Time to Reclaim Your Garage

The one room in the house that is open for the whole neighborhood to see is often the most unsightly and neglected – the garage.  If you are lucky to have one – congratulations; real estate agents claim this is one of the most requested amenities by homebuyers. You can’t beat the convenience and security of having a place to protect one of your largest investments – your vehicle.  However, many people can’t use the garage for its intended purpose because it has become a dumping ground for cast-offs.  But there’s hope.  You can use your garage to store your vehicle as well as your sporting equipment, garden supplies and outdoor toys, and you don’t have to be a carpenter or possess any special skills to do so.  All it takes is some weeding out and a simple system that gets your items off the floor and onto the wall. 

This is the perfect time of year to tackle this project. One of the main reasons why people procrastinate when it comes to organizing the garage is that they don’t know where to begin, so here are some steps to making your dream garage a reality.

 Set a date

Give yourself a deadline (like a neighborhood garage sale) as an incentive to get the job done.  Then determine how far in advance of that deadline you would like to begin and write the date on your calendar. 

Assemble your supplies

Gather all your supplies ahead of time.  You’ll need cardboard boxes, heavy-duty trash bags, garbage can, work gloves and, if necessary, a dumpster (which you can rent).

Bring in reinforcements

Depending on the size of your project, it may be necessary to bring in some support. Who can you enlist for help?  Consider calling in family members, a paid helper or a professional organizer. 

Divide and conquer

Divide the project into small steps so you can stay on task without becoming overwhelmed.  Following a written plan of action will keep you focused. Begin in the area that will give you the fastest visible results; immediate gratification is a great motivator.

 Set up the sorting area.

As you empty out the garage, you will need a place to sort items in categories, like the driveway or the front lawn.  This will free up some space to move around inside the garage.  It’s a good idea to have a large tarp close by in case of unexpected rain.  Some zones to create are: ‘donate’, ‘sell’, ‘recycle’, ‘toss’ (dumpster) and ‘keep’.  The ‘keep’ area will be subdivided into categories like: sporting gear, toys, gardening supplies, etc.  Use labeled boxes to sort into categories.

Weed out the excess

When we don’t know where to store an item in our home or we can’t decide whether we should keep it just in case, it usually ends up in the garage.  As a result, there will be many items that can be eliminated with little thought. I call this the ‘no-brainers’; discard these first.  Place them in the donate zone if they can be reused, in toss area if they are obviously garbage, and in the recycle area if they fall into this category.  As you put items in the keep area, begin to group similar items together. 

No time for visits down memory lane.

If you happen to come across any boxes of old mementos that will be time consuming to go through, and perhaps difficult to make decisions on, it’s best to put them aside to deal with later so you don’t get bogged down.

Making the tough decisions

Only you can decide what to keep and what to toss.  However, if you want to reclaim some space in your garage, you will have to be ruthless.  If you find yourself using excuses like: “I might need it someday” or “I paid a lot of money for it”, you may need someone to encourage you to just let go.  If you haven’t used it in years (or ever), can you really justify having it occupy valuable space?  Remember, you could always borrow or rent tools if you need them.

Finding homes for your stuff

Now that you have edited down to the essentials, it’s time to put everything back in the garage.  Store like things together; this will be easy because you’ve already sorted them in categories. 

Go vertical or go home

In order to clear as much floor space as possible so you can park your cars, maximize the vertical space. There are several methods for storing your items on the walls. A no-cost solution is to nail slats of scrap wood horizontally between the studs of an unfinished garage and store long-handled tools behind them and/or place nails on the wall to hang other supplies. For a more aesthetically pleasing look, consider one of the many wall organizing systems on the market. There are a variety of accessories and shelves that snap into place and can hang anywhere on the wall panels. They can be moved around without the use of tools, which means you can rearrange your items with the seasons; in the summer, store the bikes near the exit and in the winter, move the snow shovels to that prime spot. Regardless of which solution you choose, the most important step is to begin. Before you know it, your garage will be transformed from a source of embarrassment to a place of pride.

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  • Kristen says:

    We have a two-car garage, but for the first couple of years after we moved in, we could only fit one car in it because part of the garage was filled with half-empty moving boxes and yard tools. My husband’s car got the garage because it’s the more expensive model.

    One of the best gifts my husband ever gave me was clearing out the clutter and organizing the tools onto a rack so I could fit my car in the garage. He went vertical by getting a tall, steel shelving unit.

    I was away for two days to attend a conference, and when I got home there was a big red bow on the garage door! Excellent. And once it was organized, keeping it that way has been easy.