I love what I do, and organizing anything, from a single drawer to a pantry to an entire house, is very satisfying. But my favorite room in the house is the garage. It can be so transformative, and the impact on a family is huge. So often, the garage – with its big open space – becomes a dumping zone for stuff that doesn’t fit in the house, or is in transition (either going in or out), or it might belong in the garage, but with no organization system, it takes up space on the floor or a random shelf. Multiply each item by 10 or 50, and you have a space that isn’t functional. And once you start piling up the stuff, it’s hard to get on top of it. For busy parents, closing the door and letting it sit is the most effective solution.
But there comes the point when the lack of organization or systems becomes a problem. That’s where I come in.
The Organizational Challenge:
This summer, I worked with a family to turn their cluttered garage into a more functional and usable space. They didn’t need the garage for parking their car but instead wanted to turn it into a home gym and a place for their two young children to do crafts after school. And because the garage was also their main storage space, we had to take advantage of all the shelves and overhead storage rack to free up floor space. Finally, I wanted to introduce systems so they could maintain the space. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it worked.
The Less More Method:
I start by pulling apart the piles and sorting the stuff into categories. I always start by tossing anything that’s trash or broken beyond repair.
I also start with big items to free up space.
The client met me in the morning, but because she had to go into her office, we corresponded over the next few days by text and FaceTime. I would send her photos of the items in question, and she would respond yay or nay.
My job was taking care of getting the nays out and then saving the yays for organizing when the editing task was complete. Most of what she didn’t want got donated, except for a few big pieces beyond repair her waste management provider was able to pick up for a small fee.
After I sorted and categorized them, I put small toys and items into boxes so she could go through them as homework. By setting her up with donation boxes, trash, and recycle bags, she could move quickly, making decisions.
Any unmade decisions I would tackle via text. I staged the donations in one area so she could have a final look before I took it away. I always remind my clients once it’s gone, it’s gone. I use clear bags and open boxes to contain the donations so my clients can easily see what’s going out.
We eliminated a lot of old toys, books, and sports gear. Then I organized what was left.
The Organization Solution:
I created a kid’s craft zone, labeling the bins and storing as much as I could at a level easy for small children to reach.
I moved the games that were cluttering up the living room into the garage to give them a permanent home.
And finally, I stacked a few empty bins by the desk to contain the kids’ artwork for later review.
I used the cupboards and the bottom shelf along the back wall for overflow household products (think Costco runs).
I organized all their batteries and utility items in one area, carefully labeled to make them easy to find and maintain.
On the hard-to-reach upper shelves, I put the archives – books, paper, memorabilia. Because of the dry climate, cardboard boxes should suffice, but more protective weathertight plastic bins would be ideal.
I lined the luggage up on the floor for easy grab-and-go access.
On the overhead storage racks, I stored their seasonal items – holiday decorations, oversized memorabilia, and baby clothes. The exception was the winter clothes I left under the cupboards because they want access to those items in the next month. Once the season passes, those bins can be stored above, and other bins can be rotated down.
I created a designated workout area that was important to the clients.
In the end, the family is thrilled to have an extra room to use, with everything in its place. For a busy family, maintaining the space is sometimes a challenge, and I’m always happy to schedule a few hours a month, or quarter, to help with that.