By Marni Jameson
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
(INDESTRUCTIBLE: Designer Debbie Weiner, the force behind slobproof.com, designs homes with real families in mind. Here tough, easy-to-clean flooring and won’t-show-the-dirt fabrics add longevity to this family room’s furnishings and peace of mind for the homeowners. Photo courtesy of Greg Powers for Slobproof!)
Breaking up may be hard to do, as singer Neil Sedaka melodically pointed out, but not breaking down. No sir, breakdowns are a snap. Just come to my house, and I’ll show you. Things are wearing out, breaking down and generally falling apart ― and that’s just when I look in the mirror.
It’s frustrating. See, I have a wish list of home improvements I would like to get to. I’d love new bedding in the master (ours is 10 years old and I’m sick of it). I would like to build out the wine cellar, build in more bookcases, and add an outdoor fireplace, but every time I get even remotely close to making such a move, something in the house goes ― the washer dies, the roof needs a patch, the driveway sprouts a sinkhole, and poof! My improvement budget disappears and takes the grocery money with it.
A girl just can’t get ahead in times like these.
I’m thinking about this dilemma ― the tug between wanting to improve and needing to fix ― while applying an icepack to my back, which I wrenched flipping a mattress. The mattress flip was part of my make-things-last crusade. (Mattress experts say that flipping your mattress several times a year can greatly extend its life, though it may shorten yours.) My mattress is king-size and I’m pint size. I tried flipping alone and almost turned into a lab specimen, the kind you flatten between microscope slides.
“Mom? You home?”
“Here! Between the mattress and box spring!”
Apart from the harmful and potentially fatal side effects, I still recommend mattress flipping, and any other way to extend the life of your household items, because the longer you can make them last, the more you’ll save, and the more dough you’ll have for improvements you want but don’t need ― such as new bedding. But before I can daydream about finishing the wine cellar, or installing that outdoor fireplace, I have carpet that needs cleaning, walls that need painting, and a cooktop with two down burners.
In these economic times, almost everyone wants to make their household furnishings and appliances go into extra innings, so here are some ways to do that.
? Pick furnishings right the first time. Often home furnishings need replacing because they get dirty or worn. Avoid that by choosing forgiving, durable furnishings in the first place. Choose patterns over solids, dark colors or mid-tones over lights, sturdy over fragile fabrics, distressed over highly polished finishes, and medium-to dark wall color (they should invent a color called fingerprint) in a finish you can wipe.
? Do necessary repairs promptly to ensure your home’s soundness. Though it’s not exciting to repair a leaking roof, treat mold or termite damage, or fix rotting wood, if you let these problems go, they tend to worsen and get more costly to fix.
? Clean your appliances. The number one reason kitchen appliances break is filth. Get the food out of dishwasher filters and traps, vacuum coils in the refrigerator (unplug it first), and bust the grease and crud on gas stoves to keep igniters working longer.
? Replace those vent filters. Cleaning or replacing your air filters every one to three months can extend the life of your heating and air conditioning unit by up to three times. Dirty vents make your HVAC system work harder and wear out faster.
? Flip your mattress. If you have a two-sided mattress (some newer ones are one sided and should never be flipped), turning it over and around every two or three months will lengthen its useful life. (Do it with a friend.) Using a Sharpie, write the numbers 1 through 4, for each of the different ways the mattress can lie, so you vary the placement.
? Add doormats. To extend the life of your carpet, put doormats outside every exterior door, patterned area rugs inside every entry, and vacuum often. The more you vacuum, the longer your carpet will last. Treat stains when fresh. The longer they sit, the greater the chance they’ll penetrate the fibers. Save carpet scraps. When you have a stain that won’t lift, repairing with a scrap can save you from replacing the whole carpet.
? Tint the windows. Tinted windows will slow ― though won’t prevent ― fading and deterioration of furniture fabrics, carpet and drapes. Here’s the catch: the darker the tint the longer your furnishings will last, but the less natural light in your home. So choose a tint you can live with.
? Fix don’t toss. Before you toss that wobbly table or chair, repair it. Disassemble the pieces, scrape off old glue, re-glue with wood glue and clamp with pipe clamps overnight. The furniture will be better than new, and you will have added years of use.