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

IMG 2579After 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

Cocooning: Self-Quarantining Reframed

Social distancing… self-quarantine… I much prefer the term, cocooning: “to envelop or surround in a protective or comforting way.” Faith Popcorn, a trend forecaster and marketing consultant coined this term in 1981, when there was no email or internet. So many of us are running around trying to stock up, sanitize and avoid contact that Read More

One green and one brown cocoon hanging next to a butterfly. Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on UnsplashSocial distancing… self-quarantine… I much prefer the term, cocooning: “to envelop or surround in a protective or comforting way.” Faith Popcorn, a trend forecaster and marketing consultant coined this term in 1981, when there was no email or internet. So many of us are running around trying to stock up, sanitize and avoid contact that I thought we should remember the benefits of staying in and cocooning. Extroverts: I get why it’s harder for you than it is for us introverts! Here are some ways to use the extra time and space.

Keep or create a robust routine

Merriam-Webster defines boredom as “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.” So make sure there’s a family schedule and a plan for everyone! Don’t have a consistent schedule for sleep, meditation/quiet time, or reading? Schedule it in. This doesn’t have to be a boot camp, but healthy routines can boost the immune system. So schedule the meals, limit screen time and get active (frisbee anyone?). And don’t forget personal and professional development time! This is the perfect opportunity to create or strengthen your ideal routine.

Break out the games

Every family home I’ve helped organize has a closet, room, cabinet or other areas full of games for various ages. This is a great time to go through them all, weed out what you don’t want and give the rest a more prominent location in your home.

Where does your family congregate? The kitchen? Living room? Clear out space nearby so they are easier to access. If they buried in a guest room closet you may not be inclined to dig them out. But if they are in a kitchen cabinet, coat closet shelf or living room, you’re more likely to get your game on.

Read the books, listen to the podcasts

I’ve had a book-a-week goal since 2016 and this is a great time to catch up. I have numerous books on my Kindle reader and Audible account. Many I haven’t read yet, others I’d like to read again. I give myself reading breaks in-between work tasks.

Fiction books, biographies and podcasts are great to listen to while cleaning, doing cardio or other mindless tasks because there is no need for notetaking. Before I know it, the tub is clean or I’ve clocked 20 minutes on the bike. Pew Research shared some stats about who is and isn’t reading. I think that percentage is going to change for the better as we all start cocooning more with books!

Take the classes

Like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’ve invested in a lot in online training and mentoring! There are three paid Facebook groups that deserve more time, and more courses than I care to admit that I rushed to buy but haven’t dug into (I’m talking about you Michael Hyatt and Udemy!). Lots of good intentions, not enough time. This is an opportunity for an extreme focus on personal and professional development.

Use the home exercise equipment

I have a weight set, kettlebell, dumbbells, exercise bands, an indoor bike, yoga mat and more. But most of my regimen has been at the gym. It’s time to self-motivate, dust off the equipment, turn up the music and get to work! Many indoor bikes, treadmills, etc. turn into clothing storage. Uncover it all and try it out. Don’t want it? Let it go, but find another way to get your cardio in.

Build up natural immunities

A strong and healthy body helps build up natural immunities so we are better able to ward off illnesses. That means getting enough sleep, eating right and getting exercise. While cocooning, make sure those healthy routines include stress-reducing activities. If you’ve never tried meditation, I highly recommend you try it now. It’s not just a “woo-woo” thing. There are science-backed benefits! Eliminate distractions, and sit quietly, focusing on your breathing and posture. When a thought comes in, let it wash over you and away, much like waves in the ocean. It’s hard to stop the mind from cycling through to-do’s, ideas, and worries, but just attempting meditation has its benefits, even if it isn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect.

Doing mindless, repetitive activities can also reduce stress, similar to meditation. Cutting up produce, folding clothes, crafting, weeding a garden… these all can be mindfulness activities when your thoughts are focused on just the task at hand.

Rediscover your cookbooks

I have some favorite well-used cookbooks and a few others with recipes I’ve drooled over, but haven’t tried yet. You probably have a few that you’ve meant to try when you get around to it. Well, now’s the time!

Pull all your cookbooks together, donate the ones you know you’ll never use, and select two-three recipes you will try this week. Have a few people in your household? Select a dozen and put them up for a family vote. Or let each person pick a recipe that they will prepare. You’ll finally get some use out of those cookbooks and put some variety into mealtime. Our local community still needs your support, though, so consider ordering out occasionally while cocooning.

Clean

If the store shelves are any indication, everyone has enough cleaning supplies for a small hospital. So use them! Don’t have a cleaning routine? Consider what chores should be done daily (dishes, making beds), weekly (laundry, bathrooms, trash) or monthly (refrigerator, lights, fan blades). Here are some things you should clean now with antibacterial wipes or sprays, or a CDC-recommended sanitizing solution with bleach:

  • Entire home: doorknobs, wall switches, cabinet, and appliance handles, lamp switches, toilet flush handles, faucet handles, railings, door frames, and doorbell buttons. Don’t forget to disinfect sponges and scrub brushes!
  • Technology: (follow cleaning instructions): Phones, keyboards, tablets, watches, fitness bands/wearables, plugs.
  • Car: Seat belt buckles, door handles, gear shifts, visor, rearview mirror, steering wheel, trunk latch, gas cap, accessory controls.

Help loved ones stay connected

A number of older women I have consulted with reach out for my help because they are alone overwhelmed and have no friends or family to help them, either due to distance, family dynamics, or strained relationships. Many are lonely and depressed. Loneliness affects men as well, but they do not ask for help as often (even more worrisome). It is heartbreaking.

If you have a parent or older distant relative, friend or even a neighbor who lives alone, help them stay connected when they can’t leave their homes. Teach them how to use technology so that they can make face-to-face calls, whether through Facetime, Zoom, Skype or other communication technology. Write down the steps and practice with them. Then use it to check in with them! Social distancing, self-quarantining and cocooning does not mean disconnection.

In summary…

In spite of a raging pandemic, we all have an opportunity to emerge from our cocoons healthier, smarter, and more connected than ever before. Oh – and with clean and organized homes!

Do you finally have time at home to get organized? I can help get it done 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

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

Five Questions to Ask Yourself to Tame Your Monkey Mind

Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term to describe a restless, unsettled or confused mind. Sometimes I head to bed at night wide-eyed alert, but tired. My mind is still going even though I desperately need sleep. I play a hypnosis app that usually works well to talk me down and into sleep, but there are nights Read More

Photo of two monkeys on a hill in India by Ahmed Zayan on UnsplashMonkey Mind is a Buddhist term to describe a restless, unsettled or confused mind.

Sometimes I head to bed at night wide-eyed alert, but tired. My mind is still going even though I desperately need sleep. I play a hypnosis app that usually works well to talk me down and into sleep, but there are nights my monkey mind opens the door and lets in a squirrel and a hamster for good measure to party with the monkeys. Together they work through scenarios and problems, and in general, take up where I left off before going to bed. It’s exhausting!

Who needs sleep? (I do! You do!)

This often happens when I’m avoiding something and/or my mind is a cluttered wasteland of to-do’s, pending deadlines and unclear goals. One particular week, I was behind in my planner. The long list of tasks I had assigned to each day had created a log jam, with no time carved out to actually do them. In my enthusiasm for achieving my goals, I apparently had not allotted time for sleeping and recharging, ergo the unwanted visitors now carousing in my mind each night. I had unrealistic expectations for what I could accomplish each day.

Taming my own Monkey Mind

This is probably not the scenario you’d expect from a professional organizer or productivity coach, right? No, it sounds like I desperately needed to become my own client! But really, I just needed to tame my monkey mind.

When this happens, I crawl out of bed before the alarm, make some coffee and sit for meditation. It may sound incongruous to wake up only to sit and nearly close my eyes again for 20 minutes, but meditating in the morning helps clear my mind for the day so I have better focus. Once I am done, I ask myself these questions to evict those marsupials and their noisy friends:

  • What deadlines are approaching?
  • What events are coming up and what do I need to do to prepare for them?
  • Are there any phone calls I need to make?
  • Which tasks am I avoiding?
  • What am I taking on that isn’t mine?

Deadlines:

The first thing I do is check my schedule for upcoming deadlines. If I haven’t already done this, I treat them as projects and break them down into tasks. Then I assign each to a day. If more than 30 minutes is needed, I block out time on my calendar. Whew! It’s a relief to have things scheduled!

One Chimpanzee down.

Events and be-there’s

Years ago I attended a Frankin-Covey What Matters Most seminar where calendar events were referred to as “be-there’s.” The main difference between be-there’s and project time on the calendar is that be-there’s involve more preparation. So, I consider what I need to do to be ready and engaged in this event. Do I need to drive somewhere? What do I need to take? What do I need to do beforehand (order supplies, pack car, charge up my headset, etc.)? Anything I need to do to be prepared goes into my planner.

The squirrel scampers away.

Reminders

Uncertain schedules really keep my monkey mind going, so I set reminders. For webinars I attend online, I set one-hour and 15-minute reminders. For client coaching calls, I set one-hour and 30-minute reminders so that I have time to review notes. For be-there’s I need to travel to, I set two-hour and 30-minute prior to travel time reminders. This way, nothing sneaks up on me!

A Rhesus monkey swings away through the trees (hopefully away from north Florida).

Phone calls

When a client is overwhelmed with either how many things they need to do or not knowing where to start, I suggest they ask themselves three questions:

  • What will reduce my stress if I take care of it today?
  • What will have a big impact on the future (could be as simple as making doctor’s appt or searching for a new one)?
  • Which completed task will make my significant other/friend/family member happy?

It could be something as simple as a phone call, and those don’t take very long! So pick up the phone and make the appointment, order the prescription, or get an answer to your question. Then you can move on with the rest of your day and get the wheels turning.

A Howler monkey quiets down and disappears (seriously, I think all the monkeys in my mind are Howlers!).

What am I avoiding?

One weekend I bought two potted herb plants from the grocery store. I set them down on the porch for repotting later. Every day as I walked passed them, I remembered I needed to plant them before they died. But the thought of putting on gloves, filling pots with dirt, planting and watering just made me procrastinate more.

Because they were in little peat pots I had to water them frequently. No, they didn’t die, but two weeks later they were definitely unhappy. So, out of curiosity, I set a timer. Then I grabbed my gloves and less than five minutes later, they were repotted and I was done, including scrubbing under my nails. Just FIVE minutes!

I’ve timed a few normal household tasks and found I could make my bed in less than two minutes, put away dishes in three, and unload a laundry basket (actually hanging and folding, not dumping) in less than five.

So what are you putting off? Unloading the dishwasher? Putting away clean clothes? Opening mail? Set a timer and get it done, and you’ll have a better awareness of how long tasks really take.  Then perhaps you won’t avoid them in the future. Have a bigger task to tackle, like cleaning out the garage, filing taxes, or filing anything? ? Try the Pomodoro technique and set a timer for 25 minutes. You can stick with just about any task for 25 minutes!

The hamster gets off the wheel and curls up to sleep.

What am I worrying about that isn’t mine?

One of my favorite sayings is “Not my circus, not my monkeys!” Sometimes, when working at warp speed, we add things to our list of things to do that really shouldn’t be there. Although I try not to ask my clients a question starting with “why” (it can sound a little judgmental), it’s okay for you to ask yourself this key question:

"Not my circus, not my monkeys" quote with little monkeys falling through a circus background

“Why am I doing this?”

For full impact, ask it out loud! If your answer is a little unconvincing, follow-up with these:

  • Is this going to help me reach my goals?
  • If I don’t do this, what will happen/not happen?
  • Am I the right person to do this?

Hopefully, you’ll trim that list just a little more. And with that, the three remaining little spider monkeys traipse off together. I’ve always wanted to use the word traipse in a blog post so here it is! #lifegoals

Am I recommending that if you can’t sleep you get up and do all these things? Absolutely not! But writing it down will clear your mind and ease any anxiety about what you need to get done the next day, and absent a monkey mind, you might just get some sleep!

Need help getting organized, whether with physical or mental clutter? 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