Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Donate Household Items to Supply Drive for Erie Co SPCA

The Unitarian Church of Amherst sponsoring a "Blessing of the Animals" this Sunday. Public welcome. Also a Supply Drive to benefit the SPCA.  Clean out your closets and donate!
Check the flyer for details.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pharmaceutical Drug Drop-off Event

The next Pharmaceutical Drug Drop-off Event will take place on September 29, 2012 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. For more information and a list of locations, click here to download the flyer. Drug Drop Off Locations

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Practical Shoe Storage

 Where do you keep a Mountain of shoes?


We have TONS of shoes. No, not due to a shoe fetish. Or compulsive shopping. Simply 6 pairs of feet, 12 total, for each activity we engage in. We have sneakers, cleats, sandals, flip flops, dress shoes, cowboy boots, riding boots, winter boots, rain boots, and slippers. If piled in the family room, (which I do each year when sorting outgrown shoes) it makes a huge mountain of shoes. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of it, which I meant to do and forgot. These are not, mine, just an internet image, but you get the gist. Just multiply it by about 4 times the pile.

So, rather than have that in my (very small) front foyer or (very narrow) mud room, I have come up with a few solutions that work for our family and will share them here. 

This basket lives in my front hall.

First, the simplest; a laundry basket placed close to the door. No, not lovely, but very functional. No, all shoes don't end up in it every time, but yes, I can toss them in a nanosecond and all looks tidy, plus a lot of the dirt from the shoes ends up in the basket and I can easily dump it out from time to time. The basket is pretty empty now, because most of the feet are at school or work, but even full, it is manageable. When it overflows I ask someone to empty it (or I do it myself) and the overflow goes to the other solutions described below. This basket is for our MFWS (most frequently worn shoes) and gets more play in the warmer months, when our entry is frequently through the front door.

Mud Room

The next solution is an Over-The-Door Vinyl Shoe Organizer. They can be purchased in various places, but I provided a link to Bed, Bath & Beyond. Again, not lovely, but highly functional. Some of you may know that I have twin 8 year old girls, and so have two pairs of every shoe for them. These organizers are only for the girls' shoes, and I have Megan keep hers on the left two columns, Shanna on the right two. (I try to keep this left/right pattern consistent for all of their storage, hooks, backpacks, toothbrushes, beds, etc.)

These hang in my back hall that enters the garage. We call it the mud room, although it is really just a hallway with a small cubby system. If you look closely, you can see that above the soccer cleats on the left side are also the shin guard and above them the soccer socks. This works out really well. In the winter, this whole organizer will become empty (due to seasonal gear and flip flops) and I will replace with hats, gloves and scarves for the family.

Entrance to Laundry Room
Here is another view of the hallway storage. Here you can see the boot trays (three of them, where we keep wet shoes and boots.
Beyond this door is the laundry room, where another solution lives.
Storage in Laundry Room

 This is the main storage place for everyday shoes for my husband and I, plus some extra sneakers and boots for all the kids. This is where we keep shoes for the garden, mowing the lawn and exercising. This Horizontal Organizer fits together in sets of two shelves, and is made by Closetmaid. It comes in two sizes, 24" and 31" and several colors. Pictured here are three sets of 31" and one set of 24" (to allow room for the taller boots on the side). I provided a link to Target, but I noticed they were on sale at our local Valu Home Center this week, through 9/22.

Outdoor Shoes in Garage

The next storage area is in the garage, where we keep the rain boots and winter boots until we need to wear them. During the winter, we keep them on trays in the mud room, but if not needed for long periods, they go out here.

Dressier Shoes, used occasionally

Finally, a bit of storage for our dressier shoes. This Closetmaid 15 Unit Organizer holds my and my husband's shoes. Each of my older two children have a couple of pairs of dress shoes in their closets, on one set of those 24" Horizontal Closetmaid Organizers. You may notice that most of my organizers are not filled to capacity. I highly recommend that you try to keep to this, as it is far more rewarding to live this way, than to constantly be trying to stuff shoes where they won't fit. See steps below and purchase a bit more storage than you think you will need.


To get started with this project, I suggest the following steps:

  1. First gather all your shoes to one room (don't forget to take a picture). You may want to put down a sheet first.
  2. Then sort by person, and have each person try on (esp important for little ones who grow so fast).
  3. Sort into piles: KEEP IN ACTIVE WEAR, DONATE, GROW INTO, and TRASH. Have the kids write out labels on scrap paper so the piles are obvious and the kids are involved.
  4. Once shoes are sorted and purged by person, decide logical divisions your family's shoes (like frequency of use, sports, age group, etc.)
  5. Decide where each category should live- measure spaces and decide what supplies are needed.
  6. Purchase supplies or re-purpose from other parts of the house.
  7. Put shoes away and offer brief training to other family members.
  8. Pat self on back for job well done.
If you need help with this or any other organizing project, Simply call Linda, 716-631-5619.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 11, 2012

Save Time By Organizing Favorite Website Links

I use Mozilla Firefox to browse the web. I like it because it's easy to use and it's reliable. I have a lot of clients who use Macs, and Safari is similar. With a few differences in set up, the same system can be set up in Safari as I describe here.

Today I reorganized my bookmarks, so I can find my favorite websites quickly and easily. I do this every once in a while, to keep it up to date and functioning.

Here are the categories I use:
@Biz (Anything for my business)
@Financial (Our bank, credit card, utilities, school meals, etc)
@Household (library, online calendar, e-mail, Netflix)
@Internet Resources (maps, tiny url)
@Kid's Play Sites (fun sties for them that I approve of)
@Kid's Ref Sites (school related sites, camp, info I want to keep)
@Medical/Health (our doctors sites, medical info, fitness)
@Networking (Blogger, Yahoo Groups!, Facebook, Pinterest, etc)
@Shopping (stores, products I like)

These are all displayed on the toolbar. You can add a new folder to the toolbar by right clicking while hovering over it. I put the "@" sign in front of the word, so it sorts those files to the top, as I have other topics I don't wish to mix into the rest alphabetically. Only these few categories contain my most often used links. Everything else is long term reference and I don't display it at the top of my browser.

First you need to display the Bookmarks toolbar, then create your folders. Once you have the folders in place on the toolbar add your favorite sites.

Here are instructions from Mozilla to help you if you need it. If any of this is not working, please click here for a direct link and video help; source Mozilla site.

How do I turn on the Bookmarks Toolbar?

When you install Firefox, the Bookmarks Toolbar is no longer displayed by default unless you were already using it in your previous version of Firefox. If you want to use the Bookmarks Toolbar, you can turn it on like this:
  • At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button, go over to the Options arrow (on Windows XP, click on the View menu, go down to Toolbars) and check Bookmarks Toolbar.
Add bookmarks to the Bookmarks toolbar
  1. Go to the page you want to add to the Bookmarks toolbar.
  2. In the Location bar, click the site icon and drag it onto the Bookmarks toolbar or into your folder, already made.
  3. To rename bookmark, right click on bookmark and go down to Properties. Then edit the Name line and click Save to save that edit.
Bookmarks Toolbar - Win2

Sorting by name

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, open the View menu, select Sidebar, then click Bookmarks. The Bookmarks sidebar will open.
  2. Right-click on the folder you want to sort, then select Sort By Name. The bookmarks in that folder will be sorted alphabetically.

Sorting bookmarks in the Bookmarks sidebar will be reflected in the Bookmarks menu.

I also sync my bookmarks between my laptop and my netbook, so that when I sit down at either, I still have my bookmarks handy. Here's how:
Sync Devices with Mozilla

I hope this helps increase your productivity
If you need help with this or any other organizing project, Simply call Linda, 716-631-5619.

Friday, June 8, 2012

How Clutter Costs You Money; Advice from Vanguard

In the checkout line, you search in vain for the $2-off olive oil coupon you swear you put in your wallet. Loading the groceries in your trunk, you discover the overdue library book you hunted all week for. Back home, you find two bottles of olive oil already in your pantry—both opened.
Do you have too much stuff to keep track of? Are your closets crammed with seldom-worn shoes, back issues of Car & Driver, expired bottles of cough syrup?

A love-hate thing

Accumulating things can be fun. And objects that represent goals or memories exert an especially powerful pull: Someday I'm going to sew curtains with that vintage fabric! So what if that vase is cracked—Aunt Mel left it to me!
But when your things morph into clutter, they can keep costing you long after you buy them—in ways you might not have thought about:
Duplication: It's one thing to stock up on sale items you go through quickly—printer paper, laundry detergent, coffee. But when you end up owning enough cardamom to last a lifetime, that's money wasted. Tip: Make items easy to see by installing sliding racks and turntables in your cabinets and closets.
Devaluation: When selling a house, cramped rooms, crowded closets, and overloaded shelves can be a serious turn-off. Ever have trouble selling a desk or dresser online? Look again at the photo you posted. Did the sight of your scattered papers, coffee mug, wallet, sunglasses, and so on leave a junky impression? Tip: Sell like a pro: Banish all reminders that what you're selling has ever been used by an actual human being.
Penalties: Messy desks, purses, and briefcases are the domestic equivalent of black holes: They eat important papers the way dryers eat socks.The first time the bill you meant to mail gets forgotten beneath the blizzard on your desk, you might be able to get the late fee waived. After that, good luck. Tip: Sign up for electronic bill-paying wherever it's offered.
Lost receipts: Some stores have gotten stricter about returns and exchanges in recent years, so misplacing a sales slip can leave you stuck paying for unwanted merchandise. Tip: Never let a clerk place your receipt in the bag. Tuck it immediately into your wallet (not your pocket) and keep it there until you’re sure you won't need to return the item.
Time: How much is your time worth? Do you waste it searching for the birthday card you bought yesterday, the rebate check that came in the mail last week, the belt that goes with that outfit? How much time do you spend buying even more stuff? Tip: When you enter a store or retail website, check your watch and set a time limit. Next time you shop, try to beat that.
Lost opportunity:It doesn't take a hoarding disorder for clutter to make you less efficient or interfere with priorities such as working out or cooking healthy meals. Tip: Schedule your free time in a way that reflects what matters most to you. For instance, nurturing relationships first, participating in activities second, acquiring things last.
Unproductive inventory: That's a technical way of saying you've got stuff lying around that you could turn into cash. Tip: If you aren't experienced at selling used items on web sites such as eBay or Craigslist,  start slowly. Post one item at a time until you learn the ropes.
Unproductive inventory, II: Someone out there may need just what you don't. Put your clutter to good use by donating clean, serviceable items. When giving to a charity, ask for a receipt for a possible tax deduction. Tip: Make it easier to part with your things by finding them good homes with reputable charitable organizations.
Note: This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as tax advice. Consider consulting your tax advisor.
Source: Vanguard

Monday, June 4, 2012

Taming the Toys, Part 1

The building toys were beginning to take over the basement. When my older two children, Matthew & Mary Alice were younger, LEGOs and K'NEX were a huge part of their play. They would disappear for hours together building intricate cities, stadiums and vehicles. Slowly, through donations, gifts, garage sale finds, etc. our collection grew. The sets got mixed together and ended up HUGE. That was okay for Matthew and Mary Alice, but an impossible amount for Megan & Shanna, who are on a much more beginning building level. I decided that sorting was in order to get a select few complete sets for the girls to work on at a time. Here is a before pic of the LEGOs, as I started the sorting project. At first, I made the mistake of starting to sort on the floor (thinking maybe it would go faster than it did??), but then I brought a big folding table out, and that saved my back.

Starting the sorting

 My husband estimated about 7 pounds of LEGOs. It seems closer to 15! About 15 different sets are contained in the pile, including several basic brick buckets. I started the sort with paper lunch bags, taping a type of brick on the bag to identify it. I used broad categories to begin with, then started to narrow as the bags became fuller (i.e. first all roof pieces in the same bag, later separated by color).

As the pile got smaller, I sorted into finer detail, as shown below. I used large and small muffin tins to keep the smaller bits organized. I used muffin liners so that dumping into the larger bags was easier.

Muffin tins are great for sorting in smaller categories. Use liners to make removing easy.
Mini muffins are easy to use for the very tiny pieces or small groups of pieces.

At the end of the broad sort, this is what I have.

Use paper lunch bags to collect the larger groups, then sort into smaller categories, when the bags get full.

Now, I am ready to start to put the set back together using the parts list. I am a keeper, so I actually had most of the instructions, but several of them did not have parts lists included. Very annoying. So after a quick trip to the internet I found that the official LEGO site offers "over 3300 building instructions available online which date back to sets packed in 2002. You can search for replacement instructions by set number, key word or brand". I was able to identify a kit I did not have instuctions for, simply by searching the word "pink" due to the pink bricks it included. Six or so choices came up and a few clicks later I had identified the right set and printed the instructions.

 As I said, for some of the sets, the parts list was not in the instructions, and not available elsewhere on, so I searched further and found this amazing site has a reference section where you can find complete information and parts info for any set, simply by putting in the product number or descriptive words.
Lots of Legos!

Not quite as impressive (nor as time consuming) was sorting the three K'NEX sets we have. They were easy to sort and I thought they looked pretty cool afterwards. I found two complete sets, and the third had several missing pieces, most of which I found mixed in with the Legos!

One set of K'NEX, sorted according to the parts list
Inviting and ready to play!

Although this project seems like is an incredibly obssessive task (and not necessarily suited to all personalities), I felt the payoff was worth it, as it is truly a small fortune in LEGOs and the girls would really enjoy seeing and playing with the results. Plus, as I sorted, various family members joined me to explore, no one more than Shanna, who squealed with delight at each new discovery of interesting parts! And to be honest, it makes me HAPPY to sort the Legos! It is the kind of soothing and compulsive activity that orders my brain and kicks in the endorphins.

Stay tuned to see the final tamed LEGO project.

Click here to go to the updated post

For assistance with playrooms or any other organizing project,
simply call Linda, 631-5619.

Happy Organizing!

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This Saturday, April 28, 2012 is National Prescription Drug Drop Off Day

No questions asked. Drive Up, Drop Off. 10a-2p.
Accepting all medications: prescription and over-the-counter from residential homes.
Keep unwanted medications out of children's hands.

For Erie County Locations:

Clean House and SHRED!

A Community Event sponsored by L & M Financial Services, Amherst, NY is being held on Saturday, May 12, 2012.

Shred-it and Goodwill will be onsite in the back lot at their location. Follow this link for more info.

3820 Sheridan Drive
Amherst NY, 14226

If, you need help conquering the piles before you go, Simply Call Linda, 716-631-5619.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A New Year

Maybe you noticed that I have not posted much in the last 12 months. That has been both intentional and necessary. At first, it was simply because I had taken a short maternity leave to help my newest daughter and the rest of our family adjust to life as a family of six. Then, more and more happened and I sum it up here, along with my strategy on managing.
Many people are similarly affected by their own life circumstances. Some are even disabled by the sheer magnitude of what is on their plate. I hope by offering this personal experience I can help someone, even in a small way, begin to take tiny steps towards healing.

It begins with a prayer:
God grant me Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The Courage to change the things I can
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

Marty & Cindy, Thanksgiving 2011

I cannot even bear to write this, but writing is my healing, my processing, my outlet, so I will. On December 18, my beloved brother, Marty, died suddenly from heart failure. The earthquake that this has caused in my family and in his community is unimaginable. He was the rock; the caretaker and inspiration of literally, thousands of people, through his family, his pediatric career, his music, his running, his advocacy and his gentle nature, and we are all left bewildered and numb by the loss of such an amazing person.

I cannot change it. I cannot bring him back. It is so final. So awful. My heart aches for myself, my husband and my children, but also for my parents and sister, who are deeply scarred, and for my sister-in-law and her family who are trying to piece together a devastated life.

I cannot change it. We drove our family to Georgia for the funeral. We spent two days traveling down and two days back. The service was a beautiful tribute and was attended by about 1000 people. We are still recovering from the emotional and physical exhaustion of this difficult journey.

In reality, we are recovering from a year of exhausting events, starting with the adjustment of our 7 year old daughter, Shanna, our 4th child, home from China on December 13, 2010. It was a rocky and painful process for her, as she learned to trust that our love was real and permanent. That she was safe with us and that we would not leave her. The first six months were really tough and Eric & I were stretched, but Love Never Fails (as I learned in a workshop with Heather Forbes) and Love Prevailed. Our daughter is thriving in every way and is a complete blessing to us. In February, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. In May, she came to live with us and we provided hospice care until she died in July. Her husband suffered, too, with Parkinson's and severe grief, requiring a change in living situation. Their house sold in two days and had to be completely empty by July. In late summer, my stepfather, who had gradually declined in health and independence since having a heart attack in April, moved into nursing care, which was both a blessing and a sorrow for my mother. He died in November, and now Marty has died in December, completing a full year of emotional and traumatic events. I cannot change it. I cannot change the impact of each of these events on the people I love.

So what CAN I do?

I can make sure my family is fed, both emotionally and physically. I can physically connect with them each day and put a nourishing dinner on the table each night.

I can keep order in my home and our routines. I can do the laundry, empty the dishwasher, keep the environment uncluttered so our brains can think. I can rely on the routines of our life, and forgo extras right now. I can keep it simple.

I can help my children make time for school work. I can sit quietly by them while they do what they need to do. I can help the little ones learn their sight words and their math facts.

I can be the buoy to my extended family. I can offer my home as a gathering place. I can support from afar through Skype and phone calls. I can encourage connections and I can applaud steps towards rebuilding independence. I can reflect healing.

I can pace myself. I have responsibilities outside our home. I have a business and clients to serve. I can return to them as I am ready, and not before. I can hope they wait for me. I can encourage them to seek other solutions if they cannot.

I can remember the Serenity Prayer. I can recite it over and over  in my mind if I lay awake at night. I can work within my circle of concern (Steven Covey) and make a difference there.

I can appreciate the joy of life. I can be thankful for the blessings I have. I can stop and watch a flock of birds circling in unison in the sky and I can wonder at the beauty of the world.

Yes, things are difficult and I am strong. I am flexible and I won't break.

"It's going to be alright". Marty always said that to us and I can hear it now. It's going to be different but it's going to be alright. Because life cannot help but go on amongst the tough stuff.

Happy New Year