Common Household Items You Need to Get Rid of Now

Common Household Items You Need to Get Rid of Now

As we approach fall, the cooler temps may compel us to be inside more. Thoughts may just turn to tackling some cleaning out, weeding out, and sorting. As a result, today we will explore common household items you need to get rid of now based on expiration dates, potency, or flavor.

Makeup – Don’t you really hate it when you spend good money on makeup and either forget you bought it or haven’t used it EVER. Contrary to what you may have heard, makeup does have a shelf life. One should toss their makeup based on these guidelines. It is not worth getting a rash or infection due to using old items, no matter how much you spent on them.

Spices – Opening a spice jar is such a symphony of smell. When you open spices that have been sitting around in your cupboard or pantry and there is an off smell or no smell at all, time to toss. Using these guidelines will help you ascertain what spice is still good to use to enhance your latest culinary concoction.

Over the Counter Medication – What exactly does the expiration date on these meds mean? Is this the date that the stores should no longer sell the product? How long are the meds safe to use? I turn to Common Sense Home for guidance.

Personal Care Items – Items such as shampoo, conditioner, and hand lotion do eventually need to be tossed. Once you see the breakdown of the product or its separation, do not use these items. A general guideline is to dispose of them after 2 -3 years if opened, 3 -4 years if unopened.

To help you remember when you bought any of the items we are talking about today, label each new purchase as soon as you come home. Take the guesswork out of remembering. See my previous blog to learn more about one of my favorite organizing tools, the label maker.

Photo: Pixabay

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How to Engage Your Children in Their Education

How to Engage Your Children in Their Education

Depending on where you live, your children may be either attending school full time or with a hybrid schedule of online and in-person learning. Most homes are not set up to have multiple people working/attending school from home. Here is how to help you engage your children in their education.

Space – Having a dedicated learning space is going to be one of the most important tasks. Try not to have your children attend school from their beds. Not only does it look terrible, but it is bad for their backs and does not set them up with the right frame of mind for learning. Create a desk area with all their necessary supplies. If you have younger children, you will want them in a different room or space from yours, but close enough so you can listen passively while you work.

Online Learning – Reinforce skills such as ½ hour of independent reading. Have earphones so they can concentrate on hearing only their teacher and not all the other sounds around them. Create a barrier around them if they are easily distracted. A folding room divider or a 3-panel display board is easy to set up and fold away when no one is online.

Step Away from your Computer – Everyone working on a computer needs to take a break and stretch or look away. Follow the guidelines from the WebMD website. Make sure you are blinking often to avoid dry eyes. Bring water or your beverage of choice with you when in front of your computer for any length of time to keep yourself hydrated. Getting up to use the bathroom will force you to step away.

Getting Outside – After sitting in front of a computer monitor all day, one needs to get up and move around. What about a scavenger hunt? When the children come back in, they will have gotten some fresh air and exercise and will again be ready to work on their homework.

Learning from home may not be the ideal situation for everyone. Nevertheless, if you adjust your surroundings for your children, you will be setting them up for success this academic year!

Photo: Pixabay

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How to Endure a Layoff with Grace

How to Endure a Layoff with Grace

COVID-19 and the closing of the economy has resulted in a lot of layoffs, temporary and permanent. Being let go from a job because of cutbacks is even harder than being fired. You know you’ve done nothing wrong. You understand why it’s happening, still, you feel that you have done something wrong or that your employer didn’t value you. In case you have fallen victim to the corona virus in the way, here are some do’s and don’ts of how to endure a layoff with grace.

Don’t rush to sign exit paperwork. You have the right to ask for a reasonable time to review the documents and to be able to show it to your accountant, lawyer, and family. Make sure to read the paperwork carefully and ask questions before you sign.

Do follow up with your former employer if you don’t get things such as a final paycheck or COBRA paperwork in a timely manner. Make sure your health insurance won’t be canceled. If it will be, shop for health insurance on your state or federal websites.

Do pack up and/or turn in equipment without taking or copying files. Depending on the company culture, you may not have a lot of time to pack up your belongings. They may offer to have it packed up for you and mailed to your home

Do say goodbye. Shake hands – or bump elbows – and say thank you as you leave. You never know when you will run into a former colleague or boss. Take the high road; don’t burn any bridges. Acknowledge those who helped you and wish everyone well. Let everyone’s final impression of you be an upbeat, positive, and encouraging one.

Do ask for a laid off letter. Review the content and make sure the details are correct. Having this letter will be evidence that you were not fired when looking for another job.

Do ask for a letter of recommendation from your boss. Asking now will ensure you get it. What if your boss is in the next round of layoffs? Then it is too late to ask.

Do file for unemployment. You are entitled to unemployment when you are laid off. Now is not the time to be shy or embarrassed over applying.

Don’t immediately start looking for another job. This is a major upheaval in your life. Allow yourself time to grieve. You may be angry but try not to bad mouth the company. Take a positive spin on this. You may use this as an opportunity to reevaluate your career and even go in a totally different direction.

Do update your social network such as LinkedIn and your resume. Make sure your social media sites do not have pictures of you that would embarrass you when a future employer looks at your posts. Scrub any inappropriate, compromising, and unprofessional comments.

This too shall pass, and you may come to see that this unpleasant time in your life was actually a truly important turning point in your career. You just may emerge with a better job than your previous.

Photo: Unsplash

How to Declutter and Organize Your Garage or Garage Space

How to Declutter and Organize Your Garage or Garage Space

Not everyone has a garage, but most have a place where they store garage-like items, such as house paint, automotive supplies like snow tires or all weather tires depending on the season, shovels, indoor/outdoor gardening supplies, and tools. This is how to declutter and organize your garage or garage space.

Proper supplies – Gather large trash bags, broom & dustpan, shop vac (if you have one), and containers for sorting.

Dividing and conquering – As with any organizing project, create spaces/bags/containers for items to either donate, toss, or keep. The keepers will be further divided into categories in the next phase.

Keepers – Items you are keeping in the garage will have common themes such as gardening, sports, winter shovels, seasonal decorations, and tools. Place items of each theme together so you will be able to determine the best storage solution.

Zones – Based on the quantity of items you have for each category; you can then determine which area of the garage is best suited for each. Think of your child’s kindergarten classroom where there was an area for reading, coloring, and games. Use this same concept in your garage for storing like items together in zones.

Storage – Like most garages, floor space may be limited. Think vertically. What items are best hung on the wall? Tools such as ladders, rakes, and shovels are best stored on the wall. Before investing in an elaborate system, see what containers you have and repurpose them to make sure you are happy with the layout and storage space in your garage.

Maintenance – Use seasonal changes as opportunities to reset your garage back to its proper order. You may have to reshuffle the winter/summer items to make it easier to grab what you need for the current season.

Revisit your garage organization at least twice a year to avoid another laborious task. To be truly efficient as you do so, continue to edit out items you no longer use or want.

Photo: Unsplash

Clean Out Your Junk Drawer

Clean Out Your Junk Drawer

Ahhh…Junk drawers… We all have them. We also all have drawers designated for a specific purpose that ultimately become unruly and unorganized as we toss more stuff into them. Here’s another possible way of how to clean out your junk drawers of items you no longer need or use.  (For more ideas, go to another one of my blog posts on Junk Drawer Organization)

1) Dump the contents of a particularly cluttered drawer or drawers into a large plastic crate. Call it the Crate of Unorganized Things.

2) Set the crate of unorganized things aside for a week to a month. See how often you go back to it for items you actually need.

3) As you pull the items you actually need out of the crate, put them in a designated container or bag. These might include kitchen utensils, office supplies, cables, and extension cords…

4) Anything you haven’t looked at in that crate within a month’s time can be tossed or donated.

5) Now take the designated containers of items you actually use from step 4. If these items already have a designated drawer or place in your home, put them where they belong.

6) The remaining items will now be the contents of your junk drawer.

Limit the contents of this junk drawer to just one drawer. Do try to limit those items to what you truly need to have closest at hand, or it will be difficult to find what you need.

Photo: Unslash

What to Do When a Spouse Dies

What to Do When a Spouse Dies

Being prepared for whatever life throws at you is so important. This became glaringly so to me recently as a client of mine suddenly lost her husband. One of the first questions she had for me was what to do when a spouse dies. Isn’t there a checklist? As a result, I hope this will help any of you who may need this or at least prove to be a source of help to which to refer.

Veterans – Notify your local Veterans Administration to see if you quality for any assistance with the funeral, burial, or anything else. You will need a copy of the discharge papers.

Death Certificate – The funeral director will provide this to you. If you need additional copies, you can contact the city hall in the place where they died. Get at least 10 – 12 original copies so that you have them when you need them. Some companies just need a copy of the death certificate; others need an original.

Social Security – If your spouse received Social Security, you need to notify the office of the date of death, so all benefits stop and to inquire about any death benefit to which you are entitled. If you are the surviving spouse, you will need to also ask if you are eligible for an increase to your own benefit. If you have minor children, ask about their benefits as well.

Employer – Let your spouse’s employer know of the death. Ask is there are any benefits you are entitled to and if so, how to obtain them.

Health Insurance – Contact your health insurance provider to see how the death of your loved one will affect anyone else on the policy and how to keep coverage for the survivors.

Life Insurance – You will need to fill out a form the company provides along with a death certificate once you notify them of the death. Most important and often neglected is investigating whether your loved one is listed as a beneficiary on another policy. Change that immediately to avoid issues later on.

Credit Cards – Notify all credit card companies of your loved one’s passing. If you are a co-signer on the credit card or you are associated with that credit card, ask how you may continue to use that card or get one issued in your name.

Accountant, Financial Advisor, and Lawyer – Let your accountant, financial advisor, and lawyer know immediately so they can begin to advise you of what information you need to gather or forms to complete to help make it an easier time for all when the final tax and legal papers are filed.

Bank – If you have a joint account, change it to just your name. Investigate if there are any other accounts at the bank such as a trust account.

Car – Have the deceased name removed from the title of the car and transfer it to your name.

Bill Paying – If you do not get paper bills in the mail, you may need to contact the companies to have them change the email address and name associated with the bills. Put everything in your name. During this very stressful time, make sure that you are paying your bills. Make a list of all the bills you can remember that need to be paid such as mortgage, insurance (home, auto, umbrella, etc.), utilities (gas, electric, water, cable, phone, internet), mobile phone, condo fees, credit cards, and any other bills that you or your spouse paid.

I have mentioned a few documents that you need to gather but it is also helpful to have your hands on:

Social Security Card

Birth Corticate

Marriage License

Deed/Title to Property (home, car, etc.)

Insurance Policies

Stock Certificates

Tax Forms for Recent Year

My heart goes out to all of you who have lost loved ones. During such a painful time, it is regrettable that there still remains a lot to do, but it is manageable if you take a day at a time and ask for help as needed.

Photo: Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

Organize Your Children’s School Records

Organize Your Children’s School Records

This may be an ideal time to organize your children’s school records before they head back to school, whether it be in person or virtual for the upcoming academic year.

1) Sort – Gather all their papers and separate everything into piles per child. Then further break down the pile for each child by school year.

2) Separate – If you already have their papers sorted by school year, then you could further separate the schoolwork from any sports or clubs in which they participated Create a file for each child if you have more than one.

3) Storage – Store commonly requested documents such as vaccine records and birth certificates, among others, at the front of each child’s folder for easy access.

4) Digitize – As records come in, digitize them, and keep on a single USB or external drive organized by child and year, Ideally, one labeled drive per child.

5) Maintain Lists – Keep a list of school websites, teachers’ emails, and school phone numbers. Keep this handy, but in a secure location. 

You will be so happy to have this project completed by the time your children return to school. It may even be a fun, rainy day activity to work together, reviewing with them what they did when they were younger.

Photo: Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

How to Maintain Houseplants

How to Maintain Houseplants

Feeling like you need to bring some nature into your home but don’t know how to properly maintain and keep plants alive? I know the feeling. I used to have a lot of indoor plants, but as I moved throughout the years, the plants didn’t. Let’s explore how to maintain houseplants.

Light – Consider what type of light you have in the areas you would like to add some greenery. Some indoor plants thrive in sunlight, whereas others prefer dim interiors. Matching required light to specific plants will set you up for healthier plant growth.

Quality Potting Soil – Just like we feed our bodies good nutrients, the soil for your plants needs to also be of good quality. Buy potting soil at a garden or nursery store.

Water – This is an area where many of us mess up. Certain plants love to be watered frequently, but there are a vast number of houseplants that do not require a lot of water to thrive. Do research to learn how best to water the plants you bring into your home.

Fertilizer – As you water plants, nutrients come out of the soil. Therefore, you will need to fertilize the plants regularly. If you have a flowering plant, fertilize once a month. When plants are not growing as much, typically in the winter, you don’t need to fertilize. If you see the plant is starting to change color and is dropping leaves, you may want to add some fertilizer.

If you do not have a green thumb try to grow one of these 30 indoor plants that may be impossible to kill.

Photo: Unsplash

Adjusting to the New Normal

Adjusting to the New Normal

COVID-19 has changed the way people live their lives beyond the adjustment to having to work from home and homeschooling. Even the way we shop for groceries and every day essentials has changed. These changes are likely here to stay, even if the COVID-19 crisis ends. Here are things you can consider doing to adjust to life in the “new normal.”

Consolidate Shopping – If you are trying to avoid multiple exposures during the week, how can you consolidate your shopping and errands? As we all know it is better to get all your errands done in one day to save you time and also gas. Now this has become even more important so that you are only out of your home once a week to do your errands. Plan what needs to be done such as grocery shopping, drug store pickup, dry cleaning, and post office mailing; then make your list and map out the best route to enable you to go to all these places in one trip.

Preparing Personal Protection – Have you stocked your car, your purse, and your home with masks, hand sanitizer and in some cases gloves? Make sure you have a supply of each of these items available for ready use. I personally have a pile of masks near my door, so I remember to grab one and put it on before leaving the house. I also have a few in my car in case I forget to grab and wear one on the way out of my house

Utilizing Delivery Services – If you are more comfortable staying in your home, have you considered using delivery services? Most grocery and drug stores are offering both curbside pickup and delivery services. This is one way to limit your exposure. The downside to this, though, is that you may not be able to pick out the type of fresh vegetables you want, such as being able to select green bananas over yellow ones as you may have done when you are in front of the bananas. As long as you can accept this, it really is a great alternative to shopping in person. Restaurants are also offering the same options, so consider this if you crave your favorite meal. Patronizing restaurants – if your budget allows – is helping to keep these establishments in business.

Remaining Safe – It is without question that the top priority is to stay safe at all times. Wearing a mask whether it is mandated or not will not only keep you safe but also keep others around you safe. Washing your hands often with soap and water, and when that isn’t possible, use hand sanitizer with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol. Wiping down frequently touched doorknobs and other surfaces with disinfectant will be another way to limit exposure. Of course, socially distancing whenever out as well as limiting the number of people you are in contact with has proven to keep us safe. It is your comfort level that will dictate how you act, but do listen to the CDC and follow their guidelines.

We are all human, and there is a lot on our mind these days… therefore, give yourself a break as you adjust to this new normal. We are learning as we go along and training ourselves to be as careful as we can. Stay safe and as healthy as you are able.


How to Keep Your Car Organized

How to Keep Your Car Organized

We are certainly driving our cars less during this COVID-19 pandemic. Just maybe then it is the perfect time to get them organized. How to keep your car organized once life resumes to “the new normal” is perhaps a better question to address, and these tips will help you accomplish that more beneficial goal.

Declutter Your Car – The first step to regaining control is to remove all unnecessary items from your car such as the obvious: trash. Then empty out the glove compartment, middle console, pockets in the doors, items on the floor and seats, and finally the back end or truck of your vehicle. ONLY put back what you deem absolutely necessary.

Keep Necessities in Your Car – The goal is to only have essential items in your vehicle. You shouldn’t allow your car to be your rolling junk drawer or storage unit. It is so much easier to keep your car clean and decluttered by ONLY transporting the essential items such as car registration, sunglasses, phone charger, phone mount for hands-free use, trash receptacle, garage door opener, facial tissues, and pen and a small pad of paper. IF you have children, you will also need to think of their needs and your sanity by making sure they have items to keep them occupied. Utilizing the back side of the driver and passenger seats is a great place to put books, DVD player & DVDs, toys, wet wipes, and water. Don’t forget to include an emergency and first aid kit. Keep in the trunk reusable shopping bags and an insulated bag for carrying perishable food in warmer months.

Use Containers to Corral Supplies – A car not only looks better but is more easily maintained if one uses containers to house items therein. In that your car is moving, you want to ensure that items in your car are not rolling around, possibly causing any hazards while driving. Using trunk and/or visor organizers as well as back of seat organizers can provide inordinate help in this area.

Maintain the Order – Try making a habit of looking around your car before exiting after the long work/carpooling day and bring in items that you only needed to use during your day and will not likely need the next. Trash accumulates, and if you get into the habit of emptying it into a store or gas station trash bin as you exit the car or gathering your trash, depositing it into your personal garbage can, that is one definite way of maintaining order. Moving forward then, once a week look around your car and make sure it is back to the way it was nicely organized and decluttered.

A car is meant to transport people, not all of the sundry toys, month-old, crusty french fries, and wrappers most of us would be embarrassed to claim. Keeping the seats available for passengers versus books and clutter is the way to go. No pun intended…

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash