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

Make Your Bed for Self-Care, Productivity and…Wealth?

Make your bed for good self-care It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research Read More

Make your bed for good self-care

Photo of made bed and side table (Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash)

It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research shows that if you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ll be more productive the rest of the day.

In the evening I (usually) come home to a neatly made-up bed ready for a fresh night of rest. How considerate of “morning me” to take the time to straighten the covers and plump the pillows! On the other hand, if morning me skipped making the bed in exchange for a little more time looking at social media, I come home to a disheveled bedroom. It’s a bit of a letdown and it means more work for tired “evening me.” Unless I’m sick, I’m going to straighten the covers and arrange the pillows before I get in regardless.

Why didn’t morning me think enough of evening me to do this?

When I wake up and head to the kitchen, I (usually) see an empty sink with dishes in the drainer, having dried overnight. It’s a morning habit for me to put them away while making coffee. It requires no concentration and very little time. But occasionally, there is a pile of dishes leftover from dinner and a dirty pan on the stove. Wow, dried-on kale is stubborn. And rice is the worst! This is going to take awhile.

Thanks a lot, evening me. Now I might not have time to make your bed. So there! (I see a little tit-for-tat going on here.)

When I make my bed in the morning I am practicing self-care. “Morning me” gets a little rush of adrenaline after checking that first chore off my morning to-do list, also known as my morning ritual.

I’m on a roll here! What’s next?

Next thing I know, I’m lining up my shoes in the closet, taking out the trash, and watering the plants.

What experts are saying

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” This is what retired Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World*, said at the 2014 University of Texas at Austin Commencement. It is just one example of many habits that shaped him in his career as a Navy Seal that he applies to everyday life and work.

In his book, The Power of Habit*, Charles Duhigg refers to making your bed in the morning as a keystone habit. Make your bed (keystone habit), and then put away some clothes. Brush your teeth (keystone habit) and then floss. One habit prompts the next habit.

Can making your bed make you rich? In a  CNBC article,  7 Rich Habits of  Highly Successful People, Socio-economist Randall Bell, Ph.D. is quoted as saying, “those who make their bed in the morning are up to 206.8 percent more likely to be millionaires.” Hmmm. There may be something to this bed-making thing.

Three reasons to make your bed in the morning:

    • It’s an easy task – low-hanging fruit that gives you the feeling of accomplishment.
    • It starts a chain of neatness habits.
  • Evening you will thank you (and maybe even clean up the kitchen).

If you think making your bed takes too much precious time, set a stopwatch. You’ll probably find it takes a smaller amount of time than you expected. And if it takes more than a minute to make it, you may have waaaaay too many decorative pillows on your bed. Put the ones you don’t actually sleep with somewhere else until you have guests to impress.

So get up, make your bed, and get going, you fabulous morning you!

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, CAPM
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

*We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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

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

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

Schedule Chores and Errands

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

Keep ONE calendar

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

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

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

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

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

Digital and paper planners and calendars

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

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

Stack Your Habits

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

Here’s my morning routine:

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

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

Have Less Stuff

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

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

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

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

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