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Fireworks in red, white and blue

Use caution handling fireworks this Independence Day!

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year and cause an average of $43 million in property damages. Make sure your Fourth of July is both fun and safe with these firework safety tips!

  • Homemade fireworks are illegal, so never try to make your own.
  • Sparklers are not safe for small children to use, they burn very hot (hot enough to melt some types of metals) and can set clothes on fire.
  • Make sure fireworks are ignited in a clearing without nearby structures, power lines, homes, bushes and dry leaves.
  • Have a bucket of water and a hose nearby when setting off fireworks in case there is an accident.
  • Pets should be kept securely indoors to keep them from running away or getting injured if the loud noises spook them.
  • Always wear eye protection when lighting fireworks.
  • Never shoot fireworks off from inside a container.
  • Never hold fireworks in your hand when lighting them.
  • Never put any part of your body over fireworks when you ignite them.
  • Do not try to relight a firework.
  • Do not carry fireworks in pockets.
  • Soak all fireworks before throwing them away.
  • Remember, fireworks are not legal everywhere. Check your local ordinances first.

Be safe and smart this Fourth of July and Enjoy your holiday!

Helpful Tips

A person in red boots pressure washing a walkway

Simple Solutions to Enhance Summer Curb Appeal

Keeping up with regular home maintenance can add curb appeal and help you maintain the investment in your home. Read on for a checklist of chores you should complete this summer to make sure your home is in tip-top shape.

 Check your lawn irrigation system to make sure it’s functioning properly

 Clean out your gutters

 Power wash your driveway, sidewalks and concrete porches

 Patch any holes and cracks in your driveway

 Inspect your porch for loose boards or nails and repair as needed

 Clean/ inspect siding of your home and repair as needed

 Prune all shrubs, bushes and trees that are growing close to your home, especially around any AC units

 Clean your chimney

 Wash your windows and window screens

 Check for leaks in outdoor faucets and hoses

 Clean and repair your grill

Summer days are long, so take advantage of the extra sunlight to tackle the exterior maintenance on your home!

Helpful Tips

Potted flowers in front of a line of shrubberyThree Landscaping Hacks

Landscaping can add curb appeal to your home, which can add to the value of your house. Additionally, outdoor living areas can help improve your quality of life. Fresh air and a natural environment can improve focus, and lower stress levels. Try these three landscaping hacks to make your outdoor living area into an oasis you can enjoy in the warmer months without breaking the bank.

Front yard with a flower bed lined with stonesAdd a flower bed border of stones:

Adding a border to your flower bed is easy, cheap, and has a large impact. It draws eyes to your garden, immediately adding curb appeal. You can use a variety of rocks that are similar sizes and colors that complement each other.

Add a walking path to connect features:

Walking paths will create focus in your outdoor space while adding charm. Consider using stone pavers as a relatively cheap and easy solution to connect focal points in your yard.

Stone path through flower bedsCreate a container garden:

Flower pot gardenContainer gardens can instantly add pops of color and create a welcoming atmosphere in your outdoor living space. Place potted plants on the ground, on a pedestal or even mount them on a windowsill.

Taking time to add landscaping to your home will increase its curb appeal, add a personal touch, and make your outdoor spaces more enjoyable. Spruce up your yard with some simple features like container gardens or walking paths and spend some time in the fresh air!

Helpful Tips

Spring Interior Checklist

May 10
Category | Helpful Tips

Cleaning supplies

As the weather warms up and summer approaches, our minds are on relaxing and soaking up the sun. However, there are some chores around the interior of your home that you should take care of before you run off to enjoy the outdoors. Keeping up with regular home maintenance can help your home run efficiently. Read on for a checklist of chores you should tackle this spring to make sure your home is in tip-top shape.

  • Replace your air conditioner filter. It’s important to replace the air filter in your central heating/cooling system every one to three months to keep it operating efficiently.
  • Schedule a service call to have your furnace checked.
  • Make sure you switch your ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise. This forces air down and creates a cooling effect.
  • Clean bathroom vents. Removing dust from the covers will help them run quietly and efficiently.
  • Clean showerheads and bathroom drains to remove mineral deposits.
  • Clean out your faucet traps by unscrewing the ends of the faucets with pliers, remove the small screens and flush out all the debris and mineral deposits.
  • Clean all kitchen appliances inside and out, especially your refrigerator and its coils.
  • Clean out your garbage disposal with ice cubes and salt to remove build-up of sludge. Then pour a half cup of baking soda into the disposal and slowly pour vinegar on top to remove odor. Flush with hot or boiling water.
  • Change your water and icemaker filters.
  • Clean your range hood and filter.
  • Clean your clothes dryer vent pipe.
  • Clean your windows and window sills.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries where necessary.
  • Oil your garage door opener and chain, and all door hinges.
  • Check your attic and basement for any signs of water leaks, mold or pests.

Taking care of to-do items around the home may not be the way you want to spend a beautiful spring weekend, but it will help keep your home running efficiently and help you maintain your investment in your home!

Helpful Tips

Organized kitchen drawers

7 strategies to declutter your home and keep it that way

Nearly 45 percent of Americans devote between five and seven hours per week toward tidying up the house, according to polling done by the American Cleaning Institute. And a major source of these often unenviable tasks is dealing with clutter.

Clutter is a lot like dust - it tends to get everywhere, and just when you think you're rid of it, there it appears once again. In short, clutter is organization's arch nemesis, affecting - if not infecting - virtually every room in your home.

Each of us have clutter personality types, according to Molly Graves and Ashley Murphy, founders of the NEAT Method. As reported by the Huffington Post, most fall into one of three clutter categories:

Three sea shellsThe "Extras" crowd are those who have more than one of various items, largely because they don't have a system in place that allows them to keep track of things, leading to a vicious cycle.

Then there are the "Constant Worriers." People who fall into this category, according to Graves and Murphy, opt not to throw things they don't use away because one never knows when that something will be needed. They're the "Just in Casers," if you will.

Last but certainly not least, there's the "Overwhelmers." As their title implies, these individuals can't help but feel overwhelmed by what are often Herculean decluttering tasks, that they have no idea where to begin. And as such, they don't, leaving it to another day … a day that invariably never comes.

Decluttering is like just about anything else in life - it's a process. However, with the right mindset and determination you can stamp out the stuff collections for good. Here are a few helpful strategies:

1. Declutter in small doses daily

With everyone seemingly constantly pressed for time, tidying up the place frequently - from kitchen cabinets to closets - gets put on the back burner. The problem with that is what may have been quick and easy fixes turn into hard and drawn out work.

Set aside an allotted period of time each day (you could even set a timer) to declutter, advised's Nicole Anzia. Speaking to Lifehack, Anzia recommended allocating a few hours in the typical week - or as little as 20 minutes in the average day - toward straightening things up. Doing a little bit over time - instead of a ton all at once - will spare you from frustration and make the straightening process more hassle-free.

2. Be cautious about impulse buys

Impulse buys affect us all. In fact, based on a poll commissioned by Slickdeals, Americans purchase things due to sudden urges on average of three times per week, The Motley Fool reported. Impulse buys are fine every once in a while, but each and every one of them has to go somewhere. And by definition, impulse buys have a tendency to collect dust because they so rarely get used.

Commit to being more reflective the next time you buy something. This doesn't mean necessarily that you should only buy things you truly need, but try to be a bit more discriminating when it comes to your wants.

Organized room with a green chair3. Create a junk bin or drawer

This tip may be particularly helpful for the Constant Worriers previously referenced. From USB cables to lids to extension cords, you probably have one too many of something that doesn't belong.

If you can't bring yourself to get rid of it completely, devote a drawer or bin to these items. So long as they aren't too big, anything and everything can go inside these vessels so they're out of sight and out of mind for the time being.

4. Find places for items you use

We tend to think of clutter as stuff that we don't regularly use. But clutter is an umbrella term that includes the possessions we use all the time. They too need places to go. As recommended by Leo Babauta, purveyor of the self-help blog, select five items that you handle frequently and think about where they'd make sense to store.

For example, if you like fiddling with sports equipment, like a baseball bat while watching the Red Sox or Dodgers when spring and summer roll around, try putting it in the corner of a room where the walls meet. Alternatively, you might want to purchase an attractive wooden baseball bat rack that you can mount to the wall so fewer things are stored on the floor.

5. Make your bed right when you wake up

Try to get into the habit of straightening up your bed every morning when you awake. An unkempt bed only adds to the sense of confusion and disorder that clutter causes. A made-up bed can help set the tone for your bedroom and can encourage you to keep everything that surrounds the bed in order, such as the night table, bureau or chest.

Clean bedroom - white with gray accent pillows6. Clear out closets of clothes rarely worn

When was the last time you did an inventory of your clothing? People have a tendency to wear the same five or six shirts, jeans, pants and shorts, perhaps expecting to use those rarely worn some other day. But when has that day actually arrived? Instead of letting clothing stay there so it takes up storage space, you might consider donating it to goodwill or perhaps giving some of what you don't wear to younger relatives who might wear them.

Alternatively, get into the habit of "seasoning" your clothing, where you put the typical items you'd wear during summer in your dresser drawers and closets - such as shorts, polos, tee shirts and blouses - and packing the heavier items away for winter. Pack them in clear containers - instead of bulky boxes and trash bags - so you can easily see what's inside and tuck them away.

7. Make decluttering a lifestyle

We all tend to be creatures of habit, which can be a good or bad thing. Tidying up regularly definitely falls in the "good" basket, which is why you should try to adopt a decluttering mindset. Much like staying healthy and in good shape, organization is a lifestyle, not a "one and done" deal. Thus, whenever you use something, find its rightful place upon completion, whether that's in the closet, drawer, bookcase or trash can.

With these decluttering tips and tricks, we’re positive you can finally organize your home from top to bottom once and for all.

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