Practical Tip of the Week

The Practical Sort shares handy tips for helping make your life a little easier.  Share your ideas with sherri@thepracticalsort.com.  If your tip is chosen, you may be selected for a 10-minute phone consultation to help you sort any areas that are driving you crazy.

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Odds & Ends Miscellaneous Tips

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Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 10 am to 2 pm is National Drug Take Back Day.  This is the perfect excuse to incorporate cleaning out your medicine chests in an environmentally responsible way as part of your spring cleaning and in honor of Earth Day Month.

To avoid prescription and over the counter drugs getting into the wrong hands, for years the message was to flush them down the drain.  However, medicines in our water supply can adversely impact fish, aquatic plants, and even humans as we consume the water.  It is true that our bodies may not fully metabolize medicines ingested meaning it potentially passes through us into the wastestream.  Wastewater treatment plants may not catch 100% of the substances.  Therefore, it can reenter the environment.  Unfortunately, this is rather unavoidable, so we should be mindful about flushing the medicines in their entirety.

National Take Back Day provides safe avenues for proper disposal of many unused, partially used, expired, and unwanted medications.  For a list of participating and permanent prescription disposal drop-off locations in Oregon, click here

 

Not all locations collect medicinal creams, sharps (hypodermic needles), or mercury-containing thermometers, so verify before you go.  Sharps are extremely hazardous to haulers as well as other humans and animals therefore, they are not permitted in the trash.  Approved sharps containers are available at Metro hazardous waste facilities, pharmacies, and medical supply stores.   Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas residents can participate in the Metro container exchange program.  For $5 you can purchase a container, then exchange it for free each time you return a full bin.  Note, there is an additional $5 hazardous waste disposal fee for up to 35 gallons.

Thermometers containing mercury should be disposed at Metro Hazardous Waste facilities or take them to Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events.  Click here for a spring 2018 schedule.

If you are unable to participate in National Take Back Day, here are some suggestions for proper disposal at your home according to the FDA along with additional information (click here).

Disposing Medicines at Your Home

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“Disposing medicines in household trash: Almost all medicines can be thrown into your household trash. These include prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in pills, liquids, drops, patches, creams, and inhalers.

Follow these steps:

Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.

Put the mixture in something you can close (a re-sealable zipper storage bag, empty can, or other container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
Throw the container in the garbage.

Scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy. Throw the packaging away.

If you have a question about your medicine, ask your health care provider or pharmacist.

Disposing of Fentanyl Patches

Some prescription drugs — such as powerful narcotic pain medicines and other controlled substances — have instructions for flushing to reduce the danger of overdose from unintentional or illegal use.

One example is the fentanyl patch. This adhesive patch delivers a strong pain medicine through the skin. Even after a patch is used, a lot of the medicine remains. That’s why the drug comes with instructions to flush used or leftover patches.

Disposing of Inhaler Products

One environmental concern involves inhalers used by people who have asthma or other breathing problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Read handling instructions on the labeling of inhalers and aerosol products. These products could be dangerous if punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. To properly dispose of these products and follow local regulations and laws, contact your trash and recycling facility.”

— https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm101653.htm

As mentioned above, it is wise to remove all personal information from labels before disposing medical waste in your trash or at any of the collection facilities.  You can soak the labels in water to aid in removal.

Be sure to mark your calendar for next Saturday, April 28.


20 is the New 25

Have you been wondering about the "20 is Plenty" orange yard signs that have popped up around the Portland Metro area?

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In the event you did not catch this important tidbit buried in the news on April 1, 2018, the new speed limit on residential streets has been reduced from 25 mph to 20 mph.  This 5 mile per hour reduction minimizes the risk of severe injury and death to pedestrians.

According to Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), in general, streets without a center line are subject to the new 20 mph restrictions.  Even if the signage has not been replaced to reflect the modification, the change is still in effect.  The city is in the process of replacing roughly 2000 speed limit signs.

Here's a quick tip that I use to help me slow down my pace.  When I am driving in residential neighborhoods, I change my radio station to classical music.  I noticed that I tend to drive faster with rock and roll or upbeat jazz, while I am gentler with the accelerator with classical music streaming.  It's a psychological thing that seems to work. 

For more information about the new ordinance, click here.


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Have you ever planned a trip or needed to drive to a new location and mapped out a route the old-fashioned way or via an App?  Then before you embark you realize there is construction or an accident causing a jam along that highway.  Or your friend says "hey, there is a shortcut that can get you there quicker with less hassle."  Time to reroute.

Are you like me, hesitant to set short or long range goals because you fear failure?  What if the outcome is not the one you desired?  What if you can't complete the project?

Rather than wander aimlessly through life not getting things done which inevitably results in frustration and overwhelm down the road, try a new 2-step approach.

This year in lieu of setting new year's resolutions or goals, I decided to set intentions.  Setting an intention versus a goal seems to be more informal and less threatening if the outcome is not as I hoped.

The second thing is to view the intention or if you choose, the goal as simply guidance just like a road map.  If you look at it that way, when you see that a different path or method is more efficient and useful you are given the freedom to modify to best suit your needs.  Additionally, as with a trip, if you conclude that this is not the best time to travel or that the journey is not in your best interests, you can put it aside for another time.  

Looking at your milestones as guidance or a road map takes the pressure off which means LESS STRESS yet still gives you the opportunity to work toward an end result that is appropriate for you and your needs.

Give this new paradigm a try and let me know what you think.

If you need help re-routing your thinking or creating a new road map for your home, contact ThePracticalSort.com.


  Mesh bags tote groupings of fruits and vegetables

Mesh bags tote groupings of fruits and vegetables


Do you bring reusable sacks with you to the grocery store?  If so, that is awesome.  You are doing your part to save trees or prevent plastics from ending up in the waste stream and clogging our oceans and other water bodies.  Furthermore, you are likely saving money since many stores award cash-back for bringing along your own bags. 

But when it comes to produce are you still grabbing plastic or paper bags from the dispensers?  Until recently I was doing the same although I reused them until they were at the point of shredding.  Then a friend gifted me some Norwex produce bags which I love.  You can also use mesh laundry bags.  These bags help to keep my homologous fruits and vegetables together so I can easily toss them in the refrigerator bin when I get home.  

Or another idea, I had old throw pillows which I no longer need and inside were zippered cloth bags which held the stuffing.  I have repurposed those for produce and laundry.  These bags are perfect for items like fresh beans and peas.

 Use a zippered cloth bag for loose items like beans and peas

Use a zippered cloth bag for loose items like beans and peas

Finally, I have gotten to the point where I rarely bag my leafy produce anymore.  I used to be concerned about what it came in contact with in my cart.  However, as I reasoned it through, as long as I keep it in the top section of the cart, segregated from my meats it is likely no dirtier there than it was on the farm, handled by a multitude of shippers and store clerks and nestled among the other heads of lettuce, spinach, beets or whatnot. 

After each use, I toss them in the next load of laundry so they are fresh for the next trip to the store.  I keep all my grocery sacks nested inside the largest bag on the headrest of my car seat so that they are always with me if I stop on the fly.

 

 

 


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Looking for flooring ideas for your stairs?  Shying away from slippery surfaces?  Dissatisfied with matted down carpet that looks perpetually dirty in this high traffic area?

Over the years, I have tried a range of options and each had their issues.  Nearly tumbling down a flight of stairs on slick hardwood made me realize that while I loved the classic look, it was not ideal on the stairs.  Although as you will notice from the photo, we opted to use it on the large landing.  

Most of the wall to wall carpeting we tried looked worn and dingy not long after installation.

When my family moved into our current home nearly a decade ago, I decided to try something different.  I wanted a color camouflaging dirt without a deep pile to avoid that worn out look.  I chose a two-tone brown indoor/outdoor carpeting which accents our adjacent hardwoods nicely.

As it approaches its 10th anniversary, it still looks relatively new.  Yes, you can tell where the foot traffic is heavier, but not nearly to the degree that any of our previous carpets displayed in far less time.  Except for white lint or a dark mud stain, it rarely shows any dirt.  When it does, it has been super easy to clean.  And yes, I am embarrassed to admit that next week will be the first time since we moved in that it will be professionally cleaned.

Indoor/outdoor carpets are not just for patios.  Look for a dense, thickly woven weave for more durability and colors that will hide grime .  Check out this guide from Lowes for choosing indoor/outdoor carpet varieties.


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Every year I seem to need a new pair of slippers.  I attempt to purchase those that appear to be made well from reputable brands, but after a few weeks of wear, they slowly begin to disintegrate.  The soles wear away, the material rips, and soon I find that my once snug and cozy slippers are leaving my feet chilly and exposed.

This year I found a very warm and sturdy pair of faux fur booties by Dearfoams.  I couldn't wait to get home and clomp around the house in them (yes, that is the sound the rubber soles make with each step). 

After a day or so, I noticed black streaks on our hardwood floors.  In fact, you could tell every path I took throughout the house in the previous 24 hours.  I attempted to walk gingerly to avoid leaving scuffs to no avail.

I contacted the manufacturer to see if they had suggestions.  They were well aware of the issue and recommended that I return them to the store.

Bottom line, even if the shoes will keep your toes toasty be sure to check out the material and color used to construct the sole especially if you have hardwood or light-colored floors.  Admittedly, the scuff marks easily wiped away although it quickly became onerous to track down every scuff in order to obliterate them.

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Since this tip was published, as you all know Hurricane Irma also made landfall throughout the Caribbean Islands, up through the Florida Keys and beyond leaving devastation in her wake.  After Harvey, resources are spreading thin, while the needs continue to grow.  BusinessInsider.com has compiled a list of national and local charities vetted by Charity Navigator to provide aid to Irma victims .  Charity Navigator is an independent non-profit that rates over 8000 charities.  Business Insider also suggests some international organizations to support the affected islands.  Those are not rated by Charity Navigator.  As always, use due diligence prior to donating.

With the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey making landfall on August 25, 2017, the extraordinary need continues.  I don't wish to sound preachy, but for those of us not in the storm's path, we can lend a hand to our neighbors to the south by donating to a variety of organizations providing rescue efforts, shelter, food, supplies, medical assistance, & pet resources. 

Before donating, I always advise to practice due diligence when choosing organizations.  If you wish to donate in-kind goods, be sure to check with the agency first to ensure that the donation meets their needs.  The last thing we want to do, despite our best intentions, is unnecessarily cause unwanted clutter.

Below are some organizations who are providing services.  This is by no means a comprehensive list or an endorsement. Click on the names for the website links.

The American Red Cross

The Salvation Army

Save the Children        

Americares (providing emergency medical and health supplies to first responders)

All Hands (volunteer-powered disaster relief organization)

Animal Rescue New Orleans

SPCA of Texas

Portlight (disaster relief specifically for those with disabilities)

Thank you from The Practical Sort.


Put An End to Misplaced Keys
 

A few days ago, an acquaintance bemoaned that she frequently misplaces her keys.  As most organizers would advise, she had a basket for her keys by her front door.  However, she is typically distracted as she returns home and beelines to the destination for whatever is currently on her mind.  Thereby laying her keys there. 

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I asked her if there is a wall directly across from her door.  When she replied yes, I suggested that she hang a key holder at eye level so that is the first thing she sees.   Having the word "KEYS" on it will help as a reminder.  The featured key holder can be found at Target.com.  She loved the idea. 

She went on to say that she was so late to work a few days before because her keys had been misplaced.  At that point, I also suggested that she keep a spare set in her purse.  Her purse is always has with her when she leaves the house.  Hopefully she won't misplace the spare set.

If you frequently misplace your keys, in addition to these suggestions, you might wish to consider an electronic key finder which you can hang on the key holder.  Tomsguide.com provides a review of wireless key finders for 2017.

Legos

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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.

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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. dmachoice.thedma.org
2. optoutprescreen.com
3. catalogchoice.org
4. directmail.com
5. ebillplace.com
6. paperkarma.com


Grocery Bags

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.

Plugs

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.

Remembering to Put Things Away

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.

 


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Use a double-insulated metal travel mug.  It will keep your coffee, tea, soup, or hot chocolate steaming hot or icy cold for hours. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology: Computers

Back UP!  A Cautionary Tale

My Microsoft Outlook 16 email program crashed nearly every day last week.  Was it a virus?  I am not sure.  Thursday, it crashed three times while I was composing an email.  During the last meltdown, my contacts disappeared.  Searching frantically through the ost. and .pst files was fruitless.  Customer Support said they were likely gone for good.  Gee thanks.  That's what happens when they are housed in a temporary .ost file on the server.  Why is the default a temp file for something as important as Contacts?  Good question.

I ended up recreating my contact file.  This time it was a severely streamlined version in honor of spring cleaning only keeping those with current relevancy.  But…when I returned to my computer Friday morning, the slate was wiped clean yet again.  I had an old .csv file (a comma separated values file which allows data to be saved in a table structured format) housing most of my old contacts and very few of those added over the last 6+ months which I could have resorted to.  Instead I chose to try one more time with a truncated list (I am sure I am missing lots of folks). 

Immediately upon finishing, I ran an export of the file to an external backup drive as a .pst file (a Personal Storage Table) and .csv for extra precautions.  When checking the .csv I noticed groups were absent, so I had to go back and create the groups separately. 

About once a week I back up The Practical Sort files to an external source, but the contacts were out of date.  I have now added to my calendar a once a month reminder to do a full hard drive back up including all solo and group contacts.

 Open Outlook then select File, then Open & Export

Open Outlook then select File, then Open & Export

If you are using Outlook 16 or any email program for that matter (I cannot help you with the other email client programs), I strongly advise you to back up your emails and all contacts in the event you run into this random crashing problem or any other threat to your mail program.

Back up Contact List
 

To save contacts as a Comma Separated Values File (csv)

On an external drive (or in the Cloud), create a folder to save your emails and contacts.

Open Outlook>File>Open&Export>Import/Export>Export to a file> Next>Comma Separated Values (.csv)>Export to a File (Select folder to export from: Contacts Folder--scroll until you find your Contacts)> Browse until you find the file folder to store the contacts on the external drive>Finish

 Import/Export>Export to a file>

Import/Export>Export to a file>

 

 

 

 

 Export to a File (Select Comma Separated Values or Outlook Data File)> Export to a File (Select folder to export from: Contacts Folder--scroll until you find your contacts)> Browse until you find the file folder to store the contacts on the external drive>Finish

Export to a File (Select Comma Separated Values or Outlook Data File)> Export to a File (Select folder to export from: Contacts Folder--scroll until you find your contacts)> Browse until you find the file folder to store the contacts on the external drive>Finish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Browse until you find the file folder to store the contacts on the external drive>Finish

Browse until you find the file folder to store the contacts on the external drive>Finish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check your hard drive to ensure the file is there.  Open it and see if the addresses did export.

 

To save contacts as an Outlook .pst file the process is almost identical.

On an external drive (or in the Cloud), create a folder to save your emails and contacts.

Open Outlook>File>Open&Export>Import/Export>Export to a file> Next>Outlook Data File (.pst)>Contacts (scroll until you find your contacts)> browse until you find the file folder to store the contacts on the external drive>Finish

Group Contacts

There may be a more succinct process for backing up groups, but after several attempts, this was the only one that worked for me.

Select a group in your contact list and open it. 

Then choose File>SaveAs>Browse to find the file folder where you wish to save the file)>SaveAsType(under File Name)>Select Text Only>Save.  Then go to the file, copy the group members (control 'C').  I opted to create a separate sheet in my contacts document (click on the plus sign at the bottom of the spreadsheet to add a sheet).  Then type control 'V' to paste the group.  You can add as many pages as you need to accommodate your groups.

To back up emails: 

Open Outlook>File>Open&Export>Import/Export>Export to a file> Next>Outlook Data File (.pst)>Select the email file you wish to backup>Browse for file storage location and select the folder>I selected Replace duplicates with items exported>Finish

For other email programs, please check with your program’s instructions for backup procedures.  Believe me, it is not worth the wasted time or hassle of losing your data.

Hopefully your files are now securely backed up.

The Practical Sort's genius is in organizing, not computer technology.  So if you need a hand getting organized, please contact ThePracticalSort.com.  Remember part of being organized is having the data you need when you need it.  So taking a few minutes of precaution is worth hours of saved time in the long run.  Believe me!


Stop, Don't Open That
 

Last week I was at a meeting where one of my colleagues mentioned that she would share with the group some helpful hints via email.  Like clockwork, the next morning there was an email from her with an attachment.  She is one of the most process-oriented, organized, and fastidious professionals I have ever met.  So it was no surprise that she was prompt with her promise.

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Yet, for some reason the hairs on the back of my neck tingled immediately.  First clue was that her message was in my Spam folder.  Not really a surprise, since messages from those who I rarely receive correspondence occasionally land in Spam.

Secondly, my suspicions were aroused because the email just did not appear legit.  Honestly, I cannot articulate what the tell-tale signs were.  But I let it sit unopened for a day until I had time to reach out to the sender.

The next day, I sent her an inquiry asking if she had indeed sent us an email with attachment, and to thank her if she did.

Without delay, a group message was sent to my colleagues and I explaining that her account had been hacked, and NOT TO OPEN THE EMAIL.

Thank goodness I responded appropriately to those raised neck hairs.  Bottom line: if you have any doubts whatsoever about an email especially if there are any attachments, check with the sender before you open it to verify its veracity.  Better safe than infected.

 

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

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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.

Practical Cleaning Tips

Personal Spring Cleaning Tip:  Disinfect Your Earrings


When was the last time you disinfected your pierced earrings? 

Think back to when you first got your ears pierced.  As I recall, I was diligent about following the instructions to cleanse the posts in alcohol daily.  Throughout my life I have taken this precaution before wearing a newly purchased pair, but have been a bit lax otherwise. 

Ok, so I admit I do not sanitize my own earrings nearly as often as I should which ideally is weekly.  Our earrings can be contaminated with a variety of dirt and bacteria.  Since we are inserting them into our bodies, we should be mindful about any residue on them.  In fact, it is wise to wash your hands prior to inserting the posts into your ears in order to avoiding transferring any bacteria from our hands into the holes in our ears (or any other piercings).

Some earrings will scream at you that they need some TLC as they have become discolored, tarnished, or showing obvious signs of dirt.  Once you clean them, you will be absolutely wowed by the difference.  Therefore, I do ensure I at least incorporate a dousing, detarnishing, and scrubbing into my yearly spring clean. 

Before cleaning any heirloom, high value pieces and precious gems such as emeralds and pearls, please consult a jeweler or have them professional cleaned.  The Practical Sort assumes no responsibility for damage to your jewelry, so please exercise caution.

Here's my simple process:

Step 1:  Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any contaminants that could spread to your earrings and your ears.

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Step 2:  Pour some alcohol into a container, I prefer to use glass, but I had none available when I had a few minutes to do to this.  Therefore, I grabbed a small plastic container that was under my vanity.  I rinsed it first before adding the alcohol.

Step 3:  Swish the earrings around for a minute or two.  If you do not feel comfortable submerging them, then carefully cleanse the posts or wires with some alcohol on a cotton swab.

Step 4:  Run them under water for a quick rinse. 

Step 5:  Gently rub them with a microcloth to remove any remaining ick and to hasten the drying time. 

Voila, I was done in less than 10 minutes.

Check out this recent practical tip to learn how to remove tarnish from silver jewelry.  You can also use a toothbrush or other bristle to loosen ground in dirt.  But please do so gently.

What to do with any remaining alcohol?

I used the remaining alcohol to rub down door handles and toilet flushers since my husband has been sick the last several days.  Even if he had not been ill, it is a good practice to clean those heavily used areas frequently.  Paying extra special attention to bathroom handles that are touched after using the toilet but prior to washing your hands and handles used when entering your home.  You never know what germs you came in contact with while you were out.


One Day At A Time/One Thing At A Time:  Your Guide to A Manageable Spring Clean
 

Spring is here.  Have you noticed the cherry blossoms and their luscious scent?  The daffodils colorfully swaying their bonneted heads in the wind?  The neon azaleas and the vibrant white dogwoods screaming for your attention?  If you haven’t cottoned on, I love spring.  And like many folks, I welcome the season by delving into a deep dive clean especially for those neglected areas of my home that are crying out for some TLC.  And when I plunge in, I try my best to be mindful about the products I am using and the amount of resources consumed.  That is definitely not easy when it comes to things like patio moss removal, outdoor window cleaning, and roof washing.  But, where I can make an impact to be kind to the planet, I try my best because face it, that is all we can do right?

 I cannot believe I am sharing this icky photo with you, true confessions for sure

I cannot believe I am sharing this icky photo with you, true confessions for sure

In fact, if you are interested in learning more about nurturing your home while reducing your environmental footprint, keep your eyes peeled.  Recycling Guru Betty Shelley and I have a number of workshops in the offing where we will be sharing a boatload of tips that are easy on your time, wallet, and Mother Earth.  And what guest would be more appropriate for my April Earth Day Month blog than Betty?  I am super excited for the interview.  She shared some awesome ideas.  Be sure to check that out next month.

Where to begin spring cleaning since there is so much to do?  Pick one thing a day that fits into your available time frame.  For instance, I use tiered shelving in my master bathroom closet for toiletries.  Wow, they were grossly dusty.  Well, they should be, I have not fully cleaned them in a year.  One unit was coated with oils that dripped from dispensers and mouthwash that ran down the side of the bottle unnoticed.  That took some scraping.

Before leaving for work one morning, I tackled that shelf.  I grabbed a bin to temporarily house the containers while I washed the plastic expandable shelving.  Then with a damp rag, I swiped down the built-in shelf.  Each day I selected a different row of the 5 sections to clean.  This kept the job very manageable in the time I had available.

 Heck yes that is an embarrassing layer of thick dust.   This basket was atop my TV cabinet so it was hard to see the extent of the coating.   

Heck yes that is an embarrassing layer of thick dust.   This basket was atop my TV cabinet so it was hard to see the extent of the coating.

 

I also did the same thing with my artificial plants (yes, I still have some of those).  I filled the washing machine with warm water for a small load, grabbed the plants, and one by one swished them in the water.  I then allowed them to dry in the utility sink while some rested on rags on the countertop.  By the time I returned from work later in the day, they were ready to be returned to their baskets and respective homes in each room.

As I previously mentioned in another tip, I did have my throw rugs and upholstery cleaned by an eco-carpet cleaner a few weeks back,  and they did a beautiful and thorough job without toxic chemical smells or residues.  Another thing checked off the list.  And the advantage of having someone to do it for me was that I was able to do my work while they scrubbed.  The price was somewhat reasonable since we have been saving for ten years (embarrassed blush).  Thank goodness those dark colors hid the dirt pretty well.

 Vinegar and Norwex Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth

Vinegar and Norwex Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth

Next up, one room a day interior windows and sills.  The job goes relatively fast using vinegar on a Norwex Enviro Cloth to do a first round cleaning.  Then I give the glass a shine with the Window Cloth.  When the weather gets nicer, I will tackle the exterior windows that I can reach. 

I hope this gives you some food for thought about how to get started on your projects without the overwhelm that some people encounter. 

If you need a quick boost to get past the resistance to making progress, check out this modified Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) tapping podcast.  Scroll down past the videos.  The videos might be helpful too.  I will be offering more podcasts and links to other's EFT and Simple tapping podcasts in the future.  This podcast by my tapping idol Gene Monterastelli will also get you moving if you are uncertain where and how to begin.

And if you still need a hand, contact ThePracticalSort.com and we will craft a path toward success together.

 

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Who Knew?  In all my years of doing laundry, I had no idea about the concept of givers and receivers.  In fact, it seems that only in the last few years I have been noticing white spots on my dark clothes.  The spots are most predominant on those items that I do not put in the dryer.  Most likely the dryer removes the discoloring as it tosses and turns.  It made me question with the reformulation of detergents whether that is a contributing culprit.

However, last month my 20 year old washing machine made its final spin to the recycling facility, and upon reading the manual for my new machine I came across something very interesting.  The concept of Givers and Receivers. 

Sorting by color to allow for temperature variances has always been my routine to avoid dark colors running onto lights and whites.  However, I have now added one more load, yuck the eco side of me is NOT happy.  Some fabrics shed lint while others attract which can lead to lint build up on items like my workout pants and Columbia fleece jacket.

The shredders are cottons, terry cloth, chenille, bedspreads and rugs and anything that has been heavily bleached.  While the receivers are synthetic fabrics, permanent press, knits (including socks), corduroy and any smooth, satiny fabrics.

Sometimes it is better to give than to receive and white ick on clothes is a perfect.  So if you are experiencing this same issue, it is time to think about one more sort.

 

Freshen Up the Linens

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If you have kids returning from college for the holidays or if out of town guests will soon be arriving at your doorstep, then this would be an ideal time to freshen up the bed linens and towels that haven't been used in months. 

Toss the linens in the laundry so that they will be ready when your guests arrive tired from their journey.   Add a few drops of pure lavender essential oil to your laundry detergent to help your guests fall into a peaceful sleep.  Be wary of using any scents if allergies or sensitivities are an issue.  If you would like to make your own Vinegar Laundry Rinse, check out this link for the ingredients.

Grubby shower curtains could probably also stand a run through the washing machine.  If the shower curtain liner is ripped or unsightly beyond repair, consider investing in a new one (they are fairly inexpensive) and use the old one as a tarp for painting or other household projects.

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We have had some chilly mornings lately.  You may have noticed your heater pop on with that scent of burning dust.  With the change of seasons, it is time to think about replacing or cleaning your HVAC system air filters.  The accumulation of ash that descended upon the Pacific Northwest during the last month or two makes this critically important this year.

Clean filters will ensure your HVAC system runs more efficiently resulting in more economical, higher capacity performance.  You should notice less dust in your home which means less cleaning for you.  Good quality filters will remove pollen, lint, dust, and other airborne contaminants.

If you have a washable electrostatic filter, it is recommended that you simply dust off excess dirt and flush under hot water.  Let it dry completely before replacing. A mild detergent can be used if required. However do not use oils, adhesives, house hold cleaners, industrial cleaners or alkali solutions as this will damage the filter.

If you have replaceable filters, I recommend that you buy a multi-pack and bring the used one with you to the store or make note of the size to ensure that you purchase the correct one for your system.


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Eyeglass Cleaning

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Toilet Rust Rings

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.

 


Cleaning Up Excess Caulk

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.

 

 

Practical Kitchen Tips

 Excess chicken soup in the process of freezing

Excess chicken soup in the process of freezing

You may have noticed by now that I love finding ways to repurpose everyday items.  When my daughter was an infant, I was big into homemade baby food.  I pureed apples, pears, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, you name it.  After jarring enough to get us through a few days, I froze the remainder in ice cube trays. 

Once the contents were frozen, I emptied the cubes into labeled (including the date) containers or baggies.

Defrosting the quantity I wanted was fast and easy.  Getting little sleep at the time meant sometimes being forgetful when it came to pulling food out of the freezer for meals.  But since the cubes thaw rapidly, I was able to have her food at the ready in no time. 

No more need for baby food in this house, instead I use this process for soups, stews, and sauces.  Big chunks of solid ice take a long time to thaw so try this method and see what you think.

If your fingertips get like mine in the winter if I don't continuously moisturize, the dryness can make them a bit slick when I pick up objects.  This can be noticeably troublesome when I grab eggs from the refrigerator or remove them from the carton to place in an egg holder to nestle on a shelf.

In order to prevent dropping them, I lightly dampen my fingertips which counter-intuitively renders them less slippery.  So before you pick up an egg, quickly run your fingers under water for a little extra hold especially in the winter.

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Lids can be a challenge to open sometimes.  Plastic seals around a new bottle top can cause further difficulty when opening a jar for the first time.  I use 2 solutions.

For small bottles such as extract that have the extra plastic security seal, a damp plush washcloth helps to get enough traction on the lid to get it to turn thereby loosening and releasing the plastic band.

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For larger mouth jars, I gently tap them on the countertop or other hard surface until I hear the tell-tale pop that the pressure has been discharged.  If I still need some extra assistance, I grab a rubber jar gripper and that usually provides enough torque to finish the job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Condiment Storage

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


What's For Dinner? 
5 Simple Steps to Manage Meal Planning

What should I make for dinner tonight?  Do I have the ingredients? 

Do you dread searching for desirable recipes and scouring for necessary ingredients after a long day’s work or hustling between children’s after-school activities?  

Wouldn’t you love to painlessly plan meals? 

Use The Practical Sort's "No Sweat" method to manageable meal planning.  Follow the steps below to:

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Plan simple, homemade, weekly meals

Locate appealing, wholesome recipes

Easily track the groceries you need

Step 1:  Download The Practical Sort's Weekly Planner and Grocery List Template below.  Print the Planner on one side and the Grocery List on the other.   This method will ensure that you have the necessary ingredients.

Click on each link below to download :

Weekly Meal Planner

Grocery List Template

Basic Ingredient List

Step 2:  Recipe Selection
See suggested recipe sites below for easy meals.  As you select recipes, scan your fridge, freezer, and cupboard to see what you have on hand.  You can even pre-group ingredients into bins in your storage areas to coincide with the upcoming dinners.   If you have time, pre-mix your dry ingredients.

Step 3:  Grocery List 
Put an ‘x’ by any essential Grocery List items.  If you need more than one, such as 2 cans of tomato paste, then jot the number in the box next to the listed item.

Step 4:  Basic Ingredient List 
Add to your grocery list the products on the Basic Ingredient List if you are likely to use them.  A well-stocked pantry can be your saving grace for unplanned meal nights.  Store these items to ensure that you will always have basic “go-to’s” in order to whip up last minute dishes.

Step 5:  Recipe Sites
Need ideas for healthy recipes ?  Check out:

Eatingwell.com
This site is user-friendly, the recipes are simple, and they have an array of special diet options ranging from gluten-free,  vegan, dairy-free, diabetes-specific, low-sodium, etc.

CookingLight.com
And this Cooking Light site is really cool.  You can drag and drop simple recipes into the 5 day menu planner.  Then select “View Recipe” to see what ingredients to add to your list.  “Eating Out” and “Leftover Nights” images are available to insert into nights when you know you won’t have the time or desire to cook.

Finally, if you forget to pull frozen meats out of the freezer, no need to worry.  Not a fan of microwave ovens like me?  No need to go that route if you use this trick.  In fact, it has been over 10 years since I used a microwave.  Put the meat or fish into a plastic bag and then immerse it in lukewarm water in a metal bowl.  Prep the remainder of your ingredients.  Occasionally check the water to be sure it does not get too cold.  If it does, empty it and refill with lukewarm water.  Save the frigid water and as it warms, use it to water your plants.  The meat will typically thaw within 30 minutes.  Fish may take less time. 

Practical Reducing, Reusing, Recycling Tips

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Pardon the expression.  If you are an ardent shredder at the beginning of the new year like I am, then you know what I mean.  There are reams of paper that contain information that I choose not to throw into my recycling bin without nearly annihilating them first.  So many documents despite enrollment in electronic bill and brokerage statement delivery.  For some reason, the paper accumulates.  I choose a day in January where I go through the previous year's folders and ditch any documents I no longer need.  Looking for suggestions for what to keep and release?  Check out my May 25, 2017 blog Practical Tips for What to Keep and How Long by clicking here.

My advice for what it is worth is to research heavy duty, cross-cut shredders.  This literally was a game changer from my ancient long strip shredder.  I used to re-feed the paper or hand cut the strips for extra security.  My new machine eviscerates the documents into 0.17" x 1.77" pieces up to 10 sheets at a time.  At that rate, the process goes surprisingly fast.

Credit cards, staples, and paper clips are no match for my Ativa. 

If you plan to invest in a shredder, be sure that it does the job thoroughly and quickly.  This will save you time while giving you peace of mind.

 


What to Do With Foam Packaging?
 

Did you receive holiday gifts embedded in polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) packaging?  Your trash can is likely overflowing after the celebrations, and you might be loathed to toss the foam into the landfill.  Polystyrene generally does not biodegrade which makes it a useful packaging material and insulator for our hot beverages.

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Labeled as PS #6 for the recycling symbol, it is rarely accepted in curbside or other recycling programs.  But we need to be mindful that polystyrene is hazardous to animals and marine life who could mistake it as food and it is highly flammable.  As of 2006, Portland was one of roughly 100 localities* to ban polystyrene foam use in restaurants, yet there are a multitude of other uses.  Chances are you received at least one gift package that contained the foam. 

So what do you do with it?  Far West Fibers is no longer collecting it, but Agilyx in Tigard has a no-fee 24/7 collection receptacle at their facilities (business or large quantities require special arrangements).

Their patented process can transform the foam into crude oil.  They also produce a liquid used in food packaging, pharmaceuticals, construction, durable goods. etc.

According to their website "Agilyx is committed to demonstrating not only the economic viability of our technology, but also the environmental value. We have completed an extensive Life Cycle Analysis on our process to measure carbon impact against traditional forms of crude oil extraction, with the results indicating a significantly favorable environmental impact."

Drop off your polystyrene at:

Agylix
7904 SW Hunziker Street
Tigard, OR 97223

If you need more information contact them at:  503-271-3160 or visit their website for additional facts.

*en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polystyrene


Last Bits
 

Some may say I am cheap.  I prefer to think of myself as eco-minded, thrifty, and resourceful. 

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Before tossing a used up bottle of shampoo into the recycling bin, I opted to turn it upside down to ensure that it was fully depleted.  I could tell there was about 1/4" of shampoo left inside, but the container's design made squeezing out every last drop difficult. 

Ten days later I was still using that same bottle of shampoo.  I often use this technique with jars of ketchup, mustard, honey or any other liquid that is too viscous to pour out easily as it nears the end. 

You might wish to place the bottle inside a sturdy, water-proof container in the event the product leaks out.  To keep the bottle propped, I situated it between the wall and a larger bottle out of the reach of the sprayer so that the lid does not fill with excess water.

By year's end, I will save nearly $40 and recycle 5 less bottles!


Recycling School Supplies

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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.

 

 

Practical Time Savers

Create a Distraction Free Zone

You are in the groove.  Finally making progress on that project you have been meaning to tackle for weeks.  The ideas are gelling, the words are flowing, then ding.  A sound emanates from your laptop and a pop-up flashes across your screen.  Your eyes dart just for an instant.  Yet bam, you are now officially out of the zone.  The words are no longer under your fingertips and the ideas evaporated as fast as they formed.

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In a University of California, Irvine study, Informatics Professor Gloria Mark, researcher of workplace distraction, learned that while a typical office worker performs approximately "11 minutes between interruptions, it takes nearly 25 minutes to recover from the interruption" to return to the task at hand.  Mark also noted that "the interruptions caused participants to report significantly higher stress, frustration, workload, effort and pressure".

Further researchers have found that constant distractions are resulting in poorer performance.  Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson, authors of "The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success" in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon designed an experiment to measure cognitive variations as a result of disruptions.  Out of three groups comprised of 136 participants taking a test, those distracted or expecting an interruption performed worse than those in the control group who completed the exam unimpeded.

So not only is the incessant beeping and blipping from emails, social media alerts, phone calls, and texts causing you to lose valuable time, your work quality potentially suffers.

Your time is precious, your thoughts are worthy of sharing, and your work should reflect your best efforts.  Yep, this is sounding a bit preachy, but after watching one email notification after another flash across the bottom of my screen, I decided to take action by shutting off all email and social media alerts and notifications.  My fingers pounded out this tip without shiny object diversions. 

Take the bull by the horns, go into your Settings and turn notifications to the off position and let those ideas soar.

 

1 nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction.html
2 couriermail.com.au/rendezview/technology-is-creating-a-generation-of-dummies/news-story/5c84058176b9d2bf88e367c01663b4c7

Keep up with the Practical Sort's latest blogs and tips by subscribing here.

 

 

 

Speed Up Drying Time with this Simple Tip

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You probably know that you should swipe your dryer lint screen/filter after each load of laundry to remove lint build up.  Isn't it amazing how much accumulates after each load?  Surprisingly our clothes and linens last as long as they do considering the amount they shed.

Filter cleaning will enhance your dryer's efficiency reducing the drying time considerably, prolong the life of the dryer, and reduce fire risks.  Do not use your dryer if the screen is damaged or loose as this can cause your dryer to overheat.

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If you have never used a dryer before, the filter is typically located either on the top of the machine or inside the door depending upon the model.  Remove it from the machine and roll the lint off with your fingers.  Do not wet the screen before you remove the lint. 

I like to take the extra step of gently vacuuming my screen weekly to ensure it is super clean.  I hold the vacuum close, but not directly on it to avoid damage.  Also vacuum along the outside edges.

Residue can cause clogs as a result of some laundry detergents and fabric softeners delaying drying time.  If you notice that lint is in the dryer, it is likely falling off the screen due to obstructions.

To remove the residue:

  •     Soak the screen with hot water, vinegar and baking powder and let it sit until the fizzing stops
  •     Use a nylon brush to gently scrub
  •     Rinse with hot water
  •     Let it thoroughly dry before reinstalling

You may need to repeat this process.

Once a month, I use a flexible dryer vent vacuum attachment to suction out the lint left inside the machine's lint trap.

Remember to reinsert your fully dried screen when you have finished.

 

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.

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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.

 

Breaking Through The To-Do List

Do you keep a to-do list?  How often do you look at it and think I WILL NEVER GET ALL OF THAT DONE!  Implementing the 4 D's of Time Management, attributed to several different time management gurus including David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, provides a roadmap for you to cut through the morass of to-do list clutter and achieve the results you desire.

1.  Delete/Diminish:  Consider if the task will further your goals or the project's goals.  If not, delete it and move on.  If deletion is not an option, consider diminishing it by breaking it down into smaller pieces that you can tackle quickly.  If you have no choice because your boss is expecting it on his/her desk in an hour, then you best get to it and delay other jobs.

2.  Delegate: Is it imperative that you are the one who does the task?  Yes, it may take longer to explain it to someone else or clean up after them if they do not excel at the execution.  However, by teaching them how to do it, they will be able to take those kinds of tasks, chores, etc. off your hands in the future while giving them a chance to learn and grow.  Sometimes we presume certain chores are too complex for young children, but they can be very capable of getting things done.  Delegation helps them to build independence, responsibility, and character.

In fact, a 2015 longitudinal research study on household chores conducted by University of Minnesota professor Marty Rossmann followed 84 children during four distinct ages in their lives: preschool, elementary, high school and at the age of 20.  At the last stage, they were interviewed to determine their success based upon college attainment, career path, IQ, substance abuse, and interpersonal relationships.  The study found higher success rates among that were those who had started doing chores during or before preschool. Success rates were lower for those who started in their teens.

3.  Delay: Take care of the urgent items first.  Move on to the less important tasks when you have time.  If the less important tasks are mindless, do those when you are not fully resourced since they require less concentration.

4.  Do:  Tackle the must-dos and the items that will get the biggest bang for the buck first.  Or do the things you are certain you can knock out quickly particularly if you are not in a mental state to handle anything highly creative or requiring intense concentration at the moment.

I hope the 4'Ds will help you have a more practical and productive day.

 

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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.

Pre-Prepare Ingredients

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Color Code

Your home improvement project includes touching up a kitchen wall.  Your painter asks you for the color brand and code.  You have no idea but you love the color and want it to remain the same.   You no longer have the paint can.  What do you do?

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Keep a list of paint colors, codes, brands, and a swatch used for any home improvement projects.  You’ll be prepared in the future for any quick touch up jobs or attempts to match paint for any other reason.  For instance, you may love the color in one room and decide that same color would be perfect in another room.  Same idea works if you move.  You may have loved your old bedroom color and now wish to paint your new bedroom the same.

Store the list in a spreadsheet on your computer or file away in your home improvement file folder for future reference.

There is a chance the paint store may have your account information, so before you panic, check to see if they retained your project information.  We were very lucky that our home's previous owners left us most of the paint cans with the color information.  We also lucked out on a color where we did not have a can, but the paint store had the former owner's paint information still in the system.

The paint store may be able to replicate the color from a piece of siding or drywall.  As a last resort, take a photo and see if they can assist with a close approximation.

If you have left over paint, write the room name on your can and whether it is for wall or trim.  This has been especially useful for us where the exterior siding and trim were very close in color.  At a quick glance, I could grab the correct can when needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Practical Holiday Tips

Ship Those Gifts

Did you have a productive Black Friday? 

Snag great deals on Cyber Monday?

Do you still have holes in your gift giving list? 

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Now is the time to make some headway and purchase the remainder of your gifts.  Feel the satisfaction of crossing off to do list items. Begin mailing presents to those who live out of town. 

Don't have time to go from store to store and then the post office battling the traffic and long lines?  Consider ordering gifts online.  Have the retailer gift wrap and ship to save you time and possibly some money.  Look for product discounts and free shipping options to stay within your holiday budget.

Be web savvy.  Stick with sites that use https in their web address.  Ensure that the website belongs to the official brand merchant.  If your credit card company offers virtual account numbers, they are an awesome way to keep your card secure. 

Need additional suggestions for keeping on track during the busy holiday season? Contact ThePracticalSort.com to get sorted right away.

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Want to stay on top of your holiday to do list?  Before the mad rush of the season is in full swing, begin aggregating your mailing list data.  Ensure that addresses are up-to-date.  Have you corrected any name changes due to marriage or divorce?  Added the newest family members since last year's mailing? Or perhaps you need to edit labels to account for those who have passed on.

To speed up the greeting card process, consider creating a spreadsheet with all of the pertinent label information.   Yes, it is more work upfront, but with a few minor edits each year, you will thank yourself that you invested the initial time.  Once all of the name and address information is entered, use a word processor's mail merge to create the labels.  I use Excel for the spreadsheet and Word for the labels, but you can use whatever programs you like.  

I prefer to add a holiday graphic to each label to dress them up as seen on the left.

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Consider using the same spreadsheet to track gift ideas and purchases.  Or you can use The Practical Sort's Gift Tracking Guide click here to access.

 

 

 

 

 

Best Holiday Travel Times

Chances are you have already booked your Thanksgiving holiday flights.  And if you are traveling into or out of PDX, your travel should go relatively smoothly as it ranks #10 on Forbes list of on-time performance airports.

However, if you are planning a road trip, according to AAA 45.5 million other travelers will be on the roads which is a 3.2% increase over last year.  AAA states that these drivers will also pay the highest gasoline prices since 2014. 

Travel & Leisure recommends Portland travelers avoid the roadways Wednesday and Friday 4 pm Thanksgiving week.  Ideal times are typically Thanksgiving and Sunday mornings at 6 am.  Click on the highlighted sources if you wish to view their airport best and worst lists and suggested travel times.

Before you start your car review this checklist:

1.  Check your destination's weather for your trip's duration to ensure you are packing appropriate clothing.

2.  Planing to travel in high elevations and through the mountain passes?  Put tire chains in your car if you do not have studded tires.  Ensure that your tires are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended PSI.

3.  Toss in some extra blankets, water, snacks, first aid kit with flares, gloves, extra socks, hat, dry set of clothes, ice scraper, snow shovel, jumper cables, phone charger, and flashlight.

4.  Let someone know that you are leaving and your expected arrival time.

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5.  Fill up your gas tank.

6.  If you are bringing a covered dish to the dinner, check to make sure that you have serving utensils along with all the items needed to do last minute preparations before plating.

7.  Remember the host/hostess gift? 

8.  Set timers for your home lights and stop the mail and newspapers if you will be away for a more than a day.  Don't forget to toss in your overnight toiletries kit.

Safe travels and enjoy your celebration.

 


Holiday Preparation is Key to a Successful Celebration 


Last week's tip was a reminder to place your order for your Thanksgiving turkey, ham and any fixin's to go along with the meal.  Provided that you have already done so, here are some additional last minute tips to ensure that you are prepared for a special celebration.

1.      Check your rsvps to confirm # of guests expected

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2.       Iron your table cloth and napkins

3.       Purchase a centerpiece

4.      Ensure that your grocery list has all necessary ingredients to avoid last minute trips to the store especially on the holiday or the immediate days prior when the pickings are slim and lines are long

5.      Begin baking

6.      Stock up on beverages to pair well with the entrees and dessert.  Don't forget coffee and tea (caffeinated and decaf).

7.      Count and rinse the china, stainless, and glassware if they have not been used in ages.  Do you have an adequate supply of each?

8.      Do you have enough seating or do you need to borrow some chairs and tables?

9.      Place guest towels in your powder room

10.     If your oven is not large enough, begin cooking items ahead of time that can be refrigerated or frozen then reheated

11.      Prepare guest rooms for overnight visitors

 

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving celebration filled with much warmth and happiness from The Practical Sort.

Health & Self-Care

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Dying is only for old people right?  Wrong!  No one likes to think about end of life planning.  Yes, it is morbid and unsettling.  Yet, unanticipated health events or tragedies can happen at any age and at any time.  Having your affairs in order simplifies the process for your loved ones in the midst of their shock and grief.   Considering the current devastation of fires and floods, knowing that someone has our back and access to our backup information is reassuring even if it is the Cloud.

But where do you start? 

Smead Life Documents Organizer Kit

1.  Having a will or trust and healthcare directive in place is crucial.  Talk to your attorney to flush out your particular estate needs.  There are also websites that offer templates for creating your own if an estate attorney is not within your budget.  Regardless of which route you take, be sure to have documents notarized. 

2.  Storing your documents in a fire-proof safe and passing along all your key information including where to locate vital documents to someone you trust will reduce the stress associated with managing your healthcare, wishes, assets and liabilities. 

3.  To determine what information to gather, write/gamer Erik Dewey who has written a series of estate and end of life planning articles for The New York Times and other publications, offers a free online Big Book of Everything pdf or Excel spreadsheet to start the process.  This virtual binder provides forms to enable step by step amassing of all the information your designated estate administrator needs to know.  Worksheets are also included for keeping track of important documents such as resumes, work history, school, and health history during your lifetime.  Note, this binder is a big undertaking and some of you might find it too overwhelming.  Please take it step by step, maybe a page per day.  Start with the most critical information first such as your bank and investment accounts.  Then move along to medical directives or final arrangements.  Click here to download the Big Book of Everything

Another option is the Life Documents Organizer Kit by Smead which retails for $39.95 as a poly file or $29.95 as a drawer kit system to keep all of your documents in one place.  Click here to view the Life Documents Organizer Kit. 

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Smead also offers an All-in-One Emergency Planning Organizer and a Healthcare & Wellness Organizer. 

Remember it is never too soon to organize the most essential information in your life.


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How often have you been engaged in a household project and had a "near miss" and thought "wow, that was lucky"?  Or maybe you injured yourself swearing that next time you will be more careful? 

About a week ago, I was so honored that one of my dear friends told me that I inspired her to organize her garage.  I know that this was on her to do list for many months.  She was awaiting nice weather since she planned to unload most of the contents onto her driveway and front yard to fully assess what she has and what she still needs.

Fast forward to a few days into her project, a hanging bike fell on her head.  Now she is nursing a concussion and a week long headache. 

If heavy objects are hung, please ensure that they are secure and use caution when taking them down. 

Store hazardous materials in their original packaging or if repackaged be certain that the packaging is well-marked (draw skulls and crossbones if necessary) and its composition is appropriate for the contents.  Follow manufacturer's use and disposal directions.

Place sharp objects inside heavy-duty sleeves or wrap. Be vigilant regarding the things you grab especially if you are removing items from dark cupboards recesses. 

Finally, ask for assistance from a friend, neighbor, or handy person if you need an extra hand.

It is unlikely that my friend would have considered wearing a helmet while working, although she is now wishing she had.  She also regrets not asking someone to assist her with retrieving the bike.  She is very lucky that she was able to phone for help as she was alone and that her injuries were not more severe.

Like any household project, there are inherent risks in just about anything we do.  In situations with heavy, sharp, or hazardous materials wear solid shoes, protective clothing, eye and head gear, gloves, and/or a respiratory mask if necessary. 

Bottom line, be mindful and please proceed with caution with any project no matter how small even cooking and cleaning.  You will thank yourself in the end.


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.

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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


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A Time Out for Gratitude

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.

Moisturizing

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.

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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 The Ultimate Guide to Scientifically-Backed Coconut Oil Uses and 50 Ways to Use Coconut Oil.  Please consult your health practitioner before engaging in any new health regimens.


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Put One Foot in Front of the Other

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!


Do you know the most critical action you can take before your child heads off to college? 

Some of you may recall this tip from last year.  I think it is worth repeating for the parents who are sending their children to college for the first time or who may have missed this post previously. 

Be sure to have your son or daughter sign a HIPAA release form.   HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).  This gives you rights over your health information, including the right to get a copy of your information, make sure it is correct, and know who has seen it.  You may have signed HIPAA documents at your own practitioners' offices.

If your child is 18 or older and becomes sick or injured while away, you will want to be able to obtain information about their condition, assist with insurance claims, etc.

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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.

Click here for a link to a sample form.   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.

Do this for your own peace of mind.


 

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Oregon's new driving law took effect today as part of House bill 2597.  It is designed to close loopholes in the earlier distracted driver bill that did not specify prohibiting the use of phones or any electronic devices for entertainment or programming navigation apps while driving.  This new law prohibits the use of any functions that require holding or touching the phone.  Activating or deactivating a function that requires a single swipe appears to be permissible as well as mounted electronic devices.

As long as both hands are on the wheel, music and apps are allowed.

Be aware that using the phone at red lights, stop signs, or in traffic is a no-no.  You are advised to pull over to a safe location before using your phone for any reason.

An exception is 911 Emergency calls for reporting emergency situations if there is no one else in the car capable of placing the call.  Emergency responders are also allowed cell phone use when reacting to an emergency call even if they are in their personal vehicles.

This new law imposes larger fines and 6 months jail time for a third violation within a 10 year period.

Judges will have the option of waiving a first offense violation beginning in January; however, the offense will remain on your driving record.

So folks, play it safe.  Put the phones and other electronic devices away until you reach your destination or a safe area.

Practical Closet Tips

Recycling Hangers

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


Neat Linen Closets in One Easy Step

From cattywampus to neatly arranged with a quick flip around.

 Messy vs. Neat Towels

Messy vs. Neat Towels

A stager's trick to neat looking closets is to place the towel folds facing outward toward the closet door.  This simple trick keeps the towels looking tidier, hides any floppy tags, and enables easy selection.

Organize the towels by color, user, size, room (i.e., master bath, powder room, etc.), then just grab and go.

Practical Renovation/Fixer Upper Tips

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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.


Whew, What a Save!  Removing Stains from Wood Furniture


Months ago, a white stain appeared on my kitchen table.  No one remembers leaving a perspiring glass or bowl on the table.  Regardless when I glanced to the left from my chair that white shaped blob bugged me.  With guests expected, I would try to strategically arrange my husband’s placemat over the stain, but that not only looked awkward, it was slightly out of range of his eating area.

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Fast forward a few weeks when my mom inquired about removing an ink stain from her Formica kitchen table which then set me to work on solving my own exasperating problem. I was now determined to banish that ugly water stain.  When it first manifested, I tried several home remedies.  Baking powder (which actually removed some of the finish…still working on that), vinegar, and toothpaste with no luck.

My web search led me to try just one more option, ironing.  I selected the lowest setting and placed a cloth napkin on the table and began ironing.  In total, it took nearly 10 minutes so don’t expect immediate results.  However, keep checking as you go to adjust the temperature, location, and to watch progress.  Important caveat:  use cotton not polyester fabrics to iron.  The latter gave off too much moisture while the cotton wicked it up.  And, you can knock out some ironing at the same time.

As you can see from the after shot, the stain is virtually gone (it had been where the pen point is).  On the area where the finish had been rubbed off previously, I smeared a touch of mayonnaise.  That helped a little, but not enough.  After wiping that off, I applied some coconut oil.  And voila.  See the photo.

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Yay, no more awkwardly placed placemats and no more embarrassing stain!

Word of caution, please use a low setting if you try this and do so at your own risk!


Paint Recycling

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 Garden Tips

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Keep the Pests Away

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

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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.

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

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As a gift for Valentine's Day or any other holiday, 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. 

 

Home Storage

Shoes

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


Toilet Paper

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


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Hanging Pocket Sorters

An inexpensive solution to storage needs are hanging pocket 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.

Appliances & User Manuals

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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.

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.

Practical 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.

Snug as a Bug

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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.  Click here for additional helpful hints on pipe TLC.

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.