Establishing Order

Who’s had it with snow, cold, ice, artic temperatures and short days? I know I have. And since that slightly irritating groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter, looks like we have plenty of time to stay inside and organize ourselves. Today, Mary Carlomagno, professional organizer and author, is here to help us step up our game in that department. She is the owner of Order, a company that specializes in clutter control. You may have seen Mary in one of her many TV (including Oprah!), magazine or newspaper appearances.  She has also written numerous books on the topic. My personal fave is “Give It Up! My Year Of Learning To Live Better With Less“. A link to her bio is below. Thank you to all who emailed us your organizing challenges for Mary. 

1. Our organizing dilemma is that we recently relocated from a larger house in TX to G.C. We love our new home and recently had the basement finished to aid with storage of some of our things, But we are still struggling with a jig-saw puzzle of where to unpack some boxes due to lack of space from boxes that remain unpacked…Any ideas would be appreciated.

Mary: When starting an organizing project, it is important to set out a staging area, so if you need to clear out the space entirely do so, even if you have to move some things to another room.  Start with a blank space and then assess what you need the most first.  Top priority items should go in first and get top real estate.  Before you go out and buy storage boxes, make sure that what you are storing and keeping is what you actually use. 

2. Our garage is very small and it is not organized at all. It’s used purely for storage but everything is piled on top of everything else and there is no real system in place. We don’t want to invest a lot of $$$ in a garage, but we know we need some organization. Is there an easy way to organize garage space so we’re not always climbing over things? We have all sort of things in there- bikes, gardening tools, snow shovels, bicycle pumps, tools, beach umbrellas and chairs, folding chairs, a table, artwork, holiday decorations, etc… 

Mary: A great way to organize a garage is to use the walls and ceilings.  You can do a hook system on the wall for shovels, bikes, gardening etc.  A peg board is great for this and easily found at Home Depot for not a lot of money.  If you do have some room, I would recommend some inexpensive metal shelving, utility shelving like this is also available at Home Depot.  Depending on how much room you have, you can use a combination of both.  You can store items in Rubbermaid bins with tops and place them on the shelves.  A great easy fix.  And wherever possible, clear the floor.  Nothing makes a space more messy than having nowhere to walk, so create energy and flow with a clear floor.  

3. I have some great closets in my house. They’re large and have the potential to be really nice, but they were not well thought out when installed. They’re basically set up simply with large vertical shelves. This doesn’t seem to be the best use of space b/c things are always falling over and looking messy. How can I better use this closet space without investing in a huge project and having a custom closet designer and contractor come in? 

Mary: Great about the closets, you can customize to find what fits.  Your first job is to figure out what you are storing, before making any changes.  Write out a list of what you need, hanging bars for clothes, racks for shoes and boots? Once you have that list of keepers, you can design a space around what you need.   Target has very easy modular closet solutions that require no construction. 

4. My house seems to be over-ridden with toys. The only toy storage units I see in stores have baskets in them for the toys but I’m tired of baskets. They seem to be the go-to option for everything these days. A few are okay, but I don’t want to overdo it. I’d like something that’s more like a cabinet with some shelves, drawers. I think a lot of baskets look messy. Plus, they can’t fit larger toys. Thanks.

Mary: My favorite best pick is the Ikea Expedit Shelving that has different configurations so you can put the bins right in.  Follow me on Pinterest to see how they work.

5. What can I do with shoes and boots besides the traditional over the door racks (if I don’t have custom built spaces/shelves for them)

Mary: You can create your own custom shelving very easily by thinking a little differently. If you don’t have any shelving in your closet, consider a low book case that can live underneath your hanging clothes, you can set up your shoes there. Measure your space and see what you can find that fits, think out of the shoe box!

6. Can you give me some tips for organizing a tiny, and I mean tiny, home office?

Mary: It is all about staying on top of the clutter, store what you don’t need and use the A B C priority list, only keep A stuff out on your desk in a neat file box.  If you have the option, I love the idea of turning a closet into an office.  You can put a desk inside, remove the hanging bar and create custom shelving above, the best thing is that you can close the door when you are done with work…

Mary’s website is You can check out her company, her books and follow her on social media.  

Visit us on Facebook at Inside Garden City.

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