7 Essential Tips to Stay Sane Through Your Move

Moving can be a time of stress
Moving sucks. It always has and it always will. No matter how excited you are about your new place, no matter how many times you’ve done it before, it’s a huge transition and a massive hassle. And despite the benefits that come with living alone, it can be even tougher when you’re moving into a little one-bedroom apartment.

I’m still getting settled into my first one-bedroom, almost a month after my move-in date, and through the experience, I’ve developed a few guidelines – precepts, if you will – that have made the process smoother. I’d assert they’re still good tips for people moving into houses and people moving with roommates or families, too, so let’s just get started, shall we?

1. Get Preemptive
Before your move, nail down utilities and internet. This is tough to do when you’re hard at work packing up your things and getting your old place ready for inspection, but it makes a meaningful difference in helping the transition. I spent my first three nights in my humid, 85-degree apartment because I’d overlooked the fact that tenants supplied their own A/C units. Likewise, my first week was one without internet, simply because I figured I’d take care of it after the move (ignoring how important contact to the outside world would be immediately after such a transition). In both cases, I had only myself to blame.

Secure payment by mobile. Smart phone on a wooden desk at the of2. Get Paperless
Receiving your first bills for these utilities is a good reminder to set up online bill payment. It reduces clutter in your home, allows you to ditch stamps and constant check-writing, and benefits the environment, too. These systems are designed for every kind of consumer, so they’re extremely straightforward to set up and tend to be good at providing customer service.

3. Get Zen
Our society is endlessly preoccupied with capital-s Stuff, with wonder products that will solve all of your problems and make your life perfect. What you discover living on your own in tight quarters for the first time is that there’s hidden value in empty space as well. You COULD cram in a bed, couch, dining room table, entertainment center, and a pool table into your little one-bedroom apartment, but at what cost to your mental health? We’re setting up an apartment here, not a storage locker. Value that space!

4. Get Ruthless
You own your possessions; don’t let them own you. Ask yourself, “Does this actively serve my needs in my current set-up?  Do I have a way to store it for free until my set-up changes?” Don’t be afraid to cut loose. If you’ve got parents or relatives who are also upgrading or downsizing, chances are they’ve tried to get you to take things they no longer have room for. This is well-meaning, but it can also be an emotional easy way out for them (“Maybe Grant will want this 18-year-old TV, let’s not throw it out just yet”). Between the glasses I’d bought for a college apartment, glassware from grandparents, and glassware from parents, I ended up accidentally moving 38 pieces of glassware into my one-bedroom apartment. Just, no. Find a charity you like and get well-acquainted.

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Turn wasted space into productive space that reflects thought and care.


5. Get Creative

Apartments are measured in square feet, but they exist in cubic feet. Don’t forget this. Do yourself a favor and entertain the idea of little organizer/storage doo-dads. Coat hooks that hang over the door, slide-out drawers that sit on the tile under the bathroom sink, pull-out shoe containers that sit under the bed…these things become vital. If you’re looking to buy a shelf, get a tall one. Utilizing your high spaces frees up floor space, and that frees up your mind space. Check out the Over-the-Toilet Cabinet from Wayfair above.

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6. Get Ready (To Spend)
This one’s easy to say when it’s somebody else’s money, but it’s good advice nonetheless. This place is your home for the foreseeable future, and you own all its contents. Buy quality stuff that’s built to last. Skip past the dorm-room aesthetic. Think metals and woods, rather than plastics. Get a bed frame with a headboard. Obviously don’t put yourself in undue financial distress, but within reason, expect furnishing a new place to take a chunk out of your paycheck for a while. This Leaning Bookshelf from Wayfair is sturdy, portable, tasteful, and affordable!

7. Get Patient
Your move-in day has come and gone. All of your stuff is in the new place. The hard part is over, but you’re far from done. A month later, you’re still not quite done. That’s okay. You might not realize a half-dozen things you need until you’ve actually moved, and that’s fine. Get a list going to keep track of short-term needs versus long-term needs, big pieces versus small pieces. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect that of your little personal empire, either. Steady, incremental progress is the way forward.

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Remember, it’ll all come together in the end. Take it one step at a time and savor the possibilities!

 

That’s all the wisdom I’ve got to drop today, so take it and go! Be free! Be domestically ambitious! With a little work and pride in your space, you’ll be amazed at how much brighter all facets of life can be.

Smart Perks blogger Grant A. likes rainy mornings, fresh fruit, and the mental image of a T-Rex skateboarding.

Helpful Hints for the Domestically Challenged

I can’t say I’ve ever really done any spring cleaning per se. The truth is housework is not that high on my priority list. It’s one of those things in life I dread doing, even though I know it has to be done, like taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn (oh, wait, my husband handles those things, but you know what I mean). When it comes to everyday cleaning, I usually limit it to only what the eye can see (like sinks and toilet bowls, dust on the furniture, dishes, and dirt on the floor), unless we’re having company then I try to make our home more presentable. Obviously I’m pretty lax when it comes to housekeeping. I even have a refrigerator magnet that says “An immaculate house is the sign of a misspent life.”

The thing is I need to start doing something about my untidy abode soon because my closets are overflowing with clothes I’ve never worn (they were on sale, what can I say?) or no longer fit (I keep telling myself that I’ll squeeze into them someday). The junk drawers in the kitchen are jammed packed with, well, junk, and my bathroom cabinets are harboring bottles of prescription and over-the-counter medications that expired in 2010. And, those dust bunnies behind my dresser are starting to multiply like real rabbits!funny-cleaning-quotesThis year I’ve vowed to change my tune and finally get to the nitty-gritty tasks I’ve been putting off for too long, like washing windows, organizing my closets and chucking those misfit toys that are taking up space in my son’s old bedroom. He’s 24 now, so it’s time.

How and where to begin…

Angry woman in a chaotic living room with vacuum cleaner

Aarrggh! Where do I start?

When I look at all the projects ahead of me it seems so daunting and overwhelming (one of those eye-twitching, pull-your-hair out kind of things). That’s why I’ve decided it’s best to focus on one room or project at time. I realize it’ll take days or even weeks to go through my list. I mean, let’s be real, unless you’re Superwoman or live in one of those tiny houses that are all rage now, there’s no way you can do it all in a day or even a weekend! Besides, I happen to live in a hundred year-old, three-story house with six bedrooms!

To help me stay on track and reach my goals, I’ve made up a checklist of things to do (I did some research online first to compile my list). I’m hoping this will help other domestically-challenged people like me.

The List

Take inventory of cleaning supplies. Usually that means mops, brooms & dust pans, dusting/cleaning cloths, pails, and cleansers. After experiencing adverse effects from harsh chemicals (they make me cough, sneeze and feel dizzy), I’ve decided to experiment with natural cleaning solutions like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda.

110_F_101640069_2pENzjjfeTibJ20YRrtF05LlFh3Ezr5r Try these homemade and natural cleaning solutions.

Declutter. Go through old mail, newspapers, magazines, piles of papers, etc. Recycle what you don’t need and file anything of importance, like unpaid bills, medical statements and tax forms, in a safe place. Just remember where you put them!

Organize closets. Pack up and store seasonal items. Donate apparel and shoes you no longer wear, but are still in good condition, to a charity or thrift store. You can also bring them to a consignment shop to get money or credit for purchases, or sell them in a garage sale. Rule of thumb – if you haven’t worn it for a year, get rid of it!

Reorganize kitchen cupboards and drawers.

  • Dispose of anything that’s worn, broken or expired (even canned goods have an expiration date). That includes any plastic containers without lids and lids without containers (seriously, where do those missing pieces go? Probably into the same black hole as the mismatched socks!) Click here for tips on storing containers & lids.
  • Take out and replace old shelf paper or consider covering your shelves with smooth and glossy paint. Find tips on painting kitchen shelves at hgtv.com.
  • Restock cupboards and drawers in an orderly fashion, keeping similar items together. My sister-in-law even arranges her spices in alphabetical order so they’re easier to find. Hey, whatever works!
  • Wipe down outside of cupboards and cabinets as well as appliances to remove any built-up grease and grime.

Clean out the fridge. NOTE TO SELF: this should be done on a regular basis, like once a week or at least a few times a month!

  • Toss spoiled or expired food (you may be able to use some of it for composting).
  • Clean shelves and bins with baking soda or vinegar and water.
  • Arrange items neatly on shelves/in bins.

Go through every room from top to bottom.

  • Sweep cobwebs off the ceiling and corners.
  • Dust woodwork and furniture.
  • Sweep/mop floors (don’t forget the dust bunnies!)
  • Vacuum rugs or carpeting.
  • Flip mattresses and remove dust/dirt from headboards and bed frames.
  • Scrub sinks, toilets, bathtubs/showers – this should be done at least once a week too.
  • Wipe down cabinets and vanities.
  • Clean out (and in some cases debug) light fixtures.
  • Wash curtains, bedding, towels, shower curtains, and throw rugs.
  • Open the windows and let in some fresh air!

Wash your windows inside & out. I plan to use my grandma’s tried-and-true method – a vinegar/water solution and newspaper. Grandma always said it makes your windows squeaky clean! NOTE: it’s best to do this on a cloudy day as direct sunlight dries the glass too quickly, leaving streaks. Don’t forget to wipe away marks on window panes too.

Shake out throw rugs and steam-clean carpets.
If you really want to get embedded dirt out of your rugs, hang them on the clothesline outdoors and beat them with a broom or an old-fashioned rug beater (fortunately I have two of these), then leave them on the line for a few hours to freshen them up. If you don’t have a steam-cleaner, you can usually rent one from a hardware store.

Who knows? Once I see the fruits of my labor, I may decide I like a clean house and want to keep it that way. Or, I may just hire someone to do it.

Happy cleaning!

Go to our Smart Perks Pinterest Board for ideas, inspiration and great tools on
Organizing Your Life. old fashioned quote

Blogger Catherine B., a Smart Perks employee, shares the same view as Erma Bombeck when it comes to keeping house – “My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”

The “Garage Sale King” Shares Secrets of a Successful Sale

Two hands holding brown cardboard with garage sale on blue sky background

Every spring there’s a community-wide garage sale in our town and we like to get in on it. After all, you can make hundreds of dollars in one weekend selling things you want (or need) to get rid of any way, like the pair of duck decoys gathering dust in our garage or the frightful clown figurines I inherited from my aunt (as they say, “one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure”). 1116200_695488353810672_1208156024_oBut, we learned the hard way you can’t just set out a mishmash of stuff hoping people will come along and buy your second-hand goods. It takes planning, organization and some know-how to make your sale a success. Otherwise, it’s not worth the time and effort.

After our first garage sale was a bust (we had no idea what we were doing), we consulted our friend, Larry, who is known around here as the “Garage Sale King.” That’s because he manages to rake in between $2,000 and $3,000 every year peddling everything from bikes and baby clothes to fishing tackle & flower pots. Suffice it to say, Larry knows what people want and what they’re willing to pay for them.

Here are some inside tips Larry shared with us:
Sort and set aside items you want to sell. Make sure they’re in good condition (they may be used, but no one wants to buy things that are dirty, stained, torn, or broken). Some of Larry’s top sellers: kids’ clothes & toys, kitchenware, furniture, sporting goods, camping gear, tools, lawn/garden supplies, collectibles, books, CDs, DVDs, games, and jewelry.
Pick dates & times for your sale. According to Larry, Fridays and Saturdays are the best days and Sundays tend to be a wash. However, he’s been known to get quite a few customers on Thursdays as well. As for times, Larry suggests opening your sale around 8:00 a.m. and closing it no later than 5:00 p.m. Serious garage-salers like to shop early so they can get first dibs on the good stuff (I guess it’s an “early bird catches the worm” kind of thing). Some will even show up the night before to get a sneak peek at your wares, so be prepared!

Check out Delightful Order for Garage Sale supplies like this printable sign.

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Check out Delightful Order on Etsy for some great garage sale supplies.

Advertise. Your best bet is to put up big, legible, two-sided signs (with days and times of your sale, your address and arrows pointing in the right direction) around town and at the end of your street a few days before your sale. Balloons will get their attention too. NOTE: check with your city hall first to make sure there aren’t any restrictions on signs. Other advertising avenues: flyers, the internet and local newspapers.
Decide what you’ll need ahead of time. Some of the essentials: long tables (borrow them if necessary) to display your merchandise, a garment rack or long shower rod to hang clothes, shelves for books & knickknacks, a card table for checking out and chairs to sit on, labels/tags for prices (use big ones for larger items), a cash box (a shoe box or an old metal tin works), tablet & pens to tally/keep track of purchases (a portable calculator may help too if you’re bad at math like I am), bags & boxes for carrying merchandise and newspaper for breakables. Don’t forget the cash! You should have enough small bills and coins to make change.
Price items accordingly. Shoppers are looking for bargains – we’re talking how low-can-you-go deals here – so don’t overprice your merchandise and be prepared to haggle, even if it’s over a measly 50 cents! Use round numbers like .25, .50, .75, $1.00, etc. so it’s easier to make change. On the last day of your sale, mark down whatever’s left by 50% or more to get rid of it. Or, do what Larry does and let people fill a grocery bag for $5.00. Have a free box for items that would go for less than a quarter, like little toys for kids. Of course you want to make some money, so click here for guidelines on garage sale pricing. Hint: If more than one person/family is involved use different colored labels or people’s initials to keep track of who’s selling what.

Old objects in secondhand trade market
Focus on presentation. Arrange tables so it’s easy for people to navigate between them and set everything up in a neat and orderly fashion, by category. For example, line up books, movies & music by genre, display clothing by gender, size and type, and put similar items next to each other. Place more desirable merchandise, like furniture, sporting goods and small appliances, in a prime spot so people notice them right away when they walk/drive by.
Create an inviting atmosphere. Play music in the background (it doesn’t have to be elevator music, but nothing loud or offensive – after all, children and grandmas come to these sales!). 1781b0a2410890434b3ea36de0f984dfOffer beverages like bottled water and soda, and maybe a few treats like cookies or bars for $1.00. Better yet, have the kids set up a lemonade stand and let them keep the profits.
Make checkouts easy and pleasant. Be courteous with customers and carefully pack their purchases. Always smile and thank them when they leave. Remember, happy customers are loyal customers.

Follow these basic tips and you’ll be a garage sale guru in no time.

Good luck and have fun!

Catherine B enjoys her work, but is looking forward to retiring so she can write whatever (and whenever) she wants at home in her pajamas.

Fun with Photo Books: The Lost Art of Real Live Albums

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When it comes to the latest in reading technology, I have the Kindle, an iPad, an iPhone 6 Plus. But nothing will ever replace the feel of a hardcover book in my hands.

I crave the intimacy of holding a book, its weight, an unbroken spine, the smell of fresh pages or of an old book, its antiqued pages rendered almost transparent by time, the satisfaction of anxiously flipping the page to see what the next will hold.

These are the things I can’t give up.

But photo albums are a different beast, right?

It’s nothing short of revolutionary to have all of your photos available in just a swipe or a keystroke online. Years of photos are stored in chronological order on Photobucket, Flickr, Facebook, or Instagram, out there in the ether for eternity…never to be lost to fire or flood. Plus you can share them instantly, in real time, with everyone you know, plus strangers, too.

Then last week, I ordered yet another camera online. It was Best Buy’s Deal of the Day and it was an offer too good to pass up! To my surprise, because it wasn’t advertised, I got a FREE Shutterfly 8×8, 20-page, hardcover photo book with my purchase (a $30 value.) A digital download just appeared in my cart, which was really nothing more than a link to the Shutterfly site where I could create my book.

I’d just gotten a new puppy in December. I had literally 100s of photos sprinkled liberally throughout Facebook and Instagram. I decided it was worth my time to sit down and create a book.

The fact that Shutterfly let me upload all of my photos directly from Facebook was a huge time-saver. I didn’t have to hunt through all the December folders on my PC to find the photos from my Puppy Shower. All my best (no outtakes, blurry images, etc.) photos were stored by event in Facebook.

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Yes, I had a puppy shower. What? You mean everyone doesn’t do that?

Having created a couple of photo books in the past I knew that I wanted to pay the up-charge for glossy pages, and no black backgrounds. Matte, black pages show fingerprints! However, I did like the matte cover. So I paid an additional up charge for that.

Before I started laying out the individual pages, I uploaded all of my best photos to Shutterfly first. Once you start a project in Shutterfly, it creates a gallery for you to upload photos to, and as you use each photo, it disappears from the gallery. That way you don’t leave out any of your favorites.

Then rather than simply inserting the photos chronologically, I tried to tell a story from beginning to end. As you can see from the title page, the photos are somewhat chronological, newborn puppy, the puppy shower, the first day home. But I also used specific photos that lent themselves to the template I chose. All the photos fit a square format. And the colors complemented each other.

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My little fashionista – her big fashion spread.

After that, I had pages that were themed, Weezy playing in the snow with her brothers, Weezy’s favorite toys. Weezy’s most adorable outfits, sleepy puppy, and so forth.

Once I was finished, the book was so cute, I couldn’t help but pay for expedited shipping. So the whole project ended up costing me about $20.

The end result, however, is PRICELESS! I love it. I have to admit, I swooned a little bit when I opened the package, removed the plastic and smelled those fresh glossy pages.

Unlike old-school photo albums, I now have a thin, hard-cover book, that’s no thicker than a children’s book, and sits neatly on my bookshelf. Nothing cumbersome, like the Mead Trapper Keeper of yore, with photos falling out, or flimsy cellophane pockets. Plus, Shutterfly also supplied an electronic link to the entire book, including front and back cover, so I could share it electronically by email, or Facebook if I wanted to.

There are a number of photo book sites available online. I’m just very pleased with the quality of Shutterfly’s. I think a lot of people think photo books are just for baby pictures, wedding albums or family vacations. But they’re not!  I love creating photo books for out-of-town guests when they come to visit. I send the book to them weeks later after they’ve returned home. And I know how much it’s appreciated because a fabulous friend of mine chronicled our entire trip to Louisiana in a gorgeous photo book, capturing everything from my face covered in powdered sugar from my first beignet, to our up-close and personal encounters with alligators roaming Avery Island. I cherish it! I can relive the whole adventure.

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Gnomes and other little creatures frolicking in my fairy garden.

If you’ve ever fancied the idea of publishing your own book, whether on a hobby, like gardening, birding, embroidery, or writing a children’s book, creating a photo book is a great way to get your feet wet. For instance, I love needle-felting and creating little gnomes and other creatures, and placing them in miniature vignettes. My friends look forward to seeing my posts on Facebook, (or at least they pretend to) so last year I put together a photo book of my miniature scenes as a personal holiday gift.

If you have online folders full of photos from your garden, or your hikes through the woods, or boating adventures, take an hour or two and drop them into a photo book. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a book comes together, and how satisfying it is to see your memories come to life in a story, one that you can pull down from the shelf and relive again and again.

For more ideas on using your favorite photos in the real world, be sure to visit www.smartperks.com next week for tips on decorating your home with your photography and personal artwork.

-Melanie

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life include her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.

 

Addendum: I received this information on the duration of the free photo book promotion from Best Buy Customer Care.

After research, I would like to let you know that most of the cameras we carry come with a free shutterfly photo book. Best Buy regularly includes Shutterfly Photobook codes as promotions for purchases of Digital Cameras, DSLR, Computers, and other products. These codes are a great value to the customers, and are extremely popular. If a specific camera comes with it, the free shutterfly photo book is marked as free bonus item however, we are not certain when this promotion is going to last. This is a partnership between Best Buy and Shutterfly and, I believe the promotion is continuously good until advised by Shutterfly otherwise.