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On Hurricanes, Organization, and Being Thankful

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

It’s been almost a month since Hurricane Sandy blew through the Northeast.

I am thankful that my family came out of the hurricane fairly unscathed. We had power and heat–our only loss was internet and cable for about a week. We know many who slept in chilled houses and went wherever they could to charge their phones and laptops for weeks on end. And that’s nothing compared to people who completely lost their homes…

But I was nervous…

You see, in the spring of 2010, a month before giving birth to baby #2, a storm dropped our neighbor’s huge tree onto our home. It came through a window of our three-season room and took up about 80% of our backyard.
Our neighbor still has another big tree in his backyard and as you can imagine, my husband and I were concerned about Hurricane Sandy causing similar or worse damage to our home.
We hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. And then got organized.
We made ice. And filled ziploc bags with water to make more ice. We bought all the ‘D’ batteries we could find and gathered all our flashlights, candles, and electronics in one place. I also gathered all information we might need in case of an emergency: 
-our homeowners and car insurance polices/account numbers, 
-our PSE&G account and contact information, 
-the telephone number for News 12 New Jersey to hear news reports if we had no other way to access the news.
I packed a few days worth of clothes for all of us and a weeks worth of diapers for my little guy. This is just the kids’ pile…
I also packed water, non-perishables and made a list of perishables to take with us in case we had to evacuate our home.

I was anxious about another tree falling on my house during the hurricane but I was equally as anxious about the possibility of having to feed my youngest child if we had no refrigeration or way to heat food up. He has multiple food allergies on top of the fact that he’s 2.5 and doesn’t have the most sophisticated palette.

I channeled my anxiety by making lists–a great way to get organized and prepare for an event such as a hurricane. I started on paper but then switched over to my favorite productivity app, Evernote. I use this app as a place to dump my brain and keep information for future use. I started an ‘Emergency Preparedness’ folder in Evernote and created the following lists of items we’d need:

-perishable food
-non-perishable food

-perishable food for my child with food allergies
-non-perishable food for my child with food allergies
-important contact information
-what we’d need to take with us in case we need to evacuate (clothing, cash, medicine, important papers, etc.)

You can access Evernote from any computer or your phone–the information is all in the cloud. I HIGHLY recommend this app. My desk would be overrun with papers and post-its without it!

Now that I had made my lists, I felt more prepared for the upcoming storm. What I wasn’t prepared for was my 2.5 year old getting his foot stuck between the slats of a dining room chair as the wind was howling and the trees were swaying. Days later, people asked us if we had any damage due to Hurricane Sandy. I laughed and said to them, “one chair–and it was INSIDE the house.”

It was repaired the next day and now our son’s booster seat sits on this chair. I think we’re going to be telling this story for years to come…

After the storm blew through, we touched base with family and friends discovered that we were one of the few homes around town that had power. We had no TV or internet access but I was grateful that we had heat and a fully working kitchen.
Our preparedness helped us as well as with others. We shared extra batteries, extra room in our fridge and freezer and gave out food, ice and a warm place to hang out to those who needed it.

School was closed for seven days. What kept my kids most occupied during the no-school days following the hurricane?

Balloons!

Is it possible to be thankful for a bag of balloons? Why not?

We also had nieces and nephews stop by to play and warm up. We had fun with stickers and crayons and other non-electronic toys. I will say–despite the fact we did not have cable, our DVR worked. So, we did have a bit of television to keep the kiddies occupied.

During this time, I also taught my kids how to use the Swiffer. They loved pushing it around, especially my 2.5 year old. He and my 6 year old had a competition–who could pick up the most dirt and dust with it. I had very clean floors after the hurricane!

Slowly we heard about more and more people getting their power back. Schools were opening again. Gas lines were getting shorter. Everyone from celebrities to relief organizations were collecting for Hurricane Sandy relief.

My son’s school sent a note home that they were collecting items for the towns of Little Ferry and Moonachie, NJ. I used this event as a lesson in gratitude/being thankful. My six year old and I talked about how we were very lucky that nothing happened to our house during the hurricane and how others had not been so lucky. We collected items from the list, labeled the bags and he helped me take them to school.

Three cheers for Warren Point Elementary School of Fair Lawn, NJ!

Three more cheers go out to Girl Scout Troop 445 of Fair Lawn. They made up a list of food items they wished to collect for those affected by Hurricane Sandy and were nice enough to staple a plastic bag to the list. Very organized, ladies!

Once again, I took my son into our pantry. We had another talk about people affected by the hurricane that need food and how lucky we were to have what we need in our house. He read the items from the list and I put them in the bags–a lesson in literacy and gratitude. I recycled the plastic bag, and used paper instead…

Other companies/organizations involved in collecting for Hurricane Sandy–

Deposit A Gift, an online cash gift registry service, has partnered with The Foundling Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and is donating an extra 4% for every dollar given. Here’s how you can help. People have even created ‘registries’ for family/friends who have lost much to Huricane Sandy. Here’s an example of how one couple is raising funds for their Aunt Pat who lived in the devastated Breezy Point area of NY.

Whole Foods near me in Paramus, NJ is collecting coats through December 7th for New York Cares 24th Annual Coat Drive. According to the NY Cares website, “the storm created an unprecedented demand for warm coats.”

The Container Store is partnering with One Warm Coat to collect gently used coats, hats and mittens, sweaters and sweatshirts.

Please take a look in your closets and see if you have any outerwear that is in good enough shape to donate. This is the perfect time to de-clutter and help others.

Hurricane Sandy blew through town a few weeks before Thanksgiving–a time when most of us have more of an awareness of what we’re thankful for.

I’m thankful for much but in terms of the hurricane, I’m thankful…

-we had power, a working kitchen and didn’t need to leave our home.
-that we were able to help others after the storm.
-for my husband being home from work for a week and the time we got to spend as a family.
-for the break from the internet. As wonderful as it is, sometimes my eyes and brain need a rest…
-for the little time we got to organize. Not always easy with little kids around but we tackled a few -hot spots in my house.
-for Evernote which got me organized for this storm and prepared for a similar emergency in the future.
-that the only storm damage we had was a dining room chair!

A hurricane is a powerful reminder of our need to express gratitude and desire to be of help to others. Just because Thanksgiving has passed and the holiday season is upon us doesn’t mean we should forget about those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Please consider de-cluttering your closets, buying an extra holiday gift for a displaced child, or donating food to a local food pantry. Keep thankfulness and gratitude on your mind and in your heart this season and always.

About Stacey Agin Murray

Stacey is a professional organizer & speaker in New Jersey specializing in residential organizing, time, and paper management challenges. She also authored The Organized Bride’s Thank You Note Handbook: Let Systems and 101 Modern Sample Thank You Notes Take You From Overwhelmed to Organized.

Categories: Closet, Clothing, Container Store, Donations, Holiday Season, refrigerator

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2 responses to “On Hurricanes, Organization, and Being Thankful”

  1. This is a really powerful post!

    I’m really glad you weren’t affected very badly by Hurricane Sandy. At least you were prepared for the worst!

    I’d been intending to get an auto club membership for some time when I got a flat tire. After that, I signed up right away, and am I glad I did, because within the first month I had two more flats (not the same one – apparently the rims were corroding. All is fixed now.) Sometimes we have to go through stuff to realize how important it is to be prepared.

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Janet. Glad to hear that all is well with your car! I hope my post will encourage people to prepare in advance for a storm, a flat tire, or an emergency that could crop up at any time.

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