How to Navigate Estate Sales

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Estate sales are great because they let you find some really unique furniture at fair prices.  (And, let’s face it, it’s super fun to dig through other people’s stuff.)  But it can be easy to get discouraged when you look at an estate sale at first glance…  Sometimes the amount of items is overwhelming, you’re disappointed by the prices, or you just have no idea what to do when you find items you like.

This week, I was able to meet with an estate sale specialist to get some advice for our readers.  Rhonda Smart is a Relationship Manager with the innovative estate sale assistance company Everything But The House (EBTH), and she’s pretty much the expert on managing estate sales!  Here are four tips I learned from talking with her:

1. If you’re looking for furniture to refurbish, estate sales may not be the best place to go digging.

Rhonda and I spent a lot of time just talking about how the estate sale industry has changed over the past couple of decades.  “You can’t get the great deals you used to get,” Rhonda told me.  That was really surprising for me to hear, because whenever I’m scrolling through Pinterest, I always see tons of cool made-over furniture pieces that were originally picked up from estate sales.  The Before and After pictures always seem so drastic to me!  But Rhonda told me that when she organizes an estate sale, “[The homeowners] aren’t selling fixer-upper stuff–they’re selling to the end buyer.”

2. Give yourself plenty of time when you show up at a sale.

When EBTH hosts an estate sale, there are often 300+ items to look at.  That seems so overwhelming, especially when you first step through the door and see all of these objects set up in every room of the house.  I asked Rhonda how an inexperienced estate sale shopper should try to shop through everything.  “Really take your time, and don’t put a time limit on yourself,” she told me.  When you first get there, “comb the area.  There can be great deals, but you have to look through everything because the sellers put the most expensive stuff in places that will catch your eye.”  She also gave me advice for shoppers who go to sales with a purpose.  When you’re shopping around for certain pieces, “find the seller and ask if they have specific items.”

3. If you have a habit of impulse-buying, take a step back first.

Rhonda let me know that estate sales always attract people who are mainly looking to get a great deal, or who don’t have a specific agenda and like to impulse-purchase things that looks good at the time.  I know that I definitely like to make impulse purchases whenever I see something cool and unique, so I asked Rhonda for some advice on how to get over that initial “gotta-have-it” feeling.  She gave me a list of probing questions to ask myself when I see items like that: “Do I have a spot for this?  Do I see this in my home?  Why am I buying this–because I want it, or because I want to resell it?  And if I want to resell it, does it have an audience?”  Most importantly, she said that resellers need to remember that their time is worth something.  She advised, “You have to put a value on your time.  If you buy something to resell it, how much gas money does it cost, how much will the shipping be, how long will it take to find a buyer?  Do you end up breaking even, or making a little bit of money on it?”

4. Online estate shopping might be your best option.

Not to sound like a commercial, but EBTH is so innovative because of its online estate sale options.  Instead of trying to comb through items that are placed all over a property, you might want to try ordering from EBTH’s website.  Rhonda explained exactly how the process works.  “We catalog every single item with individual pictures, and it helps the buyer to not get overwhelmed.  When I go through a sale online, I look at the number of [webpages] in each sale and divide [the pages] into groups.  If a sale has twelve pages, I’ll sit down and look through the first six.  Then at a later time, I’ll sit down and look through the next six.”  She also has this advice for online shoppers: “We put the more valuable and expensive items on the first few pages, because we don’t want you to get overwhelmed sifting through lots of pages [for the highest-quality items].”

Hopefully these tips will help you when you make your purchase decisions this weekend!  But remember, estate sales are always going to be fun, whether you’re able to find your new dream piece of furniture or not.  Rhonda left me with this last note: “Estate sales will never completely go away, even though the methods of selling may change, because there will always be collectors and shoppers.”  Amen to that!

Things We Can’t Move

It’s true: There are, unfortunately, some things we can’t move.  We get a lot of questions from our customers about heavy or bulky items that they own, so we decided to dedicate a blog post to listing all the items we aren’t able to move.  If it’s not on this list, we can (probably) move it!

Some of the items we can’t move seem a little strange at first because they seem really simple to move.  Those are things like prescription medications, bottles of cleaning supplies, and rented trucks or trailers.  But here’s why:

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK can't move prescription medicationsWe don’t want to move your prescription medications because if the worst case scenario (yep, you guessed it–zombie apocalypse) happened, we wouldn’t want your necessary medicines to get lost.  (On a more realistic level, we don’t want to have the box containing your medications to get mixed up in the shuffle, causing you to stay up all night digging through every single box to get to them.)  We know those are super important for your health, so we need you to keep those in your personal car when you move.

We can’t carry your cleaning chemicals, like Windex and Lysol, because they’re flammable.  Even though our drivers have to meet very strict requirements to operate our vehicles, we can’t predict everything that will happen on the road.  In the worst case scenario (those zombies aren’t very good drivers), we don’t want your most important items to get stuck in a fire.

And we aren’t able to drive your rented truck, haul your rented trailer, or tow your car behind our trucks because our insurance simply won’t cover those items.  We want your items to be totally covered from the beginning to the end of your move, and we can’t guarantee their safety unless they’re physically in our trucks.

Empty your gas from your lawn mower before movingAlong the same lines as these seemingly simple items, we also usually can’t move full aquariums, gas grills, or gas lawn mowers.  If you’re able to safely empty your aquarium of its water and your grill or lawn mower of gasoline, then we’ll gladly pack those into our trucks the same way we pack your other pieces of furniture!

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK can't move pool tables containing the slateThen there are the overly-heavy items.  We currently are not moving gun safes, baby grand or grand pianos, slate top pool tables, or grandfather clocks that still have weights in them.  We have moved these items in the past, but they’re so heavy that we have to send a much larger crew than normal to safely move them.  By the time we send you enough men for these jobs, it becomes cost inefficient for you.  The only exception to this rule is that we will happily move your grandfather clock, as long as you remove the hanging weights before we get there.  Those weights can swing around inside the clock during the drive to your new house, and we don’t want the glass or wood of your clock to get damaged.

If you have an unusual item that’s not mentioned in this blog post, and you’re still worried that we won’t be able to move it, please give us a call at 615-248-6288.  We are always more than happy to stop by your home before your move to give a free onsite walk-through.

I’ve never felt so short: TSU Basketballers Hit the Office

IMG_0787When I came in from my lunch break today, I walked into a sea of blue trees–I mean men–who were hanging out in our employee lounge after our group interview session.  It didn’t take long for word to get back to me that all these boys were from the Tennessee State University basketball team, and they were hoping to work here over the summer as Movers.

Because we’re a moving company, the number of moves we schedule goes through the roof during the summer season, when most people decide to make their move to new homes.  Because our busy season is coming up, and because I know colleges are about to let out for the summer, I decided to reach out to some of the head coaches of colleges around the city to ask if their student athletes were looking for summer employment.  After all, what could be better for them?  We pay our men the highest hourly rate of any moving company in Nashville, and they would also get to stay in shape during their vacation.

The students (Darreon, Christian, Montez, Marcus, Xavier, and Tahjere) were all excited to be here and even more excited about their athletics program.  A few of them told me, “We’re a family–we’re brothers!” and I could definitely tell they all agreed, just by witnessing their collective energy together.  I asked them a few questions about themselves, and they were more than happy to give me the down low about the team.  “Christian’s the tallest,” they told me.  “But I’m the prettiest,” Tahjere was quick to point out.  Marcus, apparently, is the “muscle” of the team.

But as we all know, college isn’t just about making money and playing basketball.  I asked them about their majors, and I was ecstatic to hear that two of them, Marcus and Tahjere, were majoring in Communications.  (If I hadn’t majored in Marketing, my next choice would definitely have been Mass Comm.)  But the majority of the boys readily admitted the reason they go to school–“Basketball!”

Thanks for coming by, TSU players!  We hope to see you out in the field soon!

Is your school’s athletic program looking to partner with a great business that can keep their athletes in shape over the summer?  Send me an email at jenni.gustafson@twomen.com!

Recycle Your Moving Boxes: How to Make a Castle

Castle Craft (1)Summertime is just around the corner, and this is our busy season!  Statistically speaking, if you’re planning to move anytime soon, you’ll probably move during the May-August time period.  If you are moving soon (or have moved recently), what do you usually do with all of your moving boxes afterward?  Since we have lots of boxes around the office, we decided to help you find some fun ways to recycle them.

While trying to decide what to make first, I thought about all my “mom friends” who look for ways to keep their kiddos entertained while they’re home all-day-every-day during the summer.  I came up with this super-fun play castle, and it only took about 30-45 minutes to make.  Here’s how I did it:

Castle Craft (2)

First, I gathered my materials.  I used a Wardrobe Box and two Medium Boxes, but you can use whatever sized boxes you have around your house.

Castle Craft (3)Next, I worked on making my Tower.  You’ll want to cut the holes in the box with an Exacto-knife while it’s laying flat on the floor before you tape any parts of the box.  I cut a window, plus a large rectangular hole in the side that will serve as the doorway for your kids to crawl into the tower.

Castle Craft (4)                      Castle Craft (5)

Once my holes were cut, I taped the bottom of the Wardrobe Box together to make a “floor”.  To make sure there were no flaps and no chance of the bottom coming apart, I taped the seams on both the inside and outside of the box.

Castle Craft (6)After the tower was finished, I cut holes in the sides of my two Medium Boxes as crawl spaces, and cut just an arch (not the bottom of the arch) into one of the boxes to make a fold-down drawbridge.

The last step is just taping the three boxes together to connect the crawl spaces!  Now your kids can play in their castle.  If you use our clean, white boxes, they’ll also have plenty of decorating space.  (We recommend using washable markers or crayons.)

Done!  Keep checking back on our blog for more Recycled Box Crafts!  And if give us a call if you’d like to purchase some of our high-quality boxes at 615-248-6288.

Just in time for Memorial Day, Joe tells us about his super cool grandfather.

Our Customer Service Supervisor, Joe.
Our Customer Service Supervisor, Joe.

When we have some down time in the office during our lunch hour, the office staff likes to swap stories about what they’ll be doing over the weekend, funny things that have happened to them in the past, and anecdotes about their family members.  Since Memorial Day is upon us, the conversation naturally led to the veterans we have in our lives.  While the closest veteran I have in my life is actually my fiance’s dad, who was in the Navy, our Customer Service Supervisor had so many cool stories to tell about his Army-retired grandfather.

Joe’s grandfather was in the Army during the time of WWII, but he actually wasn’t sent into Japan until just after the war concluded.  “It must have been 1945,” Joe told me, while he did the math in his head.  I asked what his grandfather did when he got there, and Joe gave me the thing that stuck out most in his mind: “I know that at some point, they were conducting a raid, and he found this giant box of Samurai swords.  He showed it to us; it’s pretty cool!”

I was super impressed hearing about his Army history, but Joe is always very humble and tried to downplay it: “He was in logistics, so he wasn’t ever in combat.”  But not being in combat definitely didn’t mean that his grandfather wasn’t tough…  Joe went on to tell us about the two times his grandfather lost fingers while doing construction work.  He lost his first finger while building his own farmhouse, and then a second one while working on Joe’s childhood home with Joe’s father.  Joe told me, “He called up to my dad saying he needed help, but then shouted back up the stairs to let him know he could just keep on working.”  Fortunately, they walked in a while later, found out what had happened, and rushed him to the hospital in time to reattach it.

What are your best memories of your veteran relatives?

Four “Evergreen” Spring Cleaning Tips

evergreen spring cleaning tips

“Spring cleaning” is something we all know we should do more often, but life always throws other priorities in the way.  Because we’re the experts in home moving, we often get questions about how to keep a home more organized or less cluttered as our customers prepare to move into their new homes.  Here are just a few creative ideas we’ve come up with that can be used to keep your house organized all year round, whether you’re moving or not!

1. Let your office organization inspire your house organization.

We’re not saying you should bring your work home with you, but sometimes you can steal the organizational techniques you’ve used in your office and let them de-clutter your house.  For example, you know those plastic filing bins you hang on your cubicle or office wall?  At work, you use the bins for inbound messages and paperwork from coworkers.  At home, you can hang some of those bins near your “mail spot” and assign each of the bins to a family member.  If it’s your turn to check the mail, you can easily sort the mail into those bins for each person who receives it.  You can also put the morning newspaper in your husband’s bin when you’re done reading it, or leave him anything else that you generally forget to show him, like the invitation to the dinner party that you guys are going to this weekend.

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2. Purge your closet!

Almost everyone has heard the trick about getting rid of all the clothes you haven’t worn in a year.  If you haven’t worn it in a year, you probably won’t wear it again…  You’ve outgrown that style.  But sometimes it’s hard to remember if you wore something last year, and sometimes it’s hard to fight your emotional attachments to particular clothing pieces.

Here’s a strategy for figuring out what you really wear the most often: Today, turn all of your hangers facing outward, so you have to bring the hanger below the bar to remove it from your closet.  Then, the first time you wear a pair of pants, shirt, or jacket after today, turn that hanger around.  At the beginning of next spring, you’ll be able to tell all of the clothes you haven’t worn in a year because the hangers will still be facing outward!  Those are the clothing items you have to donate.

3. Make oven-cleaning easier.

I don’t know about you, but we all dread the days that we have to scrub food stains out of the bottom of our ovens.  Then we learned this trick that will make the next time you clean the bottom of your oven the last time: After getting it squeaky clean, line the bottom of your oven with oven-safe foil or parchment paper.  Then, instead of scrubbing, you can just replace the liner each time the bottom of your oven is dirty!

4. Give your random, small objects a home.

If you can’t find your umbrella or phone at work, the first place you check is your office’s Lost and Found, right?  Why not make a Lost and Found for the random things you’re missing around the house?  Get a pretty box and designate it as the place you’ll keep extra buttons, misplaced game pieces, socks without a match, and anything else you find that you know will need to be Found later.  Then everyone in your home will have a first place to look when they’re missing something.

Any other simple Spring Cleaning tips?  Send ’em our way!

What I Learned from “Movers for Moms”

IMG_0804We just finished our Movers for Moms campaign last week, where we collected household and beauty/health Mother’s Day gift donations for the homeless moms at the Safe Haven Family Shelter.  We were able to collect about 850 items for the shelter, including hundreds of soaps, some new women’s clothing, and cozy throw blankets.  We were also able to find support with 8 other local businesses in the area who were glad to help us collect donations from the community, and who brought in their own donations as well!  This was our franchise’s first time hosting a large-scale donation, and I learned so much about donation collections, community involvement, and the Safe Haven shelter.  Here were some of my top 3 takeaways from the event:

1. Safe Haven is the coolest.

I’ve personally been involved with countless non-profit organizations that work to reduce the prevalence of homelessness, and Safe Haven is hands-down the coolest organization I’ve ever personally worked with.  I didn’t realize that they’re the only homeless shelter in Middle Tennessee that accepts whole families into their facility.  And a lot of these families haven’t been homeless forever–they just got caught in a bad family or financial situation, and need a leg up to get back to a place of stability.  Safe Haven provides financial literacy, job skills, psychological healing, and even homework help for the family members that come in, and they work to bring them into an affordable housing solution as quickly as possible.  I was super impressed by Safe Haven’s focus on self-sustainability and individual responsibility, instead of just giving a hand-out or moving the homeless to the next hoop they have to jump through to get help.

2. Everyone can help, and most want to… The question is “How?”

During March and April, I can’t even tell you how many neighborhood associations, businesses, customers, and community leaders I spoke with about our Movers for Moms event.  I don’t think I spoke with a single person who was just plain disinterested in helping homeless moms provide for their families; after all, everyone has been inspired by their (or another) mom, has known someone in extreme financial need, or has witnessed the strain of life’s problems on children and their parents.  However, a lot of people aren’t able to make a huge monetary contribution and don’t have the time to go shopping for all the household items needed by a homeless mother.  One thing I learned during Movers for Moms is that you have to be willing to work with each person and business owner you speak with to find practical ways they can help.  For example, Holiday Inn Express by the airport was able to donate a whole case of bar soaps that they already had on hand for their hotel rooms.  A realtor from the Re\Max office in East Nashville had her husband donate a bunch of Germ-X, because he works for their manufacturer.  And the Brentwood Oaks apartment manager spread the word that we can use any unused household goods or women’s clothing as gifts to the shelter.  Even the people who just went down to the local dollar store and purchased a 4-pack of toothbrushes contributed to the 850 items we were able to collect; I just had to talk with them a little further to find the best way they could contribute.

3. Word-of-mouth goes a looong way.

For the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, I asked our Customer Service Representatives to tell their customers about the Movers for Moms campaign.  In the first week that they started talking about the event, we had two boxes full of collected household gifts from people who were moving and didn’t want to take clothing they’d never worn or furniture items they didn’t need anymore.  I also was able to get a bunch of my friends to make donations just by talking about my workday and the Mother’s Day project I was working on.  It was so easy for someone to let us know they had a bunch of extra hand soaps in their bathroom cabinet or an unopened soccer ball in their garage, and I was able to gather those donations just by telling my friends about this event that I was passionate about.

The Safe Haven staff was so excited about working with us, and we can’t wait for the next opportunity to support their families!

Meet Stephen, The Tetris King

StephenStephen is one of our Moving Supervisors, and today is his 2 year anniversary with Two Men and a Truck Nashville!  To celebrate, we’ll spend today’s whole blog post just talking about him.

Before working at Two Men Nashville, Stephen worked at a hole-in-the-wall bar and Cracker Barrel.  Looking for more steady work, Stephen came over to our team and immediately took off.  He was promoted to a Team Lead position within just four months.  When I asked him how he managed to do so well so quickly, he told me that it was his customer service experiences at the two restaurants.  He learned early how to solve difficult customer situations, and it gave him a love for problem-solving.  In fact, he’s so great at problem-solving and strategic thinking that he’s known around here as the Tetris King (a reference to his uncanny ability to maximize truck space when loading furniture into our trucks).

Stephen says that he’s stayed with Two Men Nashville for so long because he enjoys seeing the variety of types of homes when he works out in the field.  He likes traveling to different Nashville neighborhoods and seeing the wide array of furniture that people use to decorate their homes.

But even though he thinks the work is fun, Stephen is the first to admit how challenging it’s been for him to work as a mover.  He tells me about one job during his first six months here when he was “out until like, 3 am.  We had two crews working on this move, and we still didn’t get back to the office until 3:30.”

More recently, Stephen was assigned to a job that required him and his partner to move a family’s belongings into their new home while construction workers were still working all over the property.  “We had three crews and three packed trucks to unload, and it took us about twelve hours to finish the job.  And it took all six of us to move this grand piano from the 1800’s into the house…”  At this point, I interrupt him, confused, because we have a policy that we won’t move grand pianos.  He laughs, “That’s why!  We had to call the general manager to the unload site to help me move it into the house, and then the legs starting sinking into the hardwood floor.  So we had to turn it on its side and wait for the customers to get the materials necessary for the piano to stand on, and then we had to turn it back over and put the whole thing back together again.”

Happy 2 year anniversary, Stephen!

Two Men Mishaps

We’ve all had one of those ideas that seemed great in theory, but that didn’t work out very well in practice.  The best way to handle those moments is to turn them into funny stories, and we have plenty of those!  Here are some of the funniest fails we’ve had here at the office:

IMG_0698The Breaking Chains

For the safety of our customers’ belongings, and just for security purposes, our trucks used to have these big padlocks on the back so they couldn’t be opened by anyone but our personnel.  However, those locks didn’t attach directly to the doors of the truck, so they were easily misplaced.  To solve that problem, we decided to install new, state-of-the-art locks that would be permanently attached to the doors.  But when they were installed, the locksmith didn’t take the strength of our movers into account.  “When they reached up to pull the doors down, they accidentally grabbed the locks instead of the pull strap.  The chains just snapped apart in their hands,” Nick told me.  Now Nick keeps one of the broken lock chains under his desk as inspiration for all of his future planning initiatives.

‘Meet Your Movers’ Facebook Campaign

We thought it would be awesome to give our customers a personal bio of our movers so they could see the human side of the men who help them during their moves.  Our managers came up with a fun questionnaire to give to the movers in an effort to let our Facebook followers get to know them a little better.  I asked our General Manager, Nick, about the types of questions that were asked.  He gave an example of one, which asked the movers, “If you could be any person in the world, who would you want to be?”  I thought that was a fun question in theory, but “one guy said a tiger,” Nick told me.  Our Customer Service Manager, Donald, added that “another one said Betty White.”  Needless to say, the questionnaires didn’t end up on Facebook in the end.

The Fire-Juggling Mover

Our managers and move supervisors decide which movers to pair with each moving job based on the movers’ individual strengths and skill sets.  Eventually, the movers become known in the office for their strengths; Joe is great at working with new employees, Keith is known for his positivity, and Steve never leaves a square inch of the trucks empty.  But we have one former mover who isn’t remembered for his awesome work in the field…  We remember him because he always bragged about his side job: fire-juggling.  “He was a street performer,” Nick told me, “and he would juggle these lit torches outside of night clubs.”IMG_0697

Halloween 2014

One of Two Men’s organizational goals is to make all of its employees feel like a team of friends.  Part of the way that our managers accomplish that is by celebrating the holidays in the office.  Last year, we had a Secret Santa with each other for Christmas, and Nick even let the office staff dress up for Halloween.  But the Halloween plan kind of backfired.  “I was the only one who ended up dressing up,” Nick said.  Our CSR Supervisor, Joe, laughed when Nick told the story, and remembered, “He dressed up in a full muscle suit as Hulk Hogan.  It was awesome.”

At least we can laugh at ourselves!

3 Questions You Asked Us AFTER Your Move

Lea  Whenever you move with Two Men and a Truck, you’ll receive an email after your move asking you to rate us in different categories.  If you choose to fill out one of those Reply Cards, you can type up any additional comments you have instead of just giving us numeric ratings.  We LOVE hearing your feedback about specific movers or office staff who did a great job for you!  We also love getting the chance to improve on our service and address any concerns you had during your move.  In this blog post, we’ll answer three questions that we received through Reply Cards from the past three months.

1.  My final moving cost was less/more than the estimate you gave over the phone.  What’s your process for giving estimates?

Every moving company has a different method for their pricing, so this is definitely a valid question to ask!  Because every move is different in terms of location, types of items being moved, and quantity of boxes, our price ends up being a combination of (a) a one-time, flat service fee that covers mileage and the equipment needed for your move, and (b) an hourly cost for the time of your move that is pro-rated by 15-minute increments (so if your move takes an hour and fifteen minutes, you’ll only be charged for the hour and fifteen minutes, not a full two hours).

To come up with your estimate, we first find the service fee based on the distance from your load and unload locations to our office.  Then we ask you some questions about the type of move we’ll be completing to give you an estimate of the number of hours it will take to complete your move.  To be sure we give you an accurate estimate, we always encourage our customers to give us as much information as possible about the approximate number of boxes that will be moved, the furniture items and appliances, and the square footage of the load and unload locations.  We want to be sure our estimates are as accurate as possible, so we do require an on-site estimate for extremely large moves.  However, you’re always welcome to request an on-site estimate for a better idea of your total moving costs if you’re afraid that the phone estimate won’t be exact enough.

2.  I feel like my move could have been completed in less time than your movers used.  Why did it take them so long?

Our movers do definitely take more time than some of your other moving options, and the reason is that we offer a lot more in our moving services than other companies do.  We’re the only company in Nashville that takes the extra time to give complimentary padding and wrapping of every furniture item because we work hard to unload your items in the same condition they were in when we loaded them.  Additionally, our movers are trained to work as quickly as they can at a steady pace.  If they anticipate that a move will take longer than a few hours, our men work at a steady pace to conserve energy for the unload.  Finally, our movers really hate to mess up your walls, doors, or other furniture, so they’ll take more caution when maneuvering through awkward or tight spaces.

3.  I had a damaged item at the end of my move.  How can I get you to take care of it?

Unfortunately, even though we take as much care as we can with moves, everyone does make mistakes.  We know how frustrating it can be to trust someone with your things and have something come back scratched or with something missing.  Our movers will let you know if they’re aware of a damage that occurs during the move, and they’ll help you fill out a damage report at the time that you finish your billing paperwork at the end of the move.  However, be sure to look over your furniture and home again once the movers leave, because we do accept damage reports from you through email or over the phone if you find something we missed during the 3 days following your move.

Once we see pictures of the damage and read the report, we’ll get a professional out there to make repairs.  If we aren’t able to repair the item for you, we’ll pay you more than the industry standard to compensate you for the damage.  We’re always more than glad to fulfill our end of the bargain.

Thanks for the feedback, Nashville!  We’ll always work to give you the best quality move.