Taking back and organizing your garage

Organized Garage

Would you like to use your garage for its intended purpose? If you open the garage door and see a wall of clutter, don’t despair. A little elbow grease and organization can free your car from its exile on the driveway.

We live in a world where more is – well, more. Our grandparents’ generation taught us to be thrifty and never to throw anything away, but many of us have taken this to an extreme. Our garages are the battlefield, and our vehicles the casualties… and the enemy is TOO MUCH STUFF.

Plan your garage liberation for the day after trash pickup, or the weekend before your local bulk trash day. Your supplies will need to include boxes of all shapes and sizes, a large number of trash bags, and your recycle bins. Place these at the front of the garage for easy access.

A Professional Organizer can be of great help, and is well worth the money when balanced off against the time wasted and favors owing at the end of an exhausting DIY weekend. If you can plan on hiring such a guide, he or she can help you save valuable time and energy by cutting down the time needed to complete the process. If you choose to forgo this option, you will be forced to recruit a small army from the ranks of friends, neighbors and family, and risk defeat at the hands of your self inflicted mess.

A well thought out plan of attack is vital for success. Create a timeline for your helpers and delegate tasks according to ability. Plan to spend at least two consecutive days for this project; you shouldn’t really leave items out on the drive for longer than this, and once you launch your effort you won’t want to let up until the field is won. Losing your momentum in mid-charge can force you into beating an ignominious retreat!

Start by leading a scouting party into the depths of your garage. There are many items that do not necessarily have to be stored in this area, but end up there by default. They may include:

Luggage (can be moved to an indoor closet or the attic)

Paints and lawn and garden equipment (an outdoor shed is actually a safer place for these items than your garage due to fumes and chemicals)

Other items you may find in your initial foray are tools, gardening supplies, bulk groceries and recycling paraphernalia. Bicycles, sports equipment and camping gear may also make the garage their home, along with Christmas decorations and automotive supplies. Decide which things can be relocated and which will need to be organized into a smaller section of your garage space.

Once you have made these determinations, Pull every thing out of your garage and begin a series of groups on your driveway. Use boxes to corral small items and make sorting easier.

Stop and consider carefully any item you plan to put in the keep pile. Question your motives. Are you keeping it because of guilt or a misplaced sense of responsibility? Is it useful to you? Does it hold good memories or bad? What would be the long term effects of discarding it? If you haven’t used the item in the last two years, you probably don’t need it at all. Remember that each item that goes back into the garage will take up space, and require energy to move if another reorganization becomes necessary.

Throw away any broken items. If you have two identical items, get rid of one. Recycle, donate or give away items that do not fit either the keep or trash categories. If you come across random items or spare parts you need to keep, sort them according to category and store them in the smallest possible container. Put loose objects in small boxes and label them; tape a list to the outside of each box to make them easy to locate if needed.

As the garage is cleared and you can actually see the floor again, start planning how to divide it in to useable zones. Zone locations will depend on frequency of use and the space available. Being able to park your vehicle is naturally your primary goal, and you can draw a chalk outline on the floor to denote the space needed to enter and exit your car comfortably. Make a list of what you need to store and you will get a pretty good idea of what specialized zones will be required.

Once your belongings have been culled and sorted, you can more readily determine where each category should live within these zones. If your laundry room is located in the garage you will need to ensure you have space to maneuver, and a spot for detergent and other supplies. A work bench space can prove invaluable for tool organization and small home projects. Stack boxes up off the ground on a pallet or other raised platform to guard against water damage in case of flooding.

Put frequently used things where they can be easily accessed when needed. Recycling bins should go by the inside door, gardening tools by the fertilizer, etc. Bulk goods can go on a large shelf near the home entrance and other commonly used items on eye level shelves around the perimeter.

Once you have defeated the foe of disorganization, you will need to be vigilant to prevent its return. A few hours of maintenance at the start of each season can work wonders, and forming the habit of putting everything back in its assigned spot after use will keep your garage spotless. Follow this strategy and restore your dispossessed car to its rightful kingdom!

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