My Virtual Birthday Party

What does my virtual birthday party have to do with organizing and productivity? I promise to weave it in before the end! Thank you for being a loyal and patient reader. I so enjoy your comments and emails.  Virtual birthday party July was my birthday month! Since we were all social-distancing due to COVID-19, I Read More

What does my virtual birthday party have to do with organizing and productivity? I promise to weave it in before the end! Thank you for being a loyal and patient reader. I so enjoy your comments and emails. 

Virtual birthday party

Round birthday cake with pink flowers
Virtual birthday cake

July was my birthday month! Since we were all social-distancing due to COVID-19, I held a Zoom call with a few friends from different decades. I ordered my own birthday cake: strawberry cake with hummingbird filling, whipped white icing, and pink writing. Exactly what I wanted! One of my friends, Cathy Harrison, who owns Cathy’s Creations, delivered a big bouquet of mylar balloons for some background decor and to make sure I couldn’t downplay my big 6-0.

Thirty minutes before the event, I put on a pink rhinestone tiara that crowned me “Birthday Queen,” took a birthday selfie, and poured a glass of wine. I set my birthday cake next to me on the desk with a fork and plate and started my Zoom event. Then I waited. What if no one showed up? There would have been tears on my keyboard for sure! But they did, and it was just the right sized group.

As each friend signed in, I renamed them with the decade we met (Sandra – 1970’s, Linda – 1980’s). This gave a little context since I had moved a few times (about 20!) during my life. I introduced each person and we shared stories about how we met and some good memories. As we reminisced, I unashamedly grabbed a few forkfuls of cake. Although it was much different from how I imagined I might celebrate my 60th birthday – like taking a little road trip or meeting friends somewhere – this virtual birthday party was surreal and fun!

Memories

This event brought back memories, and of course, I thought about how much things have changed over the years. Besides a lack of technology, growing up we had rotary phones, bomb drills during the cold war, weird aluminum ice cube trays, seatbelts that were just lap belts, and jungle gyms. And yes, I stuck my tongue to a frozen metal bar on the playground once.

It’s a wonder I’m still alive. Here are a few near-death experiences:

Laundry baskets make good baby carriers

When my daughter April was born, the hospital staff had to inspect our baby carrier to make sure it was secured correctly in the back seat of the car before they would let us take her home. This is a far cry from my own journey home from the hospital as a newborn. My parents bundled me up and placed me in their laundry basket in the back seat of their 1956 Rambler and off we went. No appalled hospital staff running after the car and calling the police about child endangerment! Once home, my bed was a dresser drawer until Grandma Trapp protested and bought a nice crib for me.

Before my daughter April was born, my mother asked if I would like my old crib. I declined it because it didn’t meet all of the current safety standards of the 1990s with its wider-spaced rails and old varnish. My earliest memory is knawing on that top wood rail! As for the laundry basket? My mother is still using it for laundry.

Mercury is fun!

I learned about liquid metals during third grade at Will Moore Elementary in Bismarck, North Dakota. Our teacher had a sample of mercury to show us and let us pass it around. I do not remember if it started off in a glass beaker, but I remember it ended up in our hands, being passed from kid to kid. It was heavy and cool (not 1960’s slang, but the literal meaning). Then it ended up on the floor, first spilling into a shiny silver puddle and then breaking off into shiny little silver beads that rolled away in all directions. We scurried to catch them all, which (fortunately) was impossible to do with our hands, but it was fun to try. My memory is fuzzy after that…

A glue-sniffing skunk

When I was little, if anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was an actress or singer. But I was pretty shy, so after we moved from Bismarck, North Dakota to Tallahassee, Florida, my parents enrolled me in drama class with the Tallahassee Little Theatre. We met on Saturdays at the Unitarian Church and yelled and jumped around the stage to warm up our expressive young selves.

One Saturday morning, we auditioned for the summer production of Winnie the Pooh. I had a cold and stuffy nose and blame that for my casting as a skunk. But not the real skunk. No, I was the understudy to the real skunk. Nevertheless, all understudies needed their own costumes since the stage needed to be full of forest animals. I even had two lines: “AAAAAAAgh,” and “Kanga’s coming!” I had arrived.

My mother dutifully sewed my skunk costume with white yarn fringe from the top of my head to the end of my bushy tail. On dress rehearsal day we forest animals were lined up for inspection. One thing was missing from everyone’s costumes: noses. Instead of face paint, they decided pink pom-poms would be more visible. Out came the rubber cement! We each got a swipe of it on our noses and had to hold the pom-poms in place for a bit while it dried. It stung, smelled, and gave us headaches. This was repeated for the live performances and we got used to it. We were a bunch of high little forest animals. Ponds lemon cold cream removed the residue and face paint. I still have that nose in the empty jar and it smells like lemons and rubber cement. Why did I keep it? Because it makes me laugh.

Mementos

Barbara Trapp wearing pink birthday tiaraMy friends chide me for some of the mementos I keep. I still have the ballet flats I painted ruby red for my role as Dorothy in my high school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. Then there’s a pair of wrap-around Sea & Ski sunglasses from the ’60’s that I got at a yard sale with my best friend Donna when I was about nine. She called them ‘boy watchers’ and I decided I needed those for my teenage years. And I have a flattened paper hat from my first job at Krystal, the job that made me realize I had a good work ethic.

Aren’t all Certified Professional Organizers minimalists? It’s all about personal choice. I’m not an extreme minimalist and I don’t push that on my clients. The few things I’ve saved don’t take up much space or cause quality-of-life issues. For now, they spark joy, but eventually, I’ll let them go so my daughter doesn’t have to deal with them. But if I have to choose, I’ll pick my new tiara over the dried-up skunk nose any day. Every woman needs a tiara!

Need help getting your systems in place and decide what to keep and let go of?

Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and 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

Win Your Day with Time Blocking and Time Boxing

When stressed and overwhelmed, even the most disciplined person can lose their way. According to Parkinson’s Law, work will expand to fill the time allotted to it. Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s direct quote is, “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” He wrote this in reference Read More

When stressed and overwhelmed, even the most disciplined person can lose their way. According to Parkinson’s Law, work will expand to fill the time allotted to it. Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s direct quote is, “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” He wrote this in reference to bureaucracy, but it is a perfect explanation for what happens to tasks and projects without boundaries. Tiffanie Wen provides an excellent deep dive in her article, “The Law That Explains Why You Can’t Get Anything Done.

Projects and Tasks

Every project should have a deadline. A deadline, whether imposed by you or someone else, creates a boundary, and boundaries are good. Not only do they provide structure, but they also help you prioritize.

According to David Allen’s GTD system (Getting Things Done), anything that requires two or more tasks to complete is a project. And if a project has a deadline, the tasks that support it should also have their own deadlines. If you have six important tasks to accomplish in a month, but only four have specific deadlines, those tasks with deadlines will be prioritized at the top of the list. The two tasks with vague or non-existent deadlines will flounder at the bottom of the list and may not get done at all.

So how can you structure your day so that your tasks and projects actually are completed? How do you motivate yourself when you are staring at a monitor or junk room and overwhelmed at the enormity of the work ahead? By putting boundaries around your time with Time Blocking, Time Chunking, and/or Time Boxing.

Before I explain how this works, let’s weed out one term. Time Blocking and Time Chunking are used interchangeably, so I will refer only to Time Blocking and Time Boxing in this article.

Time Blocking

Schedule for Time Blocking in 25 Minute Increments

Time Blocking involves dedicating a block of time to a task or project. With the Pomodoro Method, developed by Frances Cocirillo, you work for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break, and repeat. One round of this is referred to as a Pomodoro (think of a traditional tomato-shaped kitchen timer). After the fourth round, take a longer break. Are you dreading a big, time-consuming project? It’s less overwhelming when you only have to commit to 25 minutes of intentional work at a time. This graphic shows what that might look like.

That’s a strict schedule but with about six hours and forty minutes of focused work time. Think that’s not enough? According to a study of 2,000 office workers, most people who work an eight hour day are only productive for about three hours. So, if you achieve this schedule, you are twice as productive as most. There are health benefits for breaking up your work session. According to the American Optometric Association, to prevent eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to stare at something at least 20 feet away. Working within short blocks of time can help achieve that.

Hacking the Tomato (Pomodoro)

Schedule for Time Blocking in 50-Minute Increments

For most tasks, the Pomodoro method works for me. But when I get in a writing zone, I don’t want to stop. If stopping after 25 minutes feels like an interruption that stymies your workflow, try different durations until you find one that works for you. In his book, The Time Chunking Method: A 10-Step Action Plan for Increasing Your Workflow and Skyrocketing Your Productivity, Damon Zahariades found he works better with longer blocks/chunks of time. This graphic shows a much more condensed schedule for six and a half hours of focused work.

Time Boxing

Time Blocking is an excellent way to stay on track, but you can still stretch a project out without additional boundaries. Enter Time Boxing. With this technique, you set a limit on the amount of time you will spend on a task or project. If you want to get a blog post written in four hours, schedule the time on your calendar and get to work. At the end of the four hours, evaluate if the task is done or “good enough.” If you absolutely must spend more time on it, then schedule the minimum amount of time you might need to finish.

This is an excellent practice if you have perfectionist tendencies. And if you often miscalculate how much time a task or project takes to complete, this technique will help you create more realistic estimates – a key component of good project management.

Time Blocking vs. Time Boxing

So which technique should you choose? Either will help you manage your time better, but they can also be used effectively together. Use Time Boxing to schedule when you will complete a task and Time Blocking to keep your focus and momentum during that time limit.

I’d love to hear what works for you. How do you manage your time?

Need help with productivity? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and 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

Get a Password Manager and Get Organized!

Note: This post includes referral links and although clicking on them won’t cost you more, as an Amazon Associate and LastPass affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. You Need a Password Manager “It’s on a piece of paper somewhere. Maybe the back of an envelope or a Post-it note? Where is it?!” And so begins Read More

Note: This post includes referral links and although clicking on them won’t cost you more, as an Amazon Associate and LastPass affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

You Need a Password Manager

Colorful sticky notes on laptop keyboard
You need a password manager!

“It’s on a piece of paper somewhere. Maybe the back of an envelope or a Post-it note? Where is it?!” And so begins the typical search for an elusive password. Eventually, we find it, or give up and create a new one. And that one is hastily scribbled on a small piece of paper, or added to a sheet filled with other user names and passwords, some crossed out and with question marks. I am impressed by how much writing can fit on one page. Words fill the margins, some crossed out and erased, while others swirl around the corners as if in a vortex.

When I work with clients, friends, parents, and other family members, password discovery and recovery is often a time-consuming part of my digital organizing* work. It is frustrating for all when our momentum is stymied by having to stop and search, wait for reset emails to arrive in the inbox, and enter codes and answers to secret questions. But more importantly, weak or overused passwords increase the risk of information and identity being stolen. I always recommend a password manager of some type.

*Digital organizing is streamlining and decluttering your computer and digital workspace such as online accounts, email, document storage systems, photos, spreadsheets, basic word processing, etc.

Everyone needs a password management system, whether paper or online. My preference is an online system, but if you prefer paper, consider a logbook made for that purpose. Please avoid these:

  • A blank notebook. If you handwrite passwords, make it as easy as possible by having templates that include space for a website URL, user name, password, and notes (for security answers, and PINs). If you are in a hurry, you might miss something if you have to write the prompts.
  • Random pieces of paper (this is a habit to break!)
  • Excel or Word (or any other spreadsheet or word processing program). If you are worried about a vetted online password manager being easily hacked, do not try to create your own.

Here are the pros and cons of password logbooks and online password managers:

Password Logbook

What it is:

An organized notebook with templates for storing passwords, similar to an address book. Most have a removable cover to make it unidentifiable.

Pros:
  • Paper can’t be hacked; just keep it in a safe place.
  • If you are not comfortable with technology, this is a simple alternative.
  • You can see everything at once.
Cons:
  • Once found, paper can be read!
  • It’s portable, but not really. In fact, I recommend password logbooks be left at home to reduce the chance of loss or theft. Since you won’t be carrying it with you, you won’t have access to your passwords when you need them. If you forget to bring your insurance card to the doctor’s office you may not be able to easily pull up your insurance site on your phone and email them a card.
  • Passwords must be updated manually.
  • You might be tempted to use simpler passwords that are easier to write quickly.
Here are two examples:
  • The Personal Internet Address & Password Logbook: The cover is removable so as not to identify the contents. Sections are included for internet information such as WIFI set-up, email accounts, internet service providers, etc. Peter Pauper Press offers this in many designs and this brand is my favorite.
  • BookFactory Password Journal/Password Organizer: This book is spiral-bound, which makes it easier to hold and flip through. But the cover has “*******” on the front, so if you purchase this book purely for the spiral binding, cover the title.

Online Password Manager

What it is:

An online tool to manage your passwords. Most have free versions and/or a trial period and an upgrade. The paid versions are subscription-based.

Pros:
  • You can sync across devices and access them from anywhere.
  • Your login information can be auto-filled.
  • You can generate random passwords and have them updated automatically.
Cons:
  • As with anything online, it can be hacked. Follow the recommendations for how often to change and update your master password and follow any recommended protocol – such as two-step authentication – to reduce your overall risk.
  • If you are not familiar or comfortable with using technology, then it might be a challenge to learn.
  • If you lose your “master password” (the one you use to access the site) it may be irretrievable (as with LastPass).
My recommendation:
LastPass by LogMeIn logo in red and black
A password manager and vault app

I’ve been using LastPass for years and it is the password manager I recommend to clients. Each year I check reviews, and as of this writing, it still ranks very high. There are some other good ones – Dashlane and 1Password, for instance – but I have no reason to switch (if I did, I could export the data). I asked two internet security experts about their opinion of password managers in general. Although I expected them to recommend a password logbook, both said they use LastPass!

Passwords vs. Passphrases

Even if you choose to use an online password manager, there is one password I encourage you to write down and keep in a safe place: your master password. That’s the one you use to access your online account. If you lose it, it can’t be recovered. So what do you use for this critical password?

“Through 20 years of effort, we’ve successfully trained everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember, but easy for computers to guess.” ~ Randall Munroe, author of the popular webcomic XKCD

The differences:

I’ve been hesitant to write this blog post because of all the different and changing expert advice in the tech community. There is some controversy/dialogue over the effectiveness of passwords vs. passphrases. What’s the difference? A password is (or should be) a random group of letters and numbers with maybe a few odd characters thrown in. The key here is random. A passphrase, on the other hand, is made up of random words with or without spaces in between. Although random, you can actually remember it. Some sites might still require you to include a capital letter and number, but a random word grouping with those tweaks is still easier to remember than a random group of characters. Here are examples:

Password: d96wsk!wp3iQ

Passphrase: dog pipe carpet what soup or dogpipecarpetwhatsoup or dogpipecarpetwhatsouP2

Choose your system:

You can dive deeper into the comparison in this article by Ben Wolford from Proton, but this is what I do:

  • I use LastPass. You can find a quick demonstration of LastPass in my YouTube video, A Few of My Favorite Apps at location 6:40.
  • Create a passphrase of five random words for my master password.
  • Let my password manager generate random passwords for all of the sites I store.
  • Designate someone to have emergency access to my password manager.

Do you still want to write things on sticky notes and scrap pieces of paper? Then write the date on them so you’ll have a clue as to what the note was in reference to or how dated the information is. Perhaps the extra work will inspire you to record that information in the right place – like a password manager!

Need help getting your system in place?

Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me or schedule your free consult. I’d love to help you get some clarity 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

Garage Sales: To Have or Have Not

I hate garage sales. There, I said it! The same with yard sales, tag sales and any type of sale where I have to get up at the crack of dawn to fend off strangers who arrived before the crack of dawn so that we can barter over a plastic Barbie plate. Apparently, I’m not Read More

Garage sale sign in front of homeI hate garage sales. There, I said it! The same with yard sales, tag sales and any type of sale where I have to get up at the crack of dawn to fend off strangers who arrived before the crack of dawn so that we can barter over a plastic Barbie plate.

Apparently, I’m not alone. I conducted an informal poll, asking the question, “If you have ever had a garage/yard sale, would you do it again?” Over 70% said “no.” Should you have one?

Let’s consider that Barbie plate. Years ago when my daughter was outgrowing her everything-must-be-pink phase. Her heart-shaped Barbie plates were marked for 50 cents each and someone was trying to barter me down to 10 cents each. Okay, maybe they WERE overpriced, but didn’t they realize how many creative breakfasts those plates served?!? Ugh!

The precious playpen

Then there was the playpen. Our attic was full of baby equipment just in case we had a second child. But my then-husband disappeared into the attic, pulling down playpens, highchairs, bouncy seats, etc., dragging them into the driveway. Blinking back tears, I hurriedly began to price these new additions. Almost immediately, a woman purchased the playpen.

I recalled the times my daughter pulled herself up and hung onto the sides, wobbly but determined. Someone’s new baby will enjoy it now, I thought, and that made me smile. Until I heard the woman exclaim, “My puppies are going to LOVE this!”

Theft of a little red corvette

One reason I have never worked in retail (besides having no desire to work in retail) was because I don’t want to spend half my time guarding against theft. To be honest, I’m not positive we ever had much, if anything, stolen from a garage sale, but I remember a time I prevented that from happening.

My daughter had a red child-size convertible. It was adorable! We pretended her tall Mickey Mouse sprinkler with a hose was her gas pump. She would drive up the sidewalk and let Mickey fuel up her car. Eventually, she outgrew the car and we set it out on garage sale day.

A young couple asked to buy the little hot rod and together we lifted it into the bed of their truck. They jumped in and started to back down the drive. I raced to the driver’s side window to collect payment. Fortunately, another car was blocking their truck. They forked over the cash and seemed very perturbed as they took off. But Karma was there and so was the battery they left behind (those things are expensive!). They did not return.

Stinky boots

There is a particularly sweet (if not stinky) memory too. My daughter had a favorite pair of ankle boots with a heart-shaped buckle. She wore them daily to 1st grade. I mean, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Without socks. You see, there was this stage where the seams in the toes of socks were unbearable to her (I later learned that’s a real thing) and so for a long stretch she refused to wear them. I picked my battles, as all mothers must, and sent her to school. Eventually, I sent a note to her teacher that simply said, “It’s not her, it’s the boots.”

Finally, one morning I convinced her they were more than a bit stinky, unwashable, and thereby no longer wearable. I promised her a new pair. The evening before our first family garage sale, I was in the garage pricing and sorting. She walked slowly and somberly towards me as if leading a funeral march, with tears streaming down her face. In her hands were her beloved boots, which she, with dramatic effect, set down on a sale table. After she went to bed, I thanked them for their service and dropped them in the trash can.

The last garage sale I never had

Over the school years, we had several garage sales. I remember them being very labor-intensive for me for little cash in return. My then-husband worked nights. During one memorable garage sale, he decided to sell his equipment trailer and some excess tools and carpentry equipment. He strolled out mid-morning, coffee cup in hand, rubbing his eyes. Someone immediately approached him about the trailer. He made $1,500 in five minutes (not counting a few hundred more for all the power tools) and went back to bed. I, on the other hand, put in at least twelve hours of work and made less than $300. Home improvement stuff sells!

Fast forward a few years. “Things” were building up in our home again, as they do when children outgrow toys and youthful interests. I started pulling things together for a garage sale, but then stopped. I considered the time needed, the newspaper ad I’d have to place (when that was still a thing) and calculated how much money I could possibly make. $130 tops. My time and sanity were, and still are, more valuable. Three carloads later, everything was donated to Goodwill. I enjoyed a free Saturday!

So, should you have a garage sale? Here are some points to consider:

Reasons to have a garage sale:
  • The goal of less stuff makes the process of letting go a snap.
  • You have the time and could use some cash. Yes, you can make some money, just don’t try to calculate your hourly wage! Downsizing your belongings is its own reward.
  • You have lots of stuff to get rid of in many categories. If you haven’t had a sale in several years (or never), then you might have enough cast-offs to make it worth your time and draw buyers.
  • You have children and/or other members of the household who will participate. This can be a great family activity and valuable learning experience for children. Everyone weeds out their own belongings, assists with set-up, selling, clean-up, and disposal.
  • You have, and will stick to a plan for disposal or removal of any leftovers. Schedule a pickup by a local charity or junk hauler to arrive two hours after your sale ends. You may not have the energy to haul it off yourself.
  • You live in a big neighborhood.
Reasons not to have a garage sale:
  • You need to get rid of things NOW. If you’ve struggled to start your decluttering and downsizing project, a complicated plan for disposal can kill your momentum. Most of my clients opt for scheduling a pickup and getting stuff out of the house ASAP.
  • It will be traumatic to see people picking through, and leaving with your belongings.
  • The time and effort required are not worth the money you might make.
  • You don’t have help. Let’s face it – garage sales are hard to manage on your own. From hunting and gathering items days and weeks before to set-up in the early morning and then overseeing the event with no break…it’s exhausting!
  • You don’t have enough stuff. Bulky items such furniture and large, colorful kids’ toys draw people in. This is also the time when knick-knacks and tchotchkes shine. If the majority of things consist of clothing or items you expect a high dollar for, a garage sale may not be for you.
  • Your home is isolated from others. As with trick-or-treaters, avid garage-salers will try to visit as many homes as possible. Yours may not make the cut.
  • You just don’t want to. These events are not for everyone, so skip the sale and donate instead.

A client needed my help in clearing out her garage. It was filled with boxes from their recent move, excess furniture that wouldn’t fit in the home and much of the estate from a deceased relative. I presented numerous options for getting rid of it all, including selling on social media, donating, or having a garage sale. She unenthusiastically opted for the latter and we began digging through and sorting. Half an hour later, she changed her mind and we arranged for pick-up by a local charity. Once she made that decision, our digging and sorting kicked into overdrive!

Ultimately, the goal is to declutter and let go so you can free up space in your home and mind. As long as you procrastinate, your belongings deteriorate and others don’t get to put them to use. So, do you love or hate garage sales? Please share your thoughts and stories below.

Are you ready to downsize or clear out that packed guest room, junk room, attic or garage? I can help you dig through and determine the best way to let go of everything, whether it’s through a garage sale or thoughtful donations to the right people and charities. 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 some clarity 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 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