This Is How I Made My Living Room Into a Cheap, Secret Gym

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Category: Apartment Life, Home Improvement

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Like many people during the month of January, I’m vowing to clean up my diet and add more exercise to my weekly routine. But there are a few challenges I’m already running into when it comes to working out.

First of all, the gym is packed! All of my workout classes are filled to the brim and each cardio machine is taken. Second, the temps have been in the single digits here in Chicago, and the thought of freezing my buns off on my walk to the gym is enough to make me hit the snooze button instead of getting in that a.m. workout.

So, what’s a gal to do? Improvise!

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Instead, I’m getting my workouts in at home in my “secret gym”. And since we live in a small spot in the city, there’s no buying a huge “Total Gym” machine (sorry, Chuck Norris). How did I manage? I got creative with a few workout items that I can easily store and hide in our condo.

To open my gym, I push my table aside.

Take a look at my family room. Little did you know it doubles as an at-home gym space! I simply move the coffee table and chair … and boom! I’ve got plenty of room to spread out and get sweaty.

“Home gyms” actually take a very small amount of room. Take a look around your home and find a comfortable spot where you have space for an at-home workout. Just give yourself enough space so you don’t break anything or hurt yourself. If you’re looking for a new home right now, it goes without saying: make sure there is accumulative space to make one of these in your home.

I concealed all my workout equipment.

I designated a cabinet in the room for all of my workout equipment. This ensures that I have everything I need right on hand, plus it’s less of an eyesore because it’s hidden. No need for one of those big racks.

I’ve got all of this stuff in one cabinet:

  • Yoga mat
  • Foam roller
  • Weights
  • Resistance bands
  • Printed workout plans

They’re all easily accessible right in here. I used to just throw all of my resistance bands in a random drawer, which actually meant I rarely used them. Now, they’re all organized neatly in the box on the top shelf, so I can grab them and get to work!

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I suggest maybe also investing in a few baskets or a container to organize your workout gear. Sometimes it makes it easy to just grab the entire basket and have access to everything you need at once.

I printed and organized my favorite routines.

I’ve dabbled in various workout routines over the years. I love changing things up to keep myself motivated. You can find lots of awesome workouts online (they’re seriously everywhere) and can print them right at home. I printed off a few of my favorites and put them into this workout binder.

Now, I simply flip through my $2 binder and find my exercise routine for the day. It’s super easy and I no longer have to dig through drawers to find these crumpled sheets of paper in my desk.

Personally, I’ve also run into a few injuries over the years and have had success with physical therapy. Those trips to the therapist left me with lots of random sheets of paper outlining the exercises I needed to do to keep those injuries at bay. You can bet they’re all organized nicely in my at-home workout binder.

I just use a stepping stool, and it works great.

Some of the full-body workouts I do require a step, to get in some cardio. Since I have absolutely zero space for a workout bench to step up on, I improvise with a step stool. This little guy easily fits into a closet and I bring it out when it’s time for my sweat on. Consider buying one with two steps so you can always make things more challenging as you progress with your workouts.

If you don’t believe you can get a good workout with just a stool, you obviously have never tried it!

A Closer Look at the Supplies

Instead of running to the sporting goods store for tons of crazy equipment, I invested in the essentials.

Smart Dumbbells

Light weights and heavier weights should do the trick for most routines. My husband actually purchased these smart dumbbells that can start at five pounds and go all the way up to 52.5 pounds … all in the same dumbbell. Definitely a space saver!

Inexpensive Yoga Mat

A yoga mat is another must, even if you’re not a yogi. I love using mine to cushion my knees for push-ups and when I lay on the ground. It’s also great to dampen the sound made when you’re working out! I don’t want to disturb my neighbors downstairs when I’m doing jumping jacks or jump lunges, so I always try to do those exercises on my cushioned mat.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are incredibly effective, can be used for just about anything, and are super cheap! (Here’s some from Amazon.) What’s not to love about this gym supply? We have a variety of tensions and use them for full-body workouts.

Finally, I watch stuff on Youtube.

To round it off, a TV or computer that can connect to YouTube is a must for at-home workouts! There are so many free exercise videos online, it just takes some searching to find ones that are right for you. This blog post outlines some of our favorites workout programs that you can do from the comfort of your home.


I’m convinced that you don’t need a huge home or tons of supplies to get in a great at-home workout. Until the new gym members lose motivation, you’ll find me getting my exercise in right from my secret gym at home.

The Important Things to Take Pictures of While Moving (and Why)

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Getting ready for the big move? Don’t pack that camera away just yet!

Besides getting those great social media shots (“I’m driving a U-Haul, everybody get off the road!”), taking pictures before, during and after your move can help protect your stuff – not to mention your wallet.

The main reason for taking pictures when you move might be obvious, but it is worth iterating. No matter how skilled, experienced and careful your movers are, accidents do occasionally happen. And if you don’t prepare, you may not be properly reimbursed for damage that occurs.

So before your movers show up, go around and take pictures of anything and everything you deem valuable. This means furniture, electronics, breakables and anything else you think would be difficult and/or expensive to repair or replace. Then when your move is complete and you find that something has been damaged, you will have proof that the item was in fact damaged in transit.

 

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This also means taking pictures of existing damage: a scratch on your kitchen table, a dent in your dryer, or a small crack in the corner of your mirror. Why? Because if you suddenly find a bigger scratch, a deeper dent or a longer crack, your movers can say “That was already there.” “Yes, but it’s much worse now!” you will cry. And you will lose.

Knowing all that, here are some crucial tips for everything you’ll especially need to take pictures of.

Take photos of your cleaned-out apartment.

Believe it or not, there are some crafty landlords out there who would love to pocket your security deposit. Taking pictures of your old place before you leave for good can help you defend yourself against false claims of damage. And if you did damage something? Take a picture of that too, so that same unscrupulous landlord can’t charge you hundreds of dollars for fixing a couple of nail holes.

Protip: Take pictures of the bathroom and the shower. Yours truly got nailed for leaving the toilet “a filthy disgusting mess” after moving out of his Boulder, CO apartment, even though it was sparkling and sterile when I locked the door for the last time. I don’t even want to know.

Likewise, take pictures of your new place.

Again, don’t just photograph any existing damage you may find. Photograph everything! Why? Because walls, doors and light fixtures (and door jambs and floors and ceilings) can suffer damage during the move-in process. Your movers might be a great bunch of professionals, but you probably won’t want to have to pay for the gash they accidentally put in the kitchen floor.

Protip: Also take pictures of your rental truck! Get shots of any existing damage, inside and out, as well as the general condition of the interior of the cab and the back where all your stuff will be going – especially if these areas are less than pristine.

Take a picture of the back of your TV, for reference.

You know all those dusty wires back there? The ones to your surround sound system and your Blu-Ray player and your four different gaming consoles? It’s all going to have to be disconnected (and, probably, untangled). Having a photo of which wires go where can save a lot of time and aggravation when you are setting up your system at your new home.

Protip: Snapping a pic of the make, model and serial number of each of your electronic components can be a huge help in case you have to track something down – or, if something goes missing, to confirm that component’s age and value.

Take pictures of large, especially valuable or just unusual items.

This isn’t to highlight damage, but it’s simply a good idea to have pictures of things, from furniture to expensive décor to items that we’d rather not have to try to describe. Because if something goes missing, a picture helps A LOT in finding it. (Use your inventory sheets, people!)

True Story: A week or so after delivering a long-distance shipment we’d taken into our warehouse, I got a call from the customer. “I’m missing a chair,” she told me.

This was not very helpful.

We had literally hundreds of chairs on the 30-foot-high racks in our warehouse. Knowing that this chair was upholstered with a flowery fabric was only slightly better, and as the woman lived up in the mountains two hours away. She wasn’t about to come down and help me find the right one. “Let me fax you a picture of the chair,” she said. (Yes, this was a few years ago.) And even though the picture was black and white and a little blurry, I recognized it right away, saving me hours of searching during the already-hectic summer season and saving the customer from days, if not weeks, of inconvenience and uncertainty. (Not to mention a two-hour drive to our warehouse.)

Take photos of the water, electricity, and gas meters.

Do this both at your old place before you leave, then at your new one before you move in. Why? To protect against being charged wrongly for utilities. Not that the utility companies are out to scam you, but it’s quite common for them to charge based on usage estimates (which saves time and money on meter readers). If their baseline reading is off, then so is your estimated usage. There may also be a lag – or an overlap! – between customer accounts. Bottom line is, there are plenty of ways you can end up being charged for another resident’s utility usage. Taking photos of your meters can help immensely if such a situation comes your way.

Take a video of your electronics in action.

On their inventory sheets, movers describe anything electric, electronic or mechanical using the acronym “MCU” – mechanical condition unknown. This means they don’t know if something works. Which also means you can’t prove something was rendered inoperable during your move. Without proof, it’ll be difficult to get reimbursed for the flat screen that has suddenly gone to plasma heaven.

To guard against this, videotape your TV, stereo, air hockey table, pinball machine, lava lamp, or whatever to show that these things were indeed working properly before the movers showed up. 

And ALWAYS timestamp your photos!

Imagine having pictures showing that you left your old place in perfect condition, but then having your old landlord claim that you took them before you did the damage he is trying to charge you for. Or owning a picture of the damage the movers did to your new place, only to have them say “No, that was like that before we showed up.”

How do you answer that?

There are a few ways.

  • Set your camera so the time and date show up on your photos.
  • Email your photos to yourself as soon as you take them.
  • Make sure your time and date is correct on your phone’s camera roll.
  • Even print out the photos you take and snail-mail them to yourself.

Protip: It may be easy for someone to claim that you simply changed the time/date setting on your camera before you snapped those incriminatory photos. So keep them on your memory card, sandwiched in between other pictures you took along the moving process – or even in between photos from before and after the process – to prove your timeline if need be. Most people are reasonable.

Are we being too cautious?

After all, the majority of moves – and the vast majority of HireAHelper moves – are completed without a hitch. But remember: accidents happen. Taking pictures can save you a ton of time and aggravation – not to mention a bit of cash – if something does go wrong.

6 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Moving Into a Dorm

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Category: College Moves

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Moving to college is a big deal. Take it from me, emotions are running pretty high, you may be nervous, you might have traveled pretty far and you have a lot on your mind.  Mistakes happen. Fortunately, there are several ways to make moving into college a whole lot easier. It won’t take away from all of the emotions of leaving home, but you can at least transition with simplicity, so you’re just prepared to enjoy your new life.

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7 Things I Learned When Downsizing From a House in California to a Shoebox in NYC

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Full disclosure: I’m a child of the suburbs. I grew up in sprawling northern California, where trips to used bookstores and the mall are practically pastimes. There wasn’t much spatial constraint when it came to accumulating things. If I picked up a tchotchke, there would definitely be a place for it somewhere in my home.

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Showing Your Home? These Are the First Impressions That Matter

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To us, staging your home to sell is similar to going on a first date.

You set up this date in hopes to meet your future spouse. You don’t know if that’ll be the case but there’s always the hope, right? If you’re hoping to land “the one”, chances are you’re going to put some effort into prepping for this first date. We feel the same is true when it comes to staging your home to sell.

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Movehack: How to Perfectly Wrap an Office Chair in Under 3 Minutes

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When you move, protecting your furniture is a huge part of the deal. And for most people who move, we’ve noticed the hardest piece of furniture to truly protect is none other than the common chair.

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Prioritize These Things for Your Rental, They’ll Be Following You to Your Future Home

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Category: Apartment Life, Home Decorating

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We often get questions from readers who are renters and they’re ready to upgrade their hand-me-down furniture pieces for “grown-up” ones. They’re usually hesitant to spend too much money out of fear that it won’t fit or go with the look of their next home.

While we don’t suggest that everyone go out and buy a ginormous sectional, there really are pieces you can buy now! Here are home decor items that you can (and should) invest in now, because they’ll most likely be able to find a place in your next pad. (more…)

5 Ways That We’ve Added Tons of Space to Our Apartment

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When I was a renter, space was always a premium. Heck, even as a homeowner I’m still always looking for ways to sneak in some extra storage!

But even if you live in a small apartment or studio, there are ways to make the most of your space so you can live in an efficient, organized, and good-looking home. Our trick? Secret storage!

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How Much Do You Tip Movers?

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 Are you supposed to tip movers?

We get this question all the time. The answer is “no”. Or, “yes”. It kinda depends, so let us explain.

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