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!)

These Paint Colors Have the Best Resale Value

Zillow examined 50,000 home sales and found these colors help sellers make as much as $5,000 more!

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.

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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!

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.

What You Actually Need to Get for Your Home on Black Friday

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As two gals who write about everything home, we are always looking for the latest and greatest when it comes to tools, furniture, electronics or really any item for your home. But we’re also budget-friendly bloggers and absolutely love the feeling when we find a great deal!

So with that in mind, we’re combining our two favorite things into one jam-packed post … first, we detail what we do before we go shopping, then we share a list of all of our favorite home items that will definitely have slashed prices during Black Friday (and Cyber Monday, too)!

Taking Inventory of What You Need

It can be really tempting to buy stuff just to buy stuff during Black Friday, but just because something is a good deal doesn’t mean it’s a good investment. Instead, we highly suggest taking inventory of what you actually need.

First, walk around your home with a pen and paper and jot down a list of items that need replacing. Perhaps your coffee pot has seen better days, or you’ve never truly loved that rug in the front hallway. Create this list now before those Black Friday deals start popping up.

Get that tape measure out.

If you find that you’re looking for furniture or home decor, grab your tape measure and write down some measurements. You don’t want to add a rug on super sale to your shopping cart if it’s way too big for your living room! Having these measurements on hand when you’re quickly trying to score the best deals will be helpful, and it won’t slow you down when you’re racing against the clock to fill your online shopping cart!

Browse online.

With your list of items and measurements, it’s time to start browsing. No need to buy anything yet, but get an idea for the items you may want to grab once those deals pop up. Here’s a popular site that collects all upcoming sales from the most popular retail stores. We suggest keeping a list of all of the links in an email in your drafts so you can easily access it on any computer or phone when you’re online shopping.

Protip: It’s tough to know what exactly will be on sale once Black Friday hits, but some smaller stores will put all of their deals out there ahead of time in their newsletter. Sign up for some of your favorite stores and you may be alerted ahead of time about those crazy good deals!

7 of Our Favorite DIY Items for Your Home

Now, onto our favorite home items that we recommend to absolutely everyone! Click the names of each item for a quick link.

Cordless Drill

Even if you’re not a fan of DIY projects, we think every home should have a power drill. This tool is a homeowner essential and we use ours every single week. Even if you’re just hanging something on the wall, power drills make everything 10 times faster. This DeWalt model is our favorite and we each have one that we use constantly. This drill will have enough power for just about any home task, and we love that it comes with an extra battery so you’re never out of juice!

Letter Board

We both have these letter boards on display in our homes and we can’t get enough! It’s a savvy way to display a positive quote or funny message in your house. We’ve used these boards for so many picture ops, but they work great even just as wall art. We’ve gifted this item to new homeowners before so you may want to consider scooping one up for yourself and/or for someone special during the holiday sales!

A Neutral Rug

If you’re looking for a large, neutral, and on-trend rug, we’ve got the one for you!

Bridget had this rug in her old office and got so many compliments on this bad boy. It can match with just about any decor, plus the Moroccan pattern is right on trend. Wayfair will have some major deals on Black Friday, so this is definitely one you may want to add to your home shopping list.

Geometric Planter

Casey has this planter in her home and it’s another one that our readers obsess over! You can’t go wrong with this classic black and white color combo and it’s such a good size for an indoor planter. Snake plants have thrived in this pot, but we’ve seen others grow all kinds of gorgeous indoor plants in this. We truly believe every room needs some greenery, so this planter may be the kick in the pants you need to work on your green thumb.

Purdy Paint Brush

If you have a painting project coming up, the best thing you can do is buy a high-quality paint brush. Trust us, those cheap ones may seem like they’ll cut it, but you’ll end up with little brush hairs stuck in the wet paint and on your walls. Not good! We only use Purdy paint brushes and recommend them to everyone. They are a bit pricier, but as long as you clean them well they can last forever! Stock up on some of these high-quality brushes if you plan to paint sometime in the future. You won’t regret it.

The (Perfect) Scented Candle

We’re candle junkies and light them just about every single night. It’s taken us years to figure out our tried and true scents, but we have narrowed down our winner to this one. This candle from Anthropologie is absolutely amazing (& the perfect 5-star review shows we’re not alone in our love for this candle!). It permeates throughout your entire house with ease, so we light these whenever we’re entertaining. And every single time, guests have requested what the smell is and how they they too can scoop up this candle. The best part? It works all year round, meaning you don’t have to feel weird buying something that smells distinctly like the holidays.

Cordless Vacuum

Bridget got this cordless vacuum cleaner for her wedding many years ago and it’s still one of the best items she put on her registry! You charge it in a dock (she keeps hers in their laundry room) and then it’s always raring to go so you can zip around your home cleaning up dust bunnies in no time at all. Because there is no cord, you can easily and quickly clean your entire home (no stopping to unplug the cord and find a new outlet.) Overall, this vacuum makes this dreadful task a little bit better.

The countdown to the holiday shopping frenzy is on! We encourage you to make a list (and check it twice) before those Black Friday deals hit the web. Happy shopping!

How to Choose the Right School for Your Kids Before You Move

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There are many factors that go into choosing a new home … the size, the layout, the number of bedrooms and the cost. But if you’re a parent, soon-to-be-parent or a someday-parent, then there’s another thing you really have to factor in: the school.

As a teacher, a soon-to-be mom and a homeowner who just moved to be in the school district of her dreams, this topic has been on my mind a lot lately! When looking for a new home, my husband and I narrowed down the location based on the best public school district in our area. There were plenty of homes we loved that were outside of the exact district lines, but we chose to ignore those open houses so we could concentrate specifically on finding the home AND school of our dreams for our child.

But how do you even go about finding the best school for your child? What information is important to consider? That’s what today’s “lesson plan” is all about!

Consider Private vs. Public

First up, you need to choose between private or public schooling. The primary difference between these two options comes down to funding. Public schools typically receive government funding, whereas private schools charge tuition for each student. Let’s look at how that impacts other critical factors.

The Cost of Schooling

Here’s the 101 on private and public school financials.

Because public schools are financed through federal, state and local taxes, they must follow all the rules set by the government. Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to some public school systems being underfunded. For us in the Chicagoland area, the location of the district makes a big difference for how well-funded it is. Obviously, better funded public schools are often found where the average housing costs are higher. Therefore, families often pay extra in housing costs to live in the “ideal” neighborhoods in order to be in the best public school districts. When it comes to admission, by law, public schools must accept all children. And a lot of kids are attending public school … about 90% of children in America, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Conversely, private schools generate their own funding through tuition, private grants and fundraising efforts. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, the median tuition fee for private schools is close to $12,000 per year. Often times parochial schools charge much less than that (around $3,000 per year), whereas boarding schools often come with a higher price tag (up to $37,000 per year).

Because these institutions are in demand, private schools can be selective when it comes to admission. This means that the admission process often involves interviews, essays and testing for each student.

The Best Location

But how does choosing public or private affect where you’re going to live?

If you choose the private school route, you’ll have a bit more leeway into where you choose to settle down. But of course, you will want to consider your child’s commute to school every day. Often times private schools do not offer transportation, or if they do, it’s with extra fees, so making sure your child will have a safe and efficient way to get to and from their private school is definitely something to consider.

Public schools are a little more complex. Namely, there are specific district lines that you must live within in order to send your child there. In fact, all districts require proof of residency before you can enroll your kids in a public school. When you’re searching for a new home, often the listing on sites like Zillow and Redfin will include the nearby schools and give a “School Rating.” But if you’re buying a home, it’s always best to call the district to verify, especially because district lines can suddenly change and the real estate site’s information may not accurately reflect this updated information just yet.

Check out a School’s Report Card

Just like kids, schools get report cards too! But it’s up to you to do your homework online to gather all of this crucial info. Both GreatSchools.org and The National Center for Education Statistics offer data for each school district, including information on test scores, education programs, graduation rates, and teacher quality.

When it comes to teachers, there is a difference in certification between public and private schools. Teachers in public schools are usually state certified, whereas teachers in private schools may not be required to have certification. They often have subject-matter expertise or an undergraduate degree in the subject they teach, but actually don’t always have to meet the standards that the state outlines for a teaching license.

Also, don’t forget to review the curriculum at the schools you’re considering!

This isn’t always the same between private and public schools. Public schools follow state guidelines, a curriculum that must meet specific standards and common state assessments, while private schools have the freedom to design their own curriculum and don’t always mandate standardized tests.

To get real reviews from other parents about their school satisfaction, you can check out GreatSchools.org. Here, parents write detailed reviews about their school’s curriculum, class sizes and thoughts on the teachers. This real talk may be insightful as you narrow down your top choices.

Consider Your Child’s Personality

But those “report cards” don’t always give the full picture. Because every child is different, be sure to think about the unique qualities and characteristics of your child when choosing a school. The right combination is not always super obvious.

With that in mind, when finalizing your top school contenders don’t forget to review:

  • Class sizes
  • Student-teacher ratio
  • Special education needs
  • Accelerated programs
  • Extracurricular activities

Make sure you’re giving your child what they need from their education! Consider questions like these: Is your child introverted? Does she like a particular sport? Does he need special attention or accommodations? Answer these crucial questions about your child while thinking about the list above.

Private schools may have programs for gifted students and can specialize programs to offer extra curriculum surrounding the arts or technology. However, most private schools are not able to fully accommodate students with learning disabilities. Because public schools have a responsibility to teach all students, they often have programs set up and funded just for children with individualized academic or developmental needs.

Extra Credit: Ask the Neighbors

If you’re really interested in a neighborhood and school, speak to parents in that area. This is a great way to gauge the area and see if the parents there are satisfied. If you find glowing reviews from real parents, chances are you can trust that they are doing a stellar job!


When it comes to deciding between private or public school (and choosing a school district), it’s important to remember that it’s a very personal choice for you and your family. There is no right or wrong answer. Do your homework, but at the end of the day know that only you can make the best decision for your family.

As for me, even though my baby isn’t here yet, I’m happy to know that when school time eventually gets here we already have our ideal home and school district all planned out for his future. That’s because we did our homework before we started searching for a new home!

If You Have Kids, Test Your Home for These Things Right Now

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I recently moved while pregnant and let me tell you, the struggle is real! Although there were some unexpected perks (it helps to have a literal built-in excuse not to have to do the heavy lifting), there were also a slew of concerns and precautionary steps I took to keep me and Baby Mac safe throughout the process. (In case you’re wondering, he’s due in February!)
I’m definitely not here to scare any future moms. We all know there’s plenty of material available that can do that. But I also didn’t want to go into my move blind to the potential hazards that a new house can pose to you or your baby’s health.
So as an expecting mom and a special education teacher who sees the effects of these household dangers far too often, I’m here to share important research so we can be diligent in taking the necessary steps to keep our babies safe.

You Need to Get Your New Home Tested for Lead

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), 1 in every 38 kids is impacted by lead poisoning. Exposure to lead at a young age can come from many things, but usually include these lead-based sources:
  • Lead paint
  • Lead in a tainted water supply
  • Lead fumes during construction
When a child is exposed to this dangerous toxin, they are at high risk of developing a learning disability, a lower IQ and/or damaged organs. In some extreme cases, it can even cause death.
We can all agree that we would never want to expose our babies or young children to lead, but the scary part is that sometimes we do so without even realizing it. That’s why with just a little research and the right tools, you can arm yourself with the resources you need to test for lead products. And often times, all you really need is yourself!

How to Test for Lead

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Large companies, such as 3M, sell DIY lead checking products (some for under $10!) that you can purchase and use to test the paint in your home. The directions will coach you on how to swipe the painted surface and almost instantly identify whether or not that paint is contaminated.
If you are an avid DIY-er like us, be sure to use these strips to test any furniture you may be giving a makeover for the new nursery, too. You definitely don’t want to sand down an old dresser that was previously painted with lead paint. That dust can be extremely dangerous when it becomes airborne. You also don’t want to paint over it since your little one could peel away that paint some day and ingest it. There are plenty of old dressers that need a lot of DIY love (so don’t ditch this creative idea entirely!), just be sure to choose one that doesn’t have a history with lead.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 10-20 percent of our exposure to lead comes from water. This is especially dangerous because we may not even realize we are mixing lead-infused water in our baby’s formula and potentially causing serious damage in the process. To test the water in your new home, simply contact your water supplier and ask for it to be tested. If this is not a service they provide, the EPA has contact information for approved testing labs you can reference right here. Just click on your state and search your state government’s resources!

What to Do If Your Child Has Already Been Exposed to Lead

If you have little ones and are concerned that they may have already been exposed to lead (sometimes it can be inhaled through contaminated dust without you even realizing it), don’t freak out – you can often get their lead levels tested at your local pediatrician, just make the appointment today.
Take the precautionary steps to avoid this contamination, and you are your little one will be safe. Just be sure you use the resources available to confirm that your new home is clear of any risk before it’s too late. The bottom line is that lead poisoning is extremely dangerous and fetuses and small children are unfortunately at the highest risk of the side effects.

Get Your Home Tested for Radon

Who knew some old houses could have a dangerous build-up of radon lurking within? I had no idea until right before I moved into my new house and did some investigating. I’m definitely not a pro on the topic, but here’s all the info I found out through my moving experience.

Radon is a dangerous gas that radiates out of the soil over time and is more prominent in some areas of the country versus others. Those areas’ homes catch these gases, trapping them inside and increasing the levels of radon to a point that can be dangerous to live in over long periods of time. According to the American Lung Association, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer … right behind smoking! I don’t want my baby exposed to second-hand smoke and I don’t want him exposed to high radon levels either.

How Do I Get a Radon Test? How Much Does it Cost?

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The great news is that high levels of radon in your home don’t need to be a deal breaker because there are solutions to lower the levels of gases. Each state’s EPA shares resources on which companies you can call to test your home for radon right here. This test costs a couple hundred bucks (depending on location, house size, etc.) and it takes a few days to complete. To test for it, a tracker is placed in your new home, usually in the basement. Note that the longer the tracker can stay in the home, the more accurate the read will be.

For reference, the average level of radon in households across America is 1.3 picocuries per liter and according to the EPA, you need to take action on reducing radon on or above 4.0 pCi/L. Talking to the company who tested your home will be the best resource to start identifying what specific steps you can take to decrease these radon levels now and eliminate them from rising in the future.

Other Harmful Chemicals to Consider

Okay, the two biggest chemicals that may lurk in your home prior to moving in are out-of-the-way, but we don’t want you to forget about the ones that may pop up throughout the moving or nesting process. Here’s a list of other common products that could be useful as you get settled in, but ones you need to take precaution so you are not exposed to:
  • Rodent/Insect pesticides
  • Landscaping pesticides or fertilizers
  • Paints with VOC
  • Polyurethane finishes for floors
  • Paint removing liquids
  • Spray paints (it’s better to roll/brush no-VOC paints if possible!)
  • Arsenic (which is a substance that a lot of outdoor decks or wood is treated with)

Especially if you’re pregnant like me and someone in your home needs to use these listed products, be sure to use proper ventilation, steer clear, or even see if you could stay at a friend’s place until the fumes are gone. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, right?

Overall, I went into my move feeling a lot more at ease about these potential dangers because I invested a little time and money into having my house tested for both lead paint and radon levels. Also diving into these topics a little deeper helped me identify how I can take steps later in my pregnancy (or in future pregnancies) to stay safe, which I’m very grateful for. If you’re looking to move while pregnant, I hope you too can find peace of mind by getting your home tested (and cleared!)

House Hunting While Expecting? Don’t Forget About These Things

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As a mom-to-be, I had one thing in mind when my husband and I were recently house hunting while expecting: a space that was ideal for our growing family. We were no longer just looking for a home that was perfect for both of us, but instead, we had to think about our soon-to-be family of three (or someday even more!).

As if house hunting wasn’t hard enough, the “future family factor” can make the process even more daunting. If you’re expecting, or hope to start a family someday, then you’ll definitely want to keep the factors below in mind when searching for the home of your family’s dreams.

Floor Space

The most obvious and non-negotiable place to start is the size of any prospective home. Will it be able to accommodate you and your partner, along with one or more kids? Ask yourself these questions:

Where are the bedrooms located to one another?

Of, course you want to have enough bedrooms, but that alone isn’t enough. Like someone sketching out the perfect blueprint, you’ll want to consider where the bedrooms are located to one another. It’s preferable to have all the bedrooms on the same floor, so they can easily get to their child’s room at night.

Is there more than one bathroom?

Surprising nobody, people will walk away from incredible arrangements if this single factor is off – and it’s no wonder why. Whether this is your forever home or not, multiple family members getting ready for work and school in one tiny bathroom won’t cut it long-term.

Are stairs going to be a factor for you? (Probably.)

Parents who are city dwellers know how difficult it can be if you live on the third floor of a walk-up building. Even after pregnancy, bringing a stroller, a baby and groceries up and down three flights of stairs is quite the trek! Especially if you’re at the beginning of your family adventure, stairs may be a major factor to consider.

Is there an open floor plan?

These days, open floor plans are the most desirable, as parents can keep an eye on their kids playing while making dinner. Make sure whatever layout you choose is one that works well for you and your kid’s safety.

Where are you gonna store extra stuff?

Kids come with a lot of stuff. Strollers, clothing, toys, sports equipment … is there storage space for all of these things in your potential home? Make sure you have a concrete plan to contain the clutter!

Safety Concerns

Even if there weren’t any kids to consider, safety is a priority when house hunting. Add kids to the mix and you become even that much more aware of potential safety hazards that lurk in a potential property.

Is this home near a busy street?

A busy street can be a potential deterrent for a number of factors. First, it may be pretty noisy which isn’t ideal for sleeping babies, trust us. But (somehow) even more importantly, you don’t want your kids playing in a yard that’s on a street with lots of traffic. Here’s a protip: Google Maps highlights streets by their traffic. The darker the color, the more that’s “happening” there. A double-edged sword, to be sure!

What about a fence?

A fence in the backyard or front yard may be a priority for some expanding families, as it allows kids to roam the patio without wandering off too far. If there isn’t a fence (and you want one), budget in the cost of adding one when checking out potential properties.

Can kids play in the neighborhood?

When house hunting, you’ll want to get a feel for the neighborhood. If kids are out riding their bikes and playing in the streets, it may be a kid-friendly spot where your future kiddos can hang with their neighbors. If you want to get a feel for the crime rate, there are definitely handy websites that show you the police blotter for any given area. Your notes shouldn’t begin and end at the front door!

How far are you from your personal doctor or an urgent care/hospital location?

You know that scene in movies where a nervous husband carts his “in-labor-and-about-to-burst” wife into the car before zooming through traffic? Well, planning out where the hospital is not a one-and-done trick. While we hope you won’t be using this route often, make sure where your health insurance is accepted and where you live aren’t majorly out of sync. Speaking of this tip …

Location

Location, location, location. It’s always the number one factor when buying a home of any kind. But throw a kid or two into the mix and where you live is more important than the view.

What’s the school district like?

We’ve chatted all about the importance of house hunting with a school district in mind on the HireAHelper blog before, and we maintain this shouldn’t be overlooked. Do your research, look into the numbers, and make sure you’re in a school district where your children can thrive!

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How long does it take to get to school?

When my husband was a kid, he had to take a 30-minute bus ride to the other side of town for school every single day. If you don’t think about this before buying, trust us, you will afterward. Can your child walk to school? Can you drop them off on the way to work? Is the bus ride manageable? Even if your kid is far from their first words, this is a crucial variable to think about when searching for your perfect home.

Are there other families in your neighborhood?

When narrowing down locations, it may be beneficial to take a stroll through the neighborhood on a weekend afternoon. Are there young families at the park? Are the kids a lot older? Is the demographic mostly older people without families? Do some research online (like with this app) and get a feel for the demographics of the neighborhood to see if your future family will fit right in. It helps to have a helping hand and a night out once and awhile!

Where’s the closest park/library/swimming pool?

When you’re a parent, you want to keep your kids entertained to prevent anyone from saying the b-word (no, “bored”). Having parks, libraries, swimming pools and other fun activities nearby is always a good idea. Nobody wants to have to make a field trip out of every excursion.


Starting a family. Buying a home. These are big milestones for anyone! But combining these two life events? You’ve got the recipe for a lot of important decision-making. Our advice is to be thoughtful, consider every angle, and think about your life 5, 10, or even 25 years from now. That way, you’ll be certain you’re making the best choice for you and your future family no matter what it looks like.

The Must-Read Guide to Prepare for Your Home Inspection As a Buyer

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Let’s back up to right before you schedule your home inspection.

Chances are you just signed a contract, which means the lender, realtor and lawyers are probably already approaching you with their list of requests. You need to get your current home on the market, you probably have a busy job and a few kiddos at home, and life has officially taken a turn to Crazytown!

But just because things are busy doesn’t mean you should neglect your obligatory home inspection. Not only can not giving attention to your home inspection impact the sale, but the results could cost you well into your future if you’re not prepared. This must-read guide gives you all of the facts you need to have for scheduling your home inspection, with helpful tips on how you can make the most of this tedious step … even amidst the chaos of buying and selling!   

What will a home inspection cost me?

Home InspectionA quality home inspection will cost you, the homebuyer, about $250-$400 depending on the size of the home. As much as these unexpected expenses seem endless during the moving process, this is one expense you do not want to skip. Hiring a quality inspector can make such a significant difference to highlight the good, bad and potentially dangerous components of your new home. You want to make sure you hire an inspector who is licensed and knowledgeable … even if that costs a few extra bucks. This tiny investment can save you thousands of dollars (and a lot of heartache) in the long run.

How do I find a quality inspector?

Home Inspection

So you know you want to invest in a quality inspector, but you’re not really sure where to find one. You’re not alone! The best place to look is your realtor. If you really trust your realtor, she probably has some recommendations. Usually, realtors come to their buyers’ inspections, so chances are they have met a lot of inspectors and have seen which ones are thorough and which ones aren’t.

Says Lexi Newman, a real estate agent heading Lexi Newman Real Estate out of the Los Angeles area, “I’ve observed countless inspections over the years, and while some inspectors spend hours examining every nook and cranny and then doing additional research at home, others breeze on through doing the bare minimum.”

Again, you want to squeeze every bit of usefulness you can out of every step of the process. Continues Newman,
“Your realtor attends inspections day in and day out, knows what constitutes a quality inspection, and can point you in the right direction … Find out if the inspector is certified with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Ask them how long they’ve been inspecting, if they come from a construction or contracting background, and what they did professionally before becoming a home inspector. Also, find out what sort of report they put together and how fast they are able to send it to you -this is a crucial part of repair negotiations during escrow, and a quick turnaround time is extremely important so your realtor has time to negotiate.”

And if you don’t love your realtor? Try speaking with friends or neighbors for their recommendations. The bottom line is that you should always go with someone who has good “cred” with someone else you trust and respect. There’s too much riding on the line to go with someone who hasn’t proven to be anything less than amazing.

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How long will the inspection take?

The time for an inspection varies based on the size of the home you are purchasing and how thorough your inspector is. On average, we suggest allowing for at least two hours, but on the long end, it’s usually not any longer than three hours. 

What should I bring to the inspection?

Home Inspection

Some inspectors expect payment at the completion of the inspection, so be sure to have an approved payment method ready for the cost of the inspection on hand. Beyond that, we suggest wearing casual clothes in case the inspector wants to bring you into the deep nooks and crannies of the basement or attic to educate you about future maintenance. This is not required of course, but it is a sign of a great inspector!

We also think it’s extremely important for you to bring these things:

  • Notebook
  • A pen
  • Cell phone camera
  • Measuring tape

And here’s why …

What else can I do while the inspection is happening?

This may be the last time you have access to your new home until the final walk through (or even closing day!), so be as prepared as possible to get the most out of this critical time. Of course, your first priority is following along with the home inspector and listening to them as they relay observations, maintenance tips or stats on any of the home’s mechanicals. There will be a lot of information coming your way, which is why the pen and notebook will come in handy to jot down all of these tips.

However, there’s another important opportunity here!

Your homeowner’s insurance company will request information about your new dwelling in order to prepare an insurance quote over the next few weeks. Usually, they request information about the mechanics and age of specific parts of the home (like the roof) for the end proposal. Sometimes they even have discounts available if parts of your home were recently replaced, so getting all this information while your home inspector is with you is a great way to be ahead of the game for the insurance team.

What should I do if the inspector doesn’t want me tagging along?

Home Inspection

Sometimes home inspectors don’t want you following them from room to room taking notes while they create a detailed report. In that case, we still think you should keep busy doing the following things. First, take as many photos as possible of the home, and specifically, these things:

  • The layout
  • Outlets
  • Doors
  • Anything you want to change when you move-in

The last one will help you calculate how much time you’ll need in order to have everything you need by moving day.

Because you probably won’t have access to the home until the day (or day before) closing, these photos will be a very helpful reference. If you have enough time, we also recommend taking your phone and creating a simple video of the home. Why? We find that if we forget to snap a photo of something, we can still find the information we need by looking through the video footage. Plus, having this video for your memory will be fun to look back at someday!

Also, take measurements now!

Do you love the size of the current homeowner’s dining room table, TV, or sectional couch? Measure these items so you can start furniture shopping without problems! Rugs especially can be a tricky accessory because they are often too small for a space. If you find that a previous homeowner has done the rug sizes correctly, take a measurement and make note. Virtually anything you think looks good (or bad for that matter), get it jotted down so you don’t forget. (Trust us, you will forget.)

What should I make sure I get from the inspector?

After the home inspection is complete, you should receive a detailed written report from the inspector. You will need this report to negotiate improvements with the current owner, or in extreme cases, to back out of your original contract. Save this report in your files even if you plan on moving forward with the sale with no issues. 

Is there anything else I should probably know?

Home Inspection

If you really like your home inspector after the inspection is over, don’t be afraid to ask them for referrals for other professionals in the industry.

If you are looking for someone to eventually come fix the HVAC or maybe update the gutters after you move in, inspectors often have some really great contacts to share. Or at the very least, be sure to grab their contact information so you can follow-up later when you’re looking for referrals for just about any job around the house.

Also, don’t be afraid of asking too many questions! These people are professionals and often have an endless wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things home-related. Some important things people often forget to ask:

  • Inquire about all specific mechanics in the home (e.g., furnaces, vents, switches, attic fan, etc.)
  • How often you should be servicing, cleaning or updating these specific items
  • The most updated codes to uphold
  • Routines of services providers (e.g., cable, water, electrical companies, etc.)

It’s overall just smart to ask too much versus too little. Remember that inspection time is mostly for you, not the inspector, so make use of this important moment in your home buying journey!

How to Move Your Garden Without Killing Your Plants

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It’s true, just because you’re moving doesn’t mean you have to say farewell to your garden.

There is actually a myriad of reasons you might want to move your garden. Maybe you purchased a new greenhouse and want to transfer your tomatoes and other vegetables inside before fall sets in. Perhaps you just bought a new home and want to relocate your favorite perennials to the current landscape. Or maybe you simply want to place potted plants into the ground instead.

Whatever the reason, you find the need to move your garden from its present location, which is not something you should do without reading about it first. There are a lot of steps to successfully moving a garden, so get your hoes, your wheel barrels and your expandable hoses ready folks, let’s move!

If you are able, choose the season you move.

The worst time to move a garden is in the heat of the summer. Not only is the dryness damaging to the roots, but the sun is especially hot at that time of year and direct light can cause a great deal of damage. More on this from thespruce.com:

Never leave the roots exposed to sun, heat or wind. It’s tempting to remove all plants from their pots and place them where you want them to go in the garden, but roots will desiccate quickly. Remove each plant just prior to planting.

Provided you aren’t moving into a winter wonderland, any other time is better. Of course, if you have no choice but to move your garden in the heat of summer, there are tips we will include along the way to ensure your garden’s safety.

Mark where everything is going to go first.

Wherever the new location for your garden, be sure to have the spots in which you are going to plant them ready to go ahead of digging out and transplanting. In other words, visually indicate what’s going into them so things don’t get confusing. If you are planting them in bigger pots, make sure the soil is ready to go at the bottom so the transfer will be ready to go. Conversely, if you are planting directly into the ground, make sure your spots are already dug out and big enough before anything is pulled out.

If you are moving in the heat of summer, we suggest dousing these spots with water before transferring the plants. The roots will need the moisture after the shock of being uprooted. 

If you aren’t sure exactly where you want to plant, dig trenches and create a temporary nursery for your plants!

Pot, bucket or burlap: get the transportation ready.

If you are moving your garden from one pot to another or if you are moving your potted plants into the ground, skip this step. But if you are moving your garden from one home to another, then you’ll need receptacles that can be also be moved. If basic pots or buckets aren’t available, wrap the root ball in burlap for transporting. The shock of moving is enough to kill a good deal of plants, so it’s important to make sure the transport goes as smoothly as possible.

Use a special watering schedule for soon to be in-transit plants.

It’s important during transportation that you water your plants correctly. Not to mention that watered plants are also easier to remove with the root intact.

First, you should water your garden the night before you plan on moving it so that the plants are well hydrated for the move. This helps them sustain what’s called “the jolt of transit”. 

Secondly, don’t go easy on the roots; Soak them well! If by chance you have plants with bare roots (or “naked roots”), the bottoms of these plants need to be submerged in water for two to three hours before being replanted. Here are just a few common bare-root plants to look out for:

  • Shrubs
  • Hosta
  • Daylilies
  • Roses
  • Fruit trees
  • Prarie Onion

Trim excess stems.

It’s suggested you cut off any stems or foliage that are dying or in excess. Doing this will diminish the trauma your plant might experience. However, this isn’t universally necessary for all plants, so use your best judgment!

Dig up using the drip line.

Now it’s time to dig up those plants. But you won’t want to dig into the base of the plant. Doing so risks chopping up a healthy root! Instead, take a hand shovel and dig a ring around the main stem of your plant, carefully paying attention to where the roots are positioned. This is the drip line, otherwise known as the area your plant drips onto the ground, and it’s a great method for digging up plants.

For larger plants, the ring you dig around the plant should be at least 6 inches deep. When you start digging around any size plant you will find that you will likely cut some roots on the way. This is okay, but make sure they are clean cuts, not torn.

Once the ring is dug, use a larger shovel (or several, for larger plants) to pop them out of place. Don’t shake or remove any soil from the root ball, since this will serve as protection. Put your plants into their transportation vehicles to get them ready for their final destinations!

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Re-plant (the right way).

You want to plant your garden in its new location as soon as possible. We would suggest doing it right after you are done uprooting them. If that isn’t possible, then quickly get them into their temporary, transitional home. Just remember, the longer the plant is out, the harder it will be to set.

Before placing your newly removed plants to their new home, you should water the holes and trenches you’ve created. Once you placed water again, gently top the roots off with some soil. Protip: Make sure the soil is solid, but not so dense it smothers the plant.

Reduce stress on the plants.

Once you have your plant in its place, give it a little shower to cool off the leaves. Provide some shade for plants planted in direct sunlight for at least a couple days. You might need to water these plants every day until they grow strong again. If you can do this gentle process in the cooler parts of the day, your plants will thank you for it. Also, if you see anything drooping, water it right away!


Tim Moore is the lead editor of Backyard Boss and is a lifelong backyard enthusiast. He grew up immersed in the outdoors, camping every weekend and tending to the backyard with his family. Follow Tim and Backyard Boss on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for everyday inspiration for your backyard.

Lifehack: How to Pack Big Shelves So You Don’t Go Crazy

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Usually, if you have a shelving display in your home that you absolutely love, chances are it has taken you quite a long time to arrange and re-arrange the decor to get it “just right”. Now it’s time to move, you’re taking the shelves with you, but you don’t want to lose the successful setup you have worked so hard to perfect, right?

The great news is that we have a super simple moving hack that will not only help you preserve this treasured look but will also make unpacking it in your new place a breeze. Allow us to explain.

Create a Numbering System

The first thing you have to do is create a numbering system for your shelving unit. You can use any method you want and don’t need to make a fancy graphic like this, you just have to make sure you remember which shelf corresponds with what number. Some may be able to easily memorize the number system, but if you’re not confident in your ability to do that, you can always put a piece of painter’s tape on each shelf with the corresponding number so you remember. This trick will take about 1 minute and won’t damage the shelving unit at all.

Start Emptying Your Shelves

The next step is to start emptying your shelves and carefully wrapping the items to eventually add to a moving box.

But the trick of this moving hack is to take careful note of what you are removing from each shelf as you start packing each box. Carefully wrap and box the items like you would normally do, but try to keep as many of each shelf’s contents together in one box. For example, the grouping of books, the picture frame and planter in box #4 should all make their way into the same moving box.

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Pack and Label

Each of your moving boxes can hold far more than just one shelf’s contents. So feel free to add several of your shelves’ decor into one moving box, just be sure that each shelf’s decor stays together with its counterparts.

After you fill up your moving box, assess what shelf decor is inside of it. In my case, I added the decor from Shelf #4, #7 and #10 into this box so I simply noted that on the top of the moving box. This way I know that when it’s time to unpack this box and refill this shelving unit at my next house, I know exactly where to put this decor in order for it to look just like it did before! 

Repeat this packing/labeling process over and over again until your shelving unit is emptied. You should be left with a pile of moving boxes with clear labels and a precise plan on executing this look at the new house.

All you have to do in the new house is set up the shelves and simply place each item right back in the place it used to be. You don’t have to waste time trying to remember what goes where because those labels will take the guess-work right out of it, making unpacking these boxes in the new house a total breeze!

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