How to organize your garage

Garage clutter may be costing you more than you think, McElroy says. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Ariel D. of Fayetteville, NY)

Garage clutter may be costing you more than you think, McElroy says. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Ariel D. of Fayetteville, NY)

Garage (ga raj’) noun – a closed shelter for a motor vehicle or vehicles.

What a novel idea! If your car hasn’t seen the inside of your garage in years, maybe it’s because it’s functioning as a mini storage, or worse yet, a landfill. It’s so easy to hang onto the broken-down bicycle, those boxes of dishes or almost-empty cans of paint.

Garage clutter may be costing you more than you think: wear and tear on your vehicles, limited storage space for what you really need and time wasted looking for things you know you have, but can’t find. If you’re ready to reclaim your garage by making it useful and efficient, read on.

Prepare – What took years to accumulate won’t be conquered in an hour or two. Set aside a couple days and recruit family or friends to make the project more enjoyable. Secure a supply of trash bags and boxes for garbage, recyclables, items to relocate, hazardous waste, yard sale items, donations, and of course, things to keep. Section off your driveway in the above categories using sidewalk chalk or duct tape. Break down the “things to keep” section into sub-categories of yard care, sports, pet supplies, plumbing, hand tools, seasonal, paint supplies, etc.

Attack – Pull everything out of the garage – yes, everything! Place the items in the appropriate section or box on the driveway. If you’re stuck on what to keep or toss, ask yourself these questions:
• Have I used this in the past year?
• If it’s broken, is it worth fixing and will I really fix it?
• Does it serve a worthwhile purpose?
• Is it more important to me to keep this item or have the space it occupies?
• If it has sentimental value, is it something I can take a picture of to remember it by, or keep a portion of, rather than keeping the whole thing?
• Would it be difficult or expensive to replace?
Now that everything is out and categorized, give the garage a good cleaning.

Assign a home – Create zones for each category in your “things to keep” section. Store what is used most often in the prime easy-to-reach areas and consider these storage ideas:
• Line walls with floor to ceiling metal utility shelves deep enough for large bins of seasonal items/decorations, sports equipment, power tools, etc.
• Use recycled cabinets from your remodeled kitchen or check with a cabinetmaker or home improvement center to see if they have cabinets that were returned because of incorrect size or finish.
• Use vinyl-coated hooks to hang bicycles, lawn chairs, sports bags, ladders, spreaders, electric trimmers, extension cords, etc.
• Store bats and large balls in a clean garbage can.
• Store small balls in an open bin or bucket.
• Designate an area for kids to park their bikes using paint or tape on the garage floor.
• If you’re storing paint for touch-ups, pour a small amount in a labeled jar and discard the rest.
• Mount long-handled tool holders to the wall for brooms and garden tools, or flip the tools upside down and create your own hangers using two nails spaced appropriately for each item.
• Use a peg-board to organize hand tools on the wall; outline each tool so everyone can easily find its place of belonging.
• Label everything and store boxes and bins with labels facing out.

Complete the job:
• Bag up the trash and discard immediately.
• Place the donation and recycling bags into your trunk and drive them to their destinations.
• Schedule a yard sale day within the month and schedule a donation pick-up for leftovers.
• Give your adult children a deadline for picking up their things and donate any unclaimed items.
• Check with your local disposal provider about proper disposal of paints and other hazardous wastes.
• Drive in, and enjoy!

About this Angie’s List Expert: Brenda McElroy is a professional organizer and owner of Organized By Choice, which she founded in 2006. Based in Fresno, Calif., she creates peaceful and productive environments for those frustrated with clutter and disorganization. She has been featured in the Fresno Magazine and on KSEE 24's Central Valley Today Show. 

As of May 10, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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