Maybe you’ve been putting it off for months now, and often wonder why you even have a garage since your car can’t fit into it. You don’t even know what’s in half of those boxes, and some of them quite possibly haven’t been opened since the last time you moved. Sound familiar? If so, then maybe it’s time to clean out that clutter. Below are some simple tips to take back your garage.
- Make a list. Seriously, it helps. Instead of one daunting project, break it into smaller, more manageable tasks, like “organize holiday decorations” or “sort out camping gear.” If your mess has gone beyond the level of locating items that go together, break the job into sections another way, like two-hour blocks or even four-foot-square areas. Then go down your list and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing off items.
- Make piles. Set up four basic categories: Keep, Donate, Throw Away, and Undecided. Do you have items that would work just fine, but only need a little fixing/mending/tinkering? Put those in Undecided while you think long and hard about how soon you’re going to get to fixing them up. If you’ve gotten along without it for more than six months, throw it away. If that offends your sensibilities, fix it now, this week, and then sell or donate it.
- Clean. Before you start stacking things back inside, give your garage a thorough cleaning. Sweep, clear away cobwebs, wash blinds or windows, and maybe even paint. Own your space again: the neater it looks to you, the more likely you will be to keep it that way. Consider installing shelving to make it that much easier to locate your stuff when you need it. Not only is it more convenient, it’s safer. If everything is off the floor, you don’t have to worry about damage from flooding, and you avoid the potential fire hazard of cardboard boxes piled up against walls.
- Containerize. Your local home improvement store sells sturdy containers in many sizes and shapes. You can even color coordinate them: orange for Halloween decorations, green for outdoor gear, red for old tax documents. Label your containers. Resist the urge to toss everything that doesn’t fit neatly into a category into a miscellaneous box. Try to give each item a specified, logical home.
- Outsource. If you have space-hogging items that you use less than twice a year but can’t bear to part with (your grandmother’s extensive collection of sock puppets, your double kayak, those eighteen boxes of sci-fi books that your kid swears he will want when he gets back from the Peace Corps), rent a storage unit. These can be very affordable, and some companies will even collect your items in a neat container so you don’t have to haul them yourself.
- Offload. By this step, you’ve probably got everything you want to keep under control, but you still have a mountain of stuff left. Anything that is usable (meaning anything you might remotely consider buying at a yard sale) can be sold. Get together with your neighbors for a block sale, or check your community’s website to see if there is a citywide yard sale coming up. If you have potentially valuable collectibles, put them up on eBay or Craigslist. Whatever is left over, take it to your local Goodwill, or give it away through Freecycle.com. Got old towels and blankets not fit for humans? Give them to an animal shelter or pet rescue in your area. These organizations always need them for bedding.
- Say goodbye. What’s left should go to the local landfill or recycling center. Call your sanitation and recycling department to find out where you can drop off old paint or chemicals for safe disposal. While you’re at it, ask about your other throw-away items: some communities offer households an annual “big pick-up” and you can just put your stuff, neatly, out on the curb with your regular trash. Otherwise, there are usually small hauling and salvage operations (often one guy and a flatbed truck) that will take it away for a small fee. Check your phone book for ads and consider it an investment in the local economy.
After it’s all said and done, relax! Maybe even begin storing your car back into that neatly organized garage, and give yourself a workbench or other area set aside just for those rainy days.