With spring cleaning in the air, now’s the perfect time to give your most underappreciated piece of real estate a little TLC.
Pity the poor garage. There it sits, year after year, sheltering our vehicles, housing our wholesale-club finds and enabling us as we bring more and more stuff into our lives. All too often, the stuff wins. If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to reclaim your garage, there’s no time like the present. It may seem daunting at first, but the pros who clear clutter for a living say it can be done—one tire, tool and tricycle at a time.
“It’s not realistic to think you can tackle 20 years of clutter in one day,” says Barry Izsak, a professional organizer in Austin, Texas, and author of Organize Your Garage in No Time. Izsak says the best way to purge is by making the easy decisions first:
- Toss the trash—from crusty paint cans to that broken VCR—responsibly.
- Part with what’s no longer useful, including the snow shovel you inexplicably brought with you when you moved to Arizona.
- Decide if any of the stuff is useful to anyone else. If not, pitch it.
- If recouping the cost of your castoffs is important to you, sell them. Craigslist, eBay and LetGo are proven buy-and-sell sites.
- Don’t care about making a buck? Donate your stuff to charity. Some, like Goodwill, even give you a tax receipt. Or use a site like freecycle.org to find a loving home for your gently used goods.
- Low tech solution: Set your castoffs on the curb with a sign that says “FREE.” You’ll be amazed how quickly they disappear.
You’ve survived the big purge! Now it’s time to reclaim your space. How you choose to store things depends on your preferences. If you like to see what you have at a glance, use open shelving, says Izsak. If you want order and a clean look, use cabinets with doors and drawers. Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer at California Closets, offers these simple strategies:
- Take everything out and group it by category: sports & recreation, garbage & recycling, lawn & garden, hardware & tools, etc.
- Get a good look at the available space in your garage and measure it.
- Dedicate specific zones for each category.
- Determine the best storage solutions for each zone—cabinets, drawers, containers, open shelving, racks or ceiling hooks, for example. Hint: Keep garage contents off the floor for safety and easy access. Hang long-handled tools such as rakes and shovels on hardware to keep them from toppling or crowding corners.
- Childproof your garage. Store chemicals and other potentially hazardous items in cabinets with locking doors.
- If you plan to park inside, measure how much space your car needs to fit. Pull in and mark the floor around it on all sides. After all that work, you don’t want new junk crowding you out again in the future.
Your garage—and all that newly organized stuff inside it—is important to you. So it’s reassuring to know that a standard homeowners policy through the GEICO Insurance Agency usually covers both your home and any permanent structures on your property, including your garage.
Want extra protection? Consider adding flood insurance for peace of mind before the rainy season. The last thing you need, after all the effort you put into reclaiming your space, is water damage from a flood.
Garage Sales 101
Despite the popularity of sites like eBay and Craigslist, the old-fashioned garage sale remains a tried-and-true way to discard unwanted goods. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Take inventory of everything and organize it by category—merchandising makes shopping easier for buyers.
- Clean and fix what you can—or state clearly that something isn’t in working order.
- Price all items knowing that people go to garage sales looking for bargains.
- Indicate that you are willing to negotiate.
- If you’re emotionally attached to something and may be insulted by a lowball offer, leave it inside.
Ready to move on to the closets? Check out out 7 Handy Closet-Organizing Hacks.
By Maria Lapiana