June 05, 2012

Keepsakes - What to Hold onto & How to Store

Special greeting cards, your child's first pair of booties, award certificates, a wedding favor from a best friends wedding, photos from high school, old love letters, gifted china or trinkets passed down to you from a loved one no longer with us. All these are various items that may be taking up prime real estate space throughout your home that you do not use regularly or wish to see on display. These keepsakes, memorabilia, nostalgia, or treasures, no matter how you label them, fit into one group and can be sorted and stored together neatly in one place.

If you have chosen to hold onto these items and are still not ready to part with them, it is not a terrible thing. As a professional organizer in Calgary, we are often saying "Be easy on yourself".  Getting organized does not always have to be about purging. You may feel that you want to keep, what some may consider, a large amount of nostalgia.  That is okay if:

1. you have adequate space in your home to store it
2. the items bring you positive memories (not negative ones)
3. the quantity of each item is reasonable (keep the best representative sample)
4. you've really stopped to ask yourself why you are keeping each item, and your answer is one that serves you today (not for a no longer helpful reason of the past)

Try taking a big picture look at your home, and the stuff in it, from a whole systems view. Reducing the quantity of items you own can be looked at from a larger perspective.  If you keep a little extra in one category, then you'll have to let go of a little extra in another.  Everyone usually has something of a collection, and one collection is alright.

Now, when you're ready to do another 'edit' of your treasured possessions, try starting with these categories first. Knowing that it can be emotionally draining work to go through piece by piece, dealing with whole categories at a time will give you the confidence of accomplishment from the start.  Grouping items this way may make purging a little easier:

1. memories of others like wedding favors from a friend's wedding
2. short term saves like greeting cards
3. free stuff like conference swag
4. oversize items like sports trophies and school projects
5. negative memories like journals or love letters (even a wedding dress) from a failed relationship
6. inherited mementos like grandma's china
7. souvenirs that do not age well like crumbling dried flowers

Finally, for how and where to store your keepsakes - create and label a special box for each family member.  Try a clear plastic tote for this purpose, so you can easily see what's inside.  However if you have no need for stealthy protection from dust or the potential of a flood or you'd just prefer something more aesthetically pleasing, try storing these items in a decorative cardboard box, wooden crate, wicker basket with a lid or even a vintage suitcase or trunk.

March 18, 2012

What is the shelf life of dried herbs & spices?

Have you ever wondered "how long do spices last?"  As spice jars are not often stamped with a best before date, here's a handy guide to help you determine freshness and flavor.

Herbs 1-2 years
Seasoning Blends 1-3 years
Ground Spices 2-3 years
Whole Spices up to 4 years
(whole peppercorn, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks as well as particularly potent whole spices such as cloves, cumin and cardamom can stand the test of time)
Seeds 4 years
Extracts 4 years

If you aren't sure how long a jar of dried herbs or spices has been in your cupboard, try testing the colour or aroma. The colour of your spices should be vibrant, so if the colour has faded, chances are the flavor has to. Now pop open the lid and have a sniff, or try rubbing or crushing the spice in your hand.  If the aroma is weak and flavor is not apparent, it is time to replace. Keep in mind that herbs and spices do not spoil, they simply lose their strength. So if a ground spice has some fragrance left, but less than you think it should, just use more in your recipe.  Then you'll run out faster and have a reason to procure a new batch.

Finally, storage plays a role in maintaining potency, so be sure to store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.  Try not to store jars near the heat of the stove, close to the humidity of a dishwasher, in the bright sun or in the freezer where condensation can be an issue. Similarly, try not to shake spices out of the jar directly above your pot on the stove, as that's a sneaky way to let unwanted steam in.

February 27, 2012

ribbon storage ideas

crafty much?  even if you have a small collection of ribbon for gift wrapping or scrap booking, this storage idea is so easy to create and so fun to use.  i can't help it, organized things excite me.

you can find a pant hanger at most local housewares stores and as for that plastic bin, you'll find 4 different sizes in the storage container aisle of, yes i'm about to say it, Wal-mart.  However if you prefer to keep plastic out of your home and choose to support local businesses, you could use a decorative cardboard storage box or wooden storage bin and drill holes in the side.  An even better alternative, ribbon would weave so nicely through a wicker basket.

January 22, 2012

organizing for your brain type

(click 'read more' to learn the 4 types).  'organizing for your brain type: finding your own solution to managing time, paper and stuff' is a fabulous organizing book by Lanna Nakone.  thank goodness I read this book early on in my organizing career.  a game changer for sure.

there is no one right way to be organized.  just as every person is unique and individual, so is how they function.  how then could everyone be satisfied, work productively and feel good in the same space?  they can't.  and that's why I love this book so much.  click 'read more' below to find out your organizing brain type.