Tag: Home

How We Accumulate and Organize Items in our Homes

I think it is safe to say, we will never SHOP the same after the 2020 Pandemic.

Many stores that have struggled to survive the past couple of years (Pier 1, JCPenny’s, Neiman Marcus, JCrew) are going to permanently close.  Some have already started clearance sales and store closings.

Items that we previously purchased at a store are now part of a “subscription-based” program and arrive at our front door as scheduled.  Subscriptions include everything from dog food, toothpaste, clothing, shaving cream, and razors.

Grocery stores that had expanded to over 50K items are now reducing products and reallocating space as the supply chain adjusts to the ever-changing consumer.  More families are using home delivery from restaurants, meal kits, and grocery delivery services instead of shopping themselves in a brick and mortar location. (Recent survey said only 65% of food purchases were made at a grocery store.)

The traditional Saturday afternoon trip to the mall to window shop, enjoy a fresh baked cookie from Great American Cookie company, and catch a movie at the cinema  is a thing of the past. 

If we have learned anything over the last 14 months, it is that we can quickly adjust where and how we shop.

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER WHAT COMES IN :

Into your house

Into your mind.

And Into your mouth

And your will power is strongest and most effective at the point of purchase.  If you never buy it, you never have to deal with it in your home!

In terms of purchases for our homes, there are 4 common approaches:

Minimalism, Consumerism, Essentialism, and Reductionism

First, some definitions

Minimalism:  Owning Fewer Possessions—people often think of stark white walls, one chair, one plant.  And yet, it is also the perspective of purchasing less stuff that allows for more freedom to travel or create experiences.  There are several good resources to learn more:  Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist, Ryan Nicodemus, and Joshua Fields Millburn The Minimalist

Consumerism: Acquisition of goods in increasing amounts—Black Friday Sales with hundreds of people pushing each other to grab the last TV; shopping at Costco for multiples of everything; Walmart, Target, Amazon.  Consumerism has been a powerful economic force for the past 50 years.  Unfortunately, easy credit has caused people to overextend with credit card debt and the home mortgage crisis of 2007.  This article provides a summary of that crisis:  https://www.thebalance.com/mortgage-crisis-overview-315684

Essentialism:  Determining what is essential to you in terms of items, people, commitments, and maintaining those regardless of age, available space, or resources.  Marie Kondo style of decluttering where you identify the items that you need and everything else is purged. Essentialism can look like a minimalist house or a home can be filled with lots of beautiful accessories and items.  It is completely up to the individual to determine what is essential.

Reductionism:  Working toward a place of balance of what you have and what you need for your current situation and the future.  A place that many people find themselves in now, where what they needed 6 months ago is different from what they need today.  And if their income has changed, then reducing their expenses to meet the new income.  Families are digging in and getting creative with food items already in their pantry instead of going to the store.  Parents are sharing the school supplies with their students as they all work and learn from home.  And as our commutes to work change so does our automobile or public transportation needs. 

I personally believe we all favor a specific approach at specific times in our lives.  In our youth, consumerism is common as we tend to want to buy the next new game, the next Lego set, the popular clothing brand.  Even when we are out on our own, the desire to purchase items for our family increases.  Then at some point, you may find you want to “downsize” or as it is sometimes called “right-size” and you may find yourself in essentialism or even as far as minimalism. 

During the national shelter in place we experienced this spring, we found ourselves stuck inside and looking at our stuff All Day Every Day.  Many people began asking questions about their possessions.  For some, the decluttering and purging started immediately and was only halted by the fact that resale shops were closed so there was no place to take the donations.  Others were able to purchase storage bins and labels and now have organized garages and closets and know what they own and where it is.  It is a natural response that when things outside of our control are increasing, we look for ways to feel in control. 

If you did not spend time decluttering or organizing or doing what I am calling “ The Great American Clean Out”  you may need to take a few minutes to just look at your stuff and get an objective perspective.  And if at any point you feel overwhelmed or confused, you may need to seek assistance from a professional organizer or at least a highly organized friend.  

Ask yourself some questions like: 

How do you feel about the amount of stuff you own? 

How do you feel about how you are caring for the stuff? 

How much time are you spending dealing with it and is that what you want to be doing?

Let’s say you own a BOAT.  

You enjoy taking the boat out every weekend.  You know that you must clean and care for the boat, but you enjoy that as well.  I’d say, KEEP THE BOAT!  It is providing entertainment value, giving you a place of relaxation and good fresh air and sunlight.  All positives.

Let’s say you own 2 bicycles

You haven’t moved the bikes in at least a year; both bikes have flat tires and cobwebs in the wheels.  I’d say, SELL or DONATE THE BIKES!  They are not providing an exercise option and the longer they sit unused, the more the tires age and will be useless for someone else. 

See the difference? 

The Rule of Sunk Cost:  What you paid for an item has no bearing on its value to you now.  Keeping it in a closet, storage shed, or garage does not make it more valuable or return money spent.  It is SUNK.

Areas to clean out: 

Attic or Basement (depending on where you live you may have one and not the other or may have both)

Garage (primary use is to protect your car from the elements, but less than 30% of homeowners can park their car in the garage)

Storage Shed or Unit (9.4% of population rent a storage unit.  More stats about storage units)

Closets (see other blog posts)

Cabinets (Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry Room, office file cabinets)

Pantry and Freezer (One of my favorite areas to organize!  This is your micro grocery store; it should be arranged like one!)

Quick & Easy Steps to Clear Out some of these spaces:

  1. Use up what you have.  Be sure you have gathered everything into one place —you don’t want to find a stash of cleaning supplies under the guest room bath.  Do not buy any more food, paper goods, beauty supplies until you have used what you have.  Make it a game.  Everyone writes down when they think you will have to shop to replace it.  This will also help you budget in the future.  If you see that you can go 6 months on 36 rolls of toilet paper, then you will not rush to buy more when a forecast calls for heavy rains, or ice because you know you have 18 rolls in the hall closet and that’s a 3 month supply. 
  2. Set deadlines.  If you are wanting to empty the storage unit you pay $110/ month, then set a deadline for when you want to be out of it.  Double-check when they will bill your account for the next month so that you can be sure to be out before that date. 
  3. Get uncomfortable for a while.  Instead of “out of sight, out of mind”, put the boxes right on the table or in front of the TV.  If you can’t sit down to eat dinner or you can’t recline back in your chair, you will be motivated to work through the boxes and finally make a decision about the items—continue to store, or remove? 
  4. Stay focused on the desired outcome.  Remind yourself why you are cleaning out the garage or the freezer—monthly savings, reduce food waste, repurpose the space for home gym or home office. 

Owning stuff should not fuel our happiness!  The only way to reduce our desire to own more is to start being grateful for what we already have.  This is also true in our relationships.  When we are grateful for the friends, family, neighbors we have, we can enjoy them more and they will enjoy us more too! 

Once you’ve cleaned out these spaces, the best way to maintain them is to STOP SHOPPING. 

  • Cut up credit cards from stores (usually have higher interest rates anyway). 
  • Follow the 1 in 2 out rule—for every item you bring in, you must donate two. 
  • Unsubscribe from emails. You know your favorite stores; you don’t need to be reminded to go to their website when it’s time to purchase again.  And getting emails everyday encourages more and more spending and unplanned purchases. 
  • Adjust your subscription plans.  Are you using what you are getting in before the next shipment arrives or are you starting to have a surplus?

I mentioned that you may need to get help with some of these projects.  As a professional organizer, I can help you evaluate your current situation, put together a plan, and estimate time needed to complete the project.  My consultation is FREE.  You can also purchase a gift certificate from me to give to a family member or as a client appreciation gift.

Why is Moving So Stressful?

According to a study conducted by the United States Census Bureau, the average person will move their household 11.7 times in their lifetime.  The US Life Expectancy is currently 78.69 years which means we move every 6 years! 

There are many types of moves– Corporate Relocations, Upsizing or Downsizing, First Home Purchase, Going Off to College, Retirement Centers or Assisted Living Facilities and each of these moves require thousands of decisions to be made. 

Unfortunately, all that decision making can make us weary, exhausted, dog-tired, worn out, and fatigued!  And the decisions start long before moving day.  As a Professional Organizer I have helped clients to pack and move but not until my recent move (July 2019) did, I feel the impact of all the decisions and feel the weariness, both physical and mental. 

I am very proud of how well my family has handled this move and how well it went from start to finish. I hope this article helps you to prepare for your next move and makes it as easy as moving can be. (Hint—You are still going to be worn out!) 

Let’s look at a couple of Different Types of Moves and the usual ways they occur:

                Corporate Relocation:  Your employer has asked you to move to a new location and you have a deadline for when you need to be there.  The biggest advantage of a corporate move is that the company picks up the expense for packing and moving your belongings.  Generally, a moving company is selected, and a packing date is set.  Then depending on the distance to the new location the moving truck is loaded and arrives within a few days to begin unloading.  Corporate movers are usually very good about packing your items, so they transport without getting broken.  However, sometimes in the rush to get the packing completed, they will pack unwanted items in a box including dirty clothes and full trash cans

If you have a corporate move in your future, I highly recommend that you SORT and PURGE your belongings before packing day.  You will not have time to purge as they are packing, and you can’t be in multiple locations within your home while multiple moving company staff members pack your belongings. 

Once you arrive at your new location the boxes will be placed in the rooms as they are labeled (this can be a disadvantage if you want things to go to a different room). They will unpack the boxes and remove all the packing materials. 

Upsizing or Downsizing: Most of us will change the size of the house we live in a couple of times—we may go bigger when we have children (or when our incomes allow us) and we may go smaller when they move out (or we want to stretch our retirement income).  The rooms will be different sizes and shapes that may require us to replace furnishings.  The key is making sure the furniture fits the new room.  His favorite chair may not fit with the oversized couch in your new living room and you’ll have to decide which to keep and which to replace.   Or you’ll find that you need an additional chair or two by the fireplace.  These moves are generally a DIY project (with help from good friends and neighbors) and have more flexibility on the actual moving day. 

If you know you are going to be moving in the next 6 months, I suggest that you start SORTING, PURGING and PACKING early. 

For my move, I created a Color-Coded Label System (I am happy to send you the template) where each room has a different color label that will be placed on the box and ALL CONTENTS are listed.

In our case, we were setting up a second residence, so I wanted to be sure that any items I had duplicates of were packed for the 2nd home saving us money to repurchase something we already owned. But I had to be sure I didn’t need that item at our primary residence so by listing the contents on the label I could easily retrieve it if needed.  And the color-coded boxes made unloading and unpacking much faster and easier!!!

We unloaded all the boxes into the garage and then carried in only the room we were working on at that time.  No stepping over boxes to get to the ones we needed.  And the labels helped me find the most important (coffee maker) box the night we arrived for the following morning!

If you are going from one primary residence to another, start with items that are in storage and used infrequently like craft and holiday items, garden and tools, or appliances that you don’t use every week.  Get these items sorted and purged and then packed with contents on the labels. 

Next on your packing order should be entertaining items like extra glasses, barware, serving pieces—this is a great time to decide how much of these do you need in your new home???!!! Our lifestyles often change when we move and if you are not going to be hosting large parties anymore, now is the time to purge the excess pieces.  Or if you have a partial set of dishes or glasses that you have been holding on to because you had a cabinet for them, go ahead and rid yourself of them now and save the time and effort to pack and unpack. 

Retirement or Assisted Living Facility:  For many families, the decision to move a parent into an assisted living facility comes on suddenly and can be extremely stressful.  We all have a sentimental attachment to our stuff, but we must accept that other family members don’t have the same attachment.  Most kids do not want their parents’ stuff and that goes for Gen Xers to Millennials.

Although items need to be sorted and purged the process may take longer than we would like and I can only say to cherish the time together, ask lots of questions to learn the stories about the “stuff”, take pictures and keep pushing forward to get the items packed and moved to the facility or packed to donate/sell. 

You can surround them with their favorite items but remember that if everything is “the favorite” then really nothing is—because they can’t all be the same value.

Let’s get started making decisions—SORTING, PURGING, PACKING:

SORT:  Gather all like things together.  All the DVDs, all the books, all the glassware, all the tools, all the towels, and sheets, etc.  Gather from multiple locations and put all together.  You must see it all together to really know how much you have!  When the towels are spread between 3 bathrooms it doesn’t look like so much, but when you bring them all together on the kitchen table, you can match up sets, discard any with holes or stains and keep only the very best to use. 

PURGE:  Discard, Donate, and Sell items as you go.  Why pay for the movers to load something that you don’t really want anymore? It is easier to purge when you see how much you are keeping, instead of looking at what you are giving away. This is why bringing like items together to sort; helps you purge and ultimately pack. 

PACK:  Use packing paper to wrap all kitchen items, pictures, and knick-knacks.  Generally, I like to keep like items together, however, if you have a 2-story house you may need some upstairs and some down so you should pack for both locations.  When you are ready to load the truck, move everything into the garage.  Again, it helps you to see how much you really have when it is all together! Load the boxes first and then the furniture.  When you unload you can place the furniture inside the house in the correct room and put the boxes in the garage. 

Supplies to have on hand when packing: 

  1.  Boxes: a variety of sizes. It is best if they have not been used for food storage/transportation (you don’t want unwanted oils or fragrances to get into your clothes or books). Check on NextDoor or other social media options for used boxes.  If you are going to buy boxes, I suggest buying wardrobe boxes for your hanging clothes.  They hold a lot of clothes and you can pack large artwork in with the clothes as well.
  2. Packing Paper:  Buy at least 2 boxes to start and some bubble wrap as well.  Wrap items to prevent breakage and pack the boxes with extra paper to prevent movement in the box.  Breaks happen when items can shift and move in the box.  No empty space!
  3. Packing Tape and Dispensers:  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the end of a roll of tape! 
  4. Black and Red Sharpies:  Medium point to write on the labels.  Use RED to mark any boxes as FRAGILE. 
  5. Pre-Printed Color-Coded Labels:  Write the contents on the label as you wrap, and place in the box.

Supplies to have on hand when loading truck:

  1. Work Gloves: this is hard, physical labor. Save your hands from cuts, blisters.
  2. 2-wheel Dolly: to move boxes on and off the truck
  3. Blankets:  these are available with rental truck companies and are not expensive but prevent damage to furniture
  4. Bungee Cords and Straps:  you will need to prevent items from shifting on the truck
  5. Water Bottles:  depending on the time of year and climate, but it is hard physical labor so stay hydrated.

As for the size of the truck—this is a 15-foot truck with space over the cab.  I was only moving the Living Room, Dining Room, and Office Furniture along with lots of boxes (bedrooms furniture came from the store the next day).  You can see we were not full but due to the great packing and strapping everything in.. NOTHING broke!

A few final tips:

And if all this still sounds overwhelming, hire a Professional Organizer (like me!).  We can keep the process moving (pun intended)!!! Helping you sort, and purge at your old house, or helping you unpack and place items in the best location in your new house.  We make it easier for you!

I always work from a checklist and want to share a couple that I found to be very helpful:

The best moving checklist I found is from SMEAD Organomics. It starts 8-12 weeks before the move to give yourself plenty of time to SORT, PURGE and PACK.

Click on the link and then find “Printable Checklists: Moving Checklist”

Bed, Bath, and Beyond has checklists for Apartment and Campus—more for items to buy, but still a good list to review


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

– Lao Tzu

Identifying your Personal Style is the 1st step to a Happy Closet

Have you ever looked in your closet and said?

  • “What a mess!” 
  • “Why did I buy this?”
  • “What am I going to wear?  I’ve got to be out of the house in 15 minutes”

What feelings does a morning like this bring on?

Frustration, Resentment, Anxiety, even a little Depression

I understand and I’ve had those same thoughts and feelings.  Seems that our closet conversations can set the tone for our entire day.  We start our day with negative thoughts and messages and sure enough, we have a really bad day! 

What if instead we looked in our closet and said…

  • “What a great space.  I love how it is arranged and how everything looks!”
  • This is such a great color, I’m so glad I bought this!”
  • “I will put this top with these jeans and grab a jacket for later. Let’s go!”

Now, what feelings are you having?

                Happy, Confident, Empowered, maybe even a little Excited.

With these thoughts and messages, how do you think your day will go?  What kind of decisions will you make?  When we start our day with positive thoughts and messages, we usually have positive days and if we have some adversity, we can face it more confidently. 

So how can we change the conversations we have each morning? How can we get our closets and our clothes to talk nice to us again? How can we start our days with positive messages?

We need to fill our closets with clothes we want to wear and get rid of the other stuff!  But before we start cleaning out, we first need to identify our personal style.  Your personal style reflects your uniqueness and tastes and then allows you to express it and present it to the world.  The clothes you own and wear need to align with your style.


Identifying your personal style will help when you start Sorting and Purging your clothes. 

Fashion blogs and books have identified 5 style types—the names vary a little depending on who wrote the article:

  • Feminine or Girly
  • Modern or Classic (these are the same, trust me!)
  • Casual or Sporty
  • Bold or Edgy
  • BOHO (everyone agrees on this name!)

Let’s look at each just a bit more and see if you can easily identify which is your style. 
Activities may change but styles tend to remain consistent throughout our lives. 

Feminine or Girly:

Think frilly or flirty.  Soft colors. Lots of florals and prints with details like lace, ribbons, bows.

Modern or Classic:

Think simplicity and elegance over trendy. Little Black Dress (LBD) with pearls. Solids colors.

Casual or Sporty:

Think sports fan or yoga instructor. All about comfort. It can still be fashionable—athleisure wear is very popular with celebrities going from workout to lunch out!

Bold or Edgy:

Think hipster and glam. Bold colors and combinations. Details like zippers, metal snaps, and animal prints.


Think free spirit and nature lover. Vintage, Resale, Repurposed or Handmade. 

If you are not sure which of these you most identify with, look through magazines and see which outfits you are drawn to.  Also, check out a couple of your favorite clothing companies’ blogs to see if they have articles about styles.

Here are a couple I use:

Cabi:  www.cabionline.com/blog

Wardrobe Oxygen:  https://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/about/


Now that you have identified your personal style we can start working with your clothes.  But before we get started on the clothes let’s prep the space.  Remove everything from the closet and give it a good cleaning—dust, vacuum, remove the trash.  Also, repair and improve it.  Fix any rods that may have broken, add a rod if you can up high for out of season items, change light bulbs to more energy-efficient and provide better lighting (LEDs are great!).

Remove any item that does not belong in your closet and take it to the room or space it does belong.  No judgment, I know you just need a place to stash stuff before the in-laws arrived!!!

Now visualize how you want your closet to look.  Where do you want the dresses to go?  Where should the jackets go?  The final arrangement may change, but I hope that by visualizing you are encouraged to really sort and purge items to get to a place where everything in your closet makes you happy, energized, and ready to put your “best self” out into the world.


We will use the acronym SPACE:  Sort, Purge, Assign a home spot, Containerize, Evaluate 

Ask yourself some questions:

“Where am I in my career?” “Do I need professional suits & dresses anymore?”

“What are my hobbies or how to I spend my free time?” “Gardening, Painting, Volunteering”

“What is my family situation?”  “On the go Mom? Empty Nester?”

“What is my current fitness level, health, weight?” “Recovering from surgery or just lost weight”


SORT:  The first thing we need to do is get ALL YOUR CLOTHES together, but, please do not just pile them on the bed (I know you have seen it on Tidying Up—but that is for dramatic TV, not real life!).  Gather everything from under the bed, inside the bins in the guest room, wherever you have put clothes, find them and bring them together.  Now start sorting them into categories—put all the jeans in one pile, put all the dresses in another, and so on.  This way when you start to try on and pick which items are staying you can see exactly how many jeans you’ve picked to stay instead of bouncing back and forth and not knowing how many you are keeping.  And depending on what phase of life you are in you can also decide how many pairs of jeans do you need.  If you are volunteering at the local thrift store you will need more than when you were working at the bank or presenting cases in the courtroom all day.  And you will not need as many dresses or suits now. 

Save any bins you empty and all the best hangers!  Also, save boxes that are clean and in good shape.  These will be used in the containerize step or at least a way to carry items to the donation center.

PURGE:  Let’s make 3 piles:  Yes, No, Maybe. 

The Maybe pile we will come back to after we have put all the Yes items back into the closet and can see if we need to fill in any gaps in our wardrobe. 

Items in the No pile can be donated, sold or disposed of.  Selling used clothing is not always easy if you don’t have a good consignment store nearby.  Sometimes it is just easier to donate it and let someone else worry about selling it. 

Items in the Yes pile go back into the closet on the best hangers.  I like to use the same hangers throughout the closet, and they can be all plastic or all felt, but never metal ones from dry cleaners!  If you don’t have enough good hangers, put on metal temporarily and as a final step count how many you need and purchase matching hangers.  I promise it makes such a difference in how your clothes look in the closet if everything is on the same type of hanger! 


Let’s set an expectation here.  Your closet is NOT going to look like the photo in The Container Store sale catalog.  First you have more than 6 items and second, your clothes are not all white or beige!  But uniformity will help. 

Start by putting all your YES items back into the closet.  A few people like their closets to be color-coded, but most want theirs arranged by category.  Be sure when you are returning items to the closet that you hang everything uniformly—collars facing the same direction, hang pants so the pockets are facing out (helps identify which pants/jeans), dresses and skirts hung facing same way. 

Immediately get rid of the NO items—trash bin or donate.  This is their new home spot!

Place the MAYBE items in a storage bin for now. 


Typically, we are talking about shoes but this can also refer to bulky sweaters, scarfs, even jewelry.  Use the containers we saved to at least give yourself some temporary storage solutions.


Pick 10 combos from the clothes you have kept.  Lay them out together and take a picture (then return to the closet).  Wear these out and see how you feel and if you get any feedback on how you look.  I bet it will be positive.

If you feel like you need help with combinations, check out different Capsule Wardrobes online.  Allison on Wardrobe Oxygen does capsule wardrobes every season.  They are designed to show a few items used in multiple combinations. 

As you wear the 10 combos you picked, start thinking of your next 10 and see if you have enough in your closet or if you need to add some items back from the Maybe bin.  Give yourself the first month to see if you need to pull items out and add them to your closet, if not, take anything that remains in the Maybe bin to a donation center.  You should now have at least 4 weeks of clothes that you can wear any day and feel good about yourself. 

Also use this guide for help with different style charts:  https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliegerstein/girl-you-look-good

It was written in 2015 but has some good information. 

(PS—there is also one for men that I think every guy needs to read  https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliegerstein/31-simple-style-cheat-sheets-for-guys-who-dont-know-wtf?bfsource=relatedauto)

Now can you hear it?  It’s your closet saying

                You Go Girl

                You Got This!

                Be the Winner God created you to be!

There is no one like you!

Cycles of Decluttering–B Phase

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–

We will continue to use the SPACE system—

Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize, Evaluate.

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

  • Gardening/Yard Work Tools
  • Bug Spray, Weed Spray, other chemicals
  • Sports Equipment, Bikes, Camping Equipment
  • Paint, and painting supplies
  • Auto repair items
  • Toolbox
  • Storage boxes
  • Halloween and Christmas outdoor decorations
  • Extra Refrigerator or Freezer
  • Trash Cans and Recycle Can or Bin


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????

  • If you pay for your lawn to be mowed, why do you have a mower, weedeater, and edger? 
  • How many years of office files do you need to keep?  Check with IRS, or any other government or regulatory agency to confirm the number of years and statute of limitations.
  • Paint and Chemicals—are they still usable?  Be very careful with chemicals—no mixing or combining to save space.  If you have paint that you want to throw away, be sure the paint in the can is dry or you will need to find an appropriate disposal site.
  • Any duplicates of tools or equipment, if yes, see if the young family that just moved in could use the extra rake and shovel or put them on the curb with a FREE sign.  Keep the best ones for yourself of course!
  • Call your grown kids and tell them to come get their bikes, and other sports equipment or you will be donating these items. 

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).

ASSIGN a home spot:

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.

Hire a Professional: 

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. 

Cycles of Decluttering, Organizing and Cleaning

For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.

-Benjamin Franklin

Original Blog Article written 2019.

A funny thing starts to happen around the end of December and carries into January and Feb.  A cycle or wave of restless energy starts to pull us toward Decluttering projects.  And then as spring breaks thru in March we start to want to Organize things and as the weather warms up we start to want to Clean things.  This cycle repeats during the year giving us an 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

For example, as you sit here in late December and start looking around your house you may start to notice some future Decluttering projects.  Maybe you see a whole cabinet full of movie DVDs and realize you never use your DVD player anymore because of Netflix or other streaming services.  And then you see all the music CDs (lots of money spent on those in the past) and again realize that with Pandora, Google Music, Spotify, etc. you never pop in one of those anymore either.  And of course, all the books!  Are the books just something to cover the shelves or something to dust since you read off a Kindle or listen to audiobooks in the car?  All these items are becoming obsolete due to technology.  And the question we all must ask is, “What do I do with these items now?” 

If you have a “cabin in the woods/lake house/beach cottage” where you don’t pay for high-speed internet and you could take these items there and actually enjoy and use them, then get a box, load it up and plan to take it the next time you go.  Easy Solution!  If you don’t have a second home the next best thing you can do is donate them.  The reality is that you will not go back in technology—they are not going to come back into use.  So just like clothes that no longer fit, these items have lost their usefulness and need to be removed from your space. 

Items to focus on Decluttering in A PhaseDVD, CD, Books as well as Paper Files, Computer Files, and Photos.  These are all items you can do while inside during the long cold winter (Decluttering A Phase is late Dec – Feb). 

***Keep utility bills, pay stubs, and bank statements for 1 year.  Keep tax returns and documents for 3 years (more in some cases).  Everything else can be shredded or deleted. 

Also, consider unsubscribing to Catalogs and Emails.  Catalogs are bad for the environment, take up space, and encourage you to buy things you don’t need.  Call and ask to be removed from their list.  The daily emails waste your time and energy to read or delete and they also encourage you to buy things you don’t need.  It seems like there is a sale or a promotion EVERY SINGLE DAY.  If you really do need something, search online for the item and you may find you get a better deal or at least have saved 15% of the purchase price by not spending unnecessarily.

Other items to Declutter include Over the Counter Medicines (check expiration dates), Lotions, Soaps, Cosmetics.  Use them up and start 2020 with fresh new ones.  And stop buying so much at one time!  Costco has trained us all to have closets full of paper supplies, vitamins, shampoo, body wash.  Most of us don’t live in Antarctica and if you start to run low, you can get more.  If you really love certain items from Costco, share with family or neighbors or donate half to local charities that can use them. 

While you are sorting papers and photos (online or prints) burn some of the “almost used up but still a little in the jar” candles that are sitting around.  This will make the task seem more festive and you won’t have to clean/dust the jars once they are used up and thrown out. 

Phase B items will be sports equipment, gardening, outdoor items, and school supplies/projects.  I will do another Blog Post about these items when we get to that time of the year!

This may be a lesson that you have to tell yourself over and over when decluttering: “What you paid for an item has absolutely no bearing on whether it has a place in your life.  Think only about whether you like having it around.  It is the rule of sunk cost.”  Barbara Reich, AARP Magazine article Declutter Your Life-Now. 

A great example of this is an expensive engagement/wedding ring.  If the marriage is unhappy and ends in divorce most women do NOT keep wearing the ring just because it cost a lot of money.  All the money in DVDs, CDs, and various players are sunk cost.  Clear the space these occupy and just enjoy your streaming sources and know that even newer technology is coming. 

When you have removed items (Decluttered) then you can spend March Organizing.  Putting items in new bins, labeling the bins, creating new files folders, etc.  Anything can be a container so as you are decluttering, save bins, good quality boxes, even zippered clear bags that sheets, bedding come in.  When you are ready to Organize having multiple size containers will help you fit your reduced, decluttered items, into the perfect sized container. 

And when the weather warms up (April & May) you will be ready for a good Spring Cleaning of your home.  And with less clutter, and nicely organized spaces you can clean faster and will see the results clearer. 

You may want to check out some of my other Blog posts for more tips and resources.

B Phase of this repetitive cycle starts around June—it seems we want everything Decluttered. We want to wear fewer clothes, we want lighter meals, and as the school year ends, we want to put an end to those projects, classes, and schedules.  We can then enjoy a summer of organized and planned trips, vacations, and outings.  Even mowing the lawn with the straight lines and trimmed edges are in alignment with our Organized energy.  And as we move into the fall season and holiday events we get back to Cleaning.  

Depending on the size of your home and how much stuff you have accumulated, Decluttering can take 20 to 30 hours.  It is best to block off 2 to 3 hrs of time for “sessions”.  Put these sessions on your calendar just like any other important meeting or appointment.  And imagine how great it will be when you can easily find a photo you want to share or find an article that you want to review.  Getting rid of the unnecessary and unwanted helps us to find the items we do value sooner and with fewer frustrations.

And what were you going to do on that cold drizzly day in late January anyway? I’m guessing it wasn’t watching one of those DVDs!

If you need help getting started or want extra support, contact me at GCarter@Organized-Occasions.com, and let’s schedule a free consultation. 

Books I have read and suggest to help with Decluttering and Cleaning:

                Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K White

                Clutter-Free by Kathi Lipp

                How to Clean Practically Anything, Consumer Reports Books

Final Word—”Life will throw you enough messes, you don’t need to come home to one!” Barbara Reich, AARP magazine

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