5 Key Ingredients for a Green Spring Clean

Getting ready to start your spring cleaning project?  These 5 key non-toxic ingredients will get your house sparkling clean.  You probably already have them on hand.  They are often more economical than their harsh chemical counterparts.  Find out what they are and how to make your spring clean a green clean.

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Recently Discovered: The Secret to Making Cleaning Easy, Safe & Fun

It takes heavy duty persuasion to convince this minimalist to purchase new, non-consumable products.  A major wow factor is necessary for The Practical Sort to sing the praises of a product or product line.  Check out these eco-friendly cleaning and home products that will not only make your life easier while being kind to the environment, but you might enjoy the chores that you normally dislike.

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Put That Mouse on a Diet

If you give a mouse a cookie, he will want a glass of milk.  If you give him a glass of milk, he will want a straw and so on and so on.  Do you ever feel like your life is an endless stream of actions begetting more actions?  If so, here are 5 handy tips to guide your through projects so you can keep your sanity when the mouse gets feisty.

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Get Organized Month is Your Invitation for the Change You Desire

January is Get Organized Month, why not take advantage of this celebration to launch your home and lifestyle transformation?  Remove the frustrations, overwhelm, embarrassment, and disorder from your life.  Today is the day, now is the time to manifest the productivity and comfort you desire.  National Association of Professional Organizers are available to guide you along the way.  For more information, contact The Practical Sort Eco-Organizing Solutions at thepracticalsort.com or sherri@thepracticalsort.com to get started.

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Why I Choose to be a Freebird

A few months back I initiated a Facebook Challenge seeking an alternative to the depressing label, “empty nester”. For months as my son prepared to venture off for his college freshman year, I cringed, fought off tears and occasional anger each time someone asked “Are you going to be an empty nester?”  “What are you going to do with yourself when the nest is empty?”  “Your house will be so quiet and lonely, how are you feeling about that?”  With a simple change in terminology, I overcame the sadness and negativity that "empty nester" implies.  Maybe this reframe can help you too.  Read on to learn more.

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Join My Eco-Challenge Team

Join me and my team October 14-28 as we participate in the Northwest Earth Institute's Eco-Challenge.  Earn points by doing your part to create change for greater preservation, conservation, and sustainability for your community and the planet as a whole.  Join the team at http://2016.ecochallenge.org/dashboards/participants/curley-sherriThank you!

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My Top 12 Tips for Eating Out and Traveling with Food Sensitivities

Dining out, traveling, and attending parties can be a challenge for those with food sensitivities.  Here are my top 11 tips for easing the stress in these situations.  Eating away from home when dealing with food allergies and intolerances can be managed with a bit of planning, compromise, and strategizing.

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Treasure Your Personal and Global Space

Have you ever thought about ways to lived a more minimalistic lifestyle?  What is minimalism and is it for you?  Does it mean extreme life changes? This blog might shed some light on being mindful about treasuring your own personal spaces and our stewardship of the global space around us. 

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Saving Time vs. Shaving Time

The phrase saving time is a fallacy.  We cannot deposit time into our savings account for some future rainy day when we are craving an extra hour or two.  Instead, we can use some techniques to cut corners and shave a few seconds or minutes off the total time it takes to accomplish a given task.  For example, prep dry ingredients for baked goods, pancakes, crepes, etc. and store them in labeled glass containers.  I prefer glass such as an old wide mouth jam jar or canning jar since plastic can sometimes impart odors if stored too long.   For your label you can choose to identify the ingredients or the intended end product.  You might want to include on the label what other ingredients are needed such as eggs, milk, extracts, etc. so that you don't forget to add anything later.  When you are pressed for time, your basic dry ingredients will already be measured out, assembled, and ready to add to your batter, a few minutes shaved.

Keep Your Grocery List Handy

Always keep your grocery list near your prep area.  As you use up ingredients or they run low, be sure to add items to your list.  If it is something you frequently use, keep an extra on hand so you are not caught short at the wrong time.  You don't want to have to make an unexpected time consuming trip to the store if avoidable. This is especially true for essentials such as tissues and toilet paper.  If you have the storage space, an extra supply is recommended especially during cold, flu and allergy seasons with no concern about these products spoiling.   When I say an extra supply I should clarify that I mean only an extra box or two or multi-roll package so as not to get bogged down with too many storables and no storage or crammed space. 

Templates Can Shave Time

Speaking of groceries...a few minutes taken to generate a template for grocery lists could spare some time for you each week.  Frequently purchased items can be pre-listed then crossed off if not needed.  Organize the list by grocery aisle or category.   Some grocery stores have their aisles mapped out online to give you a hand in preplanning your template.  Free templates are available online so no need to recreate your own if you choose.  Check out:  http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/grocery-list.html or the more fanciful ones on Pinterest such as https://www.pinterest.com/pin/524387950332911675/.  If possible, consider using recyclable scrap paper for these lists since you will likely dispose of them after you are finished shopping. 

Efficiency Packing for Rapid Grocery Unloading

If you bag your own groceries, do so by storage location so that you can drop each bag in front of that area for rapid unpacking.  I love that my reusable bags all have straps so that I can tote multiple bags on my shoulders from the car to the kitchen.  After unloading, the bags are stored inside one large bag and returned to the car headrest so I never forget to bring them with me.

Shave Time with Laundry

As for laundry tips, when slipping clothes off, pull them straight off so that they remain right side out.  The tricky part is convincing family members especially children to do the same.  You will be surprised at how much quicker laundry goes when you don't have to return the clothes to the correct side out when you retrieve them from the washer or dryer.  And speaking of making laundry go quicker, if you have the room for a few laundry baskets in each room or partitioned baskets, presorting as you undress hastens the entire process.  I am fortunate to have some room in my closet for three baskets: whites, lights, and darks.  The night before laundry day, I place the baskets in the hallway for the rest of the family to sort their baskets into.  Then as I have time during the day, I grab a basket and throw that load in.

Spend Less Time on Chores and Errands

Electronic banking has expedited my bill paying process.  By taking a few minutes to set up the vendors on my banking site, when the bills arrive the total payment time is minimal for paying and logging my transactions.   I am also saving money by spending less on stamps and check reorders.  Rarely do I purchase stamps now so less time is expended (and gas) driving to and from the post office or waiting for the grocers to find their stamp allocation.  I also make far fewer trips to the neighborhood mailbox to deposit outgoing mail.

Crafters Can Shave a Moment or Two

If you are a crafter, keep work in progress supplies segregated in a particular area of your studio or container so that you can dive right in.  Without reamassing necessities and attempting to analyze where you left off, you have shaved a few more minutes than can be put to better use.

Shave Time and Enjoy Your Time

These are just a few ideas, there will be more in the future. By using time saving or more accurately time shaving tips you can spend more time doing what you enjoy and saving some pennies along the way.

Simple Ideas are Simply Awesome

The Simple Answer is Often The Best

Sometimes we overlook simple solutions to perplexing problems or everyday annoyances.  For example, take a look at that infamous junk drawer, the repository for all those miscellaneous items that do not have dedicated sensible space elsewhere.  Often times it is filled with as the Brits say, "bits and bobs" that we have difficulty locating when we need them because they are buried under all of the other STUFF occupying the drawer.  Many times I have opened my junk drawers and immediately closed them in frustration for not being able to find what I need or lacking the time to wade through the piles scattered about.  That is, until I became serious that these pesky areas needed the same level of organization that the rest of the house enjoys.  But what to do with those small bits and bobs?  As I have previously mentioned, I do my best to repurpose whenever possible.  This is kinder to the environment, my wallet, and my time. 

Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose

One day as I was grabbing some detergent from under my sink, I noticed some old ice cube trays that I had set aside.  I used to use extra ice cube trays when I made baby food, I would freeze the food in the cubes until solid.  At that point, I would dislodge the food from the trays and store in freezer containers until needed.  I have also used the trays when I have cooked up large batches of soup, and I would freeze the excess in ice cube trays until the cubes were ready to be transferred into freezer containers.  Then as with the baby food, I could thaw just the right amount.  Well, the baby food making days are over, and I have not made soup in a while, but I now have another use for those trays.  They are the perfect for all those little bits and bobs.

It's a Relationship Not a Marriage

When you decide that the time is right for you to make a change in your surroundings and embark on an organizing project whether physical or time management, in your home or at work, etc. keep in mind that the process is a fluid one.  I believe that one of the most critical steps in getting and staying organized is the reevaluation stage.  Your life changes, your lifestyle may fluctuate, products that you use today you may no longer use in a few weeks or months.  That old appliance taking up space on your counter top may no longer serve your purposes or the remaining prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet may no longer be indicated or have expired. It is time to reassess.  In my own home, I continuously monitor placement of items.  My kitchen is one area that probably sees the most frequent rearrangement.  As cooking and baking needs change or you purchase a new gadget, go ahead and move stuff to enable easier workflow.   Relegate items no longer or less frequently used to more remote storage areas, donate if still usable, or toss if broken and not fixable.  The same tends to be true with ingredients.  Store less used products at the back of cupboards or those hard to reach cabinets so that their often used brethren are within easier reach.  Clothes closets are another area that should receive frequent scrutiny.

The point of this is that nothing is set in stone.  This helps to relieve any stress related to "what if I don't like where I relocated my recycling bin", "now that I can retrieve my bill file quicker, my paper supply is further away," "I don't wear that dress often, but I don't want to let it go," etc.  Sometimes we have to respect the limitations of confined spaces, locations of outlets if your budget prohibits electrical work, or preexisting cabinetry and counters if once again renovation is not in the cards, but that does not stop creativity and cleverness in redesigning work spaces or clearing areas for your mediation exercises.  Off-site storage is an option budget permitting for those rarely used goods, but too precious to let go. 

As personal relationships continue to evolve so will your relationship with the new order in your life to ensure that it works best for you and your family.  Do you need assistance creating a new relationship, contact the Practical Sort at www.thepracticalsort.com.

Getting into Your Kitchen

After my office, my kitchen has to be the most used room in the house during waking hours.  It is the one place I truly allow my creative juices to run wild.  Or at least that was true prior to the unwelcome imposition of dietary restrictions.  Although now that I think about it, I have had to become more thoughtful in my menu planning and ingredient selection, so maybe that has rendered me even more creative.  It is also the one room that is continually in a state of flux. I touched upon this in the "It's A Relationship Not a Marriage" Blog. 

Let's think about the kitchen for a minute.  Whether you are a gourmet chef or a parent running between soccer matches and PTA meetings, you all need to eat.  And if you are the family limo driver, prep time is of the essence.  Placement of your utensils, pots and pans, and ingredients needs to be as strategic as possible to move the process along quickly.  If you are afforded the luxury of a leisurely pace, you still might enjoy the ease of reaching for or obtaining whatever your recipe calls for without wasted searching and crisscrossing the room.


If your kids are grown, maybe you will have the same "doh" moment that I recently experienced realizing that the kids no longer needed their plastic cups and plates that littered a drawer under my usual prepping work space next to the stove.  By gutting that drawer, I repopulated it with cutting boards.  I can go thru 2-3 cutting boards in a day.  Usually I can give a dirty one a quick rinse and reuse it, but I prefer after slicing and dicing raw meat to let the dishwasher handle sanitizing it.  Prior to my revelation,  I trekked across the kitchen to the cupboard that housed them.  The exercise was appreciated, but when pressed for time having what I need within easy reach is preferable to jogging back and forth. 

Categorize and Compartmentalize

Next I noticed that behind me the everyday silverware drawer was fairly organized by a silverware sorter, but the drawer under my work space was calling out for some TLC and similar compartmentalizing.  This drawer houses measuring spoons, peelers, corkscrews and various other utensils.  Rather than purchasing additional sorters, like me, you can use containers that you may have accumulated over the years.  Some from take out restaurants are especially useful.  The ones that I hijacked for this drawer are wide and flat and three of them can fit side by side in 2 rows each with a few inches remaining to store longer items such as tongs and skewers.  Each of the containers store gadgets with the most frequently used ones such as the peelers, corkscrews, and measuring spoons in the first row easy access.

The next drawer down are prep cups, small stacking measuring cups and mixing bowls.  The drawer below that houses strainers and large Pyrex measuring cups.  Finally the bottom drawer is the new home to the aforementioned cutting boards.

How did I arrive at this arrangement? 
1.  Empty the drawers.   
2.  Categorize the objects (i.e., place the measuring cups together, strainers in another area, etc.). 
3.  Evaluate how often the items are used and which drawer has the dimensions to fit them best.   

Continually reevaluate your needs.  If they change, the arrangement can fluctuate as well.

Expandable Cabinet Shelf by Dial available at  Storables.com  http://www.storables.com/large-expandable-cabinet-shelf.html

Expandable Cabinet Shelf by Dial available at Storables.com http://www.storables.com/large-expandable-cabinet-shelf.html

Pantry Pride

Next is the pantry area.   There are many ways to organize pantry space.  Use the steps above to take stock of what you have; what ingredients are frequently used and which ones are less so; and the storage space you have.  Categories might include:  spices, baking goods, dry goods (pastas, rices, beans, cereals, etc.),  and canned (soups, tomato sauces, fruits, etc.) and jarred goods (i.e., peanut butter, jams, vinegars, oils, etc).   Sort the items again into categories.  You might wish to keep all canned goods together or maybe you prefer to have one shelf for jams, nut butters, fruits, while another if you have the space for the more "dinner entree" ingredients. 

Expandable shelves work great in pantries and spice cabinets to triple your confined spaces and facilitate finding what you need.  And if you have the luxury of adjustable shelves, alter the shelf heights to suit the types of products you wish to store.   Use those out of reach cabinets for the ingredients or appliances that rarely if ever get used but you like to keep on hand for once a year holiday recipes.  Consider that not all spices need to be together.  Perhaps you prefer to have the everyday spices closer at hand to your work space and the less frequently used ones housed in the back of a cabinet.  Maybe you like the savory in one location and the sweeter items in another.  You have free reign to do as you wish.  Again, if the initial arrangement does not suit your needs, feel free to reassess and rework them.


The same holds true for your dishes and glassware.  Do you want these close to your table or the dishwasher for ease in unloading?  Are there some that get used daily and others that are seldom taken out?  Can the latter be placed in a cabinet outside the kitchen to free up the space for dishes, pots and pans, containers, lids, small appliances that are part of your daily regimen?

The kitchen is your supreme dominion.  Feel free to make it work for you.   Need help getting it together?  The Practical Sort will get you sorted.








Embracing "You Are Never Too Old"

Despite priding myself on my lifelong organizing skills and proclivity towards efficiency and reuse, I find it awkwardly stunning how often I still have aha moments.  After a brief pat on the back, inevitably I chide myself with "why didn't I think of that years ago?"  You might find some of these suggested Tips and Tricks rather elementary, yet unless someone has grown up with a Heloise clone (aka Hints From Heloise) or an aficionado of "Reader's Digest Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things" and "More Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things", many of us still have a lot to learn.

This is particularly true for new homeowners.  For instance, renters typically do not have the privilege or desire for mounting appliances or shelving along with many household time and space savers we take for granted.  New homeowners usually saddled with tight quarters in starter homes can find storage challenging.  The joys of undermounting transformed my kitchen and laundry areas.  Three homes later, I still undermount paper towel holders.  Sadly after my last electric smooth edge can opener died, I was unable to locate another similar undermount.  To save on precious counter real estate, that puppy is stored in a cabinet for its occasional usage.  Without abundant contiguous counter space only frequently used items get the privilege of being on display.

Other aha moments in the past few years have included two-handed dusting.  The job goes much quicker using both hands.  Another bonus of this method is as you dust picture frames you can use one hand's duster to hold the frame while the other hand does the cleaning without leaving dreaded fingerprints.

Boiling water to clean encrusted pots and pans is definitely one that could have saved me loads of time over the years.  If it is real heavy duty job, first soak the pan in the boiling water with Dr. Bonner's Soap (I use Peppermint), about 1/8 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar and a dash of sea salt.  scrub occasionally with a dish brush to begin loosening the grime, then after about 10-15 minutes (before the water completely cools), use a non-scratch scouring sponge to finish cleaning.  If it is a real bug-a-boo, you might need to boil up some more water and start again, but I rarely have had to go to those lengths.

I'd love to know if you have had any aha moments for tidying your home.  And remember, you are never too old.

Baby Steps

The theme of today's blog reflects my mantra of late.  Changing careers, starting a relationship, delving into a new hobby, launching a business, and even organizing your home...these can all be overwhelming at first.  The to-do lists appear endless.  You doubtlessly feel bombarded by the mountains of information to sift through and absorb.  Then there are the inevitable times that you will stop and question, "is this endeavor worth it?"

As I began launching this business, there have been many days that I have felt that the lists are insurmountable and the obstacles too large.  Hence the need for the mantra "Baby Steps" which I chant to myself each morning as I prepare to tackle another checklist item.  On the days that frustrations have gummed up the works and progress comes crashing to an unwelcome halt, I have been blessed with those around me to whisper or more likely admonish rather loudly, "BABY STEPS!" to remind me that everything will get done in due time.  It will not happen all at once nor in all honesty do I want it to. 

My mission for the launch was to give myself a year to get everything up and running so that by the time that my last bird has flown the nest, I will be consumed with putting the finishing touches on and proceed with the operations stage.

The point of all this is as you look around your nest (and quite likely if you found yourself on this website), there are areas or maybe your entire house that are in a state of disarray.  As your stomach starts churning and the muscles tense in your back and neck you wonder how or where to begin, just remember "Baby Steps." 

In fact, sometimes it is best to start with a very small project or area because the pay-off will be more immediate.  Your brain will experience the surge of endorphins while you admire the progress made stoking your energy and motivation to move on to other areas.   In later blogs we will get into how to activate those endorphins based upon your personality type to make this chore more palatable.

So with that being said, it would be my pleasure to lend a hand with a small project to get you up and running one step at a time.  Baby steps indeed.