Quarterly Newsletter

Dear :

As you've probably noticed, the weather is changing and before we realize it those Chicago winters we all know and love will be here. For that reason, I am dedicating this quarterly newsletter to tackling organizational projects that are best done while the weather is still mild: garages and attics. And while we are on the subject, I'll be addressing basement storage areas too.

I once read that 25% of homeowners cannot park their car in their garage because they have too much stuff in it! Attics and basements also seem to become "dumping grounds" where items pile up.

Hopefully, this newsletter will motivate you to turn your garage, attic and/or basement storage areas into highly functional and maybe even aesthetically pleasing (see our Project of the Quarter) areas of your home.

As always, we are here to help if you need us! Have a wonderful Fall.




Here are some tips for making sure your garage is well organized and has room for the things it was meant to store. (Including your car!)

Use Space Wisely
You only have 3 walls to work with so use them wisely. Make the most of your vertical wall space by using cabinets or utility shelves that go from floor to ceiling. Peg boards are also very useful in a garage and can be handy for hanging lawn chairs, tools, rakes, racquets, etc. Hooks and racks can be terrific for storing bikes, golf clubs and long handled tools. Consider putting in an overhead storage loft for large items or out of season equipment or lawn furniture.

Sort into Categories
Sort the items in your garage into categories: Bikes/helmets; sporting goods; tools, yard and garden supplies; camping equipment: paint supplies; car care items; recycling and garbage.

Let Go
Make sure that you intend to use anything that you are storing in the garage. Go thorough each category of items you've sorted and determine if there are items that are no longer being used. Then determine whether they should be disposed of, donated, recycled or sold. Don't forget to review expiration dates on chemicals and dispose of those that are outdated. (See article on donating and disposing of garage items in this newsletter)

Find a Place
Each of your categories should have a specific location in your garage. For example, you will have one area for the car care items, one area for painting supplies and one area for tools.The place you choose should be determined by who uses these items, how often and where they use it. For example, sporting equipment that your kids regularly use should be near the entrance of the garage so that it is easy for them to get to and put away when they are playing outside. Items that are hardly ever used should be stored in harder to access areas rather than in in your prime space.
Safety issues should be considered as well. Chemicals and tools with sharp edges should be kept out of reach of small children or in a secured cabinet that children and pets can't get into.

Choose Containers and Label Them
Many of your items can simply sit on the shelves or hang from a pegboard. Some however will require containers to maximize the space and keep them from spilling over into other categories. Use durable bins with lids that can be stacked and make sure to label them. For example, you may want to use separate bins for the supplies used in household repair projects like plumbing, electrical, adhesives and tiling. Hardware organizers are great for separating out different nails and screws, etc.

Sports equipment organizers can be great for separating and housing balls, bats, skates, etc. Tall metal garbage cans can also be great for storing bats, hockey sticks, or for similar sized balls. Garbage cans are also good for storing rakes and shovels as is an upright tool organizer

After these areas are organized-- make an effort to keep them that way. Put things back where they belong after using or when adding new items. Once a year, make sure that items are in their correct categories and check to see if there are items to let go of.
Pile of BizCards2
How would you like to drive into this garage each day? After we helped this client sort through and purge the excess items in their garage they took it from there! They had bike hooks hung, had cabinetry installed, the garage floor and walls painted and hung a chandelier that they had inherited but had no other place for. Just think what your garage can become!

Organizing your Attic
Basement Storage Area
Use Space Wisely
If space allows, use utility shelves from floor to ceiling along the walls and down the middle of the room if needed. Also, use furniture that you are storing in these areas to store other items like party supplies or off season clothing.

Sort into Categories
Sort your items into categories. The categories you will most likely have are: Off season clothing; spare furniture; baby equipment; holiday decorations; luggage/ travel accessories; photos& memorabilia; party supplies. You may want to keep extra pantry or cleaning supplies in the basement storage area as well.

Let it Go
Just like the garage, these rooms can easily become dumping grounds and there is probably a lot you can get rid of. Keeping the items may have made sense at the time but perhaps not now. Here are some items to let go of.

Baby furniture/equipment that your kids have outgrown - Be realistic. Do your children want the crib they slept in 30 years prior for their children or will they want to choose their own? Unless it is an heirloom give it away or sell it.
Holiday decorations - Throw/donate those that you haven't used for the last several years.
Boxes for electronics that you no longer own or are no longer under warranty.
Luggage that you don't use anymore.
Paint cans for colors that you no longer have in your home.
Furniture that you do not intend to use again and have no antique value.
Clothes that you haven't worn in the last 2 years, you no longer like or are not in good condition.
Extra shopping bags. You only need a few.
Your old college schoolwork. It is doubtful that you will ever look at your old papers and notebooks again. If you feel you must keep them try to limit yourself to just a few.

Find a Place
Just as in the garage, you want to keep all of the items for each of your categories in a designated and labeled spot. The place you choose should reflect how often it is used. For example, if you are storing extra pantry items in the basement, you may want these near the entrance to the room so that they are easy to grab when replenishing the kitchen. Or if are a frequent traveler you may want the luggage area to be in the most accessible spot of your storage area.

Attics are usually the least accessible storage space in your home so store the items you need infrequently. Keep a list near the entrance to the attic of what is stored there so you won't forget.
Photos can be damaged by extreme temperatures and humidity so the attic is not a good place for them.

Choose Containers and Label
Holiday decorations can be stored in labeled bins that designate the holiday they are for. You can also purchase special boxes to store wreaths and ornaments in. Store smaller boxes within larger bins so that delicate decorations do not break.

For off season clothing, use cedar chests and wardrobes or sturdy bins with a few cedar balls tossed in. Make sure to label each bin with the name of the person the clothes are for, size and season. Hanging racks with garment bags to protect clothing are another option.

Loose photos are best stored in archival photo boxes. Old tax or financial records can be stored in cardboard bankers boxes. However, use plastic file boxes or a file cabinet if you suspect you may have rodents or there is humidity in the storage area.

Store paint cans on shelves labeled with the room they correspond to.

After these areas are organized - make an effort to keep them that way. Put things back where they belong after using or when adding new items. Once a year, make sure that items are in their correct categories and check to see if there are items to let go of.

organized home office/desk
In This Issue
Organizing the Garage
This Quarter's Highlighted Project
Organizing the Attic/Basement
Donation Opportunity
Where to Donate/Recycle
Prescription Drug Bottles

Donation Opportunity
From now until December 4th, your neighborhood Jewel Food Stores and the Chicago Bears are providing a great opportunity to donate winter coats.

Most area Jewel Food Stores will have a coat collection bin for your winter coat donation. These coats, which will be colllected on behalf of the Salvation Army, will be donated to public schools in the greater Chicago area.


Listed below are tips for disposing of some of the items you may come across while organizing your garage.

Latex paint cans
While latex paint is not a hazardous material, it must be dried out before disposal with other garbage. To dry it out, put cat litter, shredded newspaper or sand in the paint can to absorb the excess paint. Be sure to then throw out the absorbent material in the trash and recycle the paint can.

Bring old car tires to any Illinois automotive tire retailer for recycling. (They are required by Illinois law to accept them.) The retailer will probably charge you a small fee per tire.

Household Chemical Waste
Oil based paints, solvents, motor oil, antifreeze, garden and lawn chemicals, pool chemicals, old gasoline, fungicides, insecticides, pesticides, paint remover, driveway sealer, aerosol products, hobby chemicals and household batteries are all considered household chemical waste and should not be thrown in the trash.

These items should be dropped off at a special household waste collection event. These events are sponsored by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and are periodically held in different communities. There are also some regular drop-off locations.

Please visit the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County's website at www.swancc.org or the Solid Waste Agency of Cook County's website at www.swacco.org for more information and upcoming collection dates and locations. Residents of Chicago should visit www.cityofchicago.org for information.

Broken Garden Hoses
For tips on how to recycle a broken garden hose check out www.ehow.com and search for "recycling garden hoses". It's surprising how many different ways you can put these to use and keep them out of landfills.

Sports Equipment
Sports equipment that you no longer use or want can be donated to many organizations including The Sports Shed at www.thesportsshed.org

You may also want to contact a sports resale store like Play it Again Sports at (847) 564-9180 to see if they have an interest. www.playitagainsports.com

These are also a much appreciated donation and often times your town's park district will have a special event to donate your bike.
If you want to sell your bike, you may want to list it on www.craigslist.com. Another donation option is to list the bike on www.freecycle.org.

(This article originally appeared in the Q2 2008 edition of our newsletter . Since it is relevant in this issue we are reprinting it with several additions to the content.)

Above is a picture of a basement holiday storage area by Altogether Organized.

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