Emergency Planning – Storing Documents

When there is an emergency, hopefully you have time to grab the essentials, ie family and pets. However, there are times when you just can’t get anything else. It is important to plan ahead in case something should happen to your home and you aren’t able to grab any personal papers. Even if nothing ever happens to your home, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to scramble for important papers at say, tax time???? Or when your 3rd grader has to start soccer and they need their medical records tomorrow. Or when you go to get a passport and realize they need your original birth certificate. I can feel the panic setting in just thinking about some of these scenarios. So everyone, it’s time to get your documents in order! These are just my suggestions, there are a million other ways to make sure your papers are safe. If you have any to add, please feel free to add them to the comments.

-Safe or Safety Deposit Box – For legal documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, previous tax returns, etc, I have a fireproof safe. It is not too expensive for a small one. Not only does it protect against fire (for a limited amount of time based upon the model you choose), but it is a good place to keep all of the super important documents together. Many of them are waterproof too. It is also good to be able to lock them as an added safety measure. Another option is to get a safety deposit box. The point is to keep the most important papers together and protected.

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-Back up and copy – I try to backup my entire computer onto an external hard drive at least once a month. For work stuff, I try to do it more often because I am constantly adding documents to my computer. For super important documents that I mentioned above (ie tax returns, marriage license), I also try to keep a digital copy. For my kid’s birth certificates, I ordered 3 ‘original’ hard copies of them when each kid was born. We kept one and another went to each set of grandparents. This is great because not only is there a copy, but should their birth certificates ever be needed during a visit, they are already there! Also, keep a copy of your passport on your computer and a paper copy with you when you travel in case something happens to the original.

-Scan in photos or other memories – I am currently scanning every single picture I own as well as kid’s art projects, cards from our wedding and anything else I might want to have a copy of if anything should happen to the originals.

-Upload to an external source – for the photos and memories, I upload them to an external website so if something should happen to my computer, I still have the files somewhere. I have just made the switch to Shutterfly so after using it for a bit, I’ll be able to post on the pros and cons.

-Minimize the paper – The less paper you have, the less you have to wade through, copy, scan, back up etc. So be selective in what you keep. Check out the ‘Paper Pile Purge Series’ on the blog for tips on how to do this.

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Take the time now to go through your important documents. Know what you have and where everything is. That way, if you are ever in a bind, hopefully your documents will be the last thing you have to worry about.

~Erin

 

 

Emergency Planning and Fire Relief

I am deeply saddened by the Black Forest Fire, which is is currently devastating so many homes right now in Colorado. We are not too close to the fires, but feel the impact still. It was almost exactly a year ago that evacuated friends from the Waldo Canyon fire (also in Colorado Springs) were staying at our house.  I will be doing a small series (at the same time as my paper clutter series) focusing on disaster planning and relief.

Today I’ll focus on relief efforts, as that is what is truly needed right now. There are many local and national organizations pitching in to get supplies to where they are needed most. Many individuals and small businesses are also stepping up to collect supplies for displaced families as well as the firefighters. When there is a disaster in your area (whether it is a fire, tornado, hurricane, or other disaster), it can be difficult to locate the right resources and to make sure your donations are being used in the proper way. Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of others during a crisis, so you want to make sure you are working with legitimate organizations. Here are a few tips for making sure you can feel confident in your relief efforts.

1) Donate to a well known national organization, such as the Red Cross.

Red Cross and other national organizations have a reputation to live up to and you are also able to choose to make a general donation to them or choose a local chapter for your funds to go to.

2) Become familiar with your local food banks now and find one that you feel comfortable donating to. In Colorado Springs, there are many food banks and organizations who are helping with relief efforts. However, there are several large ones that most commonly come up, such as Care and Share.

3) Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. There are so many smaller organizations out there that are doing an amazing job at helping with relief, but not a lot of people know about them. Ask around to see if you can find a small organization that you would like to donate to. A friend of mine was familiar with an organization called Battle Bumms who provides cloth diapers to low income military families. She told me they were doing a relief drive for the Black Forest Fire victims. They are currently collecting clothing, toiletries, toys, etc for donation to the over 400 families who have lost their homes already. They are also collecting food donations which they will then take to Care and share. I went through my kid’s closet and was able to get a garbage bag worth of clothing, books and toys to donate. I also went through the bathrooms and compiled a bag of toiletries, including lotions, soap, diaper rash cream, toothbrushes, etc for donation.

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This type of donation is nice because you don’t have any expenses, items are already on hand, and you don’t have to wonder what was purchased with a monetary donation. In addition, the items don’t have to be purchased by an organization so, in theory, they are able to be distributed more quickly.

4) Check the local news for recommendations. Though the news is not 100% accurate, they also have reputations to live up to so they usually do a good job of recommending legitimate sources. Our news station’s websites and Facebook pages are full of resources and information on how to help. For the Black Forest fire, there was also a Facebook page set up by several local people who wanted a place to post all reliable information, updates and resources. It is the Colorado Black Forest Fire 2013 page and is getting a lot of press as being up to date, honest, and reliable.

5) Volunteer your time. Many organizations need help during a crisis and there are all sorts of ways to help. You could volunteer to help load food at one of the food banks. A friend of mine is taking her kids to help walk dogs at an animal shelter that is housing displaced animals. There are so many ways to help and I believe that the spirit of giving back is not felt more deeply than when you are able to see the good you are doing.

If you would like to donate to help the relief efforts of the Black Forest Fire, you can click on the links in this post or feel free to find other, reputable sources.  Keep Colorado Springs in your hearts right now. Thank you.

~Erin

 

 

Paper Pile Purge Series – Paper Shredding

Aaaah Paper Clutter! It’s everywhere, always showing up in piles in the mailbox, in backpacks, somehow taking over every inch of counter and desk space.  I try to keep it in check, but it still can easily get out of hand. Case in point. A couple months back, we redid the floors in our house and also painted almost the whole interior. So we had to move everything in every room. In the process, I took everything that was in a place it wasn’t supposed to be and put it in a lovely pile in my office. I’m not talking about things just laying around. I mean every single misplaced item out of drawers, closets, cabinets, under the bed. The pile was embarrassingly large:

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Now I normally wouldn’t handle an organizing situation like this. Normally, I would go through each drawer, etc individually and put things away accordingly. However, we were doing a big house project and I just didn’t have time to clean out my entire house right then.  I had to improvise! By improvise, I mean literally throwing things in a pile and running out of the room with my eyes closed so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

After the major house projects were completed, I spent several weeks going through the pile.  The donate box and trash can were my best friends. I managed to whittle the giant mountain of stuff down to two piles. The larger one was all papers. This included folders, pictures, brochures, receipts, anything made of paper. Here is what this pile looks like:

Paper Pile Purge

Still daunting for sure. But not impossible! Over the next few weeks, I’m going to break down the steps I use to clear paper clutter.

This week: Catch up on my shredding.

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If you follow the blog, you might now I’m slightly obsessed with my shredder.  It’s awesome. A lean, mean cross cut shredding machine. I’m half tempted to write a poem about it, I use it so often.  So this week, I’m catching up on my shredding. I try to stay on top of it, but I still have a folder labeled ‘to shred’ that ends up bulging every few months or so.

I go through all of my folders every 6 months and pull out anything I can shred in addition to the daily stuff that comes in through the mail. That way, my file cabinets don’t get too full.

Shredding Tips:

1) If you have a shredder, take this week to catch up. Go through your files and discard old utility bills, credit card offers or other items you don’t need to keep, but don’t want others to see.

2) If you don’t have a shredder and are looking to purchase one, I recommend a cross-cut shredder. This cuts the paper both vertically and horizontally and is a much better option when it comes to protecting your privacy.

3) Instead of throwing most papers into the trash, shred anything with an account number, financial offer, or any other personal information.

Happy Shredding!

Shredding Tips

~Erin

Top Ten Quick Cleaning Tips!

Many women, particularly moms, feel that they need to be everything to everyone. Right ladies??? Dinner on the table right on time, clothes perfectly pressed, a tiara and a halo vying for attention on top of our heads. Well, life is not always that pretty. Sometimes it’s downright messy. And sometimes we don’t have time to clean it all up. So here are the top 10 things you can clean in your house if you don’t have time to do a full house clean. These things will quickly give your house the feeling of clean for you and your family and maybe a guest or two:

1) Make the Beds – this takes about 1 minute for each bed and makes a huge difference in the look of a room.

2) Wipe the kitchen counters – just getting those crumbs off the counter brightens up a kitchen.

3) Give the toilets a quick once over with the toilet brush. This doesn’t need to be involved. Just sprinkle some baking soda in there and swish for about 20 seconds regularly.

4) Fluff the pillows on the couch. If there is a person shaped imprint on your sofa, it’s time to fluff!

5) Go through your mail. Not many things look more cluttered than a stack of paperwork. Clearing this from your inbox, desk or kitchen counter makes a huge difference.

6) Don’t leave clothes in the laundry room. When the laundry is done, put it away. Enlist the help of everyone in the family (even the littlest helpers) to make the job go more quickly.

7) Keep your fridge from turning into a science experiment. Take 1 minute a day and look through your fridge. Throw away anything that is expired or that you know won’t get eaten so that those leftovers don’t start to grow legs!

8) When you bring items in from the car, put them away immediately. Don’t drop and dash or you will soon have piles growing all over the house.

9) Fill the house with a nice aroma. Whether it’s lighting a candle, filling the potpourri, simmering some essential oil or using your favorite cleaning product or room spray, a good smelling house feels more clean.

10) Let in the natural light. Pull back the curtains, raise the blinds and let the light shine on all of your quick fixes!

~Erin