Organizing the Shed and Garage

September’s cooler days inspire us to organize our sheds, garages, and any other outside storage areas. It’s time to put away our summer equipment and muck out the debris that has been tracked in. Even if you do this zone once a year, it can easily get disorganized and cluttered because it is so easy just to open the door and drop something “just for now”.

Before you start your project, take a good look at the way it is now. Notice what is working (don’t mess with that area) and what is not working. Envision how you want to use this zone. Your vision might include a place to:

  • Park your car
  • Store trash cans/recycling
  • Store gardening tools and accessories
  • Pot or repot plants
  • Work on projects and store tools
  • Store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  • Store outdoor entertainment supplies
  • Store extra products
Bring everything outside or if this is a large or very filled area, pull stuff out by sections. Sort like with like. Note what is broken or what you have not used in the past year. Get rid of these items or make a note to replace them. Get rid of expired seeds or old chemicals. Give away or sell tools you no longer use. The Tool Bank is a great place to donate tools for community projects. http://toolbank.org
Next decide where to logically place your zones. Items that you use frequently are best stored near entrances. As you group your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items together. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves. A flat basket can hold gardening tools. Use shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers because, for sure, you are going to want something that is in the bottom container. Label containers that are not clear.
Knock down cobwebs, sweep the floor, and start putting things away. You’ll be amazed at how much room there is now that all the items have been bunched together and stored away.
Now reward yourself! A hot shower and a cool drink might be just the thing.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Garage

Now that the weather is cooling down a bit, it’s a great time to organize your garage.

Before pulling out all that stuff onto the driveway, take a good look at what is in your garage now. Why is it there? How did it get there? Do you still need it?

Decide on the functions of your garage. Is one of the functions to park your cars? 82% of homes have two-car garages or larger, but only 15% use them to park the car inside.

Do you keep your lawnmower and gardening supplies in the garage? What about bikes and sports equipment? Do you have a workshop area with tools? Do you keep your recycling bins here? What about a shelf or tow that stores all those extra packages of paper towels or packages of soft drinks? Do you still have boxes of stuff from your last move that have never been unpacked because you have no room in the house?

Once you have decided how you plan on using your garage, divide it into zones. Items that you frequently use outside like yard and garden tools are best stored near the garage door. Items used frequently like recycling bins or overflow storage of house supplies should be stored near the door to the house.

Decide on how much space you can devote to each zone and still have plenty of room to navigate and use each zone. Now you are ready to start pulling things out.

Pick one zone area. Pull everything out of that area and sweep it out. Put back what belongs in that zone and leave anything else on the driveway (or if you are only doing one zone at a time, put the rest near the zone area planned for it). As you put items back, make sure you still need them. Do you really need two hedge clippers? Why are you still holding on to that broken weed eater?

Continue going from zone to zone. Look at the shelving and storage options you have at hand. Is there a better way to store items in the zone? Shelving makes it a lot easier to get to boxes and containers. Using clear containers to keep like items together makes finding them, using them, and putting them away much easier. If it is difficult to get  to an item that you need, the likelihood of getting it put back away is slim to none. If you can’t easily see what is in containers, label them.

Once you have completed this task, hopefully you will have room to park at least one car. Your future you (the one coming out to the car on an icy morning) will thank you for taking the time to do this chore now.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing and Cleaning the Living Room for Spring

Spring is in the air! I love this time of year. In spring I want my home to feel fresh and sparkly. I want the sunlight to stream in. The living room is the first thing you see when you enter my home.  For that reason, I choose this area to organize in the month of March in my Zone Plan program.

The first step is to review your vision for the living room. I start my day here with coffee and the newspaper. Later in the day, my husband sits in his chair with coffee and the paper and maybe watches some news on TV. Together we often connect in this room to plan our day, the week, and the future. For entertainment we work on the daily jumble and crossword puzzle together. Sometimes we watch TV or a movie. We often eat our supper in the living room. We entertain family and friends here and welcome people from out front door. Therefore, I want this room to feel welcoming and nurturing. I want everyone who comes into this area to feel like they can exhale and enjoy their time here.

Papers, books, brochures, and magazines can accumulate as we relax and read/discuss the literature. It is a gathering place. To keep the area feeling uncluttered, I have a plan for that paper. Every morning before I sit down I make a sweep and put away any papers that we left out the night before. My rule for newspapers and magazines is when a new one comes in, the old one goes out. We get quite a few magazines so I have a basket to hold them. If there is an article that I want to read when the new magazine comes in, I’ll leave that magazine out on the coffee table and read it within the next few days. We also have a tray for a landing pad for that one book we might be reading there or any brochures we are studying.

Multimedia like DVDs and CDs are usually found in the living room. During this month I sort the entire collection. We cull out the ones we are ready to donate or pass on to a friend. I use a container system to manage our supply. We keep as many DVDs or CDs as will easily fit into our containers. If they don’t all fit in with some room to spare, then some must find new homes elsewhere.

While I am organizing this space I give it a good deep clean and change out accessories to match the season. Gone is the nut bowl and winter candle. In their place I have fresh spring flowers and a pastel candle.

When the zone is complete, I celebrate by having a nice glass of wine, a lit candle, and some down time with my hubby.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Time to Organize Your Workshop and Garage

In September the weather begins to cool down. We start to put away our summer equipment. This is a good opportunity to set aside some time to organize your workshop or garage zone. Even if you do this zone once a year, it can easily get disorganized and cluttered because it is so easy just to open the door and drop something “just for now.”

Before you start your project, take a good look at the way it is now. What is working (don’t mess with that area) and what is not working. How do you want to use this zone. Do you plan to:

  • Park your car
  • Store trash cans/recycling
  • Store gardening tools and accessories
  • Pot or repot plants
  • Work on projects and store tools
  • Store bikes and other sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear
  • Store outdoor entertainment supplies
  • Store extra products
Now bring everything outside. If this is a large or very filled area, do it by sections. Sort like with like. Note what is broken or what you have not used in the past year. Get rid of these items or make a note to replace them. Get rid of expired seeds or old chemicals. Give away or sell tools you no longer use. Tool Bank is a great place to donate tools for community projects. http://toolbank.org/
Next decide where to logically place your zones. You want to place items that you use frequently near entrances. As you group your items in each zone, look for containers to hold small items together. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves. A flat basket can hold gardening tools. Use shelves, pegboards, hooks, and nails to keep items off the floor. Avoid stacking containers because, for sure, you are going to want something that is in the bottom container. Label containers that are not clear.
Knock down the cobwebs, sweep the floor, and start putting things away.. You’ll be amazed at how much  room there is now that all the items have ben bunched together and stored away.
Now reward yourself. A hot shower and a cool drink might be just the thing.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

How Much Is Too Much?


Most of us acknowledge that we have too much “stuff” but how much is too much? How do we pin down that number?

I am a strong believer that “less is more” but I am not a minimalist.

I love coffee. I need a coffee cup or mug. My husband likes coffee. He needs a coffee cup. Sometimes we have coffee cups that are dirty and in the dishwasher. I have friends that visit, sometimes in groups, that like tea or coffee. So now I figure I am up to 8 – 10 cups. Some days I prefer the cup from Paris. Some days only the really big mug will do. My friends have favorite cups. I have about 25 mugs are cups. Yeah, that is too many. I figure I could get it down to 15 the next time I work in my kitchen zone.

The thing is, I have room for the 25 so there is no real pressure. But still, I will feel better if I let some go.

How many pens do I need? I use a black one daily and I like to have a red one and a blue one at times. I like a pen by my bed and a couple in the living room (for crossword puzzles). I like a pen in the kitchen for grocery lists and to label food for the freezer. I have a couple in my briefcase and one in my purse. I like to use a Sharpie fine point pen gut sometimes I need a ballpoint. I certainly want a few backups because they do eventually fail. So what does that add up to? I also know I have a container of pens in my desk drawer and I often dig through the lot to find one I like. So why are the others even there?

Still, there is room for all of them in the container so no real pressure. But when I clean out my office zone, I know quite a few of those will go.

It seems like most areas of my home have some abundance – clothes, shoes, linens, books, etc. I am good about applying the “container rule.” If I have a designated container for items and the items easily fit into that container and the container has a good home, I’m good.

But a little more breathing space would be a good thing. So this year, as I go through each of my zones, I will ask myself, “How much is too much?” as I make my sorts and purge.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Ten Tips for Clutter Control

You look around your home and see little stacks of clutter here and there. How did that happen and how can you control this situation?

  1. Everything that is in your home should have a purpose and a “home” where it stays when not in use. Nothing should “float.” Even if you use your laptop in several places, it should have a place where it lives when you want to put it away.
  2. Like items should live with like items. This helps you keep track of what you already have. Laundry items should be stored together. Batteries should be stored in one area. DVDs should live in one spot.  And all of the items should fit into whatever container you have set aside for them.
  3. Nothing new should come into your home unless you really need it or want it. When something new does come into your home, it should have an immediate “home.”
  4. Don’t overbuy. When you buy huge amounts of paper towels or laundry soap, where will you store it? If you buy 20 cans of soup because it was on sale, where will it all live until you use it?
  5. Use the one in/one out rule. When you buy new shoes, get rid of a pair of old shoes.
  6. If you buy something that you already have, get rid of the old one immediately. You don’t need 3 blenders.
  7. Don’t buy gifts unless you know who you plan to give them to and when. Have a place for gifts to live until the gifting time arrives.
  8. Don’t subscribe to magazines or newspapers you don’t have time to read. After you do read your print material, recycle it. All of your reading material should have a place to live while it is in your home and if that place gets too overcrowded, bring in less.
  9. All paper that comes into your home should have a place to land – either in trash, recycle, or in action folders. None of it should end up on your desk or kitchen counter.
  10. At least weekly, do a clutter roundup and put everything away. This includes laundry.

Now, it’s your turn. I know I probably missed some great ideas. Please share your tip on keeping clutter at bay.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Using Containers as Organizational Tools


Containers can be a great help with organizing. They hold items neatly. They help when sorting like items with like items (all short sleeve T shirts in this bin). They can also help in the process of purging. I often suggest to my clients that they can keep as many of any item as they like if the items will easily fit into a specified container.

Now, when I am talking container, I am talking about anything that holds something. I open up the definition beyond tubs, bins, and baskets and include cabinets, drawers, closets, and bookcases.

This past weekend, Rob and I sat down to organize our entertaining credenza. When we got married this fall, we both did a lot of purging. Still, when we looked into the area where we keep our CDs and DVDs it was easy to see there was still an overabundance. We reached an agreement that we would keep as many DVDs as would easily fit on a shelf and as many CDs as would fit into several containers. Next was the task of deciding what our absolute favorites were and what we could give away. At first it was pretty easy but when we got down to the last 3 CDs it became difficult. We finally managed, but our containers are absolutely full which means if we buy another CD we will have to let one go. This rule, though, does keep our area from getting completely overrun with media.

Try using this same principle throughout your home. I have one cabinet for storing nonperishable food. I want this cabinet to be easy to use – not overly crammed, not with cans stacked, and not too full to see what is already in place. I also zone out this cabinet so one shelf is for canned items, one shelf is for snack items, one shelf is for beverages, etc. This enables me to easily keep food rotated, always putting the newer purchases in back. This also means that I do not buy a case of something just to save a few pennies a can.

A bookcase can only hold so many books. I love books but I don’t think it is respectful to my books to overly cram them into a bookcase, stack books on top of books, or put a row of books in front of an existing row of books. I also do not want to put books stacked on top of my bookcase or on the floor. This means that I can only keep so many books. When new books come in, if they do not fit into the bookcase, I must donate some of my lesser loved books.

Try using this container principle with your clothes closet, your bathroom cabinets, your desk, or anyplace that you feel might be getting disorganized and overfull. As you go through and purge items, try to leave empty room. This allows for new to come in and gives you room to shuffle items within the container.

If I know that I will keep only as much scrap paper as will easily fit into one container in my desk drawer, as many sweaters as will fit in one bins, as many travel toiletries as will fit into one small basket, it makes letting go of the excess so much easier.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Containers and Letting Go


When we hear the word “container” we usually conjure up the mental picture of plastic bins or baskets to hold our “stuff.” But actually a container is any object used to hold things.

For the purpose of this blog, let’s imagine closets, bookcases, filing cabinets, drawers, kitchen cabinets, as well as baskets and bins.

Then, how do containers help us let go of objects? When working with clients, I often tell them they can keep as much of any particular item as long as they have room in the designated container to comfortably hold it.

How does this look?

  • You can have as many shoes as will fit in the designated area/shelves in your closet.
  • You can have as many cookbooks as will fit on the designated shelf in the kitchen.
  • You can have as many plastic food containers as will fit into the designated drawer or shelf.
  • You can keep as many files in your filing cabinet as will comfortably fit.
  • You can keep as many current magazines as will fit in the magazine stand.
  • You can have as many t-shirts as will fit into the designated drawer or shelf.
  • You can have as many magic markers as will fit into the designated bin.

If you own more of any one thing than will comfortably fit, you chose the ones you love the most and let go of the rest. If you just cannot make yourself let go of some items, then you must find another container that will hold the excess and it should fit somewhere that makes sense.

This is a revelation to some and can really be very enlightening. It can be very satisfying to sort through the category and choose the very best to comfortably fit your container and let the rest go to others!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Advance Gift Buying

Most of us at some point in the year buy a gift for someone and save it until the appropriate time (Wow, this is  just the perfect gift for ______!). The next step is storing it somewhere so that you remember you have it and remember where you stored it.

I have clients who have whole walls in the basement dedicated to gifts they have bought. Some clients have designated shelves in a closet, but don’t always get the gifts to those shelves. The gifts then end up in boxes or bags throughout the house. I have seen gifts hidden under the bed or tucked into the master closet or perhaps into a drawer. Some people don’t appear to have any designated spot – hence the “Oh, I forgot I had this” syndrome.

Suggestions for advance gift buying:

  • Don’t buy anything unless you know who you plan to give it to and for what event. You can only store so many cute hostess gifts.
  • Have a designated area for all gifts.
  • As soon as you buy something – tag who is to receive it.
  • Keep receipts and write on the receipts a description of the gift.
  • Move the gifts along as soon as is appropriate.
  • Don’t stock up gifts for a few people, no matter how adorable the gifts.
  • Never buy a gift for someone without first “shopping” at your home designated gift storage area.

Suggestions for storage:

  • Know yourself – determine how much space you really do need and set aside that amount.
  • Chose an area that is easy for you to access – otherwise you will suffer from the “I’ll just leave it here for now.” syndrome.
  • Consider having the storage near the gift wrap area.
  • Containerize small gifts into baskets or bins so that small items don’t get hidden behind larger items.
  • Clean out the area once a year. Donate those gifts that are no longer relevant.

Buying gifts on sale are a great way to save if the gift actually gets to that person. No matter how much you save, it is not a bargain if it just languishes in your home.

Happy shopping!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

“Isn’t that coffee pot still under warranty?” or Why Organize Warranties and Manuals

In the past I have always kept my manuals and warranties in a plastic bin. If I needed anything, I just shuffled through until I found it. The important step for me was that annually I would look through the paperwork and discard anything that I had replaced or trashed. If I gave away a space heater to a friend, I could find the manual.

Now that I am putting my house on the market, I am rethinking my system for a couple of reasons.

  1. I want to separate all paperwork that will stay with the house.
  2. I want to clean up extraneous paperwork on my personal items

First, I sorted my entire product related paperwork putting like with like and stacked it into categories, such as appliances, computer/office, tools, cameras.

Next, I did a cleanup. I tossed out anything on items I had gotten rid of this year, any expired warranties, instructions in French, or any other information I no longer needed. I kept the model, serial, and other important numbers on the front of the instruction manual. I kept the receipts stapled to the paperwork so that I can keep track of when/where I bought the item and how much it cost.

Then I stored the paperwork into two labeled containers – one for the house and one that will stay with me. I did make some exceptions. I kept all car warranty information in my car folder in my desk. I kept the answering machine manual under the machine as I make changes to it fairly often. I left the furnace manual on the furnace as the people who do maintenance work refer to it.  I also have some directions on how to make adjustments to my alarm system near the keypad.

I am counting on this saving me time and reducing stress in the upcoming move. If something does go amiss on an appliance, I should have all the necessary paperwork to put it right.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer