Apartment Living with Energetic Cats

Cats have taken over in some apartment communities. This is no accident. As independent, and somewhat aloof creatures, cats basically take care of themselves, given enough food and water. People who like to travel find this autonomy of cats convenient. Left alone too much, however, cats tend to become rambunctious.

Many have found even cats can be destructive to property. This kind of destruction seems inversely related to physical activity. When the yarn ball unfurls, or the toy mouse doesn’t zig-zag on the floor, your cat is going to need some attention. Whether you play with your cat or not, it needs to burn energy somehow.

This may translate into plucked couches or torn curtains. Take some time out of your day, maybe five or ten minutes, to keep your cat entertained, and let it burn some energy to indulge its instinctual drives. To reduce destructive behavior get a scratch post for them to use. Sometimes it is best to have a scratch post for each room. Anti-scratch tape, generally furniture friendly, also does the trick. Cats abhor the adhesive texture. And, if nothing else, during commercial breaks use a laser to imitate the prey-predator hunt.

Cats are independent, but they’ve also adapted to rely on play for exerting energy and satiating intense instinctual drives. Give your cat a little bit of time each day, and you’ll find its levels of destructive behavior will decrease dramatically.

Are You Ready to Sign the Lease?

Are You Ready to Sign the Lease?As you’ve counted down the days until your lease expires, the time lost to looking at new apartments on Apartments.com or Trulia has made your friends very worried. Why don’t you put that phone down and binge watch Netflix with them? It used to be your favorite thing to do. It’s like nobody knows you anymore. The season is only ten hours long!

So you schedule a tour, and you plan to put all the planning behind you.

It’s not easy, as a matter of adventure and commotion, to keep a level head when touring a new apartment community. The future always looks brighter when it offers new opportunities and remains somewhat unpredictable, especially when the present and past have been less than ideal. Expectations of what can be easily cloud good judgment. But it’s important to not dismiss the mundane things, the things that are forgotten in the fantasies of new life. Nothing is perfect. A level approach to the novelty of a new apartment is the best approach. Put yourself in the best position by considering the following elements before you sign the lease.

Pet Policy

Of course if you have a pet you’ll ask the property manager about the pet policy: whether pets are allowed. More specifically, ask about breed restrictions, or whether the pet has to be house-trained, below a certain weight, or declawed. Learning the specifics of the policy can save you from fines or, worse, eviction.

Parking

Ask whether residents or units are allocated a specific number of parking spots, and whether there is visitor parking that is separate from resident parking. If there is no separation, you might want to ask residents, via social media, what parking typically looks like after a day of work or on the weekend. Is it difficult to get a space? Ask also about the towing policy and how strictly it’s enforced. A strictly enforced towing policy can be a very good thing for residents, especially if they follow the rules. Towing policies are intended to benefit residents and are enforced to ensure residents have parking places.

Typical Utilities Cost

You can call up the utilities company you will be using and ask how much utilities typically cost for the unit you expect to lease. This will give you a good idea of how much you’ll spend each month, besides rent, to cover electricity, water, and the like.

Extra Expenses

Some properties have extra expenses that aren’t discussed with the price of rent. These may include water line hook-up, metering, and trash pickup. These expenses can sometimes be at least $25. Make sure you’re aware of any extra expenses you’ll encounter while living at the property so you don’t overextend your budget.

Noise Level

In the rush to get a new, larger, and nicer apartment, you may forget to consider what a typical day will bring. Look around the community: are the roads busy, what kind of neighborhoods surround it, how much traffic goes through the parking lot? This will be a good time to utilize social media again. Ask past or current residents. Are the walls paper-thin? Is there an airport next door?

It’s a great feeling to know you’re moving to a better apartment. But it’s terrible to realize after a month, that you didn’t think about the day-to-day expenses and hassles. Put yourself in the best position, and don’t let the possibilities of the future make you blind to the realities of the present.

Conquer the Toxic Dust Hidden in Your Home

Conquer the Toxic Dust Hidden in Your HomeMany of us don’t need a substantial push to swap harmful cleaning chemicals for less intrusive alternatives. Who likes dry, bleach-stained calloused hands anyway? As the dangers of indoor dust are well known, it’s becoming apparent the invisible, long term effects of our daily cleaning habits, and lack thereof, can amount to terrifying heights of harm. A recent study that “…analysed 26 peer-reviewed papers, as well as one unpublished dataset, from 1999 onwards to examine the chemical make-up of indoor dust…” found nearly 90% of dust samples contained particles linked to cancer and infertility, as reported by The Guardian. These findings were due in no part to small sample size: “The studies covered a wide range of indoor environments, from homes to schools and gymnasiums across 14 states.”

With the satisfactory appearance of Clorox’s clean glaze over countertops and the refreshing scent of Febreze floating like a lazy cloud from one room to the next, just when our homes seem cleanest, we may actually be most vulnerable. Altering what you buy, from harsh chemical cleaners to safer alternatives, isn’t the only thing you can do to curb indoor pollution, and doesn’t account for much of the problem. Your clean home houses hidden hazards.

The problem of indoor pollutants may appear at first glance counterintuitive. How could vanquishing bacteria, viruses, and who-knows-what-else from dirty floors and countertops, bathrooms and kitchens, ultimately harm us? Your everyday cleaners aren’t particularly handy for the real problem. The issue is that some chemicals in our couches and mattresses, our vinyl flooring and carpeting, contain flame retardants, known to cause cancer, affecting the reproductive and nervous systems, and phthalates, found in personal care products and food packaging, which “have been linked to developmental problems in babies, hormone disruption, and are also thought to affect the reproductive system.”

These chemicals, especially when imprisoned in a house on lock-down for the winter, can accumulate and mingle with dust in your home. “The researchers highlighted 45 toxic chemicals in indoor dust, 10 of which were present in 90% or more of the dust samples – these included flame retardants, fragrances and phenols.” As The Guardian points out, these chemicals, though banned in some products, like bottles and diapers, may not be banned in others, like walls and flooring.

But this isn’t a matter to just throw up our hands over, declaring all proactivity hopeless and ineffective. Singla, from the Environmental Science and Technology journal, writes there are steps we can take to reduce exposure to this toxic dust. One key is, when you are performing regular cleaning duties like wiping off the counters or sweeping, don’t tackle these tasks with dry brooms or paper towels. Use damp mops and cloths to reduce levels of dust. Whereas merely dry materials might kick the dust back in the air, damp materials will cause the dust to clump and aggregate. Also, vacuum regularly, as the suction disposes of the toxic dust in its container. And, of course, activism, to demand accountability, is the surest way to reduce exposure to these chemicals.

Although the problem of indoor pollution is extremely concerning, it’s in your power to reduce exposure. Besides changing the way you clean your home, you can also purchase plants, which help reduce indoor pollution by cleaning the air you breathe. And don’t be afraid to open up your windows when the days are brilliant, and the soft breeze of spring warmly soothes the plants and animals, blooming and bustling outside, stirred by the chance to enter your home like an old, visiting friend.

How to Discuss Clutter with Your Roommate

How to Talk about Clutter with Your RoommateIf you’re living independently for the first time, with a roommate or significant other, you’ll encounter a universal problem: people organize their lives differently. What seems to be clutter to one person will be organized chaos to another. This problem may appear irresolvable to some. If your roommate or significant other doesn’t think about what counts as clutter in the same way you do, how can you change their mind? Luckily, you don’t have to.

Organizing a shared space isn’t about changing anybody’s idea of what is a mess and what isn’t. Actually, it’s just a matter of communication, like most other things, and respect. You live in a common space: you have common goals. Talk about them.

Shared Interests

If you talk about clutter only when you’re annoyed about it, the way you communicate with your roommate or significant other may take the form of blame. You might say, “Why haven’t you picked up your laundry?” Or, “Why is this room still not clean?” This doesn’t do anyone any good.

You live with someone. If you haven’t explicitly decided on what kind of organization you both would like to see for each room, then you cannot appeal to an agreed upon goal. The sentence, “Why is this room still not clean?” appears to be grounded in an agreed upon norm. And that’s why it’s so disorienting and, sometimes, maddening, when people talk this way without establishing, beforehand, what this agreed upon goal is.

Talk about your shared interests, what each of you hope to get from your home, and make compromises. But certainly do not wait until you are aggravated, annoyed, or irritable to bring up how your shared space should be organized.

State how you both want to use the room and accommodate each other’s visions. If your visions contradict, maybe split the space, or try to allocate different spaces for your separate visions.

Agree upon the appropriate items for the space. Then talk about how you’d like to see them stored when not in use.

Conclusion

Most of all be reasonable about your vision. You share space with another person. Sometimes you can’t get everything you want. No matter what you decide about organization, having a discussion about your goals, interests, and expectations is always healthy. And it’s certainly the best way to talk about clutter with your roommate or significant other.

Mottos of the Organized

Mottos of the OrganizedDon’t let your stuff own you

It’s easier said than done. Some people collect so much stuff throughout their lives, they have no idea what to do with it. So they keep it. Then have to pay for space to store it. And the problem just perpetuates itself. When you make financial decisions about where to live, because you have a bunch of stuff that you don’t use but need to bring with you, then your stuff owns you. Don’t let that happen.

When it’s not fun, you’re done

Two questions to ask yourself about the things you own: Are you using it and is it fun? If the objects sitting around your home are never used, why do you keep them? Consider this: clutter in your home contributes to, or may reflect, mental clutter. It may both cause and reflect anxiety. Clear up the things you don’t use, the things that no longer contribute to your life, and notice how it affects your day-to-day mentality.

Free space is worth more than occupied space

When all kinds of objects just occupy space and have no other use, you basically pay for the objects to sit there. It’s like renting out space. And every time you want something new, you’ll have to find a new place for it. This is the cycle that owning too many things all too often becomes.

To get out of this rut, consider the value of free space. Free space is possibility. You can do anything with it.

The past should remain in the past

If you want a change in your lifestyle, consider the objects you surround yourself with. Are they just things of the past, no longer contributing anything to your lifestyle or the lifestyle you want? Are they things that remind you of what you were but don’t want to be? Let everything that holds you back stay in the past. Try surrounding yourself with things that inspire you, things that hold you to a certain level of living.

Getting organized can be very difficult. Disorganization is a habit, and breaking habits is difficult. Remembering these mottos will make it easier to break the chains of habit.

Tips for Storing Books

Tips for Storing BooksIf this is your first time storing books, you might think the process will be as easy as storing anything else: pack them up in boxes and throw them on a shelf. But that’s not exactly the case here. Books are delicate, sensitive to changes in their environments. Store your books with the confidence that they won’t diminish in value.

Preparation

Clean. You might not think dust is a big problem, but it can cause covers to fade, lose texture, and damage their surfaces after books set for too long. Inspect all your books for dust and dirt.

After you clean, you may want to wrap any books with dust jackets in Mylar book covers. This thin, plastic material is actually sturdy enough to prevent most damages to book covers. Plus, in the future, if you spill something in the vicinity of your book, it won’t necessarily ruin its cover.

Storage

The first thing you’ll want to consider is the kind of storage unit you want your books in. Climate-controlled storage is best, since you will be able to not only monitor the temperature of the unit but also the humidity levels. Aside from that, you probably shouldn’t store books in a unit without, at least, temperature-control, which makes the unit immune to major temperature changes (these units typically guarantee a range of temperatures for your storage: a range in Fahrenheit from about 50 degrees to 90 degrees).

Next, boxes, bags, or totes? If you use boxes, don’t use secondhand boxes, especially if they contained items that typically emit an odor (food, leather, etc.). These odors will settle in books after a period of exposure.

Don’t store in plastic bags. Not only can these produce gases after some time (which will settle in your books), but they also can trap humidity and water, forming a layer of condensation around your books. Bags can basically create the same environment as a humid basement.

Totes are usually okay for a few reasons. If the outside of the tote gets wet, the moisture won’t sink through the tote to the books (like it would a box). Secondly, there is usually extra space in the tote, which would allow for some air circulation for your books. And, thirdly, you won’t have to worry about the acid that some boxes contain yellowing the pages of your books.

Whatever you choose to do, now you have the information to store your books like a pro. Happy packing!

3 Proven Methods for Improving Your Cell Phone Signal

Not much is more frustrating than trying to use a cell phone with 1x reception. From broken sentences to incomplete words, the conversation is pretty much incomprehensible. You try everything to improve the signal. The most obvious thing to do is keep your phone charged because a full battery guarantees the best hardware performance. But what next? Aside from finding the sweet spot in your apartment, there are a few things you can do to improve your cell phone service.

Wi-Fi Calling

Most phones now have a Wi-Fi assistance option. This basically allows your phone to borrow from the Wi-Fi signal when the cell signal is too low. This is certainly the future of voice calling, and it’s free. All you need is an internet connection. And if your phone doesn’t have a Wi-Fi assisted option, you can simply forego your phone’s default voice calling by downloading any of the number of free Wi-Fi calling apps available on app stores. You can also get free texts through these apps also. Then you can call anyone from Wi-Fi whenever you want, and you’ll never have to worry about cell phone signal again.

Purchase a Femtocell

A femtocell is a powered base station that connects to your internet service. Its purpose is to amplify your cell phone signal. It’s basically an in-house cell tower. Through the Wi-Fi, a femtocell bridges the gap between the cell phone tower signal and obstructions (such as your house, its walls, and objects inside the house). It also reduces the number of cell phones using the cell tower directly, thus improving your signal.

It’s a fairly inexpensive solution to what might be a long-term problem. Before you go out and purchase one, research which femtocell might be best for you.

Signal Booster

Another option is acquiring a signal booster through your wireless carrier. This device basically boosts signals from anywhere in your house. For instance, if you can get two bars when you stand nearby the microwave by the back door, placing a signal booster in that area will spread the signal throughout the house, and in many cases will improve upon it.

Basically one of the only free options for improving your cell signal is to connect your phone to Wi-Fi (if the option is available). No matter what you choose, be sure to research to determine the best option to fit your needs.

 

These Cities Cost Student Loan Borrowers Most

These Cities Cost Student Loan Borrowers MostStudent debt is one of our country’s most pressing problems. As of this year, the total amount of student loan debt has reached $1.44 trillion. Paying back the average $37,000-plus loan will be a challenge for millions of students for decades to come. And for some more than others. This means that loan borrowers will have to focus less on investing and more on repayment, less on contributing to the economy and more on simply balancing budgets.

To be responsible and to flourish do not always coincide. Larger cities with higher housing costs will drain more income from a person than smaller towns, while yet offering unique opportunities and venues that attract younger crowds. It’s a classic catch-22. More, perhaps higher-paying, jobs are in the cities, and so are, quite likely, friends and opportunities. Should a young person, with their whole life ahead of them, forgo the city to repay steep student debt, while in the long-term stifling their social life and career?

Credible.com has helped us answer this question in some form: by compiling a list of “Cities where student loan borrowers struggle with debt the most.” Maybe the answer isn’t to forsake the city in general, but only certain cities that have the unfortunate characteristic of demanding higher housing costs without proportionately offering higher wages.

To compile their list, the team at Credible reviewed data submitted by 8,981 applicants from America’s 23 largest cities. The city that makes it most difficult to repay a student loan is San Jose, California, seizing on average 31.47% of a person’s monthly income in housing and student loan costs. This percentage doesn’t include other expenses like food, transportation, or taxes.  What might come as a surprise to many, Dallas, Texas, ranked least expensive among the top 23 cities, nabbing 26.24% of income.

The full list may be found here. Perhaps the question isn’t whether to move to a city, but in which city one might sustainably live. As student loans are one of the few forms of debt that are essentially impossible to dissolve by bankruptcy, they are here to stay. The road that leads directly to a good life, debt free, full of friends and possibilities, isn’t clear to student loan borrowers at this point. However, thanks to the new study by Credible.com, it’s easier to discern which steps one may take to begin the journey.

FORBES SportsMoney Index: Ranking Money in Sports

FORBES SportsMoney Index: Ranking Money in SportsHave you ever wondered who the highest paid athletes in all of sports are? Or the most valuable teams? The most influential brands? To answer these pressing questions of our time, Forbes compiled a unique index to track and rank money in sports.

Forbes describes the new index: “To create the SMI, we’ve combined all of FORBES’ SportsMoney annual valuations lists (sports teams, brands, athletes, agencies) and proprietary financial data into a single ranking that reflects their monetary success and how their values affect one another. This is the first time that a cross-category ranking of sports business influence has ever been compiled.”

The main factor that makes FORBES SportsMoney Index uniquely comprehensive is its mapping of all connections between brands, agencies, athletes, and teams. This is how the aforementioned cross-category ranking is determined. As a result, the financial world may now study how wealth is truly generated and established in the domain of sports.

Admittedly, for us the benefit is a bit less academic, though nonetheless interesting. When it comes to sports, comparing statistics is one of the most satisfying activities of speculation. Below you’ll find the top 3 brands in sports and the top 3 teams and athletes in soccer, basketball, baseball, and football. And for the fans of other sports, below the top 3 we’ve included the most valuable athletes and teams of every other sport ranked in the order they appear. We have not included the number of connections to other brands each brand, team, or athlete has. For that, and more, view Forbes’ fantastic, complete list here.


Top 3 Brands:

1 (#1) Nike

SMI Connections 9 Value: 27.5 B Revenue: $30 B

2 (#4) Pepsi

SMI Connections 4 Value: 19.4B Revenue: 11.8B

3 (#13) Budweiser

SMI Connections 14 Value: 23.4B Revenue: 10.9B


Top 3 Teams:

1 (#2)Real Madrid (Soccer)

Value: 3.6 B

Revenue: 694 B

Operating Income: 162 M

2 (#3) Barcelona (Soccer)

Value: 3.5 B

Revenue: 675 M

Operating Income: 108M

3 (#6) NYY (Baseball)

Value: 3.4B

Revenue: 516M

Operating Income: 13M

Top Teams in Other Sports:

(#10) New York Giants (Football)

Value: 3.1B

Revenue: 444M

Operating Income: 133M

(#11) New York Knicks (Basketball)

Value: 3B

Revenue: 307M

Operating Income: 109M

(#115) Chicago Blackhawks (Hockey)

Value: 925M

Revenue: 173M

Operating Income: 34.4M

(#144) Ferrari (Auto Racing)

Value: 1.3B

Revenue: 455 M

Operating Income: 7M


Top 3 Athletes:

1 (#5) LeBron James (Basketball Cavaliers)

LeBron James is the only top ranked athlete in the index that doesn’t play for one of the top 3 most valuable teams. The Cavs are the 5th most valuable team in basketball and sit as the 38th most valuable team in all of sports.

Just the 3rd player in NBA history to make at least $30 million in salary (joins Jordan and Bryant) Added Intel and Verizon last year, joining Nike, Coca-Cola (Sprite), Beats By Dre, and Kia Motor.

Total Earnings: 86 M

Endorsements: 55 M

Salary: 31 M

2 (#7) Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer Real Madrid)

Worlds most popular athlete (200 Million social media followers) Nike, Tag Heuer, Sacoor Brothers suits, and Monster Headphones endorsements. 3-time FIFA best player in the world, made at least 50 goals in over six seasons in a row for Real Madrid.

Total Earnings: 88M

Endorsements: 32M

Salary 55M

3 (#9) Lionel Messi (Soccer Barcelona)

Won FIFA’s play of the year award 5 times.

Total Earnings: 81.4M

Endorsements: 28M

Salaray: 53.4M

Top Athletes in Other Sports:

(#19) Eli Manning (Football Giants)

Total Earnings: 45M

Endorsements: 8M

Salary: 37M

(#58) Jacoby Ellsbury (Baseball NYY)

Total Earnings 21.8 M

Endorsements: 600K

Salary: 21.2 M

(#73) Jordan Spieth (Golf)

Total Earnings: 52.8M

Endorsements: 32M

Salary: 20.8M

(#87) Roger Federer (Tennis)

Total Earnings: 67.8M

Endorsements: 60M

Salary: 7.8M

(#126) Denny Hammlin (Auto Racing – Nascar)

Total Earnings: 15.2M

Endorsements: 1.8M

Salary: 13.4M

(#134) Alex Ovechkin (Hockey )

Total Earnings: 12M

Endorsements: 3M

Salary: 10M

#191 Floyd Mayweather (Boxing)

Total Earngings: 44M

Endorsements: 12M

Salary: 32M

How to Break Old Habits and Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

How to Break Old Habits and Adopt a Healthy LifestyleNow the holidays are over, and the New Year’s resolutions are kicking in, it’s time to think about sustainability. Whether you are resolved to eat healthier this year, exercise, or even learn a new instrument, you’ll have to think long and hard about how you’ll accomplish your by-the-end-of-the-year goals. The good thing is you’re not alone. Gaining traction on your New Year’s resolution is a matter of forming a new habit. So it’s important to understand how habits work.

Habits are like Cycles

In an interview with NPR, Charles Duhigg discusses his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. Everything we’ve made into a routine, from exercising to cooking, from brushing teeth to cleaning laundry, begins with the same “psychological pattern.” This is called a “habit loop.” It’s really simple, actually: every habit begins with a cue, proceeds by routine, and ends with a reward. That’s it!

Let’s look a little closer. A habit begins with “a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold.” Then the routine occurs, which is the behavior itself, or the habit. Lastly, the reward is “something that your brain likes that helps it remember the ‘habit loop’ in the future.”

The interesting thing is habits are formed in the part of the brain that has a major influence on “emotions, memories and pattern recognition.” It’s called the basal ganglia. Why is this interesting? Because it’s a separate from the region of the brain responsible for decision making – the prefrontal cortex. And, as a result, when automation kicks in, when habit loops initiate, the prefrontal cortex goes into hibernation.

This is readily available knowledge, at least by quick reference to experience. Think about how difficult the very basics of reading and math once were. We learned by rote memory, by memorizing the alphabet and times tables, and this period of learning required intense concentration. But after a while these things became second nature. It’s because, like any other habit, our focus, determination, and persistence eventually formed habit loops.

Lessons from in the Loop

Because all habits begin with a cue and end with a reward, it’s important, especially if you have big plans for your health this year – to exercise three or four times a week, to cut out sugar from your diet, etc. – to figure out some sort of consistent pattern to follow when you eat, go to the gym, or whatever you may do.

Maybe before a trip to the gym you listen to music you really like as you prepare, and afterwards you treat yourself to some yogurt. When some people crave a sweet snack, they cut up some apples and eat those as substitutes instead.

With new habits, especially healthy habits, old habits are broken. And this means the power of the reward system established by the old habit loop becomes more and more powerless. As you exercise more, your desire to lay around all day will weaken. And as you stay away from sugar, your cravings will diminish.

For more information on habits and the science behind them, you might also be interested in Scientific American’s podcast episode where Dr. Art Markman discusses things like “How to know you have a habit,” “How to work in league with your psychology to from new habits,” and “How we are more likely to succeed when we view failure as part of the process.”

Conclusion

But, most importantly, remember that habits are like cycles: as you reinforce them, they eventually become as automatic and predictable as the sunrise in the morning. Don’t be discouraged by failure. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to change, and an opportunity to become better at what you are trying to do.

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