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How To Organize

Prepare For Change So You’re Not Caught Off Guard When Life Happens

By September 10, 2023May 25th, 202414 Comments

Typically, around this time of year I post a blog about preparing for disaster. The truth is that you are never as prepared as you later think you should have been when disaster strikes. As I recently wrote, the people in Maui were lucky to escape with their lives when disaster hit their beautiful island.  So, what can we do? I believe we can prepare for change in lots of big and small ways. No one wants to be caught off guard when life happens.

Big ways to prepare for change

Create a home inventory.

As I recently wrote, one of the best ways to prepare for disaster is to have a complete home inventory. You can video the contents of your home and save a copy up in the cloud. At a minimum, you’ll have a pictorial record of what you owned if disaster strikes. This is quick and easy to do. Consider making a more complete inventory in excel or one of the home inventory apps. It’s true that this takes time and attention, but it will also serve you well if you make a habit of updating it as things come in and out of your home.

Make copies of all your vital documents.

Give a set of copies to your attorney, keep a set in a safe deposit box at the bank, and have the originals in a fire safe container in your home. Scan your vital documents to a password protected account like Dropbox or Trustworthy.

Small ways to prepare for change

Change the batteries

in your smoke alarm if it is battery operated. I like to do this when the time changes twice a year. This is an easy and small thing to do but it can be lifesaving.

Check the fire extinguisher.

Hopefully you have a small one in your kitchen (or nearby). If you don’t, get one. You never know when you may have a small fire in your kitchen. If your fire extinguisher is charged, it may put out the fire before it becomes an even bigger disaster.

Turn off the outside water faucets.

Prepare your home for the winter months and turn off the outside water faucets when the temperature heads down to freezing and below. When you do this, you prevent a potential water pipe burst which can be disastrous.

Prepare for a change of seasons

Adjust your thermostat

when the seasons change. You will not only save money by adjusting your thermostat up or down you will also save wear and tear on your HV/AC.

Changing the filter in your HV/AC

is another excellent way to keep this machine operating efficiently. Most companies recommend doing this at least twice a year. If you have pets that shed, you may want to change the filter more frequently.

Prepare your coat closets.

I don’t know about you but when the weather is warm, I am delighted to put my coat and/or fleece in the closet and close the door. I don’t think about these clothes until the weather turns chilly and I need to put on another layer before going outside.

Look through your coats before the seasons change and you need to wear one. Check them out. Do they need to be washed? Mine do.

Are they in need of repair? My coats get holes in their pockets because I’m always stuffing things in them. The last thing you need is to lose your keys because you put them in a pocket with a hole in it. Fix the hole before it becomes a problem.

Maybe the zipper needs to be replaced or a button put back on.

If you have children check their coats, too. They have probably outgrown their coats unless you bought new ones toward the end of winter.

Donate usable coats, jackets, and fleeces.

How about scarves, hats, and gloves? Mine are in baskets on the shelf in my coat closet. I haven’t looked at them since April or so when the weather turned lovely here in Georgia. I will look at them this week to make sure my gloves have mates. It only takes a few minutes to match them up. I’m also going to be looking though these things to see if there are any I don’t want anymore.

Switch the clothes in your closets.

The weather is mostly temperate here in Georgia. I have a few cool weather things but not enough to put clothes away seasonally. I rely on layers to stay warm in the winter.

If you live in a place where true winter arrives suddenly don’t be caught off guard. Plan time in your weekend schedule to switch your clothes around. Keep a few warmer weather things around just in case the weather doesn’t get as cold as you think it’s going to.

Prepare for an event.

I am going to a conference soon. I have been thinking about what I want to pack. The dress code is business casual. There is an evening awards dinner that I am going to get dressed up for. I found a dress in my closet to wear but when I was trying on my shoes, I realized that I needed a new pair of dress shoes because one of my feet has a bunion.

Thankfully, I have time to go shopping before I pack my suitcase. It’s always a good idea to look through the things you plan to pack and maybe even try them on before it’s too late.

In conclusion:

there are many things you can do to prepare for change, any change that comes your way. Take the time to think ahead. Many of the examples I’ve provided here only take about 5 minutes to do. With a little advance planning you can prepare for change.

You will never be as prepared as you want to be for disaster because you will never have enough warning. But there are measures you can take to protect yourself, your home, and your loved ones so that you aren’t caught off guard.

If you would like some guidance, consider joining the Clear Space for You clutter support group I run with Jonda Beattie. We start new groups at the beginning of each month.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.


  • Planning and preparing is essential for sure. I loved the home inventory one, great way to remember everything in each room and maybe closets. Have a fire safe container is also important to keep documents like passports or jewelry.
    We learned to shut off the water when we’re gone on trips, because few people we know had a leak in their home which caused a disaster when they were gone.
    Thanks for great info.

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    There are so many triggers we can use to start fresh and prepare. As you noted, the oncoming cooler weather. Above, Jill referenced Rosh Hashanah and the start of the Jewish New Year will soon enough be followed by the new calendar year. September is for preparedness, but if we break up all the little things for which we have to prepare and hit them throughout the year (like changing those smoke detector batteries and HVAC filters, as you mentioned it), nothing feels too onerous.

    Last year, I bought a new coat and it was never cold enough to wear it, so I’m actually looking forward to having some seasonal weather so I can step out in style.

    (Also, sorry about your bunion. When I was little, I thought a bunion was called a bunny, and I was very confused why the people who had bunnies were never showing them off!)

  • Jill Katz says:

    This week I have also been thinking about change and whether or not we are ready for it. Every year, around this time, I approach the Jewish New Year, which is a time of reflection. The whole month leading up to it is a month of preparation and I still never feel fully prepared. Having traditions around an event really helps me. If I forget a seasonal change, I try to set an annual reminder in my Google Calendar so I don’t feel unprepared the next year. For example, this year, I remembered to fix the heels on my boots when Spring began and I was so proud! I put that in my calendar for next Spring. I didn’t check my coats though!

  • Seana+Turner says:

    Sometimes it takes a serious situation to make us truly learn the value of emergency preparedness.

    My sister-in-law was impacted by the Marshall Fire in CO a couple of years back. They finally got moved in last October, and were putting finishing touches on the house last month when ANOTHER fire broke out, exploding into flame. The house is a total loss. We almost can’t believe it. You just never know!

    We tend to have flooding issues here (in my basement). I’ve learned the hard way to watch the weather and the gutters!! We also once left the hose attached too late in the season, cracked a pipe, and that ended up leading to another flood right before my daughter’s wedding.

    Seems so many of us have a story like this. Better to be prepared and avoid as much as we can, right?

  • Great tips. I want to particularly emphasize to scan your vital records and save to the cloud and to send some of these documents to someone you trust. Looking back to Maui, I think of the family who returned to their home hoping to find documents and cash that were in their fireproof box. Of course, it could not survive a fire of that magnitude and it was blown open and all inside was destroyed. Know that different fire boxes will tell you how hot and how long they can protect your papers.
    I also remember the flood in New Orleans many years ago. I was a special education teacher, and we had many children enroll in our schools in Georgia that had special needs but no proof. The schools also had lost their paperwork. We took the children into our programs on the word of their parents and then retested them when the time was right.

  • Planning and prepping are essential for anyone, especially those with a home. I love that you mentioned turning off outside water faucets. I live in Pennsylvania, and the temperature does get colder, so it is a must.

  • Thanks for the reminder about washing my coats! I tend to think of it as winter draws to an end, but because it’s so gradual, and I wait until I’m sure temperatures won’t drop again, it often gets forgotten until I need to start wearing them again.

  • This week, we’re both thinking about preparing. It’s that time of year when the seasons change, transitions are in full bloom, and we aren’t always ready for what’s to come. I love your list of things to do to help mitigate some challenging situations. Your quick way of doing a home inventory is brilliant. The task can be daunting. But your suggestion of doing photos only is better than doing nothing.

    I was so psyched to see you writing about going to conference and preparing for that. Happy shoe shopping. I can’t wait to see you there! It feels like forever since I’ve been in person with our ICD peeps.