There's no better time of year than summer to tackle the least favorite job on everyone’s home maintenance list: organizing your cluttered garage. Hey, it might not be the most fun task, but you’ll feel so much better after it’s done. And think of all that room you’ll have—and all the time you’ll save, not looking for things you lost in your last move.
If your garage is cluttered up with unknown heaps of stuff, you’re not alone. Most Americans don’t even park their cars in their garages, because there’s no room! But it doesn’t have to stay that way, and you can make the organizing a lot less overwhelming by following these ten simple tips.
- Set aside enough time. A thorough garage organizing party is not something that happens in an afternoon. Depending on the size of your garage, the amount of stuff that needs to be organized, and the number of people you can recruit to help out, it can take a full day to a whole weekend—or more. Get an early start so when evening comes you can all enjoy dinner together and take a much needed rest.
- Make it a family affair. No able-bodied family member is off the hook! Mom and Dad, clear your appointment books, leave the errands til next week, and implement a no-TV, Internet, or video games rule for the day. The kids can definitely help, too. If you’re old enough to dress yourself, you can clean!
- Go through every single item and sort. We do mean every single item. Don’t just move boxes of stuff around. For one thing, you might be storing a lot of things you don’t need or want anymore, which is a waste of space. Equally as important, when you go through forgotten boxes that have been sitting around for months or years, you’re bound to rediscover old, sentimental treasures or valuable items that can be sold. Sort your items into three piles: one to keep, one to sell or donate, and one to toss.
- Get rid of things you haven’t used in a year or more. Unless you have a true sentimental attachment to an item, you don’t need to keep something that you’ve gone through four seasons without using. Especially if you haven’t missed it in that time. If you have missed it, but just didn’t know where it was, keep it and store it in a more easily accessible place from now on. If the item does have sentimental value to you, move it inside where you can use or look at it often. Otherwise, sort it into the sell/donate or toss pile.
- Categorize what you’ll keep. Of the things that are going to remain in the garage, which items belong together? Sort things into categories like: gardening supplies, sports equipment, tools and hardware, home repair materials, car maintenance, etc.
- Move temperature sensitive items elsewhere. Unless your garage is climate controlled, you’ll want to move things like cans of paint, tubes of caulk, musical instruments, and anything made with wax to another location in your home. Other things you should move include propane tanks (always store outdoors), as well as paper products, pet food, or anything else that could attract pests.
- Plan how you’ll use the garage space. Get a piece of graph paper and a ruler and figure out a design that will accommodate your car(s) as well as lawn care equipment, bicycles, shelving, and other storage solutions. Try several different layouts in your draft, striving for a design that gives you the best space economy.
- Sort tiny items into clear jars. Nails, screws, keys, and other odds and ends should be sorted into clear glass or plastic containers with lids, and then placed on shelves at eye level for easy access. Or you can hang the jars by screwing the lids to the bottom of a shelf or a piece of 2x4 mounted to the wall.
- Buy clear plastic bins. No matter how well you organize the garage, you are going to forget where you put everything. The best way to avoid the headache of not being able to find the thing you’re looking for is to make everything as viewable as possible. To do this, store medium and larger sized items in plastic storage bins, and don’t be afraid to label everything with Sharpie. Also, firmly instill this rule in your household: when you take an item out of storage, put it back in the exact same place when you are done!
- Use vertical storage. There are a lot of ways to go about utilizing the vertical space in your garage for storage. One is by hanging long, flat items like scrap lumber and skis from the ceiling. If your garage has rafters, use those. If not, rig up a system of beams or loosely hanging trapezes to store your stuff. For the vertical wall space, you’ll want some kind of shelving system. Open shelves are generally more efficient than cabinets because it is easier to see into them, and they don’t require extra space for the opening and closing of doors. Finally, do yourself a favor and buy a nice, large piece of pegboard and some metal pegs and racks to store your hand and power tools, gardening implements, and more.