“Have you looked at your garage and tool shed lately? Just opening the doors on those things can be a safety hazard,” Popular Mechanics says in a recent story on ways to “organize your gadgets.”

If you’ve done yardwork like most of us this autumn, or fixed up things around the house to set the stage for smooth winter hibernating, you likely know just how true that warning is.

Let’s be honest about a few things before we go any further.

  • Even if your kitchen, bedroom, and living spaces are neat and tidy—naturally or as a benefit of KonMari tidying and decluttering—the place where you store lawn equipment and/or household gadgets and tools of all kinds is probably a bit chaotic.
  • Why? It’s human nature amplified by a commonly shared perception that these spaces come last in the hierarchy of rooms that are most important to keep tidy.
  • These spaces also seem to suffer more than other rooms from the tendency that tempts us to use an item, set it down wherever we are, and move on with life.

Here’s the next thing we need to be honest about: Tools and everything else that goes with maintaining a home and property are often the domain of the “man of the house” … and convincing that person of the wisdom of decluttering can be a challenge.

But it’s a necessary one. I would even argue that a clean basement/garage/work area is the foundation for a harmonious whole, and that’s because these spaces hold all the implements that are the keys to having a well-oiled machine, so to speak.

Here’s a concrete example: I recently worked with the owners of a botanical business to declutter their office and work trailer with their gear in it. They confessed that the solution for not finding a tool someone needed was to stop and buy another one. Sound familiar?

A messy garage workspace

And here’s a hypothetical everyone might relate to: You wake up on a winter morning and the house is freezing. Turns out the thermostat isn’t working, but you have a backup still in the packaging just in case of something like this. Popping the old one out and the new one in the wall is a matter of a few screws in the same holes and transferring over a couple of color-coded wires. But the screws on the new thermostat are small Philips-threaded ones and you can’t remember the last time you saw that screwdriver in the piles of tools in the basement. (Hope the pipes don’t freeze in the meantime!)

It’s easy to see to the overall benefits of clean workspaces.

  • You can easily see everything and therefore easily find the things you need for a project.
  • This also allows a clear vision of what’s broken, no longer functional in another way, outdated, one of many duplicates … or otherwise declaring that it has to go. (Anything like adhesives, caulks, sealants, and paints that were bought and used once or twice sometime in the past are likely no longer viable and need to be discarded, for example.)
  • When you know where everything is, projects will be quick and easy and you will be giving yourself the gift of time.
  • As well as the gift of mental well-being and peace of mind, especially if the one sore spot is the garage or a basement room you walk through every day to go to and from living spaces that are tidy and serene. That one messy outlier will nag at you. It’s human nature.

Besides engaging in comprehensive decluttering in the proper way, there are a few keys to tackling these problem areas, including the initial step of convincing the person with dominion over the spaces that’s it’s time to buckle down and work some KonMari magic.

A difference between cleansing these workshop-style spaces and many other spaces in your home is that it’s necessary to have things like good shelving, racks, pegboards and other storage systems, simply by virtue of the types of things that must be organized and stored.

Finally, the key to ongoing, workspace and storage “joy” is to always put the item you’ve used back in its designated space when you’re done. (That applies to every room, of course.)


Christine Thorn, Sage of InteriorsThose seeking professional help with decluttering should feel free to email me at  [email protected], or call (203) 772-8883, to discuss your situation—or visit my Packages & Rates page.

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