A recent UCLA study found that only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff. This is because the garage tends to become a dumping ground for all the things we’re not quite sure what to do with: boxes of old records (both vinyl and paper); infomercial impulse-inspired exercise equipment; small appliances that have outlived their usefulness yet are somehow “too good to get rid of”; and the inevitable unopened cartons of belongings from the last move.
Then there are all those items that actually belong in the garage — if you can find them: tools, gardening supplies, bicycles, camping gear and sporting goods…and possibly even a car.
If your garage is overdue for an overhaul, here’s a step-by-step plan to help you get the job done.
1. Focus. Think about how you currently use your garage versus how you’d prefer to be using it. For example, maybe you currently use it for “storage” (a euphemism for “dump”) but you’d like to be able to do woodworking or crafts projects there — or perhaps even park a vehicle inside. Decide how you want to use the space, and then sketch out a rough plan.
2. Inventory. Make a list of the general categories of stuff currently cluttering your garage. Then go back through the list and put a check-mark by the categories you plan on keeping in your newly organized space, and a big X next to the ones you plan to eliminate. Keep in mind that “Miscellaneous” is not an effective category. If you can’t pinpoint an item’s purpose or place, get rid of it.
3. Deadline. Set a deadline for getting the job done and then block out time in your calendar for your garage project. Tip: If you tie your deadline to an event such as a neighborhood yard sale, you’ll have a better shot at achieving your goal.
4. Prepare. Assemble any supplies you might need to make the decluttering go smoothly, such as protective gloves, storage containers, boxes, marking pens, labels, trash bins and, if necessary, a Dumpster. (A bulldozer is optional.) If you think you might need any specialized garage organizers, it’s wise to do some research beforehand.
5. Dig In. Allocate two holding areas (outside the garage, if necessary) designated for “keep” and “don’t keep” items. (Suggestion: The area allocated for “don’t keep” should be at least twice as large as the “keep” area.) Your objective is to fill up the “don’t-keep” section. You may want to divide up this section with three or more containers labeled “trash,” “donate,” “sell,” or any other relevant subcategories. But keep it as simple as possible — creating too many options is counterproductive.
Finally, remember this classic decluttering rule: Keep the best and let go of the rest.