Just as with all areas, organization of your garage begins with decluttering.  You may even need to get a small dumpster if this is an overdue job and you know there is a lot that you will need to get rid of.   

Be sure to take EVERYTHING out of the garage.  Decide if you are keeping, donating, selling at a yard sale or ditching each item.  Keep items for a yard sale only if you feel it would truly be worthwhile and sell easily.  After everything is out of the garage, be sure to clean the floor either by sweeping or vacuuming.

All the items you are keeping should be properly sorted so that like items are together.  If you see duplicates, determine which is best, and get rid of the twin.  Decide "zones" for each set of items.  Reserve the premium (most accessible) space for those things you need most frequently.  For example, we have our recycle bin right outside the door from the house since we usually have something to drop in each time we go out there.  Remember to think VERTICALLY as well.  You may decide to use shelving or as suggested by Consumers Reports, use the ceiling!  "The ceiling has become the new frontier in garage storage, with systems designed to hold items as varied as hurricane shutters, big coolers and surfboards. Overhead storage is an economical alternative to a cabinet for large, long and relatively flat objects."

Be sure that everything is labeled, clearly and correctly.  You can use a label maker, or just print with a wide Sharpie exactly what is inside a box, marking on all sides of the box.  Another idea is to take photos of the contents and glue them on the outside of the carton.  If you have several cartons of Christmas decorations, for example, take a picture of what is in each in the event you just want to find a particular item it makes the job a lot easier.  Searching thru more than one box could be time consuming and frustrating, so marking boxes up front will save you lots of time and frustration in the future.  

Having trouble with identifying all those cords that connect to your computer or other electronic devices?  I like using velcro wraps in different colors that make it easy to know which is which.  You can even mark the velcro with a Sharpie.  Colored velcro like these pictured here are available at Home Depot.  Bring order to your cords and show them who's boss!
I recently read The Best of Martha Stewart Living Organizing.  She has a number of good points, many of which you may have seen in previous posts of mine.  As a review, here are a few I like and have referred to in old blog posts:

1.  Cut the Clutter--This is the first key to getting organized.  Remember  my definition of clutter--Anything that does not serve a purpose or bring you great joy!

2.  Store it where you use it--Office supplies?  Put them near the desk area where you pay bills, keep a calendar or other office tasks you do at home.

3.  Rethink, reuse, repurpose--Have an extra bookcase now that you have gotten rid of books you no longer need/want?  How about using that in the bathroom for extra towels which need a home?

 4.  Keep like items together--Stamps and return address labels should kept together.  Going from one place to another for items you use at the same time is a waste of time and energy.

5.  Maximize space--If you are in a small space where storage is at a premium, look high and see there may be room above the bathroom door for a shelf for rarely used items.  Look around high and low and you may magically find more storage than you knew you had in a variety of places.  An under the bed box for wrapping paper and bows can be a perfect storage space, currently unused.

6.  Once you have your home organized as you wish, schedule time with realistic goals on your calendar to keep it organized.  Spending a small time each day on sorting the mail can help a great deal as you won't have that huge pile to go through at the end of the week, or end of the month.  See old blog posts for other easy ideas.  
Keeping your bathroom organized can lead to stress free mornings as you get ready for your day.  HGTV recommends some good iteas from famed Professional Organizer Julie Morgenstern  juliemorgenstern.com, including these:

1.  Organize your medicine cabinet.  As one of my earlier blog posts states, keep this area cleaned out of any expired products--prescriptions and otherwise.  Use this valuable space for items you use regularly.
2.  Control hair product clutter.  Products you never use anymore?  Donate, give-away or ditch.  No need taking up space with things you don't need.
3.  Add creative towel space.  As seen in the photo above, you can use the area above the toilet for folded fresh towels, or add hooks to hang towels.  Easy to hang removable hooks are available inexpensively from Home Depot or Lowe's.  I like the 3M Command brand.  
4.  Divide and Conquer your Make Up.  Now is the time to sort through and ditch old or no longer used make-up.  Have some you bought that is still new but you don't want it?  Donate it to a local women's shelter.  They'd love to have it and you are giving them that joy while freeing up valuable space in those bathroom drawers for yourself.  
5.  Reassess the shower caddy.  So many options are available for your shower caddy--over the showerhead, suction shelves or corner caddies.  All seem tough to keep clean and get overcrowded with no longer used shampoos or conditioners.  Sort through what is in yours and get it down to just what you actually use.  Need a smaller one?  Get what fits your needs and pass along the one that simply begs to be filled with unneeded bottles!  Take off the caddy and run it through the dishwasher from time to time to keep it clean.
6.  Claim the space over your toilet.  Use this area for extra toilet tissue, towels or other items.  No sense wasting space when it is there and easy to use.  

These tips, along with others you may already be using, will help to keep your area e

Below I have listed a few hints that I offer my clients when they are downsizing and moving.  They are in no particular order so read through and see what you might learn.  You’ll find more through my past postings here on my blog.  

At least six weeks ahead make a calendar of what to do and when.  Be sure you take into account change of address info with your magazine subscriptions, banks, brokers, doctors etc.  I like to have ordered return address stickers a couple of months before so I have those for the written changes I need to put in (non-online changes, in other words). You’ll also need to get strong cartons about five weeks ahead to begin your packing.  Include tape (see below for guidance on that) and bubble wrap.  Ask friends and neighbors for bubble wrap or packing materials they might have on hand that they would gladly pass along.  If you don’t want to pay for moving boxes, ask your local liquor store to save their boxes, or visit Staples and Office Depot to request they save their paper boxes for you.  Be sure to pick them up when promised so they don’t ditch them.  Also, if you have a community wide website, request moving boxes from others that may have just moved in and still have good boxes to get rid of otherwise.  If getting boxes with writing on them, but sure to go through and cross all that out with a good wide Sharpie.  For other steps, go online and google moving calendar or moving checklist, or see my past postings here on my blog.

Be sure to pack a FIRST BOX, marked as such.  This can either go in your car with you, or go LAST on the truck to be the first off.  It should include:

  •        Sheets and towels for that first night
  •        Toilet paper for each bathroom
  •        Paper towels
  •        409 or similar all purpose cleaner
  •        Charger for your cell phone
  •        Your landline phone, if you have service for such at the new place.
  •        The book you may read at night when getting into bed
  •        Snacks and pet food
  •        Toothbrush and toothpaste, plus other items that you normally take on an  overnight trip.  
  •        Meds
Be sure this box is marked clearly!

Pack lightbulbs, in foam or original packing, into the dryer.  

Color code boxes with colored Duct Tape available at Home Depot or Lowes.  For example, everything for Master Bedroom, yellow tape; office, green tape; guest room, red, etc.  It makes it easy for you and the movers.  Put a piece of colored construction paper matching the tape color on the door of each room so the movers don’t need to ask.  Use painters tape, marked with a Sharpie on the tape indicating a room for each piece of furniture.  

Be sure to remember my rule of decluttering and organizing.  Clutter is anything that does not bring you great joy or serve a purpose.  As you pack for the upcoming move, consider every item before it goes into that box.  You don’t want to weigh yourself down with things you would just get rid of once you unpacked.  If you have the Guide to the Pacific Northwest 1980 or the 10 Best Places to See in Paris from 1993, it is time to ditch.  That platter you bought because it was such a good sale last April but you have never used—time to donate.  That high school prom dress your daughter wore once—send her a photo and tell her to get it or you are happy to donate it where someone else can get some real pleasure from it.  See my past blog posts or go online for great places to donate nearly anything!  Also, if you plan a yard sale before you go, follow my guidelines found on my blog and remember at the end, everything goes.  Anything you were willing to sell that didn’t get bought doesn’t come back in!   Have a staging area for the yard sale items.  The garage may prove to be the best place for that.

Have water bottles chilled for the movers and each of you.  The less time you have to stop for something, the faster the job is over.

It nearly goes without saying, but use your legs when lifting to protect your back.  The last thing you need is to hurt yourself.

Mark every box as to the contents so it will be easy when you go to unpack.  Books for instance, can be unpacked last.  

For pictures on the wall, be sure to tape the hangers on the back as you are taking them down.  Firmly tape them so they don’t fall off in the process.

I like all pictures and wall hangings together, as your choice for where they are to be hung may be different from your last home.  You’ll know better once all the furniture is in place.  

For very delicate fragile items, pack them yourself and put them in the trunk of your car.  If you have a cup and saucer from your great Aunt Ethel, you don’t want to take a chance of anyone else handling that.  

For very expensive items, such as jewelry, put that in your own car to transport, unless you have the amount my neighbors does (which nearly required a separate truck) in which case you would NOT mark it jewelry but designate it by a code word in some way.  You don’t want the movers tempted to forget that box on the truck in the hopes of going to a WE BUY GOLD store on their way home from your move.

Once all boxes are packed they should be numbered.  Count off the numbers with a checklist as they enter the truck and again as they are offloaded.  This task can easily be done by a helper.  People are many times eager to help during such a move, so this is one way they can do so.

If you are lucky enough to have extra helpers, plan the next day to change out your bulbs to compact florescent or LED bulbs, which you have purchased in advance after counting up the sizes you need on your walk thru.  Keep any of the working incandescent bulbs to donate.  We had friends do is choret for us, and it took a few hours since they were nice enough to wipe off the fixtures while up on a ladder!

Be sure to take a breath and stretch during a days that can be somewhat stressful.  It will be less so if you follow these tips.  

A lot of things you may find while decluttering can be of use to someone else.  I pass along my shipping boxes and the packing materials to a woman in town that is an eBay seller.  If you have lots of shipping boxes and packing peanuts sitting around, think about giving them to someone that can use them.  We have a town website where it can be easily advertised, or you can do so in the giveaway section of craigslist.  Just arrange a convenient time and leave them outside your door for pick up.