Category Archives: Organizing

After the Storm

It’s scary to think that I’d ever be chased out of my house because of a flood, a fire, or a hurricane.  Will I have time to grab anything before leaving? What will I be sad to have lost?  Will I be able to replace essentials quickly?  Will I know what to list on insurance forms to document what was lost?

I am fortunate to have never experienced that, but I know of many who have.  My brother lost everything he owned in Hurricane Katrina.  Three co-workers of my husband have lost their homes to fire.  As a volunteer with my church’s emergency disaster relief organization, I have worked to clean out flooded homes after both the South Carolina flood of October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.  It isn’t just something we hear about on the news, such as the horrific and deadly fires in Gatlinburg TN or the threat of a spillway failure in Oroville CA that has caused an evacuation of 188,000 from potential flooding.   It isn’t something that happens to other people, somewhere else.  It happens to our neighbors, it happens to our families, it happens to us.

It may not be possible to lessen the impact of such a disaster, but there are a few things we all can do to  be better prepared…just in case.

In the case of house clean outs that I worked after a flood, the structure stood but the contents were destroyed.  All of the things that the homeowner would touch, see, and use daily were now water logged, moldy, and useless to these families whose homes were in the water’s path.  It’s amazing how quickly mold grows from flood water.   My team and I covered up with face masks, gloves, and safety goggles to minimize contact with the allergens in the air and on the contents.  We carried item after item out of the house, stacking it alongside the road in piles to be picked up for disposal.  A person’s possessions were quickly categorized into construction debris, appliances, furniture, and everything else.  Trucks would drive by ready to haul off appliances.  Dump trucks would come by to collect the construction debris for proper disposal.  Everything else would be picked up and hauled to the landfill.  A lifetime to accumulate, a moment to wash away.

So how can I prepare for such a loss?

While we can’t eliminate all of the stuff in our lives, as a good bit is necessary for our everyday living, we certainly can reduce much of what we have.

Open any closet in your house.  What do you see?  Can you even see everything?  Is everything in there useful?  Is there anything in there that would devastate you to lose?  What about the rest of it, is there a reason to keep it if it isn’t useful or meaningful?

Can you look at each room, each closet, each nook and cranny, and start pulling things out and discard what is not useful or meaningful?

It’s OK if you can’t, that’s what I’m here for.  I will be happy to help you work through that process.

Then when we finish, I’ll get you prepared for the “just in case” disaster.

Important paperwork stored in the proper container.  Meaningful family heirlooms displayed, used, or stored properly.  Portraits, photos, letters, cards, etc. digitally stored and backed up properly.  An inventory of items to be reported for insurance purposes.  Clean floors, organized closets, uncluttered space….and a new sense of calm.

Please don’t wait for the day Mother Nature comes sweeping through your house to cleanse it of your belongings.  Start today to simplify your life.

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