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.

Junk Mail: How to Stop it and Let it Go

“I’d like to write to the folks in Wisconsin. If you mail a letter now, they can write this winter, and then we can hear from them next spring.“  – Little House on the Prairie This is probably my favorite line in the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. I’ve quoted it in Read More

Little House on the Prairie stamp with caption: "Junk mail? Not in the 1800's!"
Junk mail? Not in the 1800’s!

“I’d like to write to the folks in Wisconsin. If you mail a letter now, they can write this winter, and then we can hear from them next spring.“  – Little House on the Prairie

This is probably my favorite line in the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. I’ve quoted it in time management classes I’ve taught in the past. I am reminded of it every time I sort through mail, which sadly, is mostly junk. I appreciate the extra time and thought that goes into the (very) occasional handwritten letter I receive. But then what to do with it?

According to the NYU Law website, “44% of junk mail is thrown away unopened, but only half that much junk mail (22%) is recycled. The average American household receives 848 pieces of junk mail per household, equal to 1.5 trees every year—more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined.” These numbers fluctuate so much that it is difficult to find or verify current statistics. No wonder professional organizers are frequently called upon to help with paper clutter!

Control the amount of junk mail in your home by preventing it from getting to the mailbox. Here are ways to stop the influx and get rid of the rest.

Donation Requests (Junk Mail?)

My parents wanted to support the many causes they felt strongly about and so gave small, but regular donations to over 50 (yes, fifty!) charitable organizations for years. It seems a little heartless to categorize donation requests from struggling charities as junk mail, but the amount of paper this generated was staggering!  And according to Charity Navigator, gifts of $25 or less barely cover marketing costs. Those envelopes stuffed with free personalized return address labels and note pads cost money! So cutting down to a few charities and giving a bit more to those is actually more cost and time efficient for all.

Stopping:
  • Call the number on the material you receive and ask them to remove your address and all occupants’ names associated with it from their database.
  • Write a note (sticky notes are great!) on the donation slip requesting removal from all databases. Insert it in the donation return envelope, add a stamp and send it on its way. You’ll need to cover postage, but can be more efficient than trying to give details to a harried call center worker who is trained to try to encourage continued donations.
  • If you wish to use a gentler approach, you can use a detailed form letter. I created one for my parents to include in the envelope along with the donation slip. Feel free to use the wording in this free sample opt-out letter, which representatives from several large charities, including United Way and Samaritan’s Purse, said would work nicely.
Letting Go:

Give more to less. Identify the three-five charities you feel most strongly about and increase your giving to those. Then let go of the rest and have comfort in the fact that you are making contributions that really matter.

Tips on choosing charities:
  • Do not donate via phone solicitations. It is too difficult to verify if the caller is legitimate. Instead of requesting they mail something, tell them you will look them up online and ask them to put you on their “do not call” list.
  • Visit charitynavigator.org, the largest independent evaluator of U.S. charities (and my favorite); charitywatch.org or givewell.org. These organizations evaluate and rate charities by what percentage of donations go to overhead; overall efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
  • Make sure any charity you choose allows you to opt out (look for a checkbox) of the sharing of your information with any other entity. Check their privacy policies.
  • Give anonymously and still get a tax deduction. Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket allows you to “donate to multiple charities at once, set up recurring donations, give anonymously and get one tax receipt.” This way extra mail isn’t generated and you choose how much of your information is shared and with whom.

Magazines

Oh, those shiny covers promoting the latest diet tips next to a photo of a triple chocolate layer cake. What’s not to love? How can you turn down a $5 annual subscription or gift a friend a free duplicate? And then there are the free issues offered to business owners to keep in their waiting rooms, small response cards fluttering out as the pages are turned. Free isn’t free if something takes up space and costs you time or effort to manage.

Stopping:
  • Call the subscription or billing number on the first few pages. Look for the microscopic font at the bottom. Request to cancel and get a refund of any unwanted issues. Use the cash for something other than a magazine subscription.
  • Avoid the temptation and lure of steeply discounted or even free subscriptions. Subscriptions get you on more mailing lists. More mailing lists result in more…mail. If you really want an issue, buy it off the rack and off the grid. This will require a more mindful decision of what you are bringing into your home.
  • Likewise, avoid purchasing magazines through school fundraisers. Make a cash donation.
Letting Go:
  • Dump:  Mindlessly (or mindfully) recycle magazines with no regrets other than wishing you’d done it sooner.
  • Donate:  Donate your (content appropriate) magazines to schools, libraries, senior care facilities, or shelters for others to enjoy. (Remember to remove or blacken out your address sticker first.)
  • Pillage then Purge:  Quickly scan each magazine for free samples, current coupons you will use, useful articles to read or share and inspiring photos. At the end of a pillaging and purging session, put free samples wherever they will be used – lotions, perfumes, etc. can go in your bathroom, travel bag or purse. Coupons and articles can go in a pocket folder in your vehicle. Recycle the rest of the shiny debris.

Catalogs

Blue door with handwritten sign over mail slot: No Junk Mail
I repeat: No Junk Mail

Catalogs multiply. And even with ominous warnings on the cover that “this might be your last chance” or “we’re sorry to see you go,” it isn’t and they aren’t, because more are on the way. This is “push” marketing at it’s best: companies sending their stores to your door. Better to let “pull” marketing earn it’s keep: you see an ad online and visit the website. Then you search for what you want and have access to the most up-to-date merchandise and sale pricing.

Can you see how this can save you money? You make more mindful decisions when visiting a website instead of just flipping through a catalog that is delivered to your mailbox.

Stopping
  • If you have only a few catalogs you’d like to discontinue, just call the number that is in bold on every page and especially the order page. These are much easier to find than in magazines. Funny how that works!
  • If you prefer not to call and/or have a slew of unwanted catalogs, visit CatalogChoice.org. This resource is a “non-profit organization working to stop junk mail for good.” Sign up for a free account (donations are welcomed) and you are on your way to a smaller pile of mail. An important feature: you can enter variations of your name and different addresses.
Letting Go

If you want to keep your paper catalogs because you prefer thumbing through the pages, toss all the old catalogs and keep the rest in one spot – a basket, box or file. Then when you receive a new catalog, toss the previous issue. Out with the old; in with the new.

Credit Card Offers

Credit card companies also practice “push” marketing when they send you offers via mail. If you are in the market for a new credit card, pre-screened offers (meaning, you already qualify) may be a good way to review and compare rates and perks. However, if you have no interest in obtaining a new credit card, there are ways to eliminate them temporarily or permanently. Visit www.optoutprescreen.com to opt out of these offers, access the National Do Not Call Registry and other resources for discontinuing unsolicited mail, email and phone calls.

Letting Go:

Once you’ve decided you want to discard credit card offer mailings, and even if you have applied for one, shred the paper. If you don’t have a shredder, tear the papers into thin strips or pieces and place one half in recycling and the other half in the kitchen garbage.

Have Patience

While these methods can be very effective in reducing junk mail, some organizations are slower than others to update their databases. It may take 60 – 90 days to really see a difference in your mailbox with mail campaigns already in the works. Recycle what you receive in the meantime. If you prefer to track progress, keep a running list of each item you’ve canceled with the date you took action. You can use this free opt-out request tracker for that purpose. Keep in mind that each variation of name or resident will require separate cancellations. Here are additional resources for getting off junk mail lists once and for all:

DirectMail.com
DMAchoice.org
DoNotCall.gov

Need help cutting down your junk mail or piles of paper? I’m ready to help! Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here.  Let me know what other organizing issues you would like help with. I’d love to hear from you.

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

12 Signs You Need a Professional Organizer

Why Hire a Professional Organizer? You don’t have to qualify to be the subject of a reality TV show, such as Hoarders, to benefit from the help of a professional organizer. Beyond the clutter and chaos, there are other non-obvious signs you may need an expert to help you create and maintain order in your Read More

Why Hire a Professional Organizer?

Large cluttered office with several desks. A professional organizer can help.
A professional organizer can help.

You don’t have to qualify to be the subject of a reality TV show, such as Hoarders, to benefit from the help of a professional organizer. Beyond the clutter and chaos, there are other non-obvious signs you may need an expert to help you create and maintain order in your life.

Just as you may hire other professionals to prepare your taxes, clean your home or do your dry cleaning, a professional organizer can provide a valuable service, freeing you up for activities that are important to you. Here are some of the signs and effects of disorganization, lack of systems, or systems that just don’t work for you. Any of these can disrupt your sense of well-being and peace but combine several and you have a recipe for chaos:

    1. You immediately feel stress and unease when you enter your home.
    2. Your bed is piled with things, therefore you sleep elsewhere rather than uncover it.
    3. You are often late for, or forget appointments.
    4. You buy birthday cards labeled “belated,” if you remember to send them at all.
    5. You miss opportunities because you can’t find “that paper,” email, etc.
    6. You frequently extend or miss deadlines.
    7. You don’t socialize much because:
      a) You have too many unfinished projects.
      b) You would be embarrassed to have anyone in your home.
      c) It would take too long to get ready.
      d) All of the above.
    8. You often pay bills late, because you lose track of them.
    9. UFOs (Unidentified Food Objects) are in your refrigerator or pantry.
    10. You regularly lose your keys, wallet, kids, money, and sanity.
    11. You have a storage unit for mystery things that are not business-related.
    12. You save things on your computer, but can’t find them, or you print everything because you don’t know how to save things.

Next Steps

Perhaps this list has prompted you to identify other examples of effects of disorganization in your life. So what to do? List the three items that concern you the most, have the most negative effect on your life and if solved, would make the biggest positive impact. Then share your list with me here, or call me at 904-500-SORT (7678). Together we will create a plan to tackle it!

Barbara Trapp, CPO
Certified Professional Organizer
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