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Conquer the Toxic Dust Hidden in Your Home

Conquer the Toxic Dust Hidden in Your HomeMany of us don’t need a substantial push to swap harmful cleaning chemicals for less intrusive alternatives. Who likes dry, bleach-stained calloused hands anyway? As the dangers of indoor dust are well known, it’s becoming apparent the invisible, long term effects of our daily cleaning habits, and lack thereof, can amount to terrifying heights of harm. A recent study that “…analysed 26 peer-reviewed papers, as well as one unpublished dataset, from 1999 onwards to examine the chemical make-up of indoor dust…” found nearly 90% of dust samples contained particles linked to cancer and infertility, as reported by The Guardian. These findings were due in no part to small sample size: “The studies covered a wide range of indoor environments, from homes to schools and gymnasiums across 14 states.”

With the satisfactory appearance of Clorox’s clean glaze over countertops and the refreshing scent of Febreze floating like a lazy cloud from one room to the next, just when our homes seem cleanest, we may actually be most vulnerable. Altering what you buy, from harsh chemical cleaners to safer alternatives, isn’t the only thing you can do to curb indoor pollution, and doesn’t account for much of the problem. Your clean home houses hidden hazards.

The problem of indoor pollutants may appear at first glance counterintuitive. How could vanquishing bacteria, viruses, and who-knows-what-else from dirty floors and countertops, bathrooms and kitchens, ultimately harm us? Your everyday cleaners aren’t particularly handy for the real problem. The issue is that some chemicals in our couches and mattresses, our vinyl flooring and carpeting, contain flame retardants, known to cause cancer, affecting the reproductive and nervous systems, and phthalates, found in personal care products and food packaging, which “have been linked to developmental problems in babies, hormone disruption, and are also thought to affect the reproductive system.”

These chemicals, especially when imprisoned in a house on lock-down for the winter, can accumulate and mingle with dust in your home. “The researchers highlighted 45 toxic chemicals in indoor dust, 10 of which were present in 90% or more of the dust samples – these included flame retardants, fragrances and phenols.” As The Guardian points out, these chemicals, though banned in some products, like bottles and diapers, may not be banned in others, like walls and flooring.

But this isn’t a matter to just throw up our hands over, declaring all proactivity hopeless and ineffective. Singla, from the Environmental Science and Technology journal, writes there are steps we can take to reduce exposure to this toxic dust. One key is, when you are performing regular cleaning duties like wiping off the counters or sweeping, don’t tackle these tasks with dry brooms or paper towels. Use damp mops and cloths to reduce levels of dust. Whereas merely dry materials might kick the dust back in the air, damp materials will cause the dust to clump and aggregate. Also, vacuum regularly, as the suction disposes of the toxic dust in its container. And, of course, activism, to demand accountability, is the surest way to reduce exposure to these chemicals.

Although the problem of indoor pollution is extremely concerning, it’s in your power to reduce exposure. Besides changing the way you clean your home, you can also purchase plants, which help reduce indoor pollution by cleaning the air you breathe. And don’t be afraid to open up your windows when the days are brilliant, and the soft breeze of spring warmly soothes the plants and animals, blooming and bustling outside, stirred by the chance to enter your home like an old, visiting friend.

How to Discuss Clutter with Your Roommate

How to Talk about Clutter with Your RoommateIf you’re living independently for the first time, with a roommate or significant other, you’ll encounter a universal problem: people organize their lives differently. What seems to be clutter to one person will be organized chaos to another. This problem may appear irresolvable to some. If your roommate or significant other doesn’t think about what counts as clutter in the same way you do, how can you change their mind? Luckily, you don’t have to.

Organizing a shared space isn’t about changing anybody’s idea of what is a mess and what isn’t. Actually, it’s just a matter of communication, like most other things, and respect. You live in a common space: you have common goals. Talk about them.

Shared Interests

If you talk about clutter only when you’re annoyed about it, the way you communicate with your roommate or significant other may take the form of blame. You might say, “Why haven’t you picked up your laundry?” Or, “Why is this room still not clean?” This doesn’t do anyone any good.

You live with someone. If you haven’t explicitly decided on what kind of organization you both would like to see for each room, then you cannot appeal to an agreed upon goal. The sentence, “Why is this room still not clean?” appears to be grounded in an agreed upon norm. And that’s why it’s so disorienting and, sometimes, maddening, when people talk this way without establishing, beforehand, what this agreed upon goal is.

Talk about your shared interests, what each of you hope to get from your home, and make compromises. But certainly do not wait until you are aggravated, annoyed, or irritable to bring up how your shared space should be organized.

State how you both want to use the room and accommodate each other’s visions. If your visions contradict, maybe split the space, or try to allocate different spaces for your separate visions.

Agree upon the appropriate items for the space. Then talk about how you’d like to see them stored when not in use.

Conclusion

Most of all be reasonable about your vision. You share space with another person. Sometimes you can’t get everything you want. No matter what you decide about organization, having a discussion about your goals, interests, and expectations is always healthy. And it’s certainly the best way to talk about clutter with your roommate or significant other.

Use These 2 Things to Maintain a Clean Car

How to Maintain a Clean CarWe all know this experience. You go to the car wash. You pay for a nice shine. You vacuum the seats and floors. And after a month, not only has the shine faded, but it looks like a dump on the inside. Follow these tips to maintain a clean interior throughout the winter.

Trash Cans

This idea might seem unappealing at first. Who wants a trash container to take up legroom in the car? And won’t it smell? But, especially if you don’t want to clean out your car every time you drive it, a secondary benefit of a trash can is to get you in the habit of cleaning out your car. Even if it means just taking out the trash once a month.

But obviously the primary benefit of having a trash can in your car is it eliminates the garbage. And it won’t take up too much space. Buy a small 3 or 5 gallon trash can with a lid. Once you get in the habit of taking the trash out of the car, you can get rid of the trash can.

Organizers

Invest in a good car organizer. Then purchase some car wipes to keep the interior shiny and clean. Also stock up on some baby wipes for any messy passengers. Place these cleaners and any objects or tools in the organizer.

With the trashcan and organizer, what else can be in your car? Once you get organized, cleaning will be the easiest part of owning a car. Even if you have a family, an organizing box will hold toys, crayons, books, and anything else you’ll need.

Now that the floor is clean and the dashboard wiped, the interior of your car will stay as clean as it came out of the factory.

3 Unhealthy Habits to Avoid this Winter

unhealthy holiday habitsThe holidays are just around the corner. What, with all the food temptations, warm, chocolate drinks, and electric blankets, how can you blame anyone for lounging around? The snow is great—when you’re not covered in it. And besides, the best time for a nap is when it’s cold outside, and the fireplace is going, right?

But some habits are developed during the winter months that are best left undeveloped. Here are some habits to avoid this winter season.

Hot Shower

After you’ve built a snowman and won a snowball fight, what can be better than taking a long, hot shower? Well, in terms of your skin, one thing better than taking a hot shower is not taking a hot shower. A hot shower can dry out your skin. And in the winter months, you don’t want to look like a snowman, do you? Prevent skin irritation and flaking by taking a cooler shower.

Diet

Is there such a thing as a “cheat month?” The fact is, your body doesn’t think so. It doesn’t matter how warm that hot chocolate is. Don’t let your diet die this winter. Be sure to include vegetables. And don’t just drink hot chocolate 24/7.

Exercise

Of course, dieting and exercise are on every healthy-habits list. But in the winter months exercise is especially important. In the warmer months, you’re outside more on average than you are in the winter months. Think about the times you’ve walked to the store, jogged on trails, or relaxed with friends at the park or at that outside restaurant. But in colder weather, it’s really easy for all that extra movement in your day to completely cease. Keep up on your exercise: it might be the only significant movement you get most days.

The holiday season is just around the corner. Don’t let your health take a holiday! Avoid these three holiday slumps to stay in shape this winter.

Boost Cell Phone Reception in Your Apartment

improve cell phone signal in apartmentNot much is more frustrating than trying to talk on the phone when your cellular reception is low. From broken sentences to incomplete words, the conversation is pretty much incomprehensible. The most obvious thing to do is keep your phone charged. A full battery guarantees the best hardware performance. But aside from finding the sweet spot in your apartment, there are a few things you can do to improve your cell phone service.

Wi-Fi Calling

Most phones now have a Wi-Fi assistance option. This is certainly the future of voice calling, and it’s free. All you need is an internet connection. And if your phone doesn’t have a Wi-Fi assisted option, you can simply forego your phone’s default voice calling by downloading any of the number of free Wi-Fi calling apps available on app stores. You can also get free texts through these apps also.

Purchase a Femtocell

A femtocell is a powered base station that connects to your internet service in order to amplify your cell phone signal. It’s basically an in-house cell tower. Through the Wi-Fi, a femtocell bridges the gap between the cell phone tower signal and obstructions (such as your house, its walls, and objects inside the house). It also reduces the number of cell phones using the cell tower directly, thus improving your signal.

It’s a fairly inexpensive solution to what might be a long-term problem. Before you go out and purchase one, research which femtocell might be best for you.

Signal Booster

Another option is acquiring a signal booster through your wireless carrier. This device basically boosts signals from anywhere in your house. For instance, if you can get two bars when you stand nearby the microwave by the back door, placing a signal booster in that area will spread the signal throughout the house, and in many cases will improve upon it.

Basically one of the only free options for improving your cell signal is to connect your phone to Wi-Fi (if the option is available). No matter what you choose, be sure to research to determine the best option to fit your needs.

 

Prepare Your Car for Winter

prepare car for winterSometimes breaking down in the summer and spring months isn’t too much of a hassle: especially if the weather is nice. But breaking down in sub-zero temperatures is another story. Prepare your car this winter by following these tips.

Check Your Battery

According to TheAA, the most common cause of breakdown is battery related. And battery related issues are exacerbated in winter months. Because of the cold weather, batteries have lower outputs levels, accept charges at lesser levels, and carry increased loads (lights, heat, wipers, etc.).

To avoid issues in the winter months, TheAA recommends replacing your battery if it is five years or older, especially if your car has trouble starting up. An easy preventative maintenance step you can take to decrease the load on your battery at startup is to turn everything electrical off for the first few seconds when you start your car. Avoid a breakdown this winter by taking care of your battery.

Wipers

Do you remember the last time you bought windshield wipers? If not, it’s probably time to get a new set. You can find wipers made specifically for the winter at your local auto store. These wear down less from ice accumulation and remove ice from your windshield easier than non-winter wipers.

Tires Lose 1 Pound of Pressure per Every 10 Degree Drop

Well, according to TireRack.com, the actual equation is 2% per every 10-degree Fahrenheit drop. But for the average car tire requiring 30-50 psi for adequate inflation, the difference between the summer and winter temperature could lose you at least 5 psi in tire inflation. That difference could end up making your car slide on the snow. Be sure to check your psi periodically in the winter months to ensure your tires are up to the car manual’s specifications.

Car Wash

This might sound strange, but car washes are imperative in the winter months if you drive on roads that are constantly plowed and salted. The salt can cause rust on your car’s frame and break and gas lines.  Car washes will keep your car untouched by the dangers of winter-related rusting.

The winter months don’t only call for a change in attire. But they also demand certain preparations be made to your car. Get your car ready for the winter by following these tips.

Tips for Working from Your Apartment

working from homeWorking from home can be a huge blessing for some people: you can drink as much coffee as you want! For others, it can be a death sentence. From childcare and errands to cleaning the house and Sportscenter, some distractions you’ll find at home don’t exist at the workplace. But distractions don’t have to ruin the experience for you. These tips will help you make the most of working from home.

Create a Workspace

This is one of the easiest ways to remove distractions. Create a workspace you’ll enjoy seeing and working in. Make it extremely personal. You can do this: you have the freedom of your home. But whatever you do, leave that television in the living room. And never bring your phone or phone charger to the workspace. You’ll probably want a coffee pot though, right?

Dress like You’re Working

I know, it’s very tempting to stay in your pajamas all day. But it might also encourage you to take a nap, watch TV, or check your Instagram. This is because you’re basically dressed to lounge around. Continue with your normal morning routine when you work from home, but instead of going in to work, you’ll be able to just go to a different room in your apartment. You’ll feel more energetic and ready to work if you don’t make working from home like a day-off.

Take a Walk

When you’re feeling drowsy or uninspired, simply take a break. But don’t just watch TV or check your phone. Get outside the apartment. Take a walk around the neighbor or exercise for half an hour. Make sure you’re off the clock. But getting your mind off work every once in a while might actually boost productivity and energy.

Working from home can be extremely rewarding. Follow these tips and you’ll be just as productive, if not more so, than when you drive to the office.

Storage Hacks for Apartment Living

Apartment Storage IdeasEver notice how densely populated areas have tall buildings? It’s because when you run out of horizontal space, you have to think vertically. If you lived in a dorm room during college, you’ll understand this principle. Most dorm room roommates position their beds over their desks and dressers. It’s efficient, and it opens the rest of the room for other things (like a table tennis table).

This means lack of closet and storage space doesn’t have to be the last word on your storage capabilities. Here are some hacks for making the most of your apartment space.

Use the Walls

Get some command strips. Hang everything. From your hats and hair ties to your shoes (the trick is to tie them together) and backpacks. You can probably think of more things to hang. You can also buy bags just for the purpose of placing things in them to hang on your wall.

Bed Lifts

If your bed doesn’t sit high off the ground, take a tip from dorm rooms: raise it. You’ll be able to fit a lot more things under there than you might expect: dressers, book shelves, desks. The possibilities are endless. You could even purchase a portable clothes rack and hang your clothes underneath.

Bookshelf Storage

This one is kind of obvious if you keep your bookshelf vertical. But try placing it on its side. Then you can purchase linen baskets and place anything inside of it (like charging cables, papers, extra blankets, and sheets, etc.) without making your room appear cluttered. Using linen baskets to create storage blocks in your bookshelf gives you the advantage of storage space without the messy appearance.

Don’t Hang Clothes

You read that right. Instead, go the military way and roll your clothes in their drawers. If rolled correctly, they won’t wrinkle. And you won’t have to dig through your drawers to find the perfect outfit.

If you feel like you don’t have enough space in your apartment, you may not be using the space efficiently. Use these hacks to maximize your apartment space.

A Guide to Healthy Eating

Guide to Eating Healthy Post ImageRemember the food pyramid? That’s out. The United States Department of Agriculture created a new visualization for the healthiest way to eat. It’s called MyPlate.

Many reasons are cited for this change. One is the pyramid itself doesn’t exactly tell you what a typical plate conducive to a healthy lifestyle might look like. That’s really where MyPlate comes from. It shows you healthy portions in relation to a plate: thus the name.

Offered, also, are suggestions for a healthier lifestyle. We’ve listed some highlights for you.

All Choices Are Important

Your focus, when selecting foods and making dinner, should be to select healthy choices within each food category: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. This means, first of all, to include each group in your food choices. Next, it means to be selective about choosing what to get from each group. For instance, whole grain bread is better for you than enriched bread. Most of all, remember what you eat and drink matters, every time you eat and drink.

Lower Saturated Fats, Sodium, and Added Sugars

One of the easiest ways to improve your diet is to not fill that table salt shaker. Salt is an essential part of making food: for its taste. But don’t overdo it. Don’t add more than recommended in the recipe and don’t sprinkle salt on that steak right before you eat it.

The same is true of sugar. Just leave it in the jar. After you wean yourself off both, your taste buds will adjust. And pretty soon you’ll have an aversion to added salt and sugar. It’ll be worth it in the long run.

Set Small Goals

Setting up big, nearly unreachable goals from the beginning is just setting yourself up to fail. It’s discouraging to not reach a goal. And having a huge goal at the outset may prevent you from eating healthy in the first place. Avoid this by setting small goals: maybe don’t reach for the table salt one day a week, then two, and so on.

It’s fun to set goals. And, once it becomes part of your lifestyle, it’s easy to eat well. Share your tips for eating healthy below!

Things to Consider before Signing the Lease

tips when searching for apartmentsThink about What You Can’t Change

The most important thing to remember before signing a lease is you can’t change some things. This just means that some things you should be certain that you’ll be okay with before you sign the lease. If not, you may end up upset, with eight months left on your lease. Put yourself in the best situation by remembering the following things when exploring your rental options.

Property Manager

You cannot change your property manager. Of course, your property manager might change while you’re a resident, especially if you are a long-term resident. But you need be sure that your personality will mesh with your property manager’s personality and communication style. That’s not to say you’ll have to be the same person or you’ll need to be friends, but just that you can understand where they’re coming from.

Neighbors

Your neighbors will change. But some neighbors may stay at the apartment property longer than you. Before you sign the lease, it’s a good idea to attend a community event the apartment community is involved in. Or, even, hold one yourself. Have a cookout, or set one up with the property management staff, for the community.

Seasons

Like most people, you’ll probably visit different apartment communities during the spring and summer seasons. But a good air conditioner in the summer doesn’t equal a good furnace in the winter. Ask neighbors about how the apartments change with the seasons.

Lease

You must read your lease. You can’t change it once you sign it. It’ll tell you the responsibilities of your property manager and your own obligations while you’re a resident. This will be your guide for certain policies as well. Most of all, if you find something unacceptable in your lease, talk with the property manager about it. You might get it changed.

Think as if Your Apartment is Permanent

The best thing to do when looking at apartments is to pretend you’ll be living at the apartments permanently. This may open up your eyes to things you may not focus on. For instance, you might think to ask about how old the water heater is. You might think about the water pressure, and how much utilities generally cost.

Pretending your apartment will be permanent is a good way to come up with questions to understand your move-in situation better. Then there’ll be no surprises. Remember, if you have any questions about the apartment you’re visiting, don’t leave it unanswered. Ask the property manager and do your own research.