Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Wednesday, April 22nd is Earth Day. According to Wikipedia, "Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries."

Honestly, as stewards of the Earth, man has done a terrible job. Greed, apathy, lack of foreknowledge about how certain actions could be detrimental, and lack of education about how our everyday actions can affect the environment have brought about too many issues to count. It's comforting to know the Creator doesn't intend to have bad stewards destroy the work of His hands (but that's a conversation to be had offline).

We still can do our part to help our planet Earth and so Earth Day's intentions are great for bringing awareness to what we change up upgrade in our routines and habits that can make a larger impact as we all work together.

As mentioned, many times we are doing things out of ignorance that harms our health and the health of the Earth and its eco-systems. Through community sharing, we can often learn a thing or two we can start to do to have a positive impact.

This blog post will include some real-life suggestions from two on the Dexterous Organizing team . Leslie Sunderlin and Andrea Hancock.

In the Kitchen

  • Leslie & Andrea both use reusable kitchen bags - a brand Leslie uses is Stashers. She says: "They are a bit pricey, so I don't have a lot of them, but they can be put in the dishwasher and have been great for storing items in the freezer too. We have also used them during the cooking process, like to sous-vide meat." Andrea uses a brand called Re-Zip. She says: "Although we haven't totally given up using the gallon-size plastic bags in the kitchen, using reusable bags has really reduced the amount of plastic bags we use. We even will reuse plastic bags when we have stored dry or cooked items in them. We typically use reusable bags for sandwiches and snacks. Another brand we usually have on hand is LunchSkins that comes in a paper (which is recyclable, compostable, and toxin-free) and a reusable dish-washer safe sandwich bag.

  • Reusable bottles are also in use at both households! Andrea loves her Sodastream which she got used on Facebook Marketplace which replaces the purchase of sparkling water and all the glass and plastic waste it produces. She even takes the carbonating cylinder back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for it to get recycled. Leslie and her domestic partner love Swell-brand reusable double-walled, stainless steel bottles. She notes that these bottles are easy to clean and keeps the beverage nice and cool for a long time. Before using Swell, she would purchase Voss water and reuse the thick glass bottle it would come in. Andrea found her Italian-born 24 bottles stainless steel bottle on discount at the Crate & Barrel outlet store in Old Town Alexandria. Andrea also uses US-based KeepCup for her hot beverages. She loves the coffee shop design her cup has complete with a silicon cup-holding ring that keeps holding her hot beverages cute and comfortable.

  • Using glass Pyrex or similar containers with lids to store leftovers can reduce the use of plastic containers and bags. Leslie gives another benefit: "They don't degrade as quickly and I don't feel bad about putting them in the microwave or oven to reheat food, so [fewer] dishes/water use."

  • Composting at home

is something Leslie has been doing for most of her life and recently had to adapt to the challenges of composting in a large city apartment after having a wooded backyard. She relates: "The tricky part is the collection of food scraps. With limited space and no immediate outdoor access, we decided to find a small container and line it with a compost specific liner that fit in our freezer. All food scraps get put in this freezer bucket. Keeps us honest about limiting our amount of scraps, and keeps them from smelling! When the bucket is full we take a walk to our community garden. Win-win-win!"

Here is an article about effectively composting using coffee grounds!

Around the home

  • To keep things organized around the home, Leslie reused Amazon shipping boxes. She explains: " reduce/reuse boxes from our Amazon purchases I cut off flaps to smaller boxes and put them in our drawers/cupboards as dividers/containers. Easy, cheap, functional...not necessarily the prettiest...but they're not very visible in these spots. If I wanted to get creative I could cover them in contact paper, wrapping paper, fabric, etc...and depending on how long this quarantine goes, they just might become [fancier]! "

  • In the Laundry department, Leslie uses the laundry detergent shipment service Dropps. Her review: "I have been very happy with them so far. They're shipped directly to the home, the shipping packaging was minimal and the detergent is in small non-toxic, dissolvable pouches so you have no plastic waste." Andrea switched from using traditional dyer sheets to wool balls in the dryer. She loves the fact they also can fluff clothing and you can use a bit of essential oils on the balls for fragrance instead of harsh chemicals.

  • Andrea switched from using Comet and Ajax powered-cleaners to BonAmi, a harsh-chemical-free powder cleaner that is made with biodegradable cleaning agents. Before COVID-19 she purchased this CleanSmart disinfectant spray that powerfully kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, eliminates odors, while leaving behind no chemical residue and breaks down to a saline solution, making it safe for most household uses.

Health & Beauty

  • Our female monthly visitor aka Aunt Flow can cause quite a stir and also create a bit of waste. For the woman willing to experiment with some non-traditional methods, she can reduce some of the environmental (and possibly health) disadvantages. Menstrual cups like Flex and Diva Cup are silicon cups that can be washed and reused. They usually come in a cloth pouch to keep them clean and protected. Reusable pads can be purchased by hand-makers on Etsy and leak-proof underwear can be found online in places like Amazon, An original and popular brand is Thinx.

We've given you quite a few to try out. The key is not to get overwhelmed but perhaps be conscious about adding one new way every few weeks or months and slowly but surely your small steps can make a big difference in the total impact made by us collectively. That's what we think Earth Day might be all about!

We'd love to hear from you. Place in the comment section below a product, service, or activity you do to help reduce, reuse, recycle!

Having a to-do list is great. It's a tool for capturing all you need to get done and then organizing it into the days and weeks to come.

During "normal" conditions we had to manage our time based on where we had to be and deadlines of work, school, volunteering, and personal goals.

COVID-19 has changed the very fabric of our lives. We know in the past how one cancellation can have a ripple effect on our week, we are riding many waves of cancellations, virtual meetings, and cross-fingered rescheduling.

How can this affect our to-do list?

How can this affect our resolve to get things done?

Quite frankly, it's very challenging!

Have you ever tried to put on eyeliner or lipstick while being a passenger in a moving vehicle?

Depending on the road, the driver, and how many stoplights it can be possible.

But imagine the driver is racing through cobblestoned streets, turning erratically and going through stoplights?

This is kinda what the current epidemic has done to our schedules. It's hard to put on our "makeup" let alone do we even care when we are simply scared for our lives? Is putting on "eyeliner" in a time like this even relevant or not?

I know a few things that are not helpful during this time:

Comparing your life to another's.

Now more than ever we spend time on social media to help pass the time, to get up-to-date information, to stay connected to family, friends, and celebrities, and to simply be entertained. The danger in that is comparison. It could be a day that you are mentally "done". It's a Netflix-binge-UberEats kinda emotional day and you scroll on Instagram and see your friend (or a complete stranger), finishing up an in-home workout, or putting out a workshop for their followers, or just being a non-Netflix-binging human. Then you start to think about what you SHOULD be doing. I once heard:

"Should is a could that's covered in shame."

We certainly live in uncharted waters. We are living in shock, grief, uncertainty, and fear overlaid with the need and demands to try to keep up a normal life.

Guess what?

A Netflix-binge-UberEats day is allowed when you need it. Rest your emotional and mental energy and recharge. Under the present circumstances, this may need to happen more often than you are used to.

You might also need to take a social media break. Seriously.

No routine at all.

The sun rises and it sets. We breathe in and out all day. Our hearts beat. The seasons change. The flowers bloom in the spring and the leaves fall off in autumn. My point? We were made to thrive on cycles and routines. If our lives have been totally thrown off track, it can be unhealthy to not have a few routines in place.

When do you get up?

When do you go to bed?

When do you eat your meals?

When do you clean your space?

Wash clothes?

How do you center yourself?

How do you feed your spiritual needs?

Getting some exercise?

We crave routine and the less routine we have the easier it is to spiral into depression. Depression and being productive are rare pairings.

Have you been struggling to get or keep a routine?

Start somewhere. Here's a suggestion.

Write down:

  1. Something you need to get done

  2. Something fun you'd like to do

  3. Someone you'd like to connect with

  4. Something you want to get done

Then look at your day or week and plan to fit those 4 things in it. This keeps procrastination at bay and can help motivate you to find new things to add to the list and feel more productive and less "blah".

Looking blah for Zoom.

Stylists wouldn't exist and the fashion industry wouldn't be a multi-billion-dollar empire if makeup and clothing didn't make us feel a certain way. Try showering and dressing for a Zoom meeting as if you were going to meet in person (I've even worn perfume). You'd be surprised by the positive thoughts and emotions that come from looking great for yourself and having others notice.

During a time that we didn't foresee, didn't plan for, and certainly are making up the rules for as we go along, do your best to keep a positive mindset. Give yourself a pass when you are emotionally and mentally drained, don't compare your productivity to others (quite frankly some could be busy but not productive), and do things that make yourself feel like your old-not-sitting-in-the-house self you were a few weeks ago.

Andrea Hancock is a Professional Organizer and Owner of Dexterous Organizing, a professional organizing and lifestyle company serving the Washington, DC Metro area. Andrea has been organizing professionally since 2010 and has completed the foundation courses in the Coach Approach for Organizers Training. She believes mostly anyone can create the organizational system that works for their lives through training, awareness, and consistent efforts.

Is it really overbuying?

According to the Internet ( the average household in the US has 3.14 people, which is also the numerical pi which is weird and I don't know how much toilet paper a .14 person will use but I digress...

If a family of 4 has 3 bathrooms and is now home 24/7. That's a lot of toilet paper usage, folks. Think about, if a family of 4 were "doing regular life" outside of their homes. There are multiple potty breaks on the go at the coffee shop, at work, at school, at the gym, at the mall, at the movies...all now happening at home. All.Day.Long.

When we consider everyone in the region and most of the world is now home using their toilets all day long some are legitimately getting enough for their families' needs. But you know there are some who are getting WAAAAAY more than they will ever need. That leads us to...

Knowing what you have and how long it takes you to use what you have.

Recently I put a question out on Instagram Stories asking viewers if they knew how long it takes for their family to get through a roll of TP. Some knew but many didn't. It's imperative now more than ever when resources are limited not to get too much (because the vulnerable will not be able to find enough), and not too little (or you and your family will be vulnerable).

If you haven't heard about it already there is a nifty toilet paper calculator for free (or donation)

In my household, we use Amazon Subscribe & Save if you aren't familiar it's a feature of Amazon to save 15% or more if you subscribe on a regular basis (I believe they start at monthly) to certain household products like laundry detergent, pet food, and yes, toilet paper.

It's been a life-saver as a busy couple, adding shopping for everyday items to our lives was time-consuming and costly. How many times have you step-foot into a store for one thing and left with things you didn't know you wanted and probably didn't need (looking at you Target).

Using Amazon Subscribe and Save was certainly a time-saver and it allowed us to "set it and forget it".

HOWEVER, (comma) it became apparent when my ignorance of how often we used something meant we had way too much or not enough. It forced me to become more aware of how quickly things were being used. Amazon sends you a notice about 7-10 days before your shipment so you can make adjustments. It's been great!

Note that with the coronavirus pandemic and with the shortage of paper products some items aren't available as they once were.

Through my experience of helping clients declutter, I realized that a lot of people buy:

  • out of habit and not based on what they needed and it got them to a place I call "Duplicate City". A city where you walk around asking: "Why do we have 14 bottles of Dawn dish detergent?"

  • the "10 for $10" deal or "buy one get two free" was too good to pass up even if they really didn't need it and once they do the product is too old to use so it was a waste of space and money. (suggestion: you can give the free one away, since hey... it was "free"... just sayin')

  • Too many cooks in the kitchen. If multiple people are purchasing in the household and there is no collaboration of who buys what and when. Then the fateful day that everyone goes out and gets dish detergent and now you have 2+ bottles and heaven-forbid you both shopped the 10 for $10 deal... *facepalm* and no one can find the receipts.

I hope you got a chuckle out of these scenarios but seriously over time these habits can cause frustration and overwhelm and shame. It happens. We don't judge, it's our job to help you to place all the dish detergent in one place, label it and perhaps give some to a charity or organization that can use it. Through coaching, we can also help you bring awareness to the habit so that you don't end up in the same place again.

Which leads us to...

Living in an abundance mindset (those who experienced loss/deprivation)

After working with people for so many years when it relates to organization and especially decluttering, I don't need a textbook to tell me that the people who have A LOT of things in their space(s) have often come from a background where they at some point in their lives didn't have a lot.

Life experience has "taught" them what going without feels like and they never want to go without again and so even if it means they can't find the things they are looking for or will ever use up all the things they have, they "need" to have them to feel "safe". However, this comes from a place of fear versus a place of power.

It's a whole thing, you can Google "abundance mindset" or "scarcity mindset" and you'll be able to read to your heart's content.

It's something you obviously can't fix overnight and probably not alone, but here is a great graphic I found to help you identify the two different mindsets and perhaps start working on changing them if you so desire. I'm not a master of abundance mindset but let me tell you, it feels a whole lot better than a scarcity mindset.

credit: Padraig Coaching & Consulting

There are a plethora of reasons why before, during, and after the coronavirus pandemic people have been overbuying and overstocking. Some reasons are valid and others could be worked out in therapy or with an organizer coach (like myself or my team).

Whatever the case, I hope a few of these reasons have brought awareness, with awareness comes positive change.

We don't know what the future holds for the supermarket shelves and our abilities to provide for our families' basic needs. But I do know that through our community, more abundance mindset than scarcity mindset, and tweaking a few wasteful habits that may have developed while we were swimming in the land of plenty, we can dig deep and figure out a way to get by for the time being.

Andrea Hancock is a Professional Organizer and Owner of Dexterous Organizing, a professional organizing and lifestyle company serving the Washington, DC Metro area. Andrea has been organizing professionally since 2010 and has completed the foundation courses in the Coach Approach for Organizers Training. She believes mostly anyone can create the organizational system that works for their lives through training, awareness, and consistent efforts.