Category Archives: Decluttering

Purge That Pantry

Canned Food - 1

It’s not always this obvious when canned food has reached its expiration date

Does the thought of having to deal with expired food in your pantry keep you from organizing your kitchen storage? Do you dread putting groceries away because there is no room in the cabinets?  This might be a sign that you need a pantry purge.

Food waste is a big issue in the US. We have a tendency to over-buy food then let it go to waste. Screw up your courage and take a swing through your pantry and fridge to re-familiarize yourself with your own inventory and make a plan to use things up before they go bad.

But when do things really go bad? The product expiration dates on food can be a bit confusing. Here’s how they break down:

Sell-by:  A manufacturer set date when to take products off the shelf; but they may still be just fine for you. Properly refrigerated milk, for example, will last 5-7 days past it’s sell-by date before souring.

Best if used by/before:  This is all about when maximum quality and flavor will expire, not safety – except baby formula.

Use-by:  This is basically the exact same as “Best if Used by/before”. It indicates the expiration of peak quality of the product, not safety (except baby formula)

How to tell if it’s really gone bad? 

According to food safety experts it’s ok to trust your nose and taste buds to tell if something has gone bad. Another handy tool is the Food Safety App from the USDA – a quick search by product will tell you how long it should be good for unopened AND once opened. Once you determine that a food item is no longer edible, remove it from its packaging and put it in the compost bin.

What if it’s is still good?

Drop it by your local food bank, or into a collection barrel at one of the major supermarkets, or don’t be shy to post it online to NextDoor or Freecycle and offer it to neighbors.

Did you know that it is far better to use up food from your panty than donate it to a food bank? Why? It saves the food bank precious resources: schedulers, drivers, food sorters, and fuel.
When you donate cash instead of food the food bank can purchase their most-needed items…and usually get $7 worth of food for every $1 of donation.

And, don’t forget to check for expired foods in your earthquake kit! Have your earthquake food be part of your household food rotation; re-purchase earthquake food every six months and donate the older food to a food drive orthrow a disaster preparedness party and invite people to share their earthquake food, tasting different food bars and ordering fresh supplies. Look for long-shelf-life foods…some bars last 5 years.

Are you ready to take the plunge and refresh your food storage? Take a bite out of your resistance and commit to tackling one shelf at a time.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Strategies

Are You Ready For An Emergency?

In California we live with the possibility of wildfires and earthquake disasters year round. Being prepared can provide peace of mind, even if we aren’t ever faced with an emergency.

We know we should be prepared for natural or personal disasters. But we lead busy lives. Who has time to deal with something that MIGHT happen, someday?

There are ways to upgrade your disaster preparation without getting overwhelmed.

Remember ANY amount of preparation is better than none.   So, let’s choose just three of the most important preparations and accomplish them.

Step One: Get a kit

If you are busy, purchasing an emergency kit is easier and faster than making your own.

Here is a great option from EmergencyKits.com with all the supplies the Red Cross recommends.

 

 

Emergency Backpack - 1

There are many vendors for earthquake backpacks.  It’s good to be able to customize your kit.

This kit also provides both bags of water and water purification tablets. The bags of water are not enough for 72 hours (which the Red Cross recommends). So the tablets are crucial. But to use the tablets you’ll need a receptacle for holding water. Add this collapsible water container to your order and put it in your kit and you’ll have enough water for 72 hours or longer.

While you are reading this article, click and order, and you will have accomplished Step One! Store the kit in your car for quick evacuation or emergencies on the road.

Step Two: Make a plan

An emergency plan refers to knowing who to call for help, how to get in touch with loved ones, and where to go if you need to evacuate your home.

Print one of these emergency card templates for each member of your family. Fill them out together as a family activity. Keep the cards in wallets or backpacks.

Step Three: Get informed

Next time you wait at the doctor’s office or are put on hold by AT&T, put these key contacts in your phone and copy them into your wallet. They are valuable sources for information during a disaster.

  • Safe and Well Website. To let your friends and family know you are safe, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Website. You may also call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and select the prompt for “Disaster” to register.

Now that you see you can accomplish three major steps in disaster preparation, visit Ready.Gov to learn more emergency preparations you can incorporate into your life.

Thank you to NAPO-SFBA and Emily Fox for inspiring this post.

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, Guest Experts, Perspective, Strategies

De-Stressing Your Move Phase 3 – Moving In and Beyond

Keys to Your New Home

 

 You’re in the final stretch! At this point you may be a bit worn out and ready for this whole move to be done. Hang in there and stay focused through this last phase…

Few Days Before the Move

  • Prep your appliances, clear the fridge and freezer, remove all food and clear cabinets, leaving only what you’ll need for the next few days and moving day.
  • Finish packing…NO LOOSE ITEMS! You don’t want to finish packing when the movers are there.
  • Make sure you thoroughly understand your mover’s insurance options before move day. It’s hard to process information on the spot when the movers arrive. There is a difference between standard coverage and full replacement coverage. The morning of the move will be hectic and it’s not the best time to have a full conversation about that.
  • If you have large or odd shaped objects that you are not able to pack, make sure your movers know ahead of time so they can come prepared to pack on move day.
  • Don’t forget that you might have items in the garden that you’re planning on bringing with you. Find out your mover’s policy on transporting plants.
  • Garbage emptied, hazardous materials dealt with.
  • Arrange to have water available and cash tips for the movers.

Moving Day

It’s moving day and you’re packed and ready for the movers who like to get started early and they hit the ground running as soon as they arrive.  They move quickly so keep separate your moving day kit and anything you are taking yourself. Stay out of the way, but plan to stay on site during the move.

  • Have breakfast. You don’t want to get too far from your normal routine.
  • Pack up any of those last items you were using the day before; The sheets on your bed can be thrown into a box the morning of the move.
  • Accompany the mover as he or she inventories your possessions (interstate moves) and makes condition reports.
  • Do a final sweep of the house before the movers leave to make sure they get everything.

Move-in Day

  • Have your floor plan ready so the movers know where the furniture is going. They will usually unload the furniture first.
  • Supervise the unload. Make sure the boxes get taken to the rooms they will need to be unloaded. You don’t want to be moving a box from the basement up to the attic yourself. This is why labeling is so important.   Take full advantage of the help you’ll have on move-in day.
  • If you do an interstate move, every box will be numbered and correspond with an inventory list. Use that list to make sure all your items arrive at your new location.
  • Make sure the “unpack first” boxes aren’t buried under a stack.
  • Make a plan for what you’ll do with empty boxes; create a staging area where you can gather them and sort by size. Offer them up for free on Craigslist, NextDoor or Offer Up.
  • Get your critical areas up and running first: heart of your kitchen, toiletries, sheets on your bed, for example. This is why having some clothes packed separately is helpful. You might not get to your clothes boxes on the first day.
  • Unpack room by room once your critical areas are set up. Take your time and get help if needed. Having your new home set-up in an organized way is a great gift to yourself.

Celebrate!

Once the movers are gone and your bed is made, if it’s not too late, get a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine and a bowl of fruit and celebrate!

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Filed under Decluttering, Moving, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies

Destressing Your Move: Phase 2 – Start Packing

packing boxes Nina Garman from Pixabay

The first phase of moving was “planning ahead.” Now – at least 4 weeks from move day – it’s time to get into action. Packing and letting people (and companies) know your plans constitutes the bulk of this phase.

Picture this – the moving truck is pulling away from your new home. You’re worn out from the weeks leading up to the move.  You open up a random box and are faced with all kinds of mixed-up items that now have to be sorted and then figure out where they live. That takes lots of energy and time you probably won’t have – Ugh! Now multiply that feeling by the tens of boxes you have in every room! Yikes!

Make a Packing Timeline – Spend the time and energy before the move taking care to weed your possessions and decide where things will eventually live. That way, you can pack and label the boxes accordingly. 

There’s an analogy that a move is like a ball rolling downhill – the closer you get to move day the faster time will be flying by. And before you know it, you’re just throwing things into boxes (if you’re lucky) in order to be ready in time. Plan out a schedule for completing the major packing in each room and allow for a full extra week to catch up on all the things you didn’t plan for.

Get Supplies – If you do any of the packing yourself, you’ll have to gather supplies.  Since the boxes are bulky and can take over your house, dedicate space to store them so they won’t get in the way.

  • Places such as Home Depot and U-Haul offer online box ordering with easy “kits” for different size moves that you can customize.
  • Buy rolls or boxes of packing paper; don’t rely on finding enough newspaper for padding delicate items. Large bubble wrap is often more useful than the small bubble wrap for medium to large items. And don’t buy cheap packing tape – it isn’t worth the hassle when it constantly breaks on your tape gun.
  • Have a dedicated small box or basket and fixed location where you always keep your critical packing supplies: markers, post-its, packing tape, tape gun, utility knife.

Begin with the End in Mind

  • Whether you’ve decided to pack yourself or hire packing help, it’s essential to segregate items you’re taking with you into “like” groups to make packing and unpacking.  This is why it is helpful to start with an organized home. If you have pared down what you own so that you only have items you need to bring with you, there’s minimal decision-making come packing time.
  • Make sure you label your boxes with the destination in your new home, i.e., master bedroom, downstairs bath, laundry area, for example. Consider labeling some boxes “UNPACK FIRST” for each room.
  • It can help to have an inventory sheet with the box number and contents if the unpacking will happen over time or if your boxes will be sitting in storage for a time.
  • Pace Yourself – Packing can be exhausting! Take breaks, plan your meals, be realistic about how long you can work each day. Ask for help if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed.

moving day kit

Let People (and Companies) Know

  • Contact your utility companies on both ends of the move and make arrangements to transfer or cancel your service on the date you hand over possession of your home
  • In addition to the utility companies, make a check-list of the people/companies who send you mail: Banks, Insurance Companies, Medical Providers. Don’t forget to include:
  • Consider sending out “We’re Moving” cards with your new address to your friends and family.
  • Ask the new homeowners to forward any mail that slips through the USPS system and comes to your old address.

The Goal Is This…

You walk into your new home, energized and ready to get to work … every room has clearly labeled boxes of the items that belong in that room, the labels let you know which boxes you want to unpack first. When you open a box, you can efficiently put things away because you know where they’re going. Bonus if you have helpers it’s easy to direct them because the boxes are all well packed, labeled, and organized!  Next post – Moving Day.

Moving Day Comfort Item

Make sure you don’t leave any special things behind!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, home organizing, Moving, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

De-Stressing Your Move: Phase 1 – Planning Ahead

planning for a move

It’s been said that moving is one of the top 5 most stressful life events –

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Major illness or injury
  • Job loss

And often moving must happen because of one or more of these life events!

While there’s no way to make moving completely stress-free, with some forethought you can keep the move manageable. There’s a lot to cover so we’re going to talk about moving in three phases:

  1. Planning Ahead
  2. Start Packing
  3. Moving Day & Beyond

Plan Ahead & Start Early

This is probably the biggest key to managing the stress of a move. Having enough time to organize all the moving parts (pun intended) and stay on top of details keeps you feeling in control. Often the timeline of a move will feel like a ball rolling downhill, picking up momentum and going faster and faster – the closer you get to move date the shorter each day will feel!

  • Ideally, a minimum of 2 months before your move schedule movers and start to tackle problem areas, room by room.
  • Decide if how much packing and moving you’re doing yourself vs. hiring help. If you’re going the DIY route, allow for more time. If you’re hiring packing help, you’ll need to pre-sort things to avoid having boxes of mixed-up stuff to untangle at the new home.
  • Moving isn’t inexpensive! If you hire help for packing and moving, even for a local move, expect to pay a few thousand dollars. Hiring help can be well worth the value. With someone to schlep boxes, you’ll be able to focus your energy on decision making rather than physically wearing yourself out.
  • Know the limits of your new space and let that guide your purging, especially for items such as photos, memorabilia and books. Floor planning ahead of time gives you the exact reality of what will fit in your space. You want to make sure the available storage will hold whatever you bring.
  • Honor your own limits of time and energy for combing through these things in order to weed the collections.
  • Think about what to do with everything you won’t be taking with you. Decide if you want to sell anything via a garage sale, estate sale or online. Identify local donation places and find out if they do pickups. You will have leftovers that can’t be donated; identify haulers or find out your city’s policy on bulky pickups as part of your trash service.

This first phase of moving is all about getting a handle on the big picture and getting through as much of the sorting and purging as possible.

Even if you’re not moving now and just considering it for the future, the process of sorting through things and paring down will make you more nimble if and when you decide to move.

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Seniors, Time Management

5 Ways to Make Letting Go Easier

Freedom letting go

Here are 5 of the most common hurdles we see folks face when trying to shed off things they no longer use and need:

It’s Too Precious for Goodwill

  • Find a charity you like and believe in and one you feel really appreciates your donations – it will help ease your attachments and satisfy that need for things to go to a “good” home.

It’s Worth Too Much To Give Away

  • Are you sure? What you paid for it and what it’s worth now are rarely the same. Get confirmation from an auction house (usually can text pictures or bring things in on a free appraisal day). If you find out it’s not worth what you thought, you may be willing to just donate. And if it really is valuable you can sell it through a buyer or auction house.

I Don’t Want It To End Up In Landfill

  • Try Freecycle, Craigslist, NextDoor for items that are not donatable (particle board furniture).
  • Take advantage of the Bay Area’s unique donation options such as Urban Ore, East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use, and SCRAP
  • Some things really are trash and we have to accept that. The only way to stop that kind of outflow is not to buy it in the first place!

I Could Use This Someday

  • Beware of prioritizing the future over the present. Having a space crowded with “maybe, someday” can keep you from living fully in the present. You need to weigh that cost against the cost of possibly having to replace something if you do actually need it later.

I Feel Guilty Giving It Up

  • Ah, good old guilt. So impractical, yet so tenacious! Sometimes it helps to put the shoe on the other foot…would you want someone else to hang onto a gift you gave them solely out of obligation if they really didn’t need or want it?
  • Try a little ritual of appreciation to help relieve guilt before releasing an object. For gifts, take a moment and recognize the good intention someone had when they gave it. For other items, acknowledge the pleasure or service the item gave you. For example, to let greeting cards go, our friend Maggie thinks of the person who gave it to her and gives the card/letter/Christmas picture a kiss before she puts it in recycling

There are no rights and wrongs in your own process; as usual, you get to decide how much to keep and what to let go. Beware how much of a project you’re creating for yourself and how much are you willing to do. Keep in mind your larger goal of how you want your home to function and feel and let that be your constant guide!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Lazy Susans Are Anything But!

lazy susans - 1

This handy turntable was brought into use on American dining tables in the late 19th century. Eventually a smaller version was created to sit inside kitchen cabinets, forever moving the lives of oils and spices to the front of the pantry pecking-order. We were hoping to find a fun story behind the Lazy Susan nickname but its origins seem lost to history.

Benefits of a Lazy Susan

Turntables let give you front-of-cabinet access to a large group of items that would otherwise be hard to see and reach. Because you access from the front and don’t have to reach in the cabinet, they are ideal for folks who are shorter or have limited range of reaching motion.

What are they good for?

  • Supplements/medications
  • Oils/Sauces/Vinegars
  • Spices
  • Canned goods
  • Smaller loose items such as flavoring packets or teas

Some folks are lucky enough to have a giant Lazy Susan built into a corner base cabinet. These are great for small appliances but also pantry items. Special dividers can be added on these built-in shelves to help separate and organize smaller loose items.

Lots of Features and Styles

Turntables come in a variety of materials, sizes, and styles. Pick the style of turntable based on what kinds of items you’re trying to store.

  • Diameters range from 8” to 18”
  • Materials: plastic, solid metal, metal mesh, and wood.
  • Single or double tier
  • They come with no lip, a short lip or a tall lip
  • Some have rubberized surface
  • Built-in dividers or separate dividers you can add to any turntable

Think Beyond the Pantry

Turntables work well anywhere you have small/med size items you access frequently.

  • Fridge: condiments, snack items
  • Bathroom: makeup, face products
  • Art Studio: brushes, paints, glues, small tools
  • Garage: small hardware bits, lubricants

Consider pivoting to using Lazy Susans all over your home or office.

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