Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Sharpen Scissors

Never let your trusty scissors go dull again! Follow these 5 easy steps to keep both blades sharp for everyday snipping.

How To Sharpen Scissors

Photo: fotosearch.com

Used for cutting paper, cardboard, fabric, string, price tags, plastic packaging—that list goes on—those scissors in your office or kitchen drawer might be the most reliable everyday tool in your house. With such regular use, that trusty tool dulls over time. Most scissors are not prohibitively expensive, so when one pair dulls you may consider just going out and buying another—but it’s not necessary. Scissors are essentially two knives connected at a pivot point. So, not surprisingly, you can sharpen your scissors just as you would your kitchen knives, with a couple of simple tools and some practice.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Scissors
- Screwdriver
- Sharpening stone
- Water or honing oil
- Towel

How To Sharpen Scissors - Orange Scissors

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
To do the job right, you need a sharpening stone (sometimes called a bench stone). You can get one at the hardware store for less than $20, and it will serve to sharpen most any blade you have, from your kitchen knives to your pruning shears. It’s worth the small investment to have one around! These stones come with a coarse side and a fine side. If your scissors are very dull, you’ll need to start with the coarse side and then move to the finer side to finish. If your scissors just need a light tune-up, you’ll use only the finer side.

Lay your sharpening stone on a towel and lubricate it with oil or water. Stores sell honing oil alongside sharpening stones, but you can use any oil, or even water, for lubrication.

STEP 2
Remove the screw that holds your scissors’ blades together in order to treat each one separately. It will be much easier to work on them.

STEP 3
As mentioned, if your scissors are particularly dull, you’ll want to turn over your stone to work first on the coarse side; if not, start working with the finer side. Place the blade onto the stone with the beveled edge facing you. Then, gripping the handle, tilt the blade toward you until the beveled edge lies flat on the stone. Now, slowly pull the blade across the stone to you, keeping that beveled edge flat against the stone. Repeat this action—carefully!—until the blade has sharpened. If you started on the coarse side of the stone, finish with a few swipes on the finer side of the stone.

Until you’re practiced, you may find it hard to judge when the edge has been completely sharpened. Here’s a tip: Before starting, run a permanent marker across the blade edge. When the marker has disappeared, you’ve sharpened the entire blade.

STEP 4
Repeat Step 3 with the second blade of the scissors.

STEP 5
Once you’ve finished with the sharpening stone, you will see a fine edge of burrs along the blade; these need to be removed. Reassemble the scissors by screwing the blades back together, and open then shut them a few times. Knock the burrs off by making a few trial cuts through a piece of material those scissors are meant for—be it fabric or paper. If you’re happy with how sharp the scissors are, you’re finished. If not, repeat the process.

 

You should practice on some old scissors until you get the hang of it—Grandma will be mad if you ruin her antique sewing scissors! But it won’t take you long to get comfortable, and then you’ll never have dull scissors in the home again. You can keep them sharp with some quick, regular maintenance every couple of months. Happy cutting!


3 Ways to Shrink Your Shopping Bag Mess

Corral the mass of crumpled plastic bags left over from countless shopping trips with three tried-and-tested tricks.

How to Store Plastic Bags - Mess

Photo: KCorlett

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of plastic shopping bags you’re harboring underneath your kitchen sink? Perhaps they’re devouring the pantry, instead. No matter the location or the number of bags, you’ll be happy to know there are ways to minimize clutter while they wait to be reused. Here, we took puffy piles of 15 bags each and condensed them for easy storage using our three favorite tricks. Try one of these methods to reduce your bags’ footprint in your own home, and your storage space won’t be overrun by plastic again.

 

STUFF ’EM

How To Store Plastic Bags - Stuff Em

Photo: KCorlett

Short on time? This storage solution is a clear winner for the quickest way to stash your plastic bags. The method is simple: There is none! Just save the last tissue box you’ve emptied, then cram as many bags as you can into it through the plastic slit in its top. (We fit 15 in a box that once held 210 tissues.) The cardboard structure will keep your mess contained when you stick it back in your pantry.

 

KNOT ’EM

How To Store Plastic Bags - Knotted

Photo: KCorlett

This next method also prevents the bags from overflowing, but this time by keeping each bag individually balled up. Hold the very bottom of a bag in your right hand, and pull the other end taut using your left. Then, bring the ends together so the bag is folded in half. Knot the six- to eight-inch length of folded bag, and toss it into a crate or bucket for use later.

 

FOLD ’EM

How To Store Plastic Bags - Fold into Triangles

Photo: KCorlett

And finally, here’s a use for the skills you honed while passing notes in junior high—this organizational trick hinges on the football fold.

First, flatten your plastic bag into a rectangular shape. Fold it in half lengthwise so that the sides meet, then fold in half again. Smooth your bag once more from the bottom to the handles in order to press out any air. Starting at the bottom, pull the left corner up and across so that the end is triangular, then fold the pointed corner (the right) up so that the bottom is squared off again. Now alternate: Pull the right corner up and across, and the left directly upward. Continue this triangular fold as far as you can, until you’re left with the handles. These you’ll tuck snugly under the top flap of the triangle you’ve just folded, and the thin folded triangle you’re left with can be stacked neatly in a basket until it’s ready for use. Check out pictures of the step-by-step at Instructables.


How To: Clean a Coffeemaker

You'll serve up a fresher pot of coffee tomorrow morning if you take some time today and follow these easy instructions to give your coffeemaker a good cleaning. Trust us—you'll thank yourself later.

Cleaning a Coffee Maker with Vinegar

Photo: shutterstock.com

Bleary-eyed fumbling for that first cup of joe can lead to spills, yet despite this repeated abuse during the morning rush, your coffeemaker may be one of your most neglected kitchen tools. Sometimes it’s those appliances that we use every single day that accumulate the most dirt and germs—and the least TLC. Think back now: When was the last time you gave your coffeepot a thorough cleaning? The worst part is, this isn’t just about aesthetics: The mineral and coffee oil buildup in your appliance can actually be making your java taste terribly bitter—and that’s no way to start your day. To brew a fresh cuppa that you and your family can enjoy, follow these simple steps that will get your coffeemaker back into pristine condition.

TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Water
- White vinegar
- A dish sponge
- Hot water
- Dishwashing liquid
- A clean, dry towel

Cleaning a Coffee Maker with Vinegar - Fresh Coffee

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
First, fill your coffeemaker’s water chamber with equal parts water and white vinegar, then start the brew cycle.

STEP 2
Halfway through the brew cycle, turn off the coffeemaker and let it sit for 30 minutes. This wait time will give the vinegar a chance to do its job, which is cleaning and disinfecting the insides of the appliance. When the time is up, turn the coffeemaker back on and let it complete its cycle. Let it cool.

STEP 3
Pour cool water into the water chamber and run the machine again without stopping. Let it cool. Repeat two or three cycles of clean water to make sure all the vinegar is removed—that can taste more bitter than the burnt-on coffee oils.

STEP 4
Once the carafe and machine have cooled, wash the inside and outside of the carafe with warm water and dishwashing liquid using a dish sponge. Next, turn back to the countertop appliance and thoroughly wipe down the entire outside, paying extra attention to crevices and buttons. Now’s the time to clean off any last sticky spot that might be left over from a morning spill.

STEP 5
Dry both the machine and carafe thoroughly with a soft towel, then fill the water reservoir again—because all that work deserves a fresh brew!


Pro Tips: 6 Ways to Live with Less Waste

On Earth Day—and every day—follow these simple strategies from the author of Zero Waste Home to limit your household's trash production.

How to Reduce Waste - Trash Day

Photo: fotosearch.com

Americans generate a whopping 251 million tons of waste each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and only about 35 percent of this astounding pile of rubbish is recycled or composted. Shrinking that staggering stat on a national level starts right where you have the most control—in the home. For a little guidance on where exactly to begin, we turned to Green Awards grand prize winner Bea Johnson, author of the blog and best-selling book Zero Waste Home. Johnson challenges us to rethink the “three R’s” we learned growing up. According to Johnson, there are actually five principles to uphold: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (i.e., compost). Even just committing to one of these will help improve the planet. Read on to see how easy she makes it to get started!

1. Buy Less, Live More
“Purchase only what you truly need,” Johnson says in regard to her number one rule, refuse. “By limiting consumption, you not only cut down on trash, you simplify your life and save money.” And when you do need to go out and buy the essentials, source stuff secondhand. For example, used electronics are available on Craigslist and eBay, and some manufacturers even sell reconditioned and refurbished items. When shopping online, check for a “pre-owned only” search option and then, when ordering, request that the seller ship with recycled paper and cardboard rather than plastic materials.

How to Reduce Waste - Farmers Market

Photo: fotosearch.com

2. Pick Less Packaging
“Shop at a farmers’ market—they’ll take the egg cartons and berry baskets back for reuse,” Johnson says. “At the grocery store, buy in bulk and shop the deli, fish, meat, and cheese counter using your own containers.” Johnson easily shops for her family of four this way, using separate glass receptacles for different food categories. “A quart-sized jar holds two pounds of ground meat or four filets of fish,” she says. If a counterperson balks, Johnson’s tip: “Tell him you don’t own a trash can.”

3. Get Canny About Trash Cans
“If the trash can is at your fingertips, you’ll be more inclined to use it,” Johnson says. “But if it’s in another room, you’ll be more mindful of what you toss,” she adds—food for thought for places like a bedroom or office.

Because that psychology won’t work in the kitchen, though, turn a standard-size garbage can into the designated spot for compost and use that small so-called compost bin for trash. “Just swap them, and put the larger receptacle in the under-sink cabinet, where it’s convenient for food preparation—out of sight but not out of mind.” And while you’re tossing table scraps in the compost bin, don’t stop there: Unpainted and unfinished wood, hair, nail clippings, dryer lint, and even dust bunnies can skip the trash.

4. Clean More Consciously
“You can make an all-purpose spray cleaner with white vinegar and water, apply straight vinegar on mildew, and use baking soda for most other scrubbing jobs, like scouring the tub or getting scuff marks off a hardwood floor,” Johnson says. Beyond these green cleaning formulas, she scrubs and wipes with minimal waste too. Tool-wise, she relies on a compostable cleaning brush for many tasks and eschews paper towels completely. “Worn-out clothing like soft cotton T-shirts makes great cleaning rags,” she says. “Just dampen lightly for dusting.”

5. Reboot Your Bathroom
When it comes to the room in the home with the most disposables (plastic bottles, cardboard packaging, and any number of toiletries), Johnson offers a trove of ideas to help trim its trash load. “For face and body, use baking soda to exfoliate and package-free solid soap to wash,” she says. She’s big on buying shampoo and conditioner in bulk, using an alum stone as deodorant, shaving with a reusable safety razor, and trading toss-away toothbrushes for compostable wooden ones to use with a homemade powder that brightens your smile. As for TP? Feel a little better about the number of squares you use by switching to a 100 percent recycled and unbleached brand, like Seventh Generation.

6. DIY Without Waste
Johnson advises sourcing supplies for home improvement projects on Craigslist and reuse marketplaces like Away Station and Build It Green; she also points out that paint stores often sell remnants. Bent nails and stripped screws should be recycled, and even sawdust can be repurposed to absorb spills or to spread as garden mulch. And if you find yourself with leftover materials from a project, consider donating them. “When you donate, you help perpetuate the zero waste concept and contribute to making it a reality.”


How To: Clean Patio Cushions

Now's the time to freshen up your outdoor seating before the season kicks into full swing. While most cushions can't be tossed directly into the washing machine, you can get the job done without even moving them from your porch or patio! Read on for the how-to.

How To Clean Patio Cushions

Photo: fotosearch.com

When it comes time to spiff up your porch or patio for spring, cleaning your furniture cushions ranks high on the to-do list—particularly if those cushions have been out in the elements all winter long. All that exposure to moisture doesn’t bode well for these comfy pieces when it comes to mildew potential. Fortunately, many cushions are designed with removable covers that can be slipped off and thrown into the washing machine on gentle cycle. (Thank goodness for zippered slipcovers!) But even if yours don’t have removable covers, you can still get your cushions clean in preparation for a summer of outdoor fun—just follow these simple steps.

TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Vacuum
- Bucket
- Warm water
- Dishwashing liquid
- Borax
- Sponge
- Scrub brush
- Garden hose
- Towels
- Fabric protector spray

How to Clean Patio Cushions - Cafe Chairs

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Pile up your outdoor pillows! Unzip cases wherever possible and run them through the wash following the instructions on the tags, then turn your attention to the cushions. Remove any loose dirt and dust from them using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. If your cushions are tufted, be sure to run the attachment carefully over the crevices, seams, and any buttons.

STEP 2
Next, mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water. If your cushions have mildew on them, add 1/4 cup of borax to the solution as well. Generously sponge the sudsy solution onto your cushions, and let them soak for 15 minutes.

STEP 3
Still see stubborn dirty spots after soaking? Apply more of the cleaning solution, then gently rub out the spots with a scrub brush.

STEP 4
Thoroughly rinse the cushions off with the garden hose. (Don’t use a pressure washer for the task, as it may damage the fabric.)

STEP 5
Wrap a towel around the cushion to blot up the majority of the water, and then stand the cushion up on end to air-dry completely. Make sure no moisture remains, otherwise you’ll find yourself facing a regrowth of mildew. Pull out the blow dryer, if you need to!

STEP 6
Once your cushions are dry, spray them with a fabric protector to help them resist dirt and stains from such summery things as spilled fruit punch and dripping popsicles. Taking this step now will make it much easier to keep those cushions clean the rest of the summer!

Getting your outdoor space ready for the season can be a lot of work, but it’s well worth the effort. Once you’re finished, you can sit back and relax with friends and family, enjoy a summer smoothie or some barbecue, and wait for the twinkling fireflies to appear.


Repurposed Door Toddler Bed

There comes a time in every kids life when they graduate from a crib to a—door? Here's how to make your own whimsical kid's bed.

Repurposed Door Toddle Bed

Gail from My Repurposed Life is no stranger to fantastic repurposing projects. But don’t let her skills intimidate you: This is one furniture project you can recreate all by yourself. So, if you can find an old door and a crib spindle, follow this step-by-step guide to bring this funky bed to life.

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- Old door
- Primer
- Paint
- Clamps
- Board
- Jigsaw
- Crib spindles
- Drill
- Gorilla glue
- Side rails
- Extra-wide planks
- Brackets

STEP 1

When I started created my toddler bed, I had already applied primer and paint to one side. The other side only had primer.

STEP 2

I needed to cut the door into two sections. Generally I would do this type of task on my table saw but I was unable to do that with this door due to it’s size and weight.

I measured how large I wanted the headboard and foot board to be. In order to get a straight line, I clamped a board to the door to serve as a “guide” for my saw and I used a jigsaw to cut. (Make allowances for the width of the shoe plate in your measurements.)

STEP 3

I didn’t want the door to set directly on the floor, so I had to figure out what I could use for feet. I chose one of my spare crib spindles. I used the parts in between the holes.

STEP 4

DIY toddler bed - legs

After I got them cut, I needed to drill a hole so that I could screw them onto the bottom of the door. I use a washer to help find the center of a circle.

STEP 5

DIY toddler bed - screw legs

I clamped the foot to drill the hole.  I also used Gorilla Wood Glue on the feet.

TIP: Coating your screw with soap will help the screw go into the hard wood faster and smoother.

STEP 6

DIY toddler bed - cleat

I used regular side rails I had in my stash. I cut them down to fit a crib mattress. To help give the side rails extra strength, I made a cleat for both the headboard and the foot board. I glued them with Gorilla Wood Glue and then I screwed them into place.

STEP 7

DIY Toddler Bed - paint

Then I painted the side rails and the top rail of the headboard and the foot board.

STEP 8

DIY Toddler Bed - planks

I cut some extra wide planks to help support the crib mattress since I wasn’t using the springs that a crib would have.

STEP 9

DIY Toddler Bed - bracket

To attach the side rails to the headboard and foot board I used some brackets I got from the deck department at the hardware store. I put all the screws in the side rail but only used two screws for the headboard/foot board. That way when someone buys this bed and takes it to their house, they can add the additional screws fro strength, and they will be secure.

DIY Toddler Bed - finishedVoila! Here is the finished bed!

Thanks, Gail! For even more clever DIY ideas, visit My Repurposed Life.


Repurposed Door Beverage Bar

Dive into the exciting world of architectural salvage to surface the materials for this summer DIY—the perfect complement to a backyard BBQ.

Vintage Door Outdoor Bar Serving Station

If you’re like us, spring and summer can mean long, thirsty hours spent DIYing (or even relaxing!) in the sun. But this vintage door-turned-patio-bar is the perfect remedy to serve parched family and friends. Laura, from Finding Home Online was tired of dusting off an old card table to serve her guests so she used a little ingenuity and an old yard sale door to bring this imaginative piece of furniture to life. Read on to see how she did it.

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- Vintage door (and top and bottom cuts of a second door)
- Porch spindles (6)
- Shelf
- Hand sander
- Power drill
- Screws
- Right-angle braces
- Level
- Paint
- Dark wax
- Spray poly
- Anchor

STEP 1

DIY Beverage Station Materials

Especially since our items were all vintage, we power washed everything first. We used a large piece of plastic underneath to collect any particles that fell off that could be dangerous to our sweet puppy. We then sanded everything down with a hand sander.

STEP 2

Begin assembling your parts. We laid the door down on two saw horses and then used right angle braces to line up the bottom shelf first. We came from underneath, drilled pilot holes and added screws from the back side of the door.

STEP 3

We added the spindles next by measuring out the spacing, drilling pilot holes and attaching screws from underneath. Since the back spindles touched the door we also drilled some screws from the back to strengthen them.

STEP 4

Using the right angle braces again, we attached the top shelf with screws from the back and straight down into each spindle.

STEP 5

DIY Outdoor Bar Tutorial

We then added a new wood shelf underneath. We cut sections of additional spindles at a 45 degree angle, but any scrap wood would work. We drilled from the underside of the shelf to attach the bracket to the wood. We drilled in again from the back directly into the shelf and into the bracket as well.

STEP 6

Painted and stained DIY Beverage Station

Once it was all assembled, I did some dry brushing of paint on the spindles (they looked too new), the plain wood shelf and the bottom shelf (it was a little too high in contrast). I layered a few colors of chalk paint to best blend with the rustic finish of the door. Then I covered the spindles and all of the shelves in Annie Sloan’s dark wax. This gave an aged looked to the newer pieces, sealed the surfaces and unified all the pieces together. Because this piece is designed to be outside I was concerned that the wax finish might take a beating in the heat. To combat that and to seal the old finish of the door, I finished the whole piece in two coats of a spray poly.

STEP 7

DIY Outdoor Beverage Station - finished

And now you just need to move her in where you want her to go. I would suggest using some sort of anchor to ensure it doesn’t tip over.

Thans, Laura! For more great DIY ideas, head on over to Finding Home Online.


Repurposed Door Coffee Table

Turning a vintage door into a new table may be easier than you think with these guidelines from a great DIYer.

How to Make DIY Door Coffee Table

After posting pictures of a DIY coffee table that she (and readers) loved, Sausha from Sweet Pickins decided to revisit the project. So she make another one—this time to sell. Luckily, she had a fantastic old door on hand to chop, paint, and style into this colorful, offbeat table. Here’s how you can make your own.

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- Old door
- Teal paint
- Power saw
- Painters tape
- Cabinet scrapers
- Polyurethane
- Stain
- Power drill

STEP 1

DIY Door Coffee Table - cut

I just cut off about 32 inches from the end, cut that in half to have about 16 in sides.  Then I decided to leave the old cream paint as is and use that for the under side of the table and the dark stained part I painted a teal color.

STEP 2

I taped off the hinges as well as the spot where the door knob used to be.

STEP 3

DIY Door Coffee Table - distress

After, I used my cabinet scrapers to heavily distress the entire door.  I love the way it turned, it looks like the paint has chipped off over the years.

STEP 4

The I sealed it with a few coats of poly (both sides).

STEP 5

DIY Door Coffee Table - finished

I just rubbed a little stain on the cut on the side of the door to make it look more aged. Voila— ready to sell!

DIY Door Coffee Table - close

Thanks, Sausha! For more cottage chic DIY ideas, be sure to visit Sweet Pickins.

 


DIY Bench From a Repurposed Door

Not only is this easy-to-replicate bench a cool addition to a country chic home, but it only takes a single hour to build!

How to Build Bench

One of the enjoyable things about reading Thistlewood Farms is the playful way that KariAnne puts things. But when she wanted to feature her brother’s genius DIY bench made with a vintage door, she let the project speak for itself. The best part is that with little more than an old door and some 2 x 4 boards, you can recreate this project in your own home. Read on to see how it’s done. 

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- Weathered door (panelled is best)
- Power saw
- Several 2 x 4s
- Power drill
- Screws

STEP 1

Cut the door in half horizontally so you are left with the two long panels intact and the two short panels intact.  (If you have a proper door the cut will not be far from the “halfway point” but instead where the panels are divided.)

STEP 2

Cut the long panels in half vertically. I made the cut slightly off center, so the “longer” half would be used as the back and give it a little more height.  The other piece I will call the “seat panel”.

DIY Door Project

STEP 3

Assemble a base using 2 x4’s. I cut two long pieces the length of the “seat panel.” And then made several “ribs” the width of the seat panel minus the 2×4 boards I cut for the width. The end result should be a rectangle with support pieces in the middle. Note:  I made my box width smaller by 2 inches to allow the seat panel to overhang for a more comfortable seat.

STEP 4

Attach the 2×4 base to the seat panel using nails or screws. In my application I cut a piece of plywood to go underneath (between the door and the 2×4 box). It provides stability as well as keeping the panel from caving in.

Door Into DIY Bench

STEP 5

Attach the back at to the base. On the placement, I tried to give as much height to the back as possible and still give myself enough room to put two rows of screws.

STEP 6

Time to make the sides. Cut the bottom door panels in half exactly.

STEP 7 

Attached the cut bottom/side panels to the already constructed bench in line with the back. These can face either way you prefer, but make sure they match. I placed them so the thicker part of the panel faced back. Note: to get a good arm height you may need to cut some off of the bottom panels. For the arm rests I added pew tops from another project.

STEP 8

I added a small 2×4 leg for extra support.  Other than that paint it and you are good.

DIY Bench with Old Door

Thanks, KariAnne! For more fun DIYs, check out Thistlewood Farms.


Genius! Unpack the Ultimate Picnic with This Suitcase Hack

If you love eating outdoors and are a sucker for spontaneity, have we got a DIY for you! With your own custom picnic case, you can grab and go whenever the spirit moves you. We promise—you'll never go back to baskets and blankets again.

Suitcase Picnic Table

Photo: instructables.com

A blanket works just fine for picnics—you know, in the way that candles worked just fine before electricity. But if you want to dine outdoors in style and comfort, Instructables author Carleyy can show you how. In her alfresco dining hack, what looks like any ordinary hard-shell suitcase actually opens into the tiniest, most fully featured picnic table your neighborhood park has ever seen. Oh, and did we mention this talented table serenades you whilst you snack on wine and cheese?

To create your own party-in-a-suitcase, start by making the retractable legs, cutting them to size from a 1″ x 1″ board. Keep in mind that in order for the legs to fold in, they can be only as long as your suitcase is tall. Spray-paint or stain them to coordinate with your suitcase, then screw them to locking braces that you’ve secured within the case interior.

It’s equally easy to prepare the speakers. Start by slowly chipping away at the bulky plastic enclosure around a pair of inexpensive USB speakers. Continue until you’ve exposed the wiring. From there, measure and cut two round holes into the top of the suitcase (near where it latches). Fit the speakers through the holes, gluing them into place with epoxy. Hidden inside the case, the speaker wiring can be covered up with either sewn-in fabric or a small, fastened-on plastic box.

Finally, add straps, ribbon, and elastic to the suitcase lining to hold your picnic essentials (read: wine bottle and glasses). Three cheers for this brilliant DIY!

 FOR MORE: Instructables

Suitcase Picnic Table - Interior

Photo: instructables.com