Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Organize for Summer Safety

More household accidents happen in the summertime than any other time of the year.  What a bummer! Just when the weather beckons us for outdoor fun, millions of us spoil it by getting hurt. We get scrapes, burns, bruises and broken bones. Water related accidents are sometime more serious and lead to death.

Take a little time now to organize a few things to minimize hazards and to prepare a method for quick response should an accident happen.

Update your list of emergency response numbers, and put the list where everyone in the family can access it. If you have small children, program 911 into your phone at number 1, and teach the children to push it if certain emergencies occur.

Check for items on the stairs, deck, patio and lawn that could lead to stumbles and falls, and remove them. Garden hoses can be stored on a simple hook, a tire rim, or one of the many decorative holders and hooks carried by hardware store. Wonderful racks for garden tools can also be purchased at most hardware and department stores. Provide a tub or easily opened outdoor chest on the deck or patio for kids’ toys. The same kind of storage can be used for grilling equipment and outdoors games.

Create a “designated parking area” for riding toys. You can buy signs at novelty stores and catalogues, or make your own.

Invest in a fire extinguisher to keep by the grill. A portable one is available at local stores for as little as fifteen dollars.

If you are lucky enough to have a pool, provide poolside storage for toys and towels. Include a big bottle of waterproof suntan lotion in the poolside supplies.

Put together or purchase a basic first aid kit. The Red Cross has a list of suggested contents at www.redcross.org.

Sometimes accidents happen no matter how careful and vigilant we are. With your kit to handle bumps and bruises, and your list of emergency numbers handy, you are ready when your best efforts don’t prevent accidents. A quick response will allow folks to get on with their fun activities, or, perhaps, save a life.

Beverly and Kristen

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Help Students Organize by Prioritizing

Clients and friends have approached me this week about their concerns for children leaving for college. They are understandably proud of their children’s achievements but worry that they won’t be able to handle the demands of college life.

“How do you tell them what they need to do, when they won’t listen?” one father asked.

I think the answer is you don’t tell them. You show them, and you give them the tools to handle stuff as it comes up. The basics of deciding what is most important and managing time are two of the most useful skills for college students-as a matter of fact, for anyone at anytime of life. Skill building can start as early as two-years-old, with parents offering choices and praising good decisions. The longer you have to practice the skill, the easier and more intuitive it becomes

Older folks can exercise some discipline and implement a few tricks to keep them on track. One of my favorites to impart to students (and clients) can be remembered by saying, “Let problems arise; I’m ready.” The first letter of each word reminds the student of the steps to take when trying to balance a lot of priorities or even when needing to complete a project.

The letter “L” stands for list. List everything you need to do.

The letter “P” stands for prioritize. Priorities are a very personal thing and reflect what is most important to the individual. They change with circumstances. New college students want to get settled in their living space, learn their way around campus, meet new friends, line up classes, get books and learning tools, before settling down to getting good grades and finding where they fit in. One of the most challenging things is finding the time to get things done while meeting schedules and deadlines. This step requires some deep thinking, so each person can set up a system that really reflects what he/she wants to accomplish. Most priority setting involves striking a balance between what I have to do and what I want to do.

The letter “A” stands for assign a priority number. Give each item on the list a number for importance. If dealing with a timeline, 1 might be “needs to get done this week.” 2 might be “needs to be done this month”, and 3 might be “needs to get done when I have time.” Priorities do not have to be time related, but this is one of the biggest challenges for students.

The letter “I” stands for integrate new tasks. It would be nice if nothing else came up from the time we set priorities until the time we accomplished them, but that is not the way it happens in the real world. New tasks get assigned, invitations are extended and neat opportunities arise. They should be added to the list and given a priority status.

The letter “R” stands for re-evaluate. This should be done at least weekly to make sure you are getting things done as you need to, and to see if your priorities have changed and need to be re-aligned.

Initial implementation of this system may take a couple of hours, but using it routinely takes only a few minutes a day. It fits nicely in a portable electronic device and it really does keep you on track. I haven’t been a student for a long time, but this worked for me through eighteen years of education and I still use it today to balance personal and business demands.

Maybe the entering college student could give the system a try as they get ready to leave home for the campus. That preparation is a great test for getting things done in a specific timeframe- and family is right there to help and support.

Beverly & Kristen

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Update Emergency Supplies and Plan

Every year about this time we start talking about organizing emergency supplies in time for hurricane season. Well, hurricane season is here. So, if you haven’t already reviewed your emergency kit and plan, now is a good time to do it.

Check the expiration date on all food, bottled water, medications (including over-the-counter products), and pharmaceuticals (like contact solution or lubricants), and replace expired products.

Review any prescription medications and make sure they are the correct type and dosage for your current use.

Inspect clothing and make sure they are the right size and in good repair.

Make sure batteries are fresh and flashlights and radio are in working order.

Evaluate your ability to handle your evacuation kit. Sometimes there are temporary or permanent mobility issues that have arisen since the last check that make handling the weight or bulk of the kit difficult. A small soft-sided thermal chest on wheels makes a portable kit that can be handled by people who have difficulty lifting heavier weights.

Take a careful look at your emergency plan to see if it accurately reflects information for the whereabouts of household members and emergency contact numbers.

When you have everything current, tuck the kit away in an easily accessible space, and hope you don’t have to use it.

Beverly and Kristen

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Organize for International Travel

The cruise ships are getting ready to depart from the Norfolk harbor and there are some good deals on air travel to foreign destinations. So, if you plan to vacation outside the United States, add these things to your checklist:

Passport and other identification documents

Travel schedule and monetary equivalent table

Entry documentation for your destination

Medication needed for your trip, in the original container

A list of contact numbers for medical and personal emergencies

Receipts or registration paperwork for new electronics (computers, cameras)

Valid drivers license

If you purchase art or jewelry on your trip, keep receipts handy.

Add clothes for the climate, personal necessities, and your favorite credit card and you are ready to take off.

Beverly & Kristen

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Faux Organizing

What do you do when you have just recovered from a bout of illness, clutter has gotten out of hand, AND you are expecting guests for dinner? How about some faux organizing accompanied by some light topical cleaning?

Faux organizing is the term we use for making a defined space look like it is not cluttered, even though there may be lots of chaos under the surface. The way to achieve it is to contain, cover and stow.

Contain those things that are scattered all over the place. For instance, mail my have accumulated on a counter and can be put in a basket on a shelf until after the party. Kids’ toys can be put in a plastic bin in the corner of the family room. Wayward plants can be grouped on a tray.

Cover by shutting all cabinet doors; place other loose items like cosmetics, jewelry, and other miscellaneous items in attractive stackable boxes.

Stow larger items in a closet or room that will not be seen by the guests. I have never met anyone who did not have a secret space they occasionally used for this purpose.

Then, do some basic cleaning. Make sure to dust surfaces and, if necessary, vacuum floors in the rooms that will be used for the gathering. Invest some time in thoroughly cleaning surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom. Sanitize the sinks and toilet bowls.

This routine takes about an hour to complete in an average house. The real trick is to recognize it for what it is—an emergency measure. When the guests leave and your energy returns, take the time to do it right, and find the right system to manage the mail, the toys and whatever else you had to hide.

A space that stays really organized is always easier to put back in order after brief lapses.

Beverly and Kristen

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Organize Gardening Supplies

The daffodils are lining our yards and there is no snow on the ground. It must be springtime-time to spruce up the outside of the house (if you can find the tools to do it). The shovel may be handy from clearing the walkway from the snow we had until about a month ago. But what about the rest of the tools you need?

Make it easy on your self and organize the lawn and garden equipment. There are a host of products for organizing the smallest hand tools to the largest energy powered models. There are also many hooks and holders not designed specifically for garden tools that work well for both stationary and portable storage.

For stationary storage, mount a section of pegboard and select the hooks that fit your tool collection. Alligator Board has a section of metal pegboard on wheels that would serve very well as a garden tool storage center. Hooks designed to hold mops and brooms work well for light tools. For heavier tools like shovels take a look at the host of storage solutions at www.gemplers.com. They range from straight bar storage to specialty storage systems for weed trimmers and leaf blowers. There is also a hanging tool organizer at www.gardeningwithkids.org that measures five feet by five feet and has pockets for both long-handled and short-handled tools. This site, sponsored by the National gardening Association, also has a nice variety of accessories for potting and displaying plants.

Portable storage for smaller items that you tote out to the garden should either be light enough for you to carry without strain or be on wheels. A simple solution is a five-gallon bucket with a bucket cover to hold the tools. You can find these at the local hardware store. You can even make the cover yourself with a pattern available at www.bucketsgonewild.com. You can find a garden seat on wheels with storage for supplies underneath it at www.solutions.com. John Deere makes a portable garden cart on wheels that is available at most garden centers and a variety of garden tool totes are available at hardware and department stores.

When you have selected a storage system for your gardening tools, organize them by frequency of use. Place the ones you use everyday at the easiest place to reach, or store in a portable organizer for the duration of the gardening season.

For inspiration on more storage solutions check out the following websites:

Beverly & Kristen

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Manage Time

February is Time Management Month. Good grief! Where did the time go? I think it is fitting that time management is celebrated during the shortest month of the year. It is hard enough to get the bills paid and fit in everything that has to be done by the first of the next month when we have a full thirty-one days to do it. But February challenges us to get it done with fewer days--- and we usually squeak by.

Most of us do it by using time management tools. We use these things without even thinking about it. They have become ingrained in our everyday lives to such an extent that we do not even think of them as time management devices. Here are the most helpful time management tools as identified by 200 people in a national survey.

A monthly calendar. Most successful people use a manual or digital calendar that lists appointments and important things to accomplish.

A to-do list. Keeping a list of what is to be accomplished is a good way to keep things from slipping through the cracks. Highly successful people list a date to accomplish the task and often allocate time on their calendar.

Prioritizing. Life becomes overwhelming unless the most important tasks get handled first. Many people have trouble prioritizing. If you are one of them, try this 1-2-3 method. Ask yourself which of the items will result in a bad consequence if it is not handled today. Put a 1 next to those items. Which items will result in a bad consequence if it is not done in the next three days? Put a 2 next to those items. What items will result in a problem if not done in the next week? Put a 3 next to those items. Now tackle the items marked 1 first, 2 second and so on.

Most folks find using just these simple tools allows them to adequately manage time.

Beverly & Kristen

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