Ultimate Disaster Evacuation Checklists

10.31.2017

0600

Note: I created 5 downloadable documents in this post, feel free to download.

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Sonoma County, California Wildfires Force Evacuations Near San Francisco, Image of NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com

The Northern California Wildfires that recently occured left a devastating amount of damage. More than 160,000 acres—or 250 square miles—have burned in Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties, just north of San Francisco. Another 36,000 acres have burned farther north in Mendocino county. The fires are still not 100 percent contained. About  8,400 structures have been destroyed, according to Cal Fire, the state’s wildfire-fighting agency. The California insurance commissioner reported that about 5,500 homes were completely destroyed, with an additional 4,000 partially burned. Santa Rosa alone lost 3,000 homes to the fast-spreading Tubbs fire.

At the peak of this catastrophe, 11,000 firefighters across the state—including 3,800 inmate volunteers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—battled the flames. Firefighters would work anywhere from 24 to 80 straight hours, dousing active fires and chopping down trees and brush to prevent their spread. About 4,300 still remain on the frontlines as of 10/25/2017.

The devastation from those fires echoed across the state. A lot of residents, business owners lost everything. The fires burned so hot that the foundations of these homes were the only structural elements that survived. It also made me wonder if I was truly prepared for a disaster like this to strike in my own neighborhood. I decided to assemble the disaster evacuation checklists for anyone to download, for such a catastrophic event like these widlfires.

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Aerial view of a Santa Rosa neighborhood, after the wildfires settled. Image from http://www.CBS.com

Now, most people know that you should have Emergency Kits in your home. In California, our most well known natural disaster are earthquakes. If you grew up in California, you would have practiced earthquake drills at school or at home or were simply reminded what to do during an earthquake each year via public service announcements. However, it seems that there is little talk about evacuation disasters, where you have to leave everything behind, to save your life, your family’s lives, in order to survive. There’s a chance you may be alerted to prepare to evacuate, and sometimes you will not get that chance and have minutes to get out of your residence. This is a comprehensive post and I hope it can help someone out there.

 

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Before Disaster Strikes

So before any evacuation disaster strikes, there’s a lot that needs to be done. Take your time, be patient and go through these steps carefully. Since it’s a very detailed process to go through, keep pushing forward and by the end of it all, you’ll feel more prepared for the worst case disaster scenario.

Scanning and Photographing

  1. Transfer all home videos you’d like to keep into a digital file. You can save these on an external hard drive,  in your cloud, or both. If you want a simpler solution, transfer all VHS format videos to DVD format so they will be salvageable later on.
  2. Scan or photograph all photos you would like to keep, and organize them. Save on an external hard drive, cloud or both
  3. Scan or photograph all personal legal documents per person
    1. Diplomas
    2. Birth Certificate
    3. Social Security Card
    4. Immunization Record
    5. Health insurance card
    6. Medical Record & current prescriptions
    7. Car Titles
    8. Passport
    9. Take photos of all cards (front and back). I usually organize mine (face up) on a sheet of paper, then I flip the cards over to take pictures of the back of the cards. You can group 8 cards together on a single sheet of paper or take pictures of them individually. I tend to group cards into three categories.
      1. Membership cards (these cards will not likely change)
      2. Legal and important cards
      3. Cards in my wallet (these cards will likely change due to the expiration dates, so you can group these together and retake the picture as needed)

Create a Home Inventory of all of your belongings

 

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In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember all your possessions? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.

I thought I’d tell you how I approached my home inventory list. This Home Inventory project was also the perfect opportunity to declutter and clean up. It’s a lot easier to do this project when your drawers are cleaned up and organized. Since I was going through this project room by room, I first inventoried my first room and subsequently used that first room to store all of the items I planned to donate or not keep. I needed these items out of the way and I also planned on moving these items to my car, when I made the walk through video.

  1. Download a copy of the Household Inventory Checklist
  2. I like to take a picture of each wall of each room, then open up and examine each furniture piece on each wall. I then examine all of the items within each furniture piece. I always inventory items Left –>Right and Top–>Bottom.
  3. You can also do a walk through video to give an overall view of your possessions.

Checklists

 

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The American Red Cross Mile High Chapter put together a very useful American Red Cross_Emergency Preparedness Checklist (Edited)  in which, they listed out Who you should contact for information regarding the emergency, Creating an emergency plan, Preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit, Emergency contacts and physician contact numbers, Floor plan evacuation sheets, Home hazard awareness and an Emergency Kit for your car. I actually edited this PDF to accommodate two contacts per category, so that you could include a back up contact.  I placed a few symbols for reference to be used on the Floor Plan sheets like these below. The other items on the list are easily identifiable, so I didn’t include symbols for those, but you can add those in.

Floor Plan Key Sample- From Doc Hub

Create an Emergency Go Bag Checklist per member in the household. I combined an Emergency Kit and a Go Bag Checklist to create this Emergency Go Bag Checklist. This bag will have legal paperwork, pertaining to your health, home and finances. It’ll include some electronics and emergency items. Depending on what you take for sentimental items and valuable jewelry, this bag may become bulky and heavy. The bulkiest items on this checklist is clothes, food and water. I keep these bulk items outside of the Emergency Go Bag, so I know to grab those items on the way out. If you have to evacuate quickly, you may have to leave some of the bulk items behind. I would try to grab some water and food though. The highlighted rows are documents, so these should take up little space, or at least be able to lay flat.

If you want extra safe keeping, I created a Keep Away From Home Checklist so that certain legal documents can be kept in a separate safe location. If you choose to not have a separate location to keep these documents, this checklist will be combined with your Emergency Go Bag documents.

During an evacuation, there is very little time to organize what to do and where to go. In these stressful situations, saving yourself and your family is the primary focus. I put together another checklist of what to do Before, During and After An Evacuation Checklists. Keep this list along with your other checklists. These checklists will only be used upon evacuation. If you have already scanned and photographed your legal documents, you’ve already done half of the work. The other half of preparing for such a disaster is completing the home inventory.

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Ideally, the Emergency Go Bag will be light and easy to evacuate with. Because majority of the items listed on all three lists are documents, these items should be able to transport easily. Once you record these documents into digital files, you can back these digital documents up with cloud storage or with an external hard drive. I do both to cover my tracks.

I really wanted to make these checklists because I never realized how much goes into being prepared to evacuate. Even putting these documents together was a lot of work. If you declutter as you go, the work will be less. When you list out your room inventory, just go room by room so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. You’re literally going through every single item you own, so go at a comfortable pace. Set goals for each part of the project so at least you complete this project in sections. At the end of the day, stuff is really just stuff. Your life and your loves ones are priceless. I hope this post helps organize your home and help you become more prepared for disaster evacuations. Stay safe out there!

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Zero Waste Hallowen

10.24.2017

0600

Growing up Halloween has always been representative of dressing up and going out at night to trick-or-treat. As a kid, Halloween was a fun holiday for me because if all the free candy we would receive as we went out at night to go trick-or-treating. I didn’t grow up with much candy in my household so Halloween also meant that I would get to stock up on a large amount but I also had to ration my favorite candy pieces to last for awhile.

When I moved towards a zero waste lifestyle this holiday became slightly tricky. A lot of the joy I experienced came with the inevitable result of producing trash. All of the small wrappers of the individually wrapped candy pieces added up to a lot of trash. I wanted to figure out how to celebrate this holiday but still practice my zero waste lifestyle.

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There are three areas of each holiday I like to tackle: decorations, food and entertainment. For Halloween, you can decorate your spaces using

  • Reusable fall and Halloween decorations which you can pull out each year
  • Use dried leaves from trees in a bowl or a jar. I usually string rope across areas of rooms and I’ll hang  up the leaves using clothespins.
  • Use fresh fruit or vegetables as edible decor such as pumpkins and then once the holiday is over, you can even make delicious dishes using thm
  • You can arrange twigs and fall leaves in a vase
  • You can tie pieces of sticks together and create a wreath to decorate with colorful leaves
  • Any decoration that is compostable or reusable is a great option

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Food options can vary due to location, seasonal fruits and vegetables available.

  • Look for seasonal fruits and vegetable to make dishes with
    • Some seasonal vegetables to keep an eye out for:  pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes
    • Some seasonal fruit to look for: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, and grapes
    • Search for recipes available on the internet for this seasonal favorite. Websites such as YouTube , Pinterest , All RecipesFood Network, Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. If you’re anything like me, my searches always start with “simple” in front of my topic because I tend to lean towards simple ingredients and fewer steps when making dishes.
  • Bulk candy is also a great way to sneak in sweets during this holiday. A lot of bulk candy locations have a variety of options from chocolates to sour candies. The grocery stores I frequent have these options but my local movie theater has the name brand candy in bulk, that I love to eat as well.

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For Trick-Or-Treaters, consider handing out non-candy options. I’m still a big believer in feeding a child’s creativity so some of these items on the list are geared more towards art than just toys. During this season, children are usually in school, so if you hand out items they can use during school, it’ll also benefit the children. Here are some options other than candy, that you can hand out:

  • Crayons
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Play Doh
  • Coloring books
  • Mini notepads
  • Halloween Pencils
  • Mini slinkies
  • Bookmarks Pencils
  • Halloween Erasers
  • Hand out mini packets of herb seeds
  • Loose change such as dimes and quarters
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Compostable packaged snacks (crackers, raisins, pretzels, etc.)

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Entertainment can vary depending on what you have planned during Halloween.

  • Costumes
    • Check out costume rental stores, they always have a lot of variety and sizes to choose from, but remember to to check the stores early so there are more options available
    • Check out thrift stores for options of clothing to create your costume from
    • For families, check if you can swap costumes with neighbors, classmates or friends. You can even set up a costume swap meet if that helps get the word out.
    • Borrow clothes and items from friends, family or neighbors to see if you can assemble your costume and look of your character
  • Movies
  • Karaoke
  • Board Games or Card Games

Check out these other blog posts from some other Eco-Sustainable Bloggers:

I hope this list is helpful in creating a zero waste Halloween. If you choose to adopt only one of these ideas, you’re still helping the environment by creating less waste. It’s a step away from the standard Halloween traditions but it’s a more environmentally friendly outline for this holiday. Have a great Halloween!

Eco-Friendly Christmas

10.15.2017

0600

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Having an Eco-friendly holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It might sound complicated because the concept is different, but it’s actually pretty simple.  So for each holiday there are basic aspects of the holiday celebration I like to check off: decorations, food and entertainment. I don’t always cover all three categories equally and majority of my focus will usually be on the food.

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Decorations tend to be covered easily being that Christmas is such a huge holiday celebrated. Honestly, any type of decoration that is compostable or reusable is a good idea. Here are some ideas for zero waste holiday.

  1. Decoration Ideas:
    1. Seasonal
      1. Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
    2. Christmas
      1. Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
      2. Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface

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  1. Zero Waste Food
    1. Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
    2. Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
    3. For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
    4. Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another

Notebook

Gift ideas can be tricky for this holiday since it’s based around an iconic tree as well as what surrounds it on Christmas Day. However, here are a few ideas for zero waste gifts, you might want to consider. Check social media sites (Groupon, Living Social, Ticketmaster, etc.) for great deals for events and activities for family and friends during the holidays.

  1. Gift Ideas:
    1. Compostable Gifts
      1. Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
      2. Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
      3. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    2. Gift of Goods and Products
      1. Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
      2. If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
    3. Gift of Experiences
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
      4. Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    4. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
      1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
      2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
      3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

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  1. Gift Wrapping:
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
    3. For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
    4. For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.

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Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening. 

  1. Entertainment
    1. Movies- if you are able to stream movies, there are a few great resources to stream holiday movies during this time. Check YouTube or other streaming media, they usually have full movies uploaded to watch.
    2. Board Games – Ask your guest if they have any board games to play or would want to bring for the kids to share and play with
    3. Card Games – these games are always fun because a deck of cards can be really versatile

I hope this outline helped to brainstorm ideas for you. This is an overall idea list and if you want to check out other holiday blog posts, check out these holiday blog posts from these websites:

What’s My Carbon Footprint?

10.10.2017

0600

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I wanted to calculate my carbon footprint because I haven’t ever done so. I know that I watch what I buy and how much energy I use so I was hoping it would be low. There are aspects of my life I could probably change to reduce my carbon footprint, but I wanted a base number to start with. There are a few different carbon print calculators available, but this is the one I used. Also, I’m located in the United States of America, so I used the Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator, from the Nature Conservancy.

Because these calculators consist of a lot of smaller chunks of information, I thought I would at least list out the information needed for this calculator. I had to go searching for a large chunk of information to input, when I filled out my survey. So here is the the many pieces of information I needed, that you might need as well if you choose to use this carbon footprint calculator:

  1. Get Started: A QUICK CARBON FOOTPRINT ESTIMATE
    1. Zip Code
    2. City
    3. County
    4. State Country
    5. How many people live in your household?
    6. What is your approximate gross annual household income?
  2. Travel:  HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?
    1. Car(s): (Miles per gallon)
    2. Public Transit: (Miles per year)
    3. Air Travel: (Miles per year)
  3. Home: HOW MUCH DO YOU USE IN YOUR HOME?
    1. Electricity ($/year)
    2. Natural Gas ($/year)
    3. Heating oil & Other Fuels ($/year)
    4. Square ft. of living space
    5. Water useage ($/year)
  4. Food: HOW MUCH DO YOU CONSUME OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
    1. Simple Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Meat, fish, eggs
      2. Grains & baked goods
      3. Dairy
      4. Fruits & vegetables
      5. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    2. Advanced Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Beef, pork, lamb, veal
      2. Fish & seafood
      3. Other meat (processed, nuts, etc…)
      4. Poultry & eggs
      5. Grains & baked goods
      6. Dairy
      7. Fruits & Vegetables
      8. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    3. Shopping: HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
      1. Simple Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
        2. Services  ($/month)
      2. Advanced Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
          1. Furniture & appliances
          2. Clothing
          3. Entertainment
          4. Paper, office & reading
          5. Personal care & cleaning
          6. Auto Parts
          7. Medical
        2. Services  ($/month)
          1. Health Care
          2. Information & Comunication
          3. Medical
          4. Vehicle Services
          5. Personal business & Finance
          6. Household Maintenance & Repair
          7. Organizations & Charity
          8. Other Services

So my results stated that my Total Footprint is 20 tons CO2/year, which is 59% better than average person. This is a good standing to start from. I’m actually quite happy with it. I could try to adjust my daily decisions to see if I can reduce my footprint a re-take the survey, but it’s a good starting point.

The last section in the calculator allows you to sign a pledge to stand with Climate Action. There are a few different carbon footprint calculators. I encourage you all to take a look at how large or small your carbon footprint is. It’s amazing when you see it written down in a calculated measure of your daily decisions. Here are a few other websites that also have carbon footprint calculators that might be of god use as well:

  1. Carbon Footprint Calculator
  2. The Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint Calculator
  3. EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator
  4. WWF Footprint Calculator 
  5. Carbonfund Calculate 

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Minimalist Cooking Hacks

09.26.2017

0600

As someone who likes to make my routines as simple as possible, I also try to create simple cooking habit routines as well. This approach simplifies the ingredients I buy and my grocery shopping haul trips. Here are seven simple tips and tricks for cooking hacks.

 

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1. Focus on Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods

  • Whole, single-ingredient foods are the key to good health.
  • Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry and eggs are great examples. These foods are incredibly nutritious and satisfying.
  • When you focus on whole foods and high-quality ingredients, you will automatically start to eat less processed junk foods.
  • Processed foods often come with misleading health claims and long lists of ingredients, many of which you can’t even pronounce. However, truly healthy foods don’t even need an ingredients list. They are the ingredient.

Bottom Line: Eating healthy can be quite simple. Stick to whole foods and avoid processed foods made with refined ingredients and artificial chemicals.

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2. Use Simple Flavorings

  • If you buy high-quality ingredients, you don’t need to add a lot of flavoring. Olive oil, salt and pepper may be enough.
  • Fresh herbs can also do wonders for a meal.
  • Try to avoid buying new flavorings unless they are something you think you will use often.
  • If a new recipe requires hard-to-find spices and condiments, you can most likely replace them with something you already have.
  • A rare ingredient that you will end up using only once is a waste of money and space in your kitchen. Most of the time, you can stick to common ingredients that you already own and know how to use.

Bottom Line: You don’t need to own a lot of rare ingredients in order to add flavor to your food. Simple ingredients like high-quality olive oil, salt and pepper can be used in almost anything you make.

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3. Clean Out Your Spice Cabinet

  • Most people keep a lot of herbs and spices on hand. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you use them regularly and don’t have duplicates.
  • If your spice cabinet is disorganized and overflowing with spices you never use, you might want to tidy it up a bit.
  • Try to combine duplicates into one container and donate spices you never use. Throw away/compost spices that are old or bland.
  • Having a tidy spice drawer will help you cook faster because it will be easier to find the spices you’re looking for.
  • A good rule of thumb is to go through your spices at least once per year.

Bottom Line: Having a tidy spice cabinet will make you more efficient in the kitchen. Keep spices you use regularly within reach and combine duplicates. Throw out old spices and donate the ones you never use.

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4. Keep an Organized, Minimalist Pantry

  • Keep a clutter-free pantry stocked with quality foods you use regularly. Preparing healthy meals will become much easier.
  • A clutter-free pantry also makes your food less likely to spoil, since you’ll be able to see all your food items neatly organized.
  • You’ll find it easier to navigate your pantry and locate the items you’re looking for when cooking. Here are a few tips to help you organize your pantry:
    • Optimize storage: Store items you often use on the bottom shelves or near the front. Items you use less often can be stored in the back or a little higher.
    • Sort and group: Designate shelves for similar items, such as keeping your canned foods on one shelf and your breakfast foods on another.
    • Label everything: Label all of your pantry items and store them in clear, well-sealed containers so that your foods don’t spoil.
    • Increase accessibility: Try to place items so they are either directly accessible or you can reach them after moving just one item.

Bottom Line: Taking the time to plan and organize your pantry will make both shopping and cooking easier and more enjoyable.

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5. Simplify Your Kitchen Tools

  • There are tons of clever gadgets you can purchase for your kitchen.
  • Yet many are nonessential, single-purpose appliances.
  • You don’t need fancy kitchenware to cook a great, healthy meal. Simple meals require just a few basics.
  • If your kitchen is cluttered with items you rarely use, consider selling or donating them. Focus on keeping the functional items you use on a regular basis — it’s a plus if they serve multiple purposes.
  • However, figuring out what’s essential is entirely up to you. This varies, and something you regularly use may seem unnecessary to someone else. What you use depends on your lifestyle, how you cook and what kinds of foods you like to eat.
  • Try storing the items you rarely use in a box. If you haven’t opened it in six months, then it’s probably safe to sell or donate those things.

Bottom Line: You don’t need highly specialized, fancy tools for most tasks in the kitchen. Consider selling or donating kitchenware you don’t use often and keeping only the most useful kitchen items.

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6. Think Before You Shop

  • You should think carefully before you purchase a new kitchen gadget.
  • Start by asking yourself if you really need it. If you’re not sure, think it over for one week before you decide to buy it.
  • Setting yourself a rule of “one in, one out” may also help. So for any new item you bring into the kitchen, another needs to go.
  • Think creatively and you might even be able to use something you already own in a different way than you’re used to.

Bottom Line: When it comes to kitchen appliances, less is more. Think carefully before you decide to add another item to your kitchen, especially if it’s an item that’s designed to perform just one specific task.

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7. Clear Your Kitchen Counter

  • It’s time to de-clutter your kitchen counter.
  • Store kitchenware you use less frequently in your cabinets and drawers instead of on the countertop.
  • This is especially important if you live in a small apartment with limited counter space.
  • You’ll have more room to prepare meals and you’ll probably enjoy cooking more if there is less clutter around you.
  • This will also allow you to be more organized and focused while cooking.
  • If you need to keep items on the kitchen counters because of limited cabinet space then make sure they’re frequently used and essential for food preparation.
  • If you like to store items like keys, mail and wallets on your kitchen counter, make sure everything has a place where it belongs.

Bottom Line: Kitchen counters tend to attract clutter. Keeping them clear will give you more space to prepare meals and enjoy your time in the kitchen.