Moving House? How to move your SimpliSafe Service

If you’re moving house, you’re going to have to either move your security service or get a new service entirely. Do you have SimpliSafe? Then you’re going to have to move your SimpliSafe system. Completing a SimpliSafe transfer to new house should be fairly easy, but you need to do some legwork beforehand.

First: Find Out If SimpliSafe Services Your Area

SimpliSafe is a national chain that covers most areas, but not all. If you’re moving into a rural area or just a place that is outside of their coverage map, you’re going to need to look into a different system. Some areas are also not covered by all their cellular services. The northern states are only covered by Verizon, while southern and coastal states are covered by Verizon and T-Mobile.

You don’t need monitoring with this system, so if you intend to monitor it on your own you might not need any coverage. It’s still a consideration (you might want coverage in the future), but the DIY aspect of the system is still going to work even without any monitoring or cellular coverage. That much is up to you to determine whether you feel self-monitoring is enough for your home. There are also three options for SimpliSafe service, and you might want to consider upgrading.

Call SimpliSafe and Alert them to the Move

SimpliSafe is going to need to know where to dispatch emergency personnel in the event that your alarm is triggered, and they’re not going to know that if you don’t update them. When you call SimpliSafe, they will give you more information about moving the SimpliSafe system, and they will be able to tell you anything additional that you need to know.

Move Your SimpliSafe System

Most SimpliSafe systems are not hardwired in any way, and that’s an advantage to you. You don’t need to have a technician move them. You just pack up the SimpliSafe system and then bring it to your new house. Once it’s plugged in again, it’s effectively ready to go. But you do need to tell SimpliSafe that you’ve moved, if you don’t want emergency personnel going to your old address.

You will need to:

  • Make sure all the door and window sensors are connected correctly and in the right place, and you may need additional sensors if you have more doors and windows now.
  • Make sure that the system itself has been setup properly so that it’s connected to WiFi or cellular data.
  • Make sure your monitoring service knows where you are.

As a portable security system and a type of DIY system, SimpliSafe is ideal for those who are moving into rental accommodations, or for those who just don’t want to have to hardwire anything into their home. But it may not be as robust as some users need if they want advanced security solutions.

Upgrading Your SimpliSafe System

If you’re moving into a larger home, you can still use your portable SimpliSafe system.

SimpliSafe has no wires and can travel with you if you move to a new apartment or house. Each component will adapt to your new home quickly and easily. Moving to a larger place? No problem. We can send you additional sensors that easily program into your system.

However, you may need to get more sensors. If you get more sensors, you can expand your SimpliSafe system to any size of property, without any loss of security. This includes door / window sensors and cameras.

Measure out the square footage of your new property to determine whether your current SimpliSafe system can support that property. If your property is going to be a lot larger than your current one, it’s better to be safe and to get additional sensors.

Choosing Whether to Keep SimpliSafe

If you’re moving into a new property altogether, it may be the time to reevaluate whether you want to keep the SimpliSafe system. You may also want to consider other options, such as local security companies, or security companies that offer a more robust setup. If SimpliSafe is already providing you with everything you need, on the other hand, it may be easier to stay.

Many security systems are exceptionally difficult to move with. They are often wired into the walls and need to be professionally removed and then professionally reinstalled. SimpliSafe, thankfully, isn’t like this.

Thanks to the portable design of SimpliSafe, you can take it with you anywhere you go. You can even take it to temporary accommodations, if you may be staying out of your house for a while. But SimpliSafe still has to be apprised of your current location when moving SimpliSafe system somewhere else.

Can Nest Cameras Work Without WiFi?

If you buy a security camera, you expect to be able to use it for security 24/7, whether you’re at home or not. For most people, security cameras work readily to keep your home secure. That is especially true if you live in an area with a concentrated population like a city or town with easy access to WiFi. Those of us who live in cities tend to forget that there are lots of places that don’t have WiFi or consistent, good-quality WiFi.

Nest cameras are an excellent choice for home security. You can operate them from a mobile app remotely to see if you need to be concerned with anything and to confirm that everyone is fine when you’re not at home. Nest cameras can be placed around your home so you can check on and infant or pets when you’re not there. Even if you want to go downstairs, but your infant is sleeping upstairs, you can conveniently watch them from your phone with a Nest.

All this convenience is lost if you don’t have WiFi. Since the mobile app doesn’t work without internet access, neither does your security system. If you don’t have access to WiFi or your WiFi is inconsistent, Nest cameras won’t work.

Nest Cameras Require WiFi to Work

While there are some security cameras that run without WiFi, a Nest camera isn’t one of them. If you live in an area that doesn’t have any access to WiFi, Nest cameras are not the right choice for your security or convenience. WiFi access depends on geographical location and whether a location has installed the proper cables and infrastructure to support WiFi. If you are moving to a small town or rural location but you need WiFi, you should investigate access before you move. Some small towns have invested in good WiFi as a benefit to their residents. Setting up municipal WiFi can be cost-prohibitive for some areas.

If you have WiFi, but it is inconsistent, a Nest camera will work while the internet is on, but stop working when it is out. However, the camera will send you a message letting you know it’s out. In that case, you will have to decide whether the convenience of a Nest camera is worth the inconvenience of your intermittent WiFi. You might need an auxiliary wired security system, too.

Why is My Nest Camera Offline?

If you live alone or have small children, the convenience of a WiFi camera like the Nest can make you feel safe and secure. You can easily place Nest cameras in several rooms to keep an eye on kids, pets, or your front door. However, if you find your Nest camera not working, all of the convenience goes out the window. If that rarely happens, then dealing with resetting it isn’t too much of a problem. But, if you are in an area that has poor or no WiFi, then the Nest camera isn’t the right choice for you and your family.

The Nest Cam, in particular, doesn’t let you do anything from within the Nest app—it pretty much acts like the camera doesn’t even exist by giving you a “your camera is offline” message. You can’t even go in and look at past video recordings.

WiFi is essential for the Nest camera to run. If your WiFi is spotty, so is the performance of your Nest camera. That makes it very inconvenient for you. Since the reason you bought the camera is to use it for security, not being able to work it most of the time isn’t helpful or functional.

Reasons that your Nest camera isn’t working:

  • No WiFi
  • Inconsistent WiFi
  • Worn, damaged, or broken camera

Alternatives to Nest Camera

Without knowing your specific security requirements, it’s tough to suggest other home security cameras or systems. However, without WiFi, the list of security cameras gets much shorter. You may need to install wired cameras throughout your home if you need round-the-clock security without reliable WiFi. Wired cameras operate whether you have an internet connection or not. They are powered independently of WiFi, and take direction without the need for a mobile app. However, it results in fewer features than using a Nest camera.

Smart Locks that Work with Google Home: 3 Options

Smart home systems are more than a trend. They are part of life. The next level smart gadget is smart locks. The best part is that you can access them from around the world to let pet sitters in and ensure unwanted people stay out.

What is a smart lock?

Smart locks replace things like bolt locks and less-than-secure key locking mechanism. They are keyless and can connect to WiFi.  Because of its network capability, Google Assistant is accessible in new and exciting ways.

Benefits of a Smart Lock

A smart lock is not only useful to lock and unlock as you come and go, but it also levels up security home security systems.

  • Security at the touch of a button
  • Voice-activated
  • Compatible with other home automation (Google Home, Amazon Alexa)
  • Avoiding lost keys or a stolen stashed spare key
  • Lessens chance of home invasion
  • The ability to change access control to remove permission from unwanted people
  • Access restriction timeliness

Potential Pros and Cons to Consider

Convenience

One of the obvious perks of smart locks is that you can access door locks from vacation and let someone who is checking on your home or pets inside without them having to have a key. But, you can also change the code if you need to withdraw access or suspect someone has the access code.

It is super convenient to touch a button when you want to go in and out of your home. The no key-fumble moments make smart locks worth the investment.

A smart lock’s network connections add a level of must-haveness because it connects to Goggle Assistant and locks the doors. It is as easy as saying it out loud and “making it so.”

Aesthetic

Deadbolt locks and sliding plates not the most attractive accessory on doors. However, with smart locks, entryways gain a sense of modern and visual appeal.

The tech-savvy gadgets come in a variety of colors and finishes:

  • Gold
  • Black Matte
  • Silver
  • Chrome
  • A rainbow of color schemes

A Thing or Two to Think About

You have to be comfortable with technology to benefit from smart locks. No one wants to invest in a home security product without knowing how to use it correctly.

Also, smart locks are tamper-resistant, but they are not tamperproof. Hackers learn every day how to gain access to wirelessly connected devices. A smart lock is not “invisible.”

WiFi goes down. It is part of life. Sometimes because of flickering electricity, sometimes just because of Internet connection drops. It will cause issues when trying to gain entry, and in these instances, physical keys do not rely on technology.

3 Options — Smart Locks That Work With Google Home

The options for smart locks sometimes seem overwhelming. New brands and types come onto the market every day. Let us breakdown the top three, so you can decide which works best for you.

  1. CANDY HOUSE Sesame Smart Lock with Google Home 

The Sesame Smart Lock from Candy House sits atop an existing single turn deadbolt. It means there is no need to remove the traditional mechanisms to install this one — no tools!

Features include:

  • Shared access to remotely lock and unlock doors — It means no keys under the mat while giving family and friends permission.
  • History log — You know who is coming and going. For example, when the kids get home from school and if they go outside before doing their homework, you will know.

Auto-locking and unlocking — You will never have to worry if you remembered to turn the lock, again.

 2. Nest x Yale Lock with Nest Connect Smart Lock 

Nest x Yale’s Smart Lock is not only compatible with Google Home, but it also works with Nest products, too. Everyone’s home automation is different or changes depending on needs. Either way, it is an awesome added layer to any security system.

Features include:

  • Tamperproof and Secure — It replaces a deadbolt lock, and it sets off an alert if someone attempts to disengage it.
  • Backup Battery — If the power goes off, it has a backup 9-volt battery.
  • Shared access to remotely lock and unlock doors — Give family and friends their own unique codes and log their comings and goings.
  • Touchscreen Keypad — A smart device is not the only way to gain an entryway. The Next x Yale has a keypad for passcodes

3. August Home Smart Lock — Silver

August Home’s Smart Lock works in homes that are cross-platforms. Its Google Home ability is top of the line, and the newest home security device is stylish.

Features include:

  • Access from Anywhere — Lock and unlock your door, control keyless access, and keep a log of who comes and goes from just your phone.
  • Works with Traditional Locks — The smart lock attaches to an already existing tumbler.
  • Easy installation — All you need is a screwdriver, and in ten minutes, it is ready set go.

Smart locks are an excellent option if you’re looking to try something new with your home security. They’re secure, customizable, convenient, and sleek. Enticing as they may be, smart locks aren’t perfect. Though smart locks are an effective tool, they aren’t necessarily safer than the classic lock-and-key combo. To best protect your home, use smart locks in conjunction with other security features.

Everyone is different, every home’s needs vary, and the market is full of choices that are hard to narrow down. But, the top three options are at least a start when finding the smart locks that work with Google Home.

How Secure is a Garage Door? 3 Tips to Secure your Garage

If you are a homeowner, and you have a garage attached to your structure, you may have wondered,  “How secure is a garage door?” Can someone get into the home from this location? Will someone try? The garage is usually located in a spot away from bedrooms, making it an easy vantage point for someone who does want to try to gain access. Read on to learn how you can secure your garage, helping to minimize the potential for theft as a result.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  — Benjamin Franklin

Avoid Making It Easy For Entry

One way to help make it harder for a break-in to occur via your garage door area is to keep automatic door openers out of the access of potential thieves. Many people have their garage door openers installed above the visor in their vehicle, so they can simply press a button and get into the garage. What if you decide to park your vehicle outdoors though? What if someone decides to snatch that remote from your vehicle when it is in a parking lot? Your home is at risk. Instead of taking the chance, don’t keep your remote in your vehicle at all. Place it in your purse, briefcase, or a locked glovebox when you are not using it. Bring it into the home or office after you park your vehicle as well. 

Use A Few Deterrents 

If a burglar thinks someone is at home, they will be less likely to try to rob from a structure as there is a greater risk of being caught. Use a radio in your garage to play music when you are not going to be at home. If this is heard from the outside, a thief will not be as apt to try to gain entry to the area. Motion sensor lighting around the garage can be extremely beneficial at thwarting potential theft during the nighttime hours. Make sure to trim bushes and trees near to the garage so there is no readily available hiding spot for thieves to use. 

Use Tools To Keep The Door Shut

There are a few items you can use to keep your garage door shut from the outside. These will slow down a thief as they will not be able to get into the garage from this entry point easily. One is simply using zip ties through the emergency latch loop. A thief can use a coat hanger to release the emergency handle, but when a zip tie is in place, the door cannot be disabled. You also have the option of removing the emergency pull. If you do this, and an emergency does occur, it will take you longer to get out of the garage as you will need to put the pull back in place before you can exit.

If you have a security system installed.  Look to see if you can add a garage door sensor to your system.  These are simple tilt sensors that alert you when the angle of the sensor goes from vertical (closed) to horizontal (open).

Garage doors are also getting smarter. Products like the myQ Smart Garage door opener hooks into your garage to give you real time notifications and convenience from wherever you are.  It also helps answer that nagging question of, “Did I leave the garage door open?” you seem to have on your way to work.

Check Your Garage For Possible Breach Areas

It is important to perform routine maintenance to make repairs to any area of the home where a burglar could possibly gain entry to the inside. Check door locks to ensure they work properly. Consider swapping out locks, knobs, and latches with newer models if it has been a while since you had an upgrade. Metal or solid wooden doors fare better than other materials when it comes to garage door stability. If your garage door is less than ideal, contact a contractor to price and upgrade. If your garage door has windows, it is best to frost the panes or use tint to make it harder for people to see inside. In addition:

 

 

 

5 Energy Saving Tips To Use While Working From Home

Working from home is often a balancing act between managing a workload and making sure the children haven’t set aflame anything in the living room. Unfortunately, spending more time at home can also sometimes lead to an unexpected increase in your energy bill. Maybe one of your kiddos is insistent upon readjusting the thermostat, or perhaps you’re guilty of forgetting to turn off the television after sipping your morning coffee. Whatever the case may be, we’ve got 5 energy saving tips you can use to save money and live more energy efficiently. 

Ditch Your Incandescent Light Bulbs 

Yes, it’s 2020 and therefore time to toss out your incandescent light bulbs. At least this is the case if you’re looking to reduce your family’s energy consumption. 

Ditching incandescent light bulbs is on our list of energy saving tips because they can’t hold a candle to LED bulbs. Why, might you ask? Because LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. And who wants to work under the lackluster glow of an incandescent bulb when they’re trying to finish a big assignment? Staying focused is much easier with an LED bulb’s sharp stream of light.  

Another benefit to using LED bulbs is that they aren’t nearly as expensive as they once were. While in the past many families might have seen them as the beneficial but unobtainable option, a decrease in price tag makes them more suitable for any family’s budget. They even are starting to come in the Edison bulb format which everyone loves.

Though with each bulb lasting years, it also might be a good idea to check out smart bulbs like the Philips Hue lights to add to your smart home technology. These lights can be adjusted from your smart phone, have very specific timers (like sunset or sun-up), change colors, and integrate with  voice assistants like Alexa.

Unplug What You’re Not Using

More and more Americans are spending time at home, but that doesn’t mean we’re using more appliances. 

So take inventory of what devices you’re not regularly using and unplug them. For even more efficiency, unplug a device whenever you’re finished using it.  This reduces the odds of you forgetting to do so down the line. From toaster ovens and coffee makers to laptop computers and phone chargers, they should each be unplugged from their respectable power source after use.

We also recommend using a smart power strip at your desk for any work-related devices. That way, at the end of your workday, your power strip will switch the power off after noticing a device is on standby or hasn’t been in use for a while. 

Use The Energy Saving Settings On Your Gadgets

The most resourceful energy saving tips don’t have to be in the form of extravagant measures. 

Reducing energy as you work from home can be as simple as utilizing the built-in energy-saving settings on a device you’re likely using right now—a laptop. This limits the number of times you have to resort to charging the device from a wall outlet. 

Devices, like Apple’s MacBook Pro, make it easy to scale back on energy usage by giving users the freedom to dim the screen’s display, put your computer to sleep when you’re not using it, or disconnecting from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. 

If you’re looking for a new laptop to use while working from home, choose one that meets Energy Star’s guidelines and can help cut back on yearly expenses. 

Use Smart Technology

Smart home technology is known for swapping out our daily stresses with comfortable and stress-free living. This is especially useful while we’re working from home and juggling conference calls and projects with childcare and homeschooling. 

One of our favorite smart devices that can help cut back on energy usage is a smart thermostat like the Nest Thermostat.

With a smart thermostat, you never have to worry about the pesky interruptions that come from getting up to readjust the temperature in the middle of your work. Instead, use the device to control and manage when you want the air to adjust as well as the duration for the change. 

Another great thing about smart thermostats is that they take note of the activity happening around your home to adjust accordingly to bring comfort and savings. This includes switching off when you’ve stepped outside to the back patio for a Zoom meeting or to eat your meal during a lunch break. 

For hands-free control, integrate your smart thermostat with a smart speaker to enjoy quicker adjustments from the comforts of wherever you may be sitting.

Invest in Solar Energy

On average, a homeowner can expect to pay $1,300 a year just on their electricity. 

A clear and effective way you can save money and energy throughout your home is with solar energy. This growing trend is rising in popularity in part because it reduces the costly expense that stems from using electricity. Others are in favor of solar energy because it reduces their carbon footprint by up to 80% per year and provides their loved ones with clean energy. 

A simple measure you can take to enjoy the many benefits of solar energy is by installing solar panels on your home. This generates a flow of continuous residential solar energy as you work from home, powering your home’s appliances while using green energy. Certain solar panel systems even give you the freedom to monitor your home’s energy use and solar production. Other systems have solar batteries that make it easy to power your home at night. 

Oh, and because it’s free to capture energy from the sun, you can continue to enjoy saving money and energy from your solar-powered home for many years to come.   

Does Nest Work with Alexa?

Creating a smart home is a lot of fun, and offers you easy convenience in our modern world. Each time you invest in a new smart device, it’s exciting to add it to your smart home network. One of the most popular brands is Google Nest which offers numerous smart devices including cameras, video doorbells, and thermostats. All of these Nest devices are compatible with Amazon’s Alexa, allowing you to use voice commands to control your environment and keep yourself and family safe. With voice commands, you can have both your hands full and still work the smart devices.

According to Google,

Google Nest’s support for new technologies like Alexa gives you more ways to control your Nest home while you’re out and when you’re at home. With Alexa, there’s no need to go to your thermostat or find your phone. Just speak one of the phrases listed below to tell Alexa what you want your Nest product to do.

Getting Started with Nest and Alexa

To get started, you need the Alexa app on a smartphone or tablet and an Alexa-enabled device, such as an Amazon Echo speaker. You can use any Amazon app that uses Alexa including the Amazon Shopping App or Amazon Alexa App, to install and use voice controls. Both apps are capable of working with Wi-Fi and LTE. ( LTE is your mobile phone network.) As Google continues to add products to the Nest line, they will most likely continue enabling them for Alexa.

The following Nest devices currently work with Alexa:

  • Nest Thermostat E
  • Nest Cam Outdoor
  • Nest Cam IQ outdoor
  • Nest Cam IQ indoor
  • Nest Cam Indoor
  • Dropcam Pro
  • Dropcam
  • 3rd-gen Nest Thermostat
  • 2nd-gen Nest Thermostat
  • 1st-gen Nest Thermostat

Migrating Your Nest Devices to Google

In order to control your Nest devices with Alexa, you first need to migrate your existing Nest account to Google. This step is for Next users who had their account prior to August 19, 2019. If your account was established after August 19, 2019, then your account is already integrated with Google. If you don’t have a Google account, you can set one up.

Connecting the Alexa App to Your Nest Devices

Using Nest’s Alexa integration, you can control all of your compatible devices from any Alexa speaker. You don’t have to go to each individual device to operate or control it. Just say any supported command and tell Alexa what you want your Nest device to do. Connecting your Nest devices to the Alexa app is the next step.

Enable One or Both Alexa Skills

  • Open the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet
  • Tap the menu button in the corner
  • Select “Smart Home” from the list
  • Tap “Your Smart Home Skills” at the bottom of the screen
  • Tap “Enable Smart Home Skills”
  • Search for” Nest Thermostat by Nest Labs” and/or “Nest Camera by Nest Labs”
  • Select the skill to enable
  • Tap “Enable”
  • Enter your Nest account credentials linking your account
  • Ask Alexa to discover your Nest devices by saying, “Alexa, discover my devices”

This will only work on your own Nest devices in an individual account. If you share the account using Nest Family Accounts, this process won’t work.

Use the Nest Device Name to Connect

In order to command an individual Nest device, you need to identify the device name. For instance, a command will include “camera (or thermostat) name.” The name is the location you previously assigned to your Nest device in the Nest app. Examples of names are “kitchen, bedroom, living room” or any other room you assigned the device to. You can see the name designations for your Nest devices by opening your Nest app.

In the Nest app, tap the selected thermostat or camera. Select “Settings, and tap “Where.” When giving Alexa a voice command, say the specific name of the Nest device you want to control. If you don’t have the word “camera” or “thermostat” as part of the device name, don’t say it when you command Alexa. Just use the exact name you’ve assigned each device. The device name is the one you gave it when you originally set the device up. You can use this Nest guide for information on device names.

Controlling Nest Devices Using Alexa

You can control all of your compatible Nest devices from your mobile device while you are away from or inside your home using Nest support for Alexa. You don’t need to move towards your Nest device or even pick up your smartphone or tablet. As long as the Nest device is turned on, has power, and connected to Alexa, you can command them within the hearing range of any Alexa-enabled device. Remember that these devices can be connected using LTE as well as Wi-Fi.

Sample Commands for a Nest Thermostat

  • Alexa, what’s the temperature in [thermostat name]?
  • Alexa, set the [thermostat name] temperature to _ degrees
  • Alexa, decrease the [thermostat name] temperature

Note for thermostat commands — If you don’t specify a temperature change, Alexa will change it 2F degrees (1C degree).

Sample Commands for a Nest Camera

  • Alexa, show feed from the [camera name]
  • Alexa, hide feed from the [camera name]
  • Alexa, hide the [camera name] feed

Note for camera commands – You require an Alexa-enabled device with a screen, to view any Nest camera’s feed.

How to Fit More into Your Suitcase with Packing Cubes

Whether you’re trying to fit everything you own into a carry-on, or just trying to efficiently pack and plan a two-week trip to London, packing cubes are a must for any traveler. They come in many shapes and sizes and can help with staying organized. When it comes to efficient packing, everyone knows it’s not only about what you pack, but how you pack it.

Packing cubes stack neatly into a suitcase, backpack, or duffel bag to help the user stay organized while traveling. They are very durable and very useful. Depending on how you pack the clothing inside the cube, they can also reduce wrinkles. When using packing cubes, it is best to use the rolling method with your clothes.

Packing cubes will change the way you travel. They are multifunctional and can be used in different bags for different travel purposes. You will use them time and time again.

What You’ll Need

Start with 3 sizes of packing cubes: a small cube, medium cube, and a large cube or a garment folder/ envelope (the garment folder will probably not fit in a carry on). Use the small cube for socks and underwear. The medium cube can be used to tees, shorts, dresses, and skirts. The large cube (or garment folder) can be used for things like jeans, sweaters, long dresses, and lightweight jackets.

There are a lot of other packing cube accessories, depending on how much space you have in your suitcase of choice. There are packing cubes specifically for shoes, for toiletries, and for dirty laundry. You can also use an extra small cube for smaller accessories such as camera accessories and device cords.

Shopping for packing cubes has gotten much easier over the years. REI has a large selection of packing cubes online and in store. Target has a small selection available, depending on your store. Amazon really is the most convenient place to find them.

If it helps, you can also keep an “inventory list” on your phone. Use this to keep track of which items are in which cube. It may help save time in the morning when you can’t find your sweater. You can save this list to remind yourself of what goes where when packing for trips in the future.

Benefits

The easiest way to hype this method of packing is by explaining how easy it becomes to find things in your suitcase quickly. Think of these cubes as drawers in your dresser. Only take out that cube that holds exactly what you’re looking for, as opposed to pulling out everything in your suitcase.

The cubes also help with overpacking. Because of the limited space you are giving yourself, you have to take into consideration that you may not need to bring all the shoes or all the pants. Bring only what you need, and those items must fit into the cubes. This may or may not be helpful when shopping for souvenirs (sorry!).

Using these in any kind of travel case will help you maximize your space. Because you are zipping several items into a smaller space, you are condensing items, and therefore giving yourself that much more room in your pack. When putting them into your suitcase, think of it as a game of Tetris. Be sure to use every nook and cranny to get the most out of them.

Packing cubes can be helpful even when not traveling. There are items that come in handy only when traveling that can be stored in the cubes when not in use (travel wallet, neck pillow, etc.). When you start packing again, you’ll easily find all your other travel gear.

Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that travelers can make when using packing cubes. Do not overpack or under pack your cubes. Overfilling your cube will make it harder to repack it, and under packing can wrinkle the clothing and make it harder to stack. If you find that you are overpacking, considering putting the items into two smaller cubes. If under packing, put everything into a smaller cube.

When packing toiletries, be careful if you are repurposing a small cube. You may want to invest in something with a heavier lining, in case something spills. Typically, cubes are made of a thinner material, and something like a razor could rip the fabric. To get the most of your cubes, use them for their intended purpose only.


Safe travels!

How to Clean Out Your Closet

There are a lot of effective ways to clean out your closet. Whether your goal is to just get rid of what you do not wear anymore, or the hard to achieve “capsule closet,” the task can seem daunting. Cleaning out your closet is also a good way to relieve stress. Give yourself a few hours, put on some music, and follow these steps.

Step 1

The first step in cleaning out your closet is to take everything out of it. Everything that is hanging, everything that is folded, everything in drawers. Get every piece of your clothing out of every room in your home. Leave nothing behind. Begin clearing out items as you come across them. Have a designated space where you are putting the things you no longer want.

Now that you can see everything you own, pull out the pieces you wear regularly. You know your closet well enough to know which items are your go-to. Those can go back in your closet.

Making distinct piles is key:

  • Keep (can go directly back into the closet, if you are limited on space)
  • Maybe
  • Discard

This should include socks, underwear, pajamas, and shoes, but I will leave that decision up to you. These items do not necessarily need to be put into the three aforementioned categories. Socks with holes should immediately go into the discard pile, as should ripped or stained underwear, uncomfortable shoes, and pajamas that have holes.

Step 2

Here comes the hard part. Now is the time to weed through your “maybe” pile; the clothing you don’t wear often. These are the pieces weighing you down and filling the bulk of your closet. If any of these items are damaged in some way, whether it’s a missing button or a ripped seam, put it in the “donation pile.” If there are items that don’t fit right, whether they are too big or too small, move them into that same pile. Items that have outlived their “trendiness” should also go in this pile.

There are a few questions that you should ask yourself when going through the “maybe” pile that can alleviate some stress: Have you worn this item in the last 6 months? Does it fit the way you want it to? If you were shopping right now, would you buy this? If the answer is no, immediately place it in the “discard” pile, and do not look back.

I would also advise you to try everything on. Some items may surprise you, in good ways and bad. If something does not fit the way you like, get rid of it. Life is too short to wear clothing that does not make you feel your best.

Step 3

Once you have put only the items that you love back into your closet and donated everything else (or at least bagged it up and put it in your trunk), now is the time to do the hanger method. Hang everything with the hanger in reverse. When you wear an item and put it back in the closet, turn the hanger back around. Every year (or every six months, entirely up to you) see which items still have the reverse hanger. If you realize you no longer have the desire to keep that item, get rid of it.

Step 4

Donating your clothing is a better option than throwing them out. Take them to a women’s shelter, or the Salvation Army. When feeling remorse for getting rid of clothing, it is always better to know that someone is getting use out of them. If you have the time and energy, organize a garage sale.

Keep a donation bag in your closet. This may seem ruthless, but sometimes you just realize that you do not love an item anymore. Simply put it in the bag.  If you realize there’s a hole in your shirt, put it in the bag. Once the bag is full, donate it.

Step 5

Cleaning out your closet should leave you feeling lighter. To prevent yourself from being overwhelmed again, try shopping smarter. Instead of buying the new trend, stick to the classics. Put conscious thought into what you are buying for yourself. If it’s something you can see yourself wearing often, and for years, buy it.

Hopefully cleaning out your closet was enjoyable, and not fraught with stress. Perhaps this will even become a method you can do every few months to keep the clutter at bay. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Easy Acts of Self-Care

The act of “self-care” is anything one does deliberately for themselves that aids in relieving stress or anxiety. It is taking action to not only relieve the body physically of stress but also mentally. There is no one way of doing this, and not everyone’s method is the same.

It is something that is overlooked and not seen as important as taking care of physical ailments. It should also be planned so that it is something that becomes part of the weekly routine, or as often as needed per individual. Self-care is the key to a well-balanced life, according to many studies. If you are taking care of yourself, you are in better shape to take care of others.

Here is a brief list of things that can be considered acts of self-care. This not definitive, and again, taking time to do something that brings peace and alleviates stress varies based on the individual.

Sleep

According to studies, the average adult should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Getting a good night’s sleep has so many health benefits, I’m not even sure where to begin. Not only is it a major stress reliever, but it aids in digestion and brain function, but it can also reduce depression. Naps have also been shown to have the same effects.

Exercise

Obviously, exercise is good for the body, but it also clears the mind. It increases the serotonin levels in the body, which makes improves your mood! For self-care purposes, it is important to find a form of exercise that is enjoyable to the individual.

If you are someone new to exercise, try going for a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood or a local park. Yoga can also be a gentle form of exercise, which you can do via YouTube in your home if there is not a studio close to you. You can rent a bicycle. Go for a hike on a scenic trail. See if there is a rock-climbing gym in your city. There are a lot of apps that can assist you in meditation.

Read a book

A study from the University of Sussex states that reading a book is the most effective way to relieve stress. Immersing oneself into a world beyond our own taps into the imagination, thereby impacting creativity. Reading a book for at least 30 minutes a day is shown to have lasting effects on the brain, and can decrease chances of Alzheimer’s later in life. It has also been shown that readers are more empathetic people.

Take Yourself to a Museum

In case you haven’t noticed yet, the Arts play a big part in the idea of self-care. Take yourself to a museum based on your interests. Going alone allows you to set your own pace, and your own itinerary. Immerse yourself in learning about something new, or lose yourself in something that you have loved for a long time.

Gardening

If you know you do not have a green thumb, or you do not like to get your hands dirty, skip gardening.  For those of you still following along, gardening has proven to have astounding benefits for mental health. Whether it is a shared community plot, your own yard, or a houseplant on a windowsill, planting something with your own two hands into the dirt and watching it grow can be incredibly beneficial for your well-being.

Journaling

Writing down your moods and thoughts can help in examining habits and mind frames that can feel like “ruts.” Be honest with yourself when journaling. Write a “gratitude list;” a list of things that you are thankful for. This is your journal, and you can write whatever you like however you like. If you are more of a free spirit, try writing stream of consciousness style and write what you think as you’re thinking it.


It cannot be stated enough when on the topic of self-care, but whatever the preferred method is, self-care is not the time to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It is a time when you do what makes you happy, and you are able to mentally check in with yourself and regroup. Take time to be comfortable and content.

One of the key components of self-care that has been shown to be the most effective is unplugging. When trying some of these methods, if you are able, try leaving your phone in another room or turning it off.

Simple Alexa Commands to Use in the Kitchen

It was like welcoming a new roommate into the house. It took some getting used to, but now that the Amazon Echo is here and Alexa is all moved in, we’d all be useless without her. Yes, there is a weather app on my phone, and sure, the news is readily available from many different sources around the home (radio, television, the phone), but being able to do anything else while simply having to ask “Hey Alexa, what is the weather today?” just makes life a bit easier.

She can do anything from creating a shopping list to locking the front door. She can answer almost any question you throw at her (go ahead and ask her about the meaning of life), and she can turn off the light you’re too lazy to walk 10 steps across the room to do yourself. She can even play music for your family’s impromptu dance party.

Alexa’s real moment to be most helpful might just be in the kitchen. Here are just a few of the things you can ask her to do. Keep in mind, some of these commands require an app, or “skill”, which can be found at alexa.amazon.com. The simpler commands are built into Alexa and require no extra steps once she’s set up in your home.

Convert Units of Measurement

Simply say “Alexa, convert cups to gallons” or “Alexa, how many tablespoons are in 1 ounce.” Math is hard for everyone, it’s okay.

Multiple Timers

The trick to using multiple timers is to remember to name them. Tell her “Alexa, set a timer for 3 minutes for tea,” and then “Alexa set a pizza time for 15 minutes.” When the time is up, she will say “Your tea timer is done,” and “Your pizza timer is done.” Don’t forget to tell her to “stop.”

Dinner Ideas

If you are not sure what to cook for dinner, ask “Alexa, what should I make for dinner.” Her answer was a “top recipe” which was “creamy shells with bacon and spring peas.” She also gives you other popular recipes if you say “next.” Her default responses usually take 30 minutes to prepare and are relatively simple.

You can also ask her for specific recipes, like “Alexa, how do I make chocolate chip cookies.” She will give you an ingredient list, and step by step instructions. Something fun to do is ask “Alexa, what is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.” It’s a bit like spinning a roulette wheel, in terms of quality, but who am I to argue with her?

A few “skills” that you should look into if you like recipe ideas are Allrecipe, Food Network, and GoodNes (which is run by Nestle, as in, the most delicious cookies that Phoebe Buffet’s grandmother ever made her).

Cocktails and Wine Pairings

Trying to impress your friends? Not sure what kind of wine to serve with the steak you’ve been marinating all day? Ask her “Alexa, what kind of wine pairs well with steak.” She will list off several choices. 

Want to make a mojito to go with that ropa vieja that’s been in your crockpot all afternoon? Simply ask “Alexa, how do you make a mojito.” She finds the top recipe and gives an ingredient list, as well as step by step instructions.

Calorie Count

You can ask “Alexa, how many calories are in a can of Pepsi.” I cannot promise you’ll like her answer.

If you are one of those people that is trying a low carb diet, she can also help with that. Ask “Alexa, how many carbs are in green beans.” This is a bit more limited, as she can only answer questions about food that has easily available nutritional information.

General Cooking Questions

Sometimes there are just things going on that a person just doesn’t know. Thankfully, Alexa is not here to judge. So, if you have to ask things like “How long does water take to boil,” or “Is there caffeine in a matcha latte,” it’s okay. That will stay between you, your kitchen, and Alexa.


No matter what you ask Alexa, be sure to thank her when you’re done.