Top 3 Fireplace Questions Answered

fire place

Nothing feels better in cold weather than the whole family curling up around a wood burning fireplace, especially during the holidays! Get ready for the snap, crackle, and pop of a cozy fire after reading the answers to these top fireplace questions.

What are the best safety practices when using a fireplace?

  • The National Fire Protection Association recommends both your chimney and fireplace be inspected for safety and cleaned annually. It is important to check for creosote build-up or blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.
  • Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of all flammable items such as furniture, drapes, books, or magazines.
  • Always use a fire screen or fireplace doors to contain sparks from your fireplace.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least twice a year.

What is the best way to clean out a wood burning fireplace?

In addition to the annual heavy duty cleaning of the chimney, you will want to regularly clean out your fireplace to keep it burning cleanly. Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace in order to give the ashes and embers a chance to fully cool down. Wear old clothes, gloves, a face mask, and protective eyewear to keep the soot from irritating your lungs and skin. Lay a plastic tarp or old sheet in front of the fireplace to catch the mess. Using a handheld broom, sweep any soot and ash from the floor and walls of your fireplace and collect it into a dustpan. Dump the ash into a heavy duty paper or plastic bag as you work. Do this gently to keep as much dust as possible from flying around. Vacuum the area to catch any remaining dust, but don’t forget to clean the vacuum brush attachment afterwards – you don’t want to spread soot around the rest of your home! Now it is time to scrub. Water and hearth cleaner work well for the brick and iron parts of your fireplace. But if you have brick front or facing that’s more than 50 years old, just use water with a light scouring. Old brick is more susceptible to crumbling. For marble and stone, scrub with water and dishwashing detergent. Use old rags to wipe each area after scrubbing. The glass doors can be cleaned with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar.

What is the best method for building a fire in a wood fireplace?

The first step is choosing the right wood. Use seasoned hardwood that has been split and dried for at least six months, but preferably for a year. Burning new wood is not recommended as it can cause more creosote buildup in your chimney. To prevent smoke from billowing into your home, be sure the damper is open. Next, crumble balls of newspaper and place them underneath the grate. Lay some dry kindling in a criss-cross pattern on top of the grate to ignite from the newspaper. Finish the stack by securely resting one to three dry logs over the kindling. Prime the flue by tightly rolling up a sheet of newspaper and holding it toward the open damper for a minute or two until you see the smoke going up the flue. Now light that glorious fire from the bottom! We hope answering these fireplace questions will help you get cozy this fall and winter. If you have a move coming up, contact us at Zippy Shell. We would be happy to discuss our storage and moving services and provide you with a free estimate.

Things to Consider When Creating a Home Wish List

Brick Home

If you are looking at buying a house, you probably already know that the available inventory is low since homes are flying off the market. Many homes are receiving offers the very first day they are listed! This can be frustrating to those who are trying to find the perfect home to purchase. But if you have been waiting for longer than you want, maybe it is time to revisit your home wish list and make some adjustments. Today we are going to talk about some areas of the home wish list that could warrant more flexibility and some that don’t.

  1. BUDGET:  One thing that should stay firm is the budget that you have determined for your next home. You don’t want to purchase a house that is more than you can afford. Instead of increasing what you are willing to pay for a house, adjust other aspects of your wish list in order to stay in your desired price range.
  2. LOCATION AND SCHOOL SYSTEM: If you have kids that you are trying not to move out of their current school system, you do not have much flexibility in the location of your next home. If not, consider widening the area of your search to give yourself more options. You may find your perfect home in the town next to one you have been looking in.
  3. STYLE AND LAYOUT OF THE HOUSE: If you do not have any accessibility needs, like a wheelchair ramp or a home with no stairs, the style and layout of the home can be an area where you can have some flexibility. If you have your heart set on a cape cod style home, but you find a colonial or craftsman that fits most of your other needs, it’s worth considering marking the cape cod style off the list.
  4. SIZE OF THE LOT AND HOUSE: If you have specific preferences for both the house and the lot you want, you may be waiting a little longer than if you make some concessions on the size you are hoping for. If you have a large family, the size of the house you get may be more important than for a couple who just sent their last child off to college.
  5. FLOORING AND COSMETICS: The flooring and cosmetic appearances of a home can seem like big items when touring homes, but if the price is right on a house, you can easily update the flooring, paint, hardware, and other cosmetic type items yourself. When looking at homes, try to envision them after you put your own personal touches on them instead of being dismayed at the wall-to-wall carpet when you want hardwood floors.

Have you recently bought a home and had to make changes to your wish list? Stop by our Facebook page and share your story with our growing online community. We’d love to hear from you!

If you have an upcoming move, Zippy Shell has the perfect moving and storage solutions for any of your local or cross-country moving needs. Give us a call at 888-947-7974 for a free, no-obligation estimate.

Top 10 Holiday Decorating Hacks

holiday decorating

The holidays are all about doing fun activities and making memories with friends and family. Baking, looking at lights, listening to music, watching holiday movies, opening gifts, enjoying good food and drinks, and decorating are all ways to enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. Some people stress over holiday decorating, but it should be fun, not stressful! Take the stress out of your holiday decorating with these fun and easy hacks.

Decorating the Tree

  • Bulk up your artificial tree by wrapping extra garland around areas that are looking bare.
  • If you are using a pre-lit tree, add an extra strand of lights or two for some extra sparkle. To make the look more interesting, add light strands with a different sized bulb.
  • For a perfectly balanced tree, place your large ornaments first and then fill in the gaps with smaller ones. You can also hang ball ornaments deep inside the branches of your tree to fill gaps and hide any bare spots. Use green floral wire or evergreen pipe cleaners to secure heavy or priceless ornaments to the branches.
  • We all know how tempting a fully decorated tree is for toddlers and fur babies. Hanging jingle bells on the bottom of your tree will give you a heads up when kids and pets are pulling on the branches.
  • If your old tree skirt has seen better days, multi-purpose a soft neutral-colored throw blanket as your tree skirt. It can be used year-round and doesn’t have to be stored the rest of the year!
  • When wrapping gifts for underneath the tree, use a specific gift wrap for each member of your family. This will cut down on having to use gift tags and if you keep your wrapping paper choices a secret, as a bonus it will also cut down on the holiday present peeking.

Decking the Halls

  • If you are short on storage and storing boxes of holiday decorations just doesn’t make the cut, use disposable items like paper or greenery to create cute holiday decorations.  Create festive garland with items like popcorn and cranberries that can be used to feed the birds after the holidays. Candy canes can also be used to create cute, edible decor.
  • Bring the outdoors in by cutting branches from winter trees such as pine and birch. You can use branches on your mantle, hanging above your bed, on the chandelier, or around the banister. Not only do these natural items look great you will also get a great holiday scent from them. Create natural garland out of pinecones or use them to make a wreath. You can spray paint your pinecone creations or add glitter for extra flair.
  • Using candles in hurricane vases surrounded by beads, evergreen, berries, fake snow, or small ornaments is always a favorite decor item. Get by with using less filler by placing a can beneath your candle in the vase. Not only will you use less filler your candle will sit perfectly straight! Another trick is to put a toilet paper roll in the middle of an apothecary jar allowing you to save filler there, too.
  • Tie strips of ribbon or burlap in any color scheme onto a string of lights to make a quick, cute garland. 

Finally, take photos of your decor when it’s all in place so you can remember for next year! And if you have a move coming up after the holidays, or you need options for storage, give Zippy Shell a call for a free, no-obligation estimate.

Tips for Saving a Down Payment for Your First Home

saving money

Buying a house requires a lot of planning. You need to have a certain credit score, a specific length of time spent at your current job, a certain income, and according to the loan you are going to apply for, you may need a down payment. Saving up a large sum of money can be difficult, but with some changes to your spending and budget, you can increase the amount of money you can save each month.

ANALYZE YOUR SPENDING AND BUDGET

If you don’t know where your money is being spent, it is going to be difficult to save for your down payment. Pull out your bank statements from the last few months and categorize all your spending. Pay close attention to the money that is being spent on extra items like entertainment, eating out, and anything could be cut or pared down to save that money. Some things simply cannot be downsized, like your monthly rental payments.

CUT OUT BAD HABITS AND EXTRA EXPENSES

Whether it is smoking or a daily stop at Starbucks, cutting out any habits that costs money is going to help you save money faster than you think. Do you order out your lunch every day at work? Start packing one instead. Do you subscribe to every streaming service? Cancel all but your favorite. Cancel magazine subscriptions or any monthly subscription that you don’t need. If you don’t already, start shopping the sales at the grocery stores, use digital and physical coupons, and plan ahead in order to save money on what is typically a big monthly expense. Remember, you are making big changes to meet a big goal. It is going to take work and sacrifice, but it will be worth it in the end.

PAY OFF DEBTS

If you have credit card or other outstanding debts, work on getting those paid down or completely paid off. Not only will this help you cut out some of your monthly bills, but it will also make your debt-to-income ratio much more attractive. That’s a big deal when you go to apply for a loan.

SWITCH PROVIDERS

Call your current car insurance, internet, and cell phone service providers and see if they can offer you any current customer discounts. If not, call around and find new providers that can give you better prices. Any place that you can save money will help you meet your goals.

CONSIDER DOWNSIZING

If you have a lot of things in your current home or apartment that you don’t really need or even want, consider having a yard sale or selling online. This can make you some extra money that can go straight to your savings.

MARKET YOUR SKILLS

Do you have a special skill or craft? Maybe you can knit, paint, sew, or cook. Market your skills and make some extra money on the side to help boost your savings.

Do you have any other tips for saving for a down payment? Stop by our Zippy Shell Facebook page and share with our online community.

If you have a move coming up, or you need mobile storage, give Zippy Shell a call at 888-947-7974 or contact us online. We would be happy to give you more information on all our moving and storage services and can give you a no-obligation estimate. We look forward to hearing from you!

Tips for Moving During the Winter

snowy house

Moving in the winter months can present a unique set of challenges that can cause additional stress during an already difficult time. According to the region you live in, you may have to deal with below freezing temperatures, ice, snow, and wind. Moving in the winter season may require more preparation than moving during other times of the year, but it is not impossible. Take a look at some of our winter moving tips that we hope will help you as you get ready for your upcoming move.

PREPARATION IS KEY

If you live in an area that gets frequent snow and ice, you probably already have most of the supplies that you will need. You will want to make sure you have snow shovels and salt to ensure you can keep all walkways and the driveway clear of snow and ice. Weather can be fairly unpredictable but try to plan your move on a day where conditions are more suitable. 

PROTECT THE FLOORING

Whether you have helpers or not, you should lay down cardboard or rugs in order to protect your flooring from the people going in and out. If the ground is wet due to snow or ice, you are going to have people leaving tracks in the house. If you have something laid on the high-traffic areas, especially around the doors, you can protect your carpet or hardwoods.

GET STARTED EARLY AND PLAN FOR SHORT DAYS

We don’t get as many hours of daylight in the winter season, so you will need to plan your moving days around that. Try to get started early when the sun comes up, so you don’t find yourself working in freezing temperatures and in the dark. Any weather app can tell you the approximate time of sunrise and sunset so you can better plan your moving days.

STAY WARM

Hypothermia can be a real threat in some areas of the country. Be sure that you and anyone helping you move is dressed in appropriate clothing and that everyone is taking breaks from being outside and has a heated area they can go to warm up. Keep some warm beverages on hand—coffee, tea, hot cocoa—for an extra warming boost.

TAKE YOUR TIME AND USE CAUTION

Moving is hard work and people tend to go as fast as they can to get it done and to meet deadlines and time restraints. But if you are moving during freezing temperatures with snow and ice on the ground, you need to slow down a little in order to move safely. If you were to slip and fall on the ice, you could seriously injure yourself. We also recommend using caution when you are driving and if conditions get bad to delay your move until you can do it safely.

If you haven’t scheduled your move with Zippy Shell yet, give us a call at 888-947-7974 for a free estimate. We can answer any questions you have about our many moving and storage services to make sure we find the right fit to your moving needs. We look forward to hearing from you!

Save Money & Energy This Fall

fall savings

Fall is officially here and soon most of us will be turning our heating systems on. Now is the perfect time to make some easy changes to save energy (and money!) over the fall and winter seasons. We are big fans of being energy efficient wherever you can, especially in the home! Here are 5 easy ways you can save energy this fall and winter.

INSTALL A PROGRAMMABLE OR SMART THERMOSTAT

While both a programmable and a smart thermostat will help you save energy and money, the main difference between the two is convenience. The smart thermostat can be controlled from your phone whether you are home or not. If that is not an important aspect to you, a programmable thermostat is a more inexpensive option that can be used to create a daily schedule that keeps the thermostat at energy-saving temperatures and then changes the temperature at a certain time to be more comfortable. Generally, people will program the thermostat to keep the home colder while they are at work and will have it automatically turn the heat on at the time they are coming home so the temperature is comfortable when they arrive. Some studies have shown that using a programmable thermostat can help save you around $200 a year, sometimes even more.

CHANGE THE FILTERS ON YOUR HVAC SYSTEM

Your HVAC system needs to have clean filters to run efficiently. If your filters are full of built-up dust your system will have to work harder than it needs to work. What this means for you is increased energy usage, therefore increased energy bills. Change your filters as recommended by the manufacturer to keep your system working as efficiently as possible. If you haven’t had your system checked by a professional this year, you should schedule a tune-up, just like you would your vehicle.

SEAL IT UP

Have you ever felt a cold draft around any doors or windows in your home? If so, you have a leaky house. This not only allows outside air in, but the air that you are heating can be escaping. You are literally throwing money out the window. You can grab some weatherstripping at any home improvement store to fix this problem.

BE STRATEGIC WITH YOUR WINDOWS

If you get a lot of sun in your south-facing windows over the fall and window, open those blinds and curtains to allow the sun to heat up your home. Once the sun starts to go down, close the curtains tight to help lock in the heat. Keep the curtains closed on any windows that do not get a lot of sunlight coming through.

CHECK THE DIRECTION OF YOUR CEILING FANS

Most people tend to not use their ceiling fans during the cold seasons because they don’t realize there is a different setting for the fall and winter. During the summer season, you should have your fans running counterclockwise. During the fall and winter seasons, you should flip the switch on your ceiling fan to change the direction it runs to clockwise. As you know, heat rises and if the fan is running clockwise it will push that warm air back down into the room where you are.

We hope these tips will help you as you try to save energy and money this fall and winter. If you have a move coming up, give us a call at ZIPPY SHELL (888-947-7974). We would be happy to discuss our storage and moving services and provide you with a free estimate. We look forward to hearing from you!

Are You a Minimalist?

minimalist room

What does it mean to be a minimalist? Many people are under the impression that minimalism is only about decluttering and owning less, but that is not a complete picture. Being a minimalist is not just about giving up all your stuff. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist defines minimalism as “…the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” It has been said minimalism is about the journey, not about the destination. You aren’t automatically disqualified from defining yourself as a minimalist because you own over a certain set amount of items. It is up to each individual to determine how far they want to go down the road of minimalism. There are no right or wrong ways to downsize a life and there is no single set of rules that you must follow to be a minimalist. As Brian Gardner, founder of No Sidebar says, “I’ve learned that minimalism is not about what you own, it’s about why you own it.” If you resonate with any of the points made below, you are already on the journey to becoming a minimalist.

  • You have shifted and redefined your relationship with “stuff” by focusing on why you own things as opposed to what you own.
  • You desire more time to focus on the areas of your life that are important to you instead of spending all your time accumulating or maintaining material items.
  • Reducing the amount of debt in your life has become a priority.
  • The thought of going shopping just to shop makes you cringe. You shop deliberately and only for items that you deem essential.
  • Clutter makes you feel claustrophobic or it stresses you out.
  • The theory “less is more” appeals to you in many different areas of your life.
  • You don’t live in or feel the need for a very large house or apartment.
  • Spending more of your money on experiences rather than things has become a goal for you and your family.
  • You prioritize spending time with the people you love.
  • Spending your free time cleaning, maintaining your lifestyle, and doing chores leaves you feeling frustrated and empty.
  • You are willing to give up some of your possessions if it means freeing your time to pursue things that you love.
  • Excessive spending has taken over your life and you feel the need to get your finances and spending habits under control.
  • Buying items of a higher quality that will last longer is important to you.
  • You are comfortable living with less and you already know that possessions don’t bring happiness.
  • The thought of cleaning your home with minimal effort appeals to you.
  • You only wear the clothes that you love and that make you feel comfortable in your own skin.
  • Always being on the go or having an overloaded schedule makes you feel burnt out.

In a world full of excess, many people are feeling the need to reduce clutter or downsize both physically and emotionally. So many people have found happiness living with less. Why not start slowly on the road to minimalism and see how it goes!

The Psychology of Clutter; Why it Has to Go

minimalist

Your home should be your sanctuary, a place to rest and relax after a hard day. But a cluttered home can make relaxing out of the question. Clutter not only makes our homes look bad, it can also make us feel bad. Rarely do we consciously recognize clutter as a significant source of stress in our lives. When in reality, clutter can leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Clutter constantly reminds us that our work is never done which also creates feelings of guilt.

Decluttering and organizing can give you a feeling of control over what is happening in your world. With home organization comes order and with order comes calmness. Plus, the less clutter you have to deal with, the easier home maintenance becomes. And who doesn’t want to spend more time relaxing and less time on home maintenance?

Step 1: Evaluate

Don’t take up valuable space and mental energy with items you no longer use. Start with one area at a time and finish decluttering that area before moving on to another. Feel a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little. Ask these questions as you are purging and really think about the emotional reasons you may be hanging on to each item.

  • Does this add value to my life?
  • Have I used this in a year?
  • Do I have more than one of these?
  • Would I buy it again?
  • How many times have I used it?
  • Does it fit?
  • Do I have space for this?

If there are items you are still unsure about, fill a box with items and place these items in a closet. If you haven’t opened the box in a year, donate it to charity without taking a peek inside!

Step 2: Organize

Quite often, clutter is caused by simply not having enough storage or not having the correct type of storage. Build your storage solutions around the belongings you have left after purging. Try to store items in “closed” spaces such as cabinets and drawers as much as possible to reduce the strain of visual clutter.

Step 3: Identify Clutter Traps

Kitchen counters, night tables, coffee tables, entry halls, and bathroom counters can all be a battleground for endless, visible clutter. Try using attractive baskets and containers in these areas to house items you like to have at your fingertips. Just remember to purge these containers frequently to avoid pile-up.

Step 4: Maintain

Once everything is organized, the key to eliminating clutter for good is to stay on top of it on a daily basis. Set a 5-10 minute timer each day to tackle the clutter monster.

During your quest to de-stress in a decluttered, organized home, you may discover that your best option is to store some of your lesser used items. Zippy Shell is open and ready to serve your storage needs in the best way possible. Call today or click here to get a quote!

6 Ways to Bring Nature Indoors

watering houseplants

Now that temperatures are dropping around the country and some states are already seeing snow, we are going to be spending more and more time indoors. Each season has its own beauty, but they can have drawbacks too. As the days grow shorter and colder, many of us will be missing the outdoors and being surrounded by nature. So why not bring nature indoors to us? Take a look at 6 of our favorite ways to bring the outside in so you can enjoy nature year-round.

HOUSE PLANTS AND FRESH FLOWERS

What says nature more than a room full of plants? Not only will houseplants give your home’s look an instant upgrade, you will enjoy caring for them throughout the year. Be sure to determine what kind of sunlight the different areas of your home receive in order to choose plants that will be able to thrive there. You can also put fresh flowers in vases or decorative glasses around your home.

OPEN THE CURTAINS AND SHADES

If you feel comfortable having your curtains open, draw them back and open the blinds to let in the natural sunlight. There will be days where it seems there is not much light but having the curtains open can make a big difference to brighten your home.

GO SCAVAGING

Go for a walk around your property to look for natural items that you enjoy. If you do not have any woods or trees around, head to your local park for a scavenging hike. Look for any interesting rocks, branches, or pinecones that you could clean up and display in your home. Just be sure to check for bugs before you bring them into your home. We don’t want that much nature indoors!

GET SOME FRESH AIR

If the weather permits, open your windows to get some fresh air into your home. It is good to let fresh air in on days that have good air quality. Not only will you enjoy the instant change in your home atmosphere that the fresh air will bring, you may also be able to hear sounds of nature.

DECORATE WITH NATURAL MATERIALS AND COLORS

Think about the colors associated with your favorite aspects of nature and use that color scheme to decorate in your home. If your favorite place is the woods, use greens and browns to give your home that natural feel. You can also use natural materials like wood and stone for an even more natural look.

DISPLAY ART THAT FEATURES NATURE

The choices are practically limitless when it comes to the different types of art you could choose to bring nature indoors. You can display images of your favorite flowers, trees, animals, or landscapes. Choose pieces that will bring you joy whenever you look at them.

We hope these tips help you bring some nature indoors during these colder months. Stop by our Facebook page and share with our Zippy Shell community how you bring nature in. If you have a move coming up, or you need mobile storage options, give us a call at 888-947-7974. We will provide you with a no-obligation estimate and answer any questions you have on the services we offer. We look forward to hearing from you!

Ultimate List For Cleaning Kitchen Appliances

cleaning appliances

Are there actually people who enjoy cleaning, especially cleaning appliances that have all those nooks and crannies? If so, send them my way! Cleaning appliances is a dreaded chore for most, but it is an absolute must to keep bacteria out of your kitchen and keep your appliances performing at optimal levels. So, if it has been a while, start with one item on this list and enjoy a feeling of accomplishment when all is clean.

Microwave – Fill a microwave-safe container with a cup of water and a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar. Microwave it until the water boils, about one to four minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes and then wipe all the loosened gunk away with a damp sponge. Leave the door open to let it thoroughly dry.

Stovetop – Your stovetop should ideally be cleaned after each use to remove all the spills and splatters that naturally happen during cooking. But a little baking soda and vinegar can be used to scrub away spills that have set in over time. Wipe everything down with a cleaner specific to your type of stovetop and use a toothbrush to clean out all the ridges and crevices. 

Oven – Spilled food and crumbs can lead to odors and smokiness that can cloud your kitchen and possibly affect the taste of your food. Make a habit of wiping spills quickly after using the oven, and you may never have to scrub it again! Most ovens are self-cleaning, but usually require a more detailed cleaning about every three months. The self-clean option doesn’t reach the gunk around door hinges and frames and the crumb-catching space around the oven. You may need to clean more often depending on how often you’re using it. Make sure to remove racks and clean them separately. Follow your manufacturer’s directions for best practices.

Dishwasher – It seems like an appliance like a dishwasher would be self-cleaning, right? But over time bacteria and leftover bits of food can create unwanted odors and make your dishwasher less effective at its job. It’s easy to clean your dishwasher about once a month by placing a dishwasher-friendly cup or bowl on the top rack filled with about two-thirds of white vinegar then run it on a normal cycle with hot water to sterilize. Afterward, use a rag or towel to wipe the edges of the door and rubber seal with white vinegar or your favorite all-purpose cleaner. Also, check the drain in the bottom of the machine for unwanted debris.

Refrigerator – Working in sections, take food out to clean away crumbs and spills inside the refrigerator. A little soapy water or a 50-50 solution of water and white vinegar will clean odors and make it shine. Every now and again you should clean the area around and behind your refrigerator as well. Pull it out from the wall and mop away the gunkiness you find back there.

Coffee maker – No matter what type of coffee maker you have, they all should be cleaned regularly for both good tasting coffee and to prevent bacteria growth. All removable parts should be hand washed with warm, soapy water or placed in the top rack of the dishwasher. To remove mineral deposits that can clog your machine, pour a solution of two parts water and one part white vinegar into the water chamber, insert a coffee filter, and run the solution through the machine. Then run clear water through twice to remove any lingering vinegary taste.

Deep cleaning, decluttering, and organizing can help you feel more in control and more productive. If you get in the mood to do even more deep cleaning, Zippy Shell’s portable storage units are perfect for storing items, giving you more space to clean and organize. Visit us at www.zippyshell.com for answers to any questions you may have and a free quote!