July Tip of the Month

June might be for celebrations – graduations, weddings, end of the school year fun. But July sparkles with action! Splashing in the pool, picnics by the river, catching fireflies, fireworks at nightfall, outdoor concerts under the stars - all these spell July in Maryland.  

If you don’t have a pool, the city has several wonderful pools (like the tremendous Patterson Park pool) which you can join for $30 for the entire summer season! You don’t need to be a Baltimore City resident but a valid ID is required. Or the Beaver Dam Swim Club offers a full individual pass for $270.

Then there are the rivers – the Gunpowder dam lets out cold, cold, cold water all the time and tubing in the Gunpowder can be as close as you’ll ever come to suffering from hypothermia in the middle of a July heat wave. Just sitting on the banks of the Gunpowder drops the temperature by 50 degrees. Be sure to pack a good picnic and a nice cold watermelon for one of summer’s great pleasures – eating al fresco! If you aren’t brave enough to bear the cold, you can play games, riverside, and just enjoy the cool breezes wafting off the water.

For outdoor concerts, it seems there’s one going on every night of the week all over the area- there’s Oregon Ridge, Strathmore (they’re free!), Ladew Gardens, Annapolis Town Center, Pier Six, Belvedere Square (also free), Power Plant Live, just to name a few. Pack a picnic, enjoy the music and dine under a starry sky.

So, don’t miss out on what Maryland has to offer this summer because you don’t know where to go or what to do. Make plans for a glorious summer full of fun! And have a Happy 4th of July!

June Tip of the Month

What a time for celebrations! June is the perfect month for entertaining brides, mothers to be, graduates, and end of the school year pool parties. Leisurely picnics are in order for everyone, plus it isn’t too hot yet! The gardens look full and lush and the pollen is gone.  June nights are generally cooler – the air is like silk. The stars look like glittering diamonds and the full moon this month is called the Honey Moon.   No wonder there are so many June weddings! June beckons with promises of long walks, deep cool swimming pools and smoke rising from the grill. Think Grace Kelly and you’ve got the idea of June! It’s a wonderful month to be outside enjoying the beauty. However, if you are torn between all the great outdoors and the mess inside your house or garage, call Next Step Baltimore. We’ll tackle the indoors while you enjoy the beginning of summer.

May Tip of the Month

May is a perfect time to put your house on the market. You’ve probably heard that before but every Realtor knows it’s true. The flowers are in bloom and the the gardens are full of color again. It’s also an exciting time to think about moving on to new adventures in your own life. And there are few adventures larger or more challenging than moving!

Preparing for a move is not only physically challenging, but it’s also a head game.

There are typically two types of people facing an impending move. One is the foot dragger – paralyzed by indecision and overcome by the enormity of the task that lies ahead. You can identify them by that “deer in the headlights” stare and the overburdened stoop to their shoulders. It’s a sad sight.

The other type of person knows to call Next Step Baltimore and let us help move them calmly, systematically, steadily and happily towards their new chapter.

So, when facing your next great adventure in life, let Next Step Baltimore handle the details so that you can stay in a positive frame of mind to greet your new and exciting future.

April Tip of the Month

Although there might still be cooler nights, the days are getting longer and warmer – so now’s the time to prepare the house for a new season.
Back in the day, houses were organized, scrubbed and cleaned within an inch of their lives because spring cleaning was serious business. These days it’s more practical to settle for a lick and a promise! And today’s labor-saving words are VACUUMS and WASHING MACHINES!
Naturally, the first thing to do is hook yourself up with some fun, peppy, danceable music. Then go to town vacuuming the curtains, floorboards, the mattresses, all upholstered pieces, even the dog! Take a swipe underneath the furniture, the back of the refrigerator and up in the corners of each room.
Next, gear up the washing machine. Wash the slipcovers! Wash the bedding! Wash the pool towels! Wash your polar fleeces and store them for next fall. Put away those flannel sheets and pull out the soft cotton summer bedding. Wash your sweaters (on delicate, of course) – in fact, wash everything!
Now – your house is clean and organized! Not really, but at least you’ll be making a start and still have time to enjoy one of our region’ s great offerings – the steeplechase races. So instead of cleaning and organizing every Saturday, head out to the countryside and enjoy a picnic, the races and warm spring weather. After all, April in Maryland only comes around once a year.

March Tip of the Month

Consider the following dates, just in March alone, dedicated to getting your act together! First, there’s the National Organize Your Home Office Day (2nd Tuesday of the month) – a date meant to spur you into action so you can actually find your home office again. 
But why, one wonders, have just one day when an entire week could be spent in the pursuit of organizing! Consider the National Clean Out Your Closet Week (3rd week of March) or the National Clutter Awareness Week (4th Week). I suppose the National Clutter Awareness Week is the fourth week of the month because you are overwhelmed by what you’ve might have been tackling on the 3rd week of the month.  
But if you are like most of us, participating in Procrastination Week: (2nd week of month) ensures that we never address the 3rd or 4thnational awareness weeks of March and instead go outside and enjoy some spring-like weather. If that is the case, call us! We’ll take on the challenges of closets, clutters and procrastination.

February Tip of the Month

The weather outside might be frightful, but inside you can have a delightful time organizing and giving your kitchen the TLC it needs to best serve you. Put on some jazzy music and get started! Open your pantry and toss the outdated staples. Then vacuum every square inch of the cupboard. Wipe down the shelves and lay down fresh shelf paper.
Next, set your sites on your oven and stovetop. Nothing is more exhilarating (it’s all in the attitude, folks!) than making these workhorses shine after months of hard work. While you’re at it, give the microwave the old one-two.
Then onto the refrigerator. Take everything out, thoroughly clean it out then consider the following advice from Le Cordon Bleu trained chef Christine Gallary:
Upper Shelves: Leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods (like yogurt, cheese, and deli meats).
Lower Shelves: Raw ingredients slated for cooked dishes.
Door: The refrigerator door is the warmest part of the fridge, so only condiments should go there. Don’t put eggs or milk in the door, as they should be placed in a colder part of the refrigerator.
Drawers: These can be tricky. Since they’re designed to hold produce at specific humidities, it makes sense to store fruits and veggies there. But they’re usually at the bottom of the fridge, so we risk contaminating our fresh vegetables if we put meat on the shelf above.
Some solutions?
If you have two drawers, make one of them exclusively for veggies and the other exclusively for raw meat.
If one drawer is above the other, use the lowest drawer for meat. If they’re side-by-side, either drawer would be fine. Clean the drawer you’re using for meat often.
Need both drawers for fruits and veggies? If it’s unavoidable to put raw meat above other foods, improvise your own meat drawer by using a clear plastic bin that will catch any accidental drips and keep the meat safely away from everything else.
Next, organize your kitchen drawers, sorting out the extraneous and ratty looking items.
Now time to go to the store for fresh supplies. Once you have purchased fresh rice, oatmeal, cereal, grains, etc., transfer them to large glass Mason jars for safest storage.
The weather outside might be snowy and miserable but your kitchen will shine with happiness and you can glow with the pride of a job well done.

January Tip of the Month – Winding up 2016

Out with the old and welcome the new!
Now’s the time to collect, organize and put together all your 2016 files, health forms, and tax documents for the accountant. Organizing these papers ahead of time saves you money and time. While you’re at it, check with your accountant to see if your old financial records have exceeded their statute of limitation. You may have mountains of paperwork that can be shredded. Think of all the room you can create!
Next, create fresh files for the coming year for all your vendors, investments and other papers that you create. Replace your calendar and date books. Put in important dates and, most importantly, plan some fun for the year.
Lay the groundwork for a joyful, organized and prosperous 2017.

December Tip of the Month

Of all the months, December may be the most overwhelming. Between the holidays, gifts and houseguests, the entire month can an endless to-do list. If it all seems too much for you to tackle, then consider two options: you can either pare down your holiday expectations or you can give Next Step Baltimore a call.
From wrapping gifts to cleaning out your spare guestroom, we can tackle your mounting lists like Santa’s elves and have you feeling merry and bright!

Here’s to a happy, relaxed and love-filled holiday and a very Happy New Year from your friends at Next Step Baltimore.

November Tip of the Month

Not only is your home one of your greatest investments, but it’s also your safe place to relax and regroup at the end of a busy day. Our grandparents had it right – changing our interiors with the seasons created a magical place of cozy warmth in harsh winters and cool relief in the hot Baltimore summers. In today’s world, people don’t have time to seasonally change the house around as our grandparents may have done. However, we still get out the blankets, flannel sheets and downy jackets setting the stage for winter’s coming. Making your home cozy and welcoming for winter can be a start of the new season and remind us to remove the used and unwanted things that clutter up our living space. (We can help!) You will enjoy the fireplace so much more if you can actually see it from your cozy chair!

Organizing October – It’s Never Too Late!

Now’s the time to establish good organizational habits for you and your entire family. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a calm start to the day – everyone enjoying a nice breakfast in clean clothes – not scrambling to complete homework or pack lunches?

Then start the day before to ensure a smooth morning tomorrow. Homework should be completed and in backpacks before bedtime. Laying out clothes makes groggy mornings easier to handle. Set the breakfast table and pack lunches the night before. Then rally the whole family to take a few minutes to straighten up the house before bedtime. Being proactive the day before is the key.

The best part, going to bed knowing that you did your part today and tomorrow will take care of itself.

September Tip of the Month

September feels like the month of fresh beginnings. The weather is starting to break and children are back in session, rested from a play-filled summer. It’s possible that you’re spending more time in the car – driving carpool, dropping off and picking up from play practice, sports, choir practice, and play dates. With that in mind, why not start off the school year by organizing and tuning up your car. Collect all the trash, clean out the gunk, vacuum, wash and generally neaten up the space that carries you and your family about town. Then have the oil changed, the tire pressure checked, the brake pads replaced and treat your car to a once-over. After that, make a point to daily clean out the trash and extraneous items not needed in the car. Then, in the style of Marie Kondo, thank your car for keeping you and your family safe while you drive.

August 2016 Tip Of The Month – Back-To-School Preparation

The end of summer is drawing near, but we are going to soak up every ounce of sun-saturated joy that remains! Savor the garden tomatoes that are only here this time of year and revel in the long days and warm nights. At the same time, start thinking about preparing for the school year ahead. Mark Maryland’s tax-free shopping days on your calendar (August 14-20) for the annual trip to stock up on school clothes and supplies. Unearth the backpacks and clean out the pencil shavings inside. As they come in, add special dates to the calendar, such as parent’s night, game dates, practices, tutoring appointments, and other important events for the upcoming year. These small preparations won’t take long and will help the whole family transition gently into the coming school year.

July 2016 Tip Of The Month – Organize Your Closets

When it’s hot outside and you feel overwhelmed by all your clutter inside, here’s a suggestion to clear a path to order, peace and calm in your life. Organize your linen closets. Yes, you read that right! Most of us rarely think about the importance of our linens, but your sheets and towels are central to providing a good quality of life. From that perspective, it’s fitting that they be treated with the respect they deserve. Shoving your sheets into a pile in your closet does not honor their importance in your life. Plus, the jumbled mess takes up more room than those properly sorted and put away.

First, gather all your sheets, towels, hand towels, washclothes, pillowcases, summer spreads, mattress pads, blankets, quilts and hall-closet stuff together in one location. Clean off the shelves and let them air out a bit.

Now, look at each item critically. Make sure everything you want to keep is in first-rate condition. Eliminate sheets with soil marks that are not going to come out and blankets that haven’t been used for years.

Next, ask yourself if you really need more than 2 sets of sheets for each bed? This is the time to sort through and donate the bedding, towels and junk that has been shoved in those recesses silently creating chaos in your closets and your life.

Finally, neatly fold up and carefully shelve what you plan to keep. You will be pleased every time you open your closet door. By treating these little thought-of possessions with care, you’ll be creating an environment of peace and serenity.

Sleep well tonight!

Donate Your Unwanted Furniture to Second Chance

The patio is calling and so are all kinds of opportunities! This year, as you get out the patio furniture, inspect each piece carefully. Consider renting a power sprayer to get them clean – especially if your patio furniture is wicker. To give the entire patio a fresh look, update your chair cushions. As long as they are not shredded by mice, donate the tired cushions to Second Chance – a store/training center/emporium of amazing things located in South Baltimore at 1700 Ridgely Street.

About Second Chance

Second Chance is an amazing outlet for people to find great buys for their homes at affordable prices Plus, Second Chanceis an employment vehicle for those in need. The mission of Second Chance is to employ the unemployed in Baltimore City. They teach job skills and hire the people they train.

So, while you are getting the cushions together for Second Chance, think about including distressed furniture that you know you’ll never refinish. It’s a win-win-win for you and for others in our community! You will rid yourself of a looming project and create more positive energy in your home. Someone will be able to afford “new” something for the home. And you’ll help create job opportunities for those willing to learn a new trade.

5 Daily Organization Tricks To Keep Clutter At Bay

“Sorry about the mess, but we live here.”

The sign’s words are so true—a tidy home can become a cluttered mess in less than 24 hours, simply because you live there!

But before you embrace the mess and buy the sign to mount on your wall, we have some trade secrets to share. The following daily organization tricks will help you keep things neat and clutter-free so you can show it off to whoever drops on by.

Keep items in plain sight

When things are tucked away or buried deep in a drawer or chest, it’s easy to lose track of what we have. To avoid buying duplicates or making a mess trying to find something, store items in an assigned, yeteasily accessible, space.

When you open a drawer or cabinet, have everything laid out in plain sight. This will enable you to keep better inventory of your belongings and prevent future clutter.

Surround yourself with what you love

Throughout the day, take a moment to consciously think about the items you find yourself handling. Are they among your treasured possessions? Would it matter if you tossed them or donated them to charity? If the answer is “no,” then recycle, donate or throw them away so you can start cutting back on clutter a little bit each day.

Put things back as your work

This is an especially helpful technique to use while cooking. As you use each teaspoon, bowl, fork, etc., wash it up and put it back in its rightful home. In the end, you won’t have a sink full of dishes to worry about, and you’ll digest the meal better!

Make time to organize

Set aside a few minutes each day—either in the morning or at night—to clean up. This is a form of organization. Use the time to tidy up areas of your home. Pretty soon you’ll be able to start on bigger de-cluttering projects you’ve been meaning to get to. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in just a few weeks.

Hire help for what you don’t like to do

Overwhelmed by the thought of tackling that messy garage, dirty attic or jam-packed basement? Maybe it’s time to bring in reinforcements. Next Step Baltimore can help you with any organization project—no job is too big or too small! Give us a call today to get started.

How to Help and Encourage an Elderly Relative to Downsize

The time may come when you need to move an aging parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle from their long-time home into a more suitable living arrangement. When this happens, you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of their home asking, “What the heck are we going to do with all this stuff?”

Seniors usually acquire years upon years of things that need to be sorted, discarded, packed away, and/or organized before a big move—it’s an enormous project that requires a lot of time and energy.

To make matters worse, leaving a family home filled with memories is difficult for anyone. The process is even more difficult for seniors, who feel a loss of independence along with sadness knowing the move is generally due to age. There is a necessary grieving process that seniors are often not given the time or opportunity to go through!

While we’re here to assist with any senior move, there are some steps you can take now to prepare.

The following list will show you how to help and encourage an elderly relative to downsize—before the time comes to move!

Make it a positive experience

The best thing you can do in any downsizing project is to have a positive and upbeat attitude. Here are a few ways to put a positive spin on the process:

  • Offer to stop by your relative’s home more often to help them go through their things. Bring a meal or snacks with you to make it feel more like a get-together than a project.
  • Explain how you can use this opportunity to learn more about the family’s history. Schedule a day to go through old photos and precious hand-me-downs—make sure you have enough time set aside to hear all the old stories.
  • Before eliminating anything, focus on keeping the things they absolutely love and cannot live without. Once they know they’ll be hanging onto the things that are the most precious, the rest of process will be much easier.
  • Suggest putting a “memory” book together with them, and include pictures of them now.

Chip away at the project over time

Years of purchases can create a layered effect to possessions as new things pile on top and older items sink further to the bottom. Like an excavation project, you’ll want to go slow (if you have the luxury of time) and do a little bit each day or week. Start with items that have little sentimental value, setting aside items that do. Be sure that you are letting your relative make those hard decisions. You’ll be surprised at how much can get accomplished this way, and the process will be much less arduous on your relative.

Appraise the value of any items

While it’s unusual to find antique treasures in an elderly relative’s home, you should absolutely have professional appraiser take a look at any item you think might be valuable. Not only will this give you the confidence you need to discard items based on their value, but it will also make it a fun and interesting experience for your relative.

Bring the whole family in on the project

Your relative may want to throw something away thatwill be of sentimental value to a younger cousin or sibling. When downsizing, be sure to bring in family members so they can ask to keep certain items that would otherwise be discarded. If the family is scattered all over the country, sharing pictures via email and text is a great way to let other family members “weigh in.”

Of course, if at any point you need to speed up the process helping an elderly relative to downsize or need to bring in an objective third party, always remember we are here to help. We can do as much or as little as you’d like. Our goal is to make downsizing a positive experience for everyone.

Baltimore’s Best Nomination…

Two months ago I received a very unexpected phone call – the Editor of Baltimore Magazine was calling to inform me that my company, Next Step Baltimore, had been nominated as the “best senior move management company” in Baltimore! Prior to this year, Baltimore Magazine did not even have this category, so I was surprised and thrilled to be considered. As I gathered my composure, the editor asked me a series of questions and for a list of references before hanging up. I was told that I would hear the results sometime in early July…

The nomination got me thinking about how Next Step Baltimore started. As many of you know, I founded NSB almost fifteen years ago. At the time, this was a very new kind of venture. There were virtually no companies in the Baltimore area involved in senior move management, but there was a growing need. In founding NSB, I was able to combine the business and negotiating skills I had learned from commercial real estate with my strong organizational skills, along with the compassion, ethical standards, and plain hard work that every senior move manager needs. We have helped hundreds of clients over the past fifteen years, and in the process we have learned, adapted, and grown, both as individuals and as a company. We have come such a long way – from operating out of my dining room to being nominated the “Best in Baltimore!”

Because this is a new category, some of you may be wondering what we actually do as senior move managers? As seniors face the prospect of leaving a family home filled with memories and cherished possessions, they can quickly become overwhelmed. The first questions they ask are almost always, “Where do I begin? How am I going to fit everything I love?” This is where a senior move manager comes in. We look at the pending transition through our clients’ eyes so we can put together a plan just for them, tailoring it according to their needs and wants. We provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions, along with manpower, levity, and old-fashioned common sense! This enables them to take the next step with confidence.

We encourage our clients to leave the details to us. One elderly client had two small dogs she could no longer keep, but her son (in Beirut) wanted them. So “Ziggy” and “Rasta” lived with my family for three months as I coordinated plane reservations, veterinarian trips, and visits to the Embassy in D.C. Needless to say, they arrived in Beirut happy and tails wagging. When we tell our clients to leave the “worry” to us, we really mean it!

Another client, Mrs. Virginia Stuelpnagel, moved recently and wrote, “It was a shock to realize that we had sold our five-bedroom house, and I was moving to a two-bedroom apartment! Fortunately, I heard of Sally McCabe from a number of happy clients and she saved my sanity. Next Step Baltimore with Sally is downsizing made easy… Sally was able to help me donate items that were no longer needed, sell some things my family could not use, and make a floor plan for the apartment!  She was there on moving day to help with everything, including lunch! I could not have done it without her and we finished the job as good friends.”

Another dear client writes: “Sally was recommended to me by a number of friends. It was quite a complicated move but Sally and her crew were up to the job!  Since moving, Sally has continued to help me with various jobs over the years. She is always there when you need her!”

So the happy ending to the call from Baltimore Magazine is… we wonNext Step Baltimore has officially been named “Baltimore’s Best Senior Move Management Company!” So thank you to all who have become friends and passed our name on to others! We wouldn’t be here without you. Everyone at Next Step Baltimore is grateful for your confidence and trust.

As we look forward to the next fifteen years, we invite you to call often – even if only for a bagel and coffee!

Sally

Enjoying the Next 50 Years: One Way to Control Your Life

As people, we naturally want to control the world around us, at least to some degree. We want order in our homes, we want to avoid disasters, we want kindness from peers. Unfortunately, we can’t control what life has in store for us, but we can often determine what life will hold for others.

This spring, we invite you to join us in our effort to make Baltimore a more giving place. Pause and think of one thing that you wish someone would do for you, like stocking the break room at work with healthy snacks, surprising you with your favorite bottle of wine, or even letting you cut in front of them on the highway during rush hour traffic. While you can’t control whether or not these things happen to you, you can control whether or not they happen for someone you love.

To give you some inspiration, you can see who we’ve helped in our community here.

Enjoying Your Next 50 Years– Guestroom How To

It’s that time of year again—the time of year when we really put our guestrooms to good use. If you want to enjoy the holidays when they arrive, we recommend preparing the house for guests now. Here are some great tips for converting a hum-drum bedroom into a beautiful guestroom.

  1. Shower Essentials Basket—Don’t leave your guests awkwardly searching for the linen closet. Instead leave a nice basket in their room filled with clean towels, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, disposable razors, a new toothbrush, and toothpaste.
  2. Entertainment— Your guests’ eating and sleeping schedule may be different from yours. Leave some snacks in a basket for them in case they get the late-night munchies or wake up long before you plan to make breakfast. If they’re early risers they may find themselves bored in the morning, not wanting to wake you with the TV; add some magazines and puzzle books to the mix to keep them occupied.
  3. Keurig—If your guests stay up later or wake up earlier than you, they’ll appreciate being able to have a hot cup of coffee or tea without disturbing anyone.
  4. Beautiful Bed—Make the bed with “hospital corners.” This style of tucking the sheets looks professional and allows guests to slip under the covers easily. Add an arrangement of decorative and functional pillows for style. Be sure to provide both soft and firm pillows to suit your guests’ preference.
  5. Outlets—Leave at least two outlets free for guests’ cell phone chargers and other gadgets.

If you’re having trouble converting a child’s old room into a guestroom this season, check out our pages on staging and organization.

The New York Times gets it!

We recommend that everyone read the article “Moving to a Smaller Home, and Decluttering a Lifetime of Belongings” from the New York Times.

The most important advice in this article may be “Don’t Wait.” If your life plan involves moving from your large family home to a smaller place or a retirement community, start now. Go through the boxes of children’s belongings in your attic and offer them to grandchildren or donate to schools, churches or Goodwill, “gift” valuables and collectibles to relatives. If you haven’t used something in a year, or if you don’t even know what’s in that box, chances are you don’t need it.