Thursday, June 18, 2015

Downsizing? Finding Storage Solutions in Your Condo

Downsizing can be tough: No matter how much purging, donating and trashing you do, you’ll still need storage in your new smaller home. If you’ve walked through your new condo and thought, “Hmm, where am I going to put everything?” don’t panic. Storage solutions can be found in the most unlikely places!


Look for dead space where drawers or cabinets can be installed

You can turn dead space behind window seats, under staircases and other nooks and crannies into storage space, with a little help from a carpenter or cabinetmaker.
Drawers make fantastic storage options, as long as the contents aren’t too heavy.


Expand your closets

Some homes are built with a lot of dead space behind the walls. What’s behind that master bedroom closet? Possibly another two to three feet of space. Look for areas in your condo where there might be hidden dead space in room layouts and have it opened up.

I had a house in Kentucky in which the bedroom closets were strangely shaped, had twists and turns and were just plain unusual. Then I realized that the builder had used all the space possible to create the closets. Storage was plentiful!


Divide and conquer with room dividers

A free-standing closet or cabinet can do double duty by dividing one room into two smaller rooms and carrying its own storage. Consider this option if you have enough living space, rooms are spacious enough for your needs, but you’re willing to have slightly smaller rooms in exchange for added storage.


There’s the door

Look no further than the doors - room doors and closet doors - for storage solutions. You can increase a storage closet’s capacity by almost half by attaching hooks or holders to the back of a door.

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Don’t be afraid of what’s under the bed

The boogyman isn’t under there, but your winter coats, boots and skis might be. Under-bed storage solutions run the gamut from built-in pull-out drawers to portable containers on wheels to any box or container that will fit under there.


Make your furniture do double duty

A coffee table can be your extra blanket storage, an ottoman can flip its lid to reveal your CD collection, a desk can surround cubbies full of office and school supplies, and have you seen the couch that hides a ton of storage space? If you’re buying new furniture for your downsized space anyway, why not get pieces that will do double duty?


Use what storage space you do have as wisely as possible

Here’s where I put in a plug for Pinterest. Those pinners are overflowing with smart storage solutions. Retailers like The Container Store and Organize-It have storage bins, baskets and organizers to fit every home.


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Locating Services in Your New Home

If you gathered 10 people and asked them, "What's the hardest part of moving to a new city?" you might get one person who says packing and another who says unpacking. But probably eight of the 10 will say the hardest thing about moving is not knowing who to call when you need something done.

During every one of my 10 out-of-town moves, I hit a peak of frustration when I realized I didn't know a single plumber, electrician or handyman, I had no idea where to get my hair cut, and I was probably going to go through a couple dry cleaners before I found someone I liked.

Frustrating, because word-of-mouth recommendations are the best way to find services, and we're new in town and don't know anyone to ask!

Fortunately, I've found some ways to locate great services when I'm new in town.

I love me some library

Yes, even in this day of holding so much power in a smart phone, your local library still is a valuable resource. When you're new in town, make the public library one of your first stops. Check out bulletin boards, fliers, brochures and other local resources. You might be surprised how fast you can be connected with your new community, just by going old school. The more more people you connect with, the faster you'll be able to get recommendations and referrals for services.

How to use Yelp and other review websites

How hard can it be? You need an appliance repairman, you go to Yelp, do a search for appliance repairmen in your city and look at the reviews. That's a start, but it requires a little bit more work to get a true picture.

Read carefully. Smaller review websites and even large ones like Yelp are fraught with potential problems. Competitors can create phony accounts and post bad reviews. Business owners can give incentives for glowing reviews. If you're going to use a review website, don't just look at the ratings or number of stars. Carefully read the best and worst reviews and look for details that ring true. If the reason for a one-star rating is "He showed up 20 minutes late and smelled like peanut butter" you can probably discount that one.

Look for the ratings that are somewhere between the extremes. These reviewers are going to be the most prolific and thoughtful reviewers and will most likely paint a picture of their experience that includes both pros and cons.

Look for responses from the business. A business serious about good customer service is going to take online reviews seriously and will respond to a bad review. You may get some insight into the quality of the service provider just from his or her response.

Hair salons and other personal services

Right before my move from Ohio to Illinois, I was complaining to my hair stylist, Ken, that I was dreading the first few months in my new city. It had taken me six months to find Ken when we moved back to Ohio from Virginia. Now it was time to move again and I knew there were some try-and-miss bad haircuts in my future.

"There's got to be a better way," I told Ken.

"There is," he said. He told me to go to a shopping mall, get a coffee and take a seat in the middle of a busy concourse. "When you see someone who has hair similar to yours and you like the way it looks, ask her where she gets her hair cut."

Well, if that isn't the best idea ever. It seems bold, but people generally don't mind being approached, especially if your question is also a compliment. Word of mouth is the least risky way to find salon services. And better yet when you can see the results for yourself.

Social networks and apps

Our favorite social networks connect us with old boyfriends, but do little for our relationships with the guy next door. But where Facebook fails, there are other networks to step in.

I am currently loving Nextdoor, a social network app that connects me with people in my own neighborhood. We can sell our unwanted furniture, get recommendations on pet sitters, and compare notes on why the fire department was on our block last night. The best part is getting recommendations for home repair providers who service our area, restaurants and personal services.

Nextdoor is one of a number of hyper-local social networks available online and as apps for your mobile devices. Ask your neighbors if there's one that serves your area.


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

4 Tips for Packing Early and Pacing Your Move

Packing is the most time consuming part of your move. While there are some who say packing too early can lead to frustration, if you pack smart and early, you could have the smoothest move yet.
  1. Start packing as soon as you know you're moving
Your move officially starts when you start to pack that first box. Early packing gets you in the mindset of de-cluttering, paring down your belongings, and gives you plenty of time to calmly decide what you want to take with you to your new home. A couple of months before your move date is not too early to start packing. In fact, it's never too early to start packing!
Set up a few moving boxes in each room of your house with labeling, wrapping, and color-coding supplies nearby. Pace yourself by packing a box or two every night, so the task isn't too overwhelming.
  1. Pack in order of increasing use
Start by packing the items that you rarely use: The coffee server that you use once a year and the punch bowl that you never use. Don't be surprised if some of these items never make it into a packing box at all, but instead get put into the donation pile. In this first packing round, also pack:
  • Out-of-season clothing and outerwear
  • Holiday decorations
  • Seasonal tools and garage items
  • Basement storage, attic storage, memorabilia, financial papers not needed for house purchase and sale
  • Extra blankets and bedding
  • Guest room and rooms that are little used
  • Anything else you're sure you won't need to use before your move
As you approach Moving Day, continue to pack items that you won't be using. By the week before your move, you should have everything packed except for the things you would take if you were going on a week-long vacation, plus some dishes and a few cooking supplies.
  1. Use the Top Open Box rule
Keep your boxes organized so that all your same-room boxes are stacked together. As you pack available items, fill a box, tape it shut, label it, and then put a new, empty box on top of the stack. Now you're ready for the next packed box.
While you're at it, set up your suitcases and boxes of things you'll be moving yourself - the movers' Do Not Move pile. As you continue to pack boxes, what's left can be put into your suitcases.
  1. Pace yourself
As tempting as it seems to take care of each task all at once, it's more efficient and less exhausting to handle your move in small chunks, especially when dealing with the things you've decided not to pack. Schedule more than one trip to a donation center, to friends' houses, and to the large trash drop-off, to deliver those things you've decided not to move. Keeping up with packing and purging as you go will keep the work from building up to an annoying and exhausting crescendo.


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.