Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maximizing Space in Your Bathroom

Tips for Tuesday

Do you have a small bathroom? Or maybe yo have only one bathroom for the entire family? I was raised in a family of eight, with only one bathroom in the house. I was one of five sisters with one brother. If that wasn't a bathroom challenge, I don't know what was!

But we somehow survived. We had schedules, and everyone pitched in to help keep it clean and tidy. As soon as there was a pile of towels, they were tossed in the wash, then returned to the linen closet. There was a family shampoo that everyone used, rather than six favorites lining the shower. If you used up the toilet paper, you'd better go downstairs and get more to replenish the stock. We made it work because we had to.

If you have a small bathroom, there are ways to maximize the space and make it functional for the entire family.

• If floor space allows, have a hamper in the bathroom to collect dirty clothes and towels.
• If you have a pedestal sink, hang a curtain on the outside of the bowl and hide supplies behind it.
• If you have a cabinet sink, install a two-tier slide-out drawer for storing toiletries.
• Store cleaning items behind the toilet on the floor.
• Collect bath toys in a mesh bag or dish drainer.
• If you need a seat in the bathroom, install a fold-down seat so you won't use up floor space with a chair.
• Use the corners in the shower stall for corner shelves or tension rod storage for your shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc.
• Group toiletries together in like categories to find them easily.
• Store bulk items like toilet paper in another room.
• Utilize wall space by installing a cabinet or shelving in empty space.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Your Moving Timeline--Three Months Before

Moving on Monday

Last week, we talked about the importance of planning ahead for your move for the least amount of stress. Sometimes moves come on suddenly, and the planning needs to be done in a short amount of time. But when you know about your move months in advance, start planning as early as possible.

We covered what you can do six months before your move date. This week, we'll look at what you can do three months before your move.

• Begin packing off-season items
• Arrange for temporary storage
• Stage your home for the sale
• Get your credit report for future financing needs
• Start weekly To-Do lists and enter tasks on calendars

Friday, January 27, 2012

Being Frugal with Finances

Frugal Friday

With the cost of everything rising, we are always looking for ways to reduce our bills. Over the last few months, we've been covering many different areas of our lives where we can do exactly that. This week, we're looking at how to be frugal with your finances.

• Pay someone to do your taxes for you. Yes, the initial outlay will cost you, but the increase on your return will more than pay for it.
• Avoid ATM fees. Don't use ATMs that are out of your network.
• Ask your credit card company to reduce your interest rate. If you've had the card for a while, and have always paid on time, chances are they will offer you a lower rate.
• Contest any and all bank and credit card fees that you think are unreasonable. Many will give you a pass on the first one or two infractions.
• Consolidate student loans,
• Purchase all your insurance through the same company for multi-policy discounts.
• Keep a record (video, photo or list) of all your possessions in case you need to make a claim.
• Pay your insurance premiums on an annual basis to avoid finance charges.
• Consider increasing your deductible to lower your premium.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Car Features for Senior Caregivers

Senior Thursday

If you frequently find yourself transporting a senior family member, consider their safety when transporting them in your car. Some cars are better than others for taking seniors to and from their appointments.

Low-slung sports cars are not functional for seniors any more than large trucks. Seniors find it difficult to get into and out of anything too high or low. SUVs and cross-overs have seats that are about hip height and easy for them to slide into.

Always make sure your seat belts are functional. Purchase a seat-belt extender if you are driving around someone who is overweight. Extenders can be easily snapped in/out as needed, and fit into your glove box.

You might also be transporting medical equipment such as a wheelchair, walker or oxygen tank. Make sure there is plenty of room in your car for these items. If they don't fit in the trunk, will they fit in the back seat?

Finally, be mindful of their comfort. Don't have the car too hot or too cold, and ask first if you want to turn on the radio. If a senior is hard of hearing, they may not be able to hear you above the radio, even at low levels

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Getting Past Your Inner Censor with Freewriting

Writer Wednesday

How many times have you found yourself staring at a computer screen, going over and over a sentence in your head, trying to get just the right structure and wording? You know what you want to write, but is it grammatically correct? Can you really end a sentence with a preposition, or will your readers call you on it? Should you use "he said' again, or try to come up with a better verb?

So you spend minutes, which could stretch into an hour, on creating a perfect sentence on a perfect page. But do you see how this can stifle your creativity? You spend so much time seeking the right word, that you lose sight of the whole work. You might forget what point you wanted to get across in this chapter, or where to work in backstory.

One way to get past this need for perfection and wasted time is to freewrite. Freewriting is setting words down on paper without listening to you inner censor. Set a timer for ten to thirty minutes, and write whatever comes into your head. It can be about whatever you want. It doesn't have to be grammatically correct, or even make sense. This lesson isn't about writing what's right, it's about freeing your mind to be more creative.

While freewriting, don't look back at what you've written while you're writing it. Don't correct spelling or grammar. Just let yourself write freely and without inhibition. This is a good exercise to do every morning before you begin to write for the day.

Getting rid of you censors will get rid of the reluctance to write what you really want. You will be more creative and more productive.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Maximizing Space in Your Kitchen

Tips for Tuesday

For those with small kitchens, or moderately sized kitchens, storage can be an issue. There are limited places to put pots and pans, dishes, food, etc. For large families, the challenge is greater. In this case, it is important to make the most of the space you have.

Here are some things you can do to maximize the space in your kitchen:

• Install cabinets that extend to the ceiling
• Use wall space whenever possible for items like utensils, paper towels, spice racks, etc.
• Install battens in a drawer to hold a cutting board/work surface, but still house items beneath
• Hang pots and pans from the ceiling if you have an island or peninsula
• Hang storage racks inside cabinet doors to hold garbage/compost bin, paper goods, towels
• Install hooks under your cabinets for mugs/cups
• Use small wire shelves inside cabinets to store smaller items above larger ones (salad plates over dinner plates, for example)
• Store flat items vertically with separators rather than stacking them
• Place a shelf over your sink faucet
• Install shallow drawers in the kick plate under your cabinets
• Convert the front panel of your sink with a tip-out drawer

Monday, January 23, 2012

Planning Ahead--Six Months Before the Move

Moving on Mondays

Most people know they are moving at least six months before the move. Sometimes corporate moves will come about suddenly. Even then, businesses will often transfer the working spouse and let the rest of the family move at a later date for school or other reasons.

Some homeowners know as many as two years before the move if they are planning on retirement or may be downsizing or upsizing. It is beneficial to know about your move ahead of time. You can plan appropriately and be ready for the big day. Planning will make your move less stressful.

It is recommended to start at least six months ahead of the move date to give yourself plenty of time to get done what needs to be done. Here is what you can do six months before the date to start on your way.

• Make necessary repairs on current home
• Contact realtor to put home on market
• Contact Organizer/Home Stager
• Start a file for moving-related expenses
• Create calendar sheets for upcoming months
• Start decluttering/purging your seasonal items as you use them

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saving Money in the Garden

Frugal Friday

Yes, there is snow on the ground. But we can dream of spring, can't we? In fact, nurseries and landscapers are already gearing up for the busy growing season.

We all want beautiful yards, with colorful flowers and shady trees. But this all costs money. Sometimes a lot of money. So where can you cut down on your costs? here are some ways to have a beautiful yard without dipping into your savings.

• Take good care of your garden tools. Clean them when you are done and store them dry so they don't rust.
• Convert your lawn into a garden. Flowers and vegetables are less money to maintain and produce food for you.
• Use plants indigenous to the region so they require less water.
• Soot, sawdust, coffee grounds and banana peels from around the home make great no-cost fertilizers.
• Garlic cloves buried in the soil will deter pests.
• White vinegar sprayed directly on weeds will kill most of them.
• Don't throw away old seeds. Test their viability by soaking them in water. Good seeds will not float.
• Don't water your lawn unless absolutely necessary. It will just go dormant in a drought. Only extreme heat and drought will kill it.
• Water your plants in the early morning or late evening so the sun doesn't evaporate the moisture.
• Longer grass holds moisture better than short grass.
• Make your own compost with your household waste.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Outdoor Fall Prevention

Senior Thursday

In a previous post, we talked about senior safety in the home. Among the most common causes of injuries in the home are falls. But according to researchers, almost 50% of falls among the elderly population occur outdoors.

Fortunately, we can take steps to avoid falls in the home. That isn't as easy outside, where the property belongs to someone else. There are some things seniors can do, though, to help prevent falls outside the home.

• Don't drive or go outside when under the influence of medications that cause drowsiness or dizziness.
• Use a cane or walker for support.
• Wear rubber-soled shoes for good traction.
• Don't go outside in bad weather, such as snow, ice or rain.
• If you are outside in bad weather, walk on grass if the sidewalks are slippery.
• Have salt or kitty litter in your car in case you are in in your car when it starts to snow. Sprinkle it on sidewalks or parking lots where you need to walk.
• Be alert to your surroundings, taking note of uneven or high steps, slick floors or broken concrete.
• Businesses place down mats during the winter to absorb the water. Watch for uneven surfaces, and turned up corners.
• When in doubt, stay where you are and call for a ride.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Little Notebook

Writer Wednesday

If you buy yourself anything this week, make it a little notebook. Why? Because this is a way to record ideas, write down observations, and recall details. When was the last time you had a great idea while in the shower or driving? But by the time you get back to your writing, sometimes days later, you've forgotten that idea.

Having a little notebook handy will solve that problem. Purchase a LITTLE notebook. Something that can fit in your pocket or purse. Throw a pen into your pocket or purse also. Any time you have an idea, write it down. When you see something exceptional, write down the scenario, paying attention to the details that make it exceptional. When you think of a name for your character, write it down. When you read something inspirational, write it down.

Then when you get back to your writing, you will have those little details recorded. You can simply flip through the pages and find that name, or re-read that scenario. You won't have to rely on your memory. This will not only be a huge time-saver for you, it will supply you with many story ideas for weeks and months to come.

If you don't want to carry a notebook, purchase the "Notes on the Run" system from Planner Pads. This set of index cards, along with its leather jotter make this a handy tool for writing yourself notes while out and about. http://plannerpads.com/holders.asp

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Can You Do in Two Minutes?

Tips for Tuesday

One of the most common excuses for not being organized is not having enough time. But what if I told you that you needed only two minutes to be on your way to getting organized? Mind you, not completely organized, but on your way. After all, it took weeks, months or even years to accumulate your clutter. It won't go away in two minutes. But you can get on top of the situation.

How many times have you had two minutes of free time? Maybe you were waiting for the water to boil on the stove. Or you were on hold with your utility company. Maybe you were waiting for your child during their doctor's appointment. All of these are opportunities to do something useful.

There are lots of little things you can do in ten minutes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
• Go through your wallet and remove the old coupons and receipts.
• Go through your fridge and look for expired or spoiled food.
• Go through your pantry and look for expired food products.
• Go through your medicine cabinet and look for expired medications.
• Delete some old emails from your Inbox.
• Flip through a magazine and tear out the articles you want to read. Recycle the rest.
• Go through a dresser drawer and pull out clothes you don't like or don't fit.
• Line up the shoes in your closet, and get rid of a pair or two.
• Delete old messages on your answering machine or cell phone.
• Remove expired coupons from your fridge door.

These are just a few things you can do in two minutes. What other tasks can you think of to add to the list?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Maintaining Your Home During the Winter

Moving on Monday

When your house is on the market, you must keep it looking its best. You never know when a realtor will call to show your home to 'the' buyer. You've de-cluttered and cleaned, and spruced it up and made repairs. But keeping it neat and tidy is always a challenge. Especially during the winter.

You know the basics of maintaining your home inside--picking up clothes, putting away mail, etc. But when it's cold outside, there are other issues to keep in mind. Here are some things you should/should not do during the winter months if your house is for sale.

• Keep decorations to a minimum during the holidays.
• Disconnect all hoses and turn off outdoor water supply.
• Keep driveways shoveled.
• Keep walkways to the front door clear and free of ice.
• Watch for ice build-up in gutters.
• Place a mat outside your front door for wiping feet, and another inside your front door for shoes.
• Provide shoe covers for visitors or ask that they remove wet/snowy shoes before viewing.
• Make sure your chimneys are clean.
• Don't leave fires or candles burning when you are not in a room or not home.
• If your home is vacant, keep it warm enough so pipes don't freeze, and make it comfortable for viewing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saving Money on Your Kids

Frugal Friday

Raising children is a commitment and an expense. Once they are born, there is no turning back. There will be clothing, housing, toys, food, schooling, etc. And as prices start to rise, and income starts to shrink, the challenge of affording it all grows.

But whether you have one child or eight, there are ways to save money while giving them a healthy, fulfilling life.

• Instead of buying new toys, host a toy swap with other mothers. Children get 'new' toys that will hold their interest, you you get them for free!
• Share babysitting costs by sharing the babysitter. Have the kids all at one house, and pay the sitter a little extra per hour for each extra child.
• Start a baby-sitting co-op where you trade babysitting with other parents at no charge.
• Use cloth diapers and wipes instead of disposable diapers or baby wipes. Launder in hot water and bleach.
• Use glass baby bottles instead of disposable liners.
• Sign up for free samples (baby powder, vitamins, wipes, etc.) with manufacturing companies.
• When your little ones outgrow their footsie pajamas, cut off the feet and use socks instead.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What Not to Wear for Seniors--A Matter of Safety

Senior Thursday

Last week, we talked about fashions and clothing that seniors should avoid wearing as a matter of taste. Some items are timeless and will be forever classy. Others, not so much. This week, we are going to talk about what not to wear as a matter of safety.

As we age, our minds and health start to fail. Some more quickly than others. When this happens, our balance may be off, or our sight may start to go. And if this happens, gone are the days of stiletto heels and corsets. Our clothing should be more practical, thus more safe.

Here are some clothing items to avoid as you age:
• High heels or stilettos--avoid falls and broken ankles.
• Buttons are particularly difficult for those with arthritis
• Slip-ons--these can fall off the feet too easily.
• Long pants--they should be hemmed to a proper length (at the ankle) to avoid tripping.
• Loose clothing--these can catch on fire near stoves, or catch on doorknobs.
• Clothing with ties/strings--they could catch on doorknobs, cabinet handles, faucets, etc.
• Leather-soled shoes--stick with non-slippery soles like rubber to avoid falls.

If you are a senior, or know a senior, check their wardrobe for these health hazards.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Importance of Routine

Writer Wednesday
So you call yourself a writer. Just how serious are you with your writing? Do you jot down a few words whenever you have time? Do you play scenes through your head while in the shower or driving to work? Do you rip articles or photos from magazines as you envision a scene or character?

These are not necessarily signs of a serious writer. These are more the habits of a hobby writer. In order to be considered a serious writer, you need to set time aside every day or week that is exclusively for writing. You must close yourself away, turn off the phones, ignore your email, and just write, write, write.

Your chances of getting published are greater as a serious writer with routines. Once you set aside that time, you are telling yourself and the world that this is your career. You are a writer. As you continue to write, you will start to see that over time, you will begin to do some editing also. Use your time to write, polish your writing, then write some more, until you have a completed project that is ready for an editor.

You can't turn in your magazine clippings, scraps of paper or imaginings to an editor. So stop being a hobbyist and start being a writer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Paring Down Your Mailbox

Tips for Tuesday

We all want less clutter in our lives. Maybe it's mental clutter from all we have to keep track of. Maybe it's clutter from our children growing up and growing out of their clothes and toys. And maybe it's all those papers and catalogs that find their way to our mailboxes.

What would you say if I told you there are ways to keep your mailbox from getting cluttered? And thus keeping your kitchen counter from getting just as cluttered? I don't know about you, but I'm all for having less to sort through and make decisions on on a daily basis. I have enough to do without determining whether or not I should open and envelope or keep a letter.

So here are some things I've done that have helped curb the clutter in my mailbox.

• Go paperless. Many companies offer e-statements and payment options online now. Rather than getting a piece of paper in the mail, you get an email, reminding you to pay your bill. You can sign in to your account, then set up automatic withdrawal from your checking account, or pay it manually every month. No paper ever comes in or goes out. Most offer this service for free since it costs them less to process the bill and payment.
• Opt out of mailing lists. Watch when you sign up for new offers or visit a new web site. There is often a little box at the end, in small print, that asks you to check if you DON'T want to receive offers from complimentary companies. Many people miss seeing the box, so they are automatically added to the mailing lists of yet more companies.
• Opt out of catalog lists. Once you start receiving mail order catalogs, your name is shared with marketing lists. And once you order from one, the list gets longer. You can opt out of mailing lists through web sites like DMAChoice.org. Just add your name/address to the list, and you will be taken off junk mail lists.

And to curb your mail once it gets in the house, always open it over the recycle bin, and immediately file what you need to keep. Handle each piece of mail only once when it arrives. The next time you touch it should be when you have to act on it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is Offsite Storage Worth the Cost?

Moving on Mondays

When your house is on the market, you are advised to make the rooms look as large as possible. This might involve moving some furniture and items out of the house. If you're lucky, you have a friend or family member who can house your stuff. Most aren't that lucky. Their only option is off-site storage. And the down side to that of course, is the cost.

So, is it really worth the cost? Some units can cost upwards of $200/month if you have a lot of belongings. And if your house is on the market for over a year, the cost really adds up.

Before you decide on a storage unit, ask yourself the following:
• Do you need everything you are putting in there?
• Will everything fit into the new home?
• Will you use it once it gets into the new house?
• Can you afford the extra cost every month?
• Would a smaller unit suffice?

Answer these questions honestly. It may turn out you don't need half of what you are packing away. And if you don't need all that, you may be able to keep the items in your home while it is on the market.

It isn't worth paying for storage for things you will never use or don't need.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Saving Money on Eating Out

Frugal Friday

The holidays are over. We've shopped and wrapped and visited and entertained. And now, we're tired! The last thing we want to do is cook dinner, right? Wouldn't it be nice to go out to dinner instead of creating yet another masterpiece in the kitchen? But we've probably drained our pocketbooks on gifts and groceries these past weeks. So how can we afford to eat out?

Here are some ways to save money, but still enjoy a meal that you didn't have to slave over.

• Go out to lunch instead of dinner. Menu items are often less expensive at lunch time.
• Ask if you can split an entrĂ©e. Sometimes you may be required to pay a nominal sharing fee, but it would still be less than the cost of another dinner.
• Order appetizers as your meal. Depending on the restaurant and your appetite, some appetizers are a meal in themselves. If you aren't that hungry, and don't need a salad or soup with dinner, then choose an appetizer instead.
• Have dessert at home. Eating out is a treat itself, but you can save money by not ordering that piece of cake.
• Don't order alcoholic beverages. The mark-up on drinks is much higher than on sodas or tea/coffee.
• Ask if the restaurant offers half portions.
• Find out if local culinary schools offer student-cooked meals. You can get a gourmet dinner for much less. It may not be the same high quality, but it's cheaper than visiting a gourmet restaurant.
• Take advantage of happy hour even if you don't drink because the appetizers are often less expensive.
• If you order a full meal, take the leftovers home. It will be another meal for you that you don't have to cook.

What Not to Wear for Seniors--A Matter of Taste

Senior Thursday
As we age, it's tempting to dress to look younger. But there is a fine line between taste and class. Taste, you can buy. Class, you can not. While it's tempting to buy the latest fashion trends to look like a twenty-something, that isn't the best of taste. You can still look fashionable dressing your age. This is class.

Items like little black dresses and simple lines will always be in style. Platform shoes and padded shoulders will not. When cleaning out your closet, keep the timeless items, but get rid of these:

• Mini-skirts and short shorts
• Thigh-high boots
• Sweatpants with words on the rear end
• Low-rise pants
• Anything see-through
• Anything from your high school or college days
• Pajama pants and slippers outside your house
• Sweaters and tops with plunging necklines

Class is timeless. You will look younger by NOT dressing younger.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To Tell or Not to Tell?

Writer Wednesday

Being a writer is a solitary profession. You don't get in a car and drive to an office and sit at a desk to get paid all day. You probably never have to leave your house, unless you are doing research. There is so much that can be done online and over the internet now.

So if your family and friends know you never leave the house to go to 'work', then the question becomes, should you tell them what you do? Do you tell them you are a writer?

While sharing this information is certainly helpful when marketing your books, or networking for freelance work, it opens you up to risk of criticism. Not everyone is supportive of your career. Some may laugh at your attempts to be published. Others may continually interrupt you because they don't consider writing a serious profession.

While nothing is predictable, you know your family best. How do you THINK they will react? If you think they will be supportive, then by all means, tell them early on. If not, then hold off until it's absolutely necessary to tell them.

Whichever you decide, be prepared for the worst case scenario. That way you won't be disappointed if they react unfavorably, and you will be surprised when they are accepting.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Getting Organized as a New Year's Resolution

Tips for Tuesday

It's the beginning of a new year. We start making resolutions, most of which we probably won't keep. They may be to stop smoking, lose weight or find a new job. Perhaps one of the most popular these days is getting organized. But how do you keep that resolution?

Smoking cessation and losing weight are easily defined. But what does "Get Organized" really mean?

Being organized isn't about perfection. It doesn't mean that everything has to be put away, and all your surfaces are pristine bordering on sterile.

What it does mean is that you are able to find things when you need them because they have been put away where they belong. This mean you have a system in place for handling items as they come into your home. It may be in a holding spot for a while (like bills), or it may get put away immediately, like groceries.

It also means that there are times you may fall behind a bit because of life's intrusions. And that's okay. As long as there is a place for something to be put away, and you make the time to take care of it when you can, then you are on your way to being organized.

Finally, don't stress yourself out if you can't get it all done in a day or weekend. It probably took years to get you there. So reward yourself when a room or area gets done. You deserve it.