A Closet Intervention

August 29th, 2007

When we bought our old fixer upper there was no mudroom. That is correct no mudroom. No coat closet. No dedicated laundry room. You just walked right in the house, mud and all, and traipsed around until your threw your coat on the floor and then stepped all over it with your dirty shoes. At least that is what my boys did.

As a mother of six boys, I needed someplace for the mud. Or to at least give me the illusion that the mud and shoes would have a proper home of their own. And so we added one on. It seemed ridiculous to some people that we would buy a huge house that needed lots of work and then chose to put an addition on it the very first thing. It was the best thing we have ever spent money on.Mudroom closet

It is not a huge closet, but I knew in advance what I needed and wanted to store in it and so organized accordingly. I think sometimes when we look at magazines and closet organization websites, we are lead to believe that everyone has huge closets bigger than the bedrooms that most people sleep in. And that these closets are all professionally organized.

I wanted a shelf up high for storage, for things like umbrellas, windbreakers, extra bags (backpacks, beach bags, laptop bags, etc). I wanted a peg rack so that even the youngest children could hang up their own coats. I wanted a bar up high so that we could hang the extra coats up on hangers. I wanted a place for shoes. I wanted some sort of shelves to store all the junk that kids accumulate (baseball gloves, hats, sticks, rocks)

Mostly I wanted it to be cheap and sturdy.

I measured the closet and then hit my local home improvement mecca to figure out options.

I ended up with the versatile Closetmaid organization system for the top shelf with the attached rod for hangers. It goes across the back wall of the closet and wraps around the right side.

On the left side I bought inexpensive melamine shelves and cut them to length. I bought sturdy wire baskets from Kmart that were inexpensive and have held up for several years now even when they are turned upside down and used as step stools. Not that I condone such behavior, mind you. They are all labeled, one for each kid and then some extra ones.

On the right hand side is a peg rack for the children to hang their coats, by themselves.

The Frugal Duchess offers these tips on creating a closet that works for you and doesn’t break the bank.

• Consider your finances. Professionally installed projects range from $300 to $15,000, according to Mort Malis, owner of the Miami franchise of California Closet. Pre-fabricated do-it-yourself shelves and closet materials from home supply stores are a budget option, says Efrain Machado, owner of Luv My Closet in Miami Beach. Although Machado sells closet units that can cost up $8,000, he has also created attractive solutions using trays, wicker baskets and decorative boxes priced from $5 to $14 at Target.

• Sort and purge. Empty out your closet and make some ”hard decisions,” about each item, says Robertson of NAPO. Your give-away pile should include shopping mistakes, ill-fitting garments and worn out items, she says. Malis of California Closet says to discard or give away anything that you haven’t worn in the past 12 to 18 months.

• Create groupings. Clothes and accessories should be organized by function and season. Rotate your seasonal items, with out-of-season clothes in the back and high-use items in the front. Store folded sweaters and T-shirts on open closet shelves.

• Double Up. Use shelves and different levels of horizontal rods to create layers of space.

• Discard wire hangers. In humid South Florida, metal hangers can leave rust stains. Opt for plastic, wood or fabric-covered hangers.

All of these are great tips no matter what type of closet you are trying to organize. Especially the wire hangers. Don’t make me go all Joan Crawford on you.

Shaunte, from This Too Shall Pass, illustrates perfectly why we all need to go through and purge our closets before organizing them.

So I am going to try to de-clutter in there. I am starting with my belt collection. I am not sure why I even have them. I haven’t worn a belt since 1995, when I got pregnant with my first child. After that, belts became a mockery of my life when I actually had a waist.

She also fabulously details the junk, err I mean treasures, TREASURES, in her husband’s closet. MAN TREASURES! If you have a few moments you should definitely go on over and read about the man closet. (Making Tim Allen grunting noises are totally optional)

Still need some inspiration? On their website, Real Simple tackled six closets in the house of one family.

The Carters urgently needed an intervention; Real Simple provided one, with problem-solving products, space-saving ideas, and no shortage of tough-love editing for every closet (pantry, hall, linen, bedroom) in their house. The easy-to-install, easy-on-the-wallet solutions shown on the following pages paid off big in improved accessibility, clutter control, and sanity (”No more kicking stuff out of the way!” Mark crows). With the proper application, they could well put your closets on the road to recovery, too.

Everything that they did was practical and inexpensive. Have a look and see if you recognize yourself in the before photos. Then ask yourself, do you need a closet intervention? They not only show the before and after photos, love that, but provide links to all the products that they use.

cross posted at BlogHer

What Makes Them Happy?

August 21st, 2007

Turns out that it isn’t things, money, drugs… or any of the other myriad of things that we fear. Probably from watching too many tv shows filled with supposed teenage angst.

I read about this study a few days ago and have been rolling it over in my head since then.

Turns out that what makes youth, defined as those ages 13-24, happy is having a strong close tie to their families.

Spending time with family was the top answer to that open-ended question, according to an extensive survey more than 100 questions asked of 1,280 people ages 13-24 conducted by The Associated Press and MTV on the nature of happiness among America’s young people.

Next was spending time with friends, followed by time with a significant other. And even better for parents: Nearly three-quarters of young people say their relationship with their parents makes them happy.

I think the study shows us what a great asset a strong loving family. And that maybe we need to remember (we, meaning me) that while our teenage children are pulling away from us and acting like they know it all and we as parents know NOTHING and could in fact probably take life lessons form them and their wise teenager ways, that when all is said and done they highly value their relationship with us.

“It’s good news to hear young people being realistic about what really makes them happy,” says psychologist Jean Twenge, author of “Generation Me” and a professor at San Diego State University. “Research has shown us that relationships are the single greatest source of happiness.”

Virtually none of the respondents said that money made, or would make, them happy.

I think that it would be interesting to further delve into the findings and discover what makes a good family. Why did the other 25% of youth NOT chose their family as the primary source of their happiness? Are their families wildly dysfunctional?

Perhaps the next study. For now I am just hugging this one close to my bosom while my almost teenage son rolls his eyes at me. And not just so my hands are occupied and can not strangle him.

cross posted over at Handipoints

August is National Immunization Month

August 13th, 2007

There is a month for everything it seems. And August is the month for Immunizations Awareness.The perfect time to write the review of a book I received* months ago.

Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases
by Paul A. Offit, M.D

I began reading this book thinking that it was going to be dry, something I would suffer through like a text book. While I thought it would be interesting I could not see how it could be an engaging story. Turns out I was wrong. I loved this book.

From the Prologue:

But I’d bet not one of you knows the name of the scientist who saved more lives than all other scientists combined–a man who survived Depression era poverty; the harsh, unforgiving plains of southeastern Montana; abandonment by his father; the early death of his mother; and, at the end of his life, the sad realization that few people knew who he was or what he had done: Maurice Hillman, the father of modern vaccines.

Paul Offit was able to sit down with Maurice Hillman before his death in 2005 and discuss his life and his work. Those conversations eventually became this book.

It is a fascinating read… the use of chicken eggs to grow the virus that would eventually be turned into a vaccine; how Hillman used swabs from the throat of his daughter to develop the vaccine against mumps; the common practice of using institutionalized children with mental retardation to test the vaccines and the ethics involved in it.

Did you know that the pneumococcal vaccine protects against twenty three different infections? No? Me either, until I read this book. It was the first bacterial vaccination with the Hib vaccine following close on it’s heels.

The development of bacterial vaccines came just in time. The widespread use of a variety of different antibiotics has caused many bacteria, including pneumococcus, to become resistant to them. Unfortunately, pharmeceutical companies no longer devote much energy to making antibiotics. Vaccines may eventually stand alone as our last chance to fight bacterial infections.

The book spends a chapter discussing the claims that vaccines have caused autism and does a good job of delving into original source of the claims a Dr. Andrew Wakefield, and showing how he had changed data and mislead the public. Whether his observations have any truth in them is not for me to decide, but the fact that he was not completely honest and open with his study, changed data, and omitted data, does not inspire confidence in the study as a whole.

Unfortunately once this information was put out there there is no way to take it back, to make people stop believing it. It is human nature to want to have something to blame.

I never really discuss my own stance on childhood immunizations in an online forum. Mostly because I don’t want to be responsible for swaying anyone with my opinions. We do all the immunizations, but we delay them until after age two. And then we do them one at a time. Yes, it does take forever and require multiple trips (an co-pays). So why do I do it this way?

I have two children who had the severe reactions to their immunizations. You know the kind they tell you there is only a slight chance can ever happen? Yup, we got lucky twice. Interestingly, both of these children have ADHD which is a neurological condition on the same spectrum as autism. Did the vaccine cause this? Hell no. I can say it without a shadow of a doubt. They were both colicky babies. They were both extremely high maintenance before they ever had vaccines.

Here is what I think, an my pediatrician– who fully supports my decision to delay all vaccinations–thinks it is probably valid, children who already have neurological issues can react to a vaccine in a non typical way. But, I am not a doctor, or a researcher, as much as I like to pretend that I am. So my opinion is worth what you paid for it.

This book is not only a biography of Maurice Hillman, but also the history of immunizations.

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed an explosion in vaccine research and development, with vaccines to prevent measles, mumps, rubella (german measles), chicken pox, hepatitis a, hepatitis B, pneumococcus, meningococcus, and Hib. Before these vaccines were made, Americans could expect that every year measles wuld cause severe, fatal pneumonia; rubella would attack unborn babies, causing them to go blind or deaf or become mentally retarded; and Hib would infect the brain and spinal cord, killing or disabling thousands of young children. These nine vaccines virtually eliminated all of this suffering and disability and death. And Maurice Hillman made every one of them.

I was talking to my mother recently about childhood diseases. She grew up during the Depression and at a time when children routinely died or were disabled from diseases. She clearly remembers when both she and her brother had Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Her brother was much worse off and at the height of the illness he was not expected too make it through the night.

I had heard these stories before but since I was a child I identified with the roles of the sick child in the story. Now I put myself in the place of her mother. How that must have felt to stay up all night staring at your child. At a time when you couldn’t go to the hospital, were quarantined in your house, isolated and alone. Her father had left the house as soon as the children had shown signs of being sick. He couldn’t risk being quarantined with the family. He had to go to work.

Turns out Denise has blogged about this very same topic over BlogHer. If it interests you, you might want to head on over and check out the links she has on the the topic of immunization.

*I do not accept any monetary compensation for any book reviews that I write. The only thing I receive is the book. Because it is not yet possible to read a book telepathically.

Leaving a Smaller Footprint

August 8th, 2007

What is your carbon footprint? Take the quiz and find out where you rank according to the national average.

I took the quiz. But I answered as an entire family. I know I got penalty points added when I answered the questions about number of bedrooms in my house and how much money we spend on heating oil. But with a larger than average family I actually NEED the extra bedrooms and therefore need to heat them.

But regardless I would hazard to say that all of us can do things to reduce our consumption and lessen our impact on earth.

Did you know that leaving things plugged in, even when they are not being used– such as cell phone chargers, battery chargers, iPods, etc– uses about 10-15% of your total energy load? I had no idea it was that much.

So what can you do to save energy? Brainstorm with your children and see what they come up with. Children are much more likely to get on board with things if they think it is their idea.

Here is a list from the California Energy Commission to start the ideas flowing.

(cross posted at Mommypoints)