Category Archives: Strategies

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

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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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

Marie Kondo’s Organizing Inspires Lasting Changes

marie kondo tidying

Marie Kondo is at it again with her new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. You may already be familiar with the KonMari method through her hugely popular book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

We live in a culture of consumption that really values volume. Coming from a totally different culture, Marie Kondo awakens us to a Japanese way of looking at our things. At the heart of her de-cluttering approach is the Shinto belief of animism– that objects have energy and a life force that should be acknowledged and honored. Usually the object of any de-cluttering method is getting rid of stuff. Kondo’s approach changes the focus of purging. Instead of analyzing objects for their functionality in our lives, she trains us to sense the energy within our possessions …and only keep those that inspire or create joy.

Explaining her process to someone getting overwhelmed Kondo says: “The point of this process isn’t to force yourself to eliminate things, it’s really to confirm how you feel about each and every item you possess.”

Kondo’s technique is very spiritual and holistic – gets you out of your head and logic and into your heart and emotion. She’s asking what you want to carry forward with you in your lives.The end result of the process is an uncluttered home and a clearer relationship with the things you own.

Key takeaways from the show and book:

  • Going through this process takes time and commitment! In the show, take note of how many weeks it takes to get through each scenario
  • Fine tune your ability to recognize how objects make you feel by holding things you know you love – pay attention to how you feel; it “sparks joy” for you
  • Tackle memorabilia last
  • You don’t need fancy organizing products to declutter
  • The KonMari method can work across all types of family structures and life scenarios.

Are you feeling inspired to try a new approach but daunted by doing it on your own? We can help…some professional organizers are trained in the KonMari method, including our own Katherine Korlacki! You also don’t have to implement the KonMari method exactly in order to make progress – use the parts that inspire you and get support to get through the decision-making process. Your de-cluttered life awaits!

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Office, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies