Moving a Closet: Pack & Unpack in 3 Stages


Guest post by Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

We all know your closet is miraculous because it holds everything you ever bought. But, that miracle is turning into a horror story. You’re about to move. Do you really want to move everything in that closet? Think go-go boots, prom dress and sequin leggings…

This is your opportunity to purify your wardrobe. At least two weeks prior to moving day, start the closet packing process by sorting your wardrobe to get rid of clothes that have been hiding in the back of your closet for way too long. Why move things you don’t wear? Spend at least a few days determining what are the hidden gems and what’s just taking up space. If you give yourself the gift of time and follow these three stages, not only will your wardrobe be kept in mint condition, you’ll have less clutter.

 

Empty & Sort
Empty everything out of the closet onto the floor. I mean everything!

Create three piles: keep, give away and throw away.

Having trouble letting go of nostalgic items? Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I wore or used this? If you can’t remember, get rid of it. You should’ve worn it at least 2 times in the past year to warrant keeping it. Be ruthless!
  • Still can’t part with it but it never leaves the closet? Take it’s picture on your phone. Does the real thing do anything that the picture can’t

Look at your give away and throw away piles, could someone else use this item even if you can’t? If so, box them up and donate them to a charity. Remember to label the box: “Donate.” If it is too worn, add it to this week’s trash or recycle pile. Again, why pay to move items that you no longer wear!

Pack, Boxes Do Matter

For folded clothing, use medium size/linen size boxes and carefully fold clothes before placing them inside.

 Place hanging clothing in wardrobe boxes. These boxes are a fast and easy way to move your hangers and clothes. The box is tall and has a rod built in so you can hang your clothes inside and don’t have to fold them. It also makes unpacking really easy. Use them for suits, slacks, blouses, dresses, heavy coats and more. Check out this video about packing clothes in a wardrobe box.

First, dust out the wardrobe boxes to clear them of any debris. Then, pack with a plan. Sure, you can just throw everything into the boxes, but if you do you will make the unpacking process a lot harder.

A great way to have a truly miraculous closet in your new home is to organize your wardrobe boxes by season. Pack winter wear separate from summer wear and spring wear separate from fall wear. This will also help if you need to store your clothes.

Place shoes at the bottom of the wardrobe boxes, toe to heel. Heavy boots should be on the bottom while light shoes such as sandals can go on top.

Stuff boots and pursues with paper or t-shirts to keep their form.

You can also use the bottom of the wardrobe boxes for pillows, sweaters or light weight blankets.

Unpack & Organize!

Once you are in your new home and ready to unpack, think of your closet as prime real estate. What items do you want easy access to? Unpack for the season you’re in first. If you find you don’t have space for all the seasons in your new closet, keep the other seasons clothes in the wardrobe boxes and store them. Be sure to throw some cedar chips in with anything you store away.

Once you have unpacked the current season clothing, decide how you want to categorize your clothing within each season. If you choose your clothing based on event (sports, dressy, work) organize your closet that way. If you choose what to wear by time of day, organize your closet that way (morning, day, night). The key is to make your closet organization match how you decide what to wear. Within each season, organize by your chosen method and then by color, light to dark. You’ll be able to find everything quickly, even on a hectic Monday morning!

Place your shoes by use or occasion. For example, sport vs. work, and then break down your dressy shoes by flats to heels and light to dark. You can even put your shoes into clear plastic containers so you can see them. Take it a step further and take photos of your shoes and tape their photo to the inside of their container with the photo facing out of the box.

For your folding clothes: lay them on their side inside your drawer or on the shelf. (NOT stacked on top of each other horizontally, but stacked vertically so you can see everything at once!) Purchase wooden or plastic planks to use as dividers to keep clothes standing vertically.

Having your clothes and accessories all in view organized by categories and color, will make finding items fast. You’ll actually wear more of your clothes.

Last but not least, step back and take a picture of your new “miracle” closet and place it on the inside of your closet so you can keep it that way!

New home, new living…new wardrobe? Nope! A slimmer, newly organized closet. It’s going to feel miraculous to be able to see and wear your entire wardrobe.


Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services. www.northstarmoving.com

How to Make Your Move Less Stressful

From horror stories of lost, stolen and broken items to surprise charges tacked on to an already high bill, moving is not for the faint of heart. And after recently pitching in to help my mom through a downsizing and a big move, I’ve learned a few things about working with professional movers. If you have a move coming up, read on for eight tips to help your move go smoothly.

 

1. Take the time to research movers thoroughly. We’ve all heard horror stories about movers stealing, losing or recklessly damaging belongings, but with a bit of diligence on your part you can make sure you’re choosing a reputable, licensed company with ample experience. Check reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and references before committing to hire. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

 

2. Don’t wait till the last minute to book your movers. Moving companies do book up, especially during the busy summer months, so don’t leave this decision until the last moment. Start looking for a company early and get on its schedule.

 

3. Honestly assess your belongings before getting a quote. If you end up bringing more items than discussed with your movers, the best-case scenario is that you get a higher bill — but the worst-case scenario is that there isn’t room on the truck for everything you plan to bring. The reverse can also be problematic: If you pare down your belongings a great deal between the time of your quote and moving day, you may find yourself paying more than you needed to.

If you do require flexibility in truck space for your move, be upfront about it. Some companies allow you to pay by the foot, which means you pay only for the space you end up using. Usually this involves sharing space with another customer, in which case your belongings will be divided with a locked partition inside the truck.

 

4. Don’t assume that professional packers are also pros at labeling. If you’re planning to hire professional packers, it’s smart to ask about their policy for labeling boxes. If they don’t label (surprisingly common), plan to be present while the packers work (a good idea anyway) and make it your job to label each box as it’s completed.

Packing tip: Label your boxes with your last name as well as the name of the room in your new home where you want the box to end up. When labeling rooms, use language that will make sense to the movers: Instead of “Katie’s room,” you could label a box “Upstairs small bedroom.”

 

5. Block out close parking in advance to avoid long-carry fees. If your movers can’t park the truck close to your home, you’ll probably get stuck with what’s known as a long-carry fee — and the farther the movers have to walk to bring each item, the longer it will take. To avoid this, do whatever you can to ensure there’s a close place to park the truck at both your old home and new. You may want to notify neighbors in advance, park your cars in the closest spaces to hold them, or put cones and signs in the space in front of your house on the day of the move.

6. Remember to measure openings at your new home. After one harrowing experience attempting to get a giant sofa through a narrow stairway (our movers eventually gave up), I now know the value of measuring doorways and stairwells in advance. If bulky furniture doesn’t fit, you may be forced to leave treasured pieces behind, or — if you simply can’t do without an item — you may need to ask for hoisting services, which aren’t cheap and may not be available right away.

 

7. Take the time to read the fine print. Before the movers leave at the end of the day, you’ll be asked to sign off on the inventory sheet and bill — and you’ll be exhausted when this happens. It’s easy to breeze through these last steps and just sign whatever papers they thrust in front of you, but it’s important that you take the time to actually read what you’re signing.

Double check that everything that went into the truck has actually arrived. Look over the bill carefully and be sure there are no extra charges. Especially if you were sharing space, belongings can get missed quite easily, so it’s a good idea to take a look inside the truck before it pulls away. And look close: Tiny (but necessary) items like drawer knobs and shelf brackets can easily get overlooked on the floor of a big truck.

 

8. Just get the big stuff into position; the rest can wait. Think rugs and major (read: heavy) furniture pieces — anything you can’t easily move on your own — are the things that should be put into position by the movers. Ideally, you’ll already be armed with a floor plan of the new space with furniture positions marked out. But if you didn’t get anything that elaborate organized, no worries. Just station yourself in the new place as early as possible before the movers arrive and make some decisions about where things will go.

Then locate the box with your bedding, because you’re going to be ready for a good night’s sleep!

10 Home Decor Accessories Worth Buying for Fall and Beyond


Houzz contributer, Laura Gaskill

Tweaking your decor each season can be a great way to keep your home feeling current and satisfy your urge to nest, without blowing your budget on big-ticket items. The problem? Each year retailers roll out tons of new seasonally inspired decor that begs to be brought home — and loading up on too much season-specific stuff is a sure way to blow your budget and overstuff your storage.

To strike the right balance, aim to build up an arsenal of go-to pieces that feel special yet can work in several different ways throughout the year, then use free and found natural objects, and inexpensive seasonal produce, to round out the different looks. The following 10 versatile pieces make great building blocks for a cozy and festive seasonal look.

1. Shiny gold stools. They can be used as seats or side tables; they are small, portable and easily stashed; and they fancy up any room. Gold looks especially festive, feels rich in fall and winter and has a sunshiny quality that makes it work in summer to boot — what more could you ask for?

 

2. Amber glass vessels. Vintage or new glass bottles with an amber hue look beautiful in a sunny window, lined up on a mantel or perched on a console. Clear apothecary jars are useful to have on hand too, but the great thing about colored glass containers is that they look beautiful even when empty. Of course, they look splendid filled with fall leaves or flowers, too.

 

3. A faux-fur throw. It’s warm and cozy, and makes any seat or bed you toss it on look incredibly luxurious. Spend enough to get a faux fur that feels really plush and has a natural-looking color; cheaper versions will fall apart over time, but a good one will hold up for many years.


Photo by Urrutia Design - Discover transitional living room design ideas

4. Colorful accent dishes. Build a stable of solid-hued workhorse dishes in white, plus some in one or two accent colors so you can change things up. A good rule of thumb is to stick with white dinner plates but bring in fun colors and patterns with the serving pieces, bowls and salad and dessert plates.

Orange is a good hue for all of fall, from Halloween to Thanksgiving, while mint green and yellow work from spring through summer. Metallics work year-round but look especially festive around the holidays.


Photo by The Yellow Cape Cod - Discover transitional home design inspiration

5. Gleaming accessories. Gold and silver objects are a natural choice (see the shiny gold stools above), but the shades in between are even more versatile — think shimmering platinum, bronze and rose gold.

These subtly shimmery hues fit right in with fall leaves and acorns, look glamorous around the holidays and echo the sheen of seashells in summer. Try them with a cluster of vases, candlesticks, bowls or trays.


6. Fresh artwork. Your home has a finite number of walls, but does that mean you must limit yourself to the same artwork year-round? No way!

Pick up fresh artwork as you find it, without worrying if you currently have a place to hang it. At the beginning of each new season, you can simply swap out art on a few walls for a completely different look.


7. A tall container for branches. Having a really tall cylinder vase on hand is essential for filling with colorful foliage in the fall and budding branches in the spring, You may want to pick up a few of these — a shorter version, like the one shown here, is perfect for a tabletop; a taller vessel can be placed on the floor.


8. Fluffy towels. A set of fresh bath towels in a seasonal palette you love is a relatively inexpensive treat, and will make a huge difference in the way your bathroom looks and feels. Try mixing and matching a solid hue with a fun pattern, as shown here. Bonus: Rotating at least some of your bath and hand towels seasonally can help reduce wear, so they’ll stay fluffy longer.


9. Pillow covers. Once you have built up a nice stash of pillow covers that fit the inserts for your sofa and bed, it’s easy to give your rooms a quick makeover. Keep an eye out for sales throughout the year to find the best deal. Here are a few ideas for not-strictly-seasonal pillow covers to consider adding to your stash.

       Burlap feed sack: great for a rustic fall and winter look, but can be used year-round

  • Sparkly, metallic hues: perfect for a festive feel
  • Velvet in rich jewel tones: for cold fall and winter nights
  • Golden yellow: can be mixed with seasonal oranges and reds in the fall, but also feels fresh in spring and summer.

10. Small rugs. If you have basic natural-fiber rugs or neutral carpeting, one great way to create a new look in the fall is by layering your rugs. A small Oriental rug or Moroccan-style wool rug instantly makes any space feel warmer and cozier, and goes with practically anything. Keep a few rolled up in the closet and bring them out when your feet feel like they could use a little extra TLC.


Tell us: What is your favorite way to update your home for the season?

Smart Upgrades That Will Help Sell Your House

Guest post by Jon Snyder

It’s official: smart home upgrades are HOT. A 2016 survey cited in the Washington Post says that 65 percent of buyers, especially millennials, are willing to spend more on homes that are equipped with smart devices. 

Moreover, today’s definition of a move-in ready home has shifted. It’s not just about fresh paint and refinished hardwood floors anymore. An increasing amount of buyers don’t consider a property “move-in ready” until it’s equipped with smart gadgets. Combine this with the fact that a Coldwell Banker survey found that 71 percent of buyers desire a move-in ready home, and you’ll understand why upgrading your home with smart devices no longer an option — it’s a must.

But which upgrades are worth your time and money? Here are some low-cost, high-ROI smart gadgets to install when you’re ready to list your home. 

What Buyers Want
The most desirable upgrades have these features:

  • - Temperature control
  • - Security and safety
  • - Convenience
  • - Compatibility with mainstream voice control devices and smart speakers

In addition, buyers prefer upgrades that stay with the home when you sell it. They want permanent gadgets that can be integrated with any voice command unit they bring when they move in. 


The Best Investments
You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your listing more appealing. In fact, you can find many of these “quick win” devices for under $300 each, with plenty hovering around $100.

Thermostats. 
One of the most popular features in a smart home is the Wi-Fi-connected thermostat. This device allows you to not only program the temperature changes throughout the day for energy savings, but also to control the temperature by voice or even through an app when you’re away from home. 

Smoke, Gas, and CO Alarms. 
Common threats to your safety require prompt notification. Imagine being able to know if your house is on fire or experiencing a gas leak even when you’re away. With smart alarms, it’s possible. Connected alarm systems notify the owners of any safety issues within the home, wherever they are. 

Security Systems. 
There are plenty of smart-home security systems on the market that can be controlled by phone or voice command. That means homeowners can arm and disarm the system without fiddling with a complicated keypad. They can also view video streams and notify police of an emergency from their phones. These systems can even include window sensors, motion detectors, and much more.

Lighting. Smart lighting allows homeowners to dim or turn lights on and off with a simple voice command. Plus, if they ever forget to turn off the lights, they can easily do so from their phones — even if they’re at work.

Connected lights can also act as a de facto security system. By simply setting the lights to a randomized pattern, it can create the appearance that the home is occupied, potentially scaring off any would-be intruders.

Garage Door Openers. 
Garages are a popular point of entry for homeowners, but they’re also a common security breach. That’s where smart garage door openers come in. These devices can notify homeowners when the garage opens and closes and allow 24/7 monitoring of the garage. The doors can also be opened and closed remotely through a smartphone.

Video Doorbells. 
Your home’s new owners won’t even need to get off the couch to find out who’s at the door with this smart upgrade. Video doorbells are equipped with motion detectors and 24/7 surveillance, which will notify occupants that someone’s at the door, even if no one rings the doorbell. 

A Smart Home Sells
If you’re ready to put your house on the market, you’ll need to make sure your property stands out from the competition. Investing in a few low-cost smart home devices can help you do just that, and it could pay dividends when your home sells.


Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance. He oversees countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon has over 25 years of industry experience in product management, design and management roles, as well as claims roles at Esurance and other major industry carriers. You can find out more about how smart home products can help you save on home insurance by visiting Esurance.com.

4 Early Fall Home Improvement Musts

 

When it’s summertime, homeowners are usually too distracted by the lure of beaches and festivals to focus on home improvement projects. By the time the fall season arrives, there’s usually a long list of things that you want to do at your home. The pressure to fix up your house can be overwhelming, so start by focusing on these four fall home improvement musts.

Give Your Rooms a Fresh Coat of Paint

Temperatures can reach 90 or 100 degrees in Philadelphia during the summer, so it’s usually too hot to embark on a home painting project. But when the fall season arrives, the weather gets cooler and it’s the perfect time to get some painting done. Pick out the two or three rooms in your home where you spend the most time and add a fresh coat of paint to the walls in new colors. If you have a porch that has become weathered over the summer, give it a new look with a couple of coats of exterior paint.

New Lighting Fixtures

You probably don’t pay much attention to the condition and appearance of your lighting fixtures until you start to spend more time indoors in the fall and winter. You’ll significantly improve the appearance of your home by simply changing the lighting fixtures in your living room, dining room, and bedrooms. Get slightly brighter bulbs to brighten up your rooms. Also, remember that it starts to get dark earlier in the fall, so make sure that your outdoor lights are fully functional and the bulbs are replaced to last throughout the season.


Image Source: StockSnap.io

Garage or Basement Cleanup
One smart fall home improvement project to take on is a thorough garage or basement cleanup. Sweep away the grass trimmings, soil, and dirt that you may have tracked in after a long summer of yard work. Take the time to organize your tools and supplies that are in storage in boxes, drawers, and bins. Toss empty bottles and expired products. If the floor has seen better days, apply epoxy-coating — it will give your garage or basement a clean, fresh look. Also, hire someone to do a routine check of your heating system, plumbing, and other units that are located in the garage or basement before the winter.


Image Source: StockSnap.io

Apply Weather Seal or Replace Old Windows
If you have old windows in your home (a common trait of Philadelphia homes that were built in the 1800s and early 20th century), apply weather seal to them to save on your energy bills. Old wooden windows often leave a crack at the bottom where cold drafts get into your house, so add adhesive weather stripping. Also, gently sand and put a fresh coat of paint on frames that look worn down. This may also be the year that you’ll want to invest in a new set of energy efficient vertical slider windows with vinyl frames to replace your old wooden ones.


Image Source: StockSnap.io

Get in gear early in the season by taking on these relatively simple but practical fall home improvement projects. They will help you to enjoy your Philly home more this fall and also save some money as you head into the winter season.

Main Image Source: StockSnap.io

Simple Water-Saving Bathroom Upgrades

Guest post by Katy Caballeros 

Between the toilet, shower, and sink, your bathroom accounts for nearly 60% of your home’s water usage. With water scarcity estimated to affect 2/3 for the global population by 2025, water costs are bound increase. Make a water-saving change and an investment in the future, without sacrificing performance. Read about the three simple bathroom upgrades that have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

1. Install a Low-Flow Aerator
Although a sink doesn’t seem to use as much water as the shower or toilet, it can pour out around 3 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Those extra gallons add up, especially if occasionally forget to turn off the sink while you shave or brush your teeth. By installing a low-flow faucet aerator on your bathroom sink, you can cut your water waste in half, reducing it by as much as 1,400 gallons per year. Purchasing an aerator for your sink is one of the cheapest conservation renos, with aerators available for as little as $1.

 

2. Switch Out Your Showerhead
It’s easy to waste water in the shower—many of us use the shower to relax or perhaps leave the water running as we wait for it to warm. While taking shorter showers can definitely help with water conservation, new energy-efficient showerheads can help reduce water waste without sacrificing enjoyment.

WaterSense labeled products are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help save water and are worth consideration as you search for the right products for your home. Showerheads labeled “low flow” are another option for your bathroom reno, as they deliver 2.5 gpm instead of the wasteful 5 gpm of older showerheads.

Newer models, like Evolve’s showerheads, have features like smart home technology, which conserve water and reduce energy use. Here’s how it works: instead of wasting water as you wait for the shower to warm, this technology automatically reduces the water flow to a trickle when it reaches 95 degrees. When you’re ready to shower, you pull on the showerhead’s built in lever and the flow returns to normal. No more letting energy-burning hot water flow down the drain. They estimated this showerhead technology can save homeowners 2-6 gallons of water per shower!

3. Replace Your Old Toilet
The toilet is the most water-wasteful piece of plumbing in most homes. Nearly 1/3 of a household’s total water consumption is flushed down the toilet. They can use as much as 7 gallons per flush! Luckily, toilet technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Newer energy-saving models can reduce water waste up to 67%. There are three main types of water efficient toilets:

  1. Low Flow Toilets
  2. Duel Flush Toilets
  3. Pressure Assist Toilets

Some toilets use a combination of low flow, duel flush, and pressure assist to create a conservation-friendly commode. Low flow toilets are designed to use significantly less water than older models, whereas duel flush toilets customize each flush for either solid or liquid waste. Pressure-assist toilets use an air cartridge to push water from the tank, which means using as little as one gallon per flush. With thousands of gallons a year in water savings at stake, a toilet reno is a must for water-conscious homeowners.

HomeAdvisor surveyed homeowners and found that replacing a toilet cost an average of $377. Compare that to savings up to $2,200 over its lifespan, and that’s more than a 580% return on investment.

Luckily, with innovations in water-saving technology, it’s easy to drastically cut back on water consumption without sacrificing performance. And, compared to other home updates, purchasing and installing water-saving products is relatively cheap and promise big savings on your water and energy bills. Whether you’re conserving water for your wallet, the environment, or state regulations upgrading bathroom fixtures can make a positive impact.

 

Katy Caballeros is a freelance writer who enjoys scheming eclectic home design ideas for her apartment. She can usually be found with a book and bottle of ginger beer on the weekends.

10 Easy Fixes for That Nearly Perfect House You Want to Buy

From price and location to the physical structure itself, the list of things to keep in mind when shopping for a house can seem endless. But some problems you encounter don’t need to affect your final decision. Although easy is a relative term, accomplishing the 10 fixes that follow is generally pretty straightforward. We also point out some big-ticket fixes to watch out for. Happy house hunting!


1. Easy fix: Repaint or reface existing cabinetry. If the interior structure of the cabinetry is still sound, refinishing, repainting or refacing (replacing the cabinet fronts) can be a more cost-effective way to refresh a dated kitchen than completely replacing the cabinetry. If the cabinet doors are in poor condition or you want to change the style, consider refacing.

How to Reface Your Old Kitchen Cabinets


2. Easy fix: New appliances. Swapping out old appliances for shiny new models is one of the biggest-impact ways to make over your kitchen without getting bogged down in a full remodel. And because the cost of appliances and installation is pretty straightforward, it’s easier to plan and budget for this upgrade than projects that might expand beyond your original scope.

Not-so-easy fix: New kitchen layout. Replacing what’s already in your kitchen is one thing, but when you start to move the plumbing and electrical around, costs can rise quickly. If possible, go for a house with a kitchen that has a layout you’re happy with — you can always tweak the details.
 
 

3. Easy fix: Fresh carpeting. Stained, worn-out carpeting is a real bummer, and it can be hard to see past it when viewing a potential home. But ripping out old carpeting and putting in something new — especially something as fresh and fun as the colorful carpet tiles shown here — can make a huge difference in how a space looks and feels.
 

4. Easy fix: New paint color. It’s amazing the effect color can have on us — remind yourself of this fact the next time you tour an open house with some (ahem) unusual color choices. You can easily (and cheaply) replace any wall color with a beautiful hue, like the lovely silvery blue shown here.
 
 

5. Easy fix: Replace light fixtures. Swapping out dated light fixtures with new ones you love is a quick and easy fix an electrician or DIY-savvy homeowner can accomplish in relatively little time. From modern pendants (like the saucer version shown here) to Edison-bulb chandeliers, there’s a light for every style and taste.

Not-so-easy fix: Extensive electrical work. Exchanging one light fixture for another in the same spot is simple; updating old or unsafe systems is another matter entirely. Electrical work should definitely be left to the pros, and electrical repairs in an older home can cost a pretty penny, so be sure to get a thorough inspection and review it in detail.


6. Easy fix: Repurpose a room. Just because a room is shown as a messy kids’ room or workout space doesn’t mean that’s what will make the most sense for you. As you tour potential new homes, think creatively about the spaces you see and try to imagine your own furniture in them. One person’s overstuffed home office could be your perfect sun room.

Not-so-easy fix: Adding on. Remodeling costs get a whole lot bigger whenever you talk about changing the footprint of a home, so try not to be seduced by talk of how “easy” it would be to tack a room on to the back of the house. Although there are always exceptions, your best bet is usually to find a house with a footprint you can work with.
 
 

7. Easy fix: Remove or cover up popcorn ceilings. Not much dates a house like the lumpy, bumpy texture of a popcorn ceiling. Thankfully, fixing it isn’t too complicated, and you’ll soon have a nice, smooth ceiling. The most common method is simply scraping it off, but if there’s any chance that lead and-or asbestos might be present in the paint or the popcorn material itself, you’ll need to cover it up with drywall instead.


8. Easy fix: Add architectural interest. If you love the look of older homes with lots of original architectural details but haven’t been able to find the right one at the right price, it’s still possible to get some of the detail you crave, even in a newer build. Crown molding, baseboards, picture rails and even built-in features like bookcases and bench seating can be added by a carpenter to give a boxy new build added character. It’s an extra cost, but it’s not especially difficult, and it can make a big difference in how you experience a home.


9. Easy fix: Refinish floors. If you’re lucky enough to spot a house with real wood floors, don’t let a dull finish turn you off. While engineered hardwood can usually be refinished only a few times during its life (the number depends on how thick the veneer is) solid hardwoods can take a lot more, so you can have gorgeous, glossy floors (or artfully beat-up floors if you desire) for years to come.
 
 

10. Easy fix: Add landscaping. Yard looking a little bare? Adding landscaping, whether a simple DIY job or a landscaping pro’s design and installation, is something that can make a huge impact on curb appeal and, more important, how you feel when you come home each day.
 

Tell us: If you’re house hunting (or soon will be), what one thing makes you head for the hills? Or, for current homeowners, what do you wish you had known before buying your home?

Why Your Backyard May Be Making You Healthier

 
Whether it’s dining alfresco, tending to the garden, or getting in a run, summer living is an outside affair. But, did you know that buying a home with a backyard can contribute to a healthy lifestyle in more ways than one?  Here are 5 reasons why your backyard may be making your healthier this summer:
 
Better Bone Health
According to the Mayo Clinic, as little as 10 minutes in the sun is thought to prevent Vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is important to maintaining normal blood levels of calcium in the body, which helps to build healthy bones. Spending just a short time outdoors, weeding, grilling or just lounging can have a positive effect on both mind and body.
 
 
Slimmer Waist Lines
When the weather is warmer, salads are a great meal or side-dish.  Mix up any combination of fresh ingredients (fruits, vegetables, legumes or nuts), a heart-healthy vinaigrette and enjoy dinner without any guilt.
For great ideas of summer salads, check out this collection of recipes from Cooking Light.
 
While the science of eating is complicated, grilling can be a healthier alternative to other cooking methods like pan frying.  Grilling lean meats like skinless chicken breasts and omega-3 rich fishes like salmon can make for a quick, tasty and healthy meal.  Add a few veggies like corn or peppers to the fire to round out a delicious summer feast.
 
Because it takes time to carry everything needed for a backyard meal out to the patio and back, you may find yourself more inclined to take your time enjoying the meal and less likely to be caught with your hand in the cookie jar after dinner.  Instead, opt for fresh fruit for a delicious after-meal treat.
 
 
Peace of Mind
Nothing is better for the soul than quality time with those that we love.  Spend some time away from the screens (TV, phones, tablets, etc.) and instead enjoy some down time with family and friends in the great outdoors.  Nature has proven to give your brain a break from daily over-stimulation and can help improve focus and mood.
 
 
Improved Vision
Birdwatching from the back deck may be doing more good than you realize. An Australia study has found that being outdoors can improve distance vision and lower the chance of nearsightedness.
 
 
Healthier Hearts
It’s easy to stay active in the outdoors, whether you choose a run around the neighborhood, backyard yoga, or a lap in the pool.  Almost any activity you enjoy can be done within the confines of a backyard and will not only help keep those extra ice cream calories at bay, but can increase heart health.
 
To find your backyard oasis, visit coldwellbanker.com.

Road Trip: Lock-Up & Pack-Up Properly

Guest post by Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

Road Trip! Remember the days when the whole family piled into the station wagon for a summer road trip with a few bags, a cooler and some mad libs? There were sing alongs, license plate games and quality family time. Today, that simple life is challenging with all of the electronic distractions we have, but with some packing knowledge and creativity, you can still create those memories for you and your kids, tech-free.  

Our digital world can help or hinder the security of your home while you are away. Home burglaries rise in July and August due to summer vacations.  Take simple steps to secure your home before hitting the gas. If you use some tech, you can actually protect your home better than ever before. There are also some good old fashion ways to secure your house, giving you peace of mind while you are on the open road.

So before you hit the road this summer, follow these two check lists for locking up and packing up to keep your home safe, the car clutter-free, wire-free and the kids happy!

Lock-Up

Secure Doors – Locks are not enough to keep a determined thief out. Ask your local hardware store about a strike plate lock. The strike plate protects your door from forced entry. And, don’t forget about sliding doors, they are the most vulnerable. So while you are at the hardware store ask them about a lock pin for your sliding door and place wooden dowels in the tracks. These three pieces of door hardware will frustrate a thief and likely cause them to give-up.

Install Timers – A dark house is a target. Don’t just flip a switch when you head out the door and leave it on the entire time. Place your outdoor lights and a few indoor lamps on timers. This way you will be green and fool potential burglars by setting them to a schedule. Put the timers on a few days before you leave to make sure your lights are going on and off correctly and mimic your regular routine.

Outdoor Lights – Install motion detectors on your outdoor lights. Illuminating a would be thief as they enter your yard is a great way to scare them off.

Refrain from Social Media – In our Facebook world, every vacation moment is shared. While it is tempting to share your fun and latest location with friends, you are also letting a whole lot of people know that you are not home. Save the pics and post them when you get home.

Smart Devices – Consider purchasing a home management system with a camera that detects movement in your home. These devices will send you alerts when there is a presence in or around your home. You can also hire a home security monitoring service, make sure they come highly recommended.

Hire a House Sitter – Have a neighbor, family, friend or babysitter stay at your home or keep an eye on it for you. There are also companies that offer house sitting services. For example, LuxxeLife, a full-service estate management provider, will watch over your home and make sure it doesn’t get into any trouble while you’re gone. This is a great way to ensure complete home security, especially if you are taking a longer road trip.

Lawn Care – An unruly lawn is a giveaway. Have a neighborhood kid or landscaper mow your lawn while you are away.

Hidden Keys – This one may seem obvious, but can often be forgotten. Now is the time to remove any hidden keys!

Mail: Make sure you’ve put a vacation stop on mail and newspapers or have someone picking them up daily. A pile of mail is another giveaway.

Pets: Never leave pets unattended. Make sure they are safely boarded or hire a pet sitter.

Pack-Up

Organized Packing 101

Plan: Think about your itinerary and pack according to your stops. For instance, pack one suitcase with the family’s clothing for your stop to hike the Grand Canyon and another suitcase for the wine tasting and restaurant tour  in Sonoma. This will make unpacking and re-packing simplified as well as finding different weather and activity clothing a cinch.

Color Code: Keep bags and suitcases different colors so that they are easily identifiable or add bright stickers or yarn to the handles.

Involve the Kids: Encourage your kids to pack themselves so that they are involved in the planning of the trip. They can have their own suitcase or backpack that is their domain.

Be An Engineer: When loading up the car, think about when you will need to access to each bag along the trip. Make sure the first stop items are accessible first and so on. Next, place bigger items on the bottom and smaller items on top.

Don’t be afraid to turn things up side down, or on their sides, to fit better.

Essential Extras: Pack one backpack that stays well hidden in the car. Include your first-aid kit, camera, tickets, etc. And, bring one big collapsible duffle bag to for dirty laundry..

Entertainment!

We all know the key to a successful family road trip is keeping the kids happy in the car. Instead of relying on the devices and streaming movies, here are some helpful tips to focus on your surroundings to make the trip a memorable one.

Gift It: Wrap items like car games, deck of cards, sticker books, puzzle books, reading books, crayons, etc. as presents—try reusable bags to be eco-friendly. When you make stops along your route place the presents on the kids’ seats. When they come back to the car they will have an exciting gift to unwrap and play with! Bring extra backpacks to place the toys in once they are unwrapped.

Map It: Before you head out, sit down with your children with a map. You remember maps, right? Remember? AAA has them. Have your kids help you plan the trip out and then have them follow the map as you make your way to your destination. Do some research on each of the places you’ll be passing along the way. Print out a fact sheet for points of interest and use it to create a trivia game.

Happy Tummies: Hunger free kids are happy kids! Bring healthy snacks such as grapes, apples, carrots and string cheese. Include a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter/almond butter and jelly, as well as treats like snack size packs of crackers and cookies. Avoid juice boxes as they tend to explode. Instead pack bottles of water and glass juice bottles that you can recycle at rest stops. Pack these items with plastic utensils and napkins in clear plastic bags in a cooler. Use blue ice – it is thinner and will easily fit into the mini-freezer in the hotel room.

Don't Leave Home Without...

In addition to your luggage, the following items will come in handy during your road trip to keep everyone safe and happy.

  1. Kleenex
  2. Hand sanitizer
  3. Baby wipes
  4. Paper towels and window cleaner
  5. Extra snack bags
  6. Medications
  7. Personal pillows
  8. Cell Phone Charger (yes, still bring the cells for emergencies and confirming reservations)
  9. Bug repellent
  10. Sunscreen
  11. Reservation confirmations for flights, rental cars, camp sites and hotels

 Now gas up (or plug in that electric car – be sure to know where the charging stations are!) and head down memory lane!



Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.   www.northstarmoving.com