Ten Packing Tips for Your Next Vacation

Ten Packing Tips for Your Next Vacation

Does it feel like you pack your entire house when you travel? Have you ever remarked with utter amazement that you do not wear or use half of what you cart along on any given trip? If you are going by RV or car, you can take a lot. However, if you are flying and need to navigate via trains, subways, taxis, boats, and planes, you will want to travel light. After all, no one needs to bring my sister’s non notorious 22 turtlenecks for a ten-day family Christmas vacation home or one of my close friend’s four pair of sequinning evening pumps for her cruise!

To avoid similar gaffes, here are my favorite packing tips:

  1. Pack what you absolutely cannot bear to lose—or want to have stolen– in your carry-on. This includes your medication, spare eyeglasses/sunglasses/reading glasses, a change of underwear in case your luggage is lost, and valuables (jewelry, camera, iPad).
  2. Pack anything that can leak in a Ziploc bag. You do not need shampoo, sunscreen, and insect repellant leaking all over your clothes. As for body soap, use a small bottle or two of liquid soap so that you can just toss that bottle away when depleted. Do you really want to lug home a heavy, messy cake of regular soap?
  3. Roll clothes instead of folding them. Not only will they take up less space, but they will also not wrinkle.
  4. Pack a couple of plastic bags for dirty laundry and wet bathing suits to keep them separate from your clean clothes.
  5. Travel with only your oldest underwear and throw them all out after using.
  6. Count out your meds and take only what you need. (Plus, an extra five-day supply in case of emergencies or unavoidable delays.) instead of packing bulky pill bottles, put them in a pill organizer or, better yet, in disposable pill pouches, which can, too, be discarded along the way, consolidating what remains into perhaps one very compact, flat bag. Just put a paper label inside with the name of each medication and dosage.
  7. Use space bags/compression bags to sort clothes in your suitcase/duffel and to take up less space. Some travelers even utilize packing cubes in which to pack an entire day’s outfits or to differentiate by category: underclothing, daywear, nightwear, and shoes. Family members could choose their own colors for quick recognition inside a large suitcase. This provides the bonus of none of your clothes ever coming into contact with drawers at your accommodations.
  8. Stuff socks and stockings inside shoes to save valuable space in your bags.
  9. Leave space in your suitcase for souvenirs or pack an extra collapsible tote. Some suitcases even come with the capability of unzipping an extra two inches of space, which may just be enough to handle that if you don’t overpack to begin with.
  10. Check the TSA website for what you are allowed to bring (3-1-1 rule for liquids) and what needs to stay home (bear spray, or chlorine for pools). Make note of what should be packed in your stored luggage (axes, corkscrews, darts, and aerosol sprays). Incidentally, antlers, bread machines, and your Harry Potter wand are all permitted in carry-on bags, so relax!

Many of us are starting to travel anew this year. Knowing how to pack for your trip eliminates a lot of hassle before, during, and after your time away, making for a much more relaxing adventure. Bon voyage!

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Make Sure Your Pets Get Emergency Veterinary Care in Your Absence

Do you ever leave your pet in the care of a friend, neighbor, or professional pet sitter? In case of a medical emergency, are they authorized to bring your pet to your veterinarian (or an emergency clinic) and to approve treatment?

Anyone who cares for your pet should have written authorization from you, and your vet should have a signed release on file as well.

Use one of the forms specific in the next paragraph (or make up something similar) and give it to your vet for your file. Also post it on your refrigerator, and/or leave it on your kitchen table, or in another prominent place for pet sitters to easily find.

For example, look at this Pet Care Emergency Authorization Form, or this one, or create one of your own. Everyone involved with the care of your pet will be relieved to know this letter exists… as will Fido and Miss Kitty!

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Overwhelmed by Email? Three Ways to Gain Control

On average, how many emails do you get in a day? It is a staggering amount between legitimate offers from stores you frequent, spam and junk email, business related ones, and those coveted communications from friends/family to name just a few of the categories. It’s no wonder everyone is overwhelmed by email. Here are three ways to gain control over your ever exploding inbox once and for all.

  1. Filter and sort – One can set up ‘rules’ for email such that it is sorted as it comes in. How to do this depends on the email program you use.
  1. Schedule outgoing emails – Do you need to send an email later, but you would like to write and schedule it now, lest your recipient knows the real time you composed the email? You are in luck if you use Gmail, Outlook for Mac, Outlook 365, and iOS.
  2. Postpone a reply using autoresponder – If you are out of the office, whether it be for a vacation, a few hours, or a few weeks, set up an auto response so people who email you will know that you will not be replying and what to do if they need help immediately. By the way, you still do receive the emails so you can peak for any emergency messages. In that others will have received your auto response, you can choose to ignore their email guilt-free.

Remember ultimately, you are the only one who control your email. Just because someone sends you an email does not mean that you need to answer immediately. 24-48 hours is considered an acceptable response time in most cases unless there is a work-related emergency or project deadline. It is also perfectly reasonable to send a quick response stating that you received that email and that you will respond more fully within a couple of days. Consider writing a boiler plate response to that effect now that you can easily pull up and copy for future use. In the end, do not let others dictate your life via your inbox.

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How Spring Cleaning Came to Be a Thing

How Spring Cleaning Came to Be a Thing

Spring cleaning is so much a tradition that it has a name. I mean, who ever heard of “winter cleaning” or “summer cleaning”?

So, why is it spring when we do perhaps our most serious cleaning? Well, you may be astonished to learn that, indeed, there are historical, biological, cultural, and religious explanations.

Historical: Back in the day, homes were heated with wood or coal; therefore, spring brought warmer weather and the chance for airing out the home and cleaning out a winter’s worth of soot and grime on the walls and all surfaces.

Biological: While humans don’t hibernate over the long winter months, at least not in the same way as bears, chipmunks, and bats, we do experience hormonal changes. These might include increased production of melatonin, which makes us sleepier and so less inclined to scrub until … the springtime.

Cultural: The Persian new year, Nowruz, falls on the first day of spring. In Iran, one tradition is to “shake the house,” meaning to do a deep clean.

Religious: The dates for Passover and Easter are determined by the lunar calendar, and fall each year in early spring, mid-March to mid-April.

The Jewish festival of Passover commemorates the exodus from Egypt and freedom from slavery. In their haste to escape, the Israelites did not have time for their bread to rise, which is why Jews today eat unleavened bread (matzoh) during the eight-week holiday of Passover. In preparation, Jewish people clean their homes of all foods containing chametz (leaven), including any crumbs. In that crumbs can be anywhere—from corners of cabinets to pockets—the pre-holiday cleaning is extensive.

Catholics customarily clean the church altar the day before Good Friday. Members of the Greek Orthodox church celebrate “Clean Week,” a week of cleaning their homes before Lent, starting with Clean Monday. 

Who knew spring cleaning had such deep roots based on tradition? When you perform yours this spring, remember that you are maintaining a tradition centuries old!

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Forgetting – A Hidden Brain Advantage?

Forgetting – A Hidden Brain Advantage?

Is forgetting a feature of the brain and not a bug?

And why might this be relevant? Perhaps this quote will convince you:

“…creative-but-naturally disorganized people, if they’re smart, don’t simply live in chaos; they find systems to help them get organized. (In my case, that meant actually hiring a professional organizer to help me design the easiest possible practical ways to keep my things straight and myself on track.)”

Read this article to learn more.

Once you have finished reading, give me a call and I will help you design those practical systems to get YOU organized once and for all.

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Don’t Toss Out Expired Food Until You Read This!

Don’t Toss Out Expired Food Until You Read This!

When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator and freezer? How about your kitchen cabinets (or pantry, lucky you if you have one!)?

Some foods, think produce and dairy, “announce” their expiration dates. Lettuce and other greens wilt, fruit rots, and milk turns sour. What about packaged foods, though, whether in bottles, cans, boxes, or bags? Besides, what about those leftovers or prepackaged meats and fish in your freezer? How long can you really keep those?

Packaged foods are labeled with “Sell by,” “Use by,” “Best if used by,” “Expiration,” and “Freeze by” labels. What do these labels mean, in terms of what you need to do with the food?

Here are some guidelines related to food safety.

https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/food/food-expiration-dates-guidelines-chart

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/confused-date-labels-packaged-foods

https://www.allrecipes.com/article/food-expiration-dates/

The only advice I would share with you is that if you plan to donate any packaged food to your local food pantry, DO adhere to the expiration date on the packaging. These places do dispose of food based on expiration dates, so why make them work harder than they already are?

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Bored? Take a Free, Online Class

Bored? Take a Free, Online Class

Are you finding yourself with time on your hands due to the pandemic or winter weather? If you are bored why not use the time to take a free online class from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, or other top universities? There are so many interesting classes from which to choose. They say one should never stop learning. It keeps the mind active and creates new neuron paths that may help ward off memory issues as one ages.

You can also check out the catalogs at https://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

and https://www.coursera.org/courses?query=free for starters.

Perhaps you and a friend may want to take the same class together to keep each other accountable and to have someone to discuss what you are learning. Why not give it a go?

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An Easy-Peasy Way to Take a Household Inventory

If you ever need to file an insurance claim for damages to your home or a police report for stolen items, you will need to produce a list of affected property. You could always write out a list and type it up, but that would take hours. Here is an easy-peasy way to take a home inventory.

Walk around your home with your cellphone and make a video of everything. I do mean everything. Open closets, drawers, and cabinets. Take closeups or still pictures of the serial numbers of electronic devices and anything else where detail is important to prove the value or uniqueness of the item. Then copy that video and photos to a flash drive and store it in a safe place, preferably a safe deposit box or somewhere else outside your home.

If you ever want a more detailed list, you now have this video to help you compile a list of what you own. The list can be done as a spreadsheet or a simple document. Documenting the items room by room will assure that all is captured and recorded in the event, heaven forbid, that you ever need it.

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Quarantine Got You Down? Nineteen Guilt-Free Ways to Pass the Time

We are hitting the two-year mark for the COVID-19 pandemic. If you or a family member must quarantine, don’t let the quarantine get you down. Here are nineteen guilt-free ways to pass the time.

  1. Tackle the project you “never had time for.”
  2. Re-read the books you have saved over the years. Then keep or donate to your library.
  3. Read a new series, in order, by an author you have always meant to try.
  4. Make an inventory of your possessions.
  5. Take a virtual tour of a museum.
  6. Take an online class in a subject new to you.
  7. Learn a language.
  8. Learn (or refresh) a musical instrument.
  9. Re-connect with old friends by phone, not social media, so you can have quality 1-2-1 time. FaceTime or Zoom to take it up a notch.
  10. Shake up your exercise routine or start a new one. Lots of classes you can take online, recorded or “live”
  11. Listen to webinars, lectures, and other programs sponsored by libraries, museums, and other non-profits.
  12. Meditate.
  13. Take up a crafts project. Learn to knit or crochet. Many find adult coloring relaxing. I know I do!
  14. Get outdoors. Walk, hike, bike.
  15. Make a new recipe.
  16. Evaluate your finances, personal financial goals, and career goals.
  17. Start a journal, a personal diary, or a collection of writings.
  18. Clear out unneeded files on your computer.
  19. Learn a new social game: bridge, cribbage, or mah jongg so that you will be ready when you can get together with others.

I am sure you can think of other ways to turn a quarantine into more than just sitting around moping and feeling sorry for yourself. Take advantage of this time, or if you have been going non-stop for a very long time, take a long bubble bath and relax! Here is a thought, too: merely … be …

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Take the Adventure Out of Finding Items in Your Basement

Take the Adventure Out of Finding Items in Your Basement

Is your basement a stockpile of junk? Does it involve what amounts to a treasure hunt just to sift through the clutter to find what you need? Set aside a weekend to take the adventure out of finding items in your basement and to make this area of your home more manageable. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Make a list of the types of items (categories) you have in storage. Examples: batteries, light bulbs, arts & crafts supplies, pet supplies, or holiday decorations.
  2. Sort what you have, tossing what you really don’t need to keep. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, getting rid of excess is always the first step to getting organized.)
  3. Group items by category to see how much storage is needed for each category.
  4. Buy appropriately sized plastic tubs with lids. At least one for each category in #1. You will get an idea of how many to purchase based on the quantity for each of your categories.
  5. Place categorized items in the plastic bins. You can have more than one category in a tub, if you label what is in there.
  6. Label each tub with its contents on the long and short side.
  7. Optional: Buy and assemble steel shelving for your basement. Or buy resin shelves that are super easy to assemble. My sister loves using the Origami shelves for her storage needs. She has them in her garage and basement. If you put wheels that come with it on, now the entire shelving unit can easily be moved, holds 100-200 pounds per shelf with no wheels/75 pounds per shelf with wheels, and folds up and down within seconds.
  8. Put the tubs on the shelving or stack them if not using shelving.

Voila!

Why not use boxes? You could, but if you have a damp basement, the contents can get moldy, or the box can deteriorate. Boxes in the attic are probably OK unless that is also a damp space.

Spending the extra money to buy plastic bins will save you in the long run if you truly care about what you are storing.

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