Celebrating 4th of July During COVID-19

Image source: Canva

 

While this year’s Fourth of July festivities will not come with the large crowds and spectacle-filled public events of years past, it is an opportunity to celebrate from the comfort of your home, and ring in the summer in a more intimate setting. Here is your guide to an at-home Independence Day celebration.

 

Create a backyard oasis

Nothing says “summer” like spending time outside, and the Fourth of July is the focal point of that tradition. Creating a backyard oasis will bring an added dimension to your summertime plans and will give celebrating at home a special touch. Popular summer decorative items such as outdoor furniture, string lights, and plants bring comfort to the outdoors and are the makings for long evenings spent in the backyard with family and loved ones. 

 

BBQs & Picnics

With summer upon us, it’s the time of year to bolster your barbecue menu, and July 4th celebrations are the perfect occasion to take it to the next level. Here are simple takes on classic Independence Day dishes from the Food Network.

 

Picnics and Fourth of July go hand-in-hand, so get out your red, white, and blue napkins and continue the tradition—with a twist—in these times of social distancing.

  • Picnic basket swap: Organize a picnic basket swap in your neighborhood, where each household contributes a dish, dropping off the basket at each other’s doorsteps.
  • Socially distant picnic: If neighbors are comfortable with in-person meetups, picnic in a common area, while remaining properly distanced. Take safety precautions for interactions: wear masks except when eating, wash your hands before and after, and remain six feet apart at all times.
  • Virtual recipe share: Exchange your favorite recipes with a friend and find a time on July 4th to prep the meal. Arrange a video chat to eat together and share notes on how the dishes turned out.

 

Camp out, at home

With restrictions still keeping many parks and campsites closed, round up the family to camp among the wilderness of your home. A money-saving, hassle-reducing approach to a camping trip, this is an opportunity for you and your family to connect with nature in the security of your backyard.

Local burn ban policies may affect your ability to participate in a fixture of the Fourth’s tradition: sitting around the campfire. If that’s the case, heat up the grill and make your s’mores by wrapping them up in foil. Place the foil on the grill and let them heat until they reach that melted, gooey perfection.

 

Fireworks

With the status of large-scale firework celebrations varying city-to-city, some event organizers have opted to broadcast pre-recorded material in their place. Arrange for your household to tune in or organize a Zoom call with friends to watch the fireworks online together. If your hometown is moving forward with a public firework show, be sure to check their safety guidelines and follow CDC and Department of Health guidelines in attendance.

 

Though the methods of celebration may look a little different than what you’re used to, the reason for celebrating remains the same. This year is as important as any to commemorate our independence, and these ideas will help you and your household make this at-home Fourth of July a holiday to remember.

DIY Home Projects

Image Source: Shutterstock

 

In recent months, homes have taken on additional roles as offices, schools, and places of entertainment as staying at home has become the norm. With the extra time spent inside and the additional wear and tear on your home, this is a perfect time for those Do-It-Yourself projects you’ve been wanting to get done.

 

Before getting out the power tools, take time to consider the projects you have in mind. If you’re questioning how the renovations will affect resale value, consult an expert, like your Windermere agent. Assess your budget to see if certain projects should be prioritized over others, or if you have the financial capacity for only one or two projects at this time.

 

Here are a few ideas:

 

Landscaping and garden projects: the steppingstones of your home’s DIY outdoor makeover.

 

  • A great first step is to start with your front yard—it’s the first thing people see when approaching your home and upgrades to it will improve the curb appeal.
  • Start with the hardscaping projects—driveways, decks, fencing, walkways—before installing plants.
  • When it comes time to plant, add organic material to your soil such as peat moss, mushroom compost, or leaf mold for added health.
  • Add in different shapes and textures of plants to give your landscaping a varied, vibrant look.

 

Repainting a room: follow these steps to give any room a fresh look and feel.

 

  • The repainting process begins by moving all furniture out of the room. If you want to pile everything in the center and work around it, be sure to lay your drop cloths on the floor before doing so and cover your furniture to prevent damage.
  • Repair any damage to the walls and fill in cracks with putty. This is a good time to remove all electrical outlets and switch covers to get the walls completely flat.
  • Choose the appropriate brush or paint roller depending on the size of the surface area.
  • Once the walls are painted, remove your painter’s tape and paint the trim.

 

Flooring projects: how to repair or add flooring that will have you walking through your house comfortably.

 

  • Wood floor damage: To remove surface scratches from wood floors, use steel wool or fine grit sandpaper and finish with a top coat of polyurethane. For deep scratches, use wood filler that closely matches your flooring in color, and apply a wood finish layer on top.
  • Vinyl floor damage: If your vinyl flooring has ripped up, apply a vinyl flooring adhesive and lay the ripped piece into place. For sections that are completely torn off, use a utility knife to cut a new piece of flooring and apply adhesive when matching the piece back into the floor.
  • New tile flooring: Before you start tiling, wash the floor with a commercial detergent to remove dirt and stains. If you are laying new tile over old tile, make sure the original layer is secure. Begin by laying out the pattern before making your tile cuts. Then you are ready to apply the mastic or mortar, and finally lay the tiles. Let the tile sit for at least a day before grouting the joints.

 

With so many people staying at home, DIY projects are at an all-time high. Doing projects like these yourself may not be easy, but it gives a greater sense of ownership, and can often save you money by not outsourcing the work. For additional help on these projects and to find new ones, check out YouTube’s vast DIY resources.

Organizing Your Home

Image Source: Shutterstock

 

When organizing your home, knowing where to start can often be the most difficult part. Breaking the process down room-by-room and keeping the following tips in mind will help you get started and keep your home organized in the long run.

 

Kitchen

Given how much time is spent in the kitchen, it can get disorganized easily. Kitchen countertops are also one of the most frequently touched and used surfaces in a home. Taking items off the counters and storing them on shelving above or below is an effective first step. Open shelves are a great fixture for easy access while preparing and cooking meals. Store the items you use the most here and stow away large tools that you don’t use as often.

 

A lazy Susan is a must-have for kitchen organization, bringing the back of the cabinet to your fingertips. A great home for kitchen items that are heavy, clumsy or messy, they are highly accessible. Cleaning out a lazy Susan is much simpler than cleaning out cabinets, which frees up shelf space for those items that usually sit out on your kitchen counter.  

 

Living room

A good first step for your living room is to take inventory. See what items can be disposed and what might belong elsewhere in the house. Take time to think about the flow of the room and how you envision foot traffic will interact with the space.

 

Multifunctionality goes a long way in the living room. Coffee tables, side tables, and ottomans that are designed with more than one purpose in mind will help to declutter. Look for pieces with underneath storage, drawers, or magazine holders.

 

Bathroom

For both aesthetics and functional storage, open shelving will help take your bathroom to the next level. It provides plenty of room to stow bathroom supplies, towels, toiletries, and brings a more welcoming feel to the space.

 

This is a great time to go through your bathroom products. Discarding old, expired, and unused items will free up additional space and give the room a cleaner feel. Once you’ve cleaned everything out, take this time to reorganize your medicine cabinet with your newly reduced bathroom inventory.

 

Bedroom

Keeping your bedroom organized is a matter of maximizing space and minimizing clutter. If you have limited closet space, try placing a garment rack in a corner or against a wall, or store out-of-season clothing items elsewhere. The underside of your bed is useful for storage. Try functional organizers such as bins and roll-out shelving. Using your dresser as a nightstand or your bookshelf as a décor piece will add flair and cut down on clutter as well.

 

Making the most of the hanging space in your closet is a sure-fire way of keeping it decluttered. Position the most-used items at eye level and stow lesser-used clothes and accessories higher up. Not only does this give priority to your closet which helps you stay organized over time, but it can save you time when getting ready.

 

Garage

A common tactic for creating storage space in your garage is to go vertical. This will help free up space for your stuff while maintaining the space reserved for your vehicles. The garage is also a good home for large or bulky items that you don’t use every day.

 

Going room-by-room will help you piece together the look and feel of the organized home you want to achieve. Be comfortable with clearing out a space in order to put it back together the way you have in mind. Sometimes rooms have to get messier before they get organized.

A Guide to Mortgage Assistance During COVID-19

Image Source: Shutterstock

 

For some homeowners who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high level of concern about paying their mortgage. Fortunately, there are options to aid struggling homeowners from governments, financial institutions, and loan providers. The following information is intended to provide clarity on which financial relief options are available to you during this time.

 

What are my mortgage relief options?

Newly placed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides two protections for homeowners with federally backed mortgages:

 

  1. Your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you for 60 days following March 18, 2020. The CARES Act prohibits lenders and/or servicers from beginning a non-judicial foreclosure, or finalizing a foreclosure sale, against you within this time period. While 60 days has passed since this was put into place, it is still important to be aware of in the event that any of these actions were taken against you.
  2. You have a right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days if you experience financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also apply for a 180-day extension beyond the forbearance period. This does not require submitting additional documentation beyond your claim, nor will you incur additional fees, penalties or interest beyond what has already been scheduled.

 

Forbearance is…

  • With forbearance, mortgage servicers and lenders allow you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a period of time while you get back on your feet financially.
  • Different types of loans beget different forbearance options, understanding the differences and which options apply to your loan is key to navigating the forbearance landscape.
  • Once your income is back to a normal level, contact your loan servicer and resume your payments.

 

Forbearance is not…

  • Forbearance is not a means to forgive or erase your payments. Any missed or reduced payments still require payment in the future.

 

Which relief options do I qualify for?

The first step in discovering your mortgage assistance qualifications is to contact your mortgage provider. If you are unsure of how to get in touch with them, look at your mortgage statement for contact information or see what contact options are available online.

After you have successfully made contact, find out if your mortgage is federally backed. To be eligible for assistance under the CARES act, your mortgage must either be backed federally, or by one of the entities in the list below. These links show the agencies’ current advise and related loan information: 

 

For non-federally backed loans, contact your lender or servicer to learn more about their forbearance repayment options.

 

Today’s financial landscape can be stressful for homeowners, especially those that are struggling to keep up financially. Fortunately, these entities, institutions, and servicers have provided options to help lessen the burden. Knowing which options apply to you and your household will help you navigate through hardship as your finances recover.

Matthew Gardner Weekly COVID-19 Housing & Economic Update: 6/1/2020

This week on “Mondays with Matthew”: Now that things have settled down somewhat following the initial impact of COVID-19, Matthew dives into the topic of mortgage rates. Will they go below 3%? Matthew discusses this and the factors that have formed his updated 2020 and 2021 mortgage rate forecast. 

 

Saving in the Laundry Room

Image Source: Shutterstock

 

When it comes to household expenses, staying at home has brought about savings in some areas, while increasing expenses in others. The laundry room has likely seen an uptick in usage, with its associated costs following suit. Save your energy and money by keeping these tips in mind as we continue to adapt to being home more often.

 

Master your machine settings

Review the owner’s manuals for your washer and dryer. There may very well be energy-saving settings you’re not using. For example, your washer’s “high-speed” or “extended wash” cycles will remove more moisture, which can help reduce drying time. A dryer’s “cool down cycle” allows clothes to finish drying using only residual heat.

 

Think twice before washing

Once you’re aware of the costs associated with washing and drying, and the natural resources this consumes, you may decide you don’t need to launder certain clothes as often – which can also extend the life of these garments. Some clothing, like jeans, sweatshirts, and sweatpants, can be worn a few times without a cleaning. Washing these items only when necessary will help you cut down. Another tip – keep another laundry basket in your room for those lightly worn clothes that you could wear again, so they keep separate from your clean clothes.

 

Use hot water only when necessary

Using warm water instead of hot can significantly cut down your washer’s energy expense. Using cold water puts less pressure on electricity grids, saving your household even more money and energy. Cold water washes are less likely to shrink or fade your clothing as well. To ensure your clothes still get clean, try using a cold-water detergent.

 

Right-size your loads

For both washing and drying, taking into consideration the size of your load can factor greatly into your savings. No matter the size of the load you wash, it costs the same amount to run a cycle. So instead of doing two small loads, wait until you have one large load. When drying, keep in mind that an overly full dryer will take longer to dry the clothes. A dryer with too few items inside costs more to operate.

 

Clean the dryer vent and filter

When the lint filter in your dryer gets clogged, airflow is reduced, and the dryer can’t operate effectively. Make a point to clean the filter after every use. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter every month to remove any film buildup. The venting that attaches to the back of your dryer also needs to be kept clean and clear.

 

Air dry

When the weather is sunny and warm, consider putting your clothes out to hang-dry. Doing so will keep your drying expenses to a minimum. It can also be a better drying method for clothing with delicate tailoring.

 

With staying at home being the new status quo, taking a look at the ways our homes use energy and incur expenses is more relevant than ever. These small changes in the laundry room are just some of the minor adjustments you can make in your household during these unique times.