Just when you thought 2021’s wild real estate ride was ending, 2022 arrived to deliver one smackdown after another. Mortgage rates and home prices jumped higher than we’d seen in recent years, and low inventory posed a problem for homebuyers and sellers alike.

But amid the ups and downs of the real estate market, there were plenty of homeowners who were perfectly content staying put and looking for ways to beautify their living space.

That’s why a good swath of our coverage this year focused on expert-approved secrets and strategies for improving the home you’re in—from design do’s and don’ts to cleaning hacks to something called “house shame.”

We combed through hundreds of articles published this past year to find our best of the best: eight of our most useful advice stories for homeowners, each one highlighting a must-know nugget of info that you can carry into 2023.

Outdoor design fails

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You’re a homeowner—congratulations! Now, about that deck…

In their excitement to finally have an outdoor space to fix up and beautify, new homeowners tend to make some rookie mistakes. These missteps can take away from your enjoyment of your space, and they can seriously crimp your property’s curb appeal.

We reached out to experts to find out how to avoid the worst blunders. Click the headline above to read more.

Can’t-miss tip: It’s trendy for homeowners to trick out their outdoor areas to match the comfort of the indoors—with rugs, flat-screen TVs, and even entire second kitchens. But this doesn’t mean you can just haul your indoor furniture onto your deck and call it a day.

Interior designers warn that bringing sofas and chairs outside screams “yard sale,” instead of relaxed comfort zone. Stick to furnishings that look appropriate and are designed for the outdoors so they can withstand the elements.

Outdated kitchen

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If your kitchen decor is so outdated it makes you nostalgic for the days of mullets, skinny ties, and acid-washed jeans, don’t feel bad. It’s easy to get comfortable and let interior updates fall by the wayside.

Some kitchen trends are timeless, but other decor choices have a definite expiration date. In fact, there may be a number of culprits in your kitchen that are making it look woefully outdated. Read more for insight from design gurus on how to bring your kitchen into the current decade.

Can’t-miss tip: This one is easy. If you have word art that says things like “Love” or “Eat” on your kitchen wall—or anywhere else in your home—it’s time to retire them. Inspirational quotes need to go, too. (Sorry!)

New-home cleaning tips

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You fling open the door to your new home, and it’s just as fabulous as you imagined. The place sure looks clean; all you need is your chic decor to make it feel like home, right?

But what about your billions of new roommates, aka the bacteria and other gunk that are likely covering the surfaces of your home?

Your first instinct might be to deep-clean the toilet, but there are many more places that require a scrub-down. Toilets have about 50 bacteria per square inch, but the average light switch houses an average of 217 per square inch. When the waves of nausea ebb, read on for details on how to tackle this germy issue, stat.

Can’t-miss tip: For the advanced germaphobe, or anyone going through a home renovation involving new electrical, you might consider upgrading your light switches to something less hospitable to germs. Hands-free, germ-free!

Bathroom renovation ripoffs

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A bathroom is a vital part of the house, which makes it among the most common—and cost-effective—places for homeowners to renovate. There’s plenty of evidence that confirms bathroom upgrades are worth the investment, including a recent study that found that in all 50 states, an average bathroom makeover increased a home’s resale value by more than enough to pay for the renovation.

We reached out to bathroom design and real estate experts to find out what changes you should avoid making, at all costs, or you’ll be paying the piper for years to come. Read more to get the full scoop.

Can’t-miss tip: Thinking about installing a whirlpool bathtub? Think again. Installing a fancy spa tub, or even an oversize soaking tub, can cost up to $35,000. Those funds could be spent on much more worthwhile projects.

House shame

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The feeling of house shame is precisely what it sounds like: a deep sense of discomfort when it comes time to introduce your home to extended family and friends.

Whether it’s about the tidiness of your home or the newness of the furnishings, house shame, much like body shame, is something many people worldwide have dealt with, long before there was a name for it. If social media is anything to go by, the prevalence of house shame appears to be on the rise.

Read on for thoughts from experts who explain why we all occasionally blush at the idea of opening our front door to visitors—and how to curb that shame once and for all.

Can’t-miss tip: Bringing greenery into your home can actually help you deal with your house shame. Plants will improve the look of your house—and make you happier and healthier. Houseplants, like trees, actually clean the air. And simply looking at greenery helps people relax and stay calm. In fact, one recent survey found that 75% of respondents said plants improved their outlook on life during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Thrifty decor tips

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Furnishing a home can be a time- and budget-consuming struggle, especially if you want quality pieces that aren’t made of particle board.

But finding great furniture doesn’t have to swallow up your salary. In fact, you can furnish your house for a few thousand dollars. Check out this first-person account from a homeowner who spent as little as she could finding chic furniture.

Can’t-miss tip: Join local thrift groups—they’re a goldmine of information and treasures. “Buy nothing” or “garage sale” groups on Facebook Marketplace are networks of buyers and sellers that are local thrift collectives. When using Marketplace, you can customize your search results by expanding or limiting the radius of your location and trying different categories or keywords.

Khloe Kardashian’s pantry

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We all strive to achieve some kind of order in our pantry, whether that means decanting flour into a jar or lining up cans so that their labels face out. This level of neatness is understandable. But, when you’re Khloé Kardashian—with an unlimited budget and a reputation for being the most organized member of her family—you can redefine what it means to have a stocked pantry. Click above for a peek inside her far-from-humble pantry, and see how she takes the pantry to a whole new level of tidiness.

Can’t-miss tip: Decant your baking ingredients, and keep measuring cups close by. A key highlight of Kardashian’s pantry is the display of dispensers filled with sugar, flour, and other baking ingredients. Each of these nifty canisters has its own measuring cup underneath, so Kardashian doesn’t have to rummage around her kitchen drawers when she craves a homemade pie.

renovation

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Did you buy a new house that could use a few renovations but ended up paying more than you expected when the interest rates spiked? Or maybe you were hoping to buy a new house but decided to stay put and make your existing home more livable with a few tweaks. Or perhaps you can’t afford to make all the improvements on your wish list now that the economy is in a swirl.

It’s a common scenario these days with inflation and supply chain issues making it challenging for homeowners to give their home the upgrades it deserves. But don’t give up on your dreams! Read on and figure out how to decide which renovations make sense right now.

Can’t-miss tip: Ask yourself if the renovations offer a good return on investment, or ROI. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2022 Cost vs. Value Report, exterior projects reign. A newly installed garage door that costs around $4,000 tops the ROI list, recouping 93.3% of its initial investment. Other projects with higher ROIs include window replacement, entry door replacement, exterior siding, and decks.

Surprisingly, only one interior project landed in the upper ROI range. A minor kitchen remodel costing about $28,000 fetches a 71.2% ROI. A bathroom and primary suite remodel rendered less than 60% ROI.