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Author: Ellen TozziClutter Education General Hoarding Organizing Safety Seasonal Tips

EEEK! A MOUSE!

As autumn approaches, mice look for warm homes with food and water in which to hunker down for the winter. Don’t let one of those homes be yours! At a recent NAPO-GPC* meeting, pest expert Dr. Dion Lerman shared tips on how to prevent, eliminate and clean up after those little rodents.  Here are answers to questions you might not have known you had:

Are mice a health concern?

  • Mice are a health concern because they contribute to allergies and asthma
  • 83% of all homes contain mice allergens; 95% of low-income homes
  • The allergens are found in their urine

How do the rascals get in?

  • Under doors if there is a gap that is ¼” high (if a pencil can fit under a door, a mouse can fit)
  • Through holes in the exterior of the house (if a hole is the size of a dime, a mouse can fit)
  • Inside in corners, floors, closets, basements, openings around pipes, etc.

Where in the house do the critters live?

  • Mice generally nest 30 to 50 feet from food and water
  • They can live in wall voids, cabinets, under sinks, attics, basements, sheds … you name it
  • You can detect them by their droppings (or by the behavior of your pets)

How can one prevent them from coming in?

  • Install door sweeps on doors with gaps
  • Stuff openings with steel wool or copper pot-scrubbers as tightly as possible and seal with silicone caulk
  • Eliminate accessible food and water
  • Keep the home clean and decluttered
  • Use plastic bins with snap lids for storage (bins containerize items and makes clean up easier, should they enter)

What’s the best way to get rid of mice?

  • Use snap traps with peanut butter as bate
  • If successful, wear rubber/nitrile gloves, put dead mouse in resealable bag, then in plastic grocery bag and put in trash.  Disinfect surrounding area and trap if you want to reuse it.
  • Do NOT use poison in the house!  Avoid sticky pads.

What’s the best way to safely clean up after the critters?

  • Wear rubber/nitrile gloves, mist mouse droppings and urine with a 1:10 solution of water and bleach; let soak for five minutes
  • Wipe up with paper towels and dispose of them
  • Wipe again with a disinfectant or bleach solution

As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Author: Ellen TozziClutter Donating Organizing Uncategorized

Let It Go! Let It Go! Let It Go!

When I help clients decide what items to cull, I often sing a ditty to the tune of ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Oh, the house is getting cluttered
And it makes me want to shudder
And since it’s on overflow
I’ll let it go, let it go, let it go.

Doesn’t sound professional? Well, it helps clients to have fun when making tough decisions about letting go of items that trigger memories. As professional organizers, we help our clients reframe the way they look at their items so they can become clear on what they want to keep and what they want to let go.

Marie Kondo’s books and Tidying Up Netflix series have inspired people to declutter and organize their homes. One of KonMari’s catch phrases is ‘DOES IT SPARK JOY?’ I like that concept because it implies joy ignites energy. Of course, we need to keep items that don’t necessarily spark joy (can you say ‘income tax returns?) so let’s examine some other questions to ask yourself:

DO I USE IT? – DO I LOVE IT? – DO I NEED IT? (those darn taxes again)

Sometimes even these questions aren’t enough to make clear, confident decisions. We may need to delve deeper to examine the ”keep vs. don’t keep” tug of war going on inside us. Here are some other reframing questions to ask yourself:

  • If I didn’t already own it would I buy it?
  • If I moved into a studio apartment, is it a treasure I’d take?
  • Is it the memories that spark joy rather than the item itself? If so, photograph it and then let it go.

For clothing:

  • Does it enhance my figure or the image I’m going for?
  • Do I feel good in it?
  • If I lose weight, will I want to wear a 15 year-old item?

For books: Ask not if you like the book but ….

  • Will I read it or refer to it again?
  • If I want to reread will I download it and read it digitally?
  • Do I have the space for this many books?

For information:

  • If I wanted this information would I Google it or look in my file drawer/pile?
  • Will I remember I saved the information?
  • Will the info expire by the time I reference it again?

If when you’re culling items and feel stuck, feel free to sing my take on ‘Let It Go’ or make up your own words to Frozen’s version. Keep the process fun as you strengthen your decision-making and letting-go muscles!

Author: Ellen TozziGeneral Organizing Wardrobe Management

SHOES – The Who, Why, What, When, Where, and How of Letting Go

There are a lot of us who LOVE shoes. Why is that? Some shoes make us feel sexy or pretty while others feel like comfy slippers. They enhance our outfits and keep our feet safe. But when is “enough” more than enough?

Professional tips for organizing your shoes.

WHO owns the most shoes? Statistics say the average man owns 11 pairs of shoes and the average woman 27 pairs. In my profession (and closet) I see more than that but 27 or under is a good goal to work toward.

WHY let go of shoes? To free your closet of congestion so you can see what you own and start to wear those previously hidden treasures. To make getting dressed less stressful. To save money because you won’t re-buy what you already own but can’t locate.

WHAT to let go of: The rule of thumb is to let go of shoes you haven’t worn in a year. The hardest to let go of are the attractive ones you love the looks of but that hurt. Or how about the ones you spent a lot of money on? There is no point in keeping shoes you won’t wear, even if letting go pulls at your heartstrings. Consider taking a photo of them but say good-bye. Let go of those old favorites that are too worn out to wear. Ask yourself: If I didn’t already own them would I buy them?

WHEN to purge: Get in the habit of reviewing your shoes (and clothes) twice a year when you’re switching out the seasons.

WHERE to dispose of unwanted shoes:

  1. Donate – In addition to Goodwill, Salvation Army and your favorite charities there is an organization that specializes in shoe donations. Soles4Souls is a non-profit that has supplied over 30 million pairs to people who need them most in 127 countries. To donate to S4S you can drop off your gently-used shoes at a DSW store (and receive 50 VIP points) or ship for free to Zappos. Consider donating to organizations that provide prom or wedding dresses and accessories to people in need.
  2. Consign – Why not recoup some of your investment by consigning your barely-worn designer shoes to a local clothing consignment store? My favorite store is Greene Street Consignment, with locations in PA and NJ, but there are many others to consider.
  3. Recycle – Athletic shoes are recycled into athletic flooring by Nike Grind. You can drop your used sneakers at most Nike stores.

HOW to store: You’ll want to store similar types of shoes together (winter/summer and/or dressy/work/casual). You’ll want your shoes to be as visible as possible with what you wear most often to be most easy to access.

♪♫ Your shoes were made for walkin’ and that’s just what they’ll do♩♪

either by you or those in need!

Author: Ellen TozziOrganizing Paper Seasonal

How Does Your Garden Grow? How Does Your Paper Flow?

Do you love to see things grow and blossom? Your kids? Your puppy? Your Christmas amaryllis? Your spring flowers? Your summer veggies? Your piles of paper? Say what? What was that last one – paper? No!

If you’re like many of the people I work with, paper is not your thing. You didn’t ask for so much mail, you don’t know what to keep vs. what to discard and you don’t enjoy processing it. I’m going to help you reframe the way you look at paper by comparing paper management to gardening. Stay with me here! It might be more motivational than you think.

So, what are some of the components of both gardening and paper management?

PLANNING
 When planning a flower garden, consider color schemes, the timing of the blooms, the height of the plants, etc.
 Create a plan for where to place paper, i.e. unopened mail, papers to be acted on, papers to be filed, papers going out of the house, etc.

PREVENTION
 Perhaps you use Round Up to prevent weeds (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure).
 To prevent unwanted and junk mail, sign up using an online service, such as dmachoice.org (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of MAIL).

MAINTENANCE
 When gardening, you periodically fertilize, weed, dead-head the flowers, and of course cut the flowers for indoor appreciation.
 Establish daily, weekly and monthly routines to open the mail, address action items, pay bills, file, read, etc.

STORAGE
 You’ve dedicated a place where you store your pots, tools, soil, etc. for easy access.
 Use file cabinets or file boxes to store reference papers and keep papers you need to act upon on your desk.

END OF SEASON CLEAN UP
 Gardens get ‘put to bed’ in the autumn by cutting back plants, etc.
 Purge your files annually. The best time is when you’re gathering papers for income tax. Shred paid invoices you don’t need for taxes and make room for a new year.

I wish you much success in your garden and office. KEEP UP in order to thrive and blossom!

Author: Ellen TozziGeneral Home Organizing

PRE-cycling, RE-cycling and UP-cycling

Recycle TreeBy now you’re familiar with Re-cycling, but have you heard of Pre-cycling? What about Up-cycling? What follows are descriptions of these “cycling” processes. Applying them to your routines will reduce the amount of packaging and other items that end up in landfills.

PRE-CYCLING

Pre-cycling is basically preventing recycling. It’s the practice of avoiding and reducing consumer waste by buying unpackaged, reusable or recyclable products.

  Examples:

  1. Unpackaged items: buy in bulk quantities (proven winners only).
  2. Reusable items: grocery bags, water bottles, batteries, cloth napkins, “real” plates, cups, cutlery, etc.
  3. Recyclable packaging: buy items with as little packaging as possible in #1 and #2 plastics, cardboard, aluminum, steel and glass.

RE-CYCLING

It’s great to recycle through your municipality but you (hopefully!) may want to go farther.

  Examples:

  1. Plastic bags: bring to bins at the entrance to grocery stores (not your recycling bin).
  2. Fabric: bring to Goodwill (keep separate from non-damaged clothing and label the bag).
  3. Electronics and accessories: bring any and all to Goodwill.
  4. Plastic packing peanuts: bring to UPS and other shipping stores.
  5. CFL (corkscrew) lightbulbs: bring to Home Depot and Lowe’s (bulbs contain mercury).
  6. #5 Plastics: bring to Whole Foods Markets (not recycled by most municipalities).

UPCYCLING

Up-cycling is the creative reuse of materials to produce a higher quality item.

  Examples:

  1. Memory quilts made from t-shirts, ties, etc.
  2. Purses made from soda tabs.
  3. Mittens made from sweaters.
  4. Clocks made from vinyl record albums.
  5. Rag rugs made from … you guessed it … rags.
  6. Sock monkeys … I’ll say no more.

Check out Pinterest for tons of other up-cycling ideas. Please post some of your up-cycled projects as we’d love to see them.

I hope I’ve expanded your awareness of options available to prevent unnecessary trash and recycling. Why not be creative and up-cycle some holiday gifts?

Work toward keeping your ecological footprint as small as possible!

 

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Author: Ellen TozziClutter General Home Organizing

Backsliding Happens—How to Get Back on Track

timer-with-handCan you relate to this scenario? You’d been really good about keeping up with clutter and then came the holidays. Things got scooped up and hidden in closets instead of being put in their proper places. Since the New Year you haven’t even tried to tidy — you’ve been leaving items here, there and everywhere.

BACKSLIDING is a common occurrence and can be rectified relatively easily.  Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself and remember this is a temporary phase. We all slip back into less desirable habits at times but that doesn’t mean we will stay in that place. Think about how great you felt when you were keeping up; focus on those good feelings and the results.
  1. Play Beat the Clock. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can clean up before time is up. Make this part of your daily routine — in the morning or evening. On the weekend or when you have extra time, you can play for the 15 minutes and then decide if you want to continue decluttering or stop. You’ll be surprised by how often you want to go on!
  1. Beat the bushes. Again, on the weekend or when you have extra time, take those bags and boxes of jumbled, hidden clutter out of the closet, one at a time. Put items back in their assigned homes. Open old mail and recycle, shred, file or act on it, according to what’s appropriate.
  1. Can’t beat this reminder. IT’S EASIER TO KEEP UP THAN TO CATCH UP! Keeping this saying in mind, process your mail — daily at a minimum or weekly at a maximum. Be consistent playing Beat the Clock to keep clutter at bay.

By following these guidelines, I guarantee the next time you have company or want to clean up, you’ll quickly be able to deal with the minimal clutter. By putting items in their assigned homes, you will save time and eliminate angst.

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