How to Complete a Major Fall Organizing Project (And NOT lose it!)

I had to help my brother organize some pretty big storage items: Work things, old furniture and baby things, holiday decorations, you name it, that had recently landed and accrued space in his garage. The pile was only getting worse as the months went by, and since he was going out of town last week, I offered to help…Ugh.

Fall can be, I usually find, a really great time to start anything anew.

And I find it to be an especially good time to rid yourself of the past in any way you choose, or feel the need to fulfill. Something like clearing and cleaning out a garage, or any storage unit or closet, is more monumental, and emotionally taxing, than one things, especially if there things and family mementos from random, multiple moves, as was the case here. (I even had a box of old photos I was missing stashed here! More on that later.)

Since I had no less than three melt-downs, and several bottles of white wine last week to ease my pain, I wanted to save you from some of it, and illustrate a good way to move through, and into, your stuff when overhauling a large space-like a garage or storage unit.

Here we go…

  1. Walk around. Do not lose it. You are only looking. I know, I know. You try to pick up one small box, and it is simply filled with another, smaller box of random sh*t. It is mis-marked, disorganized and out-of-control, perhaps. I feel your pain. But, for now-simply walk the space, and start making a mental (or physical, paper) note about what you want to toss, give away, or sell.

  2. And here, I’m talking about: Any used furniture you no longer want, electronics like printers, old bikes, baby stuff-such as toys and cribs, and old athletic or gym equipment.

  3. Call the Salvation Army to pick up the items for give away. They will take anything they can truly resell, except for baby items. You may have to wait a few weeks for an appointment, but it’s less expensive than renting a truck or van to do this. If you have mainly smaller items and clothing here is a link to finding a Goodwill drop-off bin in your area

  4. That charity pick-up day will be your start day.

  5. Get at least one friend or family to help, if you possible can. It helps tremendously. My niece and her best friend are remarkable organizers, when they have a task in front of them. Get a teen or even older kid to help you out, man!

  6. On the first day or afternoon or morning you have blocked out to start this crazy task, pull out the above items-making sure that the give away items are the most accessible for the Salvation Army truck that’s (thankfully!) coming.

  7. Next, pull out the above items that you would like to post on Craigslist or Ebay to sell. Take some quick, not-too-terrible photos, and mark down the brand names and dimensions, This will give you some good energy to start.

  8. You will be posting those items to sell tonight.

  9. Look around at what is left in the actual space. Make sure you have your fave coffee, tea or feel-good beverage of choice.

  10. What are the four or five main categories? Consider: Work Stuff/Holiday Decorations/Craft and Creative Supplies/Photos and old albums/Momentos and kid’s art/old documents & important papers.

  11. Start sweeping out the floor and little nooks and crannies as you go. This will relax you, and make you feel at least little bit more calm, if this entire process drives you completely nuts, as it does me.

  12. Start lugging boxes to their respective places and corners. This is going to take awhile. Trust me. Because you will find stuff within stuff within stuff. That is okay. We are not going deep now, just putting things in organized categories and spaces.

  13. Keep going. Some boxes and containers will be mis-marked, or unmarked. Them’s the breaks.

  14. Please, once again. Do NOT start really going through stuff now, or get kneeling on the ground, shuffling through some old, decrepit photos. NO! This will only give you a nervous breakdown, and make you very exhausted. (Ahem!)

  15. Take a good break, and wait for the Salvation Army guys to arrive.

  16. After that arrive, yay, you have even more space now! Pat on back. Good! Get back to work now, though.

  17. Sweep the floor some more.

  18. Put any random bits and bobs in the garbage and/or recycling containers. You may have to make several “off-site” trips to a local recycling bin, I myself made about five (!)

  19. I say start with the documents. If you have anything that can be shredded, there are community shredding events in your city that are free, or you can have about 14 boxes shredded for about $100 0f they come to you, depending on which service you can find. Tax returns you should keep for up to 7 years. If you have gone paperless for bank and credit card statements, consider shredding the paper docs older than a year. Let’s rid of this crap, if we can, and today!

  20. Start looking in these work and document boxes to see what’s what. Important papers, like social security cards, birth certificates, and wills, should probably be kept safely inside, in an accordion file, or locked box, whichever you prefer.

  21. Put the file boxes or bags of paper to be shredded aside. Way aside, in a cozy corner, or better yet, a side yard.

  22. Look at what is left. You may find you are already starting to have quite a few extra containers on your hands. If they are in good condition, and you want to keep them, wipe them down and stack them all up to utilize later.

  23. Stack all the work/doc boxes in their respective space.

  24. Go on to something more fun, such as holiday decor or craft supplies.

  25. Go one box/bag at a time. Do you want this?? BE RUTHLESS. You can know make a pile to BRING to Goodwill or Salvation Army, yourself.

  26. You may find yourself with pricey craft stuff moldering in a marked holiday box, or important papers stuck in the bottom of a box of photo albums. Just take a deep breath, then sort it out, and move on. I know it sucks. Believe me! I know.

  27. When you finish with a category, keep paring each section down, further and further, make sure to put all the boxes of that category back in their new space, before you move on to the next category of stuff.

  28. You may think you are done, so, go and take a shower, and go and relax, if you can, for awhile.

  29. Post the stuff to sell on Craigslist or Ebay. Ahhh…

  30. You are NOT done, though!

  31. Schedule the next day or evening when you can “hit” the garage our storage space.

  32. Repeat the steps of going through each newly sorted box in each category, or at least, do a very ruthless scan. Is there anything else that can really “go,” or be sold, at least? Do yourself this favor. Try, try, try to let it go, if you can.

  33. You may now find that you may need several more hours of work to finish really organizing, but believe me, you have already complete dates majority of a giant task. Good for you!

  34. And note how you feel. Do you feel “done?” Really pay attention to that satisfied “click,” or the lack of it. You will really know when you are done.

  35. Phew! Go bring that extra stuff to Goodwill, and put in a corner the stuff you are selling.

  36. Woo-hoo! Go have a nice glass of wine or sparkling water.

    YOU DID IT! xo #yourule

(And I will be posting, hopefully, a nice “after” next week!)

 “Before…” #oy

“Before…” #oy