Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Live: In the Present

This quote caught my attention this morning before physical therapy:  

There is a reason why your car has a big windshield and a small rear view mirror.  You are supposed to keep your eyes on where you are going, and just occasionally check out where you have been... otherwise you are going to crash. Willie Jolley, A Setback is a Setup for a Comeback...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shred It or Stamp It?

Some of us ignore our paper shredding container until it overflows...then shredding seems to take a long time because of the volume, shredder jams, and change-out of full bags for empty ones.  
  • First, catch up on your shredding.  
  • Then, save time by using a Secure-ID stamp,which blocks out personal information, to stamp your junk and other unsolicited mail upon receipt, and bills and other statements when no longer needed.  Toss these right into the recycle receptacle--no shredding required.  
  • Google this product, or look for it at your local office supply store such as Staples where I purchased mine.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tips for Quicker Refrigerator Clean out

Do you know what the oldest food item is in your refrigerator?  I was surprised to find that ours was French's Sweet & and Tangy Honey Mustard, though it should have come as no surprise since I ignored the code on the bottom of the container and kept returning it to the refrigerator after clean out...for years...until writing this post.

I found that food companies:
          1.  Use different food dating terms or codes depending on whether the food is perishable or non-perishable. 
          2.  Place their expiration dates or codes in a different spot on their food containers...requiring us to search for it.
          3.  Place dates/codes on glass or plastic containers that rub off with handling or come off when the safety seal is removed.

Research led me to resources that explain food product dating and other references to help us keep our food safe:

1.  Check out  The United States Department of Agriculture website, and read the article on Food Product Dating as both go into far greater depth than I do here about how perishable and non-perishable items get dated (or not) and how mishandling or improper storage affects food safety.  Some common dates found on our refrigerator items:   
  • "A 'Sell-By' date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.  You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A 'Best if Used By (or Before)' date is recommended for best flavor or quality.  It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A 'Use-By' date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality.  The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • 'Closed or coded dates' are packing numbers for the use by the manufacturer."
2.  Food Safety.gov provides information about recalls and alerts, food poisoning, and how to report food poisoning, and much more.

3.  University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Storage Chart lists safe storage times for perishable and non-perishable items.

4.  Julian Calendar - needed for deciphering the day and month part of the  manufacturer's code.

5.  Manufacturers list contact information on their products:  phone numbers, email addresses, and websites; they like to hear from you!

I first checked out French's website for an explanation of the code (M03307) on the mustard container  and read that:
      M - represents the manufacturing location
      03 - year product manufactured
      307 - Julian date (30 - day; 7 - month).

Then, I sent an email to French's Customer Service Department; they answered within 24 hours and confirmed that the product was manufactured in 2003, and while it was not harmful to consume this particular product, it may exhibit a loss of change of overall flavor quality.  They suggested discarding it.  I did.

5 Tips to shorten your refrigerator cleaning project:

1.  Print referenced lists above, place them in a folder, and keep it near your refrigerator for clean out day. 
2. Take all food containers out of your refrigerator and sort them by category on your counter top or table.  You may discover you have triplicates of soy sauce like I did. Clean the inside of the refrigerator.
3. Discard items with expired 'Use-by' dates.  Discard leftovers according to Food Storage Chart above.
4. Make your grocery list.
5.  Once you've purchased needed food items, and before you put the item in the refrigerator, write the 'Use-By' date on a  label with a Sharpie and place it on the container while it's dry.  Label leftovers the same way. 

I don't know of anyone who likes to clean out their refrigerator--me included; however, frequent refrigerator clean-outs reduce the chance of getting ill from eating spoiled food and spending money on duplicate items.  Clean out your refrigerator more often and the task takes less time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gifts: Two You Can Give Yourself

Exercise is a gift you can give yourself!  It is a journey for your body, mind, and eventually...your soul, said Yoga Instructor Patti during Sunday's Yoga class.  I thought about her statement and decided it applies to learning a new exercise and getting organized too.  Each starts with a thought about the act, and then requires action, practice, and maintenance; benefits follow.

I happened to watch Dancing with the Stars and sometime after that, I noticed Zumba listed on my gym's group-exercise schedule.  I thought Zumba would be a fun way to get in shape...several weeks later I made it to my first Zumba class where I claimed the  corner of the back row where no one could catch my "fumbles."  Five minutes into the class...I was hooked!  Each class gets easier because patterns repeat and our instructor's speed is just right for me, plus my fitness level continues to increase. You will now find me front and center having fun!

You might watch a TV Show or magazine article about organizing and decide you want to improve some space in your home.  You think about it for awhile before you decide to call someone to help you get started (professional organizer/coach).  While you may not find bringing order to your spaces fun like Zumba is for me, your skill level will get better with practice, it gets easier to let make decisions about and let go of  unneeded items; and performing routine maintenance will help preserve order in your home. 

Scheduled upkeep of spaces and regular exercise both bring improved balance, mental clarity, increased confidence, and energy into your life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Time-Saver Tips--Tax and Otherwise

      My sister Judy and her husband sold their home a few months ago and put most of their belongings in storage, including tax-related papers.  She found most of their tax papers because they were filed in a file cabinet drawer.  Home-improvement receipts, however, challenged Judy for different reasons.  She thought of a couple ideas to avoid future time consuming searches and deciphering of receipts used for tax preparation or other purposes:

1.  Write the home-improvement project on the sales slip such as:  drywall to patch a garage wall; tile for a shower; or paint for the kitchen, etc.  Also include the item name when not printed on the receipt. File with other tax papers.

2.  Make a copy of the annotated receipt right away because print on some types of paper fades over time and become unreadable, then useless. Staple the original receipt to the copy.

Additional tips:

3.  Organize your receipts and other tax documents in a notebook with slash pockets (it's easy to see and      pull out needed documents). Label each  folder with type of document filed (W-2s, Medical, Mileage, etc). Keep the notebook in a handy location and file items upon receipt.

4.  Read the store's "Return Policy" on sales receipts for clothing, electronics, paint, and sports equipment, etc., then write the "Return By Date" on the top of the receipt. Return policies vary from store to store and most have exceptions for return of holiday, seasonal, discontinued, and/or clearance merchandise.

5.  Affix the sales receipt to the outside of the store bag (staple or use non-damaging tape), and keep the item in the bag until it gets used or returned.

Use the tips noted above and avoid wasting time hunting for receipts and non-readable receipts.  Return of unused, unwanted, or unneeded gadgets, garments, or gear will be quick and easy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What Inspires You?

Family, friends, flowers, and organizing make me happy.  My sister Robin gave me two small hardy Cyclamen plants two years ago.  When I finally planted them in the ground, their flowers were long gone....I wondered if they would survive.  The following February, I was pleasantly surprised that the two bulbs had survived and multiplied, and then delighted me with their lovely flowers.  Robin owns Hansen Nursery and specializes in hardy Cyclamen, which she grows from seed with great care, and then ships across the United States.

This year, in early February my white Snowdrops bloomed first, then the white and pink Cyclamen, and now my purple and yellow Crocus.  Even though Spring officially begins March 20, 2013, Spring arrives for me when I see the these three plants emerge and produce flowers...along with a day like last Sunday.  I was inspired by the plants' colors and warmth of the day to tend to my flowerbed inhabitants.

While soaking up the sun and working with garden tools in our flowerbeds, I thought about the many "tools" we use to manage our lives.  I suppose my mind drifted to this topic for two reasons:  Scrapbook Club members requested information about management of financial documents after my recent presentation about basic organizing skills; and I wanted to share the information I discovered by writing a blog post.     

Internet search led to this great website, www.usa.gov; it includes two articles:  Managing Household Records and roadmap for important papers.  The first lists financial documents and how long you need to keep each.  The second worksheet, when completed, provides your family with your personal information, from your accountant's name...to whomever has keys to your home—to help you out in case of emergency.