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Here are five steps to regain control when life throws you off balance. Is it just me, or is life getting busier? It takes a lot of juggling to keep all the balls in the air. But every once in a while, something comes along that pulls us off balance. It could be something we welcome, like a promotion, a new addition to the family, a move or a renovation, or something unwanted, like an illness, death of a loved one, or job loss.

Whether it’s a pleasant change or a difficult one, it takes our time, energy and focus away from our day-to-day balancing act, and the balls start to drop. Tasks pile up, clutter starts to build and we fall behind.

When we get to a place of feeling over-whelmed, everything seems important and it’s difficult to decide where to start to get back on track.

We feel stuck. But the longer we wait, the harder it is to catch up.

Here are some steps to get you back into the flow of life.

1. Take a deep breath and remember that you don’t have to do everything in one day. Managing your expectations and thoughts will keep you in a positive frame of mind and increase your productivity.

2. Put everything on hold that’s not urgent. Give yourself uninterrupted time to tackle the most pressing tasks first. Delegate tasks if you can.

3. Use shortcuts to catch up on e-mail. Arrange e-mails by “From”. This is a quick way to group them so you can highlight and delete those that are not important. Create a “To Read” folder for newsletters and other correspondence that would be nice to read someday - when you are not crunched for time. Don’t get pulled into reading unimportant messages. Set a timer to keep you on track.

4. Clear your desk or table to allow you to focus clearly and be more effective. Sort through the mail and other paperwork that has accumulated.

5. Get help with laundry. Whether you enlist family members to do some of it (e.g., sorting, folding and putting away) or send it out to a laundry service once in a while, it will relieve stress and ensure everyone has clean underwear.

No one has it all together 100% of the time, so ease up on yourself. Take these steps, one at a time, and you’ll have your life back on track in no time.

Hellen Buttigieg
Certified Professional Organizer & Life Coach

and save the planet while you’re at it.

Keeping your home cool is easy when you blast your air conditioner all day. If you want to keep your home cool while saving the planet, you have to consider alternatives to reduce wastefulness.

Use Ceiling Fans Properly
Most ceilings fans have summer and winter settings. The winter setting moves the blades clockwise to push cold air to the ceiling while pulling warm air down. During the summer, set your fan to move counter-clockwise. This will create a better breeze that will cool the room.

Change Your Air Filter Once a Month
When air filters get too dirty, they make it harder for your air conditioner to do its job. That means it stays on longer and uses more electricity. Cut about 1 - 2% off your energy bill by replacing your filters once a month.

Use a Programmable Thermostat
Program the thermostat to let the indoor temperature get warmer during the day while you’re at work. An hour before you come home, the thermostat will adjust to a more pleasant temperature. You won’t even notice that your AC isn’t running all day.

Place Plants Strategically
Knowing where to place plants outside can lower the amount of energy you use by controlling the temperature inside your home. Plant deciduous trees on your home’s west and south sides. Three strategically placed trees could help you save energy.

Convincing homeowners to embrace real color - daring color - is not always easy, but the results can be spectacular. Here are five colors to embrace and when to use them - if you’re not afraid!

1. BLACK. Use when you want to make a statement. For sheer drama and glamor, it’s hard to improve on the perfection of a great black.

2. ORANGE. Use when you want to create energy. Call it Tuscan Sunset or Tequila Sunrise, orange is just fabulous.

3. TURQUOISE GREEN. Use when you want to imagine an ocean breeze all year round. It’s a happy color that never goes out of style - reminiscent of deep Caribbean waters.

4. PRIMARY YELLOW. Use when you want to stop people in their tracks. No color is cheerier than yellow. Combine with white for drama or with grey to tone it down.

5. FIRE ENGINE RED. Use when you want to ignite passions. Nothing ignites conversations and adds real zip like a red room. It’s a true attention-getter.

Hopefully these trends have inspired you whether you’re looking to stage and sell your home or just want to add a little pizazz to your space.

Whatever your room size, make it both functional and inviting with proper furniture placement. Here are some pointers to keep in mind when arranging furniture.

1. Use color as a common denominator when
pulling together different living spaces. Similarly colored pillows or throws create a visual flow from room-to-room.

2. Create seating clusters - group furniture together for easy conversation.

3. Move your furniture away from the walls to create your furniture groupings, keeping traffic flow in mind.

4. Consider using only chairs in a family room - they are easier to arrange than a sofa.

5. Don’t neglect corners or alcoves. Utilize them as window seats or mini bars.

Central air conditioning systems are a luxury in some areas of North America and a basic necessity in others. Whatever your need may be, it is in your best interest to understand how to choose the right system for your home, and how to maintain it for optional use. Central air conditioning systems have become more sophisticated and more efficient in the last few years.
The most common system is called a “split system” because part of it (the condenser) is located outside the house, and part (the evaporator) is located inside. The evaporator is mounted inside an air handler, a blower that circulates air throughout the house. For homes with forced-air heating, the furnace acts as the air handler. In these cases, the evaporator is simply mounted on top of the furnace

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and designates the efficiency rating of air conditioning systems. A 14 SEER air conditioner is more efficient than a 10 SEER unit. As of January 2006, manufacturers are no longer permitted to manufacture air conditioning systems with a SEER less than 13. Prior to this date, the minimum SEER was 10. The 13 SEER regulation does, however, create challenges for some home owners. The system itself is physically much larger than older systems. Since the condenser sits outside, increased size does not matter here, but the evaporator is also much larger on the new systems. If you replace a failed older system, the new evaporator may not fit into the old air handler, or even into the space it once occupied. The ducting can be modified to fit the new evaporator, but in some cases the entire air handler (or furnace) may have to be replaced. Other work-arounds also exist, but they are beyond the scope of this discussion.

What Are the Capacity Issues?
Proper sizing or capacity of a system is important. Installers traditionally err on the side of over sizing a system to avoid client complaints on the hottest day of the summer, such as the system not keeping up with the heat, or the system running continuously. A larger-than-necessary air conditioning system will not function optimally. It will cool the house off quickly and then shut off. These short on-cycles are not good for two reasons.

Most air conditioning systems take about seven minutes of operation to reach peak efficiency. An oversized system will operate at a fraction of its rated efficiency, costing more to operate than it should.

The central air conditioning system also dehumidifies the home. If the on-cycles are short, you get little dehumidification. The result is a cold and clammy home.

Choosing the appropriate capacity for the air conditioning system requires a skilled and experienced air conditioning contractor that can do a heat gain calculation for your home.

The movie munchies you prefer shed light on your personality. It reveals insights into who you are when you are most yourself - relaxing and having fun. You are, if you prefer . . .

1. Chips or nachos: A confident adventurer.

2. Cake or ice cream: A strong nurturer.

3. Raisinets: Sensitive and contemplative.

4. Pretzels: A thriver of novelty.

5. Popcorn: A driven altruist.

6. M&M’s: A creative sophisticate.

7. Milk Duds: A youthful team player.

8. Junior Mints: An observant perfectionist.

Winter is usually the time to bring out the can of WD-40 but try it in the summer too.

1. Can’t take off that ring? One spray and the ring will slide off. Thoroughly wash your hands after.

2. Gardener’s helper. Spray WD-40 to prevent garden shears from sticking and separate stuck-together flowerpots. Even artificial plants benefit from gentle spritzes - their leaves will be shiny and dust-free.

3. Keep pests away. Sprayed around the bottom of a garbage can, WD-40 will repel outdoor critters.

4. Prevent rust. Lightly spray metal garden furniture with WD-40. Works on wind chimes, too.

A well-maintained air conditioning system will last longer and cool better than a neglected system.

Clean or replace the filter in the air handler regularly, not just for clean air, but also because the filter protects your heating and cooling equipment. Dust can clog the evaporator coil, reducing the heat transfer, efficiency, and life of the system.

Trim vegetation away from the condenser for free air flow. Do not enclose the condenser with a trellis or anything else that might block air flow.

Have the system serviced regularly. Servicing is inexpensive and will increase the life and efficiency of the system. A technician typically cleans the condenser coils and, checks the refrigerant pressures, and adjusts the refrigerant charge if needed.


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