Organize the helping brigade: Crowdsource support for loved ones after birth or surgery, or during difficult times

Organize the helping brigade: Crowdsource support for loved ones after birth or surgery, or during difficult times

When a friend or family member needs help after a birth or surgery, or even during difficult times such as illness, or any other crisis for that matter, many friends and loved one offer to help in any way they can, but don’t specifically say how. As a result, something termed a crowdsourcing tool is needed. It can also be awkward for the person needing help to say what is needed. Welcome to the world of online group scheduling and calendars with various bells and whistles.

These websites organize tasks and time slots to avoid duplication (who wants 8 mac & cheese casseroles delivered at once?) and to prevent gaps in coverage. They can help with meals, rides, visits, shopping, errands, chores, childcare, and dog walking & other pet care.

Several sites enable people to sign up for free. These sites let volunteers sign up for time slots, indicate what they will do/bring/cook, get reminders, see special instructions (dietary restrictions, where to drop off food), see what kind of help is needed and when. Some also allow donations. If you are nervous about the site being public, you control who is invited. If a person now asks, “How can I help?”, you can direct them to your website to see what is needed. No more numerous emails and phone calls back and forth will be necessary. What time savers these can be! Here are few to check out. 

CareFlash – Has an added feature of storytelling and the ability to share photos.

CaringBridge – Is a platform to communicate health news to family and friends.

Signupgenius – Coordinates people and events in personal and business life.

Carecalendar – Coordinates a calendar for volunteers and what is needed.

Lotsahelpinghands – Communicates and schedules as help is needed for meals, appointments, and rides.

Mealtrain – Sets up a calendar for friends and family to sign up to bring meals.

For such tools to be able to bring together well-meaning and able loved ones who sincerely want to offer a helping hand as well as to make that helping easier and more convenient for all is now only a time saver but, I think, a true lifesaver.

Photo: Unsplash

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Got Excess Stuff? Where to Donate Your Items

Got Excess Stuff? Where to Donate Your Items

After determining what stuff you no longer need, the next logical step is for you to sort all of it into items to trash, to sell, or to donate. Sometimes, knowing where to donate your items and what organizations accept the type of items you want to donate can be tougher than your decision to let them go! Here are a few suggestions.

National: Goodwill Industries,  Salvation Army,  Big Brother Big SisterEpilepsy Foundation (not all states),  AMVETS,  and also check out Vietnam Veterans of America (not all states). If you are looking for places to recycle your items, look at Officiency as they have a comprehensive list.

Local to Massachusetts/New England: Habitat ReStore,  Cradle to CrayonsHousehold Goods,  Savers,  Mission of Deeds,   Planet Aid,  or a “swap shop” at a local transfer station. I have been to Winchester and Wellesley’s transfer stations and wish my town had this as an option.

Other: Freecycle,  NextDoor,  Facebook Marketplace,  and other local sites. Contact local churches for rummage sales and local libraries for book donations.

Before donating, check the website of each organization to see what items they are accepting as this might change from time to time and according to the season. Additional constraints may apply due to special donation requests/requirements/process during COVID and the condition of the items.

Photo: Unsplash

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Stop Using Your Pets As An Excuse for a Messy Home

Stop Using Your Pets As An Excuse for a Messy Home

How we do love to share our lives with our pets! However, cleaning your house when you live with them is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. Don’t expect spark and 100% tidiness, but there are lots you can do to mitigate any perceived messes. Therefore, stop using your pets as an excuse for a messy home.

  1. If your fur baby happens to be of the feline persuasion, then store the litterbox out of sight but easily accessible to your cats. I have seen a lot of litter boxes in my clients’ bathrooms. I, too, have seen some creative ways people have tried to hide the litter box such as converting a cabinet into a private, yet accessible place for both you and your cat.
  2. Store pet toys in whatever you improvise as a toy box (Rubbermaid storage containers, baskets, etc.). Cat toys rarely make it back into their storage container so make it easy on yourself to put the toys away. Open storage is a necessity for your pet to grab its toy. It also makes it easy for you to throw them in the container at the end of the day. How many of you have either tripped or hurt your foot by stepping on a loose toy? Ouch!
  3. Now for those dog lovers among you, keep a station of what you need for a dog walk near your door for grab-and-go purposes including collars, leashes, poop bags, treats, and hand sanitizer. Hang leashes and collars on hooks by the door. If this paraphernalia is all together, it will be a breeze to head out when your very excited dog wants to go out for a walk.
  4. Keep together food & treats, grooming materials, health & first aid items, and training props & materials so that you can readily find them when needed. Try to designate a section of a closet or cabinet for all of your pet items. That way, all family members will know where to grab and put back any of Fifi or Fido’s items.
  5. Be aware of whether pets can get at or get into whatever you’re storing, for their safety as well as for the preservation of the items. If you have a puppy or any animal that will sniff out their food, you had better store it in a very secure sealed container. Medicine should also be stored safely as you don’t want any human to take the pet’s medicine by mistake.
  6. Avian lovers should keep drop cloths or trays under bird cages. Vacuum frequently–a portable stick vac is invaluable. Having a rug or anything that you want to keep under their cages is not going to cut it and may likely be ruined. At least drop cloths are absorbent and less expensive to replace.
  7. All pet owners will find HEPA air purifier invaluable as they both keep houses smelling fresh and help with allergies. Nothing is worse than walking into a home and KNOWING they have pets from the very odors present. Between urine smells and dirty animals, please, keep your pets and home clean. Even using an essential oil diffuser to keep your house smelling good along with the HEPA filter will make it a pleasure for visitors to enter your home.

    If you really don’t have time to clean before guests arrive, when all else fails, blame Fido and Fluffy, but do be sure to reward them with treats afterwards for being your unwitting scapegoats!

    Photo: Pixabay

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How to Organize the Perfect Craft Closet

How to Organize the Perfect Craft Closet

I know a number of friends who enjoy working on crafts. The lucky ones have an entire craft room. Others feel extremely fortunate to carve out even a single space for their hobbies. Here we share tips on how to organize the perfect craft closet so that you, too, can claim that one precious space for yourself and your hobby.

Tension Rod – Use these to place and corral all your ribbons. Organize them by color. Now, not only is it easy to see what you already have, but all you need to do is select the color, roll out the length you need, and make the cut.

You can also use two tension rods to help keep your wrapping/crafting paper upright and clean. Place the tension rods at a low and high height (just enough to keep shorter and taller rolls from falling forward) towards the back or side of your closet allowing just enough space to be able to take out and put back an individual roll. This trick will also work on a narrow wall in a room if you need all the closet space for your other craft items.

Clear drawers – Obviously the clear drawer is ideal so that you can see what is inside. I also like the look of arranging your crafting items to create an appealing color scheme. There are so many different sizes of clear storage drawers. Some crafters like individual drawers, such as a shoe box size, for storing paint, larger crafting tools, or a large quantity of markers/pens/pencils. The smaller sizes work well for storing buttons, gems, thread, or beads.

Dressers – I have seen people use old dressers in closets to keep their crafting items organized. If you don’t have a dresser in your house to use, look on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for a used dresser. Make sure you have the measurements of the closet you will be using, especially the width of the door opening to ensure the dresser won’t be too wide to fit inside.

Rolling Cart or Bookshelf – Either of these are good storage items to use in your closet. A bookshelf will be able to store and organize your crafting materials. The rolling cart can be equipped with all the crafting materials for a particular project you are working on. When you are done with the project for the day, simply put the excess materials away, roll the cart in the closet, and close the door. In this way, you’ll be completely ready to start anew when the desire next strikes you.

Over the Door Shoe Organizer – If you have a door that allows you to hang a shoe organizer on the back, you will be amazed at what you are able to store in each pocket. I recommend the clear pockets to allow you to see inside. You will be able to store markers, small tools, stamps, stickers, and scissors.

The crafts that you like to work on will dictate the best size storage containers to use. It is not only inconvenient to have a storage container that is too small but having one too large that just wastes space is not the answer either. What do you use in your craft closet to keep it organized?

Photo: Pixabay

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Five Ways to Create Your Own Relaxing Space Within Your Busy Home

Relaxing Space within your Busy home

Each room in our homes has a purpose or function. The kitchen is used for preparing food. Our bedrooms are where we sleep, and family rooms are where we gather. In your home, do you maintain a cozy spot to relax, to escape from the worries of the day? Here are five ways to create your own relaxing space within your busy home.

  1. Color Palette – No matter what room you want to have as your own relaxing space, use soft, muted colors to promote calm and serenity. If you envision the colors on the sample paint strips, look to the lower ends of each color. For example, if you like purple tones, you favor lilac; for green, chartreuse might just appeal. Stay away from harsh colors. Think about nature and what is calming to you. The blue ocean or warm grays or browns from a winter forest as just some ideas or areas that may be relaxing to you.
  2. Textures – Here too, utilizing soft elements such as a cozy blanket on a chair and a rug on the floor can promote calm. An overstuffed chair or couch with pillows will also soften a room. My sister is in love with pillows, but her spaces are warm and inviting! Even the shape of the furniture should be a consideration: try to avoid sharp angles.
  3. Lighting – Your cozy spot may be in a room that has other functions. If you can install a dimmer switch to control the overhead lighting, that is the easiest way to promote a calm environment. If you do not have that option, make sure there is a lamp that has a low wattage bulb in it so that it is the only light in the room when you want to relax.
  4. Ambience – Light soy (fewer chemicals and less soot released into the air) candles. If you are not bothered by scents, try those from nature such as lavender, vanilla, or peony. I have begun using a diffuser to add calming scent into the air. I love lavender, so that is my go to scent. I use a diffuser in my bedroom for relaxing sleep as well as one in my main living space.
  5. No Clutter – It goes without saying that a room that is cluttered does not foster a sense of calm. Have only items in this space that you love. Hide excess items that do belong in this room in baskets or cute storage bins that match the décor of the room. Limit the amount of furniture and display items.

Admittedly, I am not an interior decorator or designer. I do know, however, how to help create a room that you will instantly feel calm upon entering. By making use of the tips above, why not design just such a comfy corner in your busy home?

Photo: Pixabay

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Do You Know Where Your Spare Toothpaste Is? Tips for Editing What You Don’t Need From Your Bathroom

Bathroom Organizing

Bathrooms and linen closets where towels are stored seem to be a collection point for items you don’t actually need. The same goes for kitchen counters, incidentally, but let’s stay focused. Linen closets are subject to the “I’m in a hurry, so it’s OK to just shove the towels or sheets in there”. They don’t have to be neat. We’re going to use them “soon enough” syndrome. Bathroom medicine cabinets are frequently used to hoard all those extra bottles of aspirin, vitamins, and over the counter medicines like allergy pills and antacids that we all buy when they’re on sale. Bathroom vanities get the same “Shove in the cleansers and anything else that doesn’t fit in the medicine cabinet or linen closet we need for the bathroom” treatment. As a result, there is simply too much in our bathrooms, so here are some useful tips to edit, thereby removing everything that you don’t need from your bathroom.

Gather: Before you begin, locate a few containers, even bags, to help you sort your bathroom contents. Bring paper, tape, and marker to make a label for each bag to help you remember the categories. Label each container as you sort into categories.

Remove: Take the contents out of your bathroom drawers, medicine cabinet, and closet, looking carefully at expiration dates. Is the item you have still relevant to you and your family’s current circumstances? Is a given item even used in the bathroom? It might have gotten shoved in a drawer during a mad clean up session.

Divide: Is the item still good to use and will it be used? if so, use the containers you brought in for this project and start separating by categories. Some categories could be hair, teeth, skin care, makeup, over the counter medicine, or nails. As you sort, you may find other categories to create.

Containerize: With your items sorted, you have a visual of the amount each category contains. Now choose either a specific shelf or actual container on/in which to place them.

Label: All containers need to be clearly labeled so that you and others are able to readily find what is needed and, most importantly, to return the item after use to its original home/container.

Now that you have conquered the bathroom, why not try that afore-mentioned over-stuffed linen closet?

Photo: Pixaby

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Purge! Old Linens from Your Closet

Let’s face it, the linen closet is usually a place we hide old towels and sheets. I can use these towels to wash my car. These sheets are perfect for camping. Most of the time, while these are well-intentioned destinations for these older linens, they never leave the shelf, thus taking up space.

Since the beginning of the year I have helped a number of clients get ready to move, and the one closet that is always overflowing is their linen closet. Once we start examining bed linens and towels, they are so embarrassed about the condition of some of the items they have been storing.

Let’s face it; we (unless we just moved or cleaned out our linen closet) have a few linens and towels that really need to go. It always helps my clients know that any old, stained, ripped sheets and towels can be donated to animal shelters. I have a friend who volunteers weekly at a local animal shelter and she is so happy when I give her my client’s old linens. The shelters are always in need of those items to help make a comfy bed for the cats and dogs that live there.

The other issue I see is that people do tend to have an abundance of sheets for their beds. In reality, you only need two sets of sheets for each bed. That number can be expanded to two sets for summer and two sets for winter if you like to sleep in heavier sheets in the colder months.

Set aside some time to really examine your linen closet and see if there aren’t a few items that need to pass along. If you are short on quantity of an item, jot it down and put it on your holiday gift list!

Photo: Realsimple.com

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Five Home Organizers in Disguise

Five Home Organizers in Disguise

Nobody says you must buy expensive containers to get organized… unless, of course, you want to. Take a look around the house: What is already there that could be multipurposed to help contain your items? Let’s explore five such vessels that could substitute for home organizers in disguise.

Mason Jars – There are different size mason jars. Their genius lies in the fact that they are clear so that you can see precisely what is inside and in what quantity. The jars are particularly great for storing items used in crafting, to name one use, and are easily placed in pantries, and garages. As to the latter, I have even seen folks drill holes in mason jar tops so that after screwing them on, they can be placed on nails on the underside of shelfs for even easier accessibility.

Fishing Tackle Box – There are so many possible items to store in this box. Have you thought about keeping your makeup or art supplies such as beads, colored pencils, paints, or chalk In one? In the kitchen, you could free up or at least clean up your junk drawer by putting all its small contents into the tackle box for greater accessibility, thus decluttering your kitchen. Drawers are often in short supply, so why not possibly free one up by utilizing a tackle box?

Fabric Bins – These are great for your bedroom closets for sorting socks, underwear, workout tops, and leggings. What’s more, consider utilizing one or more in the front entry way for storing gloves, hats, scarves, and seasonal items such as suntan lotion, glasses, and dog leashes and poop bags.

Shoe Boxes – Talk about a free storage container! The nice thing about using a shoe box is that you are able to customize it to match wherever you place it. Use wrapping paper to disguise the boxes. They are great for small toys or under the sink items.

Kitchen Drawer Containers – These containers are not only used to corral your cooking utensils in the drawers of your kitchen but are also great to use in your office drawers. In fact, keep your pens and pencils separate from other office supplies such as paperclips, small sticky notes, and binder clips. I have used these in bathrooms to keep combs, toothbrushes, hair clips, dental floss, and makeup from becoming a jumbled mess in my own drawers.

What else do you personally use in your home that may not officially qualify as your typical organizer?

Photo: Pixabay

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How to Plan a Winter Getaway While Staying Safe During COVID-19

How to Plan a Winter Getaway While Staying Safe During COVID-19

Are you craving time away but afraid to go anywhere now during the pandemic? How do you plan a winter getaway while staying safe during COVID-19? Let’s explore ways to do so by planning ahead so as to keep you and the people you interact with safe as you travel.

Housing – Options vary, and so will your consideration beforehand. For instance, will you be renting a home? Staying with friends or relatives? Booking time at a hotel? If it is the latter, you may want to choose an out of the way hotel with a nationally recognized name. You should also check hotel policies on cleanliness on their website before booking dates. If you are staying with people you know, how are they keeping safe? Do your beliefs line up? With renting a home, what are their protocols for sanitizing before you arrive?

Mode of Transportation – If you drive, you have more control over what you may bring with you from your home. Flying will limit items that may make you feel safer unless you are able to purchase them upon arrival. Considering renting a car? Then investigate the company and determine how they are dealing with COVID and keeping their fleet of vehicles safe.

Items of Comfort – If driving, think about being able to bring ingredients to make light meals and using your own mugs for coffee and utensils for dining. Bring cleaning supplies to do a thorough cleaning as you desire before unpacking and living in whatever accomodations you have chosen.

Health – What are the travel requirements if crossing state lines? Do you need proof of a negative COVID test, or are you willing to quarantine upon arrival? When you go back to your home, do you need a COVID test in order to return to work or school or to reenter your state? Booking those tests ahead of time is sometimes necessary as there may not be an appointment on the day you want.

Cancellation Policy – What is the cancellation policy at your destination? If there is an outbreak at your destination or if you or a family member get sick, will you get your money back, or are you out of luck?

Activities –If you are planning on going to sites, are they even allowing visitors? You would hate to go away only to find out that you would basically be limited to your housing of choice and the great outdoors in order to stay safe. For some, that would work as they are merely looking to get away from the same four walls and to change up their days. For others, it would be a colossal disappointment.

Planning ahead will help ease the anxiety and allow you to enjoy your time away, knowing you have done all you can in advance to ensure your safety as well as that of your travel companions.

Photo: Pixabay

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How to Organize your Kitchen for Holiday Cooking

How to Organize your Kitchen for Holiday Cooking

There is a dire cliche about how a ton of cooking – and subsequently, a ton of dishes – must be generated to cook a holiday meal. Not so. Following simple practices, you can cook up a feast for many by learning to organize your kitchen for holiday cooking.

Plan ahead – How many people will you be feeding? What can others bring? Even having someone bring wine, dessert, or a salad will free you from extra shopping and cooking. What will you be serving? What can be prepared in advance and frozen? All these questions will help you to be more organized the day you serve the meal and perhaps even to be able to spend more time enjoying your guests.

Shopping in advance – Now that you have decided what you will be serving, pull out the recipes, and make a list of what you need in order to make the dish. What items do you need for your menu? With lists in hand, you can order online using a service like Instacart to eliminate spending your precious time in the grocery store. Schedule a time for pick up, and you will avoid crowds and, these days, social distancing yourself even more.

Start with a clean kitchen – Make sure before you even start cooking that the dishwasher has been run and is empty. There should be no dirty dishes in your sink. If so, wash them before you even begin. This includes drying and putting the items away. The open surface space gained provides a fresh start.

Prep in advance – Just as restaurants use sous chefs, have your ingredients prepped in advance so that your prep time for each special recipe/dish is greatly reduced. Have a bowl handy to dispose of food scraps and garbage as you cook. Reuse the knives and other utensils after washing them. Keep a towel handy to wipe your hand as you move along.

Wash pots and pans as you go – Making a meal for many people using lots of pots and pans doesn’t have to be complicated. As you are done using a pot/pan, decide if you will need that size for another item on your menu. If not, wash it when you are done or, do a quick wash and use it again for another item. If you try to clean up as you go along, either by having a sink or container full of soapy water, you will make the final clean up a snap.

Cover or spray for faster cleanup – If you use parchment paper or tin foil on your cooking sheets, it will speed up your cleaning time. Instead of scrubbing the sheet, you can simply remove your food and throw away the paper/foil. Spraying something like Pam on the paper/foil before placing your food on it will make any sticking after cooking a non-issue.

Ask for help – Whether it be in advance or after the main meal, don’t be a hero thinking you are capable of doing it all yourself. Ask others, specifically, for help. Assign washing, drying, clearing the table duties to your family or guests. Most people really do want to help and giving them a specific task, helps both of you quickly move on to the final clean up so that everyone can more quickly get back to the merriment.

Our holiday tables may be less crowded this year due to COVID-19. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be cooking for the holidays. Continuing to make the big meal has the added benefit of leftover meals to freeze! That is quite a tasty and time-saving reward after all.

 

Photo: Adobe Stock Photo

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