Virtual Organizing: Nonjudgmental Help From a Distance

Do you finally have time to get organized but don’t know where to start? Need guidance but are practicing social distancing? Well, get ready to Zen Your Den® or Zen Your Biz because Virtual Organizing is here! One afternoon while helping a client organize her closet, I blacked out once and fell off a shelf Read More

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

Garage Sales: To Have or Have Not

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

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

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

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

The precious playpen

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

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

Theft of a little red corvette

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

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

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

Stinky boots

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

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

The last garage sale I never had

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to downsize or clear out that packed guest room, junk room, attic or garage? I can help you dig through and determine the best way to let go of everything, whether it’s through a garage sale or thoughtful donations to the right people and charities. Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching. I’d love to help you get some clarity so you can live the life you desire!

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place Are you worried about your aging parents staying in and maintaining their home? Not sure how to help them age in place without taking over? Skim through any neighborhood forums and you’ll see your aging neighbors are looking for trustworthy people to take care Read More

The Ultimate Honey-Do List to Help Your Parents Age in Place

Elderly couple in front of two story house, with backs to camera
Help your parents age in place

Are you worried about your aging parents staying in and maintaining their home? Not sure how to help them age in place without taking over? Skim through any neighborhood forums and you’ll see your aging neighbors are looking for trustworthy people to take care of light repairs and odds and ends. The need is there!

Offer to do a walk-through of your loved one’s home to see what needs repair or replacement. Then spend some quality time with them getting things done! Here are some tasks that your parents might appreciate and will set your mind at ease:

Replace smoke detector batteries

Count the number of smoke detectors throughout the home and check the battery type (usually 9 volts). Replace them, writing the date on the battery with a permanent marker. No smoke detectors? What a great gift idea!

Change burned-out light bulbs

Check lamps, fanlights, recessed bulbs, and even fridge and stove lights. Don’t forget attics, closets, basements and exterior lights. Replace as needed, considering how the room is used and the color value and brightness level needed. Visit energyearth.com for a lesson on lighting.

Change A/C filters

Check A/C filters and replace them as needed, marking with the date. Pick up a few extra to have on hand. Some filters even have apps associated with them that remind you when it’s time to replace them. Once you register, you’ll get notifications

Check fire extinguishers

Check the pressure gauge on fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully charged. Some are rechargeable, others are single use. In either case, they all slowly lose pressure over time.

For a recharge, check with the local fire department to see if they can provide a recharge or take to a certified fire equipment dealer. Then make sure it’s kept where it is needed. Single-use fire extinguishers that have no pressure need to be replaced. No fire extinguisher? Another great gift idea!

Help them lower their bills

Assist in making calls to utility and subscription service providers to negotiate lower bills or cancel altogether if not needed. For example, cell phones, cable, and internet service companies often offer special deals throughout the year. Offer to help resolve unexplained charges. As a result, you can help them save money.

Update their technology

Help install phone updates, check WiFi connectivity, internet security programs and make sure the TV works. Modems, even if fairly new, can become outdated and stop working. If this happens, assist in getting them replaced.

Fix and prevent safety issues

  • Test door locks and windows to make sure they are in good working order.
  • Check electrical cords for fraying.
  • Look for trip and fall dangers such as sliding throw rugs, furniture blocking pathways, etc. and clear obstacles.
  • Plan for severe weather and power outages:
    • Place flashlights in several areas of the home in case of a power outage.
    • Set up local weather alerts for them and you to receive notifications.
    • Get contact information for utility services to assist in getting updates on power restoration.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of a medical alert system. Research features and benefits together and help order if appropriate (and they agree).

Discuss scams that may target them

Talk with your parents about scams targeting the elderly. For instance, one particularly evil one is dubbed, the “Grandparent Scam.” Discuss fraudulent IRS calls, emails requesting money and/or information, etc. For more information, check the Better Business Bureau and the National Council on Aging and/or search “scams targeting elderly.”

The adage, bad news doesn’t get better with time is relevant here. For example, if when visiting you discover lightbulbs out, blown circuits, a TV not working, computers not behaving and parents who are struggling to figure it out or just make do, encourage them to keep a running honey-do list for you (I created an irreverent form called “Crap I Need Help With”). Hearing about problems sooner allows me to fix things faster and that gives me peace of mind. Above all, you’ll be helping your parents age in place.

Need help getting yourself or a loved one organized? Call 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching! I’d love to help you get organized so you can live the life you desire.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Life/Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

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