Archive for the ‘01 News from Cathy’s Desk’ Category

November…already?

Posted on: November 19th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

 

Cathy MendlerIt’s November!

It may say November on the calendar, but the snow outside is making it look like January.

Christmas is right around the corner.

I’ll be kind and resist the temptation to tell you how many days are left until the big day arrives.

As you’re making your holiday lists, you might like to sip on a mug of The Perfect Hot Chocolate.

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf!

GETTING READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS

The following articles are back by popular demand!

Planning for the Holidays – Part 1  and Part 2

I’m including Gift Giving Ideas too which you may find helpful.



August, Already???

Posted on: August 6th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy_Mendler_new-150-x-115    It’s August!

Summer was a long time coming this year. With all of the rain and cooler temperatures, it hasn’t been a typical summer either. So enjoy it when you get the chance.

   

What does your summer list of projects look like?

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf!

ORGANIZING A DECORATING/RENOVATING PROJECT

In June 2013 I wrote an article “Organizing a Decorating/Renovating Project.” Here’s a link to that blog post.

Having just completed a major home renovation, I can offer the following additional thoughts:

  • Begin planning as far in advance as possible. Delays can be costly if you aren’t prepared.
  • Make sure you include contingency funds in your budget. Be prepared for the unexpected–especially if you are opening up walls or renovating an older home. Bringing your home up to today’s building code requirements may be an additional expense. Electrical upgrades, improving insulation, etc. might be required.
  • There will likely be items you wish to upgrade which you hadn’t considered. Think about your plans for the long term.
  • Could your home benefit from an energy audit? A high home energy score could help sell your home–if that is in your plans for the future. Click here for more information on your home’s energy efficiency.
  • Communicate frequently with your contractor.
  • Keep a supply of plastic drop sheets handy–they will become your best friend.
  • Prepare yourself for the frustrating moments, hours and even days. Despite all of your planning, they are bound to happen.

I’m happy to report that our renovations went smoothly. We were prepared as much as possible. Although we made several upgrades and spent more money than originally planned, it was worth the investment.

Good luck to two of my business colleagues. One is in the process of renovating an entire house–I can only imagine what she’s going through! The other one will be adding a commercial kitchen to her home–a big undertaking–in the very near future.

Remember, the end result will be worth it, as the drywall dust becomes a distant memory!

LOOKING AHEAD

Fall and back to school will be here before you know it!

Check out our Getting Organized for Back to School blog post from August 2012.



Spring Has (FINALLY!) Sprung!

Posted on: April 9th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

 

Cathy MendlerIt’s April!

Spring has finally sprung! What a winter it’s been! As I’m writing this post, the street sweeping truck is going around our crescent. Unfortunately, there’s still an ice mountain on the circle, and we had a dusting of snow last night!

The calendar, however, ushered in spring a couple of weeks ago.

One sure sign of spring is our annual Maple SyrupFestival. Elmira celebrated its 50th event this past weekend! The crowds were smaller this year because of the cold weather, but people still came out to enjoy the pancakes and maple syrup!

SPRING CLEANING

Spring cleaning is generally thought of as cleaning your home from top to bottom.

I always thought spring cleaning dated back to Europe when homes were heated with coal, oil and wood. Walls and home furnishings were cleaned to remove soot and ashes. In doing some research, I discovered there are a number of origins for spring cleaning.

wiseGEEK states that homes are completely cleaned prior to Passover. “[P]eople also get rid of any leavened bread, called ‘chametz’, which are forbidden foods … Even crumbs of chametz or a few leftover specks of leftover grains from forbidden flours need to be removed from the home, and typically, Jewish families hunt for any possible chametz crumbs the night before Passover begins.”

Wikipedia tells us that “Iranians continue the practice of ‘khooneh tekouni’ which literally means ‘shaking the house’ just before Norouz [numerous spellings], the Persian new year.” Scotland’s ” ‘New Year’s cleaning’ on Hogmanay (December 31)” is “also widespread in Ireland, New Zealand, and … North America.” “In Greece, and other Orthodox nations, it is traditional to clean the house thoroughly either right before or during the first week of Great Lent, which is referred to as Clean Week. This also often corresponds with the Julian New Year, or April 1.”

Our centrally heated airtight homes need a breath of fresh spring air. So it’s time to throw open the windows–unless you’re allergic to the budding trees!
The bright spring sunshine will likely expose a few cobwebs.

So let’s get started and turn over another leaf!

You may complain that you don’t have time to spring clean your home from top to bottom. If you’ve read any of our previous newsletters, I always recommend that you start with a plan.

Create a Master List

Go through your house thinking about one room at a time. Your master list should contain all of the projects that you want to complete. Estimate how long you think each project will take. Be realistic.

The next step is to prioritize your list, and determine which room you will work on first.

Scheduling

When you schedule cleaning sessions in your planner or calendar, you’re making a commitment to do the required work.

You may not be able to complete a room all at once. If necessary, divide it into sections, and work on one section at a time. If you only have one hour, pick a project from your list that you can complete in that time period.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to do all the work yourself. If you want to clean a number of areas, schedule a family meeting. Involving the whole family in the process can teach them valuable life-long skills.

Before starting any cleaning session with children, remember to keep their attention span in mind. You might be able to clean for 3 or 4 hours at one session, but most children can’t stay focused for that length of time. Try to make it fun!

It’s also a good idea to schedule a snack break; prepare snacks ahead of time. Plan ahead–when cooking, double a recipe and freeze one batch. At the end of the day when you’re tired, you’ll have an easy meal!

Supplies

Stock up–cleaning supplies, garbage bags, recycle bin, empty boxes, rubber gloves, etc.

Getting Started

Start with the first room on your list. Focus on one room at a time. Don’t start the next room until you’ve finished.

Take a break–set a timer–to keep up your energy level. This is especially important if your children are helping.

Maintenance

Maintaining your freshly cleaned space will require some effort from everyone.  Schedule a daily or weekly clean-up time, so things don’t get out of control.

Rewards

When you’re done, don’t forget to reward your children and yourself for all your hard work!

Remember, you don’t have to complete your entire list in one weekend!

Check out our “Get the Associate Scoop” section below. Martina of Naturally Clean provides some great natural cleaning solutions.



A Difficult Transition: Emptying Your Childhood Home

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy MendlerIt’s March! 

Even though it’s the beginning of March, it’s still not looking like spring is just around the corner with all of the snow that’s still on the ground. But don’t let that stop you from forging ahead with your plans for this year.

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf! 

EMPTYING YOUR CHILDHOOD HOME

Emptying your childhood home is one of life’s more difficult transitions. Whether your parents are moving to an apartment, a retirement residence or a nursing home–or they have passed away–here are some tips to assist you.

If possible, let your parents be in control. Put yourself in their shoes, and remember that it is their home. The process will run more smoothly if you respect their wishes.

Planning

Have a plan, and start as early as possible. Don’t expect your parents to clear out their entire house in a couple of weeks. The process takes time, as well as a great deal of energy and patience. Keep your parents’ energy level in mind.

Respect Feelings

Be empathetic. Did they grow up during the depression when possessions were scarce? Realizing that possessions are not worth very much now from a monetary point of view is an unfortunate reality. Often they have far more sentimental value.

Disposal of Possessions

Are there items that children and grandchildren find particularly meaningful to them? Schedule a family meeting. If someone doesn’t want or need items, don’t make them feel guilty. Nowadays, most people don’t want the maintenance that comes along with grandmother’s silver tea service.

Sorting through items will likely evoke many memories, and it’s common for seniors to share those stories. It’s a necessary part of the process and will help them let go. The more meaningful an item, the harder it may be. It’s often easier to let an item go if they know someone else will make good use of it. No one likes the idea of their possessions being discarded. Items that are worth money can be sold or donated.

Avoid packing items in a box and storing them in a basement. It’s not a good way to honour the memory of a loved one. In addition, it will prevent someone from dealing with the items again at a later date.

Remember–letting go of someone’s possessions does not mean you are letting go of that person. The memory of a loved one lives in your head and in your heart.



A Few Notes on Compulsive Hoarding

Posted on: February 4th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

 

Cathy MendlerIt’s February already! 

With the winter we’ve experienced so far this year, I think it’s safe to say that the snow and cold weather won’t be gone any time soon–despite whether the groundhog did or didn’t see his shadow.

Remember to add snow shovelling and extra driving time to your schedule as needed. But don’t let the cold weather deter you from your important tasks!

So let’s get started and turn over another leaf! 

COMPULSIVE HOARDING

When I tell people I’m a professional organizer, the conversation inevitably gets around to the topic of hoarding. This month I’d like to clarify some misconceptions about this topic.

With the popularity of programs such as A&E’s The Hoarders and TLC’sHoarding: Buried Alive, this once taboo subject is now seeing the light of day.The Hoarders begins each episode with the statement “more than 3 million people are compulsive hoarders.” This is an estimate only, as there is no accurate way of knowing the actual number.

Definition of Hoarding

When people tell me they know someone who is a hoarder, I caution them to be careful how they use the term “hoarder.” Many people are very quick to pass judgment or jump to conclusions about the people in these scenarios. Keep in mind that these episodes are real-life situations. It can be difficult and/or heartbreaking to watch. Understanding and compassion are needed by these people.

A&E provides the following definition: “Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary.”

The Fairfax County, Virginia government provided the following information on their website:

“Hoarding is not limited to any age, race, gender or nationality. Hoarding behavior can begin early in life but is more prevalent in older adults. Hoarders can be of any educational or socio-economic level. They are unaware that their living circumstances pose a danger to themselves and to others. They are unable to change unsafe conditions on their own.”

Signs of Hoarding

Geralin Thomas, a professional organizer who has appeared on The Hoarders,advises that the signs of hoarding may include:

    • “Extreme [acquisition] and storage of items in the home and in the yard
    • Accumulation of combustible materials
    • Blocked exits (doors/windows)
    • Narrow pathways in the home
    • Rat and/or insect infestations
    • Rotting food and/or used food containers
    • Human and/or animal waste
    • Long-term neglect of home maintenance
  • Non-working utilities, such as heat, running water, sewer, refrigeration”

Hoarding Situations

Unsafe living conditions can be discovered by emergency personnel such as police, fire and paramedics. Neighbours will sometimes report a person to authorities because their yard has become an eyesore.

In a number of episodes, the hoarder has been reported to authorities. It is not uncommon for them to live in fear of being evicted or having their children removed from the home.

What NOT To Do

A common misperception is that hoarders are lazy or just can’t be bothered. Geralin strongly emphasizes that a hoarder “can’t do” it, not “won’t do” it.

Clearing out the clutter will not solve the problem if the underlying root cause is not being dealt with in the proper manner. The hoarder must make the decisions about what will remain in the living space and what will be removed. It is not uncommon for people living with a hoarder to make the situation worse. Irreparable harm can be done to relationships.

The best thing you can do is encourage a suspected hoarder to seek professional help. Do not attempt to handle this type of situation by yourself, or with the help of family members, unless you are qualified.

Treatment

In 2013 the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defined compulsive hoarding as a distinct disorder within the chapter about obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.

A group of people (including socialservice workers, psychological/mental health professionals, professional organizers, etc.) may need to be assembled to determine and provide the required treatment. Successful treatment can include cognitive behavioural therapy combined with the use of medication. Often a hoarder does not comprehend that they have a problem. It is extremely important to realize that not everyone is willing to accept help or treatment.

Education

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) in the United States is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is “to provide education, research and strategies to benefit people challenged by chronic disorganization.” ICD developed a Clutter-Hoarding Scale with Levels I-V on a continuum. This scale “is an assessment measurement tool . . . to give professional organizers and related professionals definitive parameters.” For more information, please go to their website, and click on the Resources tab.

If you or someone you love is looking for help, contact me and I can direct you to local professionals for assistance. Communities are starting to establish task forces to deal with hoarding issues.

Online Support Groups

Children of Hoarders – support for those who grew up in a hoarding environment and/or currently have a relative who hoards. Many resources, online videos, shared stories and more are provided.

Squalor Survivors – stories, photos, tools, community forums and chat, resources and information for people who know someone who hoards



How Many Irons Are In YOUR Fire?

Posted on: January 14th, 2014 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

Cathy_Mendler_new-150-x-115

It’s the beginning of a new year!

It’s been a few months since my last newsletter.  Life has a tendency to throw you a curve ball when you least expect it.

In the span of a couple of months from late August to early November, our family lost a paternal aunt who had a brain tumour and a maternal uncle with kidney-related issues.  These deaths were somewhat expected.  In late October, my brother-in-law Dan (my youngest sister’s husband) passed away after having an allergic reaction to penicillin.

Death has a way of putting everything in life into perspective.

Is the speed of your life racing?  In talking to a number of people (organizers included) during the fall and the holidays, so many told me that they were just overwhelmed.  In some cases, it felt like the train had gone off the tracks.  And yes, organizers can be just as guilty of having too much on their plate–even though we’re supposed to know better!

Often the holidays are a time of seemingly endless to-do lists, and there’s not much time to relax and unwind.  Debbie Travis said “The beginning of the year is filled with fresh hopes and resolutions.  But I think most of us, as we pack away all the…ribbons and lights, long for a bit of a breather before embarking on…new goals.  If you have the [chance] to take a week away from…responsibilities, then grab it and enjoy.”  If not, can you take a weekend, a day, a morning, afternoon or evening to do something you love to do?  Everyone needs to take some time to recharge.  Otherwise, you may not be able to focus your efforts as much as you would like, and the end result may not turn out the way you had hoped.

If you’re ready, let’s get started and turn over another leaf!  

BEING MORE PRODUCTIVE AT HOME AND WORK

“Multitasking? I can’t even do two things at once. I can’t even do one thing at once.” Helena Bonham Carter, British Actress

If I told you that you could gain an extra 6 weeks of time per year, would you believe me? If you’re overwhelmed, it’s time to stop and come up with a new plan.

Planning

What can you do differently? Brainstorm and make a list.

Most people are more creative when it’s quiet. I’ve read that being close to water can help the creative juices flow. If you can’t find a spot near water to do some thinking, try to find a quiet place.

Prioritize Your Work

Set aside some time first thing in the morning to prioritize what needs to be done. It’s even better if you can do this at the end of the day. You’ll be more focused when you can jump right into the first task on your list.

Interruptions

If you can close the door when you’re working, you’re less likely to be interrupted. Don’t answer the phone; let your answering machine take a message. Don’t check your e-mail. Turn off the pop-up which notifies you every time you receive a new e-mail. Ask people to respect your request for no interruptions during a specified period of time.

Multitasking

“Many people feel they must multi-task because everybody else is multitasking, but this is partly because they are all interrupting each other so much.” Marilyn vos Savant, American Writer

How many of you think you’re more productive when you multitask? Numerous studies have proven this to be untrue.

Chris Crouch, founder of the GO (Getting Organized) System tells us that when you multitask “you’re actually switching back and forth between tasks, and not doing several things at once.”

If you can block off 96 minutes of uninterrupted time each day and stay focused on your high priority tasks, you may be surprised what you can accomplish. “96 minutes happens to be 20 percent of an eight-hour workday.”

Of course, there are times when it’s acceptable to multitask. You can help your children with homework while preparing dinner.

It’s next to impossible to completely eliminate multitasking from our busy lives, but just being aware of the fact that multitasking reduces your productivity is a step in the right direction. However, if you can reduce multitasking by just 20%, you can gain almost 6 weeks per year for other activities. A higher reduction in multitasking should produce even better results.

Elizabeth Lengyel is the author of Getting Juiced About Your Life! How To Make Lasting Change Toward Work/Life Balance. Her 60-40-20 rule suggests blocking off chunks of time as follows:

  • 60 minutes – focused work time – no interruptions
  • 40 minutes – check e-mail, return phone calls, etc.
  • 20 minutes – take a break

To-Do Lists and Planners

A leading Canadian time management expert, Harold Taylor, tells us that to-do lists are lists of intentions. When you schedule time in a planner to actually complete the tasks, it is more likely that they will be accomplished.

Follow-up File

Whether you have a desktop file or space in a desk drawer, it’s important to have a follow-up file.

Errands

When you have a number of errands to run, a bit of planning ahead of time should save you time, gas and even frustration. Plan your route to be as efficient as possible. If you’re not sure that a store has a particular item in stock, call ahead or check the internet and ask them to set it aside.

Rewards

Try one of the suggestions in the multitasking section for a month. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Life is stressful enough. Expect to make some adjustments.

The key to success is figuring out what works for you and your particular situation. Being more efficient will be worth the effort. Reward yourself for the extra time you create. I’m sure you won’t have a shortage of ideas for ways to use your newly created time!



Time for Back to School!

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

It’s almost time for back to school!

Dare I say that while summer is still in full swing. Have you had time to take a break? The heat, high humidity and large volume of rain in late June and July has been a bit too much! Make the most of what’s left of summer–while you still can.

Is organizing your child’s bedroom on the list of tasks before he/she heads back to school?

If so, let’s get started and turn over another leaf!

ORGANIZING CHILDREN’S ROOMS

“I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: “Checkout Time is 18 years.”  Erma Bombeck

Planning

It’s important to be clear about the functions your children’s rooms have to fulfill before you begin. When it comes to children’s rooms, think about kindergarten. Designate an area for storing each type of item–books, toys, art supplies, etc.

Before starting any organizing session with children, remember to keep their attention span in mind. You might be able to organize for 3 or 4 hours at one session, but most children can’t stay focused for that length of time. Setting a timer is often helpful. It’s also a good idea to schedule a snack break.

Try to make it fun!

Supplies

Use clear storage containers as much as possible, so your children can see what is inside. Be sure to label all containers. If you have young children, attach a photo to the container to make it easier to put their belongings away. Or get your children to draw an image they can attach to the container.

Getting Started

Similar items should be stored together. The most important thing to remember is that items should be stored as close as possible to where they are used. An item is more likely to be put back where it belongs if it doesn’t take a lot of effort.

Arts and Crafts

Plastic storage towers are great for storing arts and crafts supplies.

Art Work and School Projects

You and your children should go through their art work from the past school year. Set a reasonable limit, and let them decide which pieces are their favourites. Store these items in a plastic container or memory box, and label it with their name and the school year.

Some school projects are too bulky to store. Take a photo of your child’s volcano; that way he/she will be able to view it whenever he/she likes.

Check out Artkive–a clutterfree way to enjoy your children’s artwork.

Books

Place books in an open bin or basket so that the covers face the front. If you put them on a bookshelf, young children who can’t read yet aren’t able to identify books by what’s written on them. They identify books by the image on the cover.

Movies/CD’s

DVD’s and CD’s can be contained in baskets or small bins.

Toys

Have your children sort through their toys. Discard any toys which are missing pieces or are broken. Any toys that they have outgrown can be donated. Suggest to grandparents, family members or friends that they could give tickets to a show, a gift card to their favourite ice cream spot or have them contribute to sports activites or lessons, their education fund, etc.–instead of purchasing more toys.

Items which hang on the back of a door can provide storage for shoes, stuffed animals, etc.

Clothing

Remove any clothing that your children have outgrown. Pack up clothing and label containers if you have younger children who aren’t able to wear the clothing yet. Donate clothing to friends, family or a children’s thriftshop.

It may be a good idea to install a lower rod in children’s closets. It can be removed once they are tall enough to reach a standard rod. Young children have difficulty hanging clothes on hangers. Clothing may end up on the floor because that’s easier. Children also have difficulty opening dresser drawers–because they are not strong enough–so baskets on shelves might be a better option.

Getting dressed may be easier if you separate clothing by colour or category (shirts, pants, dresses, etc.). You can also hang clothes as a complete outfit.

For older children—especially teenage girls—you can double your closet storage by adding a second rod.

Safety

When it comes to children’s rooms, safety is critical. Ensure that any heavy items are secured. Bookcases and shelving should be attached securely to the walls. Young children have a tendency to climb.

Reward

Don’t forget to reward your children for all your hard work at the end of your organizing session.

Maintenance

Schedule a daily or weekly clean-up time so that your children’s rooms don’t get too out of control. Make tidying up part of your children’s chores. It may take some time to figure out what works best, and it may be different for each of your children. If all else fails, close their door and remember that they do eventually move out!



Organizing Your Kitchen

Posted on: July 3rd, 2013 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

It’s officially Summer!

Summer is now in full swing with Canada Day already behind us.  Happy Fourth of July (later this week) to our neighbours south of the border!

Have you made any plans for the summer?  No matter what you do, take time to relax and enjoy the great weather.  Summer never seems to last long enough.

Let’s get started and turn over another leaf! 

ORGANIZING YOUR KITCHEN

“My grandmother was the greatest cook in the world. She could just go in there, the whole kitchen would look like a tornado hit it and then she’d come out with the best food.” Edie Brickell

For many people, a lot of time is spent in their kitchen. Did your kitchen function well when you made Easter or Thanksgiving dinner? If not, take some time to organize your kitchen so you’re not frustrated the next time you entertain.

Planning

You may not be able to complete your reorganization all at once. Divide the kitchen into sections, and work on one section at a time.

Supplies

Once you’ve finished purging, you can determine what you need.

Getting Started

It’s important to think of your kitchen as prime real estate space.

Frequently used items should be stored in the work triangle in your kitchen–between the stove, refrigerator and sink. Store items for food preparation, cooking/baking, serving, storage and cleaning there—close to where they will be used. Make your kitchen as efficient as possible.

Start by grouping similar items together by category.

China/Glassware/Silverware

Setting the table and washing dishes are things to consider when determining the best location for these items. A cabinet close to the dishwasher or sink makes putting away the dishes easier. Or you may want these items in a cabinet close to the table. Do you have a cabinet located halfway between your table and your dishwasher?

Pots and Pans

Pots and pans can be reached more easily when they are stored in a drawer. Display pots and pans by hanging them on racks if you have limited cabinet space.

Serving Items

Serving trays (and cookie sheets) are best stored in divided racks, so that they slide out easily. For items that are only used several times a year, you may wish to store them in your dining area or basement.

Food Preparation

Try to keep your countertop clear for food preparation. Limit the countertop to items used on a daily basis. This will also make it easier to keep clean.

Storage

Clear storage containers should be used as much as possible, so you can see what is inside. You need to know when you are running low on a particular item, so that it can be added to your grocery list. Square or rectangular containers stack more easily, fit better on a shelf and take up less space. Be sure to label all containers.

Items like gravy and sauce packets can be easily retrieved if stored in baskets. Baskets also work well for children’s lunch or snack items.

If your kitchen utensils are crammed in a drawer, determine which ones you actually use. Empty the drawer, put everything in a box and then take utensils out as you need them. Get rid of the ones that are left at the end of a month or two. Frequently used utensils can be stored in a handy container on the countertop.

Pantry

Discard items which are past their expiry dates.

Consider storing items like rice, pasta, cereal and crackers in plastic containers to keep them fresh. Adjust shelves or add extras to maximize your storage. Heavy items should be stored on lower shelves for safety.

Spices

There are many storage options for spices today—a traditional spice rack, magnetic spice containers or a tiered drawer insert. In order to keep spices at their best, do not store them too close to heat sources.

Refrigerator and Freezer

Clean out your refrigerator on a weekly basis. Get into this habit the night before your garbage is collected.

Post a grocery list on the refrigerator, so that it’s easy to add items to your list.

If you haven’t cleaned out your freezer in a long time, don’t despair. This is a chore that’s easiest to do when the weather is cold. Discard items that have dried out or items that won’t be eaten.

Junk Drawer

Try to avoid a junk drawer. Items typically found there are usually best stored elsewhere.

Renovations

If you’re planning to renovate your kitchen, make some notes about what you’d like to change—as you think of them—such as a drawer for storing pots and pans or a roll-out pantry.

Rewards

Reward yourself with a cup of flavoured coffee, tea or hot chocolate.  Organizing your kitchen is one of those tasks that will pay dividends every day. Your eating habits may even improve!



Organizing a Decorating/Renovating Project

Posted on: June 7th, 2013 by Cathy Mendler No Comments

 

Cathy MendlerSpring has finally sprung!

Spring is the time of year when we like to clear out the cobwebs, splash on a fresh coat of paint, and spruce up tired areas of our homes.

So let’s get started and turn over another leaf!  

ORGANIZING A DECORATING/RENOVATING PROJECT

“Among these several kinds of beauty the eye takes most delight in colours.”

Joseph Addison (English Poet, 1672-1719)

Planning

If you’re planning to redecorate or renovate, start your plan on paper. Determine your budget.

Renovating can be stressful. However long you think the project will take, add some extra time to your estimate. Unexpected delays are often a reality of renovation projects.

Supplies

Create a list of everything you will need in order to avoid numerous trips to the store.

Professional Help

Hiring a decorating professional for a 1-2 hour consultation may seem expensive, but one large mistake may prove more costly.

Choose a contractor if you’re not doing the work yourself. Get family and friends to recommend someone. Check out the contractor’s references, and contact the Better Business Bureau.

Outside Projects

If you are planning to build a new deck or outside structure, don’t forget to contact your local utilities in advance.  “Call before you dig” is always sound advice.  You don’t want to cut hydro/power, telephone or TV/internet cables, and/or water or gas lines.  Always think safety first!

Inspiration

Which styles do you like–traditional, contemporary, country, cottage or eclectic? What colours do you like?

A piece of fabric or artwork can be the inspiration for a whole room/area. If you plan to redecorate more than one room/area, think about the colour flow.

Watch a decorating show. Take a walk through a furniture store or fabric store. Peruse some decorating magazines. Canadian House & Home and Style at Home are good ones; they provide the Canadian sources for many of the featured items.

Storage

How can you decide what to build for storage if you don’t know what items will be stored in that location? Purge as you pack your belongings, so that you can determine your storage needs. Reassembling your room will be easier also.

Furniture and Placement

Will you be rearranging your current furniture, switching pieces from another room in your home or adding new pieces?

Decorators often recommend neutral colours for investment pieces. It is much easier to replace your accessories than to replace your sofa.

Remember that large pieces of furniture look smaller in the showroom than they will in your home. It is extremely important to take the measurements home beforehand and check to see if the new pieces will fit. You can tape an outline of the furniture on the floor, so that you don’t have to move heavy furniture.

Choose furniture that performs double duty—an ottoman with a tray and storage inside, a sofa with a bed, etc.

Colour

Changing the colour of a room is the easiest change you can make, and it will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Keep in mind that it is easier to mix a paint colour to co-ordinate with your fabric and/or furniture than the other way around. Take fabric samples to the paint store. We can recognize over 7,000,000 colours, but we can’t remember an exact colour for more than 30 seconds.

Choose an environmentally friendly paint if your budget allows. Large paint chips and test pots are available at some paint stores. If you don’t want to test the paint on the wall, paint a small piece of bristol board. You will be able to move the board around to different locations to see what the colour looks like at different times of the day and night. Light is an important issue when choosing a paint colour.

Did you know that if you paint a cool colour in a north-facing room, it feels even cooler? Did you know that if you paint a warm colour in a south-facing room, it feels even warmer?

If you choose a neutral colour, a variety of textures in the room will make it work well.

Accessories

Here is where you can use this year’s trendy colours. Take paint chips and fabric samples when you look for accessories. Remember that items don’t need to match exactly—as long as the colours blend.

Meals

Plan ahead for easy meals. When cooking, double a recipe and freeze one batch. This is especially important if you are renovating your kitchen. What will you be able to access? Can you cook outside? Consider using paper plates if you won’t have a kitchen sink to wash dishes or use your dishwasher.

If you’ll be ordering take-out, don’t forget to include those costs in your budget.

 

If you take the time to plan well, your decorating/renovating project should go more smoothly, and your money will likely be spent more wisely.

 



Making Plans for Summer Vacation!

Posted on: April 10th, 2013 by Cathy Mendler 2 Comments

Spring has finally sprung! As I’m writing this newsletter, there are still flurries flying around outside.

One sure sign of spring is Elmira’s annual Maple SyrupFestival! It’s always a lot of fun. This year approximately 75,000 people came to our town to enjoy a huge variety of delicious foods–especially the pancakes and maple syrup!

The warmer weather summons us outside to soak up the sun, since we don’t see as much of it during the winter. And sunny days mean summer vacations are just around the corner!

On that note, let’s get started and turn over another leaf!

ORGANIZING YOUR NEXT VACATION/TRIP

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust, French Author (1871-1922)

Whether you’re backpacking or bicycling, staying in five-star accommodations or a bed and breakfast, travel can be a great experience.

Planning/Research

Set aside some time to plan your vacation/trip. A few hours of planning are worth the effort if everything runs smoothly. Use our handy Vacation Planning Checklist.

Research your proposed destination on the internet, at the library or through a travel agent. Ask your friends and family for suggestions if they have travelled to your planned destination. Purchasing a travel book and/or a foreign language dictionary may also be helpful.

Travel Agent

Contact your travel agent or CAA. A good travel agent can provide you with a wealth of information—maps, discount coupons and sight-seeing information. Travel agents can also assist you if you encounter problems while you are out of the country. Remember to take any accommodation confirmations with you.

Discounts

Take advantage of discounts. Check the websites of your destinations to see if they provide any coupons.

Sight-Seeing Attractions

If there are some must-see attractions on your list, make reservations ahead of time in order to avoid being disappointed.

Currency

Do you need to pick up foreign currency or travellers’ cheques for your vacation? You might also wish to take a prepaid calling card and international dialing instructions with you.

Documentation

You should be aware that some foreign countries will not accept your passport if it expires within 6 months. It is advisable to renew it before you leave to avoid any problems. Some accommodations provide a safe for your passport and other important valuables.

If you are travelling with minor children, and you are separated or divorced, you may need to carry notarized documents authorizing you to enter another country with your children. This may also apply when you are the legal guardian of children and you are not their birth parent.

Consider taking contact information for the closest location of the Canadian embassy if you are traveling to a country where there is political unrest.

Out-of-Country Coverage

If you do not have out-of-country benefits, it is advisable to make arrangements for medical emergency coverage. A trip to the hospital in another country can be expensive.

Safety Precautions

Don’t carry any items unless they are required for your vacation. Clean out your wallet or purse. Leaving a list at home containing your passport information, driver’s license information, bank card and credit card numbers will make it easier in the event that an item is lost or stolen. You may wish to set up a temporary e-mail account just for this purpose, so you can retrieve the information from anywhere in the world.

Allowances/Restrictions

Check regulations for weight and/or carry-on restrictions before you leave home.

Medical

Prescription medication should be in its original packaging and put in your carry-on bag—in case your bags are lost or delayed.

If you are travelling to a foreign country, check to see if any immunizations are required for malaria, hepatitis, etc.

Clothing/Packing

Research the weather conditions for the time of year that you will be there, and pack the appropriate clothing. Check to see if you need to take an AC/DC adapter for electrical items. Remember to take some reading material or travel games for children in the event that you encounter a delay. To make packing your suitcase easier, use our handy Packing Checklist.

Memories

Remember to take your camera, extra memory cards and batteries. It’s usually less expensive to bring these items from home. You might like to take along a journal—particularly on a long trip or when you will be taking a large number of photographs.

Your Home

If no one stays in your home while you are away, ensure that you have someone checking your home—preferably every day. Review your homeowner’s policy to see what your particular provider requires. Don’t forget to cancel your newspaper. Make arrangements to have your grass cut, your flowers watered and your mail picked up.

Leave a copy of your itinerary with a contact person at home along with a copy of any documents you are taking. This will make it easier in the event of loss or theft.

Reward

Preparing for your trip can be stressful. When the time comes, enjoy your trip. That’s the best reward!