Personal Health Record: What Are They & How Do I Make One?

For anyone that has a chronically ill family member or someone that has experienced an accident that has brought upon many medical issues, you know that the amount of paperwork can quickly become overwhelming. Even the average individual will want to keep track of their records and personal information for insurance purposes  reimbursements, health tracking, and for taxes. With much of the Personal Health Record industry moving digital it can be difficult to know what you need, how you should store the information, and for how long. Here are some basic guidelines and tips to follow.

WHAT TO ADD TO YOUR PERSONAL HEALTH RECORD FILE:

  • Personal information (phone, address, birthdate)
  • Insurance cards, discount prescription cards
  • Immunization records
  • Dental records
  • Important test results, especially abnormal ones
  • A list of medical conditions and coordinating health regimens or medications
  • A list of medications and foods you are allergic to
  • Prescription history
  • A list of doctors, specialists, and health providers that you have seen in the past (including contact info)
  • Insurance bills and statements

WHERE TO STORE:

  • Online services such as WebMD’s Personal Health Record system can assist you in storing your information digitally, so that you have greater ease in providing healthcare professionals with access to past history, can access the info throughout your lifetime, and to maximize your health benefits. For more information about storing your personal health information online, visit the Medicare.gov page.
  •  If you feel more comfortable keeping the information in hard copy, create a folder designated for your Personal Health Records and another for Medical Insurance. Keep all of the items, except for the last, from the list above in the first folder. The Medical Insurance folder should keep the bills and statements from your insurance company. You can also add in correspondence from claim negotiations or other related documents. When seeing a new doctor, bring the first file with you, so that they can copy the information.

HOW LONG TO STORE:

  • Experts advise that medical records should be kept for 5 years after the end of the treatment. For insurance bills and statements you can toss records after a year, or immediately if you have access to the digital statement online. Remember to always shred your personal health records for security reasons.

We wish you good health and organization!

TWOW

 

Laundry Room Organization

If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated laundry room, you know that it can easily become disorganized. Whether it’s items from other areas of the house living there permanently or it’s half-finished laundry stacking up, the small room can quickly seem out-of-control. We’ve put together some of our favorite ideas for designing and maintaining a flawlessly organized laundry room.

What Belongs There: Although some people use their laundry room for storage of other items, if you are looking to create an organized space, it’s best kept to it’s original function. The following is a list of items every laundry room should have.

  • Washer & Dryer
  • Iron & Ironing Board
  • Detergent (1 bottle)
  • Stain Remover (1 bottle)
  • Fabric Softener (If desired)
  • Dryer Sheets (1 package)
  • 1-3 hampers (Separated by color)
  • 1 Clean clothes laundry basket

How to Organize the Space: Depending on how large your laundry room is, there may be an opportunity for you to have a dedicated folding table. If so, utilize the space below the table to store your 3 hampers. Use the area above the washer and dryer to add shelves for holding all clothing cleaning products. Keep all other areas minimally decorated and with as little storage as possible. This room should be used as much as possible for laundry and laundry alone.

The Laundry Room Re-Set: If you find that the room often become disorganized, commit to a laundry room reset once per week. At this time, you’ll fold and put away all clean clothes, wash any dirty ones still there, and re-organize the cleaning products and physical items in the space. If you are committed to this process, you’ll find the space stays clean and organized longer.

 

The Challenges of Downsizing Homes: How to decide what to keep, sell, or donate

There often comes a point in ones life where they decide downsizing is a good option. Maybe you are looking to reduce cost of living or maybe you just don’t have use for all of the extra rooms anymore. Either way, the process can sometimes be difficult, as reviewing and deliberating on what to keep and what to get rid of can be emotional. These are belongings you’ve likely had more many years and letting go of them forever is not easy. We’ve helped clients with this process in the past and have found a few general guidelines to be helpful:

1) Give Yourself Time: The process of downsizing, if possible, should be done over the course of several months. Once you decide a move is possible, begin to slowly start reviewing your belongings room by room. Do a little each day or a couple of rooms each weekend until you have made it through the lot. If it helps, use small post-it notes to designate keep, sell, donate or trash.

2) Work with a Friend or Professional: Having a friend or a professional organizer assist in the process can be great. They are able to offer neutral viewpoints on whether to keep certain items, ask questions that will help guide you to make decisions, and organize the process in an efficient manner (if working with a professional).

3) Sell vs. Donate: This is a common question. While selling all of the belongings can result in extra money, it can also be a great deal of work. When deciding if the investment in time is worth it consider the following questions. If your answers to these questions are mostly yes, it may make sense for you to organize an estate sale, a garage sale, or sell the items via Craigslist. If not, donation is likely your best option.

  1. Are the items valuable?
  2. Are the items estate sale quality?
  3. Are the items in good to excellent condition?
  4. Are the items useful today? (i.e. selling a VCR probably isn’t worth the effort, but a recently purchased iPhone might be)
  5. Are the items unique or potentially collectables?

4) Think Rationally, Not Emotionally: When reviewing items in your home, attempt to think about each item in a rational way. In addition to remembering the emotional connection you have with the item, also evaluate it’s frequency of use. While it may be something you liked years ago, if it hasn’t been touched since then, it probably isn’t going to be missed if you let it go.

Good luck in your downsizing!

TWOW

3 Common Excuses for Clutter & How to Stop Making Them

Many of the individuals we work with struggle with maintaining a clutter-free home. They truly want to have an organized home and life, but when it comes to the execution we often hear the same excuses again and again. While we understand that things do come up and that no one is organized all of the time, there are ways to minimize the excuses and get on a consistent organizing plan.

1) “It’s Not Me, It’s My Partner”: Occasionally this excuse is true, but often times both people are contributing to the problem in some way. With this issue, we recommend several strategies. First, work together to devise an organizing and cleaning plan. Both partners must contribute to the design and it should include responsibilities for each person. If need be, create a physical chart with check marks for completion of tasks each week. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, schedule a meeting to discuss what obstacles are getting in the way and how you can work together to achieve the goal. The second part of this plan is to reinforce when effort has been made. If you see your partner picking up the house, thank and compliment them. Expressed appreciation encourages continued effort more than anything else.

2) “I don’t have the time”: Many people are very busy with work and life, but typically the average person has extra free time that they just aren’t utilizing to the fullest. For example, while watching tv at night you can also be folding laundry or putting items back where they belong. The other part of this issue, is the ability to clean as you go. If you are cooking dinner for the family, try to wash a few pots along the way. At the end of dinner, all you’ll have left are a few plates and silverware, making the clean up process quick and easy.

3) “I don’t have enough space to be organized”: This is one we see a lot! The underlying issue is that for people like this, no amount of space will ever be enough. They accumulate to their max capacity and if they had a bigger home, they would do it there too. To rectify these situations we recommend a few tips. First, doing a major purge two times per year will help keep the possessions to an acceptable and livable level. The one in one out strategy is also great for individuals like this. For every new item that comes into the home, one must leave. This will assist you in maintaining the smaller amount of items after your first purge.

Clutter happens to everyone, but recognizing when you’re making unnecessary excuses for it can help keep the problem from happening in the first place.

TWOW

Childproofing Checklist

Babyproofing your home before your child starts crawling and especially once they are on the move is important for the safety of the child. Here is a comprehensive checklist of what needs to happen in each room of the house:

KITCHEN:

  • Add appliance latches to oven, fridge, dishwasher and all other lower appliances
  • Add child-proof door latches to all cupboards and drawers below counter level
  • Install a stove guard and knob handle covers
  • Move knives into locked drawer instead of the counter top
  • Remove table cloths from tables if there are heavy items on top that could be pulled off and hurt the child
  • Install a safety cover on the garbage disposal

AROUND THE HOME:

  • Add electrical plug covers throughout the home
  • Hide all cords or user cord storage boxes. Ensure that if a cord was pulled, nothing heavy could fall on the child
  • Add baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs and to dangerous rooms (garage)
  • Add locks to all doors and windows
  • Install corner and edge bumpers, if desired
  • Secure all large furniture to the walls
  • Secure all guns and other dangerous weapons in a locked safe
  • Remove all toxic plants from the home
  • Install window guards
  • Secure up high or remove window coverings with hanging cords.

BATHROOM:

  • Add a child-proof latch to the medicine cabinet (even if it is located higher up)
  • Check the water temperature to make sure it is not above 120 degrees Fahrenheit or have a plumber install an anti-scald device
  • Add non-slip mats or stickers to the bathtub floor
  • Never leave flat-irons or curling irons on when unattended and ensure the cord is not dangling below the counter

LIVING ROOM:

  • Block the fireplace with a cover or gate

CHILD’S ROOM:

  • Purchase a crib approved by baby safety associations and do not use bumpers
  • Install a fire latter outside the child’s window once they are old enough to use it safely
  • Remove any sharp toys or anything that could wrap around a child’s neck

OUTSIDE:

  • Add a fence or safety cover to the pool

Organizing Your To-Do List

An overflowing to-do list is always a source of stress. We’ve complied our favorite methods for organizing, planning, and executing the tasks on your list in a way that is both efficient and easy.

1) Like with Like: Write out your to-do list in a way that groups like tasks together. Potential categories include: phone calls, computer work, physical errands, personal errands (dentist appt., nail appt., etc.)  and requests from others and long-term projects.

2) Consider Location: When organizing your list, consider the locations of where physical errands need to be completed. If there is a shopping center that contains multiple stores at which you have tasks, get them all done at once instead of making multiple trips.

3) Timing is Everything: When planning the execution of your to-do list, take into consideration the timing needs of the various tasks. For example, calls to vendors need to happen during business hours, while internet research could take place after hours. If you plan ahead you won’t find yourself pushing off tasks due to an inability to complete them during your free hours.

4) Prepare Yourself for Success: If certain tasks on your list involve physical processes, such as returns, prepare for the possibility of getting them done when the opportunity arises by placing the items (including receipts) in your car. This concept is also true for all other tasks that need to be completed while out and about.

5) Enlist Help: If a task on your list would take you twice as long as it would your husband or a friend, hand it off. In the same respect, if your hourly worth exceeds the cost it would take you to outsource the task to a personal assistant, it likely makes sense to pay for it to be handled instead of doing it yourself.

What are your favorite to-do list tricks?

TWOW

Common Questions (and Answers) for a Professional Organizer

When organizing people’s homes we often answer the same questions again and again. While our answers occasionally change based on the situation, we’ve also come up with general strategies and concepts that seem to ring true for most.

1) Should I keep all of the sizes I fluctuate between? This is a common problem. We find that many individuals with overflowing closets are often holding on to wardrobes in several sizes because of frequent weight changes. What we always tell people is that it’s easier to fluctuate between sizes when you have the next size up available to you. If your jeans were getting a bit tight and you had no larger size available, you might be more conscious of eating healthy and working out to make the current jeans fit again.

2) What do I do with the stuff I’m storing for family/friends? The first question to ask is how long have you been storing the items. Next ask yourself if there was a time limit placed on providing the storage and when the last time the owner mentioned the items. If you’ve had clothing from a relative for several years, chances are they don’t need it anymore and would be fine giving it away. If they truly want the items give them a deadline by which to move them and stand by it. Just remember, this is your home, not a storage unit.

3) How do I maintain the organization? This is the most difficult part of organizing for most people. They love the idea of getting organized, but struggle to maintain it after we’ve left. To assist in keeping your home tidy and organized, commit to a daily routine of putting things back where they belong. Each night, before you go to bed walk around the home and conduct a mini-reset. This will help keep things from getting out of control. Labels are also a great idea to ensure things go back to their rightful homes.

4) What papers do I keep and what can be tossed? In general, if you can find a copy of the document somewhere online, shred, recycle or trash the hard copy. For documents that are currently being used, maintain a inbox/outbox system that is reviewed each week for expired/unnecessary items. To determine what documents need to be stored long-term or for tax purposes, review Suze Orman’s Financial Clutter, What to Keep List.

5)  Am I a Hoarder? It is common for individuals using a professional organizer to feel like perhaps they are a Hoarder. The reality is that the amount of collecting or acquisition that it takes to become a Hoarder is significant and most people do not fit the clinical definition. That being said, there are many people with hoarding tendencies. If any of the following statements are true, you may benefit more from a mental health professional, than an organizer.

  • You acquire belongings to fulfill an emotional need
  • You hold onto excessive amounts of items with little or no value (i.e. newspapers, old magazines, trash, etc.)
  • Your belongings have taken over the space you require to live comfortably in your home
  • You are extremely reluctant to part with any belongings, no matter their frequency of use, value, or usefulness
  • The collecting of items has otherwise impaired your life or health

What are some of the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a professional organizer?

TWOW

Guest Post: 7 Benefits of Green Cleaning

Learn why you should switch to eco-friendly cleaning products.

As lives become busier, over-scheduled and more stressful, it’s easy to gravitate towards the latest products that promise to make annoying chores even easier. Need a bathroom cleaner? On your next trip to the store, you grab one of the many bright and colorful bottles promising to be a quick fix. But did you ever think about what’s in that container?

Whether you’re a housekeeper who cleans with these products all day or someone who cleans your own home regularly, you should take the time to consider it.

Most are made up of harsh cocktails of chemicals, which can be bad for your health — and your kids’ health. As people rethink what they’re bringing into their homes, they’re looking for greener solutions.

Two experts Leslie Reichert, author of “Joy of Green Cleaning,” and Sara Snow, author of “Sara Snow’s Fresh Living,” share the reasons why people should make the switch to green cleaning products.

What to try green cleaning for yourself? Read up on Green Cleaning: 12 Natural Solutions that Really Work »

1. Healthier Home
If you go green, “No longer will there be chemicals absorbed into the skin or breathed in by the person cleaning,” Reichert says. Health benefits extend to family members who are no longer breathing in cleaners lingering in the air and sitting on surfaces.

Studies have shown that using a household cleaning spray, even as little as once a week, raises the risk of developing asthma. Snow says that using green cleaning products can reduce the chances of developing asthma, which “today is the most common chronic illness and the leading cause of school absences due to chronic illness across the country.”

2. Purer Environment
When you use many cleaning products, “harmful chemicals are being released into the environment,” says Reichert. Not great for you and the people around you to breathe in.

Changing to greener methods, “helps reduce pollution to our waterways and the air and it minimizes your impact on ozone depletion and global climate change with fewer smog-producing chemicals,” advises Snow. Many green products also use recyclable packaging which minimizes waste.

3. Safer Products
Conventional cleaning products pose risks such as chemical burns to the cleaner’s skin and eyes. Green cleaners aren’t corrosive and meet strict standards regarding inhalation toxicity, combustibility and skin absorption.

4. Better Air Quality
As with most people, Snow can’t stand the “stench of strong chemical odors.” Many green cleaning products — including store bought and ones you can make at home — include pleasant natural essential oils. Reichert even refers to cleaning with these products as her “aromatherapy.”

5. Less Expensive
“For home cleaning, vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, etc. can do the trick for pennies on the dollar, compared to buying conventional cleaning products,” Snow says. Why go out and buy products when you can use things you already have in your pantry?

Investing in green products also makes sense for companies. “The cost of environmentally friendly cleaning products has become much more competitive, while cleaning in an environmentally sound way reduces the risk of sick days for employees and the risk of fires and chemical spills,” mentions Snow.

6. Fewer Antibacterials
Do you really need to look for products that say “antibacterial”? “We’re now told by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that washing with antibacterial soaps isn’t any better than regular soaps, and the American Medical Association (AMA) says that the frequent use of antibacterial ingredients can promote bacterial resistance to antibiotics,” Snow says. “Triclosan, a common antibacterial agent found in many soaps, [may] mess with your hormonal system and thyroid. Most green or environmentally friendly cleaning products don’t contain antibacterial agents.”

7. More Knowledge of Ingredients
Government regulations don’t require ingredients to be listed on any cleaning products. This is another reason Reichert is a strong advocate for making your own products at home, so “you know exactly what the ingredients are in your cleaning recipes.”

As concerns for health become more prevalent and people become more aware of the harsh effects cleaning chemicals are having, they’re going back to basics and looking for greener ways to clean. To hear our experts tell it, the benefits speak for themselves. 

This post was generously written by Carol Ruth Weber, a Contributor for Care.com (www.Care.com), the largest online care destination in the world.

 

Guest Post: Get the Most Out of Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning season is here again. Hurray! (Or groan.) Whether you love doing away with winter cobwebs or you cringe at the sight of a feather duster, now is a great time to freshen up your home.

While many people know they should be giving their houses a deep clean during this time of year, most don’t know where to start. Here are some great tips from cleaning experts on how to prioritize and manage the big spring clean.

1. Take it Slow
Mary Baker, who has been cleaning houses for more than 20 years in the Tulsa, Okla., area, suggests spreading the job out. “A lot of people make the mistake of trying to get everything done in one long session, only to end up exhausted and quitting before the job is finished,” she says.

Instead, spread the job over a week or a couple of weekends. Look at your schedule and figure out when you can devote time to this project. Breaking things up into small chunks of time will make it much more manageable. Hire a babysitter to get the kids out of the house for an afternoon, so you’ll be more productive.

2. Make a Room-by-Room List
Jen Murphy started cleaning houses in college and now runs a cleaning business near Portland, Ore. She believes that the most important step is to make a list. “Go around the entire house and make a list of jobs for each room. Once the list is made, mark each item with a 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being the most urgent.” Murphy suggests. “That way you know what to conquer first when you enter the room.”

Tasks you do regularly, like straightening up and doing the laundry, shouldn’t be your focus. Think about the more intense jobs that you usually avoid or only do once a year (or before your mother-in-law comes to visit) — those are the things that should be given a 1 on your list.

3. Prioritize Your Tasks
When it comes to spring cleaning, everyone’s prioritizes are different. Some people focus on cleaning every inch of their house, while others try to organize and purge.

“After the basics, people’s needs differ,” Baker says. “Many people want to give the bathrooms a good scrubbing, cleaning the fixtures and putting up a new shower curtain, while others may prefer to tackle the laundry room or start organizing shelves.”

Here are some common deep cleaning tasks that you may want to put at the top of your checklist.

  • Pull out all appliances and clean behind and under them
  • Clean the fridge, including dusting the coils, defrosting the freezer and scrubbing all shelves and compartments
  • Clean inside the stove
  • Vacuum and flip mattresses
  • Clean pillows and comforters
  • Wash all windows and clean window sills and hardware
  • Clean drapes and blinds
  • Wipe and dust walls and ceilings
  • Organize closets
  • Vacuum behind and under furniture and flip all cushions
  • Deep clean your child’s playroom
  • Empty, clean and reorganize shelves and bookcases
  • Change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Clean outdoor furniture
  • Wash off patio, deck, driveway and any outside areas

4. Inventory Cleaning Supplies
Now that you know what needs to get done, make sure you have the right tools. Go through your to-do list and your cleaning products and see if you have everything you’ll need. Do you need a new vacuum, duster or toilet bowl brush? How is your supply of sponges? Make a trip to store to replenish expired or almost empty products.

“Having all your supplies gathered beforehand will save on both time and frustration” Murphy says.

5. Go Green
Ever thought about switching to green cleaning products? Since you’re re-stocking your cleaning supply cabinet anyway, now is a perfect time to turn over an environmentally friendly leaf. As you go through your to-do list, think about how you can clean without using chemicals. Here are some options to get you started: Green Cleaning: 12 Natural Solutions that Really Work »

6. Give Away What You Don’t Use
In additional to actual cleaning, spring cleaning is the perfect time to sort through toys, DVDs, clothing, household items and sporting goods. If you haven’t used it in the past year, do you really need to keep it? Donate items to local groups or organizations. (Check out this list of national charities that accept donations.)

“As you clean a room, take the time to remove and box up products you no longer use,” says Baker. Then put the boxes directly into your car as soon as they’re filled. “Getting the items into the box is the first step, but getting them into the car is necessary for getting them out of the house,” she suggests. This extra step also creates less to have to clean next year!

7. Be Realistic
“I always tell people to make the list, but don’t expect to finish everything; it’s just too much pressure,” Murphy says. Focus on getting the 1s on your list checked off. Then move on to 2s and 3s when you have time. Post the list on the fridge so it’s harder to ignore.

8. Bring in Some Professional Help
Is your list more than you think you can handle? Do you have a busy schedule or finicky baby that makes finding time to clean difficult? Instead of putting off your spring cleaning, hire some help. It’s okay to admit you can’t do it alone.

Find a housekeeper through a site like Care.com. Mention you’re looking for someone to help out for a few hours (or days, depending on your list) with spring cleaning chores.

Yes, spring cleaning sounds scary and overwhelming, but if you go in with a step-by-step plan, your home will soon be squeaky clean in no time, and you’ll be outside enjoying the spring weather. Take that feather duster!

And in the comments section below, share your tricks for getting through the spring cleaning chaos.

This post was generously written by Kristy Stevens-Young,  a Contributor for Care.com (www.Care.com), the largest online care destination in the world.

 

5 Ways to Organize on a Budget

Transforming your space from cluttered to organized doesn’t have to cost a lot. Sure there are many incredible, yet expensive products out there to help you achieve that Pinterest-worthy organization, but there are also lots of tricks to get the same look for cheap. Here are some of our favorite ideas.

1) Recycle & Reuse: Instead of purchasing new containers, make use of the products you already have around your home. Some items that can be easily repurposed into new storage solutions include:

  • Shoe Boxes
  • Cups & Mugs
  • Old Tupperware
  • Altoid Tins (for small items like nails and pins)
  • Shower Curtain Hooks (for belt and necklace storage)
  • Baskets
  • Ice Cube Trays or Muffin Tins (for earrings and other jewelry)
  • Used Food Jars
  • Ziplock Bags

2) Freebies: Before buying any new organizing products, post what you are in need of on Facebook or Twitter and see if someone in your network is willing to gift it to you. Freecycle.org is also an excellent resource for finding free home goods.

3) Sell Unused Stuff: When cleaning out homes we often come across many valuable belongings that are simply no longer being used. Make money off of these items by selling them at a garage sale, via Craigslist, Tradesy.com, or even a consignment store. The money made can then be used to purchase the necessary organizing items.

4) Sales, Deals & Discounts: When you decide to spend money on organizing products, take advantage of sales and discounts. Typically August is a good time of year to find deals on storage solutions as many stores are promoting off-to-college sales. In terms of discounts, you can usually get at least 10% at Bed Bath & Beyond and Michael’s for signing up for their email programs. The Ikea as-is section and The Dollar Store can also be a great places to find a deal.

5) Purge First: A common mistake that people make when organizing is to buy a ton of storage products that they think they will need before assessing the post-purge room contents. In order to avoid over-spending, complete your room purge first, then buy only the minimum number of products needed to make the space feel organized.

What are your favorite budget organizing tips?

TWOW 

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