10 Simple Steps to Cleaning Out Your Garage

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Probably one of the most clutter-prone places in your home, the garage is your typical storage disaster. It has so much space that you just started throwing things in there, and now it looks like a tornado ran through it. Well, there's good news. We have a great system for organizing that space, and we've broken it up into 10 basic steps. Set aside your Saturday, people, because it's go time.

  1. Staging - As many seasoned organizers know, it's not about how much storage space you have. It's about how much NON-storage space you have. When cleaning out a space as large as your garage, you'll have to put together a staging area, where you can place items as you empty them from your garage. Ideally, that would be a flat space, something along the lines of a driveway or front lawn. If the weather isn't ideal for this, then any other large, flat surface will do, but you may want to check the weather forecast for cleaning day.
  2. Assistance - This would be a good time to bribe. Or beg. Either way, the garage is a big project, and the more people at home who help, the better. Also, it's more likely that the kids will avoid messing it up later if they realize how much work they put into fixing it themselves.
  3. Starting - Make it your mission to start first thing in the morning. Large projects like these often take longer than you think, so an early start is helpful. Also, it gives you a nice head start before the weather gets too hot.
  4. Working - Open your garage door and, starting in the corner nearest the driveway, work your way in toward the house. Handle every item as you see it; don't put anything aside and try to remember it later, because that's probably what got you into this mess in the first place. Strive to only keep items with real value, and place items for throwaway in a pile near the street. Bagging them as you go helps you to avoid second-guessing later.
  5. Grouping - Don't just throw things on a big "keep" pile, because then you'll just have to sort through them all a second time. As you're placing the "keep" items into your staging area (i.e. the driveway), group them as you go. Common categories include sports equipment, car care products, painting supplies, gardening tools, household supplies, camping gear, etc. The garage is your oyster.
  6. Storing - Once your garage is entirely empty of all things removable and grouped into categories on the staging area, you'll have a better idea of what kind of storage tools you need. There are freestanding shelves, built-in shelves, wall-mounted shelves, pegboards and closed cabinetry. Research each of these options online or in store to see which best fit your budget and storage needs. Wall-mounted shelving systems can be expensive, but they become a part of your home's value, should you ever sell it.
  7. Cleaning - Now that everything's organized and you have your storage units in place, everything needs to go into storage! First, get various-sized plastic bins with lids to contain smaller items that are grouped together. This keeps them from traveling all over the shelves. Clear tubs work best, because then you can easily find what you're looking for later. Label each container clearly with permanent marker or adhesive labels. Put items that you use more frequently on lower and mid-level shelves, with lesser-used items higher up. If you have closed cabinetry, then labeling the doors may help, as well.
  8. Safety - As with any project, safety is a priority. Store any toxic substances or hazardous chemicals out of the reach of small children, either by storing them on a higher shelf or in a locked cabinet. Teach your children how to identify and avoid dangerous materials, in addition to what they should do with them. For ease, put your large trash bins and recyclers near the home's entrance, so that children can throw things away more easily when necessary.
  9. Selling - For any items that you'd like to sell, either hold a garage sale or use free online classifieds, such as Craigslist. As you choose these items to sell, put them in boxes labeled "hold for sale" and place these in a clear spot in your nice, new, clean garage space until you can be rid of them.
  10. Tossing - Once all your keepers are stored away, it's time to tackle the throwaways. Take any usable items in good shape to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Join a local Freecycle.org group if you still need help giving items away. Anything leftover, including items that are broken, stained or useless, should be thrown away.

Cleaning out the garage can be a daunting task, but nothing says spring cleaning quite like the biggest storage room in your house. So put together the whole clan, and make a fun day out of organizing your things. Who knows? You may find some precious treasures along the way.

Last Updated: July 22, 2011
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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