8 Fall Chores You Can't Afford to Ignore - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

8 Fall Chores You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Do these maintenance tasks now and reap the rewards later

By Paul HopePublished October 15, 2016, | Updated September 22, 2021

Early fall is the right time to get your yard and house in order because come winter, small problems can turn into expensive nightmares.

Consumer Reports’ money-saving checklist covers everything from fallen leaves to your furnace. And many of these fall chores cost little more than time and effort. “A little bit of preventive maintenance now will help you avoid big hassles in the future,” says John Galeotafiore, who oversees CR’s testing of outdoor power equipment and other home gear.

Outdoor Fall Chores With Immediate Payoff

Once the winter freeze-thaw cycle kicks in, a tiny leak in your roof can turn into a crevasse—and a $10,000-plus repair job. Clogged gutters and dribbling spigots can also do a lot of damage, so take advantage of the cooler weather to do home and yard repairs and spruce-ups.

Get Some Leaf Relief

Fallen leaves can kill grass when they’re matted down by snow. Leaf piles can also attract rodents. But using leaf bags means work, and waste if they go into a landfill.

What to do: Make use of your lawn mower’s mulching mode. Ground-up leaves nourish the soil, which saves you money down the line. You might need to make a few passes to slice the leaves small enough to decay.

What you save: Along with saving the cost of leaf bags (Americans spend millions of dollars a year on bags alone), you sidestep the back-breaking stooping and bending of raking and bagging. When it’s time to replace your mower, use our ratings to find a model that’s the right fit for your yard.

Check the Roof

Leaks can eventually damage the wood sheathing and rafters below your shingles, leading to thousands of dollars in repairs.

What to do: Use binoculars to spot cracked, curled, or missing shingles safely from the ground. Consider having a roofing pro check flashing around chimneys, skylights, and roof valleys for leaks, and the rubber boots near vents for cracks that can let moisture seep in.

What you save: At roughly $3 per square foot installed, new sheathing would total $6,900 for a 2,300-square-foot house if you had to replace all of it. Figure on an additional $7,000 to $10,000 to install new shingles, plus added costs if the roof rafters need replacing. Worst case, and you need a new roof? See CR’s top-rated shingles across the three categories we test, below.

Clear Gutters

Gutters stuffed with leaves, pine needles, and other debris can let the water spill over the side, pool around your home’s foundation, and seep inside. Water that freezes in gutters can force snow and ice into roof shingles, causing damage and leaks.

What to do: Consider a gutter-guard system to keep debris out. Make sure that gutter drains extend 5 feet from the house and that soil slopes away from the foundation 1 inch per foot for 6 feet or more.

What you save: It costs about $300 per year for a pro to clean gutters in the fall and spring. That might be worth it rather than risking a fall off a ladder if you do the job yourself.

Close Your Hoses

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Shield Insurance Agency - Types of insurance and the insurance companies Shield is proud to represent

Shield Insurance Agency Product List

Types of Insurance Shield Agency Provides

Shield Insurance Agency has been in business for so many years, we can shop a lot of different companies for a lot of different types of insurance to be sure you get what you need for the price you can afford. Check out the list!

Personal

  • Auto Insurance
  • Boat Insurance
  • Condo Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Event Insurance
  • Farm Insurance
  • Flood Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Mobile Homeowners Insurance
  • Motorcycle Insurance
  • Motorhome Insurance
  • Recreational Vehicle Insurance
  • Renter Insurance
  • Term Life Insurance

Business

  • Auto Facilities
  • Bond Insurance
  • Business Interruption
  • Cannabusiness
  • Church Insurance
  • Commercial Auto
  • Commercial Property Insurance
  • Contractor Insurance
  • Cyber Liability Insurance
  • General Liability Insurance
  • Group Health Insurance
  • Group Life Insurance
  • Liability Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance
  • Security Bond Insurance
  • Workers Compensation

Insurance Companies Shield Agency is Proud to Represent

AAA
Accident Fund
Aegis
Ambetter
American Modern
ASI
Assurity
Berkshire Hathaway GUARD
Berkshire Hathaway Homestate
Blue Cross Blue Shield/BCN
Bristol West
Companion Life
Conifer
Delta Dental

Foremost
Freemont
Genworth
Golden Rule
Grange
Hanover
HAP
Hiscox
Humana
ING
Liberty Mutual
Liberty Union
Medishare
Molina Healthcare
National General
Nationwide

North American Company
Philadelphia
Principal Financial Group
Priority Health
Progressive
Reinsurepro
RLI
Safeco
State Auto
Superior Flood
The Hartford
Transamerica
Travelers
United Healthcare
Unum
Wolverine


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When Disaster Strikes What to Put in Your Medication Go Bag - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

When Disaster Strikes: What to Put in Your Medication Go Bag

Atlantic hurricane season is a good reminder that everyone should prepare this potentially lifesaving kit

By Consumer ReportsLast updated: July 05, 2021

A well-stocked Medication Go Bag can be used to soothe a cut or burn—or to save your life during a hurricane, flood, fire, or other emergencies.  

But it’s important not to wait until you’re faced with the need to leave your home in a hurry to assemble your medication go bag, says Geoffrey C. Wall, Pharm.D., a professor of pharmacy practice at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Whether you buy a kit from a drugstore or build it yourself, Wall recommends that all households keep a medication go bag on hand. It should contain the essentials, including: 

  • At least seven days’ worth of over-the-counter and prescription medications you take on a regular basis. Label the containers clearly, and include a printed-out list of everything you take and the regimen for each medication, plus a copy of your health insurance card (in case you need medical care while you’re away from your home).
  • An antihistamine for allergic reactions, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl Allergy and generic) or loratadine (Claritin and generic).
  • Pain relievers, including acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and generic), or naproxen (Aleve and generic).
  • Stomach and antidiarrheal remedies, including loperamide (Imodium and generic) and bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol, and generic).
  • An antacid for heartburn, such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums, or generic.
  • Antiseptic wipes; an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin, Bacitracin Plus, Curad, or generic (use only for infected wounds); and bandages, gauze, and tape, for treating burns, cuts, and wounds.
  • Mosquito repellent to prevent bites, and aloe gel, hydrocortisone cream, or calamine lotion to soothe bites and skin irritation.
  • An eyewash solution for flushing out eye irritants.
  • Water-purification tablets.
  • Scissors.
  • Thermometer.
  • Tweezers.

If you and your family have special medical needs, you can build a more sophisticated medication go bag—for example, one that contains hearing aids with extra batteries, an epinephrine auto-injector, glasses, contact lenses, or syringes.

Fill Prescriptions in Advance

For prescriptions, you and your family members take, consider asking your doctor for 60- or 90-day refills rather than a month’s worth. That way, you’re more likely to have extras on hand for your medication go bag. (This can also save you money.)

Always fill prescriptions on the first day you become eligible for a refill, rather than waiting until the day you run out. If you are able to obtain an emergency supply, establish a plan for rotating your go-bag supply so that it remains up to date. And remember to check medications periodically to ensure that they have not expired.

“During an emergency, some states allow pharmacists to dispense an emergency supply of medications without doctor authorization,” Wall says. But, he adds, “certainly if a known potential disaster, such as a hurricane, is predicted, make sure you have prescription meds and supplies before it hits.”

You might also ask your health insurance company to assist you in obtaining enough medication and supplies to have on hand.

Storing and Maintaining Your Kit

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Sparta Hay Bale Decorating Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Decorating a Hay Bale in Sparta Michigan

Sparta Hay Bale Decorating Contest!

TO DECORATE:

Email chamber@spartami.org to register to decorate a bale! A location will be randomly selected for you, the hay bale decorating must be completed by Sept. 12

DISPLAY:

The decorated bales will be on display from Sept. 13-Sept. 26

TO VOTE:

Voting will be done TWO ways: 1, we will have a “like” contest on a Facebook post (that will be posted with a photo of each bale, this will be posted September 14!) AND voting will take place IN PERSON during Michigan Apple Fest in the Sparta Chamber Offices! The combination of both votes will be the placing of 1st, 2nd, 3rd places!

PRIZES:

The top 3 places will be awarded $100 in SPARTA BUCKS!

RULES: The hay bale must stay upright as you find it. Add decor, paint, pics, etc. into the hay bale, the items must be removed by Sept. 26 or the items will be thrown away. Photos of your bale will be taken on Monday, September 13 for voting.

We are getting so excited, we wanted to pull up some photos from last year for some inspiration!!

Click here for the details!

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How to Get Rid of Stuff at Home - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

How to Get Rid of Stuff at Home

Our decluttering tips will help you figure out what you no longer need

By Kevin Doyle | August 05, 2021 | 535 SHARES

ILLUSTRATION: SAM ISLAND

Sealed in a plastic bag in the back of Kris Schwartz’s bedroom closet is the student nurse’s uniform that her mother wore 80 years ago, complete with pinafore and removable cuffs. Her mother’s nursing cape hangs in a downstairs closet, and a journal her mother-in-law kept is safely stashed in the desk drawer of a home office. These relics are just a metaphorical speck in the “tsunami of stuff” Schwartz says she and her husband have accumulated in their Maine home over the decades.

“I have loads of books, mementos, baby clothes, and letters from people I’ve forgotten about stuffed in my closets and my cellar,” Schwartz says. “The garage is so full it’s sometimes hard to get a car into. Most of it serves no purpose or function, but I can’t get rid of it.”

Marie Kondo’s approach to tidying up may have inspired her fans to fold their underwear like origami, but it took a pandemic for many Americans to start to deal with their surfeit of stuff. “A lot of people suddenly needed to find space for two home offices as well as schooling at home,” says Cindy Sullivan, president of the nonprofit Institute for Challenging Disorganization. “The pandemic definitely contributed to a lot of decluttering.” Many secondhand and resale stores, hauling companies, and professional organizers have reported an uptick in business.

Rule 1: Get Ready to Let Go

For Dawn Castagna, a health industry executive in New York, getting started is the hardest part. “Analysis paralysis definitely applies to me,” she admits. “My wife says, ‘We haven’t used it, so it’s going.’ But I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t know. Who would be the right person to give it to? Should we sell it?’ And when I’m not sure about the right way to get rid of something, I just stop.” If you’re facing similar struggles, these three questions can help jump-start the process:

1. Do you really need it? Anything you don’t use or have multiples of can probably go. “Nobody needs 18 spatulas,” Ferrari says.

2. Can you easily replace it? Amanda Scudder, MSW, a professional organizer in Richmond, Va., recommends the $20/20-minute rule: Anything that would cost $20 or less and take 20 minutes or less to acquire again can probably go without creating much regret.

3. If you’re not using it now, will you want it in five or 10 years? “If it’s already in storage, ask yourself why you need to keep it,” says Amy Tokos, president of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals.

You also want to start small. Instead of tackling the garage, start with clothes. “Once you see how much lighter and more energized you feel after decluttering your wardrobe,” Scudder says, “you can take that energy into tougher categories.”

Ferrari recommends not handling anything you’re considering getting rid of. “It’s better to have a friend or professional organizer hold it up for you,” he says. “Once you touch it, you’re more likely to keep it.”

Ground rules also help. For photos, consider deciding ahead of time that you’ll toss all doubles and blurry images.“The fewer items of sentimental value you keep, the more valuable they’ll actually be to you,” Tokos says.

Apart from the many practical reasons to free up space—having to climb over boxes to get to your car can really slow you dow­n­—living in an environment strewn with stuff can have negative emotional consequences. “The more clutter people are surrounded by, the less sense of home and the less sense of life satisfaction they have,” says Joseph Ferrari, PhD, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and an expert on the clutter-procrastination link.

If you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed by your possessions, our five rules can help you lighten up and possibly earn a little money or help others in the process.

Rule 2: Prep Things Right

A fear of billing disputes makes it difficult for CR member B. Reinhardt to part with mounds of old paper. “I feel fantastic when I donate things other people need,” she says. “Unfortunately, nobody needs my receipts, so I have them all as far back as 2006, zipped into an old suitcase hidden in my closet.” Other people may have a hard time letting go of credit card statements and other seemingly important papers due to worry about security issues or identity theft.

When it comes to paper, you only need to hang on to birth and death certificates, passports, a few years of tax records (see “A Taxing Matter,” above), wills, medical powers of attorney, marriage licenses, Social Security cards, medical records, and a handful of other documents. Shred the rest to protect yourself against fraud, experts say. (And be sure to fully empty items like purses and pants pockets before getting rid of them.) Shred or rip apart junk mail to prevent thieves from, say, responding to credit card offers sent to you. Many UPS and FedEx branches and office-supply stores offer shredding for a fee, and some businesses and communities sponsor free shredding events.

Digital devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones may also contain financial documents, photos, and other private information that could make you vulnerable to identity theft. Backing up the contents, erasing computer hard drives, and restoring the devices to factory settings offer a significant level of protection. Find online instructions for erasing hard drives by searching for “What to do before you sell” at support.apple.com for Apple products and support.microsoft.com for PCs. (The only way to completely protect yourself is to remove and destroy the computer’s hard drive. Check ifixit.com for tutorials.) For smartphones, search “Restore phone to factory settings” and the brand.Illustration: Sam IslandQ: What can I do with my old laptop? And how do I save­—and safeguard—the photos and other data on it?A: You can back up data and photos on another computer, an external drive, or in the cloud. Then, after taking security precautions (see “Prep Things Right,” below), you can donate, recycle, or try to sell it. Some municipalities and schools collect e-waste, often around Earth Day each April. There’s a robust online market for used electronics, and trade-in programs from manufacturers like Apple and chains like Best Buy.

Rule 3: Sell Smarter

Some of your unneeded stuff may mean money in the bank if you can unload it via an online option. In addition to eBay, there are a number of web- and app-based sales platforms that give you access to a much larger pool of potential buyers than a traditional yard or tag sale.

CR member Deborah DeMaria says she has made several thousand dollars over the past couple of years selling jewelry and clothing online. “You may only get 20 cents on the dollar for some things,” she says. “But if it’s been sitting unworn in your closet or your garage for 10 years, you have to ask yourself ‘Do I want it there another 10 years or would I rather have $200 for it?’ ”

Before you sign on with any platform, research the value of that vintage vase or extra tool set you want to sell. One way to do that is to check for the “sold” price of similar items. “There’s almost nothing that someone else hasn’t already sold on eBay or Craigslist,” DeMaria says. Then consider the time and energy it may take to sell it. “Will it be a 10-hour project to earn $50?” Tokos says. “You have to decide whether that’s worth it to you.” The rules, types of items sold, and fees and payouts vary from platform to platform, so look at several to decide which one might work best for you. For instance:

Facebook Marketplace features a wide range of items including vehicles, electronics, clothing, home furnishings, office supplies, and sporting goods. You post descriptions and photos, and make arrangements for payment (such as cash or PayPal) and delivery (mail or in-person pickup). “My wife usually donates things,” Castagna says, “but I recently tried Facebook Marketplace to sell four air conditioners that had been sitting unused in my garage. I was amazed that they sold in 12 minutes and I made $800.”

Facebook takes a 5 percent selling fee for any items that are shipped. If your item doesn’t sell, you can opt to offer it free.

Poshmark focuses on apparel, accessories, and beauty and home goods. You list your item and ship it to the buyer with a prepaid shipping label that Poshmark provides. For all sales under $15, it takes a flat $2.95; with higher sales, it keeps 20 percent.

ThredUp, which sells women’s and children’s clothing in new or like-new condition, has you send your garments directly to it to be sold. You can earn an immediate payout on items that are on trend, in season, and in excellent condition; you get paid for others after they sell. The company says it pays between 3 percent and 80 percent of the final selling price. (Garments that sell for $200 or more have the highest payout.)

The RealReal is for designer and other high-end men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, watches, artwork, furniture—even skis and snowboards. You ship items to the company for free. (In limited areas, you can schedule an at-home pickup or drop-off at a retail location of The RealReal). You’ll typically net between 40 and 85 percent of the selling price. For certain types of items, including fine jewelry, watches, and handbags, you may get a payout before they’re even sold.

Rule 4: Donate Wisely

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CR's Guide to Getting Better Internet Without Busting Your Budget - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

CR’s Guide to Getting Better Internet Without Busting Your Budget

How to solve WiFi problems and trim your monthly bill. Plus, what CR is doing to get everyone faster, cheaper broadband.

By Consumer ReportsJuly 13, 2021

Over the past 18 months, our home internet connections have helped us reach family, friends, and colleagues. They’ve been both practical tools and a needed source of entertainment during a difficult time.

That may be why 76 percent of Americans agree that internet service is as important as electricity or water, according to a February nationally representative Consumer Reports survey of 2,514 U.S. adults (PDF).

But using the internet at home can be frustrating, too, as many people confront dropped video-calls and sputtering movies—along with confusing bills and poor customer service. The good news is that some broadband problems are easy to fix. The following information can help you do that and maybe even help you save a bit of money.

To learn more about the issues that affect internet customers, Consumer Reports is launching a project called Broadband Together along with several other nonprofit organizations to collect and analyze tens of thousands of internet bills. You can read more about the project, and then consider joining the effort by taking an internet speed test, sharing a bill, and providing us with some basic information. 

The information we gather will help us learn how much people are paying in neighborhoods across the country, whether they’re getting what they were promised, and whether prices are fair.

If the internet is glitchy in your home, the first step toward a solution is to pinpoint the problem. And it helps to understand how online material—be it a Netflix show, Zoom call, or social media post—gets to you.

As you can see in the illustration below, movies, email, and other data are funneled by internet service providers (ISPs) through a series of cables and wires to homes with wired service. 

If something’s not working, the problem could lie outside your home and may require a call to the company to fix. Or the trouble could be with your home WiFi network, which distributes information wirelessly to your computers, TVs, and other devices.

Which is it? To figure that out, an easy first step is to test your internet speed.

How to Test Your Speed For Better Internet

It’s useful to know how fast data moves into and out of your home. To find out, you can check your speed at Measurement Lab or Speedtest. With a click or two, you’ll learn your download speed (how fast data such as a movie streams into your home), and your upload speed (how fast data like your end of a Zoom call streams out). The numbers, measured in megabits per second (Mbps), will vary a bit each time. If possible, first run a test with a computer that’s physically plugged into your router using an Ethernet cord. The results may vary a bit each time you run the test. But if the speeds are consistently much slower than the maximum speeds promoted by the ISP for your plan, call the company. Then do the same test wirelessly (over WiFi) throughout the house. If it’s only the WiFi speeds that are slow, focus on your router to find a solution. 

Is Your Service Level Fast Enough?
ISPs generally offer several plans, each promising a different range of speeds—the faster the connection, the more you pay. So which plan is right for you?

It depends on how many people you have at home and what they do online. You need only around 1 Mbps to listen to a Spotify song and 4 Mbps for a Zoom call—but 25 Mbps to watch a 4K movie on Netflix.

The numbers are cumulative. If two TVs are streaming 4K movies at the same time, that’s 50 Mbps.

Every ISP has its own tiers, but you can use the speed ranges below to see where you fit in. Many people may pay for more speed than they really need.

Up to 100 Mbps
This is plenty for two or three people with routine needs. That includes Zoom calls, high-definition movie viewing, and some online game play.

100 to 300 Mbps
These speeds should accommodate even a data-hogging family that plays several 4K movies and taxing online games all at the same time.

300-Plus Mbps
Few households need more than 300 Mbps. If you have internet problems, the solution is probably not to slap down the plastic for your ISP’s priciest superfast service.

Make Your WiFi Better

Let’s say you’ve signed up for the right internet service tier, and your speed testing confirms that your ISP truly is delivering the speeds it has promised. If your internet service is still acting finicky, the problem very likely lies with your WiFi network. You can probably fix things by fiddling with the equipment in your home. Below, CR has four expert tips to help, starting with the simplest and cheapest. And we have more detailed WiFi advice, as well. 

1. Try Moving Your Router
Tempting though it may be to banish your router from public view, exiling it to a cabinet or the outskirts of your home can hinder performance. That forces the WiFi signal to pass through more walls and other barriers, and to cover longer distances, to reach every corner of the house.

Place the router out in the open, away from corners, and high in the room. (The signal tends to be stronger below the router than above it.) Also, locate the router as close as possible to the middle of your home. You may be able to move it yourself, or you might need some help from your ISP or a handy friend.

2. Use an Ethernet Cord
If you’ve ever had a movie night derailed by sputtering WiFi, you know the feeling (major letdown). Need a more stable signal? A $10 or $20 Ethernet cable can save the day, linking a TV, streaming video box, or video game console directly to your router.

3. Use an Inexpensive WiFi Extender
Need to push a WiFi signal a little deeper into your home? A $30 palm-sized WiFi range extender could be the answer. Plug it into an outlet midway between your router and, say, the comfy reading chair in your bedroom, and it stretches the signal. There’s a catch, however: That extended signal can be only half as fast as the rest of your WiFi network, making this a great fix for emails, but maybe not movies.

4. If Needed, Invest in a Mesh Router
If you’re looking to improve WiFi coverage throughout your home, a mesh router system may be the way to go. Unlike a traditional router, which toils away on its own, a mesh router uses multiple units—a hub and one or two satellites—that work together to spread the WiFi network from one end of your abode to the other. If there’s a dead zone in the den, you can move the satellites around to eliminate it. You can also add satellites to broaden the network’s reach. Mesh routers used to cost up to $500, but prices have fallen in the past 15 months. You can now find highly rated mesh routers for less than $200.

Avoid Overpaying

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How to transform your backyard into a restaurant - Shield Agency Insurance Blog

How to Transform Your Backyard Into a Restaurant-Worthy Oasis with Outdoor Lighting

How to Transform Your Backyard Into a Restaurant-Worthy Oasis with Outdoor Lighting

We asked the pros how to install magical, twinkling outdoor lights — on a budget.

This year’s hottest venue? Your own backyard. Maybe you’ve got the plants and furniture down, but you want to take the space truly over the top, so it looks just as incredible as your favorite restaurant’s outdoor dining setup. Short of splurging on a fancy firepit area building outdoor awnings, there’s a functional, budget-friendly move you can make that’ll totally set the mood. And that’s installing outdoor lighting like a pro.

Many restaurants hire lighting companies to put up their twinkly string lights, but that can set you back thousands. With the right tips and tricks, you can totally DIY. That’s why we turned to event and experience production company Cloth and Flame. Their team is so adept at installing lighting, they can rig it up in the even the most remote places (think: the top of the Grand Canyon or the middle of a dessert). Here is their creative, resourceful advice.

Choose the Right Type of String Lights

Google “string lights” or “café lights” and hundreds of different varieties will pop up. Nathan Lesueur, the lead designer at Cloth and Flame gives us guidance.

Avoid interior lights. Stay away from Christmas lights or anything that’s labeled as an interior light, because these won’t be weather-proof.

Read buyer reviews. Amazon and Costco are great sources for inexpensive string lights, but terms on sellers’ pages like “industrial” or “commercial” don’t mean much. “My only reliable source, no matter what I’m buying is doing the research and reading verified reviews of what other people have experienced that item,” Lesueur says.

Make sure the bulbs are generic and replaceable. Bulbs might break when you install the lights, and they’ll burn out over time. You want to make sure that you can buy generic replacements that screw in. Proprietary bulbs will be more expensive and harder to source down the line.

Buy long strands instead of connecting strands end to end. 25-feet-long lights are the most common, but for safety reasons there’s usually a limit to the number you can plug together. To achieve lots of light yardage, look for 50-foot or even 100-foot light strands.

Use warm light, not cool light. “Warm bulbs are more natural and better on skin tones that bright white daytime lights or LED bulbs. Warm light is like the glow of the sun as opposed to a bright refrigerator light,” explains Lesueur. Plus, warm light photographs better than cool light. “It’s fun to create a sanctuary at home that’s also photographable so people want to share it,” says Lesueur.

Install Your String Lights with Upcycled Materials

There’s no need to buy a crazy expensive lighting kit. Instead, there are some simple, inexpensive ways to repurpose items around your home as lighting poles. “The best things you can use are practical, everyday things and are also reusable for other functions,” Lesueur says.

Some smart ideas? Home Depot sells flagpole yard inserts, which lots of people use. You can also buy inexpensive electric polls that are usually used as conduits. Home Depot will cut these lightweight polls to whatever height you’d like — they’re easy to mount to a wall, stick in the ground in your yard or even secure upright in an umbrella stand. If you prefer a wooden look, head to Ikea, and snag some wooden poles.

If you don’t want to hang your lights between poles, use natural suspension points like the side of your house or the support beams underneath a deck ceiling.

One thing to keep in mind? You should hang your lights so they fall in arches. “I’ve noticed with a lot of installations of this type of light, people trying to pull the lights too tight and that causes tension issues on the poles,” Lesueur explains. Plus, allowing the lights to drape down adds dimension from multiple angles — above you and to the side of you.

Make Your Setup Pop with Other Lighting Too

Click here for the rest of the story… and some great photos too!

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Shield Insurance Nominated for Business Excellence Award - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Shield Insurance Nominated for Business Excellence Award

Shield Insurance Nominated for Business Excellence Award by Hudsonville Chamber of Commerce

Big News from the Hudsonville Chamber of Commerce!

It’s Awards Season!


The Chamber is SO excited to be hosting the Chamber Awards once again this year!

Here are our nominees for the 2021 Awards!

::::: drumroll :::::

Business Excellence Award

  • Hudsonville Physical Therapy
  • Advent Physical Therapy
  • Shield Insurance Agency

Leadership Award

  • Dr. Therese House-Vereeke
  • Patrick Waterman
  • Mary Jane Schreur

Spark Award

  • Hand 2 Hand Ministries
  • Meijer
  • Joy 99

The winners of the Awards will be announced at our official Awards Ceremony MEAL. June 17th at noon at the Pinnacle Center.

Make sure to get registered, we hope to see you there!

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8 Easy Steps to a More Organized Home - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

8 Easy Steps to a More Organized Home

An Organized Home: Even small efforts to declutter can lead to tidier spaces

En español | We love to think about decluttering and having an organized home. But we don’t always love to do it.

Last year, people binge-watched The Home Edit on Netflix to see pantries and bookshelves organized in a rainbow of colors and messy garages and bedrooms transformed. In the past, people have Marie Kondo–ed their closets and drawers by tossing items that don’t spark joy.

It can be hard to get around to decluttering in real life, even when people are spending more time at home because of COVID-19. But a few small steps can help jump-start the effort and may even improve your mental health just as much as your home.

“The more clutter you have, the less happy you tend to be,” says Joseph Ferrari, a professor at DePaul University, who along with his research partner has studied the negative impact of all that stuff. “The more you have, the less life satisfaction people report.”

Decluttering for an organized home made simple

After Beverly LaZar went through a divorce and began contemplating a move, she assessed what she wanted to take with her. LaZar, 52, from Cedar Crest, New Mexico, realized her family had “accumulated a great deal of stuff” after living in one place for 24 years. Much of it was squirreled away in boxes in her garage, barely looked at.

She’s decided to tackle organizing what’s accumulated in those boxes. “I do not wish to move all of these things across the country,” she says.

Simple Ways to Declutter Your Spaces

  1. Start by removing trash.
  2. Begin by choosing one small area to organize — like a drawer.
  3. Sort items into three piles: Keep, donate and toss.
  4. Find a specific home for everything you intend to keep — for example, a hook for your keys.
  5. Group similar items together, instead of storing them in multiple places, so you always know where to find them.
  6. If you buy something new, pledge to get rid of something else to limit items in your home.
  7. If you’re holding on to items to pass to the next generation, ask your heirs if they want the items. Be prepared for them to say no, and be gracious.
  8. Don’t try to do everything all at once. Schedule limited amounts of time to work on decluttering and organizing on a regular basis.

The older you get, the more mugs, memorabilia, furniture, books, papers, and accessories seem to pile up. So where to begin when it comes to organizing and decluttering?

“I always suggest starting with removing the trash first,” says Nikki Bell, a professional organizer in Houston. “Grab a trash bag and just walk through the space throwing away anything broken, damaged, or actual trash.”

Cardboard boxes can take up a lot of space, so removing them changes the way you view a room, Bell says. After that, pick one small area to tackle, like a drawer, to ease yourself into the work.

To start her decluttering project, Sabrina Hamilton, 52, of Colorado, picks one room, assesses the clutter, and starts sorting, using a system many professional organizers follow.

“I create three piles: what I’ll keep, what I’ll donate, and what I’ll throw away,” she says. “With each item, I’m considering, I decide if it’s meaningful, useful, or useless.” Meaningful items get to stay, useful items that she no longer wants are passed along, and useless stuff goes in the trash.

From there, Andrew Mellen, a professional organizer in New York City, encourages people to start organizing. He suggests following what he calls his “organizational triangle” — “one home for everything; like with like; and something in, something out.”

That means:

  • Everything has a spot where it lives. For example, “your keys have a home and they’re either in their home or they’re in your hand unlocking something,” Mellen says.
  • Like with like involves organizing your belongings so that “all like objects live together — not most of them,” Mellen says. That means storing all tools in a toolbox and not leaving a stray screwdriver in a junk drawer.
  • Something in, something out helps manage the number of items in a home. If you buy something new, something has to be donated, given away, or trashed.

Letting go of items can be hard

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Get Gardening Muscles in Shape and Prevent Injuries - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Get Gardening Muscles in Shape and Prevent Injuries

Get Gardening Muscles in Shape and Prevent Injuries. Before digging, pruning, and planting, make sure you’re ready for the work

by Susan Moeller, AARP, March 15, 2021

Christine Zellers tries to run five miles every day and, at 53, considers herself to be in shape. But even she admits that gardening can leave her sore and achy.

“I feel it, especially in the beginning of the season,” she says. 

Zellers, an assistant professor of family and community health sciences with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, New Jersey, teaches gardening, leads group exercise classes, and grows vegetables and herbs in her own garden in Ocean City, New Jersey. To protect her body, she tries to remember to stretch and limber up before heading out to dig, plant, or lug big pots around.

“You want to be thinking about the kind of movement you’re going to do and make sure you’re strengthening those body parts, like your core and your back and your legs and your quadriceps,” she says. “So you want to warm up a little bit just like you would if you were going for a run or doing an exercise class.”

Gardeners and health experts warn against jumping into gardening activities without some pre-game preparation to build strength, stamina, and aerobic power and prevent injury. 

For example, if your core body strength is off, your balance is also off, making falls a risk, says Maura Daly Iversen, a physical therapist and dean of the College of Health Professions at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. And you need the aerobic capacity to do the work, she says.

“My friends that don’t garden think it’s light work,” says Iversen, who admits to being an “over-50” gardener. “But it can be pretty hefty work when you’re removing bushes and whatever. So I think cardiovascular fitness is also important.”

No gym membership needed

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