenge—installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, chimney cleanings or the maintenance or replacement of wood stoves, to name a few—remember that your local Handyman Matters craftsmen stand ready to assist you in making certain that your home is fire prevention-ready!

THAT EVER-GROWING LIST OF SMALL REPAIRS

Human beings are not only creatures of habit, we tend to be an extremely adaptable species.  For proof, look no further than your own house.

The odds are there are several small items in need of repair that you have put off fixing, and in the process, you’ve learned to work around the inconvenience they present.  In fact, you’ve put up with the situation so long that, most of the time, it doesn’t even seem like a problem any longer.  For example:

  • The wobbly towel rack that’s worked its way loose from the wall
  • The warped drawer that’s difficult to open or close
  • The sliding shower door that’s come off of its track
  • The ripped screen in the screen door
  • The cracked floor tile in the entryway
  • The “ding” in the wall caused when a piece of furniture banged against it

Without even thinking about it, you’ve become accustomed to stepping over or around the cracked tile.  You brace yourself in order to tug extra hard when you need to open the drawer.  You’ve stopped using the wobbly towel rack altogether.  You’ve moved a chair in order to conceal the damage to the wall.

You’ve told yourself that any one of these jobs is just too small to worry about right now.  You’ll get around to fixing all of them one of these days.  But more days go by, and instead, the list has just gotten larger.  You could probably go along like this for quite a while, finding new ways to live with the problems.  But, as with so many things in life, these situations don’t go away, or get better on their own.  It’s time to address them head-on.  You either need to set aside the time to handle the repairs on your own, or call in an expert.

That’s where Handyman Matters can come in, well… handy.  Their qualified craftsmen can handle more 1,162 home repair projects, large and small.  You tend to consider calling in an expert when you have one big job that needs fixing.  But why not bring in someone to tackle the half-dozen or more “honey-do” items that have been stacking up around your house?  In a single visit, a Handyman Matters craftsman can address the many little and mid-sized repair projects that have disrupted the orderly flow of life around your home.

Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the phone number of the office that serves your area.

Is Hardwood Flooring Right For You?

Hardwood flooring has been the latest craze in flooring and decorating for practically forever. From cozy beach cottages to swanky city apartments to grandiose suburban dream-homes, it seems like everyone is jumping on the hardwood bandwagon, and demand hasn’t slowed down since it began.

Still, after installing hardwood flooring for thousands of homes, our expert handymen don’t think that hardwood is perfect for everyone. For one, it requires a LOT of maintenance. There are also other, much lower-maintenance alternative flooring that can make your home stand out from the crowd. Here is a quick guide to decide if hardwood flooring is right for your home:

1) Do you have large pets? While a kitten or two probably won’t do much damage to the floor, dogs (especially the larger breeds) can scratch up the surface quickly. Unlike cats, dogs can’t retract their claws and end up leaving microscopic scratches everywhere they walk. This could leave a high-traffic area or a sharp corner covered in scratch marks. And if you let your dog go outside regularly, be prepared for additional upkeep as dogs can track mud and dirt through the house.

2) Do you have young children? Having children shouldn’t automatically preclude you from choosing to put in hardwood floors. Still, they will require additional maintenance with kids running around. Children will often run through the house with their outdoors shoes still on, and are harder on floors than most typical adults. If you have kids, be ready to mop several times a week at minimum.

3) Like wearing heels or throwing fancy dinner parties? Now, it would seem that you would be perfect for the elegance and style of hardwood flooring, BUT… High heels and formal mens dress shoes have much harder bottoms than typical shoes, and will cause your flooring to crack, chip, and dent much faster than under regular use. Moreover heels are generally very narrow and concentrate the force of your foot into a small area, making it much more likely that your floor will get the kinds of dents and dings that require regular resurfacing. If you still want wood floors, make sure you put runners and rugs in high-traffic areas, and be ready to spend money on refinishes once every few years, or more often, depending on how often you throw parties.

PREVENTING ELECTRICAL MALFUNCTIONS IN YOUR HOME

An estimated 47,700 home structure fires in the United States every year, all due to some form or electrical failure or malfunction. It’s imperative for every property owner to take the precautions necessary to prevent needless damage and injury resulting from such disasters.

Though some of the below tips may seem like no-brainers, check to make sure you aren’t guilty of any of these infractions:

  • Never remove the grounding pin (the third plug) to make a plug fit into a two-prong outlet.
  • Don’t nail or staple electrical cords to walls, floors, or other objects.
  • Extension cords are designed for temporary use; don’t utilize them as permanent household wiring.
  • Replace missing or broken wall plates so that wiring and components never remain exposed.
  • If an appliance is repeatedly blowing a fuse or trips a circuit breaker, unplug it and have an electrician check out the problem.
  • Outlets in the kitchen, bathroom, workshop and laundry rooms should always be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters, and these need to be tested on a regular basis.
  • Check electrical cords regularly to make sure they haven’t become frayed or cracked. Also, they should not be placed under carpeting or rugs.

And when working outdoors, take care to keep yourself and all equipment a safe distance—at least ten feet—from power lines and service connections. Check for power lines before setting up ladders or using long tools. Additionally, never use electric tools in the rain or if the ground is wet.

For additional information on preventing electrical hazards, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Your local Handyman Matters office can send out a craftsman to do an assessment around your home to determine if there are any potential electrical hazards that need addressing, and they can assist you with making any necessary corrections. Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code on our website to locate the office nearest you.

MAKING YOUR KITCHEN SENIOR-FRIENDLY

Safety concerns and the challenges of staying in our home increase as we age. We all value our privacy and our independence, but these shouldn’t come at the expense of our health and well-being. Of particular importance are adjustments to our kitchens, since that’s a room in which we spend a good amount of time and engage in a variety of potentially risky tasks.

The costs of a kitchen remodel can range from small to large; the following list provides some helpful ideas of senior-friendly alterations, and how involved and expensive each is likely to be.

Slip-Resistant Flooring – Falls account for a majority of injuries sustained by seniors in all areas of the house. Remove any mats or rugs that present a tripping or slipping hazard. A rug in front of the sink may be keeping your floor cleaner, but it’s hardly worth the risk you face of taking a serious spill. Likewise, flooring should have enough texture to grip your feet. Consult with the clerk at your local hardware or home repair store for suggestions on the best types of slip-resistant flooring available.

Increase Lighting – Another fact of life is that as we grow older, our eyesight becomes poorer. In the kitchen, where a lot of tasks require using knives, gripping pans, and transferring hot items, maximum lighting is essential. This may be achieved with something as simple as increasing bulb wattage, or with something as complex as installing motion-sensor lights, or light switches that can be operated with a simple nudge.

Allow more than Adequate Clearance Space – Kitchens are particularly prone to acquiring clutter. Look around to see what items (step stools, chairs, pet dishes) may be impeding your movements, and determine better locations for these things to “live.”

Make Appliances and Utensils Easier to Reach – One of the common laments voiced by seniors is the difficulty of reaching into both upper and lower cabinets. Obviously, everything can’t be kept at waist level, but the most commonly used items can be made more accessible. Place the microwave at or just below counter height. Consider installing pull-out shelves which allow you to retrieve items without stretching or bending.

A side-opening oven door enables you to insert and remove items without having to lean across the standard lowered door, especially when the surface is hot.

Shallower sinks make it easier to rinse dishes, fruits and vegetables. Single-lever faucets reduce the risk of scalding with hot water.

Replace smaller knobs and handles on drawers with larger, easy-to-grip ones.

When the time comes to replace an appliance, look for newer models with larger, easy-to-read controls.

If you are contemplating making changes to your kitchen—whether to make it “senior-proof” or for any other reason—the Handyman Matters craftsmen stand ready to consult and to assist in all aspects. To find the office nearest you, call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME, or go to www.handymanmatters.com and enter your zip code.

 

 

A FEW HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS TO CONSIDER DURING THE WINTER MONTHS

When the snow begins to fall and temperatures take a nosedive, it’s tempting to just hunker down inside your house in front of a hearty fire and wait for spring before you contemplate any more home improvement projects.

But winter is actually an ideal time to accomplish and handful of those smaller indoor projects that tend to get overlooked in the rush to fix the bigger, more demanding items.

For starters, now is the ideal time to install a programmable thermostat. It’s one of the easiest and least expensive home improvements you can make, and it will make an immediate difference in the size of your fuel bills.

Another easy task to accomplish without putting on gloves, galoshes or a coat would be to replace lighting fixtures and light bulbs. Installing new fixtures is an easy and simple way to update the style of any room. You might also want to contemplate adding dimmers, which allow you to adjust the mood of a room by increasing or decreasing light as needed.

What about new window treatments? Is it time to trade out curtains for blinds, or simply trade one fabric and color for another?

Or take it a step further and consider replacing your windows themselves. You can find some great deals on quality replacement windows because this is the time of year when prices are greatly reduced. Additionally, home repair and maintenance business tends to slow in the colder months, and it’s much easier to schedule a handyman to come in and do the job for you.

Take a few minutes to walk through your home and see if any of these—or larger tasks—are projects that could perk up your home during the dreary, dark days of winter!