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GARAGE MAKEOVER CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE Earlier versions of this story incorrectly spelled the name of Mary Elkind. Garage makeover a mechanic. If it won’t fit in the garage, call an organizer If a car’s broken, call By Jura Koncius By Jura Koncius Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, Post Staff 2010; WashingtonOctober 14,Writer VA08 Thursday, October 14, 2010 Mary Elkind's garage had become a sorry space crammed with things she wanted CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE to forget. Earlier versions of this story incorrect- ly spelled the name of Mary Elkind. The one-car garage attached to her Arlington brick The one-car garage attached rambler was stacked to the ceiling with clothing, to Mary Elkind ‘s Arlington dog crates and so stacked brick rambler wassofas. There was no room to park her new Prius. Each no as Elkind left and entered her house through her garage, she navigated a with stuff, there wasdayroom treacherous path, dodging to park her nice new Toyota piles of tools, Halloween costumes and unopened boxes moved there when she Her hybrid garage was Prius.divorced and downsized three years ago. one half bikes and garden supplies; other half junk she "There's a lot of emotional baggage for me in acknowledging I no longer need a lot of this stuff," said never uses. So she called in Elkind, a part-time accountant. "I needed to get a handle on this." an expert Pierrette Ashcroft, a Washington professional She hired Pierrette Ashcroft, a Washington professional organizer and productivity coach, to work organizer and productivity with her to let go of coach, to work with her. things she would never use again and create a system for storing what was left. The purging would make way for the Prius to occupy its rightful place indoors before cold weather PHOTOS BY KATHERINE FREY FOR arrived. THE WASHINGTON POST When they were ﬁnished, Elkind's sorry space She bikes, ladders Ashcroft, a Washington profes- Mary Elkind’s garage had become ago-to possessions, such ashired Pierretteand tools, would be hanging with things of wanted to Everything else would be arranged on shelves lining the perimeter. with crammed on the wallsshe the garage.forget. sional organizer and productivity coach, to work The two worked on the makeover for a combined 50 hours over an eight-day period. "Every time I got and her to let go of things she would never use again Pierrette would bring me another box to sort and gave me encouragement," said purging tired and sat down,attached to her Arlington brick The one-car garage create a system for storing what was left. The Elkind. rambler was stacked to the ceiling with clothing, dog would make way for the Prius to occupy its rightful crates and sofas. There was no place indoors before cold weather like the Prius. Each The garage, her new attic and the basement, is our dumping ground for everything we don't know what room to park arrived. to as Elkind left and entered day do with. You know: that busted fan, the pink paint you used in the nursery and the oak table that needs reﬁnishing. Unlike these her house through her garage, other utility spaces, however, a garage is a part of everyday life and, El- When they were finished, when the door opens, exposed for she navigated a treacherous path, all to see. Garages are where we store those towering cases of kind’s go-to possessions, such as cat food we water, paper towels orHalloween hoard in case of a shortage. dodging piles of tools, bikes, ladders and tools, would costumes and unopened boxes be hanging on the walls of the The whole mess is exacerbated by the phenomenon organizers have dubbed "multiples." Can't ﬁnd moved there when she divorced garage. Everything else would your hammer? Buy another. Ashcroft unearthed ﬁve ﬂashlights in Elkind's garage. and downsized three years ago. be arranged on shelves lining the three-car The two In the Washington region, you can ﬁnd a range of garages, from the suburbanperimeter. variety toworked on Homeowner Organizer “There’s a lot of emotional baggage Mary Elkind Pierrette Ashcroft the makeover for a combined 50 for me in acknowledging I no longer hours over an eight-day period. need a lot of this stuff,” said Elkind, a part-time ac- “Every time I got tired and sat down, Pierrette would countant. “I needed to get a handle on this.” bring me another box to sort and gave me encourage- ment,” said Elkind. Garage Makeover by Jura Koncius for The Washington Post, Thursday, October 14, 2010 The garage, like the attic and the basement, is our dumping ground for everything we don’t know what to do with. You know: that busted fan, the pink paint you used in the nursery and the oak table that needs refinish- ing. Unlike these other utility spaces, however, a garage is a part of every- day life and, when the door opens, exposed for all to see. Garages are where we store those towering cases of water, paper towels or cat food we hoard in case of a shortage. The whole mess is exacerbated by the phenomenon organizers have dubbed “multiples.” Can’t find your hammer? Homeowner Mary Elkind unveils the garage project for professional organizer Buy another. Ashcroft unearthed five Pierrette Ashcroft. flashlights in Elkind’s garage. In the Washington region, you can find a range of garages, from the suburban three-car variety to one-car wood structures on urban alleys. For Ashcroft, garages are the second most requested job; the first is organizing pa- pers. “I love doing garages because you pull everything out into the driveway and have lots of space to sort it out,” she said. That is how she and Elkind be- gan. They dragged out skateboard helmets, dehumidifiers, a leg brace and some limp Beanie Babies. Out came a stack of shoe boxes being saved to use for dioramas. There were surprises, too: the ashes of Darla, the family’s Bernese moun- tain dog who died in 2006. It was hard to part with her grown daughters’ dress-up trunk and a table that belonged to her parents. But she let them go, as well as the purse she carried on her wedding day. “Your whole life flashes be- fore your eyes,” Elkind said as she tossed an Al Green cassette into a For Ashcroft, garages are the second most requested job; the first is organizing papers. “I love doing garages because you pull everything out into the driveway and trash bag. have lots of space to sort it out,” she said. Garage Makeover by Jura Koncius for The Washington Post, Thursday, October 14, 2010 A few hours later, 10 piles were forming: trash, donate, home improvement, sports equipment, camping, wine, pets, garden, storage containers and the “action” pile of shoes to be repaired and bulbs to be planted. After five sweaty hours, it was time to call 123 Junk. For $375, a truck made two deliveries: to the Chantilly Habitat ReStore and the Fairfax County Transfer Station. Ashcroft scheduled a second session in two days. Elkind’s homework was to keep sorting. The costs of garage reorganization are supplies and fees. Ashcroft charges $65 an hour or offers discounted prepaid packages. Because Elkind had Pierrette Ashcroft, a professional organizer, moves quickly as she empties the garage, placing items in separate piles in the driveway containers and shelving, she bought only ladder to be organized. hooks, wall anchors and clear plastic shoe boxes. She splurged on a $564 metal Crafts- man tool cart. There are other choices for garage redos using products made by compa- nies such as Gladiator GarageWorks and Rubbermaid. Custom closet companies including Waldorf’s Closet Factory build cabinet systems, which start at $1,200. Peter Belman, general manager of GarageTek in Washing- ton, said its full-scale refurbishments that turn garages into multi-use rooms are $10,000 to $12,000. No matter how you choose to reorder your garage, it’s going to take some Professional organizer, Pierrette Ashcroft removes one of four ladders from Elkind’s garage. serious sorting and decision-making Tools (left) are separated into a pile in the driveway. Professional organizer, Pierrette Ashcroft (right) carries a Christmas tree to one of the piles in the driveway. Garage Makeover by Jura Koncius for The Washington Post, Thursday, October 14, 2010 about what you can part with and where it should end up. Elkind took pet supplies to a shelter and chemicals to a hazardous materi- als disposal site. “You can’t obsess on giving the item to the perfect place,” said Ashcroft. “Do the best you can, but get it out of your house.” Last week, Elkind drove into her garage for the first time, parked and walked around her Prius to reach the door leading inside. She said she felt “energized.” “I can’t believe I put it off for so long,” she said. “I learned the hard Elkind drove into her garage for the first time, parked and walked around her part is not the physical labor; it’s the Prius to reach the door leading inside. “I can’t believe I put it off for so long,” mental part.” she said. “I learned the hard part is not the physical labor; it’s the mental part.” Mary Elkind’s overhauled garage allows her enough room to park her car and enough organization to quickly find what she’s looking for. Garage Makeover by Jura Koncius for The Washington Post, Thursday, October 14, 2010 How to start 4. Keep the things you use most often, such as gardening supplies 7. Don't expect to do it all in one day, or even over a weekend. If you Thinking about organizing your ga- and sports equipment, in front and get help from your family, a friend rage? Here are some guidelines to at eye level. (a really, really good friend) or a remember as you de-clutter: professional organizer, the job will 1. Before you begin, resolve to keep only things you use on a 5. Avoid cardboard boxes. Clear plastic containers are a much better move faster. regular basis and to set up a system storage option because of fluctua- for keeping them orderly. tions in humidity and temperature. Hammers and mallets are arranged in a tool chest. Organizers call it “multiples” when a person buys another hammer or flashlight because the original is lost in the clutter. A place for everything and everything in its place: ladders, gardening tools and sporting equipment on the wall. 2. Gather boxes and trash bags for categorizing things to be given 6. Consider giving the floor a makeover. Concrete cleaners can 8. Having a yard sale is often not worth it. Craigslist and eBay. away, sold, recycled or thrown out. remove gunk, and durable paints com have brought prices down will give a fresh look. Or install 3. for most used items. Sell items of vinyl floor mats or an industrial value online, offer them through Store as many items off the coating. Freecycle or donate them. floor as possible. Garage Makeover by Jura Koncius for The Washington Post, Thursday, October 14, 2010 Where to donate items after If you want to go the charitable accepts surplus and salvaged build- cleaning out your garage route, contact the organization in ing materials. 301-985-5180. advance about whether it can use So, you’ve organized your garage, your particular items, what hours Goodwill Industries. Drop off and now you have a pile of stuff it accepts donations and whether electronics, household items or to donate or trash. What are your it offers pickup service. Every- furniture at a donation center or options? thing sent to a charity should be in bin near you, or arrange for a home good condition. (Your stained sofa pickup. or broken dehumidifier is not in demand.) Habitat ReStore. Check the Web site for a list of ReStore locations Here is a list of charities Pierrette that accept building materials, ap- Ashcroft uses, as well as haulers pliances and furniture. you can hire to transport piles to the dump, a charity, or both. Salvation Army. The organization will pick up household goods or Donation Town. This Web site will clothing at your home. It also has match your household goods and designated donation centers across clothing with a local charity. the area. A Wider Circle. The Silver Spring These firms will haul items to a organization collects furniture, TV dump or charity: 123 Junk, Junk in sets, bedding and lamps to help the Trunk, College Hunks Haul- Professional organizer Pierrette Ashcroft carries a shower door to a pile furnish homes for families in need. ing Junk and 1-800-Got-Junk. in the driveway that will be donated or 301-608-3504. Arrange with your hauler to get a sold. tax receipt if you have donated to a Community Forklift. This Prince charity. George’s County nonprofit group During the regular garbage pickup, workers clear away bags of trash and other things that could not be donated from Elkind’s home. Garage Makeover by Jura Koncius for The Washington Post, Thursday, October 14, 2010 What to keep, and not keep, in your garage What to store in a garage What to store elsewhere (or get rid of ) · Cars · Extra clothes and bedding · Car maintenance supplies · Papers, files and books · Tools and workbench · Indoor upholstery · Gardening tools, hoses, plant foods and fertilizers · Broken things you aren’t going to use anymore · Snow removal equipment · Valuables · Bikes and sporting equipment · Unfinished craft projects · Trash cans and recycling bins · Food, unless in sealed plastic containers · Beach chairs and lawn furniture · Paint · Holiday decorations, if in plastic containers Storage bins for organizing the garage’s sorted contents. Ashcroft unearthed five flashlights in Elkind’s garage. Mary Elkind assesses the need for a new door bought for her former home.
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