Those of you who know Teresa, see an “Energizer Bunny,” full of life and great organizing advice. Yet, what most people don’t know is that she has suffered with severe gastrointestinal disease her entire adult life. In 2012, after a 25 year bout with ulcerative colitis, she opted for a colectomy, a surgery that removes the large intestine, and results in an ostomy bag.
While some people might let a chronic illness slow them down, Teresa manages her illness through careful organization. In order to maintain an ostomy, there are several supplies necessary: a wafer (a piece that attaches to the stomach and holds the bag), a barrier ring that seals the wafer, adhesive removal wipes, skin protection wipes, and plastic bags to dispose of waste. Teresa orders these items every three months, and stores supplies in a bin at the top of her closet and, for easier access, she stores a 5 week supply in a caddy under her sink. Since the ostomy bag can be used for up to four days, this enables her to have supplies accessible without them being a constant reminder of her illness.
On a daily basis, Teresa uses a small pouch in her purse to hold two full sets of supplies in the event the wafer loosens and necessitates an unexpected change. When she goes on vacation, she packs extra supplies in a larger pouch since she enjoys a full range of activities (e.g., swimming, snorkeling, and skiing) that may require more frequent bag adjustments. After each vacation, Teresa repacks her ostomy travel bag and stores it in her luggage.
Over the years, Teresa has changed her diet multiple times to accommodate ever evolving food sensitivities. In order to ensure she has the foods she needs, she buys groceries and prepares food for each week on Sunday evening, storing everything in stackable glass pyrex. When she travels with food, she uses lightweight, non-breakable containers. In her kitchen, temptation is avoided by keeping her snacking food separate from her family’s food. When medication and supplements need to be taken at specific times, prior planning is a must, and medication is kept in a bin inside a kitchen cabinet.
Given that flare ups of her disease are unpredictable, having an organized home and routine, allows Teresa to control as much of her life as possible. If you or a loved one is experiencing a chronic illness, let the Life Organized team put you at ease as they declutter your home and reduce your stress. Also feel free to DM Teresa @richwomanhkny if you need a supportive ear or would like to share your experiences.