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Just One New Habit

Contributed by Renee Ursem         

Each year brings the possibility of change.  Even though we can make changes at any point in the year, each January we start out the year with a list of good intentions.

Yet, 30 days later, most of our well-laid plans for change have been set aside. We try to make too many big changes in a short amount of time.  We get a good start, life interrupts, and we throw up our hands:  “I give up!  I just can’t __________!”

This year instead of taking on a huge self-improvement program, develop just one of the following habits to become more organized:

  • Deal with mail each day.  Whether it’s email or snail mail, at least 50% of it is junk.  Open the mail, toss the envelopes and inserts, and move the important information to the appropriate place.  Don’t make a shredding pile; shred as you go.  With email, delete things you know you won’t read.  Better yet, opt out of subscriptions and mailing lists.  Mail is a task if you take care of it daily.  Don’t make it a project. 
  • At the end of the day, make sure your toys are put away.  Don’t start the day with a mess.  Your brain (whether consciously or unconsciously) slows down because clutter is overwhelming.  It’s okay to make messes during the day (you should see my office!), but things need to be put away by the end of each day. 
  • Never leave a room empty-handed.  Put things away throughout the day.  When going to the kitchen for a (healthy!) snack, put that receipt in your office.  On the way to the car, drop the used magazines in the recycling bin.  Teach your kids to do this.  It will make clean-up easier later. 
  • Don’t put empty milk cartons back in the refrigerator.  Like the careless teenager, we come across things we no longer like, need, or use, and we just put them back!  This year designate a bag or box for donation. The next time you try on the pants that have never fit right, let them go.  You won’t miss them.  This principle also works in the kitchen (food and cooking items), office (pens, outdated supplies), and children’s rooms (toys, clothes, craft/sports items).  When the bag is full, take it to your favorite charity. 
  • A few nice things are better than a whole house (or office) full of “just okay.”  Quality is always better than quantity.  Let go of the décor that doesn’t reflect who you are or the appliances you never use.  Donate the books you don’t read (or the video tapes).  Surround yourself only with items you truly like (or love) and use. 
  • Flat surfaces are not for storage.  Yes, I know you think you need to leave it out to remember it, but does that really work?  Usually people end up piling more things around the item, ignoring it.  Leaving items out does not get tasks accomplished.  Note the task in your planner, then put the item in a place that makes sense.  Flat surfaces are areas for work, places to display a few special items, or simply places to rest your eyes.  Stop piling things there. 

So, are you ready to be more organized in 2014?  Develop one of these habits for the next few weeks.  Once it becomes a habit, add another.  Remember, you are learning a new skill, so expect it to take some time.  It will get easier.  Celebrate your successes, however small.

Get organized this year with one new habit.  You’ll be glad you did.

Renee Ursem, is a Professional Organizer and owner of Get It Together, LLC, Las Vegas, NV. Renee helps people learn how to organize and maintain their spaces using simple, practical strategies. Renee can be reached at www.get-it-together-llc.com. Find her on Facebook ( www.facebook.com/GetItTogetherLLC)

Leave a Comment March 4, 2014

Six Survival Tech Techniques for a Simple Holiday Season

By Patty Kreamer, CPO®
Certified Professional Organizer
®

The holidays are coming! What can you do to keep your sanity? Try these holiday survival techniques.

It’s the holiday season again…so are you going to be naughty or nice? Sometimes, the pressure feels like a heavy, cold blanket of snow lying on top of you. Other times, the holidays can be a time for joy and celebration. So what can make the difference for you and for others this year?

Many people turn into Scrooge as November approaches as the stores change from Back-to-School to Christmas displays before you can blink an eye. “I’m a busy person, for heaven’s sake,” you might be saying to yourself. “Who has time for the holidays?” And if one more person asks you, “Are you done shopping yet?” you’re going to go ballistic!

If you can’t wait for it all to be over and done with, you’re not alone. I personally think that the biggest drawback is all the clutter that comes with this time of year. Not just the physical clutter, but the mental, emotional and time clutter as well.

The parties, the family get-togethers, the obligatory gift-buying, the pressure to out-do the gift from the year before, the running around and standing in long lines to buy things that nobody really wants, the baking of holiday cookies…all of this on top of what you already have in your life! At times it seems as if it will never end!

How do you overcome these hectic times to make the holiday season a more meaningful, pleasant time? Just follow these simple survival skills, be more organized and manage your holiday time more wisely. So you can be happy instead of a Grinch!

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES

1.     IGNORE COMMERCIALISM. The holidays have been commercialized beyond belief. You may find yourself less inclined to participate in all the hype if you ignore it.

2.     ASK FOR AND GIVE “CONSUMABLE” GIFT CARDS. This can include items such as dinner gift certificates, lottery tickets, a massage, a manicure, concert tickets, or movie passes. This reduces the clutter in your life and provides you with entertainment that you will enjoy.

3.     REMEMBER THE MEANING. Holidays were not invented to drive everyone crazy trying to out-do each other’s gift-buying abilities. Take time to reflect on what it means to you.

4.     PLAN YOUR CELEBRATIONS. Whatever holiday you celebrate, there are only 24 hours in a day. Limit yourself to just a few parties (hosting and attending) to avoid over-commitment. As you plan, be sure to schedule only those things that you want to do and that will bring you joy.

5.     PLAN YOUR DECORATING TIME! Don’t just put it on your to-do list. Actually schedule a time to decorate and involve the whole family to make it fun. Turn on some holiday music and drink some holiday libations, if necessary!

6.     USE CONTAINERS MADE ESPECIALLY FOR THE HOLIDAYS. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors that make identifying them easy and logical (color-coded for easy recognition, tube shaped containers that will easily accommodate rolls of wrapping paper, etc.). Be sure to label all of your containers. This makes storage and retrieval for next year an effortless task rather than a time-consuming chore.

To summarize, be organized, plan, manage your time and only do things that will bring you joy. That way you’ll have a much more enjoyable and peaceful time of year.

So make this simple season. Say goodbye to Scrooge and say hello to a relaxing and enjoyable celebration.

Here’s to simplifying your life!

WANT MORE?

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Six Survival Tech Techniques for a Simple Holiday Season

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Leave a Comment October 31, 2013

The Power of Simplicity: Choosing to Live Your Life on Purpose

The Power of Simplicity!

By Patty Kreamer, CPO®
Certified Professional Organizer®

Remember Leave it to Beaver? The day would start with June and Ward having breakfast with the children, Ward would go to work, Wally and The Beav would go to school, and Mom would stay home and tend to the house. Later, they all come home, have a family dinner, spend the evening together doing homework and talking about their day, and then they were off to bed. Life was so simple then.

Wouldn’t it be great if life were this simple again?

If this describes your life, I would like to say congratulations. If you would like this to describe your life, the good news is, it can.

As a Certified Professional Organizer and Certified Organizer Coach, I have been paying close attention to the lack of simplicity in the lives of people around me for the past several years. Here are a few things that I hear all the time.

1. I am so busy.

2. I never have any time for myself.

3. I am always running late.

4. I never make dinner…I make reservations.

5. I don’t have a chance to…

6. I am so tired

7. I never stop running all day but I get so little done.

8. I wish I had time to…

We are living in a whirlwind society and, believe it or not, that is by choice. You can make changes by choosing to tame that tornado. It may not be easy, but it is possible.

HOW DO YOU MAKE LIFE SIMPLER?

It didn’t take you a day to complicate your life so it won’t be able to be simplified in one day either. You have to work at it a little.

• To make changes, you must first recognize your desire for change.

• Know your purpose. Why are you here? What is it all about? What matters most? Family, career, money? There are no wrong answers here.

• When you know your purpose, that the time to write your goals—know what you want and go after it. Only allow things into your life that will contribute to your goals.

• Look at need vs. want. Before you bring anything into your life—physically, mentally, or spiritually—ask yourself if you need it or want it. If you need it, ok. If you want it, try to wait a week to make your final decision. Most times you will forget the impulse.

• One great way to implement the above tactics is to always STOP – THINK DEEPLY – THEN ACT. This will help you to make thoughtful decisions, not impulsive decisions.

• Take control of your technology and time. If the phone rings, do you HAVE to answer it? The second you get an email, do you HAVE to open it? When someone else says they need something done, do you assume it has to be done NOW?

By using some of these techniques, you can be on your way to simplicity in no time. All it takes is some desire, commitment, and short-term sacrifice. The choice is yours.

THE POWER OF SIMPLICITY is within you!

 Here’s to simplifying your life!

 WANT MORE?

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The Power of Simplicity!

https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/427431791

Leave a Comment October 4, 2013

Back-to-School Means Back-to-Work

Back to schoolWhether you are a parent or not, and no matter how old you get, you always get that back-to-school feeling when August rolls around. It’s not necessarily a bad feeling (like the butterflies in your stomach that you got when you were a kid), but more a feeling of a clean slate and a fresh start.

When you were in school, you started fresh each year with new teachers, new books, new friends, a new grade, and new classes. You started out with a 4.0 grade point average and it was up to you make it or break it.

As you got older and became and entered the work force, that back-to-school mentality stayed with you. Around August and September, when you see the school buses on the roads and children on the corners waiting for the bus, first you thank heaven that you don’t have to go to school; then you get that feeling of renewal.

This is the ideal time and place for you to pause and consider what is important to you and your family.

Make sure you are only putting things on your plate that belong there. What in your life can you do without? What have you been doing without that should be there?

For example, a friend of mine who owns a business recently went to Thailand on a mission. She had always wanted to do this, but was discouraged from doing so. She finally decided to put the needs of her business and family aside for a few weeks while she went away and did something that she has always wanted to do. She wishes she had done it sooner, but is ecstatic to have finally done it.

Is there something that you have always wanted to do but keep putting off?

On the other hand, take a look at your month-at-a-glance calendar. What items are on it that no longer offer gratification? Review the associations that you belong to, the clubs that you volunteer for, and the positions that you hold in these organizations. Do you do it out of obligation, guilt, or because nobody else will? Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate what you give of yourself and be sure that your slate only has on it what you want to be on it. The rest will take care of itself.

So let’s declare Back-To-School as Back-To-Work Time! It’s your time to begin anew. Refreshing, isn’t it?

WANT MORE?

Sign up for this month’s FREE 30-minute webinar

Back-to-School Means Back-to-Work

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Leave a Comment July 31, 2013

Top 10 Summer Organizing Projects

sunflower against a blue summer skyTop 10 Summer Organizing Projects

Summer is here.  Whether you have kids or not, to most of us summer means vacation.  It’s a time to slow down, take it easy, and have some fun.

With a little planning, it can also be a time to get a little something done.  Mini-projects help you create order in a short amount of time so you can enjoy the summer guilt-free.  Here are my top 10 quick summer organizing projects:

10. Create a portfolio of this year’s school work.  Sort through your child’s artwork and school papers, saving the best and most creative pieces.  If your child is older, let him / her help.  Save the actual work in a folder or box, or take pictures to make a digital portfolio.

9.  Get your closet ready for summer.  Sort by style (work, casual, exercise) and color.  Remove items you no longer like or wear.  Move winter items to the back of the closet or box them up.

8.  Do a quick bathroom makeover.  Toss old products.  Move travel items to your luggage.  Donate unused items to your local shelter.

7.  Sort through board games, video games, and movies.  Donate what your kids have outgrown or no longer use.  Keep the most popular in an easy-to-reach place.

6.  Repair broken items (clothing, jewelry, toys, or appliances).  Toss or replace things that are beyond repair.

5.  Create craft boxes.  Sort craft supplies into categories (paints, coloring, scrapbook, projects, etc.). Keep them in separate containers for easy use and clean up.

4.  Make a supply box for your home office.  Gather all office supplies into one pile.  Move what you use regularly to a desk caddy or drawer.  Box up the rest to keep extra supplies in one place.

3.  Organize your luggage.  Store travel items (neck pillows, travel games, sample-size toiletries) with your suitcases to make packing easier.

2.  Make a travel list for your upcoming vacation.  Include items for each family member and specialty categories (camping, beach, plane, etc.).  Keep the list on your phone or computer and update as needed.

1.  Clear out your magazines.  Recycle anything left from the spring or fall.  Don’t worry, there will be similar articles next year!

Remember, don’t overwhelm yourself.  Tackle one small project at a time.  Make it fun by playing your favorite music, creating a contest or game, or working with a friend. Who knows, starting a small project may motivate you to tackle something else that you’ve wanted to get done.

This summer, take a few minutes each week to get organized.  You’ll be glad you did.

© Renee Ursem, 2013

photo credit: Claudio.Ar via photopin cc

Leave a Comment July 1, 2013

Top 10 Summer Organizing Projects

girl in grass and dandelionsSummer is here.  Whether you have kids or not, to most of us summer means vacation.  It’s a time to slow down, take it easy, and have some fun.

With a little planning, it can also be a time to get a little something done.  Mini-projects help you create order in a short amount of time so you can enjoy the summer guilt-free.  Here are my top 10 quick summer organizing projects:

  1. 10. Create a portfolio of this year’s school work.  Sort through your child’s artwork and school papers, saving the best and most creative pieces.  If your child is older, let him / her help.  Save the actual work in a folder or box, or take pictures to make a digital portfolio.
  2. Get your closet ready for summer.  Sort by style (work, casual, exercise) and color.  Remove items you no longer like or wear.  Move winter items to the back of the closet or box them up.
  3. Do a quick bathroom makeover.  Toss old products.  Move travel items to your luggage.  Donate unused items to your local shelter.
  4. Sort through board games, video games, and movies.  Donate what your kids have outgrown or no longer use.  Keep the most popular in an easy-to-reach place.
  5. Repair broken items (clothing, jewelry, toys, or appliances).  Toss or replace things that are beyond repair.
  6. Create craft boxes.  Sort craft supplies into categories (paints, coloring, scrapbook, projects, etc.). Keep them in separate containers for easy use and clean up.
  7. Make a supply box for your home office.  Gather all office supplies into one pile.  Move what you use regularly to a desk caddy or drawer.  Box up the rest to keep extra supplies in one place.
  8. Organize your luggage.  Store travel items (neck pillows, travel games, sample-size toiletries) with your suitcases to make packing easier.
  9. Make a travel list for your upcoming vacation.  Include items for each family member and specialty categories (camping, beach, plane, etc.).  Keep the list on your phone or computer and update as needed.
  10. Clear out your magazines.  Recycle anything left from the spring or fall.  Don’t worry, there will be similar articles next year!

Remember, don’t overwhelm yourself.  Tackle one small project at a time.  Make it fun by playing your favorite music, creating a contest or game, or working with a friend. Who knows, starting a small project may motivate you to tackle something else that you’ve wanted to get done.

This summer, take a few minutes each week to get organized.  You’ll be glad you did.

© Renee Ursem, 2013

Thanks to Organized A to Z.com partner Renee Ursem for contributing this article! Renee is a Professional Organizer and owner of Get It Together, LLC in Las Vegas. She helps people learn how to organize and maintain their spaces using simple, practical strategies. Renee can be reached at www.get-it-together-llc.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/GetItTogetherLLC) and Linkedin.

photo credit: Joe Thorn via photopin cc

Leave a Comment July 1, 2013

Things vs. Humans Your Stuff Can’t Love you Back

American-flagsWe live in the greatest country in the world, but one thing about living in America is that you have to be aware of the greatest gifts a human being could ask for – the freedom of CHOICE.

Naturally, with that freedom comes options – lots of options from which to choose. Decisions are hard to make and impulse is hard to combat. This is what makes simplicity so difficult to obtain and clutter so easy to acquire.

It all boils down to making good, thoughtful decisions and choosing to live your life on purpose. Do you know your purpose?

We have had some devastating events in our nation and it would be a shame, if not sinful, if we didn’t learn something from them.

Many natural disasters – hurricanes, fires, 9/11, tornadoes, earthquakes – have devastated various regions of our country.  Many people lose everything material; clothing, dishes, beds, computers, or even their home.

However, if you listen to their stories (those not tainted by the media), you hear that the people in their lives were what really mattered. The things that they lost can be replaced, but the family members, neighbors, and friends cannot.

Too often, we get wrapped up in the things in our life and we forget about the human side. You have to keep in mind that love is for people, not stuff. Stuff can’t love you back. Stuff will only fill a void if you don’t know your purpose or if you don’t have the right people in your life. Read that sentence again and think about that for a minute.

So as you stand in line at the checkout counter, be patient with the person behind the register. What’s your hurry? Do you have to rush to buy more stuff? When you see someone in need of assistance, help them out. It will only take a second. Stop long enough to make a difference.

Take this lesson with you. Look at your life and make the commitment to the people in it rather than the stuff that overwhelms you. If you do, I guarantee you’ll be happier than you’ve ever been!

Here’s to simplifying your life!

WANT MORE? Sign up for this month’s FREE 30-minute webinar
Things vs. Humans Your Stuff Can’t Love you Back
https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/268613903

photo credit: faungg’s photo via photopin cc

Leave a Comment June 29, 2013

Quick and Easy Summer Organizing Projects

Beach UmbrellaSummer is here! Time to relax, sleep in, and …get organized? While most aren’t looking for a big summer project, there some quick and easy things you can do this summer to look and feel more organized:

  • Play Match Game. Check the plastic bowls in your kitchen. Toss or donate any that don’t have lids. Make sure the bowls nest well with others. Get rid of the “lone rangers” that don’t nest. Stack lids under the bowls for easy match ups later.
  • Fix or toss. Gather any items that are broken in your home or office. Give yourself one month (put the deadline on your calendar!) to get each item fixed. Toss whatever is still not fixed at the end of the month’s time.
  • Update your photos. Take a look at each photo on display in your home or office. Is it current? Do you like it? Does it still represent an important person in your life? Does the frame match your décor? A few well-chosen up-to-date photos are better than a wall or shelf full of outdated ones.
  • Get it done. Do that one chore (not project) that you’ve been putting off. Break it down into smaller steps if needed. Celebrate when you’ve finally completed it.
  • Bag those cords. Gather all the extra electronic cords (and toss the empty boxes). Determine which ones need to be kept (get help if needed) and store them in a large Ziploc bag.
  • Conquer a pet peeve. What is the one thing (not person!) in your home or office that bugs you? Get rid of it, replace it, or put it on your wish list for Christmas or your birthday. Life is too short to put up with small irritations.
  • Organize the gift wrap. Pull out all the Christmas wrap and put it with the holiday stuff. Toss or donate any wrapping paper, bags, or bows that do not reflect your current taste. Put bows in a box to prevent them from being crushed.
  • Divide and conquer. Tackle the seminar bag, kid’s school folder, or pile that has been sitting there for months. Take everything out, toss unneeded items, and file what you want to keep. Limit yourself to a certain amount of space to prevent saving everything.
  • Have fun!!!! Talk to the important people in your life to find out what they would like to do this summer (include yourself). Put those things on your calendar to make sure those activities happen.

Remember, summer is a time to rest and recharge. Don’t get overwhelmed with projects. Decide which ones work best for you and your family. Make it fun by playing your favorite music or working with a friend. Let me know how it goes so I can cheer you on.

This summer, take some time to get a few things organized. You’ll be glad you did.

© Renee Ursem, 2013

Thanks to Organized A to Z.com partner Renee Ursem for contributing this article! Renee is a Professional Organizer and owner of Get It Together, LLC in Las Vegas. She helps people learn how to organize and maintain their spaces using simple, practical strategies. Renee can be reached at www.get-it-together-llc.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/GetItTogetherLLC) and Linkedin.

photo credit: Prab Bhatia Photography via photopin cc

Leave a Comment June 1, 2013

Tomorrow’s another day…but it’s here before you know it!

Procrastination workshop postponed signI’ve done it again. It is 24 hours before my deadline and I am finally starting to write. You know what I’m going through because you’ve all done it before. That’s right, the “P” word that plagues us all–Procrastination.

Why do we put ourselves in situations that do nothing but cause us stress? (I did it on purpose so I had something to write about—are you buying that?) The worst part about procrastination is that it is almost always self-inflicted. Let’s look at some reasons and solutions for procrastination. Which ones are holding you back from greater success and less stress?

It is easier NOT to do something than it is to do it. If you are a to-do list person (in your head or on paper), you look up and down your list and gravitate towards the easy tasks that are not nearly as high priority. It’s easy to scan right over the less-than-attractive tasks. Solution? Schedule all of your to-do items in a time slot in your day planner or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). A much higher percentage of tasks will be checked off at the end of the day.

Usually we put off the things that we do not like to do. Simply put, this is human nature. If you find yourself pushing a to-do forward day after day, confront it. Ask yourself if there is someone else that could or would do it for you. If it is something that you just are not good at, maybe you should consider educating yourself in that area so it is not such a big deal every time it arises. I see this a lot with expense reports. If numbers are not your thing, find someone that loves them and ask if they’ll do your report for you. Work a deal by offering to do something for them that they don’t like doing. Or ask others how they do their report—there might be a better or easier way of which you are unaware.

The task or project seems SOOOO overwhelming. You have a huge project that is going to take 30 hours to do but you have six months to do it. That sixth month is here before you know it and you are scrambling to get it all done. This is not healthy. Instead of looking at it as a 30-hour project, look at it as six 5-hour projects. That means you only have to spend five hours per month over the next six months! That is much more manageable. Go even further by breaking the five-hour project per month into five one-hour projects and schedule those one-hour chunks into time slots in your day planner or PDA.

You don’t know where to start. In looking at a 30-hour project, a starting point can be tricky and evasive. Look at it like an elephant. You don’t eat an elephant in one bite…you take small bites, one at time. That’s how you break down a big project. List all of the baby bites and then schedule to do one bite at a time. For example, if you wanted to organize your whole office (very overwhelming), start by narrowing it down to your desk, then a specific drawer. That will get you started, then you move on to the next drawer, then the top of the desk, and so on in little bites.

You’ve heard the old saying “Put it off ‘til tomorrow, you’ve made enough mistakes today”. It’s just a saying. So go on, get started on that overdue report. Someone is waiting for it with bated breath. I’m off now to write next month’s newsletter!

Here’s to simplifying your life!

photo credit: L-T-L via photopin cc

Leave a Comment May 30, 2013

Hooked on Technology? How much is too much?

smart-phoneHow do you deal with technologies that are supposed to save you time and money, but often don’t?

Technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to making life simpler and saving time. While it may do both of these things, there is a dark side. We feel compelled to fill that newly-saved time with even more things to do, thus complicating our lives rather than simplifying them.

Before you purchase any type of new technology, ask yourself, “Do I NEED this item?” Or “Do I WANT this item?” If I purchased every piece of technology that I WANTED, I’d need a new building in which to store it all!

We have to be careful when we bring anything into our lives, but technology requires even more caution. There are several reasons for this:

  • Technology is costly.
  • Technology usually becomes obsolete as soon as you get it home.
  • You may not be getting everything you need.
  • You may be getting way more than you’ll ever need!
  • There may be learning time and ongoing maintenance involved.

Everyone’s dream is to lead a balanced life, both personally and professionally; therefore, you need to do your homework on the technology that you are considering. As a Certified Professional Organizer®, I know that all systems are not meant for everyone. Don’t just think of the day that you buy it…think of it one, two or three years down the road. Is it worth the investment? Can you see yourself growing into or out of it?

On the other end of the spectrum, don’t waste an exorbitant amount of time debating whether or not a product is going to be just “perfect” for your situation. Striving for perfection is exhausting, squanders time, and probably drives those around you crazy! We just bought a new flat screen TV. I did so much research, that by the time we made the purchase, I couldn’t remember the features that we wanted in the first place. How frustrating and time consuming!

You need to take your daily routine into consideration; there is no one-size-fits-all solution with technology. Just because a colleague or friend recommends a new “toy” to you doesn’t mean you should buy so you can say that you have the latest “cool” device out there.  Be sure it fits into your life.

Look logically at the long-term effects of your purchase…and if it will save you some time, buy it, but refrain from filling that saved time with another task. Look at it as newly found time to spend with loved ones or to relax for a while by yourself.

To buy or not to buy? For anyone who loves technology, that is the question.

Here’s to simplifying your life!

photo credit: William Hook via photopin cc

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Leave a Comment April 29, 2013

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