Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Little Halloween Humor

Happy Halloween! My brother Larry sent this to me:

A man is walking home alone late one foggy Halloween night, when behind him he hears:


Walking faster, he looks back and through the fog he makes out the image of an upright casket banging its way down the middle of the street toward him.


Terrified, the man begins to run toward his home, the casket bouncing quickly behind him.


He runs up to his door, fumbles with his keys, opens the door, rushes in, slams and locks the door behind him. However, the casket crashes through his door, with the lid of the casket clapping

clappity BUMP clappity BUMP clappity BUMP

on his heels as the terrified man runs. Rushing upstairs to the bathroom, he locks himself in. His heart is pounding; his head is reeling; his breath is coming in sobbing gasps. With a loud crash the casket breaks down the door. Bumping and clapping toward him. The man screams and reaches for something, anything, but all he can find is a bottle of cough syrup. Desperate, he throws the cough syrup at the casket. and,

The coffin stops!


The Best Time of Day to Go to the Post Office

According to Real Simple Magazine, the best of time of day to go to the post office is about half an hour after it opens. This allows for people who are lined up at the door to finish their business. The other times to avoid are lunch hour and just before closing.

I like to find small, less busy post offices where I don't have to wait in line. When we lived in Maryland (where you always have to wait in lines for everything!), I found a little post office just a few minutes farther away than my regular post office, with much less business.

Another wonderful option is to use post offices located in malls, grocery stores, and drugstores. We have one here in our local mall. Last year at Christmas time, I avoided my post office and went to the mall location, where there were no lines!

Another option is to avoid the post office altogether! By setting up an account with the United States Postal Service, you can print postage for packages, order stamps, and order flat rate boxes. The only things you need are a scale (your kitchen scale will work for smaller packages), a printer, and a credit card.

Enter the recipient's address and the weight of the package, and your virtual post office calculates the postage, prints a mailing label with the postage included, and charges your account. Flat-rate packages don't even need to be weighed.

The best thing - you can schedule a pick-up from your house without having to go to the post office! That's what I love! And postage is a bit cheaper when you use this online service.

So destress your life over the coming holiday season and minimize those post office waits!

Do you have ways you avoid lines? Please share!

Related posts: The Best Time of Day to Take the Dog for a Walk, The Best Time of Day to Do Your Cardio Workout, When Should You Take Your Vitamins?

For more help with time management, see the time management books in our 1-2-3...Get Organized series.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Destressing Christmas, Part 7 - Guarding Your Health

It’s very easy to abuse your health during the holiday season – parties, rich food, a busier schedule, and less time for exercise. Here are a few suggestions for maintaining your health:

- Don't go to a party hungry. Eat something before you go so you're not ravenous. Think ahead of time about the amount of food you will eat. Just a taste of those tasty morsels is usually enough to satisfy your palette. No need for excess eating or drinking!

- Don't give up your workout. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. As your schedule gets more hectic, make sure to guard your exercise time. Eliminate something less important if you must eliminate something.

- Don’t neglect your sleep – you’ll be irritable and less able than usual to deal with stress. Research shows that your emotions will rollercoaster and your logic powers will suffer without sleep.

- Make sure your family members are getting enough sleep, too. Try to keep normal bedtimes and naptimes.

- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds after or while you are attending an event to get rid of those germs passed around by shaking hands, hugging and kissing. Carry some hand sanitizer with you, but it’s not as effective as soap and water.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go through the holiday season without gaining weight, getting sick, being stressed-out, and feeling grouchy? It’s possible, but you’ll need to be very intentional in order to do it! But it’s worth the effort!

What do you do to maintain your health during the holidays?

Related posts: Destressing Christmas, Part 1 - Think Through Your Expectations, Destressing Christmas, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends, Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Smart Gift-Giving, Destressing Christmas, Part 4 - Organizing Your Cleaning and Decorating, Destressing Christmas, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar, Destressing Christmas, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

Posts from 2007: Destressing Christmas, Part 1 - Think through your expectations, Destressing Christmas, Part 2 - Think through your family/friendship needs and commitments, Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Think through gifts, Destressing Christmas, Part 4 - Think through cleaning/decorating/entertaining, Destressing Christmas, Part 5 - Think through your health, Destressing Christmas, Part 6 - Think through your calendar, Organizing Your Holiday Meals

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ADHD Organization - Decision-Making

As I mentioned last week, I attended a seminar for professional organizers dealing with ADHD clients by Joyce Kubik. She gave us some insight on decision-making and the ADHD mind.

She said that those with ADHD will say yes to people requesting their time, their help, their volunteer hours in order to get an "attaboy." She also stated that it is very hard for them to estimate how much time it takes to accomplish a task. This explains why many are over-committed.

A logical application for those of us who have friends, family, or clients with ADHD is to give positive encouragement, even on the smallest things they do. She described a lifetime of experiencing exasperation from others because she forgot something, was late, couldn't find something, etc. How nice for us to be a source of encouragement! In addition, we should be careful not to take advantage of our ADHD friends and family since they are so willing to help.

She encouraged those with ADHD, if unable to make a decision, to write down their thoughts on the decision so it could be revisited without having to do the rethinking. Those with ADHD are more likely to remember something they have written down.

A tool that helps me in decision-making is listing all the positives for that decision and listing all the negatives. For some reason, writing it down helps clear my mind because I can see it on paper. Usually by doing this exercise, I can clearly see both sides of the issue and it becomes obvious to me what decision I should make. This exercise also takes the emotion out of the decision, making it easier to make a logical decision, helping the ADHD person say no to something that does not fit with his priorities.

When a decision is made, if it must be scheduled on the calendar, it should be done immediately.

Do you have suggestions for coping with ADHD?

Related posts: Helping Your ADHD Child Get Organized

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Capturing Usable Moments

We all have those moments when we're waiting on something - the microwave, the coffee, a person, traffic, while we're on the phone, etc.

Even if it's just a minute while the microwave is heating something up, I try to look around and see what I can do in that minute: clean off a counter, put some dishes in the dishwasher, stack dishes and silverware for setting the table, for example.

Because we need to be in the presence of our foster girls most of the time, I use the time while they are doing homework, finishing breakfast, etc. to chop up something for dinner, clear out the dishwasher, dust and other small chores. Cleaning is not one of my favorite things to do, and if I can accomplish it in little chunks of time rather than having to set aside a big chunk, so much the better!

Investing in a headset for my phone was one of the best few dollars I have spent (around $20)! If I know I'm going to spend a few minutes on the phone, I plug it in and I can use both hands to clean off my desk, file - a multitude of tasks!

I'm not a very patient waiter, so if I occupy myself with something useful, I'm much happier! Especially in the car. My husband and I have checked out books on tape from the library when we go on long trips, but it works around town, too. If your absorbed in a story, waiting just gives you more time to hear it! Road construction? No problem! We used to travel 11 hours to visit our girls in college during the 7 years one or both of them were there. Books on tape made the trips fly by!

By using little scraps of time, I accumulate more time to do what I like to do - that works for me!

What do you do to capture usable moments?

Related posts: Decluttering in 5 - 20 Decluttering Tasks You Can Do In Five Minutes or Less, Get Organized Month - Declutter Your Catalogs, Organizing your to do list, Decluttering Tips, Wrapping Up Today So Tomorrow Runs Smoothly, 5 things to do with 5 minutes, Sorting Mail, Headsets

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Bloggy Giveaway Carnival

Today is the start of the Fall Bloggy Giveaway! I'm giving away Three Steps to Decluttering, Three Steps to Time Management for the Stay at Home Mom, Three Steps to Clever Cleaning, Three Steps to Organizing Your Kitchen, and Three Steps to Organizing Your Child's Room to one lucky winner.

To register to win, leave a comment below. If you want an extra chance, go to my website and look at my other books not being given away and tell me which one is your favorite. For a third chance, sign up for my blog on organizing tips and come back and leave a comment telling me you did so.

For more giveaways, visit Bloggy Giveaways.

My giveaway will last through midnight Saturday,November 1, and I will announce my winner on Monday, November 3rd. MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. :-)

Preventive Organizing - Changing Smoke Alarm Batteries and Other Preventive Measures You Never Knew About

As it nears time to change the batteries in our fire alarms, there are a few more fire safety tips we should be know. How does this relate to organizing? Think of the mess you would have to organize if a fire occurs in your home, big or small.

Last Friday, General Bragg of the Akron Fire Department spent two hours informing Shelter Care house parents of fire safety. Here are some of the tips he passed on, some of which were new to me:

- Never leave ANYTHING on your stove. That includes pans, tea kettles, decorative burner covers, hot pads - nothing! The problem occurs if you forget to turn off a burner and leave the area or the house, whatever is on the stove will over time burn and catch on fire - even pans and tea kettles!

I came home and threw away my decorative burner covers, removed the binder with my favorite recipes which was perched on the back of the stove, and removed my spoon holders.

- The three foot rule: anything that can burn should be three feet from what might cause it to burn.

- While you're changing your smoke alarm battery, you should not only push the button to see that the batteries work, but you should check to see if the alarm itself works. Purchase smoke alarm detector aerosol - one spray should test whether the alarm itself will detect smoke.

When I called my local Lowe's and Home Depot stores, I found that neither carried this aerosol can, but suggested an electrical supply house. The person I talked to at Home Depot suggested taking a wooden match, lighting it, blowing it out, and holding it up to the smoke alarm. I'm not sure general Bragg would embrace this one, but it sounds simple enough.

Also, while you're checking out the smoke alarm, check to find the date it expires. It should be written on the inside of the alarm. Alarms should be replaced every ten years. Alarms should be outside each bedroom door. If bedroom doors are close to each other, one can do the job.

- Sleep with your bedroom doors shut. We watched a video of a real house burning, which took about 4 1/2 minutes to be fully engaged, reaching 1400 degrees F in that short time. The smoke detector didn't go off until about 1 1/2 minutes into the fire, when the temperature was already up to 300 degrees. Our lungs vaporize at 150 degrees. The one bedroom that had the door shut stayed at 76 degrees and didn't sustain fire damage.

If you must have your pets go in and out, cut a pet door at the bottom of the door, the floor being the last place smoke and gasses reach.

- Never leave your dryer on unattended - don't leave the house or go to sleep. Also, vacuum out your dryer vent cavity. When you take out your dryer screen, lint, which is flammable, falls down into that area.

- Practice with your family what to do in case of fire:
1. feel the door to see if it's hot
2. if it's hot, open the window and exit; if you are on a second floor, hang from the window sill and drop down
3. if it's not hot, grab the nearest fire extinguisher (you should have one on each floor and teach family members how to use it)
4. if there is smoke, keep your face about one foot from the floor
5. place yourself with your back toward the nearest exit facing the fire, spraying and sweeping the fire with the extinguisher, if needed
6. meet out in front of your house, or another designated spot so you know who made it out
7. call the fire department
8. report to the fire department if someone is missing and where their room is located - they have the proper equipment to reach that trapped person (most people who go back in to save someone never return).

As house parents for Shelter Care, we have a verbal fire drill every month with each house of girls. It's something I never thought to do with our own children, but it's another way to provide safety and security to your family.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dinner in 20 - Lime Chicken

When I plan my menus for our foster daughters every week, I look through my Hassle Free Dinners CD for recipe ideas. Many of the girls grew up in dysfunctional families with sad nutrition and consequently have very limited tastes.

Right now I have girls who don't like: tomatoes, mushrooms, chicken with bones, pears, apples, pork, fish, white cheese, spinach, celery, and the list goes on. You can imagine the challenge it is to fix dinner. I do make them try things at least once, and some of them have added some foods to their repertoir.

I hit on one recipe last week that was a success for the two houses of girls to whom I served it. It is from Week 36, the first week in September. I usually try to use recipes from the same season so side dishes use seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I adapted Lime Chicken and used chicken tenderloins instead of chicken thighs, so as not to offend my bone-hater. :-) I served it with steamed fresh green beans (I buy the kind that are already trimmed) seasoned with a little butter and garlic salt, rice (took longer than 15 minutes, but I cooked extra for the next day), and a fruit plate consisting of kiwi, raspberries, blackberries, and sliced hand-picked apples.

One week, one of the girls wanted to learn to cook something, so she helped me zest and juice the limes.

Lime Chicken (The amounts in parentheses refer to 2, 4, and 6 servings):

Limes (2, 4, 6)
Honey (1/4, 1/2, 3/4 c.)
Ground coriander (1, 2, 3 t.)
Salt (1, 2, 3 t.)
Pepper (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 t.)
Boneless chicken tenderloins (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 lb.)

Zest and juice limes and add all other ingredients. Marinate for at least two hours. Grill or cook on a nonstick pan sprayed with cooking oil. This chicken is bursting with lime flavor - so tasty - one of my favorite recipes on the CD.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Helping Your ADHD Child Get Organized

Joyce A. Kubik, an ADHD coach and skills trainer, conducted a seminar on Tuesday to help Northern Ohio professional organizers work with ADHD clients. She has ADHD herself, discovering it as an adult.

Her description of how an ADHD mind functions: Pretend you are sitting and watching a train go by. Each train car represents a new thought in the ADHD person's mind - constant, quick, ever-changing. Never a calm thought process, but always moving on to a new thought.

One of Joyce's recommendations was to start recognizing distractions. In my case as a professional organizer, when helping an ADHD client sort through paper, a paper will remind her of something else she needs to do. She will want to go to another room to do that task. Instead of going to the other room, Joyce suggested drawing a box on a piece of paper, labeling it with the name of that room, and writing down the task that needs to be done.

Because a person with ADHD is very visual, if she goes to the other room, she will forget about what she was doing in the previous room. By beginning to recognizing these thoughts as distractions and writing them down, it allows the person with ADHD to stay focused on the task at hand.

If you or your child suffers from ADHD, this may be a place to start to help you stay focused and organized: start recognizing distractions and writing them down. I'll share some other pointers in future blogs.

If you'd like to learn more about Joyce Kubik's teleseminars and coaching, go to her website. She is an amazing source of information, has written books, done research.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Destressing Christmas, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

You’ll probably be cooking some special meals during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years, whether it’s just for the family or for guests. Take some stress out of the season by planning those meals or special occasions. Here are a few tips:

- Determine which special holiday meals you’ll be preparing. Will you be hosting any parties?

- Decide what you will serve for each special meal or party. Make a list for each event. Make sure you have a balance of protein, starch, something green and something red/orange/yellow. Try to avoid a lot of last-minute or time-consuming recipes.

- Do you have enough dinnerware, glasses, silverware, linens, and serving pieces?

- Are there some items you could prepare in advance - breads, desserts, cornbread for cornbread stuffing, etc.? Plan when you will cook some of these recipes and write it on your schedule, so you can space it out and avoid last-minute stress.

- If you are having guests, take them up on their offers to bring something!

- For each week, plan your menus and make a shopping list. Try to go shopping only once a week to save those time-costly trips back to the grocery store. During such a busy time, try to piggy-back from one meal to another. Cook a roast, and use the leftovers for beef stroganoff, for example. Plan simple regular meals during the holiday season to reduce your stress level.

- Have some easy-to-prepare foods on hand if you have a disaster day: frozen ravioli, ingredients for wraps, chicken tenderloins, for example.

- Have some ideas in mind for using leftover turkey: chow mein, stir fry, pasta salads, etc. Use leftover ham in soups or pasta salads. Freeze extra turkey or ham in meal-size portions for the future when you are not weary of these meats.

Even though it takes time to plan your holiday meals and your regular meals, you’ll save yourself time and stress by organizing your menus. You won’t be making last-minute trips to the grocery store, you won’t forget ingredients, and you’ll have what you need.

You’ll be able to welcome your guests or have a special meal for your family without stressing! What a refreshing way to celebrate!

Related posts: Destressing Christmas, Part 1 - Think Through Your Expectations, Destressing Christmas, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends, Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Smart Gift-Giving, Destressing Christmas, Part 4 - Organizing Your Cleaning and Decorating, Destressing Christmas, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar

Posts from 2007: Destressing Christmas, Part 1 - Think through your expectations, Destressing Christmas, Part 2 - Think through your family/friendship needs and commitments, Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Think through gifts, Destressing Christmas, Part 4 - Think through cleaning/decorating/entertaining, Destressing Christmas, Part 5 - Think through your health, Destressing Christmas, Part 6 - Think through your calendar, Organizing Your Holiday Meals

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Organized for Winter - Trees and Gutters

If you live in a part of the country where you experience winter, it's time to take care of a couple of items before it descends on us!

The first concerns trimming tree limbs. If you have limbs that are too close to your house, snow, ice or wind can cause them to break and damage your house. While you're at it, get rid of any dead or damaged limbs.

One year a neighbor's dead tree fell into our yard, damaging our fence (after we had spent hours priming and painting it!). In our area, it is not the responsibility of the owner of the tree to make restitution unless you have written a letter to said tree owner stating his tree is liable to do damage to your property! So you may want to check out your neighbors' trees and your insurance policy as well!

Another preventative measure is to clean out your gutters, especially with all the leaves falling - another reason not to have limbs close to your house. If your gutters are full, your walls, roof, or foundation can be damaged. I found a wonderful step-by-step article at Demesne on cleaning gutters.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Best Time of Day to Do Your Cardio Workout

According to Real Simple magazine, the best time of day to do your cardio workout is between 5 and 6 pm. Here's why:

" 'For increasing fitness, decreasing the chance of injury, and improving sleep, the best time to exercise is late afternoon or early evening,' says Matthew Edlund, M.D., author of The Body Clock Advantage (Circadian Press, $15, www.amazon.com) and head of the Center for Circadian Medicine, in Sarasota, Florida. At these times, he says, your lungs use oxygen more efficiently, you're more coordinated, and your muscles are warmed up, so you're less likely to suffer a sprain or strain.

Finish exercising at least three hours before bed so that when your head hits the pillow the extra adrenaline will no longer be pumping through your bloodstream (and other factors that keep you awake will also have subsided). Bonus: 'If you're all wound up at the end of the day, exercise may be a great stress reliever,' notes Shirley Archer of the Stanford Health Improvement Program, in Palo Alto, California."

I enjoy knowing the above information and it makes sense. But as a morning person, I start losing steam after 4 pm, so the thought of exercising then is horrible! I find that if I don't exercise in the morning, I'm likely not to do it. With this new information, though, I might be more encouraged to exercise in the evening if I can't get it in in the morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Little College Humor

A friend sent this to me, and since we were talking about college yesterday, here goes:

At Penn State University, there were four sophomores taking chemistry and all of them had an "A" so far. These four friends were so confident that, the weekend before finals, they decided to visit some friends and have a big party.

They had a great time but, after all the hearty partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Penn State until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they decided that after the final they would explain to their professor why they missed it. They said that they visited friends but on the way back they had a flat tire. As a result, they missed the final.

The professor agreed they could make up the final the next day. The guys were excited and relieved. They studied that night for the exam.

The next day the Professor placed them in separate rooms and gave them a test booklet. They quickly answered the first problem worth 5 points. Cool, they thought! Each one in separate rooms, thinking this was going to be easy.... then they turned the page.

On the second page was written.... For 95 points: Which tire? _________

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm a Contributing Author to Campus Calm University

I'm a contributing author to just-released book Campus Calm University: The college student's 10-step blueprint to stop stressing and create a happy, purposeful life by Maria Pascucci! It's a fabulous book every college student should have. Check out Campus Calm University, read an excerpt or testimonials, skim the table of contents, and buy it!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting Organized for Winter - Your Garage

If you live in an area of the country where it gets cold, it's time to start winterizing. My daughter in Montana has already gotten snow, so I may be too late for some!

The garage is a great place to start winterizing. The other evening my husband seeded the yard with grass seed (early fall and early spring), and then transferred gardening supplies to the back of the garage. He brought forward the ice melt, snow shovels, snow blower, etc. He took the opportunity to straighten up and clean up. He also put snow scrapers in the cars so we're ready when it snows.

We have been having unusually warm weather for this time of year, so we barbecued last night. It was so nice, I wanted to get one last outdoor dinner in before it gets cold (today!). But I imagine the outdoor furniture is going to the back of the garage, too! How sad.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Destressing Christmas, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar

Unless you plan out your holiday calendar, you can find yourself tossed around by everyone else’s agendas, priorities and events. By determining what is important to you and your family, you will be able to make sure those high-priority events get top-billing on your schedule.

Sit down as a family and talk about what each individual wants to have included in the holiday schedule – decorating, special outside events, baking, making gifts, reading stories, watching movies together, shopping, sending Christmas cards, hosting a party – whatever says celebration to each one.

At the same time, discuss all the holiday events from school, sports teams, church, work, friends and family. Which ones do they want to attend?

Take your list and schedule in those activities your family wants to include in their holiday celebration. Evaluate: Are your scheduled events going to allow everyone to get enough sleep and rest? If not, rethink things.

Create margins and boundaries. Know your own limitations as well as those of your family members. Make sure to schedule in some “breather dates” into your calendar so you won’t over-schedule. If someone invites you to do something else, you can honestly say you have something already scheduled – it’s true!

Making a plan and writing it on your calendar reduces stress – it’s on paper for you and the family to see and anticipate. In addition, you are being intentional about how you are spending your holiday season and doing those things that are important and meaningful to you and your family. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Another Organizing Site

Andrew Yang asked me to pass on info about qlubb.com. It's a secure site with a public website, a group event calendar with reminders, a shared to-do list with reminders, group invites/RSVPs, and more! It sounds perfect for families as well as sports teams, church groups, parent groups, etc.

Let me know what you think!

Related Posts: More Family Organizing Sites, Cozi 2.0, Product Review of Organizers - PDAs, Get Organized for School (or life!) - A Family Calendar, Product Review of Organizers - Daily Home Planner, Product Review of Organizers - The Planner Pad

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Family Organizing Sites

Remember my reviews of time management planners? Here are a few more sites that allow you to organize family activities and information online:

Famundo.com allows you to upload an online library so everyone can have access to critical family information.

Viewmylife.com allows you to send customized invitations to others complete with videos and pictures.

Schoolpulse.com enables parents to discuss school events, sports and PTA meetings.

Google.com/calendar allows you to view your calendar alongside that of your family members and friends either on your computer or on your phone.

Have you found another site you love?

Related posts: Cozi 2.0, Product Review of Organizers - PDAs, Get Organized for School (or life!) - A Family Calendar, Product Review of Organizers - Daily Home Planner, Product Review of Organizers - The Planner Pad

Monday, October 13, 2008

Demystifying Food Expiration Dates

Ever wonder what those expiration dates on foods mean? Is it the last date to buy it? Is it the last date to eat it? Is it safe to eat it after the expiration date?

In these difficult financial times, it pays to be efficient with food to make our dollars stretch as far as possible. I read an article over the weekend in Consumer Reports that led me to a
USDA fact sheet that answered many of my questions regarding product dating.

Our girls had asked if it was safe to eat individual yogurts after the expiration date on the package. Although I didn’t get a specific answer for yogurt from the USDA, I did find valuable information on the fact sheet:

- we should keep refrigerator temperatures 41 degrees or below
- eggs can be used 3-5 weeks after the date on the carton
- baby formula should be used by the “use by” date for nutritional value and because old formula clumps and doesn’t go through the bottle nipple well
- the more a food is handled (for example deli meats being taken in and out of the fridge, handled by several people), the more likely it can be contaminated (as opposed to a single-use serving of yogurt)
- the “Best if Used By” date refers to flavor and quality, but is not necessarily a safety date
- canned items that contain high-acid foods (tomatoes, grapefruit, pineapple, etc.) can be kept for 12 to 18 months
- low-acid canned foods (meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables) can be kept for 2 to 5 years, if the can is in good condition and is stored in a cool, dry, and clean place.

The fact sheet also explains the difference between the terms “use by,” “sell by,” and “best if used by.” In addition, it displays charts for meat safety.

Even though I didn’t get my yogurt question answered by the USDA, the Food Goddess of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did some research and came up with:

“While the National Dairy Council recommends a one-week refrigerated shelf life for yogurt, both Dannon and Stonyfield Farm imply a much longer life. Both clearly state the stamped date is not the date that the yogurt will "expire" or "go bad." It's more of an optimum eating period.”

Consumer Reports, November 2008, p. 11
United States Department of Agriculture

The Food Goddess, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Do you have suggestions on food safety?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting Organized for School - Online Homework Help

Mary Meehan in her article School Rules: Tips for Parents offers some homework resources for kids:

- "Infoplease
is a free reference site including an encyclopedia, dictionary, almanacs and a "Homework Center" that covers English, math, history, geography, science and social studies. Plus it has a "Skills" section to help improve study, writing, speaking and research abilities.

- Need help with homework or a school project? Discovery Education provides "Homework Help" to students in all grades with links to loads of sites. The links are convienently organized according to subject.

- Homework Spot offers links to Web sites grouped by grade level.

- Scho
lastic's "Homework Hub" offers free tools, tips and activities arranged according to grade and subject. In addition, it provides an online store offering Scholastic brand products.

- Homeworkhelp.com offers live, online tutoring with personalized programs for fourth to 12th grade students. Users must purchase levels of membership ranging from $30 to $175.”

Do you recommend other homework resources?

Source: School Rules: Tips for Parents by Mary Meehan, Dow Jones MarketWatch.

Related blogs: Getting Organized for School - Organizing Homework, Getting Organized for School - Organizing Your Child's Artwork and School Papers, Getting Organized for School - A Successful Day Starts the Night Before, Getting Organized for School - School Supplies and Backpacks, Hope for Disorganized Students!, Homework battles, Getting Organized for School - Backpack Checklist, Getting Organized for School - Learning Style, Getting Organized for School - Document Organizing System, Getting Organized for School - Creating a Hub, Getting Organized for School (and life!) - Getting Enough Sleep, Get Organized for School (or life!) - A Family Calendar, Organizing for School - Papers, Get Organized for School - Clothing Inventory

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm Cited as a Source in the Wellness Blog

Kati Steindorf cited my information on the importance of sleep in Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student as a source in her article "Increase Sleep, Reduce Stress" on the Wellness Blog. Click the title above to read the entire article.

Scheduling in Clean-Up Time after Projects

Once I'm finished with a project, I'm eager to get on to another one. But if I don't plan in clean-up time after my first project, I have a tendency to just put it in a pile. Can you relate? By taking a few minutes after my project, I can eliminate those piles!

It’s hard to do, but if I force myself to clean up one project before starting another, then I'm not distracted by visual clutter, and I can focus on my new project. My surroundings are peaceful and conducive to creativity and productivity.

Related Posts: Clutter in Your House or Office Means Clutter in Your Mind, Schedule Daily Clean Up Times, Chopping Big Chores down into Bite-Sized Chunks, Decluttering Tips

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Cleverness of Coffee Filters

Real Simple Magazine listed some pretty clever uses for coffee filters, saving both time and money. I use cone-shaped coffee filters, but this makes me want to go out and buy a supply of the cupcake-shaped ones!

Here are some of the ideas I liked:

- Use a coffee filter to soften the flash on your camera for close-ups by placing it over the flash.

- Serve popcorn or other snacks in coffee filters. They are disposable - no clean up!

- Use a coffee filter as a protective covering when you are microwaving leftovers to avoid a mess.

- Place a coffee filter in the bottom of a flowerpot to prevent the soil from leaking out the hole in the bottom of the pot.

- Place flattened coffee filters between fine china or other dishes to prevent scratches when they are stacked.

- Prevent popsicle drips by sliding the stick through a coffee filter.

- Wrap a coffee filter around a pita sandwich for a "to go" option.

- Use coffee filters to clean windows or glass instead of paper towels. They leave no lint or fuzzies on the glass.

Have you discovered other uses for coffee filters?

Source: 101 New Uses for Everyday Things by James Baigrie

Related Posts: Spring Cleaning Using Household Items - Salt, Newspaper, Coffee Filters, and Olive Oil, Spring Cleaning Using Household Items - Lemons, Spring Cleaning Using Household Items - Vinegar, How to Clean the House, Spring Cleaning Using Household Items - Baking Soda, Spring Cleaning Using Household Items - Dryer Sheets

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Destressing Christmas, Part 4 - Organizing Your Cleaning and Decorating

I love having people in over the holidays! But that means my house must be clean and, of course, I’ll want to decorate. If I wait until the last minute, though, I’m stressed! Here are a few thoughts to help you avoid that stress:


- Determine cleaning chores that need to be done for the holidays. Parcel out chores over the weeks remaining before Christmas, starting with the ones that are long-lasting: cleaning the silver or the carpet, decluttering and purging, etc. Save the surface cleaning until closer to your events. Or, if you haven’t cleaned for a while, just get caught up on your cleaning and do it every week.

- If your list of chores seems too overwhelming, work on them in 15-minute segments and do them 2-4 times a day. If they are still too overwhelming, eliminate some! Enlist family/house members to help with the cleaning chores.

- This is not a time for major home repair, sewing projects, painting, or other major projects!

If you don't know where to start, you may want to take a look at Three Steps to Clever Cleaning.


When the time comes for decorating, here are a few hints:

- If you have a lot of decorating to do, prioritize your list and schedule the individual items on your list.

- As you decorate, remove your regular decorating accessories and put them in the boxes from which you took your Christmas decorating items. That way, you won’t have to remember where you put them. I have a friend who couldn’t find her regular decorating items for a couple of months after the holidays one year!

- Take this opportunity to purge any decorating items or holiday items you no longer need or want. A great time to declutter! By doing this, the number of boxes you must get out every year decreases.

- Make holiday decorating a family affair, using items that have sentimental value to family members. Warm up some apple cider and put on some music!

- When you put your Christmas items away, make a list of what you have – decorating items, wrapping supplies, paper products, cards, extra gift items, dishes, etc., so you don’t duplicate them. Also make a list of items you need to purchase for next year and pick them up during the sales, if possible. This is a great time of year to get holiday storage boxes at a reduced price, too.

Do you have some great cleaning or decorating ideas you'd like to pass on?

Related Posts: Destressing Christmas, Part 1 - Think Through Your Expectations, Destressing Christmas, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends, Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Smart Gift-Giving

Posts from 2007: Destressing Christmas, Part 1 - Think through your expectations, Destressing Christmas, Part 2 - Think through your family/friendship needs and commitments, Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Think through gifts, Destressing Christmas, Part 4 - Think through cleaning/decorating/entertaining, Destressing Christmas, Part 5 - Think through your health, Destressing Christmas, Part 6 - Think through your calendar, Organizing Your Holiday Meals

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Best Time of Day to Take the Dog for a Walk

Another “best time to …” tip from Real Simple magazine. Today we’re looking at the best time to walk your dog. They say the best time is between 8-9 pm. In the evening you have more time to stroll than in the morning. And your dog has more time to “linger over exciting smells and sounds missed on the morning-rush walk.”

Friday, October 3, 2008

Organizing College Applications

College applications are complicated - especially when applications are being made to several schools. If you or your child is applying for college this year, organization is essential! Here are a few thoughts:

Using a file cabinet or a plastic crate, label hanging files for each school in the running. Place all pertinent data for each school in its own file. If you want to get extra-organized, have file folders within each hanging file for: applications, school information, notes from a campus visit, etc.

Write application deadlines on one calendar, and set intermediate deadlines to pace yourself.

Make a checklist for each application, listing what is required for each school. Check off each item when completed. Place each checklist in the front its respective application file. With a glance, you can see what’s missing without having to go through the entire file.

Create similar files for financial aid forms, scholarship applications and other areas of interest.

Do you have any hot tips or shortcuts for organizing college applications?

Related blogs: Getting Organized for School/College - Software Tools, Organizing for College - Guest Blogger Sarah Scrafford, Getting Organized for School - Backpack Checklist, Organizing for School - Papers, Organizing For College - Dorm Room, Check out CampusCalmU, Finals Survival Kits for College Students' Finals, Packing for College

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Swapping Out and Purging Your Seasonal Clothes

Fall is a great time to declutter and purge. If you live in a part of the country where seasons change, the crisp air is energizing! And that means swapping out your clothes to prepare for cool weather coming. While doing so, take the opportunity to purge.

First, go through your summer clothes as you take them out of your closet and drawers. And then start on your winter clothes.

Ask yourself: Do I love this article of clothing? Does it make me feel fabulous? Have I been waiting too long to get into this size? Is it out of date? Is it shabby? Have I worn it in the last year? Do the same with shoes, purses, belts, underwear and socks. Make sure you leave out a couple of summer outfits for those occasional warm days.

As you purge, place your unwanted items in a giveaway stack and a throwaway stack. My husband fills up his collection of rags at this time of year!

Thrift stores appreciate getting fall items at the beginning of the season. (If you're really energetic, they are taking Christmas items now, too!) Make a list of your donated items for tax purposes. Salvation Army has a valuation guide for donations to help you determine the value of your donated items.

Next, organize your clothing according to style (casual, dressy casual, dressy), type (pants, sweaters, etc.), length (short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve; long pants, capri length, etc.), and color - put like colors together.

With a glance you can evaluate your shoppping needs. And getting dressed in the morning just got easier! Now your closet will have breathing room - your clothes will not get wrinkled from being too crowded.

What are your tips for swapping out seasonal clothes?

Related blogs: Declutter as You Change Your Seasonal Clothes (updated and recycled into today's blog), Donating Business Clothing for Job Interviews

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Simply Sensational Divas' Review of Three Steps to Clever Cleaning and Three Steps to Time Management for the Stay-at-Home Mom

Tammy, one of the seven divas at Simply Sensational Divas Review, has reviewed a couple of my books: Three Steps to Clever Cleaning and Three Steps to Time Management for the Stay-at-Home Mom. Simply Sensational Divas is a brand new blog, in fact it hasn't even launched yet, but they already have tons of reviews! So go on over and look around. Sign up so you don't miss anything!

We Now Have 1-2-3...Get Organized Gift Certificates!

I am very excited to announce that we now have gift certificates available for our 1-2-3...Get Organized books, workbooks, and services! Just in time for smart gift-giving! They are available in $25, $50, $75, and $100 increments.