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Stay Stress Free in December

Some days in December just aren’t long enough. By time you work, take care of your family and deal with other issues, you might feel like the holidays are just too crazy and need to be canceled! But take heart and read our tips to stay stress free this busy time of year:

  1. Choose your Traditions. You don’t have to do everything every year.  What is most important to your family? Is it your special reindeer cookies? Or trimming the tree? Putting up lights? Choose one or two items and save gingerbread houses and homemade eggnog for another day!
  2. Take a Breather. Check out of one or two activities if you need a mental health break. You don’t have to go to the Nutcracker this year or attend the city tree lighting. Instead, stay home and take a bubble bath and read a book.  You’ll be ready to take on the next event tomorrow!
  3. Don’t Sweat the Gifts.  Your gifts don’t have to be amazing every year.  If you planned to knit a bunch of scarves but time got away from you– don’t worry. Make a plate of cookies or buy everyone a box of candy.  Gift cards are always welcome.  People are just happy that you thought of them!
  4. Be Happy and Spread Joy. Doing something for others this time of year is always a mood  lifter.  Clean out the clutter and donate toys and clothes to the shelters and Goodwill where others can appreciate them.  Help stock up the food pantry at your local church.  Make extra cookies and give them out to your neighbors.  Making others happy will put a smile on your face too.
  5. It’s Good Enough. Pick a stopping point.  Christmas has to come and be enjoyed– you don’t have to kill yourself to decorate every nook and cranny or make every cookie recipe you pinned on Pinterest!

Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

From now until Christmas, we often feel like we are running a race— decorating, shopping, trying to balance our budget and attending lots of activities.  And let’s face it—we run ourselves down and expose ourselves and our families to large gatherings where illness and germs may be lurking!  Check out these tips to stay healthy during the holiday rush:

  1. Wash your hands and remind your kids to do the same. Wash frequently and carry antibacterial soap for those times when you end up shaking a lot of hands and hugging relatives.
  2. Disinfect your home space. Keep a can of Lysol disinfectant handy and spray it liberally on light switches, door knobs and bathrooms this time of year.
  3. Take your vitamins. Often we don’t eat well through the holidays. Stay on track by taking vitamin C and multivitamin supplements.
  4. Stay active. Don’t fall off the fitness wagon now or January and February will find you in a slump. It is easy to tell yourself you are too busy. But taking time to walk or workout will pay off in giving you more energy for your busy holiday season.
  5. Watch intake. Eating too much and overindulging in alcohol both come with consequences.  You are more likely to feel bad, succumb to sickness and lose energy overall.
  6. Take Time for yourself. It is easy to go crazy on serving others but take a moment or two for yourself. Watch a Christmas movie, enjoy hot cocoa with your kids, take a hot bath and enjoy this festive time of year!

Holiday decorating on a dime in your apartment or house

Transforming your space for each holiday can be fun for the family and lift your spirits.  You don’t have to break the bank to decorate in style. Here are some tips to decorate and stick to your budget:

  1. Check out yard sales and the Goodwill. Often people donate or try to rid themselves of decoration. All year long you can keep an eye out for cheap decorations at these venues.
  2. Do it yourself. The internet has gobs of posts about crafting. Check out Pinterest for ideas on crafts you can make using things you already own. For example, make a Charlie Brown tree—bring in branches and spray paint for whatever holiday is coming up: black or deep plum for Halloween, silver glitter for Christmas, bright red for Valentine’s Day and so on.  You can then hang ornaments you make from paper, cork, etc.
  3. Call out to Social Media. Telling people you moved into your own place and need some decorations will probably bring a lot of good cheer your way.  You might have an aunt wanting to get rid of a Christmas tree or a high school friend with too many Halloween pumpkins to display.  In any case, your friends will probably come through!
  4. Maximize your budget. A nice centerpiece that you see everyday on your dining room table and a good door wreath will serve you better than small pieces throughout your home that get lost in the shuffle.  By just adding these two pieces you can add holiday flair without spending much.

Making Time to Give Thanks at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for the whole family to reflect on their blessings and to give thanks for all the good things in life.  Sometimes, the day is stressful and busy with preparing a big meal, traveling and interacting with family, and the time to give thanks can get lost in the shuffle. Here are some tips on how to refocus yourself and your family on giving thanks:

  1. Start a New Tradition with a Gratitude Tree. The internet has many ideas on how to make a gratitude tree or journal. Make use of one of these ideas and start a new annual tradition. My family gathers a branch from outside and anchor it in a bowl or flower pot with playdough or dirt.  The kids cut out leaves from construction paper.  Before dinner, everyone uses a marker to write down their blessings on leaves that we tie with yarn to the branches.  During dinner we take turns reading out the blessings for all to enjoy.
  2. Write thank you notes. Sometimes family cannot get together for the holiday, and we miss out on visiting with them.  Before the big day, have your kids write thank you notes and mail them.  This helps your kids see the importance of family and to think of someone else.
  3. As a family, take up a collection of money for a charity with meaning for you.  Or have everyone bring canned goods to give to the local food pantry or pet food and paper towels for the Humane Society.  Have kids deliver the donation the next day so that the idea of giving to others makes an impact.
  4. Invite someone to share your meal. Every church, neighborhood or school has a family that has to work or has no family to share Thanksgiving.  Consider inviting them to join your celebration or make extra food to deliver so that they can partake in Thanksgiving as well.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you and your family have a day filled with blessings and gratitude.

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.

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