It’s National Checklist Day! (But you need to use checklists EVERY day)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making Read More

Photo of checklists on a clipboard. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Checklists are great productivity tools! (photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making headlines and this plane was packed with gear and suitcases right down the center of the aisle. Although the sky was a cloudless, beautiful blue, I’d brought a John Grisham novel along just in case I needed a distraction while flying over the ocean.

The side door closed and the engine sputtered to life. A few feet in front of me in the cockpit, the pilot was peering over a checklist in a large black ring binder. After a minute he slammed it shut. What I saw next got my attention. On the front was a cover sheet with these words in large black print: “HOW TO FLY A PLANE.” Our pilot had a sense of humor. I kept my nose in my book for the entire flight.

The History of Checklists

Humor aside, it was a real-life catastrophic plane crash in 1935 that launched the widespread use of checklists. Although the plane was in perfect condition, the flight crew had forgotten one simple, but crucial step: they had neglected to release the flight control gust locks. By the time one of the pilots realized the mistake, it was too late. As a result of this preventable accident, the “check list” was developed and is still required in all aircraft today.

Checklists Today

Checklists are essential for everything from preparing for takeoff in a plane to closing down a restaurant kitchen at the end of the day. They prevent critical steps from being missed and are one of my favorite organizing and productivity tools to create and use for complex tasks that need to be repeated. I love them because they free up memory space and allow me to focus on whatever is in front of me. I’ve created checklists for myself and clients to help with a variety of activities and projects such as:

  • Onboarding employees
  • To-do lists
  • Hurricane preparation
  • Contractor vetting
  • Weddings
  • Job fairs and vendor booths
  • Birthday parties
  • Community events
  • Garage sales
  • Presentations
  • Research/comparisons for purchasing a new car or RV
  • Setting up audiovisual equipment
  • Shopping (standard lists for different stores, customized grocery lists)
  • Packing (different kinds of lists for conferences, camping trips, extended vacations, cruises, summer camps, international travel)

What checklists do you currently use to help you stay organized? What activities of your life and work could be more organized with a comprehensive checklist? The objective eye of a professional organizer and productivity consultant can help you create the checklists you need to keep you and your family and/or work team on track.

Need help creating checklists and other productivity tools? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing, productivity consulting 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
Life Transitions 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

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

Moving Season Doesn’t Need to Mean Moving Madness

June marks the end of the school year, beginning of summer and peak moving season! Different sizes of containers – boxes, storage units, and homes – are being emptied and filled. Chaotic Packing Costs Time and Money I’ve worked with a number of organizing clients who hadn’t quite unpacked after moving a year or more Read More

June marks the end of the school year, beginning of summer and peak moving season! Different sizes of containers – boxes, storage units, and homes – are being emptied and filled.

Chaotic Packing Costs Time and Money

It's moving season! Here's an office filled with stacks of various moving boxes.
June to August is Moving Season!

I’ve worked with a number of organizing clients who hadn’t quite unpacked after moving a year or more earlier. They were busy, rushed, and in the end, had to just leave it to the movers to figure out. Later, boxes marked ‘miscellaneous’ or ‘extra kitchen stuff’ remain unopened in corners of attics, garages and storage units.

Feeling unsettled is… unsettling. Frazzled people hire me and together we unpack the mystery boxes. They realize they can do without most of our discoveries permanently. Mismatched glassware, worn linens, books, and odds and ends fill donation bags. The purging process starts slow, but momentum builds as we uncover more space. Space to think. Space to breathe. Space to live.

Getting organized before a move has benefits. According to a 2016 study by Wakefield Research for SpareFoot, more than 50% of us describe our homes as cluttered and 61% believe moving is the best opportunity to declutter. Things that are in their right homes when you pack will be packed together. Boxes that are clearly marked with related contents and room destination will be unpacked sooner. And less stuff means less moving and storage expenses!

Key Questions to Ask Yourself

Ask yourself these questions when deciding which items get to earn their way into your new home:

  • Do I only have this because I feel obligated to keep it?
  • Does something else I own have the same purpose?
  • Would I pay to move this?
  • Would I pay to store this?

Your answers might make the business of moving much less painful!

Need help decluttering before a move or settling in after one? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult. I’d love to help you 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