Waste Not, Want Not

Waste Not, Want Not

fresh food

“Waste Not, Want Not” is a saying that dates back to the 1700s, but is especially relevant to the times we’re living in now.

I’ll tell you what: I never realized I had some wasteful habits until, well, until going to the grocery store became an event that had the potential to literally make a person ill.

I love to cook. We have the best Wegmans less than a mile from our front door. Weekly meal planning was never my thing. I would simply decide what I felt like cooking based on any number of factors: my work schedule, my mood, the weather, perhaps a late-in-the-day meeting or evening plans. I would typically buy fresh produce, dairy or meat as needed during any one of my 4-5 weekly trips to the store. Throw in a once-a-month trip to Trader Joes and Aldi, and you can easily see that I spent (wasted?) a fair amount of time shopping for food and sundries. Add in wear and tear on the car and the cost of gas every trip, and it doesn’t paint a very “green” picture, does it?

I readily admit that, due to the frequency of my shopping trips, I didn’t think twice about throwing away wilting salad greens, wrinkly tomatoes or bell peppers, mushrooms past their prime or any other spoilable items that were less than perfect. Even dairy products that had reached their, “best by” dates were tossed without a second thought. “No biggie diggie, I’ll just get more,” was my cavalier attitude.

Thanks to COVID-19, those bad habits have been kicked to the curb. I’ve learned to create my shopping list in two-week increments. I use a shopper via dumpling – check it out if you’re weary of waiting for instacart sessions to open up at your local grocer. I place an order and Emily (that’s my gal) shops and delivers it the next day. She texts me with any replacement questions. I wave at her through the window when she leaves the order on our porch. She gets a nice tip, and it’s all paid for via the dumpling app.

Lo and behold, I’ve also discovered the practically magical ease of freezing fresh veggies! For example, I now get the biggest container of sliced mushrooms. I put some in the refrigerator for daily use. Then I line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, fill it with a single layer of mushrooms, and freeze them for a few hours. Then I simply divvy them up into freezer bags or containers to store in the freezer until needed. I do the same with the pack of red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, cutting a chunk of each to keep in the fridge, slicing the rest and following the same drill: cookie sheet, parchment paper, yada yada yada. Same with baby spinach and kale. Easy breezy and ZERO waste! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS BEFORE?!

Salad greens no longer get tossed just because the date says they’re done. I take the time to pick out the slimy bits and continue to use the still good pieces.

I used to dump out half the carton of milk every few weeks. I could’ve bought a quart instead of a half gallon, but the quart cost more! What the… Now we’ve switched to almond milk. Oh, I hear you, I was skeptical, too, but it’s delicious! And it has at least triple the refrigerator lifespan of cow’s milk. I’ll tell you what else: when I add it to eggs for scrambling, it makes them really fluffy. Who doesn’t love fluffy scrambled eggs?!

Here’s one of my best meal extender tips: I add at least a cup or two of fresh or frozen chopped veggies to all kinds of stuff. This increases the volume AND the nutritional value. Plus, if you chop them fine enough (I use my 3-cup mini food chopper) picky eaters can’t pick out the veggies. I put them in tuna, scrambled eggs, sauces, etc. Typically, it’s a combination of bell peppers, celery, scallions, mushrooms, greens, and sometimes carrots.

Oh, and I’ve started a mini garden from kitchen scraps and seeds! I planted the end of a sweet onion and some scallions, the base of celery hearts, and seeds from red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. It sits under a kitchen window and gets early day sun. So far, so good!

I hope you’re all staying safe and feeling healthy, wearing masks and looking out for the most vulnerable among us. If you’d like to get future blog posts delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for my monthly newsletter titled, “Organized Thoughts.

Uncharted Territory

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m wandering aimlessly through a fog some days. There’s volleying between too many news updates and the worry that I’ll miss the latest news, along with the restlessness that accompanies fear and uncertainty.

I’m staying home trying to flatten the curve with social distancing for the foreseeable future, so I need to add structure to my days, stat. How often have we all longed for free time to get caught up on “all the things…?”

Before I go any further, let me take a moment to thank, with all my heart, the first responders, the health care providers, teachers, grocery store employees, mail carriers, and all the people who are out there doing what needs doing while the rest of us hunker down. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for all of you. On a personal note, as much as I miss not visiting my mom daily, I am so appreciative of the care she is receiving in the dementia wing at Elderwood Skilled Nursing in Williamsville.

Many of us are experiencing forced time off in an effort to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow community residents safe and healthy. How do we make the best of a very bad situation?

As an organizer, there are projects I see in many households (as well as some in our own house!) that could be tackled, providing focus and a sense of accomplishment. Here are a few ideas:

  • Laundry – what a great time to get caught up! That means wash it, dry it, fold it, AND put it away. Maybe you’re only two or three loads behind, so it’s no biggie diggie. But if you’ve got piles upon piles, set a goal of two or three loads a day, seeing each load through to completion.
  • Socks – I can’t tell you how many clients have baskets full of mismatched socks. How about a friendly family game of “Pairs,” offering a prize to the member who matches up the most socks?
  • Junk Drawers – Use my mantra of, “A place for everything, and everything in its place…” and turn those junk drawers into organized go-to homes for office supplies, batteries, tools, pet supplies, gift wrap, etc.
  • Closets, Cupboard and Drawers – extend your organizing beyond junk drawers and tackle the bathroom drawers, linen closets, dressers, clothes closets, etc.
  • Decluttering – pick a category, any category, and decide if you’ve got just enough, or perhaps too much. Candles, coffee mugs, tablecloths… the list is endless.
  • Cleaning – There are lots of ideas in this category, but a few that I’ve put on my list to accomplish during my at-home time are:
    • Windows – wash windows and sills to clear away winter grime and let in even more sunshine.
    • Spring Cleaning – wipe down baseboards and walls, clear clutter, and vacuum the furniture; we’ll focus on our family room first, but what a great time to “git’er done.”
  • Photos – Whether it’s downloading them from your phone to your online albums, or getting them printed and put into actual photo albums, this is a great project to tackle with this forced found time.
  • Files/Paperwork – File stuff, clean out files. Shred stuff. I know, I know, but if not now, when?

Instead of mindlessly watching TV, get productive while watching! Check out some of my ideas in this “Couch Potato Productivity” post.

Then of course there’s the all important “self care” category that many of us often say we’re too busy to tend to. Here are some ideas I plan to incorporate into my daily routine:

  • Mindfulness – From my thoughts (keeping them positive) to what I put in my mouth (no more eating outta the bag!) to taking deep cleansing breaths regularly.
  • Reading – no, not on facebook. I will read pages in a real book for pleasure every day.
  • Walks – one or two walks outside a day. Fresh air and exercise, a win-win walk, if you will. Of course, ANY exercise is good. Move, people!
  • Phone a Friend – not text, not facebook message, but call and talk to people I care about.
  • Gardening/Lawn work – For me, gardening has always been a great stress reliever. It’s early, but there are a number of little projects I could tackle to get a jump on garden cleanup. We went out the other day and picked up all the wind-deposited winter trash in the four corners of the yard and between the houses. Hubby raked the front lawn. It felt good to be out there.
  • Hobbies – Got one? Do it. Got none? Learn something new to keep your brain from atrophying.

Make lists. Set goals. Here’s a link to my recent, Procrastination Diet” post with a good list-making idea. I’ve updated mine and hope to tackle many of them during this period of social distancing.

How about you? How are you doing? What’s helping? Share your sanity-saving tips with us. We’re all in this together.

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A Clean Slate

A Clean Slate

Two years ago, my husband and I decided it was time for a master bedroom makeover. We searched high and low, near and far for bedding we both loved, and found some. It sat in its protective zippered plastic container for, well, nearly two years.

Last October we shopped for bedroom furniture. Ours was nearly 43 years old, well loved, but also well worn. Oh, and what better time to replace our 20-year-old mattress.

The process of readying the room for the new furniture was a multi-phased one:

  • Empty all the dresser and nightstand drawers, jewelry boxes, and under-the-bed storage; review contents, sort into “keep” and “let go” piles. This was fairly eye opening, even for two organized people.
  • Find a new home for the old furniture. Discount Diva helped us locate an appreciative recipient and we hired movers to get it there.
  • Clear out any remaining items that would eventually return to the new room.
  • Choose a paint color. Hooboy, not as easy as you’d think! After bringing home 743 paint chip samples and finding NOTHING that worked, we took a pillow sham to Home Depot and they matched the blue. Victory! Oh, except we had them make it 30% lighter. Then 50% lighter. Then 70% lighter. NOW it was perfect.
  • Have Old Fashioned House Painting repair and prepare the walls and paint everything in the master bedroom and bathroom. What a great job they did!
  • Hire ChemDry to clean the carpet, which turned out super.
  • Schedule Raymour and Flanigan to deliver and set up the furniture. Those fellows worked hard; our bedroom is upstairs and around a corner, and our pieces were heavy!

What’s my point in sharing this story?

Having a logical, logistical plan in place helped ensure this would be a fairly smooth-flowing event with a successful outcome. Oh, there were some bumps along the way, but I share more about those in this personal blog post.

Completely clearing the room and then being mindful and purposeful about what we brought back in helped us create a space we truly love, and will love for many, many years to come.

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New bedroom

Procrastination Diet 2.0

Procrastination Diet 2.0

procrastination_thumb.jpg

I first wrote about the Procrastination Diet in 2015, and my need to stay on top of things has increased since then for a variety of reasons. People don’t realize I actually have a propensity for procrastination because I’m organized. I’m a great juggler, adept at prioritizing and meeting deadlines, but that can be a stressful way to exist on a daily basis.

I just re-watched a video by Robin Sharma, an internationally-known life and business coach titled “How I Beat Procrastination.” I was probably avoiding one thing or another when I originally found the link; the irony of not doing what I should’ve been doing in order to watch something on procrastination is not completely lost on me. I highly recommend checking out the entire video, but to summarize, his five tips for beating procrastination are:

  • Create a vision board / dream collage and a “Big Dream” statement
  • Go on a  30-day procrastination diet
  • Exercise with a focus on a second-wind workout later in the day
  • Create a distraction-free environment (Mess Creates Stress!)
  • Release your self sabotage (self-limiting beliefs) and rewire your brain

For the 30-day procrastination diet, he suggests taking a calendar and on each day for a month, write one thing you’ve been resisting doing and then… do it.

It’s time for me to re-commit to this, but I tweak it a titch: rather than using a calendar and trying to determine which thing to write on which day, I format mine as a list titled, “30 Things in 30 Days.”  That way, I can do any thing on any given day in any order I choose. The flexibility works better for me.

This weekend, I will compile my list, and my procrastination diet officially begins on Monday, February 3rd. Pfft, I don’t need it to start on the first day of a 30-day month, any old day will do. I like Monday. It will be a mixture of business and personal items I have been avoiding, ignoring, fearing, or pushing to the back burner for too long.

For my lists, I now use Google’s Keep Notes because I can access it on my laptop or smartphone, allowing me to review or update my list from either device. I like that I can set it up so there’s a little check box to click on and, upon completion, it draws a line through the item and moves it to the bottom of the list. There’s a psychological benefit, seeing the growing list of “done” things and viewing the shortened list of to-do items. I prefer this to a paper list that I’d forget to carry around with me, but many of you probably have daily planners you use… whatever works is fine!

At the end of 30 days, I’ll report on my progress. Anyone interested in joining me? You don’t have to share your list, but please share your intention to accomplish 30 things in 30 days with a comment! There’s strength in numbers… let’s do this thing.

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Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Survival Guide

Are you enjoying this holiday season, or have you let the hub-bub and hoopla get the best of you? Take a deep breath. Now another. And one more. Ok, here we go!

If it feels like there’s more to do than time to do it in, prioritize. What must you accomplish, what would you really love to get done, and what might you do only if time permits? At the very least, make some notes about changes for next year. Oh, and put those notes somewhere you’ll actually find them when you want them.

Santa shouldn’t be the only one making a list and checking it twice – have your to-do lists with you at all times; I keep notes and errands on my computer using Google Keep, and that automatically syncs with my smartphone.

My holiday gift lists are in google docs: one for hubby, each kid, and then other family, friends, Secret Santa, as well as work and charity presents. I list ideas as they’re given or thought of, and fill in purchase details so I stay within budget and get the right number of gifts for stocking stuffers. I hang on to receipts until I know each item fits, works, and is a keeper.

If you have too much on your plate, cut back. Say no. If there are things you don’t enjoy or don’t have time for, stop. I haven’t sent Christmas cards in a kazillion years. When I quit, guess what? Nothing bad happened.

I used to bake a bunch of different cookies – I’ve trimmed it down to a few favorites, and that’s plenty. If you don’t like to bake, then don’t. It might be too late this year, but next year, think about a cookie exchange. That might turn into a tasty new holiday tradition.

Hubby and I turn gift wrapping into a fun event throughout the holidays with a cozy fire, a glass of wine, and everything we need to create beautiful packages. It’s one of our favorite holiday traditions. If gift wrapping isn’t your thing, switch to gift bags – they’re easy breezy and festive.

If you hate the holiday crowds, do your shopping online. If you don’t like online shopping, think strategically and logically, and plan your trip to maximize what gets accomplished.

Agonizing over gift ideas? Gift cards! Trust me, if you pick a gift card to a retail store, restaurant or venue the recipient would enjoy, it’s a win-win. A favorite adult beverage is almost always a welcome gift. You can give something homemade if you’re crafty AND have time. How about the gift of time? Plan a lunch date, go see a movie, or have dinner and drinks together with family or friends.

Decorating can be simplified, too. Our decorations are packed in bins labeled by room, and my room-by-room computerized list tells me where each item goes. If I add something new (and get rid of something old!) I update the list. It eliminates the frustration of trying to remember where things go. If there are décor items you no longer use, donate them; I’m sure there are folks who will love them.

Don’t expect people to read your mind. If there’s something you’d really appreciate as a gift, say so – surprises aren’t all they’re cracked up to be! If you’d like to be included in holiday festivities, speak up.

If you know someone who will be alone, include them in one of your holiday traditions. Be a light that twinkles for someone if darkness weighs heavily on them this time of year. That’s a gift you can’t put a price on. And if, for whatever reason, you just can’t deal with the holidays this year, take a year off. And don’t forget to breathe.

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