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Spending a fortune on expensive gifts for your friends and relatives doesn’t always equal thoughtfulness. With a little time and care you can grow beautiful potted plants, and show you were thinking of them long before now. If you have a sunny windowsill, make the most of it by growing flowers, herbs or something your loved ones will really appreciate. And really, any time of year will do, so here are some tips and ideas to get you started.

What to grow

Start by growing an assortment of flowering plants, handy herbs, and attractive ornamental plants to ensure there’s something to suit all tastes. Then start asking questions. Find out their favorite herbs to use, favorite colors (for flowering plants) or what they plan to grow in their very first vegetable garden. You can save money by taking cuttings or bulbs from your own garden.

Flowering plants. For pretty, colorful flowers, begonias, geraniums and miniature roses will serve well. You can grow them all through the winter months in a bright, warm room. A browse online will lead you to other flowering plants that thrive in a sunny interior. You can also nurture spring flower bulbs, such as hyacinth, crocus, and narcissus, through the winter, ready for the season. There will be even more choice in the light, summer months so that you can provide for your friends’ summer birthdays with a riot of color.

Herbs for the kitchen. For herbs, you could choose lemongrass, mint, parsley, and oregano, among others. They will all be happy by a window or under a skylight in a warm, bright room. Parsley, thyme, and basil are also easy to grow indoors, with plenty of natural light. Check indoor growing websites for more examples.

Ornamental plants. Exotic plants will probably prefer your cozy room to the chilly outdoors, even if daylight is a little limited. Caladium, or “Elephant’s ear,” is one such plant, and produces strikingly patterned purple-streaked leaves. Asparagus fern is a delicate, feathery plant that grows quickly indoors and will grace any room. Perhaps invest in a miniature fruit tree, too, such as the calamondin orange tree, which is said to be easy to grow. Use the fruits or stems to create new plants for future gifts. You can find more ornamental plant varieties on appropriate websites, along with guidelines for growing.

Light, warmth, and soil

Different plants have different needs, so remember to add plant care instructions on an accompanying card. For most plants, they’ll need a warm room with plenty of daylight. Use good quality garden soil or potting compost mixed in.

Presenting your plant-gifts

Take give-giving up a notch by decorating a plain planter/pot with a few painted-on words, polka dots or some other fun design. Then shroud the whole plant in a whirl of bright wrapping paper, a home-made label and a beautiful bow.

Your plants will make ideal gifts for birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other events. And every time you give a home-grown plant you’ll be showing them what’s in your heart.

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10 Easy Tips to Instantly Declutter Your Home

Turning your house upside down once or twice a year for a thorough cleaning is an exhausting process that often leaves you wishing you could be more organized throughout the year. Decluttering does not have to be a big ordeal that saps your energy. Each of these easy decluttering tips can be done in ten minutes or less and will leave your house looking neat and uncluttered.

Plastic Cups

Open your kitchen cabinet and look inside. Ideally you will be treated to the sight of a cupboard full of lovely glassware. If you see a cabinet full of plastic cups, it may be time to pare down your drinkware collection. Restaurants, movie theaters and local businesses often give away drinking vessels with branding and promotional information brightly printed on the side. It is all too easy to wash these and put them in the cupboard with the rest of your glasses. Soon, you have an army of plastic cups advertising at you every time you reach in the cabinet. Save one to wash the dog and donate the rest.

Shabby Linens

It’s no secret that we all have sheets and towels that have seen better days. Many people hang on to these well-worn items longer than they should, creating chaos in the linen closet. Look through your linens and toss anything with holes or tears. A good rule of thumb is to keep what you would feel comfortable with a guest using and get rid of the rest.

Writing Utensils

Everyone has a junk drawer bursting with odds and ends that do not belong anywhere else. At least half of every junk drawer seems to be filled with accumulated pens and pencils. In a digital age, no one needs that many writing implements. Keep a few of the ones you like best and donate the rest to your local school.

Condiments

Let’s face it. We like to eat out on occasion. But then we end up with double handfuls of condiment packets thrown into the takeout bag. Instead of tossing the unused packets, many people shove them into a drawer a bin in the refrigerator where they languish for what seems like forever. Don’t fall into the condiment trap. Look for all those stray packets and toss them in the garbage. If you don’t feel comfortable trashing them, see if your local food bank would like them.

Old Cosmetics and Beauty Products

Tossing food past its expiration date is a no-brainer, but it seems to be uncommon knowledge that cosmetics and beauty products have a shelf life as well. As a rule, anything older than two years needs to go. Old cosmetics are a favorite hangout for germs and any beauty product past date just won’t be as effective. Check the expiration dates for your favorite products and be merciless.

Magazines

That large stack of old publications that resides on your side table or in your bookshelf is taking up a lot of space. Perhaps you told yourself that you would use them in a future DIY project, or there is a specific article you just knew you would want to reference one day. Realistically, you are very likely to never get around to those projects. Digitize the articles you want to keep and recycle the rest. You just crossed something off your to do list.

CDs

With external hard drives and cloud storage, there is just no reason to keep your CDs. They will soon be as unfamiliar to kids as eight tracks. If you just can’t bear the thought of parting with your most treasured CDs, put them all on one spindle and toss their jewel cases. This will free up most of the space they were occupying while allowing you to hold on.

Extra Cords and Cables

Long after electronics and appliances have made their way to the thrift store, the cords and cables that came with them remain in the junk drawer. Be brave, and pull out that tangled mess to determine which cords you still need. Recycle the extras or send them to the thrift store to reunite with their lost electronic partners.

Fridge Magnets

It seems that every restaurant, gym and mechanic bombards you with a free magnet to stick on your refrigerator. Eventually, your fridge becomes so weighed down with these that you may not even remember the original color of the appliance. You do not need those magnets. Any phone number you need is programmed into your device or just a click away online. Keep one or two and get rid of the rest. You will be amazed at how much better your kitchen looks.

Outdated Documents

If you are like most people, you file your important papers and forget about them. There are few documents you need to keep for more than seven years. Go through your papers and shred the ones that you have been hanging onto for no reason. Sign up for online statements for everything you can to keep the paper from piling up again.

After you go through your home and declutter using these ten tips, every room will feel more spacious and usable. Getting rid of the items on this list has the added benefit of automatically updating the look of your home, making it a much more aesthetically pleasing space.


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