Before you begin organizing take a deep breath and keep in mind the 5 Rules of Feng Shui for a useful foundation.  Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art and science that governs the flow of energy.

1.  Open your mind and have fun.

2. Get clear on your intention.

3.  Start making adjustments slowly.

4. Get rid of everything you don't use or love.

5. Clean and organize your home.

6.  Seek balance in all that you do and in your surroundings. 


Check out my Practical Tip of the Week below and other some quick tips that I use.  For a handy reference of basic tips, download my Top 10 Practical Tips You Need to Know to Organize Your Space & Time along with these free handy tools for gaining control over your space and time.  After you fill out the form below, instructions will guide you how to download.

 

You’ve Done The Decluttering:  7 Tips to Keeping Your Home Clutter-Free

30 Things You Can Accomplish When You Set Your Wake-Up Alarm 15 Minutes EarlyThis document comes in two versions:  a list form or cut outs for a task jar.

Ten 10-minute (or less) tasks to make the most of your wait time

Do I Still Need This? Questionnaire.  Not sure if you still need to keep something, use this as your guide.

 

Fill out the form below for downloading instructions.  After form submission, look for the blinking cursor above The Practical Tip of the Week.

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Practical Tip of the Week: 

Take a Walk

This might sound like a strange practical tip of the week, but there are several logical reasons behind it.

While the weather is glorious, particularly in the early mornings here in Portland, it is the perfect time to exercise, meditate, and enjoy the remarkable Pacific Northwest scenery.

A lengthy walk with a brisk stride will help you to:

Strengthen and tone your body
Maintain your weight
Potentially prevent a variety of cardio-vascular medical conditions, dementia, diabetes and even erectile dysfunction according to Harvard Medical School*
Improve balance and coordination
Allow you time to reflect
Regulate your mood and release mental baggage
Boost Vitamin D
Increase circulation and oxygen intake to boost energy levels

How does any of this apply to organizing your space?  Your physical and mental fitness play a role in how you maintain your personal surroundings.  Face it, if you are feeling unwell, unmotivated, angry, listless, etc., you are unlikely to have the physical or emotional capacity to care about or care for your home. 

Walking requires no special sports equipment except a good pair of walking shoes and perhaps a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a phone in case of emergency so it is an economic way to exercise.  Warm up before you pick up the pace and cool down at the end.  Remember to always be aware of your surroundings.  Take along a friend if you feel uncomfortable heading out alone.  In fact, a buddy system is a great way to sustain accountability.

So set aside at least 30 minutes in your day as a gift to yourself.  Enjoy the magnificent beauty of this city, inhale deep cleansing breaths, and walk your way to optimal physical and mental health.  Then return ready to tackle the rest of your daily regimen including maintaining your home.

*health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Walking-Your-steps-to-health

Practical Renovation/Fixer Upper Tips

You may not know this, part of my business involves engaging contractors to facilitate rapid and lucrative home sales by putting your home's best look forward. Engaging contractors particularly in this crazy sales and home repair market, is no easy task. All sorts of contractors are booked months out. They are short-staffed. And most importantly they can name their prices. OUCH.

If you are looking to hire a contractor, the last thing you want to do is hire the wrong contractor and unnecessarily run up the costs or experience job delays. If you are inexperienced, doing the project yourself could also result in needless headaches. This morning a list of Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring A Contractor appeared in my inbox courtesy of Home Advisor.   Click here to view article.

Whether you are doing repairs, spring touch-ups or getting ready to put your home on the market, these tips could help you avoid some project landmines.

Tips Reprinted from Home Advisor June 16, 2017 blog:

1. Poor Communication

Open communication is the golden rule of dealing with home improvement contractors. As long as you find a reasonably honest person, asking straightforward questions and clearly delineating what you want and expect from your home projects will eliminate the vast majority of potential problems. Put this verbal communication in writing to protect yourself from unreliable contractors.

2. Waiting Until You Need a Contractor

Not addressing major problems early on can lead to costly replacements in lieu of repairs. Spending $500 on a 20-year-old heating system is not a good investment, but it can take a week or more to find and install the right replacement heating system. As soon as you see signs of trouble, get someone out to your home for a look. Also, be sure to run your heating and air conditioning for an hour during the off-season. Much like a CEO, you should be concerned with the long-term financial status of your home.

3. NOT Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

There are a number of different home improvements that present themselves as viable DIY projects, only to morph into money-sucking monsters. Fence building, deck building, exterior house painting and drywall repair can all fit into this category. None of these projects are impossible to DIY, but the average homeowner should always lean toward hiring a pro when there is even the slightest doubt.

4. Hiring Someone Who Shows Up at Your Front Door

Avoid door-to-door solicitation. Depending on what your gut tells you, respectfully ask for a business card and look up the company or call the local chapter of your Better Business Bureau to report suspicious behavior.

5. Hiring Someone to Fix a Problem Without Diagnosing It

Don’t hire a pro to solve a problem without addressing the cause. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is ignore recommendations for further repairs. If a contractor can show or explain why damage is occurring, don’t bypass the problem.

6. Being Enticed by Low/High Bids

You should always be wary of bids that are substantially higher or lower than those of the competition. High bids sometimes result from a busy contractor who isn’t looking to take on more work unless the profit margin makes it worth it. Just as you would with a suspiciously low bid, ask both the individual contractor and the rest of the bidding contractors why one single bid is so much higher or lower than the others.

7. Not Looking Far Enough

Don’t be afraid to look for contractors outside of your immediate area. Most home improvement contractors service multiple counties. Many contractors are willing to travel and provide bids — especially for larger projects.


 

Its the "fixer-upper" time of year.  Lots of folks are busy working on their landscaping; cleaning out garages; pressure washing sidewalks, driveways, and porches;  lacquering outdoor furniture; and painting. 

A fresh coat of paint can make drab rooms or a tired exteriors appear bold, clean, and inviting.  If you are selling your home, your realtor may have suggested livening up a room or two or toning down others to enhance marketability.

Once you embark on a painting project, what do you do with the leftover paints, primers, lacquers, and waterproofing sealers? 

You could:

  • save leftovers for a future project or touch-ups
  • donate unused paint (ScrapPDX-be sure to check scrappdx.org/donate/items-we-accept for guidelines)
  • recycle used paint

The PaintCare recycling program offers latex and oil-based drop-off sites throughout Oregon for five gallon cans or smaller regardless of age.  They will ensure that the paint is converted into fuel, other products, or properly disposed.  

You have already paid the recycling disposal fee at the time of purchase, so it makes economic and environmental sense to take advantage of this program if you have a location nearby.  To find your nearest location:  click here for Paint Care's search tool or call 855-724-6809.  Locate sites outside Oregon on the link.  Products accepted for collection are included on the featured flyer and also available at Paintcare.orgIf you have other waste disposal or recycling questions, be sure to contact Metro at oregonmetro.gov.


Practical Cleaning Tips

Wish to avoid harsh chemicals to clean your eyeglasses or sunglasses?  Use a Norwex Window Cloth to get them crystal clear.  I wash my glasses then dry them with the cloth using circular motions.  In a matter of seconds, the lenses are super clean.  The cloth also works wonders on your mirrors, shower doors, jewelry, stainless steel and of course windows. 

I use the window cloth to clean my silver earrings.  First coat the item in toothpaste (I use Crest) and rub it in until the tarnish disappears.  Then quickly rinse the toothpaste off with water.  Wipe it dry with the cloth.  The tarnish should be gone and the silver should be radiant.  If not, try the process one more time.

Click here for more information on Norwex products, or contact sherri@ThePracticalSort.com, and I can refer you to a Norwex Rep who can answer any additional questions you may have or help you to place an order.


Do those rust rings in your toilet drive you crazy?  You may have tried scrubbing with toilet brushes or using harsh chemicals, yet nothing seems to work.   It took me many years before I discovered a pumice scouring stick.  It quickly, easily, and safely removes those rings at least temporarily.   Yes, nothing good lasts forever.  

Dampen the stone first in the water to soften it so that it does not scratch the toilet.  Then use the stone to erase the ring.

There are some reported circumstances of pumice stones scratching older toilets, so please check with the manufacturer first prior to using this method.

Because I keep up with removing the rust stains, it may be difficult to see the ring in the first slide.  After removal, I add some baking soda and vinegar to the bowl.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then finish cleaning with a toilet brush and flush.  You will be amazed at how clean the bowl is in a matter of minutes with no toxic chemicals.

 

 

 



Appliances & User Manuals

After purchasing a new appliance, write the serial and model numbers on the user's manual or keep track of your appliances in an App or software file. Then if service is ever needed, you have all the information handy to relay to the tech or repair company. I have found this especially useful as my eyes have gotten older and print seems to have gotten smaller. It also saves time as I don't have to scour or move the appliance to locate these details.

modern-kitchen-1772638_1920 pixabay.jpg

I also find it useful to include tech support or repair company telephone numbers and any repair notes with the files. Trying to track down "800" tech support numbers can sometimes be more difficult than locating the proverbial needle in the haystack.


Self-Care & Health

Take some time every day to be thankful rather than saving it up for one day a year. Find a few minutes to be alone. Inhale deeply from your toes to the top of your head and slowly breathe out as you contemplate all of the blessings in your life. Feel the tingling begin and enjoy this brief relaxation. Great for your mind and your body.

Valentine's Day is fast-approaching.  As a gift, treat yourself or your honey to the organized living spaces that you crave.  Allow the ambience of your home to reflect your inner beauty.  Make room on the dining table for a floral arrangement, clear out cupboard space for the box of chocolates from your sweetheart, or create space in your closet for a new negligee or sweater. 

No idea where to begin?  Need a hand realizing your organizing goals?  Contact The Practical Sort Eco-Organizing Solutions or sherri@thepracticalsort.com today, we will get you sorted with a Valentine gift of organized living. 

Click on my 2 Cent Tips or Practical Sort blog posts for practical suggestions on ways to save time, money, and space right away.

 

Dry, chapped hands during the winter?  Add a few drops of a light oil such as Apricot Kernel, Jojoba, Almond, etc. to your hand and body soaps for additional moisture without having to remember to reapply lotion each time your wash.

The Wonders of Coconut Oil

After a power outage this morning, my garage door refused to work once the power was restored.  Fortunately I stumbled upon a solution by engaging a small piece of metal back into its proper location in the manual pull.  Yay, I saved myself a few hundred dollars for a service call and appointment downtime.

What does this have to do with coconut oil?  After I patted myself on the back (fortunately figuratively), I noticed my hands were coated in grease.  Soap and water were fairly useless in getting them clean.

Enter the coconut oil which I rubbed onto my hands then wiped them with an old rag.  Voila, this eliminated the grease except under my nails.  I inserted some underneath, and a good bit of the grease is now gone.  When I have time, I will take another stab at thoroughly cleaning my nails.  At least my hands are clean and moisturized.

I use coconut oil regularly, and I find it difficult to get the last bits out of the jars.  Since the oil is pricey, I like to use every drop.  So, I keep the nearly empty bottle near my kitchen sink for easy access when my hands need moisturizing.  I wiggle my hand inside the jar coating it to get just enough to rub on both hands.  Once the jar is fully clean, it gets recycled. 

There are lots of websites that tout the many wonders of coconut oil such as 8 Surprising Benefits of Coconut Oil and 50 Ways to Use Coconut Oil.  Please consult your health practitioner before engaging in any new health regimens.

 

 

A few months back, I wrote a blog about Baby Steps. In fact it may have been The Practical Sort's first blog. Every once in a while, we need to be reminded that baby steps can often lead to great strides. When we were toddlers taking our first steps without any inhibitions or fears, we slowly learned to put one foot in front of the other. Without realizing the enormity of our accomplishment, we ambled along discovering our world and overcoming challenges that a few weeks or even days before were unthinkable hurdles. As adults, we still have mountains to climb, obstacles to clear and so much yet to learn. I am frequently guilty of wanting to learn everything at once and finish tasks immediately setting myself up for frustration. I see it in my clients all the time. So, baby steps got us to where we are today and they will get us where we need to go tomorrow. BABY STEPS!

College-Bound Students & HIPAA

Before sending your child off to college, be sure to have them sign a HIPAA release form. If they are sick or injured while away, you will want to be able to obtain information about their condition, assist with insurance claims, etc. When they arrive on campus, it is advisable that they give a copy to the school's health clinic to keep on file. Keep a copy for your own records so that you can scan or fax if necessary. The link below provides an example form for them to sign. http://www.healthcare-information-guide.com/support-files/hipaa-release-form.pdf.  Your child's campus might have their own release of authorization form to be completed, so check with campus health services. They will likely need a copy of your child's ID to prove their identity. 

 

Practical Kitchen Tips

Have an unused baby food jar carousel?  Convert it into storage for condiment/oil/vinegar bottles.

 

 

 

 

Practical Closet Tips

Check with your local dry cleaner to see if they will accept used hangers. 

Practical Garden Tips

It took me a while to find a practical solution to keeping the deer, birds, etc. away from my blueberry bushes.  I tried bird netting for a few years, but it was the bane of my garden existence.  It ripped my nails, frequently got tangled in the branches dislodging unripe berries, and made it extraordinarily difficult to harvest the fruit.   I have now replaced all of the netting with green tulle.  It camouflages rather well with the plants and it is so much easier to quickly pick the berries.  Although I felt bad about disposing the netting, the recycling center took it off my hands.

Trying this in my garden, I will keep you posted as to how this is working.  I am using dryer lint to surround my new plantings particularly veggies that are slug targets.  So far it seems the slugs have been avoiding the plants (knock on wood).

Practical Gift Ideas

5 Mother’s Day Gift Ideas For Downsized Spaces

For many moms, as we begin to age the idea of keeping up with a house, no matter the size, can be daunting.  If your mom is considering downsizing her living space or has already transitioned to smaller quarters, then tangible gifts may not be ideal.  Here are 5 suggestions for alternatives to show you love her and respect her desire to pare down.

1. Spend the day with her.  Take her to lunch, the movies, a play, or a stroll through the park.  Can’t be there in the physical?  Facetime or Skype is the next best thing particularly if it has been a while since she has seen the grandchildren.  Each family member can spend some time making her day special through the lens.

2.  Lend a hand with chores or much needed projects.  Again, if you cannot be there, engage her preferred handy person to do the work.  Remember to have the bill sent directly to you.  Check with her to ensure her schedule is clear and that this arrangement suits her.

3.  Flowers, chocolates, an assortment of teas, or meal delivery are surefire ways to win mom’s heart.  A selection of herbs for her kitchen window will help to spice up meals and enliven the room with inviting scents.

4.  If she is computer savvy, send her a virtual photo album of events that have taken place during the last year or a compendium of momentous occasions through the years.

5.  Ebooks, downloadable music or movies might be the practical ticket especially for moms with mobility issues.

 If all else fails, give mom a phone call and tell her you love her.  That is guaranteed to induce a smile.

Practical Time Savers

Prioritize your to-do list. This is often much harder than it sounds. It is not uncommon to have competing priorities and limited time to address them. So how do you decide? First make a list so you are clear on what needs to get done in the short term vs. the long term. For short-term goals, here are 3 ways to get you sorted.

1. Assess the level of importance or urgency. Who assigned it? Is it time sensitive such as taxes? Is it urgent such as does your child need a potty break?

2. Determine which will give you the biggest bang for the buck? Select the one with the biggest payoff in terms of revenue, client satisfaction, impact (such as straightening before guests arrive), etc.

3. Consider which needs your highest level of productivity and brain power. Schedule these for the times when you operate at your best. Are you more alert in the mornings or after meals?  Tasks will take much longer and quality will suffer when you are drained.  Listen to your body.

Delegate or enlist the help of others if you are completely overwhelmed. Offer up some margaritas to your gal pals in exchange for a hand organizing an area of your home that is driving you to distraction.  Entice kids to help with chores or appropriate tasks that can lighten your load with apps such as choremonster.com.

Wishing you could get to your long-awaited organizing projects? Need an extra hand?  Contact The Practical Sort to schedule your Journey to Organization Free Phone Consultation today to get sorted right away.

 

 

 

Walk & Talk

You may be wondering why I have a photo of dust rags and sweepers under the heading "Walk and Talk."  While placed on hold yesterday for 10 minutes, I grabbed my floor duster and swept nearly my entire first floor hardwoods and tiles before the Customer Service Rep returned to the line.  Chore accomplished as we finished the transaction, 10+ minutes of movement felt great, and no time was wasted.  So next time you are on hold, chatting with a friend, or waiting for dinner to finish cooking, grab a duster, broom, or mop and knock another chore off your list.

 

 

 

 

 

If you frequently make cookies, pancakes, scones, etc. that use the same dry ingredients, keep them pre-measured in a jar (plastic could impart odors if left too long). Used jam jars particularly the wide ones or canning jars are great. Then add the liquid ingredients when you are ready to bake, and voila your baked goods are created so much faster or in the case of pancakes whipped up quicker. When I have a free moment, I refill the jars, place them back in the pantry until needed again which is usually only a matter of days.


Need to get rid of excess newly applied gooey caulk?  Use ice.  Wrap the ice in paper towel (enough so that you can hold it without freezing your fingers, but thin enough for the cold to penetrate).  Scrape along the caulk and wipe up with a clean cloth as you go.   Even works on glass.  Use a little vinegar on the glass after to shine it up.


Fill one large reusable grocery bag with your additional bags and sling them over the back of your car's headrest so they will always be with you when you get to the store.  Throw in some reusable containers/lids for bulk items.  I also carry a spare funnel for filling bulk spices.


If you frequently use diced foods such as onions, carrots, etc., use your chopper to chop up enough for multiple meals.  One less prep item during the busy weeknights.


Tired of trying to figure out which end is up on appliance plugs?  Put a piece of masking tape on the "up" side for quick reference.


Do you forget to take items up or downstairs?  Use a stair basket or tuck things on the stairs but out of the way of tripping as a reminder to put items away without making extra trips.

 

 

 

 

 


Technology:  Computers

Passwords

Do you find it mind-boggling to keep track of all the passwords but leery of storing them on the cloud?  Keep a spreadsheet of passwords that is password protected.  Now you only have to recall one password instead of dozens.

Personal Finance Management Software

Do you still use an old fashioned checkbook and reconciliation process?  There are numerous benefits to using personal finance management software such as such as Quicken, Mint, Personal Capital, etc. 

1.  Save time with easy math calculations, statement reconciliation, and payment tracking.

2.  Stay on top of your bills with alerts and payment schedules.

3.  Manage your transactions, spending habits, budget, and debt strategies.

4.  Track investment performance and net worth.

5.  Download the data into your tax preparation software for simplified tax prep.

Click here for PC Magazine's comparison review of the programs they consider to be the "Best Personal Finance Services of 2017."   Learn more about the pricing and features of each of their top picks.

 

Home Storage

Piles of shoes by your front door? Keep a decorative basket or bench with storage near the door for those shoes. 

Keep an extra roll or 2 of toilet paper in a decorative basket, box, etc. so that you are never caught short-handed.


overthedoor copy.jpg

Hanging Shoe Sorters

An inexpensive solution to storage needs are hanging shoe sorters.   There are so many uses for them to neatly sort shoes, socks, gloves, scarves, umbrellas, sports equipment, jewelry, cosmetics, hair ribbons, hair products and styling appliances, toys, tools, small books, purses, kitchen gadgets and small appliances, bulk food items, cleaning supplies, laundry supplies.  The list goes on and on.  And best of all, by hanging it on the back of a door, it barely consumes any space.   You can choose from a variety of styles, # of pockets, and kid accessibility.  Some can even be cut to fit into your car for extra travel storage.

A simple way to get organized and stay organized within easy reach for all family members.

Practical Reducing, Reusing, Recycling Tips

The end of the school year is approaching. You will be clearing out backpacks, old papers will be recycled, and used crayons added to craft boxes, but what do you do with those old binders that may have seen better days?

Office Depot/Office Max has teamed up with Terracycle to offer a binder recycling program. Empty binders in any condition/any brand are accepted.

How it Works...

Participating is completely free and very easy. Simply bring your old empty binders to any Office Depot® OfficeMax® store and a store representative will provide you with a $2 Instant Savings off a same day binder purchase (see rules and restrictions).

Binder Recycling: Get $2 off the purchase of any new binder when you recycle any binder in the same transaction. Discount applies only to binders purchased and will not be applied to any free binders with a purchase. Multipacks count as 1. Discount excludes tax. Binder to be recycled must be empty. No cash/credit back. Not valid on prior purchases or purchases made with Store Purchasing, Procurement or Retail Connect Cards. Limit 6 discounts per household/business.

For more information and to locate participating Office Depot/Office Max stores, click on the link to visit the Terracycle/Office Depot/Office Max Binder Recycling Program website.

Need a hand getting things in order before school lets out for summer break and your schedules goes topsy turvy?  Contact ThePracticalSort.com and we will get you sorted.

 

Miscellaneous

Legos

Have lots of Legos that are sadly no longer being used? Are you looking for one or two minifigs or bricks to finish that Lego masterpiece but you wish to avoid purchasing a whole new set? Check out bricksandminifigs.com. Bricks and Minifigs is a Lego enthusiast's dream. They buy, trade and sell new and used Legos with locations across the country and now in Canada. There are 4 stores in the PDX metro area.

 

Mail

After you have tossed the recyclable unwanted mail and removed your name from junk mail lists,  sort the remainder into baskets or files for bills to be paid, action items, and reading.  When you have time, you can rapidly grab what you need and get to work or take some reading leisure time.

Keep recycling and trash baskets/bins near your mail sorting location. Getting too much junk mail? Check out some of these sites to remove your name from mailing lists:
1. https://dmachoice.thedma.org/
2. https://www.optoutprescreen.com
3. https://www.catalogchoice.org/
4. http://www.directmail.com/mail_preference/
5. http://www.ebillplace.com
6. https://www.paperkarma.com

 

Winter Tips

Practical travel tips for wintry weather.

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1. Of course stay off the hazardous roads if you can. However, sometimes that is not possible. As with the recent storms that throttled the Pacific NW in the middle of the day, most folks were caught at work, school, running errands, etc.  This made for some challenging, long, treacherous and tense drives for many including my spouse.

2. Keep the fuel tank as full as possible. You never know if Mother Nature or traffic incidents might leave you driving on fumes from idling too long.

3. Check the tire pressure. No one wants a flat tire in frigid temperatures or the precariousness of changing tires on the shoulder of slick roads.

4. Stow a set of chains in the trunk or use a reliable set of all-weather or studded tires for extra gripping on slick roads. Kitty litter or sand will provide some extra traction around your tires as well as add weight to your car for even more traction.

5. A warm blanket, bottle of water, snacks, first aid kit with flares, gloves, extra socks, hat, dry set of clothes, ice scraper, snow shovel, jumper cables, phone charger, flashlight, are all must-haves in your vehicle during the cold winter months.

Finally, The Practical Sort wishes you and your family a safe, warm, healthy, and clutter-free holiday season filled with lots of love, friendship, and joy.


Here are some additional strategies to keep you warm and safe this weather crazy winter. 

1.  Stock up on staples for the pantry.  Tuna, bread, jams and other spreads are ideal in the event you lose power.  Bottled water (even if you bottled it yourself) is advisable if pipes should burst.  Purchase cans with pop-tops or a manual can opener.

2.  Keep flashlights and batteries in the event of power loss in a place that you can easily access in the dark . 

3.  Drip indoor faucets when temperatures drop below freezing to prevent pipes freezing or bursting.  Dripping one sink is often all that is needed.  Insulate pipes in unheated areas of the home such as in a basement or crawl space.  For additional helpful hints on pipe TLC, check out this link.  http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2017/01/prevent_your_pipes_from_bursti.html

4.  Layer your clothing when venturing outside.  Waterproof, insulated boots are ideal particularly cleated boots (something I desperately need) for navigating slick conditions.

5.  Use extreme caution while shoveling.  Take frequent breaks, avoid overexertion and heavy lifting.  Keep fingers, toes, and head warm.  Seek immediate medical attention if you feel dizzy, confused, out of breath, or have symptoms of frostbite: numb, waxy or discolored (gray, white, blue, or yellow) skin.

6.  If you have spare blankets, consider donating them to a nearby homeless shelter.

Keep yourself and family members safe, warm, and healthy this winter.