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

After 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

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