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It’s time to dispel some organizing myths that may be keeping you stuck and getting in your way of a more organized life. I’ve focused on the five most common beliefs about organizing, so you can discover what works for you and what doesn’t. Once we bust the myths, you’ll be on your way to organizing like a pro.

Are the following statements true or false?

1. Containers will always get you organized.
FALSE.
Containers alone are not the answer to your organizing dilemmas. In fact, they can become part of the problem. Here’s one example.
Nancy purchased several large plastic containers to organize all of her craft supplies and memorabilia. But she still couldn’t find what she was looking for when she needed it.

The first thing to do is purge. Only when you know exactly what it is you need to store, how much there is of it, and where the most suitable location is to store it - should you go out and purchase containers. Measure first. The wrong size containers simply create more clutter.

2. Multitasking is always productive.
FALSE.
Although useful in some situations, multitasking can cause you to lose your focus and make costly and time consuming mistakes. When working on important tasks, multitasking is probably not a good idea. Some things require your undivided attention.

Multitasking distracts us from being in the moment, which can drain our energy and leave us feeling exhausted and unfulfilled. Next time you are participating in an activity, be with that activity. Resist the temptation to do two things at once.

3. Being messy automatically means you are disorganized.
FALSE.
Organizing is not about how it looks; it’s about how it works. Visual, creative types need to have things out where they can see them, because out-of-sight is out-of-mind for them. But visual types lose focus when there is too much to look at, so they need to find containers that will allow them to control the visual clutter.

4. You have to toss everything to get organized.
FALSE.
I often hear people say to say “There’s no way I could get organized because I am too sentimental - I don’t want to get rid of everything.” Although you shouldn’t keep things you don’t like or will never use, there’s always a way to either display or store the things that matter. For example, shadow boxes or display cases allow you to protect as well as showcase the possessions that truly mean something special to you.

5. If you write it on a to-do list, it will get done.
FALSE.
I had a client who was so proud of her to-do list: it was prioritized, color-coded and categorized - yet she was frustrated and overwhelmed at how many things on the list were not getting done. To get anything accomplished, you have to actually schedule time to do the things on your list. Simply putting a task on a list is not a commitment - blocking time on your calendar to do it is.

A Certified Professional Organizer®, life coach, TV host and owner of We Organize U.
Visit www.WeOrganizeU.com or e-mail info@WeOrganizeU.com

As we contend with the cold winter season, it’s a great time to refresh our memories about using our fireplaces safely. Winter is the worst time of year for home fires.

Here are some tips for fireplace safety:

1. Make sure the damper is open before you light the fire, and don’t close it until the ashes are cool to the touch.

2. Never leave the house or go to sleep with a fire burning.

3. Keep combustible materials such as wood and paper a safe distance from the fireplace.

4. Use a fireplace screen to protect children, pets, and your carpet from hot embers.

5. Supervise children at all times around fireplaces.

6. Use a small amount of dry, well-seasoned firewood. Never overload. If you use artificial logs, follow the instructions on the package.

7. Have your chimney cleaned and serviced on a regular basis.

8. Never use gasoline or starter fluid close to or in your fireplace.

9. Place ashes in a metal container and take them outdoors.

10. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and remember that adequate ventilation is key to keeping your fireplace safe.

In addition to following safe practices with your fireplace, you should have safeguards in place in the event something goes amiss. In addition to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, consider investing in fire extinguishers and a sprinkler system. They can make your home safer and often earn you discounts on your home insurance premiums.

Perhaps the kitchen in your home is less than ideal, but you are not ready or able to undertake a full-blown renovation. There are many ways you can improve your existing kitchen without spending a fortune. Here are just a few expert ideas to help you.

• PAINT: If the cabinets are in decent condition but just tired, give them a new high-gloss color. Don’t skimp on surface preparation, including removing all traces of grease and grime, or the results will disappoint.

• CHROME: Replace the hardware, faucet, or sink all are relatively easy do-it-yourself jobs.

• CABINETS: For a little more investment, you can have the cabinet door fronts replaced or refaced and then remounted on the same boxes.

• BACKSPLASH: Many high-end tile stores have outlet centers or bargain sections where you can score tile remnants at a fraction of the original cost. Or cover an old, ugly backsplash with self-stick mirror tile or a ready-to-install backsplash.

• COUNTERTOP: If you’re working with a small budget, consider laminate, which offers true-to-life reproductions of more expensive wood and stone. A new laminate counter costs a few hundred dollars, including installation and can last for years.

Plants bring vibrant life to a home and purify the air. And even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can have greenery that thrives. The trick is to choose one of the following plants, which is practically guaranteed to survive.

• JADE is one of the easiest house plants to care for, and it needs water only once a month.

• PILEA tolerates neglect.

• LACE ALGAE can be placed where it might be temporarily forgotten.

• FERNS Dare great for bathrooms. They enjoy the humidity and don’t need much light.

• PAN-AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP PLANTS last almost forever and are good for tabletops because they grow low.

• ENGLISH IVY is happy in a hanging basket with water every other week.

• CAST-IRON PLANTS are almost indestructible.

Our clients often ask us about adding a wood burning fireplace to an existing home. Because it involves foundation construction and a masonry chimney, adding a fireplace can be expensive. zero-clearance wood burning fireplace, can be installed in almost any location in any home, and if existing floor structures and a prefabricated chimney are used, much of that cost can be minimized.

Zero-Clearance
refers to a prefabricated fireplace that can be installed almost directly against combustible surfaces, such as walls or floors. A prefabricated chimney is then run up the inside or outside of the house. The following questions should be taken into consideration before purchasing a zero-clearance fireplace:

1. Where would you like to put it?

2. Is the purpose ambiance only or do you want to generate some heat for the house? Most wood burning fireplaces do not actually heat the house. In fact, many cause overall heat loss because they heat the room they are in, but send the hot air from the rest of the house racing up the chimney.

Get a Good Installer
This is not a do-it-yourself project. Enlist the help of an expert from the beginning; ideally, someone trained in installing the type of system you select. The specific expertise is important because all the components must be manufacturer approved. Also, despite what the name suggests, zero-clearance fireplaces must still observe minimum clearances for safety reasons. And once installed, it is difficult to inspect the installation details – another great reason to have an expert do the job.

Glass Doors
Most zero-clearance fireplaces feature glass doors. With some models, the glass doors may be closed while the fire is lit while others require the glass doors to open. For example, high efficiency units are designed to operate when the glass doors are closed. Many conventional zero-clearance units have glass doors to reduce heat loss when there is no fire, but the doors should be left open when the fire is lit.

Inspection Requirements
Because zero-clearance fireplaces leave less room for error due to the proximity of combustible material, they require yearly inspection.

Many zero-clearance fireplaces are installed with a prefabricated chimney pipe enclosed in a chimney chase (enclosure running up the outside of the house). If animals get through the chimney chase, they can build nests in direct contact with the pipe. Under the right conditions, a fire could start in the chimney chase. Creosote is a combustible deposit that builds up on the inside of a chimney flue. It must be cleaned out regularly to avoid a chimney fire. A good inspection is your best defense against chimney or house fires. The chimney and fireplace inspection industry is unlicensed and unregulated in most states and provinces. Fortunately, excellent organizations of professionals do exist. In the United States, the National Chimney Sweep Guild created a certification organization called the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Look for an inspector who is CSIA certified. In Canada, look for an inspector certified by Wood Energy Technology Transfer Inc. (WETT).

Nursing a grudge is bad for your health. But you can learn to forgive anyone effortlessly with this six-step plan.

1: Ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” Living well is the best revenge.

2: Vent. Release negative emotions. Get a fresh perspective. Move on.

3: Unplug the stress. Take three deep breaths while picturing loved ones.

4: Lower your expectations. Accept the fact that none of us is perfect.

5: Don’t necessarily forget. Forgive but keep the offender at a safe distance.

6: Pat yourself on the back. Feel confident in your ability to put resentment behind you.

Modern decorating tricks can also help make your home look super-clean and less cluttered. May we suggest:

choosing clear, pure colors, such as lemon yellow, instead of muddy ones like mustard;

replacing yellowed lamp shades with pure white ones, and ordinary light bulbs with Reveal bulbs (by GE), which produce bright white, rather than yellowish light;

leaving lots of bare floor, with only a few area rugs for softness and

paring down your accessories, choosing a few good-sized pieces rather than many small ones.

Burn only seasoned hardwood. Do not burn scraps of wood and paper.

Load the logs near the back of the fireplace.

Use the spark screen.

Do not leave a fire unattended.

Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning.

Never restrict air flow to the fireplace.

Do not operate the fireplace with the glass doors closed without verifying if it is certified for such operation.

Keep the hearth area clear.

Have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned yearly.

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