Monday, April 30, 2012

Where Can I Get Free Packing Materials?

Moving on Monday

Whether you hire a mover or rent a truck, expenses for moving can add up.  Packing supplies is one of these major expenses.  There are boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, packing paper, etc. to buy.  While tape can't be re-used, the rest of these items can be had for free if you know where to look.

1.       The best source for finding free boxes and packing items is Craig's List.  Create an account, find your city, and start looking.  Do a search for "Free boxes" or "Free moving boxes."  Or create your own posting, asking for free packing materials.  Often, people who moved themselves have plenty of boxes sitting flattened in their garage, just waiting to be picked up.
2.       Visit Free Cardboard Boxes online.  You can post a listing looking for/or to get rid of used boxes.  Just keep in mind that they may not be in great shape.
3.       Ask friends and family who have recently moved or will be moving before you.  If they use a mover, then they might have to return the boxes for a refund.  If not, ask if you can have them.  They may also have bubble wrap and paper for you.  Ask around before they move, so they don't throw anything away.   
4.       Start collecting materials months ahead of time when you know you are moving.  Whenever you get something shipped, save the boxes and packaging.  Keep small ones too, as they are good for packing delicate or small items inside larger boxes.
5.       Visit your local grocer or liquor store.  The produce and liquor boxes are very sturdy and great for books and dishes.  Always check for insects in any boxes you pick up from your grocer, as they may have come in with the produce.
6.       Look around work—either your own employer or friends/family's employers.  Companies often get office supplies or other items shipped to them.  Ask if they will put aside boxes for you.
7.       Make your own packing materials.  Save your newspapers for stuffing boxes, but don't use for wrapping anything that might get dirty from the newsprint.   When you shred papers, save the shredding in plastic bags.  Use the shredded paper for cushioning your breakables like platters, casseroles or lamps.    

Friday, April 27, 2012

Green Cleaning—Using Vinegar for Cleaning

Frugal Friday

So many cleaning products on the market are full of dangerous chemicals that can harm both the environment and your health.  They are also expensive.  So why not look to the past for both inexpensive and healthier alternatives?  Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at ways to use common household products to clean your home.  This week, we'll look at using vinegar around the house.

·         Mix 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water and brush it on your carpets to brighten the color.
·         Mix 4 tbsp. vinegar to 1 gallon water in your carpet cleaner to rinse after shampooing.
·         Mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle—spritz your shower curtain every day to prevent mildew.
·         Spray bathroom surfaces with vinegar mixture to disinfect.
·         Mix 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water for soaking brassware. 
·         Mix equal parts vinegar and water, drop in your shower head, and boil for five minutes to remove build-up.  (Remove rubber gasket before boiling.)  Or soak in same mixture overnight without boiling.
·         Pour one gallon of vinegar to your whirlpool tub and run.  Do this once a year to keep pipes free of residue.
·         Pour vinegar down your drains when they seem sluggish.
·         Put vinegar on newspaper to clean windows and glass fireplace screens.
·         Add 2/3 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water to wash vinyl floors.
·         Mix equal parts water and vinegar to remove lime deposits on tile and grouting.
·         Rub a cloth dipped in a vinegar/water solution on water stains to remove them from leather.
·         Spray vinegar on a cloth and wipe leather furniture to revive its shine.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seeing the Doctor

Senior Thursday

When we are born, our parents take us to the doctor every few months to check our growth progress and immunize us.  This continues throughout our school years.  Then as we reach adulthood, we seem to avoid the doctor as much as possible.  It's only when we start to age, and get more ailments, that we seek the doctor's advice again.

Going to the doctor can be easy or stressful, depending upon your health.  Regular check-ups for screenings can be easy.  But if you have conditions that require medication or treatment, the visits can become tiresome.  And if you have several conditions, as seniors often do, the complications that can arise from multiple illnesses can become life-threatening.  This is why it is so important for a person's care (senior or otherwise) to be coordinated amongst your caregivers.  In order to do that, each caregiver must be informed of your progress at each visit. 

So how do you do that?  First of all, every physician you see should know about all your conditions and all your other physicians even if they are not treating you for that condition.   They at least need to know about other medical conditions and prescriptions that may affect the condition for which they are treating you.

When you go to the doctor, be prepared.  Bring a list of all your current medications, including their names, strengths and doses.  Record and report any side effects you are experiencing. 

If you are experiencing symptoms with your illness, write them down, along with the frequency, and report them to the doctor.  Write down any questions you have for the doctor BEFORE you go.  It seems we always forget something if it's not written down.  If you don't understand something the doctor tells you, ask for clarification, or to explain in layman's terms. 

Consider bringing a family member or friend along who can help remember or write down all these things for you.  Sometimes the visit is too stressful (depending upon the condition) so you don't have the mental faculties to write it down yourself.

Finally, before you leave his/her office, review any directions or follow-up that is required.  If you need a new prescription, don't leave without it.  If you need surgery, get the name and phone number of the surgeon.  If you need to change your diet or exercise, review that also.  A good physician will take the time to go over all this with you to keep you at your healthiest.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Storing Off-season Clothes

Tips for Tuesday

It seems like we had our Spring/Summer in March and now it's back to Fall, despite the fact the calendar says "April".  If we pulled out our summer clothes last month, hopefully we didn't store our winter clothes yet, because we still need them.  But when it does finally warm up for good, we'll have to store our sweaters and coats.  Here are some tips for storing your off-season clothes:

·         Clean and repair everything before storing.  This includes zippers, buttons and stains.

·         If it won't fit your children next year, then don't keep it.  Hand it down or donate it.

·         Get rid of stray mittens/gloves.

·         To keep whites from fading, wrap them in white tissue paper, then in a dark color to keep out the light.

·         Store in plastic tubs rather than cardboard boxes to deter rodents and bugs.

·         Furs should be cleaned and stored professionally.

·         Leather shoes/boots should be cleaned and moisturized.  Dry thoroughly before storing. 

·         Stuff leather boots and shoes with newspaper or tissue so they don't get crushed.

·         Clean salt and dirt from snow boots before storing.

·         Clean and moisturize your leather handbags, then stuff them with paper to retain their shape.

·         Cedar lined closets or boxes work well against moths.  If you don't have a cedar closet, then use lavender sachets or moth balls to deter moths.

·         Sweaters should be stored folded rather than on hangers to retain their shape. 

·         Remove clothes from dry-cleaning bags if your storage space is damp (basement, attic).  Moisture may build up inside the bag and cause mold or mildew.

·         Fold wool blankets and store them in a cedar-lined chest.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Should I Remodel My Bathrooms Before Selling?

Moving on Monday

This question is often asked by homeowners when they are planning to put their house on the market.  The answer isn't an easy 'yes' or 'no'.   Can it increase the value of the house?  Of course it can.  But there are several factors to consider before diving in.  

First, how much would it cost to remodel the space?  If you are doing simple cosmetic changes, the cost will be much less than if you were tearing out the vanity, tub and toilet.  How old or worn do the cabinets look?  Are the tiles in bad shape?  Or would a good grout cleaning brighten the space? 

If you are simply painting and replacing the countertop, the changes are worth it.  If you have to replace everything, the cost may be more than the return on investment. 
The average ROI on a bathroom remodel is 172%.  So you would probably recoup your money on simple changes.  However, if you go with high-end cabinets and granite countertops to compete with the neighbors, will you get that money back on the sale of the home?  Possibly. 

Buyers like rooms that don't need remodeling.  But if you have to drastically increase the selling price of your house to recoup the costs, it may not be worth it. 

The solution?  Be sensible.  If you want to update the space, look for deals.  There may be tile close-outs on discontinued patterns.  Or visit a Habitat for Humanity Resale store for deals on vanities and cabinets.  Look for paint 'mistakes' at your hardware store to see if there is a color that will work in your home. 

Finally, are you going to do the work yourself, or hire someone?  If you do it yourself, it will be less expensive.  But will you have the time to get it done before listing the property?  Are you experienced enough in laying/grouting tiles?  Even new tiles that are poorly laid will not attract buyers.

So yes, it can be worth your while to remodel, but be smart in your choices.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Green Cleaning—Uses for Vinegar in the Kitchen

Frugal Friday

So many cleaning products on the market are full of dangerous chemicals that can harm both the environment and your health. They are also expensive. So why not look to the past for both inexpensive and healthier alternatives. Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at ways to use common household products to clean your home. This week, we'll look at using vinegar in the kitchen.
  • Wipe down your cutting board with full-strength vinegar to deodorize and degrease.
  • Run through your coffee maker to remove lime deposits, or boil with water in your tea kettle.
  • Used a diluted solution of vinegar and water to clean and deodorize plastic containers.
  • Wipe the inside of your refrigerator with a vinegar solution to deodorize and kill bacteria.
  • Clean work surfaces with full-strength vinegar.
  • Vinegar is a good degreaser for deep-fryers and exhaust hoods.
  • Boil water and vinegar in your microwave oven to loosen built-on foods.
  • Dampen a cloth with vinegar and wipe out your oven.
  • Boil water and vinegar, let it cool a little, then pour into ice cube trays to freshen them.
  • Add vinegar to the rinse compartment of your dishwasher for a clean, cost-effective rinsing agent.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Staying Safe While Spring Cleaning

Senior Thursday

After the snow melts away and the flowers start coming up, we see all the damage from winter, and the dead foliage in our gardens. It is important to clean up for spring, but it is important to stay safe while doing so. The dangers for the elderly are higher, as they are more prone to falls and other injuries. Here are some ways to stay healthy and safe while cleaning up around your house and yard.
  • Lift properly. Place feet apart, bend knees and lift with your leg muscles.
  • Use sturdy ladders or stools for climbing instead of chairs.
  • Have someone spot you when you are on a ladder.
  • Avoid repetitive motions for long periods of time (like pulling weeds.) Vary your tasks to give your muscles a rest.
  • Keep yourself hydrated and rested. Don't overdo it.
  • Wear protective clothing when gardening or working with power tools.
  • Have your cell phone with you at all times in case you are injured and can't get back into the house.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Organizing Digital Photos

Tips for Tuesday

Last week, we talked about organizing all those photos you took before the advent of digital cameras. You may still have a film camera, but most people are slowly turning to digital cameras for all their photo needs. The photos are easier to share with others, and can be edited before printing. And there's no negatives to worry about.

But we also seem to take a lot more photos because there aren't all those envelopes laying around taking up space. All we have is a little SD card. Or, perhaps a lot of SD cards. This is where organizing photos can become difficult.

Once you start taking pictures and storing them on a memory card, they just keep adding up, perhaps to the thousands if it's large storage and you use lower resolution. To keep track of them, you should download photos as soon as possible after taking them.

Create a folder on your computer for your photos. Create subfolders for all the different subjects, such as family members, special events, vacations, etc. Then as you download the photos, immediately drop them into those folders. Don't worry about editing them if you don't have the time. It's more important that they are easy to find when you need them.

After they are downloaded, back them up (automatically or manually) to an online storage site (such as Shutterfly, PhotoBucket or Flickr) or to an external hard drive. Once the backup is complete (giving you two copies of each photo), delete them from your memory card.

If you take a lot of photos, have different memory cards for different uses. For example, I have one memory card specifically for client photos. I use a second one for personal photos. If I am looking for a photo before I have a chance to download them, I know which memory card it's on.

After you have downloaded all your photos, open them, edit them, then sort them further into even more subfolders. For example, Vacation-->2012-->Spring Break Mexico, Summer Disney World etc. When you are ready to upload them to Facebook or other photo-sharing web sites, they will already be sorted and ready to go, all within one folder.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Should I Paint Over That Mural in My Kid's Room?

Moving on Monday

Should you paint over that beautiful nursery-rhyme mural you paid hundreds of dollars for? The real answer is 'yes', even though the emotional answer is 'no'. After all, painting over it symbolizes loss of money, as well as loss of childhood memories.

But while the mural may be lovely and one of a kind, that doesn't mean it will appeal to others. When you place your house on the market, you must remove yourself from it emotionally. You must look at it with the eyes of a stranger.

Granted, your house may be attracting families with young children who will appreciate the work of art. But that doesn't mean they want it there for their children.

Keeping the mural also limits the uses for that room. Potential buyers will see the room only as a nursery if you leave it up. And if buyers don't have young children, they won't need a nursery. But they may not be able to see past the mural for other potential uses such as an office or guest room.

Also, with the number of houses available on the market today, buyers are looking for a house that will require the least amount of work for their dollar. They don't want to have to paint over a mural if another house down the street is room-ready.

This applies to other rooms and special paint jobs as well. You may have a boy's room painted in his favorite baseball team's colors. Or a bathroom full of mooses or frogs. Some buyers may like these themes, but the majority will not. They will only see these rooms as something more to paint.

Paint over these unusual colors and themes to attract the most buyers. Your house will sell more quickly if it is move-in ready.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Green Cleaning—Uses for Vinegar in the Laundry Room

Frugal Friday

So many cleaning products on the market are full of dangerous chemicals that can harm both the environment and your health. They are also expensive. So why not look to the past for both inexpensive and healthier alternatives. Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at ways to use common household products to clean your home. This week, we'll look at using vinegar in the laundry room.

• Run water through your iron to clear out residue build-up. When the iron is still warm, run it across your ironing board to freshen the cover.
• Rub a paste of vinegar and baking soda into cuffs and collars to get rid of stains.
• Add vinegar to loads of dark clothing to keep colors bright, prevent colors from running, and also to deodorize the clothes.
• Soak shirts in vinegar to remove underarm stains and odors.
• Use to remove stains—cola, grease (from suede), tar from jeans, grass, coffee, tea, fruits and berries.
• Use to remove odors, such as bleach or smoke.
• Add vinegar to your rinse cycle to soften the fabric and reduce static cling.

Next week: Using vinegar in the kitchen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Helping Your Parents Remain Independent

Senior Thursday

One of the biggest struggles we face as we age is remaining independent in our own homes. As adult children caring for aging parents, we often have these discussions with them. While we know their physical and mental limitations, they do not want to leave the home where they raised their family. If they insist on remaining independent, then the most we can do for them is make their lives safe.

First, have your parents sign up for an emergency response system. This will give them 24/7 access to the police/fire department. If they fall, help is only a button away.

Remove all fall hazards, such as throw rugs and sharp corners on tables. Make sure transitions are smooth between rooms, and install grab bars in the bathrooms.

Set alarms around the house. There are alarms for alerting someone that a pot has been left on the stove unattended, or for reminding them to take their medications.

Do what you can to make their life simpler. This may be different door or drawer handles, a long shoehorn, velcro closures, or a grabber for reaching items from upper shelves.

Make sure they eat right and have regular checkups with their physician. Activity is especially important for keeping healthy. If they have difficulty doing any daily activities on their own, hire help to come in and assist with meal preparation, bathing, etc.

Finally, stay connected with them. Loneliness can cause depression and premature aging. But whatever you do, take care of yourself also. If you don't take care of you, you can't take care of them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Organizing Print Photographs

Tips for Tuesday

While many of us have digital cameras, we still have a lot of photos from print days. And lots of negatives. But can we find the photo we want when we need it? Have you put all your photos into albums, or are they randomly dumped into boxes?

Is lack of time keeping you from organizing your photos? Does the thought of taking each photo and slipping it into an album overwhelm you? It shouldn't. There are ways to organize your photographs that don't require hours of your time. So how do you get there?

First, gather all your photos together. Sort them into broad categories, such as vacation, immediate family, holidays, extended family, special events, etc. Or, if you prefer, arrange them chronologically by year.

As you sort, toss any duplicates or blurry photos. If you have two of similar scenes, select the better one and toss the second. Don't feel you have to keep every photo, especially if you don't keep in touch with the people photo, or if the shot isn't flattering. Also, put some aside for friends, family if you think they would like a copy. You can also toss most of the negatives, since technology now allows us to scan photos for reprints. Keep only those you know for sure you will be enlarging or replicating, such as wedding photos. If you do keep your negatives, keep them in their sleeves, and store them flat.

Once they are sorted, identify them on the back with a photo safe pen. Then place them in archival safe photo boxes or albums. Boxes are quick sorts. They usually come with dividers so you can label your categories. Albums will take more time, and don't hold as many photos.

Finally, keep your boxes and albums in a cool, dry place. Humidity will damage the photos.

Remember, not taking care of your photos can possibly harm them, and they will be gone forever.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Showing Your Home in the Spring

Moving on Monday

Now that the weather is warming up, more home buyers are getting out to look at houses. There is a large inventory of homes on the market, some from last year, and new ones from this year. How will yours stand out from the rest? What will make buyers choose yours? Does it look its best now that winter's snowy cover is gone? What was hidden from view?

Now is the time to take a good look at your home and spruce it up for the spring.

• Clean out gardens from leaves and branches.
• Cut back dead foliage and broken branches from plants.
• Lay new mulch to retard weed growth.
• Clean out gutters.
• Look for damage to your roof.
• Have your asphalt driveway sealcoated.
• Open windows and let in fresh air.
• Have carpets cleaned and floors washed.
• Clean winter's grime out from your garage floor.
• Mow the lawn often during the growth spurts of spring.
• Fertilize and lawn and apply weedkiller.
• Wash your windows and clean the draperies.
• Dust the cobwebs from the corners.

Remember, your home has lots of competition. Make sure it sparkles!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Green Cleaning—Uses for Borax

Frugal Friday

So many cleaning products on the market are full of dangerous chemicals that can harm both the environment and your health. They are also expensive. So why not look to the past for both inexpensive and healthier alternatives. Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at ways to use common household products to clean your home. The first of these is borax.

• Put 2 teaspoons in a spray bottle with very hot water to use as a general purpose cleaner.
• Use to clean aluminum, as it is non-abrasive. Rinse thoroughly.
• Soak filters from hoods in a strong solution for 15 minutes to loosen grease and odors.
• Put 1 tablespoon in four cups of warm water to use in your refrigerator or freezer to wipe up food spills.
• Mix one tablespoon with one tablespoon of baking soda as a detergent in your dishwasher.
• Sprinkle borax on carpets, dog beds and other areas where there might be fleas.
• Mix one gallon warm water with six tablespoons borax and a teaspoon of liquid detergent for cleaning your floors and walls.
• Sprinkle it at base of walls to deter mice.
• Sprinkle in your toilet and let sit overnight for easy cleaning of grimy build-up.
• Sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons into your garbage disposal and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse with hot water to deodorize.
• Sprinkle in stinky shoes and let them sit overnight.
• Add a tablespoon to your washing machine to deodorize your clothes.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easing the Stress of Travel

Senior Thursday

Traveling means different things to different people. For business travelers, it can be a chore. For students, it's an education and an experience of a lifetime. For families, it can be an adventure. For seniors, however, it can be a hassle, especially if you have physical limitations.

So how can seniors make their travels less stressful so they can enjoy their vacation?

1. Check the itinerary—Confirm all plans before leaving. Know what the restrictions are on each flight/trip, at each hotel, and at each attraction. Is identification required for discounts? Where are your seats? Do you need confirmation numbers for reservations or admission?
2. Physical Limitations—Do your hotel rooms need walk-in showers or do they need to be close to the elevator to minimize walking? Will there be difficulty in boarding modes of transportation, such as tour buses? Is there assistance at the airport? Will stairs preclude you from seeing some attractions?
3. Safety—Be aware of surroundings at all times. Keep wallets and travel documents with you at all times. Never place your purse on the floor next to your seat. If you drive, keep your car locked, and keep valuables out of sight.
4. Packing—Keep suitcases light. Pack enough in a carry-on for an overnight stay in case your luggage gets lost. Carry prescription meds in their original containers. Keep copies of travel documents in your luggage in case the originals get stolen.
5. Health—Do you have dietary restrictions? Do your destinations know of them? Do your medications need refrigeration? Will too much walking affect your health? Do you wear a medical bracelet for your condition?

It may seem like this is too much effort to put into a little trip. But think of the risks if you don't properly prepare for a vacation. Enjoying yourself is priceless. You can make it happen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Maximizing Space in Your Attic

Tips for Tuesday

Using attics for storage can be good or bad. If the attic is temperature and/or humidity controlled, or if you can access it easily through a door, there isn't a problem. But when the only attic you have is through a tiny hole at the top of a closet, and the only thing in there is insulation and a light bulb, that presents a challenge.

If you don't need the extra storage because you have a basement, then your attic doesn't matter. But in a small house with no basement, the attic can provide adequate storage for many items. You can use it to store off season items like holiday decorations, or toys the children have outgrown but will be handed down in the family.

To make the most of your attic, first make it accessible. If the only access is through a closet, then install a drop-down ladder in a hallway. This will make it easier to bring boxes up/down, and the opening will be larger. Second, make sure it is well lit so you can see every corner. You don't want to place boxes near wires or pipes.

Most attics are not built with floors. You have several options. First, if you can get plywood up into the attic, you can create your own floor. Or you can purchase 2ft by 2ft squares that will fit over the supports in the floor. These are usually available at home improvement stores. Or, go with a company like AtticTrac,, that works with a system of boards and pulleys. There is no need to crawl through your attic to find anything. You can just pull it toward you and push it back.

Make the most of your space by utilizing low areas at the slope of the roof for small or long, narrow objects. Hang garment bags from the ceiling for clothing. Install hooks for hanging up holidays decorations like wreaths.

Be mindful of the climate in your attic. If there is no temperature control, do not keep candles (which will melt in the heat) or snow globes (which will freeze in extreme cold) up there. Delicate crystal will not withstand long periods of extreme cold either.

Use plastic bins to keep out the moisture, but do not use them for antique clothes/quilts or other delicates that need to breathe. And never store photos in your attic, as the moisture will curl/warp the pictures and negatives.

Finally, watch for pests. Do not use cardboard boxes in your attic, because bugs can crawl into them, and mice can chew through them. Plastic bins sealed tightly will keep out most insects and four-legged critters. If your house attracts bees/wasps, watch for signs of nests. If you ever see moisture on your ceiling, or dark spots, then take a look up there immediately. Take care of any issues quickly before you lose your belongings or your house.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Making the Most of Closet Space

Moving On Monday

When you move into a new home, you may or may not have the same closet space. If you are downsizing, the closets may be smaller. If you are moving up, you may have a walk-in closet. Perhaps you will have another reach-in closet, but it may or may not come with anything more than one rod at eye level.

If your new closet is nothing more than a rod and shelf, there are ways to maximize the space without a big dollar investment. Here are some ideas:

• Add a shelf above the existing shelf to use the space up to the ceiling.
• Hang all the short clothes in one place so you can use the floor space under them.
• Buy an extender and hang it from the rod to gain another rod underneath.
• Purchase canvas organizers to hang from the rod. Use for sweaters or shoes.
• Use the back of the door for scarves, belts, or shoes.
• Use cascading hangers for skirts, pants, blouses (multiple clips on one hanger).
• Use empty wall space for hooks. Hang robes, belts, etc. from hooks.
• Install a valet rod to hold clothes for airing out.
• Place a small chest of drawers in the closet if you have enough space.