HOW TO CLEAN OUT AND ORGANIZE YOUR GARAGE
Question: What do a hacksaw, an ice chest, a box of wedding keepsakes, a velvet armchair, and a basketball all have in common?
Answer: They’re items often found in a garage.
Question: And what’s often not found in a garage?
Answer: Your car.
If you’re parking your car in your driveway or out on the street because it won’t fit in the garage, you’re not alone.
Lots of people use their garage as a place where they can store any and everything that doesn’t have a place inside the house. Old appliances. Sports gear. Even precious keepsakes, like boxes of old photos. Or metal cabinets full of important files.
Before long, your garage can become so full of stuff that you can’t walk through it without knocking over a wall of boxes or banging a knee on an old coffee table. And good luck finding that hammer or screwdriver under the Christmas lights you tossed on top of your toolbox because, you know, you were waiting for the weather to “warm up” before packing them away.
If this sounds like your garage, then it’s time to—gulp—declutter it. Sorting through the junk in your garage doesn’t have to be overwhelming, however, if you follow a few simple how-tos:
Choose a sunny day. Dress in clothes you can get grubby, and slip on work gloves, if you like. Then gather items you’ll need:
- heavy-duty trash bags
- a broom and dustpan
- a push broom for sweeping up big piles
- a good vacuum, like a shop vac
- baskets or boxes for sorting little stuff (laundry baskets work great)
ORGANIZE CLUTTER INTO 4 TYPES
Divide your driveway or yard into 4 zones and sort items into those zones:
- ITEMS TO KEEP Deciding what to keep can be hard, but ask yourself if you really use or need an item. If it’s a keepsake, like old letters or an antique, or if it’s fragile, like a vase, consider moving it into the house for storage away from temperature changes, flooding or leaks, and vermin.
- ITEMS TO THROW AWAY Toss duplicates, broken items, expired items, ruined or mildewed items, etc. Be aware of any hazardous materials, however. Things like batteries, paint, pesticides, and pool chemicals can’t go in your trash bins. For a full list of hazardous materials and how to dispose of them, go to EPA.gov. For the city of San Antonio, go to www.sa.gov or check your local government’s waste collection site.
- ITEMS TO SELL OR DONATE If you have items that are in good shape to donate, like clothes or toys, check Yelp for a list of donation sites in the San Antonio area.
- ITEMS TO RECYCLE Boxes of magazines, old documents, newspapers, e-waste, cans, bottles, and other items can be recycled. To find out what—and how—to recycle, go to sarecycles.org.
CLEAN YOUR GARAGE
Once it’s empty, give your garage a basic cleaning. Take a broom or shop vac to those cobwebs in corners. Sweep up trash, nails, screws, glass, and other debris. Clean up stains like motor oil or paint.
CREATE AN ORGANIZATION SYSTEM
Once you’ve sorted out the clutter, you want to group the items you’re keeping into categories, such as
- sports equipment
- car supplies
- garden items
- cleaning supplies
CHOOSE THE BEST STORAGE OPTIONS
Think about what you need to store, and then choose the best ways to store those items. If you have lots of loose tools, for example, investing in a tool chest, cabinet, or mobile workbench might work for you. Or organize them on a pegboard. Have tons of Christmas decorations? Consider large plastic totes. Hang brooms, dustpans, and mops on the wall so they’re within easy reach. Corral balls in a wire cage.
Whatever storage solutions you choose, consider
- VERTICAL STORAGE Going up can maximize garage storage space. For example, hang bicycles or ladders from the ceiling or on the wall.
- ADJUSTABLE SHELVING Shelves that you can raise or lower can accommodate items of different sizes or shapes. You can slide a shop vac under a shelf that holds bottles of windshield wiper fluid, for example.
- LOCKED CABINETS Be sure you keep items like toxic chemicals or sharp tools away from children by locking them in storage cabinets.
Cleaning out a garage is a huge task, plain and simple. You’re going to get dirty; you’re probably going to get pretty sweaty. And at the end of the day—or days—you may be sore. Really sore.