Dealing with the Effects of Hurricane Sandy

Written by Mary Davis

Our thoughts are going to friends and family on the East Coast who have just survived the devastating Hurricane Sandy. We are keeping you all close to our hearts as you survey the damages.

We have put together a story that gives tips around recovering the losses around a water-logged home and preparing it to be sold and getting ready for a move. Lockboxer is a great way to capture the details of any items that were lost and Moveboxer is a good spot to get a mover once you are ready for that (who can even think of that right now?).

We hope these tips are helpful and good luck to you in your clean-up efforts.

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The Drawer is Still Organized

By Janine Adams

One year later: drawer still organized

9 March 2011

Yesterday, I was discussing a kitchen drawer with a client. Wanting to show her a photo of the Rubbermaid interlocking drawer organizers I pulled out my iPad and showed her a blog post I’d written last year about organizing my kitchen utensil drawer.

I encourage you to read the whole post, which shows what you can do in 30 minutes, but here are the before and after photos:

Talk about a hodge podge of stuff.

That feels much better.

As I was showing this to the client, I noticed that the date on the blog post was exactly one year ago. And I realized that my drawer looks the same now. That made me happy.

That’s unusual, though. Things like drawers or cupboards with lots of little items (for example, the vanity cupboard under the sink in your bathroom) frequently need maintenance. Once organized they can fall into disarray fairly quickly. They require a few minutes of attention every now and then.

There are only a few items in my kitchen utensil drawer that are used with any frequency and they get put right back where they belong, so I’ve been able to maintain order.

Something about using that blog post exactly a year later made me want to share today. It also inspires me to tackle another micro-zone in the house! Watch out, medicine cabinet!

Janine Adams is a certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized client, primarily in their homes, helping them create the order they crave. She blogs regularly at her website and offers concise, downloadable Organizing Guides for purchase. With life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she also offers a 28-day e-course called Declutter Happy Hour.

The Cost of Keeping Stuff

By Janine Adams

I gave a talk this week called Letting Go of the Tough Stuff. One of the points I made in that talk is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Many clients don’t like to part with items they don’t use or love because those items cost a lot to buy. Or they feel the item is worth something and they can’t just give it away, but selling it feels too complicated or labor-intenstive, so it gets put off.

When I’m working with a client with a big clutter problem they’re trying to resolve, I like to point out that there’s a cost associated with keeping those items. When you’re dealing with a lot of clutter, keeping stuff you don’t use or love can have the following costs:

  • physical cost. If you can’t dust because of the clutter, it can affect your health. If you can’t let in a repair person or get to the furnace to service it, your house might be paying a physical cost as well.
  • monetary cost. If you’re paying your bills late because you can’t find them amidst the paper, you’re probably paying higher interest rates on top of late fees. If you’re buying duplicates of things because you can’t find the ones you have, that’s costing you money. And if you’re paying for storage? That’s a quite literal example of how keeping your stuff can have a monetary cost.
  • An emotional cost. For many people, major clutter leads to guilt, shame and self-recrimination. Every time you look around you feel bad. If you’re hanging on to items that remind you of a bad time in your life (relics of a divorce for example), there’s an emotional cost as well.

Next time you’re tempted to keep something because it cost a lot, think about the costs of keeping it. Letting go of items you don’t use or love can be very freeing!

You can get more advice on letting go by purchasing my Organizing Guide,Saying Goodbye to the Stuff that’s Holding You Back.

Janine Adams is a certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized client, primarily in their homes, helping them create the order they crave. She blogs regularly at her website and offers concise, downloadable Organizing Guides for purchase. With life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she also offers a 28-day e-course called Declutter Happy Hour.

Your Home Inventory Portfolio

By Jennifer Morehead

I put together a home inventory because I wanted to know the value of the stuff in my home. I thought, if I can log into a website and see the exact value of my investment portfolio, why can’t I do the same for my home inventory portfolio?

In our household we keep track of insurance, investments, bank accounts, you name it. But in the past we weren’t diligent about recording information for the things in our home. And when you add up all of your stuff it equals, on average, 70% of the value of your home. Considering that the average U.S. home price is nearly $275,000, that’s coming close to $200,000. Can you believe that nearly $200,000 usually goes unaccounted for in most households?

I talked to different claims adjusters, and combined with surveys I did on home inventories, it seems that approximately 12% of the population has made a home inventory.

The process we created on Lockboxer is easy to follow. You take a few pictures of each room and closet in your house, upload your pictures, and then our website makes it easy to “grab” details about your stuff. It only takes an hour on the site once you’ve taken your pictures.

I have talked previously about how I would like to run my household like the floor of a successful retail store with old inventory being sold at a discount and new inventory continuously coming in. It all starts with a home inventory portfolio that is accurate and up-to-date.

Think of how you can manage ‘poor-performing assets’ like the couch in your basement that is only losing value. On Lockboxer, you can choose to make an informed decision about how and when to sell it or donate it, instead of rushing out the door on Dec. 31 frantically looking for a drop-off donation location.

I realize that I’m talking about stuff like it has no sentimental value. I am likening my stuff to lifeless stocks and bonds. But to be honest, most of the stuff in my home doesn’t have a lot of sentimental value. Maybe that’s just me or maybe it’s the current state of our society where you can pick something up at a store and there wasn’t a lot of hand-craftsmanship that went into it. At any rate, I hold certain items very dear but for the most part, I’m happy to have a home inventory portfolio that lets me effectively manage the stuff in my home.

Your Home, the Retail Store

By Jennifer Morehead

I have done a lot of research on making a home inventory. Most blogs and websites start by telling you how unimportant people say a home inventory is and that it lives at the bottom of any to-do list. Sure you might have been told by an insurance agent or friend to do it but you just haven’t gotten around to it. Then they sprinkle in a bit of fear to really get you motivated.

So I wanted to talk about why I put together a home inventory. Yes, I live in fear of one of those catastrophic events just like anyone else. We have insurance on everything, it seems, including pet insurance for our dog. But in reality, the likelihood of one of those crazy events happening is small (thank goodness).

I wanted a home inventory so I could have a running total of the value of our stuff.

I have this weird way of categorizing anything that crosses my path and needs money: is it an investment or an expense? Most items count as an expense (especially, sigh, those Rock & Republic jeans). You pay money for it once and you get the experience of using it, wearing it, eating it, etc. but basically the dollar amount goes down after you use it.

As I’ve gotten older, the shelf life on my clothes, purses, coats, and other items has gotten longer. But now that we have young kids, we’ve entered a phase where all of their stuff has a really short shelf life. Now we’re entering phases every 6 months where their toys should be different and they need new clothes.

In my ideal world I would run my home like a Gap or Zara store. Zara is famous for getting fresh inventory every 6 weeks and we know that the Gap is constantly letting us know we need skinny jeans, then boyfriend jeans, then boot-cut jeans, and then we’re back to skinny jeans (usually within a calendar year).

My husband Brad always gives me a hard time because when I tell him about my dreams to redecorate our bedroom or bring in a painting to the dining room he asks how we’re going to pay for it. I always tell him that I have a plan. He teases me because in my mind I truly believe our old bedroom set or living room set will sell for “something like $10,000 each on eBay or Craigslist.” I’m usually completely out of touch, considering we didn’t pay that much for either in the first place.

But wouldn’t it be nice if you could run your home like a retail store? You could have new, fresh items sprinkled throughout your home’s décor while efficiently getting older inventory out the door. Afterall, if you wait too long, certain items don’t carry a value at all anymore. Then you’re just paying for them to be moved or stored or you’re lugging them to the donation bin.

We’re aiming to help people create that type of efficiency with their stuff on Lockboxer. The Lockboxer tool starts with the price and helps people add as much detail as they want to their home inventory. Then they can sell, donate, or make that wish list for something new. That way, no one is caught being out of touch about the value of their stuff.

From Dread to Done in Under 1 Hour

By Jennifer Morehead

Okay, let’s break down how this home inventory gets done. Yes, we all know we need one and need a record of the belongings we have in our home. Yes, we all know that the process is daunting, particularly if you’re more of a hoarder than a minimalist.

So where do you start?

I’m going to play the high school gym teacher. Imagine me with a whistle, barking orders on the sidelines as you run laps. Yes, maybe it’s painful for a moment, but you definitely feel good and are in better shape after a big run.

Step 1: Take 4 pictures of each room in your house and 2 pictures of each closet. Don’t worry a lot about the bathrooms or hallways unless you have valuables in those places.

Step 2: Upload these pictures to your computer.

Step 3: Answer 6 questions in the Basics part of Lockboxer (it’s short, don’t worry, and it helps the other sections do a lot of the work for you).

Step 4. Upload the pictures you took to Lockboxer and drag them into the right room.

Step 5. You can choose to enter in more details as you like for each room. This part is totally up to you. If you want to just have the photos on Lockboxer it’s fine. If you want to focus on your living room, dining room, and a couple of closets, that’s okay too. If you want to upload the warranty, serial number, and receipt for your belongings you can do that, too. Our homes are each different so we should be able to have a customized home inventory.

Remember: Focus on the items in your home that are $100 or more. Don’t worry about the toilet paper, the light bulbs, and the dog food.

After you take pictures of the inside of your home, you should allow for an hour of time to put together your home inventory on Lockboxer. We’ll then send you reminders so you can make sure the inventory stays dynamically updated.

There you have it. Your home inventory can go from dread to done in under 1 hour.

A How-To for Homeowners Insurance

By Kylie Gilbert

In light of the hurricane and earthquake we’ve seen cause devastation to the United States in just the past two months alone, we thought it was important to get the scoop on homeowners insurance.  We spoke with five different agents, Mike Coleman, Noah J. Bank, Hyacinth Tucker, David Flaig, and Billy Van Jura, all from various regions around the country, to get the scoop on homeowners insurance and how they think Lockboxer is a great tool to help you out.

Why is it smart to get homeowners insurance?

“A home is most folk’s biggest investment.  It needs to be protected from the unexpected by homeowners insurance,” Coleman stated simply.  Unfortunately, no one is immune to house fires, bursting pipes, or the damage from natural disasters, something countless Americans, including myself, witnessed this week after Hurricane Irene struck.

“Property loss happens every day to those who’ve said it will ‘never happen to me.’ Buying a policy makes smart financial sense to help lessen the expense of having to re-buy everything you already own,” said Bank.

Good news is, homeowners insurance is usually a requirement with a mortgage, at least in an amount adequate to cover the remainder of the mortgage loan, Coleman pointed out.  Your policy should cover you for liability as well; something important in the “sue happy society” we live in, Flaig said.  In his opinion, it is the liability aspect that’s the most important part of a homeowner’s policy, protecting the owner against a lawsuit.

What should someone look for in a policy?

According to Coleman, you should make sure you have adequate coverage to replace your home, as opposed to the depreciated value option.  Flaig suggests simply finding the rebuilding estimate per square foot in your area and multiplying by the size of the home in order to make sure that your coverage is enough to pay for a complete rebuild.

But what else besides the basic coverage?  Coleman recommends choosing a policy that extends the policy payout by about 20-25% if possible, as well as replacement cost coverage on your contents.  However, valuing your contents isn’t always easy.  You will likely be given a blanket amount of 70-75% of the dwelling value of the home, but if your home has collectibles, artwork, or other valuables, these would need to be accounted for separately, Van Jura explains.

In addition to the items in your home, Bank advises off-premise theft coverage for those who don’t travel light, or keep lots of valuables in their car.   “It could be a costly jump in price, but may be worthwhile,” he says.

Not sure what to do about your deductible?  Choose one that’s “high enough to keep your premium manageable, but not so high that it will put you in a financial bind should you have a claim,” says Coleman.  And lastly, don’t forget to get enough liability coverage to cover your assets in our ever-litigious society!

What should someone look for in an agent?

Since your homeowner’s insurance policy is clearly one of the most important aspects of purchasing a home, the agent that helps you put together your policy is also critical.  You want an agent that you can build a relationship with and someone who is willing to be accessible to answer all of your questions and address your needs, Tucker says.

Van Jura cautions against agents that don’t spend enough time getting to your customized solution.  “If they have not asked you a few dozen questions in regards to the details of your home you should wonder where the figures are coming from,” he says.  He suggests being on your guard when purchasing a home for the first time because your agent may assume you should just insure your home for the purchase price, clearly a big no-no.

“A good agent should be able to set the expectation for the customer and then live up to it,” says Flaig.  While an agent generally can’t affect the outcome of a claim, they should be able to make sure that the claim is handled quickly and fairly, he explains.

Why do you like Lockboxer as a home inventory tool?

“I’ve dealt with clients who have suffered terrible home losses.  One of the hardest things about it is valuing your contents for the claims personnel.  Lockboxer is a great tool to use for that.  I was very impressed,” Coleman said.

Lockboxer is a great tool to determine the value of your belongings. It’s quick, easy to use, and has accurate information,” said Tucker.

“We always recommend taking inventory of the things our clients own, and Lockboxer makes that process even easier by showing the replacement cost in real time, and enabling you to add it, run totals and upload receipts!  There’s no better way!” Bank said.

Lockboxer seems to do a good job of aggregating a lot of information.  Rather than combing multiple sites you can get a gauge of the used and new prices of the items you are looking to replace,” said Van Jura.

Thanks to all our contributors to this article:

Mike Coleman
is a State Farm Insurance Agent in Lineville, AL.

Noah J. Bank is an Insurance Agent and Broker with The B&G Group in Plainview, NY.

Billy Van Jura is the Founder and Owner Operator at Birchyard LLC in Poughkeepsie, NY

Hyacinth Tucker is an Allstate Personal Financial Representative in Crofton, MD.

David Flaig is a Farmers Insurance agent in San Mateo, CA