Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Difficult Move Made Easy

One of my favorite types of clients to work with are those who are moving.  It's part skill, part project management and part emotional support.  Every one of them are different - some have kids, some don't.  Some are upsizing, some are downsizing.  Some are moving willingly, others are moving because of a corporate relocation.
Because none of them are the same, I treat each one differently.  Some need more guidance than others.  Some want to do their own packing.  Some are skilled project managers, so they direct me more than I direct them.

I recently had a client who was moving from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished apartment.  Some of the furnishings were coming from his former residence, where his ex still lived.  The rest he was purchasing.  The move was made more difficult by the fact that he was out of the country the week of the move, returning late afternoon on moving day.

My job would be to coordinate the three-part move, shop for certain household goods and unpack and set up the new apartment.  This was all decided three weeks before the desired move date.  I met with my client at his new facility to tour the complex and apartment with the staff.  The week before the move, I met with the client to pick up the keys to the unfurnished apartment.  I also went to his former house to pack up what would be going from that location.  The day before the move, I packed up his personal belongings at the furnished apartment.

The day of the move, I was to meet the movers at the house to pick up load one, stop at apartment one for the second load, then follow the movers to the final destination where I would pick up the keys from the office to let everyone in. 

As it started happening, I was beginning to wonder if it would all come together...

What Went Wrong?

  • The move was last-minute.  It took several calls before I could find a mover available at such short notice in the summer.
  • On packing day at the house, the company forgot to bring packing paper, so I had to go out and buy some.
  • The day before the move, the two furniture stores called to confirm delivery.  But they had the times wrong and wanted to come out first thing in the morning when nobody would be at the apartment yet.  The office wasn’t open to accept deliveries either.  One store was already closed by the time I could return calls.
  • Moving day began with a 6a.m. phone call to one store. They were able to change their route and bring the furniture later in the day.
  • The movers were late showing up at the first stop. 
  • While waiting for the movers, the second furniture store called to say they were at the apartment with the delivery.  I told them they would have to come back later.  They made the mistake, they needed to fix it.
  • The electronics store called to say they would be delivering the televisions after the cable company would be there to install them. 
  • A call to the cable company (20 minutes on hold) said they would come as late as possible so the televisions might arrive first. 
  • When the movers finally arrived at stop one, they pulled into the wrong driveway.
  • GPS took the movers to the wrong location for the second leg of the move.  Another 30 minute delay.
  • A car was parked in the driveway at the second location, so the movers couldn't pull up to the dock.
  • The first furniture delivery arrived the same time we did at the new apartment.  Talk about juggling space in the elevator!
  • The second furniture delivery arrived, but one of the pieces was the wrong color/finish!  It didn't match the second piece either.  They couldn't get another one out that day.  It was the bed, and my client was on his way home on a 16-hour flight.
  • Comcast arrived two hours earlier than expected, but didn't call me as as directed.  They called the client, who was still in the air!  Comcast left without installing anything.  When I called them back, they said the soonest another technician could come out was four days later.  That being unacceptable to the client, the date was pushed out another three days by the time we called back again.
  • I had a bloody nose during the unpack.  Luckily, I had found  the tissues already.
  • The hanging file drawer converter I purchased didn't fit the drawer - because of the odd construction of the desk, not my measuring.

What Went Right?

After pressuring Comcast, they somehow found a technician to come out the next day.  Although they still called the client's phone to confirm instead of mine.  At least he was able to answer this time.  The client decided he liked the color/finish of the bed enough to have a new nightstand delivered instead.  It arrived the following day.

I finished unpacking everything that day, except for the things the client wanted to do himself.  I took away all the packing materials, leaving the client with a new, clean apartment.

So what is the lesson here?  Always have a Plan B in place.  Because it's inevitable that things will go wrong.  I didn't panic when things started falling apart.  I made some phone calls, adjusted some times, and pitched in wherever I was needed.  Having had an original plan in place helped - with all the contact names and order info written down.  I'd reviewed everything with the client before he went out of town so I knew where he wanted things. 

Plan A is your ideal.  Plan B is what happens after life gets in the way.  Be prepared!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Five Basic Steps to Getting Organized

You probably know that being organized reduces your stress levels. There's less to maintain, less to clean, and you're less likely to lose things.  So what's keeping you back?  Most don't know where to start.  There are hundreds of products that can help, and just as many solutions.  So rather than confuse you more, let's start with the Five Basic Steps to Getting Organized:
  1. One In One Out - Being organized isn't about getting rid of everything and never shopping again.  Shoes wear out, children outgrow clothes.  You have to go shopping.  But make it a habit of removing one item from your home for every new item you bring in.  That way, you'll never accumulate too much.
  2. Just Say No - When someone tries to give you something, if you really don't want it or like it, then refuse it.  You don't have to take furniture from your great-aunt's home if you have no need or space for it.  You don't have to take the scarf your friend is cleaning out of her closet.  The less you bring in, the less you have to care for.
  3. Clear It Out - The more you have, the more you have to care for.  So clear out what you don't need.  Get rid of kitchen appliances you never use, or coats you never wear.  They're just taking up valuable space that could be occupied by something you love.
  4. Plan Ahead - Get ready the day before. Decide on your outfit, pack your lunch.  Do the same for the rest of the family.  Also, schedule time for yourself to take care of chores like filing or laundry.  If you keep on top of things, they won't pile up.
  5. Deal With It - Take care of messes and problems when they happen.  Clean up the spills, put away the laundry, sort the mail, etc. as it comes in.  There may be a day or two where you don't have time, but if you've kept up with tasks all along, the piles won't grow too large to overwhelm you.
Keep this list posted in a place you'll see it as a daily reminder.  It's really that simple.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Eight Questions to Ask Yourself When Organizing

It goes without saying that there are benefits to being organized.  You can find things easily, save money and have peace of mind in a clutter-free home.  But while we know we SHOULD be organized, for many it’s a challenge.  Most of that stems from the stress of sorting through belongings and trying to decide what to keep and what to give away or sell. 

While the task may seem daunting, especially if you’ve lived in your home over twenty years, if you stay focused you’ll make progress.  And to make the process easier, here are some questions to ask yourself while sorting. 

1.      Do I have more than one of this? If so, why? Do you need more than one?  While you need more than one pair of pants, do you need more than one lawn mower? 

2.      How often do I use this item? Is it something you use on a regular basis, that is, at least once a month?  Or do you dig it out every few years?  If you use something rarely,  like a 50-cup coffee maker, get rid of it.  When you need one for your party three years from now, borrow one from a friend or rent one.

3.      Can this item be easily replaced? If you get rid of your ricer today, can you easily find one at the store tomorrow?  Of course.  But if you get rid of your shop vac, it’s easy to find one, but certainly more expensive to replace it.

4.      Do I know what this is? How many times have you gone through junk drawers only to find something unidentifiable?  If nobody in the house can identify it, get rid of it.

5.      Do I know what this belongs to? You fine screws, lids or keys.  You know what it is, but have no idea what the key opens, or what container the lid belongs to.  You don’t need it if you’re not using it.

6.      Do I like this item?  Sometimes we inherit furniture or knick-knacks from deceased family members.  Or we get gifts from friends.  While we accept it gracefully, in our hearts we really don’t like it.  Don’t let things you don’t like take up precious space in your home.  Your home should only be filled with things you love.

7.      What is the worst that could happen if I get rid of it?  If you shred your bank statements today, or donate the hand mixer, what’s the worst that could happen?  You can recreate bank statements.  You can purchase another hand mixer if you find you need it.  On the other hand, original legal documents are not replaceable.  Be mindful of what you donate or shred.

8.      Does it have a place to live in your home? If you don’t have a cabinet or shelf to store it, then it shouldn’t be in your home.  The floors and tables are not storage units.  If you can’t decide where to put it, then you don’t need it.

While some decisions are easier to make than others, you’ll find over time that making those decisions will begin to live in your subconscious.  When you’re shopping, you’ll hear these questions in the back of your mind, helping you decide whether or not to buy it.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Eight Steps to an Organized Laundry Room

Housework is never fun.  At least I don’t think so.  Some are born for it.  I definitely am not.  Laundry is one of those necessary tasks that I find a complete waste of time.  All I do is wash the same clothes over and over again week after week.  As tedious as it is, though, it is necessary.  And having an organized laundry room makes the task easier – not pleasant, but easier.   Here are eight steps to an organized laundry room so you, too, can have an easier laundry day (or days).
  1. Use divided hampers for easy sorting – Purchase hampers with at least two divisions-one for and darks and one for lights.  Train the family to sort as they remove their dirty clothes.  Come laundry day, the sorting is already done before you even start.
  2. Separate your delicates – Set aside delicates (hose, lingerie, washable silk, etc.) from the rest of your laundry.  Either hand wash or use the delicate cycle on your washing machine.  If you use your machine, place the delicates in a mesh bag to protect from snags and tangles.
  3. Hang/fold as you go – As you take clothes out of the washer, immediately hang up those items that need to drip dry.  As you take clothes out of the dryer, fold them immediately so they don’t wrinkle in the basket, or hang them up on an appropriate hanger.  Use felt hangers for tops with wide necklines or silky fabrics.  Use plastic hangers for knit tops.  Use sturdy wood hangers for heavy items. 
  4. Color code hangers by family member – Plastic hangers come in a wide variety of colors.  Have each family member choose their favorite color, then use that color for their clothes.  When it’s time to put away clothes, everyone can easily grab their clothes because they’re all on the same color hanger.
  5.  Enlist help – You shouldn’t have to do this yourself.  Teach your children at an early age to sort their dirty clothes, and have a specific place designated for clean ones (one drawer for pajamas, one for t-shirts, etc.).  They should be able to put away their own clothes early on.  Once they are in middle school, they can help fold their own laundry, and by the time they are in high school, they should be doing their own.  It’s good training for college dorm life!  And your spouse?  What’s a load of laundry here or there, or a trip to the dry cleaners?  Pitching in will allow for more family time together.
  6. Treat stains early – As soon as you take off a shirt or pants that have been stained, treat the item immediately.  Launder as soon as possible so the stain doesn’t set in.
  7. Set aside mending – As you find clothing that needs mending, launder it, then put it aside for mending, whether it’s a missing button or a torn seam.  Don’t put it back in your closet!  You don’t want to grab something as you’re running late, only to discover it has a hole in the seam.  Keep a small container or basket in your laundry room to collect buttons or other decorations/fasteners that fall off clothes.  You’ll be able to locate them easily when it’s time
    to do the mending.
  8. Maximize storage – Use as much of your laundry room as possible for storage.  Slim storage can be squeezed in between your washer and dryer, or against the wall.  Install shelving or cabinets above your washer, and add a towel rod under cabinets for extra hangers or clothes.
You spend a lot of money on clothes.  Taking care of them will make them last as long as possible.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tips for Staying Safe This Winter

Winter should be winding down.  It’s February, after all.  Yet, it seems the snow and frigid cold temps just won’t go away.  Here are some tips for staying safe this winter.
  1. Your House – Your home is your protection from the winter, whether it’s from the snow or cold.  Proper maintenance will help ensure against disasters.  Keep gutters clear of debris.  Install de-icer cables to prevent ice dams.  Driveways and walkways should be kept clear of snow and ice.  
  2. Your Car – Perform regular maintenance on your car.  Check fluid levels, especially windshield wiper fluid.  Keep a snow brush/ice scraper, a small shovel and sand in your car.  Any time you take your car somewhere, whether it’s a five-minute or one-hour drive, take bottled water, high protein snacks, gloves, hat, boots and scarf with you.  You never know when your car will break down or you’ll run into a traffic jam.
  3. The Storms – Keep ahead of the weather.  If your area is anticipating a blizzard that might keep you from getting outside, you don’t want to run out of food.  Keep at least three days of food and water on hand.  Have a variety of options in case you can’t use the stove or oven.  Check your prescription medications.  Do you have enough for the next few days?  Make sure your cell phone is charged.  Do you have an alternate source of power or heat if the electricity goes out?  This might be a large supply of firewood if you have a fireplace, or a generator.  Finally, secure loose items in your yard, such as furniture and trash cans. 
  4. Snow Removal – What is the condition of your equipment?  Check the gas and oil levels in your snowblower before the storm so you don’t run out half-way through clearing.  Are snow shovel blades straight and handles secure?  How is your supply of de-icer?  When shoveling, dress warmly and in layers.  Take breaks if there is a lot of snow.  Keep piles low, and push snow, rather than lift when possible.
  5. Your Pets – Your pets need to be kept safe in this extreme weather also.  Use pet-safe de-icer on your property.  Watch for salt when walking them in the neighborhood.  Check their paws when you get home, and clean out any salt or gravel from between their toes.  Don’t leave them outside for any length of time in frigid temps.  Brush the snow off them when they come inside.   
  6. Travel – If you are traveling during the winter, check the weather at both the point of origin and the destination.  If there are storms or weather advisories, your flight or train may be delayed. 
  7. Check on Others – If you have elderly or homebound family or neighbors, regularly check on them.  See if they have power, heat and food.  Clear their drive and walkways, or arrange for it to be done by someone else. 
Don’t go out unless absolutely necessary.  Give your city time to clear the streets.  The less people on the road, the quicker the job will be done. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Preparing For Your Vacation

Whether you’re planning to get away for spring break, or planning a family vacation this summer, here are some helpful tips to prepare for your vacation.

1.      Set a budget – And stick to it!  While it may be tempting to upgrade your hotel or room, or book reservations for fancy restaurant, you don’t want to run out of money half-way through the trip.  What will hotel, flight and car rental cost?  How much do you want to allot every day for meals?  Keep to that budget.  And if you come in under your budget, then you’ll have some extra so spend at the end.

2.      Make flight/hotel reservations – If you plan to travel during the busy season, call well in advance for hotel and flight reservations so you get what you want.  But be prepared to pay extra during the summer or over holidays when rooms and flights are scarce.  If you’re traveling during a slow time, it’s still best to make reservations ahead of time.  There may be an event going on in the area (like a conference), that might make finding a room more difficult.

3.      Check flight restrictions – If you’re flying, check the new security restrictions.  What can you pack in checked luggage?  How much can it weigh?  What can you take in your carry-on?  How early do you have to be there for the flight?  Checking these things ahead of time will mean less stress later.

4.      Pack according to weather – Look at the weather report before you leave.  While you may be expecting ideal weather, the area might be experiencing temperatures or conditions above or below normal.  Be prepared so you don’t have to buy clothes while you’re out there.

5.      Stop mail/newspaper delivery – Put in a delivery stoppage for mail and newspapers.  You don’t want them piling up at your house while you’re gone.  If you plan to have someone watching the house, then make sure you tell your sitter to check for papers and mail and bring them inside.

6.      Notify local law enforcement – If you are going to be gone, it’s good to notify your local law enforcement.  They can do a drive-by to check on matters and look for anything out of the ordinary.

7.      Make arrangements for house/pets – If you have pets, you’ll need to arrange for someone to walk/feed them, or you’ll have to board them.  If you’re traveling during a busy time, call sitters/boarders well in advance to reserve your spot.  If you’re going to have someone watch your house, give them the security codes/keys, etc. they will need, and make a list of emergency numbers for them at the house.

8.      Pay bills before you leave – Check to see if anything will be coming due while you are gone, and pay ahead of time, or schedule payments with online billpay.

9.     Confirm reservations – Before you leave, confirm ALL travel reservations.  Sometimes flights change last minute, or hotels lose your booking, or car rentals set aside a compact car instead of a minivan.  You don’t want to be caught stranded or inconvenienced.

10.   Clean your house/fridge – What’s better than coming home to a nice clean house after a restful vacation?  You’ll have enough  to do to catch up with laundry, mail, phone calls, etc., without having to clean your house, too.

11.   Don’t advertise on Facebook – I can’t stress this enough!! Don’t tell the world you are going on vacation for two weeks!  It is an open invitation to thieves.  Even if your posts are private, friends of friend of friends can sometimes see your posts through notifications.  Your address is public record.  Thieves will find you.

Finally, enjoy yourself!  And if something does go wrong, accept it and move on.  There is always a solution.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ten Steps to Cleaning out Your Closet

Is your closet overflowing?  Are you running out of room to put all those new sweaters and accessories you received over the holidays?  Follow these ten steps to clean out your closet.

  1. Pull everything out of your closet and sort accordingly.  Put all dress slacks together, jeans together, turtlenecks together, etc. Complete outfits, such as a suit, can stay together as a unit.
  2. Only clothes and accessories belong in your closet.  That means no wrapping paper, framed art work, skeins of yarn or old tax returns.  If you can’t wear it, move it.
  3. Evaluate every category.  How many of each do you need?  There is no magic number.  Your lifestyle will determine this.  If you’re a professional, you’ll need more dress pants and blouses than a technician who wears a uniform to work.  If you only dress up occasionally, then you don’t need four formals and twelve dresses.
  4. What fits?  Weight often fluctuates, but that doesn’t mean you need a wardrobe in three sizes (current weight, and up/down a size).  Keep what you’re wearing now.  Get rid of the rest.
  5. What do you like?  How many items in your closet are things your family gave you as gifts, but you don’t like?  Why is it taking up room, when that space could be utilized by something you love. 
  6. What looks good on you?  Maybe the color isn’t quite right for you, or a skirt is too long for your short frame.  If you don’t feel flattered, then don’t keep it. 
  7. Set up donation box as you sort.  Drop in all those pieces that don’t fit, you don’t like and don’t look good on you.  Someone else will be happy with it!
  8. Replace the articles of clothing back into the closet according to category.  Store all sweaters together, skirts together, tees together, etc.  You can further sort by season, keeping short-sleeve tops separate from long-sleeve, for example.
  9. Purchase organizers for accessories.  Hanging bags are useful for purses, shoes, and sweaters.  There are hangers designed specifically for accessories such as scarves, belts and jewelry.  See photos for examples.  This will keep things sorted and easy to find
  10. Keep to the “One in, one out” rule in the future.  If you bring a new pair of jeans home, get rid of an old pair.  If you buy new shoes, find a pair you don’t wear anymore and get rid of them.  This will keep your closet from getting overcrowded.

Remember, you use 20 percent of what you own 80 percent of the time.
  Find that 20 percent and get rid of the rest!