By Laura Gaskill, Houzz
If you are ready to transform your garage from dumping ground to a useful, well-organized space, this plan is for you. It breaks down a monster of a task into manageable steps, so you can stop fearing your garage and finally start using it again.
Not only is the garage generally filled with cars, oil spots and an assortment of stinky chemical stuff, it also has a reputation as the black hole of the home, the place where you put things and then never see them again. Here’s how to change that.
Make a plan of attack
Depending on the state of your garage, you may need to clear a weekend to kick off this task. Get help if you can- and keep an eye on the weather. You need to be able to drag stuff out of the garage so you will have more space to go through it. The first two days include the hardest work; the rest of the week is about putting things back together and creating storage that functions well. Read over the whole plan before beginning and make adjustments as needed.
Also, before you get started, take a moment to envision the way you want your garage to look when you are done. How do you want to use your garage? Do you need to make room for your cars, carve out space for a workshop or create a smartly organized storage space for seasonal gear? Keeping your goals in mind will help you stay focused during the week’s tasks.
Day 1: Purge
Before diving in today, it will help if you take a moment to set up several areas: hazardous waste, garbage, recycling, donate, sell and keep. Rent a Dumpster if you need it, but keep in mind that you should be able to recycle, donate or sell most of what you no longer want or need. Once you have your zones in place, begin pulling things out of your garage and sorting them. (Don’t try to sort stuff in your garage — you won’t be able to really clean or organize your garage if you try to sort it in place.)
What to keep:
- Important memorabilia
- Things you have used within the past 12 months
- Things you have a definite plan to use in the near future (such as workout gear you forgot you owned)
- Spare materials for your home, such as paint and tile
Categorize your keepers:
- Holiday decorations
- Gardening supplies
- Paint and home repair
- Car care
- Seasonal gear
- Sports equipment
Get rid of everything else. Thinking you might someday want to use something is not a good reason to keep it. Each item you keep that you do not use, love or truly need is taking up precious space in your home and in your life, space that could be used for something more worthwhile. Give it away, sell it, pass it on … let it go.
Day 2: Clean and inspect
Because they can house everything from cars to paint cans, garages get dirty. Sometimes really dirty. And while a little dirt is to be expected in a garage, keeping up a basic level of tidiness can help deter critters who may think of taking up residence in your boxes of stuff. Today is the day for a clean sweep.
- Remove everything from the garage, if you haven’t already.
- Inspect the garage for signs of rodents, pests and water damage. If you find signs, make a plan to treat as needed.
- Vacuum or sweep up dust bunnies and major dust from the corners. Wear a dust mask if you are sensitive to dust.
- Sprinkle powdered detergent liberally on cement floor oil stains and scrub with a stiff-bristled brush and warm water. Rinse and let dry.
- Thoroughly sweep the floors.
- If you want to get the floors extra clean, spray them with a hose, scrub with an old mop, rinse and sweep out excess water. Let them dry completely before bringing back any of your stuff.
Decluttering tasks: While your floors dry, visit your piles of stuff left from yesterday.
- Transfer things from oddly shaped containers or falling-apart cardboard boxes into sturdy plastic bins. (Another strike for cardboard: rats and other rodents can easily chew their way in and use any soft material they find inside to make a nest.)
- Use smaller open-top bins to organize frequently used supplies like gardening gear and tools.
- Use color-coded labels to identify the contents.
- Don’t mix contents. If you start with a box of childhood memorabilia, don’t toss in swimming suits at the end. That will make it impossible to find things later!
Day 3: Make a storage plan
Standing in your garage with a clipboard, draw a rough floor plan of the space. Mark where each category of stuff will go. As you complete the rest of this week’s tasks, fill in details about where you are storing what. And be sure to keep this plan — it will come in handy when you’re ready to pull out the holiday decorations!
Day 4: Get everything off the floor
Storing stuff on the floor of the garage invites mildew and water damage, and makes it easier to let things get messy again. If you do not already have a storage system in place, now is the time to get one.
- Use vertical space. Consider adding tall shelving units and a ceiling-mounted platform.
- Use the walls. Don’t let a wall go to waste! If you have two walls filled with shelving, fill the other one with wall-mounted storage. It can be as fancy as a custom storage system or as simple as a pegboard and a row of wall hooks. Bikes, tools, shovels, rakes and sports gear can all be hung on the wall, avoiding the dreaded floor pileup.
A ceiling-mounted system like this one makes excellent use of space. Stack plastic bins (just be sure you label them and face the labels out) on top, and hang bikes and other gear from hooks underneath.
Store the least frequently used stuff in the highest spots.
- Top-level storage: Childhood memorabilia and old documents that must be stored long-term
- Medium height: Holiday decorations and seasonal gear
- Lowest: Gardening supplies, home improvement tools and sports equipment
Day 5: Finish the job.
If you still have a huge pile, don’t freak out. Now is the time to finish the job so you can move on to more important things … like rewarding yourself with an ice-cold drink.
- Take your hazardous waste to the proper disposal or recycling facility. Check Earth 911 to find a place that collects hazardous waste and other recyclables. You may be surprised at what can be recycled — even old clothing and textiles, coat hangers, running shoes and broken appliances, to name a few.
- Make a run to a local charity shop with your donation items. Shelters and nonprofits in your area may also be looking for specific types of donations, so it’s nice to check into those first if you can.
- Plan a yard sale if you have things left you want to sell.
Day 6: Make an entrance.
If your garage connects to your home, you probably use it as an entrance — which means you could use a mini mudroom in the area near the door. Put down a doormat to trap oil and dirt before people step foot in your house; provide a boot tray or shelving for shoes, and a few hooks or a standing closet for coats.
Day 7 and beyond: Keep up the good work!
- Stop thinking of your garage as a dumping ground for things you don’t know what to do with, and start thinking of it as the useful, accessible storage area that it is.
- When you put something new into storage, be sure it is in a secure, labeled container, and mark it down on your storage plan.
- Wipe up oil spots as soon as you notice them and sprinkle on kitty litter to soak up the most of the stain before it sets.
- Keep a box in the garage to collect items that need to go to a special recycling or waste center (like motor oil and paint) and make a trip there whenever the box is full.
- Set a date for at least once or twice a year to give your garage a thorough cleaning.
What is the biggest cleaning or decluttering problem you face in your garage? Tell us in the comments below!