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How to Clean and Organize Your Garage

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Now that the warmer months have arrived, you might be looking at your garage and realizing it was a dumping ground over the winter. Maybe you’ve been parking in the driveway because the garage has too much stuff. It’s time to clean and organize that garage!

It doesn’t have to be like that. You can have a clean garage. 

a clean garage with shelves behind text that says how to clean and organize your garage

What are the benefits of cleaning and organizing your garage? 

Safety. You are less likely to have an accident in a tidy garage. You don’t have to move around boxes and risk slips or falls, not to mention the problems that can arise from hazardous chemical spills.

Less anxiety. Like inside your home, knowing where to find what you need is less stressful. It’s not demanding your care and attention.

More Functional Space.  Setting up a workspace is easier when the entire garage isn’t a big mess. If you like carpentry, you can design your garage with space to set up your saws. Ugh, nothing stops me from doing some work than a mess!!

Improved organization. In a well-organized garage, you know what you have and where to find it. It’s easier to find a designated home for anything new. It’s also easier for your family if they know to put the basketball in the wire bin and the pop cans go in the round recycling bin, not the garbage or on the counter.

Save money. You won’t buy duplicate items if you know what you have and where to find it. You also aren’t risking things being damaged in a crowded space and reduce the need to buy replacements.

Short-term storage is easy in an emergency. No one wants to empty a room due to a leaky roof, but it happens. Having that garage space available at an already stressful time is nice. 

black SUV in clean and organized garage

Identify how you want to use your garage.

The first thing you want to do is identify what you need from your garage. Walk around your garage and really see what you have—possessions, storage space, garbage, recycling, and miscellaneous items. (Did you know you still had your friend’s cooler?)  Don’t worry about moving things. Just look at what is here.

What do you need from this space?

Do you need to park one vehicle, a couple of bicycles, a lawnmower, or two vehicles and gardening gear? 

Is your garage a workspace? You can tailor your garage to that purpose.

It’s a good idea to set some expectations about how much work this is going to be, how much help you’ll need, and when you will make the time to do the work. If you have an entire weekend, awesome. You likely don’t have that big free window, but you can still decide how to tackle it. You don’t need a lot of time to start.

Remove All Trash and Recycling.

Start with the trash bags! This is a non-emotional task. If you know you have much to discard ahead of time, consider renting a dumpster that can be hauled away at the end of the day. This is helpful for broken furniture that can’t be donated.

Be honest about whether you will/can repair anything that is broken or doesn’t work. If you are going to repair it, make a plan or set aside time in the future to do so. If it’s beyond repair, throw it out. 

Check the expiry dates for all cleaning supplies, herbicides/pesticides, paint, solvents and other chemicals.  Do not put them in your regular garbage or down the drain. Your city or town likely has a hazardous materials drop-off site for proper disposal. Batteries and used oil can also go to these drop-off sites.

If you can haul away the recycling, this will free up the floor space. 

an old garage with old tools and a dirty car

Things to Donate (or Sell).

  • Bicycles and sports equipment your family has outgrown or no longer uses. (You can not donate helmets.)
  • Holiday decorations that you don’t use anymore.
  • You store old furniture in the garage because you aren’t using it.
  • Anything leftover from your last garage sale that didn’t sell. 
  • Garden tools, lawn care tools or other power tools you/your family members do not use.
  • Duplicates or similar items that are more than you need. (I’m not sure how I ended up with three-yard rakes, but maybe cleaning out my parent’s house, but that’s too much.)

Do you see a theme here? Unwanted items should go. 

If you want a garage or yard sale, pick a date within the next 30 days.

Clean the Space.

You’ll have to figure out where in your process this fits. If you are working on one section or zone of the garage at a time, clean it as you go. Gloves and dust masks might be helpful in a messy garage. 

Sweep the garage floor. (A leaf blower is a great way to clean the floor.) Always open the doors first and sweep toward the doors. It will stir up the dust. This is also a good reason to organize off the garage floor as much as possible. (Like the kitchen, the garage will look much better swept!)

If you find oil or wet spills, cover them with kitty litter, sawdust, or newspaper to absorb the wet and sweep up once the spill has been absorbed. (Specific chemicals are available for removing oil stains from concrete floors.) Alternately, you can hose out and then squeegee the garage floor if you want to get it clean but aren’t concerned about stains. 

If you find mold, wash it away with a brush or microfiber cloth and a diluted mixture of bleach or vinegar with water. (Appropriate ventilation is essential!)

This is a good time to clean the sides of your garage door. It’s an easy spot for spiderwebs and leaves to catch. Give it a quick sweep with a broom or soft brush. If your door hinges are squeaky, spray lubricant on them. 

Take the time to clean any windows and your lights. Whether it’s your garage door opener or bare bulbs, clear off the spiderwebs and dust. It will improve the lighting.

Organize.

Don’t worry about your garage organizational system until you’ve decluttered and cleaned and know what you have.

Prioritize easy access to your most frequently used items. You may need to rotate seasonal items to keep them in easy reach. Plant fertilizer needs a low shelf in the spring and summer, but that spot might be more beneficial for ice melt or sidewalk sand in the winter.

Use the vertical space on your garage walls.  Pegboards are an easy way to keep hand tools readily available while hooks can keep brooms, shovels and electrical cords organized.  Use shelving for bins rather than stacking bins to keep everything easily accessible. 

Consider a cart with wheels for more oversized items you may not want to lift onto a shelf. Not only does it make it easier to move to clean around, but it’s also the easiest way to move it to where you need it. Think of the jumbo bag of potting soil or dog food your kids can’t lift.

Open the plastic bins and boxes as you go through the garage. You may think you know what is in that bin, but it is important to look through it to make sure it is not damaged by heat/cold, humidity, or pests. (I can’t be the only one who has opened a box and found something else inside I thought was long gone.)

Plastic storage bins are better than cardboard boxes. They will withstand heat and humidity and keep the dust off your belongings.

Group items by category to make it easy to find what you need. If you have a locking cabinet, this is the best way to store chemicals, as they can be a safety hazard with small kids. Keeping all kids’ toys, especially smaller items, makes it simpler for them to find and put away.

ropes, and brooms in a dark garage

Cleaning and Organizing Your Garage Makes Life Easier.

Your garage can be a clutter-free space. Follow the same rules as you do inside your home—declutter/remove, clean, and organize. This is hard work, but once you eliminate the unused items and implement some simple garage organization ideas, maintenance won’t take much time. This is one of those things your future self will thank you for.

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