A My Home Improvement contest winner gets a garage makeover
By Jill Becker | Photography by Krys Alex Photography
“My jaw dropped!” says Bethany Anderson, of her reaction to seeing the transformation performed on her detached garage that was used as sort of a catchall storage area and workspace. The Atlanta homeowner is referring to the makeover she received earlier this year from professional organizer Mary Kathryn LaVallee and her team at OrderUp Design as the winner of My Home Improvement’s Organization Giveaway.
A single mom who works as a deputy branch chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anderson’s hope was to make the area a more usable and practical space for her and her son. Pre-makeover, it was unsightly, disorganized and cluttered with everything from scraps of wood and stacked chairs to bags of chicken feed and fertilizer.
Post-makeover, it’s a practical, functional space with bins, hooks, shelves and other features that ensure everything has its proper place.
Anderson especially loves now being able to walk in and easily find and access everything she needs. “Knowing exactly where everything is ensures I get whatever project I’m working on started much more quickly and efficiently,” she says. “I don’t have to go through multiple bins or piles to find what I need. It’s all clearly laid out so I can jump in and get started right away.”
One of the mantras at OrderUp Design, in fact, is that everything gets a home. “We live in a world where we’re in a rush, and we have the mindset, ‘I’ll just set it here and figure it out later,’” says LaVallee. “Then you have more and more of those things, and it just accumulates. So we try and give everything a home in a way that anyone could put it up. Like it’s obvious that ‘This is where this thing goes.’”
A major challenge of the project was that the Andersons truly do use their tools and pieces of wood and a lot of the other objects that were stored in the space. So one of the first things LaVallee said to Anderson was, “If you’re using it, we’ll make it work in here. Yes, there’s a lot of chicken feed, but you have a lot of chickens, and so that’s something that needs to be in the space.” To meet that end, LaVallee knew that added shelving and taking advantage of the vertical height of the space were going to be huge.
“A lot of the time, it’s about creating a space that’s multifunctional,” says LaVallee. “Very rarely do we go to a space where it’s ‘This is the sole purpose of this space.’ Even with kitchens, the obvious use is that it’s a kitchen, but it’s also where your kids might do their homework and where people congregate in general, so not making spaces for multiple things is one of the problems people have.”
“Creating zones” is another tactic LaVallee uses. “The more garage-type supplies are all together now, and there are bins for everything that makes sense to be kept away,” she says. “And the chicken feed is now in sealed metal containers outside of the space, which creates a lot more room. It’s like one side is the garage, one side is kind of a man cave, and the back space is the workshop.”
The added room and defined zones mean that Anderson has a place to work on her projects, and her son also now has a place for his punching bag and workout bench and a place for him and his friends to hang out.
In addition to the added functionality and available square footage, the converted garage has aesthetic appeal as well. “Originally, we were thinking we shouldn’t move the workbench, but then it just seemed like such a good focal point,” says LaVallee. And a brick wall that was so covered up you didn’t even notice it is now a main feature.
Of using the services of an organizational company like OrderUp Design, one of LaVallee’s earliest clients once said that it’s “like having a personal trainer for organizing.” You could probably do it yourself, but would you? And would you do it as efficiently and effortlessly?
Anderson says of her reclaimed space, “They really just found a place for everything, and the stuff I wanted to get rid of was stuff I had wanted to get rid of for a while. It was just a matter of finding the time and hauling it off. So I’m glad I got the push from them to do it. And I love the results.”
Mary Kathryn LaVallee’s Top 5 Organizational Makeover Tips
The professional organizer shares her secrets to a successful room metamorphosis.
1. Don’t get overwhelmed. Avoid looking at the whole space and focusing on how much there is to do. Concentrate instead on one section at a time, as it will keep the project from feeling like it’s too much.
2. Get it out of there. The first step is to pull everything out of the space and divide it into three categories: trash, keep or donate.
3. Don’t panic. It’s often going to feel like it gets worse before it gets better but hang in there. Just separating everything into those three piles is a huge step.
4. Purge. Get rid of the trash and donate piles before even thinking about putting things back into the space. It will help the pile feel less imposing, and then you’re just left with the stuff you want.
5. Contemplate and conceptualize.
Think about how you and your family want to utilize the space and make a plan accordingly.
Mary Kathryn LaVallee is the founder of OrderUp Design. After graduating college in 2018 with a master’s degree in social work, she moved back to Atlanta. Shortly after, she made the decision to start a professional organization business and what started out as a part-time dream job quickly turned into a service that many people were looking for. “Organization is more than what it sounds like. It’s an enhancement to your life,” she explains. “Therefore, my mission with OrderUp Design is to continue chasing this small-business dream of mine so that I can help enhance other people’s lives through organization!”