The Zen Your Den 30-Day Decluttering Challenge

January is Get Organized Month! To get started fast, join the Zen Your Den® 30-Day Decluttering Challenge and let go of 1,001 things. Yes, 1-0-0-1! You can start this challenge any day of the year, but get it done in 30 days. Once you start, you won’t want to lose momentum! 1,001 is just a small percentage Read More

January is Get Organized Month! To get started fast, join the Zen Your Den® 30-Day Decluttering Challenge and let go of 1,001 things. Yes, 1-0-0-1! You can start this challenge any day of the year, but get it done in 30 days. Once you start, you won’t want to lose momentum!

1,001 is just a small percentage of your stuff

Zen Your Den 30-Day Decluttering Challenge tally sheet
30-Day Decluttering Challenge

Before you call me crazy, let me reframe this for you. According to a survey, the average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from books to belts. And if you apply the Pareto Principle, most people tend to use just 20% of their things 80% of the time. I am only asking you to let go of .3337% of your things. Okay, if you insist you are way under the national average with a measly 100,000 things, then that challenge still equals only about 1%. But enough with the math. I’ve already wasted enough time for both of us trying to calculate this!

What I’m really asking you to do is to make 1,001 decisions over 30 days. Yikes! But if it’s true that we make about 35,000 decisions per day, that is an even tinier percentage (nope, not doing the math).

Why I started this challenge

In her book, How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets, Dana L. White, refers to closets, cabinets, bookshelves, and even houses, as containers. Before putting this challenge out to the interwebs, I surveyed my own home, a two-bedroom 1930’s apartment. Although I am a Certified Professional Organizer®, I still have issues with my own stuff. I’d moved in a year earlier and had downsized significantly, but hadn’t quite finished settling in.

My stuff
  • Books were starting to pile up on the floor near the built-in bookshelf in my living room and my magazine basket was overflowing.
  • As for clothes, well, it had been a year since I did a good closet cleanout. Sure, I donated a few pieces here and there, but as I tried to shove hangers aside to find a favorite shirt, it was obvious I’d added way more than I’ve subtracted. It was time to loosen up my closets.
  • Although my quaint kitchen is tiny, there is generous storage space. The tall white cabinets hang so low there is no space for a vent or fan over the stove (no frying for me!). Still, I had managed to fill them all with surplus baking pans, mixing bowls, and more coffee cups than I would ever use. I wanted to clear some space for my cookbooks since the kitchen is where they will be used.
  • My “office” had been a catch-all room for supplies for crafts I no longer craft, boxes of photos, and memorabilia. This office organizing project had ranked low on my list of priorities since I’d been content to sit on my sofa while typing away. But having a little separation of work and leisure is a good thing. I could actually use this room as my office (what a concept!) since that’s where my desk is. My supplies would be close at hand and my vision board in full view for inspiration.

All of my containers were overflowing, and since I’m a numbers girl (I’m always setting times and giving myself number goals) I decided to challenge myself to get rid of 1,001 things in one month.

You can do this

Are you ready to start your own Zen Your Den® 30-Day Decluttering Challenge? If 1,001 is too daunting, then don’t focus on it. But you may surprise yourself! Make a list of your containers (closets, rooms, bookshelves, cabinets, trunks, etc.) and categories of things you need to go through. Grab a clipboard to keep track of your progress. Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • Old bank statements (a seven-page statement counts as one thing)
  • Refrigerator door clutter
  • Pantry items (FYI: out-of-date food cannot be donated)
  • Clothes (a pair of socks counts as one thing)
  • Decorative items
  • Office supplies (a box of paperclips counts as one thing)
  • Soap (how many hotel soaps do you need?)
  • Kitchen (yes, eight forks count as eight things)
  • Books and magazines
  • Linens (sheets, towels, pillowcases, bedding, pillows)
  • Photos (think bad shots, scenic shots with no people, duplicates)
  • Memorabilia
  • Weight (why not count any pounds lost during this process?)
  • Craft supplies
  • Garages, attics, and basements
  • Storage units
  • Vehicles

Yes, you could hack this challenge. You could donate two 500-sheet reams of paper and an empty binder and you’d be done. Or you could take 1,001 pennies to your bank and deposit them. , but you’d still be surrounded by extra things you don’t need: old clothes, books, duplicate kitchen supplies, bad photos, your high school book reports… So get in the spirit and get started! Join the Zen Your Den® 30-Day Decluttering Challenge Facebook group community for support and ideas.

Need help decluttering 1,001 or more things and organizing what’s left?  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

5 Small Organizing Projects for the Holidays

The holiday break is a great time to do a little organizing for a less-cluttered 2022! These five organizing projects won’t take much time but will help you make the most of family visits and give you a jump start on spring cleaning. Organize a Game Zone Visits to my parent’s home have always included Read More

The holiday break is a great time to do a little organizing for a less-cluttered 2022! These five organizing projects won’t take much time but will help you make the most of family visits and give you a jump start on spring cleaning.

Organizing project: Miscellaneous board game pieces on a chess board
Organizing project: Set up a “game zone” in your home

Organize a Game Zone

Visits to my parent’s home have always included at least one game night. I fondly remember playing Trivial Pursuit, a game designed to ask questions about general knowledge and popular culture, with my brother and parents. My father and brother (scientific thinkers) were one team and my mother and I (creative thinkers) were the other. The guys thought they had that game in the bag, but the smug grin on my brother’s face disappeared when I pulled the “Fe” card and yelled out “IRON!!!” He’d forgotten about that little science award I won in high school. My mother and I won the game. Ah, memories…

Board games are a popular, low-tech option for fun. And it’s not just plain old Monopoly anymore. There are many versions of that including Monopoly for Millenials, a Fortnight Edition, and one with a National Parks theme. Check out Relative Insanity by Jeff Foxworthy, Chickapig, Watch Yo’ Mouth, Labyrinth, Scrabble, and New York Magazine’s list of Best Family Board Games on Amazon.

So gather your favorite games and designate a storage spot near where you would actually play them. A convenient, central location means they will get played more. Less technology = more social engagement!

Cull and Share Your Photos

No, I’m not asking you to organize all your photos into perfect collections…yet. The meticulous album creation or boxing by date or theme can come later. But how about a quick sort to pull out duplicates and other unwanted photos to share with family? Imagine spreading out all of these photos on a table at a family get-together and letting everyone take what they want. Imagine tossing the rest. Now imagine a less overwhelming photo project in your future. You may actually be inspired to tackle that sooner rather than later!

Let Your Family Shop in Your Home

Are you an empty-nester getting ready to downsize and reorganize? Just as with your photos, the holidays can be a great time to shed the excess in your home. 

As far back as age nine, I remember having a fixation on a floor lamp at my grandparent’s home. It had a marble base and a twisted iron pole. Every time my family visited, I unashamedly reminded my grandparents to save that lamp for me. I think that request came out something more like… “When you die, can I have that lamp?” Ugh! Fortunately, they took that request with good humor and it was a bit of a joke in the family. But twenty years later when my grandparent’s house was put up for sale, everyone remembered to save the lamp for me.

How about you? Are you ready to get rid of your china? What about old vinyl records or a dresser? Put a colored sticker on all the things you want to let go of NOW and ask your grown children to take any of those items with them or to make arrangements to have them removed. What if there are things they would like that you aren’t ready to let go of yet? Ask them to put a sticker with their name on the bottom of anything else they may want when you no longer need it. It’s easier to let go of items if you know the person receiving them. That’s great to know for estate planning purposes! 

Do a Mid-Year Clean-out with School-Age Children

The holiday break is a great time to reset for the rest of the school year. Whew! It’s great to have a break! Before your children head back to school, plan time for the following:

  • Empty out, clean and restock backpacks.
  • Purge graded homework papers.
  • Gather library books for return.
  • Sign any permission slips.
  • Do a room clean-up including closets and under the bed.

Another part of your home will be ready for visitors and your children will have an organized, fresh start for the next semester!

Give Your Grown Children Their Stuff

Whether it has been five or twenty years, their stuff is theirs to deal with. Gather it all together and when they come to visit, put on some fun music, serve up hot chocolate or spiced cider and lovingly lead your children to their piles of stuff. Not seeing them anytime soon? Consider sending some “care packages” with their favorite treats and an assortment of their memories. Think old school papers vs. heavy yearbooks. Your spring cleaning project and/or yard sale will be a little more manageable. 

Tackle these small organizing projects and enjoy the holiday break!

Need help getting organized and building good habits for a productive life?  Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or schedule your free consultation here. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

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

5 Steps to Organizing Your Garage

Can you park your car in your garage? If so, congratulations! But many of your neighbors can’t. In fact, about 25% of garages are used to protect a large amount of “stuff” from the elements while expensive cars are parked outside. When opened, you shut those garage doors quickly before the neighbors can see. If Read More

Cartoon of packed garage by Kelly Kamowski
What’s in Your Garage?

Can you park your car in your garage? If so, congratulations! But many of your neighbors can’t. In fact, about 25% of garages are used to protect a large amount of “stuff” from the elements while expensive cars are parked outside. When opened, you shut those garage doors quickly before the neighbors can see. If you enter your home through the garage entrance, a disorganized garage greets you with stress. Not a nice welcome! It’s time to start organizing your garage.

If you can’t park your car in your garage, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I know what’s in there?
  • Can I find items when I need them and access them easily?
  • Is my garage pest-free?
  • Is that stuff in the garage as valuable as my car?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to give your garage (and car) a little TLC: Tender Loving Cleanout.

Garages as Storage

A garage is a large, sometimes misused and abused, storage container and the car has first dibs. If it’s a two-car garage and you have two cars, then both cars should fit. Any extra space can be used for storing yard equipment, bikes, an extra fridge or freezer, holiday decorating supplies, outdoor games, and some excess household supplies. There may even be space for a hobby or mini-workshop area. TIP: Have an extra fridge in the garage? Use it for non-perishable items like extra ice, bottled water, sodas, beer, and wine.

The Best Time for Organizing Your Garage

When is the best time to clean out and organize a garage? A good rule of thumb (at least in the south) is before or after hurricane season and when you have a couple of days to devote to the project. Avoid working on garages in hot weather since there is very little ventilation and you can’t work for long periods of time in an oven. Likewise, in very cold weather coats and scarves are a hindrance to moving around.

Men and Their Garages

With the risk of appearing to stereotype, I have made these observations when helping a couple downsize:

  • Most men don’t want me, or their wives for that matter, in their garages. Or at least, they want to be totally involved and in charge of the process.
  • Everyone needs their space

You were probably expecting a longer list, but that’s pretty much it. This is really a good lesson for all organizing projects. Focus on improving your own spaces before trying to coerce or insist that another adult member of the household clean up their areas at the same time. Declutter and organize your own spaces and things and something magical happens. Organizing is contagious and you will probably notice your significant other (or maybe even a teenager) start to clean up.

5 Steps to Organizing Your Garage

  1. Schedule: Schedule two full days for your garage makeover. If you cannot allocate two full days, schedule several four-hour blocks of time. A lot can be accomplished in four hours, however, it is rare for two people (you, a professional organizer and/or significant other) to completely clean out and organize a packed garage in that amount of time. Set your expectations and just know that you are making progress.
  2. Plan out Zones: What do you plan to store where, and when and how will those things be used? Consider these locations:
    • Store yard maintenance supplies on one side close to the garage door and bikes on the other side
    • Store home supplies (lightbulbs, excess Costco/Sams Club close to the interior door
    • Select an interior corner for a workbench/hobby area if you have space
    • Select a wall/walls for shelving and storage containers
  3. Prepare: Purchase any tools, storage items, cleaning supplies you are sure you will need to complete the project. Some items to consider:
    • Large, heavy-duty trash bags (drawstring are usually not thick enough)
    • Push broom
    • Hanging supplies: Bike hooks or parking rack for bike storage, bars with clamps or hooks for brooms, shovels, mops, etc
    •  Shelving
    • See-through bins with lids (measure the shelving!). Cardboard is not an ideal storage solution inside or outside your home because it attracts bugs.
  4. Get it Done! Turn on your favorite music and get started. Set up a fan if you need some ventilation. It would be really efficient to empty the entire garage, clean it out and then return what you are keeping to designated spaces, but that isn’t always possible. If you don’t have the time, it’s raining or you just don’t want your neighbors to see the chaos, then keep the garage door shut, but cracked slightly for fresh air.
  5. Celebrate: You don’t have to have a garage unveiling party, but do add a few nice touches as a reward for all the hard work of organizing your garage. Add a fresh welcome mat in front of the door leading into your house. Inexpensive, but cheerful framed or metal art is also a nice way to greet you or your guests coming in through the garage.

One final tip: Good Feng Shui practice suggests having your car headlights point away from your home. This means backing into your garage. A little tricky, but what a treat to leave your home the next day moving forwards instead of backward. This is a good metaphor for the day and your life – always move forward – which is what good organizing helps you do anyway!

Need help getting organized and building good habits for a productive life?  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, Professional Organizer, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

Make Your Bed for Self-Care, Productivity and…Wealth?

Make your bed for good self-care It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research Read More

Make your bed for good self-care

Photo of made bed and side table (Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash)

It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research shows that if you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ll be more productive the rest of the day.

In the evening I (usually) come home to a neatly made-up bed ready for a fresh night of rest. How considerate of “morning me” to take the time to straighten the covers and plump the pillows! On the other hand, if morning me skipped making the bed in exchange for a little more time looking at social media, I come home to a disheveled bedroom. It’s a bit of a letdown and it means more work for tired “evening me.” Unless I’m sick, I’m going to straighten the covers and arrange the pillows before I get in regardless.

Why didn’t morning me think enough of evening me to do this?

When I wake up and head to the kitchen, I (usually) see an empty sink with dishes in the drainer, having dried overnight. It’s a morning habit for me to put them away while making coffee. It requires no concentration and very little time. But occasionally, there is a pile of dishes leftover from dinner and a dirty pan on the stove. Wow, dried-on kale is stubborn. And rice is the worst! This is going to take awhile.

Thanks a lot, evening me. Now I might not have time to make your bed. So there! (I see a little tit-for-tat going on here.)

When I make my bed in the morning I am practicing self-care. “Morning me” gets a little rush of adrenaline after checking that first chore off my morning to-do list, also known as my morning ritual.

I’m on a roll here! What’s next?

Next thing I know, I’m lining up my shoes in the closet, taking out the trash, and watering the plants.

What experts are saying

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” This is what retired Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World*, said at the 2014 University of Texas at Austin Commencement. It is just one example of many habits that shaped him in his career as a Navy Seal that he applies to everyday life and work.

In his book, The Power of Habit*, Charles Duhigg refers to making your bed in the morning as a keystone habit. Make your bed (keystone habit), and then put away some clothes. Brush your teeth (keystone habit) and then floss. One habit prompts the next habit.

Can making your bed make you rich? In a  CNBC article,  7 Rich Habits of  Highly Successful People, Socio-economist Randall Bell, Ph.D. is quoted as saying, “those who make their bed in the morning are up to 206.8 percent more likely to be millionaires.” Hmmm. There may be something to this bed-making thing.

Three reasons to make your bed in the morning:

    • It’s an easy task – low-hanging fruit that gives you the feeling of accomplishment.
    • It starts a chain of neatness habits.
  • Evening you will thank you (and maybe even clean up the kitchen).

If you think making your bed takes too much precious time, set a stopwatch. You’ll probably find it takes a smaller amount of time than you expected. And if it takes more than a minute to make it, you may have waaaaay too many decorative pillows on your bed. Put the ones you don’t actually sleep with somewhere else until you have guests to impress.

So get up, make your bed, and get going, you fabulous morning you!

Need help getting organized and building good habits for a productive life?  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, CAPM
Professional Organizer, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

*We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

How to Unsubscribe from Unwanted Emails

Unsubscribe, Then Mass Delete While visiting my parents, my mother asked for help cleaning up her with inbox. She couldn’t find the landscaper’s bill, and since he was also her neighbor, she wanted to pay it promptly. I opened up her email account, entered the neighbor’s name in the search field and found the bill Read More

Unsubscribe, Then Mass Delete

Cutting Unsubscribe to Subscribe Paper Sign with Scissors on a white background
To Subscribe or Unsubscribe?

While visiting my parents, my mother asked for help cleaning up her with inbox. She couldn’t find the landscaper’s bill, and since he was also her neighbor, she wanted to pay it promptly.

I opened up her email account, entered the neighbor’s name in the search field and found the bill quickly. Then I counted. My parents were receiving an average of 55 – 60 emails per day. Political campaigns, charities, store advertisements… it was way more than they could manage. So, I sat down and mindfully unsubscribed from and deleted over 60,000 emails in less than two hours. This cut those daily emails in half (it’s a process!). Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open your email program and choose a repeating email to unsubscribe from.
  2. Locate the search field in your email program, usually in the upper right corner.
  3. Type in the name of the email newsletter/business/association and press the Enter key. This should group all those emails together.
  4. Open the first email, scroll to the bottom and look for the ‘unsubscribe’ link. It may be a 3 pt font, but it’s there.
  5. Click that link. A browser window will open. There will either be an unsubscribe confirmation or a few more steps to complete.
  6. Go back to your email account and close the first email. If the rest of the emails are no longer grouped together, repeat steps 2 and 3.
  7. Click once to select (not open) the first email. Swipe down/scroll to the last email without clicking them.
  8. Hold down the SHIFT key and click the last email. All emails in that range should be selected. If you have trouble with this, click once to select (not open) the first email, hold down the SHIFT key, and tap the downward pointing arrow on your keyboard until all those emails are selected.
  9. Press the DELETE key. You’ve just mass-deleted emails.
  10. Repeat for any other groups of emails you wish to unsubscribe from and delete in mass.

Prevention is Key

  • To keep emails from getting to you in the first place:
  • When signing up for services online and before clicking a check box to ‘agree to terms,’ scroll up a bit to see what you are agreeing to. Chances are, there are several other prechecked boxes agreeing to newsletters, product news, or event offers from ‘partners.’ If you don’t want these, deselect those boxes.
  • Want to donate but not be deluged with frequent donation requests online or in your physical mailbox? Giving Basket allows you to give incognito to multiple charities at once and still get a tax credit. For more ideas on reducing junk mail, see this post on Junk Mail: How to Stop it and Let it Go
  • If you do subscribe to a newsletter, be sure to read the first few. If they are of no interest to you, unsubscribe and delete.
  • Note: Unsubscribe and Mark as Spam are not the same. One quietly removes you from a list. It’s like saying, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.” The other is a spam complaint in the eyes of email service providers and ISPs (Internet Service Providers). In short, marking an email as spam can hurt a business. Think carefully about which you choose. Most true ‘spam’ emails end up in your ‘Spam’ or ‘Junk’ folder anyway.

In case you were wondering, I did check with my mother to see what she wanted to get rid of first! I showed her how to do it herself in the future, but this gave her a head start.

Overwhelmed? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult. I’d love to help you Zen Your Den®!

Barbara Trapp, CAPM
Professional Organizer
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO