Category Archives: how-to

How to move efficiently

We all do it. Some more than others. It’s exciting and scary and fun and annoying, all at the same time. Sometimes we move around the world (wish I could do that again), across the country (once was enough thanks) or down the street (that’s more like it). Either way, I’m finding the more I move, the more crap I’ve accumulated (despite my attempts to downsize at every possible opportunity- seriously, where did I get so much junk from? Oh, I have a shopping addiction? Shut up). So to make the move more efficient, here are some tips to, er, make moving more…efficient (good word choice there, Julia, way to change it up. Fail).

Throw everything in the trash. This includes clothes, electronics, pets, all of it. Just throw it all into the garbage and you won’t have to pack or transport any of it. Or have a bonfire with all your things and roast some marshmallows instead, I don’t really give a shit.

Totally should have used this method for Felix. Would have been so much quieter during transport.

Totally should have used this method for Felix. Would have been so much quieter during transport.

Wait ’til moving day to pack. Whatever is left after you’ve thrown everything else out can wait to actually be boxed up and prepared to go in the truck, car, van, etc., until the day of. No one will mind waiting while you put all your shit in boxes.

Pack the toilet paper somewhere inaccessible. It’s not like that will be the first thing you need when you get to the new place.

Throw a fit when things go wrong. It’s especially helpful when trying to move to make things as difficult as possible for yourself and everyone around you, especially if they volunteered their weekend to help YOU move. Drag your feet a lot, pout and complain at every available opportunity, and if something goes awry (let’s say, it downpours and your mattress gets soaked), let it ruin the rest of your day. There’s no point in being in a good mood whatsoever, because moving isn’t supposed to be fun, anyway, so don’t ruin things by trying to be positive or having a good outlook or some shit like that.

Avoid unpacking as long as possible. There is nothing more homey than a house full of boxes. Not to mention how appealing your new place will be when you have guests over (don’t worry, you’ll definitely make them jealous).

 

If you take any of this seriously, you’re an idiot. But then again, you’re reading this blog so there’s already something wrong with you.

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Filed under Entertainment, how-to, Humor

How to tackle the GREs without losing your mind

For any college graduate considering grad school, the thought of taking the Graduate Record Exams probably brings on thoughts of utter dread. Or thoughts of putting your head through a wall. After studying your ass off years ago for the SATs- only to find out most schools put little emphasis on the scores anymore- and bullshitting your way through 4 (or 5, ehem) years of undergrad courses, taking another standardized test is about the last thing you want to be doing. And when I say you, I mean me. The idea of continuing my education was enticing. But satisfying the GRE requirement was not going to be fun. As the test date approached, and the study book I bought taunted me from some shady corner of my desk, I became less anxious to do well and more anxious to get it over with. I treated it with a certain amount of respect, but I also reminded myself that it really wasn’t a big deal. For most test-takers, anxiety, doubt and sheer terror fester right up until the minute the scores are submitted. But the point isn’t to do the best; it’s about doing your best.

Don’t over-prepare. It’s important to study. It’s probably been a little while since you’ve written analytically -and even longer since you’ve solved or graphed linear equations- so it’d serve you well to do a little brushing up on your test-taking abilities. But don’t be one of those overachieving brown-nosers who bury their faces in their study books night after night, cracking out on espresso at the local Starbucks while they overanalyze every word the Princeton Review has to say about the GREs. Sure, you should buy a study guide- or at the very least, download and print practice tests- but review them sparingly. Don’t read every page in the book. Flip through and scan, selecting random sections to practice and complete. Spend a decent amount of time preparing, but at some point, get on with your life.

Anticipate a long day. The test itself is long, yes, but the pre-test registration and waiting period are annoyingly long by themselves. When you arrive, you’ll probably sit in a big, empty room with stark walls and eerie stillness, wondering what you should be doing or if you’ve come to the right place. Eventually, you’ll be acknowledged by a receptionist of sorts, who will make you fill out and sign a statement of confidentiality. If you’ve brought a drink or snacks, don’t expect to take them in with you. You’ll get a locker for your things, so pray you don’t need them until your allotted break period- usually between sections 3 and 4. These guys mean business, and you can expect a hands-free search, complete with handheld metal detector.

Trust yourself. There will be questions that stump you. You will try to come to the correction conclusion, but no matter how hard you try, you always seem to get an answer that isn’t there- particularly in the quantitative reasoning section. But don’t sweat it. You don’t have enough time to worry about one or two questions, and if you’ve already answered a sufficient amount correctly, a few wrong answers won’t kill you. But what they say about instincts is true, and if you have a strong inclination for one answer over another, go with it. Check the box, but then move on. Don’t linger and second guess yourself, because 9 times out of 10 you change your answer at the last second only to find you had it right in the first place.

Don’t freak out. Sure, you may find yourself frequently panicking, especially the more you come across questions you can’t answer. But don’t fret. Even if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped, this test is not going to make or break your chances at grad school; it just isn’t possible. Remember when you took the SATs, and how stressed you were about being accepted to college with only mediocre scores? Well the SATs didn’t matter much then, and the GREs don’t matter much now. Standardized testing is on its way out anyway. Schools are realizing more and more that one test does not fit all, and that judging a student’s academic capabilities based on this is no longer cutting it.

Just remember: do your personal best, and the rest will take care of itself. And if you still start to hyperventilate, close your eyes and think happy thoughts. Like Charlie the Unicorn. Or laughing penguins. Or double rainbows. Or felines in footwear. Or scary, candy-pushing, grandma-impersonating boys. Or…

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Filed under GREs, how-to, Standardized Testing

How to be German, go crazy and retain (some of) your dignity

October. My favorite month of the year.

It’s the month we get to free our scariest decorations from the darkness of our garages. A time where dressing like a whore is actually encouraged.

It’s a time for corn mazes and pumpkin picking and the infamous Snickers Halloween commercial (of which I can’t get enough of).

And it’s a time for drinking pumpkin spice beer and gorging on German food at Oktoberfest.

There are certain things to remember when attending Oktoberfest. Whether it’s the real deal in Munich, a city-run event or simply a gathering of your closest 100 friends in your backyard, the same tips apply when partaking in the festivities. The more experienced you become, the less likely you are to reject the traditions of this age-old festival. But for those newbies out there who’ve never experienced an Oktoberfest, here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

Now she's got the right idea.

Dressing the part is not required. But it’s certainly appreciated. You don’t have to dress up in German garb to be accepted or allowed into the event. No one is going to shun you for showing up in comfortable jeans and and a tee. But the more outrageous your outfit- especially in terms of authenticity- the more attention you’ll receive and the more fun you’ll have (not to mention all the free beers you’ll get). If you don’t already own the typical German outfit- which, unless you work at a German restaurant or bar, or you are the actual St. Pauli Girl, I highly doubt- don’t fret. Most Halloween stores carry plenty of Bavarian, Hansel & Gretel-type costumes that are reasonably priced and easy to throw on. Or, if you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can fashion your own outfit from different articles of clothing you already own- just make sure you do your homework. Nothing worse than showing up to a German party wearing something out of The Sound of Music. Either way, dressing up is apart of the culture, and it’s always hilarious to see what you and others will show up wearing.

You must drink at least one beer. Even if you don’t like it. Beer is a major part of German culture, so don’t expect to find anything but beer if you go to a big event. Private gatherings might provide a variety of alcohol, but you still need to drink one beer- particularly a German kind- to earn the “right of passage.” After all, you certainly can’t drink a mixed drink from your stein, and if you attempt it, you will never be asked back again.

Eat food. A lot if it. Even if it looks weird or smells funny, you have to try one of everything. It’s an insult to reject food specific to the culture and country to which you are toasting, and you never know, you may surprise yourself and fall in love with a good piece of bratwurst or a creamy, air-whipped eclair (yes, the Germans have them, too). Don’t worry about eating too much, either. With the Germans (or any other European country), you can never eat too much food. You can always fast for the next month to make yourself feel better (although I’m sure there will be too many leftovers to accomplish that).

Most importantly, though, just remember to have a lot of fun. It doesn’t matter that you have to work the next day, or that your wife’s brother, who you can’t stand, is always hovering five feet away. For one whole day-or two weeks if you go to Germany- nothing else matters except immersing yourself in the culture and the festivities and living to tell the stories after (and there will be a lot of stories).

And when all else fails, just get drunk off beer and try and talk to people in German. It’s very difficult and quite entertaining to everyone around you, and who knows, maybe you’ll pass out and wake up German.

Although you’re more likely to wake up in a pool of your own vomit- or worse, someone else’s.

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Filed under Beer, Entertainment, family fun, Food, German, how-to, Oktoberfest

How to hold a successful car wash (and not break the bank doing it)

When it comes to fundraising of any sort, it’s often a gamble as to whether your event will actually be a success. There is always the worry that you will put more into the event financially than you can make back, as well as the stress of planning everything involved. There are no guarantees in fundraising- people are either going to support your cause or not- but there are ways to ensure you are doing everything you can to be successful. There are a million and one kinds of events of you can hold to raise money for your cause, but when it comes to quick and easy, a car wash is always a safe bet.

Plan Ahead. When holding a car wash, you definitely want to make sure the weather is going to be conducive. Nothing worse than having an outdoor event on a day it’s going to downpour- besides, who needs their car washed when the rain will do it for free? After setting a date and time, check the forecast a few days beforehand to make sure the weather is going to hold. If it does look like rain, try and make arrangements to reschedule. These types of events are the ones you market last-minute, so you don’t have to worry about notifying attendees about the date change. If you’ve planned the wash at a local business, check with them to see if rescheduling is a problem; most won’t give you a hard time if the weather is supposed to be bad.

You also want to make sure you have the proper supplies, including man power. Try and keep costs low by getting car wash supplies donated by friends or local businesses. Some businesses, like Advance Auto Parts, actually sponsor car wash fundraisers, and will set you up with a location and supplies for free (nothing like free advertising for their business, too, right?). The point of a car wash is to raise money for your cause or organization, not spend your own out-of-pocket. Make sure you have plenty of soap & sponges, and the proper towels for drying. Bath towels tend to leave fuzz behind on cars, so try and find towels made specifically for automotive use, like the ShamWow or the Absorber. You can find similar products at most auto stores for around $10, and investing in a few for future use (or even your own, personal use) is never a bad thing. But remember, free is always better, so try and get them donated or at the very least loaned for the event. Make sure you have enough hands to help with the washing, rinsing & drying, as the line of cars can back up quick, and people have little patience these days for anything. Recruit your friends and family members to come out for a few hours and lend a hand. Remind them it’s for a good cause and that they owe you for all the hours you spent helping them clean out the back of their dingy garage. Having about 8-10 people to help should suffice, but more is always better, so don’t be afraid to have a lot of people come out.

Advertise. Make sure you create signs to hang the day of the event. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive, but they do have to be legible. Try and make the lettering as big as possible. Buying white poster board is your best bet. Keep it simple with the basics, time, location, etc., and use black sharpie to ensure it’s visible from the road. If you have access to a Xerox machine, creating flyers is also a good way to let people in the area know you are having a fundraiser. Visit local businesses to inquire about leaving hand-outs the day before the event to get the word out to more people. Check back the day of the event to restock your flyers as necessary. Reach out to friends and neighbors through social media sites like Facebook. Creating an event and sending it to your Facebook friends is a fast and effective way to let everyone in the area know what you’re doing. Craigslist ads are also a free and easy way to get the word out to people in your neighborhood you might not know. Consider advertising the car wash as free, with donations accepted (make sure you name your charity). You stand a better chance of raising more money if you don’t set a price for a wash. People are likely to give more if you don’t ask for a specific number- no one likes to look cheap in the face of charity- so make sure your ads scream loud and clear that the fundraiser is free.

Location, location, location! Even with proper marketing and advertising, you still want to make sure you choose a good location, something accessible and in a busy area. Make sure it’s easy to see and easy to get to, and that you have plenty of space to get things done. You are likely to have more traffic in an area people are already driving by, so scout out a few locations before settling on one.

Consider additional fundraising add-ons. In addition to the car wash, consider other options that will draw in passers-by. People may be walking or biking down the street or getting off the bus, so you want to take advantage of driving foot traffic to your event as well. Just because someone doesn’t have a car doesn’t mean they might not stop and donate; they are just more likely to if you have something to draw them in. If you have the space, consider setting up a few tables with smaller, yard sale-type items to sell for donations. If you can get drinks and snacks donated by your local grocer, you can even sell those for a small price. Include information about your cause that people can take away with them, including contact information or a way to donate to you on their own time.

 

No matter how you choose to handle a fundraiser, it’s always important to remember that any donations are better than no donations. Stay level-headed and realistic about your goals, that way when you surpass your dollar amount, you will have more appreciation and satisfaction for all the hard work you put into making your event a success.

And if you’re simply looking for a good place to donate, check out Charity Navigator and find the cause that’s right for you.

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Filed under advertising, car wash, charity, fundraiser, how-to

The pros and cons of yard sales

Over the years, we amass such a collection of knickknacks, mismatched housewares and random odds & ends it’s no wonder yard sales have become an American institution. How else would we unload ourselves of our unwanted possessions, or stock up on someone else’s discarded treasures? As a somewhat minimalist, I’m more for having the sale then prowling local neighborhoods in search of unique and oftentimes quirky finds, but that doesn’t mean filling your yard with clutter comes without it’s annoyances. It may seem like more of a chore than it’s worth, but knowing what your in for ahead of time makes it easier to be successful.

Plan ahead. Check the weather in advance for the day you plan to hold your sale. There’s nothing worse than setting everything up only to have it rained on, and nobody wants to buy someone else’s soggy leftovers. If it’s going to be a hot day, and you plan on sitting outside awhile-you should plan on about 4-5 hours for your sale, more if a steady flow of people continue coming-make sure you have plenty of water and food to keep you energized. I recommend sitting in a shady area, or putting up an umbrella to hang out under while people shop your goods. This also gives you a chance to keep an eye on everything while staying cool. There are going to be lulls in your traffic- people seem to either come all at once or not at all-so you want a comfortable place you can relax and keep an eye on the road while you wait for the next wave of customers.

Depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated, set-up could be a pain in the butt. You need to make sure you have plenty of table space to set your things out on display, and you want to make sure the sale is visible from the street. This is especially difficult if your yard is hidden from view or your house just isn’t in a good location, but proper signs directing people to your sale will help increase intentional traffic; the likelihood of passers-by simply stumbling upon you might be lower, but don’t get discouraged, they will come. Putting signs out and taking them back down again can also get annoying, but if you have others helping you run things, planting signs can be quick and painless. Just make sure you have someone manning the sale while you run around, because the second those signs go up, people will start stopping by. And don’t forget to take them down again when you’re ready to call it quits. For serious yard-salers, an end time on your sign is not going to deter them from coming anyway. I recommend taking the signs down first, then packing up.

If you can, host a multi-family yard sale. As far as yard sales are concerned, the bigger, the better, and the more friends you get to add their junk to your collection, the more enticing it is for passers-by to stop and browse. It also tends to be easier for everyone involved to host one collective sale instead of several individual ones. Not only is it more desirable for shoppers, who have more choices in a single location, it’s more effective for you. The bigger the sale looks from the street, the more customers you get, making it easier to sell most of your things.

Stay organized. If you do host your own sale, try and recruit a few friends to spend a few hours of their day helping out. Having a few extra hands will make things a lot easier on you, especially when it’s time to deal with customers. Most times, you’ll have several people inquiring about items at once, so you want to make sure they have more than one person they can go to.

It’s also a good idea to keep your money in a central location, especially if you have more than one person helping you sell. Keep it in a lock box, or even an old pencil case. You can get them at Office Depot for a couple bucks, and they come in handy for other uses as well. Make sure you start the day with some change, too (not everyone walks around with a pocket full of singles). Twenty or thirty dollars in 1s and 5s should be plenty, just something to get you started before you start raking in the dollar bills.

Be reasonable. It isn’t necessary to put price stickers on every single item you have out, or even at all. Sometimes it’s in your favor not to have stickers, because most people will get deterred if they see a specific price, and might walk away from something they were about to buy or at least inquire about. It’s a good idea to have prices in mind for certain things, and if you have friends helping, even making a list of your items with tentative prices will be helpful when they’re negotiating with customers. Always start a little higher than you know someone’s willing to pay- a buck or two higher will suffice- because most shoppers are professional bargain-hunters, they know how to play the game and they’re going to do everything they can to bring you down on your price. And that’s okay. Just remember to negotiate fairly; this is, after all, a yard sale, not an auction house, so expect most things to go pretty cheaply. If you have something you just can’t bear to sell without getting a specific amount for, label it as such. Anyone who really wants it will be willing to inquire and work out a deal. Or, just keep it out of your sale altogether. There are other avenues you can use to get what you want for it, like eBay and craigslist.

Just remember, no matter how much or how little you sell, you will have less things by the end of your sale, so packing back up will be much quicker. You can put the things you don’t sell away for future sales, or if you’re feeling particularly charitable, there are plenty of organizations that need and accept donations of any kind. Bigger orgs, like Salvation Army and Goodwill, will even make house calls to pick up your donations, making it easier to get rid of some of your bigger items, like furniture.

In the end, it’s a bit of a commitment to hold a yard sale, but if you don’t do anything with your stuff, it’s just going to continue collecting dust in the back of your closet or garage. You may no longer have any use for your things, but, like they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

It also doesn’t hurt to put a few extra bucks in your pocket, too.

Happy selling!

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Filed under bargains, how-to, yard sale