The Stay-at-Home Dilemma: What to Do with Donations

Note: This post is definitely not “evergreen” since it is based on the ever-changing recommendations and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. All of this content is “as of this writing,” so please follow current government guidelines including what is available on the CDC website. Since so many are working from home or homeschooling, a mass Read More

Note: This post is definitely not “evergreen” since it is based on the ever-changing recommendations and restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. All of this content is “as of this writing,” so please follow current government guidelines including what is available on the CDC website.

Since so many are working from home or homeschooling, a mass decluttering is in the works. After clearing out all the closets, drawers and garages, what can be done with all the donations? I’ll share some safe options for dealing with your cast-offs, but first, here are the hard, cold facts:

Donations centers are closed

After dozens of phone calls, I finally confirmed that the larger organizations in Northeast Florida are not making pickups and are not able to accept drop-off donations. This is in spite of what you might have seen on some websites, map apps, or heard on recorded messages.

When I was finally able to speak to a real person at the Salvation Army in Jacksonville, Florida, they told me all locations were closed. In fact, the person I spoke with was unaware that the phone recording said their location was open for pick-ups Monday – Friday. He appreciated the heads up! They simply haven’t had time to update the information. The same for Goodwill. Their recorded message stated that although stores were closed, some donation centers were open for drop-off. However, several of my clients found those centers closed.

Here are a few of these local organizations. Check back with these sites later about donations, but please note they all need monetary support now:

BEAM Thrift (see their specific request for virtual donations)

Habitat for Humanity offices and ReStore locations

The Salvation Army

Goodwill Industries of North Florida

Vietnam Veterans (get notified of when pickups resume)

City Rescue Mission (requesting emergency gifts to help with their COVID-19 response)

Let it go later

Prepare it to sell it…later

In the spirit of social distancing and Stay at Home orders, we should not be leaving home to conduct sales. But if you have things of value to sell, you can certainly prepare for it by:

  • Taking photos
  • Gathering specs (measurements, etc)
  • Writing detailed descriptions
  • Partially pack (if materials are available)

Once restrictions are lifted, you will be so organized you will be ready to post immediately!

Recycle electronics…later

I often take old computers, monitors, fax machines (remember those?), printers and more to Staples since they accept a large variety of electronics. Although they are considered an “essential provider for working and learning” they are not accepting items for recycling at this time. The following local businesses are still accepting items, however, consider supporting them with donations after restrictions are lifted:

Sensible Recycling

Urban Mining

Donate clothing, household goods, and the dreaded miscellaneous…later

Pack up gently used items for donation at a later date, and, as much as it pains me to say it, go ahead and stick it in the guest room. There, I said it! Most homes have a room that is the “catch-all” for excess stuff they are holding for someone else (like nearly grown offspring), things waiting for a decision, seasonal clothing, wrapping paper, etc. This room-where-things-accumulate is one of the rooms I often transform with clients.

Other temporary storage locations for weather-proof items include attics, garages, and sheds. Clothing might mildew in the elements, but plastic children’s toys will survive. For my northern friends with basements, lucky you!

But not so fast. Before your drag in 20 bags of donations, please declutter and organize what is already in the room first, including closets, dressers, trunks, and any other containers. You may end up with more for your donation pile, but at least you will have made progress with another room in your house.

Let it go now

Curb alert apps vs. bulk pickup

Ready to let go no matter where it goes? Take your stuff to the curb two days before bulk pickup. If someone wants it, they will pick it up.

What about posting curb alerts on sites like Freecycle and Nextdoor? Freecycle has requested that local moderators only allow posting of items – where permitted – which are essential/basic necessities. So, posting alerts for essentials such as paper and cleaning products, diapers, etc, would be within guidelines (again, these guidelines are moving targets) since your donations will prevent someone else from having unnecessary exposure in a grocery store. As for the non-essentials, wait to post until after restrictions have been lifted, or take them to the curb and they will be gone by garbage day. Note: some municipalities have temporarily suspended bulk pick-ups, so check with your service provider.

Donate through Amazon

As of this writing, Amazon is still offering its amazing Give Back Box program. When you receive your next shipment of “whatever,” save the box and fill it with seasonally appropriate clothing and household goods you no longer need. They’ll even provide a free label! You will have recycled a box and gained space in your closet!

You don’t have to do it alone. I can help you declutter and organize your home with Virtual Organizing! 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 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

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 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

It’s National Simplify Your Life Week: 4 Ways to Declutter Your Life

Just a week to simplify your life?? With the right mindset, you can make some real progress! Here are four suggestions to do just that: Schedule Chores and Errands In his book, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, Chris Bailey outlines his year spent conducting numerous productivity experiments on Read More

Just a week to simplify your life?? With the right mindset, you can make some real progress! Here are four suggestions to do just that:

Schedule Chores and Errands

In his book, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, Chris Bailey outlines his year spent conducting numerous productivity experiments on himself. One concept, scheduling blocks of time for various household tasks, proved to be a winner. It may not sound fun and exciting, but you might try this for a month. Instead of scattering tasks throughout the week, schedule a block of time for all your errands (grocery shopping, gassing up, etc.) and another for chores (laundry, vacuuming, cleaning). You’ll simplify your life and might free up some time in the process!

Keep ONE calendar

Simplify your life! A road sign with complicated simple words on sky background
Simplify your life!

A young college student contacted me for help with scheduling, time management, and general organization. Her first semester of school hadn’t gone well and she’d failed two courses. Her second semester would be a “do-over” – she needed to improve her GPA for nursing school.

I asked what planning system she was using if any, and she proudly produced four colorful paper planners with calendars, each for a different area of her life. I asked if that was working for her and she admitted it wasn’t. She spent more time updating her various planners (or looking for them) than actually getting assignments done. I encouraged her to select one planner for everything.

Recently I asked a new Baby Boomer client the same question. She also used four calendars! A large calendar pad covered the top of her small desk. She carried a decorative 5′ x 8′ planner for personal appointments and lists, and a larger, more serious looking planner for her new home business. She also used a digital planner. She too had hired me for help with time management.

Do you see a theme here? Both clients were trying to use multiple systems and still needed help with time management. Systems should serve your needs, not the other way around. Using just one calendar/planner instead of several can simplify your life.

Digital and paper planners and calendars

For individuals (middle school age and older), I recommend using one planning system. If seeing a “big picture” view is important to you (as it was with my Baby Boomer client), then select a paper planner with a two-page-per-month spread insert or, for digital planners, select the “month” view on a larger screen. Busy families and couples may need a shared calendar. A large wall/fridge calendar with everyone’s appointments is one solution. Or, for the tech-savvy, appointments can be shared by “inviting” others to the appointment.

What’s the difference between a planner and calendar? A planner may have both a calendar and a to-do list. I record all my appointments in my digital calendar so I can use alerts and GPS map features. My to-do lists are in a paper planner because ultimately, I am a paper planner person.

Stack Your Habits

Want to form a new habit quickly? Try habit-stacking. Let’s say you want to develop a new habit of taking a vitamin D pill every morning but you keep forgetting. You have no problem remembering to brush your teeth every morning because it’s an ingrained habit. To form the new habit of taking the vitamin, you put the bottle near your toothbrush. Then when you brush your teeth you will see the bottle, reminding you to take the vitamin. You’ve stacked a new habit on top of an old one! The strength of your strong habits can help you create new ones. Habit stacks create routines. Routines can simplify your life.

Here’s my morning routine:

  1. Turn on the coffee machine (old habit) and while the water is heating, empty the dishwasher (new habit).
  2. Fix my coffee (old habit) and make a glass of iced lemon water (new habit).
  3. Bring my coffee and water into the living room (old habit) and while the coffee cools a bit I meditate (new habit).

There are many books on the subject. Try Habit-Stacking by S. J. Scott for a huge list of examples.

Have Less Stuff

Numerous clients have become wistful over magazine layouts of uncluttered designer homes with nary a scrap of junk mail or tchotchke in sight. One client admitted she would be happy just living in a hotel room. Another took me to a relative’s home to show what they wanted their own home to look like. Nothing was out-of-place. Each room had what it needed to function and nothing more. The difference? Less stuff. They had simplified their home.

If you truly want a zen-minimalist-sparsely-decorated home but every existing space is filled, you will need to do some serious downsizing to achieve your dream. Stuffing the excess in storage units, closets and attics is not the same as downsizing.

Ready to simplify your life? I offer nonjudgmental help to busy and overwhelmed women like you! Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult. I’d love to help you simplify and 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