Get your garden shed organized before the growing season kicks into high gear. Dave Oliver's organized garden shed is shown here. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

It’s so easy for gardening sheds to fall into disarray. Not only are there innumerable tools to put away, but many gardening sheds also have bags of soil and other materials that can make a mess.

Having an organized garden shed at the beginning of the growing season will help make sure your gardening gets off to a good start. Here are some tips for getting your garden shed in ship shape.

Step 1: Evaluate your space

The first step to perhaps any organizing project is to stop for a moment and consider how, ideally, you would like to use the space.

“Think about what is the purpose for it,” said Melissa Keyser, a professional organizer in Edgecomb. “Are you actively working in the garden shed to repot things? That’s going to be a different system than if you’re just having a place to keep shovels out the rain.”

Once you decide what you want, think about how the current organizational system is keeping that from happening.

“Note what isn’t working in your current set-up,” said Kim Corey, owner of Finely Sorted Organizing in Bangor. “Plan a whole day to empty, clean and install purchased storage equipment and replace things to be stored.”

Step 2: Declutter

Before you get organized, you have to get rid of anything in your garden shed that no longer works or you no longer need.

“Maybe in a garden shed you have old pots that are cracked,” said Nancy Karp, owner of Domestic Bliss Organizing in Portland. Or you have something that “you think, ‘I’ll use this someday,’ but you haven’t and it’s taking up space.”

“Treat your garden shed contents the way you should treat the items in your closet,” said Kate Garland, horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “Really assess whether they’re needed (has it been used in the past few years)?

Once you have figured out what you no longer need, Garland said you can reach out to your local nursery to see if they are looking for donations or search online for creative ways to upcycle them — or, if they items are in poor condition, simply throw them away.

“Be sure that you have weeded every category so that you only have what you really use and want,” Corey said. “Not having excess stuff will bring you a good distance to staying organized. I can’t emphasize enough to weed —no pun intended — as much as possible.”

Step 3: Find a spot for every item

Get your garden shed organized before the growing season kicks into high gear. Dave Oliver’s organized garden shed is shown here. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Once you have winnowed down your gardening supplies to only what you need, figure out a spot for each item.

“Everything should have a home,” Karp said. “[That way] even when things get really messy when you’re in the middle of a project, when it comes time to clean up, you have a place to put things.”

Becca Beaulieu, owner of Perfectly Placed P.O in Lewiston, suggested putting the things that you use the most often closest to the entrance.

“Your little hand shovels and trash bags that you’re going to use more frequently [can go near the door] whereas potting soil, you might only use that at the beginning and end of the season, [so] that can be in the back,” Beaulieau said.

Step 4: Head to the hardware store

At this point, you might consider purchasing additional organizational infrastructure.

“I encourage free-standing mobile shelving storage to accommodate change,” Corey said. “You want to store things so that it only takes one motion to retrieve it from its storage area, otherwise it is less likely to be used or put back.”

One thing that might be tricky is potting soil, or other loose materials like bird seed. Keyser suggested using a 20-gallon trash can to keep everything as tidy as possible.

“That way if the stuff does spill, it’s contained within that container,” Keyser said.

Another helpful tip is to make use of the vertical space in your garden shed to keep your tools organized — and prevent you from hurting yourself.

Get your garden shed organized before the growing season kicks into high gear. Dave Oliver’s organized garden shed is shown here. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

“[There are premade hook systems or you can just put on a couple of nails,” Keyser said. “From very budget-friendly [to] an investment, there’s a wide range of systems that you can implement.”

If you do not have them, she also recommended large, open shelves for equipment like pots, and baskets to keep smaller tools like pruners and clippers.

“I think it’s unrealistic to expect multiple steps to put those away,” Keyser said. “Just have a basket where your clippers go.”

Make sure you consider your safety when organizing.

“Protect yourself from poor air quality when sweeping out areas with a lot of dust or rodent droppings,” Garland said. “Be sure to store heavy items on lower shelves. Consider keeping a first aid kit handy during the summer months.”

Step 5: Label items’ homes

Once every item has its home, it is helpful to label what goes where in order to make clean-up easier.

“Sometimes just seeing blank hooks, it can be hard to remember what tools are there, [and] you can remember, ‘Oh, hey, that must have gotten left out,’” Keyser said.

You can even get creative with your garden shed “labels.”

“Paint a silhouette of each tool on the wall where it is supposed to ‘live,’” said Ginny Hackney, a gardener based in Orono. “[That way, it’s] easy to spot when there are tools gone missing and which ones they are.”

Step 6: Keep it clean — or as clean as possible

Once you have organized your garden shed, the key to keeping it as tidy as possible is to clean as you go.

“Have tool cleaning supplies handy to make it convenient to tidy them up every time you put them away,” Garland said. “Never store tools caked in mud.”

Despite your best efforts, your gardening shed might fall into some level of disarray. If you have a strong foundational organizing system in place, where everything is easy to put away in its labeled home, you can simply put it all back together at the end of the growing season.

“During the gardening season it’s probably going to be a little bit messy,” Keyser said. “At the end of the gardening season, you put a little more effort into tidying it up so that in the spring it’s ready again.”