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Organizing your stuff when there’s no where to go but out

Allison-carter By Allison Carter, CPO®

Living in a small-ish house has some advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side, the utility bills are low, there is less to clean, and it keeps me from acquiring more stuff than you need.

On the down side, there just isn’t much room for the stuff you DO need. And if you don't have a good attic, basement, or garage for storage, the only place to go is out.

That’s why I was so excited to get a new Rubbermaid Roughneck shed. We have an old wooden shed that came with the house.


But it is full of bugs, plant-life, and who knows what else. It’s a perfect spot for lawn and garden stuff, but not for those odds and ends that require a teensy weensy bit of care.Luckily, my husband didn’t want to put anything into the new shed so it is MINE, ALL MINE!!! Mwaaahaaaahaaaa.

But what to put in it??? And how?

I decided to use this shed to clear out some space in our overstuffed indoor storage room.

That room is full of files, tools, house-wares, hardware, house-painting stuff, gifts to give, sports equipment, beach and pool gear, folding card tables and chairs, and an extra fridge.

The thing that took up the most space: Many paint cans from full to half full and all of the house painting supplies.

Another collection of stuff I’m a little embarrassed to admit is an assortment of empty containers, bins, and Tupperware (NOTE from Jim @ Rubbermaid: Jim needs to send Allison some Easy Find Lids food storage containers) that I use from time to time and sometimes give to clients in need. There’s much more of it that I care to say. And the lids!! There must be two dozen lids to bins that are in use without their mate.


After putting the shed together (an event in itself – see the video. Notice the weather change from winter to spring; that was just one week here in Atlanta.)

I chose to get one of my favorite kinds of shelving – the sturdy plastic shelves that you bang together with a mallet. This shelving has done me right for years working with clients in basements and garages.

I put them together but left off the top shelf because of the height of the shed. Then I used the extra shelves to make another set of lower shelves.

I brought in the variety of house paints by color, paint supplies, rags and organized them on the left.


I brought in the assortment of empty containers and set them up on the right where they would be easy to get to when I need one.I have left open space in the back on the right so that I can bring my holiday decorations down from the attic, but since I’m an efficient organizer, I’m not going to get them out until I take them out again for the holidays. So I expect to really fill the place up after Christmas.


I’ll also put our pool and beach gear and camping stuff in the shed after summer (that’s why there is so much empty space on the back wall.)


The keys to organizing storage space is

  1. Grouping like things with like so you can scan in only one zone when looking for things.
  2. Maximizing the space by getting your things off of the floor. Without proper shelves this place would look like a crazy mess.
  3. Label the areas if will help you find things again or help other people using the shed to find things when you're not around.

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  27. Patricia May 3, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Just found your blog and love it. I’m between jobs and trying to organize my whole house while I have the time. I see you mention using labels to make it easier for people to find stuff when you’re not around. I’ve just started using labels in an effort to make it easier for people to PUT STUFF AWAY in the right place, even if I AM around! But great tips – thanks!

  28. Erin Gentry April 16, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    I love your dog in the video watching you put the shelves together! It looks like you guys actually did a pretty good job installing the shed! AND you did a FABULOUS job organizing it. Great tip to leave the space open and wait until Christmas to actually organize the decorations. Why do more work than you need to?
    Thanks! Erin

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