Ray Monczka Monthly
Supersize Your Curb Appeal
Spruce up your yard a cinch!
Admit it: You’re not exactly trying to keep up with the Joneses, but you do admire their landscaping.
Or at the very least, you know your own yard is due for an upgrade. Not only is landscaping important to the overall beauty of your home, it also impacts resale potential.
Consider these money-saving tips when giving your home’s surroundings that much-needed face-lift:
Take measurements of your space and know where the sun is
First, measure your space, and then draw it out to scale on grid paper, which will be very helpful when placing plants. Next, ask yourself how much sun or shade each area gets. Keeping in mind whether the area faces north or south, etc. is also important: Putting a shaded plant in a spot with plenty of sun will likely kill the plant.
Choose Your Focal Point
What is the focal point of your landscape? Whether it’s a large tree or a wide picture window, knowing your focal point is the first step of ensuring the flow of your entire landscape.
Consider Plants Native to Your Climate
Visit the gardening center of your local home improvement store for recommendations. When in doubt, always choose a native plant.
Use Coupons (online codes and apps!) and Buy on Sale
Coupons can save you tons when food shopping – and the same goes for landscaping. The process of designing, preparing and installing your new landscape might take several months. And it’s no secret that it can be costly – even if you do it all yourself. Before you dive in, be on the look-out for coupons and specials from local retailers.
When the time comes to roll up your sleeves and get to work, always remember to give plants the proper space that they need. Do not crowd the plants together. This is an easy mistake to make when plants are small, but it won’t be long before they grow to their determined size. If a plant tag says that it will grow 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide, allow for that space.
Use paper collars to identify plants
On the heels of the advice above, try this tip: Cut cardboard tubes from toilet paper into one-third sections to encircle the seed. This will keep you from plucking out your young plants. When you sow seeds, it can be hard to tell little weeds from the young sprouts.
Bury stones to make a mow strip
This nugget of wisdom will save time on yard maintenance for years to come: If you're building a fence, a retaining wall or a planter, set a course of protruding stones in the soil beneath it. That way, your mower can cut all the grass—no trimming by hand needed. The stones should protrude about 4 in. from the wall and stand at least an inch above the soil so grass doesn't creep over them. You will still have to pull out grass from between the stones occasionally.
Recycle laundry detergent containers
Got laundry? Then you’ve got a watering can. Instead of throwing away empty laundry detergent containers, rinse them out thoroughly and then recycle them for watering plants. Drill 1/8-in. holes in the top of the cap, and a 1/2-in. hole just above the handle to relieve pressure so the water flows freely.
How to clean out your closet
(Like, for real)
Alright, if you’re reading this, chances are, your closet(s) may stand to benefit from a much-needed thorough spring cleaning.
But are you excited about doing it? Yeah, probably not. And you’re not alone.
Closet cleaning ranks right up there with getting a root canal or potty training your kids: We dread it like all get out, but after it’s done, we feel so much better.
And so, in the spirit (and season) of organization, here are three effective approaches to getting the job done:
The Three Months Method
If your closet is chock-full of barely-ever-worn articles of clothing that you basically hold on to for nostalgic reasons, then The Three Months Method is for you. Here’s how to start: Working through your closet one piece at a time, leave be the clothes you wear on a regular basis—your go-to shirts and sweaters, everyday jeans, etc. Pull out anything that does not fall into that category and lay those clothes on your bed where you will then place them in one of two piles: The first is the No pile, which is for clothes you know right off the bat you want to part with; the second pile, the Maybe pile, is for everything you are unsure about. After everything on your bed has been put in either the No pile or the Maybe pile, bag up the No pile and prepare to donate to charity. As for the Maybe pile, bag it up—and here’s the important part—place it in a remote area of your home where you seldom go and keep that pile there for three months. If after three months you have not gone back to that Maybe pile to retrieve something you think you need, pitch the entire bag.
Swedish Death Cleaning
The name sounds a bit morbid and harsh…because it is. But it’s also ideal for those who aren’t playing around. Swedish Death Cleaning is the brainchild of Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish artist who lists her age as “80 to 100,” and here’s the crux of it: Getting rid of things that other people won’t want to deal with after you’ve passed on. This method calls for you to categorize everything in your home—clothes, furniture, you name it—and then assess every item through the prism of Would anyone really want this after I’m gone? If the answer is no—and you really don’t care for or use the item now, then toss it. Magnusson is the author of the book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which explains the method in detail.
The “Don’t Fantasy Dress” Rule
Today’s last tip comes from style expert Adam Glassman, who serves as the creative director of O, The Oprah Magazine. And as the name suggests, “Don’t Fantasy Dress,” is an approach which calls for complete and utter honesty: If an item fits the lifestyle you want but not the lifestyle you live, get rid of it. So, if your closet is filled with large-brimmed derby hats because you want to attend tea parties ad horse races—but never do, then say goodbye to the hats, Likewise, if your closet boasts an insane amount of golf wear, but you haven’t golfed in years, then pack those items up.
Do any combination of the above, and you’ll be amazed by how de-cluttered your closet will become in no time.