Garage organizing plan of attack

Garage organizing plan of attack

My garage has become a dumping ground and now I can’t find the things I really need.

The garage feels overwhelming to me at this point.

Can you please help us get our garage organized?

Summer is garage organizing season. Get Organized Already has the best team in town, but maybe you don’t live in our town! Or maybe your family needs a project to do together. Going through the memorabilia in a garage is actually really fun; an opportunity ripe for family bonding.
Whatever the case, here are some basic steps to organize your storage space.
Set aside twice as much time as you think it will take. Then add on an hour the following day to take all the donations and e-waste away. Also use that time to call for heavy pick-up or to list sale items on Craig’s List.
Before you start:
Think about what you want the garage or room to be used for. Give it a purpose in your mind or set a goal such as, “We want the camping gear to be easy to access.” This small intention will help you more than you might think.
Designate a big space in the yard or driveway where you will sort the stuff into categories.
Gather trash bins and trash bags for donations.
Don’t buy bins or boxes until you see what you need them for.
protip: Never buy organizing supplies until after you purge. Treat shopping as the reward for purging if that works for you. 95% of the time, you will be able to get by with supplies you already have.
 W garage L before 2
Everything out and purge:
Start in one corner of your space and move systematically around the room.
Put things into general categories (kids, memorabilia, tools, etc) in the yard/driveway as you go. When our team does a garage we make exceptions for large items or areas which are already well organized. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just leave those things where they are and move on.
protip: Label the piles on the ground to keep everyone on the same page. If the piles are labeled (with blue painters’ tape or 3×5 cards) you can say thing like,

Put that wagon in the for sale section.

instead of having to walk over to the for sale section and point it out to people who are helping you. This small luxury of being able to point instead of walk will add up over the day.
protip: When a donation bag gets full, put it straight into your car.
Scheduling with Friends:
Trick 1-2 organized friends into coming over to “hang out” that day. Then take them out to a delicious lunch at break time.
Start early in the morning and take a break after about 3 hours. You’ll know it’s time to break when you start picking up the same 4 objects repeatedly and your eyes start to glaze over.
Break and re-group:
It’s time for lunch! Determine if you need plastic bins, shelves, hooks or other storage solutions. Make a list that includes measurements and even pictures of where the items will go. Take lunch and go buy only what you need. If you don’t need to go to the store, donate what’s in your car on your way to lunch. Getting away from the project is important for an all-day extravaganza like a garage.
Power through:
This part goes faster, so pump yourself up to get everything back in your space.
Put the categories back together with least used things in the back and popular stuff up front.
Label all containers that aren’t obvious. For spaces with multiple users, label the shelf as well so people know where to put things back when they are done. GENIUS.
Get yourself a treat. You did it!
Take an after photo and send it to me.
W garage L after 2

Chores pt 5: 8 great tips for parents

Chores pt 5: 8 great tips for parents

I warned you in the beginning of this series on chores: all kids are different and you will have to do some finagling to find the right system for your child. And that right system may change in a year. Still, it’s important to remember:

Most kids can do a lot more than we think they can.

Here are some valuable tips I’ve picked up over the years from other parents, books, and my own experience.

  1.  For younger children, give them their reward at the time of service. Kids over 7 can start to understand the concept of waiting for a weekly allowance or reward.
  2. Avoid overwhelm by setting a timer or giving a STOP time for each task.
  3. It’s a valuable thing to learn to discern what you like and excel at. Trying all sorts of chores will help your child figure this out.
  4. Thank your child for helping the family. Develop their pride in a job well done.
  5. Lead by example: Do housework while kids are around. Talk about how you feel about your duties.
  6. Delegate your weaknesses to reduce the temptation to do it yourself.
  7. Give them the instruction and the tools to succeed. Don’t jump on their back for messing up the first few times they try a new skill or for forgetting how to do the job completely. Think about your workplace. What if someone went behind you micro-managing your efforts? AHH!
  8. Think about the chores you did when you were a kid. How do you feel about them in retrospect?

putting away flatware

All of these life skills are to prepare your sweet babies to go out into the cruel world. You aren’t being a meanie. You are being realistic! As they get older, it gets easier to imagine how they will react to life situations. Let these realizations inspire you to crack that whip (with love in your heart). <3


A side note about allowance:

Chores and allowance are two distinct and separate things. You can have one without the other. All I will say about allowance is, if you give your child money, you must teach them how to manage it.

(These pictures are of my adorable niece who is totally into putting things where they go.)

Chores pt 3: The Subtle Arts of Persuasion and Bribery

Chores pt 3: The Subtle Arts of Persuasion and Bribery

Looking around the kitchen I see a big, fat mess! And it’s my turn to clean it up tonight. I don’t even know where to start. There’s a sink full of dirty dishes, splattered oil all over the stove, crumbs on the floor. The dishwasher hasn’t been emptied because of a schedule mix-up.

Oh, it’s dismal all right!

In general, I am a pretty healthy person. But man, when I have a kitchen-full-of-mess staring me in the face I am all about a cocktail or a few cookies to get me through it.

Do you like a treat when you are doing something taxing? Or a reward after you do it?

Keep this in mind when getting your kids in the habit of doing chores. One of the most important life skills I admire in other people is the ability to make a sucky job enjoyable. So, I’ve been thinking about how to teach my kids that skill.

On one hand, I DO NOT ADVOCATE EXCESS BRIBING because life doesn’t promise you M&Ms and our goal is to get our children ready for real life. On the other hand, one of the most effective methods of persuasion I have found sounds like this:

“Yes, you can have dessert. After you have cleared the table.”

and this

“Yes, we can go to the park. After you pick up everything that’s on the floor and put it away.”

“Yes, you can watch TV while you fold your clothes.”

and even this when they are older (and can understand consequences abstractly)

“We cannot go for yogurt today because you didn’t finish your chores before we left the house.” (assuming that expectation was made clear so the announcement of their failure isn’t a surprise)

Let’s talk some practical ways to motivate kids. I’m anxious to learn from you in the comments section, too. Please! I need ideas just as much as anyone.

Chore chart: the old standby

Chore charts work for self-motivated people (like professional organizers).

A very simple chart (attached) can work for young children for things like:

Stay in my own bed all night.

Brush teeth.

A more advanced chart may include the pay rate for each chore. (The attached chart is made specifically to fit into the colorful frame pictured here.)

chore chart w check list

regular tasks listed in top rows, and ways to earn extra money listed below





Chore boards

Chore boards are more free-flowing than charts for kids who aren’t as type A.

Create a board (or just a blank space) that has an area for each kid. Chores are on post-it sized paper. Kids get to pick their chores for the 2-month period (or however long your family decides to go between chore rotation) and put the post-its in their area.


Use an erasable surface and write 1-3 chores on it each day. Even if there isn’t a chore to do, write something new there for the first week or so until everyone is in the habit of checking the board.

Fill a container.

Use a (small) physical container and gems/rocks/beans. Each deed earns a rock or gem in the container. Ten rocks/full container = reward.

Draw a container (a la fund raising) and color in segments when chores are completed. When the container is colored in, it’s reward time.

For all systems:

Phase 1– give them the sticker, the money, something right at the time of service. praise and celebration

Phase 2– they mark off their own progress. Praise and celebration come upon reaching a goal, or at the end of the week.

Phase 3– no big whoop. You did your chores. OF COURSE YOU DID!

Some kids will be motivated to do the work to get the reward. And some, like me, will appreciate the treat while they are working.

Some non-monetary treats enjoyed while working:

Play their favorite music LOUD during family chore time.

Hang out with them while they do their job. This is one tricky because it isn’t good to do the job for  them, and that is tempting if you are just sitting, hanging out. But, some alone time with you may be a really nice thing that they’ll want to earn more of.

A lollipop or gum while they vacuum or water plants.

Pro tip: Avoid overwhelm by setting a timer so they can see the end in sight.

Next week: what to do when even a fancy chore chart and watermelon Hubba Bubba don’t cut it for your little angel.

Kids and chores pt. 1: How to answer “BUT MOOOOOMMM! WHYYYYYYYY?!”

Kids and chores pt. 1: How to answer “BUT MOOOOOMMM! WHYYYYYYYY?!”

Memorial Day means summer, which is a perfect time to change up the family routine. What better way to spice things up than to ADD SOME CHORES to your children’s days?

Assigning chores is a lesson in delayed gratification if ever there was one!

The first few times you ask them to do something new can be pretty ugly, or maybe exciting (if you have birthed an angel).

But once the chore becomes a habit, you as a parent get to bask in the glory of your diligence for years to come. The idea behind this first post about kids and chores is to find your motivation.

Why do you want to have your kids help around the house?

Here’s my motivation:

It came to my attention long ago that there is something different about the generation of young adults leaving home in the 2010’s. Two important generalizations I’ve noticed:

  1. their lack of mastery in the art of homemaking and life skills in general
  2. their parents’ interest (bordering on obsession) with helping their children avoid unpleasantries (read: avoid real life)

One story I heard about a freshperson whose mother got herself a hotel room near campus for the first 2 weeks of class sent me straight to my computer to create a chore spreadsheet. My kids were only 3 and 4 at the time, but I would be damned if they were going off to college not knowing how to handle their own personal needs!

My chore sheet was great! For two weeks.

Then I had to add rewards.

And then a new chart that was more exciting.

And while that worked for my self-motivated child very well (parts of it still work 6 years later) my other child is not a chart kinda guy. So I had to find different options for him.

So, before I start writing a series of posts about kids and chores, I’d like to give you two things to think about.

What is your motivation for having your children help around the house? Write these reasons down on a little card or piece of paper you can go back to to be motivated when enforcing the responsibility is more sucky than doing the chore yourself.

Getting kids into the habit of helping is definitely worth the effort it takes to get there. Make your intentions and your reason(s) for doing this for your kids clear, at least to you. And hopefully to your parenting partner.

Next, keep in mind that most of these ideas will not work for all children. You have to be committed to finding one or two that work for your child(ren) and be willing to stick with it.

Everyone is going to mess up and forget one day, or let it go for a week. Don’t beat yourself up about that. DO get back in the saddle and let everyone know that the game is still on. If they are old enough, ask them for help reminding you. If there are rewards involved, they will want to be able to earn the rewards again.

Take away: What is your motivation to have your kids do more around the house starting this summer?

Twenty-five dollars’ worth of shower magic


Sure, it’s clean. But, this shower is so small, you can barely turn around in there!

Of course a shower caddy is the obvious solution. BUT! the long arm of the shower head is not friendly. A shower caddy would slide all over the place.

This leaves the soap dish as the only storage spot to speak of. And storing a razor on top of soap is risky business.


We’ve got to get this stuff off of the floor to make room for an actual person.


So, Are you ready for this genius organizing solution?

Install an extra tension rod (most are well under $10) above the shower head.


Then hang the shower caddy (around $20) on the rod.


And there you have it! Once you thin out the (mostly empty) containers of shampoo and keep only one of each item, you are looking at a clutter-free, teeny shower stall with nothing on the floor.


File under: Bang for your 25 bucks!

Organizing with Limits in the Kitchen

Professional Organizer and clutter-buster, Nonnahs Driskill, gives you three easy ways to keep your stuff from taking over your kitchen cabinets.

I heart my professional organizer! a testimonial

A 2-minute video testimonial from Marge about working with a professional organizer from Get Organized Already–the fabulous Michelle!

We help nice people get organized.