Homes 102: Improving & Decorating

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Homes 101: Proper Housekeeping

Every single home will need tools to repair it or improve it

  • The following are what everyone who lives in a home needs
    • Don’t ever skimp on buying good-quality tools or the work will be much harder
    • It may be advantageous to have 40 different versions of a tool depending on occupation, specialty or personal skills
    • It’s not simply about owning them, it’s about using them properly
  • Wrenches
    • Crescent/Adjustable Wrench Set – for pretty much everything that can’t use a fitted wrench
    • Ratcheting Wrench Set – very important for engines
      • American
      • Metric
    • Socket Wrench Set – especially important for large engines
      • American
      • Metric
    • Spark Plug Sockets – very necessary specialty part for engines
    • Flare Nut Wrench Set – meant to grip softer materials
  • Pliers
    • 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 most materials
  • Wood Saw – for cutting wood
  • Hammer – especially useful when most other tools fail
  • Screwdriver Set – different sizes for different uses
    • Philips
    • Flathead
  • Power Drill & Bit Set – the only universally necessary power tool

Many household items can be restored easily

  • Brass polishing
    • Rub lemon juice and baking soda into it
    • Rub ketchup into it
    • To clean it
      1. Dissolve 1 tsp salt in 1 cup 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
  • Copper cleaning
    1. Dissolve 1 tsp salt in 1 cup 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
  • 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 Alka-Seltzer 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
    • Rust on knives can be removed by cutting a potato in half, applying baking soda and rubbing the cut part on the knife
    • Rust stains can be removed 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 4 tbsp Epsom salt and juice of 1/2 lemon
      2. Add 1 tbsp water to make a paste
      3. Rub on rust and allow to dry
      4. Gently buff area with a dry clean cloth or rag
  • Nickel cleaning
    • Rub with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part vinegar
  • Pewter cleaning
    1. Dissolve 1 tsp salt in 1 cup 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
  • 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
  • Tarnished silver
    • To clean it
      1. Dissolve 1 tsp salt in 1 cup 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. Put it in a heat-resistant non-metal container where it touches aluminum in some way
      2. Mix 1 tbsp baking soda in 1 liter boiling hot water
      3. Pour it into container and let it sit to reverse the tarnishing process
  • 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
  • Electronics
    • 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, 1 tsp castile soap, 1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup vodka in a spray bottle
    • Clean computer screens with coffee filters
    • Scratched computer screen
      • For mobile device screens, rub toothpaste into the screen
      • For mobile device screens, rub vegetable oil into the screen
      • For LCD screens, rubbing an eraser can sometimes remove the scratch
    • Scratched and skipping CDs
      • Rub a banana on it
      • Rub toothpaste into it
    • Electronics submerged in water
      • Place in a jar filled with silica bags for a day
      • Put in a sealed container of 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 circular motion into 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 when the chair is used, 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 and there are 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 a coarse grain sandpaper, then work downwards progressively 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

Pay attention to interior design when decorating and moving furniture around

  • Think about how people will walk as they enter the room
    • Consider how they will sit and the pathways they will walk
    • Imagine how one, two, three and more people will use the space and interact
  • Look at the visual focus of the room
    • It will be where all of the “lines” intersect in the room
      • Place a nice centerpiece or conversation topic starter at that focus point
    • Incorporate soft geometry into the room to inspire people to relax
    • Keep any clutter hotspots visually away from where they eyes immediately go in the room
    • When moving the furniture, spray glass cleaner on the floor across the surface you’re moving
    • If there are furniture indentations in the carpet, let ice cubes melt over them and then vacuum
  • There should be enough light to make the room feel safe and inviting
    • Get lamps for decoration if the windows can’t let in enough light
      • Turn items with holes, such as colanders, into lampshades
      • Make a starry lampshade
        1. Draw out 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 the paint, since cheap paint will peel very 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 up 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 cool texture
      • Paint in a brick pattern to make it look like a brick wall
  • Improve the fixtures in the home
    • Many hardware stores sell power outlets that have USB plugs on them
    • Lay down new tile or roll out new carpet
      • use pennies as a measurement to set tiles
    • If you have a weak WiFi signal, use aluminum foil to reflect it away from a wall that’s absorbing it
  • Take advantage of every room for designing the house, even closed-off doorways and small closets
    • General ideas
      • Pinterest has literally thousands of great ideas for decorating
        • Reuse items whenever you can for an unconventional design
      • Use burlap to decorate, since it’s a relatively affordable fabric
      • Use bolts of fabric, towels, blankets, old clothes and other fabric with a sewing machine to create new decorations
        • Curtains can be made from blankets or bolts of fabric
          • To make curtain weights, slide pennies with glue and paper clips into the hem of curtains
          • Use chip clips or hanger clips as curtain ties
        • Pillowcases can be made 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
        • Blankets can be made from old clothes
        • New clothing can be made and old clothing can be repaired with rags and fabric remnants
      • Use pool noodles to improve things
        • Make a doorstop to keep a door ajar
        • Child-protect most things with pool noodles cut in half
      • Be careful what you’re putting into the walls
        • Anything hanging on the walls more than 1-2 lbs should be secured against something that isn’t just drywall
        • If you don’t have a stud finder, knock on the walls until you find the hard sound
          • Alternately, use a strong magnet to find the nails that are inside the studs
      • Make hanging things easier
        • Place some toothpaste where the nails should be for removable marks
        • If you need precise holes, photocopy the back of the device and use it 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 2 tbsp Epsom salt and 2 tbsp cornstarch and add 5 tbsp water to make a paste
          2. Fill the hole and smooth with a spatula
    • Front entryway
      • If you are concerned about your privacy by people who use tools to 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
      • Make a fun key holder
        • Attach LEGOs to the key chain, 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
    • Bedrooms
      • Put a hammock in a room to add a bed
    • Bathroom
      • 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 a nice atmosphere to any room
    • Place a coffee filter at the bottom to prevent soil from falling through the holes
    • Some plants are very 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 for a nicer atmosphere
        • Add 2 tbsp vinegar and 1 tsp sugar to make them last longer
        • Pour 7up in with it to make it last longer
        • Dissolve 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 back in cold water again
    • Sugru is a substance like clay but is 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 2 caps full of vanilla extract a coffee mug in the oven at 300°F for 1 hr, within 20 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 1 hour to make the house smell like a bakery
        • Before vacuuming, put 3 tbsp of cinnamon into the carpet 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 on the air conditioning unit while it’s blowing
        • Put bars of unopened soap inside drawers
      • Other smells
        • Mix dried leaves, dried petals, 15 drops sandalwood oil, 5 drops clove oil, 5 drops lavender oil, 5 drops citronella oil and 5 drops mint oil in a bowl to make potpourri
      • Candles
        • Making
          • 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
        • Decorating
          • 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
        • Using
          • 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
  • Don’t forget to decorate for the holidays
    • Shape chicken wire and spray with glow-in-the-dark paint

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 2 long pieces of wood, 2 ropes and a lot 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 3 5-gallon buckets of lava rocks
      3. Set bricks slightly tilted on the sides and even with the top of the hole
        • Alternate colors if you want to 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
    • 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 that 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 inner bark of other foliage
        • Gingko trees produce a putrid sticky fruit in fall that can be tracked indoors
        • Sweetgum trees produce spiny brown balls as a fruit that can be slipped on or launched out of a lawnmower and must be picked up by hand to be removed
        • Palm trees spread tons of seeds everywhere, which increases your work
      • If a tree is large enough, removing a stump will be a separate project
        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 3 weeks until the stump can be removed
    • Some plants are easy to grow
      • Ruffled Velvet Siberian Iris
      • Dicentra Spectabilis
      • Prairie Splendor Purple Cornflower
      • Elegant Candy Daylily
      • “Bright Eyes” Garden Phlox
      • Hibiscus
    • Others take a lot more work
      • Flowers like tulips, dahlias, astrantia and roses
      • Eucalyptus trees
    • Add a lawn to improve the overall look of the yard and provide a place to play
      • Keep the lawn mowed to a consistent height
        • Too short and the grass won’t keep its nutrients, but too long and it will overgrow and look poorly kept
      • 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 when rain is forecast or the soil is moist
        • Use a feeder to spread 3 lbs 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 the ones that die annually
      • Aerate the lawn in high-traffic areas with a garden fork to prevent drainage problems
    • Go for a low-irrigation landscape if you don’t want much work

Learn some of the simplest gardening tricks to round out your diet and save money

  • 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
    • Often, finding out what plants can grow is simply 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 3 cups Epsom salt evenly over the heap and add several tbsp every week to maintain it
    • Beer is a great natural fertilizer
    • Mix a teaspoon of brown sugar into each cup of leftover rice, then let sit for 3 days
    • Dry stale bread in the oven, then grind up into fine breadcrumbs and mix into the soil
    • Dilute 2 tbsp Epsom salt per 1 gallon of water and transfer into a tank sprayer or spray bottle
      • You can also directly mix 2 tbsp 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, otherwise they’ll be fighting for space underground
  • Protect the plant’s roots
    • Imagine the plant’s volume above-ground, and that’s approximately what its root system looks like
    • Pests in the soil like grubs can be suppressed with hair, animal fur or hay
    • Overlap wet newspapers and cover with mulch before planting seeds to prevent weeds
  • Pay attention to the leaves of any plants that aren’t a strong green color
    • If bugs live on the leaves and are eating them, spray the plant with neem oil or a soap that kills the insects
    • If the leaves look yellow and wilted then they’re overwatered, replant them or add sand to the soil to leech water
    • If the leaves look faded and are 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 a discoloration of light 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 you’ll need 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
    • 1 weed today is 4 in a week and 50 in 2 weeks
    • Spray straight vinegar in a spray bottle on them
  • Pests are usually a sign that 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 extremely gratifying, especially your very first harvest
    • It’s best to harvest everything when they’re ripe, since bugs will visit anything that starts decaying
    • Harvest leafy greens by pulling a little bit off of each plant
  • Find ways to make it easier to maintain and harvest
    • 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