No Warning Readiness: Know What You Have and Need in an Emergency

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Disasters and emergency situations can happen anytime and anywhere. When disaster strikes, you may not have much time to respond, so it is important that you and your family are prepared. A hurricane, winter storm, earthquake, flood, tornado or any other disaster could cut off utility services for days and lead to evacuations or confine your family to your home for days. It is extremely important to know and put in place, the ABC’s of Preparation and by taking the time to acquire or develop a family emergency plan, build a family emergency supply kit and create a grab and go box, you can help to keep your family safe and make a bad situation a little more tolerable.

1. Always have a Family Disaster Plan in Place
Come up with a Family Disaster Plan and have people and numbers to contact in place. It will help to have secondary locations to meet and review with other family members. Make a list of animal shelters or veterinary hospitals in other cities where a pet may need to be temporarily sheltered in the case of an evacuation. Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate pets if you are unable to do so. DHEC provides a list of Shelters - If you must go to a shelter, take bedding, water, and food. You can call DHEC at (803) 898-DHEC (3432) or visit www.scdhec.gov or visit South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division at www.scemd.org for many emergency planning guidelines. If you have children or pets, you can place stickers on doors or windows to alert rescue workers during a fire or other emergency and you can include information on the number of children or pets and types of animals.

2. Build a Family Emergency Supply Kit
Prepare a family emergency kit by creating a checklist of items that you feel would be necessary for your own personal comfort and safety. Gather the supplies and store them in one or two watertight easy to store containers. Place the supplies you would most likely need for an evacuation in an easy to carry container. It will be important to store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members. Keep a smaller version of the kit in the trunk of your car during high risk seasons (ie. Hurricane season, etc.). Keep items in air tight plastic bags and be sure to rotate food and water items every six months so it stays fresh. Re-evaluate your kit and family needs every year.
For more information on preparing your own personal kit and detailed lists of these items you can send an email request to Jennifer@str8nup.org to get help building your family emergency supply kit.

3. Create a Grab and Go Box
Your Grab-and-Go Box should be small enough and lightweight so you can grab it and run with it. Your mobile emergency kit will contain copies and not originals of some vital personal and financial information. The list of information is so extensive because it is meant to help your family rebuild if your house gets destroyed or you don’t have access to it for a long period of time. You will want to add any items to this list that are essential to keeping your family finances on track.
When constructing your box, you’ll want to place papers in sealed, waterproof plastic bags. Use a durable, sealed waterproof box or backpack. Store box/backpack in a secure, easily accessible safe location of your home and tell everyone in the household plus a trusted neighbor or friend where it is. That way if you must leave quickly, you can grab it easily and go.
Checklists should consist of contacts, ID’s, emergency resources, medical information, financial information, household information, insurance/recovery information, legal information, an inventory of your stuff, and digital copies of documents backed up on a flash drive. Also, if you have a trusted out of state family member or friend that you can send a copy of your records to for backup in case of power outages or complete destruction, you will be able to retrieve the information needed quickly without hours, days, weeks and months of tracking down again.
Planning and preparation can prevent the unexpected from becoming a harsh reality. Taking the time prior to the emergency to prepare and organize important papers and documents will save you from unwanted stress and chaos in the case of a disaster.
For more information on creating your box and the specifics of information needed, you can send an email request to Jennifer@str8nup.org to get help building your grab and go box.
With these guidelines for the ABC’s of emergency planning in place, you will have the security of knowing you are prepared for disasters at a moments notice, your life can resume with some normalcy in times of displacement and your family is protected from the extra stress these factors can create in times of crisis.

Planning Your Move So You Can Move as Planned

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Moving is brutal. It just is. But it’s a fact of life, so you do your best to power through it. As a professional organizer, I offer unpacking services for new move-ins. I have seen many situations where the lack of packing correctly has resulted in more work and more chaos for the new homeowners. So hopefully I can offer a few simple words of advice for those about to embark in the moving process.

1. Start packing early. And I mean early. It’s just too much to do all at once, and if you attack it, room-by-room, box-by-box, gradually you will get there… It is difficult to wait until days before the packers come, which brings me to my next point…

2. If you can afford to, let the movers do the packing!Seriously! In a family home, there is so much going on, errands, meals, and trips to the park, stomach bugs, traveling husbands. You just can’t do it all, and if you’re the mommy, many times most of the job of coordinating your move is on your shoulders. And if that’s the case, it’s OK to ask for help, even if you have to pay for it…

3. Ziploc bags are your friend. Your really, really good friend. And they come in all shapes and sizes now, including those giant ones that are great for packing up comforters and towels and just about anything else you can think of. You want to avoid situations where several boxes that arrive in your new home could end up with wet and sticky spots on them. You can count on bottles of shampoos or lotions or perfumes to leak all over everything. Toiletries, cooking ingredients (spices, oils, etc.), small screws for the wall mount of your TV should all go in Ziploc bags. The last thing you want when you are unpacking is to be frustrated looking for those little screws that put the TV on the wall…

4. Pack an essentials box. When you are packing your kitchen, whether you are doing the packing or the movers are, make certain that there is one box that has all of your essentials in it. You know, the things you need to get your kids fed in the morning, open up the can of dog food, drink a glass of water with? And label it clearly as such. It can also help you to avoid many, many meals of take-out over the course of that weekend. Not so smart when you’ve just paid the movers thousands and thousands of dollars to deliver to you, your own stuff…

5. Take it slow! You don’t have to unpack everything in one day. Although it might be possible, it’s not recommended. It leads to a lot of stress and makes organizing your new home an overwhelming chore on your To Do list. If you have been in your new home for a while after the move and there are still a handful of boxes that are yet to be unpacked and you haven’t needed the contents, perhaps you don’t need them at all!

6. Purge before packing! Which brings me to my final recommendation; moving is a great time to purge. Get rid of the junk that’s been accumulating for years. Donate old clothes, old dishes, throw away broken lamps and call the mobile shredder to dispose of all your old papers that you’ve been holding onto for longer than you need to. It’s also better to purge before the move to reduce the amount of boxes packed and cost for moving them. It’s such a liberating feeling… starting fresh… a new beginning… embrace it.

Oh, and when that very last box is finally unpacked…. Break out a bottle of champagne to celebrate!

The Art of Using "Target Zoning"

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Most of us organizing and productivity consultants have heard of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule by now and maybe even use it with our clients to make them understand how so much of what we have, we don’t use. What was once created by an economist, Vilfredo Pareto, as a mathematical formula in 1906 to describe unequal distribution of wealth in Italy, has actually become a universal principle and an effective tool for management. The 80/20 Rule means that in anything, a few (20 percent) are vital, and many (80 percent) are trivial.

We can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything and as organizers we can use this as a tool with many of our clients for things like how you manage your time in the day to how many books or movies you keep on the shelf to the number of clothes or shoes you keep in your closet. I have added my own twist to this rule by implementing a target as a visual aid to help my clients understand how to think in terms of prioritizing their needs when organizing their spaces. Many of my clients are visual processors and some have said this actually gives them a better understanding of how to think in these terms. This visual aid can be used in just about any area.

For example, when I am in the office working at my desk, my target center is sitting in my chair at the computer. I am in the center of the bulls-eye. The bulls-eye represents the 20% of the things I need to use daily 80% of the time. For example, my computer, pens, paper, planner, printer, stapler, calculator, file drawer, etc. are all things I use everyday. If I am sitting in my chair, my target 20% should be within an arms reach of me in any direction and accessible without moving. Things like bookshelves that hold my reference books and things I occasionally refer to would not be right by my side. Each ring of the target past the bulls eye represents items that are used with less frequency until the outer ring is reached. Many times, these items are unnecessary items, seasonal items, or very rarely used items. Those items in many cases are determined if needed and usually stored appropriately and out of sight.

When working in rooms that serve multiple functions or have several zones created, you will want to break down the activities used in each area and create several targets. For example, when creating your kitchen centers; (food prep, food storage, cooking, cleaning, serving), you can use the same guidelines. Set your target center in each zone and build around it. We can apply this to our closets, in our garages, in children’s playrooms and even when scheduling our days. If we apply the 80/20 Rule in the sense that only 20% of the things you do during your day really matter, then make sure that the things that are priority and requiring productivity are not what suffers, if your schedule has to shift or be altered.

The 5 P's for Having an Effective Garage Sale

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It’s that time of year again, spring is sprung and the cleaning out has begun. Households across the nation are taking advantage of the warmer weather and opening their driveways to the influx of bargain shoppers looking for that perfect find that you once thought yourself was an item you couldn’t live without. You’ve seen all the shows on tv about organization and hoarding and think to yourself, wouldn’t it be great to clear out my excess and make some money? But where to start…. Following the 5P’s for basic guidelines to having a successful garage sale will help you to get started. Garage sales not only help you to eliminate your excess clutter but will help you to recoup some of the cost from those purchased items while also helping the community by reducing, reusing, recycling or re-purposing.

Planning Many people like to plan ahead for yearly garage sales. Many times household purging can even lead to bi-annual sales. Take the spring and summer to collect, price and box items to sell in the early fall. Take the fall and winter to collect and plan for a sale in the spring.

Promoting Let the public know about your sale well in advance. If your sale is on Saturday be sure to start posting it as early as Wednesday. Post your garage sale through advertisements in the newspaper, post on bulletin boards, and use online sites such as craigslist, Facebook, twitter and other forms of media. Promote your specific big attraction items to draw in the crowds. If you’re advertising your garage sale from 7am to 1pm, be ready for the early birds at 6:30am. The early birds are the professional garage sale shoppers that are ready to spend their money and know what they want so don’t be aggravated by them. Make sure your signage is effective with a large, easy to read address, date and time. Be sure to post enough signs at corners where there are turns to be sure to direct the traffic directly to your house.

Preparation Set up your items with an easy flow, display like items together along with like categories (ie. baby stuff, toys, books, clothes, shoes, electronics, etc.). Scatter your merchandise so items will be easy to look through and not piled on top of each other. If you’re having a large sale, it will save you time pricing if you can group items together in sections (ie. Everything on this table $1, Anything in this box $2, or all paperback books $.50, etc.). Collaborative garage sales work well if you don't have many items to sell. Consider asking a neighbor or friend to participate in your sale. The more items you have to offer, the more likely buyers will be to stop at your sale and look around. Be prepared with plenty of small bills and change for opening the sale. Also be prepared to answer any questions the buyer might have about their potential purchases. For instance, know how old major appliances are and be sure not to sell items that no longer meet safety requirements such as cribs, car seats, etc.

Pricing Determine what your goal is for your garage sale. Ask yourself if you are trying to simply get rid of your stuff or are you trying to sell things to make money. If you are simply wanting to purge, then you want to make sure to price your items low to ensure that you will get rid of them. If the items are in good condition, pricing them at approximately 10% of the items original price is reasonable. If you are looking to make a little more for your expensive items that are in excellent condition, pricing in the 20-30% of the original price range is usually attainable. For pricing guidelines, visit thrift stores, not eBay and you can also check out the salvation army donation valuation guidelines. Garage sales are well known for people using their bartering skills. Be sure to have firm bottom line prices in mind for what your minimum selling price will be. Be ready to cut prices a few hours before the sale ends if your goal is to get rid of it all. Don't be discouraged if a buyer asks you to sell something for half of your asking price, just start the negotiation. Offer to take the interested parties name and number and let them know you might meet their price if the item doesn’t sell at the end of the day.

Packing Up Donate leftovers. Several Charities such as Habitat For Humanity and the Kidney Foundation will make scheduled pick ups if you have items in good condition leftover. Consider donating remaining items to Goodwill Industries or a local community outreach program. Make sure to get a receipt for your donations because they can be a tax write-off. Once everything is removed or donated, sit back, enjoy the extra cash and the increased space you have made in your home.