Fall Project: Mission organization

Whether it's your closet, tool shed, garage, basement, or attic, the autumn—not spring—is the time to get it in order. This transition season is when you're going to be loading up your garden equipment, or swapping summer clothes for winter, or moving appliances and extension cords around, or making last-minute home renovations before the big chill. Using this opportunity to de-clutter your storage and work spaces will make for a smooth transition and very easy spring when it's time to access these areas again.

Using Better Farm's toolshed as an example, here's a quick guide to making your work and storage spaces clutter-free.

  1. Take everything out of the space.
You can't really clean and organize everything until you get it all out of the space it was in. Itemize the stuff you find into junk, donation, or to be saved. If you decide to save something, determine exactly where it goes. For us, we drew the line at "toolshed"—which means anything not expressly a tool or tool component couldn't stay in that space. Sorry batteries, paint, grill racks, buttons, and wreaths! We lined everything up on the driveway by "theme", inventoried, and figured out what we could toss and what we could use.

     2. Do a deep-clean.
Getting all the stuff out of the toolshed gave us a chance to dust everything, give a good sweep, and even re-draw the tool outlines first penned in 1970.
Since this opportunity may only come but once a year, take the time to wash everything in the space. Work your way from top-to-bottom: cobwebs out of the way, wash the windows, wipe down the walls, switchplates, and outlets, and sweep or mop the floors. We even got the opportunity to go over old marker outlines of where the tools went... back in 1970.

     3. Create a system for storage.
Containers, drawers, hangers, or baskets: figure out what goes where. In a basement or attic, labeled steamer trunks and big plastic bins are key; for toolsheds and garages, drawers, shelves and appropriately placed hooks are the name of the game. The more streamlined you make your storage, the easier it will be to stick to.

     4. Put the stuff you're keeping back in.

This should be the easy part! But stay strict—once you see all that extra space, you may be tempted to go back to a junk-drawer mindset. Be strong!

Many thanks to Tyler Howe and Roger Parish for spearheading this project! Got a great tip for organizing your life? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.