Category Archives: organizing

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

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

3 Tips for Solving Clutter Conflicts with your Sweetheart

Romance - 1

Remember those days of luxury when you lived by yourself and had total control over every inch of your space? It may or may not have worked for you, but you were the only person it affected.  But now you find yourself sharing space with your honey…and crap is everywhere*? &#!  If you find yourself doing battle around the clutter in your shared home, remember these three tips:

#1 Neither of You is “Right”

When we choose to share space with others we give up some of those rights of autonomy in exchange for having to compromise and make the home livable for all who use it. Negotiate change from a perspective of how spaces need to function, not who is right.

#2 Allow for Personal Spaces

Whether it’s a single drawer or cabinet or an entire room, it’s helpful for each of you to have some space that only you oversee and get to keep however you want. Have clear boundaries about who is responsible for which spaces. And decide which spaces are managed jointly. Good fences make good neighbors.

#3 Manage Your Own Mess First

It’s so much easier to see where the other person has a problem. But step back and take stock of your own clutter collections first.  Managing your own messes will help disarm your partner and show them you’re committed to making the home better for both of you.

Easier said than done, of course, and sometimes these conversations get waylaid by emotional charge.  Tackle one small area at a time to build up the communication skills and get help if you get stuck! An objective party – a trusted friend, therapist, or professional organizer – can help you separate out and solve the practical issues of decluttering. Remember your goal: creating a home that nurtures your relationship and life together. Co-managing a home is one way to show love and respect for your sweetie.

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Productivity Tips for Life Management

productivity morning ritual

Tip: Start your day with a routine that primes you to be in charge

All of us, at one time or another, get that sinking feeling of having way too much to do in way too little time. It’s demoralizing to feel overwhelmed by the routine tasks of everyday life. While barely treading water with the routine tasks, it doesn’t take much – a flat tire, an unexpected potluck, a roof leak – to push your schedule into full chaos. How can you reclaim your sanity and sense of control and competence?

Here are some strategies from a recent workshop we took from Productivity Coach, Steve Kirch.

Make Conscious Choices

Busy is a choice, but often doesn’t feel like it. You may not feel like you have choice or control over your time. But even in the most obligated person’s schedule there is enough wiggle room to create space for reflection, planning, and some choice-making. Regaining control of your schedule and your life, starts with making a little time to evaluate the bigger picture and consciously deciding what tasks are essential and where they fit best in your schedule. Otherwise, we get pulled from our important goals into other people’s priorities.

Purge, Purge, Purge

One of the most essential things to do is re-evaluate how much you take on. Just as our spaces get cluttered, so do our schedules. Given your personal priorities, figure out both your essential tasks and those that make you truly happy — and fit those in first.

Create a Morning Routine

It doesn’t have to take oodles of time to plan.  Start with 10 minutes of any day and be intentional about how you are going to spend your day. What are YOUR critical few priorities for today? The ideal time to do this is first thing in the morning.

Consider getting up a little earlier and incorporating this short morning routine that grounds you for the day and helps you feel in control of the ship:

  • Stretch or move
  • Drink some water
  • Meditate
  • Plan the day (check your calendar)

Get Things Done

Try these strategies for actually getting tasks done:

  • Time blocking – group like tasks together and schedule a block of time to complete them before moving on to a different set of tasks or project.
  • Pomodoro Technique® – work for 25 minutes, don’t work for 5 minutes, for 4 rounds –then take a longer break.
  • Don’t check email first thing in morning.
  • Know your biological prime time – what is yours? Try and schedule important tasks during this higher energy time.
  • If you’re naturally distractible (ADD), structure your planning time to avoid distractions and consider silencing your phone or putting it on airplane mode to avoid interruptions.

Try to incorporate one or two of these tips into your day and see how it feels.  If you need more help, consult with a Professional Organizer, Coach or Productivity Specialist.  Asking for help can be one of the most productive tips of all.

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Filed under ADD/ADHD, Decluttering, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Technology, Time Management

Stop Wasting Your Time, Money and Attention

Book cover_not giving an F - 1

When people talk of organizing, we often think of getting rid of “things.” We found a humorous, and irreverent, resource for tackling the clutter in the rest of our life. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do is written by Sarah Knight who gives straight talk on a touchy subject.

It’s a spin on the decluttering principles made famous by Marie Kondo – conscious decision making. Crafting a life by design instead of by default.  It’s not really a parody, rather it’s a parallel to the Konmari method…it’s Konmari turned on your life instead of your stuff.

Fair warning: the book is intentionally riddled with the F-word, but we found if you mentally substitute something a little less harsh such as “care” – as is “don’t give a care” it’s a little more tolerable.

Cares

We have a limited amount of bandwidth and energy; time and money and we get to choose how to spend that. We get to make a budget of “cares,” so to speak.  When you’re spending it on people place and things you don’t really care about, you’re draining yourself.  You are keeping yourself from doing things you really want to do and which bring you energy and joy.  When you realize how much power you have to give yourself permission to set boundaries and say no, it’s completely liberating!  And (bonus!) you can do it without being a jerk.

Recognize the Drain

The author lays out a method of how to go about this but one of the first steps is to think through all the ways you spend your time, energy, and money and start to see which ones don’t feel good. Here are some red flags to recognize things that you might be doing things that don’t bring you joy:

  • Where do you feel obligated?
  • When do you think of doing something with someone and your feeling is dread as opposed to pleasurable anticipation?
  • What tasks feel inefficient and inconvenient?

Examples of things you may not really care about:

  • Attending routine professional meetings that aren’t truly mandatory
  • Dress codes – high heels, come on! Need I say more?
  • Clothes – are you dressing for yourself our outside expectations?
  • Giving and receiving Christmas gifts. It’s hard to keep coming up with original ideas. A lot of time and energy is spent getting there.
  • Cooking

What To Do About It

Review your list and see what you can let go of wholesale. Let them go and move forward guilt-free! We can’t automatically jettison everything we don’t love. You could, however, find ways to eliminate or modify the most onerous parts of that task to help.

  • 
Hate to fix dinner for your family but want everyone to eat healthy?

Buy pre-cooked meats or pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe’s is a good shortcut to a well-rounded meal. Have a standard set of 10 meals you rotate through and don’t worry about whether your family is bored with it.

  • 
Dread getting dressed for work in the mornings?

Make a uniform for yourself so you never have to angst about what you’re going to wear.

  • 
Anticipate holiday gift-giving with panic?

Decide on one simple gift and give it to everyone.

Don’t Be A Jerk

One of our hesitations to start shedding off obligations is the fear of offending people we care about or risking repercussions from work or others. It’s possible to be true to yourself and honest without being a jerk about it. Politeness, honesty and authenticity are key here. Saying the truth is usually the best tact.

  • “Thank you for inviting me to the symphony, but I really don’t enjoy sitting and listening to music for more than 15 minutes.”
  • “I have a personal policy that I don’t give donations at the door”

Releasing yourself from obligations that don’t enhance your life is incredibly liberating. Start by noticing where you already make choices about activities that feel valuable to you and build on that. Give yourself permission to say NO – you’ll change your life!

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Filed under Decluttering, Guest Experts, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Collaborate for Success

Dana Arkinzadeh and Katherine Korlacki - 1

This week we are celebrating our 200th blog post!! Let’s take a step back and tell you the story of our blog. It’s a story of risk taking, growth, and collaboration.

Back in November of 2012, both of us felt some pressure that we “had” to have a blog to be “legitimate businesses” and jump in the pool of social media marketing. At that point Dana had been in business 10 years and Katherine for 16 so we both felt established and reluctant to take on a new form of promotion. We decided to tackle the project together – to co-write a blog that we would publish jointly and could each re-purpose for our own use.

Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned through 200 posts:

  1. Don’t go it alone – tough jobs are way easier, and often actually fun, if done with a friend
  2. Have courage to move forward even if you don’t know what you’re doing – things have a way of sorting themselves out and you learn along the way
  3. Commit regular time in your calendar – make it realistic if you want to get something done
  4. Don’t give up – your partner may have energy when you’re flagging
  5. Honor your limits – over the last 6 years we adjusted our start time, adjusted the frequency of posts, and gave us ourselves permission to repost old blogs when feeling uninspired
  6. Go for good enough, instead of perfect – don’t let perfectionism be a roadblock; done is better than perfect
  7. Keep things simple
  8. You don’t have to have all the answers – bring in outside experts to help with topics or technical issues
  9. Make your own rules for success – don’t let others’ expectations drive your goals or standards
  10. Celebrate your accomplishments – it’s often only the negatives we focus on, celebrating helps you remember and savor the positives

Does the blog get us new business? Hard to tell. But we get consistent feedback from current clients that they like hearing from us and get value from the topics. Taking the time to think through topics keeps us curious and open to ideas and creates content that we can use in presentations, newsletters, and other places. One of the biggest benefits to us is a regularly scheduled time to stay connected, support each other through business challenges, and celebrate business and life successes.

How could you collaborate to achieve some of your goals? Have you had a great collaboration experience related to organizing? Share your story with us!

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies, Time Management, Work

Just In Case…Do You Know Where These Documents Are?

Checklist

Let’s have a show of hands.  Who loves to prepare for disasters and contemplate death?

…We didn’t think so.

Let’s have another show of hands. Who thinks of others and would like to make life easier on family and friends?

Here is a simple project to prepare for the unexpected. Regardless of the state of the rest of your house, these are the documents to keep organized and accessible just in case:

  1. Life or disability insurance policies and/or agent contact information. Don’t forget to include any coverage offered through your employer and/or auto insurance.
  2. List of assets and open accounts – you can gather sample statements or create a list of all accounts, loans, lines of credit, etc.. Make sure to include the safe deposit box key and information.
  3. Trust Document and/or name of your attorney
  4. Will
  5. Healthcare Directive and Financial POA
  6. Passwords and log-ins to unlock the phone or computer
  7. Medical cards and list of doctors/caregivers
  8. List of prescriptions
  9. Vital Records: Birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage certificates, copies of drivers licenses
  10. If you own a business, who are the key contacts? What is your emergency plan?
  11. Funeral arrangements

Whether you are partnered or not, identify the person or persons who would be tasked with managing things in your absence and share with them the locations of these documents. It’s ideal to also keep a digital copy of these items and make sure your trusted helper has access to those as well.

Think of how much easier it will be for your loved ones, and better for you, if in the time of crisis they don’t have to dig through various drawers and files looking for information unsure what they may be missing. Creating a simple system for just in case is the kind of gift that provides peace of mind to you and to those who are left to take care of business when you can’t.

 

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, middle-age, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies