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     Improve Your Health By Getting Organized


One of the best reasons to get organized is that excessive clutter and disorganization can actually be HAZARDOUS to your health. Clutter collects dust, gets tripped over, and can contribute to stress. In the extreme, clutter can lead to reduced air quality, blocked exits, infestations, and combustion hazards. Here are 12 things you can do to get more organized, all while making your home a HEALTHIER place.
CLEAR THE AIR

More than 60 million people in the United States have asthma or allergies. According to the American Lung Association, reducing DUST is one of the most effective ways to control asthma and allergy triggers. Doing any of the following can help lessen dust in your home:
PUT A LID ON IT

Use CLOSED storage, such as clear plastic bins and decorative photo boxes. Asthma Magazine, a publication of the American Lung Association, suggests that this type of storage reduces exposure to dust. Before purchasing the containers, though, be thoughtful of the SIZE, depending on what and how much will go into them. If the containers are too small, the lids may not fit properly, or you may need too many of them. Boxes that are too large for their contents may "attract" other items that do not belong and become catch-all containers.
PURGE YOUR PERIODICALS

Piles of MAGAZINES and NEWSPAPERS catch clutter and are difficult to clean. Keep a newspaper only until you get the next edition. If you haven't read Monday's paper by Tuesday, you probably are not ever going to read it. Do keep past editions of your favorite magazines for long trips or waiting at the doctor's office. You may even want to keep a few in the guest bedroom for overnight visitors. But if you have a collection of magazines that go unread month after month, let them go. Many periodicals provide their subscribers online access to current and past articles. Note: Technical, trade, and other specialized periodicals sometimes charge for reprints or online access. If you need to save these for research, keep them in labeled magazine FILES.
GET COOKING

Are you eating out every night because your KITCHEN looks like a disaster area? A 2002 Food and Drug Administration report stated that food consumed outside the home was approximately 47 percent of consumers' food budget, compared to 33 percent in 1970. This food was also less NUTRITIOUS -- higher per meal in calories, total fat and saturated fat, as well as was lower in fiber, calcium, and iron. Here are some ways to have a more organized kitchen and pantry, which may make it easier to plan and prepare more nutritious meals for your family:
MAKE A LIST

Keep a list with you of groceries that you FREQUENTLY buy. You will be able to get through the store more quickly, and with more money in your pocket, if you have and stick to a COMPLETE list. And you won't get your groceries home, then wonder what to cook for dinner. To help you get your list started, some grocery stores allow you to see your in-store purchases online, using your savings club card number.
PLAN YOUR MENUS

Many books and online services provide menus with grocery lists to help with meal PLANNING. If you have a family of picky or food-allergic eaters, try out a program for a few weeks before you invest in it. Check out the book from the library before buying it, or try a sample menu before subscribing.
TO YOUR DOOR

Consider having your groceries DELIVERED and avoid the after-work-before-dinner crunch at the store. Peapod by Giant (www.peapod.com) charges as little as $5.95 for grocery delivery. Groceries may be delivered when you are home, or left outside your home in insulated totes. You can build your shopping list on their Web site throughout the week, at your convenience, and submit your order when you're ready. This will help prevent forgotten items, and may also decrease IMPULSE purchases. Peapod also allows you to use your PDA to build your list, so you can work on it anywhere.
LEAD THE WAY

Tripping over TOYS can be an occupational hazard of parenthood. Floors littered with toys can also be hazardous to little feet. And older children's toys left scattered about can present a choking hazard to younger children. It may seem that this problem cannot be helped, but here a few things you can do to help your little (and not-so-little) ones keep their toys off the floor:
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE

Those little eyes are watching to see whether you DO what you tell them to do. The best way to teach your children to put their things away is to do it yourself.
REQUIRE IT OF THEM

Children as young as 2 years old can be TAUGHT to put their toys away. Before they can get out a new group of toys, or play with toys in another room, have them put away the first set of toys. Even if you do the majority of the putting away, make sure they HELP.
MAKE IT EASY FOR THEM

Give your children clearly DEFINED spaces to put their toys and clothes. To make it educational, color code containers by child or type of toy, or LABEL them with the contents or the child's initials.
TAKE IT EASY

For many people, STRESS is a part of life. Too much stress, however, can contribute to ulcers, migraines, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Stress can also can also interfere with bodily processes and AGGRAVATE existing medical problems. The following organizing tips may help reduce your stress levels:
GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER

Many things in life are beyond our control, but being PREPARED can help make unpleasant experiences less stressful. Filing your income tax returns, for example, can be made less of an ordeal if all the necessary documents are in once place when you need them. To get your household RECORDS organized, the Federal Citizen Information Center recommends first gathering all your papers into one place. Put very important documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, in a safe deposit box. Then separate the remaining documents into an active file, dead storage, and trash. The Federal Citizen Information Center Web page (www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cfocus/cfhouseholdrecords03/t_focus.htm) provides guidance on what papers to include in each category, and how long to keep bills, bank statements, etc.
CARVE OUT A SPACE FOR A HOBBY

The Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health both recommend LEISURE activity to help relieve stress. Perhaps you really enjoy woodworking, reading, or needlepoint, if you only had a sane place to do it. If organizing your whole house, or even a whole room, seems too overwhelming, clear out a little nook in the garage, the family room, or your bedroom, where you can do something you really ENJOY.
LET SOME THINGS GO

Do you feel like you need a bigger house to hold all your STUFF? Are you earning a living so you can serve your family, or your possessions? The more you have, the more you have to clean, store, organize, pack, unpack, etc. Take a fresh look at the things around you and ask yourself whether they are truly useful, beautiful, or enjoyable. If not, move them out to make ROOM for the things that are most special to you.
ONE STEP AT A TIME

Are you stressed out by this list? Don't try to do it all at once. Start with the area that would have the biggest IMPACT in your home; for example, with closed storage if someone has allergies. The next month, work on the magazines. Just get some MOMENTUM, and maybe by this time next year, you will be living in a healthier, happier home.

 

Susan Stevenson is a professional organizer who helps to bring peace and order to homes and businesses. Her company, A Royal Order, helps clients de-clutter and organize closets, kitchens, bedrooms, attics, offices, etc. Visit her website at www.aroyalorder.com or contact her by email at .


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