Last year I wrote about my goal to address the hidden clutter that was setting up shop in my office, particularly. Oh the freedom I felt after doing a great big purge, getting rid of what I was just not needing or using.
That kind of freedom is contagious. There is an undeniable lightness that is inevitable when you focus on getting rid of “stuff” that no longer serves a purpose.
The problem is, many can’t easily see the hidden clutter, and therefore cannot easily address whether it has a purpose at all.
And such is the story of our detached 2 car garage, our basement work area, and our shed. I have been chomping at the bit to do the tedious but very satisfying work of emptying these spaces, to get rid of the hidden clutter. The stuff that has a home – albeit often not the correct one – but not necessarily a purpose. And that stops the purposeful items from being seen and used.
I told my husband about a month ago that I really wanted to reorganize these spaces. I was getting weary of walking through his work area in the basement, or parking a car in the garage, and feeling suffocated by the disorganization I could see. My brain felt cluttered. And I couldn’t easily make sense of the miscellaneous-ness that was on shelves or in drawers. For me the thought of this purge felt like Christmas! For him, it probably felt more like prepping for a root canal.
To be clear, these are his spaces and as I tell my clients, what isn’t their space, isn’t their worry.
Unless it affects the functioning of the house as a whole.
And this disorganization certainly was doing that, mostly because it affected how we felt in the spaces, and how we functioned in the spaces. He didn’t feel productive. And he didn’t feel like he could easily get to what he needed. So we mapped out a plan of attack and a starting point – which made the whole project more appealing and feel more doable.
We decided to start with the garage because it is the bigger space, with more opportunity for storage. Starting there with the goal of also addressing the basement and the shed at the same time meant a more thorough organization of the items needed to manage the upkeep of the home.
Addressing these other areas was a necessary part of the project. It was also an anxiety-provoking part because there were a lot of moving parts, a lot of different supplies to keep track of. When a project has moving parts it can be harder to focus on the starting point and stay focused on one area at a time.
In fact, I have found, over the 17 years I have done this work, that what stops people most from getting started is figuring out where to start and then sticking to that one area. It is even harder when spaces overlap. Like our 3-tierd project did.
A little tip: when the content of two or more areas inform each other, you must look at all of them collectively. It saves repetitive effort which can zap motivation.
The garage: the starting point
When we bought the house, we inherited metal cabinets that line the back of the garage. They are big and rusted. And they are more storage than is needed.
And that folks is exactly why we needed to get rid of them. More storage than needed is exactly how hidden clutter breeds. More space also tempts you to fill the space, often with random items. And if you have a propensity to do that (like my husband does), it means space is underutilized. And hidden clutter prevails.
When the brain can easily identify where something is stored, it is happy. If you are looking for a wrench, it’s easier to find it among other wrenches. Not so much if the “home” for that wrench is among other, unrelated and miscellaneous stuff.
These excess storage cabinets have not only outstayed their welcome, they haven’t provided my husband with an easy way to see what he has, which makes them unnecessary. Plus, they are really dingy! So out they go!
In just over one day we identified what was trash, or what didn’t belong in both the garage and shed. In fact, when we emptied the contents of the shed we found that so much of it wasn’t needed. Purging meant we made room for some items that would soon leave the garage and find a more appropriate home on the shelves in the shed.
The large pile of trash/recycle served as great proof of our decluttering success. Taking this picture totally felt like Christmas morning for me – just without the snow and cold!
And then the real Christmas present came rolling up my drive way: Junk King of Middlesex County! Within 2 days of me calling them they came to haul all the junk away.
Seeing them, and the results they left in their wake, was honestly better than Christmas.
What was left was more manageable. When the time came, we had a much easier time grouping together, in clear bins, the like-items. And an even easier time deciding whether the correct home was in the garage, the shed or the basement.
The last phase: The Basement
The last phase was to sort through the basement shelves and then buy the necessary storage bins to contain like-items. With a better idea of the entire picture, our shopping for bins was ultra productive, and specific.
I learned quite a bit about my husband by doing the sort and purge with him.
He likes to hang things. Most creative people do; they like to see things out and in front of them. The problem with this, especially where there are lot of different items he could use in the basement or garage at any one time, is that it is confusing to the brain.
Miscellaneous creates chaos. And so does having too much out at one time, all the time. You also under utilize the space. And that creates a cluttered feeling, making it hard to focus on any one task at a time.
I also learned that my husband likes tape. Omg, I didn’t realize how much tape he has!
But through the entire process, he surpringly only uttered the dead end phrase “just in case” once when asked why he was keeping a box of miscellaneous screws. So proud of him. Cause I know it is hard to not use that excuse when you just don’t know quickly enough why you don’t need something!
Here are some after pictures of the garage, and before and after pictures of the basement!
What we have now is a basement that has plenty of clear flat surfaces making it easy to do work. A garage with more space and specific homes for items. And a shed with spring-season-specific items stored, allowing for more open space in the garage.
It was a lot of work and so worth it for the satisfaction we both feel.
A weight has been lifted. Everything feels clearer. We shed a ton of hidden clutter weight.
And now we can go into fall lighter and thoroughly organized.
Best Christmas [in September] – ever.