Saturday, February 9, 2019

Rainy Day Ideas

With the cold weather in full swing in California, many of us can look forward to quite a few rainy days ahead. When it’s cold and wet outside and you just can’t be bothered to leave the house, use your time inside well. Here are five ideas beyond “Netflix binge” (though hey, no judgement) to keep you busy on those rainy days.

Water Your (Indoor) Plants
So, this task probably won’t take up an entire rainy afternoon (unless you happen to live in a greenhouse), but this is a great rule of thumb: when Mother Nature is feeding the plants outside, you do the same for the ones inside. As someone who pretty much ignores her houseplants, rainy weather is just about the only time I remember to give them a drink.

Clean or Organize Something Really Well
This isn’t the most fun suggestion of the bunch, but it’ll make you feel great afterwards. A few hours of enforced indoor time is the perfect opportunity to scrub your kitchen cupboards, sort through the linen closet, or apply the Dewey Decimal System to your home library.

Start a Rain Project
What’s a rain project? Something you’ve always wanted to do, with no time limit, that you can work on incrementally. It can be home-related or not, anything from stripping wallpaper in the spare room to coding your first website. Whenever it rains, you’re gonna work on it; you might even find yourself looking forward to the forced productivity.

Say what?!? I know this goes against everything your gut tells you about rainy days: you should be chilling out, not working
Stock Your Freezer
Rainy days are made for the kitchen, and a full freezer of meals and to-go snacks will make the nicer days ahead that much more enjoyable. I often make and freeze unbaked scones and cinnamon buns for morning emergencies and trays of mini frittatas for my workday lunches.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Getting Your Security Deposit Returned

Between the stresses of searching for a new place, packing your things, coordinating movers, actually moving, and finally unpacking at your new home, the security deposit from your prior residence almost becomes an afterthought. The trouble is, landlords know this, and often take advantage of your stress by making all sorts of deductions from the security deposit that they know you won’t question. Some even go so far as to keep the entire security deposit without providing ANY accounting of where the money went. However, there are many things you can do to maximize the amount of money you get back from your security deposit.

1. Give your landlord enough notice before you move out.

The law does not automatically require a tenant to give advance notice to their landlord that they plan to vacate in order to get back their security deposit. But check your lease agreement! If your lease agreement explicitly states that advance notice is required in order to refund the security deposit, you must provide your landlord notice of your intent to vacate according to the terms of the lease.

2. Clear Expectations.

Make sure both you and your landlord have a clear understanding about what condition the premises must be left in. This way, you minimize the risk of under-cleaning and having your landlord deduct money from your security deposit, or over-cleaning by hiring a professional service, taking money directly out of your pocket.

3. Trust, But Verify.

Ask to be present when your landlord conducts their final inspection. If you cannot be present when your landlord conducts their inspection, walk through the premises and take pictures and videos of the condition of the property.

4. Don’t Walk Away Into the Sunset.

It might look very dramatic in the movies, but leaving without letting your landlord know where you are going can cost you some serious cash. Make sure you tell your landlord IN WRITING where he or she can send the money that is rightfully yours.

The underlying theme is simple: communicate with your landlord. The more you and your landlord are on the same page, the higher your security deposit refund can be.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Dealing with Difficult Neighbors

One of the biggest blessings of living in a community is having good neighbors.  People you enjoy being around and are there when you need them. However, the opposite is true of bad neighbors who can make your life miserable.

If you have neighbors that are rude or show a lack of consideration for you and the other people on your street, you might be tempted to react with rude behavior of your own. While this may bring you momentary satisfaction, it could have long-range damaging effects.

Here are some ways to deal with bad neighbors in ways that don't diminish your own integrity or make you appear rude:

Introduce Yourself
If you haven't met the neighbor, try introducing yourself, shaking hands, and chatting for a few minutes. Show sincere interest in them. Sometimes this simple act will help diminish animosity in the future. If it doesn't, at least you've taken the high road and done a good deed.

Offer an Invitation
If you have a neighbor who constantly complains about your parties, invite them to your next barbecue. Whether they choose to attend or not, they're not as likely to complain when they could have been there enjoying the fun.

Help with the Upkeep
Does your neighbor have an overgrown lawn, shutters with peeling paint, or siding that needs to be power washed? You might assume that they're neglectful, but there might be a bigger problem that you're not aware of. The family may be dealing with sickness, or their lawnmower broke down and they can't afford a new one.

Offer to help with whatever the problem is in a respectful, non-condemning manner. Perhaps you can mow their lawn for them or offer your power sprayer if they don't have one. This lets them know you care about the appearance of the neighborhood, and you're on their side. If they get upset about your kindness, that becomes their problem, not yours.

Handle Issues at the Base
If there are other issues that need to be addressed, try to handle them by addressing them with the neighbor involved. Calling the police on the family next door will only build animosity and will probably drive a permanent wedge between you.

You'll be better off letting your neighbor know that you have to get up at the crack of dawn, so you would appreciate turning down the music after 10:00 PM. Be reasonable about this, or you'll find more resistance to your request. In other words, don't ask them to be church-mouse quiet after 7:00 PM.

Avoid Gossiping About the Neighbors
No matter how bad your relationship is with the people next door, gossiping about them with the lady across the street won't help. In fact, it will most likely make the problem worse. If you think your neighbor is weird but harmless, keep your opinion to yourself. However, if there is something more serious that directly affects you, go straight to your neighbor you have the issue with and discuss it.

Be Nice to the Children
If you live on a cul-de-sac in a family neighborhood, you probably have children playing outside, and they can get quite noisy. Get to know their parents and show kindness to the little ones. If you are nice to them, they are much more likely to be respectful when you ask them to stop squealing so loud.

Take an extra step of friendship to soften the times when you ask them to tone down the noise. If you enjoy babysitting, offer to watch the children once in a while so the parents can have a night to themselves. If you like baking, consider making a few extras for the neighborhood children. As these kids grow up, you'll reap the rewards of seeing this kindness pay off.

Write a Letter

If you are unable to speak to your neighbor for any reason, write a letter in a non-accusatory tone. Be clear about the issue and offer to help come to an agreement. Try to make it seem as though this is a problem that both of you want to solve. For example, if the neighbor has planted a tree with branches that hang over your yard, offer to trim that part of the tree. Yes, it's more work on your part, but it's probably worth the effort to prevent hard feelings the neighbor will have if you expect more effort on his part.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Renters Insurance - Get Some!

3 Reasons to Buy Renters Insurance

For generations renting was what twenty-something’s did. You got a degree, you got a job, you rented for a little while, and then you bought a house, had some kids, lived that American dream.
Now with the job market where it is and the mortgage crisis still in our short-term memories, renting’s looking like a solid option to more and more people (beyond their 20’s).
But even if you choose to rent instead of buy, it’s still important to protect your assets. That’s why homeowners get Homeowners insurance. And that’s why as a renter, you should probably seriously consider Renters Insurance.

It Helps You Protect Yourself and Your Stuff

Renters insurance works much the same way Homeowners insurance does…except it’s tailored to renters (thus the name). See, when you rent, some think that the Landlord’s insurance covers you and your stuff too. But no dice. Your Landlord’s insurance is only there to cover them and their property…not yours.
That’s why Renters insurance is so important! It works to cover your:
  • Personal possessions – coverage for your things (clothes, furniture, electronics…that kind of stuff) up to your coverage limit.
  • Personal liability – coverage if you’re ever legally responsible for an injury or property damage, like if you drop some water and a guest slips and sues.
  • Medical payments – coverage for medical expenses if someone (other than a resident) gets hurt in an accident at your place.
  • Additional Living Expenses – coverage for extra temporary living expenses if your place is damaged and becomes uninhabitable.

It Fills Coverage Gaps

Renters insurance can also fill gaps left by your other policies, like your Auto insurance. Let’s say, for instance that you leave your laptop in your car one night after work. At some point, a criminal walks by and thinks “Man, I could really use a new laptop.” You come out the next day to a broken window and a laptop-less car. Thankfully you have Auto insurance right…so you’re covered! Again, no dice. While the window might be covered, most Auto policies don’t cover personal items left inside. But Renters does! In this case, your Renters insurance could help replace your stolen laptop.

It’s Crazy Affordable

If you needed another reason to consider Renters…here it is. It’s incredibly cheap! Much cheaper than other coverage types, and usually only a couple of cents a day (yes, we said “cents”). And if you add it to your other existing policies, like an Auto or Life insurance policy, you could save even more dough.Fires, theft, weather damage…these things happen, and they’re just as likely in a rented apartment as they are in a house. To protect themselves, Homeowners get homeowners insurance. So if you rent, consider Renters insurance. It’s a good precaution in a risky universe.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Stay Warm and Save Money with these Efficient Heating Tips for Cold Weather 

Turn down the temp – The California Energy Commission recommends setting your thermostat to 68 degrees, noting that for every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you’ll save up 5 percent on heating costs. For sleep hours or when leaving the home, setting the thermostat down to 55 degrees or off for an extended time, saving 5-20 percent of your heating costs.

Change your filters – Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use. Changing the air filters at least every three months can save your renters 4 to 6 percent on heating costs. If your tenants have a pet, changing filters every month is recommended. This tip will help not only help your tenants save money, but it will prolong the life of your furnace too.

Get Wintertime Curtains – According to AARP, insulated curtains or window quilts, can reduce an estimated 25 percent of an older home’s heating costs associated with window heat loss. Even regular curtains made from a heavy fabric can reduce heating costs; recommends hanging curtains as close to windows as possible and letting them fall to floor for maximum effectiveness. 

Keep Your Chimney Closed – For homes with a fireplace, remind your tenants to keep the damper closed when not in use. Another solution to keep the cold air out and the warm air from escaping up the chimney when a fireplace is not in use, is a chimney ballon. These inflatable devices claim to decrease heating loss more than just closing the damper and sell at HomeDepot for $56.99.

Use your fan – While ceiling fans are excellent tools for staying cool in the summer, they can be adjusted to help your tenants keep warm in the winter. Many fan models have a switch that allows blades to spin clockwise, which will push warm air that rose to the ceiling back down into the room. 

Heated Mattress Pad or Electric Blanket – Use this simple trick for staying warm at night. Instead of heating an entire house during the late night hours, a renter who keeps the thermostat programmed at 55 degrees or lower, can stay warm with an electric blanket or mattress. According to Go Green In Your Home, a 90watt electric blanket used for 8 hours a day will cost your renters only $2.20/month. 

And just for fun- try eating spicy foods! SELF Magazine claims that eating spicy foods in the winter can help you stay warm since spicy foods like chili peppers and seasonings made from chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which makes them spicy and, when eaten, increases our body temperature, creating a warming effect.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The 10 Commandments of Rental Decor

If there are rules that you as a renter must follow, make it these 10 commandments. Because, while paying your rent on time is important, so too is making sure your place is personalized and stylish. Working within the boundaries of your landlord, it's little things like a new light fixture that will make an impact without costing a lot of time or money. And, the best part about this entire list is that you'll leave with your security deposit intact once it's time to move up and on.

1 Thou Shalt Add Storage

Let's get real, custom cabinetry is not an option if you don't own the place. Since rentals usually lack storage, add your own with affordable Ikea bookcases, simple shelves, or these organizing solutions.

2 Thou Shalt Change the Hardware

Rental hardware is basic . . . your style, not so much. Switching out cabinet pulls and bathroom hardware will make a huge difference. Just remember to keep the original pieces to swap back in before moving out.

3 Thou Shalt Ditch Vertical Blinds

They are the ultimate decorating sin! To prevent your space from looking like a hospital room, take them down or hide them under curtains. Again, don't toss — they're essential if you want your security deposit back.

4 Thou Shalt Line Cabinets

This might seem trivial and a bit annoying, but lining your cabinets is a must. Not only will it make your kitchen look clean, but also it will mask worn and grungy cabinets without having to paint. Adhesive liner works, but a softer grip liner is better because it's easy to install; it will also prevent glassware from chipping.

5 Thou Shalt Accessorize Like Crazy

It's true, and that's the only way you're going to get a truly personal space. Go to town with throws, pillows, and accents that reflect your style.

6 Thou Shalt Avoid Wallpaper

Well, in most cases. Sure it's stylish, but in all honestly, wallpaper is really inconvenient to remove, especially if you won't be in your place for long. If you love the patterned look, consider the removable wallpaper seen in this studio or these alternative wallpaper ideas.

7 Thou Shalt Hang Art

No excuses — get your art on the walls! Patching up a tiny hole come move-out day is nothing compared to the impact it will make on your space. No need to create a full-blown gallery wall either. Try hanging one statement piece and resting photos on a mantel or shelf, similar to this home.

8 Thou Shalt Invest in Rugs

Especially if your place has carpet! Rugs are an easy way to cover up that not-so-cute carpet and can be packed up with you come your next move. Rugs are also a necessity to keep noise down, especially in older apartments with wood floors.

9 Thou Shalt Emphasize Lighting

This is another trick that many renters often overlook. Take it from HGTV stars Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri who suggest you use lighting to set the tone and make an impact in a rental. Get creative with floor and table lamps that can easily be moved from place to place.

10 Thou Shalt Make the Most of Plants

No yard? No problem. Pots are a great way to achieve the bohemian jungalow look or even have your own urban garden. The best part is you won't have to fret about leaving any of them behind.

Thanks to the folks at for the ideas!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

10 Tips to Save Energy and Keep Cool This Summer

  1. Raise your thermostat to 78ยบ. This is the number one way to conserve energy.
  2. When you are away from home for more than eight hours, raise the thermostat setting and you can expect to see a 1% savings for each degree of setback. This will reduce the amount of energy used to cool your home while you're away. You can learn more about your thermostat online by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy website.
  3. Keep shades closed when the air conditioner is on. Sunny windows account for 40 percent of unwanted heat and can make your air conditioner work two to three times harder.
  4. Check and clean filters. Cleaning and replacing air conditioning filters monthly allows the system to run more efficiently.
  5. Use ceiling fans. Don't underestimate the importance of ceiling fans. Moving air over the body provides a cooling effect. The use of ceiling fans can mean savings of around 25% on cooling costs and can make the temperature seem 10 degrees cooler.
  6. Make sure ceiling fans are blowing down. Most fans have a switch to change the fan direction. Make sure ceiling fans are blowing downward (in a counter-clockwise direction) to send air past your body.
  7. Run appliances with large energy use late in the evening. Use the dishwasher and clothes washer late in the evening. When used during the day, these appliances produce additional heat, causing your air conditioner to work harder.
  8. Use cold water to wash dishes and clothes. This will save on water heating costs.
  9. Unplug equipment not in use. Electric chargers, televisions and audio/video equipment use electricity and produce heat even when they are not in use. Running an older refrigerator can use up to three times the energy of a modern one. Unplug any appliance when it's not in use.
  10. Turn off lights. Turn lights off when exiting a room. Consider replacing incandescent bulbs with energy efficient compact florescent lights (CFLs). And remember to recycle CFLs whenever possible.