Category Archives: BetterWay Blog

How to Organize Your Garage in 3 Steps

by Debbie Lillard

Spring has arrived and lawn work and gardening won’t be far behind. As the weather warms, it’s a great time to organize your garage and create a lawn/gardening hub for all of your supplies.Absolutely Organized: A Mom's Guide to a No-Stress Schedule and Clutter-Free Home by Debbie Lillard As a Professional Organizer I have organized a few garages of all sizes and styles (both attached and stand alone buildings) in my day.

I think there are some common problems with garages that people share no matter where they live.

  1. A garage is not just for keeping cars. Many people use their garage to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, wood for fireplaces, tools, and all kinds of bulky equipment. All these extras can turn into clutter if you don’t store them properly.
  2. The garage is an entrance way into the house for a lot of families, so you might keep shoes, recycles, and trash there. This might be your motivation for trying to keep it organized, because you walk through it all the time and don’t want to look at a mess!
  3. A garage is usually one big room, which makes it hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things.  You have to create a system from scratch.

If you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, you can follow my CPR process that I discuss in my book Absolutely Organized: A Mom’s Guide to a No-Stress Schedule and Clutter-Free Home. (This process will work for any room you want to organize.)

You’ve got to plan the time to do it and solicit some help either from your family or a friend. It’s not a one-person job and it’s going to take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours the first time you do it. To make it fun, put on some music, give the kids a reward afterwards or promise your friend a meal that evening. As I always say, if you don’t plan it, it’s not going to happen.

  1. CATEGORIZE. Take everything out of the garage and put it in piles in your driveway or on your lawn.  Categories can be: sports equipment, lawn & garden, tools, bikes. And if one of those categories is really big: break it down further.
  2. PURGE. As you pull things out start to purge whatever is broken or disgusting, or anything you don’t use anymore.  For items you want to give away, I suggest you look online for places to donate, or give to a friend or just put at the end of your driveway and let people take it. For chemicals or gasoline, call your township and find out about hazardous waste collections.
  3. RE-ARRANGE. Now that you have piles of everything you’re keeping, start to think about what you use most often and make it accessible.  For the kids’ toys and sports equipment, use colorful plastic tubs on the floor.  For lawn chemicals, put them in plastic bins up on a shelf.  Keep things in their categories and create zones. Even if you don’t have the right containers or shelves right now, put things back in temporary containers where you want them by the end of your organizing session.

Now you can go shopping for what you need like industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a complete makeover, but you want to make sure it’s organized first, so you can measure the space for exactly what you need. Rubbermaid has an inexpensive Track system if you want to do it yourself or you can go high-end to places like GarageTek. I’ve even seen people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage. Whatever works!

To keep your garage organized, you have to straighten on a weekly basis. I suggest you teach your kids where things go and ask them to put things back to normal on Sunday. Then get the whole family in the habit of cleaning it out on a seasonal basis. Our family has a pool so we do a Saturday clean out once in the late spring to get the pool/beach stuff out and then another clean out in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out. Because we do this twice a year I am proud to say we do it now in less than 2 hours, so it’s not an all-day hassle anymore.

Debbie Lillard is the author of Absolutely Organized: A Mom’s Guide to a No-Stress Schedule and Clutter-Free Home and Absolutely Organize Your Family: Simple Solutions to Control Clutter, Schedules and Spaces.

Free Recipe Wilted Arugula Sauté

by Chef Randall Smith

Use this Wilted Arugula Sauté dish as a model for simple wilted green and pasta dishes. Nearly any lettuce or green can be substituted for the arugula and feel free to play around with different types of cheese, nuts, and other garnish ingredients.

Farm Fresh Flavors 450 recipes for local food Chef Randall SmithServes: 6

Ingredients

1 pound dry linguini

½ cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, gently crush with the flat of a knife

4 cups arugula, firmly pack

½ cup pistachio nuts, roughly chop

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to the boil over high heat. Cook linguine per package directions until tender but not soft.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes until it just browns. Add arugula and cook for about 30 seconds until leaves just wilt. Remove skillet from the heat.

Drain pasta completely in a colander and return to the pot. Add the arugula and garlic mixture, pistachio nuts, and ¾ cup of the cheese to the pot; salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and serve in a decorative bowl. Top with the remaining cheese and the basil.

Randall Smith is the author of Farm Fresh Flavors: Over 450 Delicious Recipes Using Local Ingredients. Don’t miss his other recipes on this blog including Poached Ramps with Mustard Vinaigrette.

How to Grow Perennials Free 5 Minute Video

Perennials will give you years of produce—making them a cost effective gardening option. In this 5 minute video webinar, Produce Year After Year Webinar about quick, easy gardening tipsWithout Trying, Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin, authors of Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard Farming and Home Skills for Self-Sufficient Living,  share ideas for planting and maintaining perennials in your garden so you can enjoy fresh produce from your garden year after year.

Download this webinar for FREE by signing up for our e-mail newsletter in the Free Webinars box on the right-hand rail. If you’ve already signed up for the newsletter, simply return to your bookmarked page and you’ll see the update.

This is the fourth and final module in the Grow a Great Garden Without Trying webinar series. When you sign up for the e-mail newsletter you’ll also receive free access to Module 1: Great Compost Without Trying, Module 2: Great Dirt Without Trying, and Module 3: Great Growth Without Trying  as well as other great Betterway Home webinars about creative meal planning and organizing after a life change.

Wondering what a webinar is? It’s a recorded video presentation. Think of it as a seminar presented on the web.

Free 7 Minute Video on Improving Garden Yield

Webinar about quick, easy gardening tipsThe Grow a Great Garden Without Trying Module 3: Great Growth Without Trying webinar is now available for download for free. A high yield with little effort is every gardener’s dream. In this 7 minute video, Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin, authors of Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard Farming and Home Skills for Self-Sufficient Living, share their secrets for getting maximum produce from the plants in their gardens. The simple advice in this presentation will save you from years of failed crops and thwarted efforts.

Download this webinar for FREE by signing up for our e-mail newsletter in the Free Webinars box on the right-hand rail. After you sign up, bookmark the page so you can return and view the final module when it is added next week. If you’ve already signed up for the newsletter, simply return to your bookmarked page and you’ll see the update. When you sign up for the e-mail newsletter you’ll also receive free access to Module 1: Great Compost Without Trying and Module 2: Great Dirt Without Trying as well as other great Betterway Home webinars about creative meal planning and organizing after a life change.

Wondering what a webinar is? It’s a recorded video presentation. Think of it as a seminar presented on the web.

Find the Right Time to Reorganize after a Life Change

by Susan Fay West
Life changes and major events interrupt our lives in ways that we cannot imagine. Whether the changes are joyous (welcoming a family member), unexpected (a job loss, major surgery) or tragic (loss of a loved one), these changes leave us with homes, belongings, and schedules that no longer meet our needs or help us live our lives. Reorganizing is an important part of processing any life change.

Reorganizing after a change is useful because it helps you update your schedule, office or home to accommodate your new way of living. Organizing systems and routines cannot be static, because life isn’t static. Plus these systems are what give you the time to deal with the life change. How do you know when you’re ready to shift, to change your systems, reorganize your space or declutter your past?

Answer: When you feel as if you’re turning a corner.

When you’re thinking more about what’s next than what was. When you are contemplating creating physical and mental space for your next chapter, even if all you know is that you want to move on slowly. You don’t need to have all the answers to begin.

Wait until you feel the pull of your next stage or chapter in life and when you look around your home or look at your calendar and start to say “That’s not me anymore.”Only you can judge that timing. Listen to your voice, and only your voice; if you listen to what everyone else tells you, you’ll make decisions you may regret later on.

Take your time. Live with what you have until it feels like you’re “turning a corner.”  Wait until you know it’s time. Until you can see that last corner … just before you begin your next chapter in life. And then it’s time to reorganize and create something comfortable but new, a blend of what you love from your last chapter with space enough for whatever is coming your way.

Certified Organizer Coach and Certified Professional Organizer Susan Fay West is the author of Organize For A Fresh Start. Her website is organizenh.com.

Great Dirt Without Trying Free Webinar

Webinar about quick, easy gardening tipsWe hope that Module 1 of The Grow a Garden Without Trying has inspired you to start planning a garden for this year. Module 2: Great Dirt Without Trying is now available for download for free. Weeds and poor soil quality can make gardening difficult and unproductive. In this 6 minute video Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin share simple work arounds for problem soil to make planting easy and keeps weed away. Deanna and Daisy are the authors of the new Betterway Home book Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard Farming and Home Skills for Self-Sufficient Living.

Download this webinar for FREE by signing up for our e-mail newsletter in the Free Webinars box on the right-hand rail. After you sign up, bookmark the page so you can return and view the other two modules as they are added over the next few weeks. If you’ve already signed up for the newsletter, simply return to your bookmarked page and you’ll see the update.

Wondering what a webinar is? It’s a recorded video presentation. Think of it as a seminar presented on the web.

Bug Out Bag Supply Category 1: Water

By Creek Stewart

In my last post I explained what a Bug Out Bag is. My next 12 posts will elaborate on each supply category found in a Bug Out Bag. The first supply category in a Bug Out Bag is Water.

Bug Out Bag supply water filterWater is one of our most critical survival needs. From digestion to circulation, water (or the lack of) affects everything. The human body is comprised of approximately 65% water. Our brains are upwards of 85% water.  Naturally, when we deprive ourselves of water, bad things happen. First, just annoying discomfort like headaches and dry mouth. If dehydration continues, symptoms  progress to include dizziness, light headedness, poor concentration, weakness, fatigue and nausea. Severe dehydration then starts screwing with our vision, brain function, circulation and muscles. Your body basically starts to shut down after about 10-15% of water loss. That’s not that much.

Needless to say, water is at the top of your list of priorities in ANY survival situation. When prepping a Bug Out Bag, you MUST include 72 hours worth of fresh drinking water. Disasters (both manmade and natural) can decimate fresh drinking water supplies. During and following almost every disaster, local water facilities are often off grid and well pumps will stop working once the electricity goes out. Combine this with failing sanitation facilities and you’ve got a recipe for a shortage of drinking water. When Hurricane Katrina struck, for example, bottled water had to be shipped in by the semi-truck load and emergency crews still couldn’t keep up with the demand for fresh water.

Almost all of our natural waterways have been polluted beyond the point of no return—making them unsafe to drink without treatment and filtration, which brings me to my next point. In addition to a 3-Day supply of drinking water, you should also be prepared to gather, filter and purify more water from other sources in the event that you need to do so. This equipment and/or treatment option should be packed in your kit and you should know how to use it without instructions. There are countless scenarios that can require you to need more water than a three-day supply. Below are just a few:

  • Extreme heat or travel
  • Water is lost or stolen
  • Water gets contaminated
  • Container(s) broken
  • Traveling for longer than expected
  • Personal hygiene needs
  • Charity (giving water to someone else who needs it more)

Without question, one of the first supply categories that needs to be checked off the list when prepping a Bug Out Bag needs to be water and the means to gather, filter and purify it if necessary. In my book, I offer specific equipment recommendations that help gather, purify and carry water. From the containers you choose to the water filtration and purification process you use, every decision and choice must be intentional and, ideally, many of your kit items should also be multi-functional – serving more than 1 survival purpose.

I know that packing three days worth of fresh drinking water seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people I speak to tell me that water is too heavy and they’ll just find some along the way.

If a disaster strikes my home and I have to Bug Out, I will be packing water.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

Creek

Creek Stewart is the author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, available in May 2012 from Betterway Home books. Learn more about Creek at willowhavenoutdoor.com.

Grow A Great Gardening Without Trying Free Webinar

Webinar about quick, easy gardening tipsSpring is almost here, which means it’s time to start planning your garden. Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin, authors of Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard Farming and Home Skills for Self-Sufficient Living, have recorded four short webinars that show how easy and enjoyable gardening can be. Module 1: Great Compost Without Trying is available now. Compost is nothing more than a glorified pile of trash, and the composting process doesn’t need to be complicated. In this 8 minute video Deanna and Daisy show how you can compost with no specialized equipment, no specialized knowledge and no specialized ingredients.

Download this webinar for FREE by signing up for our e-mail newsletter in the Free Webinars box on the right-hand rail. After you sign up, bookmark the page so you can return and view the other three modules as they are added over the next few weeks.

Wondering what a webinar is? It’s a recorded video presentation. Think of it as a seminar presented on the web.

The Worm Moon of March

by Stephanie Davies

Aristotle referred to the earthworm as, “the intestines of the earth.” When referencing the earthworm, Charles Darwin stated, “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”

Did you know that historically the March full moon is The Full Worm Moon? Why has so much attention been given to these spineless little creatures throughout time? Well, we owe the fertility of our spring soils to the earthworm. As the warmer weather rolls in, the ground begins to soften and the earthworms return to the surface of the earth to do their natural job.

As they wriggle, writhe, burrow, chew and digest, they till and transform our soils. They deposit organic nutrient rich droppings called castings on the surface of the planet preparing our soils for the growing seasons. Earthworms have been composting the planet’s waste since the beginning of time. We have much to learn about composting and revitalizing our soils from these wise creatures.

On March 8, 2012, look up to the sky during the Full Worm Moon and give thanks the wigglers under our feet. In honor of their ongoing efforts make this the year to start composting too!

Stephanie Davies is the author of Composting Inside and Out 14 Methods to Fit Your Lifestyle.

Five Easy Ways to Reach Your Goals

By Melane  S. Unger

I’m currently teaching my fifth grade math students about positive and negative integers. We discuss the differences between positive and negative numbers, the distance from zero (magnitude), as well as how to plot points on a coordinate grid. We also discuss the concept of trends, and how to predict a future outcome based on given data points.

Organized Teacher, Happy Classroom book by Melanie S. Unger
Organized Teacher, Happy Classroom by Melanie S. Unger

These concepts of trends and future data points has reminds me that lots of things in life are about ups and downs. There are often both positive and negative events that mark the path toward our goals, whether they are in our relationships, career, faith, or weight loss/fitness goals. When we continue to focus on our goals, we envision that we will achieve what we set out to accomplish, given time, persistence, and patience. We can usually predict a positive trend from previous accomplishments.

Looking at trends helps us to think about any goal toward which we are working. For instance, in the area of organizing, I can recall many times when I’ve not been as pleased with an organizing strategy within my classroom. I’d try one method or product to help me organize my papers or files at school, only to completely change the system a week later.

To me, it felt like I was failing in my organizing efforts—that I didn’t know what I was doing—but really, it was one step towards finding what DID work for me. I’m reminded of Thomas Edison’s quote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Hopefully, it won’t take us that many tries to “get it right” in our organizing lives, or with our relationships, jobs, or other journeys we’re taking in life. But I like the general message, because we often don’t see success before we experience some aspect of failure.

The failure points on the “coordinate grid” of our lives aren’t all that much fun to identify, think about, or study. But without them, we often don’t grow. It’s rare not to stumble, not to face difficulties, not to meet with failed tries, before we come upon success. We need to learn how to embrace it and move forward.

Here are five tips for moving forward in a positive direction in your organizing (or any other) journey:

  1. Be very clear about your goals. Determine ahead of time exactly what you want to change. What is your desired final outcome? In the case of getting organized, what do you want to see at the end of the project? Visualize it for yourself, and be specific so you are not wavering through the journey.
  2. Commit goals to paper. Writing down desired goals is an important part of success.
  3. Determine ahead of time an alternate path or method if your strategy does not work. Thinking of more than one way to accomplish a goal will keep you motivated when things are difficult or prove to be ineffective.
  4. Share your goal with a trusted friend or colleague. They may have perspective on the very thing you want to change. Having another person’s insight can give you the creative spark you need to move forward.
  5. Think “long term.” Just as in the stock market, it’s often hard to gauge how well your goal is progressing in a short amount of time. Often times, success comes only after a period of time. It’s the same with many things in life, whether in relationships, jobs, or with getting organized in some area of our lives.

 I’m reminded again of my math class, where we often deal with equations. And in the case of keeping our eyes on our goals, we could use an equation, such as: Success + Struggle = Progress. One must have both elements to have a complete equation. And, in the words of Frederick Douglas, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

 Melanie S. Unger is the author of Organized Teacher, Happy Classroom. Her website is  organizedinspirations.com.