Friday, September 24, 2010

Frantic Friday #1 - The Paper Pile

As promised, here is a short, not so amazing, but hopefully very helpful idea to help keep your home organized.

I think everyone has at least one paper pile in their home.  Most people probably have many.  A few years ago I hired a professional organizer and here is what she told me: You are too organized!

I did giggle a little bit, but she was right.  I had so many steps involved to be organized that I was constantly in the middle of it.

My paper pile is a stack of stuff I need to deal with some other time.  Unfortunately all sorts of important stuff gets mixed in with the junk.  My organizer's solution? Make it simple.  Now I have a short basket on the counter where I come in the house. I can dump the mail in this basket to deal with later.  On the counter by the files I have two boxes.  One fits a regular paper size, the other is slightly smaller.  The big one gets bills I have paid, the smaller one is for receipts.  I no longer file each bill by type.  Now they all go in the box.  This makes them in order by month and I can find what I need, if I need it.

I have to admit, being less organized can have its benefits.  In this case the benefit is that I actually do it.  Amazing!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Who Was That Masked Man?

Today just disappeared. A masked man just ran through my house, snatched my time and took off with it. I didn't get half of what I needed to do accomplished. My house is a mess, my kids are fighting, homework is not done and dinner is mac and cheese.

Who was that masked man?

In a word, life. Yep, life took off with my good intentions. It took off with my to do list and then it absconded with my progress. I am left right where I started except I am a day older an slightly more frazzled.

I am not a fan of the masked man. Just say'n.

I am guessing I am not the only person who has been a victim of the masked time thief. I bet he travels the world doing the same thing to people all over. With as many hours as he has stolen, my guess is he will live forever and never have to stop.

grrr. Have I mentioned I am not a fan?

So here is what I am going to do, I am going to start a series of quick ways to get organized. Nothing fancy, just small and simple things you can do to get and stay organized.

This is my attempt to steal my time back from the time thief. So there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Motivational Monday #19 - We Have Hit 200!

It is true, we have hit our 200th blog entry.  Now I know you have read each and every one...but if you didn't, I have included links to a few of my favorites below:

The things I have learned from this blog are as follows:
  1. Thinking about being prepared all the time can be exhausting.
  2. Thinking about being prepared does not actually make you prepared, even if you are exhausted.
  3. Being prepared can be as easy or as hard as you make it.
  4. A lot of people are afraid of getting prepared.
  5. Many people wish they had been prepared.
  6. As the world becomes more uncertain, people become more concerned, and thus want to prepare for that which concerns them.
  7. A lot of information can fit into 200 blogs.
  8. I didn't know I had 200 blogs worth of things to say.
  9. You may still think I don't have 200 blogs worth of meaningful stuff to say.
I think it is only fitting the 200th blog happens on a Motivational Monday.  It is very motivating to know I have accomplished a lot thus far, and will continue to accomplish more.  So here are a few of those links I was talking about... 

Motivational Monday #1 - The Safe Place

My Grandmother's Greased Squirrel

Adding a New Roof on Our Lives

My Life in the Junk Drawer

Thank you for hanging around for 200 blogs.  I hope we can enjoy many more together!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Now What?

In the last few posts we have identified possible emergencies, we have started making plans and we have identified resources to help us with out planning.  The next logical step is to put the plan into action.

If your plan calls for you to pack a tent and sleep in the woods (it could happen...) then you should own a tent and know how to put it up.  I promise you do not want to take a brand new tent off the shelf and take it out of the bag for the first time in the dark without any idea how it goes together.  So do that in your backyard as a fun family activity long before you have a need.

If your plan calls for a telephone chain to keep your family informed, then have a dry run.  Make a game out of it and use the "chain of command" to gather clues for a family activity.

If your plan includes the assumption a family member is injured and/or not home, practice that when they are away for the afternoon.

If you have an evacuation plan (and you should) take the time to evacuate.  Drive to a local park and unpack what you took.  Find out if you really could survive the night.  If not, figure out what was missed and how you prevent that from happening again.

Once you have evaluated your plans, go back and see where you need improvement.  Don't think that just because you tested the plan 10 years ago you are fine today.  Schools have fire drills once a month.  They don't do this because they think it would be fun to stand in the snow while the building is cleared.  They do this to make sure every person knows exactly what to do and won't panic when they hear the alarm.

Set a schedule to review your plans and update them where needed.  Make sure your legal documents are current.  This means you need to review wills and trusts along with financial plans.  How many times do we have to hear of families with wills that don't include all of their children before we remember to review and amend ours appropriately?

So the answer to "What's Next?" is easy, just keep it going.  Things change, circumstances change, and rats eat your tent.  Keep on top of it, at least once a year, and you will not only feel more secure, you will be ready to go camping at a moment's notice. (No, the Hilton doesn't count!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Look For Resources

The good news about emergencies is that people have been having them forever, so most of them are supported by at least one organization.  There are government agencies, non-profit organizations and insurance companies who all spend a lot of time and resources surrounding emergencies.

Locate those organizations in your area who deal with emergencies and contact them for a current and local list of resources.  You do not have to re-invent the wheel, it has been done for you.  Your police station should have a copy of the area's evacuation plan and disaster plan.  The Red Cross has multiple online preparedness guides and you can contact your local chapter to see if there are any area specific emergency plans in place.

Track down your insurance agent and find out the procedure for getting funds in case of fire, flood, or other damage to your home and/or vehicle.  Knowing how things work will smooth the process down the road.  Many insurance companies also have packets of information to help you in those situations and it may benefit you to have a copy of those documents in your Prepared Binder for use during a crisis.

You may also want to contact your city/county/state disaster response teams and ask what the regional plan is.  You want to know what their expected response time is and what services the government will try and provide.  While I would not suggest relying on any services from any organization to reach you or your family in less than 3 days, having an idea of what the plan is will help you prepare your family for any gaps.

After identifying your resources, take the time to plan out your family strategy for each type of emergency.  Put together a list of actions to take and who should be responsible for each section.

Identifying your resources is a great way to clarify your family emergency plans.  Using the help established and knowing what services you will need to provide yourself will strengthen your preparation and smooth the situation when in crisis. Remember, an ounce of preparation is worth more than a pound of panic and fear.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Motivational Monday #18 - Make the Time

How often have you said to yourself, "I wish I could: read more; spend more time with my friends; learn a new language; take a class; learn a new skill; travel to Europe; hike that mountain; or volunteer, but I just don't have the time?"

I find that time is my excuse for a lot of things. In fact I can use time as a good reason why my house is messy, why my projects are not finished and why I am exhausted.  It all comes down to not having enough time. (Don't you love a good catch all excuse??)

Truth be told, you have exactly the same number of hours in the day as every other person on the planet and you can choose what to do with each and every one of them. In all fairness, there are some things you must do, like eat and sleep.  There are other things you should do, like bathe.  After that, the world is your oyster.

I'm sure I just heard a protest.  "But I have to work," I just heard from the back row.  Yes, it is true, you may need to work in order to pay bills, but that is your choice.  You choose where you work, what industry you work in and you choose how much money you want to earn with the type of job you select.

After you have slept, eaten, bathed and taken care of your J-O-B, you have at least a few hours left to your discretion.  If you have kids, there is a good likelihood that "discretionary time" is packed with kid stuff, but don't despair, somewhere in there is time to accomplish the stuff of your dreams.

There have been countless women and men over the centuries who have done amazing things.  They have contributed to science and the arts.  They have broken records and set new expectations for greatness. They have given us stories of hope and adventure. They have inspired us.

The thing is, they had the exact same number of hours in the day as you and I do.  So I think it comes down to use of time.  How do you spend yours?

Time is a lot like currency in that you spend it and it is gone.  We are taught to budget money, but few of us are taught to budget time.

I have heard that you spend your time where your priorities are.  I guess that means you need to look at your priorities if you want to find time to accomplish greatness.

So wake up earlier, go to bed later, multitask, eliminate fluff, streamline necessities, and carve out time to fulfill your dreams.  The time is there, you just need to find it.  Go on, you can do it.  I will meet you at the top of the mountain in Europe while speaking another language and reading a book while spending time with my friends...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Once Identified - Start a Plan For Your Emergencies

In the last post we looked at the types of emergencies we can face. I gave a list of 11 items I could easily think of as a starting point for you to devise your own list.  Using that list I want to start working on a plan.

Looking over the list, I see some logical groupings to help get the planning process going.
  • House Fire
  • Theft
  • Car Accident
  • Car Accident
  • Medical Emergency
  • Lengthy Illness
Natural Disaster:
  • Hurricane
  • Flood
  • Tornado
  • Ice Storm
  • Wildfire
  • Optional or Mandatory Evacuation
When dealing with loss, the most important thing to have is documentation.  From talking with countless people who have lost homes, the feeling of helplessness is what causes the most emotional trauma.  Having the ability to quickly identify what has been lost helps you regain your feelings of control.  Insurance companies want proof of what you owned. By documenting what you have it is easier to go through the process of replacement, or at least compensation.

Documentation can come in the form of receipts (make a copy, as receipt paper is designed to fade over time) or evidence of ownership.  Take pictures of expensive or collector items with serial numbers shown if applicable.  Store those photos off site.  Many insurance agents will keep a CD of your pictures in their files if you ask them.

Dealing with medical emergencies can also be an issue of documentation, but this time you need histories, medication lists and contact information. You need legal documents signed and witnessed before a person is incapacitated. You also need to know a person's wishes to assist in making appropriate choices.

Natural disasters may require survival skills and supplies.  You need to know ahead of time what you will do if you are trapped in your home or if you have to leave it.  You need to know where your supplies are and how to use them. (If you are storing canned food, make sure you have a manual can opener!) You also need to be familiar with emergency services in your area.

As we look at this topic more, we will discuss each individual topic in greater detail. Having a plan means more than identifying the dangers and potential emergencies, it means knowing what to do about them.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Are Your Potential Emergencies?

When it is time to talk about emergency preparedness people get nervous.  I understand no one wants to borrow trouble, but there is a fine line between "thinking happy thoughts" and ignoring the potential for problems.  Given the choice, I want to be prepared.

In order to prepare, you need to know what you are preparing for.  So today we are going to make a list.  Obviously I don't live where you do, so you will need to expand the list for your area and circumstances.

List of possible emergencies:
  1. House Fire
  2. Theft
  3. Car Accident
  4. Medical Emergency
  5. Lengthy Illness
  6. Hurricane
  7. Flood
  8. Tornado
  9. Ice Storm
  10. Wildfire
  11. Optional or Mandatory Evacuation
I have to admit, looking at this list does not make me want to sing a happy tune, in fact, it is downright scary.  That said, each of these items can have an actionable plan to smooth over the craziness of the situation.

When identifying the plan, it is important to know who you are planning for. If you are single, then the plan is all about you.  If you are married, have kids, have roommates, are responsible for a parent or grandparent, or have pets, the plan may get a little more complicated.

In the days to follow we will talk about making a plan and what you need to consider.  Of course, all of these plans require paperwork, and as a shameless pitch, I will remind you Prepared Binder is an easy and organized way to get all of the paperwork you need ready to go.

So tune in next time when we talk about the items on the list.  Hopefully you will never need to use these plans, but you will feel better knowing you have them. Oh, and if you have any generic plans you would like to share, hit the comments section and tell us all about them!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Date Night - A Chance to Remember What is Important

Every so often it is good to do something light hearted and fun.  For me, that is date night, the night for which kids stay home, parents go out, and stress levels get reset.

I have heard marriage "experts" talk about the need to have a date night with your spouse for years.  I used to be good at it, but over the years the craziness of our lives boarded up the doors and wouldn't let us out.

Last night that changed.

As I sat there with my sweetie I realized how much we needed the time to be adults, not just parents.  We needed the time to talk and laugh without breaking up a fight, telling someone to chew with their mouth closed or to get to the potty before it is an emergency...

I think many of us forget about taking care of ourselves.  We get caught up in our daily routines and just keep going.  While I am a fan of routine, too much routine can be bad. Having a break can help reset our minds and give us a fresh perspective on many important things.

Resetting ourselves can also motivate us to finish what we started, preparedness, for example. How many of us start out with good intentions, but get sidetracked by the routines of our lives?  Don't worry, it isn't just you, it is most of us.

So find a way to get a change of perspective, to renew yourself and recommit to the things that are important.  You will find satisfaction not only in the break from routine, but also in your increased desire to finish what you have started.  For me, I am off to clean out my office, a project worthy of another date night.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Responsibility and National Emergency Preparedness Month

To paraphrase a great quote, "Some people are born responsible, and others have responsibility thrust upon them..."

I remember the day I realized I was a mom and no one was going to do that for me.  I was sleep deprived, emotionally drained and overwhelmed.  At that moment I realized I was in this for the long haul.  I had definitely had responsibility thrust upon me.  I hear parenting can do that.

One of the responsibilities I have, besides raising kids, cleaning house, preparing food and driving taxi service for the kids, is to prepare them for emergencies.  Things like knowing their phone number, their address and their parent's names can be the difference between safety and crisis. The last I checked, averting crisis to the best of my ability is also a responsibility I have.

Responsibility can come in many forms, but when it comes to emergency preparedness we each have a responsibility to ourselves and those we hold dear. You have heard the phrase, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure..." well it is true and important to remember.

September is National Emergency Preparedness Month.  As a nation we remember September 11, and vow to never experience the trauma again.  While most of us cannot personally change foreign policy or direct armies, we can prepare ourselves and families.  We can learn important skills such as first aid and we can establish a family disaster plan. We can record our plans and practice them until each family member knows what to do.

We can take responsibility for our preparedness, and we should.

So take the time this month, while you are reminded frequently, to prepare your family.  If you are overwhelmed, then start small, but do something. Being responsible for your own welfare and safety is an important step towards overall preparedness.

Just remember, you can choose to be responsible now or you can have responsibility thrust upon you later.