Author Archives: Regina Ford

Avoid a Post-Holiday Headache

The Guiness World Record for the “Most Holiday Lights” belongs to David Richards in Canberra, Australia. His display has almost 1.2 million LED lights strung on 75 miles of cable. The most lights on a residential property is 601,736 lights held by Tim and Grace Gay in LaGrangeville, New York. Their display spans two acres and takes two months for their entire family to rebuild each year. Most of us don’t come close to having this amount of lights, but many of us do amass our own large holiday collections. It can be a lot of work to drag out all the boxes and hang the lights and decorations. Then, when the festivities are over, taking them down and putting them away can cause your own post-holiday headache.

Famously, the same strings of lights you carefully put away one year become a tangled mess when you take them out the next year. You spend hours trying to unsnarl them and replace burned out bulbs. Along with the lights are the other decorations and ornaments. You discover that some of them have broken and some are tattered and worn, so you buy new ones, but you can’t part with the old ones because of their sentimental value. Later, you decide you want a certain color or theme for your decorations and you buy even more. The collection grows and so does the space needed to store it.

Families with children know all about this accumulation of adornment for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. It starts small with a special ornament to commemorate the birth of the first child. It balloons from there – holiday art projects from school, Homemade Cards, Wreaths, Candles, Menorahs, Kinaras, Stockings, Nutcrackers, Nativity Scenes, Trains that wind around the tree and Miniature Villages in fake snow. There may be an artificial tree or two or three. And, let’s not forget the outdoor lighted reindeers, the inflatable ten-foot snowman, and the oversized candy canes that line the driveway. Their boxes are tucked away in attics, garages, closets and storage units. They start spilling into other things. Soon it spirals out of control.

If you have boxes of decorations and old lights that stack to the ceiling and take up a whole room or most of your garage, you probably have too many. Are there boxes that you haven’t opened in years? You can start with examining whether or not you need to keep those. Are there broken or damaged lights or frayed wires or cords? Do you want to replace your old lights with more efficient LEDs? Don’t throw them away. Recycle them. Did you know you can send your old lights for recycling to: https://www.holidayleds.com/christmas-light-recycling-program.aspx? They will gladly take your old lights and send you a 15% off coupon for LED lights from their website.

If the thought of it all is just too much to cope with and you don’t know where to start in taming the mess, you can always call The Move Makers for help. Our team of professional organizers will gladly assist you in getting things under control. Take some of the stress out of your holiday and avoid the post-holiday clean-up headache by calling The Move Makers.

Brighten Those Dark Winter Months

We are headed into those dreaded dark winter months. Our mood grows gloomy and we feel tired and lack energy. Lighting is often overlooked in the realm of accessibility even though it is critically important. Without light, there is no perception, no color, no style to guide you. A lack of lighting can lead to falls and it also adversely impacts our mood. People most profoundly affected may develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or other health problems associated with insufficient natural light.

The older you get, the more important light becomes. The lens of the eye yellows over time and eye muscles weaken. It takes older eyes longer to focus. Research has shown that many older adults require two to three times the amount of light as do adults age 20 (SeniorDriving.AAA.com). AARP studies show that the average person age 60 or older spends 80% to 90% of their day indoors. People spending the majority of their time inside under artificial lighting may suffer from fatigue, susceptibility to disease and other physical problems (Hughes and Neer).

Natural light from windows and skylights is preferred in homes, but in the winter, this isn’t enough. Homes need additional lighting from fluorescent, incandescent or LED lights. The frequency range of lighting is very important. Incandescent or full-spectrum bulbs are preferred because of their wider, more natural spectrum of colors. Older fluorescent bulbs produce more of their colors in the frequency range for blues and greens which tend to make colors seem washed out or dull. More recently, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) have delivered full-spectrum light and replaced incandescents. Even more modern LEDs (light emitting-diodes) emit fuller-spectrum light for a fraction of the cost of incandescent, fluorescent or CFL lighting.

To prevent falls, make sure there is non-glaring light in rooms that people occupy during darker hours. Too often, lighting is chosen for style and not function. Instead, select light fixtures whose bulbs can be changed easily and turned on and off with a rocker switch, not an old-style toggle. Lights can be programmed to come on at a specific time or turned on by a smartphone. Ceiling mounted overhead fixtures are best for directing more light downward over large parts of a room. Task lighting or accent lighting can help in darker zones. Tasks lights are useful in kitchens, hobby rooms and offices where close work is done. Nightlights that are motion-sensitive can create a lighted path to the bathroom at night.

During the holidays, many people have special lights on trees and elsewhere. Make sure they are safe. Don’t overload outlets, use power strips instead of extension cords and replace damaged or frayed strings of lights. Also, be careful to place power cords where people can’t trip over them.

One relatively easy way to improve your mood and avoid trips and falls is to improve the lighting in your home. You can increase the wattage of your bulbs or add more lights. Simply hanging a mirror can add depth, light and visual spaciousness. If you need help in determining the proper lighting for your home, contact The Move Makers. Their Certified Aging in Place Specialist can measure the light in your home and give recommendations for improvement to brighten your gloomy winter months.

Are You Squirrelling Away China and Crystal?

Modern couples typically do not order china and crystal for their wedding registries, or at least not like the old days. In fact, couples are marrying at older ages now and prefer online registries at places like Amazon, Home Depot or Honeyfund (for honeymoon trips). Many Millennials are choosing experiences, not seldom-used items that merely take up valuable space. We remember visiting older relatives and seeing the china and crystal in museum-like china cabinets. Then, it was passed down. Ask anyone. They will tell you about that box of china they have in the attic or garage or some inaccessible place in the kitchen. So? What should we do with it? There are many different opinions on the matter.

Overall, the trend appears to be to either use it or ditch it. People tend to use everyday dishes instead of expensive tableware. After all, it’s not often we throw fancy dinner parties. But, it turns out that china ( especially bone china) is very durable. Depending on whether it has metallic trim or not, it can go into the dishwasher and microwave. Gone are the days when you carefully washed your china by hand. You can use them for your everyday dishes. Break a dish? No problem. There are online registries where you can find replacement pieces. Some couples like to have eclectic collections of all kinds of colors, patterns and materials of dinnerware. It makes their table fun and colorful. If something breaks, they go to a resale store and buy some other appealing piece and add it to the mix. They don’t worry about it.

Many people have kitchens that are lacking in cabinet space. They do not like clutter and will jettison anything that doesn’t serve a function. Boxes of old china and crystal have no meaning for them. They view possessing it as a burden and not something of great value. They sell it or give it away with no regrets. But, there are also those that fondly remember their grandmother’s china cabinet and sitting around the Thanksgiving table with the best dinnerware and crystal taking center stage. It is a family tradition that must be passed on. They have to do their part as the current caretaker of the family heirlooms. It is their obligation. Otherwise, it could cause hurt feelings.

The times are changing and so are attitudes about what is valuable and what should occupy space within your home. Young people care more about experiences and less about “things.” They want to revere their elders, but are less likely to place value on items passed down unless it is of personal, historic or monetary value. They would rather keep a special piece of jewelry, a watch, a shirt, or old pictures that hold more personal meaning. Advice from experts says that you can consult with other family members who want to preserve the family china and crystal and give it to them if you don’t have the space to store it. If no other family members care about what happens to the keepsakes, then feel free to sell them, donate them or use them. Having them sit in boxes in your home does no one any good.

Taming the Tide of Toys

Does your playroom look like a tornado has hit? Do you find toys everywhere in your home? Are you constantly stepping on Legos or picking up puzzle pieces? I can relate. Having had three children in a ten year span, I know what having too many toys looks like. When my youngest was a toddler and the oldest was in junior high school, there were tons of toys for all age groups all over the floor of my house. I also had a girl and two boys which meant having additional toys to please each gender. I fell prey to the marketing of the era. To please your child meant buying them more stuff and I was not alone.

The toy industry worldwide sells $80 billion in toys each year. One-fourth of these are bought by people in North America. The United States ranks second only to the U.K. in toy purchases per child. They buy $438 in toys per child per year and the U.S. spends $371 (https://www.statista.com/) . Children in the U.S. own 40% of the toys consumed, yet only account for 3% of the world’s children. They have twice as many toys now as children did 50 years ago. (https://www.worldatlas.com/)

How do you know when you have too many toys? Often, with more toys comes confusion and boredom. The choices are so overwhelming that the children can’t decide what to do and often do nothing. We have all seen the child who unwraps a gift and ends up playing with the box and not the toy. Children can also become passively entertained with toys that do everything for them. Simpler can indeed be better. If children need to figure something out or create their own scenarios, they tend to learn and develop.

Kids with too many toys can be easily distracted and do not enjoy their play time as much. Toy overload can even cause negative effects on their developing psyches. Montessori school experts say that children have a natural sense of order that starts at birth and lasts until age 5 or 6. Without this order, children can seem lost and lacking in focus. To restore this order and produce independence and happiness, you need to remove some of the toys.

What can you do and how should you start? The holidays are coming, so now is a great time to take stock of what you already have and what you could part with. You will notice that kids seem to gravitate to certain favorite toys while others sit idly by just taking up space. There are many great ideas about what to do. The professional organizers at The Move Makers are specially-trained to give you insights and ideas. They have many resources at their disposal for advising and setting up systems. By simplifying and organizing the play area, the toys that you do keep will become more visible and used more often.

With toys, as with many things in life, less is more. By enlisting the aid of our experts, you will find that your children will have more fun and better quality playtime and you will have less clutter, hassles and headaches with toy storage and clean-up.

Kitchens: The Heart of Your Home

Make the Heart of Your Home Easier to Use

 
The kitchen is the heart of your home. It is increasingly being used for multiple purposes. It’s where family and visitors gather to prepare meals, have conversations, and build memories. As our lives become more casual, the kitchen becomes more important. It is the central meeting area for the family. By following some simple rules of accessibility you can make your kitchen one that is more comfortable and easy to use for everyone. Universal Design principles will reduce fatigue and allow for safer and more efficient use of your kitchen.

To start, the layout should be one that allows for flow through the three major areas of use: the refrigerator, the sink and the cooking area (stove, oven or microwave). To reduce steps, these stations should be located in close proximity, ideally in a triangle. If you have a galley kitchen or an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen, keep the stations in logical order and close together if possible. Allow for a counter space between the sink and stove for preparing items for cooking. Standard counter height is 36” but counters can be lower if users are seated or in a wheelchair. Choose glare-free countertop materials and avoid sharp counter edges and corners.

The sink is the most often used item in the kitchen. Make sure that it is large enough or has dual basins. The faucet should be a single-lever type. It’s handy to have a pull-out sprayer built into the faucet. Stainless steel sinks are easier to maintain than porcelain ones. Appliance choice is next in importance. Refrigerators are designed in many different ways now and frequently have cold water and ice accessible in the door. Locating the freezer compartment below makes using the refrigerator section easier with less bending. If the user is in a wheelchair, a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer is best. Stoves now have easy to use push button controls. These are preferred to knobs or dials. Microwave ovens should be located at counter height. Removing hot items from upper cabinet height microwaves can be dangerous.

Cabinetry is very important. To reduce the stress of bending and trying to reach inside lower cabinets, install pull-out drawers and shelving. For upper cabinets, pull-down shelving is available. Otherwise, do not place items on upper shelves that are higher than you can comfortably reach. Many falls in the home involve step stools so avoid using them if you can. There are many new cabinet designs for pantries, wine racks, spices, plates, platters, and trays that are clever use of space. Remember to have locking cabinets for chemicals, sharp items and other things that you want to keep out of reach from children, pets, or those with dementia.

Natural lighting from kitchen windows is preferred. Overhead lighting can also be good, but make sure it is full-spectrum and LED for cost savings. Task lighting is very important for many cooking and baking chores and can be installed under your upper cabinets. Make sure your receptacles have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) for avoiding shocks and burns. There are many other tips for making your kitchen accessible. The Move Makers employs a Certified Aging in Place Specialist who can review your kitchen and the entire house and offer recommendations for improvements. Contact us today at (503) 744-0826.

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?