Tackle those scary storage spaces

A step-by-step guide to spring cleaning closets and garages

Small spaces can be dreadful to organize, especially when stuff is bulging out at the seams. But, it is possible to achieve order with the masses. Spring is a great time to lighten your load and free your life of clutter.

By keeping a few suggestions in mind, as well as having a desire to be organized, your spaces will become functional in no time.

The 10 steps to closet sanity

1. Assess your available storage and decide what you want to store there.

2. Remove all items and begin sorting. Do all of these items need to be here? Sort into "Keep," "Give Away," "Launder or Mend," "Goes Elsewhere" and "Trash".

3. Purge! Get rid of anything that you don't like, doesn't fit right, or you haven't worn for over a year. (When you finally lose those ten pounds, you'll go shopping anyway.) Have someone honest, a best friend or spouse, help you with this step.

4. Determine a proper place to store things based on point-of-use. Group similar items together so it is easier to find a particular object. Keep frequently used items low and accessible, and consider moving the shelves and/or installing multi-level hanging rods to maximize space. Store out-of-season clothes out of the way by keeping them under the bed, in another closet, or in a big tote in the garage.

5. Re-hang items by group (pants, skirts, shirts), length and color. Buy six-tiered hangers for skirts, and hang pants upside-down by the cuff to decrease the width taken up. Arranging clothes by color makes it easier to form the perfect outfit in a hurry.

6. Fold sweaters, t-shirts, and anything else that doesn't need to be hung up. Keep your stacks small and fold things as flat as you can. Shelf dividers are another alternative for preventing stacks from toppling over.

7. Make the best use of floor space by keeping all long items together. This leaves room for shoe racks or even a small dresser on the floor.

8. Store shoes in over-the-door racks, floor racks or keep them in big, shallow bins that sit on the floor. Hanging cloth shoe racks from the hanging rod is another option.

9. Belt racks, tie racks and even scarf racks can attach to the walls or the back of the door and allow things to stay better organized and in a specified spot.

10. Follow the in-and-out rule. When a new item comes in, take an old one out. This prevents having to do a major overhaul more often.

Your closet should be in good shape if you follow the above steps. Don't feel disheartened if the rest of you home isn't quite so easy-access. Be patient, becoming organized takes time -- it's a process. Remember, things didn't get to the state they are in overnight.

So what about other areas, like garages?

Here is another set of suggestions to arm yourself with when tackling the project:

1. Take a step back and assess the room or area. Any exposed wall, floor, ceiling or hollow space represents a potential storage space. Visualize how your room will look when your project is complete.

2. Shelves, shelves, shelves! Shelves make it incredibly easy to get and stay organized in a large area. To maximize space, place similar-size items on the same shelves.

3. Create zones. One area can be used for gardening supplies, another for sporting goods and one for tools. A big garbage barrel works well for sporting equipment too.

4. Label each area and create a specific home for each and every item. This will reinforce the practice of putting it back where it belongs.

5. Hang as many things as you can. Shovels and rakes can hang from the wall, bicycles can hang from the ceiling and sleds can be kept in the rafters. Keep things off of the floor whenever possible.

6. If storing things in plastic bins or boxes, take an inventory of the items first, measure the items and then purchase the bin. By labeling the bin with a number and keeping a list elsewhere that details the contents of each bin, it will be easier to find what you need, and you will have a well-running system.

There is a final, ongoing step to every organizing project: Make sure the system is working for you, and, if not, make the necessary changes. Each person has a unique organizing style, and it is acceptable if you don't keep your closet looking like your neighbors' (or at least how you imagine it to look).

Lindy Bergman operates Proper Places Professional Organizing. She helps people free their life of clutter and the stresses that go along with it.

Services extend to paperwork, kitchens, offices and anything else that needs to be organized.

She can be reached at 964-5041 or via e-mail to [email protected]