Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Health Hazards of Living and Working in Clutter




Recently I have had several of my clients cancel sessions because of respiratory problems and, yes, this may be an allergy but it could also be due to dust, dander, and even mold in stacks of papers and items throughout the house. I recently had some respiratory difficulties after working over five hours in a home with papers that had been scraped off the floor in another room. I could see hair, dust, and some trash mixed in with the papers. It is my own fault that I did not stop then to get out my gloves and mask.

Unless you clean your home on a regular basis, the clutter gathers dust. When you have piles of "stuff" you are not likely to move them in order to clean. This accumulated dust can cause lung irritation and allergy flair ups. Stacks of boxes that block vents also cause poor air circulation and lack of filtering the air.

I've also unpacked boxes of papers that have been stored so long there was evidence of black mold on the papers or books. You certainly don't want to breathe in mold and sometimes the papers are important ones that need to be kept.

Another health hazard I have come across is animal feces. If it is difficult for animals to get out the door or get to a cat box they are more likely to use the floor or go on the items stacked on the floor. Once an area is marked, animals will continue to use this space as their latrine.

Bugs and even rodents also love clutter. Mounds of material and paper make great nests. Bugs love paper boxes that have been stored on the floor for long periods of time. The presence of bugs and rodents is not a good combination for good health.

Tripping accidents and fire are also hazards I have observed. It's hard to navigate around piles of clutter and I had a client narrowly escape a fire in her home because of the clutter. Trying to navigate your way out of a smoke filled home with only pathways to walk is a very scary experience.

And while this is not as obvious, stress of living with clutter can affect health.

The bottom line here is that even if you are not close to staring in a hoarding episode, clutter can eventually harm your health. It's amazing how much better you will feel once you have your clutter under control.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Let's Throw a Party!

During the holidays chances are that you are either throwing a party or are a part of setting up a party. It might be a large Thanksgiving gathering, a choir or work party, a cookie exchange, or a gala New Year Eve party.

Since I love to give parties, over the years I have developed a plan that lets me enjoy my own parties. The plan involves backwards planning and looks like this:
  • Start with your vision. What is the purpose of this party? Where is it held? How will it look and feel if it turns out perfectly? Look over each component of the party and see it clearly - the local, the food, the people, the ambiance.
  • Choose a date for this event. Then at least six weeks out develop your guest list and send a save the date email followed by the actual invitation.
  • Take each component and decide what needs to happen for the vision to come true. For example, if the party is held in your home and it is a Christmas party, you see your home decorated and set up for the party. Make a list of every detail that needs attention between now and the party. If there is a decorated Christmas tree in your party space you will list decorating the tree, bringing out your decorations, putting up the tree, buying the tree - probably on four different days.
  • Develop your timeline. Put all the tasks on your calendar. Now follow your plan.
If you follow your plan you never have to worry about if you have time to get ready. If you are interested in the timeline I have developed for my Holiday 2017 party just contact me at jonda@timespaceorg.com and request it. You can see how I blocked out times for baking and most of one weekend before the party to prepare the house. This is what it takes to make my vision come true.
Enjoy!



Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Organizing Your Kitchen

Every October I declutter and reorganize my kitchen. I know that the next few months will involve a lot of holiday cooking and I want my kitchen to be at its best. There are a lot of food drives around this time of year and it gives me a chance to clear out any foods that I have overstocked or bought on a whim and not used. This opens up space for holiday supplies.

I like to work in my kitchen so I want it to be an inviting place that is uncluttered. I want open countertops that are ready for food prep or rolling out cookies or pie dough. I want all my basic stored foods and spices organized and fresh so that I can easily put my hand on what I want without missing a beat. I want to be happy in this warm space.

I look at my kitchen as it is now and see what I can streamline to open up more space. I only want on my counter tops the items I use daily and even some of them can be tucked away under the counter. For example, I use my coffee grinder once a day but it is light and easy to shift off the counter for more space.

Next I go to my cabinets. Am I really using all of the pots and pans stored there? Are some taking up space just because I once used them? And then all of those food storage containers - do they have matching lids? I like to use the glass containers but will put to the back of the cabinet some plastic ones that I can pull out to send home food with visitors. I will keep to the front the ones I use weekly.

In my food pantry I organize my foods by type. I have all my canned vegetables in one row, my soups in another, any canned meats or fruits in their rows. One shelf is for snack food and I like to put some of those in open containers that can be pulled out and then replaced. I also sore most of the cat food on a different shelf in the pantry along with some staples. As I am organizing I  am pulling out what to toss or donate.

I review my serving pieces to see if I am still using all of them. As I work I wipe out each shelf before putting back items.

During this month I also clean out my refrigerator/freezer, my oven, my stove, and my microwave. I make a list of all the tasks to complete for me to call the kitchen zone "done". Then I divide the list into four weeks and post it on my fridge. I put times on my calendar to work on each task and then cross them off when they are complete.

By the end of the month my kitchen is ready for anything I want to tackle over the holidays and I'll even have some room for a few holiday decorations.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Keep Your Desk from Becoming One Big Inbox


I had a client once tell me that his desk was one big inbox and that he really didn't have an outbox. Looking over his desk, he was pretty much right. Unless I was sitting there and sorting papers with him and having him trash, shred, and file, things just accumulated in piles.

Now I understand that people with ADHD characteristics panic when paper is filed or placed where they don't see it. But the truth is that some of that paper has been there so long it has stuck to the desk or fallen behind the desk or is so buried that unless there is some trigger to dig for it, it is forgotten.

Every person has a different comfort zone for clutter and for filing but here are some suggestions:
  • When paper comes into the office, do a quick triage. What is obviously trash or needs shredding? What needs an action soon? What do you want to read and ponder? What ads do you wish to consider?
  • Take care of the trash and shredding right then.
  • Have a landing pad for items needing an action soon.
  • Have a basket for magazines or articles you want to read and ponder. When that basket gets full, acknowledge that you have more than you can handle and either set aside some time to read or dispose of some of the material.
  • Have a folder for ads or upcoming workshops or events that you are considering.
Now this has corralled most of the paper but still very little has really gone away.

Here comes the harder part:
  • Schedule a time to pay bills or check on bill pay. Then immediately file or get rid of paid bills.
  • Weekly, at a scheduled time, take care of any receipts or invoices that need entering or filing. If possible scan these items and get rid of the paper.
  • Take a couple of the items you want to read and ponder and either leaf through them at that time or remove them to another location to read later. After looking through them, dispose of them.
  • Schedule at least monthly a time to leaf through the ads and toss any that you know you don't want or that have expired. Look over any upcoming offerings and see if some no longer appeal to you or have passed their due date and dispose of them.
While you may never get your desk completely clear of paper, do realize that paper has a purpose and when that purpose is complete the paper should go somewhere besides on your desk.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Helping Children Cope with Natural Disasters

All across our country right now it seems like we are having one natural disaster after another. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms, fires, and floods abound.

These disasters are overwhelming to all of us but can be even more devastating to children. Without really understanding the whys, children can feel scared and insecure. Even children who do not personally experience the trauma but see the events on TV and hear adults discussing the destruction can feel strong emotions. Try to limit the amount of time watching TV where so many traumas are highlighted. After watching TV together, talk about what is being portrayed.

Exposed children may start demonstrating fear or sadness. They may act out or revert to bedwetting, sleep problems, or separation anxiety. For many children, these reactions may be brief but some children may be at risk for psychological distress. This is especially true if they were directly involved and had to be evacuated, lost a pet, or experienced a real life-fearing ordeal. Children that experienced on-going stress by living for a while in a shelter or somewhere else, loss of friends and social networks, loss of personal items, hearing parents worry over unemployment and costs of recovery may be more at risk.

Children's coping skills are often learned from their parents. They can sense adults' fears and sadness. It is important parents and other adults take steps to manage their own feelings and plans for coping because they are the best source of support for their children. One way is to have children become a part of planning before disaster strikes so they know what to expect and have a sense of control. After a disaster include the children in the family recovery plan.

Don't leave children out of discussions. Encourage the children to share their thoughts and feelings. Clarify any misunderstandings. Listen to what the child is saying. If they have difficulty expressing themselves, ask them to draw a picture. Give out a lot of hugs. Calmly provide factual information and plans for safety. As soon as possible get back to your regular routines.

If your child continues to show stress or his behaviors start to cause him trouble at school or with other children, it might be the time to talk to a professional like the child's doctor or clergy. Look for support networks or start one for yourself.

Looking forward, preparing for disasters as a family helps everyone accept that disasters do happen and gives the family an opportunity to collect the resources needed to meet basic needs during and after a disaster. When families feel prepared, they cope better and this includes the children.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Organizing the Shed and Garage

September's cooler days inspire us to organize our sheds, garages, and any other outside storage areas. It's time to put away our summer equipment and muck out the debris that has been tracked in. Even if you do this zone once a year, it can easily get disorganized and cluttered because it is so easy just to open the door and drop something "just for now".

Before you start your project, take a good look at the way it is now. Notice what is working (don't mess with that area) and what is not working. Envision how you want to use this zone. Your vision might include a place to:
  • Park your car
  • Store trash cans/recycling
  • Store gardening tools and accessories
  • Pot or repot plants
  • Work on projects and store tools
  • Store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  • Store outdoor entertainment supplies
  • Store extra products
Bring everything outside or if this is a large or very filled area, pull stuff out by sections. Sort like with like. Note what is broken or what you have not used in the past year. Get rid of these items or make a note to replace them. Get rid of expired seeds or old chemicals. Give away or sell tools you no longer use. The Tool Bank is a great place to donate tools for community projects. http://toolbank.org

Next decide where to logically place your zones. Items that you use frequently are best stored near entrances. As you group your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items together. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves. A flat basket can hold gardening tools. Use shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers because, for sure, you are going to want something that is in the bottom container. Label containers that are not clear.

Knock down cobwebs, sweep the floor, and start putting things away. You'll be amazed at how much room there is now that all the items have been bunched together and stored away.

Now reward yourself! A hot shower and a cool drink might be just the thing.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Kudos to the Decatur Book Festival

I am excited to be a part of the Decatur Book Festival this coming Labor Day weekend!

According to Daren Wang, the executive director, the book festival will include more than 450 authors, 130 exhibitors and sponsors, and 80,000 booklovers. It is also very impressive that there will be more than 900 volunteers working this venue. The book festival is said to be the largest independent book festival in the United States.

Diane Quintana and I will be part of the Sycamore Family Zone (Organizing for Kids - booth 610) and will also have our 15 minutes of fame (1:45 - 2:00) on Saturday on the Sycamore Family Zone Stage.

When you enter the free festival you will want to pick up the AJC guide. In the guide you will find a map showing the location of the booths and the 18 stages. Each stage has a listing of presenters and the times they are on stage. The Decaturbookfestival.com site has a wealth of additional information.

Show up early so that you can join Bookzilla to kick off the fun each day with the Children's Parade!



Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer