planning browsing by tag


Hidden Bed and Secret Doorways

Friday, October 12th, 2012

If I weren’t still a nomad, I would love to put one of these dual-use products in my home:

Hidden Bed - Desk that instantly converts to usable twin bed and back again. This is a wonderful way to maximize space in a child’s bedroom or office/guest room.

Secret Doorway - Turn the wasted wall space of a closet opening into a bookshelf.

Watch this video that explains these two products, now on display at the Organized Home Remodeling showroom, 885 W. 5th Ave, Columbus, OH.



Hidden Bed
Hidden Bed
Secret Doorway

Be Smart During an Emergency

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Were you inspired to take action by the recent destructiveness of Hurricane Isaac? What if you suddenly find yourself in a drawn out emergency situation? Will you have what you need to survive for 72 hours without electricity or water? We usually say, “I should…” and then put off taking action as life happens. We are human after all.

Thankfully, September’s National Preparedness Month emphasis is a reminder of the small steps we can take to be more prepared. In our last newsletter, I outlined the three steps suggested on the FEMA website #1 Be Informed, #2 Make a Plan, and #3 Build a Kit.

If you have put off taking action, at least go to the interactive page and click on your state to identify the hazards you might expect for your area. While there, read about specific preparation for your top three disasters and how to get instructions when they happen. Ta Da! You have completed Step #1.

Today I want to explore best practices during and after a disaster. If disaster strikes, your best chance to escape harm is to:

  1. Remain calm and patient
  2. Put your disaster plan into action (assumes you have one – Step #2)
  3. Provide assistance to those with special needs in accordance with your plan
  4. Check for injuries
  5. Listen to local news for information and instruction.

Sounds like common sense, right? Harder to do in a life threatening situation, I’m sure!

These are more specific hints on how to deal with the most common hazards when they occur.



  • Only fight fires not in danger of blocking exit!
  • Use back of hand to check if doors are hot (more sensitive than palm).
  • Crawl under smoke.
  • If trapped, close door, hang a sheet from the window.
  • Once out of your home, meet at your designated spot.
  • Never re-enter a burning building.
  • Call 911 from a neighbor’s house.


  • During a watch, be attentive to weather conditions.
  • Take immediate shelter if a warning is issued.
  • Go to basement or internal hallway.
  • Avoid windows, glass or potential flying objects.
  • Leave windows closed.
  • Monitor media and follow directions from local officials.




  • During a watch, prepare to evacuate.
  • Fill empty containers and bathtub with water in case of contamination.
  • When a flash flood warning is issued, evacuate immediately using primary or alternate evacuation route.
  • Avoid flood waters and areas prone to flooding.
  • Never drive onto flooded roads.
  • Shut off liquefied petroleum tanks at source.
  • Monitor media and follow directions from local officials.

We have all seen the news with stunned survivors. The emotions following a disaster can be devastating. Some things to try toremember in the aftermath:

  1. Assess the condition of your house using a flashlight, not an open flame.
  2. Do not enter an unsafe structure.
  3. Smell for gas leaks, starting with water heater.
  4. Shut off any damaged utilities.
  5. Clean up any hazardous or flammable spills.
  6. Treat injuries.
  7. Notify local and out-of-town contacts, then only use the phone to report life-threatening emergencies
  8. Document damage for insurance claims.

I hope you and I never have to put these emergency preparations to the test. Still, ’tis better to be ready even if the worst never comes!

Let me know when you complete Steps 1-3 so we can dance a jig together. If you read this newsletter and looked at the FEMA sight about the risks for your area, you can check off #1. Yes! Now print the list for your Emergency Kit and begin gathering those items for #3 – Build a Kit – when you next go grocery shopping.

Congratulations! You are taking the necessary steps to keep your family safe in an emergency. Way to go!

Don’t Let Your TO DO List Do You In

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Whether the interruption is an illness, an out-of-town visitor, or that hectic time at work, all of a sudden you have gazillion things to do to catch up. You write some of your thoughts on Post-It notes, but even more are swirling in your head.

How do you make the swirling stop? That’s what a TO DO List can help with as long as you retain control and don’t let The List become your master.

These are the steps I take when I am overwhelmed with a multitude of disjointed tasks.

  1. Grab a large pad of paper and write down everything you can think of that needs to be done. Include crucial details, but not mindless minutia. This is, in essence, “a brain dump”. It’s easier to deal with the task at hand once you have all of your thoughts together in one place.
  2. Put a * by the tasks that have a deadline and write in the date due.
  3. Next consider your priorities. Hopefully, you have taken time in the past to formulate what is most important to you. Do you value relationship building, increasing your income, growing independent children?
  4. With deadlines and priorities in mind, label each task you have listed with A – very important, B – somewhat important, C – must be done sometime, or D – would be nice. For larger projects, you might have to list smaller parts in the order of completion, and use A, B, C to designate that timeline. NOTE: Reconsider tasks you have designated of D importance. Can you just cross them off?
  5. Rewrite your list, grouping like tasks together: phone calls, emailing, research, etc. You will want to do these activities together, completing all while you are on a roll. See Batching blog.
  6. You have prepared your Master TO DO List.

You are now ready to write your TO DO List for today. Each day pick your top 3 tasks (or group of  like tasks) to get done. Concentrate on taking those all the way to completion. There truly is no such thing as a “partial victory.”

After 5-7 days you will be surprised how much you have crossed off your Master TO DO List and how accomplished you feel!

I recommend doing this process weekly, ideally making your Master List on Saturday or Sunday. That way you will know what you want to get accomplished in your week ahead. You will be in control of your time and your TO DO’s, not the other way around!

Save on Groceries with a Kitchen Inventory

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012



Did you go over budget on groceries these last two months? That’s easy to do with holiday baking and entertaining family and friends.  Odds are you have leftovers or your pantry is bulging from extras that were not consumed.

Why not take a Kitchen Inventory? A Kitchen Inventory lends itself to meal planning and is a good way to put feet to your New Year goals of healthy eating, watching finances, or spending more face time with family.

Let’s get started then!

1.  Grab a pad and pen. Divide your paper into five sections: Refrigerated (fresh) Food, Dry Goods (canned and boxed), Frozen Foods, and Expendables (spices, leavening, oils).  If you want to get fancy, EHow has instructions on making a computer inventory here. Just don’t make this harder than it is, OK?

2.  Make a list of what you have on hand in fridge, freezer, and pantry, checking “use by” dates as you go. Throw out any bulging cans!

3.  Put a star by:

  • Fresh food  more than a week old (like those baby carrots you swore you would eat instead of cookies and candy)
  • Canned goods/boxed foods more than a month old
  • Frozen food more than 2 months old
  • Spices/seasonings  more than 1 year old for ground, 2 years for whole.

4.  Brainstorm meals that will use only what you have on hand, especially the starred foods. Think soups, stir fry, casseroles. Recipe sites that allow you to search by ingredients can help.  These are a few of my favorites:,,

5. Make a grocery list including only the staples (bread, milk, eggs) you go through regularly and specific ingredients you will use in the next 5-7 day’s meals.

Yes, making the inventory takes time, but this process gives back to you! What you will save:  time wondering what to have for dinner, money you can put toward any holiday charges hanging around your neck, space in fridge/pantry for fresh ingredients.

Do this exercise once a month to truly gain is control over your kitchen storage spaces, your food consumption, and your grocery bill. You are your manager. Would you hire yourself?


Declare War on Time-Consuming Clutter with Action Zones

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Does your struggle to be productive at work and at home feel like waging war with yourself and others?

Perhaps it makes sense to perceive that struggle as a battle ground. You are the commander. You are waging war on several fronts – special projects, ongoing skirmishes, and supply logistics.  You have a map of the terrain (the floor plan) and know what your resources are:  equipment,  personnel, and supply lines.

To win the battle, you  must match trained personnel with specialized equipment and ensure that needed supplies are available for immediate use. In other words, you want to have all the components needed to engage the enemy to come together in the same place at the same time.

I’m sure you have decided (as I have) to work on a certain project only to spend 20 minutes or more gathering all the varying pieces of information, supplies, and equipment before you can begin. Whether that is finding your mixing bowl in the kitchen, asking yourself “Where did I put my 3-hole punch this time?”, or just trying to get the kids out the door in the morning, it is time-consuming as well as frustrating!

The answer is to designate action zones.

  1. First make a decision that you are  going to start now! The time you spend in planning for efficiency will be returned to you tenfold.
  2. Brainstorm. Ask yourself what activities you actually DO in the room/area you are organizing. Perhaps the question should be – what activities do you ideally want to do there!
  3. Assign specific areas in the room, or zones, to similar activities. Try to limit each room to 2-3 zones. In an office you might have action zones for:
    • Communication Central – your desktop and shelf above
    • Reference library – bookshelf and file drawer
    • Action/Projects – credenza with In/Out boxes and incline sorter for specific activities/projects.
  4. Place equipment and supplies within arm’s reach in the appropriate zone for each activity.
    • Filing – extra hanging files, manila file folders, labels
    • Enjoying media – TV, Radio/CD player, VCR/DVD player, CD’s, DVD’s, and remotes, of course.
    • Paying bills – computer, bills, calculator, check book, stamps, address labels
    • Baking – measuring cups and spoons; mixing bowls; baking pans; spices, extracts and leavening agents
    • Getting in the car – keys, diaper bag, shoes, coats, hat, gloves & backpacks

Now that you have the stage set for control over each new project, all you need are the trained personnel. Is that you or do you have employees, friends, or children you can delegate the task to?

The beauty of action zones is that whoever is assigned to that battle will have all the tools necessary to succeed! That will save you time in both set- up and in wages paid.

You may find that once you know where everything is to get started quickly, you are raring to take on that project yourself, right now. You are the commander and it is an easy victory!

Product Review: Packing and Grocery Checklists

Thursday, July 28th, 2011


I love these ready-to-use checklist pads! They were perfect giveaways for my Moms Summer Series listeners.

You get 60 sheets that save you little grey cells and loads of time NOT WRITING your list over and over.

These are available at The Container Store for $6.99 each. Buy 2 of each and wrap a set for that friend’s birthday!

All Out Of Checklist Pad

Make your grocery (or take with you on vacation!) list as you go with this pre-made checklist.

Frequent purchases are listed under major shopping categories so you don’t have to write those staples every time.

Magnetized so you can post on your refrigerator and everyone can add to the list.


Pack This! Classic Checklist

Read through the list and mark what you want to pack. Then check off each item as you assemble what you need.

Now you don’t have to rack your brain wondering what you are forgetting! Let the checklist remind you.

Go back to revise your list after each trip until you have it down to a science!

Getting That Project from To Do to DONE!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

My husband, Jeff,  is a Project Management Professional (PMP).  He oversees Information Technology (IT) projects for the State of Ohio.

You and I are project managers, too. Without thinking about it, we go through certain steps to make sure something gets done on time. Sometimes we miss a step, the project falters, and we are scrambling to catch up. Perhaps we can learn some tips from the experts.

First, let’s make sure we agree on what a project is. This is the short definition in Project Management for Dummies by Stanley E. Portny, PMP:

A project is a temporary undertaking performed to produce a unique product, service, or result.

In plain English, that means:  

  • A project has a beginning, middle and an end with specific start and end dates.
  • The result or product is well-defined and measurable.
  • Resources are necessary to complete the project (ex. people’s time and effort, money).

There are 5 steps that constitute a complete project cycle. Let’s walk through the steps and apply them to a summer project. Say, for example, you want to take a trip to see the Grand Canyon.

  1. Initiating – Starting the project by clarifying needs/desires, expectations, budget, who will be involved.~~ Decide you are actually going to take that trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon. Invite
    people to go with you, ask what else they want to see. Estimate how much the trip will cost
    and whether you can afford it.
  2. Planning – Working out details on what is involved (scope), resources available, timing, and what can go wrong. Decide who will do what and when in order to be done on time.~~Check out airfares to see where and when you will fly out west. Plan how long you will stay based on  available resources. Map out what you will see and where you need to book overnight stays. Look at the extended forecast for an idea of what to pack. Think about what could go wrong and plan for contingencies.
  3. Executing – Taking action; work as a team.~~Book flights, rental car, hotel rooms. Have mail and papers held. Pack suitcases, get spending money and meet at the airport at the appropriate date and time. Delegate some tasks to make other traveler(s) feel invested in the process.
  4. Monitoring/Controlling – Tracking performance to stay on time and budget.~~While vacationing according to plan, be flexible to account for unexpected delays or expenses. Adjust your itinerary accordingly to stay within your budget and get to the airport on time to come home.
  5. Closing – Get approval on final results. Do a post-project evaluation to acknowledge what did well, lessons learned on ways to improve.~~Pat yourself on the back for checking that wish off your bucket list! Jot down a few notes on what you will do differently next time.

My Request to You

Take a piece of paper. Identify one project you are thinking of starting or are in the middle of.

Write the 5 steps on your paper. Next to each one, brainstorm what tasks/actions will be needed.
Assign a start and an end date to your project. Then work backward asking yourself, “When will I have to get this particular task done in order to finish my project on time?”

You will be amazed at the solid plan you end up with! Call this your “skeleton” and flesh it out as you walk through each stage. Don’t you love having a plan on paper so you don’t have to waste brain cells rethinking all the time? Now, just do it!