It’s National Checklist Day! (But you need to use checklists EVERY day)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making Read More

Photo of checklists on a clipboard. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Checklists are great productivity tools! (photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making headlines and this plane was packed with gear and suitcases right down the center of the aisle. Although the sky was a cloudless, beautiful blue, I’d brought a John Grisham novel along just in case I needed a distraction while flying over the ocean.

The side door closed and the engine sputtered to life. A few feet in front of me in the cockpit, the pilot was peering over a checklist in a large black ring binder. After a minute he slammed it shut. What I saw next got my attention. On the front was a cover sheet with these words in large black print: “HOW TO FLY A PLANE.” Our pilot had a sense of humor. I kept my nose in my book for the entire flight.

The History of Checklists

Humor aside, it was a real-life catastrophic plane crash in 1935 that launched the widespread use of checklists. Although the plane was in perfect condition, the flight crew had forgotten one simple, but crucial step: they had neglected to release the flight control gust locks. By the time one of the pilots realized the mistake, it was too late. As a result of this preventable accident, the “check list” was developed and is still required in all aircraft today.

Checklists Today

Checklists are essential for everything from preparing for takeoff in a plane to closing down a restaurant kitchen at the end of the day. They prevent critical steps from being missed and are one of my favorite organizing and productivity tools to create and use for complex tasks that need to be repeated. I love them because they free up memory space and allow me to focus on whatever is in front of me. I’ve created checklists for myself and clients to help with a variety of activities and projects such as:

  • Onboarding employees
  • To-do lists
  • Hurricane preparation
  • Contractor vetting
  • Weddings
  • Job fairs and vendor booths
  • Birthday parties
  • Community events
  • Garage sales
  • Presentations
  • Research/comparisons for purchasing a new car or RV
  • Setting up audiovisual equipment
  • Shopping (standard lists for different stores, customized grocery lists)
  • Packing (different kinds of lists for conferences, camping trips, extended vacations, cruises, summer camps, international travel)

What checklists do you currently use to help you stay organized? What activities of your life and work could be more organized with a comprehensive checklist? The objective eye of a professional organizer and productivity consultant can help you create the checklists you need to keep you and your family and/or work team on track.

Need help creating checklists and other productivity tools? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing, productivity consulting 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
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO

Packing Hacks for the Road Warrior

In May of 2016, I took a road trip in my (‘soul red’) Mazda 3 hatchback that took me through 22 states in two months. Traveling for that long makes efficient packing a necessity. Here are the packing hacks I used that will make your adventure easy and comfortable: Packing Hacks for the Front of Read More

In May of 2016, I took a road trip in my (‘soul red’) Mazda 3 hatchback that took me through 22 states in two months. Traveling for that long makes efficient packing a necessity. Here are the packing hacks I used that will make your adventure easy and comfortable:

Packing Hacks for the Front of the Car:

  • Collapsible trash bin with a loop: Great for small trash like wrappers, tissues, lens wipes
  • Cup-holder sized bottle of antibacterial wipes: I used these after gassing up or eating, and on the steering wheel, phone, etc. (I kept the container in the trash bin when it wasn’t too full)

    The Cathedral on the Prairie in Hoven, South Dakota. A packing hack led me to it!
    Cathedral on the Prairie in Hoven, South Dakota. A packing hack helped me find it!
  • Road atlas: Even the best GPS can’t replace a birds-eye view of the area you are traveling. You’ll be able to see alternate routes and some landmarks you may have missed. That’s how I discovered Cathedral on the Prairie in South Dakota (beautiful) as well as four-way stops with no stop signs (eye-opening!). And reviewing a map of your travel plans with children not only is a great way to involve them, it helps build spatial reasoning skills (read more in this PBS article). Tip: If you hear, “Are we there yet?” you can just hand them the atlas and say, “I don’t know…are we?”
  • Sunscreen: Put it on ALL exposed areas of your skin daily! I thought I would be protected from the sun while in my car, but I was only partially right. Car windows may block out UVB rays, but not the deep, damaging UVA rays. I discovered this after my first full day of traveling west on I-10. That evening my skin was red and felt burned on my face, neck, and arms. From then on I put on sunscreen in the morning and then reapplied it later. Tip: Store a tube of sunscreen lotion in your car’s side-pocket and a can of non-greasy spray-on sunscreen in your cooler. Refreshing!
  • Dry snacks: Nuts, jerky, gum, dried fruit. I was so grateful for these while stuck in a couple of traffic jams.
  • Sports water bottle: My favorite is Camelbak’s Podium squeeze bottle. It locks so no worries about leaking. Get everyone their own bottle (earth friendly!) and only use it for water so that the plastic doesn’t retain other flavors or smells. Tip: Clean them at night and refill with ice and water before hitting the road again.
  • Bottles of water (the crunchy kind): Okay, it doesn’t sound earth-friendly, however, if you are going to put ice in your cooler, it might as well be in the form of frozen water bottles. Tip: The ‘crunchy’ eco bottles are great for achy backs. Put one behind you while you drive to reduce inflammation (a tip I learned from a chiropractor)!
  • Lens wipes: Use for your sunglasses, camera lenses and cell phone (lens). And even the backup sensor near your license plate.
  • Envelope for travel receipts. Even if you aren’t tracking your expenses, the receipts will let you retrace your travel stops. Tip and nerd alert: I entered mine into an Excel spreadsheet with dates, locations, what I bought, cost, etc. And guess what? Two years later I was able to locate the same truck stop in Louisiana that had the best Boudin balls! Here’s my Yelp review.
  • Two journals and one big rubber band: One journal is for…journaling the trip. The other journal should have thick paper so it can be used to press and preserve any wildflowers you find along the way (honoring any state laws about picking flowers of course). Tip: Use the rubber band to hold the journal shut and keep this under the seat of your car. The heat will speed up the drying process.

Packing Hacks for the Back of the Car:

  • Laundry: Bring a large lingerie bag for each traveler. Put a package of laundry pods, a container of quarters and a baggie of dryer sheets into one of the bags. Everyone uses their bag for their dirty clothes and the bags are great for laundering delicate items. Using hotel (or friends’) laundry rooms will be a breeze!
  • Utensils:
    • Small paring knife with sheath
    • Vegetable peeler
    • Can opener
    • Wine/bottle opener
    • One fork, knife and spoon for each: (real silverware instead of plastic is earth-friendly and just easier to use)
    • Plastic storage containers: Use for fruit from roadside stands, a place to contain sandwiches and messy fast food while you are eating.
    • Paper towels
    • All-purpose cleaning wipes
    • Small bottle of dish detergent and sponge in a plastic baggie: Use to clean all the water bottles, coffee mugs, silverware, etc at the end of each day.
    • 4-cup glass measuring cup: Great for heating water for tea and coffee in a hotel room with limited coffee supplies.
    • Plastic coffee cone and filters
    • Small blender and cup: Yes, I made some smoothies along the way to avoid eating a lot of hotel lobby waffles.
    • Blender shaker cup: Use to mix up powdered drinks.
  • Food:
    • Ground coffee
    • Coffee creamer pods and sugar
    • Tea bags
    • Travel salt and pepper shakers
    • Boiled Eggs: These offer quick protein and can supplement a carb-heavy hotel continental breakfast.
    • Protein powder
    • Mandarin oranges: They travel well!
    • Cheese sticks
    • Microwave popcorn
    • Celery and carrot sticks
    • Jerky
    • Juice
    • Milk
  • Comfort items:
    • Epsom salts and bubble bath: Yes, it takes up space, but I love a bath after a long day of travel and activity. This is my favorite comfort packing hack! Tip: Use the all-purpose cleaning wipes to clean out hotel tubs.
    • Pillow: There’s nothing like your own comfy pillow to help you get a good nights sleep. Tip: Use a brightly colored pillowcase so as not to forget it in a hotel room!
    • Throw blanket: Use in hotels rooms, or in the car to get a quick nap at a rest stop. Tip: Store this inside the pillow.
  • Safety and miscellaneous items:
    • Scissors: For removing tags and well, how often do you reach for scissors?

      My red Mazda in front of Mount Shasta. I used some great packing hacks to fit in everything I needed!
      My Mazda in front of Mount Shasta. I used some great packing hacks to fit in everything I needed!
    • Gloves: A pair of work gloves are useful if you have to change a tire, do some heavy lifting, handle dirty stuff, etc.
    • Packing tape: This is always in my car for when I want to mail a package or secure something.
    • Hand towel: Use to clean up big spills, dry off after getting caught in the rain, etc.
    • Grocery store plastic bags: save these to discard trash, hold extra laundry, wet clothes, etc.
    • Road triangle and flare: These help other cars see you if your car dies on the road at night.
    • Gallons of water: Always travel with at least one gallon of water in your car, ideally one per person. If you have car trouble on a desolate road in the southwest, you will need it. Tip: Don’t have car trouble on a desolate road in the southwest ;). But at least gas up when you get below the half-full mark.
    • First aid kit: Include an antihistamine (for use in case you get bitten by a bug or have allergy issues), waterproof band-aids and calamine lotion.

These packing hacks make my road trips comfortable and fun. Clothes packing, technology and activity packing will be saved for another post. What packing hacks can you add to this list???

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® (or your car!).

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

Kiss Your Clutter Goodbye! (With or Without Marie Kondo)

Have you ever watched the show, Hoarders? What about binge-watching the series to scare yourself into throwing things out? Well, on the opposite end of hoarding is minimalism. There’s even a show for that. Then there is Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up… But what about an in-between solution for those of us who Read More

Professional Organizing: Why I Chose it as a Profession and Why it’s My “Thing”

Why I Chose Professional Organizing Transitions In the spring of 2016, I decided to take a cross-country road trip to visit my brother in California, and friends in several other states. I’d left an unfulfilling job as a branding manager, and had completed ten online courses and earned a certification: CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Read More

Why I Chose Professional Organizing

Transitions

Photo of Red Mazda 3 iGrand Touring on dirt road with hills and cloudy sky ahead
On the road outside of Dillon, Montana

In the spring of 2016, I decided to take a cross-country road trip to visit my brother in California, and friends in several other states. I’d left an unfulfilling job as a branding manager, and had completed ten online courses and earned a certification: CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management). My past experience included training and development, process improvement, time management and strategic planning. I have a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Services Administration. How could I put my knowledge and experience to use in an interesting and meaningful way? Professional organizing was not even in my dictionary.

Organizing Across America

I’d rewritten my resume, but no job postings intrigued me. If there was ever a “right time” to take a soul-searching solo road trip, this was it. Normally an analytic planner, I decided to shake things up. So just one week after hatching the idea, I packed my red Mazda 3 and took off on I-10, mapping out my first two days of travel the night before.

Photo of 2017 Road Atlas: "Road Trip 2016"
Road Trip 2016

My only measurable resolution for 2016 was to read a book a week, and I didn’t think of that until March. I was woefully behind, so I listened to audio books as I meandered through Louisiana, tore through Texas at a terrifying (and lawful) 85 mph and marveled at the changing landscape of the west coast. With rare exception, I’d reserve a hotel just an hour in advance. Before bed, I’d peruse the large road atlas I’d purchased for the trip to see what interesting sites lay ahead. Then I’d read myself to sleep. The 18 books I finished that summer changed my mindset and my life. I decided it was time to pour my hard work, skills, and experience into a business of my own creation. But what would it be? My objective was to decide that before I crossed the Florida/Georgia border on my return home.

While at my brother’s home in California, I decluttered his living room, weeded out paperwork and organized his office and staged a workout area for him. In Washington State, I eyed a friend’s craft area and imagined different ways to organize her supplies. During my weeklong visit to North Dakota, I helped one friend get set up with a cloud service and taught her more about her iPhone.

What started as an in-between-jobs adventure intended to last about three weeks, morphed into a month of travel and two months of coordinating and overseeing a massive home improvement project for my elderly parents in Pennsylvania. My mother had only asked for help hiring someone to replace 40-year-old carpet, but it was evident a total renovation was needed.  When I assessed their home with a more critical eye, I discovered a broken window, disintegrating screen door, unsightly garage doors and a leaky roof. Moreover, my father could not manage the step down into the family room to watch TV with my mother. So he sat at the table and looked down an across the room while my mother sat on the sofa below so she could hear better. Repurposing was needed if they were going to “age in place” as long as possible.

So the plan was to do complete all necessary repairs, sprucing up and upgrading in preparation for a sale in the future. My mother and father could enjoy their sparkling “new” home until that time. Included would be a new entertainment center in the living room so they could watch their favorite shows together in comfort.

In order to have wood flooring installed and the entire interior painted, I had to declutter, discard obvious trash, expired medications, and food, etc., organize and then move everything but large furniture out of the house and into the garage. I’ve joked I may need therapy after this, but there was something bittersweet about seeing not only memories of early years with my brother, but also of the vibrant, creative life our parents had B.C., “before children.”

After interviewing a steady parade of contractors (43 to be exact), ranging from painters and flooring specialists to window installers, paving companies and roofers, the work began. My parents were safely tucked away from the fumes and dust in a local hotel with me running food and miscellaneous supplies back and forth in the evenings. Once the flooring was complete, I returned clothing, linens, lamps, pillows and other accessories to original or new homes, with the excess stacked in the garage for sorting and purging later. Professional organizing and staging. Anything there would have to earn its space or be let go.

My “Lightbulb” Moment

Photo of black mat on floor with weights nearby. Caption: "Guest room turned into exercise space."
My brother’s guest room turned into exercise space.

I spent the return drive to Florida analyzing why I enjoyed the experience so much. I liked coordinating the contractors while guiding and supporting my mother as she decided what to let go. Although there were many tense moments, my mother and I are closer now. It was great to see the improvements, and even better to see my parents enjoying their “new” home, sans the chaos. Then I realized I’d been doing this kind of work for friends and family on my adventure, and prior to that in homes and offices. Really, for much of my life. I’ve worked hard for other companies over the years and decided it was time to put those efforts into my own business doing something that has always come naturally to me. As I crossed the Florida/Georgia border, I heard the term, “professional organizing.” I didn’t even realize it was a “thing,” but it was going to become MY “thing”: professional organizing and workplace productivity.  Zen Your Den® was born.

Oh, and about that reading goal for 2016? I finished my 52nd book on December 31. It feels good to accomplish a goal and to help others do the same.

Do you need help with a big goal this year?  If I can help, call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or contact me here.

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