Downsizing Books: To sell or donate?

Downsizing Books My clients were downsizing books and had 11 boxes to get rid of. Here’s what happened when we tried to sell them to a used book store. Recently, I helped a brother and sister purge their late mother’s collection of books. They had lived abroad in the 1960s during their father’s foreign service Read More

Downsizing Books

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Chamblins-Bookmine-aisle-225x300.jpgMy clients were downsizing books and had 11 boxes to get rid of. Here’s what happened when we tried to sell them to a used book store.

Recently, I helped a brother and sister purge their late mother’s collection of books. They had lived abroad in the 1960s during their father’s foreign service work, and their mother had amassed a small library including cookbooks, books on travel, history, religion, art, culture and more.

The sister culled the collection and filled 11 banker’s boxes with unwanted books. Since they had no preference for disposal, I offered to take them to Chamblin’s Bookmine, a local used book store in Jacksonville, Florida to see what could be sold.

This was the process:

Step 1: Load boxes into my Mazda hatchback. Since my car is small, I could only take half at a time. (If I’d known I would be doing this full-time I would have bought a bigger vehicle!)

Step 2: Drive 45 minutes to the used bookstore near my home.

Step 3: Carry six boxes into the used bookstore. Note to self: Get a small dolly.

Step 4: Wait for review and purchase.

Step 5: Carry five boxes out of the used bookstore. That’s right: five. They only purchased one box of books. Store credit: $44. Cash value: $26.40 (60% of store credit)

Step 6: Drive home and unload the boxes of books. Set outside for donation pickup.

Step 7: Repeat Steps 1 – 6. Out of the five remaining boxes of books, they only purchased about half a box full. Store credit: $12. Cash value: $7.20

Five bankers boxes of books waiting for review and purchase at Chamblin's BookmineWas it worth it?

Maybe… if the books were in better condition and my client wanted store credit to get more books. But in this case, it would have been more efficient to call for a donation pickup. Unlike international best-selling author Steve Berry, who purchases 300 – 400 books for research at Chamblin’s for each novel he writes, store credit was not a priority for my clients. (In case you wondering, Steve brings those books back six to nine months later to exchange for his next novel’s research material.)

To summarize, I drove about three hours, spent another hour at the store, used up gas, did a bunch of heavy lifting and all for a $56 store credit. You do the math!

One bonus: Before Vietnam Vets came for pickup I invited my neighbors to take a look. Their young children were happy to take a stack of art and geography books. Another neighbor, a writer, took a few more. This was a nice surprise! It is satisfying and easier to get rid of things when you know who is getting them.

 

Other ways to dispose of books

Donating Books to Schools

Years ago I needed to downsize and get rid of at least one-third of my collection. These also included my daughter’s books. I sorted those by age and donated them to the local elementary, middle and high schools she’d attended. I gave a few others to friends, and the rest I took to Goodwill.

Selling books online

Another method of downsizing books is selling them online. Some of the books I have donated were current and in mint condition. Yes, I could have tried to sell them to a used book store or online through Amazon or eBay, but my time is precious and I am not in the book-selling business! Considering selling yours? Ask yourself if it is worth your time to do this. Is there another task that has a bigger ROI for you?

I had a client who had over 500 books in her library. Most were current and in great condition. After we sorted them by topic, however, she chose to donate half of them for a tax deduction. This was more valuable to her. I stacked all the books spine-up in boxes, took photos for her records and had them picked up. Her collection was more manageable and she gained more office space after removing two of four bookshelves.

Your reading style

When I ask prospective clients if they consider themselves a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner, I give the example of their preferred book format: “Would you rather read a book on an e-reader, listen to an audible version, or do you want to hold the physical book and turn the pages?”

Most say they want the physical book, but at the same time, they want to downsize. Book exchanges and libraries can be a good compromise. Check out the Little Free Libary.

My vintage apartment has two built-in bookshelves and my rule of thumb is to have no more books than will fit on those shelves. I read physical books to take a break from technology – and some I just love to look at and touch – but my preference is to read them on my Kindle (it’s easy to hold) and or listen via Audible (I drive a lot!).

The number of physical books you keep comes down to space, aesthetics and learning style. The way you dispose of them depends on the ROI – return on investment – for you.

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 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 Small Organizing Projects for the Holidays

The holiday break is a great time to do a little organizing for a less-cluttered 2019! These five organizing projects won’t take up too much time but will help you make the most of family visits and give you a jump start on spring cleaning. Organize a Game Zone Visits to my parent’s home have Read More

The holiday break is a great time to do a little organizing for a less-cluttered 2019! These five organizing projects won’t take up too much time but will help you make the most of family visits and give you a jump start on spring cleaning.

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

Organize a Game Zone

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

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

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

Cull and Share Your Photos

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

Let Your Family Shop in Your Home

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

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

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

Do a Midyear Clean-out with School-Age Children

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

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

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

Give Your Grown Children Their Stuff

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

Tackle these small organizing projects and enjoy the holiday break!

Need help getting organized and building good habits for a productive life?  Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or 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)
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