Your Essential Apartment Move-Out Checklist

Your Essential Apartment Move-Out Checklist

Below is a checklist provided by the American Apartment Owners Association called the “Move-Out Checklist.”

Conquer the Toxic Dust Hidden in Your Home

Conquer the Toxic Dust Hidden in Your Home

Many of us don’t need a substantial push to swap harmful cleaning chemicals for less intrusive alternatives. Who likes dry, bleach-stained calloused hands anyway? As the dangers of indoor dust are well known, it’s becoming apparent the invisible, long term effects of our daily cleaning habits, and lack thereof, can amount to terrifying heights of harm. A recent study that “…analysed 26 peer-reviewed papers, as well as one unpublished dataset, from 1999 onwards to examine the chemical make-up of indoor dust…” found nearly 90% of dust samples contained particles linked to cancer and infertility, as reported by The Guardian. These findings were due in no part to small sample size: “The studies covered a wide range of indoor environments, from homes to schools and gymnasiums across 14 states.”

With the satisfactory appearance of Clorox’s clean glaze over countertops and the refreshing scent of Febreze floating like a lazy cloud from one room to the next, just when our homes seem cleanest, we may actually be most vulnerable. Altering what you buy, from harsh chemical cleaners to safer alternatives, isn’t the only thing you can do to curb indoor pollution, and doesn’t account for much of the problem. Your clean home houses hidden hazards.

The problem of indoor pollutants may appear at first glance counterintuitive. How could vanquishing bacteria, viruses, and who-knows-what-else from dirty floors and countertops, bathrooms and kitchens, ultimately harm us? Your everyday cleaners aren’t particularly handy for the real problem. The issue is that some chemicals in our couches and mattresses, our vinyl flooring and carpeting, contain flame retardants, known to cause cancer, affecting the reproductive and nervous systems, and phthalates, found in personal care products and food packaging, which “have been linked to developmental problems in babies, hormone disruption, and are also thought to affect the reproductive system.”

These chemicals, especially when imprisoned in a house on lock-down for the winter, can accumulate and mingle with dust in your home. “The researchers highlighted 45 toxic chemicals in indoor dust, 10 of which were present in 90% or more of the dust samples – these included flame retardants, fragrances and phenols.” As The Guardian points out, these chemicals, though banned in some products, like bottles and diapers, may not be banned in others, like walls and flooring.

But this isn’t a matter to just throw up our hands over, declaring all proactivity hopeless and ineffective. Singla, from the Environmental Science and Technology journal, writes there are steps we can take to reduce exposure to this toxic dust. One key is, when you are performing regular cleaning duties like wiping off the counters or sweeping, don’t tackle these tasks with dry brooms or paper towels. Use damp mops and cloths to reduce levels of dust. Whereas merely dry materials might kick the dust back in the air, damp materials will cause the dust to clump and aggregate. Also, vacuum regularly, as the suction disposes of the toxic dust in its container. And, of course, activism, to demand accountability, is the surest way to reduce exposure to these chemicals.

Although the problem of indoor pollution is extremely concerning, it’s in your power to reduce exposure. Besides changing the way you clean your home, you can also purchase plants, which help reduce indoor pollution by cleaning the air you breathe. And don’t be afraid to open up your windows when the days are brilliant, and the soft breeze of spring warmly soothes the plants and animals, blooming and bustling outside, stirred by the chance to enter your home like an old, visiting friend.

Tips for Storing Books

Tips for Storing Books

If this is your first time storing books, you might think the process will be as easy as storing anything else: pack them up in boxes and throw them on a shelf. But that’s not exactly the case here. Books are delicate, sensitive to changes in their environments. Store your books with the confidence that they won’t diminish in value.

Preparation

Clean. You might not think dust is a big problem, but it can cause covers to fade, lose texture, and damage their surfaces after books set for too long. Inspect all your books for dust and dirt.

After you clean, you may want to wrap any books with dust jackets in Mylar book covers. This thin, plastic material is actually sturdy enough to prevent most damages to book covers. Plus, in the future, if you spill something in the vicinity of your book, it won’t necessarily ruin its cover.

Storage

The first thing you’ll want to consider is the kind of storage unit you want your books in. Climate-controlled storage is best, since you will be able to not only monitor the temperature of the unit but also the humidity levels. Aside from that, you probably shouldn’t store books in a unit without, at least, temperature-control, which makes the unit immune to major temperature changes (these units typically guarantee a range of temperatures for your storage: a range in Fahrenheit from about 50 degrees to 90 degrees).

Next, boxes, bags, or totes? If you use boxes, don’t use secondhand boxes, especially if they contained items that typically emit an odor (food, leather, etc.). These odors will settle in books after a period of exposure.

Don’t store in plastic bags. Not only can these produce gases after some time (which will settle in your books), but they also can trap humidity and water, forming a layer of condensation around your books. Bags can basically create the same environment as a humid basement.

Totes are usually okay for a few reasons. If the outside of the tote gets wet, the moisture won’t sink through the tote to the books (like it would a box). Secondly, there is usually extra space in the tote, which would allow for some air circulation for your books. And, thirdly, you won’t have to worry about the acid that some boxes contain yellowing the pages of your books.

Whatever you choose to do, now you have the information to store your books like a pro. Happy packing!

Mottos of the Organized

Mottos of the Organized

Don’t let your stuff own you

It’s easier said than done. Some people collect so much stuff throughout their lives, they have no idea what to do with it. So they keep it. Then have to pay for space to store it. And the problem just perpetuates itself. When you make financial decisions about where to live, because you have a bunch of stuff that you don’t use but need to bring with you, then your stuff owns you. Don’t let that happen.

When it’s not fun, you’re done

Two questions to ask yourself about the things you own: Are you using it and is it fun? If the objects sitting around your home are never used, why do you keep them? Consider this: clutter in your home contributes to, or may reflect, mental clutter. It may both cause and reflect anxiety. Clear up the things you don’t use, the things that no longer contribute to your life, and notice how it affects your day-to-day mentality.

Free space is worth more than occupied space

When all kinds of objects just occupy space and have no other use, you basically pay for the objects to sit there. It’s like renting out space. And every time you want something new, you’ll have to find a new place for it. This is the cycle that owning too many things all too often becomes.

To get out of this rut, consider the value of free space. Free space is possibility. You can do anything with it.

The past should remain in the past

If you want a change in your lifestyle, consider the objects you surround yourself with. Are they just things of the past, no longer contributing anything to your lifestyle or the lifestyle you want? Are they things that remind you of what you were but don’t want to be? Let everything that holds you back stay in the past. Try surrounding yourself with things that inspire you, things that hold you to a certain level of living.

Getting organized can be very difficult. Disorganization is a habit, and breaking habits is difficult. Remembering these mottos will make it easier to break the chains of habit.

How to Discuss Clutter with Your Roommate

How to Talk about Clutter with Your Roommate

If you’re living independently for the first time, with a roommate or significant other, you’ll encounter a universal problem: people organize their lives differently. What seems to be clutter to one person will be organized chaos to another. This problem may appear irresolvable to some. If your roommate or significant other doesn’t think about what counts as clutter in the same way you do, how can you change their mind? Luckily, you don’t have to.

Organizing a shared space isn’t about changing anybody’s idea of what is a mess and what isn’t. Actually, it’s just a matter of communication, like most other things, and respect. You live in a common space: you have common goals. Talk about them.

Shared Interests

If you talk about clutter only when you’re annoyed about it, the way you communicate with your roommate or significant other may take the form of blame. You might say, “Why haven’t you picked up your laundry?” Or, “Why is this room still not clean?” This doesn’t do anyone any good.

You live with someone. If you haven’t explicitly decided on what kind of organization you both would like to see for each room, then you cannot appeal to an agreed upon goal. The sentence, “Why is this room still not clean?” appears to be grounded in an agreed upon norm. And that’s why it’s so disorienting and, sometimes, maddening, when people talk this way without establishing, beforehand, what this agreed upon goal is.

Talk about your shared interests, what each of you hope to get from your home, and make compromises. But certainly do not wait until you are aggravated, annoyed, or irritable to bring up how your shared space should be organized.

State how you both want to use the room and accommodate each other’s visions. If your visions contradict, maybe split the space, or try to allocate different spaces for your separate visions.

Agree upon the appropriate items for the space. Then talk about how you’d like to see them stored when not in use.

Conclusion

Most of all be reasonable about your vision. You share space with another person. Sometimes you can’t get everything you want. No matter what you decide about organization, having a discussion about your goals, interests, and expectations is always healthy. And it’s certainly the best way to talk about clutter with your roommate or significant other.

Begin Exercising at Your Apartment

Begin Exercising at Your Apartment

The best deals are those that involve getting the same product or service for a lower price. This is why exercising at home is best. No more gym rats. No more sweat-infused-axe-spray nausea. No more machine hogs.

Think about how much less effort you’ll have to put into preparation for the gym. Let’s talk about getting your apartment ready for exercising.

Goals

Obviously, if your goals aren’t similar to the outcomes desired by body builders, then you won’t need as much equipment as a typical gym. You just want to do cardio? Maybe, then, all you’ll need is a space for a yoga mat. Want to get really buff? The nice thing is, your apartment most likely has a fitness center that already includes some equipment. You’ll only have to make space for what the fitness center doesn’t have.

And don’t just brush off using the fitness center all at once. Research has shown it’s actually easier to form habits, like going to the gym, if you begin with small goals first. Maybe your first time lifting weights shouldn’t be at LA Fitness. Not only might you get discouraged, but missing a few days can turn into a few weeks and then you’ll be back at square one again.

If you want to build muscle, just begin with the basics: a quick ten-minute warm-up, followed by a period of strength training (pushups, pullups, squats), followed by a ten-minute cool down period. As simple as it is, beginning with this kind of routine will prepare your tendons and joints for heavier loads. And it has the added bonus of pushing you to form new habits.

Organization

The only other thing you’ll have to think about is how to store what you need. If you’re just getting a jump rope, you won’t have much of a problem. But if you need a bench press, for instance, you might have to get a little creative if you’re living in an apartment. Pick a space to use your equipment in. But this space doesn’t necessarily have to be used to store your equipment.

Another thing you can do is think about ways in which the storage space for your equipment can be used for other things. For instance, maybe your bench press can hold your plants. Maybe your bars can double as a coat hanger. There’s really no limit on what kind of uses you can put these things to.

Conclusion

If you want to begin exercising, just start at your apartment. Maybe use the fitness center, if your apartment has one. But if not, no big deal. Form the habit of exercising before you make lofty goals for yourself. That way, when the time comes to lift big weights, not only will your tendons be ready, but your mind will be ready too.

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Why Renting is the Better Choice for Millennials

Why Renting is the Better Choice for Millennials

You’ve probably heard: student debt is over $1.3 trillion. And, according to a report by CNBC, it’s “growing faster than the average salaries for recent graduates.”

For a borrower aged 20-30, the average monthly student loan payment is $351. That’s quite a bit, especially when the median income for millennials remains relatively low. As reported by BusinessInsider.com, “In 2013, the median annual earnings for millennial women working full-time, year-round were $30,000,” states the report, “compared with $35,000 for their male counterparts.” A $351 payment can seem steep, since it accounts for about 12% of income for males and 14% of income for women.

Coupled with other expenses, from car loans to credit card debt, from housing costs to food, student loans are a heavy burden for many millennials trying to scrape by.

So, if you’re a millennial with a lot of debt, listen up. The following are things to consider before you buy a house. Like many others, you might find renting the better path.

Stability

Houses are sought for their stability. Even as markets change, a locked-in mortgage rate won’t. But the stability of a mortgage requires stability in life. Before you house-hunt, begin at step one. Think seriously about how stable your job is, your relationships, and career path. Are you expecting a promotion, or a change of scenery? Do you see yourself in the same job or relationship in five years? If not, a house probably isn’t your best bet.

Especially if you don’t plan to stay in a house long term, you should consider the payoff of picking up and relocating that an apartment provides. The assumption of many homeowners is they’ll be able to sell whenever they want. That, tops, it’ll take maybe a few months to close a deal. But as many learned during the housing crisis of ’08, when interest rates skyrocket, the equity of your house diminishes. The stability of a mortgage is a double-edged sword. There’s nothing to protect your home from future devaluation by the market. This isn’t a decision you should rush into.

Cost

Unexpected losses aren’t just restricted to market change. Other costs to home owning can also set you back significantly. The best thing to do is create a hypothetical budget. As HousingWire.com suggests, “Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25% to 30% of your gross monthly income.”

To place the costs of owning in further perspective, imagine that, after you budget, you have $500 every pay period left over. One day you notice your refrigerator isn’t working. You have to buy a new one. You get the new refrigerator and it turns out that the issue is with the electrical wiring going to the refrigerator. You have to pay an electrician to come out, and it turns out your entire kitchen was poorly wired and needs updated. If you don’t have deep savings or a friend who happens to be an electrician, your bills can become, very quickly, too large for a budget with little room for error.

Conclusion

When it comes to renting, however, apartment complexes take care of all major maintenance issues, and many minor issues as well. And, though rent prices might be higher than mortgage prices in some areas, apartment complexes provide amenities that you’d usually have to pay for if you own a house: pools, weight rooms, clubhouses, etc.

If you’ve acquired large amounts of student or credit card debt, it might be a wiser choice to rent an apartment for a few years while you climb out of debt, and stash away some money in savings in the meantime. That way, if you get a house, you’ll be ready for unexpected issues and they won’t break your budget.

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How Millennials are Happy and Productive in the Workplace

How Millennials are Happy and Productive in the Workplace

“67% of millennials are likely to share personal details [at work]…while only one-third of baby boomers do the same,” found a 2014 study by LinkedIn.

The work/life balance is an unspoken rule among working people. What happens at home shouldn’t be brought to work, and vice versa. This has long been the idea undergirding “professionalism.” But millennials have challenged this distinction in a very simple but powerful way.

It goes without saying: there are many reasons to keep the work/life distinction afloat. The workplace is not home. And a certain level of professionalism is required to maintain an efficient organization. This is true without qualification.

But what millennials have done, writes Sarah Landrum of Forbes, is widened their investment in the workplace. Work isn’t just an investment of time for them; it’s also an emotional investment. And this isn’t a bad thing. The attempt to roadblock the emotional aspect is not only a misunderstanding of science (the brain is interconnected in unimaginably complex ways), but a recipe for unproductive habits.

How Work + Happiness = Productivity

Many of you, like myself, may think making friends at work would impede upon productivity. But friendships at work aren’t like friendships at home. They don’t involve hanging out, but are held together and formed by self-disclosures in conversations. What does this mean? Simply put: it’s talking about how you feel about what you do, about how the weather is, about your weekend, more than about what you do, Landrum points out.

In Psych 101 you might have learned the simple difference between an acquaintance and a friend. Acquaintances talk about facts. They say to each other, “It’s sunny out. It’s a nice day. I have work to do.” But they don’t go further by disclosing any information about themselves like, “It’s sunny out, I think I’ll go to the park after work because there’s a good area to fish.”

Just to understand this from a millennial’s perspective, think about it this way: If you’re not self-disclosing sometimes to people you talk with every day, you’re basically working with acquaintances. And that means you never learn more about anyone, even after 20 years of work.

In 2014 Censuswide and LinkedIn joined to conduct a survey on 11,500 working professional that spanned 14 countries. They found that “57% of respondents indicated having friends at work made them more productive.”

Conclusion

Millennials get the most out of work by relating to those around them. This doesn’t keep them from being productive. In fact, it makes them more productive. And one reason just might be because they don’t feel like they are working in a world of acquaintances. The emotional investment is a powerful piece to the overall work experience. And it might be the key to productivity in a world where everyone is more and more alienated by technology.

And there’s another benefit. Apparently friendships at the workplace make companies more valuable to employees. As Landrum reports, “When asked whether they’d swap camaraderie for a larger paycheck at a different employer, 58% of men indicated they wouldn’t make the trade. A whopping 74% of female professionals concurred.”

The work/life distinction has a valuable place in a professional setting. But it doesn’t necessarily deny the possibility of self-disclosure. And self-disclosure just may be the key to happiness and productivity in the workplace.

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How to Break Old Habits and Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

How to Break Old Habits and Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

Now the holidays are over, and the New Year’s resolutions are kicking in, it’s time to think about sustainability. Whether you are resolved to eat healthier this year, exercise, or even learn a new instrument, you’ll have to think long and hard about how you’ll accomplish your by-the-end-of-the-year goals. The good thing is you’re not alone. Gaining traction on your New Year’s resolution is a matter of forming a new habit. So it’s important to understand how habits work.

Habits are like Cycles

In an interview with NPR, Charles Duhigg discusses his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. Everything we’ve made into a routine, from exercising to cooking, from brushing teeth to cleaning laundry, begins with the same “psychological pattern.” This is called a “habit loop.” It’s really simple, actually: every habit begins with a cue, proceeds by routine, and ends with a reward. That’s it!

Let’s look a little closer. A habit begins with “a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold.” Then the routine occurs, which is the behavior itself, or the habit. Lastly, the reward is “something that your brain likes that helps it remember the ‘habit loop’ in the future.”

The interesting thing is habits are formed in the part of the brain that has a major influence on “emotions, memories and pattern recognition.” It’s called the basal ganglia. Why is this interesting? Because it’s a separate from the region of the brain responsible for decision making – the prefrontal cortex. And, as a result, when automation kicks in, when habit loops initiate, the prefrontal cortex goes into hibernation.

This is readily available knowledge, at least by quick reference to experience. Think about how difficult the very basics of reading and math once were. We learned by rote memory, by memorizing the alphabet and times tables, and this period of learning required intense concentration. But after a while these things became second nature. It’s because, like any other habit, our focus, determination, and persistence eventually formed habit loops.

Lessons from in the Loop

Because all habits begin with a cue and end with a reward, it’s important, especially if you have big plans for your health this year – to exercise three or four times a week, to cut out sugar from your diet, etc. – to figure out some sort of consistent pattern to follow when you eat, go to the gym, or whatever you may do.

Maybe before a trip to the gym you listen to music you really like as you prepare, and afterwards you treat yourself to some yogurt. When some people crave a sweet snack, they cut up some apples and eat those as substitutes instead.

With new habits, especially healthy habits, old habits are broken. And this means the power of the reward system established by the old habit loop becomes more and more powerless. As you exercise more, your desire to lay around all day will weaken. And as you stay away from sugar, your cravings will diminish.

For more information on habits and the science behind them, you might also be interested in Scientific American’s podcast episode where Dr. Art Markman discusses things like “How to know you have a habit,” “How to work in league with your psychology to from new habits,” and “How we are more likely to succeed when we view failure as part of the process.”

Conclusion

But, most importantly, remember that habits are like cycles: as you reinforce them, they eventually become as automatic and predictable as the sunrise in the morning. Don’t be discouraged by failure. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to change, and an opportunity to become better at what you are trying to do.

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Prepare Your Clothes for Storage

Prepare Clothes for Storage

It’s time to put those summer clothes away for the season. Here are some tips to help prepare your clothes for storage.

Clean

You probably don’t want to pack away clothes with bad odors. But don’t forget your clothes might be stained too. And those stains will become permanent if you let them sit for half a year. Just be sure, wash all the clothes you plan to put in storage.

Pack

Everyone has boxes of some sort lying around. You’ll be tempted to use them. But purchase some plastic containers to store your clothes in. These containers secure your clothes from insects and rodents. And if you have clothes from the drycleaner, don’t just leave them in the drycleaner plastic. They could get water damaged.

If you use a storage facility, like Infinite Self Storage, you can purchase wardrobe boxes to hang up your clothes while they’re in storage. Then you won’t have to worry about creases or folds.

Label

You might think you can just throw everything together. And that’s fine, if you are just going to get everything out once spring arrives. But if you have a more variegated clothing selection, you’ll want to label your items by season or, even, activity. Then you can keep your harvest season clothes in storage while it’s planting season.

Store

Sure, it’s reasonable to think plastic bins will protect your clothes from temperature changes. But they won’t. In fact, they could compound the effects condensation has on your clothes. If you have an expensive wardrobe, invest in a temperature controlled storage unit to protect your clothes from condensation.

If you have any more questions about storing clothes, we encourage you to contact one of our professional storage team members. At Infinite Self Storage, we have solutions to all your storage problems.

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