Researchers at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that too many stimuli in our visual fields can impair our ability to focus. Give your brain a break by creating a clean, uncluttered computer home screen. Many Windows-based programs automatically place “shortcut” icons on the desktop during installation. Unless you use them often, remove these buttons (you can still easily access the programs from your Start menu) by right-clicking the unwanted buttons, selecting “Delete,” and answering “Yes” to move the shortcut to the Recycle Bin.
Mac users can reduce icons by grouping similar apps or items into folders on the desktop; just select all the items you want to group, control-click one of the items, then choose “New Folder.” To delete unused folders from a Mac Favorites sidebar, right-click the icon and select “Remove from Sidebar.” If misaligned apps bother you, neatly arrange the icons on your Mac desktop by clicking on the “View” menu in “Finder” and select “Clean up” to make all icons align properly.
Avoid Electronic Hoarding
Once you’ve cleaned up your computer, develop new habits to keep your machine tidy and efficient:
Create a special email address to use just for newsletters and promotional purposes, and reserve your primary email address for important communications.
The Unroll.me program can help you identify and instantly cancel unwanted email subscriptions, and condense those you do want to read in digest form.
Delete duplicate/unwanted videos and photos right after you take them. Be especially stingy about saving images of landmarks, sunsets and landscapes, which tend to be less meaningful over time compared with photos of loved ones and friends.
Eliminate Electronic Waste
Here are a few tips from the Electronics TakeBack Coalition to get rid of outdated, unused electronics in ways that are environmentally safe and privacy-protecting.
Erase your data! Before recycling a device, make sure to clear it of all files and information. Simply deleting isn’t enough—all traces of data need to be removed. Some recyclers will do this, but you can also use free downloadable software such as Active@ KillDisk or Softpedia DP Wiper.
Donate items for reuse if possible. If your electronic item is reusable, consider donating it to an organization that gives refurbished electronics to schools and charities, such as the National Cristina Foundation or the World Computer Exchange.
Recycle your Cell phone. Cell phones are easy to recycle. You can mail them back for free to some recyclers, or bring them in for recycling at a retail store. Organizations such as Call2Recycle also have a network of collection sites that will take phones and rechargeable batteries.
Find a responsible recycler. If your item is broken or too old to donate, it should be recycled. Look for recyclers who are “e-stewards,” meaning they are certified to responsibly recycle, refurbish or reuse e-waste. Otherwise, look for recycling programs via your item’s manufacturer or via retailers such as Staples and Best Buy.
Eliza Cross blogs about simple, sustainable living at Happy Simple Living and is the author of nine books about food and home design.
Prices based on Habitat for Humanity ReStores.
1. Reuse cabinet doors: Separated cabinet doors can be reused as side-table tops. Bodies can be turned into shelving, or even the base of a desk for a home office.
To Buy: $10 to $20
2. Tile projects: Leftover tiles make great coasters, as well as eye-catching additions to patios and garden walkways. Broken, mismatched tiles in a color scheme make for an inexpensive mosaic floor.
To Buy: 10¢-$1 per tile
3. Pallet projects: The DIY applications for shipping pallets go on and on—transform them into coffee tables, planters or even bed frames. Some companies will let you take shipping pallets off their hands for free.
To Buy: free to $5
4. Door do-over: Doors can be quickly and easily upcycled. Turned sideways, they make great bases for coat hooks, or home command centers when painted with chalkboard paint. Add legs to a distressed antique door and you have an instant shabby chic coffee table.
To Buy: $10 for interior doors, $20 to $80 for exterior doors
5. Upcycle shutters: Shutters can be repurposed into cute, handy storage solutions. They can be used to hang jewelry, propped against a wall and used to display pictures, or turned into unique side tables.
To Buy: $5 to $30 depending on size, condition and material
Kirstin Gentry shares a tutorial on making a shipping pallet reading nook on kojodesigns. Gail Wilson shares how to make a reclaimed door message center on My Repurposed Life. On her site Beyond the Picket Fence, Becky Lamb shows how she turned a pair of window shutters into a kitchen island.
You would think the constant stream of water and soap running through your sink would keep it clean. However, since soap and water are not the only things you dump in your sink, it often becomes riddled with unsightly stains. Whether you need to clean your kitchen or bathroom sink, keep reading for some easy ways to get rid of ugly stains, naturally.
Sinks that have acrylic solid surfaces and are non-porous tend to resist stains and are easier to clean. But when staining does occur, baking soda is the best cleaning option. Simply mix a bit of baking soda with some water to create a paste. Then, rub the paste around the sink with a non-abrasive scrubbing pad and rinse the sink clean. You can also mix some baking soda with a little bit of all-natural soap to create a homemade sink scrub. Use this the same way you would use the baking soda and water paste to clean your sink.
Lemon juice is often used to lighten dark spots on the skin, and it can do the same with your sink. To erase stubborn sink stains, mix together a half cup of powdered Borax, an all-natural laundry detergent, and the juice of half a lemon to create a paste. Then, use a sponge to rub the mixture all around your sink and rinse it clean. This method works well on all types of sinks, including porcelain and stainless steel.
If your sink or faucet is stainless steel or dark in color, you may notice that it has many tiny white spots. These are lime deposits that are found in hard water. They can easily be removed using vinegar. All you have to do is soak some paper towels in vinegar and place them over the white spots. If the spots are congregating on your faucet, wrap it in the vinegar soaked paper towel. Leave the paper towels on problem areas for 10 minutes. Then, buff out the stains with a dry paper towel. Do not use this method to clean fixtures that are made of brass or are colored since vinegar will cause them to become discolored over time.
No matter how dirty your sink gets, you don't have to replace the entire thing every time it becomes covered in ugly stains. With a little bit of elbow grease and these natural cleaning methods, your sink will look brand new again in no time.
According to South West Plumbing, all your house drains likely lead to the main sewer line. This makes it even more important to make sure whatever you use to clean them is natural and safe. These methods can help keep your fixtures squeaky clean and safe.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.
Photo by Fotolia.
What’s worse than getting coal in your stocking? Pet odors and messes when your holiday guests are on their way. Below are six foolproof, pet-friendly tips and products that will keep your house clean, dust-free, odor-free and always ready for any and all gatherings. Glad tidings and glee this holiday season!
1) Just because your home has a litter box, does not mean your home has to smell like one. Just like with anything, you can’t believe everything you see and hear. When selecting a natural cat litter, those containing odor controlling ingredients is a good thing, but leaders in this category, ökocat Natural Cat Litters from Healthy Pet, contains a patented odor control formula that can keep odors at bay for up to seven days! ökocat Natural Cat Litters contain no artificial scents or perfumes, and contain the all-natural scent of pine which erases odor instead of masking. Heavy perfumes and additives don’t mix well and have the tendency to leave behind strange and offensive ammonia scents.
2) Leave the slobber and flying food up to the Grinch! Have you ever come home to find your house looking more like Times Square on New Year's Day, due to kibble scattered all over the floor and a combination drip path of water and slobber halfway across your living room floor? Mess-containing mats are a great and affordable solution to keeping your pet's food and water from spilling across your floors. Bella® Spill-Proof Mats by Loving Pets for Dogs (bone-shaped) and Cats (fish shaped) comfortably fit two to four bowls for food and water. Made of durable BPA-free plastic, with a raised edge and slip-resistant feet on the bottom to keep the mat in place, Bella Spill-Proof Mats make clean-up a breeze.
3) A Christmas tree should be the only green addition to your home this holiday season. Reduce bacteria in your pet's water and food with both style and function. Choose a bacteria-resistant and vet-recommended stainless steel bowl, such as classic Bella Bowls® or Ruff ‘N Tuff Diamond Plate Bowls from Loving Pets, to keep your pet's food and water fresher longer. These bowls are dishwasher safe, making regular washing easy and convenient.
4) Festive meals aren't just for people and no guest appreciates a begging pet! Start mealtime traditions with Evanger's Dog and Cat Food Company. Evanger's holiday meals and certified kosher foods use American-produced meats, fruits and vegetables. Award-winning hand-packed meats and signature stews for canned food options, or grain-free dry food options like Whitefish & Sweet Potato, are sure to get your dog and cat licking the bowl clean and feeling great.
5) Even your pooch wants to get gussied up for the holiday festivities, so say yes to festive and fresh minty breath with healthy teeth and gums! WHIMZEES® Dental Chews not only provide long lasting entertainment and offer a natural choice, but they are also available in whimz-ical shapes and characters like alligators, hedgehogs, toothbrushes and more. Plus, they make the perfect stocking stuffer! With limited natural ingredients and ranging in sizes from XXS to XL, for all breeds and sizes of dogs, WHIMZEES® promote canine fun while freshening breath and helping to make canine mouths healthy and happy.
6) If you are not hosting, then you are more than likely traveling and no one wants to leave their beloved furry friends at home. Travel in style and comfort with Sherpa® Pet Carriers from Quaker Pet Group. From the Original Deluxe to the Delta and American Airlines carriers, there is a carrier for every breed of small dog or cat. Sherpa carriers were the first soft-sided pet carrier to be endorsed by major airlines and continue to be the industry standard for pet carriers.
This blog is intended for informational purposes only. Mother Earth Living does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.
Isn't it interesting how the world is designed so creatively? The earth exudes brilliant ambiance with its endless beauty and vivid colors. Foliage shows off distinct aromas, textures and colors. When we use our senses, we begin to understand what enhances the allure of our surroundings. This is also a hugely significant detail when decorating any living space.
Psychological factors that affect our senses have a great deal to do with the way we decorate our personal living spaces, too. Believe it or not, how a texture makes you feel emotionally has as much emphasis on whether or not you purchase that fluffy rug, as much as making a choice between up or down, or right or wrong. Our mental and physical experiences influence every decision we make.
Getting great decorating ideas starts with you and your decorating psyche. What colors do you prefer? Do you like bright and airy spaces or a darker, quieter corner of a room? Do you prefer cleaning or would you rather create a space with less work? Are you more attracted to hard flooring surfaces or to carpet? Questions like these that address emotional and physical preferences helps set the stage for successful and personalized decorated living spaces that are right for you.
How Does Color Affect Me?
All colors affect moods. Take a look at how two of your favorite colors work on you:
RED is considered a warm color that invites interaction. It is also considered a color of passion and authority or power. Incorporating this color would be a great choice for work spaces and social environments. Red walls or splashes of red in a space sparks mental creativity and endurance.
GREEN is considered a cool color or a less intimidating color. It's calming effect allows this color to work beautifully in foyers and bedrooms where peaceful transitions occur. Using the color green can actually subdue anxiety and worry.
Colors and textures aren't the only living space building blocks that affect us psychologically. Issues of space recognition are right up there, too. There are all kinds of reasons for various space sizes.
Illusion Decorating Tricks
1. If you like an open feeling to a room, stay clear of painting the area with dark colors. Darkness implies smaller and less space. Some even feel it to be claustrophobic. Lighter colors give the illusion of more space.
2. Even smaller spaces can still use color. Incorporating horizontal, complementing stripe colors like a bolder blue or yellow with white can give the room a larger space interpretation. Yellow actually encourages happiness.
3. Sometimes small rooms feature larger architectural elements like fireplaces and bookshelves. Use a lighter paint color like white or cream to accentuate the largeness of the element for an eye-catching focal point which helps to distract from the actual room size.
If decorating your favorite spaces feels overwhelming, ask your local paint store for recommended tools to help simplify decision making. Exploring home stores, paint stores, furniture stores and magazines can creatively assist in satisfying your curiosity for more personalized decorating strategies. Ideas to tackle everything from simple do-it-yourself projects to major overhauls await!
Our senses are intuitive. Help make your decorating experiences memorable to all of your senses by following any of these handy ideas. After all, there's a little decorator in us all!
Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques and self reliance.
When you think of solar power, visions of rooftop panels and LEED-certified buildings downtown spring to mind. But even if you don't live or work in a green structure, there's still an opportunity for you to take advantage of solar power. There are literally dozens of devices that store up and run on solar power that can help lower your utility bills.
Photo by shutterstock.
Charge Household Items
You don't have to have solar panels on your home to invest in portable solar solutions to power household items like TVs and laptops. Some can even charge small refrigerators.
There's a healthy, growing industry that designs, manufactures, and sells portable solar panels and packs that soak up energy from the sun to power devices used in the home. They also serve as great backup devices for items that need a steady supply of energy, such as CPAP machines and emergency lighting.
Power packs can be charged by connecting to solar panels, of course, but also through a wall outlet (with or without solar panels), as well as a 12-volt car charger. However, you'll get the quickest charge through panels.
Heat Your Pool for Year-Round Use
Homeowners with pools often lament the cost to keep the water warm for year-round use. It's a shame, because swimming is such an excellent way to stay in shape. There are also large parts of the country where pools are rarely, if ever, subjected to freezing weather; it's just that the water is too cold in January.
One solution is to heat pools with portable solar-powered heaters. The pool's pump circulates water through the panels, which heats the water and returns it to the pool. Add a solar blanket to cover the pool when it isn't in use to prevent heat from escaping.
Make solar a backyard theme. Install solar-powered landscape lights or hanging garden lamps to light your yard at night. Provide additional pizzazz with solar-powered decorative string lights.
Entertain yourself and guests with solar-powered radios, or watch the game on a solar-powered TV. You can even get solar-powered portable fridges and coolers for your upcoming Super Bowl pool party.
Best of all? Once you purchase the batteries, there are no added costs to run these things.
Solar Energy Doesn't Harm Anyone
Solar power does not harm people or the environment.
• It does not cause disease like black lung.
• It does not need to be pulled from the earth in collapsible mines or exploding oil rigs.
• It also does not produce waste to store for millennia.
• It does not put off polluting emissions.
The Union of Concerned Scientists points out ways solar power actually preserves the environment:
• Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells need just a small amount of water to produce. They do not need any to generate power.
• Larger-scale concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP) are often criticized as desert eyesores, but they can be located anywhere they can capture the sun's rays. This includes less desirable sites like brownfields, abandoned mining sites and alongside transportation lines.
• PV manufacturers recycle and reuse many of the chemicals needed to produce the product.
In addition, charges that the chemicals used to produce panels are largely baseless. Given the two-decade lifespan of current panels, the cost of emissions falls to zero after two years of use, according to SolarPowerRocks.com.
Ruth Ann Monti provides copywriting and content development for all things webby. Her interests include content development and SEO topics and small business issues, including technologies that support them.
Some will say the opposite of spring cleaning is preparing for the fall and winters months, but finding ways to save energy during the winter can also help protect our planet. Statistics show that if all homes in the United States had Energy Star-rated heating systems installed, not only would that save consumers over $170 million in annual utility costs it would also considerably reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Non-compliant computers are even more costly, since Energy Star models could save users, in the US alone, almost $2 billion annually and cut back on the emission of greenhouse gases equivalent to around two million automobiles. Even using just one energy-saving light bulb would save $40 during its lifetime.
Lowdown on Lighting
We mentioned replacing traditional, incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving options like LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) or CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights), but many consumers may be hesitant to do so because of their higher initial cost. The truth is, the long-term benefits and savings are astronomical—check out some of these estimated examples:
Traditional = 1,200 hours
LED = 50,000 hours
CFL = 8,000 hours
Traditional = 60 watts
LED = 6-8 watts
CFL = 13-15 watts
Annual Operating Cost of Thirty Light Fixtures:
Traditional = $328.59 per year
LED = $32.85 per year
CFL = $76.65 per year
When it comes to protecting our planet, the switch from incandescent bulbs to LED or CFL bulbs will greatly reduce annual CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide levels, and high-level nuclear waste are all greatly at an average of 451 pounds, 1,051 pounds and 4,500 pounds respectfully.
Winterizing is Worth the Cost
To help our houses stay warmer in winter months, many homeowners will opt to weatherize their homes, but some consumers question whether it’s worth the cost. According to one study by the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the answer is most likely yes. After the DOE weatherized 750,000 low-income households, they tracked the results and found an average savings of around $400 in energy costs for each home annually.
Energy-saving supplies like weather-striping, caulking and Styrofoam insulation for exposed pipes are relatively inexpensive and installing them is a breeze. Many local utility companies will offer their customers an energy audit, at no cost, to see if these cheap and easy solutions can benefit your home. If not, even paying for a professional energy auditing service should still pay for itself within the first year. Thereafter, families should expect to save about 30 percent on their energy bills every year.
Water, Water Everywhere
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that we reduce the temperature on our hot water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to an average setting of 140 which can cost, on average, $400 or more annually to bring up the heat on our fresh water. Think of Californians who are suffering through one of the worst droughts in decades, every gallon of water wasted is one that could be saved through this practice.
While residents of the Golden State are looking forward to the possibility of an El Niño event this winter in hopes of solving some of their current water woes, we can all do our part to reduce water and energy consumption. In the long run, it will cut costs in our pocketbooks and help protect our most valuable resource, Mother Earth.