Is organizing your garage a really big project? To celebrate Garage Month at Matt Baier Organizing, I am bringing back an old post. I recall a garage makeover that was one of the biggest garage organizing challenges I ever took on. In this case I teamed up with my colleagues from NAPO-CT. When taking on a big garage organizing project, it is important to have a team. It can be family, friends, or professional organizers, but get some help. Once you have a team assembled, follow these steps to get the job done.

On July 7, 2016  NAPO-CT delivered a new garage to the winner of the NAPO-CT Garage Makeover Contest. It was broadcast on Better Connecticut. You can see it here.  It was an amazing team effort that came off without a hitch. I had the responsibility of organizing it and I did so, following the same steps I recommend to our clients on their organizing projects.

1. Clarify your Priority.

I’m a firm believer that if everything is important, nothing is important. We could claim that we donated our time to organize a garage, purely out of the goodness of our hearts. While we do feel like we did something very nice, our objective was to promote NAPO-CT and our associate members Monkey Bars and Just Dump It. That was our priority. To do that, the project needed to be filmed for television and it absolutely had to be started and finished inside of a day, no matter what. We couldn’t wait to always work out perfect solutions, we couldn’t offer follow-up help, and we couldn’t promise to get the car started. We had to limit the objective, to bring the focus we needed, to achieve that objective.

2. Identify your barriers.

The first barrier to success that I identified was that there were too many items in the garage, that simply didn’t belong in a garage: holiday items, wrapping paper, and moving boxes. This garage would never look organized if these items remained. The second barrier I recognized was that the client had some hoarding tendencies. It was the same story throughout the rest of the house, so I knew the client wasn’t suddenly going to develop an ability to get rid of items. For both these reasons, I knew we had to free up space in the attic, for these items to go.

3. Break it down.

Our strongest asset was our number of capable volunteers. We had 20, but I knew that if I didn’t divide and distribute the workload carefully, that number could become a liability. I broke our task force into six operations. Operation Central would review all of the items coming out of the garage and distibute between keep, donate, and toss. Operation Attic Sort would take the attic-bound items out of the way to sort and edit.  Next, Operation Attic Clear would re- organize the items in the attic, to free up the floor space necessary to take on the items coming from Operation Attic Sort. Operation Monkey Bars created the structure necessary to create systems in the finished garage. Operation Systems took the sorted keep items from Operation Central to created finished systems in the garage. Finally, Operation Client Care was headed by my therapist friend Dr. James Wisecup, to make sure the client wasn’t overwhelmed by these 20 people making this sudden change in her home.

4. Stages of Singular focus.

Before we did anything, we established zones for all of the above operations, including Operation Client Care. That zone: away from her home for the first hour. The next stage, after establishing zones, was emptying the garage. The singular focus here was on sorting items for review. Because we had that singular focus, we could move very fast. The next stage was reviewing items with the client. The singular focus there was getting her to quickly choose on keep, donate, or toss. If she spent too long deciding, we just kept the item. Again, the top priority was not to force the client to get rid of as much as she should, but to finish inside a day, so we could have a story to promote us. Once all the items were edited, the singular focus of Operation Systems was quickly assigning items to dedicated zones that made sense, based on the levels of use.

Because everyone knew their assignments and we were clear on our objective, there were no conflicts at all during the day. Everyone worked hard and stayed focused and, as a result, we pulled off an amazing feat, in 90 degree heat. So for anyone who wonders if I practice what I preach, I do. I do, because it works.