5 Ways To Upgrade Your Patio This Fall

fall patio

Now that fall has arrived, it is time to upgrade the outdoor patio to create a cozy place to hang outdoors during the cooler temperatures. We love bundling up in a throw blanket and enjoying the vibrant scenery the fall season always brings. Take a look at 5 of our favorite patio upgrades for the perfect Fall spot.

SET UP A FIRE PIT

Fire pits are perfect for those beautiful, yet chilly, fall nights. You can sit around the fire with your family or close friends, making s’mores and telling stories. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a fire pit either. You can now find small portable fire pits at most home improvement retail stores for less than $300. Or, if your budget allows, you can have a professional landscaping company install a permanent structure on your patio or in your yard.

INSTALL NICE LIGHTING

Putting up some new lighting is a very affordable way to change your outside atmosphere from drab to fab. You can use a variety of different stringed lights for an instant upgrade to your porch or patio. You can choose novelty lights, like globes or Edison bulb lights, or you can go for the classic Christmas tree style lights. Just make sure whichever style you choose is meant for exterior spaces and will be able to hold up to fluctuating temperatures and weather.

OUTDOOR KITCHEN

If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, we love the idea of an outdoor kitchen. It is a great way to expand your living space and it adds instant value to your home. Perfect for entertaining, an outdoor kitchen will give you and your family the perfect place to spend those fall evenings. No need to go eat out in a restaurant when you have a gorgeous cooking and eating location outside your own home.

RAISED PLANTER BEDS

Raised planter beds on the patio look amazing, but they are functional too. You can grow beautiful flowers or even herbs and vegetables. Some veggies that grow great in the fall in raised beds are brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, snow peas, bok choy, and turnips. You can make growing veggies a family project that you will all enjoy. If you have not tried your hand (or thumb) at growing vegetables before, we suggest starting small and getting the advice from someone with experience.

INSTALL SCREENS

We are looking forward to the day that we are no longer hounded by mosquitoes, but the temperatures have not dropped low enough to get rid of them and their buddies just yet. Install screens around your patio for an upgrade that benefits you all year-round. We like eating outdoors, but it can be hard to enjoy it as we should when mosquitoes, gnats, bees, and flies are terrorizing us. A screened-in area where you can eat without bother will be the highlight of your home. This will also add value to your home if you were to ever decide to put it up for sale.

If you are moving soon or need mobile storage, give Zippy Shell a call for a free, no-obligation estimate. We have a variety of storage and moving solutions to meet any need. We look forward to hearing from you.

6 Houseplants Anyone Can Keep Alive

watering houseplants

You have probably noticed that houseplants are making a major comeback right now. Through this pandemic, we have all endured some stressful times. As people have been spending more time at home, a lot of us have turned to houseplants to bring some calming nature inside. If you have been tempted to pick up some plants but aren’t sure if you have the time or know-how to keep them alive, we have some suggestions for some of our favorite plants that anyone can keep alive. If you have small children or curious pets, be aware that most houseplants are toxic if consumed—artificial plants may be better for your household in that case.

SNAKE PLANT

The snake plant, or sansevieria, is one of the most tolerant plants in existence. Known for its air-purifying capabilities, there are over 70 varieties and they can adapt to many different atmospheres. Even if your home has low-light and you constantly forget to water your snake plants, it will forgive you and keep growing on. If you have bright light in your home, you can expect your snake plant to grow much more rapidly.

POTHOS

One of the many varieties of pothos will be a great beginner plant. It tolerates low-light but will thrive in medium or high light situations. The pothos will look beautiful in a hanging basket or even as a trailing centerpiece on your dining table.

IVY

Like the snake plant, the varieties of ivy are known for their air-purifying effects and can even help with mold spore issues in the home. While ivy will be content in low-light situations for a while, they prefer medium to high light to thrive. The ivy will forgive you for forgetting to water it now and again but be careful to not overwater it or it will turn brown and crispy on the leaves.

ZZ PLANT

The ZZ plant, or Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is a highly tolerant plant that is perfect for practically any situation. You can even grow a ZZ plant in your office under fluorescent lights. With beautiful waxy leaves, the ZZ plant is prepared to survive drought and low light situations. You can’t go wrong with this hardy plant.

SPIDER PLANT

These plants will grow best in bright light but will tolerate any low or medium-light areas in the home. This plant has long cascading leaves that will look beautiful in a hanging basket while offering you air purification capabilities.

PEACE LILY

You have probably seen the peace lily featured in interior decorating magazines or television shows. The big, green leaves and gorgeous flowers are known for their beauty and tolerance. A talkative plant that will let you know when it needs water with some drooping. But as soon as you give it water, it will perk right back up. They tolerate many light situations and is another great option for the office under fluorescent lights.

We hope these suggestions help you delve into the houseplant world. We’d love for you to stop by our Facebook page and share with us your favorite, low-maintenance houseplants.

If you have a move coming up, be sure to give Zippy Shell a call for a free, no-obligation estimate.

8 Things That Every New Homeowner Should Do

Brick Home

Congratulations on making it through the long and stressful process of homebuying! If you are getting ready to settle into your very first home, you may feel overwhelmed as you navigate this last step. Some things need to be done immediately—like turning on utilities—but others you can start as you get settled in and through the next few months. Take a look at 8 things we think every new homeowner should do in their first year.

INVEST IN A HOME WARRANTY

A home warranty can be a lifesaver if a major appliance, or the HVAC system goes out in the first year of owning your home. Not every company or policy is created equal, so make sure you do plenty of research before deciding who to go with. We recommend asking your friends and family, or even your real estate agent, for recommendations.

START AN EMERGENCY FUND

Even if you do have a home warranty, it is still a good idea to start an emergency fund in the event something breaks that is not covered or even for a potentially bad financial month where your emergency savings could help you make all your payments on time until things improve.

TEST FIRE AND CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

This is something that should be done sooner than later. Just because you see smoke and carbon monoxide alarms installed, doesn’t mean that they are working. Replace all the batteries and set a reminder for six months out on your phone or in your planner to change them again. Be sure to test each alarm after replacing the batteries to make sure they are working as they should.

MAKE A PRIORITY LIST

If you had a home inspection, you may have a report full of small to medium things that need to be fixed. Go through the report and prioritize the things that are safety issues and most important to you and your family. You don’t have to do everything all at once, so take some time to research the issues, determine costs, and make a long-term plan.

START A FILE WITH RECEIPTS AND INVOICES

As you start to make improvements and repairs around the home, keep a file with receipts and invoices. If you were to try to sell the home, many improvements can be shared on the home listing to draw in buyers. Things like septic tank maintenance can be very important to a potential buyer.

HAVE A HVAC CHECKUP

HVAC maintenance is important to making sure your system doesn’t break down on you, especially during extreme temperatures. Have a professional come out and do an assessment and “tune up” to make sure it is in good working order. Don’t forget to replace the filter.

KNOW WHERE ALL YOUR SHUTOFF VALVES ARE

If you have a home inspection report, the inspector may have listed where the gas and water shut off valves are located. It is important to familiarize yourself with these so you can act quickly in the event of a burst pipe or a gas leak. You should let the other members of your household know where they are as well.

LEARN (AND LABEL) THE BREAKERS

You probably have seen the circuit breaker by now, but have you opened it up and check to see if it is clearly labeled? If the previous owners didn’t already label each one, it’s now your very important task to complete. You can essentially map your home by turning off all the circuit breakers and turning them back on one at a time to determine which lights, outlets, and major appliances are on each one. This information will come in handy one day.

Do you have any other tips to share with a new homeowner? Stop by our Facebook page and share with our Zippy Shell community. If you are getting ready to move into your new home, be sure to give us a call and we will provide you with a free, no-obligation quote. We look forward to hearing from you!

5 Tips to Help You Save Money at the Grocery Store

Grocery Shopping

Groceries can be expensive—especially when you are shopping for a family. Food is necessary, but when we don’t plan ahead or we start throwing together meal ideas in the store, it can add up quickly. As we are living in this uncertain time, it’s not a bad idea to take a look at our budgets and see where we can trim a little. If you have found yourself leaving the grocery store with a cart full of stuff you didn’t need, or fell for a store’s “sale”, keep reading to check out 5 of our favorite tips for shopping smart and saving money.

COMPARE WEEKLY ADS

Before you head to the store, take a look at all your local store’s weekly ads. Some stores may have tempting sales like “Buy One Get One Free” advertised, but another store may still be selling it for a cheaper price. If you don’t receive a newspaper with advertisements there are several different free apps you can download that not only allow you to view each store’s weekly ad, but compare prices for different advertised items. This can make your research go much faster!

KNOW YOUR STUFF AND STOCK UP

It’s important to know when something is a good deal or not so you don’t waste any money at the grocery store. Some people keep a list on their phone that has main items and the best stock-up price for each one. For instance, if you see boneless chicken breasts drop under $1.99/LB, it may be a good time for you to grab a few extras for your freezer. If you are able to stock up a little when your most used items go on sale, you can save money when the prices inevitably shoot back up.

MAKE A LIST AND STICK TO IT

Once you have pored through the weekly ads, you can make your weekly meal plan based on items that are on sale. By making your list in advance, with a commitment to not make spontaneous purchases, you will be able to save quite a bit of money. When we sit down to write a list, we are much more conservative with what we want to get. Another way to save money is by using curbside or delivery options. Many of these programs have been expanded to meet demand, allowing you to choose each item carefully on your phone or computer, moving things to and from your cart to adjust your total. This will certainly eliminate the problem of shopping while hungry or being tempted by flashy sales on things you don’t use or need!

JOIN LOYALTY PROGRAMS

Almost every store has some variation of a loyalty program that either offers you additional savings or earns points that you can use on other things, like a discount on gas prices. This is an easy way to save money because once you join, all you have to do to save money and earn rewards is swipe your card at the store.

USE COUPONS AND CASHBACK PROGRAMS

Coupons are another way you can save money at the grocery store if you follow one important rule: do not buy items you do not need just because you have a coupon! Sometimes, you can save more money by sticking to a sale items, or an off-brand instead of using a coupon. Paper coupons are hard to keep up with, so if you don’t have the time to go clip coupons and organize them, check out your store’s digital coupons. You generally can load these to your loyalty card and use them when you check out. You can also use cashback programs like Ibotta to make a little extra money on your regular purchases.

We hope these tips help as you try to save money at the grocery store. Feel free to stop by our Facebook page and share your money-saving tips with our Zippy Shell community. If you have a local or long-distance move coming up, be sure to give us a call at 888-947-7974 for a free, no-obligation quote. We look forward to hearing from you!

7 Fun Tips for a Long-Distance Road Trip

road trip

As 2020 vacation plans were canceled across the country, many have turned to the good old-fashioned road trip to get away even if just for a few days. Whether you are traveling for a quick overnight trip or for a longer period of time, it’s important to make the drive part of the experience!. Keep reading for tips to make your long-distance road trip fun for everyone involved.

  1. Take lots of photos. Road trips can be filled with the wackiest of memories. Either with your phone or your fancy camera, document everything. From each state line sign, you pass to the wacky roadside taco stand you find, to the beautiful pull-off view that you stumbled upon by accident, taking photos will help you to remember it all.
  2. Listen to a podcast or an audiobook. This is the perfect way for everyone in the car to stay entertained together in a group activity, even the driver! If it is an especially long trip, have everyone in the car download a podcast or audiobook that they want to share prior to sendoff. It will be fun and eye-opening to listen to what your family members or friends pick out. Don’t forget to have a group discussion about the content after you finish, that’s the best part!
  3. Along the same lines, it can be fun to learn a new language as a family. There are plenty of apps or even CDs that you can play for the entire car to learn something new.
  4. Bring a frisbee, football, or soccer ball to burn off some energy when you make your pit stops. You can also get your blood pumping with stretches, jumping jacks, or burpees. Use an app like iExit or Playground Buddy to make the most out of your stops.
  5. Be flexible. Of course, you will want to plan your final destination, overnight stops, and must-see attractions along the way. But you should also leave time for spontaneity. If a weird sign or billboard piques your interest, why not see where it leads? Stopping at random places along the way will add to the memories.
  6. Have a road trip picnic. The temptation to grab a snack or a bag of candy at every gas station, as well as to eat out at restaurants or pick up fast food, can really add to the cost of your trip. It can also add to your waistline! So load up on snacks, drinks, and even premade portable meals before you leave. Find a rest stop or scenic pull off to stop at and eat along the way. The Roadtrippers app can help you find the perfect spot.
  7. Bring car activities like art supplies, decks of cards, or magnetic games for the kids. Or make up a scavenger hunt with items on the list they can cross off when spotted.

Road trips can be unpredictable, so don’t forget to laugh at even the messy moments along the way! Take a break from “real life” and enjoy each moment on your road trip to the fullest with those you love. And if you find your road trip destination becomes a new moving destination, keep Zippy Shell in mind! 

How to Build a Vegetable Garden at Your House

woman gardening

As we are all spending more time at home this summer, it may be the perfect time to start your first at-home vegetable garden. Gardening can bring a sense of order and calmness to the chaos of the year 2020. It is a fun activity that the whole family can get involved in to make the long days at home go by just a little bit faster. Plus, the end result is yummy home grown vegetables that will help boost your immune system!

Select and clear the area for your garden. The goal is to select enough garden space to meet your needs without taking away from your ability to enjoy your backyard with your family. You also need to take into consideration which vegetables you plan on growing as some plants take up more space. And don’t forget to check for sunlight. Most vegetables and herbs need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Once you have selected your spot, make sure the area is free of grass, debris, and leaves. Dig or till up the soil before planting to freshen it up as well as allow roots to penetrate the soil more easily. Another popular idea is to use raised planting beds. They allow for a longer growing season with better drainage and fewer weeds.

Fertilize your soil. The more fertile the soil, the better your vegetables will grow. Unless you are purchasing pre-fertilized soil, most soil will not contain the nutrients that your garden needs to thrive. The only way to truly determine the level of nutrients in your soil is to test it. These are usually available for free or at a low-cost from your local cooperative extension.

Choose your plants. You want to select plants that will grow well in the area where you live and in the space that you have available. Of course, if you won’t eat it and you don’t have anyone to gift it to, there is no reason to grow it in your vegetable garden! When you are planting, make sure to give each plant room to grow.

Add some mulch. Applying a layer of mulch that is 2-3 inches deep around each plant will reduce weeds and reduce moisture loss through evaporation. If you use an organic mulch, such as bark, compost, or cocoa bean shells, it will nourish the soil as it decomposes.

Keep your garden watered. A rule of thumb for watering is that plants need around one inch of water per week during the growing season. Sunny, windy conditions dry out soil more quickly than cool, cloudy weather. If you are still not sure, feel the soil 3 to 4 inches below the surface. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Attract the birds. For some natural pest control, incorporate birdbaths or birdhouses into your yard. Birds will help control the pests that frequently attack gardens, all while leaving friendly insects such as spiders or ladybugs alone.

We’d love to hear from you! Stop by our Facebook page and share with our Zippy Shell community what you and your family are growing this summer.

Dog Breeds that are Great for Small Homes

dogs

Zippy Shell knows that pets are part of the family! If you are a dog lover living in a small home, we have good news for you. There are plenty of dog breeds that will thrive in small spaces. It is not just about the size of the dog, but also about their temperament. A dog’s energy level, noisiness, and even friendliness need to be taken into consideration if you are living in a small space that is in close quarters to your neighbors, as is the case with apartment living. Check out the breeds below that will adapt to your space and steal your heart!

French Bulldog

They are bred to be smaller than their standard Bulldog cousins, so they’re perfectly suited to a small space. A brisk walk each day will sufficiently keep them in shape, and they rarely bark. As a bonus, they have short hair that doesn’t need much grooming.

Yorkshire Terrier

These precious pups are the perfect size for a lap dog. They are easy to train, hypoallergenic, and they only require short walks for daily exercise.

Greyhound

Although on the larger side, they only need a little bit of space, enjoy naps, and they love short bursts of exercise. These beauties are loving, affectionate animals that enjoy a good snuggle and don’t bark very much. Plus, there are many retired racing Greyhounds that need homes!

Bichon Frise

These cuties are in the poodle family but much more petite. Bichons learn quickly and love just about everyone. They don’t drool, bark, or shed very much, but their social nature will require a lot of playful attention.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

These dogs love to cuddle and become very attached to their owner. Their size is just right for small spaces and they are very easily trained.

Pugs

Squishy faced pugs are playful and loyal pets. Due to their inactivity, quietness, and size, they make a good pet for homes of any size.

Dachshund

Dachshunds are the smallest of the hound dogs. They are joyful, lively, and have the cutest personalities. Their short legs allow them to be exercised entirely indoors, if needed.

Maltese

They are affectionate dogs who become very attached to their owners so you will have a constant companion! Another bonus is that they have no undercoat so they are not shedders.

Poodles

Toy and miniature sized poodles are a good size for a small space. They are intelligent, easy to train, and hypoallergenic.

As you are searching for a lifelong companion, it is important to remember that every dog is an individual. Put in the research time to carefully pick a pet that will fit your home, lifestyle, and personality.

5 Grilling Tips For Your 4th of July Barbecue

Grilling

With most parades and firework shows canceled across the country, 4th of July is going to look a little different this year.  Fortunately, we are still able to celebrate with our families at home. If you are planning to barbecue with your family for Independence Day, check out some of our favorite grilling tips.

PREPARE YOUR MENU AND SUPPLIES IN ADVANCE

Don’t wait until you are about to get the grill fired up to make sure you have everything you need. Stores are generally packed and out-of-stock on classic 4th of July foods and supplies, so make sure you get stocked up beforehand. Check your propane tank or charcoal supply in advance as well. Plan your menu and do your shopping a few days before.  If you plan to marinate your meat, get that ready the night before. It is also important to take the time to make sure your grill and all the grates are clean and ready to go.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Try to not overwhelm yourself with a complex menu. The more variety that you have, the more you will have to keep up with. It can be hard to cook multiple types of meat and veggies at once if they require different temperatures and cooking times.

HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED ACCESSIBLE

You should have all your tools and supplies that you are going to need nearby and accessible—clean pans to put the food in once cooked, a meat thermometer, spatula and tongs, aluminum foil, and a spray bottle in case of flare-ups.

JUST LET IT COOK (NO SQUEEZING)

Once you get your meat cooking, you want to leave it alone as much as possible. One common mistake is pressing down on the meat and squeezing out the fat, which will drip down causing flare-ups. The goal is to keep the fat in the meat, so don’t press down on it! Try to keep your flipping to a minimum as well.

REST YOUR MEAT

Once your meat has reached the appropriate temperature, allow it 5-10 minutes to rest. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it nice and moist. We know it is tempting to jump right in once the food is done, but trust us, this extra time will make a difference.

ENJOY!

Grilling out is a favorite pastime for a lot of us, especially on celebratory days. We hope these tips are helpful to you as you prepare to celebrate the 4th of July. If you have any other grilling master tips, we’d love to hear them! Stop by our Facebook page and share with us and the rest of our Zippy Shell community.

If you have an upcoming local or long-distance move, or you are in need of mobile storage, give us a call at 888-947-7974. We would be happy to talk with you and provide you with a free, no-obligation estimate. You can also use our website to reserve your move at your convenience.

3 Steps to Setting Up a Home Gym

home gym

Around the country, gyms have been forced to either close or drastically make changes due to the pandemic. This may have you entertaining the idea of working out from the comfort of your very own home gym. If setting up a home gym seems like a daunting task, let us be your guide.

The Space

Find a space in your home that you can dedicate to workouts. It doesn’t have to be a lot of space. You can actually exercise in an area as small as 6’ by 6’. Utilize a spare bedroom, office, garage, or even a back porch or patio. If space is limited, the key is to pick workouts that don’t take up much room. Pushups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, jump roping, and yoga don’t require a ton of room, yet still, produce results. As much as possible, clear your exercise space of clutter and distractions. Adding a mirror is a helpful tool for feedback on your form during exercises and it will help your exercise area feel larger than it actually is! Stock the area with towels, water bottles, a Bluetooth speaker, and anything else you might use during your workouts.

The Equipment

You don’t have to buy everything all at once. Start with a few key pieces and then gradually build up from there. Here is a list of simple, multi-purpose equipment to get you started:

  • Exercise mat – An exercise or yoga mat makes floor exercises way more comfortable, especially if you are exercising on a hard floor. A mat can save your knees while doing stretches or push-ups and save your back during core work.
  • Jump Rope – A simple jump rope can provide you with a fun way to warm up and increase your stamina, endurance, and coordination.
  • Resistance Bands – This is an item that is often overlooked in the gym, but resistance bands are easy to store and very versatile. You can use resistance bands to increase flexibility, promote better form, build up your strength, and they are a great way to add an extra challenge to everyday exercises.
  • Kettlebells – A kettlebell’s weight is not distributed evenly like it is with dumbbells. This means kettlebell exercises are going to require a strict and controlled form and body mechanics which will improve your overall performance. Use these power horses to improve overall strength, core power, balance, flexibility, and coordination while also sculpting healthy and lean muscles. 
  • Stability Ball – Using a stability ball in your workouts forces you to focus on staying stabilized on the ball. This triggers core muscles, as well as stabilizer muscles, helping to improve muscle strength and posture.

The Routine

Due to stay-at-home orders, you can find a TON of live-streamed exercise routines right now. Many utilize just your own body weight to get fit. Check out this list of easy at-home exercises you can do today!

When setting up your home gym, you may find the need to remove and store furnishings or other home items. Zippy Shell is still here and working to cover all your moving and storage needs. We can easily store the stuff you don’t need right now to help you stay fit at home.

6 Tips for a Successful Virtual Meeting

Virtual Meeting

As many of us have been working from home, virtual meetings are becoming more common than ever before. For some, this is a tool that has been used even before we were social distancing. For others, it is a brand-new territory. We have seen many mishaps making the rounds on social media, and even Saturday Night Live released a parody of a virtual meeting gone wrong. Take a look at some tips we have found useful in running a virtual meeting.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

If you are new to video conferencing don’t expect it to be perfect the first few times. There are a lot of moving parts in this type of communication and it can take an attempt or two to get it down. Take some time on your own to test the video conferencing tool and get familiar with the different tools it offers.

BE PREPARED

Before you start your virtual meeting, you should ensure that you have everything you need within reach and your laptop or phone is working as needed to avoid any technical issues. You also want to make sure everyone else in your household is aware of your meeting and set expectations for noise levels and interruptions. Another good tip is to make sure you schedule your virtual meeting far enough in advance that your colleagues have time to get set up on their end.

BE CLEAR WITH EXPECTATIONS

It can be mortifying to show up to a meeting and be put on the spot if you are unprepared. Before the meeting, send out an email to your colleagues with a detailed agenda of what needs to be discussed or any questions that need to be answered. If each person is responsible for a certain assignment, include that in the email as a reminder. This will allow each person logging into the meeting to be fully prepared.

CRYSTAL CLEAR OBJECTIVES

Before the meeting is over, make sure nothing was left out. Someone should take and email notes that include everything discussed and everything that has been assigned to each person. This will allow everyone to have a concise list of expectations and objectives for the upcoming week.

ESSENTIAL STAFF ONLY

It can be tempting to invite everyone in the office but keep the virtual meetings for those that need to be there. Not everything requires a video call and can be done more efficiently over email. If you have several people on the call that have nothing to do, or the information is not relevant to them, you can leave them out of the meeting.

LOOSEN UP

While it is important to maintain a professional environment even when video conferencing, there is some wiggle room. In a regular work environment people can chat and catch up with each other, so there is nothing wrong with setting some time aside at the beginning or end of the call to find out how everyone is doing and coping at home.

Don’t forget Zippy Shell is ready to answer your call with any questions about local or long-distance moving and storage. Give us a call at 888-947-7974 for a free quote today!