As a Professional Organizer I have organized a few garages in my day. Some were in newer homes with nice walls and some in old homes in rural areas where they have a separate wooden structure. Spring and Fall are great times to get your garage cleaned out primarily because you can take everything out, sweep it and put what you want back in. Secondly you have a change of season where you might need new things brought to the front, others can be tucked away.
I think there are some common problems with garages that people share no matter where they live.
- A garage is not just for keeping cars – many people use their garage to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, extra raw materials (like pieces of wood…)wood for fireplaces, tools – all kinds of bulky equipment.
- The garage is an entrance way into the house for a lot of families – so you might keep shoes, recycles, and trash there. This might be your motivation for trying to keep it organized, because you walk through it all the time and don’t want to look at a mess!
- A garage is usually one big room which makes it hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things. You have to create a system from scratch.
So if you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, you can follow my CPR process that I discuss in my book ABSOLUTELY ORGANIZED. It works for any room.
- You’ve got to plan the time to do it and solicit some help either from your family or a friend. It’s not a one person job and it’s going to take anywhere from 3 – 6 hours the first time you do it. To make it fun, put on some music, give the kids a reward afterwards or promise your friend a meal that evening. As I always say, if you don’t plan it – it’s not going to happen.
- CATEGORIZE – Take everything out of the garage and put it in piles in your driveway or on your lawn. Categories can be: sports equipment, lawn & garden, tools, bikes… And if one of those categories is really big: break it down further.
- PURGE – As you pull things out start to purge whatever is broken or disgusting, or anything you don’t use anymore. For items you want to give away, I suggest you look online for places to donate, or give to a friend or just put at the end of your driveway and let people take it. For chemicals or gasoline call your township and find out about hazardous waste collections.
- RE-arrange -Now that you have piles of everything you’re keeping, start to think about what you use most often and make it accessible. For the kids’ toys and sports equipment, use colorful plastic tubs on the floor. For lawn chemicals, put them in plastic bins up on a shelf. Keep things in their categories and create zones. Even if you don’t have the right containers or shelves right now, put things back in temporary containers where you want them by the end of your organizing session.
Now you can go shopping for what you need like industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a complete makeover, but you want to make sure it’s organized first, so you can measure the space for exactly what you need. Rubbermaid has an inexpensive Track system if you want to do it yourself or you can go high-end to places like GarageTek. I’ve even seen people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage. Whatever works!
To keep your garage organized, you have to straighten on a weekly basis. I suggest you teach your kids where things go and ask them to put things back to normal on Sunday. Then get the whole family in the habit of cleaning it out on a seasonal basis. Our family has a pool so we do a Saturday clean out once in the late Spring to get the pool/beach stuff out and then once in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out. Because we do this twice a year I am proud to say we do it now in LESS THAN 2 HOURS – so it’s not an all day hassle anymore.