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Monday, October 31, 2011

Organizing Small Spaces – File Systems (Together is not always Better)

When space is limited, workspaces must be as functional as possible.  Although it seems contrary to the principles of organization, it may make sense not to keep your files together in one place in order to maximize functionality. 

My workspace does double duty as my home office and my crafting area.  It is also in the living room, so I like it to be presentable (at least most of the time).  I have a nice looking, large two-drawer filing cabinet that also provides a home at working height for my paper storage and storage for the tools I use regularly when I do crafts.  But when I needed some extra space to store some larger crafting tools, I looked sideways at the filing cabinet and wondered how much space I could clear.  

I was amazed when I could comfortably empty an entire drawer with the files that rarely get accessed.  Most of these were tax or work related records that I need to access only about once a year.  The space is much better served by moving these files to boxes under the bed and giving some awkward larger tools a convenient home out of site.

Please comment with your ideas for keeping your workspace organized when you are short on space!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pretty Organized: Wired Up

The problem:  A constant influx of our daughter’s artwork from preschool; a desire to show off her work, but little time to spend re-framing new artwork.

The solution: Clip the artwork and hang it from cable wire.  You could put this together from items available at your local hardware store, but we used the DignitetCurtain Wire system from IKEA.  It comes with corner pieces that can be hung straight out from one wall to another to span an entire wall, like we did, or at a ninety degree angle to allow you to hang the wire at any length you desire.

It is sold as an inexpensive and customizable alternative to the curtain rod for hanging curtains, but we like the look and the flexibility for displaying artwork.  Because it is cable wire, it is strong (the Dignitet system has a max load of 11 lb), so you could even use it in your office to keep pencil holders and other lightweight tools off the work surface.

Please share your solutions for displaying children's artwork!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

5 Answers: BPA (Bisphenol A)

Welcome to the latest column of my blog entitled 5 Answers.  Although it seems like a departure from my blog about all things organization, its purpose is to organize the buzz and the facts available on a topic into a succinct summary. 

I will research topics from current events and pop culture and post a concise article that provides the answers to 5 pertinent questions on the topic.  Please feel free to request 5 Answers posts on topics about which you are interested to know more.  Most likely others will be interested as well!

On October 4, 2011, California signed into law the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act.  Effective July 1, 2013, the use of BPA will be banned from the manufacture and sale of infant bottles and sippy cups in California.  I have been wary of BPA since my oldest daughter was born, but I haven’t really researched the subject.   

5 Answers about BPA:

1.  What is BPA?  BPA, or bisphenol A, is an ingredient in many plastic household items, canned goods, and electronics. 

2.  Where is BPA found?  BPA can be found in polycarbonate plastic, epoxy resins and thermal paper (such as credit card receipts).  BPA is also used to make some types of PVC.

Polycarbonate (PC) plastics should be marked with the recycling symbol 7, which is the catch-all or “other” category of plastics.  There may also be a small ‘PC’ mark near the recycling symbol.  PC plastics are clear; if the plastic is opaque, it is probably not PC.  PC plastics are widely used in infant bottles, water bottles, tableware, and plastic toys.  In a Harvard study, BPA levels measured an average of 69% higher after drinking water from polycarbonate plastic bottles compared with stainless steel bottles.1

Epoxy resin lines most metal canned food and drink items, including canned vegetables, soups and infant formula.  

3.  What are the effects of BPA exposure? BPA belongs to a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors.  BPA looks like estrogen, so it mimics the actions of estrogen in the body, but it is more problematic because it isn't actually estrogen.

BPA-exposure is difficult for scientists to study in humans, because we are all exposed to it.  In a CDC study, BPA was detected in the urine of 93% of 2,517 participants tested!2

BPA has been linked to brain development and behavioral problems, heart disease, diabetes, cancers (specifically breast, liver and prostate), and early-onset puberty.

4.  How much BPA exposure can we get from canned goods?  As shown in the following figure, analysis of BPA testing shows that 1 in 10 cans of food (any kind) and 1 in 3 cans of infant formula exceeds the government’s current safety threshold for BPA exposure (and were within a factor of 5 of the dose known to be toxic).3 Acidic or fatty canned foods such as tomatoes and beans are likely to contain more leached BPA.2  

Summary of Findings: Percent of canned foods tested in which BPA-levels exceeded safety thresholds  
Borrowed From:

Recent research has suggested that the current safety threshold may even need to be lowered to prevent harmful effects listed in the previous section.4,5  In response to this concern, government agencies are sponsoring millions of dollars of research into the effects of BPA.

5.  How can we avoid BPA exposure?  Many food containers and plastics for children are marked BPA-free.  If the plastic has a recycling code, avoid type 7 (especially if also marked ‘PC’) and type 3 (PVC).  Recycle any plastic baby bottles or other food containers if they are scratched, as it becomes easier for chemicals to leach out when scratched.  Also avoid microwaving food in plastic containers.

Opt for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned ones.  Many soups are available in cardboard packaging.  Eden Organic makes canned beans in BPA-free cans and tomatoes and tomato sauces in glass jars.  Use powdered infant formula instead of liquid if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you. 

Use reusable stainless steel containers for on-the-go water instead of plastic water bottles (unless they are marked BPA-free).  And always opt for reusable instead of disposable containers.

Please comment with your thoughts on BPA and other ideas for how to avoid BPA.

3 - “EWG calculated people's BPA exposures from canned food using the following assumptions: Calculations reflect a single adult serving, using label serving size and body weight of 60 kg (132 lbs); exposures for concentrated infant formula is calculated for exclusively formula-fed infant using average 3-month-old body weight (6 kg or 13 lbs) and average daily formula ingestion (840 g or 30 oz); formula is assumed diluted with water free of BPA. Estimated single-serving exposures are compared against BPA dose of 2 ug/kg/d linked in lab studies to permanent damage of reproductive system from in utero exposures and referenced as "toxic dose" in [the figure].”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Give Yourself a Break and a Laugh

As I sat down to write a blog post this morning, I had to laugh when I realized the irony that I write a blog about organization.  This is what my desk surface looked like!!   

 I might be the only organizational blogger that has these moments, but I seriously doubt it!

This has been yet another busy, crazy week.  I had a big writing deadline for one of my consulting clients, so I’ve been sneaking extra work time in here and there, which results in me running away from the work repeatedly to tend to a needy child.  After the kids go to bed, I should straighten up so things are neat and welcoming the next morning, but I just haven’t thought about doing it this week.

I’m proud of myself for taking a few minutes to laugh at the ridiculousness of the idea that I try to share insights on organization.  Then, after the photo to record the moment, I straightened things up.  The messy "pile" isn’t usually quite this large, and it only took me 15 minutes to clean up my work surface (including dusting), put things away where they go, and get ready to work. 

Take a few minutes today to give yourself a break.  Be proud of all that you accomplish.  Try to find humor in your imperfections.
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