Q: Over the last winter, we built a large patio cover and fenced our backyard. The idea was to make a nice, secure outdoor room so we could enjoy our backyard even more, but it ended up just being overflow storage with plants I haven’t yet planted and bikes, tools, furniture, toys, and stuff we’re saving for a garage sale. It’s all over the table and benches and the patio. Please, how can I keep all this stuff from completely taking over my whole yard?
A: It’s unbelievable how horizontal surfaces so quickly become shelves. Who doesn’t struggle with clutter on dining room tables, kitchen counters, and whatever surface is closest to the front door? This also includes porches, mudrooms, laundry rooms, and garages. All these “halfway places” in between the world outside and the living spaces of your house are incredibly strong magnets for items that simply don’t have a proper place to be stored. It’s convenient, sure, but so ironic to keep items you’re going to get rid of.
It’s too easy to keep things when we have the space for it and you inadvertently created a nice, big, open space for just that. Before you can enjoy your beautiful outdoor living space, you already know what to do. Even the big stuff can be clutter, so get rid of it. If you’re already planning a garage sale, set a date for as soon as possible. Prioritize grabbing things from your garage, basement, attic, or storage unit if you have one. And plan a trip to your favorite charity the very next day. After that, avoid letting the donate box or bags — or pickup truck load — sit longer than a few days.
Once you do get everything out, here are ideas to help keep it decluttered. Just like you would an indoor dining table, use your outdoor table only for projects that can be easily cleaned up by mealtime. The easier your table is to use for dining, the more often you will actually enjoy it! Add features that will neutralize the weather, such as a portable heater or throw blankets for those cool evenings, and a mister or fans for hot weather. Plant your plants, and buy more of your favorites. Print out that picture you took of when your backyard was finished, and post it to the back door to remind yourself of your intentions when you started the project. You worked hard for that dream space. Give it back to yourself and use it!