Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Tree Fun

Hello everyone! Since Christmas is right around the corner and everyone is gearing up for the big day (assuming you celebrate Christmas), I figured I'd do a fun blog post with some interesting facts about Christmas Trees as a last hurrah before the big day!

Every year, there's a classic debate amongst people: Real tree vs Fake tree. People on each side will argue why they choose to go either way when selecting a tree whether it be environmental reasons, money, convenience, or just plain personal preference.
When I was growing up, we always had a real tree and it was a tradition every year to go pick out a tree, usually at a local place that was selling pre-cut trees. A couple times, we ventured to a tree farm and cut down our own but either way we always had the smell of pine in our house, and even one year a bird's nest from our live tree. When the King and I started our own tradition, we went for a fake tree...(what I'm trying to say here is I've been on both sides of the debate!) although last year we bought our first real tree since we got married.
You tell me, which is the real tree in the pictures below?

Real or Fake???

Real or Fake???

Anyways, first, a brief lesson on the history of Christmas Trees: It really began with the Winter Solstice (aka the longest night of the year) which takes place on Dec 21 or 22. Ancient people believed that the Solstice was a turning point and that spring, with all it's life and greenery would be here soon so they decorated the inside of their homes with evergreen boughs. Germany is credited with starting the Christmas Tree tradition when Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Closer to home, the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1830s are credited with displaying the first Christmas Trees in the United States.  If you want to learn even more (and I know you do!!), check out this great article from

Now here's a couple facts about trees:
1. Typically, it takes 8 to 10 years of nurturing to grow a full size Christmas Tree - when I first read this, it really made me think about all the effort that goes into creating these trees that we enjoy looking at for only 3 or 4 weeks in our house.

2. You can buy a live tree in a pot for your house so you can plant it outdoors after Christmas is over, but beware that if you keep the tree inside for more than a week, it may come out of dormancy (trees don't really grow during the cold months) while in your house and when you go to plant it outside, it probably won't survive.

3. In many cities and towns, a tree drop off/pick-up is offered after Christmas - usually the trees are gathered, processed through a chipper and used for mulch (recycling!!!)

And to make sure I'm keeping it local:
4. The tree on the Boston Common is an annual gift from the people of Nova Scotia (since 1971) as a thanks to Boston for providing emergency aid when it's capital, Halifax was devastated by an explosion caused by a ship collision in Halifax Harbor in 1917.
5. The Boston Common tree for 2012 is 45 feet tall and has 6,000 LED lights. Isn't it pretty? Check out this cool slide show from with photos of Christmas Trees on the Common over the last 40 years.

Boston Common Tree

6. Remember the lights in Lowell over the Wannalancit Mills that looked like a Christmas Tree? The lights were up for about 10 Holiday seasons until it became financially unfeasible in 2010. It'd be cool if they could somehow bring it back again. (update 12/26 - the tree is back - shows you how much I get out after dark!)
(photo from 

Ok, well I could go on and on about trees but I like to keep my blog posts as light reading and not an encyclopedia so I'll end it here.

Question: The obvious question for this blog post... what is your tree preference? Real or fake??

Last Words: I hope everyone out there has a wonderful holiday and a very Happy New Year. I'll be taking next week off but I will be back with more blogging after January 1st! Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Green Holiday Parties

It's officially party season and with parties, comes lots of extra trash. Just think about all the extra stuff people usually use for a party from the paper (or plastic) plates and plastic cups to all the napkins and other paper goods. Wouldn't it be great if you could recycle some of that stuff instead of just throwing it in the trash can? Here's a few ideas I had and have implemented at my own parties.
Before I list the ideas though, I have to mention that I'm assuming recycling is offered in your town whether through pick-up service or drop off.

1. Let's start with the invitations - instead of sending out paper invitations, use an invite website like Evite. Before we go on, here's my real thoughts on this - every time I throw a party, I always try to put all my invites online but there's always the 1 or 2 people who don't have e-mail (yes, those people do exist somewhere believe it or not). What I usually do is call those 1 or 2 people and let them know about the party details. If you do decide to use traditional postal mail invites, look for ones printed on recycled paper and most importantly, make sure that they can be recycled after they're used.

2. Plates & Cups - OK, I'll start out by saying that using washable glass or plastic plates and cups might be best environmentally, but there's always the argument of all the energy and resources it takes to clean the stuff after it's been used. I'll also admit I'm guilty of using disposable plates and cups for parties, its so much easier in so many ways. Just like everything else, there are also multiple arguments to which is better to buy - plastic vs paper. My thought is that plastic might be better because it can easily be recycled - dump the food in the trash or the drink down the drain and put the plastic into the recycling bin.
While we're on the subject, I'll throw this little fact out there: Did you know that you shouldn't recycle paper or cardboard that has food on it? The basic reason is that because of the way paper recycling is processed which involves mixing the paper with water to create a slurry, the oil from the food can ruin an entire batch of recycling. Check out The Pizza Box Mystery article for details.

3. Make recycling easy for your guests. Grab your recycling bin or an extra trash can and designate it as the place to put all the bottles, cans, plastic goods, etc so that people aren't tempted to throw everything in the trash.

4. Turn the heat down before guests arrive. With all those people in your house, it will warm up (fast!) and if you have the heat on, you'll probably be opening the windows to try and cool it down, which we all know in the end doesn't make much sense!

5. My last tip is related to present wrapping. Regular wrapping paper usually cannot be recycled due to the dying process used to make the paper as well as the fact that a lot of wrapping paper contains glitter or other additives that cannot be recycled. Try some alternatives like the good old fashioned comics section of the newspaper (this is my personal favorite for kids stuff because a big part of the excitement for kids is ripping open presents, right?), for the adults - how about some reusable cloth shopping bags - the wrapping can also be a useful part of the gift!

Question: These are just a few things you can do to green up your parties. I know there are plenty of other things you can do in addition to the ones listed here. What do you like to do to make your parties more earth friendly?

Last Words: While it may seem that you're not making a big difference making these changes for your small holiday party, multiply the waste saved by hundreds of thousands of small parties and that's a lot of stuff not going to the incinerator or landfill.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Taming the Holiday Craziness

I hope everyone had a great week! I was lucky enough to spend some time last week talking with Francesca Verri, a professional organizer and owner of Verri Organized. First off, I must mention how much I enjoyed meeting with Francesca and how inspired I was after spending only an hour with her to go home and better organize my own house. I'm going to share with you some of the tips she gave me about organizing around the holidays and the challenges that a lot of people face this time of year.

Holiday Decorations

1. The first step is to create a home for the items, whether it's in your basement, attic, or hall closet - you need to decide where the items will be stored while you're not using them. This is important because when you go to use them and eventually put them away every year, you will know exactly where to look. Knowing where to look will allow you to evaluate what you have so that you're not buying duplicate items because you can't locate something.

2. Evaluating what you have is the next step. As you unpack your decorations, take a hard look at what you have and decide what you really use every year. If you haven't used it in 5 years, it's probably something you should just get rid of. This process might take a little extra time now but it will definitely save you time later on.

3. The next step happens when you're breaking down your decorations after the holiday is over. The best approach is to sort your stuff into groups of like items. For example, all the decorations that you use on the tree each year, put those in a separate pile, all the light strands that go outside, put those in another pile, etc. Once you've got the items sorted, it's time to move on to how you will actually store them.

4. Your best bet for storage is to get clear bins that are the appropriate size for what you're storing. There's a couple reasons for this - 1. Keeping things in smaller, size appropriate containers make them easier to move 2. Because the containers are clear, it makes it easier to retrieve the items later because you can easily see what's inside 3. It helps you resist the temptation to stuff everything into one big container.

5. This step is the one I think is the most important. Label the box with what's inside. Don't be afraid to be too detailed with your labels. Just think, when you go to retrieve your decorations next year, you'll have the ability to know exactly what you have at a glance and you won't be running out to buy another package of decoration hangers when you already have 12 packages (which you've bought over the past 4 years because you couldn't find the ones you bought the year before) in a box with your decorations - (yes, I'm guilty!).

6. Lastly, when you bring those labeled storage boxes to your basement or attic your best bet is to use the outside perimeter of the room. This leaves you with space in the middle of the room so you can easily "shop" for what you're looking for next time you go to use the item.


This one is near and dear to me since we have so many toys for the princesses. Even though I just did a toy purge, my meeting with Francesca has inspired me to purge even more. The best time to do this activity is usually before a birthday or Christmas (but really it can be done anytime of the year) when you know that a bunch of new toys will be coming into your house. Here's Francesca's advice:

1. Similar to the decorations, you need to assess what you have. If you have a toy that you like (yes, I said you, not your child because just think about that toy that makes some annoying noise that every time you hear it you want to throw it in the trash) and you know you'll be using it for the next child (if applicable), keep it. If there are toys that you want to get rid of or are not age appropriate for your child anymore - donate them (assuming they're in good condition). For the items you'll be saving, use clear containers and clearly label what's in each box - use the same principals you used for the Holiday Decorations.

2. To keep the toys that the kids still play with better organized, especially toys with small parts - use smaller clear containers and label them in a kid-friendly way, Francesca suggested using the word and a picture of the item (for example if you're storing a puzzle, write "puzzle" on the box label and draw a picture of a puzzle piece). This not only encourages kids to put the items away when they're done with them but it can be a learning opportunity for them to associate the word with the picture each time they use the toy.

3. Get ready for new toys with annoying noises and return to the first step  :)

Christmas Shopping Lists

Lucky for me, I don't have a ton of people to buy for each year. However, I know a lot of my friends have lists the length of a football field with people they need to get gifts for each year and I imagine this can be pretty overwhelming for most people. Here are a few tips Francesca shared with me to help you stay sane:

1. Make a list of people you need to buy for and evaluate who you REALLY need to buy for. I know personally I've discussed this with a lot of people I used to buy for and we've mutually agreed to stop giving each other physical presents and instead maybe make a donation in each other's name or give baked goods to each other (assuming you have time and skill to bake - although if you're not out shopping that would give you a bit of extra time! - I don't consider baked goods a physical gift because after they get eaten you don't have something hanging around the house), or just a card with a heartfelt message.

2. Once you have your list of people established, do some thinking about what you want to get for each person before you even leave the house. You need to have an idea of what you want to get for each person so that you can plan your shopping trip accordingly.

3. Now it's time to review your list and evaluate which items can be bought at which store. Consider what your time budget is for the shopping you're going to do and note other errands on your to-do list so that you can stop at a store that's near where you were going already. For example, if you need to go to the supermarket to get groceries and Target is in the same plaza - highlight what you can get at Target on your list and make a quick trip in there to cross those items off the list.

4. Lastly, online shopping can be a huge time saver for a lot of people but similar to going to a brick and mortar store, you need to have an idea of what you're looking for because it's so easy to get distracted online by other things and before you know it you've spent 2 hours online and haven't crossed any gifts off your list.

Question: Will you accept the challenge and organize your holiday decorations this year, including get rid of stuff you never use? I know I'm going to give it a try for sure!

Last Words: Francesca left me with a few overall pieces of advice for organizing in general:

a. Don't buy storage bins unless you have a plan for what you will be storing in them - you need to buy the appropriate size bin and have a plan
b. A lot of the chaos in our lives is physical - step back and evaluate what you have, what you really use, and decide what you need to keep. Get rid of the rest (donate or recycle please!)
c. Many of the items we hold on to are attached to our emotions and can be difficult to let go of.
c. Being organized is possible for anyone. A professional organizer can be a huge help because they will help you sort through your items, evaluate what you have and help you face the fact that there are things you need to get rid of. Your organizer doesn't have that emotional attachment to your items and they will provide tips and ways that you can still honor the item without necessarily holding on to it and cluttering your house.

A huge shout out to Francesca Verri - Thank You so very much for providing all these awesome tips for my blog readers!

Francesca Verri is a professional organizer and office efficiency expert who helps business owners and household managers be more productive, efficient and successful in their work and everyday routines. Follow her on Facebook (the link is: and learn more about her onsite work and virtual consultations at

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Queen Gets Down and Dirty

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving (and Black Friday, and Small Biz Saturday, and Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday!...I'm out of breath!). I took the week off from blogging but don't worry, I'm back!

I decided it was a good idea that the Queen get out there and actually do some physical junk removal - after all you can't be a complete expert unless you've done the job yourself. Here's an exciting (ok - that was supposed to be sarcastic, but I actually really enjoyed myself) play-by-play:

A Day in the Life of a Junk Removal Professional

The day started out at the shop. We spent some time sorting through what was on the trucks to pull out the recyclables. After that, we were ready to go.

I rode with the King and one of our other workers in Truck 3.

While Truck 1 and Truck 2 went off to other jobs in different areas, we headed down to Belmont and on the way there, hit challenge #1: traffic. When we left the shop, it was prime commuting time and this is what we had to face:

Once we got there, still on time, we did a 1/6 of a truck for a nice man who was starting to clean out his house in preparation to put it on the market.

After this job was finished, it was off to Somerville for a repeat customer. This customer, along with her siblings were in the process of cleaning out their deceased parent's house. We arrived at the job and were expecting about a 1/2 truck worth of stuff based on our previous visit, but as the customer took us around the house showing us the various items, it was clear that it would fill much more than 1/2 truck...more realistically in the 1.25 truckload range.

Since we knew the customer didn't want to stay there any longer than she needed to (ie, we wanted to try and avoid having to make a trip to the transfer station and come back), we had to think on our feet. The King quoted her 1.25 truckloads and we got to work.

First, we pulled out all the metal so we could take it to the scrapyard which was about 10 minutes away. It was my first trip to a scrapyard, kind of a cool place - lots of stuff going on and fun looking machines (yeah, I have a thing for heavy machinery - what do you expect, I used to work in construction!):

After unloading the scrap metal and freeing up some room in the truck, it was back to Somerville and back to work. 

 The Queen in action :)

We packed that truck to the max - all 18 cubic yards and more. I had doubts that we were going to get it all on there, but we did it. It took us a few hours to get all the stuff out of the house and packed into the truck. The customer was very happy with the outcome. Next, it was on to the transfer station. I thought the scrapyard had a lot going on, but it was even more true for the transfer station:
Some of the piles of sorted materials

The scale to weigh the truck (on our way out after we dumped our load) - check out Truck #2 over there on the scale on the left heading in with a full load. 
I like our transfer station because they sort through everything that is dumped and recycle a large percentage of the materials. It saves us time and labor sorting through items and also makes it easier on days when we have a busy schedule and can't sort items ourselves. Of course, in this instance we had all trash - if there are jobs that have items that can be donated, we will bring them to various charities in the area depending on what it is, for example The Habitat for Humanity ReStore:

After the transfer station, we were off to a job in Chelmsford. This customer was doing a bathroom remodel project and had just ripped out all the studs and drywall. We quickly loaded the truck and left another happy customer. Next it was on to an estimate, also in Chelmsford. The customer had a shed that had been damaged by a tree in her backyard that needed to be removed - a victim of hurricane Sandy. We assessed the situation and gave her an estimate.

Phew! The day was done. It really gave me insight into (and appreciation for) what a typical day is like for the guys (and girls! ;) and let me tell you, I was tired by the end of the day - we pretty much went non-stop from 8 am until almost 5 pm. 

Question: Hmm... I don't have a question this week - do you have any questions for me?  :)

Last Words: I always think it's interesting to try something new and while I'm usually on the paperwork/marketing end of the business, seeing what our guys do day to day really gave me a new perspective on the business and how we do things. I look forward to another opportunity to get out there again!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Winter is Coming (Like it or not!)

While the beginning of this week brought some pretty mild temperatures to the Merrimack Valley (I even took the princesses to the playground!), with Thanksgiving only one week away nobody can forget that winter is lurking right around the corner. Winters in New England can vary in intensity. For example, last winter (2011-12) we barely had a winter - there were about 3 snow storms and most days the temperatures made it close to 50 degrees. However, the year before that, it snowed almost every other day; it felt like the minute we were done shoveling another 6 inches fell on top of the freshly cleared walkway.
No matter what, it's hard to predict how the weather will be for any particular year and in the spirit of the famous saying "Better safe than sorry" it makes sense to get your home ready for the possibility of cold temperatures and snow.
In an effort to help you get ready, the Queen has compiled a list of some of the things you should check and get prepared:

1. Check Your Furnace: First and foremost, unless you really know what you're doing it's best to call in a professional to do this job. You want to make sure that the filter, supply lines, and ductwork is checked as well as the thermostat.

2. Clean Your Chimney: If you have a fireplace that you plan on using, it's a good idea to get the chimney checked and cleaned (I recommend by a professional - we cleaned ours ourselves one was...interesting and dirty). Creosote can build up inside the chimney and there's always the possibility that a bird or some other animal built a nest inside. Also make sure the damper is checked. Trust me, the last thing you want is carbon monoxide build up occuring in your home and then your alarm going off at 2 am and having the fire department evacuate you and your pets into the 20 degree air in your jammies, but I digress..

3. Clean Your Gutters: Most people I know don't enjoy this task - you're either on a ladder or clambering around on your roof trying to get all the leaves and debris out of there. I've personally done both of these things - so much fun (or not!). Anyways, fun or not, cleaning the gutters is important because if your gutters are clogged and fill up with rain, then freeze, they can detach from your house or cause the gutters to crack. You don't want to be replacing gutters in the spring, so clean them!

4. Check Your Snowblower (or plow): Here in New England, a lot of people are caught off guard by the first snowfall. We all know it's coming eventually but it's still surprising when it actually happens. The King and I have been stuck with a driveway full of snow and no removal method except our shovels and our muscles. Don't wait to drag that snowblower out and give it a once over to make sure it's ready to go when you need it.

5. Install Weatherstripping: Now is the time to inspect around your doors and windows to see what condition the caulking and weatherstripping is in. If there are cracks or broken pieces, replace them to prevent air leaks. An interesting fact - in the average American home, the gaps around doors and windows are equivilant to a 3x3 foot hole...that's a lot of (expensive) heat escaping!

Last but not least...
6. Assemble an Emergency Kit: Your emergnecy kit at a minimum should contain flashlights, bottled water, blankets, first aid kit, and non-perishable foods. It's also a good idea to have a battery powered or crank radio so that you can keep up with what's going on. Yes, I know most people just use their smart phone now but I realized during the last storm when my cell/4G service went offline for about 6 or 7 hrs that I had no idea what was going on - it's always good to have another link to the outside world during a weather event.

Question: Any lessons learned about winter preparedness that you'd like to share? I'd love to add them to my list!

Last Words: This blog post reminded me that I need to check all these things around our own house. Sometimes life gets so busy that things like this don't get attention until it's too late. I'll make a deal with you - I'll check mine if you check yours - the first serious snowfall and super freezing temps will be here before we know it!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 9, 2012

After the Storm

Hey everyone! The last two weeks have been crazy around here between Hurricane Sandy, the election, and a nor'easter storm that brought the Merrimack Valley it's first snow of the season. The weather seems to be getting more powerful as each year passes and while it most likely can be attributed to climate change; whatever the reason, it's clear we have to learn how to be more prepared for when the storm rolls in and figure out how to better deal with the aftermath.

Depending on the type of storm, there are various types of damage that can happen around your house. Here in New England, we usually face a few different types of storm including thunderstorms (with the occasional tornado thrown in), hurricanes, nor'easters (that bring snow and rain), and the occasional blizzard. All these weather events have the potential to cause significant damage to properties and even if the damage is minimal, most of the time a mess is left behind to clean up. Here's a few of the common situations (a couple of which the King and I have had to deal with personally):

1. Flooding - I'm sure most of you that are from the Merrimack Valley area remember the flooding we had back in 2006. Here's a picture that I took of Rt 113 in Lowell...crazy.
Anyways, with flooding there's a lot to consider:
 - Flood water is almost always contaminated with various things including sewerage and chemicals. Anything that comes in contact with the flood waters, especially food should be thrown out.
 - If your basement is flooded, more than likely you will have to dispose of all the items that came in contact with the flood waters, especially any carpets and drywall. 
 - All items that came in contact with the flood water that are washable should be cleaned and disinfected.
 - You should turn off the main breaker in your home until you're sure (consult with an electrician) that it can be safely turned back on.
Here is a great booklet from the Red Cross about repairing your home after a flood.
2. Tree Damage - Yes, that's our old shed with a tree puncturing the roof - thank goodness it fell on the shed and not the house.

When a tree falls in your yard, you'll definitely hear it (you know vs a tree falling in the woods when no one is around...anyways...) and when you walk outside to investigate, you'll probably be shocked. From the ground, when the tree in the picture above was still upright it didn't look too overwhelming but once it fell down we realized that it was going to be a heck of a lot of work to get rid of it - it took up almost our entire backyard it was so wide. Believe it or not, we tackled it ourselves but it took a very long time and several chainsaws. What was left afterwards were piles and piles of branches, brush, and large logs...some of the logs and larger branches got burned in our wood stove and the smaller brush got thrown into a composting area. The other alternative is to hire a professional tree removal guy. Either way you decide to clean up, having a tree come down in your yard is something that will require work and probably money to get things back to normal.

3. Snowstorms/Ice Storms - Remember the ice storm of 2008? The Queen sure does - I was pregnant with our first princess - 9 months pregnant to be exact!
Anyways, the picture below is from February 2011 when the snow kept falling and falling - as you can see it buried that mailbox (and had some help from the friendly snow plows)!

As we all know with snow and ice storms, power outages can be widespread from snow/ice accumulation on branches and power lines as well as strong winds that accompany nor'easters or blizzards. When the power goes out, the biggest concern afterwards is usually food safety. If it's winter and you don't have a generator, you can usually buy a little extra time with your perishables that you had in the fridge. Heck, if it's colder than 32 degrees outside, move all your "must be refrigerated" items outside into the snow (been there, done that!). If that's not an option and you keep everything in the refrigerator/freezer, then here are some good guidelines for your refrigerator and your freezer on what to keep. One last thing about ice/snowstorms...don't forget to lift with your knees when you shovel that walkway or driveway(or roof!) after the storm, a shovel full of heavy wet snow (vs the fluffy stuff) can weigh quite a bit depending on the water content.

Question: Were you affected by the recent storms or have a good storm story? Share it with us!

Last Words: This is just a brief overview of how to handle various situations that you may be faced with after a big storm hits. As always, I must let you know that Junk King can definitely help with the clean-up so don't hesitate to call the King and Queen!

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Household Items - Did You Know?

                Hi everyone! I hope you’re all recovering well from Hurricane Sandy (if you were affected). We’re still cleaning up here in Lowell but for the most part we escaped unscathed.
Now on to the enticing blog title that has lead you to this page - There are things around your house that you use everyday, but when they break or you're ready for a new one, do you know how you will you get rid of the old one? Some of the items I listed below might surprise you while others are ones you’ve probably heard about before.
1.      Mattresses: I’m fairly confident in saying that almost everybody reading this blog has at least one mattress in their house. While mattresses are usually made to last for quite a while, at some point you’ll probably need to replace the one you have. That leaves you with an extra mattress and finding some way of getting rid of it. The days of leaving it out on the curb for the trash truck to pick up (in most cities and towns) are long gone so what’s the next option? Well, first let’s look at why you can’t just throw a mattress in the regular trash and why you’ll most likely be paying someone extra to take it away for you:

a.       Mattresses have many different materials in them, including fabric, foam, cotton, wood, and metal springs (most of which are recyclable), but separating all those materials can be quite a task - which means someone needs to take the time and do the work, and they're not going to do it for free!

b.      The other issue with mattresses is that most, if not all of them are treated with flame retardant (especially older ones) chemicals that can be toxic to humans and the environment. If the mattress ends up in a landfill, the chemicals can leach out into the groundwater and harm the environment so they must be disposed of carefully and properly.

2.       Televisions and Computer Monitors: Just like mattresses, I’m pretty certain that most people reading this blog have a TV in their house. That being said, this post is targeted more towards the old school TVs and monitors, you know the big clunky ones with the tube inside of them? (I just had the song "Money for Nothing" running through my head... I want my MTV...) Anyways, that tube inside is called a cathode ray tube (CRT) and what’s contained inside that tube is lead… up to 8% of the total weight of the TV in fact. The lead is contained within the glass of the tube and ironically is meant to protect the viewer from harmful X-ray emissions. In Massachusetts, if you want to get rid of a TV, you need to pay someone extra to dispose of it and here’s why: TVs and monitors are usually dismantled by hand to isolate the CRT and send it to the proper recycling facility along with all the other parts of the TV/monitor including plastic, metals, and circuit boards. Similar to mattresses, this requires someone spending time to do this task - nobody is going to "move those color TVs" (sorry, the song popped into my head again) for free!

3.       Tires: Tires are an item we all use, probably every day of our lives to get to and from places but what happens when you need to get rid of them? They are yet another item you can’t just simply place in the trash. It all starts in the manufacturing process of tires. We all know tires are made from rubber but what most people probably don’t know is that tires undergo a process called “vulcanization” (no, I’m not talking about Star Trek here). Without getting too technical, vulcanization involves adding sulfur to the rubber. The process, while improving the strength and resilience of the tire rubber, also makes recycling the tires when we’re done with them quite difficult. Because of the modified properties of the rubber, they can’t just simply be melted down like other rubber substances. Instead, the tires are usually mechanically shredded and processed for use in other materials, which takes both time and resources.

4.       Refrigerators/Air Conditioners: These are probably the items people know the most about since they tend to get the most press. Older fridges and AC units contain Freon, a refrigerant that when released to the atmosphere contributes to ozone depletion. In order to dispose of a refrigerator or AC unit properly, it must be processed (you guessed it, by hand) and the refrigerant removed before the rest of the material can be recycled appropriately. Here is a great link from the EPA that fully explains the ins and outs of disposing refrigerated household appliances.

Question: How many of you have an extra or broken one of these items hanging around your house that you’ve avoided getting rid of?
Last Words: I hope you learned something from this post, I know I did (yes, even the Queen of junk will admit she doesn't know everything!) while I was writing it. I wouldn't be the Queen if I didn't tell you that Junk King can haul away all these items for you and while the King and I do have to charge extra for some of them, I hope this blog post helps you better understand why!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Queen's Thoughts on Dumpsters

Hey everyone, it's the Queen here again and I want to talk to you about dumpsters. Yes, I know that sentence probably doesn't stir up much excitement for most people but since the King and I are in the junk removal business, it's a subject near and dear to us. Before I start, I must give credit where it's due, I was inspired to write this blog after reading a series of blog posts about renting a dumpster written by a fellow franchisee(thanks Junk King Kansas City!). It made me realize that the average person probably doesn't know much about the subject so I figured I'd give my blog readers a little lesson.

Let's set the scene:
You have an old concrete patio in your backyard, it's cracked and in disrepair. Every time you look out the window you imagine ripping it all out and putting down a beautiful new brick patio where you can sit with a nice glass of wine (or beer...whatever floats your boat) and relax. Finally, you saved up the money and you have a plan in place to make it happen.You're a do-it-yourselfer type so you decide to ask a couple friends for help and get the job done.

You pick up the phone and call the dumpster rental place and the first question they ask you is what size dumpster you'd like to rent. Most places offer a range of sizes from 15 cubic yards up to 40 cubic yards with varying prices depending on the size you choose. I don't know about you but most people I've talked to have no idea what can be fit into a 15 or 30 yard dumpster, so you have to try and guesstimate what size you'll need. You look out your back window and think...30 yards. Ok, the dumpster place will drop off your dumpster tomorrow.

The day has finally come, you've got your friends ready, your jackhammer rented and you're rearing to go. The truck pulls up with the 30 yard dumpster and proceeds to roll it off the truck into your driveway...good thing you have a big enough driveway to fit that puppy on! We're talking 22 feet long and 8 feet wide!
Anyways, you've got your dumpster, let's get to work! Hold on though, did you read all the details about the dumpster? Here's a few typical conditions that you'll find in most agreements:
1. There is a set rental period - typically a week. If you have the dumpster longer than that, you'll get charged extra for each additional day
2. There's a weight limit - for the 30 yard dumpster, that's typically 3 tons worth of stuff. Remember trying to figure out the size dumpster you needed? How will you have any idea about how much the stuff you're putting in the dumpster weighs? Just a little tidbit of information for you: A cubic yard of concrete can weigh close to 3500 lbs, so there goes over half your weight limit and the dumpster doesn't even have that much in it yet in terms of volume!
3. There's a long list of things you can't (or are not supposed to) put in that dumpster, one of those things being dirt (while we're on the topic of dirt: a cubic yard of it weighs 2500 lbs).

Anyways, I think you know where I'm heading with this and if you're reading this and, the Queen wrote a slanted blog against dumpsters... here's the thing - dumpsters have their place in the world, but they're not always the best answer for every situation... (which is where we come in).

Question: Do you really have any idea what a cubic yard of concrete or dirt looks like?

Last Words: I could probably write a whole new blog post on additional thoughts I have about dumpsters (no really, I could), but I'll leave you with this - Junk King can and will take almost anything (except hazardous waste of course) and we only charge you dependent on the space it uses in our 18 cubic yard give us a call or check out our website for more details! - yes that was shameless promotion right there.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Some of The Queen's Favorite Non-Profits

Although I believe in supporting non-profit organizations year round, this time of year when the holidays are around the corner, people tend to get into a more giving mood and start feeling more thankful for what they have. I wanted to mention a few of the non-profits that we support and why we love their cause:

1. The Wish Project - The Wish Project in Lowell, MA is at the top of my list for a couple reasons - a) they help people who have lost their homes and are in need of basic goods to get back on their feet in the Merrimack Valley and b) a large percentage of the items they provide are being given a second life, keeping a lot of unnecessary waste out of our landfills. Junk King has provided many truckloads of items to the Wish Project and we call it a win-win-win situation because we're helping people, helping the environment, and it makes us feel good all at the same time!

2. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell - Habitat is a great organization. Their main goal is to provide affordable home ownership opportunities to people in need. The homes they provide are quality, efficient, well-built homes built mostly by volunteers from around the area. In addition to new homes, Habitat also renovates existing homes. Not only does this help those in need of a home, but it also helps the entire neighborhood where the homes are built or renovated by improving property values and neighborhood pride.

3. Alternative House - Alternative House in Lowell, MA helps battered women and children who have been through domestic violence and provide shelter, support, legal help, and counseling to women in need. Alternative House also has an emergency shelter where women and their children can stay after escaping an abusive situation. One event we love to participate in that supports the Alternative House is the Thanks 4 Giving road race on Thanksgiving Day. The King and I have been doing this race for almost 7 years now and it's definitely grown over the years, it's a great race for a great cause!

4. Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell - I had always known about the Boys and Girls Club, it's been around for over 100 years but it didn't register in my mind just how much they help kids until I heard their Executive Director Joe Hungler speak at a recent networking event. The Boys and Girl's club can literally turn lives around for young kids and teenagers. It gives them a safe, fun place to go after school and during the summer where they can be with their friends, get help with homework, and work on their own personal development. Our children are our future and any organization that dedicates itself to helping them is worth supporting.

5. Red Cross - Almost everyone is familiar with the Red Cross, but I don't know if everyone knows all the things the Red Cross does to help people. Red Cross is there when natural disasters strike or when families suffer through house fires, they collect blood donations to help people who are sick or have been injured, help military families and veterans, provide training for people to learn CPR and other life-saving first aid, and provide international relief programs. The Red Cross has been around since 1881 and their goal has remained the same. The King and I make an effort to donate blood whenever we can!

Question: Which non-profits do you love and support?

Last Words: The King and Queen love supporting great causes just like we love hauling your junk away!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Traditions

Fall in New England is a beautiful thing; as the end of the summer nears and you start to see the first glimpse of colors on the trees and feel the cooler air in the morning, you know it’s only a matter of time before winter will be knocking on your doorstep. To make the most of the season, I’ve decided there are five classic things that you should put on your to-do list during fall (and yes, some of these are not just New England traditions):

1.       Go Apple Picking – I don’t know what it is about apple picking that gets people to go to the farm (could be item #2 below), but it always seems to be the busiest time of the year at the local farms in our area. I suppose it might just be part of the quintessential New England fall. One of my favorite farms to go to is Parlee Farm in Tyngsboro, MA. Basically, you pay for a bag, go into the orchard and fill it up. Most of the time, unless you're making a pie or have definitive plans for all the apples you picked, you will find yourself in your kitchen staring at 25 apples wondering what in the world to do with them before they spoil. There are all kinds of ideas out there, but my favorites are apple butter, apple crisp, and sliced apples with peanut butter.


2.       Eat an Apple Cider Donut – If you’ve never had an apple cider donut, you need to find a way to get one, quickly! They’re absolutely delicious. A lot of places offer them now but the first one I ever had (and has not been matched to this day) was at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury Center, VT. It’s a wonderful mix of apple and spices that will make you want a second serving for sure!
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3.       Pick a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch and Carve a Jack-O-Lantern – Imagine the perfect pumpkin. You know what I’m talking about – not too round, not too tall, no blemishes. Take that pumpkin, cut a hole in the top, scoop out all the glop (I know this part totally grosses out a lot of people), and then cut some holes in the side and you’ve got yourself a jack-o-lantern. I will say the environmentalist side of me thinks it’s kind of crazy that all these pumpkins get nourished and grown every year just to be cut up and eventually rot on people’s front steps, but I digress (and I will admit – I usually carve at least one pumpkin every year - ahem, guess which one is mine in the picture below).

4.       Leaf “Peeping” – So many people flock to our area to see the fall foliage, that time when the leaves on the trees turn varying shades of orange, red, and yellow. If you find the right vantage point, you can see all the colors mesh together in a beautiful  scene like this:
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Also related to leaves, let’s talk about jumping into a pile of them: It seems simple and maybe silly, but if you've ever been a kid in New England, there’s a good chance that you’ve jumped into a pile of raked up leaves in the fall. Its fun and its classic. (Oh and don’t forget, Junk King can come and pick up your yard waste for you as you prep your yard for the winter ahead!)

5.       Go to the Topsfield Fair – OK, I’ll admit, I’ve never been to the Topsfield Fair, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it from friends and family who have gone over the years. The Fair was first held in 1820, and 192 years later, it’s still going strong. The fair has food, animals, rides, performances, exhibits, and so much more. It’s definitely on my list to bring the princesses there in the next few years, I think they’ll love it and I know I will too!

Question: What’s your favorite fall tradition?
Last words: Don't forget Junk King when you're cleaning up your house, inside or outside, to prep for the busy Holiday Season ahead. Give the King a call or check out our website!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Meet the Junk Queen of Massachusetts

Hello World! Junk Queen of Massachusetts here!

Honestly, I'm a little nervous about my first blog post as the Queen but we'll see how this goes.

First off, a little about me and my family: I'm married to my King and we have two little Princesses (ages 3 yrs old and 14 months old). We run a Junk King franchise based out of Chelmsford (Lowell), MA. The King and I both grew up in the Merrimack Valley area and we love it here. We've been at it for a little over 2 years and it's been an amazing ride so far. Junk King is a full service junk removal company, which basically means that we come to your house or business, you point at the stuff you want taken away, and we carry it out and put it on the truck. It's so easy.

We're excited about our business for a couple reasons:

1. Junk King has a commitment to recycling, we strive to recycle over 60% of what we haul away from people's houses and businesses - that's a huge chunk of stuff that doesn't contribute to filling up landfills. The King and I are strong believers in doing what's right for the planet and for the world our kids are going to inherit from us someday. Between recycling and donations to non-profits we save a lot from going to the transfer station or landfill.

2. We feel like we truly help people. We've done jobs for all different types of people from cleaning out a house for a client with an elderly parent who is being transitioned to a full time care community to real estate investors cleaning out a house so that they can renovate the house and re-sell it to grow their own business. It's overwhelming when you have a lot of stuff to get rid of and you don't know what the next step should be, seeing the look of satisfaction on our customer's faces is a great experience.

3. Junk King is an honest company. The two guys (Mike and Brian) who started the company are great down to earth guys who are always there if we need help or advice about something.

4. The Junk King company itself is like a second family to us. Junk King is based in San Carlos, CA and has franchises all over the United States that are run by genuine, honest, amazing people with all kinds of different stories and experiences. It's wonderful to be a business owner out on your own but also know that you are not alone.

My goal is to keep this blog interesting and relevant to not only what's happening in the junk removal industry but in our beautiful New England communities.

Hope you all enjoy it!