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What are the Best Storage Options for your Extra Stuff?

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Image CC 2.0, by Unnar Ýmir Björnsson, via Flickr

Have you ever bought something, took it out of its meticulously packed box and failed to get it back in? Sometimes moving can feel a bit like that. In your old home, for the most part, there was a place for everything and everything had its place.

Your new home might even be bigger, but for some reason, you feel like you are putting square pegs in round holes. You just can’t get all your things to look – well – at home in your new home. You really don’t want to get rid of the table that your Grandfather refinished or the very first piece of furniture you bought together as a couple, but they just don’t work.

Perhaps you’re doing some renovations and you need to clear space. Maybe it’s time to convert the kid’s room to a home gym. Whatever the reason, having extra stuff is an American phenomenon – so much so that the acquisition of extra stuff and the storing of it has prompted a handful of reality TV programs.

As Americans’ need for storage has grown, so have their options for storing. While in the past you might have rented a nearby locker, adorned it with a padlock and called it a day, today, you can store your items in a warehouse or even in a portable container. Each of the individual storage options has their advantages, so how do you choose which one is right for you?


Self Storage

Self storage, also known as “mini storage” is what most people think of when they think of storage. Essentially, with self storage, you are renting a room. You are responsible for moving your goods into storage, although you can use a mover. Some have garage-like doors and some have more conventional doors. Like when you are renting an apartment, the landlord is responsible for the general maintenance but is not responsible for your belongings. While most have some sort of security, it is up to you to provide a secure lock. Blankets and other types of furniture protection might or might not be offered by the storage facility, and if they do it will be at an extra cost. If anything is damaged while in storage, that’s also your responsibility. It is up to you to insure your items, although the storage facility might offer you insurance – at an additional cost. You pay based on the size of the room, no matter how much you have stored in the room. You will have access to your items anytime the facility is open.


Warehouse Storage

Warehouse storage is not as well known as self storage, but for many, it’s a convenient option. Moving companies typically have warehouse storage. The moving company moves your things into storage and they move them out. Everything is professionally packed and will remain in that condition until you are ready to have them delivered. Every item is inventoried both before going into storage and after being delivered. Your items might be stored on shelves or in wooden crates. Since your items never leave the mover’s possession, they have more liability, although it is limited. In California, the liability is only $.60 per pound (that’s right – no matter how valuable an item, you are paid per pound). I’d advise that you still check into additional insurance. You are only charged for how much space you are actually using, so it can be less expensive than self storage. Access is typically given on appointment only and don’t expect to root around in your stuff. The warehouse employees will have to pull them out for you.


Container Storage

Containerized storage is a relative newcomer to the industry. In the last decade, it’s grown tremendously in popularity and for good reason. It offers flexibility that neither warehouse or self-storage can. Containers come to your home. You generally have three days to fill them. Some hire movers to fill them. You have the option of keeping the container in your driveway indefinitely and for an additional cost, if your neighborhood allows. After the container is loaded, the storage company takes it to their warehouse or parking lot. You should purchase insurance for your items, or check with your homeowner’s policy. Like with self storage, you are charged for the full size of the container, no matter how much space you are using. Access policies will vary from company to company.

When To Hire A Handyperson And When To Hire A Contractor

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When something breaks in your home, it’s easy to imagine dollar bills flying out the windows. Depending on what’s wrong, though, you might be able to save money by hiring a handyperson instead of a licensed contractor. Be careful, though, some jobs require licensed contractors. How do you know when to hire a handyperson and when to hire a contractor?

handyperson tool chest

Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr

California has a law about it, actually. If the cost of your repair, including parts and labor, is over $500, you must hire a contractor. That’s the simple answer. The more complicated answer is that it depends on your repair.

Difference between handyperson and contractor

Contractors must pass rigorous exams and prove expertise in their field to earn a license. They are highly regulated, and must be bonded and insured. Anyone who owns tools can call themselves a handyperson. That’s not to say that there aren’t many, many skilled handypeople. If you check sites like your local NextDoor or Angie’s List, you’ll find plenty of referrals.

When you have a clogged drain, or if an electrical wire comes loose, by all means, hire a handyperson. If, though, your pipes explode, of if a wall collapses, call a contractor.

Handypeople are generally available with less notice. In some situations, you might hire a handyperson to prevent further damage before hiring a contractor to fix the problem. If you need to perform major work, a contractor will work with your city to get permits and to ensure everything is done up to code. All contractors should be insured, but before you hire one, verify it. While many handypeople warranty their work, in other words, they’ll come back if their fix doesn’t take, they don’t carry insurance. If they accidentally break a pipe or rip your drywall, it’s your responsibility to fix it.

Regardless of whether your job requires a handyperson or a contractor, do your due diligence. Get references and get at least three bids, if you can.

Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr

Nearly Everyone Forgets To Change Locks When They Move — Here’s What You Need To Know

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You bought a new house, everything is packed, you’ve hired the movers, you’ve transferred utilities and arranged your children’s schools. There’s probably one thing you’ve forgotten, though, and it could save you from having your new home burglarized. It’s time to change locks.

Receiving the keys to your new home is an exciting time. The problem, though, is that while they might look shiny and new, they might be anything but. The odds are they are the same keys to the same locks that the old owner had, and you can’t know how many other people have received copies — the dog walker, the babysitter, their teenagers’ friends? No one is saying that none of those people are trustworthy, but why risk it? You, and whoever you choose, should be the only people who have access to your home.

You have many, many options when it comes time to change locks. Some are inexpensive, and others aren’t. In a nutshell, you can rekey your locks, which is inexpensive — probably somewhere around $200.

Replace the locks

You can also replace the locks, and these days, there are so many options available, you’ll have to ask yourself a few questions:

Are you technical, or do you prefer analog?

Do you like using keys, or would you prefer something more high-tech?

Do you sometimes give temporary access to non-family members?

If you prefer the good-old fashioned key locks, they are better and stronger than ever. Look for materials like stainless steel or zinc alloy. This Schlage lock is often considered the best.

If you’re tired of fumbling for keys, or if you have a lot of temporary visitors, there are many options. Modern locks use a number of technologies, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave, to let you unlock and lock your home without keys. Some offer cameras and some even offer security alarms.

You should still look for the same hard metal material, but some locks are more high-tech than others. If you want the ability to control access, opt for a system with an RFID chip reader. Similar to what you find in most hotels and motels, RFID readers scan a card or key fob. They don’t connect to your WiFi or Bluetooth, so they’re relatively hack-proof. You can disable and recode cards quite easily, so if a card is lost, you don’t have to worry about it. On the other hand, RFID readers don’t solve the problem of fumbling around in your purse. You’ll still have to pull out a card.

Another lower-tech option is a keypad lock. You simply enter your code to lock or unlock the door. This gives you the convenience of not having to fish through your pockets, and you can change the codes at will, or add temporary codes. Like most modern locks, though, they are battery powered and the batteries can die. Fortunately, you can still use a key.

Smart Locks

You can purchase any one of a number of “smart locks,” that may or may not be connected to other devices in your home. Bluetooth locks allow you to control your locks, within range of your home. WiFi locks allow you to control your locks from an app. A third technology, called Z-Wave, is a compromise. It uses less energy than WiFi and it has a longer range than Bluetooth. It enables you to control your thermostat and some other appliances as well, as long as you have a smart home device. Some locks use all three technologies. C-Net reviewed several smart locks.

Whatever you choose when you change locks, Consumer Reports says that the biggest risk to your lock good old fashioned technology, drills and feet. Poor quality locks are easily drilled or even kicked in. They found only one that will protect your home, the Medeco Maxum. Please note that we have not tried the lock ourselves.

Featured image CC0 Creative Commons, by SyedWasiqShah, via Pixabay

How To Tip Movers (And Everyone Else)

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Image via Wikimedia

It’s the end of a long day of moving. A tired crew leader hands you the final paperwork to sign and you are more than willing to pay for a job well done. The crew has worked unbelievably hard. They listened to everything you said and everything is now safely in its new place. So how do you tip movers for a job very well done?

Most reputable movers have a strict policy against asking for tips. Tipping should be voluntary, but it is customary when your movers have done a good job for you. So, how much should you tip?

A good rule of thumb is to tip movers $5.00 per mover per hour. It’s the crew leader’s job to divide the tips and for most companies, if the crew leader doesn’t divide them equitably, it’s a firing offense.

If you move locally, you can tip at the end of the move. If you move long distance, you will probably have two separate crews. You should tip when the truck is loaded and again when it’s unloaded. If that amount takes you above your budget, that’s fine. Remember, tipping is voluntary and whatever you can afford will be appreciated. Even $20 per mover is acceptable. It’s also acceptable to order the crew a pizza or sandwiches during the move.

But what about other services? How much and when should you tip?

EmilyPost.com has some great guidelines.

Most waitpeople make very little money (as low as $2.13 an hour). Generally, you should tip between 15-20% before tax. *Note for single people: One of the (many) things that attracted me to my husband is that he is a VERY generous tipper.

Tip home delivery people between 10-15%.

Bartenders, about $1.00 – $2.00 per drink.

You can ignore the coffee shop tip jars, but if you go there often, feeding the jar might ensure some extra special treatment.

Tip valets between $2.00 – $5.00.

Tip beauticians and aestheticians between 15-20%.

Anyone who carries your luggage (including skycaps, doorman, taxi drivers and bellhops) should be tipped $2.00 for the first bag and $1.00 for each additional.

Taxi drivers should be tipped between 15-20%.

It’s appropriate to tip anyone who goes above and beyond their normal job.



How To Make A Summer Move Without Overheating

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Summer is by far the busiest time in the moving industry. Children are out of school, for many, work is a bit slower, and you don’t have to worry about Mother Nature snowing on your moving parade.

Featured image: Public Domain, via Wikimedia

If your home, like many in California, doesn’t have air conditioning, moving day can be especially hot. First, there’s the fact that you’re expending a lot of energy. That’s sweat-worthy even in the dead of winter. Then, there’s the in and out. That’s when things can really get animal style (in that human beings quickly start smelling like livestock). The open doors let in all the heat you’re desperately trying to keep out.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can take to help keep the heat out and to keep you and your movers from overheating.

Dress appropriately

Most moving companies provide uniforms, which usually consist of heavy, often black, pants, and a t-shirt. Some moving companies allow shorts, but for safety reasons, many do not. Your movers will look hot and sweaty after a few hours. It’s part of the job. You, though, have a bit more flexibility. Wear loose, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics. Remember that your house will be in a upheaval, so if you have a tendency to bump into things, long pants are advised.

Stay hydrated

Most movers bring a drink or two with them, but working in hot weather needs more than a couple of drinks. Provide lots of water or Gatorade, and don’t berate your mover for taking hydration breaks. Imagine how much slower the move will go if they start dehydrating.

Keep packers inside during your summer move

Most moving crews have designated packers. If you are the designated packer, you should try to stay inside as well. This helps keep you from (pardon the image) sweating all over your clean clothes and linens.

Keep the utilities on in both places

Even if you don’t have air conditioning, use fans. You’ll also be very happy to have a refrigerator and freezer. Stock both refrigerators with refreshing summer beverages and fruits.

Keep your children and pets cool

If you can, send your children and pets to stay with a friend or in daycare. Not only will this keep them cool, it will keep them out of the way and it will help keep them happy during the stressful move.

Schedule your summer move to beat the heat

Have the movers come as early as possible. If you want the movers to pack for you, ask if they can pack the day before so the heavy lifting can be done in the morning, when it’s cooler.

How To Make Your Move Less Stressful — For Real

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One of the most overused cliches in the moving industry is that moving is stressful. Duh.

Let me tell you about my last move. I chose not to let the movers pack because I needed to do some serious organizing and purging. I was lucky that I had the option of working from home, but that only meant that on top of my long work hours, I had to prepare for the move.

During the three weeks leading up to the move, we still had not closed on our house and things were not looking particularly good. The house was bank-owned. The bank received higher offers than the one that they accepted from us, so they tried everything to get out of the deal. Still, if the move were to happen, I had to go on as scheduled.

Fortunately after several anxiety attacks, our broker worked his magic and we closed on the house, a week late.

None of that begins to address the physical toll the move took on me. My back and knees compelled me to stay in bed, but I couldn’t. Instead, I packed. I lifted heavy objects. I bent over far too often. It didn’t have to be that way.

Don’t be like me. The best way to manage the stress of your move is to prepare months in advance, not weeks. Pick a daily or weekly closet or dresser, and donate everything you don’t wear or use.

Hire an Organizer

If you can afford it, hire people to help you out. A professional organizer will cost between $30 and $80 an hour. That might sound like a lot of money, but they can help you save on the move and they can help free you up to do your real job.

Let the Movers do it

Full service movers are exactly that. They won’t help you organize, but they will pack anything you want them to pack. They can even unpack for you. Again, you will pay for the service, but they will knock it out in a day or two. That’s a lot better than you can do on your own.

Hire Cleaners

For me, the most stressful part of the move was the aftermath. While I had hundreds of unpacked boxes in my new home, my old home still needed a lot of attention. Here I thought I was done with that place. I recruited a couple of friends and we banged it out within a day. Still, next time, I will hire someone to make the house spick and span for the new residents.

Five Ways To Save Some Serious Money On Your Move

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Moving is expensive. We know this and the last thing we want to do is send you into debt for your move. That’s really not a good way to get repeat business. So, here are some tips that are guaranteed to save money.

1. Save Money by Packing Everything

Packing everything in your home can save you as much as 25 percent on the cost of your move. Talk to your moving estimator about packing materials and ask for tips. They can show you how to pack fragile items. Keep in mind that if it’s not furniture, it needs to be in a box. You need to pack pictures (or move them yourself), electronics and lamps.

2. Save Money by Cleaning

Movers don’t care if there’s a little dust, but you want to be sure that there is plenty of space to move, especially near the doors. Clear all debris and empty the trash, or the movers might move it.

3. Save Money by Labeling Everything

If you are doing your own packing, odds are, the movers won’t label your boxes. One of the best ways to keep things moving smoothly is to very clearly label each item with by room. Color coordination is even better. You can even map out your new home to show the movers where all the furniture goes.

4. Save Money by Moving Some Things Yourself

Moving a box or 10 isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference on the bottom line, but if you can move loose items like pictures, lamps and electronics, you can save a good bit of change.

5. Save Money by Reserving a Parking Space

If parking is a challenge in your neighborhood, contact the city and ask about reserving space. Plan on a truck that’s about 26 foot in length. Most cities will charge you, but in the long-run, convenient parking will save you a lot of time on your move.

If you live in a condo or apartment building that has a loading dock, ask your building management about reserving time. Note that most moves start in the morning, so you should reserve your current home for the morning and your new address later in the day. Your moving estimator can give you a better estimate of time.

Featured image CC2.0 401(k) 2012 via Flickr

How To Keep Burglars Away From Your Empty House While You’re Trying To Sell

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Last year, headlines were all about the fact that a home that belonged to rapper 50 Cent was burglarized. Fortunately, Fiddy wasn’t home at the time. As a matter of fact, the 21 bedroom, 25 bath mansion was vacant because it was on the market. The burglars didn’t make it much past the front door because of security alarms.

Most of us, of course, don’t live on lavish estates. Fiddy wasn’t alone though. Most burglaries are crimes of opportunity. Vacant houses are about as close to risk free as it gets for burglars. While they won’t find fancy electronics, they are known to take appliances, staging furniture and even the copper pipes.

Robbing for sale homes is nothing new. Burglars have been targeting homes with For Sale signs for decades. Today, though, many savvy Realtors and home owners are leaving the tell-tale sign out and listing the homes virtually instead.

Unfortunately, that makes the home that much more difficult to sell and the bad guys have the internet too. In one case in Oregon, robbers found their targets on free real estate apps. The watched the houses day and night and then returned during the day as cleaning crews. They even fooled the neighbors, who were thankful people were taking care of the vacant property.

How to Secure a Vacant Home

Whether you are away for a short trip or are selling your home, the best way to prevent burglaries is to make your home look occupied. Put lights on a timer and turn the porch light (motion detector is best) and a visible inside light on at night. Stop all mail and newspaper deliveries.

Plant thorny bushes near the lower windows, so burglars don’t have a place to hide. Buy security film for the lower windows and install a heavy security door.

No one wants to pay for electricity or alarm systems for a house they don’t even live in, but a security system makes your home a much more difficult target. Some alarm companies have temporary solutions.

Keep your neighbors and the police in the loop. Let them know that the home will be empty and that if you are sending any contractors over, you will let them know.

While all of this might seem like you’re throwing good money after bad, there’s nothing that gives buyers second thoughts than a home that’s been burglarized.

Featured image via Pixabay

How To Throw An Amazing Housewarming Party On An ‘I Just Moved’ Budget

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You’ve just moved. After your down payment and closing costs, or your security deposit, first and last months rent — and we won’t forget that you paid for the move — you’re broke. Still, you love your new digs and you want to show them off to your friends. What a better way than a housewarming party? Besides, aren’t people supposed to bring you gifts?


One advantage to technology is that expensive paper invitations are a thing of the past. Start a Facebook event, or send evites. You should also knock on your neighbors’ doors and invite them.


Even on a tight budget, you can throw a full shindig if you ask your friends to pitch in by bringing some food or drinks. You don’t need a full dinner spread. A selection of snacks and finger foods should be just fine. Here are some cheap and easy ideas.


You may have advanced beyond throwing “keggers” but you don’t need a fully-stocked bar with top-shelf liquor to impress your friends. Instead, make a signature drink. Here are several ideas. You will only need a few ingredients and just one type of glass. If your friends want another type of drinks, ask them to bring their own. Provide a good variety of non-alcoholic drinks, including a virgin version of your signature drink.

You can also do a beer or wine tasting housewarming party. Ask everyone to bring their favorites and let everyone sample.


You don’t have to go all out with decorating for a housewarming party. After all, this is the time to show off your new home, right? Make sure it’s clean and uncluttered. Add some pretty flower arrangements (stores like Trader Joe’s are very inexpensive). Candles are always a nice touch, preferably unscented natural candles, like in soy or beeswax. If you have a fireplace, it adds a warm touch to a cool fall or cold winter night.

As for seating and party ware, try thrift and discount stores. Even dollar stores have great options. Ask friends to bring folding chairs, or rent them from party stores.

Party favors

Party favors are not as common as they used to be, but they’re a wonderful touch and they don’t have to cost a fortune. Simple hand-made soaps or candles are very fashionable and they are easy and cheap. You can even make infused sugar. Here are some suggestions.

Hilarious Moving Fails No Decent Mover Would Ever Make (VIDEO)

in Local moving, Long-Distance moving, Preparing for a move, Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

For most customers, moving nightmares might consist of being overcharged, having some items broken and *gasp* even having their furniture held hostage. Those are nightmares, but sometimes, the worst moves start with the best intentions.

The internet, the world’s repository for everything embarrassing, has compiled several hilarious (for those not experiencing them) moving fails. Most are do-it-yourselfers, trying to save a few bucks, but some are actual moving companies, and trust me, we’re embarrassed for all of them.

Of course, I’d be negligent in posting this hilarious video without offering a few words of advice. Number one, please never, ever try hoisting a piece of furniture out of (or into) a window without help from professionals who have the right equipment.

Even experienced movers are reluctant to hoist a piece of furniture through a window, without someone specifically trained in the science. Most movers can hoist furniture up one or maybe two floors, but it takes special ropes and equipment and it takes being very, very careful.

You’ll find very few in the moving industry who are against the idea of people moving themselves. Sometimes, it’s the least expensive and most practical way to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, though, people get in over their heads. If an item can’t make it through a door, rather than forcing it, take the door and frame off, with the proper tools, of course.

As for the people in this video who appeared to be pros, shame on them. Remember, a logo and a t-shirt doesn’t necessarily mean professionalism. Always be sure to check social media (Yelp, Facebook, Google) and review sites like Angie’s List before hiring a mover. You should also check licensing information.

Remember, if you’re moving yourself and you find yourself in a jam, there’s no shame in taking for help. You don’t want to be caught as one of these moving fails.

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