Archive for How To

Unpack Quickly and Efficiently: Tips from a Professional Organizer

This month, we wanted to introduce you to our friend Ellen of Southern Sequence. She’s a professional organizer, and is guest blogging for us with some great thoughts on making your move as efficient as possible. Take it away, Ellen!

We’ve all been there… Or maybe you haven’t (lucky you!). For those of us who have, moving into a new home can be overwhelming and very time consuming. There are boxes everywhere, and you can’t find anything. I think we can all agree the goal is to get out of this state as quickly as possible to resume normal life, but I know that’s not always easy for everyone. So, I’ve compiled my top five tips to get you settled in quickly & efficiently!


It really starts PRIOR to moving, so hopefully you’re reading this early. This step often gets ignored, but in my opinion it is the most crucial to experiencing a stress free move. You don’t want to waste your energy, and often money moving things that are no longer needed. I always suggest starting this process well in advance, so you’re not tossing it all in the moving van at the last minute. I could honestly write an entire post on this subject alone, but for the sake of time I’ll leave you with this… Keep the things you LOVE, NEED & USE. The rest is a candidate for trash, sell or donation.


Another one that starts prior to the move: pack boxes as strategically as possible by room and category.

  • Pack boxes by ROOM. All kitchen items together in boxes. All dining room pieces in another.
  • Put “like items” together in boxes, but be specific. i.e. Don’t put adult shoes in the same box as your kids’ shoes, or bath towels with your kitchen towels. Separate these in their own boxes, so they can easily be placed in the correct room when move-in begins.
  • Clearly label each box by item and the room they belong: “BATH TOWELS – MASTER BATHROOM” or “DISH TOWELS – KITCHEN”.


If the boxes were packed by room then they should now be easily unpacked just the same. Looking at the big picture is too much at this stage. The thought of getting an entire house unpacked is daunting, but tackling just one room is more doable. Pick one room, and focus on that one until it is done. I suggest the kitchen or bedroom first because we all need to sleep and eat! Furthermore, start with your bed linens or eating utensils. Daily use items are the most essential to knock out quickly.


Similar to #3, but important enough to be listed separately. Take the kitchen for example:

  • Map out a general idea of where you would like things to be stored. Choose one cabinet for dinnerware, and a drawer for cooking utensils, etc.
  • Start with one box, fully unpacking it as you go.
    Place those items in the cabinet you planned for them to be stored. Don’t worry about the arrangement at this stage. The goal at this point is to just get them out of boxes.
  • As each box is fully emptied break it down & toss in a pile in the yard or garage to be trashed or recycled later. This helps to keep the clutter at bay, and lets you visibly see your progress.
  • Once everything has been removed from the boxes start arranging them within the cabinets and drawers. Once you dive in you may find that swapping cabinets might be best, and that’s okay. Experiment with a little trial and error until the placement is right for you.


You’ve unpacked every room box by box, and are now ready for the fun part! Decorating. Most of the time each home has a new setup that requires some purchases. A new piece of art for that corner, or baskets and bins to better fit the bathroom cabinets. Before you go out buying I suggest taking an inventory at home, and see what you already have that can fill those needs. If you still come up short then make a very specific list of those needs. Lastly, measure the area those items need to fit. After a big move you don’t want to add returns to your to-do list!

I hope these tips make that daunting move just a little smoother! Thank you to Soft Touch for allowing me to share my craft with you!

More about our guest blogger:
Ellen Cooley is the owner and creator of Southern Sequence. She’s a professional organizer and self-proclaimed DIY enthusiast. Her belief that your home should be your happy place bringing you more joy and less chaos led her to create Southern Sequence, and is what she strives for in every project. You can find more about Ellen on Instagram (@southernsequence) or send her an email if you’d like to talk organizing (

Posted in: How To

Leave a Comment (0) →

Choosing the Right Electricity Provider (And Saving Money)

While we celebrate wedding anniversaries and work anniversaries with fancy dinners and cake, it seems that we often celebrate the anniversary of moving into a new home with a less exciting ritual: renewing our electricity plan.

In Texas, deregulated electricity means that private companies compete to bring electricity to our homes. This creates additional to-do items in the form of managing contracts and renewal dates, but it also creates excellent opportunities to save money if you’re willing to do a little research.

Below are our tips for locking in a great rate – and ensuring that your extra cash goes toward something more inspiring than overpaying an electricity provider.

1. Work to Get a Renewal Date in the Winter

Perhaps those who bring us our electricity forget about our summer demands when it’s chilly outside, or maybe they’re just able to offer better deals then since most people move and begin plans in the summer… but either way, the rates are just cheaper in the winter. If you’re currently on an annual plan that renews in the steamy summer months, choose a 6- or 9-month plan next time so you can lock in the great winter rates the following year.

2. Do Your Research

If the word “research” made you instinctively roll your eyes and search for caffeine, fear not. The great state of Texas makes this process easy – and Soft Touch is hoping to make it even easier.

First, grab a few past electricity bills. These are usually available online through your provider, and having one or two from each season (making note of your usage in kWh) can help you estimate what you will likely end up paying in the future.

Then, visit They have a handy spot where you can familiarize yourself with all of the different plan variables and decide which options are right for you – start there. Once you’re moderately familiar with their vocabulary, go back to their home page. Plug in your zip code and click the “Advanced Options” button. They’ll ask you to answer a few questions. Glance through your old bills to estimate your monthly usage and choose the number that’s closest. On the next screen, narrow down which type of plans (fixed, variable or indexed) you’re interested in. And finally, enter the range of contract lengths you’re willing to consider.
Now, it’s time to shop! They deliver a lovely array of plans for you, and you get to pick the very best for your home. Here are some considerations for making your decision:
If you think you might be relocating in the near future, choose a shorter plan (or at least make note of the cancellation fees). If you’re planning to stay put and are seeing some great rates, consider a longer-term contract.
Name brands aren’t really a big deal here, but glance at the company’s rating and complaints to be sure they’re at least average. Your interactions with them will largely be automatic and online, but you want to be sure they’ll at least try to respond if you need them.
Make note of the “New Customers” designation. You won’t be able to choose one of these plans if you’ve been a client of that particular company in the past.
The average price per kWh is a great benchmark, but consider pulling up their fact sheet and actually doing a rough calculation based on your past usage. Some plans favor lower usage and others favor higher – but the average doesn’t always reflect that.
If it’s important to you that your plan includes renewable energy, narrow your choices based on that using the left filter menu.

Once you’ve found the right one, it’s time to lock it in. Or maybe time to wait…

3. Switch Close to your Renewal Date

Even though your current electricity provider will begin squawking at you to renew several months before your contract is up, you don’t have to let them stress you out.

If you make your trip to the online electricity marketplace more than a couple weeks prior to when you’ll actually need to switch, many companies will actually charge you a fee for allowing your application to sit in their inbox for a month or two. Who likes fees? Not us!

Make a plan, instead. Using your favorite electronic device, or perhaps one of your friends named Siri, Alexa or OK Google, set a reminder. 10 days prior to your renewal date is usually plenty of time to process all of your (virtual) paperwork and to avoid the fees – but double check with your chosen provider to ensure they line up with that.

When your reminder pops up, return to and click that cute little “Sign Up” button. Then cross the item off your to-do list and order your favorite (splurge) coffee drink – you just made a smart decision and saved your family money!

Posted in: How To

Leave a Comment (0) →

Removing More than Cobwebs: Spring Cleaning and Junk Removal

The cold months of winter are long gone, and calendars fill up fast with spring parties and summer vacations. Taking time to tackle an over-packed closet or those boxes in your garage that haven’t been touched in years is a great way to prepare for the new season. Junk removal is not always a priority when life gets busy, so here are ten tips to make your time spent clearing out your space efficient and fun.

  1. Set small goals. Don’t feel like you have to overhaul every dusty nook and cranny in one go. Give yourself a realistic set of expectations and a time frame to get the job done. An attic full of boxes? Take on the first five without stopping, give yourself a short break, then take on the next round. Keep energy up with water and a healthy snack, and make sure you have good ventilation when working for prolonged periods of time.
  2. Be prepared. Use trash and recycled grocery bags to move small items to their proper receptacles. Labeling boxes with packing tape and a thick marker will take out guesswork. Arm yourself with a few cloths and Chlorox wipes to dust and clean surfaces as you go. Once a shelf is empty, give it a wipedown before restocking it. In some cases, you may decide to wear rubber gloves and cover your face from risk of exposure to dust, animal droppings, or mold.
  3. Create a happy cleaning zone. Attitude is everything. If you decide to have a good time while you simplify your life, you will!
  4. Play music while you work. Upbeat songs keep you on track. Check out the “Happy to Be Home” playlist on for fun background sounds to keep the mood up.
  5. Make it a family project. The hall closet or garage are used as the dumping grounds for a busy household. Old sports and camping gear, winter coats and last year’s science project sit neglected and in disrepair. If everyone gets involved, you can work as a team to make quick decisions on what needs to stay put in an organized way, and what can be tossed out.
  6. Keep. If you decide something is a keeper, or just aren’t sure, give yourself a time frame to decide. If in a few weeks or months, the item in question is still taking up space without function, consider moving it down the line. My grandmother’s motto for a neat house is “out of sight, out of mind.” Rather than stuff your junk back in the attic, be honest with yourself and make tough choices on what needs to stay and go.
  7. Donate. Here’s a great way to teach your kids how to give back. When something is no longer useful, but still in relatively good condition, there may be someone else who could enjoy it. Too-small sporting equipment, especially tennis rackets and ski gear, rarely wears out before it is outgrown. If clothes are free of stains or tears, many organizations like Dress for Success, Cinderella Project, and clothing drives at churches and the YMCA will gladly take them. Find local donation centers like Goodwill or other organizations and be sure to get a receipt. Taking photos of what you give is another great way to document your donations for tax purposes.
  8. Resale. There are online communities popping up all the time where private resale transactions are made easy and safe. Check out, the LetGo App and ask around for local email and Facebook communities where you can post and sell gently used items like clothes, furniture and decor pieces. Be sure to pay attention to the guidelines of the group, and always respond promptly to interested buyers.
  9. Trash. Grandma’s old sofa or used mattresses? Broken furniture or large electronics? If it’s something larger than your neighborhood trash collectors can handle, remember that Soft Touch Junk Removal will come to you and haul away any oversized or large quantity items. In addition, certain substances like paint cans, chemical fertilizers and batteries require proper disposal. Let the experts at Soft Touch take care of these items for you with their junk removal services.
  10. Celebrate the small stuff. When you make progress on cleaning out your junk, give yourself a pat on the back. Tackling and finishing a project can give you a sense of accomplishment and well-being. Living life with function, beauty and purpose will improve your outlook and give you pride in your home.

Posted in: How To

Leave a Comment (0) →