Step One: Reduce the Need to Label
- Eliminate Clutter. Yes, this includes cleaning! Ask a friend or family member for help. Look through closets, cupboards, file and medicine cabinets, desks, hobby areas, and other storage spaces. Discard unused or broken tools, expired medications or foods, and other items that you rarely use. Consider giving away old clothing and accessories. By removing the excess clutter, you will have fewer items to sort through each time you look for something.
- Shoeboxes are great for storing items like purses, medicines, or sewing accessories. They can also be used as dividers in larger drawers to hold belts or scarves.
- Plastic, sealable storage bags come in several styles and sizes. Use small bags to hold matching sets of jewelry or small parts for electronic or woodworking projects. Larger bags can be used to hold matching sets of clothing, keep paperwork together, or to sort socks or stockings by color.
- Trust your senses. Tactile exploration can greatly help with determining the contents of a container, or when using an appliance or other piece of equipment.
It's easy to differentiate, for example, the cream soup from the noodle soup by listening and feeling the differences when you shake the cans; the noodle soup will splash and feel looser. Your senses of touch and hearing can also help you operate appliances. For instance, some stove dials click as you turn the knob to various temperature settings. Phones or other electronic devices with numbered keypads may have built-in tactile features such as a raised dot on the number "5" (to indicate the center number in the center row).
- Feel and compare the plastic on bottles containing cleaning products. Plastic bleach containers feel rough, while those holding ammonia feel smooth.
Step Two: Select Your System
There are two main types of systems: visual and tactile.
Visual systems work well if you are able to use your residual vision for some tasks. The label size that works for you may depend on the print size you need. Use of color and contrast is also important. Keep it simple. Too many labels or marks can make things difficult and confusing.
Inexpensive examples of visual systems include:
- White, unlined index cards (3x5 or larger) and a dark-colored, bold-tip pen can help you create labels to identify medications, cassette tapes, clothing, and foods. For example, use a rubber band to attach a labeled index card onto a can of soup. After using the item, place the label in an empty coffee can or container. You can then use the labels to create your shopping list, and when you return from the store, attach the label to the item before putting it away.
- Adhesive labels come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and are a great way to create a color-coded identification system. One man used his magnifier to determine the level of importance of his incoming mail and then sorted it using different colored stickers. Bills got orange stickers. Blue stickers were used for personal mail, and green ones went on pieces that could wait for a meeting with his monthly reader.
- Brightly colored nail polish can be used to mark settings on appliances or electronics. Pick a color that's best for your vision. If necessary, ask a family member to mark the 350-degree setting on the oven dial or the most frequently used setting on the thermostat. You can then adjust the temperatures based on the mark.
Tactile systems benefit those with no or very limited vision, or people whose vision tends to fluctuate. You can use a combination of both visual and tactile systems depending on the situation or activity involved. Tactile systems may include Braille or other alternative alphabets but are not limited to those resources.
- Rubber bands can easily help you identify a product or distinguish similar types of containers. For example, wrap a rubber band around the juice container to tell it apart from the milk. If your shampoo and conditioner bottles are similar in shape, wrap a rubber band around one of them. And use multiple rubber bands to differentiate comparable items, such as soup cans: don't use any rubber bands on your favorite kind, use one on your next favorite, two on another variety and so on.
- Felt dots or furniture bumpers are easy-to-use tactile markers. Use them to mark temperature settings on appliances, on/off buttons on electronic devices, sewing machine features, or medication bottles.
Decide What Works for You
Use your imagination. The items you can utilize to mark and label are often already in your home, or they can be purchased in hardware or craft stores. Just keep in mind how you're going to use them. Do you want them to be permanent or reusable? Durable or inexpensive? Whichever method you choose, make sure you participate in creating it so that you're comfortable using it regularly to increase your independence.