Camping Gear Chaos

I have many pleasant memories of camping with my family – the beach, hiking, fishing and eating around the campfire. Everyone would dutifully unload the car upon our return, but then everyone would disappear. Somehow, it always fell upon mom to clean the camping supplies and put them away. I remember trying to put everything back where it came from, but somehow, it wouldn’t fit on the same garage shelves. How was this possible? Wasn’t it there before? Well, yes and no. We always seemed to buy new camp gear during each trip although we kept all the old gear for back-up. We would end up with multiples of everything. Too many sleeping bags and pads, coolers, stoves, lanterns and oodles of gadgets. You name it, we had it.

The gear began to creep into the floor of the garage in front of the camping shelves. Eventually, it started getting dirty and tattered-looking. Something had to be done? But, what? That’s when I found out about Gear Forward. This is a nonprofit that recycles camping gear to the Boy Scouts or other youth in need (see gearforward.org). You can also donate it to a local hiking or climbing club or the Sierra Club. They will put it to good use. REI and Goodwill have a program called the Give Back Box. You can go to REI.com/givebackbox and print out a shipping label. Put your donations in a box, attach the label and then drop it off at any U.S. post office or UPS store. Making donations to nonprofits will keep huge amounts of gear and clothing out of landfills. Of course, people can also sell excess gear on eBay, Craigslist or Geartrade.com.

How do you arrange your camp gear on shelves in your garage? Please check out our related article in this newsletter on garage accessibility. Garages can be divided into regions for different items: automotive, tools, lawn and garden, recycling, sports and recreation, etc. Use open storage as much as possible. There are all ranges of shelving from very inexpensive plastic shelves to very expensive customized metal and wooden shelves. Pegboard with sturdy hooks can hang some items. Be careful not store things too high and out of reach. Accessing items overhead can be risky when you have to climb a step stool or ladder to get to them. Remember to leave at least 3-4 feet in front of shelves for easy access and put heavier items closest to the floor.

Now, my kids are all grown and gone. The camp gear went to their homes since I no longer have a garage. Although I am welcome to join them on camping trips, my idea of roughing it is to rent a hotel without room service.

Is Your Home Visitable?

We all want our homes to be warm and welcoming. We want our friends and relatives to be able to visit and have access to everything they need but what if your friend is in a wheelchair or uses a walker? Would the person be able to visit your home? Would he or she be able to enter the home, have access to the main floor and visit the bathroom? These are all important questions and sometimes we honestly have to respond, “No.” In the field of home accessibility, this is called visitability. Although it usually refers to indoor features, it can also refer to outside qualities of your home, too. Ideally, there should be total property access, not just the entrance or the first few feet inside.

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Too Many Mugs

It dawned on me when I started moving the last time. I was in my kitchen and packed three full boxes of coffee cups. What? How was this possible? Where did they all come from? I started examining them. It all started with a cute matching pair of cups that I bought for me and my husband as newlyweds forty years ago. They had roadrunners on them (we lived in Tucson, Arizona at the time). They were beautiful – with muted desert colors and cactus. Since that first pair of cups, I had moved to six states, had three children and many different jobs.

Each time I went to a different company, I received another coffee cup with that company’s logo on it. If the company had a particular achievement or product they were promoting, there was another coffee cup issued. While working in that office environment, we celebrated many employee birthdays. Some of my coffee mugs were acquired through this. They had sayings about too much work or having good friends. Some of my favorite cup sayings were, “The best thing about my job is that my chair spins”, “Of course I talk to myself. Sometimes I need expert advice”, or “Rome wasn’t built in a day – I wasn’t assigned to that job.” I kept them all. They reminded me of fun times with my co-workers.

There were also holiday cups. Some were given to me by well-meaning acquaintances who couldn’t think of anything else to give. They often had a small cocoa packet or some candy inside. Some had cute holiday pictures or designs. Sometimes you were given one at a store or at a special event. Which reminds me of another cup category – the nonprofit promotion. I have volunteered for many organizations over the years and they would each give you a cup to commemorate your hours of service. I got one from my children’s school, different disease organizations, the food bank, the city volunteer programs, and the 5K walks. I would receive a mug just for attending a church, a fundraising event or a special program.

Of course, the most cherished mugs were made for me by my children. They had carefully hand-painted and glazed them in school art classes, summer programs or daycare centers.

I often used them to hold things since they were far too precious to actually drink from (sometimes they wouldn’t stand up straight or hold liquids). How could I part with these masterpieces? As I looked over the massive collection, I knew I had to cull it down. After all, I already had coffee and tea cups that matched my table service. But, how far could I cut down the collection?

How many cups are too many? That’s the question. Practical advice from professional organizers is that you need to keep the number of cups your household uses each day times the number of days between dish washings. Add in a couple of extras in case company comes over. That would really limit the number you keep. With smaller kitchens, the cupboard space is sparse and you have to use your few cabinets wisely. An excess of mugs is taking up valuable real estate that could belong to something you use more often like that seal-a-meal or salad spinner. You can easily get rid of chipped, cracked or heavily stained cups. Put away the cherished collectible ones. You can also use tall mugs for holding items like pencils, pens, and straws and you can even re-gift the ones that you received but never used. Put something clever in them and put them back out into the great mug gift-go-round of the universe.

Part of decluttering is carefully examining how your space is used. A hundred coffee cups is probably too many. Look over your cups and donate some to a nonprofit resale shop so another newlywed couple can find a cute matching pair of mugs to start their own collection.

Creating An Accessible Garage

The American garage is a catch-all repository of junk. It is the storage spillover area of the home. When the house can no longer contain them, it’s all there – rejected furniture, used appliances, defunct electronics, toys, and boxes of old clothes. This is in addition to the usual items stored there: tools, lawn equipment, automotive items, camping gear, sports equipment and sometimes recycling. Trying to get everything to fit and stay neat is a challenge.

Accessibility for your garage begins with being able to get into it easily. Most modern garage doors have automatic openers, these are equipped with electronic sensors to prevent the door from closing on people or objects. A keypad outside can control the door if you aren’t in your vehicle or don’t have your keys – it is important to make sure this keypad has easy-to-read lighted buttons and that it is mounted at a comfortable height for all users.

Most building codes require a step down into a garage to prevent spilled chemicals and carbon monoxide fumes from entering the house. Steps up to the house would necessitate using a ramp in order for a wheelchair to gain entrance. Some building codes require the garage floor to slope from front to back. There are also specific requirements for ramps. Consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (on The Move Makers staff) for this. If a ramp isn’t necessary, install handrails on both sides of the steps into the home that are 34” to 38” high and can support at least 250 pounds. The width of the door into the house should be at least 32” wide (the front door is usually 36”). A lever-style door handle is preferred over round ones.

In order to make your garage space more accessible, think about how it is organized. Can you park your car in the garage? If so, are there clear paths on either side of it leading to the door of the house? Are stored items off the floors and put on shelves? Having a tidy garage just isn’t nice, it’s essential for people with mobility issues. Pathways must be kept clear to avoid trips and falls. Get rid of items that are never going to be used or are broken – you can take junk to the local dump or hire a garbage hauling service. Take old electronics to appropriate recycling centers. Even old paint can be recycled at Metro Central and South stations. Check on Metro’s website for places to recycle other hard to recycle items (styrofoam, batteries, bulbs, etc.).

For what you need to store in the garage, check out the many garage organizing systems and shelving units sold at home improvement stores. Also, consider storing items in high wall cabinets or on pegboards. Cabinetry should have magnetic latches or hardware that has C or D shaped handles. Avoid storing items overhead and always put heaviest items closer to the floor and in rolling containers to avoid lifting them. If you use storage containers, choose clear ones and keep them open as much as possible in order to visualize and get to those items easier.

Lighting should be full-spectrum in overhead fixtures, this eliminates shadows for people with limited vision. Electrical outlets should be easily accessed, if they aren’t, use power strips to minimize bending and reaching. Using long-life bulbs reduces the need for frequent bulb replacement. Install task lighting at the workbench. Replace your old-style toggle wall switches with lighted rocker-style switches or motion-sensor lights. Keep your cell phone with you while in the garage in case of an accident or a fall.

Be sure to clean the floor of debris and scraps from projects quickly. Repair cracks in the floor and consider painting it with a traction paint to prevent slipping in areas that may get wet. Be careful about how you store flammable or poisonous liquids. Keep them out of reach of children and provide adequate ventilation. If no windows exist, you may consider installing vents or an exhaust fan. Fumes can pose a danger, especially around gas water heaters with pilot lights that are often located in the garage.

When you open your garage door, your neighbors see a microcosm of your home. It represents how you organize your home and your life. It is also an access point to your home. Keeping it organized, safe and accessible can assist all members of your family regardless of age or ability.

Mountains of Reusable Grocery Bags

I admit it. I was a reusable bag junkie. It started when I was a sustainability officer for a large company. Reusable bags were better for the environment. Using them made me feel better about myself. So, I started collecting them. There were only a few at first. They came from grocery stores, department stores, fairs, festivals, business meetings, and volunteer groups. Everyone wanted to have their company name and logo on a bag and I gladly supported them by taking their bags. Too many bags. Pretty soon, my back seat floorboard was full and overflowing onto the seat. It was a problem for people riding in my car. “What’s with all these bags?” they asked. I had to transfer some to my trunk. “You can’t have too many reusable bags,” I said. But, I was wrong.

All bags are not created equal. Polyester ones take more energy to produce. Organic cotton ones are better. They don’t have chemicals that can leech onto the food inside. You can also wash and dry them. I found out that you should always use food bags for food and not other items like diapers or gym clothes or kids toys. It is also better to use bags manufactured in the U.S. that are sturdy and can withstand cleaning. The more local the bag, the better (less transportation means less pollution and you support local businesses).

So, I eventually fessed up. I had a problem and I had to face it head-on. As painful as it was, I culled my huge crop of bags. I went through my back seat and trunk and I tossed out the cheap bags, the ones that were falling apart and ones that were visibly dirty and couldn’t be washed. I washed the cotton ones. Then, I organized them in another reusable bag in my back seat. Now, people can get into my car, I don’t worry about contamination from dirty bags and I can breathe a sigh of relief. I am no longer at the mercy of my reusable bags. I even pass up opportunities to collect more of them now. “I have plenty,” I say. And, I do. How about you?

Nimble Move Team Saves the Day

Memorable Moves

A good Move Manager has to be able to adapt to challenging circumstances quickly. One recent move really put this to the test. The client was moving from a large house into an assisted living community. Six people were on the packing team. It was going to be a long, involved move. A family member was supposed to be helping, but he had opted out when he saw the complexity of the project. Unfortunately, the client had a mild heart attack the day before the move. He was going to be the point person to interface with the move team, but now he was in the hospital. The Move Manager sprang into action. The move had to go on despite the client being in a health crisis.

The move team persevered and got everything packed and moved to the client’s new home while he was recovering in the hospital. Ordinarily, when someone is moving, there is a “Go Bag” packed with essential items (medications, toiletries, a change of clothing, etc.). Because of the heart attack, there was no “Go Bag.” When the client was ready to be discharged, he needed some clothing, but everything was packed. The team went to work, trying to locate the items he requested. This was particularly difficult because the client was supposed to have helped sort everything prior to the move, but due to the circumstances that didn’t happen. Regardless, the move team persisted with the scavenger hunt and eventually found what he needed.

This move exemplified the Move Makers’ team spirit. Everyone pitched in to help the client in a very trying situation. During the course of the move, the team encountered collections of gambling items and souvenirs. This unusual move was not something either the client or the move team “gambled on,” but, in the end, he was very happy with the outcome. The Move Makers team is always ready to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes for a successful move.

Can Emergency Responders Find You?

One of the most important aspects to home safety is the ability of first responders to find your home during an emergency. The house or apartment number must be visible both day and night. If a person is in a medical crisis or there is a fire or a break-in, you don’t want emergency personnel confused by a lack of house numbers. Go to the street in front of your home. Are your house numbers located in plain sight? Are they covered by plants? Have they faded over the years? Are numbers missing?

For ease of visibility, make sure that the numbers are large enough and contrast with the background. At night, make sure they have a light directed on them or they glow in the dark. Time is of the essence when you are in an emergency situation.

Make it easier for police, fire and medical personnel by checking this simple thing that could save valuable time and perhaps your life!

Downsizing Diaries: What Should I Do With My Old Luggage?

I treated myself to a small, sleek set of luggage this year, the type that rolls along on 4 wheels and weighs almost nothing. It was not an easy decision, since my old luggage is perfectly serviceable, though a bit frayed at the edges. Besides, it’s taken me and my family on countless adventures in the past 20 years or so. We have history. And that makes it hard to let go.

In the end, I made the purchase and now it’s time to say goodbye, and make room in my closet for the new additions.

What do I do with my old luggage?

Simplify your move with Color!

Color coding is one of our favorite strategies for simplifying moves. We love using color so much that we use this strategy on every move we organize (that’s a lot of stickies!). Let’s face it, moving everything you own is no small feat, especially if you are moving into a smaller space. Most often there are items that need to go to multiple destinations (such as your new home, a storeroom, the homes of family members, consignment shops and donation collection spots), as well as items that still need to be sorted and things that someone else needs to look at. By using color to visually sort your belongings, you can prepare for your move ahead of time and still leave everything in its place, which is so much less disruptive!

2015-06-11 Color KeyHere’s how to get started:

1. Gather your color coding supplies: Sticky notes, colored tape, yarn, tags, stickers or a combination of the above.

2. Set up a color “key” so that everyone will know what each color indicates. Make multiple copies of the key and post in various locations around the house.

3. Choose the categories you want to use. (Hint: Stick to 6 or less. Too many colors is just plain confusing!)

4. Begin with one room. See if you can mark absolutely everything in the room, moving in a circle around the room.

5. Adjust your color coding system if necessary, then continue to the next room and beyond!

Do you feel more in control of your move? Let us know! We love helping people simplify the process of moving.

 

3 Strategies That Will Reduce Your Stress As You Prepare To Move

 

Spring Into An Organized Move!

3 Strategies That Will Reduce Your Stress As You Prepare To Move

1) Focus on the important stuff first. 

Believe it or not, most people spend about 75% of their time and energy before a move sorting, moving and selling the items they don’t want, leaving the important items until last! We recommend beginning your project by sorting and packing what is most important to you (not the things you use every day…we’ll talk about what to do with those next time). Carefully label 2 sides of every box or bin and stack neatly with labels showing. This will give you peace of mind that the important things are taken care of when things heat up later.

 

2) Make a task list.

Sit down early in the process and write down every move-related task that’s on your mind, even the small ones. You can add to this list as you think of more things. We often use sticky notes on a wall to create a giant ‘Command Center’ for the move. Be creative! Emptying your head of all of the small details will dramatically reduce your worry and stress and allow you to keep the big picture in mind. Hint: It also lets others know what still needs to be done so they can be part of the process (see Tip #3 below).

 

3) Don’t be a task hog.

If you are lucky, friends and family will offer to help, so it’s smart to be prepared ahead of time. After you’ve written down all of the tasks (Tip #2), separate the tasks that absolutely must be tackled by you from the tasks that someone else can handle. When an offer of help presents itself, you will be ready! You can even offer helpers their choice of tasks. Hint: A reasonable task is something like “Deliver the stack of donations marked in blue to XYZ charity” or “pack the books on the shelves marked with green tape”. Avoid writing down tasks such as “sort and pack the garage”. These mega-tasks will make all but the most dedicated volunteer run for cover.