Posts Tagged ‘Rental advice’

Build a tabletop easel in two minutes for $2

23 Jul

Frames on easels With too much framed art for our walls, I wanted to be able to move any frame from the wall to a table and back again as desired. Unfortunately, frames designed to hang on the wall usually don’t come with a hinged stand because the weight of the stand makes the frame hang crooked on the wall. I looked around for small easels and found that even small, simple easels could be surprisingly expensive. I saw no point in spending $14 for an easel when my frames and art are already so cheap.

Enter my good friends at The Dollar Tree. I found laptop stands there that look like broken, two-legged easels. They’re meant to prop up your laptop from below to allow air circulation to keep things cool. The main legs on each stand are adjustable to a variety of lengths. I had a brainstorm and bought all of the black laptop stands I could find at $1 apiece.

With the addition of a few carefully-placed zip ties, a pair of laptop stands becomes an adjustable tabletop easel that can accommodate different sizes of frames and display a frame at any desired angle. That’s quite a bargain for $2 (or perhaps $3 for the first one if you need to buy zip ties). These are great if you have a lot of art and/or don’t want to put holes in your walls. Read the rest of this entry »


Add removable shelving to your freezer

08 Feb

Crate with stackingEvery apartment I’ve rented has had a refrigerator with a freezer on top. Not one of those freezers has had enough shelves; often, they have no shelves at all. Shelves would have been incredibly helpful, but why should a landlord care about that?

If you’ve ever tried to stack meat in the freezer, you already know that frozen food is slippery and frustrating to organize. Even if you build a careful stack and can close your freezer door without knocking down your frigid Tower of Babel, you’re guaranteed to need the item on the bottom of the stack far too soon.

My solution? Find a plastic crate and add your own shelves to the freezer. Milk crates, file crates, or any kind of rigid plastic box can be used to make your freezer a bit more manageable.

My original plan was to saw the crate in half and stack the resulting trays to make multiple levels of shelving (see diagram). Instead, I have kept my crate intact and found that it’s plenty useful in its existing form. My ice-cube trays are up high, out of the way, and the sides of the crate help keep stacked food stable.

Empty crateFreezer shelves

Now, I’m not blind to the fact that this is just a plastic crate stuck sideways into the freezer. It isn’t a glamorous or particularly complicated idea. Still, it solves a real household problem neatly, and you can’t beat the price or the ease of installation. Like the magnetic towel bar, this is a solution that makes no permanent changes and does no damage (a bonus for apartment dwellers or anyone who rents). It’s utilitarian to look at, but it’s no uglier than the inside of the freezer to begin with.


Better living through vinegar

13 Jan

Fluffy towelsThree ways to improve your morning routine for under $1

I think modern America is entirely too clean. Perhaps we should blame a lifetime of television advertisements for BRAND-NEW, LIFE-SAVING, home cleaning products that only a neglectful monster would try to survive without. I’m all for labor-saving bathroom cleaners and so forth, but please remember that using antibacterial treatments on our hands and countertops as though preparing for surgery does nothing but breed resistant bacteria and line the pockets of cleaning-product vendors. Moreover, there are often simpler, less-expensive alternatives to the myriad brightly-colored bottles found in the cleaning aisle.

Vinegar is one such miracle product — a cheap, effective, non-toxic cleaning agent with has no lingering effects (true, it has a distinctive smell, but that disappears quickly once the vinegar is wiped up or allowed to evaporate). I’ll skip the hippie justification for the moment and put it simply: You can take better showers, use softer towels, and drink tastier coffee by tomorrow with under a dollar’s worth of vinegar. Find me another cleaning product that can improve your entire morning routine so cheaply! If that isn’t enticing, you must live in a different world than I do or never have to get up and get ready for work. You are free to stop reading, and I am jealous of your life. Read the rest of this entry »


Use a doorway curtain to curb heating and cooling costs

28 Dec

Tension rod for door curtainEveryone’s home has leaky parts. Exterior doors are usually the main culprits, which you can usually improve with foam tape or added weatherproofing. Leaky windows can be greatly improved with shrinkable plastic film, too. Even with my best efforts, though, I have always found one especially drafty room in any house or apartment I’ve lived in. That one room may be the main source of your heating and cooling costs by letting warm air escape in the winter and cold air escape in the summer.

When all else fails, you can save a bundle on heating costs by cutting that leaky room off from the rest of the house with a simple removable curtain. We have this curtain across the doorway into our kitchen. This cuts the drafty back door off from the rest of the house, reducing our air conditioner usage in the summer as well as our heating costs in the winter. This way, we don’t have to keep the kitchen heated all the time in the winter. The curtain also contains cooking smells, which can be helpful in some circumstances (“we’re cleaning the oven”) and disappointing in others (“I want the house to smell like bacon”). A simple tieback lets you leave the curtain open when desired.

Curtain - openCurtain - closedCurtain tieback

This is a great way for renters to improve their heating and cooling without making any permanent changes. Any doorway can become a curtainway with a simple tension rod that can be installed or removed in seconds. For the curtain, I used a heavyweight upholstery cloth bought at a liquidation sale, since heavier fabric will move less under a draft and will provide more insulation. Use something you don’t mind looking at since you’ll be seeing your curtain every day. After all, any fabric will be preferable to an open doorway.


Magnetic Towel Bar

11 May

For renters, simple projects like “hanging a picture” or “installing a towel bar” have to be weighed against the potential wrath of that villain in the shadows, The Landlord. In my opinion, a two-bedroom apartment needs to have two towel bars in the bathroom, but I had to ask myself: “Is it worth putting holes in the wall if I’ll have to repair them to get my security deposit back?”

“Yes,” I decided (particularly since there are plenty of holes for picture hangers that I’ll need to fix anyway), but there wasn’t even a good place to mount the bar without drilling through tile or metal. That’s when I came up with my renter-friendly towel bar, held to the radiator cover by nothing but Altoids tins and magnets. As a bonus, my towel dries much faster hanging in front of the radiator. Read the rest of this entry »