How to Build a Fun, Functional Playroom

playroom

The kids’ playroom presents parents with a design dilemma: You’d love it to be organized, not too spendy and able to last a few years; they want it packed to the gills with toys, games and craft supplies, pronto. “Children grow out of things very quickly,” says Amy Wolff, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based interior designer. “But you can give the room a longer view by making higher-priced furnishings age- and gender-neutral.” Want to design a fun, flexible space that’ll accommodate your kids as they grow from tots to teens? Build it in these three steps.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Legos and trikes and teddy bears, oh my! The primary requirement of a playroom: somewhere to store all those toys.

Keep everything orderly with shelves, bins and boxes. But think twice before buying toy storage bedecked with purple dinos. Neutral-colored chests or credenza cabinets may be a better option. “They can be used to store toys now, and games or blankets later,” Wolff notes.

Still need more storage space? “Look for furniture that does double duty, such as ottomans or benches with storage underneath,” says Tiffani Stutzman, an interior decorator based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“If your budget allows, consider custom built-in cabinetry along walls and under windows,” Stutzman adds.

Finally, lay down a soft area rug that welcomes kids to play on the floor. Choose one with a pattern; it will more easily disguise stains than a solid rug.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

How will your kids really use the room? Is it a toy-only zone, or will it accommodate crafting, dance practice and video gaming, too? Furnish accordingly, but skip faddish items and pint-size pieces kids will grow out of and focus on sturdy furniture that’ll survive the toddler years.

“A solid table with a wipeable finish can be used for everything from painting to puzzles,” Stutzman says. Wolff adds that it can even double as a desk later on.

Select neutral, durable fabrics and finishes for furniture. “Those made for outdoor use are resistant to spills, stains and fading,” Stutzman notes. Then, bring in bright, playful colors with throw pillows and floor cushions (look for machine-washable covers), and hang vibrant artwork—professional or made by your little artist-in-residence!—that can be swapped out as the kids grow.

“It’s all in the accessories,” Wolff says. “Pillows, throw blankets, soft rugs, art, and lamps can easily and inexpensively be swapped out as children age and their interests change.”

And consider covering a wall in cork board, so art projects can be displayed and changed out, Stutzman adds.

Finally, provide a cozy corner for kids to read or nap. “Daybeds can be dressed for any style and any age group,” Wolff says. “Sofas and chairs with slipcovers can be laundered.”

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the playroom with items that take it to the next level.

Regardless of how traditional or formal the rest of the house, the playroom should be fun, whimsical, colorful and bright. And above all, it should showcase the things your child loves. If that’s planes, then let him hang model airplanes from the ceiling. Castles? Use wall decals to create a scenery that will spark her imagination. Got an outdoors lover on your hands? A play tent complete with sleeping bag can accommodate spur-of-the-moment campouts. Remember, this is where your kid will come to let loose and play, so it should be Fun (with a capital F).

How to Build an Organized, Yet Comfy Craft Room

craft_room

If your new home has enough space to warrant a dedicated art zone, lucky you! But when half-finished projects as well as supplies such as glue, beads and glitter are involved, a craft room can quickly turn disorganized. With thoughtful planning and a splash of your creative juice, it can become a neat, inspiring space — and a relaxing retreat, too. Interior designer Melinda Miles, owner of Melinda Miles Interiors, in Dallas, shares how it can be done in three steps.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Begin organizing the room by imagining activity zones — maybe one for sewing, one for scrapbooking and one for writing activities — to plan how you’ll store supplies.

Then, start big: Install shelves and cabinets, or bring in a roomy armoire — or do both! To accommodate tools and materials of all shapes and sizes, keep variety in mind: Look for open cabinet spaces for baskets, thin drawers for paper and vertical spaces for wrapping paper.

You’ll need a large workspace, but Miles advises against lining every wall with cabinetry and countertops, in case you later need to convert the space for another use (like a home gym or guest room). Instead, place a large table or portable kitchen island in the center of the room; if your needs change, it can be moved. And don’t forget comfortable seating: A padded stool will ensure that you can endure many macramé marathons to come.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Loading up on bins isn’t necessarily the best solution for storage needs. “The same type of storage doesn’t work for all materials,” Miles says. Do a thorough inventory of your craft supplies and consider how each item is best stored. Think about what belongs in a drawer and what’s better off in a basket. Before you buy, get specific: If you want to store gift bags, measure them first. And be creative: An over-the-door shoe organizer, for example, provides easy access to go-to items like tape and scissors and keeps supplies in sight.

“Details like that really simplify your life,” Miles says. “They make you want to use the items, and they make it more fun.”

After you’ve stocked up on storage supplies to make the room functional, focus on honing a truly creative space. Hang framed photos of family or vibrant nature scenes, and stack a few oversized coffee-table books within easy reach. Add a few aromatherapy candles to put you in the crafting mood. And always keep a plain sketchbook and pencils front and center — you never know when an idea will strike!

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the craft room with items that take it to the next level.

Despite its utilitarian purposes, a craft room should be a comfortable hangout. Outside of craft time, how might you use the space? Make it a part-time office by placing a desk on one side of the room. Or create a reading nook by a window, with a comfy chair, an ottoman and a floor lamp.

For one of Miles’ clients, the craft room is a place to relax with a cup of tea. “She hides out in there and can hear herself think,” Miles says.

Serious crafters should also consider investing in window coverings that maximize daylight but are adjustable; the color of paints and clay will look ever so slightly different, depending on the light, so your window treatments may better allow you to control your medium. Of course, the craft room’s a perfect place to hang a loud, bold valance!

How to Design Kids’ Bedrooms That Last for Years

kids_bedrooms

One year it’s butterflies; the next it’s ballet. And somewhere along the way, there’s a dinosaur fad. Kids’ constantly changing interests can make it challenging to decorate a bedroom they’ll like for years to come, but that doesn’t mean their new rooms have to be boring blank canvases. As founder of Little Crown Interiors, in Irvine, California, Naomi Alon specializes in interior design for children’s spaces; she shares her tips for designing kids’ bedrooms that can grow up with them.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Alon says key furniture pieces such as a bed and dresser should last into adulthood (which probably disqualifies the race-car bed). “Choose pieces that are versatile — more or less neutral in design, not themed furniture,” she says. “Things you can use until they go to college.” Just be sure that kids can easily open lower drawers; those will be the main storage for clothes until closet rods can be reached.

Bedding, though, can be replaced periodically as kids’ tastes mature, so feel free to say yes to that robot blanket. Invest in multiple sets of inexpensive sheets rather than a single set of high-end ones; you’ll thank yourself when you peel back the blanket to find a stash of Cheerios!

And don’t forget to buy window treatments early on: Children, especially younger ones, can be sensitive to light and may require thicker blackout shades to sleep well.

Finally, let your kiddos pick the very first piece of décor: their own special night-light. One child may like a cartoon character and another may prefer a light that displays constellations on the ceiling — either way, when kids get to choose, they feel more comfortable in their new space.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Where there are kids’ bedrooms, there are toys. Give them a nice home — even if they don’t often end up there. Bins, baskets and boxes are useful, especially those that can be hidden under a bed. But as with bedroom furniture, Alon says, consider storage solutions that last through the ages. “If you buy a nice bookcase,” she says, “you can buy bins that will fit on the shelf.” When the kids outgrow their blocks and balls, simply remove the bins and use the shelves to store comics, collectibles, novels and trophies.

Another idea: Storage ottomans can hold plenty of toys for now, and then take on other uses (such as a hiding spot for a diary!) later in a child’s life.

Also consider adding a sturdy, timeless desk sooner rather than later. Eventually, kids will need a spacious surface for homework, but even toddlers can use a desk as a craft table, a block-tower construction zone or a secret fort.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the kids’ rooms with items that take it to the next level.

Add color and cuteness, starting with a rug — ideally a patterned one that can conceal a juice spill. “The sooner you get the right rug, you can easily find other things to match,” Alon says. Rugs add nonpermanent color and texture to an otherwise neutral room and invite kids to play on the floor — a win-win!

Next, purchase a lamp or two for young readers (or for kids who sleep better with a little light). If there’s room for seating, select a comfy oversized chair that you like, too — it’ll become your home for story time. Then, add themed pillows to the bed or chair; if that’s not enough, try a throw blanket. “You can fold it up and put it away if they’re sick of it,” Alon says. “Or if you’re sick of it!”

Now, cue the butterflies — or whatever the theme of the moment is — by incorporating framed artwork and décor, such as wall decals. “They’re inexpensive, removable and they can be rearranged,” Alon says. Kid-friendly calendars and maps do double duty: Sure, they’re educational, but they also provide pops of color and graphic elements, adding further layers into the room’s design.

How to Build a Fresh, Functional Bathroom

bathroom_makeover

Is your new home’s bathroom dated and dreary? Or just boring and … blah? Sure, it does the job — all a bathroom truly needs is a working sink, a tub/shower and a toilet. But considering how much time you spend in the space, wouldn’t it be nice if it were fun, fabulous and more functional? “You use your bath every day, so make it a high priority,” urges Amy Wolff, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based interior designer. From brightening the basics to adding five-star (but functional) touches, here’s a three-step plan for a beautiful bathroom.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

If you didn’t purge before the move, now’s the time to clear the clutter. “Get rid of items you haven’t used in the last six months,” says Wolff.

A coat of paint will give the room a fresh backdrop. “Try a soothing aquatic blue, or, if your bath needs some verve, venture into warm saturated yellows and oranges,” suggests Jeff Fiorito, owner of Fiorito Interior Design, in Northern California.

Now, go shopping. Swap out the shower curtain for a new one in a color, print or texture that fits the room’s style while letting light into your shower stall. (Don’t forget a rod, curtain hooks and a liner!) A coordinated bath ensemble with wastebasket, soap dispenser, toothbrush holder and tumbler will give the room a polished, put-together look.

Update towels and rugs — and know that they don’t need to match. “Get the best quality you can afford,” suggests Wolff. “For powder rooms, look for a little bling; guest towels with beading or embroidery add a fun, funky or elegant touch.” Layer detailed towels over fluffy bath sheets, and buy plenty of spares for a spalike look. On the floor, lay down a plush terry rug in a solid color, or add visual interest with a small, patterned area rug.

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

Tailor the bathroom to how you bathe! If your new stall’s shower head sprays a sad, weak drizzle, update it; choose a soothing rain shower or a powerhouse shower head with a hand shower attachment. Is your shampoo collection a veritable beauty buffet? Install functional storage to keep bottles orderly. And if you love a toasty towel (or two!) when your bath’s over, consider adding a super-luxe towel warmer.

Show off pretty perfume bottles and jewelry on a mirrored or marble tray. And invest in attractive storage boxes for not-so-attractive workhorses, such as your hair dryer, curling iron and pedicure equipment.

“Display pretty candles and soaps in lovely containers. It’s easy, inexpensive and smells good,” says Wolf.

And nobody ever said you can’t hang art in the bathroom: Frame and hang prints or family photos.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load your bathroom with items that take it to the next level.

You don’t need to tear the bathroom down to the studs to take it to the next level.

Everything will look better (including you!) with fresh, brighter lighting. “In addition to recessed LED ceiling lights, I like sconces on either side of the mirror, so light illuminates your face without shadows,” Fiorito says.

“Have fun with the powder room — it’s a great place to go a bit over the top. A chandelier or large pendant in the powder room really says ‘wow!’” Wolff adds.

New hardware will update the room and help make a style statement. “Fabulous knobs and pulls are like jewelry for cabinets,” Wolf says. While you’ve got the screwdriver out, swap out the faucet and showerhead; shiny, new fixtures breathe new life into the vanity and can make your shower stall a true escape.

Update windows with gorgeous top treatments or valances. “For a fuller, custom appearance, buy double what the package specifies,” Wolf says. “And use attractive rods.” If privacy’s a concern, consider installing blinds or window film.

Finally, frame “builder stock” mirrors, or replace them with hung versions to make the space look customized. Dealing with a dated medicine cabinet? Swap it for a fresh, oversized version to maximize storage and bring the look into the 21st century.

How to Build a Better Bed

BBB-Images_build_a_better_bed

Ever wake up extremely well-rested in a hotel bed and think, “Why don’t I sleep like this at home?” The reasons? Your droopy mattress and worn-out linens have seen better days. As you move, consider getting rid of your old bedclothes (they make great drop cloths) and start building the bed of your (sweet) dreams with these five items.

1. Mattress

A good night’s sleep starts with a good mattress. If your current mattress is older than seven years, it likely needs replacing. Dr. Emerson Wickwire, director of the Insomnia Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says mattress selection is almost entirely based on personal preference. He recommends the “Goldilocks method.” “Set aside a couple of hours, go to a quality mattress store and try the mattresses out with your bed partners. Make a date of it!” Dr. Wickwire suggests. “Test firmness, material and overall comfort. Wear comfortable clothes and try as many beds as you need to until you find the fit that is just right.”

If you’re looking at inner-spring mattresses, coil count isn’t the only indicator of quality. Instead, feel out the firmness and avoid flimsy edges that won’t stand up over time. If you’re leaning toward memory foam mattresses, try them all out, because not all foams are created equal. And if you can’t decide, test out adjustable-air mattresses and hybrid models that top a traditional spring mattress with a layer of foam.

And think about what size mattress your bedroom will support. You may covet a California king, but your doorway might thwart your desires. Dr. Wickwire suggests taking advantage of your mattress dealer’s return policy. Sleep on your new mattress for a few days, and return it if you don’t love it.

2. Mattress Topper

If all that’s between your mattress and sheets is a paper-thin mattress cover, you’re missing a whole new level of luxury. You can customize your mattress with a topper — cloudlike feather beds give a firm mattress a plush factor, whereas foam toppers provide cushiness without the price tag of a new mattress. Other mattress toppers include pads designed to repel allergens and odors, performance-fabric models designed to cool down hot sleepers and electric pads to keep the bed warm on chilly nights.

3. Pillows

A pillow should align the neck and spine, so the pillow that’s right for you will depend on how you sleep. Stomach sleepers need soft support, side sleepers need firmer support, back sleepers need medium support — and if you change positions throughout the night, you may need to test-drive a few models. Down- and synthetic-filled pillows are softer, while foam ones tend to be thicker and firmer. Find the right combination of thickness and softness that keeps your neck in a neutral position.

4. Sheets

“Hotels spend a lot of time working to make sure you have a good night sleep, and the sheets are always clean when you arrive,” Dr. Wickwire says. “There’s a lesson there!” Indeed, it’s not necessarily that hotels have sheets that are so much better than yours — it’s that they’re always fresh.

Yet even a wash won’t bring tired and worn sheets back to life. In that case, you should spring for a new set. First, decide what texture you like. Do you like the T-shirt feel of jersey, the slickness of sateen or the crispness of percale? If you like the feel of cotton, consider the thread count — a higher number means more threads per square inch — but don’t obsess over it. A lower thread-count sheet in a high-quality cotton fiber like Egyptian or pima may feel softer than one with a higher number and low-quality cotton.

5. Comforter

A thin blanket’s fine for summer, but the rest of the year requires better insulation designed to keep you snug and as warm (or cool) as you like. Synthetic comforters are less expensive than down versions and often preferred by those with allergies, but down is still the gold standard.

Shop down comforters by looking at the fill power numbers, which indicate the amount of down per ounce. A thicker fill power (600 or above) indicates a fluffier comforter that’ll provide warmth; a lighter fill power yields a thinner comforter that hot sleepers may desire. Look for stitching that forms a grid pattern to ensure the down doesn’t shift too much over time.

Protect your investment with a washable duvet cover that matches your bedroom décor, or buy an extra flat sheet if you prefer the triple-sheet method most hotels use.

We’ve Moved! 8 Creative Ways to Share Your New Address

address

On the move? Don’t forget to share your new address with friends and family by sending a thoughtful card or e-mail. Here are eight ways to stand out among a cluttered mailbox (or inbox).

1. Just like the good old days: It sounds obvious, but a handwritten note is a pleasant surprise in this digital age. Buy a box of attractive moving announcements at your local brick-and-mortar stationery store, and personalize your note with a snapshot of you in front of your new house.

2. Keep it custom: Sites like Shutterfly, Tiny Prints and Minted offer customized moving announcements in an abundance of stylish designs. Bonus: Some sites will mail your cards directly to your recipients, saving you a trip to the post office.

3. Go old school: Scour eBay for vintage postcards from your new home state (search “Greetings from” to find those nostalgic favorites.). Jot or stamp your new address on the back and — voila! — instant moving announcements, retro-style.

4. Postcards without the pen: With the ByPost Postcard Maker app, you can create and send honest-to-goodness printed “We’ve moved” postcards from your iPhone. Just upload a photo from your image library, design your postcard, choose recipients from your address book and hit send; in a few days, the cards will arrive in your friends’ mailboxes. Similarly, the Ink Cards app allows you to create and mail personalized photo greeting cards from your iPhone or iPad.

5. Get crafty: Pinterest is chock-full of creative DIY moving announcement ideas. A few of the most popular pins: using classic manila shipping tags as cards; making postcards out of moving-box scraps cut to size; or crafting cards, using printed Google maps that have your new address pinpointed.

6. Go digital: Sure, you could send a plain old email, but more interactive (read: more fun!) options are just a point and click away. American Greetings, Blue Mountain and Hallmarkhave selections of free e-cards and also offer monthly or annual memberships that grant you full access to their collections of talking, singing and music-playing messages for any occasion.

7. The free way: If the budget’s tight, a free digital greeting card is the way to go. BothPaperless Post and Punchbowl have stylish selections of gratis online moving announcements.

8. Dare to be different: Make sure your new address sticks by sending a photo magnet bearing your new contact info and a snapshot of your family in your new digs. You can order them via Vistaprint, TinyPrints or Shutterfly.

12 Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Housewarming Party

housewarming

What good is a fabulous new home if nobody sees it? Throw a housewarming party to show off your new digs to old friends and new neighbors — but don’t fuss over the invites, food and festivities. Embrace the we-haven’t-completely-unpacked-yet look (hey, cardboard boxes make for excellent breakdancing surfaces!), and host a stress-free, toned-down gathering with these dozen tips.

  1. Wait a few weeks — at least. Tempting as it may be to invite the whole gang over right away, wait until your home is in reasonable shape (furniture in place, most boxes unpacked) and you’ve settled in, which could even be a few months.
  1. Email invitations a few days or a few weeks ahead. No need to get fancy with invites, and emailing them is quick and easy. (And let’s be honest: Who can find where the stamps are packed, anyway?) As with any other party, ask guests to RSVP so you can plan the food and drink.
  1. Organize it as an open house. If your guest list is no match for your home’s small square footage, throw an open house, which means people can drop in anytime during a span of several hours — say, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. — rather than everyone showing up at 2:00 p.m.
  1. Tell your new neighbors to stop in. What better way to get to know the local folks than to invite them to your soiree? Then, next time you see them at school or the grocery store, you’ll already be buddies.
  1. Give it a theme. Up the fun factor and pick a theme! A popular one: Stock the Bar, where you serve your favorite cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and guests bring wine, liquor and gifts like glasses, coasters and shakers. Other favorite themes involve gardening, crafting or recipe swaps.
  1. Set up a bar. Clear off a table in a central location (but away from the front door) and stock with liquor, soft drinks, glasses and napkins.
  1. Keep the food simple. Since most of your cookware may still be in boxes, or you’re too busy unpacking to prepare a feast, order bite-size foods that can be kept at room temperature, as well as pre-cut fruit, cheese and cookie platters.
  1. Use paper products. Save time on cleanup by using paper plates made from recyclable materials; they’re sturdy and totally appropriate for such a casual event. Bonus: If you’re still living out of cardboard boxes, you won’t have to hunt down the one that contains your appetizer plates.
  1. Get the living room in order. You should have the main party spot — likely the living room — as unpacked and organized as possible. Take the drop cloth off the sofa and tables, and lay the rug down.
  1. Plan a grand tour. Give guests what they came for — a guided tour of your new home — or invite everyone to wander on their own. Don’t worry if you still have some boxes to unpack and the windows are bare: It’s all part of the “just moved in” charm!
  1. Set the atmosphere with music. Check out the housewarming playlists on Spotify, or make your own upbeat grouping. Bonus points for sneaking in moving-related songs, such as “Our House” by Madness, or “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel.
  1. Let the games begin! It’s goofy, but good fun: Make up a trivia game about your house, your town or even your habitat history (“How many roommates did Jeannie have when she lived in Chicago?”). Or group people into teams, and then send them on a mini scavenger hunt throughout your new place.

10 Under-$20 Finds to Cozy Up Your New Home

The moving boxes are unpacked and the furniture is arranged, but you’re missing the creature comforts of home. Luckily, you can create cozy living spaces that welcome you home with just a few budget-friendly finds.

kitchen_towels

Fringe Benefits

Give your new kitchen some quick personality (and a pop of color) with cotton dish towels detailed with colorful stripes and fun fringe.

Fouta Kitchen Towels

 

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Saving Seats

Wood dining chairs (and your backside) benefit greatly from comfy seat cushions in bright hues.

Chair pads

 

tea_kettle

Tea’d Up

Wind down from a day of unpacking with a warm cup of chamomile — and let a perky-colored tea kettle do the hard work.

Circulon Sunrise tea kettle

 

boxes

Hip to Be Square

For less than $20, this great-for-small-spaces ottoman is a major score. The seat/footrest offers hidden storage and folds up neatly, so you can tuck it away.

Anthology Jolie folding ottoman

 

pillows

Pillow Talk

Throw pillows will add a pop of color to your new living room décor — and easily swap out when you want a change.

Madison Park Delray Diamond square throw pillows

 

welcome_mat

Walk All Over Me

Give guests a warm welcome before they’ve stepped through the door, with a low-maintenance, durable doormat that’s cute to boot.

Vinyl-backed coir door mat

 

candle

Making Scents

Scent is a powerful tool when it comes to personalizing a space, which proves especially helpful when the previous occupants had pets (or a love of kimchi). Erase the ghosts of scents past with WoodWick’s candles, available in sniffworthy scents such as At the Beach.

WoodWick At the Beach 10-ounce jar candle

 

frame

Picture This

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so why is your treasured family photo displayed in that shabby-but-not-chic relic? Upgrade those plain Jane frames, pronto, with something more sophisticated.

Prinz Whitman 5-by-7-inch antique copper metal frame

 

string_lights

Night Lights

Twinkly string lights add instant cheer to a patio or deck.

20 Count Clear String Lights

 

nightlight

Sleep Tight

Kids nervous about their new rooms? Add some soft light to help them sleep soundly.

SKIP*HOP® Zoo Take-Along Owl Nightlight

 

 

Buy Two! 12 Essential Double-Duty Items

You don’t need a special organizer for every item in your home; instead, when you shop for these 12 items, buy two — they all do double-duty to get clutter under control.

overthedoorshoerack

Over-the-Door Shoe Rack

A compartmentalized over-the-door rack is a smart way to organize a shoe collection. It can also keep cleaning products organized in the broom closet, keep toys tidied up in kids’ rooms, and keep ribbons and tissue sorted in the craft room.

 

winerack

Wine Rack

Organize more than your pinot noir: Add another wine rack in the bathroom to keep rolled towels organized and within easy reach.

 

showercurtain

Shower-Curtain Liner

If a shower liner can confine water to your tub, it can contain messes in your car, too. Line your trunk with a shower-curtain liner and never worry again about grocery mishaps and muddy shoes.

 

hangers

Pants Hangers

Buy a pack of pants hangers for your slacks; another to hang tablecloths; and another to organize accessories, such as scarves and long necklaces. They’re also great for hang-drying and for displaying art prints (or your kids’ finger paintings).

 

coathooks

Coat Hooks

Coat hooks can do for your shoes what they do for your jackets. Install a few hooks in your foyer, mudroom or closet, and use them to hang sneakers and flats.

 

pillowcases

Pillowcases

Buy enough pillowcases for your bed, and buy a few extra for your clothes. Cut a hole in the closed end of a pillowcase, just large enough for a hanger hook; then, next time you pick up your dry cleaning, pull off the plastic (which can seal in moisture and odors) and slip on a breathable, mildew-free DIY garment bag.

 

magazine_racks

Magazine Rack

While you’re picking up magazine racks to corral back issues, buy extra to keep accessories such as clutches, small purses and wallets within view in your closet.

 

spice_racks

 

Magnetic Spice Containers

Spice jars with clear lids have dozens of uses beyond storing peppercorns and parsley. Usemagnetic spice containers to get organized everywhere: paper clips, staples and other supplies on your desk; Legos and tiny toys in the playroom; batteries, electronics and tiny glue containers in the workroom; beads, stickers and sewing needles in the craft room; and even lashes and makeup in the bathroom.

 

dishes

Formal Dishware

Next time you pick up pretty serving plates and bowls for a dinner party, buy extras for displaying cosmetics in your bathroom and creating a pretty spot for keeping keys, change, concert tickets and more on your entry table.

 

garment_bags

Garment Bags

Garment bags are great for keeping dust off of your favorite dresses and suits. They’re also a convenient, portable way to prevent tubes of gift wrap from taking over your closets.

 

hamper

Laundry Sorter

In the laundry room, a sorter is a hero, neatly separating your whites, darks and colors. Buy a second for the garage to tame your family’s sports equipment; footballs, Frisbees, tennis rackets and more fit easily inside.

 

toothbrush_holder

Toothbrush Holder

Control the clutter on your bathroom vanity: Grab a second (or third!) toothbrush holder to collect makeup brushes and applicators in one convenient spot.

 

10 New-Home Splurges That Won’t Break the Bank

You did it — you moved, you stuck to your budget, and now you feel like splurging, even if it’s just an itty-bitty indulgence. With these 10 finds, you can treat yourself without breaking the bank.

fur_blankets

Fabulous Fur

For your next Netflix binge-watching session, cozy up on the couch with this supersoft, reversible faux-fur blanket.
Oversized reversible throw

 

Lenox-French-Perle-Charm-Placemat

Table Tops

One investment that’s sure to pay off, whether you’re hosting a housewarming party or a brunch: luxe table linens. Try Lenox’s elegant French Perle Charm Placemat.
Lenox French Perle Charm Placemat

 

cabinets

Tricked-Out Cabinets

There’s something truly satisfying about organized kitchen cabinets. Slide-out, undercabinet organizers are a slick, sturdy way to store small appliances or pots and pans.
Rev-A-Shelf single-tier pullout wire basket, multiple sizes

 

speaker

Sound of Music

Perfect for your new patio, this splashproof outdoor/indoor allows you to stream music from your smartphone or tablet via wireless Bluetooth technology.
Indoor/outdoor stereo speaker

lenox glasses

Raise a Glass

After several moves and just as many parties, your wineglass collection has been reduced to a handful of mismatched, roughed-up glasses you’d rather not use to swirl, sniff or sip; buy shiny-new stemware without spending a fortune.
Lenox Tuscany Classics wine glasses

 

cheeseboard

Say Cheese

Up the style quotient at your next soirée (or snack before you unpack the kitchen) with a cheese board that conceals a slide-out drawer for cheese knives. Bonus: It’s made from richly grained rubberwood that’s eco-friendly.
Picnic Time Festiva Cheese Board

mrcoffee

I Like You a Latte

Why deal with the grumpy barista at your local coffee shop when you can be your own barista and still make the perfect latte — at home in your pajamas, no less — thanks to this countertop hero.
Mr. Coffee Café Latte machine

showerhead

Water Works

Add some power to your shower: Replace a basic showerhead with a combination handshower/showerhead that works together or apart. A “pause” feature conserves water while you lather up.
Delta In2ition showerhead

towel_warmer

Warming Trend

Bring spa-like luxury to your nightly bath routine with a towel warmer that gets your bath sheets toasty (it also works magic on blankets, robes and snow-soaked mittens, gloves and hats).
Brookstone towel warmer

 

fire_pit

The Great Outdoors

A cast stone fire pit turns an average backyard into a blanket snuggling, s’mores roasting retreat.
Sun Joe Fire Joe 35″ Cast Stone Fire Pit in Rustic Wood

How to Design a Comfortable, Stylish Living Room

comfortable stylish living room

It’s where you sit, relax, entertain, catch up, hang out — you know, live. Whether you’re crashing on the couch after a long day or chatting with friends over cocktails, the living room is the center of your home and the place to be. And of all the rooms in your new house, living rooms can be the most fun to decorate. “You can [experiment] with scale, textures, patterns and colors,” says Alice Chiu, a San Francisco interior designer and owner of Miss Alice Designs.

But the living room is also the first place your guests see, so it needs to be comfortable andinviting, whether for tête-à-têtes with your BFFs or weekend movie marathons.

No pressure on decorating it, though. Take your time perfecting the space through these three stages.

Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.

Start with the primary necessity: a sofa. The couch’s main role is a place to sit, but it’s also a hefty piece of furniture that will help define the room’s style—a sleek leather sofa sends a more modern message than a quilted floral one. Be sure there’s enough seating for the whole family plus a few guests; introduce a loveseat, recliner or club chairs if the couch alone isn’t enough.

Have a small space? You’re not limited to elf-sized furniture. “Don’t be afraid of larger pieces,” says Jeff Fiorito, a Northern California interior designer. “A complete sectional may be a better use of the floor space.”

Then, add a coffee table (one with a shelf or built-in storage keeps magazines and remotes organized!), and an end table or two. If your TV is mounted on the wall, you’ll need a small credenza to house your cable box and other electronics; if not, you’ll need a sturdy TV stand. Your coffee table, TV stand and end tables don’t have to match, but it’s smart to purchase them at the same time to be sure they look cohesive.

Play around with the pieces before settling on a layout. “Arrange furnishings in a way that allows for intimate conversations,” says Choo. And don’t let your couch become a wallflower: “Pull furniture away from walls and float pieces in arrangements,” Fiorito says. “Play with composition.”

Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.

The living room’s lighting has to be flexible — after all, you’ll want it bright as can be for game night, and nice and dim for Netflix marathons. So think of lighting in layers: You probably already have overhead lighting, but layer in lamps for reading and ambient light. “Switch out your table lamps for ones that have a pattern or a pop of color,” suggests Fiorito. “And make sure lighting can be dimmed when you need a softer mood or for movie watching.”

Then, add in additional furniture that further defines the room’s purpose and adds a bit of height; the tallest thing in the room shouldn’t be the couch. If you have collectibles to display, purchase a curio cabinet to show them off; if your book hoard is reaching library status, bring in a tall bookshelf.

Draw the eye up even further (and keep a glare off the TV!) with window treatments that fit the room’s style. Think in layers: For large or floor-to-ceiling windows, consider a combination of sheer and heavier drapes; for smaller windows, a Roman shade and valance combo makes for simple style.

Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the living room with items that take it to the next level.

Invest in a beautiful, well-made area rug. A large rug or two not only adds a layer of texture and pattern into your design, but it anchors furniture and defines smaller seating areas within larger rooms, Fiorito says.

Then, turn your attention to the walls. If the space is small, consider hanging an oversize wall mirror; it’ll trick the eye and make the room feel more spacious. “Turn a wall into a gallery with framed photographic prints and/or canvas paintings,” Chiu says. “[Or] hang floating shelves and display your collectibles, kids’ artwork, travel souvenirs and books.”

Not all of the décor has to be framed: Use an oversized wall clock as a decorative element, or position a clock in a focal point, like a mantel. Candles or a centerpiece bowl add style to a coffee table. Chiu suggests accessorizing with plants, vases and small sculptures, and crowning furniture with accent pillows or throws in bold, colorful designs that be swapped out as your tastes change.

Of course, the living room needn’t be all practical: Bring in an element (or two) of luxury. “Replace the hanging light fixture with a trendy chandelier,” suggests Chiu, or hang a textured or patterned wallpaper to add richness. Even little luxuries — a cashmere blanket, a sweet-smelling candle — go a long way.

In the Zone: How to Organize Your Kitchen Drawers

kitchen_drawers

You have a kitchen full of empty drawers and boxes upon boxes of utensils, pots and pans, and other cooking supplies waiting to be unpacked. Before you start throwing things in any old drawer, make a plan.

“When you’re working in the kitchen, you want to be able to plant your feet and get to everything in one task,” says Mindy Godding, a certified professional organizer withAbundance Organizing in Virginia. Start by thinking through how you prep and cook meals and clean up afterward. Then divide your kitchen into task-specific zones. Generally, there are five zones — food prep, cooking and baking, storage, tableware and cleaning — though some kitchens have more or fewer, depending on space and homeowner preferences.

Zone 1: Food Prep

This zone should be located next to the largest area of countertop. Stock drawers in this section with knives, cutting boards, mixing bowls and measuring spoons.

Zone 2: Cooking & Baking

Pots and pans, cooking utensils, baking sheets and potholders are ideally stored close to the stove and oven. More and more, people are storing pots and pans in drawers. “Keep the lids separate so you can stack pots and pans by shape,” Godding advises.

Zone 3: Storage

Ideally, storage-related drawers are located close to the refrigerator and contain food-storage containers, sandwich bags, plastic wrap, tinfoil, etc.

Zone 4: Tableware

Situate this zone near the dishwasher for easy-peasy cleanup. Here, you’ll dedicate your drawers to flatware and plates. And, yes, plates can go in drawers. “A lot of families with young kids are moving to melamine plasticware,” says Godding, “and I’ve seen those stored in lower drawers so kids have access.”

Zone 5: Cleaning

Stash cleaning supplies — sponges, rags, dish towels and garbage bags — near the sink.

Within each zone, prioritize drawer placement based on frequency of use. If you have two to three drawers in a row, the items you use the most should go in the top drawer, followed by those you use less often, and so on. This way, the things you use daily are the most accessible.

As for the ubiquitous junk drawer, Godding advises getting rid of it altogether (she is a professional organizer, after all). If you must have one, she suggests placing it at the outermost edge of the kitchen.

12 Kitchen Gadgets You Didn’t Know You Needed (But Definitely Do)

If you own a toaster, a coffeemaker and even a fancy blender, you may think your kitchen is fully stocked. But maybe you don’t know that you can make your own squash spirals or airplane-shaped sandwiches. Maybe you haven’t heard of salad scissors or cookie shovels. If that’s the case, allow us to enlighten you: Your kitchen drawers are practically begging for these 12 gadgets.

vegetable spiralizer

Twist and Turn
Turn vegetables into noodles with this device—because zucchini tastes best when disguised as spaghetti. And for the days you just can’t even with healthy veggies, use it to make potato chips or onion rings.
Veggetti Pro Vegetable Spiralizer

 

collander

Double Take
A colander that flattens and doesn’t take up precious cabinet space? That’s pretty clever. Now double that and throw in arms that hold the colanders over your sink, and you have precisely the kind of genius your pasta primavera never knew it was missing.
Squish Collapsible Double Over the Sink Colander

 

glass cake holder

Takes the Cake
When is a cake dome more than just a pretty pastry platter? When it’s this six-in-one workhorse. Invert the dome and it becomes a punch bowl; flip the footer and it’s a veggie-and-dip tray. A pie plate, a salad bowl … this quick-change artist does ’em all.
Dailyware Glass 6-in-1 Footed Cake Dome

wine holder

Out of the Box
Enjoy boxed wine like a grown-up with this dispenser, which keeps your vino fresh for up to six weeks.
Boxxle 3-Liter Wine Dispenser

 

guac_slicer
Good Guac
You’ll never have to hack your way toward guacamole again if you have this splitting-pitting-slicing tool on hand.
OXO Good Grips 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer

 

sandwich_airplane
A Cut Above
You mean your kids’ sandwiches are just shaped like bread?
Tovolo Plane and Clouds Sandwich Shaper

 

kitchen_shears

Smart Shears
Toss and chop a salad at the same time with this tool that’s part tongs, part scissors.
OXO Good Grips Chopped Salad Scissors

 

olive_mister

Spray On
Conserve calories — and your favorite EVOO — by switching to spritzing.
Misto Olive Oil Sprayer

 

bagel_slicer

The Right Slice
Nothing ruins a morning like a poorly sliced bagel. A hidden blade keeps fingers safe.
Bagel Biter

 

scooper

Sweet Scooper
When freshly baked cookies are ready to eat, every second counts. Harvest your crop with a shovel instead of a spatula.
Wilton Cookie Shovel

 

spice_griner

‘Tis the Season
Life is enough of a grind. Leave the salt and pepper production to a machine.
Cuisinart Rechargeable Salt and Pepper Mill Set

 

No-More-Splatters

No More Splatters
This collapsible food cover protects your microwave from splatters and spilled foods, conveniently preventing any messy clean up.
Tovolo Microwave Collapsible Food Cover

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Yours

How to Make Your Rental Feel Like a Home

Rental homes often leave much to be desired — bland white walls here, generic light fixtures there and seen-better-days carpeting everywhere. But with these five smart, non-permanent upgrades, you can transform your ho-hum rental into a place worthy of calling home.

    If the Walls Could Talk …

Add a pop of color and pattern to your rental’s whitewashed walls with removable wallpaper. Non-adhesive wallpaper is available in a variety of trendy textures, colors and prints. If you’re not ready to go wall to wall, start small by lining the backs of built-in shelves.

    See the Light

Landlords everywhere must shop the annual clearance sale at Ugly Lights Bargain Basement. How else to explain the glut of outdated overhead lights? Swap out blah fixtures for proper pendants or sophisticated chandeliers. If your lease prohibits such changes, focus instead on amping up your collection of table and floor lamps. Look for classic, versatile pieces that accentuate your room’s décor.

    Windows to the World

Window treatments earn an A-plus in multitasking. Not only do they visually frame a space, they also block harsh sun (ideal for south-facing rooms) and add privacy, which is often in short supply in rentals. Hang sheer panels in spaces where you prefer lots of light. In bedrooms, heavier blackout curtains will help you eke out some more shut-eye. In rooms where curtains won’t work, consider using removable adhesive window films in playful colors and patterns.

    Art Appreciation

Banish blank walls with eye-catching wall art. Stay on budget by springing for a beautiful photo-rich coffee table book. For a minimal investment, you’ll have pages of frame-worthy pictures at your disposal. Another option is to have artful family photos enlarged and mounted on canvas, wood or metal. Use removable adhesive picture hanging strips to avoid damaging your walls.

    Make a Splash

If you’re looking to inject personality into your kitchen, look no further than the backsplash. Sure, you could paint it in a come-hither hue or mount wallpaper in a fun print (see above), but why not go big on style with peel-and-stick tile sheets? The removable tiles look like the real deal and are available in fashionable mosaic, hexagon and subway-tile designs.

The Ultimate Moving Checklist

The Ultimate Moving Checklist

Your wrist may be sore from signing two inches of mortgage documents, but the real fun begins now! You need to transfer your family’s medical records, host a garage sale, discontinue the utilities — oh, and pack up all your earthly possessions and get them from Point A to Point B. It is possible to get it all done without losing your cool: Follow our 8-week timeline to get from “We’re moving!” to “We’re home!”

8 Weeks Before

Sort. Walk through every room and open every drawer; decide what to take to your new home and what to get rid of. Make a list of “keep” items that will require special packing or extra insurance coverage.

Purge. Donate items you no longer want, or host a yard sale.

Hire movers. Research moving companies. Always ask for the mover’s U.S. Department of Transportation license number; whether the company is bonded; and whether the company is licensed for interstate moves, if you’re moving out of state. Request in-home estimates to receive the most accurate pricing.

Contact your children’s school. Notify the school that you’re moving, and obtain copies of your children’s records. Contact new schools for enrollment and record-transfer procedures.

6 Weeks Before

Make travel arrangements. Book hotel stays if you’ll need lodging on the road or before your new home’s ready; book any necessary flights.

Order packing supplies. Purchase standard boxes in various sizes; bubble wrap; packing paper; packing tape; and specialty containers, such as wardrobe and dish-pack boxes.

Contact your doctors. Obtain copies of medical records for all family members, or have the records sent to your new physicians. Haven’t found new ones yet? Ask your current doctors for recommendations.

Contact insurance agents. Find out whether your move necessitates changes in your medical, dental, vehicle or personal property insurance.

4 Weeks Before

Start packing. Begin with items you use only rarely or seasonally (e.g., fondue pot; pool toys); save items you use frequently (e.g., TV remote; your toothbrush) until just before moving day. Snap photos of valuables and pack them separately; you’ll carry those items with you.

Label, label, label. Mark each box with its contents and the room it’s destined for in the new house. The only exception: Don’t list contents on a box that contains valuables, to avoid theft.

Inventory. Keep a running list of each packed box, its contents and what room it belongs in. Later, you can match this against your moving company’s inventory sheet.

Measure. Ensure that all of your belongings can make it out of your old home and into your new one; measure any tall, wide or oddly shaped items, as well as any doorways or tight spaces they’ll need to fit through, so there are no surprises on moving day.

Update your computer. Download any necessary software updates and ensure that all of your files and photos are backed up to an online cloud storage service or an external hard drive that you’ll carry with you.

Make arrangements for pets. Book a pet sitter or care facility for moving day. If you’re moving out of town, make travel plans for your furry friends and ensure your veterinarian has authorized your pets for the journey.

Contact utility companies. Instruct existing utilities to disconnect services the day after your move; direct new utilities to install services at least a day before you arrive.

Consider storage. If your new home won’t be ready when you leave your old one, research storage options in your new community.

Clear the freezer. Start using up frozen food items that will be a hassle to move. Then, tackle the pantry and fridge.

Visit an auto mechanic. Get an oil change, tire fixes and any necessary tune-ups to ensure that your car survives the move.

Change your address. Visit USPS.gov or your local post office to officially change your address. Leave your forwarding address with a neighbor, just in case.

Alert important parties. Notify your employer, banks, credit card companies, subscription services, friends and family of your move.

2 Weeks Before

Confirm the movers. Contact the moving company and double-check your plans. Make sure the insurance in place is enough to cover your valuables.

Clear out. Empty out storage units, safe deposit boxes and any other off-site storage spots. And don’t forget to pick up your dry cleaning.

Take time off. Evaluate how many work days you’ll need to make the move, and then request time off from your employer.

Clean the rugs. Have area rugs cleaned; they’ll arrive rolled and wrapped from the cleaner, ready to unroll at the new house.

Pay it forward. As you pack, gather warranty information, manuals and other house-specific information in a binder for the new owners.

1 Week Before

Finish packing. Aim to complete the general household packing a couple of days before moving day.

Pack your bag. Your last bag should contain at least one change of clothes — or more, if you’re moving out of state — for each person in the family, as well as all of the basics (e.g., phone charger, toilet paper) you need to survive for a few days without the items on the moving truck.

Visit the pharmacy. Refill any prescriptions you’ll need for the next month, and arrange to transfer prescriptions to a pharmacy in your new community.

Unplug. Disconnect and clean any large appliances (e.g., washing machine, fitness equipment) you’re moving; contact a professional to disconnect gas lines. If you’re moving your fridge, defrost the freezer and clean it at least a day before you move.

Make your last donation. Arrange for a final pickup of all remaining items in your “donate” pile.

A Few Days Before

Confirm the movers … again. Triple-check arrangements with the moving company. Verify how much you’ll owe on moving day, and what forms of payment are accepted. Ask for a cellphone number for the day-of contact, and confirm the crew’s arrival time. Prepare written directions to your new home and hand them to the movers on moving day.

Get the keys. Arrange to receive the keys to your new home, or schedule the realtor or landlord to meet you on moving day.

Donate food. If you’d rather move fewer boxes, donate nonperishables to a local food pantry.

Disassemble furniture. Place screws, brackets and fasteners in a small plastic storage bag, and label it. Even better: Tape the bag to the furniture’s underside.

Get rid of it. Most movers prohibit moving boxes that contain paint, aerosol cans, matches, alcohol and other chemicals. Properly dispose of these items, or plan to move them yourself.

The Don’t Pack List
Keep these items off the truck and close to you on moving day:

Important documents (e.g., passports, marriage license, birth certificates, any records containing bank account information or Social Security numbers)
Checkbook
Credit cards
Medication
Phone and charger
Laptop and charger
Toilet paper
A change of clothes (one for each member of your household)
Snacks and water (for kids and pets)
A child’s special toy or blanket (if they can’t bear to pack it)
Jewelry
Flashlight
Tape measure
Toolbox
Trash bags
Paper towels
Cash
Any other valuables, heirlooms or irreplaceable items

Moving Day

Current Home:

Say goodbye. Take time to say a proper “so long” to your old house before things get hectic. Children, in particular, benefit from some closure: Walk through the house recalling fond memories you have, and talk about what fun you’ll create in your new home.

Meet the movers. Greet the moving crew and ensure that all workers are representatives of the moving company you hired. Be sure the moving truck’s U.S. Department of Transportation license number is the same as the number on your estimate.

Supervise the load-in. Assign a helper to watch the moving crew stack your belongings inside the truck, keeping an eye out for damage.

Clean the old house. Tidy up rooms as the moving crew empties them, or consider hiring a cleaning service.

Keep valuables with you. Be sure the movers don’t mistakenly load boxes containing your laptop, jewelry, passports and other irreplaceables you should keep near you at all times.

Make a final walk-through. Lock your old home’s windows and doors, turn off lights and ceiling fans and make sure nothing’s left before you leave for good.

New Home:

Roll out the carpet protector. Lay down plastic carpet protector at the new house, if your movers haven’t already done so.

Show the moving crew around. Point out specific rooms so boxes end up where they belong.

Watch for damaged and missing items. Your movers will make an inventory sheet, called the “bill of lading,” that notes the condition of your items, including damage to any boxes or furniture.

Pay the movers. Complete the transaction using the payment method you agreed to when you confirmed the move. If the moving crew did a good job, a tip of 10 to 15 percent of the total fee is customary.

Get it in writing. Before the movers leave, sign the inventory sheet — and make sure the mover in charge signs it, too. Get a copy for your records.

Do an initial clean. Vacuum and mop floors before you set down furniture; wipe down countertops; and do a deep clean of tubs, showers and toilets.

Assemble furniture. Grab your toolbox and start reassembling furniture; don’t wait until your helpers have gone home.

Start unpacking. If you notice any damage to your boxes, set them aside until the moving company can return to inspect them. Take photos of the damage for your records.

The Master Moving Day Checklist

The Master Moving Day Checklist

The big day’s here! Make sure to tick off every item on this moving day to-do list, from greeting your movers at your old house to rolling out the rug in your new one. Plus: the phone numbers you’ll need, and what items to keep off the truck.

Current Home

Say goodbye. Take time to say a proper “so long” to your old house before things get hectic. Children, in particular, benefit from some closure: Walk through the house recalling fond memories you have, and talk about what fun you’ll create in your new home.

Meet the movers. Greet the moving crew and ensure that all workers are representatives of the moving company you hired. Be sure the moving truck’s U.S. Department of Transportation license number is the same as the number on your estimate.

Supervise the load-in. Assign a helper to watch the moving crew stack your belongings inside the truck, keeping an eye out for damage.

Clean the old house. Tidy up rooms as the moving crew empties them, or consider hiring a cleaning service.

Keep valuables with you. Be sure the movers don’t mistakenly load boxes containing your laptop, jewelry, passports and other irreplaceables you should keep near you at all times.

Make a final walk-through. Lock your old home’s windows and doors, turn off lights and ceiling fans and make sure nothing’s left before you leave for good.

New Home

Roll out the carpet protector. Lay down plastic carpet protector at the new house, if your movers haven’t already done so.

Show the moving crew around. Point out specific rooms so boxes end up where they belong.

Watch for damaged and missing items. Your movers will make an inventory sheet, called the “bill of lading,” that notes the condition of your items, including damage to any boxes or furniture.

Pay the movers. Complete the transaction using the payment method you agreed to when you confirmed the move. If the moving crew did a good job, a tip of 10 to 15 percent of the total fee is customary.

Get it in writing. Before the movers leave, sign the inventory sheet — and make sure the mover in charge signs it, too. Get a copy for your records.

Do an initial clean. Vacuum and mop floors before you set down furniture; wipe down countertops; and do a deep clean of tubs, showers and toilets.

Assemble furniture. Grab your toolbox and start reassembling furniture; don’t wait until your helpers have gone home.

Start unpacking. If you notice any damage to your boxes, set them aside until the moving company can return to inspect them. Take photos of the damage for your records.

Moving With Kids: How to Keep Them Happy and Occupied

Moving With Kids- How to Keep Them Happy and Occupied

The Big Move didn’t sound so overwhelming at first. Donate all your extra stuff, organize and pack what’s left — no biggie. But now your toddler’s wailing about how he’ll miss his friends and your daughter is going ballistic about starting a new school, which makes you feel like throwing a tantrum yourself.

Moving can be tough on kids, particularly if you’re leaving the only home they’ve ever known. So before the moving truck arrives, step back from the boxes and focus on making this transition a good one for your little ones.

Give them a sense of control.
Two keys to keeping yourself and your children sane during a move: Give your kids an age-appropriate purpose and help them envision specific things they can look forward to in your new home. That’s the advice from Lori Collins Burgan, who authored the book Moving With Kids after moving five times in seven years with her husband and three kids.

For children, the disruption in their routine can feel truly overwhelming. The solution? Give them specific tasks they have control over. For example, ask each child to pick out and pack a special backpack especially for the move. They can stuff it with activities for the car or plane, their most prized stuffed animal and a few other comforting belongings. Talk to them about their new neighborhood and let them choose the first new restaurant you’ll try. Ask them to think about what color they’d like to paint their new bedroom or whether they might want airplane or racecar bedding. It’s harder to have a meltdown when you’re having fun.

Ask them for “help.”
You’ll need to label your moving boxes anyway, so turn that task into an art project by giving the kids markers and stickers to transform them into cardboard masterpieces. In the meantime, you’ll get a chance to wrap up your fragile items. Consider giving each child his or her favorite color marker to color-code the boxes, making the boxes easily identifiable.

Older kids can help fold, organize and pack their clothes. Just remember to set aside a favorite outfit for each kid for moving day. Ask younger kids to help sort their belongings into categories — pajamas in one pile, shirts in another — making it easier for you to pack. (Now’s your chance to match up random socks! Loners become hand puppets, since the other toys are getting boxed up.)

Need to keep the kids out of your hair? Set up a play tent or box fort in the middle of your living room. That way any mess will be confined inside.

Make the new place feel like home.
Before moving day, shop for a few items that’ll serve as welcome-home gifts. Pick out a few fresh decorations for their new room, or let older kids select items they like. Got a sports fan? Pick up a team poster to show support for your new hometown heroes. A guidebook of local plants and animals will give children things to identify while they explore.

Once you arrive at your new house, help the kids get settled into their rooms before you tackle the kitchen unpacking. As much as you might want to find your forks, your transition will run smoother if you get the kiddos settled into their new digs first.

What to Clean Before You Move In

What to Clean Before You Move In

Your dream home sure looked spotless during the open house. But gird yourself: No matter how clean the place seemed, it’s likely there are some dirty surprises in store for move-in day.

Sanitizing the bathtub’s a good place to start (you bought someone else’s house, not their bath grime!), but don’t stop there. Before you unpack, buy some rubber gloves, stock up on your favorite cleaners, replace your vacuum’s HEPA filter and hunt down these not-always-obvious dirt hotspots that old homeowners often leave behind.

Heads up!
Step into the dining room and inspect the chandelier. If you find spider webs or dust, use a cleaning system that includes a soft microfiber cloth on an extendable, bendable handle to wipe that mess into submission.

The crown molding throughout the house may be gorgeous, but you should check to see whether dead bugs and dust lurk between the wall and the molding itself. A microfiber cloth or the nozzle attachment on your vacuum works well here. You’ll need a step ladder, of course.

Keep your chin up and check out the ceiling fans; clean the blades before they spin all that dust into the atmosphere. If you’re binge-cleaning at midnight and run out of clean microfiber cloths, remember: An old sock (worn on your hand) or dryer sheets double as dusters.

Hmm, what have we here?
Scan the main living areas of the house for unexpected cleaning projects. Did the former residents keep a sofa strategically placed over a huge scuff on the hardwood? Work your magic with cleaners designed to restore specific surfaces.

Did pets precede you? Don’t just clean the carpet — de-flea it (ideally before you move in). Wipe down the doors (knobs, too!), paying close attention to the lower half, where pets may have pawed or scratched.

The refrigerator vent is probably screaming for some cleaning, too. Don’t skip this one; the dusty buildup is a fire hazard. Vacuum away (bet you’re feeling good about that new HEPA filter now).

Inspect the dishwasher. Any gooey gunk in the food filter? Eww. Give it a good white-vinegar rinse, and deodorize the garbage disposal while you’re at it.

Appliances (sadly) don’t clean themselves.
You didn’t peek inside the furnace during the inspection, did you? Clean or replace the filter, and if you feel comfortable doing so, clean the fan and blower assembly — or call in a pro: The expense may be offset by your energy savings.

Scheduling a professional cleaning for ductwork is a smart move. And now’s the time to replace air filters and clean out dusty water-heater closets.

Investigate the laundry area. Sterilize the washing machine (there are cleaner tablets for this job). Then, turn to the dryer and clean out the lint trap and its cavity; wipe it down with a damp cloth before replacing the trap.

It may take some elbow grease to get these messes out of your way, but you’ll be glad you did — then, you can entertain fearlessly when you throw your housewarming bash.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind

Sometimes, you move into a new place and discover something so odd, it makes you shudder: a pizza left in the oven; a bayonet in the closet; chicken bones in the wall. What a welcome! Here are 10 especially bizarre “housewarming” gifts.

~~~
Not a Bright Idea

When a Maplewood, New Jersey, family moved into their new house, they were literally left in the dark by the seller’s peculiar actions: He’d replaced every working lightbulb in the overhead fixtures with burnt-out bulbs.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind2

Say Cheese!

A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, woman was cleaning out her new home’s basement closet when she saw something pink, white and scary lurking in a corner: a set of false teeth! As if that weren’t strange enough, when she contacted the previous owners, they said they didn’t want the chompers.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind3

Showing Signs

When you walk down into your new basement and see a big, bold warning sign marking the area as a blast zone, you can either worry — or laugh. That’s precisely what happened to two new homeowners in Chicago, who found the sign so hilarious, they decided to keep it!

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind4

Get a Load of This

One Phoenix homeowner went to the laundry room of his new abode, where a basket of dirty clothes was sitting on top of the washing machine — but the clothes weren’t his. Ewww.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind5

Nailed It!

People collect lots of things, from stamps to dolls to baseball cards, but an Ann Arbor, Michigan, transplant surgeon left behind a collection worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. When the new homeowners opened a bathroom drawer, they found it was full of human nail clippings.

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Who’s Hungry?

When you open the oven in your new home, the last thing you expect to find is someone else’s dinner. But that’s what happened when a Seabeck, Washington, woman found a large pizza left by the hungry (but forgetful) previous owners.

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Fowl Play

If you run out of garbage bags, where should you dispose of dinner remains? Behind a metal grate in your home, apparently. An apartment dweller in Washington, D.C., unearthed a trove of chicken bones when the power company came to update his electric meter and removed the wall grate. Wonder where the leftover mashed potatoes are.

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Holy Moley!

While doing some gardening in the front yard of their new Little Silver, New Jersey, home, a couple dug up what they first thought was a doll, but turned out to be a statue of a saint. Following religious tradition, the home’s former occupants had buried a plastic St. Joseph to bring them good luck in selling their home. It worked!

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No Fighting!

An apartment dweller in Brooklyn, New York, found an engraved 19th-century ceremonial French bayonet on a closet shelf in his new rental. He ended up giving it to his brother, who hung it on a wall in his home. It was a particularly meaningful find, because their late mother was from France.

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Creature Discomforts

When a family moved into their dream home in rural Idaho, they were surprised to find it was already occupied — by a colony of snakes. Constant hissing sounds and odd-tasting tap water led to the discovery of thousands of serpents that refused to vacate the residence; the owners eventually moved out.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes

Rounding up, packing up, lifting, trucking, lifting again and unboxing every single item you own unfortunately leaves some room for error. Cross your fingers, double up on tape, and whatever you do, don’t commit these 19 hilariously bad moving mistakes.

1. Give up on packing and just move the whole house.

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2. Booking the first “cheap moving van” that popped up on Google, then being disappointed when a cheap, moving van shows up.

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3. Remembering that your phone charger’s in there … somewhere.

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4. Not bending at the knees.

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5. Loading too much on the dolly.

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6. Using a box cutter to open your kid’s belongings … and Mr. Wiggles is at the top of the box.

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7. Thinking one string is enough.

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8. Being a lounger and not an unpacker.

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9. Failing to pack Great Aunt Doris’ china securely.

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10. Assuming your coffee table would fit in the passenger seat.

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11. Underestimating the size of your figurine collection.

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12. Not checking the weather on moving day.

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13. Purchasing bubble wrap but not earplugs.

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14. Instructing the truck to head to Springfield, Fla. … and the truck ends up in Springfield, Ill.

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15. Forgetting to make moving-day arrangements for Fido.

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16. Asking your party-animal buddy to help you move.

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17. Insisting on doing it all in one trip.

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18. Reassembling every table and bookcase, and somehow having these screws left over.

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19. Boxing yourself in and just giving up.

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How to Pack Fragile Items: A Professional Mover’s Secrets

How to Pack Fragile Items- A Professional Mover’s Secrets

You don’t want Great-Aunt Mildred’s heirloom china or the champagne flutes that you and your sweetie toasted with on your wedding day to end up in shards, do you? Bubble wrap alone won’t protect your breakables; you need to pack like a professional if you want your fragile lamps, glassware and tchotchkes to make it from point A to B.

Stock for Success
Here’s a tip from Derek Williams of Adam’s Moving & Delivery Service in Seattle: Don’t overpack each box and hope that applying extra packing tape will keep it covered. Bulging boxes make it much harder for your movers to pack the moving van.

“It’s so much better to get more boxes than you think you’ll need than to try to overstuff them,” Williams says.

He adds that cardboard boxes have a shelf life — they can become flimsy over the years — so don’t count on old ones that have been in your basement forever to keep your stuff safe.

Mix It Up
You might think it’s best to buy boxes that are all uniform in size. But for your movers (or you, if you’re the one loading the van), fitting all your boxes in is a lot like Tetris. To conquer the puzzle, a variety of sizes works best.

Purchase boxes ranging from shoebox small to ottoman large, keeping in mind you likely can’t securely carry anything larger than 2-feet square. Then, pack heavier items in the shallower boxes, and fill the big ones with lighter stuff. You can also place heavy items at the bottom of deeper boxes and add lighter items on top — never the other way around.

Pillow-Top Packing
For odd-shaped items, be generous with the boxes. Particularly fragile, irreplaceable heirlooms deserve a box to themselves. Williams recommends this technique: Place a blanket on the bottom, then the (carefully wrapped) item, and then place a pillow on top. Seal up the box and label it FRAGILE “on the top, sides, bottom — everywhere. Overcommunicate!” Williams stresses. And, of course, label each box with its contents.

No Jiggling!
For glasses, cups and mugs, you don’t necessarily need box inserts (sometimes called cellular inserts) to keep the items separated. It’s more important to wrap each item up completely, with two layers of packing paper for extra-fragile things such as wineglasses. And make sure everything’s packed snugly, to prevent jiggling. For hollow items such as goblets and vases, stuff them with crumpled packing paper, then wrap individually with more paper before setting them inside a box lined with paper or bubble wrap. For flat items like plates and picture frames, wrap each item in packing paper and place them in a box vertically, alternating with a sheet of bubble wrap.

Also, do yourself a favor and use some containers designed for specific items, like partitioned holiday ornament boxes and gift-wrap organizers; these long-term storage options can slide right into your closet and bypass your “unpack” list.

Make Plastic Your Pal
Plastic wrap, that is. Stretch wrap comes in handy for all sorts of packing jobs: bundling shower and curtain rods, keeping rugs rolled tight, securing the tops on plastic storage tubs. You can try this move to spare yourself the work of packing up the contents of dresser drawers: Place a packing blanket around the dresser to protect it; then shrink-wrap the whole shebang.

If you opt for plastic stretch wrap, use a moving vehicle or storage area with climate control if you won’t be immediately heading to your new home, as moisture can build up and potentially damage wood, leather and other materials.

CHECKLIST: Everything You Need to Pack Properly

CHECKLIST- Everything You Need to Pack Properly

Your stuff will never survive the truck ride on shoeboxes and Scotch tape. Here’s a list of all the supplies you need to properly pack your entire home.

Boxes
Purchase clean, dry cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes if your moving company doesn’t already provide them.

Special Containers
Order wardrobe boxes, partitioned “dish pack” boxes and other containers designed for specific items.

Bubble Wrap
Buy a large roll, and cut sheets for padding boxes and wrapping breakable items.

Plastic Storage Bags
Use gallon-size bags for grouping small items, and snack-size bags for rounding up screws and fasteners.

Packing Paper or Plain Newsprint
Avoid using newspaper for stuffing and wrapping fragile items; the ink may stain some materials (and your hands).

Bright Tissue Paper
Use it to wrap small items that are easily lost or may be mistaken for trash.

White Tissue Paper
Use it for stuffing and wrapping lampshades; packing paper is too stiff.

Packing Tape
Buy multiple rolls, and at least one dispenser for each person who will help you pack.

Labels
Mark each box with its contents (except for valuables) and the room where it belongs.

Permanent Markers
Choose thick-tipped markers for strong, clear labeling.

Small Colored Stickers
Use them for labeling electronics cords, color-coding boxes and more.

Trash Bags
Corral throw pillows and stuffed animals inside bags, and label them like boxes so they’re not mistaken for trash.

Box Cutters
Half-empty boxes don’t stack properly; trim boxes to fit their contents.

Tools
You’ll need an assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches and fasteners for disassembling and reassembling furniture.

Plastic Stretch Wrap
Wrap it around furniture to secure drawers, or use it to bundle curtain rods and other awkwardly shaped items.

Mattress Bags
Purchase ones sized to fit your mattress; they’re easiest to carry.

Drop Cloths or Old Sheets
Drape them over furniture for protection.

Quilted Pads
Wrap large furniture to protect it inside the truck.

Measuring Tape
Measure odd-shaped items to find a box that fits.

Notepad & Pen
Jot down directions, measurements and notes.

Lighten Up: What to Digitize Before You Move

Spare yourself the stress (and the weight!) of moving your CDs, movies and more. Go digital to get organized and literally feel a weight lifted from your shoulders.

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How many pounds of cookbooks and foodie magazines do you have? If it feels like your collection weighs as much as your fridge, go digital. Scan and upload recipes to Evernote or Google Docs (or apps like Dropbox and Paprika), and then tag each by category (snack, dessert) and cuisine (Asian, low-carb). While you’re at it, tidy your email by uploading all of the recipes you’re hoarding in your inbox.

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DVDs

All those bulky DVDs are a burden, and storing the files on your laptop makes your computer sluggish (making unauthorizied digital copies is also illegal). Try a program like Vudu, which converts your movie collection to digital files stored in the cloud and accessible on any device.

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Music CDs

You officially have permission to recycle all of your CDs (though you should never toss them into your recycle bin; consult the CD Recycling Center of America to find a collection center). But before you do, save the CDs digitally using your computer’s music-storage software. Or preserve everything with a collection program like MediaMonkey, which converts music files to different formats while adding track information and album artwork.

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Old Cards and Letters

If you’re hanging on to boxes brimming with handwritten notes, start scanning. Future generations may consider those notes priceless; don’t run the risk of letting them get damaged or lost! The TurboScan app is handy; it saves documents in easily shareable PDF or JPEG formats.

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Photos

Preserve your precious snaps, once and for all. Scan your nondigital photos (and while you’re at it, remove the red-eye effect). Just be sure to have a reliable physical or cloud backup system — or, better yet, both. Using an external hard drive and a cloud-based program such as Dropbox is smart. You can also easily share digitized photos with relatives and friends.

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Photo Negatives

Don’t toss old-school photo negatives; preserve them, then toss them. It’s a DIY job if you’re using a professional-grade scanner; otherwise, mail-order scanning services such as DigMyPics and ScanCafe can convert your negatives, fixing scratches and correcting exposure in the process.

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Receipts

If you’re still shoving receipts into shoeboxes — gas receipts in the stillettos box, food receipts in the loafers box! — simplify your stash. Apps like Expensify (intended for business expenses, but great for organizing household ones, too) instantly rid your wallet of receipts before they start piling up. Upload a smartphone photo of each receipt and the program will automatically categorize it. Remember, if you’re tapped for an IRS audit, you’ll need many records going back 7 years; keep physical copies of your W2s and other sensitive documents until risk of an audit has passed.

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Vinyl LPs

Audiophiles may scoff at the thought of digitizing vinyl, because the sound quality is diminished — but it is a space-saver. With a USB connection and a program like Audacity, you can digitize your records; it’s not a lightning-fast process (you may burn through a turntable needle), but start early enough and you’ll spare your moving crew a few boxes.

How to Host the Ultimate Garage Sale

How to Host the Ultimate Garage Sale

Garage sales are a lot of work — there’s no getting around that. But they are still a good way to get rid of stuff you don’t need, and they’ll put some cold, hard cash in your pocket. Blogger Chris Heiska, aka “The Yard Sale Queen,” has been scouring garage sales for years, so we turned to her for pro tips on hosting the most amazing garage sale ever.

1. Time it right.
Many people are paid on the first of the month, so a garage sale in the first or second week of the month may be more profitable than one at the end. You should also limit your time frame: two-day sales are becoming passé, Heiska says. And you’ll get early birds no matter what, so she recommends confining the sale to 7 a.m. to noon on, say, a Saturday only.

2. Create buzz.
To get it all sold, you have to get noticed. Start with prominent, legible signs. (This may not be a job for kiddos, as much as they’d like to help.) If there’s a chance of rain, make sure your signs are waterproof; office supply stores can laminate signs for you. Place signs on community bulletin boards and in high-traffic zones near your home (be sure to follow local sign ordinances). Ask a neighbor to drive by your signs and verify they’re legible and clear; have another pal make the rounds halfway through the sale to make sure the signs are still standing. And go digital: List your sale on community boards, neighborhood blogs, Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter.

3. Offer treats.
Heiska remembers one garage sale that was a big hit because it featured nonalcoholic daiquiris for $1. The colorful drinks grabbed the attention of people driving by, and shoppers stuck around longer than they normally would have. Coffee for early birds and candy at the checkout make friendly treats.

4. Set up shop.
Take time to thoroughly clean, neatly fold and attractively display everything you sell. “Books and CDs should be displayed with the titles all facing the same way, to make them easier to read,” Heiska says. She also recommends one big sign for items that are all priced similarly — “All CDs $1 each; softcover books 50 cents each” — to keep pricing easy. Keep fragile and valuable items close to your checkout area.

5. Attract clothes horses.
Displays of run-down clothing can tell potential shoppers to keep driving; higher-quality clothes hangers (instead of cheap wire ones) will make your sale feel more upscale and will hold shoppers’ interest. To minimize clothing chaos, Heiska recommends a portable clothing rack; prominently display any standout items, such as formal dresses or designer-brand coats, on the rack’s ends to entice buyers. No rack? Get creative and hang a shower rod between two ladders.

6. Price it right.
Don’t start the day with sky-high prices. “Start with a reasonable price you would like to get for something,” Heiska says. “If a customer sees too many high prices, they may leave quickly. It’s good to have a variety of items at a variety of prices.”

7. Stock up on supplies.
To avoid fumbling with cash and change in your pockets, store money in a cash box (don’t leave it unattended!) or a cashier’s belt — and be sure you have plenty of small bills and coins to make change. Have plenty of newspaper, bubble wrap and shopping bags handy for wrapping glassware and other breakables. Roll out (or borrow) a dolly for moving heavy furniture to shoppers’ cars; a skateboard or two can work in a pinch.

8. Handle hagglers.
Stand your ground with bargainers asking for price reductions that are more than you’re comfortable with. If someone seems genuinely intrigued by an item, hold your ground. Chances are, he or she is making the garage-sale rounds and will return in an hour. An exception: Consider letting heavy furniture (and anything that might be tedious to lug to a donation center) sell cheap and early; choose your battles!

CHECKLIST: Your Last Box

CHECKLIST- Your Last Box

Moving day is hectic, to put it mildly, and the last thing you want is for important items — like your wallet, cell phone charger or your kid’s favorite blankie (imagine the tears!) — to be boxed, loaded and driven away in the moving truck. To help you avoid such pitfalls, we’ve devised a list of essentials you’ll need on moving day, plus additional must-haves you’ll want the second you arrive at your new home. Pack them all in your last box (or two!).

For the New Place:

Lightbulbs & Flashlight
To ensure you don’t get stuck moving in the dark.

Garbage Bags
To round up those pesky packing peanuts.

Basic Tools
To reassemble furniture.

Extension Cords & Batteries
To get power where you need it in your new home.

Cleaning Supplies & Paper Towels
To give the bathroom and kitchen a quick cleanup as soon as you arrive.

Tape
To cover your bases, pack a roll of each — Scotch, duct, masking, etc.

Scissors or Box Cutters
To open boxes.

Pen & Paper
To jot quick notes.

For You

Toilet Paper
So you don’t get stuck without a roll.

Shower Liner and Rings
So you can clean up and feel human again.

Bath Towels
So you don’t have to dig through boxes in the buff.

Toiletries
So you have everything you need — soap, razor and shampoo — to clean up.

Bedding
So you don’t have to sleep on a bare, fresh-off-the truck mattress.

Coffee Supplies
So you remain alert. Bring a coffee pot or tea kettle, and be sure to pack instant coffee (or tea), plus single-serving creamers and sugars.

Bottle Opener & Corkscrew
So you can make your first toast in your new home.

Snacks
So you have enough food to last until you locate the pots-and-pans box.

Dishware
So you don’t have to unpack and wash dishes, pack plastic or disposable plates, cups and utensils.

First-Aid Kit
So you’re covered in the unlikely case of a moving accident!

For Your Family

Curtain or Makeshift Shade
Don’t let the sun’s first rays wake your exhausted family.

Beloved Toys or Books
Don’t leave a blanky, binky or lovey behind!

Pet Supplies
Pack Fluffy’s bowl, leash, essential toys and at least a day’s worth of food.

Camera & Charger
Start snapping new memories instantly!

PLUS: What Not To Pack
Keep these items off the truck and close to you on moving day:

Important documents (e.g., passports, marriage license, birth certificates, any records containing bank account information or Social Security numbers, and any other legal documents)
Medication
Phone and charger
Laptop and charger
A change of clothes (one for each member of your household)
Snacks and water (for kids and pets)
A child’s special toy or blanket (if they can’t bear to pack it)
Jewelry
Tape measure
Cash
Checkbook
Credit and ATM cards
Keys
Any other valuables, heirlooms or irreplaceable items

CHECKLIST: What to Measure Before You Move

CHECKLIST- What to Measure Before You Move

Measure twice, move once: This is the rule to remember so you don’t get stuck prying out a door frame to get your couch inside, or hiring a crane to swing your foosball table in through a bedroom window. Here’s a list of every measurement you should take to ensure your stuff can actually move in on moving day.

Your Stuff

Bookcases & Armoires
Measure the width, depth, height and diagonal height (see “How to Measure Diagonal Height,” below).

Couch
Measure the length, depth, back height and diagonal height (measure each piece of a sectional sofa separately). Determine whether legs can be removed.

Dresser
Measure the width, depth and height. Determine whether removing drawers shortens the depth.

Headboard
Measure the width and height.

Tables & Desks
Measure length, width and height. Determine whether legs are removable.

Appliances
Measure width, depth and height. Determine whether doors are removable.

Mattress
Measure length, width and height. Assess its bendability.

Piano
Measure length, depth and height. Consider hiring a professional piano mover.

Billiards & Gaming Tables
Measure length, width and height. Determine whether legs are removable.

In the New House

Main Door
Measure the height and width of the door opening, as well as the clearance of the entryway: Is there a radiator or step immediately inside? How far can you walk before you hit a wall? Finally, measure the ceiling height inside the entry.

Secondary Doors
Measure the height, width and clearance of the openings of side, patio or deck doors. Sliding glass doors often have bigger openings than traditional doors.

The Biggest Window
Measure the height, width and clearance of the largest window that opens, as well as its height from the ground outside. A window may be the best entry for some items.

Stairways
Measure the width and ceiling height from the first step (not the ground floor), and take the same measurements of the last step; use the smallest width and height measurements. Measure the length, width, ceiling height and clearance of any landings or turns.

Hallways
Measure the width and ceiling height of hallways, as well as the clearance of connecting doorways.

Low-Hanging Ceiling Fixtures
Measure the space from the ground up to low ceiling fans and chandeliers that may pose a hazard for moving tall items.

PLUS: How to Measure Diagonal Height
Diagonal height tells you whether an item can tilt around doorway and stairway turns when it can’t slide straight through. For a rectangular item like a bookcase, find the diagonal height by measuring from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. For sofas, draw an imaginary line between the highest point of the couch’s back and the highest point on the couch’s arm; find the midpoint of that line, and measure the distance from the midpoint to the couch’s back leg.

10 Genius Packing Hacks for Moving Tricky Items

10 Genius Packing Hacks for Moving Tricky Items
Sigh! If only everything in your home were featherlight and cube-shaped and easily slipped into a standard box. For the stuff that isn’t and won’t, 10 clever time-saving ways to pack.

1. Knives
Keep safe by storing sharp knives inside oven mitts. These cushiony kitchen gloves offer built-in bubble-wrap-like protection, minus the popping sound.

2. Power Cords
Don’t throw away empty toilet-paper rolls; use them to keep your umpteen power cords organized. Just wind cords around your hand and stuff inside the roll, where they’ll stay neat and untangled.

3. Books
You might not need your roller suitcase for vacation anytime soon, but drag it out of the closet anyway: It’s perfect for moving heavy books without breaking your back.

4. Jewelry
And you thought ice cube trays were good only for chilling your happy-hour cocktail. Instead of filling them with water, load dry, empty trays with earrings, rings and delicate necklaces and then cover tightly with plastic wrap.

5. Flatware
Break out the plastic wrap again — this time, for your forks, knives and spoons. Simply lift your flatware tray with its contents out of its current drawer and wrap tightly with the plastic. When you get to your new home, unwrap, slip the tray into its new spot, and you’re done!

6. Glasses
Make friends with the folks at your local liquor store, and ask them to hold aside a couple of wine boxes for you. These cardboard boxes are designed with a dozen compartments, which make cozy storage units for delicate glasses and cups.

7. Clothes
Instead of folding your entire closet into boxes (yawn), keep clothes on hangers and slip them into 30-gallon drawstring trash bags. Cut a small hole in the middle of each bag’s sealed end, so you can pull the hangers through; use twist ties to bind hangers together. Pull the bag down over the clothes and tie a knot with the drawstring. Congratulations — you’ve mastered a DIY garment bag!

8. Mattresses
To prevent your mattresses from getting dirty on the moving truck, cover the tops and bottoms with old fitted sheets. You’ll sleep better knowing your mattresses aren’t grimy.

9. Dishes
Buy a package of disposable dinner-size foam plates, and place one between each plate in your china and everyday (ceramic, stoneware) sets. Instant cushioning!

10. Screws and Bolts
After dismantling furniture, its hardware can be easily misplaced — and, let’s face it, all screws look pretty much alike. Your best bet is to store and label each set in a plastic sandwich bag, and then affix the bag to the underside of its corresponding furniture with masking tape.

The Empty Nester’s Guide to Moving On and Letting Go

The Empty Nester’s Guide to Moving On and Letting Go

Your kids have moved out for the last time (or so they say), and you’re ready to downsize. But doing so is all about getting rid of what doesn’t matter, holding on to what does — and knowing the difference.

Julie Morse, a resident of Lake Bluff, Illinois, knew from her experience as a Realtor that using space wisely is tantamount to downsizing. But as a mother of six grown children, she sought to strike a balance between tossing everything and saving cherished childhood items.

So when Morse and her husband moved from a 2,000-square-foot house to a 1,200-square-foot townhome, they downsized gradually by renting a storage unit. “I think it’s good to ease in, which is where the storage unit is helpful,” says Morse. “Have things in a keep pile, a maybe pile and a get-rid-of pile. The maybe pile becomes important, because you should think through it. Because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Deciding what to keep often comes down to determining if the item is useful and personally significant, sentimental but not really useful, or easily replaceable and taking up space. When Cynthia McIntyre and her husband downsized following a move from Indianapolis to Hastings, Minnesota, they donated or sold some of the furnishings and stuff their three adult children had left behind, but saved the furniture that McIntyre’s father-in-law had built for the kids when they were young. She stored additional heirloom items in a curio cabinet, giving them an organized home. “We kept what was most precious,” says McIntyre. “The youngest two don’t have kids yet and they don’t want it now, but maybe they will once they have kids.”

Both Morse and McIntyre were able to create space for the things they (and their kids) valued by installing closet organizing systems and additional storage. Morse carved out space for a closet in a bathroom, while McIntyre added large cabinets to her laundry room. Both women say they felt the effort was worthwhile.

“Downsize with a deliberate sense, but also with a sense of caution that you don’t go too far too fast,” says Morse. “I love living in our condo. It’s sleek, uncluttered and extremely organized. But if I had to get rid of the posterity stuff — things that were the maybes — I think I would have gone too far.”

Let It Go: 10 Things to Ditch Before the Moving Truck Arrives

Let It Go- 10 Things to Ditch Before the Moving Truck Arrives

Everyone has too much stuff, and that becomes super clear when it’s time to start packing for a move. Do you really need 17 frayed bath towels, or a drawerful of expired antibiotics? Take a hard look at your old or [cringe!] still-new-but-never-used belongings and you’ll find plenty of things to sell, donate, recycle or trash — anything but stick in a box headed to your new home! Consider saying “buh-bye” to these items:

1. Old Paint
The colors are dated, the buckets are half full and — admit it — you have no intention of using any of it again. Donate leftover latex paint that’s still in good shape (not lumpy or dry) to a local school or charity, such as Habitat for Humanity; take oil-based paint to an authorized disposal facility in your area.

2. Tired Pots and Pans
Has Aunt Rhoda’s hand-me-down cookware seen better days? If it’s scorched, scratched or dented, recycle it; for nonstick pans, consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for disposal (some coatings can’t be recycled). Either way, cross one heavy box off your list!

3. Toilet Brush
The only place this germy, bacteria-laden cleaning tool belongs is in the garbage. Spring for a new brush in your new bathroom.

4. Expired Medications
Think of them like milk: Once they’re past their freshness date, old meds lose their potency and may become chemically altered. That’s why you need to get rid of them. But you shouldn’t automatically flush them down the toilet, which may compromise the water supply; instead, follow the Food and Drug Administration’s disposal guidelines.

5. Unused Gifts
Maybe it’s owl-emblazoned napkin rings, a bamboo steamer or a neon plaid tablecloth—if you received it for your wedding (or your last housewarming party) and still haven’t opened it, it’s ready for the sell or donate pile.

6. Coffee Mugs and Souvenir Cups
Yes, you are the “World’s Greatest Napper,” and that visit to “Alcatraz, 2006” was certainly memorable, but if too many souvenir mugs or plastic cups are crowding your cabinets, it’s time to edit your collection. Pick six of your favorites, and recycle the rest.

7. Plastic Takeout Containers
No judgment here about your eating habits, but if you’ve got enough containers to start your own restaurant, it’s time to head to the recycle bin with every last one of these beauties.

8. Anything That Doesn’t Fit
Sadly, moving closets won’t magically make that little black dress from college fit again. Don’t bother moving ill-fitting clothes or anything you haven’t worn in the past 6 months; direct them straight to the “donate” box instead.

9. Vases
Lucky you: Every birthday and Valentine’s Day, someone sends you flowers in a vase. If the containers are cheap glass or plastic, march them to the “donate” pile before the next delivery arrives.

10. Linens
Give your worn-out towels and sheets a second life by dropping them off at your local animal shelter, which will use them to care for abandoned dogs and cats. While you’re at it, assess your bed-pillow collection. If any pillow isn’t worthy of your head resting on it at night, it’s not worthy of your overnight guests’, either!

Get It Sold: 10 Tips From a Home Staging Pro

Get It Sold- 10 Tips From a Home Staging Pro
They say you only get one chance at a first impression. So if would-be buyers have already sidestepped your bursting-at-the-seams closet or shuddered at your dreary laundry room, you can’t undo it — but you can do some strategic home staging before the next house-hunter shows up.

Barb Nazzaro, a professional house stager who runs A Simply Staged Home, in Natick, Massachusetts, insists that it’s essential to stage. “When people walk into a house, they form an opinion almost instantaneously.” There’s a knee-jerk reaction that happens, she says; within seconds, buyers either adore the place or want to flee. And while homes in hot neighborhoods may sell themselves, Nazzaro says any home can benefit from staging to bump up the asking price and help speed a sale.

“People see gorgeous homes on television and want exactly that for themselves,” Nazzaro says. And, she adds, just as you wouldn’t wear sweatpants to a job interview, your home needs to put its best foot forward. Moving represents a fresh start, and if your home isn’t clean and doesn’t evoke a peaceful feeling, potential buyers will bail.

Here’s how to make your house gorgeous for its time in the spotlight:
1. Purge the hallway closet.
Remove at least 70 percent of the coats. “Wooden hangers are great investments,” says Nazzaro. And make sure each coat is facing the same way. Nazzaro also likes to hang just one beautiful red raincoat in the hallway, with rain boots neatly arranged on a doormat, to set a boutiquelike tone.
2. Edit the china cabinet.
A chaotic collection of mismatched teacups and saucers inherited from your great-grandmother looks more Hoarders than home sweet home. “I like to see a nice, clean and organized, elegant, understated china cabinet,” Nazzaro says. “It speaks to how entertaining will go.” Pare down and clean out, and store items you don’t really need right now, using china cases designed for the job.
3. Liven up the laundry room.
It goes without saying that drip-drying your unmentionables during an open house probably won’t get the place sold. But put extra effort into transforming the room where the dullest household chore takes place to show buyers that your laundry room is a place of peace, not punishment. Use apothecary jars to hold wooden clothespins and powdered laundry detergent, clear everything else off the shelves and lay down a small, plush area rug. “Who lives like that?” Nazzaro asks. “Not too many people! But we’re trying to tell a story.”
4. Tidy the kitchen cabinets.
Yes, house-hunters will open and close your kitchen cabinets a half-dozen times during walk-throughs. Clear out the clutter — you’ll have to pack up that fondue set sooner or later! — and make sure pots and pans are sparkling clean and in their place.
5. Scale back on photos and wall hangings.
Remove any family photos (visitors want to envision their family in the home, not yours) and any art that might evoke a strong reaction. “Religious icons and anything that really reflects a personal taste should go,” Nazzaro says, recalling a client whose basement was filled with nude sketches. “They were probably very expensive,” she says, “but I said, ‘These have to go!’”
6. Add a bed skirt.
Nobody wants to inspect your slipper collection or your dust-bunny farm. “A dust ruffle or bed skirt is an absolute MUST.” Nazzaro laughs, “I’ve worked with bachelors who don’t know what they are. But a bed skirt is a finishing touch that completes a room.”
7. …And while you’re at it, change your comforter or duvet.
Nazzaro recommends a solid, neutral-color comforter or duvet, and a tasteful arrangement of throw pillows and blankets. “Make the bed look luxurious.”
8. Round up the kid stuff.
Have a mountain of craft supplies in the dining room, or a giant table for the little one’s train set in the center of the living room? That only tells potential buyers that your home’s too small for a family. Start packing early, and box up the Barbie dolls and board games first.
9. Beautify bedroom closets.
Again, the idea is to make the space feel like there’s ample storage; the closets shouldn’t appear overstuffed. Get rid of lonely wire hangers, neatly fold and stack clothing and clear all but essentials off the tops of shelves. Store most nonhanging clothes and accessories in pretty bins — “Not an old wooden crate,” Nazzaro advises (or — the horror! — old milk crates you used in your dorm). Metal cubes are fine in the kids’ rooms, she adds, but not the master closet, which should feel more upscale.
10. Don’t forget the basement and the attic.
Many potential buyers will want to poke around. Nazzaro has heard of buyers who ask for a ladder so they can climb into the attic — which means that staging your house by stuffing your belongings into the attic or the basement will backfire. It’s better to store your items attractively, or simply get them out of the house.

Starting Fresh: Tips for Buying New Towels, Sheets and Dishes

As you packed up for the big move, did you ruthlessly distill your belongings down to only those that you love or that are in good shape? If you ditched — or (eek!) broke — a mismatched dish set, or abandoned sheets and towels that had seen better days, here are practical tips for restocking.

    Picking the Perfect Towel

So you used all your towels to pack your china and now you need new ones? Fine towels can make every morning just a little special. Choose standard-size towels if that’s your preference, but larger bath sheets have that upscale-hotel feel to them (and that’s a great way to start your day). Some people prefer to double up — a bath towel for hair and a bath sheet for body — so think about your shower habits as you shop.

Check for softness. Egyptian cotton towels have longer, denser loops and are often more durable and super soft. But no matter where your towel is from, check out the nap of the towel. Run your hand along the fibers. If the towel’s backing shows, it’s not dense enough, won’t absorb well and probably won’t last as long as you’d like.
Check the weight. Does the towel feel heavy for its size? That’s a great sign. Check the edges and the quality of the sewing on the seams. Straight seams — not curved ones — indicate a well-made towel.

    The Sweetest Sheets

The perfect sheets can mean sweet dreams. Whereas, lower-quality ones can be irritating or will need replacing sooner rather than later. Thread count — which indicates the number of threads woven per inch, ranging from 200 up to 800 or higher — is a quick way to judge quality, though it’s not the only factor to consider.

Sheets with higher thread count are softer and often feel smoother. But high-thread-count sheets are more expensive. Before making such an investment, consider how important a luxurious bed is to you and how you really like to feel when you’re snuggled up at night.

Cotton fabric is a time-honored choice, but it’s not the only material that feels soft and smooth. Flannel and fleece sheets are warm and toasty for winter months. Jersey sheets are like sleeping in an old T-shirt. Percale sheets are crisp but lightweight, and sateen has a silky and luxurious feel.

Particularly if you sleep with multiple pillows, consider buying an extra set of pillowcases, as they’re often washed more frequently. And it’s easiest to coordinate the color and style of throw pillows when you’re shopping for sheets — so browse decorative pillows, too.

    The Dish on Dishes

It’s not an exaggeration to say you should really love your dishes — after all, you’ll use them three times a day! Of course, you should buy dishes in a color or pattern that fits your style, but they should also fit your lifestyle: If you regularly throw elegant dinner parties, consider a set of fine china, but if you entertain with buffalo wings more than duck á l’orange, a more casual set will do. Do you regularly refrigerate or reheat leftovers? Search for a set that’s fridge- and microwave-safe.

Fine china appears delicate, but is often more durable than casual dinnerware; both porcelain and bone china are quite strong. Patterns range from modern to traditional, and may have metallic bands or painted details that can’t stand up to extreme heat, cold or microwaves; you might consider choosing a set that can be passed down through generations. Typically, fine china is sold by the place setting — each set contains all the pieces a single person needs at a table.

Alternatively, durable casual dishware can endure everyday use. Often made of stoneware (refined clay) or earthenware (unrefined clay), these dishes come in an array of solids and patterns, many of which are dishwasher- and microwave-safe. These dishes are usually sold in boxed sets or individually (called “open stock”); determine whether you need an entire set, or single pieces to mix and match.

Can’t decide between the two? Consider a best-of-both-worlds set of “casual china,” porcelain or bone china dinnerware in a solid color or transitional pattern that can work for weeknight meals and more formal dinner parties.

Design Mashups: How to Combine Two Different Styles

Design Mashups How to Combine Two Different Styles

You’ve made the big decision and are moving in together, but realize you have totally different styles and tastes. Let interior designer Kyle Schuneman show you how to combine two different styles in a dining room and a living room — easily and successfully.

Dining Room Design Mashup: Neutral versus Color

https://youtu.be/pCF4AXjDWmg

Your New Home Essentials Checklist

Your New Home essentials Checklist

You’ve made the move and now you are ready to settle in. Where do you begin? This handy list of new home essentials will more than get you started.

    KITCHEN ESSENTIALS

Paper Towel Holder
Drawer Organizers
Cabinet Organizers
Dish Rack/Drying Mat
Spice Rack
Water Filtration
Cutting Board
Kitchen Towels/Mitts
Shelf Liners
Food Storage
Spatulas/Mixing Bowls
Placemats
Flatware/Plateware/Cups

    BATH

Shower Curtain
Shower Liner
Shower Hooks/Rings
Bath Rug
Bath/Hand Towels
Tub Mat
Toilet Brush/Holder
Toilet Seat
Toothbrush Holder
Tumbler
Soap Dish
Wastebasket
Shower Rod
Shower Caddy
Towel Bars/Racks
Air Fresheners
Loofahs
Toiletries

    WINDOWS

Curtains & Drapes
Blackout Options
Blinds & Shades
Sheers
Scarves & Valances
Tie Backs
Curtain Rods
Window Hardware

    CLEANING & LAUNDRY

Cleaning Products
Hand Soap
Sponges/Gloves
Dust Pan/Mop/Broom
Room Fresheners
Trash Can/Trash Bag
Step Stool
Vacuums
Lint Rollers
Hamper

    UTILITY

Light Bulbs
Extension Cords
Surge Protectors
Smoke/CO2 Detectors
Batteries
First Aid Kit
Flashlights
Candles/Matches
Clocks
Night Lights
Heaters/Fans/Humidifiers
Basic Tool Set

    CLOSET ORGANIZATION

Hangers
Door Hooks
Double Closet Rod
Shelf Organizers
Shoe Racks
Storage Bins
Cube Storage Units
Door Mirrors
Drawer Organizers
Under Bed Storage
Space Bags
Accessory Organizer

    BEDROOM BASICS

Mattress Pad
Mattress Protector
Mattress/Air Mattress
Pillow Protectors
Pillows
Sheets/Pillowcases
Blankets/Quilts/Comforters
Duvet Covers

    HOME DÉCOR

Toss Pillows
Slipcovers
Picture Frames
Wall Art
Area Rug/Door Mats
Lighting/Lamps
Shelving
Furniture/Bookcases
Wall Hanging Kits

How Shoppable Content Increases Purchases

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With a Microzine you can introduce Shoppable Content, a new way for brands to offer direct links to purchase items featured in their content.

Shoppable Content transforms the way consumers shop on mobile. This new approach to merchandizing your branded content like blogs and video elicits brand loyalty and increases ROI. The best news for brands is that you do not have to create any new content.  Microzines enable you to leverage your existing content to simplify your consumer’s path to purchase–from content to cart.

Microzines Drive Higher Consumer Engagement

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When a Microzine is run as an interstitial ad, brands can experience engagement rates as high as 9% with a Microzine from Zumobi.

Microzine interstitial ads cover the full screen of a mobile device and offer users a high-level of engagement with your brand. These are typically displayed at natural transition points in the flow of an app or mobile website destination, such as between articles or activities.

Microzines curate a brand’s content into innovative mobile experiences with advanced targeting capabilities. Zumobi offers premium custom audiences to meet your exact targeting specifications. Brands can leverage our app-based retargeting, behavioral targeting contextual targeting, geo targeting and more.

Does Your Retirement Portfolio Need More Stocks?

MAY 13, 2016

How big should your stock allocation be when you retire? The financial industry has devoted much intellectual muscle to the search for an “ideal” allocation. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The case for stocks is pretty straightforward: Historically, they’ve been one of the best sources of growth and returns. But they’re riskier than other investments. The success of your retirement plan depends in part on how you balance these qualities. On one hand, your portfolio needs to continue growing even after you retire so you don’t outlive your savings. On the other, you don’t want to endanger your savings by taking unnecessary risks.

So the “right” amount of stocks really comes down to your individual needs and preferences, which we’ll explore in more detail below. And what makes sense at the beginning of retirement may not make sense later on, so you will need to make adjustments over time.

“You don’t need all of the money for your retirement on the day you retire. Your portfolio should continue to grow over the years,” says Rob Williams, Managing Director of Income Planning at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “What’s important is that you have the right balance at the beginning of retirement.”

So how do you strike that balance? That depends on a few things.

What’s in your portfolio?

For most investors, stocks should account for anywhere from 40% to 60% of their portfolios in the years just prior to and after retirement, with the rest invested in bonds and cash.

Where you fall on that range depends on factors including your risk tolerance, wealth, how much you expect to rely on your portfolio for income, and your anticipated longevity.

For example, if you have a long time horizon, are more risk tolerant and worry your savings will fall short, you might aim for a stock allocation of 60% when you retire. If you have a shorter time horizon, adequate savings and are less comfortable with risk, you might fall closer to the 40% end of the spectrum. What’s important is that your portfolio is geared to go the distance.

“You may retire, but your portfolio shouldn’t retire with you,” Rob says. “Your portfolio should continue growing over the course of your retirement.”

Once you’ve set your allocation, you will generally need to adjust it over the next 15 to 20 years by reducing your risk as you shift from saving to stability. The diagrams below show one approach to managing this transition.

A portfolio for all seasons

With an appropriately balanced allocation, you should be ready for whatever the market throws your way. This is important: How the markets are doing at the start of your retirement can have an impact that lasts for years.

If you retire during a bull market, congratulations. Your portfolio could get an extra boost that will add to your savings and give you a little more freedom in your spending plans.

But what about a bear market? This is where the value of good planning is most obvious, as a well-structured portfolio can provide some cushion to help manage market risk.

The key is to minimize a phenomenon known as sequence-of-returns risk. Basically, this refers to the possibility that your savings could be permanently damaged if you start withdrawing from your retirement account at the same time that it’s losing value. Selling assets when prices are down often means you burn through them faster—and that leaves you with little fuel to drive growth if markets recover. If the decline is steep or lasts a while, that could make it even harder to make up lost ground.

To help protect yourself against sequence-of-returns risk, you could consider using a “bucketing” approach. It works like this:

Bucket one: Set aside enough cash to cover your spending needs, after nonportfolio income sources like Social Security or a pension, for the next 12 months. In other words, if your plan is to withdraw $40,000 a year from your portfolio, you would keep that entire amount in your cash bucket. Treat this money as “spent.”

Bucket two: Put another two to four years’ worth of cash into assets that can be liquidated if needed. For example, if we stick with the $40,000-a-year plan, you’d put $80,000–$160,000 in easily liquidated assets such as cash alternatives or short-term bonds.

Bucket three: This is where you’ll keep your stock allocation and other more aggressive investments.

The idea is that you should have enough cash or cash alternatives on hand to cover your expenses over the near term, while at the same time aiming to preserve your portfolio’s growth potential over the longer term. After all, over the past 50 years, it took the S&P 500® Index slightly more than three years, on average, to recover from a downturn, according to research from the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

“With several years’ worth of living expenses positioned in lower-volatility investments, like cash, cash alternatives and bonds, you can feel more comfortable taking on the risks that can help you get to your goals,” says Rob.

At the end of the day, your target allocation—that mix of stocks, bonds and other assets—should reflect your long-term priorities in retirement. You shouldn’t change it just because of a temporary setback in the market.

Making your portfolio last

The bottom line is that you’ll likely need at least some stocks throughout retirement for diversific­ation and growth potential.

It also helps to stay flexible. Check on your portfolio regularly—say, once a year—to make sure it still fits with your plans. You can always adjust as needed.

Important Disclosures

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, please consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.

Examples provided are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.

Fixed income securities are subject to increased loss of principal during periods of rising interest rates. Fixed income investments are subject to various other risks including changes in credit quality, market valuations, liquidity, prepayments, early redemption, corporate events, tax ramifications and other factors.

International investments involve additional risks, which include differences in financial accounting standards, currency fluctuations, geopolitical risk, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets.

Diversification and asset allocation strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets.

The Schwab Center for Financial Research is a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.

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