donation pickup
Donations

An Even Easier Way To Donate Goods

I try to stay “in the know” but clearly I missed out on this little gem of information about an online resource for scheduling donation pickup from a variety of organizations – including the next day! Who knew? Clearly not me 😦  Yeah, just a wee bit embarrassed…Anyway, THANK YOU to my friend and neighbor Nora, who told me about GoodDonor!

GoodDonor coordinates pickups with various charitable organizations and in one easy – and I mean easy – step after you setup your FREE account, you can schedule pickup of items from your home and pick the date – even schedule pickup the next day (which I just did since I had to test it out and hubs just cleared out some clothing Friday night – perfect timing babe!).

Just follow these easy steps to get started:

1. Go to the GoodDonor website and fill out the information to set up an account – remember its FREE

2. After entering your information and hitting the Next button (it also says to schedule a donation), you get the choice of scheduling a pickup BY CHARITY or BY PICKUP DATE — I checked both options out and I’m going to make an assumption here that the charities listed are based upon the zip code you entered – again this is an assumption but I spent many decades in IT development/business requirements so I’m feeling pretty confident in my assumption.

3. After you select either option, you then click on the type of item donated

4. Fill out the remaining fields on the form and submit the request! SO easy. And FAST!

Within nanoseconds I received an email thanking me for joining followed by an email letting me know which charity would be picking up my hubs items the next day.

5. Put your items in boxes or bags and clearly label them based upon the charity you either selected or that was listed in the confirmation email.

6. Place the items outside in the designated area by 7AM on pickup day – you’re done!

7. If you need receipt information, you can also get this information via the website.

Awesomeness and WAY TO GO GOODDONOR!!!

Now go clean out those closets and no excuses for not having time to drive to a donation center or having to wait until a charity is in your neighborhood! Let’s get purging!!

Standard
New light fixture
Home Repair

Replacing light fixtures

So your ceiling light fixtures are outdated and old looking. Should you replace them yourself or hire an electrician? (Please keep in mind that I am not a journeyed electrician, just a Fix It Diva offering suggestions for how to approach projects in your home, whether they are electrical, plumbing, or any type of project. If you feel more comfortable consulting with a professional electrician, please do so. I happen to like saving money wherever possible so that I can use those funds on projects where I have to hire a professional to do the work.)

My rule of thumb is based on the infamous project management triangle: time, resources, and work to be performed. The relationship between these three always defines your cost. Analysis is how you arrive at your decision. We’ll use three different scenarios involving my light fixtures.

Scenario 1: Let’s use the broken ceiling fan in my office as our example.

Analysis: The fan works except for two things: I can’t adjust the fan speed and it is apparently hard wired (I’m not sure if this is the correct term, but it sure seems to fit the situation) so even though the wall switch may be “off”, the fan can still run – only the light is governed by the wall light switch.

Result of Analysis: I have two choices: replace the whole fan or replace the part that adjusts the fan speed. Well here’s the kicker, since it’s hard wired, that means that the entire circuit will have to be turned off to work on the fan. I am fine with replacing a light fixture and using the way it’s wired to define the new way to wire it, but when it comes to having a fixture that is hard wired, I think that is something that needs to be corrected by an electrician.

My Final Decision: hire an electrician to correct the hard wired situation, as well as replace the fan since he will have to take the fan down anyway.

Costs: higher than me replacing a defective pull switch in the fan that controls the blades. Cost is now a new fan, plus an electrician fees.

Scenario 2: Let’s use the ceiling light fixture in my hallway as our example.

Analysis: The light fixture is old and outdated (so so ugly too). Standard wiring to a wall switch.

Result of Analysis: I can replace the light fixture myself and anticipate no problems.

My Final Decision: purchase and install new light fixture.

Costs: new light fixture.

Scenario 3: Let’s use the broken front porch light fixture as our example. (My house is 30 years old – things are now outdated, can’t you tell?)

Analysis: The light fixture is old, outdated, and just plain gnarly looking. Standard wiring to a wall switch.

Result of Analysis: I can replace the light fixture myself and anticipate no problems.

My Final Decision: purchase and install new light fixture.

Costs: new light fixture.

Each project can be analyzed as a standalone project and the decision made on what to be done (work for hire or work by me). If I look at all three scenarios, and discover that to bring in an electrician to replace the ceiling fan in Scenario 1 requires the electrician to charge me for one hour of labor, but the electrician is only going to take 30 minutes to perform the work and charge me for a full hour, then guess what? I am going to have the electrician perform an additional light fixture replacement (or two) at the same time. My costs remain the same for the work done by the electrician, but my TIME (work I have to perform) is reduced.

Try this approach for other projects you have around your home. Look at each one separately, and then determine if it is work performed by you or if you have to hire out. If you do have to hire someone, are there other similar projects that can be performed during that timeframe you have to pay the contractor for anyway?

Be careful and happy wiring!

Standard
Laundromat
Laundry, Uncategorized

Teaching Kids To Do Laundry

At what age can you start teaching kids to do their own laundry? If you children are tall enough (or can safely use a stepstool) and can read, then I believe you can teach them to do laundry. I would say 6-8 years old would be a good age to start.

Because we didn’t have a washer/dryer in our home when my daughter was that age, she didn’t learn until she was 10.

Here are the steps I took to teach my own daughter:

1 – I wrote down on a piece of paper three categories of laundry: darks, lights, and reds. I gave her examples of her own pieces of clothing for each category.

2 – I added the wash/rinse water temperature and set it to COLD/COLD (no worries about reds running)

3 – I added how much detergent to use and took a sharpie marker and indicated the amount on the detergent lid

4 – I taped this chart to the front of the washing machine.

5 – I supervised her doing her wash the first few times until I felt she had the hang of it.

Note: the hardest part is explaining just how many clothes will fit in the washing machine. Since nowadays most machines are free of an agitator in the center, more clothes can fit. Just be sure to explain that the clothes need to create friction amongst themselves in order for the detergent to get the clothes clean…too many clothes means not enough movement or friction.

6 – For drying clothes, I wrote down on a piece of paper the settings and kept it to just one setting (she learned as she got older how to use the different settings).

7 – I added instruction to use one dryer sheet (this was back in the 90s before I switched to non-toxic drying methods)

8 – I taped this piece of paper to the front of the dryer.

9 – I supervised her doing her drying the first few times.

Finally, reward your child for learning this valuable lesson that will help him/her the rest of their lives. Seriously. Imagine them in their 20s and dating and finding out that Joe/Jane doesn’t know how to do laundry and still takes their clothes to their mom’s to get washed/dried? Um, that is not a healthy sign of a potential relationship partner, IMHO.

Enjoy teaching and empowering your children to do their own laundry!

Standard
washing machine
Budget

Budget Saving Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Here’s the recipe that I mentioned in my post on budget saving tips (https://thefixitdiva.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/budgeting-tips-easy-ways-to-save/). I found the printed out recipes and had forgotten that I took 3 recipes and blended them/modified them into my own version…no surprise there since I didn’t want to use regular Oxi-Clean and wanted to review the ingredients on the Environmental Working Groups website (http://www.ewg.org) to see what other alternative ingredients I could use.

With that said, here is the recipe I made:

Ingredients:

1 Box of Super Washing Soda (3lb 7oz) (EWG ranking of “A” for least toxic)

1 Box of Borax (4 lbs. 12oz) (EWG ranking of “F”. With that said, I did some online research and I came to the conclusion that Borax shouldn’t be an “F”. Here’s a great article that provides more information / clarification: http://www.crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not. I chose to stick with Borax.)

1 Box of Pure Baking Soda (4lb) (EWG ranking of “A”)

3 Bars of Kirk’s Castile Soap (EWG ranking for Castile of “A”)

½ container of Oxi-Clean Versatile Stain Remover Free (container is 1.3 lbs.) (EWG ranking of “B” vs the recipe I referred to used regular Oxi-Clean Stain Remover, which has an EWG ranking of “F”. I also used only half of the container – the recipe I found called for the entire container.)

Steps to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent:

  1. Grate your soap in a food processor until finally grated. If you don’t have a food processor with grating blade, hand grate the soap as fine as you can using a hand grater. WARNING: thank goodness this is soap because it gets messy in the food processor – easy cleanup though with warm water.
  2. Using a plastic tote bin, line it with a trash bag and pour all the ingredients into the container.
  3. Using rubber gloves and face mask (for dust), mix by hand until well blended.
  4. Once blended, put the mixture into a storage container for your use. I used a large cat food plastic pitcher (holds 8 lb. bag of dry cat food – here’s what it looks like http://www.organizeit.com/buddeez-bag-in-pet-food-containers.asp)
  5. I took two empty and clean glass jars with lids – in one I put some of the laundry detergent blend; the other jar is for mixing 1 tablespoon of the detergent with about ¼ cup of warm water, closing lid and swishing around before pouring into washing machine. This helps breakdown the castile soap chunks.

This recipe filled the cat food container to the top. My cost per load of laundry is $.10 – that’s TEN CENTS! So far, our clothes come out clean, no nasty smells from ingredients (some people do add some essential oil drops for scent but I don’t care for doing that). Swishing it around with warm water hasn’t caused any issues with our washing machine either.

I hope you like this recipe! Let me know if you try it and how it turned out for you.

Standard
Budget Tips
Budget

Budgeting tips – easy ways to save $$$

These may not seem like rocket science tips, but we implemented them in our household and over time, the savings do add up. Some savings were realized instantaneously, while others took some time to achieve.

#1 – Stop buying bottled water. Okay, so I’m a bottled water snob. Fiji water is my favorite. Goes down like air. Let’s just say we could’ve financed a few families in financial distress with the expense of bottled water we were spending every month. I went and bought us some BPA free, reusable water bottles with filter included, plus a Brita pitcher for our refrigerator. We now have 4 personal bottles (I keep one by my bed and one travels with me every day). HUGE cost savings! I also don’t mind the taste of the reusable water bottles. I do have to change out the filter cartridge every couple of months but that cost is almost negligible compared to the THOUSANDS of dollars a year we were spending on bottled water!!

#2 – Make your own laundry detergent. This one was a little intimidating to me because it had ingredients that seemed harmless but I had no idea where to find them. I did some online research and wanted to make the least toxic detergent in powder form. I ended up using a recipe I found on another website that had just a few ingredients. (I will update with a link to the site when I track it down). Cost for all the ingredients did add up to $55, however, the cost per load is 10 CENTS – that’s right – TEN CENTS! We’re empty nesters so we only have 3-5 loads of laundry a week max (his, hers, towels, sheets, misc.) and the savings is still noticeable. PLUS we aren’t putting toxins into our bodies via store bought bottled detergent. Also better for the environment J Lots of wins for this one! Since the recipe I used made a LARGE batch, I keep it in a large plastic container and put smaller quantities in a glass jar – we use a tablespoon to scoop out of the smaller jar into another jar where I add a little bit of water, put the lid on the jar, swish it around, and then pour into the HE washing machine liquid detergent dispenser. Some recipes make liquid laundry detergent and that would definitely eliminate my “add water and swish” step, but I liked the powder recipe. Again HUGE cost savings more easily identified over time for us. If you have kids, this savings would be recognized much sooner because you’re probably doing at least 10 loads of laundry a week. Just think you’d be doing those 10 loads for just a $1…can’t beat that!

#3 – Eliminate dryer sheets. Again, this was a “remove toxins” decision. We already had to use the fragrance free sheets because of my uber sensitive nose. The manufacturers put so many sheets into a box that you purchase, it doesn’t seem like a big cost savings, but for me, it was a toxin decision. I purchased dryer balls at a local store and a box of cheap aluminum foil. The dryer balls stay in the dryer and I add to each load a crumpled up ball of aluminum foil about the size of my palm. Eliminates static and I throw out the foil along with the lint from the lint trap after each load. My goal is to remember to add clear white vinegar to the washing machine load and there won’t be any need for the aluminum foil – little steps sometimes J Cost savings to me is another HUGE win. The dryer balls last about 6 months so two sets of those, plus cheap foil OR vinegar is still a toxin and $ savings. To us, the elimination of toxins for both our wash and drying cycles was the key driver for this budget item.

#4 – Make your own bread. This one came about quite unexpectedly for our family of two. Hubs and I prefer organic whenever possible and financially feasible. Well, the locally purchased organic bread is usually from Whole Foods and they are not about saving you money, in my humble opinion. Organic bread can run from $4 and up per loaf. It was delicious but $4/week adds up to $200+ a year. I was in a budget slashing mindset and declared that we were not buying bread from the store anymore (along with the no more bottled water declaration). I went onto Craigslist and found a bread maker machine for $30. Not used much (that’s the sad truth about the bread maker machine fad – lots of machines sitting around gathering dust), and included the directions and recipe book. I bought it! Then hubs bought all the ingredients for the bread – all organic except for yeast which I don’t think the food industry has figured out how to make that GMO yet – and our cost per loaf runs about $.50 – that’s FIFTY CENTS! That’s a savings of $182 a year! That’s HUGE in my book! The additional “neato” factor is that hubs has enjoyed experimenting with bread recipes and has made loaves to give away as gifts to family and friends. An added bonus to our budget J

#5 – Get rid of cable / dish TV. GASP!!! HORROR! We did that 4 years ago. We needed to purchase a 3rd car for our family. We had the money for most of the expense of buying the car, but knew we would have a small monthly payment. So we looked at where we had an expense that equaled what we anticipated our car payment to be and it was the satellite TV bill. We got rid of it. Instead, we started watching TV programs via our laptops (smart TVs weren’t out yet). We subscribed to Netflix. Then when Hulu came out, we subscribed to it. Then Amazon Prime. Two years ago we got a Roku. And last year we got a SmartTV. Our monthly costs run us $25/month. That’s it. We can watch most of the shows we want to watch – we may just have to wait a day or two for them to be available (network websites sometimes have faster viewing availability time). Considering we were paying almost $200 month, we have saved over $8,000 in four years. That’s some serious savings! And the 3rd car was paid off in less than 3 years.

Hopefully these few tips will help you in saving money for your family. Every time we use our own laundry detergent, make a loaf of bread, reuse our water bottles or watch a program via one of the apps/device we use, we are reminded about our conscious decision to save our family money and make better choices.

Standard
Yard Sale
Yard Sale

How To Have A Successful Yard Sale

I love having a yard sale… what I like best about having a yard sale is meeting new people…what I like least is the work leading up to the yard sale.

Here are The Fix It Diva’s tips on how to have a successful yard sale:

Tip #1: The success of a yard sale is not based upon what you’re selling. Not really. It’s based more upon a combination of factors: pricing, advertising, and interaction.

Tip #2: Price it right. Not many folks go to a yard sale expecting to pay $20 or more on an item. It’s rare. They may expect that at a flea market, but that’s a different kind of shopper/buyer. Price things to SELL. The whole point is to move things out of your home and make some money. My last yard sale there wasn’t anything priced over $5/item. Most were priced $1 and under and I made $75 in just 3 hours – so you know I moved a LOT of items. The other point to keep in mind is that if it’s priced right, there is no haggling…people won’t even ask. That’s a nice time saver!

Tip #3:  Advertise, advertise, and advertise! Just like real estate’s saying “location, location, location”, no one will know you’re’ having a yard sale unless they read it somewhere or see lots of signage. I usually start posting two weeks out on Craigslist and update the listing when adding new items. In addition, there are now a lot of Facebook yard sale groups you can request to join in your area and put the listing there as well. I wouldn’t post on FB groups but a few days out because the post will get lost quickly. Write down which group you list it in and go add comment “bump” the day before the sale. I also use signs. I prefer the hard plastic signs that you can get locally and also get the wire stakes to attach to the sign to hold them in the ground. We had 8 signs for our last neighborhood and only wrote the address on the sign – NOT THE DATE – that way you can reuse them. Write down the intersections you placed the signs so you can go back and retrieve them. Since we had so many roads leading to our home, we put a directional arrow on the signs and then placed one sign in each direction so traffic going either way would see a sign. I also placed them on the right side of the road for ease of sightline by drivers (we look to the right for signage by habit). Put the signs out either late the night before (11pm) or very early the day of your sale (6am). Since I am not a morning person, late night worked best for me J

Tip #4: Interact with your customers! Don’t just sit there looking at your phone or ignoring people. Greet them when they approach your sale. Ask them if there is something specific they are looking for. If there is something specific and you know you don’t have it, let them know. Usually they will stay and browse but it is a courtesy to let folks know.

Tip #5: Be sure to specify cash sales only. HOWEVER, and I mean however, with the advent of swiping credit cards from smartphones, if you prefer to process your sales that way, go for it! But be sure to ADVERTISE on your craigslist or other online posts that CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED. And remember that other people will have to touch your phone if they have never paid using Square (the only payment method I recommend since payment is immediate along with receipt to buyer). As for me, I would add that ID matching the credit card is required, in order to manage fraud.

Tip #6: Someone will steal something from your tables. I don’t want to sound pessimistic because I am not. However, I have had enough yard sales over the years to realize that people will sneak something into their pile or just plain take it when you’re not looking. Let. It. Go. You were trying to get rid of it already, right? Please don’t take it personally. Unfortunately this does happen more often than not.

Tip #7: Go for frumpy and wear the fanny pack. Yes, I said it. The only time that I appreciate a fanny pack is for yard sales. I wear mine only on these days so that I can keep my money in it and on me at all times.

Tip #8: Have a bottle of cool refreshment and some snacks like a banana or nuts or something to keep your energy up. Even if you are selling from your own driveway, you may not have time to go inside to grab something to eat or drink.

Tip #9: If you are hosting the yard sale at your home, lock all your doors and keep your key on you. Never let anyone go inside to use your bathroom. Sorry but that’s just not wise or safe.

Tip #10: Wear some sort of bug repellant because the gnats and mosquitos will find you if your yard sale is in the hotter weather months. Since I prefer non-toxic products, I use lavender wipes and they keep both gnats and mosquitos away.

Tip #11: Set your start time and if you don’t want early shoppers, state so in your ad. Just be prepared because if people follow the signs, they won’t know you’re not selling early. I used to place our large rolling trash can at the end of our driveway with a large sign taped to it saying the hours of the yard sale and no early shopping. Then when folks showed up, they saw the sign and usually just went back to their cars and waited or left and came back (depending upon how early they arrived). I could focus on finishing my setup without questions and such. If you live in an area where two languages are predominant, then I would suggest writing the signage in both languages. Helps everyone out.

Tip #12: Prep the night before: make sure everything is priced or if in groups in bins, that signage is on the bins. Less words the better. People look at $ versus words. If you are going to use the ground to place items on, then have your tarps or blankets ready. Have any folding tables also ready.

Tip #13: I recommend if you are going to be selling a lot of clothing, invest in a garment rack. You can get a nice folding rack on wheels for under $80 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I purchased ours for a closet redo project (so clothes wouldn’t be hung about the house from door frames!), and it folds up under our bed and has been used for yard sales as well. If you don’t have that, but you have two ladders and either some crutches (how many homes have those?) or two mops or brooms, then setup the ladders and lay the broom, mops or crutches between the two creating your own garment rack. Obviously if you use ladders, be sure to put a sign on both of them that they are not for sale…lol.

Tip #14: Group like items together. If you have a bunch of purses or bags for sale, group them together and price them together if you can. Same with shoes, stuffed animals, anything that can be sold at same price. Fewer questions get asked as well and you know how crazy that can be when working a yard sale! I use clear plastic storage bins to hold groupings of items and using a large marker and piece of paper, write the pricing and item grouping on the paper. For example, “Women’s Purses All $1.00”. Then stick the paper into a sheet protector and using packing tape, tape it to the side of the bin. Since we no longer have a yard and have to sell at the entrance to our community, having my bins marked and in groups made loading, unloading and setup a breeze for our latest yard sale.

Finally, look at having a yard sale as an opportunity to meet people in your neighborhood or from other neighborhoods. You might make some new friends! I have met some great folks over the years that came back to each yard sale and we caught up on the latest happenings. Have fun!

Standard
Moving Tips
Moving

Help! I’m Moving!

Even though I am not military, I moved 6 times in a period of 17 years. These were full blown moves from single family homes, condos, and townhouses. My first move was the most challenging one – I had NO CLUE HOW TO MOVE OR PACK! Fortunately there wasn’t too much to be moved since the only person who had any furniture was my daughter! A few years later, I had acquired a condo full of furniture (and a spouse) and learned more tips and tricks for an easier move. It wasn’t until my 4th time moving that I had these tips down PAT!

Here are my tips for making a fast and efficient move. Fast means less time for the moving crew (yes, I hire out each time because I want to keep my friends and family happy and keep my back in working order), less questions needed for clarification on where items or boxes go in the new home, and best of all, less time means less cost when hiring movers.

Tip #1: Draw a layout of your new home and assign each room a color based upon the colors you can purchase of post it notes (the regular square size – not the small ones). You will keep this one in a sheet protector and put your name at the top of it – this is your master list.

Tip #2: Assign a color to each major room (example, blue for master bedroom, red for rec room, yellow for kitchen, orange for dining room, purple for living room, pink for one bedroom, etc.)

Tip #3: Using the post it notes and clear packing tape, tape a post it note of the applicable room color to THREE (3) sides of each moving box. NOT ON THE TOP of the box. Remember boxes are STACKED in a moving truck so only the sides are seen. If you tape a post it note on 3 sides, then your likelihood of having the color seen is greater than only two sides. DO NOT RELY on the post it note stickiness itself – it WILL FALL OFF. Use one long piece of packing tape and it will remain on the box forever.

Tip #4: Use the post it notes on the backs of large pieces of furniture as well.

Tip #5: Make two additional copies of the color-coded layout of your new home and put into sheet protectors. Give one copy to the moving company personnel who is in charge of your move on move day. Tape the other copy on the wall or door immediately inside your new home. That way the moving crew just looks at the color on the item or box, can glance at the layout and know which floor and which room to go to.

Tip #6: Put a colored post it note into a sheet protector and stick to the door way of each room in your new home. Again it’s a quick reminder what colored boxes and items go into which room, especially when you have multiple level home and a moving crew of at least 4 people running in and out of your new home.

Tip #7: If you have the opportunity before the actual move in, take a post it note and some scotch tape and tape a post it note onto the wall where furniture placement should be – I usually write down the name of the piece on the note as well. Again, it will make less running around for you on the move day.

Tip #8: This doesn’t involve post it notes, but it does involve furniture placement. Take extension or surge protector cords to your new home and plug into outlets where large furniture will be placed – this way the plug in the wall may be blocked by the furniture but the extension cord or protector will allow you to still have access to it after the piece is in place.

I hope these help and it really does make a difference on move day. Once I implemented these tips myself, I have received many compliments from movers on how easy it was to load and unload. It really will make your moving day flow easier with fewer questions and less time needed for the unloading part of the move. Happy moving!

Standard