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How to Store a Boat

By Guest Contributor   August 7, 2014

boat storage

The boating lifestyle can provide hours of leisure and recreation each summer. But if you don’t protect your boat and store it correctly when the weather cools down, you could end up losing time and money when you’re ready to set sail next year.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to happen. Here’s how to get your boat ready—and keep it safe—during the harsh and sometimes cruel months of winter.

1. Come Up With a Storage Plan.

The best place to store your boat is at a climate-controlled storage facility, according to DiscoverBoating.com, a site managed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. That way, weather won’t be an issue.

However, if you decide to leave your boat outside, make sure you use a cover that fits well, says Charles Fort, director of consumer protection at the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS). Also, keep the boat’s drain plug pulled out so that if heavy rain happens to get into the boat, it won’t fill up with water, Fort said.

Finally, before covering the boat, protect sharp edges such as windshield frames, antenna mounts, and transom corners with an old towel or blanket, suggests Lenny Rudow, senior editor at Dominion Marine Media, which publishes the Boats.com blog. Otherwise, those sharp edges “may damage the cover if it shifts in the wind,” Rudow said.

2. Start Preparing Early.

The time to start winterizing a boat, or getting it ready for storage, is before the first freeze. While some people in warmer states might think they don’t need to protect their boat from the winter elements, “all it takes is one really good cold freeze and if your boat’s not winterized, you can do some very expensive damage,” Fort said.

Always check your owner’s manual for advice on preparing your type of boat for cold weather.

For more information about winter storage tips, visit www.sparefoot.com/storage-tips/how-to-prepare-your-boat-for-winter-storage.

3. Protect the Engine.

The last thing you want to happen when you pull your boat out next season is engine trouble.

Most fuel contains ethanol. If ethanol is mixed with water, it can damage the engine. Before storing your boat, fill up the tank and add a stabilizer to the fuel such as Star Tron or Biobor, according to Rudow.

In addition, make sure there’s no water in the engine by flushing it with propylene glycol, a nontoxic type of antifreeze, Fort suggests.

This also is a good time for some preventive maintenance for your engine, such as changing the oil and replacing the filter, Fort said.

4. Keep Ventilation in Mind.

Ensure plenty of ventilation in all areas of the boat and, if necessary, add a solar-powered vent with a fan, Rudow said. “Without proper ventilation, mildew will set in all over the place,” he said.

5. Remove All Valuables.

When you’re going to be away from your boat for a lengthy period of time, make sure you protect your valuables from thieves. If you keep items such as fishing equipment, binoculars or a GPS in your boat, take them with you before you store your watercraft, Fort said.

6. Do Spot Checks.

Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. One of the biggest mistakes boat owners make is failing to regularly check on their boats throughout the winter, Rudow said. “When a cover rips or tears, if a long period of time goes by before you notice, your boat may be in for some serious damage,” he said.

You can hire someone to get your boat ready for winter, but a marina and a gas station may have two different ideas of what “winterization” means, Fort says. To avoid unpleasant surprises, be sure to get your winterization agreement in writing.

Whether you get your boat ready for storage yourself or pay someone else to do it, the key is making a plan—and sticking to it. “Do a little preparation now,” Fort said, “and it’s going to save you a lot of hassle later.”

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How to Store an RV

By Guest Contributor   July 30, 2014

RV storage
RV owners often use self-storage facilities because of limited space on their own properties, or because of regulations against large-vehicle storage imposed by cities and homeowners associations.

Sam Whitaker, former president of the Fleetwood Motorhome Association in Athens, AL, said he uses self-storage because his homeowners group limits the amount of time RVs can be parked in his neighborhood. “It is in the covenants,” he said. “We can park to load, and that is it.”

Security Is Paramount

If you decide to store your RV at a self-storage facility, your top priority should be good security, said David Blunt, a member of the Circle City Campers RV club in Corona, CA. Thieves sometimes target RVs because they often contain expensive electronic equipment, he said.

It would be safer to remove all valuables before storage, but many RV owners find loading and unloading vehicles to be inconvenient, Blunt said. That’s why good security is essential.

“With RVs, you leave a lot of stuff, your TV, your stereo,” he said. “Who is watching the [storage] place?”

When you visit facilities, look for security cameras, fencing, and gates that require the use of personal security codes. Blunt says personnel should be on duty around the clock to keep an eye on parked vehicles.

The safest place to store an RV is in a locked, enclosed unit, but not all self-storage facilities have units that are large enough. Any RV that is parked outdoors should be covered to protect it from the elements. For added protection, try to find a facility with carport-style parking when indoor parking is not available.

No matter what type of space you rent, be sure to take measurements to make sure it’s large enough to hold your vehicle and allow you to enter and exit comfortably.

Preparing Your RV

Once you’ve chosen a facility, you’ll need to prepare your RV for storage. Whitaker said it’s important to drain all water from your storage tanks and water lines. If you’re worried about pipes freezing during winter months, he suggests adding a nontoxic RV antifreeze to the kitchen and bathroom plumbing.

RV storage

Be sure to fill up your fuel before storage to prevent condensation. You can add a stabilizer to prevent your fuel from breaking down. If you plan to park for more than a few months, it’s best to drain the tank and refill it when you’re ready to return to the road.

Thoroughly clean your RV before storing it and make sure any fabric awnings are dry. Don’t forget to close your window blinds to avoid sun exposure to upholstery, carpets and draperies.

When parking outdoors, if you place wood or plastic beneath your tires to make sure they’re not touching the ground, it’ll help prevent the rubber from aging and cracking during storage, Whitaker said. Inside your RV, remove all perishable foods.

People who are new to RVs often forget to prop open refrigerator doors to prevent mold from growing, Blunt said. “That is the number one mistake that newbies make,” he said.

Paying for Storage

Bob Winet, a former storage facility owner who provides consulting and investor services for storage industry clients, said it’s difficult to cite a typical cost for RV storage in the U.S. That’s because rental fees are “all over the map,” he said.

Local competition and availability can influence prices. Generally, you’ll pay the most to store an RV near urban centers, where less storage space is available.

Some facilities have made RV storage their specialty, offering such amenities as “dumping stations” that let tenants drain wastewater from their storage tanks, Winet said. Also, some enclosed climate-controlled units that come with sinks to help with cleanup.

Whitaker said he considered storing his RV in a fully enclosed space for $300 a month, but frugality led him to choose a covered outdoor space for $70 a month.

Monica Rivera, manager of the El Monte Store It Now storage facility in El Monte, CA, said facilities typically have strict requirements for the RVs they accept.

First and foremost, the RV’s engine must be in working order. Be prepared to demonstrate that your RV is properly registered, licensed and insured. The goal of such rules is to prevent facilities from becoming dumping grounds for old vehicles.

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What Kind of Insurance Do You Need When You’re Moving?

By Guest Contributor   July 7, 2014

moving truck

Moving your possessions to a self-storage unit or from one home to another isn’t easy, but if you have the right moving insurance, it will be a less stressful experience.

Many of the things we prize most are kept in our homes: photos, artwork, childhood keepsakes and family heirlooms. When your property is loaded onto a moving truck, there are no guarantees that it’ll reach its destination safely.

While some homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies offer limited protection, you shouldn’t assume that your policy will adequately cover your move, said Rosemary Campbell, vice president of personal lines at Cheney Insurance in Damariscotta, ME.

“When in doubt, call the insurance company,” Campbell said.

In most cases, you’ll need to buy an additional policy from a moving company or a private insurer to be fully protected, said Kevin Foley, a New Jersey insurance agent.

“Call your insurance company and go over what is covered and what is not,” Foley said. “Explain to them that you are going to be making a move and you want to know how your policy will respond if something gets damaged.”

States typically have their own rules and regulations governing moves within state boundaries. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, moving companies are required by federal law to bear some liability for the things you pay to transport when moving from one state to another. They typically offer two coverage options: full-value protection and released value.

Full-Value Coverage

Full-value protection requires a mover to provide adequate reimbursements. If anything protected under the terms of policy is lost, destroyed or damaged while in your mover’s custody, the company must do one of the following:

  • Repair the item.
  • Replace it with a similar item.
  • Make a cash settlement for the cost of the repair or the current market-replacement value.

The price you pay for full-value protection varies from company to company. The policy may be subject to some limitations. For example, movers might limit their responsibility for loss or damage to articles of “extraordinary value,” unless you include additional items on shipping documents. Articles of extraordinary value are items whose replacement cost exceeds $100 a pound, such as jewelry, silverware or antiques.

insurance policy

Released-Value Coverage

The cheapest protection available through your moving company is “released value.” It typically is offered as part of the cost of the move. However, as with most things, you get what you pay for: Your protection with this coverage is pretty limited.

Under this policy, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound for each article, said Tony Hopkins, vice president of The Horton Group, a provider of moving and storage insurance. For example, if your mover lost or damaged a 20-pound electronic item valued at $2,000, you would get no more than $12 in compensation.

Third-Party Insurance

If you decide to get a released-value policy, your moving company may offer to sell you separate liability coverage. The cost of this insurance will be in addition to the basic moving fees. Make sure to ask for a copy of the policy at the time of purchase.

Under this coverage, your mover still must pay up to 60 cents per pound for damaged items. However, the remainder of your loss can be recovered under the separate policy.

Add-On Coverage

If your homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover your move and you aren’t satisfied with the options offered by your moving company, you can turn to an insurer that specializes in moving coverage, said Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California.

Moraga said the company where you bought your homeowner’s policy might offer “in transit” insurance. This type of policy may cover personal property for such perils as theft, lost items or fire. You should read such policies closely to understand their terms, Hopkins said.

In-transit insurance can be written for the value of your property, or as an excess-coverage policy. Excess coverage protects you beyond any guarantees provided by your moving company.

If you have expensive jewelry or artwork, consider purchasing a personal items “floater” policy that will fully cover the loss of your luxury items.

To learn about self-storage insurance, visit www.sparefoot.com/storage-tips/what-is-self-storage-insurance.

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5 Tips for How to Store Shoes

By Guest Contributor   March 27, 2014

organized shoes

Shoes are the problem children of every closet. Not only do they take up a lot of room (we’re looking at you, thigh-high boots), but they also come in awkward shapes and seem to accumulate faster than dust bunnies. Keep reading to learn what strategies you can put in place to regain control of your footwear.

1. Sort Shoes by Frequency of Use.

If you’re staring at a huge pile of shoes and you don’t know where to start, begin by sort them according to how often you wear each pair, said Helena Alkhas, a personal organizer in San Diego. Pick out the pairs you wear almost every day, then create a category for shoes you use every week or every other week. Finally, separate out the shoes you wear only for special occasions.

Now, store each category of shoes using strategies that fit in with your routine. For example, keep your daily-use shoes in the hallway closet or near the door, and reserve prime bedroom closet space for the shoes you use every week or so.

And those shoes you wear only when you’re invited to a gala? Alkhas recommends storing them on the top shelves of your closet.

2. Maximize Closet Space.

Is your shoe collection growing while your closet space seems to be shrinking? It’s time to get a little creative.

“You want to maximize literally every inch of available storage space,” said Helen Stringer, a personal organizer and owner of Organized by Helen in Kansas City, MO.

For example, if you’ve got a stepladder, try using your closet’s crown molding as a makeshift ledge for hanging your heels. Stringer also recommends staggering tension rods inside your closet and setting your shoes along the rods.

“The back of any door is prime real estate to use as storage,” Stringer added. Over-the-door shoe organizers can hold dozens of pairs of shoes at a time.

3. Let Furniture Do Double Duty.

Tried every trick in the book and still can’t fit anything else in your closets? Turn to your furniture for smart solutions that your guests won’t even know are there (unless your shoes smell really bad … but that’s a topic for another article.)

For quick access to footwear, opt for under-the-bed chests and organizers that come with rollers, Stringer said.

“My favorite type of shoe storage for daily use is a piece of IKEA furniture that looks like a dresser but that is actually a pullout box where you can insert your shoes,” Alkhas said.

And if you love the idea of stealth storage, go for ottomans and benches that function as living room furniture but open up to reveal space for several pairs of shoes.

4. Make It Easy for Kids.

Kids’ shoes are adorable—until you trip over a pair of tiny Mary Janes on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Both experts agree that simpler is better when it comes to keeping kids’ shoes out of your path. Alkhas and Stringer have found success by putting out a labeled storage bin, giving kids a designated spot to quickly toss their shoes rather than leaving them around your home.  

5. Take Care With Long-Term Storage.

If your plan for long-term storage involves stuffing shoes into a large box or suitcase, they’re likely to be damaged when you take them out, Alkhas said.

Clean your shoes thoroughly before packing them away, she said. To protect the structure of each shoe, invest in shoetrees and a sturdy shoebox for each pair.

Photo courtesy of Marianne Madden/Flickr

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The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Store Coffee

By Guest Contributor   March 26, 2014

cup of coffee

If you can’t start your day off without a cup of joe, the last thing you want is for your morning pick-me-up to be stale.

“Coffee is so ubiquitous that many people don’t realize it’s actually a complex and extremely fragile agricultural product,” said Ryan Felbinger, customer and wholesale accounts manager at Prima Coffee Equipment in Louisville, KY.

That means it’s easy to do damage to your coffee even when you have the best intentions. Fortunately, knowledge is power. By following these tips—and avoiding these mistakes—your daily caffeine fix will be intact whether you drink your coffee today or store it for later.

Do Buy Beans, Not Grounds.

Ever notice that fresh coffee beans have a stronger, richer smell than packaged grounds? When you pre-grind your coffee, it loses some of its taste and aroma over time, said Bill Walsh, owner of PureCoffeeBlog.com. By purchasing your coffee as beans instead of grounds, it will stay more “flavorful and full of life” while it’s being stored, he said.

Do Find a Dark, Airtight Space.

“Air exposure is the fastest way to ruin coffee,” Felbinger said.

That’s because oxygen attacks the oils and flavorful compounds in the beans or grounds. To keep that from happening, you must protect coffee from oxygen while allowing the coffee to release carbon dioxide.

Don’t assume the container holding the coffee that you bought at the grocery store is suitable for long-term storage. In fact, commercial containers generally are not suitable for that, according to the National Coffee Association. CO2 valve bags are a special kind of packaging that allows carbon dioxide to escape from the bag without allowing oxygen to get in. If you can’t find any CO2 valve bags for storing your coffee, a dark, airtight container will do.

Do Divide Into Smaller Portions.

If you keep all of your coffee in an airtight container, you’ve got to open that container each day to get your daily fix, and that could expose unused coffee to air and light. A better idea is to divide your coffee supply into smaller portions, the National Coffee Association recommends. That way, the unused coffee stays undisturbed for a longer period.

man drinking coffee

Do Wrap Before You Freeze.

Freezing your beans can extend the shelf life, but use airtight bags to keep the moisture out, Walsh said. The National Coffee Association recommends that you store coffee in the freezer for no more than a month if you want to preserve the best flavor. When you’re ready for the beans, thaw them out and use them, but don’t refreeze them. Instead, put them back in that dark, airtight container.

Don’t Expose to Heat and Moisture.

Just as oxygen will wreak havoc on your coffee, so will high temperatures and humidity. Evaluate the place where your coffee is stored. You inadvertently may be endangering it. For example, a cabinet that’s over your oven or a basement that’s damp could cause lasting effects that you don’t want.

Don’t Store for Too Long.

If you want the best taste, coffee is one of those products that you just can’t leave sitting around. “Coffee has a two-week window of peak freshness,” Walsh said. After that, it begins a sharp decline in flavor and quality. Although you still can brew it and drink it after that point, the experience may leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Don’t Refrigerate.

Some people may think refrigerating coffee will keep it fresh, but that’s a mistake. Refrigeration actually exposes your coffee to moisture, causing the coffee to deteriorate.

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Tips From the Experts on How to Store Cigars

By Guest Contributor   March 12, 2014

cigar storage

The proper care and storage of cigars is important, whether you like to puff on premium Montecristos or simply enjoy inexpensive stogies.

“Cigars are living and breathing organisms,” said Patrick Ashby, editor in chief of StogieGuys.com, a website for cigar lovers. “They will change, depending on how they are stored.”

“If they are not stored properly,” he added, “they will diminish in value, they will diminish in quality, and they will not be a good experience.”

Poorly stored cigars might burn unevenly or too rapidly. They might develop a bitter taste. In some cases, they might be difficult to light. Even worse, you might find tiny holes in the leaves, a sign of tobacco beetle infestation.

“Those beetles are microscopic,” Ashby said. “They are tasteless and harmless, but they eat tobacco. They can do a lot of damage to a cigar collection.”

Find a Secure Place

People who appreciate cigars are protective of their collections and don’t like them to be tampered with. If you share a home with people who don’t share your respect for cigars, renting a storage unit can be a good solution. Be sure to rent a unit with temperature control and place your cigars in a humidor to keep them properly moist. Humidors come in a variety of sizes. Prices for a good humidor typically start at roughly $100.

“The humidity and temperature are important to maintain the pliability and the smokability of cigars,” said cigar blogger Craig Vanderslice, who runs CigarCraig.com.

You can avoid tobacco deterioration by keeping your cigars at a temperature below 73 degrees Fahrenheit and between 68 percent and 74 percent humidity. The ideal condition for storage is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity. This sometimes is called the 70-70 rule.

It’s a good idea to visit your storage unit monthly to make sure your cigars are being kept in the 70-70 range, Vanderslice said. He suggests occasionally opening the humidor to allow air inside.

“You should not leave cigars in a sealed environment too long,” Vanderslice said.

General Storage Tips

Experts recommend that you use a humidor for cigar storage, whether you’re keeping cigars at home or in a self-storage unit. Tad Gage, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars,” said manufacturers typically line humidors with Spanish cedar, a type of wood that doesn’t have an odor that will be absorbed by cigars.

cigar smoker

If you don’t have a humidor, any clean plastic container with a tight seal that can accommodate a damp sponge can be a good substitute. Vanderslice noted that some people use plastic food and beverage coolers to store their cigars at home.

Gage said he’s used gallon-size zippered freezer bags to store his cigars at home. To keep the tobacco from drying out, he recommends placing a moist, 2-inch-square sponge inside a quart-size zippered bag. Leave the smaller bag upright and unsealed inside the larger bag, but make sure the sponge doesn’t touch the cigars.

Store the gallon-size bag containing your cigars in a dry, dark place. Kept like this, cigars can last for years without deteriorating, Gage says.

Cigars Are Easily Damaged

Gage said tobacco products are fragile. A good cigar is like a fine bottle of wine—it should be protected from swings in temperature or exposure to light.

“Cigars are very, very delicate,” Gage said. “They generally are made in the Caribbean or tropical to subtropical climates. There is a long process to manufacturing, where the leaves are allowed to dry out. When the cigars are shipped, the rule of thumb is they need to be kept pretty much in the same type of environment.”

Gage said that while inexpensive, machine-made cigars are popular, the more people are turning to premium handmade cigars.

“It’s very much like wine and premium spirits trend,” he said. “People are drinking less, but higher-quality.”

Handmade cigars “have a long leaf rather than little bits of tobacco,” Gage added. “It’s very time-consuming to create them.”

High Cost Doesn’t Equal High Quality

Vanderslice said that when it comes to cigars, high price doesn’t guarantee good taste. Prices for desirable cigars can start at as low as $3 each.

“It is more a personal preference than dollars and cents,” he said. “You can spend $15 on a cigar and not particularly like it.”

So just how long can you store a cigar? Some have been in storage in the U.S. for more than half a century. Vanderslice said some collectors own premium Cuban cigars that were purchased before the U.S. imposed a trade embargo in 1962.

“Properly kept, they should be smokable,” he said.

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Social Media for Startups: 5 Tools You Shouldn’t Ignore

By Guest Contributor   December 23, 2013

social media for startups

[ By Tanner Mangum, TopTenReviews.com ]

Although Facebook and Twitter are top choices of startups for social media marketing, they’re not the only networks that can help a business grow. Here are the five “Social Media Sleepers” that many startups are ignoring.

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Doing Your Homework Can Help You Find the Best Movers

By Guest Contributor   November 11, 2013

movers

[ Manuella Irwin, MyMovingReviews.com ]

Working with an unprofessional or even shady mover can add stress to an already stressful situation. To ensure a smooth move, you should do your homework to find the best moving company. Skipping the extensive research can result in lots of problems.

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5 Tips for Renting an Apartment in a New Town

By Guest Contributor   November 4, 2013

renting an apartment

[ Timi Burke, Rent.com ]

So, you’ve been admitted to a college or hired by a new employer. Congrats! Here are five things to do if you’re facing relocation to an unfamiliar town, with no friends or relatives to offer guidance.

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How Décor Can Inspire Creativity at Work

By Guest Contributor   November 1, 2013

creativity at work

[ James Anderson, SchoolLockers.com ]

No matter what your job is, creativity in the workplace is a powerful thing. It can boost morale, encourage new ideas and bolster overall performance.

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