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Author: Danielle OBrienhealthy living Medical Organizing

Stuck In Bed

Organizing & Self Care

As I lay in bed for a week from an illness this summer, I took the time to write this article for the NAPO-GPC blog. Even getting ill didn’t stop me from getting things done. I knew the deadline was quickly approaching so I decided to write about getting ill! Here are a few tips for how to organize yourself or help out a friend when stuck in bed.

  1. I used a large circular cake pan for my essentials. It was smaller than a kitchen serving tray and deeper. My serving trays tend to be too large for sitting on my bed and they are shallow. My cake pan is smaller than a tray, round and about three inches deep. I placed my medicines, vitamins & minerals in the pan along with a drink. Adding a pen & paper allowed me to jot down when & what medicines I was about to take, along with the time I took them, on a chart.
  2. My medicine chart’s first column was the date and time. Each time I took out a pill I would check off the column and place the pill in a ramekin. This way I was certain that I didn’t forget and miss taking a medication that I needed. The chart showed me what I was taking and when I took it. This is a great way to stay on track with your pain medicines, for which timing is everything. Once I recorded all my medicines and placed them in a ramekin, I took them all at the same time. You would be surprised how easily confused you can get when you are sick and you can’t think straight.
  3. Luckily before getting sick, I had cut up a large watermelon and a tomato salad and cucumber salad were already in the refrigerator. When the pain pills kicked in I was able to walk to the kitchen and just scoop some food into a bowl. When my sister got sick I did the same for her. Some needed to be microwaved and some could be eaten cold. You don’t realize, until you get sick, how physically draining it is to get something to eat.
  4. Before going to work each morning, my husband placed drinks all over Organized Self-Carethe house for me so I could stay hydrated. Chamomile tea in the den. Peppermint tea in the kitchen,  drinks in my bedroom and water in my bathroom. I do not mind room temperature drinks but if you need yours cold/hot there are some wonderful thermal drinking vessels out there.
  5. I had a few friends who wanted to come and help me but I was too embarrassed to let them, plus I really didn’t know what I needed. Looking back I should have welcomed them. They could have refilled my drinks for me and made sure I was eating properly. I’m sure they would not have minded helping me straighten up my bedroom either. Of course the company would have been nice too.
  6. I also have a phone charger on every floor so wherever I wobbled to, I could plug my phone in and keep it near me.  I didn’t worry about my phone dying and, when I started to feel better, I was able to get on it and stay current with the news.

My other advice would be, don’t get sick in the summer! What a bummer! I totally missed a huge rain storm. While everyone else was panicking, I was sound asleep. I missed some beautiful sunny days and God knows what was going on in my garden. I hope you stay well, but if you do feel terrible try these tips to help you stay on track.

Author: Janet BernsteinClutter Document Management Filing General Home Office Medical Move Management Organizing Paper Productivity Project Management Receipts Shopping Tax Prep

How Evernote Changed My Life (And How It Can Change Yours)

My Evernote conversion occurred about five years ago. Stuffed in the back of my junk drawer (yes, I also have one) for several years, lay a handwritten recipe for the best maple balsamic salad dressing obtained from a restaurant in Vermont. Frustrated with my lack of organization for something so valuable, I downloaded Evernote and my life was forever changed.

I created a notebook in the Evernote app and titled it “Recipes,” took a photo of the recipe within the Evernote app et voila! Wherever I am, on my phone, tablet or laptop I have a screenshot of the recipe. I quickly saw how transformational this would be in both my personal and professional life. When a friend recommends a great restaurant, it goes into the notebook I created titled “Recommended Restaurants”. I also do this for movies, books, wine, travel destinations, decorating ideas. All those great details we scribble on the back of napkins never to find again.

If I’m surfing the web, I can use Evernote webclipper to clip an article or page and put it into the notebook of my choice. I can also dictate notes into Evernote and draw using the Skitch app.

I also have a notebook for each of my kids. I have a screenshot of their health insurance cards, health records, photos of their artwork from Kindergarten so I could get rid of those large poster-size monstrosities, er, I mean works of art. The list goes on.

For my business, I’m able to share notebooks with my team and with our clients. We often take notes during an organizing session and share these with our clients. Evernote also eliminates the need to email documents back and forth. Instead, the whole team can collaborate and has access whether they are working remotely or in the office to notes, documents, photos, etc.

I’m barely scratching the surface of Evernote’s endless possibilities. For more information and to create your free online account check out www.evernote.com

Author: Sue FrostFamily General Medical Special Needs

Vive la Différence

The day has finally come. You arrive home from the therapist’s office to whom you and your child were referred to by the school. The diagnosis explains the challenges he has in class and with keeping up. You now have a label. Doctor’s names, medications, treatments, and therapies are spinning in your mind. In a way, this label makes sense; it gives you something with which to work with. In another way you want to shrug it off as over-examining a creative, energetic child. You have a foreboding sense of no return.

Solutions to either overcome the issue or control the symptoms so that they do not impact major life functions become your top priority.

Gather information about the diagnosis. Knowledge is power. The more you understand the situation the better prepared you will be. You’ll ask better questions and identify the best services for your loved one.

Seek support services for your loved one. Make a list of agencies that provide support to individuals and families impacted by the particular diagnosis. Does the support include family members as well as the child?  Are there tutors, therapists, and organizers who specialize in this area? Does Supplemental Security Income play a part? Is the child eligible for Medicaid? Primary and/or secondary insurance may be important if there’s a medical component to the issue.

Create an organized structure to maintain information. For instance, I love using the phone app any.do to track tasks, calls, errands, and projects.  All lists can be easily shared with anyone you choose, and reminders can be linked with your calendar. Evernote is extremely useful for organizing notes and records. For example, I’ve created a “notebook” for a loved one whom I’m helping to navigate the healthcare system. Within his Evernote  “notebook,” individual “notes” have been set up for each doctor to track visits and medications prescribed. Another “note” can be added each time we visit a particular doctor. A parallel filing structure has been created for any paper records that need to be kept for the purposes of benefits and possible questions or disputes. 

Self care is as important as advocating for your loved one. This is hard for all caregivers, especially moms. However, the common anecdotes are true. You are no good to anyone if you’re depleted. Even brief periods of relaxation can be restorative. A few minutes of meditation, exercise, coffee, a phone conversation with a friend, or a lunch date can do a world of good. Healthful meals and good sleeping habits must be prioritized when under stress. I’ve heard some say that time away feels like time or money that should go to their child (or loved one). Please consider this, if you’re frazzled and on edge your children will pick up on it and may not understand your stress. Consider hiring a babysitter, taking turns with your spouse or a sibling for a little time off, ask a grandparent, or a trusted friend for help.

Most importantly, remember differences don’t need to be viewed from a glass in half-full position. In fact, the more we know about different disabilities, the more we know about their hidden blessings. Many people with differences have hidden talents (depending on the disability) surpassing the typical personal: creativity, an ability to recognize detail, sheer honesty, an indisputable sense of right and wrong, a great ability to focus for long periods of time, very high IQs, exceptional memory, unconditional love, dedication … I could go on and on. Back when I was in school, there was a focus on improving student deficits. Now, finally, thinking has come around to concentrating on and developing student talents. I hope it’s a bright age for those with differences and that we can learn from each other.

Meanwhile, gather information, seek support services, stay organized, and don’t forget to take care of yourself. I’m cheering for you!

Author: Adriane WeinbergEmergencies Medical Organizing

Planning on Having an Accident?

Of course not, but…

You’re driving to the grocery store, a trip you’ve made a thousand times. Out of nowhere comes a car running the red light at the intersection you’re crossing – heading straight toward you! Crash!! You’re hurt, stunned and quite possibly in shock.

The police and ambulance arrive. First they ask questions about the accident, most of which you can answer. Then they ask about medications you take, allergies and an emergency contact’s phone number. Your mind goes blank. You are taken to the hospital but you’re unable to give the ER doctors any information that could help them treat you.

Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime to anyone, especially as we’re getting into the busy travel season. What can you do?

Create an Emergency Card containing your critical information to keep with you at all times. Organize it in an easy-to-read format. My Emergency Card is set up in a multi-column format. I recommend it be typed using a plain font and printed on heavy paper or card stock.

However you organize your Emergency Card, start with Emergency Info For. Under that, put your full name and address.

Suggested column headings are:

  1. Emergency Contact with full name, address and phone number
  2. Date of birth
  3. Meds
  4. Vitamins
  5. Allergies
  6. Major illnesses/operations
  7. Primary doctor
  8. Hospital
  9. Pharmacy
  10. Blood type (if you don’t know, find out)

For 3-6, make a list. For 7-9, include full name, phone number and address.

Add any information you think is important.

Make the card small enough to keep in your wallet with your health insurance ID card, driver’s license and car registration. If you plan to be an organ donor, be sure it’s noted on your driver’s license or have a signed Organ Donor Card. Don’t keep the information in your phone if your phone is locked because it cannot be accessed. However, if your phone is unlocked, put the info in Contacts labeled ICE (in case of emergency). First-responders should know to go to your wallet or phone for this information.

Having an Emergency Card could be a life-saver.

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Author: Yasmin GoodmanGeneral healthy living Medical Organizing

Do You Know What is Lurking in Your Mop Closet, Medicine Cabinet & Under Your Sink?

Cleaning productsMost of us haven’t taken a close look at the chemical content of our common household cleaners, skin care products and makeup to find out that there are dangerous chemicals lurking in the ingredients list. The next time you are clearing out your cabinets by yourself or with one of us, Professional Organizers, don’t just look at the expiration dates, check the ingredients and keep the information below in mind.

I went to a meeting hosted by Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that looks at potential hazards facing our society. At the meeting, they showed a short video by Annie Leonard called the “Story of Cosmetics.” The video was followed by a discussion questioning the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our beauty products, from lipstick to baby shampoo, chemicals that are known to contain carcinogens, neurotoxins, reproductive toxins and heavy metals, like lead and mercury. I was shocked to find out that lipsticks contain lead. Although I understand that it is hard to live in a lead free world, as Annie Leonard questions, “Do we have to put lead in our lipsticks?” I even found this to be the case when I went searching for new lipsticks in Whole Foods in the “organic” cosmetic department!

Harmful chemicals are not just in our cosmetic bags. Our homes are filled with fumes from harmful petrochemical solvents that are added to everyday house cleaners. “The average household contains anywhere from 3 to 25 gallons of toxic materials, most of which are in cleaners,” notes Ava Anderson, a young entrepreneur, who at age 14 went in search of personal care products that did not contain harmful chemicals and couldn’t find any. In response, Ava started her own company selling healthier choices for skin care and cleaning products. At the heart of her company is a commitment to educate the public about the chemical content in products we use without worry or concern for their potential cumulative and lasting effects to our health and wellbeing.

Like Annie Leonard, Ava’s research finds disturbing facts that most of us do not know, facts that might shape our buying habits moving forward. Below are highlights from Ava’s list:

Did You Know:

  • That Europe bans 1,371 toxic chemicals from their personal care products and the US bans only 11.
  • The FDA does not regulate the personal care products industry and hopes that cosmetic companies will do their due diligence and issue safe products.
  • “Safe,” “organic” and “natural” do not mean your products do not contain any toxic chemicals as well.
  • According to the President’s Cancer Panel only 10% of cancer is genetic and 90% is caused by environmental factors.

Below are Gaiam Life’s “8 Household Cleaning Agents to Avoid” and why:

  • Chlorinated phenols found in toilet bowl cleaners – toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems
  • Diethylene glycol found in window cleaners – depresses the nervous system
  • Phenols found in disinfectants –  toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylate, a common surfactant (detergent) found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners, is banned in Europe; it has been shown to biodegrade slowly into even more toxic compounds
  • Formaldehyde found in spray and wick deodorizers – respiratory irritant and suspected carcinogen
  • Petroleum solvents in floor cleaners – damage mucous membranes
  • Perchloroethylene, a spot remover –  causes liver and kidney damage
  • Butyl cellosolve, common in all-purpose, window and other types of cleaners- damages bone marrow, the nervous system, kidneys and the liver

The “All You” website also has a list of 6 chemical hazards hiding in your home, for those of you who are interested in more information.

If like me, after confronting this information, you’re heading to your cupboards, toiletry bags and makeup kit to do some tossing, the next question would be, “then what can I use instead?” Below are suggestions to get you started using baking soda, white vinegar, fresh lemons and coconut oil.

Baking Soda

Here are suggested uses for baking soda from The Farmer’s Almanac and “All You” websites:

  • as a stain remover for your carpets
  • to combat bad smells from sneakers to bad breath
  • to brighten your laundry and remove perspiration stains
  • to fight dandruff and heartburn
  • to offer instant relief from bug bites, sunburn and poison ivy
  • in your bath water, to relieve sunburn and itchy skin
  • to exfoliate your skin

White Vinegar

White vinegar can replace many common cleaning products you now may want to avoid. Here are suggestions from the “All You” website:

  • Use a solution of half water and half vinegar to freshen up the fridge.
  • To kill bathroom germs, spray full-strength vinegar around the sink and tub.
  • For antiperspirant stains, rub gently with vinegar.
  • For toilets, pour a cup or more of white distilled vinegar into the bowl, let sit overnight, then scrub with a toilet brush and flush.
  • For carpet stains, make a paste of 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and ¼ cup salt or baking soda, rub into the stain and let dry, then vacuum the residue the next day (test an out-of-sight part of the carpet first).
  • To get rid of lime buildup on faucets by making a paste of 1 teaspoon vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt and apply to sink fixtures by rubbing it in with a cloth.

Lemons

Lemons offer alternatives to both cleaning products and beauty care. Here are suggestions from the “All You” website:

  • For stains, add ½ cup lemon juice to a load of white laundry, then let dry in the sun.
  • To remove soap scum on showers walls and doors, put lemon juice on a sponge and wipe.
  • Shine brass and copper by sprinkling salt on half a lemon, rub it into the metal, then wash clean.
  • Remove rust, mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 2 tablespoons of salt to make a rust removing paste.
  • For bad breath, gargle with lemon juice and water to kill odor-causing bacteria.
  • To soften skin, make a body scrub combining lemon zest with sugar and soak the mixture with olive oil for 30 minutes.
  • Soak fingers in lemon juice for five minutes to whiten yellow nails.
  • Put lemon juice on blackheads at night to clear up skin.

Coconut Oil

Coconut is the newest addition to my healthier cabinets & toiletry bag. Here are some of my favorites uses from the “Derm Store.”

  • body moisturizer to hydrate skin
  • eye makeup remover
  • Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties make it a good alternative remedy for diaper rash.
  • treatment for frizzy hair
  • For post menopause, a great lubricant…. Wink, wink, say no more!

Well, I hope you found some good, enticing alternative product ideas for your mop closet and makeup bag. It has been fun trying out and discovering healthier products and now, sharing them with all of you. May you too enjoy your journey towards healthier products.

Author: Yasmin GoodmanGeneral Medical Organizing Organizing Products Procrastination

Did you Hear? Diets Don’t Work. What does? Adherence!

A woman weighs in on a scaleAs I was driving the other day listening to NPR, I heard a provocative story suggesting that researchers should stop spending millions of dollars comparing the content of all the various diets programs on the market today. Instead, they should focus their studies on how to effectively change behaviors associated with weight gain. As a Professional Organizer, this piqued my interest.

Featured on the NPR program “Here And Now,” was Carey Goldberg, health reporter for WBUR in Boston, commenting on a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Analyzing different well-known diet programs, the report concluded that the various diet programs — on average — are equally well suited for losing weight. Therefore, one could pick and choose any one of the diet programs that looks appealing to them and get pretty much the same result.

If the report concludes that it doesn’t matter what diet program you choose for losing weight, then why are these programs ineffective for so many participants over time? Why is it so common that dieters gain back the weight they lost soon after they stop dieting? The key is “adherence” – sticking to healthier eating habits over time. Instead of continuing to spend millions looking at and worrying about the specific content of the diet programs on the market, this report suggests that we need to understand the context of the individual dieter, and therein lies the key to adherence. We need to shift the focus from simply counting calories and carbs, and look toward behavioral change and how to make those changes last – forever.

Behavioral scientists studying the effects of dieting over time look at factors such as why people crave different foods and how environmental factors, such as family traditions, affect their dietary preferences. They found that the one common factor that undermined the best of intentions around dieting and healthier eating habits is stress. The NPR story stated that, “researchers often hear dieters say that they want to lose weight, but life gets in the way.” The root problem is woven in the feelings experienced, when “life gets in the way” and that is a behavioral issue – not a nutritional one.

Just like the dieting industry, the organizing industry has zillions of products to choose from, and still people feel overwhelmed and stressed. For many, the products don’t deliver on their promises of freedom and ease over time. Before clients call us, many of them have been on a number of “organizing diets” and have not reached or maintained their organizing goals over time.  Sleek new organizing products and best intentions are easily de-railed when “life gets in the way.”

As Professional Organizers, we know what makes the biggest difference to someone staying organized over time. It isn’t simply which storage bin we use but rather, that the person develops the habit to actually use the bin over time. All the different storage bins, calendar systems, time management tips, electronic gadgets, apps, etc., do not ensure that one will achieve a state of organization that lasts. They are only the tools we use to create an environment that supports an organized life-style. The actual change towards living an organized life comes from within the individual. Effective behavioral change resets our personal compass, and points us toward our goals and aspirations. “Adherence” to these behavioral changes, ensures us it will last forever!

So the point of this story is…If you want to lose weight, don’t stress about which diet program to choose. Choose the one that appeals to you since they all, on average, work about the same. If you want to keep the weight you lose off for years to come, work with a behavioral specialist to create your unique practices of adherence that promote healthier eating habits. And, if you want to decrease the stress of “life gets in the way,” create an environment that supports your new healthier habits over time — then call one of us. Professional Organizers love supporting behavioral changes that last forever.
http://commonhealth.wbur.org/about/carey-goldberg