Are you prepared? September is National Preparedness Month

September 1st, 2013

September is National Preparedness Month.  What does this mean?  National Preparedness Month is a U.S. Governmental effort that encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities.  Emergencies can be anything from a flood or other natural disaster, loss of power, loss of access to your financial and online storage systems, an automobile accident, loss of your computer system or your mobile device to a terrorist attack.

www.ready.gov sites default files documents files checklist_1.pdfThere are lots of ways to get prepared.  For residences, it can include creating a family plan, a place to meet up or communicate in case of an emergency, creating an emergency supply kit for your home or vehicle (filled with non-perishable foods, medications), access to contacts for your banks or credit cards.   For businesses, it can be creating a back-up system in case an emergency wipes out your primary system, a plan to communicate with clients/vendors, a back-up of your client records and financial systems, a plan in case an emergency stops the flow of income.  

Why is this important to me?  My goal is to help others simplify their lives and to reduce stress so they can have greater enjoyment.  By being prepared, you can sometimes prevent emergencies or be better equipped to handle them when they occur.

Below are access to lists prepared by various governmental agencies designed to help make sure you are prepared.  What one thing are you going to do today to get prepared?

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Ready.gov was created by the US Department of Homeland Security.   A readiness campaign started in 2004, Ready.gov now run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides lots of information to help citizens be prepared for anything from natural disasters, terrorist hazards, medical emergencies, home fires, blackouts to creating an exit at the workplace or school, and helping out employees in an emergency situation. Check out some of our favorites below.
Emergency Supply List
Caring for Animals
Emergency Food List
Supplies for Unique Needs – babies, seniors, cold climates

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  They have a page on their website dedicated toward preparing for all hazards.  Resources include recommendations for families, schools, childcare centers and emergency and health professionals.  They also provide resources for coping with a disaster or traumatic event.

ucm367034U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also a an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, and veterinary products.  They provide a list that helps you determine if drugs are safe after a natural disaster. They also provide information on what to do if you encounter Anthrax.  The obvious first response would be to contact your physician, a clinic or your local emergency room.

Alert MontgomeryLots of local jurisdictions have their own resources for local businesses and citizens.  My county and town has the option to sign up for emergency text or email alerts.  The State of Maryland also has its own resources for business and residents in case of emergencies.

Montgomery County
http://montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS
City of Gaithersburg – https://alert.gaithersburgmd.gov/register.php

While it may not fall under the National Preparedness Month fold, I think getting rid of excess in your home helps you prepare or prevent emergencies.  The local Montgomery County Division of  Solid Waste Services is hosting a secure paper shredding events (they are recycling other things at these events as well).  Shredding papers is a great way to prevent an identity theft emergency.  The first event is this weekend.  Mark your calendars.

www.montgomerycountymd.gov SWS Resources Files paper shredding.pdf

What are you doing to get you, your family, your business prepared for an emergency?  What steps have you taken or plan to take?  We’d love to hear in the comments.

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Simple Ideas to Help Students Get Organized ~ Back to School

August 13th, 2013

As we kick-off another school year in North America, we need to reset our routines.  Folks often ask “how do you get organized for the school year?” or “help me organize my student”.

Here are simple tips to help students manage time, avoid clutter, set goals, and stay on an organized path to a successful school year.

1. DON’T RUSH.
No one likes to feel rushed. It is a process to bathe, dress, eat breakfast and get everything together for the day, Make sure your child wakes up early enough to arrive at school well ahead of the start time. If your child will bathe in the evening, you gain spare time in the morning and some extra minutes of sleep. If your child bathes in the morning, and they need at least 30 minutes to get up, shower, dress and eat breakfast, pad that time by waking them up at least 45 minutes prior to their departure. This will avoid rushing, arguments and stress.


2. WARDROBE PREPARATION.
Before bed each night, help them choose and lay out their clothes for the next day. This way, you’ll avoid arguments and they’ll be all set to dress and go in the morning.


3. DO A NIGHTLY REVIEW.
Each evening spend 5 minutes with your child reviewing their upcoming activities. Determine what needs to be done to prepare. In doing so, they will know exactly what they are expected accomplish the next day.


4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP.
A good night’s rest is essential for students. This will ensure they are alert and ready to learn the following day.


5. EAT A BALANCED BREAKFAST.
Students should eat three healthy meals each day, along with fruit or veggies for snacks. Studies show students who start off with a healthy breakfast had higher energy levels and better learning ability than similar students who did not eat breakfast. Harvard researchers found that students who ate breakfast were “…significantly more attentive in the classroom, earned higher grades in math, and had significantly fewer behavioral and emotional problems.” Avoid overloading on high sugar sweets, which cause many people to feel tired.


6. SET-UP AN EFFECTIVE STUDY ZONE.
Designate a quiet, well-lit area for studying. Make sure the supplies your child needs for school work is easily accessible.  This could be a desk in their room, your home office or the dining room or kitchen table. During study time, minimize disturbing activities so your child can study without distraction. Don’t allow children to study in front of the television, or in an area of your home where they are bound to be distracted.


7. AVOID CLUTTER.
Papers add up throughout the year e.g.) assignments, notices from the school, etc. Be careful not to build clutter as the year progresses. Create separate folders for school announcements, tests that have been graded, papers that must be given to parents and so on. Review your folders weekly. As papers become outdated, such as an event that has passed, toss them immediately.

8. SCHEDULE CONSISTENT STUDY ROUTINES.
We all do better when we have routines. This is more important for children. They do better when they know what is expected of them. Set aside time every day for study, and make it consistent. Set a designated time for your child’s study time for each afternoon. Whatever you do, teach your child to avoid late night, last-minute studying and cramming.


9. SET A TIMER.
Break up big tasks, into smaller, bite-sized jobs. For instance, if they have to read three chapters of a book, read one chapter at a time each day. If they have to work on a project, break it down into three or four manageable stages. It is less overwhelming for the student.

10. TACKLE LEAST FAVORITE OR MOST CHALLENGING SUBJECTS FIRST.
You teach children to eat their veggies before offering dessert. Just the same, your child should start their homework with their most difficult subjects first. Then, everything else will be a breeze, and you will encounter less resistance. AVOID OVER-PROGRAMMING. While you may sign up your child for extra curricular activities, such as basketball or cheerleading. Over-scheduling puts too much pressure on them and can lead to problems managing school work and activity balance. Review their course load. Determine how much study time they will need. Then, choose one or two recreational activities they really enjoy.

11. USE A PLANNER.
Use a good student planner or organizer. The ones that have pocket folders, dividers and planning calendars are ideal. If your child has an iPod or smart phone, you can electronically share calendars and reminder systems. Ask yourself, does my student respond better to paper or electronic notes.


Student homework12. 
WRITE IT DOWN.

Many school systems enable teachers to post homework assignments and tests online. When your child learns of an upcoming test, event, or anything they must prepare for or attend, teach them to immediately jot it on their planner and carve out study and preparation time.

13. USE ONE CALENDAR.
Use one calendar to plan all of the child’s school and personal activities, rather than two or more. When you use more than one, you run the risk of scheduling conflicts and missed appointments. Give the child one place to look for their obligations. If your child has an iPod or smart phone, you can share a calendar where you post obligations and the child can get reminders on their electronic device.


14. COLOR-CODE.
You may consider color-coding your child’s similar activities on your calendar. For example, highlight all upcoming tests in yellow, study time in green and recreational activities in pink or you could do a different color for each child. This is made easy when using electronic planners.


15. GET HELP.
Check in with your student. Teach your child, if they don’t understand a lesson, to immediately ask for help before they get to the point where they are totally confused. A sibling, friend, parent, teacher or tutor can be a lifesaver.


16. OH NO!
If you find your child has gotten off track, teach them to simply take a deep breath, find out where things went awry and get back on track. It is better to get slightly derailed, rather than giving up.


17. REWARD THEM.
Designate enticing rewards for goals your child meets, such as family night at the movies, or a quiet, relaxing walk in the park. As they achieve their goals through hard work, provide them with rewards. This will help keep incentivize them and keep them motivated throughout the year.

What are your favorite tips for getting students organized?  Here is to a great school year!

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Home Office Set-up for Optimal File Management and Productivity

July 23rd, 2013

Do you have a home office?  Or do you use your tablet, phone or laptop and your home office is all over your home?  The key to reducing household paper clutter and increase productivity is having a centralized home office.  A home office could be a designated area of a room or a specific room.  Your home office should have a place for papers to be dropped as they enter the home.  It should also have an area where papers that require action or follow-up are placed.  Your home office is an extension of your home and should be treated as such.  You should give it an inviting coat of paint, good lighting and hang some artwork and/or pictures of your family and friends.

Last week, I was interviewed by Robert Lerose of Bank of America’s Small Business Community.  Their site provides great resources and support for small businesses.  Check it out.  It is free to sign-up and participate. I will let you know once the article is published.

Here is a video I created a few years back on creating an ideal home office.

Do you have a dedicated home office? Do you use it?

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Removing clutter ~ It is not about the physical stuff

July 16th, 2013

When folks set out to declutter, they often worry about no longer keeping their things. Professionals in the organizing and psychology fields realize it is often not about the stuff but rather the feelings you get when you see the stuff. The emotional attachment we have with the memories or feelings associated with the stuff. I have found that people are more successful, productive, happier and more financially stable when they free up their physical space and can do more with less.

My number one tip for starting an organizing project is

  1. Start with organizing the area that bothers you most.  Think about the area that keeps you up at night.  The area that is the last thing you think about before falling asleep and the first thing that you think about upon waking.  Start there.  By creating a system, a home for those things for easy access, ease in putting away and retrieving, by seeing success organizing that area, you open yourself up for a clearer mind.  You feel a weight lifted off your back.  You open up mindspace for greater enjoyment of life and create the inertia to continue decluttering other areas.

I saw this quote on Pinterest and think it is perfect.  This  is why I offer services to help people unclutter their spaces.  I’d be lying if I didn’t get joy of seeing a clients desk free of clutter for the first time or actually being able to see the color of the floor covering.   The reason I wake up and get dressed in the morning is not to see clutter-free desks, countertops, or floors but for the satisfaction I receive by knowing my assistance in eliminating or reducing other’s clutter has helped others open their mind and spirit.   I receive joy from knowing my services have helped clients find time for them in their day, find time to spend doing the things that make them happy, find time to smile and take a deep breath without worry that things are getting lost, misplaced or falling apart.  I love what I do.  I love the feeling I have when leaving a client appointment.  There are few other things that I could do that would leave me and my clients with a high level satisfaction in their life.

Look around the room.  What types of things are cluttering your surroundings?  Set the timer for 15 minutes and grab any unnecessary things that are taking up space in your surroundings and your mind.  Let me know how it goes.

 

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America Recycles Day – November 15

November 13th, 2009

What are you doing to celebrate America Recycles Day? The DC area has embraced the celebration with events throughout the area, throughout the weekend.

from the National Recycling Coalition
America Recycles Day (ARD), November 15, is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and to buy recycled products. Celebrating its 11th year, it has grown to include millions of Americans pledging to increase their recycling habits at home and work and to buy products made with recycled materials. Through America Recycles Day, the National Recycling Coalition supports local communities and raises awareness by educating citizens about the benefits of recycling. Volunteer America Recycles Day coordinators are positioned throughout the country and work to organize recycling awareness events in their schools and communities, and in conjunction with their local municipalities.

On November 15 each year, millions of people become better informed about the importance of daily recycling and buying recycled products. The purpose of America Recycles Day is to continue to promote the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling and encourage more people to join the movement toward creating a better natural environment.”


Montgomery County, Maryland events

Paper Shredding, Household Goods & Clothing Recycling
Shred and recycle your personal papers and donate usable clothing and household goods at these locations for FREE (Montgomery County residents only). (Rain or shine)

Saturday, November 14, 10 am – 2 pm

Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center (map)
3300 Briggs Chaney Road
Silver Spring, Maryland 20904

Upcounty Regional Services Center (map)
12900 Middlebrook Road
Germantown, MD  20874

Sunday, November 15, 8 am to 12 pm

John F. Kennedy High School (map)
1901 Randolph Road
Silver Spring, Maryland 20902

Sunday, November 15, 1 pm to 5 pm

Walt Whitman High School (map)
7100 Whittier Boulevard
Bethesda, Maryland 20817

Please review the guidelines and specifics before heading to the events. Montgomery County Maryland America Recycles Day


District of Columbia event

Shoe and Bike Drive
Bring your unwanted shoes & bikes.  Benefiting Soles4Soles and Bikes for the World.  Soles4Souls takes new or used shoes of any style or size.  Bikes for the World suggests a $10 per bike donation to defray the cost of shipping to those in need.  This event is open to anyone. Organized by Junk In The Trunk Removal Services

Saturday, November 14, 9 am to 1 pm

Broad Branch Market(map)
5608 Broad Branch Rd. NW

Washington, DC

Fairfax County, Virginia event

Electronics, television and computer recycling event
Free safe destruction and recycling of peripheral electronic devices, computers and televisions.  (Fairfax County residents only).

Sunday, November 15, 10 am to 3 pm

I-66 Transfer Station (map)
4618 West Ox Road
Fairfax, Virginia

Alexandria, Virginia event

America Recycles Day celebration
Join the City of Alexandria recycling staff, Robbie the Recycling Squirrel and Whole Foods Market to Celebrate America Recycles Day! Bring your plastic bags to be recycled, and receive a free reusable bag.

Sunday, November 15, 11 am to 3 pm

Whole Foods(map)
1700 Duke Street
Alexandria, Virginia

Prince George’s, Maryland event

Free e-cycling and Document Shredding Event
Shred your personal papers and recycle unwanted computer equipment and accessories, printers, copiers, cell phones and televisions for FREE (Prince George’s County residents only)

Saturday, November 14, 8 am to 1 pm

High Point High School (map)
3601 Powder Mill Rd
Beltsville, MD 20705

Please review the guidelines and specifics before heading to the event. Prince George’s County Maryland America Recycles Day

I’d love to hear about any other events happening in the DC area or wherever you live.  Please leave them in the comments below.  Thanks.  I hope you find solace in purging and the recycling process.  Have a great weekend.

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