Ask anyone about the place in their house they dread cleaning the most and the answer invariably has to be the garage. More than the attic or the basement or that junk drawer that everyone has, the garage seems to be the ultimate magnet for junk and clutter. You just can’t take one step into the place without jamming your toe into something sharp and solid and painful.
As with decluttering any space in your house, you need to start with a plan. Divide the garage into zones and create a staging area. Make a list of the things that you absolutely have no use for. Focus on the big items in the garage and work your way to the last piece of junk that takes up your space. It’s a repetitive process but well worth the time and energy you put into it.
Naturally your epic journey in the heart of the maze you call your garage will take you to places you never thought existed. You’ll see things. Beautiful things as well as awful things. But don’t waste your time trying on that old high school sports jacket. It won’t fit. Rather you should focus on the task at hand. So where do you start?
Plan For Your Garage Using Zones
Your garage is a deposit for the junk of the years. Many times you’d come across items that you thought you had lost forever. That old polaroid camera from back in the day when polaroids were a thing. You thought you had given it to your then-best-friend, you know the one you haven’t spoken to in ages, and that was probably why you’re no longer friends anyway. It turns out you had the camera in your garage under the pile of old magazines.
The point here is not to lose sight of your goal. Your mission is to declutter the garage not to take a long and winding trip down memory lane. And since you’re dealing with a gigantic task, you need to focus on slicing your garage into zones. You know, the same way you’d slice pizza.
One zone should be devoted to you your vehicle and its parts. That’s the original purpose of having a garage in the first place, to store and fix your vehicle. Another zone would be dedicated to your sports equipment. A third to the tools and so on.
Create A Staging Area For Dealing With Clutter
Now that you have a plan and at least in your mind you know where every item of the stuff you intend to keep would go, it’s time to prepare your operation room. At some point, you’ll find yourself up to your knees in a big mess.
This mess is a necessary part of the process. No matter how methodical and disciplined you are in your approach you can’t avoid having a pile of clutter that you need to sort through. And the best way to do that is to create a staging area right in the middle of the garage.
This staging area will save you the trouble of moving your junk around the garage zones. It will also keep you from ending up with smaller piles that only waste your time and discourage you from finishing your mission. This staging area is where all the sorting and decision making takes place. And remember, when you bring a box to your staging area don’t leave until you’ve gone through its contents in their entirety before you move to another box.
Make a List of Things to Throw Away
So you got your zones and your staging area. Now you can start, right? Well, not quite. There’s another crucial step you need to take before you embark on your arduous journey and get your hands dirty with grease and the dust of the years. That step is to decide on the things that you’ll totally throw away and not keep around. Your list might include some or all of the following items:
I think that’s an obvious choice. You won’t waste your time deciding whether to keep old boxes or not. However, for some reason, such items that should have been discarded a long time ago wound up taking space and collecting dust in your garage. Well, now is the time to get rid of it forever.
Cans of Old Paint
Somehow people, including myself, like to hang on to old paint. Maybe under the impression that the last DIY job was a great success and I had plans to do it again but those plans just never materialized. Old paint is just old paint getting dry in your garage. No point in holding on to it.
Every time you order something online, Amazon sends you the order in crisp-looking boxes. And every time you keep those boxes because who knows, you might need them one day. The truth is you never wanted them in the first place. Just get rid of them.
Old Decoration Items
From Halloween to Christmas and even Memorial Day, every festival has its own way to celebrate. And what’s a celebration without decorations? If you’re like me, you have tons of old planters, wind chimes, and confetti that have seen better days.
Whether they were your toys and you’ve outgrown them or they belonged to your kids, old toys have no place in your house let alone your garage. Don’t waste time and space on them. Just stick ‘To Go’ on them.
By that, I mean the damaged tools that are no longer good for anything. That old trawl without a handle and the rake that lost most of its teeth. They all have seen better days and it’s time to send them off without much pomp or ceremony.
So we all had our time with basketball and, maybe, soccer. But let’s face it, we neither have the time nor inclination to pick up where we left off anymore. Besides most of those balls are too old and worn out to be of use to anybody. The same rule applies to old video games and cartridges.
Old Books and Newspapers
While old books can be donated to local libraries or to your niece who’s who a book worm, there’s absolutely no merit in keeping old newspapers and magazines. It’s all digital now so why are you keeping a pile of old papers that only rats would find useful?
If it’s junk, then how can it be useful? When you put it in the garage you were thinking you might need it one day. So even though it’s really junk and you’re not going to use it, you still kept it. Now is the time to redress that oversight and error in judgment.
Where Should You Start?
Armed with your well-crafted zones, a comprehensive list, and your staging area, you’re now ready to start. Only where exactly would you start? Everywhere you look there are boxes and piles of tools and discarded items that are begging you to look into them.
At this point, anywhere you start is good enough. Take a good sweeping look around you and the place that catches your eye, that’s the one to begin with. Because let’s face it, the junk and clutter are practically everywhere. One corner is just as good as the next.
Just keep in mind that once you’ve picked a starting point, there’s no cherry picking after that. You’ll finish that area, then move to the one next to it and so on. Don’t skip items or leave unsorted piles behind in the hope that you’d go back to them later. Be methodical in your approach and make sure all items in that area have been accounted for and dropped in their respective zone.
Calculate your Storage Space
At this point in your journey, you might begin to feel tired or distracted. Don’t listen to the voice in your head telling you to quit. You can do this. We’re all rooting for you. We all want to see your garage as tidy and clean as the next guy’s. So push on and keep going.
It’s important that you have a clear idea of the storage space in your garage. You can either do this step well before organizing the garage into zones or right before you start with the first pile of junk and old tired in the corner. Based on your calculations and estimates of the space available in your garage you’ll be able to decide on what to keep and what to throw away.
Keep in mind that the storage space can be double or even tripled using the right storage tools and containers. More on that later. But for now, you need to make sure that you have enough space for all your stuff. Otherwise you might be forced to give away your trusty pair of baseball gloves because there’s no room for them.
Gather the Supplies
And now at long last you’re all good to go. No, wait. You still need a few more items to help you in your quest. The quest for the clean garage. The first of those tools is a bunch of trash bags. We don’t mean the ones that break if you drop a few empty bottles in them. Those won’t help you. You need heavy-duty trash bags like the ones used in restaurants and bars all over town.
Next you’ll need a strong vacuum cleaner. Again this one has to be sturdy with strong suction power. Enough to suck the grease off the floor of the garage. If you don’t have one, then a broom will do the job just as nicely albeit with an extra effort and a few cuss words on your part.
Finally, you’ll make use of a basket. It’s there so that you can drop in anything that doesn’t fit in any category or zone and doesn’t exist on your trash list. Rather than scratch your head and stare at it for ten precious minutes while you decide where to put it, just chuck it into the basket and move on.
Organize Items You’re Keeping In Your Garage
You’re doing great so far. You’re now standing in the middle of your staging area right at the center of the garage with a list and plans and some trash bags. So what do you do? You do just as any convict does the first day he goes to jail. He picks the biggest guy and lets him have it. Only you’re in your garage and instead of the biggest guy, you’ll focus on the biggest items.
There would be items in your garage that take up the most space. Start with those. Things like tool chests, gardening tools, bicycles, camping equipment, sports and fitness gear. They stick out and are easy to find.
Moving a few of those big boys will motivate you to keep going. Because it will appear like you’ve freed up a lot of space by just getting rid of the bicycles and work benches. When you’re done sorting those out, it’s time to turn to the smaller items.
Organize What’s Left
Now you can survey your work as you breathe heavily and sweat a little. From where I stand, it looks like you’re making great progress. You’ve removed a lot of clutter and the garage is starting to look roomier. Now you turn your attention to organizing the items you want to keep.
Here, too, it helps to be methodical in your approach. You can sort your items by how frequently you use them. The ones most used will be placed in middle shelves where they are easy to find. Other zones will host items less used such as gardening supplies and the vehicle parts.
Another corner will have the bulky items. The lawnmower will have its own place along with other the shovels that you use to clear off the winter snow. Keep the heavy equipment together away from the rest.
Gather, Organize, Repeat
Now you’re beginning to get the hang of it. It’s all smooth sailing from here on out. You go through a pile or a box, sort out the stuff in it, decide where it should go and put it there. Then the next box and so on.
After a while it becomes more of a mechanical exercise without your brain doing much work. And that’s just as good. Because at this point you’re mentally exhausted and even though you might notice it yet, you’re beginning to get tired.
But thinking of the amount of clutter you have moved out and seeing the chaos in the garage is being replaced with neat order gives you hope and motivation. You’re nearly there. A couple more hours and you’d be finally the proud owner of an organized garage. Think of what your friends will say when they see the pics on Instagram.
Get Rid Of Your Garage Clutter
Your garage is decluttered and everything is in its rightful place. Great job. Only you’re not done yet. There’s still the big pile of boxes just outside the garage door. What are you going to do with this junk?
Well, you know what they say about one man’s junk is another man’s treasure? It’s time to turn that into a reality. You can donate all that stuff that you no longer need. Salvation Army, Habitat, Goodwill, and Humanity are just a few organizations that you can contact. They’ll come and collect all that stuff and take it off your hands.
Another way to get rid of all this junk and make a few bucks as well is to organize a yard sale. People love to rifle through your old stuff and hope they can find a few hidden secrets about you there. If you don’t have the time or patience for a yard sale, consider selling that stuff online. It might take longer to get rid of all of it, but you’ll make more money than selling it off to your neighbors.
Keep it Tidy
With the garage all decluttered and organized, how long do you think it will take for chaos to reclaim it again? A few weeks? A couple of months? Well, you need to make sure this doesn’t happen. Remember how your back was sore for a whole week after finishing the garage job?
To prevent your garage from falling back into its old ways, surely it’s not you that clutters it, you need to clean it regularly with a vacuum and a hose. Spray it more often to keep the insect population at bay. And remember to return every item you take out back to its original place.
Garage Storage Ideas
No matter how big your car or how small your garage, you can still make the best of the available space and even double your storage area within the limits of your garage walls. For example you can use:
- Overhead Storage: It’s not just the floor and walls, but the ceiling too is good for storing stuff. Use hanging shelves to keep items that you don’t use often out of reach.
- Shelves: Many people like to have a cabinet in the garage to keep tools and other items. But cabinets take up more space than they save. Use shelves on the walls instead to store the same amount with items.
- Pegboards: Use a pegboard to group items you use together. This is where you hang your gardening tools and hardware for easy access.
Tidiness is a habit just like the tendency to make a mess. By keeping your garage space clean and tidy, you won’t have to do that back-breaking work again in your life.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare