Archives for Home Organization
Over 50% of American homes have pets, so when uncluttering and organising there is a good chance you may have to take into account the needs of your pets.
Surprisingly, sudden changes in a pet’s environment may bring out different behaviour, such as aggression or depression. The following are tips to help you and your pet cope with uncluttering and reorganisation projects safely:
Before the Project
If not already this way, get your pet accustom to wearing ID tags. If people are coming and going with bags of trash and items to be donated, doors and windows may be left open. Pets can easily escape in these conditions. Talk to your veterinarian or local animal control office about types of IDs for your pet. Some pets can have microchips inserted as a second level of precaution. Take photos of your pet and list identifiable markings. Put this information together in a booklet or computer file so it is ready to circulate in the community in case your pet escapes.
If you will be uncluttering and organising in the room where your pet usually sleeps or spends most of his/her time, consider getting your pet accustom to a new area of your home. This will get the pet used to sounds and smells in the new area and make the uncluttering/organising process less stressful. Remember to give your pet some extra attention and affection during this time so he/she is comfortable in the new area.
During the Project
Keep your pet on his/her normal routine as much as possible. If your pet is used to being fed or walked at certain times, keep those times consistent during the organising project. This may require taking breaks from the work, but it will be worth it to keep your pet’s stress levels down.
It may be better to keep the pets away from the area being organised if it is a large project. Pets can be caged or kennelled or simply separated in another room by a door or safety gate. Stick a sign on the door of the room to let everyone know your pet is inside and to remind you to let the pet out later.
Remember to check on your pet every hour or so. Loud banging, thumping and unknown voices my cause some stress in your pet. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs.
If you’re unable to keep your pet away from the area being organised, take extra care for your pet’s safety.
Birds are attracted to shiny objects and cats love strings and elastics bands, so keep small items such as buttons, coins, and other choke hazards off of the floor and out of reach.
Bones and meat-tainted plastic wrap can cause serious illness in animals if consumed. Foods sweetened with xylitol are very toxic to dogs. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is also toxic to pets. Grease, butter, margarine, and oils can get on bird feathers and damage them and make your bird ill when it tries to clean itself. Keep garbage out of reach!
Pets can suffocate in plastic grocery bags or dry cleaning bags. Roll up bags and plastic wrap into small balls and stash them inside a box to keep them out of reach until they can be disposed.
As you clear the clutter, electrical and phone cables may become more easily accessible. Loose electrical cords can become a chew toy temptation, too. Keep cords tied up so your pets can’t get tangled in them, trip over them or chew on them. You may wish to invest in some wire covering to protect both the cables and the pets.
Many pets are poisoned every year by accidental ingestion of household chemicals, human medications, and some common houseplants (e.g. Easter lilies and mistletoe). Remove unwanted chemicals and medications as soon as possible from the area. Secure the rest of these items in a locked cupboard or cabinet away from your pets. Keep houseplants out of reach before, during, and after the organising process.
Pets, especially cats, love to crawl into boxes. Be careful that you don’t close your pet in boxes, closets, or dresser drawers. If you’re working in a crawl space, keep the door closed as much as possible. If you’re working in an attic, keep the hatch down and move the ladder when you’re not using it. Make sure all heating and air vents have tight fitting covers. Small pets, such as rodents, birds, and reptiles, can easily get lost and stuck in the ductwork.
Don’t allow clothing and shoes to pile up on the floor. Immediately put it into bags and close the bags promptly. Animals love to hide and burrow in piles of fabric. Buttons and strings on shoes and clothing are choke hazards, too. If you are bagging up piles of clothing, do so carefully in case small pets (ferrets, rodents, snakes) have taken refuge in the pile.
Rabbits and rodents love to chew soft materials such as cloth and wood. Some fibres when ingested can cause illness. Keep old bits of carpeting and wood, especially chemically treated wood, away from your pets.
Fish tanks can be affected by organising. The removal of clutter from around the fish tank may change the amount of light to which the tank is exposed. This may change the temperature of the water and could lead to excess algae growth. Fish can be light sensitive just like humans. Gradually increase in light over fifteen minutes to allow fish to adjust to the their new surroundings.
Have you been organising your filing cabinet and shredding all that unwanted paper? Turn off and unplug your paper shredder. Mouse tails, bird feathers, and paws can accidentally start up the “auto-shred” function on some models of paper shredders. This could cause your pet to be injured.
After the Project
Look through the area and think like your pet: What looks tempting? What’s eye-catching? It helps if you get down on the floor and see things from their point of view. Check all those places where your vacuum cleaner may not fit, but your pet will, and look for dangerous items like string, coins, buttons, and electrical cords. Clean out those areas or block access to them.
Look for heavy things that could fall over if your large dog barrelled past. Secure the heavy furniture to the wall. Keep stacks of boxes from becoming too high.
Make sure you haven’t inadvertently created a “staircase” out of stacked boxes. Keep piles of boxes at the same height and away from open windows and skylights.
Some animals are fascinated my moving objects, such as the gears of exercise equipment. Unplug this equipment so it can’t accidentally be turned on and injure your pet.
Now that the clutter has been cleared, your pet may have access to rocking chairs and reclining chairs. These pieces of furniture can easily harm your pets. Consider moving the furniture out of the area your pets are in if these types of chairs are a temptation. The backs and undersides of furniture can have nails and staples that can cause harm to animals. Repair your furniture so that it is pet-safe or block access to these areas.
Mirrors and windows are dangerous for birds because they are often mistaken as places to escape and a strong collision may result in injuries. Keep mirrors and windows covered when birds are flying loose. Special decals can be applied to mirrors and windows to discourage birds from flying into them.
A bird’s respiratory system is very sensitive to impurities in the air, such as carpet powders and household deodorising sprays. If you’re cleaning after uncluttering and organising, keep these airborne chemicals away from your birds.
At the end of the day you can let your pet explore the uncluttered area. There will be many new places to explore and investigate. New and different smells may make your pet feel insecure. It may be best to confine the exploration to a smaller space and a shorter time depending on how your pet is reacting to the changes.
Once you are sure your pet is safe and comfortable in the newly organised space, you’ll be able to enjoy it together.
Although most people think about older adults or young children falling, falls can happen to anyone at any time and most falls can be prevented. Across all age groups, unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the United States and the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.
It’s no surprise, as I was laying on the floor in the dark at the bottom of the stairs a few mornings ago, I thought about organising the home to prevent falls.
Here are some organisational tips to make your home safer.
Clear the Clutter
The most common cause of falls is tripping over items on the floor. The Unclutterer site is full of resources to help you reduce the clutter in your home. It is especially important for high traffic areas to be clear of clutter as well as narrow hallways and staircases.
- Repair cracks and abrupt edges of sidewalks and driveways.
- Paint the edges with brightly coloured paint to denote changes in levels.
- Install handrails on steps and on sloped walkways and ensure they are secure.
- Keep walk areas clear of snow and ice. Hang tools for snow and ice removal neatly near the doorway so they are easily accessible when needed.
- Install motion sensor lighting at doorways and along walkways leading to doors.
Flooring and Stairs
- Repair uneven walking surfaces inside the home such as uneven floorboards or wrinkled carpets.
- Use only non-skid mats or use double-sided tape to secure rugs in place.
- Use a change colour to denote changes in flooring surface types or levels.
- Place non-slip strips on stairs. Apply brightly coloured paint or tape to the face of steps to make them more visible. (This is a great idea for basement and stairways in dark areas.)
- Install handrails on all staircases and ensure they are secure.
- Keep a basket with a handle at the top and bottom of the stairs. If you have to carry more than one item up or down the stairs, put them into the basket. This way you can still hold the handrail with one hand and carry the basket with the other. Store the basket next to the stairs, not on the stairs.
- Mount liquid soap and shampoo dispensers on the bathtub wall.
- Place a small plastic stool with non-slip feet in bathtub to sit on if you’re tired, injured, or ill.
- Install sturdy grab bars in bathtubs and shower stalls and ensure they are secure and can hold your weight.
- Place non-slip matting in bathtubs and shower stalls.
Lighting and Electrics
- Place a lamp within easy reach of your bed. Also keep a flashlight by your bed in case the power is out and you need to get up.
- Put night-lights in the bathroom, hallways, bedroom, and kitchen.
- Install motion-sensitive lighting in dark areas such as basements, attics, and garages.
- Light switches should be installed at both ends of hallways and staircases.
- Reduce the need for extension cords by having an electrician install more electrical outlets.
- Secure electrical cords and telephone cables to baseboards.
- Place phone close to bed if you expect calls while you’re sleeping or if you may need to make emergency calls.
- Put glow-in-the-dark paint or stickers on light switches so you can see them in the dark.
- Rearrange furniture so it is easy to move around in the room. Ideally there should be at least a 30-inch (75cm) path for walking between pieces of furniture.
- Repair or remove wobbly or unstable furniture.
- Consider removing castor wheels from furniture (e.g. office chairs) or replace the furniture with the type that does not have wheels.
- Keep a chair or stool by the door so you can sit down to put on or remove boots and shoes.
- Move pet feeding dishes out of main traffic areas.
- Reorganise the kitchen so the most often-used items are more accessible and within easy reach.
- Keep a mop and broom handy by hanging it on the kitchen wall or in an easily accessible pantry so you can wipe up any spills immediately.
- Use ladders, not chairs or tables, to reach items on upper shelves. Remember to NEVER stand on chairs with wheels.
- A safety ladder can be folded and easily hung on the wall or slid into a closet so it is always handy.
- Get into the habit of doing a safety check on your ladder before you use it.
- Around the house, consider wearing footwear with non-slip soles.
- Ensure all your shoes fit you properly. Shoes that are too big or too small can cause you to slip or trip.
- During the winter months, be sure to wear boots with good traction. Keep a set of ice grippers in a basket at the front door so they will be easy to put on if the sidewalks are icy.
As for me, I have started putting on my non-slip footwear and turning on the light before I walk down the stairs to make breakfast in the morning.
Chalkboard paint is magical. I bought a gallon for the kids last Christmas. You should have seen their little eyes light up when they unwrapped it.
“This is house paint.”
“We’re going to paint some walls with it.”
Today, they love it. We covered one wall in my son’s room and another outside his room. They draw pictures on it, leave notes, play games, and more. I mean, it’s permission to write on the wall. What kid wouldn’t love that?
My wife and I soon discovered that it’s good for more than entertainment. I framed an 8″x11″ rectangle I painted in the kitchen to make a quick-and-easy family communication area. After that I started to poke around the Internet to find even more ideas. The following are a few of the best ones I encountered:
- Label jars. Yes, a lot of people are using chalkboard paint for labels. And why not? It makes for a durable, re-usable identifier. I love these food canisters at Babble. Those are quite inexpensive and a bit of paint lets you easily find what you’re after.
- Identify spices. This one is just brilliant. It seems that, no matter how you store your spices, it’s never easy to find the jar you’re after. This clever person painted each lid with chalkboard paint and then wrote the name of each jar’s contents. I love it.
- Chore Chart. Maybe I’ll consider this for Camp Caolo 2014. The folks at Sweet Pickins have posted a full how-to for the great, door-length chore chart that they made and topped off with, you guessed it, chalkboard paint.
- DIY Clock. This is a nifty idea from Home Made Simple. A piece of plywood, a simple clock mechanism and some chalkboard paint make for an adorable addition to a child’s bedroom wall.
- Martha Stewart goes all out, of course, with this wall-sized, multi-tone calendar. It takes some effort (and a large wall) but the result is infinitely great looking and infinitely re-usable. No unitasker here!
- These chalkboard wine glasses are cute, too. No more drinking someone else’s merlot.
- Chalkboard “placemats” offer irresistible permission to write on the table for the little ones, as well as built-in place cards for larger family events.
Finally, here’s a great tip. You’ll be tempted to write on your new surface as soon as it’s dry, but hold off. It’s possible for your initial scribbles to get “burned” into the paint. That is to say, leave a faint shadow of itself even after repeated erasing. To prevent that, HGTV explains, coat the fresh surface – all of it – with a thin layer of chalk. Erase that, and you’re good to go!
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage “opposites attract.” In my experience with home organizing, I’ve found that opposites do attract more often than not. One person is usually a neatnik — thrilled by clear surfaces and closet organization. The other is a pack rat — inspired by the endless potential of stuff, glorious stuff! When these two extremes live together, sooner or later, conflicts arise. How can you make it work? Surprisingly, it has very little to do with the stuff itself and a lot to do with mindset.
The first trick is to realize that neatniks and pack rats are two completely different species, so to make living together harmonious, you need to think about habitats. A bird and a fish may be able to live comfortably in the same house, but not in the same container. Put the bird in the bowl and she’ll drown. Put the fish in the cage and she’ll asphxiate. To make it work, both parties must agree on a standard for common areas and carve out a place where one can sing and the other can swim.
Nine steps to create a co-habitable household:
- Agree to the acceptable uses for shared areas. For example, you might agree that the living room is to be used for watching TV, reading, and playing games.
- Remove anything that is not associated with those activities from the shared area. In the example of the living room, this would mean no craft supplies, dishes, laundry, or egg incubators.
- Create specific homes for everything that belongs in the shared room — a bookcase for books, a drawer for videos, a cabinet for games. Labeling makes it easier for visual people to remember what goes where.
- Return each item to its home after each use. If it doesn’t have a home, it can’t stay.
- Make a sign to hang at the entrance of the room:
THIS ROOM IS FOR WATCHING TV, READING, AND PLAYING GAMES
Anything not used for these purposes must stay away!
- Anyone breaking the rule can be fined. Use the money to hire a cleaner or go out to dinner.
- Set aside a few minutes each day to patrol the room. Use a hamper or basket to collect items that don’t belong. If something has a home elsewhere, put it back. If not, hold an “auction” to give household members a chance to bid on it. If they buy it, they have to find a home for it.
- Anything not bid on is going … going … gone! Same for anything that repeatedly ends up back in the basket. Take these items to a local charity and feel good about having fewer items to take care of.
- Find at least one place in the home for neatniks to live unfettered by clutter and one place for pack rats to stash their collections. Respect these separate spaces!
How to stay positive when the going gets tough:
No matter how successful you are at establishing shared and separate zones, you are still likely to run into differences of opinion about both. Before becoming combative over any stuff-related arguments, remember why you are together — love, money, you lost the key to the handcuffs, whatever. The point is, there is a reason you are living together. Remembering that reason may help you calm down when you are feeling frustrated. Try the practice of gratitude, in which you intentionally focus on the blessings in your life, no matter how small. This makes less room in your head and heart for the negative voices and can improve your patience and sense of well-being. When you are in a good place, you are less likely to say snarky things that will get the other person’s defenses up. Let me assure you, once the defenses are up, change is just not going to happen.
Lastly, consider the fact that objects are like ink blots. Rarely do two people see the same thing and what they do see depends largely on past experiences and perspective. The overflow of crafting supplies looks like crazy-making chaos to one person, but is a beautiful harmony of endless potential to another. The clear counter-tops that make one partner hum with contentment remind the other of a sterile hospital stay when no one came to visit. So you must be patient with each other. Say what you see and ask the other person to do the same. Try to see the space through each other’s eyes, and, please, keep your sense of humor. If you need an outside perspective, ask a neutral third party or hire a home organizer or other professional to be your mediator.
With large doses of patience and humor, you will be able to see the other’s sleek scales or resplendent plumage and recognize how truly glorious our differences make us.
It is important to note that if the health and safety of household members is compromised by behavior at either end of the spectrum, the above strategies are not enough. Please consult a professional with licensed credentials in these extreme circumstances.
“Where can I plug this in?” is a dilemma of the contemporary age.
As phones and tablets become more popular, two problems arise. First, most wall sockets only accommodate two items each. That’s easily remedied by connecting a power strip. One plug becomes five or six, and you’re good to go.
But the solution to the first problem begets problem number two: the jumble of cables and wires is just ugly. Plus, they get tangled, swapped, and misplaced. You could spend money on a decent-looking solution or whip up your own home charging station. The following are 10 great examples I found while poking around the Internet. Each charges several devices simultaneously and looks a lot better than a power strip and a rat’s nest of wires.
- Hidden in a drawer. I first saw this solution on Pinterest. It keeps everything out of sight completely by placing the whole lot inside a drawer. The setup is simple: drill a hole in the back of the drawer, thread the power strip cord through and plug it in. You might want to fasten the power strip to the bottom of the drawer to keep it from wobbling around with double-sided tape or velcro.
- Converted storage box. This rig was inspired by ribbon boxes that store the ribbon inside and feed it through a small hole. Here, holes were cut into a storage box that you can find at any craft store. The holes were reinforced with oval bookplates, held in place with small brad nails. From there, the power strip was placed inside and the device cables fed through the new holes. It looks great and there’s really no need to open it.
- Night Stand recharging station. This one wins the prize for most dramatic before-and-after photos, as an upturned cardboard box is replaced by a nice-looking end table. Holes will drilled in the rear of the unit and the charging cables fed through. Just don’t look behind it, though. I fear there’s an hidden rat’s nest against that wall.
- Super easy plastic bin. This one isn’t long on looks but it’s probably the least expensive solution here. Plus, it gets the job done. Small holes were cut into the rear and lid so that cables could be fed through. Sure, you can see inside but it’s still nice to not have to deal with what’s inside.
- Vintage case. Here’s a solution that is long on looks. Ryan at Weekly Geek, who put this together, describes his love of de-tangling electronic cables: “Jaws clenched and temples throbbing the world silently fades as my focus gets narrower and more fierce. That mess is broken, and I have to fix it. Why won’t they let me fix it?” His vintage-valise-as-charging-station is a thing to behold and not for he feint of heart. You can review what’s required here. The results, however, are very nice indeed.
- Converted IKEA storage unit. I’ll admit that I love IKEA. Even those little meatballs in the cafeteria are good. In this example, an enterprising soul at IKEA Hackers converted the company’s Estetisk storage unit into a nice-looking charging station. Holes were drilled into the back and the “cubbies” were outfitted with custom plywood inserts. Well done.
- Re-purposed plastic bottle. You got me, this only charges a single item. But look at how cute and convenient it is! By deftly cutting a plastic lotion bottle and applying some decoration, Ashley at Make It & Love It has a great-looking holder that hangs on the charger itself and corrals the phone and its cable. Very nice.
- Old books. Some of you will balk at the idea of chopping up an old book, but the rest should check this out. Yes, it’s a single-device solution again, but it’s very nice-looking. There are several available in this Etsy shop, but I’m sure you could figure it out for yourself with an X-Acto knife and some time.
- Converted shoe box. Here’s another quick-and-dirty solution that works well. This is similar to the storage box – you’re cutting holes in a shoe box, reinforcing them with grommets and feeding the cables through – but less expensive. Plus, since you’re starting with a shoe box, do some decorating to get it looking nice. Time to break out the Mod Podge.
- Vintage breadbox. Finally, a converted vintage bread box. This one requires the most work and some basic carpentry skills (and the right decor) but you’d never guess there’s a jumble of wires and charging electronics inside of there.
I hope you found this list inspirational. You do have to charge your gadgets but the process needn’t result in a jumbled mess. Go forth and make a great little charging station.
I read an interesting news article about a house frozen in time. Nothing had changed after the owner had passed away in 1932. The heirs of the deceased bequeathed the house to Britain’s National Trust and it was turned into a museum. The National Trust decided, “to leave it exactly as they found it to give the public a unique insight into family life between the wars.”
I’ve often asked my clients what they would take with them if their homes were burning or if they had to evacuate their homes immediately. The answer to these questions certainly helps identify the essential, irreplaceable objects. However, reading the article about the house frozen in time got me thinking. What if someone came back in time and looked at your house? What would your stuff say about the way you lived your life? Is it accurate?
This week’s Workspace of the Week is Little Luck Tree’s living room transformed into a joint home office:
Additional storage and music:
And, the seating area is set up directly across from her monitor, so the monitor can also serve as a television screen when watching movies:
There isn’t much I can say that the images don’t convey themselves. My only other comment would be that I really like to see useful spaces where people understand their needs and design their homes to meet those needs. This is a truly wonderful, vibrant space. Thank you, Little Luck Tree for your submission. More details about the room can be found on her site at http://littlelucktree.blogspot.com/2013/09/his-hers-office-space.html.
Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.
Here at Unclutterer, we work hard to think up the best ideas and tips to share with you. Sometimes, though, we come across a brilliant idea from someone else that’s so brilliant, so ingenious, that I smack my forehead and declare, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Here are 10 such examples, many of which you can implement in no time and realize great benefit.
- Garbage bags on a paper towel rack. This diddy from Pinterest is fabulous. Why not buy an extra wall-mounted paper towel roll and put the garbage bags on it? Fantastic.
- DIY containers. The clever folks at Stockpiling Moms have re-purposed Coffee Mate containers to hold pretzels, crackers and other perishable dry goods. I love this idea because my kids always mangle the boxes or bags these types of snacks usually ship in, resulting in stale crackers and worse: an open invitation to ants. Seal them up tightly to avoid both unpleasantries.
- Refrigerator lazy Susan. How in the world did I not think of this? The next time you must push aside the mustard and the jelly and the mayo just to find the milk, consider placing a small lazy Susan inside of your refrigerator. All you’ve got to do then is give it a spin and find what you like. So clever.
- One-dollar hat organizer. My wife almost flipped when she saw this one. I’ve collected an obscene number of baseball hats. Not willfully, but they all just show up for one reason or another. =One wooden hanger plus a dollar’s worth of shower curtain rings and presto! Instant baseball hat organizer. I love it.
- Label office clips. I could have used this when I was a teacher. Just get out your labeler (oh how I love my labeler) and use your clips to easily identify various stacks of paper. As I teacher I could have used “Corrected,” “For Monday” or “Circle.” It’s such a simple but useful idea.
- Organize under the sink. The cabinet underneath my kitchen sink is a bottomless, disorganized pit. When the kids were born, we shut it off with a childproof lock, as it contains dangerous chemicals. The trouble is I never paid it any more attention. Here’s a super clever solution for under the sink that uses nothing more than a curtain rod and a few plastic baskets. The curtain rod is an especially good idea.
- Get clever with casserole dishes. When I was young, my mother kept casserole dishes in the oven. That’s a good idea, until you need to use the oven, then it’s a debate about where you’re going to stash that pile of large, bulky, glass dishes. This clever idea uses a pegboard and some dowels to keep everything upright and accessible. Plus, you can re-arrange the pegs as you lose or acquire new dishes.
- Ceiling-mounted sliding storage. This is so inspiring I can’t wait to do it myself. Family Handy Man has all the instructions for getting the storage bins up off the floor and onto the ceiling. By building some custom wooden rails, you can keep you stuff together and out of the way.
- Rain gutters to keep spray paint. This is another organizing idea for the garage (or basement). A clever soul on Flickr has used household rain gutters to keep cans of spray paint organized and tidy. Very nice indeed.
- Cabinet door magnet. My daughter’s hobbies include losing bobby pins. As my wife recently remarked, “I think she eats them.” This clever fix is really just a magnetic strip fastened to the inside of a cabinet door. It holds the wayward pins quite nicely.
I love finding little unexpected ideas like this, especially when they work so well. If you have one of your own, I’d love to read about it in the comments.
September is National Preparedness Month in the U.S. Obviously, you can’t plan for emergencies, but you can be organised and prepared for emergencies. And, unfortunately, a few summers ago, I spent quite a bit of time in hospital waiting rooms and I came up with some organisational tips that will help keep you prepared for these unplanned events.
Keep your first aid kit up to date. Ensure your antibiotic creams have not expired. Make sure your supply of bandages is replenished regularly. Keep an assortment of bandages on hand such as those for knuckles, fingertips and large scrapes. You can use clean feminine protection products or diapers to stop the bleeding of larger wounds so consider keeping a few of each in your first aid kit.
Are your first aid techniques up-to-date, too? While you may not need to know how to put on a tourniquet, you should be able to give correct treatment for cuts, scrapes, burns, strains, sprains, fractures, and animal bites. St. John’s Ambulance and the Red Cross offer first aid courses, and classes may also be available through a local community center or department of health.
Keep your pantry stocked with ingredients for healthy meals you can make in less than 30 minutes. These things can include:
- frozen casseroles;
- frozen or canned vegetables;
- frozen or canned fruits;
- spaghetti (an all time favourite);
- chicken strips;
- fish sticks.
Keep a stash of healthy snacks you can quickly toss in a bag and take with you such as:
- juice or milk in tetra pacs;
- frozen muffins;
- granola or cereal bars;
- bite-sized cereals (wheat squares, oat rings, etc);
- raw vegetables (mini carrots, cauliflower, broccoli);
- fruits (bananas, apples, pears, grapes);
You may want to keep a small cutlery set in your purse or backpack just in case you need to cut things into pieces.
Keep a few ice packs in the freezer for applying to injuries and for stuffing in a bag to cool your snacks during the long wait at an Emergency Room and/or Walk-in Clinic.
Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you because you may sitting at the hospital with sick people.
Have an “entertainment pack” ready to go. Items that can be included are:
- a deck of cards;
- portable gaming devices and their chargers;
- some books;
- a pack of crayons and colouring books;
- a favourite stuffed animal or blankie.
Make sure you know whom to contact at your spouse’s/partner’s office should he/she be injured.
Have a friend or neighbour you can call on in a crisis to come and mind the kids in the middle of the night. Offer to return the favour.
Make sure your car has enough gas to handle an emergency, such as driving to the hospital in the middle of the night. Keep at least $20 cash in small bills in a secret place in your wallet or in your car in case you have to pay for a taxi or for parking in a cash-only car park.
Do laundry regularly so you have clean clothes handy. If you’ve been called to the emergency room, take a change of clean clothes for the injured person. The emergency room nurses may have had to cut the injured person’s clothing to remove it.
Ensure parents and caregivers have copies of heath services registration numbers and health insurance numbers. Store this information in a secure file in your smartphone or carry a copy in your wallet. Children should also know where to find copies of this information and, if they are old enough, have a copy stored on their smartphones. Keep your cell phone charged in case you are out and need to call 911. Program an emergency contact number into your cell phone so someone can dial that number if you can’t do it yourself. Label it “!Emergency!” so it is on the top of your contact list and “In Case of Emergency” since that is another contact someone might look for on your phone.
If you go for a run or bike ride, take your health insurance information and identification with you. Print business cards with contact information on them (names, address, phone number and email address) to put in every backpack and wallet, including the kids’ bags and backpacks. Consider registering with ROAD ID. It is an easy way to carry identification and medical information with you at all times. Anywhere in the world, first responders can access your medical information and emergency contacts.
Although I hope you never have to go through a crisis, by following these organisational steps, you’ll be able to survive with much less stress.
Reader Ines asked the following question in the comments’ section of a post:
I would love love love for you share your thoughts about time management, organization, etc. for young kids. I have struggled with toy clean up for years.
One example, despite modeling over a hundred times how we put away a board game (count the pieces, make sure they are in the right spot, put game back on shelf in closet) before moving on to next item. If I am not there to micro manage, it just doesn’t get done.
Ines, you ask a very good question. It is a question we have been struggling with in our home, as we are trying to teach our son — who recently turned four — how to care for his things. Each child is certainly different, and no single method will work for each kid, but that doesn’t mean children can’t learn how to take care of their possessions. The following are some things we do in our house to get toys back in place:
- Have fewer toys. Our house is not overflowing with toys, and our son does not seem to notice. Like most children, he has an active imagination, and his knights can do battle on the couch or bookshelf as easily as in a castle. He isn’t deprived by any standard, but in comparison to most of his friends, he doesn’t have a great deal. The fewer toys he has, the fewer that can mess up the house.
- Regular pruning. He has fewer toys than most of his friends because we regularly get rid of toys. Once a quarter we go through his things with him and we all decide what can stay and what can go. Hard toys (not stuffed animals) and books are easy to donate to charity or pass down to a friend or younger relative. Small doodads he got as party favors go straight to the trash. On the same day, we go through the rest of the house and find items to donate so our son can see he’s not the only one expected to clear clutter.
- Request experience gifts. If someone asks us what to get our son for his birthday or at the holidays, we usually request experiences (movie passes, museum and/or zoo memberships, etc.) or practical goods (clothes, shoes, school supplies). People still give him toys, but his grandparents often give experiences now.
- Use small containers for small items. My son has a Playmobil police officer set that came with miniature handcuffs and flashlights and such. The pieces are all less than an inch in size. I made the mistake of putting them in a basket with the motorcycles and police cars and … this was awful. He would dump out the entire container onto the floor to look for the itty bitty flashlight. Now he has pillbox containers for his small items and those pillboxes live inside bigger bins. It’s easy to spot and doesn’t require dumping out the whole box to get to it. We also do this with game pieces — we have small storage containers with compartments for pieces so they aren’t just sitting in the box. If you use these, make sure they’re clear so kids can see inside them without having to open the container.
- Label everything and have a place for everything. My son is just learning to read, so all of his toy storage has pictures on it and words describing what is to be stored there. We label bins as well as the location in the room where the bin is stored. We attach the labels using velcro so we can move them around to different containers/shelves. You can laminate the labels at Kinkos to make them sturdy. Older children probably don’t need images with the words and you can get by with just a standard label maker printout.
- Instruct and guide. Modeling behavior is very important, but not all children are learners through observation. In addition to modeling, instruct them on how to put things away, ask them questions at each step of the process, and guide them through the behavior. Be clear from the beginning that you are instructing them: “Now we are going to put away the game and return it to the shelf properly. What is the first step to putting away the game?” These lessons may take weeks or months, depending on the age of the child (obviously, more time is required for younger children). Once they can reliably complete the actions and answer all questions correctly, then you know they are able to do the task on their own. If they don’t complete the task after this lesson, you should repeat the lesson the next time the opportunity arises. Don’t assume your child knows what “clean up your room” or “put away your toys” means to you.
- Remember they’re kids. A reader shared this gem with me — Children are perfectly capable of doing organizing activities, but they’re not yet necessarily capable of doing those activities perfectly. The hope is that by the time they graduate from high school they will do things perfectly … until then, you instruct and guide them so that each day is a little better. My standards for my four year old are much lower than the standards I have for myself. I still expect him to pick up his toys after he plays with them, but I don’t expect him to do it exactly as I do it.
- Leave time for cleanup. The hardest part of teaching organizing skills — at least for me — is to pad time into the schedule for cleaning up. If we need to be out the door at 10:00 for swim lessons, at 9:45 all playing must stop and the activity has to be put away. That means as a parent, I have to be ready to leave by 9:45. I can’t supervise and instruct my child while I’m running around the house doing other things. We also have 10 minutes before bath time each night where we walk around the house and pick up errant items and review the family chore chart (more on that below).
- Heavily rely on clocks and/or the Time Timer. First, we have clocks all over the house, which helps with time management. Second, we also regularly use a Time Timer to give our son an idea of how long things take. I’ll set the Time Timer and say, “all the toys have to be put away before the timer sounds in 15 minutes,” and then we work on cleaning up for 15 minutes together. We also use it when there will be a limited time for playing before heading out of the house and for music practice. I love that thing.
- Get rid of external distractions while cleaning up. When cleaning up with your child, attentions should be on cleaning up. Turn off the tv, iPad, etc. and focus on returning the room to its preferred state. The only exception to this might be to play a “clean up playlist.” I don’t love Barney, but his “Clean Up Song” is pretty catchy and effective with younger kids. Older kids might benefit from music with a fast beat to help motivate them to move around. I recommend using the exact same playlist for six months or more to reinforce that when they hear the song they know it’s time to clean up.
- Don’t yell or nag, instead participate. Yelling at your children has been found to be as harmful as hitting a child and nagging creates resentment for you and your kids. Instead, work together when motivations are low. My son won’t yet clean his room unless I’m sitting on his bed talking to him while he does it. He can do it, he just doesn’t want to do it. He’s like many adults who prefer to have accountability partners when they clean and organize. I can’t begrudge him this since I like having company when I’m cleaning.
- Have clear expectations written or charted for your child. We have a chore chart that outlines what everyone in the house is responsible for each day (dirty clothes in hamper, clearing dishes after meals, taking out trash, putting away toys/activities after using them, etc.). Before bedtime, we review the chart together and discuss what was done and what wasn’t. We don’t have consequences for undone chores, we just usually go with him to do the chore if it wasn’t completed or we let it go and make sure it gets done as part of the next day’s chores.
- Create incentives. Incentives don’t work for everyone, but our son is currently motivated by them. For example, if he practices his violin every day for 30 minutes for a month, he gets a reward — it might be a trip to the zoo or a toy or a pizza party with his best mate. He decides the reward at the beginning of the month and dad and I discuss it before agreeing to it. We then print out a picture of the reward and hang it next to his practice checklist.
Looking back over this advice, I think a theme is to be involved until your kids have shown they can consistently complete the tasks independently. Until that time, you either have to be involved to instruct and guide or accept that chores won’t get done the way you want them to. A second theme is to work as a team in your home, not as individuals taking up the same living space. But, if all goes well, our children will leave home with the skills to take responsibility for their things.
Thank you, Ines, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Please check the comments for even more advice from our readers.
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Do you have a kid who recently headed back to school? Are things possibly not going as smoothly as planned? The following words of advice might not work for everyone, but these are a few things my wife and I have done to make the return to school less stressful for ourselves and the kids.
First, you’ve got to ease into it. If your kids are like mine, they’ve become accustom to staying up late, sleeping even later and all but ignoring math, English, and science. Giving up all that goodness cold turkey is no fun, so make it less of a jolt. For example, we start reeling in the bed time each night by about 20 minutes for a week prior to the start of school. And, we don’t let down our guard over the weekends — it can be easy to slip into summer habits and make Monday mornings difficult.
Also, as much as I hate to say it, it’s time to wrap up leisurely meals on the deck. September typically means extracurricular activities resume as well, so dinner must occur at a regular time if you’e going to get out the door and back again in time for ballet, soccer and what have you.
Next, designate a landing spot for all their stuff. I wrote about this last year and we’re definitely doing it again this year. Find a home for backpacks, snack bags, hand-outs and all of the stuff that has a tendency to magically disappear between the car and the house. Speaking of bags …
Make sure snack bags, cold packs and the like are in good working order. Last year, we dealt with the most poorly-designed snack bag ever to make it onto a retail shelf. It was tall with a zippered front, and as soon as you put anything into it, the darn thing fell over. It refused to stand and drove all of us slowly bonkers for nine months. It’s gone. Get something you don’t hate that will meet your needs.
Cold packs tend to get beat up, and those without hard plastic exteriors can leak. It’s better to replace them now than before the craziness of the school year begins in earnest.
Buy a calendar for the kids, too. We’ve decided that our 10-year-old is ready to start keeping track of her own stuff. So, we got a calendar just for her room. Now she can write down when her ballet classes are, assignments are due, and so on.
Get a vaccination form from the pediatrician. Certain activities, like sports, might want to see this information. Get one now and tuck it away for the year. It’ll be one less thing to worry about when it’s needed.
Clean off the refrigerator! Here comes a whole new crop of art, papers, permission slips, and who-knows-what. Just don’t let it get out of hand. Also, you’ve got enough magnets, right?
Those are the steps we take every year. How about you? What does your family do to get ready for another school year? Share your words of wisdom in the comments so we all can benefit from your insights.
If you’ve got more than a few pieces of jewelry, you may be facing challenges on how to store all of it. As with many organizing challenges, there are many possible answers. To help determine what is right for you, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What kinds of jewelry do I have — rings, earrings, necklaces, cuff links, etc.?
- How many pieces do I have of each type? Are they all pieces I want to keep?
- Do I want to store frequently-worn pieces differently than special-occasion items?
- Is there another way I’d like to categorize my jewelry items as I go to store them? (By set? By when I wear them?)
- Am I a visual person who wants my jewelry out in clear sight?
- Alternatively, do I want my jewelry put away where it doesn’t accumulate any dust?
- Do I want my jewelry hidden to prevent theft?
- Do I need to protect any of my jewelry from children’s hands or from pets?
- What kind of space do I have available for storing my jewelry?
- Do I have the interest, time, and skills to pursue a do-it-yourself option?
Once you’ve pondered these questions and come up with your answers, you can look at the many types of storage available for your jewelry. The following are just some of the many options:
Jewelry boxes, valets and armoires
The selection here is huge; there’s something for every taste and every budget. You can even find specialized boxes for cuff links or watches. And if you don’t like any of the conventional jewelry boxes, you could turn a toolbox into a jewelry box, like Dhiraj D’Souza and Erin have done.
Jewelry trays, for a dresser drawer
You could use everyday products such as ice cube trays or egg cartons as jewelry trays. Or you could get trays intended for jewelry, such as the ones from Axis.
This can be as simple as nails in the wall that are used to hang necklaces or decorative hooks or a wall-mounted coat rack. Or, you could get one of the many specialty products available, including wall-mounted earring holders. You could go the do-it-yourself route, too, and create your own earring holders (or other jewelry storage pieces), like this, this or this.
Longstem makes an over-the-door jewelry organizer designed to hold earrings, bracelets, watches, rings, pins, and necklaces. You can also find over-the-door jewelry armoires.
Hanging storage for the closet
Having had jewelry stolen from my home years ago, I empathize with the desire to keep your jewelry — or at least some selected pieces — safe from intruders. I have a few pieces squirreled away in hiding places, myself; but if you do this, be sure you’ll be able to remember where you hid it!
The other alternative is to use a product designed to hide your jewelry; there are a number of options, with differing degrees of security. You could use a locking jewelry cabinet hidden behind a mirror — either wall-mounted or free-standing. You could use a jewelry safe. You could create your own hidden jewelry box behind a painting. And if you’re installing a closet system, you may be able to get a hidden toe-kick jewelry drawer.
So understand your style and your needs and then think creatively about what storage would work best for your particular situation.