How to Get Rid of Things Before a Move

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You’re getting ready for a move. You look around your house or apartment and have a mini (or even maxi) freak out about how much stuff you have — how much will have to be packed up and transported. How far you’re going has little to do with the problem; whether you’re moving down the street, to a neighboring city or state, across country or across the world, it’s all pretty much the same. You’re stuck with deciding what to keep and then, just as tricky, what to do with all the stuff you don’t want.

Linda Gatri, CEO of eMarket Boost, moved six times in three years. She’s lived in New Jersey, Florida, Boston, New York City and four cities in Pennsylvania. She’s getting ready for another move, but she hasn’t decided where yet.

When it’s time to go, she sorts everything into three categories:

1.To keep: “Things I can’t live without, even if they have to go into storage (files, books, photos a favorite pan).”

  1. To sell: “ I start by offering things to friends and family, telling everyone I know what’s available. When they’ve made their choices, I advertise furniture, electronics, good jewelry and designer anything online or in a local paper; I consign furniture, art, and antiques to a local shop; and finally I have a take-no-prisoners yard sale — I call it an ‘estate sale,’ which gets more attention from dealers.”
  2. To donate: “Whatever doesn’t go at the yard sale gets packed and taken directly to my favorite charities that same day.”

Julie Steed, who writes a relocation blog at juliesteed.com, is a military wife who has moved her family 10 times in the last 14 years and is getting ready for move number 11 this summer. She has her own version of a three-step plan, and it’s strikingly similar:

  1. Sell furniture or appliances. “I use Craigslist or a similar local outlet. I price each item reasonably and include lots of pictures with my ad. I move what I’m selling to the garage so that buyers can look it over without having to come into my home and it’s easier for them to load things quickly and easily without damaging my floors or walls.”
  2. Have a garage sale. “Saying it’s a moving sale spurs interest. Price items slightly above the minimum you’re willing to accept so that you have bargaining room. Put a price on everything.”
  3. Donate. “I give whatever is left to a charity.”

The Queen of Divestiture

If Betsy Talbot isn’t the queen of getting rid of stuff, then she is definitely a member of the royal family. Betsy and her husband (authors of the blog marriedwithluggage.com and The Step by Step Guide to Getting Rid of It) downsized three years ago to one backpack each for a trip around the world.

Two of her strategies that would work for an even slightly less dramatic divestiture are an “indoor yard sale” and a “reverse birthday party.”

The indoor yard sale: “This is a great thing to do when you know you’re leaving but not quite yet, and you need to know that your things will have a good home before you go.” Betsy has sold, among other things, her “tempur-pedic mattress, box spring and sleigh bed, our couch, a tree and 2 plants, baking pans and more.” Here’s how to do what she did:

  • Buy small stickers in bright colors. Pick one color as your “keep” color and tag every big item you plan to keep.
  • Invite a few friends over to “go shopping” at your house –”we had 5 to start because it made it easier in our small space.”
  • Give each friend a specific color sticker and a pen and set them free to roam the house, picking out whatever they like. They can write an offer price on the sticker or if they want a few items, you can wait until all the shopping is done and settle on a bulk price.
  • Negotiate payment and pick up terms that will allow you to keep the stuff until the last minute before your move.

“This method is perfect if you are too lazy to have a yard sale, have a hard time parting with your stuff, and have a lot of good friends. You don’t have to price anything, set anything up, or advertise beyond e-mails to friends and a Facebook post. You do, however, need to have a reasonably clean and organized space. If possible, offer some light refreshments. People will stay longer and buy more.”

What’s left goes on Craigslist: “I’m a big fan and we’ve made thousands of dollars downsizing this way.”

The Reverse Birthday Party: “When my birthday came around I decided to get a little creative and host a reverse birthday party for myself. Instead of guests bringing gifts, they take your stuff home with them. “

“Each item had a tag telling the story of how I had gotten it and a memory associated with it. Guests were then free to walk around the living room to ‘shop’ and write their names on the back of the tags of the items they wanted. …If more than one name was on a tag we had a ‘style off’ where each person had to model the items in a distinctive way that would earn them the most votes from the crowd.”

“Have finger food that’s not too messy (buffalo wings would be a mistake). Set up a start and stop time for the party — mine was 4-7 pm.” If you don’t want to price items, you can ask for donations. “I set up a small box that looked like a piece of luggage where people could drop their donations.” Take what’s left over to a consignment shop.

Giving your things to charity

As an alternative to selling items, giving them away or handing them over to a consignment shop, you can always find a charity that could use them. Some charities will pick up your donations, while others want you to drop them off. If you need help schlepping them somewhere and don’t have the time, consider Taskrabbit.com, a site that will match you up with someone who is willing to do it for you.

There are lots of places that can use what you don’t need. First, you will want to consider the charities that you or a friend may volunteer for —a domestic violence shelter, a refugee center, a church, even a local theater group looking for furniture for sets and costumes. On-line you’ll find a number of good options: Furniturebanks.org has a list by state or places that accept furniture and Freecycle.com, DonationTown.org and Oprah.com/home/where-to-get-rid-of -your-stuff are others. Your local United Way should also be able to steer you to some local groups who would be happy to have your things.

If you plan to claim a deduction for the things you donate, David Bakke,moneycrashers.com, suggests checking first with the IRS database of qualified charitable organizations. And, for help figuring out how much the items you are donating are worth, check Goodwill’s valuation guide.

What do you do with leftover food?

And what about your leftover food? Whatever you do, says Steed, don’t throw it away. “Give unopened items to friends or neighbors. Host a moving party and prepare food from the hodgepodge of items you can’t take with you. Challenge family members to create recipes and meals using the strange items you have left in your fridge and pantry.”

Or, if you’re not in the random-recipe frame of mind, you can go to moveforhunger.org and find a list of relocation companies in 46 states that will pick up and deliver left over non-perishable food to a local food bank.

Unpacking After a Move

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So, you’ve packed like a pro, completed your big move and now find yourself waist deep in a labyrinth of boxes and furniture. The job of unpacking might seem daunting, but it’s a job that must be done. Here are tips for staving off moving-day anxiety and unpacking your home like a professional.

Where to Begin

When viewing the moving-day disorder, the normal urge is to put everything in its proper place as quickly as possible. However, nerves can be spared and good relations maintained if you keep two important points in mind:

  1. You don’t have to unpack everything in one day or even one week.
  2. Unpacking after moving can be fun, so make the process feel like the end of an enjoyable adventure.

To start out, consider your family’s basic and most essential needs (food, rest and bathing) and begin to unpack accordingly. Additionally, focus on one room at a time to stay on course.

Unpacking the Kitchen

Once the kitchen is unpacked and set up enough to function, it can become a port where everyone can congregate and take a break from the jumble in the other rooms. Resist the urge to unpack everything in the kitchen right away. Instead, start with the essentials and leave less frequently used gear in boxes until you decide what will go where.

Unpacking the Bathroom

Next, tackle the bathroom. If you have children, consider unpacking a bathroom that can be used as a communal bathroom. Otherwise, unpack the master bath. Make sure the plumbing works — you may need to turn on the water outside — and then put toiletries in place.

Unpacking the Living Room

Once the kitchen and the bathroom are operational, the rest of the unpacking can proceed without urgency. Shift your focus to the living room or family room. Before you begin unpacking or moving furniture, take a moment to sketch the room and draw how you want to place your furniture. It’s much easier to erase and resketch a rectangle that represents the couch than it is to lift and move furniture around the room.

Unpacking the Bedroom

If you don’t get to the bedrooms on the first night, don’t be upset. Drag mattresses and pillows together in one room and have a family camp-out. It will add to the sense of adventure. Share the burden of assembling the beds and moving heavy furniture, but allow each bedroom dweller to unpack and arrange their personal belongings. Professional movers will reassemble any beds that were taken apart.

Unpacking after you move may seem like another in a long series of huge moving-day tasks, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you take your time and make it fun. It’s also one more great opportunity to evaluate your belongings to see whether more items can be donated to charity.

Quick Tips to Revive Your Lawn

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The most important part of a lawn isn’t the grass. It’s the soil underneath. If the soil is in bad shape, no amount of fertilizer or pesticide will save it. Late winter and early spring are the right time to get started if your soil needs attention, you need to reseed, or you want to rethink having a lawn at all. Wait until summer and you’ll end up having to use a lot of water trying to save struggling plants from the heat. Here are a few ways to assess and respond to your lawn’s needs:

Soil Sampling

Topsoil is loose, dark, and full of decomposing organic material. Grass loves it. So, if your yard is a packed clay nightmare, it’s time to put down some topsoil. For healthy grass, the topsoil layer should be about six inches thick.

Knowing the condition of the soil in your yard—pH, electrical conductivity, and how much organic matter, nitrogen and other nutrients are present—will help you determine if the type of grass you’re using is appropriate. USDA Cooperative Extension Service offices will often test your soil for less than $20. All you have to do is collect a sample in a vial or Ziploc bag and send it in for analysis. Be sure the sample you submit says “grass” in the “intended crop” window on the sample’s label. The USDA will give you a few pointers when you contact them.

Aeration

Even though lawns are technically a type of monoculture, grass is a complex ecosystem, full of plant roots, microbes, and insects. Maintaining that system’s proper function involves keeping the soil loose so that air and water can get in and out. Over time, the soil beneath your lawn becomes compacted, squeezing off nutrients from the grass. Mats of dead root material, called thatch, add to this problem.

It’s up to you to reopen nutrients’ pathways into the lawn ecosystem. The best way to do this is to use a plug aerator. Aerators powered by gasoline engines are common, but they’re difficult to rent in the springtime because demand is so high. If you have a small lawn, don’t want to pollute the air or don’t mind investing a little time, muscle, and sweat, you can buy a manual aerator.

Seed and Water

If your lawn has bare patches, or if the entire lawn just isn’t working, it might be time to reseed. Pick a species of grass that works with your soil type and climate and plant seeds early in the season—basically, as soon as the ground thaws.

To do that, break up the existing topsoil and spread a 1-inch layer of compost over the area to be seeded. Work it into the soil with a tiller or rake, then spread an even coating of pulverized lime on top. Spread the seed by hand, covering the area with an even layer. Gently work the seed into the soil with a leaf rake.

Watering should be done in the morning, but don’t over-water. By avoiding puddles at the surface, you’re encouraging grass roots to grow deeper to find water. When the seeds are freshly planted, it’s a good idea to water in the morning, and again at noon. During the heat of summer, don’t water in the middle of the day. You’ll lose much of it to evaporation.

Lifting Techniques

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Follow these tips to avoid compressing the spinal discs or straining your lower back when you are lifting:

  • Keep a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other (karate stance).
  • Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. If needed, put one knee to the floor and your other knee in front of you, bent at a right angle (half kneeling).
  • Keep good posture. Look straight ahead, and keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back. This helps keep your upper back straight while having a slight arch in your lower back.
  • Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). Keep your back straight, and don’t twist as you lift.
  • Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.
  • Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps.
  • Lead with your hips as you change direction. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.
  • Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.

Keep in mind:

  • Do not attempt to lift by bending forward. Bend your hips and knees to squat down to your load, keep it close to your body, and straighten your legs to lift.
  • Never lift a heavy object above shoulder level.
  • Avoid turning or twisting your body while lifting or holding a heavy object.

Easy Steps To Reduce Your Piles of Paper

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Feel like you’re drowning in paper? Between the junk mail, payment confirmations, bill statements, donation requests, and family correspondences, your home can look like it was hit by the paper tornado. Try these easy steps to reduce the paper in your home.

1. Automate

Sign up to make payments online. Companies will continue to send statements to your home, but now these statements can be easily filed without worrying about forgetting to pay.

2. Access the Trash

Open incoming mail over the trash. Standing over the trash as you open mail, gives you easy access to the best place for junk mailings, outer envelopes, and any other paper clutter.

3. File It

Find a filing cabinet and divide your important papers into categories. File incoming papers after opening the mail. Things that need attention or action can be placed in the appropriate spot in the mail center (see below.)

4. Contain the Memories

Create a place for paper memories. Youth artwork, birthday cards, and other memories need their own storage. Consider giving each family member a container to store memories. Once the container is full they may have to make choices about what to keep and what to throw out.

5. Evaluate Your Subscriptions

Do you pay for multiple magazine and news subscriptions that you never get around to reading? Maybe you put them on the end table thinking you will find time to read them, but before you know it you have a stack as high as the ceiling to “get to.” Keep only the subscriptions you read on a regular basis.

Consider donating magazines to a seniors center or shelter after you’ve read them.

6. Create a Mail Station

Create a centralized place with stamps, pens, envelopes, paper, and slots to sort incoming and outgoing mail. Keeping all of the supplies together means you will be able to find them more easily when they are needed.

7. Have a Message system

When the phone rings or visitors drop by, many people scrounge for the nearest scrap piece of paper to write message information on. If your address book looks like a pile of torn paper, it may be time to create a new message taking system. Have one place in your home where a pencil and a notepad are always available. Post messages in the same place every time so household members know where to look for their messages. Keep a household address book near the phone to take down permanent information in.

8. Cut the coupons

Do you have a drawer full of unused expired coupons? It can be great to cut coupons and save money. But if you cut them, use them. Keep the coupons in a regular spot so that they can be easily accessed for a trip to the grocery store.

9. Regulate collections regularly

Update your files, tossing outdated information yearly. Get rid of items you do not need to create room for the next year’s flood of paperwork.

10. Get rid of receipt mania

Receipts kept for tax purposes can be filed under the appropriate heading. For those people who like to track all of their expenses, create a receipt “dropping point” that will temporarily hold the receipts until your weekly session of adding and evaluating them.

The key to cutting back on paper problems in your home is to reduce the incoming paper and then to create regular places to store the necessities that find their way to your door. Whether you toss it or file it, it won’t find its way to a pile anymore.