Several years ago a woman called me because her friend threatened her! The friend was concerned and frustrated because she tried to help the woman get rid of the excessive amount of stuff in her home without any success. She reached the last straw when the woman tripped over a pile of newspapers and as a result of the fall, broke her foot. Now in a cast and forced to go up and down the stairs on her bottom, the friend threatened to call protective services if a professional organizer was not hired. This was an extreme situation, of course, and yet it raised numerous issues related to organizing and how it can improve both personal safety and health. In less extreme situations clutter, or excessive quantities of items, objects, and paperwork, can cause a variety of other concerns in addition to obstacles that cause falls: Fire hazard Compromised emergency preparedness, inability to access important items in an emergency or exit a building safely Injuries from stacked items falling Dust and mold that may cause or aggravate allergies, asthma Social isolation that may be caused by shame surrounding a cluttered environment, including estrangement from family members, and a negative impact on interpersonal relationships. If this sounds like someone you know or a situation that troubles you, it’s time to talk with a Professional Organizer. As a Professional Organizer I am part of an industry that trains us to work with these situations in a systematic, confidential and non-judgmental manner. It is stressful for a family member or friend to help no matter how much they care and mean well. They can support the work that the individual does with the professional. Write down your questions, concerns, and most importantly, your goals. All it takes is a phone call to start your forward movement.
Organizing for your health and safety will provide you with greater peace of mind. First, consider having all of your information in one easily accessible place whether it is digital and/or paper. Second, be sure that your emergency contact and/or health care proxy has access to, and a copy of this information. Remember to always send them an updated version. Third, and very important in the process of organizing your records, update the information on a regular basis. When you change supplements, prescriptions, dosages, doctors, insurance plans, or receive a different diagnosis it’s time to update the information. TIP: bring your copy of your wellness records with you to every appointment and exam including your general physician, dentist, and specialist. This will help you answer the questions that they ask you, remind you to note any changes they recommend, and to track the dates of your last appointments or exams. Here are additional ideas for what to include in your organized records: Current diet, food restrictions Current exercise regimen including type, frequency, duration Allergies or sensitivities Sleep routine including the times that you go to sleep and awaken List of questions for your wellness provider The format is less important than the gathering and updating of the information. A 3-ring binder works as well as the right app as long as you establish and use your system! P.S.-this system will serve you will in the event of a disaster, when you move, and if you are traveling.
Simply put, having containers to store items in does not make you more organized. Before you go out and purchase more containers, set some “ground rules” for: What goes in and what does not What gets purged, and how often What type of container is needed Where the container is stored What goes in and what does not? Thinking about the container as a place for specific types of items will guide you in making the decision. If it is not related, it doesn’t belong in the container. You will also want to consider why you are keeping the item. That includes whether or not you will use it and if it is in good condition. If it’s paperwork, ask yourself why do you need to keep it, can you find the information elsewhere if you need it? What gets purged, and how often? Before you transfer a pile of “stuff” into a container go through the items and let go of what you no longer need. Discard, donate, sell, or keep. Only store what you know you will need and use. That will help you determine the type and size of container you will need. What type of container do I need? There are more choices than ever…clear, colored, patterned, plastic, fabric, basket, metal, lidded or open, yikes! If the container is going to be in an area where you and visitors will see it, you may want to consider the aesthetics. If the container is stored in an area where it isn’t often seen aesthetics is less important. Do you want to spend time labeling containers? Clear containers allow you to see what is inside without the need to label. My advice is to use or re-purpose containers that you already have before you go out to purchase… read more →
This month I’m sharing tips and resources to help you organize your family, home, and business in order to be safe and prepared for possible emergencies. Take a tour of your home and identify areas that: are overcrowded – prevent objects falling & people tripping are too dark – replace light bulbs, apply stick-on lights at entryways and in closets, keep a flashlight handy are potentially hazardous for children, seniors, pets – check the electrical outlets and cords, lock up medications & toxic substances, keep perishables in weather and rodent-proof containers, remove area rugs or furniture with sharp edges Here is an article that highlights additional safety organizing tips: http://www.pbs.org/hometime/house/safety/safediy.htm What is the 1 change that you will make today?
Natural disasters may occur anywhere in the world. Have you organized your important documents, health/medication records, and passwords? Do you have a safe deposit box? What about keeping duplicate items with family or friends who live in a different area? #1: Start with a specific plan of action. #2: Use a checklist to make preparation less overwhelming. #3: Schedule dedicated time (a specific day/time) to complete one action at a time from your checklist.
Summer is a great time to catch up with all of those tasks you said you would get to, right? Emergency and disaster preparedness obviously has to be organized before an actual event. Being prepared means protecting yourself from theft, including your identity. Here is an article with tips from the IRS that you will find helpful: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection-Tips
Whether you are traveling, or preparing your household or business for an emergency, knowing what to keep and for how long is critical. Once you have this information you can decide whether it can be kept in hard copy and/or scanned. Talk with your accountant and attorney about specific financial and legal requirements. Here is a resource that you will find useful as well: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Money/Personal-Finance/Managing-Household-Records.shtml
It’s not about living in fear, it’s about thinking ahead and using that opportunity. Here’s a great article for family organizing: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/what-emergency-supplies-keep-in-car
What types of natural disasters might you encounter in the area that you are living? Do you have a plan of action in the event that one occurs? Do you have the supplies that you might need at home and in your vehicle? There a number of online resources that can provide you with helpful checklists such as this one: http://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/checklist_1.pdf Additional tips: Make multiple copies of the checklist(s) that you use. Distribute them to family members, roommates, coworkers, etc. Keep a laminated copy of the checklist in the container, backpack, and bags that hold these items. This will remind you of the contents during a stressful situation and save you precious time looking for what you need. Refer to the checklist at regular intervals to be sure that adequate supplies are on hand and that items are in good condition and have not expired.
Do you think that summer organizing is limited to cleaning out the garage? Well it’s also the best time to focus on disaster preparedness. No matter where you live you are going to want to use a checklist to ensure that you’ve addressed a variety of: types of disasters important documents and records valuables, including sentimental possessions. Here are some resources that you can refer to: FEMA: http://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan CDC: http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/ Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/plan You may also contact your local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) to find an Organizer who can get you started!