Homes 102: Improving & Decorating

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Homes 101: Proper Housekeeping

A house needs tools for repairing and improving

Buy good-quality tools, or you’ll spend more time and energy on projects

Depending on your occupation or skills, you might want dozens of varieties of a specific tool

Learn to use your tools correctly and safely

Every single home needs the following


  • Crescent/Adjustable Wrench Set – for almost everything where a fitted wrench won’t work
  • Ratcheting Wrench Set – essential for engines, both American and Metric
  • Socket Wrench Set – especially critical for large engines, both American and Metric
  • Spark Plug Sockets – vital specialty tool for engines
  • Flare Nut Wrench Set – designed to grip soft surfaces


  • Locking Pliers – adjustable to any size and locks in place
  • Needle Nose Pliers – for small crevices
  • Bent Nose Pliers – for hard-to-reach places
  • Diagonal Pliers – for cutting vertically
  • End Cutter Pliers – for cutting horizontally
  • Short Nose Pliers – for more power and control


  • Hack Saw – for cutting most materials
  • Wood Saw – for cutting wood

Hammer – especially useful when most other tools fail

Screwdriver Set – various sizes for a variety of uses, both Philips and Flathead

Power Drill and Bit Set – the only universally necessary power tool

You can restore many household items easily

Brass. copper, and pewter polishing

  • Rub lemon juice and baking soda into it
  • Rub ketchup into it
  • To clean it
    1. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of vinegar, then add 1/4 cup or more of flour to make a paste
    2. Apply the paste to it, then let stand for at least 15 mins
    3. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth

Chrome polishing

  • Rub a mixture of baby oil and vinegar into it
  • Rub dry baking soda into it with a damp cloth, then rinse and dry

Jewelry cleaning

  • Drop two antacid tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes

Metal oxidation (rust)

  • Rub with aluminum foil soaked in vinegar
  • Soak the object overnight in vinegar and salt to reverse the chemical process
  • Remove rust on knives by cutting a potato in half, applying baking soda, and rubbing the cut part on the blade
  • Remove rust stains by rubbing with lemon juice
  • Brew a batch of strong black tea and soak the rust in it
  • Oil the metal to avoid it rusting
  • Epsom salt treatment
    1. Mix four tablespoons of Epsom salt and the juice from half a lemon
    2. Add a tablespoon of water to make a paste
    3. Rub on rust and allow to dry
    4. Gently buff the area with a dry clean cloth or rag

Nickel cleaning

  • Rub with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part vinegar

Silver tarnished

  • To clean it
    1. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of vinegar, then add 1/4 cup or more of flour to create a paste
    2. Apply the paste to it, then let stand for at least 15 mins
    3. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth
  • For most silver
    1. Set in a heat-resistant non-metal container where it touches aluminum in some way
    2. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda in a liter of boiling water
    3. Pour it into a container and let it sit to reverse the tarnishing process

Stainless steel polishing

  • Rub a mixture of white vinegar and club soda into it
  • Rub dry baking soda into it with a damp cloth in the direction of the grain, then rinse and dry
  • apply a thin layer of olive oil to the surface with a soft cloth

Canvas surface restoration

  • Rub clean with a small brush and dry baking soda

Faded plastic

  • Rub lemon juice on its surface and then expose it to sunlight

Sticking scissors

  • Rub the scissors with distilled vinegar


Plasma TV with an image burned onto it

  • Turn the TV to static and keep it on for a day

Electronic spray

  • Mix 3/4 cup distilled water, a teaspoon of Castile soap, a cup of vinegar, and 1/2 cup vodka in a spray bottle

Clean computer screens with coffee filters

Scratched computer screen

  • Rub toothpaste or vegetable oil into mobile device screens
  • Rub an eraser into LCD screens

Scratched and skipping CDs

  • Rub a banana on it
  • Rub toothpaste into it

Electronics submerged in water

  • Place in a container filled with silica bags or rice for a day
  • Put in a cooler with Damp Rid for a day

Crashed hard drive

  • Place into the freezer in a sealed plastic bag to recover data from it

Wood furniture restoration

  1. Before anything
    • Try rubbing a walnut on it to remove dings and scratches
    • For leather furniture marks, apply shoe polish to a paper towel and rub in a circular motion into its surface
    • If the furniture is wobbly, try gluing pennies to the bottoms of the legs
  2. Scrub any dirt or grime off with an old used toothbrush
  3. If the chair’s joints squeak, mix DAP Weldwood with water and apply to the wood joints where they will seep in
  4. Sand the joints to avoid over-application of DAP Weldwood, then sand the rest of the chair following the wood grain
    • Make sure the surface is even with no rough spots
    • Stains and marks can all be sanded out
    • Use a soft brush to remove the fine particles so they won’t mix with the varnish
  5. If you want, stain the furniture
    1. Sand first with coarse grain sandpaper, then work progressively downward to finer sandpaper
    2. Wipe the furniture with wood conditioner to help it absorb the stain better
    3. Apply the stain to the furniture with a rag or sponge
      • Use even strokes to prevent blotching
      • Leave the stain on for longer if you want a darker stain
    4. After the stain dries, apply a finish like polyurethane to the furniture to protect it
  6. Paint a coat of varnish, let dry, then paint a second coat

Oil painting restoration

  1. Dust thoroughly, then gently rub with a flat-cut raw potato
  2. Wipe away lather with a soft rag and pare the potato frequently
  3. Rub pure linseed oil on it when done

Decorate and move furniture around for better interior design

Think about how people walk as they enter the room

  • Consider how and where they’ll sit and the pathways they’ll travel
  • Imagine how one, two, three, and more people will interact in the space

Look at the room’s visual focus

  • It will be where all the “lines” intersect in the room
    • Place a unique centerpiece or conversation topic starter at that focus point
  • Incorporate soft geometry into the room to inspire people to relax
  • Keep clutter hotspots away from where their eyes immediately travel to
  • When moving the furniture, spray glass cleaner on the floor across the surface you’re moving
  • If there are furniture indentations in the carpet, melt ice cubes over them and then vacuum

Bring in enough light to make the room feel safe and inviting

  • Decorate with lamps if the windows don’t let in enough light
    • Turn items with holes, like colanders or graters, into lampshades
    • Make a starry lampshade
      1. Draw lines on a piece of paper
      2. Tape it to a dark lampshade
      3. Push a pin through the paper along the lines
  • Use bright colors when possible to maximize the light

When painting the room, color-match everything

  • Don’t save money on paint since cheap paint peels quickly
  • Paint more cleanly
    • Use a drop cloth or old blanket to prevent the paint from getting on anything under it
    • Line the inside of a paint tray with tinfoil to clean it more easily
    • Cut a hole in the paint can’s lid to make a drip guard
      • Alternately, stretch a large rubber band across the top of the paint can
    • Hold the paintbrushes by cutting notches in a pool noodle
  • Paint it more creatively
    • Spread paint with a straw broom for a unique texture
    • Paint in a brick pattern to make it look like a wall

Improve the fixtures in the house

  • Many hardware stores sell power outlets with USB plugs on them
  • Lay down new tile or roll out new carpet
    • Use pennies to space tiles as you lay them
  • If you have a weak WiFi signal, reflect it away from a wall that absorbs it with aluminum foil

Design every room, even closed-off doorways and small closets

General ideas

  • Pinterest has thousands of great decorating ideas
  • Reuse items in unconventional ways whenever you can
  • Sew bolts of fabric, towels, blankets, old clothes and other textiles with a sewing machine to create new decorations
    • Make curtains from blankets or bolts of fabric
      • Make curtain weights by sliding pennies with glue and paper clips into curtain hems
      • Make curtain ties with chip clips or hanger clips
    • Make pillowcases from towels
      • Take a plane ticket to a print store to have them blow it up and print it on fabric, then sew into a pillow
    • Make blankets from old clothes
    • Make new clothing and repair old clothing with rags and fabric remnants
  • Use pool noodles to improve life
    • Use one as a doorstop
    • Cut them in half to child-protect most things
  • Be careful what you’re putting onto your walls
    • Secure anything hanging on the walls more than 1-2 lbs against more than drywall
    • If you don’t have a stud finder, knock on the walls until you find a hard sound
      • Alternately, use a strong magnet to find the nails that are inside the studs
  • Hang things more easily
    • Place some toothpaste where the nails should be for removable marks
    • If you need precise holes, photocopy the back of the device and tape it to the wall as a template
    • Attach a folded sticky note to the wall to collect dust when you’re drilling
    • If you need to mend a hole
      1. Mix two tablespoons of Epsom salt and two tablespoons of cornstarch, then add five tablespoons of water to make a paste
      2. Fill the hole and smooth with a spatula

Front entryway

  • If you are concerned about your privacy from people who may look through your front door’s peephole, make a decoration to cover it
    • Use popsicle sticks, glue, and duct tape to make a barn door
    • Cover it with a stuffed animal or seasonal wreath
  • Make a fun key holder
    • Attach LEGOs to the keychain, then secure a flat piece against the entryway
    • Secure a relatively strong magnet behind a light switch plate

Living room, kitchen, and family room

  • Replace the fake drawer underneath the kitchen sink with a paper towel holder
  • Enlarge your favorite picture and frame it inside an old window frame
  • Use wall hooks to attach a tablet computer to the wall
  • Use a rake head as a wine glass holder
  • Use ladles as candle holders
  • Make an invisible bookshelf
    1. Attach a bracket to a wall
    2. Glue the inside back binding of a book below the bracket
    3. Stack books on top of it
  • Paint the lock of a sliding door white to see if it’s locked from a distance


  • Hang a hammock in a room to add a bed


  • Turn a rolling pin into a towel rack
  • Affix rope lighting under the bathroom cabinets to see in the dark
  • Slide socks onto a toilet seat if the seat gets too cold at night, but make sure you communicate with your guests about it

Potted plants add atmosphere to any room

  • Place a coffee filter at the bottom to prevent soil from falling through the holes
  • Some plants are easy to grow
    • Norfolk Island Pine
    • Dracaena
    • Snake Plant
    • Aloe Vera
    • Peace Lily
  • If you want more of a challenge, try something more exotic
    • Venus Fly Trap
    • Indoor Azalea
    • Dwarf Cavendish Banana Plant
    • Gardenia
    • Calathea Ornata

Place decorations out to make the home more inviting

Place vases and other decorative ornaments out

  • Convert a coffee pot into a fish aquarium
  • Partly fill vases with sand to prevent them from falling over and breaking
  • Place flowers in vases to add atmosphere
    • Add two tablespoons of vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar to make them last longer
    • Pour 7up in with it to make it last longer
    • Dissolve an aspirin in the vase to make it last longer
    • Once it’s wilted, stick the stems in hot water until the water cools, cut off the stem ends and place them back in cold water again

Sugru is like clay but stronger, more durable, resistant to heat, and flexible

Tissue paper

  • Attach an empty tissue box to a full one to allow a waste bin, then repeat with the new empty one with another new one
  • If you store your tissue papers in the same cupboard as your tea, they’ll smell like tea

Place settings

  • Turn an old picture frame into a serving tray
  • Buy dollar-store plates, write on it with a Porcelain 150 pen and bake for 30 minutes to make it permanent

Make the room smell nice

Cozy food-like smell

  • Cook bacon to overpower any other smells
  • Put two caps full of vanilla extract in a coffee mug in the oven at 300°F for an hour, within twenty mins the house will smell nice
  • Fill a small pan with water, add some vanilla extract and cinnamon, then bake in the oven at 300°F for an hour to make the house smell like a bakery
  • Sprinkle three tablespoons of cinnamon into the carpet before vacuuming and the vacuum will heat the cinnamon
  • Add cinnamon to a fireplace or wood stove
  • Place vanilla-scented tea lights in a bowl of coffee beans for French vanilla scented candles

Fresh smell

  • Put dryer sheets or a stick of deodorant on the back of a fan or air conditioning unit while it’s blowing
  • Put bars of unopened soap inside drawers


  • Mix dried leaves, dried petals, fifteen drops of sandalwood oil, five drops of clove oil, five drops of lavender oil, five drops of citronella oil, and five drops of mint oil in a bowl to make potpourri



  • Add essential oils to any wax candle to change its scent
  • Fill old bulbs with butane and stick a wick into the hole
  • Melt crayons and pour it into a glass container with a wick
  • Melt old or broken candles in the microwave, pour them into greased cupcake tins and freeze to make candle tarts


  • Draw on wax paper with a permanent marker, wrap it around a candle and heat it until the image transfers
  • Make a family photo luminary by placing a family photo around the inside of glass jars and placing lit tea candles inside
  • Cut holes into a branch and put tea candles into it
  • Make a bloody candle by melting red wax over a white candle


  • Candles can burn longer and drip less if they’re placed in the freezer for a few hours before using them
  • if the candle doesn’t fit into the holder, hold the end of the candle in hot water until the wax softens
  • Use non-stick cooking spray in candle glasses (votive holders) to keep wax from sticking in them

Outdoor projects can make great weather more enjoyable

Make a simple gate latch by cutting out a half-circle and then hammering it into the edge of the gate

Create outdoor furniture

Convert an old bunk bed into an outdoor lounge

Make an outdoor bed

  1. Connect a wood tripod about 8 feet up
  2. Attach it to a cloth tarp and an old trampoline
  3. Hang it somewhere secure

Place flat mats on pallets to create a sofa

Improvise a hammock with two long pieces of wood, two ropes, and plenty of reinforced duct tape throughout the center of it

Make a fire pit

  1. Dig a hole 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep with the sides slightly angled
  2. Fill the hole with three five-gallon buckets of lava rocks
  3. Set slightly tilted bricks on the sides and even with the top of the hole
    • Alternate colors if you want for a more creative feel
  4. Shovel grass sod away from the rim of the pit
  5. Place large flat rocks around the rim on the tops of the bricks
  6. Fill in the top area with dirt around and between the flat rocks

Make an in-ground trampoline by digging a hole and securing poles around the edges of the hole

Improve the landscaping

Shape chicken wire and spray with glow-in-the-dark paint for holiday decorations

Paint garden rocks with glow-in-the-dark paint

Mix glow-in-the-dark pebbles with gravel to have a star-like landscaping

Clear any unsightly debris and foliage

  • Pour salt on the dirt or sidewalk cracks where you want nothing to grow
  • Remove trees you don’t want
    • Black walnut trees destroy the local flora
    • Bradford pear trees are very top-heavy and will split in half
    • Ash trees bring emerald ash borer larvae, which feed on the inner bark of other foliage
    • Gingko trees produce a putrid sticky fruit which can track indoors in fall
    • Sweetgum trees generate spiny brown balls people can slip on or launch from a lawnmower that you can only clean up by picking them up by hand
    • Palm trees spread tons of seeds everywhere, which increases your work
  • Removing a large stump
    1. Drill holes into the top of the stump
    2. Cut the bark from the side and drill more holes
    3. Fill the stump with a mixture of Solignum wood preservative and salt
      • Alternately, pour dry Epsom salt followed with water until moist
    4. Repeat every three weeks until you can remove the stump

Some plants are easy to grow

  • Ruffled Velvet Siberian Iris
  • Dicentra Spectabilis
  • Prairie Splendor Purple Cornflower
  • Elegant Candy Daylily
  • “Bright Eyes” Garden Phlox
  • Hibiscus

Add a lawn to improve the overall look of the yard and provide a place to play

  • Mow the lawn to a consistent height
    • Too short and the grass won’t keep its nutrients, but too long and it will overgrow and look poorly maintained
  • Water when the soil becomes dry and before the grass turns yellow or brown
  • Rake anything off the lawn that may kill the grass or cause mold to grow
  • Apply fertilizer the forecast calls for rain or the soil is moist
    • Use a feeder to spread three pounds of Epsom salt per 1,250 square feet of plants
    • When the weather is hot and dry, apply more fertilizer to compensate for the loss in nutrients
  • Sow new grass seeds into the lawn every year to compensate for others that die over the winter
  • Aerate the lawn in high-traffic areas with a garden fork to prevent drainage problems

Make a low-irrigation landscape for less work

Round out your diet and save money with a garden

Learn the best seasons for different plants

Find out what plants work best in your climate and ecosystem

  • Pay attention to the soil:
    • soil
    • The more clay, the harder the roots will have to work to grow
    • Loam is best for most plants, but some tropical plants work better in sand
    • Plants are acidic, but their acidity depends on the species and determines their preferred balance
  • Look at the amount of sunlight you receive
  • Pay attention to how much precipitation your area makes
  • Discovering which plants grow well for your climate is often trial and error

Make a greenhouse to insulate the plants until they can handle the elements directly

Use natural fertilizer

  • Make compost in a large bin
    • Add carbon by including grass trimmings, leaves, sawdust or straw
    • Add nitrogen by adding table scraps
    • Put soil in to make layers
    • Add water regularly to speed up the composting process
    • If it starts smelling
      • Open up the bin
      • Add more carbon
      • Sprinkle three cups of Epsom salt evenly over the heap and add several tablespoons every week to maintain it
  • Beer is an excellent natural fertilizer
  • Mix a teaspoon of brown sugar into each cup of leftover rice, then let sit for three days
  • Bake stale bread in the oven, then grind up into fine breadcrumbs and mix into the soil
  • Dilute two tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water and transfer into a tank sprayer or spray bottle
    • You can also directly mix two tablespoons of Epsom salt into the soil at the base of a tree instead

Prepare the plant beds

  • Space out the plants so that they won’t overlap or they’ll fight for space underground

Protect the plant’s roots

  • The plant’s volume above-ground is approximately what its root system looks like
  • Suppress pests in the soil (like grubs) with hair, animal fur or hay
  • Overlap wet newspapers and cover with mulch before planting seeds to prevent weeds

Pay attention to any plants’ leaves which aren’t a healthy green color

  • If bugs live on the leaves and are eating them, kill insects on the plant with neem oil or soap
  • If the leaves look yellow and wilted then they’re overwatered, replant them or add sand to the soil to drain water
  • If the leaves look faded and drooping, they’re not getting enough sunlight, reposition them or make a greenhouse
  • If the leaves are dry and crunchy to the touch they’re dehydrated, give them at least an inch of water a week
  • If the edges and tips of the leaves are yellow they’re not getting enough potassium, add citrus rinds or fruit/vegetable compost
  • If the tips and center vein of the leaves are yellow they’re not getting enough nitrogen, add organic compost like manure or coffee grounds
  • If the leaves are misshapen then they’re not getting enough calcium, add gypsum to make it more acidic or lime to make it more alkaline
  • If the leaves are showing lighting discoloration between the veins they’re not getting enough zinc, spray the plant with kelp extract
  • If the leaves are yellow and have small green veins they’re not getting enough iron, make the soil acidic and then reduce the amount of phosphorus in the soil
  • If the leaves are showing white stripes along the veins they’re not getting enough magnesium, add organic compost, Epsom salts or lime

Learn how frequent to water and how often to prune for maximum fruit

  • Water the roots, not the plant itself
    • Watering usually averages out to once a week, which includes rainfall
  • Watering in the morning allows the plants to absorb the most water
    • Later in the day will make the water evaporate
    • Watering at night increases the chance of fungus growing
  • Mix vinegar into the water for acid-loving plants in alkaline soil
  • Poke holes in a 2-liter bottle to improvise a lawn sprinkler

Stay up on weeding

  • All gardens have weeds, and the only answer is pulling them or using weed killer
  • One weed today is four in a week and fifty in two weeks
  • Make a potent weed killer spray by mixing a gallon of vinegar, two cups of Epsom salt, and 1/4 cup original blue Dawn dish soap
  • Spray straight vinegar in a spray bottle on individual weeds

Pests are usually a sign the plant lacks light, food or water

  • To keep squirrels from eating your plants sprinkle them with cayenne pepper, which won’t hurt the plant

Observe the best timing for plants to yield

  • Harvesting is immensely gratifying, especially your very first harvest
  • Harvest everything while it’s ripe or near-ripe since bugs visit anything that starts decaying
  • Harvest leafy greens by pulling a little bit off of each plant

Find ways to simplify maintenance and harvesting

  • Try hydroponics to grow anywhere that has sunlight
  • Try growing plants in vertical gardens when you can
    • Hang old rain gutters or anything else as planters
Next: Homes 103: When Moving