Supercharge Productivity with Smartphone Reminders

Supercharge Productivity with Smartphone Reminders Did you set some New Year’s resolutions that you have yet to take action on? Well, dust off those goals and start making real progress with smartphone reminders! Your smartphone comes with a default reminders app that can help you build habits and routines. If you ask your phone’s personal Read More

Supercharge Productivity with Smartphone Reminders

White smartphone on orange background with exclamation point symbol on phoneDid you set some New Year’s resolutions that you have yet to take action on? Well, dust off those goals and start making real progress with smartphone reminders!

Your smartphone comes with a default reminders app that can help you build habits and routines. If you ask your phone’s personal assistant to set a reminder (“Set a reminder to call Bob at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow), that’s where you’ll find it. Note: I’ll be referring to iOS, but Android users have one too. Also, the information in this post will most certainly be outdated as apps come and go, improve or disappear, and technology advances overall. But the basic concepts are “evergreen.”

I use reminders to help me achieve annual goals and resolutions. Want to track your food intake? Set a lunchtime and evening reminder to keep you on track. Want to meditate every morning? Set a daily reminder. Do you forget to set out your recycling bin? Set a weekly/bi-weekly reminder for the night before pickup. Want to remember to record your odometer reading every January 1st? Set an annual reminder. It feels good to check off a reminder when you complete a task!

Reminders vs. Alerts set in Appointments

Are you confused about when to add a reminder and when to add an appointment? Me too, sometimes! Reminders are for things I need to do and alerts are notifications I set for appointments: places I need to be (in-person or virtual), or blocks of specific project time. If you have reminders for tasks that will take more than fifteen minutes to do, then blocking out time on your calendar would be a good thing, especially if you are trying to build a routine, a group of related habits completed in the same order each time.

When I create an appointment on my calendar (Google, Outlook, iCal, etc.), I always set alerts. For most phone appointments I set one for one hour before, and another for fifteen minutes before. For appointments I need to drive to, I enter the location and then set an alert for two hours before I have to leave and another for 30 minutes before I have to leave. This allows for traffic issues.

Why more than two alerts are helpful

Sometimes I want an extra alert for an appointment that requires extra prep time or that is very infrequent. For example, my dentist is in a town an hour away from me. Setting an alert one week prior gives me time to plan another appointment or errand in the area. I’ve found that the default calendar on my iPhone only has an option for two alerts, but I can add more if working from the app on my laptop. Google calendars offer unlimited alerts.

Explore and Customize Features for Smartphone Reminders:

  • Choose the day: If this is a one-time occurrence, just pick the day and time.
  • Set repeating reminders: How frequently do you want to take the action? You can choose daily, weekly, monthly, etc., or you can also customize the date to the 14th of every month, third Thursday, etc.
  • Set a repetition end date: If you no longer need this reminder after a certain date, then set an end date for the repetition. If you are setting reminders to build new habits and routines, then you can delete them when the habit is ingrained. Not sure how long that might take? Read about habits and routines in my post, Five Myths About Goals, Habits, and Willpower
  • Choose the ideal time of day: When is the best time of day to get this reminder? Would you get more benefit out of exercising first thing in the morning? Would a little yoga before bed help you sleep better? Set the reminder when you need the nudge, giving you enough time to complete the task.
  • Set a level of importance: I am not using this feature, but do set a level of importance if you have so many reminders you need to prioritize them.
  • Include emojis: One or two visuals can be a nice prompt. I added sunrise and sun emojis to my Morning Meditation reminder. 🙂
  • Set a location: Want a reminder to buy special stamps next time you are near your post office or to drop off a bag of donations when you are near your favorite charity? You can plug in the location and get a reminder when you are nearby.
  • Create lists: When writing this post, I realized I haven’t really used this feature. I just piled all my reminders into the one default list. In fact, I was going to write, “As much as I like the Reminders app, this is list overkill for me. I have so many other lists that I want to keep this simple.” But then I realized that I have soooo many reminders it was taking me a while to find the ones I need. So, I now use the default list for one-time reminders and created lists for repeating reminders. Whew! Clutter-free lists are a good thing. I no longer see my annual and “far into the future reminders” such as “Record odometer reading on January 1st“and “Renew my DBA in 2021” every single day. Here are the reminder lists I use:
    • Daily
    • Weekly/Bi-weekly
    • Monthly/Quarterly
    • Annually
    • Far off

Integrating Smartphone Reminders into your Calendar

Want to see your reminders in your calendar? For a time, I considered using Google calendar (it is awesome!) but that requires a Gmail account and the one I have is for personal emails. My work email addresses are based on my domain, so Google isn’t an option. So I use iCal and Outlook for my business emails. Since iCal does not include reminders in the schedule, I found that the Fantastical 2 app (as of this writing) allows me to also see all my calendar items along with reminders for the day, in order of scheduled time. Pretty cool! But also pretty cluttered. So the only thing I use Fantastical 2 for is duplicating and moving appointments, something it is excellent for.

SmartWatch Notifications

If you have a smartwatch, one that will vibrate when you get a reminder, then it is “smart” to turn on notifications for that device. I absolutely love this feature, because I hate the sound of a ringing phone! Hate is probably too strong a word, since a wonderful person may be calling me, but the sound jars me out of whatever task/creative thinking I am involved in. So, the sound AND vibration on my phone are always off. A big plus to this is I never have to worry about my phone ringing in meetings, movie theatres, medical offices, etc.

An embarrassing story…

I’ve never told anyone this story until now. It’s especially embarrassing because I worked for over a decade in human resources and hired over 500 college students!

When I got my first smartphone, the technology was a bit overwhelming, but I was so happy to have all the features of a small computer at my fingertips! I’d been let go from a job after the company I worked for went bankrupt and five months later I had finally landed a job interview. Yep, it took five months!

Right before I met with the manager of a company I really wanted a job with, I dutifully turned off the sound on my phone (I had learned that much!), but midway through the interview, I realized with horror what I’d forgotten to do. My purse began buzzing, loudly, and started vibrating on the nearby table. I’d forgotten to turn off the vibration notification feature for phone calls and someone was calling me.

Maybe it was so loud because the phone was rattling next to my keys. Not sure, but what I was sure of was I had no idea how to turn it off! The interviewer looked a bit annoyed and I mumbled something about a new phone. The buzzing finally stopped. The interview ended. I did not get the job. I blame the phone. And my (now ex) husband, who had been calling me to see how the interview was going. Okay, maybe not his fault, but I digress… The point is, a ringing or even vibrating phone can be noisy and distracting. A vibrating smartwatch, not so much.

Sample List of Smartphone Reminders

Screen shot of reminders lists on smartphone including, Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Annual listsHere are some of the smartphone reminders I have set:

Daily

  • Morning meditation
  • Mantras
  • Daily plank
  • Check Thumbtack (7:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m.)
  • Evening routine: floss, vitamins
  • Record meals in MyFitnessPal
  • Cycle for 15 minutes

Weekly/Bi-weekly

  • Take out the trash
  • Take out the recycling
  • Schedule gym workouts
  • Update meal kits
  • Update mileage in MileIQ
  • Update Quickbooks
  • Update client files
  • Schedule networking events
  • Update websites

Monthly/Quarterly

  • Choose Audible books
  • Use Verizon rewards
  • Resend newsletter
  • Pay rent
  • Pay bills
  • Change air filter
  • Check Google Ads performance

Annual/Semi reminders

  • Record odometer for the new year
  • Change smoke alarm batteries
  • Look for tax forms (Amazon Affiliates, Acorns)
  • Schedule annual medical appointments
  • Schedule dental checkup

Far off…

  • Renew my DBA fictitious name
  • Renew driver’s license
  • Renew domains

What tasks have you been forgetting or putting off? What habits do you want to build? If you are ready to be more productive, reach your goals and stay on top of tasks, then grab your smartphone and add those reminders!

Need help with productivity? I am happy to help you create your last filing system ever! Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching! I’d love to help you get organized so you can live the life you desire.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life 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

Glinda the Good Witch: Counselor, Consultant or Coach?

Counselor, Consultant or Coach? What’s the difference between a counselor, consultant or coach? Does a counselor/therapist make recommendations to improve your business processes? Can a coach or counselor help with your extreme depression or anxiety? And what did Glinda the Good Witch say to Dorothy after the hot air balloon lifted away without her? We’ll Read More

Counselor, Consultant or Coach?

Photo of beach maze by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

What’s the difference between a counselor, consultant or coach? Does a counselor/therapist make recommendations to improve your business processes? Can a coach or counselor help with your extreme depression or anxiety? And what did Glinda the Good Witch say to Dorothy after the hot air balloon lifted away without her? We’ll get back to that later, I promise! Here are some examples of what each professional does to help you get down your yellow brick road of life.

Counselor/Therapist

Therapy emphasizes the past, present, and sometimes, the future. Here, the focus is on improving mental health – cognitive and emotional capabilities, functioning and thriving in relationships and society, and meeting the demands of everyday life. Therapists have different approaches and specialties. Licensing is required, and psychotherapists are extensively trained before they can work independently. I am not a therapist, so if a client needs help managing and improving their mental health, I will encourage them to seek help from a licensed therapist.

After Dorothy’s world spun out of control (and Kansas) she might have benefited from some therapy before embarking on her trip down the yellow brick road.

Consultant

When I work as an organizer, I am a consultant providing expert advice. Along with the physical work of sorting through papers, clothes and general clutter, I make recommendations about what to keep, what to let go of and how to store and display what is kept.

Organizing emphasizes the past, present, and future. We work on improving the functionality of systems and spaces, so you can manage your things, time, and activities. Although licensing and certification are not required, I am a Certified Professional Organizer (NAPO), hold specialist certificates in Workplace Productivity, Residential Organizing, and Life Transitions, and continuously invest in professional development.

Need help streamlining processes or organizing your office for maximum efficiency? As a business organizer, I can help with that. Need recommendations on how to organize your kitchen? As a residential organizer, I can give you recommendations and help you get it done. And that includes how to store and pack your fabulous ruby slippers!

Coach

Coaching, on the other hand, is a collaborative process and emphasizes the present and future. In this role, I don’t tell you what you should do, but I support you as we explore possibilities and you gain perspective and arrive at your own solutions. We start by identifying where you are and exploring your values and goals. Then we work on shifting you to a place of confidence and competence: your unique potential. We get there through focus and accountability.

The process is a very empowering tool for navigating transitions and reinvention. Although licensing and certification are not required, I am a graduate of a one-year, comprehensive coach training program and offer life and productivity coaching. Coaching is a safe space to share dreams and is ideal for people who are ready to move forward. As one of my clients said, “I knew the answers, I just didn’t know the questions. You knew the right questions to ask.”

Working with a Counselor, Consultant and/or Coach

Dorothy's ruby slippers sitting on a stump in the woodsDoes it make sense to work with more than one of these professionals at a time? Yes! Have you ever worked with an accountant AND a tax professional AND a financial advisor? Sometimes it’s good to let them communicate with each other to give you the best possible results. I am always open to communicating and collaborating with my clients’ support professionals – with permission of course.

And what did Glinda, the Good Witch say to Dorothy? “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” Glinda would have made an excellent life coach!

Are you stuck? Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for life and productivity coaching, or business or residential organizing! I’d love to help you simplify, amplify 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

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

Professional Organizing: Why I Chose it as a Profession and Why it’s My “Thing”

Why I Chose Professional Organizing Transitions In the spring of 2016, I decided to take a cross-country road trip to visit my brother in California, and friends in several other states. I’d left an unfulfilling job as a branding manager, and had completed ten online courses and earned a certification: CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Read More

Why I Chose Professional Organizing

Transitions

Photo of Red Mazda 3 iGrand Touring on dirt road with hills and cloudy sky ahead
On the road outside of Dillon, Montana

In the spring of 2016, I decided to take a cross-country road trip to visit my brother in California, and friends in several other states. I’d left an unfulfilling job as a branding manager, and had completed ten online courses and earned a certification: CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management). My past experience included training and development, process improvement, time management and strategic planning. I have a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Services Administration. How could I put my knowledge and experience to use in an interesting and meaningful way? Professional organizing was not even in my dictionary.

Organizing Across America

I’d rewritten my resume, but no job postings intrigued me. If there was ever a “right time” to take a soul-searching solo road trip, this was it. Normally an analytic planner, I decided to shake things up. So just one week after hatching the idea, I packed my red Mazda 3 and took off on I-10, mapping out my first two days of travel the night before.

Photo of 2017 Road Atlas: "Road Trip 2016"
Road Trip 2016

My only measurable resolution for 2016 was to read a book a week, and I didn’t think of that until March. I was woefully behind, so I listened to audio books as I meandered through Louisiana, tore through Texas at a terrifying (and lawful) 85 mph and marveled at the changing landscape of the west coast. With rare exception, I’d reserve a hotel just an hour in advance. Before bed, I’d peruse the large road atlas I’d purchased for the trip to see what interesting sites lay ahead. Then I’d read myself to sleep. The 18 books I finished that summer changed my mindset and my life. I decided it was time to pour my hard work, skills, and experience into a business of my own creation. But what would it be? My objective was to decide that before I crossed the Florida/Georgia border on my return home.

While at my brother’s home in California, I decluttered his living room, weeded out paperwork and organized his office and staged a workout area for him. In Washington State, I eyed a friend’s craft area and imagined different ways to organize her supplies. During my weeklong visit to North Dakota, I helped one friend get set up with a cloud service and taught her more about her iPhone.

What started as an in-between-jobs adventure intended to last about three weeks, morphed into a month of travel and two months of coordinating and overseeing a massive home improvement project for my elderly parents in Pennsylvania. My mother had only asked for help hiring someone to replace 40-year-old carpet, but it was evident a total renovation was needed.  When I assessed their home with a more critical eye, I discovered a broken window, disintegrating screen door, unsightly garage doors and a leaky roof. Moreover, my father could not manage the step down into the family room to watch TV with my mother. So he sat at the table and looked down an across the room while my mother sat on the sofa below so she could hear better. Repurposing was needed if they were going to “age in place” as long as possible.

So the plan was to do complete all necessary repairs, sprucing up and upgrading in preparation for a sale in the future. My mother and father could enjoy their sparkling “new” home until that time. Included would be a new entertainment center in the living room so they could watch their favorite shows together in comfort.

In order to have wood flooring installed and the entire interior painted, I had to declutter, discard obvious trash, expired medications, and food, etc., organize and then move everything but large furniture out of the house and into the garage. I’ve joked I may need therapy after this, but there was something bittersweet about seeing not only memories of early years with my brother, but also of the vibrant, creative life our parents had B.C., “before children.”

After interviewing a steady parade of contractors (43 to be exact), ranging from painters and flooring specialists to window installers, paving companies and roofers, the work began. My parents were safely tucked away from the fumes and dust in a local hotel with me running food and miscellaneous supplies back and forth in the evenings. Once the flooring was complete, I returned clothing, linens, lamps, pillows and other accessories to original or new homes, with the excess stacked in the garage for sorting and purging later. Professional organizing and staging. Anything there would have to earn its space or be let go.

My “Lightbulb” Moment

Photo of black mat on floor with weights nearby. Caption: "Guest room turned into exercise space."
My brother’s guest room turned into exercise space.

I spent the return drive to Florida analyzing why I enjoyed the experience so much. I liked coordinating the contractors while guiding and supporting my mother as she decided what to let go. Although there were many tense moments, my mother and I are closer now. It was great to see the improvements, and even better to see my parents enjoying their “new” home, sans the chaos. Then I realized I’d been doing this kind of work for friends and family on my adventure, and prior to that in homes and offices. Really, for much of my life. I’ve worked hard for other companies over the years and decided it was time to put those efforts into my own business doing something that has always come naturally to me. As I crossed the Florida/Georgia border, I heard the term, “professional organizing.” I didn’t even realize it was a “thing,” but it was going to become MY “thing”: professional organizing and workplace productivity.  Zen Your Den® was born.

Oh, and about that reading goal for 2016? I finished my 52nd book on December 31. It feels good to accomplish a goal and to help others do the same.

Do you need help with a big goal this year?  If I can help, call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or contact me here.

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