How to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays on a Budget

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As home decor enthusiasts, the holidays are an opportunity to swap out our everyday decor for pieces that add some magic of the season to our homes. You could even say that decorating for the holidays is kinda like our Super Bowl!

New to holiday decorating? Go to the store and it might seem intimidating and kind of expensive to transform your space from top to bottom. But we are here to reassure you that you don’t have to go out and buy tons of new decorations to give your space that extra sparkle. Instead, there are plenty of budget-friendly (and free!) ways to deck the halls.

First, Choose a Color Scheme

If you want to make a big impact without buying tons of new items, we recommend starting with a color scheme. It can be gold and red, blue and silver, or honestly any color palette that you personally like. Choosing a few key colors/metallics will make decorating a lot easier.

Stick with your color scheme and we promise you’ll end up buying fewer items to decorate your home for the holidays. You can leave a lot of your everyday decor up in your space, but add these key colors for a pop of holiday glam that will really make your space look different from the everyday.

Wrap Faux Gifts

This tip may seem a little silly, but it’s actually a great one! If you’re an Amazon Prime enthusiast like us, then you probably get packages on the reg. Save a few of these shipping boxes, then use them as holiday decor.

It’s as simple as it sounds. Wrap the empty boxes with pretty wrapping paper and ribbon – in your color scheme, don’t forget – and use them throughout your home.

We both use these “gifts” as bookends on our built-ins, and place them strategically throughout our homes for a budget-friendly holiday touch! It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

Use Grocery Store Finds (Food!)

One of our favorite holiday crafts is using fresh cranberries in glass hurricanes with candles throughout your home.

Cranberries are inexpensive and they add a colorful touch to your space. We especially love this idea, where you use water, faux greenery, cranberries, and floating candles to make a gorgeous centerpiece for your dining room table.

While you’re at the store, grab some cinnamon sticks too. You can group a few of these together in a mug and display on a shelf for a decoration that looks and smells good! You can also pick up some branches from the grocery store (or even better, your backyard!) to place in a tall vase in your home. This brings a winter touch to your home’s decor.

Get Cheap Faux Greenery from the Craft Store

During the holiday season, we’re at the craft store just about every weekend. (Seriously.)  And the one thing we recommend everyone picks up is some faux greenery. You can buy a bunch of small pieces for a steal and this greenery can be used all over your home.

Drape it on your mantle, put it on your dining room table, and add small pieces to your bookshelves. While you’re at it, pick up a few scented evergreen sticks. We love sticking these in the faux greenery to add a fresh winter scent to our spaces. Nothing says the holidays like the smell of fresh evergreen!

Gather Up and Display Your Holiday Cards

One of our favorite parts of the holiday season is all of the snail mail we receive. Instead of just throwing your holiday cards in a pile on your kitchen counter, get creative!

In the past, we’ve used a big chicken wire frame to display all of the cards we receive and we hang them up with clothespins. This acts as wall art and it’s fun for guests to see all of the cards from loved ones everywhere.

Another cool thing we do is save our holiday cards every year to make a little booklet of the many cards we receive. We display these booklets on our coffee tables so guests can flip through them when they visit. Plus, it’s a fun way to look back and see how families have changed over the years as this booklet gets bigger and bigger!

Go Crazy with Glass Ornaments

Glass ornaments are a major protip. You can buy a giant pack of ornaments for a few bucks. These always come in handy when we decorate our homes because they’re so versatile. Add some to a festive bowl, place some in a clear vase, and place a few next to holiday items on your shelves to add a sparkly touch!

Frame Special Holiday Moments

Don’t forget to change up your picture frames for the holidays!

We love the idea of framing special holiday moments and places that matter to you during the season. Want to save the most money? We channel our inner photographer and head around town to snap photos of favorite winter spots. The local ice skating rink, the big Christmas tree in town, a snowy tree … there are so many photo ops you can use to fill those frames! Or to make it easier, start a tradition now to take a special photo every year that you can use to display when you get out all of your holiday decorations.

We hope you feel inspired after reading this list to get in the spirit of the season. We promise you don’t have to spend big bucks to make your space feel special during the holidays. Turn on some holiday music, heat up some hot cocoa, and enjoy yourself as you deck your halls!

How to Do Noisy Home Improvement When You Have Neighbors

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As two girls who are constantly improving our homes, we’ve completed our fair share of DIY projects.

And in case you were wondering, most home improvement projects come with a fair amount of noise.

While this can obviously be disruptive to the people in your own home, it can be especially disruptive to your neighbors.

Luckily, because DIY projects are sort of our thing, we have some tried and true ways to tackle home improvement projects without making our neighbors hate us. We’ll discuss how these tips vary depending on your living situation, with one of us living in a condo building in the city, the other in a single-family home in the suburbs.

Home Improvement Projects in a Condo Building

I, Casey, live in a five-unit building in the heart of Chicago—and I’m super lucky. Why? Because I absolutely love all of my neighbors.

They all know about my passion for DIY and have come to embrace the noise that erupts from our unit every weekend or so.

However, the reason they love me in spite of that fact is because I’ve taken lots of the following measures to be as respectful as possible to everyone living under the same roof as me, especially with any of my large-scale projects.

Read Your Home Owners Association (HOA) Rules

Every HOA comes with its own rules. You should definitely give that little handbook a read before you start any projects.

Take note of what projects are allowed (sometimes you’re not allowed to make updates on the exterior of your unit/building for instance), what permits are required, and the times when construction can take place. Being up to date on the rules will come in handy when you tackle the next item on this list…

5 Sweet Garage Upgrades That Up Your Home’s Value

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Discuss Your Project At Your Next Building Meeting

In our building, we get together every few months to discuss finances, building issues, and other random items that pop up. Most condo buildings do this. Before my husband and I renovated our guest bathroom, we brought up our plan at our condo association meeting.

This was months before we were set to begin our project, but we wanted to get it on everyone’s radar and address any concerns ahead of time.

It ended up working out wonderfully because not only were our neighbors supportive, but we were able to gain insight on a few contractors our neighbors had used in their own homes!

At these meetings, it’s also important to give everyone your contact information so they can text or email you if things get too noisy or out of hand.

Giving your neighbors the go ahead to reach out at any point can potentially save you from headaches when the project begins. No one wants an angry neighbor pounding on their door!

Have a Plan for Extra Trash

In our building, we pay to have our trash and recycling hauled away each week. If our cans are overflowing, we face some extra charges and fines. When you’re gutting a space, you’re bound to have lots of trash, so make a plan to discard all of it.

Our plan was that we were able to pay our contractor to haul away all of the debris. This worked out perfectly because it didn’t hog up valuable space in our building’s crowded dumpster. Make a plan of attack before you start and let your neighbors know that you have things under control!

Always Keep Hallways and Common Areas Clean

Home improvement projects bring loads of dust and dirt into your home. And sometimes? The mess can spill into the hallway and common areas of your building. Be respectful. Keep those spaces as clean as possible. After a long day of DIY, don’t just clean up your own home, tackle those communal hallways too.

After we renovated our bathroom, I made sure to do a deep clean of the hallways and front of our building when the project was 100% finished. My neighbors appreciated it and I felt good knowing that our property was neat and tidy even after such a large construction project.

Stick to a Schedule

Your HOA may have specific rules on when you can do construction work. Ours didn’t have set hours, but we never started a project before 8 a.m. and tried to always finish by 7 p.m.

If we were up early and wanted to get moving, we would only do quiet tasks (getting out tools, taping walls, etc.) and we kept the loud tasks (like using the wet saw to cut tile!) to mid-day.

It’s also important to keep your neighbors in the loop when it comes to the timeline of your project. We thought our bathroom renovation would take four weeks, but it somehow extended into seven weeks. I emailed our neighbors a few times throughout the process to let them know that things were being pushed back and addressed any concerns. The new deadline ended up being a non-issue and I really believe it was because we were so open with our neighbors throughout the process.

Always Say Thank You

When we (finally!) completed our bathroom project, we left handwritten thank you notes on everyone’s front doors. We even went the extra mile and put coffee gift cards into each one. This was a simple way to say thanks for putting up with all of our noise and our neighbors really appreciated the gesture!

Home Improvement Projects in a Single-Family Home

While Casey lives in a condo in the city, I navigate these same noisy projects a little differently inside a single-family home located in the suburbs. Some of her tips are still helpful to consider, but the rules are slightly different for neighborly etiquette when you’re not living in such close quarters.

But even with the extra space a single family home offers, it’s still important to consider your neighbors when tackling large and noisy projects! Here’s how!

Physically Go Talk to Your Nearby Neighbors

Sounds simple enough, but it’s critically important to talk to your neighbors well in advance! Discussing your plans will avoid them feeling off-guard one the project (and noise) starts.

You also don’t want to cause alarm if they start seeing foreign vehicles from contractors or workers parked outside of your home while you’re away at work. Getting them in-the-know before the project starts will actually be to your advantage. Heck, get on their good side and maybe they could field a delivery if you’re running late or let a worker inside if needed. Neighbors want to help – in most cases – especially when they know what’s going on.

Secure a City Permit

Securing a permit, if your city/village requires one, is essential before starting any large-scale projects. (And this will protect you just in case a problem arises from one of your neighbors.) If they are unhappy about the noise, or dumpster placement, or anything else, and then they take action to report you, not having a permit will be a bigger problem than your neighbor’s complaints.

Start Inside Early and Move Outside Later

There have been plenty of times when we are knee-deep in a DIY project that we get up super early to continue. But, truly, saws are very noisy, so we typically wait for that step until it’s appropriate, or we take the time to get everything set up early (even if it is outside) and don’t cut until late in the morning.

Don’t waste time waiting for your neighbors to get up, but don’t go about your business waking them up either!

Let Your Neighbors Follow the Progress

An easy way to keep neighbors in the loop is to invite them in a time or two throughout the process to share your progress! Show them what you’re working on and how excited you are for the progress. Including your neighbors helps them feel special and they will be less inclined to be annoyed if things do get a little noisy or messy.

Overcommunicate

Overcommunicating is always a good idea to avoid confrontation. Don’t be afraid to let your neighbor know when the dumpster is scheduled to get picked up, any problems that may impact your deadline, when a large delivery is expected, etc. The more they know in advance on some of these larger “issues”, the fewer problems will arise. Use Nextdoor. Communicate, communicate and overcommunicate.

Keep Your Contractor up to Date Often

This overcommunication should also be applied to your contractors. Be sure to share with them your expectations on start times, end times, and any other issues that may impact the neighborhood. Don’t go to your contractor only after you’ve heard complaints or it’s become a full-blown problem. Being proactive and communicating your expectations in advance will hopefully help avoid any issues in your neighborhood.

Celebrate Together!

Now it’s time for the fun part! Once your noisy project is over, don’t be afraid to invite some of the neighbors over to check out the new space and enjoy a few cocktails while they’re there. We just had a large landscaping renovation happen that made our streets, sidewalks and overall curb appeal a huge mess for several weeks.

Once our patio was paved and the mess was cleared, we invited our neighbors over to enjoy the new space with some food, but most importantly, to thank them for their patience.

They were all so grateful and gracious, which gives me a lot more confidence to tackle another noisy project soon. Knowing I have their support makes the process a whole lot less stressful!


We hope these steps help you tackle your next noisy home improvement project while still keeping the peace. We’re no Mr. Rogers, but we’re confident you can tackle those DIY projects and still make it a beautiful day in the neighborhood for your neighbors.

When Your DIY Projects Will Fail

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We love a good do-it-yourself project. There’s just something about improving your home all by yourself without the assistance of a professional that feels so darn good! (Heck, our blog is called The DIY Playbook, so obviously we are obsessed with all things DIY.)

But it may shock you that we firmly believe that there are many instances when you should not do a project yourself. (Ever heard of “nailed it”?)

Yep, we’ve outlined all the times when you need to call in a pro to get the job done below.

Time Will Inevitably Be More Valuable Than Money

Many people assume that just because a project is easy, they should do it themselves. However, even simple tasks take time.

Here’s a real situation we were both in recently. Painting a room only takes 1-2 days. The problem is that it takes an entire 1-2 days of your time, and we were moving.

If you have 1,000 things on your to-do list for a big move, then it may make sense to call in a pro to get it done quickly and efficiently. (Hiring help to move is another bright idea when that to-do list is bursting with items!)

It cost us each about $1,000 to hire this DIY out, but we weighed that against packing up one house to move to another, closing on a home, and finishing things up at your old pad. So yeah, painting a room will only take about 1-2 days and costs roughly $100 in supplies, but sometimes you don’t have an open schedule.

In our particular case, an additional $900 was a resource well spent, because hiring it out ensured that we could subtract our labor, plus have a crisp white trim and fresh paint on the walls as we moved our new items in.

Don’t worry DIY fans; as we’ve designed each room in our homes later on, we’ve re-painted a few spaces with new colors ourselves. From experience, what sounds like a great DIY project is only realistic after you have the time.

Some DIY Projects Have Sneaky Costs

People turn to DIY to save money. And it’s true, often times labor is the most expensive part of a large project. However, there are some sneaky costs that you need to keep in mind before you decide to handle a project by yourself. Here are the two biggest ones we’ve figured out are the worst.

Transportation: This line item is way too often overlooked when it comes to large-scale projects. If you need a lot of large materials for a project, figure out how the heck you’re going to get those supplies home before you consider it worthwhile.

DIY Playbook has lived it. We decided to add a large decorative wall treatment to a guest bedroom, not realizing that we would need 12-foot wooden boards from the home improvement store. We had to rent a truck on the fly (which cost about $75). It made us question the savings.

Tools and Supplies: The more you DIY, the more tools and general DIY supplies you’ll acquire, making this a thing of the past. But the first time you tackle a project, you’ll probably have to buy all.the.things.

We recently completed a large tiling project for the first time and that meant we had to buy trowels, sponges, and a wet saw for the job. That added up to a couple hundred dollars pretty quickly! Of course, the next time we do a tiling project we will be prepared (and won’t have to spend quite as much), but buying all new supplies is something you’ll want to consider.

However, by making that investment in purchasing and learning how to till ourselves, we saved about $2,500 in labor. (Granted it took us two months to get the bathroom done, but heck … that’s still some big saving!)

Think through a project carefully, jot down some numbers, and add everything up before you start a project on your own.

Be Honest When You Don’t Know How

As DIY’ers ourselves, we always encourage people to expand their skill. However, if you’re an average homeowner, there are projects that will be far too advanced for you.

For instance, while we think most people can easily learn how to install a faucet online, we’d advise hiring a plumber to move plumbing lines in a bathroom. Sometimes it isn’t just safety to you and your materials, but not knowing regulation and keeping things to code also matters. The project don’t necessarily have to be too advanced for you to need an expert opinion.

And of course, some projects are incredibly dangerous if you handle them yourself! Gas repairs or extensive electrical work are not DIY projects. Know your limits and hire out when necessary.

Don’t DIY “ASAP Projects”

As a homeowner, you’re bound to run into emergency issues that need to be fixed ASAP. Whether it’s a flooded bathroom or a busted hot water heater, you’ll want to have a professional on call immediately.

When we were renovating our bathroom, we accidentally bumped the toilet valve and it immediately started leaking. Not wanting to flood our new bathroom, we called in a plumber to swap the old valve with a new one. This set us back about $275, but the job was done correctly and in about an hour. Plus, we felt much more at ease knowing our new bathroom wasn’t going to flood from that pipe!

These urgent issues should be handled by a professional. When you don’t have the time to research and buy the correct supplies, you can make a mistake trying to do an extensive repair yourself. If it’s a home emergency, call it in.

Don’t Experiment If You’re Gonna Stare at It Every Day

If there are any perfectionists tuning in, this category is for you. You may be stuck looking at the results of your DIY for years, so if you are someone who may constantly critique minor (or major) mistakes, then DIY-ing a large project may not be worth the money saved.

We recently renovated our guest bathroom (more on that here!) and I stare at all of the tiles in there when I shower. I’ll always focus in on the corners where I know a tile is 1/8 of an inch off from our handiwork. It’s minor, but it really bugs me!

We know this question sounds like a silly one to ask yourself, but DIY-ing is never worth it if you’re not going to love the end result, or even worse, hate it more than when you started.

The DIY Projects We Recommend

There are lots of DIY projects that you can (and should!) tackle on your own. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

  • Changing Doorknobs
  • Painting your Front Door
  • Changing a Faucet
  • Installing a Ceiling Fan
  • Swapping out Light Fixtures
  • Changing an Outlet
  • Adding Cosmetic Woodworking to Walls
  • Installing a Smart Thermostat
  • Fixing a Screen Door
  • Painting a Room
  • Changing out your Baseboard

To DIY or not to DIY? Sometimes the answer is crystal clear. But when you’re unsure, we hope you consult this list so you make the right decision for you (and your home!).

The Best Way to Unpack After Moving

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Unpacking should be the best part of the entire moving process. No, really!

You’ve already coordinated all of the logistics of renting a truck and hiring Helpers, you’ve packed everything up, moved, and unloaded your rental truck. Now all that’s left to do is go through all of your boxes and get everything in its place so you can enjoy your new home!

So why do some people still dread unpacking? Well, imagine sitting amiongst a mountain of boxes with no clue what’s inside any of them or where everything is going to go. Okay … yeah, that does sound pretty dreadful. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By planning your unpack, you can save time, money and headaches.

How to Make Unpacking Easier Before Moving Day Happens

We all know the quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The most important step to a smooth unpacking experience is proper planning before your move. 

Of course, you’ll have some planning to do if you’re getting movers and renting a truck … but you still need to spend some time packing. And no, we’re not talking about randomly throwing items into boxes and calling it a day.

Here are some things you should do before moving day to make unpacking easier.

Take Photos Before You Start Packing

Before you touch anything, we want you to take out your phone and have a little home photo shoot. 

Here are things you especially need photos of:

  • Bookshelves
  • The back of your TV
  • Kitchen drawers
  • Desk area
  • Tool shed

We urge you to snap pics of the areas in your home that you love! We know all too well how long it can take to get a shelfie looking just the way you want it. By snapping some reference pics now, you’ll be able to replicate that new look in your home in no time.

Create a Number and Color-Coded System For Your Boxes

After the photo shoot, gather all of your packing supplies (boxes, paper, tape, scissors, markers … the works!) and start packing boxes like a pro.

Try to only pack up items from one to two rooms inside every box. This will make your life much easier when it’s time to unpack later.

Got a bunch of stuff on shelves? Create a numbered system to remember where everything goes. That way it’s easier to get them unpacked and into their new permanent spots.

And we can’t forget our favorite tip of all … our color-coded box systemWith this technique, you get to use our most beloved crafting tool—washi tape! Get the full instructions from this post, but the short version is that you need to separate your boxes by the room, marked with bright washi tape so your movers know exactly where to deliver them. Genius and oh so colorful!

Make it Much Easier to Unpack Essentials

There are 7 items you’ll want to have on hand for moving day, but we also think you should create a box of moving day essentials. Because imagine the night of moving day when you’re tearing open boxes trying to find pajamas, your toothbrush, and your medication for the night. Sounds like a disaster to us.

This is what should go in your “Moving Day Box” so you don’t have to tear through your moving truck:

  • A change of clothes
  • Utensils
  • Toiletries
  • Prescriptions
  • Phone charger

Be sure to label this box and keep it near you!

Get Help Unloading Your Rental Truck

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Clean The 5 Most Important Things

We know you have approximately 10,000 things to do to get your rental deposit back. But trust us, now is the time to give your new place a thorough cleaning because it’s empty. You simply put items in place rather than cleaning and unpacking at the same time. Want to know the five most essential things to clean?

  • Kitchen cabinets
  • The Refrigerator (and refrigerator fan)
  • Bathtub and any tub jets
  • Outside (and Inside) the stove
  • Washing machine

If you want to know more, click here.

Unpacking Tips

You’ve done the prep work (even the cleaning, you rockstar, you!), and now moving day is here! Even if you hired help for your unload (great call), there are still things you can do to make unpacking time a little easier. 

Place Your Boxes in Rooms by Color

It may sound easier to just have your Helpers pile up all of the boxes in one spot of your new place, but unpacking will be a lot easier if you follow your color-coded box system to get each box in the correct room. If you followed our washi tape tips, you should have each door in your new place marked so the Helpers can easily drop the box in the right spot!

Protip: Get your “Moving Day Essentials Box” opened right away so you have everything you need to make it through the next day or two.

Use Washi Tape to Figure out Your Furniture Layout

As long as your movers are there, have them get your furniture in the spot where you want it! We love the idea of using painter’s tape to mark out the layout of furniture right on the floor.

Before you move (or even while your movers are bringing things in and out),  go around your place and put tape on the ground to outline your furniture. That way the movers will know exactly which wall to put your bed on and where that long dresser goes. You can always move things later on, but getting items in the correct space will make your life a lot easier in the coming days.

Unpack the Bathrooms and Bedrooms First

Moving day will be exhausting, so if you’re going to unpack anything immediately, make sure it’s your bed and bedding. Once your movers get the mattress into place, find the sheets, comforter and pillow and make your bed. If you have kids, do theirs too. Having a comfy spot to sleep at the end of the long day will feel amazing!

Unpack your bathroom boxes too. That way you’ll have all of the toiletries and medications on hand for the night and morning. A fresh shower after a long day of moving will be heavenly, trust us!

Save the Kitchen for Tomorrow

The kitchen is the most time intensive room to unpack, due to the amount of tiny and heavy items, so don’t unpack it on moving day. Your brain will be tired by the end of moving day, and you’ll want to be refreshed and recharged before you tackle this space. Save the kitchen until morning when you can make a fresh pot of coffee.

How to Stay Organized After Moving Day

You’re into your new home and you’re surrounded by all of your possessions. First, take a deep breath. You’ve made it this far! Now it’s time for the actual fun part … making your house a home.

Avoid Distractions, Don’t Unpack Games or TV

We might suggest making a playlist of music to entertain you, but we don’t think you should get your TV setup and turned on right away. You may find yourself sitting on the couch instead of unpacking if you have a TV show or movie on. So much temptation…

Another distraction? Little ones. You’ll additionally want to make a plan for your pets when you’re moving and unpacking, so they don’t get in the way. Same goes for kids. Have a plan to keep them occupied or if you can, drop them off at grandma’s house so you have uninterrupted time to unpack. It’s all about keeping the distractions to a minimum so you can devote enough hours to get your house in tip-top shape!

Unpack Only One Room at a Time

Instead of hopping from space to space, we suggest making a list of your rooms in order of importance. Then, don’t move onto another space until the one you’re on is done.

The kitchen, bedrooms and kids’ rooms should be up high on the priority list, while the guest room and garage may not need TLC right away. Also, make sure you have furniture and appliances setup before you get too carried away going through boxes. Did you clean your counters first? You’ll want to have spots to put all of the items as you whip them out of the boxes, so having dressers and cabinets ready to go is a must!

Break Down Boxes as You Go, in Real Time

As you unpack boxes, it may be easy to just throw empty ones in a big corner. But trust us, that pile will quickly get out of control and soon you won’t be able to walk around your house without an empty box tumbling down on you. Take one box and make it the designated paper box. As you unpack boxes, crumple up the paper and shove it into that box. Then, be sure to break down boxes as you unpack. You’ll want to have a utility knife on hand so you can do this quickly.

(And Don’t Unpack Everything)

There may be some boxes that don’t actually need to be unpacked. We’re looking at you, Christmas decorations. Make a large pile of items that may be heading to storage or the garage. Then be sure to get those items to that space in the coming days.

What to Do After You’re Unpacked

You’ve made it! You survived moving day and every box in your place is unpacked. You should be feeling pretty darn good about yourself right about now, but the fun isn’t over just yet. There are still a few things you can do to really get your unloading and packing done.

Make Use of Those Moving Boxes

If you will be moving again soon, then you may want to hang onto some of the boxes that are still in good condition. Organize your boxes and find a spot to neatly tuck them away. Are you thinking, “What the heck do I do with all of that cardboard?!” Don’t fret! Instead, try out some of the cardboard hacks.

If getting creative with cardboard isn’t your speed, you can recycle your moving boxes. Check out this searchable database that’ll let you know the closest place to recycle anything (including moving boxes!). Just be sure to set a deadline for yourself to get those moving boxes out of your new place, so they don’t stay piled in the garage forever.

Use These Organization Protips

We’re all guilty of just shoving random items into a cabinet or closet and calling it a day. But to really feel settled in your new home,  be intentional with what goes where.

Whenever we’re on an organization spree, we go room by room with a notepad and write down areas that need our attention. Then we’ll spend 30 minutes each night giving those spots some TLC. Those short increments of time seem much more doable than an entire day spent organizing an entire home.

Let the Decorating Begin! (In a Month)

We always say that you need to live in your home for a while in order to decorate it well. So many people quickly buy furniture and accessories for their place without ever giving each room a test run, and they end up with design regret. Yep, don’t paint the walls until you’ve spent a little time in your new place!

We promise that you’ll make much smarter decor decisions after 2-3 months.

Here’s how to get started when it’s time to begin: 

It may not seem like it, but unpacking can be the best part of the moving experience! We promise that these tips will make your unpacking experience easier and more efficient.

The sooner you unpack, the sooner you can enjoy your new life!

A DIY’ers Guide to Essential Power Tools

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As DIY’ers, we always get a little giddy when it comes time to chat about tools. (Yes, we’re nerds like that.) So, it should come as no surprise that we’ve covered tools here on the HireAHelper blog before. We outlined the 7 essential tools that EVERYONE should have in their toolbox, and we even showed you our tips to keep all of your tools organized and accounted for.

Now it’s time to move up a level … to power tools! Just that word “power” may sound a little scary and overwhelming to the DIY newbies out there. But we promise there is nothing to be scared of because if even we can handle these tools, then pretty much anyone can.

The Power Tools To Own

If you’re looking to spruce up your home, add to your tool collection, and just be an all-around rock star homeowner, then these are the first five power tools we suggest adding to your collection. We’ve also included the general range of prices you can expect to pay for each.

Cordless Drill

This tool was already covered in our list of seven essential tools to own, but it’s a power tool too! And it’s quite possibly the most important tool to have, overall.

In fact, we believe every household needs a power drill (even if you’re a renter) because it can be used for pretty much anything.

How do we know? So many people in our lives have asked to borrow our drills (and we always oblige), but we quickly emphasize how they really should invest in their own. It’s a necessity! Trust us, it’ll make putting together Ikea furniture a heck of a lot easier.

Price: $30-50

Shopping Tip: Power is measured by battery voltage and ranges from 6-18V. Higher voltage models come with extra power but are quite a bit heavier. We suggest going with a nice, middle-of-the-road 12V cordless drill.

Also be sure to also pick up a variety of drill bits when you buy your cordless drill.

DIY Projects:

  • Hanging curtains
  • Building shelves
  • Drilling holes
  • Anchoring
  • Pretty much anything

Miter Saw

This was the first “real” power tool we ever bought and we’ve used it so many times since. Are you ever going to be touching wood? Don’t think you won’t use this because you absolutely will. It makes straight cuts, sure, but it’s also able to make incredibly accurate cuts at an angle.

Price: Average 8-10 inch saws range $140-250

Average 12+ inch saws range $250-500+

Shopping Tip: Consider the blade size when buying a miter saw (8, 10, or 12 inches).

Yep, larger blades allow for longer cuts. We have a 10-inch compound Miter Saw. Oh, and be sure to pick up safety glasses and an extension cord when you invest. That way you stay safe, and your saw can reach any outlet when working away!

DIY Projects:

  • Board and batten siding
  • Wood planter
  • Shiplap wall
  • Smoothing

Nail Gun

Instead of using a hammer and nails for a project, you can use a nail gun and get the job done 100 times faster. There’s a wide variety of nail guns out there, but we suggest going with a finish nailer. These come in handy when securing wood together or to a wall, and you can easily putty over the holes for a seamless look.

Price: $30-100

Shopping Tip: Nail guns can be gas-powered or air-powered, but we suggest going with an air-powered one. (Here’s the one we own.) When it’s plugged into an outlet, compressed air is used to drive the nails.

Make sure you also pick up extra brad nails for your project and that they’re compatible with the brand/size of your particular nail gun.

DIY Projects:

  • Installing baseboard
  • Creating decorative wall
  • Adding trims
  • Hanging anything

Sander

You’ve probably used sandpaper or a sanding wedge for a project before. And if you have, you know that your arm can get pretty tired when going back and forth over and over again.

It’s time. Get a sander. You add sanding pads to the sander and when you turn it on the pads move in a circle, sanding the surface as you go. We’ve also ended up using sanders when refinishing old pieces of furniture.

Price: $25-80

Shopping Tip: There are various types of sanders (palm, detail, belt, etc), but we use an orbital sander.

Orbitals are lightweight and because they’re not too heavy-handed, it’s very difficult to damage the piece you’re working on. Be sure to buy extra sanding pads for your sander, so you always have a fresh one for your project.

Oh, and a dust mask may come in handy too!

DIY Projects:

  • Refinishing furniture
  • Smoothing DIY picture ledges
  • Sanding down excess paint on a wall

Jigsaw

What’s compact and relatively inexpensive?

abeautifulmess.com

A jigsaw can be used to make both curved and straight cuts in a variety of materials (metal, plastic, wood, particle board, etc.). Whenever we are tackling a woodworking project, we almost always get out the jigsaw because there are bound to be some “wonky” cuts that don’t need to be straight or angled.

For example, if you’re adding shiplap to a wall and need to make room for an outlet … the jigsaw is the tool to get the job done!

Price: $25-90+

Shopping Tip: If you’re planning to use your jigsaw on tough materials, then you may want to buy a jigsaw with a cord. Here is the one we use.

By far the most important thing to remember is that you need to buy the right blade based on the material you’ll be cutting!

DIY Projects:

  • Curved headboard
  • Holes for outlets
  • Shaped signs
  • Personalized crafts

A jigsaw is isnt just useful and easy to learn, it’s pretty fun!


We hope this list gets you excited to start creating and building things around your home! Getting power tools means you can ditch the builder-basic look and customize a home that looks all your own.

What You Actually Need to Get for Your Home on Black Friday

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As two gals who write about everything home, we are always looking for the latest and greatest when it comes to tools, furniture, electronics or really any item for your home. But we’re also budget-friendly bloggers and absolutely love the feeling when we find a great deal!

So with that in mind, we’re combining our two favorite things into one jam-packed post … first, we detail what we do before we go shopping, then we share a list of all of our favorite home items that will definitely have slashed prices during Black Friday (and Cyber Monday, too)!

Taking Inventory of What You Need

It can be really tempting to buy stuff just to buy stuff during Black Friday, but just because something is a good deal doesn’t mean it’s a good investment. Instead, we highly suggest taking inventory of what you actually need.

First, walk around your home with a pen and paper and jot down a list of items that need replacing. Perhaps your coffee pot has seen better days, or you’ve never truly loved that rug in the front hallway. Create this list now before those Black Friday deals start popping up.

Get that tape measure out.

If you find that you’re looking for furniture or home decor, grab your tape measure and write down some measurements. You don’t want to add a rug on super sale to your shopping cart if it’s way too big for your living room! Having these measurements on hand when you’re quickly trying to score the best deals will be helpful, and it won’t slow you down when you’re racing against the clock to fill your online shopping cart!

Browse online.

With your list of items and measurements, it’s time to start browsing. No need to buy anything yet, but get an idea for the items you may want to grab once those deals pop up. Here’s a popular site that collects all upcoming sales from the most popular retail stores. We suggest keeping a list of all of the links in an email in your drafts so you can easily access it on any computer or phone when you’re online shopping.

Protip: It’s tough to know what exactly will be on sale once Black Friday hits, but some smaller stores will put all of their deals out there ahead of time in their newsletter. Sign up for some of your favorite stores and you may be alerted ahead of time about those crazy good deals!

7 of Our Favorite DIY Items for Your Home

Now, onto our favorite home items that we recommend to absolutely everyone! Click the names of each item for a quick link.

Cordless Drill

Even if you’re not a fan of DIY projects, we think every home should have a power drill. This tool is a homeowner essential and we use ours every single week. Even if you’re just hanging something on the wall, power drills make everything 10 times faster. This DeWalt model is our favorite and we each have one that we use constantly. This drill will have enough power for just about any home task, and we love that it comes with an extra battery so you’re never out of juice!

Letter Board

We both have these letter boards on display in our homes and we can’t get enough! It’s a savvy way to display a positive quote or funny message in your house. We’ve used these boards for so many picture ops, but they work great even just as wall art. We’ve gifted this item to new homeowners before so you may want to consider scooping one up for yourself and/or for someone special during the holiday sales!

A Neutral Rug

If you’re looking for a large, neutral, and on-trend rug, we’ve got the one for you!

Bridget had this rug in her old office and got so many compliments on this bad boy. It can match with just about any decor, plus the Moroccan pattern is right on trend. Wayfair will have some major deals on Black Friday, so this is definitely one you may want to add to your home shopping list.

Geometric Planter

Casey has this planter in her home and it’s another one that our readers obsess over! You can’t go wrong with this classic black and white color combo and it’s such a good size for an indoor planter. Snake plants have thrived in this pot, but we’ve seen others grow all kinds of gorgeous indoor plants in this. We truly believe every room needs some greenery, so this planter may be the kick in the pants you need to work on your green thumb.

Purdy Paint Brush

If you have a painting project coming up, the best thing you can do is buy a high-quality paint brush. Trust us, those cheap ones may seem like they’ll cut it, but you’ll end up with little brush hairs stuck in the wet paint and on your walls. Not good! We only use Purdy paint brushes and recommend them to everyone. They are a bit pricier, but as long as you clean them well they can last forever! Stock up on some of these high-quality brushes if you plan to paint sometime in the future. You won’t regret it.

The (Perfect) Scented Candle

We’re candle junkies and light them just about every single night. It’s taken us years to figure out our tried and true scents, but we have narrowed down our winner to this one. This candle from Anthropologie is absolutely amazing (& the perfect 5-star review shows we’re not alone in our love for this candle!). It permeates throughout your entire house with ease, so we light these whenever we’re entertaining. And every single time, guests have requested what the smell is and how they they too can scoop up this candle. The best part? It works all year round, meaning you don’t have to feel weird buying something that smells distinctly like the holidays.

Cordless Vacuum

Bridget got this cordless vacuum cleaner for her wedding many years ago and it’s still one of the best items she put on her registry! You charge it in a dock (she keeps hers in their laundry room) and then it’s always raring to go so you can zip around your home cleaning up dust bunnies in no time at all. Because there is no cord, you can easily and quickly clean your entire home (no stopping to unplug the cord and find a new outlet.) Overall, this vacuum makes this dreadful task a little bit better.

The countdown to the holiday shopping frenzy is on! We encourage you to make a list (and check it twice) before those Black Friday deals hit the web. Happy shopping!

Lifehack: Get the Stuff Under the Kitchen Sink Organized With This $7 Tool

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We consider ourselves to be fairly organized people, but there are certain places in our homes that just don’t stand a chance against clutter. Underneath the kitchen sink is definitely one of those disorganized spaces. How can you own so many cleaning supplies, and yet the one place that stores them is never clean?

Check out that “before” photo. Supplies were everywhere, and finding the right spray bottle for a particular task was always an adventure.

Not only did we want to get this cabinet organized, but we wanted to put a smart organizational method into place so it wouldn’t ever get back to that scary before photo.

Like every organization project we tackle, we started by clearing everything out of the cabinet, as shown below:

This is a great time to purge and ditch old items you rarely use. It’s also an opportune time to give the cabinet base a deep clean.

Once we were left with a clean cabinet and fewer items to store, we picked up a few organizational supplies. The first may confuse you…

…it’s a tension rod! Yep, a small tension rod just might be the key to your organizational problems. We found this rod for $7 on Amazon and placed it right under the kitchen sink.

This tension rod now holds the four cleaning supplies we use most often. When cleaning the counters or quickly wiping down a mirror, we can easily grab the right cleaning supply for the job.

It’s also a good spot to dry out wet gloves used from washing dishes. Who knew a tension rod could be so handy?!

We picked up a double-decker basket too. This maximizes the tall cabinet space under your kitchen cabinet because you can fit double the items in the same small footprint.

To take things up a notch, we used washi tape and a permanent marker to label the two bins.

A spot for your wet sponges is always a good idea. A small container with clear command strips fits perfectly on the inside of the door. Again, this uses the vertical space in the cabinet so not everything has to take up space on the cabinet floor.

Overall, this kitchen cabinet looks a heck of a lot better. All it took was a little bit of purging, some storage solutions, and a $7 tension rod to give this hardworking space a new life. Happy DIY-ing!

We Try out the App That Digitally Arranges Your Furniture With Just a Picture

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As DIY’ers and decorators, there’s nothing we love more than an empty room just begging to be styled and filled with beautiful pieces. But some rooms can be a little tricky. Do you put the couch over here? Or maybe you need a small table over there? It can be hard to visualize how pieces will work in a space, especially when you’re starting with a blank canvas. Plus, if you’re buying a few new pieces of furniture, it can be difficult to tell if they’ll really fit and work well in the space. No one wants to purchase a dresser only to find out that it’s actually way too big or small.

An Online Tool to Help You Arrange Furniture

Luckily, there’s a new tool out there that takes all of the guesswork out of the arranging furniture process. It’s called Modsy, and this growing service is changing the game for decorators… but also for new homeowners trying to decide on new furniture or anyone else who has a room that needs some TLC.

Techcrunch.com

Essentially, you can “try on” certain layouts in your specific space in order to visualize how it will work in that room before you move things around, or before you buy anything new. The service costs about $70 (which isn’t exactly free), but in the long run, it may help you avoid design regret (like when you buy a piece that simply doesn’t work for the room), leaving you with a space that is much more functional for your home.

Here’s how it works: You send over photos of your space, some measurements and details on both your vision and style. They then send over a professional 3D rendering with a 360-degree visualization tool.

Real Life Spaces Using Modsy

When we first heard of Modsy, we weren’t quite sold. How could it actually work? But then we saw that a few of our friends in the blogosphere used this service when working on room makeovers. We could hardly believe these photos…

Photo by Bower Power Blog; 3D Rendering of Bedroom via Modsy

Above is the 3D rendering of our friend Katie Bower’s bedroom. She used Modsy to visualize the furniture setup in her bedroom before buying all of the pieces.

Here’s what that space now looks like in real life…

Pretty crazy, right?! Here’s another one.

Photo by Chris Loves Julia; 3D Rendering of Room via Modsy

Above is the 3D rendering from Chris Loves Julia’s nursery. Below is how the actual room turned out.

Let’s Give It a Try

We’re currently working on a living room makeover for a friend, and their tricky living room layout had us questioning where exactly we should place all of the furniture in the space. So we figured this was the perfect time to give Modsy a try and find the most functional livingroom layout. Here is how the website lays out their service:

After setting up an account on our phones, we sent in photos and measurements and they then gave us a blank room to review. 

Because we weren’t totally sure on the style we wanted for the space, we had them give us two design options. One was a bit more glam and feminine, the other a bit more contemporary. This was their interpretations:

We ended up loving the second design, and realized how easily a sectional could fit in the space! We also didn’t realize we would have enough room to add a bookshelf next to the couch, and this helped us view the space in a whole new light. 

This was another rendering from a different angle. We were able to plug-in a few pieces that the homeowners already own to make sure they could continue to work in the room. 

In the end, we were left with a functional layout that we’re confident will work as we help to design this room. It actually worked! While we still have a-ways to go with their space, we are both so excited to get to work and bring this vision board to life.

You Too Can Master the Art of Arranging Furniture

As two gals who can’t seem to get enough of home design and decor, we were incredibly impressed with this visualization tool. Here are our takeaways:

Pros:

  • Surprisingly easy to use
  • Slick, modern app design
  • 3D renderings are professionally done and easy to grasp (and amazing to look at!)

Cons:

  • It ain’t cheap. $70 per rendering (and $199 to include an adviser!)
  • It takes a little over a week to get renders and operates within business hours, so plan ahead
  • Recommended furniture through Modsy store can be great, but also a bit sales-y

If you’re struggling to decorate your new home, we hope you’ll give this tool a try. Hopefully, it will help you determine the best layout for the rooms throughout your home while providing you with design inspiration that is specific to your taste. Plus, you may even gain some confidence when it comes time to buy new pieces of furniture in your space, because you can try before you buy! Happy decorating!

These Things Should Always Be Deal Breakers While House Hunting

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We’ve talked before about things you should overlook when house hunting, but being flexible and seeing past a home’s imperfections isn’t always the thing to do.

Don’t get us wrong, there are a lot of things that should be overlooked because they can easily be changed down the road. However, some things should never be overlooked. We like to call them “deal breakers”.

Making a list of your deal breakers is essential to finding the perfect home for now and well into the future. That’s why the things on this list should be non-negotiable. Seriously, don’t get emotionally attached to something that will create resentment down the road. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your family to create your own list of deal breakers before your house hunting adventure begins, but we’ve compiled a list of the most important ones in order for you to jump-start the process!

A Real Potential for Water Damage

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Water Damage

A lot of household problems can be fixed, but being subject to water damage is one that is not even close to an easy fit. Before committing to a house, be sure to research if it’s in a flood zone. (FEMA has a handy website that can search all flood areas by address.) Also, take notice of its elevation on the block compared to other homes. Is this house at the lowest point on the street? Will your basement constantly be at risk of flooding and causing you large problems and even larger repair bills? Make sure you look very closely for any signs of water damage.

Do your research so that you know exactly what you are getting into, and are not surprised by a flooded basement after the first rain in your new home.

(All Different Kinds of) Safety Concerns
House Hunting Deal Breaker - Safety Concerns

Safety concerns are a very broad category, so it’s important that you get as specific as possible when creating your house hunting deal breaker list. Safety concerns with electronics can be caused by amateur workmanship, such as plumbing or electrical problems. But this could also be caused by other household issues, such as:

Check the links for helpful ways to test for common safety concerns. Before you buy any house, let alone a suspect one, make sure to hire an inspector. If they report any problems, know exactly what issues result in you walking away from the deal and which ones you are willing to deal with (and potentially pay for!). Having this information clear before the home buying process will allow you to remain objective during this emotional time.

Below Average School District

If you have kids, be sure to investigate the local school district before you buy a home in that district. Niche.com provides a comprehensive look at most every school system in the country, including elementary, middle and high schools. You can also look at schools individually!

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Poor School District

Even if you don’t have kids, we still encourage you to do the same because that school district will impact the resale value of your home in the long run and should be considered before you purchase.

Structural Damage to the Home’s Base

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Structural Damage

Structural damage in a home can cause some serious problems down the road, not to mention what a nightmare it would be to try to re-sell a home that has these large issues. It’s important to consider this when house hunting in order to avoid large project costs down the road. Look for shifting of the home in cracks, uneven floors or a drooping roof to identify potential structural damage. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to Google a contractor or professional so they can assess the situation and reassure you the house is a safe long-term investment.

Unless you are buying a foreclosure for pennies on the dollar, structural damage is certain to massively impact your investment in a negative way.

A Floor Plan That Doesn’t Work for Your Family

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Bad Bones aka Floorplan

All rooms can be rearranged, redecorated, repainted or even switched around, depending on your family’s needs. However, don’t trick yourself: a sweet overlook may be cool, but the layout of the home or the square footage of the home is not so easily changed, especially without a massive budget and an extra-large construction project. Are you looking to double your investment by knocking out walls?

It’s okay to look past the cosmetic upgrades in a home, but don’t look past what the pros call “the bones” of the house: the layout, the number of rooms, the number of bathrooms or again, even simply the square footage. The bones are permanent and will directly impact your lifestyle. Are you willing to change your life just for that sweet view?

House Hunting Outside of Your Price Range 

House Hunting Deal Breaker - Over Budget

Buying a home out of your price range is a slippery slope and a financial decision that can put a lot of stress and pressure on you and your family.

It is also the most common deal breaker people ignore!

If you have a strict budget you need to follow, adding this deal breaker to your house hunting checklist will be a great way to “check yourself” and make sure that you are coming in under budget and not putting an unnecessary strain on you, your marriage, or your family. Besides, it is almost always better to invest in a cheaper property than to live with what you cannot afford.

What’s on Your House Hunting Deal Breaker Checklist?

All of these may fall on your house hunting deal breaker checklist, or maybe some of them… or maybe none at all. Technically, the most important thing is shedding light on the fact that people don’t often consider deal breakers ahead of hunting for a house. That’s why a house hunting checklist is crucial to avoid getting emotionally invested and making an impulsive decision that you’ll regret later on.

Remember the biggest rule: once you agree on which deal breakers gets added to the checklist, you cannot purchase any home that has even one of the things on it, regardless of how adorable it may look! This cute house may look great now, but it probably isn’t the best investment for the long run. Hold strong, the right one will come along… it always does!

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