When you ask where a certain item is and your spouse says, “It’s in the garage.”
Does fear grip you?
Has your garage turned into a jumble of boxes, tools, lawn equipment, toys, miscellaneous items, and who knows what else?
Is your car (usually your second most valuable possession) always parked in your driveway because there is no way it could ever fit in the garage?
I constantly get asked for tips about organizing a garage. It can be a daunting task to many people. When planning what you want the garage to look like, keep in mind that this one place has to handle the storage needs of the entire family. What usually ends up in the garage is all the stuff that we don’t know what to do with from the rest of the house and all the items we might need “just in case!”
You have to be realistic about this space. When was the last time you used the golf clubs or the bowling ball? When was the last time you went camping with all the gear stowed in the back of the garage? Do you really need three lawnmowers (two broken ones that you are saving for “parts”)? Are those 33 flower pots ever going to experience holding a plant?
Stand in the doorway of your garage, close your eyes and visualize what you want it to look like. When you get that clear vision of what you’d like to see when your garage door opens, make a list of what you need to do. Do you know why you’ve been procrastinating with this project? Is it because you feel overwhelmed, frustrated and don’t know where to start? Is the quantity of “stuff” making you feel like this project would never end? Take your time and break the project down into small “bites” that will be easily manageable. Take one step at a time.
When you start your garage plan, analyze what you need to do:
• Have you been using your garage for storage or for your vehicles? Do you want to change it?
• Do you have a workbench or do you need to create one so you can safely and easily store your tools and find them when you need them?
• How much sporting equipment do you actually use – golf clubs, bikes, scooters, balls of all sizes and shapes, skateboards, canoes, etc.?
• Do you already have things hanging on the walls or is that space you haven’t taken advantage of yet?
• Are you storing large items such as an additional refrigerator or freezer, or old furniture that takes up a lot of space?
• Do you have any type of problem with water getting into your garage when it rains?
How you answer these questions plays a big part in determining your plan and making sure what you visualize occurs. There are many ideas to consider when reorganizing your garage, so put plenty of time and effort into this part and you’ll save time later. Don’t start this important project without good preparation.
Don’t forget when setting aside spaces for what you’ll be storing, consider electrical outlets and where windows and doors are located. If you plan to set up a workbench to hold all your tools, where are the electrical outlets? Are they nearby or would you have to run wires across the garage floor to use your equipment? Is there a window close to where you’ll be working or is it blocked? Windows provide a good source of natural lighting during the day.
After carefully considering the uses of your garage, getting the whole family involved, and setting up your plan, what’s next? I recommend that you break the project down into manageable parts. This is a very basic rule that I tell people to follow whenever they are trying to tackle a large project. Many people decide they can do the entire job in two hours. However, after four hours of hard work, they lose their energy, get distracted and then don’t have the oomph required to finish what they’ve started. Please break the project down into small manageable pieces that will offer you quick successes. Always add more time than you think you’ll need because it invariably seems that something unexpected happens to offset your timetable.
You will see a big change when you start letting some of the stuff go. When you see space appear in your garage, you’ll have the feeling of success you can use to push you through the rest of the project.
Where is the best place to start when cleaning out the garage? Where to start is not as important as just making the decision to start. Pick up anything and begin to make decisions. Choose the starting point based on what looks the most doable and makes the most sense to you. Try and choose the place to begin that brings you instant gratification so you’ll feel successful and motivated to continue. If your workbench is a giant mess and the shelves holding the old paint cans really bother you, then start there and make an immediate difference.
Sorting is another part of the project you’ll have to deal with. Categorizing items does not come as easily to some people as it does to others. As you pick up items and start taking them out of the garage, set them in the driveway in certain areas you can designate by using signs, boxes, bags or chalk marks on the driveway. The easiest items to make decisions on should be those that can be tossed, recycled, sold or given away. Now is not when you’ll be spending time sorting small screws or fishing tackle. This is the “Big Sort.”
It is very hard to make decisions about what items you are going to keep if you don’t first know how many you have of something. You won’t know if you should get rid of some screwdrivers if you don’t know how many screwdrivers you have. When you pile all the tools together, you finally see that you have 25 screwdrivers (you bought a new one every time you couldn’t find one). Maybe ten are rusty and the other fifteen are in good condition. Now since you know what you have, it is easier to make a decision on what to keep and what to discard.
When you are doing the Big Sort, the situation looks much worse before it gets better. This is often the scary part to many people. When you start dragging out all the stuff stored in your garage and scattering it all over your driveway, it can look pretty overpowering. Don’t lose heart though – keep thinking about all the space you’ll soon be enjoying.
After you’ve cleared some space – say for your workbench – now you can start to create “homes” for everything that you want, need, use and will be bringing back into the area.
Creating homes for items we use everyday in our lives helps to establish a place where they can “live.” If something has a place to live it’s got a 50-50 chance of going back to that spot. At least you have a starting point to look for it the next time you need it.
Set up your workbench area the same way they do at any hardware store. When you go there and ask about screwdrivers, the clerk does not say, “I think I saw some scattered over here somewhere.” All the screwdrivers are in one area, neatly arranged. So think of your workbench as a hardware store and keep all the same items together.
Have a great day working in your garage, but one word of caution. If you are going to drag everything out to the driveway to sort, check the weather forecast first to be sure you won’t have rain. You don’t want to watch your possessions get ruined because of a rain shower.
If this project still seems overwhelming, you can always get help. A professional organizer can help you get the job done faster. If you don’t want to hire anyone, however, make it a family project and get everyone involved. With some determination and help from the whole family you can have a garage you’ll all be proud of.
Happy organizing from the Expert in Simplicity!
Develop an organizing plan to change your life. Simplify and reach your goals with help from S.O.S. Please check the calendar at www.organizeclutter.com for classes in the area and information on the clutter support group as well as the next scheduled Simply Organized! seminar.
Eileen Stevie is a Certified Professional Organizer with the National Association of Professional Organizers. She's been helping people organize all phases of their lives for over six years. She is also a CPO-CD - certified to help those suffering from Chronic Disorganization. She is a member of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. She is a member of Toastmasters International and provides groups and businesses with seminars and workshops on time management and organizational skills.