January is New Year’s Resolution time!  January also happens to be National Get Organized Month, which makes 2013 the perfect time to make your organized home a reality!  You might also need a little extra room for those new Christmas items.  JCL has a few favorite reminders to achieve your goals without getting overwhelmed and quitting early.  One room at a time.  You might be super excited about clearing your entire house of clutter in one whirlwind day, but its likely you will end up overwhelmed!  Finish one room before starting on the next.  This will ensure you complete each project and also give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue on.Act like you’re moving.  As you sift through your belongings to decide what to keep, pretend you’re moving out of your house!  Ask yourself if you would bother keeping three sets of cheese knives or eight sets of black dress pants.  Sell or donate the excess!

Identify your “Prime Real Estate”.  Whatever room you’re dealing with (closet, garage, office, etc.) determine your “prime real estate,” ie. the drawer closest to the sink, or the most accessible area in your closet.  Be vigilant about what you allow in those areas of the room in order to organize successfully and strategically.  For example, your evening gowns most likely do not belong in “prime real estate”–move them to the “burbs”!

Keep it simple.  If walking through the Container Store feels like you’ve reached your own personal Mecca, we understand!  But be wary of fancy label sets and excessive storage solutions.  If you need something so elaborate as to remodel one side of your bedroom to fit a fancy wall of shelving units, it is likely you need to pare down the excess, not store it all.  Not only will you save money on shelves, but you can sell the extra and have some cash left over!

Stick to these guidelines and watch your resolution come to fruition!  Happy Organizing!

January is National Get Organized Month!  By this time, you’re probably buried in the post-holiday carnage wondering what to tackle first. First things first–storing your decorations safely and labeling them clearly for next year.  Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.First off, you need an organized system for storing your Christmas lights.  Martha Stewart suggests wrapping the lights around pieces of cardboard for easy storage without the tangle.

Store the cardboard in clear, labeled bins.
Also, keep the old cardboard tubes that gift-wrap comes wound around to store large, loose sheets of paper.  You can save some money and store the extra without it getting shoved into a bin somewhere and forgotten.For ornament storage use egg cartons for the smaller items and plastic cups stored in clear bins.
When storing the rest of your Christmas decorations, you should always use clear bins so you can see what is inside.  That goes for all your storage bins.Lastly, you need to make room for all your new holiday goodies.  If you didn’t do a pre-holiday clutter clean of your child’s old toys, go through their room and see what can be donated or sold to consignment.  Don’t forget to go through your own room and closet to clear out extra clothing and clutter.  You may even make a few bucks selling through a consignment store.

For some extra pointers on how to make organizing your 2013 goal, check out our New Year’s Organizing Tips blog.

According to RecycleWorks, From Thanksgiving to New Years Day household waste increases by more than 25%.  Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons – it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills.  In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons.  The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.  Wow!  As this is the season of giving, why not make a few changes to your December plans and reduce your carbon footprint this season!  We’ve compiled some ideas from LifeCity that can help reduce your waste:

  • Wrap your presents from the recycling bin – meaning, use that leftover paper bag, newspaper, or other item. If you really want to get creative, have your kids decorate it – nothing beats handmade gift wrap.
  • Make your gift and your card with re-purposed materials. These kinds of gifts are often more fun to make and more enjoyed by the recipient.
  • Use LED lights everywhere – even for your Christmas decorations.
  • Compost or donate your leftovers. A significant portion of waste year-round, not just on the Holidays, is food. At least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year – or over 100 pounds per person.  Take some time to compost those leftovers and donate what is still usable to a local food shelter.
  • Consider efficient travel options. How can you reduce your carbon footprint this Holiday? Consider ways you can save gas, save money, and save our atmosphere.  If each family reduced holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon (about twenty miles), we’d reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons
  • Give a donation. Many of us are considering ways to donate this season – why not make your gift a donation? Consider organizations like the Arc, Goodwork Network, and so many other nonprofits in our community that help it thrive. What better gift could you give than one that gives back to our community?
  • Consider packaging and distance (buy local!) when purchasing gifts. What kind of energy and materials went into the making of your gift? Is there a way to buy what you want in a way that is more efficient or less wasteful?
  • Consider sending an electronic card. The following are some examples of what is available on the internet: Care2, Blue Mountain, and 123Greetings.
  • Reuse Ribbon.  If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

There is more emphasis than ever on ways to reduce extra waste and save the planet.  If we all adjust a few habits, we can make a huge difference!  Put more Green in the “red-and-green” this season and help protect the environment!

Everyone loves holiday parties: the friends, the decorations, the FOOD.  Oh my, the food.  A holiday bash is a dangerous place for those watching their waistlines this season.  And if you are the one throwing the party, you don’t want to serve your guests rice cakes and club soda.  Thankfully, we found a few things you can do to lower the calories without taking the fun out of the party…and your guests won’t even notice!
Offer no or lower-calorie drinks

  • Holiday Tea
  • Diet Soda
  • Mineral Water
  • Coffee
  • Light beer and wine spritzers made with club soda
  • Holiday punch made with light or diet soda (ginger ale or lemon-lime soda or cranberry juice)

Go heavy on the fruits and veggies

  • Make sure your table is covered with 50% fruit and veggies
  • Be as colorful and diverse as you can with the produce: jicama, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, and sugar snap peas are often forgotten.
  • Be careful to use lighter dips (fat-free or non-fat) with the produce as not to negate their healthy appeal.

Make dishes dense with healthy ingredients

  • Use beans in your dishes whenever possible to add fiber and make your guests feel more full.  Try a bean dip with fat-free refried beans and low fat sour cream.
  • Substitute whole wheat flour in cookies and pastries for richness and health.

Serve lean meats and fish

  • Shrimp with cocktail sauce
  • Lean sliced turkey or ham
  • Broiled salmon on whole wheat crackers

Make your dishes smaller

  • Offer desserts in smaller two bite portions–bake them in small cupcake tins to encourage smaller portions.  And the petite sizes are more elegant and unique!
  • Put out salad plates for people to load their plates.  There will still be the occasional guest piling their plate high, but most people will stick to the plate size.

Shrimp cocktail, a wine spritzer and some dancing sounds like a delicious and healthy way to party this year!  If you’re running low on recipe ideas, there are thousands of ideas online including the Mayo Clinic’s Appetizer List,  featuring grilled pineapple, shrimp spring rolls, smoked trout spread, and fresh tomato crostini.  Delicious!

As winter nears, there are a few things you normally take care of (or dread) and even a couple you hadn’t thought of.  November is when winter really begins to rear its ugly head.  As the temps drop, there a few things you should make sure to accomplish to save winter damage to your home and the health of your family.

  1. Clean your gutters and downspouts.  You may be dreading this yearly task, but clogged gutters are one of the causes of ice dams.  An ice dam occurs when warm air escapes into the attic, melting snow on the roof.  At the same time, the roof eaves are surrounded by cold air; when the water runs down to the eaves, it may freeze on the overhang before it can drain into your gutters or drip to the ground.  As the resulting ice dam builds up, it continues to trap the running water behind it, forcing it back up and under the bottom edge of the shingles.  Eventually, the water will leak over the top edge of the roof shingles and work its way into the house.  
  1. Examine foundation and driveway for cracks.  Snow and water in cracks can causes frost damage, so repair as necessary.  There are many DIY tutorials online here to review the different ways to fix cracks in your basement, driveway, garage, patio, or pool.

3.  Buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector.  The potentially fatal effects of carbon monoxide are a particular risk in the winter, when storm windows, closed doors, extra weather stripping, and other cold-weather measures create a “tight” house.  Carbon monoxide can leak into your home from malfunctioning gas furnaces and stoves, water heaters, generators, improperly vented fireplaces, and the exhaust from running cars.  Because carbon monoxide is heavier than air, the detectors should be placed close to the floor.  Many can just plug into the wall about a foot or so off the ground.  Give you and your family peace of mind this winter and purchase a carbon monoxide detector.  They start at around $20, so its an affordable option!

One of the best things about Turkey Day are the aromas of your favorite dishes wafting from the kitchen. From sweet potato pie to green bean casserole, your day can mean a few extra notches to loosen on your belt.  Before you switch to an elastic waistband, consider tweaking a few of your holiday favorites for less caloric impact.Pumpkin pie is made from a delicious seasonal vegetable…so it must be healthy, right?  Pumpkin is high in beta carotene and fiber, and one slice counts for about as much as a half serving of vegetables.  Truth be told, the most calories come from your crust, not the pie itself.  Try making a few changes to your recipe:

  • Use crushed cinnamon graham crackers or a whole grain crust instead of traditional crust.
  • Replace the sugar with a substitute like Stevia or Splenda.
  • Skip the crust altogether and make pumpkin pie “cups”.  Top them with fat-free cool whip and you have a cupcake sized treat!
  • Try a completely new and healthier recipe like the Pumpkin Coconut Tart from Eatingwell.com.

Lets talk turkey!  There are few things that get you into trouble when it comes to cooking the holiday bird, so cut a few corners and calories along the way by:

  • Instead of coating the bird in vegetable oil or butter, spray it lightly with cooking spray
  • To keep your turkey moist without all the far, cook it in a browning bag.
  • Instead of using a conventional supermarket turkey that’s been enhanced by a sodium solution, brine a natural or organic turkey yourself using healthier ingredients like lemon and garlic.  Try Eatingwell.com’s Lemon-Garlic Roast Turkey & White Wine Gravy recipe.  Yum!!

Everyone loves a thick, creamy green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.  Maybe you’ve tried the fat-free version and sworn off adjusting this classic dish.  We came across some ideas that might be a welcome alternative…

  • There are 5 healthy (and tasty) add-ins for your casserole says Shape Magazine: slivered almonds, cayenne pepper, portabella mushrooms, red bell pepper strips, or horseradish.  Adding one or more of these extras can spice up your casserole, especially if you choose to go with the low-fat ingredients.
  • Switch to a new recipe like this Homestyle Green Bean Casserole from Southern Living.  It has lower fat ingredients, but keeps a rich sauce using non-fat buttermilk and adding in japanese breadcrumbs for crunch!

Spice up your holiday without the weight worry by trying a few new things this season.  Thanksgiving just got easier…and healthier too!


October can be a “midway month” that may yield everything from boiling hot summer temps, to your first cold snap.  It’s a transitional period for you to finish yard work and store some of your supplies.  If you have a garden or even just a lawn, there are few things to transition your outdoors before the real winter arrives.

As for your lawn, there can be a few things to transition:

  • Disconnect garden hoses and store them inside so they don’t crack in freezing temperatures.  Extend the life of your hoses by taking the time to unhook, coil, and store them away.
  • Empty dirt from planters.  Dirt can expand in freezing temperatures and crack flowerpots and planters, so clean them out and turn them upside down or store them.  Some plants can be wintered inside the house if they are in a sunny place.
  • Ready yard equipment for storage.  Leaving fuel in the tanks of gas-powered mowers and edgers can gum up the carburetor of a gasoline tool.  Brush dead cut grass from the blades before storing it.
  • Have your automatic sprinkler system turned off.  The entire system should be drained of water to prevent freezing, which is usually done by blowing compressed air through the system.

As you may have noticed already, ‘tis the season for falling leaves!

The timing for raking leaves is always tricky since the trees don’t drop all the leaves at once, and oak leaves hold on through the winter.  But don’t wait to clean up the leaves that have fallen; piled up leaves are more difficult to blow or rake, particularly if it rains or sleets.  Clean up the leaves after the first fall, then a couple more times as the season progresses.  

  • If you have a leaf pickup service, bag the leaves in sturdy leaf bags, unless the town instructs otherwise and leave them on the curb.  If you plan to burn them, be sure you have a permit.  Although consider an alternative to burning them (even legally) to avoid sending particulate matter and irritants in the air.
  • If you don’t have a leaf pickup service, consider chopping the leaves up with your lawn mower and adding them to a compost pile.  If you don’t have a compost pile, perhaps you can donate to your neighbor’s pile (share the love!)?  Bag the rest and take them to the dump.  Be sure and check your dump regulations since limited space has led to ban on leaves and yard trimmings. If you have the space on your property, dispose of the leaves there, but be aware of winds that may blow them into the cleared areas.

Don’t wait!  It is great to get these things done before the first frost to prevent rushing around, and not to mention the various things that can crack or break from the temperatures.