February 16, 2014

25 Organizing Tips to Survive an Ice Storm

It's been a bad winter. Really bad. Snow, ice, freezing temperatures for weeks on end have made life more challenging this season. Just like any other season, it's important to be prepared with the tools to get through the changes in weather--shovels, rock salt, snow brushes, warm gloves and boots--the list goes on. My guest blogger, Moreen Torpy of De-Clutter Coach in Ontario, Canada knows a thing or two about being prepared for cold weather. Today she's sharing with us 'Southerners' 25 ways to survive an ice storm. I hope we never have to use any of these tips, but they're here for you just in case...

This winter has brought more than our fair share of ice storms and the resulting power outages, cold, inability to access transportation and all manner of other inconveniences.

After the realization sinks in that this might be a longer experience than you’d like it to be, after realizing you’re very cold will be the thought of what to do with food so it doesn’t become waste.

The following are lessons I learned from surviving the 1998 ice storm in Montreal:


1. Keep a few large plastic storage containers or clean garbage bins available to store your freezer contents outside without power. You can always chip off the ice to get into them when necessary.

2. Fill your BBQ propane tank at the end of summer so it can be used in case of winter emergency to cook whatever you have in your freezer, warm soup or boil water for coffee/hot chocolate/tea. Never use your BBQ or propane stove indoors. Set up in your garage if you have one, or outside

3. Use fresh food first, frozen food second and canned food last so you eliminate as much waste as possible. Cook whatever can be cooked when you can, then eat it cold if necessary. This will ensure less waste and provide as healthy a diet as possible under the circumstances.

4. Ensure you have a manual can opener and know where it is should you need it.

5. Don’t ever get rid of your fondue pot! It can be very useful to warm soup or water. Check now if you have fuel for it, and if not purchase a couple of bottles. Keep them with the pot so you know where they are.

6. Don’t cook anything that takes a lot of cleaning up, such as cheese. Remember, you don’t have hot water to do that right now.


7. Collect all candles and batteries from wherever you have them around your house and centralize them in one place. Inventory what you have and purchase what you still need—do you have D-batteries for your flashlight? C-batteries for your portable radio? What about candles? The dollar-store brand won’t last very long not to mention the mess they create when molten wax spills over. Keep something to light the candles with them, whether matches or a BBQ lighter.

8. Find any oil lamps you may have, purchase oil for them and keep them where they’re easily found when needed.

9. Find a mirror and put it with your candles. It doubles the light from lit candles as well as the heat produced. You might also toast marshmallows over the flames if you’re feeling adventurous. Maybe even assemble some s’mores!


10. Get used to the idea it may be a while until you can shower, shave or wash your hair. If there’s a shopping centre nearby with power, you could go to the hairdresser or take your hair dryer and wash your hair there. And perhaps even wash yourself as well. Hot water is better than cold any day for these personal care tasks.


11. Turn off as many lights and anything else electrical as you remember having on before the power failure and turn on your front porch light. This way, when the power comes back on, you won’t be as much of a drain on the infrastructure, and you’ll know immediately from outside if you have light.

12. Close doors to rooms you’re not using to keep any available heat in those you are using. This is a good time to congregate in as few rooms as necessary to take advantage of each other’s body heat.

13. Close off the entrance to the room where your gas fireplace is, if you have one, and spend your time there. This will keep the heat in that room and not where it won’t be doing any good.

14. Before abandoning your home, pour windshield washer fluid into the drains and toilet to prevent the pipes from freezing when your home has no heat. Also open faucets to allow a small trickle of water to help keep it moving.


15. Always keep your vehicle’s fuel topped up. If there’s no power, the gas pumps won’t work. Additionally there’ll be less space for moisture to form in the car’s gas tank.

16. Be very careful when removing ice from your vehicle. You don’t want to damage it by being too aggressive

17. Keep your vehicle’s trunk as empty as possible in case you need it to store used cookware that can’t be washed until you have plenty of hot water. You might also store frozen food in your car until you need it.


18. Keep an amount of cash in your home—bank machines won’t work without power.

19. If your local shopping centre has WIFI, take your device charger(s) with you and use them there. You might also hang out there with your phone, e-reader or laptop. The food court, while mostly junk food, can provide a hot meal if this is your only choice for one.

20. Don't bundle up in all your clothes to sleep. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, however you will warm up faster under the covers with just your usual nightwear or just something a bit warmer on. If you share a bed, take advantage of each other’s warmth. This is a good time for all the kids to pile in with parents so everyone stays warmer.

21. Remember Fluffy and Fido will be cold too, so allow them to cuddle with you.

22. Be as active as you can to build body heat if you’re staying in a cold house, but don’t work up a sweat or you’ll be colder than you were before.

23. Keep your medical prescriptions up-to-date, not waiting until you’re on your last pill. If you’re stuck without power, your pharmacy probably is as well and won’t be able to refill them.

24. If you intend to join others (family or friends) to wait out the power outage, select people you get along with and can hopefully find the humour in your situation.

25. Try to look on the experience as an adventure you can talk about and embellish in future telling of the story.

For more about emergency preparedness, check out my FREE report, Emergency Preparedness the Organized Way.

What’s your ice storm experience? Do you have any tips in addition to those above? I’d love to hear about both your experience and your tips. Please share!

© Moreen Torpy

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Moreen Torpy is the De-Clutter Coach, a Trained Professional Organizer, Author, and Speaker. Her new book is Going Forward: Downsizing, Moving and Settling In. See www.GoForwardDownsize.com for more about the book including where to purchase it, and www.decluttercoach.ca to learn about her organizing services and other books.

February 6, 2014

GO Month 2014 - Operation Preschool Phase 1

A few weeks ago, I told you about a project I am working on--the organization of two storage closets at my son's preschool.  Because of the snow and bad weather we've been having, the project is going slower than expected, but I wanted to share it's progress with you.

On Martin Luther King Day, my hubby had the day off from work and offered to help me with Phase 1 of organizing the storage closet. He came in very handy as a second pair of eyes and a pair of strong arms. Thanks, Hubs!

Here's what the closet looked like before we started:

Two and a half hours later here's what it looked like:

Before we opened the closet door, I gave my hubby two rules to follow that day:



We opened the door and started getting things off the floor.

When I work with a client in a space like this, we begin de-cluttering the floor first for one simple reason: SAFETY. It's very easy to slip on or trip over an object on the floor. Getting injured really slows down the organizing process...

What did we do? We...
• stacked all the chairs together
• created a temporary area for the custodial supplies that share this space
• removed anything that was broken beyond repair, yellowed, and crushed under the weight of heavier items
• grouped all toys, papers, classroom items that were in good shape in one spot so the teachers can look through them at a later date

Before, during, or after the school day the teachers can take a few minutes to go through the supplies and make decisions--keep or toss. Now, they can actually step into the closet safely to accomplish this and move the project forward!

So if you have a room in your home that looks like this, follow my two rules above and here's a third:

Wear CLOSED TOE shoes while organizing

Even the lightest object falling on your foot can hurt if you're wearing open toed shoes, walking around in socks, or are going barefoot.

Once the weather gets better, we'll be forging ahead with the next steps in organizing the closets--I'll keep you posted!