Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tap Hidden Storage

If Santa brought you everything on your Christmas list this week, your new year’s resolution might be to find a place to store it all.

In surveys of homeowners, most say they don’t have enough storage space at home.You might have more than you think. Here are some places to look:

Cover an entire wall with open shelving, where you can display books, knick-knacks and pictures. Place decorative baskets on some of the shelves to hold—and hide—small items that you want to keep out of sight.

Bedroom closets.
If your closets are the old “pole-and-plank” kind—with a single rod for hanging clothes and a shelf so high you can’t reach it, get ready to reorganize. Closet organizers let you add shelves, drawers, racks, hooks and cubbyholes so every blouse, suit, shoe and necklace has a place. At the very least, move your rod up so it hangs 84 inches from the floor, and add another one underneath that is 42 inches from the floor. Keep your tall shelf; it’s a good place to store out-of-season clothes.

Kitchen pantry. Chances are, yours has two to three feet of wasted space near the floor. Place shelves from floor to ceiling in the pantry. Choose slide-out shelves so you can easily retrieve the cans and small appliances you keep in the closet.Inside kitchen cabinets. Unless your cabinets are fairly new, you’re probably stacking pots, pans, dishes and food so deep that you can’t see what’s in the back. Retrofit you cabinets with lazy Susans and slide-out shelves that make easy work of retrieving your items—so you can stuff more in them.

Under every work surface. Opt for built-in cabinets or open shelving under the kitchen island, the tool bench and the bathroom vanity.

Inside furniture. When it’s time for new furniture, replace kitchen chairs with benches whose seats open up to double as storage chests; find ottomans with hollow centers for hiding magazines.


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Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm overwhelmed with holiday preparations. Can you help me get organized?

If you’re feeling that it’s impossible to get your home ready for holiday houseguests. Good news: You can do it.

A tip: Fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa, start a fire in the hearth and get comfortable in your favorite chair. Then make a list—and check it twice—of everything you need to do so your home makes a good impression on your houseguests—and so it makes them feel comfortable during their stay. Then enlist the help of your family and make appointments with any service pros you’ll need to help you finish the chores on time.

Here’s my pre-holiday honey-do list:

  1. Have the furnace inspected. Chances are, you’ll have the heat on while company’s here, at least overnight. You’ll rest easier knowing a heating and air conditioning technician has given your system a once-over and cleared it—or repaired it—so it won’t leave your guests in the cold.

  2. Sweep the chimney. It’s a messy, time-consuming job, so you might want to hire a professional chimney sweep. Choose one who can do both a cleaning and an inspection. An inspector will look for cracks in the masonry, damaged dampers, worn-out chimney caps and other problems, in addition to removing what you can’t see: the creosote, soot, ashes, dust, leaves and even birds that are stuck in the flue and chimney.

  3. Hang your stockings by the chimney with care—a lot of it. Hanging stockings can damage your mantel and pose a fire hazard. Tips: Use the smallest hook or nail you can find so the hole you pierce into the mantel will be nearly invisible when you remove the nail after the holidays. Move holiday stockings away from the mantel before lighting a fire.

  4. Gussie up the guest room. If it’s been doubling as a sewing room, a storage space or a home office since last time grandma came to visit, get in there and clean it out. Move your personal items to another room so you won’t have to bother your guests to retrieve them during their stay. Make room in the closet for company to hang clothes. Launder the bedspread, and place a candy cane on each pillow. And if your guests have stayed with you over past Christmases, frame a holiday photo from their last visit and display it in their room.

For more information and for all YOUR Landscape, Garden and Home Improvement Questions, visit

Friday, December 9, 2011

Will 7UP extend the life of my Christmas tree?

You’ve added bleach, aspirin, soda, syrup or sugar to your Christmas tree’s water to help the evergreen last longer. Did they work?

Tree experts say they don’t. It seems like they would: The common blend of 7UP and bleach seems like it would, indeed, make the tree’s water more acidic and help the tree take in more moisture and food. The sugar in the soda, it seems, would help feed the tree. The disinfectant in the bleach would prevent mold, fungi and algae from forming.

So it seems. Yet it’s an urban myth, and it’s not true.


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How can I prevent my Christmas tree from becoming a fire hazard?

If your Christmas tree catches on fire, it can fill yourhome with deadly gases and quickly burn the gifts underneath it—as well as nearby furniture. Don’t make your home one of the 210 that burn every holiday season because of a problem with the Christmas tree.

Here are some tips for keeping your family safe around the tree:

  • If you buy an artificial tree, choose one with a label that says it is fire-resistant. If you prefer a metal tree, do not use electric lights. Faulty lights can charge the tree with electricity and electrocute anyone who touches it.

  • Select the freshest live tree you can find. Here’s how to tell if it’s fresh: Its needles should be green and hard to pull from the branches. Needles shouldn’t break when you bend them between your fingers.

  • Water your tree every day.

  • Place the tree away from heat sources like the fireplace and heating vents.

  • Don’t put the tree up too early. If it dries out, it will ignite more easily.

For more information and for answers to all YOUR Home Improvement, Landscape and Garden questions, visit our website:

Friday, December 2, 2011

5 tips for buying tools for handy folks on your list

Choosing a tool for someone else isn’t as easy as running to the hardware store and picking up the latest thing.

I’m awfully particular about my tools. I’m still using the same putty knife I bought 30 years ago. If you buy me a new one, I’ll still walk around with my old knife that’s served me so well all these years.

Some of the do-it-yourselfers on your holiday gift list might feel the same way about their tried-and-true tools—and probably would have invested in the fanciest, newest products already if they really wanted them.

To someone who’s serious about home remodeling and repairs, tools are personal. So if you want to surprise someone with a shiny new tool on Christmas morning, get to know the working style of the person you’re buying for.

Here are five guidelines for buying tools for the handiest people on your shopping list this season.

  1. Know the kinds of projects your loved one likes to work on. If he or she uses tools only occasionally for light jobs like hanging pictures and tightening hinges, choose smaller tools designed for those everyday fixes. But if you’re buying for someone who’s elbow-deep in building an addition or gutting the guest bathroom, you’ll want to choose sturdier, professional-grade tools.
  2. Buy the highest quality tool you can afford. In tool world, that’s usually the most expensive tool in its category. Serious handymen and women think of their tools as a long-term investment. They want them to work, and they want them to last.

For more information and the answers to all YOUR Landscape, Garden and Home Improvement questions, visit our website at

What kind of tools are right for women DIYers?

Any woman knows it’s often quicker and easier to do something herself than to wait for, pay for or pray for someone else to help her out.

So more women are becoming do-it-herselfers. If you’re a handywoman—or want to be—consider investing in lighter-weight tools designed to feel comfortable in a woman’s hand.

The new Tomboy Traveler is an eight-piece kit of pink tools: magnetic head hammer, pliers, utility knife, ratcheting screwdriver, tape measure, torpedo level, mini hacksaw, latex-grip gloves, and of course, a pink bag to hold it all. Order it and lots of other right-sized tools from

Among the lightweight, smaller-grip tools at Barbara K! is a new 12-volt power drill that allows you to sling the battery pack on your hip while using it, substantially lightening the drill’s weight. The Power-Lite Cordless Drill kit also works with the battery pack attached for a true cordless effect. The kit, which has a rubber grip and multiple speeds, sells at


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