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Acronyms You Need to Know to Keep Your Home Safe and Cozy

If you are shopping for furniture, décor items, or appliances for your home, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the vocabulary. Sometimes, it feels as though you need a glossary just to get through the showroom. In addition to trying to keep clear on different features and styles, you may run into these common acronyms when shopping:

CFL.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) are energy-saving light bulbs intended to replace traditional light bulbs. If you are buying a lighting fixture or lamp for your apartment or house, you may notice that your lighting choice allows or does not allow CFLs. For example, if you buy a lamp with a dimmer, you will likely not be able to use a CFL light. You can learn more about these light bulbs here.

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EMFs.

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are weak magnetic and electrical fields that are produced by wireless devices and electronic equipment. This World Health Organization website provides additional details. EMFs have been linked in some studies to childhood cancers and other serious health risks, so if you are buying any electric appliances or electronics for your home, you may wish to read more about EMFs and look for appliances that produce little or no EMFs.

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FSC.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified furniture is made from wood that adheres to the sustainable forestry rules set out by the FSC. If you are concerned about the environment, buying FSC-certified furniture gives you some peace of mind. You can read more about the FSC and sustainable furniture at this site.

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HEPA.

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is used to describe a standard applied to air filters and some vacuums. Appliances that meet the HEPA standard must meet standards set by the United States Department of Energy (DOE). If you have allergies or are concerned about air quality in your home, a HEPA filter or vacuum may help you to remove some fine particles from your indoor air. To learn more about the HEPA standard, visit this site.

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MDF.

Medium density fiberboard (MDF), also known as engineered wood, is made from wood fibers that are bonded together with pressure and heat. Furniture made from MDF tends to be lighter and less expensive than real wood pieces and can still be durable.

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SFI.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certifies wood products – including furniture and home décor items that meet standards for sustainable wood harvesting and production. If you are shopping for wood furniture and looking for eco-friendly products, this is a certification to look for. You can find out more about the SFI labels here.

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TBPH.

Often used as a fire retardant in furniture foam and other products, is(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate (TBPH) actually replaces older flame retardants that were considered unsafe. Unfortunately, according to this article and others, there are still health concerns with TBPH and other foam products.

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VOCs.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals which have a low boiling point and a high vapour pressure in regular conditions, which means they can easily leach from finishes or paints and into your air. VOCs have been linked to immune problems, allergic reactions, and respiratory ailments in children who have been exposed to toxic VOCs over a longer period of time. It is important to look for low-VOC paints, carpets, finishes, and stains when decorating your home, especially when decorating a baby or child’s room. To learn more about how VOCs may be affecting your indoor air quality, you can read more at the EPA website here.

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While there is no such thing as a completely safe home, being aware of what is in your furniture can go a long way towards keeping your family safe. Consider getting familiar with the above abbreviations before shopping so that you can make smart decisions – as well as stylish choices – for your home.

Moving is a Chance to Revamp Your Style

Moving is no-one’s idea of fun. Unless you are fortunate enough to get movers who can pack, move, and unpack for you, you are probably going to be living with boxes and a bit of frustration during your move. The one silver lining? A move is the perfect time to revamp your style and create that home you have always dreamed of.

Before you Move

When relocating, you are effectively paying for every item you own. If you are hiring movers, you will generally pay per pound as well as per meters in distance. If you are moving yourself, you will need a larger, more expensive truck if you have more stuff. The solution? Get rid of everything you don’t love or really need. Likely ideas for pruning include:

  • Things you haven’t used in more than a year
  • Things you received as gifts but don’t really like
  • Any piece of décor and furniture that you don’t love or need
  • Any décor or furniture item you have outgrown
  • Any item that won’t fit in your new home
  • Any items that will be too difficult to move

If you are having trouble getting rid of things, read this blog post about de-cluttering or check out the MSN post here about cleaning up before a move. Keep in mind, though, that everything you get rid of you may need to replace at your new apartment. Really consider what you need – it’s probably less than you think. You will generally need (to start):

  • A few pots and pans and kitchenware
  • A few utensils and plates
  • A bed
  • Clothes hangers and a place to put your clothes
  • Your computer and some electronics
  • A place to sit and eat

Some of these things you can buy when you arrive in your new home. Keep in mind, too, that you can break up sets. If you love your dining room chairs but don’t love the table, keep the chairs and sell the table. You can pick up something nicer when you are moved in.

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Keep Things Organized

Staying organized is easier than you think – even if you are living out of a suitcase for a few days until you unpack. You will need a binder or folder with several tabs and pockets. Inside, you will want to keep everything related to your move, including:

  • Photos of your new and old homes, with measurements of each room, door, and window
  • Ideas for decorating your new home
  • Contact information for your real estate agent, utility companies, movers, and anyone else you may need to contact
  • Swatches of upholstery and paint samples for your new apartment or house
  • A list of places where you can buy furniture, housewares, and anything else you may need
  • Lists of things to buy, things to do, and things to bring when you move
  • Receipts
  • A tape measure and a calculator

Bring this information with you whenever you are running errands. Whether you are buying new furniture or trying to arrange a move, this information will be handy and will ensure you don’t get a couch that doesn’t fit in your door or end up buying paint that clashes with your floor. Check out this post to see how one blogger organized a move.

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After Your Move

Once the move is over, it’s time to start setting up your new apartment or house. If you have moved from a larger space to a small studio apartment, the main adjustment will be to reduce what you own and to buy furniture that fits the scale of your new space. Even if the space size is the same, however, your new home may have a different style or you may be moving into a different lifestyle as well as a new place.

Take some time to get familiar with your home. The impulse is to run out and buy everything you need right away, but it makes sense to set up what you have and to start creating lists of what you might want to furnish your home. Compare prices on items and consider spending some time just living in your new, barer space until you find something that really appeals to you. If you need a kitchen table, for example, consider hunting around for one that really suits you and suits the apartment rather than buying the first pre-fab set you see. Yes, you may need to eat at your kitchen counter or on the sofa for a few days, but it will be worth it to get the best price on something that will bring you pleasure.

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Remember: a move is a chance to start over, and that means making new style and home choices. This is your chance to buy something you really like, not something that just happens to be convenient or on sale. Take your time and make choices you are excited about.

Making New Style Choices Fit Your Space

Once you have the basic furniture you need, you will want to make your apartment or house your own. Adding plants, art, and other decorative choices is ideal, but think carefully before just transferring the pieces you have now to your new space. One of the big challenges with relocating is that your new space will likely have a different style. You may be used to a modern apartment and your new house may be a historic property with high ceilings and original molding. Or, you may be moving from a historic walk-up to an ultra-modern condo. In either case, it is important to adjust your style slightly so that it complements the space. If you are looking at the blank canvas of your new apartment and just feel confused, check out the interior design tips at this Southern Comfort post and this HGTV article.

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As you set up your new space, keep in mind that this can be a great style adventure. Start paying attention to home styles and furniture options. You may find new ideas and styles that really appeal to you and help you create that perfect dream space you have always wanted.

3 Important Things To Look For When Hiring A Moving Company

Moving is disruptive and extremely stressful. Moving can quickly go from an eagerly anticipated event to one that is filled with frustration caused by insufficient planning or unexpected circumstances. To make the move as stress-free as possible for each member of the family, the choice of moving company is critical. This means that a person needs to do more than check out a list of movers available and go “eenie meenie miney moe.” Here are three important things to look for when hiring a moving company.

1) Do the Research

If you have family or friends who have moved within the last year, ask them what company they used and the positives and negatives about their move with that company. Go online and check websites of local companies. Check to see if they will take your household goods where you wish to move. Not all moving companies haul long distances. Make a list of three companies that seem to best fit your needs. Call the company and ask more specific questions about your situation. It is important that you choose a company that is easy to contact, treats customers with respect and that is willing to work with you for the most positive outcome.

2) Those Pesky Details

Choosing a moving company is all about those details that are easy to miss or skip, but that can make a huge difference in the long run.

  • Make sure the moving company has all the legal licenses and certification required in your present and future location.
  • Make sure the moving company offers insurance so your goods will be protected should something happen in transit.
  • Make sure the cost estimate is something you can afford and that you are clearly apprised of any possible extra fees that might be incurred in certain circumstances.
  • Read any contract offered, including small print. Anything offered verbally needs to be included in the written document.
  • Ask for and check references. It also doesn’t hurt to go online and check reviews of the moving company and the services they offer.
  • While the company is most likely bonded, ask. Also make sure each mover who will be involved with your move is also certified, bonded and insured for your safety.
  • After talking to at least three companies and receiving estimates, compare the overall service and not just the bottom line. One moving company may offer more services than another one, or services that better work with your situation.

3) Packing and Unpacking

Ask specific questions about the packing procedure.

  • Do they send in a crew to do all the packing or expect you to do some or all of the packing? Ask how might this affect the insurance coverage.
  • Will the moving company supply boxes, tape, markers and labels with the cost estimate, for an extra fee or expect you to purchase these materials.
  • Check what guarantees you have that your goods will arrive on schedule and in the same condition in which they were packed?

Before hiring a moving company, make a list of your requirements. This way, you make sure that you cover all your bases when talking with a moving company. While choosing a moving company takes time and effort, choosing the right one ensures a much smoother and less stressful move.

Michael Little has worked as a home and corporate relocation specialist for the past 6 years. For more information, please visit All Star Move at allstarmove.com.

How People Around the World Make Tiny Homes Work

While 1000-square foot apartments and condos may be typical in North America, in many parts of the world people live in tiny homes. Sometimes, very high real estate prices make it a necessity. In a growing number of cases, though, people are moving to smaller homes because they want to simplify their life or because they want to reduce their carbon footprint. There is now a movement of people who are dedicated to drastically reducing the amount of space their homes take up. And these are not the starving artist garrets of years past. Today’s miniscule homes are often full of style and character.

Whether you live in small space because of your budget or because you are Eco-conscious, there are several ways that you can ensure that your minute house or apartment is comfortable as well as cute:

1) Change the way you think about small space living

Kirsten Dirksen used to live the typical North American lifestyle before she decided to give it up and move into a smaller space. She has even created a must-see documentary about small spaces around the world, called Tiny House People. You can view the film here. The one common thread amongst people in the doc? They don’t see tiny flats and minuscule cottages as a punishment; they see it as a great way to live.

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2) Get some inspiration

Think your 400-square foot apartment is too tiny for style? Check out the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company here. You’ll see how others create beautiful spaces from houses that are around 100 square feet (or less!). Be sure to check out the Gizmodo website here to see more inspiring tiny homes.

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3) Focus on what you really want in your life

Many people focus on gathering more things, but if you live in a studio apartment, cottage or another small home, you will need to stick with the basics. That means getting rid of anything you don’t need and focusing on just a few key spaces – a seating area, a bathroom area, a kitchen area, and a bedroom area. Even in a studio apartment, you will need to create separate areas for sitting and sleeping. To get some inspiration, check out the Japanese Microhouse, the Barcelona WonderSpace, and the Hong Kong apartment at the FW here.

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4) Get smaller-scale furniture

Furniture that is sleek and simple is a must if you live in a tiny house. Another important feature is to look for pieces that function as more more than one thing. A seating area can be a dining area and can be a storage space as well if the “table” is a flat-topped trunk. To get some inspiration for small space living, check out the Mother Nature Network here.

5) Consider the benefits of downsizing

Small houses and apartments mean smaller bills, less waste, less time spent cleaning, and other benefits. Make up a list of positive changes you can expect from moving to a small space. If it still feels like you are giving something up, check out the inspiring homes at Design Boom here or at Huffington Post here. It may take a little more creativity, but small space living can mean more money for other things and just as much style as a larger space. In fact, you may be able to afford nicer décor and furniture if you stick with more modest spaces, thanks to the money you will save.

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Tiny homes often are described as “adorable” and “cute,” but many can also be accurately described as gorgeous and stylish. With a little inspiration from those who have already made the switch, it is possible to set up a stunning small space just about anywhere, from a tiny cottage to a micro apartment.

Green Living at Home in Seven Easy Steps

If you want to get your home looking great while reducing your carbon footprint, you’ll have to think well beyond tossing a few things in the recycling bin from time to time. Getting serious about getting green means that you have to re-think every part of your home life. You can start with these tips:

1) Look for alternative cleaning products.

Experts agree that indoor air quality in homes is often several times worse than outdoor air quality in even very polluted cities. The culprits often come down to harsh cleaning chemicals, toxic air fresheners, and mold. To find out the facts, check out this site. If you want to make changes in your home, start by letting in some fresh air – literally. Airing out your apartment or house, even in winter, can improve your air quality. Switching to more natural cleaning products is a big help, too (and it will save you money). This site has a number of recipes for making your own home cleaning products.

2) Watch what you consume.

What you buy and eat has a huge impact on the world around you. Before you bring something into your home, consider what impact it has on the environment – and on you. Is that paint you plan to use on the dining room going to emit VOCs? Is the rug you are thinking about for the bedroom made from synthetic materials in a toxic process? Do your research before you buy and consider natural fibers and products for your home.

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3) Recycle last – focus on reducing and reusing.

Recycling’s great, but it also uses a lot of energy. Taking your recyclables to the depot means big gas-guzzling trucks and the recycling process itself can mean more emissions. When you can, re-use products and switch from disposable to re-usable products. Using cloths rather than paper towels to wipe your counters, for example, is a great choice. To get more tips, visit the EPA website here. The site has a number of useful tips for reducing, re-using, composing, and recycling.

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4) Consider downsizing.

A smaller home means less space to heat and that means less energy used. If moving is not in the cards, at least make sure that you use your space efficiently. This blog has an interesting story about one family that tried downsizing their home to reduce their carbon footprint.

5) Look at alternative energy.

Solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal energy options can be a way to power and heat your home with less stress on the environment. Depending on where you live, switching to greener energy options can also mean tax credits or other benefits. If you want a more detailed break-down of various options, the TechCrunch site here has a great post about the subject. Changing to an alternative energy option is an investment, so you may want to try getting rid of fossil-fuel-burning furnaces first and focus on reducing the energy you do use while you save up for a bigger change. Using a timer on your thermostat or dialing down your thermostat a few degrees (and maybe wearing sweaters indoors) can make a big impact.

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6) Grow a garden.

What you eat has a big impact on the environment. All the food you eat has to be transported on trucks and planes – and that means lots of emissions. Meat production can have an even more dire impact on the environment, according to some experts. Growing some of your own vegetables and herbs can make your home life greener, and focusing more on plant-based foods can also be beneficial for the environment. Actress Alicia Silverstone has an interesting blog about green topics and healthy eating. You can check it out here. Keep in mind, too, that growing plants in your home is beneficial for indoor air quality because plants produce oxygen. You might want to take some plants into your home – not only does it make great décor sense, it can actually make your home healthier and greener.

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7) Make your home efficient.

If heat is escaping through your windows and doors or your appliances are using extra electricity, it doesn’t matter how much you try to reduce and re-use and recycle. Go through your home and check to see whether there are any drafts. Call in a professional inspector who can tell you whether your roof needs work. If new windows and doors are too much of an investment, use window foil and other means to trap heat inside. Don’t forget to check out your appliances. Replacing older appliances with Energy Star appliances can mean you use less energy and make your home more eco-friendly. To find out more about the Energy Star program and possible tax credits, visit the Energy Star site here.

Even if you’re not an eco-warrior, making your home greener just makes sense. The changes you need to make to make your home more environmentally-conscious also tend to make your home safer and tend to save you money, so it really is a win-win situation all around. A green home is always a stylish home.