Donate items you no longer need/want.

It may not feel like it in your neck of the woods, but today is the first day of spring!  It’s time for spring cleaning.  But let’s start by getting some things out of our homes first!  Some people declutter but never actually get their items out the door.  We’re going to work on this very task this week.  Then next week, we’ll do a little spring cleaning!

Having donations boxes sitting in your garage for extended periods of time is a bad idea because you may ultimately decide you want to keep something you had already decided to donate.

So today, I urge you to donate those items that you decided to donate.  Get them out of the house.

We typically take the standard deductions on our taxes, but just in case we have a year in which itemizing is a good idea, I take pictures of everything donated, and I get receipts.  So the first thing I do when I finally donate items is to take pictures of everything I’m donating.  I don’t do anything fancy.  I just put the item on my dark walnut dining room table in natural light, and I take a picture with my iPhone or iPad.

Then I upload the pictures to my Dropbox account into a file named “Donations.”  I create a subfolder giving more details about the donation:  “Disabled American Veterans, donated 2017.02.21,” for example.  After I’ve uploaded the pictures to this subfolder, I delete them from my phone, and I delete the deleted pictures.  (I need all the space on my phone I can get!)  Why do I take pictures of the items?  First, I like to have a record just in case we ever get audited.  I really don’t know that the pictures help, but I feel better about having the pictures, especially if I’m donating a lot of stuff in a particular year (as I did the year we downsized from a three-bedroom house to a small two-bedroom apartment).  Second, I feel as though I am more easily able to part with items with sentimental value as long as I have a picture of the items.

If I donate something that could harm the person inventorying the donations, I make a note on the outside of the bag.  For example, I recently donated steak knives.  I placed them in Hefty freezer bags, then wrapped them in a reusable shopping bag, then put this note on the outside.

Finally, take your items to be donated, and get a donation receipt.  I scan the receipt when I return home, then put it with my current-year tax paperwork.

One more thing:  Talk to the person taking donations and ask about items that the thrift store doesn’t want.  For example, one of the thrift stores closest to my home does not accept more than five books at a time because they have so many.  (I broke up my John Grisham collection into several donations a couple of years ago for this reason.)  At least in my area, even ragged clothes can be used; Goodwill shreds them, and the Navy buys them for use as rags on the ships here.  So I donate items liberally.  But do keep in mind that items such as irreparably broken toys and puzzles with missing pieces are best sent to the trash.

Time required:  Less than an hour including driving time, but the time required depends on how many items you are taking to be donated and where the donation center is in relation to your home.


Easy, Quick, Inexpensive Upgrades: Change Out Mismatched Light Switches

Disclaimer:  My husband has electrical experience.  If you do not have electrical experience, you likely should not attempt this improvement; instead hire an electrician or skip this update.

Remember how my husband and I switched out our light switch plates?


Our white switch plates still did not match the beige/cream switches.  And worse, many of the light switches in this house were black–or worse, were originally black but had been painted white.  Ugh.  So ugly!

For a couple of dollars and less than 10 minutes of time each, my husband was able to switch out these light switches.

So much better!

Easy, Quick, Inexpensive Upgrades:  Replace your mismatched, outdated switchplates.

Our house was badly in need of some minor updates when we bought it.  Brass was everywhere in our living room.  5
Yes, those are brass switchplates and outlet covers.  But the rest of the house had white or beige and even broken switchplates, depending on the room.  Can you tell this switchplate is broken?


Those are supposedly unbreakable switchplates, but someone had screwed the screws too tightly.

To make the switchplates look better without spending much money, I tried painting them.


But during our holiday cleaning before Thanksgiving, I realized that cleaning them with alcohol as I typically do twice a year to remove germs would also remove the paint.

The good news:  Switchplates are not expensive. So we spent less than $10 trying out new ones.


We opted to return the screwless ones (about half our purchase) to the store. I was worried we wouldn’t remember how to take them off when we repaint.  My husband thought they were just too modern for our 1960’s ranch, and I did not disagree.

I preferred the metal switchplates, but I was sad to discover that the smaller light switch plates would not cover some slight drywall damage around our light switches.


So we chose the large white switchplate.


We think the white looks good with our walls, which are Behr’s Parchment Paper color, and our white trim.

We did find a home for the metal switchplate that didn’t cover the drywall imperfections.  This was a switchplate in the garage when we moved in.


My husband said this switchplate had character.  I still say it was just plain ugly.  It has been replaced.


And yes, we are going to replace the switches, too. After all, some are black, some are ivory, and some have been painted white. (Who paints light switches?)  More on changing out switches later.

Does your home have consistently matching switchplates?  If not, have you tried or did you try spray painting them?  Or have you just replaced yours?

Easy, Quick, Inexpensive House Upgrades: Change your interior door knobs.

The former owners of our home maintained the home, but did not upgrade it.  From what the neighbors have told me, this house had carpet in the bathrooms and the original 1960’s appliances until shortly before it was sold to us.  At any rate, the former owners’ son made some minor upgrades–and ended up downgrading simultaneously by not doing some of the upgrades properly–before selling the house.  Although new toilets, sinks, and vanities and new kitchen appliances were nice, I really think the house would have had more offers had the previous owner spent an extra couple of hundred dollars on tiny details.  For example, the old brass door knobs were really worn and hideous.

Shabby Mae ~ Easy, quick, inexpensive house upgrades: Change your interior door knobs.


Door knobs are an easy, quick, and cheap fix.  We spent approximately $10 each on all new mushroom door knobs, and each knob replacement required less than five minutes of work.  We put locking knobs on the bedroom and bathroom doors and non-locking closet door knobs on the closet doors and our daughter’s bedroom.  The knobs look so much better.

Shabby Mae ~ Easy, quick, inexpensive house upgrades:  Change your interior door knobs.

The old hinges remain on the doors, but we have already purchased the new hinges and will install that hardware as we refinish the doors.  (In other words, more later.)

Cost:  Approximately $110 for the entire house (11 doors).

Time required:  Approximately one hour for the entire house (11 doors).


Do You Have a Set of Spare Keys?

Last year, I locked myself out of the house–with a dead battery in our keypad lock and my cell phone still inside the house.  My two-year-old daughter was inside the house, but because she had her Kindle, she was not at all interested in opening the door for me.  I had a small panic attack before asking the neighbor to call my husband to return home with his key.  More recently, another neighbor locked her two kids and herself out of their house, and she used our phone to call her own husband.  It happens to the best of us, right?  But I would like to be proactive and take steps to avoid being locked out again.


The solution is simple.  I use MinuteKey at Lowe’s, and for as much as $3.00 plus tax per key (less if you are making more than one key), you can easily and quickly make a spare set of keys and place them somewhere in your shed or garage or crawlspace so that you always have a way in if you lock yourself out.  (Alternatively, you can give a set to loved ones, but I would advise keeping track of who has a set of spare keys and also making sure you completely trust the persons you entrust with your keys.)

Clearly I am not going to post where our spare keys are.  But my husband and I both know, and I can nearly guarantee you a burglar would not find them.  Also, we have two spare keys, one for our storm door and one for our actual door, and each is in a different location.  As I have mentioned before, we are all about safety.  If we were to need to tell someone the location of our spare keys–for example, if we were on vacation and someone needed to enter the house for some reason–we would move them to an entirely different location.

One more thing:  When I locked myself out of the house, I started carrying my keys with me when I went outside.  But now I no longer carry my keys around with me since I know I have spare keys where I can reach them.

Do you have spare keys somewhere on your property or left with a loved one just in case you lock yourself out?  Post in the comments!

The Second Thing You Should Do In Your New Home

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER:  This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you click on a product link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission to help support this blog and my family at no extra cost to you.  All of the items linked below have been purchased by me for my household and with household funds.  All opinions are my own.

We bought our first house last year.  And although we absolutely love it, we started with a long list of tasks we wanted to complete.  If you look at the listing pictures, you will probably guess that we looked forward to replacing fans, lights, door hardware, light switchplates, and outlet covers from the day we moved in.

But certain things came first–particularly increased safety measures.


Smoke detectors, for example.  The house had only one, in the hallway leading to the bedrooms.  We bought three others (these First Alert smoke alarms with escape lights) and installed them in two of the bedrooms and the living room, which is near the kitchen.

We also bought a carbon monoxide detector (this Kidde battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm with a digital display) and installed it on a wall adjacent to the garage.

And we checked the house’s fire extinguisher.  It was incredibly old, older than my husband (who isn’t old, but a 30-year-old fire extinguisher is definitely old in human years!).

And it needed to be recharged.

And frankly it was a cheap one to begin with.  So we replaced it.  My mother-in-law is a first responder, and she recommended a 5 lb. fire extinguisher with metal parts.  The one we purchased (this Amerex one) cost us less than $50 at Amazon.  It is covered by a six-year warranty, but will allegedly last for decades.  And it mounts on the wall (in the garage, which is right next to our kitchen) so nicely!  (We took the old one to the hazmat division at the landfill, by the way.)

Safety is paramount, don’t you think?  Before tackling the fun projects in your new home, install proper detectors, alarms, and fire extinguishers.

Before tackling the fun projects in your new home, install proper detectors, alarms, and fire extinguishers.

Did you check and replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms and your fire extinguisher when you moved into your home?  Have you checked them recently?  How do you remind yourself each year to check the batteries in your alarms and recharge your fire extinguisher if necessary?  Post your thoughts in the comments!


The First Thing You Should Do After Closing

What is the first thing you should do after closing?

Change your locks.

What is the first thing you should do after closing? Change your locks.

The former owners of our home gave us quite a few keys at closing, but we had no idea how many keys had been made during the sixty years before we purchased this house. Eight months after we moved in, we learned that at least one set of neighbors had a set of old keys.

But they no longer worked because we changed the primary locks on the house the weekend we moved in.  We changed them ourselves, and we started with the front door.  We removed an old brass door knob that had seen better days:



And we replaced it with a new, darker door knob with a lock:


Although it was clearly newer than the other door knobs in the house, we also were not impressed with the door knob and lock to the door leading from the garage into the kitchen:



So replaced it with a better lock, a sturdier silver one to match the kitchen:


We also had a final exterior door that we also changed the door knob and locks on.  The total cost to replace all three door knobs and locks would have been less than $125–had we not already owned the kitchen door lock from a previous abode.

Do you agree that changing the door locks is the first thing you should do after you close on a house?  What types of locks do you have?  Do you have a keypad lock on any of your doors or a Bluetooth controlled lock?  If you use keypad locks or Bluetooth locks, do you feel safe with them, and do the benefits outweigh any problems you have encountered?  Post your thoughts in the comments below!