I’ve always wanted to setup a system in my home for all of the “stuff” that doesn’t permanently belong in my home. This includes stuff I donate (clothes I don’t wear, stuff I don’t use), stuff I’m selling on Craigslist or eBay, things I borrowed from family or friends, and then of course ALL of my returns/exchanges.

I capitalized the “all” because I feel like I’m always buying and returning! However, I’m not a big shopper. The one thing that I do buy are organizing products (of course). I LOVE trying out new organizing products to see if they work, see if they solve a problem, or simple stuff that makes life 10x easier. Unfortunately, a lot of organizing products don’t deliver on their promise and thus end up in my return pile.

Getting to the point of the video- I setup a system for all of the stuff that leaves my home. I now feel more “organized” getting into my car before leaving the house.

Video Details

Hi guys. It’s Alejandra. And in this video, I share a brand new system that I set up inside of my garage that I’ve always wanted to do but never had the space to do. And I’m really excited about it. It’s a system that contains or organizes all the stuff that’s going to leave your house. So all the stuff that you would typically grab before you got into the car and left the house. And that includes donations, stuff to return, stuff you borrowed, stuff you’re selling or like reusable bags or anything else that you would again, traditionally grab before you head to the car.

How to Organize Things That Are Leaving Your House

So let me grab the camera and show you guys exactly what I’ve set up. OK. So this is the system that I set up inside of the garage for all the stuff that I need to remember to bring with me when I leave the house to run errands, to go appointments, to go a family’s house, a friend’s house, or wherever I’m going. Now, I’m going to go basket by basket and show you guys exactly what I’ve set up so you can understand why I did it and how I did it.

Garage Organization Tip: Make a Returns Station for Organizng all of your donations, returns, and other items that are leaving your house #AlejandraTV

Garage Organization Tip: Make a Returns Station for Organizng all of your donations, returns, and other items that are leaving your house

Organizing Reusable Grocery Bags

So here is the door. I walk out the door. The car is behind me but before I get inside the car, I’m going to come and just quickly scan this table, scan all the baskets and see if there’s anything I need to bring with me before I jump in the car. Now, the first basket here, are all of my reusable bags. This is probably the most common basket that I’m going to go to when I jump in the car because I’m probably going to run errands or go to the grocery store or whatever.

Now, I want to always make sure to remember these because now, a lot of stores are charging to give you a bag plus it’s kind of a waste of paper or plastic if you just use a bag and then toss it or you can also recycle it but it’s just better to use reusable bags. So that’s why this basket is strategically place right by the door so I always remember.

Keep Track of Items You Borrow

How to Organize Things That Are Leaving Your House

How to Organize Things That Are Leaving Your House

The next crate is the borrowed crate. Now, this has all of the things that I borrow from friends or family like if I go to their homes and they let me take something back. When I’m done with it, I’m going to put it in the borrowed bin so I know that or I remember when I’m leaving the house to go to their house or they come over, I can always check this bin and see, is there anything that I can give back to the person I’m seeing today?

Now if something doesn’t fit or maybe you don’t want to keep it inside this bin because remember, we are in the garage, if you borrow something nice like a nice dress or something, you’re obviously not just going chuck it inside this bin because you want to take care of the thing. Keep it inside and then put a sticky note here that says, “Remember to give back my sparkly dress to my sister.” Or whoever you borrowed it from. So put a note in here to remind yourself that you have something inside for that person.

How to Organize Items to Sell Online

This bin here is for all the stuff that I’m going to sell on like Craigslist or eBay or wherever you sell stuff. You want to have a place like a holding spot for it so you know that there is stuff inside here that requires action like creating an ad or renewing the ad or doing whatever you do to make sure you sell the stuff and the stuff doesn’t just like sit in a spot in the house and you forget to sell it or create the ad or whatever you do. And of course, if you’re selling a piece of furniture, it’s not going to fit in here. This is just for small stuff so furniture you obviously would not put in there.

Now, before I move on to down here, I just want to say that these crates, they are from the Container Store. I love these crates. They fold flat like they just break down and they come in white, they come in black, they come in orange, green, I think they come in blue, they come in all sorts of colors, they are very good quality, and they fit this 4-foot folding table perfectly. And of course, they fit perfectly because they’re measured. It wasn’t just – I didn’t just like guess that they would fit. I actually had to measure the table and shopped around for something that would fit. So those fit nicely. The 4-foot table I like because it’s the perfect size for what I’m doing here. The 4-foot table is I think it’s from Costco.

How to Organize & Keep Track of Donations

And so down here is where I have both of our donation baskets. Now, these are just laundry baskets that we’re using for all of our donations. The reason why we have two bins is because I have one. It says, “Alejandra Donate”. And then Ed has one, “Ed Donate”. So right now, Ed and I are – we’re still engaged. We’re not married yet so because we’re engaged and we’re not married, we are doing our taxes separately. And so, whenever we donate something, we take inventory and then we take our inventory and we use that when we file our taxes because you can get a tax right off. So that’s why we keep them separate for inventory and for accounting purposes.

So these are laundry baskets and they are on wheels. The wheels came on the laundry basket. They just wheel really nicely. They’re really smooth and they’re large enough to hold a good amount of clothes. So all I did was lined the basket with a trash bag to make it a lot easier when the basket is full. I can just remove the liner and tie it up, take it out, and then I keep empty liners at the bottom of the trashcan so I could just pick one up and line the trash and start my new donation pile. So that works out really nicely.

And then over here is where I have a clipboard where I take inventory of everything that we’re giving away. Now, I used a little badge. It’s like the badge holder that you might have at work. Can you guys see that? I just attached it to one of the holes here and then attach it to the clipboard so the clipboard never gets lost, never goes inside. So yeah, so we used this to write down everything that we stick inside these baskets. So if we stick a t-shirt in here then we write down t-shirt under my name and then Ed’s name on the next page.

Something else I do is – so now that I’m living in a house and I wasn’t doing this before but now that I’m living in a house, I can schedule pickups like an organization to come pick up all of our donations instead of dropping it off. I guess they just don’t really offer that when you live in a condo but they offer it now that we live in a house. So what I’m doing is I’m scheduling all the pickups in advanced and then I’m just working my calendar.

So for instance, the next pickup is Monday, August 13th, so what I’ll do is I’ll put this on my calendar and then put a note here. And a good thing about that is it keeps you accountable. So if you know that you have like three weeks to fill a donation bag that means you have three weeks to essentially go through your closet and pull out stuff you want to donate. So it just kind of pushes you to get started. So a good tip is to schedule that in advance. Put it in your calendar and it will just help you get started because you have a deadline. All right. So that is the donation station.

Organizing Items You Need to Return

So over here is where I keep all of my returns. Now, if you look at this station right here that I set up, you would think that I’m like the biggest shopper because there is like so many things to return here. Now, I actually don’t really like shopping. The only think that I really love to buy are organizing products and like stuff for the house. Whenever I see a new organizing product in the store, I just get really excited and I want to try it out. I want to see if it works. And unfortunately, a lot of the stuff here or all the stuff here just like didn’t work out for whatever reason like the quality wasn’t good or it was missing pieces or it didn’t deliver on what it promised online or on the box. So, all this stuff is going back.

So when I was looking for something to contain all of my returns, I wanted something that would hold a lot of stuff. And unfortunately, these – like I just felt like a crate wouldn’t hold all the stuff that I know I have to return. And I constantly have a lot of returns. So I found this laundry valet cart at the Container Store. I shopped around for other laundry carts because this one was a little bit on the pricey side. But this was the best quality. It was like the sturdiest one. It rolled nicely like the bar up top didn’t swing when you hang a bag. So I was just like, “Well, I’ll just splurge and invest in this.” So it’s working out really nicely.

What I’ve done up here – so this is a bar. What I’ve done here is I found these really cool hangers from the Container Store also. They have a little grip on them. And all you do is you just – when you come here, you just hang a bag really easy or take a bag when you’re leaving. It’s easy, it’s simple, it’s open, it doesn’t take very long. Inside here, I put all the bigger stuff that’s not going to hang and then down there is a laundry basket and I just put like smaller things or anything that wouldn’t fit in here or usually hang. So that is working out very nicely. I’m very happy with that.

So one more quick thing about the return section, so what I do is I just stick the original receipt inside the bag. So if I’m returning something from Home Depot like let’s just say there’s a screw driver in here, what’s also in here is the original receipt so it never gets lost, it never get separated from the item. It’s always inside the bag.

And so the last thing I did inside of this system is create really clear, bright colored big signs to label all of the sections. The reason I did that is because I wanted to make it really obvious where things go. So like Ed doesn’t have to ask me, “Where did the reusable bags go?” Like he knows, once he sees that, he knows that the bags go there because it’s so obvious. So yeah, so everything is just clear, obvious, and everything just has a place.

So that’s how I’m organizing all of my donations, my returns, stuff to sell, stuff I borrowed. If you do something similar with all those things I just mentioned and you want to share it or you want to let us see it, leave a comment below and let us know what your tips are.

About Alejandra

About Alejandra

Since 2008, organizing expert & certified life coach, Alejandra Costello has taught thousands of students in 132 countries how to get organized through her video-based training programs. Her YouTube videos have been viewed 100+ million times. Named 1 of the 5 most organized people in America by HGTV and “The Decluttering Queen” by Good Morning America, Alejandra’s expertise has been featured in The New York Times,, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Parents Magazine, and CBS. 


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