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That's not necessarily a bad thing—it's the basis of successful marriages—but it can cause people to ignore inconveniences they could easily correct. My wife and I have different ideas about organization. She makes random, teetering piles, while I store papers by category and year in three-ring binders on long shelves.

By her way of thinking, it makes sense to keep hats and aspirin in the same place because they're both for the head; in my view, possessions should be organized strictly taxonomically and stored near the place where their use either begins or ends. Thus, plates and glasses should go within reach of either the dining table or the dishwasher, not both or neither , and you wouldn't waste scarce shelf space on items used only in other rooms. Recently my focus has been on our kitchen, a room in which I have no executive responsibilities. My wife is a terrific cook—she has written four cookbooks and is at work on a fifth—but she stores ingredients, implements, and appliances so idiosyncratically that even she loses track of what she has.

Because my constantly making comments like "You know, we already had two unopened jars of tamarind paste" is not considered sexy, I've tried to make the storage of everyday items more intuitive. Last month I consolidated almost all of my wife's extensive collection of spices in a single large drawer, with the help of some inexpensive but well-designed inserts from Ikea. I also used Excel to create a searchable shelf list of her inventory of seasonings, oils, extracts, syrups, vinegars, sweeteners, rubs, salts, peppers, and other easily forgotten essentials.

She may never consult it, and she almost certainly won't keep it up to date, but creating it made me feel better, and now I can move on to the garage. Thank you, Mr. Owen, author of the classic home-renovation book The Walls Around Us. And now, a room-by-room march through the whole house in which we show you the best home technology.

The Army uses it in combat clothing. You can use it to get through those nights when you forget to close the window. Just as important. Otherwise, one of you gets complacent. At bedtime the person closer to the clock will set the alarm. One time for work, one time for gym, one time for weekends—whatever it is, only one of you knows.

The other rolls over and falls asleep.

And so it continues, until one day the clock operator has a business trip, and the question comes, meekly, from the home front: What time do I wake up? It's nice to be needed, but don't make the person you love ask that question. Buy her her own clock. I try not to bring my work home with me, but when I renovated my own kitchen recently, I couldn't help myself. I wanted the space to function as efficiently as the restaurant kitchens I'd been cooking in for the past two decades. Picking the right stuff was easy.

Convincing my wife to go along with the plan was the hard part. You can't damage stainless steel. And I've tried—with knives, hot pots, blowtorches. Stainless-steel counters are also incredibly easy to clean I use a squeegee, always fun , and they're seamless, so gunk can't get stuck in the corners. The materials turned out to be about the same cost as traditional counter surfaces, and you'd be surprised how good they look in a home setting. Not cold and industrial, just supercool. Get the biggest sink that will fit.

Go as deep and as wide as you can. And forget about those two-sided sinks—you just need one giant tub. You will not miss the space underneath, and you won't miss whatever counter space you give up. But you'll be incredibly happy when you can put a giant pasta pot right in the sink and still fit a few other dirty pans along with it. We have hospitals to thank for this one. When you cook, you need to wash your hands constantly ground beef, cookie dough, raw eggs , and with foot pedals, you never have to touch anything. Yes, there are other options, like faucets with hands-free sensors, and ones you tap with your arm, but none of those are as reliable as a simple mechanical pedal operated from below.

Your freezer should be on the bottom. It's safe to assume that you open your refrigerator 10 times more often than you open your freezer. Who wants to bend down that often? The square footage is distributed top to bottom, so although there's room for yogurt and juice and the rest of your groceries, there's never enough room for mixing bowls, baking sheets, or other big items. And that's no fun at a party. Microwaves are usually in the wrong place—at eye level or higher, so you're invariably moving foods that are ridiculously hot directly toward your face.

Solution: the microwave drawer. It's easy and safe to get foods in and out of, and you can put the machine in your island so you don't have to look at it. But the best reason to get one is that when friends are hanging out in the kitchen during a party and they see you open and close the drawer with the press of a button, they'll think you are from the future.

Want an easy way to instantly make your kitchen better? Install soft-closing hinges and slides. They're a simple retrofit. An hour instead of an afternoon. You'll find yourself slamming cupboard doors just for the pleasure of not hearing them. So, on the days you don't feel like toast, you can cook an entire chicken. The company has a new coffeemaker called the VertuoLine, which looks nice but takes a different-shaped capsule—a first for Nespresso and kind of annoying.

But all of their machines make some of the best cups of coffee for the home. What does that mean for you? Well, you use up to 33 percent less water, for one thing.

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Plus, you get a 67 percent increase in self-satisfaction, which hasn't happened since you started composting before the neighbors did. Great toast is about a mix of textures—a crispy outside and a soft and warm center.

Figuring out how much to offer for a house in need of serious repair and renovation.

And great toast requires heat. Lots of it. Alternative: Melt some butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, let it get really hot, throw on a piece of bread, and cover. The butter will cook directly into the bread for flavor and crispiness, and the lid will keep the moisture in. It doesn't take a complicated machine to make good coffee. Since the oils from the beans work their way into the wood and intensify? They also use antimicrobial metals to kill bacteria that would otherwise mildew and stain—a feature that's a little easier to appreciate right away.

You'll never wash the shower door again. Not that you ever did before. With every use, a typical low-flush toilet dumps 1. That's a half-gallon more water than it takes to grow an almond. The Stealth is a vacuum-assist toilet, meaning it uses air, rather than that almost full extra gallon, to force water into the bowl.

In the past similar technology caused a loud sucking noise as water exited, but Niagara's system takes advantage of the vacuum created as the trapway depressurizes, silently emptying the bowl. According to Chris Hall at repairclinic. It's much simpler than most appliances of its kind, with only three main parts: The motor's stator is mounted directly to the bottom of the washer drum, with the rotor behind it.

This avoids using a transmission, which is often the biggest source of trouble in a washing machine. Plus, it gives you an almost infinite number of drive speeds, making for much more efficient energy use—and a cycle that won't tear up delicate clothes. Our washing machine had given out. Cause of death: a family of five. One of us loaded the appliance so mercilessly you'd swear it had been packed with a ramrod.

And that was among the nicer things we'd put it through. We needed something that would stand up to sneakers, floor mats, insulated coveralls, and canvas work pants. We needed heavy-duty.

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The salesman said he knew just the right thing—a hardy commercial washer with precisely three knobs. The Speed Queen. All metal, no plastic, just like what you'd see in a Laundromat. It's not pretty and it's not small. And compared with modern washers, it certainly isn't quiet. But that machine does exactly what we need it to: It works. The system also supports geofencing, so you can set it up to turn on when you walk into the house and off when you walk out.

And while it doesn't cut through metal or even help you give a presentation, it does assist in providing the fastest autofocus time of any cellphone camera: milliseconds. It's a little bulky, but Inlet fits over a standard duplex outlet, distributing power to three child-friendly read: hidden , downward-facing outlets and a high-output USB port.

If you're concerned about things like vampire energy loss, Inlet also has a button you can hit to cut all power. Plug it into an outlet and WeMo lets you use your phone to control anything you plug into it—from a lamp to a fan to a dialysis machine. You can also set it up to turn a connected device on or off whenever it senses motion within 10 feet. Note: probably not the best idea if said device is a dialysis machine.

Two dedicated USB ports mean no bulky chargers hogging outlets. And unlike other options, the Leviton USB outlet is rated for 3. They have reversible hoods that can project into or out of the wall, depending on your clearance. Remove a small rectangle of drywall for each with a utility knife and a drywall saw—one behind the TV and the other a few feet below, behind your cable box—and install the plates.

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If there's nothing behind your drywall to get in the way, drop the cables through the upper plate and fish them out through the lower one with a finger or the bent end of a hanger. Otherwise, you'll need fish tape—which can be forced up or down the wall, avoiding obstacles like insulation—and a little patience.

The best TVs were plasmas. They had the best black levels, little motion blur, and a nearly degree viewing angle. But we didn't buy enough of them, and so manufacturers killed them off. Luckily, something better is taking over: OLED. Organic light-emitting diodes are self-illuminating, so they can be the thickness of a few sheets of paper.

They are brighter than anything out there, and with the ability to control each pixel individually, they have basically infinite contrast ratio the difference between light and dark. It's beautiful, and it's going to cost you—probably more than you paid for your last used car. But you're not going to buy one. Not now. What you'll do is wait. But production will stabilize.

Material costs will come down. The price will come down. And then you'll own the best kind of TV there is. If you're pressed for space, or if you just don't want a TV to be the focal point of your living room, get a projector. Even midrange options can now produce a to inch image without losing quality, turning everything you watch into an event. And while Morning Joe at inches may take some getting used to, Sunday Night Football and Homeland will become the cinematic experiences they deserve to be.

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Don't worry about having the right screen. Or even a white wall. You lose so little picture quality without them that it's not worth redecorating. As for what to buy, go wireless. So you can mount it to your ceiling and forget about running wires back to your cable box or Blu-ray. It has a bright and color-accurate p image—in 3D, if that kind of thing does it for you—and supports picture-in-picture, which is nice, since at that size the preview screen is bigger than an average TV. It's practically natural.

And since they consume 20 to 25 percent of the energy of traditional bulbs, they'll pay for themselves in as little as a year. If you really can't make the adjustment to LED, a loophole in the new law allows more durable bulbs, called rough-service incandescents, to remain available for as little as 80 cents each.

But that's no example to set for the kids. But what you'll really notice are the wheels. They're huge, at least by vacuum standards, and they make the Magnesium easier to push and turn, no matter how thick the carpet. It's a simple solution, a smart one, and it's catching on—even if it does look a little silly. According to the EPA, we spend approximately 90 percent of our day indoors.

Books Out, Digital In with USF Library Renovations

And while that's a boon for the sweatpants industry, it's not great news for us. Especially when you consider that indoor air can be five times more polluted than outdoor. Lauzon says 1, square feet of it does the work of three trees. And you don't have to water it. As my dad's cancer grew, his world shrunk. Back when it was just mysterious and persistent pain in his legs, he could still spend plenty of time on the basketball court. But soon that was over. He walked with a cane. Couldn't get as many places as he used to. And then—when things finally went seriously wrong—he ended up at home, bedridden.

When a bed ceases to be the place where you sleep and becomes your permanent home, it is the ultimate jail cell. The hospice bed even had bars on the sides. There were essentially two things my dad could do: read or watch TV. He wasn't much of a reader—the Good Book, investment advice—and the problem with watching TV when you're stuck in bed is that you're at the mercy of whatever is on or whatever happens to be in the DVD player. We had always been a movie-watching family, but suddenly it felt unfair to talk about movies I'd seen.

If my father wanted to see a movie in theaters, I'd have to do the sad math, adding up the months before it came out on video. On the upside, we got back into a habit of watching movies together—my parents, my brother, and me—which is something we hadn't done in a long time.

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At Christmas we hit on the idea of getting dad a Roku streaming player. Like anyone a few generations behind the latest technology, he took a while to understand what the thing did. But my dad figured it out, and soon enough his world started growing again. Do you remember the Nook? It is large and minimalist, bare of decoration or color.

There are no armchairs to sit and read a book with my toddler. Instead, we had to crouch on the ground next to a shelf of Dr. Seuss books in order to read together. For a long time now, the bookstore has seemed to emphasize everything but books: its puzzles and DVDs and records, gadgets and greeting cards and plush Harry Potter sorting hats.

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If the store had put greater emphasis on book clubs and special memberships, story hours and author signings as many indie bookstores have , it would have given readers a space that celebrates the book, its creation and its consideration, as well as the membership of bookworms. If the store had put more emphasis on hiring and training book lovers who were passionate about their product, it might have wooed the suspicious and the hesitant to buy more books. If it had invested less money in gadgetry and more in its volumes, as well as in the style and form of its shopping and reading space, it could have successfully differentiated itself from Amazon and emphasized the things that set it apart: physical interactions with physical books and physical people, for that matter.