Garage! Take Care of Your Car, Not Your Clutter!

Alternate titles for this week’s article involved fun with spelling:  

“Garbage / Garage”, or  “Take Care of Your Car, Not Your Crap”.  I stuck with the least offensive, please see above.

This warm weather we’re having offers a great opportunity to clear out and Organize Your Garage Before Winter!  We need to take care of our cars instead of our clutter!

Our garages can sometime be a place of wonder.  Not “Wow, how Wonderful”, but,  instead,

  • “I wonder what That is?” or
  • “I wonder what happened to the (fill in the blank here)?” or
  • “Hmm,  I wonder how that got here?” or
  • “I wonder who that belongs to?” or
  • “I wonder how to get rid of that?”

It is time to answer these questions and restore some order in your garage this week!

  • First things first, purge the garbage / recycling / donations.  And pull out the cars while you work!
  • Next, break down boxes.  It’s astonishing how much space is taken up by empty boxes.  I know, it’s tough to decide  do we keep the box the vacuum / lamp / appliance came in or recycle it? However, we’ve discovered that if we do need to pack the item up or return it, we can find another box (more come all the time!) or return the item without it.  If you just can’t part with the boxes, break them down and store them flat.
  • Now, Pick A Spot To Start.  Just one spot.  And just start.
    Work methodically clockwise around the room, so you know where to focus your efforts.  Garages are big spaces, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Pick just one spot, and start making decisions about what to purge, what to keep and where to keep it.
  • Corral the yard implements.
    In two recent garage projects, we made lots of progress by simply gathering up the brooms / shovels / rakes / etc., that were leaning against (read BLOCKING) everything!  Vertical storage for such items, like wall hooks or a peg board, would be best, but if you don’t have that, a re-purposed garbage can will work.
  • Consider and store kid / adult toys.
    I took a batch of stuff to Play It Again Sports this summer.  I walked in with a bag of my sons’ outgrown sports items, chose to leave the items there (instead of hassling with selling them on consignment), they cut me a check.  Beautiful!   Try listing outgrown bikes and scooters on Facebook sell pages, there is a market for such things!  And, thinking vertically again – install some hooks on the walls or beams, to get those summer toys and bikes off the garage floor for winter!
  • Recycle!
    E-Waste (old computers, TVs, etc.) and other household items: Keep your eyes open for local E-Waste collections, very popular this time of year!   And try the ultimate recycling tactic – if you have an item that someone else may want (furniture, scrap metal, etc.), put it out early the day before trash day.  That sort of stuff is usually gone by the next morning!
  • Paint and other Hazardous Waste.
    I’ve gotten the “what do I do with old paint / paint cans?” question  a lot lately.  Here is the answer:  If the paint is dried, toss it in the regular trash.  If the paint is even a little wet?  Water based paint will dry out eventually if you pry off the top and leave the cans open to air (be careful of pets and small children).  If you want to speed up the process, or if your paint is oil-based, you can buy packets of paint thickener at a home Improvement store like Home Depot, or add kitty litter to dry up the paint quickly.  Once the paint is hardened, with the thickener or kitty litter, it is safe to toss on the regular trash.  In addition, many communities have Hazardous Waste collections in the Fall and Spring, so keep an eye out for local events to collect paint and other hazardous waste.

Get out there this week, and clear some clutter from one of your hardest working spaces – the garage!


Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
Online at
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

No, The First Step of Organizing is Not “Go Shopping”

Very often when we get the urge to organize, we start first with the urge to go and get more stuff!  “I need better containers!  New hangers!  Different bookshelves!  Cool new coat hooks, boxes, office supplies…”  well, the list goes on and on.  Lots of people go out and buy more stuff before they start actually organizing.
I understand this compulsion, friends.  I do.    Why do we want to shop first?
  • When faced with a cluttered space, of course it is more fun to think about the shiny new things in our “finished” space than to start with the hard choices, the heavy boxes, the dirty stuff!
  • Buying new things can lead to tangible improvement, something we can touch and point to and say “Look at how much better this space is now that we have xxxxx (fill in the blank).”
  • We may not know how to tackle our project, but we certainly know how to purchase things, either in a store or on-line.
  • If we already have clutter, it’s possible that “let’s go buy something new” is our usual response to a problem.
I recently worked with a lovely client in her laundry room. As we got started, she mentioned some great product ideas for shelving units and wall hooks for cleaning supplies, and I was all set to google those ideas on my phone, too, because Yes! That sounds waaaaaayyy more fun than tackling a pile of laundry!  HOWEVER… that is not how Organizing works.
 Here’s something to remember:  almost every organizing project requires at least some purging, some “letting go” of stuff.
The right organizing solution is almost never “Let’s bring more things into the space before we part with stuff!”
  • Commit to the hard work, with a clear vision of how awesome your space will be when it’s organized!
  • Sort what you have.  Make decisions about what you want to keep and what needs to go away.  Actually bag up and get rid of the “go away” stuff.  Then figure out how to store what you have kept.  THEN you may want to shop.  However…
  • WAIT!! Get used to your newly organized space and stuff before you purchase something else!
  • Shop in your own stuff first – it’s very likely that you have what you need already.  As we organize, we may come across unused containers that we can re-purpose for our current project.   Or there are containers elsewhere in the house we can use.
  • Do your research, so you don’t end up contributing to your clutter.  Invest in good quality items, only as many as you need.  Keep receipts so that you can return items that don’t work in your space.
  • Do NOT buy new things that take up more space than the discarded items, or you will end up back in the same cluttered space you started in.
  • Look around your own space, or talk to friends and family before you spend the money!
  • If you like to shop, save the shopping as a perk for getting the hard work of sorting and purging done.
  • Keep a list of items you want to purchase or obtain.  Take the list with you when you shop, and stick with it!


So, let me be the little voice in your ear, your Jiminy Cricket encouraging you to do the right thing.   Do NOT shop first!  Do the hard work, then decide if you need to bring more stuff in to corral your stuff!


Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
Online at
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

My Client Asked Me If I Was Falling Apart

In conversation with a client last week as we organized, I mentioned that I was having my wedding ring, my favorite leather backpack and a loved black jacket all repaired at local businesses.

She asked, with humor, “Does this mean you are falling apart?!”

Not the response I expected!  I explained that all of those steps are actually a coming together, a positive process, and we then chatted about the importance of maintenance and being a responsible consumer.

For me, a big part of Being Organized means establishing and maintaining systems and items that work for you. Every system and item requires maintenance. And maintenance requires resources, of time, money and energy.

Last week, I

  • Picked up my favorite black jacket with a repaired liner from Park Cleaners in Evergreen Park;
  • Picked up my leather backpack from the local shoe repair shop, Fernandos, in Evergreen Park, and it looks new!  I knew the other customers that day, too, all dropping off cold weather shoes and boots for repair before winter sets in;
  • Picked up my wedding ring from Coren Jewelers in Evergreen Park, with the prongs tightened and looking sooo shiny; and
  • Shipped off Tumi suitcases for repair for a client.  Expensive bags, yes, but their maintenance and repair policies are amazing.

Taking care of our favorites helps us out in a number of ways:

  • Save money:  Buying high quality items once and maintaining them is cheaper than buying and rebuying many cheap items.  And identifying and taking care of Favorites keeps us from buying more stuff and making more clutter.
  • Save Space: A small collection of favorites takes up a lot less space than a large collection of un-used and un-loved items.
  • Save Time:  with less clutter to have to sort through, you will find what you’re looking for quickly.  And you’ll spend less time, overall, maintaining “stuff”.
  • Clear Clutter:  Clear spaces with just your favorite items in view gives our minds and eyes a break!

Suggestions – Here’s How!

  • Know What You Have.
  • Know what your favorites are (You may be thinking “But, Coll: they’re all my favorites!”  No, not everything is a favorite, you are not a toddler.).
  • Know how to take care of your favorites, and what the product warranty entails.  And when in doubt about how to, say, clean a crystal vase (a client question a couple of weeeks ago), Google it  (denture tablets, by the way)!
  • Use your favorites!  There is nothing sadder than cabinets and boxes of beautiful and treasured items that never see the light of day!
  • Buy things once, then spend time and money and energy taking care of them. Less is more.
  • Research major purchases for value.  Be willing to invest a little more $$ for higher quality stuff.
  • When making major purchases, make sure to register the item with the manufacturer, to activate the warranty, but also to receive recall information, promotional specials, etc.
  • Support Local (keep the green in evergreen!) Look for local repair opportunities, and if you are unsure what local business to use, ask your friends / family / neighbors for a referral.

Maintain your favorites.  Take care of them, and they will stay your favorites for a long time!


Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
Online at
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

Organizing Bedrooms with Your Kids

This past week, my son and I did a clean sweep of his bedroom.  The room is usually clean, but periodically we all need to review our stuff and our space, so that is what we did!  We reviewed toys, books and clothes.  We kept a lot, purged some and re-allocated a bit, and it looks and feels great in there now!kid clean sweep

So, the first question is “How do we organize a bedroom?”  And the other part is the kid-specific part – “How do we organize with our kids?”

I like organizing with kids. Like all of us, they like to share details about what is important to them.  In addition, organizing with kids gives them an opportunity to share their opinions about stuff and space which gives them a sense of control and ownership in the organizing process.  They are receptive to new ideas, too!  Here’s what you do….

  1. Clear 2-4 hours in the schedule, dependent on your schedule and your child’s age and attention span.
  2. With your child, determine destinations for the purge items and label bags accordingly.  The paper bags lined up in my son’s room are labeled “garbage”, “recycle”, “sell”, “donate – toys”, “donate – library”, clothes for “” and binsfor cousin “Joshua”.  A garage sale could be a destination, too.
  3. Start a pile of “go elsewhere in our home” items by the door, including dirty laundry, to maintain focus and avoid running items here and there during your project time.
  4. Grab a notebook to jot down ideas and to-dos as they occur to you (“buy new sneakers for school”, “return borrowed toy to xxxxx’s house”)
  5. Start small; really small.  Everyone gets overwhelmed at times.  If you are feeling overwhelmed and snarky about the bedroom project, imagine how your child must feel.  Tackle small spaces one by one instead of all together.  My son and I started with 2 storage cubes, then book case, then toy box, then closet.  And I reviewed his clothes while he made decisions about toys and books.  We tackled our project based on Julie Morgenstern’s SPACE method of organizing.
  6. Sort what you have: We sort toys and books based on type and clothes based on size and season.
  7. Purge items to your various destinations.  We purge based on condition, developmental age, size and season and / or interest level. Give yourself or your child a chant to help review items and stay focused.  For example, I worked with a young man last week who was deciding what to do with his books.  His repeated question was” Keep, sell, give to sister?  Keep, sell, sister?”  Over and over, with each book.donate books and dvds
  8. We Assign a home to and Containerize the items we keep.  Quite often, items go right back where they came from, especially clothes to the closet and dresser, or books to the bookshelf.  But tackling these projects presents a great opportunity to re-think your storage! We took this opportunity to move a toy sorter out of the closet and into the basement for use with the Legos, and moving the sorter out of the closet opened up lots of space for other things.
  9. “Equalize” is the fifth step in Morgentstern’s SPACE, and is a fancy word for maintenance.  So we equalize every time we tidy up, throw out papers, donate outgrown or beat-up clothes, etc.

Specifically, organizing with kids

  1. Let the papers go.  No, really, let them go.  The grades are complete, homework is      done.  Let the papers go.  Keep a few items from each year, but I guarantee you, your child will not care about every paper ever produced much past junior high.  Handing him or her bins full of old paper when he or she starts their own home will not be appreciated.
  2. Cultivate giving and purging from birth. My boys are used to purging old clothes, and donating used toys and clothes.  It’s a good habit to form.
  3. Provide a plastic container (sweater size, 6-12 qt size) for treasures.  But no larger than that.
  4. Grab your camera, to take pictures of large art projects so you can purge the project without losing the memory.  A picture of the catapult they made in class takes up a lot less space than the actual catapult!

So, take courage and spend some time organizing with your kids this week!  The bedroom will look better, you will learn some new things about your child, and you will both cultivate your organizing habits!