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A “key” to saving you hours of hassle!

- Author: Crystal


Making key copies takes just one quick trip to the hardware store and could save you a ton of problems down the road. (This I can tell you from experience!)

  • Make at least two copies of your house key and one of each of your car keys. Any hardware store should be able to do this for you. Be sure to test them out as soon as you get home.
  • Clearly label these extra keys.
  • Put one extra house key in your car and one extra car key in your house. Store keys in one consistent location so you’ll always find them when you need them.
  • Consider giving a key to neighbors and friends as backup.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Five summertime items for the trunk

- Author: Crystal

istock_000001826881xsmallAs you know, I don’t advocate for using your car as a storage facility, but I do keep a few frequently-used items in the trunk of my car when summertime rolls around:

  1. Reusable shopping bags and a basket for the farmers’ market
  2. Shoes and socks for impromptu walks before/after work (which, of course, is when the weather is cooler)
  3. Picnic blanket!
  4. Big straw sun hat
  5. Rain poncho

Got too much junk in your trunk? Here’s how to organize your car.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know.

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Three habits to keep your car tidy

- Author: Crystal

Surprise!You’re good about cleaning out your car now and then. Yet somehow it always seems to get messy again in no time. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually be able to put groceries and luggage in your trunk without being hindered by all that other junk?

Maintaining order in your car doesn’t require fancy bins, boxes or bags. Instead, a bit of dedication to changing poor habits is what it takes for sustainable, lifelong organization in your automobile.

Need a bit more inspiration? Another great reason to get that junk out of your trunk is improved gas mileage!

To keep your vehicle in tip-top shape, resolve to make these three habit changes and you’ll see big results:

  1. Get the trash out. Each day after work, park near a trash can and take 3 minutes to empty the car of any garbage, no matter how small.
  2. Don’t use your trunk as a storage space for anything other than automotive necessities. Period.
  3. Make plans to get those errands done. Have merchandise you need to return to the store? Boxes of junk to take to the donation center? Stuff you borrowed and need to give back to your friend? Get it done, and it won’t pile up in the car.

Got too much junk in your trunk? Here’s how to organize your car.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Donate your old bike!

- Author: Crystal


Bikes for the World is a non-profit organization that takes pretty much any kind of bike – old, new, road bike, mountain bike, adult’s bike, kid’s bike, whatever – and donates them to people in developing countries.

WHY you should do this:

  • You have a bike in your garage/basement/shed that you never ride.
  • It’s a great time to be honest about your life priorities, pare down the way you live and get rid of possessions you never use!
  • Other people in the world likely need your old bike more than you do.
  • Your donation is tax-deductible AND it will make you feel good!


Saturday, June 27th, 2009 – donating only takes 5 minutes!


Headquarters Park – 2224 E NC Hwy 54 in Durham, NC 27713
(located in the RTP on Hwy 54, between Hwy 55 and Alston)


Simply bring your bike to this event and get a receipt. Bikes for the World also suggests a $10 per bike donation to help defray the cost of getting the bikes to quality programs overseas.

NEED HELP? If you don’t have a way to transport your old bike to this event, just let Crystal know and she will happily assist you!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Time for a new bike helmet?

- Author: Crystal

A helmet’s date of manufacture is usually printed on a sticker inside the helmet.

Bicycle industry recommendation is that a helmet should be replaced every 3 to 5 years, depending on climate and storage conditions. This is because the EPS foam that makes up the core of the helmet breaks down naturally over time. However, if your helmet is cracked or the strap broken, or if the helmet has been in an accident, it should be replaced immediately.

Unfortunately, bike helmets are not easy to recycle. Check with your helmet’s manufacturer to find out if they have a helmet recycling program.

For more information on bike helmets, check out the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Basic car maintenance every driver should know

- Author: Crystal

Angie’s List* recommends these 5 easy steps to keep your car in cruising condition with basic maintenance:

  • Change your oil! Oil changes are like giving your car a steak dinner—only better. A typical oil change reduces wear and tear on an engine. If you don’t change or check your oil regularly, you could have engine damage from dirty oil, and engine damage is an expensive repair. Recommended mileage for oil changes is 3 months or 3,000 miles.
  • Read the owners’ manual. Inside the manual you’ll find the services suggested for your car—and when to do them. Doing the services your owners’ manual suggests will help ward off major break downs.
  • Keep your fluids in check. By getting a fluid exchange every 36,000 miles, you can enhance the parts the fluids service—Transmission, Power Steering, Brakes and Anti Freeze—and avoid a pricey repair.
  • Check the filters. The air filter is often overlooked, but a yearly change can help on your gas mileage.
  • Be good to your tires. As your tires wear out, your car will be more susceptible to wet, snowy or icy roads. Make sure to have your tires rotated and the alignment checked to extend their life. Keeping your tires inflated and maintained is also important, and can increase your fuel efficiency.

Keeping tires inflated

Crystal adds that it’s important to check your tire pressure on a monthly basis. Do this by:

(1) investing in a good tire pressure gauge – digital gauges like this one are easiest to use and read;

(2) setting your online calendar to remind you to check your tire pressure each month; and

(3) keeping a stash of quarters in your car so you can add air at the gas station.

Don’t know how much air your tires should hold? The sidewall of your tire should give you a maximum “psi” number. This is maximum number your gauge should ever read.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

*Angie’s List is one of Crystal’s favorite sites – it’s like the Consumer Reports of local services!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Outdoor storage bench solution

- Author: Crystal

Recently I got fed up hauling around car maintenance and bicycle gear in the trunk of my car for lack of a better place to put it. So I bought this outdoor storage bench on Amazon.com. It took me about 30 minutes to assemble.

The bench sports a padded seat, so it’s actually something you’d want to sit on. The wood smells nice and the box holds a LOT of stuff. I put the following in mine:

  • the blanket I use to protect the backseat when the dogs ride in the car;
  • picnic mat;
  • biking stuff (helmet, gloves, chain lubricant, lock and tire pump);
  • running stuff (reflective vest, fuel belt, energy gel, etc); and
  • car stuff, including ice scraper, wheel cleaner, chamois, paper towels and spray bottle of vinegar.

Thanks to the storage bench, the front porch looks uncluttered and inviting.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Handy tool storage idea

- Author: Crystal

I got so tired of digging for tools in the hallway closet. The process of looking for the hammer or tape measure was enough to make me give up on whatever project I was working on!

Simple solution: I purchased a metal rack for $30 at Target and arranged my tool stuff on the rack like this (see photo). The rack is now in my laundry room rather than the closet, instantly giving me convenient access to my tools, with the most frequently used items on top. I get more projects done now, with much less frustration!

As you can see, the toolbox is now on the top shelf. The second shelf holds my power drill and drill bits. (By the way, I’ve become quite handy – you could even say dangerous – with the power drill since I’ve learned to use it. Look out, wall shelving, here I come!) The bottom shelf is a plastic tub full of non-tool home maintenance items like WD-40, spackling paste, masking tape, etc.

Next to the tool shelf, you see two stacking bins where I keep dog food (top one) and pet care items like flea treatment and brushes (bottom one). The plastic container on top is cat food.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

12 tips for planning a successful garage sale

- Author: Crystal

On Sunday morning I assisted one of my clients and her family with a huge garage sale at their home. It was hard work but rewarding for everyone involved. The highlight of the day was getting rid of so much of their clutter!

As the end of the summer draws to a close, you may wish to consider having a garage sale of your own.

Here are 12 useful things I’ve learned from experience about successful garage sales:

  1. Make sure you’re allowed to have a garage sale in your neighborhood. Some home owners’ associations (HOAs) or other types of neighborhood communities have policies against them.
  2. Set a date. Saturdays are generally better than Sundays. If you do choose to sell on a Sunday, consider that you may have two major waves of customers before and after church hours. Three to five hours of time is a reasonable length of time to carry out a successful garage sale.
  3. Prepare in advance! Prior to the big day, move the items you wish to sell into the garage. Make sure they are clearly marked so as not mix sale merchandise with non-sale items. Organize and arrange the items as much as possible well in advance of the sale to save yourself precious set-up time on garage sale morning. (See presentation tips in section, below.)
  4. Assemble materials and supplies you’ll need for garage sale day. See the handy list in the section below!
  5. Create signs! Signs are the best advertisements for the sale – if possible, use poster board and wooden stakes, as well as concise language and very clear lettering indicating What, Where, and When. It is also useful to note key items for sale. Example, “Huge Moving Sale Saturday, August 16th, 8 AM to Noon at 1234 Oak St. – Furniture, Housewares, Books and More!” Place signs on the main road with arrows indicating where to turn. Consider adding balloons to attract even more attention.
  6. Advertise for free on your local Craigslist site, and alert your friends/acquaintances about the sale by e-mail at least a few days in advance.
  7. Make a post-garage sale plan. Before the garage sale takes place, make a plan for what to do with the items that don’t get sold. Some charities will pick up donated items from your house.
  8. Enlist helpers. Don’t try to have a garage sale by yourself! It takes at least two people to monitor the merchandise, run errands, answer questions about the merchandise (including assigning prices), move furniture to people’s cars, and handle the money.
  9. Price as much of your merchandise as possible. Most shoppers, even the hardest of bargainers, like to have price information. A rule of thumb: giving the items any price at all is better than no price. If you are struggling with the pricing, remember that you can always price something as “$25 or make an offer”. Make it easy on yourself by labeling entire sections of items with one price. (Example: “Skirts, pants and blouses $1.00 each; Suits and dresses $2.50 each”) If you mark down any items, do so clearly with a red slash through the original sale price. (See also section on haggling, below.)
  10. Display the goods in a way that maximizes the shopping experience. Presentation sells! (See handy tips below for how to display garage sale merchandise.) Block off any areas you don’t want shoppers to enter.
  11. Think about how you will handle the money. Decide in advance whether you will accept checks. If not, post a sign to let shoppers know that the sale is cash only. Keep your cash box in a secure area and never leave it unguarded. Throughout the day, remove the profits and place them in a secure location.
  12. Relax and have fun! Remind yourself of the goal of your garage sale if panic or stress sets in. At least one of your main objectives (if not the only one) should be to reduce clutter and to gain a sense of freedom from too much stuff! Of course, making a bit of money while you’re at it is nice too.

Additional advice:

Expect that people will haggle with you. Most garage sale shoppers are looking for a bargain. Plan to give them a discount off your tagged price; thus, account for this discount in your initial pricing. For example, I might price an item as $7.50 when I will actually take $5.00 for it. At the checkout table, I also find it effective to calculate the total cost of a customer’s items (particularly when they have many items), and then give the person a discount off their grand total.

Some materials and supplies you’ll need to assemble for the big day:

  • Cash box (a makeshift one will do – e.g., on Sunday we used a small ice chest with a flip-top lid and plastic food containers inside for the cash);
  • $50 worth of ones, fives, quarters and dimes. A bank can help you with this;
  • A checkout table where customers pay for the items they buy;
  • Cardboard boxes, shopping bags and newspaper to package items at the checkout table;
  • Notepad and pen for tallying sales and creating receipts, if necessary;
  • Plenty of surfaces for displaying the merchandise Examples include folding tables, sawhorses and plywood, bookcases/shelves, etc;
  • Batteries, lightbulbs, outlets and extension cords so customers can test the electronic items;
  • Index cards, markers and tape for creating description/price tags; and
  • Aprons are handy for garage sale staff. You can keep calculator and extra price tag supplies in the pockets.

Presentation sells! Here are some tips for displaying your merchandise:

  • Group items into “departments” such as books, clothing, sporting goods, household,  etc. This provides a convenient shopping experience and adds to the perceived value of the items.
  • Whenever possible, label the items with as much information and history as you can. If you don’t have much information, make your labels interesting and intriguing. Examples: “Handwoven wool hats from Bolivia, c1952 – $3.00 each”, “Mysterious wooden chest, $10.00”, and “Plug-in disco lights – great for teenagers! $5.00 each”
  • Selling used clothing is already challenging, so make it easy on your customers by hanging clothing on a rack or tight clothesline. I do not recommend selling clothes from piles or out of boxes!
  • Place furniture near the entrance to the sale – larger items draw people in!
  • If you run out of tables and shelves upon which to display your items, get creative. Remember that sheets and tarps are also great places to arrange merchandise.
  • Consider accessibility – organize sale items in a neat and orderly way. Be sure to leave space for people to walk.
  • Play music – fun, upbeat tunes sets a shopping mood for your customers.
  • Let your kids sell snacks to shoppers, or invite the local taco truck or ice cream man to park at your garage sale.
  • Show your customers how things work. If possible, plug in light fixtures. Clearly mark any damaged items, including labeling them “as is” if you’re unsure of how well an item works.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

1 Comment - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Manage those pesky spray can straws!

- Author: Crystal

button3.jpgMy WD-40, canned air and bicycle grease all require those teeny tiny itty bitty plastic straws, which are forever getting lost. Sparkleize solution: scotch tape and a zip-top snack bag!


Got tips of your own to share? Write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car, Yard and garden