5 Tips for Eliminating Odors

It’s spring cleaning time again, so we’re offering five tips on how to clear the air and get rid of any nasty lingering odors in your home.

natural cleaning
Baking soda and vinegar just keep showing up in cleaning tips. If you haven’t tried this pet safe, environmentally friendly cleaning method, it’s time you did. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Clear the drains: Garbage disposals are notorious for getting stinky, but even drains without disposals can get funky when they’re clogged. You might not even notice yet that the the sink is draining slowly, but whatever’s down there is stinking up the place. Start by pouring down a mixture of baking soda and vinegar followed by very hot water. If that doesn’t do the trick, call a plumber, or your maintenance department if you rent.
  2. Keep the humidity down: mold and mildew thrive in humid environments, so keeping your home well ventilated is key. Although mold doesn’t typically have an odor, so mildew is the most likely culprit when your home smells musty. If your bathroom doesn’t have a fan, open the window after each shower (or during if possible), and create as much of a cross breeze as you can by leaving the bathroom door open. Wiping down the shower/tub and sink after use also helps to cut back on mildew growth.
  3. Clean soft surfaces: Fabric absorbs odor, so to get your home smelling truly fresh you’ll want to take down all your drapes to wash them (take them to a laundromat with industrial sized machines). You’ll also want to either rent a carpet shampooer or hire a professional cleaner if you have large area rugs or carpeting. Hiring someone is the best route to go because they’ll be able to clean your upholstery as well.
  4. Banish smokers to the outdoors: This may seem obvious, but tobacco smoke deposits tar on all surfaces it comes into contact with, so the smell of one cigarette lingers for ages. To keep your home smelling fresh, smoke outside.
  5. DIY odor eliminators: Most of us know the old trick of keeping an open box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb odors, but that trick applies to more places than the fridge. Plus, coffee grounds do the same thing, so before you throw out your used grounds, consider saving them. A jar full of used, dried coffee grounds soaks up stink just as well as baking soda.

Country Living’s tips for downsizing

We came across this Country Living article earlier this week and decided it’s a must-share. We’ve given lots of advice in the past about moving and how to make a smooth transition to a new home, but we’ve never shared anything about what to keep when you’re downsizing.

Alvern Gardens
Residents of Alvern Gardens have access to green space around the property for grilling, setting out patio furniture, and even planting their own small gardens, so moving here hardly feels like downsizing at all.

A fair number of our new residents are moving to apartments after living in houses for several years, and although they’re relieved that Alvern Gardens Apartments feature spacious layouts and included extra storage, there’s usually some stuff that has to go. Country Living advises putting special mementos, family heirlooms, and collections amassed over the years in storage rather than throwing them away. These are things that are important to you and your family, so they’re worth keeping in a safe space. For our part, we recommend buying plastic bins with tightly sealing lids to store those things securely. The article also notes the importance of wiping all personal information from electronics before getting rid of them, a key step that many people forget.

We also agree one hundred percent that important documents must be kept safe through a move. A small filing cabinet or even a filing box doesn’t take up much space and will help you keep your life organized.

Are you downsizing? Consider making Alvern Gardens your new home! We have a couple of three bedroom apartments available right now, and at 822 square feet with additional storage included in rent, we’re confident that you won’t have to compromise much on space. Call us at 412-561-4663 or email us at alverngardens@yahoo.com and be sure to ask about our move-in special.

Looking for a new home? Check out Alvern Gardens!

Alvern Gardens is currently offering a special on pet friendly three bedroom apartments: second month’s free rent and no pet fee! There are only a few three bedroom apartments available, so if you’re interested, call 412-561-4663 today for a tour.

Alvern Gardens
Residents of Alvern Gardens have access to green space around the property for planting their own small gardens.

The on-site leasing office is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Fridays. Walk-ins are welcome during these hours. If you’d like to schedule a tour outside of these hours, agents are available by appointment on weekday evenings and Saturday mornings.

The rent for the 822 sq ft three bedrooms is $815/month plus electric, all other utilities are included in rent, including heat, cooking gas, and hot water. All apartments are cable and internet ready (Comcast is the provider).

The spacious layout features separate living and dining rooms, a coat closet by the front door, and a linen closet by the bathroom. The apartments are equipped with brand new wall-to-wall carpeting, a full-size gas stove and refrigerator, ample cabinet space in the kitchen, and a ceiling fan in the dining room. Additional storage is included with each apartment.

Residents have full control over the radiator heat and are welcome to install as many window air conditioning units as they desire. All windows come with screens, locks, and stays, and are designed for easy ac installation.

Coin-operated laundry facilities are located in the basement. Four apartments share one facility, and there is a change machine in the on-site leasing office for the convenience of our residents.

The on-site dog park is open to residents and their pups during daylight hours. Plus, with pool season fast approaching, it’s worth noting that Alvern Gardens has a pool.

pool

Parking is on street, first come, first serve, with permit-only off street parking included with certain units. Garages are available for rent for $55/month.

Alvern Gardens is situated just a five minute walk from the St. Anne’s T stop, where both the Red and Blue Lines stop every five to twenty minutes. This quiet residential neighborhood is just minutes from shopping, restaurants and recreational areas such as the Ice Castle skating rink and South Park.

If Alvern Gardens sounds like the place for you, please call us at 412-561-4663 to inquire about the application process.

Urban gardening is about to get easier

IKEA, the Swedish master of innovation in affordable home designs, is going to unveil their new hydroponic counter top garden kit next month.

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Here’s an example of a DIY hydroponic garden. flickr photo by J Wynia 

It’s OK, we didn’t know what hydroponic gardening was before this either. Hydroponic means growing plants in water instead of soil. The advantage seems to be that it can be done in a much smaller space—and it can be done year-round! There’s no price yet for IKEA’s KRYDDA/VÄXER, but we are definitely intrigued by the possibilities.

Now, as it turns out, people have hacked other IKEA products into hydroponic gardens long before the company came out with their own. So for anyone interested in an even more DIY option, check out ELIOOO.

Now that we know that hydroponics exists and seems to be fairly simple to DIY, we’re excited to start growing our own veggies, no matter the season, no matter how busy we are, no matter how much space we may or may not have.

An Ode to Vinegar

We’ve touted the wonders of white distilled vinegar as a natural cleaner on many occasions. Today, we’d like to share something new that we’ve read: vinegar can help prevent mold growth! We’re not sure if it’s true, but since it seems to be true that it prevents mildew growth, why can’t it do the same for mold?

natural cleaning
Baking soda and vinegar just keep showing up in cleaning tips. If you haven’t tried this pet safe, environmentally friendly cleaning method, it’s time you did. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
This is how it apparently works: if you find mold growing, clean it up by soaking it in vinegar for an hour then wiping the area clean. After it’s all cleaned up, spray some more vinegar and just leave it there. Reapply every few days. Because vinegar is safe and non-toxic, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give this a try.

Now, obviously this is no substitute for finding and repairing the source of the moisture that’s allowing the mold to grow in the first place. It is, however, a nice way to give yourself peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to stop mold from growing.

Have you heard of this trick? What other uses do you know of for vinegar? Share in the comments below.

Leafy Greens: Good for More Than Just Salad

Did you know that houseplants are good for your health? It’s true: plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, improving air quality for humans. Plus, green stuff livens up a home and makes it feel cozier and more inviting.

Here are three tips for adding leafy greens to your home:

  1. If you’re new to keeping houseplants, start with something easy. Hearty plants that do well in low light and don’t require much watering are easiest for beginners. Check out this site for some really easy plants to keep. Our personal favorite is mother-in-law’s tongue, also known as a snake plant.
  2. Ready for plants that have been proven by NASA to help improve air quality? Check out this info-graphic, and note t
    pet friendly apartments
    While house plants are good for humans, not all varieties are pet friendly, so make sure you check plants before bringing them into your home.

    hat there’s some overlap between these plants and the hearty varieties that are easy to grow: snake plants, spider plants, and peace lilies.

  3. Pet owners should note that not all houseplants are pet friendly. The ASPCA has an expansive list of plants that are toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses. Filter this list by your specific pet(s) to know which plants to avoid. For a quick look at plants that are both cat and dog friendly, check out this site.
  4. Bonus tip: get a spider plant. They’re easy to keep alive because they thrive in low light and don’t require frequent watering, they’re proven by NASA to help purify the air, and they’re both cat and dog friendly. What more could you ask for? Well: if you know someone who already has a spider plant, they can break of a sprig for you to plant for free! As your own plant grows, you can break off its offshoots and plant them in new pots. Soon, you’ll have a spider plant for every room in your home.

Cooking Safety for the Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing, and with one huge feast behind us and the next family gathering just a few weeks away, we decided it’s time to share some important cooking safety tips.

  • Never leave the stove unattended. Even if it’s a turkey that’ll take three hours, make sure someone is keeping an eye on things at all times.

    pet friendly apartments
    Keep us out of the kitchen with a baby gate.
  • Ventilate by opening windows if you don’t have a range hood. Even just a cracked window can make all the difference.
  • Keep kids and pets out of the kitchen. If don’t already have a baby gate for your own little ones, invest in one for when you have young guests to make sure they don’t wander into the kitchen and start turning knobs on the stove.
  • Read the recipe first. You’ve probably glanced at the ingredients list before heading to the grocery store, but if you’re trying a new recipe, it’s always a good idea to read the recipe in full before getting started.
  • Don’t do too much at once—prep what you can the day before. When you have too many pots to watch at once, things can get overwhelming and messy. To keep things simple and organized, mix dry ingredients for baked goods the day before, and make whatever else you can ahead of time as well.
  • Recruit an assistant—but not five. Having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen is nice, but too many people can create chaos. You might put someone to work chopping or measuring ingredients in the dining room, but make sure the kitchen doesn’t get too crowded.
  • Do it potluck style and instruct each guest to provide something. To keep things organized and make sure no one brings doubles, post a list online somewhere for everyone to edit. You can do this through comments on a Facebook event, in a shared Google Doc, or any other web app that’s equal to the task.

Home investments for the holidays

Do you have family coming to stay for Thanksgiving? There are all kinds of things you might need for your home when the whole clan rolls in for the holidays, so we thought we’d compile a list of odds and ends that might be useful if you don’t own them already:

  • A plunger will be a lifesaver for your overworked toilet.
    Pittsburgh in Autumn
    Festive fall foliage can been seen all over Pittsburgh, and soon your family will be here for the holidays as well.
    By John [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Extra toilet paper will be a must, so even if you have a few rolls left, buy a jumbo sized backup pack.
  • Drain strainers for your kitchen sink and bathtub will save you the headache of clogs caused by built up food and hair.
  • If you’re hosting, you probably already have all the sleeping arrangements worked and won’t another air mattress, but make sure you have a spare pump and a patching kit ready to go just in case.
  • Your bathroom almost definitely doesn’t have enough towel racks for everyone, but crumpled up towels will stink of mildew after their first use. Luckily, folding drying racks are cheap and easy to store when you no longer need extra hanging space.
  • Child proofing equipment is a must if you have small children among your guests. You’ll want to at least get locks for your cabinet doors, and a lock for your your toilet seat would be a good investment as well.
  • Stock up on carpet cleaner (and all other cleaning products, for that matter) in case of spills.
  • If you have pets and don’t already use calming pheromones or other soothing agents, now is a good time to look into it. A Feliway plug-in will help keep your skittish cat calm in its suddenly full home.
  • Extra shoe storage will protect your flooring from the wintery mix likely to be blowing outside. Even just a plastic tray to set wet shoes on will be helpful.

So you have a new home to fill: Where should you shop?

Moving into a new home can be daunting, especially if you’re also on the market for new furniture for that new home. The good news is that there are plenty of options for saving money, and those options just keep getting better.

guest bedroom/home office
We found this futon at Walmart. Its black faux leather is just the right look for extra seating in a home office. Plus, it lets the room double as a guest bedroom.
  • Ask around. Most people have stuff they don’t use. From surplus silverware and china to old dining sets, if you ask enough friends and relatives, you can cobble together almost an entire household. If you have a trustworthy source, you could go so far as to get a mattress for super cheap. (Maybe even for free!) Though you shouldn’t accept upholstery without first giving it a thorough inspection. After all, your Aunt Marge might have an old sofa that she’ll give you if you’ll just come pick it up, but you might show up for it and realize it smells worse than her ash tray.
  • Go thrifting first. Spend a weekend visiting garage and estate sales, check your local Goodwill, visit flea markets. Any place that sells used items is going to have at least some of what you need for cheaper than if you were to buy it new. But thrift smart. Haggle for a lower price when possible, and don’t buy anything that’s so worn out that it’ll cost more to fix it than to buy the same thing new.

    home office/guest bedroom
    This desk is from IKEA, and the chair–believe it or not–is from Costco!
  • Buy new upholstery. Yes, coffee tables and shelving units are easy to find on the cheap and easy to fix up if they’re a little worn, but couches are a different story. Just like you should always buy mattresses and box-springs new, it’s safer to buy upholstery new. If you’re buying a ratty old thing with plans of re-upholstering, forget it. Unless you know how to do it yourself or know someone who’ll do it for cheap or even free, re-upholstering won’t save you money. Besides, old upholstery is dusty, musty, hard to clean, and possibly full of bedbugs. Safer to buy new for sure.
  • Comparison shop. Where you find the cheapest version of what you’re looking for will depend on what it is you need. Walmart’s furniture selection has gotten trendier over the years, but they still don’t have much beyond futons. Places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond regularly have sales, but you might have to wade past stuff aimed at college kids to find the classier items. Check TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods for smaller pieces like accent chairs and storage benches as well as decor to tie a room together. Amazon, Overstock.com, and Wayfair have competitive prices, but stick to free shipping to really keep that price low. IKEA is still an excellent place to get everything you need, especially if you browse their as-is section as well as the store itself.

Cleaning tips galore!

We’ve been scouring the web for the best tips on keeping a home spic and span. Here’s some of the best advice we’ve found:

  • A list of things that should be cleaned but are often overlooked. This slideshow reminds us of our previous post on cleaning mattresses and oft-overlooked spots in the kitchen. It adds a few key places, like the toothbrush cup and some very specific spots in the fridge. We’d just like to add, that once or twice a year, you should pull your fridge away from the wall and vacuum up all the debris that’s collected behind it. While you’re at it, your fridge’s filter should be cleaned regularly as well.
  • The best way to clean a microwave. This method is super easy, no scrubbing required, and it leaves your microwave sparkling and smelling fresh. Plus, this article offers some of the best step-by-step instructions we’ve found for this cleaning method.
  • These 20 home-cleaning hacks are pure gold. Some of them are similar to what we’ve shared before, but great advice never gets old.
  • Prepping for visitors involves more than just vacuuming (though vacuuming is key). We enjoy this list’s advice to put out fresh flowers to impress guests. And why wait for guests to de-clutter? A tidy, organized home is a happy, stress free home.