Skip to main content

A professional organizer’s backyard mess: The cobbler’s children

Sanford and Son model pickup truck
Ford F-1 Pickup by, John DaPas

I may be a professional organizer, but most of the time my backyard looks like “Sanford and Son”.

Everyone has a room–a catch-all, an embarrassment. For me it’s our lack of garage and resulting junk-heaps of old lumber, paint cans, and debris in the backyard.

My client for today called me yesterday to move our appointment to next week. As soon as we hung up I knew–this was my chance to do some work at my own house. Walkin’ the talk. Livin’ the life. Kill me now. I have to clean the back yard.

I mentally blocked off my morning since it was supposed to be 92 degrees today. And here is how it went down, no editing allowed because as it turns out, being a professional doesn’t make organizing my own backyard any better or easier. You’ll see…

Step 1: Drink a lot of water and eat a good, protein-rich breakfast.

This is not a joke, people. If you are planning to do some organizing (even if it’s with a pro), first you need some brain food. The NYT says that making lots of decisions makes you crave sugar.

Step 2: Put on some sunscreen and gloves.

I found so many spiders including brown and black widows and their egg sacks.  eeew.

Step 3: Pick the task you are dreading the most and do it first.

For me it was the trash cans. I haven’t cleaned those in 9.5 years.  (I told you this is un-edited!)  They were freshly emptied and still gross. Here is the spot where they usually live.  It needed some love as well. (Sorry about the tiny photos. It wasn’t a big transformation anyway.) Before and after:

Step 4: Do the other stuff on your list.

You did make a list, right?  Even just a mental list of the 3-4 things you want to accomplish is a tremendous help.

I raked and swept a bit; put all the tools in a tall, Rubbermaid trash can with a couple of small rain holes drilled into the bottom to prevent stagnant rain water; loaded up all of the lumber, tar paper, and other supplies I found around the yard from various projects to be donated; and finally

habitat for humanity restore logo

Step 5: Take the stuff you don’t want far, far away.

I took my used tools to Habitat for Humanity.

This is the part of any organizing project that is the least likely to happen.  So, plan ahead.  Make sure you stop organizing in time to make it to the donation drop off, or at least in time to load up your car.

The bummer was, they didn’t take everything because it had been sitting outside for years.  ahem.  So, my next step was to call 311 for a bulk item pick up.  You can also request this online in Los Angeles.  The hunky sanitation guys come and whisk it all away like some kind of dream husband.

Aaaaand you’re done.

The good news is, someone has already picked up Zane’s old bike.  The bad news is, there is a lot of old lumber out in front of my house until next Tuesday.

3.5 hours of work later, with still more to do, I realized I should have hired some help.  Even just a college student to lift things and stand there to make sure I didn’t quit.  Clearing a big space is a lot of work!

But, you knew that already.

Thanks for reading my confessional post. I wish you luck on your own organizing and tidying endeavors. Be sure to call in some help!


This post originally appeared in the Get Organized Already! blog Oct 11, 2011

hire help, home organizing, organizing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.