Keeping an organized, uncluttered home can be difficult. Maintaining a yard and garage can prove even more challenging. Luckily, there are tools and experts who can lend a helping hand.
According to Virginia Barkley (www.virginiabarkley.com), professional organizer and author of Clutter Busting For Busy Women, focus is the key. Without focusing on the end result, it's easy to feel defeated before you start.
"Find a picture of an organized garage or shed, cut it out and start looking at it to shift your mindset from focusing on the current chaos to thirsting for the calm feelings that your newly clutter-free environment will give you," Barkley says. "We have to know where we're going in order to get motivated to begin any project."
One way to liven up the chore is to involve friends, roommates or family members who are enthusiastic about organizing and group projects. Their enthusiasm can help you loosen up and enjoy the process.
To begin, make specific categories for grouping possessions. Magazines, websites and even Pinterest boards can serve as organizational inspiration. Then discard items you don't want or need.
"This gives you an opportunity to get comfortable with the idea of moving things around without taxing your brain too much," Barkley says. "Think of yourself during this phase as an archaeologist in search of treasures and get rid of anything that doesn't resonate with you."
Once you begin to toss items that no longer are used, you probably will find that a lot of space begins to open up. Some items are out of date or unusable. For instance, paint for touch-ups after a renovation is often tossed in the corner of the garage and forgotten (cans of paint require proper disposal).
"Liquid paint should never be thrown into the trash, not to mention never poured down storm sewers," says Phyllis Jordan, executive director of The Green Project (2831 Marais St., 504-945-0240; www.thegreenproject.org). "If the paint has truly dried out in the can and is now a solid, that can be tossed in your trash can."
After deciding what to toss and what to keep, it's time to figure out which items will be used most and least. Keep frequently used objects in a place that's easy to access.
"If items are not placed by categories and assigned specific locations, then it's challenging at best to keep an area organized," Barkley says. "Being disorganized wastes time and energy in so many ways, least of which is wasting years worrying over what's beneath the clutter, and allowing the stagnant mess to chip away at our confidence that we'll ever be able to tackle it."
Sometimes the organizing process can unearth the remnants of unfinished projects, whether they be a stack of lumber purchased years ago to build a shed or elements of light fixtures gathering dust in your storage shed. The process of getting organized can serve as a reminder of tasks that require completion ... or an opportunity to scrap them and move on.
Jordan recommends recycling or repurposing materials left over from renovations. These materials can get new life when they serve as organizing tools. For example, bikes can be corralled with a rack made of old iron work.
"We get a lot of the iron work from houses, burglar bars and stair railings," Jordan says. "We have used that material to make our own bike rack [at The Green Project]. I have edged flower beds at my house with ceramic tiles and that works really well."
For yard organization, Demetria Christo, owner of EcoUrban (4433 Ulloa St., 504-322-7025; ecourbanllc.com) recommends building a deck. The space underneath can be used to store hoses, toys and other necessities that aren't visually appealing.
"Replace static fascia [board] with aesthetic utility doors for under-deck storage," Christo says. "Beyond uniting your indoor and outdoor living spaces, your deck offers a wealth of outdoor storage space."
Barkley says everybody's process for getting organized is different. What works for one person won't necessarily work for another. The important thing is to get started.
"(Albert) Einstein said, 'Nothing happens until something moves,' so take advantage of January being organizing month, clean out the garage and then celebrate for the rest of the year," Barkley says.