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Habits
Old 06-30-2014, 09:54 AM   #1
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Habits

The title was going to be "Getting Organized"... but that's not the way it is.

As DW and I get older, life slows down, but at the same time, gets more complicated. While we marvel at those in their 80's and 90's who seem to be wise, active and alert, we realize that for us, it is not to be.

Being used to juggling priorities and multi-tasking, it becomes more apparent the this is no longer possible, and perhaps the downhill slide will be faster than we'd like. This is enormously frustrating and worrisome. So we are learning to cope. I only wish we had begun the preparations sooner. FWIW, the following may be a waste of time for many, but posting here some thoughts that might be helpful... if not for you, for aging parents or relatives.
.................................................. ...........................
Basically, two things... habits and simplification.

1. Where is it, and when? This is the habit part. A place for everything, and everything in its' place, and, a time for whatever.

Examples:
a. The Dish - A glass dish for wallet, keys, loose change, small flashlight, pen/pencil, 3X5 cards, cellphone, rubber bands and scotch tape and that thing you found on the floor but don't recognize.
b. The refrigerator calendar.

2. Simplify! Maybe not what you're thinking. Not the simplification that comes from organizing.... That's a devil in the details, and can be even more frustrating. If you want to build a monster for your old age, get a 4 drawer filing cabinet. Our solution is not filing, but 3 part piling, and NOT in a cabinet, folders or dividers. 3 Stacks.
a. - to be paid/answered
b. - to be kept
c. - keep for a year then toss
Don't alphabetize, date, categorize or separate.

Another part of "Simplify" is to separate EVERYDAY from SOMETIMES.
One example. Kitchen- Carefully select the items we use every day. Lower cabinet, top drawer. The turkey baster and the rice steamer... somewhere else.

I'd like to add more, but will leave it for argument and discussion, hoping to add more if there's any interest.
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Old 06-30-2014, 10:22 AM   #2
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> b. The refrigerator calendar.

Online shared calendars can help too.

My DW and I each keep personal electronic calendars. Every event of significance is there and visible. Most things have reminders attached as well (with appropriate warning times - e.g. 15 minutes before a barbershop appointment; a few days for a birthday so there is time to send a card; etc.

Events go on the calendar as they are scheduled: e.g. when I'm at the dentist and they offer me an appointment in six months I look at the calendar on my iPhone to make sure the general date is good and enter it in right then and there.

Special purpose calendars can be setup and shared as need. When my DF was going in for some medical treatment and "us kids" where setting up times to visit and help him out afterwards, I set up a special calendar with all his doctors appointments and everyone's travel info. We all had access to it and it made the whole experience run a lot more smoothly.
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Old 06-30-2014, 10:27 AM   #3
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Imoldernu: Want another example of organized frustration?

We moved 6 months ago to downsize and in the process, threw out/gave away about 1/3 of what was in the old house. They we carefully marked moving boxes and when we unpacked at the newer place, took care to do a lot of what you mentioned in your post. I have a lot of tools and spent weeks building cabinets, etc in the garage to "organize" all my stuff.

Bottom line: We can't find a good bit of what we moved into the house without an intensified search. My garage is very orderly but I can't typically find a tool I need without scratching my head and saying "now where did I put that tool?" My wife still hasn't found a set of kitchen table placemats. It's all fun!
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Old 06-30-2014, 11:15 AM   #4
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I am a great believe in "a place for everything, and everything in its place", and always have been. Consequently, I almost never lose anything since I live alone and know where everything is. Before I buy anything new, I always visualize where its place will be and if necessary get rid of something else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
a. The Dish - A glass dish for wallet, keys, loose change, small flashlight, pen/pencil, 3X5 cards, cellphone, rubber bands and scotch tape and that thing you found on the floor but don't recognize.
That's my purse (instead of a glass dish). And the rubber bands and scotch tape and unknown thing all go in one specific drawer.

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b. The refrigerator calendar.
That's in my excel financial/retirement file, which I check several times each day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
2. Simplify! Maybe not what you're thinking. Not the simplification that comes from organizing.... That's a devil in the details, and can be even more frustrating. If you want to build a monster for your old age, get a 4 drawer filing cabinet. Our solution is not filing, but 3 part piling, and NOT in a cabinet, folders or dividers. 3 Stacks.
a. - to be paid/answered
b. - to be kept
c. - keep for a year then toss
Don't alphabetize, date, categorize or separate.
"To be paid/answered" go on my ottoman so that I can't even put my feet up until I take care of them.

I have a basket for "to be kept/filed".

I agree SO much about the file cabinet. I am ruthlessly paring down its contents, shredding utility bills from before 2013 and so on. Eventually I will get it pared down to almost nothing and then I will digitize that, and sell the file cabinet.

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Another part of "Simplify" is to separate EVERYDAY from SOMETIMES.
One example. Kitchen- Carefully select the items we use every day. Lower cabinet, top drawer. The turkey baster and the rice steamer... somewhere else.
Well, yeah. I think everybody does this, right? And then once every few years, I go through the hard-to-reach storage areas and get rid of a lot of that stuff that I seldom use.

Here are some other ideas:

(1) I think all kitchens (that are mine) should have a top drawer or two for common tools so that one doesn't have to drag out a tool chest every time one needs a screwdriver. That little change simplified my life quite a bit.

(2) I prefer to keep my kitchenette table completely cleared off at all times except when I am actually sitting at it working on something or eating. It's so much easier to do taxes, or other paperwork, or to assemble something, if I have a work space available to PUT things. And, it's nice to have someplace to put heavy packages like groceries while I go out to the car to get the rest.

(3) Don't use a big kitchen trash can (because it is no fun to empty them!). Instead, put your trash bag in a location and at a level where it is easy to grab and toss out each day as a habit.

I haven't looked at the flylady website in many years, but IIRC that site is not only about housekeeping but also has some great organizational ideas.
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Old 06-30-2014, 11:47 AM   #5
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Everyone, regardless of age, needs to do these things!
I've started thinking about the relative non-utility of my home office lately...since I use my laptop and phone for pretty much everything on a daily basis, the old desktop rarely gets fired up, and I do all my bill pay electronically. Thus, the office becomes a catch all for stuff that I haven't put away yet, and I'm VERY sure that most of my papers in the file cabinets could be purged.
But then what to do with the room? Seems crazy that it has gone from useful to storage in just the few short years that mobile computing has taken over.
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Old 06-30-2014, 12:02 PM   #6
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OK, "the dish" has been "the junk drawer" forever. Except for keys and wallet. Those go into the same place all the time religiously, so there is never any looking for them.

The ol' management trick of "touch a piece of paper once" is very good. Paper gets acted on and shredded.
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Old 06-30-2014, 01:48 PM   #7
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Y'all are ahead of me... Was gonna "save" some of your ideas to show ho smart I was... instead, making notes...

The kitchen counter... yeah... just a blender, knife block, sponge and magic eraser, dawn soap, and the ever present bananas. Stove counter... Toaster and spoon rest. Yes... Unloading groceries is easy.

Clothes... too many. Plastic bags fill and empty for winter or summer... go into garage. Shoes... rack for sneakers and slippers... rest go into a box, out of the way.

Tools... Toolbox in car for back and forth to lake. Tool drawer in kitchen.

Pantry... this an age thing for us... not much variety any more. We know what we like, and keep 2 of everything to limit store visits. So shelves stacked 2 deep, and use singleton to build next shopping list. Same for refrigerator... not freaky about this, but it helps. DW and I still thrashing this one out. Me for site certain, she for any open space...

Ziplock bags. I'm a toy guy... small electronics to play with... wires, plugs, USB stuff, sound switches, recorders, radios, calculators... $.25 to $.50 items... Hoarder stuff...Kept in ziplocks and (ulp) in boxes under the bed in my room.

Seasonal decor etc.... dump into 30gal trashbags ... as is... top shelf in garage. 7 bags full. Lazy, sloppy, but fast.

Books... can't read any more, so all to Goodwill or trash. Kept books written by friends, and HS and College Yearbooks.

Fireproof box for all deeds, legal papers, paper stocks (both of them) etc.
Yeah, should be safe deposit box, but another nuisance. Electronic copies just in case. All instruction books in one big box that we never look at.

Learned the 3 paper stack thing from sorting out paper for incapacitated neighbors. (never again)

All healthcare/medication not in daily use, in one box in bathroom closet.

I guess what we do, is to keep all items not in daily use, in a single container. Messy, but avoids the "search".

While we still have the camp, and our Florida place, most of what we do in one place, sets the pattern for the others. Except for several thousand dollars in tools, when we move out, we'll offer a walkthrough free for neighbors, and spend the $400 for a Waste management container for what's left. Made this decision after many hours of agonizing about trips to Goodwill or yard/garage sales.

Thank you all for your thoughts...
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Old 06-30-2014, 03:12 PM   #8
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Depending upon how much stuff you have Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity will do pickups.

I have a table at the front entry. It has two drawers - one for DH and one for me. Anything we say "have you seen my ....." the answer is usually "did you check your drawer ?".

I do the paper stacks also. One (actually a pretty box) for things to keep one year and then toss. One for "recently taken care of" (for recently paid bills, to make sure that I don't get rebilled). One for "to do".

I see alot of advocates for electronic calendars. I have one on my phone but like the paper variety also.

The other thing I've done is buy a bunch of drawer organizers for the kitchen. I've also mentally labeled three of them "prep", "cook" and "serve". The prep drawer has measuring spoons, butcher twine, chicken scissors, chef knives, garlic press, etc. The cook drawer has wooden spoons, turkey baster, potato masher. Serving has pizza cutter, cake knife, serving spoons, etc. It helps to some degree.

I've done the same with my pantry. I try to keep all beverages (crystal light, tea, coffee) on one shelf, all carbs on another, tomato products on another, beans and tuna are togeher (protein).

You're so right that organization helps to keep us from getting in our own way.
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Old 06-30-2014, 03:39 PM   #9
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We live in a sparsely furnished 2-bedroom apartment (no attic, garage, or storage room). There is no room for clutter and I like it that way. Everything has its place (out of sight). If we get something new, something else has to go. No catchall-dish or drawer either. No piles, no stacks. We try to go electronic as much as possible (pictures, movies, music, important records, books, calendars, to-do-lists, etc...). If we lose something, it's because the cats played with it and then it's under the sofa.

It wasn't always like that. DW and I used to be collectors. And a large house was a license to accumulate. Downsizing was painful, but well worth it.
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Old 06-30-2014, 05:46 PM   #10
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This is sometimes a source of mild irritation/frustration with DW. I'm a "piler", she's a "filer". I put paperwork stuff in piles and if she leaves it alone I can find what I need when I need it.

She files everything. Why we needed to keep the electric bill from March of 1987 I don't know but it was only recently we threw it out. Problem is, there are so many files that often I can't figure out which drawer contains what I need and there are so many in each drawer they hide each other.

But otherwise....

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Old 06-30-2014, 06:10 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post

All healthcare/medication not in daily use, in one box in bathroom closet.
Thank you all for your thoughts...
Storing meds in the bathroom might not be a good idea...

perhaps from NIH:
Storing medicine safely

"Many people store their medications in the bathroom. But this popular spot is actually one of the worst places to keep medicine. Bathroom cabinets tend to be warm and humid, an environment that speeds up a drug's breakdown process."
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Old 06-30-2014, 06:18 PM   #12
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Generally I'm a disorganized mess. But over the last few months I have organized my workshop to the nth degree. Sandpaper drawer with slots for sandpaper by sander type and grit. Router bit drawer with bits aligned by shaft diameter, All tool chest drawers organized by tool type. Lumber storage, saw blades, everything.

And then I started building tool boxes for chisels, etc.
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Old 06-30-2014, 06:55 PM   #13
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Wow Ronstar - that box is a work of beauty and function !
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:00 PM   #14
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Thanks and I found out literally first hand how sharp the chisels are
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:03 PM   #15
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Nice job Ron! (I mean the box)
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:11 PM   #16
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And then I started building tool boxes for chisels, etc.
Wow. I am awed by the ability to work with wood like that.
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:47 PM   #17
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Thanks aja8888 and Walt. That box came together better than most of my stuff - only shellac and wax finish on cherry. Thought I needed to take up carving and needed something to store my chisels in. But carving with chisels is a humbling experience. I have a long ways to go carving. I'm stunned by some of the carvings I see.

Now I'm building a storage chest with my nephew, then a toy box for my niece's baby, then a blueprint table for work, then a vanity. All of this need to organize is giving me ideas to build stuff to hold stuff.
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:56 PM   #18
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Another habit that I've formed is the weekly dinner menu. I did this mostly to save money and ensure that my food purchases didn't go bad, but its also helped me remember what I have on hand.

I grocery shop once a week, always taking advantage of whatever proteins and veggies are on sale. I also have a "stockpile" of prior weeks sale items frozen in my cube freezer.

When I get home from grocery shopping I use my receipt to start my menu. "Meatloaf and Kale on Monday", "Cod and peas with onions on Tuesday". I make sure all the fresh items I've purchased end up on the list. Some days I'll be "missing" a protein or a veggie ("Chicken and _______ on Wednesday"). I count up those items and go to the freezer and come back with everything to fill in the blanks.

The only thing I'm not good at is having a list of what is in the freezer. To combat this I have a different color reusuable grocery bag for each category of food (blue for fish, red for beef, brown for pork, white for chicken, and green for veggies). I can tell by how "full" each bag is if I need to look out for sales of that particular category of food or not.
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:59 PM   #19
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Ronstar, I admire yur skill and patience. My woodsmithing is mostly hacking with an axe or mangling with chainsaw.

As for being organized, I prefer the system of vaguely remembering in what general area some useful stuff is. Can usually find what I need in less than a half hour.

That is why being retired is good.
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:43 PM   #20
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Quote:
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This is sometimes a source of mild irritation/frustration with DW. I'm a "piler", she's a "filer". I put paperwork stuff in piles and if she leaves it alone I can find what I need when I need it.

She files everything. ....
I hear you! My desk is ordered in piles that are oldest on the bottom unless something is critical or needs further attention, in which case it stays on top or in a more important area. Drives her batty. She "just neatens" the desk and the chaos she sees gains order and looses utility. She loves to put things in manila folders inside other folders inside hanging files - does the same thing on her computers and stuff is buried deep deep away. Job security. If I need to find a file I just look at her and poof! it appears. No good my saying that what works for her does not mean it works for me

Habit is the savior of the old - watched her 93 YO Mom go from being somewhat functional to helpless when a person totally reordered her kitchen. A nasty thing to do to someone on their way out...

I use habit in the order in which morning ablutions are performed, breakfast and coffee is made and other things - it's almost OCD - but it works and is efficient.
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