Eviction Process: What to Do If You Receive an Eviction Notice

Follow these steps if you receive an eviction notice.

The eviction process is stressful. But losing your home isn’t inevitable. It’s possible to delay or prevent eviction. Help is available — you just have to know where to look. And you need to act fast.

What to do after receiving an eviction notice depends on your lease, your state and even your ZIP code. Knowing and defending your rights, working proactively with your landlord or property manager and accessing local, state and federal resources can keep you in your home.

What is an eviction?

“Eviction is a legal process that may be undertaken to remove a tenant from a rental property,” explains a definition on LegalDictionary.net. “The majority of evictions are the result of a tenant’s failure to pay rent, or the tenant’s frequent violation of the terms of the lease or rental agreement. Regardless of the purpose of the eviction, the landlord must follow a process specified by the law.”

Legal grounds for eviction

Landlords and property managers must follow particular steps and a certain order during the eviction process. They’re required to document every step so the eviction will hold up in a court of law.

Landlords must have a legal reason to evict a tenant. Legal grounds for eviction include:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Incomplete rent payments
  • Criminal activity
  • Committing an act of domestic violence
  • Not abiding by community health and safety standards
  • Not vacating a property when the lease is up
  • Violating the term of the lease by subletting (or subleasing)
  • Housing an unauthorized tenant who doesn’t appear on the lease
  • Keeping an unauthorized pet not specified on the lease
  • Causing significant damage to the property

eviction notice

How long does the eviction process take?

The eviction process varies from state to state. Check the eviction process in your state.

The Eviction Lab provides an overview of eviction rates across the country. The site’s Eviction Tracking System also details the weekly eviction rates in 27 U.S. cities and five states and lists if a state eviction moratorium is in place.

How does the eviction process work?

The eviction process is specific to your state. But the key steps are similar across the country.

The eviction notice

The eviction process begins when a landlord or property manager gives the renter an eviction notice. This is often called a Pay or Quit notice or a Pay or Vacate notice. It serves as a formal, documented warning that a renter violated the lease.

Landlords may post this on the door of a unit. But they usually send it by certified mail so there’s a legal record of the sent and received dates.

This notice tells the renter what they need to do to comply with the lease and avoid eviction. It also lists the number of days permitted before the official eviction notice is filed. The time in between these steps is often just a few days, so it’s important to act immediately.

If you get one of these notices, don’t panic. If you take steps to resolve the issue, your landlord may not file the eviction.

Eviction filing

You must comply with the terms of the lease by the deadline specified in the Pay or Quit Notice. If you don’t, the landlord will file an eviction complaint form to begin the eviction case.

Once a court date is on the books, you’ll receive a summons to court. Both documents will come via delivery by local law enforcement.

Court hearing and judgment

A judge will review documentation in the eviction case. This can include the lease, the payment record and all relevant communication between you and the property owner or landlord.

After reviewing the facts, the judge will issue their ruling. If they find it in your favor, you’ll be allowed to stay in your home.

Even if you win your case, the court case remains part of the public records for up to seven years — just like an eviction. If your next landlord doesn’t read the details of the case, this can negatively influence your background check. That’s why it’s so important to stop the eviction process before it gets to this point, if possible.

If the judge sides with the landlord, you’ll be forced to leave your home. Depending on the rules in your state, unclaimed belongings will be removed through the court process, put in storage or set out on the curb.

Man upset holding an eviction notice.

What to do if you get an eviction notice

It’s normal to feel shocked or overwhelmed by an eviction notice. But since the time between an eviction notice and an eviction filing is short, it’s important to act quickly to stop the process early.

The effort is worth it. An eviction stays on your record for seven years and makes it difficult to rent an apartment in the future. Unpaid rent can damage your credit for years to come. And the stress of eviction has negative physical, mental and emotional effects on the entire household, especially children.

Review the steps below and reach out for help the moment you get an eviction notice or know you’ll be short on the rent. Every step takes time, so pursue multiple resources simultaneously. Don’t wait to hear back from someone before moving down the list.

1. Review your lease

If you’re served with an eviction notice for violating the terms of your lease, review your copy. Make sure any violations you’re accused of are actually listed in the lease.

Paperwork errors can happen. And vague or general language can lead to confusion. If you find an error or wording that’s open to interpretation, contact your landlord for clarification immediately. Document all correspondence.

2. Correct any lease violations

If you’re violating the terms of your lease, change your behavior right away. Unauthorized roommates and pets must find a new place to live immediately. Repair any property damage.

Document your compliance in writing. Supply photos and receipts for repairs. Communicate all positive changes to your property manager or landlord.

3. Make a payment plan

If you’re behind on the rent, create a payment plan and present it to your landlord. This document should tell them why you’re experiencing financial difficulties. It should also give a reasonable repayment schedule.

You can request to delay payments, make smaller payments or ask for rent forgiveness, depending on your financial situation. Stay realistic about what you can afford.

Property managers aren’t obligated to accept your plan. But many would rather have some income and a realistic plan for repayment instead of dealing with the eviction process.

Woman calculating numbers on her laptop.

4. Take advantage of temporary eviction moratoria

If you lost your job during the pandemic (or experienced a loss of income) fill out the CDC Declaration Form and provide a copy to your landlord immediately. The eviction moratorium suspends the eviction process during the COVID-19 public health crisis. This temporary stop to evictions for non-payment of rent extends to June 30, 2021.

This is not a rent forgiveness program. Your rent is still due. But it could buy you some very valuable time to access rent assistance programs and find employment.

Many states are also halting evictions during the pandemic. Regional Housing Legal Services displays temporary state eviction moratoria on an interactive map.

5. Access federal, state and local funding resources

Federal, state and local governments offer emergency rent assistance programs and other resources to help renters secure more affordable housing. You may qualify for more than one program, so reach out to as many as you can, as soon as you can.

The Apartment Guide Eviction Resource Guide lists federal eviction resources. It also helps renters search for service organizations and government programs in their home states. Charitable organizations also offer grants and emergency rent payment assistance.

HUD

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides affordable housing options across the country. Contact a Public Housing Agency (PHA) for rental advice at (800) 569-4287. Or search by state for an agency near you.

Renters who already receive assistance from HUD may qualify for lower rent through income recertification or hardship exemptions. A PHA representative can help you file the correct paperwork.

The NLIHC

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (or NLIHC) maintains a list of emergency rental relief programs by state. It also offers rental assistance.

The CFPB

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) features comprehensive advice for renters facing eviction in eight different languages, including Spanish and Tagalog. It includes resources for active duty service members and a list of emergency rental assistance programs across the country.

211

Get help with housing expenses by calling 211 or searching 211.org. Renters can connect with local health and human service agencies, food and clothing banks, shelters and utility assistance programs.

talking to lawyer about eviction notice

6. Know your rights

If you receive an eviction notice, review your tenant’s rights. These vary by state, but there are commonalities. Your eviction is not valid if a landlord has discriminated against you, violated your rights, harassed you or provided a home that is not safe.

Property managers and landlords can’t discriminate against a renter because of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability. A landlord can’t evict you because of your marital status, whether or not you have children or the language you speak.

Landlords cannot harass you until you move out or cite personality conflicts as a reason for eviction. They can’t change the locks, throw you out without proper notice or prevent you from entering your home.

Housing law states that tenants have the right to live in clean homes that protect from the elements. They must have working heat, plumbing and electrical systems. Homes should meet all health and housing code standards and be safe and accessible for residents.

7. Contact a fair housing organization

If these rights are violated, call in the experts at your local fair housing agency. These organizations can also help renters facing eviction examine their options. Services and programs vary by state.

“Almost every state has a fair housing organization. And there’s a National Fair Housing Alliance that can help as well,” said Michelle Rydz, executive director of High Plains Fair Housing Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. “We can help them fill out the paperwork and find money to pay for rent. And we have lawyers that work with us that can help clients when they have a court date.”

8. Get a lawyer

Finding a lawyer might sound like an unnecessary cost. But the eviction process moves quickly and the financial consequences of a judgment are dire. Seek council at the first sign of trouble.

“I think that tenants should seek the advice of counsel at the notice stage,” said Emily Benfer, law professor at Wake Forest School of Law and the chair of The American Bar Association’s COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction.

Retaining an attorney can stop an eviction from becoming part of a renter’s permanent record. Attorneys also help more renters win their cases and stay in their homes.

“Nationwide, only 10 percent of tenants are able to secure representation in eviction cases, compared to 90 percent of landlords,” Benfer said, “Where tenants are not represented, the vast majority lose their case.”

A study conducted by The Kansas City Eviction Project found that 72 percent of tenants without legal representation had monetary damages and/or an eviction judgment entered against them. For renters with attorneys, the percentage fell to 56 percent. Benfer’s article cites a study that shows that 84 percent of New York City renters represented by an attorney remained in their homes.

Free and affordable legal resources

Paying for a lawyer is a major concern for people facing eviction. There are resources available for renters on a budget.

The American Bar Association’s FreeLegalHelp.Org connects low-income renters with federally funded legal aid services. It also includes pro bono attorneys who volunteer their services for free.

Search LawHelp.org for legal assistance and free legal aid programs by state and a list of legal resources. Or visit JustShelter.org to find resources listed by state. The site also links to several legal aid organizations across the country.

woman looking at tablet

How to get an apartment after an eviction

It isn’t easy to get an apartment after an eviction. But it can be done. Some basic tips can help you build up your credit and get back on your feet.

  • Rebuild your credit: Work with a credit counselor, consolidate your debt, reduce your expenses and pay all your bills on time.
  • Get a co-signer: Ask someone you trust with good credit to co-sign your lease to help lessen your landlord’s financial risk and share the financial burden.
  • Find a roommate: Move in with friends or family to minimize expenses, pay off debt and save money for a larger deposit
  • Demonstrate your credibility: Dress to impress and be polite. Tell landlords (ideally in writing) about your eviction and provide evidence that it won’t happen again.
  • Show financial responsibility: offer a larger deposit upfront to minimize the landlord’s financial risk. Produce paycheck stubs and reference letters from your employer and demonstrate how you’re rebuilding your credit.

Keep calm and take action

Eviction isn’t inevitable. By understanding the eviction process, acting quickly and using all your resources, you can hopefully delay or prevent eviction and stay in your home.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com

[Update] Chase Credit Cards To Include “Cash-Like Transactions” as Cash Advance (Could Include Bank Funding)

(Update 4/18/21: Reposting this since it recently went into effect. I haven’t heard any practical ramifications yet, seems it was more of a warning shot. We’ll see.)

Chase sent out an email blast today on both consumer and business credit cards indicating that beginning in April they’ll broaden the cash advance category to include many ‘cash-like transactions’. These transactions would incur a cash advance fee, and won’t earn credit card rewards.

The new rule could make things funding bank accounts, buying crypto, lotto/gambling, P2P payments on Venmo or Paypal, PayPal Key, and even using bill payment services to be considered cash advances. (Plastiq is pretty good at figuring out when their transactions will be cash advance, and I expect they’ll let us know if there are any changes.)

Cash-like transactions will be treated as cash advances. Cash-like transactions include, but are not limited to, the following transactions to the extent they are accepted:

• purchasing travelers checks, foreign currency, money orders, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, other similar digital or virtual currency and other similar transactions;
• purchasing lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, race track wagers, and similar offline and online betting transactions;
• person-to-person money transfers and account-funding transactions that transfer currency; and
• making a payment using a third party service including bill payment transactions not made directly with the merchant or their service provider.

The effective date for this change is either April 10th or 16th with some people seeing one date and some seeing the other. We won’t know for certain how all this will all play out until we get there and see what happens on the ground. Most people got this on Chase business cards, but some are getting this on personal cards too, so it seems it’ll be true across all cards.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

12 Cheapest Small Towns in America

Small-town living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there’s the cost of living, which typically is cheaper in small towns than in expensive big cities.

To get a better sense of what inexpensive small-town living really has to offer, we compiled a list of the 12 cheapest small towns in America, with small towns defined as places with populations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. We based our rankings on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 269 urban areas. C2ER’s expansive study tracks prices for housing, utilities, healthcare, groceries, transportation and miscellaneous goods and services (such as going to a movie theater or hair salon).

It goes without saying that you should weigh the pros and cons before you pack up and relocate to one of the 12 cheapest small towns in America. While a low cost of living is attractive, it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area. Plan an extended visit to ensure the small town fits your lifestyle.

The most recent Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) Cost of Living Index, published February 2021, is based on price data collected during the first three quarters of 2020. City-level data on city populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 7 for the period ended February 2021.

1 of 12

Benton Harbor, Mich.

photo of lighthouse and pierphoto of lighthouse and pier
  • Cost of living: 12.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 9,843
  • Median household income: $21,916 (U.S.: $65,712)
  • Median home value: $63,300 (U.S.: $240,500)
  • Unemployment rate: 6.0% (U.S.: 6.0%)

Benton Harbor sits by the shores of Lake Michigan about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, which is one of the cheapest larger cities in the U.S. The small town’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to Whirlpool (WHR), the global manufacturer of washers, dryers, refrigerators and a range of other home appliances.

But despite being host to a Fortune 500 company, Benton Harbor is among America’s cheapest small towns, boasting a cost of living that’s more than 12% below the national average.

True, median income is roughly a third of the national level, but the unemployment rate is in line with the country as a whole. Poverty and crime are also high in Benton Harbor – factors that contribute to a median home value that’s an eye-popping 74% lower than the national median. Indeed, housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, are 32% cheaper in Benton Harbor, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Neighboring St. Joseph, about the same size as Benton Harbor, is a popular beach resort town with significantly higher household incomes and home values.

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Hutchinson, Kan.

Strataca salt mine Strataca salt mine
  • Cost of living: 13.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 40,914
  • Median household income: $46,927
  • Median home value: $96,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Hutchinson, known as “Hutch” by the locals, is about an hour’s drive northwest from Wichita. Founded in the early 1870s as a railroad town, Hutch soon became known for its salt deposits, which were first discovered in 1887.

Today, Hutch is synonymous with the Kansas State Fair, which it hosts annually. The town is also home to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Basketball Tournament. Local cultural attractions include the Fox Theatre, which opened in 1931. The grand movie palace is considered to be among the finest examples of theater art deco architecture in the Midwest.

Where Hutch stands out among America’s cheapest small towns is that it boasts the lowest housing costs on this list. Indeed, they run 41.3% below the national average. Apartment rents are 43% lower than national average, while home prices come in at a 40% discount.

However, other major costs of living aren’t too far off from what the average American pays. Although prices for groceries are almost 7% lower than the national average, healthcare and miscellaneous goods & services are essentially the same as the U.S. average.

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Meridian, Miss.

photo of a courthousephoto of a courthouse
  • Cost of living: 14.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,848
  • Median household income: $32,422
  • Median home value: $83,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%

Meridian was rebuilt from 1890 to 1930 after being almost totally destroyed in the Civil War. As a result, it has not one but nine registered historic districts. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, dating back to 1909, is one of the more whimsical ones.

Meridian’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music.” Music remains a centerpiece of Meridian’s cultural scene to this day.

Today, the federal government plays an important role in its economic life, as Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field are two of the largest employers.

Happily, the men and women in uniform, and Meridian’s civilian citizens, catch a break on expenses. The cost of living stands 14.1% below the U.S. average; what really pushes Meridian into America’s absolute cheapest small towns are its comparatively modest housing costs. Indeed, housing expenses are a third lower than what the average American pays.

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Burlington, Iowa

photo of a bridge in Iowaphoto of a bridge in Iowa
  • Cost of living: 14.3% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,974
  • Median household income: $47,540
  • Median home value: $93,200 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Burlington sits on the Mississippi River, about 165 miles east of Des Moines. Manufacturing has long been a staple of the area economy, but a number of major employers have left over the years. Today, top employers include Great River Health System and American Ordnance, which makes ammunition for the U.S. military.

Utilities in Burlington are close to 12% more expensive than the national average and healthcare costs are essentially the same. Inexpensive housing is what makes Burlington a truly affordable small town. Housing-related costs are 35% cheaper compared to what the average American pays. Rents, on average, are almost 40% lower than the national average.

True, median incomes are 28% lower than the national figure, but then, median home values are cheaper by more than 60%.

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Ponca City, Okla.

photo of a courthouse in Ponca City, OKphoto of a courthouse in Ponca City, OK
  • Cost of living: 14.5% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,134
  • Median household income: $44,043
  • Median home value: $96,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

Ponca City traces its lineage back to the days of the Land Run of 1893, when pioneers decided to build a town in north-central Oklahoma near the Arkansas River and a freshwater spring. Not long after its founding, enterprising oil men successfully drilled wells in the area, and Ponca City remains an oil town to this day. The area’s largest employers include energy companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX).

Household incomes are well below the national median, but housing is a heck of a deal. The median value of a Ponca City home is just $96,600. Nationally, it’s $240,500. Indeed, total housing costs are just two-thirds of what the average American pays, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Residents also catch a break on healthcare, which is 12.4% less expensive.

Although it’s among the cheapest small towns in America, Ponca City’s low costs of living do come at a cost of their own: The town sits pretty much in the middle of Tornado Alley.

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Martinsville, Va.

photo of Martinsville Speedwayphoto of Martinsville Speedway
  • Cost of living: 15.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 12,852
  • Median household income: $34,371
  • Median home value: $87,700 
  • Unemployment rate: 9.8%

Martinsville needs no introduction to race fans. The tiny Virginia town, an hour’s drive south of Roanoke, lays claim to the Martinsville Speedway of NASCAR fame. Racing enthusiasts laud the short track for its tight turns and intimate seating.

Beyond the track, manufacturing has always been central to the area’s economy, and although a number of firms have moved on over the past decades, factory work remains important. Major employers include Eastman Chemical (EMN), a manufacturer of plastics, and Monogram Foods.

Martinsville has a rich history dating back to colonial times, and the town boasts multiple historic districts and historic sites including the John Waddey Carter House and the Dry Bridge School.

But Martinsville also is notable as one of America’s cheapest small towns. Housing expenses are 32% below the national average. Fittingly for a racing town, gasoline is about 6% cheaper per gallon.

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Salina, Kan.

photo of downtown Salina, KSphoto of downtown Salina, KS
  • Cost of living: 16.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 46,998
  • Median household income: $50,490
  • Median home value: $129,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%

The small town of Salina sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, about 90 miles north of Wichita and 180 miles west of Kansas City.

Manufacturing and healthcare are among the town’s most important industries. Major employers include Schwan’s Company, the maker of Tony’s frozen pizza; Great Plains Manufacturing, which serves the agricultural industry; and the Salina Regional Health Center. Salina is also home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of Kansas School of Medicine Salina Campus and Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

This economic mix is producing both low unemployment and low living costs. Housing expenses run two-thirds of the national average, according to C2ER. Groceries are cheaper too, running about 8% lower than the national average.

Utility bills, however, take a bit of a bite. In Salina, they’re almost 2% higher than the U.S. average.

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Statesboro, Ga.

courthouse Statesboro, GAcourthouse Statesboro, GA
  • Cost of living: 16.8% below U.S. average
  • City population: 31,495
  • Median household income: $29,203
  • Median home value: $113,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

As home to the flagship campus of Georgia Southern University, Statesboro offers many of the benefits of college-town living but at exceedingly affordable prices. Thanks to its status as an academic hub, cultural attractions tied to the local university include a performing arts center, symphony, museum, planetarium and botanic gardens.

Another perk? The charming city of Savannah is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.

Although the university is the area’s largest employer, manufacturing jobs also play an important part in the local economy. At the same time, it should be noted that Statesboro has a high poverty rate, or 41.8% vs. 13.3% for the state of Georgia as a whole.

Statesboro’s place among America’s cheapest small towns is largely due to housing costs, which are about 32% lower compared with the national average, while healthcare runs roughly 14% below average. For example, a visit to a doctor costs about 24% less in Statesboro. Dental care is about a fifth less expensive, according to the C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

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Tupelo, Miss.

photo of house where Elvis Presley was bornphoto of house where Elvis Presley was born
  • Cost of living: 19% below U.S. average
  • City population: 38,271
  • Median household income: $50,694
  • Median home value: $145,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Tupelo’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Indeed, the town, 100 miles southeast of Memphis’s Graceland, is looking forward to hosting its 23rd annual Elvis Festival in June. (Last year’s gathering was a virtual-only affair.)

Not a fan of The King? The cultural scene also includes the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Tupelo Automobile Museum. But Tupelo’s second-biggest claim to fame is arguably its super-low living costs. Electric and gas bills are about 12% lower than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Housing is 34% cheaper and groceries go for 16% less.

For residents not making a living as Elvis impersonators, major employers include North Mississippi Health Services, Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) and BancorpSouth (BXS), which is headquartered in Tupelo.

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Richmond, Ind.

Amish man in horse and buggyAmish man in horse and buggy
  • Cost of living: 19.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 35,539
  • Median household income: $39,724
  • Median home value: $88,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Few cities of any size can claim Richmond’s place in the early history of recorded jazz. Some of the first jazz records were made in this small town, featuring greats such as Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. There’s a Walk of Fame celebrating jazz and other artists who recorded with Richmond’s Gennett Records.

While jazz will always be part of its history, today’s Richmond, which is an hour’s drive west from Dayton, Ohio, is known more for its colleges and seminaries. They include Indiana University East, the Earlham School of Religion (part of Quaker-influenced Earlham College) and the Bethany Theological Seminary.

Inexpensive housing is a key to Richmond’s place among our nation’s cheapest small towns. Residents spend 34% less on housing than the average American does. Apartment rents are about half the national average. Average home prices are 26% less. Healthcare is also a bargain. For example, a visit to the eye doctor costs about 50% less than the national average. An appointment with a physician is cheaper by a third.

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Muskogee, Okla.

museum in Muskogee, OKmuseum in Muskogee, OK
  • Cost of living: 19.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,624
  • Median household income: $38,194
  • Median home value: $92,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Muskogee packs a lot of history, culture and colleges into a small package.

Located about 50 miles south of Tulsa, the town traces its roots back to 1817. It’s home to four institutions of higher learning, as well as the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Jim Thorpe – All-American, the 1951 film starring Burt Lancaster, was shot on the campus of what was then known as the Bacone Indian University in Muskogee. The town also boasts six museums and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

And let’s not forget what is arguably the town’s most famous appearance in popular culture – Merle Haggard’s hit song “Okie from Muskogee,” which became an emblem of Vietnam-era America. 

Today, the area’s employers include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a VA medical center and paper company Georgia-Pacific.

But what really puts Muskogee on the map is its ultra-low cost of living. The biggest break comes from housing-related expenses, which are more than 35% lower than the national average, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Transportation, groceries and healthcare are notably cheaper, too.

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Pittsburg, Kan.

Russ Hall at Pittsburg State UniversityRuss Hall at Pittsburg State University
  • Cost of living: 19.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 20,171
  • Median household income: $34,956
  • Median home value: $88,500 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

The cheapest small town in America is Pittsburg, Kan., based on the 269 urban areas analyzed by C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Pittsburg is about a two-hour drive due south from Kansas City on Route 69. When you get there, you’ll find a small town with a cost of living more than 19% below the national average.

Once upon a time, the town was known for its abundance of coal and the Southern and Eastern European immigrants who worked the mines. Today, the area relies more heavily on higher education, thanks to the presence of Pittsburg State University. Famous alumni of Pittsburg’s local university include actor Gary Busey and Brian Moorman, retired two-time Pro Bowl punter for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Although median incomes are almost $31,000 below the national average, median home prices are a whopping $152,000 cheaper. That helps make housing costs 37.2% less expensive than what the average American pays. A myriad of other items are cheap, as well. For example, a haircut will set you back an average of $14.82 vs. $18.88 nationally. Shampoo costs 89 cents, whereas the average American pays $1.05.

Source: kiplinger.com

It's Time for a Spring Cleaning of Your Mind

After a long, hard year, your mental closet’s looking pretty cluttered. Give your professional life a much-needed reset with this four-step spring cleaning to clear your mind of unnecessary stuff and make way for the things that bring you success.

By

Rachel Cooke
April 12, 2021

Team Renewal session here.

Ready to spring clean your mind? Awesome. Let’s do this!

Set yourself up for success

This exercise can deliver a little value or a ton. If you’re here for a ton, then let’s start by setting you up for maximum success.

A great setup means focusing on three key factors: 

  1. Mindset. Look at this as that opportunity for renewal. Not only is it a chance to let go of anything that isn’t functioning anymore, it’s also an opportunity to dial up the things that are working. The process should feel like a gift, not a chore. Tell yourself this until you believe it.
     
  2. Time. Give yourself time to be reflective. You don’t want to race though this exercise. It should feel thoughtful and intentional. I typically set aside two to three hours, sometimes in a single block, or sometimes in smaller chunks. Whatever works for you is great.
     
  3. Space. Try to clear a space in which you’re unlikely to be distracted. Move physical clutter and ask anyone (big or little) who shares your space to steer clear of you. This isn’t a meditation retreat. Nothing has to be perfect. But try to separate yourself from “real life” as much as you can. 

Now you’re ready. So let’s get you renewed.

Run your renewal

The process I use, both for myself and with my clients, is comprised of four components.

1. Celebrate (and clear out) the past

A great renewal begins with a letting go of what’s non longer serving us. It gives us a clean slate. But letting go can be hard. So I’ve borrowed an insight from Marie Kondo.

A few years ago her “magical” KonMari method of home organizing took the world by storm. And one of the unique tenets of her method is the idea of honoring the past, expressing gratitude for what has served us.

In this HuffPo interview, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Yuko Hanakawa, explains that “By treating your items with respect, kindness and gratitude, you are enhancing the spirit of the given item. … From that perspective…you are respecting the spirit of the items that you’re letting go of with gratitude, instead of getting rid of them with negativity or force.”

I’ve adapted this concept into my own process. This spring renewal process is about, in part, letting go of things no longer serving us. Instead of items we express gratitude to the projects, practices, and habits that helped us get to where we are but are no longer serving a purpose.

So, honor what’s served you previously—find a way to express gratitude for it getting you thiss far. And then find a way to let it go.

For me, in past years, I’ve celebrated but let go of:

  • Working with an amazing coach who had supported me … but who I’d outgrown
  • Reading every how-to book on starting a business … because mine was finally started
  • Offering free introductory sessions to new clients … which I no longer needed to do because I was succeeding

I was able to appreciate the value each of these had delivered for me. Then I thanked them for their service and let them go with grace.

2. Define your Secret Sauce

Now that you’ve cleared out space in your intellectual closest, the next step is to identify what makes you truly stand out.

You want to be clear and purposeful so you can choose a handful of things you really want to dial up.

For me, there’s a lot I can do. I’ve built training programs on various leadership topics and I’ve done it well. I’m a good teacher. But I’ve realized I’m an excellent facilitator. 

I don’t want to just be good; I want to shine. We all deserve to shine.

I can teach a team how to do a thing. But what I really love is facilitating the dialog that enables the team to decide the right thing for them and their organization.

Whether it’s about defining an operating model or determining how best to lead their teams through change, I love providing a framework and then facilitating the build of a powerful action plan.

This is an important insight for me. It helps me focus on which projects and clients to pursue, and which to refer to my amazing colleagues. 

I don’t want to just be good; I want to shine. We all deserve to shine.

So what about you? What do you do well, and what do you do that really knocks people over? Figure out a way to dial up the latter. What do you need more of in your life?

3. Identify detractors

Now let’s identify anything that distracts you from focusing on your secret sauce.

I’m not talking about the quick breaks you take to call a friend or watch a cat video. You deserve those. I’m talking about things you do as part of your workday that are inhibiting, not delivering, value.

Are you spending too many hours a week in meetings that don’t really require you? Managing a dashboard no one looks at? Do you talk too often to a colleague who is grumpy or cynical and might be bringing you down?

Think long and hard about where you’re spending your time and what activities may be keeping you off-purpose.

For me, as my business began to grow, I realized I was spending too much time on administrative work. I finally hired an accountant and am now on the hunt for a virtual assistant. Getting clear on what holds you back can really help inform your choices on how best to move forward.

4. Commit to habits and practices

Finally, it’s time to reflect on what you’ve learned, and to establish some new practices that will keep you on purpose and on track.

Maybe you commit to declining one meeting per week (to start) and see how it feels. Or you decide to repurpose your old “commute time” as listening-to-a-business-podcast time. Maybe you set aside some time each week to network, or an hour a day to walk. Or maybe you start and maintain a Bullet Journal to keep you focused.

This is not an exercise in goal-setting. Your focus should be on specific practices—things you can see (and satisfyingly check off!) once you’ve completed. them

There are no right or wrong answers, as long as you’re making choices with purpose and intention.

Here are some of the practices I’ve personally committed to over the years:

  1. I do quarterly check-ins with each member of my secret circle of mentors
  2. I send a relevant article per week to a past or current client. This keeps me top of mind while adding value for them
  3. I do monthly progress checks against my goals to determine where I’m on track and where I need to make change
  4. I do a weekly personal celebration by listing everything I accomplished that week that left me feeling proud. Celebrating myself keeps me motivated.

And there you have my four-step process for my intellectual spring cleaning. It leaves me refreshed and revived every time.

I hope you’ll take advantage and run your own.

Oh, and a little insider secret: mental spring cleaning works in any season. Any time you’re feeling the slog of overwhelm give this process a try. And let me know how it goes!