#64 Clean Out Your Kitchen Cabinets

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#64

Clean Out Your Kitchen Cabinets

As the new year approaches, it’s a great time to consider taking a good look through your kitchen cabinets for all of those things that you may not have used in the last year. Unlike cleaning the pantry, this entails sorting through your plastic storage containers, matching lids and bowls; cleaning out the junk drawers that have accumulated more than the pens, paper clips, and batteries, and tossing anything at all that has rusted over the year.

Organization

My kitchen is a mess after the holidays with all the cooking that gets done and a number of different helpers putting away dishes. I’m lucky if I can find the most basic items usually. Everyone has a way that they like their kitchen staffed and the new year is a great time to reorganize your cooking tools so that they are in the places that make sense to you. It’s also a good time to reassess if things work where they are. Do you need the Vitamix on the counter day after day or do you use your mixer more? Do you like the toaster out or would you like a cleaner line for 2019?

Pots & Pans

Cleaning the cupboards means taking stock of your pots and pans. How worn are your cookie sheets? Do your muffin pans have rust spots? Are your cake pans warped?  How scratched is that frying pan that gets used everyday? Even if you aren’t in a position to replace what’s tired, you can make a list so that you’re aware the next time you stop in at TJMAXX or you see a great sale (May is a good time to purchase cookware).

Everyday Dishes

Several years ago (ten maybe?) on Black Friday, I purchased two boxes of white dinnerware that was deeply discounted. In all, it was service for 16 – which, I’ve never needed to use. I put 8 place settings in the cabinet and then each year as I do inventory for chips and cracks, I dip into the box of extras. White was universal and has been a stable in my kitchen, no matter the changing decor. When I clean out the cabinets, I check for cracks and discoloration and then replace damaged or missing items to bring my stocked selection back up to a serving for eight.

The same goes for my silverware. Each year it seems that I still have all the knives and tablespoons but for some reason, the forks and spoons are always down one or two. In my younger days, I had a haphazard collection of whatever pattern my parents were discarding and a few Goodwill additions. When I could, I picked a pattern and waited for it to go on sale – then I bought two. I use the same strategy as I have for my dinnerware.

Drinking containers

One look at the cupboard that contains glasses and cups demonstrates how eclectic I really am. I’ve attempted to fix this over the last couple of years, finding mugs that I like and getting several; updating the glassware so that there is more than one of any one kind, and ditching all the kiddie plastic cups that were collected from restaurants.

The wine glass and to-go cupboard is the same… somehow I adopted all the containers my children made at birthday parties and graduations over the years and there are more than a couple depicting sorority letters. The fact that they are still there indicates my reluctance to purge that particular cabinet but time is running short!

I’ve decided that 2019 is a year to take charge and I’ll be starting in the kitchen. Won’t you join me and …

Clean out your kitchen cabinets!

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#65 Digitize Your Old Photos

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#65

Digitize Your Old Photos

Every time I think of this task – one that remains always on my ‘to do’ list – I find something else that has a much higher priority; often watching reruns of Game of Thrones. It seems that anything would be better than attempting the gargantuan job of digitizing my collection of photographs. The fact that I have a huge collection certainly dates me as anyone in their twenties or younger barely remembers the challenge of buying film, taking a photo, and then remembering to drop it off to be developed. For those of you still thinking about the money you spent to print all those film shots, here are the reasons you’ll want to and a couple of ideas of how to go about it.

Physical photos

Keeping all those photographs takes up space and forces you to be protective of them because paper prints are easily damaged. If you eventually get them out of shoe boxes and into albums, the amount of space they require quadruples. In reality, only a fraction of the photos that we have are keepers. Many of them are random scene shots from a location we visited a decade ago and/or of people we barely knew. As you go through them, if you can’t remember who is in the photo or where it was, discard it.

Share

The best part of having the photos is the ability to share the memory years later. My children loved sitting down and looking at photos of me growing up and they like to reminisce about their own childhood now yet a paper photo is difficult to share unless you are side by side. Digitizing them allows you each to have a copy with ease and the ability to share them with a couple of digital clicks.

Access

Perhaps this is the very best part about digitizing your photo library, it’s available to you at any time and with very little effort. Whether you opt to store them on a flash drive, a hard drive, or the cloud – digital photos only have to be a swipe or click away. While there are varying opinions of cloud storage, I use Google photos and absolutely love it. I know I can’t lose it, it’s available on my phone at all times and it does some pretty cool things like grouping similar faces together so that I can access only photos of the person I want to see.

Digitizing

Now here’s the hard part. Getting all those paper photos into digital format… There are several options if you have the time, it’s probably better to do it yourself. That way you can ‘clean out’ the ones you don’t want and/or send along paper copies to those who may love them the most. You can do it with a scanner designed exclusively for photos (the easiest way), with a regular scanner [the one incorporated with your printer] or you can use a smartphone app. All of these methods will take some time and dedication.

Or… you can pay someone else to do it. A service like GoPhoto.com or ScanCafe.com will do it for you if you send them your photos/slides/negatives and there are local brick and mortar services in most areas as well. Some allow you to bring whole photo albums in and will do the tedious work for you!

No matter the direction you opt to take, the benefit will be great as you realize the joy of being able to stroke the keyboard a couple of times or swipe a couple directions on your phone and access all of your life memories because you made the effort to …

Digitize your photos.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#66 Help A Friend

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#66

Help A Friend

I imagine many of you do this without encouragement and yet in our very busy lives, we either fail to notice when a friend needs help and/or we don’t offer for fear of offending their autonomy. For some, a fear of getting into another’s business creates hesitation in offering assistance.

Of course this is a common practice when someone is sick, having a baby, or moving. We extend a helping hand eagerly. This suggesting is designed not for those times, but for the others that are not as obvious.

No Matter the Task

When you discover that someone is spending their weekend painting the living room or weeding their gardens, a dinner would be very helpful. After all, who wants to spend all day working up a sweat outdoors and then go inside to pull together a meal? Childcare or lending a hand may also be welcomed help. Do you have supplies that may make the job easier? An offer to come with the proper tools could prove to be invaluable. One of my dearest friends offers to come by and share my cleaning chores just to be helpful even though I like to think that my company is that entertaining! : )

Define Help

Before deciding what you think that your friend may need, make the effort to know what activity would be helpful. Some ideas of ‘help’ actually hinder without intent, sometimes, making a task even more difficult. What may seem as if it would make things easier for you, may not seem so by your friend. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to ask “How can I help?”, “I love to [weed] – can I help?”, or “Let me help you”.

This kind of help really goes beyond just ‘doing a good deed’ or a ‘random act of kindness’ as it is less impulsive and more intentional. It’s a way of ‘being’ with a friend while giving the most important gift. Perhaps for the new year we can all make the effort to be more aware of when our friends can use a helping hand and commit a piece of ourselves to…

Help a friend.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#67 Change the Pillows on Your Sofa

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#67

Change the Pillows on Your Sofa

One of the quickest and least expensive ways to freshen up the look of a room is to change out the pillows on your sofa. After a few years, they get lumpy or flatten and no longer offer the comfort for which they were intended. Even if the pillows are in good shaped, the room may benefit from a change of scenery and pillow covers can easily handle that objective.

Size

A standard couch pillow is 18 inches square and are frequently available as large as 24 inches. The larger and more ‘comfy’ the sofa, the larger the pillow can be and still have style. Go with a variety of sizes for the best look and make sure it’s an odd number of pillows overall.

Fill

If you want a pillow designed for lounging comfort, a feather pillow will fit the bill best. Other fillers may hold shape better but they are much more stiff and not necessarily the best choice for a sofa that is used for snuggling and relaxing.

Color & Texture

For the ultimate design experience, consider using pillows that offer variety in texture, color, and pattern. Of course, you’ll want to use colors that contrast your sofa color. If your sofa is a solid color, you can use a combination of complementary patterns and colors. If your sofa has a pattern, choose colors from the pattern for pillows of different shapes. It’s a great time to consider texture; chenilles, leather, and fringes offer a variety of textures to add contrast and interest to your design. Make sure that each of the seating options in the room has a complimentary pillow option. Chairs are great options for oblong shaped pillows that can act as lumbar support. Adorning chairs with pillows also allows for a more complete and pleasing addition for the entire room.

Pillows are another one of those things that can be purchased during January’s white sales and great options can be found at discount retailers such as TJMaxx or Marshalls in addition to online sites such as Overstock.com. A new look will be a great way for you to begin the new year and may offer a sense of newness or freshness for you.  If you are able to catch a sale, it shouldn’t take much more than $100 to …

Change the pillows on your sofa.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#68 Take a Cooking Class

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#68

Take a Cooking Class

Are you looking for a last minute gift for that family gathering or birthday? Are you wondering how to change up your date nights? This suggestion may be just the thing that sparks a new passion or a shared interest.

Cooking classes are for cooks of any ability. They are not to be confused with culinary schools as they are typically range from just a couple of hours, a full day, or at most – a week. They are generally designed to introduce you to a new skill, new ingredients, and new methods.

Hometown

It’s likely that there’s a local opportunity for you to take a cooking class if you live in or near a major metropolitan area. A quick google search for a location in Baltimore returned several options. The Schola Cooking school offers technique classes ranging from butter making to bread baking and from sushi to fresh pasta. You can take classes that focus on Cuban cuisine or treats from the sea.

Destinations

If you don’t live near a major city and/or you want the options of a specific location, consider a destination getaway with the intent specifically to take a cooking class. What a great thing to do for a girls weekend, a bachelorette celebration, or a mother/daughter day out. It could be an anniversary event that you do together and carry the skills home as a shared interest.

International

Do you love Italian or French food and want to learn local favorites or from an infamous internationally acclaimed chef? A trip abroad for the purpose of learning cuisine from that region is a great reason to plan a trip. Like schools in the states, international classes are designed for all levels of knowledge and can accommodate the most uneducated beginners.

Even if all you really want to do is eat well, consider grabbing a friend and …

Take a cooking class.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#69 Send a Card of Connection

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#69

Send a Card of Connection

Several years ago I befriended – via an interesting set of circumstances – a resident of a nursing home who had no known living relatives. She is a sweet old lady (now 92) with a very simple life who dedicated her career to pediatric nursing. Today, her memory isn’t very sharp and she sometimes receives cards from people who have passed through the nursing home; prior roommate family members, employees who came to love her, or strangers who’ve heard of her story through the Facebook page I made for her years ago. It is the highlight of her day. She calls me with sheer delight to ask me who the person is that sent the card. Even if I don’t know, she pins it to her bulletin board and adds the address to her little book so she can send a Christmas card the following year.

This tiny little act of kindness impacts the entire day in the most positive way by connecting her to the outside world.

There are thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, like my friend who would love to get something in the mail even if they don’t know you. Some of our relatives, our neighbors, and our friends may also fall into this category; people who could use a little pick-me-up. Churches and nursing homes know of dozens of people who could benefit from receiving a little sunshine in the form of a card. If you don’t want to be identified, it could be an anonymous message: “Here’s hoping your day is filled with light.~ a caring stranger”.

This idea isn’t so creepy or strange. It is in line with the program that encourages us to send Christmas cards to soldiers or care packages serving overseas. This act of kindness sends the message that “the world hasn’t forgotten about you”, “someone cares that you’re still here’, and/or “you still matter”. Who can’t benefit from that kind of reminder?

Doing something nice – positively affecting the life of another – offering a little encouragement… These things make a difference for you and the receiving person. The energy behind kindness is long lasting on both ends. The effort is small, the cost is minimal, yet the reward is great when you…

Send a card of connection.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#70 Splurge on Nice Sheets

Merry Christmas! If this is a religious holiday for you, I wish you the joy of Christ’s blessings. If not, I wish for you the joy and love of friends and/or family and hope you have a beautiful day.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#70

Splurge on Nice Sheets

Considering that we spend somewhere around one-third of our life in bed, it’s not presumptuous to think that it needs to be a place of comfort.  A major element of a great bed are the sheets that we lie between. It’s one of those treats we never knew we needed until we’ve had the experience. Once you have the pleasure of sleeping on really nice sheets, it will be a goal.

Material

What determines how nice a sheet is? The experts say that the very first thing to look for is the fiber of the sheet – what is it made of? The higher quality of fiber, the more comfortable the sheet. 100% cotton sheets may wrinkle and be more expensive but they will absorb moisture better than anything else. If you perspire a lot while you sleep, cotton sheets are a must. They’re easier to keep clean as well because polyester blends tends to hold dirt and stain. For the most comfortable feel, choose a long fiber sheet generally labeled ‘Pima’ or ‘Egyptian long staple’.

Thread Count

After the material, you want a high thread count. [note that lower thread count 100% cotton is better than higher thread count poly blend] In my experience, typical sheets are in the 200 range (the number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch). Thread counts can go as high as 1000 but really nice sheets are in the 500 – 800 range most often.

Weave

The method of weaving those threads is also a determinant of how the sheets feel. The most common is Percale, equally woven between horizontal and vertical threads. Percale sheets are known to be crisp and breathes more easily so they’re cooler in summer months. Sateen sheets are woven differently and are therefore much thicker and tightly woven. They will keep you warmer in the winter months and they are generally thought to be softer.

Buying

If you didn’t get sheets under the Christmas tree, don’t fret. January is known for its “white sales” where linens are generally deeply discounted. If sheets aren’t the priority right now, you’re likely to find great prices at online retailers like Overstock.com throughout the year. It’s been my go-to site for linens for years. Similar to the strategy many of us use for electronics – buy the most exquisite you can afford.

Treat yourself to the thing you never knew you wanted…

Splurge on nice sheets.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#71 Do It Again (Don’t Give Up)

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive.  hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#71

Do It Again ~ Don’t Give Up

Remember the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try again”?  [attributed to William Hickson but thought to originate from Thomas Palmer]

And what about “There is no failure except in no longer trying” – Elbert Hubbard

Or “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished  by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all” – Dale Carnegie

Perseverance

Many of the most successful people in the world attribute their success to perseverance and indeed, it is simply required to succeed on most levels. We hear time and time again, stories of people who applied numerous times, who auditioned over and over, or who replicated experiments nonstop until success was achieved. While we certainly must have limits and set boundaries for our emotional and physical health, as long as there is something to gain – having the grit to continue is typically a good idea.

Tipping Point

Is there a time to give up? Most experts agree that it is a healthy decision to redirect when we no longer have advantage in the endeavor. Obviously, if continuing would generate harm from either a physical or an emotional perspective – it’s O.K. to refocus in a different direction. The secondary question is about priorities.

Priorities

How important is this thing that you are trying to accomplish? Are you working to discover the next cancer treatment? Are you attempting to learn a new language? Getting into physical shape? Or learn a new crochet stitch? These are examples of things that may certainly be within your reach if you keep trying. Spend your perseverance energy on those things that serve your interests. Sometimes, the cost of continuing far exceeds the potential benefit. Focus on the things that you value and let go of those that you do not.

Extra Push

When you get frustrated or tired in your pursuit of a goal it’s great to have a motivation kit. It’s not as neat and tidy as it sounds because we often need different motivations for different tasks. When you’re going to the gym and want to give up – that’s when you hire a trainer or get a gym buddy. Create a support system that is also invested in your success – mom, dad, your best friend or your boss.  They are the people who often will encourage you – often blindly – in the direction of your dreams. Create a vision board to help keep you steered in the direction you want to go. Define your priorities and make a list – keep it in front of you at all times.

Whatever it is – go for it and find the strength to …

Do it again ~ don’t give up.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#72 Learn to Label Emotions

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too

#72

Learn to Label Emotions

Far too many of us are in the habit of commenting only on the experiences of happy, sad, and mad. Indeed, some people only know those three emotions and have great difficulty articulating anything but.

Innate knowledge

We are born knowing how to emote. We laugh, cry, squirm, babble, etc., in perfect expression of our feelings. At some point, an adult in our life tells us to sit down, shut up, suck it up, pull yourself together, etc… and we are told not to do that thing which, comes so naturally. Consequently, we learn NOT to express ourselves effectively.

Vernacular

Making it more difficult is the way we learn to string words together in an effort to describe things. We may say “I feel like a maid” but ‘a maid’ isn’t a feeling so we really are not expressing feelings with this statement. We may say “I feel like you don’t care” and similarly, ‘like you don’t care’ isn’t a feeling. That’s me expressing what I think you feel.

Instead, we can learn to use emotion words and the sentences become more clear … “I’m really frustrated that I need to pick up after everyone” or “I’m not feeling very loved today”. In these examples, what we say is more easily digested by the listener because we are using literal language to express our feelings.

Variations

There’s more to life than happy, sad, and mad. There’s disappointment, frustration, defensive, betrayed, anxious, excited, nervous, and dozens of others. How would your communication change if you were able to say “I’m feeling pretty defensive right now” instead of something defensive and projecting?

Feelings

Feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are. Having said that, they don’t necessarily represent the truth. Someone can ‘feel’ stupid but that doesn’t make it true. We can get caught up in the feeling without validating if it is a fact or not. When we feel something that isn’t based on facts, it’s a clue for what we must work on. The less time we spend there, the better. Life is better when we concentrate on what is real.

When learning to express feeling more effectively, I recommend that you keep a list of emotions (there are thousands to choose from) handy and begin by describing your day with as many of those as possible. Think about your feelings before you express them to make sure the words you are using actually describe the sensation. Break the habit of happy, sad, mad and…

Learn to label emotions.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.