Organizing for emergencies

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.

Road ID Anklet

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.

What’s on your summer to do list? Organizing for next year’s summer events

Summertime is perfect for catching up on outdoor chores, but having fun is probably what everyone (mostly) thinks about. For those of us in the United States, Labor Day (this year it falls on Sept. 3) gives us an opportunity for one final summer celebration before cooler temperatures are ushered in with the start of fall. Many people try their hand at being a grill master for the day and test out new recipes and grilling techniques. Some take road trips or one last visit to the beach.

No matter the activity, by putting things in order at the end of this season, you’ll find everything you need when warmer temperatures arrive next year. Focus on some basic rules of thumb so you can avoid hour-long searches to find your stuff, like …

Keep similar items together

You’ve heard this one before and there’s a reason you hear it so often. It’s perhaps the one rule that, if you stick to it, will help you save time so you can get on with the business of having fun. When everything you need for a specific activity (bike, helmet, knee pads, tire gauge, and pump together; grill cleaning brush, tongs, and skewers together) is in one location, you will find what you want quickly and see what things are broken and need fixing or replacing. Once you’ve gathered all your supplies together, they should be kept in the same location all the time (just like you always keep your keys, wallet, and mobile phone in the same spot). Labeling storage spaces can help, too.

Replace needed items immediately

Those broken items or the ones that just don’t work the way you would like them to? Replace them now if you regularly use the items. If you wait until next year, you’re likely to be suprised (not pleasantly) when it’s time to use them. Keep a running list of things you need to buy and take it with you on your next shopping trip. Stick to your list so you don’t overbuy. Try not to give in to the temptation of getting things that you’re not certain you’ll actually use (is it possible your plans just might change?). Wait on those items and come up with a game plan first. And, donate/recycle/trash the items that you no longer want.

Remember to replenish your first-aid kits as well. Not only will you need them year-round (in your car and in several rooms in your home), but you’ll also want to have a kit ready in the bags you use for your summer events (picnics, trips to the zoo, sporting events, etc.). Don’t forget to stock up on first-aid supplies for your pets, too.

Use checklists to help you remember

Create an “end of summer” list to remind you of all the things you need to do to wrap up the season and get ready for the next. Group your tasks by category (camping, gardening, marathon/race) so you can focus easily on each section before moving on to the next. For example, if hiking is on your list, it might include:

  • Clean hiking boots
  • Put boots with other hiking gear
  • Purchase new socks and liners
  • Create a communication plan
  • Start training routine to prepare for trip (add start date)

What you put on your checklist will be specific to you and the things you like doing. It should include all the gear you need (what’s a trip to the park without your favorite frisbee or a picnic with a half empty basket or a lawn concert without a comfy chair?) as well as any special requirements (season pass to the water park, parking pass for the football game). After creating your checklist, keep it with the items it belongs with or in a “summer activities” (paper or electronic) file so you can keep using it each year.

Put special events on your calendar now

Get ready for next year’s events by entering on your calendar those that you attend annually or new ones that you want to go to (or host). Doing this will help plan your activities and to narrow down the things you can realistically do based on your available time and budget. You’ll also see if you need to enlist the help of others.

Planning and organizing fun summer activities can give you something to look forward to next year without the hassle and pain of never-ending searches for the things you need. And, there’s still time to take care of many of this summer’s chores that you haven’t gotten to yet. Take a look at our tips on how to organize your:

Unclutterer now appearing on Women and Co.

Last month, I started writing articles for the financial advice website Women and Co. I’m not one of their regular bloggers (they have a full-time staff), but someone who will have featured articles from time-to-time on their site’s homepage. The focus of my writing is to provide tips on how being organized and uncluttered may help to improve your money management.

Once the technical aspects are settled, we’ll put a widget in the middle column of our homepage linking to my articles as they appear on the Women and Co. site. In the meantime, these are the articles I’ve written so far:

How to Create Emergency Binders
In this piece, I provide directions for making two binders — a Basic Emergency Binder and a Worst-Case Scenario Emergency Binder. There are checklists for what to include so your loved ones can find all the important documents and information needed to help you and your family in all types of emergency situations.

Make Some Extra Spending Money: De-Clutter Your Home
Without much effort, you can likely find some cash in your clutter — and not just an unexpected $5 in the pocket of your old coat. In this article, I provide detailed steps for how and where to sell your clutter.

How to Pack a Cooler (and Save Money) for Your Next Road Trip
If wanderlust has set in and you’re looking to hit the open road, this post may help you save some money when you head out of your driveway. Even though gas prices are high, it doesn’t mean you have to skip out on some of the treats that make road trips fun.

Spring forward and tackle a few quick chores

In the wee early hours of this coming Sunday morning, most of the US will spring forward an hour to begin Daylight Savings Time. This change in the clock is also a great time to take on a few quick spring chores.

  • Check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. In addition to replacing their batteries and testing their alarms, be sure to also check the units’ expiration dates. For the safety of you and your family, you want to make sure all of these devices are functioning at their best. If you can’t find expiration dates on your alarms and detectors, replace them every 10 years.
  • Recycle batteries. Since you’ll be removing old batteries from all your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and replacing them with new ones, now is a terrific time to recycle all the old batteries you’ve collected over the past six months, too. If your regular recycling program doesn’t accept batteries, remember that every Best Buy in the US does. They also accept all kinds of old electronics and some appliances, so check out what services your local store offers and recycle some other clutter while you’re at it.
  • Turn on the water. If you shut off the water to all your exterior water faucets in the fall, now is a great time to turn those faucets back on for the spring. Now, if you live in the far north where you’re likely to have another hard freeze before spring finally sets in, you may want to wait on this one. For those of us who already have blooming flowers and budding trees, however, it’s a lot less risky to turn them on now. If you need to bring out water hoses, pull them out of storage, too.

What other chores do you like to do when the clocks spring forward an hour? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Get organized in January with these quick uncluttering and organizing tips

January is Get Organized Month, or what the organizing community refers to as GO Month. It’s the time of year when home and office organizing supplies typically go on sale at major retailers and when people start acting on their organizing-themed resolutions. It’s also the time of year when professional organizers tend to hold public events in their communities talking about organizing and uncluttering strategies. Check your local papers to see if any of these events will be held in your area.

When organizing, it’s best to unclutter first. Pull everything out of a space and sort it into piles: keep, purge, and other. Keep obviously means that you plan to continue to store and/or use the item. Purge can mean that you intend to trash, shred, recycle, or donate the item to charity. Your other pile is for objects that need to be repaired, relocated, returned to a friend or family member, or some other special action needs to be taken. Once all of the objects from the space have been sorted, you need to deal with the purge and other items immediately. If you don’t, they’re likely to cause you much frustration in the coming days. Trash what needs to be trashed, donate the objects that can be donated, return items to friends, and drop off objects that need to be repaired at the repair shop.

Once all the purge and other items are handled, take a look at all the objects you have in your keep pile. Do you need to do another round of uncluttering? If you’re feeling more courageous about purging items, now is the time to do it. When you are satisfied with your keep pile, sort the objects into new piles of like items — pencils with pencils, envelopes with envelopes, jeans with jeans. When everything is in piles by type, examine what you have and compare it to your storage systems. It is only at that this point that you should consider going out and buying organizing systems. Before you do, though, look through your house or office to see if you already own something that could hold and organize your objects. If you do, you don’t have any need to go out in the cold to buy anything.

If you decide to buy organizing products, check out the sales going on this January. The Container Store has a 30 percent off sale on all its Elfa closet organizers. Home Depot has all their storage and organizing items on sale through January 29, including their Martha Stewart line and many Rubbermaid products. And don’t forget to check out your local retailers that might also have sales on organizing items.

Before putting objects away, be sure to clean the space where the items will be stored. Wipe down shelves, replace shelf liner if needed, and vacuum out all the dust and spider webs. Repair or replace any storage items that are damaged, and make the storage area inviting. You are more likely to use a storage system if you like it.

As you’re putting items back into their newly cleaned storage spaces, be sure to put the items you access most often in the most convenient locations. Objects you access less often can go into the less convenient locations — and the heaviest of these objects should be stored lower to the ground so you don’t hurt yourself when you retrieve them. Put lids on things that aren’t accessed enough that they might collect dust, but keep objects you access regularly open to speed up retrieval time. Try not to stack anything more than three objects deep. Most importantly, know yourself. If you’re someone who has difficulty putting items back where they belong, make it as simple as possible to put items back in their places. A four-step return action will mean you probably won’t ever return the item back to where it belongs — one-step and two-step return actions are the easiest. Keep things simple.

What projects do you have planned for GO month? Share your plans in the comments.

Links for April 21, 2011

These items caught my attention over the past couple weeks, and I wanted to share them with you. They weren’t large enough to stand on their own as full posts, so I gathered them together in a link roundup:

  • The company Electrolux sponsored nine teams at the Domus Academy in Milan to design the kitchen of the future. The concepts are pretty impressive, especially for small space and storage design. Electrolux ReSource.
  • The show Clean House is looking for cluttered homes to be made over for future episodes. The show is filming next season in the greater Los Angeles and New York City areas, and to be considered you must own your home and at least two adults must live in the place. If you want to be on the show, email your name, address, phone number, list of everyone in the house and relationship to them, photos or videos of three rooms in your home that are messy, and a brief explanation for why you want to be on the show to Rose at [email protected] for LA consideration and Amy at [email protected] for NYC consideration. You must submit your email by tomorrow, April 22, 2011.
  • SwissMiss featured a great little product that bands your writing utensils to your favorite notebook, clipboard, or book. The pencil holders are called Clever Hands and they’re made by an artist on Etsy. I think these would be a great organizing tool for students.
  • A website, hysterically named BookshelfPorn, features daily pictures of (usually) organized bookshelves from amazing libraries around the world. After our post earlier this month about keeping clutter off your bookshelf, I thought you all might enjoy seeing these (mostly) amazing solutions.
  • My friend Julie Bestry, a professional organizer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently wrote a post for the Metropolitan Organizing website on how to become a Certified Professional Organizer. If you’ve ever thought about a career as a professional organizer or are already a professional organizer and want to be a CPO, I highly recommend checking out her post.
  • Another professional organizer friend of mine, Allison Carter based in the Atlanta area, has a quick post on uncluttered gift ideas for moms for this upcoming Mother’s Day.
  • Last August, NPR featured a 40-minute segment on Fresh Air exploring “Digital Overload.” It’s a long segment, but it’s interesting as it looks at people’s addiction to multi-tasking.

Casting call for Enough Already! with Peter Walsh

I’m not one to usually pass along casting calls for television shows, but this one is so much fun I couldn’t resist. If you live in the Los Angeles area and want your home organized for FREE by Peter Walsh, check this out:

Enough Already! with Peter Walsh — a series for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network — is looking for participants who are finally ready to say goodbye to chaos and clutter, and hello to an organized and healthy way of living.


  1. Live within a 30 mile radius of the Los Angeles area.
  2. Available to participate for one week sometime between mid-April to late June 2011.

To be considered, please provide the following information.


  • Name
  • Contact information
  • City
  • Description of your clutter and situation (250 words or less)
  • Please email everything to: [email protected]

All information is confidential and will only be shared with the program producers.

Like me, if you don’t live in the Los Angeles area, feel welcome to pass this information along to someone who does. Those of us in other parts of the country and world will just have to watch his organizing and uncluttering genius on season two.

And the three winners in our ScanSnap S1100 birthday giveaway are …

Thank you to EVERYONE (all 12,855 of you!) who are now following @Unclutterer on Twitter and who have participated in our Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 birthday giveaway. We have greatly enjoyed this giveaway and Fujitsu’s generosity! Now, let’s get on to the good stuff …

At 10:00 a.m. EST, the random generator picked the following winners:


I have direct messaged the three winners of the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 and they have 24 hours to respond.

Even though the birthday giveaway is over, you can still sign up to follow @Unclutterer on Twitter. Also, sign up to follow @ScanSnapIT for tips and tricks about reducing your paper clutter. Again, we want to give BIG, AMAZING, GIGANTIC thanks to Fujitsu for doing such a generous giveaway for our birthday celebration and our Twitter followers!

We’re celebrating our fourth birthday by giving away three S1100 Fujitsu ScanSnaps

Today is Unclutterer’s fourth birthday! As part of the celebration, Fujitsu has generously provided three of their new, ultra-portable, S1100 ScanSnap scanners for us to give away to three lucky Unclutterer Twitter followers.

We’ve teamed up with Fujitsu to help our readers cut back on paper waste, digitize clutter, better organize work/home offices, and celebrate our big four. We will give away three ScanSnap S1100 scanners next Tuesday, January 11, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. EST.

How to enter to win: Entering to win is simple. All you need to do is follow us on Twitter. If you aren’t already on Twitter, create an account and then follow us @Unclutterer.

We will randomly select three winners from our Twitter followers. You only need to follow us once (and please, only once), to participate in the giveaway. If you already follow us on Twitter, then you are already participating and need not do anything more. Winners of the giveaway will have 24 hours to respond to a direct message from @Unclutterer to claim their new scanner. Failure to respond within 24 hours will disqualify you from the giveaway.

While you’re following @Unclutterer, consider also following Fujitsu @ScanSnapIT for scanning tips and news. I know that some of you aren’t interested in social media and will complain about having to sign up for Twitter to participate in the giveaway — however, this is the easiest way for us to manage the giveaway and it ensures that many of our readers are already entered to win with no additional effort on their part. Also, if you’re an avid Wired magazine reader, you know that social networking sites can help increase worker productivity if used efficiently. If you still wish to complain, well, please don’t because you can always cancel your account after the contest has ended. This is simply the easiest way for us to conduct the giveaway.

I am so exited about this birthday event and cannot wait to give away three Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 scanners. Remember, you have until 10:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 11, to follow us on Twitter for the scanner giveaway. Good luck, and again a special thanks to Fujitsu for their amazing generosity!


The Unclutterer family is growing, and I am elated to share with you the incredible news. Today, Dancing Mammoth (our parent company) is launching a new website that hopes to end mealtime stress. I would like to introduce you to our new sister site:

SimpliFried’s motto: “If your nerves are fried, we’ll be your simple, delicious, and nutritious cooking guide.” Our goal is to make feeding yourself and your family as painless as possible.

Similar to Unclutterer, there will be daily content posted to the site. Topics will range from simplifying and improving your cooking skills to food science to recipes that get you quickly in and out of the kitchen. Once a month there will be meal plans and shopping lists that make your life in the kitchen easier. Check out SimpliFried’s manifesto and About page to learn more.

I’m on board as the site’s Editor-in-Chief, and Matt Fetissoff joins me as our senior writer. Matt has lived for more than an year in an RV, and he knows a thing or two about cooking incredible meals in small spaces with low-tech equipment. Consulting to the site are a couple farmers (one in a major city and one on a large Midwest family farm), a butcher, a nutritionist, a self-declared foodie, and my very picky husband and even more picky peanut-allergic son who test drive every meal plan and recipe.

You can key in the URL by hand, subscribe to SimpliFried’s RSS feed, or get daily updates by e-mail. We also have a Twitter account @SimpliFried that regularly posts links.

Although there are only four posts currently live on the site, we’ve been working on SimpliFried for more than four months getting ready for the launch. I’m honestly surprised I was able to keep it a secret for so long. I am thrilled to finally be able to introduce it to you. The new logo even makes me smile, and I’m so glad we were able to have the same artist make him.

If you are looking for simplification strategies for your kitchen and cooking, I hope that SimpliFried can be a positive resource for you.

Happy New Year!

All of us at Unclutterer hope you had a terrific 2010 and would like to wish you a great 2011! Our team has today and tomorrow off from work, but don’t forget you can always jump into the Forums and join the conversation there. We’ll return in the new year to share more Uncluttering insights.

If you aren’t a regular follower of Erin’s column, also consider checking out “Three Year-End Organizing Queries” and “Creating Uncluttering and Organizing Resolutions for 2011.”

Happy New Year!

Unclutter Your Life in One Week released in paperback

Today is the official release of Unclutter Your Life in One Week in paperback. I’m extremely excited about today and this event for many reasons:

  • Not all books printed as hardcovers ever make it to paperback. Making it to paperback is a sign that the publisher continues to believe the content of the book is worth staying in publication. I’m really honored and humbled by this.
  • A few big bloopers were fixed, especially the one from page 17 in the hardcover. On page 17, I accidentally wrote a sentence stating the exact opposite of what I intended. Oops!
  • As a special promotion, Amazon is selling the paperback at almost $7.00 off the suggested retail price — Unclutter Your Life in One Week in paperback is just $8.06.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the book over the last year, and to those who will support it in the future. I truly appreciate the opportunity to continue to share the Unclutterer message in a different medium.