There’s perhaps no organizing task more daunting than the garage—it’s often the dumping ground for the stuff that has no other place in the house, or the things you don’t use but just can’t bring yourself to toss.
How do you know you’ve got a problem? Maybe you’ve noticed it’s getting harder and harder just to park the car. Or it takes you an hour to find that box with the Halloween decorations. Or, worse, you spend an hour out there and can’t find the Halloween decorations at all.
The solution is not to try and forget about it, because that’s what got you into this mess (literally) in the first place! Instead, follow these tips to transform your garage from a place full of random pieces into a place of peace.
Start with a plan. No, you don’t have to know what you’re going to do with everything in your garage just yet. But before you start tearing everything apart, it’s a good idea to make sure there’s a method to the madness. Organizing professionals recommend creating categories to group your things—common ones include sports gear, tools, garden equipment, automotive items, seasonal decorations, etc. Then, when you start looking through all that stuff, put each thing in the right “zone” (even if it’s just a pile at this point). And don’t forget to create temporary zones for donations and stuff to throw away. If this is a big organizing project, you’re probably going to have a lot of each.
Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. Feeling overwhelmed already? There are boxes everywhere. Nothing is labeled. You don’t even know where to begin, because you’re thinking about the entire garage. Stop. Take a breath. You don’t have to tackle this in a day, a week, or even a month—unless you want to, of course.
If it all seems like too much, pick just one box. Go through it, decide what you want to keep and what you can throw away or donate. Put each item in the right zone, because that’s going to help with the next box. (And when do you do that next box? Whenever you want. Take the whole weekend, or take the next few months. Just keep making progress, bit by bit.)
You do need to go through everything, though. It’s tempting to skip certain boxes or areas, especially if you think you know what’s there. But let’s be honest: You probably don’t actually know. (If you did, you wouldn’t have spent that hour looking for the Halloween decorations, right?) Every item needs to be evaluated and then placed along with the other items in that category or zone. Don’t worry—you still don’t have to know where you’re putting everything for good.
Now that you’ve got your items grouped as best as possible, it’s time to start thinking about permanent homes for them. Items that you use frequently should be easy to get to—for example, make sure you can get the lawnmower out without moving the car, and that you don’t have to move five other things to get to your hammer or drill. Things like seasonal décor, rarely used household items, that vase from your mother you only put out when she visits? Those can be a little more tucked away. Just make sure to label everything you keep in boxes or bins (and make sure you can see the labels when they’re put away). This is when you’ll want to consider your storage options, too. Stacking boxes or bins on the floor is not a good solution. (Inevitably, you’re going to want something in the box on the bottom, which means moving all the other boxes. Big towers of bins can fall, too, which isn’t great if you or your car are in the way.) You can buy freestanding shelves, attach shelves to the walls, put up pegboard with hooks, even install racks that hang from the ceiling. If you like, create a diagram of your garage and figure out what would work best where.
When everything is done, you aren’t quite done. If you don’t stay on top of things in the future, you might find yourself facing the same old situation down the road. So be vigilant. Any time you put something new in the garage, make sure it goes to the right place. When you use something, put it back in the right place. (It wouldn’t hurt to do a little cleaning out there once in a while, too—and while you’re at it, double-check to make sure that yes, everything is in the right place.)
You probably feel pretty good after all that work, and you should. Enjoy your new space—and all the new free time you’ll have because you aren’t spending hours searching for things in the garage!