Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Embrace Your Inner Troll

Don't laugh, I think I have misplaced the definition of the word "no."  I have a really hard time remembering it's intent.  Some people use the word to disagree, some to deny, some to retaliate.  Some people use the word consistently to get out of things, some people use it to be in control.  As a mother of small children I learned that "no" meant "you can't make me."  I am at a loss.

So what does it really mean?  There are a lot of connotations that come along for the ride.  Some people view saying no as wimping out.  There are also expectations. People expect friends to say yes.  Saying no has consequences. I had a friend recently note that saying yes makes you an angel, but saying no makes you lower than the troll under the bridge. I say we embrace our inner troll.

Saying no is a boundary issue.  When asked to do any number of things we have the complete right, and sometimes even duty, to say no.  Just because we can doesn't mean we should.

I am the queen of yes, even when the answer should be no.  It is true, I have a very hard time with this.  I am a smart person with lots of talents.  (That last statement was not bragging, just the mantra my therapist has been at me to embrace for years.) I can do a lot of things, the question is if I should.  In the past I have been a volunteer in many capacities, and I promise I have bitten off more than I can chew on more than one occasion.

I love the success that comes with yes.  Yep, I love it.  I love people looking at me and saying, "Wow! You are amazing, you worked so hard, we love it!"  It is rather addicting. No one tracks you down to say, "Wow, you said no, and did nothing, you are my hero!" Saying yes feels good at the time.  It is the lasting effects which can be the problem.

Why should we say no?  I am sure there are a ton of reasons out there, many of them relating to good mental health and firm personal boundaries.  Here are a few of mine.

My family needs to come first.  I know that statement is as old as time, but it still applies.  Making sure your contribution to your family is solid must be priority one.  I have never run into a volunteer situation which had a longer or more important impact as the impact you have with your family.

Your sanity is important.  That should seem obvious, but for me it is not.  I can do a lot of things if being sane is not a requirement.  I can accomplish mountains of work, coordinate hordes of people, finish piles of housework and cook a fabulous dinner for my family all in the same day.  I cannot do it with my sanity intact.

The spotlight is fleeting if you have no sense of personal worth.  It does not matter how amazing you are in a volunteer position if you do not believe good things about yourself.  You can find a cure for cancer, or hike the tallest mountain and if you don't already know you are good enough inside, it won't matter for long.  Many people volunteer for outside validation.  It is the inside validation which is really important.

If you want to say yes, they say yes.  I don't want you to walk away wondering if you should say no to everything that is asked of you, because in truth your answer can be yes to a lot of things. Just stop and look at your motivation.  Can your family spare the time? Are you well grounded with a good enough support structure to maintain your sanity?  Are you comfortable with who you are?  Are you seeking the spotlight, or are you just sharing your talents? 

Being healthy about your choices is an important step to getting your personal house in order.  When it comes to volunteering to do things, we all need to extend beyond our current reach...a little.  Just don't forget to embrace your inner troll every now and then.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making a List - and Checking It Off Twice

I like lists.  I can honestly tell you I like them a lot.  When I have a burst of excitement and think of all the things I need done, it is nice to jot them down so I can forget about it and just refer to my list.

I hate lists.  I can honestly tell you I hate them.  I look at lists and see the glaring proof that I have a ton of unfinished activities.  The horror of never ending tasks can be overwhelming.

Lists are a part of life.  People have different types of lists, some use a piece of paper, some their computer, some use sticky notes, some write on the backs of envelopes.  Some lists are neatly written with one pen and others have multiple pens/pencils/crayons and lipsticks. Lists record the things in our lives we don't want to forget, the things we want to accomplish, the details we need to manage. The bad news is that lists can control our live.

So what do we do about it?  How do we manage all the details and information if we don't make a list?

When it comes down to it, the problem isn't the list, the problem is the list maker.  Look at why you write a list.  Is it a way to force yourself to accomplish more, or is it an easy stress free method of keeping track of future needs and goals?

Do lists keep you sane or do they drive you to distraction? Do you get more accomplished by writing it down, or do you just resent it? Take a minute to think about your relationship with the lists in your lives.

Personally there are a few things in my life which require a list.  Grocery lists are a top priority.  If I don't have one I end up making multiple trips, or I end up with a ton of junk food.  I also need errand lists.  When I step out of the house and head off to get things done, I hate arriving home without doing what I intended to do.

On the other hand, housework lists make me sad.  The dishes always need to be done, as does the laundry. Knowing about it just makes it worse. While Honey Do lists are nice, they aren't very effective in my house.  I need more of a "Magical Elf" List.  You know what I am talking about, the list of things the elves need to take care of so I can forget about it.

When I do have a list I love to cross things off.  I mean I REALLY love to cross things off.  I usually do it twice. I put a check or an X next to the item and then I put a big line or two through it.  I love the sense that I have finished a task.

So now I want you to look in the mirror and take a deep gaze into your soul.  What is your relationship with lists?  Do they help you or hinder you?  Can you look at a list as a way to mark your accomplishments, or do you see unfinished tasks? Do you see success or failure?

Here is your official pep talk.  You are great, list or no list.  What you accomplish is just fine.  Tomorrow you will do more, the day after that even more. Your life is a string of activity, today will be what today is.  Take a deep breath and know you did what you could...and when your are finished, mark it off your list...twice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Missing Camera..Missing Sanity

Do you ever have that sinking feeling you have lost something important?  I am feeling that way right now.  I can't find my camera.  My really good, husband picked it out for me, memory card has my kid's birthday on it, camera. Agghhh! I hate this. I have looked in all the normal places, which means it is in an abnormal place. Grrrr.

I will find my camera, I will find my camera, I will find my camera...

I know that beyond you regular human compassion, you probably don't care if I find my camera, you just want me to stop complaining.  I promise there is a reason I brought this up, and it wasn't just for the sympathy.

My camera is an obvious part of my counter.  It sits there, just waiting to be used to capture glimpses into the lives of my children and family, yet it is M.I.A. today when I am looking for it.  (Did I mention grrrr?)  I am calm and determined, but yet it is still no where to be found.  It must be someplace obvious, but where?

If this was an emergency (I'm not exactly sure what constitutes a camera emergency) there is no way I would find it.  The same goes for important papers.  In an emergency there is a high likelihood they can be sitting in plain sight and you won't see them.  Not good, I know.

So how do you organize the papers in your household so they can be found in an emergency? How do you make sure you are not ripping the house to shreds while looking for the one thing you can't find? So glad you asked.  Prepared Binder - Home Edition is a great tool to help you accomplish that task.  It is an easy to use system which helps you find, organize and store all those little things you need, but can never find when you have to.

If you are reading this blog, you are probably familiar with the product, but if not, check it out.  I am obviously a fan, but more importantly you will be too.  If nothing else, using Prepared Binder - Home Edition will help you avoid that nagging, frustrating, sinking feeling that comes along with missing important paperwork.  Now if I could only find my camera...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekend Laundry and Other Horrible Stuff

Upcoming weekends always seem like a release from prison for me.  Don't get me wrong, my life is not a prison by any means, but I love the feeling of having a different schedule ahead.  Monday through Friday is all about getting kids ready for school, getting the spouse off to work, doing housework and keeping food in everyone's tummy.  The weekend is about longer sleep patterns, family fun, and a change from the normal.  I love it.

That said, I always have big plans for the weekend.  With all of us home we can do things as a family, we can catch up on projects and we can inject a little entertainment into our lives.  Enter reality.  What I usually end up doing is laundry.  Laundry day is technically Wednesday, but let's face it, it never gets done.  I try, I try really hard, but my life doesn't like Wednesday laundry. If we are being honest it doesn't like laundry any other day either, but I digress...

So every weekend I spend catching up from the week before.  I have to clean and scrub the week's grime from the surfaces of my home, all the while knowing it will come right back.  As I spend so much of my time doing what I thought I just did, (you know what I'm talking about Mr Dirty Dish) I hardly ever seem to get something new accomplished.  This can lead me to be a bit grumpy.

So in the midst of dishes, kids and laundry, how am I supposed to add the "important" stuff into my life?  By important I am not referring to basic survival, instead I am referring to the things I know need to get done, but aren't a crisis yet.  Where do those things fit in?

Glad you asked! They fit in right where I put them.  If I make time, even go as far as to schedule it, then I get them done.  If I don't schedule it, it doesn't get done.  Period.  I never accidentally remember to plant a garden.  I never spontaneously rotate my food storage or impulsively sit down to organize my tax documents.  I have to make a plan and do it.

So now you have a copy of Prepared Binder - Home Edition in front of you.  You did an amazing job of being proactive and getting the tool you needed to finish the job.  Now what?  You schedule time to complete it.  You can even give that time a special name if you want to.  How about. "Because I am in charge of my life" time scheduled on Mondays from 9:30 until 11:00 am? Or, "Because I am a domestic god/goddess" hour on Thursdays from 1-2 pm.  Whatever works.

Do I think you will be perfect at this?  Nope.  I am sure you will have to run the cat to the vet because he has a lodged fur ball during your first "I am good enough to get this done" day, but keep at it.  Taking the time to devote to future projects will increase your productivity.  As it is a departure from the normal it will help shake up the boredom and maybe, just maybe, it will feel like the weekend...but without having to wait until the end of the week.

Today's Question: When can you schedule "Get it Done" time?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The "Blahs" Stole my Motivation!!

Blah. Blah and Blah.  Do you ever have those days?  You know what I am talking about, the days where it doesn't matter what is happening around you, you are just Blah. Blah happens, in fact Blah can happen quite a lot if you are not careful.  In my experience Blah happens for a few main reasons.

Blahs happen when you have tipped over your stress point.  For me the Blahs hit the hardest when I have peaked my fun meter.  You know what I mean, you have been going down the road of life at such a horrific pace that when things slow down you body just crashes.  I am not a doctor of anything, so I don't know the biological truths behind this, but I find that when my body is past exhausted by the pace of my life I get a serious case of the Blahs. I don't want to clean, cook, do laundry or even move across the room.  I want to sit and be Blah.

Blahs happen when there isn't a clear plan for the immediate future.  I have noticed when I don't have plans for upcoming activities I tend to sit down and do nothing.  Don't get me wrong, I love downtime.  In fact I really love downtime. But knowing when that downtime is going to end makes it even better.  While I know we would all love to be on vacation for the rest of our lives, it wouldn't do us much good.  Having productive activities can give us a sense of motivation and success.  Doing nothing really leads to boredom and a serious case of the Blahs.

Blahs happen when we feel we aren't contributing to the world around us, or that nobody notices if we do.  We have all seen the movies where the spectacular secretary is so good at her job that no one notices her.  She lives with her 5 cats and reads romance novels every evening while imagining that one day some gorgeous man will notice her and sweep her off to a mansion.  Things don't have to be that dramatic for us to feel unnoticed and under appreciated.  It is hard to be motivated when it doesn't feel like anyone cares.  People around us, including family and friends, can unintentionally give us that impression, sometimes frequently. Hey, if you ask my kids, I don't do anything, I'm just Mom. (Duh Mom!!)

So what do we do about a serious care of the Blahs?  Well, first off, everyone is entitled to feel Blah every once and a while.  You wouldn't be normal if you never felt apathetic to the world around you.  The key is not to stay there.  The next step is to do an inventory of your life.  Are you very stressed?  Have you been on the go for so long that the Blahs may be a defense mechanism for overload? Do you have plans for your life that excite you?  While the reality is we will always have more dishes and more laundry, we need to have something we enjoy on the menu as well.  Make sure to plan that in.  Also, look around for people to appreciate you.  While we all recognize that we have to love ourselves first, (at least I hope we all know that.) we also need to know others value us.  I'm sure you contribute to the world, so figure out how.  Making the lady in the checkout line smile counts.  Identify these contributions, don't be shy or modest. 

You may wonder why I am blogging about the Blahs and how they relate to Prepared Binder.  In my experience the Blahs are responsible for a lot of nothing being accomplished.  When it comes to emergency preparation the Blahs can overwhelm and deter many people from getting started.  Hopefully by reducing the Blahs you will feel more motivated to take control of your life.

Today's Question:  How can you stop the Blah's in your life?  What can you accomplish when you do?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dementia - Stealing our Present and Erasing our Past

I had a great grandmother who was a funny old lady.  She told stories of time gone by with a smattering of off color jokes and inappropriate details.  She was known for saying the strangest things at the dinner table.  She caused more than one person to drop their jaw or spill their salad dressing.  She was great, and she had dementia.

A recent report from King's College London is estimating over 115 million people will suffer from dementia by the year 2050.  There will be 35 million people afflicted with dementia by next year.  It obvious the numbers are going up.  It is a significant irony that the increases in nutrition and health care, especially in rural areas and low to middle income countries, are responsible for increasing the life expectancy of the population and thus dementia.  The older people live, the more likely they are to experience dementia, including Alzheimer's.

Dementia is not just an inconvenient lack of memory.  It changes how a person relates to their family and how they view the world around them.  There are annoying habits, such as repetitive questions or the retelling of the same story continually, but there are also dangers, such as not knowing how to get home or who to trust.  My great grandmother was known to wonder off, and even left a hotel room once without ID or a way to get back.  My great grandfather was beside himself and eventually found her on a street corner in an unfamiliar town.

You may be wondering why this is an important issue for Prepared Binder to discuss.  In fact it is closely related to our mission and goal as a company.  Preparing for emergencies is what we do.  Losing ones ability to remember facts and details can create an emergency down the road.  We all believe we will be the exception to the dementia trend, but the sad truth is that many of us won't be.  If we don't take the time to write down the things we know they will be lost forever.

I encourage you to start with your parents or older relatives and collect the information identified in Prepared Binder - Home Edition.  Use the upcoming holidays to go through the details with them and write things down.  When you have collected the information you need from your older relatives continue with your own.  Taking the time to document your information will be an invaluable asset down the road.

I am sure there are a large number of people reading this who wonder why they should bother.  They are young and have no immanent risk of personal dementia.  This may be true, but now is the time to start.  By making it a habit to write things down you will develop a lifelong skill which will help you stay organized.

My great grandma was famous for two statements. First was, " My Grandmother was a Cherokee Indian,"  The second was, " My Daddy was a school teacher."  We heard that 5- 10 times an evening and we would chuckle each time.  As a child I remember the day she looked blankly at my mother and said, " My Daddy did something, but I can't remember what."  There was an instant silence in the room.  My mother quietly looked at her and said, "Your Daddy was a schoolteacher."  She brightened and said, "You knew my Daddy?" Looking around the room I saw tears in the eyes of our family. Dementia had taken not only her current life, it was erasing her past.

I encourage you to take this opportunity to write things down.  Don't wait until the details are fuzzy and the picture has faded.

Today's Question:  What have you done to save your current life for the future?

If you would like to read the BBC article on dementia, please click here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Football - Not My Favorite Sport, but an Amazing Lesson

I do not love football.  There, I said it, I don't.  Even as a high school girl I didn't enjoy it.  I enjoyed the friends and the hanging out at the stadium, but not the sport.  In fact I still don't understand the game.  I have had many patient friends try and explain it to me, but alas, no comprendo. It seems like a silly game to me, one with very little point.  (Okay, I know I have just angered a large number of football loving people out there, sorry. And to be clear, I am referring to American football, not soccer, which has an obvious set of rules.)

I understand that football is an important part of the American experience.  Just the number of feel good football movies out there would have tipped me off to that even if I hadn't watched my male friends go through the fire of football in high school.

So why do I bring this up?  Good question.  Every so often a story comes along to warm my heart.  This week that story just happened to be about football. I realize high school football is very important to not only the players and parents, but the school itself.  A lot of school identity comes from the final score.  (Not to mention a lot of fund raising opportunities.)  I saw this story come across my news feed last night and I was touched.

It appears a high school team was in a shut out situation, unfortunately they were on the losing end of that shut out.  At the very end the coach asked the other team to allow one of their team members, a 15 year old boy with Down Syndrome, to have a touchdown.  They asked that the other team make it look good, but not touch him while he was running down the field. The other team agreed.  They ran what they called "Matt's Play."  If you click on the link above you can see the footage of the opposing team chasing him just enough to help him feel the rush of success and the victory of a touchdown.

This is an amazing story because a group of high school boys and their coach gave up a complete 46 point shut out so another team could give a moment of victory to a special player.  That is not something you see every day.  They gave up bragging rights for the entire game. They took the spotlight off their win and gave it to Matt.  They sacrificed for an opponent.  That is a lesson they will take into adulthood, something that will make them better people.  They created a situation which changed lives.  I may give football another try.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Motivation - The Key to Getting it Done

Motivation. Lots of motivation. That's what many of us need to get going and to produce a final result in the projects we start.  I have to admit I am not the best when it comes to finishing what I start.  It is hard.  The excitement of a new idea has worn off long before the marathon of completion has finished.  My office cupboards are crowded with things I intend to do, but haven't.  I have some amazing ideas stored in there, I promise.

So how do we motivate ourselves to be the person we want to be, you know, the person who finishes things?  I have a few suggestions.

Believe you can do it.  This may sound a little hokey, but think about it, you have to actually think you can finish a project before you will ever try.  It doesn't matter if it is the quilt you have cut out, but not sewn together, or the monthly food calendar, you need to have complete faith you can complete it. I am not saying that you know up front how to do it, or even when you are going to do it, you just need to know you can do it.

Self confidence may really get in the way on this step.  I realized after many years that I didn't finish projects because I was afraid of the outcome.  (Crazy, I know!)  When the project is in progress there is always the possibility of an amazing outcome.  When it is finished you have what you have.  It won't get any better than the product you have in front of you.  When you are done, you are done, take it or leave it.  What pressure! What if the product I envisioned in my head was not what I saw in the end result?  Could I handle that?

The answer is of course I can handle that.  A finished project is significantly better than an unfinished project.  Not only do you have an item to add to your "done" list, you have an accomplishment behind you.  Also, no one but you knows what you envisioned in your mind, so to them it is just fine, even amazing.  This is true even if it is not all you imagined.

Find a partner.  This is a big one.  Having someone rooting for you is an amazing asset. If possible, find someone doing the same thing.  Now I can hear what you are thinking, "Who exactly is going to come over and help me clean out my underwear drawer?" You don't need someone to actually DO it with you, you just need someone to root for you and keep you on track.  Here is an example.  I have been working on a family genealogy project for years, yes years.  Anyone who does genealogy knows that such projects can consume entire decades of your life.  I bit off a lot more than I expected.  I thought I was doing a little research about one person, but now there are hundreds of people on the list. It is an amazing project and I love the information I am finding.  I thrive on the hunt for details and the thrill of finding lost members of the family.  I also can't seem to finish the project.  I figure I could do it with one month of solid work, assuming my life wasn't getting in the way. When I get bogged down I have a group of people who I call for motivation.  There is one lady who does genealogy full time, she gets the process and the pitfalls.  I have a cousin who knows the people I am researching and loves to hear what I have found.  I have a scrapbooking friend who understands the technical difficulties of putting hard data into a graphic layout.  They are all supportive and they all keep me where I need to be.  They accomplish all of this with no guilt, yippee!

Have a deadline. Every project will be eternal if there is no end specified.  I don't know about you, but I have no desire to clean my bathroom cupboards for the rest of my life, and I definitely don't want the threat of scrubbing my shower to loom for the next year. Identify an end game.  Declare to the world, "I will have this picture frame collage filled and hung on Tuesday."  Then sit down and figure out what you need to make that happen. Don't wait until Tuesday to figure it out. Go get the pictures, get the nails to hang it and get the glass cleaner to wipe off your sweaty finger prints.  Knowing that you will accomplish something on or by a date frees your mind up to think about other things.

So now you are motivated, finish what you already have started.  DO NOT think I just wrote this blog to get you motivated to start NEW projects.  That will come, but not yet.  Finish what you start. Gain confidence in your successes.  You can do it!

Today's Question: Are you motivated to fill out your Prepared Binder?  Who will be your partner?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hotel Room Smile...and Other Stuff

Let's face it, as humans we collect stuff.  Your stuff may be different than my stuff, but we all have stuff.  Some of your stuff may be so important to you that you can barely manage to call it just stuff, you want to call it "your stuff."  I have stuff, lots of stuff.  I thrive on stuff.  I have bookcases and shelves full of stuff.  I look at the stuff, I remember why I have the stuff.  I feel exhausted knowing the stuff is always there...always.

Okay, so that was my little confession, I have stuff and my stuff consumes me.  Not good.  Have you ever been in a hotel room and felt really at peace?  There is nothing you have to do.  You have tucked your few suitcase items into the drawers and put your toothbrush in the bathroom.  You sit on your bed and just relax.  Why is this different from home where your toothbrush was already in the bathroom and you didn't have to unpack?  I will tell you why, and it is really quite simple.  At home you need to take care of and maintain your stuff. Laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, picking up, de-cluttering, organizing, neatening, purging, and list making all revolve around your stuff.  When you sit in a hotel room you don't have any stuff to maintain, and thus the peace.

Now there are a few people out there who are going to ask what kind of slob I would be if I didn't do the above mentioned items.  And I agree, I would be a huge slob if I didn't do dishes, wash my clothes and pick up my house.  The important part is that I would have less to do if I had less stuff.

When I was a kid my mom had a few infuriating phrases.  One of my least favorite revolved around nick naks.  I would see some amazing must have trinket in the store, and with money in hand I would ask, "Can I have it?"  My mother would look at me and say, "Are you going to dust it?" Ahhhhh! I hated that. I didn't want to dust it anymore than the next kid, but I was drawn to stuff like a moth to a flame.

So I ask you to look around your home.  Look at the items you see, and the ones you don't normally see. (You know, the things stuffed in drawers and cupboards.) Ask yourself, do I want to dust this? Do I want to maintain it? Do I want to organize it? Do I want to look at it?  If not, GET RID OF IT.  Yes I know I just yelled at you, but really, why do you have it?

I heard the gasp you just made, don't think I didn't. I gasped the first time someone told me the same thing.  I have been slowly getting rid of my stuff.  I give it to friends who could use more stuff (okay, they don't need it, but if they can use it and pass it on then I have done a good deed.) I also donate to charities, nothing says joy like the option to get tax credits for my stuff.  I also have considered selling my stuff, I even have stuff in the garage to sell right now.

So why should you get rid of stuff?  Because it makes you tired.  I for one can't sleep enough as it is, I don't need something else making me exhausted.  Let's think about it, you buy stuff with your hard earned money, you then bring that stuff home and take care of it. You clean it, store it, organize it, and move it around numerous times. You probably find use for it, or even joy from it for a while.  Then it just becomes more stuff to deal with.  When it gets to that point let it move on.  Find a home for it, just not your home.

It will do you good to release your stuff.  Not only will you feel lighter, you will want to buy less stuff.  This is good for your bank account, and hopefully that will make you smile.  And when you smile, I hope you remember the feeling of sitting on a bed in a hotel room, being at peace.  Then remember you didn't have to pay for a hotel room to get that feeling, and smile again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Use National Emergency Preparedness Month to Organize Yourself

September is here, and we all know what that means. . . (okay most of us don't). September is National Emergency Preparedness month. What better way to start your family's emergency preparedness than by organizing your emergency paperwork?

I have found that getting organized can be a little overwhelming, so I have a few suggestions for those who need the help.

Don't try and tackle too much at once. I have found that running around the house to collect paperwork is a time consuming and daunting task. Pick one topic and collect the information on just that. For example, find everyone's birth certificates. If you don't have them anymore, take the time to get online and request them. Doing something that simple will help you feel motivated to do more later. 

Collect financial and insurance information as it comes in the mail. If you are like most people your financial paperwork is all over the place. Trying to find current statements may be a headache you are not willing to take on. As your current bills come in the mail and you have paid them, throw the statements into one location. (Inside your Prepared Binder – Home Edition is a wonderful place to stash them!) At the end of the month use the information you have collected to organize your financial records. If you are using Prepared Binder – Home Edition you can quickly fill in the financial forms and parts of the insurance section. This stress free method is sure to give you a sense of accomplishment.

Have a family discussion. When it comes to making emergency plans, no one is an island. Whether it is determining an evacuation plan or identifying an emergency contact list, your family needs to be involved. If you are single or without family, you will need to include close friends. Take the time to figure out what you will do, where you will go and who you will call. Then talk to the people involved. They need to know what your plans are and how they can help. The act of organizing your plan will likely motivate your family to do the same. What a gift!

Remember you plan because you care. Sitting down to organize your memorial plans can feel overwhelming. Not many people like to think about dying, especially parents with young children. If you feel overwhelmed, imagine how your family will feel if they have to make these decisions after your death. It is important to write down your preferences for a funeral, but it is even more important to have your legal paperwork organized. Having a will or trust with specific considerations for children and pets will give you peace of mind regarding the future. Establishing the correct powers of attorney will help your family in times of emergency. While no one wants to use these plans, having them will help you feel prepared.

After you have started this organization process, it is important to tell the right people where to find the paperwork. While putting important papers in a locked fire box or safe is a good idea, you also need to make sure the correct people know it is there and how to access it.

Good luck, and happy planning!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Organization: Not So Scary Anymore

Organization is one of those scary things we put on our to do list. You know you want to be organized, and the last time you couldn't find something, you swore you would get organized, but actually doing the organization seems scary.

Here are some big stumbling blocks that keep us from organizing our lives: 

I don't know where to start. Well, that is simple. What everyday task do you wish was easier? It could be paying the bills, locating your missing sock, finding food in your cupboard, the list is endless. Whatever activity in your life that causes you frustration is a great place to start.

I don't have the time. I've always wondered about this one. People seem to have an amazing amount of time to look for things they lost, but no time to put things where they belong. If you have established a place for mismatched socks you will look there first. If you haven't, you will toss that odd sock on the floor and grumble about never being organized. 

I have no idea how to organize. I find this to be usually untrue. People can live in a mountain of papers, dirty laundry, and old magazines, but have a perfectly organized collection of DVD's arranged alphabetically by genre, and in subcategories of hunky lead actors. Why is it that their life looks like chaos but their DVD's are immaculate? I think it comes down to what is important to you. If your movies are important, you will make them accessible. If your clothes are important, you will wash them and hang them up. If paying your bills on time is important, you will find a way to keep track of them. It is up to you to find out what is important. 

I am overwhelmed. When we look at our entire life and can't see out because the “stuff” has taken over, it is easy to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over our head. Unfortunately, I have never seen this approach fix the mess. Once again, I suggest looking at what is important to you. If reading is it, look at your books and magazines. See what you have and how you want it organized. Little successes will breed optimism and eventually completion. 

I bought the storage stuff and never used it. Lots of people get excited about organizing, rush out to the store, buy a ton of cool looking containers that match or have neat little compartments, then race home and find that nothing fits. Depressed, and with a huge bill for supplies, they feel defeated and give up.  How do you know what you need until you know what you have? Pick one thing and decide how you want to use it. For example, if you have a lot of spices cluttering up your kitchen cupboards, you need to ask yourself a few questions. First, do I cook? If you haven't used a spice since your mother-in-law made a turkey 5 years ago, maybe spices aren't the most important thing for your lifestyle. A container with a lid that can be stored on a bottom shelf might work the best for you. On the other hand, if your answer was “Yes every day!”, then maybe organizing your spices by type and quantity is important. After you have done inventory you can go to the container store or kitchen outlet and find a nice spice rack or shelf that fits your needs. 

Organization can be as easy or as hard as you make it. Being realistic about what is important to you, and what you use, will help you decide where to start. Ripping the entire house up so you can organize all at once will only depress you. Start with one important thing, the success will motivate you to do more.

When you get ready to tackle your paperwork organization remember Prepared Binder – Home Edition is a great way to start. With a simple yet comprehensive layout you can quickly identify what you need and organize it in a ready to use format. Visit Prepared Binder to learn more.

Today's question: Where are you going to start?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The 2010 US Census - Part of Our History, Part of Our Future

Recently I have heard a lot of discussion regarding the upcoming 2010 census.  You may wonder why I would cover such a topic in my Prepared Binder Blog, but as the census is a vital record gathering tool, I felt it was appropriate.

Many people are concerned about the information gathered by the census.  They are also concerned about who will be collecting it and who will see the final results.  After a little poking around on the web I thought I would clear up a few pieces of misinformation.

What is the Census? The United States Census is required by the United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) and was first conducted in 1790. In the simplest form, the census is needed to count the population of the country.  The population data is used to determine representation in the federal government.  As a side fact, the original house of representatives only had 65 members.  After the 1790 census that number increased to 106.  Congress capped the number of representatives at 435 in 1911.  Now those representatives are divided based on population of individual states in the country.

Why should I participate in the Census? The first compelling reason is that it is required by law.  If that doesn't move you to action, then maybe a few other reasons will.  Information gathered by the census helps the government allocate resources. Education funding for schools and programs is determined by census data.  Hospital construction, roadway construction and even job training programs are funded with information obtained from the census. If you are not counted in the census you are reducing the amount of resources that come into your community.

Census data is also used as a genealogical resource, and is one of the most important resources we have.  Before you get too worried about breaches in your privacy, information identifying individuals must be kept confidential for 72 years, which means the 1930 census was only released in 2002.  Any personal information gathered about you or your family in the 2010 census cannot be released until 2082.

What is on the census form? The 2010 United States Census official record date is April 1, 2010 and unlike the 2000 census will not include a long form.  Yep, you heard correctly, there will only be a short form.  The long form of the past has been reformatted as the American Community Survey, which is randomly sent out to different households every year.

Take a look at the US Census Bureau's report detailing the questions included in the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey.  The report specifies why each question is being asked, it also tells you how long the question has been asked on past census forms.

Who collects Census information? Per the US Census Bureau's web site, "The Census Bureau will mail or deliver questionnaires to your house in March 2010. We will mail a second form to households that do not respond to the initial questionnaire.  Households that still do not respond will be called or visited by a Census worker. (Census workers can be identified by a census badge and bag.)"

So the answer to that question, is YOU.  If you fill out the form and send it back in you should not see a census worker unless they need clarification on your answers.

Okay, so now we have answered the most basic questions about the 2010 US Census.  If you have more questions you can check out the US Census Bureau website.  Being counted is an important part of life in a community.  We know that censuses have been taken for thousands of years and that information gathered about us and our families will help allocate resources where they are most needed. 

Censuses are an amazing thing.  They allow each of us to become a documented part or our nation's history, while at the same time they allow us to determine the future of our representation and federal funding.  When the 2010 census arrives in your mailbox I encourage you to fill it out and return it. Be part of our history.  Be part of our future.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Exploring the Steps - Step 3 - Document Everything

(This is part 4 of a 4 part series. Read parts 1, 2 and 3 here.)

You are aware you need a plan.  You are also aware you need to take yourself out of the equation when making the plan. Now we need to document the plan.  Why you say? Glad you asked.  You must document the plan or the plan is of no use. In an emergency you do not have the time or energy to remember the whole plan.  Even if you could remember everything you need to be able to clearly explain it to others.  A crisis is not the time to calmly and quickly tell other people how to react to the situation.

Gather Your Information. So how do you go about documentation? Once again, glad you asked. You begin by gathering the information you need for your plan to work. Start with the basics. Write down information about each person such as date of birth, social security information, medical conditions and allergies.  Then find the paperwork to support that. Collect birth certificates, social security cards, and medical records.

When it comes time to write down "the plan" remember that you probably have lots of plans.  You will have a plan for medical emergency, a plan for fire, a plan for evacuation, a plan for death, etc. It can be a lot of paperwork. (Now is a great time to mention Prepared Binder - Home Edition is a great way to organize all of that information.)

Be Specific in Your Plan.  If you are evacuating to Uncle Frank's house, put a map to Uncle Frank's house in the plan.  Include his phone number, address, email and cell phone.  Also include an out of state contact who can field calls from you.  Sometimes it is easier to make a long distance call than a local one when there is a local emergency.

Practice the Plan. Now before you have visions of fire drills at 2 am, I want you to take a deep breath. Why do you think schools insist on fire drills? They do it because they know the best way to get people out of the building quickly is for them to know how to get out quickly. They don't just talk about it, they do it.  I am sure we have all walked "quickly and quietly" out of our classroom, through the building doors and to the field until they gave the all clear signal.  It was boring, but orderly.

I remember a report from a passenger on the airplane which landed in the Hudson River this January.  He said that the passengers did everything the little safety speech told them not to do. He said people were screaming (understandable) and that they tried to climb over the seats and each other, some even tried to take their luggage.  How many times have we heard the airplane speech about finding your nearest exit (it may be behind you) and leaving your luggage?  I for one have never practiced evacuating a plane, so I am sure I would have been worse than the people in the Hudson River.

So practice your plan.  Evacuate your home in 15 minutes, drive to the emergency room, locate your documents to supply your insurance agent after a "theft." You can do it.  Then when you have a real emergency you can deal with it "quickly and quietly."

Today's Question: Have you practiced your plan?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Exploring the Steps - Step 2 - Imagine You're Not There

(This is part 3 of a 4 part series. Read parts 1 and 2 here.)

Ask yourself the age old question, "If a crisis happens in the woods and you are not around to hear it, is it still a crisis?"  The answer is a solid yes.  The question is: Do you care?  No, I am not heartless, because it is a valid question.  There are chaotic things happening every day all over the world.  We read about them on the news, we see them in pictures, but do we need to care about all of them? Probably not.

Most crises happen without a second thought from us, however there are some which may strike a little closer to home.  As an example: You take a well deserved weekend away with some friends.  While you are gone your spouse is watching the kids.  They decide to go mountain biking, and WHAM one of your kids slides down a hill and breaks an arm.  What now? Does your spouse know who the pediatrician is and how to get in contact with them? Does he/she have the current insurance card and know all of your children's current medications and allergies? Does he/she know which hospital to go to and how to contact the school to report the absence?

Emergencies, by definition, are not convenient.  If they were, they wouldn't be emergencies.  So the question is: Do you rush home, or do you know your spouse has what is needed to deal with it?

Identify your Role. Figure out what information and skills you bring to your family dynamic and duplicate it.  This means you write down all the information needed in an emergency which you have floating around in your head.  Make copies of important documents and store them with your emergency binder. (Prepared Binder - Home Edition does a great job of helping you identify and store those documents.) Make sure everyone knows where the emergency binder is.

Identify a Backup You.  While you are special, loved and needed, in a crisis, you may need to be replaced. Don't take it personally, the reality is crisis management is usually a group sport.  Find someone close to your family who is aware of your normal routine and who can help in case of emergency. It may be a close relative or a friend, but this person needs to be able to step in while you are away.  I think about two people in my life who fit this role. They know enough about my kids and my routine that they could help my husband deal with an emergency until I return.

Plan on a Long Absence. Now I realize you are not heartless and would never abandon your family, but you need to be prepared to be gone for a while.  What if the emergency was you?  If you were in a car accident and hospitalized for an extended period of time you would need a plan.  You would need the information you know in a format others could use.  You would also need a plan to help you family function without yout input and assistance.  Use your planning time to give them the details they need to survive, even flourish until your return.

Now there is the possibility we haven't talked about, the elephant in the room, death.  What if you died, and that is why you were not there? Well, that is a BIG topic, one we will address another day.  Until then, assume you will be coming home soon and that the emergency is a passing issue.

Today's question is: Can your family function in a crisis without you? What do you need to do to make sure they can?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Exploring the Steps - Step 1- Have a Plan

(This is part 2 of a 4 part series. Read part 1 here.)

No one wants to dwell on unpleasant things. (Okay, most of us don't anyway.) It isn't fun to think about our house burning down, or the need to evacuate in front of a wildfire or flood. It isn't nice to contemplate the results of accidents or injuries. Do it anyway.  Your ability to make it through such an event with minimal impact to you and your family directly relates to how well you think it through and plan for it.

Start with the Basics. Figure out what your response will be for each type of event.  For example: "If our house catches on fire we will gather the family at Uncle Frank's house. A copy of our insurance records are located in the files we keep with Aunt Betsy." Then make sure each of those details is arranged.

Build on the Basics. Take it one step further and figure out what you need to make it through an emergency.  For example: "If we have 15 minutes to evacuate, we will need to grab the family paperwork binder (Prepared Binder - Home Edition is wonderful for this!), the 72 hour emergency kits, the medication box, the family photos located in the living room bookcase, and the pets." Consider making lists for each person so they know what they need to get. Clipping those lists to the prepared 72 hour kits is a great way for each person to know what to do in an emergency.

Communicate the Plan. It is a good idea to have a plan, in fact it is an amazing idea to have a plan.  It is even better to have a plan people know about.  If you think evacuating to Uncle Frank's house is the best move, then Uncle Frank better know about it.  The rest of the family will feel better knowing where to find you as well. Also, if the kids aren't home when disaster strikes, they will know to meet at Uncle Frank's house and everyone will spend a lot less time worrying about the family. When communicating your plan with your extended family you can take the time to find out what their plans are as well.

So now that you have a plan, make sure all of the details are arranged. You will need different plans for different situations, so make sure you document the details. Use the planning stage to identify what you know and what you need to know. Start with one thing at a time and work through the details.

Once you have a plan in place, share it with your family and practice it. A coach would never send a football team on the field to run an unpracticed play, don't send your family into a crisis with an unpracticed response.

Happy Planning!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Controlling Chaos - 3 Steps to Equip You for a Crisis

(This is part 1 of a 4 part series.)

I have never had a scheduled crisis. Nope, never. Every crisis I ever faced has come right out of the blue and bit me on the hind end. Unfortunate, but true. So what do you do with such a hard to predict, inconvenient and life disrupting event? You plan for it.

Now before you get worried that I live in a gloom and doom world, I don't.  I am however a bit realistic when it comes to stuff like this. Emergencies happen, so get organized and be prepared. A little advance work and you can take the frantic scramble out of a crisis.

Step 1 - Have a Plan
Yep, a plan can make all the difference. Depending on the crisis, the plan could be as simple as who to call first, or where to drop off the kids. Plans can also be complex, for example, an evacuation plan. Take the time to come up with a plan, and write it down for others.

Step 2 - Imagine You're Not There
I can already see the look on your face. "If I'm not there, is it my crisis?" If you are in a car accident and on the way to the hospital you are not in charge of crisis management.  Who is? Make your plan work for all members of the family.  Make sure they know the plan and what to do.

Step 3 - Document Everything
Crisis management has a lot to do with paperwork.  Make sure every member of the family knows where your plans are written down. They also need to know where the insurance papers are, where the medical records are kept and how to access financial resources.

Once you have gone through this activity you and your family will be much better equiped to handle a crisis. So today's question is this: Are you ready to handle a crisis?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Grocery List

Have you ever headed to the grocery store without a list?  You say to yourself, "I will remember everything, so I don't need a list." Then you walk around mumbling to yourself, "eggs, milk, bread, sour cream, vanilla, etc..."

What always happens? You forget something, that's what happens! So why is it we think we can grab everything we need in an emergency? If we can't remember our grocery list when we are calm how are we supposed to remember our emergency information when we are in a panic?

I had one lady recently tell me a funny story.  She lived in California and was forced to evacuate a few years ago during the wildfires.  She had only a few minutes to leave. When she tried to put her emergency food supply in the car she couldn't find it.  She looked everywhere, but couldn't find it.  She was forced to leave without her food.  When she returned to her home she realized that she had her foot on the food while she was looking for it, but never saw it.

So I ask again, if we can't remember things when we are calm, how will we ever remember them when we are stressed? The answer to this one is simple, we write it down and store it where we will find it. Take the time when things are calm to write out all the information you will need during an emergency.  Get creative with the emergencies you plan for but make sure you have the basics covered. Prepared Binder - Home Edition is a wonderful product to get you going.  Think of it as detailed suggestions for a grocery list.  Fill out the forms provided and collect the information it suggests.  When you are finished you will have a wonderful resource, and you may even be able to remember the gallon of milk...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Know your Blood Type and Other Important Stuff

What is your blood type?  That used to be a simple question, but not many people know that detail today.  Even though hospitals keep it in their records, many do not disclose it unless specifically asked. (Odd, I know.) So what else are you unsure of regarding your own medical history?

When organizing your medical information it is important to document the details, things like blood type, surgery dates and locations, test performed and hospital stays.  Why does it matter you may ask?  Well, in an emergency there is a high likelihood you will be treated by a doctor other than your own.  Having immediate access to the above mentioned information can really improve your level of care.  I know you think you will remember to tell the doctor all of this, but in an emergency this isn't what you remember, and even if it was, you might not be able to relay the information yourself.

Taking the time to detail your medical history, along with the histories of those in your home, allows you to track down details when it is convenient for you.  Take a look at the medical section in your copy of Prepared Binder - Home Edition and fill it out.  If there is information you don't know, ask your doctor the next time you see her. Be in charge of your health history.  You can do it. (Yep, that was your official pep talk.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Helicopter Parent Who Needs To Let Go

I was reading an article recently about the separation issues faced by parents sending their kids off to college.  They commented on how hard it can be to go from the active to the passive stages of parenthood. That made me think about my own journey out into the brave new world. While I did okay, I mean I didn't lose a limb, get arrested, or find myself living on the street, I do shudder to think of some of the ill-informed decisions I made for myself.

Now that I am a parent and included in what the media calls the "helicopter parent" generation, I wonder how I will do when my day comes to send my offspring out into the world. I know I will cry.  I will probably spend time feeling sad in their room. But I think the biggest thing I will worry about is their knowledge of themselves. (Okay, now is the time to roll your eyes and say something like, "Geesh! Don't you think your kids know themselves pretty well by now???")

I'm not talking about if they know their favorite color or who their BFF is, I am talking about details.  Do they know their medical history? Do they have their social security number memorized?  Do they know all of their allergies? Do they have an emergency contact list? Do they have access to emergency money? Do they have their current insurance information? (Wow, I am starting to scare even myself.)

In an effort to calm my nerves and prepare my child, I believe I will provide them a care packet of information.  Sending cookies is nice, but in reality it is the details that matter. A simple accounting of their personal information, along with medical records, insurance contacts and financial documentation will better prepare my child to face the world.  But really, who am I kidding? It will help me know they are prepared, and then maybe, just maybe, I will be able to let go.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sniffle, sniffle...achoo!

I feel sick just thinking about all the reports of impending flu season. The information coming from the media is not good. The World Health Organization believes that within the next 2 years over one third of the world population will have contracted the H1N1 flu.  As United States Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has stated, "What we know is, it's brand new and no one really has an immunity to this disease." Not good.

So besides washing your hands a ton and staying home if you are sick, what can you do to stop the spread of the  H1N1 (swine) flu? Well, in reality, not a lot.  The disease will spread, you will have contact with other humans, and you will be exposed most likely.  What you can do is be prepared.  Get a flu shot if recommended for your age and health situation. Make sure you get the correct number of shots, as they are currently unsure how many that will be. Also, be prepared to limit your contact with the outside world.

How exactly do you do that? Well, I am glad you asked. You can start by cutting down on trips to the grocery store. Yep, I said it, limit the trips to buy your favorite snacks.  Why, you might ask. Well, grocery stores are one of the few places people feel no guilt about going when they are sick.  They need to stock up on medication and food, so they go to the store. Now before you get all paranoid and move into your underground concrete bunker, remember that most of the people at the store are not sick, just hungry.

If you have food stored at home you will be able to greatly reduce your trips to the store.  This will save you time and limit your exposure.  Experts suggest everything from a 3 day supply of food, to one year. Personally, I try to store at least 3 months of food. Anything you do buy needs to be washed well.  I also suggest wiping down the handle of the shopping cart.  Many stores are providing wipes for your use.

You also need a plan.  What happens if you are sick? Do you know who will take care of you and your family? Do you have your medical information written down for use if you are sick and unable to explain it yourself?

The good news is that the southern hemisphere is coming out of winter right now.  They had no vaccine and the flu season, while heavy, was not as bad as expected.  The symptoms were not much worse than a regular flu and most people recovered just fine.  Either way, you and your family need to have a plan. Take the time to figure it out now, long before you hear the sniffles in your own home.

Today's question: What is your flu plan for this year?