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4 Areas to Declutter in Your Office

Spring has sprung and that means its Spring Cleaning time! Although not everyone is keen on this annual tradition, ensuring that your work and living spaces are free from clutter will create a more positive environment—externally and internally.

Recent studies from UCLA and Princeton have shown that clutter can increase stress levels, influence mood and decrease focus. Most of us have experienced these outcomes: Whether it’s a sink full of dirty dishes distracting you from your checkbook or a table littered with assorted papers irritating you. Clutter and chaos won’t help you actually make progress on projects or any tasks at hand.

When considering your professional goals, organization is crucial for achieving them. Forbes suggests keeping your work space as clean as possible. Keep lesser used items in drawers or displayed on shelves for easy access.

home office with plant
Photo by Unsplash/Tran Mau Tri Tam.

Clean Surfaces

Use disinfectant wipes to clean your desk, keyboard, phone, mouse and other often-touched surfaces that are likely to harbor a number of germs from the winter season. Don’t forget to clean your computer screen with a microfiber cloth or electronics wipes, along with any other office appliances you use regularly (i.e. printers, calculators, etc).

Inbox Upkeep

Digital clutter is just as prevalent as real-life clutter, and email is likely your main form of communication while at work. If a message can be answered quickly or requires your immediate attention, answer it. If the message doesn’t pertain to you or isn’t something you need to save, it can be deleted.

There are, of course, emails that need to be held on to for the future. Create an inbox folder system that works for you to keep track of your important, save-for-later correspondence. Once you’ve responded, file them away in their appropriate location to keep your inbox (and your brain!) from becoming overwhelmed.

Get Organized

From your physical desktop to the one on your computer, organize your space to maximize your productivity.

• Back-up any old files you need to keep for future reference, but that aren’t used on a regular basis.
• Remove any unnecessary files and programs from virtual desktop.
• Create a filing system for physical papers you need to keep track of.
• Organize your incoming mail to make it easier to attend to daily. Create inboxes for different types of mail you receive or based on priority.
• Keep the things you use, every day, within easy reach on your desk so you never have to go searching for them again.

Calendar Clean-Up

One area you probably wouldn’t even think of adding to your spring cleaning list is your ever-useful calendar, so why bother? Oftentimes, appointments and meetings get rescheduled or canceled, but don’t ever get removed from your calendar.

• If you have regular reminders, like “go to the gym,” in your weekly calendar, consider removing them. These are great when you’re getting started on any routine, but after awhile it becomes second nature and the reminders don’t really serve a purpose anymore.
• Merge your various calendars together so you can see all your appointments in one place. This will help you avoid double-booking.
• Color-code appointments, meetings, and personal engagements so they’re easy to find at a glance. Plus, it will make things a little more appealing to look at!

6 Simple Spring Crafts to Make

Photo by iStock

Spring isn’t just a time for cleaning. It’s also a great chance to get outside, go hiking and perhaps invest in learning a new skill. Use the boost of energy you get to try out some of these ideas. Don’t worry if you aren’t a crafty kind of person — these ideas can be done by almost everyone.

DIY Flower Pops

Popsicles are a spring and summer treat, and nothing gets less pretty by adding flowers. There’s a huge variety of edible flowers, so this unusual take on a classic treat will definitely get people’s attention. Pick and wash some edible flowers, and drop them into Popsicle molds. Then pour in lemon-lime soda or fruit juice, freeze and serve to the delight of everyone. If you’re feeling ambitious, tie a bow with ribbon onto each stick.

Try Your Hand at Jewelry Making

Jewelry isn’t always about the bling sometimes it’s just about the feeling it evokes. A few small purchases can allow you to craft a huge selection of jewelry items. For the simplest item, you’ll need a stone, wire, leather cord and wire cutters.

With these things, you can make beautiful, bohemian wire-wrapped pendants. Just wrap the wire around the pendant, making it tight enough to hold it. Leave a place to slide the leather through, cut the wire and tie it on.

Create Your Own Wreath

Making your own wreath is surprisingly easy, and it’s a ton of fun. All you need is an undecorated wreath, faux flowers, wire cutters and a hot glue gun. Pull the flowers off their stalks, and remember to save some of the foliage. Use the hot glue gun to attach the flowers to the wreath. That’s all you have to do.

Of course, a little bit of planning goes a long way. You don’t want to limit yourself to just flowers. Foliage and berries are great additions, and you need to think about the placement of big and small flowers. Even a wreath needs a focal point.

Redo Your Reflection

A broken mirror is supposed to mean seven years of bad luck. If you want, though, a broken mirror can mean a new art project! You can create beautiful wall art, glass mosaic tables, or even a glass wall hanging. Glass can be picked apart and put back together to create an entirely new project.

However, keep in mind that you’ll be dealing with broken glass. That means you need to handle it safely, and this is not a project that’s appropriate for kids. If the mirror was broken by accident, take care cleaning up. If that’s done, grab the pieces you want to use along with a hot glue gun, and sketch out the pattern you want. Then just glue the pieces of mirror into the pattern and hang it on the wall.

Use Mason Jars for Everything

You can use mason jars for much more than just food. Use a long, slim piece of wood and attach hose clamps to the wood. Use the hose clamps to secure the jars. Once they’re on, hang the wood piece and fill the jars with necessities like Q-tips, toothbrushes or utensils, depending on where they’re hanging.

You can also drill a hole in the top, put in a pump, add some hand soap and boom! Instant, or almost instant, soap dispenser. Mason jars are also great for pedicure kits or planters for herbs. They can hold sewing materials, or be turned into candle holders. Seriously, you can use them for everything.

Craft Fairy Gardens

Fairy gardens are the cutest little details to add to your home. If you have kids, this is a great project for them to help with. The best part is that it’s kind of a never-ending one. You can build a small home and leave it at that, or add to it for years to come. It’s basically an outside, whimsical doll house, and you can craft it however you like. For an easy starting point, get a small birdhouse to paint. Glue on some moss, and use small stones or glass beads to create a path to the door.

Depending on what you want to do, you can arrange your fairy garden in your yard or set it up in a large flowerpot. This particular craft is very free-spirited, so you can take it as far as you want. Fairy bridges, streams, even just a door at the base of a tree can make the entrance to a charming little world. Whatever fairy garden ideas you get, you’re sure to find an excuse to keep going.

These are simple ideas for spring crafts, but don’t feel limited to these. Make up your own crafts and enjoy the fun of learning new things.


5 Household Uses for Thyme

Herbs have been household staples throughout the centuries due to their culinary and medicinal uses. Today, most herbs have been relegated to the kitchen and thyme (thymus vulgaris) is no exception. Although this herb does add delicious flavor to meats and stews, it has plenty more to offer.

Recent studies have shown that thyme oil is among the most effective essential oils for battling E. coli and other harmful food-borne bacteria. In addition, it has been used through the ages to treat muscle spasms, cough and infection. Take thyme out of the spice rack and boost the health of your family with this simple household uses.

cup of fresh thyme tea
Photo by ThinkStock.

1. Cough Eliminator: Thyme can be infused into a tea or tincture to help relieve respiratory ailments such as cough and sore throat. Traditionally used to treat whooping cough, it’s also safe for babies and small children. To use: Add 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried thyme to 1 cup of hot water and steep for 10-15 minutes for best results.

2. Tummy Soother: In The Herbal Apothecary, author JJ Pursell shares that thyme can also be used to relax muscles in the digestive and reproductive systems which may relieve stomach or menstrual cramps.

3. Healthy Mouth: Thyme was traditionally used to treat cavities, due to its antioxidant and antibacterial properties that make it useful in combating infections. Add thyme to natural, homemade mouth rinses to give them an extra boost of antimicrobial action.

4. Kitchen Disinfectant: Due to the new studies that have demonstrated thyme oil’s efficacy in killing food-borne bacteria, keep thyme essential oil on hand for cleaning countertops and other surfaces that frequently come in contact with foodstuffs. To use: Combine 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/2 cup water and 10 drops of thyme essential oil to a spray bottle. Spray the solution on countertops, tables or sinks to keep bacteria at bay.

5. Erase Acne: With antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, thyme can help reduce the appearance and occurrence of blemishes. Add a few drops of thyme to a carrier oil that suits your skin type and use as a facial cleanser or moisturizer. Thyme can also be added to a facial steam to help balance skin.

Sustainable Home Improvement Ideas for Spring

Photo by iStock

Spring is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for some cleaning and redecorating to banish those winter blues. I try to give my house a fresh feel every spring, just to change the mood and vibes of my space. I try to make sure that I make my living space a little more sustainable than it was before, so as to reduce my impact on my surroundings and make my house feel more “one with nature.” While conservation and redecorating aren’t something most people consider together, I do believe that there is a sustainable alternative to most actions. Here, I’m going to share some spring home improvement ideas I’ve incorporated over the years - hopefully these will inspire you to make your house more eco-friendly.

Clutter-free Countertops

As winter comes to a close, there’s nothing I detest more than seeing all sorts of items flung across the counter, especially considering that countertops, especially large ones, are one of the most eye-catching features of any space. The first step is to de-clutter any unwanted items that have made your counter their temporary home. Personally, I find that a relatively empty countertop gives an illusion of space, so I make it a point to only have minimal items like a vase of fresh flowers on my counter. If you prefer to keep your counter covered because it’s ugly - don’t fret! Spring is a great time to change it out for something beautiful. If your budget allows, go ahead and change your counters.  With the variety of absolutely stunning granite options out there, it’s easy to turn your counter into a work of art. Since granite and marble are naturally found stones, choosing an indigenous variety helps reduce the environmental impact of long distance transportation.  

Work the Windows

Windows cause a lot of heat loss, especially during times of extreme weather.  Replacing windows not only increases energy efficiency, but also is the perfect way to add some new style elements to your space. You can use the opportunity to create a new feel to your living quarters, by allowing for more light, different angles, and new textures. To make sure you are maximizing on energy efficiency, you will have to consider some factors while choosing your window replacements. These include choosing the type of panes (double or triple-paned), and the types of frame (wood, aluminum or vinyl). Finally, choosing an energy efficient design, such as double-hung windows will help reduce costs overall.

Perfect Lighting

While this isn’t a redecoration project, replacing your lights is a springtime project that will serve you well for the year to come. Replacing regular incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or fluorescent light bulbs is a wonderful energy saver. What's more, energy efficient light bulbs last much longer than regular bulbs, making them cost-efficient too. This report by the Department of Energy explains some of the more technical differences between incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs.  

Quick ‘n’ Easy Mood Changers

So, maybe you aren’t ready to invest in some serious redecoration, or you just don’t have the time. What then? Well, I’ve found it’s easy to change the feel of any space even with the smallest alterations. For example, something as small as rearranging your bookshelf can give your room a more open and airy feel if you set up your books in a certain way. Placing some horizontal and some vertical is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and this sort of book arrangement goes well with other accessories on your shelf, such as photo frames and trinkets. If you feel like changing your walls in a more drastic way, then consider getting some custom removable wall papers or murals printed, to make your walls unique. These can be switched out every season, or whenever you need a change of scenery. Similarly, changing pillows, adding throws to couches, and changing the way your art/frame display is set up will leave your living room feeling completely different. An easy way to do this in keeping with reducing your overall wastefulness is by collecting and keeping fabrics, reusing and upcycling old linens, and then changing them out seasonally rather than buying and throwing away new materials each year. One of the best ways to liven up any space is by bringing home some life, aka a plant! Having a burst of green screams spring, and having plants at home help cool down temperatures and naturally clean the air!

I hope these home improvement ideas inspire you to make your house more eco-friendly, because in the long run, having a sustainable living space will have better consequences for you and your surround environment.

4 Ways to Create a Safe and Soothing Environment at Home

Soothing Home
Photo via SocialMonsters

Your home is a place of reprieve, where you can relax in a safe and comfortable environment. Enhance the calm and comfort of your abode by adding new systems and amenities to prevent potential problems. Revamp your home with these specialty features to help you keep an eye on your property, prevent intrusion, and create a soothing environment.

See What's Going On with a Security Camera System

Keep an eye on your property and your home with video monitoring. Position the cameras around the perimeter of your home, near the entrances, as well as near any windows, which are the most high-risk points for forced entry. Make sure the cameras you purchase are weather resistant and have high-resolution capabilities, as low-resolution cameras don't provide a reliable image. A complete camera system, like ones offered by Lorex Technology, are very user-friendly, and allow you to check on your home anytime, from anywhere.

Shut Out the World with Blackout Curtains

Blackout curtains are a useful tool that will help you block out light, noise and provide energy-efficient insulation. Most brands of blackout curtains will block up to 99 percent of light. This is a beneficial feature, especially if you often wake up from light glares or other visual distractions when you sleep. The curtains can also block 40 percent of noise, which will keep unwanted noise pollution from disrupting the calm within your home. Blackout curtains will serve as insulation keeping the heat in, during the winter, and blocking out solar heat gain in the summer. These curtains are especially useful for your home theater room, your meditation space, or any work space within your home where you'd like to maintain a sense of calm.

Keep Your Home the Perfect Temperature with a Smart Thermostat

Keep your home at the optimal temperature for your ultimate comfort. Install a Wi-Fi connected thermostat that will keep your home at the temperature you desire and also help you save on energy bills. The Nest thermostat learns your schedule and automatically adjusts temperatures based around your daily habits. It can also be controlled remotely by your smartphone or tablet, in case you'd like to warm or cool your home to a specific temperature before you return to it. The device lets you program your personal preferences, but also informs you of how you can save energy and lower your heating and cooling costs.

Secure the Premises with High-Tech Locks

Install smart locks in your home, so you can monitor who is entering and leaving your abode when you're not home. If you can replace your entire lock system, install the Kwikset Kevo, which uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone or a keyfob (a touch-to-open device). You can share the lock password with your family and close friends, which they can use within the Kevo app.

If you can't replace your entire lock, you can install the August smart lock which can unlock the door when you are approaching, as it detects a signal from your smartphone. The lock will also automatically lock when you leave, or close the door, so you don't have to worry about whether or not you forgot lock up your home.

Kyla Stelling is enrolled in the Master in Teaching program at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Previous career roles have entailed everything from design and event planning to public relations and child care. In her spare time, Kyla hikes the Cascade Mountains, designs elaborate cakes, and writes alongside her cuddly cat, Wellington.

6 Ways to Detox Your Laundry Room

Photo via SocialMonsters

Americans want to be clean. And apparently we go a little bit overboard in that department. Case in point, 53 percent of people use more than the recommended amount of laundry detergent, according to Adam Lowry, co-founder of Method Products. This overzealous usage pumps extra chemicals into our water supply and wastes materials. To curb your environmental impact and start detoxing your laundry room, follow these six steps:

1. Use Natural Laundry Detergent

Traditional laundry detergents generally contain phosphates that help kill germs and improve overall washing performance. However, phosphates also damage surrounding aquatic environments. Instead, opt for natural laundry detergents, like Method or Mrs. Meyers, which are at least 85 percent plant-based and biodegradable, perform well in cold water, and use less (if any) fragrances, dyes, and optical brighteners.

2. Use Natural Stain Fighters

Rather than using harsh chemicals to fight grease stains, opt for a common kitchen ingredient to remove stains. Rub some salt, cornmeal or cornstarch on a grease or oil stain. Let it sit while you do other laundry, then brush away and wash as usual. For an ink stain, wet the item with cold water and apply a paste of cream of tartar and lemon juice. Let it sit one hour before washing. Wine spill? No problem. Just pour club soda on the spot, then sponge up both soda and wine before laundering. For blood stains, douse spots with hydrogen peroxide or diluted ammonia before rinsing in cool water.

3. Soften Your Water

You can use half your usual amount of detergent, switch from hot to cold water and still get better stain fighting power with softer water, according to the Water Quality Association. Using less detergent means less environmental impact in the chemicals and packaging materials used, plus less cost to the consumer. Softer water also prolongs the life of washing machines and water heaters by causing less scale build-up.

4. Skip Dryer Sheets

Air-dry clothing whenever possible to reduce energy use. However if you must use the dryer, skip the dryer sheets (and their accompanying cocktail of “fragrant” chemicals). A research study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found 29 unique volatile organic compounds in dryer-vent emissions, which are hazardous pollutants and possible sensory irritants. Since most of the individual fragrance ingredients are not usually listed on a product, it is safer not use dryer sheets at all. Instead, create your own DIY dryer sheet using scraps of an old flannel sheet, white vinegar, and tea tree oil.

5. Unleash the Power of Vinegar

Vinegar has many versatile uses. In the laundry room, white vinegar is perfect to fight perspiration stains and urine. For perspiration, rub the stained areas with white vinegar before laundering. For pet urine, dampen the offending area with equal parts white vinegar and water and blot dry. And the cleaning uses of all-natural vinegar are almost endless, from sparkling silver to scuff marks on linoleum.

6. When in Doubt, Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is a naturally occurring non-toxic substance and helps to maintain an optimum pH balance. It can serve as a mild cleaning agent, deodorant, and abrasive to scrub, dissolve, and lift away dirt from tile floors, textiles, and appliances. Mix a half cup with a bucket of warm water to mop with, and add a half cup to regular wash loads to boost the laundry detergent’s cleaning power. Baking soda will also remove and neutralize odors (rather than masking them, like artificial fragrances). Sprinkle generously over a dirty clothes hamper to minimize offensive smells, and add to the load’s rinse cycle to combat persistent odors.

Brittany Wren is a freelance writer living in Nebraska. She’s all about travel, coffee, board games, and good poems. On the weekends, she’s usually busy remodeling her 100-year home. She writes on her blog:

Recommended Home Organization Tools and Products

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Get it Poppin

Get It Poppin'

Poppin file cabinets are made with extremely durable powder-coated steel, are available in an array of colors, and one lock secures all three drawers.
To Buy: $229,

What You See

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It's easier to get dressed and wear our accessories when they're easy to see. Check out Etsy shop The Knotted Wood for stylish, handcrafted organizers.
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A Shoe In

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An affordable bamboo stackable shoe shelf makes footwear organization easy.
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Shelve The Topic

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If you don't have enough display space for cherished items, add a stylish floating shelf. This one is made of industrial pipe brackets and rustic wood.
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Bask in It

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Few storage solutions are as beautiful and versatile as woven baskets. The ones from Connected Artisans generate income to provide food, shelter and education in rural Senegal.
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Kitchen & Bathroom

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Keep lids organized and accessible with a simple lid organizer.
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Flip Out

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Invest in a high-quality, beautiful wooden spatula you love, and never buy a spatula again.
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Jarringly Simple

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This bathroom organizer, made of reclaimed wood and Mason jars, can corral clutter and open up space in bathroom cabinets.
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Roll Out

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Made of durable chrome steel, this cabinet organizer offers a lifetime of hassle-free use.
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Stack It Up

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Organize any drawer anywhere with mix-and-match stackable bamboo drawer organizers.
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Storage Spaces

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Perfect for mud rooms, garages, kitchens or kids’ rooms, this Wire Mesh 6 Bin Cubical Storage tower is a versatile storage tool.
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Tool Time

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Corral garden and yard tools in a handy tool rack with wheels.
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Garden Aid

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Give yourself a dedicated space to keep garden supplies organized with a Potting Bench made of durable eucalyptus wood.
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Store Outdoors

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This handy Klasen outdoor storage cabinet on wheels offers extra space to stash tools.
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Be A Sport

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Give sports equipment a permanent home with this heavy-duty triple storage bin.
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