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The DO’S and DON’TS of Organizing BIG SPACES

Organizing BIG SPACES like garages and basements is on the summer checklist for many people. A fair number of those people may also be dreading the task! What is it about these spaces that make them so difficult to organize and keep organized?  One of the main reasons is a big space like a garage or basement invites us to dump stuff.  Clutter is just delayed decisions and a huge space like an unfinished basement can hold a lot of delayed decisions. It’s easy to fall into the trap of storing things that we really don’t use, but we are struggling with a decision whether to let go or not. If you feel like you are storing more stuff than a Costco distribution center, you are not alone. 50% of Americans name their garage as the most disorganized area of their house.


Having these spaces organized will reap benefits beyond looking neater.  Attics, basement, and garages need to be visually inspected and maintained.  Homewreckers like rodents and water leaks tend to start in these spaces.  In fact, 98% of basements in the US will experience some type of water of damage during their lifespan.  If you have so much stuff that you miss warning signs like dampness or mouse activity, you may lose the stuff you’ve been storing all these years. The number one reason I call in junk haulers is to remove water, mold, and rodent damaged items.


Motivation to tackle these spaces is important, but I want to give you the skills to turn motivation into organization. Here are my DO’S and DON’TS to get these spaces in order and keep them in order.  Because, let’s face it, only professional organizers really enjoy organizing these spaces and you have better things to do this summer.


  • DON’T start by picking up individual items and trying to make decisions one item at a time.
  • DO sort into categories first.

It’s much easier to make decisions about a group of things than decisions about many individual items in a random order. In a situation like this, I often sort everything (EVERYTHING!) in the space while the homeowner does something more enjoyable.  Once I have everything in the space grouped into categories, it’s a lot easier and faster for the homeowner to make decisions.



  • DON’T Organize Clutter.
  • DO edit/purge/let go of items no longer loved, needed or used.

Instead of buying more bins to store what you don’t need, make decisions about what is actually important to keep.  The smaller volume of things in a space will make it easier to maintain organization in the long run (and you will save money on bins). One of my favorite guidelines is the 20/20 Rule from the Minimalists – if you haven’t used something and you can replace it for less than $20 and in less than 20 minutes, let it go.  It’s a great way of realizing that it’s not the end of the world if we suddenly do need the thing that we took to a donation center.



  • DON’T stop before you put a storage system in place.
  • DO put a system in place that helps you maintain order.

If everything is already sorted into categories, it’s easy to create storage zones so that every category has a home.  Invest in shelving or wall systems to get things off the floor and visible. Anything on the floor will be the first thing damaged if your sump pump fails or chipmunks chew their way into your garage.



  • DON’T lose what you truly value.
  • DO store items in the basement correctly.

There is nothing that makes me sadder when I’m working with a client and we find truly precious items damaged by improper storage.  Cardboard boxes are for moving, not long-term storage.  Ideally, paper memorabilia and photos should not be stored in garages, attics or basements but somewhere else in the home where the temperature and humidity are controlled.  My favorite storage solutions for garages and basements are clear bins with a gasketed lid that snaps tightly down.  No solution is 100% rodent, bug, or waterproof but these bins are much safer than bins with loose lids or cardboard boxes.


Ready to tackle those BIG SPACES?  Let my tips make it easier for you to begin to reap the benefits of clear spaces:  less stuff, ease of finding what you need, and protecting your treasures from potential damage.