Category Archives: Guest Experts

Ten Myths About Aging and Health

Is aging feeling like a monkey on your back?

Dana has just returned from the annual NASMM conference. One of the most inspiring speakers was Ashton Applewhite whose work focuses on battling ageism. This is a repost of one of her blogs.

Originally posted by Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks

All around the world, people are living longer—a basic hallmark of human progress, and a triumph of public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the public health business, and no organization has done more to raise awareness of ageism—the biggest obstacle to meeting the challenges of population aging and capitalizing on the “longevity dividend.” Part of the WHO’s global anti-ageism campaign  is a new list of ten common “misconceptions on ageing and health.” The global perspective is instructive, and it’s making me rethink some things—including the burning question of whether to start spelling “ageing” the logical, British-and-Indian way.

1 – There is no typical older person.

That would top my list too. Stereotyping—the assumption that all members of a group are the sameunderlies all prejudice. Of course stereotypes always a mistake, but especially when it comes to age, because we all age in different ways and at different rates. As geriatricians put it, “Heterogeneity is the hallmark of ageing.” Or, less formally, “If you’ve seen one 80-year-old, you’ve seen one 80-year-old.”

2 – Diversity in older age is not random.

Spoken like a tactful epidemiologist! WHO is pointing out that the playing field is far from level: “The physical and social environments in which we live are powerful influences on Healthy Ageing” and are further shaped by “our sex, our ethnicity, and financial resources.” As I write in the manifesto, “The way we grow old is governed by a whole range of variables, including environment, personality, and genes, compounded by class, gender, race, luck, and the churnings of the global economy—over which we have varying degrees of control.” The effects compound each other and add up over time, which is why the poorest of the poor, all around the world, are old women of color.

3 – Only a small proportion of older people are care dependent.

“Care-dependent” is a great way to put it. I tend to frame this in terms of the high percentage of Americans over 85 who live in nursing homes (10 percent) and who can go about their everyday activities without any personal assistance (over half).  The WHO frames this in economic terms as well, drawing on recent research showing that the contributions of olders in the UK “were worth nearly GBP 40 billion more than expenditure on them through pensions, welfare and health care combined”—a figure set to nearly double by 2030.

4 – Population aging will increase health-care costs but not by as much as expected.

The notion that older North Americans are an inevitable sink for healthcare dollars is incorrect, and the WHO makes the international case. “In high-income countries, there is growing evidence that at around age 70, health-care expenditure per person falls significantly, with long-term care filling the gap,”the WHO observes, so it makes sense to invest in long-term care. Aging influences health care expenditures far less than other factors, especially expensive medical technologies. Related predictions that “too many old people” will tank the economy—debunked here—are biased, outdated, and just plain wrong.

5 – 70 is not yet the new 60.

I take issue with claims like “60 is the new 40!” because they’re based in denial—60, no matter how active, is still 60—but I’ve been assuming that we’re generally healthier and more vigorous than the generations that preceded us. Not so, says the WHO. Although severe disabilities may be less common, “no significant change in less severe disability has been observed during the past 30 years.”

6 – Good health in older age is not just the absence of disease.

“The combination of a person’s physical and mental capacities (known as intrinsic capacity) is a better predictor of their health and wellbeing than the presence or absence of disease,” notes the WHO, suggesting that we focus on improving intrinsic capacity rather than on specific ailments.  As I write in the book, “While physical decline is inevitable, poor health is not.” People get chronic conditions but we learn to live with them. We find ways to keep doing the things we love—versions of them, at least. No single age-related condition affects most older people. Some of the oldest of the old live well not by avoiding illness, but despite it.

7 – Families are important but alone cannot provide the care many older people need.

“While families will always play a central role in long-term care, changing demography and social norms mean it is impossible for families alone to meet the needs of care dependent older people,” the WHO points out, calling for training and supporting caregivers and for the government and other sectors to share responsibility. It’s the absence of publicly funded support that turns caregiving into a burden—one that falls largely on women. How about paid family leave and subsidizing care for people of all ages? How about a guaranteed, collective, universal right to long-term care that gives women the same options that men—white men with good jobs, at least— have always enjoyed? How about providing decent wages, health and unemployment insurance, and a path to citizenship to those we pay to do this intimate and important work? Which would allow families to do what they do best: be family instead of nurses and administrators.

8 – Expenditure on older populations is an investment, not a cost.

Programs that help olders stay mobile and functional require funding, but what’s often omitted from the accounting is the cost of not making these investments. “These investments can yield significant dividends, both in the health and well-being of older people and for society as a whole through increased participation, consumption and social cohesion,” says the WHO. Some of the return on investment is direct. For example, better healthcare leads to better health, which saves money, improves lives, and allows people to contribute to what AARP calls the “longevity economy.”  Some is indirect, helping societies protect the human rights of their older members and enabling them to live with dignity.

9 – It’s not all about genes.

“While Healthy Ageing starts at birth with our genetic inheritance, only approximately 25% of the diversity in longevity is explained by genetic factors.” I remember how surprised I was to learn that, from none other than geriatrician Robert Butler, who coined the term “ageism” and founded the National Institute on Aging. “It’s really never too late to reinvent yourself and to invent different health habits. Only about 25 percent of our health appears to be due to genes. Seventy-five percent is environmental or behavior,” Butler told me. That why WHO recommends that policies “address these person-environment interactions across the life course.”

10 – Mandatory retirement ages do not help create jobs for youth.

“Policies enforcing mandatory retirement ages do not help create jobs for youth, but they reduce older workers’ ability to contribute. They also reduce an organization’s opportunities to benefit from the capabilities of older workers,” write the WHO. Indeed: the exchange of skills across generations is the natural order of things, but in much of the developed world age discrimination in the workplace has subverted it. Another false dichotomy is that older workers take jobs away from younger ones. Economists call this the fallacy of the “lump of labor.”When jobs are scarce, this is true in the narrowest sense, but that’s a labor market problem, not a too-many-old-people problem. A 2012 Pew Charitable Trusts study of employment rates over the last 40 years found rates for younger and older workers to be positively correlated. In other words, as more older workers stayed on the job, the employment rate and number of hours worked also improved for younger people.

Want older people to be healthy?  End ageism

A growing body of evidence shows that attitudes towards aging have an actual, measurable, physical effect on how we age. People with more positive feelings about aging behave differently from those convinced that growing old means becoming irrelevant or pathetic. They do better on memory tests and are less likely to develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They can walk faster and are more likely to recover fully from severe disability. And they actually live longer—an average of seven and a half years. Everyone agrees that health has the biggest effect on how we age—and how much it costs. Think what a global anti-ageism campaign would do to extend not just lifespan but “healthspan.”

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4 Under-Utilized Areas of the Garage

 

This week’s post is about products you can install in your garage. But remember, the first step is to decide what you are keeping. You won’t know what storage you will need until you have made some decisions.  Start with a big sort and purge.

Thank you to guest writer Kenady Ghent from Monkey Bar Storage for her ideas and inspiration!

Is there ever enough space in the garage? Garages are the repositories for tools, sporting equipment, bikes, gas cans, lawn mowers, christmas decor and miscellaneous clutter. How are we expected to park our vehicles in there? If you never have a sufficient amount of space it could be because you aren’t utilizing valuable areas of the garage. Check out this list of the garage’s 4 most underutilized storage spaces.

Ceiling: Homeowners often overlook the ceiling as available storage space.  Overhead storage racks are perfect for storing rarely-used and seasonal items. Items are overhead and out of the way while relatively easy to access when you need them. Not to worry, these shelves have a 750 lb weight capacity, so your family and car are safe underneath.

Garage-Ceiling-Storage

Walls: Get your things off the floor and hung neatly on the wall. Products like garage cabinets and  shelving store your belongings in ⅓ of the space they used to take up. If your space is small and limited install shelving over doors and windows.

Garage Upper Shelves

Garage Wall Cabinets

Storage Products: Even your storage products can be optimized. Purchase garage shelving that has layering capabilities, that way you can store 3x more on the same shelving unit. You can even add accessories like bike hooks and sports ball bags to shelving for those items that are more difficult to store efficiently. Also, adding drawers inside garage cabinets can maximize that storage space.

Garage Wall Rack

Adjacent to the Door: The open space next to the door that leads into the house is perfect for a mini mudroom. Creating this command center prevents clutter like shoes, backpacks, jackets and keys from entering your home. Just add hooks, a shoe rack and a trashcan for wrappers and loose paper.

Garage Mud Room

Are you taking advantage of these underutilized spaces in the garage? After you’ve maximized your space, you’ll have room for the items you’ve been keeping in that storage unit and can get rid of the monthly storage unit bill. There is money in your unused garage space! With the money you save you can invest in a  garage flooring alternative that is both functional and beautiful.

For questions about garage organization solutions, visit: http://garagestoragesanfrancisco.com/.

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, Garage, Guest Experts, home organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage

Minimalism Movie: Lessons Learned

minimalism picture (1)

live a curated life … life by design instead of by default

 

Last week the three showings of the Minimalism documentary that our professional association (NAPO) hosted sold out! The majority of the attendees stayed afterward to share their impressions.

Here are 5 of our takeaways from the movie:

  • Fashion Challenge: Project 333. A woman who picked just 33 pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories and just wore those for 3 months. The point is that no one noticed!
  • The story about the couple where the woman had multiple sclerosis. They decluttered their lives to bring her stress level down as a way of managing her MS symptoms.
  • Seeing people live in tiny houses or small apartments designed with moveable walls and features that enable minimal living challenged our assumptions about how much space we really need.
  • Fabulous clip of a speech by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 on consumption. His message: Owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
  • The idea that we need to be MORE materialistic, not less. Attaching value to well-made construction … treating items with care so they have long lives. When did furniture become as consumable as magazines??

What we wanted to hear more about:

  • Details of the different styles of minimalism with concrete examples of HOW different kinds of people have implemented minimalism in their lives.
  • How this philosophy applies across class and race

Here’s a movie that will help us all challenge assumptions about what’s disposable, what we really need; inviting us to stop and reframe those assumptions with the goal of living with less.

As professional organizers, we’ve been exposed to the dark side of overconsumption. It has given us a perspective of minimalism by default and thus we mostly live simply.

After watching the movie Dana felt liberated to keep her favorite sweater. She had felt pressure from our culture to have new, more fashionable clothes. Though old and getting a little worn, the sweater still looks good, is a classic style, works well, and she loves it! It’s a keeper.

What has this movement given you permission to do? Need some more ideas? Check out www.theminimalists.com.

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Minimalism Explained

simple beauty

 

We are exploring the concept of minimalist living. At first glance it may seem completely impractical for most of us living a busy modern life. We definitely haven’t fully adopted this lifestyle – yet – but are enjoying learning more what it can look like in the real world and how it can apply to us and our clients.

Here are 3 views on what living minimalist really means:

“It’s important to understand that the reduction of physical possessions is often a RESULT of Minimalism, not Minimalism itself. Just giving away a bunch of things doesn’t make you a Minimalist, any more than buying a statue of Buddha makes you a Buddhist or doing yoga makes you healthy. It’s one aspect of the whole, for sure, but you needn’t partake if that’s not where your priorities happen to be. There are always other options.

And that’s what’s important to establish here: priorities.

What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.” – Colin Wright, Exile Lifestyle

“Q: What rules do I need to follow to become minimalist?

A: There are no set rules. There’s no one way. What I suggest for living minimally isn’t what someone else would recommend, nor is it how you would live your minimalist life. In general, however, you want to live simply without too many unnecessary possessions, distractions, clutter, or waste. You want to live frugally, debt-free, sustainably, naturally.” – Leo Babauta, Description of Minimalism

“We often hold on to things just in case we need them: We don’t let go because we might need something in some far-off, nonexistent, hypothetical future. We pack too much stuff in the remotest chance we might need something for trips and vacations.

We needn’t hold on to these things just in case: We rarely use our just-in-case items—they sit there, take up space, get in the way, weigh us down. Most of the time they aren’t items we need at all.  Then we tested our hypothesis: the 20/20 Rule.  Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Thus far, this hypothesis has become a theory that has held true 100% of the time. Although we’ve rarely had to replace a just-in-case item (fewer than five times for the two of us combined), we’ve never had to pay more than $20 or go more than 20 minutes out of our way to replace the item. This theory likely works 99% of the time for 99% of all items and 99% of all people—including you.” Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Essential

We were happy to find that we have already adopted few of these concepts. As Professional Organizers, we bear daily witness to the burdens of excess.  As a result, we were happy to find that we’ve already adopted a few of these concepts. For example: We’ve learned to be careful not to let memorabilia take over our space. We use the library instead of buying books. We regularly purge our clothes, keeping a donation bag on hand to make it easy to move things out.

What kinds of “minimalism” actions are you inspired to take?

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Want a Simpler Life? Don’t Miss This Film!

Minimalism furniture (2)

We’re working to bring a screening of the film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things to our local movie theater. Screenings of this documentary are happening across the US, and they’re inspiring communities like ours to ask themselves, “How might my life be better with less?”

View the film’s trailer here: http://minimalismfilm.com.

We’re excited to share this film because it challenges viewers to reevaluate the things that matter most to them, and it provides insight into the lives of people who thrive with less.

We believe this film has a positive message that will improve people’s lives, which is why we’re asking for your help. For the screening to take place, we need 50 people to reserve tickets (they’ll only be charged for them once we hit the minimum number of reservations).

We’ll be hosting a question and answer session after the movie to explore how we can incorporate this idea of minimalism into our daily lives.

Please help us spread the good word about this event—we are thrilled to have the opportunity to share this wonderful documentary with the community we care so much about!

The screening is planned for June 2nd, 2016 at 7:30PM at the Albany Twin, 1115 Solano Avenue, Albany CA. Please reserve your ticket at: http://gathr.us/screening/14476.

As an added bonus, this screening will help benefit our local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. www.NAPO-SFBA.org.

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The Ultimate Way to Organize Your Fridge

Fridge organized

This post was excerpted from an article written by Maria Janowiak and repurposed with permission from Greatist.

Tip: Your fridge isn’t just a closet for food—it’s a high-tech device that helps you store all of your favorite snacks, condiments, and meal-fixins in optimal conditions. Not only do refrigerators have different compartments that serve different purposes, they also have different temperature zones.

Freezer

You can store a surprising number of other foods in the freezer for later use, such as tortillas, pasta sauce, and even eggs. (Note: You can freeze bread for up to three months, but don’t store it in the fridge or it’ll dry out.) The trick with freezers is to pack foods tightly in their containers and keep things well organized, since this optimizes storage and also saves energy. Freeze foods in stackable plastic containers or in plastic freezer bags laid flat.

Doors

Doors are the warmest part of the fridge and should be reserved for foods that are most resistant to spoiling. Keep condiments, juices, and other foods that can stand up to temperature fluctuations here.

Upper Shelves

One pro strategy from restaurant kitchens is to place foods that don’t need to be cooked near the top of the fridge. This includes leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods like tortillas, hummus, and deli meats.

Lower Shelves

Because cold air is heavier the lower shelves are your best bet for raw meat, eggs, seafood, and other dairy to be stored at the coldest temperatures. To prevent raw meat’s bacteria from spreading to other areas, assign a particular section of the fridge as your meat locker.

Overall: Don’t crowd your shelves too much. Unlike the freezer, the fridge shouldn’t be totally packed. Cold air needs to flow here, and if it can’t, you’ll get inconsistent temps with pockets of heat and warmth.

Crisper Drawers

The purpose of crisper drawers is to maintain moist conditions that help preserve fruits and vegetables. But don’t make the mistake of jumbling all your produce together in a fruit and veg free-for-all. Many fruits, including apples, peaches, plums, pears, and cantaloupes, produce ethylene, a chemical that helps them to ripen. Unfortunately the ethylene produced can also promote ripening in other plants, causing vegetables to go yellow, limp, or even sprout. For this reason, keep veggies in one drawer and fruits in another.

On Top of the Fridge

If you’ve been using the top of your fridge like a food attic, stacking bottles of Merlot or loaves of bread up there, stop. (Heat rises from the fridge’s condenser.) Result: It gets pretty warm up top. Heat is Kryptonite to wine. And it’ll make bread mold faster. The best use of this space? Store appliances or supplies like paper towels or a stack of cookbooks.

To Fridge or Not to Fridge?

One of the tougher questions is figuring out if something goes in the fridge in the first place. Certain foods don’t belong in the fridge. Tomatoes will turn mealy and odorless in the fridge—keep them comfy at room temperature. Onions, squash, and potatoes do best in a cooler environment with low moisture, so store them in a dark cupboard or other place outside of the fridge. Avocados and many fruits are just fine being left on the counter to ripen, but also can go in the fridge to slow the process down if needed. Herbs can be kept in the fridge or in a vase on the countertop if they’ll be used with a few days.

With a fridge organized for maximal accessibility and food freshness, you’ll be inspired to reach in for ingredients to make healthy meals.

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5 Interior Design Tips to Enliven Your Home on a Budget

Rachelle Padgett Design

We’ve asked our design colleague, Rachelle Padgett of Synthesis Interiors and Color to share some tips. We hope you enjoy them as much as us!

Just like a doctor gains critical information using a microscope, an Interior Designer uses visual cues to assess the impact of what you may think is insignificant. We can take what seems small and make it grand in importance (“Your fluorescent overhead lights make this space feel like an operating room, which is why you don’t want to spend time in here.”) and we can turn what feels like an overwhelming prospect (“Our house is too small and we have to move!”) into a manageable project (“Your furniture is too big for the size of the room, and you need more efficient storage.”) While nothing quite substitutes for having a designer into your home, there are plenty of changes can you make yourself that will have a big impact, without breaking the bank.

  1. Get organized. Congratulations! Since you are already reading this blog, you are in excellent hands, and well on your way! Frequently on an initial appointment, a client will tell me they need more space, more storage, more something. Many times, my response is that I feel they actually need less. I give them homework of de-cluttering, after which we can re-assess their needs for that particular area. Sometimes this approach can save people money, if it turns out their current storage is sufficient once they’ve donated long-forgotten clothing and recycled all those old college essays!
  2. Repurpose. Revamp. The list of “re-” can go on and on! Have an old tripod you never use? Have it wired by a local shop into a lamp. A table you like that’s seen better days? Refinish it! An heirloom sofa from your Great Aunt Ida that’s in perfect condition, but doesn’t suit your taste? Reupholster! Pinterest is an amazing resource for DIY project ideas.
  3. Lighten up! Time and again, I’ll go to a friend’s house for dinner, and we sit down to a gorgeous meal under a single, glaring, overhead light. I’ve been known to covertly borrow bedside table lamps and set them up in the dining room while the host is still cooking! The powerful psychological and emotional impact of lighting cannot be underestimated. Think about how good you feel in the fading, early evening light of late summer, or how pretty candlelight makes you look.

Clean your light fixtures. Dust and dead bugs accumulate quickly and can dramatically decrease a fixture’s illumination.

Change your lightbulbs. I prefer these warm, dimmable LED alternatives to an incandescent 60W. Not only are they super energy efficient, they have a pleasant color temperature.

Put everything on a dimmer. Yes, everything. Even the bathroom. Try these from Lutron. They are easy to install with just a screwdriver.

  1. Paint. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to make a huge change! What colors make you happy? For cues, go to your closet and pull out what you wear and love the most. Look around at your art and your favorite things. Go outside. Thumb through National Geographic. Color inspiration is everywhere!
  2. Decorate with fabric. A beautiful textile can cover up a multitude of sins, and is one of the most affordable and easiest art objects to bring home from travels abroad. Etsy and Ebay have great deals, too. Don’t be bound by the description on the tag. Fabric is fabric. A handwoven Mexican tablecloth folded in half can offer fantastic color, pattern and texture to the end of a bed or the back of a shabby sofa. A table runner can serve as a wall hanging in an awkwardly narrow space. Embroidered or hand-painted napkins can be laid on the diagonal over a dresser, creating a perfect spot to rest delicate jewelry while protecting the wood.

I know good design isn’t just about making things look pretty (though, of course, that doesn’t hurt) but about having a sometimes profound impact on your well-being; from health and happiness to rest and productivity. Make a few changes in your home, and see what happens!

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