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Cleaning your House or Apartment at the Holidays

House cleaning product on wood table with green background

The holiday season is upon us and that might mean company is coming! Here’s how to prepare for a nice clean visit!

  1. Start with the Guest Bedroom. Your guest might be staying in a designated guest room, or a kid’s bedroom or even the couch—no matter what: Make sure sheets and pillows are clean and the area is pleasant for him or her. Lay out clean towels and have toiletries ready in the bathroom for use. If it is cold outside, have an extra blanket ready so they don’t have to bother you in the night.
  2. Keep Clutter at Bay. By simply picking up your house, you can ensure that the guests have a good opinion of your home. Stash toys and unused items in basement or storage to sort after the holidays.
  3. Make Room in the Closet. Your guest will have a coat to hang up and maybe even some clothing for parties, events or church. Take the time to clear out some space for them.
  4. Stay on top of Bathrooms. With extra people comes extra germs and dirt. Keep cleaning solution and a rag handy under the bathroom sink and use it to clean up everytime you are in there.  Spraying Lysol disinfectant on doorknobs, toilet seats and sink handles can ensure that everyone stays healthy this time of year.
  5. The Kitchen is the hub of holiday activity. Keep it clean. Enlist help from other family members to stay on top of dishwasher duty and wipe down counters each night. Using paper products can help immensely!
  6. Make Your Entry Inviting. Hanging a festive wreath is a cheerful greeting. Also, make an area for guests to put shoes and keys and keep other clutter away.

Taking the time this week or next to put these tips into action will ensure that you can spend more time visiting with your guests and less time worrying about the cleanliness and clutter of your home! Happy holiday season!

Preparing to Find a New Apartment

Finding an apartment in a tight market is hard. Especially in winter months when people aren’t moving much.  Use these tips to get yourself organized to find the perfect apartment.

  1. Determine your budget. According to experts, your rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly income.  So if you bring home $3000 each month, your rent should be around $1000.  IF you bring home $1000, your rent should be no more than $350.
  2. Think about Utilities. Often, rent includes utilities—in that case, you can spend more on your housing budget. If paying bills is a concern, look for rents that include free heat or water and trash utilities.
  3. Start looking early. You will have more choices and information, if you start looking a month or so in advance.
  4. Consider all the factors. Instead of just focusing on price, think about other issues. How convenient is your location to work or school? Is the neighborhood safe? Is there laundry facilities in the apartment or building?
  5. Prepare your documents. Your new landlord will want to see your driver’s license, pay stubs, references, proof of employment, etc. Have these items ready to get the process going.
  6. Gather your downpayment. Most landlords are going to require a month’s rent upfront and deposit equal to one month. Start putting aside money so you can meet this requirement.
  7. Do a walkthrough. Sometimes it is inevitable and you have to rent a place sight unseen. But if at all possible, view the place.  You will be signing an ‘as is’ lease and you want to be aware of all issues.  Look for smoke detectors, HVAC issues, appliances, etc.
  8. Sign the lease. Make sure you read through your lease.  If you have questions, talk to your landlord. Now is the time to get clarification and make any changes that are necessary.

A little up-front prep can make the apartment finding process easier. Good luck!

How to Weatherize your Home

Weatherizing Your House or Apartment

November begins the onset of cold weather and consequently, higher energy bills.  To save on energy costs and keep your family warm, a few easy weatherizing tasks can make a big difference.

  1. Caulk around your home. The primary areas to seal with caulk are:
    1. The top and bottom edges of the rim joist. This is the thick wooden board that sits on top; of the concrete foundation and connects to the floor joists. Going all the way around your home will make a big difference.
    2. The outside edges of windows and doors. Don’t forget basement windows.
    3. Any opening on the wall of your home, including water spigots, electrical outlets, air conditioner hoses, dryer vents and gas/water pipes. If holes are large, consider using spray foam.
  2. If you have Storm windows, use them. If not, cover windows in plastic film, especially windows that allow a lot of cold air to enter.
  3. Install heavy drapes inside for extra weather protection.
  4. Weatherstripping is an easy, cheap way to add protection around your doors to keep cold air at bay.
  5. Adding foam gaskets to the inside of electrical outlets can also help cold air intake.
  6. Keep doors closed and use under door sweeps or a rolled up towel to keep drafts away.
  7. The easiest way to control heating costs is to turn down your thermostat. Experts say you save over $150 by just turning down your thermostat by 10 degrees for an 8 hour period of time.  Get in the habit of turning down the thermostat every morning when you go to work.  Ask your family to wear sweaters and slippers and consider going down a degree or two when everyone is home too.

Living up north comes with cold weather.  By doing a few easy tasks now, you can make your winter a little cozier and cost effective!

Trick or Treat Safety in the Neighborhood

Trick or Treat Safety

It’s that time of year again when the spooky ghosts and superheroes come around your neighborhood to collect candy!  If you have little ones, consider these safety tips when going out for trick or treat.

  1. Adult Supervision is crucial. Little ones should not be out and about alone and even older kids can have trouble navigating dark streets in costumes.   If you have to work, find a group your child can join.
  2. Check the Candy. Don’t let the kids start eating the candy until you go through the bag and make sure nothing is already open or tampered with.
  3. Stay on Sidewalks. Kids get excited and might try to cross streets and run to houses without looking for cars.  Make sure they know safety rules and stick together.
  4. Check costumes and face paint. Make sure your child can see where he or she is going. Costumes can obstruct viewing and face paint can get in children’s eyes or create an allergic reaction on skin.  Also, make sure costumes are bright enough to be seen in the dark and not to big to cause trip hazards.

Have fun and happy Halloween!

Tips for Moving to a House or Apartment in the Rain

Our number one tip for moving during a rainstorm is NOT TO DO IT! But all kidding aside, often you have a small window of time to do your house move and rain can really put a damper on things. Here are some tips to survive the gloomy day:

  1. Tape down tarps or mats to cut down on trekking mud and water through your new place. Take the time to do this upfront will save a lot of clean up later.
  2. Take care with cardboard boxes. Leave these until rain subsides, or find a staging area (tarp inside apartment or garage works well) to stack all these boxes so you don’t have damp cardboard in your living spaces.
  3. Wrap furniture in plastic. Often, bulky couches and mattresses take time to maneuver into your new home. By wrapping these upholstered items in plastic or covers, you ensure a dry place to rest after moving!
  4. Invest in Trash bags. Buy a box or two of plastic garbage bags—these can be thrown over boxes, placed down to keep muddy feet at bay, and wrapped around clothes on hangers. These can be a lifesaver in a downpour.
  5. Organize wisely. Prioritize your move. During the biggest downpour, carry plastic tubs and things that won’t mold or be damaged. Time may help the moving situation so that cardboard boxes and furniture can be moved during lessened rain.
  6. Ask for more help. Put out a call to get more volunteers. This way you can set up an assembly line to move more quickly and efficiently. Many people who had plans might be rained out and for the price of free lunch could help you get your move done!

How to Declutter Your Apartment

How to Declutter Your Apartment

Clutter causes us all problems.  If we have too much stuff everywhere, it can be a safety hazard and can keep us from full enjoyment of our space.  And mess can equal STRESS!  Here are some tips to get clutter under control:

  1. Consider a 30 day challenge. It can be stressful to think about trying to get cleaned up all in one day. Breaking the task into small parts makes this much easier.  The internet is full of 30 day calendars and lists to make this manageable.  For example, one day you might tackle your Rubbermaid/plastic storage cupboard and the next day you dump out your junk drawer and sort.
  2. Use a 3 box system in the room you plan to declutter. Get three boxes and label them: KEEP, TOSS and STORE. One day you can sort and the next you can execute the plan of putting things away, dropping off stuff to the Goodwill and boxing up items to store.
  3. Enlist help. Sometimes we need an honest opinion. When you are sorting clothes, ask a trusted friend or relative to come over and help you decide what is still trendy and flattering and what should get a new home.
  4. Use the 80/20 Rule. Experts say we only wear 20% of items in our closet 80% of the time. This principle works with kitchen gadgets, children’s toys, boardgames, etc. Figure out your 20% (with some wiggle room!) and donate the rest!
  5. Be ruthless in your first sort. Then sleep on it.  The next day if you still are OK with getting rid of an item, then you are making the right decision.  Giving yourself an extra day to decide if you love the item makes it not so difficult to decide in the moment.

It is Fall Cleaning Time

It’s that time of year—football games, bonfires and a slight chill in the air.  It’s also the time to get your house cleaned up from summer and prepped for winter.  Here’s a list of chores to help you get ready:

 

Outside Chores:

  1. Wash windows
  2. Wash down patio furniture and put it away for winter.
  3. Clean and store all outside children’s toys
  4. Check caulking around windows and doors. Put plastic over windows that allow cold air to come in during the winter. Install weather stripping as necessary.
  5. Clear out gutters
  6. Clean fireplace and chimney
  7. Vacuum and clean out all air vents and covers in your home
  8. Change your furnace filters.
  9. Drain and store garden hoses
  10. Check laundry machines to make sure there are no birds nests or lint build up in the exhaust.

 

Inside Chores:

  • Focus on public rooms, so you are ready for upcoming holidays and the long winter. Clean and vacuum well and touch up paint as necessary.
  • Have carpets and upholstered furniture professionally or rent/borrow equipment to do yourself.
  • Wash interior windows
  • In the bedrooms, turn mattresses front to back to minimize wear and vacuum to get rid of dust and skin cells.
  • Launder and clean all bedding, getting out blankets and comforters to keep your family cozy in the cold months ahead.
  • Think ahead to holiday cooking and prep your kitchen now. Clean off all counters and check/organize all your cabinets. Get rid of old spices and clean out the pantry, donating all food that is still good but that you aren’t using to the community food pantry.
  • Pull refrigerator away from the wall and vacuum the condenser coils to keep it running efficiently.
  • Clean your oven now to be ready for holiday cooking.
  • Wash your vacuum sweeper out well, changing the bag and cleaning the filter so this machine is ready to keep your home clean all winter.

 

Managing Stress During a House or Apartment Move

Staying sane During a House Move

Moving into a house or apartment can be a stressful time. There are phone calls to make to change utilities, packing up, people to tell, paperwork to fill out to change addresses and let’s not forget, the move itself!

Here are some tips to stay healthy and sane when you get ready to move.

 

  1. First of all, make a list! If you are not a naturally organized person, ask for help. If you are a tenant, your landlord can clue you into important things to remember about leaving your place rent-ready and getting geared up with utilities and the neighborhood at your new place. The internet is a great resource also, for finding moving lists.
  2. If possible, overlap your move by paying extra rent or making a deal with a buyer so you have a week to leisurely move stuff and clean. If you try to do it all in one day, you will put undue stress on yourself and your family.
  3. Ask for help. Instead of trying to do everything, now is the time to tap into your family and friendships. Most people are willing to donate an hour to carrying boxes or helping you take down pictures and wrapping dishes. And pizza is a great motivator on the big day to reward people who come to help.
  4. Most importantly, take care of yourself. A move can wreak havoc on your eating/drinking/exercising schedule. Try to keep to your usual events as much as possible and pay particular attention to drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Remember to breathe.  When things get crazy in the middle of the move, take a moment to do some mindful, deep breaths.  It sounds weird, but it works!
  5. Reward yourself after the move. Positive feedback is important for everyone, including yourself!  Just as you might reward yourself with a new outfit after losing ten pounds, rewarding yourself with something new for your new home or apartment is a great way to feel excited about your new place and to pat yourself on your back for a job well done.

How to Pack for Moving to a New House or Apartment

How to pack for a move

Packing your stuff seems monumental. But try these tips to make the packing more peaceful for your soul.

  1. First, DECLUTTER. Now is the time to get rid of stuff you no longer need or want.  A good rule of thumb is to eliminate stuff you haven’t used in a year.  If you never wore that sweater all winter, most likely you won’t wear it again this winter.  Many of us have way too many pots and pans.  You tend to use the same kitchenware every day; keep that stuff and donate the rest.  You can plan a yard sale to make money to help hire people to help you move or to buy a new piece of furniture for the next place.
  2. CREATE A PACKING STATION. No matter what you think, packing takes more time than you think. Having a packing station stocked with boxes, markers, newspaper, bubble wrap and sealing tape will make that job easier for everyone in your household.  Talk to your local grocer or shop owner to get sturdy boxes.  Wine boxes are extra sturdy and copier paper boxes from offices are great for files and books.
  3. BE MINDFUL. Pack light items in big boxes and heavy items in smaller ones. This will save your back and help out any volunteers you have that day to help.  Keep your dresser drawers full; that’s the easy way to transport your clothing.  And fill every suitcase with towels or clothes; don’t transport empty containers! Trash bags can be helpful to pack toys or stuffed animals and can fit into spaces on your moving truck that cannot be filled by boxes.
  4. LABEL EVERYTHING. When you seal the box, use a black permanent marker to list contents and the room where you want the box to go.  When you have family and friends to help, it will make it easier for boxes to go where needed and for you to know which boxes to unwrap.  Using different color markers might help too. Label urgent boxes (diapers, kitchenware, etc) with red, less urgent with black and items to store (collectibles, memorabilia) in green.
  5. PROTECT VALUABLES. There is nothing more distressing than moving to your new apartment or home to find your favorite vase smashed into pieces.  To protect against heartbreak, invest in sturdy boxes, bubble wrap and tissue paper. To wrap dishes, line boxes in bubble wrap and make sure you wrap each piece in paper towels, kitchen towels/dishcloths or tissue paper.  Make sure to fill the box to the top so items don’t rattle around and break.  Newspaper can fill those voids.  Write FRAGILE on each box to alert any volunteer movers.  Consider moving all fragile items in a separate car with your most trusted helper.

Good luck! Packing is a big job, but with some upfront planning and mindful tips, you can make the day a success.

Rain Rain Go Away: How to Keep Water from Coming in Your Home

Rain can bring on more than rainy day blues; excessive rainfall and storms can wreak havoc on your home.  Here are some tips to deal with extreme rain and keeping your home dry:

  1. Make sure your gutters, drains and downspouts are clear from any blockage.  A simple check and cleanout will do wonders for rainflow.
  2. Extend drainpipes out away from your home. Just adding one more piece might get water away from your foundation.
  3. On rainy days, make note of where water pools and collects.  Often, landscaping and flower beds can impede water.  Take care to make sure these areas are clear or have pathways for waterflow.  Also make sure if you plant near your home, that you build up soil next to the foundation.
  4. Cover air vents with heavy plastic when excessive rain is expected. This is an easy way to keep water out.
  5. Check sealant around windows, doors and skylights.  This will keep water at bay.
  6. If you do get water in your basement or home, run a dehumidifier and fan to clear things up quickly.

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