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Nine Tips For An Easy, Breezy Unpack

in Preparing for a move, Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

When you’re getting ready to move, there are all sorts of resources to help you prepare. Pretty much anyone, including your moving company, can offer tips on packing. Everyone seems to disappear, though, when it comes to the job of unpacking.

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First off, your moving company (at least if it’s a good one) will not abandon you. They would be happy to help you unpack. Just tell them where things go, and they’ll get to it. That’s for organized people, though, or people who used the moving company to pack.

We live in the real world, though, and in the real world, we start out with the best of intentions. We carefully label and organize maybe the first 20 boxes or so, but once moving day begins to creep up upon us, the organizational system begins to go out the window. Of course, this can all be avoided by paying the moving company to pack you, but we don’t all do that, and that’s okay.

I can’t say I actually enjoy unpacking, but it’s far less tedious than packing, and it’s a lot more rewarding. There is a real sense of accomplishment in seeing your new digs come together with your stuff. So, how can that be done quickly, and with as little hassle as possible?

  1. Unpack cleaning supplies first – You’ll need them.
  2. Unpack the kitchen – Trust me when I say you’ll need your kitchen stuff. Odds are, you don’t have to get too creative with unpacking the kitchen. First, though, put a post-it on each cabinet door. This trick might seem sort of stupid, but when you’re unpacking, you don’t want to think. Know in advance where everything goes, and putting things away will be a breeze.
  3. Electronics – You want to give the kids something to do.
  4. Toys – Ditto.
  5. Unpack the clothing next – Unpack the kids’ clothes first and then yours. The bedrooms should be very easy. When you pack, pack one drawer per box. Then everything can easily go right back in. Your mover should provide you with wardrobe boxes, which makes hanging things in your closet super fast.
  6. Unpack books – You might not need books right away, but they are easy to unpack and they help you feel at home.
  7. Unpack knick-knacks – You can put this off, but I don’t like to. There is nothing like your personal collections to make your new home feel like you.
  8. Pictures on the wall – Like with the knick-knacks.
  9. The garage – I’ll confess, we moved 7 months ago, and there are still boxes in our garage. The garage usually gets last priority, but don’t put it off as long as we have. Your cars will appreciate it.

 

Yes, this sounds easy – perhaps too easy, but it can be broken out. If you work full-time and have children, you probably won’t unpack in a day or a week, but you can in a couple of weeks, if you set aside some time to unpack maybe five boxes an evening.

Featured image via Joe Hall on Flickr. 

A Shocking 1/3 Of Bay Area Residents Want To Leave

in Bay Area News, Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

There are few better places to live than the Bay Area but for some, life can be tough, especially if we’re not millionaires and many Bay Area residents are thinking of leaving.

A survey was done by the Bay Area Council, and 34 percent of the 1,000 respondents said they were thinking of leaving – mostly because of the cost of homes and the traffic. Most of the people who are thinking of leaving have only been here for five years or less, though.

The council, which released its findings Monday, also found that the number of people who say the area is headed in the wrong direction is significantly higher this year over last year: 40 percent versus 28 percent last year.  And 40 percent of those surveyed said the region is on the right track, down from 55 percent.

Source: KTVU

San Francisco residents had a more positive view of the Bay Area, with 52 percent thinking we’re going the right direction. Santa Clara residents are the most dissatisfied.

Here’s the video:

This survey definitely serves a purpose in letting leaders know about people’s struggles and where the area can be improved. Even areas once considered too dangerous, like parts of Oakland and Richmond, are becoming price-prohibitive for many and traffic is tough, but it’s not as tough as in some places.

If you’re one of the people considering leaving our beautiful area, first off, we’ll miss you, but we can also help you. Just give us a call.

10 Questions Everyone Is Afraid To Ask About Moving

in Advice, Posts by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you think about it, the relationship between mover and customer is rather intimate. The relationship takes days/weeks and sometimes even months. Movers enter your home, they handle your personal possessions. Sometimes, movers and customers can even become friends.

Still, there is a line that few customers refuse to cross. There are questions that might come up, but that sound too personal or too intrusive to ask. So, you don’t have to ask. We’re giving you the down and dirty right here. Here are 10 questions you might have thought to ask your mover, but you thought they might be inappropriate.

Head in Hands

  1. Where do the movers go to the bathroom? – For many people, the answer to the question is pretty obvious. When movers are inside a home, they will sometimes ask to use the facilities. The customer always has a right to say no and the mover can go to the nearest convenience store or gas station, but for most customers, it’s not too much of an issue.
  2. Do you ever hire women? – Absolutely! We love strong women and some of our crews are even led by women packers.
  3. What about lingerie and other *ahem* personal items? – Let me tell you a story. I once entered a customer’s home and in her bedroom was a giant machine that looked vaguely like a vacuum. It wasn’t. She was a sex therapist and the machine was a tool of her trade. The movers discovered that she had many tools of her trade. The bottom line is, don’t be embarrassed. This woman wasn’t. Movers have seen it all, and well, everyone has *ahem* personal items. Many customers feel more comfortable packing them themselves, but trust me, the movers won’t be paying attention. That takes far too much time.
  4. My house is filthy! – As are many of the homes our movers enter. The fact is that most people focus on packing during the weeks before the move and cleaning often goes neglected. As long as it’s sanitary in your home, our movers are fine.
  5. Do your movers ever steal? – No. Our movers are bonded and we run careful background checks on each and every one. If, however, something does come up missing, it’s usually found within days. We are happy to help you find missing items.
  6. Do I have to feed the movers? – No, you do not. You can, as a courtesy, but they have no right to expect food.
  7. Can my child ride in the truck? – In most cases, no. Our insurance doesn’t cover passengers who aren’t employees. The children are, however, welcome to tour the truck while it’s parked, with adult supervision.
  8. Have you ever broken anything? – Yes, despite decades of packing experience and despite being particularly careful, sometimes things do break. If this happens, let the dispatcher know. Our goal is to take care of our customers.
  9. What if I smell alcohol or marijuana on a mover’s breath? – So far, that hasn’t happened, but if it does, call the dispatcher. We have a zero tolerance policy. That mover will be immediately pulled off the job. He will either be replaced or if no replacement is available, you will be charged for the lesser number of movers.
  10. Tipping, you say I don’t need to tip, but is that real? Will the movers be upset if I don’t? – While we can’t control what’s inside a mover’s head, and some might secretly expect a tip, if they don’t deserve one or if you don’t have the extra money, they are required to stay quiet and polite.

What Not To Do While Packing

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

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You found a new place to live. Now, it’s time to take a look at your old place and start packing. Where to start, though? Over the years, I’ve written several articles giving people packing advice, but most have been from a positive perspective. Usually, though, packing is trial and error, with a heavy emphasis on error if you don’t start soon enough.

  1. One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that everything will go into their new home exactly as it came out of the old home. That’s rare. It will be far easier to unpack if you go through each item and organize them by room, regardless of what room they are currently in.
  2. Don’t buy low quality packing materials. It might be tempting to check the back of the supermarket, but those boxes are often damaged and don’t have lids. Spend a little bit of money on materials. Never, ever use trash bags. They break and they take up too much room on the truck, since they don’t stack. Your mover or Home Depot can help you with materials.
  3. Don’t buy only big boxes. Bigger boxes means fewer boxes, right? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have an easier or a cheaper moving day. Use appropriately sized boxes. Light things can go in big boxes, but heavy things need small boxes.
  4. Don’t pack your kitchen first. Your kitchen is the most used room in the house, with the possible exception of bathrooms. If you don’t use things every day, sure, pack them, but don’t pack anything you’ll find yourself needing before you move.
  5. Don’t go without a plan. Personally, I like to set a plan of 2-5 boxes a day (depending on my schedule and what I’m packing). I pack books, toys, out of season clothing and other non-essentials first. I begin hitting the essentials a few weeks before the move.
  6. Don’t neglect pictures on the walls and lamps. Odd shaped items often still need to be packed, especially if a mover is moving you. You can take them in your car, which is advised, or you can have the mover pack them. Just remember that come moving day, someone has to move them. Don’t be surprised if you get hit with a little extra on your moving bill if you forget.
  7. Don’t make arrangements for kids and pets. The last thing you want on moving day is to have your kids and pets underfoot. Send them with babysitters. The movers will thank you and you won’t have to be chasing after them all day.
  8. Most importantly, don’t over stress. Naturally, moving is stressful. Little can change that, but if you don’t get all your packing done, your mover can help. Just be aware that there will be a charge. It’s best to discuss this with them before the move.

 

Featured image via Pixabay

The Top 15 Places To Live In The United States

in Long-Distance moving by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

As Americans, we are lucky. As every third grader knows, our nation includes every landscape, every culture and so, so many choices.

Most moves are pretty much pre-determined. People move to specific places for jobs or for family, but what happens when you don’t know where to go? With rapidly rising Bay Area real estate prices, people are either being driven out of their homes or they are deciding to cash in and move where the cost of living is cheaper.

Every year, Livability.com rates cities as the best (and worst) places to live. They ranked cities that were between 20,000 and 350,000, so no tiny towns and no huge cities. The cities were ranked based on amenities, demographics, economy, education, health care, housing, social issues, transportation and infrastructure.

Here are the cities:

Fargo_Theatre_-_FargoFargo, North Dakota. They have a low unemployment rate and a cheap cost of living. The median home price is just $157,900.

US-KS-OverlandPark-2005-11-21T214307Overland Park, Kansas. They have a low crime rate and a great economy.

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Ft. Collins, Colorado. If you love the outdoors, legal pot and a casual culture, Ft. Collins could be the place for you.

Central_Park_San_Mateo_CASan Mateo, California. Okay, this one is right in our backyard. In fact, it literally is our backyard, but as you know, the economy is strong, there’s a lot to do and there are tons of jobs. There is a reason the cost of living is so high. People love it.

Walnut_Creek_view_from_Acalanes_Open_SpaceWalnut Creek, California. Clean, great schools, great outdoor activities. Again, in our backyard.

Sioux_Falls-waterfallSioux Falls, South Dakota. Lots to do and cheap housing.

Old_Capitol_Iowa_City_2013Iowa City, Iowa. It’s a college town with great primary schools and a surprising cultural life.

Ann_Arbor_E_Liberty_StAnn Arbor, Michigan. Another college town that’s very culturally rich.

Bismark,_ND_CapitolBismarck, North Dakota. Cheap housing, great healthcare, lots of outdoor activities. The winters can be tough, though.

1280px-Fraternal_Hall_Building,_140_University_Ave.,_Palo_Alto,_CA_5-27-2012_2-56-35_PMPalo Alto, California. We know.

BouldercoloradoBoulder, Colorado. A great college town, but best for liberals. Boulderites enjoy the outdoors like no one else. There’s skiing, rock climbing, miles and miles of serious hiking, and don’t forget, you can relax with a microbrew and, if you so desire, a legal joint.

Aerial-SantaBarbaraCA10-28-08Santa Barbara, California. The only city in the southern part of our state. What’s not to love about Santa Barbara? Beautiful people, beautiful beaches and beautiful architecture.

The_Red_Gym_from_the_TerraceMadison, Wisconsin. The capital of Wisconsin is an oasis for liberals in a conservative state. As a college town, Madison is cultured and educated.

1280px-Bellevue,_WA_-_Downtown_Park_02Bellevue, Washington. Best known for outdoor activities, although the cost of living is high.

Roch_nightRochester, Minnesota. Rochester was ranked the best city for 2015. it’s a city on the rise. It’s home to the Mayo Clinic and the general quality of life is very high. Again, though, the weather.

Featured image via Wikipedia.

Are Moving Brokers Always Crooks? How Do You Find A Good One?

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You might have heard a lot about moving brokers, and most were probably cautionary tales. Moving brokers, or companies who coordinate moves through a network of several movers, have long had a reputation, often deserved, of being the industry’s biggest crooks. That’s only a little fair.

Sites like movingscam.com generally advise consumers to run from brokers like they have ebola. They aren’t usually wrong. That being said, moving with a broker is not always the worst idea.

First, let me clear one thing up, moving brokers are not generally licensed movers, but the law abiding ones do register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Laws are getting more strict around brokers, but you still want to protect yourself as you would when dealing with the mover themselves.

Think of a moving broker as being like any of the travel sites on the internet. Movers will often notify a broker if there is empty space on a truck going across country. For that reason, a broker can sometimes find you a good deal and they can save you a lot of legwork.

First, check out a broker on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration‘s website. Look for a company that has been in business for at least three years and is in good standing.

Next, insist that the broker come visit your home and give you a binding estimate. That means that the people who actually perform your move cannot change the price, as long as you do everything you said, such as pack. You will be charged for any extra work. Make sure the estimate you do receive includes absolutely everything, so you aren’t hit with surprises.

Believe it or not, your gut can be pretty reliable. If you feel like the person you are speaking to isn’t reliable or honest or they simply aren’t listening, move on. There are plenty of other moving companies and moving brokers.

10 Signs Of A Really Bad Mover

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you’ve ever watched Dateline or read a forum on the moving industry, you learn that there are a lot of bad movers out there. As a consumer, obviously, that’s bad news, but it does give good movers a real opportunity to set themselves from the pack. How does one go about figuring out which one is a bad mover?

Today, we’ll talk about the bad. If you open your eyes, there are plenty of red flags that movers will wave in your face. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what to look for. Here are 10 signs that you should run, run far, from a mover:

10. Their truck is a junker – Sure, there are honest ‘man with a van’ types, but as a general rule, a company that can’t even take good care of its trucks is probably not going to take care of your belongings.

9. Their movers don’t wear uniforms – A uniform, or even just a uniform t-shirt, is inexpensive for a moving company to purchase. People demand uniforms, and they should. For movers, their t-shirt is their company ID. Not only that, uniformity in clothing often indicates a more professional and uniform way of doing business.

8. They refuse to give you a “binding” or “not to exceed” quote – We hear every day, “they put it in writing.” Writing means nothing. Only a binding or not to exceed estimate hold any legal water, and that’s only if every piece of furniture and every bit of packing is inventoried. That means that someone needs to see your place, even if it’s a virtual tour and don’t leave a square inch out. Trust me, you will be charged more if you leave things out. If a mover refuses to do that, though, they are going to scam you.

7. They charge for tape – One of the biggest ripoffs is one of the least significant sounding: tape. Movers use a lot of tape. They tape boxes and even if you do all of your own packing, they use a lot of tape to wrap your furniture in blankets. Rolls of tape can cost $10.00 and up and you have no control over how much a mover uses.

6. They promise you something too good to be true – No mover can move you from California to Florida in two days. It can’t be done. If a mover makes this promise, they are lying.

5. Their price is much lower than others – The moving industry is like every other industry; you get what you pay for. Picking the lowest priced mover will give you either the worst mover or a lying mover. Both are bad choices. The profit margin on moving is very low. There shouldn’t be more than about a 10 percent discrepancy between movers, unless there is a very good explanation, like that there will happen to be a truck in Florida that will be coming back to California and will be empty otherwise. Then, you might get a good deal.

4. They specifically badmouth their competition – There a difference between educating a customer on how to choose a mover and the things to look out for than specifically badmouthing one company. A moving company shouldn’t say anything more than “check their reviews,” or something along those lines. Badmouthing is bad form and it indicates an aggressive mover, which is something you don’t want.

3. Your sales person doesn’t give you his or her cell phone number – If you allow someone to visit your home, the least they can do is give you their phone number. Planning a move is not a 9-5 job. Your move sales person should be available for you, in case of questions.

2. The sales person doesn’t listen – Bad moving companies tend to treat all moves as the same. They aren’t. Your move is unique and a good company will find out your individual needs.

1. They’ve been in business less than two years – Many bad movers come to this country, get a moving license and then lose it a year or so later because of violations. Sure, there are some great startup moving companies and if you do your homework, you can get a great move, but as a general rule, not passing a test of time is a warning sign.

Featured image via Flickr.

How To Start A Neighborhood Watch Group

in Advice, Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You’ve probably read statistics lately that murder rates are up across the nation. You’ve probably been barraged with reports of murders across the Bay Area. There’s a grain of truth to the rise in the murder rate, but the figures have also been exaggerated. Regardless, people across the country are wondering how to keep themselves and their neighborhoods safe.

One old fashioned, but effective way, to keep your neighborhood safe is to start a neighborhood watch group. It is a commitment, but it costs nothing and it can yield safer neighborhoods. Here’s how to get started (from the National Crime Prevention Council):

  • Phase One: Getting Started — Meetings, Block Captains, and Maps
  • Form a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss needs, the level of interest, possible challenges, and the Watch concept.
  • Contact the local police or sheriffs’ department, or local crime prevention organization, to discuss Neighborhood Watch and local crime problems. Invite a law enforcement officer to attend your meeting.
  • Publicize your meeting at least one week in advance with door-to-door fliers and follow up with phone calls the day before.
  • Select a meeting place that is accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Hold an initial meeting to gauge neighbors’ interest; establish purpose of program; and begin to identify issues that need to be addressed. Stress that a Watch group is an association of neighbors who look out for each other’s families and property, alert the police to any suspicious activities or crime in progress, and work together to make their community a safer and better place to live.
    Phase Two: When the neighborhood decides to adopt the Watch idea Elect a chairperson.
  • Ask for block captain volunteers who are responsible for relaying information to members on their block, keeping up-to-date information on residents, and making special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people. Block captains also can serve as liaisons between the neighborhood and the police and communicate information about meetings and crime incidents to all residents.
  • Establish a regular means of communicating with Watch members—e.g., newsletter, telephone tree, e-mall, fax, etc.
  • Prepare a neighborhood map showing names, addresses, and phone numbers of participating households and distribute to members. Block captains keep this map up to date, contacting newcomers to the neighborhood and rechecking occasionally with ongoing participants.
  • With guidance from a law enforcement agency, the Watch trains its members in home security techniques, observation skills, and crime reporting. Residents also learn about the types of crime that affect the area.
  • If you are ready to post Neighborhood Watch signs, check with law enforcement to see if they have such eligibility requirements as number of houses that participate in the program. Law enforcement may also be able to provide your program with signs. If not, they can probably tell you where you can order them.
  • Organizers and block captains must emphasize that Watch groups are not vigilantes and do not assume the role of the police. They only ask neighbors to be alert, observant, and caring—and to report suspicious activity or crimes immediately to the police.

I would also add that neighborhood watch groups should take advantage of social media. Form a Facebook group or join a site like NextDoor, which you can limit to just your neighborhood.

Try to keep your group light and fun. Ask the police department to meet with the neighbors once a year. Plan barbecues and block parties or potlucks.

Remember, the more the merrier. Arguments will happen, but the block captain should try to keep everyone on the same page. Who knows, you might even make some friends.

Featured image via Wikipedia.

10 Reasons To Move To Portland

in Long-Distance moving, Posts by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Tired of the high cost of living or of the traffic, but love the West Coast vibe and mild seasons? If you’re anything like me, the answer to that question is a resounding, yes!

Now, I have no plans on leaving the area. Ninja Movers just moved us into a new, overpriced house and we’re kind of stuck loving it, at least for the time being, and to be fair, we really do love it.

Perhaps it’s a side-effect of spending more than two decades in and around the moving industry, but even though the Bay Area is our beloved home, we’re always on the lookout and Portland is at or near the top of every list.

We aren’t the only ones. Oregon, for the third year in a row, is the go-to destination for more and more people who are fleeing their current homes. Why is Oregon so appealing?

1.

Cost of living

While a median home price of $335,000 might not sound that appealing to middle America, for those of us in the Bay Area, it’s nearly pocket change. In San Francisco, the median price is more than three times that.

2.

Climate

We love our mild winters and our almost cold summers in the Bay Area, and in Portland, it’s similar. Its temperatures are mild and while they might get a lot of rain in the winter, they, like us, get very little in the summer.

3.

Portland is cool

Whether you’re a 20-something hipster or a not 20-something former hipster (or hippie), there is something to offer everyone in Portland. Oh, and did I mention they love their beer? You can drink almost everywhere, including the zoo. There is a thriving art scene and frankly, a thriving scene of people doing whatever the heck they want.

4.

Food

Portland might not be the hub of fine dining, and really, who cares? Portland, like the Bay Area, is casual. The city is filled with food trucks, which are far more democratic anyway.

5.

Bikes

In the Bay Area, we pride ourselves in being green, but we are sorely lacking in safe places to bike. In Portland, bikes are put before cars. The environment loves it.

6.

Food, part two

Yes, we’re also near the ocean, but the Bay Area has nothing on Portland for seafood.

7.

Traffic

San Francisco has one of the longest commute times in the country. In Portland, you’ll average about an hour a week less on the road.

8.

People are nice

This can’t be quantified, but Portland is known for having very polite residents.

9.

It’s a great place to raise a family

Portland consistently ranks among the best places to raise children. It’s safe, with lots to do and great air quality.

10.

No sales tax

Need we say more?

Featured image via Flickr.

What To Do About A Bad Neighbor

in Moving Costs, Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you live in the city, you likely avoid eye contact. If you live in the country, you might be able to avoid the bad neighbor altogether, but there are almost bound to be times when you will come face to face with your bad neighbor, and rather than reacting, perhaps it’s best to solve any problems beforehand.

Pick allies wisely – Bad neighbors are all in the eye of the beholder. You might hate the purple house with the sofas in the front yard, you might hate the loud music, you might hate the loud cars or the overgrown lawn, but there is someone in the neighborhood who loves all of that, and more importantly, there are likely people in your neighborhood who are friends with your bad neighbor. Tread lightly. You want to engage allies, but don’t ruin relationships while you’re at it. Feel your other neighbors out. Ask what they would like to see changed in the neighborhood. If someone mentions weird colored houses or loud noises, you might have an ally.

Confront them – Be careful. As in so many Hollywood movies, people can get a tad defensive when they are told they are doing life wrong, which is how they’ll take criticism of their paint choices. The best thing to do is to befriend them first. Cookies are cliche, but they are effective. Patience is your friend here. Don’t bring up touchy issues when you bring over the cookies. Wait a few weeks. Most people don’t want to be rude, but sometimes it takes someone pointing out their foibles.

The creepy neighbor – We all have one of these. You can check the sex offender registry. If nothing is there, but you still get a bad feeling, listen to your gut and stay away. Don’t hesitate to call the cops if warranted. No one wants to be “that person,” but things will only get worse if you don’t.

Call the landlord – If your neighbor is a renter, too much noise or messy yards are probably a violation of the lease.

For the neighbor who talks too much – I work from home and my neighbors seem to feel I have nothing better to do than talk to them. Sometimes, I have to not answer the door or the phone. Other times, I simply tell them I am on a deadline.

Regardless of your neighbors, remember you live in a neighborhood. Sometimes, the weird members are what gives your neighborhood character. Some neighborhoods, especially those with homeowner’s associations, are much less accommodating to those whose homes look less than pristine. They won’t help with difficult personalities, though.

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