Garages are clutter magnets. They end up being a catch-all for stuff we don’t know what to do with. In central Illinois, we go from hot and humid fall days to a sudden frost – and then we are in a hurry to cram the furniture cushions, half dead potted plants etc. into the garage. Throughout the winter, it is too cold to put things away properly and in the summer we are too busy enjoying the nice weather, so we stuff our things wherever.
Every spring and fall, we do an afternoon garage clean-out session at my house. I wanted to share my tips with you.
Take inventory of what is in your garage.
Decide what should NOT be in your garage.
Determine if there is anything not currently in your garage that should live in the garage during the off-season (i.e. patio furniture/cushions).
Set aside some time to work on cleaning out the garage, well at least a few hours (depending on the amount of stuff in your garage, maybe an entire weekend!).
My best “clean-out” method is to start taking it all out of the garage! Be careful, your neighbors might think you are having a garage sale. Start putting “like” items together (i.e. all the kid toys, car cleaning stuff, pool toys) into various piles. As you are pulling out stuff, note what might be broken, what you don’t use or what you are just not sure about (put all that stuff in their own piles).
If you have gone through everything in the garage and are ready to put it all back in, you will need to have a plan on where to put everything. You will want to put things where they are easy to get (i.e. if you need to take the trash cans to the curb each week, you will want to have the cans near the overhead door so you can get to them easily.
You should also group like items together in your garage.
Car Cleaning Supplies
Pool toys/Sand Toys
Cabinets and Shelves – One 48” wide cabinet can easily manage car washing items, gas & oil cans for outdoor power equipment, gardening and lawn care chemicals, paints and thinners as well as antifreeze, washer fluids and other automotive chemicals. You can use a second cabinet for power tools and tool boxes.
Wall Systems – Organization wall systems are great for storing bikes, golf clubs, leaf blowers, rakes, snow shovels. Getting items up off the floor can increase your space in the garage.
Discard, recycle or repair?
Broken items – evaluate whether or not you are actually going to fix these items. Everyone hates throwing away things we paid good money for – however we continue to take up real estate in our garage. If you don’t plan to fix the broken bike in your garage, you can donate it to Ace Bicycle Shop, 2500 S. MacArthur Blvd., Springfield, IL. Phone; 523-0188.
Odds & Ends – windows, doors, siding, roofing supplies leftover from other projects – donate it to the local Habitat for Humanity.
Unused Hazardous Household Waste – Properly disposing of hazardous waste in garages is a responsible and safe way to protect the environment. If they are not disposed of improperly, they can become dangerous to people and animals.
Paints (enamel, oil based or latex) – we all have good intentions of using up all the paint- if you can’t use it you can ask your neighbors, high school art department etc. if they can use it. Small amounts of paint can be opened up & dried (then throw away can). Larger amounts can be blended with cat litter, sawdust or paint hardener to help it dry faster (must be 100% dry before disposing of it in the trash). Antifreeze & Motor Oil can be recycled for free at Johnson & Johnson, 1325 Stevenson Drive, Springfield, IL; 529-9200 You can also take tires but there is a small fee. (around $3-5 per tire)
Automotive batteries & motor oil – Auto Zone, 3000 South Grand, Springfield, IL.
Fertilizers, fungicides & herbicides; insect killers – ask around and see if your neighbors/friends/relatives can use it.
Still too much stuff?
If you put it all back in and you still have too much stuff, you are going to need to re-evaluate your stuff or else it will be a mess again in a few short weeks and all your effort will have been wasted. Think about things that you may need to store in another location. For example, if you keep your Christmas decorations in the garage, ask yourself if there is a better place to store décor.
Sell or Donate
Some of the stuff you have may be in good shape, but you simply don’t use it anymore. If you have items taking up valuable space in your garage (i.e. cozy coupe, large battery operated Barbie Jeep) – sell them while they are still popular. Don’t set your monetary expectations too high because most things depreciate rapidly. The idea here is not to get rich, but to make a fast sale and free up space. Consider donating kid’s toys and bikes to homeless shelters. Find a friend who might want to have it for their child or give it away on www.freecycle.org.
As I mentioned before, this is a twice a year project for us. Regular maintenance helps prevent areas from getting totally out of hand. I want to remind everyone that if your garage is a full-blown mess – you can organize it in stages. Focus on one area at a time. If you do one area at a time, you are more likely to dispose of items properly rather than throwing a lot of harmful or recyclable items into a dumpster. Once you have completely cleaned out and re-organized your garage, then your family can schedule regular maintenance check-ups with your garage!
Submitted by Springfield Moms reader and professional organizer Amy Peterson who is mother of three and co-owner of The Closet Guy, Inc. with husband Brooke Peterson.
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