All-natural, for your dishwasher
Smarty Dish is the new dishwasher detergent that will be in Target stores around the middle of this month. Claim to fame: no bleach, no phosphates (which can lead to algae blooms, which kill fish). All-natural, biodegradable ingredients, the manufacturer, Method, claims. A container of 20 tablets is $6.
Be ready to sell
Real estate writer Al Heavens of the Philadelphia Inquirer has been spending summer weekends pruning trees, weeding, doing yard cleanup and generally getting his New Jersey home in good shape. Why? "I'm a firm believer in making sure my house and grounds are in good enough shape to get the house on the market at a moment's notice, if necessary," he writes. "With the cost of everything from electricity and natural gas to water increasing, we need to make sure things are in their proper working order."
Tone down, tidy up
Speaking of being ready to sell, frontdoor.com and HGTV offer these tips: Take color down a notch. You may love that lime-green bedroom; buyers, not so much. Clean the outside: Pressure-wash the exterior, clean the gutters. Organize closets. Messy closets send the message that your home lacks sufficient storage space.
Clear the clutter
There must be a billion organizing tips in Kick the Clutter: Clear Out Excess Stuff Without Losing What You Love, by Ellen Phillips (Rodale, $17.95). She suggests writing a description of a problem area; visualizing what you want it to look like — and then getting busy. And beware the traps of buying in bulk, getting free stuff ("Two for one!"), keeping unwanted gifts, and hanging onto stuff "because I might need it someday."
Save, then spend
Every dollar you spend on energy conservation is worth $5 spent on power generation, Houston remodeling contractor Michael Strong tells his clients. Before you spend $30,000 on solar panels, take a look at your home. "I have clients who have two inches of insulation" and wonder why their houses are cold and their utility bills are out of sight, he said. For that $30,000 (or a lot less) you can buy a lot of insulation, weatherstripping, radiant-barrier paint, compact-fluorescent bulbs and caulk, and you'll see an immediate payback in your power bills.
Compiled by Times Homes and Garden editor Judy Stark