Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stockpiling pros and cons

Tuesday I wrote about planning ahead and freezing meals in anticipation of my baby's arrival. In addition, I've tried to stock up on essential items, so that if my husband or I can't get to the store, we won't be in danger of running out of basics like soap, toothpaste, beans and oatmeal. But getting stocked up is harder than it sounds. For one thing, I tend to be an under-buyer, or at least ride the line between under-buyer and enough-buyer. (For more on under-buyers and over-buyers, check out The Happiness Project's post on this).

I hate buying something just in case I might need it later, but because I don't know exactly what I'll need once the baby arrives, and I won't want to be in a position where I have to go out to get something urgently, I'm trying to let go of my worry that I won't use the thing. For instance, medicine is one thing I hate buying without knowing if I'll need it, because it will expire, but it's also something you want to immediately available if you need it!

The pros of stockpiling are definitely the niceness of having what you need when you need it, as well as a feeling of preparedness. And for items I know will get used, such as chicken broth and toilet paper, I'm happy to have as much on hand as I have room for.

In my house, you can't have too much peanut butter on hand!
The cons are finding room for the extra amounts of things, keeping the items organized enough that you can find what you need, and actually using up the items before they go bad. That's why I generally don't recommend to clients that they shop at warehouse-style stores. They usually don't have enough space to comfortably fit all the paper products and toiletries they want to buy. The savings in money isn't worth dealing with the clutter of too much on a day-to-day basis.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Post-natal meal planning

My first baby is due in just a few weeks, and one thing I've heard over and over from people who've done this before is to make sure to have plenty of meals and food on hand, and to get people to bring you food whenever they come visit. Since eating has always been one of my top priorities, and I know that energy and time for cooking will be in short supply once the baby is here, I've made a point to make up several batches of nutritious and hearty meals and have completely filled my freezer to the brim with them. I've also stocked up on staples, which I'll be posting about in a couple of days.

I have a small freezer, and I've had to make some choices about what to keep in there. I pared down my ice pack collection, and have been using up the ends of bags of lima beans and blueberries, which is good to do once in a while anyway.

Then I made beef stew, minestrone soup and whole wheat spinach lasagne (and put them in labeled, meal-portion containers). Which just about taps me out space-wise. But that's still at least 9 solid meals worth, and it gives me a little peace of mind knowing that my family and I won't be entirely dependent on the kindness of visitors or the prepared foods section of Whole Foods!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March reading list

I just finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, in case I get a chance to go see the movie. I usually prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, and it seems like one of those movies everyone is going to see. Plus, I'm trying to go to the movies as much as I can before I give birth, after which, all bets seem to be off.

Because of that impending newborn, I'm also reading Caring for Infants with Respect by Magda Gerber, and finding its simple approach to interacting with babies very appealing. We'll see how it works in practice soon!

Also on the reading list, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, which is the NAPO-LA book club pick for April, and one of those business books I've been meaning to read forever. This month I read Moneyball for my other book club, and though it's not exactly a book about business, it has some pretty amazing insights about looking at data and the reality of situations versus seeing what you want to see when it comes to people's performance. I thought Moneyball was fascinating and highly entertaining, and really recommend it, unless you couldn't care less about baseball, in which case it might not be for you.

What are you reading today?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What's an Advance Health Care Directive?

**This post was originally published in my monthly e-newsletter, Lelah's News. Don't subscribe? Sign up here!

My Grandpa Jack.
Last fall my grandfather passed away. He was 86 and had been in fairly good health before a stroke occurred from which he was unable to recover. He had suffered from Alzheimer's in the last years of his life, and I was able to visit with him often since I moving back to California six years ago. I miss him dearly.

Though his final years weren’t always easy for him with his memory loss, his quality of life was good. My family members and I were able to provide him with a level of care that kept him in his home until the end, and we knew when the time came what his wishes regarding his end-of-life transition were. We knew these even though he couldn’t communicate with us because he had them set down in writing via an Advance Health Care Directive. The eleven-page document set down his wishes regarding everything from who had his power of attorney for health care and the use of artificial life-sustaining procedures, to his desire to live independently for as long as possible at home and his views on organ donation.

I can’t stress enough how vital it was that my family and I had this document, in addition to the rest of his estate planning documents (trust, power of attorney, etc.) at the ready when we needed it. It was a tremendous gift not to have to guess what my grandfather wanted in the last weeks of his life, and to be able to provide for him a dignified and pain-free transition. The amazing hospice we worked with had a large part to do with that, but it was having the legal power and the knowledge in writing that we were doing what my grandfather wanted that made that very difficult time easier.

It can be stressful to think about end-of-life decisions, no matter what stage of life you are in. But the benefits to yourself and your family members far outweigh the discomfort of answering the questions about what your wishes are or the cost of getting them set down in writing.

If you don’t have your estate documents prepared and current, please don’t wait. Make it happen. You will be glad you did.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The stickiness of books

Of all the items I've helped clients sort through and evaluate during my years as a professional organizer, it never fails to amaze me how books above pretty much all else are considered off limits for purging. People who otherwise have no qualms about donating all manner of other things, even about ditching sentimental items, have a thing about books.

On the one hand, I understand, because I have plenty of books in my apartment that I'm probably not going to read again, that still have value for me. But I'm able to be fairly rational about them and don't have qualms about taking those that really aren't useful or loved right down to the used bookstore or Goodwill.

I think books hold a lot of power for people because they seem them as containing knowledge, and if you own the book, than somehow you own the knowledge inside, too. Books can be very aspirational for people. I know I've been hanging on to a copy of Henry James's The Americans for a few years, thinking I'm going to read it, but it usually gets pushed down the reading list by the latest Eloisa James historical romance.

If you have enough bookshelf space for your books, then I'm not suggesting you have a book problem. But many people store books in boxes in garages, attics and basements. This is a recipe for ruined books.

It can be kind of fun to quickly scan your shelves and pull out those books you really didn't like when you read them, or that you have two of, or reference books that are completely outdated. Gather them up, put them in your car and drop them off at your nearest donation site. You'll be just as smart as you were before, I promise!

How do you feel about letting books go?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Goodwill Southern California

Last week, I went to the main campus of Goodwill Southern California with my NAPO Neighborhood Group. We spent an hour and a half touring the facility and learning about all the services that Goodwill offers. Goodwill's mission is Transforms Lives through the Power of Work, and that mission was clear through every aspect of their organization. As a professional organizer, it's always important to be able to communicate to clients exactly where their donated items will end up once they part with them and donate them to a charitable organization. Now I have a very clear picture of where items donated to any Goodwill Southern California location will go, and I feel extremely confident in recommending that my clients support this organization with their donations.

Our Goodwill tour group.
Some of things I learned on the tour:
  • All e-waste that gets donated gets processed in an extremely secure part of the facility. Working electronics will get refurbished and sold, while everything else gets broken down into recyclable parts, hazardous waste, and recoverable materials that will get sold. They completely destroy any information left on a hard drive before selling it or stripping it.
  • All shredding that gets brought to this particular facility is processed in a secure way that exceeds FBI standards. We got to see the floor where they shred (from behind a glass wall!) and watched the process at work. Fascinating.
  • The people who work at the facility we toured are part of Goodwill's mission to train and find jobs for people with disabilities and disadvantages. They get job training and will eventually move on to jobs outside of Goodwill, or may stay on at Goodwill in a variety of capacities. 
  • Over 90% of the profit realized by Goodwill from selling donated items either through their retail stores or by selling items in bulk goes into their education, job training and placement programs.
  • Their long term goal is to have 0% of what gets donated to Goodwill end up in a landfill. For now, they keep millions of pounds out of landfills every year. Each item goes through many stages and has many opportunities to be resold, reused, or recycled before it gets taken to a landfill. 
  • When you donate items in good condition, you are helping keep things out of landfills as well as supporting the service projects of the organization. They especially love to receive e-waste, books and clothes, shoes, etc. that are in good condition. Don't donate your trash, please, as that ends up by costing them money to process and dispose of.
I learned much more, so don't hesitate to ask if you have any burning questions about Goodwill!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring forward

Today is the time change! Change your clocks by moving them ahead one hour. We lose an hour, but gain quite a bit of sunlight at the end of the day, which always makes it feel like summer is just around the corner.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Apple apps

Apple's App Store recently announced it had its 25 billionth app download.  According to Apple, there are over 500,000 apps in the App Store. Besides the obvious apps that help iPhone and iPad users use frequently accessed sites like Facebook, Netflix and Pandora, how does one figure out which of those 500,000 apps are going to be useful and worth the time to learn them or the money to download them?

No person can be an total app expert, so I try to get recommendations from trusted associates when I'm looking for an app to meet a specific need. When that fails, I do a search for recommendations, and can usually narrow down the field by looking at a couple of review posts on reputable blogs like CNET or Lifehacker.

Evernote's app. that vein, here are a few apps that I can recommend from personal experience using them on my iPad:
  • Evernote: This is probably an obvious choice, but the iPad interface works great, and I use it every day for all my lists.
  • Yelp: I like this app because it uses your location to give you reviews and information for businesses of all types that are in the area where you are, and it even tells you if they are currently open or closed.
  • TurboScan: A simple, inexpensive scanning app that actually works. Don't expect the scan quality to be as high as if you were using your ScanSnap, but it's good for scanning on the fly.
  • LA Times: The Los Angeles Times has just started a membership program where they are charging for online access to the paper. However, for the time being, mobile devices will still be able to access the site for free. So, if you don't want to pay for a membership, grab the app and read it on your iPad. The usability is great, too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Workspace inspiration

I love the blog Unclutterer, and they have a weekly feature called Workspace of the Week that highlights unique or exceptionally well-organized workspaces, usually home offices. I love looking at how real people have organized their workspaces, as opposed to the ultra-perfect spaces you tend to see in magazines. If you are looking for some inspiration for your own workspace, I encourage you to check out their archives.

Screenshot from