Thursday, April 16, 2020

Meal Planning While Sheltering at Home: Cooking and Baking — Or Not

Packages of Tasty Bite Jodphur Lentils, Seeds of Change Seven Whole Grains, and Tasty Bite Ancient Grains

As so many of us shelter at home, I see a lot of folks getting into cooking and/or baking, and that’s great. Their food looks terrific.

But the photo at the top of this post is part of my pantry. It also has things like veggie packets from Tasty Bite, energy bars, pasta, pasta sauces and wonderful canned sardines. Most of these items (excluding the pasta and pasta sauce) are also good earthquake supplies.

Prepared meals: chicken coconut curry

And here’s part of my refrigerator. It also has peanut butter, tayberry jelly, fruit juice and cheese. It sometimes has the leftovers from meals delivered by my local Himalayan restaurant. The freezer has veggies and bread — and as of tomorrow it will have locally made gelato.

For me, meal planning means making sure I’ve ordered enough food delivery that I can have tasty and healthy food to pop in the microwave, bread to pop in the toaster, etc. — along with some treats. I’ve developed a nice list of places that will ship or deliver things I enjoy, mostly at reasonable prices. (OK, the gelato is a splurge.)

I don’t feel inspired to cook right now, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to get good food in other ways. If you’re similarly inclined, this is just a reminder that there’s nothing wrong with that.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Decluttering While Sheltering at Home

The Stay Home Club XL tote, available for purchase

I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has pretty strict shelter-at-home rules — and I’m over 65, which increases my COVID-19 risk. So I’m only leaving home for short walks in my residential neighborhood and for essential vet visits (where the vet has protocols to ensure things are done very safely).

Most places that would normally take donations are closed — and even if they weren’t, dropping off donations and electronics for recycling aren’t “essential activities” in most cases, with some moves being the exception. I own a freecycle group, and I’ve told members to hold off on offering items unless they are the things we’re allowed to go shopping for: groceries, pet food, medical items (non-prescription on freecycle), etc.

So what do you do if you happen to be inspired to declutter? Here are some ideas:

1. Focus on papers. These will either be filed, shredded or recycled — all of which can be done without leaving home if you have a shredder and curbside recycling. Many people think paperwork is the most annoying thing to handle, so it can pile up. You don’t have to do it all at once; doing just a tiny bit at a time will still help.

2. Focus on computer files. I’ve found myself deleting old files, emails and browser bookmarks — as well as cleaning up my contacts.

3. Put physical items in clearly identified boxes, bags or bins for donation or recycling at a future time. It’s not ideal, but that’s what I'm doing. I have one box for books, one tote bag for electronics recycling, and a big bin for other items to be donated or freecycled.

4. Mail things off to friends or relatives if you have things you are sure they want. In the U.S., you can schedule a pickup with the postal service. There are some weight limitations and you have to attach proper postage, as explained in the FAQs.

5. Using the same USPS pick-up service, you could ship clothing and household goods off to charities using the Give Back Box service and its prepaid shipping labels. (As of 18 days ago, organizer Lauren Mang confirmed that Give Back Box was still up and running.) If you feel OK leaving the house and your locale permits it, you could also use a UPS drop box; UPS has a location finder.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Computer Backups: An organizing project you can do while sheltering at home

box that says World Backup Day

This post is a day late; yesterday was World Backup Day. But I’m being gentle with myself during this time, and not fretting about that. And anyway, you want to be doing backups every day, not just on World Backup Day.

And I guess I had this subject on my mind, because I had an odd dream last night. I was working in some nondescript corporate office, had my computer stolen, and immediately thought about when I did my last full backup!

I’m not going to suggest specific backup products; you can find a lot of advice about that from others who have more expertise than I do. But I will emphasize that you want at least one of your backups to be offsite (in case of fire, theft, etc.) and you want at least one of them to be automatic, because otherwise you’re tempting the fates. And yes, multiple backups are a good idea. I use a cloud backup program (offsite backup, automated) and a program that backs up to an external hard drive (much faster recovery time). But if you have no backups now and get one backup process running, you’ve already made a huge improvement!

And remember you want to back up any critical files on your cell phone, too.

So if you don’t already have backups running, consider taking some time to remedy that. You don’t want to be like Matt Dempsey, who tweeted back in 2017:
Having my work hard drive/computer die yesterday has forced me to look at the bad backup decisions I’ve made. Damn
And if you’re already running backups, are you also testing those backups? If not, that’s a step you might want to take.

You might also think about any non-digital documents that you’d be distressed about losing, and consider getting them in digital form to then be included in those backups you’re running. This warning comes from a tweet by author Susan Orlean:
Had a small flood in my office. Some handwritten notes are now abstract watercolors. Fortunately I’d typed them up, but yikes.
Finally, I’d like to mention a different kind of back-up. If you’ve ever published things to a website that just might disappear, make sure you’ve backed up those documents or images, too, if they are still important to you. I know one magazine writer who didn’t do this, and she lost her work when the magazine folded and didn’t keep its website around.