5 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Do in January

Start looking for that contractor NOW if you want your project done by summer’s end.

image of cell phone reminder tasks for January to do this now with black and gold sparkly background
Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

Whew. The holidays are done. The new year has rung in.

That’s when smart homeowners know it’s time to do these five things that’ll save time, money, and hassles all year long.

#1 Organize Your Seasonal Storage Space

Wrapping Paper Stored on Closet Ceiling| Storage Solutions
Image: Frank Farm / frankfarm.org

Packing away holiday decor presents a big opportunity. It’s the best time to sort, declutter, and reorganize that space where you store your seasonal stuff.

So before simply stuffing your holiday things back in there somewhere, take inventory; then sort, filter, donate, trash, and re-home as many of your things as possible.

It’ll help keep you more organized all year long, and make it easier to find all your holiday stuff next year.

#2 Deep-Clean the Kitchen

A gas stovetop with food crumbs, green teapot
Image: Jamie Bonilla

All of that holiday merriment-making is rough on a kitchen. Give it a good deep cleaning now that the glittery dust has settled.

Purge your pantry and frisk your fridge, passing what you can on to local food banks. Scrub the walls and kickboards, and even pull those appliances right out from the walls for a thorough vacuuming to prevent gunk (and stinks!) from accumulating.

#3 Plan Summertime Projects Now (Especially if You Need a Pro)

An outdoor space with patio furniture and a dog
Image: Photo by ADZA

Finalize plans for any landscaping, decks, patios, or other outdoor projects that need warm weather. Two good reasons:

1. If you’re DIYing, you’ll be ready to roll at the first hint of nice weather. That way, you’ll be less affected by any supply chain shortages and have your improved yard ready to enjoy by summer.

2. If you’re hiring a contractor or other professional, getting your bids and contracts in place now will save you from competing with the spring rush (wait too long, and you may not be able to book anyone!).

#4 Create a Schedule to Clean ALL Your Home’s Filters

Two home air filters
Image: Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”)

It’s not just your HVAC. The filters in your fridge, your vacuum cleaner, your dryer, your air filter, and other household items need to be changed or cleaned at least once a year to be effective, usually more often — especially your dehumidifier. Yucky mold grows easily there.

Check manufacturer instructions for all the filters in your home, and create a master schedule; then add them to your calendar app to remind you.

#5 Save Some Green at White Sales

A bed with white sheets and a white bedspread by window
Image: @hawkes_landing

Linens and towels go on sale in January. It’s a long-standing retail tradition that started back when linens only came in white (hence the name), and it still has a solid rep as a money-saver — only in more colors today.

Cut your threadbare bath towels into rags and restock your supply, plus fill in any gaps in your bed linens you may have noticed if you had a house full of holiday guests.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Keep Spiders Out for Good!

Removing spiders from your home once they’ve invaded your space can be quite tricky, but here are some expert-approved tips that can prevent spiders from invading in the first place.

Seeing any spiders or insects inside your home can be terrifying at times, but keep in mind that normally the only time you will see them is when they are seeking refuge. Spiders and insects are constantly seeking food, water, or shelter. Sometimes, spiders specifically, can be helpful because they like to eat flies, ants, fleas, and mosquitoes, but the more food they find the more they can reproduce! Overall, it is better to rid your home of spiders and other insects as soon as you notice them. Heed these expert-approved tips right ahead!

No Point Of Entry

In order to keep spiders and other insects to a minimum, you need to find their point of entry. Small cracks, vents, screens with holes and other tiny openings are all places that insects and spiders can come through. You will want to do a thorough search from floor to ceiling of your home and close off or repair all of the possible places you find. Using a magnifying glass and flashlight is extremely helpful in this instance. Once you find an opening, use caulking, screening, or weather stripping to close off specific areas.

Tidy Up

As much of you know already, the cleaner the space is, the less maintenance you will need to do. Pest prevention includes, vacuuming often, cleaning corners/crevices, wiping cabinets and under counters, checking vents, and making sure your garbage/recycling is clear of webs. Doing these things will help prevent infestations and spiders from getting out of control. You will want to make sure you check and clean exterior areas as well such as exterior lights, windowsills, woodpiles, and all other entry points.

common house spider on the floor in a home

CREDIT: CBCK-CHRISTINE / GETTY IMAGES

Spider Webs Not Welcome

Washing off spider webs off the exterior of the home will be significantly helpful too. Make sure to check under roof eaves, mailboxes, fence lines, and on the siding. You can create a mixture of half cup water, half cup vinegar, two tablespoons of dish soap and twenty drops of thyme oil. It will make the siding and roof harder for spiders to attach their silk and make new webs.

No Leaks Allowed

No one ever wants a leak in their house, but if it does happen, it can prompt spiders to enter the space. Water dripping from the ceiling and even a leaky faucet can attract spiders, so make sure to fully dry the wet area and repair any leaks as soon as possible.

Tend to Your Landscaping

Depending on the type of landscaping and the current state of your lawn, overgrown foliage and grass can lure unwanted pests and spiders to that area. Continuously trimming and cutting foliage or your lawn can really help in keeping spiders away. Make sure to keep plants and trees away from your siding and entryways to your home, so that more distance can be between you and the critters.

Play Tunes

Even though spiders have multiple eyes, their eyesight is actually very poor. Spiders have to rely on vibrations they feel around them and, in their web, to know what is happening. Movement on their web is a sign to them that their next meal is stuck and ready for them to pounce. Surprisingly, playing loud music is a huge deterrent to spiders. The vibrations from the tunes and the bass confuse the spider and they will move to a quieter area with less vibrations.

Let There Be Light

If there is an interior space that you think spiders are lurking, hit the lights! Spiders and most insects avoid bright spaces and are more inclined to find somewhere dark. Put lights in areas that are consistently dark and yellow lightbulbs are superior to standard light bulbs in this case.

Exterminate Safely

You have the ability to exterminate spiders yourself by using over the counter bug sprays such as, Hot Shot or Earth’s Kind Stay Away Spider deterrent. You can spray infessted areas and it should help for up to 30 days. In some cases, however, you will need the aid of a pest control professional. Pest control professionals have licenses that give them the ability to purchase more potent, effective deterrents. Make sure that the professional is insured and using an integrated pest management plan that includes getting rid of any infestations and are preventative.

Visit Marthastewart.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from Marthastewart.com, © 2023 Meredith Home Group Coorperation, Baker,Nashia 01/17/2023

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Things to Do When Moving Into a New House

Peace of mind begins with changing the locks.

ajar vintage green door with small window panes with brass handle and skeleton key hole
Image: brazzo/Getty
  • It’s easy to get super excited about moving into your new house. But for your own safety and security, be sure to cross these tasks off your checklist before you call the house home (and buy these new home essentials).

6 Things to Do When Moving Into Your New Home

Tip #1 Change the Locks

You really don’t know who else has keys to your home, so change the locks. That ensures you’re the only person who has access. Install new deadbolts yourself for as little as $11 per lock or call a locksmith. If you supply the new locks, locksmiths typically charge $50 to $100 per lock for labor. The full installation cost will vary depending on the type of lock you choose.https://www.youtube.com/embed/uBff27QR5nM?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1HouseLogic

  • Tip #2 Check for Plumbing Leaks

Your home inspector should do this for you before closing, but it never hurts to double-check.

Keep an eye out for dripping faucets and running toilets, and check your water heater for signs of a leak.

Here’s a neat trick: Check your water meter at the beginning and end of a two-hour window in which no water is being used in your house. If the reading is different, you have a leak.https://www.youtube.com/embed/4Qmg1EQQ_8g?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1ihihomeinspections-HomeInspectorAtlantaGA

  • Tip #3 Steam Clean Carpets

Do this before you move your furniture in, and your new home life will be off to a fresh start. You can pay a professional carpet cleaning service. They’ll measure the length of the carpet before giving you an estimate. If the square footage falls below their minimum, they’ll likely charge a flat fee of $100 to $150.

You can rent steam cleaners to use yourself for $35 to $50. You’ll probably also need to buy detergent for stubborn stains, costing $15 to $25.https://www.youtube.com/embed/K4lrYMgJGbs?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1HouseLogic

  • Tip #4 Wipe Out Your Cabinets

This is another no-brainer before you move in your dishes and bathroom supplies, especially if the house has been vacant. It’s not uncommon for mice and other pests to move in quickly. Make sure to wipe inside and out, preferably with a nontoxic cleaner, and replace contact paper if necessary.

And if you do find traces of unwanted roommates, take the next step.

Tip #5 Invest in Pest Control

That includes mice, rats, bats, termites, roaches, and any other uninvited guests. There are any number of DIY ways to get rid of pests, but if you need to bring in the big guns, an initial visit from a pest removal service will run you $150 to $300. After that, monthly visits will cost about $40 to $70 per visit, or quarterly visits, $100 to $300 each time.https://www.youtube.com/embed/e9iED8FCkEk?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1ehowgarden

  • Tip #6 Introduce Yourself to Your Circuit Breaker Box and Main Water Valve

It’s easier to do with two people: one to stand in the room where the power is supposed to go off and the other to trip the breakers or fuses and yell, “Did that work? How about now?”https://www.youtube.com/embed/zDkLUn4fOo8?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1applianceassistant

  • You’ll want to know how to turn off your main water valve if you have a plumbing emergency, if a hurricane or tornado is headed your way, or if you’re going out of town. Just locate the valve — it could be inside or outside your house — and turn the knob until it’s off. Test it by turning on any faucet in the house; no water should come out.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NFNbTIzjh-s?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1ExpertVillage Leaf Group

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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8 Easy Mistakes Homeowners Make on Their Taxes

Don’t rouse the IRS or pay more taxes than necessary — know the score to avoid common tax mistakes.

tax papers and files on floor and in file drawer
Image: Erica Christoffer for HouseLogic
  • As you prepare your tax returns for 2021, be careful not to commit any of these eight common tax mistakes, especially when it comes to the property tax deduction or the mortgage interest deduction

Tax pros say these home-related tax mistakes can cost you money or draw the IRS to your doorstep.

#1 Deducting the Wrong Year for Property Taxes

You take a tax deduction for property tax in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind — that is, you’re not billed this year’s property taxes until next year. But that’s irrelevant to the feds.

Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in that tax year, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, a tax manager with HG CPA, LLC, in Cincinnati, has seen homeowners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Tip: Taking this deduction requires that you itemize. 

#2 Confusing Escrow Amount for Actual Taxes Paid

Here’s another property tax issue that results in common tax mistakes. If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your actual property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.

For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200 or the actual amount of property taxes paid that is noted on the Form 1098 that your lender sends. If you don’t receive Form 1098, contact the agency that collects property tax to find out how much you paid.

#3 Deducting Points Paid to Refinance

In many cases, you can deduct in full the points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage for the year you bought your home, if you itemize. However, if you pay points in connection with a refinance, you must deduct the points over the life of your new loan.

For example, if you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $2,000 divided by 15 years, or $133 per year.

Related: How to Deduct Mortgage Points When You Buy a Home

#4 Misjudging the Home Office Tax Deduction

There are two ways to calculate the home office deduction. One is more complicated, has to be partially recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. But it also can give you a larger deduction than the simpler method.

If you don’t care to claim actual costs, which you do under the more complicated method, you can use the simplified home office deduction.  If you’re eligible, you can deduct $5 per square foot up to 300 feet of office space, or up to $1,500 per year.

Related: Is YOUR Home Office Eligible for a Deduction?

#5 Failing to Repay the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

If you used the original homebuyer tax credit in 2008, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years.

If you used the tax credit in 2009 or 2010 and then within 36 months you sold your house or stopped using it as your primary residence, you also have to pay back the credit.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

Common tax mistakes are often of omission: not keeping records. If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. File or scan and store home office and home improvement expense receipts and other home-related documents as you go.

#7 Forgetting to Keep Track of Capital Gains

If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to report capital gains on any profit above the excluded amounts. You can typically exclude up to $250,000 of any profits from your income (or up to $500,000 if you’re married filing jointly).

So, if the cost basis for your home is $100,000 (what you paid for it plus any improvements) and you sold it for $400,000, your capital gain is $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains.

However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523. And some higher-income earners could get hit with an additional tax if the gain exceeds the exclusion.

#8 Claiming Too Much for the Mortgage Interest Deduction

If you’re eligible to itemize, the MID loan limit is $750,000. Before Dec. 16, 2017, the limit was $1 million.  Make sure your loan is grandfathered before claiming the old limit. 

Interest paid on home equity loans and second mortgages is deductible, but only if the proceeds of such loans were used to substantially improve the home that secures the loan. You can’t deduct interest on home equity loans that were used for things like student loans or cars.  

And the amount of all mortgage loans (first, second, home equity, and loans for a second home) can’t exceed the $750,000 or $1 million limits.  

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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9 Tips from a Burglar on How to Keep Them Out of Your House

Don’t come home to a nightmare and the feeling of being invaded. Here how to stop a house burglary from ever happening.

prevent break-in tips silhouette of a burglar wearing a balaclava holding a crowbar looking through a house window
Image: tommaso79/Getty
  • You come home to an open front door, a ransacked house, and missing valuables. How did a burglar know you’d be gone? How did they get in? 

Here are nine tips from a burglar’s perspective about how to keep them out. And try these home security tips to prevent burglary, too.

#1 Put Ladders Away

Call me a social climber if you will, but I love ladders. They make it so easy to reach a second-story window. I really love it when upper story openings aren’t wired to a home security system. 

So, if you want to keep me out, store your ladder in the basement or a locked garage. And call your security company to wire upper-story windows into your alarm system.

#2 Don’t Make Your Trash So Visible

Can’t tell you how much fun I have driving around neighborhoods on trash day (especially after big gift holidays) when the empty boxes on the curb reveal what wonderful new toys you have. That made it possible for me to land a new laptop and a flat-screen TV in one easy trip to your home!

Next time, break down the boxes and conceal them in the recycling or trash bins. 

#3 Keep Shrubs Trimmed

Oh, how I love overgrown shrubs and trees. A wonderful place to hide before I break in and grab all your cool stuff. 

Trim back bushes and trees near windows and doors. Make sure entry points to your home are easily visible from the street. I much prefer to work in private. While you’re at it, install motion-sensor lighting

#4 Be Sure Your Exterior Doors Are Steel

A plain wood-panel door is an invitation. I have no trouble kicking it in. 

You may want to install steel-wrapped exterior doors with deadbolts on all your entries. And be sure your windows are locked when you’re away. 

#5 Watch Where You Hang Mirrors

You’d be surprised how many homeowners position a mirror in their entry hall so I can see from a window if the alarm system is armed.

A little free advice: Relocate the mirror so your alarm system isn’t visible if someone peers through a window.

#6 Have Someone Attend to Your Home When You’re Away

Wow, isn’t it amazing how fast the grass grows? An uncut lawn, unshoveled sidewalks, packages on the porch or in the yard, and shades always closed scream, “I’m empty. Come inside!” 

Hire someone you trust to mow or shovel regularly, pick up around the porch and doorstep, open and close various window shades, and turn different lights on and off (or put a few on timers). One more thing: Lock any car you leave in the driveway, or I can use your garage door opener to get in quickly.

#7 Don’t Put Valuables in an Easy-Carry Case

I can carry that right out your back door. 

You may want to invest in a wall safe, which I rarely attempt to open. Or, rent a lock box at your bank.

#8 Be Wary of Posting on Social Sites When on Vacation

It’s quite likely that I’m a friend of a friend of yours in the interwebs. And through them, I may discover you’re away for the week in Paris, having the time of your life. And I’ll have the time of my life ransacking your place.

If only you had known that posting comments and photos of your trip on social networks is fine — as long as you do that after you return, so you won’t broadcast your absence.

#9 Inviting People to Your Home to See Stuff You’re Selling

You’re downsizing. Great! Selling a bunch of stuff like TVs, computers, jewelry. I just have to call you up, and when you invite me to your home, I just grab the items and run.

It’s called “robbery by appointment.” If you want to sell high-ticket items to strangers, I suggest you arrange to meet at the parking lot of your local police station. I definitely won’t show up, and you’ll still have your valuables.

For more tips, see our list of low-cost tricks to fool burglars. Did you know there’s a gizmo that mimics the glow of a TV?

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Home Organization Ideas to Turn Unused Space into Storage Heaven

You can fit an entire closet where?

Using a kitchen pegboard for home organization
Image: @nolan_nest on Instagram
  • It’s hard to enjoy your home when it feels cramped. But before you start thinking, “Time to move!” you may just need to make your house more clever — one with organization solutions built into surprising places.

Here are some home organization ideas that’ll delight you:

#1 The Coolest of the Home Organization Ideas: A Wall-Turned-Jewelry Closet

A wall mirror opens to reveal jewelry storage system
Image: J Korsbon Designs
  • You’ll get out the door faster in the morning if you can grab the right necklace without spending 10 minutes untangling it from a knot of beads.

This is one of the best home organization ideas because it leverages the silver bullet for storage woes: between-the-studs shelves. For maximum jewelry-friendliness, pair pegs with shelves and hang a tidy little door.

Related: Tips for Creating Storage Between the Studs

#2 Reach New Organizing Heights with Library Ladders

Kitchen with built-in rafter shelving and library ladder
Image: Alec Hemer, photo/Tim Cuppett, designer

This is great if you’re closer to seven feet tall than six, but the rest of us can’t reach the stuff on the top shelves. Here’s a clever storage idea: Install a library ladder.

Even better, there’s no engineering required: You can find rolling ladder kits online.

#3 Try Pegboards

Pegboard in kitchen hanging pots, pans, and other items
Image: @nolan_nest Instagram
  • Here’s a smart home-organization idea: Turn a kitchen wall into storage space by covering it in pegboard and hanging pots, pans, and kitchen utensils. You get storage without losing square footage to cabinets or an island. 

Add a shelf at the top, and you’ve put a storage hack on top of a storage hack. Literally.

#4 Turn an Angled Wall into a Closet

Wall shelving converted to a closet to optimize storage
Image: Mindi Carwin at MyLove2Create.com
  • If you’ve got an upper-story room with a slanted wall, maximize that cramped space by making a built-in closet. You can do this in an attic, bonus room, bedroom, or any place where the roof line creates dead space.

And it has a little secret: The center section of this closet is on wheels and pulls out to reveal even more storage behind it.

#5 Add a Shelf for Folding Clothes in the Laundry Room

Sunny laundry room with counter above washer and dryer
Image: Thalita at the Learner Observer
  • This one is so simple and smart, you’ll wish you’d thought of it. Put a countertop over your front-loading washer and dryer to create a place to fold clothes.

Add under-counter shelves on one side for storing ever-ready laundry baskets. 

Be sure to mount the counter high enough above the washer and dryer so you can easily pull them out for maintenance and repairs.

#6 Turn a Stairway Into Pull-Out Storage

Drawers beneath stairs pull out to reveal bags and shoes
Image: Winnie Ho
  • Turn the dead space under the stairs into pull-out storage compartments. Cut into the drywall between the studs, and make bins, shelves, or even hanging storage to hold whatever items you need in the vicinity of the stairs. 

To make the best of the space, think through exactly what you’ll store before customizing. Tote bags and coats? Pegs could do it. Shoes? Go for shelves.

#7 Take Garage Storage Up a Notch with Motorized Pulleys

A garage outfitted with a pulley storage system
Image: Susie Soleimani Photography / Designer: Spectrum Design|Build
  • Put the overhead space in your garage to work by installing a motorized pulley system that lets you store ice chests, camping gear, and other bulky items overhead. Forget those ceiling hooks and high garage shelves that are a pain to access; with this system, hit a button and your stuff is valeted right to you.
  • “Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”
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10 Delightful Ways to Make Your House Brighter in Winter

Let more natural light shine indoors with these simple tips.

natural light in cozy living room brighter in winter with wicker baskets with firewood and burning fireplace
Image: Liudmila Chernetska/Getty
  • Fall and winter start cozy — who hasn’t used the colder temperatures as an excuse to binge-watch Netflix while swaddled in a couch blanket?

But come January, staying indoors can feel less like a treat and more like you’re living in a cave.

Here’s how to make your house lighter, brighter, and cheerier with more natural light indoors.

#1 Take the Screens Off Your Windows

Bright white kitchen with a window over the sink
Image: Natasha Hunt, Simply Inspired Blog
  • You’ll get 30% more sunlight shining indoors without screens on your windows.

Here’s the best part: Sunlight warms your room and saves you money on your heating bill. It’s solar power — for you!

Be sure to store your screens in your garage or basement, where they won’t get damaged. In the spring you’ll want to put them back on so you can keep that 30% of the sun out and run your cooling system less.

#2 Hang Outdoor String Lights Indoors

A bright living room with string lights on a wood shelf
Image: Eleni Psyllaki
  • They don’t give off a lot of light, but they’re cheerful as heck.

Drape them around a window or a mantel, or hang a string of LED glimmer lights in a tall potted plant. They’ll add a layer of soft light to your room and remind you of fireflies, flip-flops, and patio parties.

#3 Steal a Little Swedish Chic

A bright white, Scandinavian chic bedroom
Image: @makingoverthemimsion
  • Scandinavians excel at making a home light and airy because they’ve got places where the sun doesn’t rise at all from November to January.

And you thought you had it bad.

To adapt to weeks and weeks of polar night, Swedes keep interiors pale to reflect and amplify light.

Think white walls, light woods for furniture and floors, and light upholstery. To get the look without getting rid of your dark furniture and floors, put white or light gray slipcovers on your sofa and chairs, and put down light-colored rugs.

The fastest way to bring a little Sweden into your room is to paint it. Try creamy white, pale blue, or dove gray.

#4 Change Your Bulbs

A group of clear stylish light bulbs
Image: Pop Lights EXI Glass Chandelier
  • Replace those incandescent bulbs and their yellowy light with LEDs, which produce a brighter, whiter light.

But get your bright right:

  • The higher the K rating on the bulb, the cooler and whiter its light.
  • For cool, white light, opt for a bulb rated 3,500K to 4,100K.
  • For blue-white light that’s closest to natural daylight, use a bulb between 5,000K and 6,500K.

Unless you live in Sweden (see above) you may want to leave the uber-high K bulbs for grow rooms and seasonal affective disorder therapy clinics — because they’re as bright as real sunlight on a hot summer day at noon. You’ll need sunglasses to read.

Related: Dirty Light Bulbs Are Depressing, and Expensive, Too

#5 Hang Mirrors

A circular gold mirror over a wood desk
Image: Madison Wetter of Spaceandhabit.com
  • Make the most of that weak winter light by bouncing it around the room with mirrors.

If you don’t want the distraction of seeing your reflection all the time, use a large, convex one — also known as a fish-eye mirror. It will amplify light better than a flat one. Another option: Hang a gallery wall of small mirrors.

#6 Replace Heavy Curtains With Blinds or Roman Shades

A wood chair in front of a window with a floral shade
Image: Shannon Munro Denny/@bungalivin
  • Fabric curtains, while quite insulating, block light and make a room feel smaller and more cramped, especially if they’re a dark color or have a large print.

Try Roman shades or a simple valance paired with blinds to let in the maximum amount of natural light.

#7 Clean Your Windows

A bright kitchen with open shelving and wall of windows
Image: Prideaux Design & Alta Constructors, designer/Matt Vacca, photographer
  • Dirty windows block a lot of natural light.

Admit it. Yours are kind of cruddy because who remembers to block out an afternoon to clean the windows?

So, get it on your list. Clean the glass inside at least once a month and the glass outside once a year. Your serotonin level will thank you.

#8 Swap Your Solid Front Door for One With Glass Inserts

An open white door with glass insert in entryway
Image: irina88w/Getty
  • A solid front door can make your house look and feel as dark as a dungeon.

Get rid of it and install a half-light or full-light door that lets the natural light stream in. For even more natural light, add glass sidelights and a glass transom.

A new entry security front door will cost about $250 in fiberglass and $975 in steel, including parts and installation. A a new door will add curb appeal, which equals higher resale value. And coming home in the evening to the warm glow of light radiating out the glass panels in your front door is an instant mood lifter.

Related: How to Avoid Choosing the Wrong Front Door

#9 Add a Skylight

A skylight in a kitchen
Image: Helen Menegakis @sydneyrenovator
  • It’s the ultimate way to bring more natural light into your house. A window only catches sun for a couple of hours a day, but a skylight lets in the sun all day.

An indoor view of the sky makes deepest January more tolerable. And feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, light streaming from above, is liberating. A skylight, installed, costs between $1,300 and $3,000. A cheaper alternative is a tubular skylight, which costs $500 to $950 including installation.

If you’re really good with tools, you can install a tubular skylight yourself. Don’t even think about installing a full-blown skylight yourself.

#10 Add Plants

Plants on a home windowsill
Image: Igor Josifovic

Putting pots of plants around your room will remind you that spring and green will return.

Match plants to the amount of light you have, because dead and dying plants are depressing. Tropicals that thrive in indirect light are usually the best choice. If you have a sunny window you’ve got more plant options.

Bonus points for adding a plant that blooms in the winter, like a kaffir lily or anthurium.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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5 Tricks to Keep Your Pipes from Exploding This Winter

Even if you think they’ve already started to freeze.

Frozen outdoor faucet
Image: Skowronek/Shutterstock
  • New homeowners may have heard that winterization is important, but in the hubbub of your first year living in a home you own (finally!), it can be easy to overlook the need to prepare for the cold weather ahead. After all, it’s just not something renters deal with; prepping pipes for winter is often the landlord’s job.

Ideally, you should winterize your pipes in the fall, before winter seriously sets in. But if you’ve forgotten and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of a deep freeze, there’s still time to prevent disaster.

Here are some easy techniques to save your pipes from bursting:

#1 Turn On Your Faucets

If the temperatures have dropped into freezing and intend to stay there, turning on your faucets — both indoors and out — can keep water moving through your system and slow down the freezing process. There’s no need to waste gallons of water: Aim for about five drips per minute.

#2 Open Cabinet Doors

During cold weather, open any cabinet doors covering plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom. This allows the home’s warm air to better circulate, which can help prevent the exposed piping from freezing. While this won’t help much with pipes hidden in walls, ceilings, or under the home, it can keep water moving and limit the dangerous effects of freezing weather.

#3 Wrap Your Pipes

If your pipes are already on their merry way towards freezing, wrapping them with warm towels might do the trick. You can cover them with the towels first and then pour boiling water on top, or use already-wet towels — if your hands can stand the heat (use gloves for this). This should help loosen the ice inside and get your system running again.

#4 Pull Out Your Hairdryer

A hairdryer (or heat gun) can be a godsend when your pipes are freezing. If hot rags aren’t doing the trick, try blowing hot air directly on the pipes. Important note: You don’t want to use a blow torch or anything that produces direct flames, which can damage your pipes and turn a frozen pipe into an even worse disaster. You’re trying to melt the ice — not your pipes.

#5 Shut Off The Water if Pipes Are Frozen

Have your pipes already frozen? Turn off the water immediately. (Hopefully you know where the master shut-off is, but if not, now’s the time to find it!)

Make sure to close off any external water sources, like garden hose hookups. This will prevent more water from filling the system, adding more ice to the pile, and eventually bursting your pipes — the worst-case scenario. This also will help when the water thaws; the last thing you want after finally fixing your frozen pipes is for water to flood the system — and thus, your home.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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5 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Do in January

Start looking for that contractor NOW if you want your project done by summer’s end.

Do This Now - Time-saving tips
Image: Simone Golob/Offset
  • Whew. The holidays are done. The new year has rung in.

That’s when smart homeowners know it’s time to do these five things that’ll save time, money, and hassles all year long.

#1 Organize Your Seasonal Storage Space

Wrapping Paper Stored on Closet Ceiling| Storage Solutions
Image: Frank Farm / frankfarm.org
  • Packing away holiday decor presents a big opportunity. It’s the best time to sort, declutter, and reorganize that space where you store your seasonal stuff.

So before simply stuffing your holiday things back in there somewhere, take inventory; then sort, filter, donate, trash, and re-home as many of your things as possible.

It’ll help keep you more organized all year long, and make it easier to find all your holiday stuff next year.

#2 Deep-Clean the Kitchen

A gas stovetop with food crumbs, green teapot
Image: Jamie Bonilla
  • All of that holiday merriment-making is rough on a kitchen. Give it a good deep cleaning now that the glittery dust has settled.

Purge your pantry and frisk your fridge, passing what you can on to local food banks. Scrub the walls and kickboards, and even pull those appliances right out from the walls for a thorough vacuuming to prevent gunk (and stinks!) from accumulating.

#3 Plan Summertime Projects Now (Especially if You Need a Pro)

An outdoor space with patio furniture and a dog
Image: Photo by ADZA
  • Finalize plans for any landscaping, decks, patios, or other outdoor projects that need warm weather. Two good reasons:

1. If you’re DIYing, you’ll be ready to roll at the first hint of nice weather. That way, you’ll be less affected by any supply chain shortages and have your improved yard ready to enjoy by summer.

2. If you’re hiring a contractor or other professional, getting your bids and contracts in place now will save you from competing with the spring rush (wait too long, and you may not be able to book anyone!).

#4 Create a Schedule to Clean ALL Your Home’s Filters

Two home air filters
Image: Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”)
  • It’s not just your HVAC. The filters in your fridge, your vacuum cleaner, your dryer, your air filter, and other household items need to be changed or cleaned at least once a year to be effective, usually more often — especially your dehumidifier. Yucky mold grows easily there.

Check manufacturer instructions for all the filters in your home, and create a master schedule; then add them to your calendar app to remind you.

#5 Save Some Green at White Sales

A bed with white sheets and a white bedspread by window
Image: @hawkes_landing
  • Linens and towels go on sale in January. It’s a long-standing retail tradition that started back when linens only came in white (hence the name), and it still has a solid rep as a money-saver — only in more colors today.

Cut your threadbare bath towels into rags and restock your supply, plus fill in any gaps in your bed linens you may have noticed if you had a house full of holiday guests.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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