I just completed my second weekend helping a couple organize . Last weekend I helped with the wife’s part of the garage and her office. This past weekend I had the fun job of helping the husband organize his side of the garage. The wife was amazed at how much we got done–the husband also was very happy! Here’s the story–which may give you some ideas about organizing your own garage. I have changed the name of the people because I have not yet asked for permission to share their story.
First we cleared out enough space to place three table in the center aisles of the two car garage which was divided by shelves. Because rain was predicted, we prioritized getting everything set up for indoor organizing. If it wasn’t going to rain, it would have been easier because we could have spread out a lot of things out side. Having lots of clear space to sort is always very helpful.
Then we put a lot of things under the tables that were large and didn’t need to be sorted yet. Nancy took charge in the beginning and I followed her lead. After all the tables were set up and the garage swept, Nancy withdrew and I proceeded as I always do. Ted and I decided to focus on tool and hardware sorting. I did a large part of the prep work myself. I removed things from shelves and started putting them into categories that were obvious. Hammers, screw drivers, pliers all got put in different areas. I used the lids of plastic containers or any other shallow containers I could find to keep the items contained. Any time I found an organizing tool such as a jar or box–I put that in the organizing section separate from the table. Ted and Susan set up saw horses, then laid long two by fours over them, then put plywood squares on top to make a nice long table. On that I set any kind of hard ware to be sorted, including screws, nails, hinges, and parts.
If I didn’t recognize an item, I set it on a shelf which I had emptied. The more empty shelves the better. I emptied the shelves by first asking Ted about and putting them in their places. There were lots of items Ted called “projects”, and I was able to put them all on some guerilla racks. That freed up a lot of space.
Ted was busy doing some other stuff elsewhere on the farm while I was getting things categorized. I actually liked that because most people can’t work as long as I can–and if a client is going to work with me, it is better if they can focus their attention near the end when we are refining the job.
As I sorted, I put things I didn’t recognize on a shelf. When Ted would come into the garage, I would request a few minutes of his time. That is really all it took for him to tell me where to put things. Some things went in electrical, plumbing, and automotive areas, which were already established although still disorganized. I put things in those areas for sorting later. Since I was focused on sorting tools, I didn’t want to start sorting electrical stuff. It would get too confusing and there was not enough space.
It was fun to see how Ted knew exactly what to do with each item, and I also enjoyed learning about tools and such. I always learn a lot when I organize–and this helps my brain be healthier! I am also more skilled at organizing in the future because then I will learn how to sort better. I have helped people sort tools and hardware, but because I don’t use the items regularly, I forget sometimes.
After about two hours the whole space was transformed and a marked improvement could be seen. Nancy was astonished at the quick change. Just clearing the space to prepare for organizing, including sweeping, made the whole space feel much more clear.
Once all the tools had been set out on the table, and spaces for the tools to be placed were cleared out, the real fun began! I just love sorting stuff. I have had this love of organizing space since I was thirteen. We lived in a house in National City, California, where the spaces were perfect for me to develop this talent. I played store in the garage, hospital on the patio, library in my bedroom, and restaurant in the kitchen/dining room. I loved sorting the empty food boxes which I collected and putting them in order. I still love sorting to this day! I have been known to sort for seventeen hours with about an hour total break (that was my record).
Sorting tools is really fun because so many of them are obvious. I had placed boxes of miscellaneous stuff under tables and one by one I would take them out and set out the objects. Tool categories revealed themselves, and I continued to place objects I didn’t know about on the shelves, and Ted would quickly tell me where they went. Finally, all the tools were in categories, and Ted showed up to help in right when I needed him. He answered all my questions, and helped me get the tool sorting refined. We also started in on sorting hardware. I didn’t want to spend too much time on that project–but it gets tiring working on just one section.
Changing gears can really help the energy keep moving. We did a kind of pre-sort on the hardware. He picked out items that were obvious to him where they went. He also found some things he had been looking for. There was no space yet to put hardware items, so it was kind of hard to sort–but like I say, anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly and later I was glad we had done that work because it was a very long job. Whenever I would get tired of sorting tools, and then automotive–I’d take a “break” and dabble in the hardware section.
Sunday morning we got an early start and Ted worked with me the whole day. He seemed to have gotten really inspired when things started really getting in order. He kept finding things that went together, until, for example, all the generator parts were in one place. There was something satisfying about how so many parts were reunited.
I was glad that Ted didn’t get overwhelmed when we were almost to the end of the tool sorting and I shifted all the rest of the tools to one table. He and his wife had done most of the work of putting tools in various tool boxes while I continued to putter around, make labels when they needed them, and put things away. I was the expert in knowing where everything went. They got in a habit of asking me to put things away. That was my job–they needed to keep sorting things that I didn’t know where they went. I love to serve in this way.
Nancy had joined us again on Sunday morning to organizing the painting section. I was really glad, because there was so much to be done. She sorted out the paints that could be gotten rid of, and got the painting tools in order. Of course, any time we found a painting tool it would go over in the painting section. We found the perfect place to put all the painting stuff, and it all fit beautifully.
It was a pleasure for me to work in a space with so many shelves. the main problem is that we didn’t have enough variety of containers. Next time, I will be sure to bring tons of boxes–but it is hard to find boxes these days. It makes it so much easier, though. I might just have to invest in a bunch of plastic containers that can fit into each other. Then, if client want to buy them, I will sell them. Otherwise I can re-use them for the next job.
Both days we shared meals. That was fun. Nancy catered to my vegetarian needs. I still recall the spinach-feta omelet with potatoes for breakfast. Yummy! I had my own room, too. I am living out of my van, so this is a real luxury for me. In fact, I am still here at Nancy and Ted’s place–they invited me to stay on Sunday night, too. They also let me use their computer so I could type this!
After I transferred the rest of the tools to the table, I went back and forth between asking Ted about where he thought tools should go, and starting to organized the automotive. Some people think you should finish one task before you start the next. But we had been working about 12 hours mostly on tools, and we needed a break! It is funny how creating changes in pace can be a break, while we still moved forward.
I loved the way that the tools and hardware were getting organized. We didn’t have to sit down and make goals, lists, a strategic plan, or a plan of action. I will do that kind of thing for some kinds of projects. But when it comes to organizing thousands of items, and they are all in a jumble, I find that the space always reveals itself as to how best it can be used. It is wierd–but it is almost as if the items and the space are co-organizers with us. They have their preferences, and they reveal them to us as we work with them. As has happened with every single job I have done, space opened up as we threw things away , recycled, and put items in various boxes including “find homes for”, “put away”, “give” or “undecided”. Last week Nancy and I (mostly Nancy) developed a magnificent recycling area by putting grain bags clipped together in a huge box. We added metal, electronic, and toxic waste to the categories. My experience in recycling just about everything, thanks to the help of Madison County Recycling and Bob Jordan, really comes in handy in the sorting process. I was happy the Nancy and Ted were really into recycling. It takes more time, but costs less for people who live in the country and don’t have trash pick up–and of course it is great for our dear mother earth!
I was excited to get into the automotive sorting. I know that might sound strange–but opening up new realms of possibilities gets me going! Laying out all the different car parts, finding like things–like all the spark plugs of course wanted to be together–was satisfying. Even though I am not that familiar with automotive stuff, still I could set out things that seemed similar. Pretty soon, Ted was right in the flow. After the pre-sort, I asked him questions and would place items in a box for him that he would look at. I always try to do a pre-sort to save the client time. If all the spark plugs are together, then he can more easily decide what to do with them.
I felt very encouraged helping Ted because I could tell that he was getting happier and happier about getting his tools and projects in order. He loves to tinker around in his garage, and has a lot of mechanical gifts. He and Nancy have a farm and there is a lot to keep in order. I was especially touched at how he went out of his way to put a new headlight in my car without me even asking. They treated me as they would a friend, I was deeply touched by this. There is a special bonding that takes place when I organize with anyone. People appreciate how I can flow with their needs. Sometimes people get a little bossy and irritated–I don’t let it bother me because I know that organizing can be stressful. Usually if this happens, people calm down and we work beautifully together.
At seven PM , after I worked about 8 1/2 hours, I was hopeful that we were going to get finished soon. I was really happy that Ted continued to have lots of energy and focus. He was already enjoying finding tools and hardware to do minor repair jobs. In the past, I thought that people should always be focused on the job at hand and do things as efficiently as possible. I learned through experience that people need to be able to go off on tangents. Trying to control people takes a lot of energy, and it irritates them as well! I was just happy that he and I were moving forward.
As much as I wanted to perfect all the systems and have a great labeling job on everything, I knew I had to start wrapping up. Lots of things did have labels. All the tools had homes. Some still needed to be sorted–like all the wrenches–but at least they were in one place and it would be an easy organizing project for Ted when he got the urge to get them in order. I have found that over and over again clients do their own organizing when things are not so overwhelming. I gave Ted a tour of things that he might not be familiar with, and asked for feedback. He was happy with the systems I set up.
Almost miraculously we figured out where to put a rolling tool cabinet by just sticking some lamps in a closet that had just enough space. Shelves then were put in place in front of the closets (a future job) and I proceeded sort out all the hardware. The nails, bolts, nut and so forth still needed a lot of work. But by spreading out the jars, boxes, and various trays on the shelves, at least the items could be seen. I poured the miscellaneous hardware into shallow containers for future sorting. Even then, if a person wanted to find something it would be much easier than if they were in deep containers. I am really into shallow containers for stuff not yet sorted.
Things just kept falling into places. I loved how Ted placed all the shallow containers we used for sorting in one place. He saw the inportance of having lots of organizing tools. That is one of the most important categories–organizing tools. I had a very large box and placed them all together for the next job.
Then I asked Ted if he was ready for Nancy to come in and survey the job. If she wasn’t happy, I joked, we would have to keep going. I knew she would be more than happy. When she came in and saw the results, she said enthusiastically, “This is stellar. You are stellar. This is stellar. This is more than I expected. This is stellar You worked so hard. This is stellar. Thank you so much!”
I was very happy that Ted and Nancy were happy to pay me for my services, which were twenty one hours plus mileage since I worked out of Fayetteville quite a ways. I happily gave a discount for room, board, and a replaced headlight. I appreciated every minute of the work and spending time with this kind couple. I feel hopeful that by us working together to clear their space their lives will be more peaceful and they can more easily pursue their dreams. I feel grateful to have this opportunity have a right livelihood and be supoported for contributing to the well being of people by helping them get organized. It is truly a win-win situation.