Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

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The Lessons Kids Won’t Learn In School But Need Teaching At Home

(contributed article)

School is an essential part of a child’s life. For one thing, it teaches children the value of learning and how knowledge is power. Secondly, it helps them mix with other kids and learn how to socialize. Still, parenting never stops, of course, and there are areas teachers don’t cover because they aren’t in the curriculum, and there’s not enough time in the school day. They are life lessons, and they are vital in the later years of a child’s progression.

As they won’t learn them in class, it’s your job to cover the topics at home. Here are the ones to consider:

Relationship Dos and Don’ts

It’s human nature to find a partner and to share life’s journey. But this is not always easy, especially when we are young, and sadly, relationships don’t go to plan all of the time. In fact, many of them won’t end amicably and that is an essential lesson to learn.  You can recover and move on to find new love. Hollywood often promotes the idea that people meet a guy or a girl and live happily ever after. Understanding this isn’t the case will help teenagers prepare emotionally. Also, this knowledge can help them to enjoy life while single instead of feeling the need to always be searching for a partner. Hopefully, it will teach them to be ready for a healthy relationship before committing to someone, too.

Digital Manners

Social media is taking over, and children and teens are the ones who are the most involved. They often don’t understand the dangers or consequences of social media interactions. Obviously, predators exist online, and it’s crucial to teach kids to be safe and secure. However, there is also a social etiquette on the Web, which they should acknowledge. Cyberbullying and nasty comments are not clever and may come back to bite them in the future. For example, employers will check social media accounts before they offer an applicant a job.

Financial Awareness

Money makes the world spin, yet it’s one thing teachers often don’t teach in school. Credit cards and student loans come thick and fast, and children need to understand how these tools work. So, it is important to show kids the value of using a credit card, and paying off the balance is a fantastic life lesson. Also, don’t forget to tell them about the contingency plans if they do make mistakes. Pieces of plastic can ruin finances, but sites like http://repair.credit can help put them back together. Apart from repairing credit, you can focus on how to get out of debt, too.

The Art Of The Deal

Before Donald Trump was president,  he wrote that book. But you can find helpful helpful hints from https://www.entrepreneur.com  if your children are interested in business. Most modern men and women don’t haggle, yet learning how to make deals can be the difference between success and failure. And, that doesn’t just mean in a car dealership either. Learning how to negotiate in the office or with potential contacts can impact everything from careers to wages. The best hagglers know when to speak, when to listen, and when to shake hands on a deal.

These are just four lessons to learn, but can you think of any more?

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Overcoming Your Financial Slump: A Single Parent’s Guide

(contributed article)

Even though this article was written for a single parent in mind, I don’t think it’s bad advice for anyone to follow…

The wonderful thing about being a single parent is that you don’t have a partner to argue with over your family finances and spending; you are in full control of all of your own money. This can be a bit of a hindrance sometimes, though, especially as you may have to make your money stretch even further. There’s always an extra cost popping up, and this can often set you back a few steps. Over time you may find you have taken so many steps back that you’re on the edge and close to falling flat. Your little girl wants ballet lessons and your boy is pleading to let him go to karate. It can be an uphill struggle for single parents, as we want to give our children everything we can, but we have to remain realistic.

Whether you have overspent at Christmas ,are racking up credit card debts, or need to find a better paying job, you can get yourself out of your financial slump. There are a few nifty ways you can boost your money, without making too many changes to your family life. Stay positive and try not to  let the little things get you down. Be grateful for your health and beautiful family, and let’s look at how to get out of your uphill financial struggle.

The Daily Squeeze

You might believe you’re living a frugal life and cutting costs where necessary, but are you doing the best you can? Are you still swinging by the local coffee shop for your morning caramel latte? Your caffeine addiction could be setting you back over a hundred dollars a month, so try and be mindful when buying food and drink when you’re out and about. Most of the time, you will save money if you cook and eat at home instead of in a restaurant.

Consider cooking bulk meals to save money on food, too. You can cut down on food waste by preparing meals that freeze well, and you might find that your groceries go much further. Try not to buy unnecessary items when you’re out shopping, too, especially if you find yourself buying sugary snacks or the food item that you just sampled in the grocery aisle. Kids grow out of clothes far too quickly, so chat with local moms and head to a nearby secondhand store to pick up any essentials you might need. Be completely aware of every penny you’re spending, and you will soon be able to start saving a small stash and pay off those bills.

Help Is At Hand

If you’ve found yourself in a tricky situation when it comes to credit cards and debts, you might feel daunted at the thought of paying it all off. Look into some reputable debt consolidation companies, who can help you to organize and eliminate your debt. These companies will give you a helping hand in managing all of your debt. If you have multiple credit cards and bills, to pay off they will be able to merge it into one larger loan. By amalgamating everything together, you will be able to come up with an action plan to pay it back each month.

You can get yourself out of the slump you’re experiencing–just find the correct help and alter your lifestyle for a short time. There will always be someone who can advise you, so try to remain positive and don’t ignore the problem. Prevention is better than cure, so get one step ahead with your financial planning this year and you will finally find your feet again.

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Three Ways You Can Improve Your Life This Year

(contributed article)

The start of the new year means endless possibilities and opportunities- the chance to reflect on the past and then make a change for the better. Often life is “fine”; there’s nothing that’s bad about it, but we can find ourselves in a bit of a rut. If you’re determined to make a change and make 2018 your year, here are just three ways you can achieve that.

Travel

The world is a colossal, beautiful place- and when you stay in one spot you miss out on so much. If you get the opportunity, it’s always worth travelling; perhaps you have a bucket list of places you want to go or maybe you’re flexible and happy to go just about anywhere. Travel can be expensive, so it’s worth getting your finances in order before you go. If you have adverse credit, you could look into debt consolidation loans for bad credit and put the money you save each month into an account for your travels. Otherwise you could always look into budget options, such as backpacking and road trips. It might be in your budget to rent an RV, and you get transport and accommodation in one then. Fill a cooler with food from the grocery store, and you save when it comes to eating as well. There are loads of great road trip routes out there, so decide what you want to see on your trip and do what you can to make it happen.

Learn Something New

Maybe you’ve always wanted to go back to school; if you fancy an entire career change, why not go back and study full time? Otherwise you could study part-time evenings and weekends around your job and work towards a degree or diploma. Choose a subject that really interests you or will help you to improve your career; it’s hard work but very fulfilling. However, learning something new doesn’t necessarily have to be formal education like this. You could go to a dance or cooking class, buy some paints and follow painting tutorials on Youtube, or learn a musical instrument. It will keep you productive in your spare time while keeping your brain sharp, plus you will meet like-minded people, too.

Volunteer

It’s easy to take all we have for granted. We have a home, somewhere to sleep, food in our pantries, and luxuries like smartphones, computers and TVs. We have our good health, and our friends and family. Others aren’t so lucky. By volunteering, you get a new perspective on life and have the opportunity to genuinely help those less fortunate. You could volunteer in a soup kitchen, at a hospital, hospice, children’s home, animal shelter, women’s refuge- have a look at what’s local to you. Whether it’s two hours a month, or a whole summer spent building orphanages in a third world country, your time is valuable and you can make a difference.

What will you be doing to make 2018 your year?

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Make This the Year You Start Taking Care of Number One

(contributed article)

Most people are incredibly concerned with looking after the people in their lives. This is an amazing thing, and it really is one of the very best things about human beings. However, a lot of people end up taking this too far and spend so much of their time worrying about the other people in their lives that they don’t manage to pay close enough attention to the things that they need. It might be something that you’re not all that used to, but taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of all of the people in your life. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can make this the year that you finally start taking care of number one!

Take care of your health

The first thing that you need to start doing is paying closer attention to your health. It’s crazy just how much people tend to ignore their own health in favor of focusing on other things. People can go years without a doctor or dentist appointment, let alone anything more specific when it comes to their health. Make an appointment for a checkup with your doctor, and then do the same for your more specific health needs. Look up dentists, dermatologists, and ophthalmologists nearby. Think of your body as a car; you need to get each and every part of it checked over if you want to avoid something going wrong.

Understand your emotions

Emotions are a tricky thing at the best of times, but it’s crucial that you’re as tuned in to your emotional health as you are your physical health. There’s a lot of stigma that surrounds mental and emotional health, but it’s always a good idea to pay close attention to your emotional well-being because otherwise, you could end up in some serious trouble. Pay attention to your emotions and think carefully about why you feel the way you do about certain things. Increasing your emotional intelligence is one of the best ways to improve your entire life.

Know what you’re worth

One of the hardest things for people to realize, and also something that makes it incredibly easy to put others needs before their own, is that they have worth. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do for a living, or how much money you have in the bank; you have worth because you’re a person and it’s important that you remind yourself of this fact every single day. If you forget your own worth as a person, it’s going to be that much easier for other people to take advantage of you.

Self-care might seem like a fairly new phenomenon, but the reality is that it’s been around for an incredibly long time and most people simply aren’t going to be able to function properly without it. It might seem selfish, and to a degree it kind of is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you can’t look after yourself, how can you look after the other people in your life?

 

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Teenage Kicks: Creating a Bedroom for Your Teen

(contributed article)

Even if you enjoy decorating and creating fresh and new interior designs in your home, you might not feel so excited about the prospect of redesigning your teenage childrens’ bedrooms. It’s not the actual decorating that puts off most parents – it’s the fact that their tastes might differ wildly from those of their children, and this could create some very stressful disagreements and arguments. But when your teenager outgrows her princess theme or his transportation craze, redecorating their space becomes a must! 

Thankfully, though, decorating a teen’s bedroom doesn’t always have to end in tears. Here are some great tips that can help you through it.

Talk To Them

No matter what you do, you really need to discuss the decorating project with your child. This gives you each the chance to swap ideas and inspiration. It also lets you both get anything off your chest, such as things that you don’t want to see in the bedroom. Talking openly before you start all the work will prevent any arguments from breaking out further down the line, as you can discuss differences in opinion.

Go Bright

Next, you need to think about a color scheme. Your teenager will of course have a favorite color, and hopefully, it’s an acceptable one to put on the walls. But, as it is your home, you should have the final say – that will prevent them going wild and asking for their walls to be painted black, for instance! As this is a room for a teenager, you should try and give the overall decor a youthful and playful feel, which can easily be achieved by using a bright color scheme. You can find out more about color scheme ideas at thespruce.com/.

Keep It Practical Yet Comfortable

The bedroom needs to be a comfortable space that promotes sleep. However, you should also create a practical room that is suitable for them to study in and hang out in. So, as well as adding something from comfysacks.com/, you should also consider adding practical items, such as a desk and office chair. That way, you teenager’s new bedroom can serve more than one purpose. Just remember, though, that you might not get them out of it again if they enjoy being in it so much!

Don’t Forget Storage

You should also aim to add plenty of storage to your teenager’s bedroom. All parents know that their children can accumulate a lot of stuff in a short amount of time, and they will need plenty of space to accommodate for it all. If you don’t add adequate storage, then their room will just come across as very cluttered and messy. If there isn’t much space for a dresser or chest of drawers, you should look for furniture that has hidden storage built into it, such as beds with drawers underneath.

Creating a new bedroom for your teenager doesn’t have to end in such an ordeal – the above tips can really help!

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Overspent this Christmas? Now What? 5 Tips To Help

(contributed article)

If you fear you might have overspent this Christmas and worry you might not be able to pay the credit card bills that will soon be coming your way , it can understandably be tempting to want to bury your head in the sand; however, it tends to be much better to know where you stand, so that you are in the empowered position to nip any issues in the bud rather than let them spiral out of control.

Here are a few pointers to help you get your finances back on track, as the majority of the world nurses their financial hangover after overspending in the festive period.

  1. SELL ITEMS YOU DON’T USE

Many people have things lying around, or even in draws or the attic, that they don’t use anymore.  If you are willing to consider selling these items, you could sell them online via sites like Craigslist or eBay, or even have a more traditional garage sale, depending on the weather this season where you live.  If you have gift cards that you don’t plan to use, you could sell these too; and if you have any unopened gifts that are unwanted after Christmas, then consider taking them back to the store and receive a store credit in return.

  1. GET AN ADDITIONAL JOB

Depending on your schedule, consider getting a part-time job for a few months, or perhaps setting up some freelancing or small business, like dog sitting, opportunities.  Investing a few hours each day in either activity could give you sufficient earnings to pay off your debt at a much faster pace.

  1. REDUCE CURRENT SPENDINGS

It can be heard to cut back after such exuberance in the festive season; however, you’ll be joining the majority of people as they tend to their financial hangovers after spending so much during the holidays.  Indeed, January is one of the quietest times of the year for restaurants and hotels.  

  1. MANAGE YOUR CREDIT CARDS

Focus on paying credit cards that have the highest Annual Percentage Rate (APR) first. You might find that you can’t realistically repay your credit card balances. In this scenario, consider getting a credit card that levies no interest on balance transfers for 12 – 24 months. Pay the nominal transaction fee (approximately three percent of the amount transferred). You will be able to save more money on this card. Remember that your existing card will charge you interest once you cross the interest-free period.

  1. DON’T USE PLASTIC

Until you repay all your bills, avoid making any further purchases on your credit card; and try to pay in cash for making purchases, as this makes you feel more connected to the amount you are spending.  Doing this will ensure you avoid adding to your existing levels of debt.

That said, if you find that your credit score has been compromised with your overspending, once you have paid off your outstanding debt, try using financial products available specifically for the purpose of rebuilding credit.  

As an example, there are plenty of rebuilding credit cards available for people that have a poor credit score who are looking to improve their financial position.  These credit cards often charge a reasonably high rate of interest, but they are a great way to help rebuild your credit; and presuming you pay off the balance each month, they are a worthwhile investment in repairing your credit.

In summary, please know you’re not alone if you’ve overspent this Christmas, as there are plenty of people who will be nursing their financial hangover this New Year.  The trick is to get back on track as fast as possible, and to do that, you need to focus on getting more money in and spending less–even if just for a little while.

 

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Great Parenting Needn’t Be Expensive

(contributed article)

The start of the new year is a lean time for many as we awaken, bleary eyed from the excess of late December and face the challenges of the new year. The trouble is that the view can be pretty grim through the lens of a New Year’s hangover (literally, metaphorically, or all of the above). After what seems like an eternity of seasonal spending, your bank balance aches, and your credit score looks grimmer than your father-in-law when he unwrapped yet another pair of socks for Christmas. Maybe you maxed out your credit cards to pay for the Christmas season; and though the memories will last a lifetime, they certainly won’t pay the bills. Soon the kids will be back at school and a whole new avenue of expense will open itself up to you.

If you’re recovering from the spend-a-thon of the festive season, it can feel like your personal finances simply won’t allow you to spend money on quality time with your children. For all their wonderful new Christmas presents, eventually they will grow tired of them, and you will be hearing, “I’m bored.” While there are lenders out there who specialize in personal loans for bad credit, your parenting needn’t go hand in hand with your expenditure. Sometimes, the most meaningful gifts you can give your children involve no to little expense whatsoever.

Be forthcoming with your affection

All the iPhones, xBoxes, and designer shoes in the world amount to nothing when you are comparing them to your child feeling loved. While your kids are unlikely to ask for hugs and kisses, they crave them far more than the superficial trappings, which they’re far more vocal about. Tell them that you love them and you’re proud of them. Kiss and hug them every day. If you don’t engage with them on this level (despite their protestations), it’s one of the ways to impede their interpersonal development when they grow up.

Nourish them

Nourishment is one of the most important duties of a parent. This means not only giving them the emotional nourishment they need but ensuring that they eat a balanced diet. While they’ll never thank you for it, a good diet is one of the most important gifts you can give a child. It will ensure that they grow up as healthy and nutritionally aware adults who lead long and healthy lives. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to load up on cheaply made pre-packaged foods just because money’s tight. Filling your fridge with fresh veggies and researching nutritious and delicious recipes that enable your kids to actually enjoy them is not only great parenting, it’s surprisingly easy on the household budget.

Treat them like an adult

Maybe don’t offer them a cigarette and a shot of vodka before sitting down to your favorite zombie flick 🙂 HA! HA! , but treating your kids with the same respect and transparency as you’d treat, say, a work colleague, is tremendously empowering for them and is likely to engender maturity.

While it’s perfectly fine to spoil your kids over the festive period, it’s important to remember, especially in the thrifty aftermath, that the most meaningful gifts you can give your kids won’t cost you a penny.

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3 Ways to Make the Writer’s Life Easier and More Fulfilling

(contributed article)

If you are a professional writer, you will probably be aware of the many trials and tribulations, which you can face on a daily basis. It is not necessarily an easy life to pursue, but there is great value in it; and it can be a surprisingly rewarding career path if you approach it in the right way. But it can be helpful to know what you can do to make it a little easier and more fulfilling, and that is what we are going to look into today. Following these pieces of advice will lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life as a writer, so let’s take a look and see what they are.

Dedicating The Space

As with any kind of home business, you need to make sure that you have a proper dedicated space in order to make the most of it. This is certainly true for the professional writer, and you will probably find that one of your main tasks early on in your career is ensuring that you have a decent amount of space in your home in which you can work. This can be a spare bedroom, or a converted attic, or even–as with J.K. Rowling–a shed in the garden. However you do it, the important thing is that you have some kind of decent space in which you can work. Dedicate the space well, and it will mean that you can feel a lot more like a true professional, even if you are only just starting out.

Getting Rid Of Money Worries

Writers are often known to be particularly prone to worrying about money–especially making enough to cover bills. If this is true for you, then the obvious thing to do is to take a look at your finances in more detail and see what you can do to improve this situation. By focusing on your money, you can either free up your energies for the actual writing and the business of promoting yourself as a writer or find writing jobs that pay you more. One other thing you can do is focus on getting rid of your debt. Go to debtsettlement.co and see if you can find a way to deal with your debts quickly. This will be a great start to handling your money worries; but you might also want to put some effort into building a proper budget you can live by. With your money taken care of, you can put more energy into your writing.

Knowing Your Reader

It is essential to have a strong idea of who your average or ideal reader is before you get started, as this will encourage you to write in the proper manner for them. Having a good sense of your readership is essentially the same process as a business owner having a good idea of their target customer, and it is one way to improve your chances at making money and writing more for that audience. Get to know your reader, and it will really help you in the long run.

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My One Word for 2018 and a Look Back at 2017

Each year, I pick one word to focus on, instead of making a bunch of resolutions I won’t keep. Sure, I plan to continue to do the things I’ve already been doing (somewhat imperfectly) in 2017: exercise, write and read more, eat healthy, spend time with Katie, sleep enough, enjoy life–but if I make too many goals, I’m really hard on myself when I don’t complete them, and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

So, in this post, I’m revealing my word of the year for 2018 and looking back at the words for 2016 and 2017 and how I’ve been doing.  No more suspense, my word for 2018 is CALM. (This is not that much different than peace from 2017, but read on to see what CALM means to me.)

As always, in December, I start thinking of what I really need to work on the next year. I don’t think you should just wait and start improving your life magically on January 1, but it’s a placeholder for reflection since it happens at the same time every single year. (Yay! for order and routine from the universe). I was going to pick LOVE, not necessarily because of being back in the dating game, but because I found myself being hard on people whom I love, and wondering why I do that to them (and myself). Love could also focus on doing the activities you enjoy and getting rid of the ones you don’t. And making sure to spend time with the people whom you love that bring joy to your life, and finally, even finding glass-half-full moments in activities you don’t LOVE doing, but you have to.

WOW! Why didn’t I pick love for 2018? Well, I feel like I’ve already been doing many of those things (or trying to) with the word PEACE, so I decided CALM was a better choice.

I’m not very calm. I don’t know if I seem calm to the outside world, but to my inner circle–my daughter, my parents, my best friends–calm is not a word they would ever use to describe me. I often hear, “Margo, do you ever sit still?”  “Chillax.”  “Everything is fine, calm down.” You get the picture. So one night recently, when KT (7 years old) was in the middle of another week of constipation (there’s a practical parenting post coming about that, trust me), I was at my wit’s end. I felt like I was saying the same things to her over and over each week, and she wasn’t listening. She was crying and yelling because her stomach hurt, and then I started yelling, and then I stopped and looked at her and said, “We both need to calm down. This is not that big of a deal.” So we did. We both calmed down, and then I told her about the Word of the Year, and how maybe both of us needed to work on being calm. She agreed. We shook hands.

The other evening, when we were at my parents’ house, I had given them (my parents and KT) some instructions (drink a full water bottle and eat a fiber cookie) that I wanted them to follow during the day.  When I arrived, I discovered these instructions were not followed. Now all of you who are lucky enough to have doting grandparents for your children know this is very common. My mom said, “Well, I didn’t want to harp on her all day.” I get it. I do. But I started to get that lecture-y tone I can get, and Katie looked at me and said, “Calm, Mommy. Calm.” (insert ROFL emoji here). But you know what? It worked. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, I wish these things would have happened, but we’ll work on this for the next time.” And then we went on with eating the delicious vegetable beef soup my mom made.

So, CALM it is…in 2018, I want to work on thinking before reacting. I want to work on taking deep breaths. I want to think about my tone and the words that come out of my mouth (or on to a computer screen) before I act.

Now, how are Peace and Organization doing? Well…I would say for 10 months of 2017, I didn’t do a great job with peace. But then something happened in November (I don’t know what–I guess everything just started clicking), and Peace was actually a reality. There are many times during the week, where I can now say I truly feel peaceful with my life, in spite of there being just as much chaos as there has always been. I really am learning (imperfect progress) that it is how you react to life and not what happens to you.

And this has been the second year of organization, well, I guess it’s better…I am kind of learning that organization also has to do with prioritizing and making sure you can find things when you need them. Also, don’t let paperwork and deadlines hang over your head–face them and tackle them.

How about you? Are you choosing a word of the year? What do you want to work on in 2018? 

 

 

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7 Simple Steps to Better DIY Home Projects in 2018

(contributed article)

Now that Christmas is over, you may start noticing some jobs to do around the home. Becoming a DIY master isn’t something that happens overnight; you need to be ready to put in hard work to achieve the results that you are looking for. No matter how experienced you currently are at DIY, we have compiled a list of top tips to help bring you up to the next level.

Prior Planning

The best DIYers don’t simply rush in with all guns blazing. They take the time to plan every project carefully and analyze all the different things which could go wrong along the way. For more complicated projects, this may involve drafting up plans; and for simpler ones, it may be taking the time to watch a how-to guide on YouTube. Good quality planning results in less wasted materials and a reduced likelihood of anything going wrong along the way.

Staple Tools

Building up your toolbox is essential for anyone with DIY on their minds. The tools and materials will vary depending on what jobs you are doing, but you should be looking to gradually grow your collection over time. However, when it comes to the more expensive equipment, unless you are planning on using them regularly, it may be worth borrowing or renting them.

Accept Help to Improve

Help could come in the form of a professional friend who knows what they are doing and can teach you the ropes. It may be that you need to work with a professional company, like Armstrong because you need a steel building  or shed in your back yard, and the job is too complicated to do completely by yourself. The willingness to learn is one of the hallmarks of a quality DIY enthusiast.

Finish What You Start

Don’t be that person who leaves a job half-finished for months on end. Even if it may be difficult, push yourself to overcome barriers that are in front of you. You may need to call in help on particular areas, but you are still gaining the invaluable knowledge, so you can complete the job next time.

Challenge Yourself

Of course, it is important to do the jobs you already know how to do; but if you don’t push yourself every now and again, you won’t be getting anywhere. Obviously, safety and practicality are paramount, but the internet has provided so many more resources these days for DIY projects, so you can push yourself to the next level.

Improve the Lighting

One of the most important aspects of DIY is making sure that you have high-quality lighting, so you can see what you are doing. So, if you have a workshop, try to get as much natural lighting in the room as possible. Also, you should have different artificial lighting sources, so you can pick and choose as needed. Investing in a headlamp can make your life so much easier.

Pass Along Your Knowledge

Teaching someone else is a great way to understand the skills you have developed, as well as helping the next generation of DIYers to learn and improve.

What is a DIY project you are tackling in 2018?

 

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