Organizing the Attic or Basement Zone

November is a wonderful time to organize and clean out your attic or your basement zone. The temperature tends not to be too hot or cold for comfort. It is also an area where many of us store our holiday decorations.

As you prepare to work in this zone, first decide how you want to use this area in your home. You might include on your list storage of:

  • Seasonal decorations
  • Seasonal house items like fans or heaters
  • Household items you wish to keep but are not currently using
  • Toys, clothing, or other items you wish to pass on to friends and family
  • Out of season clothing or sports equipment
  • Suitcases
  • Archival paper
 Plan out a zone in your storage area for each category. Items you access frequently like suitcases or cat carriers should be near the entrance of this area and items you do not plan to use in the next year like unused household items are best stored furthest from the entry.
Attack the attic or basement zone by zone. Remove everything from the one zone you are working on and sweep down the area and look for any structural damage or infestations. As you place items back in the area, if you come across broken, unloved items, or multiple items (How many suitcases do you really use?) that have been hanging around for years, now is the time to let them go. You will feel so much lighter when they are gone. You will enjoy the room to move around.
Leave space between each zone so you can safely retrieve or store items.
Label all containers. Use large labels you can see from some distance. Even if a container is clear, it is hard to see what is inside if the lighting is dim.
It helps to locate different holiday items if you use colored or themed containers to store your decorations. Still label the containers with primary items. This keeps you from having to dig through multiple boxes to find the advent wreath or creche you want to use early in the season. Your organized attic or basement will make decorating and un-decorating a much easier task.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

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.
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

Dealing with Clutter Overload

You’re never quite sure how it happened but over time clutter completely took over an area in your home. At first it was just grandma’s china that was put into the room “just for now”. Later you had to quickly clear up the other guest bedroom for company and you just scooted some of the projects you were working on into this area. Then it was already a bit of a mess so anytime you didn’t know where to put something – in it went.

Now, you want to reclaim the room. You’d like a craft room or a place to keep and sell items on eBay. But the mess is huge. You can hardly open the door. You don’t even have a goat path clear across the room. You are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

When I work with clients I like to use a variation of the Mount Vernon Method. This method involves starting at the door and moving clockwise around the room completely cleaning one area at a time. I use a similar method but do it in two or three sweeps around the room.

On the first sweep around the room we only deal with items that are on the floor. Each item is identified and placed where it belongs. To keep from running all over the house, we set up zones outside of the room. One zone is “belongs in the house but not here”. Another zone or stack is “will go back into this room”. Then there are the trash, recycle, shred, and donate piles. Sometimes we also have a “leaving the house but going to someone specific” stack. The client is strongly discouraged from going to another area in the room and is always refocused back to the area at hand. The idea is just to keep on moving around the room one step at a time. Depending on how much stuff we have in the piles, about 30 minutes to an hour before quitting time we go to the stacks in the hall and deal with them. Hopefully by this time we have some clear space in the room to stack the items that will eventually live in this room. Items going somewhere else in the home are now taken to that spot. If there is no place to put them at this time, we just put them as close to where they are supposed to go as possible. Trash is taken out right away. Donate and shred piles can either be dealt with right away or held until more of the room is completed.

After we have cleared the floor, we go back around the room and deal with the surfaces of any furniture. We use the same technique. Then we look at what is stored out of sight in the furniture.

The client has a vision of how she wants this room to look and what function the room will have before we even begin. So the last step is placing everything back into the room that supports that vision.

I love the way this works with clients and they can really see their progress after each session.

If you have one of these “rooms of shame” you can get help to keep you focused or you can try this method on your own. A big part of making this work is to break the project down into manageable tasks and sticking to a timeline. Always allow time at the end of each session to clear up the stacks you have placed in the hallway.

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

Organzing Your Kitchen

I like to use a zone plan to organize my home. Each month I tackle a different area. October is a prime month for the kitchen. The holidays are right around the corner and the kitchen will become a very busy place. Seasons have changed so you are ready to put away the ice cream maker and pull out the crock pot. This is also the time of year that food drives kick into high gear. Take this time to clear out the food that has accumulated because of impulse buying or overbuying.

Before starting, take a long look at your current kitchen set up. What is bothering you? Are your counters crowded? Are your spices a jumble? Are some often used items hard to reach? Create a vision of how you would like your kitchen to look and feel by the end of this month. Make a brainstorm list of all that needs to happen to make this vision come true.

Some items on your list might include:

  • Declutter your surfaces – what items are not used daily?
  • Purge your cabinets – how many plastic containers or saucepans do you need?
  • Organize for convenience – are your often used items easy to reach?
  • Set up zones – do you have a clear food preparation zone, cooking zone, dish zone, storage zone and serving zone?

Now tackle the project. Divide your kitchen into 4 zones and tackle just one zone a week. This will keep the job from being overwhelming.

  • Week 1 – Cooking Zone – Clean the stove, oven, and microwave. Organize pots, pans, cooking utensils, and bake-ware. If your space is crowded, consider giving away pots that are rarely used. If you have special cookware that is used only for a specific holiday, store that ware with the holiday decorations.
  • Week 2 – Food Preparation Zone – Clean out the refrigerator as well as organize cutting boards, knives, mixing bowls, spices, mixers, blenders, measuring cups and spoons. Get rid of duplicates. Toss foods and spices that are past their prime.
  • Week 3 – Dish Zone – Clean your sink area and dishwasher. Organize your dishware, mugs, glasses, and flatware. Discard items you don’t need or those that are broken.
  • Week 4 – Food Serving Zone and Food Storage Zone – Look over placemats, napkins, trivets, large serving pieces, and any groups of items you have not already organized. When you go through your pantry, pull out any cans that you have been holding on to and are reaching expiration. Donate these to a food pantry. When you replace the food in your pantry, group the foods by type – all soups together, all pasta, all fruits, etc.

By the end of the month you will love your organized kitchen space. You are ready for the holiday cooking!

For more details on organizing your kitchen visit my website and purchase my book From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Taking Back Your Laundry Zone

The month of August is a good time to organize the laundry area. You may have some laundry stacked up from vacation. There are new school clothes and sport clothing that need washing. You really want this zone under control before the fall season really hits.

Keeping up with laundry is less of a hassle if you have your space well organized.

  1. Decide what the purposes are for this zone. Besides the washer and dryer, do you also have your iron and ironing board stored here? Besides your laundry products, do you also store other cleaning products here? Do you store your pet food? Do you keep your recycling bins here? Be very clear on what you expect this area to house. Then zone it out so that everything has its own home. If you have stuck something in this area “just for now”, now move it out.
  2. Think about how you want this zone to look and feel. You will spend a bit of time here so make it work for you. I like a fun calendar that makes me smile. I also have a stain chart, and since my recycling shares this zone, I also have a list of what is accepted in each bin. I also like to have as many things containerized as possible.
  3. Sort all of your cleaning products. Did you buy a product that you really did not like, but that is still hanging around? Toss it now. Do you have spray starch that is 10 years old and you barely have a nodding acquaintance with you iron? Toss it now. Do you have 2 half bottles of Woolite? Consolidate them. If you buy large containers of soap powder, transfer some into a smaller container to cut down on spills.
  4. Schedule your laundry times. Don’t wait until you need something to do laundry (Mom, where are my gym shorts?). The goal is to keep laundry moving. Only bring to the laundry zone what you intend to laundry that day. Leave the rest in the dirty clothes hampers. Only cats love mounds of dirty laundry. As soon as clothes are dry, get them back to their home. If you have some clothes that need ironing, designate a container to hold them until you schedule your ironing time.
  5. Having a different colored basket for each member of the family is helpful. As you pull clothes out of the dryer, put them into the correct basket and then carry them to the appropriate room.
  6. Have a small container nearby to toss any items you find in pockets, the dryer, or for loose buttons.

Having this zone organized may not make you love to do laundry, but it should make the chore an easier one.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Workshop/Garage Zone

The workshop or garage area often ends up as a dumping area. It is not in your main living area and it is sooo easy to walk in and dump something “just for now.” After a while it is very difficult to find things you think are there or even to freely move around. I suggest that once a year you schedule a time to really organize and clean out this zone.

Start with deciding the purpose for this area. Do you plan to:

  • park a car
  • store extra household items like water/paper products/oversized cookware
  • store garden tools and accessories
  • work on projects
  • store household tools
  • use as a holding area for recyclables
  • store sports equipment/outdoor games/camping gear

After deciding on how you plan to use this space, determine your zones. Some zone suggestions are:

  • car parking and car related items
  • garden
  • recycling
  • household storage
  • entertainment accessories
  • sports equipment
  • tools

If you have an abundance of tools, you may want to subdivide that zone into plumbing, electrical, wood working, etc.

Decide where to logically place each zone. You will want to place items that you regularly access near entrances. As you are grouping your items  in each zone, look for containers to hold small items that are rattling about. A clear shoebox without the lid can hold gardening gloves. A flat basket can hold gardening hand tools. Utilize shelves, peg boards, 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.

Clear out each zone. Determine what you have not used ( that badminton set has not been set up in 3 years or more) or is broken, or expired (seeds, chemicals). These items go away. Knock down the cobwebs and sweep the floor before putting the items away that belong in that zone. You’ll be amazed at how much roomier the area is now that all items have been bunched together and stored away.

Now reward yourself. A hot shower and a cool drink  might be just the thing.

For more ideas on how to organize that workshop, view my YouTube video on Organizing Your Workshop.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Are You Ready for a Romantic Evening? Organizing Tips!

If you trip over piles of shoes while entering your front door or have papers cascading off your coffee table, your living room is not ready for prime time romance. If your dining area has projects, bills, and used plates and silverware on the table and stacks of clothes on the floor, you are not ready for that romantic meal. If your bedroom has stacks of books, magazines, clothes, and collections on every surface, you are not ready for that special night.

Take a clear look at your living room, dining room, and bedroom. Envision how you want these areas to look. How do you want to feel in these areas? What is the real purpose of these zones?

Now, remove everything from the zones that does not match your vision. Have a specific place for every item that belongs in the rooms and then put them there. If you do not have enough space, consider letting some items go or temporarily storing them elsewhere until you can make a storage plan.

Now, clean and polish those newly exposed surfaces. Put out some flowers and candles.


Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Gift Wrap Zone

This time of year there are usually gifts to wrap and perhaps also to mail. It is sooo tempting to buy all of that lovely gift wrap that is displayed plus tissue plus ribbon plus gift bags. It is easy to lose track of how much of these goodies you have unless you organize all of your material into one convenient gift wrap zone.

I have recently moved into a new home and have less storage for these items than I had before, so I must really consolidate and purge. I rarely fall in love with any one storage product but this gift wrap organizer from the Container Store looks marvelous – plus it can hang in my front hall closet.

Besides using the closet, I have also seen gift wrap zones set up in containers under the bed, in tall trash cans in closets, or on workbenches in the basement. It does not matter so much where the area is but that it is all in one place. Along with your wrap and ribbon, also have tags, bubble wrap, tape, scissors and anything else that you routinely use to wrap your gifts.  When you know you are going to have a gift to wrap, visit your gift wrap zone before going out and buying anything. Get in the habit of shopping from your home first.

So now is a great time to make a sweep throughout your home and pull together all of your wrapping and packing materials. Look them over and discard any “tired” looking or tattered materials as well as those little scraps you saved that won’t wrap anything larger than a jewelry box. Add to the mix a dedicated pair of scissors and a roll of tape. Contain it all in one place and now you have a convenient gift wrap zone that will make gift wrapping an easier, less stressful process.   

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Make Your Calendar Work for You in 2013

By now you have probably gotten tired of writing notes on the back page and putting sticky notes in your old calendar.

Let’s plan how to set up your new calendar for the upcoming year.

Step One: Review your current calendar. This is the fun part. Go month by month to note birthdays, anniversaries, and standard meeting times. Also note doctor/dentist appointments that are already set for the upcoming year.

Step Two: Transfer these dates to your new calendar in a color that will stand out. As you go through the year writing in all the other appointments, you don’t want to lose focus on these dates.

Step Three: On each month, either along the edge or at the top of your calendar, write in actions that you usually do during that month. For example, in January I have “clean out birdhouses” and “organize office zone.” In February I have “deduct from checkbook deposit box expense” and “organize my guest bedroom zone.”

Step Four: On each month, Make a list of when organizational dues are expected and when you make annual contributions to organizations. For example, in March I have “National Audubon” due and in April I have “Atlanta Botanical Gardens” and “National NAPO” due. Most of these organizations start to solicit months before the renewal is actually due. This side bar of information on when items are really due keeps you from guessing or having to check back into your files or checkbook.

I always enjoy setting up my new calendar. It is fun to review what I have done during this past year and to feel prepared for the upcoming year.

Jonda Beattie
Professional Organizer