4 steps to cooling favorite outdoor spaces

Whether it’s wrenching on a car, in the garage tackling a DIY project, tending to your patio container garden or simply kicking back on the deck, the following tips from Portacool can help you stay cool and safe.

Shade: Strategically implement shade features like umbrellas and awnings for instant protection. Try vine-covered trellises that block sunlight and align with the natural elements outdoors.

Portable cooling: Portable evaporative coolers drop temperatures through the naturally occurring process of evaporation using water and the surrounding air, without creating mist.

Insulation: Batt insulation is inexpensive and an easy weekend DIY project if drywall isn’t present. If you already have drywall, you can look into blown-in insulation.

Color: Light colors reflect the sun and dark colors absorb it, causing temperatures to rise. From outdoor rugs and furniture to exterior paint and roofs, try to select light colors.


Tips to make yardwork and gardening easier

Give some of these labor-saving tips from Gro a try so you have more time for your favorite summer activities.

1. Use organizing tools like pegboards and repurposed containers to group and store supplies and tools.

2. Trade annuals for perennials. These hardy plants will leap back to life every spring without needing much attention from you.

3. To make large container pots lighter, fill the bottom half with packing peanuts. Then, layer a piece of landscaping fabric and it’s ready for the soil.

4. Remove your mower’s grass catcher, and let the clippings fall — they’ll feed your turf.

5. Look for the new generation of irrigation tools that let you customize and automate your watering schedule with a smartphone app.


How big of a deck do I need?

As the major outdoor living trend sweeps the nation, decks are getting bigger. With television shows featuring 3,000-square-foot monster decks, the average homeowner can wonder, “Just how big of a deck do I need?”

Atlanta-based deck builder Frank Pologruto says it comes down to how the space is used. He says each “zone” of the deck requires the following square footage:

Dining: 320+ square feet

Seating: 250+ square feet

Pool or hot tub: 150+ square feet

Parties: 15 square feet per person

With added square footage comes a bigger price tag — $25,000 to $250,000 depending on size. Deck material will also affect the final cost.

Overall, most homeowners should be able to fit a small dining area, arbor, hot tub and separate seating area in about 750 square feet.


Tips to help you declutter

Decluttering doesn’t need to be a dreaded task. Try these tips to kick-start your cleaning.

* Take it one room at a time. According to a study by Moen, the most-cluttered areas of a home are the garage, kitchen and home office. The kitchen is a good place to start, because throwing away chipped dishes and expired spices isn’t as taxing as wading through important paperwork or personal items.

* Keep only what you wear the most. Pick a handful of favorite outfits and donate the rest. If it’s hard to part with sentimental items, consider finding creative ways to remember them, such as making a memory quilt of old T-shirts.

* Stop the build-up before it begins. Keep a recycling bin for unwanted credit card offers and coupon packs before they enter the house, and unsubscribe from unread magazines and newspapers. Mobile apps can help digitize recipes, warranties and instruction manuals.