Tips from Elizabeth Hagen

On organizing and decluttering:

  • Unlike what you often hear, it is impossible to have time to do all that we think we have to do. For overall organization, the most important thing is to prioritize your home activities with an ABC-noted system. A's are things you must do. B's are things you should do. C's are things that would be nice to do. Be sure you get through you're A's before moving on to B's and C's.
  • Decluttering should be an A activity. To get started, answer the following questions: "What will you tackle first?" "When will you do it?" "Will you have help?" "What's next?" Make a list and check off your self-assignments as you go.
  • To choose what you will declutter, visualize what spaces you'd like to free up for more important or enjoyable purposes. How will they look after you're done? For motivation, picture yourself enjoying revamped spaces.
  • The fewer items you have, the harder it is to generate clutter:
    • Learn to be a picky shopper – purchase only those items you know to be useful, think to be beautiful or love.
    • Periodically empty your closets one by one. Determine a decision-making philosophy to guide decisions on things to keep and things to part with. For example: How often do you use an item? Do you love it? Establish criteria in advance and stick to them.
    • Decide what you will do with excess "stuff." Make a pile for donations, for trash, for a yard sale or for alternative storage, such as a backyard storage shed. The shed can be used for things you have decided to keep but that take up valuable living space. Sheds are not just for yard tools – they can be great places to store sports equipment, large toys, seasonal decorations, craft supplies, etc. More delicate items can be placed in bins first for protection from cold and heat. Go to this easy-to-use shed finder that will help you select the right shed for your needs and budget.
    • When it comes specifically to clothes, studies show we only wear 20% of what we have, leaving the other 80% taking up precious space for no reason. So, perhaps at each change of season, try on each item, keeping only the things that fit, that you like and that make you happy. Donate or dispose of everything else.
  • Put your organization and decluttering project on a calendar – and follow through.

On a storage shed as an organizing/decluttering tool:

  • First, why get a shed?
  • Recent research shows a new frugality among consumers who are repairing or keeping things longer than they did during boom years
  • Moving to larger homes for growing families may be out of the question in today's economy
  • Placing things in a shed can free up space for more important uses, make your home and yard more appealing, protect your possessions, and keep children and pets safe from things they shouldn't access
  • Organizing your possessions saves time and money, eliminating the search for items you can't find or shopping for items you already bought
  • Sheds are an economical way to increase storage space. To make it even more affordable, there are do-it-yourself shed kits. There are dozens of styles that can meet anyone's needs and budget, starting as low as $200

  • What can go in a shed?
  • Yard/lawn equipment (garden tools, plant pots, hoses, birdseed, mowers, brooms, rakes, leaf blowers)
  • Power, hand, woodworking and cordless tools, ladders
  • Craft/hobby supplies
  • Outdoor and occasional furnishings (picnic tables, folding tables and chairs, cushions)
  • Beach and camping equipment (tents, coolers, lounge chairs, umbrellas, surfboards, floats)
  • Toys (especially those large molded plastic sets, ride-ons, outdoor game sets (e.g., croquet, hopscotch mats, ring toss)
  • Sports gear (golf clubs, skis, skateboards, balls, bats, nets, paddles)
  • Small vehicles (motorcycles, scooters, ATVs, golf carts, canoes, kayaks, sleds)
  • Seasonal/holiday decorations
  • Household items stored in plastic bins
  • Trash cans and recycling containers

  • How to use your shed:
  • Take an inventory of your possessions and plan what will go in to your shed
  • Make setting up your shed fun – how about a shed-raising party?
  • Give family members sections of their own: Dad's tools, kids' outdoor toys, Mom's craft supplies
  • Use organizing aids, such as labels, shelves and racks to make the best use of space
  • Place things used most frequently near the front, things used less often in the back
  • Keep things that might be dangerous to children or pets out of reach
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Biography of Elizabeth Hagen

Family and Consumer Science Expert Elizabeth Hagen is the author of Organize with Confidence and co-author of Focus, Organization and Productivity (Dawson Books, 2006).

She is a certified professional organizer and has served on the board of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). She received the NAPO-LA award for Best Organizer as Coach or Mentor in 2010.

Ms Hagen has spent the past decade as a motivational speaker, organization professional and business coach, sharing the knowledge and skills she developed through her education and her real-life experience as a wife and mother of five.

She also is the creator of the Speak Now and Forever Get New Clients Home Study Program, and she publishes a blog at

In presentations and media interviews throughout the United States, Ms Hagen has encouraged thousands to put her proven strategies and practical tips to work in their lives. Humor, empathy, honesty, common sense and a mantra of "What are you waiting for?" are hallmarks of her mission.

Ms Hagen holds a degree in family and consumer science from Westmar College, LeMars, Iowa. She also is a member of the National Speakers Association and a certified personality trainer through Christian Leaders, Authors and Speaker Services.