Tips for Helping You Declutter Your Room of Shame

There’s a fun game of cognitive dissonance many of us play when it comes to messes in our apartment. For me, it’s something of an object permanence issue: As a child, I briefly believed that I turned invisible when I closed my eyes, and as an adult, I tend to treat rooms I’m not looking at as a problem for Future Michelle.

Young woman laying in a pile of clothing and shoes

Take, for example, the spare bedroom in my first apartment. It was going to become an office “once I got around to it,” but in the meantime, I used it as storage – where “storage” translates roughly to “place I put random junk.” This seemed like a sustainable model for maybe a month. I admitted it was a problem at three months, at which point I closed the door and resolved to “dedicate a weekend to it.”

I pretty much ignored the room for the remainder of my lease, thinking of it only when I pushed the door open to toss in some other item for which I had no real use. Each visit back into my spare bedroom filled me with an increasing sense of dread, slightly hampered by a noncommittal promise to myself to declutter it as soon as I could.

Now I live in a much smaller apartment, and every time I agonize over my lack of space, I mentally kick myself for not taking advantage of what I once had. For those who are currently living with a room of shame, there is hope – here’s some advice for getting to the other side of your mess:

Step 1: Admit It

You can’t deal with a problem until you acknowledge it’s there. Maybe you’ve already done this, deep down in your heart, but you’ve been pretending things are fine: They’re not. Things have snuck up on you, and now the room is totally out of control. Admit that it’s time to take back your life.

Step 2: Call in Reinforcements

Even the strongest people can’t take on everything alone. Ask your closest (and least judgmental) friends to help you handle your disaster room. Depending on whether your mess has been in or out of sight, you may need to admit your problem to them as you have to yourself. There’s a good chance they’ll tell you it’s not that bad. They’re probably being polite, but you’ll feel better about it anyway.

If things have gotten completely out of hand, consider hiring a professional organizer. Not only will this person be able to help you declutter the room, but he or she will empower you to avoid clutter in the future.

Step 3: Plan Your Approach

Unless you have a ton of storage space somewhere that you’ve been ignoring in favor of your room of shame, the odds are good you’re going to be throwing a lot of stuff away. Come up with three piles – keep, donate, and toss – and get heartless with your junk. Unless something has serious sentimental value, get rid of it if you haven’t used or looked at it in the last year.

Figure out what you’re going to do with the things you keep. Maybe you already have some designated places for these items that you just haven’t been using. If not, you’ll need to figure out where everything goes – don’t fall into the “I’ll just stick it here” trap that got you into this mess in the first place.

Step 4: Do the Work

It’s easier said than done, I know. Clear a day or two out of your schedule and formally announce that these are the days you’re working. Take pictures of the disaster before you start to clean, and if you’re feeling particularly brave post them online. Adding a caption, “After pic to come,” will give you plenty of motivation to follow through.

You may need to block out additional slots of time after the Big Day to do a finer sorting of your items. For example, you might find a place to put all your random documents and letters when you’re cleaning, but you should also spend some time actually organizing the papers themselves. That said, feel free to post your “after” picture once the room looks great.

Step 5: Bask

Once you’re all done, bask in the glory of your own achievements. Smile at all the comments your friends and family left on your after pic. Invite people over and experience the pure joy of hearing, “Wow, your apartment is so well-organized! I wish mine looked like this.” Sit alone in your apartment and marvel at how much space you suddenly have. This is your time. Enjoy it.

8 Ways to Eliminate Home Allergens

Little girl in bed blowing her nose

People with allergies are part of an exclusive (sniffly) club. They’re the only people who know how it feels to be constantly at war with everything from dust to pollen to pet hair, all in an effort to continue breathing effortlessly. People who don’t have allergies? They just don’t get it.

When you’re prone to sniffles and sneezes during allergy season – or at any other time of year – it’s important to keep your apartment as free of allergens as possible. Luckily, a little elbow grease is all it takes. Read on, my fellow allergy sufferers, for eight practical tips.

1. Get Rid of Dust Mites

Dust mites are the ultimate allergens. That’s because it’s so easy for dust to settle into unswept corners and underneath furniture. Your first step toward getting rid of dust mites: Dust your entire apartment. Use a damp rag or a Dustbuster on every surface, including your blinds and window treatments, and make sure to clean every inch of your floors thoroughly.

Then, take extra steps to keep dust mites at bay. Use dust covers on your pillows and mattresses, get rid of any unused baskets or bins in your closets that gather dust, and wash your sheets regularly. These basic steps will keep these pesky allergens at a minimum.

2. Clean Up

In general, the cleaner your apartment is, the less likely you’ll have to deal with allergens. Set a cleaning schedule with your roommates to make sure the place is dusted, wiped down, swept, and vacuumed at least once a week.

3. Vacuum Your Carpet

Many renters love carpet – after all, it’s cushiony, comfortable, and it keeps your feet a bit warmer during the winter. However, carpet, more so than other types of flooring, easily traps allergens in its fibers. Invest in a high-quality vacuum, and clean your carpet from wall to wall regularly.

4. Do The Laundry

Your laundry hamper traps everything from dust mites to pet dander, if you have a furry friend. Likewise, your sheets and pillowcases pick up allergens more quickly than you may think. If you’re struggling with sniffles and sneezes, you may want to amp up your laundry schedule.

Aim to change out your sheets every couple of weeks. On top of doing laundry more, you can also put your hamper in the closet to keep any dust or dander better contained.

5. Keep Fido or Felix Groomed

Pet allergies are some of the most common, so if you own a cat or dog, your furry friend may be to blame for your sniffles. Cut down on Fido’s dander by keeping him groomed and clean. Use a brush or fur-grabbing tool to pick up loose fur, and take it immediately out of your apartment so it doesn’t find its way into your carpet or bedding.

Also, give Fido a bath every once in a while – the more on top of his grooming you are, the less likely his dander and fur will get all over your apartment.

6. Close Your Windows

When the weather starts to warm up for spring, it feels blissful to open your windows and let in the breeze. However, it’s not just a breeze you’re letting into your place – it’s pollen, too. Keep your windows closed if you notice yourself getting really stuffed up during the typical spring allergy season.

7. Replace Your Vent Filters

Dust, dirt, lint, and other debris often build up in vents. And you know what that means: Your heat or air conditioning then blows that debris into your apartment, filling the air with potential allergens. If your landlord didn’t replace the vent filters before you moved in, see if he or she is willing to make that upgrade now. Most landlords will be happy to.

8. Declutter

Clutter is your worst enemy when it comes to ridding your apartment of allergens. That pile of clothes in your closet and the stack of old magazines in the basket in the living room gather tons of dust. The moral? If you’re not using it, throw it out. Keep your apartment clear of any spots that can easily fill with dust. You’ll be free of allergens in no time – or at least freer.

Free Downloadable Chore Wheel: Divide and Conquer Your Apartment Cleaning

free downloadable chore wheel

One of the most difficult situations roommates face is deciding who will take care of what chores. Obviously each roommate is in charge of keeping his or her bedroom and bathroom clean, but what about common areas? Who does the dishes and who vacuums?

Before you and your roommate resort to fisticuffs over who will take out the trash, consider an easier, more peaceful solution: A chore wheel. This simple DIY project will take you less than 10 minutes to create, and when it’s done, you’ll have an easy way to divide up household chores. You and your roommate(s) will trade off tasks so everyone does their part and no one is stuck with the chore they hate for very long.

Ready to pitch the pigsty? Download and assemble our free chore wheel to restore order to your apartment.

What you’ll need:

  • Chore wheel templates (download links are below)
  • Cardboard
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Hole punch
  • Paper fastener

free downloadable chore wheel

Step 1: Download one of the following chore wheel templates, depending on how many people live in your apartment.

  • Two people: If your household consists of you and just one roommate, download this template. Your wheel will contain either six or eight chores – your choice.
  • Three people: If your household is you and two roommates, download this template. Your wheel will contain six chores.
  • Four people: If your household is you and three roommates, download this template. Your wheel will contain eight chores.

Step 2: Print out the chore wheel template you downloaded. You don’t have to print in color, but doing so will make your chore wheel a lot prettier.

Step 3: Cut out each circle.

free downloadable chore wheel

Step 4: Glue each circle to a piece of cardboard.

free downloadable chore wheel

Step 5: Cut the cardboard to match the circle. Now you should have two circles with cardboard backing.

free downloadable chore wheel

Step 6: On the bigger circle, write your name and the names of your roommate(s) in each section. On the smaller circle, assign each section to a different household chore. You might label it like this:

free downloadable chore wheel

(Betty is my fictional roommate.)

The exact labels are up to you, and they depend on what sorts of cleaning your apartment needs. For example, if your apartment has stairs, you might put “vacuum stairs” in one section, but if not, you might use that section for “dust bookshelves” or something else.

Try to keep big chores on opposite sides of the chore wheel. For example, doing the dishes can be a big task, but taking out the trash only takes a few minutes. Try to make sure each roommate will take on a similar workload each week.

Step 7: When both circles are labeled, punch a hole in the center of each one. You can use a hole punch, or bore a hole in each circle with the pointy end of a sharp knife. (Just remember to place a cutting board underneath, and be careful!)

Step 8: Push the paper fastener through the hole to join the two circles together.

Your chore wheel is complete! To use it, just twist the top wheel so certain sections line up with each roommate’s name. That person will be in charge of those chores for the amount of time you choose together. For example, this week I’ll be in charge of taking out the trash, vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom, while Fictional Roommate Betty will clean the kitchen, dust and pick up the living room.

free downloadable chore wheel

You can switch it up every week, every other week, or as often as you like. Now our responsibilities are reversed.

free downloadable chore wheel

You could also move the top wheel one wedge at a time instead of flipping it 180 degrees. You and your roommate(s) can decide what works best for your household.

More cleaning advice on the Apartment Guide Blog:

How is your chore wheel working out in your apartment?

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

Moving out of your apartment can be bittersweet. You pack up all of your things, begin moving furniture, start taking down wall art– and, lo and behold, there’s that golf ball-sized hole in the wall you accidentally made one night, then covered with art.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

After living in an apartment for at least a year, there’s bound to be some small damage here and there. While some wear and tear is normal and should be built into your lease, fixing minor damage before moving out will ensure you get your full security deposit back. Plus, you’ll stay on good terms with your landlord, who you may need for references down the road.

To make sure you leave your apartment in good condition before moving out, take a look at these normal damage issues and their fixes:

Small Holes

After taking down the photos from your gallery wall, you probably noticed the many small holes left by nails that were used to hang the frames. Patching small holes left by nails, tacks and screws is simple and will leave the walls looking great again.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Small Holes

You’ll need some spackling paste, a putty knife and some sandpaper. Squeeze a small glob of the spackle into each hole, then use the putty knife to spread and blend it over the hole and wall. Once the spackle is dry, use the sandpaper to lightly sand the area, especially around the edges, to leave a smooth, flat wall.

Scuff Marks

Though scuff marks likely aren’t going to cost you any of your security deposit, they make the apartment appear dirtier than it is.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Scuff Marks

Since I seem to make an inordinate amount of scuffs on the walls of my apartments, I typically don’t try to tackle them all– just really noticeable and large ones. A magic eraser works wonders to get rid of them, so pick up a couple and your walls will be white again in no time.

Large Holes

Now it’s time to tackle that large hole you hid under your favorite painting. Mending large holes in drywall isn’t as easy as some of the other fixes, but it will most likely cost you less than if you were to let your landlord handle it and deduct it from your deposit.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Large Holes

Pick up a mesh repair patch at the hardware store to use with your spackle. Then, cut the patch so that it fits over the hole and the surrounding wall. Cover the patch with spackle, and after it dries, sand down the edges so they blend into the wall completely.

Broken Blinds

Another common damage issue I’m guilty of is bending or even breaking some of my window blinds. Before moving out, dust your windows and blinds, and make sure none are bent or cracked. If bent, do your best to straighten them out as much as possible.

How to Fix Common Apartment Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Broken BlindsIf you can’t straighten them, or if one of the blinds is broken, look for blinds of the same size and color at your hardware store. Replace the broken slat with the new one, and your landlord won’t ever know the difference!

Carpet Stains

If you’re a red-wine drinker living in a carpeted apartment, you probably know a thing or two about removing carpet stains. Tackling stains before they get a chance to set will help your carpet look better overall, but before moving out, peruse the carpet for any stains you might have missed.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Carpet Stains

Try using baking soda or carpet cleaner first. If that’s not strong enough to remove the stains, consider renting a carpet cleaner from your hardware or grocery store. They’re easy to use, and your carpets will be unrecognizably clean when you’re done.

Scratches on Hardwood

Renters love apartments with hardwood floors because they’re much easier to clean than carpet, but they do have one common problem with them: Hardwood is easy to scratch. There are a couple of quick fixes for the shallower scrapes, though.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out- Scratches on Hard WoodMany people swear by the walnut method, which involves rubbing a raw walnut along the scrape until the scratch blends into the rest of the floor. This method works well, just not on deep scratches and darker woods.

For deeper scratches, look for a wood-colored marker or pencil at the hardware store. These products are specifically made for filling in and disguising the scrapes.

General Dirtiness

Deep cleaning your apartment is generally recommended to ensure you get your full deposit back, and to give your landlord less of a headache when he or she is trying to ready the unit for the next renter.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - General Dirtiness

Give everything a good wiping, sweeping and dusting, but spend extra time in the kitchen and bathroom. The refrigerator, microwave, oven and stove should all be thoroughly cleaned, along with the toilet, shower, tub and sink.

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How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

Photo Credit: deadmanjonesNic TaylorDan PupiusSean McGrathSalva Barberakaiton

How to Remove Dark Stains from Your Whites

We’ve all been there. You’re on a date, wearing a summery white dress, and all of a sudden, a meatball rolls right off your fork and into your lap. Or, you’re rushing out of the coffee shop on the way to work and someone accidentally bumps into you– as a result, the hot coffee spills down the front of your classic white button-down shirt.

How to Remove Dark Stains from Your Whites

Sometimes it seems like stains seek out clothes made of white material. You never have an accident when you’re wearing a dark shirt! Luckily, there are some pretty foolproof ways to remove stains from whites before they start to set in– and the best stain remover may be sitting in your pantry. Here’s a basic guide to get those pesky stains out:

Step 1: Keeping the Stain From Setting

The most important part of managing any stains, whether they’re on whites or not, is keeping them from setting into the fabric. After a stain has time to set it will be completely bonded with the fabric, making it almost impossible to remove no matter what other methods you try.

How to Remove Dark Stains from Your White Materials

To keep a stain from setting, first scrape or scoop off any excess gunk if you need to (things like mud or ketchup are thick enough to scrape off, whereas wine or grass stains won’t have any excess).

Then use cotton swabs to lightly dab cool water or club soda onto the stain, making sure to soak the area completely. Start from the outside of the stain and work inward so it won’t spread, and absolutely don’t rub the stain, since that can push it into the fibers of the fabric even more.

Step 2: Understanding Different Materials

Various types of fabrics will react differently to stain removers, so it’s important to know what you’re working with before you get started on the stain. Remember to always check your tags for care instructions before applying harsh bleaches or other solvents.

How to Remove Dark Stains from Your Whites - Keeping the Stain from Setting

Here are a few common materials and the best stain remover method for each:

  • Cotton: Cotton is a very durable fabric, but try to avoid using bleach, even if it’s diluted. First try using a detergent or an acid, such as white vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Polyester: For polyester, it’s best not to use bleach at all. Use dish soap or laundry detergent.
  • Linen: Linen is generally sturdy but becomes weaker when it’s wet. Don’t use undiluted bleach on linens– either dilute it or use a more gentle detergent.
  • Silk: The best stain remover for silk is glycerin. Avoid bleach altogether.

Step 3: Choosing the Best Stain Remover For the Job

Different stains, along with each separate type of light material, call for different methods of removal. You may even need to treat some stains a couple of different ways to remove both oil or grease and color.

How to Remove Dark Stains from Your Whites - Choosing the Best Stain Remover for the JobHere are some common stain removal methods and what stains they’re best used for:

  • Absorbents: Absorbents, including salt, corn starch, and talcum powder, are effective for leeching oil or grease out of fabric. After prepping the fabric with water or club soda, sprinkle an absorbent over the stain and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrape it off.
  • Mild Acids: Vinegar and lemon juice are effective on liquid stains, like those from coffee or tea. Because they’re mild, these acids won’t damage fabrics, so it’s a good idea to give them a try with any stain before moving onto harsher methods.
  • Detergents: Dish detergents are particularly adept at removing oil and grease stains.
  • Bleach: There are two types of bleach: oxidized and chlorine. Chlorine is very harsh, and should be avoided as much as possible for most fabrics. Oxidized bleach, like hydrogen peroxide, is good for treating greaseless color stains– say, from sweat, makeup, or wine.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin can be bought at any grocery or drug store, and is also effective at removing colors. Use glycerin for treating ink or dye stains.

Take it to a Professional

After you apply whatever you decide is the best stain remover for your particular mishap, wash the garment like you normally would.

How to Remove Dark Stains from Your Whites - Take it to a Professional

Before it goes in the dryer, check to see if the wash cycle cleared up the last of the stain, or if there’s any remaining. If the stain is still prominent, it may be best to take it to a dry cleaner and let them have a go at it.

The Don’ts of Removing Stains From Whites

Never apply pressure when you’re trying to remove a dark stain from a white material. The pressure can force the stain further into the fabric, making it more likely to bond and set.

How to Remove Dark Stains from Your Whites- Understanding Different Materials

Instead, soak the fabric in a stain remover of your choice or lightly dab the stained area with a cotton ball or damp rag. You should also refrain from using any heat. Don’t use hot water, and no drying or ironing the fabric until the stain is completely gone.

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How to Remove Dark Stains from Your Whites

Photo Credit: Gunnar GrimnesPatrick CheungSteve Snodgrassrattyfied

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

When I was little, my parents used to tell me to not let the bed bugs bite when they would tuck me in at night. Back then, the phrase was almost comforting, and I didn’t think much of it. After all, I didn’t know exactly what they were.

Now that I’m older and know that bed bugs are very real, that statement suddenly comes with a much scarier connotation. The last thing I want to think about before I shut my eyes is sleeping with bed bugs.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

If you don’t already know what a bed bug is, they’re small, brown insects that resemble an apple seed. They feed off of the blood of other animals and humans, so they definitely don’t make for good bunkmates.

Here’s a brief guide on bed bug prevention and how to get rid of them if you have an infestation:

Buy Encasements for Your Bed

Purchasing an encasement for your bed and box spring won’t necessarily prevent bed bugs from getting to your mattress, but it does make them easier to get rid of. The encasement stops the bugs from being able to get inside the mattress, forcing them to crawl on the exterior.

This makes the bugs very easy to spot, and you can then take the proper steps to getting rid of them, which I’ll get to later.

Be Careful About Returning from Vacation

It can be easy to pick up bed bugs when you travel, as they tend to hide in hotel mattresses and box springs. Therefore, it’s best to unpack your suitcase in any other room in your apartment but your bedroom.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs - Be Careful About Returning from Vacation

Throw all of your clothes directly into the wash, and make sure to vacuum your suitcase before putting it back into storage.

Regularly Wash Sheets and Clothing

While bed sheets can sometimes be a pain to take on and off, you should be washing them once a week. Things like dust, debris and sweat can build up over time, and washing the sheets frequently in hot water kills those germs, and potential bed bugs.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs - Clean Your BeddingAnything that was ever on your floor should also be washed on a regular basis, like clothes, pillows or blankets. You should also be cleaning your mattress. This only needs to be done every six months. Vacuum the top of your mattress using an upholstery attachment.

If there are any stains or spots, use a damp cloth and some upholstery shampoo to remove them. Make sure to wring out the cloth, as you don’t want to soak the mattress – this will only damage the padding and attract mold and bacteria.

Make Sure You’re Dealing With Bed Bugs

Don’t jump to conclusions if you wake up with a bite. There could be other insects responsible, like mosquitos, spiders, fleas or ticks. It’s important to know how to identify a bed bug. Typically, they’re the size of an apple seed, brown in color and have a flat, oval-shaped body.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs - Make Sure You're Dealing With Bed Bugs

They may be more reddish brown if they recently ate. You should also look for bed bug eggs, which are pearl white and the size of a pinhead. If you’re still unsure of the type of insect you’re dealing with, you can always call pest control to help you figure it out.

Clean Your Bedding

If you do discover that you have a bed bug infestation, the first step is to clean all of your sheets, pillows, blankets, clothing, etc. Put everything in the washer in hot water, and dry them on the highest dryer setting as well.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs -- Regularly Wash Your Sheets and Clothing

Next, scrub your mattress (especially the seams) to get rid of the bed bugs and any eggs that may be there. After scrubbing, vacuum all surfaces of your room. When you’ve finished, take out the vacuum bag, put it inside a resealable container and set it in a garbage can outside. You don’t want any bed bugs escaping back into your room.

Hire Pest Control

While you can certainly clean up infested areas, getting rid of bed bugs for good typically requires the use of chemical treatments. Using chemicals on your own can be tricky, because not all treatments are safe for your mattress, or you, for that matter. You may want to call a pest control professional to ensure you exterminate your bed bugs properly.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs - Hire Pest Control

It’s worth it to pay a professional to get it done, as you’ll rest easy knowing those pests won’t be returning to your bed. Make sure to choose the proper professional by going through dependable referral directories.

Any good company will give you a price quote before beginning treatment so you know exactly what you’ll have to pay. These pest experts may also fill you in on how to prevent bed bugs in the future and work with you until your bug problem is completely gone.

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Everything you need to know about preventing bed bugs, and getting rid of them if you discover you have an infestation.

Photo Credit: Macroscopic SolutionsSwirerebdavid.dames, wackystuff

How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can?

Everyone has one chore that they simply can’t stand to do. For my roommate, it’s loading the dishwasher. She would clean the toilet, mop the floors and massage my feet 10 times over before ever willingly loading all of our dirty dishes. For me, it’s taking out the garbage.

How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can? png

The bag tears when I take it out of the trashcan every single time, it always smells and there never fails to be some unknown juice leaking out, which drips all the way down our building’s hallway.

For years I simply accepted that taking out the garbage was the worst chore in the world, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized having a better trash can could actually alleviate some of the problems. Upon further investigation into better trash cans, I found something shocking: Some people are paying upward of $100 and sometimes much more for their receptacles.

As someone who’s only ever bought $15 bins at Target, I was immediately intrigued. Is that much of a splurge really worth it? And how much is just too expensive for a trash can?

Though the question is absolutely subjective – some people are content with cheap plastic trash cans, and that’s absolutely OK – I found that there are several reasons people will splurge on the more expensive ones. Here are some of the qualities that might make buying an expensive trash can worth it:

Easy Handless Opening

The most common quality of the very expensive trash cans seems to be a handless opening mechanism. While some cheaper garbage bins have foot pedals, they often don’t work well, especially after years of use.

How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can? Easy Handless Opening

The pricier options include those with motion-activated lids, and ones with more high-tech foot pedals that offer soft opens and closes, which won’t bang up your walls or hands. The motion-activated ones often require batteries to continue working well, which could be an extra expense down the road.

Deodorizing

This isn’t as common a feature, but it’s one that many people will pay extra money for. One iTouchless design in particular, which runs anywhere from $70 to $100 depending on where you purchase it, has what’s called a carbon deodorizer that keeps the receptacle smelling nice no matter what garbage is in it.

Style

For those in small apartments, there often isn’t room for trash cans in the kitchen cabinets or hall closets, which means the garbage will be sitting out in the open.

How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can - Style

For this reason, people spend a little more on the ones that look much nicer. The most popular trash cans tend to be silver and black with sleek lines.

Quality Material

Going along with style, many people splurge for trash cans made of quality material – most often stainless steel. Some of the most expensive trash cans from simplehuman and iTouchless are made from stainless steel that’s fingerprint-proof so that the can always looks pretty. Plus, stainless steel is sturdier and much more durable in the long run than plastic, and it won’t absorb odors.

Easy Trash Bag Removal

This is a big selling point for those who, like me, find the bag tears every time it’s removed from the trashcan. Many expensive designs keep the trash bag intact with various methods.

How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can? Easy Trash Bag Removal

One $140 simplehuman trashcan has an inner liner with an area to pull through any excess bag to keep it from getting snagged in the lid’s hinges. Plus the liner itself can be removed and carried to the garbage room, so you don’t have to lug around an awkward bag.

After my research, I made my own personal conclusion: I don’t think I would ever pay more than $50 for a garbage can, but a little bit of a splurge, say one that’s between $30 and $40, might be worth it to make my most detested chore a little bit easier.

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How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can- When is a trash can worth the splurge-

Photo Credit: Mark BultJeff FriendBrian J. MatisJacqs3280

Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water?

From your cable and Internet bill to utilities like heat and electricity, there are a lot of costs that must be added into your monthly budget (as I discovered upon moving into my first apartment). There are always ways, however, of cutting back on those expenses. You can save water and lower your water heating costs by installing a low-flow showerhead.

Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water?What is a low-flow showerhead, you ask? Here’s everything you need to know about this green home fixture:

What is a Low-Flow Showerhead?

In short, a low-flow showerhead is one that comes with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. While this still seems like quite a bit of water, these showerheads can actually decrease your shower water usage by about half.

A regular showerhead has a water flow of about 3.8 gallons per minute, so if you took an eight minute shower, you would be using approximately 30 gallons of water. But with a low-flow showerhead, you would only use about 20 gallons.

With this fixture, you’ll also need less energy to heat your shower, reducing your power bills.

How do Low-Flow Showerheads Work?

With a low-flow showerhead, it may not feel like you’re using less water, but you are. The showerhead restricts water flow while still maintaining a strong pressure, giving you the experience of a normal shower.

Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water - How do Low-Flow Showerheads WorkThere are actually two different types of low-flow showerheads: aerating and non-aerating.

Aerating showerheads mix air in with the water stream. This maintains strong water pressure while still using less water than a traditional showerhead. However, because there is air combined with the water, the temperature may not stay as hot for as long as traditional showerheads.

A non-aerating showerhead doesn’t use air; instead, it pulses to keep the pressure strong. The water with a non-aerating showerhead tends to be hotter because there is no introduction of air.

How to Measure Your Current Flow Rate

In order to discover whether you would benefit from a low-flow showerhead, it’s important to figure out the flow rate of your current fixture. Turn on your shower and let the water run into a bucket for 10 seconds, then turn it off.

Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water? How to Measure Your Current Flow RateMeasure the amount of water that’s in your bucket, then multiply that figure by six. The number you end up with will be your water flow per minute, or gallons per minute. If your shower is releasing about 3.8 gallons or more per minute, think about replacing your current showerhead with a low-flow fixture.

Here’s another helpful rule of thumb: If it takes fewer than 20 seconds for your showerhead to fill up a 1-gallon bucket, you could benefit from installing a more environmentally friendly fixture.

Which Low-Flow Showerhead is Best for Your Bathroom?

If you’ve chosen to get a low-flow showerhead for your bathroom, then you must decide which type you would like. You could opt for the traditional stationary model or a handheld showerhead that’s attached to a flexible hose.

Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water? Which Low-Flow Showerhead is Best for Your Bathroom?

While handheld models may offer convenience, they’re typically a bit more expensive than the stationary fixtures. However, a handheld showerhead may be slightly more environmentally friendly than the traditional model because there is less distance between the showerhead and your body.

Other Green Bathroom Ideas

Installing a low-flow showerhead isn’t the only way you can go green. Here are a few other bathroom ideas that may lower your overall energy costs:

Use Green Cleaning Products: Some bathroom cleaners contain harsh chemicals, which is why it’s more environmentally friendly (and often cheaper) to just make your own.

Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water? Other Green Bathroom Ideas

For instance, a tub cleaner can be made using 2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mildew can be removed by mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup borax.

Rethink Your Towels: Think about swapping your current regular cotton towels for towels made from organic cotton. This material requires the use of fewer pesticides, natural dyes and softeners, making it better for your skin and for the environment.

Bamboo towels are another eco-friendly choice, as bamboo is a fast-growing sustainable alternative to cotton, not to mention it has antibacterial properties.

Fix Leaks: A simple leak in your tub or sink might not seem like a big deal, but you may actually be losing a lot of water. Talk to your landlord about the problem and get it fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can put a bucket under the leak and use the collected water to hydrate your houseplants.

Replace Your Shower Curtain: Many shower curtains are made of polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC plastic. The material actually releases chemical gases, and it can’t be recycled. Instead, opt for a PVC-free shower curtain. Hemp shower curtains, for instance, are resistant to mold and mildew.

Take Shorter Showers: A low-flow showerhead can only do so much to save water when you’re taking extremely long showers. Do your best to cut back on your bathing time by creating a five-minute playlist of a song or two. This way, you’ll know exactly how long you have before you should turn off the water.

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Should You Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water- -If you do, you can save water, money, and help out the environment!Photo Credit: Andre ChinnPhotoAtelierMo ElnadiJohn RyanSquiggle

DIY Air Freshener Ideas

Your apartment could be as clean and organized as possible, but if the space doesn’t smell great, your guests will only be focused on the unpleasant scent. I always stock up on candles, but those seem to disappear after only a few weeks.

DIY Air Freshener IdeasInstead of buying a variety of candles and diffusers, consider making your own air freshener, which will smell just as good, but hardly cost you anything! Plus, you can customize DIY scents to your exact preferences. Fill your home with heavenly scents with any of these DIY air freshener ideas:

Reed Diffuser

Reed diffusers can cost up to $40, but there’s no need to shell out that kind of cash. With only four items, you can make your own reed diffuser right at home.

DIY Air Freshener Ideas - Reed Diffuser

First, fill a vase of your choosing with approximately 20 to 25 drops of essential oil. The essential oil you decide on is completely up to you, but I like to use scents like peppermint, cinnamon or spruce during the holiday season. Next, pour in 1/4 cup baby oil to fill up the remainder of the vase. Place four to five bamboo skewers or rattan diffuser sticks into the solution.

You can flip the sticks every few days to freshen the scent. Place a different diffuser in each room of your apartment so they all smell wonderful.

Simmer Pot

A few hours before your guests arrive, put together this simple concoction in your kitchen. After smelling how divine this simmer pot is, you may never go back to candles. Fill a stock pot with 2/3 cup water, one sliced lemon, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and a few sprigs of rosemary.

DIY Air Freshener Ideas - Simmer PotYou can let the mixture simmer for an entire day, adding more water as needed. Your apartment will be filled with the scent of warm vanilla and fresh citrus (you may never want to leave).

Spray Air Freshener

If you prefer to use a spray air freshener, this option is easy to make as well. This particular spray is best for the bathroom, as it can rid a space of odors quickly.

DIY Air Freshener Ideas -Spray Air FreshenerFill a spray bottle with 6 ounces of filtered water, 1 ounce rubbing alcohol and 20 to 40 drops of essential oil. Jasmine and lavender are great relaxing scents for the bathroom. Remind yourself to create a new mixture once a month to keep your bathroom smelling fresh.

Deodorizer

This is another air freshener option that typically works best in smaller spaces like a bathroom or a closet. Fill a wide-mouthed mason jar with eight to 12 drops of your favorite essential oil (bigger rooms require more oil) and 1/2 cup of baking soda. Yep, it’s that easy!

DIY Air Freshener Ideas - DeodorizerTo allow the scent to travel throughout the space, cut a piece of cardstock to fit the inside of the mason jar ring and poke tiny holes in the paper using a needle. If you’d like, you can decorate the jar with colorful washi tape or add food coloring to fit the rest of your apartment decor.

Potpourri

Potpourri doesn’t just smell lovely, it adds a touch of color and beauty to your apartment too. If you don’t know how to make potpourri, it’s easy. It requires the use of some dried flowers and essential oil.

DIY Air Freshener Ideas- PotpourriGather your favorite flowers, like lavender and roses, and tie them together at the stems with some twine. Hang them upside down for a few weeks, allowing them to fully dry out. Next, put the heads of the flowers into a jar and add a few drops of essential oil. Close the lid and let the buds absorb the oil for a week or so. Afterward, transfer your potpourri to a decorative bowl or vase. You can even add in a few herbs to boost the aroma.

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DIY- Air Freshener Ideas - Fill your home with heavenly scents witH these DIY air freshener ideas!

Photo Credit: LyzaKat Tomillosoimeldahadi fooladiTricia AdamsSimon Davison

Quick Cleaning Hacks for Apartment Dwellers

cleaninghacks

No matter how much you clean, there’s always something else that needs your attention. Whether it’s mopping floors, vacuuming up the evidence of your last snack, or scraping soap scum, cleaning your apartment can take up all of your time. But there’s no need to succumb to never-ending scrubbing and wiping. Test out these seven cleaning hacks to help speed things along.

1. Steam the Microwave

Some of the best cleaning tips involve microwave ovens – who would’ve thought? Caked on food and greasy splatters are a chore to clean off the walls of a microwave. Instead of committing to extended periods of scrubbing and wiping, fill a microwave-safe bowl with half water and half vinegar, set the timer for 5 minutes, and hit start. As the water heats up, the steam loosens that caked-on mess, so you can go right in after the microwave dings and easily wipe it up – no elbow grease required!

2. Multi-task

Don’t stress about getting it all done at once; it’s okay to clean in bits and spurts. Use the time you spend waiting around to finish up some simple cleans:

  • Clean the kitchen sink and counters while you wait for the microwave to ding or the water to boil.
  • Sweep the kitchen floor while the oven preheats, and load the dishwasher while you wait the last few minutes for your food to bake.
  • In the bathroom, wipe down the mirrors while you swish the mouthwash around in your mouth, or even one handed while you brush your teeth. Expert tip: use newspaper for a streak- and lint-free shine.
  • Don’t just stand around waiting for the bathtub to fill or the shower water to heat up. Use that time to wipe down the sink, clean the fixtures, and quickly run the brush around the toilet bowl during the time you’d usually spend checking your phone.
  • Once you’re in the shower, don’t think the cleaning has to stop. Soap up, rinse off, and then attack those tiles with a squeegee.

3. Give the Shower Head the Night Off

Grab a plastic bag large enough to enclose your shower head. Check it for holes, and if it looks sturdy, grab a rubber band and a bottle of vinegar, too. Detach your shower head and place it in the plastic bag, then add enough vinegar to cover it. Finally, use the rubber band to secure the top of the bag. Your shower head will soak overnight, looking clean and fresh just in time for your morning shower!

4. Get Organized

Keep all of your cleaning products in one easily accessible place, so you won’t waste time hunting them down when it’s time to do chores. A hanging shoe organizer makes it easy to keep all those bottles, sprays, sponges, wipes, and brushes handy. Secure it inside a closet or pantry door, or even on the inside of the bathroom door for quick access. As for the trash bags, never hunt for a new one to line your trash can again. Store them in the bottom of your can, so each time you remove one, you can simply grab the next.

5. Banish the Pet Hair

All that pet hair becomes a huge, annoying mess to clean up, but we’ve got a hack you’ve probably never thought of before! Simply whip out your squeegee and run it over your pet’s favorite places, picking up cat and dog hair with very little effort.

6. Blend It Up

Yes, there are times when you need to take your blender apart or run it through the dishwasher, but there’s no need to do so each time you use it. For a quick and easy clean up, fill your blender with soapy water (just a drop of dish liquid will do). Then turn it on just as if you were mixing up your favorite smoothie. This only takes about 30 seconds, just make sure you don’t forget to rinse it thoroughly afterwards - soapy smoothies aren’t known to be the best flavor!

7. Clean up Funky Smells

Vinegar works wonders on many things that make your home smell unpleasant. If lingering cooking smells are the problem, leave a bowl of vinegar out overnight to banish them. Spray it on counter tops and appliances to naturally deodorize them. You can even run it through the dishwasher to get rid of lingering odors.

Apartment Guide is your go-to source, whether you’re looking to relocate or just searching for ways to make apartment living easier. Visit Apartment Guide today to find the apartment of your dreams! And don’t forget to share your cleaning hacks with us on Facebook and Twitter!