Interview on local NPR

This week, I had an opportunity to be interviewed by Odette Yousef, a reporter from my local National Public Radio affiliate, WABE. The MP3 and story can be found here. We discussed the fact that Delta has joined other airlines in charging passengers an extra fee for checking more than one bag. Starting May 1, Delta has said that passengers will have to pay $25 to check their second bag.

Here are some suggestions for smarter and more compact packing:

  • Choose your travel clothing wisely, making sure that their colors coordinate so that you can create several outfits from the same pieces. This will cut down on the total amount of clothing you have to pack.
  • Pack lighter clothing, especially fleece, that can be layered so that you can adjust easily for temperature changes. This may help you avoid packing bulkier sweaters or jackets.
  • If you must bring a coat or jacket, carry it on the plane instead of trying to pack it into your suitcase.
  • Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane. Many guys reading this may be scratching their heads wondering why anyone would pack more than one pair of shoes. Ladies, you understand.
  • Carry a small backpack or tote onto the plane and stock it with some of the items you may normally have packed in your larger suitcase. For example, I now regularly pack my trip's reading material, makeup, a fleece jacket, and a small purse into my backpack that is stowed under the seat in front of me. I can then use the fleece jacket as a pillow during the flight.
  • Make sure that you limit your hand-carried liquids or gels to 3 oz. and they must fit into a one-quart ziplock bag.
  • Pack clothing that is less prone to wrinkle such as the Travelers line by Chico's.
  • Experience has taught me that men generally don't pack as much as women do. If you are a gal with a male traveling companion, see if you can sweet-talk him into packing some of your stuff in his bag.
With a little planning and restraint, you can limit yourself to one check-in bag and save a little dough at the airport. Maybe then you can afford one of those $20 turkey sandwiches they sell in the concourse food shops.

Electronics Recycling Day

Twice a year in my hometown of Decatur, the city hosts their Electronics Recycling Day. If you live nearby, dig out your old electronic items and take them to the Decatur High School Parking Lot (corner of N. McDonough Street and Howard Avenue) this Saturday, March 29 from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Here's just a sample of what you can recycle: desktop or laptop computers, telephones and telephone equipment, mini-towers, monitors, typewriters, label makers (it's so sad when these old friends die), copiers, mice (not the kind that like cheese, please), fax machines, joystick game controllers, answering machines, printers and cartridges, digital cameras, zip drives, speakers, PDAs, pagers, VCRs, DVD players, routers, scanners, cable converter boxes, CD players, portable game players, cables, GPS receivers, radios, and stereo equipment. (I am SO asking my husband to get rid of some of those turntables in the attic!)

In addition to electronics, they will also be accepting clean Styrofoam (peanuts, packing boxes, plates, cups, trays), batteries of any type, and mercury thermometers and thermostats. They will not be accepting televisions and microwaves, however.

Electronics dropped off during the event will be sorted to be re-used or disassembled into their raw materials. It is recommended that computers be erased of all personal information prior to disposal at the event.

Last fall, 66 tons of electronics were diverted from the landfill! Note that you don't have to live or work in the city of Decatur to participate. So if you've been meaning to get rid of some of those old electronics from your home and office, this Saturday is the time! I can think of a few clients of mine that could still benefit from this purging opportunity....Come on, you can do it!

And if you'd like to volunteer for the event, please contact Chris Carroll at (404) 388-0023, Scott Thompson at or the City of Decatur Public Works at (404) 377-5571. Please forward this to anyone who think may have electronics to be recycled.

The Happiness Project

One of my favorite personal-improvement bloggers, Alex Shalman, recently had a series of posts that he called The Happiness Project. Basically, he asked several of his favorite bloggers and authors to answer a few questions related to their happiness. Then he posted their answers over the course of the month. I found the interviews to be thought-provoking and uplifting. So, when Alex invited his readers to join in, I jumped at the chance.

See my thoughts about happiness below, and visit The Happiness Project to learn more about Alex and his provocative ideas regarding self-improvement.

How do you define happiness?

Happiness for me is a present sense of satisfaction as well as a feeling of hope for the future. Happiness can range from a warm sense of well-being to a glowing feeling of euphoria.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child?

I would rate my happiness as a child and as an adult around an 8 or 9. I've always been a happy person, which is highly improbable given my genes and the way my life started. My mother, my maternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather all suffered from depression. My mother committed suicide when I was three years old.

Luckily, I seem to be hard-wired to be happy. I attribute a great deal of my propensity towards happiness to a healthy, positive upbringing with my father. He discovered the power of positive thinking and affirmations in the seventies and taught me those life skills as he was learning them. Then he married a very funny woman who is one of my best friends today. There was a LOT of laughter in my house growing up.

The only time that I've experienced the sense of helplessness and despair faced by my mother and her parents was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38. But I bounced back quickly from that bombshell once I had a plan of action to conquer the disease. In fact, the diagnosis later helped me re-prioritize my life plans, and I started my Professional Organizing business soon after I completed cancer treatments.

What do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness, and how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout your day?

I am consistently happy throughout the day. I really enjoy being busy and having routines and productive habits. I like to rise before 6:00 a.m., eat a healthy breakfast, exercise, pull out my ACTION folder, and plan my day.

I get immense pleasure from teaching people how to be better organized and more focused. It's great fun to grow a business by providing a service that so many people need. I can honestly say that I love to help people sort through their clutter, develop filing systems, and color-coordinate their closets. Yep, I'm weird that way. Only another neat freak would understand.

In my "down time," I enjoy laughing with friends, riding my bicycle, reading non-fiction (history, business, personal development), or surfing the web in the office I share with my husband. But the best part of each day is when I curl up in bed with a book and my sweet dog, Ruby, jumps up on the bed and lays her head on my feet. It happens every night, and it never ceases to put a smile on my face.

What things take away from your happiness? What can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life?

The things that take away from my happiness include not scheduling enough time for exercise, and saying "Yes" to too many commitments at once. I also get frustrated when I don't schedule enough time to write. I've recently said "No" to some commitments in order to help me carve out that time for exercising and writing. I'm also hiring people to do more things for me so that I can focus on the most important (or fun) tasks.

Oh, and I try not to dwell on the whole cancer thing. It happened, it's over, I'm healthy now. Next!

What do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness?

I plan on writing more because it enables me to help more people at once. For the same reason, I want to do more motivational speaking. Public speaking is something that I really enjoy (another one of my freakish qualities). There's a great high that comes from making people laugh while you're helping them learn new skills.

And for the really long term, my husband and I are quickly becoming debt-free and are saving as much money as possible so that we'll be able to retire in our 50's. I personally love to work, but I want the option of only doing work I love and then only working when I want to. Now, that's my idea of happiness and personal freedom!

Spice Things Up!

While organizing a client's kitchen recently, I came across some pretty sad looking herbs and spices. The dried parsley and oregano that were once green were now a dull shade of gray, and a couple of the spices were lumpy and odorless (so you can bet they were also flavorless).

"How old do you think these spices are?" I asked the client who doesn't do much cooking. She didn't have a clue and, in fact, couldn't recall how a couple of them had managed to sneak into her cupboard.

I did a little research on McCormick's web site and came across some guidelines to help you decide when it's best to send your old spices to the garbage.

  • Spices, ground: 2-3 years shelf life
  • Spices, whole: 3-4 years shelf life
  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years shelf life
  • Herbs: 1-2 years shelf life
  • Extracts: 4 years, except pure vanilla which lasts indefinitely
Granted, you may be able to squeeze a little more life out of your spices than the recommendations above, but you'll get more flavor for your buck if you keep your spice rack current.

Here are a few more tips I cooked up:

  • Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aromoa is weak and the flavor is not apparent, it's time to replace it.
  • Store herbs and spices in a tightly capped container, and keep away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight.
  • To minimize moisture and caking, use a dry measuring spoon and avoid sprinkling directly into a steaming pot.
  • For McCormick brand spices, check the freshness date on the bottom or right side of the bottle. Note that the labels with Baltimore, MD on them are at least 15 years old.
  • Except for black pepper, McCormick spices in rectangular tins are also at least 15 years old.
  • Write the month and year purchased on the labels of your spices when you first put them into your spice rack.
Your homework for this week: Take a quick inventory of your spice collection and toss out the faded herbs and expired spices. If you cook frequently and need to replace what you are throwing out, go ahead and add the items to your next grocery shopping list. Otherwise, hold off replacing the herb or spice until you're preparing a recipe that calls for it.

If you have other tips and tricks for spicing things up, let us know!