Spring Organization: One Day at a Time

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Spring is here, and summer is right around the corner!  No one wants to stay at home and organize during the summer, so now is the time to do some spring cleaning and organizing and you will be ready for a fun and relaxing summer in no time!  This spring we challenge you to a 30 day organizing and cleaning challenge.  Just think, in 30 days, you should have an organized and clean home (if you skip a few days or need longer, you can go into May and still have plenty of time before June to get it done)!  When doing your spring cleaning and organizing start by trying to spend one hour a day on your organizing and cleaning projects.  Set a timer, stay on task, and try not to get distracted.  Decide if you are going to donate or sell unwanted and unneeded items.  Make 3 piles each day you tackle a new project: ….donate, keep, and trash.  There are so many awesome places in Charleston that will take your items.  Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, East Cooper Community Outreach, The National Kidney Foundation, and some of these places will even pick up your items at your house.  Be ruthless when it comes to decluttering.  If you don’t use it or love it, it is clutter.  With less clutter, you will have less to clean and keep up with.  You will have an easier time finding what you use which means……less stress!

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Everyone always asks me if my home is immaculate and organized.  Yes, it is organized and usually pretty darn clean, but I also do this spring clean up once or twice a year.  Upkeep is key to an organized household!  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you still have to keep up with what you have organized.  For example, I let my closet get a little crazy lately, so I had to spend a good two hours in there last weekend purging and straightening things up a bit.

To participate in the challenge, tackle the projects we have listed, and try to get one project done a day.  Some projects may take more than a day (like a playroom).  That is why we have only listed 18 projects in the challenge…you have 12 extra days to spend on areas where you need extra time.  If we haven’t listed a room or an area you need to organize, just add that onto the list.  You don’t need to organize in this order either.  Just start where you want and check off each as you completed it.  Just think….April and May organizing/cleaning/hard core purging then fun in the sun June, July & August!  Hmm….this also sounds like my exercise schedule.

1. Children’s Rooms (this is a biggie–probably 2 hours for each room).  Go through those toys and purge (I find it is best to clean and organize when the child is not at home).  Put up those winter clothes and either consign or donate the clothes you know your child will not be wearing next season.

2. Bathrooms (approximately an hour).  Toss those old medications, wipe out drawers and cabinets, toss those hair products and other bath items you aren’t using anymore.

3.  Clean out pantry.  Wipe down all of those shelves and maybe even buy some cute baskets for breakfast items or snacks for kids.

4. Clean out fridge and freezer.  Toss the mystery meat!

5.  Wipe down and organize all kitchen cabinets

6. Clean out a closet (or two)…closets are biggies.  Assign approximately an hour for linen or other types of closets.  Clothes closets are another biggie…probably at least two hours.  Remember, if you don’t like it or love it, get rid of it!  I was just reading an article in Oprah’s magazine where she even says you only need 33 items in your closet….say WHAT?!!??

7. Clean out your dishwasher.  I love this blog and post called One Good Thing… she has some great ideas, and I love how she tells us how to clean out your dishwasher. http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/02/how-to-clean-your-dishwasher.html

8. Clean out your washing machine.  I have had a front loader for about 10 years.  I just found out a few years ago to always leave the door cracked.  That is why I have a ring of mildew around my washer and this method helped me to tackle that problem.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/clean-washing-machine-vinegar_n_3232149.html

9. Clean out your microwave. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/how-to-clean-a-microwave_n_1701949.html

10.  Freshen that mattress.…We recently had a case of the grossest thing I could ever possibly imagine with one of our children….pinworms.  Don’t judge people…you can get them anywhere! :-)  Needless to say, I went on a psycho cleaning frenzy for a while there, but this is one of my favorite things I did in that frenzy.  Makes your bedroom smell heavenly!  http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/07/how-to-clean-and-freshen-your-mattress.html

11.  Spend a day and wipe down all doors and baseboards…..that makes such a difference!!!

12.  Tackle that paper pile…just do it.  File what you need to file, pay the bills, etc….Taming the paper tiger is a biggie!  You  need to find a system that works for you and stick with it!

13. Clean under the kitchen sink…I love to use any old plastic bin to keep my cleaning products organized under the sink

14.  Entertainment Area… If you still use CD’s and DVD’s make sure the discs are with their proper cases.  Don’t hoard DVD’s you know you will never look at like how to use a Vitamix.  You can always find that online!

15.  Desk Clean up…Get rid of all clutter on your desk and make it your happy place where you can actually sit and enjoy working on the computer, paying bills, etc…

16. Junk drawer clean out…Just clean it out and try to make it somewhat organized with small baskets from Wal-Mart or wherever.

17.  Sock & Underware Drawer….Need I say more?  Throw out the ones with holes and other stuff!

18. Car…Clean it out, get a car wash, and make a little basket with kid essentials to keep in your car like bug spray, wet wipes, etc…

Happy Spring Cleaning and Organizing!
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10 Tips To An Organized 2014

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Some of you may have made a New Year’s resolution to become more organized in 2014.  I personally am going to lose a few pounds, try to be more patient with my kids, and grow my fingernails.  These are pretty much my standard resolutions almost every year….hmmmm.  Oh well, at least I am organized (most of the time), and here are 10 tips that I hope you will find useful in your quest for organization in 2014!

1.  It isn’t going to happen in one day.  At first, organizing can seem overwhelming and stressful.  That is why you need to give yourself time and write out a schedule for what and when you are going to organize and stick to it.  If you only have a spare hour or two a day, give yourself a week, two weeks, or even a month for big projects.  If you have more time, give yourself about two to three days in each room spending 3 to 4 hours each day.  If possible, try to get those hours in early in the day.  For your first organizing project, start small with something like bathroom cabinets and when you are done you will see how good it makes you feel and have that sense of accomplishment and hopefully want to move forward with your other organizing projects.

2.  The first step to getting organized is to DECLUTTER.  Decide what you want to do with things you don’t use or need anymore and either give to Goodwill or Habitat, or even have a yard sale.  You can also put items on Craig’s List or eBay and you can always consign some items as well.  Here are some items that I know you have too many of….just getting rid of these will make a lot of space in your home.  Know that if you are donating these items, they will go to a family who really needs them.  Get rid of: excess towels (you can even take these to animal shelter too…they love them), sheets/bedding, coffee mugs & extra glasses, books (I know I am a former librarian, but if they are just collecting dust and you don’t have room for them, send them to your local library or better yet donate them to booksforsoldiers.com…if you ever want to read the book again, go visit your local library), vases, mini travel products, cleaning and grooming products, make-up, and kitchen gadgets.  Love this quote: “Clutter-clearing is the modern day alchemy.” – Denise Linn

3.  Think about what you are keeping.  Ask yourself these questions when decluttering.

  • When was the last time I used this?  A good rule of thumb is to get rid of it if you haven’t touched it in a year.
  • Will I ever use this again?  When?  Why?
  • Why am I holding on to this?
  • Is this item giving me joy?

I tend to think that when you declutter and get rid of things, you can make money, have more space, and less stress…..SIMPLE.  That helps me get rid of the clutter without feeling the guilt.  That is why I love a good yard sale, eBay, and Craig’s List.

4.  Don’t keep lists and things you need to do in your head….WRITE IT DOWN.  Write everything you think of or need to do down somewhere…whether it be your day planner, phone, calendar, whatever.  We all have so many things we are constantly thinking of that we need to do, so it is good to get it down on paper and get it out of your mind.  The best thing to do is to go ahead and put it on a specific day on your calendar so you know you have to get it done that day.  If you don’t get it done on a certain day, move it to the next day or later on in the week so you are held accountable for getting it done.

5.  If you have a hard time getting things done and easily get distracted, set a timer.  Work on a project for an hour and set the timer.  Don’t answer the phone, don’t answer the door, stay focused on what you need to get done and stick to it.

6.  Keep your mental and physical health in shape.  When you feel better, you have more energy to get things done during the day.

7.  Once you get organized, stay that way.  You are not going to stay organized unless you do the upkeep.  Schedule 15-20 minutes a day to clean up, go through mail, or whatever you need to do.  A good rule of thumb is if you can do it in two minutes or less, go ahead and do it and toss the paper.  Also schedule 6 month or yearly “touch-ups.”  I spend a week in each room of my house during January and February just sort of going through closets and drawers, cleaning them out and tidying them up.  (I give myself a week for each room, but usually just spend about an hour every day or two touching up).

8.  Paper and home office…clean out those files now and start new ones for 2014 records.  Check out my two home office organization posts and decide what you need to keep and for how long.  Home Office Organization: Part 1  Home Office Organization: Part 2 

9.  If you open it, shut it.  If you get it out, put it up.  

10.  I love this quote by Christina Scalise.  “Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.”

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Keep Calm And Wait For Carson

 

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If you happen to be pulling out any silver for a fancy holiday meal, you will want to read this guest post written by my mom, Carol Cassone, who has been obsessing over cleaning and storing her silver for years.  She finally tackled that silver closet and did an unbelievable job (just like the mother of a professional organizer).  Really, she just wants to make sure that when she is gone (not for a long, long time), I know the history behind each piece of her silver.  You will want to read this funny and informative post, and hopefully it will help you with your own silver!  Here is a picture of mom with her 97 year old dad (grandpa is wearing the sweater) and his friend during her recent visit to see him in Louisville! Thanks for the post Mom!

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Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey manage the cleaning of ones silver? But alas, for all the conveniences of this century, we are NOT likely to have butlers who clean and care for our silver. Now that the third season of Downton is over, the reality of the distress in my own silver closet became my winter obsession. Not just because the pieces I have are tarnishing to gunmetal black again, but the sense that I really wanted to clean them for the last time, and leave my girls with a little bit of history of each item. I fear they would do a drop off at Goodwill if they were to come across the mess of odd silver serving pieces in their current blackened state.
Here’s how I approached this project and what I learned along the way.
1. Cleaning of the Silver. I was dying to try out a Pinterest post on cleaning silver quickly in your sink. The directions on a susanbranch.com repin, said, De-tarnish ALL your silver all at once …line your sink with aluminum foil, add 1/2 C table salt, 1/2 C baking soda, fill with hot water, then dump in all your silver. Let sit for about 30 minutes. The tarnish all transfers to the foil. If you do this, and yes it does work, make sure the water is steaming hot water and that the pieces each touch each other and the foil. Some articles say 5 minutes, and others 30. I found I needed 30 minutes on my highly tarnished things and that there was still some tedious hand polishing that needed to be done on the pieces. It was a “fun with chemistry” project though and kickstarted my rather large task. (Photo from Susan Branch on Pinterest)
A quick internet search gave me some helpful information: Weiman Royal Sterling Silver polish and Twinkle silver polish were the top rated polishes by Good Housekeeping. They also advised to store silver in anti tarnish silver cloth bags or wrap in acid free tissue paper and seal in zipper topped bags.
The Martha Stewart site did recommend the aluminum foil sink method, but added only the baking soda with boiling water.
I also found a very comprehensive site on all things related to silver … www.hermansilver.com Not only does this site tell you how to clean and store silver, but he has the websites for ordering Silver cloth and anti-tarnish strips. This site is so comprehensive, he even lists places to sell or appraise your silver and a guide to reading the hallmarks on your silver. The FAQ’s on this site will blow you away. He’s a bit cool on the aluminum foil sink method – does not fully recommend it, and has a rating on most all the silver polishes on the market. He abhors Tarn-X.
2.Silver Cloth Covers -  You probably are familiar with Silver cloth. It’s what the lining of silverware drawers are covered in and in which many fine silver dealers will wrap your silver piece. As my husband collected silver over the years, we got silver cloth bags with the name of the jeweler on the bag. Over the years, I had not put the pieces back in the bags, and most of the pieces we had did not even have silver cloth bags. I purchased brown silver cloth from Ebay and bought the least expensive at $9.99 a yard (Fabrichut.com). When you cut silver cloth it does not ravel. This made it easy to cut the cloth and stitch up the sides on a sewing machine with a 6 inch or so overlap in a size that would fit each piece. Large trays took the most cloth. I used pinking shears on the outside flaps or places where the edge would show.
3. Labeling the Silver - Once it’s covered in silver cloth, you can’t tell what the piece is of course. So I photographed each piece. Then I bought inexpensive 4×6 photo albums from the dollar store ( It’s Dollar Tree where everything is a dollar), and cut out each page. Each photo page allowed me to put a photo of the piece on one side and a 4×6 index card on the other where I could write a description of the piece, any markings it had and my comments about the piece. In that comment section, I wrote where we had purchased or inherited the piece, how I had used it, and gave them a heads up that it was older and valuable or that it was an ordinary 20th Century piece, or a red star if it was actually sterling rather than silver plate. I used ribbon to tie around the silver cloth, punched a hole in the index card to run the ribbon through before tying a bow to secure it. These labels should make it easy for me to reach for the right piece that I may need now, while still keeping them in an anti-tarnish cloth. I also quickly photographed the index cards with my IPad in hopes that the ICloud will store those photos as a record of the inventory of silver that we have. I used the small pictures that a photo proof sheet provided to staple to the index cards so that the cards also had a photo of the piece for our records.
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20/20 Hindsight - I like silver cloth, but after reading about wrapping the pieces in acid free tissue paper and putting them in large zip locks, I think that is probably a much easier and less costly method. You can then put anti-tarnish strips in the bag with the piece. The best advice I read from the hermansilver.com site was to never let a piece tarnish. Wash it in “no lemon” Dawn dishwashing detergent, and use your silver every day . You know Lady Grantham does:-)

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Happy Holidays!

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Christmas Craft Paper

I know I’ve said it before, but now more than ever do you need to heed this advice- use CRAFT PAPER for wrapping this time of year!

Go ahead and refer back to my post this summer about Consolidating with Craft Paper.

Craft Paper Dispensor

Please people, don’t fall prey to those gift bags at Michael’s or rolls of paper at Target just because you feel “ahead of the game” and you got the best Santa pattern.  Stay calm, and craft paper it!  Get the kids involved.  Threaten them by way of their Elf!  (by the way, if you are reading this and it’s dark outside, move it! The Elf that is)  I promise that you will have a much better result by way of the Earth and Economy!

Go here for supplies…The Stand by Crate and Barrel plus Paper by Crate and Barrel.  One stop shopping and 15% off of SHIPPING using coupon code SAVE15!

Tis’ the season!

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Top 5 Organizing Products To Be Thankful For!

As the holiday season descends upon us, we will take time to celebrate and gather with the ones we love; thus, making it undeniably the busiest time of year.  Thanksgiving, being the first in the line up, has me thinking about what I am thankful for and I, of course, am mostly thankful to God, my family, and friends.

But as it relates to Ducks In A Row, I am also thankful for some great organizing products.  In between working, attending Thanksgiving programs and feasts at school, making fake turkeys out of Oreos and candy corn, beginning to think about Christmas gifts, and just the general hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I wanted to share with you my top 5 organizing products that I am thankful for this year.  These organizing staples made life and work a lot easier!

1. White plastic bins from Wal-Mart.  By far the cheapest and easiest organizing tool.  They come in all shapes and sizes and are always in the back of my car when working with clients.

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Handbag Heaven

As you know, we barely experience the change of seasons in Charleston. Starting in January, it goes from brisk to pleasant to warm to hot to hotter to insanely hot back to pleasant and then brisk. But somehow we follow along with the seasonal fashion trends and yet you always hear people in Charleston say how we don’t even have seasons.

Even still, when the people in New York start wearing coats, well by God, I get online and buy myself one. And then it sits in my closet for 2 months before I can wear it. And that is because we get those random hot days in November.  Not to mention shoes this time of year. We all go out and buy our Frye boots in fear that they will sell out by the time it is actually cold enough to wear them. But there they sit in all their glory in my closet next to my sandals that I am actually wearing.

Don’t even get me started on the white jeans debate.  Labor Day Schmabor Day.  People, if Tom Crawford says it’s going to be 72, then I can wear my white jeans. Once he says it’s going below 70, I put them away. And so should you. Debate is officially over.

But the one item that we can all agree on purchasing to start the Fall season regardless of temperature is a new handbag.  There is no excuse not to purchase a new, fresh, on trend handbag.  And so I did just that about a month ago and couldn’t be happier with my selection.

If you are like me, then you begin your search in the magazines and dog ear 50 bags or so. Then you begin your online research. You save favorites on Pinterest and zoom in on photographs to see if there is a pocket or zipper in all the right places.  Then you put about 10 in your cyber shopping bag.  Yet you are afraid to click “buy” because of the price or because you can’t really pull off that look or because you are waiting for the sale. And then you realize by the time you commit to the purchase they are out of black or brown and all that is left is some random jewel tone. And at that price point, you cannot have purple as your mainstay bag color.

Well, as luck would have it, I found my perfect bag this year without experiencing any of those hiccups.

Before I show you the bag, let me just say that as a professional organizer it wouldn’t be prudent to walk around with a disheveled handbag.  A girl has to represent.  And one question we get all the time from our clients is if our homes are organized or are we much like the cobbler’s children without any shoes. And the best way to answer this without bragging and making the person feel really bad about their hording tendencies is that in our homes EVERYTHING HAS ITS PLACE. And, well, this montra transcends itself to our handbags as well.

Now for the big reveal…I bought and highly recommend the Brompton Mini-Hobo Bag by J. Crew in Henna. I first saw this bag in the store on King Street (shortly after the premature boot purchase) and there she was — a beautiful caramel brown color with leather as soft as the inside of an Ugg. then I peeked inside to find all the right pockets and compartments- the one for my cell phone, and pens, and lipgloss, and tiny notebook, and wallet, and the list goes one.  And it has an easy-to-grab-stuff opening.  Then the icing on the cake was that it came with both the cross body strap (great for the girl that needs two hands) and the shorter handles that, yes, fit over your shoulder. Bam. Done deal. But being the dealer searcher that I am I found a coupon on Retail Me Not for 25% off so the bag was ultimately purchased online.  By the way, always search for promo codes before purchasing items online.  They really do work.

JCrew Brompton Mini Hobo
JCrew Brompton Mini Hobo Inside
JCrew Brompton Mini Hobo Shoulder
I am obsessed….I mean, obviously, or why would I have written 670 words about this bag? Did you hear that J. Crew?
We want to know which bags keep your handbag goodies organized?
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“Poppin’ Tags” Part 1

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The first time I heard the song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, I couldn’t stop laughing.  Thought it was the funniest and greatest song ever…don’t listen to it if explicit lyrics offend you :-)

I guess they have overplayed that song on the radio, so I am a bit over it now.  But it is so true….everyone is looking for a good deal or looking for a way to make some money these days.  One awesome way to declutter your home and make some extra money….sell your stuff at the thrift shop!

Of course there are many ways to sell your stuff….eBay, yard sale, Craig’s List, or consignment.  From personal experience, Craig’s List has been where I make the most money selling items, but a far SAFER and EASIER way is to just drop your stuff of at one of the many wonderful consignment shops here in the Lowcountry.

There are so many consignment shops in Charleston I decided to divide this content into two different posts.  This post will be about places to consign home furnishings and the next one will be about another animal….clothes!

Before you consign your items, be sure to call the consignment shop to make sure they are accepting new items (most usually do accept decent items).  If you have a lot of items or larger items to bring in, they may have you email them pictures before you drop off.

Every consignment shop I have visited has been extremely nice and will help you set a price for sale of the items.  If you want to sell it for a certain price, they will usually certainly work with you on what price to list the item.  I would listen to the owners though because they know at what price particular items will sell.  For example, don’t think you are going to get $1,000 for that rug that may have cost you $2,000.  Most places that I have found in Charleston do a 50/50 split….meaning the seller gets 50% of what it is sold for and the consignment shop gets 50% as well.  I hate to burst your bubble, but you will probably end up making $200 or $300 for that rug that cost you $2,000.  It’s just how it is.

Each consignment shop has different terms of agreement that you have to sign when consigning.  For example, most shops drop the price after 30 days and some donate the items (if you don’t come pick them up) after 60 or 90 days.  All of the shops are different, but the most common factor across the board is that the shop takes 50% profit.  They should though, they are the ones selling it for you and paying all the rent!

The newly-opened SC

The newly-opened SC Resale: Mt. Pleasant Mall

On another note, a new spot just opened in Mt. Pleasant called SC Resale: Mt. Pleasant Mall.  It is in the old Sofa Super Store location sort of close to CVS and the lumber place (708 Johnnie Dodds Blvd).  Anyway, there are a ton of cute booths in the mall where people sell their stuff.  If you go, be sure to check out our friend Chrissie Batten’s booth.  She has a company called Spruce and sells awesome home furnishings!  If you go the Mount Pleasant Mall or SC Thrift, you can still consign your stuff there for a 50/50 split even though most of the spots are booths.  The SC Resale Mall is my new favorite spot and they just had their grand opening last week.

Here are some of my favorite consignment shops for home furnishings in Charleston.  I tried to include a spot in most areas of Charleston.  Please let me know if I left out a favorite spot near you!

  • The Coleman Collection (near Southern Belles & Copper Penny) 976 Houston Northcutt Mount Pleasant, SC 29464  843-654-9046  (We did find they give the highest percentage to the seller….55% profit if it is sold in the first 30 days)
  • Next to New 2700 Brickyard Parkway Suite #200 Mt. Pleasant, SC 29466  843-606-2715
  • Charleston Consignment Co. & Lowcountry Consignments (Both of these stores are owned by the same people)
  • Charleston Consignment Co. 464 N. Nassau St. Charleston, SC 29403
  • Lowcountry Consignments  1170 Gregorie Ferry Rd.  Mt. Pleasant, SC 29466 (right by 41 and 17 intersection)
  • Consign Charleston  1119 Wappoo Rd.  Charleston (W. Ashley)  843-225-9055
  • My House to Yours  763 Travelers Blvd.   Summerville   (843) 851-3777
  • Nearly New Furniture  3714 Betsy Kerrison Pkwy  Johns Island   (843) 768-1224
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Laundry Overload

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Laundry is the one constant (non-living, of course) in my life that , if ignored, will create the greatest ripple effect.  As a result of ignoring the laundry, the kids will not have clean underwear, I won’t have any workout clothes and the ole’ man won’t have any clean hankies (has to have one in his back pocket everyday or else…)  just to name a few backlashes.  So I like to stay on top of it by doing at least one load everyday.  As a result of organizing for Ducks In A Row, I have seen a lot of laundry rooms lately and been asked to either create a better system or turn the other way.

The laundry room is a sacred place, which you are either very proud of or extremely ashamed of.  Your laundry tells the back story of your family.  If you were to walk into my laundry room without having ever met our family you could learn a lot about us.  You would know that we have a little one who is potty training, made obvious by the number of underoos lying around, someone taking swim lessons made evident by hanging bathing suits, a Lululemon-obssessed workout fanatic (or someone posing as a workout fanatic…not telling you which), and someone with blatant disregard for the person doing the laundry made abundantly clear by the 5 dirty outfits from just one day (yes, you husband!!!).  Why do men create so much laundry? Grrrr….that is for another day.

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Jewelry Organization: How to Get It Done Fast

One organizing dilemma that a lot of people seem to ask me about is what to do with their jewelry.  Well, you could have a closet company come in and build fabulous jewelry drawers like this into your closet, but that will cost an arm and a leg.  Read on for some easy and budget friendly jewelry organizing options that will help you get your jewelry organized in no time.

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Recycling Made Easier

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Today was recycling day in our neighborhood, and all of my neighbors proudly rolled their Big Blue trashcan recycling thingy to the curb.  If you are unfamiliar with this thingy, just picture your huge curbside trash can, but blue.  And please know that I am grateful to the City of Charleston for this and hope that it actually cut costs (not too sure how considering it is the same amount of pick up days but bigger receptacles, but I digress).

The reason I even noticed this, other than the Kate Middleton-engagement dress-blue enveloping me for blocks, is because it is like the 10th time we have failed to recycle.  I looked inside Big Blue today and sure enough there wasn’t even one single milk carton.  This made it even more glaringly obvious that we are the losers of the block.  It is like we are rolling our eyes at the next generation and saying that we don’t care if the earth warms to a boiling point within the next 10 years as a result of our boycott.

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