The Best Way to Unpack After Moving

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Unpacking should be the best part of the entire moving process. No, really!

You’ve already coordinated all of the logistics of renting a truck and hiring Helpers, you’ve packed everything up, moved, and unloaded your rental truck. Now all that’s left to do is go through all of your boxes and get everything in its place so you can enjoy your new home!

So why do some people still dread unpacking? Well, imagine sitting amiongst a mountain of boxes with no clue what’s inside any of them or where everything is going to go. Okay … yeah, that does sound pretty dreadful. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By planning your unpack, you can save time, money and headaches.

How to Make Unpacking Easier Before Moving Day Happens

We all know the quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The most important step to a smooth unpacking experience is proper planning before your move. 

Of course, you’ll have some planning to do if you’re getting movers and renting a truck … but you still need to spend some time packing. And no, we’re not talking about randomly throwing items into boxes and calling it a day.

Here are some things you should do before moving day to make unpacking easier.

Take Photos Before You Start Packing

Before you touch anything, we want you to take out your phone and have a little home photo shoot. 

Here are things you especially need photos of:

  • Bookshelves
  • The back of your TV
  • Kitchen drawers
  • Desk area
  • Tool shed

We urge you to snap pics of the areas in your home that you love! We know all too well how long it can take to get a shelfie looking just the way you want it. By snapping some reference pics now, you’ll be able to replicate that new look in your home in no time.

Create a Number and Color-Coded System For Your Boxes

After the photo shoot, gather all of your packing supplies (boxes, paper, tape, scissors, markers … the works!) and start packing boxes like a pro.

Try to only pack up items from one to two rooms inside every box. This will make your life much easier when it’s time to unpack later.

Got a bunch of stuff on shelves? Create a numbered system to remember where everything goes. That way it’s easier to get them unpacked and into their new permanent spots.

And we can’t forget our favorite tip of all … our color-coded box systemWith this technique, you get to use our most beloved crafting tool—washi tape! Get the full instructions from this post, but the short version is that you need to separate your boxes by the room, marked with bright washi tape so your movers know exactly where to deliver them. Genius and oh so colorful!

Make it Much Easier to Unpack Essentials

There are 7 items you’ll want to have on hand for moving day, but we also think you should create a box of moving day essentials. Because imagine the night of moving day when you’re tearing open boxes trying to find pajamas, your toothbrush, and your medication for the night. Sounds like a disaster to us.

This is what should go in your “Moving Day Box” so you don’t have to tear through your moving truck:

  • A change of clothes
  • Utensils
  • Toiletries
  • Prescriptions
  • Phone charger

Be sure to label this box and keep it near you!

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Clean The 5 Most Important Things

We know you have approximately 10,000 things to do to get your rental deposit back. But trust us, now is the time to give your new place a thorough cleaning because it’s empty. You simply put items in place rather than cleaning and unpacking at the same time. Want to know the five most essential things to clean?

  • Kitchen cabinets
  • The Refrigerator (and refrigerator fan)
  • Bathtub and any tub jets
  • Outside (and Inside) the stove
  • Washing machine

If you want to know more, click here.

Unpacking Tips

You’ve done the prep work (even the cleaning, you rockstar, you!), and now moving day is here! Even if you hired help for your unload (great call), there are still things you can do to make unpacking time a little easier. 

Place Your Boxes in Rooms by Color

It may sound easier to just have your Helpers pile up all of the boxes in one spot of your new place, but unpacking will be a lot easier if you follow your color-coded box system to get each box in the correct room. If you followed our washi tape tips, you should have each door in your new place marked so the Helpers can easily drop the box in the right spot!

Protip: Get your “Moving Day Essentials Box” opened right away so you have everything you need to make it through the next day or two.

Use Washi Tape to Figure out Your Furniture Layout

As long as your movers are there, have them get your furniture in the spot where you want it! We love the idea of using painter’s tape to mark out the layout of furniture right on the floor.

Before you move (or even while your movers are bringing things in and out),  go around your place and put tape on the ground to outline your furniture. That way the movers will know exactly which wall to put your bed on and where that long dresser goes. You can always move things later on, but getting items in the correct space will make your life a lot easier in the coming days.

Unpack the Bathrooms and Bedrooms First

Moving day will be exhausting, so if you’re going to unpack anything immediately, make sure it’s your bed and bedding. Once your movers get the mattress into place, find the sheets, comforter and pillow and make your bed. If you have kids, do theirs too. Having a comfy spot to sleep at the end of the long day will feel amazing!

Unpack your bathroom boxes too. That way you’ll have all of the toiletries and medications on hand for the night and morning. A fresh shower after a long day of moving will be heavenly, trust us!

Save the Kitchen for Tomorrow

The kitchen is the most time intensive room to unpack, due to the amount of tiny and heavy items, so don’t unpack it on moving day. Your brain will be tired by the end of moving day, and you’ll want to be refreshed and recharged before you tackle this space. Save the kitchen until morning when you can make a fresh pot of coffee.

How to Stay Organized After Moving Day

You’re into your new home and you’re surrounded by all of your possessions. First, take a deep breath. You’ve made it this far! Now it’s time for the actual fun part … making your house a home.

Avoid Distractions, Don’t Unpack Games or TV

We might suggest making a playlist of music to entertain you, but we don’t think you should get your TV setup and turned on right away. You may find yourself sitting on the couch instead of unpacking if you have a TV show or movie on. So much temptation…

Another distraction? Little ones. You’ll additionally want to make a plan for your pets when you’re moving and unpacking, so they don’t get in the way. Same goes for kids. Have a plan to keep them occupied or if you can, drop them off at grandma’s house so you have uninterrupted time to unpack. It’s all about keeping the distractions to a minimum so you can devote enough hours to get your house in tip-top shape!

Unpack Only One Room at a Time

Instead of hopping from space to space, we suggest making a list of your rooms in order of importance. Then, don’t move onto another space until the one you’re on is done.

The kitchen, bedrooms and kids’ rooms should be up high on the priority list, while the guest room and garage may not need TLC right away. Also, make sure you have furniture and appliances setup before you get too carried away going through boxes. Did you clean your counters first? You’ll want to have spots to put all of the items as you whip them out of the boxes, so having dressers and cabinets ready to go is a must!

Break Down Boxes as You Go, in Real Time

As you unpack boxes, it may be easy to just throw empty ones in a big corner. But trust us, that pile will quickly get out of control and soon you won’t be able to walk around your house without an empty box tumbling down on you. Take one box and make it the designated paper box. As you unpack boxes, crumple up the paper and shove it into that box. Then, be sure to break down boxes as you unpack. You’ll want to have a utility knife on hand so you can do this quickly.

(And Don’t Unpack Everything)

There may be some boxes that don’t actually need to be unpacked. We’re looking at you, Christmas decorations. Make a large pile of items that may be heading to storage or the garage. Then be sure to get those items to that space in the coming days.

What to Do After You’re Unpacked

You’ve made it! You survived moving day and every box in your place is unpacked. You should be feeling pretty darn good about yourself right about now, but the fun isn’t over just yet. There are still a few things you can do to really get your unloading and packing done.

Make Use of Those Moving Boxes

If you will be moving again soon, then you may want to hang onto some of the boxes that are still in good condition. Organize your boxes and find a spot to neatly tuck them away. Are you thinking, “What the heck do I do with all of that cardboard?!” Don’t fret! Instead, try out some of the cardboard hacks.

If getting creative with cardboard isn’t your speed, you can recycle your moving boxes. Check out this searchable database that’ll let you know the closest place to recycle anything (including moving boxes!). Just be sure to set a deadline for yourself to get those moving boxes out of your new place, so they don’t stay piled in the garage forever.

Use These Organization Protips

We’re all guilty of just shoving random items into a cabinet or closet and calling it a day. But to really feel settled in your new home,  be intentional with what goes where.

Whenever we’re on an organization spree, we go room by room with a notepad and write down areas that need our attention. Then we’ll spend 30 minutes each night giving those spots some TLC. Those short increments of time seem much more doable than an entire day spent organizing an entire home.

Let the Decorating Begin! (In a Month)

We always say that you need to live in your home for a while in order to decorate it well. So many people quickly buy furniture and accessories for their place without ever giving each room a test run, and they end up with design regret. Yep, don’t paint the walls until you’ve spent a little time in your new place!

We promise that you’ll make much smarter decor decisions after 2-3 months.

Here’s how to get started when it’s time to begin: 

It may not seem like it, but unpacking can be the best part of the moving experience! We promise that these tips will make your unpacking experience easier and more efficient.

The sooner you unpack, the sooner you can enjoy your new life!

Why We Finally Started Saving Warranties (and How We Don’t Lose Them)

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I lived in my last house for about five years, during which my husband and I did quite a bit of work to the house. We bought a new washer and dryer, new couches, new beds, installed window treatments and upgraded most of the technology to slowly build a “smart home“. So much to do!

Organizing Home Warranties and the
Tiny Parts You Should Save

But one thing I wish I had done a better job at was keeping better track of the warranties, installation guides, and all of the other “goodies” that came with each item. I didn’t have a system in place for this important paperwork or those dang Allen wrenches, so I typically defaulted to either stuffing the stuff in a drawer or throwing it away because I thought, “When will I ever really need this?!”.

Spoiler Alert: more often than you honestly think.

Examples of Stuff We Lost, Then Needed

This became a problem in a variety of different situations, allow me to share a few instances.

First, the couch dilemma.

Our couch came with a seven-year stain warranty. Amazing, right? In theory, yes, but I never could find the receipt, warranty, and information about this perk. So guess what? We couldn’t capitalize on getting our couch cushion replaced when we spilled red wine on it four years after purchasing it. So frustrating!

Or how about the time we wanted to sell our dining room table on Craigslist and we couldn’t find the specific Allen wrench that came with the table.

We needed that specific piece to disassemble the table and sell it. We tore up the entire garage and kitchen while the Craigslist buyers awkwardly stood and watched. Thankfully we eventually found it, but only after lots of frustration, embarrassment, and a big ol’ mess!

And how about when new homeowners request the owner’s manual and warranty on the washer and dryer that they bought with the house and you just cannot find them? Ugh, that was the worst!

Our DIY Solution

There’s got to be a better way, right?

I know I was determined to get my act together in my own, new house right from the start. The great news is that the new system I implemented has made such a positive impact, and it’s easy to replicate. It’s a $15 investment that makes a world of a difference.

If you find yourself misplacing warranties and important home documentation, today’s organization system may be perfect for you as well.

1. The Box Of Docs

I bought this big, plastic box from Michaels, but any large container would do the trick. I vowed to keep all important warranties, receipts, directions, etc. in this box. No being picky; I didn’t care if the warranty was for something in the kitchen, garage, or baby’s nursery, just having one place to put all of this information was already a better system that I previously used.

I tried using binders in the past, but many of the warranties or installation information is so thick that a binder just didn’t work out very well in the long run. This box is nice because it can hold A LOT of paperwork.

Labels Are Still Key

To organize this documentation even further, I simply labeled file folders for each room in the house. Papers stay even more organized when I can group them by room.

For example, the warranties for the kitchen appliances can be found in the “kitchen” folder while the directions to re-program our garage door opener can be found in the “garage” folder. Easy enough, right?

Okay, so the papers are accounted for but how about all of those little gadgets (like that dang Allen wrench!) that can’t be misplaced?

2. Tackle Box of Tiny Pieces

I also picked up this adjustable jewelry organizer from Michaels (a tackle box would work too!). This small investment has made such a huge difference corralling all of the tiny parts (read: screws, hooks, extra washers, Allen Wrenches, etc.). It’s awesome because the plastic spacers can easily be adjusted to create compartment sizes that fit your needs.

We recently bought a crib for our nursery and it came with an Allen wrench that we used to put it together.

The bad news is that you need to save this Allen wrench because we will need it when our little guy gets older/taller and we need to lower the mattress. But the good news is that we already learned our lesson and we were ready to take good care of this one!

We wrapped a piece of washi tape around the wrench and labeled it “CRIB”. Then I placed it in one of the compartments, alongside some of the other tiny pieces we need to save, then closed the top.

A Life Saver

Personally, I keep both the tiny parts organizer and the warranty organizer together so I can easily access any of this information quickly and efficiently. What a difference this tiny upgrade has made for us.

If you’re finding yourself in a situation similar to my last home, it’s not too late to reevaluate, corral the important stuff and get organized once and for all. That way you’ll be prepared for that couch stain, Craigslist sale or whatever else life throws your way! It may seem like unnecessary work, but trust us, it’s well, well worth it.

A DIY’ers Guide to Essential Power Tools

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As DIY’ers, we always get a little giddy when it comes time to chat about tools. (Yes, we’re nerds like that.) So, it should come as no surprise that we’ve covered tools here on the HireAHelper blog before. We outlined the 7 essential tools that EVERYONE should have in their toolbox, and we even showed you our tips to keep all of your tools organized and accounted for.

Now it’s time to move up a level … to power tools! Just that word “power” may sound a little scary and overwhelming to the DIY newbies out there. But we promise there is nothing to be scared of because if even we can handle these tools, then pretty much anyone can.

The Power Tools To Own

If you’re looking to spruce up your home, add to your tool collection, and just be an all-around rock star homeowner, then these are the first five power tools we suggest adding to your collection. We’ve also included the general range of prices you can expect to pay for each.

Cordless Drill

This tool was already covered in our list of seven essential tools to own, but it’s a power tool too! And it’s quite possibly the most important tool to have, overall.

In fact, we believe every household needs a power drill (even if you’re a renter) because it can be used for pretty much anything.

How do we know? So many people in our lives have asked to borrow our drills (and we always oblige), but we quickly emphasize how they really should invest in their own. It’s a necessity! Trust us, it’ll make putting together Ikea furniture a heck of a lot easier.

Price: $30-50

Shopping Tip: Power is measured by battery voltage and ranges from 6-18V. Higher voltage models come with extra power but are quite a bit heavier. We suggest going with a nice, middle-of-the-road 12V cordless drill.

Also be sure to also pick up a variety of drill bits when you buy your cordless drill.

DIY Projects:

  • Hanging curtains
  • Building shelves
  • Drilling holes
  • Anchoring
  • Pretty much anything

Miter Saw

This was the first “real” power tool we ever bought and we’ve used it so many times since. Are you ever going to be touching wood? Don’t think you won’t use this because you absolutely will. It makes straight cuts, sure, but it’s also able to make incredibly accurate cuts at an angle.

Price: Average 8-10 inch saws range $140-250

Average 12+ inch saws range $250-500+

Shopping Tip: Consider the blade size when buying a miter saw (8, 10, or 12 inches).

Yep, larger blades allow for longer cuts. We have a 10-inch compound Miter Saw. Oh, and be sure to pick up safety glasses and an extension cord when you invest. That way you stay safe, and your saw can reach any outlet when working away!

DIY Projects:

  • Board and batten siding
  • Wood planter
  • Shiplap wall
  • Smoothing

Nail Gun

Instead of using a hammer and nails for a project, you can use a nail gun and get the job done 100 times faster. There’s a wide variety of nail guns out there, but we suggest going with a finish nailer. These come in handy when securing wood together or to a wall, and you can easily putty over the holes for a seamless look.

Price: $30-100

Shopping Tip: Nail guns can be gas-powered or air-powered, but we suggest going with an air-powered one. (Here’s the one we own.) When it’s plugged into an outlet, compressed air is used to drive the nails.

Make sure you also pick up extra brad nails for your project and that they’re compatible with the brand/size of your particular nail gun.

DIY Projects:

  • Installing baseboard
  • Creating decorative wall
  • Adding trims
  • Hanging anything

Sander

You’ve probably used sandpaper or a sanding wedge for a project before. And if you have, you know that your arm can get pretty tired when going back and forth over and over again.

It’s time. Get a sander. You add sanding pads to the sander and when you turn it on the pads move in a circle, sanding the surface as you go. We’ve also ended up using sanders when refinishing old pieces of furniture.

Price: $25-80

Shopping Tip: There are various types of sanders (palm, detail, belt, etc), but we use an orbital sander.

Orbitals are lightweight and because they’re not too heavy-handed, it’s very difficult to damage the piece you’re working on. Be sure to buy extra sanding pads for your sander, so you always have a fresh one for your project.

Oh, and a dust mask may come in handy too!

DIY Projects:

  • Refinishing furniture
  • Smoothing DIY picture ledges
  • Sanding down excess paint on a wall

Jigsaw

What’s compact and relatively inexpensive?

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A jigsaw can be used to make both curved and straight cuts in a variety of materials (metal, plastic, wood, particle board, etc.). Whenever we are tackling a woodworking project, we almost always get out the jigsaw because there are bound to be some “wonky” cuts that don’t need to be straight or angled.

For example, if you’re adding shiplap to a wall and need to make room for an outlet … the jigsaw is the tool to get the job done!

Price: $25-90+

Shopping Tip: If you’re planning to use your jigsaw on tough materials, then you may want to buy a jigsaw with a cord. Here is the one we use.

By far the most important thing to remember is that you need to buy the right blade based on the material you’ll be cutting!

DIY Projects:

  • Curved headboard
  • Holes for outlets
  • Shaped signs
  • Personalized crafts

A jigsaw is isnt just useful and easy to learn, it’s pretty fun!


We hope this list gets you excited to start creating and building things around your home! Getting power tools means you can ditch the builder-basic look and customize a home that looks all your own.

How to Future-Proof Your Nursery So It Grows up With Your Baby

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Decorating a nursery for your baby is a special time. As a soon-to-be new mom, every single piece of clothing, blanket, stuffed animal and tiny accessory I see seems way too cute to be real. I still can’t believe I’ll eventually have a little one that will fit into these tiny clothes and use these adorable toys!

But when it comes to decorating our nursery, I’m trying to restrain myself from buying all these cute things. That’s because I’m trying to decorate this space with intention so that the nursery will grow with my baby as he becomes a toddler … and even a little boy.

I don’t want to invest more money in different furniture, rugs, or new paint in a few short years all because I wasn’t planning ahead and creating a space that will transition with him.

How To Create A Nursery That Will Grow With Your Baby

Can you relate?

Are you excited to decorate your nursery but don’t want to be re-decorating the nursery in a few short years? A room that will be oh-so-adorable (and functional!) now, but will also be age-appropriate without a ton of time and money? Here’s how I made my nursery future-proof.

Reconsider Your Paint Color

From the top, this is the most obvious, yet the most ignored piece of advice.

It’s natural to hear “It’s a boy!” and immediately starting planning a traditional light blue nursery. But thinking outside of that box is a great first step in making sure your nursery will grow with your child.

Paint can be expensive, not to mention a definite time investment, so choosing a color that doesn’t exclusively reflect a baby’s first year will help this space transition without having to repaint your light blue or pastel pink room in just a couple years. (And just say no to wallpaper!)

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So to all the excitable parents-to-be out there, we suggest a neutral wall color. You can always accessorize with those bold, bright, or traditional nursery colors in a less permanent way. Future-you will thank you.

Protip: Wall decals, or “wall stickers” are increasingly becoming the “temporary tattoos” of the home-deco world. Most of them are easy to apply and easy to remove, so consider going this route if you absolutely have to plaster something across your wall. Amazon is just one place with plenty of options.

Just Skip The Theme

This is probably our biggest piece of advice because it will have a large impact in creating a nursery that will grow with your baby.

I know this can be difficult, especially since so many baby stores align a lot of their products in large themes. In fact, when my husband and I went to register, one of the first questions that the sales associate asked was, “What’s the theme of your nursery?”

Yep, she looked at us like we were straight crazy when we declared that there was no theme.

But skipping this theme will help the space transition later on because themes often make a nursery feel very “baby”. Themes can’t transition.

Not to say that you can’t incorporate some aspects of these cute collections, but steer clear of buying an entire set of bedding, decor, textiles, etc. That is, unless you want to start completely over as soon as you’re sick of it.

Invest in This Flexible Furniture

Buying the right furniture will also be another way you can save money in the long run. Investing in pieces don’t look like they are only for babies will prevent you from needing to replace these pieces in a few short years.

A lot of cribs these days are considered to be convertable cribs, or 3-in-1, which means they will transition from a crib, to a toddler bed, and then eventually to a twin bed headboard. Wayfair has a nice spread of potential crib options.

toysrus.com

Also, skip the traditional changing table and opt to buy a regular dresser that you can add a changing pad on top of.

That way, you won’t have to ditch the changing table for something less specific in a few short years. You just switch out the changing pad and use the same dresser in a big kid room!

Transformable and “big-kid” furniture for a newborn will save you lots of money in the long run, and you might find a lot of companies are finally starting to realize this when you check out baby furniture options out there.

Be Mindful of Textiles

The biggest thing that comes to mind when choosing textiles is the rug you add to this space. Rugs can be very expensive, so don’t buy a childish one only to replace it a year later. (Veteran moms, you know what we’re talking about.)

If you have hard floors, we recommend a rug to give your room a softer area to eventually crawl around. And if you choose a pattern, texture and color that isn’t strictly for a nursery, it can live in that space for years and years.

We went with this dark oriental-inspired rug because it will not only hide stains, but it can transition as the baby gets older. It is also super versatile so it can adapt to match all kinds of decor, pillows, art, etc.

This large rug was definitely an investment, but we don’t plan on moving it for a long time, which really helps to make you feel comfortable spending money on something expensive now.

Organization Systems Never Become Outdated

Creating a bedroom space that works for your everyday needs is important regardless of how old you are. From newborns all the way up to adulthood, you want your room to be organized and functional to meet your everyday routine.

But a newborn’s needs/routine will look very different from a small child’s, right? That doesn’t mean you can’t establish organization systems early on that will grow with your baby.

The first thing we did was add hooks to the walls. Today, they work for a baby’s towel, but later on that same hook will be a perfect spot for your little one’s book bag.

A closet organization system that works for your little one’s diapers will one day be useful for them to pick out clothes. And yes, the more organized you are now, the more you will appreciate and maintain these methods throughout the future.

Keep Most of the Fun to Accessories

Last but certainly not least, it’s time for the fun part: accessorizing!

Here’s where we give you full permission to inject those baby vibes into the nursery. Accessories are the best and most inexpensive way to add personality and color into your nursery. Mirrors, toys, pictures and more can easily be swapped out as your baby transitions. (As long as they aren’t part of a 25-piece themed set, of course.)

So if you can’t help but splurge on that adorable stuffed animal or that super cozy baby blanket, do it! The necessities in the room will be there for the long-haul.

As the years go on, now all you have to do is swap out a few accessories, which is far less intimidating than new paint, furniture, new rugs and a whole new theme!

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

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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.

Really Cheap Lifehacks for Storing all Your Holiday Decorations

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Even though much of the holidays are officially behind us, we bet there’s probably still holiday decorations lurking around your home. And to be honest, both of us like keeping up our Christmas trees as long as possible, because you just can’t beat the soft, pretty glow of those lights. Sigh.

However, it’s time to snap out of it and focus on the new year ahead (bring it on 2018!), so into storage the holiday decorations must go. But before you throw everything into a big box and call it a day, we have some easy storage hacks to efficiently pack away all of those holiday items. With these ideas, you can get a head start on your resolution to get your home clean and organized for 2018.

Before you start, purge!

As with most organizational projects, we first suggest taking inventory of what you have and doing a nice little purge. Get rid of decorations you no longer love and donate them. There’s no sense holding onto items that never even make it out of the box each year. Once you have everything that makes the cut for next year, it’s time to buy the proper containers to keep everything organized.

Invest in some different colored bins.

We highly suggest color coordinating your holiday bins. We have red and green bins that hold all of our Christmas decorations. (Get it?) It makes it so much easier every November when it’s time to head to the storage unit and get all of the holiday decor. Instead of hunting, you just grab it! Obviously you can even use some washi tape (or a label maker) to still mark the contents of each bin. There are always great deals on organizational supplies after the holiday, so head to the store and grab the essentials.

Get your wrapping paper under control.

Wrapping paper has been a big nuisance in our household for quite some time. We used to put all of the rolls into the corner of a closet, and whenever you open the closet door they would tumble out and unravel. The worst. Not to mention the paper gets beat up and crinkled when it unrolls.

To tackle this mess, we hit up the hardware store and purchased an inexpensive piece of foam pipe insulation. This cost next to nothing. We got the kind that comes pre-slit, so all we had to do was take scissors and chop it into one-foot pieces. We then slit the foam open and put it around the open wrapping paper to hold the container.

Not only does this keep the open wrapping paper from unraveling, but it also prevents it from rolling around! Now, these rolls lay flat on the top shelf of our closet and are way more organized than before. This is a must-do lifehack, if you ask us.

Store and protect your ornaments this way.

We absolutely hate when we go to decorate our tree and half of our ornaments are broken or tangled together. Next year, we’re not letting that happen! Yes, we invested in a container that is meant to hold small items. You can buy these from a hardware or big box store, and they can hold dozens of ornaments easily. The grid easily keeps the ornaments separated and organized inside.

Before, we never really thought it was worth the money to buy this specific of an organizer, but trust us when we say that we are excited about the prospect of not opening up a box full of broken ornaments next year!

Protip: If you have a bunch of small ornaments on your tree, save some egg cartons from the holiday season. These can be used to hold and separate lots of small and delicate Christmas ornaments. Each one gets its own little “cubbie” so it’s safe when you put it into a larger ornament box.

Prevent “tangled ribbon syndrome”.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the holiday season comes with lots and lots of gift wrapping. We already showed you how to tackle the paper clutter, but the bows are another beast. Personally, we both like to use silk ribbon to wrap our gifts (it just gives gifts a little something extra!), and when you accumulate a lot of spools of ribbon things can get messy really quickly! We used to just keep all of our ribbon in one basket, but it would inevitably become a big tangled mess. We had to get creative.

To keep things organized, we purchased a wire basket and a dowel for less than a dollar. We cut the dowel in half and fished it through the wire basket, along with the spools of ribbon. Now the ribbon is all organized and ready to pull through the holes of the basket! This will make gift wrapping a heck of a lot easier (and faster) during next holidays, or any time of the year, honestly!

We know you may be ready to just throw all of your holiday decorations into a bag or box and into your storage unit. But taking some extra time to efficiently store your holiday decor is well worth it. Just think of how good you’ll feel next year when it’s time to deck the halls, and your holiday decorations are organized and ready to go!

This Is How Easy It Is to Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas

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We love all of the amazing smells associated with this time of year … cookies in the oven, peppermint hot cocoa and fresh pine from a new Christmas tree. But because we’re holiday obsessed, we like to take things one step further. Yes, we have our own recipe for a potpourri to make your entire house smell like the holidays, and it works extremely well.

Plus, it’s a cinch.

Now we know what you’re thinking. Potpourri? Isn’t that the dried up stuff in my Grandma’s bathroom? Fear not, potpourri has made a comeback. And the potpourri we’re talking about is a mixture of fresh ingredients and spices that are warmed on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Heating things up makes the concoction that much more fragrant, so it can fill your house with heavenly aromas!

Stovetop potpourri ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange (sliced)
  • 6 cinnamon sticks (break them in half)
  • 1 T. cloves
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer over low for as long as you want. If the water gets low, add more and toss in some more ingredients. There’s no exact science to it, so add more of anything that you like. Personally, we love adding a few extra cinnamon sticks to really let that smell permeate throughout our homes.

That’s honestly it!

Enjoy the holiday smells all day long.

If you don’t want to leave your stove on all day long, we highly suggest using a slow cooker! Just place all of the ingredients in the pot and put it on low for a couple of hours.

We actually did this when we put our Christmas decorations up this year. With Christmas tunes blaring, and this heavenly concoction in the slow cooker, our day of decorating was that much more enjoyable.

But it doesn’t just smell amazing, this concoction is also a feast for the eyes. The cranberries add such a beautiful pop of color, along with the orange slices.

If you’re hosting any holiday parties this year, we suggest you get this potpourri going a few hours before the party begins. When guests enter they’ll be greeted with the amazing aroma of the season. If that doesn’t get you the title of “hostess with the mostess”, we don’t know what will!

Cheers to a magical and fragrant holiday season!

How Much Will Your Move Cost? Here’s How to Figure it Out

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So how much does a move cost? It all depends. Years of moving experience shows that customers typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Gazillionaire
  • Employee relocating on the company’s dime
  • Confused soul wondering aloud, “Good gosh, how much is this going to cost me?”

As you probably guessed, most of us are the third one. AMSA, the American Moving and Storage Association, tells us the average in-state move costs $1,170, while interstate moves average $5,630. But take that with a grain of salt, because the real answer lies is in the details of your specific move—from off-base estimates to logistical issues, from slower-than-syrup movers to incidental expenses, all big and small.

So how is it possible to even come close to predicting the final number so we don’t go into shock when we’re handed the bill?

Some things are out of our control, but there are definitely things you can do and look out for to make the moment we get that final bill pleasantly unsurprising.

The Baseline Cost of Moves

These are the basic questions you need to ask ahead of a move:

  • Are you getting a Full-Service moving company to handle everything?
  • Are you renting your own truck, then hiring moving labor separately?
  • Are you doing everything yourself?

These are known as the three basic ways to move: A Hybrid Move, a Full-Service Move, and a DIY Move.

How much do movers cost?

Getting a Full-Service Move? That means the movers load, unload, and drive the vehicle all on their own. The estimate? Though it will largely depend on the distance traveled and volume of the move, Full-Service Moves run north of $1,500-$2,000, on average, and sometimes can be more expensive if it’s a really big move.

Hybrid Moves, on the other hand, separate moving labor from moving vehicle. That means you hire a mover to load and/or unload your stuff, then rent the moving truck on your own, saving you a lot of money. Roughly, the cost can run anywhere between $300-$1,000 for a truck and movers, occasionally more.

What’s the cost difference between a long distance and local move?

Local or state move? You’re looking at roughly anywhere between $100 to $300 for the moving truck, depending on the size needed and after accounting for mileage and insurance fees.

Moving long distance? Like, across the country? This will likely cost around $1,000 after gas and fees, plus potentially lodging and food.

As for local movers, prices vary dramatically based on scheduling and location. Moving during a busy summer is just going to cost more than during the dead of winter. Movers’ hourly rates also vary, depending on the size and distance of your move.

Here are some generalized queries on price ranges for “2 Helpers for 2 hours”, taken straight from HireAHelper.com:

  • Boston, Massachusetts: $250-$350
  • Austin, Texas: $200-$300
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana.: $300-$400
  • Los Angeles, California: $250-$400

Of course, some movers do charge more, or sometimes less. Check out our movers’ reviews, give a few of them a call, get some estimates, and then go with who you feel best about.

You might love our:

Moving Cost Calculator

If the quote from your movers felt expensive …
Make sure it lines up with the costs reported by other Americans.

Finally, there’s the DIY Move, which hides plenty of hidden costs, such as:

  • Gasoline
  • Power tools
  • Moving supplies
  • Pizza and beer
  • Heavy stress

Not to mention what it does to close friendships and schedules. You can get away with casually moving a bedroom with some friends, but let’s just say that in the past, I wish I had spent a couple hundred bucks to have had total peace of mind for those really stressful moves. As a mover, I recognize I am biased, but I am also just a person who has moved many, many times—just like you.

Why do random internet searches for movers cost more?

Moving estimations are rarely conservative. That’s because it’s dreadful to be ill-equipped and strapped for time, versus the other way around.

No matter which one you choose, having someone come out and do a thorough visual of your place and all your belongings can be an extra useful way to get the most reliable estimate of how much your move will cost, as it’s an estimate based on time needed.

Getting an estimate over the phone? That’s cool, but keep these two things in mind:

First, if someone can’t see all the things you want moved, no matter how pure their intentions, it is ultimately a guesstimate.

Why should I avoid “move brokers”?

Secondly, unfortunately, it’s a very real possibility that the “moving company” you quickly searched for on the internet is actually just a move broker.

That’s another term for a middleman who will assure you that they can give you an accurate quote – which will sound too good to be true – then sell your move to the highest bidder. That person will then come out (most likely in a rental truck) and load up your stuff … before telling tell you that your final bill will be a lot higher than you were originally told.

It happens every single day. Don’t let it happen to you.

That’s why after 20 plus years of experience moving people, I write for HireAHelper, a moving labor marketplace. All the movers are real movers with real reviews, which means absolutely zero of them are move brokers. Everyone here is the real deal.

Get a Quote

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See prices for local moving labor. Read real customer reviews. Easily book your help online.

Still, marketplace or not, keep in mind that the more stuff you have, the more important it is to get an in-person estimate so your movers can give you a good idea of how many people you’ll need for how many hours.

Extra, Hidden Mover Costs

How much stuff you have isn’t the only thing that determines the cost of your move. Here are some other important factors that some moving companies take into consideration when giving quotes:

  • If the path from your door to the truck involves stairs or an elevator
  • If the distance from your door to where the truck will be parked is particularly long (meaning 75 feet or more)
  • If your movers can’t get their tractor-trailer anywhere near your place and they have to use a smaller truck to shuttle your stuff from your driveway to the big rig
  • If you have any (or a lot of) heavy, bulky or unusual items, like pool tables or gun safes

All or some combination of these will likely bring your quote up. This is another reason an in-person estimate is important. But if you do find yourself having to give movers a run-down of your stuff over the phone, be sure to let them know the lay of the land so no one ends up surprised. Also, don’t forget to potentially tip your movers.

Total: 

Local Hybrid Move: ~$350+

Local Full-Service Move: ~$700+

Long Distance Hybrid Move: ~$1,300+

Long Distance Full Service Move: ~$2,000+

Optional, Accidental and Potentially Hefty Costs

There are some potentially optional costs that can add up quickly.

Packing Costs

Doing your own packing? Be aware that boxes can get expensivea couple of bucks a pop on average.

Meanwhile, packing paper goes for around $30 per 25-pound bundle, and box tape runs at minimum a dollar per roll.

Thinking of using bubble wrap? Plan on dropping anywhere from $20-$50 a shot.

You’ll save some cash by doing your own packing, but your packing supplies can run you a couple hundred bucks, at least.

Total:

Moving boxes: ~$0-25

Packing supplies: ~$35-75

Packing help: ~$75-100

Rental Trucks

Renting a truck? You may find one for $20 or $30 or $50 a day, but gas, tolls, equipment rental, liability insurance, mileage charges and any fees included in the fine print of your rental agreement add up fast. Plus, obviously, the bigger the truck you need, the more it’ll cost. Not to mention, some days are busier than others (e.g., holidays, weekends, etc.), and you’ll get charged more for a last second rental. (Read this rental truck guide for more info.)

If you are moving long-distance, you also need to factor in food and lodging. And by the way, if you’re driving that truck, how are you going to get your car to your new home? All of this basically means one thing: get a quote on a moving truck early

Total: 

Local (or daily) moving truck: ~$75-300+

Long distance moving truck: ~$1,000-5,000+

How much does insurance cost?

Planning on getting your stuff insured? Full-service moving companies offer free basic coverage against loss or damage, equaling 60 cents per pound for any lost or damaged item. If you are okay with getting fifteen bucks in return for your newly-smashed flat screen TV, then this is the plan for you. That’s called valuation, not insurance.

If you want to be actually insured, you’ll want to consider paying for coverage that actually means something—which will cost you a percentage of what your stuff is worth in total.

 

What Moving Insurance Actually Does

(And why it might not help you!)

Total:

Insurance cost is completely relative to the item you insure (as well as how far you take it). Taken from MovingInsurance.com FAQ:

The cost of the insurance, or premium, is based on a proportional rate, relevant to the declared value of your shipment and the level of deductible you have chosen, and includes an administrative fee. Rates vary depending on your insurance type as well as based on your household goods’ final destination, whether be locally, out of state or internationally.

Storage and Lodging

And if your new home isn’t ready when you are? This unfortunate possibility comes with having to shell out more cash for the extra time your stuff has to sit on the moving truck, the extra time you have to hold onto your rental truck, or the storage space you have to rent until your home is finally ready for you. You might not include such expenses in your moving budget, but be aware of the potential for things to go wrong. There’s even the hotel cost if you’re moving for more than a day.

And what if you don’t get your life all packed up on time? You’ll have to hire packers last-minute. Obviously, this situation is entirely avoidable. All you have to do is make a careful and calculated estimate as to how long it will take you to pack everything. Then whatever time frame you come up with, multiply by two and a half. (Seriously.)

Total: 

Storage container costs depend on their size and distance driven. Taken from Moving101:

You can move locally or long distance, but moving containers are more affordably suited to local moves of small houses or apartments…mostly because you need to rent out more than one container for larger homes, which raises the fee. And the costs associated with the company driving the container long distance (read: paying the driver, fuel, insurance, etc.) all pile onto your bill, but then again, you’re not driving that massive truck 2,000 miles in 110-degree heat. Tradeoffs. Prices range from just under $500 for a local move (with the largest container) to more than $5,000 for a long-distance move (with two of the largest containers).

Incidental Costs

After moving people day in and day out for decades, I’ve heard everything under the sun when it comes to random moving costs the customers weren’t expecting. But the thing is, they almost are never random, just unexpected. The list of sometimes surprising incidental costs include:

  • Restocking your pantry/kitchen, and replacing items you got rid of
  • Paying deposits on utilities, cable, and public services at your new home
  • Sucking up any cancellation fees or broken contract penalties for things like cable, phone and health club membership
  • Repairing damage in your old home – or losing your security deposit if you don’t
  • Changing your driver’s license and car registration
  • Running a credit check to pass along to your new landlord and new utility companies
  • Picking up all the little things you need for your new home: light bulbs, shower curtain, shades/curtains for the windows, cleaning supplies because you used up and wore out everything cleaning your old place so you could get at least some of your security deposit back
  • Getting socked with penalties for being late paying bills because your mail didn’t get forwarded promptly, or you missed a bill altogether

Apartment Costs

Also, are you renting a new apartment? Obviously, don’t forget you have a security deposit as well as first and last months’ rent to shell out. Those can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to the value of the entire month’s rent. Buying a new home? That’s another topic altogether, but with that comes closing costs, realtor fees, appraisal costs, inspection fees, attorney fees and more. Yay!

Long-term Costs

There’s another part to this incidental list, which includes moving costs that are repeating or more long-term in nature.

  • Does parking cost where you live, and how much?
  • What are the average car and health insurance rates in your new state?
  • With your new home will you be subjected to building maintenance fees? Property fees? Homeowners’ association fees? Do you have to buy special trash and recycling bins?

That’s a lot of stuff to take into account, huh?

Figuring out what your own move will cost is all about specifics, not averages. So get that in-person estimate (more than one, if you are able). Use a moving cost calculator. Find a deal on a reliable rental truck (and remember to read the fine print). Check out rates for coverage against damage. Keep an eye on all those incidental charges and keep a list of things you’ll need at your new place.

And please, leave yourself plenty of time to pack!


Illustrations by Vicki Tsai

The Unexpected Perks of Local Moves

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Often when people move, it’s across the country or at least across the state. But for my recent move, it was just about seven blocks away! Yes, I just completed a local move. And I’m a little surprised about all the unexpected perks.

Here’s the story: My husband and I are expecting our first child and have had our eyes peeled in our “dream neighborhood” for over a year. This neighborhood came with a much better school district, a house big enough to accommodate our growing family, and a close-knit community that we were eager to join.

So although it seems silly to think we put in so much effort for a move just seven blocks away, we think it was well worth the investment and are so happy with the decision.

What We Learned

We didn’t have to be as organized.

A lot of my friends have moved across the country and in doing so, have had to really focus on their moving gameplan because it came with some serious logistics. How many days and miles do you need the moving truck for? Who will drive the moving truck and who will drive the family’s cars? What do you gotta bring on the moving truck to survive the few days en route?

Figuring out this information wasn’t exactly impossible for them, but I found out (the easy way) that common logistic problems definitely didn’t sneak up on me because our move was local.

Scheduling and driving a rental truck was easy-peasy.

To save money, I opted for a Hybrid Move. Translation: I hired Helpers for the heavy lifting, but rented and drove the moving truck myself. Because my move was local, when I was choosing the truck I needed, my priorities were strictly around the size. Nothing else.

Here’s another thing: Often times during long-distance moves, new homeowners need to research a truck that has extra seating, valuable leg room, USB or GPS capabilities, etc. Guess what? That extra information didn’t matter so much to me as I was zipping back and forth. Plus, the rental process was a breeze because there were so many trucks available in our area that fit our minimal requirements.

4 Cases Where You Really Should Move to Save Money

If you like to burn money, don’t read this post.

Even details like where or when I needed to drop the truck off were far less complicated because I was going to pick-up and drop-off at the same location, which meant I was dealing with one salesperson the entire day. And yes, he quickly got to know me when I picked it up and was very flexible on when I brought it back. Repition is nice.

Plus, I’m not necessarily “used to” driving a 15-foot moving truck, but I can do anything for 7 blocks, right?! I would have been a bit more hesitant to drive a solo mission across the country, but zipping around a neighborhood I was already familiar with was definitely a perk that came along with this local move.

My neighbors were a huge resource.

When we moved into our new house, we needed an extension ladder to get up on the roof right away. The homeowner before us left several decorative ornamental pieces on the siding around our home and I couldn’t stand to look at these eyesores another day! You’re probably laughing at me, but seriously, a missing extension ladder was the only thing holding me back.

Google Map image of my new home.

 

Sure, we could have purchased one, but they’re expensive (like almost $200!) and it would’ve taken up quite a bit of non-existent room in our limited garage space.

But – yet again – because we still lived so close to our old house, we were able to borrow the ladder from our old neighbor! We drove it the seven blocks to our new house, used it, did a happy dance on our lawn once the job was done, then drove it right back to our old digs. I had no idea that the network we made in our old neighborhood would pay off so quickly, but staying local does have its perks … especially when you find yourself in a bind!

Potential financial overlaps pay off … big time!

Paying two mortgages at the same time is not fun, but ironically for the few days that we had possession of both our old house and the new house was pretty amazing in terms of moving perks. If you’re moving locally and have the chance to close on your new house just a few days before the old ones, do it! I can’t begin to tell you all of the hidden perks that came along with this situation.
For one, we were able to accomplish a lot of our DIY projects in the new house without having to live through the mess. We demoed the trim, added new trim, painted the walls, and had the floors re-finished all before we had to move into our new place. This was an epic success because we were not only able to dodge the mess and dust, but these jobs were so much easier (and quicker) to accomplish without the nuisance of all of our delicate, new furniture.

And speaking of all my “stuff”, after the DIY dust settled, we started bringing over the light-weight boxes to our new home. Anytime we would drive to the new house, we would fill up our cars with a few boxes and before we knew it, a lot of our stuff was already there and it wasn’t even moving day yet!

I can’t stress enough how much time, money and stress we were able to save thanks to this overlapping, local ownership.

We leisurely unpacked our wardrobes, bathroom essentials, and entire kitchen before moving day. When moving day finally arrived, we needed to hire the minimal amount of Helpers, then, the entire job was done in two hours! Plus, the unpacking process was a lot less stressful because nothing needed to be unpacked immediately since the closets, bathrooms and kitchens were already done.

With the help of the movers, moving day turned out to be relaxing (yes, that’s a thing!) … a welcome perk I definitely didn’t see coming.

The transition of utilities was seamless.

When we called about canceling some of our monthly utilities, some of the companies quoted us a cancellation fee because we would be ending our contract. But much to our surprise, a lot of these cancellation fees were waived if we had these services transferred over to our new house instead. We obviously opted for that option, which made the transition pretty seamless and much more affordable.

It also made paying our bills a whole heck of lot less time-consuming because we didn’t have to set up new automatic pay accounts through our bank for all of these new utility companies. So we could continue making payments and the utilities continued just like usual. It was definitely a win-win!

All our food stayed fresh.
How to Pack Up a Kitchen - Fridge, Pantry, and Freezer

Another unexpected perk was not as significant as the previous ones, but one I still appreciated!

In a long distance move, transferring your frozen or refrigerated food is another task that needs some pre-planning and an exact game plan. Groceries are far too expensive to let them go to waste because of poor planning. But in my local move, none of this pre-planning was necessary. No cooler (or planning) necessary! I don’t know about you guys, but I could get used to this trend of not having to pre-plan during a move!

Long story short, my seven block move came with some pretty unexpected perks that ending up saving me time, money and stress. Some of our family and friends rolled their eyes at us when we announced that we were hopping just one neighborhood over, but I’m happy to report it wasn’t that big of a deal to do, and the perks for us were huge; Even if it’s just seven blocks away from our old one!

The DIY Playbook are Bridget and Casey, two crafty bloggers writing out of Chicago about cool DIY projects, lifehacks and money saving techniques. After 15 years of blogging, they believe that if they can figure out how to DIY it, you can definitely do it too.

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