The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place Are you worried about your aging parents staying in and maintaining their home? Not sure how to help them age in place without taking over? Skim through any neighborhood forums and you’ll see your aging neighbors are looking for trustworthy people to take care Read More

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place

Elderly couple in front of two story house, with backs to camera
Help your parents age in place

Are you worried about your aging parents staying in and maintaining their home? Not sure how to help them age in place without taking over? Skim through any neighborhood forums and you’ll see your aging neighbors are looking for trustworthy people to take care of light repairs and odds and ends. The need is there!

Offer to do a walk-through of your loved one’s home to see what needs repair or replacement. Then spend some quality time with them getting things done! Here are some tasks that your parents might appreciate and will set your mind at ease:

Replace smoke detector batteries

Count the number of smoke detectors throughout the home and check the battery type (usually 9 volts). Replace them, writing the date on the battery with a permanent marker. No smoke detectors? What a great gift idea!

Change burned-out light bulbs

Check lamps, fanlights, recessed bulbs, and even fridge and stove lights. Don’t forget attics, closets, basements and exterior lights. Replace as needed, considering how the room is used and the color value and brightness level needed. Visit energyearth.com for a lesson on lighting.

Change A/C filters

Check A/C filters and replace them as needed, marking with the date. Pick up a few extra to have on hand. Some filters even have apps associated with them that remind you when it’s time to replace them. Once you register, you’ll get notifications

Check fire extinguishers

Check the pressure gauge on fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged. Some are rechargeable, others are single use. In either case, they all slowly lose pressure over time.

For a recharge, check with the local fire department to see if they can provide a recharge or take to a certified fire equipment dealer. Then make sure it’s kept where it is needed. Single-use fire extinguishers that have no pressure need to be replaced. No fire extinguisher? Another great gift idea!

Help them lower their bills

Assist in making calls to utility and subscription service providers to negotiate lower bills or cancel altogether if not needed. For example, cell phones, cable, and internet service companies often offer special deals throughout the year. Offer to help resolve unexplained charges. As a result, you can help them save money.

Update their technology

Help install phone updates, check WiFi connectivity, internet security programs and make sure the TV works. Modems, even if fairly new, can become outdated and stop working. If this happens, assist in getting them replaced.

Fix and prevent safety issues

  • Test door locks and windows to make sure they are in good working order.
  • Check electrical cords for fraying.
  • Look for trip and fall dangers such as sliding throw rugs, furniture blocking pathways, etc. and clear obstacles.
  • Plan for severe weather and power outages:
    • Place flashlights in several areas of the home in case of a power outage.
    • Set up local weather alerts for them and you to receive notifications.
    • Get contact information for utility services to assist in getting updates on power restoration.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of a medical alert system. Research features and benefits together and help order if appropriate (and they agree).

Discuss scams that may target them

Talk with your parents about scams targeting the elderly. For instance, one particularly evil one is dubbed, the “Grandparent Scam.” Discuss fraudulent IRS calls, emails requesting money and/or information, etc. For more information, check the Better Business Bureau and the National Council on Aging and/or search “scams targeting elderly.”

The adage, bad news doesn’t get better with time is relevant here. For example, if when visiting you discover lightbulbs out, blown circuits, a TV not working, computers not behaving and parents who are struggling to figure it out or just make do, encourage them to keep a running honey-do list for you (I created an irreverent form called “Crap I Need Help With”). Hearing about problems sooner allows me to fix things faster and that gives me peace of mind. Above all, you’ll be helping your parents age in place.

Need help getting yourself or a loved one organized? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching! I’d love to help you get organized so you can live the life you desire.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

The Last Filing System You’ll Ever Need

A Filing System for Paper Management Note: This post on filing systems contains affiliate links. If you purchase those items through my links I may earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Most people need some sort of filing system to use for paper management, even if Read More

A Filing System for Paper Management

Note: This post on filing systems contains affiliate links. If you purchase those items through my links I may earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link.

Most people need some sort of filing system to use for paper management, even if they prefer to go digital whenever possible. But what about insurance policies, warranties, and user manuals, certificates, passports, and health records, to name a few? You’ll want a place to easily file these things so they don’t turn into clutter. Ready to set up or redo a paper filing system? Here are some decisions to make before you purchase supplies.

Folders or just hanging folders?

Unless you want double work labeling, only hanging folders are needed. Plain manilla folders are very useful, however, during an initial sort of all your paper. Scribble temporary file names with a pencil and erase later for reuse.

Value/cheap or quality hanging files?

How annoying is it to have a hanging file fall apart (the metal piece separates from the file) or the hooks on the end of the files fall off the rails? Double annoying! Go ahead and buy the default dark green or brown files, but please, please, invest in reinforced versions like this one. Better yet, buy the Surehook brand, and not only will your hanging files stay in one piece, but they’ll also stay on the rails. The hooks are longer! You will thank me in a few years, or at least you won’t have regrets!

Solid color hanging files or multi?

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B002HI9RKM&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=zenyourden05 20Having all hanging files the same color makes filing easier and is probably a little cheaper. Just make sure you choose a color you won’t mind looking at for years! If you thrive on color for different categories, then these Surehook folders in mixed boxes of red, blue, green, orange, and yellow will work well. AND they work very well with the filing system I recommend.

ir?t=zenyourden05 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B002HI9RKM

File tab in front or back?

Should the hanging file tab be attached to the front of the file or the back? While we’re at it, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was that dress on the internet blue and black, or white and gold? Either way, you’re right. My preference is to put file tabs on the front of the folder so I can grab them and drop papers in behind. But I have many clients who prefer tabs to be placed on the back of the folder so they can grab the file and place papers in front of it. Just pick one method and stick with it.

Left-align, center-align, right-align, or stagger file tabs?

I’ve always liked the look of staggered tabs. But here’s the thing about that layout: it slows me down. My eyes dart from left to right and back again when looking for a file. And when I add a new file, I have to reorder a few tabs around it so the order makes sense to me. And it bugs me when, if I am using a five-tab system, the first four tabs in a group are related, but the fifth one isn’t. It just looks wrong to me. Confusing? Yes. Nitpicky? Well, maybe…

I now recommend that all tabs be left-aligned, with an optional category tab placed on the far right of the folder that starts a new category or group of files. Our eyes naturally look to the left first anyway. No more eyes darting all over the files; just a quick scan from front to back with the prompt of a category tab if needed. This system works well with drawers or carts where files are stored front to back. But if files are stored sideways in lateral file cabinets, then align the tabs so they are at the front of the drawer, whether left or right-aligned. If you access files in this type of drawer while facing right, then your tabs need to be right-aligned, and vice versa.

Place papers in the file with the top of the papers pointing to the left or right?

This may seem like a small detail, but if you don’t want to spend your time shuffling papers around so they all point the same direction, you need a system.

Do you have a file nearby? Stop what you are doing and pull the papers out. Which hand did you use? If you used your right hand, then put papers in files with the top of the pages pointing to the left. If you used your left hand to pull the papers out, then it makes sense to put the papers in with the tops pointing to the right. But wait, are these your personal files, or do these files need to be accessed by others as well? If the latter, you may need to have papers pointing to the left. Why? Because right-handers rule the world. I know this because I was born left-handed, learned how to write with my left hand, and then was made to switch so I would conform (my teachers meant well!). Although I’ve been writing with my right hand for decades, my tendency would still be to grab papers with my left hand. But I am in the minority and most of my clients would prefer their papers point to the left. Once you’ve decided this, explain your preference to anyone else who accesses these files.

I’m getting dizzy, are you? On to more concrete options!

Drawer, tub, crate, or rolling cart?

First, are you an Innie or an Outie? If you prefer things to be in drawers or closets – out of view so they aren’t visual distractions – then you may be an Innie. If you need things out in plain view for visual inspiration and also because out-of-site means out-of-mind to you, then you may be an Outie. Take this tendency into consideration along with how and where you use your files.

Elfa rolling file cart with Freedom Filer Filing SystemDo you want to keep your files tucked out of sight and in one room only? If you promise to open them frequently to file things and purge as needed, then fill your drawers with files. If you aren’t so sure those things will happen, then consider using drawers for archived files like tax returns, reference material, or supplies.

Do your files need to leave the premises? Consider tubs or crates that fit in your trunk. Do you like to work at your kitchen table or sofa? Consider a rolling file cart that you can roll out of sight later.

Do you hate filing and/or have ADD or ADHD? Consider an “open” filing system such as a file cart, crate, or tub minus the lid. Removing extra steps to filing (open door to the office, pull the drawer out…) simplifies filing.

I use drawers for supplies, reference material, and archived files like tax returns. I use this rolling cart from The Container Store for all my frequently accessed files (monthly statements, policies, ID’s, warranties, etc) and a step rack for active files (prospects, business cards for follow-up, receipts to log). The step rack should be within reach of your workspace.

Labeling systems

A good system will make it easy to file and retrieve items. A great system will be evergreen – you won’t need to update file labels if you move, use different utility companies, or have a significant life change. The filing system I recommend and use with nearly all my clients is Freedom Filer.

This is a color-coded labeling system (a pack of labels) for home filing with add-ons for:

  • Self-employed
  • Business
  • Employees
  • Customers and Jobs
  • Vendors

The Home 1/5 tab version is ideal for most people. The 1/3 system is more detailed, so compare them both if you aren’t sure. There are enough labels to make separate health and ID files for a family of four, with plenty of blank labels. You can purchase add-ons if needed, although most people don’t need them.

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B00F5VUJIC&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=zenyourden05 20ir?t=zenyourden05 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B00F5VUJIC

You will need 60-80 hanging files and tabs to create a complete filing system with this kit. If you want to use colored hanging files that match Freedom Filer’s labels, then these Surehook files are perfect. Yellow is not one of the system’s label colors, but you can use those for archived tax files and warranty files.

Ready to get started? Order a filing kit directly from FreedomFiler using my discount link.   While there, check out all their different products including the Elfa rolling cart that I recommend to all my clients. This is a $10 discount from The Container Store.

Need help with this project? I am happy to help you create your last filing system ever! Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, or life and productivity coaching! I’d love to help you get organized so you can live the life you desire.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Glinda the Good Witch: Counselor, Consultant or Coach?

Counselor, Consultant or Coach? What’s the difference between a counselor, consultant or coach? Does a counselor/therapist make recommendations to improve your business processes? Can a coach or counselor help with your extreme depression or anxiety? And what did Glinda the Good Witch say to Dorothy after the hot air balloon lifted away without her? We’ll Read More

Counselor, Consultant or Coach?

Photo of beach maze by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

What’s the difference between a counselor, consultant or coach? Does a counselor/therapist make recommendations to improve your business processes? Can a coach or counselor help with your extreme depression or anxiety? And what did Glinda the Good Witch say to Dorothy after the hot air balloon lifted away without her? We’ll get back to that later, I promise! Here are some examples of what each professional does to help you get down your yellow brick road of life.

Counselor/Therapist

Therapy emphasizes the past, present, and sometimes, the future. Here, the focus is on improving mental health – cognitive and emotional capabilities, functioning and thriving in relationships and society, and meeting the demands of everyday life. Therapists have different approaches and specialties. Licensing is required, and psychotherapists are extensively trained before they can work independently. I am not a therapist, so if a client needs help managing and improving their mental health, I will encourage them to seek help from a licensed therapist.

After Dorothy’s world spun out of control (and Kansas) she might have benefited from some therapy before embarking on her trip down the yellow brick road.

Consultant

When I work as an organizer, I am a consultant providing expert advice. Along with the physical work of sorting through papers, clothes and general clutter, I make recommendations about what to keep, what to let go of and how to store and display what is kept.

Organizing emphasizes the past, present, and future. We work on improving the functionality of systems and spaces, so you can manage your things, time, and activities. Although licensing and certification are not required, I am a Certified Professional Organizer (NAPO), hold specialist certificates in Workplace Productivity, Residential Organizing, and Life Transitions, and continuously invest in professional development.

Need help streamlining processes or organizing your office for maximum efficiency? As a business organizer, I can help with that. Need recommendations on how to organize your kitchen? As a residential organizer, I can give you recommendations and help you get it done. And that includes how to store and pack your fabulous ruby slippers!

Coach

Coaching, on the other hand, is a collaborative process and emphasizes the present and future. In this role, I don’t tell you what you should do, but I support you as we explore possibilities and you gain perspective and arrive at your own solutions. We start by identifying where you are and exploring your values and goals. Then we work on shifting you to a place of confidence and competence: your unique potential. We get there through focus and accountability.

The process is a very empowering tool for navigating transitions and reinvention. Although licensing and certification are not required, I am a graduate of a one-year, comprehensive coach training program and offer life and productivity coaching. Coaching is a safe space to share dreams and is ideal for people who are ready to move forward. As one of my clients said, “I knew the answers, I just didn’t know the questions. You knew the right questions to ask.”

Working with a Counselor, Consultant and/or Coach

Dorothy's ruby slippers sitting on a stump in the woodsDoes it make sense to work with more than one of these professionals at a time? Yes! Have you ever worked with an accountant AND a tax professional AND a financial advisor? Sometimes it’s good to let them communicate with each other to give you the best possible results. I am always open to communicating and collaborating with my clients’ support professionals – with permission of course.

And what did Glinda, the Good Witch say to Dorothy? “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” Glinda would have made an excellent life coach!

Are you stuck? Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for life and productivity coaching, or business or residential organizing! I’d love to help you simplify, amplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Downsizing Books: To sell or donate?

Downsizing Books My clients were downsizing books and had 11 boxes to get rid of. Here’s what happened when we tried to sell them to a used book store. Recently, I helped a brother and sister purge their late mother’s collection of books. They had lived abroad in the 1960s during their father’s foreign service Read More

Downsizing Books

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Chamblins-Bookmine-aisle-225x300.jpgMy clients were downsizing books and had 11 boxes to get rid of. Here’s what happened when we tried to sell them to a used book store.

Recently, I helped a brother and sister purge their late mother’s collection of books. They had lived abroad in the 1960s during their father’s foreign service work, and their mother had amassed a small library including cookbooks, books on travel, history, religion, art, culture and more.

The sister culled the collection and filled 11 banker’s boxes with unwanted books. Since they had no preference for disposal, I offered to take them to Chamblin’s Bookmine, a local used book store in Jacksonville, Florida to see what could be sold.

This was the process:

Step 1: Load boxes into my Mazda hatchback. Since my car is small, I could only take half at a time. (If I’d known I would be doing this full-time I would have bought a bigger vehicle!)

Step 2: Drive 45 minutes to the used bookstore near my home.

Step 3: Carry six boxes into the used bookstore. Note to self: Get a small dolly.

Step 4: Wait for review and purchase.

Step 5: Carry five boxes out of the used bookstore. That’s right: five. They only purchased one box of books. Store credit: $44. Cash value: $26.40 (60% of store credit)

Step 6: Drive home and unload the boxes of books. Set outside for donation pickup.

Step 7: Repeat Steps 1 – 6. Out of the five remaining boxes of books, they only purchased about half a box full. Store credit: $12. Cash value: $7.20

Five bankers boxes of books waiting for review and purchase at Chamblin's BookmineWas it worth it?

Maybe… if the books were in better condition and my client wanted store credit to get more books. But in this case, it would have been more efficient to call for a donation pickup. Unlike international best-selling author Steve Berry, who purchases 300 – 400 books for research at Chamblin’s for each novel he writes, store credit was not a priority for my clients. (In case you wondering, Steve brings those books back six to nine months later to exchange for his next novel’s research material.)

To summarize, I drove about three hours, spent another hour at the store, used up gas, did a bunch of heavy lifting and all for a $56 store credit. You do the math!

One bonus: Before Vietnam Vets came for pickup I invited my neighbors to take a look. Their young children were happy to take a stack of art and geography books. Another neighbor, a writer, took a few more. This was a nice surprise! It is satisfying and easier to get rid of things when you know who is getting them.

 

Other ways to dispose of books

Donating Books to Schools

Years ago I needed to downsize and get rid of at least one-third of my collection. These also included my daughter’s books. I sorted those by age and donated them to the local elementary, middle and high schools she’d attended. I gave a few others to friends, and the rest I took to Goodwill.

Selling books online

Another method of downsizing books is selling them online. Some of the books I have donated were current and in mint condition. Yes, I could have tried to sell them to a used book store or online through Amazon or eBay, but my time is precious and I am not in the book-selling business! Considering selling yours? Ask yourself if it is worth your time to do this. Is there another task that has a bigger ROI for you?

I had a client who had over 500 books in her library. Most were current and in great condition. After we sorted them by topic, however, she chose to donate half of them for a tax deduction. This was more valuable to her. I stacked all the books spine-up in boxes, took photos for her records and had them picked up. Her collection was more manageable and she gained more office space after removing two of four bookshelves.

Your reading style

When I ask prospective clients if they consider themselves a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner, I give the example of their preferred book format: “Would you rather read a book on an e-reader, listen to an audible version, or do you want to hold the physical book and turn the pages?”

Most say they want the physical book, but at the same time, they want to downsize. Book exchanges and libraries can be a good compromise. Check out the Little Free Libary.

My vintage apartment has two built-in bookshelves and my rule of thumb is to have no more books than will fit on those shelves. I read physical books to take a break from technology – and some I just love to look at and touch – but my preference is to read them on my Kindle (it’s easy to hold) and or listen via Audible (I drive a lot!).

The number of physical books you keep comes down to space, aesthetics and learning style. The way you dispose of them depends on the ROI – return on investment – for you.

Need help decluttering and getting organized? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing or life coaching. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

 

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

The Sh*t We Keep: Frugal Clutter is Still Clutter

Clusters Handcrafted Popcorn in New Hope, Pennsylvania is the guilty pleasure I enjoy when visiting my parents. I sample their seasonal flavors but always leave with a couple of bags of their fluffy white cheddar and wasabi standards. If you visit, get a bag and ask for it to be left open. They’ll fill it Read More

Bowl of buttery popcorn
Bowl of buttery popcorn

Clusters Handcrafted Popcorn in New Hope, Pennsylvania is the guilty pleasure I enjoy when visiting my parents. I sample their seasonal flavors but always leave with a couple of bags of their fluffy white cheddar and wasabi standards. If you visit, get a bag and ask for it to be left open. They’ll fill it to the top and you’ll have a little more to snack on while you shop up and down quaint Main St. And if you get a plastic tub, bring it back to get a dollar off a refill. But that’s how I got into trouble.

Frugal Clutter

In October 2017 I finally bought a small plastic tub filled with my favorites. It was sturdier than the fold-down bags and was a smart choice for the road trip back to Florida, I reasoned. Plus I’d save a dollar when I bring it in for a refill.

That tub traveled with me 900 miles back to Florida and then rolled around in my trunk for a few weeks until I took it out and carried it into my apartment. Where to put it? It didn’t need to go into my kitchen, as I was only going to use it in New Hope. Instead of sticking it in a suitcase (where I tell all my clients to store travel things), I set it on my dresser. Wouldn’t you know I forgot to pack it on my next long drive up I-95 in January 2018?

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate…” – Cool Hand Luke, 1967

In July 2018, my brother visited me in Florida while on a long road trip from California. Before he left for Pennsylvania (yes, we are a family of road trippers), I ran back into the apartment and grabbed that tub. Joe could take it up with him and leave it for me in the guest room for my next visit. Made total sense, right?

My memory is fuzzy about what my exact instructions were to my brother about where to put that tub. I probably should have been more specific.

In December 2018, I once again made the long drive up I-95 to visit our parents. My mother greeted me at the door with hugs and I unloaded the car and began to settle in. I walked into the bathroom and something caught my eye: Cluster’s Handcrafted Popcorn plastic refillable tub. The one I had bought to save a dollar. The one that had traveled 1,800 miles to Florida and back and cluttered my bedroom in-between. The one that now sat on the floor by the toilet, holding a toilet brush.

Refillable popcorn tub from Clusters in New Hope, PA being used instead to hold a toilet brush
Clusters refillable popcorn tub

When I pointed this out to my mother and brother, they high-fived each other.

The sh*t we keep!

What frugal clutter are you hanging onto to save a dollar?  Gas station soda cups? Movie theatre refillable popcorn tubs? Coffee mugs? Leave your comments below!

Need help decluttering and getting organized? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing or life coaching. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO