Upcycling

The Benefits Of Upcycling

Whether you really love taking on a new DIY project, are finding it tricky to find new furniture due to coronavirus restrictions or personal taste or are looking for a low-cost change; upcycling can be a great way to re-vamp your home and garden. There are many different benefits to upcycling from being a creative outlet to a practical low-cost innovation. 

Eco Friendly

Yes, upcycling is often extremely eco-friendly for many reasons. Firstly, it reduces the amount of waste going to landfill. As a consumerist society we are very used to throwing things away when they are no longer of use or desirable to us, we often forget that many of the materials in old items are still perfectly usable and can be re-claimed to make impressive new goods. In fact, you will often see many high-end items in fancy stores often draw attention to the use of ‘reclaimed’ materials, which have been made into very desirable items. Waste in landfill leads to soil, water and air pollution.

Upcycling also saves energy in the production process, the fossil fuels used to transform raw materials, assemble items and transport to stores is all reduced through upcycling. Even upcycling old clothes can have a positive impact on the environment – as the fashion industry has a hugely negative impact on the environment in a number of ways, and its reliance on the quick rotation of ‘new trends’ means that it is a very wasteful area too. 

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Further, upcycling bypasses the need to acquire the raw materials in the first place and therefore saves on limited or unsustainable resources– an example being that no more trees need to be cut down for the wood to make your new bookcase or no more cotton needs to be picked and dyed for your new top. Instead you are utilizing the materials you already have and caring for the earth in the process. 

Low Cost

It almost goes without saying that instead of going out and spending lots of money on a new furniture set, shelving or whatever you need (much of which can be pretty pricey); giving your old things a new lease of life, or repurposing them into something completely new can save you tons of cash. There may be some costs involved, such as the cost of paint, but overall you can make some pretty beautiful pieces cheaper than buying completely new. Even repairing old goods and giving them a new lease of life can sometimes be more cost-effective than buying new, it also saves you from searching to replace a favorite item that was broken.

Creatively Fulfilling 

One of the best things about upcycling is looking at the finished piece, that you will proudly place in your home and garden and feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment that you created that. It is often also really fun to take on a new project, finding your creative inspirations, working out how to make it, finding solutions to problems and even learning new skills along the way. It can test and expand your creative and practical skillset – often leading to an even bigger sense of satisfaction once you have completed it.

Up-cycling encourages creativity and innovation – by finding new ways that you can save money and be eco-friendlier with the goods in your home, you can simultaneously find a new-found joy and passion in a creative project that can make you happier, more fulfilled and exercise your creative muscles. 

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Unique

You may have bought your furniture from a shop that sold thousands of the same product, but nobody will have the same item once you upcycle it. You can take some old pieces of furniture from inside your home and repurpose them for outdoor use. 

You may collect together broken or old items and arrange them into a memorable garden arrangement – examples include old chairs, tyres, or wheelbarrows as planters, bathtubs as ponds, old tins or bricks as plant pots, step ladders as plant stands and so forth. Anything can happen with a dash of imagination! Wooden pallets are a popular choice to make a variety of things with, such as garden furniture, planters or even rustic indoor furniture – shelving, coffee tables – the list is endless. 

So, whether it is simply a fresh lick of paint or making something completely new out of the pieces of the old item, whatever you do, it’s likely that it will be completely unique to you. So maybe run with that idea and make some new statement pieces that compliment your home and taste perfectly! 

Office Space

Companies Are Looking For Pet-Friendly Office Spaces For After The Pandemic 

Throughout the past year of the pandemic, our pets have become a source of emotional support, as well as our co-workers, as we navigated what working from home actually looked like. Now, as more and more people are getting vaccinated, companies are looking for ways to welcome their employees back into an office environment, and choosing spaces where their furry friends can continue to work with them everyday has become a major priority. 

According to a study performed by OnePoll in collaboration with the Canfield Pet Hospital, 50% of executive-level employees claim that they are considering allowing their employees to bring their pets to work as often as they please in the future. 59% of executives claimed that they already had relatively loose policies when it came to allowing pets in the office, but would now be “much more flexible” when it came to pet policies. 

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These discussions have become especially important considering how many people became pet owners during the pandemic. Many new pet owners are worried about how their pets, and themselves individually, will react to a normal work schedule that would require one to leave their house every day. 

63% of pet owners claimed that they have anxiety over how their pets will react to a post-pandemic work routine. Luckily, 75% of the executives surveyed said that they themselves have learned about the importance of being a pet owner, and how it actually helped them become a better, more compassionate, business leader. 

The study also found that “among executives who are crafting a specific pet policy in the workplace, 59% say their plans were motivated by employee requests. 58% say they understand that staff members have gotten used to being around their pets all day, and 42% say a pet perk at work would entice employees to return to the office.”

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Brian Garish is the president of Banfield Pet Hospital, who claims that research has shown in the past that dogs in the workplace actually make employees more collaborative and less stressed. 

“We’ve seen the human-animal bond only get stronger during the pandemic, and it’s no surprise that owners are thinking about how they can best be there for their pets when they start to spend more time outside of home. We believe we can advance human health through pet health, elevating societal well-being.”

Employees surveyed who discussed how before the pandemic their workplace already allowed pets in the office, claimed that it often always prompted an increase in employee socialization, and often encouraged more employees to come to work. It also led to an increase in productivity and made employees more willing to work later if it was needed.

Flower Wallpaper in Home

How to Brighten and Enliven Your Home For Spring

After a tough year and tough start to the new year, for the Northern hemisphere springtime is upon us, bringing brighter days, blooming flowers and many celebrations with it, such as Easter. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us will still be spending much of our time in our homes, and although this can be depressing, there are plenty of ways in which you can brighten your home in honor of springtime – opening the door to let the winter blues out and usher in all the bright and blooming possibilities of springtime.  

Re-organize

You guessed it – a spring cleaning. Freshening up your home as the seasons change can not only be great for hygiene purposes, but it can be a wonderful mood booster. Studies have shown that an organized and de-cluttered household can improve your mental well-being, and even the act of tidying up is a form of exercise that releases endorphins.

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Many find that spring and summer is generally lifting for mental wellbeing anyway, so sprucing up your home to match could usher in some great new positive energy, whether that is a simple deep clean or re-organizing and redecorating completely. You may have items or clothes that you only need in winter that can be put away and replaced with spring/summer gear. Or you may simply need another reorganization after spending more much more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gardening

Placing some freshly cut flowers in your home, some new plant pots or even adding some new plants to your garden can really brighten things up to celebrate spring. Even if it is too late to plant some spring time flowers, there will be plenty of nurseries, or garden centers that will have those plants already blooming in pots that you can take home and place in window-sill pots or your garden. Many plants and flowers have tons of wonderful properties that are cleansing and healthy for your home – as well as looking pretty.

If you are into gardening, now is the time to start planting flowers, fruit or vegetables in time for summer and autumn! Spruce up the path to your front door, or your windowsills, or anywhere with fresh bright plants and flowers. 

Re-decorate 

If you are the type of person that loves to style their home around the seasons, spring time is a beautiful time for you! You don’t have to go all out if you do not want to, although if your home could do with a lick of new paint or some general repairs, now may be a great time to do just that. A light and bright color palette is perfect for spring. You could even up-cycle old furniture, painting them with lighter colors which will give your current color scheme a lift. Cushions, throws, vases, framed pictures all can help to spruce up décor on a smaller budget.

Even just adding in some new plants, decluttering, swapping out accessories, taking down curtains and replacing with blinds to bring more light into the room can all be relatively easy changes that can transform a room. You may even like to rearrange your rooms to make the most of the spring sunshine!

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Think about aroma

Spring is such a fresh and enlivening time of year and your home can embody that too. You may have already cleaned up your home and redecorated, rearranged or adjusted the curtains to let in the bright daylight of spring. Another way to really bring in springtime is to think about aroma, freshly cut flowers can add a floral note to your home and are beautiful to look at. Lavender or potpourri are other great options. Opening the windows regularly to air out the home can also be great for an added freshness and your physical health.

You could also look into scented candles or air fresheners with a light spring theme to give your home a peaceful and aromatic lift. 

Theme it

Whether you love decorating for Easter or prefer to subtly brighten things up for spring you could try setting a seasonal theme. If your chosen theme is Easter, there are many of wonderful décor ideas ready for Easter that you can find online. If you have children, this is the perfect time for crafting, decorating eggs, floral arrangements, drawings of Easter bunnies or chicks, making Easter baskets. Or if you prefer subtler décor, many home stores will have spring-themed ornaments that you can recycle year after year.

Or simply add fresh flowers, rabbit ornaments, a beautifully decorated Easter wreath and anything else that suits your home style… the possibilities are endless.

Cleaning Surface

Can Tidying Up Be Therapeutic?

Have you ever walked into your home and felt your stomach drop at the sight of an untidy living room or unclean kitchen? Have you felt inexplicably lower whilst watching TV or trying to relax whilst the house around you is cluttered or unclean? Or else, have you felt that warm happiness glow through you when your house is organized and sparkling? Me too. There are several theories from psychologists and experts pointing to how clutter can negatively affect your mental health.

That keeping your home clean and tidy can have a positive impact on both your mental and physical wellbeing – so no, it was not just in your imagination. 

For many, a messy home can lead to higher stress levels, adding to the feeling of an overwhelming number of tasks to get through. A heightened amount of stress has been linked to many different physical and mental health concerns. Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant, told the Huffington Post, that clutter can impact mental health in a number of ways, including anxiety, sleep quality and attention, stating that:

“It can also impact our productivity levels, trigger avoidance strategy and impact what we consume. Clutter has a cumulative effect on our minds, increasing the potential of cognitive overload and reducing our resources, and causes elevated cortisol levels. This increases the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed, having a lower mood, and worried.”

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Mess has been linked to a lower mood, stress and lack of focus in various scientific studies. The Cleaning Collective writes that ‘a 2010 study by researchers at the University of California used software to analyze how 30 cohabiting couples talked about their homes. Those describing their living spaces as “cluttered” or complained of “unfinished projects” were more likely to be suffering from depression and fatigue than those who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative”. It was also found that those living in cluttered environments displayed higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s released into a person’s blood from their adrenal gland, often in response to stress.’

Another study in 2011 by Princeton researchers on the human visual cortex, found a link between lack of focus and clutter – as the visual cortex was overwhelmed by the other objects in the room.

It is evident that a tidier home can be mentally ‘healthier’ for many. However, can the actual act of tidying your home be therapeutic? In terms of a transformative experience, Marie Kondo, the celebrated cleaning consultant that became immensely popular worldwide, centers her ‘KonMari’ method around the notion that decluttering helps one ‘find joy’ in their home and possessions and supports the life they want to lead.

Essentially, the aim is that cleaning and organizing your home, can improve your outlook and create a happier environment for you to live in. If you live with a family, sharing responsibility for the housework or decluttering together can also establish a level of teamwork, achievement, and usher in group positivity. 

The act of cleaning has also been studied as a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practices often involve taking up a task ‘mindfully’, whether eating slowly and letting your mind focus on all the sensations involved with eating, or even washing the dishes – feeling the temperature of the water, smelling the scent of the dish soap, noticing the textures of the crockery.

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A 2014 study, entitled ‘Washing Dishes to Wash the Dishes: Brief Instruction in an Informal Mindfulness Practice’, ‘ought to investigate whether washing dishes could be used as an informal contemplative practice, promoting the state of mindfulness along with attendant emotional and attentional phenomena.’

It found that those who mindfully washed the dishes reported a 27% reduction in nervousness, 25% improvement in mental inspiration and a greater state of mindfulness. 

The Cleaning Collective actually points out how the simple physical act of cleaning can release endorphins, like any other form of exercise: ‘We’ll talk about the physical benefits of an energetic cleaning blitz later, but any form of exercise will result in the release of endorphins.

These endorphins go on to interact with the receptors in your brain, altering your perception of pain and triggering a positive feeling in your body. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, lessen anxiety and ward off depression.’

Further, the simple act of decluttering and cleaning your home, can be mentally cleansing for your mindset. As you clean you may want to visualize that you are clearing out any negative feelings and making space for a new positive energy. Even lighting a candle when you are done can really lift your mood – aromatherapy has been linked with reducing anxiety and depression. 

NYC Real Estate

New York Real Estate Surging As City-Life Returns To Normalcy 

After one year of the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to the rollout of multiple vaccines, life in major cities is starting to return to normalcy, as are the many industries that keep these cities populated. Real estate in New York City is beginning to see a rise in demand as prices begin to decrease again. 

In Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens the number of leases that were signed in February of this year beat a record that was set back in 2012 during the comeback from the 2008 economic crisis. “The median rental price—lease value net of concessions—fell at least 11% across those boroughs last month,” according to a new report by Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

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Hundreds of thousands of New yorkers initially fled from the city to head to suburbia when the pandemic began. Within the past few months, however, there’s been an increase in transactions within the cities major boroughs. The coming months are projected to give the city the boost it needs to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Some owners are keeping their properties off the market to wait for more individuals to be vaccinated/ the summer when it’s expected that more individuals will be flocking to the city.  According to UrbanDigs, a real estate insights firm, “in Manhattan landlords took more than 1,800 apartments off the market in February. For their part, renters are enjoying the reprieve from record prices, which peaked just before the pandemic.

According to Douglas Elliman, in Manhattan specifically non-luxury units will be offering the best deals in the coming months, and apartments of three or more bedrooms will likely be the most discounted due to the influx in demand. “The median rental price dropped 22.7% over the last 12 months on those units. Two-bedroom apartments are down 8.9%, while studios are down 19.3%. New signings are up dramatically from February 2020, but the overall vacancy rate remains high, at 5%, compared to 2.01% last year.  More than 40% of new leases come with some form of landlord concessions, the authors said, often one or more months of free rent during the first year after signing.”

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In Brooklyn, the borough saw the ““highest number of new lease signings since tracking began during the financial crisis, at 1,834 for February, a 133% year-over-year increase. Still, the median effective rent dropped 16.3%, more than any other year in almost a decade. Nearly 40% of new signings last month included landlord concessions,” according to reports from Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants.  

Miller Samuel also revealed that studio apartments in Brooklyn are seeing the best discounts in the borough. Average rental prices for studio’s fell nearly 19% when compared to this time last year. Apartments with three or more bedrooms saw the next biggest discount with a 13% decline. There are currently 3,438 listings in Brooklyn, which is also up 1,375 when compared to the amount of listings the borough had this time last year. 

Queens also set a new record for pricing, with inventory up 64% and signings up 36% when compared to last year.

DIY Home Decor

Home Adjustments To Save Money

Whether you are trying to tighten your belt after a tough year, looking to save up to move house or go on vacation, or simply trying to be more financially savvy there are many ways you can save money around the home. From bigger changes of energy service providers to save money over the long term, to small changes in routine, there are plenty of ways that you can save money without having to feel like you are sacrificing those things you love to indulge in. Saving money need not be difficult or unpleasant, so here are some easy ways you can keep more of your hard earned cash. 

Switch providers and check subscriptions

It is always a good idea to regularly look for new providers for your various utilities, shop around and see who is providing the best deal for you. This can be everything from your energy provider, to cable, to internet access, car insurance, to your cell phone. Shop around on the regular to see who can provide you with the best deal so you aren’t paying out as much each month. There are plenty of comparison websites that make this easy to do and even switching services that make this hassle free. Some providers may even give you a discount or bonus for switching to them. 

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You may also want to look into different bank accounts. You may have sat with the same account for some time but over the years your interest rate has changed or you are not getting as many benefits as some other accounts. Make your bank work for you by opening up new accounts which will give you more return on your investments, or even switch to a new credit card provider that is offering more benefits that you could utilize. 

Simply looking into new providers for your various services could cut your monthly bills down by a substantial amount. 

When looking at your outgoings look at subscription services that you are still paying for but no longer using. Take the time to cancel those subscriptions and gain some money back. If you live with others, you may also find that some of your favorite services such as Spotify, do a family account, which accommodates up to 6 accounts under one monthly price – which could be cheaper for you all!

Think eco-friendly   

Being eco-friendly not only benefits the climate and the environment, but also your pocket too! Often when you look into ways of being less wasteful, conserving energy and recycling you can save a lot of money each month. You can make large changes such as installing a low flow toilet or looking into better home insulation to save more money on heating or cooling bills. There are smaller changes you can make too, such as switching to LED lighting and picking energy-efficient appliances such as dishwashers. You can instill simple every day habits too such as making sure you turn off electrical items when not in use (rather than leaving them on standby), taking shorter showers, ensuring you are wasting less food by eating more leftovers or not letting food go bad and so on. 

Ensuring your home is energy efficient by way of utility options or simple changes in behavior could be particularly useful if, due to the coronavirus pandemic, you are spending more time inside the home and therefore your energy bills have increased. 

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Swaps

Are there areas of indulgence that you would be happy to swap out? Often, items from popular brands are more expensive than those without a well-known brand. When you are shopping could you look to buy off brand items rather than branded items to save money? If you are particular with food, it may be fun to start by buying both branded and the supermarkets own brand item, do a blindfolded taste-test with your family and see which item you like best! You may be surprised to find you like the unbranded version!

Are there other areas in your weekly routines where you could save money? Could you swap out the weekly takeaway once a month for a home-cooked version? It could be fun to challenge your culinary skills or even try something new. Perhaps you are still paying for a gym membership but actually, some home workout sessions would suit you better?

Even if you do not find anything in your lifestyle that you are willing to, or can, swap out to save money, there may be areas where you can look for discounts. Choose to shop when things are reduced rather than buying full price.

UK EU Flags Waving

How the UK Governments 2021 Budget Looked to Housing

The UK government recently delivered their spring budget, via the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. There have been mixed feelings on the overall budget, however, it was one that was largely influenced by the current coronavirus crisis. Many of the proposed schemes looked to areas to help the economy bounce back from the devastation that COVID-19 has caused. To further support the population of the United Kingdom, the government again extended furlough schemes to September 2021 (whereby employers can temporarily furlough workers and the government will pay 80% of their wages). 

It increased welfare payments for those out of work, introduced ‘recovery loans’ to help businesses bounce back and so forth. The budget also looked to help entice buyers to the housing markets by extending schemes to make house buying easier for more people. As the housing market is central to the economy, it will play an important role in the UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Stamp Duty

Most of the schemes introduced in the UK governments budget were already in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘stamp duty holiday’ was one that was introduced last year, whereby the UK’s stamp duty tax on buying a house was lifted until the 31st of March 2021. Last year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated that the scheme “helped hundreds of thousands of people buy a home and supported the economy at a critical time”. However, an outpouring of calls from the industry showed that many purchases would not complete before the original deadline. In response, the stamp duty holiday has been extended. 

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Now, until the 30th of June, the threshold of the stamp duty tax to start would remain at £500,000. After June 30th, the threshold will reduce to £250,000 until 30 September. After this, the Stamp Duty holiday will end and return to the £125,000. Stamp Duty is a percentage tax based a portion of the house price, increasing from 5% to 10% to 12%. 

The Guardian wrote: ‘The changes gave a boost to the share prices of housebuilders, with Barratt Developments and Persimmon ending the day as the biggest gainers in the FTSE 100 with 7% rises. Taylor Wimpey closed up 6%, while in the FTSE 250 Crest Nicholson, Countryside and Bellway were all up more than 6%. The phased change will mean that buyers who miss the June deadline will not face as big a bill as if the tax returned to normal straight away. However, there will still be an incentive for those buying expensive homes to compete their sales as soon as possible – someone paying £500,000 for a property will see the bill rise from £0 to £12,500 if they complete after June but before the end of October.’

Speaking to Huffington Post, Jo Thornhill a finance expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: ‘“An extension to the stamp duty holiday will be welcomed by those currently in the house buying process and concerned about losing the benefit before their sale goes through. But it may not be long enough for those yet to have offers accepted on a property and begin the process to get to the finishing line by the end of June.”

Lower Deposits

First time buyers would not have necessarily benefited from the Stamp Duty holiday, but extending on the government’s plan from last year that promised to turn ‘generation rent into generation buy,’ the government has now guaranteed 95% mortgages – a scheme that was introduced last year but was not widely adopted.

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The Guardian wrote: ‘in the early days of the pandemic lenders pulled 95% mortgages, and many are still capping borrowing below 90%. Home loans for those with a 10% deposit have been reappearing, but many have strict terms and conditions for borrowers. Sunak said the government would offer a guarantee for lenders to encourage them to offer 95% mortgages again, with the scheme in place from April until the end of 2022. He said Lloyds, NatWest, Santander, Barclays and HSBC had already signed up, and that more, including Virgin Money, planned to follow.’ 

Previously, mortgages were more likely to require a 10-20% deposit depending on circumstances, which priced out a lot of first-time buyers from generating a deposit. 95% percent mortgages have been risky for both lender and buyer, which is why they are not normally widely available.  However, in this scheme the government has offered to take on some of the risk of the 95% mortgages, providing lenders with greater protection. 

Although a 95% mortgage will allow more buyers to purchase a home, Jo Thornhill stated to the Huffington Post, “It can be difficult for borrowers with only a 5% deposit to find competitive mortgage rates and deals, so any additional support to boost this sector of the mortgage market is helpful… But all borrowers should think carefully about mortgage affordability when buying a property. With only a 5% deposit you will be paying off the mortgage over a much longer period and interest rates could rise.”

Zillow Facing Antitrust Lawsuit After Accusations Of Favoring Certain Listings 

A real estate startup company is suing Zillow within a federal court over allegations that the website is violating antitrust laws by “deceptively steering customers to home listings from a subset of agents.” 

The suit was filed in a US federal court in Seattle in which the startup Rex alleges that Zillow and its affiliate Trulia are illegally favoring certain listings by brokers who belong to the National Association of Realtors (NAR); the most prominent US real estate trade association. The startup has claimed that non-NAR real estate agents are now located in a “hidden tab” on the website. 

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Rex’s general council Mike Toth was recently interviewed to discuss the suit regarding one of the nation’s most popular real estate listing websites. “The change by Zillow and Trulia forces all non-NAR listings to have permanent low visibility. This is the real estate web returning to this old vision of data segregation rather than data democratization for consumers.”

The suit could potentially shift the way in which certain online real estate platforms operate and allow more opportunities to arise for more buyers and sellers to negotiate the type of agent they want. Zillow and Trulia account for 75% of the online home search market in America, and when they made changes to their sites in the beginning of January, listings began being segregated to hidden areas of the site. 

“Zillow and Trulia started segregating listings, giving preferential treatment to the 1.3 million real estate agents who belong to NAR. Other listings, including those posted by brokers not affiliated with NAR, foreclosures and homes listed for sale by owners without agents, are now relegated to a separate tab. We are asking the court to block Zillow and Trulia from segregating listings,” Rex claimed. 

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NAR has their own real estate listing site, Realtor.com, which is the second-most viewed site for agents throughout the nation. That platform is known for only showing listings by NAR’s agents, and understandably so considering it’s their own website. So the issue now is that the changes Zillow and Trulia made means that three out of the four most popular real estate listing sites are favored for NAR’s agents and their listings exclusively. 

Those listings in particular tend to be more expensive because they require the seller to pay a commission, often 6% of the homes sale price, which is split between the agents of the buyer and seller. Rex has now raised these antitrust concerns with the Justice Department and 35 state attorney generals. 

Viet Shelton is a spokesperson for Zillow who claims the company “made the change in January after it became a participant in the Multiple Listing Services Internet Data Exchange feeds, which are operated by NAR. Zillow’s rules for the IDX feeds require participants to segregate listings. Zillow is committed to giving consumers the most up-to-date housing information on the most amount of listings possible on a single platform. We made changes to the way some listings appear on the site in order to be compliant with MLS rules.” The suit will likely begin unfolding within the next month or so.

Planting Flowers in Garden

Thinking of Taking Up Gardening? Here’s How To Begin

Gardening has a ton of often-unknown benefits. It can be a form of light exercise, it brings you out in nature, providing fresh air and daylight that helps you sleep, it can be grounding and therefore good for mental health. Growing your own food can help you improve nutrition and keep a eco-friendly household – the list goes on and on. In this strange time of the coronavirus pandemic, many may be looking for a new hobby or pastime to fill their time. If you are lucky enough to have a small patch of garden, or even some windowsill planters, you may consider taking up the noble art of gardening. Whether or not you discover that you have a green thumb, here are some gardening tips for beginners. 

Know your garden

Before you begin the process of planting seeds, get to know your garden. Look where the sun hits it best, which areas are more in shade and which are more in sun. This will help you know where to place your plants or patch, depending on what you are growing. It is also a good idea to check the soil, which will tell you how acidic your soil is. You can purchase a soil testing kit which will determine the PH level.

Different plants will grow better in different soils, for example blueberry bushes thrive in acidic soils, so if your soil is too alkaline, purchasing some peat or fertilizers that will make the soil more acidic is necessary. Lots of plants will thrive in slightly acidic soils as it provides better access to nutrients. 

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Once you know all this, you can plan your garden, working out what to grow where and when. If you want an aesthetically pleasing garden, focusing on colors and structure – planning is a perfect start to your growing journey. Further than this, some plants will need specific conditions in your garden to grow well, so planning helps you ensure you can achieve all you desire in your garden. 

Quoted in Huffington Post, Steven Howes, director of The Real Gardener, said: “The number one mistake most gardeners make would be putting the wrong plants in the wrong location, what ends up happening is the plant either gets scorched, or not enough light, and it doesn’t flourish or flower. Ask nurseries for help. They’re more than happy to provide advice. And read the information on the labels of each plant that shows what it likes and dislikes.”

Planting

Once you have decided what you want to grow and where, it is always best to do your research. Look at what that particular plant needs – indirect sunlight or direct? What kind of fertiliser? How often does it need watering? Do you need to plant it in a specific way? How deep do you need to plant the seeds or roots? Does the plant need to be started off in pots? All these are valuable questions when starting off growing something new. Often you may have the choice to buy seeds or starter plants from a local garden store.

Whichever your method, it is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of planting seeds or plants, knowing how to handle the plant carefully, separate the roots and so forth. Before you know it, it will be second nature!

You will also need to know when to plant your chosen seeds, as plants grow at different times of the year and need different conditions. This is helpful to know in the planning process, so, if you fancy taking on a bigger project, you can plan your garden for planting and sowing all year round!

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Care

Taking care of your plants is more than just watering them regularly. You will need to investigate them regularly, digging out any unruly weeds, checking their general health and feeding them regularly. You may want to look up any common conditions your plants could develop so you can spot the signs early – i.e. yellowing leaves could mean that your plant is being overwatered or there is insufficient drainage in the pot or soil. When plants are overwatered they are unable to obtain the needed nutrients to grow properly.  

You will also need to keep a look out for certain garden pests and ensure they do not get out of control. Keep an eye out for increasing numbers of aphids, slugs and snails to keep plants safe, and you may even need to purchase netting to keep sweet berries out of birds mouths. 

If you are hoping to keep a growing garden for the long term, consider composting kitchen and garden waste – such as vegetable peelings and bad fruit. Placing the waste in a compost heap outside to decompose is not only tremendously good for the environment, but will decompose into a health compost for your plants, helping them to grow better!

Cleaning Solutions That Are Good For The Environment

Climate change is one of the biggest issues in our world currently. While it’s going to take true systemic change from our world leaders to make a genuine impact, there are things we can do in our own homes everyday to help make us feel better about our contribution to creating a greener Earth. 

One of the easiest things one can do to help save money and reduce waste is buying simple cooking ingredients that can be used among a multitude of recipes and meals in bulk. Nancy Birtwhistle recently spoke with the media about how she completely changed her lifestyle when she retired to better help the environment, and buying ingredients in bulk was one of the first steps she took. 

“I buy a lot of bicarbonate of soda, because that’s used a lot, a big bag of citric acid, a bottle of surgical spirit, sodium carbonate (known as washing soda, which can be a skin and eye irritant) and a bag of sodium percarbonate, known as oxygen or green bleach; it’s not as toxic as chlorine bleach, though you still have to be careful with it. And I bought myself a variety pack of essential oils, because I still like a little bit of perfume in fabric conditioner, or my ironing water.”

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She also discussed how she collects rain water to be used in things like her iron or for future watering needs in her garden. Birtwhistle will boil the rain water, fill up her iron and add in a drop or two of essential oil to add some nice scents to her clothing as well. 

Using water, white vinegar, and surgical spirit with essential oils for fragrance, one can easily make their own all-purpose cleaner. “I use it pretty much for anything. It’s non-streaky and quick-drying. It started off as a kitchen cleaner for worktops, the hob, cupboards, cutting through greasy marks on shelves and things like that. Then I moved it into the bathroom and everywhere else. It’s good for mirrors, glass, inside the car. It’s brilliant for tiles.”

For brightening whites and removing yellowing stains from things like pillows or blankets, Birtwhistle reccoments making a lemon juice or citric acid solution, as citrus in general is an amazing natural stain remover. 

Place yellowing fabrics in a lemon juice or citric acid solution of 3tbsp added to 600ml hot water, with salt, and leave to soak. You need a sunny day. Peg them outside – don’t rinse or wring them – and the sun will bleach them.”

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Your vinegar, water, and spirit solution is also perfectly safe to use for cleaning your electronic devices screens. It can help remove fingerprints and harmful bacteria that clings to those surfaces. Birtwhistle recommends diluting the cleaner with more warm water for electronic devices. 

“Marks on glass screens come from a combination of soap scum and limescale. Make a spray of citric acid and water and it comes off in a jiffy. Make sure you rinse it off, because it dries sticky.”

Salt and vinegar solutions are also perfect for removing and preventing mold growth in the home. “Salt and vinegar will kill mold. I keep white vinegar in a spray bottle, so you can get it into awkward places like that. I squirt it, then dip an old toothbrush into ordinary table salt and rub away at it. Once you’ve done that, you could then use a spray of sodium percarbonate if there are any stained bits.”

There’s clearly a multitude of ways one can implement clean and natural solutions into the way they maintain their clean space, and beyond that the environment also benefits from the use of these ingredients.