This guest post was written by Professional Organizer Lea Schneider – Pensacola, Florida – www.organizerightnow.com.
“Tell me why I’m here.”
That’s how I typically start off an organizing job. If we can’t define why I am here, then we don’t know where we are headed.
"My husband is determined to put his new car in the garage,” said the Mrs., who, with a little luck, was already able to cram her mini-van between the heaps of stuff in the garage and the fridge along the wall.
“But, what I really want is to enjoy the holidays,” she added.
It took a few moments to connect the dots between a) new car b) clutter and c) the holidays. See, in the clutter were holiday decorations – Christmas ornaments, spooky Jack-o-lantern lights, heaps of plastic eggs and even Mardi Gras beads.
Organizing jobs, where the assignment is to clear the clutter, are infinitely easier than ones where there are a lot of things to keep. Clutter is easy. Out it goes. But, if you are going to keep stuff, where are you going to keep them and how will you store them?
The Mrs., who’d hired me to organize the garage, seemed a bit surprised when I said we were going to begin by clearing a path to the garage storage room and then going to empty that storage room. The reasoning behind starting in the storage room goes right back the basic question. If you are going to keep things, where are you going to keep them?
Like an archeology dig, out came the remnants of her growing kids’ past: bags of baby clothes, car seats and baby gear. Out came home décor from previous homes in other states. You know, those things you thought you might need but never did. Out came sewing and crafting projects begun and then boxed and stored for another day that never came. Things that stayed included financial records, holiday décor that had become buried in the back of the room, camping gear, emergency supplies and a box of keepsakes for each child.
Once we sorted clutter from keepers, I headed out and bought a sizable quantity of Rubbermaid’s Roughneck Clear Storage Totes. They met my pretty strict list of demands. They needed to be see-thru, have lids that would stay on and were flat on the top for easy stacking.
Don’t know where to start? Start with your storage area. You might be tempted to dig into the heaps of clutter but where are you going to put what you want to keep? You may need to clear out that storage closet, storage shed, garage, attic or hall closet before you can tackle the clutter pile.
Ask good questions. When working in the storage area, ask yourself if you “love it, use it or need it.” Everything in your home should fit one of those three basics. If it doesn’t fit one of those, let it go.
Do the shuffle. Rearrange your storage area so like items are located together. Stack those boxes of tax records in one corner. Create a space for holiday décor in another area. Put the gardening gear together and so on.
Now tackle the clutter. Return to the original mess that made you want to get organized. Ask those same great questions: “Do I love it, use it or need it?” If you are keeping it, store it with like items in your newly organized storage space. Otherwise, let it go.
Sort before buying organizing products. Clearing out the clutter means you know exactly what needs to be stored and how much there is of it. You can bring home the right number of containers. Be sure to measure your shelves or space so you know what will fit there. Also, ask yourself if you use it often. If you do, then store it on a hook system so you can grab it. Save using totes for things you access occasionally such as decorations, camping gear and baby keepsakes.
Be picky. Don’t buy just any old container. If you do, you’ll be sorry later when they are too difficult to work with or the stack collapses. Shop for sturdy items that will last a long, long time. If you want to stack them in storage, take a few apart from the store’s pile and stack them to see if they sit steady on one another. Make sure the lids attach securely. Pay attention to what you are storing. Clear is great when you want to see the contents. Dark is great when you want to protect the contents from light.
Begin by thinking smaller. It’s tempting to try to put everything of a theme into one container but it becomes very difficult to lift, carry or stack such a large, heavy container- not to mention maneuvering it in and out of doorways.( Only buy the largest of containers when the items stored are large items.) Instead, buy several smaller, easy to handle containers. Subdivide your theme into them. For example, rather than one large Christmas tote, you might have one of tree decorations, one of wrapping goodies and one of general decorations.
Label. The day you organize, you know what is in each tote. Six months from now, probably not. Do label each tote. Additionally, if you label the shelf or area where the tote belongs, other people are likely to put them back where they belong.
Here we are in the garage that holds two cars! The Mr. is very happy and the Mrs. is thrilled she can easily find holiday décor to create a fun, happy home for the kids. That’s my good friend on the left, Professional Organizer Paris Love, of Organize with Love in Gulf Shores, Alabama who came down to the Florida Panhandle to help me pull off this huge change in just 8 hours. Of course, that’s yours truly, Professional Organizer Lea Schneider of Organize Right Now on the right.