Garage as defined by Webster’s dictionary is “(Noun) a shelter or storage place for an automobile or automobiles”. However, my definition is “(Noun) the unused furniture-holiday decoration-tools-old books from college-camping equipment-bike catch all where I also have things I don’t know what to do with area with no room for a car”. Yes, like many other people, my garage is a mess. Excuse me, my garage used to be a mess.
This too small of a space was packed from floor to ceiling with everything except the kitchen sink. There was a walkway to get to the washer and dryer, but not much room for anything else. I did get motivated to finally dig in and clean it out. I had decided to buy a new car and wanted to park it in my garage at night. I knew I had my work cut out for me, but you can learn from my experience. It is really not as bad as it seems…and when it is done, you will have an organized garage space that really works for you.
Step 1: Dress properly for the occasion. Wear old clothes and comfortable shoes. It is a dirty job so be prepared. Wear long pants to protect you legs. If your garage is prone to insects such as spiders, consider wearing gloves. It is also hard work so get help! Make it a family affair. Or offer to buy pizza if friends are coming to visit. Play music that everyone likes to lighten the atmosphere.
Step 2: Take everything out of the garage and separate it into three piles: things to keep, things to throw away and things to sell or donate. For anyone who has a hard time parting with things use this rule: if you haven’t used it in the last year, get rid of it. Throw away anything that is broken. If you haven’t fixed it, toss it. Make sure to also dispose of things properly. If you have old paint, cleaners, motor oil or other substances, contact the city to see where to take it.
Step 3: Organize. Take all of the items you want to keep and separate them into categories. My categories were: tools, holiday decorations, luggage, cleaning supplies, camping equipment and miscellaneous. Buy large bins to store these items. Bins can be found at Home Improvement stores or discount stores. Make sure to buy large bins with tight closing lids. This will prevent insects from getting into the contents inside.
Label the front and side of each bin as to the contents. For example, four of my bins are labeled “Christmas Decorations”. Another boxes are labeled “Camping Supplies”.
Step 4: Deep Cleaning. Clean your empty garage thoroughly. Sweep the floor and hose it out. Remove any cobwebs and wipe down the walls. If the studs are exposed, clean off the cross bars of any excess dust or dirt.
Step 5: Determine the room needed for the car. The most important goal for me was to park my car in the garage. I had to determine how much room I needed and that included when the car door was opened so I could get in and out without scratching the paint. I also had to have adequate walking room to get to the extra refrigerator and washer and dryer when the car was in there. I learned to leave at least 24” as a good walkway.
Step 6: Organize. Place all of the bins in the garage along one wall. Have them facing so the labels can be read easily. Group them together so all bins relating to each other are together. Pile them as high as you can so that you can easily get to them. With other items that don’t fit into the bins, group them together and place them where it makes sense. For example, I have four folding camping chairs and a 12-person tent together. If possible buy hooks for large garden tools such as rakes, for sporting equipment such as bikes and other unwieldy items.
Step 7: Trash or donate what you will not use. Throw away all items that you separated into the trash pile. Do not second guess yourself. If it has been sitting in your garage for several years for you to “someday get around to fix it”, toss it. That one item is taking up valuable space. With all other useful items, have a garage sale or donate everything to a worthy charity such as Salvation Army.
In a few hours (or better part of a day), you will have a clear and organized garage. That is exactly what I did few months ago. The only struggle is that the garage doesn’t always stay neat. It is difficult to get to bins on the bottom of each pile. My next step is to get a garage system of cabinets. This will also make the garage look better. But for now I am happy with the results and I love the freedom of clearing out that cluttered space.
Download Our Garage Organization Preparation Guide for additional tips!
Article by Katheryn LaBarbera, Sr. Vice President of Closet Factory Los Angeles.
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