Category: Family

How To Plan A Mess-Free Cross Country Move?

how to plan a mess-free cross country move

We moved cross country two times in less than a year. Our first move happened when I was 8.5 months pregnant and 2nd move happened when our baby was 6 months. The moves are both emotionally and physically tiring and you need months to recover from cross-country move (at least it was for me). Below are some of the lessons learned on planning, moving, and settling down in a new place.

Before The Move:

As soon as the move is confirmed, create a to-do list and assign a responsible person under each task. We used post-it notes and wrote the task name, due date, owner name and stick to it on a wall.

Also the tasks are posted top to bottom based on due date. So, the urgent works would be at the top and it goes down if the due date is far from now.

We started this planning 3 weeks before the move and continued to remove the notes as soon as we complete a work. We also talked about the progress at the end of every day.This process helped us finish all the work on time and in the end, almost all of the things went as planned.

Our Move Plan:

My husband moved a couple of weeks before us for early start date of the new job. I had to stay due to my work schedule. My parents flew down earlier than expected and stayed with me after my husband moved. During those few weeks, I sold our 2nd car, packed rest of the house and rented the house before we left to NJ. It was crazy when I think about it. But I’m so glad I did. I was able to sell the car at the target price although it was a little risky in case if the car wouldn’t have got sold.

Packing:

Packing is what makes the move more painful. Think of it as a project and take one step at a time. Before you even start packing an item, ask yourself the below questions:

  • Is it worth taking this item or not?
  • Have I used this item in the last 3/6/9 months?
  • How much would it cost to replace?

If your answer is no to the above questions, get rid of the item or sell on Facebook Marketplace and move on to the next one. If you need the item, put it in an assigned box (Write down the rooms in each box before you start packing things. For example, kitchen items go under kitchen box. This is called assigned box).

For moving boxes, check out your nearby retain store. Some big retail stores give you the boxes for free (just ask them if they have any extra boxes for packing stuff). If not, you can get some from craigslist or local facebook groups. If you couldn’t find any second hand moving boxes, you can find new ones at U-Haul. The best part is, you can return the unused boxes back at U-Haul after the move.

When packing, make sure you put couple cover/pads around the mattress and other expensive items to avoid damages.

The Cheapest Way to Move:

If you’re looking to save money, moving on our own is the best option. During the 2nd move, my husband drove the truck from NJ to TX while we stayed a few more days, cleaned the house and flew on the day he reached TX. It saved us at least $1000.

Finding The Right Mover:

This is a very important step when you plan the move. Uship is a great place where you can get quotes from many moving companies. Go over their reviews, insurance information, delivery time etc before you select one from the bidding process. The one we found was quite nice except that there were some scratches on the furniture and trash can (I know 😉 ). They broke our laundry sorter and bought a new one when we reported. They also delivered within 2 days (2 days from TX to NJ. Can you believe?).

If Uship doesn’t work for you, I also heard that Amtrak for cross country shipping is another good option.

 

For movers insurance,  check your old/new renters insurance. Some insurance companies cover the move up to a certain limit.

3 Weeks Before the Move:

Call your utility companies and let them know your termination of service. Make sure you include 1-2 extra days in case if the plan didn’t go as expected. Same with USPS, make sure to forward your mails to the new mailing address. The forwarding process takes place over 10 days time. So you need enough planning to avoid missing important emails.

During The Move:

Late evening/night time loading worked the best of all the times. Because, even if it gets late, you don’t have to worry about other basic requirements such as food etc. Make sure you have sleeping arrangements planned after the movers loaded the truck.

Also, provide specific instructions to the movers on the weight of the box, which boxes should go first etc. depends on the type of the product. Some boxes are lightweight and contain fragile stuff. The movers need to handle it with care and cannot stack anything else on top of it.

Carry on luggage:

More than clothes, I’d recommend carrying important documents and other important stuff with you when you travel. I hear a lot of moving companies losing stuff these days. It’s better to keep the most valuable items with us instead of stuffing all of them in the moving van.

After the move:

Update your new address in back accounts, Amazon and other important accounts.

Settling in the new place:

It kinda goes against what I’d normally prefer. But as soon as you moved into the new place, start unpacking and keep the house ready within a few days. I noticed that the earlier we keep the house in order, the faster we would feel settled.

Back Story:

There were many interesting events happened during the move (especially, when I tried to sell our 2nd car). People didn’t take me seriously although I knew the details about the car. What helped me was feeling and looking confident. I posted on Facebook, Craigslist and keep meeting people until I found the right seller.

Again, our 2nd car was not an expensive one and in case if I didn’t get to sell it to individual buyers, I would have gone to the dealer and sold it myself.

When was your last move (doesn’t have to be cross country) and how did it go?

Day in the Life of 3 Year Old + Daily Activities

Now that we are parents of two kids (can’t believe it!), the time we spent with each kid is limited.  We try to make sure each kid gets their 1×1 attention everyday. Jeev is also at an age (3.5 years old) when we need to spend more time teaching him habits and basic skills. So we have a set routine for Jeev and we are slowly teaching him to do some of his works independently.

Although it’s not set in stone, the below schedule has been working well for us at this phase of our lives.

Morning Schedule:

Jeev wakes up around 7 AM and gets ready with little help from us. We still brush his teeth as we think the kiddo is still too young to brush well on his own. Once he is brushed, he will have his breakfast on his table. Again, I try to keep the right portion for him to finish well without feeling like he cannot finish his food (we went through a phase on that). After that, he drinks fruit juice if he wants before he is off to school.

Evening Schedule:

As soon as the kids are back home from school, we change clothes and sit for dinner. In the past few months, we have been eating dinner as early as 5.30 PM and it’s been working well (Around 7.30 PM, we munch some fruits and snacks before we hit the bed). We all sit together and eat our dinner. It’s a dedicated family time and no one is allowed. After dinner, Jeev and I print our lessons for the day and go over the lessons. I try to introduce him at least two activities in a day.Typically the session goes for 30-45 minutes and I make it as fun as possible. He doesn’t enjoy all the lessons the same way everyday. For example, I tried to introduce him reading and he doesn’t really enjoy much of it. So, we are taking a break on that. Some days he wants to do lessons until he goes to bed and some days and I can see that the boy wants to do something else. Our sessions vary based on his interest. However, I make it a point to do activities every single day.

Once the lessons are done, he takes bath and off to play on his own. Some days, we play together / some days we go directly to read books. It depends on his mood on that day.

MORE: how to save money on kids books

We also go to the library once every 10 days and get new books. Currently, one of his favorite books is pictures and details of sea animals. We read the book, act like a sea animal and talk about their features/habits. It’s fun guys, even for adults 🙂

In summer, we used to go for walking right after dinner. Since the weather is a little chilly lately, no more walking and we are home bound most of the evenings.

Planning the weekends:

The only way we take our kids out during weekends is if we plan early. I’m worst at last minute planning, so I plan at least 2 weeks early and block our calendars. That way, I know what to expect when the weekend arrives. For example, we have a couple of kids shows in the library this Saturday. I need to get the tickets on Saturday morning for the show. All these details went on the calendar last week itself.

Note:

If Meera had a late nap in school, she would join us or Hubby will play will her until we finish the lessons. I have a separate set of activities for her that I do as well. , Also she sleeps early and I spend the rest of the evening exclusively for Jeev. None of the household work or electronics are touched until the kids go to bed.

Independent Work:

We researched so much about it and talked to his teacher a few times before we finalized the below list of independent works for him. These are the things Jeev does independently and we jump in whenever he needs help, but not without him trying first:

  • Put the plates away after he finishes the meal
  • Put the clothes in laundry basket after he changes dress
  • Dress himself up (little help from us when needed)
  • Put/remove shoes/shocks and put them in place
  • Clean up the toys after he is done playing. We help him when necessary. We have this fun song we sing every time we clean up: clean up! clean up! everybody clean up!
  • Put things back in place once we finish using it – it’s applicable to the whole family. Once I was rushing to feed Meera after entering the house and kept my winter coat on the chair itself. You guys, Jeev called me out. Probably not a big deal. But it was a proud moment for this mom 🙂

Below is a snapshot of our current week lessons:

3 year old daily activities list

I have a similar schedule for Meera (11 months old) with just 1 activity a day. The goal is to create a habit of leaning and make the whole experience as fun as possible. With Jeev, we print the activities together. So he is involved from start to finish and loves the whole process so much that some days he wants to do lessons even before our dinner time.

Keep in mind, it’s not always rosy as it sounds. There are days when we decided to stop early as the kid is too distracted or wants to do other things. Some days he spends a good 30 minutes watching TV and some days more. Although we follow this schedule every day, we try to keep our minds open for any changes/improvements.

Do you guys follow any schedule for your kids? Please do share. I hope to learn from you.

Sept & Oct Family Finance Review + November Goals

October Family Finance ReviewYou guys, I have been looking forward to sharing this family finance review with you. I intentionally skipped July and August family finance review as we had multiple unexpected expenses happened on the move.

Husband and I had been talking about making some modifications to our budget for weeks. All through the years, we have been following a budgeting system with specific $$ allocations under each spending category. For the first time after so many years, we tried a new budgeting method in September and looks like we will start using it going forward.

This new budgeting is called “zero sum budgeting”. Instead of assigning $$ for each spend category, we assign a lump sum for the whole month spending. It doesn’t matter if we spend more on one category and less on another category as long as the total spending is less or equal to the lump sum we allocated.

Previously, I used to get stressed if we go over the budget on a category even if I’m under the budget for other categories. Now that we only care about the total spend, I feel like the weight is lifted. I just focus on the total dollar and not individual category spending.

If you’re new to budgeting, I’d still suggest you try category budgeting as it will help identify areas where you can cut costs. If you have been budgeting for a while and are good at avoiding unnecessary spend, I’d highly recommend you try zero sum budgeting.

September and October Wins:

New Budgeting Method:

It definitely works for our family and whatever savings we have left in the budget at the end of the month goes out to splurge. I started shopping 90% of my groceries from Whole Foods. Thanks, Amazon and new budgeting!

Grocery spending:

Dragging two little ones to the store is more of a trip than grocery shopping.  So we hardly go out for grocery shopping these days. Less trips to the store means relatively less spending.

No personal spending:

I wanted to buy some skincare and cosmetics in September and I postponed my purchases to October fearing that I’d go above the line in the new budgeting if I make this purchase (I splurge on cosmetics and skincare. So my $$ are typically in 3 digits).

Interestingly, it didn’t happen in October either. I probably will wait for Thanksgiving sale and do a major shopping at Sephora.

September and October Fails:

 

Eat out:

My work was crazy busy in September and October that I worked even on some Saturdays. That said, I hardly had time to cook meals even though I meal planned everything. No food at home means more pick ups from restaurants.

We tried to limit visiting expensive restaurants. Even then the eat out spend was much higher than ever.

Cleaning:

I don’t know how you moms of 2 or more kids manage. I am short on time with 2 little ones and cleaning is taking a backseat nowadays. I’m slowly improving in November. But September and October were bad months for our house 🙂

Kids Clothes:

We moved from a bigger space to 2 bed room apartment. There are lots of toy boxes unopened. Recently I spent $110 for kids clothing only to realize I have some packed in the boxes. It was a bad job of mine and now my kids have too many clothes. Have you ever done this?

November Goals:

I love setting goals and knocking them off. It gives me lots of satisfaction when I finish the work on time (I guess we all feel good when we accomplish something, right?). I used to post my goals on the blog before and stopped posting them thinking it might not be useful. I have  people reached out to me asking for Goals post and guys, it makes me very happy 🙂 Below are the goals for the month of November:

Parenting:

  • Encourage Jeev to start writing – he is not much interested in writing although this guy loves math. I am also teaching him reading every day.
  • Take the kids to zoo if weather permits and other indoor events planned.

Family:

  • Plan thanksgiving week

There is also another important item that we are hoping to get done this month. I’ll share it with you as soon as it’s done.

Finance:

  • Prepare Black Friday shopping list
  • Go over the finances with Hubby and decide few open items we have
  • Compare health insurance plans between our employers and decide the best one between the two

 

Marriage:

  • Lunch date with hubby without him opening the phone. Lol!
  • He never reads the blog. So i’m going to say it – Write a love note and mail it to him as a surprise (no special occassion guys. Just want him to know how we 3 love him) 🙂

Missing Diwali in India? Celebrate NRI Style!

Diwali is in a few days and I can’t stop thinking about how the festival has evolved over the years. When I was a child, we used to go to our grandma’s house where our extended family would come together and celebrate the festival. The day would start with Ganga Snanam and prayers to God before we could even touch the sweets. I enjoyed watching crackers more than trying one by myself, but I had enough people around me who loved bursting crackers.

After moving to USA, Diwali had become so mundane and… blah. The first few years were tough especially when the Diwali day was nothing more than just another day. I missed my family more during festival times and Skype calls sometimes just made it worse.

After having kids, I realized that there is a reason why we decided to live in this country and, instead of cribbing, why not make the most of what we have? In the past few years, our Diwali celebrations have improved in such a way that my family was impressed when they visited us during one Diwali. Here are some ways NRIs can celebrate and enjoy this important Festival of Lights:

Send Diwali Cards to Friends and Family:

Receiving physical cards from our loved ones is much more exciting than an getting another email. When I was a child (yikes, am feeling really old when I say this J), I used to write greeting cards to my cousins and friends. I’d go to the store, pick the ones I like, write messages in my own handwriting, put a stamp and send it to friends and family.

People still do it for Christmas over here, right? Why not combine both and recreate the tradition for Diwali now?

Take a family portrait, print a Diwali greeting card with a family portrait and send to friends and family. If you have big kids, involve them in the process and make them write messages to their extended families. Post them ahead of time for them to receive it in time – hurry!

Take the Day Off and Celebrate with Close Friends:

For NRIs, friends are more of a family away from family. Not all of us are blessed with close families living nearby. Use this occasion to meetup with your close friends – even if they’re not Indian, why not introduce them? I still remember one special Diwali celebration couple of years back. One time, we all met at our friend’s house, cooked elaborate meals, played all day long and ended the celebration by watching an Indian movie in a theatre. If you have younger kids, it might be difficult to do all of this in one day, but at least meet with your close friends and celebrate in a way that works for you.

Remind them to Send Treats from India:

My family has been sending Diwali bakshanams (foods) from India and it’s something we look forward to every year. Not that we can’t get these things over here, but when we receive gifts from our loved ones from the homeland, it becomes very special. In my case, my whole family lives in India except me. We all miss each other and this package of clothes and bakshanams is something that makes my festival day brighter. Now even my kiddo looks forward to the package from his paati (nana).

Send Gifts to Family in India:

It goes without saying: send gifts to your immediate family to make their festival of lights even brighter. We all get excited and happy when someone thinks about us and sends gifts. Why not make our family happy by sending Diwali gifts to show them how much we still care?

You can find great deals on Diwali gifts over here: https://oxigenusa.com/send-diwali-gifts-to-india-2017 and you can use my discount code, “UMASGIFT”, for a 15% discount on Diwali gifts and instant gift cards!

Diwali Decorations:

In our house, decorations start from October. First Diwali, then Thanksgiving and it ends in Christmas. (Last year, our son wanted to keep the Christmas tree till February. That’s another story for another time.) Personally, I am all about DIY creations and Pinterest has lots of ideas on Diwali DIYs. Even if you don’t have time or patience, you can buy some Diwali themes decorations from ETSY. Even just artificial thorans that we find in Indian stores can give a festive touch to your home.

Nearby Diwali Events:

Nowadays, multiple Diwali events are happening in the city where I live. A regionally-specific one, Diwali Mela (search Diwali under Events section in Facebook) and Temple Mela are some examples. Almost all of the time, they end the celebration with fireworks. And these events are always during weekends. The good thing is, this event is for the whole family and no one gets bored by attending a Diwali mela. My personal favorite is watching dance performances, while my husband’s favorite is hitting all the food stalls 🙂

Although these ideas are not equal to celebrating the festival with all our extended family in India, we still can create some special memories with our own family if we plan ahead and try the above ideas. My first kid is 3 years old and is starting to understand festivals and special occasions now. I can’t wait to create some special memories again during this Diwali!

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali, no matter where you are!

Note: this post is in collaboration with OxigenUSA.

An Easy Idea To Get Rid Of Shower Stains

An Easy Idea To Get Rid Of Bathroom Shower StainsDo you spend too much time cleaning the shower and still see some residues that are not going away? I came across this DIY cleaning hack around 5 years ago when I was trying to get rid of a hard stain on our bathroom shower. It’s super simple and doesn’t require any scrubbing or hard work.

Required:

Directions:

  1. Soak the cotton balls in bleach and cover the unclean areas with bleach soaked cotton balls
  2. Let it sit overnight
  3. In the morning, remove the cotton balls and wash with plain water

As I mentioned above, you only spend few minutes to prepare the cotton balls and few minutes in the morning to clean the area. Just make sure everyone at home stay away from the bathroom till you clear it in the morning.

This hack never fails and works every single time.