Clutter control and our emotions

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Ever heard yourself saying any of the following?

“I feel so bogged down”
“I don’t know where to start”
“I feel like I am suffocating”
“I’m so confused”
“I don’t know how it got like this”
“I am overwhelmed”
“It’s hopeless, every time I get rid of it, it comes back”
“I can’t get rid of this it belonged to …”
“I can’t get rid of that, it is still in good shape”
“I can’t get rid of that I paid good money for it”
“But I think I will use it one day”

An interesting article on Life Hacker by Mikael Cho “How Clutter Affects Your Brain (and what you can do about it)”, addresses our inner ‘attachment issues’ when it comes to item acquisition and why it can be so hard to part with things we really don’t need.

Home schooling and your carbon footprint

LEM Image 106While home schooling is not an option for most – others may find this next question a tad controversial. Have you ever thought about the impact mainstream education has on your carbon footprint?

A few years ago I worked my business around home-schooling my son, and while the business is no longer in existence … (6 years later I am ‘still’ homeschooling my son) back in the earlier days of our adventure we looked at the topic of human impact on animal habitat and the Earth (that is his project in the picture above). We also looked at climate change and discussed what ‘carbon footprint’ meant. Later for fun we did a comparison exercise when it came to ‘going’ to school vs ‘schooling at home’. Here is what we observed . . .

  1. I save on petrol and car wear and tear and thus pollution, by not having to get to school every day (whether by car or public transport). I don’t have to travel to school for teacher meetings. I don’t have to waste their electricity providing me a meeting room. All correspondence is done via email or phone.
  2. I don’t have to buy school uniforms or bags etc. or replace those that go missing. Imagine the saving on our carbon footprint by cutting out the need for production of such items?
  3. We don’t have to buy school lunches – either to pack or to purchase at the school tuck-shop, thereby reducing our need for packaging and our need to freeze ice-bricks to keep lunches cool. It also eliminates food being brought home ‘un-eaten’ due to the ice bricks not doing their job, or because my child didn’t eat the food. Making lunch at home ensures a healthy diet and nothing is wasted. Scraps are put straight into the compost or worm farm.
  4. The vegie patch, compost bin and worm farm have become part of our ‘home schooling’ curriculum. My child sees a direct correlation, and loves being involved.
  5. Paper isn’t wasted, it’s re-used or shredded immediately. Shredded paper is then either taken to the pet shop (for use in cages), put in the compost, worm farm or mouse cage, or used to pack fragile parcels for posting.
  6. We don’t need to wrap school books in plastic or contact to preserve their school life. Our resources are sent to us via mailed workbooks – as are some resource library books and audio/visual materials, which are then returned after use for re-use for future students. Any textbooks purchased are easier to keep in good condition for resale because they’re not beaten up throughout the school year from transportation in school bags. Over time more and more work is able to be done ‘on-line’, saving even more paper, postage, freight costs, petrol, fumes and time.
  7. We save money. We don’t need to ‘re-sell’ uniforms at the end of the year, or feel dreadful if we’re unable to ‘re-sell’ them.
  8. As rental tenants, we’ve never had the luxury of air-con, not that we could really afford it. So if on the rare occasion it gets too hot in the house and the ceiling fans give no relief, we go and work at the local library where we use the library’s air-conditioner (also saving power bill). The library environment also ensures work gets done, provides a change of scenery and is close enough to catch a bus and leave the car at home.
  9. The local mainstream school has one less child using their water supply, sewerage, and power. And one less child contributing to the school rubbish ending up in landfill.
  10. We save on doctor’s bills and are healthier, both physically (because we are exposed to less school yard bugs) and mentally (because school room and school yard stress isn’t there). We don’t need as many medicines to get through a school year nor visit the doctor as often (nor need head lice treatments!). If you think of the footprint required to make medicines and head lice treatments, including their packaging – it soon adds up, and of course again we didn’t have to ‘drive’ to buy or use any of these things.
  11.  Lastly, we choose to use a brand of computer, which, with each new year, uses more and more eco-friendly components.

So, as you can see, home-schooling reduces our consumption, our carbon footprint and of course provides us with other benefits as well, but regardless of whether you’re home schooling or not, hopefully there is some food for thought here in how you go about your daily lives, and look at ways at reducing your carbon footprint by revisiting some of your habits and making some better choices on how to go about things?

Happy 2014 everyone …

LEM Image 1052013 was a very busy one in our house … it’s the mid high school years and home tutoring well and truly took over. Christmas happened all too soon and before we can catch our breath? Another year is upon us.

I wonder whether any of you will make new years resolutions to de-clutter, re-organise and simplify? I’m yet to decide on mine, although I have a feeling this year may go in directions I don’t expect it to take me.  Perhaps you’d like to suggest some topics for me to cover this year?

Whatever your ‘plans’, perhaps find a way to help yourself become accountable to them and if you’d like to share your resolutions and ideas, I’d love to hear of them. In the meantime, here are a couple of interesting articles on the subject of new years resolutions for your reading list:

50 New Year’s Resolution Ideas And How to Achieve Each of Them (Lifehack).
New Years Resolution Statistics (Statistic Brain) – see where your resolution is ranked!

And if all else fails, don’t feel bad, it happens to the best of us . . . see . . .
Two Weeks Later – Resolution Fails 

I do hope however that your new year has kicked off with a bang!

Drying laundry in wet weather

LEM Image 104After a week or more of rain is the laundry piling up?  Don’t have a dryer? or want to save electricity? Perhaps you live in a small apartment? Let’s look at some options.

Maybe you’re a rental tenant like me, and have limited options. I actually hate using dryers; I hate the way they put up the power bill; add to the carbon footprint; steam up the house and occasionally shrink things – so for me it’s three strikes against them and they’re out. This means that for me, it’s airers (drying racks) for laundry, although it took me a while to find the best ‘airer’ for me. One that has also managed to adapt to several moves over the years and holds a ‘big’ wash when it needs to. Having said that, I’m not a big fan of letting my washing pile up either. So when it comes to a situation when it can rain for days and days for what seems ‘without’ end, I do seem to manage the washing well, until of course ‘sheets’ and ‘towels’ need washing and drying. At the same time I’m only washing for two and not for a big family.

So I thought I’d do a bit of research into some solutions (outside of the local laundrette), for those of you with bigger family circumstances and also see what products are out in the market at the moment that you may want to consider instead of draping things all over tables, chairs, indoor stair railings, or tying unsightly, sagging and sometimes dangerous washing lines all over the place.

General Tips:

  • Safety First! Use your common sense and don’t take risks. Be ‘very’ careful not to hang clothing too close near fireplaces without fireguards and never place washing close to bar or gas heaters. Many people will drape items onto enclosed radiators, this too is not safe practice, as clothes can dry to the point where they will eventually burn. Some fabrics heat up quicker than others. Get out of the habit. It’s better to put your clothes on a small free standing airer at a safe distance near a radiator. If you have small children in the house please think like them. They will be tempted to grab anything; play hide and seek under dangling clothes and accidentally bump into them. Consider the domino effect of that near heaters. Also, always check garment drying instructions, some synthetics shouldn’t be heated up at all, or may not be treated with fire-retardants.
  • Try and confine the wet laundry to one room of the house. This will stop damp and that damp smell transferring into other soft furnishings.
  • Best room choices are obviously a garage or carport if you have one, indoor sunrooms, patios with cover. Next best … the laundry itself if it’s big enough, or the bathroom. Avoid dangerous areas like kitchens and kids playrooms. Look for a room with adequate ventilation.
  • Be cluey! My sister has her hot water tank in a cupboard in her laundry and had her husband purposely fit a wardrobe rail inside it, this enables her to hang items like her husband’s work shirts on hangers in there and shut the door, the heat of the hot water tank soon dries them. Likewise heat from car engines returning to the garage can help add a bit of warmth to strategically hung items. Maybe finding a way to erect a tarp over an existing outdoor line could be helpful? Lifestyle Clotheslines have a few on offer, and check with the makers of your outdoor line, as some may have custom made covers.
  • When it comes to sheets, this really comes down to how often you change your sheets. Consider factors such as time of year (e.g. sweating more in summer); whether you are prone to asthma or respiratory allergies; whether pets are allowed on the bed; whether there are little ones working through bed-wetting or members of the family who are ill or bed-ridden. I came across a great article by Rita R. Robison of  The Survive & Thrive Boomer Guide, who did her own research into the sheet changing habits of people, which includes some polls and health recommendations. In general I always suggest to have three sets of sheets. One on the bed, one in the wash and one spare. So if you really need to wash the sheets, pull them off the bed, put them aside until the next sunny day and put the spare set on. It’s a rare occasion that you’d get three weeks of rain in a row. Focus more on getting all the other day to day immediate wash done first.
  • Same rule of thumb for towels, blankets and any other heavy linen. If really necessary take heavy items to the local laundrette and use the big industrial dryers they have. I tend to do this routinely anyway to make sure nasties get a good occasional toasting. At least that way I’m using their electricity, it’s paid for upfront, and because those dryers are bigger, I know they’re getting a good amount of air around them in the drying process, almost like on a hot breezy summer day.

For product ideas check out my other article Organising Laundry on Wet Days. As well as my other article: Revenge On The Sock Monster

Put it away, Put it away NOW!

LEM Image 103This is the song we sing after Deck The Halls!

Today I’ve put together a quick run-down of great ideas on how to pack your Christmas ornaments, lights, trees and wrap ready for next year and a basic checklist to help prepare you for next Christmas.

Step 1: Take down all the decorations from around the house before you even attack the tree. Gather all the baubles, garlands, glassware, snow-domes, music boxes, trinkets, Santa socks and hats and put like with like, and start wrapping fragile items in paper, shredded paper, foam noodles or bubble wrap ready for containers.

Step 2: Dismantle the tree! Start with the decoration on the top and remove all the free hanging baubles. Next remove any tinsel or garlands, and lastly the lights. Note: this should be the reverse order that you put the items on. Again, put into groups of like with like and baubles together in either colour or size groups, fragile and not so fragile.

Step 3: Christmas lights. Before you put them away, plug them in, check for any worn wiring and broken bulbs and make a note of any replacements needed and pop them onto your next shopping list now and replace asap while it’s cheaper to do so.  If lights are broken beyond replacement or repair, wrap them in newspaper and bin them. Once all lights are packed away, add a label to the outside and store. Don’t keep anything unsafe.

Video: How to pack away your Christmas lights and prevent them from tangling by recycling a cardboard roll. Note, I also use this cardboard roll method for controlling beaded garlands and tinsel.

Step 4: Put away the baubles and tree ornaments. Fragile decorations will require some sort of padding for protection. Re-use old wrinkled wrapping paper from Christmas day, and use cardboard from other wrap to make dividers for inside shoeboxes and the like. Wrap and discard all broken items. When all are boxed safely label the box and store.

Step 5: Taking down the tree and packing it away. This is really dependent on the type of tree you have. Real vs artificial. Size of tree etc. Please recycle cut trees responsibly. Where possible break it down into what can be used for firewood and what can be used for mulching. If you can’t use the firewood or mulch, donate this to someone who could. If it’s a potted tree, work out whether it can be kept potted or replanted or re-potted, again if you can’t keep it donate it to a school or someone else who could benefit.

Basically when all is said and done, when it comes to artificial trees only you know how to put up your tree and how to pull it apart again. Where possible try and keep the original box. If that box starts to fall apart over time you need to look at other storage options, such as strong drawstring bags that are waterproof. I remember seeing my Dad using string to hold secure all the compressed branches, then using masking tape and newspaper to delicately wrap the tree up every year. These days you could use bubble-wrap, or a product on the market that can be utilised for the purpose. Label your tree and store with your other boxes of decorations.

Step 6: Christmas wrap, bags, ribbons and trims. Remove any tape, recycle and fold neatly any you can salvage for use next year. Find something to keep them all in and label.

Step 7: Christmas Cards, make a list of who you received cards from and reconcile that with the list you sent to. Based on this make a new list for next year, or better still decide who you could email instead in future. Make a decision to recycle the ones you’ve received. If you really can’t part with them, scan the special ones and store digitally, or rip the backs off and find a way to store them for future scrap-booking, craft or school assignments, but really try hard to resist the temptation. To put this into perspective 2 thirds of my usual list was emailed this year.

Step 8: Unwanted gifts and gifts for re-gifting. If you are in favour of doing this then create a crate or box for these items but be savvy. Make sure you keep a list of these items carefully noting who gave them to you so you don’t re-gift back to the wrong person. For more on Re-gifting Etiquette check out an article by Debbie Mayne, Etiquette Expert on About Style.

Step 9: Gifts that are keepers. This is where you can apply the one in one out rule. For example for things like t-shirts, books, kitchenware, costume jewellery, bags, toys, shoes etc. For each new item you want to keep, try and discard or donate an old one to keep numbers from escalating. Another good thing to do is to re-visit your gift recipient list and note down what they bought you this year to help you plan a gift for them next year. Often people give what they’d like to receive, so if you got a groovy t-shirt or a CD, odds are they’d love one themselves. It will also help you budget. Discard any packaging appropriately: i.e. recycle where you can and keep any boxes that you feel could house a prezzie for next year or be useful in one of your own drawers as a drawer sorter or to house decorations.

Product Links

Where possible I’ve tried to locate items within Australia. If they’re not located in Australia then they do ship to Australia. If you do come across a similar product from an Australian supplier be sure to let me know in the comments section below this post. I have noticed this year however, that you can get some very reasonably priced products in the normal major retail chains, although you may have needed to purchase them ‘during’ the festive shopping period.

  1. Tangle Free Cord Wrap for Lights (23M)
  2. Mini Lights Storage Racks
  3. Storage Bags for Christmas trees, wreaths, decorations & wrap
  4. Storage Bags for Christmas trees, wreaths, decorations & wrap

Notes: If you can’t locate or afford a product mentioned, perhaps you can re-create the ‘idea’ with what you have. I don’t have a lot of Christmas stuff but at home I make do with:

  1. clip-lock resealable bags for some things that aren’t fragile e.g.
    – some garlands which have been gathered around cardboard tubes (as in the aforementioned video)
    – un-used gift tags, cards and envelopes.
    – left-over but re-usuable small off-cuts of christmas wrap, ribbons etc.
  2. cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes to house decorations
    – sometimes inside these boxes I will interlock home-made criss-cross cardboard separators.
  3. shoe-boxes with lids with holes in them for threading Christmas ribbon through.
  4. plastic crates, to house the above in.
  5. and for wrapping paper rolls to prevent moisture getting into the paper I use Multix Resealable Storage bags which I’ve found in most Aussie supermarkets, (although a large green garbage bag would do just as well) last Christmas I re-purposed and utilised an old shredder bin to stand them in. The shredder motor and feeder died but was able to be separated from the bin which is nice and tall for the job and sits neatly in a cupboard. This year I purchased a gift wrap bag for about $12 from BigW and it hangs from a rod in a cupboard.
  6. my artificial tree has lasted nearly 12 years and is still in the same cardboard box. When I originally got the box I used strong gaffer tape on all the folds and hinge flaps of the box to prevent wear and tear. It’s survived several house moves over that time and continues to work a treat!
  7. door wreaths, Santa stockings, etc. usually end up in a designated crate or one of those cheap striped bags with a zip which come in many sizes from the $2 shop.
  8. egg cartons, great recycling idea and perfect for housing small fragile decorations and baubles. They also stack. I’ve seen these up-cycled with a paint job and a label and you’d think they were professionally bought. For extra padding wrap the treasure in an ordinary tissue or piece of paper towel.
  9. lastly, storage containers for gift-wrap, trees and decorations make ‘excellent’ gifts for next Christmas, so why not buy a few and put them away for friends? I found them to be very well received. Most recipients saying they often thought of purchasing some for themselves ‘after’ Christmas but then never could find them and then forgot.

If you have a Christmas object or something else you’re not sure how to store, drop me a line. I love a challenge!

Pinch & a punch for the first day of the month … errrr … year!

LEM Image 102Hey there! Here’s to Your 2013!

Time to recycle all those good intentions from January 1st last year and have another go! …

Or have you got some new intentions, you’re gonna take for a test drive?

Maybe you play it safe and don’t bother at all?
That way you have nothing to lose – right?

I have to admit I’m not very good at making ‘specific‘ new years resolutions. I just like to hope that the new year will be a better one and an improvement on the last one. Not just for me, but for all those special to me, or who touch my life in one way or another. That way when extra great things happen along the way, it’s a bonus.

I think there is enough stress in life, and as Maya Angelou so eloquently said “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Over the years this has become my mantra, or ‘forgiveness prayer‘. It stops me beating myself up, so that I can fully live in the present, dust myself off and go forward. I’ve learned a lot this year about ‘mindfulness’. (For more on mindfulness click here).

In other words we can only build from what we know or experience. So if you’re feeling a little battered and worn by the year that has just gone (and I know a lot of us are), and need a little inspiration to go forward into your new year with your chin up, take heart from Maya’s words. Don’t kick yourself anymore for where you hoped you’d be, or who you thought you’d be because of a promise you made to yourself this time last new year. Instead, look at the glass half full and look at what you have achieved and at how you arrived at today still intact and didn’t let ‘life’ kick your butt. Sure you may be a little worse for wear, but you’re still here, and you’re doing your best with what you have right now! That’s what’s important.

I heard a long time ago (from someone whose name escapes me) to learn that life is like white water rafting. As long as I think of life this way, I can accept the twists and turns better. There will be rough water following smooth. Whirlpools, waterfalls, white water, tranquil water. I may lose something or someone in it’s torrents along the way. Hit debris and river banks or get stuck behind boulders. Sometimes I’ll go under and not know if I’ll swim back up. Maybe I’ll need to grab some drift-wood along the way to help me get through another rough patch, but that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’ve failed, it means I’ve learned how to ask for help, recognise when I’m not coping and know that calmer waters will return eventually as long as I just hang on and breath. It may sound simplistic when in the midst of darkness to hear that sunshine will always follow rain, but this is life. This is nature. We are human, it’s ok. Recognise that life can’t always be about plain sailing, we’d learn nothing about ourselves and we’d have nothing to offer others in need or know how to empathise if we didn’t feel pain ourselves.

At this point I’d personally like to acknowledge my family and friends and some wonderful new acquaintances I’ve met along the way who have helped inspire this post. I’ve had my tough days, and they too have had theirs. Such is the dance of give and take. Together we got through.

Personally, I feel like I’m going through massive changes myself. Funny how you can just feel pages turning in the chapters of your life sometimes. So if I’m going to pledge anything for my new year intentions, it is to replace old habits with new ones. Rattle my cage and reinvent some traditions. Do a lot of things differently. I also want to be more mindful of every moment, good or bad, because I know that experiences are what we grow from. It’s how we deal with those experiences that shape us, and help us cope with similar challenges and opportunities in the future.

If you need a bit more inspiration allow me to share with you a You Tube video that recently crossed my path. It’s about Ben Davis and what inspired his ‘Do Life‘ campaign. Sure, your goal may not be weight loss in the literal sense, but weight = burden, and whether your burden be too much physical stuff cluttering your life; too much emotional baggage; not enough time for enjoying life; not enough cash-flow; grief or loss; inertia; addiction; indecision; discontentment; stress; a fear or whatever, it can feel like you’re dragging a heavy load around with you every day, and yes it can feel like ‘running a marathon’. I love his Forest Gump approach to not only solving his battle with weight, but the way he kept focussed on the big goal, while chopping away at the small ones, while en-route discovering other things about himself along the way. These are ‘the bonuses’ I spoke about earlier.

Happy new year every one!

Buy Nothing Day – will you?

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Buy Nothing Day” usually lands on the last weekend of November each year, but it’s best to check the website for the exact date, as North America usually celebrates a day earlier than the rest of the world. The irony of how it appears on the calendar just less than one month before Christmas, and follows the ‘Black Friday‘ sales (usually the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, for those of us down under that would be the 4th Thursday of November) is not lost on me.

So the question is, (depending on what day it is in your time zone as you read this) “do you choose to follow the trend and resist the temptation to buy? Or not?” (this includes ‘online’ purchases my friends).

I can hear the excuses now –

“I didn’t realise what day it was at the time”
“I’ve been busy all week and that was my only opportunity …”
“Who cares?”
“Oh, was it? oops?”
“Oh well, perhaps I won’t buy anything today then.”
“But I needed an onion!” and “What a load of rubbish!!” (well actually that’s the point).

Well, personally? Last year I knew about it, but forgot about it until mid-way through the day. This year I don’t need to buy anything as I’d purchased my fortnightly big grocery shop earlier in the week, but not because it was ‘Buy Nothing Day‘, but because I’m a creature of habit. Today, I simply have other things to get on with than part with my cash.  Having said that, I’m sure that somewhere in online land a direct debit for something could be coming out of my account for something beyond my control, probably paying for insurance or mobile phone. Does that count?

If you did physically ‘buy’ something on ‘Buy Nothing Day,’ not realising it, or not caring about whether you knew or not, I wonder how you feel about those purchases now that you’re reading this?

Perhaps your items are essential grocery or pharmacy items, or you needed to fuel the car? Of those which do you think will actually be used in the next week? Which food items will be left in the fridge ignored and eventually thrown in the garbage because they went off? Which will remain in the pantry until the expiry date gets discovered? If your purchases were luxury items, has the immediate ‘thrill’ already worn off? I wonder if in time you find the shoes hurt while at that party? Or the dress did’nt win the man? Will the CD only end up having one or two songs on it you actually liked? or will the toy end up tossed in the corner after an hour? Will the new game for the Wii or XBox become too frustrating for words? Will that new kitchen gadget or beauty product not fulfill its promise? If so what will you do with those items? Could they be returned? Do you still have the receipt? and if not, what form of ‘occupy‘ will it take up in your homes’ limited internal real estate space that used to be (until that item’s arrival) ‘unoccupied?’

Therein lies the ‘gift’ of Buy Nothing Day. It is a day to free yourself from the slavery of decision and the parting of cash. It frees you from disappointment, clutter, waste and the impact on both your immediate environment and on landfill. I’m still curious about the bigger picture though.

Can’t help imagining what would happen if everyone on the planet complied and no-one bought a thing on one day of the year, would it be justification for a global public holiday in the retail sector? I doubt it, (ironically now that I think about it, depending on your religion and public holiday system isn’t that already Christmas day?).

There is also the justification that ‘buying’ something also feeds a chain of employment. From harvest or creation, from design to manufacture through to sales.

I think what we really need to do here is routinely ‘think’ before we ‘buy,’ and ‘plan’ before we ‘buy’. Resist the urge to impulse buy, and ‘try’ before purchase where we can. Whether that means really putting on the shoes and doing a few circuits of the shop and being honest with the fit, over the prettiness of the heel, or taking the time to listen to tracks on a CD first, or better still, jumping on iTunes and listening to the demo there. Being honest about how many times we’d actually use the kitchen gadget to prepare the type of meals it helps create, and seeing if we can actually get a trial size of a beauty product to see if it works before committing.

Imagine the money, disappointment, time, energy, space and landfill we’d save!

I find it ironic in a calendar already filled with ribbons of every colour representing days of awareness, that humans now feel the need to create a ‘Buy Nothing Day‘ to make us aware of our own foibles, when in reality we should be applying this ethos to every time we shop.

Here’s a link for Buy Nothing Day if you want to look into it further.

I, for one don’t buy into the ‘special day’ approach. It’s just a way of life, a-la Less Equals More. Feel free to share your thoughts.

Preparing for summer weather extremes

LEM Image 100With reports in the news that fire season is already well and truly upon us in some areas of Australia, it is now, during the final months of spring that we should take the time to get ready for what promises to be a very hot and dry El Nino summer.

In Brisbane in 2011 a lot of people were sure that the floods of 1974 would never happen again, maybe it took 37 years, but it happened again. As a mud army volunteer, I experienced first hand the heartache at witnessing lives who had lost everything. We need to learn lessons from that disaster and act now. So, in the interests of the ‘bigger picture’ I have found some great links on how we can prepare ourselves for extreme weather events. Another life skill that needs to be passed on to our kids.

Each of us can do more ‘now’ to prepare for any future possible events to save ourselves, our properties and our belongings.

  1. This great local (Aussie) resource available via the Gold Coast City Council it is a PDF brochure titled “Disaster Management At Home” it provides a 3 step plan complete with phone numbers and radio station frequency lists (which you could tailor to your own area) and checklists for what to keep in an Emergency Kit; Surviving Severe Storms; Surviving Bushfires and more. Very simple, straight forward and done in easy to read bullet points.
  2. To help prepare your house/home to cope with natural disasters check out the Queensland Government Emergency Website which has heaps of information on how to prepare against flood, cyclone, hail, fire and other natural disasters which are likely to occur in your area tailored to the challenges presented by specific disaster. It gives checklists for routine maintenance and general home preparations. You will also find all manner of resources on this website to help you cope with evacuation strategies; technology and infrastructure failures; business preparedness; and what to do with children; special needs cases and pets. Make sure you also view and download ‘Are You Bushfire Prepared Magazine’ from the Queensland Rural Fire Service packed with essential information.
  3. This last link is via the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) of which I am a member. Every September NAPO is part of a nationwide event (in the USA) called National Preparedness Month. It is an initiative which focusses on quote: ”changing perceptions about emergency preparedness and will help Americans understand what it truly means to be ready for emergencies that may arise at home, at work, or in the world. Preparedness goes beyond fire alarms, smoke detectors, dead-bolt locks, and extra food in the pantry. Being Ready includes: preparing an emergency supply kit, making a family emergency plan, being informed about emergencies and their appropriate responses, and getting involved in community efforts.” unquote. While this is an American initiative, the ‘Build A Kit’ covers all manner of natural disaster preparation, and has publications, forms and checklists available for download including how to keep food and water safe and clean for extended periods of time. The information on this site is also available in many different languages.

Be sure to bookmark these links for future reference, you never know when you may need them. Stay safe this bushfire season and to all those fire fighters and emergency service personnel out there, thank you for all the wonderful work that you do.

Other related articles:

Kick it to the kerb


LEM Image 099Depending on where you are on the Gold Coast (as in what Division), this is the time of the year when the words “kick it to the kerb” takes on a whole new meaning.

A few years ago during a council kerbside collection week in my district on one weekend many of my neighbours, and indeed myself, had a good de-clutter of those big items that are not always easy to be rid of during the rest of the year. As is often the case at these times I find myself watching the whole process with fascination.

The scavenger hunt starts in the very early hours, and the parade slowly increases throughout the morning. People in their utilities and cars with trailers slowly scan each pile. They’re a discerning bunch. Some will pass a few times before returning and committing. While others know exactly what they’re after and even come with the right “lifting equipment”. Some choose to rummage until something takes their fancy, while others who are more nervous about the concept will keep looking over their shoulders to see if the owner of the pile will object to them having an opportunistic moment.

One trailer went past with no less than eight washing machines on the back. Another was obviously after computer related trash while another seemed to have every kind of garden gadget, pot plant stand, and pots of varying size and colour,  yet another was after odd shapes of timber off-cuts and left over renovation materials. Another came complete with industrial strength gloves and wire cutters discerningly assessing electric goods and cables in the hope of stripping copper wire.

While I always manage to find something else to get rid of (and no I didn’t actually have the biggest pile in the street), in my garden shed (when we took it over) had been left an old green plastic outdoor setting and a small rusty gas barbecue. The garden setting took 20 minutes to disappear. The barbecue still remains, although someone took the iron cooking plate. Our microwave (which may I add had impeccable timing and died 2 weeks earlier) disappeared before I had time to add to the pile. One guy who walked past with his dog, allowed his dog to use my pile for what dogs do best, during which time his owner decided my old mop would be useful (and no, I don’t mean he used it for cleaning up what his best friend did to my pile).

What I truly found interesting however, was that we have had some heavy rainfall, and yet all the old computer monitors on the pile across the road from us, all of which had been subjected to the weather, had also gone. What on earth can a wet computer monitor be good for? Perhaps someone out there can solve this mystery for me? Unless of course they’re to be converted into creative fish bowls or mouse cages?

As I continued to watch the parade on and off through the day, I couldn’t help but wonder about the participants. Whether some of them actually go from one district collection to the next, regularly rummaging? The whole thing started to feel like a form of theatre, carnival or game. I kept catching myself peeping out from behind the shed to see what else had gone, and what else I could put on the pile to tempt people with.

I think it is wonderful that someone’s trash can become another person’s treasure and how these people manage to convert something that would probably have ended up in landfill into something of use again. I wondered how many of them were affiliated with charities and were just good Samaritans, and whether others were perhaps artists or sculptors looking for materials to recycle into wonderful pieces of art that the rest of us would later gaze upon in amazement, perhaps even to the extent where one of these articles would be purchased later for a phenomenal sum.

Unfortunately, I am more than sure that some of our participants were probably compulsive hoarders who just can’t resist the temptation. I am also sure that some of them would probably later regret their decision and find themselves needing someone like me to come and de-clutter them months or years from now when again some of these items will end up back in the carnival of the kerbside cleanup.

So tell me? Will you be participating in the carnival of the kerbside cleanup? and if so will  you be putting things on the kerb? or rummaging through? If you do plan to rummage, what sort of things do you look for and what are your plans for them?

For dates on your next kerbside cleanup links for your council are here:

Rebuilding lost memories

LEM Image 098I often talk about honouring the physical things we treasure, by displaying or storing precious items in a way that will keep them in the best condition possible for generations to come. If ever there was a time to be reminded of why, then surely the natural disasters many of us have witnessed via the media over previous years is demonstration enough.

There are many resources on-line to help us prepare for disaster and ways of creating an emergency/disaster box containing essential items needed during times of storm, fire or black-out that can be grabbed in an instant, but what about those non-essential items that can never be replaced? Photos, family videos, baby’s first shoes, grandma’s handmade quilt, jewellery, glassware, antiques and trinkets passed down, trophies won and medals of recognition.

It would be very difficult to take large items at a minutes notice, so what can be done?

I suggest making up another box that can house some of the smaller very precious items, and take photos of the rest. Where possible get all your photos backed up onto CD’s or a portable back-up drive or memory stick and videos and other film formats onto DVDs. The idea here is to reduce physical size and weight. Yes, this is a mammoth task but well worth the effort. Turn the TV off and set yourself aside an hour or so a week and get the family involved. There are businesses that specialise in this type of thing and can do this for you. Make sure you can keep this box in a safe easily accessed area able to be grabbed at a moment’s notice, and that it is water, heat and vermin proof. If you feel the cost is prohibitive then get the extended family to contribute, then everyone can benefit from copies of the work done and there are extra copies in the family should the unforeseen happen.

In the meantime some of us may have friends or relatives who for them this exercise is already lost, but there are ways we can help rebuild some of these memories. Some wonderful ideas came to me once a while back via the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers (AAPO) who I will credit with suggesting the following:

  • Check through your own photo albums, digital albums and videos/DVD recordings, you are likely to have some pictures that include your family or friends.
  • Collect the photos/videos that contain the pictures of your family or friends.
  • Get duplicates made of the photos/videos.
  • Buy a photo album that reflects the people you are gifting this to.
  • Rebuild their photo, digital and video memories by filling the album for them.
  • Alternatively instead of using ‘albums’, upload them to iCloud or similar or put them onto a USB stick or disk.
  • This method can also work for family recipes, school photos and cookbooks, that have also been lost.

If this all seems daunting, there are professional organisers such as myself who can help or advise you.

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