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CorrespondentJanuary 11, 2013 

Best for keys

Do you have trouble finding the right key on your keychain? The Budget Savvy Diva has a solution: “For every key you have, find a different color of nail polish. Paint the tops of each key a different nail polish! Now you have cute keys that are easily distinguished!”

Check out this and other tips at

Best checklist for homebuyers

If a new home is on your wish list in 2013, the Apartment Therapy blog offers this list of 10 things every would-be owner should check before buying a new home. See the complete list at We excerpt our favorite tips here.

Check the drains: This might sound silly, but we’ve had two homes with the same issues. Usually tree branches or a collapsed pipe is the culprit, but either way, it’s hard to spot unless you fill up the tub and sinks and try to drain them all at the same time.

Open every window: Replacing windows isn’t fun and it isn’t cheap either. Open them all to find out if they stick, are stuck or just won’t open.

Turn on all the faucets and taste the water: Knowing up front if you’ll need to install a whole-house filter or invest in a few Brita pitchers is always helpful.

Flush the toilets: Knowing that all the toilets can handle toilet paper is a bonus.

Open the electrical panel: A clean and labeled panel is a happy panel. Look for loose wires or ones that simply don’t connect to anything. It could signal that there are live wires inside the walls!

Turn on the heat/air: Check to make sure they blow their respective temperatures in addition to just turning on.

Look for signs of dampness in the basement: Even if the walls aren’t apparently wet, look for clues like dehumidifiers, packets of silica or other things designed to siphon moisture from the air and keep it at bay.

Best winter home fragrance

Need to freshen your home for visitors or potential buyers? Try this common real estate agent trick highlighted on the Life Hacker blog.

Put two capfuls of vanilla extract in an ovenproof cup and place it in a 300-degree oven for one hour. Within 20 minutes the whole house smells heavenly.

Best switcheroo

The blog offers a simple solution for weeding through your closet for clothes that rarely get used.

Each January, turn all of the hangers in your closet so that the hook points toward you. Each time you wear an item, hang it back up with the hook pointing away. In June, any item that is still hanging backward has not been worn in six months. “Donate it to Goodwill unless you can come up with a good reason to save it.” Check out the blog at

Designer’s best

Barbara Barry, a design expert with, says wallpaper can help resolve your decorating dilemmas.

“Use a patterned wallpaper to strengthen a room, and an unpatterned paper to soften a space. Be sure other design elements play down to the paper. When wallpaper is unpatterned, it can wrap a room with color and texture and soften the space.”

Best for free trees

North Carolina residents have until the end of January to join the Arbor Day Foundation and receive 10 flowering trees with a $10 donation.

New members will receive two white flowering dogwoods, two flowering crabapples, two Washington hawthorns, two American redbuds and two goldenrain trees. The trees will be shipped postpaid at the right time for planting, between Feb. 1 and May 31, with enclosed instructions. The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.

Members also receive a subscription to the Foundation’s bimonthly publication, Arbor Day, and The Tree Book, which includes information about tree planting and care.

To join and receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution to Ten Free Flowering Trees, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410 by Jan. 31. You can also join at

Best tips from readers

We are seeking your best tips for cleaning, organizing and gardening in the new year. If we use your tip, you’ll be entered in our quarterly drawing for a Target gift card. Send your tips to Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best tips” in the subject line.

Best of the tube


Duplex Dilemma: Ron and Heather bought a duplex with plans to combine units and turn it into the home they had always wanted. Six years and a newborn later, the renovations have yet to begin. Now they are at odds about staying in the space. Designer Hilary aims to give them the home they always wanted with completed renovations. Realtor David shows them options they have for a house their family can grow in. “Love it or List it” airs at 8 p.m. Saturday.


Bedroom, closet and garage spaces: Think you don’t have enough storage? If there’s a nook or cranny not being used, DIY experts say there’s plenty of room to expand. In this half-hour special, DIY Network shows you how to build a fun closet that lowers from the ceiling, as well as secret storage under the floors, among other tricks. “10 Best Space Saving Solutions” airs at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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