7 Tips for Working at Home

Working From Home

If you are one of the millions of Americans now forced to work at home, you may be wondering how you can be productive in an environment with less accountability. If you are new to remote work, it can take some adjustments to work in an area that is usually associated with rest and relaxation. Everyone has their own set of unique challenges when it comes to working from home, but we have some tips to help you succeed.

Dedicated Workspace

Not everyone has a designated office in their home. If you do, great! Make sure you keep it organized and free from clutter to minimize distractions. If you don’t already have an office, it can be challenging to find a place in the home to call your own. Many are also trying to work with their kids in the home, which can be even more tricky. In this case, you will need to find a place that will be free from the distractions of a busy household. Maybe this is simply a corner or nook in your bedroom that you can set up a comfortable workspace.

Dress for the Part

Some people can be productive in their pjs or house clothes, but some of us need to feel dressed for the part. If you find that you don’t feel as motivated while dressed in casual clothes, try dressing as you normally would for work. This can help you create a daily routine that keeps you feeling normal.

Create a Regular Schedule

You should create a schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Your schedule may need to be tinkered with in the beginning to find something that best works for you and your household, but when you get it figured out, try to make it your daily routine.

Set Expectations with Family

This may be the biggest hurdle many are facing as they are expected to show up to virtual meetings with bored children and pets in the background. Have a family meeting to explain the schedule you need to keep and the times you will need to have a quiet background. This will allow everyone in your family to plan their daily activities in a way that will provide an acceptable working environment for you.

Block Distractions

Distractions can come in many forms: the pile of laundry on the bed, the barking dog in the backyard, or even the temptation to check social media while on the clock. Take some time each day to make sure your workspace is clean and tidy. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind! If the outside noises make it hard to concentrate, think about getting yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. If you are struggling with checking social media or other websites, try installing a browser extension that will block those sites during set work hours.

Take Breaks

We all need breaks, maybe even more than ever before. Be mindful to schedule certain times during the workday to take some time away from your chair and your screen. Go for a walk around the block, check in with your family, or use this as a time to rest.

Set Expectations with Yourself

This is a confusing time for everyone, and we are all just doing our best. Go easy on yourself as you try to establish a new working environment. If the day doesn’t go how you planned or how you wanted, try again tomorrow!

Zippy Shell is still here and working to cover all your moving and storage needs. If you have a move scheduled during this uncertain time, click here for a quote or give us a call 888-947-7974!

How to Prepare Your Home for Overnight Guests

welcome sign by a plant

When you have friends or relatives coming to stay overnight, make their visit a pleasure by thinking ahead and offering the same generosity you would like to be shown. And while hosting guests definitely takes some prep work, everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Just spend some time focusing on the following areas and all will be well. 

  • A Place to Sleep – Your overnight guests will need a comfortable place to lay their heads each night. Not everyone has the luxury of an extra guest bedroom, and there is nothing wrong with having guests sleepover in your living room, den or office – just make an extra effort to help them be comfortable there. To prepare a sleeping area for your guests be sure to include comfy pillows, freshly cleaned sheets, extra blankets, a wastebasket, a lamp or nightlight, and privacy curtains. A nightstand by the bed is a nice added touch because your guests are able to keep their phones and other personal items nearby at night.
  • A Place to Get Ready – Your guests will need a place to store their belongings during their stay. Clear out a drawer, part of a closet, or a flat surface for your guests to place their suitcase on. Stock the bathroom they will be using with extra towels, toilet paper, and toiletries. If you will be sharing a bathroom, it is a good idea to discuss shower schedules. Bonus tip: To keep guests from getting confused about whose towel is whose, give them towels in different patterns or colors.
  • A Place to Eat – Check with your guests about any dietary restrictions and be sure to plan meals around those. Keep meals simple and incorporate self-service as much as possible. You can prep items for fun meals like a waffle bar, a taco bar, or make your own pizzas or sandwiches. This gives everyone options and allows your guests to be involved in the process. Show guests where to find extra snacks and beverages to serve themselves when it is time for a little off-hours nibbling. Coffee, tea, or something else – of course have on hand their beverage of choice to wake up to!
  • A Place to Play – Check in and see if there is anything your guests would like to do or see while they are in town and offer some fun activities to supplement their time with you. Keep both kids and adults amused by creating a designated fun zone in your home. Stock it with games, puzzles, and a few decks of cards for those in-between times when there’s no scheduled activity.
  • A Place to Relax – Everybody needs a little downtime. Cushion your scheduled events and outings with unplanned time so that everyone has a chance to relax. You can provide books or magazines for your guests to enjoy in their own space. And always provide them with the WiFi password.

Of course, you want your home to sparkle when guests arrive. But the most important thing you can do is clear the clutter giving your guests space to feel comfortable. And as hard as you try, everything won’t go perfectly. So more than anything, relax and just enjoy your guests. If you stay relaxed and comfortable, most likely your guests will also!

How to Properly Clean Out a Fireplace in Your Piedmont Home

A nice fire going in a home fireplace.

Curling up in front of a wood burning fireplace is one way to stay cozy when the weather turns cold in the Piedmont Triad. If you are lucky enough to own a wood burning fireplace, you know that the comfort and warmth it provides requires a bit of maintenance from time to time. The National Fire Protection Association recommends both your chimney and fireplace be inspected for safety and cleaned annually. Creosote, which is an oily wood-tar by-product that can cling to chimney walls, can cause fires to flare out of control. If you are searching for a potential new property in the Piedmont Triad, be sure to ask for details about recent chimney inspections and cleanings. 

In addition to the annual heavy duty cleaning of the chimney, you will want to regularly clean out your fireplace to keep it looking tidy and keep it burning cleanly. These steps can take it from filthy to flawless!

  1. Wait at least 12 hours after your last fire before attempting to clean a fireplace in order to give all of the ashes and embers a chance to fully cool down.
  2. Wear old clothes or an apron because this can be a messy task. Also, it is a good idea to put on gloves, a face mask, and protective eyewear to keep the soot from irritating your lungs and skin.
  3. Lay a plastic tarp or old sheet in front of the fireplace to catch the mess.
  4. 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. Pro tip: Sprinkle a handful of used coffee grounds on the ashes to minimize flyaways.
  5. For good measure, you may want to 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!
  6. 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.
  7. If you fireplace features glass doors, they can be cleaned with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar. You can also put the discarded ashes to good use by sprinkling some onto the towel to act as a light, natural abrasive.

Once everything is clean and back in its place, you will need to decide what to do with your ashes. If you would prefer a professional clean your chimney, make sure they are a certified specialist before hiring them. You can find a certified chimney sweep technician near you by visiting the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website and search for a pro today, as well as get other helpful tips.

If you’re looking for a place to dispose of your ashes and your Piedmont Triad home has a garden, we recommend spreading them there. Ashes are a great source of calcium, potassium, and other nutrients for plants and they also repel some garden pests! If you are making plans on moving to a home in the Piedmont Triad area that has a nice fireplace to curl up by, then give Zippy Shell of the Piedmont Triad a call! We would love to make you moving and storage needs simple!

5 Common Fire Hazards in Your Home

Family plays with cardboard box while unpacking

Home fires are dangerous and can result in devastating property damage and even loss of life. You may consider your home fire-safe, but you should always prepare for the unexpected. Having a fire-safety checklist with you when you are evaluating potential new properties or when updating/remodeling is a great way to help you spot potential hazards that might not be so obvious.

There are several common fire hazards, though, that you can easily identify. Taking steps now to remedy any of these hazards could save a life in the future.

  • Electrical Cords – The first step to reducing fire hazards caused by electrical cords is to make sure all major appliances are plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet and not an extension cord. This includes refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, microwave ovens, and other large appliances. Keep in mind, too, that a surge suppressor is not made for heavy loads. Also, make sure all electrical cords are in good working condition and not broken, cut or frayed. Even old extension cords that look as if they are in good working condition may need to be replace from time to time.
  • Heating – To prevent fires, have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected each year. If you are purchasing a new home, be sure to ask about the last time these items were completed. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from all heating equipment. This includes furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, and portable space heaters. Always use a fire screen or fireplace doors to contain sparks from your fireplace. While asleep or when you leave home always extinguish all fires and candles and unplug all heating appliances. Never assume that the fire will “burn down” or that the flame is contained.
  • Clothes Dryer – Fires involving clothes dryers are usually caused by accumulated lint, which is highly flammable. Lint can build up in both the lint trap and the venting system. The best way to prevent this fire hazard is to clean the lint trap on your clothes dryer with each and every load. It is also recommended to have your dryer vents professionally cleaned every 12 to 24 months.
  • Cooking – Unattended cooking is involved in the majority of kitchen fires. The best way to prevent these fires is to closely supervise your cooking. Also, remove clutter from your cooking area and keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the stove top area.

  • Safety Tools – While there are things you can do to minimize fire risk in your home, be sure you have the tools on hand in case something happens. First and foremost is a working smoke detector. Test your smoke detector and ensure it works. Maintain it according to manufacturer directions and never, ever take the smoke detector down or disable it. Another key safety tool is a fire extinguisher. Every home should have at least one.

A fire can easily occur in your home, regardless of your home’s age, location, or condition. Take the time to reduce and eliminate as many fire hazards as possible before the holidays! 

10 Tips to Consider When Selling Your Home

Couple looking at a new home with a realtor

Preparing your home to sell will take some work, but the results will make a huge difference in how buyers perceive your home. Outside of the typical maintenance such as cleaning, de-cluttering, touch up painting, etc., we have 10 tips that can increase your chances of a successful home sale!

  1. Enlist a professional: Hiring a great real estate agent is key in selling your home faster and for a better price than doing it on your own. They know the area, what other homes in the neighborhood are going for, and have connections to listing sites and other sellers.
  2. Consider professional cleaning: Make the minimal investment and hire a professional cleaning company. Make sure the most common areas such as the kitchen and bathrooms are spotless. If your carpet could use a facelift, get them professionally cleaned.
  3. Clean up your landscape: Your yard will be one of the first things buyers will see when they pull up to your house. You don’t have to have the neighborhood yard of the month – just mow the lawn, trim the bushes and pour some mulch in the flowerbeds! Help a potential buyer imagine how nice their potential new home might look from the outside. The curb appeal uplift is worth it!
  4. Organize the entryway: Another opportunity to make a great first impression is to organize and tidy up your entryway. Add a small bench, entryway rug or small table with fresh cut flowers to jazz it up.
  5. Address all odors: Smell is powerful and can make or break a home sale. Buyers aren’t impressed if they are walking into a stinky home. We suggest using odor-eliminating soy candles and carpet fresheners. Toss some cookies in the oven or grind a lemon in the garbage disposal.
  6. Remove pets during showings: Remove pets and pet odor when showing your home. Having evidence of your pet, including their odors can kill a home sale, especially if a potential buyer has a pet allergy.
  7. Remove personal items: When arranging your home to appeal to buyers, it is important to remove personal items from the home. This may include personal pictures, knick-knack collections, children’s artwork, etc.
  8. Check drains and repair leaky faucets: Clogged drains and leaky faucets won’t leave a good impression on prospective buyers. Be sure drains are clear of clogging debris and faucets are leak-free.
  9. Clean curtains: These dust magnets can turn off prospective buyers. Make sure curtains are clean and fresh.
  10. De-clutter closets: Storage is always at the top of the list when prospective buyers are house hunting. Remove at least half of the inventory (or everything) from closets, drawers and cabinets.

We understand your goal is to successfully sell your home. Consider these 10 tips and you should be on your way! Be sure to check out website for other useful articles about selling and moving. Zippy Shell looks forward to being a worthwhile partner in your new adventure, whether you are moving to a new home or just need storage while staging your current home. Give us a call today at 888-947-7974 or check out our website for a free quote.

Prevent Frozen Pipe Problems this Winter with These 7 Tips

Kitchen faucet running in a home

One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is to winterize your pipes to prevent them from freezing. When water freezes in pipes, volume expands and puts pressure on pipes from the inside. The result of this pressure will cause the pipes to crack or rupture entirely, causing expensive damage to your home.

Here are 7 tips to help you avoid a frozen pipe issue this winter.

  1. Pipe Insulation: Pipes located in unheated areas such as garages, attics and crawl spaces need insulation. Pipe insulation can be found at most home improvement stores for very little cost. It comes in long strips that can be cut to size with a utility knife. You can also consider heat tape for a few dollars more.
  2. Seal Cracks: Look for cracks or openings that might let cold air in on pipes that run from inside to outside the home (i.e. dryer vents, water pipes). Seal these cracks or openings with caulk.
  3. Outdoor Spigots: Turn off the outside water supply, disconnect garden hoses from spigots, and drain any water from the pipes. For optimum protection, purchase an inexpensive insulated faucet cover to be placed around each outdoor spigot.
  4. Garage: If water supply lines are in the garage, be sure and keep the doors closed. If you park your vehicle in the garage, minimize the length of time the garage doors are open to help keep water supply lines warmer.
  5. Kitchen & Bathroom: Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  6. Faucets: Let your faucets drip to keep water moving through the water system. This will reduce the water pressure and help prevent frozen pipes. If a pipe does freeze, it is less likely to rupture due to the lower water pressure.
  7. Vacation: Prevent frozen pipes by setting your thermostat to 60 degrees or above while away on vacation. Ask a neighbor to check inside and outside your home to ensure your pipes have not frozen and ruptured.

Although you can’t wrap your house in bubble wrap, these preventative measures can help you prevent a costly disaster this winter. If you discover frozen pipes, call a professional plumber immediately. The team at Zippy Shell hopes you don’t encounter a frozen pipe disaster, but if you need to store your belongings, consider Zippy Shell for any short or long-term storage needs you might have!