Original Blog Post written in 2020 during Covid-19 shut downs and stay at home mandates.
When I wrote my post “Cycles of Decluttering, Organizing, and Cleaning” (original post-Dec 2019) I mentioned there is an A Phase (late Dec through Jan and into May) and a B Phase (June through December) during the year and that when we got to the B Phase I would write a follow-up post.
WOW—I don’t think any of us knew how different 2020 would be at that point. And yet it seems the cycles are continuing right on schedule as they always do. Here’s what the typical cycles look like:
A Phase and B Phase:
Months that these Phases typically occur:
A Phase: Late Dec, Jan & Feb
B Phase: June, July
A Phase: March
B Phase: Aug, Sept
A Phase: April, May
B Phase: Oct, Nov
This year, 2020, as we were entering the organizing phase in March Covid-19 put us all in lockdown where we stayed through April and May which are usually the months for the cleaning phase. I know I personally deep cleaned every room during April and May!
And now here we are in June, and back to the Decluttering phase. I’m sure there are things that you have dealt with the past couple of months that you would LOVE to THROW AWAY (husbands and kids may even be on your list!) And there are things you may wish to hold onto and treasure as reminders of this time as well.
I hope that we can use some of our decluttering energy in our garages, storage sheds, and attics. For many families, the garage is the MOST DISORGANIZED space in their home. Everybody uses it but no one really claims it as their responsibility. The attic is the place stuff gets put when we don’t want to make a decision—it is purgatory for our stuff—not used or valued but still around. And any extra storage space, a shed, or a stall at one of the storage facilities, is also like purgatory but with a price tag (purchase price for the shed and monthly fee for a stall). At some point someone is going to have to deal with the stuff and the space—take the time NOW to do it and you’ll feel so proud when you finish. Additional Resource: Article from This Old House–
An estimate of the time this could take is easily 20 to 30 hours depending on how long it has been since you last worked in the space, and how much stuff you have. The majority will be cleaning out the space and sorting through the items. You will need to move everything out, thoroughly clean (sweep, hose out, blow off, throw away trash), make repairs as needed, and add or improve lighting before putting things back in. The reason you want to move everything is that often this step quickly identifies items that are broken and can go directly into the trash.
TIP: Have lots of heavy-duty trash bags and don’t overfill them so they rip or can’t be lifted and moved to the curb or trash bin. Toss anything that is mildewed, moth-eaten, broken, or dried out, as well as old newspapers, magazines, college notebooks and textbooks, pet bedding, and cardboard boxes (bugs love to hide and reproduce in these).
What is actually in your garage? Sort it by categories (think of the signs you see at the home improvement store—Plumbing, Lawn & Garden, Lumber) and look for any broken items to throw out.
Typical Categories—may vary based on location and weather
Once you have items SORTED and grouped, now you can PURGE.
Open all the boxes to see what is inside and if you need to toss the contents. If the bin or container is still in good shape, hold on to it and it will either be used to carry items to be donated or may be reused as a container for something else. If it is a cardboard box or a plastic bin that is broken, take to the trash.
Questions to ask yourself while purging????
Let’s talk about the extra freezer or refrigerator. I know during the lockdown many people stocked up and needed the extra storage. If you have an extra refrigerator in your garage, be sure there is space around it for airflow and consider plugging into a surge protector in case power is interrupted. Also, the heat from the garage will put more strain on it to keep the desired temperature. Tell the kids, and grandkids to not leave the door open too long when they are grabbing drinks or other items from it. And be sure to practice FIFO—First In, First Out (rotate your stock so the oldest is in front and will be used first).
At this point, you should have only the items you are keeping and using. And can tell about how much space you need for those items. You may want to sketch out a floor plan of your garage and even take a few measurements to see if you can move existing shelves or stackable bins around to get more floor space.
What are the categories you have? Each category needs a “home spot”. Exactly where the home spot is in the garage is determined by several factors.
Freezers and Refrigerators need electricity (not recommended to use extension cords) so they have to be set up near an electrical outlet.
Kids Bikes need to be where they are not going to be accidentally run over when you back the car out or knock over lawn tools when the kids want to go ride them.
Just like in a closet or pantry, the more frequently used items, need to be easy to get to and then easy to put back in place. Seasonal items can be stored up high or behind other items. Be sure to not place heavy items on top of lighter weight items that could be crushed or could fall and crush you!
Anything can be a container. And ultimately the garage itself is the container. It all has to fit in the garage—PLUS YOUR CAR/TRUCK/SUV (only 30% of Americans can put their cars in the garage—but your car costs more than everything in your garage!).
If you need shelving or storage bins, I recommend checking out Shelving.com In addition to metal shelving, they have fun and colorful lockers that you could use in a kid’s bedroom, playroom, or even laundry room. Check out their entire product line.
It is best to do a daily evaluation or review of all spaces. Take a few minutes to put the tools away or to hang the bike on the hooks.
You have just spent HOURS getting this space organized but until you use it and see what is working and what is not, you can’t tell if everyone is going to be able to help maintain the space. And if it cannot be maintained, then you’ll most likely need to spend HOURS again next year Sorting, Purging, etc. Daily or at least weekly spot checks to see if where you placed items is working out for everyone or if you need to make a few adjustments.
Anywhere in the process, you may feel you need assistance completing the steps. As a Professional Organizer I can help you with the SORTING, PURGING, ASSIGNING a Home, and CONTAINERIZING. Notice I said I can HELP you—because it is your stuff and your family, you will have to be involved in the process. Sure, I can come and find the easy stuff to purge—but if you keep things that you don’t use, you won’t get the full use of the space. And instead of just a little bit better, let’s really get it decluttered, organized, and cleaned out this time.
You may also feel you need to add shelving or need to add electrical outlets, a fan, or other light fixtures added, and I encourage you to hire professionals to help with these tasks as well. Check references on anyone you hire to work on your home.