House For Six

How To Sort Through Your STUFF

Deme CrinionComment
Yesterday we spilled the beans on just how many boxes have lived untouched in our garage for the past 4 years.  We spent the entire weekend going through every single one.  We tossed the trash, set aside things to bring into the house, filled our cars and curbside with things to donate, and moved the rest into weather safe storage.

I realized that my post yesterday may have been deceiving....I mentioned one box for all the hub's high school stuff?  Yes.  But that certainly wasn't the only box we packed away!  Even though we still have some more organizing to do, here's the down and dirty on how we plowed through it all, made decisions about what to keep/chuck/donate, separated, and stored it...

So, you have a garage and it looks something like this:

Well let's hope you don't, but if you do, it's likely filled with the stuff you don't know what to do with and more stuff that hasn't seen the light of day in years.  Where do you start??

1. Give yourself some room to work.  Let's be honest, it's going to get worse before it gets better.  Give yourself enough room to sit down with a box (sit when you can to save your back!) and another area designated for a few different piles.  Good piles!

2.  Determine your categories and make a space for each.  We knew we needed a trash bag or box for all the "toss" items - we found a bag was easiest as we could tie it up and toss it right into the outdoor trash can once the bag was full.  

We also knew we would have a lot to give away.  Since one of our goals was to move our stuff out of moving boxes and into storage bins, we used empty cardboard boxes to collect our "donation" items so they would be easy to haul away, and we used plastic bins to separate the things we wanted to "keep".

3. Within that" keep" pile we separated our things even further.  Some boxes were much easier to sift through than others.  One box of cookbooks and cookware - all the same category.  Easy.  One box of high school year books, childhood photos, a blender, and paperwork from a house sale - not as easy to keep organized.  We quickly realized that as we put stuff into the keep pile it was just becoming another jumble.  So, we set out a few different containers to keep that pile organized. We had one bin for Marine Corps items, one for childhood and high school keepsakes, one for all the photos, one for paper work to be filed and items to bring in the house, and one for books.

4.  If you aren't sure, throw it in the "keep" pile for round 2.  This might seem like bad advice (just get rid of it!!) but after we went through everything, cleared out the trash, and dropped off the donations, it was time to deal with the "keep" pile.  As we started packing things away into storage bins, we saw how much stuff we still had and it was a little easier to part ways with those things we were on the fence about during the first cut.  Because if we kept it, we were either going to have to store it or find a place for it in the house.  If it wasn't worth taking up the storage space and wouldn't serve a purpose in our home, it got the cut in round 2.

Here's what we were left with after all was said and done:

(1) Large footlocker that holds our military uniforms.  We kept just one set of each (Cammies, Dress Blues, Charlies, etc.).  

(1) Plastic tub each for the high school and childhood items we wanted to keep (select awards, gifts from special life events, childhood favorites, jersey's, yearbooks, etc.)

(1) Suitcase with our Marine Corps awards/plaques.  We parted ways with random certificates and plaques we received from our units, but kept the awards and other special items from that time in our lives.

(7) Boxes of baseball collectables.  This may sound like a lot but we started with 19 boxes!!  James and his brother Ken have built quite the piece of baseball history.  It belongs to both of them, but Ken lives in another state.  One day they may sell some of the items or try to get some things back to Ken, but for now we weeded through all the stuff didn't have any monetary or historical value and repackaged the rest.  We also pulled some things to use as decor in our boys' room.  

(4) Boxes of holiday decorations - for all holidays throughout the year.

(1) Box of books that will go into bookcases in our master bedroom.

(1) Box of albums and loose photos (from our baby pics to now).  A major consolidation will be occurring here!

(1) Box of paperwork to be shredded

(1) Box of paperwork/manuals to be filed and items to bring inside the house - a few cookbooks, dishware, etc.

5.  Decide where to store your items.  Accessibility is the numero uno thing to consider here.  How often will you need access to this stuff?  Put it in a place that will make it easy to do that.

We know we'll need access to our holiday decorations a couple of times throughout the year, so they are headed for a storage closet in the garage.  This one here that's going require a whole separate purge of it's own.

The baseball collection, my preserved wedding dress, and a set of family silver went up in the attic.  Monkey boy investigating.  Without a ladder. I couldn't watch..

Our Marine Corps stuff and the two bins of childhood keepsakes are either going in the same closet as the holiday decor or into a secure weather proof storage shed in the backyard.

The rest came into the house.

We had three goals in this massive garage endeavor.  To purge.....get rid of all the stuff and trash that was just taking up space in boxes.  To simplify.....pare down the things we did want to keep to a minimal and manageable amount.  To get those special items out of hiding.....we not only wanted to narrow the pile down to the things that were really special to us, but we also wanted to get some of those things into our home. 

As we went through our things, we tried to think about our children.....Would they like to see/keep this item?  Does it tell a story?  Do we have to keep it in order to preserve that story?   Will they want to pass this onto their kids?  Does it have special significance/meaning?

The other goal was to get some of those special items out of storage.  We found a couple of beautiful serving dishes from our grandparents, and are fortunate to have a huge built-in in the dining room and a daughter who loves tea parties.  So why keep those treasures packed away?  I love a home full of unique and meaningful things. A home that tells your story.  And having a few of these things out and able to use just makes this place feel that much more like ours.

So we started with this one lone path to walk through the garage...

By the end of day one we were about here...

 Nearing the end of day two...

And of course, I didn't grab a pic at the end of that day, but will be sure to give you a full look at the space after we get those final boxes and cabinets organized.

Tackling that monster was a pretty awesome feeling, and it's given us the motivation to finish the rest of the garage!  We have suitcases, paint, toys/bikes, and tools to deal with, but actually having some clear space makes it all seem a bit more doable. 

And bonus.  We can now park the van in the garage.  We no longer enter an oven that has been preheating in the desert sun every time we need to drive somewhere.  Hallelujah!

How do you decide what to keep and what to give or throw away?  Has anyone else braved their unopened boxes? Did you live to tell the tale?