Pet Friendly Indoor Plants

Sep 08, 2020

Having a pet, no matter how old, is a lot like having a toddler around. You’re constantly having to make sure it’s not going to put itself in harm’s way by doing something unexpected, like chewing a cord, vaulting off the furniture like a circus performer or eating a poisonous houseplant. Saving your dog or cat from your houseplants isn’t always easy, but it sure helps if you know which plants are safest in a household with pets. Fortunately, most of the plants that are safe for dogs are also safe for cats, which can make life a little less complicated if you have both.

The Official Plant List

The ASPCA maintains an ever-evolving list of safe and unsafe plants for dogs, cats and horses. Since you’re unlikely to have a horse in your house, we’ve focused the advice in this article on the other two. This list is in no way meant to be totally exhaustive, but should help you get started if you’re shopping for new plants to add to the house or are simply curious if your existing plants could be a hazard. Poisonous plants, by the ASPCA’s definition, aren’t necessarily toxic, but they will make your pet very, very sick, and that’s definitely not something you want to experience.

Pet-Safer Plants

There are always exceptions, allergies and absolutely unexpected accidents that happen, but by and large, you can trust that these groups of plants will be fairly safe around your pets:
  • Carnivorous Plants. Believe it or not, the plants that consume insects are unlikely to be dangerous to your pets. You still want to check with your nursery specialist when purchasing exotic carnivorous plants, but the most common you’ll find in stores, like the California pitcher plant and the Venus flytrap, should be safe for Fluffy and Fido.
  • Ferns. True ferns, by and large, are great additions to a pet-friendly household. Not only do they tend to be hung or mounted on walls, which keeps them out of reach of pets, but true ferns also pose almost no threat to your beloved animals. Boston ferns, which are probably the most popular of the indoor ferns, and are a great choice!
  • Kitchen Herbs. Keeping live herbs in the kitchen is a great way to maintain a green living space with a lot of purpose. You have a lot of herbs to choose from when growing indoors with pets. Try basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, sage, savory (summer or winter) or stevia in indoor gardens. Strawberries are also a tasty and safe indoor food plant.
  • Orchids. A huge range of orchids are safe for pets, even if they’re not always the easiest things to grow. The popular epiphytic Cattleya and Phalaenopsis orchids will grow in different household conditions, as will the terrestrial jewel orchid.
  • Palms. True palms are generally safe, but cycads are not. Make sure you know which you’re purchasing before committing to a plant. Cycads tend to have squatty, highly textured trunks that resemble pineapples, where palms are much smoother generally. A few safe palms to look for include areca palm, bamboo palm, dwarf palm and the ponytail palm.
  • Peperomia. This huge group of plants is generally known for its intricately textured leaves and ease of care, making peperomias perfect plants for busy households. Most are pet safe, but if you’re not sure, you can stick to the basics like blunt leaf peperomia, ivy peperomia and metallic peperomia.
  • Succulents. Succulents and cacti, as a group, are pretty safe for pets, with a few notable exceptions. It’s important to consider how your pet may interact with plants before bringing anything covered in spines into your home, so while cacti by and large are safe if the flesh is ingested, they’re not safe when it comes to pointy things stabbing your animals, who probably have never encountered such a thing in the world.
If you must keep cacti, consider Christmas cactus or other fairly spineless varieties. Succulents like Echeveria and Hawthornia are good substitutes, as well as other, less cactus-shaped choices like Hoya. PLEASE NOTE: Aloe vera plants, jade plants, Kalanchoe and many others are considered to be poisonous to pets.

Need Help Choosing Your Next Houseplants?

Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that your plants are safe for your pets can be difficult, especially since many plants go by various common names, and sometimes several different plants share the same common name.
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Metal Roofing for Homeowners

Aug 10, 2020

 
There was a time when metal roofing was largely reserved for use on shop buildings or certain businesses. These days, however, you’ll see metal roofs on almost any sort of structure, including a wide range of home styles. If you’re in the market for a new roof, you might consider going metal. Before jumping on the metal bandwagon, however, here are a few things that you should know about metal roof installations and how to tell if a metal roof is right for your home.

The Look of Metal

When considering a metal roof, one thing that a lot of people think about is how the roof will look after installation. While some metal roofing materials are installed as bare metal, it’s not uncommon for the metal to be coated or painted (especially in the case of some materials such as aluminum.) The metal panels are often machined to produce creases, folds and bends that mimic the look of smaller panels, and in some cases even create a look similar to shingles or Spanish tile. While there are definitely options that look like what you would expect from a metal roof, there are a wide range of other aesthetic options available as well.

Metal Roofing Longevity

A properly installed metal roof can last a long time, in some cases outlasting many of the other materials in your home. A lot of metal roof installations come with warranties that can last anywhere from 20 to 50 years or longer, though painted metal tends to top out at around 30 years. These roofs are fire resistant and less likely to suffer wear and tear from weather that could otherwise reduce their lifespan, since they’re all but impervious to the effects of rain and snow.
The quality of a metal roof can vary depending on the material used in the roof and how thick it is. Common metals used in roofing include tin, copper, aluminum, zinc and steel, with each providing its own advantages in regard to aesthetics, strength and rust resistance. Aspects of the roofing material such as sheet size, design and mounting hardware used can have a big effect on the quality of the roof, as can the skill of the person doing the installation.

Metal Drawbacks

While there are a lot of advantages to metal roofing, it’s worth considering a few drawbacks as well. Some metal roofs, especially those that are made of softer materials such as copper, can dent or otherwise be damaged by hail or other large impacts. Metal roofing can also be louder than other roof materials if appropriate noise-reduction materials aren’t used during installation and insulating. Improperly installed metal roofs can leak around fasteners and screw holes, especially if specialized washers aren’t used with the connecting screws. The biggest disadvantage of metal roofing is the cost, however; the up-front cost of even a lower-end metal roof can be equal to or greater than the cost of a premium installation of other roofing types.

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Is Metal Right for You?

While metal can be expensive to install, its longevity combined with its weather resistance and minimal heat conduction during the summer can make it a good long-term investment. It’s also lightweight and can be installed quickly by a skilled contractor and their crew. With that said, some homeowners prefer the look and easy maintenance of shingles or other more traditional home roofing solutions. In the end, the choice between metal and other options comes down to personal preference and how much of an investment you’re wanting to make into your house.

Choosing the Right Installer

While you can always choose to install a metal roof as a DIY project, some parts of installation can be kind of tricky. If you want to go the easier route and hire a roofing installer for your metal roof, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for a free account today to find roofing contractors in your area who can get you the best deal on a quality metal roof for your home.
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Stayin’ Cool With Ductless Mini-Split Systems

There’s nothing like a glass of cool lemonade on a hot summer day, unless of course the reason it’s so hot is that your air conditioner needs to be replaced. In that case, a new air conditioning system is pretty much the best thing ever. Maybe yours has lived a long and full life and is ready to be replaced, or perhaps you’ve added on to your home and need a solution for cooling that EZ Bake Oven you’ve created. In either case, installing a new ducted air conditioning system or plopping a window unit into the nearest window aren’t your only choices. You could go with Door Number Three: the ductless mini-split system.

What is a Ductless Mini-Split System?

Ductless mini-splits are air conditioning systems that are made to cool (and sometimes heat) smaller spaces. They can work together to improve climate control in entire homes and can even replace a traditional ducted system. Much like a central air conditioning system, there are two parts: the condenser, which is installed outside, and the inside air handler. The main difference from traditional systems is that they don’t use ductwork, so they eliminate a ton of temperature loss that would normally occur in your crawlspace or attic. And unlike a window unit, a ductless mini-split system can be hung out of the way of windows, since it only requires a three-inch hole to run the refrigerant lines and electrical controls.

Advantages of a Ductless Mini-Split System

There are a lot of reasons to love a ductless mini-split, but energy efficiency has to be up there among the top. These systems can have SEER ratings of around 28, which is substantially more efficient than a ducted system’s 13 SEER national minimum requirement. Of course, a ducted system’s rating will vary by unit, but generally speaking, the higher the SEER rating, the higher the price tag. Ductless mini-splits systems also boast these advantages over a traditional central HVAC system:
  • More precise control of room temperatures. Mechanically, one of the most important differences between ductless mini-split systems and traditional systems is that mini-splits are controlled by an inverter system that allows your heat or air to come out of the air handler at the temperature you set. This is different from a ducted air conditioner that only blows air at one temperature, constantly switching on and off to maintain room temperatures.
  • Ability to set room temperatures independently of one another. Although zoning is possible with ducted systems, it can be costly to install and is not a reasonable solution for many rooms that need different temperatures. This is especially a concern in multi-generational households or those where the home heats or cools irregularly throughout the day. With a ductless mini-split system, you can set the living room to stay a constant 72 degrees despite the heat baking your picture window, without your office having to become an ice cave. Everybody wins!
  • No more dirty air cycling endlessly. Ducts are filthy, there’s no question about it. This is just an inevitable side effect of their design, especially in an older house that’s had decades or generations to collect substantial amounts of dirt in the home’s ductwork. Ductless mini-splits are just that: ductless. Each unit has its own filtration system, and there are no ducts for dirt to settle in, keeping room air significantly cleaner all the time.

When Not to Split?

Not every house is going to be a great candidate for a ductless mini-split system, no matter how awesome they seem. Newer homes with highly efficient central HVAC systems that are in great shape or those that don’t generally have a lot of temperature differential across the structure likely won’t recapture the cost required to install these systems. However, if you’re not sure if your home can benefit from a ductless mini-split system, you can always consult an HVAC expert for more specific recommendations. Sign up for your free HomeKeepr account to find the professionals you need.
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Considering a DIY Interior Paint Job?

There are a lot of people tackling DIY projects at the moment. Some of these are necessary projects that people are doing themselves to avoid bringing strangers into their homes. Others are simply a way to pass the time and shake off some boredom. Regardless of the reason, you might find yourself considering some interior painting. This can be a great idea, especially if you find yourself going a bit stir-crazy while you wait for everything to reopen. That said, it’s important that you don’t rush into a DIY painting project since that can lead to results that are less than optimal. Here are a few things to think about to help ensure that your painting project turns out well.

Measure First

A can of paint only goes so far, so it’s important to know just how much paint you need before you buy it. Since most paint colors are mixed, there’s no guarantee that paint mixed at different times will look exactly the same even if it’s all supposed to be the same color. A can of paint covers an average of 400 square feet, though this can differ based on the paint type and other factors. To begin, measure the width and height of each wall and multiply to get their area. Be sure add the area of any ceilings if you’re painting them as well. Once you know exactly how much surface area you need to cover, you can check the coverage of the specific paint you’re getting and buy accordingly.

Make a Single Trip

Even though some areas are opening things up again, that doesn’t mean you can stop respecting social distancing rules. Figure out exactly what you need and make a list so that you can buy it in a single trip. Wear a mask, avoid getting too close to anyone else and go get your supplies at a time when the store isn’t crowded.

Prep Your Rooms

Don’t underestimate the importance of prepping your rooms. Fill any holes, sand rough surfaces and take the time to clean everything. If possible, wash the surfaces you’re going to paint with soap and water a day or two before you plan to start painting. Even if you aren’t painting them, you should also clean the ceiling, baseboards and any other surfaces so that any cobwebs, dust and dirt on them doesn’t mess up your freshly painted surfaces. Remove any outlet covers, light switch panels and anything else that’s attached to the walls. Once the room is ready, be sure and use an appropriate primer to coat everything you’re going to paint before you start painting.

Paint in the Proper Order

You might be tempted to jump right in and start working on the walls. Doing so can actually make things more difficult in the long run, though. If you’re painting your baseboards, start with them first. Move on to window and door frames, then the ceiling. Once these are all painted, give them plenty of time to dry, then put easy-release painter’s tape over the painted surfaces. After everything is taped up, you can then paint the walls and not have to worry about getting paint on those areas you’ve already painted. Any paint that got on the walls while you were painting your trim and ceilings will be painted over with your wall paint.

Working With Tape

Putting down painter’s tape is easy but pulling it up can be very frustrating. A lot of people don’t think about the fact that paint from the walls will overlap onto the tape, so pulling the tape off can take paint with it, leaving an uneven edge on the paint. Before pulling, take a utility knife and cut the paint right at the edge of your trim or taped surface. Pull the tape at a 45-degree angle behind where you’re cutting, ensuring a nice crisp edge to your painting. Just make sure that the paint has dried for at least a day so that it’s not still soft or gummy.

Give Yourself Time

When you start painting, allow yourself at least a few days per room. You’ll need time to prep the surfaces you’re going to paint, time for the primer to dry and then additional time for the paint itself to dry. If you’re doing multiple coats, that time will be even longer. It will all pay off in the end, though, with the extra time resulting in a more professional look with even coverage and nice clean edges. Once everything’s dried you can start replacing anything you removed, but give yourself at least a few more days before trying to clean the newly-painted surfaces.
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Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

With social distancing being an important part of life at the moment and so many parts of the economy suffering the effects of state lockdowns, some are worried about how all of this will affect the housing market. This is especially a concern for those who were hoping to buy a new home and have seen their plans potentially derailed by the pandemic. Is this a good time to consider buying a new home, assuming that it’s even safe to do so? Depending on where you live, the answer may be surprising.

It’s a Buyer’s Market in Some Markets (but not everywhere)

With the current state of the world, the demand for real estate has dropped significantly in some parts of the US and Canada. This has left many of those who have already listed homes for sale or who were planning to list over the summer in a position where there are far fewer people looking at their properties. For some sellers, this isn’t much of an issue; they can simply wait it out and stick to their previous plans. A lot of sellers don’t have that luxury, though. This creates a buyer’s market where a lot of sellers are willing to consider offers that they wouldn’t have in the past, giving potential buyers a lot more control in the home-buying process. As the name suggests, it’s always good to buy in a buyer’s market. It isn’t necessarily a great time to list a home for sale, of course, since you’d likely have to settle for a lower offer than you were expecting if you want to move the property. This usually helps to balance out the market, with listing rates slowing down to meet demand until things pick back up again. With all of that said, not every market is experiencing this pandemic the same way.  In fact, many markets remain a seller’s market due to low inventory, mortgage rates, or any number of other local demand characteristics.

Demand Is Staying Low in Most Markets

Most of the time, a buyer’s market is caused by shifts in the economy that have people trying to save money; an example of this would be a recession. These economic shifts temporarily reduce the number of people who are willing to take on large debts, creating a glut of sellers trying to entice a smaller pool of buyers. The buyer’s market typically fizzles out once the number of sellers shrinks or the economy stabilizes. In the current buyer’s market, the economy certainly plays a factor. There is an external factor at play here as well, however: The physical distancing that COVID-19 requires has added additional worry about open houses and other forms of interpersonal contact that are traditional when buying or selling a house. There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, including how long it will last, so with this external factor and the currently stunted economy we could see demand stay low for longer than you would expect in a buyer’s market situation.

Market Recovery

This isn’t to say that the market won’t recover, of course. Some states have already started reopening non-essential businesses and other parts of the economy, and other states have plans to start reopening soon. The economy will likely stay sluggish for a while, but reopening is the first part of recovery. Even the pandemic is becoming something less of a factor as people continue to practice social caution and science continues to work toward treatment and vaccine options. While market recovery may take longer than in the past, a recovery will happen, and the good deals that buyers can find now will become less common as things move forward.

Buying Safe

If you do decide to shop for a home in the current market, make sure that you’re smart about it and stay safe. Maintain all physical distancing practices while looking at homes, even if there is only a seller or agent present. Ask whether no-contact options such as virtual tours or virtual closing with digital signage are options, and if touring the property request that any doors or other barriers be opened before you arrive to reduce contact. Wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and take the same precautions that you would in any other social situation. This may seem excessive for viewing a home, but keep in mind that these practices not only protect you, but also protect the seller and agent as well.
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New Real Estate Rules Under Social Distancing

Buying or selling a home can be stressful even under ordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, the current state of the world is far from ordinary. The housing market is feeling the crunch, as fewer buyers want to get out and shop for a home, and fewer sellers want to take a risk with selling. This isn’t to say that nobody’s buying and selling, of course; the market is just going through some changes. One of the biggest changes revolves around how buyers and sellers are handling social isolation and social distancing. If you’re thinking of selling, or are in the market to buy, here are a few new “rules” to keep in mind when entering the real estate fray in the era of self-isolation.

Increasing Online Presence

One of the big changes to the real estate process is an increased dependence on online resources instead of in-person shopping. This includes lots of pictures and videos of properties being posted online, but many sellers are taking things even further than this. Recorded virtual tours, online conferences to allow buyers to ask questions about the property, and even livestream walkthroughs with a seller or agent showing the property are all increasingly popular options to supplement or even replace in-person showings and conferences.

Fewer Open Houses

Open houses are a popular way to show off a property to many potential buyers, but in the current crisis these events are a big no-no. In many locales, open houses aren’t even allowed under state and federal guidance. In states where they haven’t been specifically banned, many sellers are still hesitant to hold an event that would bring multiple people into close contact with each other. Online “virtual open house” conferences are popping up as one option to adapt to this, letting multiple potential buyers come together on Zoom or a similar video conference service at the same time to get a better feel for the property that’s being sold.

More One-on-One Time

As convenient as online access and virtual tours are during the current isolation period, few if any buyers would sign on the dotted line without getting a chance to see a property in person. To accommodate this, many sellers and agents are meeting with potential buyers by appointment only. This lets a potential buyer get a good look at the property in question while also restricting the size of the meeting as much as possible. Many of these appointments are made with the understanding that if any participant feels the least bit under the weather on the day of the meet-up, then it will need to be rescheduled for another time.

Respecting Social Distancing

Even when buyers and sellers do meet up, the process is usually a little different than it used to be. Social distancing rules are usually respected, meaning that everyone involved should stay at least six feet apart at all times to prevent potential infection. Discussions about the property and general Q&As are more likely to occur outdoors in the open air, and any greetings or introductions skip out on traditional handshakes. Masks, gloves, shoe covers and hand sanitizer are commonly available on site, and many sellers go through and open all of the doors and windows to both maximize airflow and to allow interested buyers access to the entire house without having to touch doorknobs or other surfaces in order to see inside.

Closing Remotely

Remote closing negotiations are becoming much more common, taking advantage of video conferencing to bring everyone together without actually having to be in the same room. There may be some instances where people have to meet up to actually sign paperwork, but digital signing is more common because it removes that point of contact. Even when people do come together for closing and signing, it’s much more likely that everyone will utilize social distancing and that both parties will use their own pens instead of sharing.
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DIY: Raised Bed Gardening

Even though everything seems to have ground to a halt, it’s important to think about things a bit further down the line. This not only helps you to prepare for when things start back up again, but it can also make you a bit more self-sufficient in the future. This is where planning out a garden can be a great idea; it helps to keep you occupied now and yields a variety of healthy vegetables and other foods later in the year. Maybe you don’t have a lot of space, though, or perhaps the soil in your yard isn’t the greatest. Neither of these prevents you from having a garden, though. There are a few different options available to address these concerns, but you might find that a raised bed garden is exactly what you’re looking for.

What Is a Raised Bed Garden?

First thing’s first: What exactly is a raised bed garden? Essentially, it’s a garden that has a box or other physical container around its border that allows you to add more soil to plant your vegetables and other crops in. In some cases, this can be a few added inches of topsoil. In other cases, you’ll need to add a substantial amount of new soil, and some raised beds have so much added topsoil that the plants never actually touch the “real” soil. Regardless of whether you add a little soil or a lot, the growing medium is still raised at least slightly from the ground level thanks to the garden box that surrounds it.

Building the Garden Box

There are a number of options available to you when it comes to building a garden box. You can use landscaping timber, bricks, 2x4s, wooden planks or even concrete. Decide on a height that works for you and pick a material that you’re comfortable working with or have easy access to. You can design a perfectly sized garden box, or you can make one that has gaps in the corners where your material doesn’t quite line up. It doesn’t actually matter what the box looks like, just so long as it is solid enough to contain your soil and is connected to itself or other supports to keep the sides from falling apart. Just keep in mind that some materials such as pressure-treated wood contain chemicals that could leak out into the soil over time. If you have concerns about this or are using materials that you know present a chemical hazard, be sure to stain or seal your materials before use to keep water from penetrating and leaching the chemicals out.

Filling It In

Once you have a workable garden box, it’s time to add some soil. Ideally, you should till the ground soil before adding any additional soil to the box. Add a layer of garden soil or topsoil, then use a rake or hoe to blend the garden soil and your additive soil a bit. From there you can continue adding soil, mixing it together periodically, until you’ve reached the level you want in your garden box. In some cases, you’ll have room left within the box; in others, the soil will go all the way to the top. After it’s filled, you might want to water it well to let the soil settle a bit before you start planting.

Planting and Garden Care

With the box built and filled with soil, you’re ready to get your plants in the ground. Planting is largely the same as you’d do if you were planting directly into the ground, though your newly filled garden bed likely has softer soil than your yard. Water your garden a little more often than you normally would, as raised beds offer more of a chance for water to leak out or evaporate than ground soil does. Feed your plants as needed, remove weeds or grass when it appears, and do your best to keep pests out of the garden. The raised bed itself may deter some pests, and a small chicken wire fence around the edge of the bed can help as well. There’s a decent chance that your raised bed garden will grow better than an in-soil garden thanks to the quality of its soil and the added control that you have over your garden environment. With proper care, you should be able to enjoy a bountiful harvest in just a few months.
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Get Ready to DIY!

While everyone’s staying at home, a lot of people are hesitant to bring in outsiders for things like painting or smaller construction projects. This could be the perfect time to tackle some of those tasks as do-it-yourself jobs! There are many things around the house that you can do without having to bring in outside help. Or at the very least, you can get started and bring in someone else to finish later. One common pitfall for aspiring DIYers is not quite being prepared for the task at hand. Since the current goal is to limit trips out of the house to only the essentials, it’s a good time to take stock of what you have on hand and determine what if anything you might need for those DIY projects. Here are some common things that you should check so you’ll know if you need to make a trip to stock up.

Common Supplies

There are a few things that will come in handy for almost any DIY project. These are items like sandpaper, wood glue, cleaners, rags, tape and lubricants. While not all of these will be used for every project you might tackle, if you don’t have any of them on hand then you’ll likely need to restock before your tasks are finished.

Tools

It’s hard to do it yourself if you don’t have anything to do it with. At the very least you’ll likely need tools like a drill, a hammer, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, wrenches and other common tools. If you have specific tasks in mind that require specialized tools, then you’ll need to make sure that you have those on hand too. You should also check to make sure that your tools are in good condition; too much rust or other corrosion can cause serious problems and possibly even result in broken tools once you get to work.

Screws, Nails and Fasteners

Chances are, you’ll need to have some screws, nails or other fasteners for the work that you’re doing. Don’t just assume that whatever you have on hand will work for any job, though. Screws for example come in different lengths, materials and head types, and if they don’t match the job that you’re doing or the tools that you have then you’re not going to be happy with the results.

Brushes and Rollers

Will you be doing any painting, staining or other similar applications? Make sure that you have the right type of brushes, rollers and other application tools for the job. Different types of paints, stains and glues/pastes all apply differently, so you’ll need to match your tools to the type of material you want to put down.

Shovels and Garden Tools

Working outside is a pretty common DIY task, but make sure that you have the right tools for the job. Shovels, hoes and rakes are all common outdoor tools, but you may also need a tiller or other equipment as well. You should also make sure that you have the right type of shovel or rake for your needs. A flat-nose shovel is good for spreading gravel, for instance, but won’t do you a lot of good if you need to dig a hole to plant a shrub.

Getting Ready to DIY

Once you’ve taken an inventory of the supplies you have with you, make a list of the DIY tasks you’d like to tackle around the house. See how your current supplies will meet the needs of those tasks, writing down anything that you seem to be missing. Take your time to plan out your various DIY projects, prioritizing those things that you can do without any additional materials. If you absolutely must get additional materials for your projects, do your best to make a list of everything that you’ll need so that you can wrap up your DIY shopping with a single trip. Or, better yet, place an online order that’s shipped directly to your house.
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Activities You Can Do With the Whole Family

With the current state of the world, people are spending more time at home than ever. This provides for some great opportunities to bond as a family, and also gives some of us a bit more time to get things done around the house. Spending more time with your family can lead to some questions, though. One of the biggest is “Exactly what are we supposed to do now that we’re together?” Without the breaks afforded by work, school and other activities, trying to come up with activities for the whole family can seem a bit overwhelming. If you need some ideas on how to spend that family time, here are a few suggestions to get you started. Not only will these ideas help you to spend some quality time together as a family, but some of them might help you with some of those tasks around the house as well!

Planning (and Planting) a Garden

Even though the year has gotten off to a rocky start, time waits for no one. We’re already getting into gardening season, so it’s time to start prepping the soil and starting your seeds. Since you’ve got the family all there at home, try to get everyone else involved as well. Plan out the size and shape of your garden plot and make a list of everyone’s favorite fruits and veggies to help decide what to plant. You can even get younger kids involved by letting them make row markers featuring pictures of everything you plan to grow.

Family Game Nights

Game nights are a classic, but sometimes it can be hard to fit them in. Timing isn’t as much of an issue these days, however, so let’s play some games! These could be anything from board games to multiplayer video games or even tabletop role-playing games. Let the family decide on the specifics and plan out a new game night every week to help keep everyone entertained.

Movie Time

Going to the movies is a popular family activity. Just because the theaters are closed doesn’t mean you have to give up on enjoying a film together, though. Make some popcorn, break out some snacks and cue up a favorite film on the TV. Several studios are releasing movies for sale or rental early, and some have even put new releases up for rental on streaming services even though they should still be in a theatrical run, so you can still catch some of the films that you might have planned on seeing as a family anyway.

Plan Some Redecorations

Were you hoping to redecorate this spring? You still can, and you can get the family involved in the process as well. Let everyone help pick out paint colors and decorations, especially in their bedroom or other rooms where they spend a significant amount of time. Even if you can’t get everything that you need for the project right now, this will let you plan things out in advance so that you’ll be ready to start once it’s go time.

Activities From a Hat

If you aren’t sure what to do, have everyone get together and make a list of three things that you’d like to do as a family. Once you’ve got the lists made, put them all on a hat or other container and draw one of the lists out. Look at the listed items and let the family vote on which activity you’d like to do from the list. If you’re worried that the same person might win too many times, the next time you do it, have the person who won sit out the suggestions and be the one to draw the winning list instead.

Time Alone, Together

Sometimes, one of the best things that you can do as a family is just relax and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t assume that you have to fill up every available moment with activities. Take some time to read books, give the kids some screen time or do some other individual downtime activities. You can take this downtime in the same room, spending casual time together without having to be “on” and actively doing things together all the time.
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New to Working From Home? Our Top Tips

Working from home can be a challenge, especially when you’re not used to it. There are a lot of distractions that can interfere with your work, sometimes causing you to get so off track that you end up behind on important tasks. While many consider working from home to be a great perk, if you’ve never worked from home before then you might be surprised at just how stressful it can be! Fortunately, you’re not on your own. These are stressful times, and HomeKeepr is here to help you get through them. To that end, here are some tips that will make working from home for the first time a lot easier.

Set Up Your Space

When you think of working from home, you might picture yourself lounging on the couch in your pajamas with a laptop on your lap. While some people do choose to work like this when working from home, for most home workers this sort of setup is going to kill any productivity they might have. Instead of taking a “work wherever I end up” approach, set up a desk or office space that’s intended solely for work-related activities. This will help you to stay on task when you’re at work and will keep work activities from bleeding over into leisure time.

Check Your Equipment

If you’re used to having in-person meetings during the week, getting used to remote meetings via a video service like Zoom or Skype can be a bit of an adjustment. To make this easier, check your equipment beforehand to ensure that everything will work correctly when it’s time to start a meeting. This includes checking your webcam, your microphone and your speakers to make sure everything functions properly. There are websites and software solutions that help you with this, and some platforms like Zoom have built-in tests as well.

Keep to a Schedule

One common misconception about working from home is that you automatically gain the freedom to work whenever you feel like working. While this may be true for some industries, if you’ve been working 9 to 5 for the last 10 years then that isn’t likely to change much just because your office is now in your guest room. Keep as close as possible to your regular schedule, allowing for possible reduced hours or other differences brought about by working from home. It can help to print out a copy of your “office hours” as well, both as a reminder to others that you’re busy with work and a reminder to yourself that you’re supposed to be on the job.

Avoid Distractions

It’s said that one of the hard things about working from home is the fact that home is where we keep all our favorite distractions. This includes a lot of things, ranging from games to books to the TV. It also includes family members, who can be hard to ignore when you’re supposed to be on the job. As much as possible, try to avoid interacting with the people and things in your home unless you’re taking a break from work activities.

Don’t Make Deals

It’s easy to tell yourself that if you do something unrelated to work now, you’ll make up the work that you’re supposed to be doing later. Unfortunately, this tends to snowball, and the next thing you know you’re behind on everything you’re supposed to be doing. Avoid making these sorts of deals; instead choose to do those things or have those conversations during your next scheduled break, just like you would do if you were still going in to work. If there’s something you want to do that won’t fit into a regular break, try to get your current tasks done BEFORE you take the time off instead of bargaining that you’ll wrap it up after.

Stay Connected

Isolation is difficult, especially if you’re used to working closely with your coworkers. You can fight this by calling them up, collaborating over video or even sending out daily emails or texts to check on everyone. Even though it’s not the one-on-one interaction you’re used to, the contact you have with your coworkers can still make a huge difference.
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