New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

New Year's Resolutions

Maintaining your home is one of the best things you can do to help get 2016 started on the right foot.  It really is that important. Here are a few things you can resolve to do in your home that may sometimes fall by the wayside.

  1. Make Sure your Home is Winter-Ready. If you aren’t ready for El Nino rains, now is your chance! See our article from last month to help you prepare. Be sure to reset your irrigation timers in preparation for the rainy season. If you live in a region prone to freezing, you’ll want to shut down and drain your system for the winter.
  2. Clean your Dryer Ducts. It’s good that you clean the dryer lint screen each time you dry a load. But when was the last time you cleaned the duct at the back of your dryer? A clogged dryer duct will not only increase the dry time (using more electricity or gas), but can also be a fire danger or wear out your dryer prematurely. It is also important to check is the vent on the outside of your home.
  3. Inspect your Fireplace. If you have a traditional fireplace or a sealed gas fireplace, there are inspections that need to take place before you begin using it regularly throughout the winter. Inspect the chimney or venting system, as well as the firebox. For gas fireplaces, inspect the flame and rod. In traditional fireplaces, make sure your flue closes tightly.
  4. Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors. If you haven’t done this lately, here is your reminder.
  5. Clean Out those Cabinets. Organize your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and throw away any outdated food or cosmetics that are just waiting to become a big mess.
  6. Vacuum your Refrigerator Coils. Over time, the coils in your fridge collect dust and your fridge requires more energy to run. You can save energy and up to $100 a year by doing this simple task.
  7. Tighten Loose Screws. Have a loose handle, knob, or rack that’s been ignored? Now is your chance to take a minute to tighten it up.
  8. Check Caulking. Check caulking around showers and bathtubs to ensure if any repairs are needed.
  9. Organize your Documents. Messy drawer full of receipts and important documents? Be sure to straighten these out now and you will be happier at tax time, and every time, when you have to find something in your now-organized drawer.
  10. Make Sure your Appliances Aren’t Being Recalled. More than 15 million appliance units have been recalled in the past five years for defects that could cause a fire. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if any of yours are on the recall list.

Quick Tips to Help You De-Deck Your Halls

De-Decking the Halls

Now that the holidays have come and gone, it’s time to take down that tree and put away those lights. This task is usually the last thing we want to do as get back into our routines. Here are some quick tips to help you manage the return to normalcy.

  • Pack each room in a different box and label each box so that you remember where they go the next year.
  • Take pictures of decorations so that you can recreate the arrangement the following year.
  • Buy red and green plastic storage containers at a post-Christmas discount.
  • Take advantage of the post-Christmas clearance sales in stores for items such as ornaments, decorations, and wrapping paper and save them for the next year.
  • Click here and enter your zip code to find places near you to dispose of your tree in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

2016 Color of the Year: Revealed

2016 Color of the Year

Every year, countless designers in various fields get together to decide a new trend of color palettes that will shape the home decor collections we see in catalogs, boutiques, and big box stores. Paint companies name one color above all others that will set the tone for the year, from runways to the design in your home. This year’s color has been determined to be…white. Specifically, the color of the year is Simply White or Alabaster, depending on who you ask. Check out the ways that Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams have chosen to re-invent this classic color for 2016.


simply white

For a bit more direction with some different colors, check out the Color Guild’s Color of the Year: Flickering Flame as part of the Balanced Earth palette.


10 Ways to Prepare Your Home for El Niño Weather

This winter we are forecast to see one of the most powerful El Niños in recorded history. Regardless of your location, the El Niño weather will be felt and it has the potential to cause damage to your home with heavy rains. Southern California has a 60% chance of having more rain than a normal winter, while Northern California has a 50% chance. Los Angeles usually gets four big storms in the winter; however, this year we may see up to 15 storms.

el nino1

Here are ten tips to help you get your house ready by the time the rains hit in January:

1. Clear Gutters and Downspouts

Make sure you clear any leaves or debris out of your gutters and downspouts. While you are at it, check on their structure to make sure they are in place correctly and undamaged. Making sure they are unclogged and unimpaired will prevent water from overflowing and spilling. This is crucial to preventing water from damaging your home’s structure and aesthetics. Any inspection or maintenance tasks that require roof access are always best performed by a professional, licensed contractor.

2. Prevent Roof Leakage

Check the flashing around skylights and the pipes that come up through your roof. Any leaks here can cause water damage in your home, but they can be easily prevented by the proper sealants. For more information on your roof and gutters, see our Take a Look Up! post.

3. Secure Your Outdoor Space

Check your fence for weak spots that may need reinforcing. Be prepared for high winds by storing or tying down any items that might get blown away and cause damage. This may include garbage cans, garden tools, lawn furniture, planters, and light boats. Take extra caution to secure large items, such as trampolines and basketball hoops.

4. Maintain Siding

Any damage, cracks, or holes in your siding should be repaired and any leaks should be sealed with paintable or clear caulk. If your siding is painted and it is not in good condition, consider getting your house painted before the rains begin. See this video on how to repair your siding.

5. Weatherstrip Openings

Weatherstrip windows and doors to minimize heat loss and seal out drafts. For more information, see our post Two Reasons to Keep Your Weatherstripping in Top Shape.

6. Examine Windows

Be sure to latch shutters or install panels. Also, examine your window glazing compound. This summer’s hot, dry weather may have caused the glazing compound to shrink and pull away from the glass panes. Loosened panes can allow rain penetration. Check and recaulk as needed. (

7. Prepare Pool

Lower the water level about one foot and add extra chlorine to prevent contamination. Before a storm, turn off the electricity to the pool pump and cover it if it is exposed.

8. Gather Emergency Materials

If you are expecting flooding, store sandbags, heavy plastic sheeting, and plywood in a safe dry place. Consider buying a generator if your location is susceptible to power outages or a sump pump if flooding is expected in lower levels.

9. Fasten Garage Door

If your garage door has special fasteners, be sure to place them as required.

10. Trim Trees

Your trees may have been weakened by the heat or the drought of the summer. Weak trees can easily snap or become uprooted when they are weighed down by rainwater, so be sure to trim as needed.

As you can see, a number of components used in the construction of your home may be damaged by water if caulking or sealants deteriorate, leaving areas unprotected from the elements. If not properly maintained, unsealed doors, windows, and exterior walls are unable to do their job of keeping your home efficiently protected from the outdoors. Maintaining proper roof and landscaping drainage is also a critical aspect of protecting your home from water intrusion.

Further Information

For additional maintenance guidelines, refer to your Home Care Guide.

To see how you can get your pets prepared for El Nino, see this video.

For more information on flood control, see this Homeowners Guide from the Department of Building and Safety.

Gifts to Bring your Holiday Host


Hosting a holiday party can be a great feat that brings joy to so many, while selecting the perfect gift can feel like just as much of a chore. Find a way to thank your host with some of these unique gift ideas. You might love some of these gifts so much that you put them on your own holiday wish list!

Sage + Cedar Soy Candle (with crackling wick)

Let them fill their home with this eco-friendly scent and the soothing sound of a crackling winter fireplace.

sage + cedar1

Knit Sweater for Their Favorite Pooch

Forget whiskers on kittens – sweaters on puppies are some of our favorite things.


Flowering Tea™ Set in Bamboo Gift Box

Help them relax with this gorgeous and delicious tea set.

flowering tea.png

Send Them to a Local Spa

Find a deal at a local spa and give them the ultimate gift of being pampered.


Mason Jar Cookie Mix

For an easy DIY gift, follow these instructions to fill a mason jar with homemade cookie mix.

mason jar

Hometown Aerial Map Jigsaw Puzzle

This one-of-a-kind gift takes their neighborhood and turns it into a fun jigsaw puzzle.


Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns

Get them in on this new trend of relieving stress by coloring with the intricate designs of this “adult” coloring book.

coloring book

Phone Charging  Leather Tassel

For the friend who always needs to borrow your phone charger, this tassel is a stylish addition to any bag and has an iPhone charger wire hidden inside.

charger tassle

Cheese Board Kit

Use this kit to make them a custom cheese board or give your craftier host the whole kit!


Corkcicle Air ®

For the true wine enthusiast, this wine-stopper chills and aerates wine for the perfect pour and temperature.


Sparkling Cabinets

Your cabinets are one of the most prominent features in your kitchen, and like fine furniture, they will look more beautiful with proper cleaning and maintenance. There are a few different types of cabinet finishes on the market, including stained or painted wood and laminates. We’ve compiled some tips for keeping your cabinets looking their best.

  • Treat your cabinets as gently as you would the lovely buffet in your dining room. Don’t use abrasive cloths or cleaners, and keep in mind that the cleaners that may be safe for your countertop or backsplash are most likely not safe for your cabinets.
  • Avoid hanging wet dish towels over your cabinet doors. The moisture will damage the finish.
  • Only use clean, soft cloths to clean your cabinets. Don’t use the same dish cloth or sponge that you use to clean your sink or dishes – the grease and detergent can harm the cabinet surface.
  • Just like your regular door hinges, your cabinet door hinges and drawer guides will benefit from periodic lubrication. They may also need occasional tightening.
  • You may notice some grease buildup on cabinets near or above your range or cooktop. Warm, soapy water should adequately remove most of this, just be sure to rinse and dry the surface when you are done working on it.

Keeping your cabinets in great shape will not only improve your own enjoyment of your home, but will also help maintain the value of your home – buyers love nice kitchens.

Freshen Up Your Home for Holiday Guests

Tgiving_wreathExpecting holiday guests can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you consider the long wish list of things you’d like to do to get your home ready. Here are some tips for making this overwhelming task a little more manageable.

1. Make a list. Make a list of the tasks that need to be done to your home. Now cross out the tasks that won’t make an impact or matter to your guests and can wait until January.

2. Focus on the most visible areas. Pay attention to the areas where guests will congregate the most – chances are you can eliminate some areas from your to-do list that your guests will never see (like your closet).

3. Focus on tasks with a noticeable impact. Are the walls in your living areas or hallways smudged? Since walls are a very noticeable feature, you may want to clean or touch-up paint the most visible walls. Clean, uncluttered floors and counters will also automatically make your home feel more open and inviting. Not sure what to do with the clutter? An inexpensive, attractive basket can make some clutter look intentional!

4. Focus on tasks that will make you feel more confident about your home. Are there things in your home that bother you every time you see them? A loose doorknob, stained bathroom grout, a messy flatware drawer, that pile of papers to file on your kitchen counter. If they are manageable, try to get these things taken care of. What a relief it will be to keep your thoughts on your guests and not a bothersome task you wish you’d done! More great ideas for preparing for guests:

5. Are you expecting overnight guests? Here are some great links to help you prepare a welcoming place for your overnight guests.