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Taking the bath out of bathrooms - does your house really need one?

<p dir="ltr">Though there’s something luxurious about being able to unwind in the bath with candles lit, soft music or even a glass of bubbles in hand, when it comes to the debate over keeping a shower or a bath, is the luxury actually worth it?</p> <p dir="ltr">The answer to this contentious debate will likely depend on a few different factors, such as your life stage, the size of your home and even if you plan on selling in the future.</p> <p dir="ltr">For Aucklander Cameron Nicholas, the $200,000 cost to include a large standalone bath in his bathroom was a must, having had to bathe two young children without one for the past four years.</p> <p dir="ltr">"It was a backbreaking nightmare, with me and my wife stooped over the shower trying to get them to stay still, one after the other, or squashing them like sardines into a tiny plastic tub," he told <em><a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/bathroom/98833034/does-your-bathroom-really-need-a-bath" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stuff</a></em>. "My son used to say "I wish we had a big bath." </p> <p dir="ltr">After the renovation, Mr Nicholas was told by his local real estate agent the bath added at $100,000 to the home’s value - he also plans to never move into a home without one again.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>For some, it’s not a necessity</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Though young families benefit from having a bath, there are other circumstances where it isn’t a necessity or could actually deter potential buyers, according to Barfoot &amp; Thompson sales agent Kari-Lee Haldane.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I wouldn’t worry too much if there wasn’t a bath,” Ms Haldane told <em>Stuff</em>. “For smaller units that may attract a young couple or a more mature individual, a bath is not always a plus.”</p> <p dir="ltr">However, she recommends against removing a bath already installed if your home has more than three bedrooms, since it’s an appealing option for families.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The best of both worlds can still be risky</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">If you are set on having a bath, there are plenty of options in terms of size, design, shape and style - and you can even combine it with a shower.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, interior designer Nicola Manning said running with a combined option could compromise both.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you’re having a shower you have to step over the bath - this can be dangerous, especially for elderly,” she said. “You’ll have to use either a shower curtain or a glass screen which can often leak. And there’s limited choice available for shower bath options in shape and quality - most are acrylic.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If having a bath will hinder the functionality of your bathroom, you could opt for a quality shower instead.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Spend money on tiling, large glass panels, add a recess for products and twin shower heads,” Manning suggested.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It all comes down to you</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, deciding whether you want a bath or could live without one comes down to you.</p> <p dir="ltr">After considering your preferences, needs and any restrictions on space you might have, it’s also worth thinking about how often you’ll use it and how that affects its worth as an investment.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-05a86e22-7fff-7e0f-29f6-aa87af7561da"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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If these things are in your freezer, toss them out

<p>Out of space in your freezer? Make room by ditching these items that are no longer any good to you.</p> <p><strong>Smelly ice cubes</strong></p> <p>There’s nothing refreshing about taking a big gulp of ice water and tasting the garlic you put in the freezer last week. Once ice cubes have taken on the scents around them, they’ll never get rid of them. Toss those and start fresh. </p> <p>If this is a problem you have found yourself facing, it might be time to invest in ice cube trays with lids – they can help preserve the ice cubes’ freshness and keep them odour-free.</p> <p><strong>Forgotten freezer meals</strong></p> <p>Look at you with your freezer full of healthy freezer meals! It’s great to plan ahead but don’t get overambitious with your meal prep. </p> <p>Prepared freezer meals should be eaten within three months. Try a first-in, first-out approach, and keep track of your freezer’s contents using labels.</p> <p><strong>Stale coffee beans</strong></p> <p>Storing ground coffee in the freezer can preserve freshness but be mindful of how long those beans have been sitting in there. </p> <p>Coffee beans absorb moisture, as well as the various tastes and smells around them, so make sure to use them within three months.</p> <p><strong>Freezer-burned veggies</strong></p> <p>How long has that bag of frozen mixed veggies been sitting in the back of your freezer? If it survived your last move, it’s time to toss it. </p> <p>Frozen veggies can be kept in the freezer for about three months – or shorter, if freezer burn has crept in.</p> <p><strong>Thawed meat</strong></p> <p>We love keeping a supply of chicken freezer meals on hand for busy weeknights. Once meat like chicken begins to thaw, though, it starts to grow bacteria. </p> <p>If your freezer isn’t functioning at the optimal freezer temperature, the meat inside can start to thaw without anyone the wiser, which can be unsafe.</p> <p><strong>Freezer-burned meat</strong></p> <p>Most commonly, though, it’s freezer burn you should fear. Given enough time, it will render your meat dry and tasteless. </p> <p>If you notice small ice crystals in the packaging, or can’t remember how long the meat has even been in the freezer, it’s time for it to go. Tightly sealing your meat before freezing it is a good way to ward off freezer burn.</p> <p><strong>Old deli meat</strong></p> <p>Deli meat is one of those items that is very convenient to have on hand, but which spoils quickly. The good news is that you can definitely freeze deli meat. Even with proper preparation, however, it can only last up to two months in the freezer. </p> <p>After that, even if it remains safe to eat, it won’t taste very good. Just as with other meats, deli meat should be tightly sealed and wrapped before it’s frozen.</p> <p><strong>Pastries with creamy filling</strong></p> <p>Once you’ve gone to the trouble of making a heavenly cheese danish from scratch, the last thing you want to do is throw away the leftovers. </p> <p>But pastries and other treats with cheese or creamy filling don’t keep well in the freezer; in fact, many of the foods that cannot be frozen are dairy products. Toss those cheese danishes after a month (or just eat them to avoid this problem altogether).</p> <p><strong>Unrecognisable leftovers</strong></p> <p>We love finding creative ways to repurpose leftovers; they just won’t last in the freezer forever. Most leftover dishes will keep for two to six months in the freezer. </p> <p>If they’ve been sitting for a while and you can’t remember what the food was in the first place, pitch it and start over.</p> <p><strong>Old ice cream</strong></p> <p>Most of us don’t have the problem of ice cream lasting too long in our homes but if you happen to have more self-control, you may find yourself in this predicament. If your tub of ice cream is older than three to four months, it’s time for it to go. </p> <p>So grab a bowl and a spoon before time is up! If you have a new large tub, try dividing it up and storing it in individual serving containers to help preserve that fresh flavour.</p> <p><strong>Freezer-burned bread</strong></p> <p>If you have more fresh bread than you know what to do with, and don’t want it to go stale before you have a chance to enjoy it, then popping it in the freezer is a great idea. But bread only lasts in the freezer for about six months. After that, freezer burn will likely have ravaged its good taste and texture. </p> <p>If you find a loaf in the back of the freezer that’s been there for who knows how long, then it needs to go. To keep it fresh as long as possible, make sure to wrap it tightly in a layer of plastic wrap, and then in a layer of foil or freezer paper. Pro tip: slice your bread before freezing, so you only ever have to remove what you need.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/home-tips/if-these-things-are-in-your-freezer-toss-them-out?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

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What adds value to your house? How to decide between renovating and selling

<p>The government’s <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/homebuilder">HomeBuilder</a> scheme allows <a href="https://www.corelogic.com.au/news/homebuilder-renovations-where-are-most-owner-occupied-dwellings-below-15-million">certain</a> home owners to apply for a tax-free grant of A$25,000 if they are spending between $150,000 and $750,000 renovating a home or building a new home. Eligibility criteria are strict.</p> <p>The scheme has boosted renovation talk in some circles (although, as CoreLogic has <a href="https://www.corelogic.com.au/news/vacuum-effect-and-its-implications-homebuilder-scheme">pointed</a> out, it may merely bring forward works that were already planned).</p> <p>Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to decide between renovating and moving – and how to add value to your existing home.</p> <h2>What adds value to a house?</h2> <p>Property market observers <a href="https://www.domain.com.au/advice/how-to-make-your-home-stand-out-when-selling-932031/">advise</a> updating or renewing bathrooms or kitchens – even small fixes such as replacing a cracked or dated splashback, replacing a bath or adding skylights can go a long way.</p> <p>Think about easy repairs that create an invaluable good first impression – a fixed-up fence, a new carpet or resurfaced flooring or even good old decluttering.</p> <p>But remember you’ll only qualify for HomeBuilder if you plan to spend at least $150,000 on an owner-occupied home worth no more than A$1.5 million (CoreLogic has <a href="https://www.corelogic.com.au/news/homebuilder-renovations-where-are-most-owner-occupied-dwellings-below-15-million">listed</a> which suburbs have the most owner-occupied properties under A$1.5 million).</p> <h2>Factors to consider if you’re thinking of renovating</h2> <p>How long till you retire? How secure is your employment? Thinking carefully about your earning potential between now and retirement will help you understand how what you can borrow and afford. If you are planning to stay, you will get the benefit and enjoyment of the renovations. </p> <p>Do you need to stay close to school or work? If that’s a consideration, renovating may be worth more to you than buying further out.</p> <p>Look closely at what your property is worth (there are plenty of online calculators) and keep track of how much similar local properties with one extra bedroom or bathroom sell for. That will give you a sense of the value-add to your home equity that a renovation might represent. </p> <p>Be honest with yourself about the total cost of renovation. There are myriad expenses not always initially apparent. These may include:</p> <ul> <li>planning fees (the cost of getting a development assessed by council)</li> <li>the cost of architectural drawings</li> <li>consultants’ fees for environmental impact statements or arborists’ reports</li> <li>extra costs due to a heritage listing</li> <li>renting, if it’s not possible to live at home during renovation</li> <li>the cost of protecting underground public assets such as water or sewerage pipes</li> <li>extra costs caused by poor access or other limitations.</li> </ul> <p>Consider the possible long-term savings of retrofitting your home to be more energy-efficient. Proper insulation, secondary glazing, draught excluders and solar PV energy are expensive upfront but will save on long term running costs. It’s likely, as energy costs increase, homes that are at least partially off grid will be more attractive and valuable over time. </p> <p>And remember that for some, even with help from HomeBuilder, renovation won’t stack up economically.</p> <p>Some older people may eschew home renovation to put money aside to help children get a foot on the property ladder. </p> <p>Others may decide potentially expensive renovation is worth it to hold onto a family home to which children return as they get older. It might sound sentimental but the idea of Christmas in the family homestead is worth it, for some. </p> <h2>Tax considerations</h2> <p>Find out what tax breaks, if any, you might be eligible for if you renovate to divide the family home into a smaller space (if you’re keen to downsize, or enhance the accessibility of your home, for example) and adding a self-contained granny flat. </p> <p>However, if the granny flat is leased out, this section of the home would be considered income-producing. Your “main residence” is generally <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Capital-gains-tax/Your-home-and-other-real-estate/Your-main-residence/">exempt</a> from capital gains tax when it comes time to sell, but you may not qualify entirely for this exemption if a section of the property is income-producing.</p> <p>You may also consider remodelling the family home into a duplex and, depending on council planning laws, convert the title into dual occupancy. However, these suggestions may complicate eligibility for the HomeBuilder grant (which seems to exclude property investors, although there’s no mention of partly converting the main place into a dual occupancy). </p> <p>The best option here is to seek advice from a tax specialist.</p> <h2>Factors to consider if you’re thinking of selling up and buying elsewhere</h2> <p>Use a <a href="https://www.realestate.com.au/home-loans/stamp-duty-calculator">stamp-duty calculator</a> and <a href="https://www.localagentfinder.com.au/selling-costs-calculator">cost-of-selling calculator</a> to get a rough idea of those costs.</p> <p>How important is proximity to work? Particularly if the coronavirus pandemic has opened your (or your employer’s) eyes to working remotely, would you consider a move to a more remote area where you can afford a bigger house?</p> <p>Chat with a range of real estate agents and get into the habit of reading market media coverage. Have a sense of what houses sell for that featured your desired attributes (such as more bedrooms or off-street parking). </p> <p>As a chartered building surveyor, I’d advise would-be downsizers to be cautious when buying a brand new high-rise apartment, due to risks of potentially costly defects that might become apparent over time. </p> <p>And remember, even if you do sell and buy a new place, very few are able to find the perfect home. You may decide to make renovations anyway.</p> <p>There are no easy answers. It comes down to your individual circumstances, your attitude to risk and ensuring you have a good grasp of the relative costs of each option. </p> <p>Talk to a financial adviser, tax accountant, real estate agents, builders, architects and others who have been through each process about what they’d do differently next time.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-adds-value-to-your-house-how-to-decide-between-renovating-and-selling-140627" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

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What is laundry stripping?

<p>Ready for an oddly satisfying way to clean your laundry? Laundry stripping is a method of washing clothes, sheets, and towels that allows you to actually see all the dirt and grime that’s hanging out on your supposedly clean linens. It’s kind of gross; but also totally gratifying when you’re done, knowing your laundry is probably the cleanest it has ever been.</p> <p>Here’s everything you need to know about laundry stripping – and how to DIY.</p> <p><strong>What is laundry stripping?</strong></p> <p>Laundry stripping is essentially a soaking method meant to deep-clean your laundry. The soak is done in a borax solution that removes built-up residue from detergent, hard water, body oils and fabric softener. </p> <p>What makes it so satisfying (but also might leave you slightly horrified) is that often the soaking water turns brown or grey from all the gunk that is “stripped” away from your linens!</p> <p><strong>How to strip your laundry</strong></p> <p>What you'll need is:</p> <p>Borax</p> <p>Washing soda (sodium carbonate)</p> <p>Laundry detergent</p> <p>Bath (or large bucket)</p> <p><strong>Step 1: Make the soaking bath</strong></p> <p>First, you’ll need a vessel large enough to soak the linens you want to strip. We recommend using the bathtub, but you also could use a large bucket or bin. Fill the bathtub with hot water. Add one part borax, one part washing soda, and two parts laundry detergent. For a bathtub, we recommend 1/4 cup borax, 1/4 cup washing soda, and 1/2 cup detergent.</p> <p>Gently stir the water to dissolve the powders.</p> <p><strong>Step 2: Soak the linens</strong></p> <p>Add clean laundry to the water, completely submerging it. Let everything soak about four to five hours, or until the water is cool. Stir the water and swish the laundry around occasionally; the movement helps to remove the dirt and grime from the fabric.</p> <p><strong>Step 3: Rinse</strong></p> <p>Remove the laundry from the bath and drain the water. (Don’t forget to admire the gross murky brown colour!) Now run the laundry through the washing machine, using a rinse cycle without detergent. Dry the laundry as you normally would; then enjoy your crisp, super clean linens!</p> <p><strong>When you should (and should not!) use laundry stripping</strong></p> <p>Laundry stripping is great for sheets and towels because those items are used frequently and can easily collect a build-up of body oils and detergents. If your towels feel less absorbent than usual, and your sheets look a little dingy, it might be time to try your hand at laundry stripping.</p> <p>Be careful with colourful linens, because laundry stripping can cause dyes to run. You’ll also want to avoid delicate linens like lace or embroidered pieces. Also, clothing isn’t a great candidate for stripping.</p> <p>Remember, laundry stripping requires hot water; so keep that in mind and check care label tags before you get started.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/what-is-laundry-stripping" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

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Helpful tips to declutter

<p dir="ltr">A dream come true would be living in a house that doesn’t require cleaning or decluttering every so often.</p> <p dir="ltr">Unfortunately, that is only a dream and is probably a bit too unrealistic because of family, pets, kids and the usual rushing out of the house in the morning. </p> <p dir="ltr">But decluttering doesn’t have to be that hard, especially once you set your mind to it. </p> <p dir="ltr">Here are five of the best tips to help you get started on becoming a minimalist. </p> <ol> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Divide clothes into piles</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Have three piles for your clothes: keep, donate, throw away. </p> <p dir="ltr">Once you have sorted your clothes into their respected pile, you know what to do. </p> <ol start="2"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Organise your books</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">We all have books that we absolutely love even if we haven’t touched it in years. </p> <p dir="ltr">Now is the time to organise them similarly to your clothes but with only two piles: keep and donate.</p> <p dir="ltr">If you throw books away, you’re a monster!</p> <ol start="3"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Clean out your fridge</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">How long has that microwave meal been sitting in the back of the fridge? Immediately throw it away.</p> <p dir="ltr">Anything that you do not use or require should be taken out. </p> <ol start="4"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Keep the counters clean</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Put simply, clean as you go. If you’re using a certain pot or pan to cook, once it’s washed put it back where it belongs. </p> <ol start="5"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Throw away old magazine/newspapers</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Why are those old magazines and newspapers just laying around in the living room? </p> <p dir="ltr">If you don’t need them, throw them away. You could always find it online anyway. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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5 things you should never cook in an air fryer

<p>You can air fry almost anything. And why wouldn’t you want to? There’s a reason these appliances have seemingly taken over everyone’s kitchens. Air fryers can imitate the results of deep-frying with some intense hot air and only a fraction of the oil. With this healthier alternative, crispy foods don’t have to be reserved for nights out and special occasions. But, there are foods that just shouldn’t be seen near an air fryer. Before cooking with your air fryer, see which foods won’t work – even though they may be tempting to throw in there.</p> <p><strong>Battered foods</strong></p> <p>Unless the food is pre-fried and frozen, you’ll want to avoid placing wet batter in the air fryer. Aside from the obvious mess it will create, wet batter won’t set the way it does when it’s submerged in oil, meaning the food won’t have that crunchy shell. If you’d like to add a little crispiness to your food, coat in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs.</p> <p><strong>Fresh greens</strong></p> <p>Leafy greens, like spinach, will cook unevenly and are very likely to burn due to the air fryer’s high-speed air. When choosing vegetables to cook in the air fryer, make sure they hold some weight, like broccoli or zucchini. Kale chips may also be successful if coated in enough oil to weigh them down. Ultimately, experts say that frozen veggies are the way to go when it comes to air fryers because they retain more moisture from the ice.</p> <p><strong>Whole roasts</strong></p> <p>The apparent issue with whole roasts is whether or not it will even fit properly into an air fryer basket, but even if it does fit, it’s best to just stick to the regular oven. The roast will not cook evenly, with the part closest to the heat source likely to burn by the time the part furthest away is safe to eat. The problem comes down to overcrowding. Since the hot air needs room to appropriately circulate, the most successful method would be to cook the roast in smaller pieces. If cooking a chicken, make sure the skin is facing up as air fryers heat from the top.</p> <p><strong>Cheese</strong></p> <p>Who wouldn’t love to instantly make some fried cheese to snack on? Since the air fryer isn’t truly ‘frying’ the food, placing cheese in it without some sort of coating will just melt the cheese into a puddle and create a mess you don’t want to clean up.</p> <p><strong>Raw grains</strong></p> <p>Grains such as rice and pasta can crisp nicely in an air fryer, but they have to be cooked on the stovetop first. Air fryers are intended to dry cooked food, so trying to cook something that needs to be immersed in water to cook properly won’t work. Even with an insert that allows you to place water inside the air fryer, the fan will never get hot enough to boil the water and successfully cook your grains.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/kitchen-tips/5-things-you-should-never-cook-in-an-air-fryer" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader’s Digest</a>.</em></p>

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6 things plumbers never do in their own homes

<p>Plumbing is something we often take for granted, but without it we wouldn’t have warm showers, toilets that flush or the means to pressure wash the driveway. Not only that, a working plumbing system is key to sanitation – in your home and your community.</p> <p>“It is a known motto in the plumbing community that the plumber protects the health of the nation,” says licensed plumber Aaron Mulder. “As soon as you don’t have working plumbing systems in a country, things start to deteriorate.”</p> <p>That’s why, Mulder says, homeowners need to pay attention to the plumbing in their homes. This involves things like fixing leaks in a timely manner, replacing broken parts before they completely fail and regularly checking water pressure.</p> <p>Perhaps even more importantly, it’s avoiding common behaviours that wreak havoc on a home’s plumbing system. What are those behaviours? We went straight to the plumbers themselves to find out.</p> <p>Here are six things professional plumbers would never do in their own homes.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t flush baby wipes down the toilet</strong></p> <p>The box may say the wipes are flushable, but the truth is there are only two things that should be ever be flushed – toilet paper and human waste, says Mulder. Everything else, from feminine hygiene products to paper towels and beyond, will undoubtedly clog your pipes – if not right away, eventually.</p> <p>These items can also clog up the entire sewer system. Over time, this can create a big expensive mess at your city’s sewage treatment plant, not to mention a threat to public health. Instead, do what plumbers do and toss disposable baby wipes in the garbage bin.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t use harsh chemicals in drains</strong></p> <p>If you routinely pour a store-bought drain cleaner down the sink to do away with clogs, stop immediately. These cleaners are not just ineffective, they are caustic, says plumber Terry O’Shea, who warns chemical drain cleaners can burn your pipes and your skin, if you touch them.</p> <p>And the claims that these cleaners dissolve hair? Nope.</p> <p>“It (might) burn away some of the hair and gunk … but at the end of the day it is not going to stop that buildup from reoccurring,” Mulder says. “It is just (pushing) down to where the chemical didn’t reach.”</p> <p>What should you do about clogs? Plumber-recommended enzymatic drain cleaners are usually safe, or you can try a drain auger (sometimes called a plumbing snake), O’Shea says. Don’t give in to the temptation to use a hanger for the job though, says Mulder. Anything rigid can damage the pipe and cause a whole slew of issues, like leaks, broken seals, bad smells and bug infestations (yuck!).</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t pour grease down the drain</strong></p> <p>You just cooked some bacon and need to get rid of the grease. You have a few options, but pouring it down the kitchen sink is not one of them, says Mulder.</p> <p>Initially, the grease will stick to the walls of your pipes and start clogging your drain. Eventually, some of that grease will make it to the sewer, where it mixes with all the other raw sewage (along with those baby wipes that shouldn’t be there). The result? A disgusting sewer-damaging blob called a fatberg. Last year, waste treatment officials in England discovered a fatberg that was more than 60 metres long.</p> <p>We know you don’t want to contribute to such a monstrosity. Instead, Mulder advises scraping congealed grease into the garbage bin, or pouring warm grease into a can or jar to throw away later. Some people even save grease for further use in the kitchen.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t take the term “garbage disposal” literally</strong></p> <p>Despite the name, your sink’s garbage disposal is not meant to dispose of garbage, says Mulder. Small scraps of certain types of food (and the milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl) are OK. But eggshells, hunks of meat, and coffee grounds, among other things, should not go down your garbage disposal.</p> <p>“(These items) are overworking the unit, or overheating it,” Mulder says. If you do this continually, Mulder says, it will damage and ultimately ruin the garbage disposal.</p> <p>And that’s not the only thing. Since the disposal isn’t designed to break down the food, that leftover chicken will rot in your pipes. Before long, you’ll have an unpleasant odour and a dirty job to deal with. Save yourself the trouble and expense by composting or throwing away food scraps.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t put off preventive maintenance</strong></p> <p>Like cars, plumbing systems need regular maintenance even when nothing is amiss. Plumbers know the importance of keeping up on said maintenance in their homes, so they can minimise the possibility of something major going wrong, like a leak, corrosion or a septic tank issue.</p> <p>Mulder says it is particularly important to do an annual pressure check to make sure your water pressure is in a safe range. To meet Australian Standards, the standard maximum is 45-55 PSI (pounds per square inch). The PSI requirements differ from country to country. You can buy a water pressure gauge at your local hardware store.</p> <p>Other preventive maintenance activities include checking for leaks and clogs, and making sure you don’t have any broken internal parts in your toilets, sinks or tubs/showers. He also recommends checking your supply lines – a.k.a. the hoses that allow water to travel from the main water line to individual fixtures – to make sure they are still in good shape. Many homeowners, he says, are surprised to find out supply lines are typically only rated for three to five years of use.</p> <p><strong>Plumbers don’t prolong the investigation of the problem</strong></p> <p>Nobody ever wants to scrap their weekend plans at the last minute to deal with a plumbing problem. But if you wake up one morning and find a pool of water under your washing machine, it’s wise to deal with it right away, says Mulder.</p> <p>“If you think you have a water leak … you definitely want to get it looked at before it becomes a bigger issue,” he says, adding that plumbing problems are not the type that correct themselves over time.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/diy-tips/6-things-plumbers-never-do-in-their-own-homes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader’s Digest</a>.</em></p>

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Follow this cleaning schedule to keep your home spotless

<p>Whether you’re a neat freak or the type of person who only tidies up before major holidays (or fall somewhere in between), you can stay on track by following a cleaning schedule. Our cleaning checklist, which includes a timeline for the kitchen and the bathroom, tells you what to address and when, so nothing gets so dirty that it takes hours to clean or is left beyond repair.</p> <p>“If you put in even 20 minutes of effort a day, you’ll keep chaos at bay,” says Vera Peterson, president of housecleaning company Molly Maid.</p> <p><strong>Before you start cleaning</strong></p> <p>Step 1. Gather your cleaning supplies.</p> <p>Peterson recommends creating two to three cleaning caddies, each of which has been specially created for a specific area of the house (bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, etc.) and includes everything you need to get straight to work.</p> <p>Step 2. Move clutter out of the way.</p> <p>Overall, the less stuff you have, the less stuff you must put away, dust, clean and maintain. Stack papers and books in neat piles, and group like items on a shelf or in a corner.</p> <p>Step 3. Group chores by task when monthly or deep cleaning.</p> <p>When you’re doing a whole-house monthly or deep cleaning, it can be faster to group similar chores, such as cleaning mirrors or vacuuming, than go room by room. With the tools already in hand, you’ll be able to finish them up in no time.</p> <p><strong>Daily cleaning schedule </strong></p> <p>Your daily cleaning schedule focuses on tasks you need to do frequently, like making your bed and washing the dishes. The good news is that these tasks are quick and make an immediate difference. Here are more tips for everyday cleaning:</p> <p>Instead of breaking out your stick vacuum daily, invest in a programmable robot vacuum and you won’t even have to think about cleaning your floors.</p> <p>Fingerprints on the taps and toothpaste spots in the sink are almost inevitable. Store sanitising wipes under the vanity to quickly clean them.</p> <p>When you’re finished washing the dinner dishes, sprinkle the kitchen sink with baking soda and scrub it with a slightly damp sponge.</p> <p>After each shower, squeegee the glass or tile walls to prevent watermarks and mildew.</p> <p><strong>Weekly cleaning schedule </strong></p> <p>The chores on the weekly cleaning schedule are a bit more time intensive than the daily ones. The payoff is that the additional attention to these areas now means they’ll be easier to clean than if you pushed the task off another few weeks. These are a few things to consider as you do your weekly cleaning:</p> <p>If you don’t use your microwave regularly, you can get away with cleaning it every other week.</p> <p>When mopping, start at the farthest corner of the room and move back toward the entrance. Rinse the mop after completing each 1.2m x 1.2m area to keep your water fresh.</p> <p>To clean mirrors, use a glass cleaner and microfibre cloth (or newspaper), wipe across the mirror in a broad “S” pattern, working from edge to edge, top to bottom.</p> <p>Don’t forget to dust doors, windowsills and light fixtures (turn them off first). When dusting, move a microfibre cloth from left to right and top to bottom for the best results. High-touch surfaces, such as door handles, light switches and television remotes, are gathering spots for dirt and bacteria. Spray or wipe the surface with a multipurpose cleaner, followed by a disinfectant. Allow it to sit for the recommended amount of time, according to the instructions, then rinse or wipe the surface to remove residue.</p> <p>While you have the vacuum out, do a quick pass over your curtains and any upholstered furniture.</p> <p>Dirty cleaning tools only spread grime. Remember to wash microfibre cloths, sanitise your sponges, and wipe the handle and base of your vacuum and clean its filter.</p> <p><strong>Monthly cleaning schedule</strong></p> <p>The monthly cleaning schedule addresses bigger tasks that require both more time and more equipment. Think of it as an investment in your appliances and your home, and you’ll recognise that it’s time and effort well spent. Here are some things to keep in mind:</p> <p>To clean the splashback, mix one cup baking soda, one cup hydrogen peroxide, and a degreasing dishwashing liquid. The combination breaks down the greasy buildup that is common in most kitchen areas, Peterson says.</p> <p>How you degrease the rangehood depends on if it’s removable or not. Soak a removable range hood in hot, soapy water. Otherwise, clean it in place with a soft, damp, soapy cloth.</p> <p>While you’re cleaning your fridge, toss any old or expired food and wipe down the shelves and drawers.</p> <p>It is possible to get even the grimiest bathroom grout lines clean with extra elbow grease and our secret cleaning concoction: Mix one cup of baking soda with one cup of hydrogen peroxide and scrub with a toothbrush.</p> <p>Mattresses need love too. To refresh yours, sprinkle it with baking soda, let it sit for 20 minutes, then vacuum.</p> <p>To clean skirting boards without bending, run a broom with a microfibre towel tied over its bristles along them. To dust ceiling fans, turn them off, then use an extendable duster to clean the blades and remove dust and any built-up grime.</p> <p>For streak-free windows, spray them with glass cleaner and wipe them with newspapers. Or for hard-to-reach spots, use a telescoping squeegee. Finish by whisking away debris from the window track with a crevice brush.</p> <p><strong>Deep cleaning schedule </strong></p> <p>Every three to six months, roll up your sleeves (and call in some help, if necessary) to knock out the deep cleaning house checklist. These tasks are bigger projects for sure, but they help keep your home looking its best. Keep these points in mind as you prepare to deep clean:</p> <p>You’ll be amazed at how many crumbs you have under your stove and cobwebs lurking behind your fridge. Pull each appliance out to sweep and clean behind them. Vacuum any refrigerator coils to improve its energy efficiency.</p> <p>After you empty your kitchen drawers, wipe them down and thoroughly wash any organisers.</p> <p>To clean window screens, remove them from the window, then loosen grime by lightly scrubbing them with a very soft bristle brush dipped in an all-purpose cleaner mixed with warm water. Rinse with an outdoor hose.</p> <p>Clean and organise your closet and dresser drawers.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared in <a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/home-tips/follow-this-cleaning-schedule-to-keep-your-home-spotless" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

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Get the kitchen you’ve always wanted!

<p dir="ltr">The kitchen is quite possibly everybody’s favourite place because that’s where all the delicious food is – obviously.</p> <p dir="ltr">And because we keep walking in and out every day, it’s also fairly easy to get tired of the same old same old. However, if you don’t have the kind of ready cash needed for a full-blown renovation, worry not – there are plenty of things you can do that will result in a splendid makeover to keep things feeling fresh and new. </p> <p dir="ltr">Start with these easy basics: </p> <ol> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Paint </strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Almost everything in the kitchen can be painted and if you want to feel like it's a brand new room in the house, then why not? </p> <p dir="ltr">From cabinets, walls, trims, splashback and even floors – paint can be splashed wherever you like. </p> <ol start="2"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Pantry makeover</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Instead of keeping your dry foods in their bags or boxes, just empty them into a clear container and label it. Not only would you have so much more room but imagine how organised your pantry would be.</p> <p dir="ltr">Baskets can also be used for fruits or veggies. Don’t forget to use racks and brackets on the back of the door to hold spices, paper towels, aprons, dustpans and brooms.</p> <ol start="3"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Replace handles and fixtures</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">If you’re feeling just that little bit more imaginative, why not replace the door knobs and drawer pulls with something else that could go with the fresh coat of paint? </p> <ol start="4"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Update appliances</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">Do you even remember the last time you bought new appliances? Grab your coat and head to the shops and buy that new toaster or kettle that you’ve been dying to get. </p> <ol start="5"> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><strong>Create a signature nook</strong></p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">It seems that almost every kitchen has that weird corner/cupboard that just doesn’t really need to be there. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, that space can actually be used to put items away, or have your baked goods on display. The kitchen (world) is your oyster.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Easy ways to update your kitchen

<p dir="ltr">The kitchen is the heart of a home. Given how much time we spend there, each and every day, it needs to be functional and feel a little bit special.</p> <p dir="ltr">While a full kitchen renovation can be costly and time-consuming, there are lots of simple ways to update a tired kitchen that don’t require getting out a sledgehammer or taking out a second mortgage. We’re talking freshly painted cabinet doors, some new light fittings or door handles and hardworking storage.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">1. Paint everything</h3> <p dir="ltr">Paint can be such an amazing tool for changing the look and feel of a room. When it comes to kitchens, the cabinets, walls, trims, splashback, even floors can be painted — the trick is to select the right finish. Consider a high-wearing enamel paint for the trims, an easy-clean semi-gloss for the cabinet doors and a low-sheen paint for walls.</p> <p dir="ltr">Don’t forget to do your prep work, too. A light sand and scrub followed by a coat of primer will ensure an even finish and a longer lasting result.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">2. Makeover your pantry</h3> <p dir="ltr">Keep your pantry contents easily accessible using a range of storage options. Decant dry goods into clear, labelled containers and group like items together, such as grains, spices, condiments and so on. Baskets are good for loose items like potatoes and onions, while tubs will keep kids’ snacks in order. Use racks and brackets on the back of the door to hold spices, paper towel, aprons, dustpans and brooms.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">3. Replace handles and fixtures</h3> <p dir="ltr">This quick and easy trick will instantly refresh and elevate the look of your kitchen. Simply unscrew your existing kitchen doorknobs and drawer pulls and replace with something to suit your new aesthetic. Installing a new sink, tapware or statement pendant will require a little more skill, but the results will be equally effective.</p> <h3 dir="ltr">4. Update your appliances</h3> <p dir="ltr">If your kitchen is getting on in years, chances are your appliances aren’t functioning as well as they could. Upgrading to a newer model with multiple functions will be life-changing. The same goes for small appliances like toasters, kettles and mixers. </p> <h3 dir="ltr">5. Create a signature nook</h3> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-a0bee2e2-7fff-02ef-11de-2033b9f3e822"></span></p> <p dir="ltr">Many kitchens have a tricky corner that doesn’t really serve a purpose, so why not utilise this space for a specific need? For example, turning a corner of the benchtop into a dedicated display area for baked goods. Take this idea and tailor it to you.</p>

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Energy bills are spiking after the Russian invasion. We should have doubled-down on renewables years ago

<p>Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is happening half a planet away from Australia. </p> <p>But the ripple effects are plain to see at every petrol station and, potentially soon, your electricity bill. </p> <p>As a result of the invasion and Western sanctions on Russian exports, energy prices have skyrocketed. </p> <p>If that makes you think nations should have taken steps to secure alternatives to fossil fuels years ago, you’re not alone. As it is, the much higher energy prices are likely to accelerate the exit of coal – and gas – from our energy grids. </p> <p>This should be a wake-up call. It doesn’t matter that Australia is far from the battlefield. Everyone in the world will be affected in some way.</p> <h2>What’s the link between the invasion and Australian energy prices?</h2> <p>You might think Australia’s domestic supply of coal and gas means we’d be immune to price rises. Not so. </p> <p>Due to formal sanctions and informal shunning of Russian exports, oil, coal and gas are now extremely expensive on a global scale. Thermal coal prices have increased five-fold to an unprecedented ~$A500 per tonne. Oil is ~$140 a barrel and up 60% year on year. Natural gas in Europe is around 50% higher than last October, but since the invasion, prices have spiked as high as ~200% higher than 2021 levels. </p> <p>Coal buyers are locking in supply, concerned that Russian sanctions will continue. Russia is the <a href="https://www.spglobal.com/commodity-insights/en/market-insights/latest-news/metals/030722-factbox-russian-metals-industrys-reliance-on-china-set-to-rise-as-sanctions-disrupt-supplies">third largest exporter of coal</a> and its existing customers are now under pressure to find alternative supplies. </p> <p>Russia’s aggression is not just resulting in a major humanitarian and political crisis. It is also causing pain at the bowser for Australian consumers due to the surge in oil pricing and may soon result in higher electricity bills. </p> <p>Australia’s east-coast electricity market is still heavily reliant upon coal. While many coal-fired power stations have existing supply contracts, the much higher global coal price may increase the cost of any extra coal purchases by existing power stations. </p> <p>Not only that, but our gas-fired power stations are facing potential increases in operating costs due to much higher global gas prices. </p> <p>Unfortunately, we may see the result in rising power bills. The price of future contracts for wholesale electricity next year in NSW are now twice what they were a year ago. Assuming this flows through to end-users, prices for residential customers could increase by as much as 10–15%. </p> <h2>So what should Australia do?</h2> <p>While it’s too late to dodge this bullet, we can prepare for future shocks by doubling down on firmed renewables. The faster we move, the less we’ll be hit by the price and reliability risks of coal. </p> <p>Already under pressure from cheaper renewable technologies, coal power station operators now find themselves potentially facing much higher costs in the short-term. There’s no relief for coal in the long term either, with the rapid rise of renewables and other zero-carbon technologies.</p> <p>Not only that, but most of our coal power stations are near the end of their lives, and industry doesn’t want to build new ones. That means coal will become more and more expensive, as the plants become <a href="https://www.aemo.com.au/-/media/files/electricity/nem/planning_and_forecasting/inputs-assumptions-methodologies/2020/aep-elical-assessment-of-ageing-coal-fired-generation-reliability.pdf">increasingly unreliable</a>. </p> <p>Wind and solar technologies are now much cheaper per unit of energy generated and can be integrated with energy storage to provide dispatchable “firmed” energy. The faster we transition to renewables firmed by storage, the better.</p> <p>If we do this, our new grid will also be more reliable. Continuing to rely upon coal is like relying upon a 1970s car to travel from Sydney to Melbourne on the hottest day of the year. </p> <p>State governments around the nation are already embracing this approach, with the New South Wales government moving ahead with plans for 12 gigawatts (GW) of new renewables and storage and the Victorian government announcing plans for 9GW of offshore windfarms. </p> <p>Governments must carefully design policies to avoid guaranteeing profits for private sector players while socialising any losses across taxpayers and energy consumers. In NSW, <a href="https://econpapers.repec.org/article/blaajarec/v_3a66_3ay_3a2022_3ai_3a1_3ap_3a136-163.htm">alternatives</a> are being considered.</p> <p>As European and many other nations scramble to reduce their dependency on Russian coal, oil and gas, Australia now has a once in a generation opportunity to become a leading exporter of new clean energy. </p> <p>We have truly enormous clean energy resources in the form of free sunlight and wind. To export it, we can either run underseas cables to neighbouring countries, or convert cheap renewable power into <a href="https://theconversation.com/green-hydrogen-is-coming-and-these-australian-regions-are-well-placed-to-build-our-new-export-industry-174466">green hydrogen</a> and ship this to the world just as we currently do with LNG.</p> <h2>What else can we expect to see?</h2> <p>Surging fossil fuel prices has supercharged the existing disruption to an already rapidly changing domestic energy industry. In the past month, Origin announced it would abandon coal more rapidly, with the closure of its NSW coal-fired power station, Eraring, in 2025. </p> <p>Meanwhile, AGL has been pursuing a “demerger” with a view to splitting off its coal assets and pursuing new energy technologies. This comes as Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian asset fund Brookfield <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-06/brt-agl-brookfield-bid-rejected/100887042">offered to buy AGL</a> for $8.25 a share, though they were not successful. Their plan was to accelerate the closure of AGL’s coal assets, which would move AGL from the <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org.au/news/new-government-data-reveals-agl-as-australias-biggest-climate-polluter/">highest carbon emitter in Australia</a> to a clean energy company. The age of coal power is ending, and much faster than most of us realise.</p> <p>This crisis should spur us to build a future-proofed fleet of “firmed” and well-distributed renewables with a known cost structure. </p> <p>By doing this, we will protect ourselves from the pain of geopolitically driven fossil fuel prices. And we will have a platform ready if we want to provide clean energy to the world in the form of green hydrogen.</p> <p>We have had decades to make full use of our wealth of renewable energy resources. We haven’t embraced this as fully as we should have. </p> <p>It turns out localised clean energy production is not just necessary to tackle climate change. It will prove a vital resource as we navigate the highly turbulent decade we have found ourselves in.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/energy-bills-are-spiking-after-the-russian-invasion-we-should-have-doubled-down-on-renewables-years-ago-179336" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

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14 laundry myths that are ruining your clothes

<p>Doing laundry is always a learning experience. Should you wash your clothes in warm water? Do all-purpose cleaners work for all stains? </p> <p>Read on to hear from laundry experts on what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing to your clothes.</p> <p><strong>More detergent means cleaner clothes</strong></p> <p>One popular myth you’ve probably heard is that using more detergent means cleaner clothes. However, the truth may be a bit different. “Using more detergent doesn’t make it work extra hard. Instead, it can leave residue on your clothes,” Brian Sansoni, from the American Cleaning Institute, tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“You’ll probably just need to wash them again and over time these extra washings can make them wear out faster. Check the detergent label for how much detergent to use for your size load and washing machine, especially since many detergents these days are concentrated.”</p> <p><strong>The hotter the water, the better the cleaning power</strong></p> <p>Surely, the temperature of the water would have a profound effect. However, hot water may not have as much of an impact as you might think. “Hot water won’t necessarily get clothes cleaner. In fact, it can damage some fabrics or cause some stains to become permanent instead of being removed,” Sansoni says. </p> <p>“This is the case of a myth that may have been true in the past but detergents these days have been designed to work just as well, if not better, in cold water. Always follow the fabric care label.”</p> <p><strong>The more dryer sheets, the better</strong></p> <p>Too much of a good thing can actually, well, sometimes be a bad thing. “There is such thing as too many dryer sheets,” Laura Johnson, Research and Development at LG Electronics, tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“Overuse of dryer sheets can reduce the efficiency of your machine by leaving behind a sweet-smelling residue and congesting your lint screen.”</p> <p><strong>Wash clothes after every wear</strong></p> <p>Sometimes, you may not need to wash your clothes every single time you wear them. “If you throw clothes in the washing basket to be washed after every wear, you may be over-washing some items and causing them to wear out prematurely,” Sansoni says. </p> <p>Unless it’s underwear or there’s a stain, it may not need to be washed.</p> <p><strong>Overloading your washer with too many bulky items can damage your machine</strong></p> <p>“Any larger items must be placed in the washer in a balanced manner to prevent laundry casualties,” explains Johnson.</p> <p><strong>You can ignore the fabric care label</strong></p> <p>As with everything, always read the instructions – and that includes the fabric care label. “There are times when it’s tempting to throw all the clothes in the washer and be done with it,” Sansoni says. </p> <p>“However, every piece of commercial clothing has a tag with care instructions from the manufacturer designed to keep the item looking its best. Learn what the symbols mean and follow those instructions to extend the life of your favourite clothes.”</p> <p><strong>All stains are created equal </strong></p> <p>If you think you can use the same laundry detergent for blood stains as grease, you might need to rethink that plan. The stain’s type actually determines how you can remove it. </p> <p>According to household cleaning expert Shannon Lush, blood stains should be removed with cold water and common bathroom soap, while to get rid of grease stains, simple squeeze a few drops of dishwashing liquid on your fingertips without water and rub the spot until it has changed to a jelly texture, then rinse with cold water.</p> <p><strong>You can use body wash to thoroughly wash clothes</strong></p> <p>It’s happened to the best of us. You put in a load of laundry and then realise that you’re out of laundry detergent. As a last resort, would body wash do the job? While hand/body wash will clean your clothes, it will not do as an effective job as a laundry detergent, since body wash has more gentle chemicals. </p> <p>“It is best to use items that have the right amount of stronger chemicals to provide a deep clean,” Leanne Stapf, of The Cleaning Authority, tells Reader’s Digest.</p> <p><strong>You can only hand wash your bras</strong></p> <p>Who here has hand washed their bras and then found out there’s an easier way to wash them? “There is a myth that you can only hand wash your bras which is not true,” Jené Luciani Sena, intimate apparel and lifestyle influencer, tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“You can put them in a mesh garment bag zip it up, and put on a cool water gentle cycle with a gentle detergent in the washing machine.”</p> <p><strong>Using hairspray to remove cloth stains</strong></p> <p>This is untrue of course as hairspray makes stains worse, especially ink as it will spread it more. </p> <p>Instead, “blot some water on the stain and to make it more effective, use a versatile stain remover powder,” Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, tells Reader’s Digest.</p> <p><strong>Filling the machine conserves water and energy</strong></p> <p>What is a full machine, anyway? “Your definition of a full machine may be different from the manufacturer’s definition,” Melanie Musson, an insurance expert tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“Washing machines are designed to work optimally with a two-thirds full maximum. If you pack the machine to the top, the detergent won’t be able to spread around and clean all the clothes and you’ll have to wash them again, saving neither water nor energy.”</p> <p><strong>Visible stains are the only types of dirt you need to worry about on clothes</strong></p> <p>You might think that a shirt is dirty when you see a stain, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. “Your clothes might be dirtier than you think. In fact, only 30 per cent of the soils in your laundry are visible – things like food, dirt and grass stains,” Jennifer Ahoni, Tide Senior Scientist, tells Reader’s Digest. </p> <p>“The other 70 per cent include invisible soils made up of body soils like sweat and body oils, which if not removed by a deep cleaning laundry detergent will build up over time and cause odours, dinginess and dullness. Deep clean removes both visible and invisible dirt.”</p> <p><strong>You only need to sort laundry by colours</strong></p> <p>This might be good news for people who may not have time to sort through their clothes by colour. “While sorting by colours is always a good idea, you also need to consider sorting by fabric type,” says Ahoni. </p> <p>“Heavier fabrics such as denim can damage finer and more delicate fabrics. Make sure to always check the care label for the best guidance on washing and recommendations on other fabrics to wash with.”</p> <p><strong>You should fasten buttons before washing</strong></p> <p>How many times have you buttoned up your shirt before placing it in the washer? In fact, you may not need to do this at all. “Fastening buttons before washing can lead to the buttons falling off due to the stress the washing machine puts on the clothes,” Musson says. </p> <p>“It can also lead to the article of clothing getting stretched because of the uneven pressure the place of the button puts on the clothes when compared to a seam.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/home-tips/14-laundry-myths-that-are-ruining-your-clothes?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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How to build timber covers for wheelie bins

<p>The Sekit flat-packed system, from Bunnings (bunnings.com.au), uses ACQ treated pine and takes an hour to assemble, fitting 120 and 240 litre bins.</p> <p>A single bin cover measures 670 x 810 x 1200mm, and the double is 1340 x 810 x 1200mm.</p> <div id="firstFloatAd"> <div data-fuse="21928626849"> </div> <div data-fuse="21699960946"> </div> </div> <p>Simple latch bolts keep the doors secured and a chain joins the bin handles to the covers so both lids are raised simultaneously, making rubbish disposal much more hygienic.</p> <p>TIP – To remove the bins on collection day, unhook the lid chains before opening the doors.A chain connects the bin</p> <p>ASSEMBLE THE FRAME positioning the dividing frame against the side panels and adding the front and back supports, securing with the supplied screws. Square up the frame and secure the two diagonal back supports.</p> <div id="lastFloatAd"> <div data-fuse="21928512968"> </div> <div data-fuse="22652288252"> </div> </div> <p>INSTALL THE LIDS by aligning the holes on the lid with the holes in the frame then insert the supplied bolts, securing the outside bolts with the washer and nut and the inside bolts using a Phillips head screwdriver.</p> <p>ATTACH THE DOORS by aligning the top hinge and securing with a screw at the top, attach the base hinge, checking the door is parallel with the side then secure the second screw at the top and attach the latch bolts.</p> <p><em>Image: Bunnings</em></p>

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The quick and easy way to create an office in your living area

<p dir="ltr">Working from home is here to stay, but for many Australians the luxury of a home office isn’t always an option. Bunnings have teamed up with Better Homes and Gardens to bring you these handy hacks to create your own designated work space at home. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Find the perfect desk</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">First things first, you’ll need a sturdy desk. Whether you buy a ready-made desk or build one yourself, ensure it’s the ideal size (common dimensions range between 120 and 180cm wide and 60 to 90cm deep).  </p> <p dir="ltr">Select your countertop material to suit your interior style. A minimalist, timber design is the epitome of Scandinavian style, whereas a black metal desk evokes an industrial mood.</p> <h3>2. Add a feature wall</h3> <p dir="ltr">A bold feature wall creates a strong visual contrast and can liven up any lacklustre room. It’s also the key to dividing your study nook from an open-plan area — creating a separate space that’s truly your own.</p> <p> </p> <p dir="ltr">Here, the Bunnings team use premium paint to form a striking focal point. This rich black colour has a calming and powerful effect, perfect for creating focus in a working zone. What’s more, this simple DIY paint project can transform your home office in a matter of hours.        </p> <h3>3. Install floating shelves</h3> <p dir="ltr">Sufficient storage is key to an organised workstation, so you can sit down with a clear mind at the start of each working day. Floating shelves are the answer to decluttering your desk and keeping organised, as they can hold folders, stationery, and other office equipment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Open shelves are also a beautiful way to personalise your study and show off décor. Plus, installing shelving is a straightforward DIY task that any renovation novice with a power drill can tackle.        </p> <h3>4. Allow for ample lighting</h3> <p dir="ltr">Whether your home office is tucked around a corner or is a statement piece in your living room, it’s important to consider lighting. Poor lighting can induce eye fatigue and headaches, while negatively affecting your energy and productivity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whilst we can’t all have an office with a view, it is worth considering a space with great natural light, which creates a warm, attractive environment and can enlarge a small space. If possible, position your desk near a window, and invest in a lamp to further brighten your desk.</p> <h3>5. Decorate with plants   </h3> <p dir="ltr">Bring the outdoors in with a burst of greenery on your desk. A leafy desk friend is proven to boost attention, reduce stress and increase creativity, not to mention plants also improve air quality.</p> <p dir="ltr">Decorate with indoor plants that are easy to care for and require little sunlight, such as a snake plant, peace lily or philodendron green.   </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Better Homes & Gardens</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

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13 tiny changes that will make your home instantly happier

<p><strong>Keep clutter minimal</strong></p><p>A stack of books. A pile of papers. Knick-knacks everywhere! If objects are crowding every surface of your home, you’re not alone. The first step to being truly happy in your space is to figure out what to keep, and what to let go. “A cluttered room is much more likely to produce, and contribute to, a cluttered mind,” says professional organiser Marie Kondo, author of the bestseller <em>The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up</em>. “I believe that only in an uncluttered room, which enables an uncluttered mind, can you truly focus your attention and your energy on the matters in your life which are preventing you from reaching your truest happiness.”</p><p>According to design psychologist Sally Augustin, the powerful mental effects of clutter have roots in our evolution. “In our early days as a species, our lives depended on continually surveying the environment and seeing if anything was going to eat us,” she says. “Today we continue to survey our environment, and too many things make this subconscious reviewing more difficult, which is why the visual complexity of clutter is so stressful.” A study from Princeton University shows that too much disorganised stimuli simply overwhelms the brain.</p><p><strong>Display meaningful objects</strong></p><p>The process of letting go of ‘stuff’ doesn’t mean you should live in a stark environment, according to Dr Augustin that would feel alien to us. Kondo’s method uses the test of whether an object ‘sparks joy’ in your heart. “When you decide what to keep based on what sparks joy, you are establishing and reaffirming to yourself what is most important to you,” she says. It’s not about the latest home design styles, it’s how an object makes you feel.</p><p>Still love showing off that soccer trophy from third grade? Keep it! As far as how much to display, balance out the chaos in your life with a visually quieter environment. The amount that feels right may vary from person to person, but Dr Augustin suggests four or five pictures in a room and a couple of objects on a surface, depending on the size. Kondo says an added benefit of going through your possessions is learning how to get rid of mental baggage as well as the physical. “The skills you learn can be applied in your life well beyond deciding on which souvenir coffee mug to keep,” she says.</p><p><strong>Create a calming space</strong></p><p>Finding a ‘sanctuary’ in your home gives your mind a place to go to rest and restore, helping you feel more at peace. It doesn’t have to be a whole room, it could be a reading nook, a knitting or craft space, or even a ‘home spa’ in your bathroom. </p><p>In carving out your sacred space, Dr Augustin suggests bright but muted colours like sage, soft textures like flannel, warm light, and curved lines in patterns and objects instead of straight lines. Studies show we prefer curved lines because we see sharp transitions, such as right angles, as more of a threat.</p><p><strong>Bring nature inside</strong></p><p>Studies have shown nature to be calming to our psyche, so one way to feel happier in your space is to bring plants inside. “Bringing nature into your home definitely has powerful psychological effects,” says interior designer and design psychology coach <a href="http://www.happystartsathome.com/">Rebecca West</a>. “Peace lilies are one of my favourites because they’re easy-to-care-for and do well in low light conditions.” Dr Augustin also suggests avoiding spiky plants.</p><p>“We associate comfort with curvy shapes and not spiky ones, which make us more alert,” she says. Houseplants have the added benefit of helping to refresh the air in a room, making you healthier, according to research. “But if you aren’t blessed with a green thumb, then fresh flowers or even a print of a garden or a wall mural of trees can affect some of that same profound healing,” West says. “Even having natural wood furniture in your home partnered with green accessories or wall paint can bring that outdoor feeling inside.”</p><p><strong>Make your space more social</strong></p><p>Humans are pro-social beings, so your home should also be a place where you feel comfortable inviting friends over. Consider buying home items that lend themselves to socialising: a barbecue, a fire pit to gather around, or board games for game night. Plus, make sure your rooms are arranged for easy socialising. “If you want your living room to be ready for a book club, then it should be arranged to focus on conversation, not a giant TV,” West says. Dr Augustin suggests considering your guests’ varying personalities as well.</p><p>“Extroverts would prefer couches and introverts would prefer an individual chair, so you should have a range of options,” she says. “Arrange the furniture so people can make easy eye contact with each other, but also so they can gracefully break eye contact and look at something else, like a fish tank, a piece of art, or a window with a view.” These ‘positive distractions’ can help you and your guests adhere to humans’ preferred length of eye contact; about three seconds, according to <a href="http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/7/160086">research</a>.</p><p><strong>Use light well</strong></p><p>Psychologists have long known that light has an effect on our emotions. So when choosing what kind of light to have in your home, think about what feelings you’re trying to elicit in the space. “Warm light with warm light bulbs is better for when you’re socialising and relaxing, where blue and cooler light is better when you’re trying to do a really analytic task,” Dr Augustin says. So cool light might be better for a home office, but use warm light in the living and dining rooms.</p><p>“When people are having dinner parties they bring in candles, which are a warmer light – something we figured out eons ago which aligns with <a href="http://www.ledinside.com/knowledge/2013/12/lighting_psychology_cognitive_and_emotional_responses_to_lighting">modern research</a>,” she says. During the day, open the curtains and keep the windows clean to let the sun in. “Natural light is great for our mood,” Dr Augustin says. “But if a space is really glarey because you have lots of shiny surfaces, some of the positive ramifications of daylight evaporate because glare is stressful.”</p><p><strong>Keep it clean</strong></p><p>Having a clean home can have physical as well as mental benefits – less stuff means fewer things for dust and dirt to accumulate on, and you’ll be more likely to keep it clean because it won’t be so overwhelming. “The less clutter there is in your home, the easier it is to do basic cleaning chores, which let’s be honest, spark joy in almost nobody!”</p><p>Kondo says. Instead, you can use the time you save to do other things you enjoy more. But sometimes, a good cleaning can actually help you feel less stressed and anxious. “If you find yourself feeling frantic and overwhelmed, taking a moment to tidy up the kitchen or your bed can really calm those nerves and bring more focus into your mind,” West says.</p><p><strong>Make the bedroom a retreat</strong></p><p>Our mood improves when we wake up ‘on the right side of the bed’ after a good night’s sleep, and not getting good sleep has been <a href="https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/depression-and-sleep">linked to depression</a>. One way to feel more relaxed is to banish any reminders of unpleasant tasks in the bedroom. “If you have your home office in your bedroom, it’s great if the room is laid out so that when you’re actually lying down to go to sleep you don’t see your desk and all the piles of papers,” Dr Augustin says. Ideally, the bedroom should be one space to keep tidy.</p><p>“If you can’t put your whole home in order, try to have at least one room, such as the master bedroom, that gives you peace and respite from it all,” West says. Blackout curtains can also ensure the room is dark enough for good sleep. “It’s better for our health when the conditions are darker for sleep,” Dr Augustin says. “You can pull them during the day to let the daylight in.”</p><p><strong>Find storage solutions that work</strong></p><p>Even if your living spaces are clean, if every time you open that cupboard you’re pegged with an avalanche of stuff, it will still make you feel bogged down. “Simple storage methods are the best because they are the easiest to maintain,” says Kondo, who prefers shoe boxes. “Some people devise their storage strategies like a ‘Jenga’ tower, and we all know what happens when one piece is removed!”</p><p>Plus, being able to see everything you have also keeps you from buying new stuff you actually don’t need. If everything is simple and easy to access, it becomes not only routine, but a healthy habit, Kondo says. “You will always find ‘that thing’ you are looking for much easier, and that extra 10 or 15 minutes you save can be used to do something you truly enjoy.”</p><p><strong>Choose mood-boosting colours</strong></p><p>Your wall colour can affect your mood, so it might be time for a new coat of paint. Colour psychology is an entire field dedicated to understanding the impact shades have on us. “It’s the saturation and brightness levels of hues that determine our emotional response,” Dr Augustin says. “We’re calmer and in a more positive mood in colours that are not too saturated but relatively bright like sage green, and we’re more energised around colours that are more saturated and less bright, like a Kelly green [an intense, pure green].”</p><p>Energising colours make you happier in a place you work, like a kitchen, laundry or exercise room, whereas muted colours are better for a relaxing space, like a family room. Certain colours are associated culturally as well, which can help us feel at home in the space. “Our culture links yellow with kitchens and blue with restfulness, a good option for bedrooms,” Dr Augustin says.</p><p><strong>Use the power of scent</strong></p><p><a href="https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/30/suppl_1/i248/270387/Effects-of-Fragrance-on-Emotions-Moods-and">Studies have shown</a> smell has psychological effects, so use oils or candles to evoke good feelings in your home. “Researchers have learnt that lavender helps people fall asleep so that can be good for the bedroom, and lemon can be good to smell when you’re trying to do cognitive work like in your home office,” Dr Augustin says.</p><p>Floral scents also elicit positive emotions. But don’t lay it on too strong – scents will continue to have an effect even after your nose gets used to them. “Any smell in too great a concentration is off-putting and stress-generating,” she says.</p><p><strong>Fill your home with good memories</strong></p><p>Let everything in your house bring up positive memories of things and people you love. “Each time you look at that picture of you and your friends in Paris, or see the painting you did that turned out better than you ever expected, it helps you keep perspective and connect you with what is good and wonderful in your life,” West says.</p><p>On the other hand, purge the things that remind you of negative experiences and bring you down. “A stuffed animal from an ex-boyfriend, or a piece of furniture that you inherited but have never really liked, can keep you stuck in the past,” she says. “Life is too short to be surrounded by stuff you don’t like.”</p><p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p><p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/home-tips/13-tiny-changes-that-will-make-your-home-instantly-happier?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

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18 things your electrician wishes you knew

<p><strong>I'm not unskilled labour</strong></p><p>I’ve spent four to eight years in apprentice school learning how to plan, install, inspect and repair electrical products. Don’t insult my intelligence by implying otherwise.</p><p><strong>Please don't try to do it on your own</strong></p><p>Electricity is complicated and dangerous. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could start a fire or get electrocuted – sometimes fatally. </p><p>Pretty much anything beyond plugging something into the wall should be left to a professional. The cost of my visit is nothing compared to the price of your safety.</p><p><strong>Call as early as possible</strong></p><p>Don’t call at the end of the day if you want same-day service. After 4:30 or 5:30pm, I need to pay my workers overtime, so I’ll charge you more to make up for it. </p><p>Calling first thing in the morning lets me fit your job into my day – and you’ll see a lower bill.</p><p><strong>Look at reviews, not just price</strong></p><p>Online reviews are useful when you’re on the hunt for a trustworthy electrician. If the person with the lowest quote also has the worst ratings, it’s worth shelling out a bit more. </p><p>If that cheaper electrician messes up, you’ll just need to call me (and my higher price) and pay more overall.</p><p><strong>I can't fix everything </strong></p><p>I don’t specialise in installing dishwashers or washing machines, so please don’t call me about them. You’re better off finding a plumber.</p><p><strong>Get as local as you can </strong></p><p>The farther I need to travel to get to you, the more time is taken out of my day – and I’ll factor that into your bill. </p><p>Finding someone closer to your neighbourhood might be able to charge you less.</p><p><strong>If the job gets bigger, don't argue if the bill gets higher</strong></p><p>My original quote is based on the project you called me in for. If I find out there’s actually a larger issue at hand, I’ll need to increase my price to match the scope of the project. </p><p>I’m not ripping you off, I’m just making sure I get compensated for the extra work.</p><p><strong>Give me the pay I deserve</strong></p><p>Some customers get sticker shock, but I’m not trying to rip you off. You only see the half-hour of work I did in your home, but that’s not the whole story. </p><p>I spent years training, and now I need to pay my crew (who went out of their way to get to your home), plus deal with marketing and other costs of running a business – and my prices reflect that.</p><p><strong>Prepare the work area in advance</strong></p><p>Clearing the work space and moving any furniture before I arrive means I can get in and out faster, so I can charge you for less of my time.</p><p><strong>We're happy to help with seemingly simple tasks</strong></p><p>Installing a ceiling fan might not sound complicated, but it’s nothing like putting together a barbecue yourself. </p><p>You’re trying to figure out the motor while hoisting a 30kg fan three metres above the floor. Call me up – I can finish the job faster and safer than you could.</p><p><strong>Pick your own parts</strong></p><p>Don’t describe the kind of ceiling fan or light fixture you’re looking for and expect me to find one that fits your vision perfectly. </p><p>Go to the hardware store and pick up your own items so you can guarantee they’re what you want. Just get in touch with me before you buy it in case it won’t fit correctly.</p><p><strong>If you're happy, tell your friends</strong></p><p>One of the best ways to show your appreciation is telling your family and friends about me. My business thrives on word-of-mouth recommendations.</p><p><strong>Please be careful with space heaters</strong></p><p>I get called in all the time for problems with space heaters. If you leave the house while the heater is running, the connection could get loose and burn up the plug, which could start a fire. </p><p>Give your space heater the space it needs, and turn it off when you aren’t using it.</p><p><strong>Don't blame me for your future problems</strong></p><p>If I was working on your bedroom lighting and an outlet in your garage stops working a few days later, that’s just a coincidence. </p><p>I’ll come back for the second project, but don’t expect me to do it for free because I “broke” it the last time. </p><p>If I wasn’t working with that circuit, this new problem is unrelated.</p><p><strong>Your air conditioner uses a ton of power</strong></p><p>Window AC units blast for hours at time and use massive amounts of energy. An extension cord – and usually even sharing the circuit powering your AC with something else – overloads the wires. </p><p>If they get too hot, the wires could short out and start a fire. Make sure the unit gets its own circuit, meaning a switch on your electrical panel dedicated to your AC and nothing else.</p><p><strong>Your light bulbs might not fit the fixture</strong></p><p>Older light fixtures won’t necessarily work with energy-efficient CFL and LED bulbs. If you want to stay away from incandescent light bulbs, you might need to replace the whole fixture.</p><p><strong>Have your circuits labelled</strong></p><p>Labelling the switches on your circuit board will save me guesswork (and time). </p><p>Hiring either me or another electrician will make the job easier in the future, so we don’t need to turn every single one off before getting to work.</p><p><strong>I'm not an evil corportation</strong></p><p>Most of us come from family-owned companies who are just trying to do right by the customer.</p><p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p><p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/food-home-garden/home-tips/18-things-your-electrician-wishes-you-knew?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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Five ways to make your home look more expensive

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Giving your home a makeover can allow you to bring some more style into your spaces. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, you don’t have to blow your budget to do so, and you can even make your home look more expensive than it actually is by focusing on a few key areas and features.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here are five savvy ways of styling your home without spending a fortune.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Add moulding and panelling</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To make your plain walls look more interesting, adding some simple moulding and panelling is a good place to start.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It doesn’t even have to be gaudy, Victorian-style moulding,” interior designer Erica Leigh Reiner told </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.bhg.com.au/how-to-make-your-home-look-more-expensive" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Better Homes &amp; Gardens</span></a></em><span style="font-weight: 400;">. “A simple and single-shape, single-depth piece of moulding will do the trick.”</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 370.3703703703704px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7847127/271606902_682735532889169_2810610314939665686_n.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/1ca6262c5ffb4ca3b5e78be27d15ae8c" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: @thehouseoutfit (</span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CYoUKoOMrQP/?hl=en" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Instagram</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">)</span></em></p> <p><strong>2. Upgrade old and cheap fixtures</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If your knobs, drawer pulls and handles are looking a bit weathered or cheap, you can swap them out for designer finishes in handmade leather, ceramic, or metal to upgrade the look of your kitchen, bathrooms, and any other spaces.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, it’s best to ensure your fixtures match throughout the house and avoid going overboard on items that </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://oversixty.co.nz/property/home-hints-tips/five-home-improvements-that-won-t-add-value" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">aren’t worth the investment</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, such as marble tiles.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Replace statement walls with neutral tones</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Looking to sell? Swapping bold statement walls with classic colours such as beige, grey, white, and off-white might not be your personal preference, but they can be much more enticing for potential buyers.</span></p> <p><strong>4. Add a ‘statement’ piece</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though it might seem counterintuitive, splurging on one or two ‘hero’ items can take your home interiors to the next level.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Whether it’s a grand dining room table, designer-style rug or statement chandelier, you can also avoid spending more than you’re comfortable with by employing some savvy shopping and staying on the lookout for a good deal.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7847126/272263502_337278494929674_7011070049886039940_n.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/d5ac2e1b083c484a8833efe2a78d96ae" /></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adding a statement piece or custom furniture can help you easily upgrade your look. Image: @myoldpub (</span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CZBjK2aqL7Q/?hl=en" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Instagram</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">)</span></em></p> <p><strong>5. Add some art or custom fittings</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If panelling won’t do the trick for your bare walls, you can still upgrade your look just by hanging a piece of statement art.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Make sure the art you select is the right size and scale for the wall you’re decorating, and remember you don’t need artwork on every wall,” Keysha Jillian, lead interior designer and owner of K. Jillian Designs, said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To save even more money and exercise some of your creativity, Jillian suggested even making your own art.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Or you can fill a space with a built-in structure, such as floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Billy bookcases from Ikea, plus some height extensions, can do the job perfectly and can be worth the investment.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Image: @paperministry (</span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CYa3ex_sbfI/?hl=en" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Instagram</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">)</span></em></p>

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Fire management in Australia has reached a crossroads and ‘business as usual’ won’t cut it

<p>The current wet conditions delivered by <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/">La Niña</a> may have caused widespread flooding, but they’ve also provided a reprieve from the threat of bushfires in southeastern Australia. This is an ideal time to consider how we prepare for the next bushfire season.</p> <p>Dry conditions will eventually return, as will fire. So, two years on from the catastrophic Black Summer fires, is Australia better equipped for a future of extreme fire seasons?</p> <p>In our recent <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4040097">synthesis</a> on the Black Summer fires, we argue climate change is exceeding the capacity of our ecological and social systems to adapt. The paper is based on a series of <a href="https://www.bushfirehub.org/publications/?work_package_filter=all-work-packages&amp;category_filter=nsw_bushfire_inquiry_2020">reports</a> we, and other experts from the NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, were commissioned to produce for the NSW government’s bushfire inquiry.</p> <p>Fire management in Australia has reached a crossroads, and “business as usual” won’t cut it. In this era of mega-fires, diverse strategies are urgently needed so we can safely live with fire.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/440578/original/file-20220113-13-xa4qd3.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="firefighter holds head while lying down" /> <span class="caption">In the age of mega fires, new strategies are needed.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">David Mariuz</span></span></p> <h2>Does prescribed burning work?</h2> <p>Various government inquiries following the Black Summer fires of 2019-20 produced wide-ranging recommendations for how to prepare and respond to bushfires. Similar inquiries have been held since 1939 after previous bushfires.</p> <p>Typically, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/00049158.2005.10674950">these inquiries</a> led to major changes to policy and funding. But almost universally, this was followed by a gradual complacency and failure to put policies into practice.</p> <p>If any fire season can provide the catalyst for sustained changes to fire management, it is Black Summer. So, what have we learnt from that disaster and are we now better prepared?</p> <p>To answer the first question, we turn to our <a href="https://www.bushfirehub.org/nsw-bushfire-inquiry-2020/">analyses</a> for the <a href="https://www.nsw.gov.au/nsw-government/projects-and-initiatives/nsw-bushfire-inquiry#toc-published-submissions">NSW Bushfire Inquiry</a>.</p> <p>Following the Black Summer fires, debate emerged about whether hazard reduction burning by fire authorities ahead of the fire season had been sufficient, or whether excessive “fuel loads” – such as dead leaves, bark and shrubs – had been allowed to accumulate.</p> <p>We found no evidence the fires were driven by above-average fuel loads stemming from a lack of planned burning. In fact, hazard reduction burns conducted in the years leading up to the Black Summer fires effectively reduced the probability of high severity fire, and reduced the number of houses destroyed by fire.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/440583/original/file-20220113-19-8i5dnj.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="remains of homes destroyed by fire" /> <span class="caption">Prescribed burning reduced the numbers of homes affected by fire.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">James Gourley/AAP</span></span></p> <p>Instead, we found the fires were primarily driven by record-breaking fuel dryness and extreme weather conditions. These conditions were due to natural climate variability, but made worse by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-020-00065-8">climate change</a>. Most fires were sparked by lightning, and very few were thought to be the result of arson.</p> <p>These extreme weather conditions meant the effectiveness of prescribed burns was reduced – particularly when an area had not burned for more than five years.</p> <p>All this means that hazard reduction burning in NSW is generally effective, however in the face of worsening climate change new policy responses are needed.</p> <h2>Diverse and unexpected impacts</h2> <p>As the Black Summer fires raged, loss of life and property most commonly occurred in regional areas while metropolitan areas were heavily affected by smoke. Smoke exposure from the disaster led to an estimated <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00610-5">429 deaths</a>.</p> <p>Socially disadvantaged and Indigenous populations were disproportionately affected by the fires, including by loss of income, homes and infrastructure, as well as <a href="https://theconversation.com/strength-from-perpetual-grief-how-aboriginal-people-experience-the-bushfire-crisis-129448">emotional trauma</a>. Our <a href="https://www.bushfirehub.org/resources/demographic-characteristics-nsw-inquiry-impacts-on-people-and-property-report/">analyses</a> found 38% of fire-affected areas were among the most disadvantaged, while just 10% were among the least disadvantaged.</p> <p>We also found some areas with relatively large <a href="https://theconversation.com/1-in-10-children-affected-by-bushfires-is-indigenous-weve-been-ignoring-them-for-too-long-135212">Indigenous populations</a> were fire-affected. For example, four fire-affected areas had Indigenous populations greater than 20% including the Grafton, Eurobodalla Hinterland, Armidale and Kempsey regions.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/440370/original/file-20220112-17-wxfm5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="Two maps illustrating (a) the index of relative social disadvantage, and (b) the proportion of affected population that was Indigenous (2016 Census)" /> <span class="caption">Demographic characteristics of fire-affected communities in NSW.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4040097</span></span></p> <p>The Black Summer fires burnt an <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0716-1">unprecedentedly large area</a> – half of all wet sclerophyll forests and over a third of rainforest vegetation types in <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4040097">NSW</a>.</p> <p>Importantly, for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13265">257 plant species</a>, the historical intervals between fires across their range were likely too short to allow effective regeneration. Similarly, many vegetation communities were left vulnerable to too-frequent fire, which may result in biodiversity decline, particularly as the climate changes.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/440585/original/file-20220113-27-yqcxil.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="green shoot sprouting from burnt trunk" /> <span class="caption">Not all plant species can regenerate after too-frequent fire.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Darren England/AAP</span></span></p> <h2>Looking to the future</h2> <p>So following Black Summer, how do we ensure Australia is better equipped for a future of extreme fire seasons?</p> <p>As a first step, we must act on both the knowledge gained from government inquiries into the disaster, and the recommendations handed down. Importantly, long-term funding commitments are required to support bushfire management, research and innovation.</p> <p>Governments have already increased investment in fire-suppression resources such as <a href="https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/new-weapon-to-fight-aussie-bushfires-kicks-off-service-in-wa/news-story/fa66e567e336164723cae8b98bb3ba8d">water-bombing aircraft</a>. There’s also been increased investment in fire management such as <a href="https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/news-and-media/ministerial-media-releases/further-$268.2-million-responding-to-nsw-bushfire-inquiry-recommendations">improving fire trails</a> and employing additional hazard reduction crews, as well as <a href="https://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/porter/media-releases/world-class-natural-hazards-research-centre">new allocations</a> for research funding.</p> <p>But alongside this, we also need investment in community-led solutions and involvement in bushfire planning and operations. This includes strong engagement between fire authorities and residents in developing strategies for hazard reduction burning, and providing greater support for people to manage fuels on private land. Support should also be available to people who decide to relocate away from high bushfire risk areas.</p> <p>The Black Summer fires led to significant interest in a revival of Indigenous <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-26/cultural-burning-to-protect-from-catastrophic-bushfires/100241046">cultural burning</a> – a practice that brings multiple benefits to people and environment. However, non-Indigenous land managers should not treat cultural burning as simply another hazard reduction technique, but part of a broader practice of Aboriginal-led cultural land management.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/440593/original/file-20220113-21-fo43aj.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="three figures in smoke-filled forest" /> <span class="caption">Indigenous burning is part of a broader practice of Aboriginal-led land management.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Josh Whittaker</span></span></p> <p>This requires structural and procedural changes in non-Indigenous land management, as well as secure, adequate and ongoing funding opportunities. Greater engagement and partnership with Aboriginal communities at all levels of fire and land management is also needed.</p> <p>Under climate change, living with fire will require a multitude of new solutions and approaches. If we want to be prepared for the next major fire season, we must keep planning and investing in fire management and research – even during wet years such as this one.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Ross Bradstock, Owen Price, David Bowman, Vanessa Cavanagh, David Keith, Matthias Boer, Hamish Clarke, Trent Penman, Josh Whittaker and many others contributed to the research upon which this article is based.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/174696/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachael-helene-nolan-179005">Rachael Helene Nolan</a>, Senior research fellow, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/grant-williamson-109967">Grant Williamson</a>, Research Fellow in Environmental Science, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katharine-haynes-4467">Katharine Haynes</a>, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-ooi-1218431">Mark Ooi</a>, Senior Research Fellow, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/fire-management-in-australia-has-reached-a-crossroads-and-business-as-usual-wont-cut-it-174696">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Darren England/AAP</span></span></em></p>

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